Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Winery Showcasing: Boulder Creek Winery & Redstone Meadery - Boulder, CO

Winery Showcase: Boulder Creek Winery - Boulder, CO
6440 Odell Place
Boulder, CO
Alright folks, I've started my winery/vineyard trek of Colorado. Something tells me that this is going to likely span a couple of years in order to completely do any justice to Colorado's wine country - I'm up for the challenge!
I had some business up in the Boulder area, so I figured that would be the perfect time to get rolling with my Tour de Colorado. First and foremost, I have to say that the individuals that own the wineries in the Boulder area are a fantastic and genial bunch. I got in contact with 4 wineries in the area; however, the large majority are open pretty much Thur-Sun, so my Monday visit was not able to fit in with all of their schedules, so I missed out on two, but I got to visit two, so it wasn't all for naught.
Mike and his wife are the owners of the Boulder Creek Winery. In all of Mike's graciousness, they were closed on Monday, but he came in to show me around the place (to which I will desperately need to get back so I can sample some of their lovely wine). I'm not completely familiar with Boulder, but I have to say that most of the wineries are well within a 10 - 20 minute drive of one another. Although some are in places named, Niwot...but it's close to Boulder, so I just lump those in with the "Boulder" area.
The Boulder Creek Winery has been around for 8 years, and in that time, they've amassed some pretty impressive awards for their wines. One of which, was a prestigious honor of attending a premier wine show and tasting in Paris, France (by the way, Paris is
one of Chicks That Trips, areas of speciality, and a place that this chick absolutely loves). Their winery, while small, is well maintained, clean and comfortable. The tasting room is essentially right off of the front door entrance, but I can imagine once the vino starts flowing...no one much cares how much space there is, as long as no one takes their wine glass away. Boulder Creek Winery is open year round 1:00-5:30 p.m. Thursday - Sunday, and closed Mon - Wed.

Where all the work is done!

Stainless steel and pristine clean.

Intimate tasting area and where selection of wines are showcased.

Wall of awards.

Winery Showcase: Redstone Meadery
4700 Pearl St, #2A
Boulder, CO
(720) 406-1215

What's better than a winery, than a winery tour and free wine??? Well, that's what the Redstone Meadery offers Monday - Saturday. They have allocated hours whereby they take you through their small, but powerful winery. The owner, David Myers, or as he calls himself, "Chairman of the Mead," takes you on an information filled tour of his winery, as well as the history behind the "mead."
I cheated a little bit and googled some information that I lost during the tour in respect to the "Honeymoon" and how that name came about, and how the delicious mead (honey wine) fits into the history of the "Honeymoon."
“The Scandinavian word for honeymoon is derived, in part, from an ancient Northern European custom in which newlyweds, for the first month of their married life, drank a daily cup of honeyed wine called mead. The ancient practices of kidnaping of bride and drinking the honeyed wine date back to the history of Atilla, king of the Asiatic Huns from A.D. 433 to A.D. 453.” (http://www.hudsonvalleyweddings.com/guide/honey.htm)

Hmmm, sounds like a lifetime of happiness, or at the very least, drunkin' debauchery. David is able to get all of this information disseminated, as well as talk about his days of brewing beer in his basement (and drinking said beer), all within a thirty minute time frame, along with the wine tasting! I must admit that I was a bit put off about the concept of honey wine. I had a misconception that the wine would be sickeningly sweet, and barely palatable, but I have to say, I was wrong. Yes, I was wrong. I had another appointment, so I stayed for 20 minutes of this tour (as I arrived at 2:30 p.m. for the 3:00 p.m. tour). Upon arrival, I was able to sample several of the carbonated, sparkling nectar's. The alcohol content of the carbonated drinks is 8%, but they were delicious and smooth. The apricot kissed nectar was spectacular; it likens itself very much to an Ace Cider (but better). It's light, and since it's carbonated, I imagined I was sipping on a glass of champagne kissed with apricot, or a beer. I know, I know they shouldn't be described in the same breathe, but I respect my beer, and I love my champagne!
It's easy to tell that the history behind the founder of this company has a strong inclination to beer, because while I was sipping on my free samples, I really did feel like I was drinking a flavored beer...and that's not a bad thing. The flavor was smooth, rich and mellow. There was no cloying sweetness or even a large acknowledgement of the honey (no offense to the honey). If I didn't know I was tasting mead, I wouldn't have even realized it, and would have thought it was one of the flavored speciality beers that have been popping up all over the place. In reverence to the honey wine, anybody who has been staying away from mead because they believe it's going to be a sickeningly sweet concoction that will leave your tongue dripping in honey - give it a try, I promise, you won't be disappointed.
The Redstone Meadery is also in a small space, but like the Boulder Creek Winery, they make great use of their space. The Redstone Meadery has wonderful glass topped wine barrels that serve as tables that are situated in the sitting area. Also, as an added bonus, there are an assortment of table games that are provided by the Meadery for your enjoyment, so whether you are awaiting one of the tours, or just popping in for a taste of their fantastic mead, you will have something to occupy your taste buds as well as your mind.
Pour la santé!

