Monday, April 30, 2012

Cheese and Wine in San Francisco, April 2012

A quick trip up to the city with Mandy and Krista to taste California cheeses and wines-brilliant idea!  Turns out that if you want to become a cheesemonger (not a profession I but on my list when I was ten, but maybe now that I am 40 my list should be revised) there are classes for that!  The Cheese School in San Francisco for example-who knew!

And if you want to be a knowledgeable cheese eater instead, you can take classes on that too!  The first available class happened to be all about California cheeses and wines-nice!

The space is small but nicely laid and they don't bring in too many people so it feels intimate, not crowded.  We got to taste 4 wines and 9 cheeses and a bunch of yummy extras (raspberry champagne jelly!).  The instructors were knowledgeable and engaging, one for the cheese, one for the wine.  First they explain about the cheese/wine-where exactly it came from and what was special about it, what to look for during tasting, why they paired this wine with that cheese.  But then they encouraged us to try different pairing, because you just never know what will taste good to you.

We had a fantastically fun time, all the cheese and wine was lovely, we learned interesting tidbits and more about what we liked in wine and cheese and we got to be a bit tipsy and silly.  What's not to love about that!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Jelly Belly factory, April 2012

Took a day off work to go with the neighbors on a trip to the Jelly Belly factory!

If you go on the weekend, you can visit the gift shop and buy Belly Flops, but if you go during the week you can see everything working-way cool.  There are lines of rollers that move boxes, conveyors that move the jelly beans, 60 rotating drums where they add coatings, the shaker/sorter that tosses out the wrong sized beans and stacks of plastic trays holding the beans while drying.  No photography allowed, so you will have to go see for yourself! On the tour you also see a number of portraits made out of the beans and you taste unfinished beans.  Oh, and you get to wear this spiffy hat!

The tour really only takes a half day so we stopped by Tilden park for the afternoon.  Ate a picnic lunch, fed the animals celery, sat in the butterfly garden, walked to lake, skipped stones, and played on the jungle gym-phew!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

36 hours in Tucson, April 2012

Grampa turned 104, so of course we are going to visit and say Happy Birthday, even if it is just a short trip! While we are there, we sneak in some extra fun.

We timed it cleverly to see a number of our relatives in the Southern Arizona Women's Chorus in concert.  The are singing with a high school steel drum band, Jovert.  No seriously.  When I first heard I thought, huh, interesting, I'll check that out.  Turns out it was FABULOUS.  The large collection of steel drums allows an incredibly wide range of sounds that pairs beautifully with voices. Below is the program.

Tourist-drive up Mt. Lemmon
We finally took this opportunity to go up nearby Mt. Lemmon and into Coronado National forest.  The road climbs quickly and you pass from low shrubs to saguaro cactus to scrub to pine forest in 30 minutes-quite the trip!

At the top we ate at the Iron Door restaurant (rightly famous for homemade individual pie) which is right across from the ski lifts.  The lifts even run in the summer for the views-that will have to be next time.

Jax is a restaurant that has links to a family member and was perfect for right after the concert.  Highlights were the fall-off-the-bone beef short ribs (special of the day) and the wine-Hullabaloo from Lodi :)

Sonoran hotdog at El Guero Canelo.  The idea here is to wrap your hotdog in bacon, use a sweet roll, and pile as many goodies on top as you can.  It has made an appearance on the Food Network and is definitely a regional specialty to be tried.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Weekend in Berkeley, April 2012

April 2012

Back in the day, our friend Mars introduced E- and I to Tom Stoppard (see the weekend in New York where we saw Arcadia) and so now I have been looking for opportunities to see more in the Bay area.  Sure enough a group in Berkeley, the Shotgun Players, are putting on Voyage, so why not go see it and make a weekend of it as well.

On the Saturday drive up we stopped at the JollyBee-which if you haven't been is a Philippino fast food joint.  The best seller is the Chicken Joy package, which is fried chicken and rice with gravy.  We tried the aloha burger-hamburger with a pineapple slice.  Next time I want the pie, which looks like any deep fried pie, but has mango in it!

We got up to Berkeley early enough to hike around Tilden Park, which is noted as one of the best parks in the area.  It is in the hills behind Berkeley and to get there you have to drive up and up and up.  On the way we passed a number of stair way paths.  These are public walkways to get up the hills without switchbacking on the road and seem like a fun thing to do someday.  Once you get to the top of the hill, it turns out the back side is undeveloped and just lovely.  The park is easy to get to and we ended up at the main area near Little Farm and the education center.  The park was filled with families feeding the cows, goats and sheep (celery and lettuce only!!) and it left the hiking trails empty.  The trails are really short and totally doable by small children.  We took the lower Packrat trail to Jewel lake and then up Wildcat trail to the peak lookout.  It was a relatively clear day and we were able to see the city, the bridges and up to the North Bay.  We hiked down Laurel Canyon trail to get back to the lake and finally walked back along the boardwalk.  Super cute little park with a little bit of everything.

We checked into the Shattuck Plaza hotel and did some shopping at Games of Berkeley. I found a fantastic new puzzle that is over 13,000 pieces!  Check back in about a year to see it get put together :)  We ate dinner at one of the many vegetarian chinese restaurants before walking over to our play.  I didn't know anything about the group, so it could have been lame, but it turned out to be quite good community theater.  The group has been around for over 20 years and they have a permanent space that is cozy, but has all the extras.  A pre-show talk, drinks and snacks you can take inside, bench seating, but with back pillows, and they paint the exterior to match the play.  The actors were locals and had worked for this group or others before and the quality was better than I expected.  The staging was well done-sparse, but had seamless scene transitions.

The play itself was not the most amazing I've seen, but more engaging than I hoped for, given that the topic is philosophy (of self and countries) in pre-revolutionary Russia.  I feel like I should go back and read the Cliff notes of a few philosophers.  If the company is able to put on the trilogy I will definitely get tickets and maybe even read up a little beforehand :)