Saturday, July 28, 2012

Travel Inspiration Photo #1: Sinta, Portugal

The first in what I intend to be a series of Travel Inspiration posts is from Sintra, Portugal.  The picture itself is of Pena National Palace (Pal├ício Nacional da Pena, in Portuguese).  This beautiful city is a short 30 km from Lisbon and on a clear day you can see this amazing palace from Lisbon proper.


To get from Lisbon to Sintra you can either drive or take a local train. Once in Sintra you can walk to explore the City on foot (as we did) or you can take the local bus to all the sites. The views from Pena National Palace are breathtaking - you see amazing farmland and even the ocean.


If you are visiting Lisbon you must (without question) take a day and visit Sintra, you will not regret spending time in this hilltop town.











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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Excuse me, where is the fish sauce?

I made Pork Larb Lettuce Wraps earlier this week. Most of the ingredients were in my pantry including Fish Sauce.  I live just a few blocks from Argyle Street - which is full of great little Vietnamese restaurants and shops.  

A few months ago, I was making some Asian recipe that called for fish sauce. The recipe also said that you can find fish sauce at major grocery store.  Ok, so let's give that a try.

I head over to Jewel-Osco across the street from my apartment.  I check the "ethnic food" aisle (which has everything from hard taco shells (ethnic??), rice, rice noodles and coconut milk.  I couldn't find it. I head over to the condiment section, again, no luck.  I wander around aisle by aisle and found nothing.  

I find a young gentlemen who works at Jewel and I ask him if they carry fish sauce.  He says of course, it's on aisle 4 (or whatever).  I clarify, explaining what fish sauce is and how I intend to use it.  He again says "yeah, we've got it!".

I obediently follow him over to the condiment aisle. I am a bit surprised that I missed it moments earlier.  This young man then grabs a bottle, hands it to me and says "See, fish sauce".  What did I have in my hand?

Good god!  I explain to the young man, who is doing his best to be helpful, that this isn't fish sauce, it is tartar sauce.  His response "Well, that's what I put on my fish..."

I went to a different grocery store.

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IPNC Excitement

As my previous post noted, we are heading to Oregon tonight to attend a wine festival this weekend, called the International Pinot Noir Celebration (IPNC).  This event is hosted on the campus of my alma mater, Linfield College -- which is just 15 minutes from where I grew up.  IPNC feels like I am returning home.

This will be the first year we are attending the full weekend, which starts tomorrow morning and goes through mid-day on Sunday.  Last year we just attended the main Saturday night dinner, the Salmon Bake and the Sunday afternoon tasting. We had a really great time even with this limited program.  This year we are doing the full weekend which includes seminars, winery tours and multi-course meals by world renowned chefs.  You can see the full itinerary here.

We'll be staying on campus, which is a bit of a blast from the past.  This of course will not require us to drive at all during the wine festival, which is a high priority for me.

Since this is my very first full-weekend IPNC, I am a bit concerned that two full days of celebrating my favorite wine might be a bit much -- by the end of the weekend, will I be tired of Pinot Noir? Perish the thought!

What are you doing this weekend? Attending a great food and wine festival or are you staying at home and making your own personal food and wine festival?



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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Travel Inspiration Photo #1

I'm going to try a new weekly travel series. I often see a photo that a friend took on one of their recent trips and I just get inspired to learn more about that destination. It also encourages me to plan my next trip -- where ever that may be.


As I said, I'm going to try something new -- I'll start by posting a photo, without any details then a couple days later will provide an update - including where this picture was taken, what is in the photo and list a couple of resources in planning a trip to this destination.  Let me know how this works for you all.


Now time for the first Travel Inspiration Photo:



Where was this photo taken? 



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Monday, July 23, 2012

What I'm Cooking...Pork Larb Lettuce Wraps

I never read the magazines, I subscribe to, when they arrive. I let them build up, hoarders style, and then read several months worth in one sitting.  The cooking magazines I get, I don't keep. When I find an intriguing recipe, I just pull the page out and file it away. Once I make the recipe, I decide whether it deserves to make into my recipe box or it goes into the trash.

Last night I made a recipe from the August 2012 issue of Food and Wine called Pork Larb Lettuce Wraps. This recipe is from Salt Lake City chef Ryan Lowder.  I am not familiar with Ryan (nor have I done any research on him).  The one thing I did look up was the definition of Larb (a/k/a laab, laap, larp). Am I the only one who didn't know what this is?  It is a Laotian (or northeastern Thai) meat salad.

