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
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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

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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/

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beth@elitetravelinternational.com
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Beth Eats Italy Part II: Ah, Capri

I have to confess that when I stepped off of the hydrofoil from Naples and arrived in Capri, it was a moment of pure happiness. I had always wanted to see this part of the world, so it was the realization of a dream. It’s not everyday that you get to be somewhere that you’ve always wanted to go. And it was a pretty fantastic feeling even though I hadn’t gotten past the marina yet. It’s times like this that reinforce my feeling that travel truly is one of life’s great pleasures, and is awfully good for the soul. That’s me in the middle below!

At the marina, we were greeted by a representative from the Capri Tiberio Palace, the hotel where we would be staying for this leg of the trip. Our bags were counted, collected and taken up to the hotel for us, then safely planted in our rooms. When you travel to Capri, this is a really nice touch because otherwise you have to drag your luggage with you to your hotel – which entails some walking, a trip up the “funicular” (think cross between train and skiing gondola heading upwards) and more walking. Capri is primarily a pedestrian island and while there are taxis, their reach throughout the island is limited to specific areas. Already the Tiberio Palace was proving to be a fantastic host. One could easily get very used to this 5 diamond deluxe lifestyle!

In my last post, part 1 of “Beth Eats Italy: Naples”, most of the food I enjoyed and shared with you was more like ‘home-cookin’ than anything else. In Capri, it would be fine dining all the way! Moving forward into this “Italian Adventure” was like living in some culinary parallel universe where everything placed in front of me was presented in the most creative way imaginable, using the finest, freshest ingredients and prepared by chefs at restaurants with incredible accolades. I believe that eating your way through another culture is the best way to understand it. And all of our meals in Capri were a testament to it’s glitzy, yet beachy vibe. That’s not to say that you can’t find a simple pizza, salad or pasta there, but we were destined for something else.

Upon arrival at the Capri Tiberio Palace, we were offered a champagne flute filled with a tart, but still perfectly sweet house made lemonade (lemons are a big deal in these parts!). I was escorted to my room, and settling in was so much fun because the suite was truly a wonderful mix of casual elegance with a beachy feel. It was extremely cozy with hard wood floors and white and blue ceramic details with a wonderful sitting area, huge windows, an incredible terrace and a mind blowing view. Everywhere I turned, there was a cool detail to take in.

Renovations of the entire property will take place over the winter so what is already fabulous will only be better come next season. I should also mention that the Blu Mediterraneo Spa by Acqua di Parma is sensational. I had one of the best massages of my life there.

That night, we were having dinner with our hosts from the hotel and it was such a fun, fine dining, italian feast! Cocktails were in the Jacky Bar, Tiberio’s funky lounge where we were treated to some fresh, light hors d’oeuvres of salmon and green apple carpaccio, beef and capers carpaccio and cherry tomoatos with smoked mozzarella (I’m finding that you are hard pressed to find a meal that doesn’t include mozzarella cheese here). It was such a nice way to start another large meal – all three were so refreshing and didn’t take much room up in the stomach!

After cocktails, we made our way down to their restaurant called Terrazza Tiberio. The service, the company and of course the food were memorable. Here’s the lowdown on what I ate (Foodies, hold on to your hats):
The amuse bouche was cous cous and eggplant over tomato cancasay w/anchovie. Next was eggplant flan w/buffalo riccotta, tomato and basil vinaigrette. This was to die for, so already I’m worried about my ability to consume everything I want to eat! Next came caprese ravioli. It was unlike any ravioli I had ever had before. Here, they were like cute little pillows of yumminess (yes. I said “yumminess”) vs. the square, flatter version we get at home. .
Hey, did you know that the caprese salad was born in Capri? And, so is ravioli! It was news to me!

My main course was a seabass en palette (steamed in a bag) with a side salad of bitter greens, lemon and the fruitiest olive oil I’ve ever had.This seemingly simple dinner was so incredibly good! The fish was flaky, citrusy and cooked perfectly, and the salad was fresh, light and the ideal side to the sea bass.

