Friday, July 30, 2010

PreferDine: Dining and Drinks at Josie

Our next deal this week on PreferDine is at an all-time Santa Monica favorite: Josie. Chef Josie Le Balch has been making a name for herself there since she opened it in 2001 thanks to her constantly changing menu of Farmer's Market delights, including a one-off prix fixe menu every Wednesday night.

For PreferDine, we were able to secure a 50% off deal where you pay $30 for $60 worth of food and drinks at this inimitable Westside wonderland. You can read all about the myriad treats in store for you and buy the deal here, or read my text below to learn more about the restaurant.

THE DEAL

2424 Pico Boulevard
Santa Monica,CA 90405
Phone: 310-581-9888
www.josierestaurant.com

The prospect of dinner at Josie is sort of like venturing into a Choose Your Own Adventure book. Diners never know what new dishes they’ll find on Chef Josie Le Balch’s menu on a given evening—even Josie herself doesn’t know until she peruses the produce at the farmer’s market that morning. It’s that very adaptability, though, as well as an ability to cook in a variety of styles using an eclectic mix of ingredients that has made her eponymous restaurant a Santa Monica institution. Recent items on her ever-changing menu have included: Farmer’s Market nectarine and wild arugula salad with toasted Oregon hazelnuts and shaved Parmigiano Reggiano; grilled quail wrapped in applewood-smoked bacon, with sweet corn and bacon chowder; California white bass with zucchini ribbons, heirloom cherry tomatoes and basil sauce; and warm blackberry crumble pie with toasted almond crumble, rhubarb sauce and crème fraiche ice cream. With dishes like that, every meal is an adventure. The only hard part is choosing.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The restaurant has won the Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence every year since it has opened.

  • Josie learned to cook as a child by helping in the kitchen at her father’s French restaurant Chef Gregoire.

  • Le Balch and her pastry chef, Jonna Jensen, have worked together at Saddle Peak Lodge, Remi and The Beach House before opening Josie’s together in 2001.

  • Josie has been a guest chef on Gordon Ramsay’s “Hell’s Kitchen.”

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

PreferWine: Storybook Mountain Cabernet


Today's deal on PreferWine is a whopping 33% off Storybook Mountain Vineyards 2004 Seps Estate Cabernet Sauvignon.

Storybook is located in the far north of Napa Valley, and is actually known as a Zinfandel house--its Zins are among the highest-rated in the world, including by Robert Parker. Its hand-crafted creations have also earned it the title of "Artisan Winery of the Year" for four years running from Wine & Spirits.

We've only got a limited number of 3-packs on sale, and they will only be available through tomorrow, so if you're interested, go to the following link to read my write-up and buy the deal: http://www.preferdine.com/wine-deals/storybook_mountain-deal-24

Or read my text about the winery and this particular wine below.

THE DEAL

Storybook Mountain Vineyards
3835 Highway 128
Calistoga, CA 94515
(707) 942-5310
www.storybookwines.com

Once upon a time, there was a couple named Jerry and Sigrid Seps. In 1976, the two found an abandoned winery and surrounding vineyards in the far north of Napa Valley. They fell in love with the wild, neglected place, and purchased it. The Seps named their new winery Storybook Mountain Vineyards, and replanted it with Zinfandel vines, just as the original owners had a century earlier. By 1983, the winery released its first wine and won its first awards, and the Seps have lived happily ever after. Well, maybe there have been a few bumps along the road—it is the wine business after all—but this romanticized tale is not far from the truth, and proves that even in our hectic modern world, dreamers have a shot at a happy ending. Now you have the chance to taste a bit of magic with this special deal we’ve arranged for our members.

The 2004 Seps Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is the classic overachieving younger sibling. Sure, everyone talks about its flashier older sister—the Zinfandel that made this winery famous in the first place—but the Cabernet is a powerhouse in its own right. It just doesn’t realize it yet. Its unforgettable fragrances of black cherry and juicy blueberry only momentarily mask an undercurrent of spicy sandalwood and floral aromas that hearkens to the Cabernets of Bordeaux’s left bank. Like any younger sibling, though, just give it a little time to mature, and all its attractive qualities are sure to reach their full potential. That doesn’t mean that tastemakers haven’t already figured it out, though. Wine & Spirits named Storybook the “Artisan Winery of the Year” and then again from 2006-2009—an unprecedented streak—including it in its list of the top 100 wineries in the world.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Only 303 cases total of the 2004 Seps Estate Cabernet Sauvignon were made.

