Starkbier, spring training, things starting with S

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by violist, Apr 2, 2012.  |  Print Topic

  1. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    UA 951 IAD LAX 1715 2002 752 1B
    was 967 IAD LAX 1800 2040 777 33A

    I got to the airport a bit early, knowing that the previous
    flight was wide open. The 6:00 had gone from an old style to
    a new style 3-cabin, and my decision not to use a regional
    upgrade on what had been a cabin with plenty of seats had
    turned out to be foolish. Checking with the elite desk I
    found that I was 7 on the list for 6 beds, every one of the
    passengers who had cleared having used an instrument, so
    said the agent. So the early flight it was.

    Boarding was an ill-tempered melee, with the crush not
    dispersing inside as one of the guys in row 6 having an
    issue with his carryons and not deigning to "step inside
    your row to let the other passengers reach their seats." I
    admit that he harriedly apologized to no one in particular
    as he did whatever he did.

    Lots of shrill announcements about sitting down as soon as
    possible so we could achieve an on-time departure, but after
    that it turned out to be a pretty good-natured cabin crew.

    Starter: shrimp cocktail - two pretty big firm ones in a
    not-too-ketchupy sauce.

    There was a salad of the usual saddish greens and one olive.

    The dinner of Asian noodles and beef was respectable - a
    block of actual short rib meat (when they advertised short
    rib, what came was seldom that), cut from frozen into a rib
    of exactly the same size as the next one and the last one,
    then with one corner of mine cut off ... tasted by the cook,
    or a blob of fat or gristle or freezer burn removed, or what
    I don't know. We were served relatively late in the flight
    owing to turbulence, so the thin wheat noodles were very
    crunchy around the edges, and the accompanying broccoli had
    lost much of its vegetable identity and smelled more like a
    primitive chemical warfare weapon. Oddly, neither they nor
    the noodles was objectionable to taste, and the hoisin-based
    sauce that the beef came in covered a multitude of sins.

    Dessert, ice cream sundaes, came from a cart, with nuts,
    strawberries, caramel, hot fudge, whipped cream, and
    Maraschino cherries for the choosing.

    We landed a good half hour early, some of that time as usual
    taken up with finding a marshal or a gate or something.

    The Sheraton Gateway is a really easy shuttle ride, and the
    room, not on the lounge floor but one below, as I am a mere
    gold, was neat and pretty though rather dated in decor. The
    bed had a lot in common with a mortuary slab, though, and I
    didn't sleep long or all that well.

    Breakfast in the lounge was not a special event. I had a
    glass of orange juice, a very sweet chocolate chocolate-chip
    muffin, and a banana.
  2. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    UA 16 LAX EWR 1024 1845 752 3AB

    Check-in took a few seconds, and Terminal 6 security took
    not a substantial time longer.

    I met lili at the club for the start of our adventure. As
    we greeted each other, some guy was ineffectually trying to
    get in as a US club member but without a card. I offered to
    guest him in, and the attendant pointed out that the guy
    would have to leave as soon as I did, and my boarding was in
    fifteen minutes. Okay, I get the message. Anyhow, my BP with
    INTL on it was insufficient for my own entry, so lili
    pulled out her card, which wouldn't scan!, and the attendant
    reluctantly manually keyed in my number, which finally took.
    I knew that eventually one of us would have got us both in,
    and the desk people had to cave, but what of the twice a
    year international premium flyer who gets this kind of crap?
    The airline should be careful; even though I don't mind the
    staff being picky about whom to admit into their sanctuary,
    if one is entitled, entrance should be pretty automatic. The
    mechanism was much better at both the President's and Red
    Carpet clubs - in fact, pretty much everything I have seen
    under the new regime is worse than what had obtained under
    either of the old ones.

    We stuck around until 15 minutes after boarding time,
    expecting to have had the blue carpet cleared by then, but
    when we strolled across the corridor, it became clear that
    no one had boarded yet - and that went uncorrected for
    another five or ten, the result being that when we finally
    got on, we were greeted by numerous and increasingly
    strident P.A. exhortations to sit down and shut up.
    We took off a bit late and debarked a bit late.

    Again, the crew were perfectly agreeable after the plane
    was loaded.

    The seats were not. They exceed even the new United business
    seats in uncomfortableness; and though the latter make into
    a fairly acceptable bed, the Continental ones just don't cut
    the mustard. On reflection, it is my experience and opinion
    that both are designed for passengers with asses way bigger
    than mine and shoulders way narrower, and I am no Adonis.
    You have to be pear-shaped to like them. Also, the privacy
    screen between the seats is permanent, so that even if you
    want to carry on a conversation with your seatmate, it's
    really difficult, but you can sort of see the top half of
    her head, so the privacy isn't that good, either.

    Warmed almonds and Courvoisier. Fairly substantial hot

    For dinner lili chose the tenderloin with gnocchi and
    asparagus; as I knew that I'd get at least a taste, I went
    with the chicken in mustard BBQ with zucchini and carrots.

    There was also a zucchini pasta option. I shuddered and told
    the flight attendant that I should have chosen row 1. She
    said not to worry.

    Salad: ordinary greens, two olives (you can tell who is
    steering this ship of state), and three bocconcini.

    Appetizer: a couple slices of cold cuts, a weird sun-almost-
    dried tomato, and a bocconcino.

    I tasted a mozzarella ball: it was very fresh, very good.

    Main: a nice big marinated Statler breast with somewhat
    crispy skin and a not too mustardy sauce, the chicken not
    too well done and quite moist; the vegetables, in giant
    chunks, were just this side of raw, and I hurt my jaw on a
    carrot. [!?] The zucchini of course went back to the
    galley untouched.

    lili's tenderloin came medium well and in a brown sauce
    that was supposed to have asiago cheese in it. Its gnocchi
    were kind of lumpen, but the asparagus, though overdone,
    was fine. lili does not eat much, and so I had my run of
    her tray. The meat was exceedingly tasty, for airplane food,
    with a sizable marbling still evident despite the heavy

    Ice cream sundaes were made to order in the galley - I think
    that meal carts would not have fit down the aisle. The pax
    in 2E got a nice big bowl with everything, and lili said
    that looked good, she wanted one just like it. I asked for
    one just like it but half as big - this came with about
    10 fewer calories than hers, and I left half of it; she
    ate all of hers, one of the few times I have seen her eat
    all of anything.
  3. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    We pulled in to a relatively convenient gate and were back
    at the LH ticket counter in just a few minutes, the AirTrain
    running quickly and quietly. Passport inspection and
    security were slower than I think normal, but this being
    Newark, everyone seemed to be expecting this.

    There's this bleak corridor leading to the only somewhat
    unattractive gate area; on the right is an SAS lounge and
    a Senator one; we qualified for the latter, so why not.

    Decent spread: I had a heavily salted and spiced chicken
    thigh and a couple pork ribs done the same way, with tastes
    of three red wines, of which the best was Mouton Cadet,
    deciding finally on Remy VSOP, much better. The soup,
    Italian Wedding, was pretty tasty, though the pasta BBs
    had been sitting there long enough to be doubled in girth.

    A friendly concierge offered to mail a forgotten piece of
    mail that I'd been carting around for days.

    We left the lounge at boarding time to find the masses
    milling aimlessly. When it finally happened, boarding was
    an incomprehensible scrum. This was more likely to be due
    to the design of the area than to the agents, who seemed
    to be working as fast as they could.

