Sunday, May 31, 2009

On Sazeracs...

One of the things I did in New Orleans a few months ago was become acquainted with the Sazerac, an "old-fashioned" cocktail. The "official" website and recipe are here: Wiki has some good info too.

The traditional drink should be made with (good) rye whiskey, Peychaud's bitters and Herbsaint (a pastis, like Pernod). Absinthe can also be used, and there are a few now available in the USA, even some made near us in Seattle.

What is odd, though, is that ordering this drink outside New Orleans is a bit like trying to find Marmite outside the Commonwealth.

About 50% of the places I try ordering one have no clue how to make it. I guess this is not too surprising, since the cocktail is not "in vogue", and many other old-fashioned cocktails have fallen by the wayside. I've also had more than one person say that Absinthe is still banned/illegal in the USA... :)

There are a few places that know what a Sazerac is, and mix a good one. I was very pleased when the friendly barman at Pazzo in Portland sid he knew the recipe. He warned me that he did not have Peychaud's bitters, but they had some that were made in-house by the chef. The resulting drink was pretty close to the ones I had in New Orleans.

I'll update this with any other success stories...

San Diego

{A} and I are in San Diego for a few days for my cousin's wedding, and having a great time so far.

The wedding was yesterday, and was beautiful. Strangely, it's colder and greyer here than it was in Seattle when we left, butt luckily the rain held off, and the fog lifted in the evening so we could enjoy some of the view of the bay at the reception.

We're staying downtown in the Gaslamp district, which is bit like Seattle's downtown - lots of shops and restaurants, and a bustling nightlife. We explored a bit on foot on Saturday and discovered Nobu's within walking distance - I'll have to see if we can make it for lunch or dinner :)

We went to a really nice little cafe this morning for breakfast - Chocolat. (Their website is worth a look just to see the fun photo panning they have). They mainly focus on gelato, but also do some yummy paninis, bruschetta and pancakes (savoury and sweet). They have some seriously good coffee too - imported from Italy, I think, although it was not brand I had heard of... Well worth a visit if you come to SD.

Our hotel is nice, but I can't recommend the food at the hotel restaurant, J Six. Terrible room-service on Friday, and lacklustre breakfast on Saturday were enough to make us skip them for the remaining meals...

We had fun today exploring the Hotel Del Coronado and the surrounding beach, and then took a short drive north. Lunch at Rubios, a local chain of Mexican restaurants, was surprisingly good. I had great mahi mahi tacos (soft corn) with great fresh salsas.

Later today we are driving to the suburbs in the East to meet my aunt and uncle for dinner and to see their 8-month old ridgeback puppy :)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Abita Purple Haze

I am happy to report that the Abita Purple Haze beer I bought at Top Foods in Redmond a few days ago lives up to the high expectations I described previously.

Purple Haze reminds me a bit of Belgian lambic beers and gueze's - not surprising, really, since this is a wheat beer with raspberry puree added after filtration. (I think they are going for a summer-friendly version of Framboise). Flavour-wise, it's lightly tart and fruity, but like the Strawberry, the fruit is more of a perfume than a strong flavouring. There is no real hoppiness, and the finish is clean and crisp.

This one is a nice summer beer, but I think I prefer the Strawberry.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo in Seattle

A quick add-on to the previous post about summer concerts:
Ladysmith Black Mambazo (from South Africa) will be playing at the Woodland Park Zoo. More info here.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Music, comedy and other link clearances...

This will be a bit of a "grab bag" of links.

Some music news:

  • A new album from Eels is coming out on June 2nd, called "Hombre Lobo". Check out the video for the first single here, and pre-order the CD here.
  • Elvis Costello has a new album "Secret, Profane and Sugarcane", also coming out on June 2nd, and is on tour. He'll be at Ch. Ste Michelle this summer.
  • Amadou & Mariam will be opening for Coldplay at Washington's Gorge amphitheater on July 11th. I guess they have arrived :)
  • Marymoor have some fun concerts this summer, such as Duran Duran and The Decemberists.

