Thursday, June 3, 2010
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
So much fun to "have" to work in Santa Monica!
Here are my Top 5 Santa Monica "Must Dos..."
(1) Morning yoga at one of the hundreds of studios that are in Santa Monica or Venice. No yoga mat in your suitcase? No problem... mats are available for rent at most studios.
(2) Go online and find one of the Santa Monica Farmer's Markets! The one on Main Street on the weekend is the best and is best enjoyed with a coffee in hand as you stroll the booths. Be sure to bring a blanket so that you can sit out on the grass and enjoy the people watching.
(3) Walk the path that lines the beach up to the Santa Monica pier! Just try to resist playing on the adult monkey bars and swing sets. Be sure to bring a camera.. people working out on the rings is a sure fire Kodak Moment.
(4) Sushi - Santa Monica is known for its RAW foods... but, the best is still its sushi. My favorite is Taka Sushi.
(5) Happy Hour is best spent at the boardwalk where you can witness another beautiful sunset over Southern California with a glass of wine or beer in hand.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Now that we are smack dab in the middle of the Holiday Season, I bet I know a word that will light up your eyes... ESCAPE. With New Years right around the corner, it is now the perfect time to reveal my picks for the top 10 travel destinations for 2o1o. On your mark... get set.. pack your bags!
#10 - Washington DC
Value for money will still be on everyone's mind in 2010 - so if you are looking for a destination with great attractions, food and everything in between - look no further than our Nation's Capital. The one thing that I love about Washington DC is that all of the attractions are FREE! All of the museums, the monuments and even the National Zoo. The best time of the year to come to DC is in April to catch the Cherry Blossoms in full bloom as the weather starts to warm back up.
#9 - Iceland
Does Value for Money always mean staycation? Not so much. Iceland is the perfect getaway for the adventure traveler who is also on a budget. For every US Dollar you will get around 123 Iceland Krona - so, the conversion rate is on your side! Iceland is known for its hiking and mountain biking. This is the place where you challenge yourself all day on the trails and then soak in a natural hotspring at night.
#8 - Cruising
Cruising still offers the best bang for your travel buck when it comes to island destinations. There are always great deals to be had and new ships to tickle your wallets. I am super excited to check out Norwegian's new EPIC which is set to sail in June out of Miami. This is like a floating Las Vegas with a Blue Man Group and Cirque du Soliel right on board for your entertainment.
#7 - Colorado Ski Resorts
From Sunshine to Ice - my next top travel pick is the beautiful city of Denver Colorado and the ski resorts of Vail. The Vail resorts are almost like one big all inclusive property. If you go onto their website at snow.com you can book Vail, Breckenridge, Keystone, Heavenly and Beaver Creek all on one site. Be sure to make a brunch reservation at Keystone's Alpenglow Stube located at the top of North Peak. At 11,444 ft. this is the highest AAA-Four Diamond dining experience in North America where you trade your skis for warm slippers upon arrival.
#6 - Thailand
Travelers will continue their romance with Thailand in 2010. Talk about value for your dollar! The most expensive part of your trip will be your airfare - so shop early so that you can find a rate that works for you. Once you get there, you will experience some of the best and cheapest food and accommodations on the planet. Also, major resorts are offering deep discounts throughout the country to try to lure tourists away from neighboring Laos and Cambodia. Chiang Mai in the north of the country offers cultural immersion with over 300 classes in everything from cooking to kickboxing. Bangkok is a fest for the shopper and is a great jumping off point for the southern beaches and islands. If you thought Phuket was beautiful before the Tsunami, most locals will tell you that the beaches are cleaner and more spectacular then ever!
#5 - China
After hosting the Olympics, China has really opened its eyes to catering to the Western Tourist!You will find Beijing easy to navigate now with most signs translated into English. China still offers great bang for your travel buck - you are simply going to get a lot here for your money. I highly recommend also checking out the Giant Pandas in Cheng Du. At the sanctuary there, for a mere $125 you can have the opportunity to hold a real Giant Panda in your arms.
