Archive for August, 2008

Today’s Quote

“You need to be scared and you need to get your butts out of New Orleans right now.  Hurricane Gustav is the Mother of all storms.”

   –Ray Nagin, Mayor of New Orleans, speaking to the citizens of New Orleans on 8/30/08 as he announced a mandatory evacuation of the city in preparation for the arrival of Hurricane Gustav.  Gustav is likely to reach the Gulf Coast on 9/1/08.

Credits:
Photo from The New York Times
Weather map from NOLA Times-Picayune

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Try TripKick.com

 

Today I visited a website called TripKick, which was launched in May 2008 and named one the 50 Best Websites by Time Magazine for 2008.  The site’s mission is to provide travelers with tips and insights on rooms to request (or avoid) at specific hotels.  Although TripKick currently covers only about 250 hotels in 12 cities, it is adding more hotels to its list each month.  Using TripKick, you can identify which rooms have the best views, most noise, or best features.  Plus, you can add your own reviews to the site.

Here’s more information taken directly from the TripKick site:

“TripKick is designed to make your hotel experience an effortless one. We prepare you with the little known facts about each hotel room so you can make an educated decision when choosing your perfect room.  Each hotel page on our site offers a variety of helpful information. You can use us before you’ve chosen your hotel, or once you’ve already booked your reservation.  First, Choose your hotel by City, Personality or Features. Once you’ve located your hotel of choice, we will provide the following information on 5 Tabs: Rooms to Request, Your Experience, Compare Rooms, Hotel Basics and Transportation.”

For those of you who are familiar with SeatGuru.com, a website that I consider indispensable, I think TripKick is trying to provide for hotel guests what SeatGuru has done for commercial air travelers.

Good luck to TripKick and thanks for offering this much-needed service!

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On to Vegas, Baby

I’m off to Las Vegas again this week.  The temperature hit 106-degrees yesterday.  Is that crazy?

 

Hopefully, it will be another happy landing with Southwest Airlines, one of my favorite airlines.  Keep those peanuts and cocktails coming!

Although I visit Las Vegas several times a year, the place seems to undergo a new transformation with each visit.  This week, I noticed the following:

Encore, the second tower at Wynn Las Vegas, has been topped-off and is reportedly being readied for occupancy by New Year’s Day 2009.  It looks great, and I’ve heard that Encore’s design theme will focus on ‘butterflies’ (instead of flowers, at Wynn) and that its guest room will be packed with mirrors and will be more spacious than the already well-sized rooms at Wynn, with dividers between the living and sleeping areas.  Sounds yummy to me;

Fontainbleau, a 63-story, 3,800 room behemoth sheathed in blue glass –situated on the site of the former El Rancho and Tangiers casinos–appears about 50-percent complete, and is targeted for opening in Fall 2009.  The architecture is rather uninspired– another squandered opportunity for the Las Vegas skyline;

Echelon, a new $4.8 billion mega-development by Boyd Gaming on the former site of the Sahara Hotel, has halted construction and delayed its target opening date by a year, due to the economic conditions in Las Vegas.  The sprawling 87-acre site on northern end of The Strip is mostly dirt and dust right now.  Quite sad, I think;

City Center, an MGM Mirage development, announced this week that it had successfully secured $2.3 billion of the remaining $3.0 billion in funding needed to complete the mixed-use project, which has been called the largest privately-funded development in the USA.  Last August, MGM Mirage sold a 50-percent stake in in the $9.1 billion City Center to Dubai World.  Once it opens, City Center will be home to the Mandarin-Oriental, The Harmon, Vdara Condo-Hotel and Veer Towers, which collectively represent about 6,300 guest rooms.  The project appears to be about 50-percent complete, and is clearly a major departure from the current buildings that occupy The Strip, in terms of its overall architectural design.

* Mariposa, the signature restaurant at Neiman-Marcus at Fashion Show Mall on The Strip, was shuttered several months ago, and is now available for large, private banquets only.  According to a sales member at N-M and a server at the N-M Cafe, the surviving casual eaterie at N-M, the store could no longer justify keeping the restaurant open, given the small number of lunchtime patrons.  How sad, especially since this was one of the chain’s most attractive Mariposa outposts.