I chose this recipe because it is hot and we are planning a trip to southeast Asia next spring. Plus, I never make Asian food at home.  Needed to try something new and this really fit the bill.

The recipe was very easy to make and had just a handful of ingredients - most of which were already in my pantry.  You can even make the larb early on then just reheat before dinner time (which is what I did).

So, the real question, what did we think of the recipe?  It was pretty damn good.  The recipe had only tiniest bit of spice - I was expecting it to have a nice little kick, but not so much.  I don't use fish sauce all that much (read: never) but the sauce recipe was really mellow -- not harsh at all (like the smell of the straight sauce).

Would I make this recipe again? Absolutely!  I would add a bit more spice/peppers to this recipe.  I couldn't find thai chilies at my grocery so I used serrano peppers instead.  I would probably make a double batch of this recipe since you can easily re-heat this later in the week.  Instead of using the larb in a lettuce wrap twice in one week, you could stuff it in a pepper or even a nice sweet onion.

I made a Thai Pineapple Salad as a side with this as well -- I will provide the recipe and a review of it later in the week.

Prepping tonight's dinner.

Toasting the rice - which adds a great
smokey flavor to the larb.
Serving the Pork Larb with the Lettuce
to Wrap in the background
What did you have for dinner Sunday night?  Did you try a great new recipe?  To beat the heat, what part of the world do you look to: SE Asia? Africa? India? South America?  Do you use fish sauce more frequently than I do?

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Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Power of Victoria Falls

It is a rainy day in Chicago today.  I hate walking to the bus in the rain. Each time I do, I think of my trip to Zimbabwe in March of 2011.  We visited Victoria Falls - we actually visited both sides of the Falls, the Zimbabwe side and the Zambian side.  I do really think the Zambian side was much prettier.

The video below is from the Zimbabwe side of the Falls and you can see the power of the Falls.  It wasn't raining the day we visited the Falls but you can see the mist from the Falls "falling up" and utterly soaking us.  This is just one of the several great views of the Falls.



Have you been to Victoria Falls?  Which side did you like better: Zimbabwe or Zambia?  How did it compare to the worlds two other largest Falls (Iguazu and Niagara)?   Do you want to visit Victoria Falls? Well, South African Airways flies from their Johannesburg hub O.R. Tambo International Airport.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Olympic Tickets Have Arrived!

On Monday, I received an unexpected overnight package: A small envelope containing my tickets to the Olympics!  I am attending the gold medal football (soccer) match at Wembley Stadium.  Two quick thoughts on the tickets:

  1. I was surprised that the tickets included tube passes  for the day of the match.  It makes perfect sense of course, keep people on public transit anyway possible. Although I can't imagine many people attending would be driving to the events, would they?
  2. I was expecting the tickets to look a bit "cooler". I was surprised that these tickets just look like regular old tickets to a Bulls game or the Super Bowl.  I just figured that Olympic tickets would  be a bit more elaborate.




Are you going to the Olympics in London? What events are you seeing? If not going, what events would you want to see?


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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Grilled Pineapple with Gelato and Balsamic Glaze

The dessert from our Rendezvous Under the Stars class was a Grilled Pineapple with Gelato and Balsamic Glaze.  We actually didn't make this dessert, Chef Michelle made it while we ate dinner.  The dessert looked pretty easy to make.

She started out by "topping and tailing" the pineapple.  Now that she had a flat stable surface we was able to cut the thick skin/rind off the pineapple.  Once the rind was removed, she sliced the pineapple into 1.5"-2" slices.

The ingredients needed for this recipe are:

1 Pound Seasonal Fruit Prepared as needed (see above)
1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Teaspoon Orange Zest
Gelato
Cream of Balsamic
1/4 cup Unsalted Pistachios, Toasted and Rough Chopped
  1. Heat a gas or charcoal grill over medium heat.
  2. Toss the fruit with the olive oil and orange zest. Grill the cut side down until caramelized.
  3. Place the fruit in a bowl, top with a scoop of gelato, drizzle with cream of balsamic and top with a sprinkling of pistachios.
I have not hidden my love of the Chopping Block, in any sense, but I must say this is probably the worst recipe I've collected from them -- not the worst dish, the worst recipe.  Maybe it is because we really didn't participate in the making of this dessert or because the recipe isn't all that clear.

I must say this dessert was fantastic.  The balsamic paired wonderfully with the caramelized pineapple and the gelato.  Sorry, TCB, but even the best can't hit a home run every time at bat.


