Sunday, December 16, 2012

Man Cave Phase III - Painting and Finish

Progress on the Monkey Man-Cave slowed significantly this summer, as other projects, distractions, and... well... life took precedence instead.  Still, moving forward was possible by doing a little here and there on occasional free evenings and weekend afternoons.

The next step was to add some color to the newly textured walls. Big Monkey is always happy to help, especially when painting is involved.  He is a hard worker and, all things considered, did a surprisingly good job, at least on sections of the walls between one and four feet high.

Since the Man Cave would function partially as a shop, I chose a gloss finish latex for easier cleaning.  With experience painting almost all the rooms in a few houses now, I've become a big fan of Behr Premium paint-plus-primer. Its extra thick formulation makes it cover with fewer coats, and it has much less of a tendency to drip, which is important since I'm often too impatient to put drop cloths over everything..

Before the walls could be finished, however, two small projects needed to be completed.  First, to pass through light from the garage door lites behind, I assembled a window from individual glass blocks and caulked them into the opening previously framed in the far wall.

To inflate tires and power pneumatic tools at key locations, I also installed outlets and tubing from a RapidAir Compressed Air System. This product features plastic pressure-rated tubing, push-on fittings, and machined aluminum manifolds that connect together quickly and easily to make a flexible air distribution system that can be routed through walls.
For floors, I chose a TrafficMaster Allure polyvinyl floating floor at Home Depot  Waterproof and durable, vinyl seemed like an ideal product to install over the bare concrete.  The TrafficMaster product comes in simulated wood-like boards and features patented overlapping strips that fasten the planks to each other instead of the subfloor so seams won't open up.  Best of all, they cut with scissors and feature a peel-and-stick install so that the whole room could be done in only a few hours.

As easy as they were to lay down, Little Monkey still wasn't a whole lot of direct help in the process.  He chose to watch and supervise instead.

After hacking down and hanging a reclaimed door from Craigslist, casing the window and doors, adding some light fixtures, and doing some remedial decorating, the Monkey Cave now has a nice space for computer and office work.

The other side of the Cave provides good working space for a workbench with tools and parts for projects.  A rolling cart (not shown) holds table and miter saws that can be moved outside for more substantial construction.

On the last wall, the addition of some storage cabinets and a modest TV (a hand-me-down from the family room) complete the project.  Now, an area that was once just an empty parking space is nicely serviceable Monkey Man-Cave for projects and days working from home. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Going Green the Hard Way

Growing up, my Mom always accused me of having a "black" (i.e. not "green") thumb, meaning that properly growing and caring for living plants was not within my natural skill set.  In my defense, I really don't think using scotch tape to hastily repair broken stalks of a knocked down houseplant should count.  Any good legal expert would tell you that emergency trauma situations are entirely different, and that Good Samaritan laws do (or at least should) offer plenty of protection in this case.  The fact that I was the one who had knocked down the plant in the first place, of course, is clearly immaterial.

Nevertheless, earlier this summer, it occurred to us that our neighbors might actually speak to us once in awhile if we did something to improve the curb appeal of our new home.  The previous owner had apparently done quite a bit to counter-endear herself to the rest of the street, and it was clear that an overt gesture on our part would be necessary.  Not bringing down everyone's property values would probably be a good start.

To match with the street's other manicured lawns and shrubbery, our predecessor had carefully decorated her front lawn with an eclectic mixture of neglected straggly turf, random rocks, creepy desert plants, and exposed landscape fabric and dirt.   Lacking sufficient individualism to proudly keep this theme going ourselves, we opted for traditional grass instead.

Okay.  So grass isn't green.  Well, of course it's green but it isn't really GREEN.  It uses a lot of water and doesn't produce anything nice to eat, unless, of course, you're a goat.  And even then, I hear they only munch on it when mindlessly snacking.  Truth be told, we really would like to have artificial turf, but with over 2000 square feet of dirt-laden goodness to cover, that just wasn't in the budget.

Sod would be an easy solution.  For a few grand we could have someone regrade the area, fix and extend the sprinklers, and roll out bundles of fresh grass onto the slope like Baby Monkey's bean and cheese burrito on the dining room table at dinner time.  Still, that would violate the spirit of being a True Maker and -- even more importantly -- violate the spirit of being a True Cheapskate.

