Tag Archives: cuisine

CFP: The Return

At 6:00 AM on Saturday I voyaged east in the sport jalopy to grace Alcalde with my presence over Memorial Day weekend. The trip was uneventful until I got to Ritzville, where I was stopped by a local law enforcement professional for doing 28 in a 20 zone. Apparently there was some sort of big flashing light with the speed limit on it. Whatever. He also had me sign my registration, which I guess is a thing you’re supposed to do, although I don’t think I ever have. But then he let me go! No ticket or anything. Weird.

Anyhow, I spent several intriguing minutes touring downtown Ritzville.

When I arrived at CFP, I got through the gate by drafting behind someone else, then just walked in Alcalde’s front door, which was inexplicably unlocked. All his weapons and electronics are no match for my wily ways.

Alcalde had spent most of the previous week hauling his gun safe up from Riverside, and I arrived just in time to help him unload it from the truck. It was an impressive display of teamwork, similar to our team efforts finding Al in Seborga or putting up monkey bunting. However, when we got it in place and he opened the safe, it was full of styrofoam packing peanuts! No guns at all! Seems like a lot of trouble for a safe full of packing peanuts.

Sunday we made a pilgrimage to Daft Badger Brewery in Coeur d’Alene and then wandered around downtown Coeur d’Alene a little, where we saw many wonders. There was a steampunk salmon robot, a woman carrying a rabbit, the Dingle Building, a place selling monster sushi, a bug in a giant flower, and a moose statue. The Lucky Monkey had t-shirts, but none of them had monkeys on them.

My main goal this weekend, other than mooching off Alcalde, was to set up my new GoPro and Karma drone and complete a test flight. It took longer than expected, because I had to download several firmware upgrades to make the 2016 drone work with the 2018 camera, but I eventually got it all sorted out. It was pretty windy out, so I took it on a simple maiden flight in the sun room that is so popular with local turkeys. It was just a simple take-off and landing, which I accomplished in a quick ten-second flight. Mission accomplished!

And so what if I broke two of the propellers. I had spares, so no big deal. I’m sure SpaceX and Blue Origin have similar setbacks with their test flights.

You might notice the turkey doots in front of the crashed copter. Turkeys have made the sun room their own, to the point where it really makes more sense to call it the Turkey Room.

Close-up of turkey doots

Throughout the weekend, a good quantity of barbacoa, spicy jerk chicken, and Alcalde’s private stash of Pere Ubu Ale from the wilds of New York nearly made up for the lack of bunting or IceJJFish soundtrack.

All in all it was a smashing success, and another worthy contribution to the grand tradition of invading Alcalde’s home.

The cocktail monkey casts a watchful eye over CFP

CFP Mash #1

The inaugural visitation of Alcalde’s new mansion-chateau (aka Casa Fancy Pants) was a smashing success, as measured by total calorie count and whatever the opposite of cinematic artistry is.

Al, of course, had failed to show up, and sent a hogshead of popcorn as penance. The ricin made the flavor a little odd, but we got used to it.

Sitting Around

Lobo arrived Thursday, and he and Alcalde sat around all day. But when I got there on Friday the party really got rolling as Lobo and Alcalde shoved me into the back seat of the Taco and we crossed the state line into exotic Idaho. We had lunch at the Daft Badger in Coeur d’Alene, where Lobo got a half order of pulled-pork nachos which seemed to constitute at least 20% of world nacho output and allowed Lobo to eat increasingly congealed breakfasts for the rest of the weekend.

Nachos, Day Two

Nachos, Day Three

While in the Coeur d’Alene area, we investigated the mysterious happenings in the erstwhile town of Dudley. Alcalde claims that there was no collusion regarding either Dudley or nearby Cataldo, but we haven’t been watching him the whole time, so who knows what he gets up to. And we didn’t find Dudley, exactly, but we did find Dudley Heights, which is either a real place or a sign that someone put up as a joke.

As a housewarming gift, I brought a package of brightly colored cocktail monkeys, a beloved memory for anyone who had anything approaching a normal childhood in the ’60s or ’70s. They were put to good use as bunting, as well as flair for what were apparently pharmaceutical-grade mojitos. Memories of the rest of that evening are a little fuzzy.