In an article published this week, the Las Vegas Review Journal reported that “Room rates in Sin City are down by double-digit percentages for the upcoming holiday weekend.  It’s a sign the rocky economy and high gasoline prices are forcing Las Vegas resorts to work harder to keep hotel rooms full and casino floors bustling.  At best, room rates are holding steady compared with last year during Labor Day weekend. But in many cases hoteliers are cutting rates as much as 50 percent.”

On arrival at the Las Vegas International Airport, I noticed that the terminal seemed rather quiet for a holiday weekend.  There were no crowds in the Baggage Claim area, no long waiting lines for the shuttle vans to the Car Rental Center, and no lines at Hertz Rent-a-Car, either.  Hmmm… interesting.

TIP:  If you’re planning a trip to Las Vegas, check out the Vegas Happens Here blog for interesting tidbits and insights on Sin City.  The blog is written by Steve Freiss, author and Vegas-based freelance journalist who writes regularly for USA Today, The New York Times, Newsweek and others.  His column, “The Strip Sense” appears every Thursday in the Las Vegas Weekly and he writes weekly entertainment/travel pieces for the Los Angeles Times’ The Guide section.

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Today’s Cartoon

Credit: New Yorker Magazine

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Today’s Quote

It is hard to laugh at the need for beauty and romance, no matter how tasteless, even horrible, the results of that need are.  But it is easy to sigh.  Few things are sadder than the truly monstrous.

   –Nathanael West, from “The Day of the Locust,” 1939

  

To read previous quotes in the “Today’s Quote” series, click here.

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Today’s Video

Kui Lee (1932-1966), one of Hawaii’s most beloved musical artists, wrote “I’ll Remember You,” which was sung by Elvis Presley in his landmark concert in Honolulu on 1/14/73– a performance that was seen by an estimated 1 billion people in 40 countries. 

In addition to writing “I’ll Remember You,” a personal favorite of mine (which was recorded by Don Ho, Tony Bennett, Andy Williams, and many others), Kui Lee also wrote “The Days of My Youth” and “Lahainaluna,” two popular and cherished contemporary songs.

Kui Lee died of cancer at the age of 34 in Honolulu, HI.  His only recorded album is available from Mele.com and other retailers.

 To view previous videos in the “Today’s Video” series, click here.

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All Hail Zhang Yimou

China put on a great show.  The 2008 Olympics closed yesterday in Beijing with a roar and another stunning spectacle intended to formally usher China into the modern world and demonstrate its ability to serve as host to one of the world’s largest and most prestigious events.  The Opening and Closing Ceremonies featured a jaw-dropping mix of high-tech wizardry, clever storytelling, flying acrobats, spectacular aerial fireworks, elaborate costuming, and amazing choreography.  Of course, a lot can be accomplished with a record-breaking ceremony budget (estimated at up to $300 million) and a singular national obsession– to dazzle the world with the grandest Olympic event ever.

Zhang Yimou, the visionary force behind the Beijing ceremonies certainly deserves all of the credit that has been heaped upon him.  As China’s most-celebrated film director (Raise the Red Lantern, To Live, Hero, Ju Dou), Zhang Yimou had a near-impossible task– plan and execute a flawless live production with a cast of thousands for a worldwide audience of 2 billion people (based on estimates from the Wall Street Journal). 

By selecting Zhang Yimou as the central creative force for the Olympic ceremonies, the Chinese government has clearly vindicated the highly-acclaimed director for some of his early films, including Raise the Red Lantern, his 1991 Oscar-nominated film, which was banned in China.

In a recent interview with The London Telegraph, the director offered this assessment of his huge cast for the Olympic ceremonies– “The actors listen to the orders, and can carry them out like computers. Foreigners admire this. This is the Chinese spirit.  We can make our human performance reach the level it achieves through hard work and being smart. This many foreigners cannot achieve.”

Of course, there was some controversy during the Opening Ceremony about the lip-synching of the song “Hymn to the Motherland” in which a pretty nine-year old girl lip-synched to the voice of a singer who was deemed “not pretty enough” for an Olympic audience, and the computer-generated images of aerial fireworks over Beijing.   But those complaints seem relatively petty when viewed in the context of the massive, complex Ceremony performances that involved a cast of 15,000 on opening night and an all-new cast of 7,000 for closing night. 

So, congratulations to Beijing on a spectacular national coming-out party and to Zhang Yimou on a stunning production that likely will never be equaled.

Above: Zhang Yimou.  Below: Closing Ceremony, 8/24/08.

