This fall - Germany, Austria (including szg's Do), France, etc.

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by violist, Nov 19, 2015.  |  Print Topic

  1. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    UA3999 PVD IAD 1017 1145 CR7 2A

    I was dozing and came to as they announced group 2, so I scampered
    up there and stood around waiting to merge in, and some guy asked
    if I was in group 2, and I said, actually, I'm in group 1, and all
    these silly Rhode Islanders made way for me to get in front, which
    I refused, entering line after them. I got one of the thrones on this
    aircraft, the only one that doesn't have a disadvantage attached
    to it. 1A doesn't have underseat storage, and the row 7 seats,
    though they have great legroom, are in coach.

    Our FA, an attractive South Asian, perhaps Malaysian Chinese, not
    in her first youth, was on her first day, very nervous. She was
    supervised by a smiley black woman in a mainline uniform. They
    made no bones about this being a training session, and it was
    pretty amusing all in all.

    Several iterations of the safety announcements, drink service,
    and the snack basket, each one perfecting on the mistakes of the
    previous.

    I had Madi K's whole natural nonpareil almonds, which were a bit
    stale but at least unsalted and not rancid. The staleness was
    manifested only by the texture.

    "Popcorn, Indiana" kettle corn was oversweet and had little flavor
    but was moreish in the way that sweet-salty things are.

    There were also brownie chips, oatmeal cookies, and something else
    that I didn't see.

    The flight took barely an hour. On the way out I told the trainee
    that she would end up doing fine and the supervisor that she was
    a good coach.

    Next gate was way off in the D terminal, and I had the choice of
    going left to the restaurants or right to the club. I did both.

    After a tentative stop to look at the menu at Bistro Atelier,
    where I once had a respectable steak frites, I decided to cheap
    it across the corridor at Bar Symon, which has a simpler and somewhat
    more modest menu.

    There are several varieties of burger, of which I chose the Fat
    Doug, a patty covered in pastrami, Swiss, and cole slaw. I asked
    for it as rare as they could make it. Which turned out to be
    medium-well. From top to botton: a brown roll with a crunchy top;
    slaw; cheese; pastrami; burger. That was also the order of
    goodness of the ingredients as well. The bun was yeasty but had
    this really intriguing hard shattering crust - I think it had been
    painted with an egg and milk wash to get this effect in a similar
    way to that in which a pretzel roll is painted with alkali. The
    slaw was standard with mayo but fresh and crisp. Swiss cheese is
    Swiss cheese. The pastrami, thin-sliced plate, would have been a
    ton better if it hadn't been frizzled like bacon, thus vitiating
    the pastraminess. The burger was a kneaded, salty meatloafy thing,
    and though the order had been put in for "pink" (I verified this
    later with the waiter) was pretty gray throughout - it probably
    would not have been significantly better done rarer, though.
    There was also a sauce built in; mustard based, I thought it was
    boring and called it so-so sauce. The apparent real name is Sa-sa
    sauce. It was maybe a C burger and if the meat were better would
    have made B- or so. It was only $11 something, but then there was
    only 1/3 lb or so of not-of-the-best burger, counting filler.

    There are two sauces on the table, apparently inventions of the
    chef. Coffee BBQ at first taste was one of the worst things I'd
    ever tried - sweet and putrefied-tasting. I gave it a second
    chance with the burger and discovered some flavors not all of
    which were terrible. At first I figured Michael Symon should
    be fed to the lions. On second taste I figured he should just
    have his dominant hand cut off. At first F; second try D.

    Lola ketchup is slightly less objectionable, as it has a
    distinct sour component. Here the Indianish corander and other
    curry spices come out, and I kind of liked that. I give it a B-/C+.
     
  2. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    After eating I still had time and went down in the other direction
    to the United Club for a shot and/or a Coke or something.

    Plus I still had stomach space to check out the snacks in the
    club. There was a substantial display of healthy choices -
    julienne red peppers, tabbouleh, rather fancy mixed
    Mediterranean-style olives, and that cuminy fatfree hummus that
    I've learned to become fond of (Air Canada's is I think better,
    but you take what you can get).

    Alongside these were tubs of pita chips, perfectly okay, and
    brownie crisps, which I think are an enormous waste of time in
    the first place and offering the potential for culinary disaster
    when served here next to the savory snacks.

    Also cubes of yellow cheddar with crackers that looked like the
    Pepperidge Farm ones but loose.

    The drinks in the cooler included cherry Coke and Barq's in
    addition to the more usual Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, Diet Sprite,
    and Fanta. I had a Barq's and afterward a Cherry Coke - more
    caffeine than my usual intake by a fair amount, but I've found
    that I can sleep during the day under the influence of caffeine,
    the tradeoff being that nighttime is likely to be troublesome.

    One strangeness of this club - I found a working public phone.

    UA1840 IAD SEA 1414 1656 739 3F

    It was a good hike to the gate (which was next to the other club,
    but I'd wanted the one in D), and by the time I got there, boarding
    was well under way.

    Our flight attendant was attractive and in her 40s. One weird
    thing was that I could see her turn on and off her smile - in
    the galley she looked tired and unhappy, but on stepping out
    into the cabin, wow - people talk about aging stars shedding
    thirty years upon going on stage; this was that sort of thing.
    I was a little creeped out by the toothiness of that stage
    smile, though.

    She offered portobello mushroom ravioli, beef stew, or Buffalo
    chicken with mac and cheese. I asked for the stew with the
    chicken as a backup choice. She said that I would get my first
    choice, because of my exalted status with the airline.

    We got a salad of assorted greens with one lettuce that I'd
    never encountered before, large roundish leaves, quite bitter.
    The little secrets hidden in among the greens were bits of
    craisins, raisins, and spiced apple. Also a little pile of
    rather hard barley. Carrot julienne. The usual tub of balsamic
    vinaigrette.

    A pretzel roll was smaller and saltier than usual, so less
    appealing to me.

    The beef stew wasn't altogether bad. It was made of chuck
    trimmed of all fat but retaining a little gristle, quite
    tender but not obviously tenderized. It came in a brown
    sauerbratenish sauce with clove and fruit flavors, reminding
    me a bit of A-1 sauce. Next to it was an assortment of hashed
    vegetables that were shriveled and tough and seemed almost
    freeze-dried - parsnips, carrots, redskin potatoes, celery.
    The gravy helped some of these down.

    The red on offer was Fortant de France Cab-Merlot. I remember
    when this was a Languedoc wine that did a reasonable imitation
    of a cheap Bordeaux; it came in a sleek perhaps fashionable
    bottle and cost a princely $1. Now the bottle is a facsimile
    of a Bordeaux bottle but the wine is less Bordeauxish, more
    Mediterranean-tasting. I had a glass and returned to Courvoisier.

    Lemon sorbet arrived frozen to dry ice temperature. After it
    warmed up a bit it was quite tart, somewhat lemony, pretty okay.

    More Courvoisier.

    As usual, a wait for a gate crew after we landed a bit early.
     
  3. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    The Hilton Sea-Tac is about half a mile from the airport via
    a mostly indoor route that takes you to the end of the
    terminal and then through the parking garage and the light
    rail station. An elevator ride (if it's working) down and
    then across one unprotected street crossing and you're there.
    They gave me a room on the third floor with a garden view,
    much nicer than facing out onto the parking lot or the
    streets. Comfy bed, corded and cordless phone, enough outlets,
    and a small but clean bathroom. A coupon for a continental
    breakfast at Spencer's or the lobby coffee shop.

    It's a half-hour ride downtown on the light rail: $3 to Stadium
    station, and then a 10-minute walk to will call at the ball park.

    Attendance was about 14000 - about par for the tail end of the
    season for a team that was never in serious contention.

    I visited my friend Hap up in the nosebleed section of Safeco,
    where he had hoped for a tranquil evening but didn't get it,
    he small crowd making up for its size by its rowdiness. Meanwhile
    I watched Jesus Montero provide the offense the Mariners needed
    for a 3-1 win over the Angels.

    My stomach started rumbling, so I considered the options. As
    Hap was due for a dentist appointment in the morning, it was
    unclear whether I should plan on lunch with him or eat at
    the hotel. If the latter, I'd maybe want to economize, as
    Spencer's (not the best steakhouse in the world, but okay)
    is quite a pricy little venue. I figured no, I'll eat now,
    and during a lull in the action I dashed off to Ivar's and
    got clams and chips, a relative bargain at $10.95. This came
    an enormous serving of clam strips and a moderate serving of
    fries. The strips tasted okay for a while, but were really
    salty and monotextural, and unlike real fried clams, one gets
    easily tired of them. I eventually ate all of them and about
    half the potatoes.

    After the game, I said goodnight to Hap, who was directing
    the mostly happy crowd to the exits and took the light rail,
    which was crowded but not crushingly so - I actually got a
    seat -, back to the hotel and a good night's sleep.
    --
    I get a coupon for a free continental breakfast at the lobby bar or
    at the tonier Spencer's for Steaks. Not that I eat breakfast, but I
    went downstairs to check things out. I asked the barista what came,
    and she said that it represented a $10 credit, so I picked up a
    couple chocolate bars to go and counted it good.

    Seattle Chocolates Perfect Peanut Butter dark chocolate truffle bar
    with roasted peanuts. The chocolate was decent, but the filling was
    out of whack, a little bitter and not salty enough, probably a
    casualty of the desire to make things healthier rather than tasting
    better. The plus side is two of these made a breakfast more congenial
    for me than all the muffins and coffee in the world.

    Hap called after his appointment and sounded cheerful and
    comprehensible, so I gathered that he would be up for lunch. He
    picked me up a little before 1 and we headed down toward Tacoma.
     
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  4. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    On the way, I suggested we stop at the Roca outlet store,
    where I went wilder than I should have given the state of
    my carryon, getting several pounds of various Roca products
    to be deposited in various places in Europe, striking a
    blow for American confectionery. I also ate four or five
    sample candies, and later I was glad I did.

    The pressing question of the day was what to do for lunch
    - burgers, Asian food of one persuasion or another, steamed
    clams. This last sounded good, so off we went to Katie Downs
    on the waterfront, where looking at the prices on the menu
    I belatedly recalled we had always had them at happy hour,
    when they are half price. We both got burgers of various
    sorts instead. It turns out the kitchen, which used to
    make the burgers, now uses preformed pucks probably from
    a freezer someplace - mine was crumbly, dry, and tasteless;
    a pitcher of Mac & Jack's African amber made all right but
    at a substantial price. This is not a cheap place to eat -
    never was, but it seems to me that the prices are getting
    out of line especially given that the food quality has
    taken a dive.

