Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Self Portrait

It's been a while since I've posted... so long that my hair has grown out to my shoulders and I have a mustache.  I figured I'd do a self portrait to update everyone on how I look now.  A floating head self portrait.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

ALINEA

We document special occasions with photos and writing, but they can't compare to the actual experience.  They are shadow puppets that we create to share a story.  You can read about them and try to prepare all you want, but they'll still take you by surprise when you experience them first hand.

That was Alinea for me.

For years, I've devoured any information I could find about the place: I've read blogs, watched videos, even made things from their cookbook.  It prepared me well, but I still found myself surprised.

This description pales in comparison to the actual dining experience, but I feel compelled to share if only to aid my own memories.  I apologize in advance as many of the photos are pretty shoddy, but I made two rules going in: no cell phones, and don't miss any moments because you're taking a photo.  I wanted to focus more on making memories instead of capturing them perfectly on camera.  Also, there are a couple courses where I stole images from the internet to give a better idea and I'll source those as I go.

The exterior of the building is plain and simple; there is no sign.  When you enter, it is as though you are walking through the looking glass.  I knew that the entry way featured a clever optical illusion, but I was still disoriented walking down the Wonka-esque hallway. It was very dark, lit by soft fuschia vertical light tubes on the wall that seemed to guide us down a very long, dark, cave-like hallway. As we walked further in, doors immediately to our left automatically opened just like an elevator, but instead of an elevator it was the restaurant. The rest of the hall was forced perspective.

We were the first ones in our dining room of five tables and so for a while we had 4-6 staff at any given moment, all standing around waiting on us hand and foot. A little odd at first, but it was easy to grow accustomed to. They anticipated our every move, pulling out our chairs for us and pushing them in to be seated, laying our napkins on our laps for us and replacing our them when we'd return from the restroom.  It would have been weird had they not been so damned charming about it.  Completely affable, they weren't afraid to crack a joke, always trying to get us to smile. Any time we were worried we weren't being proper or polite enough, they had some comment or joke to soothe our uneasiness allowing us to put our focus back on the food.

Again, the service was lighthearted and fun yet never invasive.  It was a balance between perfected anticipation/preparation and charm/fun. This ended up being a fairly big surprise that reading their cookbook didn't prepare us for.



Our first course was one that I had read about quite a bit, and I was hopeful it would be on the menu, so we were already off to a strong start.

HOT POTATO • cold potato, black truffle, butter

Photo credit to www.alifewortheating.com

An Alinea classic (and one of only two dishes they've kept on the menu since opening).  The taste was amazingly crafted, the hot and cold dancing across the palate, something not found often in most dishes due to the precise timing required to make sure your hot and cold elements stay hot and cold long enough.  I took my own photo, but it ended up blurry because of the time sensitive/temperamental nature.

The bowl was wax, with a pin stuck through the side.  Skewered on the pin was butter, cheese, chive, and a ball of potato (cooked in clarified butter), with a thinly sliced black truffle atop it, all suspended over a cold potato soup.  Like a grenade, pull the pin, slide the hot potato off the pin along with the other bits, and in the same mouthful pour the cold soup down the hatch. It's a perfect reminder right off the bat that the food being served is hardly about taste alone, not even presentation. Nearly everything had presentation, interaction, and supreme flavor.

SALSIFY • branch, camouflage


So speaking of interaction, the waiters brought out this tangle of branches letting us know that it hid our next course.  The seemingly empty basket had salsify root weaved through the twigs in hiding.  It didn't take us too long to find it, and once we did, we enjoyed our spoils.  The salsify root that was treated like beef jerky - marinated, and dehydrated; kind of like fruit leather. Only not sickeningly sweet.

LOBSTER • curry earl grey, grapefruit


Lobster isn't really my thing, but I loved the preparation here.  I can't remember all of the elements on the plate, but to the best of my recollection, starting at the top and going clockwise:

- Grapefruit pearls
- some kind of crumbly crunchy thing (really tasty)
- Lobster (over ghee butter I believe)
- Earl Grey Tea Gel?
- Compressed cucumber
- White stuff?
- Not sure about the tiny dollops

I know, I know... I didn't take notes.  I was in the moment though!  Man, did all this taste good.  The unusual flavors paired so surprisingly well with each other and I found myself exploring and mixing and matching. There wasn't a thing on the plate that didn't belong.

