Just a quick drive from the hustle and bustle of Chicago, you’ll find Grand Rapids, Michigan. (Brand New Full Episode at End of Blog) Or as locals and travelers alike call it… “Beer City, USA.” Even though Grand Rapids is only 2.5 hours north of Chicago, I had never made the trip until now. The saying “better late than never” has never been more true. Here are some things about Grand Rapids you may not know:Read More
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If you have followed any of my social media over the last 8 months you will know that I'm beyond obsessed with Switzerland. I was fortunate enough to be invited TWICE by Switzerland Tourism to explore and fall deeply in love with their country.
It's incredibly difficult to not be enchanted and immediately mesmerized by the scenery, the culture, the food, the adventure, and most of all, the people. Truly some of the friendliest and well cultured people in all the world. Since Switzerland is an international melting pot, you get to experience so many cultures, languages, cuisines, and people all within the borders of this tiny Alpine nation.
The purpose of this blog is to help recreate my journey that traverses 4 cities and 2 seasons. I intend to show you the extent of my adventures through the dynamic videos that my team and I created over our 2 visits to Switzerland.
I'll start with our most recent trip this winter in December 2016. We started off in Zurich for the purpose of being the FIRST people to partake in the inaugural ride of high speed train that goes through the brand new Gotthard Base Tunnel. This tunnel has been a dream of the Swiss for over a century and is finally a reality. See why Swiss Travel System has been elevated by this incredible feat of engineering.
Next, we took the Glacier Express train all the way to the Swiss/Italian border to the stunning Alpine city of Zermatt. One of the most revered ski/snowboard resorts in the world. Not only is the mountain infrastructure the most advanced I've seen at any ski resort, but the views were surreal. Not to mention, waking up to the sight of the Matterhorn was like a dream in and of itself.
And if you didn't see my Eat Travel Rock TV episodes from the summer, well, here you go! First up is the rolling hills of Bad Ragaz. A breathtaking country side that was the backdrop for the world famous novel, Heidi. Famous for their healing thermal waters, I indulged in the world's most luxurious spas. This episode also features several Swiss Deluxe Hotels, not only in Bad Ragaz, but in Gstaad and Zurich. This hotel company encompasses some of the most prestigious hotels in all of Europe.
Gstaad is THE MOST picturesque town that is oozing with prestige and luxury that I have ever seen. Not only does the small village house some of the world's most posh name brands, but the hotels and restaurants are in a class of their own. However, in this episode, I explored the countryside, and even milked a goat... yes the ones used to make some of the greatest cheese on the planet. You don't want to miss this one!
Hope you enjoyed my travels around Switzerland and I hope it inspires you to make it your next international destination. If you've been to Switzerland or want to go, please comment below and let me know your thoughts, thanks!
The music industry is full of stats. Oftentimes artistry can become overshadowed by the sordid topic of numbers and sales. But hey, business is business, and album sales keep the machine greased up and able to crank out more "art". Sometimes the specifics of who sold how many can become mundane and tedious, albeit necessary. But other times, those numbers deserve to be celebrated and revered, especially when they catapult an artist into a stratospheric level...where he hovers...solo.Read More
For me, like most people, summer is a time for travel and exploration. It means getting out there and enjoying the beautiful weather and all that life has to offer. This summer was no exception, and fortunately, it's been full of magnificent travel. But all good things must come to an end, so I'm going all out... to get in as much summer travel fun in the remaining several weeks of my favorite season.Read More
Have I mentioned I love The South? I love everything about it. The people, the food, the music, the family values, the music. Yes, I said music twice. That's because there are two types of music you hear when traversing though the southland. The kind that is readily accessible when you enter any type of live music venue, bar, club, or concert. And the other kind, the kind that is soul changing... the kind that just fills your inner being with the sounds of the history, people, and mood of this deep region. Memphis embodies all of this. The city exudes the best of the best when it comes to everything that makes The South great...especially the music.Read More
