Archive for the 'Travel' Category

Random Notes from WWDC

Tuesday, June 12th, 2007

Just some random notes…

I’m staying at the Hotel Adante. Good bandwidth and a nice walk to Moscone. Bandwidth is not via wireless, though, as each room has an ethernet port and they have free ethernet cables at the front desk. Airport Express is quite useful for sharing that connection..This is actually the second time I stayed here for WWDC, the first being my first year as an Apple employee in 2003.

Interesting neighborhood. Once block in the wrong direction and it can be a bit dodgy. One block the other way and it is incredibly pricy. Some amazing food in the area, though.

Speaking of, I ate dinner at Bordobudur this evening. Excellent fresh authentic indonesian cuisine for a very reasonable price. Had delicious grilled salmon with bean sprouts. Highly reccomend the place.

Had a fairly amusing encounter on the way to Moscone this morning. Ran into a dude begging for money near the conference center:

beggar dude: Spare some change?

Me: Don’t have any.

bd: Would your answer change if I asked you in Objective-C?

Me: If I had change, it would…

That had my laughing out loud, but for reasons beyond the obvious contextual humor. Shortly after WWDC last year, I took on the role of engineering manager of the Objective-C team (which explains the relative quiet around these parts over the last 10 months or so).

So, yeah, that was pretty damned funny. If I see the dude again, I’ll definitely give him some change.

I did find him again. Gave him a buck and had a pretty funny conversation about the whole thing.

Tequila Tour Day 3: Arandas — Tequila Espolon

Tuesday, January 30th, 2007
Group Shot At Tequila Espolon

Start of day 3… brushing teeth with Tequila again. Mmm… Pura Sangre Blanco. I really need toothpaste. After rolling out of bed, grabbing breakfast and checking out of the hotel, we strapped all of our stuff to the van and headed to Tequila Espolon. Good-bye to the Hotel Santa Barbera — if you ever go to Arandas, it is an awesome place to stay.

Tequila Espolon is located on the outskirts of the town of Arandas in the middle of huge fields of Agave, mostly their own. Espolon is a delicious highlands tequila, with the aged product carrying through hints of mocha/caramel and an excellent spice. Excellent, solid product. Beautiful bottles, too, with embossed metalized labels.

Definitely a worthy addition to any bar.

Read on for a photo tour of Espolon’s tequila making process…
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Mexico: Casa Herradura Guacamole & Pork Rinds

Wednesday, January 24th, 2007
Guacomole with Pork Rinds

I have decided to break up the daily Mexico trip posts with a few short posts of particular standout events, photos, discoveries, or — in this case — foods.

This mind blowing dish was served to us by the fine folks at Tequila Herradura. It is freshly made Guacamole with Chile Peppers topped by freshly cooked Pork Rinds.

Yes. Pork rinds as a carrier for the best Guac I have ever had.

Delicious. Best served with excellent Tequila, of course.

Tequila Tour Day 2 (Cont): Arandas — Tapatio / El Tesoro de Don Felipe

Saturday, January 20th, 2007
Tapatio / El Tesoro Offices & Store

From Cazadores, it was back to Tapatio / El Tesoro de Don Felipe for a tour of the facilities. El Tesoro is the export label for what is known as Tapatio in Mexico. Sort of — there are other differences mainly due to the legal requirements of exporting into the American market versus the tastes of the Mexican market. El Tesoro is available in Mexico, but with the old school labels.

Washing of Bottles at El Tesoro / Tapatio

El Tesoro de Don Felipe’s products are all delicious, crafted with great care. Unlike just about every other Tequila distiller, El Tesoro products are distilled down to the target ABV. For others, the cask ABV is typically higher than the bottle ABV and de-mineralized water is added upon de-casking, right before bottling.

We visited the bottling line at El Tesoro while the team was bottling the very delicious El Tesoro Anejo. It was mesmerizing to watch. Here is a group of people from teenagers to one of the patriach’s family all working together as a team — as an extended family — to ensure that the right amount of an excellent product was placed in every bottle.

