Friday, December 27, 2013

Jetsetter: Westin Palace Madrid

On a quick visit to Spain last year, I spent two nights at the majestic Westin Palace in Madrid. Originally built in 1912, this opulent grande dame keeps up her appearance under the auspices of Starwood these days.

The standout feature here is La Rotonda restaurant with its gorgeous Belle Epoque glass dome, but the hotel's location (catty corner from both the Prado and the Thyssen-Bornemisza) is unrivaled in the Spanish capital.

Read my full Jetsetter write-up here: Westin Palace Madrid.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Points Guy: Intercontinental Hanoi Westlake Hotel Review

After a couple days in Ho Chi Minh City and a quick beach trip to Da Nang, I headed to the capital of Vietnam, Hanoi.

While there, I stayed at a beautiful Intercontinental property on Westlake, a vast freshwater lake in the city that is surrounded by some of the area's most well-to-do neighborhoods.

The hotel itself was very nice, if a bit removed from the historical city center, but taxis were cheap and plentiful, so it was easy to get around, and the lake views were stunning.

For my full review, read my post on The Points Guy: Hotel Review - Intercontinental Hanoi Westlake

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Points Guy: Park Hyatt Saigon Hotel Review

The third country on my Asian adventure was Vietnam, where my first stop was Ho Chi Minh City - or Saigon, as it was formerly called.

While there, I spent three nights at the Park Hyatt Saigon while during the days I got out and explored the city's sights including the Reunification Palace, and a cruise along the river plus some fabulous meals out at restaurants like the Temple Club and Cuc Gach Quan.

For my full review, go here: Hotel Review - Park Hyatt Saigon

Friday, November 29, 2013

Frontiers: Los Angeles New Restaurants 2013

As we come to the end of 2013, it's time to look back on all the delicious developments on the LA food scene and as part of that restrospection, Frontiers asked me to write a roundup of the most exciting new restaurants in Los Angeles.

There were tons of great new openings in the city this past year, and not nearly enough space to cover them all here, but the ones that did make it in include splashy scene-setters like Trois Mec, Bucato, Rao's, Petty Cash Taqueria, Church Key, Hinoki & the Bird and more.

For the full list and why I think each is drool-worthy, check out my article: Cuts Above the Rest - LA's New Culinary Contenders.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Points Guy: Park Hyatt Siem Reap Review

One of the more exciting recent hotel openings was that of the new Park Hyatt Siem Reap in Cambodia. The hotel used to be the historic Hotel de la Paix d'Angkor, and Hyatt engaged the services of hotel designer extraordinaire Bill Bensley to redo the landmark property.

Luckily, it was open by the time I got to Siem Reap to visit Angkor Wat earlier this month and I got the chance to spend three nights at this beautiful new hotel. It's a bit pricey for Cambodia, but it can also be a great place to use your Hyatt points, and the spa is fantastic.

Read my full review here: Hotel Review - Park Hyatt Siem Reap

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Frontiers: LA Dining Trends - Juice Bars, New Restaurants and More

For one of the last Frontiers issues of the year, we are covering dining trends in and around LA including the latest juice craze and all the new restaurants from chefs we already know and love.

Included in the juice roundup are a couple recent faves like Clover and Pressed Juicery, while in the second acts article discuss chefs like Michael Cimarusti (Connie & Ted's), David LeFevre (Fishing With Dynamite), and David Myers (Hinoki & the Bird) among others.

For the full article, check it out here: #NowTrending - Dining Trends of the LA Foodie.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Points Guy: Thai Airways A380 First Class Review

The second part of my first class award itinerary from New York to Bangkok was a 10-hour flight on Thai Airways A380 from Frankfurt to Bangkok.

I snagged seat 1K at the very front of the plane's top deck and after flying all night from New York to Frankfurt then spending the day working at the airport, I couldn't wait to relax, eat, sleep and start the day fresh in Bangkok. The glass of Dom Perignon 2003 I was handed as I sat down didn't hurt either!

Though it's not the newest first class out there, Thai's is still quite comfortable and spacious and I got a great night's sleep in. The food was also pretty good and the service attentive and friendly, so all in all it was a very nice experience.

