airport dining

Win a seat on United Airlines’ Apollo 11 party flight. Eat like an astronaut on the ground.

Courtesy NASA

Celebrations are already underway to mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing and the first steps taken by humans on the moon.

July 20 is the official anniversary day, but United Airlines and Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport are among the groups that have a planned more than a month’s worth of activities to mark the lunar milestone.

Win a seat on a special United Airlines celebration flight

Top among the events is a special flight from Newark to Houston on July 17, the anniversary of the day astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin Buzz Aldrin made their first TV transmission from Earth to space.

On that day, United Flight 355 from Newark Liberty International Airport to Houston will be a celebratory flight with space-themed entertainment, inflight gifts and special guests who have been to space.

Want to go along? United is hosting a social media contest on Twitter with a prize that includes seats on board the Apollo 11 celebration flight as well as a behind the scenes tour of NASA facilities in Houston. Deadline to enter is June 22, 2019 at 10:29 a.m. CT.

Click here for rules on enterting United’s contest.

Beginning July 1, members of United’s Mileage Plus mileage program can bid miles on space-themed experiences such as VIP access to Space Center Houston’s Apollo 11 50thAnniversary Celebration featuring the band Walk the Moon. More information on that here.  

Courtesy NASA

No contest entry needed for these Apollo 11 activities:

There’s more: Starting July 1, seatback and personal device entertainment on United flights will include a channel with dedicated space-related program from NASA, including action cam footage of astronaut spacewalks.

In United’s Terminal C and E at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), there are lots of activities planned as well:

In Terminal C, gate lounges will display digital photographs from the Apollo 11 mission on the monitors.

From July 9-11 Space Center Houston will provide Apollo 11-themed pop-up science labs in the terminals. In the United Clubs, customers will have a chance to meet and take photos with retired Astronaut Ken Cameron.

During July, travelers will also have a chance to eat like an astronaut at In United Airlines’ at two restaurants at IAH, one in Terminal C and one in Terminal E.

What did the astronauts eat?

Courtesy National Air and Space Museum

Between liftoff and touchdown back on earth, astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins were running experiments, taking pictures, gathering samples and making history.

They also took time to eat.

“More than 70 items comprise the food selection list of freeze-dried rehydratable, wet-pack and spoon-bowl foods,” NASA explains in the 250-page typewritten press kit for the Apollo 11 Lunar Landing Mission on July 6, 1969.

The press kit lists the day-by-day, meal-by-meal menu for each crewman and explains how some of the meals were prepared.

“After water has been injected into a food bag, it is kneaded for about three minutes. The bag neck is then cut off and the food squeezed into the crewman ‘s mouth,” the release explains.

Freeze-dried ice-cream isn’t on the list, but powdered fruit-drinks (not Tang; NASA doesn’t use brand names), along with bacon cubes, shrimp cocktail, beef stew, frankfurters, fruit cocktail, tuna salad and many other familiar foods are.

Familiar foods, or even just fresh foods, are often hugely satisfying in space for the memories they trigger and warm feelings they generate,” said Jennifer Levasseur, Museum Curator, Department of Space History at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, which has 13 packets of food the Apollo 11 astronauts didn’t eat.

Like modern day travelers, food is one of the few things astronauts can control during a journey far from home. “Food must have had a very important role on Apollo 11 because they were doing things that had never been done before,” said Vickie Kloeris, NASA Food Scientist Emeritus.

Dine like an astronaut

Many of the foods found on those original Apollo 11 menus are featured during July on a special menu at OTG’s Ember Tavern and Tanglewood Grille in United Airlines’ Terminal C and E at IAH.

To ensure authenticity, OTG’s culinary team visited NASA’s Space Food Systems Laboratory in Houston to learn about and taste food prepared by NASA’s food scientists.

“We wanted to understand what food meant to astronauts having that experience and what it means now,” said Dan O’Donnell, OTG’s Head of Culinary, “We wanted to know the science and philosophy behind space food; where they were then and where it is now.”

The biggest take-away, said O’Donnell was that the astronauts could choose a lot of the foods they wanted to eat. “It wasn’t just about sustenance. Much of it was food that reminded the astronauts of home; like beef and potatoes, tuna salad and sugar cookies. Our menu is a play on those items.”