#4 - Marrakesh
2010 is the year that all of the hotels come to Marrakesh! There is a new Mandarin Oriental, the W Marrakesh and an Intercontinental. However, the most anticipated is the reopening of La Mamounia - known to be the best hotel in the world. La Mamounia recently opened its doors after a $180m renovation and now boasts a new 27,000 square foot spa, 3 new restaurants and 4 staffers to every room in the house.
#3 - Tunisia
Most Americans have never even heard of this diamond of a destination - mainly due to geography...(its sandwiched between Algeria and Libya) However, Tunisia is a land rich in history that offers the clear blue waters of the Mediterranean lapping against white sand beaches. If you are wanting real cultural immersion in an off-the beaten path location - then Tunisia is for you. Traveler beware though - Tunisia was also listed on Frommer's Top 10 List for 2010 - so, I am sure that this little pocket of paradise will no longer be our little secret.
#2 - South Africa
2010 is definitely the year for traveling for events. The FIFA World Cup is set to take over South Africa this summer. The US is playing this year, which makes a perfect excuse for all of you futbol (ok, ok... soccer) fans to book that long awaited safari. Jo'berg makes a great starting point for a safari and games just happens to coincide with the best time to see the big 5 in action. I believe the US has a match in Jo'berg on June 18th against Slovania... so, get planning.
#1 - VANCOUVER!
Vancouver promises to be the travel highlight of the year when the 2010 Olympics and Paralympics opens in February. It will surely open all of our American eyes to our beautiful neighbors to the north in British Columbia. Be sure to check out the area known as Gastown where you should have a whiskey (or 3) to toast one of the city's founders - Jack "Gassy" Deighton. Gassy Jack came to this area with his wife, a dog and a barrel of whiskey in hopes of opening a saloon. That saloon was built in Gastown and there is a shiny statue in honor of old Gassy. Did you also know that Vancouver has the highest Asian population in North America? That means that you will be treated to some of the best Asian cuisine in the world here - so, be sure to check out Chinatown and get some dim-sum. Opening ceremonies of the 2010 Olympics are scheduled for February 12th.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Morning in Santa Monica
My friend, Kirsten Gum lives and works here – so, I always have a real place to call home when I am in the area. Kirsten and I worked together on Cash and Treasures for Travel Channel. While Kirsten is great on-camera as the host of Cash and Treasures; what most people do not realize is that she is also a Raw Food Chef! Kirsten strives to live a completely green lifestyle in Santa Monica; getting around town by bike or bus (she does not own a car), composting her kitchen scraps and recycling wherever she can. So, whenever I come to visit she puts me through what she calls “K-Camp” where she coaches me on how to live a more healthful, green, and peaceful life. She called this weekend "Raw K-Camp" where she was going to teach me a few all-raw recipes that I can make at home.
In my family there has been a constant battle over whether or not to pre-boil your noodles before you build lasagna. There is also a discussion about whether or not to use ricotta – which I will firmly state that ricotta is a sure way to ruin a perfectly fabulous lasagna. I suggest using a béchamel sauce and layering that with a homemade red sauce that I simply call “gravy” (never a marinara). But alas, this is raw lasagna and there wasn’t a single noodle or a slice of cheese to be had.
We sliced the zucchini using a mandolin and then soaked the strips in a salt water brine to help with the drying process. The strips then get laid out on tea cloths for an hour or so to drain the remaining liquid. While the strips are dry, they are still flexible which will allow us to use them as our noodle in the dish.
Meanwhile, we prepared a quick raw pesto by tossing a bunch of fresh basil, some raw olive oil, pine nuts, miso paste ,some chopped garlic and a dash of Himalayan salt into a food processor. A few pumps on the processor and we have a vibrant green sauce that will tie this lasagna together.