Read my full review (and about the caviar course!) here: Flight Review - Thai Airways A380 First Class

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Points Guy: Lufthansa First Class Lounge Frankfurt

On my multi-continent flight from New York to Bangkok via Frankfurt, I had a long layover at the Frankfurt airport. That wasn't so bad since I had a lot of work to catch up on between flights and could spend my time in Lufthansa's First Class Lounge (not the First Class Terminal, unfortunately!).

While it might have been more fun to get out to the city, since I was only there from 6:00am-2:00pm, I didn't think I'd have too much time to actually do anything cultural there, so I just stuck around the airport instead and got to know the lounge amenities really well.

I took a shower, had breakfast, did some work, got a massage (oh, didn't I mention they have a spa there?), had a snack and some champagne, and then it was time to board my Thai flight to Bangkok.

Want to learn more - like how there's a huge water menu and all kinds of strange European candies? Read my full review here: Lufthansa First Class Lounge Terminal 2

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Points Guy: Flight Review - Lufthansa 747 First Class

A couple months back, a friend of mine invited me to come visit her in Thailand, so I thought about it - where I'd like to go, what to see, how long to stay - and started looking into award tickets.

She suggested November, and after a quick search, I found a first class award itinerary from New York to Bangkok via Frankfurt on Lufthansa and Thai. The Lufthansa portion was actually in business class, but award space usually opens up last-minute, so I went ahead and booked my outbound ticket - and sure enough, a couple days before I was scheduled to depart, I was able to switch my seat to first class.

I've had some amazing experiences in the sky, from Air New Zealand Business Premier to Cathay Pacific business class, but I was even more excited to try Lufthansa's legendary 747 first class - there's a seat and a bed! So it was with lots of enthusiasm and a spring in my step that I climbed the stairs to the top deck of the plane, grabbed a glass of champagne and settled in for the flight. I was only sorry I didn't last longer!

Read my full review of the experience of one of the best first class products in the sky here: Flight Review - Lufthansa 747-400 First Class

Monday, October 28, 2013

LA Confidential: Scotch Cocktails in Los Angeles

Although I tend to tipple wines more than beer or spirits, when I do need a good stiff one - a drink, that is - my eye immediately scans a cocktail menu for the selection of whiskies and more often than not, I settle on a scotch.

Although the peaty, smokey flavor of some scotches is too much for your average drinker, I find scotch intoxicating in more ways than one because, like wines, each one expresses its terroir - its origins, its distillation process and its aging characteristics, and  it's that core of authenticity and uniqueness that draws me to these fine brown spirits.

I'm not the only one, either. Once a spirit drunk only on its own, multi-talented mixologists around Los Angeles have been incorporating scotch into captivating cocktails for some time now, so I decided to go out and sample a few for myself as well as finding out what goes into them. I talked to the barsmiths at Kendall's Brasserie and Seven Grand downtown as well as at Ten Pound at the Montage Beverly Hills to get their takes on scotch...and had a little hair put on my chest in the meantime!

Read my full LA Confidential article on scotch here.

For my experiences in scotch tasting, check out these other posts I've written:

Scotch Tastings at Next Door Lounge

The Best Whiskey Cocktails in Los Angeles

Destination Guide to Edinburgh

LA's Single Spirits Bars

Friday, October 25, 2013

LA Confidential: Gourmet Mac 'N Cheese

Can I let you in on a little secret? I actually hate mac 'n cheese. I would never order it for myself when out at a restaurant.

But remember that whole comfort food trend that blew up right around the same time the recession hit back in 2008 where every single restaurant seemed to have a mac 'n cheese menu special - mostly with grated parmesan or truffles or bacon? That was like hell for me because, as a restaurant reviewer, of course I had to try it, and as I said before I hate it.

All I would think is, each bite is an extra 5 minutes on the treadmill tomorrow. Sigh. That said, I would still eat it and I can still appreciate what's good about a dish of mac 'n cheese, and I never say no to truffles, so don't feel too bad for me.

Well, the old dish (it originated in the 14th century!) is still going strong, and I think I'll be plied with various versions as long as I'm a food writer, so we decided to cover some of the best gourmet iterations of this simple treat in the current issue of LA Confidential.

