We had quite a busy weekend. As the weather changes and we get closer to the holidays, we travel to the Bay Area less than normal. So, when we are up north, we find ourselves not having enough time to do everything or see everyone we wanted to see. Our fans just demand too much of our short weekend.
Bill flew to Oakland Thursday evening and spent Friday morning and early afternoon finishing up a project in San Jose. Friday night he worked Ground Ops in OAK along with a few other guys from out-of-town Blue Cities to allow more OAK employees to attend their holiday party. Louie flew in from Long Beach, Kevin flew in from Buffalo and another guy flew in from Orlando. They worked until about 12:30 am in the wind and rain and they had a great time. As exhausting as it can be, Bill really enjoys working on the ramp… especially when he’s working with friends.
I flew in around 9:30 Friday night with Louie’s girlfriend, Nicole. We hung around the airport for a little bit until Patrick finished his shift and we went to Mom and Dad’s house. Patrick cooked us a wonderful breakfast-for-dinner and we watched the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. About halfway through, Bill called to let us know that they were finished working and were heading to La Pinata in Alameda for some late dinner. So, I woke up Nicole and we drove to Alameda. We chatted for a bit and enjoyed some horchata then headed home. Louie, Nicole and Kevin were all staying in the same hotel in downtown San Francisco. (that’s why Nicole and I had to go back to Alameda at 1am.) I’m pretty sure Nicole slept in the car on the way over.
Saturday afternoon we all met up in San Francisco for some sightseeing. It had stopped raining for a bit and we drove around Chinatown and made our way to Fisherman’s Wharf. We ate at a restaurant next to Cioppino’s… I can’t remember the name. Bill and I shared two sandwiches: mine was Dungeness crab salad, Bill’s was wild salmon with cucumber and tomatoes. Both were really good. The crab salad was done very well. You could really taste the sweetness of the crab and they didn’t add to much mayo. Kevin had a whole Dungeness crab and Nicole tasted crab for the first time. Louie is lame and doesn’t like any kind of seafood. That’s alright, more for us.
During lunch it started raining again. We walked around the small beach at the Maritime Museum and made our way to Ghiradelli Square. It was really cold, but we still had fun. Kevin had his video camera and was trying to make some sort of personal documentary. It was really funny. We got some chocolate and started heading back to the car. Bill and I dropped Louie, Nicole, and Kevin at their hotel and made our way towards the Golden Gate Bridge. We had reservations for 7pm with Mark, Cindy and Sue at The Melting Pot in Larkspur.
It was pouring as we made our way to Larkspur. Thankfully traffic was just fine and we found the restaurant just before 7. Mark, Cindy and Sue arrived a little while later. The Melting Pot is located inside the old Greenbrae Brick Kiln on Sir Francis Drake Blvd just across the street from the ferry building. The restaurant is actually inside the kiln where the bricks were fired. It’s very cave-like and erie. The shape of the ceiling makes for some very odd acoustics. I would have a hard time hearing the person sitting next to me, but could clearly hear the conversation from two tables away.
We had a fabulous dinner that could have ended in a very disappointing evening. The seated us soon after Mark and the girls arrived at a table meant for four people… not five. Mark sat on the end partially blocking the isle between another table. Anyone who wanted to walk by had to scoot sideways to get through. We all envisioned Mark getting smacked by a tray or having a plate spilled on him. Plus, the table only had one burner… so we would only be able to have one kind of fondue at a time. Mark asked the hostess if we could move to a different table and she said there were none available. Strike one. Next it took about fifteen minutes for anyone to even come by our table. No drink order, no explanation of the menu, not even a hello. Strike two. When a waitress finally arrived she apologized and said there had been a miscommunication. Sue laughed out loud at her, then, after the waitress left, explained that a “miscommunication” means that she forgot about us. Sue works at The Cheesecake Factory. Mark politely explained how obviously uncomfortable our table was and expressed his concern about our being completely forgotten. The waitress didn’t even hesitate and went to fetch a manager. She obviously couldn’t help us on such a busy night. A few minutes later, a manager, Monica, arrived and was very apologetic. Mark explained the situation and she said she’d look to see if she could find another table. Monica was back in a few minutes and told us she could have a table for us in about thirty minutes. We were fine with that. I could wait 30 minutes for a comfortable table. In the mean time, she provided us with a complimentary round of drinks. As we were finishing our drinks we were seated at a comfortable table with two burners. We finally got our order placed and the night got better from there.
First course was the cheese. We chose two cheeses: an italian style four cheese fondue with a bit of garlic, pesto and marinara sauces. And a cheddar and swiss blend with garlic. Both were terrific with bread and veggies and much better than I expected. Next came the main course. We chose two styles of cooking. One being a coq au vin broth with red wine and shallots. The other was simple canola oil that came with two kinds of tempura batter. Mmmmm… deep drying at your own table. We had vegetables, chicken, beef, marinated pork, marscapone filled ravioli, tiger shrimp and lobster. It was fun to try new combinations and flavors. For example, we discovered that a battered and fried ravioli is pretty good. The lobster cooked in the coq au vin broth was delicious.
The last course is the one I was most looking forward to: chocolate. We had one pot of simple milk chocolate and another of dark chocolate with marshmellow creme, flambeed and sprinkled with Oreo crumbs. We had a plate of strawberries, pineapple, bananas, brownie bites, cheesecake, and marshmellows coated in either Oreo crumbs or grahm cracker crumbs. All of it was fantastic! One thing I thought was pretty cool was that all the fondues were prepared at the table. We could see what ingredients were going in to fondue.
In the end, Mark thanked Monica for her recovery from crappy service. She apologized again and gave us all a 15% off card for our next visit. All in all it was a lot of fun and a great way to celebrate Mark’s birthday. I don’t know if I’ll return to this restaurant. The atmosphere was cosy and intimate, the food was tasty and a lot of fun to do. But, it’s a bit far from Newark and outside my price range for a normal night out. I might go there again for a special occasion, but I’d like to try La Fondue in Saratoga. Mark and the girls have gone there many times and always have a great time. Essentially, these fondue restaurants are very expensive for the food you’re getting. But you’re paying for the ambiance and fun too. It’s the whole experience.
Sunday morning Bill and I went down the street from our parents’ houses to the First Presbyterian Church for our friends’ daughter’s baptism. Nine month old Jillian was very well behaved and only whimpered a little when the pastor was holding her. She has a “who the heck is this?” look on her face. The service itself was a lot of fun too. They have started their Christmas services and the choir performs with choir bells. We sang Christmas carols and enjoyed the bell choir’s performances. It felt more like a concert than a church service. Plus, I always enjoy singing songs I actually know. We took some photos after the service ended and was able to see just how many people were attending that day for Jillian. There were probably around forty people there. It was really nice to see. We had some snacks and mingled a bit afterwards at Jim and Kendra’s house. We couldn’t stay long as we had a flight to catch later in the day. It was great to see Jim and Kendra again, we don’t get to see them enough. We hadn’t seen them since a few days after Jillian was born back in February. She was born on Valentine’s Day.
I’ll have photos of the antics in San Francisco and the baptism as soon as I get some from other photographers. I forgot my camera battery… I had the camera, just no battery. Doh!
I finally got an email from Mom from Thailand. She’s been having so much fun that she hasn’t had the time to email anyone. She said she found some beautiful ivory silk at only $20 per yard. Pretty good since it would probably be between $65 and $100 a yard here. I’ve really enjoyed reading some updates on their adventures on Chris’ blog. They’ll be home on Saturday.
Wow, this was long.