The following is my motss.con.xxiv con report, or my experiences of the 24th soc.motss.con (held Jun 16-20 in Seattle, WA). If you don't like such things, feel free to not read it. It won't bother me. Much.
Travel day. My plane was supposed to take off around 12:15pm so I had plenty of time to wake, shower, finish packing, get to the airport, park at the cheap lot, shuttle to the other terminal, get to and through Security (with the nakedscan whatsis, and grab a quick lunch at a generic Mexican cantina wannabe. We managed an on-time departure.
The flight itself was uneventful, depite some moderate turbulence shortly after takeoff. Delta had a sale on in-flight WiFi so I tried it out; it worked fine, though most of my applications were text-based (email and chat) with some static graphics — no video streaming for me. Landed early, hiked to the light rail station, got to the city center with a few delays (including a 10-minute hold due to a switching problem). After a brief mix-up waiting for the bus heading in the wrong direction, I caught the right bus and got to the Marqueen (con.hotel) just in time to say Hi to Ken before heading 2 blocks over to my less-expensive hotel, The Inn at Queen Anne . Quick check-in, swipe with cool washcloth, and change of clothing then back to the con.hotel by 4:45pm to carpool off to the foodie dinner.
This year's dinner was at The Herbfarm. We intentionally got there early (we were shooting for 6 but still made it there by 5:45) so we could take the garden tour. It started with a cup of hot tea (orange blossom, honey, and rosemary), and we got to sample several of the herbs and learn about the history and philosophy of the property as we went through the gardens with one of the owners. Back to the restaurant proper for the 7pm seating; the 14 of us — Bitty (sitting in for the absent Max), David H, David M, Emma, George, John, Kathryn, Ken, Mike, Robert, Roger, Sim, Susan, and I — had the private room. Between the first and second courses, we went to the library (my half) or the main dining room to hear the other owner talk a bit about the philosophy of the restaurant and introduce the chef and staff. The chef and sommelier discussed the 9-course menu and its wine pairings before we went back to our seats to dig in.
The meal itself was wonderful:
- Of Sea & Soil — Marble Onions with Paddlefish Caviar, Onion Granola, and Chervil. Oil-Cured Smelt, Smoked Shad Roe Emulsion, Salicornia, and Goose Tongue Greens. Cured Asaparagus with Oregon Summer Truffle, Homemade Mustard & 3-Hour Hen Yolk.
Treveri Cellars Sparkling Gewürztraminer, Demi-Sec, Yakima Valley.
This appetizer trio was very nice. The onions were smooth in flavor, the smelt reminded me strongly of the smoked sablefish I had as a kid, the the 3-hour yolk was a delightful custard texture with just the right hint of mustard to complement the lightly-cured asparagus.
- Spring Salmon Pas de Deux — Smoked King Cannoli & Poached Columbia River King, Breakfast Radish, Pickled Shallots, Wasabi Soubise, and Mustard Greens.
2009 Poet's Leap Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington.
The cannoli was actually a pastry dough more than a pasta, and the mousse was tasty and smooth as you'd expect. The poached salmon was done so slowly and carefully that it still had its flavor, and the radishes were a nice peppery bite to go with it. The wasabi was real, not the food-colored horseradish one finds so often here.
- In the Pink: Pigs & Peas — Spring Pea Agnolotti and Mangalitsa Pig Coppa, With Manilla Clams, Carrots, and Lovage Oil.
2010 Syncline Rosé, Columbia Valley, Washington.
The English pea puree in the agnolotti was silky smooth, the whole peas in sliced pods were crisp, the clams succulent, and the tiny carrots crunchy. A wonderful mix of flavors and textures.
- 'Shrooms, Spuds, Sorrel — Crushed Baby Red Potatoes with Warm Sorrel Sauce, Roasted Spring Boletes, Braised Cascade Morels, and Arugula.
2008 Westrey Pinot Noir, Abbey Ridge, Dundee Hills, Oregon.
The morels were delightful, the boletes (also known as porcini) were tolerable though not my preference, the potatoes crispy, and the sorrel sauce bright and smooth.
- Trifecta of Spring Lamb — Grilled Glazed Ellensburg Lamb Loin with Spicy Herb Salad — Lamb Jus, Crispy Lamb Belly, Romanesco Cauliflower Ragout, Olympic Peninsula Saffron Chickpeas & Poached Tenderloin.