The cheap solution would be growing grass from seed.  For a little more time and effort, and about $200 in seed, this seemed like a much more palatable solution.  At the local Sloat garden center, we found boxes of dwarf fescue seed that promised drought tolerant, slow-growth grass that could be cut shorter and required less mowing.  For us, "mow less" is always "mo' better", so it was an easy choice.

The first step was to break up the soil and remove all of the existing vegetation, rocks, and debris.  For this, we got this Earthlink Electric Cultivator from Amazon for $100.  This did the job nicely, and had a surprising amount of power.  It had none of the mess, smell, and danger of gas-powered tillers like the one I used as a kid.  Nevertheless, I highly recommend it..


When we had our pool put in, we instructed the contractor to dump much of the excavated soil out front.  This leveled out the upper part of the yard (which we wanted) but also buried the existing sprinklers up to a foot below the surface.  Consequently, the next step in our saga was to dig out and extend the buried sprinklers and then regrade the soil to a nice smooth slope.  This wasn't terribly complicated, but took a good deal of effort involving laying out string lines and a lot of painstaking digging, shoveling, and raking.  Fortunately, I had day laborers (such as Big Monkey above) available to help and offer moral support.

Some, such as Baby Monkey, worked for popsicles.

We laid out some weed cloth and border edging to make curved planting beds at the base of the hill, then sprinkled grass seed and fertilizer with a rotary spreader.  After that, all we had to do was water and wait.

After a week, voila! sprouts started to appear.  After a few months, it had grown to a perfectly passable and respectable lawn.  It still contains a fair amount of weeds (mainly dandylions and burr clover) that sprouted with the grass, but I'll treat for them soon once the weather is reliably cooler.  Until then, we're lucky that closely cut weeds look an awful lot like closely cut grass.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Monkey Gardening and the Flip-top Camper Shell

Every homeowner, at some time, for some project, needs a truck... And not a polish-it-every-weekend-keep-it-under-a-cover-pretend-that-it's-still-new type of truck, but a real truck meant for getting dirty and accomplishing real work rather than being pretty to impress other people.

Fortunately,  I have a small beater truck that fits that description perfectly, especially the not-impressing-other-people part.  I bought it from a coworker many years ago for 1000 bucks, and I call it my "Home Depot" truck because it only sees service when I have to haul materials for the latest Monkey project.  It has served me well many times over the years, but before the latest project at my family's new digs, it needed a maker-style upgrade.

The latest Monkey House project is a fruit and vegetable garden to grow goodies like fresh melons, strawberries, tomatoes, and of course,... bananas.  For this, we needed to add about 5 cubic yards of soil.  In the past, I've hauled building materials in the truck by temporarily unbolting and removing the camper shell, and then using a tarp to cover the bed when traveling.  This was laborious and time consuming, however, so I've long wanted to use this as an excuse for building a contraption to make the process easier.

My idea was to hinge the camper shell so that it could flip up and forward toward the cab for easy loading.  I've never seen anybody accomplish this, probably because 1) most people are unwilling to defile their vehicle in this way, 2) it's ridiculous, and 3) the camper shell would just hit the cab in any obvious hinge configuration.

I originally designed a four-bar linkage mechanism that would raise and pull back the shell as it was tilted, but discovered in testing that if properly placed, only two simple struts were needed.  These struts would provide a floating pivot point for the top edge of the shell, and the bottom could carry the weight and slide back along the top edges of the bed sides.

The only tricky parts of the build were getting the strut placements right and finding a way to flexibly attach the aluminum struts to the camper shell and bed.  I attached the top front ends with hinges pop riveted to both the struts and shell frame.   For the rear facing ends, however, I need to support rotation from the side of the strut.  To do this, I re-purposed the twist hasp of a gate latch to make the odd pivoting attachment.

With the struts in place, and the addition of a pull handle and some locking clasps to keep the thing secure when driving, the total build was completed in a few hours.  The guys at the landscape supply yard were certainly surprised.  With a loader, they'd already dropped in two bucket-loads (one cubic yard) of soil and I was closed up and on my way before other customers had even made a dent in the loads they were manually shoveling into their truck beds.

Of course, I still had to shovel the soil back out of the truck bed, but at least for that I had Big Monkey to help me.

Little Monkey was somewhat less help, but made up for it with a high cuteness factor.

