What constitutes a “liquid” on a flight?

When traveling back from Newfoundland and Labrador on Sunday, we had only carry-on bags, but my backpack, which was holding my beloved Newfoundland Salt Company sea salt, was flagged. The security agents took the salt jar out of my bag to check the weight of it. At 150 grams, it was under the 350-gram limit for salt to carry on during a Canadian flight. I had no idea that “salt” even had its own category!

According to the CATSA (Canadian Air Transport Security Authority) website: “Salt: Certain powders and granular materials in your carry-on are limited to a total quantity of 350 ml or less (roughly the size of a soda can).” So, it’s not being categorized as a liquid, but actually has its own category under “powders and granular materials”? I didn’t realize this was an issue when flying in Canada, but now I know. I checked the TSA website, and salt does not appear to get flagged.

Then, while researching travel to Brussels this November, I found out that the airports there actually consider chocolate a liquid if they are pralines or truffles that may have fillings that are soft or become liquid after reaching a certain temperature. As such, a number of disgruntled travelers were forced to check their bags full of their Belgian chocolates when leaving Belgium. I definitely would have been confused and not understood right away if I were told this. This is almost as befuddling as the salt incident from this past weekend.

I guess I will need to pack a bag that will be good to get checked because I’m definitely planning on bringing back chocolate from this trip!

Whale and puffin watching

Exploring Newfoundland and Labrador has given us quite a number of sights, from rugged cliffs, unique rock formations, crashing waves and piercing blue waters, to puffins little auk birds, and several different whale sightings. The funniest thing about going on a whale watching boat tour, which is what we did this morning, is that it’s always a gamble on whether you will actually see a whale, but you kind of go just hoping for the best. And we saw not a single one today, but it didn’t really matter because we had already seen two or three by chance during other hikes and walks on this trip.

During our boat tour today, I learned that puffins are local to this area, and after having visited a free puffin viewing site a couple days ago, I realized how unique these tiny birds are. They have so much oil on their feathers that despite being able to regularly dive into water as deep as 100 feet, as soon as they get out of the water, they are 100 percent dry. Their signature orange-red tinge on their beaks is temporary; it’s only present when it is mating season and used to attract a mate. And the funniest part of the narration of the tour: I had noticed how much puffins had to flap their wings while flying in the air, but one of the guides said that here in Newfoundland, unlike in other areas of Canada such as Ontario, they really do not care about being politically correct here. So, they like to call puffins “PPFs” — “piss poor flyers.” They flap their wings while flying like there’s no tomorrow, as though if they didn’t flap 100 times that they’d fall out of the air.

And of course, Chris had to make comments wondering what a puffin would taste like. He is a true omnivore.

Iceberg lager and cloudberries, aka baked apple sour

While I enjoy alcoholic beverages quite a lot, one thing I’ve never really gotten into is beer. I’ve been to beer festivals, been to too many beer tastings that I’ve lost count, but it’s just never been something I’ve really loved or looked forward to. I particularly have never, ever been able to develop a test for IPAs (India pale ales). However, there are exceptions to this: I do enjoy cider (is that considered beer…?), plus I do love a number of fruit beers I’ve tried over the years, particularly the pear, pomegranate, and grapefruit Schofferhofers we discovered we loved in Germany in 2013.

On the second day of this trip while visiting the Quidi Vidi fishing village just outside of St. John’s, Chris suggested we check out the Quidi Vidi Brewing Company and try a beer flight. The bartender was really friendly and did a custom flight of four beers based on what we said we like and don’t like (fruity, nothing too hoppy). They are most well known for their Iceberg lager, which is a North American style lager brewed from water that is genuinely collected from icebergs found off the coast of the province.

In our flight, we tried the Iceberg lager (very clean and fresh tasting), a baked apple sour (cloudberry) beer, a mango-peach tinged IPA, plus a wheaty saison beer. The baked apple sour was definitely my favorite, and with further discovery while doing other tastings on our trip and some quick Google searches, I discovered that “baked apple sour” is synonymous with cloudberries, which is the same as bake apple berries and Nordic berries. They are local to this region and also found in Nordic countries and Scotland, plus other temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. They grow wild, not to mention they are pretty resistant to being domesticated, so when used or sold, they are pretty much always picked wild. Cloudberries are most often used in liqueurs, wines, and jams, and this makes sense given how delicate and tart the berries are. They resemble raspberries and are “cloud-like” in their shape, extremely seedy, and are a bright-orange hue. We lucked out on our drive back into St. John’s from Elliston and Bonavista this afternoon and passed a man on the road side selling mason jars full of cloudberries. I likely paid the most I’ve ever paid for fruit after jackfruit or durian — $15 CAD for a pint-sized jar of cloudberries. But I figured that since one of our biggest joys is trying and discovering local produce and foods when we travel that it was a worthy investment. And boy, were these little guys tart! They were quite sour with a slightly sweet after taste and while jarred, it seemed like their juices were oozing out, creating somewhat of a fermented, alcoholic flavor as we ate them. And now, I have their mason jar to take home and remember them by.