Monkey Bunting

A Minimum Amount of Cocktail Flair

But up and at ’em the next day! Alcalde made us some excellent frittatas, although Lobo just chipped away at his nacho clump. After that, a little “hair of the limón” by way of limoncino shots, followed by panther cookie chasers, and we were off to get a mediocre lunch at the English Setter Brewery.

Limoncino and Panther Cookies

A drive up Mt. Spokane got us not quite to the top, as the road was closed due to inclement weather. We stopped in a nearby parking area to walk around and saw a group of people training rescue dogs. One of the trainers would hide under some camouflage netting, sitting out in an open area and looking absurdly obvious. Then one of the dogs would run around while some of the other trainers would shout encouragement. If the dog found the camouflaged lump that was right in front of it, everyone would cheer and congratulate the dog. If the dog appeared to be having trouble, an arm would reach out from under the netting and squeeze a squeaky toy. Sometimes the dog would still have trouble. The dogs all appeared to be having a good time, but I don’t like the chances of anyone who needs to be rescued by one.

Rescue Dogs

That evening Alcalde provided some excellent steak, grilled to perfection by Lobo on the ostensibly indoor grill. However, we had to open the door to let the smoke out, which really makes it sort of an indoor/outdoor grill.

Things were a bit touch-and-go, moviewise, as Alcalde couldn’t figure out his own audio/video equipment. Luckily, he was able to kludge together a workaround that allowed us to continue with what after all is the central feature of any mash.

Over the course of three evenings we watched Birdemic, Zoltan: Hound of Dracula, Wild Guitar, and The Choppers, the last two featuring Arch Hall Jr. Alcalde fell asleep for all four of them.


On the last full day, after Lobo finally finished his nachos, we went patrolling on Alcalde’s estate grounds. Much of it consists of scrub and deer doots, but it’s still well worth visiting, especially after the taxidermy animatronic show and boat ride goes in.

On Patrol

After a warm-up like that, there was only one thing left to do: Visit downtown Spokane. This centered around the Riverfront, which is, it turns out, along the river. We saw a tower, and a big wagon, and a trash-eating goat, and–as the pièce de résistance–the Riverfront SkyRide, which is like the Disneyland Skyway except that it doesn’t go to Tomorrowland. (Technically, neither does the Skyway, because Disneyland removed it years ago. The SkyRide has the advantage of still existing.)

Then we had a quick lunch at a downtown brewpub that had TVs on every available surface, all showing football games. There were even three TVs in the restroom.

Spokane Falls

Trash-Eating Goat

For reasons that are not clear, Lobo scheduled his return flight for 6:30 in the morning, so he got up before 5:00 and spent some time stumbling around and singing songs from Wild Guitar. Then Alcalde and I dumped him at the airport and had a leisurely coffee and pastry at Rocket Bakery on the way back.

On the drive over on Friday I had hit a pothole on the 90 and damaged my tire, so driving back was a little iffy. My sport jalopy has run-flat tires, which means that it can run for about 50 miles at 0 psi, but also has no spare. That’s probably useful if I’m fleeing foreign agents or random ladrones who have shot my tires out, but the trip from Spokane Valley to Redmond would be a little far in the event of a blowout. Fortunately, I made it back without incident and I can get the tire replaced for only $362.

Sport Jalopy in Front of CFP

The one disappointment of the weekend was the lack of fossils in the floor slate. They’re supposed to be there, but Lobo and I did a thorough investigation of the slate and found no fossils at all. That’s undoubtedly going to reduce CFP’s Zestimate.

Notes on Singapore

  • Singapore is the most food-intensive place I have ever seen. More than San Francisco, more than Paris, more than Hong Kong, more than Fremont…more than just about anywhere. All cuisines and budgets seem to be represented. And there are a surprising number of tapas bars.
  • It’s humid, but not as humid as I was expecting. It’s been mostly around 80%, which is not as bad as Ohio in August. Of course, the humidity goes up during thunderstorms.
  • Most restrooms don’t have paper towels. What they usually have instead is a big roll of toilet paper near the sinks. Have you ever tried to dry your hands on toilet paper?
  • Napkins are also nonexistent. Tissues are sometimes available to purchase. I mostly just used my pants.
  • Cousin Mosquito is still around.


