Wine And Wisdom In Salt Lake City

Hi folks! I’ve just returned from a weekend in lovely Salt Lake City where I attended the Build Your Blog Conference. My head is spinning and my to-do list is a mile long.

Build Your Blog Conference

The very, very best part of the trip was sharing it with my fabulous pals, Katie Clooney (Preppy Empty Nester) and Kelly McKenzie. Each of these ladies has written their take on the conference. After you finish enjoying my post, head over to Katie’s and Kelly’s for their story.

My assignment for the trip was to scope out restaurants. The sole criteria set forth by the gals was: a good wine list.

With the help of Open Table and a search for Notable Wine Lists in Salt Lake City, I came up with a couple of great places.

First up:

Martine Salt Lake City

The Martine Cafe, located at 22 East 100 South in downtown Salt Lake City, serves contemporary American food with influences from around the globe. The offerings range from bar bites and tapas to salads and entrees. The menu also includes a fixed price dinner of 3 or 4 courses.

The folks at Zagat called Martine Cafe the “best, most unique and innovative cooking in town” and called their wine list “imaginative”. 

The wine by the glass list is not terribly lengthy but there are some terrific wines to choose from.

I loved the 2013 Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir from Oregon. Katie ordered the 2013 Poseidon Chardonnay from Carneros (Napa/Sonoma) and Kelly enjoyed the 2013 Zepaltas Sauvignon Blanc from Lake County in Northern California.

Something for everyone!

The food and wine were exactly what we were looking for. And, the restaurant was only a short walk from the Little America Hotel in which we were staying.

The next night we headed to what Open Table called the #1 wine spot in Salt Lake City.

BTG Wine Bar Salt Lake City

Excuse me, BTG Wine Bar

Does your sign say that you have OVER 80 wines available by the glass?!?!?!?!

Ummm… Can I live at your restaurant?

The BTG Wine Bar (located at 63 West 100 South in downtown Salt Lake City) does indeed have over 80 wines on their list. Every single one of these wines is offered in a 2 ounce pour, a 5 ounce pour and by the bottle. Check out the wine list on the restaurant’s website.

The wine list also includes approximately 25 flights to choose from.

For those unfamiliar with the term, a wine flight is a tasting of several wines (usually 3) in smaller pours. Flights are presented with the lightest wine on the left, progressing to the heaviest wine on the far right. They are a great way to try three different wines rather than committing to a full glass of one particular wine.

The beauty of BTG Wine Bar’s 2 ounce pour is that diners can create their very own flight, which is exactly what I did.

BTG Wine Bar make your own wine flight

My flight was made up of:

  • 2009 Soter Estate “White Label” Pinot Noir from the Yamhill-Carlton area of the Willamette Valley in Oregon
  • 2012 Duckhorn Merlot from Napa Valley
  • 2010 Ladera Cabernet Sauvignon from the Howell Mountain area of Napa Valley

Win! Win! Win!

Katie and Kelly went with white wines: the 2014 Delaporte Sancerre from France and the 2013 Mer Soleil Gold Reserve Chardonnay from the Santa Lucia Highlands area of Monterey County, California.

The BTG Wine Bar offers a few small bites but diners can also order any of the scrumptious Italian dishes from their sister restaurant, Caffé Molise.

We spent hours playing hooky from the conference enjoying the BTG Wine Bar. It was a night to remember and one which we will think of each time we use our souvenir wine glasses.

BTG Wine Bar

Even the Lucky H Bar & Grille in the Little America Hotel had a decent wine list. We spent a lot an appropriate amount of time in the hotel bar. The wines of choice:

  • Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay from California
  • Sonoma-Cutrer Russian River Ranches Chardonnay from Sonoma
  • Fleur de California Pinot Noir

(Note that no vintages were listed. This usually means you are drinking the most recent vintage.)

Our one teeny, tiny wine fail from the weekend occurred on our final night at the HUGE EPIC AFTER-PARTY GALA.

At registration, we were each given one drink ticket to be used at this HUGE EPIC AFTER-PARTY GALA.

Katie, Kelly and I joked that we should collect tickets from the teetotalers in the crowd. No point in those tickets going unused…

dressed up for the Gala

A stop for a photo at the “step and repeat” and then we were off to the bar to redeem our tickets. We had worked hard and were ready for a little glass of celebration.

That’s when the ugly rumor started circulating the room.

“The drink ticket covers a glass of flavored soda. No wine is being served.”

Wait…What?!?!?!

Not good.

Immediately after dinner we scurried off to the comfort of the Lucky H Bar (not so much the Grill part, just the Bar), spending the rest of the evening celebrating and reviewing what we learned over the weekend. Joined by some new blogging pals, we toasted to a successful conference.

