Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Weekend Getaway

This past weekend, Jon and I managed to get away for our very first weekend alone since Alice was born, thanks to a little help from both of our parents.

My parents very generously gave us gift certificate to the LA Phil for our 4th anniversary, just after we found out I was pregnant with Alice. We've been hanging on to it for the last two+ years, waiting for our schedule to align with something we wanted to see, which finally happened on Saturday night. We got our tickets and Jon's parents kindly agreed to come play with Alice for the evening. And then Jon and I had a moment of inspiration; what if they stayed all weekend and we just disappeared for a night or two? And luckily, Alice's grandma and grandpa were quick to agree to so much playtime!

I let myself entertain a few wild dreams of luxury hotels on the beach but luckily, my good sense outweighs my good taste and Jon's more practical suggestion won out. So on Friday night, after I got home from work, we visited with Jon's parents for a bit while I fed Alice her second dinner and tucked her into bed. Then Jon and I got in the car together (alone!), drove across town and checked into a room on the 14th floor. We dropped off our bag before walking down the street for some pizza and beer. Because we're fancy like that.

Racer 5 IPA. It hit the spot.
And the next morning? We slept until we were ready to wake, ate breakfast in bed and stayed there until we felt like getting up. And I know you're picturing a gourmet breakfast on an elaborate tray, but it was really leftover pizza (please see: we're fancy like that).

So while this was happening at home...
waking up to Grandma & Grandpa, taking the dogs for a walk (or vice versa?)
reading a story to Grandpa and the dogs.
... Jon and I were doing this:
We were laying down. Without having a toddler climbing all over us, or having to leap up and chase said toddler. We read our books, splashed around in the pool, and then fell asleep in the sun. When the breeze got too chilly, we went back to our room and read some more until our eyelids grew too heavy and then we slept some more until it was time to get dressed. Magical. And that was all BEFORE we headed downtown for an honest-to-goodness grownup date night.

I'd been trying to decide where to dine before the concert and was less than excited about the options around the Disney hall. I resorted to virtually walking around the neighborhood via Google Maps and came across something quite nearby, but when I tried to find the menu I found instead that the restaurant was out of business. It was a happy accident though because a new (non-Patina Group) venture opened in the same space just a few weeks earlier and had exactly the kinds of offerings I was looking for! 
The Blue Cow Kitchen & Bar is nestled at the feet of skyscrapers just two blocks from the Walt Disney Concert Hall, and one building away from MoCa. The photo above was taken from just outside the restaurant's front door.
Standing below the sign pictured above, with your back to the door, the lovely patio is on your right with the skyscrapers overhead.
view of interior, from my seat
We wanted plenty of time for a leisurely meal and drinks before the concert, so I made our reservation for 5pm right when they begin serving dinner. They weren't completely open for business when we arrived, but we were happy to stand at the bar for a few minutes and admire the space while we sampled their house-made lemonade (yummm) and a few different beers. I loved the vibe inside; the textures (modern wood paneling) and touchpoints (chalkboard signage, light fixtures made from industrial-sized stand mixer attachments) felt totally a la mode without being too trendy.
to my right, from my vantage point on this comfy be-pillowed banquette
The staff were all super friendly and attentive and hospitable, and very understanding as I drooled all over the menu. I committed us to both dessert options before Jon even made it to the table and as soon as he hit his seat, he ordered the "Baked-Then-Fried Potatoes" without hesitation. The potatoes were so wonderful that I was disappointed we hadn't ordered another appetizer. Luckily for me, one of the plaid-clad waitresses appeared as if by magic with an order of "Root Chips'n'Dips," compliments of the chef. Apparently, Chef wasn't satisfied with the way our entrées were being prepared and apologized for the delay via an appetizer. I accepted Chef's apology in full, especially because the delay wasn't that long and the root chips were delicious. The gesture was much appreciated, though, and definitely encouraged my repeat business.

Jon thoroughly enjoyed his french dip, and I was pretty delighted by my "Mendo Steak Sandwich," and particularly liked the pickled veggie garnishes. We segued into dessert with a cocktail before our actual dessert and they mixed our "Root 'Beer' Float" into two glasses. With Zaya rum, Straffe Hendrick Quadruple Ale, Art in the Age Root Liqueur, and sasparilla whipped cream, it was definitely a root beer float for grownups, though I would have liked another heaping spoonful of the whipped cream. Or maybe even just a spoon and the whipped cream...

After our dessert cocktail appetizer, it was time for the icing on the cake. Literally, all over the cake. When I made our reservation, I was concerned about the dessert situation because the menu doesn't list any sweets whatsoever. I was encouraged by the Yelp reviewers that mentioned gooey butter cake, and the hostess confirmed that it's a daily offering. It turns out I needn't have worried about being sent to bed without any dessert.

We assured our waitress we still wanted to try any and all available treats. Out came the daily special - coconut ice cream sandwiched between two cookie-shaped brownies and then rolled in caramel corn - followed by Grandma's Gooey Butter Cake, served with a generous puddle of sweet and tangy icing (sauce? crème fraîche?).  Though I've heard of gooey butter cake before, the only other variety that we've tried was in Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream. And if you asked me to choose, I think I'd just have to tell you to put your hands together...

We also made sure to order caffeine so we wouldn't drift into a happy food coma during the concert. I was pleased to finally try Intelligentsia coffee and even more pleased that I didn't have to do it surrounded by pretense... 

