Archive for the ‘Travel’Category

Chef Tara Lazar brings home cooking to Chi Chi Palm Springs

Chef Tara Lazar Chi Chi Palm Springs

Chef Tara Lazar

I met Chef Tara Lazar in the lounge of her restaurant Chi Chi Palm Springs in the Avalon Hotel. It was a slow night. Palm Springs is a resort town at the mercy of seasons and travelers.

But all is not what it seems: Lazar was also overseeing three simultaneous catering jobs as owner of Foundation 10 Creative Group. In other words, getting her food out to the people.

She cares deeply about what she’s feeding people. Beyond the execution of the dishes, Lazar is in charge of sourcing the ingredients from local farms, keeping everything within 100 miles of the restaurant. Maintaining freshness and nutrient integrity of proteins and produce makes a true difference in her dishes, and she does not compromise in the quality of her farm sources.

Lazar is most intrigued by home cooking, something cooks and chefs crave to eat themselves. Small, particular tweaks that their grandmothers might do to make dishes their own can make all the difference, and she loves the realness and care in that.

The realness carries over to Lazar’s menus. At her popular brunch establishment Cheeky’s, the menu can change weekly. At Chi Chi Palm Springs, the menu is more consistent, but the dishes on offer always account for the seasonality of ingredients. It’s understood that certain boxes need to be checked to get a popular draw from what’s in demand (see: cauliflower and kale), but that’s just the gateway to introduce people to food that’s more loving than trendy.

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09

04 2016

Do Catalina Island for free on your birthday

Catalina Island

Catalina Island

Want to do something fun for your birthday but don’t want to spend a lot of money?

Consider a staycation at Catalina Island, where you can get a bunch of free or discounted stuff on your birthday. That even includes a free trip to the island on the Catalina Express. You have to travel on your actual birthday and preregister online, but then you get to save up to $76.50 roundtrip. Score!

And once you get to Catalina, more freebies await: BOGO parasailing flights, free admission to the Wrigley Memorial and Botanic Garden, a free meal at Buffalo Nickel Restaurant (online reviews are mixed) and more. Take a look:

~ Rent a bike for two hours from Brown’s Bike and get the rest of the day free until 5 p.m. plus a bottle of water

~ Two-for-one climbs at the Descanso Beach Club climbing wall (open weekends and holidays only)

~ Free cup of coffee at Catalina Coffee and Cookie Co. (must show Catalina Express birthday ribbon)

~ Free scoop of ice cream, buy one pound of salt water taffy and get an extra 1/4 Pound free, and buy any iced coffee drink or smoothie and get a second of equal or lesser value 50 percent off at Lloyd’s of Avalon

~ Buy the mani-pedi special at Island Breeze Spa and Salon for $50 and receive a 50-minute Swedish massage or facial for $69 (M-Th) or $79 (Fri-Sun), or a 25-minute massage or facial for $45

If you’re staying overnight, check out these discounts at Catalina Island hotels:

The Avalon Hotel: Receive a free bottle of wine or sparkling cider.

Hotel Vista Del Mar: Get a complimentary bottle of champagne or wine, celebratory balloons, continental breakfast, and evening milk and cookies

Hotel Catalina and Courtyard Garden Suites: Get 10 percent off one night; 20 percent off two nights

Catalina Island Inn: Receive a complimentary box of Lloyd’s of Avalon chocolates plus your choice of champagne or sparkling cider

Hotel Metropole: Get 20 percent off on any room and save $50 on a couples massage at the hotel spa

26

03 2016

Cafe Diva Steamboat Springs offers eclectic seasonal menu

Elk sausage and manchego empanadas at Cafe Diva

Elk sausage and manchego empanadas at Cafe Diva

Every year I visit my in-laws in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and I try to visit a different restaurant each time. This year we went to Cafe Diva, a favorite among the family.

Located in Torian Plum Plaza at the base of the ski mountain, Cafe Diva Steamboat Springs focuses its menu on local, seasonal ingredients. Dish preparations vary in style and include influences from Latin, Asian, European and other cultures.

My favorite dishes came at the beginning and end of the meal.

