The Total Buffet Package

I don’t know when, but at some point, someone decided it would be a good idea to let people come to Las Vegas, buy a wristband, and then eat at seven different buffets during a 24 hour period as many times as they wanted.

This is kind of like Communism; it sounds really, really good on paper.

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The last time I went to Las Vegas was seven years ago when I only visited for a choral directors conference with four other students who had little to no interest in eating anywhere that cost more than $5 or attending any shows and I didn’t really think it would be a good idea for me to traipse around the Strip, alone. Sometimes I make really good decisions.

So this time around I wanted to do everything I hadn’t managed to do, almost in response to that somewhat dismal vacation that started in a dirty, smelly hotel with a used condom in the couch and ended with me taking a shuttle back to my college town because my choir director lived in Salt Lake City, quite close to the airport. Stuff happened in between, but what I mostly remember is the stale, cigarette-flavored tuna sandwich I ordered from Subway while said director ate at the Bellagio buffet (or one much like it) with an old friend.

I wrote up a buffet itinerary around our schedule, which essentially consisted of “Ka” by Cirque du Soleil at the MGM Grand and a visit to H&M. So it stood to reason, in my mind, that we could easily visit five buffets in that 24 hour period, from dinner to dinner, to really maximize the experience.

This was wrong.

The average human stomach, I learned, cannot really hold more than four buffets worth of food in a 24 hour period. Dinner at Planet Hollywood was 86ed and then I was left wondering why I thought the wristband was such a brilliant idea in the first place. In fact, for as important food is to me, I made a number of rookie mistakes and I’m sorry to say the food wasn’t always the highlight. [A small, review-like note: don’t bother hitting up the Village Seafood buffet in the Rio because it’s an extra $15/person and you can essentially get all the same things at the Carnival World Buffet also at the Rio, which is magnificent with its teppanyaki and 70 dessert options.]

This isn’t to say I didn’t eat some really delicious food, of course. I managed to consume nine strips of bacon over the course of two and a half days and about ten desserts.

Part of me wanted to get a plate full of pain au chocolat

While it might sound cliche, I have to say the buffet at the Bellagio was unquestionably the best we visited during our stay. I found myself thinking the food wasn’t good “for a buffet,” but good in general. In fact, for the entire vacation I’d worked very hard to not have seconds so I could try as many different options as possible, but I had seconds on three items at the Bellagio. I mean, it was really tasty stuff. I determined, executively, that the Bellagio buffet would become a tradition for us every time we visit Las Vegas because there’s just no reason why it shouldn’t be.

I had this chocolate mousse cake at 9:30 am during brunch. It was 12:30 in the East Coast. That’s a perfectly acceptable time to eat chocolate mousse cake.

Really, the only disappointment I brought home with myself was how small my stomach really is, even when I’ve stretched it out as far as it can possibly be stretched. Had it been behemoth, I’d be telling you all about the SIX buffets we’d eaten at, but alas, it is not. So I’m only telling you about five.

The Birthday Extravaganza to Beat All Birthday Extravaganzas

I realize there’s no lead up to what I’m talking about, but you can check out this post from my other blog to get caught up. I’ll give you a minute.

So now that you know about The Birthday Extravaganza of 2012, I am pleased to report that I actually know where we are going. (Incidentally it completely has to do with Donald Trump.)

Oh, you wanted to know, too? Well, I suppose.


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I know what you’re thinking. “Gosh, she’s writing a lot of one sentence long paragraphs.” You’re also probably wondering what Mormons do when they go to Vegas because even though it stays there, it’s probably not notable to be left in a non-hometown. And you’re probably right, when it really boils down to it because we are neither gamblers nor drinkers and, thanks to Husband’s work schedule, he gets tired around 9:30 pm these days. But I think we all know that we are eaters.

Evidently there are those out there who “never do buffets” (no, seriously, these were the responses of many an individual on the Food Network FB page and I was just as appalled as you are), but we are not those people. We absolutely do buffets all the time, unless they have the words ‘corral’ or ‘chuck’ in the names. In these instances, we avoid them at all costs. And I have decided, since it’ll be my 28th birthday, it’s only fitting that I gain 28 pounds this weekend. Or eat at 28 different restaurants. Either/or.

