Lobster Salad at the Black Pearl

November 8, 2011

During our first port call on the Holland America Line’s Fall Foliage cruise from New York City to Québec City, we stopped in Newport, Rhode Island.

We began our exploration of this venerable and historic city on the legendary Cliff Walk, an easy bus ride from downtown.

We enjoyed a brisk stroll with threatening skies above, crashing waves on one side, and the back side of millionaires’ formidable mansions (nicknamed “cottages”) on the other.

Upon returning to downtown, we strolled the main drag, Thames Street. It’s pronounced the American, not English way, like the proper name, James, with the “Th” pronounced like  the “th” in “the.”

It was a pretty ticky-tacky mix of chain stores you’d see in any American city plus some local businesses, but offered another good stretch of our legs.

Between that and the Cliff Walk, we had worked up a pretty good appetite, so settled in at the historic Black Pearl, which had been recommended by a friend of mine who hails from Newport.

A gorgeous lobster salad  at the historic Black Pearl in Newport, Rhode Island

Here’s the lobster salad I enjoyed–plenty of the freshest shellfish mixed with just the right amount of mayo and served over tender butter lettuce and a handful of sweet pear tomatoes. A good pairing with real brewed iced tea.

New York, New York

November 4, 2011

Some of you know that Spencer and I have been anticipating a Fall Foliage Cruise on the Holland America cruise line for well over a year now. We actually signed up (and chose our cabin!) last year during our cruise of the Scandinavian countries, St. Petersburg, and Estonia.

The Fall Foliage Cruise finally came to fruition right after a significant birthday for me (I’ll let you guess which one!), as well as a milestone birthday for Spencer en route.

The cruise began in one of our favorite cities in the world, New York City.

So we stole 36 hours before it began to celebrate my birthday with dinner at the legendary Jean Georges.

We also tried Mario Batali’s new paean to all things Italian–Eataly–get it?!?! for lunch, then our final dinner at Eleven Madison Park–a stellar experience all-around.

Photo from our hotel room

Here is a photo from our centrally located and LOVELY hotel–the Renaissance Times Square. Highly recommended.

In subsequent posts, we’ll give you updates on our port calls and notes from the journey–high winds, a hurricane, all sorts of nautical tales, and “lobsta.”

So please stay tuned!

Wild Alaska Fish Taco Contest

January 20, 2011

Good news! There’s still time to enter what’s being billed as the first-ever Wild Alaska Fish Taco Contest sponsored by (as you might expect) by the good folks at the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

The contest runs until midnight on Monday, January 31st. So put on your thinking caps, fire up the grill, and figure out a recipe for your favorite fish taco made with fabu Alaska seafood!

Grand prize is a three-day/two-night trip to sunny Santa Monica, California. The lucky winner gets lots of other bells and whistles as part of the package, but perhaps coolest among them is that he or she gets to ride along and serve the winning taco from the Border Grill Taco Truck with Food Network stars Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger!

Here are some recipes from the contest Web site to get those creative juices flowing. Alaska Crab and Zucchini Quesadillas, anyone?

California Dreamin’

January 17, 2011

Before we get much further along in the New Year, I wanted to post a few photos of the outstanding places and plates we enjoyed during our nine-day California odyssey. They’ll be sure to stick around long after short-term memory fades and the stresses of the workaday world encroach.

During a hilly walk from our Union Square hotel to North Beach, we ran across Coit Tower. Its base and the surrounding buildings were shrouded in fog, which made for a rather moody shot.

Fog continued once we made our way down to Fisherman’s Wharf and Ghirardelli Square. If you look real closely, you can see a few girders from the Golden Gate Bridge on the left-hand side of the photo in the distance!

Of course, northern California is as well known for its trademark brand of West Coast cuisine as for its glorious views. Here are two fabulous dishes from Grasing’s Coastal Cuisine, a venerable restaurant in Carmel owned by chef Kurt Grasing. Another plus is its Wine Spectator award-winning wine list.

We go to Grasing’s for Christmas Eve or Christmas dinner whenever we are in that magical town. Here’s the Grilled  Artichoke with Blue Crab and Bay Shrimp that’s been on the menu there as long as I can remember. It’s served with a Lemon-Thyme Aïoli sauce, but really doesn’t need it, it’s so fresh and flavorful on its own.

And another dish from Grasing’s–Farm-Raised Monterey Bay Red Abalone done doré style–pan seared after being dusted in egg wash and flour. Divine, and unique to California, as we rarely see abalone offered on Seattle-area menus!