Chef Michelle showing us how to prepare
a pineapple for the grill.
A beautiful and amazingly tasty dessert.
What are your favorite fruits to grill?  Do you often grill your desserts?  Do you have a recipe that you love to use during the summer?

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Monday, July 16, 2012

Where I'm Eating...Jamieson Grille (Alexandria, VA)

I  was in the greater DC area for a few nights a couple weeks ago.  Based on wild hotel prices, I decided to stay at the Westin, in Alexandria.  There really wasn't a whole lot of options in the area for food (within walking distance).  The first night in town, I decided to eat at the restaurant in the hotel, the Jamieson Grille.

I arrived late in the evening, around 21h30 and the restaurant was almost empty. I checked the menu and found a couple of options that looked good.  I asked my server which of the three items I was interested in was the best.  Which three items? Grilled Pork Chop, Grilled Ribeye Steak or Pan Seared Breast of Chicken. Without missing a beat the waiter suggested the pork chop. 

Grilled Pork Chop with smoked bacon
and gouda mashed potatoes, caramelized
onions and kale, jus
Thankfully this pork chop was served with a jus - otherwise it would have been as flavorless as eating a piece of paper.  The mashed potatoes were very good, but then again what isn't great with gouda and bacon?  The pork was pretty tough too.  I'm still working to get my strength back in my right hand following my accident and I had a difficult time cutting this pork chop.

The server was very good. He always made sure I had everything I needed.  I didn't tell him the chop was flavorless and tough.  He really did provide excellent service.

Would I return to Jamieson Grille? Only if I had to. If I arrived late at the hotel and didn't want to leave, of course I would visit again.  Would I recommend the pork chop?  In a vacuum, no, I wouldn't. Since the server was very quick to recommend, I wonder if this really was the best of the options I gave him -- what do the other items taste like?

Have you been to Jamieson Grille before? What is your favorite menu item here?  When staying in Alexandria, where do you eat?

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Friday, July 13, 2012

Where I'm Eating...Birch and Barley (Washington, DC)

I was in Washington, DC for work a couple weeks ago and decided to stay the weekend with a dear friend. When we get together our normal routine consists of many cocktails, sushi, a cooking class and some pretty fantastic restaurant stops.  At the time of my visit she was 6 months preggo -- so that cuts the many cocktails and the sushi out of the plan. We searched for a cooking class, but everything we found was outrageously over priced.  What was left for us to do? Eat of course.

In the June issue of Food and Wine, I found a little write up about a new restaurant called Birch and Barley.  The article didn't say much, but it did pique my interest.  JDE immediately got us reservations (a month in advance) and we waited.

We roll into this restaurant at 19h30 for our reservation -- we were quite happy they had power, since 20 hours before a major storm rolled through DC downing dozens of trees and knocking power out across the district.

We were seated and greeted by our Michael Phelps look-a-like waiter.  He was friendly and very knowledgeable about the very extensive beer menu.  They have over 500 beers available. I love beer, but I am far from an aficionado.  I decided to put my cocktail future for the night in this man's hands.  

We started off by splitting an order of the Artichoke Hearts, which was a spinach salad served with artichokes, garlic aioli, shaved pecorino and crispy pancetta.  This was very tasty.

Artichoke Hearts
For my entree I decided to have the Grilled Pork Loin which was served with  bulgar wheat, broccoli rabe, roasted turnips. The pork was so tender and so flavorful.  I love a nice pork loin and this one was top notch.


Grilled Pork Loin
We decided to get dessert -- hell, since we weren't eating a ton of sushi or drinking gallons of wine, we might as well splurge on dessert, right?  I decided to get the chocolate peanut butter tart, JDE got the French Toast and MS got the House-Made Cookies and Confections.  My dessert was good - not amazing.  I didn't try the French Toast, but I did love the Cookies and Confections.  This plate was a modern take on classic sweets from our youth.  It included a cashew snickers bar, hostess cupcake, oatmeal cream pie, pudding pop, peppermint pattie, pecan joy and the chef's favorite breakfast cereal sorbet.

I love peppermint patties and this house-made version was great...but not as good as the cashew snickers bar.  That dessert was amazing. I could have eaten 5 or 6 of those alone.  I was far from a gentlemen and ate half the snickers bar before JDE could have any.  I feel a bit bad, but am very happy I was able to enjoy this dessert myself.