    LH 413 EWR MUC 2125 1025 346 6AC

    A correct but I think underlyingly friendly cabin crew.
    The old-style business-class seat was not so friendly,
    being built for customers of different sizes than ours,
    and I had to drink heavily to make it comfortable.

    Hors d'oeuvres
    Tuna Carpaccio with Sarachi Aioli
    Chicken Edamame Salad with Plum Chutney
    Watercress, Ricotta Cheese and Apricot Puree

    As I was not hungry, having eaten half of lili's food on
    the other plane plus a sizable snack at the club, we opted
    for one meal for two. As both the other choices contained
    objectionables, she chose the chicken option, which was
    beyond bland.

    Chicken Cassoulet, Mushroom and Mustard Sauce

    Miso glazed Cod, Soba Noodles and Long Beans
    with Ginger Soy Dressing

    Semolina Potato Gnocchi with Tomato Cream Sauce
    and fresh Vegetables

    The cassoulet was not bad, chunks of chicken over white
    beans in a flavorful, salty, but not very mustardy sauce.
    One bite was plenty for me; it appears that about 3 bites
    were plenty for her.

    Cheese and Dessert
    Camembert, Edam and Goat Cheese
    New York Cheesecake with Raspberry Compote
    Fresh Fruit

    I was long gone before this arrived, and my condition
    persisted until landing.

    Orange Juice
    Fresh Fruit
    Turkey Breast and Salami
    Emmental, Port Salut and Cream Cheese

    In case you wish to sleep until shortly before touchdown
    we would be happy to serve Coffee or Tea and a Pastry.

    The pastry, a packet of Cantuccini biscotti, was kindly
    placed next to me as I slept. I ate it several days later.
  4. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    We landed a bit early. Immigration was a breeze, and even
    after touring around the airport a bit, we had plenty of
    time to take the S-bahn and stroll around before heading
    to the Hauptbahnhof to catch our train to Fuessen. We alit
    at Marienplatz, and after taking her on a tour of the
    salient features of the neighborhood (someone was playing
    Widor at the Frauenkirche), I steered lili to Augustiner,
    where a not unwilling but extremely put-upon waiter took a
    huge long time to take our orders and fetch our brews: I
    had a Maximator, which was malty, rich, and pretty alcoholic
    (about 8 normally, probably more for Starkbierfest). Though
    the Haxen called loudly, the regional train at 1351 called
    louder, and we forwent eating and hustled to the station.

    The train was rickety, dirty, altogether ramshackle, and
    surprisingly crowded. Well, maybe not so surprising, as
    it was a Friday afternoon.

    The ride itself, however, was pleasant enough, the scenery
    going from ordinarily pastoral to foothills picturesque to
    Alpine majestic. We pulled into Fussen right on time, and
    the bus, as advertised, was waiting to ferry dozens of
    tourists to Hohenschwangau.

    It's not much of a town - aside from the two famous castles,
    all we could see was a string - not a long one - of inns,
    eateries, and souvenir shops. I suppose this beats what must
    have obtained in the 19th century - laborers' quarters and
    merchant facilities all dependent on their noble neighbors.

    We'd seen an Internet special for E470 for four nights at
    the Schlosshotel Lisl, dinner and breakfast included, plus
    admission to both castles (apparently not easy to get) and
    the Museum of the Bavarian Kings: a very fine deal, but sold
    out. The property offered us accommodation at the fancier
    Villa Jaegerhaus for E100 more. I inquired about packages
    for a shorter stay, as it appeared the two castles, though
    spectacular, wouldn't amuse us for five days and four nights
    - but it turns out the two night package cost almost as much
    as the four night one, so after some consultations we
    decided to go for it.

    It was a steep little hike up the road from the bus stop to
    our new home: the map at the foot of the road seemed to
    indicate a longer walk; it really took about five minutes
    even dragging our stuff with us past the tourist traps.

    It turns out that the switch was much better than the bait.

    We checked in at the Lisl and then headed across the street
    to the Jaegerhaus, which turns out to be a quite nicely
    appointed property with I believe twelve rooms. Ours was on
    the top floor, which lili didn't appreciate at first. Turns
    out it's one of the smaller accommodations but altogether
    very enjoyable: an attic room crammed full of furniture in
    the hundred-years-ago style except for the giant-screen TV.
    Couch, two armchairs, a large corner desk and its chair, and
    a couple tables and/or drawer sets that I didn't pay any
    attention to. Small beds: I was a gentleman and took the one
    under the roof slope, seeming to guarantee that I'd bump my
    head either going to or from or both. Surprisingly, in many
    tries I did so only twice. Two dormers, one with a distant
    view of Neuschwanstein, which was swathed a la Christo in
    plastic wrap, the other with a quite good close look at
    Schloss Hohenschwangau, of which the bathroom had the
    perfect picture postcard view in addition to its full bath,
    shower, and two sinks.

    Nice digs, only we didn't spend a whole lot of time there.
  5. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    It had been a very fine day - bright sunshine and in the
    mid to upper 50s, so after taking a stroll around what
    little town there was, and snacking at the Allgauer Stuberl
    on a glass of Tyrolean Edelvernatsch for her and Kaltenberg
    Spezial beer for me, we caught sunset over the Alpsee
    and then went up past Galerie Lisl (the shopping center)
    for the first of our included meals, which of course was at
    Restaurant Lisl. When we arrived at 6:30 we were the only
    people in the place - uh oh, thought we.

    The traditionally-clad waitress who greeted us didn't
    speak English (at least her English was worse than my
    German). Not a big issue, but she disappeared shortly to
    be replaced by a bustly rather jolly older woman who had a
    few words of simple English, sharing duties with a grumpy
    tall almost caricaturish waiter, you know, white combover,
    skinny so you know he can't really like to eat, walks as if
    his feet hurt, which no doubt they do. And refusing to
    acknowledge us if we spoke to him in anything but German,
    though once it became clear that this didn't bother us and
    that I could sort of communicate in the local lingo, he
    was perfectly willing to talk to us in fragmentary but
    completely correct English.

    There was a reservations card with my name on it and a
    printed menu that went thus:

    Mixed spring salad with fried prawns or
    Salsify cream soup with smoked duckbreast

    Salmon fillet on tomato-leek ragout and Noodles

    Poppyseed Dumplings with cherry roaster

    I ordered an Austrian Lemberger or something at E25, but
    what came was the CS Spatburgunder 09 from Baden at E29.50,
    actually a somewhat better wine, so I didn't complain.

    Rolls and a multigrain bread with sunflower seeds came
    along with an herb (mostly parsley and chives with a little
    chervil) butter and a turmeric spread that was a bit nasty.

    We both went for the soup, which could have been cream of
    anything, but quite savory, the duck very mildly salted and
    smoked. A pretty good course. Maybe, despite it not being
    spring yet and I believe prawns not being abundant in the
    Alpsee, I should have tried the other starter, but at this
    early stage we were just a hair apprehensive about the

    lili doesn't eat fish. We let the waitress know, and
    chicken comes to those who wait: three large medallions
    cooked in the same style as my fish but somewhat nicer, as
    the salmon had obviously been done first and the chicken to
    order. I got a nicely done, generous piece of salmon that
    had dried out a bit in the waiting and needed every drop
    of the beurre blanc that had been fairly generously applied.
    The tomato-leek ragout was as you'd expect, only butterier;
    some of the leek strips were a bit tough, though. The
    noodles had soaked in butter as well: they were relatively
    thin, relatively al dente, and reasonably good-tasting.

