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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Surreal Seurat Pokey-RR-in-the-snow pix...

Yesterday, in the midst of our newest snowstorm, I ran outside on the front porch as the Pocahontas passed the Elkhorn Inn and snapped pix thoughtout the day... even in the dusk... When I downloaded them, the "dusk" ones were totally black- you couldn't see a THING! The flash on our pokey (forgive the railfan pun...) little Wally-World Kodak digital doesn't carry more than 2 feet... So I got "Creative". I opened them in Picasa and began to lighten them and lighten them... and play with the colors... and all of a sudden I got something Very cool and rather "Seurat pointellist"! Enjoy!
Below is what it looks like in "real life"...  I rather prefer the "Pink Pokey"!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Crash!

That banging sound you've been hearing is undoubtedly my head slamming against the wall.


My computer finally crashed & burned last week, something it's been threatening to do for awhile now, and this time it knocked me for a loop, disappearing (temporarily, I hope...) 8 years of business email addresses out of Incredimail, along with 8 years of sent emails and 2400+ emails in my in-box. I managed to finally find several thousand of my "sent" emails, and was just about to pat myself on the back for being a True Geekette, when Poof! everything in my inbox & sent folder from the last week vanished, as well. NetPlus Computers, our great computer repair go-to-guys in Welch, WV, working together with my husband (a.k.a "The Bill Gates of Landgraff, WV"), rather amazingly managed to put most of Humpty Dumpty back together again & reload & reconfigure almost all of the gazillion broken bits and pieces in the last week... but my Incredimail address book & 2400+ emails are still AWOL. In the last 8 years I have grown to rely Totally on Incredimail, & the handy way it downloads all our disparate email accounts every 5 minutes... and my files in it have grown so huge that IM finally demanded its Very Own Computer Drive. As I type this, glass of wine in hand, I am hoping/trusting/praying that our trusty NetPlus Guys are beavering away at trying to find my missing emails & address book... I've sent a desperate, pleading email to Incredimail, to which I've yet to receive a reply, so at the moment I am still rather stunned; the mere Thought of having to recreate a semblance of our business email contact list from 8 years worth of sent emails has driven me into a kind of punchy stupor...
On a happy note, Dan and I just celebrated our 5th "real" wedding anniversary, as we secretly "eloped" and ran off to Judge Muransky's office in Welch to tie the knot 6 months before our "formal wedding" in July 2005. In honor of the occasion, I got Dan THE hottest & most utterly adorable computer mouse from MouseEnvy.com! Given that Dan's laptop mouse was dying, their "Red Lingerie" mouse seemed like THE perfect gift- it's "me"! And it even glows when you push its little buttons! LOL!

I found MouseEnvy thru a cool contest they host on Twitter to win a free mouse, but when the Sweepstakes Queen didn't win one, she broke down and ordered! They have all sorts of cute mice: dogs, cats, fish, hot peppers, teddy bears- even a red velvet heart mouse for V-Day, & a diamond-encrusted one for $32K! My choice was $20 which you truly can't beat, and Dan loved it!

On the Sweepstakes Front, the AbFab $230 LG Bliss phone I won last year finally arrived. It's as thin as a biz card, & according to the 200 pg. manual, it takes pix, surfs the net, & has a Querty keyboard so in theory I can Blog & Tweet from it; for all I know, it sings & dances, too... But it didn't come with a service package, Cellular One is the only thing it will work with, ATT is the one that works on our towers HERE, & so this precious little thing I had such high hopes for is still sitting in it's little box :-( I haven't had a cell phone since I gave up my NYC Sprint freebie in 2002 after we moved to McDowell County, WV & couldn't get ANY cellphone reception. I went thru a stupid Withdrawal Phase, wherein we'd drive to Bluefield & I'd turn it on, only to hear "You have 456 messages... from two weeks ago", but gradually I weaned myself from it, & came to not only do happily without it, but to ENJOY being without it, & the $50/month savings didn't hurt, either. Then cameth WalMart, who putteth up towers, thus transforming McD Co. from a Cell-Free-Zone into the bustling metropolis it is today (LOL), but by then I'd gone for 6 years w/out a cell & had no desire or need for one any longer. Now I've gone & won myself Mr. Bliss, but at the moment he's a doorstop :-(

