Sunday, December 05, 2004

Out to sea

The flight from Seattle to Houston was unremarkable. Continental has some of the skimpiest legroom in the industry, so we sat stoically in our little spaces. Cornflakes and milk were a refreshing breakfast, and the movie was Jet Li in Hero--the downside was the horrible color calibration of the dozens of tiny video screens on the plane.

We landed a little early in Houston, and I hiked to the far end of the vast Continental terminal to gate D3. Where, I found out, our plane to Ft. Lauderdale was no longer arriving. I hiked back to the new location, D8, and they loaded us on the plane. There was no air conditioning, and they announced the plane was being delayed for a repair. Then they announced that the plane was canceled. We got off, sat down, and then they announced our new plane would leave from a remote area of the terminal--an older section of the airport I recalled from previous plane changes. We hiked to the new gate, were I wrote a few Hanukkah cards, and then we boarded the new plane.

The passengers, a generally large and loud bunch, were pretty surly and rude at this point. The movie, Cat Woman, looked ghastly, so I sat and read Red Mars (Kim Stanley Robinson's classic SF novel). We arrived in Fort Lauderdale and waited, waited, waited for the luggage. I got a cab right away, though the driver was kind of creepy. It was only $10 to the Embassy Suites, and the hotel is a nice one: Spacious suite, great view over the city, good temperature control, great ilghting, and plenty of accessible electrical sockets for charging the computer, iPod and Treo. Though I usually avoid hotel restaurants, it was 9 when I got in and I didn't want to go wandering around the busy strip and end up at a chain. The restaurant was pretty much empty except for a loud party going on in the bar. I asked the waitress to put me somewhere quiet, and she took me out to the terrace in the atrium, where I ordered a small salad and the daily special appetizer: scallops and shrimp in a white wine sauce with tomatoes and basil. I called Zorg in Seattle and he put his cell phone on speakphone so Zoe and Kaylee could hear my voice. He said they clearly recognized it and were very excited. Too bad we can't do that for Sheba.

After I talked with Zorg, the dinner arrived. The salad was your basic overdressed Caesar type but the scallops and shrimp were one of the best seafood dishes I've ever eat in an American restaurant. The ingredients--the scallops and Roma tomatoes in particular--were top-notch and flavorful. But the preparation was exceptional as well. I'm guessing the seafood was gently sauteed in butter and then the sauce made up by deglazing the pan with the white wine and adding fresh minced garlic and basil (maybe some parsley) right at the end. My only question was if there might have been a seafood stock used, because there was such an abundance of sauce (and no signs of any artificial thickener, such as flour or cornstarch). I'd also guess that the wine was a sauterne--it did not seem particularly dry or tart, and was quite cooked down. Anyway the dish was a complete surprise, and perfect with the fresh, normal (no mango flavorings) iced tea. The waitress got a huge tip and I went happily up to my room to charge all the electronic gear and search (in vain) for the Sci Fi channel.

Not a bad 50th birthday.

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