Cruise – Day 1 & 2

So, somehow my entire post did not save and I lost a fully completed post.  I’ll re-write it but suspect it won’t be close to the same.  In my frustration, I may also shorten it and just throw in a bunch of pictures.

My parents wanted to take D and I on a vacation this year and we eventually settled on a cruise to Iceland.  My parents are world travelers and we wanted to find somewhere they haven’t been so the options of places that we wanted to see and they haven’t been were limited.  My parents are also pretty big cruiser takers and they suggested a 2 week cruise.  I have had some experience with cruises, having been on 6 different ones to various places (Alaska, Hawaii, Caribbean, Mexico) and various cruise lines (Carnival, Princess, NCL).  All the previous cruises I’ve been on were 7 days or less so a 2 week cruise was new to me.  Also we would be cruising with Holland America, which is known for an older demographic (think retirees).  D had never been on a cruise so this was going to be her first experience.

Our itinerary would start in Amsterdam and take us to Scotland (2 ports), Iceland (3 ports) and Norway (2 ports) before returning to Amsterdam.  We decided to stay a few extra days in Amsterdam since D hadn’t been there before either.  To not be too rushed/stressed about making sure we arrived in time to board the boat, we decided to head to the Netherlands a day early.  We had one connecting stop in Seattle and I managed to get a decent shot of Mt. Rainier (I think it was Mt. Rainier).

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Our flight from Seattle to Amsterdam was smooth enough though I was stuck in a middle economy seat so wasn’t the most comfortable.  I was glad they had individual monitors and I was able to watch a bunch of movies since I couldn’t sleep that well.  On arrival, my mom surprised us by actually waiting outside of customs and accompanying us to our hotel for the night (Hyatt Place Airport – actually in a nearby town called Hoofdorp).  After getting checked in and taking a quick nap, we walked over to Hoofdorp to get some dinner.  We managed to find a Chinese restaurant (which is a cuisine I know my parents are comfortable with and I figured that we wouldn’t have much opportunity for Chinese food while on the cruise).
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The walk through town also revealed a quaint little main street area with shops and restaurants.  The houses were also quite cute.

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Hoofdorp
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Downtown / mainstreet Hoofdorp

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Bagels!!! (New York style…maybe?)

Bagels!!! (New York style…maybe?)

For the 4th of July I decided to try my hand at bagels.  A few years ago the local bagel shop shut down and we haven’t had a good place nearby to get bagels, often settling for some not that great ones from the grocery store.  So I finally said “just do it man.”  After some online research on different recipes and methods, I settled on something that I could accomplish in one morning.  In the end the whole process from start to finish took about 3 hours.

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 (1.5) Tbsp cane sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup warm water +/- 1/4 cup
  • 2 1/2 cup bread flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour (original recipe called for 3.5 cups bread flour but I substituted some whole wheat)
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt

I started by adding the sugar and yeast to 1/2 cup of warm water and letting it sit for 5 minutes untouched.  Then I mixed it up to incorporate it all together.  This formed a collagenous mass (I had never before actually mixed up the yeast after letting it sit in water).

Next I mixed up the flour and salt.  I created a well in the middle and added the yeast/sugar/water mixture and then added the 1 1/4 cup of warm water.  The +/- 1/4 cup of water is dependent on your locale (temperature, humidity, etc).  I ended up adding in an extra 1/4 cup of water but realized this was too wet so incorporated some flour back into it.  This was a relatively dry dough and much easier to knead compared to my bread doughs.  It’s really hard to say exactly how you know if it is too dry or wet but I’ve been working for dough long enough (really it’s not even that long) that I had a sense of how moist/tacky I needed the dough.

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I then proceeded to knead the dough mixture for 10 minutes.  In a lightly oiled (I used olive oil) bowl, I coated the dough ball and covered the bowl with a towel.

The dough was proofed in my oven (proof setting) for 1 hour.

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The dough had actually proofed more than twice its original size, I punched it down and covered with a towel and let sit for an additional 10 minutes.

