Friday, April 30, 2010


My friends at Escape to Shape just emailed me to let me know that they've picked the destination for their October trip. They are heading to Taormina, Sicily for seven nights. You can join in and get to stay in a magnificent villa, enjoy world renowned Sicilian cuisine, daily exercise, wine tasting, cooking classes and pampering! Escape to Shape considers itself a traveling fitness spa. If you are interested, hurry up and book now because these spots do fill up quickly. Guys don't tune out, plenty of men go on these trips every year!Dates: October 16-23, October 23-30, 2010

Here's an example of a Day in the Life at Escape to Shape:8:00am- Breakfast of fresh fruit, yogurt and granola
9:00am- Skin-Detox session at Volcanic mud baths
12:00pm- 90 minute power walk on the beach
1:30pm- Lunch of gazpacho soup and grilled chicken salad
3:00pm- 50 laps in the pool and aromatherapy massages
4:00pm- Snack of watermelon slices
5:30pm- 90 minute vinyasa yoga session
7:00pm- Salsa dancing lessons
8:00pm- Dinner of pumpkin soup and grilled shrimp
10:00pm- Head out and dance till dawn or collapse into bed

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


People often ask me how I get to jet set so often? My answer to them is always the same...I plan most of my trips during "Shoulder Season" (jet setting between peak and off seasons). The weather is good, the crowds are much smaller and the prices are at least 30% lower! Here's some Jet Set Smart travel ideas for Shoulder Season.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010


The dates are out for the second annual 2010 Food and Wine Festival in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The event kicks off July 30th-August 2nd and will be held at different venues and hotels in and around Atlantic City. This year's celebrity chefs include Guy Fieri (Diners, Drive-ins & Dives), Sandra Lee (Semi-Homemade), Pat & Gina Neely (Down Home with the Neely’s), Ted Allen (Chopped), Sunny Anderson (Cooking for Real), Anne Burrell (Worst Cooks in America), Claire Robinson (5 Ingredient Fix), Alex Guarnaschelli (Alex’s Day Off), and Melissa D’Arabian (Ten Dollar Dinners). I'm sad my favorite, Giada, won't be there or else I'd go. It was amazing getting to meet her and cook with her last year at the 2009 New York City Food and Wine Festival. Read more about that here. Anyway, Atlantic City is fun, and it does sound like this event will be worth checking out! There's even going to be a Guy Fieri Cheesesteak the sound of that! :)

Monday, April 26, 2010


"The BEST burritos come from La Cumbre!!!" That's a pretty bold statement! But since I heard it both from the Travel Channel (Man vs. Food) and from a number of on-line reviews, I had to put it on my list of places to check out in SF. I needed to know for myself what all of the rave was about. Taqueria La Cumbre is located in the Mission District of San Francisco (515 Valencia St), the neighborhood in SF to head to for excellent Mexican food. According to their menu, La Cumbre was the first taqueria in San Francisco. All things that would make you think you would sink your teeth into the BEST burrito in your life, right? (More about that in a moment) Taqueria La Cumbre is open seven days a week from 11 a.m.-2 a.m., so it's a convenient place to head to after you hit the bars in the Mission. Inside, Taqueria La Cumbre is decent, definitely clean and well cared for. The decor is simple. (Loved this huge guitar hanging on the wall :-)So I went ahead an ordered a chicken burrito. I loaded it up with the goodies...salsa, cheese, rice, black beans, guacamole, etc. There’s even a salsa bar offering at least six different salsas and a number of fresh vegetables, including corn, radish, cilantro, onion and pickled peppers and juicy lime wedges. So look at my masterpiece when I was done with all of the fixings...looks good, huh? Now for the moment of truth...DISAPPOINTING!!! I think this place may be overrated because it was on the Travel Channel. I would say the burrito was the. absolute. blandest. burrito. i have EVER had!!! Oh, La Cumbre! How you disappointed me! I have heard that the carne asada deluxe burrito may be better (after you add sour cream, guacamole and hot sauce to it), but I don't know if I would believe it. What happened to eating the "BEST burrito ever???" If you're in the Mission and want good Mexican, the locals tell me to head to Pancho Villa or La Corneta instead!