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Tequila Tour Day 2: Arandas — Tequila Don Nacho, Tapatio, Cazadores

Saturday, January 20th, 2007

I woke up today to discover that I didn’t have any toothpaste. That was OK — I just brushed my teeth with Puro Sangre Blanco. Works fairly well and leaves your gums feeling all clean and tingly.

Tequila Don Nacho

Once we herded the cats into the van, we headed to Tequila Don Nacho for a tour and tasting. Tequila Dan Nacho is a small to medium sized distillery that mixes traditional brick ovens with more modern stainless steel double distillation processing. It is actually a very young distillery that is owned by Ignacio Hernandez Gutierrez, known as Don Nacho. While the distillery is young, the family has been growing Agave for many decades and their Agave has an excellent reputation for consistently high quality.

The holidays are the busiest time of the year in the tequila industry. As such, many distilleries shut down for a period of time in October / early November or they will shut down in January. During this time of rest, repairs and upgrades are made.

There is a significant amount of infrastructure associated with a distillery. Beyond the fermentation tanks and stills, you have ovens or autoclaves for roasting, a masher or extractor for pulling the sugars off the roasted agave, and a water processing and heating plant to drive it all. As steam is used in many parts of the tequila making process, distilleries typically have a steam plant and water conditioning plant on site.

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Tequila Obtained!

Saturday, January 20th, 2007
Tequila Brought Back From Mexico

I’m back from a tour of nine tequila distilleries in Mexico. I have a boatload of pictures and notes, much of which I’ll post over the coming days.

Pictured above is the tequila and tequila related products that I brought back. From right to left:

  • Empty oak barrel with a generic label and a heavy char on the inside. Will be used for aging my own tequila.
  • Bottle of Arette Reposado with Arette shot glasses and lime/salt holder.
  • Bottle of Rey Sol. Absolutely amazing aged tequila. Sublimely delicious.
  • Two bottles of Herradura Antiguo Reposado. Perhaps the best lowland reposado made.
  • Two bottles of Tapatio Anejo. This is El Tesoro’s mexican-only product. Great anejo.
  • A bottle of a Tapatio / El Tesoro product that has not been named, does not have a product specific label, and isn’t on the market yet. Amazing product– we had the honor of tasting it with Carlos and Lilianna .
  • A 1994 bottle of Pura Sangre Anejo that we found in a liquor store in Guadalajara. Got it cheap.
  • An Arette flask full of Arette Anejo.
  • A sampler pack of Partida Blanco, Reposado, and Anejo.
  • A personalized barrel like the other within which I will be aging Tequila.

Next time, I’ll take a larger set of luggage. I passed up a lot of good deals.

Nope — didn’t pay duty. I took the recommended approach of declaring everything quite honestly, targeting around 4 liters of tequila per bag, and being polite on the way through customs. Didn’t look twice at the amount of tequila and were far more interested in my barrels (though not even that was terribly interesting).

The import duties are really aimed at busting people carrying stuff through for distribution. Someone bringing back a couple of gifts and a handful of obviously different stuff to add to a collection isn’t the targeted group.

Ugh. I brought home more than Tequila. Feels like a rabid weasel is trying to crawl through my stomach. I’m having an Alien moment today. Ouch. Now I have a 100.5 fever. Bath time — and you know I’m sick when I sit in the tub for a while.

Tequila Tour Day 1: Traveling to Guadalajara

Tuesday, January 16th, 2007

About 10 days before Sunday, January 14, 2007, Julio Bermejo came down to Apple to have lunch and pick up an iPod; nothing out of the ordinary about that. While visiting, he invited me to go on a Tequila tour of Jalisco, Mexico with a small group of Tequila masters and enthusiasts. This is truly an honor as as Julio is neither a tour guide, nor are the trips something that can be asked for. Julio invites only those people that he thinks will appreciate an intimate education in the making and history of Tequila and who will ask the kinds of intelligent questions at the distilleries.

