Key West Food and Wine Fest JAN 2024

[23-JAN-2024 to 28-JAN-2024 Key West, FL US]

As always, went to the Key West Food and Wine Fest in January. I went to the first one and every one since then, except for 2021. This time around, the festival was lower key than usual – without the trolley tours on any wine crawls; however, I got to met my best friends of the weekend like every year.

I stayed at the Hilton “Casa Marina” hotel (which was previously known as the Waldorf Astoria). The hotel itself was grand as usual; however, the exterior facing the beach still has not been rebuilt from the hurricane several years back.

I only went to two events this time. One was a stroll through Fort West Martello Garden Club on Thursday. The last thing later than night was a light dinner and I sabered my first champagne ever. I thought I would goof, but it went okay; well, other than me looking totally surprised that I did it without a hitch 🙂

Skipped Friday and walked around Key West, mainly on Duvall Street. A bunch of places were out of business but it looked like a few new ones were under construction. On Saturday, had the Grand Tasting at Fort East Martello Museum. Click on link below for all of the pics.

See all the pictures by clicking on the picture or link below:


Key West Food and Wine Fest 2024

The Key West Food and Wine Fest is every year on the last weekend of January and you can get the information here. The program for each year is posted around October of each year at the Key West Food and Wine Fest official site.

(P.S. Went to visit the old La Concha Inn which used to be an IHG Crowne Plaza hotel with a Starbucks and a wine room “Wine-O”. Well, it’s all gone and Marriott took over, everything wiped clean, and it is sell under heavy renovation with daily noise and debris so DO NOT BOOK a room there yet – the reviews are atrocious!)

Thanksgiving in New Orleans 2023

[2023 – Nov 22 through 25: Thanksgiving in New Orleans, LA, US]

I was all ready to go to London, UK for the week of Thanksgiving. However, the volcano in Iceland was about to blow it’s top so I canceled the trip (since I did not want to get stuck in England if it did spew ash into the air).

So I thought I’d just stay in my abode; however, last minute, I decided I wanted (British) afternoon tea and turkey for Thanksgiving. I searched on “british afternoon tea and restaurant open for thanksgiving” and New Orleans popped up. Did some quick sleuthing and I booked Hotel Monteleone to stay, starting on Wednesday. The hotel, although French sounding, was as British as you can get. Had the typical British umbrella in the closet. The room had both ‘still’ and ‘sparking’ water (as opposed to typical US hotels, nothing), and to top it off they had “Gilchrist and Soames” (not imported from the UK, it was made in the US – bummer) ameneties in the lou. Plus the hotel definitely had British vibes to it, like the hallway with stairs jutting out randomly in the hallway.

Once there, I visited their rotating Carousel Bar that night. The bar on the first floor of the hotel just to the right side of the front desk area is very popular. It rotates. It is cool. Never knew about it until I literally was sitting at the bar. =snort=

On Thursday, I went to hit Jack Rose for Thanksgiving Dinner. Three course dinner with wine pairing. It was awesome. For desert, I had their signature Mile High Pie 🙂

Then on Friday afternoon, walked over to Le Salon for Afternoon Tea. It was great. Bottomless tea of course! Although I do have two minor issues: (a) they did not have Pimms! Oh well, I had some minty concoction instead, which was good. And, (b) the serving tray was only a double-decker! Must be three! It doesn’t have to be, but it would have been nice. But no matter, it was great. I had, Earl Grey, hot – of course. (Although I didn’t say “hot”.)

So here are all of the pictures I took in chronological order, just click on the picture or link below:


Thanksgiving in New Orleans 2023

San Diego Food and Wine Fest 2023

[2023-11-09 thru 2023-11-12, San-Diego, CA US]

San Diego Food and Wine Fest 2023 is one of the top 10 food and Wine Fests in the US. So I had to go and see, of course. Well, see, eat and wine away (as well as beer and liquor if you choose to do that to). The festival is all week long culminating in the Friday, Saturday, with bonus Saturday night after party at the House of Blues, and Sunday food and wine tastings.

I just did the weekend affair with the VIP tickets (you get to go in an hour early before the HUGE throngs of people fly into the area; plus VIPs get a VIP section with different food and better wine in the section.

FRIDAY – I was talking to the winemakers (usually owners, winemakers or reps) of this one winery where they said they only brought a few bottles of each for the VIP section. I said won’t you run out, and they said yes; however the wines are $500 per bottle. Okay, and yes their wine was exquisite.

SATURDAY – Unlike Friday night where the tasting was held inside, this was all outside. The venue was right at the bay so the view was great, the weather was warm without wind so it was another great day in San Diego.

I had a ticket for the Saturday night after party at the House of Blues but I was totally wiped out. (As in, walking all day sipping wine and eating great food – and no water, like I totally forget to drink water. That’s bad – I was utterly wiped out.) SO the pics are from the official hotel, the Hyatt, and I scored a corner room so that was magnificent in itself. Friday was Lyft to venue and light rail back; but Saturday, I just went downstairs and walked to/from the venue so it was awesome. Pictures are here:


San Diego Food and Wine Fest 2023

The San Diego Food and Wine Fest is every year in November and you can get the information here. The program for each year is posted three to six months before the event, but the exact schedule is not available until a few weeks to a month before the event: San Diego Food and Wine Fest official site.

American Airlines Aviator MasterCard Priceless Experience OCT 2023 and more

Wow, this was a full fun packed week, here goes!

