Category Archives: food and wine trips

24 Hours in Sonoma, California

Vintage Plane Spotting with my sweet ride, Black Truffle, in Sonoma

I needed a break. Work was all encompassing. It was time to take matters into my hands. I had to channel the Layla I used to know and love. The Layla I had ignored for structure, order, and responsibility. It was time to throw caution to the wind and channel my inner spontaneous bon vivant.

I went onto Hotel Tonight on Friday night. The next thing I knew I was spending 24 hours in Sonoma at the Sonoma Hotel, a quaint historic inn smack dab in the center of Sonoma Square.

Sonoma Hotel… ain’t it cute?!

We didn’t want to drive once we started tasting (obviously), so, after searching for hotels in the center of town that were available last minute, reasonably priced, and walking distance to tasting rooms, we settled on the Sonoma Hotel ($200/night). It was adorable and just what we thought it would be. Quaint. Simple. Clean. Reviews were accurate about one thing. The walls are thin. Thankfully, after several tastings and general parenting exhaustion from the week/years, we fell asleep at around 10pm and didn’t hear a thing.

Tasca Tasca

Since this trip was completely spontaneous, we didn’t make a single reservation, but that wasn’t a problem. We headed for a late lunch at Tasca Tasca, a Portuguese tapas & wine boite served in a charming, European space. The above photo (from left to right) is their 7 item sampler. Perfect for two. We ordered kale salad (I’d probably pass on this next time or get the dressing on the side as it was a bit tart for my taste), blood sausage (husband loved it), ceviche (good and healthy since we wanted to drink our calories), crab empanadas (solid), Queijo de Sao Jorge cheese (I’d pass and try something else), Linguica Caseira (delicious traditional Portuguese sausage), and Bacalhau (salt cod cakes… can I get a ‘Si?’)

Sonoma Goods

We then walked off the food by visiting the Mission and reading about the history of Sonoma. One thing missing – the history of the Miwok and Suisunes people. All mentions of indigenous culture appear erased. Note to the Sonoma Tourist Board: rectify that situation, please. First, you see the servants quarters of General Vallejo’s home, La Casa Grande, built in the 1830s which later became the center of social life north of San Francisco. General Vallejo was born in California, but Mexico controlled the area at the time. In 1846, he was confronted by leaders of the Bear Flag Party (yes, that’s where the Bear Flag originates!). California was home to American settlers who didn’t trust their Mexican rulers. When rumors of an impending war between the US and Mexico came to California, according to Wikipedia, The California Republic, or Bear Flag Republic, was born as an unrecognized “breakaway state” from Mexico. For 25 days, the Sonoma area was controlled by the settlers and the breakdown of Mexican rule began.

Passagio Wines

After our tour of the town’s Mission and history, we were thirsty. Next up: wine at Passaggio Wines in the Sonoma shops. Since I’m a lover of white wines, I’d read that Passaggio had a nice selection. My tasting included their 2019 Sauvignon Blanc from Albini Vineyards in Sonoma, their 2019 Chenin Blanc from Heringer Estates in Clarksburg (my favorite tasting for its light clean aftertaste), and the 2019 Tempranillo rose (aka. Rose Colored Glasses). Steve, the sommelier, gave us a great history of the wines and the shop. Apparently, the owner used to work in law enforcement and, later in her career, decided to study wine making to eventually open the shop.

Life goals!

Day Boat Scallops

We then took walk around town to burn off calories and moved onto dinner. Since we enjoyed the tapas spot, we decided to try their sister restaurant, La Salette. I guess we were in the mood for Portuguese. My husband ordered a Wood Oven Roasted Octopus with sweet onion purée, red wine vinegar, and fried potato ($16) to start and he said it was delicious. I ordered the Chouriço Crusted Day Boat Scallops, Japanese sweet potato purée, leek confit, and molho cru ($17). The scallops were fantastic and cooked to perfection. The chourico (chorizo) crust was an excellent touch with its the firm consistency and succulent flavor. I also loved the leek confit mixed with the Japanese yam purée. Everything tasted filling, yet fresh and healthy. For our main, we shared the Bacalhau no Forno, a traditional baked casserole of north Atlantic salt cod, potatoes, onions, and olives ($27) because we love Bacalhau. What can I say? We ate it twice in one day! The other items looked wonderful, but we were pretty full from eating and drinking throughout the day. That said, we finished with a port flight and dessert because… rice pudding with cinnamon, madeira braised fig and toucinho do céu (an almond cake that almost tastes like caramelized fluffy oranges).