I am really quite deeply pleased that Julio felt I was the right kind of person to go on this trip! I know I’m going to learn a ton and I have a slew of questions related to the farming and genetics of Agave that should be appropriate. Hopefully, I’ll even get to do some field work!

Awesome. Even more amazing was that I was able to take the time off and find reasonably priced tickets with such short notice. I am normally a light traveler, but not this time. I tossed clothes into two suitcases with a goal of packing them with tequila bottles wrapped in clothes for the return trip.

The rest of the crew arrived in Guadalajara on Sunday morning, fresh off a red-eye out of Oaklnad. I flew out of San Jose and arrived at about 1:30pm. Oddly, this was the second flight in a row that involved an in flight “medical incident”. A woman sat next to me mid-flight who was clearly in some pain and a bit agitated. She was incapable of dealing with the exit row requirements and was moved back shortly before landing. We hit a patch of turbulence about 40 minutes before landing and she immediately required oxygen. Upon landing, the rest of us were “expedited” out of the plane (onto the middle of the tarmac sort of near the airport) so the emergency crew could carry her out. Whee.

Julio’s driver, Estabon, picked me up and I met the crew in Tlaquepaque for, what else, some Tequila and a bit of shopping.

Picked up my first bottle of Tequila, too. A dusty bottle of 1994 Puro Sangre Anejo 3 year. (Out of stock from that site. List price of $199?!?!?! I got it for a little under $70.)

Liquor Store in Guadalajara

From Tlaquepaque, we headed to a restaurant called Karne Garibaldi. They have exactly one item on the menu — meat in broth — and you can have either the small, medium, or large plate. It was served with beans, salsa, hot peppers, avocado, grilled onions, and fresh tortillas. Karne Garibaldi is also in the Guiness Book of World Records for fastest service time. It took 45 seconds from order to having an awesome plate of food in front of us.

We then hit an awesome– the largest, I think– liquor store in Guadalajara (La Playa liquor store at Avenida Mexico), pictured at left, before hopping in the bus and heading to Arandas. After checking in to the Hotel Santa Barbera, we piled back into the van and headed to the last night of the town’s annual fair.

What a blast. It was like the state fairs I went to as a kid. Only with much better food and without the sterilization through rules that we find so often in the US these days.

Meat Pit at Arandas Fair

We boat a bunch of random grilled meat products from what I named the Meat Pit of Doom. It was a large brick walled pit with several good sized logs burning in the middle. Around the outside were long iron rods onto which big chunks of meat were skewered.

We had a couple of kinds of sausage, rabbit, and — of course! — pork.

After dinner, we wandered around a bit. Ben headed off to find the cock fights. He did, but he said that it was rather disappointing. The two roosters preferred to mostly sit around and try to ignore each other.

Bumper Cars
Bumper Car Self Portrait

Some of us wandered off to the bumper cars. What a blast! Notice that there are no railings around the bumper car “arena” which resulted in a fair bit of chaos before, after and sometimes during a run. I took a boatload of pictures while driving, hoping some would turn out. Beyond the fact that an oversized, very blond, laughing American had come to their central Mexico town, that I also had a camera and was taking pictures while driving a bumper car provided quite a bit of entertainment for the locals. Which, of course, made me a target for all cars. Excellent.

As I discovered last time, central Mexico and the people of Arandas, in particular, is a wonderful place. The people are friendly, sharing information and culture freely. The food is excellent, focused on fresh with simple recipes designed to accentuate the qualities of the ingredients.

Then, back to the hotel to get a few hours of sleep before visiting three distilleries on Monday.

Arandas: Tequila Centinela Distillery Tour (Or: How to Make Really Good Tequila!)

Saturday, October 21st, 2006
Christine Visits Centinela Distillery -- Makers of incredibly tasty tequila.

On Friday (Oct 13, 2006) afternoon (after flying all night and 4.5L of tequila’s worth of bus ride to the hotel), we headed to Tequila Centinela for a tour of the distillery.