My starter of elk sausage and manchego cheese empanadas with a poblano-pepita pesto and cilantro-lime cream was an interesting take on the Latin-American snack using very-Colorado elk meat. This was my first time eating elk, and I liked it a lot, mostly because it wasn’t as gamey as I thought it would be. My husband’s elk tenderloin was really nice, too.

The dessert we shared — a take on bananas foster with Grand Marnier-vanilla bread pudding, roasted banana gelato, rum salted caramel and candied pecans — was also a standout. All the flavors worked together nicely, as did the different textures. The roasted banana gelato was my favorite part, as I love everything banana!

Bananas foster at Cafe Diva

Bananas foster

When it came to my main dish, seared diver scallops wrapped in bacon and served on a bed of spinach spaetzle with lemon-vermouth butter and capers, I wasn’t as impressed. The dish was too salty, which made it hard to enjoy. I should have ordered the sablefish with white balsamic-orange miso served in a coconut broth with snow peas, shiitake mushrooms and crispy ramen noodles. I had a taste of my sister-in-law’s, and I found it much more balanced. However, she thought it was a bit on the sweet side, so maybe I just liked it because my dish was so salty.

Diver scallops

Diver scallops

Sablefish

Sablefish

Even though there were some hits and misses, because my family likes Cafe Diva Steamboat Springs so much I’d be willing to try it again, especially since it is one of the few nicer restaurants in town (which is not very big).

07

02 2016

Travelogue: Rancho Bernardo Inn

Rancho Bernardo Inn

Rancho Bernardo Inn

Tucked away in a northern San Diego County suburb, Rancho Bernardo Inn is a hidden gem. Wind your way through a sleepy upper middle class neighborhood, and at the end you’ll find a resort complete with a golf course, spa and plenty of dining options. The vibe is perfectly Southern Californian with its laid-back elegance and beautifully manicured grounds (21 fountains!) — perfect for a weekend getaway.

Rancho Bernardo Inn has an 18-hole golf course, a spa, three pools and four eateries. It’s an intimate property, just big enough to make you feel as if you’ve escaped from the real world for a while.

I was recently invited to stay at Rancho Bernardo Inn as its #INNfluencer of the month. I was treated to a day at the spa, and my husband and I enjoyed dinner at the resort’s fine dining restaurant, AVANT. We stayed with the resort’s Spa + AVANT Package, which includes a 50-minute hydrating facial or organic signature massage and two-course dinner at AVANT with a glass of on-tap wine or beer for $175 per person.

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23

11 2015

Broadway Bites returns to NYC—just in time for summer

Red Hook Lobster Pound's lobster roll

Red Hook Lobster Pound’s lobster roll

This post is written by ShopEatSleep contributor Deanna Ting, a New York-based writer and editor who hails from Los Angeles. She is a seasoned travel, lifestyle and fashion writer, having written for publications such as TravelAge West, Luxury Travel Advisor, Los Angeles magazine and WSAToday (a magazine that was entirely devoted to shoes). These days, you can find her working as a managing editor/senior editor for Incentive and Successful Meetings magazines, as well as scouring New York–and the globe–for her next favorite meal. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @deanna421.

One of the best things about living in New York is there’s always plenty to choose from—especially when it comes to food. Sometimes, though, all that choice can be a little overwhelming—as are a lot of different facets of life here. (Let’s not even talk about winter; I’m still in recovery.)

That’s why it’s great when outdoor food pop-up events like Broadway Bites roll back into town when the sun comes back out. Let’s be clear—there are A LOT of great choices at Broadway Bites. But what makes Broadway Bites so great is they’ve done a lot of the legwork for you by curating a carefully selected collection of some of the city’s best food and drink vendors.

If you happen to be near Herald Square and hunger pangs strike, you should definitely head here. Taking over Greeley Square, which stretches from 32nd to 34th streets on Broadway, this summer’s rendition of Broadway Bites has 28 vendors serving up plenty of satisfying, delicious things.

From no-frills grilled cheese and savory empanadas to innovative tacos and classic lobster rolls, you can find them all—and much more. Here’s a closer look at a few of those choices for whatever you might be craving.

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22

06 2015

Hyatt Palm Springs offers convenience in large package

Hyatt Palm Springs

Hyatt Palm Springs

Looking for a reasonably priced getaway? Then consider Hyatt Palm Springs.