    Back to the house, where I anticipated several days of
    recharging my batteries.

    As it turned out, there was mail for me - one of my
    conductors had sent out a bunch of music to be marked up.
    Such is the retired life. This chore turned out to take
    several times what I had budgeted. Oh, well.

    ==
    Hap likes breakfast. As you know, it is my least favorite
    meal, several notches below afternoon tea and midnight
    snack and way below a hot lunch or dinner. So we did a
    sort of compromise thing, going late, maybe 11, to places
    where I could get stuff off the lunch menu and he could
    have his meat-and-three-eggs with potatoes on the side.

    Dirty Oscar's Annex apparently was a nightclub that served
    food but after being featured by Guy Fieri started giving
    more emphasis to the foodservice. The food we had sucked,
    not a big surprise given Guy Fieri's track record - as
    far as I can see everything he touches turns to rubbish.

    They weren't offering the lunch menu, so I tried to make
    the best of the situation by ordering the diablo scramble:
    habanero beef, mozzarella, green chiles, grilled red onion,
    chile cream, and sriracha. What could be bad? This could
    be bad. First, it was kind of small, maybe two eggs of
    not champion size, scrambled pretty hard. Despite the
    advertised diabolicity, there was barely a tingle on the
    tongue: I know I might be a bit harsh on the topic, but Hap
    corroborated this, barely noticing any heat. That might
    have been because there was little or no "habanero beef"
    in the dish. Luckily (I don't think I ordered it this way)
    there didn't seem to be any cheese, either. With the eggs
    tasting sort of synthetic, I wonder if they had made my
    order vegan or something. Of green chiles there were few,
    of onions not a hypersufficiency either, and these were
    the best part of the plate. They weren't supergenerous
    with the chile cream (fine with me, it didn't taste like
    anything anyway) or the sriracha. I asked for hot sauce,
    and the waitress was at least forthcoming with that there
    were three kinds, I forget, but Tapatio was the best of
    the lot, so I asked for a bottle of it. It improved things
    a little but made everything (of course) more sour than
    spicy, one of the shortcomings of most of the standard
    hot sauces. Oh, yes, there was this flat rectangle of
    hash browns, which Hap estimated at 4 mm thick - I think
    he was exaggerating, it was more like 5 or even 6 mm.
    This was beautifully browned - on the top. The rest
    turned out to be a grease soaked pale monstrosity.

    Hap ordered the special of the day, chicken-fried pork hash
    and eggs. This came, also not a generous serving, as
    hard-fried mystery meat nuggets (I dissected one and found
    what actually appeared to be pigmeat inside, but less than
    a quarter of the makeup of the thing, the rest being starch)
    dumped on a bed of somewhat underdone chunked (not hashed)
    potatoes. One egg on top. This was supposed to come with
    cream gravy, but there was a dearth of this, an ounce if
    that of it, mostly mushing the potatoes - Hap groused a bit
    about this, so when the waitress came by, somewhat tardily,
    to see if everything was all right, I brought this issue
    up with her. She said that she could fix it for an upcharge
    of $1.50. All righty then. Hap declined.

    Ninkasi Oktoberfest was a malty and fairly delicious brew,
    highlighting the American misunderstanding of the style
    with too many hops and too little sugar. Even with its
    faults, it too saved another lackluster meal.

    The help, attractive young women, were okay if a little
    on the gum-chewing side.

    Sad thing is that there is a place down the street that has
    better food, more of it for less money, and much nicer
    waiters and waitresses. It even serves beer. Shakabrah it's
    called I believe.
     
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  5. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    I don't think Hap loves me any more - he proposed to take me to
    Denny's, and on further inquiry it turned out he was completely
    serious about this. I thought of being a good sport but decided
    to fuss, so we went a bit farther down the road to MaryMary, at
    least an indie offering a chance of real food.

    Annie had biscuits and gravy, a goodly portion; I tasted the
    gravy and found it very like what I had had most recently at
    the Sheraton Anchorage - very sagey but quite good, plenty of
    sausage and made with real butter. I've noted before that the
    very best sausage gravy I've had was many years ago at the
    Sheraton Anchorage, but more recently it has gone from what
    appeared to be handmade to a very good commercial product, and
    I wouldn't kick it out of my mouth. The similarity between the
    two make me suspicious that Sysco has a premium sausage gravy
    product. Speaking of which, the honey on the tables is from
    Sysco, which made Hap automatically suspicious about it, so
    both Anne and I tasted it: it was real honey, and pretty
    decent. I guess bees can do good work even if they're working
    for a Texas conglomerate.

    Hap's 5-egg ham and cheese omelet was less gigantic than I
    thought it would be, but it was certainly overflowing with
    at least a quarter pound of ham. What made the plate was the
    giant mound of home fries, which were great if you like home
    fries.

    I was happy to see nonbreakfasty items on the menu and chose
    the Kirk burger, which comes with grilled onions, jalapenos (I
    asked for and got extra), jack cheese (turned out to be pepper
    jack, the only edible kind), and the usual mayo, lettuce, tomato,
    and pickle slices. It was about a 5-oz patty done well well but
    not bad for that. The pepper slices had been grilled with the
    onions, yielding a strange sour caramelized mess that was strangely
    appealing. I thought it a little skimpy, but again the bulk was
    made up with maybe 3/4 lb of seasoned curly fries. The waitress
    asked if I wanted ranch with that, and I said huh? Annie informed
    me that it was the northwest custom to dip fries in ranch dressing,
    and that it was good (the waitress concurred heartily), so okay,
    I got a cup. I didn't particularly care for it, perhaps because
    the ranch dressing that they serve has a lot of dill in it.

    I did get one interesting taste here - Smucker's sugarless grape
    jelly. Gosh, that's nasty. Think solidified Crystal Light only
    not as good.

    The bill was surprisingly small, even smaller because Hap paid it.

    Turns out Hap and Annie actually like Denny's, go figure.
    --
    The place I referred to is called Shakabrah Java, and it's maybe a
    tenth of a mile off in distance but miles ahead in quality and
    experience.

    The Lighter Side is one pancake and one egg, but Hap warned me about
    the pancake. He said it was bigger than the plate. He didn't say how
    much bigger - it overhung the dinner plate and was heavier than it
    as well, being 2/3 or 3/4" thick in the middle. Not that it was a
    sinker or anything like that - it was quite fluffy and delicious,
    just really big. It came with a butter pat and a dusting of powdered
    sugar and a jug of pretty ordinary syrup (some minor maple component).

    One egg over easy, not enormous but also not the midget things that
    seem to be common in this city.

    With this I got a side of sausage gravy, which Hap said was good. It was
    in fact pretty tasty but had a sort of healthy aspect, as though it had
    been made with skim milk.

    Hap's hash and eggs were sort of as I recalled them - a pile of "shaka
    potatoes" - spiced and with minced vegetables with a fair amount of
    pretty good but too lean corned beef blopped on top. Eggs over easy.
    A good-size plate of food, far more generous than that offered by the
    place down the street, and good tasting as well.

    A Mac & Jack's Serengeti wheat beer for me. Not as weird-tasting as
    most wheat beers, and actually somewhat appealing.
     
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  6. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Toscano's is a regular visit, being the playground of Hap's college friend Tom
    Pantley and the successor of Balsano's, where we once had had a party under
    the auspices of FIDONet.

    I started out with a wine flight of Washington Cabernets for $14, not a bad
    deal when the pours are $25 a bottle and up at the store.

    Pendulum Cabernet from Precept was really, really strange. It wasn't corked
    but still tasted like all sorts of leaves, from autumn to bay and everything
    in between. The fruit seemed mostly to have fled, and I got notes of root
    beer and licorice. I hated it but found it went okay with food. This goes at
    $12 a glass and is a crummy deal.

    Tranche Cabernet was a different story. It was full of menthol and dark
    fruits and just about all you'd want from a Cabernet. Huge long minerally
    and blackberry finish. The price - $14 a glass. I immediately ordered a glass.
    Back at home I checked the retail prices. When you can find it, it runs about
    $37 a bottle, which means that Tom was selling it at approximately 1x retail.

    Gorman's The Devil You Know Cab-Merlot blend was decent, quaffable, not
    particularly diabolical, though tannic enough. Classic and not memorable,
    though it had almost as many minerals and as much body as the Tranche. It's
    the most expensive on the list, no bargain at $15 a glass.

    The special was rolled pork loin stuffed with scallion and regular pestos
    over rosemary roasted vegetables. I ordered it, and word came back from the
    kitchen that it would take 25 minutes more than the other dishes, so I
    said, cook it rare and make it 15. They actually said okay. Well, all the
    meals came out at once, and mine was not rare nohow - the piece of meat
    had unraveled so it was more like a comma than a roulade, the vegetables
    looking like airline vegetables, crusty and shrivelled and sort of random.
    If they had warned me that they were giving me the last slice of yesterday's
    I might not have ordered it, but I tried the meat anyhow and discovered
    that it was tender, shot with gristle, and absolutely delicious. I have a
    hard time sending back something that is delicious. The vegetables were a
    loss, but they usually are anyhow. I gave Hap and Annie a couple potato
    wedges, ate the snow peas, which are okay when limp, and left all the
    rest of the motley assortment.

    Annie, who loves sweet things, got orange chicken over penne, which was
    not as sweet as she had hoped, though quite orangey. The penne were more
    nicely done than Hap's rigatoni, see below. On the whole she liked the
    dish a lot.

    Hap got sausage riggies, which was fine (I got a piece of sausage, which
    was black pepper spicier than your standard Italian, and a riggie, agreed
    to have been precooked as a little mushy.

    Tom came by twice during the meal and chatted as though he didn't have
    anything to do; it was clear he had stuff to do.

    We had room for dessert.

    Annie ordered blackberry cheesecake, which had a weird hard texture
    but quite authentic New Yorky flavor; she kind of liked it, but Hap
    and I gave the thumbs down;

    he got cannoli, which for once in history came as cannoli, i.e., more
    than one. These were filled with ricotta, toasted hazelnut halves, and
    pieces of fresh fig. Delicious, though I thought the shells a bit hard
    - I prefer the dough to be made shorter so the shells are more fragile.