It’ll come as no surprise that I was full at this point, but I couldn’t resist dessert. Not one that looked like the picture below! It was white chocolate mouse with a licorice caramel ‘heart’ covered w/chocolate
sauce. ‘Nuf said.I’m going to reel myself in here and save some of my adventures in Capri for another time. What I’ve written about just scratches the surface of one day, one meal and one hotel! There are the famous grottos, cliffs, caves and of course the shopping! Capri is without question somewhere that you want to make sure is on your ‘bucket list’ so stay tuned to hear more about it!

For more information on any of the above, just ask! If you missed Beth Eats Italy Part 1: Naples: here it is!
https://yourjourneybybeth.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/beth-eats-italy-part-1-naples-2/

Ciao for now!
Beth

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journeybybeth@yahoo.com

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Beth Eats Italy Part 1: Naples

Traveling and eating are two of my favorite things and on this trip to Italy, I did a lot of both. In 9 days I ate my way through Naples, Capri, Ischia, Ravello, Positano and Rome. It was a lot to take on, so I began mentally preparing for the weight gain well in advance. Good thing, because starting in Naples, everywhere I went was like going to my Grandmother’s house because everybody wanted to feed me!!

Here is Part 1 of what I like to call “BETH EATS ITALY” (ha):

To start from the beginning, I left LA on a Monday, arrived at FCO/Rome on Tuesday and spent the better part of that day in the VIP lounge of Alitalia awaiting my connection to Naples. I had not slept during the 12 hour flight and was deliriously tired. After waiting for 6 hours for my 25 minute flight to Naples (next time I’m taking the train!), I finally arrived around 8:00pm. A dapper representative from the Hotel Romeo (Maurizio) greeted me in a very nice Jaguar and drove me to my home for the next couple of days. When I was checking in, I stumbled across the five other travel agents and wonderful host of this great adventure, who were already having cocktails in the lobby. It was my intention to crawl into bed and finally get some much needed sleep, but everybody was heading out for dinner, and how could I say no to food. Especially my first meal in Naples! I ran upstairs, splashed water on my face, then turned around in the clothes that I had been wearing for the past 24 hours and headed towards my first food coma of the trip! We went to a wonderful little restaurant called Pizzeria Mattozzi, and there I spent a fantastic night with new friends and great food. Here’s what we had:

It all started out with the biggest home-made buffalo mozzarella cheese I ever saw with cherry tomatoes, an eggplant parmesan, a casserole made from mashed potato, proscuitto, hard-boiled egg and mozzarella cheese topped with bread crumb, a pasta dish of giant rolatini with parmesan cheese, basil & smoked mozzarella with cherry tomatoes (a tribute to al dente – this was hands down best pasta I ever had), octopus salad over arugula and fried dough with prosciutto and mozzarella cheese (looked like a giant savory donut). Topped off w/Nutella Cake and limoncello.

This feast was my introduction to the ‘real deal’, and was a precursor to what was to come. I should have paced myself better because the next 9 days were going to test my stomach’s ability to keep up with my mouth!

Day two in Naples looked something like this: Woke up to a nice breakfast buffet which is included in the room rates at Hotel Romeo (and at many of the finer hotels in Italy). I’m not going to write much about breakfasts since they were pretty much the same everywhere with wonderful fresh breads, fresh cheeses (ricotta was my favorite), fresh fruits, eggs, smoked salmon, yogurts, cereals, etc. After, we all re-grouped and headed out for a casual walking tour of the city. Naples is a crazy metropolis that appears to be a controlled chaos. It’s bustling, ancient and at the same time modern, with everything to see from castles like the famous Castel dell’Ovo to churches to archeological digs to Mount Vesuvius. With it’s important port, Naples is a great jumping off point to continue on through the Amalfi Coast since there are ferries that can take you everywhere from Capri, to Sorrento to Positano and has a constant stream of cruise ships coming and going.

Lunch was at Mattozzi Ristorante (a different Mattozzi from last night but owned by relatives). Alfonso, the proprietor, is a famous culinary teacher and this place was obviously not for tourists. We were introduced to this little gem by my host for the trip’s friend, Nello, who is a local that runs incredible Villa rentals throughout the Amalfi Coast. Here, we were immediately greeted with another huge handmade mozzarella ball, octopus salad and a lovely crisp white wine called Greco de Tufo, from Naples. Alfonso’s daughter, Fabiana, was an amazing hostess and decided what we’d have for lunch, which turned out to be pizza margarita and a calzone with smoked mozzarella and escorole! Crispy and salty yumminess! I loved every inch of this restaurant because you could literally feel the love that went into the food (not to be hokey or anything!). While we were sitting there, their fish monger walked in still wearing his wet boots to show his daily catch to Alphonso for his approval before bringing it into the kitchen. I was a happy camper.