Below: Opening Ceremony, 8/8/08

Here’s a 5-minute video, from CCTV (China), featuring an interview with Zhang Yimou and background information about his selection as Director of the Beijing Olympic ceremonies.

This is a good time to re-visit and watch Zhang Yimou’s films, many of which are known for their ravishing and saturated colors and studied, formal framing.  A partial list of his films includes:

* Curse of the Golden Flower, 2006
* House of the Flying Daggers, 2004
* Hero, 2002
* Shanghai Triad, 1995
* To Live, 1994
* The Story of Qiu Ju, 1992
* Raise the Red Lantern, 1991
* Ju Dou, 1990
* Red Sorghum, 1987

My personal favorites are Raise the Red Lantern, Ju Dou, and House of the Flying Daggers.

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Today’s Quote

    I Like this quote I dislike this quoteWe are not the same persons this year as last; nor are those we love. It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love a changed person.

   –William Somerset Maugham

 To read previous quotes in the “Today’s Quote” series, click here.

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Where are the Feet?

Where are the feet today?

The feet are pausing to admire the fountain and view of the Legion of Honor, one of the Fine Arts Museums in San Francisco, CA, on a rather foggy and damp day earlier this week.  The Legion of Honor is exhibiting the Women Impressionists show, through 9/21/08, featuring 140 works by Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt, Eva Gonzalès and Marie Bracquemond.

 

Here’s some information on the four featured artists, as described on the Legion of Honor website:

  • Berthe Morisot (1841–1895): Women Impressionists presents over 60 examples of Morisot’s works, including oil paintings, drawings, and pastels. Morisot was the only woman to exhibit in the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874, and she became one of the most prolific members of the Impressionist circle.
  • Mary Cassatt (1844–1926): Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Cassatt was the only American member of the Impressionist circle. Women Impressionists features over 35 works by Cassatt, including examples of her oil paintings, pastels, and prints.
  • Eva Gonzales(1849–1883): The only formal pupil of Edouard Manet, Gonzalès became known for her characteristic style of portraiture and her use of subtle emotion and richness of detail in her works. This exhibition presents approximately 15 works by Gonzalès, including the finest examples of her oil paintings and pastels.
  • Marie Bracquemond (1840–1916): Women Impressionists marks the most comprehensive exhibition of Marie Bracquemond’s work since a 1919 retrospective organized by her son Pierre at a Paris gallery. The exhibition features approximately 20 works by Bracquemond, including watercolors, drawings, and oil paintings.

Tickets for this very popular (and crowded) show are available online for timed entrance to the museum.  Avoid the largest crowds by visiting the museum at opening or late in the day.

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ChargePod Charges!

At last, there’s an accessory that allows you to charge several devices–such as phones, PDAs, MP3 players, etc.–simultaneously, without the usual desktop clutter of multiple power cords– ChargePod!  This handy device is made by Callpod, a consumer electronics firm focusing on consumer wireless and cellular technology products.  The ChargePod system includes a charging base, which accepts up to six devices, and an assortment of adapters compatible with most consumer wireless and celluar products.  The primary features of the ChargePod are:

  • * Charges up to 6 devices at the same time
  • * Small, portable and lightweight
  • * Eliminates the clutter from having multiple chargers
  • * Compatible with thousands of mobile devices such as iPods, cell phones, Bluetooth headsets, PDAs, digital cameras, navigation units, mp3 players, digital readers and portable gaming systems
  • * Chargepod is compatible with all foreign 120/240 V adapter wall plugs; no additional power supply is necessary

 

The ChargePod and adapters are available for purchase online from the Callpod website and from other online retailers, including amazon.com.

 Check out previous posts in the Gadgets and Gear category, by clicking here.

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Today’s Quote

Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it.

   –Confucius

To read previous quotes in the “Today’s Quote” series, click here.

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The Big Easy Eats

Eating is certainly one of the highlights and most pleasurable pastimes in The Big Easy.  During my recent stay in New Orleans, I was able to enjoy great meals at both old-time favorite places, and some newly-discovered places, too.  Here’s a sampling…

Gumbo Shop

I first visited the Gumbo Shop, located at 630 St. Peter St, just one block from Jackson Square in the historic French Quarter, over 20 years ago, and immediately fell in love with their hearty and tasty Creole dishes, including their famous gumbo and etouffee.

