Archive for the Category »restaurants «

  Hotel of the Week:Epicurean Encounters

Hotel restaurants aren’t just to accommodate the business traveler’s quick power lunch, or the weary-eyed traveler who lands at an odd hour and can’t find anything else open. Nope. Some of my most exciting meals have been in hotel restaurants… they attract top chefs, hot designers, and the environment  can be dynamic because  guests are coming in and out at all hours.

With Thanksgiving around the corner, the biggest feast day of the year for many, I think it’s appropriate to talk about where you can have some of the best culinary experiences in America’s hotels. If you don’t have the energy to roast a bird or whip up some stuffing, ya might want to see if these special restaurants are serving on Thanksgiving:) Of course, this luxurious good food does come with a price. Hotel restaurants aren’t a bargain.




Only about a year old, this restaurant has great food and a comfortable vibe. The Library in the back is great for a casual meal or drinks. The place gets glowing reviews, especially for its chicken for two -


A whole-roasted chicken with foie gras, black truffle, and brioche.


It’s not cheap though  – $$$$ on Yelp.


white-barn-inn-restaurant-7From urban, to pretty much barn dining. The White Barn Inn wowed me years ago with a unique setting of an elegant farmhouse : think crisp white linens amid wood beams.

wbi_dining_roomThe dining room is literally a restored barn from the 1820s. But the ambiance is romantic chic, and the food is mouth watering. This special restaurant has received Forbes Five Star rating, as well as a AAA Five Diamond rating.


photoLet’s throw some ethnic diversity in the mix here with a superstar Japanese restaurant that never disappoints. The food at every Nobu restaurant I have visited is always fresh and creative… but the decor has been different, depending on location, The Vegas restaurant is stunning – with chandeliers that look like floating amoeba…

photo_2and an entire wall of interesting stone at the sushi bar.



This 5-star resort has a dining room, The Georgian,  that resoundingly reflects Southern hospitality and local flavor. Not to be Fancy Nancy again, but this is the only Forbes 5-star rated restaurant in the entire state of Georgia, according to the website.

Sea-Island-Restaurants-GeorgianRoomHighResolutionThe ambiance is slightly more formal – think Southern refinement – with a gorgeous fireplace to warm it up. It too is on the higher end of dining  – the bill can really add up. For a less expensive alternative, try the Georgian Room Lounge.


maialinoA Roman trattoria in the Gramercy Park hotel, brought to you by Danny Meyer’s Union Square Group. Lots of noteworthy touches – a view of Gramercy Park’s greenery,  a bread station in the middle of the room, & a menu filled with lots of casual finger foods.

20100304-maialino-salumani-station-023111Breakfast rivals the other meals – fresh baked pastries and heartier fare also.


mankas_sceneWhen I lived in San Francisco, this place was legendary to those  “in the know”… it can easily sneak under the radar, which is just another thing I love about Manka’s. It is one hour north of San Francisco in the hills of Inverness. It is rustic elegance in a hunting lodge type establishment.

mankas-dining-nook-300Think big fireplaces, large reading chairs, and plaid. The food served has a lot of local flavor, as much of it is fresh and farmed in the immediate area. The menu is a five course meal for about $50 on their website. Snuggle up here and explore the wonderful world of Tomales Bay and the rest of Marin County.

Enjoy your weekend!

  Good News, Bad News Eataly lovers… #Eataly

One of my favorite places in New York City is an Italian foodie fantasy called “Eataly.” I have written about it before – it is a “high end temple to Italian food,” quoting the Wine Spectator. Part market, part cafe, part wine store, the highly successful 58,000 square foot gastronomical attraction opened in 2010, and is now one of 20 locations worldwide.  The new one in Rome is more than 150,000 square feet on four floors – and built in an abandoned railway terminal. Cool.

Eataly is family friendly, but also offers chef and winemaker-lead workshops.

The epicurean empire is growing quickly – this month’s Wine Spectator features the creator, Oscart Farinetti, and says there are plans to open 17 more in the next few years – Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington DC being a few. Internationally, we will see one in Dubai, Brazil, Istanbul, and Canada.

Eataly fans -rejoice.

