Monday, February 22nd-Again conference is a full day affair, but we have our lab dinner to look forward to in Chinatown. We have reservations for all 10 of us at the R & G Lounge, which came highly recommended by Anthony Bourdaine on the travel channel. It is not a particularly far walk from the hotel, and the night air is brisk, so we hike it. Although, perhaps in retrospect a different pair of shoes would have been a good idea, since I decided to dress in my best and was sporting four inch wedges (i suppose beauty is worth the pain..right?). We arrive and the place is packed, which I take as a good sign, considering the other endless possible "authentic" chinese restaurants to choose from. Needless to say, I was less than satisfied. The service was shoddy, which of course could be overlooked if the food was impeccable, alas this was far from the case. I'm definitely not a food snob, especially since takeout chinese can hit the spot sometimes as much as my mom's home cooking, but this was just NOT good. I splurged and ordered the whole Peking Duck, which other than the market priced seafood was the most expensive item on the menu. I got the duck cut up into its associated pieces, yet it was a seriously small amount. The skin was not particularly crisp, nor flavorful, and their "famous" peking duck sauce was most undoubtedly something they poured out of a jar. The only thing that came with the meal were these rolls, that were most likely frozen and simply thawed/warmed and placed around my plate. Sukriti ordered the Mushroom Chow Mein, which if you asked my opinion (which you are going to get whether you like it or not, lol) was less satisfying then a bowl of ramen (sad right?). The only thing I ate which was absolutely delish, were the salmon and avocado egg rolls. To add to my chinatown disappointment, there were no beautiful lanterns, or people about, fireworks for sale, etc etc. I was expecting something out of the movie Big Trouble in Little China, and instead got a couple of touristy shops and empty street corners.
Wednesday, February 24th-last day of the conference. After all of the symposiums were over, Sukriti's family picked us up from our hotel and drove us back to there home in Milpitas. We then enjoyed a nice family dinner at Spaghetti Factory (for a chain restaurant, food was not half bad), where a multitude of Aunt's and Uncles (including those we were staying with) and cousins were all present and counted for.
Thursday, February 25th-we had originally planned a day trip to Napa Valley (which of course is like my MECCA), but due to extenuating circumstances we were not able to go, sigh*. However we did make the best of the situation, which was pretty easy to do when the weather is 65 and sunny. The area we were in was particularly hilly, and quite a combination between suburb and rural, so we decided to take a long hike. Which for me turned into a long 4 mile hike, followed directly by a 2 mile run. I was exhilerated by the breathtaking views from the hills (no not going to break into the Sound of Music soundtrack), and of course from my lack of oxygen post run. That night after cleaning up, and relaxing around the house, we had a family dinner where Mamiji (Sukriti's Aunt) made delish northern indian cuisine (which was my favorite). As appetizers (since we were not able to get to Napa) we pulled out all of our culinary finds from the Ferry Place Market, and made a mini feast. This was probably one of the best evenings of the trip, good food, great friends, and excellent conversation!
Saturday, February 27th- Last day in California. Tagged along with Mamiji and Sheel (sukritis cousin) to Wente Vineyard in LivermoreValley (only 40 miles outside Milpitas). It wasn't Napa, but was still amazing. The weather started out a bit rainy, but turned into a beautiful, sunshiney day. Sukriti's family was there celebrating a wedding shower for one of Sheel's good friends, so while they were at the party we ventured off by ourselves to the tasting room. The wine selection was delish, and for only $15 we were able to taste 6 different Reserve wines, AND they were nice enough to throw in a couple extra that just sounded too good NOT to try. I of course bought a bottle, The Charles Wetmore Cabernet Sauvignon, which was not the tastiest one I tried, but was the only one in my price range...lol. The wine was still awesome, with a rich bouquet of earthiness and twinges of berry flavor coming through, delectable. We then made our way over to the restaurant where we split two different dishes, and instead of waiting on a table, sat up at the bar and enjoyed a drink or two (or three). The bartender was hilarious, and about our age. Highlight of the day may have been two "cowboys", dressed in wrangler jeans, boots, and hat sat down next to us (I guess they were delivering and picking up hay bales or something). They were awfully nice, and we (sukriti, myself, the bartender, and the cowboys) all enjoyed some friendly banter. We realized they were even nicer when after they had left, and I went to pay my bill, they had bought our last drinks. Sadly sukriti had decided to switch over to a cup of coffee, dumb luck, I of course in the spirit of the occasion had yet another glass of Pinot Noir...lol...I thought I was splurging, but the Gods of Vino (perhaps Bacchus himself) thought I deserved a reprieve, especially considering my initial disappointment with no Napa.
We headed back to Chi-town Sunday early evening, and arrived VERY VERY late back in Chicago (12:30am to be exact). The lack of sleep was of course well worth it, and I certainly cannot wait to get back to Cali very soon. This time it will be Napa or Bust!