I've been traveling SO much lately and the whirlwind of cities, airports, hotels, and events has begun to blur together. Yet Los Angeles will always stand out. No matter where I go, when I'm in LA, I pause for a beat, and take a breath. I just adore the West Coast, it makes me happy. The Pacific, the mountains, the weather, the food, the life. It's all my speed (when there's no traffic...wait, that doesn't exist.)Read More
A couple weeks ago, right before my trip to LA, I was perusing my new favorite travel app, Porter & Sail. It's the coolest app I've used in a while and make me feel super VIP...it's your very own insider concierge. First it lets you book a room in some of the coolest hotels in London, LA, New York, Miami, and Singapore. Then, once you're actually a guest, it gives you access to some of the best restaurant reservations and events in town. (They actually helped me get a rezzy at Gjelina... which is usually almost IMPOSSIBLE to get in to.) So. My. Speed. While perusing, I came across this gem of a hotel, The Farmer's Daughter.Read More
Lobsters have long been considered a delicacy. The ultimate and proverbial "last and final meal" most people would choose before meeting our maker. Since lobsters have seemed so lofty and unattainable (especially in daily life) the general public knows very little about this fascinating arthropod. I was fortunate enough to be sent to Portland, ME last week to delve into all that encompasses the Maine Lobster. This trip could NOT have been more perfect for me, as I have NEVER had the privilege of visiting the beautiful state of Maine, and I have also become more appreciative of lobsters recently as I try to no longer eat red meat (or mammals).
In Maine, lobsters are a way of life. They are a massive part of the economy and also a way of employing thousands of lobstermen and sustaining their families. Seeing this dynamic and the importance of lobsters to this region was truly special. Thanks to the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative, I was able to get an inside look on the entire process; from trap to table. Most importantly, we were to learn all about Maine "New-Shell" Lobsters. These are lobsters that have recently shed their hard outer shell toward the end of the summer. The shell is much softer, you're even able to poke a hole in a claw with your finger...unheard of for old or hard-shell lobsters. These "new-shell" lobsters are supposed to be the sweetest and tastiest lobster in the world, and I'm here to taste them myself!
The first stop on our lobster tour was the Cape Seafood processing plant. The vast majority of the lobster that is processed at Cape is shipped out to all the Luke's Lobster restaurants around the country. We really got up close and personal with all the lobbies here...all while wearing the finest in rubber boots, hairnets, gloves, and cloaks in order to keep everything as sterile as possible. We saw how the lobster is cleaned, cooked, cooled... and ultimately, picked. They had a room full of about 50 pickers who were as quick as lightening and can pick all the meat from a knuckle and claw in about 2 seconds flat. It was incredible to watch, not to mention the respect you garner for the pickers' talent, dexterity, and diligence.
Next, we got to actually TASTE the incredible "new-shell" Maine Lobsters at one of the most famous lobster roll restaurants in the country. The Clam Shack, in Kennebunk, ME, has won award after award and continuously has been voted "best lobster roll". They put in on a round brioche bun instead of the typical hot dog bun or split roll. They also use a mixture of mayo AND butter to give you the best of both worlds. It was a simple, sweet, and outstanding sandwich.
Later, we all were aboard The Lucky Catch, a real lobster boat. The weather was perfect, even out at sea. The skies were pure blue as was the water, and the shoreline of Portland was breathtaking. Few things are more beautiful than the historic shores and harbors of New England, and to see it from an actual lobster boat was surreal. Our lobsterman captain was going to show us the ropes (pun somewhat intended) of how to set the traps and haul in the goods.
First off, we put bait in bags. Several pounds of large herring went into each orange mesh bag. Those would then be placed inside the large and genius-ly configured lobster traps. Once we caught some lobsters we got to measure them and band them.
Measuring them is of utmost importance. The Maine Lobster rules and regulations are incredibly strict in order to conserve and sustain the lobster population. A legal lobster in the State of Maine has a carapace or body shell length that measures between 3 ¼ inches and 5 inches. If they are too big or too small they MUST be immediately thrown back. Small lobsters haven't yet been given the chance to breed and larger lobsters have shown that they are good breeders and are to be kept in the population. Check out this video I shot to see how it works!
