AMI Zoom Wine Group Graduation

An In-Person Tasting of Old and Rare Wines

Left to Right, Front to Back:
Martin Susan, Nic, Mindy,
Larry, Loren, Alan, Steve, Alex, Jim, Kathy, Martin, Linda
Liana, Joe, Tori, Scott, Loretta, Hunter, Kayla, Aaron

Ready to taste!
12010Château Pontet-CanetFrance, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac$22495
22005Château LascombesFrance, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux$10192
31995Dominus Estate Napanook VineyardUSA, California, Napa Valley$21693
41990Les Forts de LatourFrance, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac$27092
51982Château GloriaFrance, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien$14390
61970Château PavieFrance, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru$14691
71966Château Léoville Las CasesFrance, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien$23592
81959Vieux Château CertanFrance, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol$52494
91924Château Langoa BartonFrance, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien$140
101976Beaulieu Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Georges de Latour Private ReserveUSA, California, Napa Valley$18593
111957Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Private ReserveUSA, California, Napa Valley$184
122017Gérard Raphet Charmes-ChambertinFrance, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru$13196
132005Thibault Liger-Belair Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru Les Saint GeorgesFrance, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru$11092
141985Domaine des Lambrays Morey St. DenisFrance, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Morey St. Denis$99
151970Hospices de Beaune Beaune 1er Cru Cuvée Brunet Philippe BouchardFrance, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Beaune 1er Cru$100
161953M. Doudet-Naudin Clos VougeotFrance, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru$190
171949Gauthier Freres Savigny-lès-BeauneFrance, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Savigny-lès-Beaune$238
Rhone Blends
182010Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-PapeFrance, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape$11493
192001Cuvée du Vatican Châteauneuf-du-Pape Réserve SixtineFrance, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape$4991
201988Paul Jaboulet Aîné Hermitage La ChapelleFrance, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Hermitage$19293
212013Caymus Cabernet SauvignonUSA, California, Napa Valley$13091
222013Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon Special SelectionUSA, California, Napa Valley$18394
232014Saxum Heart Stone VineyardUSA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles$11095
242001Château SuduirautFrance, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes$14495


Dinner Wines

Notes on the wines:

The group’s favorites were:

1959 Vieux Château Certan (8.5 votes)
1970 Château Pavie (5.5 votes)
2010 Château Pontet-Canet (5 votes)

1957 Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Private Reserve (10 votes)
1976 Beaulieu Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Georges de Latour Private Reserve (9 votes)

1949 Gauthier Freres Savigny-lès-Beaune (11 votes)
1970 Hospices de Beaune Beaune 1er Cru Cuvée Brunet Philippe Bouchard (7 votes)
1953 M. Doudet-Naudin Clos Vougeot (6 votes)

I also really liked:

1924 Château Langoa Barton

Martin, Jim, and Steve

Zoom Wine Tasting Videos

(I only recorded sessions where someone couldn’t attend, so this is only about half of them.)

11/2/2020Vistamar and Crown Point
11/16/2020McManus and Roblar Petite Sirahs
11/18/2020Evans Ranch Pinot Noir 2005 and Crozes-Hermitage
2/1/2021Beckmen and Mollydooker
2/24/2021PETS Petite Sirah and Old Ghost Zinfandel
3/10/2021Clos du Bois Marlstone and Geodesy
3/15/2021Writer’s Block Zinfandel
3/17/20212018 Melville Donna’s Syrah and 2013 Jasper Hill Shiraz
3/23/2021Barbera – second half
3/24/2021Champagne and Late Harvest Chenin Blanc
3/29/2021Writer’s Block Cabernet Sauvignon
4/7/2021Pouilly Fuisse and Ann Albert Chardonnay
4/12/2021Writer’s Block Syrah
4/14/2021Albarino and Tablas Creek Blanc
4/19/2021Writer’s Block Petite Sirah and Romanian Wine
4/21/2021Onesta Cinsault Red and Rose
4/26/2021Writer’s Block and Red Schooner Voyage 2 Malbec
4/28/2021St. Joseph and Cote Rotie
5/5/2021Steele and Andrew Murray E11even Petite Verdot
5/5/2021Mercurey and Nuits-Saint-Georges
5/10/2021Stolpman Roussanne
5/12/2021New World vs Old World GSM – Beckmen and Beaucastel
5/17/2021Paolo Scavino Sorriso Langhe 2019
5/26/2021Katherine Goldschmidt and 1976 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon
6/1/2021District 7 Pinot Noir & 2009 Joseph Drouhin Chambolle-Musigny
6/2/2021Red Schooner by Caymus Voyage 8
6/7/20212013 Flying Goat Pinot Noir Clone 2A
6/9/2021Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon
6/16/2021Louis Latour Macon-Villages
6/21/20212016 L’Orme de Rauzan Gassies Bordeaux
6/30/20212011 Chateau des Labourons Henry Fessy Fleurie
7/12/2021Two Jakes Cabernet Franc
7/14/2021Clime Barbera
7/26/2021Pedroncelli Petite Sirah
7/28/2021Broadside Merlot
8/16/2021Austin Hope Cabernet Sauvignon
8/18/20212018 Berringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
8/25/2021Para Maria (Stolpman) Red Blend 2019
9/1/20212018 Frisson Tourchet Red Blend and 1994 Don PX
9/8/2021Beckmen Cuvee Le Bec 2019 and 2011 Usseglio CDP
9/15/20212015 Dona Maria Grande Reserva, Portugal
9/20/2021Broken Earth Grenache Rose & 1982 Chateau Greysac
9/27/20212017 Iron Horse Chardonnay & Hospices de Beaune 1er Cru
10/4/2021Beckmen Chenin Blanc and Block 6 Syrah
10/18/2021Corona de Aragón Garnacha and 2005 Morey-St-Denis
10/25/2021Shannon Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon and 2005 Ch. Lascombes
11/1/2021Ty Caton and Gard Cabernet Sauvignons
11/8/2021Lang and Reed Cabernet Franc & Mollydooker Enchanted Path
11/15/2021Spellbound Petite Sirah and 1971 Corton-Bressandes
11/22/20212018 Bishop’s Peak Petite Sirah & 1970 Ch. Cos d’Estournel
11/29/20212018 Bishop’s Peak Petite Verdot & 1980 Ch. Montelena CS
12/6/2021Amavi Syrah & Dr. Konstantine Frank Saperavi
12/13/2021Andrew Murray Alisos Syrah and 1993 Henri Bonneau Chateauneu-du-Pape

Online Wine Tasting – Monday Part 6

Mondays, beginning September 20 (except October 11) at 6:30pm

Hunter & Kayla
Jim & Kathy
Loren & Larry
Michael & Aurora
Mike & Susan
Mindy & Nic

I’ve tried to arrange the wines so that they become increasingly complex and full-bodied.

Please put the week’s white in your fridge at least 24 hours in advance. I suggest opening the reds at noon and pouring a glass to see how they open up with air. You can also put the week’s red (and the glass) in the fridge about a half-hour before the tasting if you like them at cellar temperature.

September 20 Broken Earth Limited Release Grenache Rose 201911.67casemates
September 27Iron Horse Chardonnay 201716.67casemates
October 4Beckmen SYV Chenin Blanc 47yo Vines 202024.90beckmen
October 18Corona de Aragón Special Selection Cariñena Garnacha 20139.58casemates
October 25Shannon Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon 201910.00casemates
November 1Ty Caton Winemaker’s Cuveé Cabernet Sauvignon 201720.00casemates
November 8Lang & Reed Cabernet Franc, North Coast 201720.00tba
November 15Spellbound Petite Sirah 20176.25casemates
November 22Talley Bishop’s Peak Petite Sirah 201815.00casemates
November 29Talley Bishop’s Peak Petite Verdot 201815.00casemates
December 6Amavi Cellars Walla Walla Valley Syrah 201815.42casemates
December 13Andrew Murray Syrah Alisos Vineyard 201819.17casemates
Total of all wines $183.66

Road Trip: Pacific Northwest

This was a delightful 12-day trip around Washington State and part of Oregon. Dani and I initially planned it, but I was able to talk Linda into going, too. It was so much fun to have the whole family traveling together!

I’ve embedded the best travel photos, but for photos of the meals and wineries, click on the links to my Yelp reviews.

Monday, August 2, 2021 — Seattle

Linda and I flew in to Seattle from Orlando, and Dani flew in from Chicago. First class makes the 6-hour non-stop trip on Delta much more pleasant. Covid meant the fares were cheaper, but it also meant that first class service consisted of a box of junk food!

We picked up our SUV from Alamo at SEATAC. Since we wanted to bring back wine, we had a couple of wine case pieces of luggage, so we needed a pretty good sized vehicle. When they offered us an upgrade I took it, but we were a bit startled at the massive size when we saw it. One thing’s for sure, we never had any trouble fitting in our luggage!

Since it was just past noon we had some time to kill before check-in, so we drove north of downtown to Sisi Kay Thai Eatery & Bar, where we had a delightful lunch, dining all by ourselves. A few blocks away was our first tourist stop, the bizarreness that is Archie McPhee!

Because our itinerary happened to take us to the major cities of this trip (Seattle and Portland) on Mondays and Tuesdays when lots of places are closed, it was a little tricky getting into some of the restaurants I was most interested in. The pandemic has also created some irregular operating times and staffing challenges for them.

But we were lucky and the new Loupe Lounge at Seattle’s Space Needle was open, and I’d managed to book a table. This was a fantastic experience involving lots of liquid nitrogen cocktail making, a whiskey flight, and endless pours of Taittanger Comte Rose Champagne, along with plentiful bites of gourmet foods to accompany everything. For me, this was one of the highlights of the trip.