If you are in need of a good Tequila, you cannot go wrong with any Centinela product. They are all rock solid product that can be enjoyed as a sipping tequila or in a well made margarita (no mixes). Seriously good stuff. If you can find it, the three year añejo is an absolutely delicious sipping tequila that can usually be had for around $80/bottle. Rarer still is the seven year añejo. Right at the edge of useful aging span for a tequila and an absolutely sublime product.

Bbum Visits Centinela Distillery -- Makers of incredibly tasty tequila.

At left is Christine standing below the main tank/sign of the distillery. Of course, there is a photo of me in the same spot.

We then got a full tour of the operation and then partook of a rather awesome seemingly impromptu party in their parking lot.

The full story contains all of the details.

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Congratulations to Lily & Julio (and a HUGE Thank You!)

Wednesday, October 18th, 2006

Christine and I took a rather amazing trip over last weekend. We were honored to be invited to Lily & Julio’s wedding in Arandas, Jalisco, Mexico.

Lily & Julio Arrive!

First: Congratulations to the bride & groom!

I have known Julio for nearly a decade now. One Awesome Dude who deserves to be really happy. And happy he is as he is now married to The Very Awesome Lady Lily.

Congratulations, Julio — we are ecstatic that you have found such intense happiness with someone who is so happy with you!

The wedding was one amazing event. It was a 12 hour celebration of a magnitude that will be hard to describe.

One heck of a great way to kick off what is bound to be a long and happy marriage. Congratulation again!

The wedding was legendary. 800 guests. 15 days before the wedding, there was a change of venue from an already built facility to an empty field. And the execution was flawless…

More on that later.

Castillo De Cristal Hotel

I’ll be writing up the trip over a few posts. Like the wedding, the trip was something special… a unique bit of traveling experience.

To give an idea of how unique, at right is the picture of the hotel that Christine & I spent the weekend.

The owner always wanted to live in a castle, so he decided to build one for himself right in the middle of a block of downtown Arandas. Over time, his daughter turned it into a Hotel and a completely unique hotel it is. Every bit as unique on the inside as out.

But more on that in later posts…

Bbum Visits Centinela Distillery

And, of course, we were in the heart of Tequila country. Not surprising given that the Wall Street Journal labeled Julio (& Tommy’s in SF) as “epicenter of tequila” and Lily is the grandaughter of the founder of the company that makes El Tesoro tequilas (US market name), an absolutely delicious tequila.

While we didn’t visit the La Alteña Distillery, we did tour the Tequila Centinela distillery found on the outskirts of Arandas. Not only did we receive an interesting and educational tour of the facilities, the Centinela folks threw us one hell of a great party.

Details to follow….

So, yeah, it was one hell of a trip. Once in a lifetime kind of trip. Several posts and lots of photos to follow. We spent 3 days with lots of the incredibly fine folk from Tommy’s Blue Agave Club, including many demigods (of which, I hope to join their ranks in January). This is a very special group of people; it was like hanging with old friends — like the whole group had done trips together many times before even though we were new.

iPod can protect hearing, too!

Tuesday, June 20th, 2006
Missouri Mud Butterfly

I spent part of today mowing paths through the fields and woods surrounding my parent’s house. I’m using a John Deere 750 tractor with a Bush Hog mounted on the back. This thing can rip through small trees and is excellent for mowing paths.

I started by mowing the fields and, at the end of it, my ears were ringing. Stupid me.

When mowing around the pond and into the woods, I put on my iPod with a set of the Apple iPod In-Ear Headphones and it worked brilliantly. It completely deadened the tractor sound while allowing me to listen to decent tunes at a reasonable volume.

I have never been able to wear an in-the-ear headphone before these. These are the first headphones of these types that have not immediately made my ears swell and turn red/itchy.

Boating Across the Pond

The trick is to set the volume limiter to a reasonable level in a quiet room and then not worry about blowing out your ears when in noisy environment like on a tractor or in an airplane.

We also spent some time tooling around the pond in a little boat, hunting bugs, snakes, frogs and anything else that moves.

Tomorrow, I hope to get some picks of vultures as they pick a dead possum clean on top of the dam. That and grab a few captures of the wildflowers that are now accessible off the freshly mown paths.