Need A Device That Zests?

Although I don't bake that often, many recipes that I do make require zest, often orange zest. Zesting without a zester is a pain: I have to use a peeler and then attempt to chop the peels as finely as I can until they're practically grated. Sometimes I get impatient and don't chop finely enough, resulting in baked goods that don't have the subtle orange flavor throughout but rather have it in patches. (Happily, others don't notice. I only notice because I'm the cook, I know I was lazy, and I eat the same item repeatedly and so have a basis for comparison.)

Thus, I wanted something that makes zesting consume less time and result in a more consistent product.

There are a number of choices: hand-held zesters a la miniature peelers, box graters with a side with fine blades, and so called rasp graters, of which the microplane grater is the best known.

After a bit of research on the web, I decided that a rasp grater like microplane is better than a box grater simply because the resulting zest is finer.

After more research, I decided I wanted a rasp grater, not a zester. The only advantage of traditional zesters is that one can make long artistic swirls of zest with them. As my need -simply zest oranges for cooking- is simple, the rasp grater wins. I found this chowhound thread on microplane rasp grater versus zester quite persuasive.

Once I decided I wanted a rasp grater, I needed to decide which brand. Microplane is obviously the most popular, but that simply could be because it was first. Yet, after reading this Cook's Illustrated evaluation of rasp graters, I realized microplanes were popular for good reason. They were first to market and constantly improved their product and no other grater has caught up in quality.

Additional keywords: choose, choosing, select, selecting, review, reviews, buying tips, advice

Montreal & Quebec Day 9: Flying Home

As I was flying out on this Sunday, I hadn't scheduled any sightseeing for the day. The previous night I'd briefly contemplated waking up early to see a tall falls east of town and a huge basilique and adjacent canyon farther east. But, I decided I'd seen enough religious buildings. Also, the forecast said rain; hence, the falls were likely to be not very pleasant and not easily seen.

I had trouble deciding what type of food to eat and when (such as one meal or two) before my plane's scheduled departure around 1:00pm. In the end, my parents and I ended up walking this route in a drizzle from our hotel, through old town and many tempting fancier restaurants, to the bakery outside the walls that had smelled so good on Saturday. Along the way, I took these pictures. The pictures also include some photographs I took while flying home.

It was further than any of us thought. We soon realized we were close when the smells of fresh bread wafted down the block. And thus we had breakfast at Panetier Baluchon. Here's my review.

After breakfast, as mom and I packed, dad researched and bid on hotels to determine where my parents would sleep that night. (Me, I thought they'd have planned ahead and figured this out before the trip began or at least a few days before it became needed. This last minute behavior seemed uncharacteristic.)

Anyway, this meant I got the fun opportunity to pick up the car from the garage and drive it through many narrow, windy one-way streets back to the hotel. Really, I'm not being sarcastic: it was fun. The previously linked route also includes the trail from the hotel to the parking garage and my best estimate of the roads I took to return to the hotel.

Given this hotel research, we checked out at the last minute and headed to the airport nearly an hour after I'd originally thought would be a good time to leave for the airport for my flight. I was extremely nervous, nearly panicky, during the drive to the airport. Our lateness turned out not to be a problem at all. Traffic was fine. The airport was closer than I thought. And there was no line for security.

(Incidentally, my parents didn't actually manage to book a hotel that morning; they needed more time later in the day to finish the job.)

Further saving me from any worry of missing my flight was my flight's delay due mechanical problems that "needed further investigation." We took off a bit more than an hour late.

That meant I had time to think about lunch. Quebec airport was so small, there were practically no food purveyors and certainly none behind security. Instead, I ate the remains of olive-garlic bread (still quite good) and wished I had an apple to complete my lunch. (Only one person will get the reference from the latter part of that sentence.)

To get back to San Francisco, I had to transfer twice, once in Toronto and once in Denver. Through these three flights, the planes got larger and larger. The first sat less than fifty people -two on each side of the aisle-; the second, with a similar layout though longer, sat around one hundred and twenty-five; the third was a two-five-two layout and probably sat three hundred and fifty people.

Transferring in Toronto was stressful. I had to take a shuttle to the international terminal, pick up my bags, go through customs, check my bags, and go through security. Even with bypassing all the lines -the privilege accorded to people running late-, I just barely made my flight. Two more minutes and I wouldn't have. Good thing the baggage claim wasn't marginally slower!

Since I arrived in Denver on time, I had over two hours in which to get dinner. I spent most of it walking up and down the terminal getting exercise while deciding where to eat. First, I got a satisfying cheese steak at Steak Escape. (Why can't we have fast food joints that serve such respectable cheese steaks in California?) Then, still hungry, I decided to go vaguely healthy (or at least to delude myself into thinking that anything without meat must be healthy) and ordered a veggie sub at Quizno's. It turned out to be huge, mostly filled with lettuce and black olives. It was fairly good though difficult to eat because it was drenched in so much sweet vinaigrette dressing that the dressing soaked through the bread and made the sandwich begin to fall apart.

From San Francisco Airport, I took a shuttle home. It was surprisingly fast, as out of the dozen people, they dropped me off first! A nice end to a day of traveling.

Montreal & Quebec Day 8: The Rest of Quebec

This day, Saturday, was stunningly nice: a striking contrast to Friday. I like not having to peer through a zip-lock bag to read a guide book.

As I had to hit most of Quebec today (because Friday's rain slowed down my explorations), I had big plans. These started with getting energized with breakfast, this case at Chez Temporel, a short walk from our hotel. Here's my review.

We walked and saw a lot today. Consider my photographs and this route map primary references. This entry, like most others for this trip, only includes odd remarks that don't have an accompanying picture. You'll see once again through the pictures how great it is to visit this time of year: many flowers were in bloom.

Sometime in the morning, we stopped by a bookstore in search of pictures of Quebec. (I'm not sure why.) We flipped through some nice picto-travel-guides.

The Park de l'Artillerie (Artillery Park) by the old walls has interesting plaques about Quebec's history. I can say this because the plaques were nicely translated into English, not a common feature in Quebec.

Lunchtime found us outside the walls of Vieux Quebec (Old Quebec) and we rather haphazardly found ourselves getting food from a deli/market, Epicerie Europeenne. Here's my review.

We sat by an impressive church nearby and ate our lunch. The church wasn't in either of the two guide books we had. I believe one can judge the cultural and historical depth of a place by the number of cool unlisted places one finds during the normal course of exploring.

We noticed many traffic lights in Quebec display red in every direction for twenty seconds, thus allowing pedestrians to cross in any direction. It's either a testament to the number of people who walk or a courtesy to the tourists. In either case, I appreciate it.