With Mama Monkey handling all the actual green thumbing, all I needed to do was add some irrigation...

and some border fencing (using landscaping poles, pressure-treated lumber, and galvanized post mounting brackets)...

and plastic garden lattice nailed with galvanized nails into the fencing (using my new cordless nail gun mentioned in a previous post)

And that's it.  The garden wraps around a large area reserved for the play structure I'm putting the finishing touches on.  Note the humble tree in the corner.  I can't wait to taste the bananas!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Man Cave Phase II - Framing and Drywall

Wikipedia defines a Man Cave as a space "where guys can do as they please without fear of upsetting any female sensibility about house decor or design." While I'm not so sure this entirely applies in my case (as I'm quite fond of my wife's tastes), I've slowly come to realize that my wife and family spend much more time at home, and thus most of the habitable space belongs--in spirit--to them.

However, when we purchased our home, the plan was that I would convert the third garage parking space into my own private space, and--like most Man Caves--a place to store stuff that for various reasons would best be exiled from the rest of the living quarters. Still, unlike most similar retreats, my hypothetical cave would not take the typical form as a shrine to drinking, eating, burping, and sitting on the couch (ok, maybe some eating). Instead, it would be Maker Man Cave, a place that would serve as my office, shop, and place to play with pointy, pokey, smokey, smelly, shocky things.

The first step, which I described briefly in the first post, involved framing the walls and a partial dropped ceiling with 2x4 lumber. This took a few days of work spread out over a few weekends, but was complicated by doing the work in a space that I'd already populated with crap. Building a room that's essentially already in use is kind of like building a covered wagon after you've already started heading out West. So far, I haven't run into any big snowstorms, so maybe I'll be lucky enough to reach my end point without metaphorically having to eat my own Donner Pass-style "hungry man" dinners.

Most of the framing has been straightforward, with the possible exception of a 10-foot 4x6 beam to support the ceiling and wall that surrounds the garage door (when open). On the existing side wall, I had to cut, remove and replace a strip of drywall so I could embed king and cripple studs inside to properly support the beam.

For power, the existing 20 amp garage outlet was tapped to supply a number of new utility outlets...

and new light fixtures to be suspended from the dropped ceiling.

Putting up and taping the drywall took a few days but went fairly smoothly. Next time, I'll take more time to thin and mechanically mix the joint compound with a drill mixer before applying it. Instead, I probably wasted a lot of time redoing joints because of lumps in the compound. When I purchased a second bucket of compound that was smoother and slightly more soupy, the joints were astonishingly easier to mud.

To finish the walls, I chose to take my lead from most home builders these days. Even though I didn't need the walls and joints to look absolutely perfect, a texture can hide a lot of imperfections and save hours of patching and sanding that otherwise would need to be done. Since easy is the path I often like to take, this was the choice for me.

Fortunately, Harbor Freight sells a texture gun for $25 that I've seen on sale for as low at $17. I already purchased one for a previous job so simply had to mix and spray the texture. Unfortunately, mixing and spraying the texture was almost as messy as the plot of Spiderman 3, but all I had to do afterward was give it a light sanding to knock down the high spots.

Finally, it's looking like a real room. The next steps will be to prime and paint the walls and ceilings, hang the doors, and install the fixtures, which I hope to get to soon.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Date Night at French Laundry

My wife and I don't get to enjoy many dress up nights out these days, at least ones that don't consist of knocking on your neighbor's doors with little ones in tow demanding free candy under threat of unspecified retribution. So it was with great excitement that we recently embarked on our journey to The French Laundry to celebrate my better half's birthday.

For those unfamiliar, The French Laundry isn't a place to lose your favorite shirt but is instead a renown French restaurant located near Napa Valley in the small town of Yountville. Twice named "Best Restaurant in the World" by Restaurant magazine, it enjoys the exclusive company of just 106 Michelin three star-rated restaurants in the World, only ten of which are in the United States as of 2012. Guests get to choose from either a Chef's Tasting Menu that changes every day or one or two alternate menus, each of which offers nine smallish (French) courses for a fixed rate or $270 per person. While that's certainly a lot of dough, a couple of extra dishes are supposedly included, so we figured that worked out to a more digestible figure of about $25.54 per course.
We first read about this place in the paper, and agreed there would be no better way to celebrate the birthday of a best-in-world wife and mother than a few hours pampering as the former while temporarily escaping from being the latter, taking in some Best-in-World grub. The trick was getting a reservation.  The reservations window opens up, it turns out (and typically quickly closes) at 10:00am sharp exactly two calendar months before the requested date. We couldn't believe our sheer luck when she was able to secure reservations on only the fifth phone call. After that, it was just a matter of waiting until the big day came.