Palm Springs is just a couple hours away from Los Angeles, so it’s no wonder the desert town has become a go-to destination for young and old alike. And Hyatt Palm Springs, located in the downtown area, is convenient for exploring on foot (or bike, which can be borrowed from the hotel at no cost for guests) and is a short drive away from all the trendy hot spots in Palm Springs.

Previously branded as a Hyatt Regency Suites, the Hyatt Palm Springs recently has been remodeled and features all suite rooms, offering tons of space for your group of friends or your family.

King room with a mountain view

King room with a mountain view

Mountain view

Mountain view

When it comes to food and drink, the hotel has Share restaurant, where you can get a breakfast buffet or order off an a la carte menu, and the outdoor HooDoo Lounge for drinks in the evening.

A la carte breakfast at Share

A la carte breakfast at Share

Mother's Day breakfast buffet

Mother’s Day breakfast buffet

There’s also a pool with private cabanas and huge ottomans for laying out (my favorite part).

Hyatt Palm Springs pool

Hyatt Palm Springs pool

We recently stayed at the Hyatt Palm Springs in a King suite with a balcony. While we were sufficiently comfortable, I can’t say there’s anything special about the place other than the abundance of space. And the same goes for the food at Share; it’s satisfying but largely unremarkable. If you stay here, it’s more about the convenience of the hotel’s location and offerings (it’s also pet-friendly), which definitely has their own merits. I would definitely consider staying here again, especially if I were to visit Palm Springs with a group of friends.

Note: This stay was discounted, and meals were hosted.

Further reading:

Hyatt Palm Springs by hoopLA

07

06 2015

Cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant: Tim Ho Wan dim sum in Hong Kong

Tim Ho Wan

Tim Ho Wan

I’m not the biggest dim sum fan, but when I visited Hong Kong for the first time this past fall, I knew I had to try the food in its city of origin. So why not go for the best?

Tim Ho Wan offers the cheapest Michelin-starred food in the world. Dishes start at about US$1, so you can eat your heart out without breaking the bank (and with the US dollar rising in value, now is a good time to go). Even though my mother and I were on our own, we still ordered a respectable 10 dishes — not as many as the table next to us, which, judging by the number of piled-up bamboo steamers, I’m pretty sure ordered the entire menu.

I visited the Sham Shui Po location in Kowloon, the only restaurant of the four in Hong Kong that actually has a Michelin star. It wasn’t the easiest location for us to get to — my mom actually said to me, “This better be worth it” — but Tim Ho Wan’s dim sum was easily the best I’ve ever had. Every dish was just as you’d expect and more, with high quality ingredients crafted by a subtle hand.

My absolute favorite dish was the char siu bao (barbecue pork bun), which is baked instead of steamed here at Tim Ho Wan. The best part was the sweet flaky topping reminiscent of the kind found on Chinese pineapple buns (named for their appearance and not for their ingredients), which provided another layer of texture. I still drool thinking of these!

Char siu bao

Char siu bao

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13

04 2015

Travelogue: NYC’s Estela restaurant

Beef tartare at Estela

Beef tartare at Estela

Named No. 3 Best New Restaurant by Bon Appetit in 2014, Estela restaurant is a self-described “beverage-driven” eatery from the minds and palates of beverage director Thomas Carter (Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Essex House) and James Beard Award-nominated chef Ignacio Mattos (Isa, Il Buco) in New York City. With shareable plates, an interesting wine list and solid cocktails, Estela focuses on “American food with European influences.”

I visited Estela restaurant earlier this year in the fall, and enjoyed its famous beef tartare with fried sunchoke chips, which give the dish a welcome variety in texture and subtle sweetness.

My dining companion, my cousin Phillip who is studying to become a sommelier, chose a funky white wine for us to drink, as well as the burrata with salsa verde and charred bread, one of the dishes the Obamas ate during dinner here less than a month earlier.

Burrata

Burrata

We also had the razor clams, which come topped with tons of freshly grated horseradish. I’ve never had a dish like this before, and I liked its spiciness, especially because it didn’t overpower the delicacy of the clams.

