Alaska - Mr. Whitekeys Do

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by violist, Sep 7, 2011.

  1. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    UA 245 BOS ORD 0600 0735 319 1F Ch9^
    was 795 BOS IAD 0600 0734 320 3A
    and 378 IAD ORD 0812 0905 752 2E

    People had seen some troubles in recent days into and out of
    ORD, so I called and had my flight changed to the nonstop,
    giving up my carefully chosen seats for a game of chance.
    When I arrived at the gate, I was #1 for one place up front.
    It wasn't the greatest seat, but it did have a cutout for
    my feet. I dozed through what smelled like the standard
    breakfast service, sausage, omelet, hash browns, croissant
    or Danish, fruit appie, you know the drill.

    It turns out that had I taken my original flights, I would
    have arrived at the gate for the Anchorage flight after its
    scheduled departure. However, that flight was delayed by
    almost an hour, so I'd likely have made it, though probably
    without my original seat; not to mention the anxiety issue.

    CO1738 ORD ANC 0945 1315 738 3F

    There was plenty of time, given my self-rerouting, so I
    played games at the club and waited around and waited
    around. And it transpired that owing to tardy crew, the
    flight was nearly an hour late.

    A nice clean new plane with puffy seats and what appeared
    to be a very tight seat pitch.

    Smiling flight attendants. Despite what others say, I've
    had pretty good luck with the onboard service on this
    airline; it's just the ground staff at Newark that the
    globe could do without.

    Lunch consisted of a respectable, very thick, tomatoey
    minestrone accompanying a not-too-salty but too cheesy
    turkey pocket.

    My friend Bill was there to pick me up, except that he was
    at door 6, and I was at door 4. It took a while to get this
    squared away, especially as none of my electronics seems to
    work properly in Anchorage. I ended up calling him from the
    Traveler's Aid booth. He picked me up in the jalopy, and we
    headed to his house, about 15 minutes east of the city, for
    a beer or two before supper. After which, it being decided
    that I shouldn't have to cook after an arduous day in a
    comfy chair, and they shouldn't have to cook after an
    arduous day of retirement, we drove to Sorrento's, which has
    for decades been Bill and Connie's go-to Italian place. It's
    your neighborhood red sauce joint, but pretty good for that.

    I started with minestrone (better than the airplane stuff)
    followed by seafood fra diavolo, not on the menu, but an
    amalgam of seafood arrabbiata (which they make with cream,
    a mistake and a sacrilege) and something else fra diavolo,
    both of which appear on the menu. Both Bill and Connie had
    veal Sorrento, used to be on the menu but no more - this is
    a sort of piccata, served with linguine with red sauce.
    Pretty good, and it all came out sort of fast - the pasta
    was not cooked to order - so we had plenty of time to mosey
    to the Taproot for the 7:00 Whale Fat Follies starring the
    infamous Mr. Whitekeys and his motley troupe.

    Present: beckoa and Jessica, BOBW, jackal, ourselves.
    belle3388 was missed.

    It's a very Alaska-centric show, and I didn't get some of
    the jokes, of which a few had to be explained to me in a
    whisper of words of one syllable, and others went over my
    head altogether. The Sarah Palin references I did get,
    though. After all, I can see Russia from here.

    Connie got tapped to go on stage for some foolishness;
    she refused, so I was strongly encouraged to take her
    place ("GET UP THERE!"); Jessica likewise, but on her
    refusal likewise, beckoa was the designated substitute.
    We constituted the Duct Tape Symphony Orchestra and
    accompanied, with rippings of the provided tape, a
    rousing, pleasantly loose version of the Blue Danube
    conducted by a lady armed with a walrus pizzle.

    Various beers were had. As the place specializes in
    local microbrews, they were as palatable as the comedy.

    I gave the souvenir duct tape to jackal, who had it
    autographed by Mr. Whitekeys. If I'd been younger, I
    might have wanted to get the girl singer's phone number
    on it, but I have all the phone numbers I can handle.

