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The Best Symposium Ever at ACS, and Celebrating at Buca di Beppo's

Los Angeles

A tradition of sorts continued today as we all gathered at Molly’s for a filling breakfast. Anil, another of the Symposium speakers, was in attendance already, and he joined us after he finished up with his other friends. We talked around the table about any last-minute details, then we scattered; some to visit the conference, and Sunil and I to finalize preparations for the Symposium.

Since our session would be right after lunch and in our hotel, we met a collection of speakers, hangers-on and groupies in the lobby to choose where to go for lunch. The consensus was Molly’s. I had a bowl of soup. I don’t like to moderate on a full stomach, you see.

The Symposium itself went very smoothly, much more so than Sunil and I could have hoped for. Good speakers, standing-room-only attendance, absolutely no trouble with the equipment. (I assume Murphy was busy elsewhere in the conference; it’s a target-rich environment, after all.) As for the presentations, all I can say is: Best. Damned. Talks. Ever. I guess my stellar intros gave the speakers massive incentive to keep their end up. (I know chemists; it couldn’t have been extensive preparation.)

Bruschetta

After the dust settled and the handshakes were all done, we had only one major decision left to make. Where to celebrate? Caroline, our special behind-the-scenes organizer, greaser and enforcer, got with me and we decided for the group. After all, they were too stunned with how well things had gone to be able to decide how to tie their shoes, let alone where to go to eat and drink that evening.

After considerable consultation, we chose Buca di Beppo’s. Italian fits nearly every taste, and they can always do vegetarian. And Buca was easily within walking distance. So the Three Musketeers, bolstered with three camp followers, headed south on Harbor to find the eatery.

Less than ten minutes later, we found ourselves being led through the kitchen to our table. That’s one of the interesting features of Buca di Beppo’s; you get to see the food prep area. A busy place it was too! Everyone was smiling, and the waitstaff were all joking and laughing as they carried out their duties. Our server, Kevin, was about nine feet tall (or so it seemed from our low seats) and very jolly. He’s got a second career coming in some years as a stand-in for Saint Nick, I’m sure.

Anyways, we were all very manic after the success of the Symposium, and we began to enjoy ourselves. Oh, we weren’t THAT manic, we weren’t in any danger of getting tossed into the street. Chemists are generally conservative in their approach to fun. Shoot, some let their hair down by ordering a double iced tea with extra sugar. Which isn’t a bad way to go, actually…

Buca serves food “family style,” which makes for interesting ordering. Some groups come to consensus quite easily. Six chemists, two of whom are engineers? Not likely. True to form, we had to ask for extra time, just to choose appetizers. More than once. Finally Kevin put his foot down, and we ordered bruschetta and calamari. By then I was willing to order one of each from the menu, just to get things going. Somehow, though, Caroline prevailed and we went with only two appetizers.

Lasagna

The menu showed an interesting new dish: Prosciutto-stuffed chicken breast. So we got that one, for six. Then we added a vegetarian pizza, some spaghetti marinara, and a couple of sides. I had a Peroni to drink, a light Pilsner style beer that wouldn’t mask the flavors of the meal.

We worked our way through all the good stuff, and then we sat back and relaxed some more. Kev wanted to know what we wanted for dessert. Silly man! No room. Then he showed us the newest dessert on the menu: The Colossal Brownie Sundae. We ordered one for the table.

Only one, you ask? Yep. This thing starts with a martini glass that Rubeus Hagrid would need both hands to hold. The glass itself must have weighed ten pounds. Then they add a half-gallon or so of ice cream, chocolate and vanilla. Bite-sized brownies are added next. About three baking sheets of them, I think. Followed by a cow’s worth of whipped cream. And one lonely cherry on top. It was kinda lost up there, actually. I snagged it quickly to keep the others from worrying about it.

Once Kevin and his larger assistant had wrestled our treat to the table, he asked about after-dinner drinks. I went with limoncello, one of my favorite liqueurs. Icy-cold with a fiery back-bite, it’s sweet-hot with a wonderful lemony pucker at the end.

The table was defeated by the Sundae, at the very end. We didn’t leave much, but we didn’t get it all in. As it was, they nearly had to get a wheelbarrow brigade together to get us out to the street. I had to stick out an arm to see whether I was walking or rolling. (I won’t say which was true.)

Everything was done, and in style (of course). All that was left was to pick a good airplane for the ride home. That’s left for the new day; in the meantime, we were in desperate need of sleep to recover from the celebrations…

Enjoy the (Italian Celebration) Heat!

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