The versions I found at restaurants like Bouchon, MessHall, The Belmont and Melisse, incorporate everything from lobster to roasted garlic to pork belly, and all kinds other tasty morsels, so if this is your dish, read my full article and start making your reservations.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

LA Confidential Magazine: Sugarfish Beverly Hills

This was a fun little article I wrote about the opening of the newest Sugarfish outpost in Beverly Hills and about the sushi chef, Kazunori Nozawa, diminutive of stature but outsize in influence who parlayed the cult following of his Studio City hole-in-the-wall sushi joint into a restaurant fiefdom.

What draws people to Sugarfish is the simplicity of the menu prepared with the freshest fish and Nozawa's signature rice blend and unique sauces, and the new location has a few special features including a private omakase dining room (sort of a restaurant-within-a-restaurant) and an outdoor patio with a wine and sake bar while you wait for your table - no reservations!

Read my full article here.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Frontiers: Petty Cash Taqueria

I've been following chef Walter Manzke's career for a while now, from Bastide to Church & State to his latest venture (for the moment, until he opens up yet another new restaurant, Republique, later this month), Petty Cash Taqueria - an upscale ode to the Tijuana taco joints of his youth.

This isn't your average Mexican restaurant by any means. Some of the specialties I enjoyed were pig's ear nachos, charcoal-grilled octopus tacos with chile de arbol, peanuts, jack cheese and avocado, and the the Y’allAintEvenKnowIt spicy margarita with lemon, curacao, añejo tequila and habanero tincture.

Buen provecho!

Read my full review here.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Points Guy: Standard High Line New York Review

I ended up extending my stay in New York City last month, so for the final night of my trip, I was without a hotel room.

I decided to test out a new(ish) app called Hotel Tonight, where you can book last-minute hotel rooms at a discount (though during such a busy week in New York, prices were still high). If you sign up for Hotel Tonight, be sure to enter my promo code, EROSEN11 for $25 in credit on your first stay.

The hotel I ended up reserving is one of the buzzier properties in the city these days, the Standard High Line. It sits on the far west side of Manhattan over the High Line park, and has great views of the city and the Hudson.

I wasn't terribly impressed with my room, but the restaurants/bars were cool and the overall feel of being in a hub of social activity was just very "New York," if you know what I mean.

Check out all the details and my full review here: Hotel Review: The Standard New York City on Hotel Tonight.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Points Guy: Soho House New York Review

Apart from its social club and restaurant elements, Soho House also has some properties with a hotel part to them, and the club in New York is one of them.

I got the chance to stay there last month when I was in New York and wrote up the experience in a review for The Points Guy, which you can find here: Hotel Review - Soho House New York

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

JustLuxe: Castell Son Claret Historic Luxury Hotel in Mallorca

Over the summer, I took a great trip to Europe that including wine-tasting in Rioja and then some sunshine and beach time on the Balearic islands Menorca and Mallorca, just off the coast of Spain in the Mediterranean.

This was actually my second visit to Mallorca, and while there this time, I stayed at a gorgeous newly opened luxury property up in the idyllic hill country of Es Capadella about 45 minutes outside of Palma.

The hotel is actually housed in an 18th-century manor house and has enormous, beautifully appointed rooms, an amazing pool area, a few different restaurants including one by a Michelin-starred chef, and intimate spa with a subterranean pool with a living wall and a crystal-speckled hammam, and tons of other amenities. I'll spare you the details here, but if you want to learn more, read my full review on JustLuxe.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Jetsetter: Ritz-Carlton South Beach

I headed down to South Beach last spring for a friend's birthday party and got the chance to stay at this beautiful hotel that is now housed one of iconic architect Morris Lapidus's flagship projects from the '50's.

I cover the rooms, the restaurants and everything else you'd want to experience on your next Miami getaway.

Read my full write up here: Ritz-Carlton South Beach.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Los Angeles Confidential Magazine: LA Loves Alex's Lemonade

For the past four years, superstar chef Suzanne Goin, her business partner, Caroline Styne (together the two operate AOC, Lucques, Tavern), and her husband, chef David Lentz (of The Hungry Cat), have gathered chefs and mixologists from all over the world for an event called LA Loves Alex's Lemonade which raises funds to combat pediatric cancer.

