Friday, August 29, 2008

Sometimes it's just not worth it to cook

Some nights you just cannot bring yourself to cook.
Tonight was one of those nights.

I met MF at his place in the LBC and we decided to go out to dinner.

We have gotten into a bit of a restaurant rut. Not just in the South Bay, but over the bridge in Long Beach, too.

Which is a shame since there are so many great places in both areas.

We decided to skip our usual places, which include the Yardhouse, the Pike and Gallagher's Pub and go for some tapas at Sevilla on Pine Street in downtown Long Beach.

I have driven by dozens of times and had friends recommend the place.
But Pine Street can be a zoo on weekends and even later in the evening on Thursdays.

This night I finished work a little early since I had gone in early. So it was a great time to try Sevilla.

It was warm out, with just a perfect breeze so we decided to sit outside on the patio.

Our waiter brought us a little dish of briny, spicy olives and explained the menu to us.

There were a series of tapas, which he said were a good size for two people to sample.
He said the tapitas on the other list were smaller, more bite-size.

They also had brochetas, or skewers, that included shrimp, beef, chicken and lamb.

A selection of sampler plates looked interesting.

They also had some entrees, but we opted to do a grazing sort of dinner and get a selection of things from the tapas and tapitas lists.

First order, drinks: sangria royale for me and the signature mojito for MF.

For our grazing menu MF was brave and, after a little discussion, left the ordering up to me.

I chose:

French bread with homemade aioli and Andalusian tomato sauce - This was a nice loaf of crusty bread, about eight thick slices; the tomato sauce was tangy and sweet; the aioli is basically a super garlicky mayo type dip.

Tortilla Espanola - This is not a tortilla like what you use to make a burrito or a taco. This is similar to a frittata, but with more potato. Since this was from the tapitas list, I was thinking it might be small, but the portion would have been plenty for me to have as a breakfast. It was thinly sliced potato held together with egg and cheese.
MF said this may have been his favorite dish.
It was so simple, but so very tasty. It came warm, not hot with a little portion of marinated mushrooms.

Crabcakes with a blood orange sauce - I liked that they served these cakes with the sauce on the side. Some places drown a crab cake in sauce to the point that you don't taste the crab.
These were thick with crab meat, but still had a light, airy mouth feel.
The flavor of the cake was nice and clean and the sauce, which was just a touch on the sweet side was an excellent choice.

Steamed black mussels in a lobster & seafood cream sauce with saffron - Yeah, this was my favorite. I have come to prefer the smaller black mussels over the big green lip mussels. They seem to be more tender and have a less gritty texture to them.
The sauce was like a super-rich almost bisque-type concoction. Like bisque but thicker and richer. The bread was a good dipper for this once the mussels were gone.

Cold marinated tapas sampler - This came with artichoke hearts with ham; piquillo peppers with oil and garlic; mushrooms in balsamic; and spicy octopus. This all was excellent. The octopus may have been my favorite on here because the flavor was so good and the preperation was spot on. It had a chewiness that I expect from octopus, but it was not like chewing on a rubber band.
Really though, every thing on this sampler was worth getting again.

There were a good number of items on the tapas and tapitas menus that were listed as vegetarian so it is a good choice for non-carnivores, too.
They had a few mojito options and a few sangria choices, including a white sangria. I may have to try that next time we go.

And yeah, there definitely will be a next time.

I have my eye on some meatballs in a garlic and sherry sauce.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

My domestic side

I spent most of yesterday cleaning house and doing laundry.
It was planned.
But I also wanted to make sure to reserve enough time and energy to make a real dinner.

I felt very domestic and peaceful in my house yesterday.
I felt like I needed to cook. I was craving my kitchen.

Even though it was hot here I wanted a certain kind of dinner.
I mean, I love to grill. But I just wanted something different. Something I really had to cook.
I wanted something that required a little more skill than throwing something on the barbecue.
So I made a real dinner.

I experimented with a veggie dish. It was good. But I think this dinner would be better with a simple veggie on the side. I would suggest steamed asparagus or broccoli. Something green and fresh.

If I make the veggie dish again and have success and a better pairing for it, I will post that.
Basically it was carrots and zucchini in a light tarragon cream sauce.
Like I said, it was good. But the chicken is quite rich. A simpler veggie would be a better complement.
All in all, a good day. I even got the kitchen back in order after all that cooking.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Logged SCUBA dive #12 - Gear check out at Redondo Beach

Date - Aug. 24, 2008
Location: Veteran's Park - Redondo Beach, Calif.
Dove with: my manfriend
In With: 2600 psi
Out With: 800 psi
Max depth: 72 feet
Waves: A little surge, but manageable
Visibility: excellent
Water Temperature: 55 at depth, 60 at the surface
Total Bottom Time: About 40 minutes

In an homage to Psycho Solo Diver, I am borrowing his format for posting about dives.
Get all the details up top in a clear, concise way then add color below that.

