What’s a Palate?

There was a time, and I KNOW it will be shocking to many of you, that I was NOT the refined sophisticate that you see (or should I say read) before you today.  Yes, I must confess, I didn’t even know what a palate was, let alone profess to have one back then.  My wife has worked hard to develop my tastes since we met!

 

I just didn’t know what good was, for some things.  For example, when it came to beer, whatever was cheap, or, better yet, whatever someone else was buying, was the perfect beer!  You’ve seen my name, Mountainstroh.  Well we drank Stroh’s (America’s only Fire-Brewed beer, in small copper kettles.) mainly because unlike other beers, it came in 15 packs!  Three, yes three, Extra beers for the same price as a half rack.  This gave rise to the legendary Strohs Bros&Fros  of Washington State University!   In fact, we wallpapered our dining room one year with our leftovers.

 

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Nowadays, when I go for beer its good beer.  I live in the land of microbrews.  The WORST beer I will drink is Redhook.  There are so many others to choose I could kill my liver just trying them all!  My favorites are Mirror Pond  and Rogue Ales.

 

Rogue Ales
Rogue Ales (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

I can only tolerate bad beer now in case of snakebite!  And even then I am not sure I would allow it!

 

Now let’s move on to wine!  Anyone remember Cella Lambrusco?  Imagine if you will Kool-aid with an alcoholic content.  Loved that stuff!  There was one camping trip in which I was “sipping” out of the bottle while setting up the tent.  In what seemed to be 15 minutes later it was gone!  I distinctly remember one last rational thought “OH this is gonna be bad!”  The next thing I remember is crawling out of the bushes near camp,  and trying to get as close as possible to the fire because I was COLD!  Not a good night.

 

Since then I have moved up to good wine!  Now I am not in any way a wine expert.  I have 3 categories.  Damn that’s good, Eh its ok, and Spit that crap out!  I can’t taste pepper, meat, chocolate or oak, I taste wine when I sip wine.  I can still tolerate cheap wine, but this weekend we are going wine tasting in Walla Walla and I am SO looking forward to it!

 

Now for some things, my palate is the same as its been since I was a kid.  The best Mac & cheese is Kraft mac and cheese!  And I make it better than anyone!  Hell, sometimes Michelle and I have it for breakfast on weekends.  Peanut butter?  Is Jifor Skippy, NOT chunky! (bleh) and I loves Smuckers Strawberry Jam.  Cheese?  Tillamook cheddar is best!  I could eat a block in a night if I let myself.

 

All of this my wife is ok with, she has helped me widen my experiences with food and drink, and helped me find things we both like!

 

HOWEVER, (and this is how this post got started) one thing she hasn’t been able to instill in me is the love of good coffee.  Today in the lunch room I was pouring myself the basic office coffee.  “How can you drink that swill??! she asked?

 

I love bad coffee.  Here I am in the land that spawned Starbucks, Tully’s and bikini barista stands, and I go for office swill.  We use to have this old silver urn in the lunchroom.  I am convinced it was never cleaned.  The coffee had a metalic tang…. DAMN it was good!.  I like to get a drip coffee at Starbucks, but I am just as happy hitting AM/PM for a huge cup of over burnt, brewed all day coffee!  Too thick to drink, but too thin to plow, strong enough to float a horseshoe, and requiring a bit a chewing before swallowing.  Just a little pinch of it between the cheek and gums sure tastes good!

 

I have stopped drinking beer or wine to get drunk, but I still drink coffee for the caffeine buzz!  Nothing wakes you up better on a late night drive than day old, stuck to the bottom of the pot sludge!  Mmmmmmmmmmmm!!  Couple it with a Diet Mountain Dew later, and you can drive forever!!

 

So, as I have stated before, it takes a village to raise a Tony.  But even the village isn’t perfect.  Who’s up for a late night run to 7-11 with me???