To read more about the event, check out my article in LA Confidential: Chefs Join Together For A Cause: LA Loves Alex's Lemonade

The Points Guy: Official Opening of Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX

The big travel news in LA this month is the opening (finally!) of the new Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX.

The new terminal has 18 new gates to accommodate all the big boys - A380's, 747-8's and 787's as well as some great new lounges and a Great Hall that has tons of shops, restaurants and more.

I can't wait to fly through there, but in the meantime, check out my post about the opening on The Points Guy here: Official Opening of Tom Bradley International Terminal – LAX

Friday, September 20, 2013

Frontiers: Connie & Ted's Review

Chef Michael Cimarusti is one of LA's best-known chefs thanks to the great meals he makes at his fine-dining Melrose restaurant, Providence, but this summer, he opened up an upscale ode to the seafood shacks of his New England youth called Connie & Ted's after his grandparents.

It's right in the heart of West Hollywood and it's dining room and outdoor deck are already packed every night thanks to the delicious array of seafood, fish and other New England classics on the menu, not to mention an inventive cocktail menu and some decent wines. This is definitely one of the most exciting openings in town lately, so I covered it for Frontiers.

Review: Connie & Ted's

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Metrosource Magazine: Tortilla Republic

It used to be when someone mentioned Mexican food, the first thing that came to mind was a taco stand on a desolate stretch of concrete.

 Those days are long gone as upscale taquerias have opened throughout LA. The team behind the popular Taste restaurants (on Melrose Avenue and in the Pacific Palisades) have brought an elevated take on Mexican cantina fare to the heart of West Hollywood with the understated yet convivial cocina, Tortilla Republic.

Here's my review of this bustling new hotspot that has quickly become one of Weho's most popular eateries.

Review: Tortilla Republic

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Los Angeles Confidential Magazine: LA's Best Eggs Benedict

The best dishes, like many of the best things in life, have fascinating back stories, and eggs benedict is no exception. This brunch menu magnate dates back over a century to when it was invented by a ne'er-do-well named Lemuel Benedict - seriously, that was his name - to combat a ferocious hangover, and since then it has taken on multiple identities as everything from a humble egg dish swimming in hollandaise to the fanciest way to start your Sunday with caviar or lobster on top.

In this LA Confidential article, I cover the history of this delicious dish as well as some of the most inventive iterations of it around Los Angeles, including those at the Hotel Bel-Air, Petrossian, BLD, Aventine and Jar.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go poach some eggs.

Article: 5 LA Spots for Inventive Eggs Benedict

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Los Angeles Confidential Magazine: Profile of Hotelier Avi Brosh

Avi Brosh is an LA-based property developer and hotelier who has opened such landmark hotel projects as the Palihouse West Hollywood, Palihotel on Melrose and now the Palihouse Santa Monica hotel.

His properties are all eccentric, design-driven hideaways guided by his overriding vision of authenticity, uniqueness and a sense of personal style. They're some of LA's most happening hotspots and truly distinctive hotels here in town.

In this article for LA Confidential, I profile Brosh and how he puts together a hotel project, and it's a fascinating look into the mind of a successful hotelier with his own unique brand.

Article: Avi Brosh's Posh Palihouse Hotels

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Los Angeles Confidential Magazine: LA's Best Cocktail Bars

Here's a roundup of some of my favorite cocktail bars in Los Angeles that ran in Los Angeles Confidential Magazine a while ago, but I realize I never posted. In it you'll find some great new classics like the Edison and 1886, as well as some truly high-end experiences like Ten Pound at the Montage Beverly Hills where the selection of scotches (and dishes like bison carpaccio and hot lobster rolls) is both impressive and mouthwatering.

So on your next foray out in the city, try one of these watering holes and let me know what you think!

Article: 9 of LA's Best Cocktail Bars

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Los Angeles Confidential Magazine: LA's Best Desserts

This was a fun story for LA Confidential Magazine where I got to talk to chefs all over the city and find out just what makes a perfect dessert and how it can be the perfect end to the evening - is it a light fruit tart, a luscious chocolate mousse, a scoop of fresh ice cream? If you've got a sweet tooth like me, the answer is all of the above!

