Saturday, November 30, 2013

Rudeness in the friendly skies...

This morning, my husband Bill sent me a hilarious article about rude people on a Thanksgiving flight.  Basically, what went down is that Elan Gale, of The Year of Elan, was on a flight that got delayed.  A self-centered woman on the flight was very upset that she had a connecting flight to Sacramento that she would miss.  She was loudly protesting, being very rude to the flight attendant, and basically causing a big scene.

Elan Gale witnessed the embarrassing spectacle and decided to send the woman a glass of red wine, along with a note strongly hinting that she should shut her pie hole.  Naturally, the lady, whose name is Diane, didn't appreciate the gesture.

Elan responded by giving Diane a couple of mini bottles of vodka.  Diane wrote back that Elan is an "awful person" and she feels sorry for his family for having to deal with him.  So much for goodwill toward men during the holiday season.

Elan and Diane continued to go at it for the duration of their flight to Phoenix.  Elan eventually invited Diane to "eat his dick".  When they disembarked, Diane slapped Elan across the face.  Elan declined to press charges, though he would have been within his rights.

I'm sure there's an unknown reason why Diane was being so difficult during that flight.  Perhaps someone in her family is sick.  Maybe there's some other big problem in her life that made this flight's delay so catastrophic.  Maybe she has a psychiatric problem that causes her to freak out when she travels.  But there was not a damn thing anyone could do to help her and her endless bitching wasn't making the situation better.

Of course, Elan and the flight attendant kind of egged her on… though the rest of us are probably somewhat entertained by his antics.  But what if Diane had gone ballistic on the plane and started a brawl?  That whole comedy could have easily turned into a tragedy.

Something remotely similar happened to me once.  I have probably already related this story, but it bears repeating.  Back in April 2010, Bill and I took our very first trip to the Caribbean to sail SeaDream I for the first time.  We had to fly out of St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands.  Our flight got delayed by a couple of hours.  The later scheduled flight actually left on time, while we were stranded all afternoon.  People were highly pissed off.

When we finally left the very crowded and expensive airport in St. Thomas that was selling beer for $6 a bottle and water for $5.50, many passengers were decidedly irritable.  I witnessed one guy inviting another guy to kiss his ass when the guy tried to butt in front of him as he demanded a seat in first class.  Then we had rough air for most of the flight, which made people even edgier.  For most of the flight, we weren't supposed to stand up.  I noticed one unfortunate elderly gentleman had apparently wet his pants.

People had very tight connections because we were so late getting in.  The lady who was sharing our row with us was among those who needed to bail quickly.  Bill and I stepped out of the row so she could get out.

Suddenly, I heard a woman behind me say, "Excuse me, Ma'am.  I need to get past you."

Before I had a chance to move out of the way, she and her two very large sons pushed past me, practically knocking me down.  I was stopped by the row of seats.  After a day of being stuck in the airport and listening to people bitch and moan, I had had enough.  I fixed a murderous glare at the woman, who had managed to get close to the door, and said very loudly, "What the hell is wrong with you?  Do you think you're the only one on this flight that has a tight connection?"

She lowered her head, obviously embarrassed.  I was positively seething and probably still muttering expletives as we waited to escape the aircraft.  I draw the line at patience when people get physical with me.  But karma was obviously in motion, since it took about ten minutes to get the door open.  I think that woman and her sons missed their flight, despite their dramatic sprint up the jetway.  

Far be it for me to encourage rudeness on airplanes or in airports.  I do think the flight attendant kind of made this situation worse.  On the other hand, I have to admit that it gave me a good chuckle this morning.





I wonder if Nancy could have smoothed things over with Diane...

Friday, November 29, 2013

French food on Thanksgiving in San Antonio...

So, for our anniversary this year, we visited Saveurs 209, a fairly new French restaurant in San Antonio.  We enjoyed the food so much that we decided to visit again for Thanksgiving dinner.  My mother-in-law went with us for our 7:00 reservation last night.  We were the only ones there until the tail end of our meal, when a lone couple showed up.


I got all dolled up again…  I was high on cava and the fumes of my freshly colored hair…


My mother-in-law, Parker…  She and I started with a glass of Piper Hiesedeck champagne...


Bill peruses the menu… He chose a lovely Gigondas to pair with our Thanksgiving dinner.


A little amuse… chicken, shrimp, and cheese… I think.  It was hot and delicious.