Or not? What I love about it is that there AREN’T many of them right now. I am thrilled Eataly will be coming close to me, and travelers worldwide can visit in many places soon… but will it lose it’s specialness and quality? Eataly works closely with the Slow Food movement, which values local, quality produced food. Eataly does an amazing job right now of educating foodies about regions of Italy and what is produced there.

The Wine Spectator article is a good read about the creator and his business plans. If you are a fan, I recommend it….

As Eataly’s owner himself once said – one of my favorite quotes – “Optimisim is the perfume of life”. On that note, I am hoping for Eataly’s continued high quality contributions to the gourmet and the traveler, despite it’s rapid growth… :)

  Travel Tip Tuesday: Don’t Talk to the Concierge…

Don’t get me wrong – sometimes hotel concierges can be immensely helpful, and incredibly friendly. They have helped me on many occassions, especially when traveling internationally.

However…. don’t go to them when you need restaurant reservations if you want true local favorites. Or at least, don’t only go to them. Many times they have relationships with restaurants and only recommend certain ones. Ask other hotel staff… or even an employee in a store that you visit and like.

When in Peru recently, we dined in many old, historic buildings, which we absolutely loved. But – you know how this goes – the kids got a little tired of the local, foreign dishes – like alpaca – see menu below.

Se we ventured off and asked a local for some kid-friendly food – and got a great recommendation -

….Italian, in a fresh, hip setting!

The little town of Cuzco, Peru is a gem, with so many wonderful architectural stand outs, you just want to absorb every cultural tidbit possible. But – It is OK to not taste the local fare every now and then – especially when traveling with kids!

Don’t be afraid to talk to strangers… ask for their thoughts on sites, food, shops, etc. Go off the guide book – The more info the more choices for you!

Happy spring!

  A New Restaurant Trend: Connecting With Your Date

Is this what it is coming to to get people to quit checking their cell phones when dining with friends or family?

A restaurant in LA is incentivizing diners to leave their cell phones at the door, by giving them 5% off their restaurant tab.

Eva Restaurant, Los Angeles

The owner of Eva Restaurant in Beverly Hills says he want to create an environment where diners connect with each other. Imagine that? Being present for a nice night out!I wonder if other restaurants will follow suit.

But more importantly,  I wonder how many people would give up their phones for 5%? If it is a $100 bill, that is only $5 off – Will it be worth it to be cell-starved while satisfying your hunger for good conversation (hopefully) and a nice meal?

Would you do it?

  Ice Cream Around the Country -

July is National Ice Cream Month. Former President Ronald Reagan dubbed it so.. But since his time as president, ice cream has grown up.

If you are traveling this summer, you will have an opportunity to branch out from your own backyard and discover some of the new cool flavors artisan parlors are churning out…. or stick with the classics. Either one is good for melting all your troubles away.

One of the most popular ice creamery in our country is the Ben and Jerry’s  factory that is open to the public in Waterbury Vermont. It is a sweet stop if you are anywhere in New England. ..this colorful creamery nestled in the beautiful Green Mountains.

Ben and Jerry's Factory Tour, Waterbury Vermonr

The tour starts off with a movie about the company’s history – it is a great business story about two young friends who attended an ice cream making course for $5, and invested their life savings into a gas station they turned into their ice cream parlor where they churned out all different kinds of wacky flavors with fresh ingredients.

The branding of their product is a huge success story  – and interesting.

Ben and Jerry's Plant - photo from

You then get to see the ice cream factory from a platform above all the machines – (photo from

and finally – the tasting room where guests are given free samples of a delicious flavor of the day – the kids’ favorite part!

Make sure to visit the flavor graveyard where some of your old favorite flavors have been laid to rest :)

Admission for adults is $4. Kids under 12 are free!

I recently taped a few video segments for – one specifically about ice cream, and got to visit some old favorites.

Dad’s Donuts and Bakery Shop on Balboa Island, Newport Beach CA is special to me -  I used to visit as a child.It’s  a tiny little bungalow on the quaint Balboa Island, but has plenty of character – and serves up an ice cream bar dipped in rich chocolate, then dipped in toppings of your choice. It has been named the “Balboa Bar.” (photo from

Taking a more avant -garde turn… to try truly special flavors, head to Mitchell’s in San Francisco – it’s been around since 1953, but has been serving gourmet flavors before it was fashionable. how about avocado or mojito on a cone ? Don’t miss the pumpkin flavor in the fall – apparently has a cult following.

