October Food Days

October 1 – World Vegetarian Day

October 2 – National French-Fried Scallops Day

October 3 – National Carmel Custard Day

October 4 – National Taco Day

October 5 – National Apple Betty Day

October 6 – National Noodle Day

October 7 – National Frappe Day

October 8 – National Fluffernutter Day

October 8 – National Pierogi Day

October 9 – National Dessert Day

October 10 – National Angel Food Cake Day

October 11 – National Sausage Pizza Day

October 13 – National Yorkshire Pudding Day

October 14 – National Chocolate Covered Insect Day

October 15 – National Roast Pheasant Day

October 15 – National Mushroom Day

October 15 – National Chicken Cacciatore Day

October 16 – World Food Day

October 16 – National Liqueur Day

October 17 – National Pasta Day

October 18 – National Chocolate Cupcake Day

October 19 – National Seafood Bisque Day

October 20 – National Brandied Fruit Day

October 21 – National Pumpkin Cheesecake Day

October 22 – National Nut Day

October 23 – National Boston Cream Pie Day

October 24 – National Bologna Day

October 25 – National Greasy Foods Day

October 26 – National Mincemeat Pie Day

October 27 – National Potato Day

October 28 – National Chocolate Day

October 29 – National Oatmeal Day

October 30 – National Candy Corn Day

October 31 – National Caramel Apple Day

January Food Days

January 1 –  National Bloody Mary Day

January 2 –  National Cream Puff Day

January 3 –  National Chocolate Covered Cherry Day

January 4 –  National Spaghetti Day

January 5 –  National Whipped Cream Day

January 6 –  National Shortbread Day

January 6 –  National Bean Day

January 7 –  National Tempura Day

January 7 –  Fruitcake Toss Day

January 8 –  National English Toffee Day

January 9 –  National Apricot Day

January 10 – National Bittersweet Chocolate Day

January 11 – National Hot Toddy Day

January 12 – National Marzipan Day

January 13 – National Peach Melba Day

January 14 – National Hot Pastrami Sandwich Day

January 15 – National Strawberry Ice Cream Day

January 15 – National Bagel Day

January 15 – National Fresh Squeezed Juice Day

January 16 – National Fig Newton Day

January 16 – International Hot and Spicy Food Day

January 17 – National Hot Buttered Rum Day

January 18 – National Peking Duck Day

January 19 – National Popcorn Day

January 20 – National Buttercrunch Day

January 21 – National Granola Bar Day

January 22 – National Blonde Brownie Day

January 22 – National Soup Swap Day

January 23 – National Rhubarb Pie Day

January 23 – National Pie Day

January 24 – National Peanut Butter Day

January 25 – National Irish Coffee Day

January 26 – National Peanut Brittle Day

January 27 – National Chocolate Cake Day

January 28 – National Blueberry Pancake Day

January 29 – National Corn Chip Day

January 30 – National Croissant Day

January 31 – National Brandy Alexander Day

Diagnosis

We arrived at the Emergency Room. The day was cold and the sky was a very stark, unemotional, flat blue. My hair blew into my face as I walked around to the passenger side of the car and as I pulled it back I could hear the static electricity in my hair, as if the tension I felt was escaping into each strand. My breath could be seen on the wind, hanging there for a brief moment before disappearing just like the flickering memories I was fighting back.

My dad struggled to get out of the car, again, gingerly lifting his swollen leg, pulling on the frame of the car and with all the dignity he could muster, lifted himself from the seat. He grabbed the shabby Louis Vuitton bag he brought with him and carrying the faded status symbol under his arm, we walked in. We checked in at the window and then took a seat.

Not long afterward we were called into the intake room. The nurse was kind and talkative and as my dad took a seat in the exam chair, the nurse began to ask questions, “What brings you here today?” My dad replied, “Well, I have a hernia and the blood, as it’s passing through, is poisoning the blood in my leg and it’s swollen and infected. I’ve gone to Doctors in Southern California and they don’t know what they’re doing. I’ve asked them to give me an antibiotic to get rid of the infection but they refused and now my leg is swollen.”