Bill opted for the "Thanksgiving menu", which was a corn and parmesan soup with a poached egg, turkey stuffed with mushrooms and fois gras, and a pecan and pear tart.  I also had the corn soup, though I had a filet mignon for dinner instead of turkey...


Parker had the same mushroom tart Bill had last time.  I don't eat mushrooms, but they both said this was a delicious starter.  

Just before we began eating our main courses, a man walked into the restaurant and boldly noted that French people don't celebrate Thanksgiving.  He started talked about "just getting out of the hole", implying that he'd been at war or something.  One look at him told us he was no military guy.  Indeed, he appeared to be looking for a handout.  My guess is the hole he got out of was jail.  I will admit his performance was kind of impressive.  That kind of thing happens to Bill and me a lot when we go out.  The French owner very charmingly but firmly invited the interloper to leave.  I'd say that experience ranks right up there with the one we had in downtown San Antonio in July, when a bum dropped the n bomb on poor Bill...


My filet was perfectly cooked to medium and served with root vegetables and a celery puree.  This was a very interesting surprise for me.  At first, I thought one of the vegetables was potato, but it turned out to be rutabaga.  It was quite tasty.  I also enjoyed the celery puree, which reminded me of mashed potatoes but had a lot less fat and salt in it.


Bill's turkey.  He said it was delicious.  Again, I don't eat mushrooms or fois gras… Bill liked the way they did the turkey so much that he asked how it was prepared.  It was very moist.


Parker enjoyed the same sea scallop dish I had last time… 


For dessert, I had a strawberry tart with what tasted like strawberry sorbet.  This was really nice-- not too heavy and I could finish it somewhat easily.  


Bill's pecan and pear tart.


Parker had the hazelnut, coffee, and chocolate dacquois…

We finished with a round of espresso.  Service, once again, was casual yet impeccable as we were tended to by Sylvie and Sylvain, the married couple who, along with their daughter, the chef, own the restaurant.  It was a perfectly delightful meal!  We have no leftovers or clean up to do.  I hope to visit again soon!


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Max's Wine Dive...


Yesterday, Bill and I decided to go to Trader Joe's and Whole Foods.  Both of those stores happen to be near each other and a place called Max's Wine Dive.  This small Texas chain pairs casual food with wine.  We had heard about it from one of Bill's friends and since we were hungry, we decided to stop in for a bite to eat.

As it turned out, they were having a wine tasting paired with Thanksgiving themed "snacks".  For $35 each, we could have all we wanted to eat or drink… granted, we were tasting wines, so the samples were small.  Come to think of it, so were the food pickings.  There were small plates with turkey, sweet potatoes, stuffing, and gravy stacked into piles, a brussels sprouts casserole of some kind, and pumpkin pie.  I didn't eat that much, but I did enjoy the wines and chatting with the very friendly wait staff offering tastes of an impressive variety of wines.  A guitar player and singer was jamming in the corner.  He was doing some good covers of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Supertramp tunes.

Bill and I didn't take any wine home from Max's Wine Dive because we thought they were a bit overpriced, even with a case discount.  But it was a fun way to spend a cloudy afternoon.  I'd go back.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Azores came up again...

The other day, Bill brought up going to the Azores again.  It seems there are flights that go there pretty regularly and we could probably get a Space A flight with relative ease.  The Azores, while remote and rather primitive, are also extraordinarily beautiful.



Would you look at this place?  It's stunning!

I don't know what we will do if we manage to get there or how long we'll stay.  But those views are enough to make me want to try to go.  That, and the promise of fresh fish and good port… and maybe a hop to the mainland for a few days.

My mother-in-law has kindly offered to look after Zane and Arran so we can make this happen… or perhaps we'll end up somewhere else.  Even if it's another trip to Germany, I'd take it.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Wonderful French food in San Antonio!

Today is our 11th wedding anniversary; so Bill and I decided to go out to dinner.  We did the same thing last year on our anniversary.  Of course, last year, we were in Glasgow, Scotland!  This year, we are in San Antonio.

As is his custom, Bill had me find an appropriate restaurant.  First, I went to OpenTable.com, which is where I usually go when I want to find a good place to eat.  But none of the restaurants I was finding were really thrilling me.  Frustrated, I soon found myself on TripAdvisor.com, where I stumbled across a review for a relatively new French restaurant in downtown San Antonio called Saveurs 209.  The reviews I read were very compelling.  I looked up their Web site, which is currently offline.  Fortunately, Saveurs 209 is on Facebook.  I liked their page and Bill called for reservations, since they have no need for OpenTable.  It turns out this little French place, owned and run by French people, is an intimate venue.