La Salette’s traditional dessert tasting

From there, we took the short walk through the quaint city square, made it to our warm hotel room above The Girl & The Fig (another local fave), and it was… 24 hrs. of bliss.

Summer Culture – Rhineland, Germany

 

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Molsheim, Germany: Photo by Karsten Würth (@karsten.wuerth) on Unsplash

Germany. From bratwurst and Beethoven’s birthplace to beer and some of the best art and music in the world, it’s time to check out Rhineland-Palatinate’s Summer of Culture, taking place every year from May 1st – October 3rd. Featuring well over 200 projects covering all kinds of different cultural aspects, the theme is revised annually to reflect new focuses for the content, and the venue for the grand opening also changes every year. A large cultural festival on the first weekend in May also offers families their first peek at the summer’s program of events held across the state covering cultural, religious, artistic and social themes.

In early 1992, the Rhineland-Palatinate state government announced the staging of the first Rhineland-Palatinate Summer of Culture, the aim of which was to increase people’s awareness of the region’s culture. What the organizers had – and continue to have – in mind was a sort of ‘citizens’ movement for culture’. The Summer of Culture is, in fact, characterized by the large number of small projects and ideas at its core that were themselves developed out of local or regional initiatives. With almost 250 events including concerts, readings, exhibitions, children’s activities, theatre and more, it’s an incredible melting pot of people and ideas.

From example, throughout August 24, 2019, the Mayen Burgfestspiele Theatre Festival is the cultural highlight of the Northern Rhineland-Palatinate. Every summer, the quiet town Mayen, located about 1 hour north of Mainz (another little colorful gem) turns into a colorful theater city.

Germany Best travel destinations
Mainz Market (c) The Crazy Tourist

There’s also a nearby wine festival for the parents. The Rheingau Wine Festival has around 100 winemakers offering the acclaimed Rheingau riesling wines, as well as sparkling sekt and regional fare. The ten-day wine festival includes a varied program of entertainment in Schlossplatz and Dern’schen Gelände squares in Wiesbaden too!

For more information on the festival:

www.kultursommer.de

Rheingau Wine Festival:

www.wiesbaden.de

 

Hyatt Ziva Cancun: An All Inclusive Culinary Escape

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Hyatt Ziva Cancún, which debuted in November 2015 as the newest addition to a distinguished collection of Hyatt all inclusive resorts for guests of all ages, has thoroughly re-imagined the all inclusive experience from the ground up. From its unrivaled location at the tip of the Yucatan peninsula to its luxurious Ziva Sky Swim-up Suites, Hyatt Ziva Cancún stands apart from the rest. Unquestionably, the resort’s greatest distinction from other all inclusive properties lies in its cuisine. Hyatt Ziva Cancún is fully committed to authentic gourmet dining, seasonal flavors and fresh, locally sourced ingredients.

Guests can curate their own gastronomic journey at Hyatt all inclusive resorts – one might start the day with a pastry from Casa Café, try fresh ceviche for lunch by the beach, reminisce over a private candlelit dinner in the sand and cap the day with a sweet treat from our fantastical, sugar-themed dessert parlor, Pasteles. Best of all, it’s entirely unlimited and fully at the guest’s discretion.

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Pasteles – A Sugar Themed Heaven

Redefining the all inclusive resort by satisfying every age, taste and style, whether traveling as a family, couple or group, Hyatt Ziva Cancún provides the typical All You Can Eat bonanza and a world of à la carte options to suit every palate. Nine distinct restaurants offer full menus to ensure that guests’ taste buds never tire:

· La Bastille, presenting timeless French cuisine in an elegant, yet relaxed setting for adults only
· El Mercado, a bountiful buffet of gourmet international cuisine with both indoor and outdoor seating
· The Moongate, offering a variety of Asian specialties, from dim sum to an interactive teppanyaki table
· Tradewinds, a casual oceanfront grill by day and a classic steakhouse by night
· Lorenzo’s, serving Trattoria-style favorites for lunch and elegant Italian traditions for dinner, including brick oven pizza
· Habaneros, featuring tacos and fresh ceviche beachside
· Chevy’s, a classic all-American diner with burgers and milkshakes, and even a ’57 Chevy convertible that guests can dine in
· Pasteles, a delightful dessert parlor
· Casa Café, specializing in all things coffee, plus scrumptious pastries and snacks

In addition to the restaurants, mobile food carts roam the pool and beach areas with tacos, burgers, fresh fruit, sweet crepes, and cool refreshments. Plus, in-suite dining, is available 24-hours a day. This is something appealing to families because other all inclusive resorts like Club Med Cancun don’t offer this.

