Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

We spent last week in Door County. It was our first vacation in years--and our first trip that didn't have people we knew on the other end of it ever! We had a great time in spite of bad weather and a bad head cold, and before I forget I wanted to get down a few recommendations for others.

Our resort, Little Sweden, was unbelievable. Pictures cannot do the place justice, but here's one of the living room:

Living room

We had a king-size bed, two massive whirlpool tubs, and access to free tennis, golf, bikes, shuffleboard, ping-pong, and indoor and outdoor pools and hot tubs. The place is a bit pricey--we wouldn't have gone if not for the incredible deal we got through a friend--but it was also, without a doubt, the nicest place I've ever stayed.

We also had some superb meals. Breakfast is Door County's best meal, in my opinion. The White Gull Inn and The Cookery in Fish Creek, Al Johnson's in Sister Bay, and the Village Cafe in Egg Harbor all had phenomenal eggs. And each place excelled at something else as well. White Gull Inn had charming ambiance and great raspberry jam. The Cookery served their homemade strawberry rhubarb jam with their eggs and toast--and it was so good I bought a jar to bring home. Al Johnson's made great potatoes, and of course we had to go twice so we could each also order a stack of the Swedish pancakes. They taste just like they did when I was a kid--but this time I even used the lingonberries! Village Cafe had the best potatoes I've ever tasted. If the owner, who we met three different times during our trip--including the time she delivered pizza to us--is reading this, I'd love the recipe!

The owner of Village Cafe also owned our favorite dinner spot. We ate at Trio in Egg Harbor because I had read good reviews, but while it was good, the place felt a little pretentious and the bill was bigger than the portions. On our way there, though, we had passed Villaggios in Juddville, and two nights later we decided to have our Italian there instead. What a difference! The portions were perfect, the service was friendly, and the place was charming. And while Trio's tiramisu was an interesting, mousse-like creation, the Villaggio tiramisu, served in a large glass mug, nearly brought tears to my eyes. We told the owner on our way out--our first encounter with her, at that point--that we had enjoyed a fantastic meal. We had many good dining experiences, but Villaggio was an unexpected and wonderful surprise.

And don't forget Not Licked Yet in Fish Creek for custard! We didn't--we went four times.

We did more than eat, of course. We also drank! We only found time for one winery, but I'd have a hard time believing we didn't choose correctly. Simon Creek Vineyard and Winery, located a few miles east of Highway 42 on County Road I, served us 12 different wines. Usually, at these kinds of places, you're lucky to like one or two. We had a hard time limiting ourselves to the four bottles we brought home.

And, of course, we hiked. We did a tough trail in Peninsula State Park, and later in the week we walked along the beach at Whitefish Dunes State Park on the peninsula's Lake Michigan side, then climbed a tall sand dune before wandering back through the forest.

If you go to Door County, I hope you get better weather than we did. But the place will leave a smile on your face:

Me on a tower

Friday, September 07, 2007

There's No Such Thing as Bad Chabon, But...

Gentlemen of the Road: A Tale of Adventure, Michael Chabon

Michael Chabon could write almost anything and I’d want to read it because, to paraphrase one of his characters, his sentences sound like they’ve always existed in style heaven and he merely plucked them down and used them. This short novel is no exception; even when some of the words are unfamiliar, the language is unfailingly gorgeous.

In this work, which he originally wanted to call “Jews with Swords,” Chabon takes readers on an adventure through the Caucasus region 1,000 years ago. There are journeys and skirmishes and disguises, and even two well-drawn central characters. In short, there’s nothing in particular wrong with the book, and if you’re a Chabon fan you won’t regret reading it.

But in an afterword explaining why this new book is so different from his past work, Chabon says that he’s been chasing adventure in his writing, and he makes it sound like he won’t be penning another book like Wonder Boys or Kavalier and Clay for a while. That’s a shame. It’s one thing not to regret reading a book. But it would be a far better thing to love it.

This review has been posted on Amazon.com. Gentlemen of the Road will be released October 30 and was provided for review early as part of Amazon's Vine program.