Category Archives: Arts Travel & Culture Features

Sirk TV Travel Feature: Cultural Textures & Palette Enchantment – The Different Faces Of Waco, TX


The texture of Waco, Texas integrates its laid back vibe while creating a culture that embraces its boundaries and shows its indomitable heritage.


With Westfest in full swing in West, Texas embracing Czech culture and BSR Cable Park serving up summer water shenanigans, the life lived as well as the food eaten is the key to any entrant. But other lives swirl in consistent time.


The Sorghum Festival out at Homestead Heritage is an interesting amalgamation of religious sect and old world values. The food and materials they make are interesting and well produced. The girls wear no make up and the fashions are shall we say plaid based. Everyone seems friendly. There is no judgement. The kids are home schooled and everyone learns a craft. Unlike the Amish who thwart technology, this group does not expel technology but does not fully embrace it either. Mostly the leaders use it for business purposes but the lack of smartphone attachments. An aquaponics bay interestingly enough uses fish water aerated to provide different bacteria for crops. The workers seem very versed in sciences for their particular specialty despite not being college educated.

The other aspect at the Homestead is their food. They make their own cheeses including a tart horseradish pecan cheddar and an exceptionally tasty smoked Gouda. One of the great tastes was one of these cheese pizzas made in a wood burning oven. The Sorghum as a base is a derivative of the grain and they use it in all aspects of their cooking, especially in a delectable sorghum syrup ice cream with pecans.


On the edge of the land, one of the members has set up shop as Red Wagon BBQ. Joe is a bit more outgoing perhaps than the others but he knows his product. That product is brisket. The key in integrating the tastes here is that it is all organic. You can see it as he points out the layers of the meat. He also has a Haymaker sandwich which blends a homemade cole slaw sans mayonnaise with the brisket with a taste just as succulent but without the by products.

Food is the big equalizer but also libations and brews. Locally, Crickets Grill offers over 100 on tap and Dichotomy offers a different approach blending coffee and an artisan spirit house. But the city was based in the notion of Dr. Pepper and Doc Harrison’s drug store is the site of the Dr. Pepper Museum with the subsequently used bottling plant right next door. The Frosty Pepper [seen above] mixing vanilla ice cream with the local output is addicting but necessary in small doses.

Watching old Dr. Pepper commercials in their upstairs theater, you recognize a sense of history. Baylor University, the large Baptist college, right next door did the archaeology work at the site when they uncovered a water well which had been covered up with concrete in the early 1900s. Farther outside of town in the late 1970s, there was also the discovery of a herd of Colombian Mammoths who supposedly perished in a flash flood. It was all female and youngsters since the male are ostracized except during mating. This established the Waco Mammoth National Monument. All this points to a very interesting balance. Despite the cowboy mentality more and more, Texas comes across as a matriarchal society with a very strong presence.


Which brings us back to food. Across from the centerpiece Hilton attached to the Convention Center is the warehouse district which houses a different array of possibilities. Crickets, with its endless bar, also intrigues with its Kitchen Sink Burger [seen above] which is topped with fries, quest, red onions, pickles and mayo which begins the proceedings with gusto.


Diamondback’s Texas Steakhouse offers a great array of steaks at a higher price point but, as this is Texas, the heartiness is key. Integrating the basics though, the creamy corn chowder is an immediate favorite while the pop overs (definitely different and inherently local than other breads) [seen above] filled with jack cheese and Rosemary dazzle.


Ninfa’s Mexican Restaurant also in the square was accommodating across the board especially with late night possibilities including a chicken soup [seen above] with hefty bites of chicken, slices of avocado and pico de gallo.


Concluding the proceedings was a Waco staple in George’s Restaurant. The vibe is laid back like much in Waco with heartiness a factor less than concern for calories. But don’t come to Texas if you don’t plan to eat. On the recommendation of the cute female bartender, the crybaby burger goes to the contrary. Instead of pushing for the burn, it paradoxically moves for the sweet. The onion rings were a different matter with a heaviness of due course that made them filling to the max. The most addictive though was the crazy wings [seen above] which optimized bits of chicken, jack cheese and jalapeños, rolling them in bacon and frying them. Add a blue cheese sauce and you are done for the evening, save for a bite of broccoli salad which is inherently divine.


Waco, Texas is cool and chill to the bone. It knows its heritage and embraces it but doesn’t encourage it upon you. The people are who they are but ready to talk and eager to engage. Add to that a growing Texas craft scene and food to satisfy every taste and the possibilities are welcoming all around.

