To Jan_AZ's birthday party

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by violist, Jun 18, 2012.  |  Print Topic

  1. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    US3158 DCA CLT 1040 1208 E75 2F

    A sharp-eyed TSA kid tried to steer me to the other
    concourse, but I was aiming to ask the club people for
    assistance. Anyhow, aside from a nursing mother behind me
    getting bag checked (so the conveyor was stopped) the
    circus was a short and not too bad one. I swear the cancer
    machine wasn't turned on, as it was a constant parade
    through, no 10 second or even 3 second wait.

    Irritating - I had this award F ticket, but there were no
    F seats on the first leg when I booked; on the day, there
    were 4, so I tried to get one from US, no go; as it was
    a mixed itinerary, the ball was in UA's court. I tried UA,
    also no go. I ended cancelling the whole itinerary an hour
    before the first leg and rebooking all the same flights.

    The usually fairly helpful agents at the US club were not
    so, in fact rather obstructive, which I attribute to my
    having the UA number on my ticket; but having achieved my
    purpose, I asked for new boarding passes, which request was
    complied with with not much grace. Feeling less welcome
    than usual, and a bunch of time having been taken up by the
    procedure, I vacated the premises. Five Guys seemed a
    sensible way to spend my next minutes. I got an onion burger
    with double jalapenos and A-1, and God help my seatmate.

    The flight took off from the other concourse, as I said; the
    bus filled up and went on its merry way - time between my
    arriving at the shuttle stop and at my gate, 3 minutes.

    My seatmate was an attractive woman a few years younger than
    myself whose inflight reading was Fine Cooking magazine.
    There was no spark; after all, I was eating a Mediocre
    Cooking burger.

    Off the (all or mostly new stuff) snack basket I chose
    Nature's Kitchen raspberry fig bars, a heavy, healthy
    choice - not bad for that, but you know what fig bars do for
    one. And whole wheat ... !
  2. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    US 560 CLT PHX 1300 1438 321 2B

    The B club has the Frontera roasted tomato salsa, rather
    than the Heinz that the other clubs offer. It's very salty
    but with good roasted tomato and herb flavor; went well with
    the Food Should Taste Good sweet-potato-corn chips. Also,
    there are huge piles of Milano cookies for the grabbing.
    And fresh fruit. I ate sufficiently.

    The flight was delayed 40 min, then an hour. Maintenance
    issue in Orlando, something like that. I stayed put in the
    club; by the time I moseyed to the gate it was zone 4 time.
    By some miracle there was still space in an overhead bin
    not too far from my seat.

    A very hard-working FA in the front cabin, Hispanic, and
    it was amusing to note the captain (by all appearances an
    Anglo) conversing with her in Spanish.

    Lunch was chicken enchilada or "pasta duo" - some kind of
    thick macaroni with pesto and alfredo sauces.

    A starter of quite respectable hummus, sad squunched-looking
    olives, and pita triangles of almost crunchy staleness.

    The enchilada, rather light on the chicken and heavy on the
    cheese, was not bad tasting but seasoned with tarragon,
    which made it weird. It came with okay tasting rice that was
    amazingly deficient in the texture department going from
    mush to pebbles in no time flat and pretty good black beans.

    An only slightly wilted salad with creamy Italian.

    Black Opal Cabernet Shiraz - when I first saw Black Opal,
    decades ago, it was real wine. It no longer is real wine.
    Of course, it costs less in nominal dollars than it did
    twenty? years ago, so who knows what the change in price
    is in inflation-adjusted dollars.

    The hard-working FA got some relief from the Y crew in
    handing out dessert, a very respectable coconut carrot cake
    with just a thin layer of cream cheese frosting, the way it
    should be, instead of those huge thick blobs of artery-
    clogging (not that that's a bad thing) goo.

    During the flight I got a bit thirsty and asked for a Coke:
    half a Coke, lots of ice; the other half arrived on request.
    Later, another whole can came. Small triumphs.

    The shuttle to the hotel is by request only. You call from
    the hotels board at bag claim and shout through amazing
    static, negotiating a time and place for pickup.

    Waiting for the bus I heard a voice calling violist. It
    was colpuck, off on some outlandish mileage run or other. We
    chatted about the CO/UA debacle and wished each other luck.