Movie news:

Humour links:

One of the British folks in my team at work mentioned this comedian, whom I had not heard of before: Bill Bailey. Apparently his "Guide to the Orchestra" show is great, and is coming out on DVD in the UK, so I hope it ends up being released across the pond too.

Here are some Youtube links in the meantime:

Thursday, May 14, 2009

WaMu/Chase and the sucky re-finance experience

I've been waiting for weeks to hear back from WaMu ("Now part of Chase") about my mortgage re-finance (which was meant to close by tomorrow). I finally heard back today, and it turns out they are "running behind" (no sh*t!) and would only be able to close in another month's time.

This whole process started in early February, with me dealing with a really pleasant guy on the phone. (This was after WaMu sent me snail-mail saying I could refinance for "no cost" - turns out that means $700 in application fees.)

The pleasant guy on the phone soon made way for an incompetent local property valuator that called me to say WaMu had cancelled my application and she was therefore not doing the valuation... After spending a few days playing phone-tag with WaMu I managed to talk to someone only to find out the application was still active and they were waiting for the valuation... (WTF?) So, a week or two later and a new valuator came out to look at the house. All was well, my credit rating came back in the high 600's and it looked like all would be well.

Then my application went to underwriting for review. Dawn, my loan officer, said they were running about 3 weeks to do the review, so after waiting 3 weeks (plus a few days grace), I emailed Dawn to see what was up. Nothing for a week. So, I started calling Dawn and leaving voicemails asking her to contact me. Nothing for weeks. This week I tried calling her again and realized her voicemail message has changed: she's now "out of the office for an extended period", and requesting that no-one leave voicemails for her.

OK. Let's try the operator number she suggests I use.... It turns out that is equivalent to listening to gaping void of deep space - not even muzak to while away the time. Next I try callign the number for Dawn's manager, only to get voicemail and a message saying she has chanegd teams and I should not leave a message.

I spent some time hunting around for 800- numbers to call, and finally speak to someone that gives me the name and number of Dawn's new manager. I call and leave voicemail. Repeat for 3 days... Finally today I hear back from Juan, the manager, and while he is extremely appologetic, the gist of it is that I am up a proverbial creek with a proverbial paddle.

They will not be able to close until mid-June, and my rate-lock expires tomorrow. For $1000 I can extend the rate lock (or I guess I could let it float, but Juan didn't really seem interested in that option?) At least they offered to refun the $700 I've paid in application fees, so now I can start the whole process over again with another lender... Wish me luck!

PS: If this is how WaMu/Chase treat their customers, Heaven help them!

David Byrne's new EP

I just heard that David Byrne is selling a special live EP recorded during his current tour, with proceeds to benefit Amnesty International. Definitely a worthy cause, and a nice addition to the studio album ("Everything That Happens Will Happen Today").

For more info and to listen to the EP, go to David Byrne's site here.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Sushi Me

This is a quick recommendation for a new sushi place that opened a few months ago in Bellevue: Sushi Me. They are a kaiten sushi restaurant (a.k.a. conveyor-belt sushi).

Previously, the only kaiten sushi places I had been to were fairly unimpressive in terms of quality, and some took the no-frills theme a bit too far for my tastes.

Suhsi Me strikes a nice balance - they have a modern, clean feel, with a more inventive menu than traditional sushi places. They are definitely trying to appeal to both sushi newbies, and fans. They have lots of interesting rolls and some great veggie dishes: edamame, inari (tofu skin) and tamago (egg) sushi and basic veggie rolls. Something really unusual was their breaded and deep-fried tofu. They also have a few cooked dishes on the menu (like ramen soup).

I will still go to more old-fashioned places like Kiku Sushi when I am craving really good nigiri sushi (their aji is great), but for a mid-week lunch, Sushi Me is my new favourite sushi place.