Thursday, July 21, 2011

Wine Traveler’s Travels part 3

Wine Traveler’s Travels part 3
(Sometime in 2000, didn’t date this one)

This week I am off to Helena Arkansas, a small town on the border of Arkansas and Mississippi.  My morning flight on American Airlines was missed due to my error of leaving the house without my wallet; I sat at the airport on standby till 1:48 PM which got me into Little Rock, AR at 10:30 PM with a two and a half hour drive to Helena.  This was the first time I had used American in quite a while I was pleased to see the attitudes of the employees has changed greatly.  They used to always seem angry.  The food on this flight was awful; it was described as a smoked turkey sandwich, which wasn’t much bigger than a small dinner roll, and a bag of chips that had more air than chips.  Needless to say I was starving.
At the recommendation of the Sales Rep I booked a room at the Isle of Capri Casino hotel across the river from Helena in Lula, MI.  Well at 1:00 am I was tired and grouchy my room was almost the last room from the one and only entrance.  I was on the second floor; there were about two hundred rooms per floor, with only one entrance (many alarmed fire exits) and a security guard at the door.  When I finally made it to my nonsmoking room I noticed a strong smell of smoke and two ashtrays in the room I called the desk and the girl said, “Well the computer says it’s a nonsmoking room.”  I won’t go into all the details of my conversation but I was less than pleasant.  She said, “I will bring up keys to another room” So I moved to the room that was furthest from the only entrance.  I then ventured down to the all night restaurant, for a rather pricey breakfast it was like an a la cart menu each item was $1, so two eggs, grits, sausage, a biscuit, and a glass of milk was $6.  The good thing though was it was well prepared and delicious.
Well I had to be up and dressed at 7 am the next morning and fortunately the Hospital was only 5 minutes from the casino.  After spending all day at the hospital with some very nice nurses, the sales rep, the Installer, the Monitor demonstrator and I went back to the casino for the Buffet dinner.  I was less than impressed with their treatment of vegetables the carrots were all mushy and so were the Brussels sprouts, (Is there a group for the ethical treatment of vegetables?)  Now the seafood part of this buffet was a whole other story.  The fried catfish was excellent very crispy on the outside and tender and flaky on the inside.  The boiled shrimp was very well seasoned and not over cooked.  Even the shrimp salad was very good, and the King Crab and Stone Crab were tasty as well.  The price of this buffet was a reasonable $13.95.  I also made a $5 donation at the one armed bandits.
            Then Wednesday before I returned to Little Rock to catch my plane home, we stopped in the casino again and I won back 3 of my $5.  Following the Sales rep back to Little Rock as he lived there, we stopped in a little town called Brinkley where they had a Stuckey’s, which unlike the ones I recall from my childhood was more like a convenience store than a restaurant but still with all the souvenirs.  What he stopped for was the Mexican blankets they sell here; you know those nice colorful woven blankets that are great to use to cuddle up in front of the TV with.  They were priced at $5.99 each; we paid more than that in Mexico about 8 years ago.  So I picked up one for each of my boys. 
            I got to the Airport in plenty of time for my scheduled flight but was met with bad news.  The flight was so delayed I would not be able to make my Seattle connection in Dallas.  So the very nice young man got me a flight on Delta which was leaving in the next 15 minutes.  This allowed me to return to Seattle at 10:45 PM instead of the 12:30am I would have on American.  My opinion of American Airlines is definitely better than it was prior to this trip, while the food sucks the employees have a much better attitude and go out of their way to help you out.  The flight home on Delta was lacking only in the food department, as it was a late flight, only pretzels were served in coach.  The flight from Dallas to Seattle was in a 757 and as I have said before I’d rather be in coach in a 757 than First Class on a MD 80.  The Movie was Frequency so I saved $5 since I had already seen this one and was less than impressed.  We were served pretzels and soft drinks on this 3 hour and 45 min flight.  But the comfort of being in a 757 made up for the lack of food.  Somewhere on the flight home my pager must have fallen out of my computer bag, as it was not there the next morning.  Arriving at a little after 11 it was about 12:30 when I made it home.  Fortunately I had a message from the office that I could come in a little late in the morning. 