2008 Désignée Cabernet Franc, Conner-Lee Vinyard, Yakima Valley.
The lamb was good but not superb; the texture was excellent but the flavor was much milder than I expected and not very lamby. The chickpeas were very good too.
- Sheepy Cheese — Black Sheep Creamery Saint Helen's Cheese, Spring Thyme, Puffed Grain, Farm Greens, Sweet Oregon-Vermouth Vinaigrette and First Salmon Berries.
The cheese was semi-hard and very tasty. The puffed grain was flash-fried farro. The chef and his dog forraged for the salmon berries that morning.
- Rhubarb Textural Tower — Warm Rhubarb Consommé with Angelica Leaf Infusion, Glazed Rhubarb, Rhubarb Sorbet, and Rhubarb Tuille.
The sorbet melted almost immediately when the consommé was poured on, which was disappointing. The intent of contrasting temperatures was obvious but the implementation didn't quite work. The flavors were all good, and the tuille added an interesting crunch to the smooth sorbet-and-consommé.
- First Cherries & Lemon Thyme — Wenatchee Bing Cherry-Oregon Olive Oil Cake, Lemon Thyme-Crème Fraîsch Ice Cream, Whipped Spring Honey, and Candied Hazelnuts.
The olive oil cake wasn't anything special; it was good for what it was, but it's not a favorite of mine. The lemon thyme ice cream was very nice, and the whipped honey looked just like whipped cream and was light and airy and honey-y.
- Coffees, Teas, & Local Beverages; Sweet Treats — Malted Raspberry Milk Chocolate Truffle. Sweet Cicely White Chocolate. Bay Caramel. Lavender Brittle.
2010 Perennial Vintners Raspberry Port, "Frambelle," Pguet Sound, WA.
The port was a bit mediciney to my palate (especially after the Yquem). The lavender brittle didn't taste very lavendery to me (though it's not a flavor one wants strong). The chocolate truffle and the Sweet Cicely-filled white chocolate were my favorites here. I had a cup of the Sniffles tea which was nice enough.
In addition, they had two house-made breads (rustic seed bread and wild-yeasted savory epi) from their wood oven, with house-churned Jersey cow butter. At least one of us wasn't drinking alcohol, and they had a variety of juices and infusions; several of us had dietary restrictions (e.g., no lactose, no dill, no seafood) and they had reasonable substitutions in their courses. They also sent everyone home with a thank-you card with a sage shortbread.
After some photography, we left the restaurant around 11:30pm and carpooled back to the hotels. Bitty and I were at the alternative (read: cheaper) hotel so we walked the two blocks back, and I went upstairs, unpacked (mainly for the evening drugs and the CPAP), and crashed.
This morning I slept in until 7am or so local time (so I got about 6 hours of sleep). We'd agreed to meet at the con.hotel by 9:30am to carpool to the ferry to Bainbridge Island; George was running a bit late but despite that, and a train stopped on the tracks preventing us from getting to the terminal as quickly as we'd've liked, we did all make the 10:40am ferry. Once we'd gotten to the island, we drove through Winslow and had lunch at BIBBQ. I had pork ribs (very tender) with crispy potato wedges and mac-n-cheese as my sides. (3 of us had ribs; 3 of us had bork — brisket and pork — sammiches; the others had an elk burger and a reubenish sammich.)
We did a little walking around before heading north to the Bloedel Reserve, "an internationally renowned public garden whose primary mission is to provide a tranquil and refreshing experience of nature. The Reserve's 150 acres are a unique blend of natural woodlands and beautifully landscaped gardens, including a Japanese Garden, a Moss Garden, and Reflection Pool, and the Bloedel's former estate home." We did the full 2-mile nature hike, seeing all of the above, including both natural and cultivated spaces.
After that, we carpooled back to the ferry and then to the hotels, where I power-napped (and had some Voodoo Donuts that Arthur had brought with him from Portland) before heading to dinner at T.S. McHugh's. We had 16 at dinner (Alan, Arthur, Bitty, David, Doug, Emma, George, John, Ken, Lyndol, Mike, Robert, Roger, Sim, Terry, and me). We shared several appetizers around the table (ploughman's platter, artichoke hearts au gratin, peel-n-eat shrimp, fried food sampler, and onion rings), and for the meal I went with the ale-battered fish and chips, I had some chocolate torte for dessert (very rich and dense) and a small glass of scotch (Balvenie 21 port finish). Mmmm.
Most of us hung out in the courtyard at the cheaper hotel for a while; I crashed around 10:30pm.