In this article, I cover all those and more, with some of the fanciest desserts in town - I'm talking gold foil on some - taking center stage at restaurants like Wolfgang Puck at the Hotel Bel-Air, Rustic Canyon, Ink, and Red Medicine among others.

So take a look at my LA Confidential article on the topic - covered in chocolate - to see what some of the tastiest treats to end your meal in style are right here in LA and bon appetit!

Article: LA's Most Aphrodisiacal Desserts

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Jetsetter: Las Ventanas Al Paraiso

The next Jetsetter post of mine that went up was on one of my all-time favorite resorts in Mexico, Rosewood's Las Ventanas Al Paraiso in Cabo San Lucas (well, between Cabo and San Jose del Cabo).

This resort has been setting the standard for luxury treatment since it opened and not only has a world-class spa and some fantastic restaurants, but stands out for its unparalleled service, gorgeous rooms and, well, paradise-like grounds.

What I love about Jetsetter reviews is that you get to call out singularly special features of each hotel and all the little touches that set them apart, so I hope I did Las Ventanas justice in my review.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

JustLuxe: Buenos Aires' Puertas Cerradas Restaurants

One of the most curious (and coolest) trends I found in Buenos Aires during my month there this spring was the existence of puertas cerradas, so-called "closed-door" restaurants that are sort of like underground supperclubs where chefs invite a select group of diners into their own homes on certain days of the week for gourmet prix-fixe meals.

Puertas cerradas are an excellent way to escape the tourist hordes that descend on the city's better-known restaurants while rubbing elbows with some of the city's well-heeled, in-the-know diners and experiencing authentic (and exciting) contemporary Argentine cuisine from talented young chefs in intimate settings.

I had the opportunity to eat in three different ones during my stay there - everywhere from a palatial Belle Epoque apartment that wouldn't be out of place in Paris, to another that seemed like a cozy artist's garret where the dining room looked through glass doors right into the tiny kitchen.

All were unique, and unforgettable. Read about my top picks (including La Cocina Discreta, Casa Coupage and Casa SaltShaker) and a few additional suggestions in this JustLuxe article.

Friday, May 3, 2013

JustLuxe: Argentina's Emerging Wine Tourism Scene

As you might know, I spent the month of March in Argentina tangoing the streets of Buenos Aires, paddling around Iguazu Falls, and tasting my way through the wine regions of Mendoza near the Andes and Cafayate up near Salta.

I got to try so many interesting and unique wines as well as tour (and stay at) some fantastic hotels, all while taking in the evolution of Argentina's wine tourism industry, which I could compare to my first visit there 5 years ago.

Now there are gorgeous luxury lodges like Cavas Wine Lodge and Entre Cielos, a lot of new developments out in the wild Uco Valley such as the enormous French wine investment property under Michel Rolland's aegis called Clos de los Siete and the baronial Bodegas Salentein, and even Mendoza City itself is looking spruce with new restaurants, luxury hotels and tons of travel outlets and experiences. All in all, it's a great time to visit Mendoza.

Learn more about why, where to go and what to do in my article for JustLuxe.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Points Guy Wine Wednesday: Martinborough, New Zealand

For this week's Wine Wednesday post on The Points Guy, we headed back south of the equator to New Zealand - a country that produces a minuscule amount of the world's wine and yet has an outsize influence on the wine industry thanks to some stunning wines from its diverse regions.

Although most folks get Martinborough, which is on the southern end of the North Island, confused with the much more famous Marlborough (where most of the country's Sauvignon Blanc is made) on the South Island, this tiny wine region an hour from the capital of Wellington has some of the country's most lauded wineries thanks to spectacular Pinot Noirs and other varietals produced here.

Read about why you should take a day trip here on your next trip to New Zealand in my post on TPG from yesterday.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Los Angeles Confidential Magazine: Cobb Salad

LA lays claim to few original dishes - kimchi tacos, hamachi and jalapenos...and the Cobb Salad, that all-American melange of chopped veggies, meats and cheeses that has stuck around for well over 70 years at this point.

First invented at the Brown Derby, the Cobb Salad has become a culinary institution in its own right, though you can still find interesting variations all over LA. It's the original "have it your way" dish.

