More food and travel

Yummy dinner image
Steak and bleu cheese

On Friday, 29 July 2011, Janice and I met Valery M. and his family for dinner in Boston’s North End. We passed the parade for the feast of Saint Joseph on the way into the traditionally Italian neighborhood. Valery is a colleague I had met at Citrix Synergy in San Francisco last year, and we hit it off immediately. He and his family spent a few weeks in the U.S. before returning to France.

We ate dinner at La Famiglia Giorgio’s, a family-style restaurant. The food and conversation were good, and we had lots of leftovers. It was great to have homemade pasta Bolognese, worthy of the “food porn” on The Phantom Gourmet or TV Diner. At other points in the past few weekends, we’ve eaten at some favorite chains, including Wild Willy’s Burgers, Comella’s, P.F. Chang’s, Farm Grill, Chipotle, and Stone Hearth Pizza.

I noted to Josh C. at lunch recently that after visits by friends and family (including David I.S., Damon F.P., Erik B.L., and my brother Peter) in the first half of 2011, Janice and I are the ones traveling in the latter half of the year. We’ve already been to Maine, Upstate and downstate New York, Chicago, and Northern Virginia, with more trips to New York and Virginia still to come! I look forward to celebrating various birthdays, weddings, and reunions, but I’ll be glad for the occasional quiet weekend at home.

Last week, I met fellow CW alumni Michele L.D. and Jacqui D.B. for dinner at CK Shanghai. I had the sizzling eggplant pot with beef, and it was very good. Michele got Jacqui’s and my leftovers because we were both traveling the next day.

This past weekend, Janice and I flew down from Logan to Dulles Airport. We had dinner with Peter and his family at the Dogfish Head Brewpub, where I had grilled salmon and the Chateau Jiahau. Like Peter’s sweeter Midas Touch Ale, the rice-based beer was recreated from an ancient recipe.

Before going to the Lego BrickFair the next morning, we met my parents for brunch at Eggspectations, where I had a good frittata. We later played Wii Sports Resort with our nieces and watched The Green Hornet, which was a bit disappointing. While I enjoyed stoner comedy Pineapple Express, the high body count and sense of humor wasn’t really a good fit for the superhero.

The Green Hornet started more seriously in radio as a descendant of the Lone Ranger and is best known for Bruce Lee‘s (subject of recent documentaries) U.S. debut as Kato in the late 1960s television show — with the possible exception of a crossover with Adam West’s Batman. While I haven’t been able to keep up with the various spin-off titles, Dynamite Entertainment‘s Green Hornet comics have been pretty good. I’m glad I waited to see Seth Rogen’s version on video.

On Sunday, 7 August 2011, my family and I, plus Peter’s mother-in-law Maureen, went to Old Town Alexandria. We explored the art galleries at the Torpedo Factory and had a birthday meal for my parents at the Chart House on the waterfront. I had excellent crab cakes and shared a decadent chocolate lava cake (Is there any other kind?).

We later all played Uno before my parents returned to the Blue Ridge Mountains. Later that night, Janice, Kelly, Peter, and I watched Will Smith and Eva Mendez in the romantic comedy Hitch, which was better than I expected. Hitch reminded me of a classier Boomerang.

Even with traveling nearly every other week, I hope to resume my regular Pathfinder/Skype: “the Vanished Lands” telecom fantasy and FATE 3e Starblazer Adventures: “Vortexspace opera games soon. We’ll see whether the July hiatus has made my role-players more eager, stirred potential Game Masters, or caused more delays. I’ll post more about various RPGs next!

Back to Chicago

Chicago Skyline by
Chicago skyline

This past week, I helped TT’s events staff with BriForum Chicago 2011 at McCormick Place. I didn’t have much time for sightseeing, but since I had visited the windy city twice before within the past year, I can’t complain! I began reading China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station, an evocative urban fantasy, on the flight from Boston.

The virtualization conference went smoothly, and it was a good opportunity to serve alongside Alex H. and co-workers outside of the editorial department. I helped stuff welcome packets, introduced speakers, managed one of the breakout rooms, and gathered session evaluations.

Since we had good wireless connectivity this year, I was able to check in with the Newton home office more often, which rewarded me with more work. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to meet my cousin’s family, since she was visiting the Philippines.