Eating local in Newfie, down to its salt

Newfoundlanders take their food very, very seriously. Given they are so remote and that they experience such extreme, cold temperatures in the winter, great care is taken in the production of every aspect of their food, from the way their vegetables and fruits are preserved for the winter (this is the largest home of “root cellars” in the world, or old food storage systems that are built into the ground; these are basically like historical refrigerators before these existed) to the killing of wild moose, the preservation and fishing of their most famous fish, cod, all the way down to how their salt derived from the local salt water that surrounds them. I was greatly anticipating eating the local food here, and I certainly was not let down.

Newfoundland’s “summer” seems to be more like New York City’s “spring” in that everything we get at the Greenmarket in New York seems to come here around July or August of every year. This includes short-season vegetables like garlic scapes, which are pungent and much loved, as well as chanterelle mushrooms, one of the most expensive mushrooms I’ve ever eaten, and one that I still have been too cheap to buy myself to make at home. We had the privilege of dining at one of Canada’s most famous restaurants last night in St. John’s, Raymond’s, which is known for its dedication to local, sustainable, and wild foods. Most of its food is wild and foraged within kilometers of the restaurant, which adds to its mystique, particularly in an era where pretty much everything we eat is farmed and domesticated, whether it’s a carrot or a sheep.

The original chef of Raymond’s, Peter Burt, is known for his creativity plus his passionate obsession for salt. He grew frustrated with the constant import of food into Newfoundland and asked, why are we importing something as simple as salt when we are literally surrounded on all sides by salt water? So he refined his method of salt making during his years at Raymond’s and eventually left the restaurant to be a salt maker full time out in Bonavista. He now runs his salt business with his partner/wife as a two-person show full time and sells to specialty shops and chefs around the local area, throughout Canada, and even in the U.S. now. His business is simply named Newfoundland Salt Company.

That kind of passion is so inspiring to me. Salt seems like it’s just this little thing in the grand scheme of food, but Peter Burt’s obsession with it in fine-tuning the granules in its size and shape is just so quirky and fascinating. That’s the kind of thing that gets me really excited about food; we think salt is salt and sugar is sugar, but there is so much that goes into making these seemingly simple ingredients that the average person just doesn’t know about and thus, doesn’t appreciate at first glance. And I can say as someone who has had this salt multiple times on this trip, at Raymond’s, Mallard Cottage, and the Boreal Diner (delicious locally sourced restaurants in Quidi Vidi fishing village and Bonavista) that this salt is unique and a true standout. You can taste and feel the difference when it sits on your tongue and as you’re crunching down on it with your teeth. A few years ago, I started getting into salt because of the famous sea salt I’d repeatedly read about from South Brittany in France, fleur de sel de Guerande. These salts are said to be high in minerals, lower in sodium (the irony), and have no additives. But this Newfoundland Salt Company sea salt is one of the most beautiful and to date, likely my favorite salt I’ve had and purchased. It’s meant to be used as a “finishing” salt, so for sprinkling on top of vegetables, salads, meats, and even baked goods right before serving. I never thought I’d be this excited about sea salt, but I can’t wait to use this on something special when I get home.

Rugged beauty of Newfie

We’ve spent the last day and a half exploring St. John’s, and it’s already clear to me how different Newfoundland and Labrador, or “Newfie,” is to the rest of the other Canadian provinces we visited, even Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. The accents are stronger here and surprised me; they sound like some combination of a Canadian accent mixed with Scottish and Irish. St. John’s feels very quaint and small, even though it’s the capital of Newfoundland and Labrador. The downtown area felt like a little seaside town in many ways, with brightly colored homes (in the vein of the Jelly Bean Row homes), windy streets, and small shop storefronts. All the businesses we’ve visited so far support other local businesses, for everything from their meats, cheeses, and produce all the way down to the salt they use. And if they aren’t supporting local businesses, then they are literally making and growing everything they use and serve themselves. The Newfoundlanders take so much pride in their crafts. 

I guess they didn’t accidentally name Nova Scotia “New Scotland” for no reason, nor are the accents similar to the Scottish accent for no reason, as well. We visited the Johnson Geo Centre, which is built right beneath the beautiful Signal Hill National Historic Site, the highest point of St. John’s. The centre describes the earth’s geological makeup, the local area’s cultural history, and in general, Newfoundland life. The craziest thing we learned from visiting this exhibit was that back in the Caledonian orogeny 400 million years ago, two bits of the earth’s crust began to collide. The result much later was the Central Pangaean Mountains that formed. What we know now to be Newfoundland and Labrador and Scotland were actually the same land mass once upon a time but have since been separated. The same rock formations found in Scotland can be found in Newfoundland today, and we saw many examples of this during our hike as well as at the Geo Centre. 

