Down for Maintenance

December 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

“Down for Maintenance.”
I’m not referring to the Dainty Dot blog. I’m referring to Dainty herself. Not one single post in the month of November. Call it my month of maintenance. Am I good with that? Yeah, I’m good with that. And now that December is here, I’m good with that, too. Get back in the saddle, as they say.

So, what have I been doing, maintenance-wise … Let’s see:

1. Exercise stuff. I had big plans to lose 6 lbs by the end of the month. A continuing bum knee (yes, ma’am, I did finally go to the doctor) kept me from running, but I learned to love the elliptical. But the 6 lbs? No way, but close.

2. I discovered I love yoga. Like, really LOVE it, with all caps. It’s kinda like how I really get excited about a batch of soft and growing bread dough. Or when the row of spinach seeds come up. But instead of bread forming or food growing, it’s me doing something really cool. I like it. I want it. I’m gonna keep doing it.

3. Shhh … Don’t tell my boss … I’ve learned how to streamline my work to get it all done in about … Well, in less time. At least for now – until travel season starts in a matter of a month or so. But, it’s afforded me some time to do #1 and #2.

4. I did go on one biz trip and extended it into a long weekend in Chicago with Jennifer. Here’s my thought on Chicago: It’s s nice town, and too bad it’s in the middle of the country. Because as you may or may not know, I’m a time zone snob. I just can’t do the middle. No offense, Middle America. You’re just not for me.

5. #3 also afforded me time to do some soul searching about what I wanna be when I grow up. And I realized, wait, I’m already all grown up. As Bette Midler says in my most favorite song she sings, “Is that all there is?” The answer? The answer … If I had the answer, man …

6. Speaking of looking for answers, So I picked up a thin book that’s been on my shelf for about a dozen years. It’s called Buddhism Without Beliefs. It’s not religiony in any way – hence the “without beliefs” reference – and it’s been a good way to get my head decluttered. I recommend it.

7. Pie was made. And if there’s anything Dainty does, it’s pies. It was just one pie, but it was a mighty fine pie. Dutch apple. Sorry I didn’t share. I’ll make another. I promise.

8. Dainty has plans in the works for 2012. Big plans. Now with the paying work streamlined into lean-flow efficiency, I have some time to do Dainty the way it deserves. Details to be revealed over the next month or so.

9. So, here’s a question for you: what do YOU want to see Dainty do next year? More travel stuff? More baking? Bread or sweets? Wanna know more about my mad skills in the garden? Oh man, I mean I’ve got mad skills. You want to see something, you let me on know. ‘K?

De Kas Restaurant: A Hot Table in Amsterdam

May 24, 2011 § 3 Comments

More than a week after lunching at De Kas Restaurant in Amsterdam, I’m still dreaming of the meal. It’s one of the hottest tables in Amsterdam, and no wonder, given its fresh, bright flavors, dedication to locally grown foods and airy environment. And I mean airy environment: The restaurant is under glass in a state-of-the-art greenhouse.

Restaurant De Kas

De Kas is certainly in unique surroundings. The history of the property goes something like this: Back in the 1920s, the parcel of land was home to Amsterdam’s municipal nurseries. All of the plants and flowers used for Amsterdam’s municipal plantings were grown on these grounds and in greenhouses. Over the decades, the nurseries were shut down and the buildings and greenhouses became dilapidated—such a shame! About 10 years ago the greenhouses were scheduled for demolition, but a Michelin-rated chef, Gert Jan Hageman, came up with the idea of converting one of the greenhouses into a restaurant and growing area. The dining room was designed by renowned designer Piet Boon and is lovely. The kitchen is open, and there’s even a chef’s table, where guests can enjoy their meal just steps from the hot grill (honestly, not something on the top of my list to do). And the bar area, while open and visible, is tucked away and is just shady enough for any self-respecting bar fly.

The Piet Boon-designed dining room, with the just-shady-enough bar in the background.

As I mentioned, they believe in fresh, local food. And it can’t get more local than the greenhouse adjacent to the kitchen and the gardens that surround the restaurant. The team also has a farm that produced a great deal of their produce. What they don’t grow and raise themselves is sourced from nearby farms and the North Sea.

The veggie gardens outside De Kas.

The growing area inside De Kas's greenhouse, adjacent to the kitchen.

Enough about that, let’s move on to the food. The three-course menu is fixed; i.e. you are served what they are preparing that day (they do ask if the chef should take into account for any dietary restrictions). And they do offer a wine pairing, which I eagerly agreed to. Can’t recall the first wine, but the second was an unoaked chardonnay from Spain. Tasty!

The meal was fabulous, that’s a given. And beautiful – not something every restaurant gets right. Instead of attempting to describe the meal, I’ll just leave you to enjoy the photos.

First of two first-course salads: Roasted beets and steamed rhubarb over baby beet (?) greens with a pea puree and nasturium flowers.

Second of two first-course salads: White asparagus, turnip and a boiled quail's egg over young lettuce greens with a sauce of some kind (sorry, whatever it was, it was delicious) and sweetpea blossoms.

Second course: Lobster with a bechamel sauce topped with a light frisee salad.

