Filtering by Tag: travel

A Memphis Awakening

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.  

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Two Girls, One Jeep, and California

You may have read about my culinary travels around California in my last blog.  But there was a lot more to our trip than just eating!!  (shocking, I know)  My amazing friend, Tiffany Louise, and I got to rent a badass Jeep and road trip around one of my favorite states for five whole days.  It was a blast.... there's nothing better than two girlfriends singing out loud to the radio while zooming down the highway with the picturesque Sierra Nevadas as your backdrop.  

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Austin: City...Limitless

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 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 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 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!

My view of the Colorado River from my JW Mariott room

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 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 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.  

Friend of Sound Records

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.  

Death Metal band at Red Eyed Fly

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.  

Surfer-rock band at Beer Land

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.  

Me getting to touch history at Arlyn Studios

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.  

Foie Gras Ice Cream Lollipop at Lonesome Dove 

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 life will NEVER be the same.  It was taco 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. 

A Traveler's Dream Come True

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 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 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.  

On the plane just a few hours after I found out I was going to Austin

The view of the Colorado River from my JW Mariott room I booked with Booking Now

So impressed with my spontaneous hotel room!

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.  

Luckily I was able to find it!!

Inside the awesome Friends Of Sound Vinyl Shop

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.  

Anguilla & St. Barths- Best Vacation of My Life

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.  

The hills of St. Maarten on the way to St. Barth's 

Jetsetting- aka puddle jumping

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.  

We had 3 of these.  Yikes.

Sushi at Nikki Beach, St. Barth's 

Chicken for days at Nikki Beach, St. Barth's

Eva, me, and Kate enjoying the view.

Da Boyz... Ben, Jay, and Zach... paradise at their backs. 

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...

Hailing the boat to Scilly Cay

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!! 

My Everyday Skin Care Routine

Why is Kelly writing a beauty blog you ask?  Simple.  A comprehensive skin care routine is a quintessential part of life and getting older.  However, with my non-stop travel schedule coupled with being on-camera a lot, I've really had to step my game up.  I've been fortunate enough to always look a few (several) years younger than my actual age, but now it's time to REALLY start taking care of my skin.  So I wanted to share my go-to beauty and skin care routine... not only for every day, but for TRAVEL and for those who aren't camera-shy :) 

First is the daily cleansing and moisturizing routine.  About 9 months ago I was introduced to Rodan + Fields.  They are the dermatologists who created Proactiv and based on the massive success of that line, they wanted to create a skin care line for maturing or problematic skin.  Fortunately, I don't have acne prone, problematic, or sensitive skin, but I do want a great anti-aging skin care line.  I've been using their REDEFINE line consistently for 9 months and I notice a huge difference in the quality of my skin.  The products actually feel so nourishing and visibly reduce fine lines.  I use the entire line religiously and have had nothing but great results.  The line includes a creamy exfoliating cleanser, toner, and AM (with SPF) and PM moisturizers. In addition I have been using their Microdermabrasion Paste.  This stuff is INSANE.  It's, by far, the best exfoliant i've ever used.  It can be pretty intense (you can adjust the strength) but it gets the job done.  Every time I'm done using it my face literally feels like a baby's scrubs away age and sun damage yet is still moisturizing.  Da Bomb. I actually have my own personal consultant, Amy Wolff, who's an expert with all their products and lines (something for EVERY skin type).  Here's the link to their "Solution Tool" that will help you find what's right for you.

This product is a bit indulgent but this entire line of skin care is glorious.  Shisheido Future Solution LX Eye and Lip Contour Regenerating Cream.  It's pricey but you can feel the quality.  It's so thick and nourishing but has never given me a break out.  I use it on my eyes and laugh lines at night.  

MAC Cosmetics Fast Response Eye Cream.  I've been using this for years, ever since my sister used to work for MAC as a makeup artist.  She swore by this stuff and said it was the most "stolen" product by runway models before it became available to the public.  It contains caffeine and will visibly reduce under eye puffiness.  It also just feels SOOOO smooth and gives my eyes the extra help I need in the morning and before I apply makeup.  It's also great as a touch-up makeup remover (for all your winged liner fails).  Since it's tiny, it's also great for travel. 

Finally a drug store option...Since I travel a ton I love products that are portable and save time and space.  Pre-moistened (gross! I hate the word moist...) wipes are my go-to.  I am obsessed with them as I don't need to bring my entire cleansing regime with me, especially since I hate dealing with the liquids in my carry-on (I rarely check a bag).  My fave wipes lately are the L'Oreal Revitalift Radiant Smoothing  Wet Towelettes.  They are great at taking off makeup and have a built in anti-aging formula, so if you get lazy (as I occasionally do when I travel) you can use this all-in-one item and not feel guilty! 

Another inexpensive item that is awesome while traveling, or for when you want to feel fresh and awake is the Mario Badescu Facial Spray with Aloe, Herbs, and Rosewater.  It smells fantastic and gives you skin an invigorating boost whenever you want/need it.  It can also set your makeup, so you can use it on a bare face, or after you've gotten ready.  

Lastly, I've recently learned how important a make up primer is.  My new can't-live-without item is The POREfessional by Benefit.  It's a smooth satiny feeling balm that immediately and drastically reduces the appearance of pores as well as gives your makeup the perfect base.  LOVE this stuff so much and it's so key for when you're on-camera as it helps to give you a flawless makeup application.  

