April 18, 2009

Restaurant Miramar

Posted in food, travel at 3:20 pm by Michael

12, quai du Port
13002 Marseille
Tel: 04 91 91 10 40

The House of Bouillabaise

The House of Bouillabaise

Miramar is probably the most famous bouillabaisse restaurant in southern France, if not all of France. We had the opportunity to have lunch there, and it was as good as advertised. Quai du Port rings the south side of the main marina, and along that road are a set of restaurants offering French maritime cuisine. On your way to #12 do not stop, do not pass go, just keep going. Miramar is a different beast. They have both inside and outside seating (we sat outside), and the tables were mostly filled with well-dressed, middle-aged French businessmen enjoying a three-hour lunch.

Many of the main-courses are for two (we found this to be pretty common). There are three versions of the bouillabaisse (with and without lobster and one “special” – we couldn’t get a great explanation of “special”). Other super interesting courses for two included various grilled fishes, salt encrusted and baked fishes, and fish in pastry (which are expertly filleted and plated tableside by the “Chef du Table” – a roving outside chef).

We were there for the bouillabaisse, so we went for it. (Regular, no lobster).

To start we had the lobster salad.

Cannibal Lobster

Cannibal Lobster

This was perhaps the most beautiful lobster salad that I had ever seen – note how the claw seemingly grasps the tail. The lobster was nicely cooked (steamed, served cold), however the flavors in the salad (peas, beans, carrots, greens, with a light pesto-cream sauce) while independently beautiful, I didn’t hang together cohesively to make the dish.

We also had the scallop starter.

Truffles: Is there anything you can't do?

Truffles: Is there anything you can't do?

Also very beautiful. The scallops were lightly pan fried, and sat on top of a bed of slightly crunchy, pan-caramelized onions. On top, there are the thick sliced black truffles. Need I say more?

This dish did hang together much more cohesively. A single bite incorporating all of the elements was an amazing pleasure… it just melted in your mouth.

Next came the bouillabaisse…. It was a production. First, the seafood comes out.

Platter of Happy

Platter of Happy

Rockfish, a few kinds of whitefish, mussels, small crabs and potatoes are all delivered beautifully, topped with the “Certificate of Quality”.

The server then brings the garlic, mayo and toast platter. There is a process to follow with those – a delicious, garlicky process.

Platter of Process

Platter of Process

Step one: Select your toast.
Step two: Select a garlic clove.
Step three: Take garlic clove, and “scrape” on toast, liberally.
Step four: Apply dollop of spicy mayo stuff on toast.
Step five:  Drop in bouillabaisse broth.

Oh, the broth.

Now, you don’t just get the broth with the seafood – no. While your seafood is being filleted and prepared tableside by the Chef du Table,  you are given a fullsize bowl to enjoy. You get to play the above toast game with *that* broth.

Swimming Toast

Swimming Toast

I had this preconceived notion that bouillabaisse broth was thin and white. Far from it – here it was very much like a thick, fish bisque (without cream). It was also heavily seasoned with saffron and was somewhat curry-like, with a definite yellow color. With an almost spicy background, it went perfectly with the garlic toast previously prepared.

When finished, the Chef du Table presented us with the complete product – with a new base of broth of course.

Almost there....

Almost there....

While the serving was for two – honestly two people could have shared one bowl and been quite satiated. Each of the elements retained its own flavor and texture, and worked well together.

We did finish with dessert – which was ordered right after the main courses were ordered since each was cooked to order as well. I was ready to burst, but we had selected a Gran Marnier soufflé.



And, a Baba au Rhum.

....and a bottle of rum!

....and a bottle of rum!

The Baba au Rhum came with its own separate shot of rum (for drinking) – I know it was for drinking as the cake was supersaturated with rum – and perfect of course. The Baba and the topping strawberry glistened – with deliciousness.

Shining Beacon of Strawberry

Shining Beacon of Strawberry

As a bonus, a petit-fours plate was delivered, including these delicious raspberry tarts.

More Shiny...

More Shiny...

Samwich *loved* these, and when we told the ever-accomodating staff, ten more promptly showed up. I kid you not. Samwich then proceeded to eat the raspberries off the top of each one in a maniacal production line of yumminess.

Restaurant Miramar was an absolute treat. The setting was perfect for people watching along the quai. Eating outside in early spring was like a sneak preview of summer. Honestly lunching there was a great combination of luxury and laid-back-ness that I don’t think we would have had at dinner.

Marseille was an hour-plus from where we were staying, but Anh and I considered going back the next day to try more of the treats… only a fear of another post-lunch-caloric-coma caused us to not make the trek.

Go to Miramar… go after fasting… go with friends so you can try everything.