Kirsten had already prepared a fresh raw marinara sauce and some pine nut paste for the dish. She told me that the pine nut paste will serve as our cheese. (I snickered to myself thinking about what my Italian Father-in-Law would say to that one!) We also marinated some fresh button mushrooms in some lemon juice and garlic and sliced up a few heirloom tomatoes for the build.
Using a small spring pan, we started by coating the bottom with a tablespoon of the pesto. We then placed the zucchini slices just as you would a pre-boiled lasagna noodle (notice that I will never give up on that fight). Then a little marinara, some mushrooms, a handful of fresh spinach and then the “cheese.” The pine nut paste is squeezed through a cheese cloth around the sides of the round pan to hold everything together.
We continue with the layering process, ending with a latticing of pine nut paste on top for presentation. Ok, so now you have what looks like a lasagna pie and since there is no cooking, I couldn’t help but ask, what’s next?
Kirsten walks me over to a dehydrator where she tells me that we will warm the lasagna to 105 degrees. Raw foodies believe that heating foods over 115 degrees is a sure fire way of cooking away all of those healthy enzymes that allow your body to absorb nutrients and aid in digestion. Kirsten sticks to 105 degrees to make sure that her foods never hit that dreaded 115 degree mark. An hour later, we are ready to eat. We made a few of the little lasagnas so we invited a bunch of friends over for a raw dinner party.
Before everyone arrived, I dug a bamboo fork right into the center of one of those little lasagnas for a bite and I have to say… it was really good. Now, I will say that a pine nut paste is no replacement for any cheese let alone a nice mozzarella. However, if you just remind yourself that this is not traditional lasagna, you will be able to appreciate this nice healthy take on the original.
Dinner with Kirsten and friends in her backyard in Santa Monica
As I stepped on the flight back to the East Coast on Sunday afternoon, I was inspired to bring my new raw food education home with me. In a way that’s exactly what happens every time I travel. I take home bits and pieces of a destination and bring it home with me. Will I now argue with my family that we should use pine nut paste instead of mozzarella in lasagna? Probably not. But it’s not really about having to change anything; its about opening your mind to new ideas and flavors to inspire your taste buds and your cooking.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
While I could not attend the Emmy's in Los Angeles last weekend, I had to take a moment and congratulate two of my teams on their nominations!!
BIG congrats to Steve Schmidt our editor on John Ratzenberger's: Made in America!
I also wanted to send a HUGE shout out to Kim Mayhorn for her incredible editing on one of my all-time favorite projects at Travel Channel - ART ATTACK! Kim was also nominated for her outstanding editing and I was so glad that she was able to attend the ceremony to represent! Another big thanks to Lee Sandstead, Bruce David Klein and Lorri Leighton at Atlas Media for their blood, sweat and tears on this fabulous project!
Monday, August 17, 2009
I can honestly tell you that as a woman, there is definitely some chemical reaction that happens to a girl when she eats choocolate. It's a soothing, zen-like breath of richness that creates a moment of inner peace. It's so good that we go back, over and over, for more with no regard to the amount of additional sit-ups or minutes on the treadmill we have added to our life. For that one minute, calories do not count and we are one with the candy.
When I was asked to travel to Brugge, Belgium to do a simple story on a chocolatier, I knew that it was going to be beautful and delicious... and it was.
I flew into Belgium after a few fabulous days working on another project in Barcelona, Spain. I flew Brussels Airlines, which reminded me a lot of JetBlue - minus the Satellite TV at every seat. My ticket was booked in their "light" service, which meant a cheaper fare in exchange for less luggage. Meaning, I could only take one suitcase and one carry-on.... that's it. You did not even have the option to pay for another bag. Thank goodness I packed light.
I landed in Brussels at around 8:45pm and headed right to baggage claim to retrieve my luggage. Brussels National Airport is very easy to navigate and after a few days in Spain, I was relieved to hear the English speaking over-head announcements.
