Comprehensive Bordeaux Tasting: 1989/1990

Comprehensive tasting of 1989 and 1990 Bordeaux

Comprehensive tasting of 1989 and 1990 Bordeaux

Every year, in preparation for their annual Bordeaux auction, Hart Davis Hart hosts a comprehensive Bordeaux tasting that offers an opportunity to taste two different vintages of nearly all the first and second growth Bordeaux, side by side.

This year’s vintages were particularly interesting, being of the same era but from very different years. 1989 produced tannic somewhat off balance wines for many wineries, while it was easy to make good wine in 1990. But in a couple of cases the 1989 turned out better than the 1990.

As in past years, among the first growths Cheval Blanc was at the top of my ratings, and Margaux at the bottom. Pamer, right next to Margaux, was significantly better than Margaux, especially in 1989, even though it is a second growth.

Here are my ratings of the forty wines:

89 Montrose 94 (remarkable balance for an 89)
90 Montrose 95

89 Cos d’Estournel 85 (bitter chocolate)
90 Cos d’Estournel 86

89 Lafite Rothschild 94
90 Lafite Rothschild 96

89 Mouton Rothschild 97
90 Mouton Rothschild 99

89 Latour 89
90 Latour 91

89 Lynch Bages 84 (pruny, overripe)
90 Lynch Bages 92

89 Grand-Puy-Lacoste 88
90 Grand-Puy-Lacoste 89

89 Pichon-Longueville, Baron 93
90 Pichon-Longueville, Baron 93-

89 Pichon-Longueville, Lalande 90
90 Pichon-Longueville, Lalande 91

89 Ducru-Beaucaillou 89
90 Ducru-Beaucaillou 90

89 Gruaud Larose 87
90 Gruaud Larose 83 (burnt rubber, truly awful)

89 Leoville Poyferre 85
90 Leoville Poyferre 86

89 Leoville Las Cases 88
90 Leoville Las Cases 89

89 Margaux 87
90 Margaux 89

89 Palmer 93+
90 Palmer 90

89 Haut-Brion 93
90 Haut-Brion 95

89 La Mission Haut-Brion 90
90 La Mission Haut-Brion 91

89 Angelus 91
90 Angelus 91 (these two were nearly identical)

89 Cheval Blanc 97
90 Cheval Blanc 99+

89 Troplong-Mondot 89
90 Troplong-Mondot 90

Only about half the wines are available at retail:

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Oriole With Our Wine Group

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We saved the best for last! After several days packed with wine events, great dinners, museums and sightseeing, we had our farewell dinner at Oriole. And what a dinner it was!

Chef Noah Sandoval and Pastry Chef Genie Kwon knocked it out of the park.

Speaking of knocking it out of the park, not the Chicago Cubs won the world series this week, after a 108 year drought, so it was a really fun week to be in Chicago. But that wasn’t even the most exciting thing happening at Oriole. On Monday they learned they received four nominations for Jean Banchet Awards for Culinary Excellence. Sommelier Aaron McManus was nominated for Best Sommelier and Genie Kwon was nominated for Best Pastry Chef. And the entire team was nominated for Best New Restaurant and Best Service!

But that wasn’t even the biggest news. On Wednesday the discovered that they had been awarded two Michelin stars, which is unheard of for a restaurant that has been open only seven month!

Never was an award so well deserved. This event even managed to surpass our previous dinner, which I would have thought impossible,

Sommelier Aaron McManus served the wines we brought and acted as a wonderful host.

This was the first time Oriole had guests bring in wines like these, so it was quite a treat for everyone.

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Dominus Dominates at V&A

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The line up.

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Chef Scott Hunnel drops by for a visit.

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Chef Aimee was generous with the caviar on two courses.

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Pretty presentation.

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The “eyebrow” chocolate always creeps me out.

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The course we never eat. James used to work at Eddie V’s.

 

It had been quite a while since we’d been to the Chef’s Table at Victoria and Albert’s, because Disney changed the reservation process to favor hotel guests, so it was fun join Ron and Bev there for dinner and wines last night. The room has been remodeled since our last visit, with nicer cabinetry and lighting. Most of the food was the same as our last visit to the Victoria Room, but there was a new veal dish served under a smoke-filled glass that was our favorite.

Chef Aimee is now running the kitchen, and several other chefs have also been promoted, and stopped by the table to introduce their dishes. Scott Hunnel dropped in to say hello. He’s now in charge of all 14 of the resort’s food outlets. Israel Perez provided the wine service.

The wines were poured in flights of two. The biggest surprise was how shut down the 1986 first growth Bordeaux were. This was the most expensive flight on the table, and the least interesting. I don’t know if they are just going through a “dumb” stage, or if this vinatge is over. There was still plenty of tannin, that’s for sure. But neither wine offered even a hint of fruit or other depth.

Perhaps less surprising was that the 1991 Dominus was the Wine of the Night. My last two bottles were corked, so it was a relief to revisit an old friend.

Menu

  • Cauliflower Panna Cotta with American Caviar
  • Roulade of Smoked Salmon and Alaskan King Crab
  • Alaskan Sablefish with Baby Bok Choy
  • New Zealand Langoustine with Nage Crema
  • Smoked Rohan Duck with Peaches and Celery Root
  • Marcho Farms Veal “En Croute”
  • Australian Kobe-Style Beef* with Roasted Garlic Potatoes
  • Selection of Cheese from the Market
  • Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Wild Strawberries
  • Peruvian Chocolate Crunch
  • Friandises

The Wines

2005 Compte (off the V&A wine list)
Green, creamy
92 pts

2000 Château Haut-Brion Blanc (Steve)
Wax, butter, evergreen, peppermint candy, honey
94 pts

2013  Pierre Yves Colin Morey Meursault Charmes (Ron)
Granite, lime, shell
92 pts

1959 Hospices de Beaune Beaune 1er Cru Cuvée Dames Hospitalieres Maison Leroy (Steve)
Exotic Asian spice nose, light bodied, long finish
94 pts

1969 Leroy Grand Echezeaux (Ron)
Somewhat soapy nose
92 pts

1986 Château Mouton Rothschild (Steve)
Closed, tight
92 pts

1986 Chateau Lafite (Ron)
Lead pencil, mint
94 pts

1966 La Mission Haut Brion (Ron)
Really elegant, wood, soy, tobacco, dusty, menthol
96 pts

1991 Dominus Estate Napanook Vineyard (Steve)
Licorice, coffee, great structure, coffee finish, open for business but with years to go
98 pts

1997 Chateau d’Yquem (Ron)
apricot, honey, not quite enough acid or secondary aromas
92 pts

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War Paint at the Goodman Theatre

WarPaint

Last night Dani and I saw War Paint at the Goodman Theatre. It’s an excellent show starring Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole about the rivalry between Helena Rubenstein and Elizabeth Arden. It opened in Chicago a couple of months ago, and we were lucky that it extended its run by two weeks allowing me to grab two front row seats of what was a sold out house.

The show is presumably in tryouts for a Broadway run, because the sets and lighting were quite extraordinary, and couldn’t possibly have been paid for with the revenues from a limited run at the Goodman.

The central cast of four characters were all Tony nominees, and the stars had four Tonys between them, so the talent was top notch.

I really liked the score, which has many songs, all very accessible, some quite complex, and which was rendered by the largest pit orchestra I’ve heard in some time.

As with most shows in tryouts, changes are being made. I understand 20 minutes has been cut already, which was a good thing because the show was the right length.

The problem the show faces is that the two main characters, Helena Rubenstein and Elizabeth Arden⏤who are on separate sides of the stage almost continuously for the whole show⏤never actually met in real life. The show invents a scene at the end where they do meet, and it works surprisingly well. However the number at the end of the first act sets up the idea that they think maybe they should meet, and another almost 30 years elapses before that last scene. That’s a long time to wait for the payoff. I would probably cut that number from the end of Act 1, and find something to cut from Act 2 to speed it along, perhaps the number with the two costars, which didn’t really advance the story.

I would probably cut that number from the end of Act 1, and also find something to cut from Act 2 to speed it along, perhaps the number with the two costars, which didn’t really advance the story. I’m sure it’s difficult to decide what to cut when you have so much good material, and such great talent performing it.

Although makeup isn’t a topic that interests me, The show is really about starting with nothing and creating a successful business. The show’s challenge will be to find a way to connect with a mass audience, as younger people have never heard of the two women who were literally the first female titans of industry.

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Summer Champagne Crush

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This trip to Chicago was organized around two events, the first of which was the Hart David Hart Annual Summer Champagne Tasting. It was held at The Ivy, a popular wedding venue in River North.

I guess the original intent was to have the tasting in the courtyard, which would have been quite pleasant. Unfortunately, Chicago weather didn’t cooperate, and the temperature was in the mid-nineties. As a result, the ill-advised decision was made to hold the event inside, in a rabbit warren of small spaces. The air conditioning–what little there was–simply couldn’t handle the task, and the rooms were soon over a hundred degrees. Even on ice, the Champagne couldn’t be kept cold. And the spaces were so small that it became impossible to even squeeze from one room to the next. A thoroughly unpleasant event.

Dani and I resolved to quickly try only the most noteworthy offerings and beat a swift retreat. My notes are limited to only numerical ratings, because any comments about blends or production were lost to the din of too many people in too small a space. We were in and out in about 30 minutes.

The event did reinforce my preference for yeasty vintage Champagnes with moderate acid levels and some pinot noir in the blend. Surprisingly, the Taittinger wines ended up being our favorite group.

