Sunday, August 30, 2009

Our room @ Aloft

The hotel is in LOVE with stripes! For example, this is the hallway that led to our room:

One of our favorite features of the room was this desk-top box that lets you easily connect all your electronics to the big wall-mounted lcd tv. It even has electrical outlets on the right and left sides.

Here's that tv! We decided the wall color should be called Avocado Black. Even the texture of the wall reminded us of a ripe avocado. The other walls in the room were a light blue.

View of the sunset from our room. Yes, that's the old round Holiday Inn on the right!

There were a few downsides. The sheets on the bed felt scratchy to me. I couldn't tell if they were too new, too starchy, or too low a thread-count. Perhaps with a few trips through the laundry, they'll improve. As the evening went on, the music in the lounge and lobby got progressively louder. Even at 7:30pm it was loud, and we could hear it from our room. Fortunately we travel with a small fan to create white noise and that drowned out all but the thump of the rhythm of the music. If you're an early-to-bed, early-to-rise type, you might request a street-side room (on Call Street might be best) higher up in the hotel.

Overall, the room felt very high-end, without the high-end price. Thoughtful touches abounded: reading lamps in each bed and on the desk; free local calls; reading material - current magazines - in the bathroom; outlets placed just where you needed them; and wireless internet that worked without any hoops to jump through.

See official photos of the hotel here, and more of my photos here.

Adventures in Tallahassee @ new Aloft

The new Aloft Hotel by W opened this week. As a reward for my austistic son (who loves hotels) for a great first week at school, I booked a room Friday (no mean feat) and spent the night there Saturday.

The hotel itself is beautiful, somehow managing to blend industrial chic with friendliness. The large lobby has concrete floors, high ceilings, exposed duct work, lots of trendy colors and geometric lounge seating. It's one big open area that includes the wxyz lounge which has indoor and outdoor seating. We particularly liked this outdoor seating arrangement with fireplace:

Check-in was fairly quick, once the staff member learned how to do it. Easy to forgive since the hotel's only been open a few days. We checked out the pool area, which is adjacent to, but fenced off from, the outdoor lounge.

And then headed to the wxyz lounge for drinks and snacks. I loved that they had a drink called the "Tallahassee Lassie." It was tasty, as was the Classic Mojito. We tried the Asian Glazed Wings ($8), which my son loved, and Steamed Edamame ($8) which were not bad, but not as good as our favorite edamame at Masa.

The bar staff infuses three flavors of vodka in-house - from left to right: cranberry, bubblegum, and blueberry. For the bubblegum, they use a whole tub of Bazooka gum. I had a little taste; it was amazing how the flavor of the gum really transfers to the vodka. wxyz uses it to make a Bubbletini.

We also shared and enjoyed a club sandwich on crossaint and a chicken Caesar salad. Later we treated ourselves to a pint of Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia, a real bargain at only $3.50 from the 24-hour re-fresh gourmet take-out area in the lobby.

For breakfast this morning, we shared a breakfast sandwich (egg, sausage and cheese on an English muffin) for $3.50, a banana and a chocolate milk.

Next up, more about our room!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Mexican Pizza

Our neighbor-son helped me make up a Mexican Pizza recipe we really love!

Crusty Mexican Pizza Dough
1 heaping teaspoon dry yeast
1 1/2 cup warm water
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup cornmeal
3 1/4 - 4 3/4 cup flour

1 cup mild Pace salsa, pureed until smooth

A. Taco Meat (prepare as usual)
1 pound lean ground beef
3/4 cup water
1 packet taco seasoning (McCormick)
B. fat-free vegetarian spicy refried beans
C. extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated
D. shredded lettuce
E. large plum tomato, seeded and chopped
F. low-fat sour cream
G. guacamole
F. sliced jalapenos (we used the jar ones)

Crusty Mexican Pizza Dough
Swirl the bowl with hot water to warm. Shake out excess water then pour in the 1.5 cups water and stir in the yeast until it dissolves. Add salt, olive oil, corn meal and about 3 cups of flour. Turn to speed 2 on your mixer (using dough hook) for 1 minute.

Continue adding flour (1/2 cup at a time) until dough clings to hook and cleans sides of bowl. If the dough is sticky keep going. Knead on speed 2 for 2 minutes.

Place is greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover; let rise in warm place, free from draft, until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. [While the dough is rising, brown the ground beef, drain, add water and seasonings to make the taco meat.] Punch dough down. Preheat oven to 450 and place rack in the bottom slot.

Divide into thirds. Put 2/3s in the fridge in a sealed ziploc gallon-size bag with the air pushed out. (This makes enough for 3 thin-crust pizzas.)

Give your 15" (diameter) pizza stone a light spritz with non-stick spray, then roll out 1/3 of the dough thinly on the stone. Top with the pureed salsa and then crumble about 1/4 of the taco meat in an even layer on top. Put about 3/4 cup of refried beans in a sandwich ziploc bag, seal, cut off the corner and squeeze out stripes on top of the meat. Then evenly cover the top with grated cheddar cheese, being careful not to use to much (don't want it to run off the pizza while baking).

Bake on the bottom rack at 450 for 8-12 minutes, until the crust is crisp and the cheese is fully melted.

Remove from oven, cool five minutes, add jalapenos if you like, then cover the top liberally with shredded lettuce. Sprinkle that with chopped tomato. Then scoop 1/4 - 1/3 cup of sour cream into a sandwich ziploc, seal, cut off the corner and squeeze in stripes on top of the lettuce and tomato; do the same with the guac.

Slice and enjoy.

Crusty Pizza Dough

This is our go-to recipe for pizza dough!

1 heaping teaspoon dry yeast
1 cup warm water (105-115 F)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 1/2 - 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Dissolve yeast in warm water in warmed bowl. Add salt, olive oil, and 2 1/2 cups of flour. Attach bowl and dough hook. Turn to speed 2 and mix 1 minute.

Continuing on speed 2, add remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until dough clings to hook and cleans sides of bowl. Knead on speed 2 for 2 minutes. If it's too sticky, keep adding more flour. It shouldn't stick to your hands too much.

Place in a lightly-greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover, let rise in warm place, until doubled, about 45 minutes to an hour. Punch down and prepare as normal. Bake in 450 degree oven. Yields 1 large (14-16 inch pizza) or 2 smaller ones.

If you like a crisper crust, include 1/4 to 1/2 cup whole wheat flour with the all-purpose flour.

Adapted from the recipe book that came with our first KitchenAid mixer in 1995.
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