Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Blizzard in Boston

My most recent fellowship interview brought me to Boston Children's Hospital.  Unless you've been living under a rock, then I'm sure you've heard about the record-setting snowfall they've seen over the past month.  And because it would have been far too much to ask for a weekend of good weather, another winter storm was forecasted to arrive during my visit to the city.

Mom joined me to make it a girls' weekend in Boston.  We arrived on Thursday and wandered Newbury St to do some shopping, exploring, and marveling at the 70+ inches of snow the city had received in the previous few weeks.  

The first priority upon our arrival was food.  I'd received several recommendations to try Flour Bakery, so we made that our first stop.  Our lunches included a spinach quinoa tofu salad, roasted tomato soup, and a tuna sandwich.  We had no complaints and made a few more visits for breakfast and snacks that weekend.

Another mandatory stop was a local coffee house - Thinking Cup - where I had the most perfect vanilla ginger latte and a few macarons.

To our surprise, the streets and sidewalks had been cleared quite well and made for fairly easy walking.  The plowed snow was stacked high along the sides of the roads and sidewalks, burying the parking meters and covering cars.  My interview events were Thursday night and most of the day on Friday.  Friday night's dinner was at Atlanta Fish, where Mom and I shared several different dishes, including fresh bread, raw oysters, clam chowder and fish stew, lobster ravioli, and crab cakes.  

Saturday evening was advertised to bring a blizzard to Boston, so we set out that morning to do some exploring while the weather remained decent.  But first, another stop for coffee and breakfast at Thinking Cup.  This time I had their hazelnut latte (made with hazelnut paste) and a cherry ginger scone.

The Charles River was frozen solid and the winds along the waterfront made the subfreezing temperatures feel that much colder.  I layered with two layers of socks, snow boots, thermal tights, jeans, a long sleeve shirt, a sweater, ski jacket, two pairs of gloves, a scarf, and knit hat, and was still only comfortable for short periods of time outside.  Fortunately we enjoyed the warmth of a trolley while touring the city and limited our exposure to the elements.

The Charles River
Courtyard of the Boston Public Library
Lunch on Saturday was at James Hook & Co, where we heard they had the best lobster rolls in the city.  We shared the large lobster roll and a cup of the seafood cioppino.  The toasted roll was piled high with succulent lobster meat that was lightly mixed with a creamy sauce.  Wow - it was delicious!

The trolley next took us to the North End, which is famous for Italian restaurants and bakeries.  Mike's Pastry and Modern Pastry were both highly recommended and the crowds confirmed we were in the right place.  All of the treats - a Boston cream puff, pistachio macaron, cookies, and cannoli - exceeded our expectations.  The afternoon took a tailspin when I received a message from US Air that our flight for Sunday night was cancelled.  After 2 hours on hold, the best the airline could do was rebook us on a flight Tuesday night.  Suddenly we had just bought an unintended 48 hours in the frozen tundra of Boston.

Since it was Valentine's Day, we had planned a nice dinner on Saturday night at Bricco in the North End.  We were seated in a cozy room upstairs next to a window and were able to watch the blizzard roll in while staying warm and enjoying a great meal.

To start, I had the mixed greens salad with poached pears, fresh beets, and goat cheese.  Mom's appetizer of octopus over string beans, however, stole the show.

For my entree, I couldn't take my eyes off the Pappardelle Al Cinghiale - wild boar roasted in red wine with porcini mushrooms.  There simply are no words to describe the richness of the meaty sauce paired with the perfectly al dente homemade pasta.

The peak of the blizzard came through overnight and morning brought sustained winds upwards of 50mph and an additional 16 inches of snow.  The city had literally transformed to a white out overnight.  Needless to say, the day was spent staying warm and dry inside.  I tried repeatedly (a grand total of nearly 6 hours on hold in a 24 hour period) to find another flight back to Charlotte on Monday, but everything was sold out.  The concern was that an impending ice storm into Charlotte on Monday and Tuesday could potentially keep us stuck in Boston even longer.

Eventually we settled to take our chances and attempt to fly standby on Monday.  Despite a seemingly frustrating day stuck in a hotel room, we rallied and had a fantastic dinner.  Since the city was largely shut down by the blizzard, there weren't many dinner options.  Fortunately, Atlantic Fish had opened their doors for the evening and I feasted on yet another wonderful lobster roll and a giant serving of french fries.  Comfort food at it's finest!

