Birthday Dinner at The Corson Building

17 Apr

The Corson Building
5609 Corson Ave S, Seattle

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For my birthday James and I went to The Corson Building which is one of those farm-to-table restaurants that is so popular in Seattle. It’s gotten great reviews and is on the pricier side ($100 a head plus $40 wine pairing) so I had pretty high expectations. We went on a Saturday since that’s when they have a more elaborate tasting menu.

First of all, the location is beautiful. It’s in industrial Georgetown but looks like an upscale French cottage. When we arrived we were given an apertif to sip while we strolled around, which felt pretty chic. The inside was very loud (which they warned us about at the start of the night) – it’s one of those interiors where sound bounces off everything.

We explored the gardens and found a a bunch of herbs and a woodfired oven:

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And got to look in the kitchen where the chefs were preparing our food:

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And now for the bad part:

Motherfucking family style communal dining.

Ugh.

It’s not mentioned obviously on the website, but it is (kind of) there. In the What We Do section it says “sharing at the table, we can open up our senses and our consciences to our place in the world, along with the place of our neighbors”. I thought it meant figuratively, like the restaurant is sharing its food with you – not literally, in that you have to share your food with complete strangers.

Part of that is my bad, because I’d deliberately avoided reading reviews of the restaurant so as not to spoil the surprise. It is mentioned in a few reviews, but you’d think they’d have it prominently on the website. Looking at the reviews, I’m not the only person who felt a bit blindsided.

We were fortunate that our table was really friendly and we got along really well with one particular couple. But even when you get along, when you’re chatting with new people you have to be “on” in a way that you’re not normally, you know? And imagine how awful it would be if you were seated with shitheads.

So that was OK. But then it was freaking family style dining! I mean, there was plenty of food, but at a high-end meal I’m not expecting to have to pass a heavy dish around the table and try to estimate the size of “my” portion. Communal dining? Fine. Family style with a private table? Also fine. Put the two together? Oh HELL no.

But anyway, here was the menu:

Rabbit rilettes with grilled bread pickles and wood fired bread

A salad of chicories, avocado, radish, cara cara and tahini with a herb dressing

Scrambled eggs with smoked salmon butter, stinging nettles and oil poached artichokes

Deep fried Puget Sound smelt with paprika aioli

Roasted black cod with charo raita

Seared scallop with creamed, roasted endive

Guanciale and black trumpets with a lettuce garnish

Duck confit with boiled potatoes, roasted cabbage, pine nuts, currants, capers and sage

Meyer lemon tart with cream and kumquats

It matched the ambiance really well – European rustic but modern. James’ favourite dish was the rabbit. I liked the salad and the scrambled eggs the best (and the bread!). There were one or two individual dishes – the tart and possibly the scallop. I don’t know if I’m just a grump, but food has to be pretty outstanding for me to put up with that communal family style nonsense.

But anyway, setting that aside, while everything was very good none of the dishes were particularly memorable. Which was a disappointment given The Corson Building’s reputation and price. It didn’t help that our Lazy Bear experience (also communal seating, but not family style) was still in recent memory and The Corson Building fell far short of that.

On the plus side, the wine pours were generous, the waiters were great, and the actual restaurant was beautiful. Everything was fine – fresh, tasty, interesting flavour combinations – but it wasn’t spectacular and given the awkward dining arrangement and price point … eh.

The Corson Building on Urbanspoon

End of the Snowboard Season

7 Apr

We’re well into April now and the winter snow has turned into spring slush. My legs have never been this achey - I spent over an hour and a half foam rolling my quads last week. =( On the plus side the lift lines are short and the snow is soft for me to practice little jumps.

I bought a weekday season pass to Stevens for next year. It costs the equivalent of 4 trips, so not too much of an investment, and it also lets me ride for free for the remainder of the season.

The other thing I splurged on were new bindings which are awesome – they’re Rome Madisons (Madisons? More like Radisons). James and Kyoto mounted them for me.