The wines we tasted:

(this first batch was particularly warm)
NV Krug, Rosé ($240) 96 pts
2008 Moet & Chandon, Grand Vintage Rose ($85) 90 pts
2004 Dom Pérignon Rose ($320) 92 pts
1998 Dom Pérignon Brut, P2 ($275) 98 pts

2004 Dom Ruinart, Brut Blanc de Blancs ($155) 87 pts
2006 Veuve Clicquot, La Grande Dame Brut ($160) 91 pts

NV Billecart-Salmon, Brut Reserve (magnum $100) 89 pts
NV Billecart-Salmon, Brut Sous Bois ($70) 91 pts
NV Billecart-Salmon, Brut Rosé (magnum $160) 90 pts
NV Billecart-Salmon, Blanc de Blancs Brut ($165) 94 pts
NV Billecart-Salmon, Extra Brut ($70) 88 pts

NV Taittinger, La Francaise Brut ($55) 92 pts
NV Taittinger, Brut Cuvee Prestige Rose ($75) 97 pts
NV Taittinger, Prélude Grands Crus ($80) 95 pts
NV Taittinger, Les Folies de la Marquetterie (pinot noir) ($80) 96 pts
2006 Taittinger, Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs (4165) 99 pts

Wines we couldn’t get to:

1995 Charles Heidsieck, Blanc des Millénaires
2000 Charles Heidsieck, Brut
2000 Maurice Vessell, Brut Grand Cru, Millésime
2002 Piper-Heidsieck, Brut Cuvée Rare
2004 Delamotte Blanc de Blancs
2005 Philipponnat, Clos des Goisses
2006 Piper-Heidsieck, Brut
2009 Thierry Fluteau, Cuvée Prestige, Côte des Bar
NV André Clouet, Grand Réserve Brut Grand Cru
NV Armand de Brignac, Brut Gold
NV Bollinger, Rosé
NV Canard-Duchêne Charles VIII, Blanc de Noirs
NV Charles Heidsieck, Brut Réserve
NV Michel Arnould Brut Réserve, Grand Cru
NV Paul Bara, Brut Réserve Grand Cru
NV Paul Déthune, Bru Rosé Grand Cru
NV Pierre Gimonet & Fils, Blanc de Blancs Brut, 1er Cru
NV Piper-Heidsieck, Brut
NV R. Pouillon & Fils, Blanc de Blancs Brut
NV Ruinart, Brut Blanc de Blancs
NV Thiénot, Rosé

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Delicious Disney at Golden Oak

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For the first time in a long time we attended a Disney dining event, and it far surpassed our expectations. Usually these events tend to be rather corporate, and it’s been a long time since we felt like they were worth the money. But at $199pp all inclusive this one couldn’t possibly have been profitable. There were nearly as many staff as guests, and the ingredients and wines were top notch.

We attended the event chiefly because it was at the private club at Golden Oak, in Markham’s restaurant, and that was the only way to check it out. The chefs and staff from Markham’s and a huge part of the culinary and serving staff at California Grill put on a spectacular dinner.

The accompanying wines represented the single best wine pairings I’ve ever encountered. For example, the orange and vanilla flavors of the poached lobster salad and its dressing were absolutely mirrored by orange and vanilla flavors in the Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc. (I’ve jotted the retail prices of the wines next to them on the menu.)

Not shown on the menu were the passed hors d’oeuvres , sushi buffet, and a starter chardonnay from Stag’s Leap.

As a parting gift we received chopsticks in wooden boxes personalized by the chefs.

We were seated with a lovely couple from Winter Haven. It was pretty clear that the seating wasn’t random. Each party was escorted in individually, and since everyone there was an invited regular at V&A or California Grill or other Disney events, we had been matched to table mates of similar ages and interests. Well done.

Truly a lovely evening.

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Another Kabooki Sushi Stunner

IMG_2198“I can’t believe we’re in Orlando.” That’s what Ron, Bev, Linda and I kept repeating throughout the ten-course omakase prepared last night by Chef Henry Moso.

Yelp informed me it was my 30th visit. Out of perhaps 200 courses spread over those visits I’ll wager that 150 were unique. And last night’s courses were the best of all. Definitely one of the top ten meals I’ve ever had.

I’ll let the menu and photos speak for themselves. My wine notes follow.

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The Wines

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1998 Dom Perignon P2
Lilac, ash, lavender, creamy, slightly sweet finish, 95 pts

The 1998 Dom Perignon P2 is a second release, made from disgorging the original bottling and rebottling it. It is incredibly over-packaged, in an aluminum sliding drawer box. Fortunately its quality lived up to the packaging!

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Jacques Selosse Brut Rose
Burnt orange, angostura bitters, yeast, really crisp, oxidative nose, slightly bitter finish, 97 pts

The wine of the night (of course) was a Jacques Selosse. I hadn’t had the rose before, and it was really aromatic and perfect with the food.

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1992 Blanc de Lynch Bages
Seemingly fresh but lacking fruit, waxy, caramel, over the hill, 86 pts

2011 Maison L’Oree Meursault 1er Cru
Petrol, lemon lime, crushed rock, good balance, toast, ash, matchstick, 94 pts

2008 le Clerc Gevrey Chambertin Les Cazetiers
Wood, petrol, savage, good fruit, balanced, 94 pts

1978 Santenay
Light bodied, citrus, strawberry, 90 pts

2001 Usseglio CDP Reserve des deux freres
Very earthy, Bret, barnyard, rustic, chewy, 95 pts

1989 Colombo Cornas Les Ruchets
Tight, restrained citrus, 90 pts

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Alcorn Tours Guide to Chicago

Refer to this map:

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1OuwGVQUX3rFKMRJi_Vx3DWp_OKE&usp=sharing

Geography

Chicago is on the west shore of Lake Michigan. Much of the area along the lake is various parks, from Lincoln Park on the North to Millennium and Grant Parks on the south.

The downtown area is mostly high-rise businesses and is comprised of the one square mile of the Loop (so named because it is encircled by the Elevated train tracks). The Loop is bounded on the North and West by the Chicago River. North of the river is the one square mile River North, which is where a lot of the clubs, restaurants and residences are.

The East boundary of the Loop and River North is Michigan Avenue, and the part from the River northward is called the Magnificent Mile, because it’s where all the fancy stores are.  This is Tourist Central.

Transportation

The easiest and cheapest way to get from Orlando to Chicago is Southwest non-stop to Midway. Midway is a bit easier to navigate than O’Hare because it is smaller.

Uber works really well in Chicago, and is really cheap. But if you’re feeling adventurous it’s even cheaper to take the El, which is always $2.50. The El is the train system around Chicago. The different lines have colors. The blue line goes to O’Hare, the Orange line goes to Midway. The red line goes North/South and the Green line goes to the west. (The Red line is actually underground in downtown, like the tube in London.) Nearly everything converges on The Loop.

You buy a card that operates the turnstiles. You can get one and put money on it at major stations. The same card works for the buses. Google or Apple maps work well with the El

From the either airport to downtown is under an hour on the El, sometimes less on Uber (but not always).

Separate from the El is the Metra, the train that runs north to Wisconsin, but is not useful for local transportation.

There are also horse drawn carriages in the tourist area along the Magnificent Mile.

Things to Do

City Pass Chicago

If you plan to do several things, the City Pass combination ticket is the best deal. It includes:

Shedd Aquarium – VIP ENTRY

*Skydeck Chicago – FAST PASS

*The Field Museum – VIP ENTRY

*Museum of Science and Industry – VIP ENTRY   OR   360 CHICAGO – EXPRESS ENTRY

*Art Institute of Chicago – FAST PASS   OR   Adler Planetarium – VIP ENTRY

I put an asterisk on the best choices.

http://www.citypass.com/chicago

Museum of Science and Industry

This is a great museum in a huge building that is the only survivor from the Chicago 1893 World’s Fair where the original Ferris Wheel debuted. That world’s fair was one square mile, and had 700,000 visitors on its closing day alone!

Must see things at the museum are the Coal Mine ride and the German U-Boat On-Board tour. These have specific admission times you select when you get your tickets. Allow at least 4 hours minimum.

http://www.msichicago.org/

The Art Institute of Chicago

Huge, HUGE art museum with an amazing impressionist collection by Renoir, Monet, Van Goghs, plus A Sunday on La Grande Jatte and Nighthawks. Even if you think you don’t know what those are, you do.

You can not even walk this whole museum in 8 hours, so be selective!

http://www.artic.edu/

Field Museum

Dinosaurs, and all that natural history stuff. And did I mention DINOSAURS?

https://www.fieldmuseum.org/

Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise

There are a number of Chicago River boat tours and even a number that focus on the city’s architecture, but this is the best one, because it has a docent from the Architecture Foundation doing the commentary. Even if you’re not that interested in architecture, it’s a great way to see the city and the river, all the way from Lake Michigan past the Sears Tower.

https://www.architecture.org/experience-caf/tours/detail/chicago-architecture-foundation-river-cruise-aboard-chicagos-first-lady-cruises/

Chicago Loop Bridges

A retired engineer and bridge enthusiast conducts these very personal walking tours of all the different types of drawbridges along the Chicago River, and you get to go into one of the control towers that is now a museum. This is often a private tour.

http://chicagoloopbridges.com/

If you don’t want to take the tour, you can just visit the museum:

http://www.bridgehousemuseum.org/

Sears Tower (no one calls it Willis Tower)

Our condo is pretty tall, but this building is more than twice as tall. The tour, displays and glass floor of the skyjack are very popular attractions.

http://theskydeck.com/

Lincoln Park Zoo

This is quite a pleasant zoo, and it also has a great restaurant in the park nearby, North Pond, which has a Michelin star (reservations essential).

http://www.lpzoo.org/

http://www.northpondrestaurant.com/

Navy Pier

There’s a new Ferris Wheel on the pier that gives quite a view of the skyline and lakeshore. This is also where lake cruises depart from. The dinner cruise is nice although the food is nothing special. During the summer there are Disney-quality fireworks every Wednesday and Saturday.

John Hancock Tower

There a great view here because the building is on the Magnificent mile at the lake shore. However you don’t need to pay for 360 Chicago. You can see the same view by having a drink at the Signature Lounge.

http://www.360chicago.com/

https://www.signatureroom.com/

Richard H. Driehaus Museum

This mansion from the guided age is right in River North, and is the best preserved historic home I have ever been in. Elaborate marble, woodwork and tiffany glass look like they were installed yesterday. They host changing exhibits, too. When we went there was a collection of original cartoon artwork from 100 year old issues of Puck magazine.

http://www.driehausmuseum.org/

Chicago Theatre

The opulent Chicago Theatre used to be a movie palace, but now hosts major musical and comedy performers. During the day they offer great tours of the building, with lots of fascinating history.

http://www.thechicagotheatre.com/tour

Randolph Street is Chicago’s theatre district, where many shows open before going to Broadway, and where the touring productions come. The major theaters are the Oriental, the Cadillac, and the Goodman. To the north is Steppenwolf, and on Navy pier is the Shakespeare Theatre. There are also dozens of smaller theatres.

http://www.theatreinchicago.com/nowplayingrs.php

Museum of Broadcast Communications

This conveniently located museum will bring back memories of old TV programs, and has a comprehensive collection of radio history. It’s best for adults; there’s not much of interest for little kids.

http://www.museum.tv/index.htm

Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio

About 30 minutes to the west of Chicago is Oak Park, where Frank Lloyd write built his own home and studio. It’s very extensive, and the tour shows how his work evolved over time. Be sure to book your tour in advance. There’s also a walking tour of the homes he designed in the surrounding neighborhood, but since you can’t go in those I would skip it. You can Uber for about $30 each way, or take the Green line and be there in 20 minutes or less.

http://www.flwright.org/

Mars Cheese Castle

If you’re headed to Wisconsin, there’s no place quite like this.

http://www.marscheese.com/

Indiana Wineries

If you have a car, it’s an hour drive to Indiana Wineries. Butler makes good wine from local grapes, and Shady Creek makes good wine from California grapes. Do not go to Anderson’s Orchards and Winery.

http://www.butlerwinery.com/

http://www.shadycreekwinery.com/

Tastebud Food Tours

A local entrepreneur runs some very good food oriented walking tours. I took one where the guide stayed in character as a socialite from the days of the 1893 World’s Fair. We visited a half dozen historic stops and had foods that were invented there. They also do brewery and distillery tours.

http://tastebudtours.com/tours/chicago-tours/

http://tastebudtours.com/tours/chicago-tours/1893-world-columbian-exposition-food-tour/

Live Music & Bars

Many, many places up and down Hubbard have live music.

