The 2014 Page Valley Road Race

Friday, December 19, 2014

I Brought the Swag

Just a quick post this morning to wrap up the series on my recent trip to Kansas City.  My team was there for a trade show, which was part of one of our big promotional initiatives for the year.  We ended up in Baltimore, San Francisco, and Kansas City - a tally of three shows.

Thinking about it over the history of this blog since 2007, I've probably been to at least one trade show every year since then - mostly it is the NFMT show in Baltimore, where I have spoken frequently, but there is also the sister show in Las Vegas, which I have been to three times, always to speak as well.

So this year it was a new thing to go with a booth set up to do marketing and outreach - at least with the current company.  Somewhere along the way there are some past posts about trips to San Antonio and Orlando for trade shows with one of my previous employers.

You can imagine that I have collected some pretty good squishee toys from all of this, and you would be correct.  That is the indulgence that I have for this kind of trip - whether it is the little hard hats that we got for ourselves (paired with carpenter pencils, which have been a surprise hit), or these two surprises my friends helped me find in Kansas City.  I think I have around thirty of these objects in my collection.

I have to admit, when we found the squishee hand grenade, it brought a tear to my eye.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Kansas City's Boulevard Brewery

When we got news that we would be heading to Kansas City, my colleague Eric and I began working on our travel plans, hoping that we would be able to squeeze in a visit to the famous Boulevard Brewery there.  Our flights into town were set to arrive on Monday afternoon, but we also knew that the tasting room was open from 11 to 4, so there was a good chance we might arrive too late to catch them at all.

I even tweeted them early in the day to let them know we were traveling in and hoped to get there in time to experience a tasting.  As it turned out, not only did we get there in plenty of time, but they invited us to join the 3:15 version of their premium Smokestack Tour.  We were early, so we took a walk to a nearby strip of Mexican restaurants for lunch before the tour began.

This tour is led by some of the more experienced brewery employees, and they offer plenty of insight into the brewing process and the brewery's history along the way.  Boulevard was started by a home brew enthusiast who decided to make the leap to professional - and has since captured most of the market in Kansas City, with distribution across the county.  We can even get it at the local near our office.

The founder has decided to retire, and began a fairly extensive search on how to transition the business.  He settled on a sale to the Belgian brewer Duvel, figuring there was a good cultural match that would ensure the longevity of what he built.

It's tradition to offer a glass of beer during a tour of a brewery.  At Boulevard we were offered Tank 7 - a beer I've come to enjoy via some friends who grew up in Kansas City, and one that I can easily find locally.  That generous pour sustained us about 3/4 of the way through the tour.

Our tour led us through a lot of the original spaces as well as the newly expanded areas.  It was clear the brewery is a locally popular place to not only visit and taste, but to hold events.  There were a couple of events just ending while we there, and another, quite large one, just setting up as our tour ended.

We had a moment to step into a cooler where they stored the hops supply for a week.  Some recent posts here on Hawksbill Cabin were about the prospect of growing hops - so I had a moment there in the cooler to enjoy the scent of these fine herbs and check out the varieties they use.  I even had a minute to pass around photos of the hopyards back home in Luray!

Now, I have visited at least two dozen breweries in my time (check out the Brewery Tours label for details of some recent tours), including a couple of Anheiser Busch facilities - I've seen big operations.  Having been to Port City here in Alexandria, I've also seen a rapidly expanding regional brewing.  That's pretty much what I expected from Boulevard - but when we passed by the bottling line, I knew we were seeing something much bigger.

The photo only shows about half of the line.  They can really turn it out here!

Yet another highlight of the Smokestack Tour is the prospect of a paired flight of beers from the tap.  When we got back to the tasting room, they had our flights waiting along with a few little snacks to taste them with.  We worked our way through a series of Belgian, IPA, and Stout style beers, with ample tasting notes, and had some complementary foods.

They were all good, but I'd guess at this time and place, I liked the stout the best - it was paired with a smoked gouda that was lightly dusted with smoked paprika.

Now, if you're counting, you can see that we were at two pints so far - not counting the pint that they had poured for us when we first got in and were milling about deciding on the tour.  So three pints, sure.

