Scottsdale has my ❤️ (Even when it’s cold and rainy)

Earlier this winter (or was it fall?) my boarding pass took me to Scottsdale. A favorite city of mine: laid back vibe, sunshine, desert landscape, no humidity, and sunsets only God could create.

I’ve only been to Scottsdale in July or August (don’t knock it to you try it. I’ve been summering in Scottsdale the last six years). On top of that, I’ve only stayed at one hotel, the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale. Why mess with a good thing?

Well, business called, and I ended up at The Phoenician.

Phoenician Front

What I liked about the resort: service and location. Everyone was going out of their way to be helpful and welcoming. I was even upgrade to a decent view and was able to check in at 11am, no problem. Did it help that I was a Starwood Preferred Guest member? I’m sure it did. Either way, I really have to commend Mora at the front desk and Jacque the concierge.  Instead of looking at a parking lot. I had a view of the hotel’s cactus garden 🌵

Phoenician Balcony

Other highlights of the property include its art collection. They even have a piece purchased from the Vatican. There is an audio tour that you can take … maybe I’ll do that next time.

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And yeah, I got a “selfie” with a hawk. She was quite beautiful and kind. (They use the hawk on the restaurant patio to deter birds from eating your lunch.)

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Location:  I’m used to staying out in North Troon, which is about a 30 minute ride to some of my favorite restaurants. It was a pleasant surprise that this property was a less than a $10 Uber ride to Old Town Scottsdale. I spent my free afternoon wandering around—and met this super friendly horse named Charlie and the Charros cowboys.

Downtown Scottsdale

Lunch was had an old Favorite, “FnB” (James Beard Foundation Best Chef of the Southwest Nominee). I discovered this place just last August with my husband and couldn’t wait to go back. Devoured Peruvian spring rolls & permission salad. Wish my conference was caterer by Chef Badman. But it wasn’t meant to be.

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FNB Food

A few things I wasn’t thrilled about:

Being indoors. The hotel is a corridor hotel with long connecting hallways and escalators that take you down to the restaurant/ballroom/pool level, making you feel that you are in the land of endless conventioneers. (In fairness, I was a conventioneer—name badge and all.)

The weather. It was warmer in Washington, DC in November than it was in Scottsdale. The first day was decent but after that…. it was rainy and 55 degrees. And I mean pouring rain. Then it was cold. When the sun did come out many of my colleagues planned on hitting the golf course. Spent a few pennies in the pro shop–as shorts were not going to cut it. (I know it’s not fair to complain about the weather, but this is why I love going there in August. If it rains it for 20-30 minutes, and then it’s sunny and 100 degrees again. Perfect pool weather.)

Phoencian Morning

Grumbling aside, I did have that one sunny somewhat warm day.  I headed to Camelback Mountain. Views that are nothing like back east.

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On my last day, I hosted an early morning work reception back at The Phoenician. I will say again that service was great. And what fun chandeliers.

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Then I left and returned to DC where it was warmer in November than Scottsdale. 🙃

The Only Street in Paris: Conversation with Elaine Sciolino

So what did I think of ‘The Only Street in Paris’? After reading Elaine Sciolino’s new book, I exclaimed to my husband: “I want to be Elaine when I grow up!” Not only has she written this gem of book — but she was once New York Times Paris bureau, an expert on Middle East issues, and has been interviewed by Terry Gross, to boot.

Yes, her book lets you know that she’s mastered the art of living in Paris. The city of lights is not just about what is seen on Avenue George V (though I’ve stayed at the Four Seasons of the same name and enjoyed every moment), it’s also about the community values that still thrive on streets like the Rue de Martyrs.

You can listen to the interview here.

Community is a priority and in our family — and I so enjoyed Elaine’s focus on this important aspect of Parisian life. Hopefully, I be able to be able to visit Yves, Gillery — and many others that make up the fraternity of Rue de Martyrs.

Go order the book at your local book or Amazon (or, better yet, go to a local books store).

Elaine Sciolino

The Only Street in Paris: Life on the Rue des Martyrs

http://www.elainesciolino.com/books/street-paris

twitter @elainesciolino

instagram: https://instagram.com/onlystreetinparis

 

 

Day at The Peninsula Paris

The Peninsula lobby.