    After the show, we repaired to AKronin's place for more
    alcohol and (should we have wanted it, which would have
    been impossible) more food. Also good conversation, but
    that goes without saying.
    MissBurrill and Flyer1976 like this.
  2. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Bill wanted to show me a piece of local culture, so he took
    me to the Longbranch for lunch. A low, dark building, it's
    either an old roadhouse and biker hangout or a facsimile
    thereof, I can't figure out which. At least the food is
    good and abundant. Bill's burger was unsurprising - good
    meat, a little too small for my appetite but big enough for
    his; my brisket sandwich was tender, not oversauced, quite
    decent. Beer - Lite for him, Alaskan Amber for me - was more
    costly than the appearance of the place would have led me to

    I got dropped off at the Boardroom to meet up with BOBW and
    his coworker (FT handle forgotten). The drill was: wait up
    for BOBW; get him to sponsor me for a gate pass; take the
    priority security, the agents having seen this behavior many
    times; wait for BOBW to get the third degree; and into the
    club, where apparently the attendant on duty this day was as
    dragonish as any of the United Red Carpet guardians anywhere
    - it seems she doesn't care for jackal or BOBW, as they show
    up at the lounge more often than she deems appropriate; and
    words fail in describing how she views beckoa. And, crime
    among crimes, she enforces the drink limits. This proved to
    be not such a big deal, because the wines are nothing to
    write home about, and anyhow there was another, much more
    agreeable, attendant servicing the bar for most of our stay.
    At some point, the call having gone out, jackal joined us
    for the last round or two of drinks.

    Dinner was required. Luckily the Spenard Roadhouse is not
    far, a bustling place with food much better than the words
    Spenard and roadhouse would imply. I had the famous burger
    with bacon jam ... or rather the burger with the famous
    bacon jam. Very nice, very original, though there wasn't
    enough bacon jam, part of whose rightful space had been
    usurped by slices of dried apple. The place is famous for
    tater tots. I don't really know why. As the place
    specializes in local microbrews, I tried the Midnight Sun
    Arctic Rhino coffee porter, the Kodiak brown, and Oosik
    amber ale, which was surprisingly assertive and not so
    pilsnerish as one might expect from something coming from
    an Oosik.

    Back to AKronin's, where beckoa joined us, and where I was
    induced to ingest various other odd liquids, including
    Liviko Likoor Strawberry, which tasted like children's
    cough syrup, unlike the general run of Baltic boozes, which
    taste like adult cough syrup.
  3. Flyer1976
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    Flyer1976 Gold Member

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    Nice TR, when were you in ANC?
  4. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    I was almost tempted to join jackal and friends on a
    negative mileage run to Aniak, Kalskag, Russian Mission, and
    Bethel but thought better of it. The event, I believe, was
    cancelled for weather anyway.

    Instead, my friends took me southward to see the sights.
    We'd gotten an unaccustomedly early start, so Turnagain Arm
    Pit, about which we had heard good things, wasn't open yet,
    and instead we went off to Girdwood, where the Alyeska tram
    took us to the mountainside restaurant, where surprisingly
    good halibut and chips and decent reindeer sausage consoled
    us. As the sun had come out in abundance, they basked in
    postprandial bliss while I went on a short hike up to the
    base of a glacier (less than a mile, not a big deal, even
    with me in my condition).

    Our route back to town went past the old Bird House, which
    is no more, which prompted Bill to take us to the replica
    Bird House, which is part of the famous Chilcoot Charlie's
    - whose motto "we cheat the other guy and pass the savings
    on to you" was penned many years ago by the multitalented
    Mr. Whitekeys. It was closed.


