Sunday, July 7, 2013

Exploring the Bronx

While most of you might think that exploring the Bronx sounds like a crazy way to spend your time in New York City, it was right up my alley. 

We started off by taking in a little of our heritage in Little Italy, with a stroll down Arthur Avenue. So many great bakeries & salumerias, it was tough not to stop in every one. We checked out Madonia, which is known for its amazing biscotti. 

Almond & Anise - both amazing - especially with espresso!

Window paintings at the salumeria, but here's the real window art...

Every cut imaginable!

For dinner we went to an old family favorite, Yolanda's

Classic Italian favorites

And finished with box seats at the Yankees game!

Back at the Gansevoort sporting my new Yankees apparel after a big win :)

Saturday, June 22, 2013

NYC: Top Notch Restaurants

Yes, I know, I am a bit of a foodie, and sometimes feel like I am always traveling for a good meal. So when I was in New York City with my mom, it gave me the perfect excuse to take her out to some places that I always wanted to try. First up is Le Bernardin. I had read about Eric Ripert for years, and always had seen him as one of the great chefs in the US. I was thrilled to learn that my fiancĂ© had arranged for a table at Eric's restaurant. 

We went for lunch, so it was less formal then dinner might be. The restaurant itself felt fairly formal, the staff very proper and the salutations kind, yet not overbearing.  Upon seating, the sommelier greeting our table to discussing champagnes available, and then returned to discuss the wine pairing for the tasting menu that we had selected. A very affable and knowledgeable staff is always a good first impression for me. 

The restaurant was filled with businessmen and women as well as the elite social crowd of New York City. The tasting menu did not disappoint. I opted for the monkfish because I felt like if anyone were to create this ugly fish into a masterpiece it would be Eric Ripert. True to his reputation, he delivered.

Everything from start to finish was impeccable, especially the tableside visit from the chef himself. The slightly bashful and always intriguing Chef Ripert happily greeted us to ask how everything was. The obvious answer: outstanding!

If you have a little cash to spare and want a top notch experience, don't miss Le Bernardin. You will not be disappointed. (Le Bernardin, 155 W. 51st St.)

Another one of my favorite restaurants is Apiary. I found Apiary when I was reading up on Scott Bryan, the former chef of three-star, Veritas. He has always been one of the chefs I followed because not only is he an interesting guy, but is known to be a no nonsense chef who cooks with his head down and takes an ordinary dish and turns it into something completely outside of the box (You can read about him in Anthony Bourdain's "Kitchen Confidential" in the chapter 'Life of Bryan'). I'm not talking about Wiley Dufresne outside of the box, as in cooking with dry ice and turning calves liver into caviar. I'm talking about outside of the box in a way that you can truly appreciate (and get your belly full) - The kind of food you can't believe you had never thought of before, the simple foods that you can no longer think of in a different way now - only Scott Bryan's way.

Apiary is a non-pretentious modern restaurant tucked into 3rd Avenue, near the theater district. It's tasteful modern decorations go well with the less formal & more down-to-earth staff.

We opted for the chef's tasting menu and chef Bryan sent out several intermezzos for us to try between courses. The endearing chef came out to chat with my mom and I and it was such a treat. Scott's a little shy, but super sweet. My mom mentioned a tattoo that was half showing under the sleeve of his chef coat, and he nearly talked her into heading to Jersey after work to get some ink. Funny guy!

All the talk of the chef; I don't want to leave out the food. Great tasting menu, reasonably priced, I would even say it was a steal. I sent several people there afterwords and they have also thought it was a great deal for the money, especially with the pedigree of the chef preparing it! (Apiary, 60 3rd Ave.)

NYC: Budget Bites

Are you planning a trip to New York City and want the full experience without the hassle of all of the expenses? You certainly don't want to skimp on the dining, but you don't want to break the bank? There are so many great finds in NYC that will keep you smiling & amazed! Here are a few of my favorites. 

Gray's Papaya is always a staple. For a few bucks, drop by & grab a dog. Don't forget the onions - something special about them that really makes that dog! There are several locations, so just check your smart phone and I'm sure there will be one nearby.

Another favorite is Corner Bistro at 4th &  Jane. They are known for the simplicity of their menu and their killer burgers and fries. Nothing fancy, but a great old-fashioned house made burger. You may have to wait in a line, but it is worth the experience. And don't forget to etch your name in the table!

Another one of my favorites, and yes it is a franchise, is White Castle. There is nothing better than a tiny little burger to make you smile. Every time I am on the East Coast, I have to grab these little bites, at least once!

You cannot go to New York City without having the traditional slices. I'm talking about those pizza slices that are bigger than your head! So huge you have to fold in two just to manage them. And Koronet's Pizza is my favorite place to get these. I always go for the cheese pizza, but the pepperoni does not disappoint either. Again, nothing fancy, but the best slices I have ever had! And if you are into the touristy NYC diners, the diner where Seinfeld was filmed is just across the street from my favorite Koronet (2848 Broadway).