March 23, 2009

The Bazaar

Posted in food, hotel at 8:00 am by Michael

Fun at the Bazaar

Fun at the Bazaar

When in LA with Peri a few weeks ago we went to The Bazaar at the SLS Hotel. It’s a new (opened in December ’08) Jose Andres restaurant. This was his first LA restaurant – his other places are in DC. He was recently (2008) on “No Reservations” with Anthony Bourdain for his restaurant “minibar” (in DC).


It was one of the top 5 meals that I’ve had in the past year.

The menu is an eclectic combination of traditional Spanish tapas, and playfully re-imagined modern plates.

I’m a fan of a nice Mojito. They had two on the menu – regular, and “Magic”. Of course, I got the Magic one… What makes it Magic? Well, they first bring a martini glass overflowing with cotton candy, and pour the Mojito less-sugar over the cotton candy. The candy melts, making the Mojito complete (not to sweet even!).

Not at the fairground

Not at the fairground

Three other favorites: rice (risotto) with field mushrooms and two types of caprese salad.

Yum! Caprese

Yum! Caprese

Now, the first type of caprese had cuvee’ed cherry tomatoes, served with little balls of mozzarella, all served over lovely pesto. When you took a spoon with a tomato, mozzarella and pesto, it just melted.


The second type of caprese was even more funky – instead of mozzarella balls, the liquid was put in a pipette, and you put the tomato in your mouth, then squirted the pipette in. Lovely.

Pipettes can be used for food

Pipettes can be used for food

Go… order lots of stuff. It was fun, funky, and yummy.

January 28, 2009

O Ya – Oh Yeah!

Posted in food at 9:36 pm by Michael

La Ratte Nigiri

La Ratte Nigiri

If you are in Boston, and if you like sushi (or are willing to try sushi), if you have one dinner, go here.


Anh and I are big sushi fans. We have had the fortune to try sushi from a lot of places – Seattle, New York, LA, Las Vegas (yuk) and of course Tokyo.

Even given that, probably the most memorable experience has been at O Ya.

Its non-traditional – one of the funkiest things they serve is “La Ratte potato chip” nigiri style (in the foreground of the picture). La Ratte is a type of potato made famous by Joel Robuchon with his whipped potatoes Robuchon. (If you go to any Joel Robuchon restaurant – you MUST have them – world famous).

Here, they create a La Ratte potato chip, and serve it nigiri style with a little black truffle and truffle oil. Sounds absurd, and it is.

Dessert was a roasted fois gras on top of a sweet rice roll with a little bitter chocolate on top. I can’t even explain.

Make a reservation.


Get the chef’s menu.


September 19, 2008

Hummos in Israel (The Lunch of Choice!)

Posted in food, travel, work at 12:54 am by Michael

This week I was on business travel in Israel. As part of an internal reorg, I’m now responsible for a small development group in our Microsoft Israel office outside of Tel Aviv (in Herzeliya).

Food is an obvious connection when meeting new people – in business or personally. While we were working, we talked a lot about good food – both in Seattle and also in Israel. One of my new co-workers is a hummos fanatic – constantly searching out the best places to go, with awesome critiques of which places have the best salad, the best hummos itself, the best sauces – you get the picture.

Yesterday for lunch, he asked where we should go.


It was unanimous. He told us about his favorite local place. He described it as “The Hummos Nazi” – like the Soup Nazi in Seinfeld. I was more in than ever for this place! We set of on our hummos adventure for the Hummos Shack (my term, not his!) which was tucked in a small retail space in another office complex. (Its in the Ramat-Gan neighborhood)


The name of the place is “Parsley” in English.

A Good Sign

A Good Sign

When we walked up, there was a good size line – with members of the Israeli Army just in front of us. This is a good sign – the longer the line, the better!

The Menu

The Menu

The menu was posted on the far wall, all in Hebrew. It turns out that there is a “stack” that you can build:

– stewed beans (looked like some red bean variant)

– hummos

– oil and chickpeas

– diced onion

– parsley

– hard boiled egg

The menu basically describes that.

The prices are in NIS (New Israel Sheckel), and the rate is about 3.5 NIS = $1 USD. You can see then, at 7 to 8 NIS per plate, this is a good deal.

The Home of Happy Hummos

The Home of Happy Hummos

The ingredients are served from these trays, into your waiting plate.



You have a choice of sauces – the far left are whole jalapenos, the middle is a mango salsa, and the right is a red pepper mash (schug).

No Egg

Option 1: No EggOption 2: Egg and Beans

With the plate, you are served pita bread, as well as the ubiquitous Israeli salad – tomato, cucumber onion, parsley. (Some places add cabbage – this place did not.)





Basically, you mix and eat into as many combinations that you would like. This was an *awesome* lunch. The veggies were fresh – the sauces were crisp and fresh, and the bread was warm and clearly fresh baked.

Not only that, but this was an amazingly filling lunch. Lunch in Israel turns out to be a big meal (little to no breakfast), usually taken between 12-1, but then dinner isn’t until 8-9pm – and these are leisurely affairs. This lunch served me well to tide me over for more than eight hours until dinner.

