A man, a plan, a canal ...

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by violist, May 30, 2016.  |  Print Topic

  1. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    AA2173 BOS DCA 0800 0955 319 13D was 3C
    was AA2129 BOS DCA 1300 1445 319 3A

    I figured with weather coming I'd try to get on an earlier
    flight out of Washington. There was something in row 3 on
    the 0800, so I went for that. Well, unbeknownst to me,
    there had been a quick equipment swap, so there was no row
    3, nor 4, 5, 6, or 7. I ended up in row 13, supposed to be
    the worst row on the plane, as it is directly in front of
    the exit row and is not supposed to recline. Turns out it
    seems to have a hair more than the usual legroom, plus it
    reclines just fine. Unfortunately, these slimline seats
    are quite uncomfortable, and I found myself hoping that
    the passengers' backaches are visited on the seat designers
    and their children and their children's children. There is
    one good thing American has done - each row has a pair of
    universal-configured 110V outlets that, miracle of miracles,
    actually face the user.

    Although you get a free beer or glass of wine on the shuttle,
    I just had a Dr. Pepper, and that not being enough, told the
    flight attendant that I was going to live dangerously and
    have another. He told me I looked like a risk taker for sure.

    We landed 10 early, but by the time our gate opened up, we
    were 30 late. Amazing American Airlines, doing its best to
    make United look great.

    The point of this exercise was to get on the noon UA IAH
    flight, the last mainline departure before a line of
    thunderstorms was set to hit. By the time I got to the gate,
    they'd given away not only the last first-class seat but
    also all the others. I apparently just missed on this.

    Time to give up, leave security, and head for Sam & Harry's,
    where I got a perfectly acceptable ribeye, rare as ordered,
    with my usual onion strings well done and creamed spinach.
    Thus I steeled for my battle with United Airlines and the

    Back out to the other pier, where the 1:30 and 3:30, both
    regionals, were very indefinite.

    Oh, by the way, both crossings of the security checkpoint,
    which has given me a bit of trouble in the past, were fine.

    UA1954 DCA IAH 2124 2330 319 2A
    was 1737 2024

    The reports on this flight were okay, and I was congratulating
    myself on my good luck until word came that our inbound,
    unable to get through a bunch of thunderstorms, was diverted
    to Pittsburgh, and I figured that was that; the crew certainly
    must have gone illegal. More rolling delays, which took the
    shape of a departure time showing on the board, and when that
    time and its associated hopes disappeared, then another time
    posted. This is kind of irritating.

    Well, our equipment came in around 8:30, and we loaded up
    around 9. Turns out United actually pulled a reserve crew
    out of Dulles for us - a very junior and therefore earnest
    bunch but not super polished, not that one really expects
    that from anyone these days.

    I chatted with the guy in the window seat, who grilled me
    rather overmuch in my opinion on what I thought of my
    destination. I answered his questions in reasonably good humor.
    It turns out (or so he claims) that his brother-in-law is the
    US amabassador to Panama. He himself was on his way to Kingman,
    where he was to see a client about a plane, or something.

    The meal was billed as chicken jambalaya over rice, which
    turned out to be a decent-tasting gumbolike stew over not
    awful converted rice - an okay meal. I'd offered to take
    whatever there was left; this is what came.

    The alternative was lentil curry with roasted garlic polenta.

    We landed almost exactly 3 hours late, having taken off
    about 4 hours late. Of course, my lovely mileage run was
    fini, almost 5000 eqm/rdm gone as it had been booked in
    A class for the additional expense of 3 or 4 hundred.

    UA1813 IAH LAX 2140 2336 738 2A
    UA1614 LAX IAH 0058 0607 738 2F

    I guess I should request original route credit, either
    that or a refund of the difference, but they're going to
    plead weather, I'm sure.

    So instead of sleeping in the relatively comforting arms of
    the 738, I tossed fitfully in the chairs of the Houston
    airport and was glad when the club opened at 4:30.
  2. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    I put in for a shower, and it's clear that the attendant
    prioritizes by boarding time, as she said she'd call me
    when there was something free, and I heard not a peep
    despite having heard the name immediately before mine
    called around 6. About 8. poking my nose into her lair,
    I found her log sheet with all the rest of the names
    crossed off. On inquiry, the attendant said she had
    been just about to call me. No tip for her.

