Cow Do X and a wandering month

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by violist, Sep 5, 2014.

  1. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    It was brought to my attention that Cow Do was celebrating
    its 10th iteration, and I hadn't made any of them, despite
    my professed enthusiasms for beef and red wine, the foci of
    the event, and my respect for the organizer, Gaucho100K.
    To be fair to me, I'd always had things to do that prevented
    me from attending before.

    0827 2V 184 WAS NWK 0920 1222

    I was parsimonious and took the cheap train that doesn't
    stop at EWR; instead I took a regional to NWK and the bus
    back to the airport, which always saves you about $4, but
    given I was on the slow train I saved $20 or more, and
    there were plenty of seats (the faster ones get crowded),
    and there's actual but slow functional wi-fi that keeps
    you entertained enough. Being an oldish person, I continue
    to be surprised by the relative on-timeness of Amtrak - it
    used to be notoriously unreliable, something that they
    remedied I think the way the airlines do, massive schedule
    padding. Anyhow, we came in right on time.

    And being an oldish person, I was confused by the asymmetry
    of Penn Station, so when I went to where I thought the
    Raymond bus lanes should be, a blank wall greeted me, so I
    180ed it and found that I was at the Market St. bus lanes;
    my instincts had taken me in the right direction but down
    the wrong corridor - there are two that go to Market St.
    but only one that goes to Raymond. The signs were pretty
    useless, because they were placed too high for me to see.

    The 62 bus now has luggage racks. Still $1.50, one of the
    great bargains, and it runs every 10 minutes and gets you
    to the airport from downtown in under half an hour. The
    main source of savings is that you don't have to pay the
    Airtrain fee.

    I couldn't check in: it was a combined CM/UA itinerary,
    on an M fare, which is instant upgrade on Copa for 1Ks,
    but not on United, where I went into the regular queue.
    That might not have been all of it.

    The agent I went to looked puzzledly at my record and
    started asking pointed questions, particularly whether
    I'd paid the Argentine reciprocity fee, which struck me
    peculiar as that was Copa's responsibility for finding
    out. It took me a good twenty minutes to establish my
    bona fides and then get my documents copied (a walk to
    a hidden office down at the end of the corridor) and
    something that has happened to me before. Eventually I
    was good to go and went to the nearest security, where
    despite having PreCheck I as often I do got the random
    swab test. I doubt it's random, mostly because the TSA
    doesn't know what random means. I think all evidence
    indicates I've started being profiled again. Two entries
    into the US from Amsterdam and one from Thailand this
    year, I suspect that may be what it is.

    I was midway between Gallagher's and the Oyster Bar. Both
    are pale imitations of the real thing, but the food is all
    pretty decent, especially at the maligned Gallagher's.

    My gate was in the far concourse, though, near the latter,
    and that coupled with the prospect of several Argentine
    beef feasts on the horizon pushed me to the O-Bar.

    I seated myself at the bar, where a preternaturally cheery
    young lady greeted me.

    A Sam fulfilled one of my requirements; a plate of
    cherrystones (I like clams as much as oysters, plus they
    have more flavor, plus they are cheaper) and one of oyster
    stew satisfied another. The cherrystones were much smaller
    than at the real Grand Central, though just as fresh. The
    stew, though, was a sad if not pale imitation of the real
    thing: six tiny oysters, a not shellfishy enough and not
    rich enough chowder with a little tang of tomato and stuff,
    lots and lots of paprika, and a raft of toast. I think they
    got a pan roast recipe out of a cookbook, cheaped out on
    some of the ingredients, and sold it as stew. Reasonably
    quick and reasonably priced, though, and served with a good
    attitude. I left more tip than usual.

    Still had plenty of time to ensure that the house Bourbon at
    the club is still Wild Turkey 80, especially as our flight
    was posted as 20 minutes late.
    uggboy likes this.
  2. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    UA1021 EWR PTY 1703 2125 738 3B

    We boarded up around scheduled departure time, a leisurely
    but still somewhat scrumlike experience. Just as I got into
    my place, my seatmate at the window, one of the first to
    board, decided to get up (no apology) and block the aisle
    to look for his bag (no apology) and then, when he found it
    on around the third try, rummage around in it for a while
    (no apology). He cut in front of a handicapped guy to do it,
    too. Flyertalker, by the blue and yellow logo easily visible
    on the screen of his tether, but I didn't introduce myself.

    Though an international flight, typical domestic seating,
    service, and catering. I don't like the Continental
    upholstery or the angle of the full upright position - the
    old United seats (even old US Air seats, the worst of the
    worst) were much less taxing to the body.

    Service was willing if a little confused.

    The meal: a salad, slightly and differentially wilted
    greens with a plastic tub of honey Dijon dressing; on the
    same tray a short rib with green beans and roast potatoes.
    The meat was real short rib, about 4-5 oz of it, about half
    fat, which pleased me, apparently boiled before browning,
    which did not. A sweet and negligible sauce didn't help.
    The green beans were starchy and limp, among the worst I've
    ever encountered; the potatoes okay.

    Domestic serve red wine, better than Corbett Canyon, worse
    than Black Box. The blonde flight attendant kept trying to
    refill my glass; I let her do so twice.

    I needed a pretzel roll to make up stomach space.

    My seatmate was informed that the four-cheese ravioli
    were out, despite orders being taken in order from the
    front. He was rather put out and ended up getting the
    chicken, which he ate all of.

    Crujiente de manzana cake for afters - I passed in favor of
    a Courvoisier.

    The blonde flight attendant came by and tried to pour red
    wine into my half-full Courvoisier glass.

    We had taken off more than half an hour late. We landed
    almost on time, attributed to favorable winds by the pilot
    and to schedule padding by me.

    At PTY you are dumped off into the regular international
    departures area and have to find your way to immigration
    and thence to the exit; the signage is in Spanish, not that
    big of a problem, but very small, that big of a problem.
    Nonetheless, I was second in the foreigner line. Despite my
    fingerprints not reading at immigration, I got through
    quickly and had to wait half an hour for my shuttle bus.

    The Express Inn, in the midst of substantial renovation to
    justify a name change from the Backpacker Inn, is a five-
    minute ride (turns out, also a five-minute walk) from PTY.
    The shuttle, run by an outfit called Viajes Florencia, came
    a little tardily but was fine and quick once it came.

