Saturday, July 30, 2016

THE RIDE REIGNS WITH BUS TOURS



For those who have never heard of or taken “The Ride”, let me give you a bit of a description of this unique bus tour.  It is not your average bus that you sit facing the front.  Floor to ceiling windows are on the side facing that street as you are seated stadium style peering out onto the hustle and bustle of Midtown Manhattan.   Tour guides will point out specific buildings and the likes as any guide would.  There are screens with sound all over and a commanded voice will relate a description to which the guide might add an anecdote.  “Big deal”, you say? 
 
Let’s hear some feedback from an out-of-towner, Steve Stoloff from Florida visiting with his family.  “What a great experience I had on my recent visit to New York City. There were many different tours to choose from but for whatever reason, we wound up choosing The Ride-NYC and how lucky we were.”

After speaking to a number of people who chose different bus tours without any question of a doubt ours was, by far, the very best. During the entire ride we were rocking and rolling. The two tour guides just had us standing and cheering. It was almost like being at a football game, especially, when out of the clear blue sky on the street (and this happened on a number of occasions)there were people who appeared to be connected with the ride but we weren't sure. At different points, they were singing to us dancing to us and rapping to us!!”

It had a feel similar to being at a Broadway musical when the stars came out for a bow at the end of the show. I would recommend this to all, not just any particular age group. When in New York City looking for a bus tour do not fail to use The Ride-NYC It is, by far the very best one to hook up with.
Wow!!!” 











Most of these performers had microphones and our speakers could open up for people on the street to hear us cheer.  People on the street or sidewalks could see us wave and even wave back.  What makes this trip hilarious is watching the reactions of the “audience”.   You can tell who are the tourists.  They will take photos and gladly wave back.   New Yorkers will totally ignore and walk past the performers as if nothing were happening.   Sometimes one of the tour guides will make fun of someone passing by, but not in a way that is hurtful. 

Having experienced The Ride a few times, I found one particular thing that was new.  Having an experience of what it feels like to be seated in a subway car. 
 
The Ride is 75 minutes long, operating different times of the day.   The company also has one called The Tour, which I will be checking out after the heat waves.   From what I’m getting, The Tour covers a much larger area of Manhattan and without the performers.   www.theridenyc.com  

There are no facilities on the bus, nor can you bring food or drink.  You line up in front of Sr Frogs and can get a ticket if you need to use their bathroom.   As for where to eat, I checked various places in the area both quality and price.  Dallas BBQ for sure!  It’s on 42nd street just down the block from the bus.  It may appear small when you enter.  Take the escalator and you’ll find out how huge it is.  They don’t take reservations unless there is a group of about 15.  I ordered a combo of baby back ribs and beef ribs.  Off the bone tenderness and the bbq sauce was not at all overbearing.  I don’t normally order fries because many places give you the frozen kind.  These are hand made.   Compared to most of the prices in the area, it is quite inexpensive.  Even during the rush, it is not a long wait for a table.  Not fine dining nor cafeteria style.  Clean, good food, and excellent service.  




Monday, July 25, 2016

VIXEN VENGEANCE NOT SO VICTORIOUS



It was a winning season for the New York Sharks Women’s Professional Football Team as they became the Atlantic Conference Champions heading for the playoffs.  The win would have put them into the IWFL Championship game if not for an “edge of your seat” and overtime coach error 40-34 loss against the Minnesota Vixens, vying for an historic “vengeance” game. 

The last time that these two teams met was back in 1999 when the Vixens were barnstorming in the US to show that women were playing tackle football.  At that time, the Sharks were a well-known flag team on Long Island.   A challenge gave the Sharks two months to prepare, winning the game with a 12-6 score. 


Both teams had an 8-0 season with the Vixens coming in as the Midwest Conference Champions getting the home advantage in the St. Paul area. 


Football fans saw a “tit for tat” game starting with a Sharks kickoff resulting in a touchdown by Vixen Marlissa Brown.   New York was on the scoreboard almost immediately as Quarterback Karen Mulligan tossed the ball to Brilynn Fields for the 18-yd TD.  With the score tied at 6-6, the Vixens made the next TD, followed with another Sharks goal by Erika Cottle.  Brilynn upped the score to 20-13 to go back to another two Vixen touchdowns.  With a score of 27-20, Shannon Morris ran the ball to make it 27-26.  A Vixen touchdown and Brilynn’s third, the score was now tied 34-34 and into the double overtime.  With two yards to go and a few tries left, the Vixens managed to intercept what was a poorly called pass (What was Head Coach Richard Harrigan thinking?) running the entire field for the winning touchdown and putting them into the Championship game where Vixens took a loss of 6-49 against the Utah Falconz.  