    The water pressure is lousy. There are fewer amenities
    than before. Nonetheless, the shower was welcome.

    UA1032 IAH PTY 0925 1435 739 2F

    This was a pretty standard flight with a pretty standard
    domestic-style cabin. It was of an insignifance. I've no
    idea why the wi-fi works only within the boundaries of the
    US, but as soon as we went offshore, kaput.

    Breakfast was a cheesy cheese omelet with an unremarkable
    sausage and a not-so-great fruit cup. Perhaps I shouldn't
    have bothered to wake up for it, as it bisected my nap.
    Courvoisier is the best beverage for this kind of meal.

    A longish line at C&I, but the actual processing was quick,
    the agent laughing at me when I used my fingers to figure
    out how many days I was going to be in the country.

    lili was there at arrivals with the sad news that apparently
    nobody at the hotel had received my request for a pickup,
    as nobody was waving my name overhead. I scoped out the
    neighborhood for nearly half an hour and then gave up,
    choosing a driver almost at random; turned out to be a guy
    named Emilio, whose prices were competitive I think, and
    whose contact information I might have been inclined to
    put out here, except that we had one annoying issue on
    another day.

    Emilio seems well known at this hotel, and he greeted and
    was greeted by various of the hangers-on (official or quasi-)
    at the driveway and entrance. We arranged for him to give us
    a tour of the city and the near part of the former canal
    zone, for a fee that I knew was just a bit on the high
    side, but at least we knew what we were getting into.
  3. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    The Hampton Inn Panama City is in a somewhat fashionable
    district called El Cangrejo, which I believe means The Crab
    or something; it's slightly gone to seed, but there is new
    construction going up all over, which means the quaint
    colonial buildings are being knocked down and huge tall
    condos being built on the lots. There is also a pretty
    distinct demarcation, with places on the one side offering
    lodging and fare at approximately twice what you'd pay on
    the other. That's what some restaurant guy said, anyway, who
    accosted us one day. Two of the places we patronized - the
    hotel and a restaurant nearby - were on the cheap side of the
    line but with the expensive prices. Ah well. Check-in was
    very laid back and manana, but we were grateful for an
    air-conditioned respite (Emilio's air-conditioning fan belt
    had been making an amazing screeching noise, so that was
    turned off by mutual consent). In recognition of my exalted
    status, we were assigned a suite, actually two connecting
    rooms, one with a bed, the other with a sleep couch;
    1 1/2 baths. Fairly nice, but as lili complained to me,
    the master room's a/c had two states, on and off.
    The other air conditioner worked fine, so the issue was
    solved by keeping the connecting door open.

    Though the place is only a couple years old, the furniture
    looks like recycled from the '80s, though not uncomfortable.
    The modular sleep couch did come apart easily at the top
    part, so once or twice I found my head dangling over a
    widening chasm, not easily fixable without getting up.

    Bathrooms good. Water pressure ok. Water potable.

    Breakfast is an interesting variation on the Hampton
    offering. The usual scrambled or boiled eggs and breads,
    and a make your own waffles station whose machines showed
    signs of misuse mostly from people keeping the irons
    closed after use, which leads to overheating, which
    leads to smoking and sputtering and boiling over of
    batter, which leads to bad waffles, which leads to
    bad reputations. Note to Hampton. Post instructions.
    In English and Spanish. Maybe Chinese, too.

    Juices included orange and mango, both good.

    A fruit station with really bad citrus, rather bad
    bananas, decent pineapple and cantaloupe chunks, and
    quite good watermelon.

    Standard cereals.

    The hot section's meat course and starch varied.

    The first morning, the hot offerings were pedestrian
    or worse - deli ham in pineapple sauce and probably
    the toughest fried yuca I've ever encountered. Sad to
    relate, I'd loaded my plate with seven big logs of
    the stuff, and I felt honor-bound not to waste food
    (though they most likely had to dump the contents of
    the warming dish afterward anyway). It took I believe
    4 glasses of juice to get them down.