One thing that just about everyone said though about Israeli restaurant service is that its brusque at best. To the point. Brief. This place was no exception. As we were finishing up, probably a little too slowly, one of the guys from the restaurant told, or “invited” us to leave in Hebrew – I guess we were taking too long!

Even with that, I’d go back in a second… it was amazing.

August 23, 2008

The Burger Nazi (But We Liked It – And Went Back!)

Posted in food, travel at 11:11 pm by Michael

For the past week we’ve been on vacation in Maui – in Wailea. We love Hawaii – I feel incredibly fortunate to live only five air-hours away. One of our favorite travel activities is searching out for local street food. Sometimes, the stranger or more out of the way, the better.

We had just been hiking at the end of the road (literally) south of Makena. The hike is beautiful – through a lava flow from the 1780’s that looks like it just happened last year, then through a set of wizened trees and little beaches that seem like a little slice of how Hawaii was long ago. We started early to avoid the heat, and on the way back from the hike stopped first at Makena Grill (advertised as the second best lunch in Makena). They listed their hours as “11ish” to “4ish” – Island Time – it was 11:20 and no sign of the Makena grill folks, so we decided to venture on.

Right across from the entrance to Makena State Park (aka Big Beach, aka Oneloa), there are usually roadside stands – hamburgers, hot dogs, fish tacos and shave ice – typical Hawaiian fare. We pulled up to the first one (looked promising – a homemade smoker appeared to be the cooking device of choice – cool! – with lots of fresh produce in evidence).

The Burger Man of Makena

The Burger Man of Makena

Anh walked up and started talking to the proprietor/chef/enforcer.

“I’d like…”

“Wait wait wait”, he said, with palm extended in the classic “Talk to the hand form”. His lips were pursed as if to say “Oh boy, this again.”

“Before you order, let me tell you about *my* food. I cook everything to order. We have burgers and fish sandwiches with mahi mahi. The burgers are the Kong Burger, which are this big (his hands up as if to hold a sandwich, fingers extended to their full length as if to make a giant ellipse), and they cost $14 each. It comes with cheese, lettuce, maui onion, roasted pineapple, tomato and mustard and catchup. I wrap it in the foil, and if you unwrap it, then it will fall apart. I only cook meat with meat, and fish with fish so if you want both, you’ll have to wait.”

“Ok, great. We’ll take a burger and three fish sandwiches” (there were seven of us total).

“You’ll have to wait. I cook everything to order.”

“Ok. No problem.”

“My food is expensive, but those hotels, they charge hotel prices, but they serve you shit.”

And with that, he began cooking. Slowly, methodically, cooking.

During the cooking he talked about how people around town have asked for his marinade recipe, and he said it would cost “10”, as in $10k.

“They are all crooks. They steal from each other. I was in the business, but I didn’t want any part of it.”

Cool! Dinner and a show! We like that.

While we were waiting, at least three other groups came up to order. Two of them walked up, and when he didn’t even look at them, they walked away. One other guy came up, and started to order, and he repeated the above caution about how big, how long and how expensive his food was. He walked too.

The burger guy’s response?

“These people, these people don’t want to wait. They don’t know good food.”

Anti-marketing… you have to love that.

At one point, Anh asked about additional hot pepper – jalapenos, or hot sauce. He chided: “If you add to much of that stuff, you can’t taste it. My stuff is seasoned plenty hot enough.”

And you know what? He was right.

The burger was great. The fish sandwiches – also great.
We also got fresh pineapple, papaya and coconut from him. The papaya came from his yard in Kihei, the coconut from his neighbor’s tree. (I’m guessing the pineapple came from a grower, but it was damn sweet).

He even prepped the coconut, making a handy scrapey-spoon from the outside of the coconut to get the meat out.

He totaled up our bill on the inside of a Ziploc bag box – it wasn’t cheap – just over $100 for the four sandwiches, a hot dog, two half pineapples, a coconut, a mango and drinks.

We decided to go back the next day, and get “Take out”, and bring it back to the beach.

When we arrived, he didn’t seem to recognize us – he started the same spiel about the burgers when we started to order, but Anh said, “We were here yesterday.” He said “Oh”, and started cooking.

While waiting (30 mins from when we ordered, and we were customer numero uno), there was another incident with non-marketing. These two even came up, and tried to talk to him, but he ignored them. They walked away.

One of his buddies was there hanging out there, and he was watching after his adopted three month old chicken. Turned out that this chicken was just hanging out at the stand, lost without the momma chicken, and the buddy started feeding him.

“Chickens crap on everything.”, chicken buddy said.

The chicken would climb up his finger, and onto his shoulder and back. Apparently the chick loved to poop on the dude’s back, because there was evidence – fresh and otherwise.

