Friday, December 20, 2013

12.14.13 Busch Gardens Christmas Town

 To get in the holiday spirit, on December 14th Glenn and I headed to Busch Gardens Christmas Town event. They close the Park at 5:00 pm. You buy a special ticket to enter at 6:00 pm. The event includes a Snow World – with “snow” to play in, throw snowballs and even go sledding. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

December 1st 6 night Cruise on the Carnival Breeze

Our friends Tom and Margaret flew in the Friday after Thanksgiving. We went to the famous Columbia restaurant for lunch and then hung out by the pool for the rest of the afternoon. I started making dinner,  caught the cooktop on fire, and then decided I should probably just hang out by the pool. 

On Saturday, we started a leisurely drive to Miami. We took the back roads through the Everglades stopping in Everglades City for lunch and at Clyde Butcher’s Gallery. Butcher’s black and white portraits of the Everglades are really incredible. We were lucky enough to meet him and he signed a couple prints we purchased. 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

November 2013 Adventures

November was filled with a lot of fun. My cousin Kelly is a playwright. His play (a love story) was featured in a workshop  in Orlando.  It was great to able to see him and hear his play read!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

October 2013 Adventures

October was a very busy month with a lot of travel for both Glenn and I plus the Red Sox made the World Series. We were able to go to one of the playoff games in Tampa. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

9.20.13 and 9.27.13 weekends

We had two fun weekends. The 21st we went to a Beer Fest at our local science museum.  We had a great time. We bought the VIP tickets so we had access to a special section with food samples. One of our faite restaurants - The Refinery - made an awesome sausage dish. Our favorite beer was the Widmere Alchemy Ale and the Bold City Red Ale.  We had a fun time exploring the museum's exhibits especially the hurricane simulator.

 Toward the end of the event, a ska band made up of high school students and their dad (our guess based soley on how they looked) rocked it out. Glenn was inspired to dance after an older spry and tiny gentleman grabbed my hand and we cut a rug for a song. Glenn was a less energetic, but much better dance partner.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

9.13.13 Weekend at Fort Wilderness Campsites

Earlier this year, I read that Disney was hosting a special event at Hollywood Studios for Friday the 13th in September. It sounded like a lot of fun so I definitely wanted to check it out. Glenn had been wanting to try out the campsites. Luckily, one was available for that weekend so we booked it. 

Friday night, we left our house around 5:45 pm - hoping to avoid some of the rush hour traffic. We made pretty good time. Pulling into Disney, we noticed long lines of stopped traffic trying to get into Hollywood Studios and realized we weren't the only people who wanted to check out this event. We headed to the campsites to set up our new tent. It really did go up in 1 minutes. It is a game changer when it comes to camping. It makes a Friday night late arrival in the dark so much easier. 

After getting the tent set up, we were hungry so we headed up to the Trail's End restaurant for a buffet dinner. The ribs and the apple crisp were the highlights. Glenn said the apple crisp was the best he'd ever had. After dinner, we were discussing heading over to Hollywood Studios and braving the crowds when a fellow diner said they had reached capacity hours ago and weren't letting anyone else in. That answered that! Leaving the restaurant, we heard some music and followed it to the beach. We watched the fireworks while listening to the show. 

 Saturday morning, we took the boat to Wilderness Lodge for breakfast at the Whispering Canyon Café. 

The Café is a lot of fun. I had the spinach omelet and Glenn had the breakfast platter. Both were good. 

We went back to the campsite and decided to spend the rest of the day at the pool. IT WAS SO HOT! Around 1:30pm, the campground staff started games for the kids: dodgeball, dive for the cowboys, hot potato, relay races, and dancing. God bless those staff members. There was a group of tween boys that were very challenging. It made for good people watching! We headed back for showers in the air conditioned bathrooms. I didn't want to leave air conditioning. 

 For dinner, we went to Mickey’s Backyard BBQ.  

The buffet was very similar to the one we had a Trail's End so we were happy to see the ribs again. They also had a pulled pork sandwich that was very good. The BBQ was fun, but we like Hoop-Dee-Do better. We were a little surprised the country band played the Cha Cha slide. We were hoping they would teach a line dance with the characters. 

After dinner, we went to Chip and Dale's Sing-A-Long.

That was super fun! They sang a mix of old country songs and Disney favorites. Chip and Dale host a dance party at the end. Then the movie starts. Instead of watching the movie, we headed down to the beach and claimed a couple lounge chairs so we could see the water pageant. 