Andy’s Jazz Club

Good food and drinks, $14 or $20 cover for live jazz. Shows at 5pm, 7pm, and 9:30-1am.

http://www.andysjazzclub.com/

City Winery

This restaurant and live music venue is also really into wine, and serves everything in Riedel stemware. The food is good, and they have different acts every night. During the summer there is also a casual outdoor version right on the Riverwalk.

http://www.citywinery.com/chicago/

https://www.citywinery.com/chicago/riverwalk/

Untitled Supper Club

500 Scotches, great cocktails, and good food and live music are all on offer in different rooms of this speakeasy-themed restaurant and bar.

http://untitledsupperclub.com/

Three Dots and a Dash

This is the best Tiki Bar you will ever go to. It’s not really on Clark. Enter the alley on Hubbard and follow the neon light to the door. Reservations essential.

http://threedotschicago.com/

Restaurants

Chicago has a dozen Michelin starred restaurants, but mostly I have ignored those, because they take months of planning to get into. These are some favorites by category.

Things to NOT eat in Chicago:

Deep dish pizza. You can get the same stuff at Giordano’s. When the Chicago magazine ratings come out, none of the top pizzas are deep dish.

Chicago style hot dogs. It’s nothing special, just on a poppy seed bun with a pickle, tomato and pepper. There are gourmet dogs in town that are better.

Mexican food. Some people like Rick Bayless’ Michelin-starred Topolobampo, or his adjacent Frontera Grill or Xoco, but I’m not impressed. Chicago really doesn’t have a great Mexican restaurant.

Best Restaurant in Town – Oriole

The secret is getting out, but the best place in town is Oriole. Reservations well in advance essential. Don’t be alarmed that it looks like a warehouse and you are entering off an alley.

http://www.oriolechicago.com/

French – Bistronomic / Bistro Voltaire

Traditional French Bistro food, perfectly done, but not a true bistro atmosphere.

http://www.bistronomic.net/

Bistro Voltaire has the real bistro ambiance. Good on a cold night.

http://www.bistrovoltaire.com/

New American – Cafe des Architects

In the Sofitel. The trick here is to put yourself in Chef’s hands and get the tasting menu. Amazing presentations, great price for the quality.  Best to go here on a week night when the chef is bored. 

http://www.cafedesarchitectes.com/

Eclectic – Girl and the Goat

Stephanie Izzard’s flagship is always packed, but they hold some tables for people who didn’t get reservations two months in advance. Go at 4pm and have a drink in the bar.

http://girlandthegoat.com/

Chinese – Imperial Lamian

Amazing Dim Sum. Also, you must have the Mixed Mushroom Lamian and the Jasmine Tea Smoked Ribs.

http://www.imperial-lamian.com/#home

Hamburger – Good Stuff Eatery

The most famous hamburger in America is at Au Cheval, but trust me, you can’t get in. This is my favorite, by another Top Chef winner, and it’s near Millennium Park attractions. But you can get Au Cheval’s hamburger at a salad place(!) See below.

http://www.goodstuffeatery.com/locations/chicago

Salad – 3 Greens Market

This place has an enormous and fresh collection of salad bars, but they also serve Dillman’s famous pastrami sandwiches from another restaurant’s recipe, and the burger made famous at Au Cheval and voted best in the country. So something for everyone!

http://3greensmarket.com/

Sushi – Momotaro

This stylish restaurant had sushi, robot grill and ramen in a lively, trendy atmosphere.

http://www.momotarochicago.com/

Pizza – Coalfire

The best pizza in Chicago is not Chicago Pizza, it’s Coalfire’s Pepperoni & Whipped Ricotta.

http://coalfirechicago.com/

If you just was a slice, closer by, you can get one for $4 at Dough Bros.Try the spicy Roland.

http://www.doughbrospizzasubs.com/

Barbecue – Chicago q

Chicago q is not a joint, it’s actually a nice restaurant  I’m not a fan of Midwestern barbecue sauces, I like a Southern style, which is more like wha they offer here. Try the barbecue sampler appetizer to see what you like; it comes with four sauces. They also have about 100 whiskeys and bourbons, and tasting flights of same.

http://www.chicagoqrestaurant.com/

Indian – Vermillion

This place is marching to their own drummer. It’s gourmet Indian unlike any you’ve had.  The service is amiable but very whacked – just hang in there for the food.

http://www.thevermilionrestaurant.com/index.cfm

Steak – Kinzie Chophouse / Maple & Ash

There is almost a steakhouse in every block of River North. I can’t say I’ve found a favorite that isn’t a chain. I did love the wine list at Kinzie Chophouse, and their prices are better than most places. Check out the page of Napa Auction bottles where they bought the whole cask.  Their steak is mediocre. 

http://www.kinziechophouse.com/

I’ve not yet been to Maple & Ash, but I have heard from several people that it is the best.

http://mapleandash.com/

Fish – GT Fish and Oyster

GT has the reputation of the best fish in River North.

http://gtoyster.com/

Italian – Pelago Ristorante

Ron really likes this place. I’m not a big Italian restaurant fan, and haven’t been to it. Avoid the Michelin-starred Spiaggia.

http://www.pelagorestaurant.com/

Popcorn – Garrett’s

Famous for its Chicago Mix, which is half caramel popcorn, half cheddar cheese popcorn. It’s better than it sounds. There’s always a line, but it moves fairly fast.The one on Randolph in the Loop doesn’t usually have a lone.

http://www.garrettpopcorn.com/find-a-shop/chicago/625-n-michigan-ave

Donuts – Stan’s

Chicago has some great donut places – Glazed & Infused, Do-Rite Donuts, and Firecakes. But my favorite is Stan’s (six locations), an import from Westwood Village in Los Angeles. You want an old fashioned buttermilk. (At Glazed and Infused you want a maple bacon; you enter through the Davanti Enoteca restaurant.)

http://www.stansdonutschicago.com/

http://www.goglazed.com/

Hotels

Best Hotels in Chicago

Peninsula

http://chicago.peninsula.com/en/default

Four Seasons

http://www.fourseasons.com/chicago/

Ritz Carlton

http://www.ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/chicago

Trump

https://www.trumphotelcollection.com/chicago/

Langham

http://www.langhamhotels.com/en/the-langham/chicago/

Convenient Moderate Hotels

The Intercontinental

http://www.icchicagohotel.com/

The Gwen

http://www.thegwenchicago.com/

The Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile

http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/chidt-chicago-marriott-downtown-magnificent-mile

Omni

https://www.omnihotels.com/hotels/chicago

Conrad

http://www.conradchicagohotel.com/

James

http://www.jameshotels.com/chicago

Palomar

http://www.hotelpalomar-chicago.com/

Sofitel

http://www.accorhotels.com/gb/hotel-2993-sofitel-chicago-water-tower/index.shtml

Convenient Cheap Hotels

Hilton Garden Inn

http://hiltongardeninn3.hilton.com/en/hotels/illinois/hilton-garden-inn-chicago-downtown-magnificent-mile-CHIDNGI/index.html

Courtyard

http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/chiwb-courtyard-chicago-downtown-river-north

Homewood Suites

http://homewoodsuites3.hilton.com/en/hotels/illinois/homewood-suites-by-hilton-chicago-downtown-CHIHWHW/index.html

Hampton Inn

http://hamptoninn3.hilton.com/en/hotels/illinois/hampton-inn-and-suites-chicago-downtown-CHIHSHX/index.html

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Burgs at Berns

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Thanks to Ron for setting up a nice weekend including dinner at Berns and lunch at Restaurant BT. Ron worked with sommelier Brad Dixon to come up with some great wines at great prices. They were mostly selected from vintages without huge reputations, but producers that make great wines consistently. The wines included the only magnum of DRC that I (and I think Ron) had ever had.

We pre-gamed in Ron and Bev’s suite with the 2000 Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blanc by Taittinger, which features a lovely toasty nose and lemon curd finish.

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At Berns Brad started us with a 2005 Meursault JF Coche-Dury. A lot of the 2005s have premox problems, but not this one which offered abundant fruit, with a nice thread of minerality and butter to balance it. The predominant nose was lavender with a bit of wax.

Our first red Burgundy was a 1978 La Romanee Bouchard Pere & Fils. This was all about bacon and smoke, later developing some coffee. The wine has great structure and is drinking very young. It was Ron and my Wine of the Night.young coffee

We tried a 1953 Volnay-Santenay from Pierre Ponnelle, which was a great year and great producer, but not estate grown. As Brad had warned, it was a bit over the hill, although Linda liked its oxidized character. Initially closed, it opened up eventually, but was tired. The finish was surprisingly sweet. but very sweet on the palate

The big boy of the night was 1983 Grands-Echezeaux Domaine de la Romanee Conti from Magnum. Immediately upon pouring it was very bright, almost to the point of being spritzy. Lots of young baking spices, a hint of something green, maybe pickled asparagus. Later on rhubarb. On the palate it was very fruity, and eventually began to finish with smoke and bacon. It was an excellent wine, and a magnum at $1300 was a solid buy, but the retail is several times that, and would not be worth it.

Where can you go after that? A different valley, for sure. 1975 Côte-Rotie La Mouline was a stunning Rhone that offered excellent structure and very fresh fruit.

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For dessert, Brad produced a really interesting 1927 Bastardo Leacock’s Madeira. Bastardo is one of the mixing grapes that used to be used in Madeira, but it is now almost extinct, and it was only twice ever bottled by itself. One of those times was this wine, which had a great spearmint nose, and was slightly drier than a Bual. The wine had great acid and a long, clean finish with a touch of caramel and orange peel, hazelnut. It was very bright.

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We also drained two other Madeiras that very nice, and it gave us the opportunity to compare the sweetness levels of Verdelho and Sercial.

