Archive for the ‘Hotels’Category

Travelogue: the Peloponnese, Greece

Corinth Canal

Corinth Canal

After a few days in Athens, my husband, Rory, and I headed for the open Greek road on the Peloponnese. We hit up Corinth, Nafplio, Stoupa (for the wedding) and Ancient Olympia.

Driving in Greece

Driving in Greece wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. For one thing, the Greeks drive on the right side of the road, so we didn’t have to worry about driving on the left. There’s also a national network of highways that never seems to have any traffic, so that’s also a plus. It’s only when you’re driving through small villages — which we did on our way back to Athens from Olympia — that it gets tricky. Yes, some of the streets in Athens are small, but some of the “roads” in Greek villages are only roads in the academic sense; they really did not look like any road a car should be driving on!


Our first stop was Corinth, where we stopped for pics of the canal (pictured above) before we made our way to the beach. Pro tip: while you can find English speakers in much of Greece, the folks who worked in the restaurants along the beach in Corinth did not speak English very well. We were surprised since Corinth is only an hour outside Athens. This made trying to find beach towels to buy difficult! However, we discovered here that restaurants often have beach chairs that you can use for free as long as you buy something, even if it’s just a drink. They have servers who come out to you, too. I wish we had this kind of service in Los Angeles as a matter of course!

A beach in Corinth

A beach in Corinth

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10 2013

Travelogue: Athens, Greece

The Acropolis in Athens, Greece, at night

The Acropolis in Athens, Greece, at night


So much of what has been in the news about this country lately has been negative — a bad economy, mass demonstrations, worker strikes, general ennui.

But what I experienced in Greece was nothing but nice, accommodating — and proud to be Greek — people, not to mention gorgeous views. Unfortunately, prices weren’t as low as I thought they might be (the euro was worth about a third more than the U.S. dollar). Fortunately, I didn’t encounter any strikes.

Traveling in Greece

Getting from point A to point B in Greece isn’t always a no-brainer. My husband Rory and I needed to go to a wedding in Stoupa, which is south of Kalamata on the Mani peninsula in the Peloponnese region. I thought it would be easy getting from Athens to this area since there’s an international airport in Kalamata, but apparently flights between Athens and Kalamata are inconsistent and not always available. Also, the only port that runs ferries to the Cyclades islands is in Athens.

Because we planned to travel around and because this turned out to be much harder than we thought, we went with Athens-based travel agency Fantasy Travel. Even though it was a bit tough making the plans given the 10 hour time difference between Los Angeles and Athens, the folks at Fantasy Travel took care of everything, including transfers to and from airports, rental car (which was delivered to our hotel!) and hotels. I just gave them my budget, and they made it work.

Staying in Athens

We started our trip in Athens and stayed for about three days at Central Hotel in the Plaka, the old part of the city at the base of the Acropolis with narrow, labyrinthine streets (some streets are so narrow that two cars cannot pass each other; we saw many a car backing up to let the other pass). It took us nearly the whole three days we were there to get our bearings, and we never did find a particular restaurant that supposedly served delicious lamb. But no matter; we had fun exploring!

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08 2013

A tiki bar to end all tiki bars: Tonga Room San Francisco

Pineapple Royale at the Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar

Pineapple Royale at the Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar

If you’re a fan of tiki bars and haven’t been to the Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar in The Fairmont San Francisco hotel, then you don’t know tiki bars.

This Polynesian paradise, or “the greatest place in the history of the world” per Anthony Bourdain, is the perfect combination of kitsch and upscale dining. Not only can you get a ridiculously large, sugary and potent drink — preferably aflame — but you can also get contemporary takes on Asian and Polynesian cuisine while dining alongside a pool, periodic rain showers and a live band on a floating stage.

When it comes to strong drinks, this is the place. The Pineapple Royale, a huge portion of aged rum, brandy and fresh pineapple juice served in a hollowed out pineapple, is dangerously good (and fun!). You could easily share this with someone, and you might want to just to split the $17 cost. The Singapore Sling ain’t no slouch, either, with Tanqueray gin, Cointreau, cherry Heering, fresh lemon and pineapple juices, Angostura bitters, and a Benedictine mist.

The Quintessential “Pu Pu” Platter, with BBQ Kona pork ribs, shiitake egg rolls, chicken skewers, and coconut prawns, is a good bet, and the restaurant’s inventiveness comes out in dishes such as the Forbidden Blend Fried Rice, which features forbidden black, white jasmine, Bhutanese red and jade pearl bamboo rices.

Quintessential Pu Pu Platter

Quintessential Pu Pu Platter

Forbidden Blend Fried Rice

Forbidden Blend Fried Rice

The well-known Huli Huli Chicken — boneless fire-roasted chicken, grilled pineapple, red onions, sweet peppers and scallions — was too sweet for my taste, but it was cooked nicely.

Huli Huli Chicken

Huli Huli Chicken

Check out Bourdain and Chef Chris Cosentino’s visit to the Tonga Room for “The Layover” to see some of the tiki drinks and the rain storm in action.