    Then another day there were the stewed dried beef
    strips, slightly gamy, actually good tasting in a
    black peppery way but extremely tough. I sort of
    surreptitiously took peeks at the largely Chinese
    clientele this day to see how they handled the
    situation. Mostly they did fine, better than I did,
    taking the first taste, er, gamely, then cutting
    the strips into manageable pieces and attempting
    to chew them with varying success. The starch on
    this occasion was slightly old but otherwise quite
    tasty arepas, which were very like but not quite
    as good as the fried mush that used to draw me to
    Bob Evans.

    One of the other days featured some kind of soft
    chorizo with onions and peppers, not bad, with
    those arepas again, quite elderly and possibly
    from the same stash as before.

    We missed one or two or three opportunities to partake, I
    can't guess why.
  4. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    It is perhaps no coincidence that our hotel was
    within walking distance of some of the more
    talked-about restaurants in town. Riesen, a
    block away, has had a bit of a buzz ever since
    the chef was selected by the Panamanian
    equivalent of Top Chef to receive a seed grant
    for his restaurant and shortly thereafter was
    featured in the New York Times travel section
    as one of the six new go-to restaurants in the
    capital. The place soared for a while, but
    perhaps the buzz has expired - the tasting
    menu, for example, is $10 less than last year
    and now almost a bargain at $45.

    The schtick is that this fellow applies
    classic French and molecular techniques to
    local ingredients (90% from Panama, said the
    proud young waiter).

    A complimentary house cocktail started things
    off nicely - the mojito casero is a smooth and
    surprisingly harmonious combination of rum,
    maracuja (passionfruit), culantro, and yerba
    buena (a kind of mint). Not too sweet, not too
    boozy, the herbs actually sort of working together.

    Breads were a rather ordinary yeast roll and a
    "cookie" of manioc flour. These came with home-
    churned butter (more salty than I'd have liked)
    and a compound spread with cactus flower (a bit
    sweeter than I'd have liked).

    lili had two courses - churros with brisket,
    three excellently fried 8" yuca-based pastries
    whose combination with a very sweet version of
    ropa vieja, made with a tropical fruit bbq
    sauce that I couldn't figure out or appreciate.
    I thought the components did at least as well
    separately as together. The waiter suggested
    we take some of her brisket and pile it on my
    first course, which was a good idea. It is
    weird, is it not, when the waiter's ideas are
    better than the chef's.

    Her main was styled "glued beef tenderloin
    with potatoes in different ways" - a
    description that opened itself up to all sorts
    of fanciful imaginations. As far as I could
    tell, this was a perfectly normal chunk of
    filet, sous-vided and then grilled, with two
    skewers stuck in the side to facsimile a
    two-bone chop I guess. The meat had had its
    first cooking in a chimichurri marinade and
    was thus well seasoned through the whole
    piece. It was tender and tasty; the potatoes
    were first, a bed of puree; then some roasted
    chunks, apparently unexceptionable; and
    manufactured into a blob that was supposed
    to explode when put into the mouth - what
    actually happened was that the slick
    gelatinous outside melted, with a grainy
    weird rather buttery liquid oozing out.
    Cute but nothing special. The whole dish
    was covered with a thin sheet of
    interlocked slices of sweet potato, fried to
    a hard crisp. On the whole, the meat was very
    nice, though I'd expected it to maybe have
    been a checkerboard of different fibers held
    together with meat glue, but no, it seemed
    perfectly normal. Perhaps after designing
    the dish in some clever fashion, the natural
    way turned out to be better. The potatoes,
    well, much ado about very little.

    I took the now-bargain-priced $45 tasting
    menu; many such restaurants require the
    entire table of whatever size to take the
    same menu. These guys, seeing a live one,
    didn't impose such a restriction.

    Amuse bouche - a braised radish with its
    greens in radish and chicken foam; this
    was fairly ordinary, the radish having been
    cooked to the state where it could just as
    eaisly have been a turnip or a specially
    nice potato, the greens a bit tough. The
    chicken foam was salty and only modestly
    chickeny; I'd have much preferred if it
    had been chickeny and only modestly salted.

