warm places (MKK, LAS)

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  1. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    UA 703 JFK LAX 1130 1445 752 5B was 9C
    [this was back when P.S. was P.S.]
    Well, for some reason I was put out of my most expansive
    seat and put in a slightly less good but still fine one.
    lili was in 9A, and I'd thought that trading 9C for 9B was
    going to be a snap, but 5B for 9B, not so much. In fact,
    I tried, but the guy smugly said that as that was the best
    seat on the plane, no go. The normal solution, to get 5A
    to trade up to 9A, didn't work, because 5A, a very nervous
    but otherwise agreeable Asianish woman, pled claustrophobia
    and didn't want to move out of the first row of the cabin.
    She proved to be a quiet and generally all right seatmate,
    and anyway the headwinds were not so bad, so it was a pretty
    short flight.

    FEATURED WINES

    White wine
    Round Hill Chardonnay 2010, California
    California's style of Chardonnay emphasizes the toasty
    character of oak barrels and rich buttery notes, as well
    as hints of apple and peach.

    Red wine
    Canyon Road Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, California
    A sleek, mild version of Cabernet, Canyon Road is plenty
    rich, but less over-the-top than some of its California
    colleagues. [Poor Doug Frost, having to make believe a
    sow's ear is a silk purse.]

    TO BEGIN

    Chilled appetizer

    Fresh seasonal greens - tomatoes, cucumbers and croutons
    with buttermilk ranch dressing

    Assorted dinner rolls and garlic bread

    MAIN COURSE

    Grilled pork chop - green peppercorn sauce, shiitake
    mushroom bread pudding, white asparagus and broccolini

    Osso buco-style breast of chicken - mixed mushroom ragout,
    garlic polenta cake and broccolini

    Spinach cannelloni - four-cheese sauce and roasted tomatoes
    with Parmesan cheese

    TO FINISH

    Dessert ice cream with your choice of toppings

    Light snacks are available at any time following the meal
    service. Please help yourself or ask a flight attendant for
    today's selection.

    The pork chop was a dry woefulness, the sauce, as you would
    expect, acrid and varnishy. Bread pudding is a kind of neat
    thing except if you put wrinkled mushrooms in it. The
    fancy vegetables were shreds that had seen better days. They
    were all green.

    The red wine was what you expect - $5 stuff made for people
    who would not be above mixing it with Coke or Sprite.
     
  2. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    UA 107 LAX HNL 1750 2123 753 2EF

    lili and I were reunited for this flight, which was
    serviced by one of those former Continental aircraft whose
    seats I find seriously uncomfortable; they've since been
    refitted with these beds that are not substantially nicer
    but at least let you lie flat. Anyhow, this flight was
    unimpressive and pointed up the fact that first class isn't
    much to crow about any more.

    Hotels were really out of sensible range, but she'd found a
    Best Western right by the airport for under $150 - it has a
    poor reputation for highway noise and general seediness, but
    the Internet says that if you ask for a room out back, they
    will try to accommodate you, and sleep will be possible. And
    so it was. Actually, the room was quite a bit nicer than we
    were led to fear. Breakfast was packaged breads and instant
    coffee. The shuttle from the airport was timely and fine,
    but the one back there got into an accident in the parking
    lot - glass and metal shards all over the place; eventually
    they found another bus that parked a ways off, and we hiked
    through the accident site and got on on the street.

    We got to the Island Air counter over an hour early, the
    second party in line. The first couple, obviously prepared
    for a lengthy camping expedition, had lots of stuff, which
    they were frantically rearranging in an effort to minimize
    baggage charges. As it turns out, the staff, when they
    arrived, started off really strict, reading everyone the
    riot act, and then were quite helpful, giving people tips on
    how to get around the more onerous rules.

    WP 303 HNL MKK 0930 0955 DH8 7AB

    The Interisland Terminal is just a warehouse with a bunch
    of doors. There's a coffee and donut stand and restrooms in
    the gate area, not much else that I can recall. Upstairs,
    after you return to Honolulu, there are snack bars and
    souvenir shops and stuff like that. Anyhow, you walk out
    on the concrete to your rather weatherbeaten aircraft,
    say hi to your crew (impossibly young-looking), and take
    your seat in the wayback. I am not accustomed to the
    wayback, but it doesn't matter, as in this aircraft every
    seat feels like the wayback. It's the same kind of plane
    that US Air flies to Williamsport, so I'm quite accustomed
    to it by now.

    A gorgeous 20-minute flight over the Pacific.

    There to greet us was the lady from whom we'd arranged
    B&B accommodations - a psychologist and probably leftover
    hippie named Nita, who shepherded us through the difficult [Bogart]
    procedure of renting a car (mostly involving waiting for
    the agent to show up) and driving home (quite a bit more
    involved, as though the distances are not great, the roads
    offer many more twisty turnies than the maps tend to show.

