Monday, August 21, 2017

GenCon, Dinner, and a Pub Crawl in Indianapolis

Mike attends GenCon every year and seems to enjoy himself.  He often ties up with Doc Bitterman (PhD in Information Systems, his treatise being something like Fun with Artificial Intelligence!) and the two have dinner at St. Elmo's Steak House, followed by a pub crawl.  A few years ago I joined them for dinner and the crawl, and having recovered I decided to join them again this year.

The drive out to Indianapolis is best described as eventful.  I got stalled out on three separate occasions due to traffic accidents.  Here's the worst of the three, pictured below.

Miles Long Tie Up
The worst of this is that all of these could have been avoided if other drivers were not A) blessed with the intelligence and attention span of an eggplant, and B) did not act like spoiled ten year old children at Christmas forced to stand quietly in line for a generic toy they didn't need.

Part of the Problem
I have no idea how many emergency vehicles were involved in the clean up of this unfortunate pileup, but I do know that traffic was so bad that they could use the Westbound side of I-70.  That means that officialdom tied up the Eastbound side as well.

Left Lane Close - Merge Right
Several miles back I passed the first sign advising that the left hand lane was closed and requesting everyone to merge to the right.  Here is a photo of the first jerk in the line of drivers who refuse to merge.
This driver had plenty of warning to merge right.  He didn't want to merger; he wants to skip waiting and get to the head of the line.  No, I didn't let him in, and I applaud the truck driver who blocked him (and the three behind him) from continuing to pass everyone.  I'd like to see this jerk get his license taken away for six months or so.  It's drivers like him who cause these accidents in the first place.

I passed one more accident just outside Indianapolis.  Thankfully on the Eastbound side.  Three or four cars had been involved in a sideswipe wreck.  The cars were pulled off to the side, and four police cars had the entire highway blocked off.  I passed several miles of traffic in the Eastbound lanes, all at a dead stop, waiting for officialdom to conclude its investigation of the obvious and give the hoi polloi the green light.

Mike managed to get reservations at the Conrad Indianapolis, no small feat when you consider that everything, and I mean everything, is booked due to GenCon.  Mike was busy destroying the world (Nuclear War Tourney) but Doc let me in.  Mike was quick to join us and we headed out to dinner at St. Elmo's Steak House.

St. Elmo's
If you've never dined at St. Elmo's, put it on your bucket list and make plans to do so.  St. Elmo's serves up fine dining as it used to be, when the atmosphere and excellent service were every bit as important as the quality of the food.  Case in point, all servers at St. Elmo's have business cards; they're professional waiters.

Our Server
St. Elmo's
The place is famous (infamous?) for its shrimp cocktail, which features the hottest cocktail sauce in existence.  The chef uses freshly ground horseradish, and lots of it.  Ordering the shrimp cocktail is de rigueur, but be forewarned - not everyone can finish it.

Famous Shrimp Cocktail
St. Elmo's is a steak house, and features extraordinarily fine quality steak.  They were featuring grouper that evening, and I couldn't resist getting a fresh grouper fillet, which I haven't had since I left Florida.  I order a French 75, mainly because St. Elmo's is one of the few places that actually knows how to make one - and was promptly disappointed.  The cocktail is topped off with sparkling wine or champagne, and mine was flat.  It's best served ice cold; mine was close to room temperature.  I was tempted to send it back, and in hindsight I probably should have.  But I was tired from the drive, and conscious of being overly critical due to leftover stress from the road.

Grouper - Excellent!
My dinner was excellent, with both the fish and the green beans being cooked to perfection.  I didn't want a particularly heavy dinner, as we still had a long road ahead of us.

Common Sight in Downtown Indianapolis
Watching the The Pickled Pedaler is a practical demonstration of just why neither socialism nor communism work.  Not everyone peddles, you see.  Some just drink and ride, while others pedal just enough to keep observers quiet.  Mike shouted some encouragement from the sidewalk, which caused the girl in the turquoise shirt to start sort of working again.

Our first stop on the old pub crawl is Plat 99, which is actually part of a luxury hotel.

Plat 99
I decided to have an Absinthe, which I haven't enjoyed in a long time.  I, being a writer, should probably switch to the green fairy to the exclusion of all else - but I don't think I'm ready to sacrifice everything in the pursuit of art.  In other words, I'm not a Bohemian and probably never will be.

WL Emery and French Absinthe
There's a nasty rumor going around that the Bohème would set fire to their glass of absinthe while mixing in the sugar and water.  A few might have, but it's not usual behavior.  Instead, I suspect that in the way that some bar patrons would play with matches and an ashtray while drinking, the Bohème would casually set fire to the glass.  It was strictly for amusement.  It's worth noting that Plat 99 serves raw sugar cubes with their absinthe, which is a nice touch.