1937 d’Oliveiras Sercial Madeira was quite dry, and not quite as complex as 1912 D’Oliveras Verdelho Madeira. This is my favorite sweetness level of Madeira, as it goes with almost any food. It was almost as complex as the Bastardo.

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Brad set Bev up with a flight of Armagnac. The first was everyone’s favorite, a 1960 Vieil Armagnac, a producer none of us had heard of. The other two were both from Francis Darroze, a 1962 and 1963, but both seemed a bit harsh.

We finished with deconstructed Macadamia nut sundaes.

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Thanks to Ron for setting up a great evening, and to Brad for his generosity with the wines!

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Alcorn McBride Paint Night

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Last year’s favorite company activity was paint night at Painting With A Twist, so we decided to repeat it. This time, instead of a lighthouse, we painted a gecko, and it was fun to see how the subject matter encouraged everyone to let their imaginations run wild.

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Riedel Stemware Seminar

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A few years ago Linda and I attended a Riedel stemware seminar while on a Celebrity cruise. The premise of the seminar was that different shaped glasses make wines taste different.

We went in very skeptical but came out completely believers. So much so, in fact, that I ordered four sets of the glasses and have conducted the same seminar for my co-workers and members of my wine group. Everyone who has ever gone through it has been amazed at the effect that even small changes in the shape of the glass can make.

So when I heard that Riedel was conducting a seminar just a block from our Chicago condo I had to sign up for it again. Why? Becuase for $90 you get four excellent wines, and can keep the glasses they’re served in!

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Dani and I attended last night, and even though the venue was less than ideal for wine tasting (outdoors, noisy band nearby) it was still impressive. We also discovered a few new things I hadn’t heard in the previous seminar:

  1. The wine smells different depending upon where in the glass you place your nose. This was particularly apparent with the sauvignon blanc, which smelled like grapefruit on either side and like yeast down in the center.
  2. The glasses are dishwasher safe, but don’t use soap, as a hot glass absorbs the soap and becomes cloudy when it cools. Because of their height, you need to put them on the bottom rack.
  3. The Riedel decanter that looks like a coiled cobra has an interesting property: if you turn it around at an angle once before you pour, it dispenses exactly one glass of wine.

Although The City Winery Riverwalk was packed last night, the seminar was undersubscribed, and they backfilled with random bystanders (who didn’t get to keep their glasses). This was a tactical error, because these folks weren’t really interested in the seminar, and yacked through what was already a difficult listening environment. However we did meet an interesting guy and his son who sat next to us, and talked with them at length afterward.

The wines selected for last night’s event were all superb, especially the chardonnay and pinot noir. They were chosen for their intense varietal character and winemaking style, and I would be happy to have any of them again:

  • Matua Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand
  • Beringer Luminus Chardonnay
  • Etude Pinot Noir
  • 2013 Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon
Posted in Chicago, Dani, Wine | Comments Off on Riedel Stemware Seminar

Tesla

At the urging of co-workers, I bought one of the first Tesla Model S cars when they first came out, and three years later traded it in for one of the first Model X cars. They are both phenomenal vehicles, especially the controls, almost all on a single touchscreen, and the acceleration. The Model X is great for my needs, as I can comfortably take six large adults to lunch.

IMG_3361Model S P-85

IMG_1477Model X P90D

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Chicago Museums

We picked the right weekends to visit Chicago. The weather was perfect. We originally scheduled this trip for our Next season tickets. The Alps-themed meal turned out to be lackluster, but we had a lot of fun anyway.

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We visited the  Art Institute of Chicago, which is HUGE. We even bought a season pass so Dani can go back with friends.

IMG_1624The next weekend we took the “L” to the west to Oak Park to see the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studios and take a very interesting walking tour of the other houses he designed.

IMG_1533We also got to see a bridge stuck up during the annual Chicago boat migration.

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Speaking of museums, last year Dani and I also visited the nearby Museum of Broadcast Communications.

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Back in 2014 Linda and I visited the Field museum.

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And Dani and I visited the Chicago History Museum (which was quite good) and the International Museum of Surgical Science (which was… memorable).

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And way back in 2007 we made Dani’s first visit to the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry while on her college tour.

 

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New York Dining

Waitress Preview Day 2

We’ve had a fabulous long weekend in New York, and although the purpose of the trip was to see the new musical, Waitress, we also had a chance to visit some favorite restaurants, and try a few new ones. Here’s a recap:

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We began with a dinner for two at Momofuku Ko, which I’d read about in a favorite book The Rosie Project. Dani was still flying in from Chicago when Linda and I had a delightful meal, made special by a wonderfully welcoming staff. Not every course was a home run, but it hardly mattered because everything else was perfect.

For lunch Friday Dani was still at her friend’s apartment, and Linda and I stepped back into 1962 for lunch at La Grenouille, a classic French restaurant, and the last of its kind. This is a place they talked about going in the series Mad Men, and it’s unchanged.

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Dani caught up with us for our anniversary dinner at Eleven Madison Park. We’ve had two of the greatest meals of my life here, and one awful one. Fortunately they’ve returned to form, and although this one wasn’t quite as memorable, it was exceptional, particularly the service.

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Despite our feelings about The Donald, we stayed at the Trump International Hotel, because we got a deal on hotels.com, and someone has to pay the unfortunates who work there. One plus is that one of our favorite New York restaurants is just downstairs. We had a lovely lunch at Jean-Georges, which—even thought the prices have doubled in the time we’ve been going—is still the best lunch deal in town, with the same food as dinner at a fraction of the cost.

A great thing about New York is that you can actually dine really late. So after the wonderful Waitress production we had an 11pm reservation at db Bistro Modern, a reliable late night choice operated by Daniel Boulud, whose high end restaurants we view with less favor.

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The stunning highlight of the trip, and one of the best meals of our lives was Easter lunch at Caviar Russe, where we had the caviar tasting menu, an eight course extravaganza where every course incorporates caviar in a meaningful way. The wine list is extremely attractively priced, which just makes things better. Linda and I had one of the best meals of our lives here in 2014, and this one was even better. So of the greatest meals I’ve ever had, Caviar Russe occupies two of the top five spots. (For those keeping score, the others are two different meals at Eleven Madison Park [neither of them recent] and New Year’s Eve at Victoria and Alberts.)

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We had a reservation at The NoMAD, operated by the Eleven Madison Park folks, but after such a spectacular lunch it would have been a waste. So instead we went to a local Turkish place, ABA Turkish Restaurant, which was very popular, and fine, but actually not as good as our Turkish and Middle Eastern restaurants in Orlando. But after that lunch, it hardly mattered!

We finished off our culinary extravaganza  with a Monday lunch at Vaucluse, a new French brasserie by Michael White, owner of, among other things Marea (which we aren’t wild about). Vaucluse is a beautiful room, and the brasserie food was elevated, yet traditional. The best Salade Lyonnaise of my life is my parting memory of New York.

Quite the culinary whirlwind, and something we can only do every couple of years, but there were some truly memorable experiences that we’ll hopefully be remembering long after the Amex bill comes.

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If you can just do one thing in New York, I have to say—well, see Waitress! But other than that, Caviar Russe is the place to be.

Posted in Dani, Dining, Linda, New York | Comments Off on New York Dining

Waitress

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Waitress Preview Day 2

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This anniversary trip to New York City features a lot of fine dining, but it started because of Waitress, a new musical based on the movie, and with a score by Sara Bareilles. Dani asked for tickets for Christmas, and I was able to get them prior to opening night.

Sara tells the story of how she became involved with the show in her biography, Sounds Like Me. At the time she didn’t know the director, Diane Paulus, was quite famous, and she hadn’t seen the movie. But when offered the job she went home and watched it, and immediately wrote the first song for it.

That song and most of the others are on an album, What’s Inside: Songs from Waitress, that she released last year, and which Dani and I have been listening to in heavy rotation. It’s a great album, but it’s very, um, Sara-ish. So it was with some trepidation that we went to see the show, since not many people can sing—or even play—a song the way Sarah Bareilles does.

I’m pleased to report that: 1) this cast—and especially the lead, Jessie Mueller—can sing them that way; 2) the onstage band is on top of it; 3) this is an amazing Broadway show, not just some pop songs set to a movie. In fact, the songs fit so perfectly that, having not seen the movie, I can’t really imagine it without the songs.

What’s remarkable is how polished the show and cast are given that we saw it on the second night of previews. There might have been one song in act 2 that I would have cut, but other than that I wouldn’t change a thing. The audience agreed, and was wildly enthusiastic from the moment the lights dimmed. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a more enthusiastic audience.

I was struck by how much of Sara’s album made it into the show, although one great song, Door Number Three, didn’t make it in recognizable form. But for the most part her album will give you a great idea of what this show sounds like, even if you can’t exactly figure out who will be singing what number.

Needless to say, we loved the show, and if I could see it again tonight, I would!

Posted in Dani, Linda, New York, Theatre | Comments Off on Waitress

Momofuku Ko

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I’ve wanted to visit Momofuku Ko ever since I read about it in the excellent book, The Rosie Project, which you should definitely read. It’s very hard to get a reservation, but thanks to split-second timing last week I was surprised to be able to get in on a Thursday evening.

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The layout is a bit like l’Atelier, where you sit at a counter facing the chefs and watch the food being prepared. The ambiance of the restaurant is great, with excellent music at just the right level, so it’s easy to hear your companion, but no other guests, thanks to a large gap between each pair of seats.

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We absolutely loved all the personnel at Momofuku Ko. They were all warm and gracious, and genuinely glad we were there. The sommelier, Chase Sinzer, in particular, spent a lot of time with us, and helped us select a couple of superb Burgundies.

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The meal consisted of 16 courses, mostly tiny bites, and some were spectacular. I had been expecting a very sashimi oriented meal, but actually very few courses resembled anything I’d had before. Highlights included a miniature pomme soufflé; chopped black bass sprayed with shiso mist; a nice serving of Osetra caviar (that didn’t particularly go with the accompanying sweet potato puree); the visually stunning razor clam with basil seeds (a signature dish); a roasted potato served in a delicious bouillabaisse broth; and foie gras that was frozen and finely shaved over lychee.

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I must admit that not all the courses were home runs. Spanish mackerel with a runny baked egg was not particularly flavorful. Most of the hot dishes were misses, especially a tough sirloin (although the accompanying potato churro was wonderful) and the chicken pie.

Two dessert courses were pleasant and not too sweet, and at the end Chase comped us some Green Chartreuse, which we had never had before, and really enjoyed.

It was a delightful evening, and I would definitely return to Momofuku Ko.

