NYE 2001: The End – 1

Working our way backwards this time, this is how we managed to make it home.

So I’m telling our NYE 2001 story from both ends, working my way towards the glorious middle, the amazing meal we had at Cinnabar. This time, our flight home.

We arrive at LAX two and a half hours before our flight, lit like Xmas trees (that’ll be another post), and we breeze through security (except for them finding that third corkscrew, that is). We’re now in the airport with more than two hours to kill.

So we head to the bar.

We spy a little Mexican cantina-style bar, drag our crap in, and take two stools. I’m not quite as drunk as Rochelle, so I want to “catch up” (a whole ‘nother story). I tell Rochelle to order me a shot of tequila and a beer, while I go use the bathroom. Two shots and two beers later we’re $27 poorer. Airport bars suck.

We head to the gate, get in the very long line to get our boarding passes, and meet a really nice woman who, it turns out, works at UC Berkeley, where I used to work, and we know some of the same people. The three of us have a great time talking, and we decide to sit together on the plane.

Except Katherine gets unlucky, is one of those randomly chosen to make an extra pass through the security apparatus, and we disappear onto the plane without her.

We’re boarding late, so the plane is quite full, and we have to go all the way to the back to find a row with three empty seats. There’s lots of people in the aisles, and when Rochelle has a little trouble dragging her suitcase around one group, the flight attendant asks if she is all right. I’m sure it was just the people, and had nothing to do with the amount we’d had to drink. ;-)

We get settled, Katherine rejoins us, and the plane takes off. Probably uneventfully, but none of us would remember it.

When the flight attendant comes around to serve drinks, she proactively asserts that they cannot serve Rochelle alcohol (we were talking pretty loudly while waiting at the gate, I’m sure they knew the score).

That’s fine with Rochelle, she’s got a headache, and is ready to pass out anyway, sparkling water for her. Katherine and I get two white wines. Rochelle eventually wakes up, and the three of us continue talking until we’re in Oakland, quite suddenly it seemed to us.

We get off the plane, make promises to get together again, and say our goodbyes. Rochelle and I make our way home to, well, you already know that one.

Waking Up to Danger

Two cats that hate each other, in one bed, on top of me. That spells d-a-n-g-e-r, with a capital “D”.

This morning I had a near-death experience. Somehow, after Rochelle had left for work, both Billie and Basta ended up on the bed with me, with nothing more than a blanket between them.

It started out safe enough, with Billie under the covers, stretched across my chest. Then Basta jumped onto the bed, in her best ready-for-combat fashion, and I had to wake up fully to avoid being shredded to ribbons (we don’t clip any of the cats’ claws).

Basta, after sniffing around, settled in the crook of my arm, right next to Billie. Literally only the thickness of two blankets separated them. They both knew the other was there, as Billie heard Basta’s chittering and purring, and Basta had obviously smelled Billie.

The usual course is for Billie to slink out of bed and flee. For some reason that didn’t happen today. I was sure it could only end badly if both stayed, but after 20 minutes of both cats purring loudly and contentedly, it was me who finally needed to get out of bed to go to work. Somehow I managed that without starting a cat fight over my body. Or I would be going to the emergency room instead of the office.

NYE 2001: The End

The last story of our trip to LA for NYE2001.

So I’ve already told the beginning of our trip, here’s the ending (don’t worry, the middle parts are coming too, in later posts). Although we were really only gone for two days, and only completely gone for one full day, our cats punished us.

Viciously. If you have cats, you know what I mean here.

Because we were too tired to deal with changing the bed linens, Rochelle and I had to sleep on the opposite side of the bed (our heads at the foot of the bed), cast aside multiple pillows, and even then Rochelle was woken up repeatedly because of the strong odor.

The next day, when I returned from work, I gagged as I came in the door. Besides the bed, Cecil had nailed our central heating vent, which meant the whole house smelled like cat piss. Very Bad News.

New sheets and blankets, some incense, a lot of open windows, and about 40 gallons of Nature’s Miracle later, we were able to breath, and go to bed.

Needless to say, we’re never again leaving Cecil in the house when we go on vacation, even when someone is taking care of the house (as was the case this trip).

NYE 2001, Part 2

We arrive in LA, and immediately head for a bar.

So we’re on our way to LA, on a Southwest flight into Burbank. Our arrival time is scheduled for 9:40am, and we actually get in early. Since we had very low boarding numbers, we were nearly at the front of the plane, and were out of the airport waiting for our friends within 10 minutes of touchdown.

They weren’t there.

Rochelle observed she had been surprised when Edith agreed to pick us up this early in the morning. Since both Edith and Damon have jobs that let them party way into the night, and they do, they are rarely up before noon.

We reach them on their mobile phone after a couple of tries, and sure enough, they crashed at 4am, and overslept. No worries, Edith and Rochelle know exactly what we need to do: head for the airport bar, and wait ’til they get there and call us. Which we do.

So that’s how we ended up drinking beer instead of coffee for our breakfast on a Sunday morning. (Actually, beer was only an appetizer, but more on brunch in another posting.)

NYE 2001

Rochelle and I took an impromptu trip to LA for New Year’s. Much fun and bad behavior ensued.

