July 21, 2014

Houston, Taiwanese summer camp, sushi, zoo...

The daughter had to be in Houston for a FASCA summer camp at the Taipei Culture Office.  

houston culture office taiwan

houston taiwanese fasca summer program 

The program was a bit stressful to her, the other kids were fluent, she's only had one year of Chinese. Her "leadership" class resulted with her doing a bunch of following the other kids since she didn't understand most of what was being said. I dropped her off early each morning and picked her up late each night. She was exhausted by the time the program was complete, and happy to be done with certificate in hand.

The boys and I spent our days exploring Houston.

Pro tip: either secure an EZ-Tag BEFORE you drive in Houston, or set your GPS to avoid toll roads BEFORE you get there.   

houston zoo 

I almost had to force the boys to go to the zoo. They were glad I did, it was really nice.  

houston zoo aquarium 

houston zoo 

houston zoo ostrich zebra giraffe 

houston zoo giraffe 

albino alligator houston zoo 

Albino gator!

We enjoyed exploring the "Museum District". 

houston museum district 

houston museum district reflecting pool 

houston museum district 

houston sculpture garden 

houston sculpture garden 

houston sculpture garden 

houston sculpture garden 

houston joan miro sculpture 

And we ate food...   

pndicheri houston indian breakfast upper kirby 

I'd never had Indian breakfast before. We really liked Pondicheri 

pondicheri indian breakfast houston upper kirby 

Ethnic foods are what Houston seems to do really well. #1 son noticed the abundance of sushi places. The daughter doesn't care for sushi but she was at camp. I struck a deal with #1 son, we can eat sushi for every meal, but you have to eat all that you order.  and so we came to eat huge sushi meals, three in a row (not counting breakfast) 

houston sushi  

We ate it all...  Kata Robata was our favorite and Sushi Wabi was our second favorite (and very inexpensive during HH).

sushi houston tx 

houston mochi sushi wabi 

even had room for mochi... 

pico's mex-mex houston mexican fine dining 

I requested Mexican for our last meal. Pico's was a really nice restaurant. They took good care of us.  

lake austin hula hut 

We came home and met Kat at Hula Hut. It's literally down the street from our home, and between home and Kat's office. It's good to stop in once and a while since we drive by daily.

Schlitterbahn #5 and the HH seafood feast that followed

comal river new braunfels schlitterbahn 

another dip into the Comal River. 

 

torrent river sclitterbahn new braunfels

#2 son has requested thirteen additional schlitterbahn trips into his summer. He later agreed that ten would be ok... I'll try to make it happen. (big wave behind about to hit us in the pic above)

schlitterbahn kristal river lazy 

schlitterbahn bar new braunfels 

A friend from many, many years back is staying with us due to family business/emergency.  We did manage to drag him out with us for the afternoon. He's the guy that  keeps the Target distribution center operating, so we had to get him on the conveyor belt at Schlitterbahn. 

target distrubution center conveyor belt tech  

We came home and cleaned up for a quick meal downtown at Truluck's 

truluck's austin sunday happy hour all night seafood 

Apps and drinks are half price all night on Sunday...  we had oysters, shrimp, mussels and ceviche....  

truluck's seafood austin happy hour 

July 13, 2014

Mid Summer Stuffs and a 24 oz dry aged steak.

We were at Trader Joe's when I saw the container of apricots. "can you make a tart?" I asked my wife...

apricot tart

and she did.  

austin mod house apricot tart 

and we appreciated her effort and made it known by devouring it.

austin succulent xeriscape cactus carden 

the vast majority of our lot is un-landscaped. But I greatly enjoy this small and healthy succulent garden we have near the front door. It requires no additional water, and has so many different textures and methods of poking you if you don't respect it. 

cactus garden austin ocatilla 

Schlitterbahn trip #4 ($25 per trip) 

schlitterbahn new braunfels palapa cabana

snagged our favorite cabana.  

torrent river new braunfels 

nana at schlitterbahn con-vader belt

Daughter and Nana on the "Con-Vader belt" as #2 son calls it. As we rode up he said to me, "you can be the avocado and I will be the onion". This is part of "The Falls". This tube ride is nearly 20 minutes and loops so you can ride all day w/o getting out of your tube if you wish. Video sample posted at the end of this entry. 

sclitterbahn the falls new braunfels 

schlitterbahn schuster selfie   

flour and vine austin soup of the day 

He ALWAYS orders the "soup of the day." Mom had a groupon for Flour & Vine to redeem. We all enjoyed the dinner.   

flour & vine happy hour humboldt cheese 

The Humboldt Fog cheese and spicy sausage are discounted during Happy Hour, it's worth going and having.

