Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Rest of the Story

Now that it's been a couple days since our amazing dinner, I'm ready to tell you more about it. Overall, it was a wonderful meal. It lived up to the five-plus months of anticipation since I had made the reservation.

Dan, Ann, Mark and I went to Volt, Bryan Voltaggio's (made famous by the reality show Top Chef and recent James Beard Award nominee) restaurant in Frederick, Maryland on Friday and at ate at 'Table 21,' where you are served a chef-selected 21-course dinner.

Table 21 is not a table but really a counter with seating for eight around the edge of the kitchen. Our view for the three hours we were there was of the prep area for our dishes as well as dishes for other diners. We got to observe Chef Bryan and his staff create some of the best looking food I'd ever seen. The kitchen was quiet, not like any yelling matches you might see in the movies or on Hell's Kitchen.

The cuisine was new and high-tech, not the family staples your grandmother made. Each of the dishes were planned and executed with great care, even the garnishes, from fresh local products. At one point I stole and ate a leaf from Dan's plate. Chef Bryan caught me. We were then treated to a lesson about how he chooses the garnishes, they are meant to be eaten, enhance the dish visually and provide an element to the flavor profile of the dish. The sorrel leaf I nicked had been soaked in red liquid (I forget what kind, beet juice maybe) so the veins turned red, very pretty, very tasty.

Chef Bryan used a lot of things that were unexpected, such as macaroons made from vegetables and 'dippin' dots' made from tomato sauce. When they melted on the hot chicken and noodles, it blended into his wonderful take on Chicken Parmesan.

One of my favorite dishes was the goat cheese ravioli with the 'soy air,' foam made from soy sauce. The first fish dish was also up there on the favorite list, the hiramasa. It was delicate and moist. Then favorite list gets cloudy, I cannot rank anything after that. Except for the sweetbreads (at the bottom) and the seared lamb, which I didn't even try. I've got major texture issues, and it was very raw.

Save room for dessert. There were five dessert courses, the cheese cake was probably the best and the strawberry noodles were probably the most unusual.

We were offered coffee and tea with our desserts. I chose tea. This is the part of the whole affair I was disappointed with. I asked for Earl Gray and received a tea that was so strong I couldn't drink it, and it wasn't even Earl, it was Lapsang-Souchong. I really dislike people who presume they know how I like my tea better than I do. Please, let me brew it myself. It left a bitter taste in my mouth, literally. The waiter brought me another pot of tea, but it wasn't any better. There were enough tea leaves in the basket to brew about 8 cups of tea.

Dinner at Table 21 is $121 per person plus drinks, tax, and tip. Yes, I would eat there again, I'd love to try other dishes as the seasons change, but I wouldn't drink the tea.


Friday, April 23, 2010

Dinner at Volt - Table 21

What follows are pictures from our twenty-one course dinner. I only forgot to photograph #11, the veal sweetbreads. (yuck)

#1 Ginger Ale

#2 Prosciutto Chips & Potato Dip

#3 Celeriac Macaroon

#4 Tuna

#5 Lobster

#6 "Chicken Parmesan" with Tomato Dipping Dots

#7 Goat Cheese Ravioli

#8 Hiramasa

#9 Bass

#10 Arctic Char

#12 Beets

#13 Pork Belly

#14 Duck Liver

#15 Lamb

#16 Beef Striploin

#17 Dessert #1-something with blue cheese

#18 Dulche de Leche Cheesecake

#19 Strawberry Noodles

#20 Chocolates

#21 Mignardes

Dan, Bryan Voltaggio, and Me

Thursday, April 22, 2010

I Want to Write a Book

Most of the time Kevin's autism doesn't get in the way of life. That's just the way life is. On the other hand, if he were "normal," he'd be a loud teenage boy, driving, with a girlfriend and I don't know how I'd cope. You moms with teenage boys do great with your kids, and I'm sure if I had that kid all along, I'd be right there with you. But, I have this life with this Kevin, and it's just different. I'm doing a terrible job in explaining what I mean. It's kinda like two families living in identical houses, but one has the mirror-image floor plan. You adapt to your floor plan, and are thrown for a loop when you suddenly have to navigate the other house with your eyes closed.

