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Travel Diaries: Beautiful Prague

May 15, 2017 8 comments

For the first time I visited Prague in 1990 (if memory serves me right, of course). I have some scarce memories of that trip – Charles Bridge, Clock Tower, Gothic architecture and a street the food in form of the waffle with whipped cream and chocolate sauce. I always wanted to come back and experience Prague once again – and finally opportunity presented as one of my business meetings took me there.

You know how it can be dangerous to rely on the past experiences while setting the expectations? Everything changes – we change, everything around us changes as well – “you can’t enter the same river twice”. And the best moment in any experience is when you say – ahh, it is even better than I expected.

That is my feeling about the Prague. Beautiful city, all covered with the red roofs (somehow, red roofs have a magical effect on me), beautifully colorful buildings, castles and cathedrals everywhere – you derive the pleasure from anywhere you look (well, sadly, once you step a little away from the old town, you see lots of graffiti and simply start dreaming about all the pain which should be inflicted on the people who do that, but this is way outside of the subject of this post).

I’m not going to try to describe my impressions in words – instead, let me inundate you with pictures – lots and lots of pictures of the beautiful town of Prague. And when I say lots and lots, I actually mean it…

Prague Views

Streets of Prague

Streets of Prague

Streets of Prague

Streets of Prague

Streets of Prague

Streets of Prague

Streets of Prague

Streets of Prague

Streets of Prague

Streets of Prague

Don’t think you will find vine grapes growing in New York’s Central Park, but you do in Prague!

Spring in Prague

Prague Vltava River

Prague Vltava River

Prague Views

 

Prague Views

Prague Views

Prague Views

Red Roofs of Prague

Prague Charles Bridge

Prague Charles Bridge

Prague Charles Bridge

Prague Castles and Cathedrals

Prague Castles and Cathedrals

Prague Castles and Cathedrals

Prague Castles and Cathedrals

Prague Castles and Cathedrals

Streets of Prague - Trdelnik

These two peeing man (the parts of their bodies which attract the most attention are not only releasing the water, but also moving – heard quite a range of comments from the spectators:

Peeing man sculpture at Kafka Museum

Peeing man sculpture kafka Museum

Prague Castles and Cathedrals

Prague Castles and Cathedrals

Prague Castle Cathedral Fragment

Prague Castles and Cathedrals (1)

The legend has it that St. John of Nepomuk was executed for refusing to give the details of queen’s confession to the king. The St. John is honored with his own statue on the Charles Bridge. The legend also has it that if you will touch two of the fragments on the bottom of the statue, you wish will b granted. However, it seems that the legend might not get it exactly right – take a look at this blog post to learn what exactly do you need to touch:

Let me leave you with the love locks at the Charles Bridge – Prague is a beautiful city which is easy to fall in love with. Cheers!

Love Locks near Charles Bridge in Prague

Restaurant Files: Room 112 in Norwalk, CT – Experiencing The Art Of The Cocktail

December 18, 2016 Leave a comment

Room 112 NorwalkI’m very comfortable around alcohol. In the times of utmost political correctness this statement might be taken wrong in so many ways, but yes, I would still say it. Wine, beer, whiskey, tequila and everything in between – I’m not an expert, but I know my way around different types of alcohol in all of its forms. With one exception – cocktails. I have to openly and honestly admit that I’m intimidated by the cocktails.

While I was growing up, even at the age when I could legally drink, a bar and a cocktail where only a theoretical concept for me, something I learned from the books, and from the books alone. It continued that way even after I came to the States. It is quite possible that my first cocktail drink was during my first vacation in Cancun, as it was very simple there – Mojito was one and only name you needed to know.

When I sit at the bar, I’m at loss. Too many ingredients I can’t relate to, the need to measure, numerous failed attempts to make something tasty at home, despite religiously following the recipe. In most cases, the service starts with “What can I get you”, for which I don’t have a ready answer, and usually the menu wouldn’t help. So I end up with the sheepish “something not too sweet, please?”

Of course, the situation is not as dramatic lately, as a majority of the restaurants now offer concise, easy to choose from and often unique selection of the cocktails, which I’m gladly taking advantage of. Still, sitting at the bar is not something I would readily go for.