Tasting room board!

Wonderful, cobalt blue and glass assortments of their wonderful wine!

Write-ups...who can take away from the write-ups of the meads wonderfulness?

Comfy seating while you wait or drink.

*photos by That Chick


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Restaurant Spotlight: CAFE TALÉSAI - Beverly Hills, CA

Front counter at Cafe Talésai

9198 Olympic Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
(310) 271-9345

I. Love. Good. Food. It's really that simple. I derive exquisite pleasure when I am able to partake of a delicious meal with excellent service and a lively beverage (or two...)

Cafe Talésai is a Thai restaurant located in a small strip mall off of Olympic Blvd, in Beverly Hills. It's a street or so West of Robertson and Olympic (as major intersections/cross streets). While I was in Los Angeles for a short trip last week, I was still able to enjoy great food, and this was a pleasant surprise, because I had never eaten here before, but it came highly recommended by one of my close friends.

Upon arrival I was struck by the simplicity of the establishment. The tables were already preset with utensils and plates; with a sheet of a parchment like paper used as table coverings instead of tablecloths. It's a single room with approximately 10 tables for service - that's all.
Our waitress brought over the menu and I selected some Crispy Tofu and Shrimp Pad Thai - spicy. I didn't do Thai spicy, because that can be deadly, but I DO like my spicy! The Crispy Tofu was served over a bed of shredded cabbage with a side of delicious tamarind sauce. The texture of the Tofu was just perfect, as it was crisp on the outside and nice and firm, but soft on the inside, and the tamarind sauce was just the right amount of sweetness that added to the basic clean taste of this simple dish. My friend had the Chicken Satay with peanut sauce, and Talésai BBQ Chicken. I didn't eat any of those dishes, but my friend enjoyed every little stick of Chicken Satay and the perfectly marinated BBQ Chicken.

My main dish was the Shrimp Pad Thai. This was not some run of the mill Pad Thai where you had to search high and low for the protein - no, that shrimp was front and center! Every mouthful of delicate noodles, crunchy bean sprouts and egg, included some shrimp (which I cut up, as to appear dainty, and not shovel food down my throat). I was correct in ordering it spicy and not Thai spicy. It was just enough heat to linger in my mouth and add a curve to my lips, but not so much that it was uncomfortable, nor did the spice take away from all of the other delicious flavors melding in my mouth. The crunchy bean sprouts and fried eggs were a perfect accompaniment to the dish. I enjoyed every mouthful.

Would I recommend this restaurant for an evening out where you wanted to impress someone? Probably not, but for a solid meal that will leave everyone satisfied, this would be a top of the list selection where no one would go away hungry, nor broke.

Crispy Tofu - Served w/sweet tamarind sauce

Chicken Satay - Served w/peanut sauce & cucumber salad

Talésai BBQ Chicken - Marinated chicken grilled
Served w/sweet plum sauce

Pad Thai - Thai noodles pan-fried w/egg,
bean sprouts, scallions and shrimp

*Photos taken by That Chick

Monday, July 5, 2010

Hotel Spotlight: 'W' Hotel Hollywood - Los Angeles, California - A Starwood Property

Hotel Spotlight: 'W' Hotel Hollywood - Los Angeles, California

Alright, I must confess, there are few things that are sexier to me than a carefully laid out and well run hotel (weird, I know). There is something about the air that seems to permeate a feeling of, "Look at me, I'm sexxxxxy." Whether that is true or not is definitely up for debate, but for whatever reason, whenever I walk into a hotel that has this Je ne sais quoi, I instantly feel better about myself.

The new 'W' in Hollywood does not disappoint. I was fortunate enough to have the lovely Sales Manager take me throughout the hotel and show me the Corner Suites, the Exercise Room, Bliss Spa, the pool area, and of course, the highly lauded Drai's restaurant. Drai's was dark during my visit, so I was unable to partake of the rooftop partying, but I could tell just by the natural flow from their inside restaurant/bar area to the rooftop pool - Drai's was likely an experience I would need to come back to partake of for myself!