Third course: Pollack over roasted eggplant and cauliflower with a North Sea-shrimp and caper brown butter sauce. (Oh man, was this good.)

First dessert: Pistachio meringue with salt-touched white chocolate ice cream and pansy petals.

Second dessert: Platter of three cheeses with fruit and nut brown bread and a dot of apple-pear stroop (syrup) to the right and a candied cherry (?). Translation of cheese on right is "cheese that sticks to your knife."

While  the municipal nurseries are long gone, the remainder of the property has retained its “municipalness”—it’s now a public park enjoyed by people and wildlife alike.

Children's play area below, and a stork nest with baby on top of the smoke stack.

Spring Blooms in California

April 5, 2011 § 6 Comments

(Psst: At the end, there’s a contest opportunity!)

It’s cold and drizzly here in Boston, but it’s definitely spring in California. That was my conclusion after my recent 10-day business trip out there. Okay, eight days of business, two days of relaxing. But, still, the weather out there was decidedly un-New Englandish.

One of the … I’m loath to call it a perk or benefit … hmmm, okay, let’s instead say this: One of my day-job responsibilities is to travel to California each spring and drive from San Diego to San Jose (or vice versa), visiting plant breeding companies along the way. This designated week is the flower equivalent to the Detroit Auto Show, and each company displays their latest and greatest ornamental plant varieties. It’s me, my boss and colleague, and about a thousand other folks looking at flowers. Seriously, it’s actually a tough job. You have no idea.

Now, I’m not sure if I’d be revealing any industry secrets if I tell you, for a lot of these new plant varieties, it’s not that the plant is a new color or can do some sort of trick. Oftentimes it’s “more compact and uniform with better branching.” Man, if I hear that phrase one more time … It means this crop can be grown as “bench run,” or the commercial grower can grow whole benches of this stuff and ship it out all at once, and they can ship it safely (because it’s compact and well branched) without damage during transport. I.e., they’re increasing their margins. And when you sell your flowers to a big box stores, you need all the margin you can get. Think about that the next time you buy your 99-cent geraniums at Big Orange.

The real point with this post is that I did see some some unique flowers and ornamental plants that deserve a mention—even some new patio-sized veggies. Many of them won’t be available until spring of 2012, but I thought I’d share.

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Now, about that contest: I have about three packets of cherry tomato seeds to give away. Feel like trying your hand at sowing and growing them? The 5th person to comment gets them!

Business Travel: My New Pledge

January 31, 2011 § 2 Comments

“Where’s my Dainty Dot?”

I heard that a few times from Jennifer last week. Not only was I absent in the house, Dainty Dot was absent in her inbox (she’s my most loyal subscriber). “I want my Dainty,” she lamented.

Dainty was off on a business trip. I travel an average of about once a month. This last trip is an annual pilgrimage to Louisville for an INTENSIVE 3+ days of management programming. Sessions begin early and run late, with must-attend “hospitality suites” (i.e. crappy hotel food and lots of alcohol) running late into the night. I didn’t breathe non-hotel air for nearly 72 hours at one point.

Now, Jennifer and I eat and live pretty cleanly. We have very few heavily processed foods in our cabinets. We limit most everything in the “white food group” – potatoes, bread, pasta, mayo, you get the idea. Our plates are typically quite colorful with greens and fruit and lots of veggies. And when we dine out, we go places that have the same food philosophy we have—i.e., definitely not fast food.

So, when I head out on a business trip my body is a bit shocked by what I put in it. It’s not completely the fault of the host hotel or the meeting organizers. They aren’t force-feeding me. Ultimately, my health and my well-being during a business trip is up to me. I mean, come on – there’s no reason I had to eat 3/4 of a horrible room-service pizza at 10pm – except for the fact I hadn’t taken time to eat much of a lunch or dinner.

Considering how horribly disgusting I felt during this last trip, I’m making this new Business Travel Pledge:

  • I will walk outside for at least 15 minutes
  • I will exercise first thing each morning
  • I will limit coffee to just two cups w/no dairy
  • I will drink at least three glasses of water
  • I will pack protein bars and fruit for snacks
  • I will limit alcohol consumption to two beers or two glasses of wine
  • I will NOT chose the unhealthy alternative to save time
  • I will eat three meals a day
  • I will NOT eat sugar-filled gooey desserts (ice cream is ok)
  • I will sleep at least six hours each night

It all seems pretty basic, uh? But so often it’s not. Eating three meals a day – I failed at that TWICE last week! Not sleeping six hours—again I failed! Exercise? Are you kidding?

My next business activity isn’t a trip out of town – it takes place right here in Boston. I have three business dinners scheduled this week. Will I be able to stick to my pledge? The reward system works for me, so if I stick to this plan this week, I’ll buy myself … I’ll buy a ScotteVest that I’ve had my eye on.

Wish me luck.


Meet Me In St. Louee

January 9, 2011 § 1 Comment

No, don’t. Worst night’s sleep ever. Room near elevators.
Presentation, still unfinished, to give later today. Bags under
eyes. Not pretty. Coffee. Please.

OMG – worse than I thought. My room is between two banks of elevators!!!

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