Not the best catch

A couple of months ago Gail and I wandered into Pacific Catch, a new restaurant in Walnut Creek, for lunch.  We liked it, so I wanted to go back for dinner.  Tonight, we tried it out with Mike and Linda,

The food was just as good as I remembered.  The service was execrable. Ghastly.  Random, bizarre, and incomprehensible.  We were not impressed.

Pacific Catch is part of a growing West Coast chain of reasonably priced, family-friendly, hip and happening fish emporiums.  The facility is bright and airy, open and modern, loud as a roaring freight train.  We had planned to sit outside, but they don’t seem to have very effective heaters so we moved indoors–by pleasant coincidence the granddaughter was home babysitting Claudia.

Drinks were ordered.  In a few minutes, Gail got her wine.

Then we waited

10 minutes later, Linda got her wine and Mike got the sissy cocktail of the day.

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If this just had a little umbrella it would be perfect.

The ‘iced tea’ at Pacific Catch is one of those tropical fruit/mango/peach/hibiscus/broccoli concoctions that restaurants for some reason inflict on innocent tea drinkers.  Fortunately, I’ve learned to ask first, and then order a hot tea and two glasses of ice.

So we ordered.  This restaurant has an interesting menu with ceviches, pokes, sashimi, tacos, fish and chips, grilled fish, and the odd hamburger for the unenlightened.

I started with the original Ahi poke, small cubes of raw Ahi tuna in a mildly spicy sauce, served in something like a martini glass with fried wontons to scoop it up.

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All well and good, but I was the only person at the table with food.  For the next 15 minutes.  The situation was utterly absurd.

Eventually, we got hold of the manager, who said they were swamped because 3 staff members had called in sick.  That might explain the slow service but not why they had brought just the one dish–they should have waited until all the dishes could be brought at once.

This silliness is further compounded by the fact that Linda was having the salmon poke,  Gail the soup and Mike the ceviche–all dishes that are prepared in large quantity in the afternoon, and need only to be portioned and plated, just like my dish.  Why they did not come out all at once is just a mystery.

The good news is that we all thought our food was extremely good.  We didn’t like to admit it, given how cranky we were with the place, but there was no denying that my poke was simply succulent, with just the right amount of spice.  Gail, a picky soup lover, was quite pleased with her salmon chowder. Linda loved her salmon poke and Mike left no crumbs of his fish.

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Mike’s fish platter, with a side of elote, Mexican corn.

I then had the two taco platter, with a salmon and a rockfish taco.

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Gail thinks it’s odd to serve fries with tacos.

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I thought the tacos were excellent, the fries crispy and the black beans just right.

I also ordered a side of the Thai brussels sprouts, both because I like them and because Mike hates them–memories of his frat house.  A very interesting treatment of the little green things, they were quite sweet with none of the bitterness often associated to them.  Linda took the leftovers home because she never gets them.

As we were all finishing, they dropped off Linda’s beet salad.  Another item it doesn’t take long to prepare.  It was a very good salad, with interesting pink beets, perhaps a cross between the usual red beets and they yellow ones.  If only it had come before her main dish…..

The waitress came to clear some plates, and I called for the check.  We made sure to have our credit cards ready when she returned to prevent her from dropping the tab off and then disappearing, and we were out of there.  Yes, we left a tip, but it wasn’t large.

I have to say that I’m crushed.  This place has so much potential and so little delivery.  They have a great menu if they could just get it to the table in some kind of reasonable order and time frame. The prices are reasonable, the room is clean and inviting, but I don’t think I’ll ever manage to get Gail to go back.

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Half a century

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Class photo from Mrs. Schieble’s 8th grade

I graduated from Miramonte in June, 1968. Last night, we had our 50th reunion. Somehow, I feel old and young at the same time.

Old because the reunion was a room full of old people, talking about their grandkids, cataract operation, retirement plans and knee replacements.

Young because I grew up with these people, and I still see many of them, and myself, as the teenagers I remember.

