Category Archives: food

Everything Tastes Better in Bora Bora

Lunch at Four Seasons Bora Bora’s Tere Nui

By Beth Friedman
Your Journey By Beth
@FoodTravelrBeth

A great meal can be made even better when eating it in paradise. Take Bora Bora: just being there gives you a huge jump start on everything from romance to relaxation, and both things make everything destined to taste better. If you’ve never been to Bora Bora, it’s one of those places that you can’t leave this earth without seeing. The colors of the pristine water, the incredible resorts and of course the food gave me reason to pause several times a day to say WOW. I had a lot of memorable meals, and here’s a little run down of a few of them.

To start, what could be more dreamy than the freshest, fattiest, raw tuna presented to you with a touch of foie gras, and pea puree (below).

This amazing starter was the opening course I had a the lovely Kaina Hut restaurant on the main island. It was buttery, rich and decadent, yet still light and bright. This adorable little place is casual, fine dining that maintains it’s French Polynesian elegance even with its thatched roof and sandy floor. The main course was a grilled white fish sitting on a plantain mash with coconut foam, and while it was the ‘whitest’ dish I’d ever seen, it was absolutely delicious, texturally perfect and something I had never had before.

Another seductive meal I experienced was the incredible steak with chocolate sauce at Le Tipanié, which is the fine dining restaurant at Le Merdien Bora Bora. The meat was tender and juicy, the sauce was both bitter and sweet and the plating – gorgeous. It was a meal well suited to a romantic dinner for two.

The restaurant itself sits on the resort’s lagoon, where you can allow yourself to be mesmerized by more than just your companion. Watching the fish and sea turtles that live in the crystal clear and shallow water make this a special place to dine. And if you love sea turtles, then Le Meridien is the place for you with its famous Marine Turtle Protection Centre. The photo below was taken looking down into the water of the lagoon during daylight hours. At night, it’s lit up.

Another great hotel dining experience is St. Regis Bora Bora’s Polynesian buffet at Te Pahu, one of their four restaurants. There is so much to choose from, including suckling pig (pictured below), a ton of creative raw fish items, grilled meats and salads. The restaurant sits beachside, which in and of itself is lovely, and to top it all off, entertains with a traditional Polynesian show.

Bora Bora’s French influence is front and center at La Villa Mahan Restaurant, owned by the island’s most well-known chef, Damien Rinaldi Dovio and his family. He’s a sweetheart of a man who has amazing creativity and passion for his food and an honest desire to give his guests the best of the best. Getting a table here isn’t easy. It’s small and in high demand so make sure when you’re booking your trip, you’re working with somebody who has an in (like me!) The most desired seat in the house is a private, loft-like area that sits above the patio and offers a super romantic atmosphere (pictured below). But even the indoor dining room is interesting with hand drawn murals and artwork created by local artists and members of Dovio family.

The menu changes every few months, but it’s always French using local ingredients and earning rave reviews. I feel fortunate to have met Chef Damien and thank him for the personal tour of his restaurant. Check out the cool guitar that was hanging on the wall. To me, it summed up La Villa Mahan with its color, character and artistry. I wish I could’ve taken it home with me!

One of Bora Bora’s most famous restaurants is Bloody Mary’s, a super casual dining establishment that’s been around since the late 1970’s. It’s a giant thatch-roofed hut with a sand floor giving you a true French Polynesian vibe. You can choose from the freshest of seafood which is displayed daily, or order from their low-key menu filled with everything from chicken sandwiches to rock lobster. One of my favorite things is their charred and peppered tuna sashimi, washed down with an ice-cold Hinano, the local beer. Clearly I can’t get enough raw tuna!

Bloody Mary is famous among the famous, and you’ll hear stories about the likes of Jimmy Buffett and Ron Wood of the Rolling Stone’s coming in to play. It’s a fun place with great energy and while touristy, someplace you shouldn’t miss.

Whenever you travel, whether it be to a tropical island or a big city, and no matter how picky you might be, challenge yourself to try something that you can’t get at home. Food is fun and exciting, plays with all of your senses and allows you to taste a little bit of what life is like someplace else. So as they say in Bora Bora, “Tama’a Maita’i” (enjoy your meal, bon appetit)!

For more details about Bora Bora and the hotels and restaurants above – or if you’re interested in planning a trip, contact me anytime! And checkout my previous posting called Paradise on Earth.

Nana (goodbye in Tahitian) for now!

on Twitter @FoodTravelrBeth
Facebook: Your Journey By Beth
Email: journeybybeth@gmail.com
Email: journeybybeth@gmail.com

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Filed under exotic, food, Foodie, Fun, honeymoon, island, luxury, Paradise, Romantic, travel, tropical, Uncategorized

Food, Food & More Food Part I

By Beth Friedman
@FoodTravelrBeth

I am obsessed with food. In a former life I must have been a chef, a Jewish Grandmother or an Italian Mama because I love to cook, I LOVE to eat and I love to feed people. It’s a wonder that I don’t weigh 300 pounds because I wake up every morning wondering what my next meal will be. This is no different, and actually gets worse when I travel because to me, one of the key ingredients (forgive the pun) to a great trip is to experience the cuisine of wherever I am. Whether it be a perfect goulash in Budapest, garlicky and tender escargot with some creamy Camembert in Paris, steak or grill in Buenos Aires, pastry in Vienna, pasta in Italy, BBQ in Texas or bagels in New York City, I B-line to all of it!

My most recent trip was to Paris with my boyfriend Joe, where eating our way around the city and drinking our fair share of Sancerre was at the top of our priority list. Each day started with buttery, flakey, freshly baked croissants from a local boulangerie and eaten on the go.