I caught a train on the lower level of the airport to Brussels Midi rail station where I could then catch my train to Brugge. The trip from the airport to Brussels Midi was around 20 minutes and cost 3 EUR.
I ordered my ticket to Brugge online from Rail Europe and it was delivered to me by mail. If you have some time to spare, be sure to purchase your ticket at the rail station so that you do not have to pay the hefty shipping fee. I paid $30 for that convenience. Also, I booked a first class ticket for $38 each way and I would recommend just paying $25 for the second class fare. In other areas of Europe, the class of service really makes a difference. However, on these trains all of the cars look alike and just bring a power bar and some water instead of paying a little more for the same thing on this train.
The ride to Brugge from Belgium was about 80 minutes. It was fast, relaxing and really quiet. I think there were only 4 other people in the car that I was in. It was the perfect way to take a breath and get ready to experience another European city.
I got off the train in Brugge and walked out the main door to a line of Mercedes Benz taxi cabs waiting in line to take me to my hotel. I quickly jumped into the car and we made our way into the gates of the small city. As soon as we came upon the main square, my eyes widened and I knew that I just stumbled upon something very special. It was almost 11pm at night and I could still see the charming elegance of this Medieval city glistening in the night.
I was excited to check into The Pand Hotel here in Brugge. I had checked the website before I left the hotel and it looked really nice. This 18th Century Carriage house is now a boutique hotel with only 26 bedrooms. My room was on the first floor which could be reached by a very tiny elevator or a very narrow winding staircase. Kind of a pain to get my luggage up and down, but charming and well suited for the surroundings.
The next morning, I met the TJ working on this project, Brian Knappenberger, for breakfast in their dining room. The staff quickly offered me some fresh juice, breads and cheeses. They also offered fresh fruit and yogurt, cereals and egg dishes all served on white table cloths with sparkling silver tea service.
After breakfast we jumped in a Mercedes Taxi and headed out to Carline Chocolate factory to start the shoot. Katrigne, the chocolatier was meeting us there and would be showing us the secrets of creating Belgian chocolate. She actually works for the US distributor of the chocolate and you can order them directly through Nirvana Chocolates located in New England.
As soon as I walked onto the factory floor, I felt a tingle of that chemical reaction. You could actually smell the chocolate as soon as you walked in the front door. One breath in and I knew I was in heaven.
So, what makes Belgian chocolate so irresistible? The Belgians pride themselves on creating the richest (without being too rich), highest quality, most natural chocolate. They do not use any preservatives and they also pride themselves on only using cocoa butter.
With full tummys in tow, we made out way back to Brugge to tour the city. Brugge has this fairy-tale quality to it. Castles and bell-towers standing over cobblestone squares and horsedrawn carriages creating the perfect clippity-clop soundtrack as you walk the narrow streets. Be sure to give yourself a day to explore and another day just to relax and enjoy.
One thing is for certain, you will have plenty of chances to buy chocolate. I loved The Chocolate Line where Belgium's answer to Emeril Lagasse, Dominique Persoone, reigns as chocolate master. His creations range from nut infused bars to the wacky chocolate covered cauliflower to the choco-tequila shot. Think thats crazy? He also developed sniffing chocolates for a famous US Rock Band. Yes, sniffing chocolates and yes, that means you put it up your nose.
The food in Belgium was good... loads of frittes, Belgian Wafles (using only one "f" - not two like we do here) and beer. I tried a cherry beer which was a perfect while sitting out over the string of canals that wind throughout the city.
There is a legend in Brugge that says that if you see the swans swimming on the canals, that you will experience love in your lifetime. I definitely fell for Brugge and walked away completely smitten with Belgium. I found the people to be friendly, travel easy and the food yummy. Was it the swans or was it just a chemical reaction to all that chocolate? Who cares...