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Chris and Greg not only look much like they did, but Greg still dresses like it was the Age of Aquarius.

APC_0339-EditThis is Sandy York Dierckman.  I followed her around for all 4 years of school, to very little avail. Now she’s a grandmother in Southern Cal.  She’s still the first person I look for.

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Alex Ablanalp.  He gets the prize for coming the farthest–he was an exchange student from Switzerland our senior year and still lives in Zurich.

Three teachers attended last night, with the star being Mr. Grbich, the art teacher who is now 86.  His passion is tap dancing, so he put on a performance for us.  He has tap danced across the Golden Gate Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge, and now at Orinda Country Club.

 

There was a table full of memorabilia, including cheerleader dresses, varsity sweaters, and the program from the senior play.  A group of high schoolers putting on an absurdist play seem so very 1968.

 

Gail stayed home–she wouldn’t dream of spending an evening with a bunch of people she doesn’t know and won’t see again.  I don’t blame her an iota–I took a couple of photos of spouses who seemed to have been dragged along, and it isn’t all that pretty.  Who wants to get all dressed up to sit and read their phone?

 

The timing of the event was strange, with cocktails at 5:00.  There was schmoozing, a dinner buffet, more schmoozing, and I was still home by 9:00 including a stop for frozen yogurt.  Except for Mr. Grbich, there was no dancing.  Eating and going to bed early is a sure sign of old age.  Will our 60th begin at 3 in the afternoon?

I don’t know about other people, but I’m pretty nervous about attending a reunion.  People didn’t much want to talk to me in high school, and I think they still won’t.  Time heals many wounds, though, or maybe they’re just surprised I’m still alive.  (Lord knows it surprises me that I’m still here.)

It was satisfying to see so many people I remembered who remembered me. Some look great, some less so.  The women are better preserved than the men. People have their story ready to tell, and they omit the parts they aren’t proud of.  You don’t hear of any kids or grandkids in prison, divorces, or business failures, but that’s only natural. Everyone had a fresh haircut; there were lots of new dresses and sportcoats–we all wanted to look prosperous and happy, and I hope they all are.

The same people who were the in crowd 5 decades ago still are, and they are the ones who form the organizing committee and make all this happen–which probably explains why they were the cool kids then and now.

Half a century, 2 score years and ten, is a long darned time.  Nobody is mad at anyone else anymore, we’re just glad to see each other and spend a happy evening together.  Perhaps the next one will be in 5 years, not 10. Have to see these people while we still can.

Puesto!

APC_0320Out to dinner during the Santa Clara Regional, we went to Il Fornio, and saw a place named Puesto next door.  It looked so cool, we had to go there the next night.

Inside a stunning $8 million building, is a very hip, slick and cool Mexican restaurant.

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Gail, Linda, Micky and Jerry.  I love the backlit plants at balcony level.

The design of this joint is spectacular.  The bar has huge, clear shelves holding all the back stock, which lower down to bartender level when a new bottle is needed.  The coolness level is off the charts.  I wonder how earthquake safe it is, though.

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The menu here is pretty basic–tacos.  The standard menu item is 3 tacos for $16, but that’s an illusion because many of the 12 different tacos they offer have an upcharge–$1 for the fish, $2 for the filet, $3.50 for the lobster.  That’s each taco, because you can mix and match from the menu to your tastebud’s delight.

There are also some bowls on the menu, but I think you come here for the tequila and the tacos. Stick with the basics.

APC_0322Gail also ordered the pickled vegetables, which were too spicy for me, but looked interesting.

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Puesto is a new chain starting out in La Jolla.  The good news is that there will be a branch in the new Veranda center in Concord.  All of us who went to dinner are looking forward to trying it as soon as they get the doors open.

As much as I really liked this place, I have a hard time imagining how they will pay for an $8 million building with $16 plates of tacos.  But I intend to enjoy it as long as it lasts.