We loved our second round as much as the first – just as big – just as yummy – but we got some sort of discount – the second day the burgers were only $12, not $14. We even got a little wave as we were driving off.

He is a character – he knows what he likes – knows what he likes to make – and he makes great stuff… stop in!

(If you didn’t get the reference – Soup Nazi from Seinfeld)

May 1, 2008

Live from MMS 2008 – Vegas!

Posted in food, transgender, work at 11:33 am by Michael

This week I’ve been at my first Microsoft conference in a while – Microsoft Management Summit in sunny Las Vegas. The last one was way back in the spring of ’06, which seems like forever ago.

So, this is my first official “Megan” conference badge.

My Megan MMS Badge

At work, everyone (or virtually everyone) “Knows”. Coming to a five thousand person conference – not so much. While I’ve been here, I’ve done customer and partner meetings, both formal and informal, and also talked to a lot of other ‘softies who I’ve never met before. In addition, I’ve run into a lot of ‘softies who I haven’t seen in quite some time.

Me at MMS, Blue Shirt and All

Fundamentally, what the customers and partners care about when they are talking to me is that I have a clue about what I’m talking about. I’ve not gotten any crappy looks, comments, or sideways glances (as far I as I can tell).

One thing that I did notice, handshaking is totally different. I’ve got reasonably big, but long and thin hands. “Before” when I’d shake hands with people, I’d get the full on, thumb/thumb handshake. Now, when I shake hands w/men, they tend to grab fingers only – not the full-on palm handshake that I’ve been used to.

There is still oddity when I see people who I know, but haven’t seen in a while. I ran into one guy who I’ve worked with a ton in the past, and he was here with his wife. I said hi to him, and he started talking and he said to me: “Wow Megan, you are looking great!”. I could see his wife give him a super shitty look when he said that! I’m sure he’ll explain later, and get the “Ooooohhhhh, now I understand!”. It was a funny moment.

Others are more circumspect: “I’ve heard there’s been a lot going on with you!”

To all of my friends and co-workers who I haven’t seen in a while  – I’m certainly “Out”, and I don’t get bummed out or uncomfortable when people learn about my story. So, if you are afraid that if you say something obvious like “How’s your transition been?” – it’s ok!

On to a more pressing topic – what to eat in Vegas! I have a new favorite steak place in Vegas – “Cut”. It is in the new Venetian Palazzo wing, and it’s a Wolfgang Puck restaurant. I know… these are not great at times – good, not great. This is actually great. Try it. Its new. The service is fantastic, the sommelier is super, and the general manager was super fun to talk to (Marino Monferrato). If you go there, tell ‘em Megan sent you!

(Our previous fave place for steak here – Craft Steak was VERY disappointing when Anh and I were here about a month ago… I may give them another shot, but not soon.)

I also tried David Burke with a couple of other folks. The drinks were great, I had a fantastic halibut t-bone, which was light and memorable. BUT – we had a spicy lobster appetizer that came out undercooked (way undercooked). They handled it well, gave us a salad as a replacement (comped), but still – yuk – undercooked lobster. Not cool. Not sure I’ll go back there anytime soon.

L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon is still my absolute fave on the strip. Go. Go again. I sent somebody there this trip and they described it as “The Best Meal of My Life”. Go. Go More.

Anyway…. Just another show, and I can restart my badge collection!

April 6, 2008

Disney Food Experience

Posted in family, food, travel at 5:02 pm by Michael

Yes, you can find reasonable food in the Disney parks (Reasonable: not all fried, some greens or at least fruit, not ultra fatty). Our usual “Don’t eat bad food” rule has to get suspended a bit (note, bad doesn’t mean expensive – it just means to make food part of the experience – trying to eat as local, or at least as well as possible given the locale).

Here’s where we ate::

Off Property

Nacho’s Grill – near the Outlet Malls, in Orlando
– Reasonably authentic Cuban and Mexican food… even given the cheesy name, this place was good – the nachos were fresh, the rice was good, and the service quick!

Magic Kingdom

Tomorrowland Terrace and Noodle Station
– Who knew? Asian in Disney… A reasonable simulacrum of Chinese/Asian food, but better than a burger (we had noodle soup, teriyaki chicken/beef with rice – all not bad!)

Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café
– There were three “bays” here (Its “Tomorrowland” after all) – “Burger”, “Chicken”, and “Soup/Salad”. We had “Bay 2 – Chicken”, and there was roti chicken and ribs, served with green beans (canned) and also mashed potato. The chicken was moist, and Samwich was loving the green beans. Mmmm… fiber!

El Pirata Y El Perico
– Ok, sounds super cheezy. They have three things basically – beef tacos, vegetable tacos, taco salad (all in hard shells). The cool thing is that they have a “topping bar” with lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese, salsa and hot sauce, so you can salad-ify virtually everything. For kids meals, they had cheese quesadillas which were clearly microwaved, because they got hard instantly (a definite pass).