Mystery Centerpiece


They then brought these coals and said that they couldn't talk about them. I figured it was another exploring dish and started to poke around. At Forage in Salt Lake, they had a dish that was "coals" where the dish looked like an actual coal, but was something else, charred. Marque found a piece of food and put it aside. "Try it" she egged me on.  I took a bite and set it back down. I wasn't sure what it was, but I was confused when the wait staff looked to each other and quickly came and took the dish away.

I definitely wasn't supposed to do that.  They brought back a fresh plate and told us to wait and see.

I was so embarrassed. I couldn't believe that I'd dug in to things before they were ready, but the wait staff laughed it off and joked with us about it.  I felt pretty silly, but they never guilted me over it. Another example of them soothing our insecurities. Also it was just pretty funny.

SWEETBREADS • orange, ginko nut, cinnamon chop sticks


With the refreshed centerpiece still on the table, they brought us our next dish, a take on take-out: orange chicken.  Except it wasn't orange chicken, it was veal sweetbreads.

Marque was a bit nervous with this one (considering what sweetbreads are), but after tasting it, all fears left.  Like their namesake, it was a sweet meat. As far at the savory courses go, it was one of the more comfort-feeling foods. Definitely one of my favorite courses.

I wish I had a good picture of the presentation, because on the plate was a plastic grocery bag with a standard Chinese takeout box nestled into it. The chopsticks themselves were cinnamon sticks that, just before being given to us to use, had their tips charred to give a spicy-sweet aroma while eating.  The scent definitely aided the dish.

The previously mentioned centerpiece was then set on fire.  While the coals burned, we enjoyed a small bite.



EBI • celtuce, yuzu, sea grape




This was a complex one, and hard to describe.  A lot of different flavors competing, but the end result was a pleasant one.  It had a sort of seafood taste to it, but far more complex than anything I'd had before.

WAGYU • parsnip, black trumpet, kombu



They then took the coals and cut them.


Deep in the coals was a piece of Wagyu beef, wrapped in seaweed.  It was cut and served table-side to us on a freshly charred round of wood.


The thing that I had bitten into before was a parsnip, cooked sous vide in the beef's fat, then charred in cast iron.  The Wagyu beef was like butter.  There was some other stuff going on the plate here, but it didn't compare to the Wagyu.


LILY BULB • rambutan, distillation of caviar lime


This was a palate cleanser with a nice flowery taste, that had a refined cleanness to it that I really loved.  I was also excited that it featured caviar lime pearls, which I'd only read about at that point.  They're much smaller than I expected.

RHUBARB • celery root, celery branch, licorice

This was the first real movement towards sweet in our meal.

Photo credit to Elena N. who according to her Yelp was there the same night.

From the start of our dinner there was a stalk of rhubarb that had been floating above the table on a piece of fishing line.  For this course it was plucked and then shaved with a truffle shaver over our dish.




I enjoyed this dish, but I did think that the fresh rhubarb was more of a novelty than what it added to the dish.

WOOD EAR • pig ear, allium, black garlic


Here were two different kinds of ears: pig and a mushroom that looks like an ear (chinese).  This was another dish that gave Marque pause, but she enjoyed it once trying it.  I, myself, LOVED the fried ear.  I could have popped those back like pork rinds.

The mushroom was also really well done; one version crispy and another braised.  The two cubes were smoked anjou pears, that paired (pun intended) very nicely with the rest of the dish.

BLACK TRUFFLE • explosion, asparagus, parmesan

Photo credit Allen Hemberger 

Truffle explosion is another famous Alinea dish that they've been doing since the start.  This one is unreal.  I knew what I was getting in to, but man, that pop was way more explosive than I could have anticipated.  Marque said it best:
"They bring out what looks like a super delicate ravioli on a spoon. Very soft and thin and kind of mini-quiche shaped. There are a couple asparagus spear-tops garnishing. We're instructed to take the spoon gingerly, and take it in one scoop. Keep lips tightly closed. So after we've put them in our mouths, we bite and then suddenly there is the enveloping warm sensation, almost too hot, of just truffle everywhere. Like a creamy, silky, unbelievably refined creamy broth infused with truffles and parmesan. Did not disappoint!"
My crappy photo...

I should also note that the dish was served on an "anti-plate", which had no bottom, instead, just looked like a donut with the spoon resting in the middle.