As for our day-to-day Life At The Inn, we've been filling Elkhorn Inn Gift Shop orders for handcrafted West Virginia coal statuettes - including our fab 12" Mountaineer statues for the US Army!- and getting ready for guests, & it's (happily) no longer 16 degrees outside, so I don't have to wander about in 6 layers of clothing. (I'm down to 2! Woot!) It warmed up & rained the other day, melting all the pretty snow, which actually bummed me out, as the mountains are back to being that wintry brownish-tan-gray that depresses the poopies out of me. And now we have a "Wind Advisory", meaning Dan had to 'batten down the hatches' as the wind can kick up to 60mph 'round here... The Good News is that we've managed to "play hooky" a few times & get to Bluefield, WV for some great music at Gary Bowling's House of Art, EXCELLENT Real New Jersey Pizza at Frank's Pizza (and yes, they are from NJ, and they have things like Capicola ham that NO ONE has west of the Hudson River!), and some fun evenings at the new Ramsey School Club. I actually now get to get Dressed Up & Put On Makeup again more than once a year- a BIG "woo-hoo!" moment for a (former) Upper East Side Girl like me... FINALLY places to wear those black sequin spike-heel booties I splurged $29 on at Forever21 this winter! LOL
The Elkhorn Inn has also started sponsoring music videos of our southern West Virginia bands- starting with the great George Robertson Band (pictured below) via Bluefield View, and you can see them on YouTube and our Facebook Fan Page!
Bluefield View, run by Terry Rowe, is on Facebook, too, and he's done more to promote, not only Bluefield, but southern WV, than anyone (besides us!) in at least the last 8 years! There is Always some new event on the Bluefield View page, and we urge you to check it out and become a "fan", too; there's a link to Bluefield View's page on the Elkhorn Inn's Facebook Fan Page



Last week I also became a DJ (LOL) on blip.com, creating the Elkhorn Inn Station! I often Tweet (@elkhorninn) and Facebook links to music and videos, and I've pulled up some great music from WV bands like George Robertson, Stacey Grubb, and Alan Johnston & South 52, as well as cool music from Israel, Italy, Ireland, NYC, Louisiana, lots of oldies, and other faves of mine & Dan's. Check it out!

The other night we snuck out & made it to Chef Pat Doute's opening of her new "Bohemian Cafe" at the Bluefield Chamber of Commerce's networking event at the Quality Hotel. Chef Doute made her Alaskan-style cold-smoked salmon for the event, and it was SUPERB! Chef Dan does mostly "hot" smoking of his herb-crusted lamb chops, duck, pork, ribs, etc., and this is the first time we've EVER had true, cold-smoked salmon- the kind we know and love from Alaska- here in West Virginia! YAY!





Ain't we cute?!


Below:
- John Woodside of the Nitty Gritty Dirt band playing at Gary Bowling's House of Art "Open Mic Night"...
- Pete Sternloff on 'Lucille' at GBHoA...
- Patch Whisky's art in the window of GBHoA...
- The "West Virginia Blow Dryer" at Ramsey School Club...























At the moment, Chef Dan is taking a break from being DIY Dan, and is marinating the dickens out of a bevy of pork chops; his brew of apple cider, figs, and secret herbs and spices has made the Inn's kitchen and dining room smell Divine! Dan spent all of today wearing his Mr. Fix-It Hat (and that ghastly, nasty, ratty old vest I loathe- but won't throw out, as he has some sort of weird, sweet, testosterone-fueled attachment to it which I respect... If my guy is using power tools and needs to wear his Lucky Vest, however nasty it is, that's fine with me!), rebuilding one of our garden fences. Thanks to good ol' WV stone & 1922 concrete, he went thru at least 6 drill bits today, but Fency is 1/2 up, & I have True hope that within a day or two we will have a Brand Spanking New Garden Fence...

And now: a glass of wine (AmRhein Wine Cellar's "Ruby", from our summer sojourn to their lovely Virginia vineyard...) & then back to my Pile O' Paperwork-from-Hell. (With maybe a little Tweeting or Facebooking or Bliping first...)

Monday, January 11, 2010

A Couple of Wild & Crazy Xploradors!



We're just a couple of wild & crazy, wine-lovin' Xploradors- with hopes of Xploradoring Chile!