But alas, all good things must come to an end.

When the hotel bar staff starts to recognize you and greets you with, “Ladies, will you be having the usual?”, it might be time to pack up and head home.

Have no fear, Salt Lake City – we will be back! I’m especially talking to you, BTG Wine Bar!

How about you? Have you ever been to a place with such a large wine-by-the-glass menu? Do you like wine flights?

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We Took Four Generations To Disney World, Had Fun And Didn’t Lose Anyone

Disney World Cinderella's Castle

Peter and I just returned from a family trip to Disney World. There were over a dozen in our group, ranging in ages from 1 to 82.

Four generations.

The prize for Highest Achievement In Making The Trip Against All Odds goes to my sister-in-law and nephew who, upon seeing the blizzard heading straight for their DC area home, hopped on Amtrak for an 18 hour train ride to Orlando. That, my friends, is supreme dedication to Disney.

Because of the size of our gang, it sometimes felt like we were a giant cruise ship trying to navigate the Disney parks. Sometimes it felt like we were herding cats.

But it was always a blast.

Our most recent visit to Disney World, a little over a year ago, was the twin grandsons’ (Chip and Dale) first trip to the happiest place on earth. Our grandson, Andy, and his parents had to miss that trip since he was only a few weeks old.

This year’s pilgrimage marked Andy’s first Disney visit and his great-grandfather’s 80th birthday.

How did we manage to travel with such a large group, have fun and not lose anyone?

Mocadeaux - The 12 Keys To Our Successful Trip To Disney World

We indoctrinated our children from a very young age. – They loved Disney World as kids and now love sharing Disney World with their own kids. Our adult children have become Disney fanatics who do all the trip planning. Peter and I just go along for the ride. Talk about magical!

We joined Disney Vacation Club. – Last year we decided to make the investment in a lifetime of Disney vacations. We purchased enough Disney Vacation Club points to be able to take the family to Disney every other year. The accommodations are like condos which means we have a kitchen. Having a kitchen when traveling with little ones is the way to go.

We stayed at Bay Lake Tower, the Disney Vacation Club location at the Contemporary Hotel. – Location, location, location. From Bay Lake Tower we could walk to the Magic Kingdom. Everything else was an easy monorail or bus ride away.

Chip hugging Mickey

Chip greeting Mickey Mouse.

We planned in advance. – The trip was booked almost a year ago. We kept track of important dates like “when can we book dining reservations?” (resort guests can book dining reservations 180 days in advance) and “when can we make FastPass+ reservations?” (resort guests with park tickets can make FastPass+ reservations 60 days in advance).

Speaking of dining, we decided against signing up for the Disney Dining Plan this time. – The Disney Dining Plan (includes one sit down meal, one quick service meal and one snack per day) can be an excellent value. Sometimes Disney even offers “free” Disney Dining as part of a resort package. We’ve used it and loved it.

However, with a kitchen in our hotel and 3 very young children who do not love sitting in restaurants every night, we decided to forgo the Dining Plan. Instead we ordered groceries from Garden Grocer and Amazon to be delivered to our unit and made use of the plethora of quick service dining spots in the parks and at the hotel.

We made strategic use of FastPass+. – Toddlers and hungry parents do not like to wait in long lines. FastPass+ gets you to the front of the line on popular rides like Dumbo and the Snow White Mine Car Ride.

Dale and Minnie Mouse

Dale getting a hug from Minnie Mouse.

We made use of the My Disney Experience App and all of its fabulous features. – Don’t do Disney without it.

We took into consideration everyones’ schedules and preferences. – Giving everyone an equal say in plans, allowing each to voice their wishes and concerns and making sure that everybody got plenty of sleep helped keep crabbiness to a bare minimum.

We got a wheelchair for Great-Grandma. – A Disney-recommended vendor had a wheelchair waiting for us at the hotel upon our arrival and picked it up from the bellman after we departed at the end of our trip. With the rest of us averaging close to 20,000 steps per day, Great-Grandma was delighted to have her wheels.

Plus, sometimes she was our ticket to the head of the line.

We made matching shirts. – Yes, we were those people. Our daughter and daughter-in-law, along with their husbands, found really cute shirts on Etsy. We loved wearing them and enjoyed the attention they drew from other guests. The shirts made it easy to pick each other out in a crowd. No one got lost.

Andy meeting Woody

Andy was star struck meeting Woody.

We invested in Memory Maker. – Disney has photographers stationed all over the parks offering to take pictures with their fancy cameras. The pictures (and ride photos like those taken as you experience your first plummet on Tower of Terror) are available for purchase.