    Toward the end of the meal a couple showed up - seems they
    were on the same plan as ours, so we saw them at breakfast
    and dinner throughout the trip.

    The poppy dumpling was not as good as I'd hoped - three
    not too heavy and not too sweet dough balls shot through
    with poppy seeds some of which were not of first freshness.
    Cherry roaster means a fairly decent sour cherry compote in
    quite generous portion. A ground cherry served as garnish.

    It was pretty chilly when we retraced the twenty paces or
    so to our quarters.

    Both castles are floodlit at night, Neuschwanstein turning
    off its lights in the wee hours but Hohenschwangau keeping
    them on, which provided an adequate night light for the

    The beds were comfy though a little cramped and provided us
    plenty of sleep, aided by lovely radiators that didn't clank
    and hissed only a tiny bit.
  6. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Dawn comes bright through these windows on a nice day, so
    there was no question of sleeping in.

    We felt duty-bound to check out breakfast, on which as it
    turns out they do not stint. The hostess encouraged us to
    take a booth at the end with a terrific view to the big
    castle. At the other end was a station with a Madchen in
    picturesque local garb making omelets (rather hard) and
    other egg things (rather hard).

    A table of cold cuts, cold salads, and fruit. A table of
    breads and cakes. A table of teas and fresh and preserved
    and dried fruit. Good brewed decaf.

    I breakfasted as on all four days on pretty good smoked
    salmon and decent prosciutto. And some fruit.

    You get timed tickets to the castles with tours in your
    language if available, either that or audioguides. I applied
    for 10:00 at Schloss Hohenschwangau and got the first
    available English tour, 10:50, with a diffident young woman
    whose English was fairly good but accented peculiarly, which
    sparked a tall tourist to jump on her when at some point she
    pronounced enamel in a way that sounded like enema. He said
    he didn't understand her (whether he didn't understand or
    was just being sadistic I don't know), and he persisted in
    this obnoxious little derailment while she, understandably
    taking him for French, tried to explain in that language,
    which he pretended not to understand either. I finally
    stepped in and gave the proper pronunciation of the term.
    Funny thing was that the guy's English was worse than hers.

    Anyhow, it is a lovely castle of moderate size, the seat of
    the Wittelsbach kings; it was rebuilt over a structure razed
    by Napoleon. Nicely furnished, decorated with mythological,
    pastoral, and hunting scenes dominated by swan motifs, but
    not ostentatious - one could see how Mad King Ludwig would
    have wanted to build a grander one up the hill and outdo his
    ancestors. It's a 45-minute tour, same length as that of
    the big castle, and well worth the effort, perhaps more
    interesting than the other. Plus you get to see the piano
    Wagner played when he was in town. After our allotted time
    was up, I told our guide that her English was fine, which
    she demurred to, whereupon I made the irrelevant comment
    that it was a damn sight finer than my German.

    We were disgorged right at 11:40 into the back courtyard
    in brilliant, lovely sunlight, whence we were directed to
    the Alpsee and then back to town. After a short wander it
    was time to hie ourselves to the big castle.
  7. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    There are three ways of getting from town to Neuschwanstein.
    One, take a bus with the masses; two, take a romantic
    horse-drawn open carriage, whatever they call it, with six
    to eight of your nearest and dearest; three, walk a little
    less than a mile, for which the literature tells you to
    allow 30 or 40 minutes: even in our advanced state of age
    and debility it took us half that. At the top of the walk,
    just below the castle courtyard, a patio area with wondrous
    views of the valley below and the cliffs and waterfalls
    above and across.

    Another superb afternoon, so our half hour of extra time
    was well spent basking in the courtyard and wandering around
    the grounds.

    By the way, the renovations on the far end, through which
    you enter, are complete, so those who mill about have a
    proper Ludwiggian experience; the construction site is
    visible mostly from town.

    At the front gate an intercom such as you'd see in apartment
    buildings in Munich. The buttons are labeled Ludwig, Richard
    Wagner, and Sisi.

    Our number was called at exactly 1301, and we dutifully
    trooped in, guided by a robust young woman whose confidence
    and English were both exemplary. Another 45 minutes of
    19th-century something between culture and kitch, and out of
    there just in time, as I was ready to bite someone's ankle.

    Luckily right near the top is the Schlossrestaurant, whose
    specialty is the "oven-fresh" Schweinshaxe, a relative
    bargain at E9.50. Comes with bread dumpling and sauerkraut,
    both turning out to be surprisingly palatable, though we
    tried to get it through to our waiter that we wanted mash
    instead. Between our touristicity and the noisy distractions
    of a large unruly coeducational assortment of Italian high-
    schoolers nearby and the waiter's Hungarianness, there was
    no point pressing for a substitution, so we gave up, which
    was fine with me. The gravy might have been from a drum,
    but it was a good drum and enriched with pork drippings.
    The Haxe itself was not of amazing tenderness but tasted
    pretty good. We split the one plate as dinner was in just a
    few hours. lili had a red wine (mediocre as usual); I
    had a hard time convincing the waiter that I wanted a
    Mass of beer; he kept saying "halb Liter," and I kept
    gesturing largely and saying "Liter, Liter, Mass, Mass."
    Eventually it came (HB helles) and duly added sparkle
    and additional beauty to the afternoon. A short walk
    down the mountain, and we were back home for a snooze
    before visiting the Museum of the Bavarian Kings, a paean
    to the Wittelsbach monarchs from the early days to their
    anti-Naziism to the present day. There was nothing in
    particular that stood out, but it was well done and a
    good way to spend an hour. As it began to get a little
    chilly, we went back Lislward.
  8. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Our menu for the day -

    Terrine of foie gras with lettuce or
    Essence of cabbage with black pudding

    Venison goulash with creamy savoy
    cabbage and spaetzle

    Maron foam with berry sauce

    We had one of each starter; both were pretty good. The foie
    was probably Hungarian and hadn't had all its strings taken
    away; nonetheless it was perfectly fine; the lettuce was a
    little pile of frisee and a couple other leaves in a mild
    vinaigrette. Mine was a clear ham-and-Savoy broth with a few
    thin slices of blood sausage floating in it - actually quite
    good, enough so that I didn't regret my choice.

    Next, a pretty standard brown stew, only slightly gamy, well
    flavored and much enriched with red wine. The side dish was
    obviously the nicer bits of the cabbage that sacrificed its
    inner core for my starter; I am not a great fan of spatzle,
    but these were pretty decent.

    Dessert: a cup of chestnut mousse sided with a cup of Rote
    Gruetze made mostly of redcurrants. Neither was too sweet,
    and the contrast between them was pleasant.

    lili had a glass of Chianti; I stuck with Konig Ludwig

    On the whole, quite a satisfying meal. In addition to our
    counterparts, there were a couple parties dining - a family
    of parents, son, and girlfriend under scrutiny (it was quite
    obvious that she was embarrassed, the son thought that his
    parents disapproved, but as far as we could tell, they
    didn't actually mind her); and a pair of extra-adventurous
    Japanese tourists.
  9. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    It was another excellent day, and we had sort of exhausted
    the charms of this town, so we decided to check out Reutte.
    I tried to get the Fussen bus driver to sell me a ticket,
    but I got a lecture (good-natured) on how dass tut mir leid,
    but Reutte is not only not in the same district as Fussen,
    it's not even in the same country, so you have to buy a
    second ticket to get there. The bus to Fussen takes about
    10 minutes; it connects to the one to Reutte, which takes
    40, though the cities are only about 10 K apart, because
    you take these side trips to the villages of Pinswang and
    Vils and I think one other and get to marvel at the skill
    of the bus driver who negotiates hairpin turns and one-way
    streets that you'd think an ordinary-size car would have a
    hard time with.