    Our accommodations included the run of a pretty nice (I'd
    say 1970s or so) two-bedroom house with a quite well
    appointed, equipped, and provisioned kitchen, a good thing
    as the restaurant prices here are pretty high for what you
    get. As what was on offer was mostly along the lines of
    flaxseed and quinoa and sprouts and organic goat cheese,
    we generally provided our own food, which tended to run
    50% more than on Oahu.
     
  3. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Meals on Molokai:

    Molokai Burger - supposedly the best burger in town, and
    maybe it was, as the meats at the grocery all had this
    long-frozen aspect, so my own didn't qualify. A sort of
    meat-loafy substance, more like what you expect in Asia
    though pink in the middle. Rather sad fixings, as though
    they had been imported a long time ago from the mainland.
    Decent fries.

    Kualapuu Cook House is the fancy place on the island, where
    you'd take a Friday night date, and it's a shack. The more
    negative Web comments emphasize that, the lizard droppings
    all over the place, the weird decaying smell (the entire
    equatorial region smells like this, get over it). The more
    positive ones emphasize the smiling (but slow) service, the
    large (but greasy) portions. Everyone mentions the prices,
    which are between high and bizarre. lili of course had a
    burger, which was standard if a bit puckish. It was also
    not very big, as you would expect at $4, where frozen ground
    beef at the grocery down the way runs $10 a pound. A pork
    katsu with rice and mac salad was filling, crunchy, and gooey
    in a pleasantly infantile balance of flavors and textures but
    cost three times as much. We must have come here twice,
    because I recall two other dishes that we could not possibly
    have gotten anywhere else on the island - panko-coated fried
    shrimp (good with rice) and teriyaki kalbi ribs (even better
    with rice).

    Roast Pork House - much touted, this offers a respectable
    version of Chinese-style roast pork, a bit on the salty
    side, though otherwise underseasoned (I'd have liked a
    dusting of five-spice or a rub of garlic or something),
    complete with bones (not too objectionable) and fat and skin
    (not objectionable at all).

    At home - mostly breads and eggs and things like that; we
    didn't do much meat, because even though we asked and got
    Nita's permission to cook it there, we got a whisper of an
    impression that she'd rather we didn't. Cheese, as though
    it's semi-perishable, it isn't expensive to airlift. And
    lots of fruit of the normal sort, bananas and pineabpples
    being the most tropical and exotic.

    Things to see:

    Papohaku Beach and various similar on the west coast - most
    of these beaches are just lava rocks, sometimes with a
    sprinkling of sand to prevent you from cutting your feet if
    you were foolish enough not to have footgear. The views,
    though, are spectacular, each one, though they face mostly
    westward to Oahu, slightly different. One could just sit
    here and stare mesmerized at the waves all day, and I'm sure
    that back in the day, scores of bedruggled young people must
    have done just that.

    Kapukahehu, also on the west, is a quite different kind of
    beach. Pristine white sand as beautiful as I've ever seen,
    and it's got to be a mile long, with a couple houses that
    you can see but otherwise pristine. We went there one day
    before school was out and had the place to ourselves for an
    hour or two before the kids started coming in droves to
    smoke and do whatever kids do. They left us alone, but
    presently it seemed to be time to cede the battleground,
    so we greeted them and left.
     
  4. violist
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    We didn't have the dosh or the buttstrength to take one of
    the donkey tours down to Father Damien's leper colony (the
    washed-out trails having been repaired and supposedly
    reasonably safe even for elderly out-of-shape tourists) and
    instead went up to Kalaupapa Overlook, a mile or two past
    our place. It's worth the 50c worth of gas to get there,
    and the views of the colony and the cliffs off to the east
    (you can see some of them if you lean over and the angle
    is right) are impressive. The breeze is nice, and when the
    clouds blow over, that too has its appeal.

    Halawa Valley might be the most beautiful place on earth.
    It's at the end of the grandly named Route 450, which
    changes from a well-engineered highway (now being widened,
    it looks like, to 4 lanes in places) to a bumpyish track
    that is wide enough for about 1 1/2 cars, as it wanders
    through hippie havens and real estate agents' dreams, down
    by the oceanside, up and down mountains and through abandoned
    or at least neglected hillside farms. And then you head down
    into the valley, and it is as though you'd landed on a
    different planet. Despite there being dozens of other
    solitude seekers around, you really do feel at the end of
    the world. When it's time to go, hours later, you join the
    end of a procession of cars, most of whose drivers are scared
    out of their wits by the hairpin turns and unguardrailed
    hundred foot drops and who couldn't drive their way out of a
    paper bag in Des Moines anyway. And so back to real life and
    the more civilized attractions.