Next stop was our condo on the waterfront just north of downtown Seattle. This was our first of four Airbnb stays on this trip, and all were lovely in their own ways. This one was a two bedroom condo on the 16th floor with a view of the bay and Puget Sound.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

We walked back to the area around the Space Needle (which is on the World’s Fair grounds from 1962), stopping at the Artisan Cafe for excellent Bahn Mi sandwiches, which we ate on park benches. Then we visited the Museum of Pop Culture. This used to be The Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame started by Microsoft’s Paul Allen, but its theme has been broadened. I was a bit disappointed that there was more pop culture in the gift shop than in the somewhat limited exhibit spaces, although there was a good LGBT history exhibit, and a few interesting bios in the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.

We took the monorail back to downtown (a two minute ride!) and sampled some just okay tacos off the Solamente Pastor taco truck. Later, for dinner, we walked to Wann Japanese Izakaya, probably Linda’s favorite meal of the trip.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Dani and I got biscuits for breakfast overlooking the waterfront at Honest Biscuits. My shoes were falling apart, so we walked to Nordstom’s Rack and I got some new loafers. Then we rode motorized scooters back! Great fun, but we should have ridden them UP the hills to Nordstrom’s, too!

For lunch we walked downtown for sandwiches at Cherry Street Coffee House, then went next door and down Beneath the Streets for a tour and history of Seattle’s past. I highly recommend this, as you can see how the city was built up and elevated a full story after being destroyed by fire.

I really wanted to see the spectacular new tiki bar Inside Passage, and this was our only time slot when it was open. You enter through a hidden door from the adjacent bar, Rumba (I think this space was previously a speakeasy theme). This was the only place on our trip where we were asked to show proof of vaccination. Bravo!

Inside Passage did not disappoint! I wish we’d had more time to spend there. Had I known how much food they offered I would not have made a dinner reservation elsewhere. The space is absolutely spectacular, with wonderful nautical decor, a beautiful bar, and cozy booths. But the most spectacular aspect is the giant octopus that looms overhead!

Dinner was a tasting menu at Art of the Table. It was very good, but we were still talking about Inside Passage.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

We checked out and headed for wine country. Dani wisely suggested we take a detour over the mountains, which was a great plan, since much of the road to Walla Walla is pretty desolate. A scenic drive took us to Snoqualamie Falls and then Leavenworth, Washington, a Bavarian themed tourist town that reminded us of Salvang, California.

We had German food at Colchuck’s and then continued south to Gard Vintners Wine Tasting Room in Ellensburg. I was familiar with Gard from wines I’d purchased on Casemates, so I wanted to try their other offerings. This was the first of many wine clubs I joined along our route!

We arrived in Walla Walla after 8pm, so dining options were limited. We had okay Mexican food at the incredibly brightly lit El Sombrero. Then we checked into our Airbnb, a cute two bedroom home built in the 1920s, and right across the street from Pioneer Park, with its lovely lawns and big trees.

Friday, August 6, 2021 — Walla Walla

Our Walla Wala Airbnb had chickens in the back yard, so Dani and I had fresh eggs every morning!

Friday was our big day for Walla Walla wine tasting. We followed recommendations from the wine club director we met the previous day at Gard Vintners. Our first stop was at L’Ecole No. 41, housed in a gorgeous historic schoolhouse. The wines were good, but not something we wanted more of, so we actually bought a bottle of something we hadn’t tasted.

At some wineries there is a tasting fee, so if we don’t like the wine we don’t feel obligated to buy. Other times the fee is waived for a certain purchase, or if you join their club. But if there is no fee, we always buy a bottle of something as a thank you.

Our next stop was Woodward Canyon, a nice facility, where we had a relaxing outdoor tasting. The wines were good if not spectacular.

Our best discovery was Reininger, where we tasted their wines under a big shade tree on their lawn. We loved the way they served the wines all at once, in essentially shot glasses, along with big wine glasses, making it easy to share and to compare. We joined their club, which gives us the flexibility of picking our wines each quarter.

Back in downtown Walla Walla, Kontos had a spacious tasting room but few customers, and the wines were not inspiring. We had a wonderful French lunch at Brasserie Four. It was so good we considered going back for dinner!

Our final tasting stop for the day was at The House of Smith, a barn-like facility in downtown Walla Walla where you can try all of crazy man Charles Smith’s wines, including our favorite offerings from K Vintners. Again, the wines were served in flights. We joined this club, too.

Dinner was at The Kitchen at Abeja. This restaurant, located in the tasting facility of Abeja Winery, had only been open three weeks, but they served an ambitious tasting menu under the direction of a young chef who interned at two Michelin-starred restaurants in France. Her food definitely shows promise, and it will be interesting to see how this restaurant evolves.

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Saturday we went for a walk in the park across the street. They have a very large aviary with many birds, especially various types of pheasant. It’s a great town-supported feature.

Our final Walla Walla wine tasting stop was at Alton Wines. It’s a gorgeous new facility with a stunningly modern tasting room. I’d guess it is a rich entrepreneurs passion project. It was a bit odd, because they were out of most of their wines, and their club is on a waiting list because they have only limited wines. The only wine we really liked was a Sangiovese which—you guessed it—they were out of. They were only planning on being open one more weekend this season, and I can see why!

We went to lunch at the historic Ice-Burg Drive-In, which was very slow, and more historic than good.

Dinner was far more successful. We ate upstairs in the loft a TMACS in downtown Walla Walla. Our waiter, Caleb, was one of the best we have ever had, and this was one of the best meals of the trip. The restaurant was dimly lit (upstairs, anyway) and quiet enough for good conversation—an oasis from the lively bar directly below.

We were surprised, in retrospect, by Walla Walla wines. My expectation was that the Syrahs would be the best, since I’m most familiar with Charles Smith’s fruit bombs such as BOOM BOOM Syrah, and Troublemaker. But he has sold those brands off, and his focus (and that of all the other wineries we visited) is on a much wider range of varietals. Overall, I think it was the Bordeaux blends that most impressed us.

Walla Walla is actually split by the Washington/Oregon border, and there are different micro climes in different areas. It’s also worth noting that many of the best wines we had from Walla Walla wineries were actually made with grapes from the Columbia Valley.

Sunday, August 8, 2021

The drive along the Columbia River is not particularly scenic until you get close to Portland. Multnomah Falls is really the first photo op. I reminded us of Bridal Veil Falls in Yosemite, but that might be because of the drought the whole Pacific Northwest has been experiencing. We were lucky that none of the resulting fires affected our trip much, although we often smelled smoke.

We picnicked along the river, watching the hundreds of kiteboarders taking advantage of the constant, strong winds that blow up the valley.

The one thing Portland is known for that was a must for Dani: a stop at Voodoo Doughnuts! They were as good as they look, although I must say that Chicago has become quite a donut town, and I think you could find their equal there, with a little work.

Since we were early, we drove on past our accommodations and visited Carlton Winemaker’s Studio. This is a neat concept that offers tastings of the wines of fifteen different wineries. We had a lovely afternoon sitting on the patio tasting wines and munching on charcuterie from their charcuterie vending machine(!)

In the evening we checked into our beautiful Airbnb in Dundee, about 20 miles west of Portland, and in the middle of Willamette Valley wine country. This home was gorgeous, two stories, with three bedrooms and a professional decor. Dinner was just down the hill at Tina’s, a charming restaurant where Linda ordered the winning dishes.

Monday, August 9, 2021 — Willamette Valley

Our winery day in the Willamette Valley was somewhat limited by it being a Monday, and we had to plan ahead because nearly all the wineries here require 24 hour advance reservations. But we made good choices. We started at Archery Summit, with a tasting on the patio overlooking the vineyards. While a few different wines are produced in this area, pretty much everything that impressed us was Pinot Noir. That ws the case here, and we joined their club, which allows you to custom select your wines.

Our next stop was Domaine Serene, easily the most beautiful winery I’ve ever visited. Looking more like a Four Seasons Hotel, it’s perched high above the Willamette Valley, with expansive views in all directions. In addition to Oregon wines, they also own two properties in Burgundy, so they offer both an Oregon and a Burgundy club. We ended up joining both! They also serve food, so we enjoyed a leisurely afternoon of wine, charcuterie, cheese, and bread. I’d never heard of this winery, but it was clearly the highlight of our wine tour.

Linda had hit the wall, so we dropped her off at our Airbnb and then Dani and I continued on to Ken Wright Cellars in Carlton. They produce a myriad of pinot noirs, but they seemed clumsy after the wines at Domaine Serene, and they weren’t particularly cheap. Linda made the right call.

On the way back to the Airbnb, Dani and I detoured to Honey Pie to pick up pizzas. They were good, and also provided useful leftovers for later picnics.

I’ve never thought Oregon pinot noirs lived up to the hype from the 80s and 90s. As a Burgundy fan, they have always struck me as lacking the New World fruit of California pinot, yet rarely developing the earthy complexity of true Burgundy. But perhaps the problem has been that I’ve been unwilling to pay enough for them. At Domaine Serene, where we tasted $90 Oregon pinots against $90 Burgundies, they were quite comparable. Of course, these are wines made under the same management. Still, it will be interesting to see what Oregon pinots show up this year from the clubs we joined. Perhaps a reassessment is in order.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021 — Oregon Coast

You can’t go to Oregon without experiencing the dramatic Oregon coast, so we headed out on a big circle, taking us from the vineyards through the forests to the rocky coast, and then back again.

The aptly named Haystack Rock was our first scenic stop, and Dani got a chance to dip her foot into this side of the Pacific Ocean (she’d already done the other side in Australia). The we stopped at Cannon Beach Hardware and Public House (also known as the Screw and Brew) for fish and chips. Yes, it really is a hardware store.