While most think of fine dining, perfect plating and complex sauces in French cuisine, I learned the lesson of simplicity in food again on this trip. And it could not have been demonstrated better than at a wonderful spot called Cafe Allard, an old school bistro located in the 6th arrondissement (St. Germain). A friend who lives in Paris 50% of the time recommended it to us, and we found it appealing because it’s frequented by locals. Crowded and loud, with tables packed together, you are instantly and tightly integrated into Paris life here. When we were seated, we noticed that at the table next to us they were digging into a whole roasted and carved chicken with potatoes that smelled so good that we almost didn’t need to see the menu. But it seemed so unexciting that we tried our hand at taking a look even though we were struggling with our French. When the waiter came to take our order and we pointed at our neighbors dish to ask what it was (duh), he looked at us like we were crazy, and with a good-natured, funny expression on his face and a shrug, just said “chicken”. It was a good laugh, so we ended up going with the chicken for fear butchering the language by trying to order from the menu. This turned out to be a great decision because that simple roasted chicken was one of the best things either of us had every eaten. We were blown away by how delicious something so seemingly ordinary could be. The meat was so tender, juicy and ‘chickeny’ (is that a word?), with skin that was so perfectly crispy! I was so distracted from the very first bite, that I forgot to take a picture of it. What you see below was taken a little to late to do it justice, but those potatoes you see? Well they were unbelievable as well!

I could write all day about eating our way through Paris but instead, let’s go to Germany. On another memorable journey, this one along the Danube River with AMA Waterways (my top pick for river cruising throughout Europe), we stopped in Regansburg where we were introduced to the world’s oldest sausage stand called Wurschtla (Wurstküche ). It is said to be over 500 years old and was built to feed the workers building the original ‘Old Stone Bridge”. You can’t travel throughout this part of the world without being bombarded with each region’s variation of sausage. Sitting here at picnic tables (in December mind you), this historic food establishment serves open fire-grilled sausages that are simple, salty, fatty and crispy and placed on a bed of sauerkraut with bread. Don’t be embarrassed to order 5 all for yourself! YUM.

To take a turn to the lighter, sunnier side of food, when traveling to Tahiti and the islands of the South Pacific, you’ll find that their national dish of Poisson Cru is on almost every menu, and every household has their own recipe. It’s a ceviche of sorts, made with the freshest tuna, chopped cucumber, tomato, onion, lemon juice and freshly squeezed coconut juice. I had a lot of fun at the Four Seasons Bora Bora (a magnificent resort by the way!), where the chef held a Poisson Cru demonstration at one of their lovely restaurants, Arii Moana. Then challenged us (a group of travel agents) to compete against one another to come up with our own version. They provided some great ingredients for us to choose from and I decided to go with the fresh tuna ( a must), chopped green apple, chopped green onion, thinly sliced kumquat, a drizzle of tangerine infused olive oil, lime juice and coconut milk.

I am proud to say that I won this little competition!

When traveling it’s always fun to challenge one’s palette, so I’ll never forget my re-introduction to the anchovy. I am usually a pretty ambitious and adventurous eater, so in the past I had tried my hand at this salty little fish and HATED it. But it was a true revelation when I was coaxed into another tasting while in Ravello Italy at a hosted luncheon by the Hotel Caruso at their lovely terrace restaurant, Caruso. I wrote about this in a previous blog posting, but since it was a true culinary “a-ha” moment in my life (credit to Oprah!), I thought it was worth another mention.

My anchovy turnaround came from an interesting little ingredient called colutura, which is anchovy juice. To me anchovy juice sounds just plain gross and when the dish of spaghetti was placed in front of me and proudly described by the chef, I wanted to push it away and skip to the next course. But I didn’t want to insult our hosts, and dug in. The spaghetti was cooked perfectly, and the flavors were salty, but fresh and bright! The colutura is mixed with lemon and fruity olive oil with a touch of hot chili flakes, and it’s flavors were so different and simple that just writing about it now has me transported back to Italy. It was truly an eye-opener and a perfect example of how going outside your comfort zone in food can truly expand your horizons.

I can’t complete this posting without spending some time closer to home, so let’s go to New Orleans which is the epitome of a food lover’s fantasy. You’ve heard all of the hoopla about things like Po’ Boys, jambalaya, blackened fish, gumbo, begniets and so much more, so I’ll keep it simple here and focus on one stand out dish. I’m talking about the grilled oysters at Acme Oyster House, which is a much loved New Orleans institution that is frequented by both tourists and locals (be prepared to wait on line to get it!). Large gulf oysters, shucked and topped with melted garlic butter, lots of herbs, white wine, a dash of worcestershire sauce and Romano cheese are lined up onto the grill and cooked just until bubbly. They are completely addictive with a salty, briny, garlicky yumminess that leaves you aching for just one more. It’s another example of simplicity in food with huge flavor, texture and personality. To me they scream New Orleans on a plate.

I could write forever about all of the fun and interesting food I’ve eaten while traveling, so I’m going to keep going with another Your Journey By Beth posting about it soon. I hope that in writing about it I can encourage a few picky eaters to go outside of their culinary comfort zone. To be honest, I’m perplexed by folks who spend a lot of money and time to travel and experience far away places, then seek out Starbucks, McDonald’s and only order dishes that seem familiar to them. Traveling can be a thrill in so many ways and can appeal to all of your senses. Your taste buds are a wonderful and delicious way to learn about how other cultures nourish their bodies, their souls, their family and friends.

Stay tuned for more on food! And if you’re looking for travel tips, ideas and recommendations, you can reach me at:

Journey By Beth
310-804-6767
journeybybeth@gmail.com

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Filed under Culture, Europe, food, Foodie, Fun, Getaway, Italy, New Orleans, travel

For Business or Pleasure in Las Vegas?

By Beth Friedman
@BethLovesTravel
http://www.Facebook.com/YourJourneyByBeth

You’re probably wondering why I chose to post a picture of a rabbit as my opening to a blog about Las Vegas, so here’s the deal. At Bellagio’s Conservatory and Botanical Gardens they are celebrating the Year of the Rabbit in true Vegas style with the 12 foot bunny in the photo, a 35 ft. authentic Junk (chinese boat) floating in an amazing koi pond, plus many more amazing features and details. I loved the rabbit so much that it’s been my iPhone wallpaper for the last two weeks. Here’s why this even remotely relevant: I took this picture on my first trip to Vegas just for the fun of it. You see, over the past decade I’ve been there too many times to count for business, so long ago I stopped taking the time to ‘smell the roses’ (so to speak).