Some other great places, without breaking the bank, is Katz's Deli, which is known for a certain scene in "When Harry Met Sally" and also for their off-the-charts deli sandwiches - pastrami is my go to. Enjoy!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Northern California Retreats - CordeValle

I know it has been a while, and though I wish I could say I've been traveling nonstop since I last wrote, the truth is, I've been working nonstop! As if being an attorney wasn't enough, I opened a restaurant as well! The restaurant is doing fabulous, and though I never imagined myself being a restauranteur, it only made sense, since most of my travel blog is About the food I had while traveling around the world :-)

I did have the opportunity to go on a few vacations, which I will share with you. We also just bought a home in Cabo, so hopefully many more pictures and tips about Mexico will be soon to follow!

For now, I am posting a photo of my family, taken at our secret hideaway, Corde Valle. It's like a vacation, without the flight for road trip. I hidden gem in our backyard. 

Corde Valle is located in the foothills of Northern California's Santa Cruz Mountains, and is a secluded luxury resort in a pristine setting. It has a little country club charm and luxurious amenities, including a spa, vineyard, and championship golf course. A perfect retreat for us Northern Californians.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Siem Reap, Cambodia: Snacking, Dining, and Drinking!

For a comparatively small town, Siem Reap offers an amazing range of cuisines and dining venues. The emphasis is on Khmer food, which can be found at restaurants across town, but European and other Asian cuisines are also well represented, including Italian, Thai, German, Vietnamese, Indian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese and, of course, French.

Given Cambodia's long relationship with France and France's gastronomic traditions, it is no surprise some of the town’s finest venues offer French cuisine. So explore and enjoy!

Feeling a little crazy, try Estatic Pizza and get the happiest pizza you'll ever eat! They are located Opposite Province Hospital, Near Old Market, Phone: (855 11) 928 531.

The proprietor takes the orders and bakes the pies. A great casual place to relax and enjoy a special little treat... The pizza is made with the finest green leafy substance around and will certainly leave you hungry for more ;)

My tip... order one pizza, extra happy, and then one regular for the road. Otherwise it's just a downward spiral, baby!

Happy Pizza

... and that's certainly not an abundance of oregano!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Mui Ne, Vietnam: Hot Rock Restaurant

So looking at this little make-shift hut, I have to say, my expectations weren't set to high. On the good side, there were several scooters parked out front, which generally indicates that I've found a local hangout (since most of the tourists were far too scared to venture onto a moped). I thought I'd give it a try. What did I have to lose. It was called Hot Rock. But frankly, as long as it's not a franchise restaurant, I am down to try anything...

The Hot Rock Restaurant

Much to my surprise the Hot Rock was a fun little place. Owned by ex-pats who were eager to show you just how the place got the name Hot Rock... they welcome you by laying down some hot rocks (bricks) and a little grill, and then serve you a variety of the freshest seafood, topped with a tiny slab of butter, half wrapped in foil. They do have a menu, but when hitting a place like this I find it much better to just have the waiter/proprietor (which is generally the case in Vietnam) send out their picks.

On this occasion, they served up a ridiculous amount of seafood, and a dipping sauce for each. I had shrimp, scallops, squid, white fish and a variety of unidentified tidbits that made my mouth dance with excitement. I loved the crackling sound as the butter melted and dripped over the sides of the fish and onto the charcoal, which then sent up a puff of smoke and gently flavored my fantastic little treats.

You cook your meal at your pace, and to your liking. Which is always fantastic, I think. A little hands on never hurt anyone. I left the shrimp on long enough to allow it to get blackened, giving it a hearty and smokey flavor that can't be rivaled. The scallops were grilled just long enough to see the grill markings, but not as to not loose the moisture. The squid curled as it cooked, blackening just the tips, giving it an amazing flavor. Try that with a sweet chili sauce, and you're money!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Siem Reap, Cambodia: A Game Plan for Angkor Wat

With such an amazing history and story, it would seems a waste to only "drop by" Angkor Wat. You really need to have a game plan in effect for visiting this site. I explored the temples for two days, and felt like there was still so much that I could have seen and done.

In preparation of the big adventure, I would highly suggest that you contract with a tuk tuk driver for your entire stay in Siem Reap. Not only is it the easiest way to get around, but the drivers are reliable and affordable, and can definitely use the funds to help support their family.


I have set out a two-day schedule for exploring Angkor Wat. However, if you have more time, that is fantastic!

For your first day, get up bright and early and visit Angkor Thom, Bayon, Elephant and Leper King Terrace. Be sure to get there for sunrise, as it is simply gorgeous at Bayon temple. You can either break for lunch at the many tiny restaurants dotting the nearby roads, or better yet, pack a lunch and picnic right there!

In the afternoon, take your time exploring and visiting Ta Prohm and Angkor Wat. Wear those walking shoes and be prepared for a full day!

If you aren't too scared of heights, be sure to climb (very carefully) to the top of Angkor Wat for an outstanding view. There is one hand rail for the 25 foot wide stairs, and since only one person is lucky enough to use it, most just pile up the stairs with reckless abandon. Me? Not so much. I waited it out til all those crazy kids got up there, then proceeded to take the handrail! Much better!

On day two, check out Preah Khan, Neak Pean, Mebon and Pre Rup. Don't miss Angkor Wat's reflection on the lake as the sun begins to set. It makes for a breathtaking view and awe-inspiring photos.

After seeing this amazing site, do your best to give back to the community, be it through making a few purchases at the local shops and restaurants, or simply by tipping your tour guide or driver. They appreciate it more than you will ever know!