 

Woodinville’s Willows Lodge

When it comes to hotels, I am not picky!  When my youngest and I did the Zombie Run last year, we stayed in the cheapest, tackiest hotel in Chehalis (Nothing moved and I never saw any bugs….).  When I biked the Or Coast, I just wanted walls and a bed.  So again I am not picky

However, when my wife and I go somewhere for a special occasion, it is ok to go all out.  This was the plan Friday night.  It was our 3rd anniversary last week.  Last year for our anniversary (or close to it anyway) we went to Key West.  This wasn’t an option this year, so Friday night we spent the night at the Willows Lodge.

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This is in the middle of Woodinville’s best area for wine tasting, right next door to the Redhook Brewery and right off my favorite bike path!

Just to let you know they are all about nature, this is next to the front door

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And you walk through this to get to the restaurant across the parting lot

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When you go in, your first see this look through fire-place:

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On the other side is the fire side lounge, our favorite date night place!  The staff welcomes you with a glass of either red or white wine as you check in, and they are there for your every need for as long as you stay!

My wife loves the spa, she has had messauges , the best facials ever, and manicures there.  Not being s spa boy I can’t give you first hand knowledge, but I have seen her come out of there relaxed and ready for a nap, which I hear is a good thing!

The grounds are gorgeous!  image

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With walking paths, ponds and gas fire pits to help you stay comfy.

Then there are the rooms……

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King sized, VERY comfy beds…

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Gas Fireplaces and sitting areas (we brought the wine!)

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A balcony with a great view, and my favorite part

imageA Giant bathtub!  Two people can soak in this with room to spare, and hell if you want you can even watch a movie while soaking!  The shower (which I am sorry I forgot to take a picture) is huge as well.  I seldom rave about a bathroom in a hotel, but this is VERY cool!

Now I am not a gourmet person at all.  But for those who are, the Barking Frog, the restaurant at the lodge is award-winning.  I find the dinners there too fancy, but the room service menu has “real” food.  Mac and Cheese, a pizzette (basically a damn good cheese pizza!) a burger and other simpler food (for simple people like me!)  The breakfast menu is stellar though!  We take her mom there a lot as a special treat.  They always pamper her (almost 80 year olds deserve it!)

I was still fried from recent workouts, so Michelle and I ordered room service for both dinner and breakfast,  She fell asleep early in the giant bed, and I sat in front of the fire, with a last glass of wine, the balcony door open, listening to the frogs croak.  it was nice, it was relaxing, and it was what we needed.

We slept in the next day and took our time heading out into the real world…  We always hate leaving.

Now folks it AINT cheap.  But the service is impeccable.  If you want to taste wine I can name off 4 fantastic wineries (Dusted Valley, Ross Andrew, Alexandra Nicole, and William Church) and another 10 + ok ones within walking distance.  Have a pet?  They are welcome at the lodge.  The bike path goes along the river and there are always birds signing and eagles soaring.  After eating there, you will have to get back on the bike to work it off.  So no, it aint cheap, but it’s worth it.

If you want to pamper your significant other, surprise him or her with a night there.  You won’t be disappointed!  Michelle and I will be back, hell maybe for our 4th anniversary, maybe before just because she deserves it for putting up with me!

Enjoy!

Racking Up the Miles: March 2013

There is an old saying, if March comes in like a lamb, it goes out like a lion, or the exact opposite, in like a lion out like a lamb.  This of course means whatever weather you get at the beginning of the month, you will get the opposite at the end.  Well March got confused here in the northwest.  It came in sunny, and today it ended sunny and close to (if not AT) 70!  Of course in the middle it snowed, but we will try to forget that!

This was a great biking month, I have kept my trend of improving the number of miles every month, and ended March with 323 miles! I was worried that I had somehow slacked off some, but I did the math twice!

Yesterday was Easter, and both of our sons were up for the weekend.  My gorgeous wife made an excellent frittata with roasted taters for Easter Brunch.  It was a good day.  The boys had to leave early to have Easter dinner with their mom, which meant only one thing for me: time to sneak in a longer ride!  The weather was perfect, and I again was able to ride without a coat!

I debated on what route to take.  I have a new one around Lake Washington I want to try, but I’d rather do that when I can do an early start and figure it out.  I decided it was time for my tried and true 40 mile loop!  Since I was leaving at 2, this would get me home around 5, it has great training hills, good views and, except for a short stretch, minimal traffic.  Even the stretch with traffic has a bike lane.  Perfect.

The route goes north from my house in Mountlake Terrace, along the Interurban trail to Everett.  Then west to Snohomish, South to Woodinville and then east to home.  In addition to the hills, I like it for other reasons as well.  It takes me through rural farm country with the occasional animal watching me pass

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He seemed less than impressed though….

Since the route takes me through Woodinville, the wine capitol of Western Washington, I was able to make a stop at our favorite winery, Dusted Valley.

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They let me refill the water bottles, use the restroom, take a quick taste or the Ramblin Rose and BFM (you’ll have to ask them what BFM stands for after you taste it, trust me it fits!).  And I was able to buy a bottle for later on 🙂  (Cinsault this time!)

Finally it was on to the Burke Gilman trail to head home.  This is seriously a multi-use trail and you NEVER know what you will see on here.  I ride it a lot but this is the first time I saw something like this

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Everyone and everything was out enjoying the sun!  Well worth the 42 miles!  and sure beats having to dress like this (just 2 Sundays ago!)

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Highlights for April?  The bike rack is on my wife’s car, and we commuted to work together this morning, but I am cycling home!  Thursday, if the weather holds, I will bike commute both ways, and Sunday next, my first 100 route of the new year!  Feeling good people!  I also find out about the RAMROD next week, so keep the good thoughts coming!

Sometimes you just need to take time for Wine!

Anyone who has read a post or two on this blog knows I am focused on staying healthy. I am damn near 50 years old (half a century), and I can do more now than when I was 25. To do this requires eating right, riding regularly, taking my vitamins and basically doing everything I can to be healthy.

Now, that being said, there are other things in life aside from cycling! (Yes, it’s true! I know it is shocking o many of us to hear me say it, but cycling and exercise is NOT the be all end all of life!)

Sometimes, you just want to spend a nice evening with the person you love sipping some good red wine! Tonight was one of those nights! My wife Michelle and I met out friend Kaye for our monthly dinner together (well almost monthly, actually this was our Christmas dinner, we got busy the last few months!). We met at the Fireside Cellars at the Willows Lodge in Woodinville, WA.

English: map of selected points of interest in...
English: map of selected points of interest in the Woodinville, Washington tourist district (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

for happy hour snacks and drinks. Kaye is a Grey Goose martini lady, while Michelle and I sipped on a red blend from William Church Winery (Damn its good! That’s why we are wine club members!)

Let me do an aside here.  If you ever want to treat the love of your life to something special, the Willows Lodge is the place.  Room service, giant tub, gas fire-place, room service, excellent food and the best wine tasting area in Western Washington!  It’s a little spendy, but damn well worth it!

Afterwards, Michelle and I came home to sit in our favorite part of the house and sipped our Christmas present wine together, and just chatted and giggled and played our favorite iPad word game together. (yep we are geeks!) No worries about working out, getting old, or getting fat (OK that’s me!).  It was time for two people who love each other to spend quality time together.  Time with each other is much more important than getting my butt in the saddle!

There’s plenty of other nights to ride, but there aren’t always quiet times together!  Maybe its time she and I take a Willows, Wine, Weekend!  It’s great being with and married to someone you love with all your heart!  I am a lucky man!

Sharing Wine with my gorgeous wife at Dusted Valley our favorite winery!
Sharing Wine with my gorgeous wife at Dusted Valley our favorite winery!

Don’t get me wrong, I know how important it is to work out and get some miles under your butt!  I ride whenever I can.  Just make sure you don’t forget what’s, and who is most important in your life while doing so, because I am telling you, sometimes you really do need to take some time for wine!