The other interesting history we learned was the real cause of the Titanic sinking. At first, I was wondering why the Titanic even had its own exhibit, but then I found out this was due to the Titanic crashing in this vicinity. The exhibit made it very clear that you cannot blame the Titanic sinking “because of an iceberg,” which I always thought was idiotic, yet another example of human beings refusing to have any accountability or take responsibility for their mistakes. The crash and the over 1,500 deaths that happened as a result of the Titanic sinking was really due to many, many greedy and arrogant white men, including J.P. Morgan, who at the time, made selfish and short-sighted decisions, resulting in this epic and tragic devastation. What probably made my blood pressure soar the most was seeing that those who managed the Titanic gave zero reparations for damages and deaths to the survivors and families despite their extreme wealth. This, plus the fact that there were not enough life boat seats for everyone, and they boarded people on the life boats in order of class – it’s just amazing how greedy and heartless people are regardless of what time period we’re in. 

Signal Hill gives a gorgeous view of the entire city and the sweeping water, harbor, and lighthouses that surround it. We spent the late afternoon yesterday hiking this area, and it was so impressive how well laid out and maintained it was. It reminded me a lot of the coastal walk in Rhode Island, just that here, there were far fewer people hiking, and the ones who were actually in the area seemed more like locals going for their daily exercise. There are boardwalks and stairs in many areas, chains where the ledges are very slim so that you can still safely walk across the rocks, and many resting areas where bright red Adirondack chairs can be found. The colors of the area were so vibrant; the green of the grass seemed to be nearly florescent and glowing in some areas, while the water appeared aquamarine and emerald-hued, sparkling wildly depending on how bright the sun was shining. The greens and the blues really contrasted with the whites and reds of the lighthouses. You could also see all those millions of years literally layering on top of one another when gazing over the cliffs and the rock formations, with all the different layers and shades of tan, brown, orange, and red. 

The rugged beauty of this area has stunned me in the last couple of days. I’m happy that it feels so remote and untouched because that adds to the beauty and serenity, but given its proximity to New York City (it’s just about 4 hours away by flight), it’s crazy that so few people come visit. Most of the tourists we’ve noticed so far have been domestic tourists exploring their own backyard. This truly feels like a getaway from civilization as we know it.

common decency in public restrooms

I was in an airport lounge restroom at the Toronto airport this morning, standing at the sink while washing my hands. As an older woman got out of her bathroom stall, I casually noticed in the mirror that she seemed to be waiting for someone else to exit another stall as she also washed her hands. In about a couple minutes, a much younger female (she couldn’t have been any older than 11 or 12) also exited a stall and stood next to who I assumed to be her mom. She clearly used the restroom and flushed, but she made no attempt to get to a sink to suds up her hands.

Older woman: Hun, aren’t you going to wash your hands? You just used the bathroom, didn’t you?

Pre-teen: (grimaced, said not a single word, then points to the little bottle of hand sanitizer that is attached to the side of her backpack. She made no indication that she would use it then and there.. or maybe even ever).

Older woman: You’re going to that instead?

Pre-teen: (nods)

Older woman: Okay, then. If that’s what makes you happy.

They exited the bathroom. There are so many problems with what just happened, ranging from entitlement, lack of gratitude, lack of self-awareness, #firstworldproblems, to just plain filth, that I cannot even begin to list them out now.

I was immediately wondering exactly how permissive of a life this child led to be allowed to exit a public restroom without washing her hands. The purpose of hand sanitizer is to use it when you do not have access to soap, water, or a public restroom. She clearly had access to all the above. Yet, she stubbornly refused to use it. You’ve got to be kidding me. If that were my child in that situation, I would have said, “You’re in a public restroom with running water and soap. You’re going to wash your fucking hands now.”

When a tornado hits your airport

My last customer meeting ended at 2pm today, so when I was originally booking my round-trip flight, I wasn’t sure when they would have availability with me and arranged to come back on a 7pm flight. I called AA to rebook me onto an earlier flight, and they placed me on the 5pm flight. At the airport as I was finishing up some work emails, I received a cancellation notice for my flight. While on my computer, some massive grey clouds descended upon Boston Logan airport. For a while, I couldn’t even see through the window because it was like we were being fully drenched in endless streams of water. When the rain dissipated, I tried to go to the nearest gate to see if I could get on the next flight out. And I overheard that a small tornado hovered over the entire Boston Logan airport, resulting in countless cancelled flights, including mine.

I was imagining a tornado spinning, fully surrounding this airport, and imagining all these people, including myself, sitting there, typing away on their computers, reading on their smart phones, completely oblivious. I’m not sure if that is a good or a bad thing.