Friday, April 23, 2010


I am a huge animal lover!!! In fact, I am highly allergic to cats, but that doesn't stop me from volunteering once a week for a Cat Rescue group. Animals are helpless creatures, and it makes me feel good to do good. So this Fashion Friday post is about how you can help out and be fashionable too! Here are four different t-shirts that you can buy, and part of the money you spend on them will go towards different charities!

1- Help Animals Find a Home ($34); 15% of the proceeds benefit Paws 4 You Rescue.2- Support Earthquake Victims ($20); $5 goes to the American Red Cross for aid in Haiti.3- Make the Planet a Little Greener ($32); The company plants a tree for every tee purchased.4- Fund Cancer Research ($25); Sales support the Nonprofit Stand Up to Cancer Organization.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Happy Earth Day Jet Setters! As travelers, let's be honest, we cause a lot of harm to the environment. I'll admit, I love jet setting on a plane and taking road trips, and so I certainly know that I do my fair share of damage to Mother Earth. So, on this Earth Day, I want to focus on what I am going to do in the year ahead to help the planet.
1- I bought a Brita! That's right, no more bottled water in my house. Yes, I would much rather go for a bottle of Poland Spring, but too many of us drink out of plastic bottles daily, and did you know that one bottle will sit in a landfill for at least 100 years before it starts to disintegrate? The entire recycling process is a joke because half of what's put into recycle bins is NOT recycled, and it takes so much energy for recycling projects to work. It's better to reduce than recycle.2- I am thinking about giving up my current car for a Toyota Prius. Yup, a hybrid folks!!! Yes, it's not as aesthetically pleasing as my current car or some other cars out there, but it's so much better for the environment. Plus, I'll save a ton of money on gas, and many celebrities have them, so how bad could they be? :-) So, on this Earth Day, think of ways you can help Mother Earth. I'm open to your suggestions...please, let me know what you think. Happy Earth Day!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Looking for a fun way to spend your Saturday morning in SF? How about a visit to the Ferry Marketplace and Farmers Market? The Farmers Market is open on Saturdays from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. (it's also open on Tuesdays from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.). The Ferry Plaza Farmers Market is a California certified farmers market, and is the largest farmers market in the whole city! You can find everything here from produce and flowers to breads, cheeses and jams. Now the actual Ferry Marketplace is open seven days a week and has more than forty different food shops inside. It is a food lover's dream with so many gourmet and elegant food stands to choose from. Louisa and I decided to spend our Saturday morning in San Francisco here. We bought cheese, meat and bread both from the Farmers Market and from the Marketplace, and made our own little picnic. It was fun and a fairly inexpensive way to have breakfast!We walked around the Farmers Market first and sampled all different kinds of cheeses, breads and sweets. We bought some AMAZING Bodega goat cheese from the Yerba Santa Goat Dairy.I am usually not the biggest fan of goat cheese, but this one was so creamy, and didn't have that horribly bitter and tangy taste that many goat cheeses do have. Next, we headed inside to the Marketplace and bought some more cheese from Cowgirl Creamery.They sell an Artisan Cheese American selection bag for $20 which includes three different types of cheeses and a knife. We splurged the extra $5 and also bought the wooden cheese platter to put all of our cheeses on. The other thing that I recommend you buy (if you like meat) is one of their Framani Salametto salamis...delicious! Right next door is of the best bread makers in all of SF!!!And of course if you are in SF, then you must have some traditional San Francisco sourdough really is the best sourdough you will ever have!
Once we had purchased all we wanted, we went to the back of the Marketplace which faces the bay and set up our picnic. Great view, great friendship, great food...what more could you want out of life? One last thing I want to tell you about the Farmers Market and the Ferry Marketplace, is that outside of the building there are dozens of vendors who sell jewelry, clothing and souvenirs. I found this amazing bracelet by a local designer...very happy about my purchase!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Eyjafjallajökull VOLCANO...HOLY COW MOMENT!!!