Eventually, we made our way to the National Museum of Fine Arts of Quebec (Musee National des Beaux-Arts du Quebec). I wasn't sure if we'd actually go in. It turned out to be free due to some special exhibit so we did. (I don't quite understand it... I think there was a conference because of a particular exhibit and the museum was free as a courtesy to the conference.) Although I have photographs of and from the museum, it didn't allow me to take pictures of the individual pieces of art. Hence, I have many comments about what I saw:

  • The museum has a really nice collection of Quebecois artwork, conventional and abstract.
  • Fernand Leduc, an abstract Quebecois painter, had an exhibit with very colorful geometric art that I liked. However, he also did some weak pieces that were simply monochromatic swatches.
  • One exhibit of portraits mentions how, for some of the subjects who were painted after death, the artists didn't have any older paintings or sketches or sometimes even descriptions on which to rely, instead painting the portrait from their imagination.
  • A different exhibit of portraits in an impressively ornate room had paintings densely packed, literally to the top of the elevated ceiling. It's comparable with the Met's most crowded rooms.
  • A special exhibit on the Intuit had cute dancing polar bear statues. Some were done by Qiatsuq Shaa. Sadly, I can't find a picture online.
  • I liked the exhibit on Jean-Paul Riopelle, another Quebecois artist, especially his Pollock-esq painting Spain, which used so much paint as to be three dimensional. I also enjoyed his impressive Tribute to Rosa Luxemburg, a series of thirty paintings made from spray paint and a stencil. Oh, and in a move uncommon for museum, the museum also displayed his easel.
  • Also in the vein of colorful modern art, I liked Marcelle Ferron's Return from Italy no 2.
  • Jean Dallaire made an abstract art mobile titled Julie that reminded me of Chinese calligraphy.
  • According to my notes, a piece Spirale 1 by Martin Pan was amazingly balanced. Sadly, I can't find anything online about the artist or the particular piece.
After leaving the museum, we meandered through a nice, flowing park with lots of well trimmed glass, strolled through a bedecked garden, and headed back to Old Town to take an evening ferry ride. I'd heard the dusk ferry ride between Quebec and Levis had good views of Quebec's skyline. The reports were right. We didn't get off the ferry at Levis because Levis seemed small and boring. And besides, it was time for dinner. All this walking and riding is well documented with photographs and captions.

After the ferry, we had a difficult hunt for a dinner destination, eventually finding L'Ardoise. Here's a description of the hunt and my review of the restaurant.

I only have one observation to add: although it appears most tourists confine themselves to Old Town, the diversity of restaurants and stores outside the walls, especially along Grand Allee and Rue St-Jean, makes these neighborhoods great.

As I played with my computer in the evening to record the day's route, I realized I hadn't touched my ipod during the entire trip. It's quite a contrast compared to the tens of hours I spent listening to it as I walked around on my trip to Vancouver.

Montreal & Quebec Day 7: Old Town in the Rain

We began our first full day in Quebec with the breakfast provided by the hotel. It was sad. The croissants looked so bad I didn't bother taking one, instead taking a decent, moist blueberry muffin, cereal, and some watermelon.

Then, bundled in raincoats and equipped with umbrellas, we ventured out. It rained on and off the entire day and was generally overcast. I was smart and kept my guide book in a ziplock bag. Hence, I could keep referring to it in spite of the weather. However, the rain prevented me from taking many notes. Instead, I took many pictures from which you can tell how overcast and wet the day was.

Here is the route we followed. We explored much of Upper Old Town before lunch and Lower Old Town after lunch. We walked in a stop-and-start fashion, attempting to be in churches and under overhangs during the heavier downpours.

I'm not sure if it was the weather or simply the pervasiveness of old, solid stone buildings, but the whole town feels very European. (I'm thinking back to my trips to England as a kid during which it rained most of the time.) It certainly felt more European than Old Montreal, possibly because Old Quebec felt more consistent than Old Montreal. Old Montreal has buildings of a variety of ages, some fairly modern like the World Trade Center, whereas Old Quebec has pretty uniformly old buildings. Meanwhile, Upper Old Town hides its modernity: an ancient-looking seminary near our hotel, we realized, actually houses an indoor basketball court.

One unphotographed site we found on our walk was Rue du Tresor (Treasury Road), a short street where, despite the rain, many densely-packed artists exhibited their wares. (The overhangs were wide enough that they nearly covered the whole street.) The street is an attraction; the artists there have their own association promoting it.

Due to the rain, we didn't get to climb the Promenade des Gouverneurs to the Citadelle. However, explored the Citadelle the following day.

As planned, we headed to Aux Anciens Canadiens, a distinctly Quebecois restaurant, for a late lunch. Before going there, we changed into dry clothes in the hotel so we'd be more comfortable while eating. Here's my review of the restaurant.

After our long late lunch ended between four and five p.m., we explored Lower Older Town, still in the rain, before returning to our hotel.

In Lower Town, we looked around the Old Port. Although like everything else in Quebec it has a history dating back centuries, it didn't seem old at all. It was a pretty standard port. In fact, we found most of Lower Town pretty ordinary, lacking the history and coherent feel that Upper Town has.

Rue St-Paul has many restaurants. It's a bit surprising they could all survive -- the streets were empty; none of the tourists massed in Rue du Petit-Champlain seemed to make it to St-Paul. The following day I realized St-Paul gets, at times, a lot of foot traffic, as it is on the natural path from the cruise ship terminal in the Old Port to the steps that lead to Upper Old Town.

We found the walk back to our hotel in Upper Town easy. I wonder who bothers to use the funiculaire.

From this day's damp adventures, the pair of shoes I wore hadn't dried by the time I flew home two days later.

Montreal & Quebec Day 6: First Quebec Evening

Although I didn't see much of Quebec on my first evening there, over the next couple of days I got to know the city. And yes, it is a city, but not a metropolis like Montreal. Notably, its old town -the main attraction- is one of the oldest cities in North America. The cobblestone, haphazardly angled, and narrow streets, the preponderance of centuries old stone buildings, and the castle-like city fortifications give it a truly European feel. The old town is pretty small and walkable. Old town and a few streets extruding from it have the density of people, restaurants, and shops that a city requires. However, the total land area these occupy before the roads peter out into a less dense, more vehicle-transportation dominated portion of the city makes the city rather limited in scope

I feel like I ought to compliment Lord Dufferin, the man who governed Canada for much of the 1870s, for his foresight. He stopped the destruction of the old walls, the replacement of the roads, and the widening of gates, thereby preserving Quebec's old world charm.

Quebec's history revolves around the single major event in its history: the battle in which Britain defeated France for control of Quebec. It felt like most parks, fortifications, statues, plaques, etc. all commemorated or memorialized some aspect of the event. The temporary occupation of Quebec by the Americans during the revolutionary war received a little attention too, but not much.

A few other features differentiate Quebec from Montreal. There are fewer bistros and cafes. And although everyone is still bilingual, it was much easier to find people in Quebec with poor English skills, unsure about the English words for a variety of things (in our case, food ingredients).

Evening Activities:
We didn't do much on our first evening in town. We checked into our hotel, Manoir des Remparts, and headed to Chez Victor, a burger joint outside of Old Town. Here's my review. After dinner, we drove through the really tangled roads of Old Quebec to the parking garage where we'd leave our car during our time in Quebec, parked our car, and walked to the hotel. If you view the route we took, you'll see all the short, one-way streets. (Google maps makes the layout seem much less convoluted than it actually is.)

