The following is my motss.con.xxvii con report, or my experiences of the 27th soc.motss.con (held Jun 26-30 in Portland, ME). If you don't like such things, feel free to not read it. It won't bother me. Much.
Travel day. I woke up early, so I showered and packed up to head off to Detroit Metropolitan International Airport. The traffic on surface streets was going about 5 MPH below posted limits, but once I hit I-94 we were moving at or above. I parked in my usual area of the Big Blue Deck, caught the terminal shuttle over to the other terminal, cleared security without incident, and got to my gate in plenty of time for the 7:25am flight to LaGuardia. We landed on time (8:46am) for the scheduled 9:10am arrival, but LGA ground didn't have our gate ready. We wound up arriving a few minutes late at a different gate. My departing flight to Portland was at the next gate over... until they moved it without announcing it. Got to the new gate just fine (it was only around the corner), but the inbound aircraft was late. Once it got there, they did a good and fast job of turning it around (cleaning and catering), and we departed only about 20 minutes late... then sat waiting for takeoff for another 40 minutes. We got into Portland only about 20 minutes late though.
I got the bag I checked (gate-side, checked through to PWM, for free at DTW) and got my rental car (with no line at all), and got to the hotel without incident. They had my room ready (near but not next to the elevator), so I dropped off my stuff and went to the attached restaurant, The Egg and I, for a light lunch of a lobster roll with a side of clam chowder. Both were very tasty, the lobster wasn't overdressed, and the soup had a lot of clams.
After lunch (and waiting half an hour) I did a few laps in the hotel's indoor pool, followed by a brief soak in the hot tub, before heading upstairs and showering before meeting folks in the lobby for dinner.
The foodie dinner was at the Back Bay Grill. Eight of us met in the hotel lobby — Jim, Joe, John, Ken, Mike, Robert, Sim, and I — and carpooled to the restaurant, arriving just in time for our reservation. We had the entire front area of the room so we could actually hear each other. They started us with an amuse bouche of house-cured gravlax with creme fraisch, crispy capers, preserved lemon, and fresh dill, which was heavenly; the salt was admittedly strong, but the flash-fried capers and preserved lemon set off the salmon wonderfully. I (and three others) went with the Bang's Island mussels (with white wine, house-made chorizo, wholegrain mustard, roasted garlic, and saffron), which was just fantastic; I'm glad I grabbed a chunk of bread to help sop up the sauce. My main course was the butter-poached lobster (both claws and the tail) over local red arugula, grilled tomatoes, mini potato puffs, and sauce Bernaise, which was also delightful. Because I went with the lobster for my main, I stuck with the Brancott 2013 Sauvignon Blanc and didn't go with the Argyle pinot noir like the rest of the table. I'd skipped the salad course so I'd have room for dessert; I had the caramel ice cream with bourbon caramel sauce and almond lace cookie, which was just the right level of sweet to round things off... which made the Hershey's Kiss-sized profiteroles filled with strawberry buttercream that came with the (very reasonable) check feel like a suprisingly decadent indulgence (not that any of us declined).
Got back to the hotel just before 11pm, so I socialized very briefly in the lobby but soon headed upstairs to crash... and then couldn't fall asleep until nearly 12:30am.
I woke up around 5:30am, said an expletive, and rolled over and went back to sleep. Slept in until almost 8am, which was much better. Caught up (for intereting values of) on email and social media, showered, and grabbed berakfast at The Egg and I. I walked in just behind John and Robert so we dined together. I wound up getting the corned beef hash, topped with scrambled eggs, and it came with a side of hollandaise sauce and toast. I headed back to the room to freshen up (and housekeeping had finished their work in the hour or so I was out), then headed down to the lobby.
