Do the unemployed get to celebrate Labor Day? The UGs hope so! I, Josie, have a hard time relaxing, which is probably why I am a chronic sufferer of so many ailments. However, this post is not for your reading pity (for those kinds of stories, please refer to the many posts below) but rather to fill you in on the progress of my recovery. Even though you may not see it throughout the blog, the UGs are rather resilient workers. In fact, our most brilliant ideas come to us in bouts of insomnia. Speaking from the tongue of an entrepreneur, the UG journey is a mapless one. A journey in which the boundaries of our success lie only in our overflowing imagination. Given those grandiose macro-ideas, you can understand how we also find it exceedingly depressing when we don’t find time to relax. So when Carina invited me for a short and relaxing trip to her hometown, Santa Cruz, I quickly obliged. I was nervous because for the first time I was going to finally meet the parents. I was excited to meet the people and the city that shaped my partner’s past, especially given that our friendship has played a determining factor in our fate.
7AM was the call time and Carina drove the first half of the five hour trip. I slept for a while as I was exhausted from the 4AM end time of My Last Bite’s party the night before. As we drove into Santa Cruz, I was reminded of Ojai. My ex-boyfriend of eight years, who I’m super bummed won’t speak to me anymore, is from Ojai. We knew the family had a lot in store for the UGs. We had a Labor Day BBQ at Carina’s Godmother, Lisa’s, house and several mini trips of things to see. How on earth were we to do so much in so little time?
We walked into Carina’s house and were immediately bombarded by Carina’s little brother, Cody. He jumped out of a blind corner and scared the s$@! out of me. Later that night Cody, who loves wrestling, told me he could fiercely lift me. I didn’t let him, of course. I’m frail. From there we went to Lisa’s house and started BBQ’ing. I made the hamburger patties and for dessert we had chocolate fondue. Linda, who’s a shy friend of the of the family, started helping with the chocolate fondue. Linda who is a self-proclaimed fire marshal was nervous about the fondue flame and ended up snuffing the fire. Carina, who is impatient about her dessert-especially when fruit is involved, looks at her and says, “Linda, you ruin everything.” Linda runs out of the room, grabs all her belongings, and storms out of the house in hurry blaming her leave on her daughter’s sickness. Uncouth! There was no harm and we went back to Carina’s house and got in the hot tub and sauna. It is totally the NorCal way and something I can get use to ending every night with; the UGs had no trouble relaxing.
The next day we had a Thai lunch with Carina’s 90-year old grandfather, Arthur. As soon as he saw the “new member of the family” (me), he asked me my name. I said, “Josie,” and he said, “That’s my mother’s name.” I laughed and told him I give all the cute guys I meet the same line. It’s a good one, too. When lunch was over we all walked Arthur, who’s in a walker, to the car. Carina’s mom, Janis, was busily talking and pushing Arthur at the same time. Janis shouldn’t have been allowed to do both because as we were all talking, Arthur started yelling and making a scene in the parking lot. We all looked down at him and asked him what was wrong. He just pointed down at his feet. Apparently in all the talking and pushing, Janis had run over his feet and his whole body weight was now resting on his left foot. Poor Arthur! He gave me many laughs and it made me remember how much I miss my own grandfather who passed about 7 years ago.
As we were leaving Carina gave me a tour of the infamous beach babe dudes and where they all change out of their wet suits. Man, there are so many cute guys in Santa Cruz. I’m thinking of renaming the place altogether to “the island of men so beautiful they make you weep.” In other words, after the tour I needed some cold water to pour on myself. Enough said.
My first visit to Santa Cruz was utterly relaxing. We didn’t get to all the things we had planned on, but it was ok. Between the afternoon naps, hot tub, sauna, and the verbal abuse of shy people, I’ve never slept better. Thanks, in-laws! It was wonderful to have finally met you.
I wished we could have stayed a bit longer, but the UGs had a prior engagement – a free meal! The UGs have been so broke nowadays that when offered the UGs are never ones to turn down free food. Hell, it’s the only reason we go on dates at all. Ha! Christina of the boutique PR company, InkFoundry, invited us to the Flemings downtown to sample their newest prime burger bar and Happy Hour menu, or as Fleming’s calls it “The 5 for 6 til 7.” The UGs have coined that Happy Hour is the new dinner so we were eager to try it out and report back to the rest of the UG nation, even if we had to drive five hours to sample it. Look what we’re doing for you world?
We got there early so we popped into Starbucks and “freshened up.” Still early, we decided to go in and drink. Our first visit to Fleming’s was a few months ago at their Woodland Hills location when Carina won us a steak and wine dinner for two on Twitter. Despite not being corporate restaurant girls, we had the best time in the world. The first time we were in a private room at a communal table with 20 strangers. Food was good, but service was impeccable. Our second visit to Fleming’s downtown was no different. We felt a bit out of place because everyone looked like they’d just come out of the opera and given that Carina had just finished changing in the car and I was wearing torn jeans and her dirty shirt, we sat at the bar. Our bartender, David, gave us the royal treatment. David had the manager come out, the chef, and even had the pastry chef make an impromptu dessert of berries and chantilly cream for Miss. Carina. Further proof that experience makes the meal that much better.
I’m a huge fan of beef carpaccio and since it was on the new HH menu, I figured I had to try it. I’m glad we did, as it was spectacular. Christina suggested we try the portobello fries, which sounded interesting but were merely alright. The UG way is to try at least everything once, so that’s what we did. For the sake of research, the UGs tried every single burger on the menu! Forget 2 Girls 1 Cup we were 3 Girls 5 burgers. Here’s the breakdown:
Ahi Burger: I am allergic so had to refrain but Carina and Christina went on and on about how this was their favorite of the night. Fresh fish and well seasoned ginger soy sauce made this a very interesting burger. It was definitely both of their highlights.
Fleming’s Prime Bacon Cheeseburger: One could understand why this is the least expensive of the five, as nothing about it stands out. Not bad, but not interesting. The lack of complexity of this one should be reserved for a the unadventurous man or woman that we all know, however as a foodie, this one is far from inventive.
Filet Mignon Burger: Hands down my favorite of the five. We ordered this one med-rare and given that Fleming’s IS a steakhouse, for me, this one is the way to go. Thumbs up!
Portobella Burger: Although never a fan of vegetarian options, sometimes the UGs crave light veggies. Today was one of those days for me, Josie. I liked the caliber of the goat cheese and a meaty lightness of a grilled portabella. I’d order it again.
Crab Cake Burger: Carina said this burger was too salty. I am sure I, a salt whore, would have loved it but again it could have killed me. The Bartender, David, did say that the crab cakes were one of the most popular appetizers and that one cake is amazing but two may be too much.
Onion Rings: Come with every burger and since onion rings have been my new obsession, I’d have to say I really enjoyed these perfectly battered and fried ringlets.
The UG girls had a great time. We laughed all night. The festivities ended with a box of beautiful truffles. We loved sharing dating, food, and PR stories with Christina and seeing pictures of the bartender’s daughter. We felt right at home, which was a lovely addition to my week with the family. Yup, they may not know it yet but I am an honorary member of the family: The Ost family, Carina’s godmother’s family, the Fleming’s Steakhouse family, the Ink Foundry family, and anywhere else that will feed me well, allow me to relax, and treat me oh so kindly!