Want to learn more about how the humble Cobb came about as well as where the best versions in LA are served? Read my LA Confidential feature here.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Points Guy: Destination of the Week Auckland New Zealand

For today's Destination of the Week post on The Points Guy, I covered one of my specialties, New Zealand, with a visit to its largest city, Auckland.

While there aren't a ton of points hotels in the city, there are still plenty of ways to use your points and miles to get here and stay here, not to mention lots of great things to see, fabulous restaurants, fun shopping, and even wine-tasting nearby.

To read more about this dynamic destination, check out my post here.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Points Guy: Wine Wednesday The Danube Valley Austria

For my next Wine Wednesday post on The Points Guy, I decided to cover an oft-overlooked little region in the heart of Europe: Austria's Danube Valley.

You might have seen (or tried) wines from here including crisp Gruner Veltliners and seductive yet tart Rieslings, but maybe you didn't know that it's just an hour's drive from Vienna and is a land rich with history - not to mention tons of medieval fortresses, ornate abbeys and some of the best food in Central Europe.

In this quick post I cover some of my favorite wineries over there, plus suggestions on where to stay, what to eat, and a special hike to where Richard the Lionheart was once imprisoned on his way back from the Crusades.

Sound interesting? It is! Read my post to find out more.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Points Guy: Flying Around Argentina

Since I started as the Managing Editor of The Points Guy back in 2011, I've gone through a rigorous and constant education on how to maximize frequent flier miles, and I brought that knowledge to bear during my recent trip to Argentina by using a few stray Delta miles I had floating around to book flights on Delta's new SkyTeam partner Aerolineas Argentinas.

I had to get from Buenos Aires to Mendoza and then Salta for wine-tasting - preferably without having to transit through Buenos Aires in the middle there. Flights were going for over $1,000 on individual itineraries between the cities let alone one that included all three, so if I was going to make it happen, it had to be on miles.

Luckily, Delta had already partnered with Aerolineas by the time I was booking, and I was able put my miles to use for a stellar redemption that would get me all around the country to the wine regions I needed to visit.

To read more about how exactly I was able to do this as well as some helpful tips on how to leverage your miles while in South America, read my post here.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Points Guy: Trip Report on Iguazu Falls

Have you seen Pixar's movie, Up? Well, I have a feeling it's based on Iguazu Falls, a breathtaking natural wonder at the convergence of the Parana River on the border of Argentina and Brazil.

I wasn't really planning on a visit during my month in Argentina, but everyone told me I absolutely had to go, so I did. I even used British Airways miles to book a LAN ticket there rather than paying $500, and then stayed at a Sheraton so I could earn Starwood points during my stay.

Half-touristy and half-breathtaking, I do think it's worth a visit, though don't expect an amazing cultural experience or great hospitality. Instead, enjoy the splendor of the falls and then head to your next destination.

To read about how I used miles to get here and suggestions on what to do during your stay, read my post here.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Points Guy: Wine Wednesday Porto

For today's Wine Wednesday post on The Points Guy, I decided to cover one of Europe's most fabled and specialized wine regions: Porto and the Douro Valley. Though you might have noticed more and more table wines coming from this region, it is, of course, known much more for the fortified wines it has produced for centuries as well as the UNESCO World Heritage-listed city from which it derives its name, Porto.

This is truly one of Europe's most beautiful wine regions thanks to dramatic scenery, delicious cuisine and hospitable people, not to mention budget-friendly wines that are still in a world-class category.

If your next jaunt to Europe takes you to its western reaches or anywhere near Portugal, I'd highly suggest a visit.

In the meantime, read all about what you should to and taste in my post.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

NY Post: Luxury Safaris

If you've been following me for a while now you know that one of my travel writing specialties is that luxury market niche of "glamping," or glamorous camping.

I've covered glamping experiences far and wide, from Africa and Australia to Chile, Finland and Montana in series for HotelChatter, JustLuxe and other outlets.

After my recent trip to South Africa where I stayed at Savanna Lodge in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve, a colleague of mine at the New York Post asked me to write a roundup of some of the most interesting glamping experiences in Africa that won't necessarily break the bank - though the term moderately priced is relative when it comes to safari, since even the baseline is expensive!