Sirk TV Travel Feature: A Midnight Run To Doha: The Undeniable Efficiency Of A 36 Hour Qatar Journey


Leaving on a jet plane upon a Midnight Run always makes for some interesting logistics. The reality is that the increasing routing that Qatar Airways is implementing to and from the U.S. makes it more and more tempting, both from a logical and enjoyable point of view. Instead of having to go through Europe to get to an African or Far East destination, the hub of undeniable poise is Doha just to the northwest of Abu Dhabi and just south of Bahrain on the Persian Gulf. The interesting thing is that you can leave most eastern U.S. ports that the airline services as well as others like Houston, get there around dinnertime in Doha and then leave on your next leg at 1am when the hub is bustling. Which brings us to the structure of this exercise. Qatar and back to the U.S. with an 8 hour layover of good food and relaxation in 36 hours. It sounds like a lot but it is also another adventure. And using business class you can enjoy it without every leaving the airport. First the highlights of structure…then the food.


Once you land in Doha, there is the option of proceeding directly through security to the lounge with a punctual and attentive Qatar Airways concierge greets you at the plan. Everything is sleek and well oiled. An early (or late espresso) seals the progression before heading over to The Airport Hotel. Despite its basic name, the transient traveler hub is a place that let you get a room anywhere between 4 and 24 hours without leaving security. The rooms themselves are spacious and remind me of a roomier version of the L’Ermitage in Beverly Hills.

The Vitality Spa (at The Airport Hotel) offers a great diversity from actual massages to hydrotherapy to squash courts. As a guest of the hotel, you get access to these amenities. The massage requires additional but their experts understand the notion of being on a plane for 14 hours and how to venerate the muscles. There is even a Olympic Swimming Pool that literally hangs over the main thoroughfare within the hotel.


The Qatar Airways Al Mourjan Premium Business Lounge with Hamad International Airport understands its patrons from multiple food elements to simple snacks to business acumen to essential luxury. Mostly virgin drinks are encouraged along with wine which perfectly suits the fare, especially those in A La Carte.


The tangy Palak Paneer encompassing creamy spinach, Indian spices and cottage cheese with fragrant rice gives you a taste of the East that really can’t truly be replicated in the West. There is a certain texture that is elusive to us on the other side of the oceans. Another dish is a blend of Arabic Fusion called DaWood Basha mixing Lebanese meatballs with a vibrant tomato base and vermicelli rice. These are great tastes in a setting that keeps you relaxed while also getting your work done if so desired. The business center and loads of espresso, lattes and cappuccinos are close if possible as needed There are even meditation and prayer rooms, separate by sexes of course as is tradition in the region.


Business class accomplishes this on board the aircraft. And, for long haul, it is always worth it as possible.

This brings us to the flights themselves. Each route has its own unique flavor which really tends to give its crew and texture personality.

The first 14 hour route was a direct from Miami that left at 8pm and arrived at 5:30pm the next day Qatar time, 8 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time. Like many journeys akin to this (which are not many), they usually start off with champagne; in this case, a Tattinger Rose which cleansed the palate and lead the way for further excursions.


A wild mushroom soup initiated the proceedings with a creme fraiche that tantalized without overwhelming while the butternut squash salad was decidedly heavenly with toasted pine nuts, red onions, apple dressing and goat cheese curds. What is very clear compared to other long hauls is a very specific idea of freshness in the ingredients which is undeniable. They also compliment each other so you never feel overfilled.


The main course on the inbound was grilled prawns over linguini in a creme and lemon sauce with Parmesan shavings. It listened to its texture just enough to lull one towards sleep while a lemon tart with the right amount of sugar and a cappuccino lined the night.


The flat down beds of business class allow you to sleep in the way you want to feel whether you fall asleep watching TV or curl next to someone.  The windows are all closed so the notion of time seeps away. You can always request some late snack but the balance of the early evening gives way to some coffee or perhaps a cheese plate which gives the right balance.


While breakfast is served, everything is available but there is something about smoked salmon with dill cream cheese and bagel nugget cubes. It is an unusual way to serve this breakfast staple but is utterly welcome and creative simply because it takes a new notion to a form while the turkey sausage and cheddar cheese omelet satisfied the structure of dependency in the best possible way.

Landing and returning to the former country with 7 hours allowed for a fluidity of motion but a different menu of note which definitely appealed to the foodie tendency in seeing how many perceptions could be interrelated while maintaining a sense of continuity.


After a tease of Brut Champagne and a take off over the dark skies of Doha and heading over the desert, the Dream Royale gave a farewell as the after take off cocktail blending Martini Rosso with its torquet mixed with blackcurrant and Belvedere while not overwhelming in its sippy comtrails.