Xplorador Wines is hosting the "Experience the Harvest 2010" Sweepstakes, with a chance to win an amazing trip to witness the grape harvest in the heart of Chile's wine country, and as Dan and I are definitely a couple of wine-lovin', adrenaline-junkie Xploradors, I HAD to enter! Dan's slept on every continent save Antarctica, and I've lived, worked, and traveled through Europe, Israel, and Asia, and as readers of this blog well know, we basically eat and drink our way through the countries we visit! We've had some Great wine experiences along the way, as our photos and video show, enjoying snake wine in Vietnam, saki in Japan, and magkoli and sochu in Korea during our honeymoon; I've hiked & sipped my way through Italy's Chianti country and Israel's vineyards, and Dan and I recently did tastings at some great Virginia wineries, and even stomped grapes at a West Virginia Wine Stompin' Festival! (We will stop at Nothing when it comes to wine!) But we've never been to Chile, I've been wanting to go for YEARS after "discovering" wines from Chile in NYC, and we truly love Xplorador's delicious (and affordable) Chile wines! While I'm the Elkhorn Inn's resident "foodie" & "winey", hubby Dan is the Gourmet Chef, and he LOVES cooking with wine as well as enjoying it on its own; we do serve Chile wines to our Inn guests whenever we can- they're not only delicious, they're very reasonably priced! :-)
This blog post and the accompanying video are part of my entry in the sweepstakes (click on the link above to learn how to post your own entry; you can also "fan" Xplorador on Facebook and follow them on Twitter at @Xplorador), as it would be Totally magical for me to be able to take Chef Dan to Xplor the wines and foods of Chile (and who knows- maybe stomp a few grapes!), and it would be fabulous to be able to share what we'd learn (and hopefully a few cases of wine...) with our guests at the Elkhorn Inn on our return! I can at least dream, right?! :-)

Wine-Ophelia's "Twitter Cheap Wine Challenge"!