Pazza Gelato

And finally – Pazza Gelato in Los Angeles’s SilverLake neighborhood  takes organic seasonal fare and turns it into splendid sorbetto. What’s at the farmer’s Market this week? That’s what you’ll find in your cone… Toasted Almond Fig…. or Guinesss extra stout…or Buttered Brown Sugar…or Sicilian Pistachio. If you can grow it, Pazza Gelato can churn it.

My family and I love trying the local ice cream shop when I travel – what’s your favorite?

  If You Can Get a Reservation, Don’t Miss This Foodie Haven

So I may be sealing LA’s reputation to the rest of the world as casual, carefree, and at times a bit wacky, but this is what I encountered while out and about Santa Monica recently.

Yes, Christmas carolers in bikinis and Speedos, ironically singing about a White Christmas. I wouldn’t have it any other way – even the most rushed and stressed out shoppers began to smile. Great spirit. Loving life.

In that same vein, I recently dined at one of my favorite restaurants, just down the road in a similarly spirited part of L.A.- it is Gjelina on Abbot Kinney in the artsy town of Venice Beach. (pronounced Juh-leena)

I dream about coming here. If you’ve ever had the caramel butterscotch salted pudding, you know exactly what I am talking about. Foodies – back me up.

The menu is seasonal, and robust – there are so many choices, even the pickiest of eaters are satisfied. And I’ve been here with my share of vegetarians, dairy-free friends, etc.

The idea is to order a bunch of small plates and share – There are a mess of plates on every table. The brussel sprouts with balsamic and bacon and kale salad are staples for me.

If the food isn’t enough to wow you, the other elements of Gjelina will – buzzy, high energy atmosphere… cool design… outdoor patio…and our Ashton-Kutcher look alike waiter provided good service.

The downer is it’s a bit loud…  and the LA Dept of Public Health recently rated it –  a “C”!  The Huffington Post wrote about it, as foodies were skeptical. It may be irresponsible of me to say, but if I can get a reservation easier now, I am all over it. Gjelina is THAT good.

Book your dinner way in advance, or else you’ll be left with only 5:30 or 10PM . …oh, and DO NOT forget to order the caramel butterscotch salted pudding for dessert. I am trying to replicate it for Christmas dinner…Santa? The recipe would fit in my stocking…

I hope you enjoy this special time of year of great food, family, and friends.

  WIth Thanksgiving a Week Away, The Best Place to Feast Is On The Brain

I broke my golden travel rule the last time I visited New York: Never, ever, eat at the same restaurant twice in the same visit.

And yet, I enjoyed “Eataly” so much, I almost went there a third time in 5 days. It had that much pull on me, and by the looks of it, everyone who goes there.

“Eataly” is a 40,000 square foot marketplace on steroids; the energy is magnetic. It is hard to describe because I’ve never seen anything like it – the San Francisco Ferry Building comes close, but then again, not – it is a mix of farmers market, gourmet products, and restaurants: all high quality, all from only Italian producers. It is located on 5th Ave, and 23rd St.

Whether it be cookies… or coffee.. there is a sign above each product indicating from which region of Italy it comes. So, of course, there are exciting products you won’t find anywhere else nearby…and are authentically Italian.

Excellent place to pack up a picnic lunch for Central Park!

But in between the dozens of aisles of products…Italian meats…

fabulous cheeses…

and hundreds of bottles of imported wine…

are various places to stop and eat – retaurant style. The magical thing about it, is everything is out in the open under one big roof, so it feels very communal.

The first time I went after a business meeting… and seriously lost track of time. The second time I took the kids for gelato. It was fresh,and not too sweet. Needless to say, they loved it.

One of my favorite cookbook authors, Mario Batali, is a partner in this venture – the first ‘Eataly” started in 2007 in Torino, Italy, and there are now more than a dozen – mostly in Italy and Japan.

Now… if they could only bring one to Los Angeles…per favore!

  Road Trip: You wouldn’t believe what is in your pit stop meals!

My husband and his buddy just took all of our kids camping for a couple days. Camping is a ton of work  -  I give him credit. So I’ll let him slide on the many fast food stops they made on the way there and back due to bathroom stops, hunger pains, and ah yes.. even a flat tire now and then.