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Florida International Wine Competition 2016

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This was my 25th year judging wines at the Florida State Fair International Wine Competition. It was a strange event this year. Now held before the fair begins, it’s always a bit creepy going to the abandoned fairground.

Various factors, mostly organizational, have caused the number of entries to dwindle from a high of 1800 to less than 400 this year. And last minute conflicts and miscommunication reduced the judges panel this year to only 8, down from a high of 21.

Still it’s aways a fun event, and although California wines were almost absent from the slate this year, New York wines made an excellent showing, with a single New York Winery taking two of the top five prizes.

Jeanne Burgess from San Sebastian and Lakeridge swept the Florida categories. Go Jeanne!

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Steve’s Birthday Food and Wine Festival

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For my 60th birthday, everyone at Alcorn McBride got together and secretly planned a spectacular progressive lunch. Each person decorated their office to match one of my interests, and prepared one of my favorite foods. And Martin matched them all with wines. Needless to say, after 17 offices, we were all having a pretty great time, and the celebrating went on into the evening. Thanks everyone, for a very memorable birthday!

IMG_1134Best to take cover when Mike is opening the Champagne.

IMG_1138We started with a Champagne reception in the Sales area.

IMG_0211They gave me a Champagne sword. I decided it would be smarter not to test it.

IMG_2293Who would have imagined that Jim would do bacon? This was actually the most amazing wine pairing of the day, an Alsatian white.

IMG_1086 Dmitri did Hawaiian shorts and tira misu.

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Adam did Asian food.

IMG_1123Hunter did “Things Steve Hates,” including Chick-Fil-A and wine coolers!

IMG_1090Martin’s theme was Burgundy, and of course he had the best wine.

IMG_1091Joy’s Star Trek theme featured exotic Klingon food and wine.

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Devin did Kitty Kat Nap Salad from Yellow Dog Eats

IMG_1097Loren’s theme was writing, and her food was PB&J (and her wine was sweet and tasty).

IMG_1099Alex made lamb burgers from Australia.

IMG_1110Alan’s theme was Tesla, complete with his own home-made Jacob’s ladder and home-made chili from a wild boar that he single handedly wrestled to the ground.

IMG_1179Kara was one of the main organizers, and was constantly on the move, which may or may not explain why she is blurry here.

IMG_1102Justin’s theme was Epcot, of course.

IMG_1116Scott’s theme was Wicked. Only one witch died to make this green cocktail.

IMG_1119Joseph is our beer expert, and he picked a delicious stour and porter, and made beer floats!

IMG_1106JR did Smoke House garlic bread using my recipe, and it turned out better than I’ve ever done. I’m jealous.

IMG_1171Alex provided hats and took advantage of this one to give himself a Steve-inspired pony tail.

IMG_1165Will tries on one of the hats provided by the warehouse. It may be a bit small on him.

IMG_1182Chris models another of the hats from the warehouse crew.

IMG_1121Mike’s office was ballroom dance themed, with pate and Champagne.

Thanks for a fabulous birthday, everyone! It was unforgettable!

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Sommelier Recommendations

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Ron has received many recommendations of “off the radar” wines from Sommeliers, mostly in the New York restaurant scene, and decided to organize an event to try them out. He had the wines shipped in and organized a wonderful tasting at the Capital Grille, to which he invited Orlando area somms and wine people.

The wines were presented mostly in flights of three, and by an odd chance the group’s favorites in almost every flight was the third wine!

Ron also added five of his favorite wines, all of which were, in fact better than any of the recommended wines.

My favorites were the 2011 Antoine Arena ‘Grotte Di Sole’ Blanc (a Vermentinu from Corsica!) and the 2012 Marie et Pierre Benetiere “Cordeloux” Côte-Rôtie.

Afterward we started bringing out older gems during a late, late lunch. I left around 4pm, and they were just getting started!

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Bereche & Fils Champagne
Chardonnay
Clean, high acid, chalk lime
90 pts

Georges Laval Champagne
Pinot noir, Pinot meunier, crushed by foot
Ash, beef broth
88 pts

Chartogne-Taillet Champagne 2008
Pinot meunier
Yeasty, mouth filling, long, toasty
93 pts

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Jeanne Francois Ganevat Chardonnay Le Montceau 2013
Green, short, very light
87 pts

Claire Naudin Aligote ‘Le Clou 34’ 2013
Aligote
Very floral nose like a southeastern wine, heavy
90 pts

Antoine Arena ‘Grotte Di Sole’ Blanc 2011
Vermentinu from Corsica
Vanilla, oak, marvelous complexity, rich, buttery, spicy finish
94 pts

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Ch Simone Palette Blanc 2010
Petroleum, waxy, slightly oxidative in the mouth, short
90 pts

Moreau-Naudet Chablis ‘Forets’ 1er Cru 2012
Flinty, crisp, spicy, acidic
88 pts

Stephane Cossais Montlouis Sur Loire ‘Le Volagre’ 2008
Chenin Blanc
Lush, balanced, toasty
92 pts

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Claire Naudin Bourgogne Hautes Cotes de Beaune ‘Orchis Mascula’ 2011
Beautiful red fruit Burgundian nose, light bodied, cherries, very drinkable, do not age
90 pts

Chateau de Fosse-Seche ‘Reserve du Pigeonnier’ 2004
Cab Franc
Slightly cheese nose, pimiento, metallic, balanced, dust, tight
86 pts

Domaine du Collier Saumur ‘La Ripaille’ Rouge 2011
Cab Franc
Vanilla, a bit tannic, short
87 pts

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Castello Conti Boca ‘Il Rosso Delle Donne’ 2010
Nebbiolo
Vanilla, sour cherries
92 pts

Domaine Faury Saint Joseph 2013
Syrah Rhone
Vanilla, silky, balanced, slightly thin finish
92 pts

Ganon Saint Joseph 2012
Syrah Rhone
Rotisserie Meat, fruit, black olive, vanilla, earthy, mint
95 pts

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Jean Michel Stephan Côte Rotie 2012
Smoked meat, silky, tannic
95 pts

Marie et Pierre Benetiere “Cordeloux” Côte-Rôtie 2012
Dusty nose, bell pepper, silky
96 pts

Gangloff Côte Rotie La Serene 2000
Bologna, somewhat off balance, like the nose  much better than the taste
91 pts

Balthazar Chaillot Cornas 2012
Smoked meat, awkward
89 pts

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Clos de la Roche Grand Cru George Linier 1985 (Steve)
Youthful, complex, leather, cherries, very balanced
95 pts

Echezeaux Mongeard-Mugneret 1985
A bit thin, iodine
89 pts

Baron Pichon Longville 1975 (Steve)
Extremely youthful, big fruit, tobacco, umami, gravel
94 pts

Borgogno Barolo 1982
Minty, vanilla, youthful, elegant wine
93 pts

La Mission Haut Brion 1966
Roses, gun metal, cedar, gingerbread, iron, cardboard, still extremely fruity, a particularly fresh bottle
95 pts

 

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Chicago, New Orleans, Orlando – Linda’s Road Trip Blog

I flew up to Chicago on Friday to spend some time with Steve and Dani. The weather is very strange this time of year – we had lunch outside yesterday and it went from very sunny to threatening to rain with the temp varying by 20 degrees all in the course of one meal!

IMG_7764Our view of the Wrigley Building.

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Yesterday we went on a tour of the Chicago Theater which is about to celebrate its 95th birthday. It was originally built as a movie palace – outside of stunning architecture its claim to fame was air conditioning when it opened. Since films were silent then it has a massive pipe organ – the largest pipe was built of wood and was just over 33 feet long! The organ console has “special effects” buttons built in for car horns, sirens, etc. to accompany the silent films. The theater sat over 3500 folks and was actually a medium sized theater for the chain that it was a part of. When it opened there were well over 100 ushers employed all of whom had “to be well brought up young men of good character with a minimum of a high school education”. They also had to be 5’7″ tall and 135 lbs. to fit into the standard uniforms. Similar to our Disney operator signaling systems today, there were elaborate button and light panels all through this massive building so the ushers could communicate where empty seats were. Very impressive for its day!

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I finished a cross stitch that I have been working on for 4 years this afternoon so we are going to take it to a framer tomorrow morning before we leave Chicago.


 

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Our first road trip stop is in St. Louis. We are staying in a Four Seasons with a lovely view of the arch which unfortunately is closed due to urban renewal around its base. Also unfortunate is that the view of everything around the arch is a collection of decaying riverfront factories with black walls and smokestacks – no wonder they built the arch so high – perhaps the goal was to be able to see into another state!

Strangely adjacent to this nice hotel is a new casino which is quite lovely but filled with the dregs of humanity – dedicated gambler that I am even I was scared off and retreated back to the room.


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Memphis was much nicer than St. Louis. We stayed at the original Peabody – what a wonderful blast from the past! And best of all the ducks are still there. It was so fun – the Duck Master comes out (sort of like a Ring Master) all dressed up in a fancy red coat and after a spiel to the crowd (of several hundred) he ceremoniously lowers red carpeted duck sized stairs and escorts the ducks to the elevator for the ride to their duck palace on the roof. In Orlando, once released from their fountain the ducks broke the land speed record to escape the lobby full of children; the Memphis ducks seem to have much more decorum and walked down the aisle with a majesty that would have befitted the Queen of England.

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We ate at a restaurant called Flights. They had wine flights of course but also had food flights as well – so for example they had a salad flight consisting of (3) salads – thank goodness we just ordered one – portions were huge – I forget this is the South and all. Along those lines it is kind of telling how many billboards there are for cardiac care!

In the morning we took a quick drive down Beale Street just to check that off the list (they were still cleaning up from last night’s partying). It’s not quite as romantic at 8:30 AM!

I took my turn at driving today as we continued down I-55 through Mississippi – what a great drive! I have spent so much time driving in Florida with idiots that I had forgotten what it was like to share the road with folks who know what they are doing. And best of all there are virtually no towns en route, so there aren’t any cops either. Everyone has agreed to go 80 MPH and it’s an overall dandy arrangement. I was driving Steve’s stretch Lexus which is SO comfortable – the only bad thing is there is absolutely no feedback as to how fast you are going – I caught myself doing 90 at one point!


IMG_0370New Orlean’s French Quarter defies description – you have seen the pictures of course but the ambiance is kind of like the seedier part of Las Vegas mixed with the funkiness of San Fransisco’s water front with a dollop of New York street life thrown in for good measure. Walking the streets is kind of like driving in Florida – you have to assume you are going to be cut off at every pass – folks start to drink around 11 AM and it is legal to carry drinks with you on the street – so it’s a happy but directionally and balance wise challenged crowd. Bourbon Street is sort of like an exercise in natural selection – the street itself is closed to traffic but the cross streets are not – you get the picture.