In my “previous life” as an advertising sales exec for a luxury travel magazine called Elite Traveler (among others), I managed the Las Vegas territory. My responsibilities included working with hotels and resorts which was a lot of fun. On the one hand, I was very lucky because I dined at fantastic restaurants and stayed at the beautiful hotels, but because my focus was always on work, I never had the desire to go just to go. That is until last month when my boyfriend’s parents invited us to join them for a quick over-nighter.

I arranged their stay at Bellagio, where I am friendly with a few of the executives, and where I was able to have them upgraded into the fantastic Cypress Suite – all 1524 square feet of it, with two full-on his and hers bathrooms and grand views from every room of the lake, the world-famous Fountains of Bellagio and Paris’ Eiffel Tower.

Joe and I were in a Lake View Deluxe Room, which isn’t quite as grand as the Cypress Suite, but super cozy with the same view. It was from here on the 25th floor that the Fountains of Bellagio Show swept me up into the spirit of being in Vegas. I didn’t know this, but you can listen to the ‘performance’ from the comfort of your room by tuning into channel 22 on your TV. I was mesmerized, and over the course of our 24 hour stay we saw and heard One, Singular Sensation (A Chorus Line), Luck be a Lady (Sinatra – of course!), My Heart Will Go on (Celine Dion from Titanic) and All That Jazz (overture from Chicago Soundtrack). The photo below was taken at sunset and it was spectacular!

Something I always looked forward to while visiting Vegas even for business was the anticipation of a few great meals. You don’t need me to tell you that these days it is as much a culinary destination and adventure as it is anything else, so our food-fest began at Olives, the Todd English Mediterranean spot at Bellagio for lunch. To be honest, it’s very expensive for what it is, but the food was tasty, plus beer and mimosas were flowing so we had a great time. Dinner that evening was at American Fish, the Michael Mina restaurant located at Aria. The food was excellent, the service was top-notch and as expected, it was very expensive too. I had the mixed grill of seafood with red kuri squash, celery root and roasted mushrooms, with a side of truffled mac n cheese. Very yummy.

The next day, Joe and his Dad played the horses at the sports book and Betty (Joe’s Step-Mom) and I went off on our own. I was curious about the Cosmopolitan Resort & Casino since I hadn’t seen it yet, so we took the short walk over. It is glitzy and glamorous and definitely targeting the hip, happening crowd. This unique hotel is hard to describe in just a few words so check out the Chandelier Bar (part of it) below. It gives you a good sense of the overall vibe.

For lunch, the food-fest continued and if all things epicurean are your thing, you can die happy at the Cosmopolitan with superstar chef restaurants like Jose AndresJaleo, David Myer’s Comme Ça and Scott Conant’s Scarpetta (+ more!) We wanted to have lunch at Scarpetta, but they are only open for dinner, so we landed next door at D.O.C.G., another Scott Conant spot which turned out to be the perfect place for us to eat, drink and catch up with each other. We sat at the bar and ordered a carafe of Lagaria Pinot Grigio straight away. The menu is filled with italian delicacies, but what caught our eye was a combination plate offering two meats, two cheeses and three assaggini (small tastes) for $25.00. A rare culinary deal in Vegas.

This is one of my very favorite ways of eating ( a little of this, a little of that!) so every time I see the picture above it makes me hungry!

To walk off some of the food and wine, Betty and I wandered up to the Cosmopolitan’s Pool District (yes, district with three separate pool areas) and if the weather were warmer, we would have been very happy spending some serious time there. The indoor/outdoor “game-room” called the “Day Club Pool” was very cool and at night becomes an extension of a nightclub. The photo below is of their Boulevard Pool. Since it was pretty chilly out, we moved on to shop until it was time to meet up with the men and head to dinner. We had one more meal to go before leaving for the airport, and that was a 6:00 reservation at Sensi, the asian/indian/italian fusion restaurant at Bellagio.

Sensi was amazing. You’d think that its overkill trying to combine asian/indian and italian cuisines, but we truly loved this meal, the service and the zen feeling you get while you’re there. For dinner I had the tandoori surf & turf with tandoori chicken, but you can also have it with steak or lamb. It also came with grilled shrimp, white fish and traditional indian condiments – so delicious! I finished my plate even after our big lunch at D.O.C.G. Betty had the pad Thai, Joe had the short ribs – a gorgeous plate – and Joe’s Dad had a shrimp dish, which I know he enjoyed because he cleaned the plate. Another pricey meal, but well worth it. Big thanks again to the Smith’s for everything on this trip!

After dinner, we jumped into a cab and headed to the airport. It was the first time that I can remember wanting to stay in Vegas to see and do more. And it was also too bad that our visit with Joe’s parents had to be so short. Both Joe and I live far from our families, so any time we get to spend together is a treat.

I’ll be heading to Vegas again for business in May and perhaps this time I’ll stay an extra day to relax and enjoy.

For more information about traveling to Las Vegas (or anywhere else for that matter!), connect with me anytime! I would love to hear from you!

Beth Friedman
Luxury Travel Consultant
beth@elitetravelinternational.com
or journeybybeth@yahoo.com
310-804-6767

PS: Special thanks again to my friends at Bellagio, which is the original 5 diamond, class act on the Las Vegas strip. If only we had more time to dine at all of their other award-winning restaurants and enjoy the expertise of their FOUR (count them) FOUR Master Sommeliers on property. If you are interested in food & wine then it’s only here where you can join their Epicurean Epicenter for exclusive and unique events.

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Filed under Bellagio, food, Fun, Getaway, Holiday, Las Vegas, luxury, travel, Vegas

A Romantic Getaway in Amsterdam

@FoodTravelrBeth
Facebook.com/beth.friedman1

Amsterdam is one of my favorite European cities and I highly recommend it as the perfect place to visit with somebody you are establishing your ‘travel legs’ with. It was the first international trip that Joe (my ‘partner in life’/boyfriend) and I took together, so there’s a special place in my heart for it.

