Category Archives: Getaway

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

Advertisements

1 Comment

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

Spectrum of Spa

By Beth Friedman
@FoodTravelrBeth

The past couple of weeks has brought true contrasts of color into my world. I went from a bona fide tropical paradise almost straight into the desert. Two vastly different yet dazzling places, and in both I experienced a spectrum of spa.

For anybody who thinks that a spa is a spa is a spa, I’ve got two unbelievable places to tell you about. They couldn’t be more different from one another, but both offer their guests beautiful experiences that are reflective of their homes.

I’ll start with Le Taha’a Manea Spa, which is part of the Le Taha’a Resort, located on a private island not too far from Bora Bora. It is without question one of the most tranquil places I’ve ever been, and pretty easy to get to considering the level of seclusion guests enjoy here – about a 35 minute flight from Papeete, Tahiti to Raitae Airport, where from the plane’s tarmac you walk about 300 feet to get into the resort’s boat for a relaxing 45 minute ride to this idyllic location.

The spa is situated on a beautiful lake, which is the view you are welcomed with from most of the indoor/outdoor treatment rooms. It is truly different from anything I’ve ever seen and nothing short of breathtaking. A wide variety of treatments include everything from their signature Vai Vanira, a vanilla bath followed by a full body vanilla oil massage, to getting a traditional Tahitian tattoo from their resident artist. Even the full-sized gym overlooks the lake.

All of this tranquility comes at a price because here you are at a 5 diamond deluxe property where accommodations are either over water bungalows or beach front villas. It is absolutely the perfect place for any couple looking for something truly unique and quiet, and is without question worth every penny. The photo below is just a snapshot of what greeted me just outside the glass door from my bedroom of one of the Royal Villas. The beach continues to stretch into the distance, the water is pristine, crystal clear, calm and shallow. Peaceful doesn’t begin to describe it.

Rates fluctuate with time of year and location/size of the bungalow or villa, so if you’d like to know more about all of the different options, their costs and details like how many bedrooms or whether or not there’s a plunge pool, just give me a shout!

By contrast, but no less wonderful, Miraval Resort and Spa in Tucson Arizona has a most interesting approach to wellness. With a focus on what they call ‘Mindfullness”, which keeps us in the moment no matter what we’re doing, Miraval offers unique classes, activities, and spa treatments that provide guests with fun and creative ways to care for themselves from the inside out. This includes a wide variety of things like nutritional work ups and wonderful, healthy, gourmet meals (and cooking classes!), consults with Dr. Andrew Weil proteges (Dr. Weil himself holds occasional seminars), cardio drumming and Chi Gong classes, equestrian activities, hiking, meditation, cardio dance, wall-climbing, desert tightrope and zip-lining. And this is just scratching the surface.

Two special places seen below at Miraval are the Kiva Firepit, where guests can mingle, star gaze and enjoy the desert air. And the Labyrinth, which is a place meant for walking and quiet reflection.


Throughout the entire property, which consists of 6 small villages, you can hear water trickling up and down various streams and water features, wander through pathways throughout that are dotted with desert vegetation and interesting sculptures, all at the base of the Catalina Mountains. There is nothing in the world like the desert air to cleanse the soul, and this special resort is all about doing just that.

Suffice to say, Miraval has a serious understanding of how to work with guests on health and wellness, and an important element of the whole experience is of course, the spa. When I was there, I had a wonderful treatment called ‘Nurture’. It is a 100 minute “ritual” starting with a warm loofah exfoliation with white peate enzymes (not really sure what that is, but so what?), sea minerals and blueberry. Then there is the application of a soothing mushroom and phyto-nutrient masque, followed by a wonderful outdoor shower. And it wasn’t over yet! Then came the full-body massage using arctic berry milk cream. My skin never felt so good!!

There are several levels of accommodations at Miraval starting with their indigenously decorated, entry level Deluxe rooms, all with “signature sleep experience” bedding and outdoor space. The newest are in their Catalina ‘Village” where each Villa is Leeds certified and amazingly cozy with that “to die for” bedding, muted colors among natural materials with incredible sunlight and views from unique glass walls allowing indoor/outdoor living.

Again, not an inexpensive experience, but who can put a price-tag on your well-being? And in fact, Miraval’s per person rates include accommodations, airport transfers, food & beverage (not alcohol), most group classes and activities and $130 resort credit that can be applied to things like spa treatments per day, so it’s a fantastic value.

Both of these wonderful hotel/resorts & spas are dedicated to making their guests feel welcome, special, pampered and above all else, healthy and cared for. For more information about booking Miraval or Le Taha’a let me know. Or if you’re looking for other spa/health wellness suggestions, I’ve got a world of ideas!

Beth Friedman
Your Journey By Beth
310-804-6767
journeybybeth@yahoo.com
beth@elitetravelinternational.com

1 Comment

Filed under Getaway, honeymoon, luxury, Romantic, spa, travel, Uncategorized

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.

2 Comments

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