We also had the rare chance to see a "berried" female, or a female who is covered in eggs. These females must be immediately thrown back and notched on their tail to tell future lobsterman that they are capable of breeding. It was one of the coolest things I have witnessed in nature.
When I heard we were going to the Maine State Aquarium, I wasn't all that excited at first, as I thought it would be "just for kids". However, when I saw all of the insanely rare specimen of lobster they had in their possession... I was blown away. Check these out!! The 1st is a 1 in 100,000,000 rare albino lobster, and the second is a 1 in 2,000,000 cobalt blue lobster. It was one of the most stunning sights my eyes have ever laid upon.
We closed out this lobster immersion trip by, well, eating more lobster! Attending the Claw Down event in Boothbay Harbor was a fantastic way to bring this experience full circle. 20 local chefs were competing for the "best bite" of lobster. It was a blast and was so cool to see all of the different and unique ways in which new-shell lobster could be prepared. There was pasta, sandwiches, stews, sautés, etc. Here is a lobster salad served with crispy chicken skin on a soft roll. Delicious!
I've always been a huge fan of lobster. However, now that I know everything that goes into the fishing, sustainability, dealing, processing, preparation, and of course...eating...I have an entirely new respect for this delicious animal. I've also now become a fan of the succulent and sweet "new-shell" Maine lobster. Make sure that when you order your next lobster, if it's in the late summer, early fall, ask if it's new-shell. If it is...watch your tastebuds explode and then please tell me all about it!!
To learn more, visit: http://www.lobsterfrommaine.com
The excitement I felt when I found out my spontaneous travel destination was Austin, was palpable. It's as if Time Out New York Magazine and Booking.com knew that Austin, Texas was my spirit animal. If you know my brand, Eat Travel Rock, at all; you're aware that I love to combine food and music...and of course travel, in any situation. Well this was the ultimate trifecta. Good times were about to be had...by one.
I have traveled solo many times...for quick work trips. I have never traveled on a solo vacation before, and I must say... I was pumped. No one other that myself dictating when and where to go, what to see, what to eat. The decision making began the evening before my flight when I actually found out that Austin was my destination. I immediately went on the Booking Now app on my iPhone and began to search. The ease and functionality was superior to ANY travel app I'd ever used. Since Booking Now is for travel less than 48 hrs out, I was a bit worried that desirable accommodations might not be readily available. Incorrect. The most luxurious hotels in town, as well as unique and boutique hotels were easy to find...and more importantly, affordable. Many of the hotels even had discounts that were just for Booking.com and Booking Now customers. I booked a gorgeous room at the JW Mariott in a matter of a minute and I was all set. Ready to wing it in Austin!
When I arrived in Austin, and after I got settled into my glorious city center accommodations with a stunning view of the Colorado River... I got my game face on. Fortunately, Time Out New York Magazine and Booking.com wanted me to explore the musical culture of the Live Music Capital of the World. This was going to be fun, to say the least. My first challenge was to "bear hug the unknown", and seek out a local record shop...one that is hidden or known only to locals. I decided to walk down South Congress, or as the locals call it, SoCo. I didn't let the 100 degree heat sway me from my mission. I found a tiny little spot called Friends of Sound, and believe me, it was hidden. First, I ventured off the main drag and down a little side street. The sign said "entrance in alley" So I walked down the alley...then around an old brick building... then around another corner. Finally, tucked away, was a vintage vinyl shop that was so perfectly and authentically Austin. I shopped a bit and of course picked up some old school Country tunes like pre-outlaw Waylon Jennings and the Best of Johnny Cash. I then cozied up to the manager to see if he had any great recs for where to see some live music. Not just any live music, mind you... but my next challenge was to "scare myself silly" and find a local gig that was well outside my musical comfort zone. Well he and a fellow shopper gave me some great tips for where to find some great live shows that evening... shows that were not necessarily Eat Travel Rock friendly.