As with most of the 'W' hotels, the individuals that work there are attractive, young, and hip. While they are accommodating (especially the young lady who checked me in and the young man who took my luggage to my room), they are not overly fawning, nor are they apt to engage in any unnecessary chatter; however, they are good at their jobs and make you feel like you are a "star" too - even if you aren't.

I stayed in one of their standard, two queen bed rooms. The clean lines and touches of silver and red added just enough warmth to the otherwise simple white bedding. I didn't feel like I was in an insane asylum (like one of the other popular hotels I've stayed at on Sunset Strip), and while it isn't overly plush, its simple elegance was appealing and comfortable. The entire property was a well blended combination of old Hollywood glamour, and trendy 21st century opulence. One of my friends came to visit, and she said she felt like she was in a fabulous spaceship.

The pool area is enchanting and appealing. It's not too big, nor too small. There are sufficient lounge chairs, and the beckoning cabanas flank both sides of the pool, so if you'd like a little privacy, the cabanas are available - for a price, of course. I was able to have a cocktail at the pool bar and take in the California breeze. The day I was able to chill up there was a bit of the "June gloom" that just hadn't quite burned off all the way. There were fleeting moments of sun, but they were short lived, and spaced out.

There weren't many downsides to this property. Yes, it is Hollywood, so you are going to have your fair share of homeless people, skate boarders, and I even saw a blue-haired jogger, but I think that's one of the things that also adds to its appeal. The stars on the sidewalk are always fun to look at, and the area is in close proximity to everything; whether you want to go downtown to the Staple center; relax at "The Ivy" in Beverly Hills, or chill on the beach in Santa Monica, you are only 20-30 minutes away from everything (notwithstanding the horrible traffic). There are great neighborhood restaurants close by. Some old favorites like Roscoe's on Gower, and a new favorite for me, Dillion's (an Irish Pub) located on the corner of Hollywood and Vine. Also, I don't want to forget to mention that the valet parking is a very stiff $35 + tax, so with a tip, you are looking in the neighborhood of $40-43 bucks a night! There is free wireless available in the hotels "Living Room" area, and the in-room wireless is based on usage, so the costs will vary.

I can't wait until my next visit so that I actually have some time to relax by that amazing pool area!

Valet Car Entrance

'W' Hollywood Lobby Check-in

Luxe Mini Bar Area in Room

Standard Guest Room

Desk Area

WOW Chandelier in 'W' Living Room

Relaxing in the Chaise of Luxury


Private Pool Cabana Area

Divine Lounging by the Pool

*Photos taken by That Chick

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Part 9 Of Series: 101 Reasons To Use A Travel Agent

Part 9 Of Series: 101 Reasons To Use A Travel Agent

I just recently took a trip to Los Angeles to take care of several business items, one of which was to do a site inspection of the new "W" in Hollywood (a write-up will be added in the next few days, since I did stay at their property during my trip).

All I can say is the travel season is in full swing! The airports were stuffed chuck full of people, and the planes were painfully packed. I made a note to myself to rearrange my flight days and times based on this most recent trip; especially during the summer, when all of the family travelers are abounding - not that there is anything wrong with that, but let's just say it was definitely food for thought in respect to any further traveling I may be doing the remainder of the summer.

  • Anticipating Trouble - Travel agents are extremely useful if you are planning a trip to a known weather troubled area such as the Caribbean hurricane plagued islands. In the event of a natural disaster, your travel agent can work to immediately reschedule or cancel your trip so there are no worries for you.
  • Complicated Itineraries Made Simple -Travel experts can take care of all the details for those complicated around the world tickets and all the extra headaches that go with it, such as hotel and transportation along the way.
  • Special Needs Travelers - Travel specialists can prearrange any wheelchair or special needs someone in your travel party may have. They can also take the time to make sure your reserved accommodations are safe and easily accessible for the special needs traveler.
  • What to Pack - Some activities you choose to partake in may require different layers of clothing throughout the day. Your travel agent can advise you on what to bring. A bike trip down an extinct volcano in Hawaii for example, may require you to start out with jackets and wool socks, but when you get to the bottom you may be down to shorts and a tank top.
  • Let Them Wait on Hold - By using a travel agent you no longer have to wait on hold and talk to automated systems while trying to book different parts of your trip.

*Source: American Society of Travel Agents