Rochelle and I took a relatively last-minute trip to LA for New Year’s, to eat at the annual private NYE dinner put on by our friend Damon’s restaurant, Cinnabar, in Glendale.

More on our adventures in upcoming postings. For now, let me just rant about Osama Bin Laden costing me my dot.bomb collector’s item Wine.com waiter’s corkscrew.

Rochelle and I always pack at the last minute, in a hurry, running around the house grabbing all the things we’ve almost forgotten to take. This time I grabbed an old backpack to carry the three bottles of booze we were taking down for dinner.

As we go through airport security, we discover that the backpack, which I haven’t used in months and months, had a waiter’s corkscrew in it, a very nice promo I got from Wine.com, back when they were still in business (we’ve been burned by not being able to open bottles of wine, and carry these corkscrews everywhere). They take that from me, and throw it into a cardboard box in the security station, where we can see the other knives, corkscrews, toenail clippers, and a spoon that have been confiscated for being dangerous weapons.

Another corkscrew, buried somewhere in my suitcase and completely forgotten, keeps me held up at the security checkpoint for another 10 minutes. We dig and dig and dig, taking more stuff out, running the case back through the security scanner, and back to digging. Finally we figure it out, a little Swiss Army knife that’s tucked into one of the small pockets of the case. That one goes into the discard box, too.

Since there’s no way for a person to reclaim these little items, I would imagine that our airport security workers are now completely outfitted with as many knives, corkscrews, toenail clippers, etc., that they could possibly use. So now most of this stuff is probably just going into the garbage.

What’s truly ridiculous is that they only found two of the three corkscrews we were unintentionally carrying. The third one got caught when we went through the security screening for our return flight, buried in the bottom of our insulated wine bag. Oops. Well, at least they found it on the second try…

More, Way More Champagne

In which we buy more than four cases of Champagne, because we could.

Rochelle recently read that Grocery Outlet, the very low-cost food market, bought up substantial portions of the inventory of dot.bomb victim Wine.com, and was selling it at a huge discount in their stores. Obsessed with a good deal, and obsessed with wine, it became her mission to strike while the iron was hot.

She bought a dozen different wines, all less than $10, and over the course of two weeks, we tried most of them. And most of them were undistinguished.

Because the first few bottles were disappointing, we didn’t get around to trying the one bottle of Champagne she picked up, until the Friday before Xmas. Rochelle, David, and I all thought it was pretty decent, especially considering we knew it cost less than $10. Then Rochelle looked at the receipt, and realized that it cost way less: $2.99 to be exact.

Can you see where this train is headed?

Yes, the next day we were in our car headed to Berkeley and the nearest Grocery Outlet. After digging through their wine stock, we found tucked into the back corner an entire case of the same Champagne. We bought the whole thing, along with a few other bottles ranging from $1.99 to $4.99.

At a taste test we organized on Xmas day, our $2.99 bottle beat all comers. This wine’s a winner, and that meant another trip to Grocery Outlet, this time, to San Jose.

This store didn’t have any Wine.com wines visible, at first, but then we realized that they had a big stash near the front door, away from the wine section. Alas, our little bottle wasn’t there, but we did find a couple of $10 bottles, which both turned out to be quite good.

Then, in line to check out, Rochelle noticed yet another stack in another section of the store. “Hey, what’s that?” “I’ll go check it out…”

Score! Three unopened cases of our little find. We bought them all.

For those keeping track, yes, that means we have (had) four cases of this Champagne. Fridays are now officially “Champagne Days” in our house. So are Saturdays, and any other days we think it’s a good idea.

Come and visit us, before we drink it all!

Proper Use of the Telephone

There’s no laws against it, but drinking-and-dialing is still poor behavior. Be sure you only call your closest friends.

For those who don’t know, Rochelle got the opportunity to buy our house when the former owner lost it to his heroine addiction. The bank foreclosed, and Rochelle got a great deal.

One of the consequences of that unplanned change of ownership is that there was no orderly removal of possessions. Most of his junk — random crap stored in the basement for years — was thrown away prior to Rochelle moving in. In spite of that cleaning, some traces of the prior occupant remained, and as the new owner it was Rochelle’s job to deal with it.

Today while working on our own Crap Abatement and Reduction Program (CRAP), Rochelle came across a scrap of his that she saved, a letter he wrote but apparently never sent. It leads off with a paragraph of truly great writing, which I will share with you now:

My dearest darling Suzzi Lastname,

First and foremost let me apologize for calling you up at such a late hour last night. I was on my way to greatness in the guise of don Julio el BLOTTO when following some minor gun play I decided to stop and rest my horse and relieve my bladder. As I entered the lavatory of the cantina, I saw before my eyes that most terrifying vehicle of verbal communications — the pay telephone. The rest is history. I hope I did not disturb you.

The tradition of Drinking-and-Dialing is probably as old as the telephone itself, or very nearly. Here’s wishing that you’re on the receiving end, instead of calling us.


Buche de Noel: UPDATE

Our Buche de Noel, while quite good, was not in the traditional style, and we were actually disappointed.