The Peninsula lobby.

 

The chandelier gives the formal lobby a whimsical feel.

The chandelier gives the formal lobby a whimsical feel.

Beautiful Pari.  My first time in this glorious city.  Arriving early on the overnight from AirFrance, I dropped my luggauge where I was staying, and headed to The Peninsula Paris.

The flight was a rough — even in premuim economy. So the first order of business was to hit the spa and put an end to my exhaustion.

From the moment the car dropped us at entrance, the service was excellent. The Spa is located in the lower level of the hotel and a staff member escorted us to spa reception.

I chose the 60 minute massage (wish I booked the 90 minute!). Except for the occasional staff member, I had the locker and relaxation rooms to myself. All the facilities were well stocked and the service was fantastic.

Regretfully, I had not planned enough time to enjoy the pool. A reason to return.

Tea Presentation at The Peninsula Spa

Tea Presentation at The Peninsula Spa

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Refreshments in the relaxation room.

Refreshments in the relaxation room.

Re-energized, I was ready for lunch: a table at one of Paris’ most coveted restaurants, L’Oiseau Blanc, awaited. How did I grab such a great table without staying at the hotel? I’m sure it helped that I booked a spa appointment — and I chose lunch over dinner.

This was the view from my table — on the stunning roof terrace. It was my first time seeing the Eiffel Tour!

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The lunch was leisurely — time spent soaking in the sun and Parisian spirit. It’s a three-course menu with two options for each course. My husband and I were delighted with the meal. l especially liked the dessert. Pineapple poached in vanilla syrup with hazelnut cream.

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2015-06-12 14.19.092015-06-12 14.34.40After lunch, Chef Sidney Redel greeted us. Merci Chef! I had a great experience at The Peninsula Paris and hope to stay at the hotel on our next visit.

 

THE PENINSULA PARIS
19 Avenue Kleber, Paris, France
Telephone: +33 1 5812 2888
@peninsulaparis

China Chilcano, José Andres’ new Chinese-Peruvian spot

Not to brag, but my two toddlers eat aioli and mussels.  The only credit I can claim is taking them to Jaleo almost every Sunday.  Jose Andres: fun food and dining!

So, I was quite excited to hear about Jose’s latest concept China Chilcano, a Chinese-Peruvian restaurant in DC’s Penn Quarter.

As Tom Sietsema wrote in his first bite, it’s hard to get a table. Luckily, China’s manager came from our regular spot, Jaleo.  Another reason to like Jose: he treats regulars well.

We are early eaters (our toddlers never sleep) and arriving around 5:45 p.m., I was surprised to see standing room only at the bar and the restaurant hopping.

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There was lots of energy in the room.  We were seated at a booth with a great view of the dim sum and ceviche station.

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The Good Stuff:

We tried two cocktails: Chilcano & Cholotini – boy was the “tini” our favorite: fruity without being overly sweet.

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Followed by the HaKoe Dumplings and Pollo Antichucas:

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Now the star of the evening was the Longasta Kung Fu. Mr. Longasta was presented to us, but it didn’t take long for him to bid adieu.

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The before and after.
It’s a messy dish, especially if you are determined like me to leave not a morsel of meat left in the shells. (A hot towel after this dish would have been nice.)

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The Seco de Res – this stewed pork cheek was our favorite Peruvian dish.
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Finally, we finished with with two desserts: Supsiro Limena & Yan Wo Soup.  The Supsiro is the way to go: a sweet condensed milk custard with added texture from crunchy meringues .

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We cannot wait to go back and take the toddlers – maybe turn them on to new cuisine.

Disclaimer: Part of our meal was complimentary, but I hope you’ll find that I didn’t influence my opinion.

Maman: NYC’s Newest Charming French Café

Located right in between SoHo and Chinatown, Maman is easy to miss, situated a fair distance away from the bustle of Broadway shopping and the Chinatown markets. This casual French café serves all its food in convenient to-go boxes and just opened a few weeks ago. Despite this and its location, when I stepped in for a quick lunch, the place was pretty packed.

Just because the café is designed for take-away food doesn’t mean they’ve sacrificed quality. Quite the opposite, in fact. By limiting their menu to a few selections per day (which you can track on their Facebook page until the website is fully functioning), they’re able to use fresh, local ingredients to make large batches of delicious food all ready to serve.