Wine Traveler’s Travels 2

Wine Traveler’s Travels 2 (From the archives)
05 Sep 2000
            Well it was another early morning trip out of SeaTac made bearable by the fact that my wife, Gail accompanied me to the airport.  This is a rare occasion since our schedules rarely coincide, and it was a welcome change to have her there to say goodbye to before I went into the terminal.  Well my luck has remained with me and this trip is on TWA again which means I get the free upgrade to first class.  The breakfast was the vegetable quiche again and was just as good as last week. The movie was Frequency, a very predictable movie about a son making contact with his deceased father via a HAM radio with the help of solar flares.  I expected a tearjerker, and as my kids will attest I cry easy at the movies, well I didn’t shed a tear here as it was too canned, and even for a diehard sci-fi fan too improbable.  Well the wait in St. Louis was only 30 minutes so I went right to the gate.  To my surprise the 42-minute flight to Indianapolis was on a 757.  This flight was very quick and comfortable. 
            The drive from Indianapolis was in the 2000 Mazda 626 from Hertz.  It was a comfortable but small vehicle with that tin can feeling but miles above the contour they first offered me. 
            Terre Haute Indiana is the home of basketball great Larry Bird and the Indiana State University.  It is also the home of, in my humble opinion; the best managed Holiday Inn in the country.  The place while not new is well maintained and clean.  You are met with a smile and coupons for a complimentary breakfast bar in the restaurant (a real breakfast with sausage, bacon, scrambled eggs and home fries) and a coupon for a free drink in the lounge.  The indoor pool is clean and warm the Hot tub was also clean and could have been a little hotter but over all a great experience.  This was my third time at this particular Holiday Inn and while the rate has increased from $69 to $79 it is still one of the best values I have ever experienced in the hotels I have visited.  I have even been known to add to evaluations at other Holiday Inns that they could learn something from this site.  The Mall here has a store called Bach Rack, which is an outlet for Bachrach clothing.  You can find fine dress shirts usually priced at $45+ for $6.  I did not find anything I liked on this trip however I did run across a Fred Meyer Jewelers that had a pair of peridot earrings on sale I could not pass up for my wife since last month I was unable to get anything nice for her birthday. 
            I spent most of my time here this trip at the hospital so I did not get to explore the city much.  I finished early and hoped to visit my brother and sister-in-law in Indianapolis on the way home but their schedule did not coincide so since I finished early I was able to change my flight home and get all 757 service home.  The movie on the way home was “Keeping the Faith”, one of the best films I have seen this year.  It is the story of three best friends; a Priest, a Rabbi, and a girl.  I laughed and I cried and so did most everyone else on the plane.  I can’t wait till it is available to rent so I can see it again and share it with Gail.
            I was able to get home before Gail left for work that night and gave her the earrings; she was very pleased.  She wore them the next day when we went on a dinner cruise on the “Spirit of Puget Sound”.  Gail’s employer sponsored this cruise.  We left from the Port of Everett at 4 PM the ship has two decks for the dinner cruise and seats about 300 people.  There was a live band on each deck as well as a dance floor.  The Buffet was great there was dill carrots, crab salad, tossed salad, potato salad, beef stew and rice, teriyaki chicken, and baked salmon with dill sauce.  The dill carrots were fantastic, the crab salad was also good.  I also had the teriyaki chicken and the salmon all of which were awesome. The Desert was a flamboyantly prepared cherry jubilee.  Then came the Show, which was a musical presentation that was very well done.  The Band was great and I even got Gail up dancing, something I wish we did more of.  I highly recommend this dinner cruise, and I will be adding it to the list of things to do with visiting friends and relatives (any excuse to get Gail to go dancing with me).

