# 30 Never Tasted So Sweet

This trip is a trip of getting-shit-done. And by getting-shit-done, I mean I’m getting shit did. Specifically, I am managing to cross off several items on my Not-So-Bucket-List list, and that ain’t half bad. Especially since I hadn’t even planned on completing some of the items while here. There were others items that I had planned on working on, but clearly won’t be completing during this trip – I’m looking at you item #185 (Drink 100 pints of Guinness as per The Dead Poet Challenge). And there were some items that I would end up repeating (hello item #147 – Travel with Steph & Gerarda again). But to do these and cross off an item that was completely unexpected – that’s just wicked awesome on a level that I can’t even describe.

The main item on my list that I wasn’t expecting to complete on this trip: item #59, buy a $100+ bottle of port and drink it with Gerarda & Alan. Now technically Alan isn’t here, however, Steph is standing in as his proxy so in my books this item is next to complete. The only thing standing in our way is actually finishing the bottle. But fear not dear readers, I know that won’t be a problem, especially given how good this tastes. For those of you who enjoy port, I have to say that this 30-year-old bottle of Taylor Fladgate (retailing for$109.99 in NYC) is by far the best I’ve ever had. And while some might say that there is a bias associated with the price, I can honestly say the flavour is phenomenal. It’s almost like drinking maple syrup and brown sugar. So sweet, so smooth, and entirely satisfying. Of course, this isn’t the type of beverage that one just downs. It’s something to be savoured. And trust me when I say that I am savouring every sip.

# Faith And Begorrah, They’re After Me Lucky Charms

Happy St. Patrick’s day.

So some of you may have noticed that this post went up and there wasn’t much to it.  Ya, that’s because a meeting that was supposed to be 1 hour-long turned into a 2.5 hour marathon.  Seriously, what’s up with that?   Honestly, meetings generally drive me insane1.  They take up far too much time and very little is typically accomplished.  Today was a bit of an exception though, so I guess I can’t complain too much.   Anyway, long story long, the late running meeting meant that I was not able to get back to my desk to turn off the auto post since I had yet to compose what I wanted to write for St. Patrick’s day.  GAH!  Epic post fail.  Correction.  Epic St. Patrick’s day post fail.  I apologize profusely.

Regardless, Happy St. Patrick’s day all y’all.  I hope your day is filled with all thing green, all things pot-o-gold, all things leprechaun (except for those of you that might have a fear of leprechauns – you know who you are), all things Guinness, and all things Irish.  Today is the day where old and young don green apparel, consume green beer, and if they aren’t lucky enough to be Irish, wish that they were.

Why do we do this?  Honestly, I have no idea really.  Mainly I think it’s an excuse to get together with friends to drink.  It might also be a good way to ring in the coming season (don’t forget folks, Spring is just around the corner).  Although, perhaps the true reason we celebrate is to appease the Leprechauns.  We wouldn’t want them coming out of their dank dark caves to consume our brains, and make off with our lucky charms, now would we? Leprechauns do that, right?  I might be misinformed.

Whatever the reason, it’s always fun to see people dressed up to celebrate this particular day-o-the-Irish.  And today it seems the weather is cooperating as well.  It’s a balmy 12C here; the sun is shining, the birds are singing.  It’s almost magical.  One might even say that it’s somehow the Luck of the Irish that has brought us this awesome day.

Anyway, in honour of today’s festivities, I offer you this parametric 4-leaf clover2.  I hope it brings you the Luck of the Irish.  But really, with a parametric equation defining a 4-leaf clover, I don’t see why you would even need the Luck of the Irish.

How can you make this holy day of all-things-Irish about Math?

Well, the most obvious reason is because I’m a nerd.  Did you really need to ask?  The not so obvious reason, dear reader, is as follows: St. Patrick’s day falls approximately Pi days after Pi-Day.  It’s almost like today is the Pi-boxing day of Pi-Day.  AWESOME!  Clearly the question should have been

How can you not bring math into it?