Silly me, but I just realized the other day that the Eyjafjallajökull volcano/glacier that's erupting as we speak in Iceland, is the same volcano/glacier that I climbed this past November! I kept on hearing the story on the news, but never thought it could be the same exact glacier...until Friday night when I pulled out my Iceland Tour Guide book and sure is!!! Read more about our Iceland Glacier Hike here. I kept on referring to the volcano/glacier as Skógar instead of its real name: Eyjafjallajökull. Skógar is actually the small Icelandic village located at the south of the Eyjafjallajökull Glacier. (Now you understand my "holy cow moment!!!") You know what else is funny, is that our Glacier Hike Tour Guide, Mio, kept on telling us while we were on top of the glacier that it was supposed to "explode any day now." We asked him how he would be informed if he was on a hike when it started to erupt and he said "he could get text messages on the glacier!" Wonder what his day was like the day it happened? Anyway, I am still in shock that only five months ago, Pierre, Laura, Rich and I were on top of Eyjafjallajökull Glacier...and today this volcano/glacier is causing massive travel problems across Europe and is making global headlines daily!

Monday, April 19, 2010


Last Friday I told you about all of the great shopping there is to do in The Marina area of SF. Today, I want to fill you in on where to eat if you find yourself in this part of San Francisco. Again, The Marina is known for it's young beautiful crowd, and the restaurants go along with that theme...they are hip, trendy, and they have great food. Some of the restaurants in The Marina will remind you of some of the best restaurants in New York City!

Mamacita- Mexican Tacolicious...need I say more? You know the saying "When in as the Romans do?" Well the same goes for California...when in Cali, eat Mexican food! If you happen to be in The Marina, then the place to go for awesome Mexican cuisine is Mamacita.

The food is fresh, the drinks are fabulous, and the atmosphere is is very cool. Be aware that it's a small place so it may be hard to get a reservation, especially on a Friday or Saturday night. But, the good news is is that they save over half of their tables for walk-ins every night, so you might have to wait, but at least you won't be turned away. I went with my friends Louisa and Elaine on a Friday night (around 9pm), and we couldn't get a reservation, so we went to the bar and had to wait no more than 15 minutes. While we waited, we ordered their chips and guacamole...some of the best I have ever had! It was so creamy and light with just the right amount of chunky texture. Wash it all down with one of their Pomegranate Margaritas (pomegranate tequila and fresh squeezed lime juice) or a Guava Mojito (classic mojito with cruzan guava rum). For main course we had the Carnitas Especial, which is a sizzling platter of crispy pork “confit” (1/2 lb) with a 7-layer “queso fundido” dip and fresh tortillas. The pork was perfectly crunchy on the outside, but nice and juicy on the inside.We also ordered the Mayacoba, which is seared ahi tuna “tacos” that comes with a persimmon-apple pico de gallo, chayote and aguamiel in jicama wraps. This dish was so nice, light and refreshing. The tuna was just slightly cooked on the outside and pretty much raw on the inside- just like tuna tacos should be. The sweetness of the pico de gallo complimented the fish perfectly, and the wraps were so thin, that it was almost like eating sushi. Delicious!!! The other dish we tried was the Pollo Taqueria- crispy chicken tacos with “cascabel” chile salsa, queso oaxaca, shredded lettuce and refried beans. The shell on these tacos is like eating a tortilla chip (nice and crunchy), so be careful you don't loose everything that's in the taco when you are eating it. If you do don't worry, just grab your me, you won't want to leave an ounce of this dish behind on your plate. Finally, for dessert we had their flan. As someone who grew up eating my grandmother's homemade flan, I have to be honest and say this one did not come close. The consistency is more like a cheesecake than of a light and airy traditional flan. I would skip out on ordering this if I go back, but that's just my opinion. My friends Louisa and Elaine really enjoyed it!California Wine Merchant- A great wine bar to head to for a before dinner drink, or afterwards because they have a great night scene as well. They specialize in California Wine and carry many small production, hard-to-find California Wines.