On Christmas day we decided to take an early-morning beach walk, even though the local weathermen kept warning about the high winds and rain that were threatening to hit.

Things looked okay when we left the hotel, but by the time we walked down Ocean Avenue to the beach, things had turned ugly. It was so windy that sand was blowing up onto the path above the beach where we were walking. And the pelting rain obscured our glasses.

Undaunted, we plowed through to the end of the beach. Once we gazed back toward Pebble Beach Golf Club, we were rewarded with this: a rainbow!

Blast-from-the-Past Dining in Downtown San Francisco

January 10, 2011

Here is a shot of a fun place we had breakfast while in San Francisco over the holidays. Sears Fine Food is right across the street from our hotel, The Sir Francis Drake (a.k.a., The Drake).

In business since 1938, it’s history is lengthy and interesting. In keeping with its earliest roots, it’s  best known for its breakfast special: 18 Swedish silver-dollar-sized pancakes. Spencer enjoyed his with crispy bacon; the other option was sausage links.

Meanwhile, I enjoyed something I haven’t ordered in years and years. . .a pecan waffle and a scrambled egg.

There seemed to be lots of regulars sharing the counter stools with us. Many customers called our waitress (Carol) by name.

Old-timey music was playing, and the decor was straight out of WWII. The food wasn’t great. . .the coffee was bitter. . .we never need to go back. But all in all, definitely a San Francisco sort of experience.

Airplane “Food” Update

December 6, 2010

Much fun has been made of airplane “food,” and deservedly so.  We were especially reminded of this after experiencing what Alaska Airlines served up on our recent flights from Seattle to Orlando and back again.

We went first class because it’s a long flight (six-plus hours); these particular flights (thanks to the Disney World crowd) are always packed with an unusual number of young children traveling with their parents; and, after many, many years of tough business travel all around the world, my 6′ 4″ husband (understandably) won’t fly anything but business or first class any more.

Here’s the breakfast on our outgoing flight. . .sad Hollandaise (?) sauce sitting next to a circle of polenta topped with a round of turkey Canadian bacon. Sitting astride rode a poached egg and two limp pieces of asparagus. I ate the egg, asparagus, and half the cold croissant and called it a morning.

Since I don’t eat red meat anymore, I counted myself lucky that I got the last order of Chicken en Croute. . .until I saw and tasted a poor, terrorized chicken breast trapped in a pasty puddle of puff pastry, then doused with the same tasteless, bright-yellow-colored sauce that I’d been served at breakfast! More limp asparagus sat atop, so I ate that, rescued the chicken from its “puff-pastry” cage and had a few bites of that, then drank a lot of Chardonnay as consolation.

Spencer did a lot better with his beef short ribs in cherry sauce with mashers, carrots, and Brussels sprouts.

At least the fresh-from-the-oven cookies that were served later on for dessert were warm, filling, and strangely comforting when hurtling through the air at 40,000 feet, especially when paired with a glass of California red.

We wondered aloud if the people in the main cabin might have fared better with their granola and beef-jerky snack boxes?

Orlando Dining Highlights

November 29, 2010

On our annual trip to Orlando to visit my family, there are a couple of things we just must always eat and drink.

A plate of Stone Crab Claws at Houston’s restaurant, rebranded in June as Hillstone, is a must-have. Partnered with the restaurant’s famous Mustard Sauce and three big glasses of unsweetened iced tea (none of that frou-frou mango or passion fruit stuff–this is the real deal–just freshly brewed Tetley or Lipton, I’m guessing) and I am a happy camper.

Not so happy, however, that I didn’t save room for a slice of Hillstone’s tangy Key Lime Pie. It’s especially good thanks to the nuts (pecans?) in the graham-cracker crust. Slices are huge. . .this baby comfortably fed four people!

The Eola Wine Co., located along the main drag–Park Avenue–in downtown Winter Park, is a great place for a nightcap. Here’s my Champagne and Sparkling Wine flight, which included entries from France, Italy, South Africa (!), and the United States. The winner? Piper Heidseick–the French really know what they are doing when it comes to bubbly!

Last but certainly not least, we were introduced to a new barbecue place on this trip: 4Rivers Smokehouse. The lines out the door are proof positive that this place serves up some of the most serious and popular brisket, pulled-pork, and turkey sandwiches in central Florida. The turkey sandwich was peppery and good; the sweet-potato casserole more like dessert than a side dish.