There are so many great things about this city and you can really begin to get a sense of it in just a few days. Amsterdam oozes character, it’s very romantic, the people are great and it’s culturally exciting with plenty of ways to have fun! Getting around can be a little confusing, but hey – I think that getting lost in a new city is a good thing – especially with somebody special! And wandering around the cobblestone streets, canals and narrow walkways is an experience in and of itself.

If you’re in tourist-mode like we were, there is no shortage of ideas for your to-do list. We walked endlessly, peeked into the red-light district, took a canal tour, scoured the the Riks and Van Gogh Museums, visited the Ann Frank Museum, Rembrandt House and last but not least, we did the Heineken Experience Tour (hokey, but necessary). As you can see in the photo below, Joe was really into learning the ins and outs of brewing beer.

It’s not surprising that some of the best times we had revolved around eating, and one of our favorite food experiences – even to this day – was at the Supper Club. This is not your typical restaurant. It is many things wrapped into one very memorable night. I’d describe it as performance art meets fine dining while lounging comfortably on a bed (yes, I said bed), slash nightclub. Believe me when I tell you that you’ve got to experience it to believe it.

Another fantastic meal, albeit much more low-key than the Supper Club was breakfast at the Pancake Bakery where instead of describing the food, I’ll let the photo below speak for itself!! I’ll just chime in with YUM! Click here to see the menu filled with endless ways to have your traditional thin Dutch pancakes or poffertjes, which are like small puffy pancakes.

Throughout this trip, we meandered into tons of pubs – there are about 1200 of them throughout the city. And as you can imagine, there’s a huge beer culture here (beyond the biggies like Grolsh, Heineken and Amstel). For meals we were able to satisfy any craving we had including Italian at a great little place called Ristorante Savini and Chinese food we liked so much we had it twice at Restaurant Si-Chuan!

Another quintessential must-do in Amsterdam is the coffee house experience. Even if you don’t ‘partake’, it’s fun to wander in and out of a few since they are something most won’t see at home. Each has its own vibe, many even have a theme.

On this trip, we hung our hats at the NH Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky which is a nice four star-ish hotel that is centrally located directly on Dam Square. It was perfect for us and I’d recommend it to anybody looking for location and great value.

A few of the finer hotels in Amsterdam (where today I have connections that I wish I had back when we were there!!!) are the Hotel Pulitzer, the Intercontinental Amstel and the Hotel de l’Europe.

It’s been several years since our trip to Amsterdam, so when I pulled out my journal and our pictures to write this blog I was transported back to one of the best times I’ve ever had. Joe and I learned that we traveled well together – which was VERY important and in March we’ll be together for 7 years. To celebrate our anniversary, we’ll be traveling to our 8th country together! Stay tuned with Your Journey By Beth to find out where!

Another fun travel blog to check out is:
http://www.vagabondquest.com/
Dina and Ryan have been traveling around the world since April 2009 and are still going. It’s their dream to be permanent travelers.

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Filed under Culture, Europe, food, Fun, honeymoon, Romantic, travel

Beth Eats Italy Part VI: A Little Taste of Positano

@BethLovesTravel
facebook.com/beth.friedman1

Positano, Italy was one of the most romantic places I’d ever been, so its a shame that my boyfriend Joe wasn’t there with me. After spending a few days exploring it’s narrow, hilly streets, soaking in the sun and of course eating my way around town on my own, I can safely say that he and I will plan to be there together sometime soon. As I write this months later, I can still close my eyes and feel the breeze on my skin and recall the scent of the sea air mixed with the slightest hint of lemon. I can’t wait for that day to come.

I was in Positano with a group of travel agents and we were primarily there to check out hotels. There are several stand outs like La Sirenuse and Hotel Palazzo Murat that are located right in town and have a lot to offer a variety of tastes. But one that really differentiates itself from the others is Il San Pietro Di Positano. It is truly something special because it’s the only property that is a full service resort with its own private beach, sun-deck, yacht, tennis court and spa. It sits high on a cliff with a vast terrace overlooking the sea, lush gardens where they grow everything they use in their restaurants, and quiet walking paths. It is seriously idyllic and perfect for a honeymoon, destination wedding or romantic getaway.

We had the good fortune to spend two nights at the Il San Pietro and to enjoy all that it had to offer. I took the photo above from an upper level path looking down upon the beach. An elevator built into the cliff takes you to and from the sun bathing deck, dock and beach straight into the lobby and throughout the hotel’s floors. It is outside of town, so offers privacy and a peacefulness you won’t find anywhere else in Positano (with 24 hour Mercedes-Benz shuttle service to and from).

There are two restaurants at Il San Pietro that are very different from one another; the casual Carlino where you can dine al fresco overlooking the beach and where they hold intimate cooking classes in their fabulous, state-of-the-art kitchen. And their formal dining, one Michelin star restaurant called Il San Pietro is extremely romantic with floor to ceiling windows and an outdoor space that shows off their beautiful views.

My favorite meals at the San Pietro were at Carlino’s where we enjoyed ‘light’ lunches that included marinated anchovies (my time in Italy converted me into a fan!), grilled eggplant (aubergine here) and zucchini, tomato and hand-made mozzarella cheese along with one of my favorite dishes of all time, steamed mussels and clams in white wine broth with garlic and crusty bread. The anchovies were an eye opener and the more time I spent in Italy, the more I realized how wrong I’ve been about these tiny little, misunderstood sea creatures. That’s me with the hairband in the back with my colleagues enjoying Carlino in the picture above.

Dinner at Il San Pietro was lovely too. Suffice it to say, the chef does wonders with a chicken breast (those are black truffles sitting on the chicken below!), potatoes (those perfectly round things pictured below) and spinach (with giant capers, garlic and olive oil). Believe it or not, this was my attempt at a light dinner!

The service at Il San Pietro in both the restaurants and the hotel is personal and impeccable. And the accommodations are very traditionally italian right down to the beautifully tiled floors. Each room is completely unique unto itself, and all have terraces with unforgettable views.