I will also celebrate today by heading to Toronto in my green garb, enjoying a tasty pint of Guinness, and then seeing Sarah McLachlan in concert.  I’m pretty stoked.  I’ve seen her once before, and she was EPIC.  You are right to be jealous.

Anyway, I leave you with this shirt that I really want to get, although it isn’t completely applicable for my situation as I’m part Irish and Scottish.  Clearly the statement would be misleading :)

1 Meetings make me lose my sexy.

2 For those interested, the parametric equation is

$\left[\begin{array}{c}r\\ \phi\end{array}\right]=\left[\begin{array}{c}2\sin{(2t)}\\t\end{array}\right], t=0\ldots 4\pi$

# An Open Letter To New York. Hint: I Love You

I can’t believe my four-day adventure to New York is over already.  It seems like only four days ago I was boarding a plane.  Um, right.  Anyway, the trip was fantastic.  New York was amazing, and it’s always nice to get away with good friends.  I think I can write with confidence that this won’t be my last trip to the Big Apple, and it definitely won’t be my last trip with Gerarda and Alan, and hopefully Elisabeth too.  We had far too much fun!

I decided on the plane ride home that I needed to write a letter to New York as I’m always slightly depressed when I return from a trip.  I thought a letter might be a good way of getting past the post-vacation-low by getting my thoughts and feelings onto paper (in a manner of speaking).  This is as far as I got.  Really, it sums up my current state perfectly.

Dear New York,

Love me.

As with my trip to Hawaii, I provide a summary of our various comings and goings whilst adventuring in New York, in list form, of course :)  Should you have any questions or want some ideas for your own personal adventure, just let me know.

Thursday

• Lunch at the Airport Lounge, plus some Guinness and Port.  Clearly the vacation is starting on the right foot :)
• Check-in to On The Avenue hotel (77th and Broadway).  This hotel is awesome; I’ve stayed here on 3 separate occasions and I have never been disappointed.  It’s located in a vibrant neighbourhood, close to Central Park, and within walking distance to The Dead Poet, Crumbs, and various other locals that we tend to frequent while in the Big Apple.
• Prior to taking in the city, we need caffeine and we need sugar.  Clearly, we require coffee and treats from Crumbs.  We probably spend far too much time in this place.
• Wander the city, stop for a few pints at The Dead Poet. Join the 100 Pints-o-Guinness challenge.
• Purchase some brand spanking new running shoes.  This was a much-needed purchase, as I have been putting it off for about 8 months (far too long).
• Our first dinner in NYC – Italian – linguine and clams for me, with a nice bottle of Chianti.  YUM.
• We end the night by touring the M&M’s store, the Swatch store, and Times Square

Friday

• Begin our morning having breakfast at Good Enough To Eat.
• Visit the Museum of Natural History
• Exhibits include Journey to the Stars, The Brain, Butterflies, and Sea Rex.
• Got to hold a silkworm cocoon.  Very cool.

• Snacks and Beverages at The Amsterdam Inn
• Wine dinner at Maloney & Porcelli
• Raw Malpeque and Bluepoint oysters
• Four bottomless wines!
• A crackled pork shank the size of my head
• Homemade fig newtons with Fragelico
• Much hilarity
• Hit up The Dead Poet for a night-cap (clearly what we needed)
• Hit up The Amsterdam Inn for a further night-cap (best idea ever, says my hangover)

Saturday

• Breakfast at Starbucks; coffee and egg sandwich to cure the hangover.
• Walk to Magnolia bakery for breakfast part II
• Saunter through Central Park on our way to the Museum of Modern Art, also known as the MoMA
• Tour the Museum – see the works of Warhol, Seurat, Van Gogh, Modigliani, Miro, De Kooning, Kandinsky, Pollack, etc.

Sunday

• Breakfast on the patio from Zabar’s.  Smoked salmon, bagels, coffee, and some treats from Crumbs

• Wander through Central Park one last time
• Head to the airport to go home.  Boo.

Lastly, I leave you with the following Haiku.