    Purdy's macadamia farm is an eccentric little place of the
    sort I enjoy, some old guy who has coerced his descendants
    and in-laws into sticking it to the man for as long as
    possible, producing product that is so superior to Mauna Loa
    and similar that I can't describe. The crisp is so much
    crisper, the nuttiness more nutty, the oiliness richer. Plus
    you get to try to shell your own, just to prove to yourself
    how tough the job is (it's not, the shells are less hard than
    Brazils, say). The inevitable result is that you buy a bunch
    of bags of minimally-processed nuts or maximally processed
    candies depending on your predilections. By the way, raw
    ones, as with most nuts, are bland; likewise unsalted. Get
    roasted salted and you'll be happy.

    The old sugar mill and Molokai Museum, also just a couple
    miles from what turned out to be a very centrally located
    base, was substantially more interesting than descriptions
    would have it. The mill itself is still in a semi-ruined
    state, with some interpretive signs but mostly as it was
    just after reclamation from the elements. The museum and its
    video introduction to the island really should be your first
    stop right out of the airport - it concisely explains a lot
    about island history, especially relating to the colony
    below, that you would otherwise spend a lot of time piecing
    together from scattered sources.
     
  5. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    WP 213 MKK HNL 1413 1440 DH8 7EF

    We probably should have gotten the car for an extra
    3 hours, but we were frugal and just dropped the
    thing off on time and hung around the airport for
    a while, figuring we could sleep just as well there
    as anyplace else. That was optimistic and wrong.
    Boredom set in rapidly, and the round concrete things
    provided for our bottomly comfort didn't do the trick at
    all. The snack bar offered one-ounce portions of chips
    for what one would pay for a pound on the mainland,
    double-price candy bars, and Spam sandwiches and several
    variations on Spam musubi. One imagines these little old
    ladies in Honolulu bringing their Spam products every
    morning at 8 to the Interisland Terminal and loading them
    in the back of our airplane, anticipating huge profits
    from selling them in the Molokai airport.

    Another beautiful day for flying, and despite the noisy
    ramshackleness of the airplane and the uncomfort of the
    seats, we wished that the trip weren't just 20 min long.

    The bus ride to the Sheraton took almost 5 times that.
    At least we got a wonderful room with a spectacular view.
    We went down to the infinity pool for our free drinks (a
    perk of lili's status) - the pool was underwhelming,
    and the atmosphere was sort of messed up by a crowd of
    local youth come in to enjoy it unauthorizedly - which
    caused conflict between the employees in charge of
    enforcing the exclusivity and the other employees who
    were obviously friends of the locals. This issue was
    solomonically fixed by closing the pool to everybody.

    UA 106 HNL LAX 1334 2100 753 4AB

    The late morning bus takes much less time than the
    afternoon rush bus, and we got to the airport in plenty
    of time to enjoy the club and its yummy Kona Longboard
    and Canyon Road Cabernet, especially delicious as it was
    free. And the wireless was working, yay.

    The flight was the mirror image of the previous one -
    supremely mediocre and thus reasonably enjoyable. I think
    they fed us a meal. I'm pretty sure I passed on it.

    UA912 LAX JFK 2240 0654 752 9AB

    This time we got the good seats next to each other.
    Instead of planning our next adventure, we just subsided
    into a happily exhausted sleep, and next thing we knew,
    New York City.
     
  6. violist
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    UA1525 EWR LAS 1050 1340 739 4E

    The DirecTV was welcome on the longish flight, with the
    friendlily cynical face of Bourdain making occasional
    appearance and the somewhat less amusing Zimmern showing up
    even more often, but given the absence of Channel 9, beggars
    can't be choosers. Speaking of not choosing, the friendly
    crew offered the unfriendly choice of chicken breast over
    salad or chicken burrito. I pulled a face and said that I
    didn't much care what I got, just so they saved a cookie and
    some Courvoisier for me later on. What I got: a cup of
    pretty decent mushroom soup and a burrito, most of which,
    though salty, was edible. The side salad is usually a pretty
    fair indicator of the state of an airline: this one's greens
    had dry ends but no rotten spots (though financial condition
    is dicey, no disasters on the horizon), but the extra touch,
    usually a handful of olives or three bocconcini, in palmier
    days adding a shrimp and even some roast red peppers, was
    one domestic olive hidden underneath some of the less nice
    lettuce (uh oh, austerity is on the way). The soup went well
    with Courvoisier; the burrito, with its undertone of green
    pepper to try to mask the bland saltiness, not so much.
    There were only two of the minis in the cabin, but a
    friendly FA went into the wayback and got the other two out
    of the aft catering to go with the cookie, which was white
    chocolate cranberry oatmeal. No Channel 9, as I understand
    none of this type of aircraft was equipped, but there was
    laptop power. Shortly after plugging in, my computer power
    supply went kablooey; it was almost time and almost
    inevitable on this trip from the wear and tear, but I like
    to think that St. Jeff is frowning at me from above.

    We landed bumpily but on time, and I had time to research
    computer parts stores before heading out - got the names
    and numbers of various places, all with different and not
    comparable equipment, so I figured I'd just find one and
    go with what they had. Out in the heat of level zero (for
    which I can't find the sign any more) ... aw, shucks, it
    was about 50F.