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I tested them out at Crystal a couple of weeks ago with Caroline, and there’s such a difference compared to my old bindings. My heelside turns in particular are way smoother and I feel like I have a lot more control. The only downside is that they’re slightly heavier, but it’s worth it to not spend several minutes before and after (and sometimes during!) a run fiddling with my bindings. With the way my (and Mike’s) bindings fell apart I’m never going to buy anything K2 again.

But anyway, it was great hanging out with Caroline, and pretty cool to see the aftermath of the in-bounds avalanche.
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Also last week James and I went to Stevens and he brought his snowboard instead of the skis he’s been on all season. Even though it was a Saturday there were no lift lines and crowds so we got a lot of runs in. It took him maybe 3 runs to get the hang of it again. I think his knees are OK as long as he doesn’t snowboard regularly during the season.

He waved, but was otherwise too cool to look at me. =(
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Afterwards we had Ethiopian food at Altaye in Rainier Beach (not actually a beach). I need to eat Ethiopian food more often because man, it is delicious and cheap.
IMG_3520Depending on the snow I might head out one or two more times this season. There’s less urgency now that I can snowboard as much as I want next season (and now that my legs are getting destroyed in a single run).

Aquatic (and Other) Adventures in Beautiful Maui!

30 Mar

Last week James and I got back from a week in Maui. Luke and Madeleine (who are on a 2 month surf bum holiday) invited us to stay with them and we used credit card points for our flights, so it ended up being quite cheap – we just paid for the activities we did, a rental car, and groceries plus a thank you dinner for Luke and Madeleine.

In no particular order, here are some of the fun things we did.

Surfing

This was the one thing that James really wanted to try in Hawaii. I found a place where, for an extra $20 per person, you could take the lesson with a surfing dog. A surfing dog! But they were booked out, so we went with Royal Hawaiian Surf Academy who were great. They had a photographer to take photos of your lesson and you could buy a CD of all the shots.

James took to surfing quite well. He was the only one of us who didn’t need paddling assistance from the instructor.

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Me, covering myself in glory.

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James really enjoyed surfing (“it’s basically swimming”). I thought it was OK but didn’t enjoy paddling and hated the sensation of water in my ears. I’m glad I tried it but probably wouldn’t do it again.

Snorkeling

Now, snorkeling I loved! It was really easy (the flippers do all the work) and I loved looking at the fish and coral. The water in Maui was nice – not warm like Thailand or Queensland but not ice cold like Melbourne. We went snorkeling at various Maui beaches but also took some boat trips out to Lana’i and Molokini.

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On our last day at Turtle Beach a sea turtle swam up to James! The visibility wasn’t very good so he said he was really startled when he turned around and the turtle was right next to him, just swimming around him and kind of checking him out.

We also saw a bunch of turtles at Kaanapali – we were resting on some rocks and a couple of turtles cruised past. Even more awesomely Luke and Madeleine said that there was a sea turtle hanging out with them when they were surfing – just bobbing along in the waves next to them. Apparently they both kept trying to catch the “turtle wave”. =D

I did get to see an octopus on the Lana’i snorkeling trip though, so that was really cool. We also went to Molokini where you can surf inside a crater – unfortunately it was too windy on the day we went, so we snorkeled the back wall, which was breathtaking. The visibility was phenomenal and you could see how incredibly deep the drop was.

Beaches
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I really loved Kaanapali Beach. The water was temperate, the sand was nice, there was snorkeling along the rocks and you could put your head underwater and hear the whales singing to each other.

You could also cliff jump off Black Rock. There were a couple of people who walked back down because they were too frightened. I was so proud of James because he did it even though he’s afraid of heights.

The first time I looked over the edge my legs started shaking with adrenaline. The scariest part was just flinging myself off. James took a photo of my second jump from the shore – I’m the one on top with my arms back, getting ready to jump.

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It looks like there are a bunch of rocks I could get snagged on but there was no danger of that - it was a clear drop into the water.