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The French Laundry

The French Laundry

For my birthday this year, I said f*ck it and decided to indulge a little.

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To get a reservation, you need to be on your game.  They only take online reservations nowadays and release tables for a 2 month period at a time.  So, a few months ago I put on my calendar when they were opening reservations for May and June and hopped on the site when it opened.  I was amazed how quickly times and days booked up…within minutes of opening.  I managed to snag a Friday lunch time close to my actual birthday.

I’ve never actually dined at multi-starred Michelin fine dining restaurant before, so wasn’t sure exactly what to expect.  I specifically didn’t want to read too much about other’s experiences because I didn’t want to go into the meal with bias.  I read maybe 1 review but mostly for logistics about parking, etc.  Prior to this, the only experience at  Michelin starred restaurant was at one-starred Solbar in the Solage resort in Calistoga.

We have many numerous trips to Napa so getting there I was on autopilot and didn’t have to worry about directions and which way to go.  There was the expected traffic on a Friday morning so we had planned accordingly.  We arrived early to Yountville and sat on a bench in front of the French Laundry’s garden (across the street from the restaurant).  It was a beautiful day though a bit warm (still I am amazed at just how much cooler it is in Napa than it is in Sac).

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The French Laundry garden

Even though it was still a little bit before our reservation, we were anxious to get in and start the experience so we walked through the famous blue doors early.

Just inside the door was a small lobby that felt almost like a boutique hotel/B&B.  We were led upstairs to our table immediately.  The decor and feel of the place was much like you were eating in someone’s home.

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Laundry symbols on the lamps
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Art in the restroom

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Weekend trip – west Sonoma County

Weekend trip – west Sonoma County

Two weekends ago for the Cesar Chavez holiday, we took road trip over to the coast, north of SF.  We hadn’t been to the Bodega Bay before and thought it’d be fun.  We found a nice quiet Air BnB that allows dogs.  Since check in wasn’t until 3 pm, we woke up on Friday and did our normal thing and packed and finally left the house after lunchtime.  It was a relatively short drive that took us past Napa and Sonoma and through Petaluma up into Sebastopol, a small town about 7 miles west of Santa Rosa.  Our Air BnB was actually located a few more miles west of this area up in a little hill/mountain area.  I really liked that there was a grove of Redwoods right outside the getaway.

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After getting settled in, we took the dog with us to one of the dog-friendly beaches, Doran Beach.  This was basically a small finger-like projection from the land and was the southern border of Bodega Bay.  When we arrived, it was low tide in Bodega and it looked more marsh-like than an actual bay.  Later on when we drove by it another day, it looked more like a bay and ocean so it was cool to see the two different levels.  Along this litter sliver of land were a bunch of people camping right by the beach and water.  The last time I camped was in MI where you drive up to the camp area and set up a tent.  Most people on this beach area had trailers or campers but also had some tents set up.  Reminded me of a different life I had.

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Bread boules!!

Bread boules!!

A few weeks ago I decided to make some bread for my lunch (I’d bring the bread with some deli meat and sliced cheese – very European I know).  I decided to just make two boules and bring one for a co-worker who has asked for me to bring some bread for her previously (little did I know that she’d be out sick).  I went back and found an old recipe and tweaked it slightly.

Ingredients:

Preferment:

  • 350 g bread flour
  • 364 g water
  • 3 g yeast

Remaining ingredients

  • 350 g bread flour
  • 266 g water
  • 14 g salt

I mixed up the preferment and let it sit for about 30 minutes.  I then added that to the remaining ingredients above.  I mixed these up thoroughly and then let it sit for the water to absorb before I kneaded it.

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I then proceeded to knead it for approximately 15 minutes until it was relatively smooth and I could do the “window” test – not perfectly but close enough.  I then set it in a bowl, covered it and used the proof setting on the oven to allow it to rise (double in size).

I pulled the dough out, did the knead and fold method a few times with 30 minutes in between before dividing the dough into 2.

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