We’d intended to stop at the Tillamook Creamery, but the acres of parking lot were packed and there was a Disney-like line to get in.

Dinner was an elaborate, 20 course affair at Joel Palmer House in Dayton, Oregon. They have the world’s largest cellar of Oregon Pinot Noir, with 800 selections. The food emphasizes mushrooms in most courses, so it perfectly matched a well-aged 2004 pinot from Beaux Freres.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021 — Enchanted Forest

Justin told me I’d like Enchanted Forest, and he was right! It’s a mom and pop theme park located about 50 miles south of Portland. I loved the charming walk-throughs, and the way it engages childrens’ imaginations. This is my favorite kind of theme park. We went early, saw most everything, and were on the road north by lunch time.

Lunch was a quick stop at Republica in Portland. This is an interesting take on Mexican food, with a menu that changes daily. It’s probably more interesting at night, when they have a tasting menu. But with counter service and only two tables inside, it’s a bit hard to imagine how that works.

The drive to Mount Rainier National Park was quite scenic, and we arrived at our Airbnb lodging right on time. It’s called Knot-a-Care-Cabin, and it’s as cute as the name implies, with every little detail decorated in bears and other rustic motif.

A deer welcomed our arrival. The bedroom is a loft, high in the peak of the roof, accessed by a ladder—but Linda and I managed it without incident!

Dinner was the oddest, and in many ways one of the best, of the trip. We ate at one of the only places around, Wildberry Restaurant in Ashford. It is owned by a Himalayan sherpa who holds the record for fastest ascent of Mount Everest, and who has scaled that mountain ten times. The servers are also Himalayan, and our waiter was quite frenetic. He spoke in a high-pitched, almost hysterical voice. But the service was very efficient, even though their tent-covered patio was completely full. It turns out Himalayan food is very similar to Indian food, and it was very tasty.

Thursday, August 12, 2021 — Mount Rainier

Our day of sightseeing in Mount Rainier National Park made us realize how lucky we had been during the rest of our trip, as the smoke from the California, Oregon, and Washington wildfires really settled in. We were glad we had our masks. Still, we hiked a couple of scenic trails, saw some dramatic waterfalls, and circled all the way around Mount Rainier on our way back to Seattle.

We spent the night at the gorgeous Cedarbrook Lodge right next to SEATAC airport. It’s hard to believe you are near the airport in this bucolic setting. Before dinner we had a drink at the bar and the unique bartender introduced us to Amaro Amorino Riserva, made by a local distiller, which we liked very much. Dinner was at their Copperleaf Restaurant. The food and server were very good. And our server owns a timeshare in Orlando, which sort of brought the trip full circle! Then it was time for our early morning wakeup and our Friday the 13th trip back home.

It was a great family trip, and I’m so glad all three of us could do it together. Perhaps next time Trish will be able to join us, too!

Online Wine Tasting – Wednesday Part 6

Alex & Loretta
Dani & Trish
Hunter & Kayla
Loren & Larry
Mike & Susan
Rachel & Christina

I’ve tried to arrange the wines so that they become increasingly complex and full-bodied.

Please put the week’s white in your fridge at least 24 hours in advance. I suggest opening the reds at noon and pouring a glass to see how they open up with air. You can also put the week’s red (and the glass) in the fridge about a half hour before the tasting if you like them at cellar temperature.

June 162009 Latour Macon-Villages Chardonnay10.83casemates
June 232020 Melville Rose25.68melville—ros-p566.aspx
June 302011 Chateau des Labourons Henry Fessy Fleurie10.83casemates
July 72016 Castelli del Grevepesa Chianti Classico Riserva “Castelgreve”14.99wtso
July 142019 Clime Barbera Harde Vineyard El Dorado13.05lastbottle.com
July 212019 Poggio del Concone Toscana17.24lastbottle.com
July 282018 Broadside Merlot Margarita Vineyard, Paso Robles17.99B-21
August 182018 Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon Knights Valley, Sonoma21.98B-21
August 25Stolpman Para Maria Red Blend12.09casemates
September 12018 Frisson Toucher Vineyards Proprietary Red26.94lastbottle.com
September 82019 Beckmen Cuvee le Bec21.60beckmen
September 152015 Dona Maria Grande Reserva, Portugal44.99B-21


Online Wine Tasting – Monday Part 5

An eclectic selection of worldwide regions and varietals for the adventurous palate.

Dani & Trish
Jim & Kathy
Hunter & Kayla
Loren & Larry
Mindy & Nick
Mike & Susan
Rachel & Christina

May 10Stolpman Vineyards Roussanne14.99
May 17Paolo Scavino Sorriso13.04 liquor
May 24Ryder Estate Pinot Noir Rosé7.49
May 31District 7 Estate Grown Pinot Noir7.91
June 7Flying Goat Cellars 2013 ‘Clone 2a’ Pinot Noir, Rio Vista Vyd, Sta. Rita Hills
41.82 olivos cafe
June 14Scott Harvey Mountain Selection Barbera12.49
June 21Château Rauzan-Gassies L’Orme de Rauzan-Gassies Haut-Médoc 201622.99
June 28Primodì Terre Siciliane Rosso Appassite 2017 by Barbanera13.99
July 12Two Jakes of Diamonds Roman Reserve Cabernet Franc16.67
July 19Calculated Risk Sonoma County Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 201814.99
July 26Pedroncelli Family Vineyards Petite Sirah13.99
August 16Austin Hope Cabernet Sauvignon35.00


Home Meal Kits

Gobble’s Caribbean Vegetable Rondon Stew

During the pandemic rather than visit restaurants, I subscribed to six different meal preparation kits. I enjoyed each, and each had their own strengths. Here is how they compare.  

Blue Apron is the first kit we tried. Limited customization of meals is available, but there is a lot of variety in the recipes. There are some good ethic selections. Packaging is very good, with the ingredients in separate bags. Shipments always arrived with the ice packs still frozen. My only nit is that sometimes condensation had soaked the instruction cards. This is an excellent choice, and a moderate price.  Let me know if you want a free starter box and I’ll send you one.

Home Chef offers the most flexibility in swapping ingredients. Nearly every meal allows substantial customization of the proteins, including upgrades in quality, change from beef, to chicken, to vegetarian, etc. When fish is part of a recipe it is impressive how fresh it is. We had a bento box that included raw tuna, and it was as good as at any sushi place. Instructions are clear, and the recipes are interesting and varied enough to avoid repetitiveness. They also have options you can simply heat up, although we never tried these. Packaging is very good, with the ingredients in separate bags. Shipments always arrived with the ice packs still frozen. For overall quality, this is my favorite of the five plans.  Here’s a $35 off coupon:

Minted Spinach Soup from Purple Carrot

Purple Carrot is a vegan meal kit. It has the most ambitious recipes, excellent ethnic options, and a lot of variety. Because a lot of the recipes involve tofu or seitan, neither of which are my favorites, I stuck with the vegetable-only recipes. I really like that instead of instruction cards each week includes a very professionally produced booklet with all of the recipes. Purple Carrot is the only where service where I had delivery issues. They use a company called laser ship which lost my orders a full 20% of the time. This is the most expensive of the five plans.  Let me know if you want a free starter box and I’ll send you one.

Every Plate is by far the least expensive of all the meal kits. The downside is that the recipes are quite repetitive. If there are three possible proteins, three possible sauces, three possible carbs, and three possible vegetables, then there are 81 possible combinations, and you tend to see them, over and over. True, there are also some other varients, but it just seemed too mundane. Instructions tend to be very simple. Shipments always arrived with the ice packs still frozen. This is a good pick if price is your most important consideration.  Here’s a $20 off coupon:

Mushroom Hoagies from Hello Fresh

Hello Fresh offers a lot of different meals each week, and has an excellent selection of vegetarian choices in addition to meat-based ones. Limited customization of meals is available. I really like their recipes. Packaging is very good, with the ingredients in separate bags. Shipments always arrived with the ice packs still frozen. A good pick in terms of value for the variety. Here’s a $70 off coupon:

Barramundi with lemon beurre blanc and capers from Gobble

Gobble was the last meal kit I tried. It has a good range of menus like Hello Fresh, good customization options like Home Chef, and interesting ethnic meals like Purple Carrot. Gobble’s big advertising point is that meals can be prepared quickly because many elements have been prepped for you. For example, in the Caribbean Vegetable Rondon Stew (pictured at the top of this article) the kohlrabi had already been peeled and diced, and the basmati cilantro rice was already cooked and provided in a sealed pouch. The company claims meals can be prepared in 15 minutes, and I found this close to the truth. I’ve loved all the recipes I’ve gotten from them, and one of the regular fish offerings is barramundi, which I find much better than the tilapia that predominates at some of the other services (photo above). I also like the way Gobble calls out the calories of each item in the kit, in case you want to make substitutions or omit ingredients. Discount link:

Overall, my choices are:  

  • Overall: Gobble – great recipes, fast prep, protein options
  • Most Customizable: Home Chef – multiple swaps on every protein
  • Best Selection: Hello Fresh – also great vegetarian options
  • Vegan: Purple Carrot – complex prep, all vegan ingredients
  • Cheap: Every Plate – repetitive but easy recipes

Online Wine Tasting – Wednesday Part 5


I’ve tried to arrange the wines so that they become increasingly complex and full-bodied.

Please put the week’s white in your fridge at least 24 hours in advance. I suggest opening the reds at noon and pouring a glass to see how they open up with air. You can also the week’s red (and the glass) in the fridge about an hour before the tasting if you like them at cellar temperature.

