Birthday dinner, 2011

My birthday dinner
Hangar steak at Blue Ginger

Thanks again to all the friends and family who sent birthday wishes! Being 43 isn’t so bad — so far. I didn’t go to my high school reunion in Westchester, New York, this past weekend because only a few of the people I was friends with 25+ years ago were attending (we’ll arrange an informal gathering in spring of 2012). On Saturday, 15 October 2011, Janice and I browsed among the shops in Wellesley, Massachusetts, including the Wellesley Booksmith and Wasik’s Cheese Shop.

We then met Thomas K.Y. & Kai-Yin H. for dinner at Blue Ginger, the restaurant of celebrity chef Ming Tsai. We had talked about eating there for years, and we finally managed to get a reservation a week in advance. The Asian fusion cuisine was very good, and the open kitchen was a nice touch. (I’ve posted versions of this review to Yelp and Zagat‘s Web sites.)

For appetizers, we had the tender salmon and beef carpaccio, attractive charcuterie plate, and shiitake-leek spring rolls. For entrees, we ordered tasty hangar steak, nicely spiced Vindaloo-glazed lamb, and flaky Alaskan butterfish.

For dessert, we ate a sorbet trio with a ginger kick, spiced buttermilk donuts, a sweet petit four plate, and foie gras-shiitake shumai. (Janice also baked me a chocolate cake at home.) The dishes were all an interesting blend of flavors, if a bit rich and pricey. The service was prompt and efficient. I’d definitely recommend Blue Ginger for special occasions.

Thomas asked an interesting question: How would I compare Blue Ginger with Tango and Smith & Wollensky, where we’ve dined together previously? Although the cuisines are different, we’ve ordered steak at all three. I thought that Smith & Wollensky, at which Beruk A. and I joined Thomas, Stuart C.G., and Stuart’s son in Boston a few years ago, was the best but also the most expensive.

Tango, an Argentinean steakhouse in Arlington, Mass., had a somewhat more limited menu, but I’d rate it slightly higher than Blue Ginger, whose dining room was a bit noisy. We also discussed our busy schedules, travel, and other eateries to try, such as Summer Shack in Dedham, Texas Roadhouse in Walpole, and Petit Robert Bistro and Rice Barn in Needham. Of course, if money and time were no object, I’d happily eat at any of these places.

Coming soon: More genre TV roundups, New York Comic-Con announcements, gaming updates, and more…

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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!