    Reutte is a big market town, but there really is not much
    going on Sunday. We walked down to the river and then back
    to the foot of the mountain whose summit holds the ruined
    Bergschloss: it looked too daunting for two oldsters with
    sensible but not that sensible shoes; so we repaired to
    what is apparently the fanciest hotel in town, zum Mohren,
    where Hacker-Pschorr pilsner and Mohrenbrau Weisse comforted
    us almost as nicely as if we had climbed the mountain.

    Back to Fussen, where we enjoyed the touristy but quite
    attractive river walk and then went up into the castle
    grounds for a look-see. And then it was time for a drink,
    which we found at a pub in the old town called zum Hechten,
    highly recommended. Wonder of wonders, they were offering a
    Schweinshaxe for under E10, and as the waitress spoke good
    American English we had no trouble substituting fries for
    the dumpling and sauerkraut this time. A half liter of
    pilsner (name starting with A, but I forget) and a glass of
    house red made the food go down in a trice; it must be said
    that this was a quite tasty dish, one of our better pig
    meals of recent days.

    As we left, it started to drizzle, so instead of looking
    more at the old town, we made a beeline for the station,
    where the bus (driven by the same guy) was there to take
    us back.
  10. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    The deal was two dinners at Lisl and two at the rather
    fancier Alpenrose am See (also a Lisl enterprise, in
    the same building as the museum, which smacks of the
    same management, with a Gasthaus (sign saying closed
    for the season, please go to Lisl instead) on the
    other side).

    The dining room is done up in IKEA - no attempt to
    reconcile the oldness of the building and the newness of
    the decor. Each table has a fancy printed menu and an
    iPad wine list, ours with a screen greeting me by name.

    A somewhat more polished set of waitstaff. We had a greeter
    show us to table and then the divided attention of a couple
    waitresses and one waiter, all of whom did a good job.

    On being seated we were presented with an amuse - a slice of
    roast beef rib cap, medium rare, with horseradish mayonnaise
    and a couple micrograms of microgreens. The beef was of
    course folded in the shape of a rose - very cute.

    Rote Beete Carpaccio mit Lachsforellentartar oder
    Fischsuppe mit Knoblauchcrostini

    lili passed once I translated for her! I went with the
    beets (red and yellow), which were quite delicious though
    not so raw as carpaccio implies, and lake trout, which
    was smoked (not so raw as tartare implies), cubed tiny,
    and mixed with tiny cubes of vegetables and almond - a
    kind of tour de force cum torture for the prep cooks.

    Rosa Lammrucken auf Ratatouille und Kartoffelgratin - we
    should have had one main for two: each serving was three
    over-3-ounce lengths of lamb tenderloin that had been
    rolled in herbs, mostly rosemary, and then roasted
    medium-rare to medium; the ratatouille was made of tiny
    minced vegetables including too much red and yellow
    capsicum. The potato gratin consisted of 4 squares per
    plate, 1 1/2 oz each, two mushy and pale, two brown and
    hard around the edges. Ah, well, nobody is perfect.

    '09 Le Volte was much softer than I expected from my
    experience elsewhere with the '08. It was still a very
    worthy glass, with notes of anise and cinnamon and a bit of
    that Italian animally quality, very good with the quite mild

    Erdbeer-Birnen Strudel mit Kokos und Tonkabohneneis - we
    asked for one dessert for two, itself a sizable helping
    of slightly resilient pastry wrapped around strawberry and
    apple filling, garnishes of redcurrants dipped in coconut
    (rather strange) and a citrusy-vanillary ice cream that I
    hope didn't have much tonka bean in it, as that is said to
    be an anticoagulant, something I don't need. I'd give it a
    solid B minus for both creativity and execution.

    The food was on the whole quite good, but there was too much
    of it, which we told our second server, a rather robust
    young fellow, who grinned and said, we do like to serve
    large portions.

    A pleasantly unsteady walk home.
  11. violist
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    Middle of the night: the castles went away. Amazing fog, and
    you could feel the atmosphere changing. I turned up the
    radiators a bit to chase away the chill and the slight tinge
    of menace. The big castle was completely hidden in the
    clouds, and our friendly yellow one was visible only by
    virtue of the floodlights and only vaguely so. Later, at
    breakfast I think it was, I overheard someone likening the
    experience of this night to Gene Wilder's first entrance to
    the Castle in the movie Young Frankenstein).

    It did sort of clear up, so we could make out up the hill,
    but it was snowing off and on much of the day; excursions
    were out of the question. We tried to prowl around town, but
    few places were open on Monday. What to do - go back into
    the bosom of Lisl and buy a few hours of Internet; the cost
    of which was soon augmented by a bunch of glasses of cheap
    Blauburgunder and Konig Ludwig Dunkel.

    We'd cleverly stocked up on lots of breakfast, so the
    drinks held us over until an early dinner at the Alpenrose,
    where we had the same wine, which was today a bit harsher:
    I didn't catch the label, but I'm guessing it was the '08
    or maybe a '10 this time. This evening our menu was printed
    in English for our benefit.

    Smoked breast of goose with salad of bloodorange and
    pomegranate or Consomme Monaco - a much more standard
    brining and smoking than at the other place. The salad that
    accompanied was tidy and appropriate. I didn't see any
    consommes go by (the dining room was reasonably full), but
    I'm told that it's "chicken soup."

    Braised cheeks of cattle with green beans and potato pancake
    - were it not for the fact that the meat was substantially
    undercooked, so there were great knobs of hard gristle in
    it, the dish was tasty. Of course I have for decades been
    prejudiced in favor of beef cheeks in demiglace and
    leftover wine sauce. The beans were crisp-tender, and the
    pancake was really weird - shredded up like a Kaiserschmarrn
    but savory. Soaked up the sauce nicely, though.

    Apple pancake Bavarian style - turned out indeed to be our
    old friend Kaiserschmarrn. Other than mirroring the starch
    of the main course, it was fine. I further palatabilized it
    with a glass of Haas quince schnapps.

    A wet, slippery two blocks home, and the radiators were
    never so welcome.
  12. violist
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    It was still gray and gloomy in the mountains, so we hopped
    an earlier train - the Bayern-ticket lets you do that. We
    missed the bus by like three seconds, and the sign in
    English at the stop says something like "Bus for Fuessen,
    two times a day." I think it must be somebody's idea of
    a cruel tourist joke; the next bus pulled up in 5 minutes
    (the Bayern-ticket is good on the buses, too, which is
    something to know). Our train, which left 10 minutes after
    the bus let off, was clean, neat, and empty. For much of
    the couple hour trip we were the only ones in our car.

    An easy mile on the S-bahn took us to Rosenheimer Platz,
    where check-in at the Hilton at was painless, and our rooms
    were equal and attractive in a sleek German way, near the
    club lounge.

