A quick stop in at Vitae Spirits was a great end to a day of intellectual pursuit at UVa. Vitae is a new distillery, but their outstanding product belies their young age.

Tasting three products: two rums and a gin

Hard to describe how good the rum is (with no aging at all), especially the oustanding Golden Rum product. Proprietor and founder Ian Glomski is a microbiologist by training and his scientific background really shines through. (Kind of reminds me of Becky Harris from Catoctin Creek since she was a chemist before turning to distilling.)

The remarkable Golden Rum is distilled with grilled sugar cane and molasses. Charcoaled american oak chips give it some interesting characteristics (and its color). Post production sugaring with molassas (fairly standard with many rums) happens when the spirit is brought down to 80 proof from its run up over 150.

The Platinum Rum is also very very good. Some readers may recall from WAY back that the first spirit NPS had under its belt was rum. This one stands up to the range.

The Modern Gin? We’ll just skip talking about that.

The Vitae still is also very interesting—a hybrid pot still/column still attached in-line.

The hybrid still

Though we have never seen a still quite like this before, NPS is told that many craft distillers use hybrids like this.



The whole shebang

Of course yeast and mash make all the difference in the world. Here is where the microbes do their thing to make beer for the still. The beer only comes in around 4% when it is run. That is low by rum standards, but whatever Ian is doing is really working well.

We also tried some experimental Anisette which is still in experimentation stage. This product is very interesting. Ian is working out a post production infusion plan now (testing regular lemon versus meyers lemon). Thanks for the palate clearing yogurt from your personal stash Ian!

Strong design

The best way to finish a distillery visit is to run out and try the product in the wild. Toward that end, we made a quick visit to the Alley Light where we sampled a drink called Castro’s Ashes
1.5 oz Vitea Golden Rum
.75 oz Cynar
.75 oz sassafras vermouth (maybe ransom?)
4 drops BBQ bitters
stir down. Serve up in a coupe. Flame orange peel and balance on the edge.

Castro’s Ashes from Alley Light

NPS is bullish on Vitae Spirits. Check them out before they get big!

Late stage relationship Ehekarussell (loosely, the Marriage-Merry-Go-Round)

Big chains like the Park Plaza chain are generally something we avoid at NPS. But we neglected to set this trip up far enough out and it turns out the Embedded World conference fills up Nuremberg almost completely. That meant that the boutiques we would normally target were full. Only some seriously good detective work came up with Park Plaza (thanks for your help Abbie).

View from 614 Park Plaza

The hotel itself is situated just across a major road from the train station. Turns out to be a great location given the venue for the event (Indabahn). And the Nuremberg Park Plaza itself is much better than expected. Friendly front staff, early check in on arrival over the pond (!!), a modern spacious hip lobby, and get this—no plastic showers.


The bathroom is spacious and well appointed. (Sure, the shower pan may be vinyl, but the glass cube is fantastic.

Glass shower cube with two shower heads


Walking around Nuremberg is a great way to see the sights. The city is very walkable. Use these guides.

Some restaurants of note
Atelier Bar for sausages
Sangam nuremberg (very good Indian)
Pillhofer (get the crispy pork shoulder)
Hausbrauerei Altstadthof (house brewed red beer and award winning schnapps)

We’re still working out the cocktail situation in Nuremberg. Atelier Bar in the Grand Hotel is great. They not only made a cocktail called the Nuremberg Mule
4 cl Haas gin (a local product)
2 cucumber slices
1/2 lime
freshly ground ginger
muddle ingredients. add ice. Top with Thomas Henry spicy ginger. Garnish with cucumber slice

Nuremberg Mule

…they also accommodated NPS for breakfast 15 minutes before they were even supposed to be open! Get this, the weenies in the restaurant at Park Plaza have no flexibility to serve past their 10:30 cut off (on zee dot, you are late, NEIN). The solution is to walk next door to the Grand Hotel and find some actual service. Let this be a lesson to you and your corporate droids Park Plaza! Minus twenty.

Atelier Bar Nuremberg

In other cocktail news, NPS has confirmed that Bar Nürnberg is in fact a very good bar indeed. From the special cocktail of the night (a dark and stormy derivative with rhum agricole from guadalupe) to corpse reviver #2s to sazaracs, each cocktail was meticulously made with care and expertise. Highly recommended.