"I wonder why it's called French Laundry?" I wondered aloud as I was washing the Man Cave drywall dust out of my hair and getting dressed up to go. "Do you think they'd appreciate the joke if we showed up for our reservation with a hamper of dirty berets and striped shirts?"

The look she gave me in response reminded me of the time I took my first bite of the kidney pie I ordered at a British themed pub. I placed the order expecting it to be made of kidney beans because I was sure nobody would be so insane as to Frankenstein a cherished baked good with the animal equivalent of a used Britta filter. Leave it to the Brits to defile the sweet wholesome goodness of pie with something as bitter and wretched as kidney meat.

Anyway, I digress, but I knew my wife was laughing her head off at my little joke... quietly on the inside, as is often the case. She put on a hot-but-classy red dress, and I wore a jacket and tie even though I was pretty sure that was overkill. This was Napa Valley, after all, and I asserted that there was a fair chance there could be "a relaxed dress code" because of the restaurant's location nestled in the middle of California vineyards.

We arrived at a few minutes early and decided to browse down the road at one of those quaint wine country shops that sells things like $200 coat racks made out expired wine barrel husks. We told the nice saleswoman where we were headed, and she insisted we couldn't leave without taking advantage of the French Laundry's wine pairings to every course. We couldn't see how that could work, however, as my wife and I at best fall into the featherweight class in amateur sport drinking, and rarely have more than a glass or two at a meal. Perhaps--to our benefit--the smallish courses might be accompanied by equally smallish drinks, consumed--probably not to our benefit--out of tiny little french wine glasses you're supposed to hold with two fingers while sticking out your pinkie finger. A smallish price would be nice too, as nine (or eleven) glasses would surely add up quickly.

The French Laundry is housed in a quaint and unassuming hundred year old building next to a quaint but perfect French courtyard with meticulous landscaping. There are two floors with maybe a dozen tables each and some small alcoves here and there with additional tables. We were seated in a cozy alcove on the ground floor with two other tables that were currently empty. In front of each seat was a cloth napkin carefully folded into a French triangle and secured with an old fashioned clothespin tastefully bearing the restaurant logo and phone number. Nice touch.

We were presented with a leather folder that contained printed menus and a French iPad that housed the wine list. There were actually three menus that day, one Chef's Tasting Menu, a Vegethusiast (i.e. not quite vegetarian), and a special seasonal menu. Our Head Server (I say "head" because we counted a total of five people who actually waited on us in various ways that night) cheerfully described every dish on the Chef's Tasting Menu, and we made our selections in enthusiastic anticipation of a great meal.

Before receiving deliverance of our food, our Sommelier came by and asked us for our wine selections.  Avoiding embarrassing ourselves with our "winaïveté" we asked he select for us; a white for me, and a red for the birthday girl.  I got a German Reisling, and she got... er... something red.

#1 SALMON CORONETS - The food did not disappoint. The first appetizer dish wasn't on any of the menus but is apparently a regular favorite.  It was a salmon tartare cornet that resembled a small blob of fish meat jelly on a tiny sesame ice cream cone filled with sweet cream.  It tasted even better than that sounds. It was a refreshing start that combined two of my favorite tastes--sushi and ice cream--in a tasty and sophisticated ... and French... way..

Shortly after the appetizer arrived, a youngish couple were seated at the table next to us.  They had just gotten married they announced proudly to the server.   As the fellow started reflexively taking off his jacket, he was politely asked to keep it on.  I thought perhaps he had unsightly pit stains from hanging drywall earlier in the day or something, but realized that must be restaurant policy. I guess there was no relaxed dress code after all, and I was basking in my smugness of both bringing a jacket and tie and not having thought of taking either one off before sitting down.  The new groom was a chef on the East coast, it turns out, and the couple had planned their entire wedding around coming this very restaurant.

#2 GOUGERES - Also not on the menu were these small tasty round pastries filled with Gruyère cheese.  Rich and tastly insides around a delicate and crunchy shell, they were definitely enough to get the palette warmed up and ready for more.