Razor clams

Razor clams

Since Estela restaurant is beverage-focused, we of course got cocktails. The Il Vittelone, with whiskey, sherry, amaro and vermouth, and the Tuxedo #2, with gin, white vermouth, maraschino, absinthe and bitters, were both winners. Il Vittelone is the bolder of the two — a “real” drink — and the Tuxedo #2 is a smooth operator.

Il Vittelone, left, and Tuxedo #2

Il Vittelone, left, and Tuxedo #2

Estela restaurant is pretty small and gets crowded, but we were able to walk in on the early side of dinner on a Friday night without a problem. It’s kind of great, actually.

Further reading:

25 Things to Do When Traveling Solo to NYC by Diana Takes a Bite

29

12 2014

Travelogue: The Pepper Pot cafe in Dublin, Ireland

Soup, salad and bread at The Pepper Pot in Dublin

Soup, salad and bread at The Pepper Pot in Dublin

Conveniently located just off the main shopping drag of Grafton Street, The Pepper Pot in Dublin, Ireland, is the perfect place to rest those weary feet with some lunch, tea or sweets.

I ate here twice last fall during a week-long trip to Dublin. Must have been good, right? The main reason my husband and I decided to return was for the brown soda bread, an Irish staple. Pepper Pot’s version is the best I’ve had: thick yet fluffy, with a nutty flavor that comes from the baked-in whole nuts and seeds.

The restaurant, which is located inside the Powerscourt Townhouse Centre on the second floor underneath a large, airy skylit roof, serves seasonal salads, soups, sandwiches and tarts, as well as cakes, teas and all-day breakfast. I had a salad of field greens, figs, almonds and burrata that was light and fresh. Rory had an apple and parsnip curry soup that hit the spot on a chilly fall Dublin afternoon. The adorable mismatched plates and tea cups don’t hurt, either.

Enjoying a spot of tea

Enjoying a spot of tea

I also had a breakfast dish, housemade granola with yogurt and berry compote. While the flavors were great, this was a lot of granola for me at once. I would have preferred more yogurt, but my sister-in-law said she liked the dish as it was. To each her own! Also, Pepper Pot offers various toppings for its organic porridge — not just the usual single option.

Granola and yogurt

Granola and yogurt

It’s worth nothing that the restaurant makes gluten-free and dairy-free bread for those who request it. Angelenos should have no problem finding something they’ll like here.

The Pepper Pot

The Pepper Pot

24

11 2014

Travelogue: taking in the arts in Scottsdale, Arizona

Taliesin West

Taliesin West

When I think of Scottsdale, Arizona, spas, golf and swimming pools come to mind. But now, after having spent some time there, I know that art — in all forms — is just as integral to the city’s identity.

I had the opportunity to visit two of Scottsdale’s cultural centers: the Musical Instrument Museum and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West. I would go back to either in a heartbeat. Each was a unique experience that left me wanting more.

The Musical Instrument Museum, which is actually in neighboring Phoenix, houses more than 6,000 instruments from 200 countries and territories. This collection makes for hours of fun education for anyone interested in music and world culture. The upper level is categorized by region of the world, and the lower level features special collections, including an exhibit of self-playing instruments and an experiential gallery. There’s even a concert hall with live performances. Allow at least half a day here. Our two hours were not enough!

Guitar exhibit

Guitar exhibit

Chinese instruments

Chinese instruments

This fall, on Oct. 18 and 19, the museum will host an outdoor, two-day music festival celebrating musical traditions from all over the world, with musical performances, dancers, street performers and food trucks.

We also toured Taliesin West (pictured above), architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s West Coast home, studio and instructional campus. We took the 90-minute tour of the grounds and house that includes a lot of historical information from informed docents who clearly enjoy what they do.

I’ve also heard that the Museum of Contemporary Art is a must-see as well. This fall and winter, from Sept. 28 through Jan. 11, 2015, the museum will house the Donald Rumsfeld-inspired “Covert Operations: Investigating the Unknowns,” an exhibit from 13 international artists based on the idea of expansion of federal power and infringement of constitutional rights in the wake of 9/11. Given Arizona’s Republican leanings, this should be an interesting show.

So next time you’re thinking about taking a trip, especially one within driving distance of Los Angeles (6 hours by car), then consider Scottsdale. You can relax at the spa, play the links and take in some culture.

Note: These visits were hosted.

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19

07 2014