Tag Archives: Travel

“Taste Washington” a Food & Wine Pairing Journey

Julia Child Wine

Traveling through the taste buds is the ultimate experiential journey. Few things serve to acquaint you better with a culture or destination than getting to know the culinary landscape. The beauty of this is that you don’t necessarily need to be in the geographical area to experience what it has to offer.

Visiting cultural enclaves like “China Town” or “Little Italy,” in any city can transport you without a passport. Letting your taste buds to the traveling can also be the start of your journey. Fall for a felafel and you may find yourself booking an exotic adventure to the Middle East.

Food is a universal translator, we all speak fluent “Foodie,” no matter what we like to eat.

I suspect the language of food was the the idea behind “Flavors of the World,” a culinary series and adventure launched by Omni Hotels. Last year at the Omni Berkshire in New York I fell in love with Peddlers Noodles – Char Kway Teow, one of the award-winning foods included in the “Simply Street Food,” portion of the series.

Char Kway Teow or ‘Stir-Fried Flat Rice Noodle,’ is a popular dish throughout Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia, that was made famous by local street food vendors. Chef Andy Oh of the Pan Pacific Orchard put a modern twist on the dish and it was a featured offering at Omni Hotels. The best part? Chef Oh’s recipe was made available online (check it out here) allowing me to recreate it at home and test it out with several wines.

My favorite? Cashmere by Cline Cellars. A silky, smooth blend of Mourvèdre, Grenache, and Syrah, it paired perfectly with the sweet crab meat and spicy chili paste in the dish.

Watch out Singapore… here I come!

This spring Omni’s latest offering is, “Taste Washington.”  Let your taste buds travel to the Evergreen State with some of Washington’s best wines, hand-selected by the culinary adventurers at Omni, and paired with iconic culinary creations from the region.

“With dishes inspired by local flavors and the indigenous cuisine of Washington State, guests can enjoy: Handmade Washington Cheeses served with fig jam, honey and olives, Dungeness Crab Fritters, Dungeness Crab and Snap Pea Soup, Apple and Fennel Salad, Roasted Salmon served with Wild Mushrooms and Apple Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream.” ~Omni PR

They had me at cheese with fig jam. Honestly it’s a reconnaissance mission, we have so many figs come summer I want to learn how to make jam out of them.

washington figs and cheese

Want to taste a bit of Washington, but your travels are taking you to Dallas, Boston or beyond? March 7, 2014 – May 31, 2014, Omni Hotels nationwide will be serving up the wines and bites mentioned above in their bars and restaurants, as well as offering a “Taste Washington” package. The package includes a Washington cheese plate, Washington bottle of wine and Washington apple delivered in-room upon check-in.

I may be stuck here in Washington, D.C. at the moment, but I’m looking forward to letting my taste buds travel to Washington State. Next stop… Pike Place Market and a Girls Weekend with cookies for breakfast!

 

(The only sponsors for this post were my taste buds. I was not compensated in any way. Though if you stay at Omni for this event I’m willing to take wine and/or figs as a thank you!)

Tips for the Aspiring Traveler: Go. See. Do.

Travel is my lifes work

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I’d love to travel, if only ________.”

Have a long list of ways to fill in that blank? Here is the thing, all of them are invalid. Why? Because you’re looking at travel entirely wrong.

As a kid, the longest trip we ever took was the trek from our home in California to visit family in Illinois. Not exactly an exotic safari. Though, my Uncle Jeff had me convinced “Big Game,” lurked in the wooded area behind Grandpa’s farm.

There’s a Squatch in them woods!

I’d hem and haw about how we never went anywhere “cool.” Wasted endless afternoons daydreaming about setting out on Hemingway-esque adventures in Paris or Spain. In my mind, the journey had to be epic or it wasn’t worthy. Then I ended up living in Spain.

My time in Spain opened up a whole new world. Take a road trip, catch a ferry, and you’re in Morocco exploring the Kashba (nearly getting sold for two camels, a monkey and an iguana – a story for another day.)  A day jaunt to Portugal meant tasting the best clams ever to pass human lips. The World’s Fair in Seville, art, and architecture in Madrid, wine at the little bodega down the street. My wanderlust was ablaze.