The Vixens celebrated and were heard to be muttering how they “crunched” the Sharks during the IWFL games weekend.  Due to regulations, All-Star players from the Minnesota team were given a bye.   Back to the brag.  Say WHAT?  Let’s look at the stats on the Vixens.  During the season, they gave up a total of 15 points.   Giving up 34 points just in the playoff doesn’t say much nor did the wrong call by Harrigan earn them bragging rights, but rather “luck”.  With the 6-49 loss, it gives the Vixens a postseason point give up of a total of 83! Hey Vixens do you still want to brag? 


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

TAKING CREDIT WHEN YOU’VE ACTUALLY SCREWED IT UP



It was the year 2007 when I was in Wichita, Kansas visiting the Museum of World Treasures, which is said to be one of the top sights, and could certainly understand.  Egyptian mummies, rare coins, Civil War artifacts, items from WWI, WWII, dinosaurs and sports memorabilia. I asked if they would be interested in having a permanent exhibit of a women’s tackle football team called the New York Sharks as they are the only women’s football team to have an item displayed at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Done deal.  The exhibit included owner and former quarterback Andra Douglas’ retired jersey, photo of her accepting an award from the Women’s Sports Foundation, football signed by the team, and a group of several photos depicting the history of this longest (since 1999) and winning team.
Curator Lon Smith was more than happy to accommodate.  Once the exhibit was up he invited two of the Sharks players and myself for the opening.   The media was there, autographs were signed and Lon suggested that the museum’s exhibit should expand to housing the IWFL Hall of Fame.   It was out of his own pocket that he commissioned sculptor Bruno Lucchesi to create a bas relief.   
This whole idea sounded so great that I put out an email to the other teams requesting that they send an exhibit.   Not many responded but did make it.   However, this hall of fame was crushed when given over to IWFL CEO Laurie Frederick and COO Kezia Disney.   

About a year later from when I was there, Lon was set to open the exhibit inviting the press, Frederick and Disney who were driving from Texas.   Just as a football game has a kickoff time, so did this celebration.   Where were they?   Hours went by with no attempt to call him.   Their delay pointed to picking up a stray dog and putting it in the car with no concern for any schedule.   Let’s add that these two business women showed up in totally inappropriate clothing.   There was more to this that Lon later shared with me including the $10,000 that he wound up laying out.   We were both appalled and whatever was scheduled did not occur.  

It wasn’t long before Lon sent the exhibits back to the team’s owners, keeping the bas relief and NY Sharks exhibit a permanent fixture.    Frederick and Disney never even apologized for their unprofessional behavior.  

In fact, if you go to the website of the IWFL, they claim the Hall of Fame.  The Independent Women's Football League is proud to present and maintain the hall of fame. Honoring the courageous few that began play in 2000 and those that have come since. The hall of   fame honors those that have given of themselves and set the standards of sportsmanship and skill that the IWFL has become known for.

The photos on this page are of the display housed at the Museum of World Treasures in Wichita Kansas the Museum of World Treasures was the inaugural home the IWFL Women's Football   Hall of Fame, housing the exhibit from 2007 through 2009 when it was returned to Texas for future exhibit.”   Absent is anything depicting the New York Sharks or any acknowledgement of my part in this. 

I had communicated with them requesting that they take this information off of their website.  Needless to say, they have never gotten back with me.  With enough problems just getting the word out there about women playing tackle football, it only makes it worse when you have women not only being unsupportive but taking credit where credit is certainly not due. 






Thursday, July 14, 2016

VETRO’S CELLAR IS SOMETHING TO WINE ABOUT





Wine Spectator, said to be the leading authority on wine, recently announced the winners of 2016 Restaurant Awards with Howard Beach’s Vetro Restaurant getting another “the Best of Award of Excellence” (two wine glasses).

 

These awards recognize restaurants whose wine lists offer interesting selections, appeal to a wide range of wine lovers, as well as being appropriate to their cuisine.  According to Wine Spectator, “To qualify for an award, a wine list must present complete, accurate information, including vintages and appellations for all selections. Complete producer names and correct spellings are mandatory, and the overall presentation of the list is also considered.” There are three awards:  Award of Excellence; Best of Award of Excellence and Grand Award.   
 
PJ Connelly is both the General Manager and sommelier of this multi-award winning Italian Restaurant that warrants their gold stars just for the d├ęcor.   Located at 164-49 Cross Bay Blvd., Vetro sits along the canal.  The main floor has both indoor and outdoor seating as well as a lounge with a bar. In fact, this is where their Wine Emotion Dispensing System is located.  It keeps the wine fresh and temperature controlled after opening.