#3 BUTTERNUT SOUP - The first real courses arrived at last, ones we both respectively placed at the top of an amazing night of dishes.  My wife had a butternut soup as a substitute for shellfish, and found it hard not to lick the remnants out of the cup when she was done.

OYSTER AND PEARLS - This consists of Island Creek oysters and White Sturgeon caviar on "Sabayon" of Pearl tapioca base. The saltiness of the caviar perfectly complemented the creaminess of the oysters and subtle sweetness of the tapioca in a way that was just magical.

#4 - BREAD PASTRY ROLL - Next, we got served fresh bread rolls.  While they probably don't count as a real course on their own, French Laundry doesn't do anything half way. We were served two types of freshly made butter, the first from the local "Animal Farm" (where some butters are apparently more equal than others) and the second from a place I don't recall but is probably hand churned from milk of purebred French pygmy cows.  Being in Napa, most of the ingredients are locally sourced, and the restaurant even grows many of its own veggies in a garden across the road.

Periodically during the evening, our Bread Server also came by to offer us additional selections from a plate of fresh mini loafs. We had our choice of a mini baguette ("French" of course), mini sourdough, mini multi-grain, and mini pretzel (though I thought the pretzel bread really qualified as super-sized since it was like a soft pretzel only bigger...and not pretzel shaped).

#5 - MOULARD DUCK FOIS GRAS EN TERRINE - The next dish for me was the Foie Gras, which reads like it should be pronounced "phooey grass" and be something you ask the French laundry to scrub off the knees of your child's mime pants. Instead, spoken correctly as "fwah-grah" it reminded me of the unintelligible sound all the adults make when they speak in Charlie Brown holiday specials. The Fois Gras was another one of my favorites, richly sweet and not at all bitter (considering it's made of duck liver fat), and well worth the $25.54 IMHO.

The Fois Gras is served with English cucumber relish, pickled pearl onions, burgundy mustard, and bottomless brioche toast points that reminded me of the cheesy toast as the Sizzler, but tastier, smaller and of course more French.  As the brioche is to be eaten warm, the Brioche Server replaced my toast with new warm ones when I mistakenly took too long to eat them all and made the faux pas of letting them approach dangerously close to room temperature.

Of course the Fois Gras came with three types of salt to sprinkle on it: Montana "Jurassic" salt from an ancient inland sea, greenish Japanese Sea Brine, and a Parisian Grey rocky salt that I don't quite recall but am sure it was extraordinary.

CHICKPEA CROQUETTES - My wife got the chickpea croquettes, which looked like little French pine cones that she insisted was worlds better tasting.  They came with avocado, fava tips, orange in a charred eggplant puree.

As we waited for our next course, we glanced around and our neighbors at the next table.  They were a course or two behind us but seemed to already be taking the lead in the wine department. I guess they decided to try the full wine pairing experience. We recalled from the wine list that wines by the glass were about $47 each, so we figured the dinner must a wedding present. I was in no hurry to finish my first glass.

#6 GRILLED PAVE OF SPANISH MACKEREL - The next dish was the fish course.  I got the mackerel with serrano ham, artichokes and arugula, while my wife got the sea bass. The fish was perfectly prepared, but I definitely had fish envy when I tried my wife's sea bass, which was moist, buttery tasting, and even more exceptional.

About this time, a nicely dressed older couple joined us at the third table in our romantic alcove. We didn't think anything of it, but were surprised to see the gentleman get up and quietly leave after ten or so minutes, followed by the lady a few minutes later.

"Sticker shock!" we overheard the waiter explain to our lone surviving neighbors. We inquired ourselves and found out that the older couple were returning after having last visited French Laundry when it was a different (and no doubt more affordable) restaurant of the same name back in the 70's. We were told that the building had once indeed been a French steam laundry, and hence the origins of the current name.  It had also at other times been both a saloon and brothel, though it was unclear whether this was at the same time.  This newly found knowledge started us conjecturing about the prior configuration and use of our small alcove, and we amused ourselves by noting that it was about the right size for a few pieces of furniture and one well used bed. No doubt there was a more relaxed dress code back then.