    The Windbreak in Wasilla is reputed to be Sarah Palin's
    favorite restaurant. As such, it was a must-go or must-
    avoid, I'm not sure which. We went. I had chicken-fried
    steak and eggs - the meat was firm, more meatlike than
    the usual ground and/or extruded stuff and had probably
    been glued together with meat glue. It was extremely salty,
    but its cream gravy was superior to the norm, made with real
    sausage bits and possibly real milk. Worth the pills. Bill
    had hash from a can and eggs - just like what I might fix
    at home, for only about $8 more than I'd pay at the
    supermarket. Both of these starchy dishes came with pallid
    hash browns, especially redundant on his plate. While we
    were there it started to rain, which put our outing into
    question - Connie had suggested he show me Hatcher Pass
    but declined to take the adventure herself. We decided that
    even though the road is partially unpaved, we'd risk it.
    As it turns out, at no time were we or the car in any kind
    of jeopardy, as it's a pretty darn civilized gravel road,
    during most of whose 40-odd miles you are within walking
    distance of shelter at the least. The views are wonderful,
    probably even better if it's clear, but in this case very
    evocative of the mysteries and hardships of a long-gone era.
    The road snakes through a high pass between Willow and
    Palmer and past the tiny Summit Lake (protected as a state
    park); why anyone would have wanted to go between these
    two places is anyone's guess, but the answer lies hidden
    in the mists of history. Speaking of which, we took a turn
    to the Independence Mine, now a state park dedicated to the
    history of prospecting in the state (you are allowed, if you
    bring your own equipment, to pan for gold on premises). I
    enjoyed this semideveloped area quite a bit; there's
    something evocative about walking through a ruined minesite
    while the Alaska sunshine drizzles all about you.

    We were headed down to Palmer when all of a sudden things
    clicked - in fact, this was the same infamous neighborhood
    where an old girlfriend had, over a decade before, made a
    misguided attempt to teach me to ski.
  5. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    DIG: End of July - it was in TOBB's Anchorage meetup thread.
  6. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    As we had passed by the Lucky Wishbone many times over the
    years, it was deemed appropriate that we actually stop in
    for a change, especially as every time I have asked the
    driver "how's the Lucky Wishbone?" It's a fried chicken
    place and another of the oldest restaurants in Anchorage.
    At this time, it was jam-packed with recent attendees of
    the various local churches, all in their Sunday best,
    which largely consisted of checked flannels and jeans, for
    both sexes, not seriously unlike what I wear on a good day.
    Bill and Connie ordered chicken, which comes with cornbread
    and honey; I got a plate of giblets (hearts, gizzards, and
    livers), which were pretty good despite being covered in a
    Bisquick batter, done about twice as long as I would cook
    them, and very salty. Lots of French fries, which were
    pretty good, crisper than the norm.

    And then to the Anchorage Museum, which in its renovated
    condition is pretty impressive, bigger and better than one
    would expect from a city of this size, but of course it's
    a whole lot more interesting than many cities of this size.
    We spent an inordinate time in the discovery room, a sort of
    mini-science museum, where we were as fascinated as children
    by the explications of such phenomena as earthquakes, tides,
    and best of all, surface tension. Other exhibits included
    native basket making, tribal anthropology, 19th century art
    (mostly painting, European-style if not made by Europeans),
    20th century art (mostly three-dimensional, mostly local),
    Anchorage history, mining and metallurgy, and so on. After
    we'd had a sufficient dose of science and culture, we tried
    another trip to the Bird House, which this time was open for
    business. The theatrically slatternly bartender happily
    poured us some fine beers (the same dichotomy as before) and
    for Connie a glass of wretched red wine, and we inspected
    the somewhat bizarre and mildewy decor, consisting of both
    business cards and pieces of underclothing tacked to the
    walls and ceiling, depending I'd guess on whether the donors
    had come here on business or pleasure.