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What makes this entire event so meaningful is that Husband originally intended to tell me our destination tomorrow morning, as we were on our way, but decided instead to tell me tonight. So I could, you know, plan out all the meals.

Good husband.

How it’s Made: Galbi (Korean Short Ribs)

The whole my being Korean is really a great facade — what you see is all you get when it comes to my ethnic heritage. When I was a little girl and white kids would tell me to go back to China where I belonged, I was less offended and more befuddled because I didn’t understand why I didn’t belong there and why I’d be sent back to China rather than Korea.

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It’s an adoptee’s plight; a weird middle place between Caucasian Americans and ethnic Koreans. I act one way and look another and for whatever reason, that really gets people confused. At the end of the day, however, I am about as white bread as they come.

I also have a problem with Korean food, generally speaking, because I don’t think it tastes good. There are a lot of spicy/fermented/pickled foods and I don’t care much for any of those. In fact there are really only four dishes that I can tolerate in that “I’ll eat it and not gag” sort of way: bulgogi, galbi, bibimbap, and japchae. In fact I actually enjoy the first two, almost totally enjoy the third, and could probably eat the fourth twice a year. That’s saying something. When it comes to Asian cuisine, the more Americanized it is, the better in my book, and when it comes to Korean food in America, it’s somehow managed to slip by unscathed. Pity, really, because almost everything could use a good helping of sweet and sour sauce.

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The other night I decided to make bulgogi because really, it’s one of the tastiest things Asia has produced. Sweet, savory marinated beef that’s been so thinly sliced it’s almost like cardstock. But when I got to the grocery store and discovered rib-eye (the most common cut used) was more than twice the cost of other cuts, not to mention an inability to get the meat sliced thinly enough, I put my plans on hold. It wasn’t till I stopped by the Reduced for Quick Sale section a week or so later and found just under a pound of short ribs that I realized my destiny was actually to make galbi.

To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure there’s a huge difference between bulgogi and galbi beyond what type of beef you use. The marinades taste remarkably similar (delicious) to me, and I don’t read any Korean to be able to signify if there really are any differences. I know, I know, I could probably look it up on Wikipedia. Let’s just keep it all mysterious, shall we?

I learned two important lessons when I made this tasty dish. First, broiling isn’t like baking, where you want to throw extra sauce on everything. If you make that error in judgment, you’ll end up with this:

Broiler rookie mistake

Second, even if a recipe says to marinade something overnight, you can probably get away with one hour in the fridge and be okay. Which is precisely what I did because I am not exactly a patient woman and wanted galbi that night.


The first thing you’ll want to do is trim as much of the fat off as possible, then cut it into smaller sections and score it. I like to use kitchen scissors for a task like this because it goes fast and is remarkably easy. After prepping the meat, place it in a shallow baking dish and let it kind of hang out while you mix together the marinade. Once you’re finished, pour the marinade over the meat, cover the dish with Saran Wrap, and place it in the fridge for a minimum of an hour, although apparently it’s most ideal to leave it overnight.

Once your meat is all ready to rock n roll, lay it out on a baking sheet and place it under the broiler for about three minutes on each side. This isn’t one of those situations where you can walk away from the kitchen and not expect to ruin things — keep a close eye on the meat, and listen to how it’s sizzling, to make sure you don’t ruin your pan AND your dinner. As soon as the meat is no longer pink inside, remove it from the oven, serve it up, and enjoy every last bite.

I served mine up with rice and sauteed vegetables, but for authenticity you’ll want to get your hands on a plethora of kimchis (gross).

Galbi for Two – adapted from this recipe


1 lb. short ribs, fat trimmed and scored

1/3 cup soy sauce

1/4 scant cup sugar

1 Tbsp. sesame oil

1 clove garlic, minced (I’ll be honest…I use the jarred kind)

1/2 Tbsp. sesame seeds


Remove all the fat from your short ribs, cut them into several pieces (about 2-3″ long), and score them. Place them in a shallow baking dish. Combine the remaining ingredients and whisk together well. Pour the marinade over the meat, cover it, and place it in the fridge for a minimum of an hour (overnight is most ideal). Preheat the oven to the highest broiler setting and move the rack to the top. When oven is preheated, place the meat on a baking sheet, shaking off any excess liquid, and broil for about 2 1/2 to 3 minutes on each side. When the meat is no longer pink, remove it from the pan and serve it with rice. Enjoy!

