Friday, September 9, 2011

Wine Traveler’s Travels 9 (From the archives #8 was lost)


I’m off to Albert Lea, Minnesota this week, a small friendly town I have visited before.  I will be flying into Minneapolis and even though this is a major hub for Northwest Airlines (an airline I will avoid at all cost) I had the travel agent check TWA and it was much cheaper.  NW would have been nonstop but on TWA I could get first class and save money for the customer.  So I’m off at 6:10 AM again and on a 757 so you know I am happy.  The breakfast was a wonderful mushroom omelet with home fries, while I’m not fond of their coffee (I’ve been spoiled by the wonderful coffees available in Seattle) I really enjoyed the meal.  My favorite coffee is Seattle’s Best; my second favorite is Tully’s.   I find Starbucks to be too bitter and acidic, the others I have mentioned are smoother while still being rich and full bodied.  Alaska Airlines serves Seattle’s Best.  I caught my connection, which was one of Boeing’s new 717’s.  To my disappointment this is just a renamed DC9, like a small version of the dreaded MD-80; the same cramped seating and awful wind noise once it reaches cruising speed.  I did get to Minneapolis on time and Hertz had a Monte Carlo waiting for me with a remote, rarely do they give you the remote.  I asked for an ice scraper and they told me that there was no snow predicted this week.  I explained that I had been to Albert Lea before and was sure I would use it.  My last trip to Albert Lea (Jan 1999) I had to drive past 12-foot snowdrifts so I wanted to be prepared. By the time I got to Albert Lea the snow was falling but was not sticking.  On the way there all I could think about was the Café in the mall there that had one of the best steaks I had ever eaten.  My hotel, a Holiday Inn Express, was just off the interstate and just a block from the Mall where Café Don’l was located.  After checking in I went to the Mall for dinner, I ordered the “Millionaire’s Steak.”  This is an 8-ounce cut of Sirloin with a spicy sauce and crumbled Blue Cheese on top.  I know what you may be thinking Sirloin is not exactly the best cut of beef, but the sauce and the cheese just make this the best tasting steak ever.  The meal started with a salad and a homemade Blue cheese dressing and home baked herb bread.  The herb bread was rosemary spiced whole wheat bread, served with real butter.  The steak came with a baked potato.  This wonderful meal was on special tonight for the whopping price of $9.99.  I had a glass of Black Opal Merlot from Australia, which was also on special for $2.99/glass.  The restaurant was well decorated and the service was excellent.  The only fault I found was the paper placemat and napkin.  But then cloth napkins and such would have made the price twice what it was. 
            Tuesday morning I got up and had ice on the windows of the car, so I used my ice scrapper the first day.  Work was enjoyable, as the staff is very nice and friendly.  Tuesday Night I returned to Café Don’L, This time I thought I would try the Italian style steak, which was described as an 8-ounce cut of sirloin with mushrooms and topping buttered pasta.  I chose the soup this time that was the best part of this meal, cream of chicken with wild rice.  The Steak, while well prepared it lacked the spice of the “Millionaire’s Steak” I think a bit of garlic would have really made this steak great.  The price of this meal was a whopping $8.99.  Well worth it and again the service was top notch.  The Snow was falling pretty heavy tonight but melting as soon as it touched ground.
            Wednesday morning, the car did not start and I had to get a jump.  The nurses were very understanding when I showed up late.  That night I returned to Café Don’L for another “Millionaire’s Steak” this one was even better than Monday’s.  The soup today was called Hillbilly Stew, a ground sirloin based vegetable soup, I went with the salad.  I would really like to know the secret to this sauce. 
            Thursday morning the car was covered in snow and I got out there half an hour earlier than before incase the car wouldn’t start, of course it started fine today.  I took the remote off the key ring and locked the car while it was running to melt the snow and went back inside for the continental breakfast offered at the Holiday Inn.  Work again was enjoyable, it snowed off and on all day and I left at 3:15 pm to get back to Minneapolis, some 80+ miles away to catch my 6 PM flight.  I made it plenty of time; the flight from Minneapolis to St. Louis was on an MD-80 in coach, torture of all tortures, fortunately only an hour and a half.  Then it was first class in a 757 to Seattle.  The snack was a half sandwich, smoked turkey on toasted whole wheat with tomato and cucumber, a German potato salad and Pepperidge Farms cookies.  The chardonnay on this flight was a Riverfort de France, a very mild yet fragrant white wine.  The service was, as always, top notch.

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