We watched the water parade on the beach and the fireworks and then headed back to the tent to sweat some more. Did I mention it was SO HOT? Sunday we had Trail’s End takeaway breakfast and then packed up and headed home. Overall, a great trip. Next time, we will wait until it cools down a little. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

9.1.13 Napa Trip Day 3

Today started early with breakfast at Black Bear Diner. Chosen because it was open at 6 am, it delivered on a hearty diner breakfast.  The 7 grain granola pancakes were the best I have ever had. We headed back to the house for one more walk through the vineyard. Then headed to our first appointment: Cosentino. Ryan led us upstairs to the new private tasting room. It is gorgeous! Ryan quickly picked up on our sarcastic laid back style so we had a lot of fun tasting the wines. We were so impressed with all their wines:

2011 The Novelist - A well balanced Sauvignon Blanc.  Good fruit but not too acidic.

2011 The Zin - We called this a Zin for Florida. It had the great characteristics of the Zinfandel grape without the heaviness.

2009 Bacigalupi Chardonnay - This reserve Chardonnay is fantastic. It is creamy with just slight notes of oak. It almost unseats the BV Reserve Chardonny as our favorite...almost. The interesting note about this wine is rhat it is from the vineyards that created the wines that put California on the map in 1979 as told in the movie Bottle Shock. 

2009 Poet Meritage - We love how every winery has a claim to be being the first for something. Here they claim the first "meritage". A contest was held to come up with a new name for American Bordeaux blends. Meritage - a mix of heritage and we think merit. It is a fantastic wine. Smooth, fruity. Again, the balance really impressed us.

2010 Reserve Merlot - Another great wine. They smoothed the edges without losing the Merlot characteristics.

2009 Reserve Cabernet Franc - Best wine of the trip hands down. It is single vineyars. Unique, well balanced.

Cosentino also has a gorgeous barrel room for private events or barrel tastings. We are definitely going to try one of those in the future.

We had about an hour before our lunch reservation so we headed up to another favorite: Provenance. We had loved their blend last time, but this time the 2010 Merlot took the cake. We wound our way back towards Mustards' Grill with a brief stop at Silver Oak to try their 2009 Cabs - one from Napa Valley and one from Alexander Valley. The wines were very good. We liked the Napa Valley ones slightly better.

Lunch at Mustards Grill was fantastic. The service was superb. We had the corn tamales and ahi tuna chips for appetizers.  The tamales were excellent - soft, well seasoned and full of corn flavor. The ahi chips were good, but the wasabi alioli was very strong and overwhelmed the tuna flavor. For entrees, we had the pork chop and rib eye special.   Both were good. The star of the meal was the chocolate dessert: a bittersweet chocolate tart, espresso ice cream, caramel sauce and hazelnut brittle. Itnis the best dessert I have ever had. The lemon-lime tart with a huge meringue was also delicious. The service was fantastic. A great meal.

After lunch, we headed to Charles Krug.  I never knew Krug was part of the Mondavi family.  It was the original winery. Robert and his brother Peter had a falling out over the future of the business and Robert left to start his own winery. In his nineties, Peter still runs the Krug winery. We enjoyed the white wines here - especially the 2010 Chardonnay. They are in the midst of a major renovation of their tasting room. They are adding a deli and a lot more space.

After Krug, we headed back to San Fran. Thankfully traffic was a little better. We met up with Devon (nephew) and Nick at Hillside Supper Club. The food was very good. However, it was sadly comical that everything Nick tried to order had just run out. The best dish was the King Salmon. It had a fantastic crispy skin, but perfectly cooked with a great pesto sauce. One of the best salmon dishes I have ever had. It was an awesome dinner filled with lots of story telling and laughing.

We headed to the Marriott near the airport. Monday we had the long trek home.

Overall, the trip was amazing. We knew we would have great wine.  We weren't expecting all the great food.  We have a great life.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

8.31.13 Napa Day Two

Our day started with a walk through the vineyard behind the house we are staying. We walked up the ridge and watched the sun rise. It was pretty incredible.  One of those "I can't believe this is my life moments." We headed to Boon Fly Cafe for breakfast. It is right next to the Careneros Inn. Glenn ordered the Green Eggs and Ham. I ordered the Chilaquiles.  Glenn's dish was one of the top breakfast dishes we ever had. It was hash browns topped with poached eggs with a leek cream sauce topped by grilled honey ham.  It is awesome.