    It's part construction site, part backpacker paradise, and
    bordering on a Motel 6 type of arrangement. I presume that
    in the near future it will go toward the latter end of the

    My room was pretty spare but would sleep two couples in
    relative comfort. Two queen beds and a small but appropriate
    bathroom. Very thin walls, which, I reflected, would be okay
    if the rest of the guests were reasonably quiet. And after a
    few peeps from the children in the room at one side things
    quieted down there nicely, with dead silence from 202 on the
    other side. Shower: no water pressure to speak of, which was
    a disappointment. I rinsed off in the dribble and reflected
    on how I should have showered in Newark (that would have
    meant using a different club and probably having lunch at
    Gallagher's instead of GCOB. Then I settled down for a much
    anticipated snooze. My bed was rather firm and rather nice.

    Around 0430 there was a commotion in the hall: a sizable
    flock of drunken Francophones with an assortment of
    respiratory ailments had settled into the formerly pristine
    quiet next door and started a party in what sounded like
    two rooms and the corridor. One of these had a particularly
    loud and irritating laugh and was probably the one who woke
    me up. He also had a sailor's vocabulary. He complained in
    scatological terms about being thrown out of a bar or
    something, to hoots and coughs and laughter from the others.
    This lasted until after 5, when they left Dodge, and I got a
    couple more hours of sleep.

    I'd been told, I think, by the cutish desk girl (she seemed
    to understand a little English but speak none, the exact
    counterposition to mine) that breakfast was from 7 to 9, and
    she suggested 8; so I showed up at 8 - the place was
    deserted, but some provisions were available on the counter.

    Strange phenomenon I've encountered in the tropics - the
    orange juice is cut and in general not very good. Here it
    was orange drink, not juice, negligible fruit content.
    Water, tea, and coffee were also available.

    Bread and jam; also Maria Pascual cookies, which tasted like
    the arrowroot biscuits that you used to give to teething

    The water pressure was okay now - I figure someone else must
    have been also taking a shower last night when I tried.
    Bay Pisco Shark and uggboy like this.
  3. Bay Pisco Shark
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    Bay Pisco Shark Gold Member

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    I am confused. Does this mean that you speak a little English but don't understand any, or that you are an uglyish non-desk guy?
    violist likes this.
  4. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Har. I understand a little Spanish but speak approximately none.
  5. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    The 10 am shuttle to the airport got me right on time;
    getting there takes just a couple minutes, as the one
    way traffic is on our side now. With the Premier Access
    checkin line and an apparently secret security that allowed
    me to bypass the shops, I was at the Copa Club before 1020.

    A large enough facility that looks like United Clubs
    everywhere; incredibly crowded. Breakfast catering about
    the skimpiest I've seen. Coffee, water, yogurt, bagels.
    No fresh fruit, no OJ. But the bar is free, and the vino
    tinto is less bad than at the United Club or on the plane.

    The wi-fi has an absurdly long password, but it works fine.

    CM 279 PTY EZE 1210 2118 738 2A

    As often has been the case lately, we loaded up around
    scheduled departure time. As usual, there were a bunch of
    Premier Access crashers, who were greeted with rolleyes
    but allowed to board.

    Seats are sort of lumpy and too upright in the upright
    position but still better than the Continental seats.
    They reminded me of the 762 business class of ancient times,
    with their manual footrests and balky mechanical controls.
    A big plus was these huge video screens, hard to wrestle out
    of their resting spot and harder to cram back in. As I tried
    the latter, my seatmate joked that you had to go to Harvard
    to figure the thing out. I told him that didn't help. Good
    resolution and an okay choice of video entertainment, though
    the ones I was interested in were mostly Spanish-only. Music
    selection was really lame, though, almost as bad as the
    United longhaul choice, which is none and none, even in biz.

    Copa reuses its menus, so my information is not quite so
    exact as it might have been.

    We had a choice of chicken, I think in that South American
    stewy dish with corn that I hate, or roasted shrimp.

    The shrimp tasted pretty decent - pity there were only three
    of them, at .75 oz x 2 and about .5 oz x 1, served with
    three chunks of yuca about the size of the shellfish. A fair
    amount of bruised and thus extra rank cilantro, which could
    be washed off with the melted butter that came in a little
    cup on the side. I had some kind of generic South American
    Sem-Chard that tasted not too bad with the shrimp but that
    burned my throat (which has been sore these last days).

    Dessert: ice cream sundaes or some weird cake. I had ice
    cream with caramel sauce. The ice cream tasted as though it
    had been made with powdered milk and had those sandy
    crystals on the outside. The caramel was good.

    Hennessy VS is the house brandy. As it was on the cart and
    the 12-year-old rum they are supposed to have was not, I
    had some. It was okay, and I got a second glass to gargle
    with. Amaretto di Saronno and Bailey's (in a huge bottle)
    were also available.

    Two hours before landing a deli plate - a small roll, a
    couple Wheatsworth crackers, a slice each of young Cheddar,
    young Gouda, young smoked Gouda, Italian-style salami, and
    smoked deli turkey. None of it good, none of it bad. A glass
    of extremely ordinary Malbec washed it down.

    We landed bumpily and on time. There was a fair amount of
    applause out in the back.

    Immigration was easy, as the Argentine fingerprint machine
    didn't balk at mine. The girl hardly took a glance at my
    printout of the reciprocity fee receipt.

    Long line getting out through the baggage scanner.

    I was supposed to call the hotel from a pay phone for my
    shuttle pickup and wondered how to do so without a peso
    in my pocket. The nice lady at the information desk said
    there was a telecommunications center that would take
    credit cards, but the charge would be only 25 or 50c US.
    I wondered how that worked. You go in, make your call,
    and the rate is displayed on a display on the wall - mine
    came to 1.50 (US 20c), so I asked the girl at the desk if
    she'd take a buck, which she did, giving me 6.75 back, so
    probably a better rate than the cambio would offer.

    I was told to wait by the orange machine (turns out it's a
    security plastic wrap machine for your checked bag) 40
    meters past the McDonald's, and the driver would be there
    in 5 to 10 minutes. And so it was. I gave him the fiver in

    The Posada De Las Aguilas is apparently the closest place
    to the airport and as such gets highly mixed reviews. It
    turns out the relevant things all were okay. True, there's
    no food within walking distance, and I can see how things
    might get dreary at mealtime, but it did the job.