    For dinner we got takeout from Smokehouse Barbecue: ribs,
    brisket, requested extra fatty, and pulled pork. The food
    was quite respectable - not the Salt Lick by any means, but
    good. The brisket was somewhat tender but not indeed very
    fatty; I'd say the pulled pork was the best of the three.
  7. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    I don't know why Connie wanted to show me the Anchorage
    Market, a weekend arrangement of fossil traders, jewelry
    and craft vendors, sellers of all cheap Chinese goods some
    of which have undoubtedly fallen off the back end of a
    truck, and foodmongers. We budgeted I think 2 hours for
    this; it was 1 1/2 hours too much. By way of consolation,
    there was a Smokehouse truck, where I ordered a brisket
    sandwich extra fatty. They gave me the sandwich for half
    off, since it was being made with parts that they normally
    would have thrown away. It was very good, and I felt blessed
    that they haven't figured out the beauties and profitability
    of burnt ends. Which leads me to a rant about this dish.
    I believe it was Calvin Trillin who brought them to the
    attention of the hungry public, in a review of Arthur Bryant
    say a third of a century ago, maybe more now. He let slip,
    damn his eyes, that despite the unprepossessing appearance,
    they are in fact the tastiest part of the brisket, and (at
    that date) were being given away free by fine restaurants
    everywhere in Kansas City. Since then the demand especially
    among the effete snobs and nattering nabobs of positivism
    has increased exponentially, and now not only are burnt ends
    at least as costly as the sliced brisket, the bbq joints are
    making artificial ones, which now are seldom burnt and often
    not even ends - they take yesterday's brisket, hack it up,
    put sauce on it, and voila. There's not more fat nor more
    smoke than the regular stuff, and the dining public loses
    out on the true experience. Further, I suspect that they
    throw out the real ends and fatty bits, as people don't like
    authenticity - it's threatening both to the ego and to the
    cholesterol count. The same phenomenon has been visited
    again and again with such things as Szechwan food, debris
    at Mother's (last I had one, it was just like a brisket
    sandwich anyplace), rare beef, and so on.
  8. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    I decided to repay the abundant and long-standing
    hospitality of the ANC FTMM community, so with
    Connie's connivance we had a little Do at the house.

    Present: jackal, beckoa, AKronin, Jazon, Foster, ourselves

    Bill and Connie are not drinkers except of cheap beer of
    various kinds, but I'd laid in a supply of Maker's, in which
    I am reasonably pleased. jackal and/or AKronin brought a
    bottle of Kirkland 7-year-old 103 proof, of which we
    ventured an identification as a higher-proof Knob Creek
    after speculating, from the harshness, that it was seconds
    of Basil Hayden. It was fiery but okay, with a distinct
    bitter aftertaste.

    I'd bought a quantity of Snapdragon Pinot Noir for cooking.
    In retrospect it might have made sense to spring for a $15
    wine rather than a $10 one, which though pleasantly berryish
    and appropriately meaty-scented, was quite thin; I note
    that it is now available, stateside at least, for $7 a
    bottle, which would put it more in line, though some
    restaurants, which may have been caught up in the same hype
    that I was, still charge prices well into the midrange.

    Someone brought the quite nice Treana Cab-Syrah, prestige
    brand of Liberty School (formerly the nonprestige brand of
    Caymus) - it was appropriately fruity, with good pepperiness
    and body, so I drank it in preference to my own wine.

    Oh, yes, the main food item was a beef bourguignonne a la
    violist after BOBW after Julia Child. I think it was pretty
    decent and fairly authentic, and not much remained at the
    end - I'm glad the Anchorage community is small. You start
    off with 5 lb of flap meat (the proper chuck eye didn't
    look so good at the store) and blanched bacon lardons, add
    way too much Snapdragon Pinot Noir (which is a way too light
    wine, so extra was needed to make up for the deficiency),
    then bunches of sliced onions as opposed to pearl onions
    (which were 5x more expensive), mushrooms, carrots and
    celery enow, a touch of tomato and herbs, beurre manie.
    Cook until done.

    A good time was had by me. The others, they can fend for
  9. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Anchorage Bucs @ Anchorage Bush Pilots in the first game of
    three for the Mayor's Cup. I left town before it was
    determined who won the cup.

    The mayor wasn't there; he was represented by the director
    of parks and recreation, who threw a decent first pitch.
    Ferguson Jenkins, of all people, threw a junkball second
    first pitch. What this hall-of-famer, one of my all-time
    baseball heroes, was doing throwing out the second first
    pitch for a game with a total attendance of under 200, I
    shudder to think.

