Showing posts with label tour. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tour. Show all posts

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West (Scottsdale, AZ)

If you love architecture and find yourself in the Phoenix area in the future, you need to take a tour of Taliesin West. Even for myself, who is not that knowledgeable in architecture, I found the tour extremely fun! Taliesin West in Scottsdale was the winter home of Frank Lloyd Wright, but the property also doubles as his architecture school. You can't explore the property on your own, as Taliesin West is still functioning as an architecture school, but the $32 tour ticket is well worth it to not only see Taliesin West but also hear the stories behind the building and the various aspects of it.

Taliesin West

During the 90-minute tour, you'll hear about this petroglyph and how the carvings inspired Wright's iconic Whirling Arrow, which actually symbolizes "fellowship".
Taliesin West
Or how he came to use these Chinese ceramic sculpture and how each one signifies that you are entering a different area of Taliesin West.
Taliesin West

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Travel: Living Desert Zoo & Gardens (Palm Desert, CA)

So Palm Springs Restaurant Week started this past weekend. If you haven't checked it out, you still have time since it's running til June 16!

It's not just about restaurant deals, they also have specials on local attractions like the Red Jeep Desert Tour.

When I was there I also checked out The Living Desert Zoo and Botanical Gardens. There were so many cute animals there!

First we passed by an expansive model train display

Next, giraffes! Giraffes eating, giraffes peeing ...

The great thing about Living Desert is that you can get quite close to some of the animals there, since the zoo is not as large or popular as San Diego.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Travel: Tour The San Andreas Fault with Red Jeep Tours (Palm Springs,CA)

One thing I love about Palm Springs Restaurant Week is the Eat.See.Stay deal they have going on. It's not just deals on restaurants but also hotels and attractions like museums, the Living Desert zoo, and tours of the San Andreas fault. During the Restaurant Week, Desert Adventures Red Jeep Tours is doing a combo package with an Indian Canyon eco-tour and lunch at select restaurants ($125), or a San Andreas Fault stargazing/nightwatch tour with dinner ($150).

During our media trip to Palm Springs, we got a chance to experience the San Andreas fault tour.

The red jeeps taking us on the tour
Our tour guide has been with the company for a long time and was very knowledgeable. Our first stop was the oasis. Oasis in the middle of the desert? Yep, apparently there's over 40 billion acres of water underneath this desert and there are palm trees everywhere in this oasis.
Palm Springs Oasis

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


No play-by-play "my take" of the dishes for you, just those that stood out for me. No need for me to play the food critic, who am I anyway?
Alinea's is a meal worth experiencing, and I'm just going to share my experience.

A nondescript door. If it wasn't for the valet parking sign, you wouldn't notice the place. Down the hallway a sliding metal door to your left.

We were led to the second floor and these "flags" of flower-pressed rice paper were placed on our table.
"Don't eat it yet. Just sit and admire them for now."

English Pea (iberico, sherry, honeydew)

Shad Roe (shallot, mustard, bay aroma)
Bayleaf stemmed out of the fried shad roe, but it's only for the aroma. Eat everything else in one bite.

A pair of two shrimp courses:
Yuba (shrimp, miso togarashi) - the shrimp is wrapped around the dried yuba.

Chao Tom (sugar cane, shrimp, mint) - "Chew but don't swallow."

An extra napkin was provided for you to spit out the chewed sugar cane gracefully. Or try to.

Distillation of Thai Flavors
I saw the video about this "flavored water" and totally thought it was an April Fool's joke. No joke. This glass of water was absolutely spiced with thai spices.

This shot of 'water' is just a primer for the next course.

Pork Belly (curry, cucumber, lime) - a DIY spring roll.
This was paired with: Abbazia di Novacella Kerner, Valle Isarco, Alto Adige 2008.

