December 27, 2007: Williams Tower

Happy birthday to Elizabeth Tocco, Dominica’s mother.

I am back to “work” today as I end my “work from home” stint that normally surrounds the Christmas holiday. I did work from home on Monday from dad’s house and Wednesday from the Grices’ in League City, Texas and today I am writing from the commodities trading floor in Williams Tower in Houston, Texas.

The weather has been really nice here all week. Spending Christmas week in the mid-fifties is a pretty nice way to spend it. It isn’t the same as having snow and the world covered in white but it has a charm all its own. These are the kinds of temperatures that I can live with. It was just warm enough that I saw someone driving around with the top down in a convertible today.

Tonight, by total coincidence, the Tocco clan is doing dinner at the Melting Pot on Westheimer in Houston which turns out to be walking distance from the office! How easy is that?

I used our new Garmin GPS unit, the Nuvi 660, to find my way from League City to Williams Tower. It worked really well. It gave me a couple of inappropriate “stay in the left lanes” that caused problems but the mapping and directions worked really well. It took me just thirty-three minutes to make the journey even though the locals had predicted that it would take well over an hour.  Holiday traffic perhaps.

This morning while at breakfast at the Omega Grill in Geneseo, my dad ran into the same guy that had recommended the new York Deli to he and I while we were at Cook’s on the Sunday before Christmas Eve. We had been looking for food at Cook’s but Cook’s had closed and we weren’t sure where to go. This gentleman had seen us and walked over and suggested that we try the York Deli (what the locals call York Landing.) So we tried it and loved the food and were very impressed by the rather large menu that we hadn’t expected to find there. They have the usual fare but that is pretty rare in upstate New York small towns like this. The York Deli has fried food, hot dogs, pizza, subs, etc. And it is very close and convenient to dad’s house.

I left the office around twenty till five (Central Time) but lost fifteen minutes trying to figure out the best way to leave the building to get over to the parking garage but eventually decided that the best option was to just go the long way out rather than to get lost in this large complex. So it was five till five when I was finally getting to the car in the parking garage.

I got stuck getting onto the highway (610 – the Houston Beltway) when I came out of the parking garage because I couldn’t see which way I was facing and made a bad decision. But I was able to hop back off quickly and get back onto Hidalgo easily although this put me behind everyone else who was meeting me at the Melting Pot rather than in front of them as we had planned. They were already off of 610 on Westheimer (the strip) and I was two blocks south on Hidalgo back at 610. But miraculously it took me just five to ten minutes to get from 610 to the Melting Pot via the sideroads while it took them another twenty minutes after I arrived there to get there themselves coming via the main stretch. I had plenty of time to sit at the bar and enjoy a drink before they arrived.

The Melting Pot was mostly “meh” much like it was the last time that Dominica and I tried it in Annapolis, Maryland. The Melting Pot is incredibly expensive and the service is very good. But the cheese course really isn’t good. We have tried three different cheese options now and none of them are tasty. They are very bland and not nearly as good as just having a nice piece of cheese.

We learned our lesson last time about boiling food in a broth for fondue. It is pretty tough to make an entire meal out of boiling vegetables very exciting. This time we knew to get the hot oil so that we could fry our food like I am used to doing and that was a huge improvement. That course was very good. We got the vegetarian entrée option which had tofu, artichokes, pasta and more which worked well in the tempura and sesame batters. That portion of the meal was quite good. Especially the curry sauce that we used for most of our dipping.

The chocolate dessert phase was extremely minimal and quite lacking. It tasted great but we got so little of it that it really was a total waste. More of a tease than anything else.

Dominica rode back to League City with me and on the way we stopped at Walgreens to pick up some birthday party supplies and then ran across the street to Krogers where we managed to get a birthday carrot cake and ice cream for Dominica’s mom’s birthday which we celebrated once we returned to Francesca’s house. We had been planning on skipping the cake but the dessert course at the Melting Pot was so insubstantial that we decided that we needed to do a cake as well.

After the cake course I turned in on the early side and did some reading in “The Crystal Shard” and snuggled with Oreo and Dexter for a while. Tomorrow I am flying back to New Jersey. I will be stuck home alone (without a car even) all weekend. Dominica and Oreo will probably arrive back in Newark on Monday (New Year’s Eve) night.

I fly out of Houston Hobby Airport on Airtran at 7:20pm (CST) and will arrive in Newark around one in the morning. The weather is expected to be good though so I don’t anticipate any issues with delays.

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