    The plan: depending on which bus came, I'd either go to the
    electronics store or the hotel - 108: hotel; 109: store.

    I ended up at the Hilton Grand Vacations Club, Paradise Rd.,
    near the convention center, and was given a room that would
    have shamed a Hampton (see below, correct that, Rodeway); I
    probably should have rejected it immediately but was tired
    and used the bed and the bathroom before complaining.

    Anyhow, the desk guy had been like fresh out of the Night of
    the Living Dead, so probably pretty unresponsive.

    A little room that could have been attractive but wasn't,
    slightly smaller than your usual Hampton room, slightly
    dingier as well, which is sad.

    The carpet, offputting in itself, smelled sort of funny
    and had debris on it; the toilet was singularly inefficient
    and took three flushes to mostly empty (eventually I
    opened the tank and adjusted the float level to maximum,
    and all was, though not well, at least not terminal).

    As there were socks to wash, the fact that the sink stopper
    didn't stop was especially galling. This was fixed in a
    manner that involved stuffing the drain and maybe deforming
    the mechanism a wee bit, which I sort of hope I restored to
    its original inutility after. The tub, by contrast or
    correction, drained only balkily. Partially used amenities.
    I forgive conditioner, because in my experience conditioner
    is rarely used so probably rarely checked. There was not
    enough shampoo left to get much of a lather up, so that was
    augmented with soap, which was okay with me actually as my
    hair is still kind of oily.

    The space itself wasn't bad other than the darkness and
    '80sness of the decor.

    Having struggled with the plumbing, I lay down to relax a
    little before going on my mission and cast about for a bit
    of amusement, when I had the pleasure of finding that the
    TV didn't work. When I turned it on, an error message signed
    iomega (remember the Zip drive?) came on, claiming that some
    device was going to reboot (out of curiosity later in the
    evening I waited around an hour, and it didn't).

    Being bored and needing that power supply, I walked a half
    mile east to Maryland to look for the various office and
    electronic stores said to be on that distinguished road.
    Lo and behold, shortly after passing a violin shop (it
    looked unmanned, so I didn't go in but might next time),
    I found a Radio Shack, where the clerk was attentive,
    helpful, and cajoled me into doing a 2-year extended
    warranty on the house brand universal AC/auto/air power
    supply, which looked to me like one of the older iGo
    models. I was a relatively happy boy. On the way back I
    walked past a couple of hookers, neither of whom
    propositioned me. I felt very old.
     
  7. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Dinnertime: the facility has notoriously poor food options,
    so I reserved at Pamplemousse, a storied eatery beloved of
    the likes of Bobby Darin, who apparently suggested the name
    after his favorite fruit. Beforehand, I did a bunch of
    reading and sort of knew what to expect, well, maybe not,
    as the words seemed very mixed so the Zagat number of 28 was
    a bit strange.

    The best thing is that it's only a couple blocks from where
    I was staying. I arrived right on time and was promptly
    ushered to a table by the restroom entrance and directly
    under the Muzak loudspeaker. I didn't complain, rather
    liking the dark corner aspect (and only a couple times were
    the restrooms used), and after the water boy came over and
    was rejected, my waiter tripped up to the table. Was this
    the famous Kiefer, so reviled by the Internet crowd? No, his
    name was Perry, and other than his odd way of stomping
    around and the fact that he had to go back to the kitchen to
    check when a neighboring couple asked what a tournedos was
    turned out to be perfectly pleasant.

    Kiefer eventually showed up, wearing far too much cologne
    but otherwise harmless, and to be fair to him, he stayed
    outside noseshot when food was on the table.

    From the Internet reviews I had steeled myself to numerous
    iterations of Edith Piaf whining about her terrible life; I
    was instead submitted to an hour and half tape of Broadway
    favorites; in one of his essays, Seymour Britchky pokes fun
    at restaurants that attempt classiness by piping in music
    such as "Casta Diva on muted trumpet" - I'd not experienced
    quite this type of joint. Anyhow his experience wasn't quite
    congruent - here it's Loverly on muted trumpet.

    Not being into baskets of crudites, I warned Perry that I
    would reject any such that came by, despite their being on
    the prix fixe. Shortly afterward, Kiefer came by tut-tutting
    about how I'd not gotten my crudites. Come on people, I'm a
    regular enough guy.

    I started with escargots in garlic, a slightly unorthodox
    version, the snails fresh out of the can (not rinsed, bad)
    in beurre blanc with a vast amount of minced garlic (not
    bad); contrary to what the reviews say, this was fresh, not
    from a jar. The menu had promised a touch of Pernod. I can
    assure you that if there was a touch, it was of the outside
    of the bottle. As I didn't see an appropriate wine by the
    glass for this course, I had a Heineken dark, which went
    okay, with its maltiness and almost total absence of hops.