Disney’s Hollywood Studios (aka Disney/MGM)

Brown Derby
– Home of the Cobb Salad (the real one in California at least)…. We did have the Cobb Salad, I thought it was ok, Anh thought they crossed the “chopped/minced” line, and it tasted like tabbouleh.


– The couscous here was “The Best Couscous I Ever Had” according to Peri. Now, take this with a grain of couscous. When Peri likes something, its generally “The Best X I Ever Had”… but, still, high praise. We had couscous with both lamb and chicken (the chicken was whole, and the lamb was a roasted shank, which was moist). Anh had the chicken kabobs which were well flavored, but were dry.

Grand Floridian

– One of two higher end restaurants at the GF (The third, ultra high end place is “Victoria and Alberts, which is prix fixe ($125/pp), and has its own reservation line, no kids allowed, and a jackets/cocktail dresses dress code. Not owning a cocktail dress, this was right out.) We had dinner here with all the kids, and to start with, the service was very kid friendly, and very good. Drinks (mixed) were also surprisingly good (pomegranate cosmo for Anh – nice and bitter). John had shrimp which were sautéed – he loved it – although it looked a little rich. I had the braised veal, which was reasonable, but could have been more tender and more extreme in its flavors (more of something – more wine, more garlic, more something – it didn’t stand for much). All up, this was a good choice with kids though – the service saved it, as did the “make it your own” sundae’s for the them. From a food point of view, it was ok, but from an experience point of view (with all three kids), it was good.

– We actually ate here twice. The first time, we had “adult dinner’, and the second time, we brought back the whole family. Note that this place is “on the lake”, and has a view of the fireworks, so tables tend to be held through the fireworks (i.e., it’s hard to get a reservation, or have the reservation work well if its 60-90 mins before fireworks time – since fireworks were generally at 10pm when we were there, this meant that 830-9pm was crunch time there).

Fundamentally, the reason why we ate here twice was the staff. The first night, our server was Diane, and we struck up a lively conversation with her about wine. The fried calamari was fresh and tasty, served with onions, olives and hot peppers. Over the two nights, we had the steak (fair), as well as tilefish, lobster tail, and a couple of other things. However, the real killer here (for the kids at least) was dessert. They had a “make your own S’Mores” big kid dessert, which they *loved* (we brought them in for dinner after we ate the first night). Diane and Sam made us a reservation for the next night (and Sam got us a wine list from Victoria and Albert’s, which we ordered from). If you go, say hi to both of them for us, they were both sweethearts.

When we went to “adult dinner”, Peri and John were at “The Mouseketeer Club” at the GF, which was a room with toys/games/movies/crafts that was attended and had about 6 other kids there when we dropped them off. Reservations for this can be made through the Disney Dining line (800-WDW-DINE). This was $11/hour per kid. Samwich had an in-room sitter that we arranged through the resort. They charged $16/hour. This has to be made through a separate service, but was backed by Disney.

The Yuk List

Magic Kingdom: Columbia Harbor House
– All fried, all the time. Fried chicken, fried fish… we didn’t have a lot of options. They did have two salads, and they would make them fresh (you can remove stuff…)

Kennedy Space Center: Café
– Going here made me appreciate the organization that Disney brings to the table for food service for a lot of people.


A special note of our favorite snack at the Magic Kingdom – “Pineapple Dole Whip” – which is pineapple soft serve ice cream. Yum. This can be found right across from the “Swiss Family Robinson” tree house, in Adventureland.

March 16, 2008


Posted in family, food, Samwich, transgender, travel at 11:44 pm by Michael

Saturday morning Anh, Samwich and I drove down to Rhode Island to visit my mom. It was Samwich’s birthday, and we hadn’t seen my mom in a while – good opportunity!

We usually don’t get a car when we are just in Boston, so Step 1 was to actually get a car. I usually rent from Avis, because I have a Preferred number with them (you can get this easily from them), and it makes the rental process easier. They have your license and credit card information on file, so it’s quick, and you get a bit of a discount. I haven’t yet updated my ID information with them yet, so I wasn’t sure how this was going to go. I didn’t even rent the car with my Preferred info, and just did it online without it. When I got to the desk to get the car, I gave the agent my license and credit card, and when he swiped it, it automatically came up with my Preferred number. Turns out that Avis uses your credit card number as your long term ID number. Changing my name with them was trivial as a result.

On the way down to RI, we stopped at Dunkin’ and got Samwich his first donut (it was his birthday after all). Loved it… but he loved smashing it more. Samwich is in food-smashing mode for most soft foods these days – bananas, bread, you name it. I think he’s looking for the treasure inside. Denied! He does eat the smashed bits too. (Not to go too far down the Samwich eating habits path, but Damn Samwich! Are you part penguin? Just about anything he puts in his mouth, he takes a bite of, then takes it out, looks at it, and then decides if its worthy to go back in or not. Sometimes he just sucks the essential juices out, like the salt-monster on Star Trek, and spits out the effluent.)