    The plan was to meet the conductor of the orchestra that
    gave my retirement concert, for brewskis, as our trip was
    ending on the same day that his sabbatical was starting; he
    met us at the hotel, and I led the way to the surprise
    destination, the Paulaner brewery, where Starkbierfest was
    in full swing. Entry to the grounds is only a couple Euro
    (much more in the evening, but the prime time price
    includes a coupon for a free liter of beer). We found a
    bench relatively far from the loud and enthusiastic oompah
    band and settled in for a round of Salvators, which are
    served in only one size, the imposing Mass. It was snack
    time, as we'd all been on transportation that provided
    inadequate if any catering. lili and I as had become the
    custom split a Schweineshaxe, which was the best of the
    trip, flavorsome, juicy, and tender; Dirk's Rostbratwurst
    looked okay but not so good a deal, even though half the
    price (nothing is cheap, though, it's like the ballpark).

    The rest of the afternoon was a muzzy blur - we eventually
    left after second liters of beer, mine another Starkbier,
    his a regular pilsner. I remember nothing after getting us
    to the tram stop until we found ourselves at happy hour at
    the executive lounge. After that, e-mail courtesy of iBahn,
    and blessed sleep.
  13. violist
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    Breakfast at the lounge had smoked salmon and chocolate
    croissants, so I was well served. A quick packup and we
    rolled our stuff down to the subway elevator and down into
    the bowels of the S-bahn.

    It's a well-oiled machine, but for some reason the trains
    bunched up around the time we got into the station. Unlike
    with American public transport, this didn't result in a
    daylong rolling and increasing delay, but rather the delay
    got absorbed, and though our airport train was late, by
    the time we got to Halbergmoos, we were on schedule again.

    They've changed the checkin counters since last I flew
    United. The way they're now set up, it took us approximately
    one minute to go through the security questions, check in,
    and be told that we were entitled to use the biz lounge.

    Of course, we went to the Senator lounge instead. They've
    changed that, too - it's quite big, has a tended bar, and
    is much improved. Sort of like the old lounge and the cafe
    rolled into one. I guess the food was better at the cafe
    the two times I was there. Remy VSOP for me, Bourbon and
    branch for the lady.

    UA 903 MUC IAD 1140 1559 777 6AB Ch9^

    This was one of those flights you wanted never to end -
    good company, good service, smooth trip, decent food, even
    the wine wasn't too bad, or so it seemed. The seats were the
    new beds, but even that didn't dampen my enthusiasm.
  14. violist
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    Chilled Appetizer - smoked duck breast, wild rice and
    dried fruit salad with walnuts

    This was quite nice, the duck being tender, smoky, and
    ducky, the wild rice not too pebbly.

    Fresh Seasonal Greens - tomato, carrot, and cucumber with
    your choice of creamy peppercorn dressing or balsamic


    Grilled Filet Mignon - roasted garlic demi-glace, Lyonnaise
    potatoes and glazed parsley carrots

    Pan-fried Lemon-marinated Fillet of Cod - mango chutney,
    herbed rice pilaf and zucchini with snow peas

    We both asked for the beef, but I mentioned to the FA
    that I'd be willing to eat fish for the sake of amity if
    that became necessary. She came back later and said that I
    had saved her a lot of tsouris by volunteering for fish
    duty. Which, when it came, was actually not bad at all,
    but its chutney, blopped on top, was more like the duck
    sauce you smear onto cheap eggrolls. Pilaf was pebbles;
    the snow peas flopped in an unseemly way (I don't like
    zucchini much and pushed the sorry things off to one side).
    lili eats like a bird, so I had half of her steak - it
    was rare-to-medium-rare and actually very good.

    Mushroom Pasta Roulade - Aurora sauce and Parmesan cheese


    International Cheese Selection - Bonifaz Herb and Rahmberg,
    seedless grapes and crackers served with Port wine


    Dessert was just plain chocolate ice cream.


    Chicken Curry and Almond Tortilla Wrap - sliced red cabbage
    and mango chutney cream cheese spread

    Although it smelled pretty good, sort of like chicken pot
    pie, I passed.

    Cheese and Fruit Selection

    I did have a few grapes and a strawberry off lili's cheese
    plate; they were fine, as was, I am told, the cheese.


    Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Reserve Particuliere NV Champagne


    de Venoge Cordon Bleu Brut Select NV Champagne

    White Wine

    Guy Saget "La Petite Perriere" Sauvignon Blanc, Loire Valley

    Geyser Peak Chardonnay 2009, Alexander Valley


    Chateau St. Jean Carneros Chardonnay 2010

    Red Wine

    Matiz Roble, Ribera del Duero
    Nasty, nasty, nasty. Cheap grape juice with cheap vodka,
    that's what it tasted like. We rapidly switched wines.

    Kenwood Vineyards Yalupa Merlot 2008, California
    This was potable, nothing special.


    Cosentino The Cab 2009, California

    Regional Specialty

    S.A. Prum Essence Riesling 2010
    The Regional Specialty was of course out.

    Alas, the flight did end, and we hustled through immigration
    (Global Entry was not working, so lili actually was tardier
    than I in returning to the US).
  15. violist
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    UA 967 IAD LAX 1800 2040 777 3EF was 1J2J was 9HJ

    A trip to the Lufthansa lounge for afternoon snacks
    and a shower: very welcome. The hot dish was some kind of
    beef stew with lots of green peppers, rice on the side.
    I think the Cognac might have been Martell C.B. - sort of
    tasted like it, but lili had had the attendant bring it
    to my place, so I didn't see the bottle.

    Back to gate C2 for another amazing crush on boarding.

    The club had been unsuccessful in getting our seats fixed;
    but when we got on, I discovered that some guy was sitting
    in 1J, which gave the FA an opening to switch 3E to 1A and
    me from 1J to the unoccupied 3F and lili from 2J to the
    vacated 3E. At the end of boarding, some lucky guy got
    moved from 8 or 9 to 2J, and everyone was happy.

    All I remember of this flight was that lili gave me her
    warm almonds, someone gave me a warm Courvoisier, and I
    was unconscious thereafter.

    Two days' rest at the Hilton LAX Airport, where a nice
    corner room and lounge access cost less than a little
    cubicle in Phoenix.
  16. violist
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    The cheap dining option near the hotel is Carl's Jr.,
    where I had the Southwestern Patty Melt, a caloric
    extravaganza of sizable beef patty (and I upsized to a
    double), chipotle mayo, pickled jalapenos, onions, lettuce,
    tomato, and pepper jack on a soft sweet roll. If you get a
    combo (fries and a drink), they throw in a free Oreo ice
    cream sandwich. The sandwich was imposing and good, not
    great, the beef having that meatloafy texture and saltiness
    that I don't favor; the ice cream sandwich was composed of
    a very large and thick chocolate cookie (tasted very Oreo-
    like) and a blob of vanilla for filling. It wasn't bad.

    The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is one of the greats.
    To get there you get on the Culver City bus and then change
    at Westwood I think for the Rapid through Beverly Hills. I
    hadn't been there in over a decade and had forgotten about
    it. Ended up spending 5 hours there. In the contemporary art
    building were featured Metropolis II, an extremely funny and
    somewhat enthralling dynamic sculpturoid arrangement using
    over 1000 Hot Wheels cars and assorted toy trains whizzing
    around little tracks and roadways; no doubt the point is to
    satirize the wild bustle of modern life, but I think we all
    enjoyed it on account of its childish appeal. Also an
    Emm... shoot ... Ellsworth Kelly retrospective, including
    some stunning drawings that he must have done before
    deciding to go all out with his geometric sillinesses.