Later, I ventured out for my first ever solo "night out on the town". It was great. Amidst the hustle and bustle of buzzing 6th street in downtown Austin, I hardly felt alone. The vibe was electric, and music was pouring out of every doorway and corridor. I was headed toward the Red Eyed Fly and it reached me before I reached it. The music was LOUD... and joyfully angry sounding. I asked the door guy to fill me in and he said the Death Metal show on the outside patio was $10. SOLD!! Now, I'm usually very non-discriminating when it comes to Rock music. I love it all. But death metal has always been an enigma to me. How can you even understand what they're saying with all that grunting and barking into the mic??? Plus it just seemed...scary! Well, I let go of all that and head banged with the best of them...with a Lone Star beer in hand. The crowd seemed friendly and no one seemed to mind that I only had 15 tattoos instead of 50. After a while, even though the music was starting to make my head hurt, I could see why people gravitated toward the overall vibe. Death Metal will not likely be filling my iPod soon, but it was sure fun for 30 minutes.
Next up, I wanted to venture even farther from 6th Street, and "abandon my compass". I needed to find a Rock bar that was in a part of town unknown to me. I found this tiny little run down club called Beer Land. It was definitely off the beaten path and looked right up my alley (no pun intended). They had a surfer-esque garage band on stage and they were totally my taste. A cross between the Ventures and Green Day. As I cozied up to my 2nd tall-boy of Lone Star, I sat back and realized how fortunate I was to be experiencing something so magical. Not even 24 hrs before, I didn't even know I'd be in Austin. Now here I am, sippin' on a cold one, and soaking up one of the coolest musical scenes on the planet. Bless your heart Rock N' Roll.
My final challenge was to find an iconic spot in town where a part of musical history occurred. After some research, it became clear where I needed to visit. Arlyn Studios is a place where music history has been made; over and over again. This recording studio is not only the home studio of Willie Nelson, but many of my all-time favorites have recorded here: Waylon Jennings, Sublime, Neil Young, Snoop Dogg, Gary Clark Jr., Phish, and Merle Haggard, just to name a few. Their history is rich, but even more impressive is what the music is made with/on. Arlyn Studios possesses one of the few Neve recording consoles in existence. If you saw Dave Grohl's documentary, Sound City, you would know the level of prestige and mystique this conveys. Not only do they have a Neve console, but it is a Neve/API hybrid and the only one like it in the world. As the gracious owner of Arlyn, Lisa Fletcher, explained to me..."It's like the Bentley and Rolls Royce of sound boards coming together." I was lucky enough to have Lisa give me an after hours tour of the entire studio. I couldn't get over the musical history that was in my presence. She even let me "play" with the Neve console. To touch the boards where some of the most significant albums in music history were made, was surreal. I could actually feel the pulse of all the sounds that have been flowing through that studio for decades. It was an experience that will last a lifetime.
After all of my musical challenges were completed... it was time to EAT!! You didn't think I'd forget the food, did you?! Here is a run down of some of my favorite Austin meals. Many of these recommendations came from locals as well as Time Out Magazine Austin. Lonesome Dove Western Bistro was first. Wow. Chef Tim Love's latest adventure in on point. The menu is eclectic and represented by almost every animal species on earth... from duck to rattlesnake. The food was outstanding, and since I was solo, they let me do a tasting of several of the dishes. I would definitely say the best piece of fried catfish I'd ever had. The staff was overly accommodating and friendly. It was my happy place.
Next up was to satisfy my taco craving. You can't go to Texas without filling up on this Tex-mex staple. Torchy's Tacos was ALL i'd been hearing about and it was a must. I took an Uber to this little trailer park lot and there was Torchy's. A cute little food trailer in a dusty parking lot surrounded by red picnic tables. I actually had a fried avocado taco...my life will NEVER be the same. It was taco heaven...in a trailer park.
