Monday, June 20, 2011

My Arctic Adventure

I’m so excited about my summer vacation….sounds like a title of children’s book doesn’t it? I originally thought I would be wine tasting in Oregon. While that is still on my radar, my plans have taken a huge turn.

In three weeks I am embarking on an Arctic Adventure to Greenland. I will be spending five days with a small group of people from around the world in a spiritual walk with an Shaman named Angaangaq or "Uncle". I’m a Florida native whose outdoor activities typically involve sitting at a shaded cafe or walking on the beach; not camping 400 miles from the North Pole. I will be sleeping at the base of these Ice Caps and have been told that as they melt and fall into the water, I will be able to feel the earth shake. WOW!

I met Angaangaq last year at a workshop in Southwest Florida. He is an amazing teacher and healer. He consults world leaders and teaches individuals, like us, about the environment; improving the condition of man; and personal, spiritual growth. When he talked about his homeland and the event this summer, I had a vision of being there. However, as time passed my inspiration waned. Then I talked to a friend who was celebrating his 50th birthday. As he mused about his life, he stared into the distance and said "all the times I wish I would've said yes". At that moment I decided I could not let this opportunity pass.

Greenland is not a major tourist destination so it's not easy to get to. Between tuition, flights and renting cold weather camping gear; I'm looking at $6000. One morning in the shower I was trying to think of ways to cover the cost of the trip. I heard a voice in my head (don't laugh, I know the voices speak to you too) saying, "get a sponsor".

I was telling a mentor this story over coffee and she told me to start with friends and family. It immediately made me uncomfortable; therefore I knew I had to do it, ask for help. We give so much of our time, talents and money that I think we forget how to receive. We need that balance. I guess I’m trying to find that balance. My friend then pushed a $100 bill across the table saying, "I'll start the sponsorship, Ben is your friend."  

So I took a deep breath and began sending out emails to friends and family; asking if they knew of any individuals or organizations that would sponsor such an adventure (civic, environmental, holistic, spiritual, personal, themselves, etc). I offered to make presentations before or after my trip, give first copies of the book I write about the experience, etc

I was updating a friend this weekend on the modest amount of success I have had so far and she challenged me to blog about it. Once again, I immediately felt anxious to put this plea out there. So I’m doing it. I appreciate any support that comes my way: encouragement, prayers for a safe journey and of course Ben (as in Franklin $$).

Thanks so much for taking the time to read this unusual blog entry and feel free to contact me with any questions or suggestions for my Arctic Adventure!

Much Love,

Gina Birch
PO Box 6
Fort Myers, Fl 33902 (trip details)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Highfalutin Finger Lickin'

Texans take their barbecue seriously. On my trips to Austin over the years, I've eaten barbecue indoors, outdoors, from old gas stations turned restaurants, food served on paper, plastic and most recently china. I've always heard about the upscale BBQ joint Lambert's, downtown on 2nd Street, and finally experienced it for myself. The historic brick building is an oasis of heart and soul in the middle of newer, contemporary construction.

The fusion of old and new continues inside with exposed brink, dark hardwood floors, retro lighting and green leather banquette booths. Lamberts has a stellar line-up of musicians playing every night in the upstairs bar, where we happened to be seated. The bar menu had an impressive selection of  scotch, whiskey and tequila. The eclectic wine list had selections from Germany and France to Napa and New Mexico. Being a fan of locally distilled Tito's Vodka, I opted for the Sanchez: Tito's, olive juice, Pickled Jalepeno and Caperberry. A dirty martini with just the right kick. Yes you can call it a "Dirty Sanchez".

My favorite appetizers included the spicy deviled eggs and the fried green tomato, topped with delicious jumbo lump crab salad. The food is a bit pricey for a BBQ joint but if you get there for happy hour, the appetizers are half off.

The sides are creative and served family-style. I could've eaten the brussel sprouts cooked in bacon and brown butter all night. The jalapeno and garlic roasted broccoli was a close second. The mac and 3 cheese not far behind, you get the idea.

One of the favorite entrees at our table was the Housemade Jalepeno Hot Links with hot pink pickled cabbage and mustard. The juicy pulled pork was another big hit. Lamberts also has savory brisket, tender short ribs, steak and a few seafood selections.

Lambert's is loud, it is expensive, it is a great experience. I've heard tales of a fabulous Sunday visit.

Lambert's Downtown Barbeque on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 13, 2011

Good Bottle Gone Bad

A dear friend of mine recently had a birthday and not only did he get gifts, he gave gifts. Delicious gifts from his wine cellar; Opus One and Stag's Leap S.L.V. He arrived at Fleming's Steakhouse with a bottle under each arm and asked our server for permission to uncork. Most good restaurants are open to BYOB of wines they do not have on their list. Opus One and Stag's Leap are often found on reserve wine lists but not vintages like these; 2002 and 1998 respectively. My mouth was watering as the wines were decanted. Thankfully they lived up to my expectations.

It's always good etiquette to buy a bottle when you bring one and Fleming's list has a multitude of great choices. We all agreed to a bottle of one of my favorite Cabernets; Chateau Montelena (2007).

Our server poured a small taste and handed it to the wine connoisseur sitting next to me for approval. When he put his nose into the glass, it was obvious he was contemplating; but we didn't know exactly what. When he swirled the wine again, even I could smell the mildew. Being a fan of the wine, we knew the bottle was "corked" or bad. It happens; even in the best restaurants. Our server poured another small taste, disappeared with it and returned shortly with a new bottle that was outstanding.

I'm writing about this so if it happens to you, you wont settle for drinking an off-bottle because you are embarrassed to speak up or afraid you might be wrong. Yes, some wines smell like a barnyard. If you're not sure: swirl it in your glass, let it open some more, sniff again, then taste.  If you are still not sure, ask your server to inspect. Restaurant managers can get credits or replacement for bad bottles from their distributors so it's not like you are sticking them. Even more important, they want you to leave their establishment with a good taste in your mouth, literally.