    Puffed root vegetables is a fancy name
    for potato chips. Perhaps on a better day
    they might have actually puffed up in a
    pommes soufflees sort of way; these were
    merely crisps of yuca, nyame, and a couple
    kinds of potato topped with sliced avocado
    and homemade curd cheese and further
    topped with crushed fried tortilla.
    Perfectly okay, but nothing danced in my
    mouth. The waiter said to put a few shreds
    of lili's ropa vieja on, making a sort of
    nacho; this improved things a bit.

    The fish crudo came in three parts:

    Scallop ceviche with a syringe of leche
    de tigre - I don't understand ceviche. I
    could see it as a preservation technique
    for back in the old prerefrigeration days
    or for transport by mule team to the
    interior, but when raw fish is avaiable,
    it better in almost every way than cooked,
    why bother. Anyway, this was a half a
    respectable scallop, pickled in lime
    juice, with a plastic syringe filled with
    the marinade stuck into it. It was fine,
    but as I said, why bother.

    The other half scallop was raw, topped
    with fruit juice turned into a caviarlike
    bunch of beads by one of those fancy new
    techniques. This actually worked pretty well.

    A mango sorbet cleansed the palate for the
    next course. I thought it would have been
    more interesting if it had been a clam
    sorbet or wasabi ice or something.

    Octopus with nixtamalized corn was very
    good. The meat was pretty tender, grilled
    just right, sided by this tamalelike thing
    that I didn't really get. Also a few
    kernels of not very sweet sweet corn and
    a couple nasturtium leaves, all raw.

    The next dish the menu calls beef with
    fermented rice. What they don't tell the
    diner is that the beef is in the form of
    a skewer of marinated heart (pretty good,
    but done medium-well), and the side is a
    cake of not-all-that-fermented but nicely
    puffed rice with black beans.

    Chicken consomme was just broth, not very
    consummated, served with an egg yolk encased
    in a protective outer film, so, as with
    lili's potato blobs, it was intended to pop
    in the mouth, which it did with greater success
    than hers. Also raw green peas that were a
    little too starchy and green-tasting for the
    job they were intended to perform.

    Coffee came. I didn't want any, so they gave
    it to lili and presented me with a nice lemon
    chamomile concoction.

    Finca Sophenia Reserva Malbec 12 went
    decently with everything; it was pleasantly
    fruity and fairly dry, much better than the
    Palo Alto 14 that the hotel was offering
    for about the same price.

    Dessert - an ordinary but tasty chocolate
    cake sided with a toothpaste ribbon of
    chocolate frosting strewn with chickweed
    flowers and crushed cocoa beans. On the
    side an ice cream flavored with nutmeg
    and other spices.

    A pleasant but a little big for its britches
    meal, and I'd go back again but just order
    from the regular menu.
  5. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    After a day of sightseeing, we of course
    asked Emilio to recommend a local place
    serving local fare, and he quite eagerly
    took us to Benidorm in the Hotel Acapulco
    - a haunt of lovers, drunks, and thieves,
    one might say, and of course taxicab
    drivers. I'd expected him to perhaps
    take advantage of my offer to treat and
    steer us to a fancier venue, or maybe
    order a T-bone, but he was honorable
    and got fried bacalao with lentils and
    rice for not very much money and a
    Guinness. I had mariscada, a pretty
    standard seafood stew encompassing bits
    of squid, octopus, conch, unidentifiable
    fish, and slivered vegetables, with
    plenty of tiny clams, baby shrimp, and
    one big fat shrimp on top. Rice, a plainish
    salad, a bowl of chicken broth, bread
    basket, and one of the indistinguishable
    local beers on the side. Emilio waxed
    eloquent about how the chef, a woman,
    took delivery each morning from the
    fish truck, gave the merchandise to her
    cooks, all women, then how the food was
    transferred to us by the waitstaff, all
    women. Whatever. I didn't have the heart
    to point out to him that my stew had
    cooked for at least a day, and not to
    its detriment either. I hope that his
    knowledge of history and sociology,
    which he regaled us with during our
    travels, is better than his knowledge
    of cooking. On the table there was a
    shake bottle of the local hot sauce,
    D'Elidas, which Emilio encouraged me to
    taste, so I had half a teaspoonful and
    pronounced it "hot," to his satisfaction.
    I figured it sort of like a mild knockoff
    of Marie Sharp or the former Inner Beauty.
    Didn't tell him that, though.

    lili had a hamburguesa (sin queso),
    decent, and a glass of red plonk,
    somewhat indecent, though only $2.50.
  6. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Prowling about for food.