OR you can, for one price, purchase Memory Maker which gives you ownership of all the pictures taken of any member of your group plus a bunch of stock photos of the parks, fireworks, parades, etc. Once downloaded, these pictures can be shared to your heart’s content. Most of the photos in this post were pulled off of our Memory Maker.

And finally, we didn’t try to do it all. – The Disney parks are huge. And there are four of them not including the water parks. There is fun stuff to do at the hotels. Souvenirs to purchase. And sleep to be had.

Our mantra was: if we don’t get to it this time we will on our next visit.

Because there will ALWAYS be a next visit to Disney World.

What about you? What are your recommendations for Disney travel? Have you ever gone with a big family group?

Disney World It's A Small World

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Three Dinners And A Red-Eye (A Las Vegas Food Adventure)

What do you do when, with only a few days left in the calendar year, you find yourself 1,100 miles short of United Premier Gold status?

This is the first-world problem dilemma my dear husband, Peter, recently faced.

After commuting from San Diego to Chicago for six months he said (in slightly more colorful language) that he would be darned if he was going to miss out on the perks of Premier Gold.

Peter’s solution: a foodie trip to Las Vegas.

We were able to get great fares because apparently not many folks zip off to Vegas in the middle of the week before Christmas.

Las Vegas Food Adventure

We arrived just in time for dinner on night one.

Jaleo Las Vegas Food AdventureJaleo is a fabulous tapas restaurant by the incomparable José Andrés.

We have been to the original Jaleo in Washington DC many, many, many times so, naturally, we were anxious to visit the Las Vegas location.

What a great way to kick off our Las Vegas food adventure.

Although the tapas dining experience generally works better with a large group because you can order and taste more dishes, the two of us did our very best.

Of the eight small plates we selected, one was just as delicious as the next. How can you go wrong with taste treats like lamb chops in a honey aioli?!?!

Jaleo lamb in homey aioli Las Vegas Food AdventureBut my favorite dish of the night – one that never, never disappoints – was the patatas bravas.

Jaleo patatas bravas Las Vegas Food AdventurePatatas bravas by José Andrés are the patatas bravas by which all others should be judged.

After dinner we strolled back to our hotel, the lovely Aria Resort.

Aria Las Vegas

We went to sleep dreaming of chorizo bites and white asparagus and awoke refreshed, ready for day two.

This probably won’t come as a surprise to any of you but, other than visiting the casinos, there is not much to do during the day in Vegas. Especially when it is 45° outside.

What is one to do? Why not add another culinary experience to the itinerary?

Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill Las Vegas Food AdventureBobby Flay’s Mesa Grill was a delightful spot to stop for lunch.

Peter enjoyed an incredible bowl of pumpkin soup (which I didn’t get a picture of because I was too busy stealing tastes) and I was very happy with my shrimp tacos.

Mesa Grill shrimp tacos Las Vegas Food AdventureAlso, my Cactus Pear Margarita.

The people watching in Las Vegas is legendary. Not only the visitors from all over the world but the wacky characters who spend their days entertaining tourists on the Strip.

We saw Storm Troopers, Ewoks, Hello Kitty, show girls, “police women” in fishnet stockings and, of course, Elvis. This particular Elvis was decked out in the full white suit, gobs of jewelry and perfectly coiffed hair; cruising the Strip on his mobility scooter.

We even saw Mickey and Minnie. Sort of. These particular characters were dressed like Mickey and Minnie but holding their heads on their hips as they took a cigarette break.

Walt Disney is rolling over in his grave.

Soon it was time to tear ourselves away from the freak show on the Strip to enjoy dinner number two.

Craftsteak Las Vegas Food AdventureAs fans of Top Chef, we looked forward to seeing what Chef Tom Colicchio’s had in store for us.

The food at Craftsteak was outstanding. Delicious salads, delicious sides and steaks cooked to perfection.

The one recommendation I would make, however, would be to order à la carte. Peter and I took advantage of the tasting menu option because it sounded like it would give us the opportunity to try lots of different dishes and we were, after all, on a Las Vegas food adventure.

Craftsteak Las Vegas Food Adventure

It was WAAAAAAAAY too much food. Lobster bisque, three different salads, three different sides and a full sized steak each. All fantastic, just too much. Dessert (actually 3 desserts) were included but we turned those down when we saw the main course.

Our last day was spent strolling around the Aria.

We discovered that the resort boasts 3 pools: one for regular schlubs like us, one for the fancy pants folks staying in “The Tower” and The Liquid Pool for The Beautiful People.

Aria Liquid poolUpscale stylish swimwear required. You can leave your Target cover-up and flip flops in your room. And your chains.

