Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Top-Notch Hotel Nosh

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

Eating at a hotel is no longer limited to marginal room service from an institutional supplier.  On the contrary, as hotels continue to find ways to differentiate themselves from the rest, some are adding signature restaurants with star chefs at the stoves and designer spaces.

Here are a few hotels serving up standout culinary experiences from the comfort of a hotel lobby.

0_1672R-54307Las Vegas: é by José Andrés at the Cosmopolitan

We expect culinary greatness from Vegas hotel restaurants. At the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, a new super exclusive restaurant has taken top billing as the ultimate culinary experience on the Strip. é is the eight-seat bar offering just two seatings a night for a 15-course avant-garde Spanish tasting menu. Plan ahead for a visit to é.

Louisville: Proof on Main at the 21c Museum Hotel

Located in one of the most creative hotels around, Proof on Main is as original of a restaurant as the art that flanks its walls.  The menu is eclectic and elegant and is ranked #3 best hotel bar according to USA Today. 21c Museum hotel is a former warehouse turned eclectic boutique hotel featuring a contemporary art museum that is free and open to the public all year long. The art spills over into the 90 rooms of the hotel and into the award-winning, Proof on Main restaurant.

Austin: The Driskill Grill at the Driskill Hotel

Nestled in the historic Driskill Hotel, The Driskill Grill has been charming guests since 1886 and it never gets old. Try the tasting menu, it’s as unique as a stay at this landmark hotel, which by the way, is said to be haunted. With well-trained staff and an ever-changing menu, The Driskill Grill has earned each of its four diamonds.

New York City: Gemma at the Bowery Hotel

On NY’s Lower East Side, you don’t have to stay at the Bowery Hotel (but you’ll want to) to enjoy the impressive Italian fare and cozy setting. The Italian trattoria is a great spot to see and be seen. During the summer, sitting outside is really something special and so is the pizza at Gemma. Try the weekend brunch to feel trendy with all of the Lower East Side hipsters.

Portsmouth, NH: SALT Kitchen and Bar at Wentworth by the Sea

Newly opened last summer, SALT is a contemporary restaurant in a historic setting as part of the more than 100 year old Wentworth by the Sea Resort. SALT features great locally inspired, seafood cuisine and small plates. Grab a seat at the chef’s bar to watch the masters in action or entertain friends in the glassed-in wine room that seats 12.

 
 

 

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Things to do in Charlotte, NC: TSB City of the Month

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

Charlotte is a fast growing city with much to enjoy for people of all ages. While most visitors head to ‘The Queen City’ between the spring and fall, there’s still plenty to do during the winter months; and right now during the holidays is no exception.

Holiday Happenings in Charlotte

Just 15 miles west of Charlotte is the small town of McAdenville (population 700). For the past 50 years, McAdenville, otherwise known as “Christmastown USA” has kept the Charlotte area merry and bright with its amazing light display that drawls more than 600,000 visitors each year and has even garnered the attention of TIME Magazine. There’s only one way through town so you can’t miss anything. Locals say the lights are best experienced on foot.

An animatronic orchestra of computerized bears, the Leonard Bearstein Symphony Orchestra, is one of Charlotte’s favorite Christmas attractions. The “Bearstein Bears” complete with singers play favorite holiday classics at Founders Hall for free daily throughout December.

200177110-001Things to Do in Charlotte

One of the city’s oldest cultural institutions is the Mint Museum. The historic building used to house the United States Mint – hence the name – but today its two-campus set-up houses both an impressive art collection and a popular craft and design museum.

North Carolina is regarded as the “Birthplace of Aviation,” and the Charlotte region is steeped in flight history. Located on the grounds of Charlotte/Douglas International Airport, the Carolinas Aviation Museum has a collection of over 50 aircraft and a large collection of smaller historic items related to aviation in the North and South Carolina.

The museum even recently added the body of US Airways flight 1549, the famed “Miracle on the Hudson” plane.

For the theme park enthusiast, you’ll be thrilled to know that Charlotte is home to Carowinds. This theme park actually crosses the borer between NC and SC, so you can be in two states at once. And, if it’s a water park you are looking for, Charlotte is also home to a Great Wolf Lodge, doubling as a great hotel option for your visit, too.

The first actually documented gold found in the United States occurred in the nearby Reed Gold Mine in Midland, NC. There’s no charge to tour the mine or see the museum and it is $3 to pan for gold.

