Very excited to be traveling to Cape Town tomorrow.
I will be traveling on Turkish Airlines. Washington (IAD) to Istanbul (IST) and then on to CPT with a brief stop in JNB.
I am a little nervous about the carrier, but I am hoping for very good experience!
My journey begins tonight. I am renting a car at BWI — and I will return at IAD. Better and cheaper than a taxi!
March 19, 2013 No Comments
I think I know what a wine bore is. And I know I am sometimes a wine bore myself. But there is a new kind of wine bore who, to my mind at least, is a lot worse than the person who insists on reciting the 1855 classification of Bordeaux châteaux. This bore is the inverted snob.
Presented with a glass of 2008 Caymus Special Selection, she instructed me that nobody can tell the difference between a ten dollar wine and a fifty dollar one. (The wine she was holding actually cost quite a bit more than her upper limit, but I thought it wouldn’t be prudent to say so.) She then told me about a perfectly respectable (actually quite good) wine that Consumer Reports had told her was actually the best wine that money could buy. All the so-called connoisseurs were fools!
I resolved there and then to stock up on some perfectly acceptable wines (preferably endorsed by Consumer Reports!) and never to serve her my best again! I bought a case of Campo Viejo Rioja Reserva 2006 to serve during the holiday season.
It is a delicious wine – cherries and plums with hints of vanilla from the time spent in the wood. I loved it, and it was great value at $9.49! I don’t know whether it has the endorsement of Consumer Reports, but that is what the new style bores will be drinking while I sneak off and pour a glass of my Leoville Barton 2003 and share it with the old bores!
December 11, 2012 1 Comment
I had very high expectations for this wine. It impressed me when I tasted it at the store from a nasty little plastic glass. Its pedigree was also really intriguing. This property is owned by the Cuvelier family, who also own the Bordeaux second growth property, Chateau Léoville-Poyferré, in St. Julien (one of my favorites).
I was also intrigued because with its composition of 60% Malbec, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, and 4% Petit Verdot is a Bordeaux blend although Malbec is rarely seen in Bordeaux today. Its boldness and an alcohol level of 15.5% make it present more like a big and bold new world wine, but the delicate balance of traditional bordeaux grapes bring a grace and elegance that you rarely see in such a robust wine. The grapes are hand picked, and Michel Rolland advises on the vinification. After fermentation in stainless steel tanks, the wine is aged in French oak barrels (about 50% new) where it remains unfined and unfiltered.
The fruit allows this wine to be drunk with great pleasure immediately although two years in the cellar would probably soften the tannin making it fun to drink.
This wine is simply packed with layer upon layer of flavor. Beneath the fruit, you can detect notes of vanilla, liquorice, cedar, and chocolate.
This wine is simply delicious — and I will buy a case of this. It is a real bargain at slightly over $20. I rarely go wild with enthusiasm, but this wine is clearly one of my discoveries of the year.
September 13, 2010 1 Comment
Event: Getting Friendly with Forgotten Grapes
905 South Ann Street
Baltimore, MD 21231
410 342 8466
When: August 17th at 6:30 pm.
Well, if you haven’t been to it yet, here’s your perfect excuse. Chris Kern, the very engaging wine expert from California, will be entertaining Baltimore with his special kind of wine experience: Getting Friendly with Forgotten Grapes” at the V-NO Wine Bar in Baltimore on Tuesday, August 17th at 6:30pm.
“Getting Friendly with Forgotten Grapes” is not your typical ‘stand-pour-and-sip’ wine tasting and most likely is unlike any other wine tasting you’ve ever attended. It’s a two-hour wine tasting extravaganza focused on the Forgotten Grapes, the lesser-known and uncommon varietals of the wine world (think everything that’s not Cab, Chard, Merlot, Pinot, Sauv Blanc or Syrah). Everyone in the audience will get to taste along with glasses of five different Forgotten Grapes as Chris tells stories, cracks jokes, sings songs, dresses up in costume, and relates each varietal to a pop culture icon as a way to introduce Baltimore wine lovers to these exceptional wines that they really should be drinking.
