Road Trip – Green River, UT to Grand Junction, CO. 4/20/21

We decide that due to the lack of restaurants and grocery stores we are going to depart Green River today instead of tomorrow. We know there will be more amenities in Grand Junction so we will stay there an extra night. On the way to Grand Junction we will take a hike and spend part of the afternoon taking care of laundry.

Our hike overlooks the Rabbit Valley with the LaSal Mountains in the background out towards Moab.  The hike is called Trail Through Time. It has explanatory placards which we really like.  The hike is a loop and is about 1.5 miles long. We know it will probably take us two hours what with reading all the placards.

A view across the Rabbit Valley towards the LaSal Mountains.

An active dinosaur dig is going on here during the summer months. There are some dinosaur fossils still in situ with explanations about what they were and when they  traversed the earth.

We start by an area of paleo soils. The soils here were laid down during the Jurassic Period when this area was near sea level with rivers running through it.  The occasional overflow of these rivers laid down layers of mud. The faster drying mud is now reddish stone and the slower drying mud is the gray-green.

Red and gray-green paleo soils
Mary in front of the paleo soils perusing the hike

Many of the fossilized dinosaur parts are hard to see and harder to photograph but I do take a reasonable picture of the vertebrae of a juvenile diplodocus.

The dark formations in the circled area are the juvenile diplodocus’s vertebrae

The hillside is all rubble from erosion which helped to expose the dinosaur fossils. We see more dinosaur vertebrae and a hip joint. The really good parts like skulls have been dug out and are in a Colorado museum.

John taking a break near the top of the hill

After our hike we still have about an hour to Grand Junction. We are hoping for pho for lunch but are not sure of what is open for in-person dining. Eating a bowl of soup in the car is not appealing.

Even though the internet says that Pho 88 is only open for take-out and delivery, we figure with the changing restrictions now that people have started getting vaccinated that maybe the restaurant will be open. Yay! It’s open and we see people inside. We both order a bowl of pho and commence slurping.

Beef pho with accompaniments

We get to our hotel around 3 PM and take care of our laundry before leaving for dinner at a place we think we have eaten at before now called Le Rouge.

As it turns out, this is the same restaurant we dined in back in 2009. It used to be called Moulin Rouge but ran into trademark problems with the real Moulin Rouge in France. So now it is just Le Rouge and the menu is similar to what we ate before.

We both have the foil gras as a starter. It is strangely unseasoned and needs quite a bit of salt. It is served with toast, thyme, and a sweet, fruit sauce.

Foie gras with toasts, thyme, and jam sauce

For our main courses John has coquilles Saint Jacques. It is kind of a minimalist approach and I might have ordered for myself if I had known it was not going to be in a heavy cream sauce.

John’s modern Coquilles Saint Jacques

I decide to have an appetizer and a salad to split with John. The salad is interesting. It is endive, salad greens, and apples topped with a pistachio/beet dressing. The appetizer is crab cakes with corn and a spicy remoulade sauce.

We also have a bottle of Chateau de Coing 2011 Muscadet.

This is the nicest dinner we have had so far on the trip. It was not perfect but it was so nice to have a pleasant fancy meal.



Road trip – Ely, NV. 4/17/21

Not too much going on today as we spend most of the day driving from Carson City to Ely, NV. We make a stop at a McDonald’s in Fallon, NV for breakfast.  Unfortunately we cannot eat inside so we make do sitting in the car.

After that we head further on  U.S. 50, the loneliest highway in America. We stop at the famous or infamous Shoe Tree. We have visited the original shoe tree in 2009 but that tree was chain-sawed down by vandals in 2010. It seems, though, that people wasted no time making another shoe tree in a nearby tree. (A shoe tree is a tree that people throw their shoes to catch on the branches.)

The Shoe Tree of Middlegate, NV
Some people are able to throw their shoes really high!
The skeletal remains of the old Shoe Tree
Mary and John with Shoe Tree selfie

In any case it was good to get out and stretch our legs!

We drive on and on through some very dull and some very spectacular scenery. We arrive in Ely, NV shortly before 3 PM. We stop at a Carl’s Jr. where there are only two tables available for use and they are already occupied. We spend our lunchtime in the car eating burgers that I know we should not eat.