March 24Champagne André Chemin Tradition Premier Cru Blanc de Noirs Brut NV 26.99Wines Til Sold Out
March 31Riesling Jean Biecher et Fils Rosacker Grand Cru Alsace 2018$19.99Wines Til Sold Out
April 7Pouilly-Fuissé White Burgundy P. de Marcilly 2019$19.99Wines Til Sold Out
April 14Albariño Rías Baixas Adegas Tollodouro Pontellón 2019$12.99Wines Til Sold Out
April 21Cinsault Onesta 2012 or 2015$11.67Casemates
April 28Saint Joseph Domaine Guy Farge  Terroir de Granit Northern Rhône 2017$19.99Wines Til Sold Out
May 5Château de Chamirey Mercurey 1er Cru Champs Martin 201829.99Wines Til Sold Out
May 12Beckman 2018 Barrel Select Cuvee$20.80 (actually should be $45)Beckman
May 19Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Château Roc de Boisseaux 2016$22.99Wines Til Sold Out
May 26Katherine Goldschmidt Crazy Creek Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2016/2017$15.00Steve’s Cellar
June 2Red Schooner$30.00Martin’s Cellar
June 9Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon (Litre) 2014,15,16$50.00Steve’s Cellar

Right click to download full size spec sheets:

Red Schooner Voyage 8

Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon (1 liter) 2014, 2015, 2016

Online Wine Tasting – Monday Part 4 – Steele

This is a chance to try all the common (and some uncommon) varietals from a single producer who makes excellent wines with a light touch, so the varietal characteristics will come through very clearly. Retail on these wines was $238.


February 15Steele Pinot Blanc 2018$14.00
February 22Writers Block Roussanne 2017$13.00
March 1Writers Block Counoise 2015$13.00
March 8Writers Block Pinot Noir 2017$13.00
March 15Writers Block Zinfandel 2016$13.00
March 22Shooting Star Barbera 2017$13.00
March 29Writers Block Cabernet Sauvignon 2017$13.00
April 5Writers Block Cabernet Franc 2017$13.00
April 12Writers Block Syrah 2015$13.00
April 19Writers Block Petite Sirah 2016$13.00
April 26Writers Block Malbec 2017$13.00
May 3Steele Petit Verdot 2015$25.00


Linda McBride Alcorn Named TEA Master

Linda McBride Alcorn at WDI in 1993

The Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) – the global, nonprofit membership association for the creators of compelling places and experiences – has announced the slate of TEA Masters honorees for 2020. The TEA Masters program celebrates masters of their craft in the global visitor attractions industry. 

The TEA Masters program, initiated several years ago by the TEA Past Presidents Committee, helps boost awareness of the many creative specialties and disciplines that collaborate to produce excellence and breakthrough guest experiences in themed entertainment. Engaging more fully with leading practitioners in these areas benefits our TEA membership community and the industry as a whole, fostering greater appreciation and understanding of the disciplines themselves and their role and impact within a project team. 

Each TEA Master has made significant contributions to the industry and helped pave the way for others.

Top three achievements

• Was the first woman engineer at WED (WDI) hired in January, 1979.

• Was part of the opening day show control design and installation teams for EPCOT, Disney-MGM Studio, Animal Kingdom and Euro Disneyland.

• Built and mentored the show control team at WDI Florida.

Linda McBride Alcorn
Show Control Engineering 

As early as age 10, Linda McBride had constructed a clay model of Disneyland on her bedroom floor complete with copper wires going through the Matterhorn for the Skyway cables. So it’s not surprising that when she obtained her Bachelor’s of Science in Engineering from UCLA, the place she sought employment was WED Enterprises.

She is the “McBride” of Alcorn McBride Inc., the well-known show and media control systems company, but while she lent her name, she was never a partner in the business founded by her husband, Steve Alcorn. Although, in the course of a career with Disney from graduation to retirement, she has had occasion to specify Alcorn McBride products and to give them feedback (“I was their toughest customer.”)

Linda Alcorn at her desk, 1980

Twenty-two years old and fresh out of college, in 1979 Alcorn was the first woman engineer hired at WED (now Walt Disney Imagineering). She was assigned to the Show Control section of the Electronic Engineering department and began work on the EPCOT project. This young engineer, working on a seminal project that would become a defining model for much of the global themed entertainment industry, took on responsibility for numerous pavilions including World of Motion, France, Canada, China, UK, Germany, Japan, Italy, and parts of CommuniCore.

Linda Alcorn with the late Marty Sklar at WDI on the occasion
of her 20 year service award, 1999

Her degree in Electronic Engineering gave her a basis in industrial control to apply to the one-off challenges of creating EPCOT. “I knew calculus when I walked in the door at WED, no training in the ‘real world’ whatsoever, had never had a job or an internship, didn’t know how to lock my desk or read a blueprint. I was just trying to get my degree as quickly as I could… I just went straight through school.” She also had pluck. “I really, really wanted to work at Disney, so when they told me they’d lost my resume, I hopped in my car, drove across town and dropped off another copy, and got my interview. She relates that she was later told, ‘the reason we hired you is because you wanted it so bad.’”

After EPCOT, she continued on for nearly four decades at Disney, including a five-month stint at Walt Disney Studios, (led by Don Iwerks) where she gained additional experience working on show control for custom projection systems. Four of the systems were bound for pavilions at Vancouver Expo 86, including three exhibits produced by Bob Rogers. One of those was the pioneering and influential Spirit Lodge show for the General Motors Pavilion; another was for the Rainbow Wars film that was nominated for an Academy Award.

Linda during EPCOT construction, 1982

She rejoined the staff at what was now Walt Disney Imagineering. Because she was on the engineering side and not the creative side, she worked largely in the background, bringing one attraction after another to life. Smart and tough, Alcorn was often the only woman in the room at hundreds of meetings. In the late 1980s she relocated to Orlando. For the next almost 30 years she had a hand in many of Disney’s Florida show control projects, new and rehab. In the early 1990s, she relocated to Paris with her infant daughter to supervise show control systems for all of Fantasyland in the new Euro Disneyland park. 

Linda Alcorn in the Euro Disney show control office, 1991

Alcorn shared her unique definition of a good show control system: “Unlike most other theme park engineering disciplines (e.g. lighting, audio, projection), a show control system should never make itself apparent to the guests – it should just work flawlessly as if by magic. If I did my job right, no one was ever aware that I had been in the attraction.” 

Linda McBride Alcorn retired from Disney in October 2016, having made an historical contribution to the industry, as technology and creative go hand in hand in themed entertainment storytelling. Not only has Linda blazed a pioneering trail in her field, she’s been a generous and encouraging mentor. She considers as one of her greatest accomplishments what she did in her last 8-10 years at Disney, building an Engineering Services team in Florida. “We built up quite a wonderful department to carry on the show control work and maintain the systems,” she says.”I feel like I made a difference in their lives just by showing them a little bit of confidence.”

Linda’s Attractions

Attractions with show control systems designed, redesigned, and/or supervised by Linda Alcorn, 1979-2017


  • Spaceship Earth 
  • Journey into Imagination with Figment 
  • ImageWorks: The What-If Labs
  • Mission: Space
  • Test Track
  • The Land
  • Living with the Land
  • Soarin’ Around the World
  • The Seas with Nemo & Friends
  • Turtle Talk with Crush
  • CommuniCore
  • The Living Seas
  • World of Motion
  • Universe of Energy
  • The Land
  • Wonders of Life
  • Journey into YOUR Imagination
  • Captain EO
  • Honey, I Shrunk the Audience!
  • Ellen’s Energy Adventure
  • Circle of Life: An Environmental Fable
  • Food Rocks
  • Innoventions
  • Mexico Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros
  • The American Adventure
  • Impressions de France 
  • Norway Maelstrom
  • O Canada!
  • Wonders of China

Magic Kingdom

  • The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room
  • Tinker Bell’s Magical Nook 
  • Sword in the Stone
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
  • Country Bear Jamboree
  • Splash Mountain
  • The Hall of Presidents
  • The Haunted Mansion
  • Mickey’s PhilharMagic
  • Barnstormer
  • Snow White’s Scary Adventures 
  • Space Mountain
  • Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress
  • ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter 
  • Stitch’s Great Escape!
  • Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor 
  • Donald’s Boat
  • Mickey’s Country House 
  • Minnie’s House
  • Toon Park

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

  • Star Tours
  • Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular!
  • MuppetVision 3D
  • Walt Disney Presents
  • The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith
  • Sounds Dangerous! 
  • Studio Tour George of the Jungle 
  • Making of Armageddon
  • Making of Haunted Mansion 
  • Journey into Narnia: Prince Caspian
  • Sounds Dangerous!
  • Studio Backlot Tour
  • The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow
  • The Magic of Disney Animation
  • The Great Movie Ride

Animal Kingdom

  • It’s Tough to Be a Bug! 
  • The Tree of Life
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris 
  • Rafiki’s Planet Watch
  • The Animation Experience at Conservation Station
  • Expedition Everest 
  • Kali River Rapids
  • Maharajah Jungle Trek
  • Dinosaur
  • TriceraTop Spin
  • Primeval Whirl


  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Paris Disneyland

  • Small World
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Fantasyland Installation Supervision

Expo 86

  • British Columbia Pavilion Theatre
  • GM Pavilion: Spirit Lodge
  • Canadian Pacific Pavilion: Rainbow Wars
  • Telecom Canada Pavilion: Portraits of Canada

Online Wine Tasting – Wednesday Part 4


I’ve tried to arrange the wines so that they become increasingly complex and full-bodied.

Please put the week’s white in your fridge at least 24 hours in advance. I suggest opening the reds at noon and pouring a glass to see how they open up with air. You can also the week’s red (and the glass) in the fridge about an hour before the tasting if you like them at cellar temperature.