And then, there is Room 112 in Norwalk, Connecticut, which is The Bar. I remember in many books coming across the word “saloon”, which now seems to be used interchangeably with the “bar”. In the original meaning, saloon seems to be a “large room with the bar”, so this is what the Room 112 is – a large, creatively appointed room with the bar. Actually, it is two rooms with two bars – as few steps down the stairs will lead you to the game room, with another bar. Maybe we should just call it The Lounge.

What you will see below is few of my notes and mostly a collection of the pictures; I hope they will convey the magic of Room 112 at least to a some degree:

I visited Room 112 with the group of bloggers, so I was happy to sit at the bar to get the best view in the house:

Room 112 Norwalk

The cocktails at the Room 112 are not just made  – they are crafted. Thoughtfully selected drinking vessels, the presentation, the meticulous measurement and execution – sitting there at the bar at the Room 112, you are looking at the work of not just a barmen, but an Artist.

Here is Moët Impérial Champagne to start the evening  – just look at that glass:

Look at all the “tools of the trade”:

Room 112

Room 112 Norwalk

And here are the cocktails in the making – I should’ve recorded the video, only I didn’t:

Room 112 Norwalk

Room 112 Norwalk

Room 112 Norwalk

Room 112 Norwalk

Here is the final product – cocktail called Casa De Amor (casa amigo tequila, pavan liqueur, fresh lime juice, orange blossom bitters, dragon fruit, pink peppercorns, fresh rosemary sprig):

Casa de Amor Cocktail Room 112 NorwalkHere are few of the cocktails which I tried. The Pinacita (absolute elyx vodka, koval chrysanthemum & honey liqueur, st elder liqueur, fresh lime juice, serrano peppers, grilled pineapple, pink peppercorns and a campari foam) was not too sweet, nicely balanced (no, this is not an individual glass – it was served for the whole our group to try):

Room 112 NorwalkMy absolute favorites were two cocktails. First, Magic Mule (magic moments lemongrass infused vodka, koval ginger liqueur, fresh lime juice, topped with club soda, ginger root, lime, and mint), which was truly magic. I don’t know what was so special about this cocktail, but it was super-delicious – soft and gentle, but with rich flavor profile, soft notes of fresh ginger with herbs – I simply couldn’t get enough of it, most delicious Mule I ever had, pure magic:

Magic Mule Room 112 NorwalkThe second standout cocktail was  El Nino (Mexican Hot Toddy – azeteca de oro liqueur, koval honey liqueur, fresh lime juice, hot water, dried cranberries and a lemon and orange twist garnish) – it was served warm, in the beautiful sniffer glass, and I would just smell it forever – so much flavor was exuding from this glass, lemon, orange, wow. This is an ultimate cocktail for the cold winter day – grab the glass with two hands, and feel like warmth spreads all over your body:

Room 112 offer food with the help of the farm to table catering company called Harbor Harvest. We didn’t have an opportunity to explore much of the range of the food offerings – only had some antipasti, but they were fresh and tasty:

Here is the peek at the room downstairs:

For the desert I had … yet another drink. I’m sure I mentioned in the prior posts how much I love good Mezcal (close relative of Tequila, but usually a lot smokier). Room 112 offers great selection of Mezcal (and tequila), so I was given an option to try one of my favorites – Del Maguey Mezcal and went with the Del Maguey Vida Mezcal – beautiful smoke over characteristic agave notes with herbal accents. Perfect desert in my book, for sure.

That’s all, my friends – here is your [mostly photo] report on my experience of the Art of the Cocktail. If you are local, or maybe visiting for the holidays – Room 112 should be on your short list.

What was your latest encounter with creative cocktails? Let me know. Cheers!

Room 112
112 Washington St
South Norwalk, CT, 06854
Ph: 203.939.1347
http://room112sono.com/

Room 112 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

China Travel Tidbits

November 23, 2015 7 comments

In the previous post, I shared my food and wine experiences in China. In this post, I want to inundate you with pictures, and also share a bit of the first-hand advice. I had certain level of expectations, but those were no match to the actual experiences, hence the post.

One important disclaimer is that while I was traveling on business, I was all on my own, without any arrangements made, outside of having a visa and having the hotel room reservation. I had company for most of the business activities, but overall coming in and out, and moving around for the sightseeing was all by myself. Another important “disclaimer” – I only visited Beijing – your experience in the other cities might be quite different, so keep that in mind.