#7 SWEET BUTTER-POACHED MAINE LOBSTER "FRICASSEE" - I've always thought of lobster as a "carrier food" meaning that it has little taste or character of its own but acts primarily as a delivery mechanism for butter, much as potato skins act as a delivery mechanism for bacon bits or Keanu Reeves acts as a delivery mechanism for dialogue which--if there is truly Mercy in the universe--does not require any use of an English accent.

The lobster in my next dish, however, was tender and tasty in its own right.  Accompanied by Hobbs' bacon, San Marzano tomato compote, romaine lettuce and ranch dressing.  It spoiled me forever more.

Alas, by comparison from now on, lobster anywhere else will be just a giant bug that eats dirt at the bottom of the ocean... smothered in butter. I guess with butter it would still be okay.

#8 LIBERTY FARM PEKIN DUCK - Next was the Best Duck Ever, apparently straight from Pekin, France. Tender and subtle on the outside, seared and crunchy yet delicate on the outside, it was accompanied by garden turnips and Pearson's Farm pecans.

At this point, the new bride next to us was probably on her fifth or sixth drink, leading here to be pleasantly chatty. I decided to follow her lead and live on the edge with a second drink of my own.  In retrospect, I probably should have asked the Sommelier to pair something appropriate this point in the meal, but instead showed my lack of sophistication and just asked for another Reisling.

My wife had had enough wine for the evening, however, and excused herself to visit the French Restroom. As soon as she left, our Napkin Server replaced her napkin with a clean, folded one. Our Bathroom Server already knew she had left her seat, and had already appeared at the top of the stairs, ready to direct her to an available restroom.

#9 SNAKE RIVER FARMS "CALOTTE DE BOEUF GRILLEE" - The next course was some of the Best Beef Steak I've Ever had.  It shared a plate with brisket pierogi (a kind of Polish pot-sticker), king trumpet mushroom, Arrowleaf spinach, Nantes carrots, and Bordelaise sauce. Everyone knows what steak tastes like.  Just imagine it better from the folks that invented fries.  We were starting to get really full at this point, and I "had to" help my wife finish her portion.  Yum.

#10 ANDANTE DAIRY "PARTITA" - I didn't get a picture of it, but the next dish was a cheese plate, and the only dish we didn't really care for.  The cheese was soft and had a strong smoky (stinky) flavor, which cheese connoisseurs would probably appreciate but was well above my "cheesophistication" level.  It was accompanied by sides of Michigan sour cherries and candied pine nuts, which we ate instead.

#11 CREAM YOGURT SHERBET - With toasted oats, pomegranate, Oxalis, and Osmanthus "Nuage".  The ice cream, oats, and pomegranate we all delicious, but I have no idea what a "nuage" is.  Wikipedia says that Oxalis and Osmanthus of flowers, however, so it must of been that lump of fluffy light stuff.on the side that tasted like a bit of flower flavored foam.  

#12 MEYER LEMON PARFAIT - Our third dessert was a plate of full on sweets, with French poppy seed ice cream, French Sicilian pistachios, and French Oregon huckleberries.  We were running as low on stomach capacity as I am now of complimentary food adjectives, but is was too good to leave any on the plate.

#13 SPONGE CAKE - Being a birthday celebration, we were pleasantly surprised with a small sponge cake topped with a lit candle and chocolate wafers to celebrate the occasion. 

#14 COFFEE AND DOUGHNUTS - Even though we were stuffed at this point, we were treated to one final desert of cinnamon sugared doughnut holes, candied macadamia nuts, and a “Cappuccino Semifreddo” which resembled a frothy coffee flavored ice cream.  We downed the cappuccinos (being mindful to properly stick out our pinkie fingers while doing so), and tastefully pocketed the nuts and doughnut holes for later, being careful to do so in the most sophisticated way.

If that weren't enough, after our meal, we were presented with a gift bag with numerous celebratory take-home items, including copies of the menus, handmade truffles, shortbread cookies, and chocolate. We also tossed in the clothespins figuring if they didn't want us to take them they wouldn't have printed their phone numbers onto them. I supposed the phone numbers could be there for a Good Samaritan to call after rescuing one from thieving former patrons, but we decided they would have a better life if liberated them from their daily napkin holding duties.

When we were done, the evening's tab approached $700, but we didn't regret it one bit.  In fact, we are already scheming for another excuse for which we can again experience the Best Restaurant in the World.

PS: for a more thorough description of the food, see my wife's blog