Those of us here — the eight from dinner Thursday plus Kathryn — met in the lobby at 11am and headed out to the Portland Museum of Art. We paid our admission (including the extra for the Richard Estes realism special exhibit on the ground floor) before heading downstairs to the café so those who wanted lunch could get some. I was still full from breakfast so I just had a side of the chevre and pesto orzo salad, which was very tasty; others went with salads, sandwiches, and soups. We explored all five floors of the museum, from the glass in the basement (in the café), the special exhibit in the front of the first floor, the hidden exhibit (including McLellan House and the restored flying staircase) behind the gift shop on the first floor, the impressionism and modernism and cubism on the second and third floors, and the Andrea Sulzer exhibit on the fourth floor. We wound up meeting around 2pm back in the lobby, where Ann, Henry, and Jason had arrived. They, with Jim, Joe, and Kathryn headed off to a Thai restaurant for their own lunch, while the rest of us headed back to the hotel to nap and unwind before dinner.
At 4:30pm, those of us around the hotels (pretty much all of the aforementioned except Ann, who'd stayed at the museum longer, plus Arthur and Bitty) met up in the con.hotel lobby to head off to the welcome dinner at DiMillo's on the Water. (Yes, traditionally there's the foodie dinner and a Friday day-time activity before the official start of the weekend's events.)
We got to the floating restaurant without incident. We had two large round tables towards the bow, and wound up splitting them 8 and 6. I wound up getting the French onion soup, Caesar salad with anchovies, and 1.5-lb steamed lobster with a baked potato on the side. Delicious and filling, to the extent I didn't need dessert. Decided not to be one of the folks waking a mile or so along the coastline, so headed back to the hotel for a power nap. After than I socialized a bit with the folks in the hotel lobby until nearly 10pm, when I was fading fast, so I headed upstairs to bed.
This morning I skipped breakfast since we were all heading to the Farmers' Market. We had to hunt for nearby parking, but we eventually all got there and did some shopping. One of the rules is that the foodstuffs being sold had to be from local ingredients, so while we could find a lot of raw meats, vegetables, cheeses and strawberries (and a few apples), there was no bread. (I did find an unattended $5 while walking, so yay windfall!) Many wound up sharing some of what they'd bought; I nibbled some strawberries, some of the semi-hard cheddar cheese, and used lettuce leaves to scoop up and eat a soft herb-garlic cheese. Shortly after 11 we were joined for the day by Beth, Kelly, and their kids, and after some discussion and play we adjourned to Flatbread Company for lunch. My table was a comedy of errors: First, someone knocked over a bottle of sarsaparilla, and in attempting to catch it knocked over a second bottle. Then later, we had a small pizza delivered instead of the large we ordered. The restaurant did the right thing in both cases, delivering an extra (comped) bottle of sarsaparilla and the original small and when it was done the (comped) large pizza.
We'd chosen Flatbread because it was effectively right next door to the afternoon's activity of the Mail Boat tour of Casco Bay. Our three-hour tour had lovely weather (it didn't get rough at all, and our tiny ship wasn't tossed), though it got a bit breezy at times. It was a lot of fun.
After the tour (and the obligatory group photo with the boat as backdrop), the day trippers returned home and the rest of us wandered around the waterfront until it was time for dinner at Ri Ra Irish Pub. The multi-level bar was pretty full, and it was hard to hear each other, but the food was excellent. The waiter's comment that the mussels appetizer could serve 2–4 kept me from getting it (though in retrospect I could have eaten it just fine) and instead I went with the Untraditional Potato Cakes with whiskey-cured house-smoked salmon, caper relish, and herb salad. For a main course I had the grilled ribeye (topped with charred shallot-whiskey butter and served with bacon champ and carrot pearls) and mashed potatoes. I wish the waiter had noted the steak came on a bed of potatoes (it wasn't on the menu) so I didn't need to order the extra side. Oh well. For dessert I had what they called The Trinity: A layering of "decadent Bailey's chocolate mousse, Jameson whipped cream and Guinness chocolate sauce."