The last time my mom saw me in person was November 30th, the day after FFS. This is what I looked like:

Postop 24

In talking to her since then, she’s had a hard time getting that image out of her head, because there hasn’t been a live one to replace it. Yes, she’s seen pictures, video, and even the ABC stuff last week, but that’s just not the same.

Luckily, I was able to give her a new image… (sorry, we didn’t take a lot of pictures of me… this is the only one)

March 16, 2008

My sisters were both there when we arrived, as well as my niece and great-niece. I hadn’t seen any of them since November either.

When we arrived, it even smelled like home. They had put a turkey in to roast and my old(est) sister had made a cake/cupcakes. Smell is such a personal, deeply emotional sense. To me at least, a remembered smell can bring me back more quickly than any other sense.

I could see the relief on my mom’s face almost right away. She hugged me, then came back to hug me again a few minutes later.

We had a great lunch, Samwich loved his birthday cupcake, and spent the afternoon just relaxing. It was nice to be home.

My mom was/is still struggling with the name/pronoun thing. I don’t think for a second it’s because she isn’t respectful or understanding – but as *my mom* she has such a pattern of interaction with me, its hard to break. At one point, she said she was just going to call me “Michael Megan” so I couldn’t tell when she screwed up. Got to love the hardscrabble Yankee pragmatism.

That night, at about eight, I went downstairs, and noticed a good-sized water leak in the ceiling. Looked all around (up and downstairs), but we couldn’t find the source of it. I can fix a lot of things, but plumbing – that’s one thing that I’m not good at – clueless sums it up.

My mom is blessed with awesome neighbors, and she called across the street to ask for some help. Glenn helps my mom out a lot – he shovels her out, will help with house maintenance, and he and his wife both have been a real source of support for my mom since my dad passed away.

He came over – we (well, he swung the hammer) tore out the waterlogged ceiling, and saw that the leak was coming from behind the wall. We went upstairs, tore out some more wall behind the bathroom sink, and discovered that the joint on the hot water line was leaking. We then spent the next two hours repairing it (well, I held the flashlight, and did general helper 3 rd class duties). I love watching someone work who really knows what they are doing – doesn’t matter what they are doing. Watching my old(est) sister make bread is amazing – she used to be a baker in another life – always something to learn.

Glenn hadn’t seen me since last summer. You know what? If he was different in any way, I couldn’t tell. We were just getting the job at hand done – at 10pm at night on a Saturday. Glenn is a police officer in Pawtucket, and he’s one big, strong, tough dude. He’s awesome. Thanks Glenn.

After cleaning up the big mess we had made by tearing out a ceiling and a wall, we went to bed.

When we got up this morning, Ma suggested that we all go out to breakfast at her favorite neighborhood joint – Oatley’s. Rhode Island, even though it’s wedged between Boston and New York can be both very urban, but surprisingly rural. Just five minutes from my mom’s house is a huge turf farm. The vibe of her town is east-coast rural. Lots of stone walls as you drive around, not made for the look, but out of necessity from clearing the land.

My mom and dad used to go to Oatley’s five or six days a week before he passed away. She goes less now, but is still a regular, and pretty well known there.

We had our breakfast, Samwich did his penguin-eating, and as we were leaving (and I was across the room paying), one of the waitresses who knows my mom well came over and was chatting with them. Just as I walked over, she had to run, but my mom said to me “Well, I’m sorry that she didn’t get to say hi to my youngest daughter!”

After we finished up, we stopped by the cemetery to visit my dad’s gravesite, and to leave a ceramic bird at his site. This was harder for me than I thought it was going to be. Samwich hadn’t been there before, and as we were driving up, Sheila said “Samwich, are you going to say hi to Pa?” Samwich never met my dad, and my dad never knew that Samwich was coming. Anh was only a few weeks pregnant (we knew) when my dad passed, and it didn’t seem like a good time to tell him. (Long story).

As we were walking up to the site, Anh said “What’s that rumble? Is that Pa rolling over?”. Just some context here… we all in the fam have talked a lot about how my dad would have dealt with his only son coming out to him. This was on *all* of our minds as we walked up, and Anh, because of the way she is (fabulous) felt like the ice needed to get broken. Ma said “Well, I think he would have said ‘Are you happy? If so, that’s all I care about.’ Then he would have said ‘Jesus F#!$’ing Christ! What next?’ “

We all laughed…. That’s the way my dad was. I got a little misty just thinking more about it – thinking about how I was never able to talk to him about this.

Well Pa, I’m happy. We are happy… Your kids and your grandkids all love you.

We drove back home, for lunch had some pizza and a meatball grinder from Fillipou’s Pizza (401-294-4767 – on Ten Rod Road in North Kingstown – the BEST!), and then headed to the airport. Ma as she always does was a little teary and sad to see us go, but we’ll be together again soon (next month!)