A Date in the Desert

November 1, 2010

A big field of artichokes

One of the highlights of our trip to Palm Springs for Les Dames d’Escoffier 2010 annual conference was a pre-conference farm tour. A big bus took Spencer and me (plus 37 assorted Dames and spouses) from our hotel headquarters at the Hyatt Grand Champions Resort and Spa in Indian Wells (one of the nine towns that make up the resort area) to the unincorporated parts of the city that form the heart of the growing area.

It was an educational four hours, as we visited Agri Service, Inc., a high-tech composting operation that makes compost from landfill (!); a citrus, date, and table-grape farm right next door that uses the mulch from the composting company to nourish its crops; Ocean Mist Farms, a third-generation grower in business since 1924 and the number-one producer of artichokes in the U.S.; and a stop for lunch at the world-famous Shields Date Garden.

Along the way, we learned that a total of 250 crops are farmed in the Coachella Valley, and something is growing an impressive 365 days per year! Temperatures are so hot in the summertime (upwards of 120 degrees) that the crops are picked and bagged at night.

Special highlights for me were eating leftover table grapes that had shriveled on the grapevines to become raisins, straight from the vine (!). We also picked beautiful fresh lemons that had fallen off the tree straight from the ground.

Shields Date Garden

A stop for lunch at Shields Date Garden was like stepping back in time, from the vintage signage out front. . .

Date crystals and milkshakes at Shields

To the soda fountain inside the gift shop where you can buy the company’s famous Date Crystals and Date Milkshakes (a steal at $3.75). Or just wet your whistle with a fresh-squeezed lemonade or grapefruit juice.

Shields has been in business since 1924, and has a great backstory about the family who founded it.

Dates growing on the tree and bagged for protection from predators and rain

Right outside you find acres and acres of producing date trees. White cloth bags are wrapped around the parts of the trees where the dates grow to protect the precious fruit from predators (such as birds) and the desert’s rare rain shower.

Shields’ Date Milkshake in all its golden, creamy glory

Here’s the famous Date Milkshake, one of the best things I’ve ever put into my mouth. Calories and carbohydrates took second place to sheer joy and goodness here.

Just one last bite!

Another decadent spoonful, as the shake was so thick, it was almost impossible to sip it through the pretty pink straw provided!

Excellent Washington State Adventures

July 22, 2010

Washington State Travel Scene

Deception Pass on Whidbey Island

If you’re in search of new adventures this summer (and who isn’t?!?!), then look no further than Washington State Tourism’s new online forum.

A recent press release from the good folks at Washington State Tourism touts the group’s newly launched “Excellent Washington State Adventures” Web site, which features the new online forum–“Excellent Washington State Adventures”–where travelers share their favorite destinations and experiences around the Evergreen State.

Washington State Travel Scene

Inn at SageCliffe near George, Washington

“We Washingtonians love our state, and love to share it with others.That makes Washingtonians some of the best travel guides to help visitors discover the best places and activities across the state,” said Marsha Massey, Executive Director for Washington State Tourism. “We hope residents and visitors alike will want to log on and share their trip memories, and in turn inspire others to plan a trip and experience the wealth of travel adventures our great state has to offer.”

Visitors to the Excellent Washington Adventures site will find a wealth of trip suggestions and personal stories about destinations around the state, such as Mount St. Helens, camping on the Olympic Peninsula, and exploring the Bavarian town of Leavenworth.

The site helps travelers plan trips to Washington by inspiring them through the experiences of Washingtonians and past travelers who have posted stories, recommendations, and photos. Travelers can browse for adventures based on “top rated,” or by category, such as “Wine and Cuisine,” “Arts, Culture and Heritage,” “Beaches” or “Family Fun.

Sharing your own adventures on the site is as easy as creating a profile and uploading photos and memories, the press release concludes.

A Wine Lover’s Christmas Tree

December 22, 2009

This wine lover\'s Christmas tree was spotted at a lifestyle shop in downtown Carmel, California.

During our eight-day holiday sojourn last year in Santa Rosa and Carmel, California, we ran across this fabu Christmas tree at one of the lifestyle shops in downtown Carmel.

Details of a wine lover\'s Christmas tree spotted in downtown Carmel, California.

We loved the way this tree was totally wine-themed, from the barrel stand to the wine bottles twinkling with lights to the strings of spent corks.

And here’s a final, more detailed view, of this very special holiday bush. Too cool!

Details of a wine lover\'s Christmas tree spotted in downtown Carmel, California.

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