I just wanted to include this picture. Carry on.

Bean Dip on a Table

First, a teeny tiny bit of housekeeping, namely that I have started a humor blog and if you are so inclined to check it out, you may visit it here.


There’s a lot of confusion when it comes to bean dip on a table, and I’m not quite sure why that is. I’ve made it for multiple parties now, having learned it from a very wise RA I knew my sophomore year of college, and each time people didn’t quite understand what I meant. To clear up any confusion that may exist in your life right now about this, let me explain: it’s bean dip. On a table.

Before you start wondering about the sanitation of something like this, along with the potentially life-ruining post-party cleanup, I need to explain. You wrap your table in Saran Wrap. Tape it down underneath. This offers two benefits: one, people aren’t literally scooping up bean dip straight off your table and two, when the party is over, you roll the Saran Wrap up, throw it away, and wipe down your table. That’s my kind of clean-up.

You also need a hardy spatula to spread out the following: refried beans (it’s easier to spread them if you heat them up on the stovetop — just make sure you let it cool back down before adding the other layers), sour cream, and guacamole (in that order). And when the sour cream and guac end up getting smeared together, don’t fret because I’ve yet to figure out a method to keep them in separate layers. Top that with grated cheese, chopped tomatoes, green onions, and olives (if, you know, you’re an olive eater *blech*) and spread the tortilla chips around the circumference of the dip.

In the event that you have leftovers, it simply means you didn’t invite enough people to your party. No, really.

We All Scream! For Ice Cream!

First of all, I need to say that in reality I am not much of an ice cream person. I don’t like really cold foods (I have sensitive little teeth, don’tcha know) and typically when I’m craving something sweet, it’s more along the lines of flourless chocolate cake with raspberry coulis and homemade whipped cream. Lest you think I have a flourless chocolate cake in my kitchen 24/7, usually I have to be satisfied by a glass of chocolate milk or some chocolate chips straight out of the bag.

But every once in awhile, I get a strong hankering for ice cream that’s extremely pervasive and cannot be taken care of by anything other than the smooth, creamy, ice cold stuff. For the past few weeks I’ve made sure we had a small carton of it in our freezer and have big Sub Zero Ice Cream plans next weekend. The other night I thought to myself, “I wish I had some ice cream” and then realized I totally had some in the kitchen, just steps away. That made for an excellent evening.

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I don’t know about you, but I like my ice cream to be filled with stuff. Nuts, mini candies, fudge ripple, marshmallow creme, caramel, cookie crumbles — I love it all. I also like to eat it straight out of the container; not in that “I’ve now marked my territory” sort of way, but in that “I don’t want to create any more dishes than I have to and we never have guests over anyhow” sort of way. And, finally, (this is the most important part) I eat all the good stuff out of the ice cream before Husband can. That means he ends up with a container full of dips and valleys, but that’s what you get when you wait.

Room Service

When I was three, we went to Disneyland and stayed in a hotel that offered room service. And thus it begins. My mother ordered the cheapest item on the menu to help tide my little rumbly tumbly over (a bagel and cream cheese), and I was completely enchanted. For the remainder of the stay, I encouraged my mother to “call that nice man who brought me food.” To my knowledge, she didn’t give in, but the stage was set for my relationship with room service.

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Over the years, I’ve probably ordered only a handful of room service food items. Whenever my mother and I stayed at the Little America, we would order the most delicious breakfast on the menu; scrambled eggs, bacon, home fries, and these bran muffins that had caramelized pecans on the bottoms and were served upside down. And once, when my best friend, Rachel, left me in the parking garage of a hotel, trying to figure out how I’d get back to my apartment an hour and a half away, I just headed up to the room and ordered a fruit and cheese platter. And I ate it all.