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Just one block over from Bourbon is Royal Street – a very different vibe. There are still many tourist shops here but there are some fine antique stores as well. We spent an hour in one that was more like a museum with price tags. It was not uncommon to find prices around $75K and there was a painting that had been sourced from the Vatican that was close to $1M. And heaven knows what they had hidden in the back! The place was huge and among other treasure they had a collection of precision world clocks from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.

Commander’s Palace turned out to be a dud – incredibly high wine prices, a fairly limited menu and fractured service – oh well.

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Last night however we went to and absolutely fabulous new restaurant (R’evolution). Great wine list and the food was outstanding. Steve and Dani had a 1907 Madiera to finish off the meal – perfect in every way!

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Halloween in New Orleans is… well let’s just say it ain’t Disney style.

On Bourbon Street one passes cigar puffing men in red tutu’s and matching bustier’s with a lot of muscles and an overall bad attitude. The young ladies in similar attire go down the street without comment. The young ladies (?) hooking for the strip clubs hang out with mostly bare tops covered perhaps by black paint at the most. They are about 15′ away from young boys tap dancing on the street in violation of every child labor law I have ever heard of. We saw a very dapper pair of elderly men (clearly well monied) with impeccable suit jackets, killer shoes and no pants save for very colorful boxer shorts. Then there was the black robed young woman with a large live snake draped around her neck. And the crazy guy naked but for black Speedo who was bragging about being both drunk and high on cocaine… And everyone else is just pretty much 3 sheets to the wind. Several schmucks had fallen by the road and were sleeping it off on the sidewalk. And this was about 5 PM last night. So what I could not get my head around was about this same time a NOLA police car was driving down the road – could not fathom what infraction they were going to go for first? These folks have taken live and let live to a whole new level!

IMG_0471So what I neglected to mention is the music. Music oozes from every pore of the French Quarter – they seem to be be born knowing how to play an instrument. There is nothing repetitive about it – every performance is improvised – as opposed to soul music this is music from the soul – amazing! There was a street band led by an older black lady clarinet player – the best I have ever heard! Her name is Doreen Ketchens; here is one link on YouTube but you can find others as well:

There was also a band that played in a lounge in our hotel. The room was about the same size as lounges on cruise ships and I always felt a slight rocking sensation (but it might have been the champagne…).


IMG_0529Yesterday we had had enough of the city and drove about an hour out of town to a riverfront plantation, Oak Alley. It was a rainy day so it was very uncrowded and it was a little easier to get a sense of what it must have really been like. It is named Oak Alley because an unknown Frenchman planted an avenue of oak trees 80 feet apart in the early 1700’s. He never lived to see them in their full majesty but now they have grown together and form a magnificent arch leading to the river. They funnel any breeze and in the early 1800’s a wealthy French officer built a magnificent home at the end of the Alley for his bride (who sounds like she was actually a pill but whatever.)

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The plantation grew sugar cane and employed about 100 slaves. There was an inventory of them from the mid 1800’s and their values ranged from $25 for a very sickly older person to $1500 for a skilled self taught botanist. Morality aside, just from an economic standpoint most of them were not given sufficient food/clothing to survive adequately – they had to supplement their incomes/food by raising crops and animals in their “spare” time; seems a pennywise approach to treating your work force.


 

 

So then it was off to Biloxi and the Beau Rivage. It is kind of sad – sort of a southern Las Vegas built on the cheap for senior citizens who have never gotten the chance to travel anywhere else. The only fun fact is for inexplicable reasons it is mandated that the casinos themselves have to be built on barges. So the hotels are built on the water’s edge and the barges are seamlessly attached to them – you can’t detect the seam from the inside. And no, I cannot figure out how they deal with the tides and it’s bugging me…

IMG_0550Last night we had a lovely dinner in a steak house on the top of another hotel – they had a very nice wine list and also were having a 50% off special on the wine – no limits! Had some really good Burgundy at below retail – yeah! And I even won $15 at the casino last night.

Eating habits in the South – no wonder insurance rates are so high! It is just kind of sad. We went to a sushi restaurant in Biloxi and out of 40 rolls only 3 or 4 of them did not feature tempura battered something or overall deep fried or both. Yuk! Amazingly their sashimi preparations were spot on.


 

En route to the Panhandle I was amazed by the sophistication of Mobile, Alabama – beautiful waterfront convention center and great local restaurants.


 

 

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Our final stop before Orlando was in Destin, Florida, at a kind of funky pseudo bed and breakfast with a killer Gulf view.

IMG_0573 I am going to sleep with the doors open and the waves lapping outside.

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Alinea – a Return Visit

Alinea is widely regarded as the top restaurant in the United States, but when we visited five years ago we weren’t impressed. The service seemed stiff, and there were too many directions involved in how to eat each course.

But it had been a few years, and since then we’ve enjoyed many meals at their related restaurant, Next, which changes its entire concept three times a year.

Both restaurants use an advance ticketing system, and it takes quite a bit of planning to book a table. In addition, Alinea won’t accept a booking for odd numbered parties, so we waited until Dani was out of town.

This visit immediately felt different than last time, as the waiters were much more friendly. Linda and I shared a reserve wine pairing, and that was plenty for both of us, because the wines were more eclectic than actually great, although there was an impressive 2005 Chateau Palmer near the end.

I was surprised how many of the courses were the same as five years ago, but there were also many new ones. I don’t think anything was as good as some of the things we’ve gotten at Next, but there were some fun items.
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These pieces of paper picture different food items, and the small tastes on top of them are designed to taste like the pictured item, even though they appear completely different.

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Pretty but not remarkable.

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This is an actual slab of concrete, but the concrete-like pieces on top are food.

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This was several courses. The best and most interesting thing of the night was a shellfish I was unfamiliar with called Percebes. There were two on the piece of driftwood, and they were consumed by simply biting off the tiny bit that extended from the shell. All the rest of that is just decorative.

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Another beautiful presentation, all edible.

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There were some interesting flavors here, but again it’s mostly about appearance.

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This was a new fun experience: a green apple flavored balloon full of helium, so you could bite it, inhale, and talk like Donald Duck. Just don’t get it in your hair!

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This was the final course, which was the same as last time, and didn’t thrill us. They put down a mat and the chef decorates it with dessert. It’s not particularly interesting, just outre.

The menu was presented at the end of the meal. The size of the circle indicates the size of the course, the darkness of the circle indicates the intensity of flavor, and the position of the circle indicates sweetness (the farther to the right, the sweeter).

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In summation, I thought Alinea was better than last time, but still not anywhere near the top of my restaurant scale. There are many places in Chicago I’d rather go, including Next, Boka, Grace, Intro and Sepia. Also, having just been to Victoria and Albert’s for Linda’s birthday the week before, it really pointed out how the experiences are not remotely on the same level.

Maybe in another five years we’ll give it another try.

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Linda’s Birthday at V&A

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For Linda’s birthday we invited Ron and Bev to join us at Victoria & Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian.

We’ve been going to this restaurant every Christmas Eve for twenty years, and we should really try to get there more often, as everyone treats us like family there. Plus, it’s the closest restaurant to our house, and was recently voted #6 in the country by Trip Advisor.

The restaurant has recently changed from two seatings per night to one, which makes it nice, because you have your table for the night. Given that it’s always sold out, it was nice of Israel, the manager, to find so much space for our wines.

When Linda and I go we usually have the wonderful wine pairing, but this was a special night, so Ron and I coordinated to bring some spectacular old French Wines.

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I feel like the restaurant, which was always great, has really upped their game during our last few visits. This meal began with four of the best courses I’ve had anywhere.

IMG_0114We love the Osetra caviar, and Chef Scott Hunnell’s cauliflower panacotta provides an amazing base for it. Israel poured a Champagne from their list that was a great match.
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The Alaskan salmon rolled around crab and topped with caviar was also a wonderful new dish that went perfectly with our Aubert chardonnay.
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The sable fish with soy  and mushroom really went well with the Burgundies we were starting on.
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And this new langoustine dish had us going back to the Aubert to match its butteriness. Wow, four great dishes.
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The chicken and pork dishes that followed were good matches to the rest of our Burgundies, if not quite at the same stellar level.
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And the Australia Wagu worked well with the Bordeaux.
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We had our favorite server, Anita, who we’ve missed on our last few visits.

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Our first dessert included their sour cream ice cream, which everyone  knows is my favorite! There was also a chocolate dessert, but we just asked them to box that and brought it home for Chastity.

By the end of the evening we were the last table, and we had a chance to chat with many of our friends from the staff. A final surprise when we got home: Israel had placed a birthday gift in my wine bag for Linda, a gorgeous Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru! What a wonderful night with old friends.

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Wine Notes

This was one of the best flights of six red wines I’ve ever had, with every wine showing beautifully. My favorite of the night drifted back and forth several times, but I finally settled on the 1959, which after three hours had an almost infinitely complex nose.

2010 Aubert Chardonnay Ritchie Vineyard (Steve) 94 pts

Honey, spice, butter, toast

1961 Pierre Ponnelle Echezeaux (Ron) 96 pts

Cherry, young, Asian spice

1959 Leroy Grand Echezeaux (Steve) 98 pts

Green leaves, brioche, red fruit, mushroom, iron, curry, spearmint, really evolved over 3 hours

1978 DRC Romanee St. Vivant (Ron) 94 pts

Dates, cherry, bread

1997 Leroy Romanee St. Vivant (Steve) 94 pts

Wood, sour cherry, floral, violet, spice

1982 Ch La Mission Haut Brion (Ron) 95 pts

Dust, wax, plums, black fruits, smoke

1982 Ch Haut Brion (Steve) 94 pts

Roses, wax, herbs, wet gravel, red fruits

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Corn Maze and Apple Picking

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We took advantage of cool weather and beautiful blue skies to drive 60 miles west of Chicago to All Season Apple Orchard in Woodstock, Illinois. From Late August until early November they have a corn maze, apple orchard, and many other attractions.

We were fairly early, and I expected to be almost alone, but there were already hundreds of cars in the parking area, and a long line to buy tickets. I guess everyone else thought is was a great day to pick apples, too. Once inside, it wasn’t particularly crowded, as the place is huge, and it was mostly families with small children playing on the bounce houses and in the corn pit.

We began by watching the pig races, which were pretty funny.

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Then we ventured into the maze. Dani complained that I was looking at the map, but I pointed out that she was taking the well-trod paths, which seemed much the same thing. There was a fun “Clue” type mystery to solve by finding clues in the maze and punching your card.