  • Storybook Mountain wines have been served to Nobel laureates and U.S. Presidents alike.

  • Storybook Mountain Vineyards started as a producer of Zinfandel, and its 1984 Reserve Zinfandel (only the second yearthe winery released wines) became the highest-rated Zin in history to that point.

  • The original owners of Storybook Mountain were German immigrants with the last name of Grimm, hence the whimsical name of the winery today, though the Grimm brothers’ family was in the wine business, not storytelling.

  • Storybook Mountain’s wine caves were tunneled 100 feet into the mountainside over a century ago in 1889.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

PreferDine: Upstairs 2

Our next deal is up on PreferDine today. Buy our $25 discount code, and it's good for $50 worth of food and wine at Upstairs 2, the restaurant above L.A.'s largest wine store, the Wine House. If you haven't been there for a while, you're probably in the majority, but take a look at my write up below because it will remind you of why you loved the restaurant in the first place!
Upstairs 2
2311 Cotner Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90046
(310) 231-0316
www.upstairs2.com
When you’re browsing the aisles of your favorite wine store searching for that perfect bottle (and that elusive partner with the perfect palate you’ve been looking for all your life), how often do you think to yourself, “if only I could pick out the perfect wine for dinner”? At Upstairs 2, so named because it’s above L.A.’s most comprehensive wine store, The Wine House, they take wine pairing so seriously that the menu of small plates is actually arranged by categories of wines they will pair best with. Pacific rockfish ceviche comes with a crisp and refreshing white. For seared diver scallops with lemon risotto cake and sherry gastrique there are fuller bodied whites; the grilled elk tenderloin with roasted fennel in a sherry glaze requires a robust red; and ostrich tenderloin in blackberry cayenne gastrique demands the nuanced elegance of an Old World. One of the best features of Upstairs 2 is their low corkage fees. It’s $10 if you buy your wine downstairs at The Wine House, but even if you bring it from somewhere else, it’s just $15—well below the average for this caliber of restaurant. Now all you need to do is find that perfect partner who’ll appreciate it.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The chef at Upstairs 2, Todd Barrie, has been cooking since he was a teenager, and opened his first restaurant in Miami at the tender age of 20.
  • Measuring up at over 20,000 square feet, the Wine House is Los Angeles’s largest wine store.
  • Chef Todd Barrie hosts a weekly Wine & Dine Wednesday four-course dinner with wine pairings from around the world chosen by sommelier Marilyn Snee. Each week presents a different varietal or region, and includes a brief discussion of the wines.

Monday, July 26, 2010

HotelChatter: Summer Suppers at Hollywood Roosevelt's Bridge

The other night, my HotelChatter editor and I decided to make an evening of it and hit a couple of hotel events around town. The first was right in my own backyard at the Mondrian, where Susan Sarandon brought the paddles and balls for the first ever SPiN Ping Pong Club event at the hotel.

After watching folks play a few rounds, and enjoying some of the specialty cocktails, we headed to our second destination of the evening, Thompson's Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, where we tried out dinner at the hotel's new outdoor restaurant, The Bridge, which is on the "Marilynne Monroe Bridge" above the hotel's famous Tropicana Bar, overlooking the pool.

All in all, we had a great time--though that was thanks as much to the company as to the food. I will say the ambiance was just delightful though, with candles flickering, and a cool evening breeze keeping things temperate. Find out more about The Bridge and what we had to eat by looking at my HotelChatter story at the link below.

Link: http://www.hotelchatter.com/story/2010/7/22/13363/0988/hotels/Summer_Suppers_at_Hollywood_Roosevelt_s_New_Restaurant_The_Bridge_

Friday, July 23, 2010

PreferDine: The Tar Pit

Things are moving fast at PreferDine, deals are selling out within hours, and the next fabulous feast is already up on the site!