Food for the Soul in Charlotte

Charlotte’s unique blend of business and southern hospitality seem to be the right ingredient for culinary success in the city. You can find just about anything in Charlotte to please even the most discerning palettes. Here are a few dining recommendations for your visit to Charlotte.

Mert’s Heart & Soul serves southern cuisine that is as authentic as it comes. All I can say is “Yum”. Mert’s has the best fried chicken, shrimp & grits, fried catfish around. Be sure to stop by for all the fixins.

The North Carolina Barbecue Society created a BBQ Trail all the way to Tennessee featuring 24 historic barbecue pits. I’m not sure whether to file this under “things to do” or “where to eat” but either way it would be deliciously fun.

Soul Gastrolounge is a hip and delicious choice for dinner. It stands in the top ten of Zagat’s best restaurants in Charlotte list. And, you can even catch a glimpse of the restaurant as it’s a backdrop spot in the new TV series, The Novice.

Be sure to make dinner reservations early enough in the evening so you’ll be able to get downtown for the Bobcats game at the Charlotte Bobcats Arena. The new team brings a lot of new excitement to the area.

We’ll round out the week with a few hotel recommendations for when you visit Charlotte whether on business, pleasure, for romance or with family.

 
 

 

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Culinary Tourism: We’re Not Just Talking Turkey!

Monday, November 25th, 2013

©1998  EyeWire, Inc.Thanksgiving is an American Holiday centered on gratitude for food, family and fellowship. But millions of travelers worldwide are finding inspiration and education in celebrating the local food trends, cooking techniques and food history of a destination. And with the ever-growing popularity of food and travel channels featuring shows that feature traveling to places just to enjoy a new food or wine experience, this trend will only get bigger.

According to the recent results of Hotel Price Index from Hotels.com, the food tourism frenzy is expected to intensify into next year and attending a food tour or a cooking class while on location is more than a passing fad and was a travel fan staple in 2013.

If you’re a foodie then you know that where you eat on a trip is as important as the hotels that you stay in. You don’t have to go far to satiate your travel urges and food cravings. In Boston, you can take a Boston Pizza Tour. In Oregon, you can embrace the farm-to-table movement where it first took root. From the Southern food stylings of Charleston, South Carolina to authentic Italian cuisine taught in the kitchen of a Tuscan home, culinary classes give visitors the skills they need to recreate delicious dishes back home and offer an intimate taste and view of the country’s culture through tours of local markets (like the top-rated “A Lot of Thai – Home Cooking Class” in Thailand).

Kneading DoughNo city celebrates the diversity of its culture, history and food as well as New York City. In fact, food tours abound from the burroughs outside Manhattan to the iconic cultural centers of China Town and Little Italy. Heading to NYC soon, try “The Tastes of Chinatown with Dim Sum” offered by New York Food Tours. Chinese-American guides provide real insights into the culture and historical background of this exotic New York neighborhood. Tour groups are kept small and intimate. For the adventurous eater, there is “The Freakiest and Funniest Food Tour” that taste-tests pig feet, jellyfish, duck tongues and beef tendon stew. Talk about bragging rights!

More and more travelers are exploring culture through foods, wines and other edible treats, as much as they are through museums and other notable local attractions. Do you have a favorite food-tastic travel experience? Share it here on Travel Smart Blog!

 

 
 

 

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Itinerary for Visiting the Jersey Shore

Monday, July 1st, 2013

The Jersey Shore is open for business! The oceanfront communities of “The Shore” have spent the past ten months rebuilding after experiencing devastating flooding and destruction from Superstorm Sandy.  While construction in some areas is more prevalent than in others, the beaches are open and there’s so much to do when you visit. Here are my recommendations for weekend fun at the Jersey Shore:

Thrills and Spills
For thrill seekers there are larger amusement parks like Six Flags Great Adventure, small parks for younger children with family coasters, hayrides, and a Christmas Village meet and greet with Santa like Pirate’s Cove water park.

Where to eat at the Jersey Shore
From white tablecloth meals in old world architecture to deep fried snacks on the boardwalk, there’s something for everyone. Here are a few suggestions on where to go when you’re down the shore.

The Parker House in Sea Girt.  If a place has been around for 134 years, they must be doing something right! The Parker house is good for breakfast, lunch and dinner and offers a great happy hour for the 21-55 crowd.