The initial terror, then forcing myself to sack up and jump, the brief “I did it!” while falling, the huge splash into the water, and then the elation when I came up for air … it’s a feeling I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

Afterwards we went for a stroll along the coast.

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Despite extreme sunscreen vigilance I got sunburned – I think I must have skimped on one of my many post-water re-applications. =( After that initial day at the beach I turned like … 3 foundation shades darker.

Haleakala Crater

I didn’t know I could be so cold in Maui but at 10,000 feet, the summit was freezing and super windy! The sun started peeking up about an hour before sunrise, with the sky gradually changing from pitch black to orange to blue.

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James and I were both wearing hoodies underneath our shells. My hoodie isn’t really that warm (it’s mainly cute) but I thought it would be OK with the windproof layer. I was wrong.

Here we are, freezing our butts off after the sunrise.

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James and Mike both had a bit of altitude sickness but Chi Kai and I were fine. Once we got to a lower altitude James felt better. Well, I say lower, but it still felt like we were on top of the world.

IMG_3153There were several lookout points on the way down where you could stop and take photos of the cool landscape.

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Road to Hana

The Road to Hana is another super touristy thing you’re supposed to do in Maui. We rented a car (highly recommend a small one – ours was a Nissan Versa) and picked up the Road to Hana app from iTunes, which was insanely good value for $4.99. It described the attractions and history for us, so we didn’t need to consult a guidebook or research online. It’s absolutely a must-buy for the Road to Hana.

We headed out super early (6am from Haiku) to beat the crowds. It made the drive there quite pleasant and until we hit the national park we had a lot of the attractions to ourselves.

Our private waterfall:

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We saw other cool stuff, like a church made from coral and lava rocks, an arboretum, more waterfalls, and beautiful coastlines. And bought lots of banana and pineapple bread.

One of the highlights was Waianapanapa State Park, which had cool caves, including one you could swim inside. I took this shot while in the water:

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James was quite nervous about me exploring that cave but had a lot of fun scrambling up one of the other caves.

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And the black sand beach was just so, so gorgeous.

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Once we got to the Haleakala National Park we jogged the Pipiwai trail (well, I jogged and James fast-walked cos he was in sandals and I’m quite a slow runner). It ended at an enormous waterfall and most of the hike was through a bamboo forest (a nice break from the sun!).

IMG_3432There was a shorter hike that we did afterwards, which ended at the Oheo Gulch. It’s seven pools joined by waterfalls, eventually emptying out into the Pacific Ocean.

IMG_3460You can normally go swimming in the Oheo Gulch but because of recent rains they’d closed it off, so that was a bummer.

On our drive back there was a lot of traffic coming the other way, which made us even gladder that we’d left so early. We got back around 6pm – so it was a pretty long day!

Home Sweet Home

Now that we’re back, I realise that I vastly prefer the weather in Seattle. Hawaii was great for a holiday (and a shot of Vitamin D), but it’s so comforting to return to Seattle’s drizzle and overcast skies. (And the cats. And our apartment. And snowboarding).

Last week a guy at the gym was like “OK where did you go on vacation? You’re much too tan to have been in Seattle”. And then he asked why James was still pasty white. =P James is actually a teensy bit rosier than when he left, but not by much.

Hopefully it won’t be our last time in Hawaii. Maybe we can organise a family reunion there, so we don’t have to travel to Australia and our families don’t have to come all the way to Seattle. I mean, I prefer cold weather and the Seattle Freeze but I’m sure our families would rather experience warm weather and the Aloha Spirit. =)

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James Takes a Day Off To Go Skiing!

5 Mar

James took Monday off to come with me to Crystal. =) He skied but said next time there’s a day like that he’ll take his snowboard instead. I think he was a bit frustrated at how often his skis were popping off in the ungroomed snow.

There was lots of fresh snow but it was quite heavy and wet. The mountain was shockingly empty – probably the least busy day I’ve been this season (including Superbowl Sunday). We never had to wait for the lift and hardly saw anyone else on the runs. It’s indescribably better than going on a weekend.