Anyway, Kevin's been doing great lately. His spontaneous speech is fuller with more descriptions. He's even starting to get the idea of "why & because." The area of speech he still has trouble with is personal and possessive pronouns.

Kevin has problems with the concepts of me, my, mine, I, you, your, and yours. He understands these as concrete adjectives, just like "blue car" means the car is always blue. He doesn't get they change meaning based on who is speaking so "my room" means the master bedroom is mine when I'm speaking and his room is "my room" when he is speaking. In his mind, "my room" is always the master bedroom.

I end up talking in third person a lot: "This is Mommy's, that is Kevin's." It gets the point across, sometimes, but it's still frustrating, because once something has been dubbed with the "my" or "your" adjective, that's the way it will always be.

So, I have this idea for a picture book that would help autistics with these concepts. It'll have lots of pictures of people with thought bubbles identifying things. For example, a kid would be holding a toy and the bubble will have "This is my toy." The next picture would have the same kid with the same toy and another kid would have a bubble that said, "That is your toy." And so forth and so on, very repetitive, me, my, you, your, our, their, etc.

It might be too late to change his understanding of possession, it might already be ingrained, but I still think a picture book might help.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Iceland, October 2003

With all the news these days involving the volcano in Iceland, I thought I'd post some old pictures of one of my trips there.

The view north from the 4-star Nordica Hotel. Hilton runs it now, but the view is the same.

My friend and I rented a car and drove up to the Snæfellsnes peninsula on this particular trip. Reykjavik sits on the Reykjanes peninsula, the Snæfellsnes is the next one to the north. This little church was along the way.

Icelandic pony

Sheep crossing

Small roadside rest stop. Yes, that's grass on the roof.

Rugged sea-side cliff.

Color! I'm always drawn to the bright colors of yarn shops.

A shopping street, downtown Reykjavik

I took pictures of some of the more touristy places on our previous trip, but this was before I had a digital camera and I have no idea where the prints even are. What a different world back then.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Why Kevin doesn't go to bed until 02:00

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Question of the Day

What do you do with the bag of trail mix once you've picked out all the good stuff?


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The pool deck at night

Friday, April 09, 2010

Long Way Home

This is the expedite tag they put on our lost suitcases to get them back to us.

Really? Newark to Baltimore via Chicago?!

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Because Lorraine Asked

Here are the free charms I've collected so far from the Diamonds International stores at the ports on our last two cruises. I need to sail to western Mexico and Alaska for new ones. I got a clock charm from both Roatan and Barbados because the stores are new and they haven't created a themed charm yet.


Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Spring Break

Ten-Day cruise aboard the Celebrity Millenium

The day before: applied for and obtained passports for the kids. Whew. That was close.

Departure from Bowie: four adult-sized people, four large suitcases holding clothes for at least 12 days, and four carry-ons in a Honda Fit. Should have taken a picture so we knew how everything would fit for the return.

Checked into the Best Western-Newark Airport at 10:30 with a 04:00 wake-up call for a 06:00 flight to Atlanta, connecting on to San Juan.

Check-in at the cruise terminal went fairly smoothly, had to fill out a health questionnaire: have we been sick? No, except for the major allergy attack that came on the day before, I was sneezing and had a runny nose like there's no tomorrow. Sheesh.

The ship is nice, quiet. Not in-your-face like Carnival tends to be. The general layout is very similar between the two, however. The typical demographic of Celebrity passengers is 55-75. This sailing skewed a lot younger because of spring break.

Luggage: finally delivered to our staterooms right before dinner, about five hours after boarding. What took so long? I start to worry it is still sitting on the dock somewhere.

Dinner: late seating, I asked for a table for four when we booked, they put us at a table for ten. Except there were only three seats left. Goldilocks was already at our table. sheesh. A table for ten, really? I really don't like to make other people endure Kevin's quirkiness, we like to eat alone. They are very apologetic and seat us upstairs for the night.

Tortola: not the island filled with pirates one might expect, especially those who are Johnny Depp fans. A smidge of sunburn where I missed with the sunscreen. Decent beach.