Wine-Ophelia, a great blogspot.com Blog I follow, is having a contest I just HAVE to enter (and will be Tweeting about, from @elkhorninn, augmented by #cheapwinechallenge): the "Twitter Cheap Wine Challenge" Given that the vast majority of wines we drink and serve at the Elkhorn Inn & Theatre are what you'd probably refer to as "plonk": $3.98 a bottle wines we buy at WalMart- but about which NO guest of the Elkhorn Inn has ever uttered a complaint- this was a Must-Do! No, these wines are not up to the standards of the $15/glass Red Zin we recently had at Glade's, the AbFab signature restaurant at the Glade Spring Resort in Daniels, WV, and No they are not of the calibre of the "winery" wines we've sampled and purchased at vineyards in WV &VA... but on the other hand, they are not nasty-sour or gummy-sweet wines-in-a-box, either, nor do they come in a screw-top gallon jug that you must decant in secret for fear of being humiliated at table for your crude and grasping penury. Yes, I do wish there were delightful little wine stores in our neck of the woods that carried alluring, yet inexpensive wines such as the fab Chile Merlot I used to buy in NYC for $4/bottle, but we live in zip code-less Landgraff, in the Extremely rural mountains of southern West Virginia, folks, and out here it's "WalMart, Lowe's, Big Lots, Or Die". (I swear that if Lowe's carried wine we wouldn't have to shop Anywhere else...) Our only other alternatives are the Gallon Jugs O' Gallo which are not Nearly as good; for the price, we've found Oak Leaf produces the best wines we can access.
And, as the Elkhorn Inn & Theatre does not yet have a liquor licence, and GIVES (yes, free) a glass of wine to our dinner guests on-the-house (because a fine, gourmet meal Must have wine to make it perfect, please forgive us if we are ever seeking out affordable as well as pleasing wines that we can actually buy locally!! I have bought my husband, Chef Dan, wonderful Wines of the World from http://www.wine.com/, but the simple truth is that we can't afford to serve wines in those price ranges gratis to our guests. And so we were delighted to find affordable Oak Leaf Vineyard wines at WalMart, and they have proven to be Totally fine accompaniments to gourmet Chef Dan dinners at the Inn, pleasing to serve with hors d'oeuvres such as our homemade pestos and artisan Italian Parm, and Extremely pleasant to sip on over the course of an evening by the fireplace reading a book, or while sitting in the hot tub, miserably slogging through depressingly endless paperwork, or lazing at the computer Tweeting and Facebooking! And at $3.98/bottle (Last year they were UNDER $3!), and available nation-wide via WalMart, they Definitely qualify as "nationally available wines under $10"!
Please note: We are Always open to suggestion! If you've got a goodie-yet-cheapie you can send our way or make available to us, PLEASE do so!
For this eyes-wide-open tasting, the following Oak Leaf Vineyards California wines were purchased at the Kimball, West Virginia WalMart and sampled by Chef "Chicago" Dan & Elisse,
his NYC-born-and-bred Foodie Wife:
Oak Leaf Vineyards Chardonnay:
Chef Dan prefers this as the best of the Oak Leaf whites, and stated it has a "pleasing oakiness", is on the dry side, smooth, and while good as a dinner wine, is also quite fine as a "sipping wine". He would prefer to serve it with his Pork Chops with Brandy-Mustard Mushroom Sauce, Herb-Crusted Slow-Roasted Pork Roast, or with an appetizer cheese plate. Elisse, interestingly, finds it to be the sweeter of the two whites, but light and not cloying, and as such, finds it more suitable as a "sipping wine" then a dinner wine... and heck, she's sipping on it now.
Oak Leaf Chenin Blanc Pinot Grigio:
Chef Dan finds this to be the sweeter of the two whites, and although smoother, it has, for him, a rather acidic aftertaste. He prefers to serve this as a dinner wine, accompanying his Almond-Crusted Pan-Fried Trout, Salmon with Alfredo-Dill Sauce, Lemon-Pepper Chicken, or Vietnamese Lemongrass Claypot Chicken- the crisp, light acidity of the wine being a fine counterpoint to rich sauces, fried foods, or spicy Vietnamese cuisine. He also noted that Inn guests seem to prefer this to the Chardonnay as an accompaniment to their dinners. Elisse finds this to be the drier of the two white wines (that's what makes for horse racing & wine-tasting...), but agrees on it being a great dinner wine to accompany fine and rich foods. And heck, she's sipping on it now.
Merlot:
Elisse, lover of Merlot from her NYC bar-hopping days, does NOT consider this to be a great Merlot. It's dryer, thinner, less rich, fruity, and robust than that the great (cheap) Chile Merlots of her NYC memories... On the other hand, it's imminently drinkable, charmingly appealing (is that a good wine-tasting description? Or should I have said "suitably pleasant"?), and heck, she's sipping on it now. :-) Chef Dan (who is Not a Merlot-lover) found it to be a strong-yet-smooth Merlot that he would serve with food: specifically his Prime Rib, or with hot appetizers, such as spanakopita or bruschetta.
Cabernet Sauvignon:
Both Elisse and Chef Dan prefer this as the better of the two Oak Leaf reds, with Elisse finding it to have a "palate-pleasing sackiness" that velvetizes the tongue, and Chef Dan stating that it has a smoother, fruitier, richer, and more well-balanced taste, and that he would choose to serve this with his herb-crusted smoked lamb chops or herb/spice crusted slow-roasted pork roast- or any other roast meat that requires a good, full-bodied red wine. And heck, Elisse is sipping on it now.
Note: There's also an Oak Leaf White Zinfandel, but we didn't include it in this tasting, as we both find it Way too sweet & almost cloying, as White Zin is wont to be, but many guests do
specifically request White Zinfandel, and so we do serve it at the Inn.

I (Elisse) will also add that my TOTALLY favorite wine of the moment is the Ginseng Wine made by Kirkwood Vineyards of Summerville, West Virginia. At $17/bottle it doesn't qualify for this Challenge, but with a hint of herby bitterness, it is THE yummiest and most distinctly original wine I know of! (And if you're as enamored of Vietnamese ginseng or snake wine- as we are- you'll def enjoy it, as well). Ginseng wine is not only Vietnamese, it's also West Virginian, and if you're interested in a truly "local" wine with some real history behind it, this is it. Kirkwood makes a number of Truly delicious fruit desert wines from the fruits of their orchards (and they are supremely "fruity"; we served them at our wedding in 2005 & 5 years later guests still rave about them), but they also make an excellent ramp wine (yes, from ramps, those wicked West Virginia garlic-onions that grow rampant (forgive the pun) on our mountains), and it is SUPERB for marinating meat, especially venison, and for making dipping sauces... or for Totally flipping out a friend on an I'll-drink-anything dare. ;-)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Cardinals (& other things) in the Snow!



