Once we escaped back to the hotel (around 10pm) most of us hung out in the lobby for a while before we eventually straggled off to bed.
This morning we started out by meeting in the lobby by 11am to head out to Empire Chinese Kitchen for dim sum at 11:30am. They opened a little late, but we had a long table for the 14 of us, split with a small aisle so we were seated in a group of 8 and a group of 6. My group-of-8 table ordered:
- 1 beet greens salad with lotus root
- 2 orders of fried green beans with garlic
- 4 orders (2 ea.) of peking duck buns
- 4 orders (2 ea.) of spicy pork belly buns
- 2 orders (4 ea.) of spinach dumplings
- 2 orders (4 ea.) of shrimp dumplings
- 4 orders (2 ea.) of pork bao
- 2 orders (4 ea.) of beef-and-shrimp siu mai
- 3 orders (3 ea.) of lobster dumplings
- 1 order of sticky rice
(The order shown was the order they were delivered to the table.) Some of us had mango sorbetto for dessert, but I went with the chocolate and salted caramel pie.
After lunch, and a brief trip to the nearby bookstore, we headed out to the Two Lights State Park. Wandered up and down the rockface, wandered through the woods, saw the old fire control tower and the shore battery bunker, and basically hung out for a few hours. We met back up in a shady spot before heading over to the Two Lights Lobster Shack for dinner; I wound up, unsurprisingly, getting the lobster dinner — a 1.5-lb lobster, with fries, coleslaw, and a biscuit — with a soft drink and an apple-stuffed pastry (with a whipped cream that was almost but not quite a buttercream). Very tasty and very filling.
Headed back to the hotel and schmoozed a bit before taking a quick shower to wash off the sunscreen. Went back to the lobby for more schmoozing until folks started to run down. Said goodbye to Kathryn (who had to catch a 5:30am shuttle for her 7:00am flight) and headed upstairs to do my initial packing (that is, everything except the stuff I'd need overnight or in the morning), write more trip report, and collapse.
I woke up, showered, caught back up on social media and personal email, and finished packing the CPAP, laptop, and toiletries.
The con ended today with the last event, the Stragglers' Breakfast at The Egg and I at the hotel. The 13 remaining folks straggled in between 9am and 9:15am. I wound up getting the Cambridge Skillet: 2 eggs (scrambled) over ranch potatoes, ham, and bacon, with melted cheese and Hollandaise sauce, with a side of rye toast. I hung out in the lobby saying "Goodbye" to folks as they headed out to their various destinations (most were driving to Boston, either to go home, or to Cape Cod, or to the airport to fly from there). The hotel was either unwilling or unable to turn off the Fox News television so I decided to head to the airport early (they have free wifi and less Fox, so it was a big win). No line to return the rental car, no wait at Security, and a gate immediately at the bottom of the escalators from Security.
As it happened, Ken was on the same flight as I was, so we met up again at our gate at the Portland airport. He watched my stuff while I grabbed a quick late lunch (a lobster roll at the place 3 gates down), and I watched his when he went in search of Wimbeldon scores.
The flight itself was uneventful, with only a little mild turbulence as we descended into Detroit. Got my gate-checked bag and walked with Ken to where he was going to go grab dinner down Concourse B and I was going to head to the terminal shuttle to get back to my car, so we hugged goodbye. Traffic on I-94 was moving at or above posted speeds, traffic on US 12 wasn't (mainly because people are stupid). Decided that since Siri wasn't finding the phone number to the local pizza place so I could call in an order I'd punt and wound up going to the family-run diner that's on the way home anyhow. Wound up getting my usual (chicken fried steak, fries, salad with honey mustard, and whatever vegetable they've got which this time was green beans). There was a minor mix up where both my order and another table's order was almost delivered to my table, but everyone agreed that I probably wasn't going to be eating two entire meals.
Got home just after 8pm, grabbed and sorted the postal mail, unpacked everything, and finished up this trip report.