While in the taxi on the way from airport, I took a pictures of my last “sun sighting” for the week in Beijing

I will not be trying to recount the daily activities, as this would be boring and long, but instead, here are my main takeaways regarding travel to China.

Language barrier: yes, I expected it, but it was much more than I expected. Absolute majority of the people don’t speak or understand English (duh). That includes taxi drivers. Yes, there are signs in English, but it doesn’t help you if your taxi driver doesn’t understand a word of what you are saying. Even in hotels, lots of service personnel don’t speak English. The places which offer welcome relief? Anywhere someone wants to sell you something – from Pearl Market to the little street shops by the Great Wall, all sellers are very proficient with “how much” and “tell me your price”.

What exacerbates the language problem is the sheer size (huge!) of the city and everything in it. Let me explain with the simplest, but probably the most critical for any visitor, example – hotels. New York City has around 470 hotels. Seoul has roughly 430 hotels. Beijing has more than 5,500 hotels. 5,500! Do you think any of the taxi drivers had any idea where Sheraton Great Wall is located? No, they didn’t! Even when you have a special card from the hotel where the address is written in Chinese, and the driver speaks decent English – all I got was a smile and “I don’t know where it is”. Keep that in mind. If you have to, have hotel’s number on a speed dial – the taxi driver at the airport called hotel to find out where to go (works at the airport, doesn’t work that well on the street).

Beijing Sheraton Great Wall (1)

Sheraton Great wall was built about 30 years ago and was one of the very first hotels where foreigners were allowed to stay

Beijing in the morning

A typical morning view from my hotel room

Subway is your friend. I can’t give enough praise to the Beijing subway. Not only it is clean, spacious and all the trains are brand spanking new, but all the signs are bi-lingual. As long as you know where do you need to go, you can buy a ticket from the machine, which can be easily switched into all English prompts with one button. All the fares are distance based, with I think 5 yuan been the most within most areas in Beijing, so it is very inexpensive. Not that the taxi cost a lot – the taxi fares in Beijing are only distance based, independent from the time – which is vital considering insurmountable traffic in Beijing at any time (for sure during the day). The starting fare in taxi is 13 yuan, and you can drive quite a distance before the meter will advance – but then you might be able to walk faster…

Pearl Market in Beijing

Pearl Market in Beijing

Bargaining. Just a little note here, as I really don’t enjoy the process, but bargaining is unavoidable if you want to buy anything on the street or at any of the tourist-focused shops (which are lots). Two small examples. When visiting pearl market (went there with friends), I didn’t need pearls, but wanted to buy two small key chains. I found some little wooden key chains, and lady asked me for 230 yuan (about $40 for two tiny pieces of wood!). I said “20”, and simply started to walk away. The lady screamed at me to come back, and with the face expression showing that I just offended her beyond belief, asked me to give her the money. So I bought 2 key chains for about $3 each, which I think is a fair price (instead of $20 as requested originally). Thus I recommend that 10% is what you need to start from if you want to buy something from the street vendors. One more example – I was looking at the small pendant with the one single pearl in it. The lady asked the same 230 yuan for it (must be the day, huh). Native speaking colleague standing next to me, quickly found exact same pendant for 19 yuan on Ali-Baba – it is all made in China after all, right?

One of the countless ultra modern shopping centers in Beijing

One of the countless ultra modern shopping centers in Beijing

I’m almost ready to talk about sightseeing I was able to do in Beijing, but before we get there, one more important note – a bit out of place, as it concerns my experience at the airport, but I want to mention it as it might save you some aggravation. It appears the Chinese security at the airport has particular admiration for the power charging sticks, a portable batteries in any forms. They request you to take it out of your carry on and put it through the X-ray machine. What they are actually looking for is the capacity (1 Ah, 2.8 Ah, 3.7 Ah, anything of this kind) written on the battery pack. My battery stick, which saved me countless number of times for the last year, didn’t have the capacity written on it, as I got it at one of the conferences as a present, and therefore, it was confiscated. I tried to argue, but you know how much you can argue with airport security, especially in China… Therefore, if you plan to travel to China, check that your power stick has the capacity written on it, to avoid any unpleasant experiences (those little things get you…).

Now, it is the time for a barrage of pictures (almost). I was able to visit Great Wall and Forbidden City, which are probably what any tourist would want to see. There are few locations to get on top of the Great Wall – I chose the place called Mutianyu, which is about 1.5 hours away from Beijing, and it is less crowded than the others. Take a look at the pictures below – while it was extremely foggy, the experience was still magnificent. If you will go there, make sure you would wear something very comfortable, both shoes and clothes – going up and down on the little stairs is quite a strenuous workout.