After breakfast, we came back to the house and enjoyed the view from the deck. We got ready for our reservation at Cuvaison - the vineyard where we have been staying. The setting is gorgeous.  We got a lovely outside table for our tasting. Here are some of the wine highlights:
2012 Vin Gris of Pinot Noir - a lovely rose with the characteristics of pinot noir but refreshing

2011 Kite Tail Chardonnay - Unlike any Chardonnay we have tasted. It has a creamy finish but some acidic/tropical notes. We agree it would be a great pairing wine.

2011 Estate Pinot Noir  - Lovely smooth Pinot Noir. Very jammy on the nose. Well balanced with some plum  and nice smooth finish

2011 Spire Pinot Noir - A fantastic delicate, satin finish. Lovely subtle cherry notes with the mineral characteristic of a Carneros Pinot Noir.

2011 Estate Syrah - A nice Syrah with a smooth finish slight spice and a little jam.

2011 Brandlin Zinfandel Bald Mountain Vineyard - Classic Zin nose, but lighter body than Martenelli or Turley. A solid Zin for Florida 

For lunch, we headed to Etoile - a fine dining restaurant at Domaine Chandon. We sat at an outdoor table overlooking the courtyard. We enjoyed some oysters. I tried the  2003 Etoile de Cuvee - a golden sparkling wine with good fruit flavor and a dry finish. Glenn tried a rose that he really liked. The wine list is on an ipad. For appetizers, I had the eggs and caviar. I found it underseasoned. Glenn had manila clams with chorizo around the a rim of a bowl filled with mushrooms. The waiter then poured over a smoky soup to finish the dish. The star of it either was a Spanish octopus dish with pressed melon. The flavors for complex and amazing. It was a great combination of Smokey and sweet and salty. One of the best dishes we have had. I have the day boat sea scallops which were well prepared. Glenn had the King Atlantic salmon which was awesome. It came with a ragu on the bottom and then they poured it on the top as well. It was delicious.

After lunch, we headed to our reservation at Opus one. The building is impressive. It really stands out along the roadside. We were in the tour of about 12 people. They took us through the production facility and fermentation tanks. Also down in the barrel room, we got to see how they store the wine. We did not realize that Opus One was a partnership with Robert Mondavi. We also did not realize they only make two wines. Opus one of the premier wine -  a Cabernet Sauvignon for $225 a bottle.  Overture is the wine they make with the leftovers and sell for 80 dollars a bottle at the winery. We were able to try both wines. We thought they were very good, but we have had Cabernet Sauvignon that we like more. It was a great way to experience the winery and get to try the wine.

We had a couple hours to kill between our two hour and dinner so we headed to our favorite winery BV. You were able to enjoy tasting down in the BV club room. It was nice to be able to sit down and enjoy some great wines. We also need to stop at Whitehall. Their wines were okay, but nothing we had to have.

For dinner, we went to bistro Giovanni. Are experiencing a little clouded by slow an inconsistent service. However, the highlight was the octopus appetizer that Glenn ordered.  It was cured octopus with arugula and peaches. It was fantastic. Glenn also had a beat and green bean salad that was very good. My appetizer was the fritto misto.  Everything is well fried, but it lacked seasoning. My Caesar salad was adequate. Glenn ordered the mushroom risotto with scallops. It was a very good. I ordered the Carbonera and it was terrible. Glenn had an apple crisp for dessert that was very good. And finally, 2 hours after we sat down we were done. We came back to the house and enjoyed sitting on the deck and the vineyards one more time.

Overall, it was incredible day.

8.30.13 Napa trip Day One

Today was a tough day. Flight delays, rental car chaos, and terrible traffic meant we got to our 2 pm wine tour at 450 pm - after they had stopped tastings for the day. It took us 3 and 1/2 hours to go the 40 miles from San Fran to Napa. It was brutal. The good news is that the Gloria Ferrer tasting room supervisor took pity on us and gave us some tastings and walked us through the operation. It is a gorgeous property (picture 1) and worth a stop. We tried their sparkling wine and really enjoyed it. It is fruity without being sweet and has a great creamy mouthfeel. We especially enjoyed the Royal Cuvee.

After the tour we headed to our accomodations. They were a little hard to find. The house has a definite summer rental feel but we are steps from a working vineyard (pic 2).

Dinner was at Celadon at the Napa Mill next to the Napa River Inn. We were very impressed. We shared the mussels (pic 3) which had a great smoky broth. The soup was inventive and complex - a white bean with carrots, spicy sausage and a chimicurri pesto on top. Our entrees were less exciting than the appetizers. I had a dish fish that lost points on the sauce. (Pic 4). Glenn had the fettuccine which had good flavor but the pasta was under seasoned and the pork was not shredded (pic 5). After dinner, we headed back to the house and called it an early night. Looking forward to tomorrow!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

8.18.13 Riding all the rides

We got up early to take advantage of the early entry for hotel guests. We headed straight back to Harry Potter. I had illusions that I would go on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Ha! Ha! I was so nervous I barely made it through the line. I chickened out at the last minute. Waiting in the line is worth it though. It is rrally incredible what they have done! Glenn said the ride was fantastic!!