    The Doubletree PHX is a pleasant but rather dated facility,
    probably what my father would have considered the height of
    luxury when he was traveling. It has bunches of Chihulylike
    glass things in the lobby and in general looks pretty '60s.

    Checkin was very smily and pleasant, and I scored in
    addition to whatever perks I normally get a not bad amenity
    - a bag of water bottles and unhealthy snacks plus a couple
    drink coupons.

    I was assigned a pretty nice suite in the ancient style: no
    complaints there, as I am older than this hotel probably is.

    TransworldOne came by to take me to jan_AZ's, half an hour
    west (it's a big metro area). When we got there, the party
    was in full swing, DJ making lots of noise out near the
    pool, good smells in the air. I was directed by Dave to a
    nearly virgin bottle of Maker's 46; by the time I left it
    was no longer nearly virgin. The stuff goes down pretty
    smooth but is a vanilla-oak-brown sugar bomb. It went
    excellently with these appetizers of weenies wrapped in
    bacon (a redneck version of scallops in bacon and as far
    as I can tell just as good) that had been broiled with
    brown sugar. Various wines and beers were available, but
    aside from an Ommegang dubbel not too interesting to me.

    The other representative of the frequent-flyer community
    was gfowler-ord-1k, the rest of the guests drawing from
    jan_AZ's wide circle of real-life (!) friends and colleagues
    and neighbors.

    The chatting, eating, and drinking went on until around
    midnight, when every suddenly realized that they had to do
    something in the morning or something.

    After the party we decided to settle our stomachs with an
    order from In'n'Out (I had a two by meat animal style).

    Got to the hotel before midnight; the bed turned out to be
    quite comfy, and I got a very good sleep.
  3. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Breakfast buffet was unspectacular but extremely abundant.
    An oddity: fresh and canned orange segments were available,
    and the canned tasted better. Another oddity: a fresh, very
    garlicky, very spicy salsa to go with the factory scrambled

    TW1 was scheduled to pick me up for lunch, but not having
    had enough calories (right) for breakfast, I used my coupons
    for a couple of Kilt Lifters at the bar.

    We went down the way to see what the Chinese Cultural Center
    had to offer besides the Golden Buddha (the place where the
    guides and the hotels steer people). Lao Ching Hing is a
    similar storefront about 5 doors down: a very different
    menu, though, much more northerly in names at least but not
    in reality.

    Shanghai noodles were very salty lo mein with substantial
    quantities of slivered pork sauteed with tons of soy sauce.
    Not bad, but I was sort of hoping for something along the
    lines of Peking noodles, or at least different in some way
    from Cantonese noodles.

    Crispy duck, a very generous portion, was extremely salty,
    otherwise decent - semi-crispy, good poultry flavor, not
    rancid (sometimes a problem in restaurants that don't sell
    much of the stuff).

    I'd ordered Shanghai small steamed buns as an appetizer.
    Consistent with most of the reviews out on the Web, these
    came out last. A properly thinnish wrapper, but each one
    had been broached, so whatever juice we'd hoped for had
    long since run away. The pork filling was very bland,
    partially fixed by a mixture of ginger soy and vinegar,
    or perhaps ginger vinegar and soy, that came on the side.

    A big bowl of rice came unordered; as the duck was so salty,
    it was touched (sealing the $1.50 upcharge).

    On the whole, not unpleasant, but nothing to justify a
    soon return visit.
  4. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    TW1 dropped me off at the airport with the advice that I
    should stand by for one of the earlier flights for reasons
    elucidated below.

    US 241 PHX LAS 1850 1957 319 1A
    was 613 PHX LAS 2250 2351 320 2D

    I had ressies for very cheap at El Cortez, but TW1 had a
    better offer: the Tuscany for free, plus I could take
    advantage of his bargain car rental, which was under $100
    for two full weeks of travel. Unfortunately, coordination
    was imperfect, and I needed the segment ($42) on US Air.
    We agreed that I'd fly, and he would drive, and we'd meet
    again that evening. My booked flight would get me in mighty
    late, and there were a couple earlier ones that I could
    take, only the numbers were fluctuating wildly. There was a
    midafternoon one showing F9, but it appears to have been a
    phantom, as when I talked to an agent, she couldn't see
    anything. Everything else was F0, and a couple were Y0 as
    well. I listed for a late afternoon flight but didn't get
    on, but oddly got on the 7 pm flight, which had been zeroed
    out all day. The rather jolly gate agent told me I was
    extremely lucky when she handed me my boarding pass for 1A,
    which on this aircraft had exemplary legroom owing to a
    bulkhead cutout.