City never sleeps,
The food, the lights, the chaos;
I miss you New York

# I Ate New York, Again

Oh my FSM1 I am full. Still. From Friday. Seriously, I think I really ate that much. Friday was, after all another adventure in New York based gastronomy.  To be honest so was Saturday, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Friday started with breakfast at Good Enough to Eat.  I figured I’d be Mr. Healthy-pants and ordered a cup of oatmeal with a side cup of fruit.   This also served the purpose of prepping my body with something good-for-me, since I knew I was going to spend the day consuming things that were not-so-good-for-me.  You have to love a day that starts out with the knowledge that you are about to commit one of the seven deadly sins2 (the sinniest of all sins).

After breakfast we ventured over to the American Museum of Natural History.  The visit included stops at the Brain exhibit, the Butterflies exhibit, as well as the Sea Rex movie (apparently in IMAX).  We also took in Journey to the Stars.  All very nerdy, and all very awesome.  I’ll chat more about this particular part of the adventure in a later post.

Having burned so many Calories wandering the museum, thinking about science-y things, and learning nerd related stuffs, we decided to drop into the Amsterdam Ale House because after all, beer fuels nerd power.  There we enjoyed a pint and some snacks.  I opted for a pint of Harpoon Brewery Munich Dark German-Style Dunkel, and onion rings.  Beer and onion rings; really what could be better than that to recover from a day of brain work?

Sated, we returned to the hotel for a bit of rest and relaxation.  It wasn’t that our day was overly taxing, but we were all well aware of the dinner that was coming.  A dinner that could only be described as epic.  What dinner could possibly be described in this manner? Only the famous Wine Dinner offered by Maloney & Porcelli.  For \$75 one gets a three course meal, plus 4 bottomless bottles of wine.  I repeat bottomless.  It really is insane, and awesome, and oh so dangerous.  And we love it.   This part of the NYC trip has become tradition.  The wines are always good, and the food superb.

For my appetizer I ordered a platter of raw Malpeque oysters, which were shared with Alan who had opted for Bluepoint oysters.  Both were delicious, but I think I still favour the Malpeques.

Our appetizers were accompanied by the Pisani Prosecco Brut, a sparkling wine that would be called Champagne if it were produced in that region of France.  So freaking good.  Especially with the oysters.

We were also served Guenoc Chardonnay (2009).  I normally am not a fan of Chardonnay, but this one wasn’t bad.  Gerarda was not as much of a fan as me.

My main was Crackling Pork Shank.  What I received blew my mind, and the collective minds of those sitting at the table with me.  Seriously, the meal that was presented to me was so huge, I can’t possibly imagine anyone ever being able to successfully eat an entire serving.  The shank was the size of my head.  Given that I can’t eat much in one sitting (thank you hernia), the fact that my meal was so ridiculously huge was significantly hilarious.  And the irony was not lost on anyone.

Despite its immense size, the shank was delicious.  It came with a jalapeno pepper infused apple sauce.  So. Freaking. Good.  I don’t think I’ll ever enjoy regular apple sauce again.  Every bite of the shank was that much better because of the apple sauce.  And the shank was amazing on its own.  Even though I am still full, I want more of it.  Sadly, I couldn’t eat the entire thing, but I gave it a valiant attempt.

Our main was also accompanied by our final 2 wines of the eve3; the Bodega Tamari Reserve Malbec, and the Hess Select Cabernet Sauvignon (2008). I really enjoyed the Malbec, but I’m a bit of a Malbec whore.

Finally, dessert came.  I chose the homemade fig newton bars (which came with a shot of frangelico for dipping; clearly something I needed after drinking 4 different bottomless wines).  The newtons were definitely more refined than those that one would buy in the grocery store; delicate cake fingers filled with a rich fig paste.  You are right to be jealous.  They were incredible.  If the grocery store variety tasted like these, I’d be gorging on them all the time.  Which makes me thankful that the regular grocery store variety fig newtons do not taste like this.