This time around, we're getting you into Hollywood's new classic supper club, The Tar Pit, which opened late last year across the street from Chef Mark Peel's other famed Hollywood restaurant, Campanile. In case you're not familiar with it, you can read my LA Confidential review of it from the fall, but I've also concocted a whole new write-up for PreferDine.

I'm not sure if I love the cocktail list and food menu of updated American classics, or Tracy Beckmann's gorgeous interior design, but either way, a dinner out at The Tar Pit is definitely a quintessential L.A. experience. You've only got about two days to capitalize on this deal and purchase it from PreferDine, otherwise you'll have a while to wait before we bring it to you again!

Sign up for it here, and if you want to see my piece about the restaurant, check out the text below.

THE DEAL

The Tar Pit
609 North La Brea Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 965-1300
www.tarpitbar.com

We all have a certain picture of ourselves in our mind. When we’re out on the town, we like to think of ourselves as a perfectly coiffed, pomaded, tanned, and gentlemanly 21st-century version of Hollywood’s classic leading man, Cary Grant. It’s about time we had a fit setting to match our grand pretensions. That venue arrived last year in the form of Chef Mark Peel’s latest venture, The Tar Pit on La Brea. Its plush leather booths, Art Deco metal screens, crystal chandeliers, and small bandstand create the perfect background for an Old Hollywood night out on the town. As does its menu of updated American classics like Steak Diane with green peppercorn, sautéed mushrooms, Cognac lemon, butter, parsley and Madeira; Chicken à la King with egg noodle, morels and peas; pickled deviled eggs with shaved prosciutto; and fried oysters with remoulade and crisp ginger. Don’t just enjoy the food though—not when there are such novel twists on classic cocktails with fanciful names like the Lavender Lady with gin, lemon, Cointreau and lavender bitters; the Fields of Gold with bourbon, lemon, honey, orange juice and orange flower water; and the Daisy de Martinique with Rhum Agricole, lime, cane sugar and green Chartreuse. Cary Grant would have knocked back a couple of them before the appetizers even arrived…

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The glamorous décor of The Tar Pit is based on a supper club called The Dump from a 1936 screwball comedy starring Carole Lombard titled, My Man Godfrey.

  • Co-partner and General Manager Jay Perrin began working in the restaurant industry when he was 14 years old as a dishwasher in his native Lake Mary, Florida. Since then, he’s worked at Pinot Bistro, Patina, La Cachette Bistro, and Campanile (he was originally a waiter there in 1992), where he has been General Manager since 2004, and Wine Director since 2009.

  • Everyone buzzes about the Tar Pit’s potent potables, but there’s a lot to be said about the international wine list Perrin has assembled. All the bottles, from artisanal, boutique wineries around the world, are priced at just $38 to encourage guests to try something new.

LowFares: Qantas' Historic Milestones and Future Innovations

After the Melbourne City Guide, the Yarra Valley wine country feature, and the Sydney hotel guide, the final piece in my big LowFares Australia series this week is about Australia's de facto national airline, Qantas.

Marking its 90th anniversary this year, Qantas is the longest continuously operating airline in the world. Far from being a fossil, though, the airline has implemented a myriad of new and innovative programs not only to keep up with the times, but to become and stay an industry leader.

In my article, I let you in on a few secrets from the airline's past, and talk about several of their key initiatives--environmental, design, culinary, and technological--that help separate Qantas from the passel of other first-class international carriers. I think you'll be able to tell how much I enjoyed flying it from my section on their A380's, but read on to see what else makes the airline so special.

Link: http://www.lowfares.com/blog/2010/07/19/qantas-milestone-anniversary/

Thursday, July 22, 2010

PreferWine: Courtesan Wines

One of my favorite parts about working for PreferDine is that I get to do a lot of wine writing for its sister site, PreferWine, where we're also offering huge discounts on some hard-to-find wines.

Our first offer was for one of my favorite Sonoma Pinot Noir's from Hanzell Vineyards, but this time we negotiated an incredible deal on a hard-to-find boutique wine from Napa: Courtesan 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon.

You can read all about the wine, and sign up for the deal by clicking HERE, or you can see my write-up about the winery and the wine below and find out why I think this is the perfect "he said-she said" wine.