Well, that's not all.  There was still  time before the next event in the place, so we were able to enjoy a few more samples from the tap list - I had the 80-acre hoppy wheat, and the Single-wide IPA.

Then, on a final note, they pulled out a specially bottled reserve-style stout.  I've lost my notes on this beer, but it was tasty, with a solid ABV.  For a brewery that has something of a specialty in Belgian styles, this didn't surprise me.

And it was a fine one to end the experience on.

So, Boulevard Brewery in Kansas City?  Put that one on your to-do list if you find yourself out there!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Road Trip: Kansas City

Earlier in my career as a management consultant, I traveled (a lot) more.  It's tapered off over the last few years - I don't mind this, although maybe I'm nostalgic for a few more trips per year.  However, last week's trip to Kansas City reminded me of some of the better ones - in fact, I'd go as far as to say that this trip matched up to the Seattle trip I took in 1999 from a "knife and fork" perspective!

It wasn't my first trip to Kansas City - I'd passed through on the way to and from business school in LA in the late 1990's, and there was a business trip to Topeka at some point.  But none of those trips involved a stay in the city itself - we were headed out for a three-day small business conference and trade show.  The trip turned out to be productive and fun.

I have three or four posts to make in total - so we'll start with this one about the restaurants.  I have a couple of friends from there who sent along some recommendations, reminding me that KC is not just about barbecue - although it certainly knows how to do that well.

Still - a barbecue place was our first stop:  We were seated fast and those plates were huge.  It made for a good start to our trip.

On our second night, we met up with some business partners who wanted to go to Novel,  The restaurant name is a commentary on current American cuisine, meant to emphasize an evolution from "New American" by emphasizing the basic ingredients in a dish and enhancing their taste with complementary ingredients.

What we find in parallel is an emphasis on foods that a few years ago would have been very hard to find - the pork bellies, the face meat, etc. - it's something you'll pretty much encounter coast to coast, but I was also pleasantly surprised to encounter it in Kansas City.

The final place we went to was the  This may well have been my best ever business trip meal, and the most happening business trip restaurant as well.  Although the photo doesn't do it justice, I snapped an Instagram of the striped bass plated with spaghetti squash and bok choy.  I started with a fantastic smoked trout appetizer...taking a break out there in the midwest from all the pork and beef.

Afterwards, we went downstairs for a cocktail at the speakeasy, where they have an extensive menu and knowledgeable staff to steer you in the right direction for some libations.  The web page offers its own friendly advice, which I've taken to heart:  "Civility is not a sign of weakness.  Be kind to each other, and be strong in your convictions.

I guess for as long as I remember it, that will be my motto for the Kansas City trip.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Sunny Wisteria

Mary and I decided to take advantage of the sunny day and warm temperatures last weekend to make a stop over at our neighbors', Wisteria Vineyard.  We thought we might take in a walk back to Little Hawksbill Creek to enjoy the stream as it swelled with snow melting off of Hawksbill Mountain over in Shenandoah National Park, and of course we could pick up our fall wine selections from Wisteria's wine club.

The sunny day had tempted the sheep out into their pasture as well.  It turned out that as we walked along the little road to the stream, we interrupted a couple of them headed over to graze.  They stood by, indignant, and watched us pass, with a couple of hens also standing by.

Turns out the sheep and chickens are featured in a new video about Wisteria, embedded below:

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Beaver Dam in Snow

Last month I wrote a post about the beaver dam across the road from Hawksbill Cabin, since it had come into view after the leaves fell.  When-ever there is snow on the ground up there, we have a good view of it from the yard - we can easily see how big it it really fills up the hollow.  It actually covers an acre or two, between Beaver Run itself and a small tributary that merges in from the right side.

Then on Sunday morning, as Tessie and I were taking our little walk around the property and up the road, I happened to look out and see the beaver out and about, making his rounds in the pond.  The main portion of the stream goes off to the left in this photo, and back in there is where the beavers typically build their lodge.

Here's a link to a Wikipedia article about beaver dams, should you wish to read more about them.