    Next course: pamplemousse granita with Champagne floater -
    I like grapefruit, and I sort of like Champagne. In this
    case the frozen concoction seemed to be straight Ocean Spray
    Ruby Red cocktail (my friend TransWorldOne later suggested
    from my description perhaps Thirster Foodservice, but I
    pointed out that Thirster tastes better), the Champagne
    dubious and well outside my frame of reference.

    I got a glass of Radius Cabernet, for which on subsequent
    inspection of the bill it turns out they overcharged me a
    buck, meaning that I paid over glass for bottle, which makes
    me hopelessly stupid or them criminally avaricious or both.

    The five or six main courses included duck and other faves,
    but I went with a standby that nobody could possibly screw
    up, tournedos bleu - this was supposed to come with Perigord
    sauce (described on the menu as Cognac, demiglace, and
    truffles). I'd stake my reputation on that neither Cognac
    nor truffles nor for that matter a proper demiglace had ever
    come within spitting distance of this sauce, which tasted
    like diluted and thickened Maggi: a stickier version of the
    odious "au jus sauce"; luckily, it was on the side.

    Unluckily, the steak (a substantial portion, two filets of
    4 and 5 ounces) was way overdone. I brought this to Perry's
    attention, and he reported that he had told the cooks to
    make it very rare but was apprehensive that they hadn't done
    so. The meat was for me on the borderline of edible, so I
    successfully negotiated for a glass of Warre's Warrior in
    return for not sending the whole mess back. I did clumsy
    surgery on my food, eating all the red parts, and left about
    a burger's worth shredded on my plate.

    On the side: pretty good frites, though cooked in not the
    freshest or best of oils.

    My dessert was souffle au chocolat (25 minutes extra); it
    was appropriately puffy but not chocolaty enough; it was
    extremely firm, though the defects were remedied in part
    by a scoop of "homemade" vanilla ice cream and one of what
    Perry identified as "whipped chantilly." The remainder of
    the Radius Cabernet (which had been an impossibly full
    pour, surface tension being all that kept it from dumping
    when Perry brought it) actually went okay with the thing.

    He watched nervously as I tasted and delicately inquired
    how it was. I replied, "put it this way ... he may not know
    how to make a steak, but he makes a pretty good souffle."
    Perry laughed with relief.

    When the bill came, the Radius cost $1 more than the menu
    said. I just took $1 off the (formerly 20%) tip.

    Back to the hotel, where it turns out the bed was comfy,
    and - a big plus - the room reasonably quiet.
    ==
    I'd arranged to have lunch with TW1; we were at loose ends
    where to go, but I'd read about this fusion joint (guess
    what kind) called Komex Express in the north part of town.

    The house drink is decaf mango iced tea, free refills. I
    kind of liked it. Chips, salsa, and guac come on the table.
    All are fresh made and pretty decent.

    A "fusion tostada" topped with daeji gogi was a deep-fried
    rice cake topped with slaw, scallions, sweet soy dressing,
    and a bunch of Korean-style pork. I liked it; TW1 found the
    texture of the rice thing peculiar. The meat, we agreed,
    was quite good, better than the bulgogi, which we sampled in
    a pair of "fusion tacos," pretty much what you'd expect,
    standard Mexican-style presentation, standard Korean-style
    meat, rather tough and underseasoned.

    Topped this off with an order of fried wontons with pork and
    scallions; altogether it was plenty, as we had planned to
    try this foodbuzzy place at the end of the block called
    Dulce Donuts. We tried a couple of fried ones with and
    without the lurid pink frosting of the day. Without was way
    better, quite good, actually, whereas the pink stuff on the
    other obscured any flavor the donut may have had. I also had
    a Boston creme donut, ordinary though fresh and very soft;
    TW1 got a heart-shaped version of the same, covered in that
    pink goo, to share with his sweetie later.

    Before his meeting, he had just time to drive me to my next
    shelter, the Hampton near the airport.

    Unundead and friendly staff here, a nice contrast. Standard
    Hampton room, which is generally all I need, but it was
    arranged sideways, something I occasionally see and find
    peculiar. Oh, the TV didn't work here either. I tried a few
    things and then called engineering, who tried the same
    things and unplugged it, waited a few seconds, and then
    plugged it in. It came on fine. Sometimes you just have to
    reboot, he said. He also told me he had had trouble with
    this set before.
     
  8. violist
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    The closest foodery is the Village Pub, which (probably
    intentionally) looks like a hard-to-find speakeasy on the
    outside. It's really a family restaurant with - when I was
    there at prime time - a largely senior crowd with a couple
    or two celebrating Valentine's Day (why here?) and one
    notable preschooler running around. I got the steak and
    shrimp with sweet tater tots: the steak was done as ordered,
    tender and good-tasting but covered with this Montreal-type
    seasoning that caused the salt factor to grow to dangerous
    proportions. Shrimp, what should I have expected - five 40s
    butterflied and heavily coated with brown stuff that would
    have been decent if not quite so oversalted - like so much
    pub food, it must have been designed for the main purpose of
    causing beer to be sold. Doesn't seem to work with this
    crowd, as I heard orders for water and soda, no other beers
    but mine. The Ellis Island IPA ($2.50 here, $2 at the
    brewery, which is under the same ownership) was
    appropriately floral, not bitter at all; went down easily
    but didn't have enough character to make me go for more.
    I wish I'd been in more of a beery mood, as the place is
    within easy staggering distance of the Hampton.