We got into the Fernet Branca and stayed until 1 am.

On our last day in Nuremberg, we had a very nice chat with Park Plaza GM Carsten Baumann who shared the history of the hotel, talked some politics, and veered on into distilling (predictably given our proclivities). Carsten is an interesting fellow. His outreach was very professional.

The DelikatEssen is a great spirits shop in Nuremberg hidden across the river. Bought some Haas products, an interesting German Windspiel gin, and some high end hazelnut liqueur.

Vintage Bar (just across the street from DelikatEssen in fact) is the second best bar in Nuremberg with the most passion of all. Spent a nice evening chatting with the owner.

Four showerheads and some training for the breakfast staff at the Park Plaza. Much better than expected and yet also short of the mark.

You know how we feel about United airlines here on this blog. They squeezed every single iota of loyalty out of us during the ill-fated Smisek years. Our 1.6 MILLION miles meant nothing to United. So we stopped flying United three years ago.

Is it time to forget and forgive? Well, not exactly. But sometimes we just fly whatever airline will get us where we need to be when we need to be there.

The world colluded to put us in United Polaris across the pond to Frankfurt.

The United pods on a 777-200 are nice. They are easier to manage than the Virgin Atlantic pods and don’t require shenanigans to get into bed mode. In practice, that means with expedited meal service you can get right to pretending to sleep.

Saks Fifth Avenue? Ha ha ha. United and dime stores.

Pod view with a large screen entertainment system running linux

Mimosa and propaganda

On this trip the crew was great, the wine was passable, the flight was bumpy and we arrived early. Well, what you gonna do.

Then there was the indignity of the bus at Frankfurt. No no no no.

Anyway, you get what you overpay for on United Polaris!

Quaqua Hike: Grenada

March 11, 2017

Park HQ

When you’re not allowed to dive due to immanent flying, go for a hike. The Quaqua hike is great. Bring food and water. Get a guide if you want (though getting lost would require serious stupid skills).

View of Grenada from on high

We packed some boiled eggs and grilled cheese sandwiches from Laluna and headed to the park.

The intrepid hikers

Or maybe that is the silly hikers

Big fern

Ryan the explorer

The top

Down was slippery

Then after a Stag beer, it was back to Laluna.

Dirty legs

The end

The River Antoine rum distillery in Grenada is well worth a visit. Driving up from St George’s takes about 90 minutes, but the drive is a great way to see more of the island. As in all travel Grenada, get a driver!

Rivers farms about 400 acres of sugar cane which provides 85% of the mash they need. The rest comes from elsewhere in the Carribean.


The cane is mashed with a water wheel operational since the 1800s.

Gears for the cane conveyor also use water power.

Cane detritus

The mash evaporates from a 4% concentration of sugar in several stages into a 15% concentration. It is then put into a vat to ferment into beer (with natural yeast fron the air). The beer comes in around 15% before heading into the pot stills.

Beer vat

Pot still one

Fired by wood.

The still runs off a proof of about 150 (75% alcohol). The coil is water cooled from the river.

Loading the still cooker

Storage of unmixed product in 500 gallon tanks below.

This used to be a bonded tank measured with a stick.

The computer (batch notes)

By all means visit the distillery when you are on Grenada.

For more about Grenada, see this entry on Laluna.

Imagine an isolated beach situated between two cliffs that tower over the shore on either side—coarsely sandy with waves big enough to hear and small enough to swim in. Then imagine a cottage surrounded by flowers and succulent plants perched over the common restaurant, pool, bar, and beach. Perfectly isolated from the other cottages. Put all of these imaginary things on an uncharacteristically green Granada.

Laluna Beach Grenada

That’s laluna.

We arrived well after dark having just learned lesson one about Grenada. Don’t rent a car, just get drivers and/or taxis.

Cottage 10 abuts cottage 9 where Eli stayed, and is the best cottage in the collection.

The shower was remarkable even by NPS standards. Outside and open to the elements but under a roof. Two square windows look out over the ocean.

We would go just for the shower.

Porch on a blustery morning

Then there was lesson two, which is bring cash. The ATM situation is suboptimal with Scotiabank leading the lameness charge. Dollars come in handy. Bring some.