The days were long but fulfilling, from setting up rooms at 7:00 a.m. to dinner and other events in the early evening. On Monday night, Alex and I tried to go to the Meatloaf Bakery, which I had seen on television, but it was closed. So we had a good falafel dinner instead at Sultan’s Market, followed by decadent desserts at the Austrian Bakery.

After a hike through hot and humid weather to the train from Chicago’s Near South Side to the more upscale Lincoln Park, we took a cab back to the Hyatt Regency hotel. The next night, we went to a vendor-sponsored event at the Howl at the Moon piano bar, near the famous Billy Goat Tavern. I tried a Goose Island Honker’s Ale (although I preferred the Otter Creek Stovepipe Porter at the Yard House in Dedham, Massachusetts).

I returned to my hotel room on one of the earlier buses because of work, but I made up for the lack of socializing the next evening after grabbing a leftover sandwich from the North Shore Kosher Bakery. Alex and I joined Jackie H., Peter D., and Tom K.T. for more food and drink at Kroll’s South Loop and the M/X at our hotel. Among other things, I had a Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale and a Dark Horse Black Bier.

I’ve learned a lot about office politics in the past year, and the remainder of the show went smoothly. We endured a sweltering cab ride on the way to O’Hare Airport, and I had to find my way home after midnight after getting to my car in a parking lot near Logan Airport. I’ve spent the past few days catching up on summer TV such as Warehouse 13, Leverage, White Collar, and Torchwood: Miracle Day.

Coming soon: More movie reviews and Comic-Con reflections!

Rochester, N.Y., visit — food, falls, and funnies!

Dave and Gene, July 2011
Near Ontario Beach

This past week has been even busier than usual. It started with the Independence Day and 300th anniversary events in Needham, Massachusetts, continued through various meetings at work, and included a Pathfinder: “Holy Steeltelecom fantasy game.

On Friday, 8 July 2011, I drove to Rochester, New York, to visit college chum David I.S. On the way west, I realized that the air conditioner in my car still isn’t working. Fortunately, the weather wasn’t too bad, and traffic was light. Dave and I stocked up at Wegman’s and Beers of the World before returning to his current apartment to grill steak and chicken for dinner.

As usual when we get together, we stayed up late into the night talking about family, relationships, work, housing, and our circles of acquaintances. Among the beers we tried were a Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout, Rogue Hazlenut Brown Nectar, and Imperial Chocolate Stout. The dark brews went well with the dry-rubbed beef. We also ate vegetable and fruit salads, kamut noodles, and chocolate frozen goat’s milk, among other things.

After sleeping in the next morning, Dave drove me to several spots along the Genesee River Trail. We didn’t have the time (or I the likely endurance) to rent a bicycle or fully explore them. I saw the strange megaliths near Lower Falls, the Fast Ferry pier and Ontario Beach, and Maplewood Gardens. Dave and I did a mix of “urban hiking,” viewing of bike trails, and strolling to take in the sights.

Rochester has poorer, African-American neighborhoods interspersed with more affluent, mostly Caucasian ones. I’m glad that Dave is aware of but willing to cross racial and economic divisions. I’ve said before that the Rust Belt isn’t confined to the Midwest — it begins in Worcester, Mass., and ends in Iowa or beyond.

We had a tasty lunch at Cheeburger, Cheeburger and visited a few comic book and game shops, including the small but well-organized All Heroes Comics, the friendly suppliers at Empire Comics, and the range and depth of the collections at Comic Book Heaven (CBH). In addition to meeting Dave’s local friends Amit T. & Krysta B., CBH proprietor Dan showed us the amazing archives in his old building, and we all hope to help his business.

Dave also took me to Millennium Games, which had a decent selection of role-playing games, if not as well-stocked as the best shops I’m familiar with in downstate New York, Northern Virginia, or eastern Massachusetts. We passed on local landmark Nick Tahou’s “garbage plate” for a simpler dinner at classic Jay’s Diner. That night, Dave enjoyed Superman/Shazam: the Return of Black Adam, especially the grindhouse Spectre short and the western/horror Jonah Hex one.

Coming soon: Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!