Wine Traveler’s Travels Part 1

Wine Traveler’s Travels Part 1 (From my archives)
27 AUG 2000

This is the first installment of my travels and escapades as I discover America one city at a time. 
First a little history, I am a forty-year-old man going on twenty-five.  I work for a medical monitoring company teaching other nurses and health professionals how to use the medical software developed by my company.  I love to discover the uniqueness of the city I am visiting, and I hope to chronicle it here so I can recall it when my memories fail me.  I won’t bore you with the details of my job just the fringe benefits of all the travel it entails. 
             I flew out of SeaTac airport at 6:05 am (the only time to try to get to SeaTac airport from North of Seattle if you wish to avoid the traffic and to get a Boeing 757) Tuesday Morning the last week of August on TWA.  I was pleased to have the free corporate upgrade to First Class.  The movie was Center Stage, one I hadn’t seen yet.  The breakfast that was served was exceptionally good the vegetable quiche was quite tasty with a surprisingly flaky crust.  The ham slices (much like Canadian bacon) that accompanied the quiche were also very tasty. Then there was the one hour layover in St. Louis, made bearable by the First Class ticket granting me access to the Ambassadors Club.  The hour and a half flight from St. Louis to Pittsburgh was on a DC9 I was surprised that First Class here only offered pretzels, but the Bailey’s Irish Cream and Kahlua on the rocks made it a pleasant flight. 
            From the Airport to Wheeling West Virginia I drove my rented Pontiac Grand Am, the 2000 model was a vast improvement over the last one I had driven not only was the styling a bit more sporty but it actually had some get up and go.  Entering Wheeling I was not prepared for the appearance, while I noted another fairly large hospital, the rest of the town looked quite ramshackled.   I met some of my coworkers at the Hampton Inn where we were to stay we then headed out to look for a good place to eat.  Brent, the installer, had been here before and recommended the River City AleHouse.  So off we set through some very seedy areas of town till we came to a couple of buildings that had obviously been recently renovated.  One being the Wheeling Visitor and Transportation Center (a parking garage and Bus Terminal) and the River City Artisan Center which also housed the AleHouse.  Entering the building, it was apparent that some real talent had been engaged in this renovation project.  The interior gave the impression of two three-storied buildings that had been connected by stairs and bridgeways, the opening between them covered by a glass roof.  We were seated in the non-smoking section (it’s times like this that I really miss the West Coast) The service was exemplary and the food was ample and well prepared.  Our server started by bringing us some fresh focacia style bread and introducing herself. Then took our order Brent ordered the House Stout, which fortunately was the only local brew available at this time, I followed suit, Vicki ordered ice tea.  The Stout was like Chocolate syrup and the head was thick and creamy.  The taste was ample without being overpowering with a slight bite but no bitterness.  We then surveyed the very eclectic menu.  Brent ordered the Filet on Toast, Vicki the Philly Cheese Steak and I the Portabello Mushroom Pizza.  The Filet on Toast was medallions of Filet Mignon on Texas toast with grilled onions and Cheese, served with Brewery Fries (seasoned steak fries); I heard no complaints from Brent.  The Philly Cheese Steak was an ample version of this famous staple, also served with Brewery Fries; Vicki’s only complaint was she couldn’t eat it all.  The Pizza was a healthy twelve-inch crust with pesto sauce, portabello mushroom slices, red Onion, green pepper, and three cheeses.  I have been known to eat most of a large delivery pizza I could not finish this one.  We had to skip desert. 
            The next day work finished early for Vicki and I so we went exploring.  Our first goal was lunch; the staff at the hospital recommended we head towards the Mall about 8 miles away and the Mehlman Cafeteria received their highest recommendation.  After looking in the mall and wishing to try something local we left in search of Mehlmans, we were not disappointed.  It was your typical cafeteria or Buffeteria style, only better.  The food was all made from scratch, Vicki and had similar tastes this time we both chose the Egg Custard, the Prime Rib and a baked potato.   I think the Egg Custard was my favorite though nothing went to waste.  The ice tea was fresh brewed; this Florida boy won’t touch instant.  
After Lunch we went in search of the park that some of the staff had mentioned.  We went west of the Hotel on US 40.  We saw some wonderful old colonial style homes and one that had a Frank Lloyd Wright with an Oriental twist look.  And we found a wonderful park that had a golf course, miniature golf as well as standard park amenities.  Vicki marveled at the old cemeteries we passed and the unique headstones.  When we again spoke with the staff they told us we saw the small park and that even more impressive homes where over towards Oglebay Park which had two golf courses. 
That night we went back over by the mall to search out new tastes for dinner, we settled on the West Texas Roadhouse.  This is one of those places where you get a bucket of peanuts and the floor is covered in shells.  I ordered a Red Wolf draft which came in a large frosty 34-ounce mug, there were ice crystals floating in the top of the beer.  This is the way beer was meant to be served, I don’t recall what Brent or Vicki ordered (must have been the beer) I had a Prime Rib sandwich on Texas toast with fries (that looked and tasted very similar to the brewery fries from the AleHouse).