Note: This meal was hosted.


07 2013

Celebrate National Junk Food Day in style

Junk Food Platter at L.A. Market by Kerry Simon for National Junk Food Day

Junk Food Platter at L.A. Market by Kerry Simon. Photo courtesy of L.A. Market.

National Junk Food Day is Sunday, July 21, and it’s the best snack food day of them all. You know why? Because it’s all-encompassing. You could eat just about anything to celebrate!

L.A. Market by Kerry Simon at the J.W. Marriott Los Angeles at L.A. LIVE gets it. That’s why the restaurant offers the Junk Food Platter ($17) with coconut Bounty, Snickers cake, banana Nutella macaroons, baby churros, red velvet whoopie pies, brownies, cookies and cotton candy (and maybe popcorn, if you’re lucky?).

And then, because you’re already at a hotel, why not crash in one of the J.W. Marriott’s rooms with views of the downtown skyline? There’s also a rooftop pool to lounge by while enjoying even more junk food, if you’re so inclined.

So pig out! Why not? It’s summer.

J.W. Marriott Junior Suite

J.W. Marriott Junior Suite. Photo courtesy of J.W. Marriott.


07 2013

Nashville Dreaming at the Hotel Preston

Hotel Preston in Nashville

Hotel Preston in Nashville. Photo courtesy of Provenance Hotels.

Ever since I visited the Music City last year, I’ve been smitten with Nashville. So when a television show popped up about the place, of course I started following it (no matter how cheesy it can get!).

And when I heard that Hotel Preston is now offering a Nashville Dreaming getaway package, giving guests the chance to experience some of the best of Music City, then of course I was interested.

Located outside the city center and close to the airport, Hotel Preston is a modern-yet-comfy place where you can get unique amenities, such as in-room lava lamps, rubber duckies and pet fish (no, you don’t get to keep the fish). And with the Nashville Dreaming package, guests will get two tickets to a backstage tour of the Ryman Auditorium, the original home of the Grand Ole Opry, and a shot at the mic in the Ryman’s recording studio to record a professionally engineered song to take home on a customized Ryman Records CD. Guests will also get a $25 gift certificate to The Bluebird Café to see a show at Nashville’s most famous songwriter’s venue. And, if that’s not enough, guests will get two tickets to the Country Music Hall of Fame and copies of Volumes 1 and 2 of the “Nashville” soundtrack.

The special package is available through Dec. 30, 2013, and priced from $219, plus tax.


06 2013

O Hotel keeps scoring with Bar + Kitchen, Oasis City Spa

O Hotel lobby. Photo from Orbitz.

O Hotel, a downtown L.A. boutique with 67 modernly styled rooms, recently celebrated its 5th anniversary. And with the addition of lauded barman Matt Biancaniello to its restaurant Bar | Kitchen, and a 6-month old day spa, O Hotel has lots to be happy about.

While I haven’t seen the hotel’s rooms, I have visited Bar | Kitchen and Oasis City Spa, both of which offer some pretty impressive amenities for such a small hotel. The spa has some St. Patrick’s Day weekend specials for those of you who partied too much (or for those getting ready to party): a signature organic facial with green herbal mask for $100, green tea mint scrub for $55, and a mani/pedi for $40. If you can’t make it this weekend, Oasis also offers a $25 mini facial and esthetician consultation, the cost of which can be applied toward a future facial or spa products. Prices are reasonable, and the facility is simple yet elegant.

Bar | Kitchen is no slouch, either. Chef Vahan Tokmadjian has created a well-executed, seasonally appointed menu with gems such as shrimp and grits with Spanish chorizo sauce (this is one of the better S&G dishes around town), mushroom bread pudding and pork cheek hash.

Shrimp and grits

Shrimp and grits

Pork cheek hash with quail egg

Pork cheek hash with quail egg

And Biancaniello, whose moves have been closely watched since he left Library Bar last year, has brought some of his best-known cocktail recipes, including those for Last Tango in Modena (gin, muddled strawberries, balsamic vinegar and St. Germain foam) and Kentucky Bubble Bath (bourbon, Cynar, lavender simple syrup and lemon), which I could drink all day!

Kentucky Bubble Bath

Kentucky Bubble Bath

Given the hotel’s combo of good food, drink, decor and spa amenities, I would recommend a stay here for those looking for a downtown hotel with some style.


03 2013

Spend the night with Oscar at Public Kitchen & Bar

Public Kitchen & Bar

Public Kitchen & Bar. Photo courtesy of Public Kitchen & Bar.

What’s the next best thing to actually attending the Academy Awards?

Watching a live telecast while enjoying a meal at Public Kitchen & Bar, located in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel — the site of the first Academy Awards in 1929 — of course!