 

I enjoyed a tasty and spicy bowl of etouffee, along with some cooked greens.  Yum.  A few of their recipes are available online via their website.  Click here.

 

Mother’s Restaurant

Last week I made my first visit to Mother’s Restaurant, a New Orleans institution since 1938, located at 401 Poydras Street, in the Central Business District (CBD), a few blocks from the French Quarter.  The restaurant is hugely popular and the waiting line for the casual “no reservations” restaurant stretched outside the door.  After entering, you place your order with the cashier, grab a table, and wait for one of their servers to bring the food to your table. 

I was eager to sample as much of their cooking as possible, so I tried the hearty combination plate– which included jambalaya, etouffee, red beans and rice, cooked greens and potato salad.  It was delicious! 

The restaurant is a colorful mix of New Orleans regulars (who seemed to have the menu memorized) and out-of-town visitors, which makes for an interesting dining experience.  As we ate, some of the folks in line peered at the food on our table and asked about the combination plate, which I eagerly recommended.  Yum!

Lucy’s Retired Surfers Bar and Restaurant

While walking in the Warehouse District in New Orleans, a gallery owner recommended Lucy’s Retired Surfer’s Bar and Restaurant, located at 701 Tchoupitoulas St.  Lucy’s is a relaxed all day restaurant and bar with a funky ’60’s to ’80’s tropical, beach theme– perfect for a hearty brunch of huevos rancheros and a margarita.  The restaurant has a wonderfully laid-back atmosphere, as well as great classic breakfast fare.

Cafe DuMonde

And, of course, no visit to The Big Easy would be complete with out a pilgrimage to Cafe Du Monde, located at 1039 Decatur Street, in the heart of the French Quarter, opposite Jackson Square.   Established in 1862, Cafe Du Monde is the home of the famous New Orleans cafe au lait, made with coffee and chicory, and beignets, the hot French-style doughnuts dusted with powdered sugar.  This busy location is open 24 hours a day, year-round, except on Christmas Day. 

The combination of the cafe au lait and beignets is classic New Orleans– and a wonderful treat!  Long live New Orleans!
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Where are the Feet?

Where are the feet?

The feet are taking a brief break from the heat and humidity in New Orleans, LA to admire the view of historic Jackson Square (aka Place d’Armes), a National Historic Landmark, located in the middle of the French Quarter.  Built in 1814 and named in honor of Andrew Jackson, Jackson Square was designed by architect and landscaper Louis H. Pilie,  and modeled on the famous Place des Vosges in Paris, France.  

Today, Jackson Square is the “heart” of the French Quarter and a popular meeting place for residents and visitors.  Local artists and craftspersons line their works along the perimeter of the square, and horse-drawn carriages line up in front of the square offering rides to visitors.

A statue of Jackson was erected in the square in 1865, designed by artist Clark Mills (see photo below).

Photos taken: 8/9/08.

 To view other previous shown in the “Where are the Feet” series, click here.

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2016 Madrid Olympics?

What was Spain’s olympic basketball team (and their publicist) thinking when they posed for this photo, used in an advertisement for Seur, a Spanish courier company, that appeared in a full-page ad in Marca, the country’s largest-selling newspaper just prior to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing?

The print ad features two large photographs, one of the men’s basketball team, above, and one of the women’s team.  Both squads pose in full Olympic wear on a basketball court decorated with a picture of a Chinese dragon.  Each player appears pulling back the skin on either side of their eyes, in order to create “slanted eyes.”

Needless to say, the ad has created a whirlwind of controvery about possible racism and cultural insensitivity, not to mention poor taste.   Spain’s basketball team member Jose Manuel Calderon said the team was responding to a request from the photographer.  “We felt it was something appropriate, and that it would be interpreted as an affectionate gesture,” he was quoted as saying.  Meanwhile, numerous groups representing Asian-Americans have condemned the photo.

I wonder what effect, if any, this incident will have on Spain’s campaign to serve as the host city for the 2016 Olympics?  If nothing else, I think the Spanish Olympic team needs to hire a different publicist.

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Today’s Quote

For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else.

   –Ralph Waldo Emerson

To read previous quotes in the “Today’s Quote” series, click here.