The nurse asked to see my dad’s foot, so my dad reached down to remove his sock. Because of the swelling in his leg, he could not reach his foot so I walked over and gently removed his sock. I was not prepared for what I saw. His foot was swollen at least 3 times the normal size. His toes and heel were purple, almost black in color and the skin was stretched with huge dry flakes of skin tenaciously clinging to its taut surface. It hurt just to look at it.

The nurse then asked my dad if he had ever been hospitalized or had any surgery. My father replied no, he’d never been in the hospital and never had surgery, in fact he had played golf the day before! This was a surprise to me because, number 1, my dad never played golf in his life and, number 2, how could he possibly play golf with his leg and foot like that?

The nurse then asked about medication. My father brought out a plastic bag that contained at least 20 different bottles of pills and handed them to the nurse. The nurse glanced at a few and then began to enter each one into the computer system. As he entered the medications into the computer, the nurse asked my dad, “Which of the 4 antibiotics here are you currently taking?” Without skipping a beat my father replied he wasn’t taking any of them, in fact, he wasn’t taking any medications at all. The antibiotic bottles contained pills, in spite of the fact the instructions said to take the full dose completely. Finally, the nurse took my father’s blood pressure which was enviously normal. His temperature and oxygen levels were unremarkable. When all of this was completed, we were moved to another exam room, this one with a bed.

My dad was handed a hospital gown, told to remove his clothes and get into the bed and the doctor would be in shortly. I stepped outside the room to allow him to undress and obediently, my father did as he was told.

The Doctor came in and from the bars on his collar he was a Captain. My father recognized this and quickly moved into “Sir” mode. Every question was answered, “yes, sir” or “no, sir”. My father explained to the Doctor about his hernia.  The doctor asked my father how long his leg had been like this and my father replied, “Oh, about a week. I played golf yesterday and it was fine.” I told the doctor my father had driven himself from Southern California through the night and he was quite surprised. The doctor said they would do a CT scan to see if they could determine what was causing the swelling and it would take just a little while. They came in and wheeled my dad far into the long corridors of the hospital.

After a while, they came back and we waited. In the room with my dad the uncomfortable silence was difficult. I tried to chat with him but it was hard, as the lies told to the nurse and the doctor were painful reminders of how my father would constantly lie. Our conversation would start and stop, lurching along like someone learning to drive a stick shift car for the first time. The sounds of our voices like the gears grinding and the starts and stops in the conversations were jerky and jostling.

The Doctor came back in and sat down. He looked at my father and said, “Sir, I usually try to soften this but I’m just going to give you the news. You have cancer and have had it for quite some time. We suspect lymphoma. You have 2 large abdominal masses and what we call a deep vein thrombosis in your leg. The DVT is most likely caused by the cancer and we are going to schedule you to see the oncologist who will do more tests.”

I was not prepared for this. Disbelief. I felt hot tears rising in my eyes which I fought back. How could he not know he had cancer?

My father’s response was bright. He said, “Oh, good – you’ve caught it early. That means with treatment you can get rid of this.” The doctor replied they would have to do more tests. He then said he would leave to get the discharge papers going, as well as order a blood thinner for the DVT.

After the Doctor left, we were again silent. I looked at my dad who started to cry. He then said a very strange thing to me. He said, “I will tell you the truth about how your mother died.”

The Emergency Room

He climbed out of the car with difficulty, grasping the frame of the car trying to place his hands anywhere for leverage. With a great deal of effort he slowly moved his leg, wincing as it moved. Finally he placed his foot on the ground and stood. Stooping, he looked at me and I noticed his face was gaunt and he looked tired.

He shuffled as we walked into the comfort of the warm house. His left leg was very swollen causing the fabric to stretch tightly. To accommodate his swollen feet he had taken the heel of the shoe and broke it, mashing it into the sole of the shoe to create a slip on.

We talked for a bit and he said he had a hernia. He wanted me to take him to the doctor because the doctors in So CA did not know what they were doing. The hernia was causing a blood infection in his leg and that was the problem. He said he had made an appointment the night before and his appointment was at 10:00 AM in building 777. Since it was early Tuesday morning, traffic would be bad so we left at 8:30.

My father had served in the Air Force for 28 years. As a child we had lived in Ohio, Washington, France, Turkey, Delaware, and finally settled in Southern CA because my mother wanted to live in a place that had lots of Japanese food. He served two tours of duty in Viet Nam. He retired from the Air Force and then held various jobs. Because of his service in the Air Force his retirement benefit included medical care.