We headed over to ride Spiderman two more times. Then Glenn rode The Hulk. His quote when he got off: "You don't realize how many times it goes upside down." After that we had ridden all the rides and seen all the shows at Islands of Adventure so we went back to Universal Studios. Glenn finally got to ride Rip Ride Rockit roller coaster. He said it was good.  It starts by climbing straight up and then drops you.

We grabbed a snack - a turkey leg for Glenn and a korean beef taco from Bumblebee Man's tacos. It was really good. We decided to go hunt some aliens on Men In Black. You shoot aliens and rack up points but there is A LOT of spinning. We got a Squishee and a Buzz Cola to rehydrate after all that shooting. Then we went over to Disaster! It is a fun tour similar to the Backlot Tour at Disney Hollywood Studios. With that ride, we had done almost everything and decided to call it a weekend.

Glenn: I liked the parks a lot. I thought it was well run and the people are friendly. The express passes are a huge benefit. The food overall was just okay. The pizza and rotiessiere chicken were good. The meal plan is not necessarily a real deal. Favorite rides: Spiderman, Simpsons Krustyland and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. I thought the Shrek movie was clumsy and the moving chairs weren't used to their full potential. Men in Black was fun, but the guns weren't accurate.

Angie: I was impressed with how friendly and helpful the employees were. I was also really impressed with the Harry Potter world and the Simpsons area. Disney really doesn't have anything like that where a particular place is completely recreated down to the smallest detail. Even the napkins in the Simpsons land said Welcome to Springfield USA. My favorite ride was SpiderMan. I thought it was just awesome. I was also impressed with the Fury of the Poseidan as a walk through special effects attraction. The hotel was fantastic. The unlimited Express pass makes for a fantastic experience. Because Universal is smaller, I really like that you can walk to everything an an here there so many options for dining out side of the park. We will be back.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

8.17.13 Islands of Adventure

We started the day at Islands of Adventure. Like all visitors, we lg World. Even though I have not read the books, the World is impressive. The attention to detail is exceptional. Glenn rode the Flight of the Hippogriff and Dragon Challenge. And we had to sample the butterbeer.

We continued to make our way through the park. Glenn rode the Jurassic Park River Adventure. It is a flume ride through Jurassic Park after the dinosaurs have taken over. He got a little wet which was a nice cool down. Then we had a lot of fun taking pictures in Toon Lagoon plus a fun ride down the rapids on Popeye and Bluto's Blige Rat Barges. We got soaked! We headed to Seuss Landing to ride some Angie friendly rides and dry off. 

The caro-Seuss-el, Cat in the Hat, and trolley train ride were fun. We grabbed some lunch and went to see the Sindbad stunt show. The show was heavy on hand to hand combat. We like the Indiana Jones show at Disney Hollywood Studios much better. We took a walk through the special event show Poseidan of Fury. That show was very good. We both had a "Wow!" Moment so that is a win. 

We headed back to Marvel Super Hero Island to try the Amazing Adventures of Spider Man. That is an awesome ride!!! You are on a track and move through a series of 3D IMAX screens. It was fantastic! 

We said goodbye to Islands of Adventure and went back to Universal Studios. We found a secret entrance behind the Hard Rock Cafe so we had a shorter walk and no line. First stop was Despicable Me Minion Mayhem. This is another simulation with a 3D movie except this time we were in a large theater. It was very cute and fun. Keeping on the 3D Trend, we went to Shrek 4D. It was a fun 3D movie and the seats move. We took a snack break and then hopped on Transformers 3D. It is very similar to Spiderman. Very cool, but we both liked Spiderman better. We walked over to ET. Still a fun classic. 

I took a Guinness break at the Irish Pub while Glenn rode the Mummy. He said it was really fun. The ceiling catches on fire right above your head! Then we headed back to the Simpsons to drink some Duff beer.  It was very good. We also has to try the Flaming Moe. It was so fun and a tasty orange soda. We walked back over to Islands of Adventure for dinner and then returned to our bar stools to view the night time show. The show features film clips from 100 years of movies plus lights, fountains, lasers, and firworks. It is pretty good. We think the Disney shows are better. Overall - a fantastic day!