It was a good homecoming – another “First” down…

March 14, 2008

I’m Back

Posted in Boston, family, food, Identification, Samwich, transgender at 7:38 pm by Michael

Well, not really, still in Boston.

Anh, Samwich and I went to Boston on Tuesday night on the redeye, and I worked here all week.

Honestly, after all the buzz from last week, I needed a bit of a blog-break. But, here we are, it’s Friday, it’s the weekend, and I’ve got some stuff to say. Here goes.

Commenters and Supporters – Thank You!

I sincerely appreciate the comments that people have posted, and the mails that have been sent – both with support and also questions. It’s all good, and it means a lot to me! Thank you.

JetBlue – Please don’t go out of Business!

As I’ve written about at length, we love JetBlue. Between lots of legroom, DirecTV on board, friendly crews, new planes, great website, good customer support, and reasonable and understandable pricing – by far is our favorite domestic airline.

Last couple flights though – scary – probably only 25% full. Now, for a redeye, this isn’t the worst thing in the world – for the passengers. But, you have to question in this day and age, how long empty flights can keep flying. Maybe it’s the season, or the day of week we fly (Tuesday), but I’m a little scared that the reliable redeye will go bye-bye.

Boston Cannoli Fest V2

Wednesday night we did a little cannoli-comparo. I’ve been a big fan of Bova’s for a very long time. The others in the big-three in Boston are Modern Pastry, and Mike’s.

We tried Mike’s and Bova’s again – side by side. (Large ricotta, plain (no nuts of chocolate chips). Yes, I realize that Italian cannoli are made from marscapone generally, but in the US is more likely sweet ricotta based – lots of discussion on that in this space back in early January).

I believe that we have a new winner – by far – Mike’s. The filling was lighter, and the crust thinner and crispier. The Bova’s entry was too thick – both the crust and the filling. The ratio here matters, and Mike’s was better.

Good Italian

Try Pomodoro on Hanover Street in the North End. The menu is small, but the food was in general very good. The chicken carbonara pasta and the veal with carmelized balsamic served with green onion risotto were both tasty and unique. Hallmark of a great Italian place – the simple things are fantastic. We had the fried calamari appetizer to start – it was light, crisp, hot, sweet, not chewy, and came with a (big) side of tomato sauce – which was light and perfect.

“Are you a man?”

Anh and I went to Filene’s Basement to check out jeans and some shirts, both for me and for her. There wasn’t a ton, but we picked out some stuff, and went to the dressing room. I was carrying Samwich in the baby carrier, and Anh had most of the clothes (I had a few). At the basement, you have to check in at the dressing room and get a number tag for the number of items that you bring in. As I was going through this process w/the attendant, she said to me:

“Are you a man?”


“Are you?”

“No, do you want to see my ID?”

Pause, still not giving me the number tag.

“No, really, do you want to see my ID?”

“No, that’s ok, go ahead.”

She was not convinced. I tried on some stuff, liked some, didn’t like others, and while I was, I was thinking about how to handle it – ignore it? Talk to her? Talk to the manager?

I decided to just take by bargains and run, and not say anything. I’m not sure if I didn’t have a “F” on my license what I would have said. It would have been harder.

It brings up the fundamental question of what it means to be male or female in general, in a public situation like this. Who is being protected? For what reason?

I’m still not sure what I think about this. Maybe tomorrow I will… Maybe not. Maybe I never will.

“I saw you on Nightline”

After dinner, we were taking the T (Red Line) from South Station to Kendall Square. We love the T, and really wish that Seattle had public transport like that. It was just about 9pm, and the train wasn’t too full. Just after we had gotten on, I noticed that there was a guy, probably a little older than us, with lots of facial piercings. He was looking at us pretty closely. As the train stopped, he looked at us, and said:

“I saw you on Nightline!”

Me and Anh almost at the same time said:

“Yes you did!”

He said: “Well, good for you!”

I almost asked him “What did you think?” or “How did you recognize us?” but I was afraid in many ways to break the barrier of anonymity that seems to exist in public places like this. Yes, he did reach out to us, but I wasn’t sure what to do except for smile and say thanks….

I looked at Anh and said (quietly) “I never expected that!” Anh said “Me too!”

Neither of us were freaked out – just a little surprised…

He got off one stop before us, and said the following to us as he got off:

“I wish you both the best of luck and may god bless you.”

I’ll take it that he was supportive from both the words and the tone, and I give him a ton of credit for reaching out to us, and I think we probably could have done more to reach back.

I honestly never thought that we would get recognized on the street, especially so far away from home.

Happy Birthday Samwich

Samwich is One. Congratulations Samwich! Thank you Anh for being such an amazing mom.

February 21, 2008

Paris – Good Food!