When Husband and I got married, we honeymooned at the Oregon coast. The weather was characteristically cold, rainy, and windy, so we spent most of our time indoors, which turned out to be not such a bum deal because our lodging was probably the nicest I’ve ever stayed in. Each morning we sampled almost everything from their continental breakfast buffet (which was less like a hotel breakfast and more like a five-star restaurant experience) and would brave the bad weather in the evenings, trying to find the best clam chowder in the area. But one evening we were simply disinterested in going out and decided to order room service. We decided upon a salad made of greens, strawberries, grapes, pears, and Oregonzola, a fruit platter, and two sandwiches. I opted for the ham, while Husband decided, after perusing the entire menu, that he really wanted to find out what an eight dollar peanut butter & jelly sandwich would taste like. I anticipated that it would taste pretty much akin to say, a two dollar pb&j, except with better bread. When our order arrived, I am pleased to report that I was absolutely correct in my assumption, but I will say that for a pb&j, it was pretty delicious. And that’s coming from someone who hates pb&j.

The $8 PB&J

How it All Began

I wish I could say that I remember all this vividly, like the nightmare I had as a two year old where our orange cat jumped from the top shelf of my closet and suddenly turned into a lion, trying to pounce onto me in my crib. But I don’t, so this is more or less a story from my mother rather than me.


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Experience Number One
When I was three years old, I watched a lot of “Sesame Street.” This was before it turned all crazy, with new characters and the Elmo’s World segment; when Bob and Maria lived there and the letter U attacked Smokey Robinson. And right after “Sesame Street” ended, our public broadcasting system channel immediately followed it with a Cajun cooking show. I don’t know who the chef was (not Emeril) or whether it was a national show or local, but I do know that I watched it religiously. And lest you think I was one of those kids who would just plop down in front of the TV and watch till my parents yanked me away, apparently I was not. (Incidentally I wish this were still the case, but there are these rare occasions when I find myself watching “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” and I just don’t know how it happened). My parents never stepped in and stopped me; instead they let me sit there, contented, watching thirty glorious minutes of non-stop food action.


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Experience Number Two
This one I do remember because I was eleven and thankfully I have my wits about me and can recall events that occurred sixteen years ago.  My mom and I were in Salt Lake City, having spent one night in a truly hideous hotel, and had been whisked away by a very nice taxi driver who told us to stay at the Inn at Temple Square (no longer in existence). The exact details of the evening are fuzzy, but I think the general layout was as follows: bathtime, room service (how I came to love room service is a whole other story in and of itself), and a show. And perhaps dinner was going to happen after that. We love to eat, what can I say.

So I took one look at the children’s menu options and found myself rather displeased with the generic grilled cheese sandwich/chicken tenders options. I was a grown up, after all, and grown ups don’t eat grilled cheese sandwiches made with plastic cheese. I asked Mom if I could stray and look over the regular menu, and she acquiesced, with the understanding that I not go overboard and order, say, the New York strip. I perused the entire menu thoroughly and decided I would be ordering the fettucine with sundried tomatoes and artichoke hearts in a parmesan cream sauce. Well, my mother was shocked because at that point, eleven year olds weren’t going out of their way to eat sundried tomatoes and certainly not artichoke hearts. (I know, I know, kids these days have far more refined palates so your kids have been eating those ingredients since they were two. It was the 90’s, people.)

It didn’t really matter that I’d never had either sundried tomatoes or artichoke hearts. I decided right then and there that I needed to add them to my repertoire and I’ve generally lived with a “no better time than the present” sort of mentality. It was that evening that I discovered I wasn’t particularly crazy about sundried tomatoes, how their sharp flavor made the back of my mouth, around my molars, ignite (you know what I’m talking about), but I forged a deep and abiding relationship with artichoke hearts — how tangy and tender and flavorful they are.


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Experience Number Three
When I turned perhaps twelve, I upgraded from the Kid Cuisine frozen TV dinner to the Hungry Man. It was a substantial enough life event that I wrote about it in my journal. True story.

How it’s Made: Breakfast Pockets

First, a short sketch by Jim Gaffigan:

(video courtesy of

If you’ve never actually had a Hot Pocket, you shouldn’t run out and buy one to see what it’s like and why it is the rest of America finds this sketch so funny. Just trust me when I say the Hot Pocket is as dreadful as Gaffigan says, except it’s not hilarious while you’re eating it. I’ll admit that I went through an extremely brief period in my life when I would (gasp!) buy Hot Pockets — in fact, I went so far as to purchase the Lean Pockets — but I ceased and desisted after perhaps two boxes worth (I know, I know, I should’ve learned my lesson after one).