I think it’s an event every wine lover in the area needs to know about. The cost of the event is only $29 per person, which includes the two-hour show and generous pours of each of the five Forgotten Grape wines. Reservations can be made by calling V-NO Wine Bar directly at (410) 342-8466, but please note that seating for the event is very limited and it is expected to sell out, so if you are interested in attending, call V-NO as soon as you can to make your advanced reservation. V-NO Wine Bar is located at 905 South Ann Street in Fells Point in Baltimore.
For more information about this event or V-NO Wine Bar, please visit v-nowinebar.com or e-mail them at email@example.com, and for more information about Forgotten Grape or me, visit ForgottenGrapes.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
I highly recommend this! It should be lots of fun!
August 11, 2010 2 Comments
July 29, 2010
At six tomorrow morning, The Barclay’s Cycle Hire scheme will be launched in London. This is a really nice looking system that allows you to pick up a bike in one location and drop it at your destination. You need to become a member for a reasonable annual fee of GBP 45 a year. Shorter periods are available and, in a few weeks, a short-term scheme will be launched for non-residents.
Membership gives you access to the bicycles, and rentals that are half an hour or less are free. 60 minutes will cost a pound and rates go up sharply after that. The intention is for people to be able to use them for short rides.
I am definitely going to try it next time I’m in London!
July 30, 2010 No Comments
Flights: FD 3524 and FD 3525
Fare Paid: 12,440 Thai Baht for four passengers (USD 385) for round trip, including taxes and fees.
I am not sure what makes the difference, but I fly on some no-frills airlines and I am perfectly happy. I fly on others and I wind up feeling irritated. For example, I have flown on Southwest a number of times and I have no complaints whatsoever. Yet I feel irked when I hear about airlines like Spirit and Ryan Air (I have never flown on either of them). The now shabby service on United’s aging fleet is equally annoying. I mourn the loss of British Airways as one of the few airlines that belonged to that elite group that people looked forward to flying on.
The difference is possibly one of attitude. Southwest attendants are consistently jolly. They seem to be very concerned about getting you to your destination on time in a way that is pleasant as possible. And their executives refrain from making mean spirited statements to justify the very basic services and the extra charges.
In a recent statement aimed to justify charging passengers to bring on carry-on bags, the chief executive of Spirit Airlines said, “Nobody brings their package to FedEx or U.P.S. and expects them to ship it for free.” What an attitude! And how much kinder it would have sounded to say that the airline, faced with increased fuel prices and other pressures, was forced to seek ways of saving money. ”We really don’t want to do this to you, but these fees are needed for us to keep flying.” I might have sympathized.
Enough of that! Air Asia delighted all four of us on a recent trip from Phuket (HKT) to Singapore (SIN). The Airbus 320 was new, spotlessly clean, and we were greeted by a smiling, friendly Thai crew. And the fare was only about 12,440 Baht (about 385 USD including tax and airport fees) for the round trip for all four of us.
We had a small delay on FD 3525, the flight back from Singapore to Phuket, but otherwise things seemed perfect for this short flight. We made absolutely sure that our bags were consistent with the limits for carry-on baggage so that we didn’t have to pay any extra for the bags. I understand that Air Asia is really strict about baggage and they stick rigidly to the rules.
Check in was easy, simple, and courteous. Like many other no-frills carriers, Air Asia charges extra if you want to pick your seat on line. (So does British Airways!) We didn’t bother with that and had no trouble finding pleasant (leather!) seats on the plane that was half empty.
Click here to see their prices for check-in baggage. (Note that it is much cheaper if you pay in advance rather than at the airport.)
Although they offered basic food for a fee, we didn’t have any. They don’t serve alcohol. Air Asia is another of the world’s dry airlines.
Air Asia won the Skytrax award for the second year running for being the world’s top low cost carrier. After this very pleasant experience, I can understand why!
We bought the ticket directly from the Air Asia website. Competitors included Tiger Air (comparable pricing), Silk Air, and Thai Airlines, which were a lot more expensive.
July 28, 2010 No Comments
I have started using Google Voice, and I have been playing with it to find out everything it can do and also to find out its limitations.
I did say in my previous article that it has changed my life, and it really has! I keep on thinking that it’s so good that there has to be a catch. Well, there really isn’t, but the service is still in its early stages, and there are bound to be a few irritations and limitations. Here are two that I have come across in the last week:
- Occasionally it can be really slow if you want to initiate a call from the website. Not a big deal.