Whispers is located in Spring Lake’s Hewitt Wellington Hotel.  For that romantic candlelit dinner, look no further than this lakefront Victorian restaurant.  The food is as amazing, as the ambiance!

The Diving Horse  in Avalon. This restaurant, where everything is EXCELLENT, has quickly become a legend on the shore.  It’s upscale, yet casual, and one you don’t want to miss.

Kaya’s Kitchen in Belmar.  For some authentic vegetarian cuisine, make an effort to dine at Kaya’s Kitchen.  The menu is impressive and would delight even the most skeptical carnivores.

Johnson’s Popcorn on the Wildwood Boardwalk.  Fresh from a redo thanks to Sandy, Johnson’s Popcorn (since 1940) is re-open for business.  It is the best popcorn you are ever going to eat, as every kernel is hand mixed!

Things to Do at the Jersey Shore
So, if I only had a weekend at the shore, like most people I would be fully entertained at any one of its Atlantic beaches.  But sometimes, especially when you come back again and again, you want to explore the area and experience some other activities.  Here are a few recommendations for things to do at the Jersey Shore.

Cape May County Park & Zoo. A FREE zoo… and ranked #1 Jersey Shore attraction on TripAdvisor (No, it wasn’t Snooki).

Trolley & House Tours. From Cape May you can also take a variety of trolley and Estate tours delving into the history and haunts of the area.

Surf Camp. Surfing camps and lessons are available 7 days per week from mid May through mid October, weather and waves permitting, of course. There are multiple companies available to choose from.

Nightlife
The Jersey Shore has some of the most exciting nightlife anywhere, from high-energy nightclubs in the casinos to beach bars and waterfront decks.

In Atlantic City, you’ll find the high energy clubs inside the casinos, like Mixx and mur.mur at Borgata and the Casbah at the Taj Mahal and Sammy’s Beach Bar at Bally’s.  In Seaside Heights, Klee’s, the Beachcomber and Riggers are all open till 2 a.m. on weekends and 10 p.m. on weeknights.

The Crab’s Claw Inn, a Lavallette landmark that dates back decades, is back in business serving awesome seafood and craft beer.

Ocean City, Atlantic City, Seaside Heights and Belmar are definitely more lively than some of the quieter, family beach communities like Avon-by-the-Sea.

Fireworks at the Jersey Shore
This week, the skies will be full of fireworks as we celebrate our nation’s independence.  One of the largest firework displays can be seen in Atlantic City at Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City  & Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa. Not only is this the largest July 4th fireworks display at the Jersey Shore, it is also the largest south of New York. It is free to the public and can be seen from many nearby beaches.

Ocean City puts on an elaborate July 4th display choreographed to music. Asbury Par, Cape May and Seaside Heights will also do a fireworks display for the July 4th holiday.

Insider Travel Tip: The crowds will be big for the fireworks shows launched from the boardwalks of the Jersey Shore.  Watch the fireworks display “off-site”. For example, the Point Pleasant fireworks are shot from the boardwalk. Instead of trying to cram into that space, watch the fireworks from nearby Risden Beach. You’ll have a great view, but there will be far fewer people sharing the space.

Many of the Jersey Shore beaches have weekly fireworks displays throughout the summer months.

  • Wildwood – every Friday night in July and August on the beach.
  • Point Pleasant – each Thursday in July and August from the boardwalk.
  • Seaside Heights – Wednesday fireworks from June through September.
  • Asbury Park – every Wednesday night of the summer from the boardwalk.
 
 

 

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The Hotels.com Club Sandwich Index

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

Last year, Hotels.com launched the Club Sandwich Index (CSI), which reports on real prices paid by travelers for a Club Sandwich in major tourist destinations worldwide. The CSI, much like the Hotel Price Index from Hotels.com, is a helpful resource for travelers looking to gauge the price of everyday items like food and drink in an unfamiliar city they plan to visit.

By monitoring prices year over year, travelers can become more aware of factors that can affect their travel spend, such as changes in the local price of food or currency fluctuations.

This year, Paris was bumped from its top spot as most expensive Club Sandwich by Geneva. In the States, California Clubs showed the highest price increases over last year. Check out how each city compares below!

hotel_clubsandwichindex_art_US2013

 
 

 

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