    I was lulled into a sense of false security by the desk
    clerk, who spoke good English and seemed to be really on
    the ball. He dealt with checkin efficiently, and soon I
    was in my assigned spot, a really small room with a really
    high ceiling. But it was clean, the bed was comfortable,
    the bathroom small but functional, and the heat worked,
    a good thing as it was close to 50F when I arrived.

    Being a little thirsty, I went back down to the reception
    area, where the guy said they'd still be serving snacks and
    alcohol, only there was nobody to take my order, so he left
    his desk and got me a bowl of peanuts and a Quilmes Cristal
    - this, a blandish Miller-like beverage, came in a double
    bottle but went down easily.

    A fairly nice shower and a good night's sleep.
  6. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Breakfast is spartan - croissants and jam, watered orange
    juice, coffee or tea. Toast and peanut butter available too.

    I paid my bill with a Benjy and asked for my change in
    pesos, which caused some consternation, as there was little
    if any provision for cash payment, despite there being a
    sign offering a 10% discount for cash in dollars or pesos.
    Plus the receptionist this morning spoke less English than
    I do Spanish, so communication was halting and fraught with
    the danger of misconstruction. So we agreed to wait for the
    shuttle driver to return from the airport, because he both
    spoke English and had a pocketful of money. Well, he did and
    he didn't. We ended up having to call in the maintenance guy
    in whose pocket there was an assortment of ratty, torn bills
    - eventually we got me my pesos, which came in handy for
    tips and such through the week. In fact, I left him the
    rattiest old fiver as a tip, which we both laughed at; he
    said something along the lines of, and so it comes home to
    roost after all.

    I was supposed to meet lili and timid_trnchcoat, who were
    coming in on AA 953 JFK EZE 2205 0940, which was an hour
    late. We ended up meeting at the TaxiEZE kiosk right around
    11 and, as there were three of us, taking the $42 fixed rate
    cab to the Sheraton Libertador (I told timid_trnchcoat that
    I had enough pesos to get him to his hotel, the Park Hyatt,
    but he elected to walk to the restaurant with us).

    The trip in town took longer than anyone had expected, but
    eventually we got there, dropped our traps in a nice room on
    the 20th floor, and hustled out to meet Gaucho100K and the
    rest of the crew.

    Strolling mostly along Libertador, whose noise and incessant
    whizzing traffic displeased lili, we got to Sotto Voce just
    a couple minutes late; we were the last to arrive, it turns
    out - there were a couple expected who didn't manage to get
    there, and they missed a nice time.

    I can't speak for most of the food, as it was a long table
    and we were at one end, with the empties near us. We got a
    taste of bobovespa's risotto, pleasant but I wouldn't care
    to make a whole meal of it.

    lili and I split a carpaccio di manzo; it came divided,
    two very artistically plated dishes that looked like two
    full servings, but we were assured it was one only - this
    was borne out by the sighting of a full salmon carpaccio
    down the way, which was huge. Hearty eaters in this town.

    My first Latin American meal of ever, back in the mid-1960s,
    was going to be cannelloni, only I had just been held up (in
    a city that I will not name) so could only afford the menu
    del dia, so I've had a thing about the dish, ordering it
    even in unpromising situations ever since; I have similar
    odd yens for various other dishes for various reasons -
    milanesa/schnitzel, Stroganoff, luohan tsai, et cetera.

    Anyhow, I was delighted to hear that the cannelloni of the
    day was spinach and ground beef, a combination with which I
    have become familiar and rather fond of over the decades.
    Sadly, it came with beef and mushrooms instead, not a bad
    marriage at all but not what I'd set my expectations for.
    Worse, it was gratinated with lots and lots of unidentified
    melting cheese that had a blue component that I didn't care
    for. Not that big a deal, I twirled vast sheets of the stuff
    around my fork and gave them to lili, who loves cheese in
    all its manifold variations.

    Having the appetite of a bird (this improved over the course
    of the weekend), she just had a bowl of minestrone as her
    main course. It was peculiar, rather sweet with carrots, I
    believe onions, and maybe the overripe tomato or two, and
    came with handfuls of spinach, which she doesn't eat and
    which I gladly added to my cannelloni.

    Gaucho chose the wine - from a winery he knows well and that
    I believe he offers from time to time - Escorihuela Gascon
    Small Productions Malbec 11, a rich very dark red (i.e. on
    the young side) wine with a nice aroma and a mouth-filling
    plumminess. He indicated that it was a relative bargain on
    the list - here, as most places, the restaurant wine markups
    are wildly variable; this was one of the less extortionate.

    After a leisurely time, ended with complimentary portions of
    excellent ice creams and glasses of limoncello, we broke up
    the party and headed back, along a circuitous route, for a
    much needed wash-up.
  7. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Up at the Sheraton our room was not what it appeared to be;
    all these glitches, mostly laughable and get-aroundable, but
    still they added up.

    For example, it was difficult to get our anticipated shower,
    because the water ran hot or cold but not both, both out of
    the rainshower and the tub spigot. One could solve this by
    turning on the hot, then turning on the cold, then washing
    one limb or another in the ten seconds it took for the cold
    to take over the hot, then starting the process over again.
    My solution was to take a bath.

    The key cards sometimes worked after several tries. We got
    them adjusted (there was a line at the temporary checkin -
    the lobby is being renovated, so the desk has been relocated
    to the former Link@Sheraton area) and reported the water
    issue; during lili's recitation the guy sort of grimaced and
    interrupted her, saying, the water runs either hot or cold,
    right? as if this was something he heard ten times a day. He
    promised to send engineering to come up and fix the problem.

    It was an okay room in general, just there were substantial
    boobooes, ending up with lili's being charged again for a
    prepaid stay.

    The executive lounge obviously has been burned by hordes of
    Flyertalkers, as it has instituted a policy of one free
    glass of wine or beer per person, afterwards, charge it to
    your room at I think about 50 pesos a glass, maybe more. The
    wine being poured, Latitud 33 Malbec, is a fresh-tasting,
    fruity Chandon product that is one step above airline wine
    and one step below real wine.