The roasted bell pepper and tomato soup with a mint yogurt gave the right amount of pep while summer green vegetable and mozzarella salad again knew the balance without question; not overwhelming the palate but not depriving it either. It’s greenness completely envelops you.


Dinner provided an interesting dichotomy with two roads tempted; one vegetarian…one protein with a distinct balance of taste highlighted by a good selection of wine whose obvious partners were clear. The first was a sesame seed and herb tikkis (think a rice blend) with tadka makhani (which has a slight curry tinge). Again an Indian/Far East Touch (though the business lounge in Doha found that perfect balance). Add a recommended side of Martin Pouret Saveur Bernaise at the suggestion of our attendant which significantly enhanced the meal as well. The inclusion of a white wine in the form of a 2013 Fritz Haag Riesling out of Germany was a welcome selection.


ON the counter front a lamb loin with rosemary jus encrusted with the right amount of hospitality. GOing over was a Polish lady who both was extremely attentive but also wonderfully conversational never hesitating once when I stayed up late to edit because of the wonderful power inclusions on the plane. THe flight to PHill was similar with our possibly Lebanese attendant extremely courteous and extremely knowledgeable. tHe inclusion with the lamb of an AUstrailian Shiraz (Karangilla Road, 2012) gave it the right amount of bite.

After dinner saw a plaisir sucre with its layered chocolaty fervor that was wonderful mingled with 1974 KOpke COhlieta POrt from the Doro VAlley in POrtugal. A simmering cappachino lit the night and the work continued with sleep sometime in the hours ahead.


A mid voyage yearning after a bit of sleep jarred the memory somewhere over the NOrth Atlantic with a frsh texture of asparagus ravioli with a feta cheese briskness that gave way to a peaceful sleep as the tiniest bit of sun crept from the beneath the window.

Within the final hours into Philadelphia, the breakfast structure interweighed with a tonal element befitting of the vibrant Gulf country of Qatar. THe traditional Arabaic breakfast offered a mix of fresh cucumbers, juicy tomatoes, feta cheese and za’atar with a mixture of Arabic breads and olives while a mushroom para that like a crepe filled with morels balanced with an auberginge gut eg with e right amount of spice and an eggs burning which mixed herbs in swirl of yolk and taste.


All angles move together to make a cohesive voyage. All the elements working together we’re on display vectoring in a midnight run to DOha. the efficiency of the flight and connections, the relax and ease of the airport hotel, the diversity of the terminal, the unlimited amenities of the Express PRemium BUsiness LOunge and of course the excellent meal service and hospitality in Qatar Airways business class speak to taking a voyage but not letting ethe time rule you..instead treating the voyGe as an adventure and a relaxing journey all in itself.

Sirk TV Travel Feature: The Essence Of Modernism & History – Indianapolis & Its Surroundings

The progression in identifying and showing what makes people visit and engage always come from a sense of knowing where you are and where you are going to. In attending Travel Media Showcase in Bloomington, Indiana, this holds true.


Bloomington is a small town most known for its college in the University Of Indiana. Now it needs to hold that balance but it always depends on what is offered. Staying at the Bloomington Courtyard By Marriott allows easy access but it depends of where the path leads you. The Irish Lion was a bit quiet but offered a light balance in the Salt Lick IPA while its burger despite its heavy countenance simply passed the progression. Oddly enough it was a college hangout, debauchery in its late hours, that set the stage. Kilroys On Kirkwood (also know as KoK) has a Tuesday night that is insane with $2 pretty much everything. The burgers and the pepperoni rolls for that price will mash your insides but are so good along with mini pitchers of Long Island, that you’ll forget the empty calories. It was so compelling that we ended back there again for a birthday celebration in tow with the elements only slightly higher in price a couple nights after. Alley Bar for the end of the night across from the Hyatt Place around 3 offered the ending bell with accepted fanfare.


Wineries and distilleries abound in any city. Butler seems to have the best dynamic of structure with a geologic phenomenon in the way their hill is based which allows them to get the right sunlight on the grapes to make them purr, especially with their blueberry blend. But it was a new distillery down the way entitled Cardinal that showed their intentions not by what they were currently doing but the expanding possibilities inherent in what was coming. Even though their mojito had promise, it was their coffee liqueur that really found the path. It has Kahlua properties but is inherently different enough to be the right mixer. However when blended with rum chulata instead of milk, life comes out to play. And the ice cream of that same ilk that is not quite available is simply insane. Girls who lose it for true Italian Nutella, beware.