All that being said, I like the Hot Pocket in principle, mostly because of it’s portability. I love me some portable food (not because I’m a woman on the go…in fact I’m pretty lazy. But sometimes you just need to carry your meal around with you just…because.) Awhile back I was Pinteresting away and found a recipe for chicken pockets made with refrigerated crescent roll dough and realized, in a flash of brilliance, that I could absolutely make breakfast pockets using the same idea. And so I did.

The thing I love about putting pre-cooked foods together and then heating them up is that there are absolutely no rules. You can choose any concoction you’d like, so don’t feel as though you have to follow the recipe to a T. Do you prefer sausage over bacon? (shame on you.) Do you have an affinity for non-cheddar cheese? Do you want to add veggies? Go for it! In fact I don’t even have exact measurements — I kind of guesstimated when it came to how much I thought might fit into the crescent rolls (I was kind of incorrect, so the recipe following has been amended). I also made the ridiculous decision to tear my bacon slices into quarters and lay them in the roll dough, topping them with the eggs and cheese. Incorporate your bacon, people. Incorporate it.

1 package refrigerated crescent roll dough (I really recommend going the name brand route)
4 large eggs, scrambled
1/2 cup cheese, shredded
8 slices of bacon, crumbled

Preheat the oven to 350. Separate the crescent rolls and roll each out, very slightly. If you roll them out too thinly, then you will end up with holes, but keeping them “as is” means less space to cram all the good stuff in. Portion out the scrambled eggs, placing a small amount in the middle of each crescent roll. Top them with the crumbled bacon and shredded cheese. Pull the two smaller corners up over the egg mixture, then roll the longer corner around the top, pinching together any openings that still exist. Bake them for 11-13 minutes, or till the tops are golden brown, and let them cool for a couple minutes before devouring them like a wildebeest.

Bad Tastes

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When I was a little girl, my Nana and Grandpa would take me camping in Eastern Oregon. This isn’t really about the camping, set up in an RV, making mud soup during the day and listening to Grandpa’s enormous snores fill the small space at night. This isn’t really about the time I had to crawl through a tiny RV kitchen window, to unlock the door so Dave (who called me Mayyyyy-REE! in a loud, enthusiastic voice) and his wife could get inside. Or when I chronicled, on a small cassette recorder, my first time pooping in the mountains (much to my Nana’s chagrin). This is about cold Spaghettios.

I’m not sure why I enjoyed Spaghettios in the first place and I really question Nana’s appreciation for them because they’re not what you’d consider adult food. Really, when you think about it, they are small, round pastas in condensed tomato soup. But they were our food and we ate them every time we went to Catherine Creek. And we ate them cold. I know what you’re thinking right now — ‘I shouldn’t listen to a single word this crazy Asian woman is spouting out about food because she clearly doesn’t know anything about it.’ I get it, I really do. If someone told me she used to eat cold Spaghettios straight out of the can, I’d question more than her palate — I’d wonder if she were actually a good human being and whether she made equally stupid decisions in other aspects of her life.

But for whatever reason, this was a camping meal and it was magnificent.

There are other foods I used to eat that I thought were really wonderful and, I’m sorry to say, were not.

Baby food meat sticks

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Yeah. I used to eat these when I was not infantile. I don’t know why and it’s kind of embarrassing.

Maruchan Ramen for breakfast

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 Every morning during my sixth grade year I’d go to school with ramen breath.

Bananas dipped in sugar

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This was actually a perfectly normal snack in my family, but the first time I did it in front of a friend, she was shocked that I was dipping an already sweet piece of fruit into granulated sugar. I realized maybe it was only normal for us.

Much like the heart, the stomach wants what the stomach wants. Amidst all the wonderful foods I was discovering, these somehow slipped through the cracks. Clearly the baby food meat sticks are the most appalling and I think I can kind of explain my way out of the ramen for breakfast/bananas in sugar situations. I’m sure there will be other equally bizarre concoctions that will make their way past my teeth and into my stomach and I’ll eat them and love them and not care what other people think.  I believe we all have within ourselves the ability to have really horrible tastes and that’s an okay thing.