As it turned out, luck was on our side on Monday when we flew standby and caught one of the few flights back to Charlotte prior to the ice storm.  From Monday evening through Tuesday morning there was a steady mix of freezing rain and sleet, resulting in a sheet of ice on the streets, cars, and trees.

The Charlotte Knight's baseball stadium looked more like an ice rink than it did a summertime venue.

Although the temperatures remained in the low 30s for the day, the sun came out by noon and melted much of the ice on the roadways.  Hopefully there won't be too much black ice in the morning as the city tries to return to normal.

And finally, despite the seemingly endless winter, lunch today reminded me that spring is just around the corner.  A colorful arugula salad filled with local veggies, a fried egg, and a juicy orange brightened up the otherwise cold and dreary day.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Fellowship Travels

Fellowship is a one-year training program that follows an orthopaedic residency program, and is completed in the subspecialty of your choice.  Since December, I've been traveling here-there-and-everywhere interviewing for pediatric orthopaedic fellowships.  I applied to 16 programs, received 16 interview invites, and have chosen 11 programs to travel to and formally interview.  It's been tough with respect to scheduling and work coverage, but it's been fun exploring so many different cities.  Here's a glimpse of my travels to the first six programs.

Jacksonville, FL
Nemours Chidlren's Hospital

Warmth and sugar on a cold and rainy day in New York City
Columbia's Wolfson Children's Hospital

Philadelphia at night
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Inner Harbor in Baltimore
Johns Hopkins University

Central Park on a cold winter day
Hospital for Special Surgery

Incredible view from my room at the Bentley Hotel in NYC
Brod Kitchen at 63rd and 2nd was filled with organic sandwiches, salads, soups, and pastries
A panini and split pea soup was the perfect easy dinner after a six mile walk around the city 
Good Night NYC!

En route from LaGuardia to Denver the morning after 5 inches of snow and ice 

Upgraded on United Airlines - complete with extra leg room, a window seat, and TV.

Welcome to Denver!
A dream rental car - a mustard yellow box
Aurora, CO
Colorado Children's Hospital
6 programs down, 5 programs to go!  Aside from some flight delays due to weather, I've been fortunate so far not to be stranded by any of the snowstorms.  Hopefully that fortune will continue as I venture to Atlanta, Boston, Nashville, Dallas, and Cincinati.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Charlotte Running Company Trail Race

US National Whitewater Center
Charlotte, NC 

I can count on one hand the number of times that I've done any trail running.  A few weeks ago several friends were mentioning their plans to sign up for the 9 mile race.  A quick check of my calendar revealed a rare free Saturday, and so without hesitation, I decided I'd join them in the trail running fun.  Online registration revealed 4, 9, and 13 mile options, and filled with New Year's resolutions and ambition, I opted for the 13 miler.

Race morning brought temperatures in the upper 20s with bright sunshine and not a cloud in the sky.  I dressed in my favorite Sugoi compression tights, layered shirts, gloves, and a hat, knowing that I'd rather be a little warm than frozen.  The 9 and 13 mile runners started together and made a three-quarter mile loop prior to entering the trail head.  We were packed tightly for the first mile on the trail which led to lots of stop and go as we navigated the technical trails.  Between miles two and three I settled into a better rhythm with others who were running a similar pace.  The trails themselves were still wet from the rains earlier in the week and with low temperatures resulted in slick frozen sections, particularly when covered with leaves.  Just past mile three there was a steep descent that I slowed to navigate.  Unfortunately the guy behind me wasn't so cautious and slipped, falling directly into me, and next thing I knew I was on the ground with knees and hands covered in mud.  Fortunately I wasn't injured and hopped right back up.  At that point, all I really wanted was to enjoy the run, exercise some caution, and finish uninjured.