Over the crest of a hill and the Shoshone Mountains appear dusted with snow

We reach the hotel round 3:40 and after looking at Ely on the way in decide we will have plenty of time tomorrow to see anything we might want to see. After a shower and a short nap (for me) we get dressed for dinner. I am concerned that we will not look fancy enough. I need not have worried.

We go to Mr. Gino’s Italian Restaurant. I have made a reservation. After all it is Saturday night! When we get there three tables are occupied. We opt for a table hiding in the corner where we will be away from other people’s breathing. Mr. Gino’s is like some restaurant that your parents took you to in the 1950s.

Mr. Gino’s menu

I order shrimp arrabbiata and John gets lasagna. I am able to dress my salad with oil and vinegar. I send John on a hunt for salt at one of the empty tables. At this point everyone who was here when we came in has left. Salad with some doctoring is okay. We order glasses of wine. I get Chardonnay and John orders Cabernet Sauvignon. His wine is so bad that he does not want me to even taste it.  I have decided that the restaurant’s algorithm for pricing wine is whatever a whole bottle cost is what they should charge for a glass.  It is $6.

Our entrees come and my shrimp in spicy sauce is not terrible. The shrimp could have been cooked more and the pasta less. It is covered with melting cheese and a bread stick. John has lasagna. Wait, what’s this, two more tablesful of people come in. We decide since it is 8 PM that they must be Spaniards dining way too early or Californians who left Carson City later than we did. Anyway the dinner gets a C-.. It is not terrible. (I cannot believe I am blowing my diet on this less than mediocre food!)

Top left is John’s lasagna and the rest is my salad and Shrimp arrabbiata

47th wedding anniversary celebration. 7/17/19

We are excitedly looking forward to our anniversary celebration. The day has certainly started off well with a beautiful bouquet of yellow roses!

Yellow roses

We head up to Healdsburg for an overnight and dinner at SingleThread, a restaurant which has recently received 3 Michelin stars. We have eaten at Michelin starred places before and had some incredible meals so we are looking forward to a gastronomic extravaganza.

A pictorial rendition of our dinner –

We are ushered up to their rooftop bar when we arrive for a welcoming drink (extra $$)
The table looks lovely when we are seated
Our first course is called Early Summer in Sonoma. The server quickly goes through all the things on the display. We cannot remember them all. I know we had an oyster and a piece of lamb. It is mostly raw fish.
An adjunct to the Summer in Sonoma arrives. The abalone is superb, the egg thing is very eggy, and the soup is delicious although mine had one of the pebbles from the presentation in it
This is a presentation of heirloom tomatoes along with kanpachi, pickled wasabi, and white gazpacho. The tomatoes and wonderberry are delicious
A box crab presentation. What? More seafood? Okay at least there is some corn. It is all very sweet.
Ugh, this is Miyazaki Waygu better known as tiny portions of rolled up tasteless, maybe raw beef. Texturally the meat is like mush. The very oily oil with truffles overwhelms everything
What’s this? A piece of peach with some cheese? What is it doing in the middle of the dinner? On the other hand at least it is not more of the same sashimi blandness
Next we have some black cod. This is John’s favorite. It is about a one inch square cube. We get excited when they bring the squash blossom. At first we think it might be bread. Alas, no bread.
Meat!! The lamb is good and served with a fava bean purée and green olives. We get our 2 ounce pour of red wine to go with it.
What the hell is this? They are saying it is waygu beef and farro. It tastes like Scotch broth but not in a good way. I eat the radishes
Serpentine cucumber. this is my favorite dish. It is refreshing and cool and has some texture. It is pretty ugly though.
I am actually eating this dessert with “frozen mugwort marshmallow snow.” The ice cream is good and the Albion strawberries are intense.
Some more dessert things

This is the most expensive meal we have ever eaten.  The blandness of the first five or so dishes is overwhelming. Along with the repetitive tastes and textures we have ordered the incredibly expensive wine pairing.  The first five are all mineral forward white wines from France, Germany, and Austria. The pours are tiny. We figure they are charging about $100 a 6 oz. pour. We ask the sommelier to check back with us after we try the wine so we can discuss it or maybe even ask for something different. He ignores us completely.