I think my favourite part of the day was an amazing run we did down a near-pristine hill. We had to hike a bit to get out of it since we didn’t know where we were and hadn’t built up enough speed. I thought it was sooo worth it but although James acknowledged the run was fantastic I think he was a bit traumatised by the walk.

Look at that view!

The second best part of the day was when I was on a flat and an enormous flock of birds flew past me. There were so many of them that I spent maybe 10 seconds in the middle of a tiny bird storm. I waited for James, trying to think how I’d describe it, and as he went across the flat the birds flew past again. =D 

I wish I’d taken a photo of it because it was crazy. The only thing better than gliding on the snow surrounded by 100+ birds was seeing it happen to James. It was absolutely one of the highlights of the day.

Afterwards we went to The Cheesecake Factory. I’ve been meaning to go because our friends told us it has giant portions and it seems like such an American experience. Plus it was right outside where the shuttle dropped us off.

We ordered lots of cocktails (post-snowboarding tradition). Here is a blood orange margarita and an Asian pear margarita:

And later on, a dirty martini and chocolate banana liqueur milkshake:

I didn’t really think about it at the time, but the cocktails really drove up the price of the meal. If we ate here again I would definitely not drink so much. But it was so much fun. =) We were laughing the whole meal – or at least I was!

James: (with affectionate disapproval) You are drunk on snowboarding and mild amounts of alcohol.

When our meals arrived I was initially a little disappointed at how un-huge the portions looked. But after snacking on the bread I didn’t actually have a lot of room left over.

I ordered the chicken bellagio (and ate about 1/3, leaving the rest for James to take to work the next day).

James ordered the buffalo burger with a side of onion rings (and ate all of it, the fat fuck).

We also ordered 2 slices of cheesecake because we had a voucher for free cheesecake. I could have sworn I took a picture of them, but apparently I didn’t. James got the Reese’s Pieces one and I got the Oreo cheesecake. James ate about half his and we literally took 2 bites of mine (one each). In all fairness my milkshake was pretty much a dessert in itself.

The bill was $92 before applying free cheesecake vouchers and I think it went down to $70 or so afterwards. Like I said earlier, it would have been normal chain prices if we hadn’t included the cocktails. Our American friends don’t think much of The Cheesecake Factory but I’d be lying if I said we didn’t have a great time.

You can definitely get better food, better value food, and better value better food elsewhere, but The Cheesecake Factory really hit the spot for a post-snow meal. The service was great (there were heaps of waiters. It looked like there were 2 for every diner – maybe TCF is the Apple store of chain restaurants) and they even managed to find a spot to store James’ skis and my board while we ate. =)

It was an awesome day at Crystal. I hope we can sneak one more weekday trip before the season ends (with James bringing his board instead of skis). But next week we’re off to Hawaii to learn how to surf.

It will be fun to see beaches and sand again, but I think after a week I’ll be ready to come back to the beautiful mountains of the PNW. =)

Snowboarding Update!

24 Feb

After a slow start to the season we had about a week and a half where the mountains were getting bucketed with snow. The down side of course was that the weekends were super busy. It used to be that we could arrive at 10 and still get a spot in summit parking but the past couple of weeks I’ve heard that if you’re not there by 9:30 you have to park in the overflow lots and take the shuttle up. I wouldn’t know – we get there at 8. =P

Aside from the crowds the past week was near-perfect; not too cold, good visibility and amazing snow. This was the line for Hogsback before it started running.

Aside from the long lines it was a great day. We frolicked in the powder, explored some routes through the trees and killed our quads on long, steep (but soft) hills. I’ve been practicing going fast down hills and trying little jumps – the jumps were particularly fun on Sunday because the snow was so forgiving.

I’ve also been going to Crystal on Thursdays while the going is good. On those days I haven’t been pushing myself terrain-wise – I just hang out on the un-groomed blues. At the end of the day I’ve been riding switch on the baby slopes, which I insanely suck at, but need to do since I eventually want to hop little 180s.