Anyway, by the time the last glass was drank and the last fig newton dipped, we were all quite buzzed, insanely stuffed, and very happy.  We wouldn’t change a thing.  And I write that given my friend the hangover that decided to pay a visit Saturday morning.  Honestly, when I woke up I had to do an inventory of my body as I figured every part of me had reason for revenge.  Thankfully I wasn’t too bad; nothing a good coffee couldn’t fix.  And where there is Starbucks, there is coffee.  And breakfast sandwiches.  Simple, not so healthy, but just what the doctor ordered when he’s hung over.  Get it, just what the doctor ordered.  Because I’m a doctor.  And I ordered it.  Ha.  I kill me.

After our almost-hangover-curing breakfast, we walked down to the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) via Central Park.  Of course, we first stopped into Magnolia Bakery for some cookies and cupcakes.

The MOMA was fantastic.  This makes my 3rd or 4th visit to the MOMA, and it never disappoints.  The previous visit included an exhibit on Tim Burton’s art (verdict, that dude is weird but ever so cool).  This time around, we saw an Andy Warhol exhibit which included short films.  Like the American Museum of Natural History, I’ll write more about this in a later post.

After exploring artworks by Matisse, Monet, Seurat, Van Gogh, Kandinsky, De Kooning, and many, many others, Alan and I stopped into the museum restaurant for a snack.  He chose a 3 cheese platter (which he informed me was quite good), while I selected the smoked trout salad. Delicious, and it hit the I’m still hung over spot perfectly.

Tired from a day of walking the city and satisfying the arty side of our brains, we made our way to City Bakery for the Hot Chocolate Festival.  City Bakery is famous for their hot chocolate, or so I’ve been informed.  And while they do offer a soy-based version of the drink, a staff member also informed me that it is also made with cream.  Huh?  How does that work? Sadly, I had to settle for a coffee, but Gerarda, Alan, and Elisabeth all gave the hot chocolate two thumbs up.  It smelled really good.  Sigh.

Full of chocolatey goodness (or in my case more caffeine and a homemade marshmallow), we returned to the hotel to recuperate and to enjoy a hair-of-the-dog beer on Gerarda and Alan’s balcony.  The balcony offered some great views of the city and the river.

Later that eve we ventured to dinner at Artie’s Deli.  The meal was simple, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t fantastic.  I had an open-faced turkey reuben with sauerkraut and pickles, along with a club soda.  You shouldn’t really come to NYC without having a deli sandwich at least once.  They really do know how to make a good sandwich here.  And this one was beautiful.  I highly recommend it.

After seeing an off-Broadway play (to be discussed in a later post), we chose to close out our night by returning to Crumbs bakery.  Because why wouldn’t we want to eat more sugary treats?  So yes, more cupcakes were consumed, and all was well with the world.  All was especially well with the world since I discovered that Crumbs makes a dairy free soy-milk based hot chocolate.  Best hot chocolate after-being-denied-a-hot-chocolate-at-the-hot-chocolate-festival, ever.  Say that five times fast.

This dear friends is why I am full, and why I will probably remain full for several more days.  And it is one of the many reasons why New York is amazing, and why you should be booking a trip here as soon as you can.  Do it.  Do it now.  It is so worth it.

Take that hernia.

2 In this case, gluttony.

3 Bringing my wine total up to 11 of the 30 required by my Not-So-Bucket-List list.

# I Ate New York

I just woke up to the sounds of the Big Apple coming to life on a rainy Friday morning.  As I lay here, a muffled cacophony of car alarms, sirens, horns, police whistles, and people shouting can be heard from below my hotel window.  While not quite the same as waking up to the sound of waves in the morning, it’s not too bad.  In fact, I think I love it.

For those unaware, I landed in New York city (NYC) on Thursday afternoon.  If my count is correct, this is my millionth visit to the Big Apple.  Clearly, I love NYC.  My first trip occurred way back in grade 10, when I was about 20 years younger.  My art class jumped on a bus and made the long trek to the city to spend some quality time exploring its cultural offerings.  The city was much different then; Times Square was mainly a centre for porn shops and XXX theatres.   The seedy, dank, dark, and sleazy has since been replaced by bright neon lights, billboards, and Naked Cowboys (who by the way, are not really naked).  I think Mayor Rudy Giuliani has been credited with cleaning it up, for better or worse.  Whoever is accountable, I loved the city then, and I love it still today.  In the past year alone, I’ve been thrice.  Thrice!  And I’d come back again in a heartbeat.