Gotta love my 9 year old daughter though. She came home and said “Mom – you wouldn’t believe the disgusting fast food we saw – Del Taco has chicken nuggets filled with mac and cheese (translation: fried mac and cheese) and funnel cake fried french fries.”

That was a moment of pride. Although it still takes work to make my kids appreciate vegetables – even from our garden – this was a sign of a break through.

On this very topic, I was astonished to read an interesting article on how bad some of these meals can be at fast food, or chain restaurants that you may normally stop at while traveling. For instance, the Italian Classic sandwich at Quizno’s has 1370 calories…86 grams of fat (holy cow!).. and 4490 mg of sodium. (OMG  - the recommended amount is between 1500-2200!)

This info is right out of “Men’s Health” magazine – pretty entertaining stuff that will make you think twice before you order those cheese fries at Outback Steak House. Check it out:

Another interesting article is “The 10 Most Unhealthy Fast Food Items on America’s Menus”

But fear not you road warriors, moms and dads alike. There is a smart phone app to save you from fried food overloading. The “Good Food Near You” app lets you find healthy (or healthier anyway) meals near your locale. Type in your zip code and up will pop restaurant info and nutritional info about items.

You don’ t have to be neurotic about healthy food to enjoy this – sometimes if you had the knowledge of a healthier meal just around the corner, wouldn’t you choose it over the Kentucky Fried Chicken  right in front of you?

Go to the app store and search for “Good Foods Near You.” It isn’t perfect – users say that sometimes it merely lists the healthiest items at the fast food chains nearest you, instead of knowing of other alternatives. But that’s a start.  And… it’s free.

A Votre Sante!

  Travel Tip Tuesday: Health Conscious Travelers: Mangia!

Eating around the world can be tricky…especially if you are a vegetarian, vegan, or just a health conscious eater. But now there’s a website to help – It has a global directory that offers lists of specialty restaurants in various countries – from Bulgaria…to Sweden. If you are caught up in the Slow Food movement…. want to eat only organic… have allergies…or choose not to eat any dairy, the directory will list restaurants that offer a variety of options. Who knew you could find a vegan friendly, Ayurvedic pizzeria in Rome? Or a juice bar (wheat-grass on makes sense…) in Paris?

I tested some of the samples by typing in my home town… admittedly, most of the restaurants that popped up are not ones I would choose to dine in while visiting top-chef-rich Los Angeles, but for those more dedicated to staying on their restricted diets, the restaurant choices are admittedly plentiful.

Personally, I prefer to try the authentic cuisine of the region and experiment with my palette while on vacation, but the website is still helpful. It is hard to eat clog-the-arteries-rich Fettuccine Alfredo every night. The website also gives you catch phrases in different languages that you might need in a restaurant – like “I don’t eat meat, fish, or chicken…” or “I am a vegan.”

For those of you who have diet-related new year’s resolutions… you don’t have to wait until the cows come home to eat healthy while traveling… it is right here:

  Bottoms Up: The New Napa

Continuing my week long special on wine country (mostly CA) this harvest week.

If you’ve been looking for a reason to start drinking wine or to visit wine country, harvest time is one good reason to motivate you. If that’s not enough, how about the recent article in Time magazine highlighting a surprising study that finds heavy drinkers outlive teetotalers..and moderate drinkers live the longest of all. Bottoms up!,8599,2014332,00.html?iid=WBeditorspicks

Most people do visit wine country to taste the vino. But because wine is so central to food and cooking, there is a whole crop of beyond excellent restaurants too.

This generally is true all over – but specifically I am referring to the wine country I know best – Northern California.

Some of my favorites are:

The Girl and the Fig - Sonoma, CA

The Girl and the Fig in Sonoma…

Tra Vigne Restaurant, St. Helena, CA

Tra Vigne in St. Helena…(patio table for sure. Lovely on a warm night.)

Terra Restaurant, St. Helena, CA

Terra in St. Helena,

But there are a lot of new choices to be excited about – with the spruced up Napa River, some really dynamic restaurants are opening this year.

Napa Riverfront

One in particular I am dying to try is “Fish Story’ by the team who is responsible for some of my other favorites – Lark Creek Inn in Larkspur – and Bradley Ogden in Vegas. I’ve always been a fan of their food.

Read more…