With a bit of research and an eye for anything new and interesting, I made up a list of five great camps that let visitors do everything from hanging with highland gorillas to tracking elephants in the Namibian desert, with a lot of lion-watching and giraffe-spotting thrown in.

I'll let you read the details in my NY Post piece on luxury safaris, titled "Animal House."

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Points Guy: Wine Wednesday Colchagua Valley Chile

For today's Wine Wednesday post on The Points Guy, we shifted not only back to the New World but also the Southern Hemisphere to visit one of South America's most famous wine regions: Chile's Colchagua Valley.

I had a great trip here back in May of 2011, visiting tons of wineries, checking out delightful wine country towns and just getting a sense of Chile's dynamic and ever-evolving wine scene.

Though the tourism infrastructure here is still developing, it's still easy to plan a trip here, especially since it's just a two-hour drive south of Santiago and there are more great hotels and inns than ever, not to mention world-class wineries and some fantastic fine-dining opportunities.

To read more about what you should taste and do in Colchagua, read my post here.

Friday, March 1, 2013

JustLuxe: Wine Tasting in France's Loire Valley

For my next JustLuxe article, I decided it was time to do another wine-tasting piece - this time on France's Loire Valley.

You might have noticed Loire wines showing up more and more on restaurant wine lists - though you'll probably seem them named by their specific region such as Sancerre, Vouvray, Chinon and Bourgueil...among many others.

Not only is this one of France's premier wine-producing areas, but it's also rich with history and home to the country's most famous chateaux. Take the TGV and make Tours your base like I did, and then head out to visit the castles and taste the wines from this wonderful region.

Read more about what I saw, did and tasted here.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Points Guy, Wine Wednesday: Yarra Valley

If you've followed me for a while now, you know that I specialize in travel to Australia and have spent about three months there total in the last three years exploring cities, wildlife and wine regions all over the continent. In fact, the only Australian state I haven't visited is Tasmania.

My second trip to the land down under began in Melbourne and included a day spent out in the nearby countryside tasting wines from some of Australia's most well-respected wineries in a region that most Americans still don't seem to be too familiar with: the Yarra Valley.

Here you'll find all manner of cool-climate wines including award-winning Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays - so take that, Shiraz! (Though you'll find plenty of that, too).

Find out more about where to go and what to drink in my Wine Wednesday post on the Yarra Valley.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Points Guy: Wine Wednesday, Champagne

For today's Wine Wednesday post on The Points Guy, I head back to one of my all-time favorite wine regions: Champagne.

Renowned the world over for the sparkling wines produced here by big names like Veuve Clicquot, Taittinger and Moet & Chandon, Champagne has become synonymous with luxury, taste and the finer things in life.

I've been to the region three times myself now, and the more I go, the more I realize there is to see, do and, most importantly, taste!

Find out all my favorites and get my suggestions on what to do on your next trip to Champagne here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

JustLuxe: Welcome Back To Waikiki at the Modern Honolulu

The more I travel to Hawaii, the more I love it. Although I hadn't been to the islands much since I was a little kid, in the past year or so, I've gotten to visit Maui, the Big Island and now Oahu with a quick trip to Honolulu a few weeks ago.

I went to experience the Modern Honolulu, which you might better remember as the Edition Waikiki, a short-lived joint project from Ian Schrager and Marriott that, after some rather turbulent events in its opening months, is now humming along under new management.

Not only has the hotel injected a much-needed dose of casual cool to the otherwise touristy Waikiki, but it really is emblematic of some major changes going on in the area that include huge new projects, deluxe renovations to historic properties like the Royal Hawaiian and Moana Surfrider, a spate of exciting restaurant openings, all-new luxury flagship stores along Kalakaua Avenue, and a renewed interest in Hawaii's rich history.

I personally got to visit the Iolani Palace, hike the hills east of the city, go outrigger canoeing and paddleboarding, take not one but two surfing lessons, and ate more seafood than I can remember.

For my next Hawaii trip, I'm looking forward to visiting Kauai, but for now, read about all there is to see and do in Waikiki and why I enjoyed my stay at the Modern in my JustLuxe piece.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Los Angeles Confidential Magazine: Bestia

For my latest restaurant piece in LA Confidential, I cover one of Downtown LA's hottest new tables, Bestia, which opened in a historic building on a long-forgotten block in the far eastern edge of the city. I got lost a few times getting there, but the circuitous route was worth it for dishes like cocoa-infused braised short-rib agnolotti and spiced chestnut zepolotti for dessert.