Travelers who order from the Apollo 11-inspired IAH menu won’t be served meals that need to be reconstituted and squeezed into their mouths from bags. Nor will they find 1969 prices.

Instead they’ll find modern-day versions of many menu items from the Apollo 11 mission.

“For instance, our take on the Tuna Salad uses seared ahi instead of regular tuna, but we prepared it in the same way with walnuts, grapes, celery, apple and some fresh yogurt,” said O’Donnell, “The Beef & Potatoes is made with grilled ribeye, scalloped potatoes and parsley pesto.

Although there was no alcohol on Apollo 11, there’s are cocktails on the IAH Apollo 11 anniversary menu.

“The original menus said, ‘orange drink,’ ‘grapefruit drink’ or ‘citrus drink.’ They were very flavor focused and on the sweeter side, because people taste things differently in space,” said Allison Kafalas, OTG Beverage Director, “I took those flavors and translated them to cocktails that are a bit more relevant and modern for today’s eater, including a peach bellini, a martini using an orange vodka from Texas and a pineapple margarita.”

Travel Tidbits from an airport near you

Tampa International welcomes visitors past security

This week Tampa International Airport (TPA) introduces a program that offers non-ticketed guests access to the shops, restaurants, artwork and gate areas beyond security.

TPA’s program is called All-Access and will issue passes to 100 people each Saturday, starting on May 4. Passes will be good all day, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

TPA has four distinct Airsides (A, C, E and F) and each week the 100 passes will be divied up by 25 passes issued for each Airside. So, to figure out which Airside to request, visitors should check out TPA’s shopping and dining guide.

Tampa International Airport is the second airport in the nation to offer non-ticketed guests this perk. Pittsburgh International Airport’s MyPITPass started in 2017 and offer passes on weekdays.

Airport Restaurant Month

HMSHost has brought back Airport Restaurant Month to 60 of its dining venues in airports across the country.

Throughout May, diners can choose from a selection of three appetizers and four entrees at the participating restaurants.

The menus may vary a bit by restaurant, but most will offer their take on Seared Salmon, Flatbread Prima Vera, a Spicy Slaw Burger, a Buttermilk Fried Chicken Sandwich and an AM Wrap.

The meals include a dark chocolate sea salt bar as well.

See the menus and find the full of list of restaurants participating in HMSHost’s Airport Restaurant Month here.

SFO moves pick-up spot for ride-hailing pick ups

Starting June 3, travelers getting picked up by ride-hailing services such as Uber, Lyft or Wingz at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) will have to head to the Domestic Hourly Parking Garage.

International Terminal pickups will continue in the current location (at the center island of the Departure level roadway) and all ride-hailing drop-offs will continue to occur at designated upper-level departure curbside areas.

The change is designed to lighten traffic on the airport’s terminal roadway and comes after Uber X and Lyft began offering their customers a $3 discount if they chose to be picked up in the Airport’s Domestic Hourly Garage instead of at curbside.

That didn’t do much to reduce congestion, so in June SFO is going ahead and moving all domestic ride-hailing ride pickups to the Domestic Hourly Parking Garage.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, McCarran’s Las Vegas International Airport and an increasing number of other airports direct ride-hailing customers to a central garage area for picks ups as well.

And this from the TSA Week in Review:

Between April 22 and 28, TSA security officers found 85 firearms in carry-on bags at airports. 75 of those firearms were loaded and 28 of those firearms had a round chambered.

Alarmed?

Snaps from Southwest Airlines’ new Terminal 1 at LAX

Southwest Airlines has a new and improved 13-gate Terminal 1 at Los Angeles International Airport.

The $516.7 million overhaul brings lots more light and seating, a more efficient centralized screening checkpoint and all new dining and retails outlets.

I was on hand for the celebration. Here are some snaps from the day:

 

Ribbon cutting for Southwest T1 at LAX

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly and Danny Trejo at Trejo’s Taco first airport branch.

In additon to Trejo’s Tacos, the dining and retail outlets include Urth Caffe, Cassell’s Hamburgers, Reilly’s Irish Pub, Rock & Brews, and Beaming Organic Superfood Cafe as well as Be RElax, I Love L.A., Treat Me Sweet, New Stand newstands, and SOL Surf. 