    In the Japanese pavilion, a wonderful screen showing a
    night festival that had resided, long-neglected, in my
    history professor's house, to be "discovered," as the
    writeup said, after he died, in addition to the permanent
    collection, also excellent if rather small.

    German Expressionists a special in the Ahmanson building.

    And 3 hours for the permanent collection in the Ahmanson,
    Hammer, and American buildings.

    The cheap dining option by the museum is Johnny Rocket's,
    where I had a classic or regular or whatever they call it -
    a fairly good patty with lettuce and tomato, mayo, mustard,
    and onion bits on a sweetish bun. The waiter handed me a
    fistful of nickels to put in the jukebox - apparently he
    trusted me more than the 50 kids in the place. I dutifully
    chose classic rock favorites, which blared from speakers
    cleverly placed where I couldn't hear them but the kids
    could. They now serve unlimited fries with their sandwiches
    - I had a small side salad with a very mustardy honey
    mustard dressing instead.
  17. violist
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    I'd heard good things about Tar & Roses in Santa Monica, and
    as the bus down Wilshire goes right near there, why not.
    I'll tell you why. Friday night. The very friendly hostess
    said that I could wait on the waiting bench for something
    to open up in an hour, but I could have a drink there. I
    said, why not just have a meal there? and she said why not
    indeed. So. I started with their famous bacon caramel corn,
    nicely popped in bacon fat, strewn with brown sugar, and
    tossed with small bits of very aromatic bacon; yum. Lost
    Coast Downtown Brown went quite well. A small charcuterie
    platter replaced this:

    Berkshire Lonza - cured loin, a thin rim of fat, rather
    between a prosciutto and a cooked ham (so I guess maybe
    semi-cooked); quite good;

    casalinga - homestyle small sausage of pork with I thought
    not quite enough fat, so less character than I hoped;

    chorizo - heavily paprikaed and pretty authentic-tasting;

    prosciutto - an artisanal domestic product that I thought
    among the best of its kind that I've had;

    Varzi-style salami - lactic fermented, a touch of red wine,
    pretty good but not distinctive in any way.

    These were all American-made efforts, mostly contracted
    from some outfit in Utah whose name I forget.

    I finished with chicken oyster skewers (these are the meat
    from the hollow place where the chicken's thigh meets the
    back, no shellfish need apply), marinated in gingered soy
    sauce, grilled, and served with a weakish sriracha-type
    dipping sauce; could have done without these, though they
    were perfectly fine.

    Fantinel Cabernet from the Friuli was unconcentrated,
    uncomplicated, slightly too openly fruity for my taste, but
    cheap; good with the salumi.
  18. violist
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    US 44 LAX PHX 0640 0800 319 2D
    US 122 LAX PHX 0745 0917 319

    Flight 122 was rescheduled to leave from Long Beach, and I
    am lucky I checked, as apparently I'd sleepily accepted the
    change without really knowing I had done so. Long story, but
    my general level of consciousness is quite a bit lower than
    it used to be. I had to miss breakfast (not spectacular at
    this hotel) and get the 0530 bus shuttle over to Terminal 1.

    It had been about a gazillion years since I'd been here, and
    the US club is long gone, there being nowt but a sea of fast
    food places and gaggles of Southwest pax to fill them, even
    at breakfasttme. I plopped down next to an outlet and typed
    away a bit on this elderly laptop, and then I heard various
    announcements pertaining to US Air, so I hurried off and
    discovered that nothing was happening.

    So instead of a 6 something and a 7 something, US Air now
    has an 0630 and an 0640, leaving from nearby gates, so that
    the boarding announcements are easily confounded, which
    makes an already vexed situation more stressful. It turns
    out there were 15 passengers missing from this aircraft,
    many of whom presumably had got on the previous one.

    A perfect flight for sleeping, and so I slept.

    Met my buddy Bill, who came in from Havasu for a few spring
    training games; after some trouble related to an accident
    tying up traffic on the 10 and some more related to
    construction and rerouting around the airport, we met
    eventually and (after a few more detours) checked in at the
    Hilton Phoenix Airport, where we were given a smallish room
    on the executive floor; it seems that an/the upgrade was
    from the continental breakfast in the lounge to the full
    $15 buffet in the restaurant plus free appetizers there at
    dinnertime. I'd have preferred a little bigger room, but
    looking at the room map, there's not much more available -
    a couple giants, but they were probably taken already.

    As TransWorldOne hails from Wisconsin, we arranged to meet
    for the White Sox-Brewers at Maryvale. Pretty nice day, 85F,
    cloudy enough to block the sun glare but not enough to
    make one fear rain. TW1 was happy when the Brewers jumped
    ahead with runs in the 2nd, 3rd, and 2 in the 4th. We
    decided to go scout the beer situation. It wasn't good. I
    picked up a Coors Light for Bill but found nothing
    suitable for myself. TW1 bought himself a bratwurst,
    which he proclaimed most foul. To add insult, while we
    were away, the White Sox scored 3 in the top of the 5th, a
    couple more in the 7th, and put it away with one in the
    9th to make a final of 6-4.

    We decided to drown our sorrows in a pitcher of beer at Four
    Peaks, but the place was fuller than full, and the wait for
    a table was estimated at half an hour. TW1 had read of a
    noodle house in Chandler called China Magic, which CNN has
    rated as one of the top 50 Chinese restaurants in the US,
    so that was our next destination. It's a very plain square
    room with the kitchen in back, a window cut into the back
    wall where one can watch the pulled noodle master making
    batch after batch of hand-pulled noodles.

    Noodles in spicy sauce (vegetarian) was TW1's favorite -
    sort of like dan dan noodles, a soy, nut, hot paste mixture
    coating chewy yet tender noodles, the whole covered in
    cilantro, which luckily was easy to pick off. Excellent
    with the hot oil provided on the table. Some star anise in
    the mix, though, which put Bill off. Also, the Internet
    reviews agree that there's something shrimp-pastish about
    it; I had bites of it that made me want to think so as well.

    Fried noodles with beef was Bill's favorite - similar
    noodles (a thicker, gummier batch, though) in a lo mein
    treatment with cabbage, scallions, carrots, bean sprouts
    and a small quantity of beef bits.

    One of the specials of the day was salt and pepper shrimp
    at an absurdly low price, so I ordered them. They had been
    fried at a too low temperature and were insufficiently
    cleaned. TW1 blamed old oil. I'd forgotten that Bill
    doesn't eat such things. I didn't think the oil was old,
    just it had soaked into the shrimp, and the shells were not
    crisp because of the temperature, so what should have been
    a great dish was merely ok. There were 20 shrimp, close to
    a pound. I ate about 15, finding them pretty palatable with
    a dose of hot oil and judicious use of the extraordinarily
    hot jalapeno bits that were thrown in.

    Another special of the day was yu choy with oyster sauce,
    which though a bit tough was quite tasty, and everyone liked
    it. It was also a big serving. I coulda shoulda woulda got
    a small dish of it for 2/3 the price.

    Service was fine if sort of random and a little slow.