We arrived at the restaurant at 7:00pm, just in time for our reservation.  



Bill was happy to be there.  He had just chosen a lovely Bordeaux to go with our meals.  The wine list at Saveurs 209 is exclusively French.  We did not notice liquor on offer, though there's plenty of good wine and beer.

Saveurs 209's menu is brief, with just a few starters and entrees to choose from.  I did not see much of anything on offer for vegetarians or vegans.  I saw no salads to speak of, either.  However, of the few selections on offer for each course, I had no trouble finding things I liked well enough to try.  I can be reluctant to eat things outside of my comfort zone, but I found two out of four starters I'd be comfortable trying and three out of five or six entrees that looked very appealing.


A tasty amuse of phyllo pastry with chicken, green onions, and red onions was offered just before the delightful bread.  


Bread seems to come out non-stop at Saveurs 209.  It was crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, and served with insanely delicious butter (I am a freak for good butter).


Bill opted for a mushroom tart, which came on phyllo pastry.  He said the mushrooms were meaty and not earthy at all.  I do not eat mushrooms, so I don't know.  I had the butternut squash soup served with hazelnut mousse and a quail's egg.  The tiny, delicate, quail's egg was *perfectly* soft boiled.  The soup came in a small pitcher, which one of the owners, dressed in a stylish wrap dress, poured into the set up.  Very classy and very delicious!


I had seared scallops for my entree.  It came with fantastic mashed potatoes, which were very well pureed and no doubt loaded with bad things.  But wow, they were so scrumptious.  The sea scallops were perfectly prepared-- done just enough to be cooked but not at all dried out or rubbery-- and topped with gremolata, an herb condiment.  The scallops were atop a poultry jus and three were plenty.  


Bill had halibut with cannellini beans and a clam ragout and citrus emulsion.  The fish was covered in froth and tasted heavenly.  This was one of the dishes I had my eye on before I decided on the scallops.


We really enjoyed this red wine.  I told the waiter I wanted to snap a photo of this Bordeaux because we might want to buy some locally if we can find it.  He told us if we couldn't get it, we could buy it for $20 a bottle from the restaurant (quite a break from their wine list price).  Later, he told us how to find it in San Antonio.


For dessert, I had a sinful chocolate soufflé served with orange sorbet.  It took about 15 minutes to make and was worth the wait.  Bill had a dacquoise with hazelnut cream, coffee and chocolate layers, and a side of coffee ice cream.  Bill could finish his dessert, but I cried "Uncle" about halfway through mine.  I noticed the lady near us had ordered the soufflé and also had to quit.  You could easily split this dessert and since it costs $12, that might be the smart thing to do.  Other options included a cheese plate and fruit inspired creations.


Bill and I enjoyed a nice round of espresso while we reflected on the delightful meal.  Our bill was about $181 before tip.  Service was excellent and there were only a few couples in the place, though a couple of folks stopped in to inquire.  Saveurs 209 seems to be relying on word of mouth to get themselves on the map.  Bill and I really enjoyed the low key atmosphere and lack of a huge crowd.

Saveurs 209 is run by a French couple and their daughter, who is a wonderful chef.  I read several accounts of the creative way she creates food.  Indeed, she was there tonight, in all her French chef glory, wearing the tall French chef's hat and everything.  We could see her work from the small dining room.  Each item that came from the kitchen was exquisitely prepared, but what I loved about the experience was how European it was.  No one rushed us.  No one dropped the check as we were halfway through dessert.  Service was excellent and very professional, yet friendly and personable.  It was very civilized and, yes, reminded me very much of one of the bistros Bill and I enjoyed in Paris back when we visited in May 2009.

One thing to know is that parking near the restaurant is either on the street or in a public lot.  There is no valet parking.  But we thought it was well worth the $7 we spent on parking and the short walk, which helped us digest a splendid meal.  Also, portion sizes are not huge at Saveurs 209.  Personally, I found that refreshing.  We didn't leave hungry, but we also didn't leave feeling stuffed.  Prospective diners should be aware that they won't be given a trough of food to eat that will last several meals at home.  The only leftovers we had were my chocolate soufflé, which we didn't attempt to take with us.