Montreal & Quebec Day 6: Montreal library, public market, and the drive to Quebec

Driving to Quebec was the main goal for this Thursday. Since we decided to do the drive in the afternoon, we had time to see a few more sights in Montreal during the morning and lunch hours.

These pictures document this day's adventures.

We started the day with a short stroll from our hotel to Rue St-Denis, a nice street we've visited multiple times. This route shows our path.

Once there, we had a simple breakfast at our destination, La Brioche Lyonnaise, sitting outdoors at a table by the street. Here's my review.

After breakfast, we visited the Quebec National Library on our way back to the hotel. It's a great library: large (as it should it be since it's the province's flagship one), pleasant, and welcoming, and with a good mix of French and English books. Smartly located, it's built above the city's largest metro station, a place where multiple lines cross. Making library access easy is commendable.

Since we were there and hadn't yet seen the inside of a Metro station (because we found it easy to walk everywhere), we went underground to explore. The station was big, stocked with magazine shops and fast food joints, and generally unremarkable, reminding me of Penn Station in Manhattan.

Walking back to the hotel, we passed some sort of gathering or protest in a square. It wasn't clear what was happening. It may simply have been a fire alarm in the building across the street.

We checked out of the hotel and drove a short distance to Parc Lafontaine, where we circumambulated for about an hour. (We saw pretty much everything.) It's a pleasant park surrounded by a generally residential neighborhood. I don't have much to add that's not in the pictures except a comment on what my Fodor's guide book said:

Montreal's two main cultures are reflected in the layout of this popular park: the eastern half is French, with paths, gardens, and lawns laid out in geometric shapes; the western half is English, with meandering paths and irregularly shaped ponds that follow the natural contours of the land.
The description makes this distinction sound clear / obvious. It's not. We generally found it hard to distinguish the two halves.

After another short drive to stop by Square St-Louis, we began to head out of town. Our main detour before leaving town was the Jean-Talon market.

Jean Talon Market:
Jean-Talon Market was the star of the day. It puts San Francisco's Ferry Building to shame. The Jean-Talon Market is a huge farmers market, open every day, surrounded by many bakeries and specialty food shops (e.g., cheese). And it even has a food-books-only bookstore, much like the one I spotted in Vancouver. The market is in the style of the ferry building and its market, but it's just much larger, like one took many of the bay area farmers markets and put them all in one location and kept them open constantly. Furthermore, some of the vendors are more impressive than those at the ferry building: one vendor had more types of potatoes than I've seen in one place; another had the same with apples.

Apparently someone set up a scavenger hunt at the market, forcing people to find particular booths or shops and get a sheet stamped. I love activities that encourage people to explore cool places.

We made lunch from items we picked up at the market:
  • an olive, garlic, herb loaf of bread. Quite good. We had some left over and snacked on it at times over the next few days.
  • fruit: peaches, nectarines, raspberries, and an Asian pear (which disappeared quickly).
  • sausages: one duck (tasty, very soft); one bison (chewy, gamy).
  • a slice of double chocolate cake.
As we finished lunch, it started drizzling. I think this was the first and only time it rained on us in Montreal.

Driving to Quebec:
For the first half of our drive to Quebec, we passed through forests awesomely colored by autumn leaves. En route, we took a fine excursion through the quaint, small downtown of Three Rivers. Its waterfront has nice bridges, views of rivers, and walking paths.

One church we found, Notre-Dame du Cap-de-la-Madeleine, is remarkable. Sure, it's a big, impressive church. But it's notable in that it has a great view of the water, a nearby pleasant leafy park with statues, an attached restaurant (!), a gift shop, and more.

We took highway 138 from Three Rivers to Quebec, passing many single-family houses with good views of the river. We didn't stop to photograph any. I imagine they're inexpensive given their location in the middle of nowhere in an area that gets serious winters.

It was dusk when we arrived in Quebec.

Montreal & Quebec Day 5: Museum of Fine Arts and Botanical Garden

Wednesday began with breakfast at our second hotel of the trip, Hotel Manoir des Alpes. The breakfast was definitely worse than the one served at our first hotel. The croissants and pain au chocolat were clearly the type one gets in a package from a supermarket. I ended up eating cereal, so things worked out okay.

These pictures capture the day's adventures.

The day's main goal was to see the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Musee des Beaux-Arts de Montreal). The museum's pieces cover a wide range: from African art, Intuit art, and ancient art, to scale models of churches, to old religious art, which in turn gives way to romanticism, and then to eighteenth and nineteenth century portraits, European masters like Picasso and Miro -they have a nice collection-, Canadian art, and finally to modern art such as Jean-Paul Riopelle. Somewhere, the museum found space to fit in Mediterranean artifacts, including many old coins, a model of the Temple of Apollo, some really old glass (I mean, some of the earliest glass ever made), and several tiny lamps. And next to that, it had an exhibit on furniture and other functional art, both old and modern, including pianos, pots, vases, teapots, and oddly shaped vessels.

Many of my observations are documented by pictures. Here are a few comments that are not. Sadly, I couldn't find a picture online for most of the pieces of art these comments reference.

  • I liked Albert Lebourg's The Point Marie at Sunset -- it reminded me of some of Monet's work. It was also displayed near a Monet.
  • I liked the museum's paintings by Renoir, in particular Entrance to General Holy d'Oissel (or so my notes appear to read).
  • I liked Jan Hackaert's Departure for Hunt with Falcons.
  • I liked Jan Both's Southern Landscape with Travelers.
  • Emmanuel de Witte's Interior with a Woman Playing a Virginal has a good sense of depth.
  • Christian Luyckx's piece Pronk Still Life with Silver and Gift Vessels has lots of detail. The museum also had paintings by others in a similar style.
  • Something about Victor Vasarely's piece Toil or Toll or Tou -I can't read my handwriting- made me write down the name.
  • The gift shop sells tiny night lights painted like paintings in the museum. I've seen items like this before but I still find them cute.
We took a break from browsing the museum to have lunch, eventually deciding to return to Le Commensal, a vegetarian buffet place. Here's my review of this visit.

After the museum, since we were on the correct side of the city, we decided to compensate for seeing so many churches by seeing a few synagogues. So we drove to the few my guide book mentioned. Apparently Montreal has a large Jewish population. I didn't take pictures of the synagogues because they were pretty ugly, especially compared to the churches. In the process of visiting them, we decided Westmont, the neighborhood that contained them, was nice. And even here, outside Montreal proper, we found notable buildings (i.e., worth seeing) not in my guide book. And we found murals everywhere we went. Pretty cool.

Then off to the Botanical Garden we went. After fighting rush hour traffic, we made it and parked not far from the Olympic Stadium (Stade Olympique). It didn't tempt me but I was amused by the description in my guide book:
"The stadium, built for the 1976 Summer Olympics, is beautiful but not very practical. It's hard to heat, and the retractable fabric roof, supported by the tower, has never worked properly. Abandoned by the baseball and football teams it was supposed to house, the stadium is now used for trade shows, motorcycle races, and monster-truck competitions."