    We were to meet everyone at 8 at La Dorita on Humboldt, so
    we asked the executive lounge girl to call us a cab for 7:30
    (we asked this at maybe 6:30), so what she did was to call
    the doorman and alert him to this request. To be fair to
    her, she's mostly a catering person, not really a concierge.
    Anyhow, at 7:30 we excused ourselves and went downstairs to
    find that although the doorman had been asked, he hadn't
    actually called anyone. So he tried his cab company and
    found that it being a feria or the day before a feria or the
    day after a feria or something, no taxis were available, so
    he told us that he was sorry and the best thing to do was to
    go out on the street and hail one! So we did. I asked about
    the fare and was told 40 or 50 pesos. After having a couple
    of the few and far between empties poached by more
    aggressive or at least demonstrative Portenos, we got the
    hang of it and got into a relatively unmarked car (not the
    yellow and black favored by the locals), which took us on
    what I recognized as pretty much the most direct route, but
    when we got out the meter said 58 pesos. I gave him 60 which
    appears to have pleased him, and soon we were happily seated
    with our friends, anticipating a tasty meal of beef parts.

    There was talk of a communal salad, which was soundly hooted
    down by our part of the table - to some of us, greens before
    a meal is or are anathema. Turns out, the healthful folks at
    the end over there ordered a salad for two, which was passed
    around to everyone but still ended up unfinished. They serve
    a lot of food in this city.

    A few people ordered starters. I got a morcilla, which is
    something I like very much and can't get very often back
    home; it was also, at about $3 a serving, about the cheapest
    thing on the carte. A big, dinner-size sausage, black as
    night and flecked with bits of ground fat and skin like
    stars, flavored with sweet spices in the classic way. I gave
    some away to my more adventurous friends (not lili) and
    still had enough to make a dinner from.

    But that was the beginning. lili and I had ordered a vacio
    and specified that it be as rare as possible. The waiter
    indicated he understood with a gesture we would come to see
    often - saying pssh pssh while pantomiming turning a steak.
    High hopes. When it came, though, it was in two pieces, one
    medium to medium well, the other medium well to incinerated.
    In fact, all the orders came out mixed up in terms of cut
    and doneness, so, as I said elsewhere, there was a brisk
    secondary trade in cow parts, and I believe that everyone
    was reasonably okay with what they ended up with, even if it
    was a different cut than what they asked for. I had a chunk
    of really almost raw tenderloin (somebody ordered medium) to
    go along with a chewable though medium-well piece of vacio
    (I'd ordered it rare). I took a couple bites of both and
    called it a night, concentrating on the wine (Norton DOC
    Malbec 13) and the memory of the rather nice blood sausage.

    Several versions of potato around the table - the fried were
    quite good, very hot and crisp and cooked of course in
    rendered suet. Someone had mashed, but I didn't try it.

    We'd compared taxi rates and found that the people who had
    come from the Park Hyatt (a shorter drive than ours) had
    paid 70 for their trip, so we figured that 80-85 would be
    what to expect for our return.

    The taxi driver tried to take us to the wrong hotel. You
    see, the Sheraton Libertador is on Avenida Cordoba at Maipu,
    but there is in fact a Sheraton on Avenida Libertador, only
    it's called something else. The guy took us toward the wrong
    one but heeded our objections and got us to the right one
    eventually, cost 90 (would likely have been 85 if we'd gone
    more directly).

    Next attempt at a shower. Failure. The front desk swore up
    and down that the maintenance guy had checked and found
    everything fine.

    At least the beds were nice.
  8. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    We get breakfast in the lounge. This was notable for two
    things: good chorizo and bad scrambled eggs, which had sat
    so long as to become large hard flat curds in a yellowish
    liquid. Also an assortment of ordinary things you'd expect.
    There was supposed to be, according to the little signs,
    dulce de leche for your toast, so I grabbed a dish of it;
    turned out to be a very neutral honey, very dulce but not
    leche at all. Oh, a third notable thing - the orange juice
    was nasty stuff cut with sweetened water, just like at a
    cheap hotel (and unlike the afternoon offering here, which
    is real). No big thing, we were supposed to go to a wine
    tasting at 11, and snacks were promised.

    Marieta Restaurant is a half mile walk through a bustling
    noisy part of town, so I led lili down side streets - the
    sidewalks tend to be terrible - to our destination, which
    is approximately at Avenida de Mayo and 9 de Julio. Don't
    believe Google Maps, which has it in the wrong place. We
    were shown downstairs to the cellar, where Gaucho had an
    elegant setup for us.

    We started with the Ruca Malen Brut Sparkling n.v.
    (Mendoza), which was a fresh, slightly yeasty, fruity
    wine, quite easy to drink, but I didn't find a use for
    it (I ended up eating a number of chicken cheese rollups
    to go with my glass). Gaucho made a big thing about the
    little bubbles. Careful fermentation in the Champagne way
    yields this kind of bubbles. Big bubbles are a sign of
    bulk process fermentation. Huge short-lived bubbles are a
    sign of artificial carbonation, something none of us was
    coarse enough to bring up. Maybe Gaucho has never seen such
    a terrible thing; I have.

    Encuentro Malbec-Cabernet (Mendoza) 11 is a lightish wine
    with a heavyish nose. Starts off with black pepper and
    brambles and goes on to bright red fruit, which disappointed
    some of us. It was halfway between a cheap wine and a good

    Escorihuela Gascon Malbec Cabernet (Mendoza) 11 was
    introduced to us as the little brother of what we had had
    at Sotto Voce. Though a nice quaff, it was lighter in flavor
    and less complex. Great with food, and I liked it.

    Marcelo Miras Malbec (Patagonia) 11 was the blockbuster of
    the session - lots of tannin, complex, ageworthy. I didn't
    get a focused impression; the people at one end of the table
    were saying one thing about it, and those at the other,
    their pours from another bottle of the same label, were in
    complete disagreement. So I solicited sniffs of both kinds,
    and there was indeed a distinct if perhaps subtle difference
    - on consultation, Gaucho suggested that one of the bottles
    may have been suffering from a hint of cork taint. That
    aside, this is a cellaring wine or maybe at the lower end
    of the investment spectrum.

    Substantial snacks - those chicken things, potato tortilla,
    three cheeses, beef empanadas (I didn't like these as they
    were made especially neutral for the wine tasting), maybe
    another finger food or two, and bowls of chicken and red
    onion marinated in what I thought rather too much vinegar
    for the situation.