THE DEAL

Courtesan Wines
P.O. Box 30
Rutherford, CA 94573
Phone: (415) 713-5331
www.courtesanwines.com

Okay, we admit it. All we know about courtesans—those historical mistresses and lady escorts of yore—is based on that movie, Dangerous Beauty. Don’t remember it? We’re glad you asked! A beautiful young noblewoman from 16th-century Venice is groomed to be the mistress to nobles and kings. But her beauty is only part of her attraction. Educated, talented, clever—as soon as she begins practicing her new profession, she becomes a highly valued individual, leaving her formerly cloistered life and setting out to discover the world. Sigh, why couldn’t we have been born back then? At least these days we can enjoy another “pleasure worth paying for,” according to Courtesan Wines winemaker and proprietress Bridget Raymond’s coy motto. That’s what she calls the 100% Napa Cabernet Sauvignons she makes from grapes grown in Oakville’s rich soils at her boutique winery.

We like to think of Courtesan’s 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon as a perfect “he said-she said” kind of wine. The bright concentration of berry flavors like cassis and black cherry with a silky soupcon of cocoa will have the ladies purring, but the shapely tannins and long finish make this wine masculine enough for any mountain man. That’s why it’ll go equally well with a delicate parmesan spring vegetable risotto, or a hunk of simply grilled red meat.

Though a bottle of Courtesan’s Cabernet goes for $90, we’re offering you the chance to get a six-pack at the half-price of just $45 per bottle. If you want to take advantage of this special, though, you’ve to go hurry because they only have 30 six-packs of this rare find, and they’re going to get snapped up fast.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Proprietress and Winemaker Bridget Raymond is a Napa native, raised in Rutherford playing amongst the vines in her family’s vineyards.

  • Courtesan wines come from Oakville, which is only two acres wide, but still a Napa powerhouse thanks to meticulous winemaking practices, world-class terroirs and deeply dedicated winemakers.

PreferDine: FIG

We're coming out of the gate strong at PreferDine with yet another deal at a fabulous Los Angeles restaurant: FIG at the Fairmont in Santa Monica. It's 50% off discount--you pay $30 for the code, and get $60 worth of food when you head into the restaurant. And trust me, the food is so good, you'll easily rack up a $60 bill, if only by sipping through a few of their famous fig mojitos.

Want to know more about the restaurant, read my write-up on the site, or check out the text below, and in the meantime, SIGN UP HERE to receive these unbelievable deals!

THE DEAL

FIG Restaurant

101 Wilshire Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 319-3111
www.figsantamonica.com

Every upscale restaurant in Los Angeles these days seems to be about farmer’s market cuisine, but only one takes it to the next level with an official “Forager” on staff who travels California searching for farmer’s market fare to supply the menu: FIG at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica.The Forager (or helper elf, as we like to think of him) ensures that Chef Ray Garcia gets only the freshest produce and proteins on his menu for dishes like Pacific mussels cooked in Chablis with tarragon; scarlet quinoa with chard, roasted carrots, apples and Marcona almonds; and short rib and pancetta meatloaf with classic mashed potatoes, carrots and broccoli di cecco. Whether it’s just for a fig mojito and a charcuterie plate at the huge pewter bar, or a full-on dinner date, taking your best gal here is like dining with your favorite farmer’s daughter and picking the produce fresh from your very own vegetable patch…you know, without actually having to get your hands dirty. If you’re solitary, there’s always the communal table, where you can be sure of making new friends by the time dessert comes around, especially if you’re willing to share the signature FIG bars, which are sort of like enormous Fig Newtons with a dollop of tangy Greek yogurt ice cream on the side.

Just as FIG has its own Forager, we’ve rooted around for the best deal for you. Designed for two people, the special we arranged is perfect for a half-price date night. Pay $30 now, then when you head into the restaurant for dinner you will receive $60 off your meal.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • At the bottom of FIG’s menu, you can read a quick report card about what’s in season at the farmer’s market now, and what is coming up. That way you can anticipate what there might be to eat the next time you dine here.

  • The restaurant’s extensive sustainability efforts include filtering water in-house, composting, making hand soap out of the used fryer oil, and having a bicycle valet.