At one point the serving person asks me how I liked the sake. I say that sake is not my favorite due to its floral taste. She haughtily asks me where else have I eaten? Like I am some sort of rube that just came in off the potato truck. I am taken aback.

In addition to being ignored and insulted the waitstaff also speaks in hushed whispers. We cannot hear half of what they are saying. Three times we ask them to speak more loudly. They ignore our requests.

There are some really tasty vegetables and bites that stand out in this meal. I give their kitchen staff 3 stars for tweezer use. I also enjoyed their bathroom with the Japanese toilet that opens up as you walk in and shines a purple light on the bowl. The padded seat is warm and inviting.

So next year on our anniversary we will dine at a favorite restaurant which will treat us with respect, have tasty, varied dishes, more and better wine, and not cost an embarrassing amount of money.

The Birthdays! 12/8/18

It’s birthdays time again and this is a very special birthday for George and me. He is turning 75 and I am turning 70.  George, who is in charge of all things planning, decides on a return trip to Bernardus in Carmel Valley, CA. We are scheduled to dine at the Chef’s Table in the restaurant, Lucia, kitchen.

Mary, John, Karen, George

First, though, there is lunch and a little wine tasting. We eat at Corkscrew Cafe not too far from the wineries and Bernardus. John has a small plate of ribs and I have a personal sized mushroom pizza. I am trying not to eat too much because I am assuming that tonight’s dinner will be substantial. I give away a few slices and leave a few. Over lunch we discuss what wineries we will go to. I am hoping for not an extensive wine tasting foray since I want to have enough time for a little lie-down and a shower before dinner.

Mushroom pizza at Corkscrew
John’s ribs

First we go to Boekenoogen where the wines are pretty meh. This is followed by a couple of sips at Jouillan, and then on to a newish winery, Idle Hour, where some ladies are playing guitars. We buy a couple of bottles and then head over to the hotel.


Ours room is great! It is spacious and has lots of little treats for us – wine, cheese, chips, and sweets. Mostly all I want to do is lie down on the too-soft bed with the too-big pillows and have a little nap.

Room at Bernardus Lodge

We meet George and Karen at 6:30 and progress to an eating marathon which takes until 10PM. Unlike our meal we had last time this meal has 12 courses! With a different wine for each one!  We are seated in an alcove where there are lots of famous chefs signatures on the wall.

Jacques Pepin, “Happy Cooking”
Julia Child, “Bon Appetit”

We eat and eat and eat untitled finally we call “uncle” and skip two courses towards the end. No cheese plate or venison for us thank you. Here is what we are served.

Bread course
Latke with caviar
Crab, avocado, citrus
Mezzeluna in brodo
Parmesan gnudi
Snapper and mussels
Freaky Squab
Waygu beef
Pumpkin dessert
Chocolate thing
Tisane tea
Wines paired with dinner (plus chamapagne)

So totally replete from too much wine and food plus reeling from the bill, we stumble off to bed. Of course we make plans for breakfast the next morning!

Happy Birthday to me!!!!



Anniversary celebration, part two. 7/17/18

Today is the actual day of our anniversary. Yay, forty-six great years married and over fifty years since we met! Our final celebration will occur in August when we take a vacation to Oslo and then catch a ship to cruise the Baltic for a couple of weeks. Love all this celebrating!

John and I have modest plans for today. We are driving up to Sonoma Wine Country to visit Jacuzzi Winery, Imagery Winery, and have lunch at Tasca! Tasca! In downtown Sonoma.

We arrive at Jacuzzi Winery around 11 AM. First we are tasting some olive oil and getting our bottle refilled at The Olive Press. Tasting olive oil is as much fun as tasting wine. We choose Arbequina.

Jacuzzi Winery and The Olive Press (photo from internet)
Bulk delicious olive oils – bring back your bottle for a discount! (Photo from internet)

Next we visit Imagery Winery. We used to be Wine Club members here. After tasting some delicious varietals available only from the winery we decide to re-up.

Pretty pathway to tasting room of Imagery Winery (Internet photo)

Since it is heading past one o’clock we make our way to downtown Sonoma to Tasca! Tasca! for an enjoyable lunch of Portuguese tapas.