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Once we found our way back out of the maze we had a quick bite to eat (while dodging the bees who really liked our cider). Then we took the wagon ride to the orchard to pick apples.

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We paid extra to pick Honey Crisp apples, and boy are they sweet and crisp, especially right off the tree!

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I had never been in a corn maze or picked fruit before, and both were really fun activities.

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From Lincoln to Twain

At the start of the Labor Day weekend Dani and I made a quick overnight road trip to Hannibal Missouri to see Mark Twain’s birthplace. Along the way we stopped in Springfield, Illinois to checkout The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, where some of Alcorn McBride’s gear is used. After a nice lunch at Incredibly Delicious we headed for the museum, parking in the underground garage to escape the 95 degree heat.

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum

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I’m a huge fan of BRC Imagination Arts, the designers of this experience. Bob Rogers is a master storyteller, and this facility demonstrates the power of storytelling like few others I’ve encountered.

It’s amazing how much information you can retain when it is presented in a meaningful and moving context, and that’s what the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum is all about.

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Both of the automated shows are real blockbusters, with amazing effects and immersive narration that really draws you in.

The “Holovision” show Ghosts of the Library uses a live performer and many of the effects developed for BRC’s famous Expo ’86 Spirit Lodge Show (and Knott’s Berry Farm’s Mystery Lodge), plus some new effects that will delight even jaded theme park goers like me.

The Lincoln’s Eyes show uses multiple screens and a lot of moving scrims and impressive theatrical sound to very effectively tell Lincoln’s story in an unconventional way.

Don’t let these elaborate shows fool you into thinking this is shallow theme park-like entertainment. You’ll leave them with a truly deep knowledge of history, having learned many things you never knew you didn’t know about a seemingly familiar story.

Equally impressive to me was the way that Lincoln’s childhood and presidency were presented in two separate walkthrough exhibits. Signage didn’t overwhelm, but was just enough to invite reading and interpreting each stop. I wish all museum curators would learn how to do this.

Similarly, the displays of artifacts were perfectly interpreted, with just enough information to draw us in without overwhelming us with verbiage, yet with plenty of hard information that was easy to absorb. I certainly learned ten times as much as I expected to.

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This museum is a delightful place to spend as little as a couple of hours, or as much as a full day. Highly recommended.

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum is at 212 N 6th Street, in Springfield, Illinois.

Hannibal, Missouri

In the afternoon we headed west, across featureless cornfields, for Hannibal, Missouri, Mark Twain’s boyhood home, and the setting for Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Hannibal sits just across the Mississippi River from Illinois, and it’s a bit of a one horse town.

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The major industry seems to be tourism along the four blocks of historic shopping that run from the Mark Twain Museum up to the statue of Tom and Huck.

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We stayed at a charming bed and breakfast called the Dubach Inn, and had dinner three doors away at LaBinnah Bistro. After dinner we walked down to the steamboat landing on the Mississippi River.

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In the morning we had a delightful breakfast with other guests of the hotel, who were emcees for a steampunk convention that happened to be in town for the weekend, and would provide some interesting color along the main street during our stay.

Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum

Our first stop was the Mark Twain Museum. The ground floor provides a fairly elaborate interpretation of some of Twain’s books, including Tom Sawyer, The Innocents Abroad, and his time in the gold rush territory of California. While these displays looked nice, they didn’t do a great job of conveying their message, especially to their intended audience, which seemed to be children.

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The upper two floors of the museum did a much better job, displaying artifacts and artwork from Twain’s life and books. For those with the patience to read the detailed signage, there was a lot of interesting information here.

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The museum ticket is available as a package that also grants access to other buildings down the street, and that’s definitely worthwhile. You can tour the homes that provided the inspiration for Tom, Huck and Becky, and all were interesting.

At the end of the street is a statue of Tom and Huck at the foot of the path that leads up to the lighthouse.

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Mark Twain Cave

After browsing through the steam punk festival’s booths, we headed three miles down river to Mark Twain’s Cave.

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This cave may not be filled with spectacular stalactites and other formations, but it is rich in history, since it is the cave from the Tom Sawyer novel (and four other Mark Twain books). Walking through its labyrinthian passageways really brings the book into focus, and the guides do a great job of identify various locations mentioned in the book.

 

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It’s a very easy cave to traverse, with flat floors, no steps, and no climbing. It’s also a cool 52 degree respite on a hot summer day, so bring a jacket!

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After our tour of the cave, we headed back, stopping at Lover’s Leap for a last look at what is still very much Mark Twain’s Hannibal before heading home.

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Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon Vertical

Ron organized this four decade tasting of one of California’s first great flagship wines. We met at Eddie V’s and began with three flights representing the 70s, 80s and the 90s/2000s.

I was struck by the distinct stylistic difference between the flights. The 70s represented old school California winemaking, while the 80s showed a distinct Bordeaux influence, and the wines from the 90s/2000s reflected a significant leap in overall winemaking technique.

Although I scored the wines throughout the evening, all of the wines were of such consistent quality that the scores aren’t really meaningful. The Ridge wines improved through the three flights. The group’s favorites were the 72, 74, 81, 91 and 96, while the 2007 was felt to have long term potential.

Following the formal tasting the attendees poured an additional dozen wines. These wines, all French, were consistantly of stunning quality, all rating well into the 90s. Many of these wines were poured blind.

The most impressive moment of the night was when Ron identified the appellation, year, and producer of the 1999 Cote Rotie. That definitely earned a round of applause!

My notes:

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Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon

Flight 1

1972 – wood, some, good fruit, wax

1973 – a bit maderized, caramel

1974 – tight, acidic, wax, wood, dill, slightly short, still has some years

1975 – corked

1977 – good fruit, simple, balanced

(Raymond 1974 CS added for contrast – fruit, vanilla, probably what happens to a fruit bomb after 40 years)

Flight 2

1981 – big fruit, blackberry, smoke, tobacco

1984 – coffee, dill

1985 – acidic, good fruit, slightly off balance, dill

1987 – vegetal, dill, slightly off balance

Flight 3

1991 – big fruit, vanilla, dill, some, coffee, the most complex of all

1992 – good fruit, a bit vegetal

1996 – game, tobacco, gun oil, Bordeaux like

1997 – big sweet nose, tannic, very ripe

2007 – big fruit, vanilla, seems balanced

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Dinner Wines

1971 Corton alexis Lichine (Steve) – light color, lilacs, strawberry, cedar, delicate, balanced, nice fruit finish

2006 Dominus (Andres) – black cherry nose, very tannic, ripe prunes, vegetal, much too young

1978 Antonin Rodet Richebourg (Ron) – burn wood, vanilla, fresh fruit, herbs, Fig Newton

1999 Cote Rotie Le Grandes Places Jean-Michel Gerin (Steve) – Bacon fat, olives, superb. Blind identified exactly by Ron!

1966 Ch. La Mission Haut Brion (Ron) – fully mature Bordeaux, very balanced, tobacco

2003 Ch.Cos d’Estournel (Gary) Dense, coffee, chocolate, very tannic, gravel

2005 Ch. Las Combes (Martin) – Great fruite, balanced, vanilla, tannic

2010 Ch. Pontet Canet (Steve) – Surprisingly accessible for its age, huge fruite, vanilla, slate, stones

2009 Ch. Gazin (Andres) – Big, silky, fruitier than the 2010. Blind identified as a 2009 Pomerol by Steve

2010 Cardinale (Brian) – Superb steak wine, black cherry, baking spice really smooth and balanced. My favorite

2001 Ch. Rayas (Ron) – Light, elegant, fully mature. Misidentified as Burgundy (again!)

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Michigan Wineries

Dani and I made a day trip around the lake to visit some Michigan wineries. It was an easy drive, and there were some nice wineries (although not really world-class wines).

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Farewell to Evanston

It always seems a shame to sell a place, just when you get it perfect. The Evanston condo served Dani well for six years, beginning with her Sophomore year at Northwestern. Here is a look back.

Before

Evanston Condo
OK, it is the world’s ugliest building.

Evanston Condo

Evanston Condo

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Roommate Era

Dani's Evanston condo master neatend up a bit

New Furniture

Dani's Evanston condo dinign and living

Dani's Evanston condo lighting

Dani's Condo: Finished!

Remodeling

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Hardwood Floors

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New Tile

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The View

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VeggieKabobs
One thing you can’t do at the Chicago high rise

Moving Out

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The Victory Bottle

VictoryBottleTasting

There are not very many wines on my wine bucket list. In fact, there has really only ever been one. It was the 1945 Chateau Mouton Rothschild “Victory Bottle.”

The victory bottle is famous for a couple of reasons.

First is that 1945 was a miracle vintage. After a string of awful vintages throughout World War II, 1945 produced the greatest wines of the century, and perhaps ever.

Second, Baron Rothschild commemorated the recovery of his winery with a unique label featuring a “V” for victory. This was the start of Chateau Mouton’s tradition of making each year’s label unique, and led to the long string of famous artist’s paintings that have graced the label since then.

Because of its fame, the Victory Bottle is perhaps the most faked bottle in all of the wine world, so it must be pursued with great caution. After many years, I was able to locate a bottle through a Hart Davis auction that carried an indisputable provenance, and I purchased it last fall. Since then I have been working to assemble a tasting of Mouton’s other greatest vintages to accompany it. Our group, The Wine Syndicate, met to sample them last night.

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Often when experiencing anything that has been subject to so much hype and anticipation, the results are disappointing. I am happy to report this was not the case here. Not only did the great bottles exceed their reputations, the Victory Bottle was, indeed, the greatest of them all.

There was strong consensus among the group that the two top wines were the 1945 and 1959, and that the final five wines ( 1959, 1961, 1982, 1986 and 1945) were stellar masterpieces. The first two wines (1890 and 1937) were also astonishingly fresh for their age, and remained appealing for four hours in the glass.

It was a remarkable tasting, and one for which I will cherish the memory, now that my wine bucket list is empty!

My notes on the individual wines, and information about the provenance and history of the Victory Bottle follow:

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1890 & 1937

With very old wines you never know what to expect. These were both magical. The cork for the 1890, a shipper’s wine, was extremely short, but did its job. The ’37 was true to other ’37 first growths I’ve had, an unheralded year.

