Travel

The Queen of Pinot: Long May She Reine

In March, I was lucky enough to snag a last-minute tasting appointment at Merry Edwards Winery, located in the renowned Russian River Valley region of California, about 70 miles north of San Francisco. We were staying in nearby Bodega Bay on a family vacation, and it was an irresistibly short trip from there to get to wine country. I took off on the scenic drive through fat green hills dotted with sheep and dairy cows to the land of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

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Everything I tasted at Merry Edwards that day was exceptional, and I ended up leaving with three 2013 single-vineyard designate Pinots: Olivet Lane, Coopersmith and Georganne. These successfully made the trip home (stuffed into my checked luggage), but we soon exhausted this small supply, so I ordered several bottles of the 2014 Olivet Lane from the winery. (Merry Edwards wines are not widely available through retail. Instead, you will find them on the wine lists of fine restaurants, where they are among the top sellers. The best retail selection I have found in our area is through The Houston Wine Merchant.)

How nice to find these amazing Pinots while on vacation! I thought that was the end of the story. But wait…

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Old Vegas, New Vegas

Are you Old Vegas or New Vegas? New Vegas is the strip and its immediate vicinity–plush and opulent, shiny and modern, fairy tale and fantasy. But sometimes the glittering exterior doesn’t deliver on the expectation it creates.

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The New School Old Cool of Brennan’s

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The meal began with a Cajun-spiced Bloody Mary. And it just kept getting better. A rain-free interlude during our mostly water-logged family vacation to New Orleans this spring. Day after day of downpour, triggering memories of those 100% humidity bad hair days that were a fact of life for all us girls who grew up in south Louisiana during the years B.C. (“before Chi”).

But we didn’t let the rain stop us from getting to everything we wanted to do on this trip–browsing the shops on Magazine Street, exploring the 19th century Creole mansions that line the edge of the Quarter along Esplanade, even making a side trip to Chalmette during the height of the “monsoon” to take in the museum and soppy grounds at the site of the Battle of New Orleans. And then Friday morning, while the clouds held onto their contents for a few hours, we put away the umbrellas and made our way to Brennan’s, where the food and surroundings seem to make their own sunshine.

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Bring Me a Red from Ribera del Duero

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When U.S. wine lovers think of Spain, they immediately think “Rioja.” But there’s a new kid on the block, gaining prominence and shelf space as more people discover its robust yet elegant reds. The accolades for the Ribera del Duero continue to grow, and in 2012 it was named wine region of the year by Wine Enthusiast Magazine. Officially founded in 1982, the denomination is fairly new, yet wine has been produced there for thousands of years.

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If the Walls Could Talk at Restaurante Botin in Madrid

On Calle de los Cuchilleros, near Madrid’s Plaza Mayor, sits Restaurante Botin. Opened in 1725, it purports to be the be the world’s oldest continuously operating restaurant, and even has a couple of prominently displayed Guiness World Record certificates to prove it. Because of this distinction, as well as the fact that they serve some of the best roast suckling pig in this part of Spain, the place is consistently packed with tourists and locals alike.

If you’re going to experience the world’s oldest restaurant, do it right. Arrange a tour, one where you get to explore all the nooks and crannies of the place before it opens for the day–and, of course, one that includes a sampling of multiple courses from Botin’s menu. 

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Sunday Night at Galatoire’s

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Years ago, on a crowded night in the French Quarter, we had no reservations for dinner and seemingly no prospects of eating anything worthwhile, having been firmly rebuffed by every hostess desk within walking distance of our hotel. All, that is, except for Galatoire’s. With its “no reservations” policy for the downstairs dining room (and that is the place to be), you’ve got an equal opportunity shot of getting into Galatoire’s.

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Feasting on Manna Korean in North Austin

On a recent Saturday in downtown Austin, everyone was moving. Sidewalks were teeming with UT kids, happy to have reached the weekend. Panting joggers darted through intersections. Scullers zipped under the Congress Avenue Bridge that spans Lady Bird Lake (formerly Town Lake). We, on the other hand, just needed some lunch. Preferably Asian in nature. And hopefully very close by, since it was going on 2:00 p.m., which for our family is a time so late in the day as to cause panic, hallucination and temporary vision and hearing loss if we have not yet eaten our second meal by then.

SIRI “suggested” a Mama Fu’s Asian House close by. We had never eaten at a Mama Fu’s. A little over a year ago, the chain opened its first location in Houston on West Gray, and, with 6 locations in Austin, it’s already a pervasive presence there. Great, then–lunch was settled.

Well, not so fast…

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