From the appetizer course, to the entree to the dessert, I asked the waiter just to pick a beer that would pair well with my selections.  I had three different beers -- I didn't note the types/names, unfortunately.  I was very happy with all of the glasses that were put in front of me.

I really liked this restaurant. I would definitely visit them on my next visit to the District.

Have you visited Birch and Barley before? What do you think of places with over 500 beers available -- great selection or overkill? What is your favorite restaurant in the District?  Do you keep track of restaurants you want to try while away from home?

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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Roasted Garlic-Parmesan Bread

This recipe is also from the Chopping Block class called Rendezvous Under the Stars.  I must admit, I never really make garlic bread. I often equate garlic bread with an Italian feast and I can't just bring myself to make a bread dish to go with pasta -- it seems a little carb-tastic to me.

I've tried several recipes for garlic bread before and none of them did anything for me. I've rubbed garlic cloves over toasted bread, but the garlic flavor was so minute, there was no point. I've made garlic butter and slathered it on baguettes before - that just sucked.

This recipe is pretty simple and packs a great (yet not overpowering) garlic flavor.  This recipe is directly from the Chopping Block - I've made no changes whatsoever (my commentary is in parentheses below).

This recipe makes 4-6 servings, as a side dish.

You'll need the following ingredients

1/2 loaf of Italian bread or French baguette
6 tablespoons of room temperature butter
4 cloves of roasted garlic
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 cup (c'mon...more cheese is better) of grated Parmesan cheese

First you need to roast the garlic.  Slice the top off a while head of garlic to expose the cloves. Place it on a sheet of foil and drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil. Wrap the foil around the garlic and bake at 350F for 40-50 minutes, until the cloves are soft and a light golden color.
  1. Preheat the oven to 400F
  2. Place the baguette, sliced lengthwise, on a sheet of foil
  3. Mix together the softened butter, roasted garlic, salt and pepper in a bowl. Brush the cut side of the bread with the butter mixture and top with the Parmesan cheese (don't be stingy with the cheese here)
  4. Place the bread in the oven and bake until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown - about 12-15 minutes
  5. Cut into slices and serve warm


There's no such thing as too much cheese.

I would say that most semi-competent home-chefs can make a quick and tasty garlic bread -- not me. Try as I might, my garlic bread was always worthless.  This is a crazy simple and quick recipe and has a great balance of flavors.  You'll no longer need to use those frozen garlic breads from the grocery store anymore!

Is garlic bread a frequent side dish for you and your family?  Do you have a go-to recipe you just love?

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Hotel Porn #3

I recently stayed at the Westin Alexandria and unlike the Doubletree Richmond, they had a very extensive selection of adult films available in the room.  As I've said before, I don't watch these films, I just check out the titles and laugh. These are some great titles - a few of my favorites are below (the capitalization is the Hotel's, not mine):

  • Big Butt Cowgirl Pin-Ups (Really? That seems pretty specific for suburban Washington, DC -- doesn't it?)
  • Eager Beavers  (I've always loved this phrase)
  • I BUTT BOINKED Wifey's BFF (Who wrote this title, a 7th grader?)
  • It's OK, She's my Mother-In-Law! (That makes it OK??? Can't say that I agree)
  • Meat the Teacher (Who doesn't love a good use of homophones)
I've got a few more good ones from the Westin Alexandria, but will share those a little later on.

What are your favorite porn titles? What hotel chains have the best selections?

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Radisson Blu (Chicago) / Revisit -- Hotel Review

Last December I stayed at the new Radisson Blu Chicago and honestly was extremely disappointed. My biggest problem was my expectations -- I went into this hotel expecting it to be a 5-Star Property, but it isn't and it isn't intended to be.  You can read from my first review, the room I was given had several other issues.


I recently stayed at this hotel again. I wanted to give it another shot and since Radisson is offering a great summer points promotion (which will net me a free night at the Radisson Blu Paris, which often goes for 300-500 Euros per night).  FYI: The points an bonus points all posted within 3 days of check-out.


I checked in late - around 22h30. The first person who welcomed me to the check-in desk asked my name and then suggested I move to another check-in agent. Not sure what that was about.  The second guy was very nice, asked if I had stayed at this property before (shouldn't he know that?) and then welcomed me back. He told me about the hotel restaurant and bar and then told me that they switched the room locks to the RFID vs magnetic strip cards.  A nice improvement. I've never had an RFID card that needed to be reprogrammed -- like those damn magnetic cards do.