We drove to the Air Base and were waved through the gate by the sentry. T As I parked the car, I asked my father what was the name of the doctor. He didn’t know. I asked him in what department was he supposed to be seen. He didn’t know.  I asked him who he spoke with to make the appointment. He didn’t know that either. LESSON 1: Make Sure to have Names Before Driving. After spending about 1 hour with Patient Services and being told his name was not even in the system, we got back in the car and drove home.

Once we got home, my father found the piece of newspaper on which he had written his notes with a Sharpie. He could only find one name, Sharon, otherwise there were only phone numbers written in various angles across the newsprint. He called 3 numbers insisting he spoke with someone, but again, he was told they could not find an appointment for him. Finally, I took the phone and asked if he could be seen in the Emergency Room. The answer was, yes, come in anytime.

Arrival in the night

My relationship with my father goes back my whole life 🙂

We’ve gone through some very difficult times and it’s difficult to understand why he’s here at my house. Maybe it’s because I’m his only child; his only living relative in the United States. I don’t know whether he’s telling the truth about why he’s here or fabricating a lie but I do know one thing – he has cancer.

He called me on Monday morning, 4 days before Christmas, just as I was leaving for work and told me he would be coming up in a few hours because he didn’t trust the doctors in Southern CA. By evening he hadn’t arrived and he didn’t call to let us know what was going on. We went to bed and I just assumed it was like it was when I was a kid. He’d tell me he was coming but he’d never show up. I’d sit by the window watching car after car pass by. My mother would tell me that he wasn’t coming but I wouldn’t believe her. Of course, she was right but then I’d get mad at her for telling me what I already knew to be true while at the same time angry at him for not showing up.

I woke up at 1:30 and looked in the driveway thinking maybe he would drive up and sleep in his car so he wouldn’t wake us, but the driveway was empty. I sat up until about 4:00 AM and checked the driveway again before I got back in bed. Empty.

I crawled back into bed and fell back to sleep just before the alarm went off.

John woke up and went to feed the pug and make coffee. He came back into the room and said, “There’s a car in the driveway.” I took a shower and got dressed and went outside.

I tapped on the window and my father got out of the car. He looked very thin but he was wearing a suit and tie.

Dinner with the Michelin Guide – Grace’s Table

Grace’s Table, listed on the Michelin Guide, is a lovely spot for locals and visitors alike. The staff is warm and friendly, and ready to make a recommendation because everything on the menu sounds delectable!

Our friend’s, Anthony and Karen selected the location and it was an amazing choice! Grace’s Table is a Top Ten Restaurant for Napa according to USA Today. With the French Laundry as number one, Grace’s Table at number ten is in great company.

We began with the Iron Skillet Cornbread with Lavender Honey Butter. The honey is infused with lavender resulting in a sweet, creamy blend of nectarous flavors that delight. Grace’s Table also servers bread from the Model Bakery. Bread from the Model Baker is always consistent – a chewy crust with a moist interior

Iron Skillet Cornbread

Up next was the Glazed Pork Belly, wine barrel smoked kurabuta belly, served with roasted fig and baguette crostini. The first bite of the pork belly made me close my eyes. All of my senses were focused on that one bite – hot, crisp and filled with wine barrel smoky goodness. I felt like Anton Ego in the movie, Ratatouille, when he took the first bite of Remy’s ratatouille. Except I’ve never had Grace’s Table pork belly before.  It transforms you and your life will never be the same again. It will go on your mental list of memorable food. If you go to Grace’s Table, you MUST order the Glazed Pork Belly!

Glazed Pork Belly

For the salad course we both ordered the Duck Breast special. Cold smoked duck breast with arugula, Niçoise olives, balsamic vinegar drizzle and Reggiano Parmesan.

Roasted Duck Salad

For the mains, I ordered the Roasted Young Chicken, which was Quinoa-wild rice pilaf with winter squash, chestnuts, dried cranberry spiced pumpkin seeds, and a red verjus pan sauce. Let me just say, this was better than any adjective I could find to try and describe it. Crispy skin. It was so crisp you could hear it crunch.