We came back from our mini-getaway at Glade Springs & Winterplace just at the start of Another snowstorm, and woke up in the morning to be greeted by cardinals and songbirds too numerous to count at the feeders right outside the Elkhorn Inn's dining room window! It's been non-stop bird-watching, and I've been madly snapping photo after photo while Lucky Kitty sits in the window bird-watching with me! Having experienced Kitty's transformation from tender kitten to killer-cat where birds are concerned, it is Too funny to see him sitting at the window avidly watching the ornithology parade- you can almost see the cartoon "thought bubble" over his little head! Dan is So cool about remembering to refill the feeders, and the birds have been having WAY to much fun dashing to and fro, eating & hanging out on the trees & bushes surrounding the feeder!

I always remember with a laugh how people told us- back in 2002, right after we'd bought the building- that there were "no birds" in McDowell County due to coal mining- when we've woken up to and from bird song, winter and summer, for more than 7 years!

The photos below were taken on our ride home from Glade Springs the other day: the Pocahontas Railroad in all her glory, chugging thru McDowell County in the snow, the red caboose and adorable Post Office in Elkhorn (& Dan with Jeepy, our wonderful 4-wheel drive), the frozen waterfalls, and finally Home: the Elkhorn Inn & Theatre and Elkhorn Creek in Landgraff, WV... Our wonderful inn-sitters left to try to beat the storm home, Dan got the fireplace roaring, and made us an Amazingly delicious dinner of pan-grilled pork chops drizzled with a balsamic reduction and figs, and then we snuggled up with Pittie, Kitty, & Lab! It was good to get away, but it's good to be home, too!
























































WV Ski Getaway at Winterplace & Glade Springs!

Just came back from a WONDERFUL 2-night mini-getaway, skiing at Winterplace & staying at the Glade Springs Resort in Daniels, WV. I must say that outside of the Elkhorn Inn, the Glade's restaurant at Glade Springs has THE finest food we've ever eaten in West Virginia! Chef Dexter Burgess created two exceptional gourmet dinners for us, and everything was wonderful! My favorite dish was his appetizer of seared foie gras with a balsamic reduction and wine-poached pears- it was the stuff of which foodie dreams are made of! Our steaks were perfect, the wine was wonderful (the red zinfandel was Excellent!), his bourbon chicken was delicious, but the fennel-pepper crusted ahi tuna nicoise was INSPIRED! Dining at Glade's, followed by a glass of wine in front of their bar's fireplace, coupled with great "apres-ski" massages at the Orange Spa made our little getaway really romantic and wonderful... And I WILL be going back for their "Better Than Botox" facial!!!
Like the Elkhorn Inn, Glade Springs has a wonderful "military discount", and as Dan is US Army Ret. we were able to take advantage of that; Winterplace, too, gives a military discount on lift tickets and equipment rental! While Winterplace isn't a 'fancy' ski resort, like in Vermont, Colorado, or Utah, the skiing was really great- lots of lift choices and an Awesome amount of snow- and I don't say that lightly: we left Landgraff in a snowstorm, and I am SO glad we have a Jeep with 4-wheel drive! I got to do some night skiing, too, and it was truly gorgeous out on the slopes in the evening, when it's all lit up and the snow glistens and glows purple and orange... Though it was a winter wonderland, with the perfectly frosted, snow-bedecked trees one usually sees only on postacards, I do wish it hadn't been as bitterly cold, for the chair lifts up the mountain were bone-chillingly brutal... And as a result, I Still haven't been on the lift that goes all the way up to the tip-top of the mountain, so I have to go back! Because it was SO cold, I took lots of little breaks at the Winterplace bar to warm up with coffee (or an Irish Coffee!), dust the snow out of my many layers of clothing, and get feeling back in my hands! We bought face masks, and while they certainly are no fashion statement (see photo for proof!), I am SO glad we had them, for they were Absolutely necessary!
We deliberately went in the middle of the week, so it wouldn't be that crowded on the slopes, and I had blue & green runs where I was the only person out there, and it was like having "my private mountain"! Peaceful and serene, I could do gentle "esses" down the mountain, 'carving' my turns, practicing the things my instructor taught me, working up some speed, and really savoring the experience of skiing- & enjoying the Dickens out of it! Since skiing is the one and only thing I can do better than Dan, this year I had the not-so-bright idea of getting him a private ski lesson @Winterplace, in the hope that he'd be able to ski with me. He truly gave it his best shot- as Army Dan gives everything he does: 10001%- but he hates skiing (runner's-knees made it a painful & joyless experience), & I will NEVER put him thru that again! Dan did, at least, like the ski pants & sweater I got him- so much so, in fact, that he's wearing the ski pants back at the Inn, and he looks great in them! I Really enjoy skiing- amazingly I'm still an "intermediate" skier, and it's basically the only sport I do reasonably well! And since I can still do it at 50 I want to keep doing it as often as I can! The problem is that I feel Guilty when Dan takes me skiing and doesn't ski, and I don't know of one friend who skis, so I desperately need a WV ski-buddy! Winterplace is only 1 .5 hrs from the Elkhorn Inn!!!








































































