From the category archives:

Food/Drink

An Extraordinary Place

by Alan Rider

In my adult life, I’ve lived in more than a dozen cities and spent time in dozens more.  And I’m here to tell you that, in my experience, there’s no place on this planet that can match New Orleans when it comes to pure, irrepressible joi de vivre.
What I find truly extraordinary, however, is the fact that this laid-back, fun-loving vibe has remained virtually unchanged despite the dramatic damage inflicted when Hurricane Katrina hit the Crescent City four years ago today.  While many New Orleans neighborhoods remain devastated, the laissez le bon temps rouler spirit that earned this town the nickname “The City That Care Forgot” remains remarkably intact.
Though I’m [...]

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Mancations?

by Alan Rider

Okay, I admit it: The first time I heard about the idea of a mancation, it struck me as somewhat odd.  The more I thought about it though, the more I realized that some of my most extraordinary experiences have been in the company of good male friends like Mike, Todd, and Bob.
Which is one reason I was pleasantly surprised to discover Mantripping.com.  The website is full of ideas that would make great buddy trips, from attending air races to tromping through the backwoods in search of Bigfoot.
My favorite story on the Mantripping website though has to be this first-hand account of what it’s like to attend Spain’s annual La [...]

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'Shine On!

by Alan Rider

My hard liquor-drinking days may be behind me, but that doesn’t make me any less interested in visiting the Belmont Farms Distillery in Culpeper Virginia.
You see, while distillery tours have become commonplace, this family-run operation about 90 minutes southwest of Washington DC offers something truly unique: The chance to experience America’s only legal moonshine distillery.
Unlike fancier brews, the old-fashioned clear corn whiskey they make here isn’t aged in oak barrels. In fact, the 100-proof liquor isn’t aged at all, as moonshine connoisseurs (is that an oxymoron?) apparently insist this classic American liquor is best enjoyed fresh (their Virginia Lightning brew is actually guaranteed to be no more than 30 days [...]

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9 Things I Learned At Mardi Gras

by Alan Rider

Having lived in New Orleans in the mid-1980s, I’ve been to my share of Mardi Gras parades.  That said, I just came back from the biggest Mardi Gras weekend since Hurricane Katrina blew through The City That Care Forgot and I have to admit that I learned a few things (or at least remembered some things I’d forgotten).  In no particular order they are:
1.  New Orleans is back as a world-class destination.  While there are still many neighborhoods that remain devastated, all the things that make this town such a great place to visit—the food, the music, the friendly people—are still here and as enjoyable as ever.
2.  Everybody you meet [...]

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Shuttle Launch Sideshow

by Alan Rider

It’s one of the fundamental principles behind XTRORD.com: When it comes to extraordinary experiences, we figure you’d rather hear about them from someone who’s been there and done that. 
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to score a ride into outer space (not yet, anyway) so I can’t tell you what it’s like.  But I found some folks who can on a recent visit to Florida’s Kennedy Space Center. 
Besides some tasty grub (thankfully not the freeze-dried stuff they feed real astronauts), the hour-long Lunch With An Astronaut program serves up a light-hearted video presentation that should answer just about every question you ever had about life aboard NASA’s space shuttles and the [...]

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"Killer" Cereal

by Alan Rider

Look through the pages of XTRORD.com and this blog and you may get the idea that I have a thing for food.  While my tastes are admittedly too low-brow for me to be considered a gourmet and my interest is a bit too casual for me to qualify as a true “foodie,” I do love discovering people and places that transform the often mundane act of eating into an extraordinary experience.
Which brings me to this quirky little café franchise called Cereality where they serve up more than two dozen brands of your favorite hot and cold breakfast cereals in any mix-and-match combination your twisted little taste buds can imagine.  To [...]

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The Original Chocolate Factory

by Alan Rider

Alright friends, time for a little game of word association.  Now, if I say “chocolate factory,” you say…what?
If the first words out of your mouth were “Willy Wonka,” give yourself two points for pop culture awareness. If you said “Rocky Mountain,” deduct one point because you’re probably spending way too much time at the mall.  Ten points and the win go to those of you who thought of the ancient Mayans, the first people to grind up the seeds of wild cacao trees and whip them into a bitter chocolate beverage nearly 2,000 years ago. 
Fast forward a couple of millennia and the truly chocolate-obsessed can now get a first-hand look at [...]

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