    I'd seen this place up the street serving
    "canas y tapas," and after a peek at the
    Internet, I was confirmed in my desire to
    go there. So we walked to Donde el Toro,
    where we saw two waitresses hanging out on
    the patio; I gave them a smile and got the
    look of death. All right, then.

    Down the way is Istmo Brew Pub, which had
    a pleasant vibe and a bunch of clientele
    soaking up the suds and the sunshine, so
    in my abysmal Spanish got the waitress to
    understand that my lovely escort required
    a glass of wine. There is in fact wine,
    but it turns out it's only by the bottle
    and is charged at, well, the hotel prices
    seem to be charitable donations by comparison.

    So we turned tail and went past Donde again
    just in case, and this time the waitresses
    just turned their backs on us. It's sad,
    the owner no doubt will go out of business
    and not have any idea why.

    Next door to Donde is Bros & Beers, which
    was hopping nicely as we passed; we gave
    it a thought, but the loudness of the
    music was a bit much for our ancient ears,
    so we proceeded farther down the street to

    Chris, where the tout had stopped us the
    other day. What the heck, so we went in,
    and what a wasteland. It might be better as
    a nightclub 5 hours hence, but it was pretty
    darn drab. A bored young server showed us
    the menu, which has pizza on one side and
    a pretty extensive list of bar snacks and
    beyond on the other. He encouraged us to
    order the pizza, which we didn't want. We
    decided not to fight and told him we'd just
    have drinks (it was early for dinner, anyhow).
    Wine was $2 less than at the hotel; it was
    also $2 worse. Beer was the same price, i.e.,
    $1.50 more than the happy hour price. We got
    out of the place after a couple rounds and
    beetled back to the hotel for splashing
    around in the not-too-clean but heavily
    chlorinated pool and relaxation.
  7. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    El Trapiche is a highly regarded place for
    indigenous food, on the Via Argentina, right
    at where El Cangrejo, El Carmen, and Obarrio
    districts meet. A buzzy, semi-fashionable
    restaurant with a patio out front, where we sat.

    lili put her purse on the chair next to her,
    by the fence, which was too open to be a
    deterrent, so the waitress, used to these
    tourist blindnesses, pulled up a chair to the
    other side of her and deftly repositioned the
    purse in a safer place. Kudos to her.

    We sat around enjoying and shooting the breeze
    for a while and inspecting the menu, out of
    which I wanted one of everything, but lili's
    tastes weren't so wide ranging.

    She ended up with the comforting ropa vieja,
    pulled beef pot roast in tomato sauce with
    canned peas, coming with cabbage salad, fries,
    and fried plantain. I thought it true to type
    and more my style than that at Riesen, but
    she liked the fancier version better. Still,
    she ate most of the meat and most of the
    fries, and I helped with the plantain. To me,
    gallo pinto sounded good. It's one of those
    jocularly-named homey dishes, you know,
    spotted dick, Welsh rabbit, Half a Hen, toad
    in the hole. It's rice and beans with pig tail,
    nothing to do at all with a piebald rooster.
    It was indeed homey and good, a little sour, a
    bit heavy going - over a thousand Calories for
    under $5. To equalize the price and make the
    accounting easier, I got side orders of yuca
    frita (75c) and chicharrones (a couple bucks).
    Maybe I should have got just assorted fried
    nothings for my entire meal, because these
    were excellent - the fried pig skins hard
    crunchy but fresh and delicious, the yuca
    done just the way I like. I gave some to lili,
    who thought the skins a little tough for her
    taste and the yuca a bit mealy; she didn't
    see why I like these things better than, say,
    bacon and French fries.

    Trapiche Malbec 15 was an obvious cheap
    beverage, very fruity and plummy, a sweet
    undertone, but some redeeming tannin and
    acid. A Malbec nouveau, one might say. It's
    listed as the house wine, and the restaurant
    seems to imply that the two enterprises are
    sonehow connected.