Grandson and Grandmother did a napkin dance. 

 

Kouign-Amann Austin 

THAT, is Kouign-Amann. It was on my list of "must eat" things while in Montreal. But it didn't happen. ; BUT, I did find frozen ones from Trader Joe's. You have to thaw them the night before. They were good.   

Trader Joe's Kouign-amann 

truluck's happy hour cocktails saturday austin 

Truluck's downtown Austin has reopened. We ducked in to sample their Happy Hour (4:30-7PM on Saturday). The Oysters Rockefeller were also good. 

capital grille austin generous pour oysters col water 

The GM of Capital Grille sent me an offer to come enjoy a meal, he bought the food and we bought the wine using their Generous Pour offer. I'd read about their "dry aged" steaks and was ready to try it.  We also had oysters, and steak tartare (a generous portion). We shared a 24 oz dry aged porterhouse steak. That was a BIG chunk of meat. Even split two ways, now way the two of us could finish it.

steak tartare austin capital grille 

dry aged porterhouse steak austin capital grille

It's really dark in there, but that is my half of the steak, smothered under fried onions. If you like steak house style dining, Capital Grille is worth the dining experience. Our waiter Gene was really good to us.

CHEERS! Capital Grille Austin 

CHEERS!

July 08, 2014

Burlington Vermont, Cheese and Beer!

The drive from Montreal to Burlington is only about 2.5 hours. Kat opened leftovers of Quebec cheeses and duck confit. She made us each bite sized snacks that were delicious and greatly appreciated. The leftovers didn't get thrown away and she didn't even fall asleep in the car!

Checked into the Sheraton and the kids were ready to swim.

indoor pool burlington sheraton

burlington main street 

Burlington has a long pedestrian street lined with sidewalk café and live music venues.  All the food looked and smelled good too. 

farmhouse tap and grill burlington oysters 

Cold water oysters.

farmhouse tap and grill burlington local food 

As with most everyplace we visited in Vermont, everything on the menu lists the local farm where it was sourced from. We ate at the Farmhouse Tap & Grill.

vermont cheese board farmhouse tap grill burlington 

WOW! that Vermont Cheese board with house made apple butter was good!

vermont cheese at farmhouse burlington 

We also had a "sweet caroline"  cheese from Lazy Lady Farm that had a lovely stink to it!

chicken wings vermont 

Kat was most excited about the chicken wings.  They tasted so much like chicken! sure, they SHOULD taste like chicken. But we're so used to chicken wings that have no real chicken flavor outside of the sauce and salty seasoning applied.

farmhouse tap and grill beets and cheese 

burlington sunset over the lake 

We caught a nice sunset over Lake Champlain as our vacation came to a close.   

Montreal Notre Dame and the FESTIVAL INTERNATIONAL de JAZZ

Started our day with French breakfast at La Cartet. 

Le Cartet Montreal breakfast 

bowl of cafe au laiat at le cartet 

Kat was quite happy with her café au lait bowl I ordered her. Said it was the best coffee she ever had.

old montreal 

Walked along the park and water in Old Montreal.

tsa confiscated some of our food from quebec 

We'd purchased some fancy food items from Le Cartet, most of it made it back to the USA. TSA confiscated the ground cherry jam...   

basilica notre dame montreal 

basilica notre dame montreal 

(BIG) 

basilica notre dame montreal 

lunch in china town montreal 

I knew a Chinese lunch in Chinatown would please Kat. I'd bookmarked a place on yelp a few months back.

handmade dumplings Montreal chinatown 

Dumplings are made to order.

montreal chinatown  

These dumplings were really good, and cheap too! $7.99 per 15, extra $1.50 if you want them pan fried.

soup in dumplings montreal 

Kat also had some "soup-in" dumplings, that also had soup out...

fried dumplings montreal chinatown 

(I know the pic is sideways)

happy dumplings of montreal 

nyk's bistro montreal

We went back for more Summer Weizen.

nyk's bistro pub montreal french onion soup 

and the kids loved the French Onion Soup at Nyk's Bistro. The soup was not so salty like so many places prepare it here (USA) 

Montreal International Festival de JAZZ 

It just so happened to be Montreal International Festival de Jazz while we where there. This is a free event, no tickets required (to most of the shows). And YES, that is carpet on the floor, and sofas and coffee tables and table service...  a festival goer could get used to this sort of luxury. 