Posted in food, Paris, Samwich, travel at 3:00 pm by Michael

Good food for us doesn’t mean expensive – sometimes the best stuff is the cheapest (In N Out Burger for one).

Paris does have its share of street food – and a special version of it – since the vendors aren’t actually “on the street” – but have open portals to the street. Crepes, bakeries and the roasted chestnut vendors come to mind.

The crepes, as I mentioned before, are very fun, and extremely varied – from straight up dessert (chocolate, Nutella, fruits, sugar). Virtually every street that we walked down had some local creperie. Try it!

As for bread and croissants, we found Eric Keyser to be the best (http://www.maison-kayser.com/uk/boulangeries.html).

There were three meals that we had on this trip that were really special. (I did my best w/the links – all of these places don’t have their own websites, and some are in French.)

Part of the reason for much of this specialness was that we are mid-black truffle season. Many if not most of these places had some sort of special w/black truffles. This isn’t US black truffles where you get a sliver, you get a TON… totally different experience.

Au Bon Accueil (with Samwich)

Au Bon Accueil

We got there right as they opened (no reservation), and they squeezed us in, which was super nice. We even got a half-booth table which worked out very well for us w/the Samwich.

For starters we had a mushroom risotto (about four kinds of mushrooms), a quasi-mashed potato w/black truffles, with a soft boiled egg on top (with truffles, naturally), accompanied with perfect baby greens with shaved parmesan and truffles.

For the mains, I got a steak, which I think was a filet (this was the weakest thing that we had) w/mushrooms. Anh got this amazing chicken, which was spreckled with truffles, and served with pan-fried gnocchi and hearts of palm, topped with a champagne foam.

Au Bon Accueil

The mains were served with a perfect, buttery potato puree. Amazing!

For dessert, we had a roasted pineapple with apple crumble. It was like a deconstructed pineapple upside down cake. No dessert is complete w/o some sort of chocolate, so we had a chocolate Grenache as well. Both were outstanding.

La Regulade
http://www.frommers.com/destinations/paris/D41441.html (not with Samwich)

This was a local (Marie-Pierre) recommendation. Its small, out of the way, and you should get a reservation. She went with us, and helped with the ordering.

To start with, along with bread (typical), they serve a homemade meat pate, as well as pickles and onions – all of which were awesome.

We also got the charcuterie plate, which was Basque in origin, and they serve uniquely – they just give you the whole sausages to slice off what you want. All varieties here from salami-like to a blood sausage, to a crispy pig-fat… yum!

La Regulade

We had two kinds of scallops (served on the shell, the real shell) – with truffles and without. I’ve never had scallops with truffles before, and well, it was amazing.

La Regulade

For the main, we had fresh fois gras, braised beef cheeks and braised pork breast. The beef cheeks and pork breast were good – not great, and we’ve had better. The fois though, was amazing. According to Marie-Pierre, fois doesn’t hold for long, so when you get fois most of the time, its either partially or fully cooked. Fresh fois is rare, and a special treat, so we got it.

La Regulade

Wow. I’m not a fois fan generally (just too fatty for me), but this was light, crispy and just plain amazing). If you like or don’t like fois, if you see “fresh”, and its really fresh, get it. By looking around the restaurant, you could see what an occasion it was – nearly half of all the plates coming out were this.

L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon (with Samwich)

These guys got points right off the bat from us because they had high-chairs, said they loved kids (and really did), and even though we had reservations for two, gave us three spots, in the corner, so it would be easier to manage Samwich.

This is one of our favorite places in Las Vegas (at the MGM), and honestly, this was even better… I thought it might be, well, about the same, a little better – but it was just better, all the way around.

The floorplan is very interesting – you sit at a bar, surrounding the kitchen, able to watch the preparation of everything.

Joel Robuchon

Their menu has both small plates, and larger plates, to give you the opportunity to try more stuff (try as much as you can!)

The first thing that was brought out was a quasi-mashed potato w/truffle shavings and bits. It’s hard to describe this… but it had texture, taste, and just an amazing look to it. Samwich *loved* the drippings from this, as well as the potato bits. Me too!

Joel Robuchon

We also got a charcuterie plate, which was served with a tomato bruschetta. I’m a big bruschetta fan, but this was amazing – spicy, salty, and tasty tomatoes, in February!

They next brought out the spaghetti, which we had order for Samwich, just with tomato sauce. Far from a throwaway dish, this was again perfect – texture, seasoning – right down to the whole marinated olives served on the side.

We also had a chestnut veloute, served w/floating fois gras. Again, the fois was amazing, and not being a fois fan, this is saying something.

Next was a lobster ravioli, topped with a cream and truffle reduction. The lobster was perfect, and wow… amazing combinations.

Joel Robuchon

We finished with a small pork chop (super small!), which was served w/the trademark potato puree Robuchon. Fabulous end to a fabulous meal – and this ended up being our last big meal of this trip….

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