Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Valentine's Day at the Ritz Carlton Georgetown

We are all suffering from the budget cut blues this Winter of 2009. From the housing crisis to the economy, all we hear about in the workplace, on the news and in our homes is how to save, save, save. Then... Valentine's Day rolls around and its almost like being on a diet and someone offering Chocolate Cake. What to do? Well... I ate the cake this year and made a dinner reservation at the Ritz Carlton Georgetown's Farenheit in Washington DC.

The Ritz Georgetown is not your typical Ritz. This hotel has a bit of the attitude of a Soho Grand (New York) with a hint of the too cool for school mentality of the "W" brand. I had been to the hotel a few times before, but this was my husand's first time to the hotel. Peter is a true Ritz snob and always looks forward to the sparkling crystal chandeliers, refined design and "it would be my pleasure" gestures from the staff. So, upon turning into the almost hidden driveway of this hotel he was already questioning if we were in the right place.

The hotel itself is located right on the banks of the Potomac River in a building that is a National Historic Landmark. The structure used to be an incinerator building and the red bricks, large windows and funnels makes you feel like you are in downtown New York... certainly not trendy, upscale Georgetown. Upon walking into the front lobby, guests are invited to sit and relax in a cozy lounge that has modern accents and a roaring fireplace. Looking for registration? Oh, they are behind you and seated at personal desks instead of the usual buzz of a "front desk".

We were escorted to the back of the hotel and climbed a staircase up to the main dining attraction here; Farenheit Restaurant. We scored an early reservation, so we were immediately seated and had a glass of champagne in hand only seconds after that. The restaurant had a special Valentines Menu which was a 4 course prix fixe menu... which was perfect because everything listed sounded amazing.

Peter and I both ordered the sauteed foie gras which was served over a flaky pastry type cracker and a slice of poached pear. The sweet and the salty with the texture of the foie gras was nothing less than perfect. (We are still saying "ummmm" three days after the meal).

For our second course, we both ordered the corn chowder which was yummy and warm... perfect for a winter night in February.

Peter ordered the surf and turf which was steak with shrimp for the main course and I decided on the Sea Bass. We both had the lobster risotto on the side... and we both licked our plates clean. Dessert was a not too decadent vanilla cake with white chocolate cream with a raspberry mousse glazed over the top. It was then granished with fresh berries and some shaved white chocolate.

After dinner we wandered down to Degrees bar and lounge for a nightcap. We sat and chatted for an hour or so before we made our way home for our private Valentine's celebration.

While the price tag was a bit steep, the overall experience of the evening was well worth it. Peter and I agree that nights like this are what reminds us to work harder. It keeps us dreaming of the life we always wanted and keeps the fire burning inside to strive for the best this life has to offer.

Yes, the economy is bad and save, save, save will be our daily mantra for many months ahead ... but, we find that if we spend on a few extravagances it makes all that saving worth it.

Tomorrow I am off to New York City for another Travel Channel Academy. I am then heading to Long Island to see friends.

Travel On,

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

What to do when you have NOTHING to DO...

As a traveler, there is nothing more annoying to me than having nothing to do. I am on bed rest for the next few days for a minor health issue. I am fine... but, the doing nothing thing is killing me. It has become so boring that it had me start thinking about all of the people that cannot travel. People who are sick or care for them... or people who just do not have the means to get away.

Everyone knows that I am a TV addict and believe me...I have had my share of Gossip Girl, The Bachelor and Oprah this week! However, the one thing that really did the trick for me was a good book. Right now, I am in the middle of The Shiksa Syndrome by my good friend, Laurie Graff. This is a novel about a Jewish girl looking for a good Jewish boy in New York. I also loved re-reading Eat, Pray, Love. Elizabeth Gilbert is a wonderful storyteller who immerses her readers into a story within a destination. There is nothing more vibrant than imagining her in an ashram in the middle of India as she describes the "prayer" part of her story. It is the perfect way to escape the everyday... on the couch.

Since I really have a lot of time this week, I thought I would compile my travel reads for 2009... because even when you are not traveling... anyone can use an escape. Here's what I have on my list... please send me your suggestions.

(1) Wetlands by Charlotte Roche (born in High Wycombe but living in Germany) is a graphic portrait of a young woman's sexuality, and has been a European sensation, selling hundreds of thousands of copies. A woman I was sitting next to on a flight was reading this and we talked about it. Her copy was in German... Now it's available in English.

(2) "The Bad Girl's Guide to the Open Road" by Cameron Tuttle is full of sarcastic and sassy tips on how to take a highly adventuresome, Thelma-and-Louise-like road trip. I am also a fan of "Sand in My Bra"... another compilation of hilarious stories from women on the road.

(3) "Lonely Planet Unpacked" compiles hilarious travel disasters. There is nothing better than reading and learning from other traveler's mistakes. Here's one of mine... Back when we were shooting Passport to Latin America with Samantha Brown, I was trying to meet the crew up in Cusco, Peru so that I could be there for our Macchu Picchu shoot. I was in LA on another project and I was trying to figure out my travel itinerary. So, I called the producer and told her that I would fly into Lima and just "drive up" to Cusco and will meet them up in Macchu Picchu. Yeah, not so much... Cusco is a flight from Lima and at a little under 11,000 feet above sea level I also forgot about the reccomended acclimation period in Cusco before heading up to Macchu Picchu. Nice work, Lori.

(3) "Testosterone Planet: True Stories from a Man's World" is a compilation of daring stories by male adventure-seekers, including Tim Cahill, Jon Krakauer, Frank McCourt and Sebastian Junger. I love reading these adventure stories and the amazing skill and endurance that these guys have. An inspiration to try something new this summer.

(4) I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti, by Giulia Melucci. (Not released yet...) This memoir chronicles the food Melucci made to entice men -- and console herself when they left her broken-hearted. Anyone who makes a ziti during a crisis is my kind of girl.

(5) A Fortunate Age, by Joanna Smith Rakoff. (Not released yet...)This novel is about the lives of a group of Gen-Xers in pre- and post-9/11 New York City. My generation... my home city.

Also, mentioned above and two of my faves from 2008...

Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert. The story of a travel writer who, after a painful divorce, uses travel as her therapist. She heads to Italy to eat and to learn a little Italian, India to find inner peace by living at an ashram, and then to the Island of Bali in Indonesia to lay by the sea, study with a medicine man, and look for Love. If this does not give you the travel bug, nothing will.

The Shiksa Syndrome, by Laurie Graff. A story of a Jewish Girl who after a makeover looks a little less Jewish and finally lands a nice Jewish boy. Adorable and a perfect escape to the very "oy vey" world of dating in New York.

What are you reading? Let me know.
Travel on.