December 30Bordeaux Blanc Château Guichot 2019$11.99Wines Til Sold Out
January 6Sauvignon Blanc Loire Valley Francois de la Roche Touraine 2019$12.99Wines Til Sold Out
January 13Pouilly Fuissé Domaine Sébastièn Giroux Les Raidillons 201729.99Wines Til Sold Out
January 20Pinot Noir Megan Anne Cellars Willamette Valley 2017$14.99Wines Til Sold Out
January 27Languedoc Domaine de Fabrègues Le Coeur 2016$13.99Wines Til Sold Out
February 3Gigondas Domaine du Grand Montmirail Le Côteau de Mon Rêve 2017 $22.99Wines Til Sold Out
February 10Barolo Boasso Margheria 2016$27.99Wines Til Sold Out
February 17Henry’s Drive Shiraz-Cabernet 2017$19.99Wines Til Sold Out
February 24Petite Sirah Vinum Cellars PETS 2017$9.17Casemates
March 3Châteauneuf-du-Pape Tour Saint-Michel Cuvée du Lion 2017$29.99Wines Til Sold Out
March 10Clos du Bois Winery Marlstone Red Blend 2012$30.00Steve’s Cellar
March 17Syrah Melville Estate Donna’s 2018$40.00Melville

Right click to download full size spec sheets:—donnas—96-points-p552.aspx

Online Wine Tasting – Monday Part 3

Since we can’t come to the wine, the wine will have to come to us. Starting November 23, every week we’ll meet on Zoom and chat about the wines.


I’ve tried to arrange the wines so that they become increasingly complex and full-bodied.

Please put the week’s white in your fridge at least 24 hours in advance. I suggest opening the reds at noon and pouring a glass to see how they open up with air. You can also the week’s red (and the glass) in the fridge about an hour before the tasting if you like them at cellar temperature.

November 23King Estate Viognier 2015 $8.50
November 30Au Contraire Russian River Valley Rosé 2017$10.58
December 7Bernard Reverdy et Fils Sancerre White 2019$17.99
see product sheet below
Wines Til Sold Out
December 14WineSmith Cellars Grenache 2017$17.67
December 21Tenuta Rocca Barolo 2015$23.99see product sheet below
Wines Til Sold Out
December 28Mi Terruño Mendoza Argentina Malbec Reserve 2016$14.99
see product sheet below
Wines Til Sold Out
January 4Pascal et Alain Lorieux St Nicolas de Bourgueil Agnès Sorel 2018$19.99see product sheet below
Wines Til Sold Out
January 11Andrew Murray Mixed Reds$20.16
January 18Melville Pinot Noir$35.00
January 25Melville Syrah$35.00
February 1Beckman Assorted Reds$35.00
February 8Austin Hope Cabernet Sauvignon 2016$30.00

Right click to view product specifications full size:

Online Wine Tasting – Wednesday Part 3

Since we can’t come to the wine, the wine will have to come to us. Starting October 7, every week we’ll meet on Zoom and chat about the wines.


I’ve tried to arrange the wines so that they become increasingly complex and full-bodied.

Please put the week’s white in your fridge at least 24 hours in advance. I suggest opening the reds at noon and pouring a glass to see how they open up with air. You can also the week’s red (and the glass) in the fridge about an hour before the tasting if you like them at cellar temperature.

October 7Charles Bailly Crémant de Bourgogne Sparkling Brut N/V$13.99
see product sheet below
October 14Coteaux d’Aix en Provence Rosé 2019 Château Paradis La Grande Terre$11.99
see product sheet below
October 21Mâcon-Fuissé White Burgundy Sébastièn Giroux Vers Chânes 2018$19.99
see product sheet below
October 28Grevepesa Clemente VII Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2013$19.99
see product sheet below
November 4Cantina Valpantena Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG 2017$19.99
see product sheet below
November 11Domaine de l’Espigouette Gigondas 2017$24.99
see product sheet below
November 18Crozes-Hermitage Cuvée Domaine Belle Louis Belle 2017$24.99
see product sheet below
November 25Encantado Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2017$19.99
see product sheet below
December 2Underground Cabernet Sauvignon Napa County 2016$19.99
see product sheet below
December 9Kevin O’Leary Fine Wines Napa Valley Petite Sirah 2017$16.99
Wines Til Sold Out
December 16Château Vincens Prestige Cahors 2016$13.99
see product sheet below
December 23Los Haroldos Estate Red Blend Mendoza Argentina 2019$12.99
see product sheet below

Right click to download full size spec sheets:

Online Wine Tasting – Monday Part 2

  • Alan
  • Hunter
  • Jim
  • Joe
  • Liana
  • Loren
  • Mike
  • Steve

August 31

Saladini Pilastri Pecorino, 2018 750ml

Saladini Pilastri Pecorino
Steve’s Selection

September 7

Hermes Moschofilero Mantinia 750ml

Hermes Moschofilero Mantinia
Liana’s Selection

September 14

Le Pre Vaujour Sancerre, 2018 750ml

Le Pre Vaujour Sancerre, 2018
Steve’s (and Mike’s) Selection

September 21

Nora Albarino 750ml

Nora Albarino
Mike’s Selection

September 28

Samuel Robert Rose Willamette Vintner's Reserve, 2019 750ml

Samuel Robert Rose Willamette Vintner’s Reserve, 2019
Jim’s Selection

October 5

La Sacrestia Langhe Nebbiolo, 2016 750ml

La Sacrestia Langhe Nebbiolo, 2016
Hunter’s Selection

October 12

Double Black Zinfandel Paso Robles, 2018 750ml

Double Black Zinfandel Paso Robles, 2018
Steve’s Selection

October 19

Chateau de Ferrand St-Emilion Grand Cru, 2016 375ml

Chateau de Ferrand St-Emilion Grand Cru, 2016
Steve’s Selection

October 26

Fess Parker Syrah The Big Easy, 2017 750ml

Fess Parker Syrah The Big Easy, 2017
Joe’s Selection

November 2

Vistamar Cabernet Syrah Gran Reserva, 2017 750ml

Vistamar Cabernet Syrah Gran Reserva, 2017
Loren’s Selection

November 9

Clos de los Siete, 2016 750ml

Clos de los Siete, 2016
Alan’s Selection

November 16

McManis Petite Sirah, 2017 750ml

McManis Petite Sirah, 2017
Steve’s Selection

Steve’s Chicken and Celery Salad with Wasabi

Cook Time: 10 minutes 

Servings: 2 servings


1/2 lb shredded or cubed chicken meat

2 Tbsp lime juice

2 Tbsp Tatziki sauce

1 Tbsp tahini

diced scallion

1 or 2 Tbsp wasabi paste

2 garlic cloves, grated

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

2 celery stalks

dried cranberries




crushed pecans


If you don’t have Tahini or Tatziki you can substitute plain Greek yogurt or Mayonnaise.

Combine all ingredients except pecans and chill

Add pecans when serving

Online Wine Tasting – Wednesday Part 2

Since we can’t come to the wine, the wine will have to come to us. Starting July 29, every week we’ll meet on Zoom and chat about the wines. I’ve tried to arrange the wines so that they become increasingly complex and full-bodied.

Please put the week’s white in your fridge at least 24 hours in advance, or put the week’s red in the fridge about an hour before the tasting, so the wine will be at a good temperature: about 45 degrees for whites (it will warm up in the glass) and 60 degrees for reds.

July 29

Val Do Sosego Albarino Rias Baixas 750ml

Val Do Sosego Albarino Rias Baixas $15.99
$15.99 each

August 5

Muses Estate 9 Assyrtiko 750ml

Muses Estate 9 Assyrtiko $11.99
$11.99 each

August 12

Gruber Roschitz Gruner Veltliner Roschitz 750ml

Gruber Roschitz Gruner Veltliner Roschitz $14.99
$14.99 each

August 19

Wagner Vidal Blanc Ice Wine 375ml

Wagner Vidal Blanc Ice Wine 375ml $29.99
$29.99 each

August 26

Halos de Jupiter Costieres de Nimes Rouge, 2018 750ml

Halos de Jupiter Costieres de Nimes Rouge, 2018 $13.99
$13.99 each

September 2

Carmen Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, 2017 750ml

Carmen Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, 2017 $17.99
$17.99 each

September 9

McManis Petite Sirah, 2017 750ml

McManis Petite Sirah, 2017 $10.99
$10.99 each

September 16

Intrinsic Red Blend, 2017 750ml

Intrinsic Red Blend, 2017 $23.99
$23.99 each

September 23

LehmannThe Barossan Barossa Valley Shiraz, 2015 750ml

LehmannThe Barossan Barossa Valley Shiraz, 2015 $20.99
$20.99 each

September 30 – 3 Sherries Compared

Important! Do not taste any of these three before the tasting. They need to be tasted individually, and in order, as you will not be able to go back to the dry ones after tasting the sweet ones. All three of these can be recorked and served with food over the next month, so no need to pour a lot into a glass.

Osborne (Pale Dry) Fino Sherry 750ml

Osborne (Pale Dry) Fino Sherry $13.99
$13.99 each

Osborne Medium (Amontillado)Sherry 750ml

Osborne Medium (Amontillado) Sherry $13.99

Osborne Pedro Ximenez 750ml

Osborne Pedro Ximenez $29.99

Thai Coconut Carrot Soup


Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 3 hours Difficulty: Easy Servings: 8


1 tbsp oil

1 small onion peeled and diced

2.5 lb carrots peeled and diced

2 cups vegetable broth

2 cups canned coconut milk

2 garlic cloves minced

3 Tbsp Thai red curry paste

2 T bsp fresh lime juice

1 tsp honey

1 tsp sea salt

2 Tbsp minced ginger (optional)

Fresh basil (optional


Sauce onions until translucent. 