We liked Saveurs 209 so much that we made reservations to return for Thanksgiving dinner.  They will be offering their regular menu and special Thanksgiving inspired options.  Lunch will be offered from 11:00 until 2:00, while dinner is from 6:00 until 9:30.  I can hardly wait to see what this charming French family does with the traditional dishes served on our very American holiday.  And when I inquired about Thanksgiving, they were delighted to know that we would be joining them!

Here's is a link to another review written by a San Antonio based blogger.

 

I got all dolled up...



Sunday, November 10, 2013

Mexican...

I needed to get out of the house this afternoon, so I asked Bill if he'd like to go downtown and have some Mexican food at our favorite downtown Mexican restaurant.  This was our third time at this place, right on the Riverwalk, and once again it didn't disappoint.  The first time we went to this restaurant, it was 2007 and my first time in San Antonio.  We went there for dinner and sat out on the terrace.  Then in July, we went back and chatted with the bartender, who served us again today.

There was a game in downtown San Antonio today, so that backed up traffic.  We had a heck of a time finding parking.  Once we did, we walked around the Riverwalk to the restaurant.


I had a couple of these… they were very potent and refreshing.



Bill had tostadas with chili while I had the quesadilla appetizer.  It was huge and we both had leftovers.  Then we had tres leches cake for dessert…

I was really enjoying our late lunch here.  The bartender is very personable and a great host.  The food is good.  And they were playing great 80s music.  It was like being in high school again with lots of New Wave and progressive songs from my teen days.  Better yet, the price is right.  We ate for about $15 each, including booze.  They have free parking, though we didn't take advantage of it during this visit.

The weather today was kind of cool and overcast, but the Riverwalk was crowded and teeming with tourists.  It was nice to get out, though.  I think we'll have to go back to our Mexican place again soon.  

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Pam Conover resigns from SeaDream...

Less than a month ago, I blogged about SeaDream Yacht Club's turnover.  When I wrote that post, I was a little hesitant, since I am definitely no cruise line insider, nor am I even really a travel expert.  I just like to travel when I can and I like to write about my experiences.  I have cruised on SeaDream three times and mostly enjoyed each time.  However, as a Cruise Critic message board poster, I also regularly follow SeaDream's forum and this morning, learned that Pam Conover, a highly regarded and much touted executive who joined SeaDream less than a year ago, has just decided to resign her position, effective December 4, 2013.

This is yet another worrying departure on the small, but much beloved, luxury cruise line.  Of course, I don't know why she's leaving.  For all I know, she could be resigning for personal reasons that have nothing to do with SeaDream's apparent decline.  However, I do know that at least on Cruise Critic and among a couple of people I met onboard, there seems to be growing discontent with the product, mainly because of issues people have been having with kids on the ships.  

SeaDream I is headed for Costa Rica this month.  I was really wanting to book one of the Costa Rica cruises, but our circumstances didn't allow for that.  If we hadn't had to move to Texas, perhaps we would have pulled the trigger.  Every time we move, it costs money and requires time to get settled.  As it is now, I'm not really feeling the urge to book anymore.  I do have the itch to travel, but not necessarily on SeaDream, and that is a big change from the past, when I couldn't wait to book my next SeaDream voyage.

I will be watching to see what people say about the Costa Rica cruises.  Even if we never do a SeaDream cruise down there, I would like to go to that region at some point.  If my teeth keep giving me grief, I might even go down there for medical tourism purposes.



One magical memory, courtesy of SeaDream...


Monday, November 4, 2013

Our anniversary is around the corner...

November 16, it'll be 11 years with Bill.  We usually go away for our anniversaries.  Last year, we went to Scotland.  The year before that, we were in the southern Caribbean.  The year before that, we went to Asheville, North Carolina.  This year…  nothing.

We didn't plan anything because we just moved to Texas and we knew we would have less cash flow here than we did in North Carolina.  And the eleventh anniversary isn't as big of a deal as the tenth is, right?

Travel has become really important to me, though.  I miss getting to see the world, even though we've only been in Texas since late July.  We have been getting to know San Antonio, but I still long for a change of scenery.  At the very least, a trip would give me something to write about in my travel blog.

I'm sure we'll have a dinner out or something…  It sort of pales in comparison to Scotland, though.  I still need to figure out what to give Bill.  A friend of mine wrote that Hallmark says the gift should be made of steel.  My response?  Handcuffs it is!  Of course, the very first gift I ever bought Bill was a pair of Smith & Wesson handcuffs.  I bought them because he dared me to.

He rarely uses them.  ;-)