About the only thing to fix about Laluna would be the restaurant and bar. The restaurant is staffed with great, attentive people, and is a good place for a hearty breakfast before diving, but there are far better places for lunch and for dinner just a short distance away. Likewise, Urban behind the bar is a fine fellow and a decent steel drum player to boot, but he needs a better ingredient set to make drinks with. That said, Urban was willing to adjust and learn some classics with special touches.

The breakfast view at laluna can’t be beat

A quick review of dinner targets reveals that BB’s Crabshack is by far the most authentic and delicious restaurant around. Goat stew and shrimp curry with rum punch? Yes.

Aquarium had the best high cuisine chef on the island with many dishes well past the workaday. Everyone complains about the service, but if you just light one of the cats on fire they will come right around.

The Beachhouse is by far the fanciest place and has the advantage of being a walk down the beach from Laluna, but it’s not as good food-wise as Aquarium even though the service is much better.

Coconut Beach restaurant is workaday. Its location right on the beach is nice, but not really worthy of a night out.

A margarita from

For lunch, umbrellas suited us just fine in our wet bathing suits and sandy feet fresh off the dive boat. Get the hot dog and remind them how easy it is to make a proper margarita with cointreau!

Native Spirit Dive Shop

We came to dive, and so we did. Two tank dives every day from Sunday to Wednesday. Native Spirit is fantastic with a friendly staff, attentive (and still fun) dive masters, very nice equipment, and great knowledge of the area. While in town, Eli was advanced open water diver certified and we carried out one deep 125 foot dive on the wreck of the Bianca C.

Coconut Beach from the dive shop

All in all the diving water was less clear than what we have experienced elsewhere with many more fish and fewer other creatures. We did see some gigantic lobsters lurking under the wreck of the Veronica (which also has a hidden air pocket 30 feet down). Drift diving and reef diving were enjoyable, but the wrecks were the most memorable. The underwater sculpture garden was worth a visit as well.

Rahel and Adrian are the dive shop proprietors and very nice people indeed.

Dive boat (super fast)

Coconut Beach from the dive shop

On our non-diving day (one day before flying) we went for a hike up Quaqua, the mountain in the middle of Grenada. The hike was great.

Hiking Quaqua

We also took a drive up to visit River Antoine’s Rivers Rum distillery (which actually makes Rhum Agricole just for the record). The drive was a great way to see more of the island, and the distillery itself is worth a look.

River’s Distillery is worth a visit

Five showerheads in an outdoor shower overlooking the ocean on a balmy morning for Laluna. Go!

Eat, Think, Drink

February 26, 2017

The time has come to turn 51. And so celebration ensues—in the city, with friends.

Last minute plan refactoring required use of a federal style rental vehicle. You see, nobody has any kids left at home, and so cars no longer fit six in one go! (Unless you count the one Eli “borrowed” and took to Wisconsin.)

Das Rental Beast

Das Rental Beast

Special last licks at Le Dip while Baker Bob remains in power (a one week reprise before retirement really kicks in).

Amy strikes her best Vanna pose by the bread at Le Diplomate

Amy strikes her best Vanna pose by the bread at Le Diplomate

Larry Kilbourne is a master (and a philosopher to boot)

Larry Kilbourne is a master (and a philosopher to boot)

Fois gras parfait (huckleberry)

Fois gras parfait (huckleberry)

Then a play at Studio Theater. The Hard Problem is written by my friend Tom about the philosophy of my friend Dave. The play is very good if you can ignore the god coincidence nonsense.

Stage set at Studio Theatre for The Hard Problem

Stage set at Studio Theatre for The Hard Problem

And then the crowning glory of the evening, drinks at the venerable Columbia Room in the secret booth. Thanks Dante!

Cocktail time!

Cocktail time!

Woman themed drink menu

Woman themed drink menu

Inspired by many of these incredibly great bartenders

Inspired by many of these incredibly great bartenders

Is that you Audrey?

Is that you Audrey?


A cocktail inspired by Becky Harris from Catoctin Creek

A cocktail inspired by Becky Harris from Catoctin Creek

Yo!  Forty Year Old Calvados

Yo! Forty Year Old Calvados

Last delicious licks

Last delicious licks

A perfect evening.