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Tres Cerveza’s – Onsite Microbrewery

Choices abound at Hyatt Ziva Cancún, not only for dining but also for nightlife and libations. Adults can enjoy unlimited signature cocktails and a wide selection of beer, wine, tequila, and premium spirits at seven distinct watering holes:

· Juana Margarita, a tequila tasting bar offering local tequila varieties and an onsite tequila sommelier
· Tres Cervezas, a sports bar and microbrewery featuring handcrafted microbrews and an onsite brewmaster
· Sassil Bar, a contemporary lobby bar inspired by the region’s Mayan heritage, featuring both indoor and ocean-view outdoor seating
· Punta Vista, a rooftop lounge with panoramic views by the adults-only pool
· Dips & Sips, featuring both outdoor and in-pool seating at the swim-up bar
· 24 Horas, a lively 24-hour lounge
· Bar del Mar, the exclusive Hyatt Club Level lounge overlooking the infinity pool, offering both indoor and outdoor seating

http://www.playaresorts.com/Hyatt-Ziva-Cancun

New Orleans: Jazzcats, Black Marble, and Oysters Bienville

Arnaud’s Restaurant

Enjoy the joie de vivre New Orleans is so well known for by focusing on the sinfully, decadent aspects of New Orleans that are as excessive and exotic as the melting pot of cultures that fuel the city’s eclectic mythos.

From music and food to hotels and shopping, New Orleans never strays from its mantra – “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing.”  In fact, the streets of New Orleans mimic a heartbeat as they vibrate to the sounds of jazz, and the air swirls about filled with scents of Creole dishes now so widely popular they are as familiar as the city itself.

The Lucifer Room at The Saint Hotel

Define your New Orleans stay as you select one of two mega suites to dwell in at The Saint Hotel.  The Archangel Lucifer Suite or the Archangel Michael Suite are startlingly different atmospheres.  The 2,000-square-foot Lucifer Suite is full of luxurious red velvet, black marble and Victorian antiques.  But, if you want to be center stage, that’s no problem as the suite features a private stage with dance pole, lighting and sound system.  Completely opposite is the Michael Suite which is equally as spacious, but gives you the ultimate “heaven on earth” experience.  Full of natural light with 10 floor-to-ceiling windows, the blues, whites and contemporary finishes make you feel as if you’ve ascended into the sky.

www.thesainthotelneworleans.com

Even music in New Orleans has its unique way of warming your soul and inspiring decadent experiences.  Sure the French Quarter is full of great places to hear music, but don’t overlook Frenchman Street.  Iconic jazz clubs such as Snug Harbor, The Spotted Cat and The Maison feature both emerging and notable jazz artists.  Take some Louisiana music home with you and plan a stop to the Louisiana Music Factory, an independent music store specializing in local music.

Windsor Court Spa
Windsor Court Spa

But, don’t forget to relax in true New Orleans’ style.  You no longer have to dream about what it would be like to enjoy a Sommelier’s selection of sparkling wine or champagne inside of a 6,500 square-foot private spa, the Spa at Windsor Court can deliver this experience for a mere $12,500. You don’t have to worry about being pampered alone; you can invite 8-10 of your friends as well.  The expansive space includes two relaxation rooms to sip on hot tea and cucumber water, seven service rooms with your choice of New Orleans best esthetic treatments, body treatments, massage, and nail services. Also, don’t forget the heated outdoor salt water pool where pool attendants will wait on you hand & foot.

No matter how you experience New Orleans, you must indulge in the city’s Creole cuisine.  Since 1918, Arnaud’s is one of New Orleans’ most historic restaurants serving Creole creations such as their signature dish, Shrimp Arnaud, and their original Oysters Bienville, prepared with fresh gulf oysters, shrimp, mushrooms, green onions, herbs and seasonings in a white wine sauce.  While there, be sure to slip upstairs for a glimpse into Mardi Gras history at Germaine Cazenave Wells Mardi Gras Museum.  Wells reigned as queen of more Mardi Gras balls than anyone in history, and the display of opulent gowns and memorabilia showcase a unique sliver of local history.

So stop looking for a destination that sets the standard for luxury travel and look to New Orleans who has redefined luxury travel.  Somehow, just like the cultures that blend together creating the city’s vibrant atmosphere, New Orleans combines its history and modern amenities to create a one-of-a-kind hedonistic experience you won’t soon forget.

Mother’s Day Getaways To Bond For…

Pasta picture frames don’t quite make the grade as a Mother’s Day gift once darling daughter’s grown, but time together – especially when it takes the form of a weekend getaway – is something Mom will always treasure. We’ve gathered a few ideas to appeal to mothers and daughters of all interests, from luxury spa retreats to scuba diving adventures, each with plenty of opportunities to raise a glass (or tea cup) to the woman who made it all possible.