    Good night, pleasant breakfast in a crowded lobby, short
    carb-induced nap, shuttle to the airport, where check-in
    took a minute, security (after three meaningless beeps) took
    a minute, the tram took a minute, and I was sort of sorry
    not to be thirsty at the club.
    ==
    UA 526 LAS IAD 1333 2055 752 3F

    Catering didn't load any red wine. This didn't affect me, as
    I generally hate the onboard red wine. The guy next, though,
    was not pleased. He punished the airline by requiring lots
    of water.

    The choices: chicken stromboli or chicken breast over salad.
    As usual when faced with two equally unpalatable choices I
    said I didn't care, which behavior was greatly praised by
    the FA taking my order. Later I heard them offering only
    the salad, so I guess I made one person happy. The salad
    was not awful, and its chicken was of that brined tenderness
    that I have come to expect. There was tomato bisque, pretty
    good but for some shardlike things that I thought must be
    underrehydrated onion or something but turned out to be
    potato slivers.

    The flight was fine, and they kept me in Courvoisier as
    long as they could (3 minis); to go with my cranberry
    white chocolate oatmeal cookie the FA offered a Jack, as
    the brandy was out. What came was a Jim, which was fine
    with me.
     
  9. violist
    Original Member

    violist Gold Member

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    Hampton Inn Dulles South: a good cheap joint for a mattress
    run; chatty young student driving the shuttle. He refused a
    tip; I admonished him, and he still refused, saying that the
    conversation was enough. I hope he gets his O.T. degree and a
    job before he loses his bright-eyed bushy-tailed enthusiasm.

    A very cheery check-in girl. I was beginning to wonder what
    planet I had alit on.

    The lobby is under construction and is very constricted. But
    how much time does one spend in a lobby. I got my room as
    far from the elevator as possible (my usual request) - it
    turned out to be an L-shaped thing wrapped around the fire
    stairs, which were used only once that I heard, probably by
    the night watch. Best bathroom of the trip.

    Breakfast was the usual Hampton thing but in a conference
    room because of the construction. Partway through an
    attendant came by handing out blueberries and strawberries,
    both of which were surprisingly good.

    --

    Lunch at Harry's Tap Room

    The place had two Virginia Cab Fs on offer, which the
    uberhot bartender allowed me to sample before buying:

    Prince Michel at $6 or 9 for a big pour - this was sort of
    like what you get for free at the airline club - sweet
    toffee and Concord jam on the nose, rather cloying to taste;

    Barboursville at $9 or 12 - semi-delicious, dryish, cherries
    and currants on nose and palate, good long finish.

    I got a beautiful burger done rare as ordered, substituting
    a rather spicy and unsweet slaw (good) for the carbier
    choices - getting hungry again thinking about it.
     
  10. violist
    Original Member

    violist Gold Member

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    Aloft Dulles North - a mixed-reputation place where hitherto
    I have had good luck with, but this time, well, read on.

    Another interesting shuttle driver, my age; we talked about
    second careers and second jobs and so on.

    Another very cheery check-in girl, who forgot to give me my
    drink coupon, easily remedied.

    After washing up and scanning the tube for a while, I alit
    at the bar and found a noisy gathering of attractive young
    folks - turns out it was someone's 40th birthday party. Why
    a bunch of affluent-looking professionals would choose the
    Aloft in the middle of nowhere for such a party I don't know
    but they seemed to be having a pretty good time. At the bar
    itself was a cluster of other people my age, perhaps older.

    The drink coupon was good for a signature cocktail, and the
    bartender said, what signature cocktail? I said, what do you
    have, and he countered with what do you drink. I confessed
    to Bourbon straight up with a water back, so that's what I
    got. I shouldn't have done it, but I ordered a pork chop,
    which turned out to be the world's saltiest, more the taste
    and texture of ham than a pork chop. They were out of the
    requested spicy peanut sauce so they substituted that odious
    sweet-sour stuff that you dip spring rolls into. Veg were
    broccoli, yellow carrots, and green beans. I substituted
    tater tots for the "potato medley." What can I say, it was
    food and nonpoisonous. I went back upstairs and after the
    e-mail and a few rounds of the travel channel went
    contentedly to bed at 0100 or a bit after.

    And then.