If the wine menu doesn’t impress you, take a look at the wine cellar room.   One long wall houses the red wines as most of the wine offerings tend to be red or rose, a preference of customers.  That doesn’t take away from another wall of white wines.  Private parties and events are held in this room for the atmosphere alone. 



PJ launched me through a wine tasting.  First let me say that I am not much of a wine drinker, although I have done many wine tastings both in restaurants and at wineries including some in Italy and South Africa.  I prefer to use a spittoon when I am sampling several wines.  This is much different than ordering a “flight of wines”.  Secondly, I tend to steer away from reds as I have a sensitivity towards the tannins. 


We began with a Veneto region Prosecco di Treviso Brut by Villa Jolanda. This light sparkling wine is meant to be drank young and fresh with less acidity than a champagne.  




For those who have not experienced a wine tasting here are the steps.  Wine must never be poured as a full glass as it is best to have room for air.  Hold the glass from the top of the stem so that the heat from your hand does not interfere.  Look at the wine to view the clarity.  Swish the wine to not only allow more oxygen but view how it falls along the glass.  This helps to get a sense of the weight of the particular wine. Tip the glass to your nose and yes, you can put your nose into the glass.   Take a deep breath to determine what is called “the nose” or “aroma”.  Do you get floral, citrus, fruity, earthly?  Now sip less than a mouthful and swish it as if you were swishing mouth wash.  If you are doing the spittoon scene, you will still get enough wine to go to the back of the tongue and in the throat.   When a waiter presents wine for tasting, do the same with a mouthful and simply swallow. 


In this tasting we are going from the Iightest to the fullest.  I was curious as to whether having a Sauvignon Blanc from Italy (Friuli) would taste any different from one coming from New Zealand.  They each had both a different nose and taste, one being more fruity.  




PJ said Italian wines beg to have food.   Twist my arm, I was able to sample two homemade Pastas of the Month eating small amounts after each wine tasting.  Gnocchi with Veal and Chicken Ragu made with potato, flour, eggs and extra virgin olive oil plus onions, garlic, fresh herbs, white wine and tomato. 



The second was Spinach Gnudi made with ricotta, fresh spinach, eggs, grated aged Parmesan cheese and flour plus shallots, butter, wild mushrooms cream and truffle oil. 



Back to the wines with La Segreta by La Planeta made using Grecanico grapes from Siciily.  This showed how the weights differed lasting longer on the palate.  A floral Sicilian wine that is “mineral” and “earthy”.   PJ now reveals the secret of wine and food having a balance of fat and acidity.   



We are now going to a rose.  Red grape, with a nose of a red wine, young and fresh with just a kiss of tannins as the skins are removed from the juice.   Some rose wines can be a light pink or even close to red.  I had sampled Rosato by Olianas from Sardegna.  




So far, the wine was not going to my head nor having what I term an alcohol burn in the back of my throat.  That’s good.  Let’s see how I do with the red wines beginning with Barbera d’Asti Le Orme by Michele Chiarlo from Piemonte in Northern Italy.  PJ says that the grapes from here are the lightest, having a cool climate, refreshing and easy to drink.  Notes of cherry and plum.

When it comes to the area of Veneto, there are grapes that you can’t find anywhere else.  Valpolicella made by Allegrini is the perfect pairing with a Margherita pizza.  They pour the wines over the wine skins.  The same grapes are used for Amaroni.  This one has the sweetness of cherry with some acidity.   Out came the very thin crust pizza with tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella.  Wonderful combination.  








Onto the next from Toscana, Monna Nera Sangiovese I.G.T.  by Cappezzana a blended and earthly wine.   Another wine, also from the same region, Lucente by Luce della Vite  is from the same grape.  Spectacular floral with a rich nose.  The fruit is more concentrated, tannins dry but balanced.  I am told that grape growing depends on the soil and proximity to the sun. 


I was here the evening before with friends Andra and Crystal both into wines. Andra quite a connoisseur had chosen Amicone “Baby Amarone” for it being full bodied and flavorful.   I had to end the tasting with this one from Northern Italy.  They process the dry grapes making them sweeter almost raisin-like.   I could see the weight coating on the glass when swished.   I did not use the spittoon for this one!


When I do have a glass of wine, I usually enjoy it before a meal or without food.  I can see how it does pair with an edible.   Not all wines have to be from Italy to enjoy the bill of fare at Vetro.   A Cabernet Sauvignon from California would go best with a rib eye with gorgonzola cheese and fingerling potatoes. 


In conclusion I was surprised to have found that none of wines, especially the reds, were not too dry for my palate.   This was by far the best wine tasting I’ve ever experienced and have to credit it to PJ’s knowledge.   He tells me that although Vetro does provide flights of wine, he is looking to have wine tasting events.