Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Summer Camping!

We love camping! Especially when there are views like this all around. Each summer we try to set aside at least 3 weekends for camping and mark them on the calendar. They get moved around as the wedding, BBQ invitations and notices of visitors arrive. But we are still getting our 3 camping trips in this year!

This is gorgeous Lake Diablo, a result of Diablo Dam which was once the world's tallest dam. It is in the North Cascades and is surrounded by amazing glaciers and forest.

We left on a Friday afternoon and with traffic it took us about 4 hours to get up to our campground. But we found a great spot and set up camp before it got dark. Once that was done it was cocktail time!

The next day we drove around the area to check out Skagit dam, the town of Diablo (which you drive across the dam to get to), and hike around a bit. It is just gorgeous up in this area! As our campground was right on the lake there was the quick dip- but it was VERY quick as the lake is all glacier fed water....brrrrrr! As we left the area on Sunday we made a quick stop into a local winery- it's amazing how no matter where we camp we can always find a winery to taste in on Sunday coming home!

A few weeks ago we met friends from Vancouver Canada up at Mt. Baker and camped in the Silver Fir campground. Great area, right on the river but unfortunately it rained the whole time! Our friends had arrived to the grounds first and had brilliantly got us a site that even though it was pouring rain there was so much tree cover that we could all sit out around the fire. But it was chilly and there would be no hiking. That just gave us all a chance to relax and catch up, chat, have camping cocktails & make nice meals together!

And our final camp trip of the summer was last weekend. We headed out to Lopez Island which is part of the San Juan Islands. Unfortunately the trip started out a bit rocky as on of the ferries that service the islands was down so they had been running a full load behind all day. That meant that even though we were there for the 6:50pm ferry we couldn't get on until the 9pm. Yikes, that is a bit of a wait. Lucky for us we were one of the first to make it to Charlies restaurant and grab a seat in the bar for a few beers and some chowder- others who came in behind us were not so lucky.

We got to the camp site well past dark but had a reservation so no worries. And it was so quiet when we came in that we drove right past a doe grazing on some bushes and she just looked at us and didn't move.

The next day we drove around the island, stopping at Agate Beach but not finding any agates, then on to Shark Reef Park. We did a very short hike up to the bluff and had a picnic lunch overlooking the channel where the Victoria Clipper comes through and a large rock of seal lions were hanging out! One even was swimming around in the water below and it was clear enough to see him twisting and gliding.

We also stopped in the only real town on the island for much needed camping provisions- Us Magazine, a lemon and a bundle of firewood :)

Last stop of the day was at the cute little Lopez Winery for some tasting and a walk through the gardens and vineyards.
All day long we could see 2 large eagles flying around- quite gorgeous. And at night with no city lights anywhere around the stars were amazing. We even both saw the same shooting star!
The next day after we thought we were so early getting to the ferry dock (an hour early!) we found out that we might not make the 12:30pm and could have to wait until 3:30pm. Luckily we were in the last 6 cars they let on board- phew! now that would have been a LONG wait.
Pictures from Lake Diablo are here and pictures from Lopez Island are here

The Tale end...............

It's 10am, do you know which Absinthe you are drinking? Oh this was a scary morning for me- our last day of Tales of the Cocktail. There had been 4 straight days of imbibing and now the real test! Ted Breaux gave a fantastic class on the liquor Absinthe, it's history, it's misconceptions and of course it's taste! The seminar went long as we all had so many questions and Ted had so much information so as soon as it ended we high tailed it down to Harrah's for the closing awards ceremony. Ted Allen was hosting and our fellow Seattlites from Vessel and ZigZag were up for awards.

After watching ZigZag win awards the conference was officially over. A quick lunch of a just ok muffulatta and then back to the hotel for the roof top pool and some sun!

That evening we were very excited to have a wonderful dinner at Restaurant August which I had been looking forward to for some time. The space is gorgeous! And the menu looked great. Unfortunately our service was pretty bad. Slow, slow, slow. Our first courses arrived even before we ordered wine! The entire progression of the meal put us off quite a bit. The food itself was lovely but that is not what we remember now.

Before heading home the next day we arranged a cemetery tour with the Save Our Cemeteries organization. For $6 we had a private tour and all the money goes back to keep the cemetery and it's "residents" kept up.

The tour was good, our guide was a native and even had family in No. 1. He warned us quite a bit about being alone in these cemeteries, not because of ghouls but because of muggings unfortunately. After we walked a bit in the Garden District which is gorgeous and then headed to The Napoleon House for the best muffuletta of our trip and a very refreshing Pimms Cup (or 2) to beat the heat.

a walk down on the riverfront, a quick trolley ride and a cab to the airport was all that was left of our very fun trip. I'm sure we'll be back!

The full set of pictures from NOLA can be seen here!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

More Tales........

After all our seminars that first day at Tales of the Cocktail there was a cocktail party. I thought this would be a simple affair with some meeting & greeting and one or two cocktails before our Spirited Dinner. No. There were possibly 25+ authors and mixologists serving samples of their signature cocktails created for the event. I think Dayne tried all of them! And each cocktail had a recipe card you could take with you, not to mention getting your books signed. Very fun!

We then were off to the Spirited Dinner where cocktails, not wine, were paired with dinner. We chose Commanders Palace and were happy to find out that Wes and Chuck did too so we all had a very fun meal! As Dayne has pointed out, Chuck wrote a wonderful post on the dinner which you can read.

The next day we attended South American cocktails seminar together and learned all about Pisco and Cachaca (and of course tasted them both in drinks and alone.) A very interesting class that gave history and culture of these alcohols.

I also went to a "Secrets of Galatoire's" panel which ended up being 3 incredibly old men who had been having lunch and dinner at Galatoires for probably 200 years all added up and ended up just telling stories about the waiters and their guests. Funny for about 15 mins. Oh well.........

That night Dayne and I went to a fantastic newish restaurant called Cochon. It came highly recommended and I'll continue that....We started with fried boudin with pickled peppers as well as a smoked catfish. For the main I had rabbit & dumplings, YUM! I'm sure we had cocktails after this meal but darn if I can remember!

What I was looking forward to most in NOLA were beignets at Cafe du Monde, and they didn't disappoint! Strong coffees, beignets and a months worth of powdered sugar! LOL! The best part about this breakfast was that it was only a snack, Dayne had a morning seminar after and then we were headed to Brennan's for their famous breakfast! and eye openers, cocktails created to drink with breakfast, damn I love New Orleans! Mine was the brandy milk punch and Dayne's is a sazarac.

There was turtle soup, gumbo, eggs benedict Brennans style, and fire! I mean Bananas Foster! ha!

Then it was back to "school" where Beach Bum Berry was teaching a class on Tiki Drinks!

Dinner that night was at GWFinns which was just ok for us, it felt a bit like a McCormick & Schmitts (sp) and their bar was very disappointing. We had started at Arnauds French 75 bar where I had a nice namesake. And of course there were cocktails later at our new favorite The Swizzle Stick Bar @ Cafe Adelaide.

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