 

international jazz festival montreal  

Riot and the Blue Devils Montreal Jazz Festival

Riot and the Blue Devils 

montreal international jazz festival heineken tent 

katy guillen & the girls montreal jazz festival

Katy Guillen & The Girls

ibrahim electric montreal festival de jazz 

Ibrahim Electric really impressed everybody in the tent.  Rock, Jazz and Funk...  some great extended jams... #1 son bought a CD from the band after the show. Kat had them sign it.

ibrahim electric 

ibrahim electric montreal 

crepe shop montreal 

We got the kids crepes to eat for dinner back at the W, and some macaroons that had been acquired earlier in the day... 

macaroons montreal 

brutopia montreal 

We found local beers at Brutopia and had some good food from Otto there at the W (below)

Otto Montreal w hotel restaurant 

We were just about the only people in Otto. We chatted with the staff and the Chef came out and gave us instructions on where we could buy the local cheeses featured on their cheese board. We did get lunch at the Atwater Market, and we did buy cheese, but in a series of mishaps and errors, did not bring back any of that delicious cheese.  #1 son did purchase some Challerhocker, and that did make it past the TSA, but I can buy that cheese here at the Central Market.  BUT I did find the rental car keys and did find my ipad, both had been misplaced for a brief but stressful moment of time.  But all's well that ends well.  we packed it up and made the short drive to USA (Vermont) 

 

 

Montreal and the AU PIED DE COCHON

Arrived at W Hotel Montreal!

montreal victoria square w hotel 

W hotel Montreal lobby wifi 

#1 son spent a good bit of time in the lobby. The in-room wifi didn't cooperate with his ipad. Free lobby wifi was a good fit for him.

While the W hotel Montreal is very nice, it's nowhere near as kid friendly as the one in Austin. We tried to have a snack and beverage during Happy Hour and were quickly told that we can't bring the kids with us... 18 and over only (18 is the drinking age there).  The W Austin has several areas where adults and kids can both get food and enjoy the spaces.

We noticed the beautiful image of a rooftop pool that displayed in the elevator. Montreal was having a hot day and we decided a quick dip would be ideal. BUT, we learned the hotel does not have a pool. We had to switch gears quickly on that one. 

maison christian faure montreal croissants 

After checking in at the W, I checked my yelp bookmarks, then we walked a few blocks to find croissants and macaroons at Maison Christain Faure 

maison christian faure montreal 

A few other pastries...

maison christian faure montreal 

Some juice too...

macaroons at maison christian faure montreal  

Those macaroons were a real crowd pleaser.

tart at maison christian faure montreal 

spork of maisin cristian faure montreal croissants 

Croissant and a spork!

We got the kids some croissant sandwiches to eat at the W, we had a long walk ahead of us, a couple miles at least. We did take a break when necessary...

summer weizen at Nyk's pub montreal 

Kat fell in love with a beer (again). This was a "Summer Weizen" at Nyk's Pub 

mussels at Nyk's bistro montreal 

And the mussels!  They were perfect. Reminded us of our usual mussel feast back in Baltimore.

Au Pied de Cochon Montreal 

We were a few minutes late for our reservation at AU PIED DE COCHON. The walk was a bit longer than necessary, probably should have switched the GPS to walk as it did a lot of zig-zag as we strayed from the path and used one-way streets.  I'd reserved this table SIX MONTHS AGO! It's not easy to get into this place.

au pied de cochon montreal  

foie gras montreal au pied de cochon 

The Plogue à Champlain is by far, the best foie gras I've ever had, easily. Nothing comes close.  

au piede de cochon duck in a can 

There it is, their famous "duck in a can"

duck in a can montreal au pied de cochon 

The "duck in a can" was so good it deserved its own portrait.

duck in a can montreal au pied de cochon 

July 07, 2014

Quebec City, in one big post

canada border crossing into quebec

Canadian Border Agent: Why are you travelling to Canada?