Vicki and I wondered what industries had once made this area so prosperous.  My last night in town I found out; I returned to the River City AleHouse to try more of their menu. I was there early enough to visit the Artisan center, which included a tour of the history of Wheeling.  Being on the Ohio River and situated as the gateway from East to West.  Some of the first settlers were brewery types, relatives of the brewery people brought other industries Glass making, Steel, and Tobacco were among these industries.  Wheeling was most famous for its production of Nails; they now have a Hockey team named the Wheeling Nailers.  Mail Pouch tobacco was packaged and shipped from Wheeling as well as Wheeling Stogies cigars.  The self-guided tour through this artisan center was uniquely displayed in a barrel where you could turn a wheel on one end to change the information displayed in a window in the barrel.  The National Highway, which was one of the first east to west thoroughfares, passed through Wheeling.  This visit I ordered the Spinach Wrap this was a very generous portion of grilled chicken with a spinach, rice and cheese mixture wrapped in a spinach tortilla; served with Brewery Fries I could only eat half of the wrap.  I also had another glass of their stout they make there.
We finished a day early and I was unable to get my flight changed so I stayed in Wheeling Thursday night then drove back to Pittsburgh to visit family I have there.  I called my aunt, Sister Gregory, at the convent to see if it was convenient for me to visit.  She welcomed me; I was also able to visit my great aunts Sisters Claver and Georgine.
Sister Gregory invited me to join her for lunch touring the Mother house of the Sisters of St. Francis of Milvale was the highlight of my trip the artwork here was breathtaking, the cathedral was humbling with the great vaulting ceiling and the stained glass windows.  Lunch was served buffet style and included a wonderful salad bar the entrees today were pancakes (both plain and blueberry) or tuna melt sandwich. There was fresh cantaloupe as well.  I had a salad and the tuna melt with a slice of the cantaloupe. Sister Gregory stepped up to the microphone in the lunchroom and introduced “the man” who was visiting.
After lunch we went to visit the “old Sisters” in the infirmary. Sister Georgine was still eating her lunch and Sister Claver had been brought into her room.  Sister Claver is in her nineties and was diagnosed with a brain tumor about two years ago and since it was painless she made the decision to have no intervention.  Sister Georgine is a few years younger but has been an insulin dependant diabetic for many years.  She is now hard of hearing and She told me about five times she can’t see; though, as I was leaving, she told me she liked the cartoon characters on my shirt.  I was wearing my denim shirt which has a large embroidered Bugs Bunny and While E. Coyote on the back. Sister Georgine recognized me right off sister Claver said she did but as her memory has been failing I wasn’t so sure.  Sister Georgine asked about my three boys and even remembered their names.  After this visit we went back to Sister Gregory’s office to call my Uncle Skip to see if he was open to a visit.  As we walked though the convent I was stopped many times by sisters welcoming me and thanking me for stopping by.  This is one place I would like to visit again.
Sister Gregory and I drove to my Uncle Skip’s house and visited with him and my Aunt Claire, Uncle Ray also stopped by.  While there we put in a call to my cousin Kathy who was at work.  It was wonderful to visit with my family.  Uncle Skip shared some old family photos of my Grand Father and Great Grand Father.  He also proudly displayed his new Z scale train he and Aunt Claire had made.  It was ingeniously mounted on a platform that resembled a toy drum, it was very christmasy.   After leaving their house I drove Sister Gregory to the auto body shop so she could pick up her car she had repaired.  Sister Gregory told me the story of why she has two hard hats in the back window of her car.  She was once told that putting a man’s hat in plain view would help to discourage attackers by giving the impression that a man was traveling with her.  So she figured a hard hat would go one better, not only was a man traveling with her but also he was a tough one.   Saying goodbye but not really wanting to leave I headed back to the airport. 
The flight home was very enjoyable, from Pittsburgh to St. Louis it was a similar DC9 like the one I arrived on, the same hour and a half flight; but the crew had such a sense of humor we were laughing the whole way.  This time we were served a beef wrap that tasted so fresh I would have thought they had made them on the plane with a three bean salad and Pepperidge Farms cookies with my favorite Bailey’s and Kahlua on the rocks. 
I spent the two-hour lay over in the Ambassadors Club writing this account. 
My flight from St. Louis to Seattle was most miserable as it was in a MD-80.  This is the worst Jet ever devised; the ride is always noisy because of the wind noise that penetrates the hull even in First Class.  They have no entertainment system and they take about 40 minutes longer, to make the same trip, than a 757 would.  So the trip is longer and there is no movie or music to help pass the time.  Thank goodness I didn’t have to ride in Coach this time as my knees touch the seat in front of me; MD-80’s are so cramped.  The crew was very attentive though, and the half sandwich (grilled chicken on a croissant) was acceptable. I will fill out yet another suggestion form ranting about the inadequacies of the MD-80.   
As I reread this first attempt to chronicle my travels it seems I focus a lot on eating but there was not much else to do in Wheeling. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Becoming a Phoenix