Combine all ingredients in a crock pot on high or a pot on the stove.

Cook for several hours until carrots are tender.

Purée soup with an immersion blender.

Serve warm or chill overnight.

Garnish with basil if desired.

Southern-Spiced Chicken, Potato Salad, Green Beans with Maple Syrup and Red Pepper



2 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts

1 Tbsp Southern Spice Blend (Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Ground Yellow Mustard, Smoked Paprika & Cayenne Pepper)

¼ tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes


¾ lb Golden Or Red Potatoes

1 Tbsp Dijon Mustard

1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar

2oz Sweet Chili Peppers

1 Tsp Southern Spice Blend (Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Ground Yellow Mustard, Smoked Paprika & Cayenne Pepper)

Green Beans

6 oz Green Beans

2 cloves Garlic

1 Tbsp Maple Syrup

¼ tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes


Southern Spiced Chicken

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels; season on both sides with salt, pepper, and coat with spice blend.

In a medium pan (nonstick, if you have one), heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add the seasoned chicken.

Cook 6 to 7 minutes per side, or until browned and cooked through. An instant-read thermometer should register 165°F.

Drizzle the chicken with spicy maple and crushed red pepper flakes.

Potato Salad

Fill a medium pot 3/4 of the way up with salted water; cover and heat to boiling on high.

Medium dice the potatoes.

Add the diced potatoes to the pot of boiling water.

Cook 15 to 17 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a fork.

Drain thoroughly and return to the pot.

Roughly chop the cherry peppers.

Add Dijon mustard, rice wine vinegar, chopped cherry peppers, 1 teaspoon of olive oil, spice blend, salt and pepper; stir to combine.

Refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

Green Beans with Maple Syrup and Red Pepper

Cut off and discard the stem ends of the green beans.

Peel and mince 2 cloves of garlic.

Heat 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil on medium-high until hot.

Add the prepared green beans; season with salt and hot pepper flakes.

Cook, stirring frequently, 3 to 5 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Add the chopped garlic.

Cook, stirring constantly, 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until slightly softened.

Add maple syrup, crushed red pepper flakes, and 1 tablespoon of water.

Season with salt and pepper.

Cook, stirring frequently, 1 to 2 minutes, or until the green beans are softened and the liquid has cooked off.

Steve’s Healthy Egg Salad


3 hard boiled eggs

1/4 cup 2% milkfat Greek yogurt

1 Tbsp pickle relish

1 Tbsp stone ground mustard

1/2 tablespoon dill

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 cup chopped red onion

Chopped chives (to taste)

Salt and pepper (to taste)


Cut up the hardboiled eggs. 

Combine all ingredients and mix until desired consistency. I like it chunky.

Refrigerate for an hour. Serve and enjoy. 

Steve’s Creamy Cucumber & Radish Salad


1/2 English cucumbers, sliced

6 radishes, sliced

2 Tbsp plain non-fat Greek yogurt or sour cream

tablespoon rice wine vinegar

1 tsp fresh chopped dill

Salt and pepper to taste


Peel the cucumbers as desired. Thinly slice.

Do the same to the radishes.

Combine all ingredients.

Dani’s Vegetarian Lasagna


About 9 Pasta sheets (make your own or use fresh pasta from Whole Foods)

1 15oz package of part skim ricotta cheese

3/4 cup mozzarella 

1/4 cup parmesan 

1 egg

Approximately 4 cups of fresh spinach

2 or 3 cloves of fresh garlic, sliced thin 

2 zucchini, peeled and sliced thin

1 onion, chopped 

1 red bell pepper, chopped 

olive oil 

Italian seasoning (oregano, sweet basil, marjoram, thyme, and rosemary) to taste

about 1 1/2 cups of your favorite spaghetti sauce


Heat oven to 350 degrees F. 

In a medium sauce pan, heat about a tablespoon of olive oil. Add onion and red pepper, and sauté until brown, stirring occasionally. 

In another medium sauce pan, heat another tablespoon of olive oil. Add garlic and sauté until garlic begins to brown, then add spinach and quickly sauté until reduced in volume. 

Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl combine the ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup of mozzarella, egg, and Italian seasoning. After the spinach is done sautéing, add the spinach/garlic mixture to the mixing bowl and stir. 

Spray a 9×9 inch pan lightly with cooking spray (I used grapeseed oil). Add a small amount of tomato sauce to the bottom, then line the bottom with a layer of pasta (about three sheets). 

Spread half the ricotta mixture on top of the pasta. Next add a layer of sautéd onions, then lay out the thinly sliced zucchini into a third layer. Cover with a layer of tomato sauce. 

Repeat: pasta, ricotta mixture, onions, zucchini, and more sauce. 

Top with a layer of pasta. Add a bit more sauce to keep the top moist during cooking. Then add the remaining 1/4 mozzarella and parmesan to the top. 

Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes, checking occasionally. Remove from oven and let sit 10 minutes before serving.

Linda’s Onion Soup

Ingredients for the Soup

2            Vidalia sweet onions (large), sliced into crescents about 1/4″ thick

1 tbs       Butter

1 tbs       Olive oil

1/2 tsp    Sugar

2 tbs       Flour

6 cups    Beef broth, low sodium

1 tbs       Minced garlic

3/4 cup   Chardonnay wine

1             Yellow onion, sliced (optional)

               Seasoning to taste (see below)

Ingredients for the Optional Bread and Cheese Topping

1             Sourdough baguette, sliced 1/2″ thick

3/4 tbs     Butter

3/4 tbs     Olive oil

                Grated cheese – Gruyere, Swiss, Parmesan and/or Cheddar 


In a covered 5 quart pot, combine Vidalia onions, butter, and oil and cook covered for 30 minutes on low stirring occasionally.   Uncover, add sugar and stir occasionally until onions are a golden brown (about 30 more minutes).  Sprinkle with flour and stir until blended. Add beef broth and garlic.  Simmer on low, partially covered, for 30 minutes stirring occasionally.   Add wine.  The onions will be extremely limp at this juncture.  If you want additional texture add optional yellow onion at this point.  Season to taste: Use seasonings that appeal to you in small amounts until you have achieved the desired result.  Salt and pepper are a good place to start.  I use Cavender’s Greek seasoning, Lemon pepper and/or poultry seasoning as the spirit moves me.  (Realize that it is always best to slightly underseason – you can always add more at the very end.)  Partially cover again and simmer another 30 minutes.

So here’s where I part with the traditional restaurant recipe.  Trying to broil soup bowls topped with cheese is a wonderful way to get burned.  And I find the bread really gets in the way of eating the soup but that’s just me.  If you insist here’s a safer way.  Prior to serving the soup, melt butter and oil in a large frying pan, season to taste and coat both sides of the bread slices.  On medium heat, lightly brown both sides of bread and transfer to a baking pan.  Top with grated cheese and broil in oven until melted.  Put one slice of bread on top of each soup bowl and use the remainder as a cheese bread side dish.

Linda’s Carrot Ginger Soup

This is very easy and forgiving.   The recipe is easily halved.

Melt (3) TBS Butter in soup pot.

Peel and chop (6 -7) Large Carrots and add to pot on low/medium heat.

Peel and chop (1-2) Medium Onions and add to pot.  (I had a leftover giant Vidalia onion so I used that.)

Continue heating and stirring occasionally until veggies are softening.

Add Ginger (optional if you hate ginger).  I used the better part of a squeeze tube of ginger.  Chopped pickled ginger works fine as well.

Add (4) cups Chicken or Veggie Stock andbring to a gentle boil. 

Puree with immersion blender.  

Add seasoning to taste.  I used Salt, Orange Extract and Rice Wine Vinegar.

Recommended garnishes are Chives, Parsley, Dill or Fennel.

I liked this soup better, chilled; Steve liked it best hot.  

Alcorn McBride Christmas Cheese Bread Recipe

In a small pot scald (means heat to just barely bubbling):

   1 1/2  cups    Milk

   Whilst heating milk, grate and toss with a small amount of flour:

       6 oz          Extra sharp cheddar cheese

   Turn off heat and stir with a wooden spoon into hot milk:

      1/3 cup      Sugar

      1/4 cup      Butter

      1 Tbs         Salt

                        Prepared grated cheese (gradually)

   Let cool until warm to the touch.  

Meanwhile in a large non metallic mixing bowl combine for 5 minutes:

   1/2 cup      105 degree water

    2 pkgs      Active dry yeast

    Add and beat well:

        1           Egg

     Stir in milk/cheese mixture.


     5.5 cups    Flour

Stir into milk/cheese mixture with wooden spoon until blended:

      3 cups    Sifted Flour

Tip wet dough onto a floured surface and knead in about 2.5 cups more sifted flour for about 10 minutes.  Put dough back in bowl and cover with slightly dampened towel and allow to double in bulk.

Once dough has doubled punch down and divide into (8) portions.  Form into rectangular loaves.  Brush (8) mini loaf pans generously with melted butter and place on large baking pan. Rotate dough rectangles into prepared loaf plans so both sides are buttered.  Allow to double bulk again.

Preheat oven to 375.  

Bake for about 25-30 minutes checking for excessive browning at about 20 minutes.  Whack the top of the loaves with the dull side of a knife listening for a hollow sound which indicates doneness.

Hiroshima Style Okonomiyaki by Loretta Kwan

NOTE: There is enough batter for 2 okonomiyakis. In the insta story, I cooked one noodle and okonomiyaki at a time once I started frying half the batter.