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K Paul’s in The Big Easy

While in New Orleans, I made another trip to K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen, home of the legendary Chef Paul Prudhomme, who is widely credited with launching Louisiana Cajun cooking to national fame.  The restaurant is located at 416 Chartres Street, in the French Quarter, and just one block from the W Hotel French Quarter, where I was staying.  As always, the restaurant was filled to capacity and many folks without reservations were waiting outside with the hope of cancellations.

I had what I think was the “best ever” blackened ahi at K-Paul’s this week– beautifully cooked and beautifully served!

Long live Chef Prudhomme!

P.S.  I was so busy enjoying the delicious food that I forgot to take any photos of the delicious food, including the yummy molasses muffins and corn muffins.

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W French Quarter

While in New Orleans this week, I stayed at the W Hotel French Quarter, a small (98-room) boutique hotel situated on Chartres Street in the historic French Quarter.  This is my second stay at this property, and I really enjoy the convenient location within the Quarter, as well as the smaller, intimate size and more rustic design of the hotel.  A larger sister property, the W Hotel New Orleans, is located a few blocks away outside of the French Quarter, and is more similar in size, design and vibe to the standard-issue W Hotel.

My guest room, Room 208, featured a large, spacious terrace that overlooks the front of the hotel on Chartres Street.  It’s a nice spot to sit and relax at the table or on side chairs.  Given the heat and humidity this week, however, I did not spend much time on the terrace, except to admire the view in the early morning and late evening hours.

The room featured the usual W Hotel accoutrements, such as large LCD TV, DVD player, iPod dock, wireless (and wired) high-speed Internet access ($14.95, daily), cotton waffle-weave robes, and Bliss bath products, as well as bubble-gum machine.

  

 

The hotel’s resident restaurant, Bacco, features Creole-influenced Italian fare and is open for lunch and dinner, daily.

Photos taken: 8/9/08

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Remembering Katrina

As I thought about the difficult recovery and rebuilding efforts taking place in New Orleans, I was reminded of those dark days that followed Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 and the overwhelming sadness, anger and shame I felt around the federal, state and local response to the enormous suffering of the people of New Orleans.

I also remembered this sound byte from a statement made by President George Bush on September 2, 2005 (five days after Katrina struck the Gulf Coast) congratulating Mike Brown on the “heck of a job” he was doing as FEMA Director. Ten days later, Brown resigned as FEMA Director, amid a firestorm of controversy and growing criticism around the bungled Federal response.

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Doing The Big Easy

It’s been a little more than two years since my last visit to New Orleans, LA (aka NOLA or The Big Easy) and nearly three years since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the North-Central Gulf Coast, causing the death of over 1,800 people and estimated damages of $82 billion, making it the most costly natural disaster in U.S. history.  The federal, state and local response to the devastation caused by the hurricane and the catstrophic failure of the levee system protecting New Orleans was a national disgrace and a shameful period in our history.

As heartbreaking (and infuriating) as it was to watch the events of the Katrina disaster play out in real-time on TV, it was even sadder when I visited New Orleans (a city which I’ve always considered one of the jewels of America) in May 2006, just nine months following the flooding.  Although the famed French Quarter was spared any significant damage, the typically crowded and boisterous tourist area was eerily quiet and somber.  And other areas of the city, which are usually unseen by most visitors to NOLA, remained devasted and largely abandoned.

On this trip to NOLA, I was eager to see the extent to which the City had been able to recover, rebuild and regain its spirit.

I was heartened this week to see how much rebuilding had taken place over the past two years and is still continuing today.  The French Quarter feels fully reopened, although some buildings, particularly on the outskirts of the Quarter, remain shuttered and in disrepair.  Many are for sale.  I suspect that some of these buildings will never be put to use again.  A few hotels, including the Hyatt Regency, remain closed.  The retail scene appears to have rebounded in the Quarter and I noticed lots of new shops across the Quarter.

Elsewhere in the city, the scene seems less encouraging.  Many residential areas are now peppered with empty lots, which serve as reminders of the homes that once stood there.  Some homes still have FEMA trailers perched in the front yards.  But there are abundant signs of new construction across the City, including homes now built on pillars that raise their foundation above the flood level. 

Clearly, there is a long and difficult road ahead for New Orleans.  And I’m left wondering– to what extent will New Orleans be transformed and how much has already been lost forever?

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Trippin’ with TripIt.com

About six months ago, I started using a website called TripIt.com, a free online service that aggregates your travel plans and details into a single, well-organized and easy-to-read portal.   The website was launched in September ‘07 by Tripit, a private San Francisco-based company.