 

Courtest LAX

LA Original is the first shop passengers encounter when they leave the checkpoint and take the escalators up to the terminal. The shop showcases LA-branded locally designed, assembled or manufactured goods. Proceeds go to supporting the Downtown Women’s Center’s “Made by DWC” program that teaches job training and maker skills to women transitioning out of homelessness.

In addition to rotating art installations, the new Southwest T1 at LAX features this specially-commissioned, photo-friendly piece by Pilar Castillo.

Marvin Earl brings his complimentary shoe shine service to Southwest T1 at LAX. Morris Biggers was  delighted to be the first customer.

More snaps and info on Southwest’s new T1 at LAX to come.

(All photos by Harriet Baskas, except where noted.)

Airport Restaurant Month is back

It’s back. For the fourth year running, HMSHost is hosting Airport Restaurant Month.

 

Taking a cue from the popular Restaurant Week promotions that take place in many cities this time of year, HMSHost is hosting Airport Restaurant Month at more than 50 North American airports.

Prices and menus may vary a bit in the participating restaurants in airports across the country, but during HMSHost’s Airport Restaurant Month you’ll find a featured seasonal menu:

  • Seared Salmon – topped with basil pesto.
  • Vegetarian Flatbread – topped with basil pesto, goat cheese, tomato compote and sunflower seeds
  • Roasted Chicken Breast – topped with basil pesto and sage chicken jus
  • Better Than Bacon Burger – topped with fontina cheese and bacon-tomato compote
  • Grilled Pesto Shrimp Wrap – baby kale, roasted mushrooms, peppers and asparagus served with mushrooms and asparagus

Each entrée is being served with roasted mushrooms and asparagus, crispy smashed potatoes tossed with baby kale and a serving of fresh fruit.

This year there’s also a special cocktail for Airport Restaurant Month. In most of the participating venues you can order “The Temptation,” which features Templeton Rye whisky with a touch of malbec, lemon, and maple syrup – all topped with grapes. (Here’s the recipe, so you can mix this drink up at home.)

Go. Eat. Food in airports is getting better.

Phoenix Sky Harbor Int’l will upgrade Terminal 3

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is going give its Terminal 3 a makeover, with lots of local dining options and fresh new shops. All should be open by 2010.

In addition to a branch of Shake Shack, locally-themed dining venues coming from both airport dining operators Host International and SSP American in the mix will include:

  • The Parlor– Wood oven pizzas, pastas, sandwiches, salads and more;
  • Mustache Pretzel – Gourmet pretzels, dips and drinks.
  • Postino – bruschetta boards, salads, sandwiches, beer, wine and more.
  • Joyride Taco House –  Tacos, burritos, craft cocktails and more.
  • Tru Burger Co. –Specialty burgers from a local favorite.
  • Original ChopShop – Salads, protein bowls, sandwiches, fresh juices and more.
  • Uberrito Fresh Mex –Burritos, tacos, and more are available at this fresh-Mexican eatery.
  • Phoenix Ale Brewery Central Kitchen – Locally-brewed beer makes,, pub fare, salads, craft beer and more.
  • Leoni’s Focaccia – Sandwiches made with cured Italian meats, focaccia bread, and a variety of cheeses.
  • Ajo Al’s Mexican Café – An Arizona original.
  • Crave Grounds – Fresh donuts with locally-roasted coffees and specialty teas.
  • The Tavern – From Phoenix Chef Mark Tarbell. Salads, sandwiches, burgers, and a variety of entrees.
  • Christopher’s Crush – From James Beard award winner Chef Gross, a local restaurant with a variety of pizzas, salads, entrees, meats and cheeses and more.

Some of the locally-themed retail concepts on the way include:

  • Discover Arizona– Arizona-themed gifts, souvenirs, books and more.
  • Indigenous/Mosaic – Combines two popular Sky Harbor stores. Ceramics, jewelry, artwork, collectibles.
  • Lolli and Pops – Candies, edible items and more.
  •  Travel Outfitters – Luggage and travel accessories from a local store that also has locations in Chandler and Scottsdale.

Some of these new outlets will open in late 2018/early 2019 as part of the Terminal’s new South Concourse. The rest should open when in 2020 when the north concourse renovation is finished. More details here.