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!  

8.16.13 Universal Studios and The Killers

Seeing The Killers live was on my bucket list. Glenn had been checking the website for years looking for a North American tour. Finally, the dates lined up, we bought tickets and planned a trip to Orlando.  Since the concert was at Hard Rock Live in Universal Studios Citywalk complex, we decided it would be a great chance to explore Universal.

Friday we both took half days and hit the road. It took us about an hour and 15 minutes to get here. We checked into the Loews Royal Pacific Hotel. We were really impressed with the hotel and staff. Everyone was very friendly. The hotel is beautiful.  The greenery in the lobby and around the front of the hotel remind us of Hawaii. After checking in, we headed down the walkway for a 10 minute walk to Universal Studios Orlando.

We purchased seasonal passes through AAA. So we stood in line to redeem those and pick up a meal plan for Saturday. The meal plan is 29.99 for dinner and lunch. Since one quick service entree is around 10 dollars, we thought this be a good deal.

Our first attraction was the Terminator 2: 3D show. It is a mix of live action and 3D movie. I thought it was really well done and a lot of fun. We walked out of the show just as the Simpsons were walking out for photos so we got our picture taken. Inspired we went to explore the Simpsons area. It is so cool. They recreated the businesses from Springfield. We then headed into Krustyland for the ride. It is very well done. The wait is part of the attraction with lots of tv screens and funny announcements. For the ride, you get into a 2 row capsule with four people per row. It then moves in coordination with the graphics on a huge surrounding screen. It is an awesome ride. It was a little too intense for me. I was a bit shaky afterwards so we walked around the park and grabbed a burger.

After refueling, we went to the Twister attraction. It shows how are you teens use special effects to create the twister in the movie Twister. It was funny when we walked out because this could turn dark and it was very windy. We joked that Universal was really bringing its a game for this attraction. To avoid the rain, we grabbed a bar stool at the Irish pub and listened to the guitar player. It was a lot of fun. The rain let up so we headed to the Beetlejuice Graveyard Revue. It was a lot of fun and featured all my favorite songs.

Then it was time to head to the Hard Rock Live for the concert. The crew did a good job managing the line and we were inside in about 30 minutes. We had floor access so we grabbed a couple beers and went to protect our spot. The opening band start promptly at 8. They were boring. The Killers came on at 915 with an incredible performance of my favorite song Mr Brightside. It was the bucket list moment. The concert was fantastic with incredible special facts and even a confetti drop. After the show we headed next door to the Hard Rock Cafe for a nightcap and a snack. It was one of those nights where you can't believe you're so lucky that this is your life.