    We split a flan, which was average, which
    is to say caramelly, eggy, sweet, with a
    suspiciously firm texture as though its
    gelling had been helped along.
  8. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    I'd asked Emilio for the best place for a
    steak in town, and he lit up and said,
    without a doubt Martin Fierro, which as
    it turns out is just down the street from
    the hotel.

    We got there early for dinner, and they
    seemed happy to see us (unlike various
    other places on the block!) so we had our
    pick of tables. lili chose a deuce not too
    close to the door and pretty close to the
    salad bar.

    The menu features of course various cuts of
    beef, along with a few pork or chicken dishes
    and suchlike oddities. They offer three grades
    of beef. Native Panamanian is the cheapest; the
    waiter said that it had good flavor and was
    tender enough; Argentine grass-fed, good
    flavor and even more tender; and of course the
    top of the line cornfed Certified Angus from the
    good old USA. lili was inclined to go for the
    last, which cost about 50% more, and told me
    about the horror stories she had read about
    the local meat. I told her in no uncertain
    terms about what I thought about Internet
    innocents abroad.

    We dithered around for a while and eventually
    gave up and ordered the parrillada for two
    (native meat), which sounded like enough
    for 4 (and was).

    While we were waiting, we were invited to the
    salad bar, which has been a bone of contention
    online for a while, as it appears some people
    are charged $6.95 for it and some people get
    it free. The truth is that if you get a main
    course, it comes. If you don't, it doesn't.
    Also, it gets some awesomely bad reviews from
    the spoiled tripadvisors. It's a salad bar.
    It's got salad. No pasta, no sausage, no
    cheese, no rice pudding. Salad. Get over it.

    As I was so strenuously encouraged by the
    waiter to partake, I got a couple slices of
    greenish but very juicy and tasty tomato and
    a scoopful of previously frozen corn - this
    is actually a pretty decent marriage of flavors,
    even if the ingredients are raw.

    lili had a normal salad but complained that she
    couldn't find cucumber. I went back and got her
    a little bowl of it, which she hadn't seen
    because it was in chunks rather than the rings
    that she's accustomed to.

    Quite good bread, one step or two above the
    brown-and-serve things you find at 90% of
    restaurants these days. One thing, though,
    about real bread, it doesn't last until next day
    the way the artificial stuff does.

    We looked forward to the butter, which gets some
    raves on the Internet. Turns out it's in packets
    from New Ulm.

    The parrillada came out, a big sizzling
    hibachi-like thing piled with I'd say close to a
    kilo and half of meat.
  9. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Things I ate:
    morcilla - a big blood sausage, probably 250 g,
    big chunks of fat and some ground boiled pigskin
    in amid the blood; a little underseasoned, but
    then I don't like the traditional blood sausage
    seasonings (allspice, nutmeg) all that much
    anyhow. Not overthickened with flour so a bit
    soft even after cooking. Much better than what
    I have had elsewnere recently;

    mollejas - a thin, undertrimmed so membraneous
    cutlet of about 100 g, grilled well done and
    hard, as if for someone who doesn't like organ
    meats, taking on the flavor of the grill, which
    meant some kind of indigenous wood unlike any
    other I've had, aided with I suspect some gas
    at some point; needed the chimichurri sauce;
    oh, by the way, these are sweetbreads, the
    thymus gland of the beef;

    a chicken wing, which was the usual thing.

    Things we both ate:
    pork chop - a thin quarter pounder of excellent
    flavor and with a bit of fat but done way, way

    strip steak - 10 oz or so, as tender as you
    would want, pleasantly beefy but the flavor
    submerged a little by its marinade, medium-rare
    when it arrived, but continued to cook on the

    Things she ate:
    half a half chicken breast - the bite of it I
    had was surprisingly tender and not too brined;

    filet - this was bigger than the strip steak,
    strangely enough, and she could eat only half
    of it, maybe 6 oz, the rest being packed up
    with some leftover yuca for breakfast.

    Things neither of us ate:
    chorizo - this was tucked into a leftover
    roll and saved for the airport, the next day
    but one, as we were going to leave the hotel
    before breakfast, thanks to lili's taking
    an early flight;

    four pork ribs, which got taken away as well.