    $13 a head for more than we could eat, most of it good.
    Certainly not among the 50 best Chinese restaurants in
    the country, though.
  19. violist
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    No booze licence, so TW1 took us to the Yucca Tap Room, a
    former dive bar that now caters to the beer sophisticate
    crowd. TW1 had a Saison of some kind (I don't like that
    kind of stuff and didn't taste it); Bill found the closest
    thing available to Miller; on a flyer I tried Lips of Faith
    cocoa mole (New Belgium), which in fact tastes rather like
    Mexican chocolate (a good thing) het up with 9% alcohol (a
    better thing). Notes of allspice, cinnamon, clove, a hit
    you over the head chocolate presence, in a glass of malty,
    not very hoppy, thick, sweetish liquid. In this case, the
    alcohol was necessary to balance what otherwise would have
    been a milkshakelike dessert. Note: the Tap Room is in two
    parts: half of it is still a dive bar. You'll be able to
    tell the difference I imagine.

    Back to the room for a few Milwaukee's Bests. Bill, bless
    him, had bought a 30-pack of the Premium version for our
    The hotel's breakfast buffet was varied and pretty tasty,
    with an omelet station and carved ham loaf on request.
    I tested the sausage gravy, which was rank with herbal
    extractives, mostly sage, and passed. A big plate of
    bacon and decent though greasy sausages; spicy homefries
    with onions and peppers; and a fairly expertly made
    spinach, bacon, and jalapeno omelet, over which I ladled
    a couple ounces of quite spicy salsa. I'm not so much into
    eggs, but the guy manning the station had looked so forlorn.
    The fruit on offer was the usual Hilton fruit. Pastries
    were less interesting than usual. We sat in a booth
    overlooked by a disconcerting huge closeup of a thistle
    plant that seemed like a looming space alien presence.

    San Francisco Giants @ White Sox at Glendale with TW1 and
    Bill and also the lovely Jan_AZ, whom I've known for the
    longest time but whom I generally see in Singapore and such
    out-of-the-way places. A warmer day and a less attractive
    ballpark: they seem to have designed it to simulate the
    major-league experience, including bad parking and a hugely
    loud PA system. The good thing is parking was free. We spent
    most of our time chatting through what turned out to be a
    not greatly played game, especially by the Giants, who
    dropped it, who cares what the score was, if the company and
    the beer are good. They had Odell's 90 Shilling on tap for a
    buck more than Butt Light.

    After discussing dinner possibilities, Jan_AZ volunteered to
    pick up steaks from the commissary, while we scouted about
    for something to drink. She found a bunch of nice 14-ozers;
    we found a half gallon of Speyburn 10 at an advantageous
    price; it turned out to be the bargain of the trip.

    The Scotch was exceptionally smooth and fairly savory, a
    little grainy for my preference, but with nice spice and
    vanilla, good with the steaks, which I coated with some
    kind of maple rub plus onion powder and garlic, making a
    not unpleasantly (to me) sweetish dish. I admit to having
    smelled and not tasted the maple rub beforehand and not
    realizing that sugar made up a sizable proportion of its
    ingredients. I cooked the steaks in a range of donenesses,
    including one extra-rare for me. Unfortunately, TW1 had
    managed to snag the second wellest-done one, so I felt
    sorry for him and gave him a third of my rare one.
  20. violist
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    We decided to be lazy and have breakfast in the executive
    lounge, as aside from the omelet station and the sausage
    gravy, the so-called continental upstairs had all the other
    stuff. I ate a plate of bacon and sausage and took back a
    couple bananas (for potassium), which I neglected to eat.

    Padres at Cubs at Ho-Ho-Kam Field, Mesa. Joining the three
    musketeers were my friends Ellen and Carl. Old Style was
    the beer of choice, mostly for old times' sake. It is your
    neutral domestic cheapie, slightly better than the usual
    Miller product. The Cubs actually won, 2 to zip. Bill left
    for home after the game: he didn't want to have left Connie
    alone for much longer. The original plan was for the rest
    of us to dine at Royal Thai; but TW1 had found a wine
    dinner at Zu Zu at the Valley Ho, so we arranged to see
    Ellen and Carl next day for an early meal, and we went
    off to our fancy dinner. Oh, it is said they are going to
    replace this stadium with a fancy new one right near where
    Carl and Ellen live. Why mess with a good thing, say I.
    This is a smallish, cozy place, not a fake major league
    park like Tempe or Glendale, and one guesses that the new
    one will be more the latter.

    TW1 is fond of Zu Zu and of the wine dinners here; he is
    proud of them and was eager to show me a good time.

    Zu Zu welcomes Chateau Ste. Michelle

    Some marketing honcho from Washington gave a little welcome
    spiel; it was pleasantly brief, though loud (he mentioned in
    his introduction that he was a loud sort of guy, which no
    one would have failed to realize on hearing him). This was
    not a particularly serious occasion. You will notice that
    there are no vintage dates given for the wines, for example.

    Saffron Risotto, peas + chanterelle mushrooms

    The best dish. A pretty good risotto; the peas were fresh
    and properly done, the mushrooms, well, there was a tiny
    bit of grit, but they were tasty, first of the season, said
    the chef in his little spiel. The serving was tiny.

    Horse Heaven Sauvignon Blanc

    Not bad for a SB, softer and less acid; a bit of tropical
    fruit, some citrus, a whiff of spice, the usual. I had
    suggested on reading the menu that the mutual metallicities
    of saffron, peas, and Sauvignon would yield a bitter and
    not so great synergy. It was true.
  21. violist
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    Asparagus Salad, Duncan's wild arugula, chopped egg,
    pickled shallots + black truffle vinaigrette

    Four threads of asparagus, a quarter ounce of greens,
    the vinaigrette redolent of artificial truffle, rather
    more rubber tire than truffle, actually. The best thing
    was the little tangle (half a teaspoon?) of sweet-sour
    shallot rings. The serving was minuscule.

    Indian Wells Chardonnay

    TW1 had described a wine he'd had recently (actually a
    Chateau St. Jean, if I recall) as "stupidly oaked, but I
    liked it." I called this one "retardedly oaked." It was
    fine, fairly oaky but with an extracty taste. The fruitiness
    was still present, which some oaky wines cause to disappear.
    A little dessertish, as raspberry trifle. I thought that
    maybe the wines should have been switched around.

    Duck Three Ways, cured breast, pressed + leg confit with
    kabocha squash, herb roasted campari tomatoes + spring

    TW1 was really displeased by this course. I thought it
    okay, but the portion was embarrassing, maybe 3 ounces
    including vegetables. The breast was undercured, which was
    fine with me; mine had a nice layer of fatty skin, which
    TW1's lacked. The pressed was an inch cube of mysterious
    meat that could just as well have been pulled pork. The
    confit was not confit - just shreds of stewed meat, no
    discernible aging or saltiness or flavoring. Kabocha
    was just like any other winter squash; the tomatoes were
    tiny if nice. What do you think spring greens are? Chard
    - bitter as anything.

    Columbia Valley Merlot

    A lot was made of the two wines, how they were similar, but
    the second was so much classier than the other. This was
    your ordinary $10 red wine. Open fruit, some pepper, mostly
    nothing. A little on the wimpy side.

    Indian Wells Merlot

    Maybe this was a little better; TW1 thought the nose was
    more interesting. I kept sniffing the one against the other.
    Some random guy and his wife came up and said, we can't tell
    the difference, either. There was no substantial difference
    in fact. I'd rather have three bottles of the ordinary
    bottling than one of the fancy one. And I'd rather have one
    bottle of the ordinary bottling than three bottles of it.
    Singularly disappointing.