Me: We want to eat croissants.

CBA: don't you have croissants where you come from?

Me: Yes, but we've heard the ones in Quebec are MUCH better!

CBA: (extends him arm to hand back our passports with a big wide smile) Enjoy your KWUH-SAHN! (croissant with thick French accent) 

and just like that, EVERYTHING was in French. The street signs, advertisements... all French. Road markings are mainly the same. We made sure our GPS had the latest Canadian map and also featured gas stations and restaurants if we had any travel needs. Yes, gasoline is extremely expensive up there. 

It was a long drive to Quebec City. But when we arrived... it was like being in Europe, except people are nicer and prices are reasonable. 

quebec city 

rue st jean quebec 

I was taking a pic of the family when  a guy speaking only French offered to take the pic so I could jump in. Hand over a $800 camera to a complete stranger who does not speak the same language? sure.

They close off Rue St Jean each evening. We spent that time strolling up and down sampling food and local beverages from the various café'.

quebecois croissant and macaroons 

We stayed within the fortified old city, at the Manoir Victoria. I had researched croissant places months ahead, and one was just outside our hotel window. 

We loved Paillard and enjoyed breakfast here every morning. for $7.99 you get croissant with egg, cheese, bacon/ham, a fruit cup and a coffee.   

rue st jean quebec 

le hobbit quebec french restaurant 

Local wine and steak tartare at Le Hobbit.

steak tartare at le hobbit quebec 

We ate quite a bit of steak/salomn tartare. #1 son LOVES the stuff and always requests it, unless there is a "soup of the day", he's a sucker for that too.

#2 son enjoyes street musicians in old quebec 

bar les yeux bleu quebec city 

Walking back to the Hotel after dinner, we heard live music and laughter coming from this alley across the street.  Kat and I went back to check out local music and blanche.

bar les yeux bleus quebec 

The crowd sang along with a guy that quickly ripped through CCR and Johnny Cash songs. A group of happy girls did some line dancing. They also had an impromptu exhibition of strength (arm wrestling). Pitchers of Blanche were going down easily in the Bar Les Yeux Bleus! 

blues bar on ru st jean quebec 

old quebec city 

I prefer to explore a city by foot. I can walk for miles. #2 son has shorter legs. When he spotted that double decker site seeing bus, I knew resistance was futile. When Kat saw the shuttle service to the Montmorency Falls with cable car ride, I knew it was best to go along for the ride. We were real tourists on guided tours! The extra history lessons were a nice addition that I did enjoy.

chateau frontenac quebec castle 

quebec city castle 

Quebec was experiencing a heat wave. I thought it was funny at first, but it was hot and humid.

quebec castle  

chateau frontenac quebec 

quebec water fountain 

We had just one hour between our city tour on the double decker bus, and the shuttle to the falls. We needed lunch in that time as well. I had resigned to being raped by some place that had a great location. I ended up being surprised. 

bistro 1640 quebec 

Bistro 1640, I'd go back again, they were not cheap, but I didn't feel like they took advantage of me (or maybe I'm easy?). 

bistro 1640 

BLANCHE DE CHAMBLY!  great service too.  The nearly $20 for a salad didn't surprise me, but it came with shrimp and a choice of soup or liver pate'! not a bad deal at all!  It was all delicious, a pleasant surprise.  

blanche de chambly unibroue quebec 

So good it deserves its own portrait. 

bistro 1640 quebec  

Poutine, Ceasar Salad with shrimp and Steelhead Tartare.   

quebec

montmorency falls cable car quebec 

Cable car ride at Montmorency Falls. 

cable car quebec montmorency falls water 

montmorency falls quebec 

(BIG) 

looking down montmorency falls quebec 

suspended bridge over montmorency falls quebec 

Pedestrian bridge over the falls. 

top of montmorency falls qeubec 

crepes on ru st jean quebec 

Crepe stop on Rue St Jean, a touch more of the blanche.