I was a Traveler.

In retrospect, what I was doing in Spain wasn’t all that different from traveling with my family as a kid. Road trips, weekend excursions and exploring the world nearby. Sure, I was collecting stamps in my passport, but the basic concept was the same; Go. See. Do.

When I talk to people about travel or travel writing the conversation often turns to the statement above. Their “If only,” is then followed by a packing list of the reasons they can’t travel; the kids are too young, money is tight, I just don’t have the time. Pick a reason, I’ve heard it. My answer is always, “You can. All you have to do is; GO. SEE. DO.”

travel defThere isn’t anything in Webster’s definition that says your trip must be an extended, expensive sojourn requiring months of planning, or an extensive itinerary. Here are my favorite tips for the aspiring traveler in us all;

  • Fill up your tank and drive as far as half of it will take you. Explore what’s there!
  • Hop a train. Or any other form of public transportation, and get off at a stop you’ve never been to.
  • Be a tourist in your hometown. Go do all the things people from out of town flock to.
  • Follow a cause. Pick a way to give back in the town next door. You’ll see a whole new side of that city.
  • Let your taste buds transport you. Discover the exotic at ethnic eateries. Do a Gastro Pub Crawl.
  • Escape down the street. Make a reservation at that luxury hotel downtown. Do it in their offseason and you’ll save money and still get the five-star treatment.

As you explore you’ll be expanding your horizons without breaking the bank or using up all your vacation days. Trips like these are great ways to acclimate kids to travel. On top of that, you’re building a lifetime of memories.  Plus, when it comes time to plan that epic adventure, you’ll have the time, money and travel chops to do it.

Redefine what it means to be a Traveler by changing the way you define travel, and you’ll change your world.

 

 

 

Confession: I Do Not Have a Disney Side

Unless you live in a cabin deep in the woods, shunning all forms of media (old, new, print, social and maybe even carrier pigeon) you’ve likely caught wind of the new Disney ad campaign, “Show Your Disney Side”. While I love the idea posed here that each of us has an Ariel, Belle, Pooh or Goofy just waiting to burst free at the next quarterly sales meeting, I have to admit… I do not have a Disney Side.

disney side

I’ll pause here to allow you time to scoop your mandible off the rug.

Does it seem odd that one who has been lucky enough – and I do realize I am very fortunate – to be included at many Disney happenings from press events to trips and parties, was even as a guest at an event with First Lady Michele Obama, doesn’t consider herself to have a Disney Side?  Maybe I should start at the very beginning. I hear that is a very good place to start.

My mother was among the first be-gloved and shiny faced children to walk through the gates of Disneyland when it opened in 1955. In a childhood that was far from storybook, this is a memory she would cherish and retell to her own children with a wonder that only Walt could evoke. Growing up, even when money was tight, my parents would find a way to be sure we’d be able to make the two hour trip to nearest movie theater to see Pete’s Dragon, Bed Knobs and Broomsticks or the latest Disney offering.

I can still recall the feel of ripping that green “E-Ticket” ride coupon out of the book and handing it over to the attendant for my first ride on the the Submarine Voyage in Tomorrowland. I was so convinced that magic was possible. I’d been transported to a world I’d read about in a book. Books were my best friends, the characters within kept me company in a lonely, socially awkward early childhood.

Vintage Disney taken from a scrapbook my mother made. My most prized possession in the fifth grade? My The Fox and The Hound  lunch box.

I may or may not have gone to Disneyland in matching outfits with a beau or two in my teens. (note: if anyone has photographic evidence of this (Ted) I will pay top dollar for all copies and the negatives.)

When I found out that I my first child was on the way, choosing the nursery theme was easy. Classic Pooh.. that’ll do Piglet, that’ll do.

That child’s first movie, at one week old? The Lion King.  In this house the words, “It’s the circle of life Simba” can be heard at least once a week.