    The scuttlebutt was that apparently they were going to pair
    one of the Merlots with the duck and one with dessert. Good
    thing they didn't; neither would have come close to standing
    up to the chocolate and peanuts.

    Chocolate Peanut Butter Decadence, vanilla bean anglaise

    The second best thing. A fairly accurate representation of
    a Reese's cup, only with darker chocolate. And for once at
    this meal a proper-size serving. Very nice custard drool.
    The filling of the cup had some unresolved crystals of
    sugar, though; my only concern with this course. No, I had
    another concern, that being that there was no wine pairing.
    I asked the winery rep, and he claimed that the restaurant
    had drawn the line at four wines. Nah, guy, you just cheaped
    out, why not admit it. The winery makes some perfectly fine
    sweet wines - I had a late harvest Semillon that was
    extremely fine, for example, and that would have stood up
    to the dessert.

    It wasn't a bad meal, actually, just not special in either
    food or wine, and there wasn't so much of either. We've had
    quite a number of meals together, and you win some and you
    lose some, and then there are these, which I guess count as
    a loss, but at least not a shutout.

    Afterward, one of his friends invited us for after-dinner
    drinks. I had a Remy, which was as expected, and had a fun
    conversation with an anesthesiologist who apparently had
    once played for a Dodgers farm club or something.
  22. violist
    Original Member

    violist Gold Member

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    My accommodation this night was the Aloft Phoenix Airport,
    which was pretty much like any other Aloft, friendly and
    comfy enough, with free wi-fi for all, and sort of fake
    trendy. The weird thing is that there's no sign out front
    and no entrance out front: you access it from the southeast
    corner or the west side of an office park area (no signs
    at either driveway). Really badly thought out, either that
    or an IQ test. They gave me a handicap room, which was just
    like every other Aloft room I've had except that the
    bathroom was twice as big and had a wheel-in shower, which
    is ugly but functional.

    No free breakfast here, so I was thankful for those two
    uneaten bananas.

    Angels at San Fran, Scottsdale Stadium. As Bill was no
    longer joining us, we felt free to eschew the various costly
    parking options and park for free half a mile away uptown.
    Many people seemed to be doing so, but there were plenty of
    on-street spaces. It's a not unpleasant and very quick walk
    in the springtime anyway. I hadn't been here in ages. It's
    a pretty nice older park right in town, accessible by public
    trans well, you take the bus or light rail, and there's a
    free shuttle from the depot). As it's Scottsdale, tickets
    are extortionately expensive, and the concessions likewise,
    though the food is better than at the other parks. We got
    bleacher seats that cost more than the boxes at the other
    places; whatever. The Giants took a 2-0 lead, but the
    visitors soon made it 5-2, the Giants loading the bases but
    scoring only once in the bottom of the ninth, losing 5-3
    in a singularly unexciting game where the food and drink
    were the attraction. TW1 had a dog, which I guess was okay;
    I found a Don and Charlie's booth and prevailed on them to
    ask the guy in back for a dose of brisket extra moist. This
    request was granted in spades, a heap of fatty smoky meat on
    big slabs of Texas toast, sided with decent though very warm
    slaw and a little bag of Ruffles. I dressed the sandwich
    with Rooster sriracha rather than BBQ sauce. It was quite
    good and also huge, so I let TW1 have some of it.

    Bombers of Sierra Nevada were $12. After the game we wasted
    a bit of time so all that food would settle before our next
    meal, which was at Royal Thai, one of our favorite places in
    town, in a small strip mall in Mesa that just happens to be
    owned by Carl. He seems to be liked well enough by his
    tenants, and on this occasion he treated us to dinner, which
    from what he said was not very expensive, as Chuckie had
    comped the beers.

    We started with Singhas in the normal way and progressed to
    seafood hot-sour hot pot, tart and spicy, with lots of squid
    and greenlip mussels and some other things thrown in, lots
    of cilantro and lemongrass. You could add extra hot pepper
    or lime at your option. TW1 is mad for green papaya salad,
    so we had that and told the proprietor to hold off until we
    had figured out the rest of the meal. At some point Chuckie
    decided that we'd spent too much time dithering; he started
    bringing things out, including a couple Guinness black
    lagers (tastes like ordinary beer with black food coloring).
    Pork jerky Issan-style with coriander seed, he said, goes
    very well with som tum, and so it was. We also had a nice
    beef in yellow curry, followed by catfish with basil and
    red sauce, which was done authentically, the fish cooked
    pretty hard and the sauce rather salty and hot. This last
    didn't universally appeal, as we have become accustomed to
    eating food without rice, whereas in the almost universal
    scheme of things, the food is meant to be eaten with rice,
    almost as an accent to it. At some point, sated, we went no
    mas and said our goodbyes. As I had a very early flight, it
    had been deemed silly for me to go back and pay another
    night's hotel, so I went back to snooze on TW1's couch
    for a few hours. I had him fix me a perfect Manhattan and
    watched a bit of Food Network before falling asleep.
  23. violist
    Original Member

    violist Gold Member

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    Status Points:
    0328 UA1134 PHX EWR 0635 1415 739 3F

    My upgrade, guaranteed with a certificate, somehow got lost
    in the shuffle, but all was well - it cleared under UDU
    the night before, of which TW1 gleefully informed me,
    having checked on, an address you should
    all remember, as the regular site doesn't offer these data.

    At the airport an hour before, security was pretty packed,
    but traffic flowed pretty quickly, and I had half an hour at
    the United Club, which was manned by one somewhat grumpy
    old fellow. Aboard, the crew were also kind of grumpy, but
    they were okay, though my headphone request (they didn't put
    them out ahead) had to be repeated an hour later.

    The Continental full breakfast. Fruit appetizer - really
    nice pineapple, decent grapes, a huge quantity of very
    crunchy cantaloupe and honeydew, and a small wedge of ripe
    mango -, very abundant and pretty acceptable; cup of fruit
    yogurt; cinnamon roll (pretty good though not quite warmed
    through) or croissant; main plate of potato au gratin wedge,
    rather tasty as always, horrid sausage puck, and a decent
    fluffyish omelet filled with decent Cheddaroid.

    I was pretty much ignored by the cabin crew, which is fine.
    We were at the gate on time, which meant that I had time to
    visit the club for a quick drink or three.

    UA4879 EWR BWI 1500 1608 Q40 1A

    The DH8-Q400, a somewhat upgraded version of the commuter
    workhorse, is fairly comfortable and reasonably quiet (when
    it came out it was advertised in the aviation magazines, it
    was described as quieter than most jets); it's also quite a
    bit more sightly than the other props and in fact than most
    of the commuter jets. This was a gleaming white new one, and
    I had 1A, which has nice legroom.

    A cutish, nice Brazilian FA. I slept through this flight.
    Discovered that my SmarTrip card had disappeared sometime
    in the past week or two, so I ended up paying full boat for
    the bus; as I didn't get a free transfer, I stopped off in
    Rockville for a meal at Tara Asia (an iDine place), where I
    had a very mediocre fried calamari with sweet chili sauce,
    much improved by ground smoked red chile flakes, followed
    by a pretty good, extremely brown, and impossibly abundant
    matsaman beef, also much improved by ground smoked red chile


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