I loved my time at the Il San Pietro for many reasons and sincerely thank their gracious owners, the Cinque family, for creating such an amazingly perfect home away from home for all of their guests.

Saying arrivederci to Positano made me sad, but my next stop was Rome, where I got to fulfill another lifelong dream!

I had so much fun eating my way through the Amalfi Coast, but only skimmed the surface of all of the wonderful places to see, stay and eat so I can’t wait to return! Italy is proving to be an endless adventure in all things romantic & culinary and it’s reputation for fantastic hospitality and kindness is absolutely spot on.

Onto “The City of Fountains”!

Ciao for now!

Beth Friedman
Your Journey By Beth

If you’re interested in traveling to Positano or the Amalfi Coast (or anywhere else for that matter!), it’s my job make it happen for you! I can be reached at:

journeybybeth@yahoo.com
beth@elitetravelinternational.com
yourjourneybybeth.wordpress.com

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Filed under destination wedding, food, honeymoon, Italy, Romantic, travel

Muffalettas and Sazeracs-A Look Back at Bringing in 2010

@BethLovesTravel
facebook.com/beth.friedman1

For the holidays last year, my boyfriend Joe and I went to New Orleans to eat, drink and be merry! I had been to The Big Easy several times before for work, and was so happy to finally have the freedom to enjoy the city on my own terms and to be there during the most festive time of year (well, besides Mardi Gras)!

For the hotel, we decided on the Monteleone, which spoke to our mood at the time we booked it. We wanted something old with a little bit of infamy in the French Quarter. This family run hotel has been in business since 1886, is haunted (though we never saw a ghost), has a famous lounge called the Carousel Bar and was perfectly located for us. It is kind of kitchy, the rooms were cozy and it oozed New Orleans in it’s atmosphere.

Joe and I are all about oysters, so when we arrived, the first thing we wanted to do was find some! Fortunately for us, Acme Oyster House was right around the corner! This place is famous for its huge gulf oysters (grilled and raw), po’ boys, crawfish, and an enormous selection of regional seafood. The fact that both locals and tourists both line up outside to eat here is a testament to its great food. We ordered the grilled oysters first and loved them so much that we had to have a second plate. I took a photo to capture the moment but unfortunately it doesn’t do them justice. I hope you’ll trust that these little beauties that were bubbling with butter and romano cheese were absolutely sumptuous.

After the second helping, we had a dozen raw and then decided that it was time to move on to check out some music. We walked over to Bourbon Street and had a blast wandering in and out of club after club, listening to everything from Jazz, to Blues to Rock n Roll. This went on for 5 fabulous days and extended out into the other districts of the city where there are countless places to find live music.

New Orleans was of course still in recovery mode from Katrina and as you probably know, the French Quarter survived much better than much of the city. But tourism had not yet fully bounced back. It was incredibly clear to us how much our presence, along with the influx of visitors for the Sugar Bowl and the holidays was most appreciated. Everyone from the street performers, to the shop owners, pub owners and restaurant owners were quick to ask us to tell our friends that New Orleans is OPEN FOR BUSINESS! I’ve been doing that ever since.

For hotels, New Orleans caters to all tastes. Some of the best include the venerable Windsor Court, The Ritz Carlton and the W French Quarter. There are a ton of bed and breakfasts, Inns and smaller properties scattered throughout each distinct district including the Garden District/Uptown, Magazine and of course, the French Quarter. When you decide to plan your trip, let me know and we’ll find the perfect place for you!

My favorite meals on this trip ran the gamut. At Irene’s in the French quarter, the ambiance is warm, romantic, eclectic and crowded. Definitely make a reservation, but if you end up waiting, they’ll serve you wine and entertain you with a fun in-house pianist. The food is Cajun/Italian and we had a lasagna that was killer and their famous rosemary chicken, which I’ve desperately tried to recreate at home, but can’t.

The muffalettas and sazaracs at Napoleon House were DE-licous and personified New Orleans. Hurricanes at Pat O’Briens are a tradition in New Orleans too, but I prefer the Sazerac or a Pimms Cup!

The BBQ shrimp po’boys at Luizza’s by the racetrack were crazy (if you’ve ever gone to Jazz Fest, then you may have been there!) and the Frogs Legs at K-Pauls were yummy! I can’t forget to mention another oyster extravaganza at Casamentos, which has been around since 1919. This is not to be missed, and frankly not someplace overcrowded with tourists. It’s located on Magazine Street, which has too many great shops, bars, art galleries and restaurants to count. For fantastic down home, real deal cajun cuisine and soul food, Dooky Chase is the way to go! It’s in an iffy part of the city, but don’t let that stop you!

We were in a pretty touristy mood, so decided to take a horse (actually a donkey) and buggy ride around the French Quarter and this turned out to be such a blast! Our tour guide, Susan, was hilarious and seemed to know everything about the city. It was fun and informative, and best of all, we made a new friend. During the ride, we approached the famous Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar, and Susan asked if we wanted to stop for a drink. Heaven forbid we pass up the opportunity for a cocktail, so we said sure! Susan stopped the buggy and we gathered our stuff to get out, but instead, at the top of her lungs, Susan yelled “TAKE OUT”!!!!! into the bar. Seconds later, the bartender came out and took our order. It was such a laugh and having a beer to enjoy for the rest of our tour made it that much more fun.

As we get ready to bring in 2011, I couldn’t help but reminisce about welcoming 2010, and writing this blog has brought back some great memories! I love New Orleans and can’t wait to go back because 5 days barely scratched the surface of what there is to do, see and of course eat!

I wish everybody out there a HEALTHY, happy and prosperous 2011! May it be filled with many great adventures!

For more information about the hotels and restaurants I’ve included here (and some that I didn’t squeeze into these 971 words), you can find me at:

journeybybeth@yahoo.com
beth@elitetravelinternational.com
310-804-6767

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A Carb-Fest To Remember on the Amalfi Coast!