Some things we shared – ceviche, goat stew, crispy potatoes, and pulled pork sliders
We love their not sweet ice creams – salted olive oil and piri piri chocolate

Great anniversary celebration!

Quick trip to St. George – November 5-17, 2017

Since the weather looks pretty fabulous in St. George and we will not be able to sneak in a trip in December, John and I decide on the spur of the moment to make our way to St. George.

I think the biggest difference in this trip is that I am trying Mark Bittman’s Vegan Before Six, a new way of thinking about how you eat and the impact you can have on the environment. So most of this post will be about new dishes I am trying out. In addition to shopping and eating John and I manage to get in some tennis every other day until my back just says, Enough!

First, finding decent vegan food on the road is not an easy task. Using YELP! We stop at Hummus Express in Bakersfield. The food is pretty oily but tasty.

Looking out at the golden hills and aqueduct along I-5. We are eager for rain.
Stopping at Hummus Express in Bakersfield, I order hummus with pita and tabbouleh

Mostly my days in St. George are vegan for breakfast and lunch and whatever for dinner but occasionally I manage to construct an entire vegan day. Some dishes I made –

Lunch – Spaghetti with vegetgables
Lunch – Root vegetable soup with tofu cubes dusted with flaxseed
Dinner – chickpea stew with ditalini and greens
Time for an white egret break!
Cauliflower soup for lunch
The unattractive parsley soup that I tried to make more palatable with the addition of carrots

The days pass by quickly and we need to get home for Thanksgiving so face the challenge of finding better food on the road. Eureka! We find an excellent Mediterrean restaurant, Mr. Kabob, in Barstow. It is kind of a hole in the wall but has some excellent dishes.

At Mr. Kabob’s in Barstow I have excellent eggplant with peppers and onions, roasted tomato, and green rice.

Road trip, 2017 – Ptown to Tonopah

We leave around 8 AM for the start of our road trip and a leisurely journey half way to St. George, UT today. After a quick stop for breakfast in Manteca we run into a little traffic in Oakdale. Due to our long history of finding interesting things we notice this I.O.O.F. Art Deco building with its fabulous turret clock.

Odd Fellows building facade with turret clock

Our next stop is at Chinese Camp, CA to change drivers. We stop at California Historical Marker No. 423 which is about the founding of Chinese Camp, the still-standing post office built in 1854, and the Tong Wars. We wander around the town which is mostly comprised of derelict old buildings.

Historical marker about Chinese Camp

Then it’s on to Yosemite NP. The trouble with going through the park is all the slow drivers. We just want to cross through the park and others would prefer to gawk at every leaf and rock. Nonetheless we manage pretty good time. Here are some pictures from our transversing the park by way of Tioga Road.

A view of Lake Tenaya
Looking across the lake
There are still patches of snow on the mountains
A granite dome that looks like an ape to John and a Stormtrooper to me

We have lunch at the Whoa Nellie Deli where we have a bowl of indifferent vegetarian chili which is greatly helped by the addition of cornbread.

Vegetarian chili with cornbread

Now we have just over two hours left to Tonopah so it’s past Mono Lake, over roller coaster road, a left turn at Benton where there are children in the playground for the first time in 14 years of passing this tiny town, then a right at the burntout shell of a bordello in Coaldale, and we are in the nowhere town of Tonopah.

We are staying at the refurbished but still dingy historic Mizpah Hotel. Our room is very small and there is no place to put anything but we will survive. It is only one night.

some pictures from our evening in Tonopah –

The town has been trying to spruce up  itself with civic art but a lot of the storefronts are abandoned and it is all rather depressing looking.

Big Bill who saved many miners in a mining accident
Salute to the troops
Mural of the many planes tested at the nearby range
Tonopah takes pride in being the home of the stealth bombrt
The County Courthouse looks like there is a space ship bursting out of it.

Lastly we have dinner at the new-ish Tonopah Brewing Company. John has burnt ends and I have  BBQ chicken sandwich. It is merely okay. John likes the porter a lot.