sidewalk cafe ru st jean quebec 

escargot on ru st jean quebec 

Escargot! #2 son tried one and liked it. The other two kids picked at the cheese and sopped up the garlic butter with bread.

escargot at sidewalk cafe old quebec city

We'd arranged reservations at Chez Boulay for the evening. 


chez boulay old quebec duck goose confit and seafood plate 

Everybody was well worn down by our 8 PM table time. I was the bad guy asking the family to resist the urge to use electronic devices at the table. I should have explained my expectations ahead of time. My general rule for fancy restaurants (ones that require reservations, have cloth napkins and pour the water from a bottle not a pitcher) is to refrain from gazing and poking at an iDevice for extended periods of time. Everybody was a bit cranky and my urges were not well received. The food was good, especially the goose and duck confit.

chez boulay manoir victoria quebec 

(pic above was taken the morning after we ate at Chez Boulay, when everybody was in better spirits following a good nights sleep).   We mostly enjoyed the duck/goose confit as we drove to Montreal. Kat would load up a crispy (old) baguette slice with confit and we ate as we drove along at 100 KPH. It was greatly appreciated. 

 

 

 

 

 

July 06, 2014

Vermont in a day

 We only had one full day in VT. We visited the capitol, Montpelier. The only US capitol that does not have a McDonald's. We shopped book stores and cruised the gardens around the state house.

prohibition pig vermont  

Vermont has more breweries per capita than any other state. We didn't see a single place offering Bud, just local beers.

prohibition pig brisket sandwich and duck fat fries 

While I was skeptical about ordering BBQ, the brisket was a respectable offering. Not quite Franklin material, but it was good. The duck fat fries also went down well.

prohibition pig smoked brisket vermont bbq 

Prohibition Pig was good.  

prohibition pig waterbury vt vermont 

House made pickle tray and kale salad.

ben and jerry's factory tour waterbury vt 

of course we had to take the kids on the factory tour at Ben & Jerry's

ben & jerry's ice cream factory tour vermont 

dead flavor graveyard ben & jerry's vermont factory 

The dead flavor graveyard. 

cabot cheese annex store vermont 

maple syrup samplecabot annex vermont 

vermont ale house  

Kat fell in love with a beer at the Vermont Ale House. This became a frequent event on this trip as the beer was really, really good. Her selection was Green Goose by Jack's Abby, their Sunny Ridge aged with Cucumber, Green Tea, Lemongrass, and Gooseberries. I thought it sounded a bit strange, but it worked well.

There was a festival going on while we were in Stowe, Bikes, Bevs and Beats. People were mountain biking, enjoying live music and discounted drinks all over the valley. We caught a set by the Eames Brothers Band

 

northern lights hotel stowe vt river behind 

This river ran behind the Hotel we stayed at. Kat and I enjoyed coffee here each morning. Scenery like this was everywhere in VT. 

dylan's cafe vermont neko case garden 

We stopped for lunch at Dylan's café on our way to Quebec. I understand that Neko Case has a farm nearby, and this is where you might sample some of the products grown there... (she also owns the building)  We enjoyed it and I had the first lobster roll that didn't suck. In fact it was quite good and loaded with delicious lobster. The local (TEXAS) lobster rolls are mostly bread and require two pints of beer just to get down.  

Warren Falls Vermont Swimming Hole

vermont mad river valley warren falls  

I'd looked at many online pics of Warren Falls. I'm a skeptical person, so I wasn't convinced it would be as pretty as I'd seen on the interwebs...  it was. 

warren falls vt summer 2014

people were enjoying the warm (75) summer day by jumping from rocks and falling off this log down into the cool water.  

warren falls vermont 2014 

warren falls jump vermont swim hole 

#1 son didn't hesitate to throw himself from the rock a couple times.

warren vermont falls mad river valley 

warren falls vt 2014 

This is from the top pool/water fall. There are three falls with two deep pools to jump into. 

vermont swimming holes water clarity 

This would be a fish's view (underwater) if it were about to go over the falls. That water is really clear. 

warren falls vermont 

warren fall rock jump girl  

This brave girl kept herself busy jumping again and again. 

warren falls cliff diver girl 

warren falls vt rock jump 

warren falls vermont swimmin hole 

vermont warren falls 

(BIG) 

vermont river water falls warren

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