  • There are four official languages — English, Mandarin, Malay, and Tamil — but English is officialer than the others. A lot of signs have multiple languages, but if a single language is used, it’s always English. Even in the multi-lingual sign below, the words “notice” and “SBS Transit” are only in English.


  • Oh, yeah, man. Free Flow Kimchi is awesome. I saw them open for Toad the Wet Sprocket.


  • Photos are available on Flickr.

On a Little Street in Singapore

Singapore’s version of the Champs-Élysées, Ginza, and Rodeo Drive is Orchard Road. On Monday, my first day here, I wandered down Orchard from the ION Orchard mall for quite a ways, wondering what was supposed to be so special about this street. It was nice enough, but there wasn’t much on it.

It was only today that I realized that I was on Orchard Boulevard, which runs roughly parallel to Orchard Road. Orchard Road itself is lined with flagship stores of top brands. A lot of this is wasted on me — until recently I thought that Ferragamo was a type of chili pepper — but I can enjoy looking at the ritziness of it all.


On the way back, I found a place that was the other end of the scale — a pscrillion little shops shoved into the area of one city block. I spent about an hour wandering through all the passageways. I ended up with a couple of t-shirts and a durian. This last is a spiky fruit that has a reputation for both a horrible smell and a delicious taste, but it doesn’t seem to have either. Neither the smell nor the taste were especially noteworthy.

For dinner I had some basil chicken and a coconut, then came straight back to the hotel room to update my several blog fans on the day’s activities.

Satay on the Quay

I woke up at 4:00 this morning. There’s not a lot you can do at 4:00 AM except wander around, so I did that.

I needed to exchange some more money. Airport rates are never good, so I hadn’t exchanged very much, because I knew I could do better in town. I figured there would be small currency exchange places all over like there are in Hong Kong.

There are not. They have some, but it took me about an hour to find them. For my trouble, though, I got a rate of 1.346, rather than the 1.3275 that I got on the airport, for a savings of US$5.55. Sweet!

Now I’m eating satay and drinking Tiger at a cafe on the Singapore River. The service is lousy, but I don’t have to tip them, and they seem content to just let me sit there and write blog posts on my phone.

No one seemed to be looking, so I drank the remaining peanut sauce straight.

IMG_1150 IMG_1159

Eel Update

The eel at the little divey place in Akihabara is better than the regular eel in Kyoto, but not as special as the special eel. The quality conger, while indeed exhibiting some quality, was slightly less special still.

Matsumoto Castle

The cool, clear mountain air is more enjoyable when it’s not raining. I borrowed an umbrella and walked to Matsumoto Castle. While most of the samurai castles in Japan are reconstructions, Matsumoto is the original, built in 1593. It’s real, and it’s spectacular.

And it was just as crowded as Kumamoto was, despite the rain. Fortunately, I got there early enough that I didn’t have to wait to get in. But there were already a lot people inside.

You have to take off your shoes to enter the castle. They give you plastic bags for your shoes and for your umbrella. So people were carrying shoes, umbrellas, cameras, purses, small children, and whatever else while they filed through the six stories of the castles. The stairs throughout the castle are extremely steep, so people had to carry all their stuff up these steep stairs while other people were filing down the same set of stairs. On fairly slick wood. In their socks. There were some grips on the steps, but not much. At least we didn’t have to wear slippers.

I sort of attached myself to a group of four people who had an English-speaking guide. They didn’t seem to mind, and I don’t think the guide even noticed.

The line grew considerably while I was in there.


The castle also had an impressive gun collection. I had not realized that the samurai used guns, but they used matchlocks starting in the 16th century and were using rifles and revolvers by the time of the Meiji Restoration in 1868. Of course, they disarmed everyone else.

When I left there was some kind of matchlock demonstration going on, but I never figured out exactly what they were doing.


Next to that was a drumming demonstration, which I could hear later on from my room.


I spent much of the rest of the afternoon wandering around Matsumoto in the rain looking for a samurai house that I never found. I figured I’d be okay if I could keep track of where the river was, but the river branches all over the place. Eventually I found my way back to the ryokan and dried off.

Now I’m having fish & chips at an Irish pub. And how does Japan do Irish pubs? Extremely well. The fish & chips is comparable to New Zealand’s, the service is excellent, and they’re playing the Pogues.

But now it’s time to go back and see if I can figure out a Japanese bath.