In the ancient town of Ravello, Italy I had one of the most mind-blowing carb-fests of my life. This culinary windfall happened at the Belvedere Restaurant at the Orient Express Hotel Caruso, and was served by their talented and friendly chef, Joe Pantalones (yes, Pantalones, as in Pants!).

The Caruso sits on the cliffs above the Amalfi Coast with sweeping views that are as one would expect: beautiful, restful and romantic. And the hotel itself is a former 11th century palace that is very, very italian, with beautiful, cozy and elegant rooms and suites that emulate it’s historic character.

After a tour the rooms and grounds that include their world famous infinity pool and Belvedere gardens it was time to eat!

Lunch began with a salad bar….actually, an antipasti bar! I’m not usually fond of salad bars but this one was special with (among other things) hand made buffalo mozzarella, seafood and octopus salads, artichoke salads, grilled zucchini with mint, arugula with a citrus vinaigrette, white bean salad and crispy pizza ‘bread’ baked in their outdoor pizza oven. It was a tad bit different from your basic Souplantation or Beefsteak Charlies (remember Beefsteak Charlies????). Everything looked so beautiful in the self-serve display that we filled our plates. The look of horror on our host’s face (the dapper GM of the hotel) was priceless when he reminded his American lunch guests that there was more food to come!

Now for the main event: the pasta! Not just one pasta course. TWO pasta courses and when Chef Pantalones came out to describe first, I have to admit that I was very skeptical. We were going to be served spaghetti with anchovy juice (called colutura), parsley, lemon rind, olive oil and hot chili flakes. Now is it me? Or does “anchovy juice” sound beyond unappealing? Well letmetellyou that at the risk of sounding like a broken record, this was one of the best dishes I had ever had. The spaghetti was perfectly al dente and the flavors were salty, but fresh and bright! The lemon and fruity olive oil along with the colutura were just beautiful and completely new to me. This plate of pasta is the perfect symbol for one of the reasons why I am so passionate about travel. You get to expand your life’s palette, and obviously not just with food.


Pasta #2 was calamarrata pasta (looks like calamari) with shrimp, porcini mushrooms, cherry tomato with chili oil and all I can say is ohmygod. It was spicy and earthy with such a fantastic texture! Simple and brilliant!

After cleaning both plates (what I like to call ‘happy plates’) and well on my way into a food coma, the meal was capped off with home-made pizza that was charred and crispy with olives, capers and oregano. Delicious!

I passed on desert, but accepted a glass of limoncello because I just can’t say no! Plus, it’s a digestif, so doesn’t that mean it will help me digest? I hope so.

Ravello is just a short 11 kilometers to Positano where we were staying for a couple of days, and the drive is largely up (or down) a steep and narrow road and along the famed Amalphi Coast Road. It’s a good thing that I wasn’t driving, because I was in need of a serious powernap to prepare for the dinner I was anticipating at the Hotel Il San Pietro di Positano.

I am tempted to keep writing and to take you to Positano now, but after re-living this memorable meal, I’m feeling a little bit the same way as I did that day – like taking a nap – so I’ll save it for next time…….

Ciao for now and Vacanze Felici! (Happy Holidays)!

If you’d like more information about the Hotel Caruso or about traveling throughout the Amalphi Coast (or anywhere else!!), let me know!

Beth Friedman
Your Journey By Beth
JourneybyBeth@yahoo.com
beth@elitetravelinternational.com
http://www.twitter.com/BethLovesTravel
http://www.facebook.com/Beth.Friedman1
http://www.yourjourneybybeth.wordpress.com

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Beth goes Small Town: A City Girl’s adventure in Boerne, Texas

Thanksgiving 2010 was spent visiting around Texas, and this posting is a love letter to my time there and the people I had the pleasure of spending the holiday with.

The Alamo and Riverwalk are the top tourism attractions in San Antonio, but for those of you (like me) who are more interested in being travelers vs. tourists, venturing outside the larger cities of the great state of Texas offers some really interesting and fun ways to experience the definite and unique culture here. The people, the food, the pride, the SIZE of everything screams Texas and in Boerne (sounds like “Bernie”), where my boyfriend’s father lives in an incredible compound that he built called the Long Horn Ranch, complete with two steer named Bo & Sid (see above photo…they’re so cute!), we spent a few days exploring this friendly, two stoplight (okay, maybe three or four) town. Here, you can find everything from fantastic antiquing and shopping to wine tasting! Mixed into that, close by is decadent Tex-Mex food as well as fine dining, art galleries, a cave without a name (really!) and even an historic outdoor dance hall and music venue the likes of which you won’t find anywhere else!

Every first Friday night after Thanksgiving in Boerne, Main Street is closed off to traffic and becomes 100% pedestrian for their annual “Dicken’s on Main” celebration. They’ve got snow machines built into their streetlights, beer gardens, horse drawn carriage rides, food vendors, and a really fun celebratory vibe that permeates the entire town. The food vendors were cooking smoked corn on the cob, turkey legs, hot and spicy Gumbos, Mexican tortas and a ton of other yummy things that were foodie-worthy and easy on the wallet. We

wandered in and out of small, privately owned shops that carried everything from artisan pickles to home-made baked goods, clothes, antiques and leather goods. We eventually stumbled across a fantastic wine bar called the Boerne Wine Company, and were surprised to see this sophisticated establishment that had an incredible variety of wines to taste (and buy) in a gorgeous and cozy setting. The stone walls and natural materials, outdoor patio with a wood burning fireplace, walk-in humidor with vast selection for cigar afficianodos and of course, warm Texas hospitality had us wanting to spend much more time there!

Speaking of wine, the next day, another surprise was the award winning Sister Creek Vineyards, which is just a quick 15 minute drive along Sisterdale Road outside of the Main Street area, where we tasted several solid wines. My favorite was a Reserve Red Bordeaux Meritage, aged 18 months in oak barrels, blended and lightly filtered. There were rich blackberry, black cherry, currant, and vanilla flavors that I really enjoyed. At about $30 a bottle, it’s not inexpensive, but it sure made a nice souvenir (worth having to check my luggage)!