I'd love to know some of your favorite skin care routine too, so please share.  Hope this list is helpful as I know I've personally noticed a huge difference in my skin from this regimen. Thanks all!



Foodie Pilgrimage to New Orleans (2012)

This past weekend I took my first ever trip to The Big Easy. It was a long time in the making as I think I've tried every year since I was 21 to head on down to NOLA, the trip just never materialized. Finally, it happened, and the timing of this trip was perfect. It came at a point in my own life where I have been heartily pursuing culinary knowledge, while simultaneously, the city was being recognized as a foodie and culinary Mecca in our country. Travel and Leisure Magazine actually named it the top Foodie city in the U.S. in late 2011. Because of all the hype surrounding it, I knew I would be eating (and drinking...lots of drinking) very well. It also didn't hurt that I was traveling with several foodie masters who make my culinary knowledge look as if it hasn't yet left the Pop-tarts and Spaghettios phase. Among my companions were award winning restauranteurs, chefs, and let's just say I had some good tour guides.

The second I landed I had a big taste for Po'Boys, as this is what I pictured N'awlins food to be. I soon discovered there was so much more to the dining scene than traditional and stereotypical cajun cuisine. It was interesting to discover how most establishments pay homage to the traditional yet expand upon it to make it more contemporary. My first lunch was at a new restaurant called SoBou in the French Quarter. Its bold and quirky design element visually captivated you immediately as you stepped foot in the door. They went the "small plates" route and we tried about 10 different items. They were all so unique and quite delicious. One of my favorites was the Yellowfin Tuna Cone made with pineapple/coconut tuna tartar with a scoop of basil and avocado ice cream. It was awesome and unlike anything I've had. Tuna tartar and ice cream?!?! It worked beautifully. Another cool dish was the Crispy Oyster Taco (oysters appear in EVERYTHING in NOLA). It was made with pineapple ceviche and cajun ghost pepper caviar. The oysters were perfectly fried and popped when you bit into them and the refreshing sweetness of the pineapple counteracted the heat of the ghost peppers. We also had Sticky Pork Belly, Duck and Butternut Beignets, and the Suckling Pig Cuban Sandwich. Everything was delicious and a great first meal for me. However, this was my also my intro to what would become the central theme for our trip... the bizarre world of subpar New Orleans service. This was the first of several times that EVERY single dish we ordered showed up at the same time. We couldn't even fit all the food on our tiny table! This would never happen at Chicago restaurants...with small plates, food should arrive as it's ready. It should be eaten in stages and as a journey... not as an overwhelming downpour.

We all had an incredible experience, however, at Cochon. Chef Donald Links created a "Cajun Southern Cooking" menu and built a trendy, energetic, and visually appealing restaurant around it. Each of his “small plates” dishes was rooted in classic cajun cuisine, yet he put a totally modern interpretation on the preparation and presentation. Every single dish we tried was bold and completely delicious…and I think we had everything on the menu. Some dishes were so good we had to order them in duplicate and triplicate. The standouts were the wood-fired oysters, the crab cake with cucumber buttermilk and English peas, and the fried livers with red pepper jelly on toast…although it’s hard to choose my fave as everything was awesome. Seriously, just look at this menu and tell me that you don’t wanna hop on the next flight down to Loooosiana. And hey, the service was quite alright…

Finally, I had the pleasure of dining at a restaurant I’ve wanted to try for years. Ever since I was 20 years old and starting watching the Food Network, I’ve been a fan of Emeril Lagasse. Even though he can be quite obnoxious with his “BAMs” and “Kick it Up a Notches”, there’s no doubt he’s been a pioneer in his industry and a brilliant chef (and I would argue the first celebrity chef). The food was incredible and the service, for New Orleans, was quite decent. The New Orleans BBQ Shrimp is a classic signature dish of his, and I can see why…we also had the Pasta with smoked mushrooms and house made tasso cream sauce. This might have been one of my favorite dishes of the entire trip. The flavor was beyond complex and the smokiness of the mushrooms and smokiness of the ham went together so sublimely. Even though I have eaten at a couple of Emeril’s other restaurants (in Vegas of course) this one clearly stands out. It’s the original and has proven it has major staying power…a must try if you’re in New Orleans.

I guess I did do a few other things on my trip besides eat...but those activities are just a blur. Actually I can somehow remember a couple drinks I was ecstatic to discover. You have to check out The Old Absinthe House on Bourbon Street. It's an OLD (since 1807) dive bar with a rickety old juke box...but they have a bad ass selection of Absinthe. The bartenders are super knowledgeable and can really walk you through different tastes, styles, countries, etc. They do the traditional pour and it was my favorite way to kick off my afternoons and end my evenings (I know that sounds bad...but hey, it was a vacay). The other super classy and fancy drink I discovered is able to be found about every 50 ft up and down Bourbon Street. Just look for one of the places with the frozen rotating slushy machines. They all have their own frozen "Jungle Juice" concoction. It's made with Everclear and even though it tastes like an ICEE, it will have you on your ass after about 5 sips. They serve it in a very luxurious 20 oz styrofoam cup and it's worth every penny of the $9 you spend on it. Shockingly, the hangovers from them are not nearly bad as you would expect.

New Orleans is a special and interesting town, and if you have never can't even begin to picture it's true nature. It's a "must see" at some point in every American's life. The history is rich, the party scene is strong, and the food is world class. I'm thrilled I was able to experience the best of the town and with other people who could really appreciate all that it has to offer. An