As for the Botanical Garden itself (Jardin Botanique de Montreal), we sadly didn't have much time there before dusk. While I'd planned to be there at dusk for one special exhibit, I'd hoped for more time to explore before the sun set. But the Botanical Garden was huge! We walked through quickly, attempting to see as much as we could while light remained, not even pausing long enough to take pictures. We made it through the Japanese Garden, the First Nations Garden, the Rose Garden, the Garden of Innovations, the Shade Garden, the Alpine Garden, ... Though decent, I imagine many would be much better when in bloom. Some, like the Alpine Garden, are probably always good. Some of these gardens are subdivided: the First Nations into hardwood, softwood, and nordic; the Japanese into a tea garden, a bonsai courtyard, a stone garden, and a pavilion. I'm actually really happy we found the bonsai exhibit -- it was purely by accident as we were leaving for the night. We missed a number of gardens and all of the exhibition greenhouses. The Botanical Garden's web site has virtual tours of many of the gardens.

We also stuck our head in the Insectarium. I'd hoped to see the butterfly room, but found it closed due to the season. Instead, we saw many mounted bugs, butterflies, bees, etc. A great place for entomophiles.

By the time dusk arrived, I'd navigated us to The Magic of Lanterns exhibit in the Chinese Garden, the true purpose of our visit to the Botanical Garden. Every fall, the Chinese Garden is decorated with lanterns, paper boats, and more. It's pretty stunning. Since I took many pictures (and one movie), I won't bother describing it in detail. I wrote in my notes that I hope the pictures express the glowing nature of the displays. I'm happy to observe many do.

As we left, the Chinese Garden got much more crowded. I'm glad we arrived at dusk to see it slightly less packed. While walking to the car, my mom remarked, "What a wonderful way to end Montreal at night."

Once in the car, we headed to dinner at Au Petit Extra. I'd decided to end our Montreal trip with another French bistro. Here's my review.

Montreal & Quebec Day 4: Old Montreal

I took many pictures this day; the captions to those pictures describe much of the day's adventures. In this post, I'll elide a lot -e.g., skipping almost immediately from lunch to an evening show- because everything in between is represented by photographs.

For breakfast, we headed to Byblos Le Petit Cafe. Unlike the previous day, it was open. And so we ate. Here's my review. I noticed Byblos had a rack of books and realized that I'd seen similar racks of books at the bagel cafe from Monday and in general at many cafes into which we peeked. I like a cultural climate that expects such features everywhere, as Montreal's apparently does.

After breakfast, we returned our car to the hotel. On the way back, we serendipitously turned onto a street (Duluth) and spotted some restaurants with unusual cuisines, like Afghani.

Once at our hotel, we walked to Old Montreal. The plan for the day was to see everything there that we could. Here's the route we walked.

Old Montreal felt historic, cobblestone streets and all.

From the waterfront, we spotted the Biodome.

We walked by the Musee Marc-Aurele Fortin. My guidebook's description of the museum sounded tempting, but we simply didn't have time. I kind of like the few paintings of his that I can find on the web. Next time, perhaps.

I already had lunch planned: a cafe called Olive & Gourmando. And, because we got there later than I expected -there's a lot to see in Old Montreal!-, we were famished. Here's my review.

After lunch we continued exploring. I'm a bit sad we didn't have time to visit the Archeology and History Museum, though I always knew we wouldn't get the chance this day. It has some underground exhibits relating to what the site was previously used for (a cemetery, a river tunnel, etc.).

To recharge my parents from all this walking, we stopped by a Cafe Depot in the Montreal World Trade Center. I've never seen adding cream to coffee look so hard.

In the early evening, we went to the Our Lady of Montreal Basilica (Basilique Notre-Dame-de-Montreal) to see the sound-and-light show And Then There Was Light. I'm glad I didn't see the inside of the basilica before the show -- the show was a great introduction. Initially, white sheets covered the sides of the chapel. A movie about the history of Montreal and the basilica is projected onto the sheets. During one scene involving a ship, a fan makes the sheets shimmy in the wind like sails. When the movie introduces an architectural facet of the basilica, the sheets drop artistically to the floor, and lights turn on to reveal the grand artifact previously hidden. By the end of the half hour show, the church is revealed in all its grandiosity. (See the pictures.) Without a doubt, it's the most impressive, opulent church in Montreal. It's not that surprising that the architect converted from protestantism to catholicism as it was being built.

After the show, we walked back to our hotel while seeing Old Montreal at night. En route, we noticed Rue St. Paul and Place Jacques-Cartier (especially the latter, which was very festive) had many restaurants. How did we not notice them before?

At our hotel, we picked up our car to go on a hunt for poutine for dinner. Finding poutine was quite an adventure. Read all about it and La Banquise, the place where we ended up. While poutine hunting, we observed two neat things about driving and parking in downtown Montreal. One, it has nice bike lanes. Two, parking meters are recessed, placed adjacent to building walls. This makes the street look nicer -- we never noticed the meters while walking. But it also makes it harder to tell if a spot where you want to park is metered.

Montreal & Quebec Day 3: Parc du Mont-Royal and more

This day, Monday, was the only day in Montreal during our trip where having a car helped significantly. We used it to drive to the top of and around Montreal's main park, Parc du Mont-Royal, Montreal's equivalent of Manhattan's Central Park. As it's large and on a hill, seeing everything was much easier with a car.

I took these these photos during this day's travels. This post is intended to augment the narrative expressed by the photos.

Although I'd have been happy eating the hotel breakfast again, I decided to venture out to try something new. We first drove to Byblos but found it closed, returning to it on another day, and instead went to one of Montreal's famous bagel joints, St. Viateur Bagel. Here's my review.

While dining, I wondered whether small tables, crowded with food, make one eat more or eat less. I could imagine either: more because everything is easier to see and easier to reach; less because it's much clearer how much food there is and that it probably shouldn't all be eaten. Incidentally, we ordered a reasonably sized breakfast and thus finished everything.

After breakfast, we briefly walked around the neighborhood, then drove a few miles west to stroll the shopping street Laurier Ouest. We wander into a grocery market just to see what they are like in Montreal. One aisle was devoted to chocolate bars. I was amused to see Ghirardelli chocolate, here a fancy import.

Incidentally, I learned that, in informal French, "ou" is roughly equivalent to "wha" /"huh"/a grunt in English.

Then we drove all over Parc du Mont-Royal, a huge park on a hill nearly in the middle of Montreal. It was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the same person who did Manhattan's Central Park. Because it's on a forested hill and it's therefore not easy to get to the spacious green areas, it doesn't feel as integrated into city life as Central Park does.

While in the park, we drove through Cimetiere Mont-Royal, a huge cemetery. A wide variety of people are buried here -- we saw a section for Japanese, a section for Greeks, and a section for military personal, which was easy to spot because everything there was arranged in straight lines. The cemetery was nice, more so near the entrance.

Another cemetery, Cimetiere de Notre-Dame-des-Neiges (Our Lady of the Snows Cemetery), had a similarly good appearance. I'm glad we explored this area as the trees changed color.