    My seatmate spent much of the flight trying to convince me
    of the superiority of his secret blackjack card-counting
    method. I was happy when the plane landed.

    I took the bus to Flamingo and walked the mile or so
    westward to the casino. Where they couldn't find the

    Not a biggie, there was wi-fi in the lobby, so I just read
    MiPo and FT for half an hour until TW1 showed up ... and
    encountered a similar problem checking in, but as the res
    was in his name it was remediable. We got a very large
    square room - I wondered about the best availableness of it,
    but whatever, it was comfy enough and not unattractive in a
    dated sort of way, and we weren't spending much time there.

    In fact, we hustled out of there at the earliest opportunity
    - headed for a whisky bar he knew and liked, the Freakin'
    Frog, right by UNLV and more importantly the In'n'Out.
    Unfortunately, the whisky bar part was closed, but the beer
    bar part was operating, so we sillily decided to stay. TW
    ordered several peculiarities from the 1000-strong list only
    to find them all out. The bartender offered a tour of the
    cooler, which TW and some guy down the bar accepted; he came
    back with Ichtigem, a Belgian oude bruin monstrosity that to
    me tastes like spoiled cider mixed with Witbier - i.e., I
    don't like it at all. This is a bottle that you can get for
    E1 or 2 in Belgium, but we're not in Belgium, so the place
    took full advantage and charged an extortionate price (not
    listed on the menu nor discussed before the purchase), I
    forget, something like $16.

    More cautious, I got a pint of Anchor Liberty ale for $6 or
    so; this was its usual smooth, moderately bitter, lovely
    self, and I soon had another of the same.

    For a very cheap price (about the same as PBR) they were
    offering the Newcastle Winter IPA on tap, so we asked for a
    taste, which was graciously granted. TW had said that he
    was inclined to try it just for the price, but after one
    taste, we decided that this thin, watery, sugary slop would
    have been a disappointment even at the $2 or 3 it was
    offered at.

    Being a little hungry, I ordered a bowl of the famed
    Freakin' chili, which turned out to be a thin ground beef
    stew with lots of habanero heat, a disconcerting lack of
    cumin, and a strange fenugreeky-fake mapley aspect that the
    bartender/cook attributed to the use of maple smoked bacon.
    "Most people don't pick that up," he said in (mock?) surprise.
    The fresh-fried tortilla wedges were by far the best part
    of the dish. To get my taste buds back in order, I got a
    pint of Angry Orchard crisp apple cider, which, as it turns
    out, is pleasant, moderately alcoholic, well crafted, with
    no trace of anger in it, and a product of Sam Adams.

    Leery of spending way too much money and somewhat
    unfulfilled by the menu, we took a remedial trip to the
    In'n'Out, whose honest burgers were welcome.

    Back to the hotel not too late.
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  5. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    The first business of the day was an investigation of the
    Pinball Hall of Fame, right opposite the site of the late
    lamented Liberace Museum; here dozens of machines have been
    restored to playing condition and enjoyable mostly at the
    same prices as when they had originally come out, which
    means that a dollar potentially could yield vast amounts
    of amusement for children of the '50s or '60s. I played
    a few games on a '60s machine and was satisfied and then
    wandered the floor for a while.

    I found TW1 playing a machine of his vintage called Twilight
    Zone, on which he somehow had managed to rack up huge numbers
    of free games; he was getting kind of bored by the time I
    discovered him, and he allowed me to play a while, which as
    I never figured the game out, and it was dimly lit, and I
    though possessing a supple wrist have no talent for this
    activity, severely depleted the free games, upon which he
    took over again and lost the rest of them.

    Anyhow it was time to head to Lotus of Siam, a much-touted
    downtown restaurant with a fabled wine list. I am told it
    has much expanded recently, taking over adjacent space
    formerly occupied by such dodgy operations as a wig shop.

    I believe the kitchen at least at lunch feels the pressure
    from the expansion. Each dish showed promise, but all but
    one had at least one fatal flaw.