1890 still lively, candle wax, iron, rose petals, 92 pts

1937 youthful, aromatic, bandaid, cinnamon, mint, candle wax, soy, spices, great acid, five spice, curry, 94 pts

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1962, 1964 & 1966

Except for 1961, the 60’s and 70’s were a difficult time for Bordeaux

1962 candle wax, soap, lanolin to the max, off balance, injection molded plastic, flawed bottle

1964 simple, classic mouton, good fruit, little structure, 88 pts

1966 coffee, smoke, simple, 90 pts

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1970 & 1975

These are the only very good vintages of the 70’s

1970 coffee, black fruits, 90 pts

1975 soft, red fruits, 89 pts

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1959 & 1961

These are considered the greatest vintages of Mouton, after the ’45

1959 huge ripe fruit, young, dark, perfect tannin balance, mint, vanilla, Girl Scout cookies, mint chocolate chip ice cream, 99 pts

1961 barbecue, soy, fully resolved tannins, iron, 96 pts

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1982 & 1986

Both are Robert Parker 100 point wines.

1982 poor cork, slight wet cardboard, mint, soft fruit, 93 pts

1986 tannic, road tar, great legs, very young, black cherry, stunningly better than the 1982, mint, wood, 98 pts

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The Victory Bottle

1945 wow! almost overwhelming chocolate mint, dust, great tannic structure, cherry cola, eucalyptus bark, vanilla, unchanged in the glass for two hours, this wine will likely live another hundred years. 100 pts

Historic Information about Chateau Mouton-Rothschild 1945

(Réserve du Château. Provenance: Purchased from Hart Davis 11/2014, Ex-Zachys 10/30/2004 lot 1205 from the cellar of Armin Diel, recently released from Mähler-Besse)

“Mouton 45” is a legend in the wine world  – there is nothing quite like it. Its renown is likely due to both its extraordinary nose  – famously redolent of eucalyptus –  and the symbolism of its date and label, the ‘V’ representing the hard-won triumph of good over the forces of darkness. To commemorate the Allied victory, Baron Philippe had the idea of embellishing the Mouton-Rothschild 1945 label with an artwork, on this occasion, a symbolic design intended to celebrate the return of peace. He commissioned this work from a  young unknown artist, Philippe Julian. M. Julian submitted several drafts for the label, and the final one is based on the ‘V for Victory’ made famous by Winston Churchill throughout the war. This marked the beginning of a series of specially designed labels for each vintage. For each year a different artist was commissioned, and the payment was always in wine.

Michael Broadbent, the renowned British expert, writes in his book “Vintage Wine”:

The first thing to notice is its extraordinary colour. I have on more than one occasion recognized the wine by this alone. And its bouquet is equally distinctive, in fact one of the most astonishing smells ever to emerge from grapes grown out of doors. The power and spiciness surges out of the glass like a sudden eruption of Mount Etna: cinnamon, eucalyptus, ginger. Impossible to describe but inimitable, incomparable, and, because of this and its appearance, several times ‘guessed’ blind. There is simply no other wine like it. Its taste is a component of smell, its fragrance is reflected on the palate. Still lovely, still vivacious. Seemingly tireless – indeed another half-century anticipated.

The doyenne of British wine journalists, Jancis Robinson, describes it as follows:

Very, very dark in colour. Extraordinary concentration in this famous wine. The aromas are just slightly porty in their ripeness and concentration but then the wine (still) has so much vitality that it rises above it all to be wonderfully vital. Truly a miraculous wine that I had the pleasure of encountering at the great celebration of the 50th anniversary of the end of the second world war at the British embassy in Paris. So rich and wonderfully persistent. What a treat!

And Robert Parker says:

A consistent 100-point wine (only because my point scale stops at that number), the 1945 Mouton-Rothschild is truly one of the immortal wines of the century. This wine is easily identifiable because of its remarkably exotic, over-ripe, sweet nose of black fruits, coffee, tobacco, mocha, and Asian spices. It is an extraordinarily dense, opulent, and rich wine, with layers of creamy fruit, behaving more like a 1947 Pomerol than a structured, powerful, and tannic 1945. The wine finishes with a 60+ second display of ripe fruit, extract, and sweet tannin. This remarkably youthful wine (only light amber at the edge) is mind boggling! Will it last another 50 years?

The fact that this was the first post-war harvest ought to have been enough to immortalize the vintage, but the freak weather conditions made it even more memorable. In the first few days of May, there was a sudden, heavy, and very late frost, which blackened four-fifths of the vineyard. The Merlot vines, which flowered earlier than the Cabernets, were the worst affected. Subsequent hot, dry weather soon restored the situation, but the eventual harvest was extremely small. The yield per hectare was the lowest it had been in 60 years (around 10h per ha). Not only were there few grapes to a bunch, but the berries were extremely small. The juice was greatly concentrated and the ratio between skin area and volume was extremely favorable for maximum extraction. So ripe were the grapes, that the musts sometimes attained 15% alcohol.

In 2006, K&L Wines sold a case of 1945 Mouton, including a trip to the Mähler-Besse cellar to pick out the bottles, for $150,000.

 

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Road Trip: Orlando to Chicago

After purchasing the new condo in downtown Chicago we wanted to transport some big, heavy stuff like art work and dishes, so Dani and I decided to road trip via Atlanta, Nashville and Louisville. This would have the added advantage of a car in Chicago for the summer, which would ease the move from Evanston.

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The route

IMG_6852Only 1268 miles to go.

IMG_6862 Atlanta

IMG_6868 Atlanta. Dani tries out my new Apple watch.

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Opryland hotel. Impressive but probably wouldn’t stay here again. Checking in is like queuing at a theme park. In fact, it is a theme park, and I did work on an AV installation here many years ago.

IMG_6902Louisville slugger. I really like the 21c Museum Hotel next door. We’ve stayed there twice. Not much other reason to come to Louisville, though!

IMG_7114Home! (Well, actually we had to store the stuff in Evanston–or the trunk–for a couple of weeks until after the closing.) Some of the heavy stuff we transported.

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Burgundy and Bordeaux at Capa

Capa

Our friends Ron and Bev are the only couple we know where no matter what old wine I pull from my cellar, they can match it. So when they invited us to try Capa at the new Four Seasons Hotel at Disney World, we jumped at the chance, and pulled some fantastic old wines to take along. Having met Capa’s sommelier, Jill Davis, a few weeks ago at a private party on Hilstone’s dock, we knew we were in for a treat, and we weren’t disappointed.

Oddly, this is the most austere Four Seasons I’ve been to, all hard surfaces and glaring lights. It’s the sort of place where the artwork is mostly square canvasses of one solid color.

Unfortunately, this austerity continues into the restaurants, including the flagship Capa on the 17th floor. What could be a real gem of a restaurant is defeated by an environment that sacrifices warmth for trendiness.

Certainly Capa has a lot to offer in the way of food. During a marathon evening of wine tasting we tried more than half the menu, and liked most of what we had.

The Hamachi Crudo, served with Clementines and a crunchy Horseradish topping was everyone’s favorite, and we had two orders and wanted more.

The Charcuterie Board was the best I’ve had. It includes Jamon Serrano, Cantimpalo, Lomo and we added some Iberico. The Lomo was particularly good.

The olive asortment included Arbequina, Gordal and Empeltre on the night we were there. Some were pitted, some not, and being served slightly warmed really increased their flavor profile.
The Shrimp coated with Chili were very pungent, a bit overwhelming with ours wines.

Patatas Bravas Potatoes looked like tater tots, but were amazingly fluffy, with a delicious Paprika and Black Garlic coating—some of the best potatoes I’ve ever had, and small enough to not feel guilty.

I’m not a big Pork Belly fan, but this version had been seared extra crispy, and I ate all of the generous portion.

The Octopus was chewy and lacked the crisp char needed to make it interesting.

Veal Cheeks had a gamey aroma that was quite unappealing.

The roasted Cauliflower was delicious, and served with a sunny side up egg for dipping.

For entrees we tried the 8 ounce Filet and the 12 ounce New York Strip. Both were prime. The filet, having been marinated, had an exotic succulence. The strip boasted a great smokey flavor from the grill and dry aging. Both were pretty pricey, but worth it.

The Bernaise Sauce was unusually thin (and a scanty portion) but proved to be a delicious dipping sauce for the strip, and its thinness actually made it a better accompaniment. It had lots of traditional Bernaise flavor.

The best side dish was the diced Carrot and Celery Root served with Pesto. The Swiss Chard and the Wild Mushrooms were both unremarkable. Yukon Gold mashed potatoes with Brown Butter were good, but not as good as they sound.

We also had an assorted dessert platter with ice creams, cakes, and some really good churros.

Service was up to the Four Seasons standard, with everyone extremely helpful and friendly.

It’s worth the hunt for an unlocked door so you can view the Disney fireworks from the terrace outside, which is a welcome escape from the boxy dining room and open kitchen.

I wouldn’t hesitate to return to Capa for the great food and wine service, but it’s not a place I’d pick for a cozy or romantic evening. With different seating, surfaces and lighting I’d be there every week.

CapaWines

Notes on the Wines

Capa is lucky to have Jill Davis as Sommelier. She is perhaps Central Florida’s most knowledgable sommelier. The wine list is superb, and excellently priced. On this evening we brought our own wines, and Jill provided superb wine service and insightful comments on all of them.

Jacques Selosse Initial (Ron)
Very crisp, only slight oxidation, lemon pith, brioche, green , 96

2002 Meursault Les Meix Chavaux Domaine Roulot
Closed nose, ashes, caramel, chalk, lanolin, dull, jelly bellies, 88 pts

1961 Chambertin Pierre Damoy (Ron)
Good fruit although thin, light color, slightly cloudy, cork fell in, coffee, 89 pts

1961 J. Thorin Chambertin-Clos de Bèze Grand Cru (Steve)
Fuel oil, acidic, iron, 86 pts

1961 Château Ausone (Ron)
Pleasant perfume, spice box, 91 pts

1961 Château Angélus (Steve)
Mineral nose, nice body, good fruit, 90 pts

1959 Echezeaux Pierre Ponnelle (Ron)
Deep color, great fruit, drinking 20 years younger, caramel, rosewood, caramel, raisins, cherry, baking spices, 97 pts

1959 Hospices de Beaune Beaune 1er Cru Cuvée Dames Hospitalieres Maison Leroy (Steve)
Elegant, traditional, dried rose nose, soy, espresso creme brûlée, great acid, earth, iron, youthful, 97 pts

1966 Château Latour Grand Vin (Ron)
Classic Bordeaux, not a lot of fruit left, 93 pts

1971 Château Latour Grand Vin (Steve)
Deep dark color, peppers, tannic fruit, dust, amazing complexity, very fruity, 94 pts

1966 Ch La Mission Haut Brion (Ron)
Bordeaux character, smoke, straw, ripe fruit, tobacco, a good bottle of this, although I’ve had even better, 94 pts

 

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