We also drove to the Oratoire St-Joseph (St. Joseph's Oratory) on the west side of the park. The only comment I have to add that's not expressed in the picture captions is that the preserved heart of the founder of the church was supposed to be on display. I looked for it but discovered it had been temporarily removed. (If I recall correctly, it was because they were renovating that part of the oratory.)

In early afternoon, we parked in the center of the park near Maison Smith. Maison Smith, perhaps as a product of its stone construction and nice cafe, has ambiance. It also houses some displays about the park, including information about park animals and the history of the park. I found the part on the cemeteries and the towers most interesting, the former because it covers how the park is almost out of space for the dead and the latter because it covers the debates about putting radio/television transmitters in the park.

Although we almost decided to get a snack at Maison Smith, we instead hiked a mile to Chalet du Mont-Royal and there had a small snack of items we brought with us. We ate outside, as the chalet had a good view but the interior sucked.

Once finished with the park, we descended from the heights and walked this route. What we saw is well documented by the picture captions. To add, we peeked down Rue Crescent and decided it was cool, filled with many restaurants.

Although we had a late breakfast, it was small and, although we had some snacks of chips and fruit at the Chalet du Mont-Royal, we got hungry for dinner fairly early and headed to Schwartz's Deli. Here's my review. On the way, we discovered one of our maps had a one way street mislabeled. (Don't worry: we noticed the sign before we turned onto it!)

Since we had some time in the evening before bed, we strolled down St Laurent; this map shows our route. It's a neat part of town. Although no St Denis, we spotted a number of restaurants, especially Greek ones. Being a Monday night, most restaurants were empty. This makes Schwartz's even more striking, as there was a line out the door when we left.

We also took an excursion down Prince Arthur, a pretty pedestrian thoroughfare. There was even a fire juggler performing on the street.

The old Jewish quarter seemed to be in this part of town. We stopped a bit to read some markers at an old Jewish cemetery. We didn't stop far long, as it was drizzling on and off during our walk. Incidentally, the weather was pretty good during our time in Montreal. This was the only time it rained.

Before driving the ten blocks to get to our hotel, we decided to drive north up St Laurent to see what's there. And thus we got to see Little Italy.

Montreal & Quebec Day 2: Downtown Montreal

With a fifty-fifty chance of rain, I decided to spend our first full day in Montreal exploring downtown, where it'd be easy to jump into a building for protection if need be. As the pictures demonstrate, this precaution was unnecessary: the day was fairly clear, although very windy.

We started the day with a complimentary breakfast in the hotel: a croissant, pain ah chocolate, sesame bagel, orange juice, and coffee. Uniformly good, it was the best hotel breakfast we'd have on our trip. Even though I later spotted a staff member taking the pain au chocolate out of a bag, these were fresh and quality, comparable to, and sometimes better than, what we got in bakeries.

We walked this route through downtown, during which time I snapped many pictures. The captions of those pictures serve as the primary narrative of the day. I'll only mention in this post sites where photography was prohibited (one museum) and other observations for which I couldn't take an appropriate photo.

As we walked, we noticed many brick/stone buildings (probably good for heat retention given Montreal's cold winters) and restaurants, often with alfresco dining under an overhang. We also noticed there were fewer overweight people than one sees in the states.

During the morning, we browsed the Museum of Contemporary (Modern) Art (Musee d'Art Contemporain de Montreal). It's a small museum -it took slightly more than an hour to explore- and I generally wasn't a big fan. Many items were too cutting edge for me. The museum also could've used more commentary about particular pieces. Since photography was prohibited, below are some specific comments on items I saw. Some comments from my notes are inexplicable.

  • I liked Jean-Paul Riopelle, especially Composition 1951, a painting which brought to my mind some connection to stained glass.
  • In the same exhibit, I also liked Marcel Barbeau.
  • We spotted some striped modern art an aunt of mine would like.
  • There were photos of Francoise Sullivan's performance of Dance in the Snow. (I'm not sure why I wrote this down.)
  • We very briefly watched some weird/creepy/bizarre experimental videos.

  • We saw photographs of backlit hair.

  • We walked by an enormous photograph of someone's junk drawer.

  • We saw drums shaped like heads.

  • But perhaps the most insidious odd pieces we saw at the museum were in a special exhibit on the surrealist Neo Rauch. (By insidious, I mean his paintings were psychologically warped but from a two-second glance, it was difficult to tell.) He uses big canvases to paint disconcerting, otherworldly scenes. His painting, Gold, which at first we thought was more normal than the rest of his works, provides an example of his style. We saw it and said:
    "This is a little less otherworldly than the rest ... except for the heads ... heads for sale."

Downtown, I noticed Montreal has murals that extend well above the first floor of buildings. Those must be an adventure to paint! For lunch, we stopped at Le Commensal, a vegetarian buffet-style restaurant. Here's my review. After lunch, we continued exploring downtown. The fact that many streets have trees is a nice feature, not common in other cities. While exploring, I heard a nice saxophonist, spotted a man wearing a "danger men cooking" t-shirt, and, further west, found some ugly buildings that may be for housing projects. We stumbled upon an open town house practically across the street from the Canadian Center for Architecture. We took a tour. Restored and with an especially nice molding, it was going for a mere C$359 thousand. We continued our exploration, eventually returning downtown. Downtown was much more packed than a few hours ago. I'd call it 75% of the average crowd in Manhattan. A neat fact I learned this afternoon: Montreal has a law that prevents any building from rising higher than Mont-Royal, the mountain-park in the center of the city. It's about 720 feet above sea level. I like the policy; it's a natural way of limiting vertical density in order to preserve Montreal's skyline. After returning to our hotel to change and rest briefly, we headed out to walk to L'Express, a Montreal/Parisian bistro. Here's my review. Our hotel was in a great location and made pretty much all of our excursions walkable. We didn't even need to take the metro.

Montreal & Quebec Day 1: Arrival in Montreal

From Saturday, September 23rd 2006 to Sunday, October 1st 2006 (about a week), I explored Montreal (two-thirds the vacation) and the city of Quebec (one-third the vacation). I invited my parents, who I hadn't seen in nearly a year, and they joined me on this trip. It was nice to see them and quite a change to vacation with them; the last time I recall going on a family vacation was before high school. Dividing the work helped reduce the planning stress, a welcome change compared to my solo Vancouver trip. I researched restaurants and chose what to see; they researched and booked hotels and brought quality AAA maps. (This is important: the maps in guide books and brochures are sometimes inaccurate and often hard to use.)