DUCK • foie gras, morel, dragon's breath


The duck was one of the more involved main courses.  Into the vase they poured water and out came flavored "dragon's breath" as it hit dry ice and aromatics.  The scents were AMAZING.  It smelled exactly like a wok, with hints of pepper, onion, chiles and other stuff.  It permeated everything.


I can't remember what the green ball was here (though it was tasty), but the other was foie gras wrapped in duck.  Both were good, but didn't compare to the other bowl.


The duck breast was delicious, but expected. The round bit of meat was actually heart — this was the first time I found myself a bit nervous, but it tasted great!  Very ducky.  The puff you see is actually duck thigh cooked into a potato starch and fried - another of my favorite bites, also one of the more comforting dishes!

PISTACHIO • mascarpone, black walnut, rose


We did a hard transition into sweet with pistachio gelato that was unreal.  The texture was perfect, creamy, sitting on top of crushed pistachios. That bit that looks like sugar crystal was actually gel rosewater gummies.  Next on the plate was a thin slice of walnut cake, a strawberry marshmallow, mascarpone cheese, and a sphere of lemon curd.

BALLOON • helium, green apple


This is another that Marque did a good job of explaining:
"When the balloons came in though, every one watched the first table. The wait staff hands them sticky green apple taffy-type balloons with an apple leather string, floating with helium. They give you the choice to pin the balloon to deflate it and eat it, OR you can 'kiss' it till the candy dissolves on your lips (and nose, and sometimes forehead) and then inhale the helium and sit back and consider your surroundings... Like the kitchen down the hall, like kind you see in the movies. Here, in the dining room where it's jackets-required. There are anywhere between 3 and 4 wait staff hanging very close by but collected and cool. They've just cleared away the plates that had contained pistachio gelato, a perfect sliver of black walnut cake, mascarpone cheese, and a silky yet substantial ball of lemon curd, all garnished with crumbled pistachio. It was a gorgeous dish, so delicate and beautifully composed...
"How's it going?" right after you've taken a second draw. "IT'S GREAT. HAHAH. OOH MY GOSH MY VOICE AHAHA!" erupting in chipmunk giggling and guffawing.
You think "when that gets to my table, I'm totally gonna be cool, not like these chuckleheads" and you are DEAD WRONG.  Experience-wise (non-food), it was the best!"
MILK CHOCOLATE • pâte sucrée, violet, hazelnut


The big dramatic conclusion. I didn't do a video, but you can find several examples of other's experiences just by searching. The Chef de Cuisine Mike Bagale himself came and plated this table-side in front of us.


They literally built a tart in front of us. They laid down a ring, then placed a couple powders for the crust, and topped with milk chocolate.  Creme fraiche and violet syrup decorated the table along with crystalized hazelnut, candied basil leaf, brown butter crisp, liquid nitrogen frozen meringue.

We destroyed it.


The End


They gave us a menu afterwards and joked about us winning a t-shirt for finishing the meal. We left in a stunned haze, still in awe of our experience.

All in all it was transcendent.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Kwik Thistlebottom

Finally had some time to play D&D again, and for once I wasn't the DM!  Which of course means I got to draw my character.
Click to enlaaaarge.

His name is Kwik Thistlebottom, a crusty old pixie standing at about 7 inches and nearly a thousand years old.  He was once a famous commander, and fought in nearly a dozen wars throughout his storied life, but once he lost his dominant arm, he retired to a small village and became the crazy old man in the neighborhood that parent's warn their children about.  He's a gruff and impatient kook, who I think resembles Grunkle Stan in demeanor, but more racist and sexist.  

Kwik was constantly bossing people around, always thinking he knew better, though he most often did not.  About halfway through the session, he split the party and bullied the fighter of the group in to opening a chest that turned out to be trapped.  He went unconscious a few times through the battle, and was lit on fire for about a quarter of the time, but he surprisingly made it out alive.  It seems I have a penchant for troublemakers when playing RPGs.

I also drew my friend Mikey's character:
 
Pretty Princess.

Mikey was playing a rogue, who was a pretty pretty princess, by the name of Nixie.  Nixie the pixie princess.  I didn't have much time, so I did a cartoony 10 minute doodle and sent it over to him.  I was in such a rush, I forgot to add fairy wings.  Embarrassing, no?

On an unrelated note, if you follow this blog, but not my Dungeon Crawlers comic, be sure to check out the preview for the upcoming animated version of the strip and like the Facebook page.

Friday, August 23, 2013

BIFF!

