Posted by: Travis | January 21, 2008

Travis gets left alone, gets stuff done.

It was kind of a boring weekend, Rachel was forced to leave me alone for most of it, but i got some stuff done, which was nice.

Things started out after work on friday with Rachel and i going out for sushi. I love sushi, Rachel hates it. She isn’t a super picky eater, there are just a few things she doesn’t like: raw tomatoes (cooked tomatoes are fine), melon, seafood that tastes really fishy, sushi, grits, and anything with a really weird texture (the texture issue is what keeps her from most of these foods). Now i realize that she is missing out on some really great stuff by limiting what she eats, but i have to give her credit, she is always willing to try stuff that she suspects she won’t like, its just an issue of whether she will continue after the first bite.

I love sushi. The freshness of great sushi combined with the initial simplicity but nuanced complexity of the flavors and the preparation make my juices flow. I love the wide varieties of flavors available, how clean, light, and delicate sushi can be. I also love that sushi is tough to do. I’ve tried it several times without great failure, but enough lead me to the decision that for the time being i will leave it up to the professionals. I love how good sushi is easily one of my favorite foods in the world, but bad sushi is truly awful. Every time Rachel and i walk or drive past a sushi place i must get a twinkle in my eye or something because she insists that we can go whenever i want and she’ll find something to eat. I don’t like to make her uncomfortable (unless its running or on the bike) so i never took her up on the offer. Then in the middle of last week i realized that i had been living in the Bay Area for more than six months and had yet to go out for sushi. Suddenly i felt ashamed in myself. This weekend, i decided, we’re going out for sushi.

I got several recommendations from my boss whose wife is japanese and a huge sushi fan. I decided on Sushi Tei in Mounatin View. I got what was essentially a bento box with an assortment of sushi. Additionally i saw that sea urchin was on the menu. Im a pretty adventurous eater and will try anything once. If i get the chance to try something that is pretty out there, as long as it isn’t super expensive, i’ll go for it. I figured $6 was worth the experience and went ahead and ordered it. The waitress seemed a little surprised that the only white guy in the restaurant was ordering sea urchin. It showed up looking kind of like fois gras. Honestly i was expecting something white with some bright yellow, purple, or orange accents, not something brownish yellow. I took off a small chuck and put it on Rachel’s plate, not saying anything just giving her the look. She rolled her eyes, picks up the sticks and goes for it, almost gagging in the process. This is gonna be good, i can feel it. It came with wasabi and pickeled ginger, but i don’t see any soy sauce (turned out we were supposed to get it ourselves from the cart behind us that we didn’t see). I figure “what the hell, i want the sea urchin to sing by itself” so i grab my chopsticks, grab the sea urchin, Rachel takes a picture and i pop the whole thing in my mouth. The taste is good and fresh, but the texture is wild. Parts kind of firm, not like fat or grissle, but firm. Other parts are soft and gooey. Then on the top is a bunch of liquid encased in a firm membrane, kind of like a grape, but filled with liquid. The next piece i topped with some wasabi and some ginger, i liked it better. It was interesting and im glad i got it, but im not sure its something i’ll be getting again. Im normally not picky about texture, but this was a little bit of an overload for me. Rachel got a chicken teriyaki that was not very good. It was a typical asian preparation in that the leg was chopped into pieced horizontally, perpendicular to the bone with a huge cleaver. I like this when the chicken is slow cooked, allowing the connective tissue to dissolve and the bones to lend some flavor to the meat, but that is absolutely not what was going on here. The meat was bland and there wasn’t much of it. It was heavy on connective tissue and chunks of bone that prevented careless, enthusiastic chewing. It was pretty good, but im not ready to make this my go to sushi place. I think there are other places out there that are better.

Speaking of weird seafood i forgot to mention that when we were out at Rachel’s grandparents house in Mendocino county just after christmas, we had abalone (a type of marine snail that grows on the northern california coast among other places). Abalone is highly restricted in Northern California: it can be harvested, but only north of the san francisco bay and by someone who holds a license to do so between april and november. A person may harvest only 3 abalone a day and no more than 24 in a year. Harvesting abalone with scuba gear is illegal, only a snorkel can be used. Harvested abalone must be at least 7 inches across, must only be used for personal use (it is illegal to sell them), and they must be transported in their shell. These are only some of the laws i found in a quick wikipedia search. Needless to say, you aren’t likely to find this at a restaurant unless its some secret off the menu item or even get it from anywhere unless you know somebody. I guess we know someone who knows someone. Anyway we lightly dredged the abalone in flour, then pan sauted the and squeezed a little bit of lemon juice on top to taste. They were delicious.

Back to last weekend. I had to wake up early saturday morning to take Rachel to the airport. Her great uncle passed away on Thursday and since they were close she decided to fly back for the weekend to see her family and attend the funeral on monday. She will return late monday night.

Being home alone allowed me to crank out restaurant reviews on yelp.com like Britney Spears cranks out bad publicity stunts. Yelp is a really cool site for restaurant reviews. If you want to read more about it you can click on the “Restaurants” tab on the top of my blog and read what i have to say about it. You can check out my reviews here.

Holding up in the apartment all day writing food reviews and watching football made me feel like Hunter S. Thompson or something. Not quite sure why, just thought that was funny feeling worth noting. Anyway, i was starting to get cabin fever, so i went a pretty short 20 mile bike ride. The weather was perfect and was just what i needed. Then i got back to writing reviews before going to bed.

Got up saturday morning after sleeping in a bit and decided that lo and behold, it was time for another bike ride, but this time i was serious. I did our normal Canada road ride, but tacked on another loop out at the furthest point that added about 20 miles to the ride. Rachel detests the extra section because it involves a long hill that isn’t so steep for the first mile and a half, but then goes really steep for the last 500 yards as you approach a stop light. Admittedly this hill is not very fun. It smashed morale as though it were a wiffle ball. But the rest of the loop leading up to that hill is so incredibly beautiful that the hill is worth it. 50 miles and 2 1/2 hours later i arrived back home exhausted. I was too tired to write reviews, and just ate food, trying disparately to get back the calories i had previously burned off, and watched football as the teams i wanted to win in both games fizzled out and saw their seasons end. My contempt for Bill Belichick (the Patriots head coach) is beyond words so i won’t even try. In between games i planned what meals to have this weekend and did the sunday hustle.

My goal for this week at home is to learn how to cook gnocchi. I realize that its popularity on trendy-chic restaurant menus across the country is only beat by tuna tartare, but like risotto i can’t help but like the stuff and want to learn how to cook it. Rachel’s aunt, who recently went to culinary school for fun and is also a food nut gave us the Silver Spoon cookbook for christmas. Its supposed to be a gold standard of Italian cookbooks and a must have among foodies. So far everything we’ve made from it has been great (only a pasta sauce and a risotto). Anyway i bought enough stuff to make three or four different variations of the dish listed in the book and plan to make as many as i can this week. Hopefully by the end of the week i will be able to say that i make a mean gnocchi.

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