I really liked Montreal. It's a very cosmopolitan city and is in many ways similar to Manhattan:

  • both have a density of restaurants and stores that's unmatched by nearly all other cities;
  • both have places that stay open late;
  • both have people on the streets to the wee hours of the morning;
  • both have a good subway system, though walking is nice and quite effective;
  • both have older sections of town with centuries of history;
  • both have a large park created by the same designer;
  • both are quite clean, Montreal perhaps slightly more so;
  • both nowadays have some, but relatively few, panhandlers/homeless people.
The main differences are:
  • Montreal's huge number of bistros and cafes (and even sandwich shops) and, with the French everywhere, the foreignness. Yet, while foreign, it was still easily navigable since everyone was bilingual.
  • The massive number of impressive churches/cathedrals/basilicas/etc. in Montreal dwarfs New York's.
  • Montreal has very few blacks. (I can't say African-Americans, can I?)
This post and the following ones will document my Montreal experiences in more detail: where I went, what I saw, what I thought about what I saw, where I ate, and in general how I felt at various instants. As for Quebec, I'll write my general impressions of the city in my first post on that topic and further posts will describe my adventures there.

One neat observation: even though I can't speak French, my ability to pronounce it increased dramatically. On the first full day, I learned how to prounounce thank you (merci); a few days later I had downtown (centreville) down pat; by the end of the trip I could pronounce French names and words correctly without giving the task conscious thought.

Getting to Montreal was easy. I took public transit to SFO. In a corner of SFO, I grabbed a okay sandwich for lunch from Klein's Deli, a joint in the remote end of a terminal. (I had "The McGinn," which mainly included turkey, cheese, and pesto.)

The plane flight was nice. My seatmates were friendly. I talked to one for a large portion of the trip. She was a serial restaurateur, having started and sold three restaurants. At some point she was a health practitioner, utilizing her education at McGill (undergrad) and Harvard (grad). Now she mostly sails. But she's also starting an alternative medicine clinic in Belize. She has three kids, only one of whom still lives in Montreal. From her living and owning restaurants in Montreal for so long, I got many tips about places to visit and sights to see. It's amazing how much one can learn about someone's history from one conversation.

My only disappointment with the flight was that my socialness meant I didn't get to read as much of my guidebooks as I'd have liked, and therefore didn't end up with much of a concrete plan for each day. Instead, I ended up roughly planning each day the evening before. That worked out fine.

After my parents picked me up at the airport, we passed some nice nighttime views of downtown on the way to our hotel (Hotel Chateau de l'Argoat), checked in, and asked for advice for a nearby place to grab a bite to eat. We walked to the suggested restaurant, Pizza Donini, and continued several blocks further to explore. The segment of St Denis we walked down had a few bistros, a creperie, a Tibetian restaurant, an Ethiopian restaurant, two Indian restaurants, a Szechuan restaurant, and more. I could tell Montreal was a diverse and adventurous city. Eventually, we decided to return to Pizza Donini for food. Here's my review.

Our late dinner completed, we returned to the hotel to sleep and prepare for our first full day in Montreal.

Interesting Articles: April 29th-June 5th 2007

* Juiciest Beef in Town: Restaurateur, Steamed, Says He Was Burned (Washington Post). Many of you likely heard of this spat between a restaurateur and the New York Times food critic in which the restaurateur said he'd start a blog and follow the food critic around to criticize the same restaurants and in the process criticize the critic's reviews. This hubbub got lots of attention in the press and food blogs several months ago. However, it's gotten no attention for the last couple months, as the restaurateur hasn't posted anything on his blog in ages. I'm really disappointed. While I wasn't expecting greatness, I'm more disappointed that he promised (in the New York Times, even) to do something and didn't follow through with it.
* Clearing The Air (WNYC's On The Media via NPR). Sao Paulo bans all outdoor advertising. How cool is that? (That's a real question: it's not rhetorical.) I'm surprised I haven't heard this reported from any other source.
* "If I controlled the Internet" (a poem) (TED Talks). I always assumed it was hard to get videos of good slam poetry on the web. It appears I was wrong. The TED video inspired me to browse YouTube for a while. YouTube has number of slam poetry videos of widely varying quality. Here are some I liked:

Emergent Behavior:
* Formula for Panic: Crowd-motion findings may prevent stampedes (Science News). A practical application of the science of complexity / emergent behavior.

Research Methods:
* Sleep on It: Time delay plus slumber equals memory boost (Science News). Posted because I really like the study's method of implicitly teaching subjects an item ordering and then testing their knowledge of the total order. The abstract of the source article, Human relational memory requires time and sleep (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), available online, briefly describes this experimental design.

* Meet me at 79°50' N, 56° W (Science News). Modified Newtonian Dynamics, an alternative to the theories using dark matter, may be testable. You gotta love how the test would work:
The trick is to position an instrument within 7 centimeters of a specific latitude and longitude. Only two spots would qualify: one in Antarctica and one in northern Greenland. And just like many ancient rituals, the experiment could take place only during an equinox.
The abstract of the source article, Is violation of Newton's second law possible? (Physical Review Letters), is available online.

* Is Your Phone Out of Juice? Biological fuel cell turns drinks into power (Science News). What a novel idea!

* Genes Take Charge, and Diets Fall by the Wayside (New York Times). Yet another piece about the strong genetic influences on weight.

* Gene predicts sleepy performance (Science News); more colloquial version of the article (Science News for Kids). I wonder how much this one gene correlates with students attending top colleges. The abstract of the source article, PER3 polymorphism predicts sleep structure and waking performance (Current Biology), is available online.
* Two groups of scientists, using relatively simple alterations, each have genetically engineered flies to resist malaria in a way that allows those flies to out-compete regular flies. Someone should show these results to the groups that protest all uses of genetic engineering.
* Spider blood fluoresces (Science News). The title says it all. Probably one of the many reasons people find spiders creepy. The source article, Spiders fluoresce variably across many taxa (Biology Letters), available online, includes pictures. I'm sure a simple Google search would get you more.

Israel in the Gardens Festival

Israel in the Gardens was unlike any other themed festival (e.g., Greek, Himalayan). Whereas most other festivals are for selling things (clothing, art, nick-nacks, etc.), the sole purpose of the Israeli festival seemed to be to build community. There were many social groups. Lots of Jewish schools were also represented, including both secondary classes (part-time, after regular school) and primary classes (instead of public school). Very many (all bay area?) congregations were represented as well, as were community/social groups.

Getting to this festival was much less exciting than getting to yesterday's. I was early to the Caltrain station. It was on time. Once in San Francisco, I hiked to Yerba Buena Gardens, the location of the festival. Simple. Straightforward.

Well, almost. I'd never been to Yerba Buena Gardens before, so I didn't quite know where to go. I wandered around, spotting a carousel, a playground (with the type of bouncy soft sidewalk that don't hurt to much if you fall), a museum for kids, and more.

Once I found the festival, I explored. On the way in, I passed a witty guy selling Mahjong tiles. How do I know he was witty? While I stopped to look, I heard someone ask him what was the connection between Mahjong, a Chinese game, and Jews. He answered, "only take-out on Sundays."

Yerba Buena seems like a nice place. I especially liked the wide, pretty waterfall, which was sadly hard to see due to all the booths and stages set up nearby. The panoramic videos associated with these images capture the ambiance of the location.

I can't believe I was at the festival for an hour before I realized why it was a Sunday-only festival, not a whole-weekend one.