It was lovely to linger over a meal without having to juggle another fork, or intercept the condiments, or gather up wayward crayons. And it was wonderful to do it in such a refreshingly great venue. I was impressed with the menu; the quality, flavors, preparation and presentation of our dishes; the service, ambience, and location. The prices and value were right on the money. The only disappointment of the night was that the place didn't fill up before we left. I hope they got busier that night and I hope they stay in business because I'll definitely go back anytime I'm downtown. I recommend that you do the same!

After our meal, full and happy, we trotted back to the concert hall in time to browse through the lovely store, sip another coffee, and find our seats.
angles and curves
After a quick phone call home to reassure us that Alice wasn't missing us at all, it was time to settle in for the concert. We saw Charles Dutoit conduct Stravinsky's Symphonies of Wind Instruments, Debussy's La Mer, and Prokofiev's Suite from Romeo and Juliet

I wasn't familiar with any of the pieces but it was one of the most enjoyable programs I've experienced. Though, halfway through the Symphonies, I decided that I need a little bit more emotional connection than it was offering. I laughed when I read the program notes at intermission:

"[The Symphonies of Wind Instruments] is not meant 'to please' an audience or rouse its passions. I had hoped, however, that it would appeal to those in whom a purely musical receptivity outweighed the desire to satisfy emotional cravings."
- Igor Stravinsky, An Autobiography

Though I think I do have considerable musical receptivity, I guess it does not outweigh my desire for emotional satisfaction. Hopefully Stravinsky won't think any less of me for that...

I also read the program notes for La Mer during intermission, after the piece was played, and was surprised to read that Debussy did not care to be considered a musical impressionist. He felt music '"can represent all the variations of color and light in one go" whereas painting was limited to capturing just one moment.' I think La Mer makes a strong argument in his favor, but I wouldn't say that precludes him from being considered an Impressionist. On the contrary, La Mer delivered one of the strongest impressions of specific time, place and sensation than any other piece of music I've heard.

I won't pretend to write an insightful review, but even without prior knowledge of Debussy's music or intent, I completely understood his depiction of the sea. I was able to discern the calm of pre-dawn and the gently growing glow of sunrise. I could practically taste the fresh, salty breeze that keeps the gulls aloft as they circle and freewheel above the waves. I could feel the splashes of foam exploding against the rocks and then I dipped below the surface where sea dust sparkles in rays of light filtered through swirling bubbles. The final tempestuous movement is ushered in on the tails of a shiver of sharks. Throughout, the double basses are the undulating currents of the deep, dark depths and then the timpani and cymbals become roiling storm clouds that turn the musician's bows into the sharp peaks of a million angry whitecaps before reconciling again into the calm, rolling expanse of another day, another tide. It was exhilarating and I would love to hear it again with my toes buried in the sand, watching waves lap at the shore. 

The Suite from Romeo and Juliet was also wonderful, full of the drama and emotion that I appreciate. Though I've never seen the ballet, I'm certainly familiar with the story and could see the action and drama unfolding, perfectly described by each note. 

It was one of the most enjoyable live programs I've attended, I was so glad Jon insisted on it. The whole evening was just one of the nicest I've had in a long time, certainly one of the best dates we've ever had.

We made it to bed at a relatively reasonable hour, and slept until we woke up naturally. Such a luxury. But it was foggy and we missed our little munchkin so we got dressed, packed up our little suitcase and headed home, rested, refreshed, and rejuvenated. It's amazing what two good sleep-ins will do for a person! We hope to solicit help from our parents to make date nights a monthly occurrence, and maybe try to get away for a night or two at least once a year (if not twice!). We want to give our parents more Alice time and want to give ourselves more time to connect as a couple and do the grownup things that keep us sane and interesting. We'll see what we can come up with next!

Have you had any great dates lately? Enjoyed any wonderful music? Have anything planned for this special, extra day of the year? Back in our footloose and fancy free days, I wouldn't have been able to resist heading to Disneyland tonight for One More Disney Day. If you live near Disneyland or WDW, you should take advantage of all the overnight fun. There's nothing quite like seeing the sun rise over a Disney castle. If you were really adventurous, you could even visit both parks in the same leap day and see TWO sunrises over TWO different castles! I wonder if anyone will try that...

Anyway, I hope you all had a lovely weekend and have another lovely one coming up. Happy leap day!


  1. My husband and I have big plans to getaway when he gets home this fall. Is it bad that we want to go to Disneyland without the kids?? Grand Californian for a couple nights and the park by ourselves where we can go on any ride at anytime we want, and do it together? Unheard of, right? We will probably end up doing something different though, we would miss the kids a lot while being there and feel pretty guilty at the same time.

    Glad you enjoyed your getaway! Sleeping in and sitting by the pool sounds like BLISS.

  2. I love the way you write. I love the pictures you take. I love your little family.

    I'm glad you and Jon got to spend a weekend away, and that you were rested and ready to go home. Ain't life grand?

  3. Aw, thanks, Kristen. That makes me blush a little, since I know how many words you read =)

    Leah, you guys BETTER get away when you hubby gets home! I think we actually considered sneaking away to Disneyland, but ultimately decided it wouldn't be as restful as we were wanting. Plus, it's hard enough to leave your babies, even for a day or two, and hard not to feel guilty. I thought it would make me miss Alice too much to be at Disneyland, surrounded by other people's cute kids! I could definitely go for a grown-up day or afternoon there, though!!

  4. Love hearing all about your wonderful weekend away. Danny and I had the opportunity to do a quick trip last June to Vegas to see Garth Brooks. We had a blast and I look forward to being able to plan another date weekend with the hubby ;)


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