    Creme brulee was the usual thing. When it was delivered I told the
    server that it wasn't big enough. It was 8" in diameter and the normal
    depth. It tasted good, plenty of vanilla, fresh egg taste, no whipped
    cream or anything to detract from the shattering topping. There was
    plenty to share.

    Tom's wife Cindy, who makes the boulangerie-confiserie, came by and asked
    how the cheesecake was. We didn't say anything about the texture but
    complimented the taste. She confided that the secret was Monin syrup and
    also that Tom had made the cannoli filling from an old family recipe from
    the south.

    The bill was about $55 a person, not outrageous, but nobody did us any
    favors.
     
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  7. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    The Ram is another old favorite. We got there very early for dinner
    and found the parking lot packed. Turned out that was the day of the
    Seattle - Green Bay game, but being such great fans we didn't know that.
    The bar area was hopping, but the dining room was half empty.

    My pork belly burger, another of the fall specials, was a bit of a
    disappointment. I ordered it as rare as possible, which turned out to
    be medium well, and the pork belly was in the form of a couple slices
    of thick-cut bacon, in contrast to what I expect from the name,
    especially since the publicity shot on the menu showed chunks of
    fatty pork belly. The burger was actually moist and tasty, though,
    and the bacon helped chase down the slaw that I'd ordered instead of
    potatoes, as I was potatoed out for this lifetime.

    A glass of Malbec went okay with my food, but belatedly I found that
    they were pouring the Big Horn Oktoberfest, which was a worthy
    competitor to, for example, the Sam Octoberfest. Malty, moderately
    hopped, rich body, very drinkable, and once again it was beer to
    the rescue.

    Hap got the steak sandwich, about which doneness nothing was discussed.
    The meat was medium-rare, the torpedoish roll apparently good, the jus
    essentially bouillon; aside from that it was reported to be excellent.

    Annie ordered one of the fall specials, the pork flatiron sandwich,
    which I had considered. This was indistinguishable from a midwestern
    pork tenderloin sandwich. It too was reported to be excellent.

    So again I lost!

    --
    I got taken to Freighthouse Square to pick up the bus, which takes
    only 15 more minutes than driving. Unfortunately, schedules dictated
    that I get dropped off before 1 ... which meant 7 hours to twiddle
    my thumbs. I was thinking of wasting vast amounts of time and dough
    at one of the restaurants (Spencer's? I do like my steak), but that
    wasn't to be as it turns out. At the bus stop was this older guy who
    was pretty befuddled - not from lack of mental capacity but because
    of lack of preparation. He had a 20 and two ones for a fare that was
    $3.50 exact change only; this might have been disastrous, but as he
    was clearly ancient, the rather kindly driver let him on for the senior
    price (1.50 - took the two ones before I could point out that Hap had
    given me four quarters). He took a seat across the aisle and a couple
    rows behind. When we pulled in to Federal Way, in about 10 minutes, he
    asked if this was the airport. At which point I went back and told him
    to follow me when I got off. He was duly thankful.

    At the terminus I took Robin through the train station and into the
    airport, where he looked about anxiously asking Where's Southwest?
    We found it in due time.

    He had allowed tons of time and was in fact four hours early for
    his flight, so I offered to let him into the club, subjecting myself
    to vast chunks of his life history (not all boring). I was pleased
    that after being told that cheap beer was free, he didn't abuse this
    and only had two or three. Turns out he is a former engineer turned
    property manager, now retired and taking up bridge, so we talked
    about bridge for a while, at which some other guy came up, ears
    perked up, and started talking bridge as well. I eased myself out
    of the conversation and listened to them come to the realization
    that they had played against each other a few weeks before (bridge
    tournaments can be big things, so nonrecognition is not that big a
    deal). The conversation came to a close, and the other guy went
    off to his flight. I had a couple glasses of Bourbon-surrogate,
    and Robin worked on a play he was writing.

    He headed off at his boarding time, but I had another couple hours
    to kill and was tired of McCormick American whiskey. I put my mind
    to my work and the time if not sped at least did not crawl.

    UA1744 SEA IAD 2135 0532 739 3B

    Our FA was a big bluff and bluster fellow, though pretty decent
    for that. He fed and watered us expeditiously.

    They hadn't loaded red wine, but there was prosecco instead. It
    wasn't too bad, though it didn't taste like much (sort of lemony,
    not too sweet). After takeoff a Courvoisier was nice.

    I snoozed through most of the flight.

    Shortly before landing, we were offered rather tasty carrot cake
    muffins. I don't recall if the commotion or the aroma woke me,
    but I got that muffin.

    Another on-time arrival.

    UA3986 IAD PVD 0821 0942 CR7 2A

    So I went down to the D club and had a big bowl of oatmeal,
    livened up with brown sugar and Coffee-Mate. It wasn't too bad.

    Flight: somewhat bumpy, not particularly notable.
     
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  8. violist
    Original Member

    violist Gold Member

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    UA1969 BOS EWR 0900 1010 738 2F

    I was on the 10:10 but got antsy so put in for the earlier flight,
    as then I could take my time and wander through Queens at leisure,
    and the flight was WIDE open in F (I had row 3 on the next). When
    I got to the gate, 3 people had been upgraded ahead of me, despite
    my having been #1 on the list, being a 1K on a non-rockbottom fare.
    Eventually it happened, but I still suspect they're playing with
    me and hoping I'll go to that next level (consistently buying
    cheaper first-class fares).

    The flight was fine, I suppose; nothing interesting happened
    except that they didn't have any Courvoisier (commoner and commoner
    phenomenon lately), so I had a Coke instead.

    We landed on time, and I went straightaway to the 62 stop and
    caught that bus in about 15, which took me to Raymond St. in a
    jiffy. I was too drunk (on caffeine) to remember how I got to
    the PATH and found that my MTA card had expired. Anyhow, WTC
    and then the E to Kew Gardens to catch the Q10 I think instead
    of Airtrain, as I'm a cheapskate. As a result it took 3 hrs to
    get between airports, not a biggie as I had tons of time.

    I fussed around with this computer at the Admiral's Club for a while,
    using a coupon to get a glass of Pyrat XO, which with its citrusy
    notes tastes pretty darned cheap and college-studentish, then went
    to gate 5 or so to meet lili coming in from California.

    Being of more exalted status than myself, she was able to access
    the fancy (and overcrowded) Flagship Lounge; this entailed one of
    the concierges leaving her desk and unlocking the door; she must
    have saved the cost of a gym membership, because someone came in
    seemingly every five minutes. It took us a while to find seats
    together and near an electric outlet, which is no longer so
    critical as this new machine has a fancy battery life of some
    four hours.

    We were going to take advantage of the dinner spread there, which
    turned out to be heavily steam-tabled things one wouldn't want to
    put in one's body, so we had a couple drinks and then retreated to
    Bobby Van's, where despite its being an airport restaurant I've had
    some decent meals. We were led tp a large back room in which only
    one other couple was seated. Through the course of the meal perhaps
    two more people came in.

    The rather nice waitress allowed us to split a porterhouse rare
    - certainly it brought in more revenue than two burgers would
    have. The steak was a generous 2 lb, tender and beefy and rare as
    ordered. lili had the tenderloin and a chunk of sirloin; I got
    the rest of the sirloin and to gnaw the bone and feast on the fat.
    Sadly much of the tail had been cut off, but there was plenty of
    food actually. Sides: the mash had unadvertised blue cheese, fine
    for her, not so for me; onion strings, slightly greasy, were very
    crisp and very tasty. Trapiche Malbec suited well, but we paid per
    glass twice what a bottle would cost in real life.

    For dessert lili had a mojito, which was okay; I stuck to wine.

    Back to the lounge for afters, which included Hennessy for me
    amd Knob Creek for her.
     
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  9. violist
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    AA 120 JFK CDG 2115 1040 752 2AB

    Anyone who thinks this is not the worst business class product in the air
    put your hand up ... well, I don't think any person could honestly think
    that. It's really not any good. Worse than United's. Seat comfort is sort
    of Economy Plus, and the beds have elementary controls that don't do what
    you want them to, plus they don't go anything like flat. Service is
    perfunctory, not a big deal as all I wanted to do was sink down into my
    seat and hide, and the food, which smelled kind of cafeteria-ish, was
    easy to turn down. I did get ice cream, though, and a glass of Cognac,
    which did its job.

    LH2231 CDG MUC 1535 1700 320 11E, 11D was 12D, was 15EF

    We got in half an hour early; the fast track pass saved us maybe ten
    minutes in line, immigration was quick and easy, and getting our boarding
    passes not straightened out took negligible time - I complained that
    though I'd prereserved seats together, somehow the computer had decided
    to give us (as before) separated seats in the wayback of the plane. The
    not unfriendly agent typed away and said that though he saw our original
    seat assignments, those seats were now full, and the cabin was pretty
    full, and the best he could give us were the aisle in the nonreclining
    exit row and the center in the reclining exit row. I inquired about the
    cost of business class upgrades. E800 for the pair. Whatever. After that
    the walk to the shuttle station was lengthy, and a number of tourists had
    a hard time complying with the instructions of the security people at the
    Lufthansa area, but still we were in the Senator Lounge in the mid-11s.

    It's an adequately appointed lounge, with almost enough electric
    outlets, and okay food and drink. It did get a but crowded at times.
    The basement location is a little offputting, but still we stayed there
    until boarding time - 3 1/2 hours, during which I destroyed my health
    with samples of every ardent spirit in the house and numerous cookies.

    Boarding was slightly messful, and after hearing a bunch of grumbles
    about him I challenged some guy who was pushing his way to the front
    of the line under the illusion that his Star Goldness was fancier than
    anyone else's. He was somewhat easily shamed.

    On board, we traded 12D for 11D, an easy transaction because 12D is a
    better seat, so we sat together after all.

    The red Bordeaux was Chateau Kyolic, er, Kyanac, not substantially
    worse than what the Senator Lounge had offered, but still quite bad.
    lili reported that the Merlot was much better.

    Next thing we were in Munich.

    It's supposed to be easy to get to the Four Points Olympiapark, something
    I dearly wanted to do before dark, but on the U-Bahn we got into a
    conversation with this expatriate guy who told us that he knew exactly
    where it was, just get off at the exit he was using. We were in the
    first car, according to the hotel website directions, and I figured
    something was screwy when he walked with us down to the rear end of the
    platform, saw us upstairs, and vaguely pointed us in a direction, which
    we dutifully took until it became clear that we were somewhat off. We
    asked a passerby in broken German and sign language, who listened
    sympathetically, muttered "ganz falsch," and pointed us in the
    opposite direction, where after we regained the station we found that
    the hotel's directions were perfect.