    We excused ourselves from lunch - the nibbles we'd been
    served had defeated lili, and so we just went off and did
    the hotel switch thing. I'd picked out the Hotel Boutique
    Raco in the Almagro neighborhood, which turns out to be a
    mix of upper-middle and ordinary middle class homes; ours
    was a formerly stately 1904 house with fine turn-of-the-
    century fixtures in the main building. We got put in what
    I think must have been stables or servants' quarters. We
    had our choice of one or both of two rooms near the main
    house; we picked the one closest, a smallish but perfectly
    adequate space with an exceedingly high ceiling. Modest but
    modern and functional bathroom, with actual controllable
    water temperature. After a contretemps with the heating
    system - it turns out we had not noticed that the remote
    control was on air con rather than heat -, we became quite
  9. violist
    Original Member

    violist Gold Member

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    I'd gotten a number of recommendations from the Internet
    on where to eat, but we asked Andrea the desk clerk for a
    recommendation. She suggested Lo de Rosendo, one of the
    places on my list. The plus - it's only 4 blocks from the
    hotel, so easy to run to when you're hungry. The minus -
    it's only 4 blocks from the hotel, so a lengthy digestive
    walk after dinner is optional, not mandatory, and we are
    what we are.

    Definitely a locals place. When we arrived around 8:30
    there were several tables already occupied. Asador in
    the middle, periodically fed with coals from a separate
    oven in the back. Grumpy waiter of the usual sort.

    lili started with a ham and cheese empanada, which she
    deemed excellent. My beef tongue vinaigrette was
    delicious, though no bargain at 75, and not totally
    de-skinned, which bothers me. I don't care so much about
    the vascular and connective tissue up at the root end, but
    it's hard to de-skin an already sliced portion, especially
    when the slices are thin. I don't get it when people claim
    that tongue is okay only when sliced thin. Thick slices are
    just fine, and you get the flavor better.

    For mains I got a sirloin (bife de chorizo), which was
    about the same price as everyplace else but twice as big.
    It was also from a mature animal, so exceedingly tasty
    and I believe unaged, so not tender. A big layer of fat,
    which was delicious, and of gristle beneath that, which I
    was too full to eat.

    lili's ribeye (ojo) was completely different. It was
    downright elderly, the meat a little discolored though
    rare as ordered and with the slightly funky taste of
    dry-aged meat. The fat off it had a moldy blue-cheesy taste
    in spots and was definitely not worth dealing with.

    Fried potatoes were excellent, though as before they lost
    most of their appeal as they cooled down and went limp.

    Fond de Cave Malbec 13 is a rather delicious though
    definitely mass market Trapiche product. Very open fruit
    but enough tannin to work against the fat of the meal. It
    was something like 120, a decent price.

    A wonderful sleep. I roused myself at 9, but lili seemed
    to need to recharge, so I didn't wake her until 10:30.
  10. violist
    Original Member

    violist Gold Member

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    One thing she wanted to do was use the famous subway. As we
    were a short stroll from Rivadavia and Castro Barros, that
    was easy. We got four single tickets and were on our way. It
    was too late for the San Telmo market, so the plan was to
    go direct to lunch at Parrilla Don Julio on Guatemala and
    then to the 4 pm English tour at Teatro Colon (the lady on
    the telephone said no reservations necessary, just show up
    at 3:30). It's an easy journey for 5 pesos each - take the
    A train eastward to Peru, then transfer to the D and go
    nine stops, walk a few blocks, et voila. Our original idea
    was to leave a few minutes early so we could walk to the
    Our Lady of Guadalupe church and from there a few blocks
    to the restaurant, but Gaucho had suggested we get there a
    quarter of for our 1300 reservation, just to make sure
    everything was okay. So we abandoned our quest and went
    direct there only to find, at a quarter of, nobody else
    among us, but, as Gaucho feared, the other tables filling
    up rapidly. We were seated quite readily at our table for
    eight and had a glass of Septima Malbec, a nondescript red
    and a Quilmes for me, while we waited. And waited. At 1310
    I apologized to the staff and had them call Gaucho, who
    hadn't heard anything from anybody. At 1320, rinse and
    repeat. We decided to order at 1330 and also to start
    munching on the excellent bread and butter we were offered.

    We ordered one of the off-cuts, entrana I think, but it was
    off, so plan B was the perennial one, a sirloin for me and
    a ribeye for her, mashed potatoes on the side. And the
    Susana Balbo Signature 12, another typical example, well
    made, of no great distinctiveness but plenty of brambly
    fruit and just enough oak, with coffee and chocolate coming
    out on the palate - a terrific food wine and worth every
    penny of the 350 it cost.

    Of course, as our food arrived so did three other intrepid
    members of our group, bobovespa, timid_trnchcoat, and
    genemk2. It turns out that nobody had heard either the 1300
    reservation time (not changed on page 1 of the thread, so
    the blame was not all theirs) or the admonition to get here
    early. The good part was that the bill was split into two
    manageable bits (our deuce costing way more than their

    They got two steaks, with a beet and greens salad (I turned
    down a sample not because of the beets but because of a
    suspicion there might be cheese among the ingredients) and a
    mixed grill of offal to start - intestines (chinchulines),
    kidneys (rinones), and sweetbreads (mollejas), all of which,
    from my tastes of each, were pretty good, as expected,
    though the chitlins were filled with some peculiar white
    substance that might have been mashed yuca or something.

    They ate faster than we did, so we finished at around the
    same time. We said goodbye and strolled to the subway
    station for a quick ride to Teatro Colon, only to discover
    that the station was closed. Some guy in the tobacconist's
    gave us the unwelcome news - not only was the stop closed,
    the subway was closed. Why? Who knows. So another taxi
    ride, which took longer than the subway would have and
    cost ten times more.