Here are Mike and Doc in the background, ruining my shot of the mixing station at Plat 99.  The mixologist at Plat 99 are not your average bartender.  They tend to specialize in exotic drinks of various kinds that you won't get anywhere else.  In particular, they have dry ice which they serve in a few specialty cocktails.

Mixing Station at Plat 99
My next drink (but who's counting?) at Plat 99 was a real production number - a Velha Guarda.

Velha Guarda
Start off with custom made bitters...

Custom Made Bitters
Don't try this at home.  Your guests will like the first one, you'll try making a second and by that time will be unable to pour - you'll spill all over the place.  Doc pointed out that there were such things as funnels, but trying to find your funnel when you need it is generally a fruitless search.

Steady, now.  Steady...
The recipe calls for cold smoked wood chips.  This isn't a dry ice machine, which is what it sort of looks like.  Instead, it injects cherry wood chip smoke into the decanter.  Although you could drink it right away, it's best to let it sit for a few minutes.

Now we add the smoke...
And Voilà!  A perfect Velha Guarda every time.  Now all I need to do is wait five minutes or so.  I gave it ten, and had a very rare cocktail.  It tastes like an extra smooth manhattan - delicious!

Velha Guarda
Plat 99 has an outdoor patio, with a fairly nice view.  We stepped outside for a few minutes since the weather was warm.

Plat 99 Patio
Here's How!
One thing about Indianapolis in general, and places like Plat 99 in particular, is that you'll invariably find a new and well done art display just any old where you go.  We all liked this one, which is dedicated to that old time rock and roll.  The birds are actually 45 rpm records.

45 RPM Records
Back in the bad old days, people used the expression Victrola in lieu of phonograph or stereo.  I would sometimes get the question, "Do you have a band, or do you just play the Victrola?"  You don't hear it much today, but the portable phonograph below would be referred to as the Victrola.

The Souce - A Portable Victrola
Much as I like Plat 99, it's time to go.  We'll take the most direct route possible, which translates into a lot of walking.  Mike and Doc left me behind, but to give Mike credit for being a true friend, he didn't desert me.  He'd stop from time to time to make sure I was still back there, and hadn't wandered off into the hinterlands.

Downtown Indianapolis
Our next stop was the Spoke and Steele. 

Spoke and Steele

I decided to continue my newly found penchant for unusual cocktails, and so ordered an Aviation.

Aviation Cocktail

2 oz Gin
1/2 oz Maraschino liqueur
1/4 oz Crème de violette
3/4 oz Lemon juice

Spoke and Steel
Here I am at the Spoke, enjoying my Aviation.  I wonder if I'm cleared for take off.

Here's How!
I was reminded of my acquaintance and fellow author Mary Shipko, who wrote about being the first woman pilot for Hughes airline some years back.

We didn't eat at the Spoke and Steele, but given another opportunity I'd do so.  The chef decides when the meat has been aged enough, and selects the perfect cut.

Spoke and Steel Meat Locker
A common sight in downtown Indianapolis is the horse drawn carriage.  I was tempted to take a carriage ride, but the other two men had other things on their mind.  Maybe next time.

Carriage Ride
The last stop of the evening is the Yard House.  You can get beer served by the yard, half yard, or pint.  Since I don't drink beer, I opted for a pint of hard cider.  Mike and Doc opted for a half yard of beer.

Yard House
Mike and Doc enjoying themselves over a half yard of beer.

Half Yard
After two half yards the consensus was that we'd return to the hotel and maybe order a pizza.  Eventually, we did that, and by that time I discovered that ambulation down a busy sidewalk required some concentration skills I hadn't used in years.  I remember Mike and Doc going out for pizza, and I remember watching TV and eating a slice or two.  Then I tried to get into bed, which in this case was an army cot circa Korean war, and I managed to drill myself a good one on the edge of an immovable table placed too close to the cot.  I about knocked myself out, but didn't feel much until the next day.  Oh well... it was worth it.
Here's What I Remember Most
I have to say that if I ever hit the lottery, and I mean the big one (it's what, 600 million right now?), I would spend a certain amount of time just hanging out in downtown Indianapolis.  It's really that kind of place.  The people are friendly, food is first rate, and drinks are plentiful.

To everyone who read this lengthy post to the end, my thanks.


  1. Aw so wished it would have worked out for me to be there. My duties as a track
    Mom ended earlier at 6

    1. I think we were still at Platt 99 at six. There's other times, and one of these days we'll make it.