Miles 3-7 were the most technical and featured numerous sharp turns, rocks and tree roots, and ascents/descents.  I never realized how mentally exhausting trail running can be, as I was afraid to ever take my eyes off the ground and potential obstacles ahead.  My Garmin dropped signal intermittently and so my mile splits were inaccurate from the start, but I took a Gu at the one hour mark.  The 13 milers broke away from the 9 milers for a mile before rejoining them just prior to the turn off for the 9 mile finish.  My quads were feeling the impact of the uneven terrain, but overall I was feeling good and was happy I had chosen the 13 mile distance.  Fortunately, the last four miles of the race were the easiest, as it was on the lake loop which is wider and much less technical (with the exception of areas of deep mud).

Nearly two hours after I entered the woods, I began to hear the music and announcers at the parking area and knew the finish was within reach.  The toughest hill of the day was a steep incline over the last 100 meters prior to the finish, and with the last bit of quad strength I could muster, I crossed the finish line of my first trail race.  I covered 13 slick and muddy miles with 1580 feet of elevation change in 2:02:46, a pace of 9:46/mile.

2 / 10   F 30-34
9 / 94   Females
69 / 258 Overall
My quads cramped almost immediately after I finished, but fortunately the therapists from Carolina Sports Clinic were there to provide some stretching and massage.  Although I was a bit nervous about the injury potential associated with a trail run, I ended up truly enjoying myself and would definitely do this race again in future years.  My only complaint was the limited selection of post-race food (bananas, oranges, and stale bagels), so I hung around briefly for the awards and to chat with friends and then headed towards home for lunch and a warm shower.

Saturday afternoon turned out to be a rare picture perfect winter day with a high temperature nearing 60 degrees and bright sunshine.  After what has seemingly been a record stretch of cold, grey skies, and rain, I had started to think I'd never see the sunshine or warmth until April.  I slathered on some sun screen, gathered my lunch and magazines, and didn't budge from the lounge chair for three hours.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Recent Eats

With the business of the holidays and recent interview travel, it's been a while since I've done a post strictly about food.  So without further delay, here's a glimpse of the things that have been coming out of the kitchen lately.

This breakfast sandwich was especially delicious thanks to the whole wheat garlic-studded roll I discovered at Whole Foods.  The crisp exterior paired with the chewy interior paired flawlessly with scrambled eggs with spinach and tomato.

Oatmeal has made a return to the weekend breakfast rotation.  This bowl of cinnamon raisin oats was topped with cranberry sauce and sunflower seeds.

Lunch in Philadelphia at Amino Juice Bar included a kale salad and vegan butternut squash bisque.

Breakfast in Philadelphia one morning included this cranberry apple scone from Reading Terminal Market.

Liquid Earth in Baltimore was a warm spot for lunch on a cold and blustery day.  The "Picnic" sandwich included a wheat baguette, honey mustard, melted brie, apple and pear slices, red onion, and walnuts.

Two hours on the bike required a protein packed lunch to recover, including scrambled veggie-filled eggs and toast (one slice with cranberry sauce and another with hummus).

Dinner at home over my Christmas vacation featured grilled salmon and pineapple over a bed of spinach with an avocado dressing and a homemade stuffing roll.

After an afternoon at Top Golf in Alpharetta, we dined at Foundation Social Eatery.  Their Yelp reviews are overwhelmingly positive and so we were excited for a great farm-to-table style dinner.  Unfortunately, the dishes were far from outstanding and we were all disappointed compared to the hype we anticipated.  It wasn't a bad meal, but certainly not a restaurant we would return to any time soon.
Baby Arugula Salad with Ricotta Salata, Figs, and Walnuts
The Crisp Spanish Octopus was incredibly tender and our favorite dish of the night
Seasonal Vegetable Plate
Can someone please explain what part of a pile of corn over a pea puree and topped with arugula is considered either "seasonal" or entree-sized?

One of my favorite easy weeknight meals is a "roasted plate."  This one included tofu, zucchini, and sweet potato all tossed with coconut oil and seasonings.
New Year's Day dinner was enjoyed while watching college football.
Black-eyed peas over collard greens, roasted carrots, avocado slices, and a corn muffin.
An "empty the fridge" kale salad topped with avocado, corn, black beans, tomato, tofu, and balsamic vinaigrette.
Pancakes are the perfect Sunday morning post-call breakfast .
This stack of pumpkin pancakes was topped with cinnamon raisin peanut butter, banana slices, blackberries, pumpkin seeds, cinnamon, and syrup.