    A pleasant check-in, and soon we were on track again.

    On entering our comfortable but not extraordinary room, we found a rather
    odd platinum amenity - a pair of liter cans of Paulaner Oktoberfest and a
    3 oz packet of Manner wafers.

    The weather was still fine, so we wandered downtown and eventually
    found ourself at Augustiner am Dom for beers. Being a bit peckish, we
    decided to split a Haxe, which was quite good but too much for our
    senior appetites; we left almost as much as we had eaten and reflected
    that we should have split half a Haxe. A half liter each Helles and
    Dunkeles.
     
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  10. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Breakfast was the usual thing; I ate of it because I wasn't sure
    I was going to find food in the next twelve hours.

    Meinfernbus ZOB INN 1420 1640

    The central bus station is at the Hackerbrucke stop just off the
    train station. It's kind of modern and pretty clean, but its
    advertising to the effect that it brings airportlike experience
    to the city is a bit overstated, unless you're comparing it to
    LaGuardia or someplace. I don't know what you do in the winter,
    but our waiting area was outside, not particularly well signed.

    Around 2 the bus pulled up, and the crowd milling about pushed
    toward the driver and his assistant. This method of ticket
    taking actually worked okay, perhaps because the passengers
    were mostly fairly docile and law-abiding Germans and Austrians,
    and we loaded up expeditiously.

    It was a nice day and a comfortable ride, a pleasant two
    hours before we got off a block away from the Innsbruck
    train station. Good scenery on the way.

    The Hilton and its associated casino were about 3 blocks away.
    It has been reported as dated, but I don't always see the point
    of contemporary.

    They sell the Innsbruck Card here - all varieties. We got
    the 3-day, which gave us a cushion, should we decide to do
    something Sunday morning, which we did.

    We were issued a pair of drink coupons and sent on our way
    by the staff, who were clearly nonplussed by an elderly
    pair of reprobates disguised as diamond and gold respectively.

    As we got off on the tenth floor, the corridor smelled like
    turmeric, a rather peculiar touch.

    We'd been issued a mountain view room, quite nice, roomy by
    American standards, let alone European. After a decent
    interval to do our toilette, we headed down to the lobby
    to find SZG, his two shy but charming children, and an
    assortment of loonies not dissimilar to us. A five-minute
    walk to the bus to Congress station, from which the cable car
    took us to a transfer point halfway up, from whence we got the
    steep and spectacular car to Seegrube, where we had dinner
    reservations.

    There are two restaurants; some of us showed up at the wrong
    one, not a big thing, as one is directly atop the other.

    We ate at the less formal one, whose prices were surprisingly
    agreeable, and the food was decent, too. There were two tables,
    which sorted themselves out into Anglophone and Tedescophone.

    Lots of Schnitzels were ordered - perhaps I should have followed
    the trend, but I instead got boiled beef with horseradish, which
    was made with bottom round, a good cut for this dish but only if
    you cook it a long time. This was one of the few occasions when
    I found a beef dish undercooked; also, very undercooked vegetables,
    as though the kitchen was using recipes designed at sea level for
    cooking a mile high up in the Alps. This was okay for carrots,
    less okay for celery and potatoes and turnips.

    lili also bucked the trend and ordered spag bol, which despite
    being a victim of the same underheating, was pretty good.

    Entertainment - an accordion and guitar duo playing all the
    hits of yesteryear, a program designed to increase Gemutlichkeit
    among the natives and repulse foreigners forever. We considered
    bribing them to stop.

    All in all, a decent meal at quite reasonable price, and in
    retrospect I was stupid to order boiled beef at an altitude
    where boiling means tepid.

    We missed the last connection down from that intermediate
    station and had to find a bus from there - a bunch of half in
    the bag people with little German and less sense of direction.
    Eventually we found one; it took us right downtown, and I
    asked the driver where we should walk when we got off - he
    motioned for us to go straight ahead, where in reality we
    should have taken the first right. Ah, well, it wasn't too
    chilly, and the extra couple hundred yards' walk might have
    done us some good.
     
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  11. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    A substantial breakfast, insisted on by lili and acquiesced to by
    me as it was free, precluded the need for a substantial lunch. It
    was the usual Hilton offering (when it's in a generous mood).

    We joined everyone on the tourist bus, which was bizarrely crowded,
    so we abandoned it at the Ambras castle, which I found really interesting,
    though slightly strange. Most of the art collections have attribution to
    the Vienna Kunsthistorisches Museum, which was kind of peculiar until I
    read that that institution has taken over administration of the castle.

    An armory, a cabinet of curiosities (from tiny carvings to Chinese
    nested balls to paintings of freaks and the likes of Dracula), over 300
    portraits of members of the Habsburg nobility, a roomful of portraits of
    18th century postmasters (less odd than it sounds, as postmasters were
    powerful and respected in a day when they controlled the only real
    means of long-distance communication), collections of glassware and
    furniture, a chapel, and temporary exhibitions (ours was peculiar
    takes on members of the animal kingdom, mostly equine and simian, but
    maybe we were just unlucky). We spent two hours here and caught
    the same bus two hours later. If we didn't have stuff planned, we
    could have easily spent another hour, especially exploring the
    rather lovely grounds. We found seats on the hop-on-hop-off and
    made our way back downtown, where we walked around a bit noting
    places to check out the next day.

    It being lunchtime, and the special of the day at Stiftskeller being
    a half Haxe for E12, we pulled in there, but I chickened out and
    didn't eat, ordering an Augustiner dunkel for my calories and
    watching lili scarf down a strudel with vanilla sauce with a
    glass of Pasler Zweigelt, neither bad in itself, but not a great
    combination. I'd just have had the wine and the heck with the
    pastry, which was a bit too sweet even by itself, the vanilla sauce
    being not very moreish, but rather Knorrish.

    Some more walking around, and we found ourselves at the Swarovski
    bus terminus, shortly joined by our merry band.
     
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  12. violist
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    Swarovski World is a short trip from the city: you don't actually
    go to the factory, but to a sort of theme park adjacent to it.

    You enter through a piece of landscape sculpture that I and
    probably thousands of others mentally labeled as "the vomiting
    green man."

    In the dark vestibule is a bunch of art artfully lit to show off
    its shininess. Is that a melted watch I see? Well, hello, Dali.

    You are guided through an also artfully designed maze of
    corridors and rooms, each decorated by a different commissioned
    artist. I liked some of them, found others interesting, and
    repulsed by a couple. The one I liked best looked like fly eyes
    at the end of a bowling alley. Weird urban menhirs was another.

    It doesn't take long - I didn't see too much to bury my head in
    my hands about. lili and I left early to check out a few more
    of the sights in town and then freshen up for our gala dinner.
    --
    Bistro Gourmand de Thierry is a short ten-minute walk from the
    Hilton - easy to find except for restlessinRNO and his +1, who
    were tardy. We were seated at two tables, which also sorted out
    into German- and English-speaking ones. This is good in a way
    and less good in a way. There's no ideal solution.

    A fairly standard tapenade greeted us, with pretty good bread.
    The tapenade had too much (sweet) capsicum for me.

    Our amuse-bouche of liver mousse met with general approval.

    There were three appetizer choices; I got to taste all of them.

    A couple mouthfuls of sauteed lamb was an elegant presentation,
    and the meat was delicious. However, tuna tartare with yogurt,
    though it turned out to taste delicious, had sat there long
    enough so liquid had started to ooze onto the plates, not a
    beautiful sight. I was the outlier, the only one at our table
    to get the seafood entree, pumpkin soup with seared scallops;
    I was curious to see what happened between squash and seafood.
    Turns out they were separate but next to each other, so I
    tried them separately and together. The soup was pretty normal
    but not as sweet as I am accustomed to (this difference being
    a good thing), the scallops very fresh but not as sweet as I
    am accustomed to (not a good thing), but I grew up in a day when
    scallops were scallops. They were done rare, perfectly as far as
    I was concerned. They made a harmonious but not particularly
    exciting combination. Sort of Telemann on a plate.

    I had a glass of some kind of perfectly fine Chardonnay with this.

    Main courses were a choice of two - truffle-crusted rumpsteak
    and sea bass with shrimp, mussels, and eggplant.

    I chose Family Secret from Jaboulet as the wine for our part
    of the table - light enough to be tolerable with the fish but
    Syrah enough to support a truffle-crusted rumpsteak. Fairly spicy,
    a bit sweeter than I'd have hoped. If I'd been able to afford it,
    there was a nice selection of Bordeaux that would have gone better.

    I tasted the steak - quite good, but I didn't figure out the
    coating, which was rather sandy breadcrumbs with this black stuff
    mixed in. I'm sort of fond of the black stuff, but the proportion
    was way too small, and much of the aroma was provided by truffle
    oil, which I'm not so fond of. The kitchen didn't seem to
    distinguish between medium and medium-rare.

    Again I was the only one to get the seafood, which was quite
    good, the fish tender but just a bit more done than I'd have
    preferred, the shellfish very cooked which added a different
    dimension of shell flavor, kind of interesting. I love eggplant,
    and this was quite good though ugly to look at. The very cooked
    nature of the dish actually improved the relationship with the
    red wine. I was pretty pleased.

    Desserts:

    Cafe Gourmand, a thing of espresso accompanied by three little
    desserts - a pistachio mousse that had other stuff in it, a
    flourless chocolate cake, and creme brulee that came flaming
    in a tiny cup, pretty amusing;

    an assortment of cheeses I didn't investigate;

    and I had a full-size serving of creme brulee. It was really
    good, and I was glad not to have to be limited to the tiny cup
    that came with the assortment dessert.

    Back for drinks at the hotel, where GrjApp provided more coupons,
    so there was enough alcohol for all.
     
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  13. anileze

    anileze Gold Member

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    Thoroughly enjoyed your TR. Looks like Bistro Thierry served up a decent meal ?

    No photos.
     
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  14. violist
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    I'm not, er, "focused" on photos; at least I now have a camera
    and might put up a few once in a while.
     
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  15. violist
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    After the usual breakfast, at which there were numerous altogether
    too jolly people, we went off and wandered around the old town a bit,
    both on foot and using the card for random short trips on various
    forms of public transport.