Saturday, August 8, 2009
A few years back, I was inspired to create a list of 101 things that I wanted to do before I left the planet. Year by year, I keep checking things off... make my own pasta in Rome, Ski in Colorado, Have a baby. This week I checked off another - I took a stroll down La Ramblas in Barcelona!
Barcelona is a beautiful city that sits right on the Meditteranean on Spain's North Eastern Coast. It has that classic European charm and that undeniably relaxing Spanish vibe.
Downtown Barcelona is only about a 20 minute cab ride from the airport. My cab driver was friendly, but did not speak a word of English. So, make sure that you know at least a few lines of conversational Spanish. My ride cost about 20 Euros ($28 US), but for only around 4 Euros there is a bus right outside of the terminal that will take you downtown.
For this trip, the crew and I were staying at the Silken Ramblas, located only steps from the famous La Ramblas. La Ramblas is a street filled with cafes, shops and some of the most vibrant street performers I have ever seen. This is the perfect place for people watching and a must-do when in Barcelona. Be sure to stop into the Mercat right in the center of La Ramblas to see some of the freshest produce, meats and other foods from the local vendors.
On this trip, I was working with Alex Boylan, one of our best Travel Journalists. Alex has traveled the world on his show Around The World for Free and he is also a past winner of the Amazing Race. So, I knew that traveling with Alex was sure to be an adventure.
Our first stop was to a typical tapas bar to learn the art of small plate dining. One of the locals guided us to a place that they claimed to have the best tapas in town - Cerveseria Catalana. We enjoyed a few sample tapas - a bruschetta with prosciutto and cheese and then a salmon ceviche. The dishes were fresh and simple and the prices were reasonable.
We then headed up to Park Montjuic to get a bird's eye view of the city. The best way to get up to the top of the mountain is to take the Teleferic de Monjuic, a gondola that will lift you "ski resort" style up to the fort that sits atop Montjuic. At around 8 Euros for a round trip ticket, this is a fun way of seeing all that Barcelona has to offer.
I celebrated my birthday that evening in Barcelona with some fisherman's paella and some nice Spanish wine. After a long say of shooting, we headed to dinner at 9pm and we were alone! Book a reservation at 10 or 10:30pm if you want to eat with a crowd of locals.
The next day we toured the beautiful Park Guell in the heart of Barcelona. This park was commissioned by Eusebi Guell and was designed by Antoni Gaudi. Gaudi's whimsical approach to architecture can be appreciated around every corner of the park. Journey through the gingerbread looking gate houses and head up the almost crooked stairs to a large plaza where you will find street performers, locals and tourists all enjoying the shade from the hot Barcelona sun. The park also features shaded pathways and flintstone style arches where you will find people relaxing, reading, or enjoying the many street artists that line the paths.
Only a few minutes from Park Guell is the amazing La Sagrada Familia where you can see Gaudi's most famous piece of art that is still under construction to this day. In fact, after a century of buidling, most people think that the church is better left undone. The building is ornate and my favorite part was the crucifix located on the back side of the cathedral. Be sure to stop and really look at all of sculptures that are embedded into the facade.
For our second night in Barcelona, we made our way down to the Barcelona Seafront for dinner and some cocktails. This is the most popular place on the weekends - so expect a crowd and plan to make reservations at one of the many restaurants. Remember to book late or you will be eating alone! A popular wine to order with dinner is a Rioja or take a splurge and try one of their yummy mojitos. Be careful though, the rock sugar they use is super sweet and it will make you forget just how much alcohol you are throwing down.
In all, Barcelona was a charming city that was filled with good food, warm people and a relaxed culture. Everyone we met had a "Don't worry... you are in Barcelona" attitude that just forced you to slow down and take it all in. It will also seduce you into many evening cocktails and long nights with friends. They really want you to rest all day so that you can party with them all night.
Next Stop on this trip - Brugge, Belgium where I explore the art of making fine Belgian chocolates.