"Pick up the glass and place it in front of you"
Salt, fried shallots, bananas, basil seeds, cashews, onions, chili paste, etc.
Then we had to arrange the metal contraption and they placed the flower-decked rice paper we've been admiring all this time.
Topped it with deliciously creamy and fatty looking pork belly.
Add all the condiments in (yes, ALL), and wrap.

Lobster (parfait, salad, soup)
Paired with: K Vintners Viognier, Columbia Valley, Washington 2008.
The Parfait (chilled lobster consomme, greek yogurt, grapefruit cells, ginger pate de fruit, poppy seeds and pistachio-butter powder, topped with quenelle pistachio ice cream and poppy seed nage).
"Don't touch the bottom part, it'll burn your hands."
Confused (because the parfait is chilled), we asked, what could possibly make it so hot.
"Oh, I can't tell you something like that."

Upon finishing our parfait, the servers lifted the top, revealing, voila! the Salad (Eggplant confit and Poached Lobster).
Sneaky, sneaky.
The server poured lobster bisque over the salad and it traveled down the slits on the bowl. "For aroma," he said.
Again the bowl at the top is removed, this time revealing various spices soaking in the poured lobster bisque.
Lobster bisque meets Masala chai? Yes, please.


Duck (morels, asparagus, chamomile)
Paired with: Casar de Burbia, Bierzo, Spain 2006.

Barhi Date (maple sap, lemon, cognac)

Bacon (butterscotch, apple, thyme)

Kumquat (rye, peychaud's, demerara)

Foie Gras (pear, white wine, allspice)
Paired with: Reinhold Haart 'Piesporter Goldtropfchen' Riesling Auslese, Mosel 2002.
A three-layered dish. The pink/orange crumbles you see on top are the foie gras.
A nice pairing with the late harvest Riesling that cuts the richness and sweetness.

Green Almond (yuzu, wasabi, basil flower)
Sushi rice gelee topped with the above.

Sturgeon (potato, leek, smoke)
Paired with Avanthia Godello, Valdeorras, Spain 2008
Smoked sturgeon topped with leeks and potato-sauce-sheet.
This dish was created by sous chef Andrew Graves and apparently the first dish in Alinea history to be introduced on the menu before Chef Achatz being on hand to see the final prototype.

Hot Potato (cold potato, black truffle, butter)

At this point my wine glass was switched out to this gorgeously decorated antique wine glass. This was filled with the wine for the next pairing: Albert Morot Beaune-Toussaint 1er Cru, Cote de Beaune 2006.
The sommelier explained Burgundy has been making "ready-to-drink" wines to compete with new world producers. Though I didn't really think it was "ready to drink" (drink-able, but much too tannic), I'm hopeful for the pairing.

Our next silverware was also noticeably antique.

Filet de Boeuf (godard) - wagyu tenderloin, black truffles, mushroom cap, sweetbreads, cockscomb (yes, cockscomb - see it? right hand side), quenelle of beef mousse.
Alinea has been introducing an "antique" dish, "interrupting" their typical meal with an iteration of a classic recipe from Auguste Escoffier's 1903 cookbook, Le Guide Culinaire.
The pairing ended up working pretty well too as the astringency of the wine and the richness of the dish balance each other out.

Black Truffle (explosion, black truffle, butter)
A ravioli filled with black truffle "tea", topped with a slice of black truffle and butter.
Lots of truffle essence here. Love it.

Squab (charred strawberries, lettuce, birch log)
Paired with: Anima Negra "An", Mallorca, Spain 2005.
Probably the most memorable dish, the heated birch log was emitting this wonderful aroma. We stopped and smelled for a few seconds before proceeding with our food.

Lemon Soda
Since I had to take this in one shot and can't place it on the table, taking a photo was impractical. No photo for you, lemon soda for me :p

Bubble Gum (long pepper, hibiscus, creme fraiche)
"Hold it level, and take it in one go from the red end."

Transparency of raspberry, yogurt

Earl Grey (lemon, pine nut, caramelized white chocolate) - served on a pillow containing earl grey aroma (!)