Sunday, January 3, 2010

Happy New Decade!















































New year, new snow! As I write this, the Pocahontas RR is chugging by the Elkhorn Inn- again! It's been a fab few days for railfans since New Year's, with almost non-stop trains and pushers going by! It's also been Wicked Cold here lately- at the moment it's a "brisk" 16 degrees in the mountains of southern West Virginia! Every time I run out on our porch to snap a few train pix, my fingers freeze, nose runs, and eyes tear- yes, it really is THAT cold! Dan & I rang out the old decade at the New Ramsey School club in Bluefield, WV, after a(nother) really fine sushi-saki fest at Kimono in Princeton, WV, and had a very nice time saying goodbye-and-good-riddance to the old year, while hoping/praying for a wonderful (safe, healthy, prosperous, joyful) new one...

Dan spent all day yesterday tweaking our three lines of plumbing, after McDowell Co. PSD inexplicably let the water pressure drop again (and, of course, denied doing so, as is their want) and our pipes almost froze (actually one did freeze...). Fortunately (miraculously), Dan was able to "tweak" everything, and we have water- and HOT water, at that! Living out here "in the country" makes you truly appreciate so-called "basic" things things like running water- and running HOT water- and the people who can make it run & make it hot! As I've written before, I have a Totally Useless set of skills for living in Rural America, & in 7 years they haven't gotten any better: basically what I can do is write and illustrate. So if the pipes freeze or the boiler's little insides stop boiling, I can... uh... write a press release on it & draw a picture. Swell. That and 10 cents won't even get you a cup of coffee out here if there's no power to run the freakin' Mr. Coffee! Dan, however, can not only un-freeze/repair/replace pipes, he can repair/replace the doohicky in the boiler so it lives to boil another day, rewire the countless electric things that forever need rewiring, and (daily) tweak the gazillion thingamajiggies in all our watchamacallits to make them all work again. I am ever in awe of his 1,000,001 technical skills- for we are talking a skill-set WAY beyond the "handy-andy" level and profoundly in the serious realm of professional electrical engineering, industrial plumbing, vehicle mechanics, and architectural restoration. And the truth is that if you Don't have those skills you really have No Business living out here in the boonies! For there seriously isn't anyone to call out here if the doohickey stops working in the whatchamacallit!

On a happy note, I started off the New Year with a fabulous contest win: a gorgeous (and extremely practical) sterling silver wine collar from Aspinal of London from the Seattle, WA food and wine critic, Ronald Holden, of the Seattle Global Gourmet Examiner and Cornichon.org Please click the links to read my winning poem, essentially Ode To A Wine Collar, and to check out his articles, as he gave the Elkhorn Inn a wonderful plug, and included links to our Facebook "fan" page and this blog! I am truly delighted by this win as this wine collar is something we will truly use- no more wine dribbles on the tablecloths of the Elkhorn Inn! :-) And if we're ever lucky enough to get out to Seattle for a "foodie-winey" trip, Ronald Holden is definitely our "go-to guy"!