Sunday, April 28, 2013

Honeymoon: Sunday April 28

Our honeymoon has been six months or more in the making. In the restaurant business, our time is not our own and the luxury of scheduling time off is a luxury we don't have. We get a single week off a year (and trust me, by the time we get to week 50 in our year, we are walking zombies) and that comes each year, the first week in May, coincident with the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival.

This event, which some locals term the Redneck Mardi Gras, brings 250,000 people to our little town of 25,000 people. You'd think that would be a boom time for the restaurant business, but counter-intuitively, nobody (including us) has access to the restaurant for our three profitable nights of the week (Thu, Fri, Sat) and so we close and make the proverbial lemonade. I used to be bitter about this. I still am to a certain extent. Getting screwed by your own town is never fun.

But this is a happy story. Back in September when we got married, there was no time for a honeymoon. In fact, I was back at work at 7:30 the next morning, just like every Monday. And so the restaurant life forced us to postpone it until just now. In the meantime, Ann has been busily planning our delayed honeymoon, of which this is the tale. Kudos to her! Of all the things she does well, logistics is tops!

We left Winchester about 10:30pm after dinner service (everybody was hustling to get closed) on Saturday night and arrived at the Dulles Marriott at 11:30pm, a very quick trip to airport, just under an hour. We decided to stay the night at the hotel and leave our car there for the next week; it proved to be cheaper than paying for long term parking. Ann drove, thankfully since I was beat after a long, long dinner service, and that gave me the opportunity to observe the fabulous copper-colored slightly waning moon as we came up Snicker's Gap and crossed the Appalachian Trail and headed down into Loudoun County.

Trying to Take the Edge Off!
Ann had the foresight to bring along a bottle of Roederer Estate Brut Rosé that we drank from clunky hotel water glasses. This was a delicious way to try to take the edge off and try to get some sleep before our very early wake up call in the morning. If you've ever cooked in a restaurant, then you know exactly how pumped you are coming off the line on a Saturday night. Even with the wine, we couldn't wind down until 1 am.

Our cell phones went off with simultaneous klaxons at 0500. That really startled me; nothing startles me; go figure. In the pre-dawn darkness, we caught the 5:45 am shuttle to terminal. Even that early hour well before sunrise did not stop a male cardinal from proclaiming his turf in the hotel parking lot. As we stepped off the shuttle, quite unexpectedly we met Kenny, the restaurant's front of house/beverage manager and his girlfriend Mel, who were on their way to Sonoma for the week. My sous chef Tony went to San Diego for the week. I guess we all had the West Coast on the brain this year. Anywhere but Winchester.

I was feeling quite hungover from lack of sleep and looking forward to a cup of coffee on the other side of security. Sadly, there was no chance to grab any coffee (yikes!!) or breakfast as we had planned. Getting through security took longer than usual. I guess they've really upped the level since the bombing of the Boston Marathon a couple weeks ago. In comparison though, the security at SFO and PDX seemed to be almost non-existent next to what we went through at Dulles. By the time we got through security, our flight was already boarding when we arrived at the gate, naturally the furthest from the terminal. It had to be that way because I woke up with a bum right knee and a random bone chip floating in my right ankle. Ann was like a speed demon in the terminal leaving me at times trailing 30 yards in her wake.

Halfway through the flight two of the attendants came up to us. Our friend Erik, a United pilot himself who flies international wide-bodies, had let the crew know we were flying with them and that it was our honeymoon. They were very nice and gave us a bottle of random California Cab as a gift. And they were so thoughtful that they included a corkscrew in the wrapping for the bottle. Erik had obviously let them know I am a chef because the whole crew stopped by to talk about it since they are all based out of Loudoun and Clarke counties. And as my PR rep, Ann didn't miss a beat in handing out business cards to the crew. The poor little old Chinese couple on their return trip to Beijing who were sitting beside me didn't know what to make of all the fuss being made over the huge laowai sitting next to them. Ann was really tickled that they made a cabin announcement that it was our honeymoon and then again when the captain did the same. Me, I prefer to fly under the radar.

We were ravenous when we arrived at SFO, having missed breakfast at Dulles. Though I wanted a bowl of noodles for lunch, my bride had been talking about greasy cheeseburgers for the duration of the flight. The noodle and dim sum restaurant was a long, long walk from our departure gate and given our state of famishment and my bum ankle, I let Ann talk me into burgers at Anchor Steam, the closest restaurant to us. The horrible burger at Anchor Steam was almost as bad as the one we had at the Union Jack pub in Winchester the day we got our marriage license. To wash down the second worst burger of my life, I had a Liberty Ale and a Porter. Ann had a Corona and a California Lager. The beer was truly forgettable. Anchor, though a San Francisco institution, and I parted company two decades ago because their beer ceased to be relevant even back then.