After using the site for a few months, I’ve concluded that it really is as easy to use as they claim.  Once you enroll in the free service, you simply forward your confirmation emails of flights, hotels, car rentals, etc. to plans@tripit.com, as shown in the steps outlined below.  The website then immediately aggregates and organizes your travel details for you, together with weather and other useful information on your destination city, for each of your itineraries.  The consolidated itinerary from tripit.com includes links to the airlines, hotels, car rental companies and others, so you can easily manage or change your reservations from this single point of entry.

 

Thumbs up to tripit.com for delivering a simple, functional and useful online tool for travelers!   

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Warwick Melrose Dallas

While in Dallas, I stayed at the charming and historic Warwick Melrose Hotel, located at 3015 Oak Lawn Avenue, in the Uptown Oak Lawn and Turtle Creek area, ,which is just five minutes by car from the Love Field Airport.  The hotel, built in 1924 as an apartment residence, is a relatively small (184 room) property, that has been attractively and tastefully furnished, with lots of “old world” touches and modern conveniences.  The guest rooms are spacious and handsomely appointed and have nice views of the surrounding residential, mostly low-rise neighborhood.

In the spacious, handsome lobby, the Warick Melrose offers their complimentary, signature chilled cantaloupe juice (yum!) to arriving guests.  And, The Library Bar, in the Lobby, pours excellent drinks in a relaxing, club-like atmosphere– complete with piano entertainment in the evenings.

Here’s a nicely-chilled, well-shaken martini, served in a short, stout cocktail glass (which seems to be appearing everywhere these days) at the Library Bar.  And wow– that’s refreshing after a long day in the hot Texas sun (and humidity)!

Photos Taken: 8/8/08.

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Fearing’s in Dallas

While in Dallas last week, I was able to enjoy an amazing dinner at Fearing’s, the dazzling new restaurant from Texas celebrity chef Dean Fearing, located in the rather glam Ritz-Carlton Downtown Dallas.  Dan Fearing, who is best known as the former star chef at The Mansion on Turtle Creek, in Dallas, was recruited by The Ritz-Carlton to open a signature restaurant in the hotel, which was named by Esquire Magazine as the  ”Best New Restaurant in America” in 2007.

The restaurant includes a beautiful formal bar, drenched in amber tones and dark woods.

The dining room is accessed via a long and dramatic hallway from the bar which opens into an expansive main room with high-ceilings and large windows overlooking the nicely landscaped hotel gardens.  Much of the seating is provided in the form of banquettes” for two,” which is a nice, comfy touch. 

 

Every memorable meal needs to be kicked-off by a wonderful cocktail (according to me, anyway).  And at Fearing’s, the meal was introduced with a beautifully-prepared martini and a long, spiral-cut twist.  Hello, Gorgeous!

A Southwestern trio, with a tomato soup shooter, made a terrific appetizer.

And the main course was an amazing Blackened Ahi, which was seared perfectly– blackened, spicy and crusty on the outside and warm and very rare on the inside.

Midway through the meal, Chef Fearing stopped by the table to welcome us to the restaurant and to ensure that we were enjoying the food.  What a nice touch of Southern hospitality.  Hats off to Fearing’s!

And here’s a view of the Ritz-Carlton and the striking floral arrangement in the Main Lobby.

 

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Six Flags Over Texas

I’m a big fan of rollercoasters, so it’s always a treat to visit amusement parks, such as Six Flags Over Texas, located in Arlington.  At this location of Six Flags– one of 20 SixFlags parks across the country– there are 50 rides, of which 13 are classified as thrill rides.

One of the top-rated thrill rides at the park is “Batman- The Ride,” which was inspired by the recent series of Batman live-action movies.  The ride, introduced at the park in 1999, is an inverted roller-coaster (where your seat is suspended from above and your feet dangle freely) that hits a top speed of 50 MPH and achieves the force of 4G’s.  The ride is about 90 seconds and includes a Zero G-Roll, two Vertical Loops, and two Corkscrews. 

Although the ride does not reach a very fast speed, it’s still quite thrilling, given the number of loops and turns.  Quite a rush!