Walking into the café, you’re met with rustic, whimsical décor (case in point: the amazing rabbit vase below), large bowls of fresh salad, and cases filled with warm pastries. Coffee and espresso drinks are a bit pricey but nothing too shocking compared to Starbucks, with a regular drip coffee costing $2.50 and a latte around $4. The real bargain here are the quiches and tartinettes, which start at $6 and peak at just $8.

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Now, the food itself. While the menu does change every day, there seem to be a few mainstays, at least for this season. I opted for the smashed avocado tartinette and a lemon-thyme madeleine with an iced coffee (price wasn’t listed, but it ended up being $4—a bit much, but well worth getting to use one of the adorable blue and white-striped straws!).
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Daniel Boulud Returns to DC with DBGB

I love French food.

So when Daniel Boulud’s casual French-American restaurant DBGB opened last month, I wasted no time in getting a reservation. Chef Boulud spent a few years in DC during the early 80’s. He’s finally returned to open his 15th restaurant.

Displayed on the walls are plates decorated by over 100 chefs, including the likes of Dominique Ansel, April Bloomfield, and Anthony Bourdain (check out a more detailed breakdown of the plates here). They were definitely a highlight of our conversation. We were seated at a table, but I recommend requesting a booth.

Service started out slowly, but the real reason we were there made up from that:

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How does one not order wine made just miles away from the chef’s home in France?

Boudin blanc to start (there are several sausages to sample). But when in a Boulud restaurant, go with the traditional presentation.

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Breast of duck with horseradish and beets, which were a nice complement.
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A Birthday Weekend at the Georgetown Ritz-Carlton Hotel

Washington, DC: the heart of American politics and power. But the city is not all government, museums and buses loaded with tourists.

One of DC’s Ritz-Carlton hotels is located in the heart of Georgetown, which combines a thriving nightlife with the historic charm of buildings from the 1700s. Within walking distance from great restaurants and shops, this was a great choice for our in-town getaway.

Planning/Reservations

Online reservation was easy. About a week out from our arrival, Elizabeth from hotel reservations personally emailed me to inquire about our stay. I took the opportunity to inform her of hub’s birthday and requested an early check-in. She said that they were fully committed the evening before but would do their best.

Impressions Matter!

We arrived pretty early (8:30 a.m.-ish) and the front desk manager greeted us at the door.

I really do like check in at this hotel. Danny brought us over to a desk to be seated. No standing in a line! So civilized–more hotels should adopt this policy.

Over the weekend, we saw the same front desk staff the entire time and were addressed by name. Really wonderful.

Danny mentioned hub’s birthday and immediately offered us mimosas. We had quite a late night before and declined. Still, he insisted on us having a complimentary breakfast.

Now to my favorite part of the hotel: the lobby, which would more accurately be described as “the living room”. It’s a wonderful warm space to relax, read a book, or grab a drink.

After our wonderful breakfast, the room was ready.

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Our room was located in the East Wing (which I preferred) on the 4th floor. We had a lovely view of Georgetown.

The bed was wonderful and the bathroom was spacious with separate shower and soaking tub. Asbury bath amenities were provided, including salts for the tub!
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East Coast Coffee Crawl #1: Everyman Espresso, NY

Here at From Ship to Shore, we’re starting a new series in which we try to find the best coffee shop in DC, New York, and wherever else our travels take us along the East Coast. First stop? Everyman Espresso in New York City’s East Village, which currently reigns as the #1 coffee shop in the country according to The Daily Meal and held the 2012 title of the Village Voice’s best espresso bar in New York. But does it live up to expectations? I stopped by to find out.

The coffee

I ordered a skim latte, which came out beautifully. The foam was one of the thickest I’ve ever had and felt luxurious to drink. The espresso itself was smooth and had a very light flavor. This would be a good option for someone who likes the idea of lattes, but can’t stand the strong taste of espresso. Despite lacking a strong taste, this espresso will give you a serious caffeine rush. It was even served at the perfect temperature: hot, but just cool enough to sip right away.

This place is pricy, though: I paid $5 for my 12 oz. latte. While I enjoyed every sip, this is the kind of place to save for a splurge rather than your daily cup of joe.