A bit further down Sisterdale Road is Luckenbach, which was made famous by Willie Nelson and Waylen Jenning’s song of the same title. Both country music icons used to play here on a small wood stage (that’s us on the stage pictured below) surrounded by picnic tables set under the trees. This is truly the most rustic music venue I’ve ever seen. Luckenbach is a tiny town. Actually, it’s not a town at all. It’s a left turn off a country road in the middle of nowhere, where you’ll find a dive bar, dance hall and of course, the stage. You park on a dirt patch, grab a beer to drink inside or out and enjoy the musicians who will no doubt be strumming guitars nearby. We had a great time just listening to music, watching the roosters roam around freely, trying on cowboy hats and just enjoying each other’s company. I also successfully brushed off my co-horts attempts at getting me to climb up onto a huge steer that was tied to a post wearing a saddle. It would have been humiliating for the cow (not to mention me)!

You can’t visit Texas without diving into some great Tex-Mex and one of my favorite ways to indulge in it is over breakfast. There is nothing like a breakfast Texas Taco, and at a cute little spot called Magues (sounds like Maggie’s), they do it right with home made flour tortillas filled with anything you like such as eggs, potatoes, chorizo, bacon and of course cheese! It sounds simple, but it is one of those things that I don’t find at home and is quintessentially Tex-Mex. For dinner, closer to San Antonio, there’s a restaurant called Pappasito’s and while this is a chain (don’t judge!!!), they’ve got something on the menu that I can’t stop thinking about: jalapeno stuffed, bacon wrapped, grilled shrimp!! I wish I had a photo of this for you because these shrimp were downright gorgeous and so crispy, spicy, smokey, salty and tasty that I can’t wait to try to recreate them at home! For fine dining, there’s the Cypress Grill where Joe (the aforementioned boyfriend and handsome guy pictured with me in Luckenbach) had the best pork chop he ever had in his life and where they serve everything from Buffalo Carpaccio, Four Hour Rotisserie Chicken and Pan Fried Venison Schnitzel, which speaks to this town’s very German heritage.

Extending your time in this part of Texas could also include visiting another great little town called Fredericksburg, and you’re best bet for accommodations on this adventure would be a B&B. While 5 diamond deluxe isn’t prevalent here, you’ll find wonderful and cozy places to stay. If you’re interested in visiting the Texas Hill Country, let me know. I have a few ‘ins’ there. We’ll find the perfect spot for you.

This city girl now has a true appreciation for small town Texas and is inspired to continue traveling off the beaten path. I hope that you are too, and that you can find time to carve out and explore the road less traveled – no matter where you are! In the recent past I’ve written a lot about my time in Italy (with more to come) but it stands to reason that no matter where you are, especially if you’re away from home, there’s something worth taking the time to see and people worth taking the time to know.

Wishing you and your family and wonderful holiday season!

Beth
Beth@elitetravelinternational.com
Journeybybeth@yahoo.com
310-804-6767

http://www.twitter.com/BethLovesTravel
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Beth Eats Italy Part IV: The “PLACE” and the “PALACE”

If you have been following my Italian Adventure from the beginning, than welcome back to Capri! If this is your first time joining in, it is my third post about this small, but amazing island. I wouldn’t have imagined that the two short days I spent there would garner three separate blogs (and I could go on!) but that, in and of itself says something about why you should visit! If you’re getting married anytime soon, Capri and the Amalphi coast is a fantastic honeymoon destination too. I can’t think of a more seductive getaway!

If you are looking for THE best and most romantic in terms of accommodations and service there are several choices here. On this day, we visited another wonderful property called JK Place for a tour and lunch. Their charming GM showed us around this intimate hotel as though it were his home. In fact at JK Place you have the distinct feeling of being in someone’s house the moment you walk through the front door. I loved it!

Each of the 22 rooms are beautifully appointed, cozy and not pretentious, the bathrooms are to die for and very spa-like. The spa itself is lovely and opens up to the pool which is tremendous, especially considering how few guests there are at any given time. And the pièce de résistance of the day was the food at JKitchen.

After the tour we gathered in their small bar for a cocktail and some finger food. I had a Campari and OJ (it only seemed appropriate!) with mini tuna tartar tossed in basil, lemon and olive oil, mini calzones and savory zeppoli, which were salty and chewy and delicious! In anticipation of another multi-course lunch, I was forced to limit myself to one of each!

In a dining room that was reminiscent of sitting in one’s residence, we were treated to a great lunch that included pancetta wrapped white fish over a puree of rosemary potatoes (an amuse-bouche) and smoked mozzarella draped over eggplant ‘tartar” as a starter.

For the pasta course, it was hand-made fussilli with butter, garlic, parsley, shrimp, clams and mussels. The whole meal was delicious, but the star was this pasta dish. I’m typically not a huge fan of seafood with pasta (except for perfectly done linguine vongole, which in my experience is hard to find), but THIS had me doing that thing you do when your eyes close and you audibly sigh with the first bite. The shrimp was beyond sweet, and was a pink that I had never seen before. It truly was perfection on a plate.

Dessert was an array of several dreamy pastry, but to be honest, I was so full at this point, I lost the will to document it! Suffice it to say – it was all beautiful.

Back at the Capri Tiberio Palace Hotel (see Part II: Ah, Capri, for more on what was my “home” in Capri if you missed it!), with another very full stomach, I had some much-needed time to come out of my food coma, answer some emails and oh yes, head over to the Blu Mediterrean spa for another fantastic massage.

I was quickly learning on this trip that pacing myself was very important because every meal was (and would be) a marathon of very special and seductive food. That night, cocktails were planned at the famed Caesar Augustus Hotel (another wonderful hotel option in Capri), to be followed by dinner at the 2 Michelin star L’Olivio at the Capri Palace Hotel, which is another 5 diamond deluxe property.