Finally, I had my last meal at Odd Duck. I could not hear enough about this James Beard Award nominated hot spot. I also heard their brunch was spectacular, so that's what I went with. Everything they serve is locally sourced and sustainable. If you don't believe me, in the most serendipitous fashion, they sat me at the bar right next to Farmer Chris, who is actually the chicken farmer from whom they directly source their eggs. My egg education is now on a loftier level... and the dishes I enjoyed at Odd Duck were next level. It was one of those authentic experiences that can't be described, only felt. I knew I was in a special place, away from the tourists and the hustle, where I could feel the true sense of this remarkable city. My last bite and breath of Southern Texas before heading back to Chicago.
Needless to say, traveling solo may be my new favorite thing. Not only was I able to learn so much more about Austin, its music, and its culture, but I was able to learn more about myself. My sense of adventure is alive and well, and people and places (and music) that once seemed foreign or intimidating, are now welcomed and appreciated. I'm so grateful for this quick journey, and even though i'm back in Chicago, in my comfort zone...Austin is already calling me back.
Music history and nostalgia is almost as important to me as the music itself. Fortunately, Austin has such a rich and diverse music history, the city pulsates with it. One of my tasks to accomplish over my stay, given to me by Time Out New York Magazine and Booking.com, was to find a spot where something notable in music history occurred. After doing some research, I discovered there was no better place for me to experience than Arlyn Studios.
Here's a small list of some of my favorite musicians who have recorded at Arlyn...Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Neil Young, Bonnie Raitt, Jennifer Nettles, The Toadies, Snoop Dogg, Ray Charles, Phish, and Sublime. Some other biggies include: Wilco, Eli Young Band, Lorde, Merle Haggard, Les Paul, Gary Clark Jr., Coldplay, and Buddy Guy. Not a shabby line up.
Arlyn Studios also boasts a one-of-a-kind vintage Neve console. If you've ever seen Dave Grohl's documentary, Sound City, you would know that the Neve console is the holy grail of all mixing/recording consoles. They are rare and have been out of production for decades. Records from some of the world's most acclaimed artists such as, Nirvana (Nevermind), Neil Young, Fleetwood Mac (Rumors), and Tom Petty, were recorded on a similar console. Arlyn's is actually a Neve and API hybrid... the only one like it in the world.
I was fortunate enough to get a tour from the current owner, Lisa Fletcher, whose husband/co-owner is also Willie Nelson's nephew. Her graciousness was only exceeded by her music knowledge. After she poured me a Sunday-Funday cocktail, we began our tour. First stop was the control room... and the Neve console.
Seeing this board was surreal; as I was looking at a piece of equipment that some of my favorite artists of all time, recorded their masterpieces on. Sublime's entire 1996 self titled album was recorded on this board. Unreal. Not to mention some of Waylon's later works, Willie's current works, and dozens of others, many of whom are mentioned above.
I got a full history of the studio, as it has been transformed over the years from an opera house, to a recording studio, to a restaurant (part of it was), and finally was re-launched in 2012 to get back to its authentic heart and soul. I absolutely cannot wait to come back and visit and see Arlyn Studios in action... see some tracks being laid down. Hmmmm Austin City Limits is right around the corner... time to plan my next trip!!
I'm thrilled to get back to my music roots. For so long, I feel I've only been writing about, and posting about food... which of course, I love. Yet music is my truest and oldest passion. Time Out New York Magazine and Booking.com must know this, because they wanted my Austin adventures to be centered around this fine city's musical culture.