More Munchies in The Marina:
Abigail's: California-French food that's supposed to be excellent!
Ace Wasabi: Hip, loud, young and hot: Ace's does have decent sushi for a reasonable price, but the flavor of the place will either keep you coming back or drive you fast and far away. Alegrias: Tapas like tortilla espanola, sauteed spinach and baked goat cheese are fabulous. Wonderful flan.
Andale Taqueria: Don't let the "taqueria" fool you; this restaurant serves up clean, fresh, and healthy Mexican food.
Baker Street Bistro: Great prices for excellently prepared, classically inspired French fare.
Barney's Hamburgers: What first strikes the eye in this eatery is the lineup of Best Burger awards from a variety of sources. Barney's sets the mood with a comfortable wood decor, or there is an outdoor garden.
Betelnut: This self-described "pan-Asian tapas" restaurant is bursting with atmosphere and flavor. Giant fans swoosh back and forth from the ceiling while waiters carrying trays of towering tropical cocktails nudge their way around customers in the usually packed bar. While it may be an impossible to get same-day reservations, Betelnut does take walk-ins. The minced chicken with lettuce cups, spareribs, crispy calamari and towering tropical cocktails are worth planning ahead for or waiting in line for.
Bistro Aix: Local Marina dwellers head to this understated, calming bistro for its fresh food and list of 150 wines, mostly French and Spanish. The chef uses simple ingredients and offers organic daily specials. The menu takes on several international flavors, including a thin-crust pizza, several pastas, and duck confit. Aix is open only for dinner.
Bistro Yoffi: The food, by all accounts, is yummy California fare with Mediterranean accents, but it's Bistro Yoffi's charming ambiance that will bring first-timers back for more. This small, skinny bistro, decorated primarily with dozens of lush potted plants and colorful Tuscan village-style accents, is quaintly romantic.
Bombay Curry House: This is the first Indian restaurant in the Marina. The tiny space (40 seats) is open for lunch and dinner daily. The menu features traditional Indian favorites, with entrees generally under $10, and the most expensive item -- rack of lamb -- at $14.95.
Brazen Head: An English pub atmosphere offering a mostly American menu.
Cafe Organic Lettus: California cuisine with global touches, like Asian-inspired mango chicken lettuce cups with chile-tamarind sauce, or Mediterranean-style butter bean bruschetta. They also have made-to-order salads, and breakfast is served all day and includes great choices like lemon-ricotta pancakes and French toast. You must order at the counter and servers will bring the food to your table.
Cafe Maritime: Evoking a New England seafood shack with hammered galvanized steel covering the tables, a boat-shaped wooden bar and a wave-like, silvery divider, Cafe Maritime offers seasonal catches like soft shell crab and Copper River King salmon. Appetizers include grilled calamari with smoked tomato sauce and lime-spiked creme fraiche, and grilled sardines served over white bean sauce and a tart salsa verde. Alaskan halibut and Oregon Bay shrimp linguine are among the entrees. Hand-cut Kennebec fries, finer than even shoestring fries, accompany the lobster roll and hanger steak. Desserts include coconut cream pie, a hot fudge sundae and root beer float.
City Tavern: Stick to simple favorites like fried calamari with remoulade dipping sauce and crispy pizzas at this inviting pub/restaurant.
Cozmos Corner Bar & Grill: Since its opening in November 2001, Cozmos has steadily built a reputation as a Marina hangout. The brick walls and large center bar give Cozmos a casual feel. Though entrees change daily, some past specialties have included rare seared ahi with a sticky rice cake and stir fried Chinese long beans and wasabi aioli.
D Den: Great Thai dishes, including good larb ped, salmon yang and panang gung.
Dragon Well: This tiny, airy pan-Asian food joint offers a small selection of healthy, flavorful dishes at moderate prices.
E'Angelo: Old-fashioned Italian dishes haven't changed and neither has the small, crowded dining room. Good veal Parmigiana, pasta carbonara, and pizza. Fast, efficient service.
Emporio Rulli Gran Caffe: Stop in to this Northern Italian-influenced cafe for a quick breakfast or house made panini, soups and salads. The cafe offers a large selection of homemade Italian gelato and pastries, such as cassata, a traditional ricotta cheesecake. A wine bar serves Italian wines, small plates and dinner until 10 p.m. During holiday time, make sure to order their Pane Tone- supposed to be the best other than the ones you find in Italy!
Enoshima: The sushi chefs can get quite creative at Enoshima, offering nearly 60 types of rolls. Creations include volcano make -- spicy tuna with jalapeno and tobiko -- as well as the New York roll -- shrimp, cream cheese, and avocado.