Read about the Israeli-born chef, his pastry chef wife, and all the interesting offal dishes they're serving (plus the meat-hook chandelier!) in my full review here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Points Guy, Wine Wednesday: Waiheke Island, New Zealand

For the third installment of The Points Guy's new Wine Wednesday series, we head to one of my all-time favorite destinations, New Zealand, for a quick visit to a lesser-known wine region just a quick ferry ride from downtown Auckland called Waiheke Island.

Most folks tend to think about larger regions like Marlborough or Central Otago - and granted, we see a lot more of those wines here in the US - when talking about New Zealand wines, but if your visit to the country is too quick to make stops in either of those, this is a great option for a daytrip while you're transiting through Auckland.

To find out more, read my Wine Wednesday post.

Monday, February 11, 2013

JustLuxe: Valentine's Day Dining in Los Angeles Part 2

Turns out a lot of restaurants are offering special Valentine's Day dinners this year, so I decided to write a second roundup of some of the most delicious-sounding ones.

This time the list includes some favorites like AOC (in its new location!), Hungry Cat for a truly aphrodisiacal seafood feast, a seaside supper at Catch at the Casa Del Mar, some down-home comfort food at Post & Beam, and dinner and a show at Rockwell with For The Record.

Still looking for something special to do with your sweetheart on Thursday? Well look no further, there are plenty of ideas here for you, so read my roundup and make your reservations!

Friday, February 8, 2013

JustLuxe: Valentine's Day Dining in Los Angeles

 Cupid's on his way again, and that means it's time for another roundup of some of the fabulous feasts that you'll be able to enjoy with your sweetheart this Valentine's Day.

Included this time around are old favorites like Melisse, Culina and Lucques, as well as relative newcomers like The Pikey and even the Urban Oven pizza truck, not to mention Petrossian if you want to spoil your honey with caviar and champagne.

So check it out, and make your reservations because you don't want to be stuck without plans next week!


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Points Guy: Wine Wednesday Napa Valley

For the second installment in our new Wine Wednesday series on The Points Guy, we stick around California to visit its most famous wine region: Napa.

This isn't a full-on guide to Napa (like I've written in the past), but rather a snapshot of some of my favorite wineries and restaurants, with a smattering of hotel suggestions thrown in so that you can use your points to stretch your dollars farther. That said, Napa's got a lot of luxury options, and I mention many of those as well.

Have a look, have a drink, and enjoy!


Los Angeles Confidential Magazine: Romantic Bars

Though this article appeared in the magazine a few issues ago, I thought it would be a great time to post it here now as Valentine's Day approaches and couples are looking for hotspots to reignite their romance.

I don't necessarily think of bars as romantic, but these ones mix up a jigger of sweetness, a dash of naughty and a healthy pour of something strong to their cocktails that makes each the perfect spot for a first date...or a 10th anniversary, depending on what you're celebrating.

So whether it's a huge glass of wine at AOC, a knock-you-on-the-floor cocktail at Big Bar, drinks with an ocean view at Casa Del Mar, or surrounded by Downtown's skyscrapers at the Figueroa Hotel, there's something for everyone on this list.


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Points Guy: Wine Wednesday, Russian River Valley

Today on The Points Guy, we launched a new weekly series called Wine Wednesday (like on Twitter) that's kind of like an abridged Destination of the Week dedicated specifically to wine regions around the world and giving some hotel, restaurant and wine-tasting recommendations, not to mention a tip or two on how to get there using miles.

For the first post in the series, we decided to cover a destination that The Points Guy and I hit this summer, the Russian River Valley, when we were dashing around the world for the Catch The Points Guy campaign with Chase Sapphire Preferred. Not only did we get there using miles to fly into San Francisco, but we stayed at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek in Santa Rosa on points and used the card itself, which is a Visa Signature, to score free wine-tastings and other swag while we were there - so even on the most epicurean of trips, you can still find plenty of ways to earn and burn points as well as brandishing the benefits of your credit cards to their fullest.

To find out my top picks, check out my post at the link below.