A quick note: if you’re planning to sip your drink at one of their tables, make sure to specify that you want the coffee to stay–they serve it in lovely glass mugs, which I only discovered after ordering!

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The food

Is it bad to say that I enjoyed the donut more than the latte? The latte was very good, don’t get me wrong, but this coffee cake donut blew my mind. It was rather small and fluffy, which made me feel a bit better about indulging in this pick-me-up. It wasn’t greasy like other donuts can be, nor was it too sweet or sticky. The traditional crumble on top as well as some chopped walnuts added the perfect crunch to this otherwise cloud-like pastry coated in a delicious, cinnamon-y glaze. It was quite honestly the perfect donut-coffee cake hybrid. And at $3, the price tag isn’t too bad either.

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The space

It’s an interesting space, that’s for sure. Upon first walking in, I wondered why seating was relatively sparse despite a large empty area near the back of the room. After my friend and I had sat down and gotten to work, we soon discovered why: Everyman Espresso shares a building with a small theatre company, CSC. And that door you see open in the back of the photo below? That’s the entrance to the backstage area. So, all of the newest equipment and sets had to be brought through the coffee shop and into the theatre. I found it interesting to watch racks of professional lights and set pieces wheel by, but I can understand if someone expecting a quiet reading space might be bothered by it. Of course, I’m sure this doesn’t happen every day, nor would this happen at their SoHo location, but you’ve been warned!

Otherwise, the coffee shop is modern and clean. The long benches along the white brick walls provide an interesting seating option, perfect for if you want to just pop in, chat with a friend for a few minutes, then leave. There were also several countertop stools against the window, providing a prime view for people watching.
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The Restaurant at the Getty: A Mountaintop Gem

I’m a total museum geek. I’m also a huge foodie. When the two mix, I’m pretty much in heaven no matter what. But when I went to The Restaurant at the Getty Museum during my stay in Los Angeles, I was completely blown away. I ate there with my best friend and my grandma, and the three of us immediately fell in love with this peaceful yet playful foodie paradise on a mountaintop.

What kind of restaurant is it? What’s the price point? 

The Restaurant serves modern American cuisine at moderate prices. If you want to eat at the Getty but don’t want to splurge on a meal, there are also several other cafes and dining carts all over the grounds. But, spoiler alert, The Restaurant is totally worth it.

How’s it look? Describe the restaurant’s aesthetic, any notable features, etc. First impressions.

For those who have never been to the Getty, it’s high up in the mountains. You actually have to take a short tram ride uphill to get to the museum. There are gorgeous views of Los Angeles no matter where you are on the museum grounds, but the views from The Restaurant are some of the best. The designers definitely took note of that and ensured that wherever you sit in the dining room, you can see the stunning landscape right from your table.

Like the rest of the museum, The Restaurant was primarily white and totally immaculate, but decals on the walls and small succulents at each table lent the space fun pops of color that made the whole space seem more fun. I honestly could have sat in the restaurant all day, enjoying the food, the views, and the light classical music playing in the background for hours.

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A Fresh Meal at Santa Monica’s True Food Kitchen

When I was visiting my friend in LA, I asked her what restaurant I absolutely had to go to during my stay. She immediately responded with “True Food.” After just looking up the menu online, I knew then and there I was in love. And once I actually arrived, True Food Kitchen did not disappoint. Here’s the details:

What kind of restaurant is it? What’s the price point? 

True Food Kitchen in Santa Monica is a health-conscious, organic restaurant that serves modern American food, often with a healthy or gluten-free twist. True Food looks to be developing into a small-scale chain, with its newest location opening up in Fairfax, VA (I can’t even express how excited I am), but that doesn’t seem to have any impact on the food. As for the price, it’s pretty average, with dishes ranging from $10-$20.

How’s it look? Describe the restaurant’s aesthetic, any notable features, etc. First impressions.

This place is massive. With high ceilings, oversized lighting, and bright colors, it makes quite the first impression. Despite the slightly industrial look, you’re reminded of True Food’s commitment to fresh, local ingredients in small details around the restaurant. From the fresh herbs and the list of seasonal, locally grown foods used to the bright green plants just about everywhere, the entire space feels refreshing and homey.

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How’s the wait staff? Are they attentive, good with kids, fast?
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