Also, the Liquid Pool and Lounge is a drug free zone. Hence:

Aria amnesty boxI have so many questions about the Amnesty Box.

Don’t you imagine that there is a security camera on the box in case of theft?

Not much amnesty if there is a security camera, right?

Whose job is it to empty the box? Does that person insist there was never anything in the box, all the while running a lucrative drug business on the side selling what was actually in the box????

So.Many.Questions…

Our final dinner before hopping on the red-eye flight home was at Scarpetta by Scott Conant (as seen on Chopped).

Scarpetta Las Vegas Food AdventureBy this point in our adventure we were looking for something simple yet satisfying and we both found it here.

Peter chose the roasted chicken which he loved. I was drawn to the spaghetti but wondered if I was playing it too safe.

Literally it was listed on the menu as “Spaghetti.tomato.basil”. Let me tell you it was the best plate of spaghetti I have ever tasted.

Home run, Mr. Conant.

Before heading to the airport, we killed a little bit of time playing the penny slot machines. I wasted wagered about $25 having the best luck with my leprechaun friends.

Las Vegas slot machineBut, alas, the little green men giveth and the little green men taketh away.

Las Vegas cash out voucherWe left with a penny in our pocket, full tummies and enough miles for Gold status.

The Las Vegas food adventure was a success.

Do you have any favorite Las Vegas restaurants? Or people-watching stories? Where would you have gone to tally the 1,100 miles needed?

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Trains, Planes and Autos

Peter and I have just returned from a whirlwind two week trip to the east coast.

Our wild schedule had us on 2 flights, 2 train rides, countless “T” rides and taxi rides. We relocated 6 times.

It was exhausting but tons of fun.

First on the schedule was our grandson Andy’s 1st birthday party. Time has sure flown by between my stint as granny nanny for the little guy and the milestone of his first birthday.

Our darling daughter, Annie, created an adorable Toy Story themed party for 30 friends and relatives.

Happy birthday

The birthday boy loved it all.

Birthday boy

We spent the week hanging out with all three grandkids including trips to the Boston Children’s Museum and the Harvard Natural History Museum.

Chip and dale at museum

One of the many highlights of the week was having lunch with my pal Katie Clooney (author of the fabulous Preppy Empty Nester blog) and the Sudbury sweethearts.

Boston lunch bunch

The second weekend found us in downtown Boston meeting up with some Notre Dame friends for the Shamrock Series football game.

Since 2009, Notre Dame has scheduled one of their home football games on the road providing a full weekend of festivities. The Shamrock Series brings Irish football to fans who may not be able to travel to lovely South Bend, Indiana.

Past games have been played at Yankee Stadium, AT&T Stadium and the Alamodome.

This year the Shamrock Series game was played at Fenway Park in Boston. Our opponent, Boston College, was not amused by the fact that Notre Dame was the home team meaning we got 90% of the tickets, the better locker room and what ever other privileges come with being the home team.

The weekend began with a very special night at Boston’s Symphony Hall.

ND at Boston

The hall is old, storied, elegant and gorgeous.

Symphony Hall Boston

Folks, I will tell you that this concert was one of the most amazing events I have ever experienced.

I will also tell you that it was fully geared towards those with a strong love for Notre Dame.

Anyone else would have needed a dose of pepto bismol.

The incomparable Keith Lockhart led the fabulous Boston Pops, Ronan Tynan (one of the Irish Tenors) sang, the Middlesex County Volunteer Fifes and Drum Corp marched and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus chimed in.

There was a video montage about the history of Notre Dame. Music ranging from Irish tunes and patriotic songs to Bohemian Rhapsody culminated in the singing of our Alma Mater.

The Pops members donned Notre Dame caps and Keith Lockhart shed his tuxedo jacket in favor of a Notre Dame football jersey.

Nauseating, right?

It gets better.

Maestro Lockhart said, “There is one more song that should be included in this concert.”

Suddenly the ND Band’s drum major was on the stage. After a couple of toots from his whistle, every door in the place flew open and the Notre Dame Band marched in filling every aisle, every balcony, every spare corner of Symphony Hall.

Cue the Victory March.

The audience was strictly forbidden from taking pictures during the concert. Since I am a pathological rule follower, I complied.

Lucky for you, there were some professional, sanctioned photographers who captured still shots and video of the night including this:

The next night we were bundled up in Fenway Park for the football game.

Notre Dame at Fenway

The Green Monstah looks pretty good!

The game itself was the low point of the weekend, The Irish won but barely.

OK, moving on.

We wrapped up the east coast tour in New York enjoying dinner with pals Ellie and Archie and the wedding of our son-in-law’s sister.

After weeks on the road it was good to be back home. Even if we were greeted by this…

piles of mail

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