    The Pilots jumped out to a 7-run lead, which proved to be
    enough as they held on for a 7-5 victory; this was fine,
    as even the very feisty and vocal Bucs fans (one umpire
    was obviously blind and kept making bad calls, most of them
    unfavorable to the Bucs; the fans made colorful and amusing
    comments, very loud, which I enjoyed but am fairly sure the
    umps didn't appreciate) began to hope that there wouldn't
    be a comeback when the skies started to open up in the 9th.
    By the time we were out of the parking lot, the deluge had
    started. We got back to the house somewhat moistened.

    The power went out while I was in the shower. Bill and
    Connie joked that they were just trying to give me the
    complete Alaska experience.

    CO1476 ANC SEA 1715 2135 739 2F

    As I don't have Boardroom access on my own I hung around
    Humpy's hoping for a rescue from one of the bad news bears;
    unfortunately, nobody could get off work midafternoon. I've
    never left Anchorage in the daylight before - my flights in
    years past had always been redeyes - and had never been
    aware that fliers from this city were anything other than
    jetlagged drunks with red eyes. In fact, I'm still not aware
    of that.

    The airport spent a vast amount of time paging someone with
    a name that sounds very like Muammar Khadaffy. Perhaps as a
    result the TSA came by with the folding tables. I doubt they
    found Muammar Khadaffy or much of anything, for that matter.

    Pleasant, smiling service on this flight.

    Mixed nuts out of a King Nut packet. The dinner choice
    was described as braised beef with Asian noodles or lasagne.

    First, a salad of fresh tasty baby spinach, slightly older
    romaine, a lone very tasty cherry tomato, two blobs of and
    mozzarella that I didn't taste - quintessential post-9-11
    corners cut catering. Speaking of which, so-called Southwest
    corn chowder also appeared - a salty pink liquid, heavily
    cumined, kernels of very tough corn and some vegetable dice
    - usually I'm a fan of airplane soup, as it seems to be
    done better than most airborne offerings, but this almost
    cried out avoid me, I waste stomach space, not to mention
    your sodium allowance.

    The beef was the same cut United calls "short rib," but this
    had been expertly artificially tenderized to the degree that
    it was actually chewable - it was almost tasty; its very
    salty brown sauce was okay, heavily flavored with star anise.
    Broccoli (would have been better cooked with butter, rather
    than oleo) and a couple strips of red pepper accompanied.
    Oh yes, the noodles - round wheat-egg spaghetti deep-fried
    hard, so that where it had soaked up the soy stuff it was
    almost edible, but the rest was something you could break
    your teeth on - also it smelled of rancid oil.

    A mediocre red wine from Uma or Uno or Ema (not Santa Ema)
    was perfectly appropriate for this meal.

    There was "apple pie" for dessert - you might be familiar
    with it, a heavy cakelike batter with a few apples thrown
    in, very lumpen. I passed, having Courvoisier instead.

    Speaking of heavy, we had quite a bit of chop during the
    descent and a bumpy landing.

    Kitchen Nightmares faded in and out, rather like a nightmare
    - but it kept me amused for much of the flight, which ran
    about 10 min overtime but pulled in right near the PC, so
    I had a good long visit there, leaving around 11:15 and
    making quite good time to the North Satellite, where they
    were just starting to board when I got there. A substantial
    number of gate lice were pulled over and, wonder of wonders,
    prevented from congregating at the head of the regular line,
    instead sent to the back of the crowd.

    UA 883 SEA IAD 2344 0726 752 3E Ch9^ Empower^

    The cabin service started off a little slow but was on the
    whole quite satisfactory, once the crew got up to speed.

    Chicken tortellini or tomatoes and mozzarella on a sub roll,
    both cold. I asked for just the cookie and was informed with
    regret that Walker's in a package was the order of the day.
    So I had that with a couple Toblerones and a couple warmed
    Courvoisiers, that combination enabling me to doze through
    much of the flight. We landed right on time.

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