Go Meat!
Our flight to Portland was mercifully brief and I even managed to snooze for a half an hour. That nap really helped me: I needed to be somewhat coherent to navigate the rental car through downtown Portland and then to the coast. Item number one on our agenda: find Olympic Provisions. After driving through a gentrifying industrial neighborhood in Northwest by the river, we found Olympic Provisions in a small storefront on Thurman St. Through the street-facing double doors is a front deli counter with two communal tables to the right and a handful of two-tops to the left, facing a tiny open galley kitchen of sorts. Behind is where they do their magic and magic it truly is. If you are a fan of charcuterie and salame in particular, Olympic Provisions makes the best salame I have ever tasted. If you are a foodie and you ever get near Portland, you need to go. They have two shops, one in NW and the other in SE. Get ye to the nearest as quickly as possible!

Once through the double doors, we stepped up to the counter which was topped with a little set of bins holding the different kinds of sausages. Below that in a refrigerated case were a few kinds of cheeses, pâtés, rillettes, and fresh sausages. And above the counter, wow! Just wow! You see it above in the photo. I don't have words to describe this monument to charcuterie.

These Sausages are World Class
We got four salame (saucisson d'Arles, cacciatore, chorizo Navarre, and salchichón), a tub of pork liver mousse topped with lard, two pieces of cheese, and two bottles of Pinot Noir from the built-in shelves along the dining room wall. The counter guy threw in a baguette and a brown paper-wrapped package of "meat sticks—they're like slim jims. We're working on them and they're not even for sale yet."

Our First "We're not in Kansas" Moment
As we headed west out of Portland on Highway 26, Ann started to get the idea that we were in an alien land. She's never been to the Pacific Northwest before and the immense stands of conifers took her by surprise. She snapped this photo out of the car window as we were heading up into the mountains. The huge stands of spruce and fir are even still quite a sight for me and I've been to the West Coast hundreds of times. What was most distressing to me were the vast sections of clear-cut forest, massive eyesores dominating the otherwise impressive vistas. I guess there has to be a balance between logging and preservation, but they have seriously destroyed some beautiful timber lands.

We were parched from traveling and needed water so we were looking for a convenient handy mart on the side of the road where we could grab a couple bottles of water. Pickings are slim out on Highway 26, but we finally spied Jacks Snacks Mart after about 20 minutes. Ann went in while I stayed in the car and figured out the headlight and seat controls. While she was in the store, I noticed a woman coming out who had just purchased a somewhat Victorian-looking lamp with an amazingly garish shade. When Ann came out two bottles of water in hand, she reported that in addition to snacks and water, Jacks had a lovely selection of lamps and hand-blown glass bongs. Ah yes, our second "We're not in Kansas" moment of the trip!

Speaking of bongs and things done differently from here, it seemed like everyone was driving stoned. Where in the world do people drive 50 and 55 mph in 55 zones? These people would get flattened trying to drive in and around DC. Seriously flattened. 

Cannon Beach: From our Window, Ecola Creek Flows into the Pacific
We arrived at our destination in Cannon Beach after being on the road for 15 hours, at a small seaside hotel called somewhat unimaginatively, The Waves. The place appeared neat and we were both surprised at our second-floor studio with a tiny kitchenette, vaulted ceilings, skylights, gas fireplace, and balcony looking over the beach where Ecola Creek flows into the Pacific. The walls of a warm peachy yellow and trim of blond wood lent a warmth to the room and were in contrast to the cloudy, gray evening sky. It was a nice place and we'd stay there again.


Our Dinner "Did Not Suck"
Starving we were. So the first thing we did was spread out our feast and get to it. The two cheeses are the fresh creamy Brillat-Savarin "Vignelait" cow's milk cheese and the firm sheep's milk Ossau-Iraty brébis. We opened the slim jims, the Calabrese sausage, and our all-time favorite, the salchichón. With its to-me-unusual spicing of nutmeg and cloves, it is the best salame I have ever eaten. With it, we opened the Scott Paul "Paulée" Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2010, which has gorgeous bright cherry fruit and was at that point one of the best Willamette Pinots I have tasted (I would taste many better ones later in the week, but what a great start!). We opened the Crowley Pinot Noir Dundee Hills "Entre Nous" 2010 at some later point in the week; it is much bigger, a lot riper and jammier, and not as good.

Tsunami?!! Our Third "We're not in Kansas" Moment
After our dinner at about 5pm local time, we took a walk on the beach before the sun went down to see the famous haystack rocks, which are pretty damn cool, but very soon the incessant wind had us turning around for the warmth of our room. Though it was a gorgeous sunny 68 in Portland by the time we deplaned at 1:30 local time, the temperature at the coast was a pleasant enough 54 when we arrived. Coupling that with 20-knot winds on the beach, though, it proved to be pretty chilly. I was dead asleep by 7pm local time.

First View of Haystack Rock


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