Friendly interior of a Tonopah Brewing Co.
Actually even the nuclear test site was not very spicy
John and beer
John’s burnt ends – not enough bark and spongy in the center
My chicken sandwich. Pretty meh.

On to St. George tomorrow!

July 2, 2017 – Leknes, Norway (Lofoten Islands)

Today we put into the tiny port of Leknes in the Lofoten Islands of Norway. This area is pretty isolated and is home to fishermen and artist communities. It has a stunning landscape and white sand beaches. Here in the midst of summer the temperature is hovering around the 50F mark with rain spitting. It hardly seems like a beach day.

We head to the busses. Our stops for 10 minute photo ops will include two beaches and a fishing community. We head through a long tunnel to the other side of the mountain. The tunnel is only one lane. On the way back we will find out how vehicles going in opposite directions negotiate passage.

The beach that we stop at has beautiful white sand is mainly populated by sheep and tourists taking their 10 minute photo op. It is called Klipfisk or cliff fish beach. Our guide tells us not to go on the sand because it will be too big a mess on the bus due to its stickiness on our shoes. It is picturesque and beautiful and is really not what we would consider for typical beach activities.

White sand beach with rocks and mountains
Sheep enjoying the picnic tables
Heart-shaped rock art

We return back through the tunnel where we meet oncoming traffic. What to do. There are various pullouts and the cars respectfully move over for the bus. Our tour guide, Stephanie, remarks, “We are big. We win.” After the tunnel we stop at another beach. This one has been voted “the most beautiful beach in Norway.” It looks like a beach. It is raining. We stay on the bus.

Most beautiful beach through the bus window
Sometimes the camera wants to take pictures of the raindrops on the window instead

Finally we stop at Ballstad, a typical fishing community except a famous artist, Scott Thoe, has painted a mural on one of the buildings. Unfortunately we are not close enough to get a good picture of it. The little harbor is picturesque so I take a picture. Also a nice picture of John.

Ballstad fishing village. Part of the mural is visible on side of the large white building
Handsome husband shot

We return to the ship. They are running busses into Leknes center during the afternoon but we are told there is nothing open because it is Sunday plus it is raining. We have a leisurely lunch. We watch as the ship leaves Leknes, write the blog, and then get ready for dinner.

Tonight we are eating at the Chef’s Table and having the same menu as two nights ago. (See pictures there) It is still the best piece of cod I have ever eaten. It is so beautifully cooked that it is soft and gelatinous but still flakes apart. The women behind us are saying that it is undercooked which is totally not so. The only things that they have eaten are the salad on top of the carpaccio and dessert. I feel sorry for them.

We head back to the room where we watch an episode of Downtown Abbey, turn our clocks back an hour as we move into Greenwich time, and look at the midnight sun.

The midnight sun off the coast of Norway

October 25-26, 2011 Pleasanton, CA to Benevento, Italy

Mary: Much like last trip, John will be helping with the blogging. I feel like a juggler with three blog balls up in the air. I am so glad that John is keeping Today’s Worry from dropping. If you are interested, there are also posts up today on The Adventures of Clark and Lewis and Dining Lite.

John: Departure day.. We awake at 4 AM, shower, finish our last-minute packing and run through our checklist many times before our friend George picks us up just before 6 AM. We have left some extra time to allow for traffic. There is no traffic, only darkness. We check in, rather on the early side and head to the Admiral’s Club for a pre-breakfast breakfast bagel.

Lewis peruses the menu

Mary: Today we seem to have a lot of pictures of Clark and Lewis and not too many of us or sights. This is probably because we look like zombies after the long flights and we really haven’t seen much except the inside of airports, the car and the hotel.

John: The flight to JFK is uneventful and gets in ahead of schedule. Mary even has a sleep. We settle down in the JFK Admiral’s Club and have some wine and munchies. Clark and Lewis enjoy the whole experience.

Yay, for snacks!

John: Next, on to Rome! The flight is good; we both get some sleep (a miracle). We land on time, breeze through immigration (no passport stamp, though), baggage claim, customs, and car rental. We’re on our way in record time.