Cool Shoes

Leo Bell stands out. It’s hard to miss a guy 6′ 3″ and more than 300 pounds in baby blue Crocs.

I guess he was feeling a little wallflower-ish, because he has new shoes, even brighter and more noticeable.

Nobody puts Baby in the corner. And nobody overlooks Leo.

The Best Things in Life

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Gail and Ann on a shopping trip to San Francisco while they were in high school.

 

Life doesn’t get much better than good food and good friends.  And if you can have both of them at the same time, so much the better

Last week Gail and I had dinner with Ann and Alf Brandin. Gail lived next door to Ann in high school, and they have been friends ever since. Brad and Kate joined us at Jason’s, a nice restaurant in Greenbrae near the onramp to HWY 101.

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Gail, Alf and Ann

Jason’s has a large covered patio area so we could have Claudia join us.  There aren’t many photos of me on this blog, but Alf took one I need to include:

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The food here is very good, and imaginatively created and presented.  I had the seared ahi, buried under a mound of mango salsa and accompanied by mashed spuds and tempura green beans.  It isn’t often that anyone raves about green beans, but Jason’s works miracles.

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I’ve become a fan of elote, Mexican grilled corn covered in cheese.  Usually served on the cob, it’s like dessert in the middle of the meal.  It’s a side dish I can’t refuse.

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Kate had the salmon.  A simple dish, very nicely prepared.  It isn’t always necessary to get fancy with the food, just do it perfectly and that’s enough.

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Abjuring his customary cheeseburger, Brad opted for the American classic fried chicken. Once again, the simple, clean presentation was a winner.

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Gail chose the lamb chops–three huge chops, so we had enough for lunch the next day.

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The service was friendly and first-rate.  We had a bit of excitement when a slippery bottle of wine oozed out of the waiter’s hand and shattered on the floor, but no harm was done and there was another bottle in the cellar

.All that makes me a happy camper.  Eating with family and old friends where the food is good, the location is delightful and the service is smooth is about all a boy can ask for.

Que Bella

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The California fires are a tragedy, but they sure give us interesting sunsets.  Looking towards the Carquinez bridge, and the smoke dimmed the sun enough that you could look directly at it.

We were in Benicia to have dinner at a new restaurant–Bella Siena.  At the end of First Street, an old building has been imaginatively refurbished, with phenomenal views of the Carquinez Straits, the bridge, and the setting sun.

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The interior matches the grandeur of the view.  Not too many tables, warm lighting, excellent sound-dampening make it an inviting place to enjoy a meal.

And then the meal is top-notch.

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Grilled Salmon

Reed had the gnocchi, with the shrimp sauce instead of pesto.

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Gail had capellini al pomodoro,  angel hair with fresh tomato sauce, that was so good we’ve had pasta the next two nights because she’s hooked.

Service wasn’t bad, and this is a new business still shaking out the flaws.  Prices are more than reasonable.

Bella Siena is busy.  There is a large outdoor patio area they aren’t yet using until they get running more smoothly, so there are more clients than tables sometimes.  You need to go to opentable.com and make a reservation, and that’s not a bad thing.  When they get the patio going, we’ll be there every night with Claudia.

On the street

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Walking to Fat Slice this week, I noticed this truck belonging to the guys who are painting the building.  It was so unique I had to stop, ask questions and take pictures.

It’s a 1963 GMC Step-van, still in use every day.  Originally built as a delivery van, designed for frequent stops, it still has the original seat which is hinged so the driver can get it out of the way to carry packages in and out.

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I think it’s strange to see older vehicles that have so little instrumentation, just a speedometer, gas, battery and oil pressure and temperature gauges.  There is a 3 speed manual transmission on the column. Turn signals are on the left.  High beam switch is the button on the floor.  Just the basics with no ornamentation at all.

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The owner (who thinks he is just the 2nd person to have this truck) keeps it mighty clean and neat–but that’s what you’d expect of a painter.

