Sunday, March 29, 2009

I Climbed California

My Crossfit class put together a team for the 2009 Climb California event.

Fifty two stories, 1197 steps, a lot of hacking.

On paper the entire team did all the right training. We practiced together a few times on the Lyon Street steeps. Four times up 300 steps in a drop dead gorgeous neighborhood. The views and architecture softened the pain in my lungs and thighs. I also trained a little indoors. My logic was that outdoor steps aren't really the same as a twisting staircase.

Even with the training it was still VERY HARD. There was something about the air in the stairwells. It was hot and stuffy, a little dusty. Aroma's also seemed to linger. Somewhere around the 15th floor someone farted a nasty one -- and I ran right into the cloud of stink. I had a strange blood-like flavor in the back of my throat after I finished. I was going to try to jog my way up the steps, alternating every 10 stories with short sections of walking up the steps. I ended up walking up most of the way.

Still, the views from the top made worth it. These are shots from the Carnellian Room, where they issued out all the schwag to the runners.

From Drop Box

A lot of people were downing beers and bloody mary's. In retrospect, I probably should have done the same thing. A little booze (just a little) after a workout like this would have have been nice. It was worth the pain though.

From Drop Box

Now if only my knees would stop aching...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sake, The Welcome Surprise

A few weeks back I tried my sake. It was sour and kind of gross. I had written it off, and ignored it for the next few weeks. This past evening I decided I needed to empty my growler, get rid of this sour rancid liquid that I had hoped would become a Japanese rice wine.  This is what it looked like.

From Storehouse

 It really isn't that pretty looking -- resembles a urine sample with rice grains at the bottom.  But the sourness that I came across a few weeks back was gone.  While this stuff isn't nearly as refined as the sake I'd get in a store, it now actually tastes like sake, albeit a very rough version of it.

I poured out the mixture from my carboy into a mason jar.  I also squeezed the rice kernels to get the last of the sake out of them. It became quite cloudy.

From Storehouse

Looking back on it, my assuming the whole thing had become rancid was a good thing. If I had followed directions and emptied it all out at the five week mark I would have trashed the whole thing because of the sourness. The extra 2-3 weeks gave the sake time to finish fermenting and come more refined.

From here I'm not sure what I am going to do. This stuff is still a bit rough compared to what I'm used to. I have enough of it to do experimentation -- serving it cold, serving heated up, or in shot glasses with a raw oyster. Afterwards I'll get a better sense of what I can do with this stuff.

Either case, I can now say to myself, I've made sake!

From Storehouse

Monday, March 23, 2009

Finding Renewed Faith Through CrossFit

Lately I've taken some of the CrossFit classes at my Krav Maga school. At first I was very intimidated. The other conditioning classes had been very squat heavy, destroying my knees and quads. I had been warned the CrossFit class was a muscle killing experience.

The warnings were on the money. The volume of push-ups, burpees, lunge steps, sit ups, squats, etc., way exceed anything I've done in a very longtime. The instructor's also have a habit of throwing a curve ball into the workout -- like slapping a 25 lb plate on your back and then telling you to do several sets of push-ups.

Also -- that's the easy half of the class. The harder group gets stuff much more vicious.

After this evening's CrossFit workout I felt something that I hadn't felt since my earliest triathlons -- a sense of achieving something, of coming across a hard physical obstacle and defeating it. Walking out the door of the gym my quads and knees were shot to hell, but I walked out feeling happy.

Its good to have that feeling again.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Bacon Incubator

During the past week I signed me and M up for an inaugural food event.

We signed up to present dishes based on bacon to the event. While the event is all about bacon, I decided to bring it one step back, to the cut of meat that bacon is derived from. Pork belly.

Not sure how this happened, but in the process of registering myself into the event, I signed us both up. I also put us in submitting a dish each.

We used this weekend as a dry run on our respective recipes. M choose something orthodox, a Nagasaki-style braised pork belly dish. Tried and true. I flirted with an Italian influenced roast pork belly; garlic, olive oil, sea salt, pepper, and thyme. A little more risky.

Dinner turned into porkfest. A crispy pork belly with crackling skin, very strong and aggressive in terms of flavor and texture. Afterwards, a pork belly braised in a broth of soy sauce and leeks, super soft, and very subtle in taste and texture. The one common denominator in both cases, the luxurious flavor of pork fat.

My dish came from a different pig and a different section of the belly. Thinner and tougher skin. More stronger flavored meat. Very salty -- too much sea salt. M's was more understated -- slightly sweet and aromatic from the use of leeks.

Our pork dishes probably reflected our respective personalities; subtle and refined versus aggressive and intense.

We'll see how it goes next week.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Seven Blocks - Two Worlds

A friend once told me how San Francisco is a tiny city, only 7 miles X 7 miles in size. It packs a great deal inside that 7 mile X 7 mile space -- the great stuff and the awful stuff. This past weekend hit that home in a big way.

On Saturday M and I decided to check out the Bhutan exhibit at the Asian Art Museum. It is not far from us, maybe a 15 minute walk. It was an amazing exhibit. Rare Buddhist art that has never left Bhutan before, sculpture art that has all but disappeared from Pakistan, India, and Tibet. Beautiful mandhala's.

Walking out of the exhibit, we both felt grateful for the fact we live in a city where we can find such amazing cultural attractions so close to home. The downside was that we had to trek through the Tenderloin to get there. After 4 years here the TL should not disturb me anymore.

But it still does.

On the way there we passed by two frazzled out junkies talking about a mutual friend who went to go get some crack. The two of them hustled away in the opposite direction, one of them insisting that they go get her afternoon fix.

The two junkies were harmless. They weren't about mug or pickpocket either of us to get money for a fix. But it still really bothers me that this museum, loaded with priceless religious artifacts from the other side of the world, unique in North America due both to its size and focus on Asian Art, is surrounded by druggies, dealers, pimps, whores, and various human filth.

I've heard from others that city leaders here in San Francisco think that having wealth & culture parked next to povery and squallor would somehow make things better for the urban poor, that they would have access to services and economic opportunities that would otherwise be denied to them.

I fail to see how great Asian art was going to get those two crackheads to go into rehab.

I love SF. But the city leaders need to get an f$@#-ing clue.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Watch U Talkin' About Willis?

Had an unusual wedding anniversary yesterday. I offered M several options as far as things to do -- ballet, jazz, the opera, the symphony. As a gag, I sent her a link to Fog City Wrestling's monthly event.

Take a guess which one she picked!

It was a good idea though. This particular edition was the debut of Todd Bridges AKA Willis from Different Strokes. Remember him?

Bridges was on a tag team for the final event of the night. He had gotten bigger and buffer from when he was a teenage star. But he had to be 100 lbs lighter than the rest of those steroid junkees that wrestle professionally.

His bout was the most theatrical of the evening. Bridges -- in proper pro wrestling style -- finished out with a bang, He betrayed his tag team partner by wacking him in the back with an aluminum briefcase.

Wonder what would happen if Gary Coleman became a pro wrestler.