To all of you Dads out there – today is your day! Enjoy it! I will raise my glass to all of you tonight – cheers!
One of the toughest questions I’m trying to ask myself all the time – is this experience worthy of a blog post? Things happen, you think they are important and you have to blog about it – but then new things come on top, and what seemed to be important doesn’t fell like that anymore. But it isn’t. Yes, we are moving along in life, and new experiences overshadow the past ones – thus it is important to capture things that happen as they happen, before they get out of site and out of mind.
Did I lose you already? Don’t worry, it is a short post, and I will bring you back.
I visited a very interesting place today – Hu Kitchen in Manhattan. What do you think “Hu” stands for? Hunan Garden, as many Chinese restaurants are called? Do you think it is actually a Chinese restaurant?
Nope. “Hu” stands for “Human”, and it is a place for the true and honest food. Gluten free. Refined sugar free. GMO free. But tasty. Very, very tasty.
I had breakfast Burrito. Here is how it is described on the menu:
Okay, here it is.
1863 comments, which translates into more than 900 dialogs.
Today is third anniversary of Talk-A-Vino blog.
This blog started on March 29, 2010 with this post. Started is somewhat of a big word, as the very next post came out almost 4 month later, on July 20th (interestingly enough, it was about Wine Century Club, same as my post from yesterday).
From there on, this blog went forward. Slowly. Sometimes, I was questioning the entire premise of this writing (believe me – I still do). Sometimes, the going was easy. And sometimes, getting a single word out was as easy as successful as convincing oneself that tooth pain is enjoyable. But – there was always something else to say. Something else to share. And the lucky day would bring a comment. An opportunity to talk and to engage, to have a dialog. I think ultimately, the dialog is what I value the most in the whole blogging paradigm. Yes, I can express myself, I’m talking about the subject I’m extremely passionate about – but I really strive for discussion, strive for dialog, strive for the feedback. Good, bad or ugly – doesn’t matter; having any feedback is much better than having none. This is why I included the number of comments as probably the only metric I care about. No, I’m not trying to lie to you – of course I look at the number of views and visitors. But – dialogs are what really matters, and it is the major reason for this blog to exist.
Okay, I think you got my point (can I please have a comment from each one of you, so I know my message went across? What, no comment? Well, please promise that you will leave one next time?).
Considering that any birthday is an opportunity to reflect, I wanted to give you my own retrospective and tell you what was planned, what worked, what didn’t work, what I liked and what I didn’t like. I dutifully scrolled through many posts, to no avail – I’m ashamed to admit, but I like a lot of them… Here is an “oenophile” mini-series – Fears of the Oenophile, Five Essential Traits of the Oenophile, Five Traps of Oenophile. And then there are Wine and Time, Wine = Art and Taste Of Wine – Engineering Approach, as well as the “wineries” mini-series – BV, Ridge, Paumanok, Chateau Ste. Michelle, … Wine quizzes, Daily Glass, Bars and Restaurants, Travel – all with pictures (can I share one more number? 1309 pictures are attached to this blog…).
Many things didn’t work as planned. My Daily Glass is very far from even weekly. My Categories are all over the place – grapes, wines, experiences and regions are all just lumped together, without any system. I don’t update pages on time (Top Wine Ratings is 5 month behind, for instance)…
Well, it is what it is. It is a live blog. And does create dialog. Thus, I’m happy. Cheers!
This is the last post in the series about our 3-days excursion to Las Vegas, which took place last September. In case you missed posts about first two days, here are the links – Day 1 Part 1, Day 1 Part 2 and Day 2. Yes, you should expect more pictures too.
Just to recap, on the first day we were getting acclimated in Las Vegas and were running around to the point of total exhaustion. Our second day was all about amazing Grand Canyon experience, on which I reported with inclusion of lots of pictures. By the way, I don’t know if you noticed the “mini-quiz” question at the end of the second day post – I was asking you what I could’ve tried to take the picture of.
This was actually my attempt to take a picture of the Hoover Dam during the night from the window of the moving bus – talented, right?