When it came time to gift my second child with her first stock – also a family tradition, teaching them economics is important –  what was it?

GM.

No that was me. Smart move eh? She got Disney. Her’s is doing far better, needless to say.

When Halloween rolls around everyone from Pooh and his Honey Pot (Me and Lil Nugget Number 2 when she was an infant), to just about every Princess, Toy Story character and Nightmare Before Christmas cast member has made an appearance.

And the parties, oh the parties. You’re thinking the kids aren’t you? Well how about the Lilo and Stitch party the threw for me on my 28th birthday?

Disney is so much more than a side for us. Our first visit to Disney World, we planned for over a year. The price tag that was eye popping, but manageable because we got lots of advice from experts in the blogging community (it was not a hosted or comped trip).

Seventeen hours of driving with four kids in the car. We finally arrive after 2,167 “are we there yets,” and it turns out mom missed the confirmation email a month ago and they CANCELLED our trip.

Me and my now 14 year old daughter.

Adding to the pain, the Disney hotel we researched for so long before finally settling on, was fully booked. I turned into a puddle of tears right there in the lobby.

Do you know what they did? This huge global company that owns… well… half the globe. Did they turn us away? Did they offer to return our deposit and send us to the motel down the street with their condolences? Nope, they weren’t going to let the magic die for us. They put us up in another Disney hotel, a better one. Made sure all the add-ons I’d set up for our kids, including an in-room birthday party my mom arranged for our youngest son, were transferred to the new room. The even made sure to check on us.

Did they know I was a blogger? No. They just knew I was a mom. We were a family. This was supposed to be a magic trip for us and they were going to be sure it was.

It was. It still is.

We stayed at Kidani Villas where the Warthogs sang along with my oldest as he played Ukelele on the balcony at night. Giraffe wandered near our windows in the morning. We met cast members that worked in the hotel who we still send Christmas cards to.

So when you ask me if I have a Disney Side I say, no. No I do not have a Disney Side.

Disney is part of my family.

This post was not sponsored or compensated in any way. None of the items or events I’ve written about here were part of any blogger perks or programs. Disney is truly a part of our family and this post was a love letter of sorts.

Dublin, Ireland: Pints, Passports and The Blue Oyster Cult

Sure I’ve traveled quite a bit, but most of the best destinations came BC (Before Kids).

Though, there was this one time in Dublin.

Temple Bar District, Dublin, Ireland

Actually our trip was an Italian escape. A week in Tuscany. Shopping in Florence. Stopping to see family in Rome, a day trip to Lucca and enough wine to float us home. So where does Dublin factor in? What I’d done was book our flights so that the layover in Dublin was more like a day trip. Bonus, it saved me money too!

Travel tip: Long layovers can save you money AND get you an extra destination in your itinerary too.

After one of the best flights I’ve ever been on* we touched ground is sunny Ireland, my ancestral home. All the lucky holders of EU passports got swiftly ferried through the fast line, whist Hubby and I had to cue up with the snails. It was still great, after all we were kid free and about to hit Temple Bar for an early morning pint. Gotta love that you can get a proper stout at nine in the morning served in with a frothy head and no judgment.

The fine gentleman at the customs counter asked us the usual questions, “Where is your final destination?”, “How long do you plan to be in Ireland?”, nothing out of the ordinary. Passports stamped, hand-in-hand, we made our way towards the throngs of travelers exiting the inspection area. All was right with the world.

Until the guy in the supervisors booth stepped in front of us and said, “Come with me please.”

Wholly crap! My heart climbed into my throat and started to do a jig. Couldn’t this guy tell I was Irish? I mean, I belong here. What was going on? I’d never even been stopped at a border. Not even as a slightly inebriated teenager returning from Mexico on a Saturday night. What the heck is going on?

Naturally. It was all my husband’s fault.

As the Supervisor lead us out of the crowd and towards his booth he introduced himself. Then he proceeded to ask my husband if he wouldn’t mind posing for a picture with him. Good looking as my man is, he’s never been mistaken for a movie star. Ah, but he did have an association with one. See he was wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with an image of Will Farrel in his classic SNL parody of  The Blue Oyster Cult skit in which we are all told that,  “It Needs More Cowbell!”

