Saturday, November 22, 2008

Wine Pairing Dinner

My group of friends here in Las Vegas do a weekly dinner/game night. A different person hosts every week, and everyone brings a dish or wine. This week was Leigh's birthday, and her birthday wish was for us to do an actual wine pairing dinner, where each course was paired with an appropriate bottle of wine. It was my turn to host, the first time at my new place, and I was thrilled at the night's theme.

The menu:
- Goat cheese Camembert and baked brie with a Pinot Noir (and a Petit Sirah while we waited for the next course)
- Grilled salmon on a bed of sautéed spinach and mushrooms with a Grenache Blanc
- Salad tossed with tomatoes, artichokes, avocados, and goat cheese topped with roasted duck with a Chateauneuf du Pape
- Cider-glazed lamb chops served on mashed potatoes with a Zin
- White chocolate cake (compliments of Sam) with an orange Muscat

I had so much fun cooking, well, helping Brad in the kitchen. The food was delicious, which was Brad's doing, and the wines went perfectly with each dish. We never got around to playing a game because we were having such good conversation, and before we knew it, it was 1am. Leigh, Brian, and Sam turned it in to a sleepover, and in the morning Sam made a soothing cinnamon bread custard.
Brad discovered that the dogs love roasted duck:
Bo was still hungry after her duck and was eyeing the lamb ribs:

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Athens, Part VI

They say that Athens can be done in a day or two, and that is the truth. By the fourth day in town, we had nearly run out of things to do. Lauren and I wanted to take a day trip to ruins on the coast, but we thought it wouldn't be wise to venture so far from town when we had an early flight the next morning. Instead, the RTI-HS group saw the Temple of Zeus and took the tram to the coastal town of Glyfada (not worth the trip).

The Temple of Zeus with our hotel in the background

That night we all enjoyed one last meal in Athens at Stofi, which had the perfect view of the Acropolis

Monday, November 10, 2008

Athens, Part V

After a late night, Lauren and I had a quiet Monday strolling through Athens, seeing the Olympic Stadium, the Presidential Palace, and the National Gardens.

In front of the Olympic Stadium

Guard at the Presidential Palace

National Gardens

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Athens, Part IV

Sunday began with me sleeping through my alarm and nearly missing the short course I came to teach. Lauren and I made it on time, and the course was a hit, though we only got through half of the material. I do enjoy teaching when there is no grading involved.

That afternoon, Brett and I walked up Filopappos Hill, which had the best view in the city.

With the Parthenon and Lykavittos Hill in the background

View looking west towards the Saronic Gulf

View of Athens looking northwest

The Acropolis

The Saronic Gulf

Pathway coming down from Filopappos Hill

That night Brett, Lauren, and I went to dinner with a client. Afterwards, we went dancing in Anafiotika.

On the way home, Lauren made friends with the sweetest dog in Athens.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Athens, Part III

The RTI-HS group walked up the Acropolis, around the Agora, and into the business district on our first full day in Athens. November is the off-season in Athens, so the crowds were "light," but if there are this many tourists crowding the Acropolis in the off-season, I can't imagine visiting in the summer.

Arches at the base of the Acropolis

Herodes Atticus Theatre at the Acropolis

With the Erechtheion in the background

The Caryatids on the Erechtheion (one of my dreams in life was to see these in person)

Columns on the Erechtheion

In front of the Parthenon

Columns on the Stoa of Attalos in the Agora (I have a thing for columns)

After lunch, I met a client at the rooftop bar at the Hotel Grand Bretagne, which has a great view (here, the Olympic stadium)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Athens, Part II

After a nap this afternoon, the five RTI-HSers staying at the Athens Gate hotel met up at the rooftop bar to decide on dinner. We walked to Plaka, which is right next to the hotel and has pedestrian streets lined with sidewalk cafes. We picked the restaurant with the largest menu, and we tried some different appetizers - stuffed cabbage, fried eggplant, olives, and octopus. I had a Greek salad and, for the main course, pork souvlaki with french fries. The pork did not impress me (it was rather dry, but I tend to find pork dry in general), but the appetizers were fantastic and I look forward to trying new ones at our next meal.

View of the Temple of Zeus from my room at night:

View of the Acropolis from the hotel rooftop bar:

Hadrian's Arch leading to the Temple of Zeus:

Pedestrian street in Plaka, where we had dinner:

There are stray dogs and cats everywhere. It is a good thing that my luggage is a tight fit, or I would be bringing some home!

Athens, Part I

I am in Athens, Greece for five days to teach a workshop at the International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research. I flew to RTP on Tuesday to spend Wednesday and half of Thursday in RTI's office visiting coworkers. On Thursday, Lauren and I flew out of RDU around 2:30pm with Keith from another group. Lauren and I were wise packers and fit all of our things into carry-on bags. But, we were one of the last to board the plane, and there was no more overhead room. The US Airways rep insisted that our gate-checked baggage had to be checked all the way through to Athens, which we protested because our connection in Munich was only 30 minutes and we were afraid that our luggage wouldn't make it to Athens at the same time as us (which could be a disaster because nearly all of our things were in these suitcases). Fortunately, Lauren had a calm mind and negotiated with the stewardess to let us pick them up in Charlotte.

We had a short flight to Charlotte, where we met up with Sean from Keith's group. From Charlotte, we got on a huge Lufthansa plane to Munich. I have never flown this airline before, but I will definitely seek them out in the future. The flight attendants were extremely nice, and I felt like they were more like severs at an upscale restaurant. We had two good meals, and they came around with wine refills and cognac for after dinner. Each seat had a touch-screen TV in the headrest where you could select movies, TV shows, and music. I watched an episode of House. Then I turned on my iPod and fell asleep to my own music. I don't know how long I slept, but we were over Canada when I fell asleep, and we were over England when I woke up, so it was a majority of the flight.

The flight to Munich was about 8 hours, and when we arrived we had a mad dash through customs, security, and to our gate. Right after we got through security, we heard them calling our names over the intercom saying that the flight was going to leave. So we started sprinting. Of course, because I'm the clumsiest person alive, I hit a wet spot on the floor and both feet flew out from under me and I landed on my butt in the middle of the airport. We all had a good laugh at my expense while we were boarding the flight. The flight from Munich to Athens was about 2 hours, and they even served us a light meal on that flight. The European airlines obviously haven't done away with all of the services like the US airlines.

We arrived in Athens at about 1pm local time (10 hours ahead of the west coast) after over 15 hours of travel. Keith and Sean were happy that their luggage did make it through the quick connection in Munich. They waited at the airport for another colleague, while Lauren and I grabbed a cab to town. The cab ride was a long one, and we had to go straight through town and traffic. We were thrilled at the location of the hotel - it's right next to the Acropolis and overlooks the Temple of Zeus. An amazing view! The room is simple but very comfortable, though the fact that the internet connection is per minute rather than a flat 24-hour rate is going to make working a little challenging. Oh well, I guess that's a good excuse to go sightseeing!

View of the Alps from the plane:
View of the Temple of Zeus from the hotel room: