Sunday, January 15, 2017

Shut the Cluck Up!! Howdy Nashville

About 5 years ago, my small family unit decided to start a holiday travel tradition. Every other year, instead of spending Christmas in South Carolina, we would meet at an exotic destination. Presents are replaced by experience. Our first trip was to Paris, France. Experiencing Christmas Eve service at the Notre Dame, champagne tasting in Épernay, strolling the streets of St. Germain bundled up against the winter chill and of course hot chocolate at Angelina were just a few highlights. Two year later, my mother chose a tropical escape to the untouched island of Dominica. Located in the South Caribbean, this small island proved to be the most beautiful tropical location I had ever been to. In the warmth of the Caribbean sun we spent the days hiking, snorkeling and trekking through the undisturbed landscape of this island. 

This year was supposed to be our trip year. 

Life circumstances led to unexpected financial obligations which led to an inability to go on a trip. Itching to do something, we made a drivable destination work, the popular country music capital, Nashville. 

The day after Christmas, we loaded suitcases into the car and journeyed the 8 hours from Bluffton, SC to Nashville, TN. 

Here are some reflections and takeaways from the mini-vacation.

1. Nashville is more than just Honky Tonks...but you can choose to make it only about Honky Tonk. 

Most famous for the 4 blocks of Broadway leading up to the Cumberland River, the street is lined with bar after bar, beckoning you in with drink specials and live popular country rock music. Tootsies, Stages, Acme Feed & Seed..Broadway is a place you could spend all day, singing and dancing along to your favorite songs being sung live at request. 

Not a self-labeled "country music fan", I have to believe some of the experience was lost on me. Caught up in the experience one might have found me, at moments, attempting a two-step and truly messing up the lyrics singing along. 

There is more to see in downtown than the Honky Tonks, I recommend you check out the Johnny Cash Museum and possibly the Country Music Hall of Fame. Some other neighborhoods near downtown to spend time...12 South, Germantown and The Gulch.

2. The food scene in Nashville is HOT. This is literally and figuratively. 

We ate some incredible meals in Nashville, as always, food was the star of the show.

Rolf & Daughters - located in Germantown, a very industrial hipster vibe. Eclectic dishes with an Italian flare, my favorite dish was the butternut squash, salsa mocha mimolette, and mint salad. I also loved that it boasted a wine list with really funky options. I enjoyed an orange wine from Slovenia!

5th & Taylor - also located in Germantown, this warehouse space was much larger and filled with purposefully chosen decor (you can read more on their website). The open kitchen welcomed you into the cooking process to observe the chefs hard at work. The cuisine is American traditional with a southern flare. My favorite dish was the smoked grand pearl oysters with horseradish, sherry vinegar and chili. 

(I just LOVED this wallpaper in the bathroom!)
Josephine - located in the trendy 12 South neighborhood, Josephine did not disappoint. More traditional in decor and food, I had the best dish of the trip here; slow braised beef cheeks over horseradish risotto and rye crumb. We learned later on that Chef Andrew Little designed the rest of the menu around this dish. It did not hurt that you could pop next door after for dessert at Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams. 

Hattie B's Hot Chicken -  Every single person I asked about Nashville said "you have to go to Hattie B's for Hot Chicken". When everyone tells you something is a must, how can it be passed up?

What is "Hot Chicken" you might ask? Well, Wikipedia explains, "In its typical preparation, it is a portion of breast, thigh, or wing that has been marinated in a water-based blend of seasoning, floured, fried, and finally sauced using a paste that has been spiced with cayenne pepper"

So we ventured there for lunch one day and were treated by a line down the street. Committed to the experience, 90 minutes later, we sat with piles of Hot Chicken in front of us. Feeling adventurous I got the Hot! level (other levels pictured below). That was a bad decision, I'll spare you the details.

Side note: anyone who attempts the "SHUT THE CLUCK UP!!!" should say their goodbyes before because it will probably kill you. The chicken was good, but seriously people, not worth the wait.

3. History is thriving! In and out of the downtown area, there is so much to learn and see. About 20 minutes from the city center you will find The Andrew Jackson Hermitage. The home of our 7th president, they have constructed a museum about his life along with a walking audio tour of the grounds and gardens. We ended our out of town day with a wine and food pairing at Belle Meade Plantation. The hour long tasting took place in the old carriage house. After we enjoyed a glass of wine on the grounds and played a few rounds of corn hole.

Nashville is perfect for a long weekend visit. It is even better if you are a country music fan. The food scene was impressive, but in the end, this city girl was ready to go back to the Big Apple. 

Friday, December 30, 2016

When Delta doesn’t totally suck

This is one for the record books. 

Historically, I have a terrible flying record.  One can pretty much guarantee that when I travel by plane the flight will be delayed, cancelled or confront luggage issues. I have been diverted to locations due to some inclement weather system more times than I can remember. It has become a running joke amongst the Frans, to the point where I think they get nervous to travel with me because of the jinx that I carry. Not believing in superstitions, I continue to subjugate myself to the torture over and over again. Somehow my love for traveling has blinded me for years from the pain I submit myself to when I make that venture in a Uber to Laguardia or JFK. 

The Frans have tried to determine why it is that I always have such bad luck with flying; everyone has their own hypothesis; 

1. Time of day: My travel time is usually in the evening after work, so flights are backed up from the day and I suffer. 

2. Airport Choice: It is Laguardia's fault..."Laguardia is the worst, they are the first to cancel".

3. Delta: Wrong airline preference. I just can't kick the Delta habit; Skymiles, AMEX points, one loyal flier here. 

I do have to say that through my horrible travel experiences, Delta has always come through in some way. Kind support with rebooking my cancelled flights, reimbursement of miles and fees for Ubers back and forth from the airport, vouchers for the occasional hotel in a random city and of course the occasional first class upgrade for my “inconvenience”. 

Let’s now focus on my Christmas travel history. 

The last two years my post-work, pre-Christmas eve flight has been cancelled. So after two years of let down, emotion and torture, I chose this year to not subject myself. Since I had to work until December 23, I made the choice to fly out early December 24. I found a flight out at 6:30am, getting me to Savannah by 8:30am and for only $200. Wow, Delta, you were on a roll! I was going to miss the headache of pre-Christmas NYC travel, simply having to roll out of bed, hop in another trusty pre-booked Uber, drop my bag, saunter through TSA-Pre Check and onto my flight. This was going to be the year that I broke my travel curse, Delta was not going to fail me. 

And in the end, Delta did not fail me this year. 

I failed myself.

Back to the trusty Uber. He arrived at the perfect minute to maximize sleep and get me to the airport on time. To Laguardia airport Adbul (that was actually his name, lovely man). “What terminal Miss?”... "let me check that". As I pulled up my flight info on the Delta app, I was having trouble locating the terminal. Looking closer, something looked out of place. It was showing me departing from Savannah arriving at Laguardia. Quickly I thought, this must be my return flight information. Clicking the departure tab on the app, nothing seemed to be changing. Having yet again another look, I located the date…Flight DL5169, SAV-LGA, December 24, 2016.  


(sorry people, I do occasionally curse)

I had booked the wrong flight. 

Deep breaths.

Immediately, I went into survival mode dialing Delta's customer service number. 

Sharing my predicament with Abdul, he laughed a little and continued to ask me what terminal. “I don’t know Abdul, I don’t currently have a flight out of Laguardia today”. At this point I think our language barrier subsided and he got the point. “Just drive to the airport, Delta terminal”. 

Thankfully I got a representative right away (enter David from Delta - I don’t remember his name but he sounded like a David). I explained my situation to him, it took two tries, but when he responded with “ahhhhh I see”, I think he got the picture. David went to work figuring out what was available. He came back and said “we can get you out today at 9:30am, returning December 30 on a 6:25pm flight”. Not ideal timing, I would sadly miss most of Hillsong’s end of the year services, but it was getting me home. “Great David, what’s the price?" he replied, "that will be $580”. 


My once steal of a flight was becoming very expensive. David provided a few other flight options, but the cost was going to be significantly more or about the same. When I paused to weigh my choices, David kindly offered to speak to his manager about what they could do to decrease the cost… "it is Christmas Eve after all”, he stated. While David put me on hold, I prayed out loud in the Uber, poor Abdul for sure thought I was a crazy person by this point or a straight idiot. After the longest 90 seconds of my life, David came on and announced that they could waive the change fee bringing my cost to $380. My original $200 flight had now come to a grand total of $580… but I was getting home for Christmas and in the end that is what it is all about. 

I cried for joy a little and thanked David repeatedly. He stated, “Merry Christmas, we couldn’t leave you stranded on the holiday”. I thought to myself, well especially not since I was paying an extra $380. They also threw in an exit row seat, way to go Delta. 

Through this experience I have learned yet another lesson in the art of failing miserably and having to roll with the punches. I also learned that when things seem like they are too good to be true, they usually are, so triple check every detail. My journey of self-improvement continues one failure at a time, realizing that it’s all not that big of a deal and money does not mater when it comes to important things like your family.

In the end, Delta actually did not fail me this year. My originally booked flight from SAV-LGA departed and arrived on time. I will most likely have trauma amnesia and continue to regularly travel, probably on Delta. It was my own human error that brought me here; eating an overcooked frittata and $5 drip coffee in the Delta terminal at Laguardia airport, filling the 3 hour flight time difference half awake after only 4 hours of sleep.

The cherry on top…Laguardia airport does not start serving alcohol until 8am. Just in time for me to board my flight and miss that tasty morning mimosa. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone. Safe travels.

naturally ginger

Monday, December 26, 2016

A Sag Harbor Christmas

In my mind, in my dream life, I have a home in Sag Harbor. I have it all mapped out. A three bedroom, two and a half bath cottage nestled in the wooded communities outside the downtown area. There is a massive living room with a plush sectional for many to lounge and a real wood burning fireplace. The dining room has a table that seats twelve, for the frans and guests. The kitchen is spacious and has barstools for gathering while the cooking happens. We also can not forget the wine cellar for my growing collection. Outside you will find a pool for lounging and a deck with bbq for parties in the heat of the summer. Along with a fire pit, a must for those cooler nights and perfecting s'more roasting.  

Like I my mind I have a home in Sag Harbor...dream life.

Back to reality, I live in a 5th floor brownstone walkup in Manhattan and waste my hard earned money away every month in rent. But, this pattern continues because I love my life, my home and even though I make a decent living...I still work in education not finance. 

So in order to indulge my dream life, I like to take regular trips out to Sag Harbor in hopes that someday my dream will be reality. 

When asked "how do you rest", my real rest is found by getting out of the city. I don't want to leave my life in NYC, but it is hard for me to find real rest even just sitting alone in my apartment. I love coming out to the east end of Long Island to disconnect and breath the fresh air. 

After being introduced to Channing Daughters Winery a few years ago by my fran Meredith, I was hooked. I have been a wine club member since, and always look forward to the bi-monthly shipments. The wines are unique and delicious, helping to improve the rep of Long Island wines. There are a few member parties each year, so when the invitation for the Christmas Party came in the mail, the frans responded to go right away. 

After the train ride out - where Brian save the day by returning someone's lost phone to them at the Babylon stop (the "find my phone" app was going off under the seats we were sitting in) - we arrived into Bridgehampton, STARVING! 

We had decided to dine at Page at 63 Main. I had been once before the previous year and could not get their lobster roll out of my mind. The restaurant was decked out for the holidays and we enjoyed the meal laughing about life to come. 

After, we strolled around the shops of downtown Sag Harbor and of course took some family photos.

It was freezing that day so once we exhausted all that downtown Sag had to offer, we were ready for the party. We ended up arriving twenty minutes early.

Sadly, the Channing staff did not respond in the welcoming manner we were accustomed to. Flustered due to our early arrival, they found it difficult to find somewhere out of the freezing cold for us to wait. Not wanting to hold them up from getting the event ready so we could actually go inside, we conceded and offered to stay out on the back porch, blocked from the wind by tarp but still freezing. Trying not to complain and get in bad moods before the party even started, we decided to make the most of it, watching funny youtube videos and dreaming of finally getting a glass of vino. 

Once inside, our frustrations were quelled by the overflowing table of cheese and bread, along with three different specialty cocktail stations. Our love for the wine and winery also helped to dilute any uneasiness we felt, fully ready to enjoy the event. 

The evening featured their new wine releases for tasting as well as mixed in cocktails with Channing's unique VerVino Vermouths and other local NY liquors. Just in time of the New Year, I recommend trying one of their Petillant Naturels or "Pet Nats" as we fondly refer to them. These sparkling treats are dry with a light fizz. 

The "Farm to Table Toddy" was my favorite cocktail, a heated mix of Bourbon, VerVino Vermouth Variation 6, apple cider, and honey, finished with a splash of bitters and topped with cinnamon and a slice of dried apple. 

From this point on it was a lot of cheese, holiday beverages and snapchat filters...

Alas...this Cinderella eventually had to turn back into a pumpkin and head back to the city...if I had a home we would have stayed. 

Maybe next year...

naturally ginger