Much of this trip was planned around learning about fantastic hotels (another one of my passions), so after lunch we were treated to a tour of the 5 diamond deluxe Hotel Romeo, which is where we were staying. It is a one of a kind experience in Naples, with an eclectic art and furniture collection that is featured throughout the property. It’s high level of service, high style, high-tech look and feel beautifully contrasts with the old city using deep colors, clean lines creating a very hip ambiance. The spa, which will open shortly, the restaurants (Il Comandante and Zero Sushi), the unique room types (ie: the wellness room with a Kinesis Machine by Citterio for Technogym, cyclette, leather exercise mat by Hermes, lounge chair by Hermes -worth $20,000 thankyouverymuch – and Pilates ball) the electronics and the fabulous staff make for a special hotel experience! In fact, you can request what kind of linens you’d like on your bed and even the color scheme in advance. Talk about customized customer service!

I could go on for days about Naples, with it’s rich history, narrow streets, insane traffic, amazing food and wonderful people but rather than write a guide book, I’ll stop here and suggest visiting for yourself! Suffice it to say, that two days in Naples was a wonderful way to begin a trip touring the Amalfi Coast.

Tomorrow, a short hydrofoil ride to Capri! The Hotel Romeo is conveniently located just across the street from the port, hence the fun view I had from my room of all those cruise ships:

Ciao for now!

Oh, and if you’re interested in traveling to Naples (or anywhere else for that matter) let me know! It’s my job to send people off on great adventures! You can reach me at Beth@elitetravelinternational.com or
journeybybeth@yahoo.com. Or, follow me at http://www.twitter.com/BethLovesTravel and http://www.Facebook.com/beth.friedman1

For more details on the Hotel Romeo (pronounced RomAo) ask me (I know people!) or go to http://www.RomeoHotel.it

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A NYC Chick gone SoCal!

By Beth Friedman
@BethLovesTravel

Santa Monica, CA is my adopted home and I love it here.  I was born & raised in New York and would be what one considered “die hard” because to me, NYC was the center of the universe.   There was no part of me that ever saw myself leaving, especially to live anywhere near Los Angeles.  Us New Yorker’s have always had a certain, dare I say…… distain for the City of Angels, but I was offered a great job opportunity that would have been stupid to pass up just because it was somewhere I couldn’t imagine living.  15 years later, I’m still here.

Santa Monica is special and is a great place to live.  It’s also a fantastic vacation destination and since I’m a luxury travel consultant writing my first blog, I thought it would be fun to start with what this great little beach town has to offer it’s visitors all year long!

Obviously there are the beaches where you can bask in the sun, work out, surf, bike, rollerblade, ride the roller-coaster and various other rides at the pier, play volleyball & swim (you get the picture).   There are amazing restaurants, some that I’ll list at the end of this posting, with endless shopping and a ton of bars and clubs.  But one of my truly favorite things about Santa Monica is that it is a walking town.  This plays to my New York City sensibilities.   Joe, my boyfriend and I spend most weekends wandering around at the beach or at various parks.

Santa Monica also has phenomenal luxury hotels that I love like Casa Del Mar, Shutters on the Beach, The Loews Santa Monica, The Shangri-La, The Viceroy and the Fairmont Miramar.  If I had my ‘travel professional’ hat on right now, I’d happily send any of my clients to any of these properties.

They say that you can take the girl out of NY but never take NY out of the girl.  I agree with this because I still think that New York City is the center of the universe.  However,  after living in this laid back and diverse small town, traveling the world and just plain growing up,  I have amazing appreciation for the world we live in, and a passion for experiencing new things.  I became a travel consultant to follow this passion and to share it with others!

Your Journey By Beth’s Picks for the best accommodations and dining in Santa Monica, CA: If you’d like to plan a visit, just let me know!