2 Mama Ramen (pork flavor)

3 eggs (1 for batter, 1 to top each okonomiyaki)

3/4 cup water

1 cup flour

1/4 head of shredded cabbage

1 julienne carrot (1/4 cup)

1 julienne yellow squash

3 chopped stalks of green onions

5 oz chopped/crumbled veggie chorizo sausage


Okonomiyaki sauce

Kewpie Mayo

Bonito flakes


1. Mix water and 1 egg

2. Add flour and powdered flavor packet to the egg mixture. Stir until just incorporated

3. Mix in cabbage, green onions (save 2 TBS for garnish), carrot, squash, and veggie meat.

*Note: I cooked one okonomiyaki at at time.

4. Oil pan and fry half the batter covered for 4 mins. Flip and cook uncovered for 4 mins

5. Cook noodles until al dente. Drain. Stir fry noodles with some oil, splash of sake, 3 TBS of okonomiyaki sauce, and package of ramen oil.

6. Place a fried egg on top of the noodles

7. Place cooked okonomiyaki on the egg and noodles.

8. Add topping: okonomiyaki sauce, kewpie mayo, bonito flakes, crunchy ramen crumbs, and green onions

9. Use two spatulas to lift from the pan to the plate. I tried sliding it onto my plate and my noodles all squished to one side.

Online Wine Tasting – Mondays

Since we can’t come to the wine, the wine will have to come to us. Starting June 8, We’ll meet on Zoom and chat about the wines.


Please put the week’s white in your fridge at least 24 hours in advance, or put the week’s red in the fridge about an hour before the tasting, so the wine will be at a good temperature: about 45 degrees for whites (it will warm up in the glass) and 60 degrees for reds. If you want to give the red some time to breathe, pour a glass at lunchtime and then recork the bottle.

June 8, 2020

Campo Viejo Cava Rose 750ml

Campo Viejo Cava Rose $15.60

June 15, 2020

Bougrier 'V' Vouvray, 2018 750ml

Bougrier ‘V’ Vouvray, 2018 $14.63

June 22, 2020

Chateau Vivonne Bandol Rose, 2018 750ml

Chateau Vivonne Bandol Rose, 2018 $19.50

June 29, 2020

Dr Heidemanns Riesling QbA, 2018 750ml

Dr Heidemanns Riesling QbA, 2018 $9.75

July 6, 2020

Ecco Domani Pinot Grigio 750ml

Ecco Domani Pinot Grigio $7.78

July 13, 2020

Hermes Assyrtiko 750ml

Hermes Assyrtiko $11.70

July 20, 2020

Le Pre Vaujour Chinon 750ml

Le Pre Vaujour Chinon $18.53

July 27, 2020

San Gregorio Las 75 Vendimias, 2017 750ml

San Gregorio Las 75 Vendimias, 2017 $16.58

August 3, 2020

Tarima Hill Monastrell Old Vines, 2015 750ml

Tarima Hill Monastrell Old Vines, 2015 $15.60

August 10, 2020

Di Majo Norante Sangiovese 750ml

Di Majo Norante Sangiovese $10.53

August 17, 2020

Mascota Vineyards Unanime Malbec, 2016 750ml

Mascota Vineyards Unanime Malbec, 2016 $24.38

August 24, 2020

K Vintners Syrah The Deal, 2015 750ml

K Vintners Syrah The Deal, 2015 $36.09

Online Wine Tasting – Wednesdays

Since we can’t come to the wine, the wine will have to come to us. Starting May 6, every week I’ll do an online tasting with bottles of wine in cases I’ve distributed to eleven friends:


We’ll meet on Zoom and chat about the wines. I didn’t have enough case lots for everyone to always get identical wines, but they will be similar. I’ve tried to arrange the wines so that they become increasingly complex and full-bodied.

Please put the week’s white in your fridge at least 24 hours in advance, or put the week’s red in the fridge about an hour before the tasting, so the wine will be at a good temperature: about 45 degrees for whites (it will warm up in the glass) and 60 degrees for reds.

Week 1 – May 5

“Breezy and Fresh” is a meaningless descriptor, as the wine has gone through malolactic fermentation and oak.

Week 2 – May 12

This is a limited run bottling of primarily Cab and Merlot with smaller amounts of eight other red varietals which see a fair amount of new oak (mostly American). This wine is usually only sold out of the winery tasting room but a small amount was brought into Orlando.

Week 3 – May 19

California, Oregon, or Chile

Week 4 – May 26

This wine has gone through malolactic fermentation to make it buttery and was aged in oak, hence “reserve”.

Week 5 – June 3

California, Australia

Week 6 – June 10

France, California, New Zealand

Week 7 – June 17

100% Cabernet Sauvignon, the wine was aged 12 months in 20% new oak, a combination of French, American and Hungarian.

Week 8 – June 24

New Zealand, France

Week 9 – July 1

California, Chile, Chile

Week 10 – July 8

California, California, California, Washington State

Week 11 – July 15

All are Rioja from Spain

Week 12 – July 22

Classic Meritage Blend emulating French Bordeaux

Australia 2017

The flight from Hong Kong to Sydney is overnight, and takes about nine hours. Dani had a rough night in coach, with three infants nearby, but Linda and I were able to get some sleep in business (thank you frequent flyer miles) and arrived fairly refreshed.

We checked our bags at the Quay West Suites and walked around downtown Sydney, getting Dani some wake-up coffee, and eventually ending up back at our old favorite place in the Westfield Mall, Chat Thai, for some delicious no-frills Asian food. We also picked up some glassware so we could have a proper cocktail hour in our room with Pamela, and picked up a bottle of her favorite scotch and some Champagne at a vintage wine shop.

Back at the hotel we checked in and discovered this room, number 3601, was even bigger than the one in Hong Kong, with two full bedrooms and an office! The view also rivals that in Hong Kong. I highly recommend Quay West Suites for all Sydney visitors, because of its location and rooms.

You can see the Opera House during the day, and fireworks on some nights. From Dani’s room you can also see the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Those are fireworks to the right of the Opera House.

For dinner, Linda found an Italian restaurant called Intermezzo that was quite good.

The next day Pamela arrived, and we had a nice time catching up with her. We had a simple lunch as Creperie Suzette and then walked around Circular Quay, bought Opal cards for the ferries and busses, and got Pamela checked into the Four Seasons across the street.

For dinner we walked to Quay, at the end of the quay, overlooking the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Dani and I went here six years ago and weren’t very impressed by this supposedly three-star Michelin restaurant. My opinion is unchanged, but it has a great view!

Those are seagulls swirling around the bridge tower catching bugs. It’s the first time I ever saw a seagull work for food.

Of course, the first thing we needed to do in Australia was pet a kangaroo, so the next day we Ubered to Featherdale Wildlife Park (our third visit since 2001). It seems like since our last visit you are a bit more separated from the animals, which as I recall were often climbing into your jacket, but there is still lots to see and do.

We had a forgettable lunch on the way back to Syndey at George’s Gourmet Pizza. For dinner we tried a new place, The Gantry, which is around the end of the point, still in walking distance. They don’t really have much of a view, but the five-course tasting menu was terrific, and about a third the price of Quay!

The next day Pamela checked out to get ready for a lunch she was hosting for us at her country club, and we headed for the Australia Museum. We wanted to take a photo in the same spot as on our previous two visits, to show how Dani has grown, but unfortunately about half the museum is closed for rehab, and we had to settle for a picture in front of the giant sloth.

The major impression one takes away from the museum is still that there are a lot of things in Australia that can kill you.

On Sunday we took the ferry up the Paramatta River to Breakfast Point. It was an absolutely gorgeous day on the river.

We had a delightful lunch with Pamela and her family at the country club, and then stopped briefly at her condo so Linda could see it.

Andrew, Brett, Wendy, Steve, Linda, Dani, Sandra and Pamela at her apartment. (Pamela’s cousin Janice was also at lunch).

We stopped briefly at her condo, and then took a car back to the city for a pleasant dinner nearby at Sake.

The next day I was ready for a rest and to get caught up on the computer, but Linda and Dani went on a wine excursion to the Hunter Valley.

I’ll let Linda describe that:

Hunter Valley Wine Tasting Private Tour

It was a memorable day but not in a good way.

We had arranged for a 12 hour private wine tour. Our guide turned out to be a well educated, well traveled wine marketing consultant who also could be described as an Alpha Male, opinionated curmudgeon with decidedly misogynistic tendencies. He was well versed in the nuances of the wine industry and had a very good grasp of future emerging markets, new planting strategies with respect to global warming, and a somewhat solid understanding of future consumption projections.

But he was terrifyingly inept at true wine appreciation coupled with an unwavering belief that he knew it all. For those of you who love wine, the following narrative requires no further explanation:


Don’t smell it first! Just take a small sip and spritz it around in your mouth for 10 seconds sort of like mouthwash to shock you palate. At this point don’t try to think about what it tastes like (I’m not making this up) but just try to make associations (brunch appropriate, light, elegant, etc.).

Then jump to the next wine and do the same thing.


Then you do what any sane person does in the first place. Swirl the wine in the glass and inhale. But do that 3 times. We might have been instructed to do this intermittently with the second wine but I have blocked this out.

I was however chastised for sniffing before I tasted – apparently this interferes with your initial assessment.


The current market buying trends define the market. If you do not agree you are wrong.

Chardonnays and Cabs were popular 20 years ago. If you still like these and particularly if you like these the way they were produced 20 years ago you are really wrong – you are an affront to the new marketing strategies. American oak barrels and malolactic fermentation are so declasse.


Wines are being made better and better every year due to emerging science. So why would you want to drink older wines? If you hang on to them you lose the varietal characteristics and after several years you just end up with “old red wine” (I kid you not). I specifically asked if he would drink the $45 2015 Cab I was guilt buying tonight or if he would he age it for 5 or 10 years – the answer was tonight.