Since Austin is the Live Music Capital of the World, I was given some interesting challenges to fulfill. One was to "Scare Myself Silly", and in this case, to find some live music that is very out of my comfort zone. My comfort zone of music is basically ANYTHING 90's as well as Country, Alternative, and Classic Rock. So when I walked past the Red Eyed Fly and heard the sweet sound of a drummer losing his mind on his kit... I knew I had to check it out. I asked the door guy what the deal was and he said, "Well the heavy punk show on the inside is free and the "metal" show outside is a $10 cover." I quickly responded..."I want both!!" So I paid the $10, walked in and grabbed a can of Lone Star beer. (My drink of choice the entire weekend) Now, let me explain. There's a lot of "metal-ish music" I don't mind. I like Disturbed, old school Soundgarden, Filter, maybe even some Pantera. But this was full on growling Death Metal with all the band members' long hair whipping around in circles in perfect unison. Everyone in the small crowd was also head banging... which of course I love to do too, especially during the "rock-out" part in Bohemian Rhapsody (cue Wayne and Garth). The music was not exactly my cup of tea (especially since the lead singer was only growling and grunting into the mic), but it was a BLAST. Stepping out of my comfort zone is usually rewarding, and this was no exception.
I then was told I needed to "abandon my compass" and find a rock bar in a part of town I'm unfamiliar with. Well that's pretty much all of Austin since this is only my second visit. Yet I knew for this challenge, I wanted to get away from the tourist droves on 6th Street and venture off the beaten path. I was walking up and down some darker streets and came across a little dive bar called Beer Land that was dark, old, and grimy, just how I like 'em. I heard the familiar sounds of actual rock music... not too heavy, not too soft... it was the Goldilocks of rock. I paid the cover to hear what the door guy called "garage rock". After listening for a few minutes, with another Lone Star in hand of course, I would categorize it as Acid Surfer Garage Rock. Some punk influence with heavy surfer guitar riffs. Think The Ventures meets Green Day. It was great, and I was in my happy place. I think abandoning my compass will be my new thing, as that's how you discover life's most interesting finds.
Stay tuned for my next adventure that I'll post about tomorrow!!
Traveling is my lifeblood. It makes my world go 'round and 'round. Sometimes the only thing sweeter than travel is...spontaneous travel. Sometimes packing your bag on a whim and not even knowing where your journey will take you, is the most exciting adventure of all.
I was fortunate enough to be chosen by Time Out New York Magazine and Booking.com to be one of their travel bloggers who will Wing It and jet out the door on a moment's notice to a destination that was unknown until about 12 hours before my departure. All I had to arm myself with was my Booking.com app and my Booking Now app. The excitement of it all thrilled me, and once I saw how incredibly easy it was to book a luxury hotel for a great price the day before my trip, any tiny feelings of uncertainty were immediately gone.
Using the Booking Now app (for travel within 48 hrs) was a piece of cake. Here I am, less than 24 hours later, in my gorgeous hotel room at the JW Mariott in downtown Austin. I chose this location because it's very close to all of the neighborhoods that make up Austin's hot and bustling music scene. I'm here to find the best, the quirkiest, the most historic, and the most authentic parts of Austin's lifeblood... music.
Immediately after checking in, I walked on down Congress to South Congress... or SoCo as the locals call it. I found a tiny little record shop off the main drag, called Friends Of Sound, that was only accessible by the alley and then it was even tucked around behind a building. I was mesmerized by all the vintage and used vinyl... I immediately went to the country section to see if they had any of the good stuff... did they ever?! I picked up The Best of Johnny Cash, some pre-outlaw Waylon Jennings, and some Boston for good rock n' roll measure. I starting talking to the manager and a local musician who happened to be shopping for some Miles Davis, and they gave me some great recs for some local live music. Some of it is definitely outside of my comfort zone ( which is rock, alternative, country) but I figured... when in Austin, do as the locals do.
I'm about to head out on the town in search of some unique live music in the Live Music Capital of the World. Check back tomorrow, because I can't wait to share the vibes and rhythms of Austin with you.
I had never been anywhere warm for New Year's Eve...ever. 34 NYEs have been spent in insufferable arctic temperatures. Fortunately for me, my better half made sure my 35th NYE was spent in the warm Caribbean sun. It can be very hard for me to stay out of the planning phase of a trip, but I let Jay and his buddies take the reigns on this one... and wow, did they pull off one hell of a trip. Note to self: Always leave trip planning to adventuresome men who love to party.