My traitorous body woke me up around 6:30am. Morning ablutions (with some issues with a malfunctioning electric razor), some Facebook photo tagging, and ready by 9am to head off with Arthur and Bitty to Pike Place Market for breakfast. We met up with the rest of the gaggle (including Ned, who arrived late last night) and went to the Pike Place Bar and Grill where I had country fried steak and eggs. After that we went to the aquarium and then split up; I wound up doing the Battlestar Galactica exhibit at the EMP/SF museum before heading back to the hotel for a bit.
Since I wasn't part of the baseball group, I joined the group heading out to George and Emma's. Alan (who's staying with them), Kathryn, Lydia, Mike, Ned, Sim, and I had pizza and salad and brownies, got a tour of the house, and had a lot of fun conversations over the evening. George dropped Mike, Ned, Sim, and I at the Link station so we headed back to town; Ned and I wound up busing to our hotel while Mike and Sim chose to walk.
Another annoyingly early wakeup at 6:30am, though I managed to doze on and off for another hour or so. Caught up (for some value of) on LJ/DW/Twitter/Facebook and personal email, read the morning comics online, and shaved and showered. (I was prompted to shower sooner by Arthur asking if mine was still working, as apparently theirs had stopped. Mine was, so Bitty wound up coming across the hall to finish her rinsing off in my shower. Whoops.)
I met up with Ned (who is also at The Inn at Queen Anne with me) and headed over to the Marqueen to meet up with Alan, Arthur, Bitty, Emma, George, John, Ken, Mike, Robert, Sim, and Susan, so we could all carpool off to the Hong Kong Restaurant (where we'd join Kathryn and Lydia) for the traditional Sunday dim sum. We had a lot of pretty typical dim sum fare and our table of 10 escaped at $15/person including tax and overtip.
After the group photos on the restaurant steps, the Segway bunch (Alan, Emma, John, Ken, Robert, Susan, and I) headed off to West Coast Entertainment for our tour. We went for about 90 minutes on a loop around West Seattle, with a few stops for photo ops and some gorgeous views of Downtown Seattle. They used first generation Segways (with the turns controlled by a knob on the left handlebar) instead of the second generation (where the turn is managed by leaning), but handling came back pretty quickly.
Afterwards, we met up with the non-Segwayers at the Frye Art Museum for the Degenerate Art Ensemble exhibit (which closed today). It... wasn't my thing. It's certainly creative, but much of it is performance art, which doesn't translate (even with video) that well to a museum setting. The other exhibit, Tête-à-Tête; had too many paintings (in ornate gilt frames) packed all over the 4 walls of the room with lighting set so many weren't viewable. I was disappointed. But for the cost (free) I couldn't object much.
George et al. gave me a lift back to the hotel around 4:30pm where I took a quick power nap before dinner at 6:30pm at Ten Mercer. A couple of my local friends managed to join us for dinner. I had the heirloom tomato bruschetta (slices of heirloom tomatoes on crispy bread rounds topped with extremely large basil leaves and drizzled with balsamic vinegar and a light olive oil) and the mustard-glazed rack of lamb (with asparagus and crispy polenta cakes), followed by profiteroles for dessert. Very tasty.
After dinner, most of us hung out in the courtyard. We finished off the crackers and cheese so Bitty didn't have to bring them on her flight Monday night. That broke up around 10:30pm so I went upstairs to prepack (basically, everything except laptop, toiletries, and CPAP), check in for my flight, and go to bed.
On the plus side, I didn't wake up until 7am today. On the minus side, it's the day of the last event: the Straggler's Breakfast. Showered, packed up the CPAP, laptop, and toiletries, and headed out to Mecca Café and ate with John and Robert. I had an omelette with bacon, sausage, and smoked cheddar, with hash browns and rye toast (with marionberry jam). I finished up just as the rest of the stragglers straggled in, so I hung out until it was time to continue with my day.
After breakfast, I returned to the hotel, checked out, and caught the #2 bus to Westlake Center to catch the Link back to the airport. Got through security, hiked to the tram, and was at my gate with plenty of time.
The flight was uneventful. I had a talkative high school student who wants to be a Marine sitting next to me, and a screaming baby on takeoff who quieted down soon thereafter behind me. We landed on-time and I was off the plane by 9pm, at the terminal shuttle by 9:05pm, at my car by 9:15pm, and home at 10pm — just late enough for all the restaurants and pizza delivery places to be closed. Unpacked just enough for the evening routines (CPAP and drugs from the toiletries kit) and crashed.