  • During the weekends this summer, FIG opens a poolside hot dog cart serving up simple classics, and more gourmet dogs with toppings like carnitas and green chili lentils, as well as a few specialty cocktails to cool you down on the hottest sunny days.

LowFares: Sydney Hotels

The final destination I hit during my big trip to Australia in May and June was Sydney. I was flying out through the city anyway, so I decided to spend a few days there getting to know the place and checking out the hotel scene for the third piece in my Australia series on LowFares this week: a Sydney hotels guide.

Though the main destination for the series was Melbourne, I thought it would be a nice change of pace to cover a little more ground and talk about a couple of my accommodations instead of choosing a single Hotel of the Week to feature. So in the piece I talk about the Diamant Hotel in Kings Cross, and the Sydney Hilton, as well as mentioning a few other hotels in a "best of the rest" section at the end. Sydney has great hotel options for every taste and budget, and I got to quite a few of them, so enjoy the piece and let me know if you need suggestions for your next stay in Sydney!

Link: http://www.lowfares.com/blog/2010/07/19/spotlight-on-sydney-hotels/

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

LowFares: Fabulous Wines and Times in the Yarra Valley

Yesterday, I posted my Melbourne City Guide from my Australia series on LowFares this week. Today, I'm continuing the series with a quick guide to spending a couple days in the nearby Yarra Valley--one of Australia's most famous wine regions, and a place that produces a wide variety of high-quality wines.

Since it's just 45 minutes from Melbourne, the Yarra makes for a perfect day-trip while visiting the city, but I've included a bunch of restaurant, hotel and non-tasting activity suggestions in the piece as well in case you want to make it a larger part of your Australian itinerary. I've also mentioned all the wineries I visited, plus a few others I spied from afar, or whose wines I've tasted and admired.

I didn't have a huge word count with this, so I'm sure there are plenty more fantastic places to enjoy in the Valley. Got one in mind that I left out? Let me know! Otherwise, enjoy my article by clicking on the link below.

Link: http://www.lowfares.com/blog/2010/07/19/yarra-valley-wine-tours-hot-air-balloons-and-charming-bbs/

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

LowFares: Melbourne City Guide

I know you probably thought that you'd already seen all my coverage of my recent trip to Australia for the Australian Tourism Exchange in Adelaide, but prepare for another flurry of articles since I have four being published this week on LowFares.

A couple weeks ago I wrote up a Foodie's Dream Day in Melbourne for TravelAge West. If you read the piece, you could see what a big day packed with activities you could have in one of Australia's most dynamic destinations. This week as part of my LowFares Australia series, however, I decided to really let loose with all the fun things I got to do in Melbourne and write up an entire city guide, complete with hotel, restaurant, activity and shopping recommendations. I think you'll see that my first article, while in-depth about the activities and places I discussed, really just scratched the surface of this amazing, cosmopolitan city.

Not sure what I mean? Take a look at the guide for yourself by looking at the link below. If you've been to Melbourne and have more suggestions than the ones I was able to mention, let me know! And if you haven't been, but are looking forward to a trip there at some point, let me know what you think, too. In the meantime, enjoy!

Link: http://www.lowfares.com/blog/2010/07/19/destination-of-the-week-melbourne-city-guide/

Monday, July 19, 2010

PreferDine Launches Today!

Thanks to some Facebook posts, Tweets, and a mass email I sent out, many of you might know that I've started working with a new side called PreferDine that will be offering amazing deals at some of Los Angeles's best restaurants including Melisse, FIG and Campanile.

Now for the exciting part: the site launched today! We've posted the first two deals, one for restaurants, and one for wine. Our first restaurant is one of the first Asian fusion restaurants in LA, Mako, right on Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills, and if you've lived in LA for a while and haven't tried it, you should be sure to get there right away. If it's an old favorite, you should stop by to see what's new, because the menu has all sorts of interesting new additions.

The first wine we're featuring is a Pinot Noir from one of my all-time favorite wineries in Sonoma: Hanzell Vineyards. Hanzell is one of Sonoma's most historic wineries, and they produce really fantastic Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. It's also situated in a beautiful building on a gorgeous plot of land high above the Valley, so it's one of the best places to visit in Sonoma.