I’d nearly had a heart attack because the guy wanted a picture of the SHIRT??!!!

Oddly enough we’d later be stopped on the streets of Temple Bar so that the shirt could be admired. I guess Will Farrel is a big deal in Ireland.

Temple BarStay classy Dublin!

(this post is in NO WAY sponsored by anyone. That said, mad props to Aer Lingus for great service… a rare thing in air travel these days)

Family Travel: Savannah, Shrimp & Residence Inn… Oh My!

Being a big family has never kept us rooted at home. Given the opportunity, we pick up and go! Planes, trains and automobiles? We’ve done that. This summer we set out to explore the Gulf Coast. The adventure began with taking the kids, and even our car, along on the Amtrak Auto Train to Florida’s glimmering shores. Waving a fond farewell to Florida, we hit the road, landing in Savannah, Georgia.

If I had to use one word to sum up our stay in Savannah it would have to be, Magical.

To be honest, choosing to stay in Savannah was more a strategy than a burning desire to see the place before I die. The logic? The kids could only last a maximum of eight hours in the car before a hierarchy emerged and people started to be marked for elimination. Not good. So Savannah it was. Lucky for me -card carrying member of the Residence Moms Club- there were a few Residence Inns (RI) to choose from. Little did I know what amazing stay we’d have at the the RI Historic District.

From the moment we pulled up in front of the charming brick building -nestled amongst art museums, city trolley tour stops and historic landmarks- we were made to feel like family. A friendly valet welcomed us, helped with bags and made the kids giggle (a very “luxury property” touch). The desk staff got us checked in, in a jiffy, then gave us a mini tour of the property, from the fire pit crowning the sparking pool and courtyard, to the full dining area and bar, the place as an “Old South” feel and true Southern Hospitality.Obviously the kids loved the pool most of all. That and they Eggs Florentine, grits and fresh waffles at the free breakfast bar. My kids love to eat. I enjoyed having a full kitchen (hello, eating out with a family of 6 can break the bank) stocked with groceries that the RI staff picked up for me and had delivered to our room, swoon.

The staff were so much more than hospitality workers, they became our personal tour guides, recommending places the locals go to eat, indulging my obsession with Johnny Mercer and “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” and pointing us to an awesome dolphin tour. We got to see WILD baby dolphins!

My absolute favorite part of our visit to Savannah (other than the Shrimp and Grits at The Boar’s Head Grill and Tavern on the Riverwalk) was the afternoon we spent at Bonaventure Cemetery. Yes, I drug my kids into a cemetery as a family activity, don’t judge. In the visitor’s center, most people grab a map and go, in a rush to go find the Bird Girl. We lingered, and boy was it worth it. We met a lovely Southern Gentleman, a  member of the historical society and a treasure. He entertained us with an oral history of Savannah in a way no book or website could. We learned about the founding of the city, why the cemetery is laid out the way it is, how it was inclusive of several religions at a time when this was a rarity in the south. Some of the stories he told us were simply jaw-dropping. Like the one about his 200 year old obelisk that made it’s way into the Georgia soil all the way from France.

How did it end up in Bonaventure, and why? Well it was purchased by a local businessman who wanted to save the particular plot it resides on, for the day he meets his eternal rest. Where does one go to purchase a several ton marble obelisk from France? Why, eBay of course! True story.

Bonaventure was also the perfect place for me to hone my very-amateur photography skills.

From encounters with wild dolphins to a not-so-spooky walking ghost tour, amazing eats to quaint cobblestone streets, Savannah is a magical place imbued with true Southern hospitality, steeped in history and the perfect place for a family adventure!

 

Disclosure: Our stay at the Residence Inn in Savannah was compensated as part of my participation in the Residence Inn Moms Club. I was under no obligation to give this property a favorable review. As ALWAYS my opinions are my own. That said, you should stay at this property, words really can not describe how wonderful our stay was.