Gatip Classic Thai Cuisine: For those who like their Thai food spicy and authentic, Gatip is the place to go. The Thai iced tea that is out of this world, as is the sticky rice!
Grove Cafe: Ah, the Grove, a breath of fresh air on busy Chestnut Street. Tasty salads and a great selection of teas, light pastries and snacks make this a relaxing way to start the day, grab a light lunch or enjoy a sober happy hour.
Home: Standard American can never go wrong here.
Home Plate: Take a number and wait your turn for homey breakfasts that include scones, buttermilk pancakes and homemade granola.
Isa: French-inspired cuisine varies from truffled risotto with mushroom fricassee and reggiano to potato wrapped sea bass with brown butter, capers, lemon and parsley, all at reasonable entree prices. Three course prix fix options are available.
Izzy's Steakhouse: This is just the kind of old-school steakhouse where you might have bumped into DiMaggio in his day. Stiff cocktails, red studded-leather booths, quality steaks, robust red wines and a mouthwatering selection of side dishes all make up Izzy's.
Liverpool Lil's: If it's fish-and-chips you're seeking, you've found the place! Enjoy along with a pint (or two) of beer!
Mezes: Really cute Greek restaurant that has many wonderful dishes meant to share, including fried cheese and moussaka.
Naked Fish: The tech feel at this sushi spot permeates in its decor as well as background music. Even more hip is the selection of creative sushi rolls including the Cherry Blossom Roll with salmon Hamachi, scallion topped with garlic spicy tuna and pesto, and the Red Caterpillar Roll, filled with spicy and seared tuna and a honey glaze.
Osome Sushi: Locals often rate Osome as one of the best sushi restaurants in the city!
Pacific Catch: Delicious fish and shrimp tacos, salmon salads and hot fish sandwiches go perfectly with the sweet potato fries at this Marina seafood spot. Try the wasabi bowl, filled with seasoned sushi rice, cold vegetables and a hot piece of grilled ahi or salmon.
Parma Ristorante : This neighborhood Italian eatery offers great lasagna!
Perry's: Serving since 1969, Perry's has become an institution on Union Street. The New York-style bar and grill is known for its burgers, though it also serves a variety of soups and salads and comfort food entrees, such as Perry's meatloaf, and fried chicken. The lobsters, which arrive every Wednesday and Saturday, are a Perry's institution.
PlumpJack Cafe: The California cuisine at PlumpJack is varied enough to appeal to many tastes. Entrees include grilled local king salmon with fig leaves and pan roasted petite chicken. For a lighter meal, the artisan cheeseboard with any of PlumpJack's renowned wines fits the bill.
Pluto's: Known for its fast and consistently fresh salads and grilled meats, Pluto's is a clean, bright order-at-the-counter-style restaurant that is always packed. The grilled turkey breast or flank steak, served over your custom-built salad (try the Caesar -- it's amazing) will make your mouth water and your wallet sing. Add a yummy side of mashers or spicy curly fries and you've got a substantial meal for under $10.
Rose's Cafe: This classic light Italian bistro is wonderfully located right at the edge of the Union Street shopping area; once inside, you'll feel like you are a world away. The varied dinner menu makes it difficult to settle on one dish, but it's hard to go wrong. Rose's also serves up a mean Sunday brunch, but be prepared to wait, as it's no secret!
Saji Sushi and Japanese Restaurant: Over the past 30 years, Saji has been rolling sushi for the local crowd. Specialty rolls have a local twist, including the 49ers roll with avocado salmon, and salmon on the outside. The San Francisco is a take on the basic California roll with fresh water eel on the outside. Prices are very reasonable.
Sushi Chardonnay: This low-key eatery offers unique special rolls, including the Chardonnay roll with strawberry, apple, mango, and melon on the outside. All the regular sushi rolls are offered as well. The $20 all you can eat sushi deal is a popular option. The restaurant also has an extensive sake list.
Thai Noodle House: This late-night Asian-style diner serves a lot of food for little money. Good Thai white pasta and calamari.
Three Seasons: Regulars gush about this casual Vietnamese bistro with fresh, reasonable fare and super-friendly waitstaff. If you plan to go on a weekend, it's best to make reservations a few days in advance.
Tichada: Friendly service and pretty decor. Some delicious Thai dishes, especially curries, while other dishes seem ordinary.
Yoshida-Ya: Go here to cook your own chicken, meat, seafood, and vegetables on a small hibachi at your table.
Zao Noodle Bar: Bringing together Thai and Vietnamese cuisines, Zao is a quick, comfortable, and inexpensive option for Marina dining.