First two days in Romania

First off, let me say how much I love Lufthansa. They give you food on short, regional flights. I appreciate that. And it's real food, with hearty bread. The picture on the right I think is Budapest, as the captain mentioned we'd be flying over it shortly, and this was the biggest thing out the window at that time.


Real food on a 1.5 hour flight. Amazing, much love to the Germans.

I think this Budapest from 35000 feet.


My coworker and I arrived in Cluj without any travel hiccups, and given some of the other issues some other coworkers have had recently, we were both very thankful. That first day after an trans-oceanic flight is always weird. You're super tired, but you know the worst thing in the world would be to go to sleep for any significant amount of time. What's the best way to combat it? Walking and sight-seeing.

Statue of Matthias Corvinus in front of St. Michael's Church

Dormition of the Theotokos Cathedral, and I'm not sure what the statue on this side signifies

Dormition of the Theotokos Cathedral and statue of Avram Iancu

There are a lot of churches here, and down the street from the hotel in the city center are two of the most well known in Cluj, the Roman Catholic St. Michael's and the Orthodox Dormition of the Theotokos Cathedral.

The architecture is an interesting mix of Austrian and ugly Communist with a hint of medieval. 

The National Theater

I love taking pictures down streets. It's the criss-cross of the wires and other stuff with the natural lines of the streets that I always find interesting.

After lunch we walked around some more and saw some interesting things. I have no idea what these eyes are, but they just needed to be photographed. I love the styling on the Melody hotel sign... looks like something right out of the turn of the twentieth century.

No clue

What an amazing sign, at night it lights up and changes colors.

Fishing in the Somesul Mic river. Not sure if he ever catches anything, but more power to him.

The second day here was mainly taken up by being at the office (which is really awesome, and alas I didn't yet take any pictures of it). But after a beer at a rooftop bar (from which I took the picture below on the right), we headed off for supper at a really nice place with a fantastic outdoor space. And also... the weather has been amazing.

The view from my hotel room

The view from the rooftop bar

There were several cats roaming around the restaurant, looking for scraps. The tabby got pretty close to me, but managed to stay just far away enough that I couldn't touch him. He was looking for food. Me and a coworker shared that pork leg dish, and it was delicious.

Black restaurant cat

Tabby restaurant cat

Delicious, delicious pork. So delicious. Those pickled peppers were awesome.

After dinner our entire group took a nice walk in the park, and then climbed up the hill towards Hotel Belvedere to get a good view of the city at night time.

You can rent paddle boats during the day from this place.

The old casino.

No idea, but it was a cool art installation.

Cluj is really a beautiful city, and this shot at night I thought summed it up pretty well.

Salmon and Fire

Copper River Salmon is my favorite salmon. I still remember the first time I had some copper river. It was in Seattle with my parents on our last hurrah family vacation the summer after my first year of graduate school. I didn't know salmon could taste like that. It was the first properly-cooked, wild-caught salmon I had ever tasted. When Carrie and I saw that Costco had wild-caught Copper River Sockeye for sale a few weeks ago, I had to get some. I went ahead and grilled it, along with some mushrooms. All I did was put some salt and lemon on it. With salmon that has so much flavor, you don't need a lot of extras. The fire video below is just me playing with the SloMo on the iPhone 6. (I recommend going to the Vimeo page to view it in HD if it won't let you view HD on the embedded player.)

A meal of experiments for friends

I have wanted to sous vide steak for a while. It seemed like something that didn't make sense for a random Tuesday, and Carrie's not a big steak fan anyway. With Carrie out of town this weekend I invited some of my old UT Cycling team friends over for supper, to catch up, and to play some video games.

One cannot have only steak for a meal, so I decided to make macaroni and cheese from scratch. I had always wanted to do this, so out to the internet I went. I decided to base my batch off of Alton Brown's baked macaroni and cheese.

I went with a raw, grass-fed milk sharp cheddar and some grass-fed whole milk. You basically make a Béchamel sauce, which is a white butter roux with milk added to it, essentially. Then you make this into a Mornay sauce by mixing in the shredded cheese.


I dropped the onions and garlic from Alton's recipe, but I did keep the paprika (I used a sweet, smoked variety) and I used some of the "magic" organic salt-free herb and spice blend from Costco. (Don't laugh, this stuff is amazing.) I mixed in the al dente shells, poured the combined mixture into a pie plate, and topped with a mixture of panko with more of the shredded cheddar.


Now that the mac and cheese was ready to go, I could turn my attention to the steak. I had acquired three really pretty grass-fed NY strips, and was hopeful that the sous vide would have them come out a perfect medium-well. The chart stated that a bath of 58˚C for anywhere 45 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes would produce quality results. After a quick sear on each side, I bagged them up and into the bath they went.


After the steaks were done, I gave them a really quick sear to recrust the outside, and kicked up the sous vide to 85˚C to cook some green beans out of the garden. The macaroni was also done from the oven, so I pulled that out to find a nice brown crust on top where the panko and the shredded cheese had fused to make something wonderful. We had some mini-brioches (alas, those were definitely store bought) to round out the meal. All-in-all I was very pleased with everything, and it seemed like everybody enjoyed it.


I would like to tinker with the macaroni and cheese recipe a little bit. For example, I didn't add the egg to the sauce, as I wanted it more saucy and less custardy, but that might be an interesting option to try. Also, the sharp cheddar was very pronounced, which I like. But it may be a more general crowd pleaser with a milder cheddar. Once I get it dialed in I'll post the specifics here.