Hotels:

Casa Del Mar – this is the pearl on the beach in Santa Monica and is one of my favorite hotels in Southern California.    It offers causal luxury in a glamorous setting, with the fantastic Veranda lounge where you can sip your cocktails while watching the sunset, an amazing restaurant called Catch that has the best ocean views in the city and fabulous spa!  $$$$

www.hotelcasadelmar.com

Shutters on the Beach – the sister property to Casa Del Mar (both part of the ETC Hotel Group) is right next door and is equally as luxurious in a craftsman style  setting. The lounge is amazingly cozy with deep couches, a grand piano and fireplace.  Coast,  their casual restaurant has my all-time favorite salad of grilled calamari, arugula and white beans and their fine dining option, One Pico is just wonderful.  Oh, and they have a fab spa too! $$$$

www.shuttersonthebeach.com

Viceroy Hotel –  is a hip, happenin’ boutique hotel with tons of personality and style.   Part of the every growing Viceroy Brand, it’s across the street from the beach, has fantastic, sexy rooms and a great restaurant called Whist.  $$$

www.viceroysantamonica.com

Loews Santa Monica –  this hotel has been apart of the Santa Monica landscape for as long as I can remember and boasts amazing views, an incredible pool, a wonderful sushi bar and restaurant.  It combines beach luxury with casual elegance with the perfect beachfront location. $$$

www.santamonicaloewshotel.com

Fairmont Miramar Hotel Hotel & Bungalows:  the Miramar has a great location just down the block from Santa Monica’s Third Street promenade and the new Santa Monica Place.  It is close to everything, has the unique feature of offering bungalow accommodations and houses one of the best hotel restaurants around, Fig.  $$$

www.fairmont.com/santamonica

Hotel Shangri-La –  is the newest edition to the Santa Monica hotel scene.  It’s art deco look and feel offer a hip and exciting place to stay!  The roof bar has an incredible happy hour, an amazing view and a very happening place to hang by the pool.  This is another hipster hangout with a fun location in downtown Santa Monica, close to everything  $$$

http://www.shangrila-hotel.com/

Santa Monica has so many hotels and these represent what I think are the best.  For dining recommendations:

Fine Dining:

Melisse – French fine dining with California “casual-ness”, has two Michelin stars, owned by lifelong SoCal chef Josiah Citrin. ‘nuf said! $$$$

www.melisse.com

Rustic Canyon – Amazing wine selection and wine bar focusing on lesser known, boutique wineries.  Known for advocating sustainable agriculture, their ever changing menu is made up from ingredients from local farmers, ranchers and fisherman. $$$

www.rusticcanyonwinebar.com

Fraishe – This is the second outpost of Fraishe –   the first one is wildly successful and located a bit south in Culver City. The Santa Monica spot occupies a beautiful space just around the corner from the pedestrian mall, the Third Street Promenade.   Rustic french & italian inspired food is highlighted with an emphasis on market fresh, seasonal ingredients. $$$

http://www.fraicherestaurantsm.com/fraichesm/?page_id=2

Boa – Steak House extraordinaire by the beach!  This sexy, modern and all-around crowd pleaser is everything you’d want from great steaks to great martinis!  There’s a West Hollywood location too! $$$$

http://www.boasteak.com/balboa/

Jiraffe – California cuisine using only the finest in-season ingredients.  Another Santa Monica staple run by another life-long local chef (and avid surfer!), Raphael Lunetta.  The menu changes frequently and has an extensive wine list!  You simply can’t go wrong here!  $$$

http://www.jirafferestaurant.com/

Seafood:

Santa Monica Seafood:  This is a restaurant combined with a retail store and is one of my happy places!  You can’t get fresher fish, oysters, clams and lobster!  $$

http://www.santamonicaseafood.com/content/santa-monica

Ocean Avenue Seafood – An oldie but a goodie, this restaurant has been around forever and has fantastic food and a great happy hour!  They also have a huge oyster bar, which is something that makes Ocean Avenue Seafood stand out. $$$

http://www.oceanave.com/

Blue Plate Oysterette  –  This low key and casual restaurant is the sister to the Blue Plate Diner, which has been a Santa Monica staple on Montana Avenue for years.  It’s location along Ocean Avenue offers great people watching from the ‘front porch’ and  has a really nice, summery kind of ‘diner meets seafood’ setting. $$

http://blueplatesantamonica.com/

Pizza:

Joe’s Pizza of Bleecker Street New York (of course!!) – it’s not exactly the same as NYC pizza, but it’s about as good as you’ll get.  The crust is thin, crispy and the cheese is all great, salty goodness! $

http://www.joespizza.com/page9.html

Japanese/Sushi

Musha (Traditional Japanese Pub food) – A meal at Musha is an experience kind of like japanese tapas.  Small plates meant to be shared make this a really fun and unique dining experience! $$$

www.musha.us

Sushi Roku:  Sushi Roku is part of the same upscale restaurant group that owns Boa.  The food is fresh and creative, the scene is fun and the vibe is incredibly alive!  My downfall here is always the yummy sake infused with fruit juice!  Next door is The Robota Bar where you can dive into some tasty yakitori along with your fabulous sushi!  $$$

http://www.sushiroku.com/sushiroku/index.htm

Katsuya – okay, so it’s not in Santa Monica, it’s in Brentwood, but worth jumping in the car for 10 minutes.  Part of the SBE empire and designed by the incredible Philip Starck, this is your quintessential LA scene where the food as as gorgeous as the people!    You can also find another location in Hollywood.  $$$$

http://www.sbe.com/katsuya/

Bimi – Bimi is sort of a low-key Katsuya wanna be (for lack of a better way to say it), but the food is so good and so reasonably priced I really wanted to include it here.  It’s a little bit off the beaten path (meaning away from the beach and actually just over the Santa Monica border in West LA), but again, worth getting in the car. $$ 1/2

http://www.bimirestaurant.com/

Breakfast:

Jinky’s – the menu is so big that I can’t even begin to describe it!  On the weekends there’s always wait, so be prepared. $$

http://www.jinkys.com/

Huckleberry – owned by the same folks as Rustic Canyon, Huckleberry is known for using the best organic ingredients.  It is my all time favorite breakfast spot.  Don’t expect your typical eggs, bacon & potatoes here.  The pastries and breads are also to die for.  I love their home-made english muffins!  One word of warning though – it get’s very crowded and noisy, so it isn’t someplace you’d want to have a quiet meal. $$

http://www.huckleberrycafe.com/

New York Bagel & Deli – this basically speaks for itself.  When you don’t feel like going to a restaurant and want to pack up a quick bagel before going to the beach, this is your spot!  Hands down the closest thing to NY bagels you’ll find in Southern California.  You can also find Boars Head cold cuts, which are hard to come by in LA.  If you’re from New York, you’ll understand! $

no website:  Address 2216 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA  90403, 310-828-3228

Low Key:

The Library Ale House – If you are a lover of beer, the Library Ale House has a HUGE selection from around the world and an eclectic menu with everything from Mexican type entrees to burgers to ribs. Without question, you’ll find the best curly fries here ever!  There’s a back patio for outdoor seating. $$

http://www.libraryalehouse.com/

M Street Kitchen (formerly LGO) – has a varied menu that includes yummy salads, fresh tacos with home-made tortillas, burgers and sandwiches.  For dinner, steaks and other larger entrees are served.  It has a great beach location on Main Street with awesome outdoor seating and also uses organic ingredients. Great for breakfast too.  $$

http://www.lagrandeorangesm.com/

R+D – comes to you from the same folks as Houston’s and Bandera by Hillstone Restaurants.  I am a huge fan of their deviled eggs, salads and turkey meatballs.  It’s the only restaurant on Montana Avenue that serves cocktails too!!  $$

www.hillstone.com

1323 Montana Avenue, Santa Monica, CA  90403 310-395-3314

And check out the dining deck at Santa Monica Place, our fabulous outdoor shopping mecca!  Here you can choose from several dining options including 7 different restaurants  that includes a sushi/Japanese restaurant, Chinese, Mexican, pizza, Latin/Asian fusion, a  a plus a food court.  I haven’t had the opportunity to dine at each yet, so here’s the link for you to explore a little more.

http://www.santamonicaplace.com/experience/#/tour/dining_deck

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