We took our Buche de Noel to my mother’s Xmas day feast, where 12 of my immediate and extended family gathered to celebrate the holidays.

While it was quite good, it was not in the traditional style, and we were actually a bit disappointed. A traditional Buche is a chocolate sponge cake slathered with ganache, and then rolled into a log shape. Our Buche was more of a solid log of chocolate mousse — great for chocolate freaks, but a little sweet if you were anticipating some cake to lighten things up.

Next year we’ll try the Buche from Patisserie Delanghe, which is right around the corner from Boulangerie Bay Bread, and didn’t have the huge line at 8:30am on Xmas Eve.

Delanghe did our wedding cake, and is an outstanding French bakery in their own right. They just don’t do breads, or much besides desserts, actually. But their desserts are outstanding.

Buche de Noel

The wait for our Buche de Noel from Boulangerie Bay Bread was more than 45 minutes, and we got the last one.

A follow-up to yesterday’s post about Boulangerie Bay Bread, that morning we went there to buy a Buche de Noel, a traditional holiday cake shaped like a Yule log.

We got there 10 minutes before they opened at 8am, and the line was already down the block, all the way to the corner. It took 45 minutes for us to work our way to the front, and the line was never shorter than when we first arrived.

A lot of those people were no doubt disappointed, because we got the last Buche. We also got an apple-cranberry tart, a couple croissants, some cookies, two sandwiches, and a big piece of croissant bread pudding (remember, we said we were pigs).

Next year we will be smart, and put in our pre-order a week in advance. We tried on Friday this year, but they had already cut off pre-orders by then.


Champagne is a favorite drink for special occasions. Our favorite special occasion is that there’s a cold bottle of Champagne in our refrigerator.

In my first year with Rochelle I drank more Champagne than I had had in my entire life prior to meeting her. Champagne was for special occasions, but Rochelle enlightened me, and now a special occasion is whenever there’s a cold bottle in the refrigerator.

We go to Champagne tastings as often as we can find them, and there are many during the holidays. This past week we took part in a single-grower tasting, put on by Amphora Wine Merchants at their sister restaurant, Absinthe.

Going into the tasting, we didn’t understand the “single grower” description. What this means is that all the grapes were grown by a single grower, which limits production, and ensures that the wines will remain “little,” at least in terms of market penetration.

The wines were spectacular, and markedly different from the very good, very consistent Champagnes we’re fond of, such as Veuve Clicquot, Bollinger, Taittinger, etc., which are blends made from the grapes of many, many growers.

The experience set us with the firm conviction that our next vacation will be to France, and specifically to the Champagne region, for as much tasting as our livers can handle. We’ve already come up with the official slogan of our trip: “Champagne, It’s What’s For Dinner!”

Croissants, Bread, Desserts!

Boulangerie Bay Bread makes what are probably the best croissants in the Bay Area; many people claim they are just as good as in Paris.

Boulangerie Bay Bread is the best bakery in San Francisco, with the award to prove it. Rochelle and I cannot get out without spending $20, not because it’s expensive (it’s not), but because we are pigs, and there’s just too much good stuff.

Their croissants are heavenly, and customers (including many with French accents) regularly exclaim that you cannot get better without traveling to Paris. Their goodness comes from tradition, technique, and lots of butter. Yum!

They have a wide variety of wonderful breads, of which the walnut baguette is probably our favorite, especially to eat with cheese (Artisan Cheese is right around the corner). And they have some wonderful desserts, including fruit and chocolate tarts, and my favorites, their custard-based desserts (Ooh la la!).

Their main bakery is at 2325 Pine Street, just below Fillmore, but have two other locations with different names, one in Cole Valley and one at 2310 Polk Street. They also have a few restaurants, including Chez Nous and Galette, both on Fillmore Street, a couple of blocks away from the bakery.


Old-fashioned seltzer is extremely refreshing, and is probably the best way to rehydrate after drinking heavily. In the Bay Area, call the Seltzer Sisters to get the best in sparkling water.

On our first date, Rochelle offered me seltzer, real seltzer out of one of those old-fashioned bottles you usually see in Marx brothers movies. I knew right then that she was a groovy chick.

Rochelle has been getting seltzer delivered almost since she arrived in San Francisco, more than a decade ago. We are now both totally addicted to having refreshing, bubbly seltzer delivered a couple times a month. It is the world’s best thing to have in your refrigerator when you’re looking to rehydrate from an evening of drinking.

We get ours delivered to our house by Seltzer Sisters, a local company based in Redwood City. They take Hetch Hetchy water (the best in California), filter and treat it, and then add just the right amount of carbonization. Mr. Lucky Recommends Them Too

They also have a variety of flavored syrups, from brands which are much better than the ubiquitous Torani, and other seltzer-related items. If you’re a fan of the Italian-style sodas made with Torani syrups, you need to give these a try. Personally, I like my seltzer straight, or mixed with fruit juice, 50/50.

Seltzer Sisters will deliver pretty much anywhere in the Bay Area. Give ’em a call, at (800) 928-3755, to get set up with the best way to drink bottled water.

And tell them that Michael and Rochelle say hello!