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Priceless Experience 11-Oct-2023, with Lauren
Official Pictures: National Cathedral Priceless Table 2023 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 5 out of 5 stars!

Okay wow, this was an event that I call spectacular! I went with my friend Lauren to the American Airlines Aviator MasterCard Priceless Experience held in Washington DC at the National Cathedral. Wow, it was decked out to the max! We had a quartet playing throughout the evening, it was amazing! We had a cocktail hour included with the four course dinner by celebrity Chef Bryan Voltaggio (Instagram).

Please note, the link to the official photographs may be removed at a future date, so I took pictures and downloaded a few select pictures from the official photos in my set of pictures (they are marked with AA logos #PricelessExperience). But I digress, it was worth way beyond what I paid in AA airmiles to attend this event! Click on the picture or link below to check out my photos along with a few select official ones:

Oh, I forgot to add, when we were leaving, we got a really really nice gift, a wooden wine box with laser etched wine bottle and a charcuterie cutlery set! Amazing!

American Airlines Aviator MasterCard Priceless Experience OCT 2023

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Dinner with Drew and Lisa 12-Oct-2023
We went to: District Chophouse and Brewery ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 5 out of 5 stars
The following day, had dinner with my work buddy Drew and Lisa at the District Chophouse and Brewery. Fun conversation and all. It was late so it was not crowded. I had filet mignon with asparagus. It was amazingly tender and great! In all of the excitement, I forgot to take a picture of the food, sorry!

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Another Adventure with Ed and Kathy 13-Oct-2023
We went to: Virtue Feed and Grain ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 5 out of 5 stars
The following day, had dinner with my college friends Kathy and Ed at the Virtue Feed and Grain in my favorite town in Alexandria, VA. Wow, it was crowded. We sat outside. It was a nice day. I got the salmon. It was nice and tasty and again, no picture of the food. So, so, sorry…

On the ominous side, Alexandria is right on the shoreline of the Potomac River. Here is a picture at night, right after dinner. That waterline should be at least 5 feet below where it is. It was so high, the water inundated parts of the sidewalk and flooded on parts the streets by where we were walking. The waters are rising! Beware…

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Motto by Hilton, 10-Oct-2023 through 14-Oct-2023
Bad concept, worse pricing: Motto by Hilton ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ 0 out of 5 stars

WARNING: It appears to me like Hilton stuffed TripAdvisor.com with fake reviews. Why? Look at the “5 star” reviews that flood the site – they are one-time reviewers who just happen to just to comment on just that one hotel. And all of the bad reviews get pushed lower and lower so you don’t see them. My advice? Avoid all “Motto by Hilton”, as follows:

The “‘Motto’ by Hilton” hotels are ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ 0 out of 5 stars, avoid, avoid, avoid, avoid, avoid! The room is reminiscent of old New York hotels where there is zero space, no desk (unless you use one of the night tables as a ‘desk’ but it’s so low – at nightstand height – if you work there for 8 hours, your neck and shoulders will hurt), and no where to open plop down your carry-on bag onto a luggage rack – no space! You have to plop it onto the beg get things in/out then zip it up and put it onto the floor. and your carry-on bag.

Now, if the hotel was priced at “hostel” prices, it would be okay if you are into crammed spaces, but the cost of these micro-no-space matchbox rooms is just as ridiculously expensive as their regular full service Hilton hotels! Oh, and, I was by myself. Pity the fools if you are a couple with a huge bag or two. Mega-nightmare. With a child? Absolutely ZERO space. Zero zero zero zero zero. Hilton should immediately dump this ill-formed crammed concept. See my carry-on in my squashed pitiful room below for sizing, yeah, absolutely zero room at all:

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Secret, Secret, I have a Secret!
Ventopo.com
Pssst! This was a packed week from start to finish. I started with the best first and ended with the least last. How do I find and go to cool events like the Priceless Table? There’s more to it that I can expound on in a paragraph, but here is a hint: I got tired of searching the ‘inter-webs’ so I created my own site where all of the fun sites are at my finger tips, at Ventopo.com.

It a list of lists of fun events all across the world. Check out the “Members page” (it’s free and no need to give me your email or any of that nonsense), and see how you can grab a cool thing or two to do! A whole new world of adventure begins right there…

Pacific Food and Wine Classic – Sep 2023

[30-Sep 2023 Newport Dunes, CA US]

I bought a ticket for the Pacific Food and Wine Classic held on Saturday 30-Sep-2023 in Newport Dunes, CA.

It was another afternoon of a ton of great food and a lot of amazing wines. There were a few hard liquor spots and a few mixed-in-a-can something booths but I skipped those and stuck to the wine. Of wait, I did try one chocolate vodka and that was amazing. The flavored alcoholic drinks are just so so dangerous… 🙂

The weather was nice, then all of a sudden got a lot cooler and gusts of win picked up. One of the booths had a solid wood panel shelving background and that tipped over. No one was hurt but all the wine on the shelves splattered everywhere. That was a horrible site to behold…

It started raining for a few minutes but that let up and the rest of the day was rather pleasant. The food was fantastic as well as the wines.

I was walking around so much I didn’t take too many pictures – sorry about that, but here they are. Here is the Jadot booth before huge throngs of people crowed in…


Pacific Food and Wine Classic 2023

The Atlanta Food and Wine Fest is every year in September and you can get the information here. The program for each year is posted three to six months before the event each year at Pacific Food and Wine Classic official site.