    We'd been told that if we showed up at 3:30 there would be
    no trouble getting on the 4:00 English-language tour. There
    wasn't - there were only five of us, the capacity for some
    reason being 34. Our guide spoke terrific English-scented
    English and was extremely well versed in the architectural,
    historic, and artistic features of the place, which is
    impressive in all these ways. She wasn't just going through
    the motions - she's clearly committed to the place. A
    most enjoyable and informative hour, including the big
    public spaces, the auditorium itself, and the president's
    box. Not including any backstage areas, sadly. We tried to
    hang out in the lobby for a while, but they were really
    itching to close the joint, so we left.
  11. violist
    Original Member

    violist Gold Member

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    A new twist: we had 3 hours to waste before dinner. The
    problem was that there wasn't a whole lot to do at 5 or 6
    pm on Sunday - all the sights would be closed, and there
    was that issue with the subway not working. lili was a
    good sport and said she'd be okay with just wandering
    around; I doubted her stamina, but wander we did, going
    through the Recoleta and Palermo neighborhoods and by the
    Japanese Garden (closed) and the zoo (closed). There was a
    street fair type arrangement going on in the big park, but
    it was folding up by the time we got there. We were getting
    a bit draggy when we reached the restaurant neighborhood. It
    was still too early, and the chosen meeting place wasn't
    open even for drinks. Luckily we encountered soupxxxx and
    +1, so we found a place with a Heineken sign and plunked
    ourselves down. I was hot and had been looking forward to a
    beer for a couple hours, and lili and soupxxxx wanted to
    split a half liter of wine. The waiter did the upsell thing
    - you know, 750 is a better deal -, and I don't know how,
    but they were convinced.

    Finca Las Moras reserva 12 organic Malbec from the Pedernal
    Valley was a lot better than it had to be; I had a small
    gargle of it before settling down to my liter of Heineken.

    Then just a quick toddle down the street to Morelia, which
    is known for grilled pizza, though you can get regular pizza
    as well, in a plethora of interesting flavor combinations.
    So what did four Americanos do? A big pepperoni pizza and a
    small pepperoni pizza. The crust, with a bit more char on
    the bottom than I am accustomed to, was thin and hard-crisp
    and very like a flatbread pizza in the States. The cheese
    was more pungent than one expects from mozzarella - I
    suspect some unadvertised grana of some kind there -, and
    the pepperoni, more like a coarser cousin of Genoa salami,
    was not detectably spicy at all, a surprise as here one
    sometimes gets an unexpected bit of kick in places one
    would not expect. I should have asked for hot pepper flakes
    but didn't think to do so.

    A bottle of Roble de Finca Flichman 13 was very cheap; it
    was respectable, a bargain at I think under 100. A young
    dark wine as well, aromas of cherries and berries, quite
    straightforward, a terrific pizza wine.

    Our friends had gone by a gelateria called Nahuel with a
    most impressive assortment of flavors. I wondered what
    crema americano was, so I got that and regular chocolate
    (there were half a dozen chocolates and another half dozen
    with a chocolate component); both were smooth and tasty,
    the chocolate having a strong coffeeish component and the
    crema being sort of vanilla-y nothing-y but refreshing. I
    also tasted a chocolate chip whose name I forget and the
    super dulce de leche, which was like regular dulce de
    leche to me.

    The taxi back to the hotel cost more than I thought it
    would. I guess he took a more rectilinear route than the
    diagonal I envisioned, or maybe it was farther than I
  12. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    In the morning we had the concierge at our hotel call a cab
    for us so lili could get another Starwood stay to assure
    Platinum again, and the Sheraton Libertador had a good rate,
    and though we had these comical issues during the last stay,
    the general manager said that we'd be taken care of.

    First, the bad: the taxicab driver took us to the wrong
    Sheraton, despite our telling him the right name and the
    right address. As I recall, two other taxis had tried to
    do the same thing. So we got into a tiff with our driver,
    which is always a bad thing. Plus the meter ended up 20
    pesos heavy. I debated just giving him the right fare, but
    we did have stuff in the trunk, and 20 pesos is only about
    2.40 even at the official exchange rate.

    The good: the general manager gave us the Presidential suite
    in honor of lili's status and our inconvenience, however
    minor, during our previous stay. And it was ready for us
    when we arrived at 9 am.

    Description. The atrium is about the size of your normal
    room and has its own half bath. To the right, a quite big
    living and dining area with a stereo and big-screen TV,
    seating for 6, plus a full-size queen leather foldout couch.
    Past that, a full kitchen with fridge, 4-burner range, sink,
    kitchen cabinets and equipment, microwave, and coffee maker.
    To the left of the entrance is a large bedroom (another TV)
    and a medium-size study. A two-sink L-shaped washing area,
    and in this order: the toilet and bidet in one room, a sauna
    fit for the president and his or her secretary, a shower
    with hand-held and rain heads and 6 body jets, and finally a
    jacuzzi that could seat 4 comfortably. Being a clean-minded
    sort of guy, I spent much of my time in this room playing
    with the shower. Other than that, we didn't make much use of
    the facilities except for the bedroom and the study, whose
    comfy chair (there was also another comfy chair, which got
    my suitcase, and an uncomfy chair for the desk) was perhaps
    better for sleeping than either the bedroom or the foldout.
    The place was well cleaned and reasonably elegant in a last
    millennium sort of way. We spent an hour marveling and
    taking pictures like a pair of rubes, and it was soon time
    for the next wine event at Marieta at 11 for a tasting of
    '11 wines (only three of them, plus a '10).

    Bressia Lagrima Canela 10 - Mendoza. A new world style of
    what I thought an old world blend - your standard white
    Bordeaux formula. It had adequate oak, citrus, peaches, and
    some herbal qualities. Clean and refreshing, and people
    said that it was a porch-sitting wine. Gaucho revealed later
    that it was quite expensive compared to the norm and that it
    contained Pinot Gris (where I thought it had Semillon) as
    well as the grapy Chardonnay. I liked it pretty well but
    wouldn't spend the money, I think.

    The reds were all 100% Malbec, different expressions of the
    grape, all 2011. Interesting comparisons.

    Ernesto Catena Padrillos Malbec - Mendoza was again a
    lightish uncomplicated wine with a nice complex nose but
    too many cherries on the palate, which reminded me of the
    quaffable style that has become popular among younger
    drinkers. Oh, I wouldn't turn my nose up at it, but it
    was not really my style.

    HD Malbec Altamira - Mendoza wasn't my style either, though
    in a different way. Too cold, if you will. A big wine with
    plenty of everything, sweet ripeness, fruity aroma, tannin,
    body, a sort of overwhelming experience.