    One of our destinations, recommended by the tourist brochures, was
    Mariahilf, a supposedly picturesque district just across the river
    from town. As it turns out, there is a rather nice church, which we
    spent a little time gawking at, but the rest of it, let's just say
    that the writer of the tourist brochures must live there. It's
    pretty nondescript, the main attraction being a string of small
    hotels and bars, each painted in a different pastel color. Not my
    thing at all, and I was pleased to head across the river and back
    into the historic center of the city.

    We'd heard that the Golden Roof museum was worth five minutes, so
    we passed it up, saving five minutes, and instead climbed the Turm,
    no mean feat for these four elderly legs - the view was in fact
    worth the effort.

    Then to the Hofburg, where we spent a couple hours; the Imperial
    apartments are kind of neat but not done up nearly so elaborately
    as have some other palace digs we've seen in recent years.

    On the two levels below is a substantial morbid musing called
    The End of Life, which expands on the ways we humans deal with
    this distressing subject. We started the wrong way round with
    the displays of pomp and circumstance commemorating deceased
    nobility (focusing on the Habsburgs, of course) through the
    years and finished with the common people's view of things (i.e.,
    we started at the top and then went downstairs, losing the
    possible uplift toward the end of the exhibition).

    There is a Cafe Sacher near the exit, and though we could have
    used a pick-me-up, we weren't hungry yet so went down the way
    to the Hofkirche (you enter through the museum of popular art),
    which features among other things the largest empty tomb in
    the world, whose significance was lost on me, though its
    majesty with its honor guard of statues of the Habsburg dukes
    and duchesses, did impress. Here we encountered restlessinRNO
    and Dao, whom we invited to lunch, but they had other plans.

    lili, being somewhat bummed by all the death stuff, told me
    she wanted to camp out in a nice warm spot and have a snack
    accompanied by jolly if bad musicians such as those who beset
    us on our first night in town.

    We were looking about to that end when we passed the cafe
    Maria v. Burgund, where outside in the barely tolerable
    chilliness we saw the brothers freqflyercoll and sumgai88,
    so we joined them for drinks and snacks. Not having my usual
    good sense with me, I ordered a pork Schnitzel, which didn't
    come and didn't come.

    lili had a ham and cheese toast, which was respectable, but
    she was well into hers before my plate arrived, a slightly
    bitter, slightly burnt, and dry cutlet of slightly inadequate
    size, for which I was thankful, as the smallish serving was
    about all I could tolerate; this came with a rather good salad.

    Later, visiting the restroom, I checked out the place, and it
    became clear that the minimal kitchen was suitable for snacks
    and sandwiches and Gulaschsuppe such as the boys got, but no
    way could they do real cooking, and mine had been produced
    elsewhere and then brought in. Live and learn.

    We said goodbye to the brothers, who had a train to catch,
    and went back to the hotel via the hop-on-hop-off bus, which
    was not too crowded, so we got to hear the lecture, and took
    about as much time to the hotel as walking.

    --
    It had been decided by the majority that dinner should be at
    Vapiano, even closer to the hotel than Thierry's place had been.

    We commandeered a corner by the bar and set up our little dinner
    party. Method: you get a credit card, and every time you go to
    a prep station and order, your card is tagged electronically,
    and you pay on the way out.

    The food is not to my taste, being rather starchy (it's a pizza
    and pasta kind of place) and I think somewhat underseasoned, but
    it's a comfy space and the prices are decent.

    I had a slice of lili's salami pizza, which was okay, but I
    did say that I was there mostly to drink - and had a bottle of
    decent Blauburgunder from Mittelburgenland for E18 (various
    privileged souls got a taste of this). The best-tasting thing
    though and the best deal as well was a hazelnut macaroon that I
    got at the bar for a buck.

    Afterward, drinks at the hotel bar. It was suggested that I go
    to the front desk and have more drink coupons issued when ours
    ran out; this was successful - something to remember at hotels
    without a club lounge.
     
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  16. violist
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    Next morning looked pretty nice, so we took an exceptionally
    early breakfast and then the STB tram to Mutter, a pleasant and
    picturesque village up in the foothills, then walked down the
    hill to its sister town Natter, whence we took the thing back.

    An early lunch at Teresia Brau, which for lili was cordon bleu,
    a fair-size pork Schnitzel filled with ham and cheese, with
    cream of vegetable soup and potato salad; I had a big chunk of
    excellent Schweinebraten with okay bread dumpling and sauerkraut,
    all smothered in a nice dark beer sauce.

    Meinfernbus again for the hour ride to Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
    Again no presence at all at the border, and we got in 1 minute
    early which boded well for our last leg on this carrier,
    which I don't hesitate to endorse.

    I'd chosen the Vier Jahreszeiten based on the decent reviews
    on the Net and its proximity to the station - it's at the
    end of the parking lot and suitable for the jelly-legged and
    the overburdened with luggage.

    We were issued a quite nice room with a little balcony, cozy
    and pleasant, but the twin beds turned out to be a queen with
    twin duvets. Not that big of a deal, and the price was right.

    There was plenty of time to wander about town, which we did
    until nearly dusk, up to the edge of downtown, through the
    Michael Ende Kurpark, then through the south part of town,
    turning back up when we found a sign for the train station.

    We stopped at a convenient Lidl store for provisions, chief of
    which was a bottle of cheap "St. Joseph" dated 2012 from some
    unheard-of cellar. This tasted rather like cheap plonk anywhere
    in the world (actually, more Cabernetty than anything else) and
    was worth one or two fewer than the E5 or so that it cost.

    By the same token, what I took from the Kerrygold medium Cheddar
    bin turned out to be a softish Gouda-analogue, very buttery in
    texture but rather lacking in taste. In the next weeks I encountered
    quite a variety of such cheeses, hardly worth the pills but perhaps
    helping to save my teeth for another day.

    Krustenbraten in a plastic pack, chosen for a nice rim of visible
    fat, was quite good, not too salty if you looked at it as ham,
    a bit salty if you looked at it as Krustenbraten, and of course
    also lacking in the Krusten.

    White bread rolls, available by the each, were quite decent
    especially for the 15c (E0.13) they cost.

    The cheap plonk was perfect with this repast.
     
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  17. violist
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    In the morning, the self-described wonderful breakfast -
    little meat cakes that had onions and therefore weren't
    too bad, wieners of the most average sort, hard-cooked or
    scrambled eggs, an assortment of unripe fruit, and an
    almond apricot cake that though a bit stodgy kept me
    going for a good long time.

    We had considered one of the more adventurous mountain
    trips (cog railways and such, two transfers and something
    like E50 a person, but you end up at the highest point
    in Germany) but decided that the most view for the least
    effort was going to be the oldster-friendly Mount Wank,
    whose cable car takes one up to the well-situated but by
    no means lofty summit.

    From here one can take walks of any length and difficulty,
    and ours was averagely modest, though we did summit, which
    is an entirely unnecessary exercise unless one wants to
    dine at the restaurant that caps the peak. I sort of wish
    we had eaten there, as the prices were surprisingly reasonable
    for the setting.

    As it turns out, though, there's a cafeteria at the station
    whose menu is fitted with attractive photos, so instead of
    hiking back up to the summit, we refreshed ourselves here.

    I had an Ettaler Dunkel, nondescript and pleasant, and she
    a split of Ratsherr Blaue Zweigelt that didn't have so much
    rat in it, though I'd not be surprised if there was a little.

    Leberknoedelsuppe looked like just the ticket, so that's
    what I ordered. There was nothing that appealed to lili, so
    in my broken German I asked if we could have an order of
    fried potatoes without whatever they normally served. Of
    course. So the counter guy tossed some fries out of a bag
    and into the fryer, and in short moments they were out,
    hot, crispy, appetizing. We were charged for the plate - less
    the price of the main course. So the potatoes came out at
    some negligible sum, a couple Euro maybe. They were actually
    pretty good. The liver dumplings were hearty and coarse and
    tasted like liver; their soup came out of a Knorr packet at
    best; still, it was better than okay.

    After soaking up the view and some rays for an hour or two,
    we boarded a Wankmobile and bade goodbye to the mountain. At
    the base there was a bus in the wrong direction, so we took
    the long way around, punctuated by the five-minute stop at
    the terminus Farchant, where the very literal-minded driver
    threw us off at 2:38 and then let us back on at 2:40, in
    strict accordance with the schedule. Toto, I don't think we're
    in Austria any more!

    We got off at Marienplatz and walked back to the hotel, passing
    the Lidl again, where we picked up a bottle of Merlot du Pays
    d'Oc for E1.89 ("Chevalier de Fauvert"), a couple bars of Dr. Gross
    chocolate - Amazonas 60% and Ecuador 70% - for 1.09 each, and more
    bread for her, as we were going to have to leave just as breakfast
    opened. The Chevalier surprisingly was kind of okay and the
    chocolates better than that, the 60 a satisfying eating chocolate
    and the 70 a bit of an eye-opener.

    What the heck, we'd done enough wandering, so we presented
    ourselves at Hubert's Restaurant, which is the breakfast place
    downstairs done up to resemble a real restaurant, with white
    tablecloths and a waiter who looks as if his feet hurt (not my
    description, originally Seymour Britchky's, of some other place).

    I saw just what I wanted, a Schweinshaxe at 10.80, a regular
    bargain; with this I paired a Paulaner Dunkel and - given that
    I have learned to ignore the kraut and the glue dumpling -
    what the doctor ordered. lili was disappointed as even though
    it was on the menu, no burger was available. She grumpily
    didn't want anything, but the waiter convinced her to get a
    bowl of Gulaschsuppe at least. It was okay, sort of salty and
    with a pronounced paprika flavor that warred a bit with the
    wine she ordered, a local Merlot that otherwise was mmmm er
    tolerable.

    Upstairs, bed, sleep, good dreams.
     
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  18. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Meinfernbus Garmisch MUC 0635 0840 - it was dark and chilly
    when we left around 6:20, but the bus stop was teeming with
    people. Our chariot pulled in right at 6:30, and we discovered
    that having only small bags we kept being shunted aside and
    so when all the big bags were accommodated and the little ones
    stowed on top, all the good seats were taken, and there were
    only assorted singles left. One of us should have just barged
    on the bus with the other dealing with our bags, live and learn.

    Eventually we got seats within shouting distance of each other.