I had never been to, nor really heard of Anguilla (pronounced: An-gwhil-uh). Apparently it was in the British West Indies...and that was good enough for me. Let me cut to the chase. The island is perfection. It's only 13 miles long and 3 miles wide (you fly into St. Maarten/Martin and take a 20 min boat ride over). It is encircled by the most glorious talcum powder beaches and pristine turquoise water. It is not heavily developed and the islanders are gracious and welcoming. They are very proud of their island paradise, and rightfully so. Very few resorts occupy Anguilla, and the ones that do are quite exclusive. We stayed at Ce Blue Villas, a gorgeous resort made of only 8 villas overlooking a quaint, yacht speckled bay. The terrain and waters seemed more reminiscent of Hawaii than the Caribbean. All in all, a sight for sore (and frozen) eyes.
Our first day there we went Scuba Diving. There was a great little dive shop on the beach and we were able to charter a private dive boat for the 6 of us. The diving was not the best i've experienced (that actually would be Hawaii) but it was solid. The shallow dives were a bit murky but the deeper (80ft) wreck dive was fantastic. Clear warm water and an abundance of sea life was visible, including several sea turtles. Overall, definitely worth it.
Day 2 was an experience of a lifetime. Being all "eat travel rock" as I am, many would be surprised to find out that I'd never been in a little plane. They've always made me nervous, so I've avoided them at all costs. Well I was outvoted when it came to deciding how we were getting to St. Barths. It's an 1:15 boat ride, or a 9 minute plane ride. The plane won. We chartered a small 8-seater, and low an behold, 10 minutes later (landing on Earth's shortest airstrip, and one of the world's most extreme airports) we were in the South of France.
St. Barths was surreal. I literally felt as if we were magically transported to Europe. EVERYTHING is in French, EVERYONE speaks French, they use the Euro, and the streets and buildings look much more European that Caribbean. We had reserved a table at the world famous, Nikki Beach, and had the time of our lives. Fresh sushi, delicious grilled chicken and steak, and magnum bottles of Domaine Ott Rosè for days. The crowd was international... we may have been the only Americans, which was such a relief. Live music, dancing on tables, endless food and wine, while playing on the St. Tropez-esqe beach was otherworldly. We then WALKED to the airport and hopped aboard our little flight back home... touchdown... 9 minutes later.
When people ask how my trip was, my first comment is: The food was amazing!! It's true. EVERYTHING we ate was delicious. The service is friendly, but timing...well everyone is on island time. So don't go to a restaurant starving (hard for me) because you won't eat for about 30-60 min. But soooo well worth the wait. Each meal we had was perfection. From beach shacks (Blanchard's Beach Shack), to fine dining (DaVida), everything was on point. Of course each menu was seafood heavy, which was expected and welcomed. Yet they do great BBQ, and have other great ethnic food such as Italian. The meal that took the cake, however, was Scilly Cay. This restaurant encompasses one entire tiny island. Our instructions were to: "go to the end of the dock, wave like an idiot, and a little boat will come pick you up." I was the one who volunteered to wave like an idiot, and sure enough, 1 min later, a little boat scooped us up. The island was a 2 minute boat ride away and it was untouched, authentic, and gorgeous. The food: Grilled lobsters or grilled chicken...that's it. Oh and some earth shattering rum punch. That. Is. It. I went with grilled lobby, and smarter people went with a combo... I missed out because the chicken was some of the best i'd ever had. Both were coated in a sweet coconut curry sauce that was sublime. After my big meal, I went over to a little lawn chair on the beach, had a spiritual moment, and just let it all sink in...
And New Year's Eve! This is all I will say. When the clock struck midnight, I was on the beach with my feet in the water, glass of champagne in my hand, watching fireworks, kissing my guy, and hanging with great friends. Best. EVER.