Chocolate (coconut, menthol, hyssop)
At this point our table is cleared and a silicone cover is placed over it.
The ingredients for our final dessert is placed on the side.
I had seen the chef de cuisine came out and prepared this dessert for another table that night, so it wasn't a total surprise. Still, I was hopeful ... and lucky me, Chef Grant Achatz himself came out to our table and prepared our table-top dessert.

Coconut milk, chewy coconut, menthol cream, frozen coconut mousse, warm coconut mousse.
(by the way, I was also curious why the menthol cream turned into squares on the silicone. Anyone knows? Chemists?)

The clear cylinders were then removed revealing the now-solidified warm chocolate mousse.
And voila. We attacked it and turned it into a Pollock.

So there you have it, the Alinea Tour for $225 per person (and $80 for my "mini" wine pairing that was not so mini after all), a truly unique dining experience.

1723 N Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60614
(312) 867-0110
Alinea on Urbanspoon

Friday, June 5, 2009

Smell that Coffee. Intelligentsia Roasting Works Tour

The roaster's and barista's job is to bring the natural flavors of the coffee beans to the customers, without messing up the steps in between. This was (rephrased per my memory) what Nick Griffith from Intelligentsia (also recent Western Regional Barista Champion) told us during our tour of their roasting facility in Glassell Park.

Thanks to blogger friend Mattatouille, I was able to tag along on this tour with other foodbloggers Choisauce, Diglounge, LA&OC Foodie, and Teenage Glutster. If Los Angeles is having any sort of 'coffee movement', Intelligentsia is undoubtedly in the forefront. If it isn't, Intelligentsia is definitely working hard to change that.

The roasting facility is pretty noticeable with the Intelligentsia logo painted on the wall and their trucks parked outside.
Naturally our initial focus is drawn to their roaster - a beautiful vintage (from the mid-century) contraption attached to a giant vacuum (to suck out nails or whatever else that might've accidentally made their way into your beans).
Even though it's a vintage, it's been outfitted with modern technology to fit their needs here at Intelligentsia. It can roast up to 40 kg of coffee.
The roasting machine, along with many other things there, is decorated with the Intelligentsia logo.

Right near the roasters were the green coffee beans that Intelligentsia uses for its Black Cat Espresso blend, which now has become a standard for espressos at many restaurants and establishments.
The Black Cat blend is not a fixed blend of beans - they are modified depending on what high quality ingredients are available (since all produce is seasonal!) at the time to ensure high standards.

We also got a sneak peek at the individual barista's "station" which will be operational at the new Intelligentsia Venice on Abbott Kinney.
The idea behind these stations are individualized attention for each customer, and Nick Griffith likened it to choosing your hair stylist when you go get a hair cut. The stations have adjustable height to accommodate each barista. I'm definitely excited about checking this out when they open - I just hope this doesn't make the wait even longer :P

The tour ended in their training room a.k.a the lab, which is equipped with a La Marzocco espresso machine from the 1970's. La Marzocco has been producing handmade espresso machines since 1927, and while as of late there are quality competition entering the market, this Florence-made machines have pretty much been regarded as the top-of-the-line (at a price, unfortunately. Their home machine, the GS3, runs around $7500 ... ).
Trainees and also the baristas who are preparing for regional/national competition practice here. This Marzocco machine has a programmable water temperature to ensure proper brewing of different types of coffee blend - how fancy! I wish I can afford one (and know how to use it properly).

At the very end we huddled around a white board where they have left a graph of roasting temperature - you have to modulate the temperature properly so as not to bring out the best flavors. The conversation at this point became quite scientific (starch break-down, acid, caramelization, etc). We'll leave it to the experts here at Intelligentsia to do the proper roasting and brewing :)

I'm pretty much a coffee amateur but this tour was very interesting and educational. I can see why Intelligentsia has the reputation that it does. Thank you Nick Griffith for taking the time to show us around!

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