- I often use a conference calling from www.freeconference.com. This is another service that I like. Basically the deal is that you can run a full featured conference call, but, unlike a lot of these services, there isn’t a per-minute charge. The difference is that it is a toll call. It works really well. You sign up. They give you a telephone number, a participant code, and a moderator code, and you can begin to use it to run telephone conferences. You can access the number they give you from Skype, Vonage, or pretty much any phone system you have. But you can’t access the number from Google Voice. You just get the following message: This number is not available for call return. Good bye!
A pity! But everything in life can’t be free.
July 27, 2010 4 Comments
99 Margaret Corbin Drive
Fort Tryon Park
New York, New York 10040
First, how to get there:
Take the A train to 190th Street and exit the station by elevator. Walk north along Margaret Corbin Drive for approximately ten minutes or transfer to the M4 bus and ride north one stop. If you are coming from the Museum’s Main Building, you may also take the M4 bus directly from Madison Avenue/83rd Street to the last stop. (Please allow more time for this option.)
Take Henry Hudson Parkway northbound to the first exit after George Washington Bridge (Fort Tryon Park–The Cloisters). This exit is only accessible from the northbound lane; if coming from the north, take Henry Hudson Parkway southbound to exit 14–15, make a U-turn, and travel north one mile to the exit marked Fort Tryon Park—The Cloisters. Parking is free.
Admission for adults is $20.00. It is considered a donation, and they will accept any donation that you can afford. This is such a wonderful place that it seems only fair to be as generous as you can! The admission button also admits you to the Met’s main building on Fifth Avenue.
The cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is devoted to the art and architecture of medieval Europe. It is set in a beautiful park at the northern tip of Manhattan close to the subway station at 190th Street.
Here is how I wound up spending the day here.
Most of my friends know the story, but I was born in Manhasset, New York. My father was British Vice-Consul in New York, and he worked in the Empire State Building commuting from our house in Manhasset. During this time, he got to know New York well. He painted in Central Park in winter and visited all the museums in the city. We left New York in 1956 when I was only two so I was not really at an age where these treasures meant much. My father renewed his enthusiasm for New York and its museums when he was Consul in Havana in the late sixties. Quite often, diplomatic service business would take him up to New York from Havana where he’d spend a week doing business and enjoying everything New York had to offer.
When I came to live in the United States in 1981, he’d often talk about The Cloisters and he’d rave about what a wonderful place it was. I went last Friday (July 16, 2010), and understood exactly what he meant. My joy in the beauty of this place was just slightly tarnished by a sense of shame. How could I have been so stupid as to have lived in the United States for so long without paying a visit to this extraordinary museum?
Unfortunately another appointment in Manhattan meant that I couldn’t get here until after three in the afternoon. Even though I knew the place would close at 5:15 PM, I determined not to rush it — I just wanted to absorb the beauty. It was quite an emotional experience to be among these ancient treasures and I confess to shedding a tear or two as marveled at the collection and mourned the loss of both my father and mother who would never have allowed their enthusiasm for this collection to fade. And I thought about Ben and Lydia, my dear brother and sister, who very probably saw this collection with my parents.
The first thing that struck me was the size. When my father had talked about it, he described a reconstructed medieval cloister, which would have been worth seeing if this was the only thing there. But this place is quite enormous with over 5,000 items on display!
I spent a long time in the largest quadrangle the Cuxa Cloister, the largest part of the museum. This 12th century cloister is a reconstruction of a much larger cloister from a Benedictine monastery called Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa at the foot of Mount Canigou in the northeast Pyrenees. It was lovely to sit here with my music (Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony), photograph the flowers, and look at the various doors, pillars, sculptures, and fonts that decorate the place.
After leaving the Cuxa Cloister, there really wasn’t all that much time left before the museum closed, but I did take a good look at the tapestries, some of the stained glass, and a few of the sculptures. Two hours allowed me only enough time to know what the place is about and to discover what an amazing place it is. But I need to come back to look at all the treasures exhibited here.