    0455 - the phone rang. I didn't pick up until too late.
    Checked the clock and reflected on whether I had to be
    anyplace at 0455, decided no. Turned over and thought no
    more of it. I was just getting back into that pleasant
    drowsy state when

    0510 (approximately) - the phone rang again. I was very
    unhappy. Called the front desk, who challenged me by saying
    that my room number was written down for a call (in effect
    telling me that I was lying). After a bit of a jawing at, the
    kid working promised he'd take care of it. I went horizontal
    again and was not yet drowsy when at

    0525 (approximately) - yes, you got it. I was really hopping
    mad this time and called again and let the kid have it with
    both barrels, composing the now-much-derided e-mail to the
    management in the process.

    By now Aloft hath murdered sleep, so I started an online
    chat with Starwood, which cut me off before I could even say
    anything; then another chat with Eva de S., who actually
    tried to mollify me and actually tried to call the desk
    (though in my current state I gave her the number of
    another hotel instead, sorry other hotel).

    Sometime in the 0700 range I heard someone at the door; when
    I went to open it, the person was gone, but there was an
    apology letter with 20- in food coupons. I don't want 20- in
    food coupons. I want this place to be out at least what a
    night's sleep would cost me, and as the MiPo thread has made
    it to page two of a Google search on the place, I guess I
    have my wish if I have dissuaded one person from booking.
    Aside: asking for my money back doesn't give me as much as
    you might think - this was my cheapest Starwood stay of the
    year and is likely to remain so, if I get charged, which I
    sort of doubt will happen; but I became an at least
    temporary fan of retributive justice this night.

    On checking out the lady recognized my room number as "you
    are the one who got the phantom wake-up calls." She tried to
    be pleasant, but I brushed her off though not too rudely,
    pointing out as I have done so many times that it was the
    third call that broke the camel's back. She tried to blame
    it on a glitch in the phone system. What I actually think
    happened.

    There's this story about the guy who was on the train from
    New York to Chicago who told the conductor in no uncertain
    terms that he must be wakened up in time to get off at
    Cleveland. Well, the inevitable happened, and he found
    himself in Chicago, so he found the conductor and gave him
    the what for. Afterward, the conductor mused to himself,
    I wonder what became of the guy I put off in Cleveland.

    Somebody didn't get their wakeup call. I hope they got
    their flight.
     
  11. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Lunch with my widowed b-i-l at Haandi at West Falls Church.
    First, let me tell you that the Washington Flyer is fine;
    but almost as fine if you make the schedule is the combo
    of the 981 and 950 Fairfax Connector buses, which costs
    half as much (1/3 with card) and takes only 5-10 min longer.
    This restaurant used to be my sister's favorite Indian
    years ago, and I try to commemorate her periodically by
    going back. Today there was a lunch buffet, no lunch
    specials, with the buffet costing not much more than the
    regular dishes, available on request, but tttt I don't like
    the way they're making the baingan bharta these days, so
    the buffet it was. Notably bad: zucchini curry (but then I
    tend to hate zucchini). Notably good: lamb kadhai, more or
    less what people are accustomed to as "balti." Notably
    weird: tandoori chicken dark meat, the pieces having had
    the fleshy parts carved out perhaps in anticipation of
    dinnertime tikka masala but thus looking as though someone
    had taken a big bite out of them. Everything else was
    pretty standard: decent chickpea salad, clove-driven
    chickpea curry, better than decent aloo saag, okay floor
    sweeping (ok, mixed vegetable) curry. Good kheer, but as
    I was short on pills I could eat only a couple tablespoons.
     
  12. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    Hilton Alexandria Mark Center - another mixed-reputation
    place but one that I have had consistent good luck with.

    A fairly warm welcome by a soft-spoken young gent, which
    along with my way of talking meant that neither of us could
    understand what the other was saying: a taste of my future,
    I guess.

    I was issued a standard-size room up on the top floor with
    a northerly view. It was mostly tidied up, pretty clean,
    but what is it about carpets in Hiltons? This one too had
    some odd debris that at least wasn't wet and didn't look
    organic. The notable feature was the quite tall ceiling,
    giving the space an amusingly almost cubic appearance.

    A Thai place called Illusions (scary) and an iteration of
    the local chain Clyde's (respectable) are within long walk
    distance, but it was howling out, windows rattling and a
    reported temperature of 28 (-2), so I retreated to the
    sillily named Finn & Porter, where I've had decent meals
    before. Normally I'd advise you to beware a place whose
    Website describes it as "jazzy and cool; hip and inviting";
    I knew the food was fine and don't feel for myself the
    need for those attributes and wouldn't miss their absence.

    I was given my choice of the inner room or the outer one
    (rather chilly because of the enormous tall windows similar
    to those in my room); I chose the latter for old times'
    sake; server Lula took good care of me.