    P.S. These turned out to be fine, though the
    ribs were very spare and lean - real salvage
    food, the way ribs used to be; the chorizo
    was just an ordinary underseasoned pork
    sausage, about like a breakfast sausage,
    slightly fattier than usual, but without the
    sage. There are many kinds of chorizo; this
    was about the blandest I've enver encountered.

    Sides ($4 extra)
    fried yuca - good to very good, not quite so
    nice as El Trapiche's, but worth the charge,
    as it is going to be a while before I get it
    again. I'm generally not much on starches, but
    I do make an exception for some fried things.
    And I am told that yuca has more fiber than

    baked potato - foil wrapped. She ate all the
    insides and left all the skin. I'd have been
    tempted to do the reverse.

    chimichurri - garlicky, lemony, green, classic;

    salsa cruda - rather like pico de gallo;

    hot sauce - a housemade version of that D'Elidas,
    maybe just a bit hotter, with discernible chunks
    of Habanero.

    Navarro Correas Coleccion Privada Pinot Noir 13
    was surprisingly good, having a bit more backbone
    than your ordinary, because of the sneaking in of
    what I'd suspect to have been a substantial
    admixture of Malbec. Still lots of lighter red
    fruits, but an engaging duskiness as well.

    Another rather rubbery flan for afters.
  10. violist
    Original Member

    violist Gold Member

    Likes Received:
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    The El Rey supermercado is near where we took the
    overpass to avoid getting run over by the fierce
    Via Espana traffic. It is as well stocked a grocery
    as you would hope to find anyplace, with all the
    American brands and a smattering of Central and
    South American stuff. Wine and liquor are about
    the same price as in the US; beer is cheap at 65c
    a bottle, with no requirement that you buy a
    six-pack. It's 24/7, something good to know.
    Emilio says that the chain is owned by a former
    president of the republic. This was our source
    for cheap wine and beer and assorted snacks.

    We'd heard good stuff about Restaurante Jimmy,
    off near the Iglesia del Carmen, thus also not
    too far from the hotel, and lili had this urge
    for a pizza, so Jimmy sounded like it would fill
    the bill, as it serves meat and seafood and local
    specialties as well, so off we went to this also
    24/7 mainstay, or so the Internet tells us ...
    and it was closed. Crap on that, I thought, but
    luckily on one of our walks I had spied another
    place, where many folks had been seen happily
    chowing on pretty decent-looking pies - Cafeteria
    Manolo's, across from the Wyndham Veneto casino.
    So we walked there, less than half a mile detour.

    They gave us a choice between outside (warm and
    open but with a bit of a breeze) or inside (a/c).
    We chose the latter.

    A grim but okay waitress.

    lili had the peperoni pizza - we checked that the
    topping was going to be salchichias picantes
    rather than pimientos verdes, because most
    places in the world when you order a pizza with
    peperoni, you get the latter, which causes
    consternation among North American tourists
    throughout the globe. Not opposite the Wyndham
    Veneto casino, as they know their clientele.
    This was $5 and turned out to be a full 12" pie,
    a pretty good bready crust, lots of decent
    mozzarella, and a reasonable sprinkling of
    pepperoni that was some of the spiciest I have
    ever tasted. All good ... except for the sauce,
    which tasted like old Campbell's tomato soup
    out of the can, more can than tomato. They
    could have fixed things by a little sprinkle
    of basil and oregano, but what's to say - they

    Not knowing about the portion sizes, I got the
    chicken croquettes and the clams in garlic
    sauce, both listed under appetizers. They
    turned out to be six fried bombs, about 6 oz
    each, so maybe two pounds of food. Superthick
    bechamel, further thickened with breadcrumbs,
    and maybe a fiber or two of chicken, coated in
    more breadcrumbs and fried until very solid
    indeed. A full if bland meal for two, if that's
    what you wanted. They'd have been good if they
    had even a little chicken flavor (being fried
    things) or in fact almost any kind of flavor
    at all. Luckily the almeijas al ajillo came
    as at least a quart of tiny shells in a very
    potent garlic sauce with a little cheap white
    wine - the clams were good, and the dish kept
    me interested for a long, long time. Think of
    five servings of linguine with clam sauce
    minus the linguine. So the croquette experiment
    was obliterated by this one, and I was happy.