We had landed in a light drizzle. As we drive south on the A1, the rain gets heavier. A few kilometers before we are to get off the autostrada, traffic stops. It appears that a truck has jackknifed across the road and cars can get by only on the right shoulder. This costs us about 20 minutes. Lots of emergency vehicles. We hope the truck driver is OK.

The big backup

John looks tired

John: We finally arrive at our hotel, the UNA Il Mulino, in Benevento. It’s in a converted mill complex, very new. Our room is large with plenty of closet space space and a fine enclosed shower. The staff are incredibly friendly and helpful.

Mary: I am very impressed with the hotel. Our room is enormous. This is just a one night stop so I wasn’t trying for anything too exciting just clean and not too expensive.

Clark and Lewis are ready for bed

John: We have dinner at the hotel restaurant, Le Macine. We really do not want to have to drive anywhere else today. It’s a very good choice:

– tasty bread and exceptional fennel-flavored bread sticks.

Fennel bread sticks and bread

Mary: Just want to say that in the old pre-diet days we would have eaten all the bread and all the breadsticks and probably asked for more. We had a couple of breadsticks and a couple of slices of bread. The end.

John: – an antipasto compliments of the chef: sauteed calamari strips, fried artichoke slices, and garbanzo beans in a garbanzo puree.

Antipasto compliments of the chef

Mary: I cannot even tell you how good the fried artichoke chips were.

John: – a small rigatoni-like pasta with white beans and local cheese for Mary’s primo, and artisan tagliatelle with broccoli and mussels for John.

Plate of goo

John's primo

Mary: John made the better choice here. I had a plate of goo. It was okay. I tried to avoid as much goo as possible.

John: – grilled fish filet, (maybe bass), served with fried spinach, sauteed fennel and a wonderful cauliflower puree with black salt grains and local olive oil. Best fish I have ever had in Italy.

Our secondi

Mary: I think the fish was swordfish.

John: – for wine, we have a local 2008 Caudium Aglianico made by Masseria Frattasi. A nice light red that goes really well with all our courses.

And so to bed. Tomorrow, on to Puglia.

Connor Butler – Restaurant Review

John reviews Connor Butler –

On Thursday night, July 31, 2008, we chose to continue our anniversary celebration by booking a table at Restaurant Connor Butler, a small, relatively new (2 years old) restaurant just over the Granville St. Bridge south of downtown Vancouver.
Since we had booked on the early side, there was lots of opportunity to interact with both the sommelier, Ron Douglas, and with the chef, Connor Butler himself.  It was just the start of an extraordinary evening, rivalling our earlier experience at Cyrus in every respect.

We started with an amuse-bouche which included, among others, an anchovy-stuffed sour cherry, which was quite good.  The others I cannot recall.

Chef Connor was interesting, engaging and animated.  He said he had some items not listed on the menu: foie gras and duck.  Intrigued by the notion of duck and duck, we asked if he could prepare a foie gras appetizer and a duck main, and that we preferred items savory rather than sweet.  And, we would like Sommelier Ron to pair wines for us.

After another bit of amuse, a slice of nicely seared tuna, the appetizers arrived.  The foie was accompanied by sauteed purple potato dice, small bites of bacon and morel mushrooms in a simple pan reduction.  The result was astounding, and this time the morels were in perfect balance (see previous review of Fireside Grill).

Ron brought three wines to sample: an Alsatian Gewurztraminer, a German Riesling Spatlese, and the sweetest, a French desserty wine.  In the end, we went preferred the last one, since it most resembled the traditional Sauterne in terms of sweetness and viscous texture that we like with foie gras.

The main course was seared sliced breast of duck, served with potato puree, garnished with a few sour cherries, citrus supremes, and pickled golden beets.  This was incredibly tasty: the best-cooked duck we’ve ever had, with the potato puree retaining its identity rather than merely dissolving into the pan jus, as sometimes happens.

Ron paired this with a BC Pinot Noir that did justice to all the flavors on the plate, from the succulence of the duck to the vegetal acidity of the beets. 

We finished with a plate of three delicious cheeses from Vancouver Island (where, perversely, Victoria IS and Vancouver IS NOT).  We followed this with a stint at the bar drinking cognac and grappa and chatting with the chef and the sommelier.

Couldn’t have been better.  (John: A+, Mary: A+)