On Sunday, Feb. 24, the Oscars ceremony will be shown on large televisions around Public’s main dining room, so you’ll be able to see all the glitz and glamour while noshing on Executive Chef Tim Goodell’s three-course prix-fixe menu. For $99 per person, you’ll get Wagyu beef tartare with crostini and quail eggs; Dover sole with cauliflower, brown butter, pine nuts, golden raisins and capers; and lemon Napoleon with honey ginger ice cream.

Or, choose from a selection of à la carte items, including the Oscars Ultimate Burger & Wine combo with the restaurant’s signature burger topped with four-year aged cheddar, bacon, and bread and butter pickles served with a side of black truffle Kennebec fries and a glass of Cain Cuvée cabernet for $39.

Want to take in the splendor without being tied down to a table? Then head over to the hotel’s main lobby, where you can watch the ceremony on a 15-foot screen while partaking in a selection of fresh oysters and sushi.

And since this is Hollywood and all, champagne and bottle service with the likes of Cristal, Dom Perignon, Grey Goose and Patron will also be available to toast the winners — or play some really expensive drinking games — throughout the evening.

Public Kitchen & Bar
Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
7000 Hollywood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90028
(323) 466-7000

Sunday, Feb. 24
5 p.m. – 12 a.m.


02 2013

Travelogue: The Oaks at Ojai

The Oaks at Ojai

The Oaks at Ojai

Ojai, a sleepy agricultural town nestled in a valley in Ventura County, Calif., has become one of my favorite local getaways. There’s an overall feeling of community with an emphasis on small, local businesses that makes you feel warm and fuzzy. And no place does that better than The Oaks at Ojai, an all-inclusive wellness spa situated right in the middle of downtown.

The Oaks offers traditional spa amenities along with fitness classes, meals, wellness activities and overnight accommodations all for one incredibly reasonable price (rates start at $199 per person per night, but you may have to share a room). As the focus is on wellness here, your daily caloric intake is limited to 1,000 calories a day via three meals, snacks and beverages. Chef Christine Denney creates high-fiber, no-sugar and no-salt menus that will help you lose weight and generally feel better.

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09 2012

Travelogue: Louisville, Kentucky

I’ve been to Louisville before and have even been to the Kentucky Derby. But on this last trip, I tried a bunch of new food, some at old-but-new-to-me places and some at places that have opened since my last trip nearly eight years ago.

First off, I was told that I needed to go to Graeter’s, which specializes in French pot ice cream (dense, custard style). I had both the Bourbon Ball and Black Raspberry Chip flavors, and surprisingly, I liked the Black Raspberry Chip better. Perhaps the best part of this ice cream is the chocolate chips, which are created by pouring melted chocolate into the pot and letting the paddle break up the then-hardened candy into various sizes. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a big piece of chocolate in one of your bites. Since visiting this store, I’ve found Graeter’s ice cream at my local Ralphs, though not all flavors are carried there. They do carry Chocolate Coconut Almond Chip, my new favorite flavor. How can you go wrong with chocolate ice cream dotted with coconut and almond pieces surrounded by those special chocolate chips?

Graeter's Black Raspberry Chip ice cream

Graeter’s Black Raspberry Chip ice cream

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08 2012

Summer treat: The Peninsula Beverly Hills’ rooftop barbecue

Side dishes at Peninsula BBQ

Clockwise from bottom left: Brandon’s Barbecue Pickled Salad, Minted Macadamia Nut Cole Slaw and Red Pepper Orzo at The Peninsula Beverly Hills’ Roof Garden

What’s better than lounging around outside on a warm summer’s evening? Lounging around on The Peninsula Beverly Hills‘ hotel rooftop while enjoying fancy barbecue and cocktails, obviously. And with the hotel’s Weekend Barbecue at the Roof Garden, you can do just that.

Grab a Speckled Jalapeño Margarita — it has just the right amount of kick — and nosh on some addictive roasted red pepper hummus and pita chips while you take in the view. Then move on to the mains: I liked the Giant Tiger Shrimp served “char siu,” or Chinese barbecue, style and the ribs best. And don’t forget the side dishes — purple Okinawa sweet potatoes; Red Pepper Orzo with roasted corn, cilantro and blue cheese; and Brandon’s Barbecue Pickled Salad are all standouts.

Speckled Jalapeno Margarita

Speckled Jalapeno Margarita

Giant Tiger Shrimp

Giant Tiger Shrimp

If you’re still hungry, order the Ahi Tuna Chop-Chop from the rooftop’s regular menu. Accompanied by avocado, crisp pineapple, baby coconut and roof garden-picked herbs, The Peninsula’s take on the ubiquitous ahi tuna-and-avocado starter is a revelation and by far one of my favorites.

Ahi Tuna Chop-Chop

Ahi Tuna Chop-Chop

You have until September 2 to enjoy the weekend barbecue, which happens Saturdays and Sundays from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Note: This meal was hosted.

Further reading:

BBQ at the Roof Garden, Peninsula Hotel (Beverly Hills) by Gourmet Pigs

Peninsula Beverly Hills’ BBQ and Cocktails on the Roof Rock by Deathbed Food

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07 2012