    We asked for som tum "medium to hot"; it was a very nice
    balanced presentation, the mango just green enough, the
    peanuts just roasty enough, the juice just sweet and sour
    enough. Problem was there was no discernible heat in the
    dish at all. This was remediable by the hot tray's very
    nice toasted chile flakes (also available but too salty
    for me - peppers in vinegar; peppers in fish sauce; salty
    pepper jam).

    TW1 said he wanted something from the grill, so I asked for
    one of the fusionish "chef's specialties," char-broiled beef
    with penang sauce - this came as a better-than-Sizzler-not-
    so-good-as-Longhorn steak served over a pleasant but way
    underseasoned brown curry. It might have been good with a
    better steak or a more flavory sauce but as it was was a bit
    of a belly filler.

    Not so much so as the spicy seafood spaghetti, though; this
    was claimed by the menu to be made of egg noodles; what came
    was thin spaghetti of not a high order, somewhat limp, with
    scallops (lousy, as scallops tend to be these days), shrimp
    (good), squid (good), and surimi (unconscionable). The sauce
    this time was okay, but the entire package a disappointment.

    Instead of dessert we ordered the appetizer of Issan sour
    sausage, which was merguez-like with a livery undertone, and
    I liked it pretty well, especially with bites of the onion
    and serrano that were served with.

    Oddly, at this point we were hungry again, and TW1 ordered
    a dish of coconut ice cream, at which to join him I asked
    for the sticky rice with mango hold the mango - this came
    napped with an insufficient amount of thin coconut cream
    somewhat sweetened with ordinary (not palm) sugar: it was
    not sweet enough, nor salty enough, nor coconutty enough.

    All in all the food was decent but no better than any Thai
    restaurant I have visited on the east coast in the last five
    years or any Thai restaurant I have visited in Asia ever.

    St. Urbanshof Ockfener Bockstein Kabinett 2010 was a joy,
    though, and not at all overpriced. Roses on the nose,
    nicely acid, tropical fruity pineapply, just the right
    amount of sweetness.

    We went off to the new performing arts center downtown to
    hear Duncan Sheik - of whom TW1 is fond - and Suzanne Vega
    - whom I find intriguing - in the upstairs cabaret.

    The actual performance venues, way far from the parking
    garage, are kind of hard to find, something that I presume
    will be remedied as the facility finds its way. We
    eventually found our way, along with bevies of other
    befuddled patrons.

    It's pretty big, for a cabaret, with floor seating with
    meal and drink service and balcony seating with abbreviated
    catering. TW1 got us a table on the floor, not cheap: it
    was ideally situated, halfway back and in the center. I
    don't like sitting in front - it's distracting and loud -,
    and I appreciate the thoughtfulness of those who get me
    concert tickets not too close to the stage (baseball is a
    different kettle of fish, as if I'm far back I don't stand
    a chance of seeing what's going on: ergo spring training
    and minor league parks, as I can't afford box seats for the
    bigs). I think they could have done with less amplification
    - but then I am used to gentler sounds, and in truth the
    balance was good.

    Both artists are probably appreciated for their poetry and
    the moody beauty of their music; though their voices are
    enjoyable I don't think that that's the notable strength
    of either of them.

    Duncan started with a fairly short set, followed by a very
    short set by Suzanne; then they combined to present a
    preview of a musical they are writing together based on the
    career of Carson McCullers - esoteric stuff. I think the
    universal feeling among the audience was that the show was
    too short.

    I spied Maker's on the menu for a reasonable $8. The pour
    was substantially bigger than normal, and I thought that was
    terrific; so I had another one - paradoxical I know, but if
    it had been a bad bargain, I'd have stuck to the one. When
    the bill came there was this unannounced "rocks charge" of
    $3 a drink, which I disputed. Apparently, you are charged
    extra for not taking rocks, as the bartender feels obligated
    to give a bigger pour. I disputed this; it was apparently
    taken off the bill - I hope so, as I was going to leave the
    same amount anyway, and if it wasn't taken off, the waitress
    wasn't getting a tip. Anyone know whom to complain about
    this? I'm going to write to the Las Vegas tourism board for

    We stuck around for the CD sale and autograph session, and
    I took a photo of TW1 with Duncan, which now resides on
    TW1's FB page.
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  6. sobore
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    sobore Gold Member

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    Did someone say 'Liberace Museum' ?:)
  7. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    It's gone :(
  8. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    After the event TW1 dropped me off at the airport. A
    mess at security, queues every which way going nowhere.
    At some point they got tired of the lines not moving and
    opened another lane, which led to a weave that broke down
    behind me, as two people down the way exchanged hot words
    and apparently nearly got into a fistfight. The procedure
    seemed slower than at other airports, and a Sierra Nevada
    at the PC was most welcome.