For those that have never been (and might I ask why haven’t you been?), the city is vibrant.  There is some sort of indescribable electricity in the air.  I know that sounds corny, but it’s so true.  I love it.  And I love the people of New York.  There is just so much diversity, you can’t help but love it.

Of course, most New Yorkers are also loud.  Really loud.  So loud, that most people are taken aback the first time a native New Yorker barks at them.  And I don’t write bark in a derogatory manner.  It’s just the way New Yorkers communicate.  To the uninitiated, the bark might be construed as anger or aggression.  But it’s neither, generally speaking.  New Yorkers are loud, and they may bark, but they are friendly, and helpful, and typically happy.  At least, that has been my experience.

One of my favourite things about the city is the food.  So much food.  And food of all different varieties, from different cultures, and different traditions.  If my hernia didn’t prevent me from eating a lot at once, I’d be gorging on food like it was going out of style.  Maybe my hernia provides a silver lining for my waist line; a silver belt if you will.

Anyway, our gastronomic adventure began within a few minutes of getting checked into our rooms at On The Avenue.  Around the corner from the hotel is a cupcake store that Gerarda loves called Crumbs.  While I’m not a cupcake person, we always make a point of stopping in.  The coffee is delicious, cheap, and very dark.  Just the way I like it.

Gerarda opted for a small classic chocolate cupcake with sprinkles, while Alan went for the full-sized chocolate hazelnut cupcake, which I have been informed was full of Nutella goodness.  Based on the smiles on their faces, the cupcakes did not disappoint.  Elisabeth opted for a traditional jewish pastry typically served during Purim known as a hametaschen.  Verdict – delicious.

I wasn’t to be left out however, as I paired my coffee with a really tasty cinnamon bun.  Oh so cinnamon-y and gooey and tasty.  A perfect touch of sweet to go with my dark roast java.

Following our lunch of pastries and sugary treats, we wandered the neighbourhood (as Elisabeth has not been to NYC before, apart from one visit associated with a Physics conference many years ago).  The weather was perfect; not too hot, and definitely not too cold.  The sun was shining, the sky was blue; almost as if the universe was compelling us to wander, taking in all that the city had to offer.

Eventually we made our way to The Dead Poet, our favourite pub.  We always drop in for a beverage or two while we are here.  While enjoying my second and third Guinness of the day (the first having been consumed at the Airport Lounge back in Toronto), I was compelled to join a special club that the bar was advertising.  Specifically, it was the 100 pints of Guinness club.  To obtain full membership, you have to drink 100 pints of Guinness (purchased of course from The Dead Poet).  Clearly this is a challenge that I am up to.  Clearly it means I need to return to New York, otherwise I might not make this challenge.  Note: the pints do not need to be consumed at once thankfully, as I am a light weight these days.

Dinner followed drinks, and it consisted of an italian dinner at a nearby restaurant (which name I can’t recall).  Dinner was good – I had a very nice linguine with clam sauce.  We paired our meals with a very nice chianti1, and of course, much laughter. By the time dinner was finished, we were all very stuffed, and very much ready to call it an early night.

Before we turned in, we wandered down to Times Square.  There we visited the M&M’s store, and the Swatch store.  Mainly, we just enjoyed the scenery and chaos that is Times Square.  My favourite part was trying to translate the conversation that I apparently had with some rather large drunk man, who felt compelled to stop traffic so that we could cross the street.  I gathered enough from what he told me to know that he was “mo fo wasted”, and “slappy in the way, fo sho”.  At least, that’s how I heard whatever he said.

We returned to our rooms, exhausted, still very much full, and quite content with our day.  As I crawled into bed, I wondered what gastronomic adventures might await us on Friday.  I drifted off knowing that whatever they be, they’ll be awesome. New York has a way of not disappointing.

1 Which adds bottle 7 to my list of 30 new wines – a part of my Not-So-Bucket-List list.

P.S. Happy Birthday (yesterday) Lara :)