    Escorihuela Gascon Small Productions Malbec - Mendoza -
    this was the same wine we'd had at Sotto Voce, and I enjoyed
    it just as well at this tasting. Maybe more because of the
    pairing with the snacks. The best balance of the lot, just
    right, to quote the children's story.

    Some of the same snacks as last time, some different. The
    beef empanadas were gone, replaced by fried croquettes of
    egg and ham, quite moreish (I like fried food, and the
    grease evens out the edges of young wines), and an odd
    choice for a mostly red tasting, fried squid, with which
    I got extras of the white wine, and they went well together.

    We lolled around a bit and chatted (as this was to be the
    last event that Gaucho was to be present at) before deciding
    to walk together to lunch at Fervor, a mile up the way in a
    fashionable neighborhood. Our place was ready - I think we
    had one more than the reservation was for, but no problem,
    they added another deuce to the end and all was well.
  13. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Someone (timid_trnchcoat or bobovespa I figure) ordered an
    appetizer of brains and blood sausage, which got passed
    around the table. The morcilla was a bit more refined than
    other versions but along the same lines; the brains had an
    off aroma, and I was about to taste just a little but was
    warned off by someone at the other end of the table.

    lili and I split the large sirloin (comes in 7, 14, and 21
    oz portions so not that big); this was done spot on and was
    the best of the trip (I rank them Fervor, Don Julio, Lo
    de Rosendo and Parrilla Pena - the neighborhood places we
    went to, very close in quality, and La Dorita last, as
    it seemed to be having a bad day).

    People ordered just a bit too much food, given that we had
    a sizable snack selection at Marieta, so there was extra
    that floated around when people were finished. I tasted the
    grilled seafood platter: squid, shrimp, and octopus in that
    order of preference. The squid and shrimp were perfect; the
    octopus seemed a little overtenderized, though it tasted
    fine. There were finfishes too - hake and salmon, if memory
    faileth not. An oddity here is that there's a huge list of
    fish, but today only these two were available. If certain of
    these others had been around, I'd have had a tough choice,
    because though I am exceedingly fond of rare beef, I'd have
    liked to have tasted the sea bass, for example, on its home

    Some of us were greedy piglets. I ordered the Rogel dessert,
    a mille-feuille of what seemed to be cannoli pastry layered
    with dulce de leche ice cream, the whole covered with a
    marshmallow topping - a sinful concoction.

    The wine was the Escorihuela Gascon Gran Reserva Malbec 11,
    which was not so interesting as the Pequenos Producciones
    but equally balanced. We had two bottles for four drinkers.
    They tried to charge us for three; this was fixed rapidly
    upon application.

    We were all going to walk together back to the area of the
    hotels (less than a mile), but lili wanted to revisit some
    places she'd been before, so we took our leave and walked
    over to Recoleta, where we sort of eschewed the cemetery
    (she'd been, I wasn't all that interested) and walked along
    side streets before turning left and going back to our
    fancy digs.

    Some more of that Latitud 33 Malbec at the lounge, after
    which I had some superb orange juice before toddling home.
    iolaire likes this.
  14. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Thanks to lili's platinosity, we got 1600 checkout from her
    giant platinum suite and had the opportunity to check out
    Flying Machine's recommendation of Parrilla Pena. It's
    unpretentious, very neighborhoody in feel, lots of food for
    a reasonable price. Another grumpy waiter, though he warmed
    up during the meal, which is a good thing as he was the only
    one working our area. The Escorihuela Gascon Malbec 13 is a
    pleasant wine but much less nuanced from the Gran Reserva or
    the Pequeños Producciones that Gaucho introduced us to. The
    meat, from older animals than we are accustomed to, was a
    winner in taste but gave the jaws a bit of a workout. lili's
    bife de chorizo (mistranslated on the menu as "rumpsteak")
    was gigantic, at least a pound not counting a substantial
    fat cap; it was muy jugoso as ordered. Not really tender
    but very tasty, even though the dullish knife shredded the
    meat more than cutting it. Note to restaurateurs - offering
    inferior cutlery doesn't benefit anyone, including you. The
    customer gets the idea that your meat is tough when it's
    not really all that bad.

    I had the 1/2 entrana muy jugoso - it came with all the
    membranes untrimmed (good in a sense as it shields the meat
    from the full blast of the grill) but more medio than the
    rare that I wanted. Lots of beefy flavor; I borrowed some
    of the fat from lili's sirloin to eat with it, and the
    angels hummed if not sang.

    Mashed potatoes were probably the best of the several we
    tried on this trip; they were made from scratch and beaten
    with an unconscionable amount of butter.

    Against my better judgment I ordered dessert - when it came
    we both went "oooohhhh," and the young subwaiter who brought
    it mimicked us and went "oooohhhh" and grinned. A half pound
    of flan with a side of a quarter pound of dulce de leche.
    Delicious, but I was a bit queasy eight hours later.

    We had a pleasant stroll back to the hotel punctuated by
    lili twice or thrice showing her total lack of a sense of
    direction by instructing me to turn the diametrically wrong
    way. Having traveled with her for near a decade I know
    enough to ignore her.

    Time for a last luxurious shower, and I checked on our taxi
    reservation, and, guess what, I'd made it for 24 hours
    later. I guess my sense of time must be as bad as her sense
    of direction - and with her flight before midnight and mine
    after, that served to confuse me further.

    The TaxiEzeiza has a promotion - 280 pesos a/i for anywhere
    in the city to the airport. I guess it's better than having
    the cars go back empty. So I'd signed up on line for that
    but was looking at almost twice that if they held me to a
    walkup rate. Ah, well, easy come, easy go.

    At checkout, a pleasant young desk clerk called the taxi
    company and made everything right, and a car was there in
    about a quarter hour. And going out of the city was a snap,
    so we were there half an hour before the United counter
    opened: as this was a mixed Copa/United itinerary, it was
    impossible to get my connecting boarding pass without
    seeing an actual agent. When I got to one, she had the
    document in hand within a minute. It was for coach.

    It turns out, by the way, that the cab driver honored the
    rate and seemed delighted to get 300 even from me.