    Balboa beer for $2 for me, red ink for twice
    that price for her.

    I was all ready to order the flan, but the
    waitress came with the bill, and that was fine.
  11. violist
    Original Member

    violist Gold Member

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    A word on why I won't give Emilio a wholehearted

    We arranged for a whirlwind tour of the sights
    that would be hard to get to by public
    transportation or foot - we planned the Canal
    at Miraflores Locks and its museum, Casco Viejo,
    and Panama Viejo. All went according to plan,
    except we got the feeling he was sort of
    stalling us, despite the fact that I'd made it
    clear that I'd pay him at the same rate for any
    overtime. So after Casco Viejo, I reminded him
    that we wanted to see Panama Viejo; he took us to
    the so-called cultural center near that site,
    which didn't particularly interest us, and then
    suggested that it was time for lunch, which I
    guess on the face of it was fine. Problem was that
    next thing we knew, we were back in town at
    the aforementioned Benidorm, and there was no
    chance of visiting the ruins in anything like a
    sensible time. I guess I was too neglectful of
    the time and should have insisted that we go up
    to the ruins (1 mile!) before lunch. Still
    can't figure this out, as he would have earned
    $20 or 30 extra by acceding to my wishes - maybe
    he thinks the site is haunted or something.

    Anyhow, the Canal is kind of interesting, and we
    did spend an hour looking at how it works; now I
    can say I've been there. The 3D video at the
    museum and visitor centerwas cheesy and not worth
    the quite long wait, though. Casco Viejo, was kind
    of interesting. Subsequent questioning of Emilio
    seemed to indicate that he thought, or feigned to
    think, that Casco Viejo was Panama Viejo. Anyhow,
    he told us that the ruins in Casco Viejo (clearly
    due to neglect) had been attacked by Captain
    Morgan in 16 whatever it was. And that's why I'm not
    recommending him, though on the whole he did what he
    was expected to do at a not hugely inflated price.

    Departure and exit

    Emilio fetched us at 0445, took the toll road for
    whatever reason, even though there would not have
    been much traffic on the regular road, maybe he's
    proud of it; got us to the airport around 0510,
    with lili's flight at 0700. She went off to the gate
    (no OneWorld lounge access here any more), while I
    finished the leftovers from Martin Fierro and a half
    bottle of Trapiche Malbec that had somehow gone
    overlooked. I moseyed in through security (pretty
    quick) for a couple hours at the Copa club, which
    though no longer a Red Carpet affiliate, looks and
    acts pretty much the same as United's domestic
    offerings. At boarding time, I moseyed through an
    additional security, at which they took away my
    empty water bottle, what th'?.

    UA1022 PTY EWR 0930 1445 739 3E

    We had an amusing crew who made the flight seem to go
    somewhat faster, and I enjoyed the trip despite there
    not having any Cognac been loaded. I stuck to the red
    ink, which tasted pretty poor, and fell into a light
    snooze, waking on hearing the clanking of silverware.
    Three choices; by the time I woke, there was no French
    toast with sausage left (I saw my seatmate's - a
    sizable serving, with kielbasalike substance instead
    of that always disappointing link sausage), but just
    cereal (I am not a cereal fan) or the omelet, which
    was two eggs folded over nothing but with a mushroom
    cream sauce; it came with a pair of slices of
    extremely salty ham, a very good fruit cup, and a
    pretty good though surprisingly unsweet cinnamon
    roll. After this I got some more shuteye.

    We landed a bit early, and immigration was easy, but
    for some reason the customs line took a huge long time.

    Back into the real world, where Newark, with the help
    of United and the TSA, is about as hideous an airport
    as the country has to offer.

    I decided to go to Terminal A to clear security instead
    of clearing at C and taking the airside bus. There is
    no PreCheck at Terminal A. And a huge line. Next time
    I'll do this the other way.

    UA4373 EWR DCA 1704 1816 ER4 3A

    This was a pleasant enough flight, though its 40-minute
    shortness prevented me from trying to score the fabled
    free 1K beverage.

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