Anguilla is an island destination I would absolutely return to. I've been to Jamaica twice, and Dominican Republic twice and I'm not a huge fan because you can't leave the resort or really explore the indigenous food, people, and beauty of the island. Anguilla is different, it's safe and easy to find hidden gems and mingle with the locals. The food, the people, the beaches, and the scenery make this my favorite Caribbean destination, and overall my favorite trip I've taken. If you need more activity or restaurant recommendations, let me know by commenting below! Viva Anguilla!!
Hell's Kitchen was not a New York neighborhood I was too familiar with. I'm sure I've driven through it from the Upper West Side to downtown, but I never paid too much attention to it. Maybe because I thought it was too close to Times Square, or maybe because the name sounded scary...nevertheless, I finally got to know this little "hood" and I likey.
I'm now partial, mainly because my new favorite hotel is in Hell's Kitchen. Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants has prestigious boutique hotels all over the country, including several right here in Chicago (Palomar, Allegro, etc.) but Ink 48, right in Hell's Kitchen is outstanding. From the second I arrived to the second I departed, the service was on point. My room was GORGEOUS and unique. The jacuzzi tub was in the living area and the enclosed stone shower was tucked away around the corner... very cool layout. I had a great view of the city and other room amenities included a granite vanity (perfect for doing my pre-TV makeup) and a yoga mat (perfect for a very early AM stretch before heading to VH1). They also have one of the city's most killer rooftop bars called The Press Lounge.
The location of Ink 48 and Hell's Kitchen is great. It was an easy walk to Times Square, where I film. But it's also a short cab ride down town or up-town... close to subways too (I usually take subways everywhere in NYC). There are also some great dining options. Ink 48 has their own upscale and trendy dining spot, Print, and you're only two blocks away from the badass Gotham West Market which is the coolest "food court" I've ever seen. It also has a quick serve version of the famous Ivan Ramen.
Cannot WAIT to go back soon and stay with them during my next visit. Never thought I'd say this, but hope to see you all in HELL's Kitchen ;)
Eating and Traveling are 2 of my 3 favorite things. And they occur simultaneously, often. Eating food at an airport is usually either a hassle, or a quick necessity...and rarely delicious. What if airport dining could be a pleasure? Crazy concept?....maybe.
So I'm kind of weird. I actually enjoy spending time at airports. I'm fascinated with air travel in general and just like being around it... watching the planes land and take off, seeing the pilots hustle about the terminal. Air travel definitely isn't as prestigious and romantic as it was several decades ago, but I still like finding ways to enjoy it. I like to get there as early as possible prior to my flight, of course for logistical reasons, but I also like to have a good meal before I board. Unfortunately, options can be limited, especially at my home bases, O'Hare and Midway.
Yes, Chicago airport food has definitely improved, but it is far from haute cuisine and chic dining. No, we don't need 3 star Michelin restaurants at our airports, but how about things other than soggy or overly dry and processed genetically modified turkey sandwiches? Even the "Wolfgang Puck" restaurants still offer the same boring dry turkey sammies. Yes, Rick Bayless makes an appearance with Tortas Frontera, and there is a sushi spot called Wicker Park Seafood (I haven't tried it, reviews seem positive). But for the most part, you're stuck with all Chili's-esque options. Processed and microwaved "bar" food. Is it THAT hard to bring in some fresh and organic options?
I'm spending a lot of time in New York lately. Laguardia is a cesspool of nastiness. Zero options for a good meal. JFK on the other hand is like the Garden of Eden of airport dining. High end steak and sushi options, healthier fast casual options, and streamlined bars at every other gate. I had a delicious sushi dinner last night in the Jet Blue Terminal at Deep Blue. It was sexy and sleek and the food was actually great.
I do have one way to ensure that you can at least get the best meal possible at ANY airport you go to. There are a few great apps out there can be very helpful. Gate Guru is my favorite. Not only will it give you the updated arrival and departure boards at every airport but it also has a complete list of all food, shops, and amenities and what terminal and gate they're at. It also features reviews of other travelers so you know which to hit up, and which to steer clear of. Happy travels all, and please share with me which airports YOU feel have the best food!