Another highlight of the park was the Mr. Freeze ride (appearing with blue tracks in the photo below), a companion attraction to Batman-The Ride, that is claimed to be the tallest and fastest ride in the Southwest.  This ride utilizes Linear Induction Motors that propel the train from 0 to 70 MPH in 3.8 seconds– whoosh!  The ride elements include a 180-degree top hat inversion 150 feet in the air, followed by a wraparound curve, and a ride straight up the spire 218 feet.  The train then goes into a free-fall and traverses the course in reverse.  Riders are seated two to a row and get to experience the ride in both directions.  Whooa!

The ride features an innovative boarding system, where two separate trains share a single track.  The trains shift laterally in the boarding gate in an alternating fashion, in order to maximize the number of ride cycles along the single, bi-directional track.  Pretty cool.

After all the rattling and shaking in the rides, it was nice to pause (in the sweltering Texas heat) and to enjoy a few minutes with my favorite little guy– Curious George!

After experiencing my first visit to Six Flags over Texas, I’d definitely like to see other Six Flags parks!

And, remember– More Flags, More Fun!

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Where is that Drink?

This ample martini was served in a short, stout cocktail glass with a large and freshly-cut lemon twist.  Where is that drink?

The drink was poured at the large bar in Nobu Restaurant, located at 400 Crescent Court, in Dallas.   It was particularly refreshing on such a hot day!

I’ve noticed that these short-stemmed and rather stout cocktail glasses are becoming increasingly popular at many upscale bars.  I don’t find them particularly attractive, but bartenders might consider them more practical than traditional, long-stemmed cocktail glasses, since they are less likely to be “tipped over” by tipsy customers and also less prone to damage.  Still, I’m hoping it’s not a major trend.

Photos taken: 8/6/08.

To view previous posts in the “Where is that Drink?” series, click here.

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Hot in Dallas!

I arrived last week for a few days in Dallas.  And, it’s true– Texas is like “a whole ‘nother country,” as Texans so proudly proclaim.  Most of the nation’s Midwest and South have recently been experiencing a record-breaking heat wave, and Dallas was certainly not spared.  The temperature has been around 104-degrees, with evening lows around 98-degrees.  Plus, there’s that Southern humidity layered on top for good measure.  (It’s not pretty.)

Here’s a shot of the Dallas skyline taken on the drive into the city from the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport.

In spite of the heat, I was able to visit a few places, including the flagship Neiman-Marcus store (now an unofficial shrine to shoppers everywhere) and Six Flags Over Texas.

The Neiman-Marcus flagship store is located at Main Street at Ervay Street, in downtown Dallas.  The store was built in 1914 to replace the original building that was destoryed in a fire in 1913.

And here’s a plaque placed near the main entrance of the flagship store.

 

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Gorillas in the Congo

It’s so great to read good news once in a while.  Yesterday, the Wildlife Conservation Society released results of a landmark and exhaustive survey, performed in collaboration with the Republic of Congo, which indicate that there are now over 125,000 western lowland gorillas in the country’s northern forests– a number that is nearly double the previous estimates of their population worldwide.  The new survey discovered 73,000 gorillas in the Ntokou-Pikounda region of the Congo and another 52,000 in an area called Ndoki-Likouala landscape — including a previously unknown population of nearly 6,000 gorillas living deep in the swamp. 

This is exciting and encouraging news, given that the gorillas have been the victims of decades of deforestation and warfare in Central Africa, in addition to being hunted for their meat.  Plus, the gorillas are highly susceptible to the deadly Ebola virus, as well as human-introduced diseases.

In 1997, The World Conservation Union classified the western lowland gorilla as “critically endangered,” a status that means they are expected to suffer a reduction of at least 80 percent in the next three generations.

While the western lowland gorilla is still at risk, this is an incredibly promising finding, and a signal that conservation efforts can make a difference– and potentially save a species from extinction.

If you wish to make a donation to the Wildlife Conservation Society, click here for a direct link to the donation page of their official website.

And here’s a 3-minute video on the Wildlife Conservation Society’s finding, prepared by Andrew Revkin for The New York Times.

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Today’s Cartoon

Credit: The New Yorker Magazine

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Red Rock Really Rocks

Last week I was back in Vegas, Baby.  I drove through the magnificent Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area (RRNCA), which provided stunning views of the red canyon walls.  It’s a really majestic place, and remarkably free of heavy traffic and crowds, which is surprising given that it’s only 30-minutes from The Strip.

 

 

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