Hello!

Welcome to The Epic! I am launching this blog as a manifesto for and a guide to living well. The title and motto of the blog are taken from the Epicureans, at least some of whom believed in the notion that not one minute of the future was guaranteed to them and that as a result they had the duty to live life to its fullest every moment.

I believe in discovering fun and pleasurable things wherever I find myself each day and I am told I have a knack for unearthing them. My hope is that by sharing in my pleasures and some of my ways of finding them you will begin to collect all the riches that lie in the moments of your life. They are there. Take them! All our lives should be.....Epic.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Grand Port In A Storm: Ice In Louisville

For years I had a recurring dream. I'm standing in the lobby of the Seelbach Hotel in Louisville. One of the grand places. With a flower in my lapel. A woman walks in from the street. She is very well dressed. Gorgeous hair. Everyone looks at her but she looks at me. She walks up to me and we embrace. Outside, snow is falling. It is Christmas time. We retire for a drink in one of the darker corners of the marvelous bar just off the lobby. The rest of it remains a little...obscure.

I started having the dream after the first time I was a guest at the Seelbach. A long time ago. This hotel is so grand, the staff so gracious, the food so marvelous, that although there are plenty of other fine places to go in Louisville I am always tempted to just stay within the hotel when not attending to whatever tedious matters may be paying my way for that trip. My experience has been that the wonderful places have this effect. Hotels. Verdant glades. Certain golf courses. Most trout streams. The entire Shenandoah Valley. They inhabit their own place in your soul. Allowing you to go back whenever you wish. From any location.

A few weeks back, I happily found myself at the Seelbach once again anticipating a week in residence. The facade of the hotel is impressive and welcoming at the same time...

The lobby is timeless...



And the bar...I'll return to that hallowed room in a moment.

This was a very lucky trip in several ways. First, I made a good new friend in the course of the work-related activity. A fellow who shares my tastes in dining and imbibery. A reader of The Epic as it turns out. Even luckier in the event was the fact that my amazing assistant had scheduled all of my appointments across the street from the hotel. For the whole week. As someone who hates driving in unfamiliar streets, this was a tremendous gift. Which became particularly significant the second day. When I awoke to see this view out my window...

The return reader will conclude that I have been having something of a problem with ice storms this year. They seem to follow me about. This one was really terrible and made all the national news channels. Three inches of snow with two inches of ice on top. As an added challenge to a southern city. The storm was a natural disaster that took away electricity from hundreds of thousands of people. All of our work activity was cancelled. And I was marooned. The photo at the head of this post is of a horse statue just outside the hotel doors. Crusted in ice. The Wisconsin boy in me had to get out and take a walk. Also, there are two great Irish Pubs just down the street. I had to see if their proprietors had need of legal advice, you see. So, off I went, noticing a planter by the hotel...





A very hardy evergreen tree...


More ice and snow decorated plantings along the sidewalk...


After passing by the Irish pubs [one closed, one THANKFULLY open] and a bite of lunch, I had had enough of the blowing snow and retreated to my Seelbach room to plot my next move...

Amazingly, the power was still on. After pondering the view out the window a bit, and determining that I could not get a flight out of town for at least another twenty-four hours, I decided that the first thing I had to get was a couple of packages of batteries for the flashlight I always carry in my bag. As I entered the hotel sundry store, I noticed that the young lady behind the counter was in a state of some distress. It seemed that a friend was babysitting her four month old son. This "friend" had just called and informed my new acquaintance that she was leaving the clerk's apartment for some other abode and that she was taking the baby with her. Any mother worth her salt would be similarly disturbed. In the extreme. The young lady explained to me that there was nobody to cover her post at the register because so few people had been able to come in for work and that she really needed the job but that no matter what happened she was leaving to reclaim her baby from the "friend". Understandably so. Thus began my stint as a volunteer hotel sundry clerk. After a bit she returned with a VERY cute baby boy and I was on my way, batteries in hand. Marooned people have to help each other, after all. Besides, she had gorgeous hair.

A bit weary after my hike through the ice and snow and my impromptu work as a cashier, I took a nap. Go back to the photo of my room. Who could NOT take a nap? Then I dressed for dinner and oiled down to the Seelbach Bar which lies discretely behind these doors...