In the meantime, sign up for PreferDine by going to their site today: http://www.preferdine.com, and go to the site to check out the deals by clicking on the links below!
Mako: http://bit.ly/dAKZkh

Hanzell: http://www.preferdine.com/wine-deals?sms_ss=twitter

Jaunted: Lima Restaurant Roundup

During my trip to Peru last week, I stayed in Lima for a couple days, and while I was there, I was treated to some fantastic meals out, including at one of Gaston Acurio's restaurants. For those of you who haven't jumped on the Peruvian cuisine trend that seems to be burgeoning in the U.S. at the moment, Acurio is basically the South American chef to know. He's not only put nuevo peruano cooking on the map, but he's also launched a restaurant empire that stretches up and down the Americas.

In addition to La Mar in Lima, which is famous for its seafood, I also ate at one of his restaurants in Cusco called ChiCha, where I enjoyed the moo shoo guinea pig. I don't talk about that in this article, but I do mention two other restaurants du jour in Lima that have opened in recent months and that are serving up some really fascinating dishes that you won't find anywhere else. It's not just all about ceviche anymore--there are some very exciting things happening on the dining scene south of the equator, and a trip to Peru these days is as much about the foodie experience as about mystical Incan journeys.

To find out more about what I ate where, take a look at the link to my article on Jaunted below.

Link: http://www.jaunted.com/story/2010/7/15/194251/433/travel/Where+to+Eat+in+Lima+Now%3A+Our+Top+Three+Recommendations

Friday, July 16, 2010

Frontiers: Waterloo & City Review

My most recent review for Frontiers IN/LA is on Waterloo & City, the newest gastropub in town in one of the areas that seems to be transforming the fastest--Culver City west of the 405.

I've had the pleasure of eating Chef Brendan Collins' food before at The Hall at the Palihouse Hotel, but he left that kitchen a while ago, and now we all know what he's been up to! The menu is still a little bit of a mishmash of cuisines and sensibilities, but everything was pretty darn delish, and I got to write a round up of some of my favorite places for the dessert du jour, bread pudding, so this was a pretty great assignment.

To read more about the restaurant and one of my favorite desserts, take a look at the story by clicking on the link below.

Link: http://www.frontiersweb.com/Nightlife/Restaurants/Story.aspx?ID=1251739

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Jaunted: What Not To Do In Machu Picchu

Most travel guides will tell you what you need to see and do in a destination, but on Jaunted, we like to tell you what NOT to do, in order to avoid some common tourist mistakes and make the most of your time while traveling.

So this week, I was asked to write about the 5 things not to do in Machu Picchu based on my trip to Peru last week, and I think I came up with some doozies that will save you both time and money on a trip there--and ensure that you get to use the bathroom when you need to!

Find out what I'm talking about by clicking on the link to my story below...

Link: http://www.jaunted.com/story/2010/7/14/04049/6995/travel/What+Not+To+Do+In+Machu+Picchu%3A+The+Top+5+Tourist+Mistakes

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Jaunted: Inside British Airways' Terraces Lounge at SFO

You might have read about my trip on LAN's inaugural San Francisco-Lima flight last week on Jaunted (or yesterday here on my site). Before I got on the flight, though, I was invited to spend some time in the British Airways Terraces Lounge at SFO International Airport (I had a little layover between my flight up from LA and the flight down to Peru).

BA is a member of the oneworld Alliance of airlines that includes LAN and American, so as a LAN Premium Business Class passenger, I was allowed to take advantage of the facilities and its amenities.

While there, I took a gallery worth of photos, tested out the business center and the wandering WiFi, and munched on a bunch of the snacks. And, okay, yes, I had a glass of Pommery champagne, but only because the staff forced it on me. To find out more about the lounge and check out my photos, take a look at my story on Jaunted at the link below.

Link: http://www.jaunted.com/story/2010/7/11/204321/411/travel/Inside+the+British+Airways+Terraces+Lounge+at+San+Francisco+International

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

HotelChatter: High End High Altitude Casa Cartagena in Cusco

While I was in Peru last week, I stopped in Cusco for a night at the very end of the trip. When I told my friends who'd been there that I was headed for the high-altitude city at the edge of the Andes, all of them asked if I was staying at Orient-Express' famous Hotel Monasterio.