I silently dealt with the flight rebooking and sat down. Unfortunately, not everyone was as quiet as I was because some rather overweight gentleman came barreling through the crowds of people surrounding the gate I was at while on his phone, complaining at the top of his lungs how mad he was that he had to rebook flights and hotels due to the weather here and how terrible everything is for him. And when he wasn’t done, he proceeded to call four more people to tell them the exact same story. His voice was nearly at shouting volume. Many, many people turned to look his way to give him disapproving looks. He had zero self awareness.

I realize that everyone has different coping mechanisms when travel plans do not work out, but is it really necessary to be complaining loudly so everyone within 200 feet can hear about how horrible your life is when a flight gets cancelled or delayed… when literally every single person standing around you is facing the exact same thing?

Overhyped Boston restaurants

While I spent four years in college in the Boston area and then subsequently went back very regularly to visit my then boyfriend for three additional years, there was always one restaurant in the North End I always wanted to eat at, but just never got around to because it was infamous for its long wait (they don’t take reservations), plus it was cash only. From what I’d heard, they were also pretty arrogant and had terrible service, but sometimes, that’s just what you deal with to get good food, right?

Finally, this work trip, some friends in the area suggested we eat in the North End, so I asked if we could go to Giacomo’s. We didn’t wait long; in fact, we waited just long enough for our third friend to arrive and got seated right away. It probably helped that it was a Monday night at around 6:30, too. But when we got seated and I took a look at the menu, it all seemed pretty standard. I couldn’t tell if these were all fresh pastas or not. We ordered the veal parmagianno, the fettuccine with mixed seafood, and the lobster ravioli, as well as the fried calamari to start. The fried calamari was mediocre at best, full of fillers, even fried onions and peppers! The veal and the lobster ravioli were delicious. The mixed seafood was all cooked well. But the fettuccine, although al dente, wasn’t anything remarkable. I wondered why a place this famous wouldn’t have fresh, homemade pasta as a default, or even an option on the menu… until I read a Yelp review that said you actually have to “know to ask” for the fresh pasta with a small uncharge. Why should an Italian place have that be an “off menu” item — isn’t that something so basic to their cuisine?! But almost to make up for it, the prices were pretty reasonable, especially for the North End of Boston; with one starter, three mains, and tax and tip, we ended up paying $26 per person, which is pretty unheard of in this part of town.

Giacomo’s has decent Italian food, but other than the for the prices, I’m not sure why this place is so popular and always has crazy lines. It seems far more overhyped than it should be. I definitely think that New York City is infinitely better for Italian food overall, for the range in price points, quality and variety of Italian dishes, as well as.. well, places that actually offer fresh pasta and don’t make it some senseless secret.

Coffee and snack breaks

Every time I come to San Francisco for work, I feel grateful that I have a number of colleagues here who I like, value, and appreciate, even beyond work, but I feel conflicted because I rarely get as much work done as I would like. The reason for this is because I end up spending a lot of time catching up 1:1 or in small group settings with them, whether it’s over coffee/tea, lunch, or snack breaks, that I never end up getting all the tasks I originally set out to do done.

The way that I circumvented that this time was by front-loading my month to ensure that the majority of my calendar was free while I was here this week. It’s the end of our fiscal quarter, so while sales is scrambling to close their last deals, I’m pretty much done with my planned customer engagements and can calm down a bit and catch up on other “nice to have” tasks that I don’t always have time for.

It felt much better this time around. I didn’t have to feel as rushed or time pressed. I actually could enjoy myself and my catch-ups, and I didn’t constantly have to check my phone for messages, emails, and the time. It was a “relaxed” state of work for me.

Back 12 years later

In the summer of 2007, I had a summer internship at Fleishman Hillard, which is one of the largest public relations firms in the world, in their downtown San Francisco office. I was working for its technology practice with a very large and busy team. It was located at 555 Market Street, which I’m assuming it still occupies, one of two twin towers that shares a grand entrance complete with a ramp that runs over a waterfall and pond fixture.

Today, I went to its twin building for a customer visit, and it felt a bit funny for me to be entering these buildings again, 12 years later, as a working professional, visiting from New York to meet with one of my customers. I no longer work in public relations (and thank God for that), but I still am in the technology sector. I walked in, feeling grateful that I left PR to pursue technology for many, many reasons. Life would have been very different if I had continued in that career path, and it would have felt pretty lifeless and boring. That entire summer was painful at work, and I waited every day until 4:30 or 5 when it was okay for me to leave. That office was a sea of politics and favoritism, and knowing how low the pay was and how unattractive the benefits were made it even easier to turn my back on it.

A lot is wrong in the technology industry, particularly when it comes to women and people of color. But where I am today is far, far better than the choices I left behind from my college internships.