Saturday, July 04, 2009

Kansas trip, part 2

So we rented our car, left the airport and went straight to the hotel for check-in. The Hyatt Regency is the city's newest high-rise hotel and it is right on the river bank. While he was reserving the room, I had directed Jess to get the highest floor available with a corner room, and he did. We were on the 15th floor in a corner room with a spectacular view facing the river and looking south down the river. Lawrence Dumont baseball stadium is located on the opposite bank and I was surprised that there was a game going on almost every night we were there.



A view down-river from our room. Click to enlarge to see the detail of the metal architecture work on the bridge, which is repeated on the next bridge upriver, and lit with neon at night. All the photos are courtesy of Jess - thanks, hon.


The view of the stadium from our room by day...


...and at night!

Jess made our check-in and as we entered the room, he said, "Get this. The name of the person who checked me in was Pandora."

"Pandora?! As in Pandora's Box? Who would name their kid Pandora?"

"Well, somebody did. See? It's right here on the card she handed me. Pandora."

That was not really a very nice thing to name a child. She was a very lovely young woman.


The fountain in front of the hotel as seen from the room.

We called our friend Bob to tell him we would be over in a few minutes to discuss dinner plans. Being downtown, I knew that we would be close to Brad and Bob's house, but I didn't know how easy the new road surrounding our hotel had made it to get to. We pulled out of the hotel parking lot and made a right onto what has now become a service road for the hotel. That road then crosses the river in about 1/10th of a mile. We drove about fourteen blocks, turned onto their street and drove less than 2 blocks to their house. Since we would be spending most of our time with them, it was a terrific location.

Bob suggested Sabor, a Latin place downtown that was relatively new, as a place for dinner. We hit the supermarket to pick up some ingredients for a bean salad that I was making for the reunion lunch the next day and then made the short drive to the restaurant. I was impressed with how the "Old Town" area of downtown Wichita has continued to grow and flourish. In the area where Sabor is, there was a nice parking garage to accommodate the traffic for the Warren Theatres, and a number of restaurants and shops built around a large public square where people gather to enjoy the evening. The evening may be spent listening to local musicians who come down to play if you're lucky.

So we walked into Sabor. There were three other couples in the place, it appeared to be a quiet evening for a Friday. We ordered an appetizer of tostones, patties of green plantain that are fried crispy and then served with a savory mayonnaise-based chili dip called "pink sauce." I also ordered queso with corn, which was served with chips and herb pita bread and was outrageously addictive. I could have made a meal of the appetizers. A delicious red sangria helped to wash it all down.

Service was conducted at a very relaxed pace...a little too relaxed for me...and the place quickly began filling up. By the time dinner arrived, the house was filled...and noisy.

For the meal, I ordered Beef Picadillo: beef tips which were served, or rather, swimming, in a roasted tomato molé and chipotle cheddar mashed potatoes. The molé was highly spicy and piquant and, while good, a little over the top in seasoning and spice. The potatoes, on the other hand, were fabulous. As I got to the end of my beef, there were two pieces that weren't quite cut apart. The meat had been fork-tender, so I began to cut into the juicy bits with the fork, but it was a piece of gristle that was keeping the two pieces together and not just meat. As a result, it didn't cut easily and so I moved the fork into a different area of the piece to cut it again. The next thing I knew, the stubborn piece of meat had flung the the highly spicy molé into my eyes (owwww!) and all over my shirt. I was a splattered mess, and I knew that the shirt was probably ruined. Tomato-based stuff is hard enough to get out, but roasted tomato plus chocolate is a combo for disaster.

On the way home from the restaurant, Bob suggested a stop by the new location for the Keeper of the Plains statue, which was given to the city in 1974 by American Indian artist Blackbear Bosin, as a tribute to the area's native American Indian heritage. Bosin was half Kiowa and half Comanche, and his art is widely known throughout the central Midwest. The Keeper, which had been in a bit less prominent location since 1974, has been given a large pedestal and its own park area which is connected to other park areas by suspension bridges that frame the area nicely.



The Keeper of the Plains offers a blessing to the sky at the confluence of the Arkansas and Little Arkansas rivers. The modern suspension bridges near the statue, one of which is seen left of it, are a nice architectural touch.


A plaque that tells the story of the sculpture is located at the base of the pedestal.


Jess photographed Bob and me on one of the bridges.



A partial view of downtown Wichita as seen from the suspension bridge near the Keeper monument. The building in the center, the former Holiday Inn, is now condominiums, but in 1976, while the building was still a hotel, a maniac named Michael Soles went to the 26th floor and, using a rifle, shot 10 innocent victims on the streets below. Three died. This prompted security measures to be put in place for downtown skyscrapers. In our hotel, you had to have a room key to control the elevator...and it knew which floor you were on and wouldn't let you go higher than your own floor.

We left after that and went back to the house, where Bob tried to Shout out the stains on my shirt, but after four or five stain treatments and washings, we gave up. They were still visible.

I quickly assembled the bean salad for the next day's lunch and moved it to the refrigerator. We were really impressed with all the improvements Bob and Brad had made to their kitchen: new granite counters, new ceiling tiles and lighting, new appliances, including an induction cooktop-equipped range, which I loved, and a French-door refrigerator with an interior water dispenser, which was also very nice, beautiful leaded glass inserts (which Bob made by hand) in the china hutch and in several of the overhead doors, and new stools for the peninsula, which was just a bit longer than before. And in the dining room, a new table and chairs brought a more modern feel to the room than the old antique oak table and Victorian highback carved chairs, while remaining classical with Danish furniture made in the style of Stickley.

And in the backyard, a new stone path to the pool had been laid, and new landscaping elements had been added. Truly, right out of Architectural Digest.

Brad made it home from work and we chatted a bit about what we would do Saturday evening, since they were hosting a little get-together for us. We finished things up and went back to the hotel. The reunion was the next day, beginning at 11:00 a.m...

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