The plaque above the door states that the bar is recognized as one of the fifty best in America. Without question. They have live jazz. They have dozens of bourbons, as is proper in Kentucky. Once you go behind these doors, your cares tend to flee. Out into the ice and snow. The bar goes back to prohibition/speakeasy days...

The fellow sitting with the elegant lady in the FINE fur collared jacket is me. Or someone just like me, anyhow. After chasing away the horrid weather with a couple of neat bourbons, I headed up one floor to one of the great dining rooms you will find in any hotel. The Oak Room.

The headwaiter, Jamal, was taking care of everyone that night. The first time I dined at the Oak Room I had my favorite dish of all time, Tournedos Rossini. A Rossini was not on the menu this night, but when you start with perfectly prepared scallops topped with quail's eggs along with a warm potato salad, how can you go wrong? Here is the menu that was offered that night: http://www.seelbachhilton.com/oakroom_menu_winter_2009.pdf . Every item I tried was superb, as has been the case every time I have enjoyed dining at the Oak Room. One thing was a total surprise. They apparently make a vodka in Kentucky called "Rain". Jamal offered me a martini made with Kentucky vodka. It is a testament to how much I admire and trust this gentleman that I would even consider the notion. It sounded about as appealing as drinking Russian bourbon. Maybe it was just the appeal of the Oak Room. Maybe it was the fact that the hotel was encased in ice. Whatever the reason, I took the challenge and found this Bluegrass vodka very, very good. The bottle is pretty too...
Do not misunderstand me. I am not throwing over my beloved Stolichnaya for Rain. I can say however, that I have had a lot of vodka in a lot of martinis and Rain is very good. I'll certainly have more on my next trip to the Seelbach. And there will be another trip, of that I am confident.

This afternoon I was drudging out some report or another. Then I saw myself. In the Seelbach lobby. An ice storm howling outside. In the lobby though, the world is warm and filled with culture, bourbon, cuisine and experimental alcoholic beverages. The door opens to a swirl of snow flakes. I turn and a lamp just catches the color of the flower in my lapel...

The Seelbach Hilton, 500 Fourth Street Louisville, KY 40202-2518

9 comments:

Ben said...

Bartenders needing legal advice. What a brilliant market to target!

Laura [What I Like] said...

Good lord, what a story! I think it belongs in one of those fabulous anthologies of short stories that you curl up with on a rainy (or icy) day.

Turling said...

You need to write a book. I'll put my order in now.

M.Lane said...

Ben, I agree that market is untapped.

Laura, what a nice comment, thank you! I'll work hard to earn your return visits.

Turling, thank you very much also. I'm working on it.

Again, thanks to you all for your visits and very nice comments.

ML

drinkinanddronin said...

Louisville is one of my favorite southern cities. I unfortunately have never had the pleasure of staying there, but I may make a reservation next time I'm passing through.

Belle (from Life of a...) said...

Back in my college days, 1982 or so, one of my professors took a group of us to a conference in Louisville. One girl's mother had advised her that if we good southern belles didn't do another thing, we needed to go have a drink at the Seelbach. Three of us walked over one evening and enjoyed fabulous gin and tonics in that beautiful beautiful setting.

Petunia said...

What a beautiful hotel! I LOVE that you were the cashier for a little while....GREAT story!

Hope you had a happy Easter!

~Tessa~Scoffs said...

Re your beloved Stoli. Do you think it is better than Ketel One? I haven't had it since (yikes) high school and what did I know back then? I buy Ketel One but I'd love to save half the price.

M.Lane said...

D&D, I hope you give the Seelbach a try. Or at least the bar...

Belle, That is SOME kind of mom! My kind of lady...

Petunia, We did have a wonderful Easter thank you, and I hope that you and the MD and Lil P did also. Your post on it was very pretty.

Tessa, you High School BOOZER you! Ketel is very good [and they get a bonus point for opening a cool little bar in the Atlanta airport...see my older post "The Unexpected Watering Hole"] but I just think Stoli is a very pure and authentic vodka. And I am nothing if not brand loyal. And it was Frank's favorite so...

Thanks to you all for the visits and comments.

ML