The Best Thing I Ever Ate: Full Meal

[Disclaimer: I realize I haven’t blogged for *coughs* a week now, but I have good reason (see also: stomach flu with the hubs). I didn’t really want to lead into the best meal I’ve ever had with that anecdote, but just like Lucy Ricardo, I had some ‘splainin to do. So with that out of the way…]

“One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.” – Luciano Pavarotti and William Wright

I’ll admit that I eat out very regularly; before I got married and joined bank accounts with my husband, I probably ate more meals prepared by someone else who was paid to do so than I actually made myself. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy cooking or baking, but I really hate cleaning. Anything. (I am still an awesome wife, nonetheless…plus Husband does the dishes so it all works out beautifully. He needs food to survive and I need someone to clean up after me — it’s a symbiotic relationship.) And in all the years that I have been eating out; all the soups and salads, the appetizers, main courses, pastas, lean proteins, fatty meats, and desserts I’ve had, there is literally just one meal that really sticks out to me, and it is The Meal to beat.

My mother and I were meeting some friends in downtown PDX for dinner before “Wicked,” so it stood to reason that we needed an equally impressive meal. We decided upon Carafe, a small French bistro that has probably the most prime location any restaurant could; directly across the street from the Keller Auditorium (where Broadway touring companies visit, concerts are held, etc.) I hadn’t eaten French food before (or if I had, it was watered down Americanized French food), so I wasn’t entirely positive what to expect. I wasn’t even sure I’d enjoy it. But my mother had been previously and said the food was delicious, so I knew there would be something on that menu that I would like.


used with permission

The Meal

Moules a la Creme – pacific mussels, shallots, thyme, white wine, creme fraiche

The special of the evening: roasted duck in a blood orange reduction, served atop butternut squash

A seasonal fruit and cheese plate


used with permission

For whatever reason, I love mussels and clams but cannot tolerate oysters under any circumstances. It’s a texture thing; mussels are meatier, chewier, where oysters are a little slimy and slithery. I just can’t get behind them. When I took the first bite of the mussels in that creme fraiche sauce, with a little bit of soft shallot, I couldn’t believe food could taste so delicious and have been hiding from me for so long. I think it’s safe to say that I ate the majority of the appetizer, unabashedly, wishing it was socially acceptable for me to lap up the remaining sauce. You know how I feel about sauce. There are some people who pooh-pooh the appetizer, arguing that it’s just unnecessary, additional food that fills you up before you get your entree. To those people, I simply say: you’re doing it wrong, then.

I should interject at this point that my mother is a moral eater. By that I mean she doesn’t eat foods like foie gras or shark fin or veal that are more torturous to the animal than delicious to the eater, and for whatever reason, ducks fall into that category. But I am a rebel, with little cause, and ordered the roasted duck, knowing full well I’d hear about it for the remainder of the evening. I don’t eat a lot of duck; partially because it makes me feel so terrible (emotionally, not physically) but also because to me it’s a special type of meal. I eat it when I’m in the mood for something fancy. If you haven’t eaten duck and don’t have any moral opposition, I highly recommend it. Imagine, if you will, chicken that only has the delicious aspects (flavor, tenderness) and none of the downers (potentially dryness). Duck is chicken, elevated. Literally — I mean, they can fly, after all. I digress. The skin was crispy, which is an absolute necessity if you’re going to be serving poultry, skin on, and the meat inside was rich and flavorful and so tender that it melted in my mouth. The squash was roasted, a little sweet, and soft in the middle, and the reduction was tart and refreshing.

This was the sort of meal that you close with a sophisticated dessert, so I opted for the fruit and cheese platter, forgetting momentarily that it was wintertime in the Pacific NW. I will say, however, that it was some of the best dried fruit I’ve ever eaten in my life (no, really), soft and moist and sweet without being cloying, and the cheeses my server selected (I told him to surprise me) were perfection. Sharp and a little salty, warm and inviting; and everything was accompanied by these delicious walnut toasts that were so crunchy and perfect that sometimes I think about going back and asking for a plate full of them.

I don’t know when I will ever eat another meal like it, and rather than feel disappointed, I hold within me an anticipation of great things to come.