Thursday, April 21, 2011

Scratch Restaurant - Mountain View, CA

As a Mountain View resident I was pleased to see something going in on Castro other than another lousy Thai joint or another low-end Chinese joint or another lousy Asian fusion joint. Scratch has taken over a space that has been something of a Bermuda Triangle for Mountain View eateries. Nothing has done well in this space. But then, the previous occupant, U-Wink was probably the worst restaurant concept I've ever seen. It had to have been someone's tax shelter, it was doomed before they finished painting the sign.

We've had dinner at Scratch four times since their soft opening on New Years and meet friends at the bar for drinks and appetizers on a semi-regular basis. On our first visit I was shocked to see that they had not one, but four bartenders behind the well-stocked bar. I didn't understand why at first but soon realized that all their cocktails are mixed "from scratch" (get it?) without mixer guns and pre-made jugs of cocktail "bases".

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Photo Essay – The Magnum Opus of Antoni Gaudi, La Sagrada di Familia

By most accounts La Sagrada Familia (Basilica and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family) stands as the finest work of one of the great icons of modern architecture, Antoni Gaudi. The inspiration for the project came from a prominent Catalan bookseller, Josep Maria Bocabella. A devout Catholic, Bocabella was inspired by an 1872 trip to the Vatican to champion the construction of an iconic Cathedral as a means to encourage greater church attendance in Barcellona. 

(the above photo is borrowed from because the pic I took from this angle had an ugly bus in the foreground. the rest are mine)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Outdoor Gear Review; Wenonah Adirondack 16' Canoe

Length: 16' (487.68 cm)
Gunwale Width: 35" (88.9 cm)
Maximum Width: 36" (91.44 cm)
Waterline Width: 34.75" (88.265 cm)
Bow Depth: 19.5" (49.53 cm)
Center Depth: 13.5" (34.29 cm)
Stern Depth: 16.5" (41.91 cm)
Rocker: Minimal

This is our first Canoe. We acquired it from California Canoe & Kayak at Jack London Sq. in Oakland. Keith Miller - the owner of California Canoe and Kayak is a great guy and was trying to offload this one and a couple of others that were previously sold to the Save The Bay Foundation. Essentially he rented it to us for a pittance and said if I like it I can keep it for $300. Since it was in pretty good condition we took him up on it.

The Adirondack is designed as a medium volume "performance tripping" boat. The boat is light on initial stability particularly unladen which lends to its efficiency and glide. Secondary stability is quite good though and very confidence inspiring. The boat tracks well and glides easily yet it remains relatively agile with two paddlers. I had no trouble handling the boat myself on my first solo experience and first river experience on my 7day Green river trip. The boat will turn well from the middle, and ferrys easily as well. However, with it's minimal rocker and unflared stems it is by no means a whitewater boat. In class I or flat moving water though it is very capable.

The boat will easily swallow a long weekends worth of gear for two for somewhat luxurious camping. If one were to pack lighter than we usually do it would be fine for at least a week long trip. Loaded as such it is very stable and still maintains generous freeboard and rides dry in up to 2' following wind swell.

As a solo-boat it's tricky. I weigh 220lbs and with the boat unloaded it is just a sail in any kind of wind. You go 2' sideways for every 1' forward. In contrast, when loaded for my 1 week trip on the Green River in Utah I had no trouble in the considerable afternoon desert winds. Though the boat did ship a little water in a 1-2" head-on wind chop. I found the boat manageable, but unpleasant in those conditions and was able to brace the boat when encountering the occasional broach wave refracted off the canyon walls.

Ours is the Tuff-Weave Flex Core layup which weighs in at 54lbs. I have no trouble tossing it up on my shoulders to carry it or getting onto the roof of the car.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Photo Essay - Mercat de La Boqueria de Barcelona

Kathy and I recently spent a little over a week in Barcelona in celebration of her birthday. We were looking for a city in Europe that neither of us had visited that was large enough to keep us busy for an entire week. We were more than satisfied with our selection.

One of the highlights of the trip was a visit to Mercat de La Boqueria de Barcelona, or simply La Boqueria. It’s an absolutely enormous public market just off La Rambla in the old part of town. It dates back to 1217 when tables were set up outside the old Gothic city gates for local ranchers to sell meat to the citizens of the city. Today La Boqueria resides under a massive open sided roof structure covering an area roughly equal to 3 American Football fields and I’ve been told that it’s the largest open air market in Europe. It makes Seattle's "Pikes Place Market" look like your local grocery store.

La Boqueria offers a cross-sectional view of the best of Mediterranean ingredients. Seasonal, mostly local, fresh and astonishing in variety. 

The widest variety of goods is found in the market’s fish sellers. The Mediterranean sea is, to this day one of the most vibrant commercial fisheries on the planet. It’s bounty is placed on display in mind-numbing fashion