The Forbidden City, which is located right in the center of Beijing and is the largest wooden structure of this kind in the world, is interesting to see, but I would honestly say that it is not a “must see” type. Colorful, yes, but in the end of the day, it is just a bunch of buildings… Anyway, the rest of my China travel expressions are below in the form of the pictures – I also will include comments where possible. By the way, there is a mini-quiz there – scroll through slowly, so you will see the quiz and the answer should be somewhere there as well. Cheers!

The entrance to the Mutianyu Great Wall complex

The entrance to the Mutianyu Great Wall complex

After you take a ride on the shuttle bus, this is your way up to the cable car

After you take a ride on the shuttle bus, this is your way up to the cable car

Up on the cable car

Up on the cable car

Yep, you are finally there

Yep, you are finally there

The actual entrance to the very top

The actual entrance to the very top

Up and down the Great wall - take a look at the tiny height of the steps - but make sure you pay attention while walking, or else

Up and down the Great wall – take a look at the tiny height of the steps – but make sure you pay attention while walking, or else

The Great Wall

The Great Wall

Magnificent...

Magnificent…

more of the magnificent views, even in the fog...

more of the magnificent views, even in the fog…

Probably the best shot of the Great Wall I could take

Probably the best shot of the Great Wall I could take

One of the Guard towers

One of the Guard towers

Into the fog...

Into the fog…

The defence view

The defence view

Yep, still on the wall

Yep, still on the wall

Toboggan - the best way down

Toboggan – the best way down. You can also see the ski lift which you can take to get up instead of the Cable Car.

And now, The Forbidden City:

Walk towards the entrance to the Forbidden City

Walk towards the entrance to the Forbidden City

The side wall of the Forbidden City. Love the perspective...

The side wall of the Forbidden City. Love the perspective…

and one more view of the side wall - Forbidden City

and one more view of the side wall – Forbidden City

Forbidden City - just the beginning. I wish you could see how many people carry selfies sticks...

Forbidden City – just the beginning. I wish you could see how many people carry selfies sticks…

From here on - the fragments of beautiful timeless architecture.

From here on – the fragments of beautiful timeless architecture.

Beijing Forbidden City (12) Beijing Forbidden City (14) Beijing Forbidden City (17)

Here is your Quiz - what this urn is for?

Here is your Quiz – what this urn is for?

Beijing Forbidden City (4) Beijing Forbidden City (3) Beijing Forbidden City (2)

Beijing Forbidden City (6)

Beijing Forbidden City (13)

Beijing Forbidden City (11)

Beijing Forbidden City (10)

Beijing Forbidden City (9)

Beijing Forbidden City (8)

Beijing Forbidden City (7)

Beijing Forbidden City (5)

Beijing Forbidden City (1)

Here is your an answer - it is a fire extinguisher...

Here is the answer to the quiz – the urn was a fire extinguisher…

And the sun shined above Forbidden City by the time I was leaving

And the sun shined (okay, as much as it is possible in Beijing) above the Forbidden City by the time I was leaving

Not that this is anything special, but here is the China Airline birdy which took me to Seoul…

Bye bye China

Bye bye China

Reflecting on the Beautiful Fall Colors

October 31, 2015 21 comments

Fall is most beautiful time in New England – people often plan special trips from around the country to embrace that Fall beauty, when leaves take on unimaginable colors. This year, though, I was worrying that we will not get to experience that beauty fully. September was way warmer than usual, and by the end of the month most of the trees were as green as in June, so my fear was that the leaves will go from green to brown, depriving us of the breathtaking exuberance of colors.

This had been challenging year so far. While the work had been exciting and interesting, it required a lot bigger investment of time, as we are trying to get into the new areas – and time is not something which is easily scaling or expanding. The end result is a great reduction in time left to spend on this very blog. The year also happened to be extremely emotionally challenging, but of course this is simply part of life.

Beautiful, sparkling, unstoppable abundance of colors arrived in October, delivering endless “eye candies” with every look outside. I found time for a slow walk around the neighborhood with my daughter and my camera, trying to capture myriad little moments mother nature always ready to share with us. Now I want to share that beauty with you, just in case you need a little sparkle in your life. Cheers!