Expanding into Hamilton County, art becomes an acquaintance that is always ready for exception. Nickel Plate Arts [1st Above. Art by resident artist Karen Miles] in Noblesville offers a homespun perspective but also an outlet that truly connects with creative and mentally intuitive people with interactive tendencies [2nd Above. Art by your intrepid narrator after two cups of Black Magic coffee].



Walter Knabe also calls Indiana his creative home. Having made Pop Art his creative structure, it is interesting to see how inspiration progresses. His recent profile art engages the use of his daughters and how they see life through the prism of Facebook. After talking with Walter one-on-one in his studio [1st Above] in Carmel. we discussed the essence of psychological masks which true is how the world functions. He related that when he takes photos for his art now, the subjects have an exact representation of how they want to be seen which is a result of selfies and smartphones. We discuss this as we look at one of his pieces “Little Red: The Brave Girl” [2nd Above] as this psychology interrelates with this in a big way.


In balancing this with history and modernity as we progress further, Connor Prairie in Fishers tries to find where education lies. Their Civil War interactive almost live-theater project, which also integrates HD and partial holographics, takes the experience a bit farther in a way which those updating Disney’s rides should observe (indicated by the forced perspective holographic shown above). At Connor Prairie, they also offer nature trails and seasonal concerts (like Big Bad Voodoo Daddy) which we experienced


This revolution in art and history continues in relevance to Indianapolis itself. Because of the integration of the Indianapolis 500 and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, there can tend to be a mechanical possibility to the proceedings. Getting to race around the track with a driver at 60mph offers an essence of public accessibility and seeing some of the winning vehicles inside the museum also bring that effectively to mind.



However it became even more true in the example of the Indianapolis Museum Of Art, specifically through their current touring collection of “Dream Cars’ which examines concept cars from the last century. From the 1947 Norman Timbs Special [1st Above] to the 1970 Lancia Bertone [2nd Above], the thinking beyond logic truly resonates.



The same can be said for the muesum’s contemporary design collection examining modernism. The idea of that truth resonates within some of the modern furniture like Frank Gehry [1st Above] and Hella Jongerius [2nd Above] (who even though she was born in 1963 reflects an almost 2001 aesthetic).



If you are talking style where you blend bad boy tendencies while looking good doing it, John Dilinger is buried in Crown Hill Cemetary on an edge of town. People throw pennies as an ode. Johnny Depp snuck out here in disguise when he was researching “Public Enemies” and the site gives clear views back to Downtown.



That’s where the food comes in. St. Elmo’s Fire Steakhouse is right next to the Le Meridien in Downtown Indianapolis allowing for easy movement. Their shrimp with supreme hot sauce [1st above] has a degree of competition inherent in it especially when optimized with a Daredevil IPA. The servers know their stuff with the GM offering a tour de force on his good ability to read and converse alike. The New York Strip [2nd above] was perfectly prepared as was the wedge salad and potato…everything you would expect of a great steakhouse without completely blowing your countenance out of the water (since the night must continue). Being invited up into 1933 Lounge above after tales of Bourbon in Kentucky by yours truly, the Woodford Reserve Angels Envy sent the wind flying with 2 inch ice cubes before a tour of the 13,000 bottle wine cellar and a private sitting room commenced. Finishing off the tumbler, the night continued on the streets of Indianapolis filled with a blend of views enhanced by certain bottles of Mad Hatter before returning to the hotel for a homemade nightcap (replete with aforementioned 2 inch ice cubes) sitting around a marble bar.




Other food structures enhanced upon tantalized palettes blending times and possibilities but St. Elmo’s was singular in its superiority. Other had promise. Big Hoffa’s BBQ in Westfield had a sandwich called The Marley [1st Above] with pulled chicken, habanero cole slaw and white BBQ sauce that lit up the day. The Pint Room in Carmel, after some artistic expression, optimized with the Hangover Burger [2nd Above] with fried egg, hash browns and cheese to boot which was resolved by Middle Finger IPA. Ending the progression, Union 50 on Mass Avenue in Indianapolis procured succulent Sea Scallops [3rd Above] but it was the Pork Chop tasted in earnest as a share that simply popped (especially with a local Rogue Run Porter). Resounding in theme, all three of these restaurants embraced nostalgia but with a sense of fusion in known commodities while giving them all a sense of punch and artistic expression.

Indianapolis and the surrounding areas experienced in the perception of Travel Media Showcase held in Bloomington, Indiana shows the melded of modernity and understood history only makes for a more rounded experience in everything from art to food to every day living.

By Tim Wassberg


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