Unfortunately, I didn't have that pleasure (though I did pop in there for a quick site inspection--beautiful!), but I can't say I was disappointed because...I loved the hotel where I stayed even better!

Right next door to the Monasterio, in fact, the Casa Cartagena is Cusco's newest boutique luxury property, with just 16 rooms housed in a picturesque 17th-century mansion, that was itself built on an Incan sacred site. In contrast to the classical colonial architecture, the decor was all modern and hip, with groovy lamps, leather bed headboards, huge minimalist soaking tubs, and all kinds of other lovely touches.

Take a look at my HotelChatter story about the place by clicking on the link below, and you can take a video walk-through tour of my room and see photos of some of the others, including the one where Susan Sarandon stayed last year with her family.

Link: http://www.hotelchatter.com/story/2010/7/12/22343/8620/hotels/High_Altitude_Means_High_End_at_Cusco_s_New_Casa_Cartagena

Monday, July 12, 2010

Jaunted: Flying LAN's Inaugural SFO-Lima Flight

My friends keep marveling at how much travel I'm doing these days for work--especially when I get to visit such far-flung destinations as Australia and Peru in the same month. Even I'm a little dazed by all the jet-setting, though I've also been thoroughly enjoying it, and getting a lot of writing work out of it.

The first article to come out of my trip to Peru last week--and the reason I was invited to go there in the first place--was this quick article I wrote about LAN Airlines' inaugural flight on its new direct San Francisco to Lima route.

It's sort of a mash-up of play-by-play account of the events leading up to the flight, an in-flight review of the airline's Premium Business Class, and some speculation about why the airline implemented this new service and what passengers can expect in the coming days.

Stay tuned for more coverage of my travels in Peru, but for now, you can read all about how I got there by reading my article at the link below!

Link: http://www.jaunted.com/story/2010/7/5/19618/27661/travel/Landing+in+Peru+Onboard+LAN%27s+New+SFO-Lima+Flight

Jaunted: Sydney Harbour Express BridgeClimb

My trip to Australia last month was packed full of amazing experiences, but one of the best--and the one that is probably the most accessible to your average tourist--was the Sydney Harbour BridgeClimb I did the first day I was in Sydney.

Not only did I luck out with some perfectly crisp sunny weather (as you'll see from my Facebook photo), but I also got to do the newest climb that fit perfectly into my tight schedule: The Express Climb. As opposed to the other climb experiences, it only takes a little over 2 hours, so I was able to do it in the morning then head off to my other appointments.

I wrote about the experience, its advantages and disadvantages, and the fun along the way for Jaunted on Friday, so take a look and decide if this is something you might like to do on your next trip down under!

Link: http://www.jaunted.com/story/2010/7/8/203238/8197/travel/Sydney+Harbour%27s+New+Express+BridgeClimb+is+Made+for+Travelers+with+Little+Time

Saturday, July 10, 2010

TravelAge West: Foodie Dream Day in Melbourne

My first TravelAge West article was about ATE, the Australian Tourism Exchange in Adelaide where I learned about all the new tourism experiences, properties and vacations being offered in Australia. One of my follow-ups is about the preceding few days I spent in Melbourne exploring that fantastic city's unparalleled foodie scene. While talking with my editor at TAW about what I saw, did, liked and ate in Melbourne, we settled upon a particular story idea: A Foodie's Dream Day Out in Melbourne.

In it, I include a few of my favorite spots for meals and snacks, as well as some more interactive activities like tours of Queen Victoria Market, Prahran Market, and a trip up to the 88th-story Eureka SkyDeck.

All in all, it turns out to be a pretty busy day, packed full of exciting activities. But for those of you who still think these trips I take are just glorified vacations, one look at the schedule should convince you that I am hard at work while globetrotting!

Take a look at my suggestions for the perfect day out in Melbourne by clicking on the link below, and be sure to let me know what you think!


Link: http://www.travelagewest.com/aunzsp/article_ektid44198.aspx

Friday, July 9, 2010

LowFares: Troubadours and Tasting Rooms in the Wachau

Since Austria is the Destination of the Week on LowFares, and I already wrote about Vienna and Schoenbrunn palace, I decided to write my third feature article on the gorgeous Wachau region along the Danube Valley, which is packed full of history and renowned for its wonderful wines, especially Riesling and Gruner Veltliner.