New England Fall Colors

New England Fall Colors

New England Fall Colors

New England Fall Colors

New England Fall Colors

New England Fall Colors

New England Fall Colors

New England Fall Colors

New England Fall Colors

New England Fall Colors

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New England Fall Colors

New England Fall Colors

New England Fall Colors

New England Fall Colors

New England Fall Colors

New England Fall Colors

New England Fall Colors

New England Fall Colors

New England Fall Colors

New England Fall Colors

New England Fall Colors

New England Fall Colors

Beautiful Snow and Beautiful Wine

February 9, 2014 21 comments

There was a lot of snow here in CT over the last week. Most of the snow is still here, and considering the forecast, will be lingering around for a while. Yes, the snow is nuisance and inconvenience, it is tough to shovel, and a lot of it became ice at this point. But when sun comes out, it really becomes a thing of beauty. This snow had also a very interesting characteristic – well, may be it is me who didn’t see it before, but this snow is really glowing blue, especially as you dig in and look at it. So for what it worth, here are some pictures, snapped literally just around the house. Plus, I also included a few pictures which my daughter made with her iPhone – it is pretty amazing what that little device can do. And if you will scroll all the way down, I will also talk a bit about the wine. Here we go:

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This is one of my favorites

This is one of my favorites

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That snow and that sky…

DSC_0704What makes snow so beautiful?

Image2iPhone picture by Rina – the leaf

image3The same, only black and white

And a bit of perspective

And a bit of perspective

More perspective

More perspective

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A frozen beauty

Yes, the snow was beautiful, but it got in the way. The snow on Wednesday was bad enough to affect the trains, so I had to miss the Basilicata winemakers dinner in the city, which I was really looking for. So I decided to compensate for that by opening the bottle of new vintage of one of my favorite wines – Fiction by Field Recordings. I’m sure some of you know at this point that I’m very particular to the Field Recordings wines in general, but Fiction is so unique, it is one of my all times most memorable wines ( and it was my Wine of the Year in 2011) – here is the blog post about my first experience with 2010 Fiction.

The 2012 Fiction by Field Recordings Red Wine Paso Robles (14.9% ABV, 40% Zinfandel, 13% Tempranillo, 12% Petite Sirah, 11% Touriga Nacional, 10% Mourvedre, 8% Grenache, 6% Cinsault) didn’t disappoint. The spectacular nose of fresh meadows – this is the wine which you can’t put down – one smell requires another, and another, and another. The aromatics of this wine absolutely spectacular – I don’t know how that works, but I can’t put the glass down. The palate is very playful, with lots of fresh fruit, raspberries, blueberries, cherries – everything is in one beautiful medley, supported by clean acidity and perfectly balanced. The 14.9% ABV are absolutely unnoticeable – this is the wine of the pure harmony. Drinkability: 8+

That is all I have for you for my report on snow and the wine. Stay warm and drink good wine. Cheers!

Study of Port: Prologue

April 27, 2013 17 comments

I have to break the tradition today – there will be no wine quiz for you to solve. Instead, I’m going to share the experience with you.

As you know, my day time work had nothing to do with wine. But – because of that work, I’m spending this week, in Portugal – hence the title of this blog post. I’m not just in Portugal, I’m actually in the city called Porto – and this is where the Port was born. Over the next few days, I plan to learn as much as I can about Port – and share that with you. But, considering that I’m still jet-lagged, there is not much I can share at the moment – besides a few pictures. Rest assured – more pictures and notes are coming soon!

I have no idea what house is this, but I like it

I have no idea what house is this, but I like it

 

Love the combination of old and new - only in Europe...

Love the combination of old and new – only in Europe…

 

I'm sure you knew that I will not leave you without flowers

I’m sure you knew that I will not leave you without flowers

 

and more flowers

and more flowers

 

DSC_0706 flowers 2

and more flowers…

 

When was the last time you saw $2/bottle wines?

When was the last time you saw $2/bottle wines?

 

Actually, a lot of very inexpensive wine

Actually, a lot of very inexpensive wine

 

yes, I'm a sucker for the red roofs... Never can get enough of them...

yes, I’m a sucker for the red roofs… Never can get enough of them…

 

That’s all I have for you for today, folks. Don’t worry – the wine quizzes will be back, just after we will talk a bit about Port. Cheers!