    I was going to start off with an assortment of sushi, but
    I'd eaten recently so just cut to the chase and had the
    Duroc pork chop with watercress salad and seasonal veg
    over Tuscan white bean and Roma tomato salad. I ordered it
    medium-rare. It came with nice grill marks and medium-rare,
    close to a pound counting the bone, tender though unbrined
    and (sadly) lean. Its greens, though wilted by heat, were
    surprisingly good, dressed in a simple no-nonsense lemon
    vinaigrette. Alongside were fresh shoestring string beans
    done simply in butter, sweet and about perfect. Though the
    "Tuscan" salad was lacking in herbs (I would have liked
    oregano, basil, and/or rosemary) and could have used a
    glugg or two of olive oil, it was nicely seasoned otherwise.

    La Fleur Petrus 05 is on offer at $180 the bottle, for more
    affluent bargain seekers. I think it would have gone okay
    with the pork chop, but I wasn't in a fatal splurging mood.
    It would probably gone even better with a steak, which are
    said to be decent here. Instead I had the Barboursville
    Merlot 08, plummy with a few cherries, a decent wine,
    perhaps 1/8 as good for 1/5 the price. Toffee finish, went
    well with the chop but really dynamite with the white beans.

    For afters a glass of Shine Riesling (Heinz Eifel) 08 was
    nice, with lychee, pear, grapefruit on the nose, slightly
    off-dry, peculiar finish of wintergreen candy and pineapple,
    somewhat pleasant but no bargain at $7 a glass (i.e., glass
    for bottle) but on the other hand the only sweetish wine on
    the list aside from a couple Ports (Fonseca Bin 27 and
    Taylor Fladgate 10 and 20 tawnies).

    The next table within earshot was celebrating one of its
    kids' winning first place in the North American Irish Dance
    Championship. I listened to see if their jolliness at the
    end of the meal matched their jolliness at the beginning.
    It did.

    Back upstairs I discovered that the heating system was - a
    rarity - accurate and responsive. The bed was comfy.
     
  13. violist
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    violist Gold Member

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    In the morning: there was some celebratory event downstairs;
    the elevators, dicey in any case, were severely overtaxed.
    Other than a wait of 5-10 min (a long time for an elevator,
    but better outside than in) I was not inconvenienced.

    The breakfast buffet was the same as usual, decent fruit,
    bacon, and very fatty (me like) sausage. Greasy potatoes,
    powdery eggs. Oh, instead of the sausage gravy and biscuits,
    which I'd enjoyed on previous visits, they substituted hash,
    which I also like, though here it tasted more of salt than
    of meat and potatoes.

    No problem with the elevator going up - I think the Irish
    dance rush had just ended.

    The shuttle was late, and I asked the concierge where it
    was, and he said it had come and gone, which I knew wasn't
    so as I'd been there the whole time. I had anxieties that
    this really good stay might end on a sour note, but it
    didn't - the driver appeared a few minutes after my
    inquiry and apologized, saying he'd had to gas up.

    US2034 DCA BOS 1330 1451 320 3F

    Getting through to the US Air gate area was a snap, as
    it always is here. A minute in line, a minute through
    the scanner, out. I'm sure this will always obtain until
    the day when I am late and need the speed.

    An substantial crowd at the gate. Most of the pax, except
    the premium ones, seemed unfazed.

    My seat beckoned in a friendly manner.

    They no longer offered Courvoisier but at this point still
    had Glenlivet in stock.

    The flight was bumpy but painless. What was less painless
    was getting out to the Worcester area at the beginning of
    rush your. The Silver Line is free (inbound from the airport
    only) but crowded, and it dumps one off in the tunnel where
    one can transfer, still free, to the Red Line, except when
    it doesn't, and you are let off at street level across from
    the train station, and in the confusion you almost miss your
    train, which is, as it's early rush hour by now, getting on
    towards uncomfortably crowded.

    My conductor, with whose family I was staying, was there
    faithfully to pick me up: his group was doing the Einhorn
    Voices of Light, which was written as an accompaniment to
    a rather lurid and supposedly classic film The Passion of
    Joan of Arc, directed by someone named Dreyer, about whom
    one can say only that one wishes that he had stuck to
    making ice cream.

    Our vocal soloists were exemplary: exquisite Jean Danton,
    lovely Jaque Wilson, talented Bill Hite, and incomparable
    Robert Honeysucker. I don't think these adjectives are
    unwarranted. All of these are local luminaries, except for
    the Wilson girl, who was imported for some reason from
    California and at times sounded as though she were singing
    from there (she did better at the concert). The orchestra,
    led by moi, was pretty decent, the chorus fairly okay (did
    you know that Peter Schickele named his pickup group of
    singers the Okay Chorale)?

    Dress rehearsal was a disaster - we couldn't get the music
    coordinated with the visuals, and when the singers tried to
    fit in with the action (which they could see but we could
    not, as they had the freedom at rehearsal to turn back and
    look), that threw us off, and so on and so on. Continuing
    almost seemed not worth the effort. Eventually we got things
    timed out somewhat acceptably, or to the state where we were
    not going to be paralyzed with fear at the performance.

    Which, as often happens when the dress was awful, went pretty
    smoothly.

    EOT
     

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