Here are just three of the pieces that caught my attention:
The stained glass in the picture above depicts St. Lawrence. You can see the fire beneath his feet, which is a departure from most portrayals of this saint, in which he is seen lying on the grill. Legend has it that Lawrence was grilled to death and placed on a barbecue. He was said to be so brave that half way through this torture he told his captors that they could turn him over as he was “done” on the side that being cooked. This piece of stained glass was made in Canterbury (England) between 1175 and 1180.
The sandstone head shown above was carved in the late thirteenth century and comes from Strasbourg. It may have been from Strasbourg cathedral or possibly another church in the same city. I was amazed by its perfect condition.
This enthroned virgin is from Tuscany and dates back to the first half of the fourteenth century. Made of terracotta, it is probably a workshop model rather than a finished piece. Possibly it was to be used by a goldsmith who was working on an altar piece.
I highly recommend The Cloisters to any visitor to New York. It is wonderful to escape from the pace of the city and contemplate in peace.
After my visit, I took the M4 bus to the main building of the Met on Fifth Avenue. The bus was probably a mistake as there was a long wait and the ride took a really long time. I should have taken the subway.
July 24, 2010 2 Comments
The Iron Bridge Wine Company
10435 State Route 108
Columbia, Maryland 21044
For a Google map, click here.
Last night we had dinner at the Iron Bridge Wine Company after a long absence. The absence, incidentally, was not accidental — we’d had a couple of disappointing meals and stayed away for a couple of years.
Last night’s experience didn’t disappoint. First we noticed that they offer (on Sundays and Wednesdays) a very good deal — $33 for a three course meal. You pick what you like from the starters, the main courses, and desserts.
We all started with foie gras with three of us opting for the pan seared foie gras, which was served on a piece of toasted brioche with a plum and mango relish. It was nicely done — a gently cooked and very tasty piece of liver. One of us opted for Foie Gras Chips & Dip. This dish consisted of Yukon Gold Potato Chips and a White Truffle Foie Gras Mousse. Although I would not have chosen this for myself, I tasted it and thought it was very good indeed. The dip definitely tasted of foie gras although my fear was that it wouldn’t!
Three of us chose Wahoo, a firm white-fleshed fish from Hawaii. It was covered with an artichoke-based sauce, and I found that mine was cooked to perfection with firm meat and a nice juicy texture. (One person in our party found hers to be a little dry).
One of us chose the 8 oz. Grilled Flat Iron served with Sweet Potato Fries, Roasted Cippolini Onions and House Made Worcestershire Sauce). She felt that the steak was adequate but only adequate, and lamented that there was a lack of available choices on a menu. When I countered that a short menu is usually a good thing, she argued that she was yearning for a rack of lamb that she had eaten in this restaurant before. Besides, she said, how can any restaurant have a menu that offers no chicken, no lamb, and no pork on its list of main courses? I had to agree with her.
We also had excellent desserts. The most notable was a sort of mousse made with mocha and raspberries. One of us had a very nice and tart lemon custard served with a small portion of rice pudding that we all thought was too sweet.
I am going to start coming to the Iron Bridge again. The people are friendly, and it was nicely served. Besides, it is so nice to go to a restaurant with original cooking that is not part of a chain. I also appreciate the $10 corkage charge for wine (waived on Thursdays!).
All in all, a nice evening! And a very fair bill — $171 for four people, including tax (but not the tip) for four three-course dinners and a good bottle of New Zealand Pinot Noir, a good compromise between the fish-eaters and the person who chose the steak.
July 22, 2010 No Comments
I had a quick but delightful visit today to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York,
I decided to take a look at the section with musical instruments — partly because my interest in instruments had been stimulated by my recent very enjoyable visit to the Musical Museum in London.
They had a number of instruments owned by famous people, including a clarinet owned by Benny Goodman, but today’s special attraction was a drum that belongs to Ringo Starr. This gold-plated snare drum was a gift from Ludwig because Ringo’s insistence on Ludwig’s logo being prominently displayed on his drums did wonders for this American drum company. They had to work round the clock to keep up with demand after the Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan show!
The drum came on display on July 7th, Ringo’s 70th birthday, and will stay at the Met until December.
July 20, 2010 No Comments