If you've seen some of my articles on Austria already, you might have come across a few other articles I've written about this gorgeous region of castle ruins, baroque abbeys, dramatic vineyards and romantic history. I've written about everything from its significance to the wine world, to dramatic episodes from its long and storied past. If you haven't seen my pieces, you can take a look at them here!

But before you do, check out my most recent on in the LowFares summer issue by clicking on the link below, and let me know what you think!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

LowFares: Schoenbrunn

If you read my LowFares City Guide to Vienna from yesterday, you'll know that the city has plenty of wonderful museums and sights for the curious of intellect...and the art history snobs! But one place that almost everyone who comes to Austria's capital visits is the grandiose, distinctively yellow palace of Schoenbrunn. It was built to rival Versailles, and though its scale doesn't quite match, it's pretty close. The tour of the interior rooms is also pretty spectacular, and the expansive park grounds are a pleasure to wander, making it the perfect respite from a hectic summer day in Vienna.

To read more about what makes Schoenbrunn such a special place, how to get there, what you'll see, and where to go, plus a few tips on catching summer concerts in the Orangerie, take a look at my Lowfares article on it by clicking on the link below.

Link: http://www.lowfares.com/blog/2010/07/05/schoenbrunn-lessons-in-history-and-lavish-living/

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

LowFares: Vienna City Guide

If you've been following my travel writing, you know that I've had a lot of opportunities over the past year to write about the time I spent in Austria last summer.

Well, it seems that this is the trip that keeps on paying off because I've just written a whole new series of articles about Vienna and the Wachau for LowFares' summer issue.

I'll be posting links to these articles here on my blog over the next few days, so be sure to stay tuned for follow-ups on Schoenbrunn palace and wine-tasting in the Wachau. But for now, take a look at this quick city guide to Vienna that includes the best hotels, restaurants, museums (and even a hammam and tea salon!) that I saw during my fabulous trip there last year. Got more suggestions for what to include? Let me know! Until then, take a look by clicking on the link below, and let me know what you think.

Link: http://www.lowfares.com/blog/2010/07/05/destination-of-the-week-vienna-city-guide/

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Frontiers: Barbecuing with Ted Allen

You might recognize Ted Allen as one of the former stars of one of Bravo's first hit shows, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, or possibly from his new show on Food Network, Chopped. He's also a brand ambassador for Robert Mondavi Private Selection wines. He's a busy guy!

But not too busy to sit down with me and give me a few tips for a Frontiers article about what everyone can do to make sure their summer parties are big hits, especially the annual 4th of July barbecue.

Not only are his tips and hints helpful, but he also includes several sure-fire recipes to get you started. So whether you've had a party in the works for months, or are throwing things together last-minute this year, take a look at the article, because everyone can find something useful (and fun!) in it.

Link: http://www.frontiersweb.com/Features/Highlights/Story.aspx?ID=1245874

Jaunted: Where to Eat in Lima

My third Jaunted article this week on my trip to Peru is all about restaurants, restaurants, restaurants. Peruvian cuisine is one of THE biggest food trends these days in the U.S., and it's no wonder, since it was all about fusion before fusion became the hallmark of chic American restaurants. Peru's location and history, as well as its diverse ecology all mean that it takes advantage of the seafood bounty of the Pacific, savory Asian influences, exotic jungle produce, and all kinds of agricultural odds and ends from the Andes (over 3,000 types of potatoes!).

After actually visiting Peru and sampling a wide range of dishes in some fabulous restaurants, I got a great snapshot of both the country's culinary history, as well as the major trends that are taking hold today. So for my final piece on Jaunted this week, I wrote up three of the restaurants we tried in Lima and mention a few of the most special dishes to give you an idea of just what awaits you on your next trip down there. I hope you enjoy as much as I did--buen provecho!

Link: http://www.jaunted.com/story/2010/7/15/194251/433/travel/Where+to+Eat+in+Lima+Now%3A+Our+Top+Three+Recommendations