    The bus stops downtown first before proceeding to the airport;
    after this stop it's quick and easy, and we were there ahead
    of schedule.

    Checkin was negligible, security and emigration likewise.

    The Senator lounge was pretty crowded and with the usual
    catering, most of the good stuff selling out in short order;
    I nourished myself on a bunch of Manner wafers and surfed
    the Internet for two hours and change, periodically sampling
    all the worthy but unexceptional Schnappses and brandies
    that were available.

    LH2230 MUC CDG 1225 1400 320 12EF

    This time our seats stuck and were okay. Lunch was perfectly
    respectable - Warsteiner for me and some red plonk for her, plus
    half a pastrami and coleslaw sandwich (fairly tasty despite its
    being very lean meat) each. The guy in the aisle seat, perhaps
    being a delicate palate, offered us his; we declined with a smile.

    We landed a bit early; were supposed to meet our friend Swisher,
    with whom I was to spend the next three weeks or so, at the Grand
    Comptoir, which has been relocated as has much of the airport;
    eventually I stationed lili at the exit and took a tour of the
    terminal. When I got back, they had found each other and had
    taken control of a rental car, alles gut, a dayglo red Renault,
    maybe not so gut. Swisher had brought a GPS for the purpose, so
    we turned it on and left town. The device kept giving us cockamamie
    weird directions, so the trip to the hotel took twice as long as it
    should have. Eventually by luck we found Le Grand Monarque, Melun,
    a perfectly okay place in a rather nice setting. lili and I split
    a small but pleasant room and met Swisher down in the lobby for
    drinks. It turns out that this being the offseason, the desk
    clerk, whom I suspect to be the manager and probably the husband
    of the cook, had to get our drinks, beers for the boys and a vin
    ordinaire for the lady.

    Dinner started at 7, and we nursed our drinks until then.

    We were ushered in by the trusty desk guy and given a fairly
    nice table in the middle of nowhere but with a view of the
    grounds. We were the only ones around until a woman I'd seen
    back in the hotel office headed into the kitchen.

    I ordered a bottle of Chateau Anniche 12, a thin but fairly
    respectable Bordeaux blend with a bit of spice and locorice
    in among the usual red fruits. This went with their meals,
    not so much with mine.

    Swisher had an appetizer of chevre on toast over salad - these
    came as two small whole cheeses, very pungent. He seemed to
    enjoy them, but I'm pretty sure I'd not have.

    Both he and lili had bavettes (a flanklike cut) rare; they
    were of decent meat, decent size, and done as ordered. They
    came with respectable fries.

    I decided I wanted one appetizer and two desserts, this
    motivated by my not wanting three steaks at table and the
    other choice being a rather fishy fishy that couldn't
    possibly be eaten with red wine.

    So I got a salade de gesiers, which was not quite as
    expected. There's no reason to expect duck gizzards in such
    a dish, but that's all I'd ever had before, and I was
    surprised to find a huge pile of big chunks of chicken parts
    on my plate, over some leaves of curly lettuce dressed in a
    quite acidy dressing. The gizzards were good, a little on the
    crispy side even though the gelatinous end bits were mostly
    cut off. I offered my tablemates tastes - lili of course
    refused, but Swisher tried one; he liked the flavor but not the
    texture, information that I filed away for future reference.

    Dessert number one was a flan de coco, a rather ordinary flan
    with some not-so-young coconut on top; I'd have hoped for more
    coconut flavor in the pudding itself, but that's just me.

    Rosemary-scented roast figs with vanilla ice cream were firm
    but ripe, red-wine sauced, and excellent once I got used to
    the rosemary, which I thought didn't add much.

    There was one glass of wine left in the bottle, so we took it
    back to the room, where lili promptly upset it all over her
    bed, the glass breaking as well. This didn't affect me other
    than my having to listen to the girl berate herself loud and
    often about her clumsiness and how she had ruined her duvet,
    the sheet, and the evening.
     
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  19. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    The two of them wanted breakfast. I grumped about and said
    I wasn't going to pay $12 (that's per each) for a bunch of
    stale rolls and rancid coffee. Shortly I got the report -
    I'd been wrong, there was no coffee at all.

    At checkout I mentioned the issue of the spilled wine and
    the broken glass, but the desk guy (the same one) shrugged
    and said "these things happen," so I forgave the place its
    heist of the $24 (or was that Euro, I forget).

    Southward bound, we discovered a few more eccentricities
    about the Garmin ... but also discovered that the onboard
    GPS had been activated even though we hadn't paid for it,
    and it was (despite a few quirks of its own) pretty
    satisfactory, with somewhat more up to date maps.

    We passed up Fontainebleau, despite its being only a
    couple miles out of our way - the fact that there were
    numerous confusingly mostly noncombinable tours available
    at extortionate prices didn't help the cause.

    And so we wended, part of the way impeded by a convoy of military
    parts that took up the whole road and traveled at about 20 miles
    an hour - I actually was surprised they hadn't closed the road
    altogether for it.

    Somehow we found ourselves going through the town of Orcay (c
    with a cedilla), where I spied a likely-looking lunch stop.
    By the time we found a place to turn around, we were at another
    likely-looking lunch stop, so, having no evidence in one direction
    or the other, we went in to Le Refuge, which looked jollily busy
    and offered a menu du jour of entree, plat, fromage, and dessert
    for E12. The main room was full, so we were seated in a side
    room, which filled up pretty quickly too.

    For starters, Swisher and lili got the special of the day - tomato
    and cheese quiche with mustard, which they enjoyed; I tried a scrap
    of the filling, which reminded me of Welsh rabbit with a bit of red
    stuff (there's a name for this treatment, but I forget).

    My terrine du chef had no defects and no particularly cheffiness
    about it either - perfectly satisfying with the crusty bread.

    The main course special, stewed pork cheek with Calvados sauce was
    extraordinarily good in a simple stewish way, the pork porky but
    not obtrusively gamily so, its sauce tasting more of a decent
    white wine than it did of apple. The two guys had this.

    lili got a sirloin steak, rare as ordered, really big, almost a
    pound, quite delicious owing in part to its considerable fattiness.

    Potatoes in France seem tastier than they do in the States.

    Being on the edge of satiation, we passed on cheese, probably a
    mistake.

    Desserts were an intense blackcurrant sorbet with some whole
    fruit frozen in and an equally intense flourless chocolate cake.

    Saumur-Champigny Les Tuffes, Domaine de Sanzay 13 was pleasantly
    pepper-spicy though a tad on the thin side.

    We were pleased and in fact rather impressed; this turned out to
    be the best bang-for-the-buck restaurant meal we had during the
    whole trip. Looking things up on the Internet it appears we might
    have done equally well at the other place. Next time.

    Another three hours and after a couple minor detours caused by
    the onboard GPS not telling you to turn until you were right
    at the intersection, we pulled up at La Souvigne in Forges
    (e accent grave), between Tulle and Argentat, where Ian and
    Jacquie were just getting our welcome repast ready; we made
    our acquaintance with the new residents of the house, yearling
    kittens Basil and Rosemary, who won our hearts immediately.

    I&J's La Souvigne used to be a well regarded B&B, but they
    have decided to start the process of retiring, so for the
    next few years they're running it as a gite, which means no
    breakfast and somewhat less involvement with the guests, in
    theory at least. It has been pointed out that as I've known
    them for two decades, and Swisher has been BBS buddies with
    him for almost that long, this was not exactly a standard
    client-supplier situation.
     
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  20. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Ian has become an advocate of the small is beautiful philosophy
    of cuisine and cooked up a potage Parmentier - pureed potatoes
    and leeks in a vegetable broth, simple and delicious, bringing
    out, he boasted, the flavors of fresh vegetables from their own
    garden with minimal distraction. Fine if you like the flavor
    of potatoes.

    The next course was Hungarian wax peppers also from the garden
    stuffed with a light sausage filling in a simple tomato sauce,
    served with homemade galuska, the Hungarian analogue of spaetzle.

    Ch. Masburel 98, a very respectable red Bergerac made by a
    British couple, was a light but very agreeable accompaniment.

    Cheese board - Cheddar, Stilton, St. Nectaire, Manchego, and a
    local blue, Bleu des Causses I think. I had a crumb or two of
    the first three out of politeness. I still don't like blue cheese
    and don't think them worthy the pills. The Cheddar, from a
    supermarket, was actually fairly well aged and pretty good.
    St. Nectaire is an inoffensive cheese.

    Finally, homemade sorbets from their own fruit, sometimes augmented
    by locally bought - I tried peach and pear, both excellent and very
    "true fruit."

    A glass of Armagnac and a cup of verbena tea finished me off.

    After which we started settling into our routine, about which I will
    write only about deviations therefrom, but which involved strolling
    down to the baker at the end of the street and getting bread or
    pastry (I and J no longer run a B&B, which means that they no longer
    provide breakfast); then wandering around the region, either snacking
    on leftovers or fresh bought local products or combining forces with
    I&J (though no breakfast is involved, lunch often was, as they are
    old friends); then doing more exploring or sightseeing or just vegging
    out, as Swisher was engaged in some computer programming project that
    claimed some of his attention some of the time, and lili and I took
    full advantage of the free-flow vin grand ordinaire rouge; then
    dinner, which was either Ian or me making a meal or going out for
    something slightly more elaborate. It wasn't really your standard
    gite situation, though we paid ordinary gite prices plus our share
    of the food expenses.
     
  21. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    First gala restaurant meal, Le Saint-Jacques in Argentat, which
    Ian opines has two-star-worthy food but falls short a bit on
    correctness of service; I would not rate the food quite so high
    nor fault the service as much. Michelin gives it two fork-and-
    spoons.

    At this meal, our two main servers were one of the regulars
    who was going on that next week to bigger and better things
    (I believe because he was setting up house with his girlfriend
    in some distant city), a young man who had learned his trade
    pretty well, and his replacement, a pleasant but too deferential
    lad with a slight speech impediment but deft enough technique.

    Patrick the chef sent out a number of amuses - he does this for
    everyone, but I am given to understand Ian and Jacquie get
    somewhat more attention. I don't generally care for these,
    especially as on several visits they have all been dairy heavy.

    A so-called Napoleon of prosciutto and mozzarella was ham and
    cheese pressed together and cut into rectangles - the ingredients
    were fine, but I could see no purpose to the dish other than to
    fill you up and not notice the modest size of the courses, but
    on the other hand I get the impression that when Ian's around
    the portion sizes get kicked a little. Oh, there was a garnish
    of one cherry tomato per person, which were - as with most of the
    tomatoes I had in France - sweet and flavorful.