Let’s proceed with our third day. This was our last full day in Las Vegas, as we were going back home the next day, thus our goal was to get as much of Vegas as possible within one day, but – at a reasonable pace. Besides, it was my wife’s actual birthday, so we had to do something about that as well.
I started my morning from the walk to the nearby convenience store and the liquor store. Wait, not true. I actually started my morning from taking of a few pictures through our room’s window. Just to show you that all those casinos are not called “resorts” for nothing, here is the proof:
And here is the view of the strip from our room:
Now, let’s talk about the morning. You see, I already mentioned before that I have a problem with paying $4 for the bottle of water. Moreover, we prefer sparkling water which is often not even available in little stores inside the casinos. The convenience store was located literally across the street from Tour and Travel lobby of Mandalay Bay which we used the day before, and the liquor store was in a close proximity as well. The reason to go to the liquor store? I’m a cheap bastard, add I also have an idea of general wine prices, which makes me cringe looking at quadruple retail prices in the restaurant wine lists – thus getting a bottle of wine to for us to drink later on sounded like a good thing to do. I got a few bottles of seltzer, a bottle of Cava and California red blend – tasting notes will follow later.
Done with that, back to the room at around 9 am – time for a breakfast. Instead of going again to the buffet, we decided to go to one of the sit down restaurants inside the casino, Raffles Cafe. We decided to get two different omelets and over-sized french toast – all the food was okay, but not great. Well, at least pictures look okay:
On the negative side, we had to wait a loooong time. And price wise, we paid for three dishes practically the same amount as in the buffet, so good buffet, such as the one at MGM Grand, definitely provides much better value. Please understand that I’m not taking about quantity of food – we ended up eating a lot more in the restaurant versus the buffet – I’m talking about quality and variety.
For the Day 3, our plan was simple – to enjoy ourselves. We already had two very intense days, we saw and experienced a lot, so no matter how little we would see on the day 3, our mission was already accomplished.
Let’s talk again about little planning. I like to know in advance what is happening in the place I’m going to (especially in the place like Las Vegas, where there are literally millions of things happening every given moment). Based on some prior reading and past experience, I had a few things in mind. “Bodies” exhibition, on its last few days, conveniently located at Luxor. Eiffel tower at Paris hotel. Dinner at buffet in Bellagio. Night time adults show, but not too late as we have to fly home the next day. More walking around without killing ourselves, as we did on the first day. Oh yeah, and we have to drink the wine at some point. Anyway, I think this was a pretty good plan, so we started from walking to Luxor and getting tickets for “Bodies” and the evening show called Fantasy.
“Bodies” had been going for a while already, exhibiting in different cities around the country. It actually presents lots of completely dissected human bodies and even individual organs, preserved with the special compounds and showing how our bodies operate. We were not allowed to take any pictures, but you can find some examples and more information about preservation process and other details at this link. We walked through the whole exhibition in about 40 minutes, and at times it was necessary to forcefully compose ourselves, as some visuals just got to you, so we both were very happy to finally walk through the exit door.
Our next stop was Paris (the casino, of course). Considering that this was Sunday in the middle of the day, we chose taxi as the mode of transportation and we got to Paris in about 5 minutes and under $10. Our goal was to visit at Eiffel tower, where you can get upstairs and enjoy 360° view of Las Vegas. This is the paid attraction, so we had to get tickets (there was no line). Quick elevator ride up, and here we are, looking at Bellagio fountains and all around from the top.
One interesting fact is that the Eiffel tower replica at Paris casino was originally designed to be an exact copy of the actual Eiffel tower, in exactly same size – but Las Vegas airport is too close, so the resulting tower was built at the half size of the original. Still, the views are beautiful and well worth your time.
As I mentioned, we didn’t want to squeeze too much into one day, so we decided to visit some of the casinos within walking distance of Paris, preferably with some additional attractions. First we went to Flamingo, which boasts Wildlife Habitat. That Wildlife Habitat was not difficult to find, but – I wouldn’t say this was exactly what we expected. There were a few flamingos, some other birds and a few fishes – pretty cool for Las Vegas, but hardly worth any special attention (unless you never saw a flamingo before, you are now in Vegas and seeing the pink bird was always your dream).
