This weekend, I went to a conference for my 12 AP class. Overnight. Away from my baby boy. That was really hard. But that's not what this blog entry is about. Anytime I go away, I fully expect to eat out. Somewhere. Hopefully somewhere delicious and non-fast food-ish. Since my conference was in Richmond, I notified my best friend from high school, Jody, who lives in the area. We made plans for Friday night to meet for dinner at P.F. Chang's.
I didn't mind where we went, and Jody was rather excited about P.F. Chang's, so I started to look forward to dinner. I was really quite taken aback. The atmosphere, for me, has a HUGE impact on the dining experience. It seems to me that restaurants are increasingly moving towards the open ceiling, open dining room, stone or brick presentation with the host/hostess podium smack in the middle. The incessant and increasing echo of conversations around me put me off. I absolutely despise having to yell at dinner to people sitting 2 feet from me. It's ridiculous. One of my favorite restaurants has a gorgeous view from the main dining room, but Steve and I always ask for the back rooms because they are naturally more sound-absorbing and less distracting and headache-inducing. Plus, the cream of brie and artichoke soup is divine.
But, back to P.F. Chang's. The food was good. I asked if any MSG is used, as this additive is guaranteed to give me a migraine within 30 minutes of eating it. They assured me there was none, and frankly, for Chinese food without MSG, it really was good food. But it wasn't the caliber of food I expect when I get an emphatic vote from Jody, and I was still hungry afterwards. Disappointing.
So, I head back to the hotel with grading in mind. I decided to order a hotel pizza - pineapple pizza and a glass of Merlot. The pizza came. The cheese was hot and melty. They used fresh pineapple - nothing canned. But the sauce was very dry and the crust had the pre-packaged aftertaste that accompanies many store-bought pastries and biscuits. I was, again, disappointed.
The hotel provided the food for the conference. That was really quite good, considering the quantity they were preparing and time frame it had to be served. The lemon/raspberry layer cake really made me want to sneak the cake pan back into my hotel room. Besides, free food is always yummy. But, the buffet ended at 2 and I was driving home for several hours. I really wanted to get home in time to give Sydney his bath, so I grabbed Wendy's at about 5:30 and kept driving. Once again - disappointed. I am usually quite satisfied with Wendy's. I like how they use whole pieces of lettuce (albeit, iceberg...) and tomato, and they keep them cold until they make the sandwich so you get this dichotomy of hot and cold in the same bite. Yum. But today's burger didn't have any flavor whatsoever, and the fries were WAY too salty. Holy cow. I felt like they were preparing me for a salt-lick and a hunter was hiding off in the woods. Blech.
So, needless to say, I've lived this entire weekend rather unsatiated. The best thing I've had to eat is the pumpkin spice latte and matching pumpkin nut muffin from Starbucks that I picked up two hours in to my drive on my way to the conference. I've recently discovered the pumpkin spice latte...YUMMERS!
Enough complaining for now. I plan on tweaking my blueberry muffin recipe tomorrow. I found the recipe I used before a little heavy. It called for a stick of butter, which I left out overnight to ensure it would blend well with the other ingredients. But since I used frozen blueberries, my smooth, though thick, dough became rather glued together as I mixed in my tiny little ice cubes. Since the dough was heavy and thick, I'm going to try using the healthier replacement of apple sauce to, not only add in more moisture (I did not crush 1/2 cup of blueberries, so I think the extra moisture is necessary), but also keep the dough from congealing when I add my blueberries. And, yes, I want to use frozen because that is the best way for me to keep them stocked, and I will not always realize I plan on making the muffins, so more than likely, they'll be frozen. Life is too harried to always remember to defrost.
Kathleen, I know this was not your recipe, but I still hope you do not take offense to my tweaking. I'll let you know how this turns out!!
Tune in soon to hear about the conference. I want the information to sink in more before I comment on it, but I've already been formatting thoughts on what I learned and heard. I hope one day I can consider myself "highly trained;" pedagogy shifts on a yearly basis, so we'll see where I end up!