    Cherry tomatoes stuffed with fresh goat cheese I didn't bother
    with.

    A gazpacho with lobster was okay, but the lobster didn't add,
    making a general impression of cold Manhattan chowder. On the
    whole my impression of the restaurant was not enhanced by these
    freebies.

    The first real course:

    lili had foie gras terrine with red wine jelly, well-flavored
    and smooth pate whose jelly topping I found a little on the
    sweet side, otherwise a lovely dish;

    three of us got mi-cuit foie gras in a potato timbale, a crisp
    outside and mashed-potato inner shell (intriguing but I thought
    uncharacteristic, almost taro-like texture) which when you cut
    into it oozed a somewhat generous amount of foie gras just this
    side of raw, some of the fat liquefying into a yellow ?sauce
    that I lapped up eagerly; I don't know what others did with it;
    this came with little portions of two contrasting salads and a
    foie gras hamburger, a tiny brioche bun split and filled with
    a slice of torchon, creating just the tiniest bit of overkill;

    Ian had langoustine and baby squid with avocado, of which I
    tasted the elements, which were fine, but I didn't have enough
    to understand the combination.

    A bit of kerfuffle about the wine to go with - Ian had suggested
    a dry white, whereas I wanted something sweet for the foie gras;
    when the dust cleared, we had Monbazillac La Truffiere 09, a
    moderately rich and sweet botrytized Sauternes-style blend that
    went I thought decently with everything.

    Mains

    Veal loin, medium rare, with a bit of sweetbread and a
    vegetable cannelloni which turned out to be a poached leek
    leaf stuffed with chopped veggies that I didn't try.

    Tournedos with foie gras - great beef, done as ordered, which
    meant rare, rare, and medium-rare, and a couple ounce slice of
    sauteed foie gras, a small quantity of a rich demiglace, plus
    a mini timbale of the same composition as the appetizer.

    There was a special of tournedos of chicken stuffed with
    mushrooms and greens in a morel cream; Ian had this; I had
    a tiny taste of the chicken (white meat, but brined a bit and
    so reasonably tender and juicy), in a sauce that was a little
    light on the mushrooms, sided with that same foie gras timbale.
    I guess it was kind of a slow night and they had leftover foie
    gras timbales.

    On the side of all plates were various iterations of braised
    winter vegetables.

    Meursault rouge 10 (Louis Latour) was a little unpunchy and
    over the hill, better with the chicken I understand than with
    the bovine dishes. A slight liveriness seemed as if it might
    go with the abundance of liver at table, but instead what was
    accented was a bitterness in the wine. I suppose a slightly
    overage Bordeaux would have gone better, but it's hard to
    justify the price of such things.

    Cheeses I didn't have, but Ian and Jacquie at least did and
    found them of decent quality if a bit young and the selection
    uninspiring though adequate.

    Sweets

    Three of us got this arrangement - chocolate thing, not rich
    enough to be a shortbread but of that general family on top,
    meringue in the middle, and fresh pineapple on the bottom.
    Pretty good.

    A financier stuffed with apricot cream came with a garnish
    of thin slices of apple on top and strawberry on the bottom.
    It was as with many of the dishes here more than adequate
    and in fact very satisfying but without that extra spark
    that gets stars and such accolades.

    I don't know what Swisher got, some white chocolate thing
    with strawberries.

    Rather big and abundant mignardises, which I didn't bother with.
     
  22. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Brive market

    It was a crummy morning, but we went to the Brive market anyway, as
    we had to get stuff for the week, especially as I&J were going off
    to Paris for a couple days -

    Veggies: a big cauliflower for E2.50; we could have gotten a little
    one of 1 kg for E2, but Swisher, whose idea it was, didn't see the
    little ones until we'd already got the big one. Onions and carrots
    on general principle, because they go with everything; and a big
    bag of spinach for E3 - probably $10 worth at the Stop and Shop.

    Ian recommended a duck producer to us; we got a whole foie gras, a
    dozen duck gizzards, some fine big magrets (a pound plus each), and
    a bunch of fat for rendering and cooking. He also has a favorite
    chicken stall, all bio and organic and free-range and no cruelty
    until the last moment, but I think it's because the proprietress
    is cute, and he gets a hug and a kiss when he goes there. We got
    a chicken, maybe 5 lb, for E20-odd - I'd rather have gotten more
    magrets, but that's just me.

    Ian had recommended two places within walking distance of the
    garage (free on weekends), but it was still too early to eat,
    plus strolling through the streets of this hearty-eating but
    otherwise not that interesting town on a cold rainy morning didn't
    seem to be quite the ticket. Imagining a clearing to the west, we
    decided to go on an adventure; I thought that Rouffignac would
    be a nice destination on a crummy day; the GPS routed us through
    Thenon, where there seemed to be a lunch place that gets decent
    reviews called Relais des Chasseurs ... so we went there only to
    find that it's a local bar that serves sandwiches and snacks, but
    never on Sunday. The barkeep directed us down the road, he didn't
    say how far. It turned out to be only a mile, and that's how we
    found Le Denicheur, a self-consciously old-style inn, exposed
    beams, ill-lit, you get the idea. The carte looked interesting.
    We were not, in the end, disappointed.

    We were given the choice of sitting in the front room, which
    had only one table occupied out of about eight, or in the bar,
    which was about half full. Being respectable senior citizens,
    we chose the front room.

    Our waitress was friendly but traveled at a quite slow rate
    of speed. Of course my eating pace didn't help, nor did the
    fact that lili always has food left on her plate, so she
    doesn't look finished. There was in addition some weirdness
    with my main course.

    There is an assortment of menus of greater or lesser
    elaborateness, plus a regular carte. Swisher had the menu du
    jour, I the slightly more festive menu Perigourdin, and lili
    just the one course.

    The menus come with soup, starter, main, and dessert.

    This first was autumn vegetable soup - a simple but very
    tasty butternut and carrot puree with chicken stock. Even
    though lili's didn't come with, the waitress offered her
    a bowl and spoon, which kind offer was turned down. We
    were served a whole big tureen anyway. I tried to do my
    part, having two and a half bowls, but there was still
    at least a full serving left when we were done.

    Swisher's appetizer was caprese, not shall we say of the
    region; it was unremarkable. His main, the plat du jour,
    was chicken with a mushroom potato sauce, which he
    pronounced excellent. I had a fragment and found it
    perfectly okay but not a patch on what I can do or on
    what I imagine the Refuge from the other day could do.

    His creme brulee for afters was good.

    After my soup my menu offered pate de foie gras, and how
    could I refuse that. This was two sizable slices of
    high-quality bloc sided as is fashionable nowadays with
    a spiced fruit compote that was almost a chutney, the
    spiciness and acidy-sweet blend supposedly helping down
    the rich food. Suffice it to say that no help was needed,
    and after grudgingly ceding small tastes to my companions,
    the stuff disappeared with the greatest of ease.

    For my main course, there was the choice of confit or
    cassoulet. I made the wrong choice. Not that the cassoulet
    was bad, no, not that at all. It had been cooked for a
    long time, so the beans were tender and creamy, the liquid
    thick and concentrated, almost nonexistent. The crust had
    been folded in in canonic fashion at least a couple times
    (the traditional recipe says once a day for a week). It
    even had some pork in it, which made it extra interesting.
    It's rather that even despite the gloominess of the day,
    this crock of food was extremely heavy going. I'd have
    liked it better after a day slaving in the fields or
    shoveling snow, but in the middle of being chauffeured
    around the countryside, nah. The traditional cooking
    coupled with modern seasoning made it also quite salty.
    Plus it took dog's years to get it out of the kitchen.
    Later I heard the proprietor telling another table about
    how he was proud that the cassoulet had been cooking for
    days and days, not in the instant (one or two day) way
    that modern restaurants do it.

    Fromage came with my menu; I had wondered what was going
    to be on offer but had seen a plate on its way by - the
    cheese and crackers both came in their own individual
    cellophane wraps. I said no.

    An Ile flottante was also quite nice, the Ile fluffy
    and tender, and the lake vanillary and eggy and good.

    lili, being on a limited diet, had the entrecote rare
    with frites as usual. Excellently tasty Limousin beef
    with enough fat, slightly gristly as farther forward
    on the beast than the cut should be. She ate half and
    speaking of which forwarded the fatty gristly parts to
    me, which sort of muted my enjoyment of my own dish,
    which I forgot to say didn't come out until the others
    were half finished and in fact when the other table's
    orders for it came out (seems they had the big pot and
    plated (casseroled) several in a batch and gratinated
    them together in the oven). So I'd had close to half
    a steak before my heavy main course came out.

    I ordered Ch. de Haute-Serre 07 (Georges Vigoureux) at
    the amazing price of E17. This is a pretty robust Cahors
    and would be barely ready to drink, but okay I thought
    with the heavy food. What came out was the younger-vined
    and less robust Lafleur from that same estate, pleasantly
    light and quite ready to drink. Anyhow, the price was
    still fair for this, so I didn't fuss.

    With dessert I ordered a glass of Monbazillac, which
    arrived in a tiny pour and pallid as rainwater, reminiscent
    of the wines that used to be sold in my day under the
    appellation for $2 or 3 a bottle. It was slightly flowery,
    unconcentrated, semisweet in a sugar water way. Ah, well,
    it cost only a Euro fifty.
     
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  23. violist
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    And on to the Grotte de Rouffignac. The skies had cleared a bit, and
    I wondered if we should have found a more openly scenic destination,
    but by the time we arrived, half an hour later, they had clouded up
    again and the now-familiar dreary rain had returned.

    The fare is reasonable, and what used to be an audioguide was only
    a couple Euro more, so I got three of each. The desk lady said,
    it's a videoguide now, is that okay, and I shrugged and said okay.
    It's a crummy guide, and I should have cheaped out and paid for
    one at most, especially as I could understand at least half of
    what the real guide was saying.

    You take this mine-train-like thing along with the rest of the
    25 or so tourists, and the guide stops at various places and
    shows you the paleolithic rock art, some of which is pretty
    amazing. And it's real, which Lascaux II, under an hour away,
    isn't - the originals there have been sealed to preserve them,
    and instead you go see simulated caves covered with painstaking
    replicas that must have kept a number of art school graduates
    in beer and skittles for a long time.