Take a look:

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1,000 Islands Harbor Hotel – Clayton, New York

A Thousand Thanks: Treat Mom to an epicurean Thousand Islands getaway at AAA Four Diamond-rated 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel in Clayton, N.Y. The hotel’s Wine Tasting package offers tastings at two nearby vineyards, including the award-winning Coyote Moon; a selection of locally made River Rat Cheese; and breakfast for two in the hotel’s restaurant, Seaway Grille.

www.1000islandsharborhotel.com

Umstead Spa
The Umstead Hotel and Spa – Cary, NC

Two for Tea: The Umstead Hotel and Spa (Cary, N.C.) has all the makings of a classic mother-daughter day combining spa treatments with the hotel’s coveted Afternoon Tea. Unwind and bond in the Umstead Spa’s two-story relaxation lounges, complete with heated open-roof current pool and indoor Jacuzzi. After a rejuvenating treatment, it’s a short stroll to the hotel’s art-adorned lobby lounge for Afternoon Tea. There, guests enjoy a traditional presentation of teas and treats, from tea sandwiches to scones, accompanied by live harp music.

www.theumstead.com 

Pampering in Lake Placid: The 98-suite Whiteface Lodge (Lake Placid, N.Y.) has everything daughters need to treat mom to a luxury getaway surrounded by the beauty of the Adirondacks. The Pamper Yourself Spa Package for Two includes two 50-minute massages plus access to health and wellness classes, cedar wood saunas, eucalyptus-infused steam room, indoor/outdoor pool and hot tub. Also included are breakfast and suite accommodations with cast-iron gas fireplace, jetted spa tub and private balcony. Package rates start at $410

www.thewhitefacelodge.com 

Marriott Singer Island Pool
Marriott Singer Island Pool – Palm Beach

Palm Beach Spa Retreat: With the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Intracoastal Waterway on the other, the all-suite beachfront Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa in Florida offers sweeping views and palm-fringed sands. The resort’s Ultimate Spa Retreat pampers mothers and daughters with a 50-minute spa treatment at SiSpa and access to all spa facilities, including steam room, heated marble beds, relaxation room with hot tea bar, private whirlpool, and waterfall showers. Rates start at $504.

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Sanctuary – Camelback Mountain

Martinis and Mountain Hikes: Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain, one of Scottsdale, Arizona’s premier resorts, provides the perfect backdrop for a sun-soaked mother-daughter luxury adventure. The BFF Retreat package includes three nights’ accommodations; a martini kit in-room upon arrival; daily breakfast; a guided hike up Camelback Mountain; and a Bento box lunch to be enjoyed by the sparkling infinity pool.

www.sanctuaryaz.com 

Classic Martha’s Vineyard Vacation: Kelley House, in the heart of Edgartown, offers prime access to shops and restaurants, the town’s harbor and lighthouse. The inn’s historic Newes of America Pub is the perfect place to toast Mom with a pint of craft beer paired with classic pub-style fare, while the outdoor Wave Bar serves creative cocktails and small plates by the pool. Active mothers and daughters can hop on the Kelley House’s branded bikes to explore the island’s trails and streets.

www.kelley-house.com

Sea Crest Beach Hotel
Sea Crest Beach Hotel – Falmouth, MA

Double (or Triple) the Fun on the Cape: Make it a three-generational mother-daughter retreat, or add a sister or two by booking the three-bed, three-bath cottage at Sea Crest Beach Hotel (North Falmouth, Mass.). This quintessential Cape Cod retreat on the private sands of Old Silver Beach is home to Red’s restaurant, an indoor pool, and water-view rooms decorated in classic Cape style. The hotel’s private cottage features a private deck and back yard, fire pit, kitchenette, and large fireplace, perfect for family bonding.

www.seacrestbeachhotel.com 
A Carefree Cottage in Nantucket: Harborview Nantucket’s charming compound of 11 luxurious vacation cottages – each utterly distinct, offers rare harborfront access just steps from the attractions of Main Street. A range of cottage sizes, from one to four bedrooms, accommodate everyone from mothers and daughters to grandmothers and girlfriends. Cottage amenities include a full kitchen, spacious living and dining areas, a washer and dryer, and complimentary Cisco Brewery assorted beers and local wine upon arrival. Exceptional guest services and an attentive staff make planning the ultimate Mother’ Day celebration a worry-free treat.

www.harborviewnantucket.com