I was given a room without a balcony this time, but I like the room so much more than my first stay at this property. The room was smaller, but laid out much better. The "new hotel smell" a/k/a the off gassing of the building products had stopped.


The desk was off to the side in an alcove area, which works so much better than the layout of the first room I stayed in at this property.


Unlike last time, the bathroom was clean, the trash emptied and art was intact -- no razor sharp edges directly above the bed.


Honestly, this stay was really nice. The hotel has worked out many of the kinks from last time.  Full disclosure -- after my last review the hotel manager reached out to me offering me a suite upgrade upon my next visit. I did not contact to the manager - I just made a normal online reservation and showed up. I did not get a suite and I have no reason to believe I was given any special treatment from the hotel (especially since the check-in agent asked if I had stayed here before).

The photos below show my room at this hotel -- nothing jumps out as a bad room (no stains on the bedding like here, here or here).  You'll notice there are several plugs on the nightstands -- gotta love this.  If I were traveling to Chicago, I would definitely stay at the Radisson Blu - the hotel has definitely improved over the past 6 months.

















Have you stayed at the Radisson Blu Chicago? What about Radisson Blu hotels in other cities?  Have you stayed at a hotel shortly after it opened then revisit a few months later to see the changes they've made?  


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Saturday, July 07, 2012

Where I'm Eating...Amour Wine Bistro (Richmond)

I was in Richmond, Virginia a couple weeks ago, spending the night at the Doubletree Downtown Richmond. Before we checked in to this hotel, we stopped off for dinner.  I flew in from ORD to DCA, landing at 18h00 and headed right to Richmond -- we arrived around 20h15 and I was famished.

While en route, I searched TripAdvisor for the 10 best restaurants in Richmond.  Amour Wine Bistro ranked number 6 -- I didn't have all that high expectations based on this list either. Krispy Kreme was the #3 highest ranked restaurant in the City.

Amour is on West Cary Street in Carytown - a great little shopping district. We arrived too late to really explore the area, but it had a lot of cool looking shops.

We arrived at Amour, sans reservation but were seated promptly.  The owner, who appears to be French, greeted us, took our cocktail order and delivered some of the food, was always close by. If we needed anything a quick glance brought him right over to us.

The waitress recommended the prix-fix menu which allowed us to select any appetizer, entree and dessert for $35 each -- a definite savings.  We followed her recommendations.

My colleague started with the blueberry soup - I've never had blueberry soup as a starter, just a dessert.  She absolutely loved it.

Blueberry Soup - Appetizer
For my appetizer I opted for the vichyssoise -- it was very hot outside and I needed a cold soup.  This was very tasty. I devoured it.


I selected the Poisson du Jour, for my entree, which was a seared tuna served with mashed fingerling potatoes.  The tuna was tasty, but was a little too fluorescent for my taste.  Also, what's the point of mashing fingerling potatoes? Isn't the benefit of a fingerling potato it's unique size and shape?  In any event, the food was quite good -- I did completely clean my plate.

Fluorescent Poisson du Jour
For dessert I selected the creme brulee au chocolat. I am not a big fan of creme brulee, but I do love chocolate. This dessert was truly amazing - I seriously debated ordering a second of this dessert.


If I ever return to Richmond, which I hope I do at some point in my life, I would definitely eat at this restaurant again. Would I drive in from DC to eat here, no. The food and the service were both really great though. If you are in the area, you must try this place.

What is your favorite place to eat in Richmond?  Is Carytown worth another visit?  Do you like fluorescent fish?

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Friday, July 06, 2012

Microplanes: Flip It Over for Less of a Mess

The Chopping Block cooking class called Rendezvous Under the Stars taught us a couple new skills -- and one that is so obvious, but so useful - I can't believe I haven't heard of it before.

I often make a bit of a mess when I'm using a microplane - the citrus zest often makes it everywhere except into the bowl I want it in. I put together this quick little video outlining this simple technique.  This is my first video, so go easy on me - I am an amateur.



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Thursday, July 05, 2012

Urban Garden Update

I upgraded my urban garden this year with some self watering tomato planters. It's been almost a month since I've been using these things and I figured an update was in order.  While the directions for the planters say to only put one tomato plant per vessel I, of course put three in one and two plus a basil plant in another.  

First off, the two plus basil planter isn't doing all that hot. One of the tomato plants died (I think the basil plant hid it from the sun), the other is a bit anemic, but the basil plant is doing AMAZINGLY.