    UA1255 LAS ORD 2341 0508 739 2B

    The captain announced (the first of several times I have
    heard this) that the flight was operated and served by proud
    Continental employees under United management. The employees
    were too proud, as it turns out, to serve, and worked to
    rule; a pity as I couldn't sleep, even with the aid of
    drugs, in the horrid Continental seats.

    As the next leg was also in the low Bs, near where we
    docked, I had an hour at the club, where catering was
    perfunctory to say the least. No solid food except for a
    scanty display of sad-looking fruit.

    UA1420 ORD BOS 0635 0943 738 2B

    This also Continental crew was considerably less grumpy,
    almost pleasant, even as they served a pretty bad breakfast
    sandwich - a hardish English muffin surrounding an
    altogether too thin slice of hamoid substance ("how is the
    food?" "terrible - and the portions are so small"), a
    splash of gooshy process cheese food, and an appalling
    egg puck. This was balanced by a decent fruit cup and a
    bowl of horrendous moldy-berry yogurt.

    We landed, as I recall, a bit late, not a big deal, as I
    had plenty of time to kill before my afternoon meeting.

    The price at Embassy Suites Waltham had been quite
    advantageous, but getting there without a car is not easy.
    Luckily, the hotel offers free shuttle service within a
    3-mile radius, which frees public transport users from the
    infrequent and slow 70 bus and allows access to the Waltham
    rail station. Unluckily, while I was there, the trains were
    not running. At the hotel I was issued a pleasant nothing
    special suite that reminded me very much of the Doubletree
    Phoenix (not a big surprise, as this property used to be
    one of those).
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  9. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Tempo, the well-known restaurant with the well-known
    half-price wine on whatever this day was, Monday or Tuesday,
    is just outside the allowable radius, so my buddy Link
    picked me up at the hotel (hard to find by GPS). Waltham has
    evolved over the decades into a mini food capital, and this
    is one of dozens of worthy eateries that have sprung up
    since a couple top-notch Italians set the pace in the '70s,
    and you can find whatever you want on Moody Street.

    We started with the Dogfish Head 60 minute IPA, which in my
    state of degraded tastebuds is just on the borderline of too
    hoppy (I used to like the 90), followed by Fogdog Pinot Noir
    (Sonoma Coast) 08, which despite a rather surprising nose of
    roses and violets settled down into your typical cherries
    and berries Pinot, with a pleasant softness and a modest
    moderate-length berry and vanilla finish.

    I asked if the fried calamari came with tentacles and upon
    receiving an affirmative ordered a plate - standard but
    comforting and good. The Rhode Island-style garnish of
    hot cherry peppers went well with the beer; a dip of saus
    prik meant perhaps to fusionize the dish was kind of silly;
    I used it as a palatabilizer so I could eat some of the
    veggie garnish, which I dimly recall to be romaine, carrot
    curls, and maybe turnip.

    I had boneless short ribs, asking for the fattiest available
    serving; what came was moderately fat chuck meat, possibly
    from near the short rib, tasty and tender. It has been years
    since I've encountered real undeniable short rib with the
    (tasty and interesting when stewed) membrane on. This came
    with diced mushrooms in demi-glace, pretty good; gnocchi,
    nasty and heavy; and crisp-tender green beans.

    Link's duck two ways were the canonic seared breast medium
    (I'd have asked for it rare rare) and undersalted "confit";
    bok choy and a quite intense and tasty mushroom risotto on
    the side.

    No room for dessert, and as the meal had crept into the
    tabooed three figures, it was just as well.

    Link got me to the hotel in time for me to get a blessed
    full night's sleep. The bed was pretty comfortable, but I
    had to call to get them install a clock in the room: imagine
    a hotel room with no clock.

    The train was still not running next day, and public trans
    inbound is even slower and less reliable than coming out,
    so I had to get up way early.

    No problems on this trip, and security was reasonably
    pleasant and efficient, the way it should always be, and I
    had plenty of time to gorge on bananas (need to watch my
    potash) at the club.

    Continued here.
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