When we arrived at the Capri Palace up in AnaCapri, we were taken to see several of their wonderfully clever accommodations including the Paltrow Suite (for Gwyneth) and the Margritte (as in René) Suite. Each have unusual private pools that reflect their namesakes and the rooms themselves were equally sexy and unique:

There are several incredible “Art” and “Star” suites to choose from along with room types that are not themed per se, but still honor this hotels dedication to beauty, comfort, style and of course, service. In fact, throughout the entire hotel, you can’t help but notice a clear appreciation for the arts and creativity.

Upon entering L’Olivio, it was clear that this feeling extended into the food! The vibe at this fine dining restaurant is incredibly comfortable given it’s luxe interior. Our party of 8 was very cozy at a huge square table which boasted cushy couches on three sides with separate armchairs on one. We were immediately served flutes of Ca ‘del Bosco Spumanti and sipped them while scanning the menu. The decision-making process was painful because there were so many unique and delicious sounding choices. After much deliberation, here’s what I had for dinner:

The duo of amuses were anchovies with ricotta (I discovered that I love anchovies after all!!), eggplant & chicory salad with bacon and a bruschetta with salt cod. Please trust me when I tell you that my descriptions hardly do justice to the reality. The bread sticks weren’t just any bread sticks and they were served with buffalo cream instead of butter or olive oil. It was all crazy good!

My first course, called the Seafood Mosaic, was one of the most imaginative and delicious plates that has ever been placed in front of me. It is exactly what it sounds like; a mosaic of 9 single bites, each a raw item where one was more mouth-watering than the next.

My pasta was spaghetti with sea urchin and white tomato juice. Anybody who knows me, knows that sea urchin is an all-time favorite, and this plate practically made me swoon.

I made sure to keep room for the main course, which was a braised veal leg scented with spices with citrus fruits and assorted veggies. All I can think of to say is “Ah”.

As a gift, I was given the most enormous cookbook I’ve ever seen called “Oliver Glowig Arte e Gusto a Capri”, which has recipes and photos of the dishes they serve at L’Olivio. It’s written in Italian of course, but even if it was in English, to replicate what their chef’s do at home in my kitchen would be a challenge to say the least. This book (all 10ish pounds of it) is a prized souvenir that I will always cherish. It wasn’t easy to it schlep all all over Italy – then home. But I’m so glad I did!

So four days into this trip and I’m guessing that I may have already gained 5 pounds! I would call that a good start! Tomorrow, we’re off to Positano and while I’m sad to say arrivederci to Capri I can’t wait!

If you’re interested in hearing more about Capri (or anywhere else for that matter) let me know! It’s my job to send people off on great adventures!

Ciao for now!
Beth

Beth@elitetravelinternational.com
journeybybeth@yahoo.com.
http://www.twitter.com/BethLovesTravel
http://www.Facebook.com/beth.friedman1

If you missed Parts I-III of Beth Eats Italy, here are the links:
Naples: https://yourjourneybybeth.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/beth-eats-italy-part-1-naples-2/
Ah, Capri: https://yourjourneybybeth.wordpress.com/2010/11/09/beth-eats-italy-part-ii-ah-capri/
More Capri: https://yourjourneybybeth.wordpress.com/2010/11/19/beth-eats-italy-part-iii-more-on-capri/

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Beth Eats Italy Part III: More on Capri…..

I’m going to take a little break. In this post, there will be no food. No wine. No hotels or resorts. There will be no raving about the decor, artwork or hospitality of any particular place. Instead, I’m going attempt to express to you in words (and some very amateurish photos) the absolute wonder and beauty of Capri not from what’s happening ON the island, but from the perspective of the sea!

Keep in mind that my time in Italy this year was in October, so it wasn’t exactly beach weather. We experienced tons of sunshine mixed with a few showers with mild temperatures of about 65 degrees. It was cooler on some occasions and warmer on others. For me, it was perfect. But it didn’t give any of us the chance to swim in the Tyrrhenian Sea or truly explore the grottos and caves that dot the perimeter of island.

Even without the benefit of dipping my toes (or the rest of myself for that matter) into the sea, the time I spent on the water was without question a true highlight. The colors alone were enough to mesmerize me.

I had the pleasure of seeing the coast of Capri on the Joey II, a small yacht owned by Il San Pietro Hotel for the ride to Positano. Whenever you travel from point A to point B in this part of the world, I highly recommend going by boat if you can. It basically kills two birds with one stone by getting you where you need to go while touring at the same time. On this trip our captain took us around the island to see the world famous Rocks of Faraglioni close up, along with the grottos/caves and cliffs that make up the distinct landscape of Capri.

One of Capri’s best known attractions is the Blue Grotto, which is entered through a tiny little opening of about 2 meters by two meters cut into the rocks of the island. You will need to be aboard a small rowboat for no more than three people and you must lay down flat on the boat to pass through the narrow mouth of the cave. The entrance isn’t accessible at all times, so don’t go without a guide. I did not have the chance to explore the cave except for seeing it’s entrance, but on my next trip I will most definitely make it a point to go because I’m told that it is unbelievable to see the intense colors, the light playing off the dark caves and the silvery way objects appear in the water. There’s also the White Grotto and the Emerald Grotto that I don’t want to miss!

Throughout the trip, I took some terrible photos that do no justice to what I was experiencing. But here are a few to give you an idea since I don’t have the writing skills to truly describe it:


The last photo I’ll share is of me. It’s the last photo ever taken wearing my favorite Jackie-O sunglasses. A few moments after it was snapped, I placed the glasses on top my head to see up into the caves more clearly. While I was gawking upwards, they slipped off and into the sea. At first I was a little upset because I really liked those glasses. But then I was glad because now there will always be a little part of me in the water surrounding Capri.

Ciao for now,
Beth

If you missed Beth Eats Italy Parts I and II, here are the links:
https://yourjourneybybeth.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/beth-eats-italy-part-1-naples-2/

https://yourjourneybybeth.wordpress.com/2010/11/09/beth-eats-italy-part-ii-ah-capri/

http://www.facebook.com/beth.friedman1
http://www.twitter.com/BethLovesTravel
beth@elitetravelinternational.com
journeybybeth@yahoo.com

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