After the dinner, we played BROFORCE, which was one of the most fun group video games I had played in a long time. The character names are absolutely fantastic. I mean, with an opening screen like this you know it's going to be good:


Chainsaws (without cords) are Amazing

Hackberry trees are terrible. Well, they may have uses other places, but in Austin they mainly act like weeds on steroids. At some point in the early spring, we went from being able to see our back fence, to not being able to see it. It was a hackberry explosion. 

I had been meaning to get out there for a while and cut them down. But that would require me using my little chainsaw, and it is corded. I had picked up a bunch of Ryobi 40V cordless stuff, and I just didn't want to use anything with a cord anymore. So the other weekend, I went pick up this at the Home Depot:


Hello, welcome to the fold...


It is amazing. Slap that 40V battery in and you are free to cut things without worrying about cords. Luckily, this same weekend was the beginning of bulk yard waste week for our neighborhood. I went to work with the chainsaw, and Carrie and I got everything out to the curb, including some random limbs that had come down during all the rain storms. It was nice to see this on our curb instead of in our backyard and against our fence:


Off with you!


I really cannot say enough good things about the Ryobi 40V line. We now have the lawnmower, the string trimmer, the tiller (it's actually just a different attachment for the body of the string trimmer), and the blower. All the same batteries, all the same cordless convenience. I love the stuff:


The tale of the failed biscuits

Many people know that I really enjoy a good biscuit. Several years ago I decided that Bisquick couldn't be that hard to produce, and decided to look up some good biscuit recipes on the internet. I wanted a completely-from-scratch biscuit. It had to start with all standard ingredients that we would normally have around the house (e.g. flour, butter, salt, etc.) and be relatively straight-forward to produce (i.e. I didn't want to have to spend 2 hours making biscuits).

I found a recipe, and have tweaked it over the years to make a biscuit that I think is really tasty. So I set out to make a batch this last Saturday, take a bunch of pictures, and post about it here. This is not that post.

This is a post about the importance of butter. You see, when you cut cold butter into the dry mixture, distributing little butter pieces throughout the dough, you are preparing for the future. And that future is a 450˚ F convection oven.

The water in the butter turns to steam, and that steam pushes the biscuit dough out, making little bubbles. The fat parts coat the inside of the biscuit, and what you are left with is a fluffy, luscious biscuit. (By the way, these are drop biscuits, rolling out the dough to make flaky layers violated my 2nd rule above... sorry, BeBe.)

You know what happens when you don't put butter in your biscuit? This:


You get little dried-out hockey puck biscuits. They were gross, and sat like a lead weight. Sigh. I should have realized something wasn't quite right when I put them on the tray and I was 1.5 biscuits short of my usual amount. Carrie told me I had to post about this because people love posts about failure. So to not end on such a low note, here's a picture of Pierre:


Lazy + Impatient Occasionally Wins

Today I experienced the future we were promised, a.k.a. Amazon Prime Now. I wanted to try something out on my Mac that required a flash drive, and a coworker suggested a Kensington model with no silly moving plastic parts. I liked it, and decided to check Prime Now to see if they had it. 

They did! So since there is a $15-minimum-order rule, my coworker said to get him one as well. I placed the order on the app, and it told me it would be here b/w 2 and 4 PM.

Once the items were on their way, I got to watch a little purple dot on my phone drive around Austin with my package. When it was here, the delivery person called me, and I went downstairs to meet her, and lo and behold there were our drives in Amazon's frustration-free packaging. Pretty amazing, and free to Prime members. I highly recommend it.

A quick love letter to cycling...

A few years ago I basically gave up bike riding. After having spent several years racing on and off, I had spent the better part of 2 years spending a lot of time on the bike, I got thin, got fit, and then decided that I was just tired of it.

I wasn't sure if it was watching a guy and his bike bounce down a hill (separately, but amazingly synchronized) at the last race I ever did. Or maybe it was the two people who rode into the shoulder while basically looking right at me in one week commuting home. Regardless, I was done cycling.

But something strange happened a few weeks ago. I went for a bike ride. And I just loved it. Every second of it. So I have been riding again. Not every day, not particularly fast, but riding. It has been great.


For what's it's worth, I did not earn this view atop Ladera Norte.


You just see so much stuff when you go ride. Neighborhoods, deer, other people, sunsets, hills, more deer, little details that you miss in a car, and yes, even more deer. I guess you would see them running, but 1) I'm usually focusing on whatever random part of me is hurting that run, and 2) you just don't go very far.


Okay, I did get myself up to the top of Cat Mountain, but not the road in the picture... the short, steep hop from Mesa.


I'm not saying that I'm going to get back into racing. Actually, I'm pretty certain I don't ever want to do that again. In fact, I don't want to ride to "train" for anything. I don't want to think about HR zones, or power curves, or Strava segments. I just need to exercise–I need to get back to that healthy person I knew a few years ago. I want to ride because it's a great way to get home instead of driving, it's fun and enjoyable, and it has the great side effect of burning calories. 


Sunset light can even make runoff control look sort of pretty.


So here's to riding. Here's to seeing the world a little more close up, at a little bit slower pace, and taking it in just that little bit more.

Restarting Again

Welcome to 3.0. Carrie has been telling recently that I should start a "lifestyle blog." Apparently, these are a thing. Fair enough.


The joke was that I would call it, "What's fermenting now?" My fermentation game hasn't quite been up to par as of late, unfortunately. So what the heck am I going to do here, you ask? Make a hopefully useful attempt at showing the things that I find make life interesting. I am not much of a builder, but I do like to create things (and these things mostly can be eaten or imbibed). I like to play golf, I like to ride my bike, and I like men's fashion. I also love to travel and see and eat and drink new things. So here we go.


I'm going to lifestyle the heck out of some blog. Let's be clear–this may basically be talking about things and like 10 people reading it. That's fine. I can hopefully entertain those 10 people, ever so briefly.