This was the bottom of a green run that didn’t get a lot of traffic. Once I got the hang of cruising on top of the heavy powder it was a lot of fun, and I had the area all to myself (so there was nobody around to see the times I got trapped and took several minutes to get back on my feet).

The huge dumps of fresh snow tire my legs out a lot more than normal – like the difference between running on the road and running on sand. My legs were already aching after the first run but it was soooo worth it.

I’m still determined to get James out to Crystal on a weekday. He just finished a 6-month long project where the last 2 months basically had him working past midnight most nights (including weekends). I’m super proud of him because he worked so hard on it and it’s a huge feather in his cap. As soon as the project finished he got really sick for a week, and now it’s stopped snowing in the mountains. =(

We’re off to Maui next month as well, so hopefully there’s some good snow before or after so he can experience the glory (and thigh-burn) of a weekend powder day.

One Weird Amazon Interview Tip

17 Feb

In the past few months James has been doing a lot of interview loops to try and work up to international trips. HR mistakenly asked him to go on a recruiting trip to Tel Aviv but it turned out he didn’t have enough in-person interviews to qualify, which was disappointing because it would have been awesome. Though James did find out that he is considered a very accurate interviewer, according to whatever metric HR uses to evaluate them.

But anyway here are some random bits of information that I haven’t seen anywhere else. They’re not earth-shattering, but with the number of hits this blog gets for Amazon interviews maybe they will help someone. First, the most useful one:

Buy This Book

Cracking the Coding Interview: 150 Programming Questions and Solutions.

There’s a reason it’s #1 in Software Development and has a whole bunch of glowing reviews on Amazon. James knows a lot of interviewers who actually use questions directly from it, and even if yours don’t he said it’s still extremely solid for interview preparation. Don’t handicap yourself by not going through this book – it’s so useful it’s almost cheating.

Bring a Notepad In Case You Get a Tiny Whiteboard

Oddly specific, I know. Most rooms have large, wall-length boards but occasionally only small whiteboards are available, and James said this has flustered a few candidates. If they need to keep erasing as you go to make more room they lose the time it takes to erase everything and can’t refer back to what they’ve already written.

So for the tiny minority of people who get a small whiteboard, a notebook comes in really handy. Just write the code in there then tear it out and give it to the interviewer afterwards. No frantic erasing, no muss, no fuss.

Leadership Principles

Read them. It’s not a bullshit thing, like “oh we want a motivated, self-starting people person” – the interviewers actually do look for these qualities. And at performance review time they are evaluated on how well they meet these qualities.

A Rick Owens Splurge …

10 Feb

I’ve wanted this jacket for aaaages (proof - and check out that foreshadowing: “I thought maybe I could save it up for an important birthday. Or maybe if we ever move to a cold climate“).

I’d describe Seattle as a cooler climate, not cold. Though we had snow a couple of days ago! This was outside my building at 6:30am (I don’t normally wake up that early – Mike was picking me up to go snowboarding)

But anyway I was prepared buy the jacket when we went to NY – it would have been an awesome souvenir – but I didn’t like the blistered lamb, which felt like very flimsy suede. On the bright side, at least I figured out my jacket size. The majority online opinion is that it runs small but it ran true to size for me.

About a week ago I found exactly what I’d been looking for on eBay. It was still expensive, but significantly cheaper than retail and, more importantly, silky lamb instead of blistered lamb and in my size. Jackpot!

Me: Would you mind if I bought this jacket that I’ve wanted for a really long time?
James: *frowns* Why do you have to phrase it like that?

Sorry James – that was accidentally manipulative of me! But he said he remembered me dragging him to the Rick Owens and Bergdorf Goodman flagship stores in NY and grudgingly agreed that my story checked out.

It arrived today and is soooo buttery soft and wonderful. It’s the perfect compromise between the drapey-ness of the blistered lamb and the leathery-ness of the calfskin. It’s pretty satisfying to finally own something I’ve been wanting for years. Now I can retire the search for my perfect leather jacket. =)

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