Next stop (short walking distance) was Caesars Palace.
From what we saw, this was probably the most lavishly appointed casino – beautifully designed in the classic Roman style.
We made an attempt to see a free show, called the Fall of Atlantis. Finding it required a pretty steep walk through a huge mall called Forum Shops. By the time we found the place, we had to watch the show somewhat from the distance, as there were lots of people there already.
After two minutes, we found the acoustics terrible and show boring, so we decided to walk back through this huge place will millions of stores and then we just spent some time sitting on the bench and admiring all the beautiful architecture around us.
Next we walked to the Bellagio – our early dinner was calling. First we went again to the conservatory, now to see it in the day light. I took a few pictures, similar to the ones on the first day, only with a different lighting.
And – we had a light music to add up to the experience.
Do you think I can leave you without pictures of the flowers? Not a chance…
We headed to the Bellagio buffet at around 4:45 in the afternoon, which was a good call – when we were leaving it at about an hour later, the waiting line was extending back into the casino. In general, I believe the buffet at Bellagio is considered to be the best in Vegas (and I remember being pretty excited after visiting it about 5 years ago). This time – it was good – good variety of food, sumptuous crab legs (probably the main attraction there), good desserts – but it was lacking the “umpf”. May be because it was Sunday, may be my taste changed – I’m not sure, but the excitement was not there.
In any case, it was a good dinner, and now it was the time to go back to our room, open the wines and relax.
Here are tasting notes for the wines.
Poema Cava Brut Penedes ($14, 11.5% ABV) – yeasty, with notes of toasted bread, good acidity, good balance – excellent QPR
The red wine was Bear Flag Smooth Red, California ($12, 12% ABV) – a blend of Tempranillo, Touriga, Zinfandel and Alicante Bouchet – very nice, with the hint of smoke and cinnamon on the nose, ripe cherries, coffee and dark chocolate notes on the palate, good acidity, with little sharpness on the palate and mouthfeel a touch lighter than you might want – but very drinkable. Great QPR. Also the label was very interesting, completely surrounding the bottle:
Believe it or not, but this is pretty much all I have to tell you about our 3 days in Vegas. Yes, we went to see the show, Fantasy, and I guess it was something we expected – but nothing more and nothing less.
The next day we were on our way back to New York, and we were very happy to get home and hug the kids.
All in all, it was a great experience, and we had a great time – and we will gladly come back to Vegas at some other time.
I don’t know if you found any of these posts useful or even remotely funny, but I hope that at least liked a picture or two. Until the next time – cheers!
Wishing You All Happy and Healthy New Year, Filled With Joy, Families, Friends, Laughter, Love, Great Wines and Best Experiences!
What, you said, what Thanksgiving? We are counting days before Santa will get down the chimney, and this guy is talking about Thanksgiving? Well, yes, life gets in the way, and we have to simply deal with it – while we celebrated Thanksgiving about 10 days ago, I had no chance to write this post. As this blog also has a function of my personal journal, a life’s scrap book, if you will, I want to keep this little page in it, so here we go.
We have a long standing tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving with very close friends, pretty much a family, who live in Boston. We also share a passion for cooking, so our Thanksgiving dinners never become a routine – every time we need to come up with something else in terms of both main dish and sides. We’ve been through quite a few things in terms of Thanksgiving dinner – regular turkey, Turducken, smoked turkey – probably the only one we didn’t do yet is deep-fried turkey – we were advised against it as a project, as it involves some work which is actually better be left for professionals.
This year’s ideas was a stuffed turkey of sort, but most likely this is not what you think. The idea was to debone the turkey, leaving only legs and wings. Cut up most of the meat, leaving a layer of about half an inch with the skin. Removed meat then is ground and made into a stuffing with addition of spices, sauteed wild mushrooms with onions, matzo meal and previously fried bacon (large chunks). Then it is all stuffed back into the bird, which is been sewn and then roasted. Here are some of the pictures to illustrate what was happening (pictures are courtesy of my daughter).