               I am always looking for way to improve myself and one of those includes my writing skills. If you have been a long time follower of my writing (mostly my family, cause the didn’t have much of a choice J) then you know I am not the most fluent writer. I tend to just write as I speak some fragments and some run on sentences. Well you will be happy to know I have enrolled in school to change that. I am now attending the University of Phoenix Online (UOPX). My Wife was very successful in getting her Master’s Degree in Nursing through the UOPX and is now working on her PhD in healthcare administration.
                I really enjoy doing social media for some of the local wineries so I decided to go back to school for a business degree with an emphasis on marketing. The online school is mostly writing assignments so my online presence may be less as I work to fulfill my school obligations for a bit.  I plan to post some of my old writings that I shared via email with my family when I was traveling the country installing medical software. Hopefully there will be a noticeable improvement in my writing skills as I progress with my education.
                I am going to continue to Tweet and talk about the local wine industry and hopefully use it as much as possible in my school assignments. So like the mythical bird my old writings are going to rise from the ashes I hope you enjoy them .

Thursday, July 7, 2011

a new "old" way of doing wine.

There is a new "playa in da 'hood." Piccola Wine, I will let their press release speak for them, but I do know they are using premium wines in this new/old format. You can find them in the same spot as Edmonds Winery. Are you ready to rediscover the way wine used to be made available to the public?


First Washington State winery to specialize solely in wine on tap.
WOODINVILLE, WA – Hosting a dinner party next week? Taking a road trip in your new RV? Wish you could just chill and serve a keg of fresh, delicious wine? Now you can. La Botte Piccola Wine Company, specializing in Wine-on-Tap, has opened a new winery, Piccola Cellars. Based in Woodinville, Piccola Cellars will focus exclusively on offering wine in keg in new consumer-friendly mini-kegs. Piccola, who has been working with several restaurants and bars in the Seattle area, is branching out so that they can work directly with the public. Their new mini-kegs have a sophisticated built-in gas module and tap system and come in both 5 and 11 liter sizes. The keg keeps wine fresh for up to 3 months and is completely re-usable - simply bring it back to the winery for a re-fill.
Sound a bit too modern for your taste? Actually, Piccola Cellar’s theory is that serving Wine-on-Tap is a return to our roots – for years serving wine direct from the barrel was the traditional means of providing local wine to the community. With the benefit of new technology, they preserve that tradition while still delivering a high quality, local product. Piccola Celler’s founder and co-owner, Diana Kaspic said “Many people think that serving wine from a keg is new idea. It’s actually a really old idea. We’ve just put a new twist on it.”
Serving wine on tap is both economically and environmentally beneficial. The kegs are extremely efficient to fill and transport and topping them with Argon or similar gas keeps the wine as fresh as the day it was packaged. Along with preserving the wine, the keg packaging
reduces much of the waste involved with packaging and serving wine in glass bottles. The kegs weigh less, they are completely re-usable and they take up less space. And, because of the larger size and minimal waste of product, you can consume more and save money at the same time. Now that’s an idea that we all can embrace.

La Botte Piccola Wine Company specializes in Washington wine packaged in large format kegs poured using a traditional tap system. Serving the restaurant, catering and consumer market, their reusable keg containers give customers a unique economic and environmental advantage. Piccola Cellars is based in Woodinville’s wine warehouse district and their tasting room is open Fridays 3-5, Saturdays 12-6 and Sundays 12-5. Clients include Black Bottle, Locol Barley and Vine, Bear Mountain Ranch in Chelan, Willows Run Golf Course and more. To learn more about Piccola Cellars, please call 206-271-2692 or visit their web site at Come get “Tapped In.”