Category Archives: Fun

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