Here is turkey ready to be stuffed ( we marinated it for about two hours prior):
The same with the addition of stuffing:
Finishing up the sewing:
Done! Better than new:
In the bag and in the roasting pot:
Now it is actually ready to eat:
In case you are curious, this is how it looked inside:
We had a few sides – sorry about the pictures, but we were actually ready to eat, so my jumping up and down with the camera in search of composition and the lighting were not welcomed – not for a little bit.
First, buckwheat with pine nuts, wild mushrooms and onions ( the same as went inside the turkey) and spicy Andalusian turkey sausage:
Roasted cauliflower with rosemary and pine nuts, covered with buttered Panko bread crumbs and grated Parmesan cheese (this is pretty much the whole recipe). The picture doesn’t do the justice to this dish, but it was tasty:
And then hazelnut-sage butter (stick of butter, cup of chopped hazelnuts and about a cup of whole sage leaves):
On top of roasted acorn squash ( again, this is practically the whole recipe):
Food was great, let’s talk about the wines. Been the wine guy as I am, I never try to exact the wine and food pairing for Thanksgiving – too many competing flavors, really hard to nail it. The best thing to do in my opinion is to chose middle of the road wines - nothing with super expressive taste, no fruit bombs, more of supple and round wines.
For the whites, in addition to Riesling which is not shown here, we had this two chardonnays:
I like Cono Sur wines – they deliver great QPR, and generally are pleasant. This 2011 Cono Sur Chardonnay Chile had a hint of vanilla on the nose, good white fruit on the palate with some hint of butter, good acidity, but overall may be a touch too sweet to my taste (still unquestionably quaffable). The 2010 Banknote Counterfeit Chardonnay Sonoma County was lighter than I expected – some distant hint of toasted oak and butter, but overall light wine, not very expressive. I wanted to check if this wine was unoaked, but the winemaker’s web site doesn’t even list this wine there. Clearly a counterfeit…
And here are the reds, at least some of them:
I previously talked about Beaujolais Nouveau, and I also shared my impressions of Tieare Imperiale CdP. 2011 Hahn Vineyards GSM Central Coast is a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre. The wine showed a lot of plush fruit, very round and slick, but somehow it lacked the character for me – it was over-engineered, if such terminology can be used to describe the wine. But then I have to tell you – 2010 if you see kay Lazio IGT, the wine with the controversial label, was perfect. This wine, produced by Jayson Woodbridge, the winemaker behind very successful super-rich Hundred Acre Cabernet from California (plus many other successful wine projects), had perfect balance of all components – dark fruit, just the right amount of it, round supple tannins, touch of spices, coffee, and dark chocolate, refreshing acidity and lingering finish. This is definitely the wine to enjoy (in other words – get your bottle).
Before we are done here, I have to tell you about one more wine-related experience – visiting the wine store, to be precise. I found out by way of The Wellesley Wine Press, a blog I’m following, about quite unique wine store in the Boston area, called Bin Ends. As you can imagine from the name, many of the wines in the store come from the actual “bin ends”, last bottles of wines not sold in some other places. As my friends live in a very close proximity to this wine store, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to visit it – I spent about an hour there, just walking around and browsing somewhat small, but very interesting inventory. I picked up some of the interesting wines and looking forward to tasting them at some point:
By the way, very unusual for me – all the wines above are white.
There you have it, folks - the Thanksgiving experience. Have a great week and cheers!
I want to take a moment and wish you all Happy Thanksgiving! Even if you don’t live in US, there are so many things we can be thankful for – you can always raise a glass for that. And for those who are celebrating, all of you who are busy prepping, cooking, getting the tables ready, opening wines, greeting the family and friends – I wish you all great tasting turkey, great wines, and most importantly – great time with families and friends.
Even few days ago, the Fall was still beautiful here in Connecticut. Instead of sharing food pictures with you today, I decided to share again sunshine and beauty. Enjoy!
Happy Thanksgiving! Cheers!
At this time of year, many of us are rushing around, trying to decide on the perfect appetizer,on table settings and decor, and pairing wines that will fit the budget but still impress our guests. And some are trying to figure out where they will get their next meal. Or how to pay the electric bill. Or wishing they had an electric bill to pay.