    The site is more developed than when I was last there almost a
    couple decades ago. It's better lit, and my glasses are better,
    and I actually saw some stuff that was mere blurs last time.

    When we got out again, the rains had returned in earnest, and
    it took longer than it should have to get home. Especially as
    I wanted to get some wine and stuff, maybe breakfast bacon,
    so we stopped at the Carrefour in Brive, where, as luck would
    have it, there were no parking spaces in the giant parking lot,
    because of all the people hanging out to avoid the rain, plus
    there was a pop concert starting right then in the mall attached
    to the store. It took years off my life. There was a Fiefs de
    Lagrange at a quite advantageous price, but what was on the
    shelf was the wrong vintage, and I wondered about shenanigans,
    and I didn't feel up to arguing with a cashier over a vintage
    in my rusty French, so I got an almost-as-good Connetable
    Talbot instead.

    We unpacked our treasures back at the house, and guess what?
    No duck fat. Either the guy had forgotten to give it to me,
    or while paying I'd handed it back to someone I thought was
    Swisher but who wasn't. This meant that the cracklings appetizer
    I'd meant to make wasn't going to happen, and there was no way
    to make that confit de gesiers unless I found a place to buy a
    quart of duck fat (days later, I did find a quart of goose fat in
    the Casino supermarket of all places but ended up not using it).

    Dinner was magrets with a cider-thyme-honey-stock-red wine
    reduction sided with local vegetables. Quite good, if I do say
    so myself.

    The Connetable Talbot 13 was a tasty wine but a pale imitation
    of its parent, which had been the best wine I could afford back
    in the '70s and '80s and which thus has great memories for me.
    Good with duck.
     
    anileze likes this.
  24. violist
    Original Member

    violist Gold Member

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    Bretenoux is an ancient bastide town an hour maybe
    from the house, down the valley past Beaulieu, a nice
    drive that Swisher and I ended up taking several more
    times. It seemed to be a good place to stop to check
    out the old buildings (walled town, 12th century
    church) and admire the sunshine, of which there was
    some for a change. It's also on the way to our
    destination, Rocamadour, one of the places my sister
    had wanted to visit and never did.

    Nothing spectacular, just a cozy little relic with a
    couple restaurants I might want to visit in the
    future, a pleasant riverside walk (Argentat is better,
    I think), sunshine, and a tabby cat who sniffed at us
    and after deciding we were neither threatening nor a
    source of easy pickings went off to do his thing.

    It was another half hour or so to Rocamadour, where
    you have two choices, up or down. The GPSes both
    wanted to take us down, which I recommended against.

    On the up side, the first thing you come to is a
    parking lot for the viewpoint over the cliffside, a
    remarkable sight that was worth half an hour of oohing
    and aahing, after which lili and I went reconnoitering
    down the road. Swisher's legs were misbehaving, so he
    said he'd have a beer someplace and wait for us.

    We walked past an oompah band in militaryish oompahish
    costumes practicing noisily. Quickly past until we
    were beyond earshot.

    Down the road looked promising, plus there was a big
    parking lot over there, so we went back to report.
    Luckily by this time the band had left the area and
    could be heard presenting its concert down the hill.

    Swisher wasn't at the car, so, geniuses that we are, we
    walked into the nearest bar, where we found him sucking
    down a Stella.

    It's called Le Bellaroc and is attached to the restaurant
    of the same name, which is attached to the hotel of the
    same name. The hotel is in the Michelin guide, so, of
    course, the sticker is on the restaurant door. Of course
    of course, being in the Michelin guide is barely a bit
    more prestigious than being in the Zagat guide.

    We of course joined Swisher in drinks but then realized
    it was lunchtime, so we asked if we could go to the
    restaurant, but the otherwise rather nice staff indicated
    that the restaurant was booked up. I looked quizzically
    at them, because the room was completely empty. But you
    can eat at the bar, someone said, so that's what we did.

    They both got the special of the day, jambon frites, two
    quarter-pound slices of not-too-salty pretty good cured
    lightly smoked ham and a moderate pile of crisp skinny
    fries. On the side a little salad and a ratatouille. Lot
    of food, reasonable price, not unpalatable.

    For a fistful of dollars more, I treated myself to the
    Menu Bella. It was worth the fiver or so more that I
    spent.

    Terrine of beef shin stuffed with foie gras - the beef
    part reminded me of jellied corned beef from an Argentine
    can (not that that's bad) from my childhood, maybe a
    notch above, the usual vinaigrette replaced with a thin
    diagonal streak of balsamic reduction that separated it
    from the garnish, a blob of fancy greens mixed with
    carrot strings and sweet corn (very unsweet at that);
    the stuffing was maybe an ounce of quite respectable
    foie gras.

    Steak frites was a really big rib steak, thicker at
    the fatty tail, but I don't mind that except that in
    such a configuration if you don't precook that end,
    either the fat remains on the rare side or the meaty
    part doesn't. It's not rocket science, but only a
    fancy place like the Palm will actually do this kind
    of thing for you. In this case, the fatty tail was
    barely acceptably cooked, and the meaty end likewise.
    In this case, the one end that should have been a
    point was saignant and the other that should have
    been saignant was a point. Decent beef as always.
    I got the same sides as the special had.

    A walnut cake with vanilla sauce and whipped cream
    was a little coarse and tannic for me, the cake being
    very modestly sweetened, the sugar showing up in the
    pretty decent vanilla sauce. Delicious thick whipped
    cream.

    A very ordinary red wine went well with all.

    During the afternoon, the oompah band came in, filling
    the restaurant as promised. It turns out they were the
    army band of the Rhone-Alpes and one of the better
    regarded such in the country. About this the less said
    the better, but it does put the groups I used to play
    with before I retired into a more favorable light.

    We piled back into the car and went to the far
    parking lot, which is near the gift shops and
    more touristy restaurants and the inclinator that
    for about $5 takes you to the mid-levels where all
    the interesting stuff is.

    The site is arranged like this: top of the hill,
    chateau, hotels, restaurants, stuff like that;
    mid-levels, mediaeval churches and chapels; at
    the valley base, the town itself, probably built
    to service the clergy and nobility living above.
    The levels, I don't know, a couple hundred vertical
    feet from each other, are connected with walkways
    and now two elevators, for which you pay separate
    admission. Our ticket took us to and from the
    chapels; if we had wanted to go to town, it would
    have been another admission, though you can access
    it by road as well.

    The ecclesiastical sites, seven I believe, including
    a chapel with a famous black Madonna statue
    supposedly sculpted by St. Amadour himself, are pretty
    nice - what is striking and unique is their setting,
    built into the side of the cliff. Worth a couple hours,
    though I could see the place becoming claustrophobic
    and irksome in high season.

    After we'd had our fill of churches, we reascended
    and took the rampart walk at the top of the chateau,
    which offers spectacular views and a small dose of
    vertigo. We stayed around until it started to rain.

    Back home, where as we had had a quite substantial
    lunch we just snacked on leftovers and red wine
    (beer for Swisher, of course).
     
  25. violist
    Original Member

    violist Gold Member

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    A meal to celebrate Ian and Jacquie's return, made by us.

    Tomatoes in walnut vinaigrette - end of season fruit from
    the garden, good local walnut oil, a bit of red wine
    vinegar I think, herbs also from the garden.

    Magret with apple and Calvados sauce, sauteed spinach
    - I scored the skin of the duck breast almost to the flesh
    and cooked it skin-side down for about 20-25 minutes over
    a very low flame until substantial fat had rendered out
    and the skin was nicely brown and crisp. Removed them,
    poured off the fat, and wilted apple slices (from the
    garden). Removed these and returned the magrets flesh=side
    down until cooked rare; reremoved them to a warm place and
    made a sauce with chicken/duck stock, white wine, and
    Calvados Busnel. Meanwhile, about a pound of spinach got
    wilted in some duck fat with garlic and a touch of salt.
    Magret sliced and plated on hot plates, sauced, spinach
    garnish. Magnifique if I may say so myself.

    Poulet fermier a la creme aux morilles - I'd taken down
    the chicken earlier, cutting up the breast meat for spicy
    stir-fry for later and jointing the rest into two each
    thighs, drummers, and wings, reserving the carcass and
    wingtips for stock. The chicken parts got browned in fat
    - there wasn't enough fat on this free-range bird so I
    augmented its own with that from the magret -, then
    covered with sauteed onion (thyme and touches of sage and
    oregano), covered, and shoved in the oven for an hour.
    Dried morels soaked, rinsed, and squeezed dry. Afterward,
    chicken braising juice was combined with morel liquid
    and a bunch of cream and reduced to a sauce, the whole
    combined, plated, served with black trumpet pasta that
    had been discovered at Carrefour the other day and some
    crusty bread.

    Cauliflower - steamed, sauced with stock and white wine
    reduction with a dollop of creme fraiche. I'd have done
    something else (this was too much like the chicken
    treatment) but forgot the stuff until the meal was almost
    ready to serve, as I don't tend to think about vegetables,
    and how much can you do in ten minutes?

    A Meursault Genevrieres 01 (Mikulski) was sort of on the
    edge - it was still tasty and fruity, but not enough acid
    remained to stand up to the richness of the creamy course,
    and it hadn't been designed to go with the duck (though it
    went better there). I ended up drinking it by itself and
    eating most of my food wineless.

    Ian had pulled out all the stops with a bottle of Tokaji
    6 Puttonyos Szepsy 1996, which turned out with its apricot
    notes and unending depth to be one of the most astounding
    stickies I've ever had (and there were more to come during
    this trip). Apparently he's looking to drink up some of
    his treasures; I think I'll be back within a year or two;
    and lili is leaning on me to do so as well.

    I made a simple bittersweet chocolate mousse - I'd bought
    some Poulain (made by CadburyMondelez) 47% and had thought
    to mix it with Casino house brand (made by Natra Onati) 64%,
    but Ian nixed that and brought out his stash of Cacao Barry,
    which he buys in quantity. We tried the Mexique 66%, which
    seemed a little acid before settling on I think Excellence,
    anyway a mellow about 50% cooking chocolate with a pronounced
    coffee aspect. In retrospect maybe Mexique would have worked
    better with the wine. The usual suspects, melted chocolate,
    egg yolks, heavily whipped heavy cream, no added sugar beyond
    what was in the Excellence, and it was still too much.
     

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