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The shelving is a modern addition.  No passenger seat–this is a working vehicle.

There is a world of interesting things out there, you just have to stop, look and ask questions.  Good thing I’m inquisitive.

And now, something serious

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Barbara, a friend of ours, was playing bridge yesterday when the left side of her body went numb.  Although the incident swiftly passed, we were fortunate to have a physician playing and he strongly urged her to take an ambulance and go to the ER.  That’s, of course, the right thing to do.

Our friend was fortunate–she had a TIA (transient ischemic attack), sometimes the precursor to a stroke. She will be fine and can discover what caused the issue.  A night in the hospital and back on the golf course.

This seems like a time to review the stroke awareness poster. There is a natural tendency to deny the seriousness of strange new symptoms, but strokes need to be treated quickly–much of the damage they cause can be ameliorated with quick treatment.  Pay attention to what is happening to yourself and to your friends.  Don’t be in denial if you have the symptoms or you see another with them. Take action and save a life.

10 Perfect Champagne Cocktails

Delightful ways to enhance your brunch bubbly

You might drown your sorrows in a whiskey or martini, but when it’s time for good news, only sparkling wine will do. And when it’s time for a celebratory brunch, there’s nothing more delightful than a Champagne cocktail.

The most familiar sparkling cocktail for morning is likely the Mimosa, a simple mix of orange juice and sparkling wine. But if you’re looking to drink something a little different with your eggs benedict, there’s an endless array of possibilities to be made with a bottle of sparkling wine from your Oddbins Champagne Range and a bit of creative mixology. Here are ten of our favorite combinations:

1. Add a splash of pomegranate liqueur (like Pama); garnish with mint.

2. Add a bit of amaretto and a good amount of pear juice.

3. Soak a sugar cube in bitters then drop it in a full glass of bubbly.

4. Mix in a spoonful of coconut cream.

5. Add a dash of grenadine; garnish with freshly ground pepper.

6. Stir in a splash of elderflower liqueur; garnish with a large lemon twist.

7. Muddle a handful of blueberries and basil in a glass, add bubbly.

8. Top with a few fresh or frozen raspberries, and add a scoop of raspberry sorbet, if you like.

9. Add a dash of Campari or Aperol; garnish with an orange twist.

10. Mix with mango juice; garnish with a lime twist.

 

We ought to feel sorry for champagne. So often dismissed as a luxury or party accessory, it rarely gets the chance to be heralded in its own right as a serious drink for every day consumption.

The truth, however, is that champagne is in fact a medicine, just like Calpol or marijuana. And we can prove it.

First Date Fun

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Gail has wondered since we got Claudia if we should breed her.  There is a clear demand for puppies–Granddaughter Demi and bridge player Gish have already signed up, even though we are far from a decision

One of the big factors is finding the right mate–a dog of the same color and breed and marvelous disposition to create the ideal puppies.  That’s kind of hard to find.

Our friends BJ and Larry Ledgerwood saw a perfect candidate recently and gave us the phone number.  Yesterday, we went to visit Cooper and his parents and came away delighted.

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Cooper is a year-old red toy poodle, so incredibly cute and friendly she gives Claudia a run for her money.  He lives with his parents and another dog in Walnut Creek, and we fell in love immediately.

At 6 pounds, he is slightly smaller than Claudia. Full of puppy energy and impossibly friendly, Cooper took to Claudia immediately.  They played and roughhoused like old friends.   Cooper’s mom, Sandy, tried to lure him away to show off his tricks on the agility course they have built, but he was having none of it–he wanted to stay with his new friend and flirt.

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This was just a first date.  We still aren’t sure we want to go through the troubles of having puppies.  They don’t know us well enough yet to lend us their dog for romance.

We have more research to do, and there are more playdates to arrange to cement the relationship.

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But if ever there was a partner for Claudia, the impossibly cute and delightful Cooper is surely the one.  First dates are hard, only time will tell.