    At the document check, the guard informed me that as my
    flight didn't depart until after midnight, I wasn't
    entitled to get through, but she would make a one-time
    exception, but the C&I people might not. These didn't care,
    as I figured, and soon we were in the new Terminal B, where
    the new so-called VIP lounges have opened.

    lili guested me in to the Admiral's Club, a joint endeavor
    with Iberia. A pretty nice though unadorned room, enough
    seats, protein snacks, sandwiches, cookies. A full but
    unexciting bar. Several beers and wines, the reds on offer
    being Altas Cumbres Malbec and Cabernet - comparable with
    the Salentein Merlot and Cabernet at the Star Alliance
    lounge next door as I later found out. I think that Star
    had the edge here but not by much.

    When it became time I escorted lili to her gate and after
    exploring a little in the new Terminal B returned next door
    for the rest of my stay in town. Though of the same vintage
    as the OneWorld one, this lounge has a sort of pre-owned
    look about it.

    Comparison between the two.

    Size: similar
    Decor: better at OneWorld.
    Crowdedness: somewhat higher at Star.
    Noise level: much higher at Star. I think it's the ceilings,
    though it may be the clientele.
    Booze: almost exactly the same except that Star has Havana
    Club extra old and OW has the 3-y-o, actually not that bad.
    Wine: neither has anything really interesting.
    Beer: Star has Imperial; OW has Lite, MGD, and Warsteiner.
    Staff: both pretty friendly.
    Internet: OW a lot better.
    Outlets: OW a lot more; only a few at Star.

    It was a long dull wait.
  15. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    CM 453 EZE PTY 0100 0622 738 2A

    When I got to gate 7 in the old terminal, boarding was in
    full swing. I ensconced myself in my seat and gave my order
    to the attendant - the 12-year-old rum (name forgotten) neat
    in a snifter or equivalent with my snack, then the same
    with breakfast.

    Of course, I slept through the snack. When I awoke, it was
    time for breakfast - some fruit (not bad), some yogurt
    (didn't try), some bread (ditto), and a very tiny bacon
    and cheese burrito that actually tasted like food, though it
    was very salty. Along with this came orange juice (not good)
    and a highball glass that contained 3 oz of unidentified
    rum, about the same amount of Coke, a wheel and a wedge of
    lime, and some ice. It actually tasted okay with breakfast
    once I fished out the ice.

    We pulled up to the gate right on time, and I was relieved
    to see my next plane already sitting there a few spots away.

    Three hours at the Copa Club, during which I consumed one
    (1) glass of red plonk and spent the rest of the time
    catching up on correspondence, including BBSes. Did I say
    that breakfast here is negligible? It is.

    UA1022 PTY EWR 1005 1626 738 8C

    Okay, I was on an M fare and used a RPU. Never cleared. I
    think they must have offered upgrades for poco bucks, as
    right at the end the front cabin was filled with a bunch of
    20-something rowdies who spent the flight roaming the aisle
    and making loud sports-fan-type noises.

    My seat was okay, actually roomier than the seats in front
    until people started congregating in my foot space, kicking
    me and stepping on my feet as though I were not there at
    all. This got kind of old, as many of these folks were not
    waiting to use the rest room just anead of me but rather
    wanted relief from their Economy Minus seats in the wayback
    and so were not inclined to move on.

    A chicken and cheese sandwich was offered as buy-on-board,
    and the usual run of beverages. I had nothing. We landed a
    bit early but waited around for a long time for our ramp
    personnel to get their act together.

    Immigration was a snap - not much of a line (none for me
    with Global, even though it was glitched up as it often is
    for me), and I was out and at the hotel shuttle pickup in

    Hilton Newark Airport is another mixed-review hotel. At such
    I tend to do okay, because my expectations are circumscribed
    by, well, the reality of the situation.

    The top-floor room they gave me was nice, newly refurbished,
    small but clean bathroom, view of the tarmac (and the road
    between us and it). My only complaint that the water tasted
    and smelled horrible; but then they gave me a couple bottles
    of purified to tide me over.

    I thought of walking down to one of the restaurants that are
    supposed to be about a mile away, but not having learned
    from a previous visit I set off down the highway and found,
    as I should have remembered, that there was no sidewalk, and
    a sixty-something legally blind guy shouldn't be in such a
    situation after or even before dinner. So I turned back and
    went to The Newarker in the hotel. Restaurant Associates
    once had a place by that name in the airport, and it had a
    wonderful reputation, but that's ancient history. I don't
    know if the current one was so named out of homage to that
    restaurant or if it is just the obvious name. Anyhow, I
    plopped myself down expecting to drop way too much money on
    some beef stew from a boil-in-bag.

    I had a welcome Sam and listened to the spiel of the rather
    cheeky waiter, who pushed the tagliatelle Bolognese in a
    peculiarly emphatic way. I asked if the short ribs (same
    description as at other Hiltons, also the same price, a
    suspicious circumstance) were good, and he replied, oh,
    yes, they are good, but the Bolognese is better. So what was
    I to do? I ordered the Bolognese ($9 cheaper than the short
    ribs). The noodles, said to be made in house, were a bit
    limp textured, seemingly cooked in insufficiently hot water.
    The sauce, though, was really good - pretty much the way I
    make it, only with bigger chunks of carrot (I grate or mince
    mine). A cheap and unaged excuse for Parmesan on top, sad to
    say. I asked for a few red pepper flakes to disguise this
    shortcoming: an ounce came, of which I ended up using half.

    The bill with Sam was precisely what the short ribs without
    Sam would have cost. I tipped the guy on the larger price
    (with Sam).

    2V 171 EWR BWI 1257 1544

    Back to P4 and then to the Newark Liberty railroad station,
    where the Amtrak came right on time, and there were still
    plenty of seats in the quiet car, with working AC outlets
    and semi-working wi-fi, so all was well.

    We rolled into my destination station ten late, which made
    my bus connection (1600 departure) slightly chancy. Luckily
    the bus left a couple minutes late.

    I'd scheduled just enought time to pick up my prescriptions
    and make sure the bills were all paid, and planned to wander
    off again as soon as possible, but my brother had taken a
    fall and gone unconscious, so there was the issue of whether
    he'd had a concussion and whether there was anything to be
    worried about about that. Two doctors' appointments made
    sure he was functional, but I nonetheless spent a couple
    days watching him eagle-eyed to verify that he'd not knocked
    the remainder of his brains out.

    He hadn't, apparently.
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