My sister Rachel wanted a new phone case designed because her old one broke.  She was going to have me try to recreate it, but I helped her to come up with an original case starring her new pug puppy Biff.
 Click for GIGANTIC.

Just for comparison, here is Biff at his most charismatic:
So smug.

I know it's not a perfect interpretation, but I took some artistic license.  Rachel suggested I start doing designs for people at like $15-$20 a pop, since people can easily print their own cases online (as well as t-shirts, mouse pads, etc) online, though I'm not sure there's a market for that.  I'm more glad my sister will be touting my art around with her wherever she goes.

Addendum: Some sites that print phone cases that I am not affiliated with, but came up after a quick googling.

http://www.vistaprint.com/
http://www.zzphonecase.com/

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Doodle Animation

I've been working on an animated short (more on that to come), but got tired of it, so I doodled this.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Pacific Rim

I saw Pacific Rim last Sunday and felt the need to draw something from it.
Click for bigger.  Please?

The movie was awesome, but does not rank among my favorites of Guillermo's work.  It's a fun blockbuster that draws as much inspiration from anime as it does from Godzilla.  A definite recommend.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

90 Minute Comic - "Religion" and "Candy"

As I mentioned last post, I've been trying to do the 90 minute comics along with the Strip Search episode, by pausing and spending the time to make my own.  Here are my results for the words "Religion" and "Candy."

I am not as happy with this week's, as I was stuck with writers block for about half an hour of the time.  I feel like the punchline could be punchier, but it is in color this time.  Sloppy, sloppy color.  These are things I could have fixed with more time, so I'm trying not to stress about putting sub-quality work up here, since this was just an exercise.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

90 Minute Comics

Penny Arcade is producing a fine piece of reality television on the YouTubes called Strip Search.  It's about a bunch of webcomic artists competing, so definitely up my alley.  Check it out here.

Every three episodes is an elimination.  The two contestants sent there must each pick a word and then take 90 minutes to combine those two words into a comic.  Sounds easier than it is.  I decided to play along at home this last episode, where the words were "cats" and "cars."  I set the timer and went for it.  Here's what I got (be sure to click to avoid weird aspect ratio and resizing):

No time!

I thought it would be fun to see how much more I could accomplish in an additional 30 minutes in an attempt to add color (and fix that blonde fellow's face).
 Coooolored.  Click to know it's true form.

I got to say this was intensely more difficult than I had imagined.  To give a better idea of my process, I usually spend 4-8 hours on a Dungeon Crawlers comic, and that's about two blobs.  I thought I would have more time to redo stuff (and add more to that last panel) in my additional 30, but nearly all of that went to coloring.  Practice makes perfect though, and this was a pretty fun exercise.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Dungeons and Dragons Continues

I'm still DMing a campaign for friends at the moment, but I haven't had too much to post recently and I keep forgetting to update the wiki.  I am however incredibly proud of the most recent set piece that my adventurers battled through.

EPIC BATTLE COMMENCE!
This gigantic lego battlefield is in a craggy carved out cavern in the Feydark, with large brass cogs and gears spinning an ornate orrery in the center.

Overview
 Each 4x4 square is a normal tile (not the same scale as the grid beneath it).

In the thick of it
I had them do simple athletics checks to climb around anything that was higher than one lego block, and gave them harder DCs for jumping across the pit of spinning gears to the platforms in center (complete with villagers being sacrificed).

Dizzy...
This GIF gives the general idea of how it was able to spin (I would roll a D4 to see how much each turn).  The center spins at a faster rate than the outer platform, and every time the white pointer, pointed to on of the three center platforms marked with white, spikes shot out of the floor on all of the white tiles.

Fun was had, though I didn't manage to kill anyone.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Dungeon Crawlers Web Banner


Made a web banner for Dungeon Crawlers to be put up on the site of my good friend's comic, Gregor (NSFW, boobs and language and violence and stuff).  He's much better at posting weekly.  If you're interested in using this banner on your site to help spread the Dungeon Crawlers love, just let me know, and I can work one up at just about any requested size.

Speaking of which, I made some fan art for him a few weeks back.  If you didn't see it, check it now:
Aren't Cuddle Monkeys the worst?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Look at me, I'm dancing, crazy!

In an effort to not let this blog die off completely, I'm trying to post up stuff I've been doing.  Things were slow the other day at work, and I drew/animated this in paint (converted into an animated GIF at home):
Wearing my work uniform...

I do love pixel art, and quite frankly Microsoft's Paint still got it going on.