So... Sorry, no camera this time...

We got a later start than we normally would have liked, but the manfriend had to take his dad to LAX and I had some dive-related errands in the morning. So it worked out fine.

My errands included going to get my tank filled and picking up the gear I had in the shop for inspection and any repairs.

I had taken MF's regulator in because the last time we went diving together, way back in July, it was free-flowing air. Never a good thing.

I also had purchased a used BCD and regulator off of eBay from two different sellers.
They looked to be in good shape, but I wanted to get them checked out and cleaned up.
Plus the regulator only had the primary air source, so I had them add the octopus or secondary air source that would be used in case my buddy ran out of air.

So they got that all done and things looked good to go.

I also needed weights and was thinking about renting. But in the end, I just bit the bullet and bought the weights. I got soft weight pouches that will fit in the pockets of the BCD.

When I bought the BCD I specifically got one that had pockets built in for the weights. This seemed like a much better option than the weight belt. I found the weight belt to be very uncomfortable.

Anyway, errands and chores done, we packed up our gear and headed to the beach.

It was sunny at my house, but still a little windy and overcast at Vet's Park. From the parking lot we checked out the water.

There was a little chop close to shore, but the swells were not too big. We decided to gear up and go for it.

It looked a bit choppier once we got to the water's edge. But the waves at the shore were only calf-high, so in we went.

There we no problems at all with the entry.

We got in and got our fins on then started an easy swim out for a bit. There was a line of swimmers, one after the other going parallel to the shore. We stopped there, planning on descending instead of trying to get by them and getting tangled up.

At this point I was having a little trouble with my reg. It was hard to breath off of it and then at one point the valve got stuck open and the air free-flowed out of it.

I got the air to stop and then used the new octopus - secondary air source - to breathe off of.

Once we felt comfortable with the gear, we descended and dropped to the bottom at about 15 feet down.

Swimming due West for a while we saw several flounders and starfish as well as a few little crabs. The visibility was really good, but we pretty much just saw sand.

At one point we stopped and I switched over to the primary regulator. It seemed like it was breathing OK now, so I stuck with it.

We continued West toward the shelf. We hit a slight thermocline and its blast of cold water at about 30 feet. The plan had been to swim along the edge of the shelf until I was down to 1000 psi of air, but I had 1600 left at that point, so we decided to start at least partially down the shelf.

I had not gone over the shelf before and it really does drop off fairly quickly. In no time we were at 60 feet then 70 feet... We hit a really cold thermocline at about 70 feet. After a few minutes of this I was closer to that 1000 psi and my fingers were pretty cold.

So we decided to swim back toward shore.

When we got to about 25 feet we surfaced. Those swimmers were still going back and forth. Or maybe it was different swimmers. Either way, we dropped again to swim under them.

We surfaced again at about 10 feet and swam in until we could stand up and get the fins off.
Nick's regulator was bubbling a lot. Not a full free flow, but bubbling constantly. It had been fine during the dive and now it was free flowing. Since we were at a point where we could stand, it was not a big deal. We proceeded with the exit.

The exit worries me more than anything else.
I just really do not want to fall.

And there were a lot of people on the beach watching us exit. I'm sure it must look odd to some people just there to sit on the sand and watch the kids play in the surf line and build sand castles.
There people, covered from head to toe, come staggering out of the water.

Don't fall... don't fall...

I had fallen on my very first dive here during check outs.
The sand forms a little ridge somewhere in the surf line and if you hit it wrong, down you go.
And getting up with the tank and the weights and the gear is not easy.
So it is best not to fall at all.

I am getting better at the exit. On my second checkout dive I stumbled but stayed on my feet.

The last time I dove with MF, I was better again.

This time was perfect. We both did great, striding out in badass fashion.

Of course this means next time I will fall.

Back at the car we got all the gear off and decided to go back to the dive shop to get MF's regulator tweaked again to fix the free flow and to get our tanks refilled so we don't have to deal with that next time.

While the reg was being fixed we had some lunch.

All in all a very good check out dive.

The plan now is to do a couple more dives at Redondo and then move on to Malaga Cove which has a slightly trickier entry and a longer trek from the car with all the gear. But there is a reef there, so more to see.

After that, we shall see where we go next.

Oh yeah, and from now on... camera. I hate posting this long with no pictures.