As for arts and culture, I saw many booths selling jewelry, some selling books, only a few selling artwork, two selling kippot, and one (sub-par) booth selling glass. There were many fewer booths for arts, culture, and literature than at any other festival. One book booth mainly specialized in books about marriage, including one titled, "Why Marry Jewish?" (Conversely, I later found a social group's booth: "Intermarried? Find Your Welcome Here.") Another booth had Hebrew music and magazines including some, which I was amused to observe, that seemed to be the Israeli equivalent of Cosmo.

Livne Fine Art Studio was the one painter I spotted and liked. She does colorful abstract pieces. From browsing her web site, I'm amazed how many pieces she produces.

One store sold female Israeli military t-shirts, thus making the wearer look attractive and bad-ass simultaneously.

As I previously mentioned, retailers are only a small part of the fair. The larger part were organizations. Beside the aforementioned synagogues and schools, Jewish retirement and assisted living communities advertised; Hebrew universities (both in the States and in Israeli) promoted themselves; health care providers who generally only deal with Jews (!) advertised; Israel sold bonds; Republican Jews and Democrat Jews recruited; a Jewish group advocated vegetarianism; and the Anti-Defamation League promoted its mission. There were cultural groups as well. For instance, Ethiopian Jewry had a table. Later, I passed the table of a group that does research on Jewish issues. One of its big signs declared that Judaism is more diverse than most think, citing that 20% of Jews are "Latino, Asian, African-American, Sephardic, Mizrahi, or mixed." I wasn't shocked. If you think about the converse, you'll realize how many Jews are alike.

Don't believe me about the variety of organizations represented? Here's a list.

The selection included mostly Jewish or Eastern European foods such as Kosher hot dogs, knishes, falafeles, schnitzels, piroshkis, burekes, challah, and macaroons. Falafel from one stand, The Flying Falafel, looked so good (and much better than that at any other falafel stands) I had to have it. I wasn't the only one -- the stand's line was far longer than any other's! Although the stand had many employees, each of whom picked toppings out of bins to fill pitas, it was clear they could've used even more.

The Flying Falafel oddly appears to have two distinct web sites (1,2).

Sadly, in the falafel I got, the balls were cold and dry. And they were out of tahini. The bread itself was good, with a hint of hummus. The bottom, with more hummus, was a bit better yet. But as a whole the sandwich still disappointing compared to how good it looked.

The stand also sold chocolate frisbees: warmed pita with a chocolate spread and optional fruit.

The Metreon is part of the Yerba Buena complex. Although I'd been to the Metreon previously to watch movies, I'd never explored the building. I took some sparse moments throughout the day to stick my head in and look around. It seems like a decent small mall. Some stores surprised me, like the store entirely devoted to the miniature game Warhammer and the store devoted to the playstation. (Okay, the latter was actually part of the Sony store, but it looked like that at first.) There's a small bookstore -actually a series of shelves and stands in the lobby- with a quirky selection that's fun to browse. I also spotted some reasonable looking restaurants. Also, near the Metreon is Samovar, a cute tea lounge with an essay in the window about living life slowly.

One reason I went to this festival was because it had a mini film festival that was showing West Bank Story. (It's a mini film festival in two sense: it lasts one afternoon, and it only plays shorts.) West Bank Story is a musical short about love in the Middle East that I've wanted to see ever since I heard it won an Academy Award. However, when I finally wandered into the movie theater, I had to sit through some other movies first.

One was a sweet, silent, computer animated film about a boy and a tree. The boy imagines the tree is a dragon.

Another movie was about a boy and a dog. It had such high tension, as if the dog would be killed accidentally at any second, I didn't like it. I walked.

When I returned, it was to the middle of a movie about a man enrolling in the army. The DVD soon failed, refusing to play, and the projectioner decided, due to popular demand, to play West Bank Story next. Yay!

Thus, I finally got to see it. Here's my reaction.

The End
At the end of the festival, I knew from having learned the Caltrain schedule the previous day that if I went straight to the station I'd be sitting there for nearly an hour for the train. Hence, I hung around a little until the after-party began. Although the crowd looked cool and the venue -the terrace on the top floor of the Metreon- looked awesome, I decided I didn't have the energy go stag. (I was alone and didn't have anyone I could call on such short notice that would want to come to this party.) Then I remembered that there's really no great reason to force myself to do things I don't want to do just because I think I should enjoy them (like big parties) (this is also B's advice). I began my journey home.

Overall, the festival was quite a pleasant experience. I enjoyed wandering around on such a pretty day -it was warmer and clearer than the prior day- and being in the grassy outdoors while being dwarfed by skyscrapers.

P.S. While at the festival I picked up a schedule for the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. At the end of the June they were having outdoor screenings of the Muppets and other Henson work, including popular films and episodes as well as rarities. Sadly, I didn't managed to go to any of these events but I thought this was cool enough that I ought to mention it anyway. (I usually don't mention reasonably interesting events that I don't attend.)

Union Street Festival

The Train
On Saturday, June 2, 2007, I planned to take the eleven o'clock Caltrain to the city to attend the Union Street Festival. Waking up naturally less than half an hour before the train departs, I found myself a block away from the station and on the wrong side of the tracks when the train pulled up. I ran. (Actually, I was running already so I simply continued running.) And, luckily, I jumped on board in the nick of time.

And then I realized I hadn't had time to buy a ticket. Caltrain requires passengers to get tickets before boarding lest they face a serious fine (several hundred dollars) or, in the best case, get asked to leave the train at the next station. But Caltrain often doesn't check tickets.

Stewing nervously in my seat, I pondered what to do. Should I stay and hope I don't get caught? Should I voluntarily disembark and take the next train a full hour later? I really didn't want to arrive to the festival an hour later; I'd be famished. Instead, I decided to jump off the train at a station with ticket machines very close to the track, quickly buy a ticket, and hopefully jump back on the train before it leaves.

At Millbrae, I successfully did so and returned proudly and happily to my seat. And then I glanced at my ticket and realized I was in such a hurry to press the buttons that I bought the wrong one!

So back I was stewing in my seat. I debated doing the same thing again, but there were few additional stations with ticket machines that close to the tracks. I realized the date and time stamp on my ticket made it obvious that I'd made a mistake buying it. For instance, it was for a southbound trip and I was on a northbound train. I could legitimately claim I was in such a hurry I pressed buttons without double-checking. I decided to sit and hope.

Hoping worked. No one checked tickets. I breathed a sigh of relief as I exited the train in San Francisco. I don't feel too bad about riding semi-ticketless, as I actually did pay roughly the correct amount for my trip.

Incidentally, I spotted a pretty Astro-Greek mural by the South San Francisco Caltrain station. It's Prometheus Gives Fire to Man by Nicolai Larsen.

The Bus
Finding the bus wasn't so easy either. I knew the stop was at one of the points neighboring the intersections near the Caltrain station. (Each intersection has four possible pickup points.) After trying five possible locations, I found the correct one. The bus arrived within a minute of me finding it.

Then, after a long ride as many people embarked and disembarked as we passed through Chinatown, we arrived at the festival's location.

The Festival
After I finally got to the Union Street Festival and had a chance to explore, it gradually dawned on me that the festival was as cool as Mountain View's. Many vendors attended both. It took me a while to realize this artistic connection because the atmosphere differed greatly. The Union Street Festival is (duh) located in a urban environment, one which has many more bars than Mountain View. Further, the crowds were different -- it's clear many people at the Union Street Festival came for the opportunity to drink. Indeed, all the bars were packed, probably because most bars had specials to undercut the festival's alcohol prices and also because of the weather. Because it was on the cool side, 60s and cloudy, it's nice to drink indoors or on a patio with heat lamps. Due to the size of the crowd, despite the weather, by the time I left, not only were the bars full but all the beer gardens were packed as well.

Beside the intrinsic motivation of the kind of people at the Union Street Festival, the weather discouraged browsing. It's easy to appreciate artwork when the weather is warm and pleasant, as it was for Mountain View's festival.

Although I took a few pictures and videos, I wasn't really in the mood. Hence most of my observations about the fair will be solely verbal. Some, however, are only mentioned in picture captions.

This festival had the usual assortment of vendors of clothing, jewelry, handbags, masks, hand-painted silk, pottery, etc. as others. Furthermore, many vendors I liked enough to mention from the Mountain View festival were there, including the woman who does paintings of flowers, the guy selling hanging racks and the like in the shape of small surfboards, the man who mounts butterflies under glass, the old man selling bonsai, the sculptor who makes swirls pushed out of metal sheets, and the metal souls metal figurine shop. But there was also a number of remarkable shops that were new to me:

  • Pep Ventosa makes incredible fragmented photographs. There's an art to making a picture out of pieces that don't quite align. He's one of the most unusual, exciting, and novel artists I've seen in a long time. It's actually much easier to view pictures online (despite his web site being agonizingly slow) than for me to attempt to describe his technique.
  • Light Chaser Inc has hyper-real photographs on canvas. He creates some of these by painting dye onto negatives, then making prints from those negatives. I like his philosophies of photography, as discussed his gallery page. The hyper-real photographs don't come out well on his web site -I guess they're limited by the range of colors a monitor can display-, but I find many of his scenic and panoramic photographs quite majestic. I'm not sure if those were on display at the festival. Also, he's got an interesting obsession with doors.
  • Thomas Barbey makes awesome combination photographs, merging scenes more smoothly than I would've thought possible without resorting to digital technologies. Since his web site is so flash-heavy and painful to use, you may want to browse a gallery elsewhere. I particularly liked High Security, Tourist Trap, Paris a.k.a. City of Lights (very witty), Absolute Faith, Isaac Newtons Puzzling Dream, and Shortcut to China.
  • Patrick Herms has well done photography, mostly of San Francisco. From his web site, I see I also like his color series of Scotland and the Middle East.
  • Glass
  • Studio Rynkiewicz makes art glass in the style of Venetian masters. I particularly like some of the curvilinear glass bowls I saw, also displayed in the latter pages of the 2006 catalog (especially page ten). These pieces are colorful, a festive party in themselves.
  • I chatted with the wife in the husband and wife team that is Dreamworks Glass. They produce glass art in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright. The husband does most of the design and metalwork and the wife does the sandblasting. They got into glass after they were already married.
  • Melting Visions sells necklaces made with small, complex pieces of fused glass.
  • Heather Noilani Myler Designs makes slumped glass bowls. Due to their sheen, at first I thought these looked metallic. They're actually made by painting mica and then slumping glass and gold leaf over it. It goes to show how she's versed in and open to many techniques.
  • Wood
  • CC Imports sells $30 beautiful painted boxes with funky shapes (faces, swirls, etc.) from South America.
  • Bamboo Chic sells nicely lacquered bamboo products. (Yes, that address points to a domain squatter, but it's on the business card I was given.)
  • Totally Bamboo sells not just cutting boards but also butter knives, bowls, utensils, attache cases, and more made out of bamboo. I always thought of bamboo as an exotic hard wood, forgetting it's a fast growing, easily renewable resource.
  • Other
  • Anthony Hansen makes modern art. One item, not unlike this done with metal (and obviously a different message), could be a Game clue.
  • Felicia Renanol (could be misspelled) sells hand painted light bulbs. Neat. I wonder what kind of paint she uses so it doesn't burn, melt, or block too much light.
  • Martin Owino makes K'Owino Batiks. Batiks are a fabric waxed and dyed in a particular way (resist technique). Martin, a Kenyan native, makes vibrant, colorful batiks with scenes of African dancing, African costumes, women fetching water, etc.
  • Like most fairs, a few booths sold flavored (spiced) nuts, olive oil, and other gourmet items with a high price to volume ratio. At this fair, I spotted a booth I hadn't previously seen: DeCio Pasta. They made flavored pasta, mostly linguine. I bought four types: Tomato Basil Garlic, Habanero, Wild Mushroom, Szechuan Orange Spice.
  • In the middle of the festival, I retreated into a used bookstore for some quiet and relaxation. As a result of this visit, I later had an experience that I've never had before: I tried to look up a book I spotted there on amazon, and amazon didn't list it! It's not that amazon didn't sell it directly and it was only available used from resellers; amazon didn't list it at all. I find it amazing that I've been browsing on amazon for years, reading reviews of countless out of print books I spot elsewhere, and this was the first time that's happened to me.

    Like every other day, I must eat. This festival had the usual food vendors, many beer gardens, and lots of garlic fries. For once feeling in the mood for festival food, I grabbed a half-order of deep-fried vegetables: mushrooms, artichoke hearts, and zucchini. Good stuff, especially the artichoke hearts, which were marinated and still juicy and salty. After exploring most of the festival, I decided on a lunch of jambalaya, which turned out to be thoroughly unexceptional. The chicken was bland and the spicing of the dish as a whole was less complex than it should have been.

    This part of Union Street -I think the neighborhood is called Cow Hollow- is nice. Filled with many boutiques, I can tell it's one of the most ritzy parts of San Francisco. One store I noticed was Fog City Leather. During my earlier hunt for a jacket, I contemplated buying one there. In fact, it's one of the few places that sell leather trench-coats. But, it's an expensive store, and, anyway, I decided to go for a different style.

    There was a kids zone. As this is fairly standard for festivals, maybe I should cease mentioning such zones in festival reports unless they're extraordinary.

    Four hours after I arrived, I was done with the festival. Given my brief stint in the bookstore, that's not quite as long as the Mountain View festival but it's still close, and substantially longer than most others.

    Going Home
    After the festival, I reversed my steps. Returning home was much less eventful than getting to the festival. First, I took a bus to the Caltrain station. This was unexciting except for the observation that the next muni sign occasionally was significantly in error. (Because the bus ran a special route to circumnavigate the festival, the next muni software was confused.)

    I got to the Caltrain station seven minutes after a train left. Trains run every hour on the weekend. (My poor timing was because I didn't have a copy of the Caltrain schedule. As I didn't have any evening plans, I didn't really care when I arrived home.) I crossed the street and killed time in Safeway, browsing newspapers, wandering, and planning dinner.