The planter with three tomatoes is doing pretty well. One tomato is thriving and the other two are doing pretty well too.  All are starting to flower, but none have any fruit yet.  The soil remains well watered -- but not too moist.

It has been blazing hot in Chicago for well over a week now (and by BLAZING hot, I mean highs from 95-100 each day -- and today it is supposed to be 105 and the heat index is 115). These self-watering containers really make it easy to keep things alive when living in the blast furnace.

One issue I have with these planters is the number of flies it attracts.  I am shocked at the swarm that flies away when I begin to water.



Since the basil really took off, I harvested a full food processor bowl full of basil yesterday.  I decided to preserve the basil by making homemade pesto.  Do you need a recipe for pesto?

Fill the bowl of a food processor with basil, pour in a couple tablespoons of very good olive oil and pulse. Add some pine nuts, salt and pepper to taste. Pulse again. Add more oil if necessary while pulsing until the pesto is a fine paste -- add good parmigiano reggiano cheese and pulse to combine.

Serve over pasta (with sun dried tomatoes) for a great summer dinner.  Also try putting pesto under the skin of a chicken breast and roast until the juices run clear.


How are your (urban) gardens doing? What have your harvested so far?  How are your herbs doing? How do you use your fresh basil? How do you preserve it (dry, freeze, pesto -- pesto is now a verb)?

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Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Westin (Alexandria) -- Hotel Review

Every time I visit the greater Washington, DC area I am surprised at the cost of hotels (for week night stays -- weekends are utterly cheap).  Since most of my meetings were outside the District, I decided to stay at the Westin Alexandria.  I chose this hotel mostly because the combination of price and the service I usually receive at a Westin.  My colleague stayed in a different hotel in Arlington.


We pulled up in front of the hotel and were immediately greeted by 3 front door staff who helped me with my suitcase and offered me a small bottle of water (it was over 100 degrees at that point). The lobby was large and airy -- very loud though. The squeals of children and laughter of adults echoed through the lobby.




I do not have status with Starwood any more, which is quite a shame. When checking in the woman at the front desk welcomed me, told me all about the amenities of the hotel and how to access the internet -- not at all how check-in was handled at the hotel I stayed at the night before.

I head up to my room and find a relatively spacious area that had a nice clean smell. The room had a king bed, a desk with ample work space and two chairs under the window.  The bed was very comfortable, as are most Westin beds (as long as they have the heavenly beds, that is).  


The room was an adjoining room. I really hate rooms that connect unless you are traveling with your neighbors. The noise from the other room carries so easily though the closed doors.  My neighbors had a baby who cried from about 18h30 until shortly before 22h00. From that point on the room was pretty quiet.  Yes, I would have asked to change rooms if the baby had continued to cry all night. I don't know how they quieted the baby, but kudos to them.



  

The wall near the door to the next room looked a little odd. The art that traditionally hung there was gone.  You can even see the picture hangers still in the wall. I wonder what was previously hanging here.
Former home of hotel art... where is it now?
The bathroom was a standard Westin room with the great Westin double shower head, standard bath products. Nothing to write home about, but nice and consistent and clean.




The second day I returned from a day of meetings and found that the housekeepers had taken all of the wash clothes from the room.  When going out for dinner I stopped by to ask for replacement wash clothes, but when I returned a couple hours later, I found they hadn't been delivered. I called the front desk again and a lovely member of housekeeping (reminds me of a grandma) brought 3 wash clothes in less than 5 minutes.


The biggest issue I had was the stain on the bed skirt.  It was an inch long red smear -- was it blood? nail polish? I don't know. It sure didn't look like ketchup.  By the time I noticed this, it was late and I had an early morning, so I just put a towel over the stain (like I did at the Doubletree Memphis) and slept on the other side of the bed.  Before leaving for work the next morning I left a note for the maid asking them to change the sheets AND the bed skirt -- see below (if you click the picture you can see the stain).




I returned from a very long work day and found that the dirty bed skirt was still on the bed.  This isn't major, just frustrating that an obviously stained bed skirt wasn't changed, even when I asked them to do it.  If it were the sheets I would have asked them to come back up and take care of it.


The stay at the Westin Alexandria was very nice overall.  If I am to be in the area again, I would definitely look to returning to this hotel. 


Have you stayed at the Westin Alexandria before?  Did you have clean sheets and a full compliment of wall art?  What do you think about rooms with connecting doors -- when not traveling with your neighbors?  Do you check the sheets before you lay down or is it just me?


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