Sint Maarten: Narrow beach, more sunscreen. Didn't go to the French sided. Fern and I collect our free charms in all the ports as we did on the cruise a year ago Christmas. I've amassed quite a collection now.

St. Lucia: shore excursion to the Piton Falls. Who would have thought the roads were that tight, windy, and steep? Dramamine, please. We finally get a permanent dinner table assignment. We had open seating the first three nights because of the initial mix-up. Open seating is a disaster. Service is much better in the regular dining room. Much. They don't forget the silverware there.

Do you wave at strangers? Do you wave at the passengers on the other ships in the harbor when one ship is departing? Do you wave until they wave back which only encourages more of your fellow passengers to wave at them which encourages more of their fellow passengers to wave back at us?

Barbados: Dan and Fern take a zipline excursion while Kevin and I go to a beach. Met a lovely couple from the ship and asked the wife help me with the lotion on my back since Dan wasn't around. They both golf.

It's about 160 steps from Deck 2 where our staterooms are to Deck 10 where the breakfast and lunch buffets are. Kevin takes them up. I take them down. I can make it up to Deck 7 before getting on the elevator. Whew.

Grenada, the Spice Island: Catamaran snorkel/beach excursion and a sunburned back today. The spices are better in Guadalupe, by the way, but that was 15 years ago.

Day at sea: reading and sunning.

Curaçao: We rent a car. I drop Dan and the husband from the couple I met in Barbados off at the golf course and I take the wife and the kids to find a beach and to Jaanchie's restaurant for lunch. That's the place Dan and I went to for dinner a couple of times when we visited Curaçao three years before. Lunch is good but the service is way slow and we are late getting back to pick up the boys at the golf course. They seemed to have fun.

Aruba: We taxi to Eagle beach. Best beach by far, very wide with smooth, soft sand.

Down-face dog on the beach is relaxing, a nice stretch, until my foundation is washed away.

After the beach, I do some personal shopping and also collect our charms.

The new one is a bit bigger than the old one. When it's not sticking to my skin because of humidity or sweat, it hangs down loose on my metacarpal joint. Do I take another link out?

Another day at sea, more reading and sunning.

Back in San Juan: we take the El Yunqué rainforest tour, only because we have all day to kill, our flight home doesn't leave until 5:00.

Our flight to Miami is oversold. A flight to Baltimore is at the next gate. I offer three of our seats on our flight for seats on the BWI flight. (Our connection doesn't get in to Newark until 00:20, then there's the drive home and school the next day. This is the part of the vacation I wasn't looking forward to.) There are only two seats available on the BWI flight so I send Dan and Fern that way, Kevin and I continue on as originally planned. He's a little distraught about not having Daddy with him, but he settles down soon enough.

We depart San Juan for Miami over an hour late and just make it on to our next flight. (Dan and Fern arrive in Baltimore at the same time Kevin and I land in Miami. They get home and sleep in their own beds.) We make it to Newark, but our checked luggage doesn't. There are four groups of folks in the same boat, from the same boat, with no luggage. I file the missing bags report. Guess I didn't need that map to reload the suitcases in the car after all.

Kevin and I with our carry-ons get the car out of hock at SkyPark. $180 to park, free with the Best Western stay and fly deal. I hit the road, south on the turnpike to Exit 7, and spend what's left of the night at the Hampton. They gave me toothbrushes and toothpaste for me and the boy and deodorant for myself. I like Hampton Inn.

Home: at about 11:30, Kevin off to school. I try to drop him off directly but he won't go, he has to have his backpack.

The automated baggage system has no information about my suitcases. Then late in the afternoon, one bag has been found. I wonder if it's the one filled with dirty clothes?

Kevin's body clock is messed up. He heads to bed at 03:30 but is very distraught about not having his own toothbrush or flosser. It takes a while to calm him down.

O'dark:15 this morning my cell rings: "I have your suitcases, I'm in front of your house, sorry I'm late."


Lesson learned: If airfare out of Newark is included in your cruise ticket and DC is $400 extra, go with DC.