Roasted Young Chicken

John ordered the Southwest Tamale, a Chipotle pulled pork shoulder, green chili, black beans jack cheese, chili lime slaw, cilantro dressing, cascabel chili sauce. It was a spirited take on a familiar dish. The spicy pork with the chili lime slaw was a contrast between the crunchy slaw and the soft, tender masa of the tamale.

Southwest Tamale

Karen ordered the Fillet of Sole, one of the specials, served on a bed of lentils with browned butter and capers. Salty, citrusy, and delectable. The fish was cooked perfectly – moist and tender.

Fillet of Sole

Anthony ordered the item that is highly recommended – the Kabocha Squash Gnocchi. Gnocchi served in a Gorgonzola cream sauce, Bloomsdale spinach and Rose walnuts and Reggiano Parmesan. Tiny gems of pomegranate dotted the plate like rubies.

Kabocha Squash Gnocchi

Each course was better than the last and if the savory dishes were any indication, dessert must be had!

We ordered the Classic Creme Brulee – sugary, golden, crackly topped and smooth creamy goodness beneath. Served in a sweet, heart shaped dish. Enough for two to share!

Classic Creme Brulee

Karen ordered the Old Fashioned Devil’s Food Cake made with Chantilly Cream And Maldon Salt. The frosting was a dark chocolate, luscious ganache. The Maldon Salt was hidden between the layers and when Karen tasted the chocolate and the salt together, she sat back in her chair. It was the perfect combination!

Old Fashioned Devil's Food Cake

We truly enjoyed our visit to Grace’s Table and will go back again!

Pabu

A few weeks ago Sandra and Maria joined me for lunch at Pabu. We haven’t had lunch together since I started my new job so we were so happy to see each other. Pabu is located at 101 California Street in San Francisco, right next to my favorite ramen place, the Ramen Bar. Pabu is not listed in the Michelin guide, but I would keep watching and not be surprised if it is in the very near future!

Maria and Sandra

The table setting is lovely. Fresh. Minimalist and clean. I loved the warmth of the wooden tables and the muted green colors of the banquette. The staff was friendly and since it was early we had a few moments to chat as I waited for Sandra and Maria.

Pabu table setting

During the month of August, Pabu has their “Out to Lunch” three course fixed price menu. For the first course, Sandra and I ordered the Ahi Tuna Poke and the Kaiso Seaweed Salad.

Ahi Tuna Poke, Edamame, and Kaiso Seaweed SaladThe Ahi Tuna Poke – poke sauce, tobiko, negi, crisp wonton was delicious. It also had a hint of sesame oil which added to its charm. It was spicy and cool at the same time due to the chili spices in the cold tuna. The sprouts on top added a nice crunch to each bite. A smile moved across my face as I tasted it. The crispy wonton added a nice crunch but I also ate the tuna all by itself. The Poke also reminded both Sandra and I of the cheviche served at La Fusion restaurant a few blocks away.

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By this time Maria arrived and even though she arrived well after Sandra and I, the staff was extremely accommodating and served Maria promptly. All three of us ordered the Miso Black Cod – dashi-braised lotus, turnip, snap peas, mustard miso. If our friend, Iris, had been there she would have pronounced the fish cooked perfectly!

Pabu - Miso Black Cod | dashi-braised lotus, turnip, snap peas, mustard miso

The presentation was delicate and beautiful. The lotus looked like lace placed against the moist and flavorful cod.

Pabu - Miso Black Cod | dashi-braised lotus, turnip, snap peas, mustard miso

Lastly, dessert!!! Here is the truth – mine was the BEST! Maria and Sandra ordered the Espresso Pudding – Whiskey caramel, citrus sponge, and vanilla ice cream. They did not seem to like it as much but mine, WOW!!! The Strawberry Parfait – Honey chiffon cake, yuzu mochi, vanilla chantilly cream and masago on the top was so delectable, I would have licked the container if I could have! Of course, I like ANYTHING with mochi in it.

Strawberry Parfait and Espresso Parfait

Lastly, I want to just say that Anthony Kinn is a man of extreme patience and kindness. If all General Managers were as kind as he was to us, the world would be a better place.

Pabu was fun and I would go back just for the dessert!

Making everyday life meaningful