In spite of our friend’s substantial success in out performing the stock market for many years our guide assured us the only way to make money was to buy $10M of a specific wine and to control the market.

On the other hand this guy is 70+ and driving a tour bus and RS is traveling on Emirates first class…

Ngong Ping Cable Car

Guest post by Dani.

Hong Kong 2017 – Day 5

Today we were tourists doing touristy things on Lantau Island. Many companies offer guided tours but we decided to roll our own adventure based on the sights/activities I read about in the Lonely Planet guidebook.

Po Lin monastery and the Buddha statue are located at the top of a mountain on Lantau Island. It turns out getting there is more than half the fun.

The most scenic way to go is to take a 20-minute cable car journey from Tung Chung (a city near the airport) up to Ngong Ping (a touristy village with souvenir shops).

The views were stunning.

We sprang for the “Crystal Cabin” which had a glass floor.   It was neat to be able to see through the floor but it actually didn’t inspire much vertigo, perhaps because we were seated on regular benches.

We also downloaded their guided narration to accompany the journey up. A dry English narrator imparted a few interesting facts about the construction of the cable car towers.

It was quite a feat of engineering. Donkeys were needed to cart supplies up the mountains, since many places are not accessible by vehicle. The number of towers was also reduced to lower the environmental impact. That’s also why there’s a funny turn on airport island instead of a tower built in the water.

The cars weren’t air-conditioned, but they had air vents built into the sides and top which funneled a lovely breeze through the cabin and kept things nice and cool. Below our feet, we could see a long trail winding up and down, populated by a few brave hikers trekking up to Ngong Ping on foot. The most impressive sight was the Big Buddha in the distance as we approached the top.

Close to the terminal, Mom looked through the floor and said she could see a “ball,” or maybe a “bowl,” but I didn’t figure out what she actually saw/said until a bit later (see below).

Ngong Ping was (as expected) a tourist trap. But it was a nice tourist trap. We had an incredibly oily lunch before heading to the monastery and the Buddha statue.

On our way out of Ngong Ping we saw a cow in a planter! All that time Mom had been saying she’d seen a “bull.” And then we saw a whole herd of cows resting by the side of the path. They must belong to the monastery and appear in thousands of selfies a day.

Mom and I decided to hoof it up the 260 steps to see the Big Buddha up close. We tackled the 16 flights a few at a time, pausing frequently to let Mom (definitely Mom, not me) rest.

We made it to the top (eventually). We discovered stunning views of the South China Sea and a cool ocean breeze that felt heavenly. There were many tourists taking selfies, but there were also a large number of people praying.

The Big Buddha was quite impressive and an engineering marvel. It took almost 10 years to complete, and ended up made of thin bronze sheets cast to fit over a framework. Artisans overcame numerous obstacles to cast the Buddha’s face as one sheet so no seams marred his serene visage. He did look very peaceful.

We headed back down and rejoined Dad to explore Po Lin monastery.


Mom observed it was fascinating to study the architecture because it’s in a style we’re used to seeing only shiny and new at a theme park or old and behind glass in a museum. This was a real, working monastery (evidenced by the chanting we heard drifting from a private building towards the back).

After wandering around for a bit, we headed back to the village and discovered one of the cows wanted to go shopping (aka stand in the shade). A local lured him out with an apple.

We got cold beverages with the most appetizing names.

The Pocari Sweat was basically just Gatorade. The Jelly Grass Drink wasn’t terrible. It was a bit earthy and there really were cubes of gelatin in the bottom (which made for an interesting consistency). It reminded me of an aloe drink I had once.

Mom and I indulged in some retail therapy and purchased a few souvenirs and gifts. Before we left, we ordered egg waffles (made to order) to try out street food Dad was interested in. Mine was chocolate and I was a big fan.

We were all a bit touristed out so we decided to skip Tai O fishing village. Instead, we took the cable car back down the mountain.

We made great time on the MTR back to Hong Kong island, but then waited fifteen minutes for a bus that runs every seven minutes, only to have it skip our stop. Then we had incredible difficulty finding a cab. We stood at a cab stand for more than 30 minutes watching cabs with “out of service” signs whiz by.  We were cutting our 7pm dinner reservation at Pierre pretty close since we all needed to shower.

Fortunately, they didn’t mind pushing it back for us.

Unfortunately, the meal was terrible.

Here’s Dad’s Yelp review of the experience (I’ll let him eviscerate it in his own words):

Pierre offers a lovely room with a great ambiance and view. It’s the kind you’d expect to find in a top rated restaurant. Unfortunately, the view is about the only thing that is top rated about it.

At a price equal to or above the nearby Amber and l’Atelier, it’s hard to imagine anyone returning to Pierre for a second visit. The six-course tasting meal we had was, frankly, poor. There wasn’t a single stand-out course, and no one in our party had more than a taste of the grouse entree, which had a very unpleasant bitter taste. Mine even still had a piece of lead birdshot in it.

They’ve tried to make up in quantity what they lack in quality, with a half dozen small plates bearing amuse bouche at the start, and another half dozen plates of dessert at the end. But not one of them was truly good. It’s as if they’re firing scattershot, to see if they can hit anything.

Service was also hit or miss, with the wine list not even offered until the food began showing up, and empty water glasses sitting for long stretches of time.

At about $10,000HKD for our party of three’s food alone, this must be one of the worst buys in the city. And the wine prices are just as unreasonable.

Hong Kong’s Cat Cafe and Amber

Guest post by Dani.

Hong Kong 2017 – Day 4

We started our day with a leisurely breakfast upstairs and debated what we should do for the day. Yvonne warned us Sunday would be very crowded. Despite that, we briefly considered going up to The Peak, however it started to pour while we were still at breakfast so we thought better of that plan.

Instead, we decided to relax and hang out in the room for a bit before venturing out for lunch.

Originally, I was interested in visiting a rabbit cafe, which is exactly what it sounds like: a cafe where you can hang out with rabbits. But a quick Google search revealed they were currently engaged in a legal battle over their lack of having a food license. So we scrapped that plan too.

Finally, we settled on The Cat Store, a cat cafe located near a part of town called Times Square. The rain stopped around lunchtime, so we grabbed a cab and headed out. The cab driver said that since it was Sunday some of the streets around our destination were closed to vehicular traffic, but that he could drop us of nearby and point us in the right direction.

The drive took us east into Wan Chai, which didn’t seem dramatically different from Central. The Times Square area was quite busy with tourists and locals alike, but the cab got us within spitting distance.

The Times Square neighborhood was fascinating. It was different than any city we’ve been to because, block by block, it fluctuated between high-end designer stores in sleek modern buildings and much more modest (even decrepit) buildings with a mix of commercial and residential.

The address of the cat cafe led us to a six-story building in the middle of a short block. Having learned our lesson at Yum Cha, we realized the address was on the 3rd floor, though it was strange that the building seemed to be mostly apartments.

The entryway to the building, the hallway, and elevator did not inspire much confidence. They were somewhat less than glamorous. Seedy is the word that came to mind.

But we persevered and found the door to the cat cafe, which turned out to be a charming little shop. It was cozy, tidy, and packed with people. All the tables were taken but the hostess said we could come back in about an hour and a half and she’d reserve us a table.

To kill time, we wandered around the shops nearby for a while, ultimately ending up in a mall across the street. We could actually see the cat cafe’s window from over there, so when it looked like there were empty tables we repeated the journey through the world’s strangest elevators and returned to get our dose of fur therapy.

We only saw one cat curled up asleep when we arrived. Understandably, the cafe has signage requesting that patrons refrain from bothering sleeping or eating kitties. Patience was required.

We ordered some food; again the criterion was cute things shaped like cats. I chose garlic toasts, toast with chocolate sauce and sweetened condensed milk, and cat-shaped butter cookies. I mean this as a compliment, but Mom grills leftover hot dog buns in butter and the garlic toasts bore a remarkable resemblance to that. The butter cookies were excellent.

Dad had homemade caramel ice cream with apple and graham cracker dust. Mom had a smoked salmon pizza (with corn?!).

While we waited for the cat to wake up, we enjoyed going through the literature on the table. All but one of the cats were rescues, and in case you’d never seen a cat before, there was a handy-dandy guide about how to pet them.

Most of the other patrons were families there with their daughters, so we fit right in. Of course, the other girls were all about 6 years old, but so what?

At long last, a cat emerged from slumber and joined the party. His name was JJ and he liked to talk. He had a raspy little mew and though he complained a lot was very patient with the little girls (including me).

His activity spurred lunchtime and the opening cans woke two other cats. The cats are permitted in the kitchen, which horrified one table of guests, but I figure there’s been at least one cat in the kitchen at home my whole life and it hasn’t killed me yet. Plus I got to pet kitties.

We headed back to the hotel for the rest of the afternoon. Though it wasn’t raining anymore, the clouds continued to whiz by. I took the opportunity to film some time lapse of Victoria Harbour.

After a couple hours we dressed for dinner and headed to Amber, which was recently ranked the 24th best restaurant in the world. It lived up to the hype!

Our table was lovely, nestled in the back corner of the restaurant with plenty of elbow room.

The food was exquisite and the wine pairing was incredibly educational. It included six wines, all from Burgundy.

The only problem is I never finish a wine pairing, and apparently in this culture leaving wine on the table is even worse than leaving food on your plate. But since all six glasses totaled up to more than a bottle of wine, I would have been on the floor if I tried to drink it all. Other than the worried looks that caused the staff, it was a lovely meal and managed to top L’Atelier (which I wasn’t sure was possible).