Sunday, August 30, 2009

what happens in vegas…

Had a quick trip to Las Vegas, and while there were no wild and crazy nights for me ( I was working, people), we over-indulged in a different way. Las Vegas is home to thousands of restaurants, dozens by celebrity chefs like Thomas Keller, Wolfgang Puck, Mario Batali, Daniel Boulud, Tom Colicchio, Bobby Flay… the list goes on and on. We visited as many as can fit in a 48-hour time span.

Many of these restaurants are exact replicas of restaurants in other places- like Spago in LA and Bouchon in Napa. Same name, same chef, same menu, same d├ęcor. But something is always lacking in the Vegas versions. The walls feel a little like Hollywood sets and the clientele are often in t-shirts or worse.

I didn’t let that slow me down, however, or keep me from enjoying fresh oysters, arugula, divine cheeses, lobster ravioli and glass after glass of champagne. A good time was had by all, and this is one instance where I wish what happened in Vegas didn’t have to stay in Vegas.

Throw in a couple of shows (everything from Cirque de Soliel to Holly Madison), some killer shopping, and a great new tan, and I will be dreaming of Vegas for a while to come, humming Katy Perry’s tune with a smile, glad it wasn’t me at the little white wedding chapel with someone’s high school ring!

my vegas cocktail of choice...

1 oz. vodka
1 sugar cube
5 dashes Angostura Bitters

Put the sugar cube in the bottom of a martini glass and soak with the bitters. Top with vodka and fill glass with champagne. It's a champagne cocktail with a kick!

Friday, August 28, 2009

living the high life...

On a trip to New York just two weeks ago, a friend introduced me to something new and exciting on the city’s west side- The High Line. Someone once said that what they loved about New York City is how it always changes on you, and I would have to add that it keeps changing for the better. This project reflects some real vision for a public space.

First the background… In the late 1840s, the City laid a line of rail road tracks down the west side that went on to cause so many deadly accidents that 10th Avenue became known as Death Avenue. Finally in 1930, an elevated rail road was built, The High Line, eliminating 105 street-level rail road intersections (and saving many lives in the process). This elevated rail track was in continued use until the 80s, when rail road traffic had diminished considerably and the line was unnecessary. (tidbit- they say the last trainload to run down the High Line was in 1980, carrying three carloads of frozen turkeys). The rail sat in disrepair for years afterwards.

By about the year 2000, neighborhood leaders were advocating for a reinvention of this rail track for public use, and it has finally come to fruition. The High Line is open to the public between Gansevoort and 20th, creating a unique juxtaposition of sleek modern walkways and seating with naturalistic plantings, almost meadow-like in places. At any time on any given day, the High Line can be filled with sunbathers on sleek teak loungers, children purchasing ice cream cones, groups of people watching a performance or taking a yoga class, and workers choosing to make their commute to the office a little more pleasant by walking this route instead of on the street below.

It is being built in stages, and the first has only just been completed. But when it is done, it will be a mile-and-a-half-long elevated park, running through the West Side neighborhoods of the Meatpacking District, West Chelsea and Clinton/Hell's Kitchen.

An event not to be missed… Chefs Dinner to Benefit Friends of the High Line

Friends of the High Line is the conservancy charged with raising private funds for the park and overseeing its maintenance and operations. This chef’s dinner, organized by Chef Tom Colicchio of Craftsteak (and my favorite Top Chef), will be a fabulous al-fresco evening of dinning on the highline with multiple amazing chefs. I can’t imagine anything better than dinner under the stars in New York in early October when the weather is just beginning to turn cool and more than half a dozen NYC chefs have prepared your meal, all for the good cause of urban revitalization.

Check it out…

Thursday, August 20, 2009

new inspirations: andean excursion...

Below are just a few of the fabulous pictures that we’ve been sorting through from Lang’s recent last-minute jaunt to Peru (Lang has been working with Cerulean all summer and we missed her while she was exploring high altitudes in the Southern hemisphere). From colorful native clothing, llamas on the roadside, amazing local cuisine and a ride on Hiram Bingham railroad to Machu Pichu, it sounds like a fabulous trip! Im making notes for myself – I have big plans to one day walk the Inca Trail. Must get better at high altitudes first…

Pictures of indigenous Peruvian marketplace, shown at the bottom, make me incredibly envious! How we would love to get our hands on some fabulous, handmade South American gifts and accessories for all our Cerulean fans! Perhaps there is reason for Lang and I to plan a return visit soon!

Enjoy her beautiful photos.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

hidden ireland...

Just returned from a fabulous holiday in Ireland, County Kerry to be exact. We toured this beautiful and rugged southwest corner of the country, traveling along the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic for a little over a week. I can’t say we saw the sun much on this trip, but we discovered so many shining things while on the Emerald Isle!

Never have I met such amazing people when traveling- casual, comfortable, welcoming and fun. It was seven days of hikes through green rocky countryside finished with meals of the absolute freshest seafood I have ever eaten in my life (and coming from a coastal person, that is really saying something).

As an equestrian, I made sure to ride some of the sturdy Irish cobbs and draft horses while there- along beaches and down winding cliffs. Once we even rode straight through the middle of a town, past cafes and stunned shoppers, around a round-about, past an eighteen wheeler, and out to the beaches.

The trip had its share of sights, including stone circles (a’ la Stone Henge), castles, fishing villages full of lobster traps and brightly painted boats, stone cottages and bridges and fences, traditional Irish music, and Guinness of course! The final day was by far the most impressive, as we toured the great Blaskett Island, one of the last bastions of traditional Gaelic culture. The people of this island had a rich oral traditional and maintained their traditional way of life until the mid twentieth century, when the peat bog depletion forced them to move to the Irish mainland. A chartered boat delivered us to the island through rough seas, and left us to explore abandoned stone houses, overgrown hedgerows and fences that once held sheep and cattle, down tiny paths that wound around the rugged island. What a fascinating place.

Pictured below are (left to right, top row down) stone circles outside Kenmare, Lobster Traps in Port McGee, Cart Rides through the Gap of Dunloe, Great Blaskett Island, Dingle Bay, a Cottage on Great Blaskett, Dingle Horse Riding, a Tower Overlooking Dingle Bay, Placing Bets at the Dingle Races with less than professional-looking bookies.

A few spots to not miss if you ever make it to this part of the world:

The Lime Tree Restaurant, Kenmare, Ireland

An intimate “Double Award Winner” Michelin restaurant that serves fabulous seafood and local lamb set in an 1800’s building in the heart of quaint Kenmare.

Stop by the Park Hotel for drinks before or after dinner. While we didn’t get a chance to stay at the Park hotel, which overlooks the beautiful bay of Kenmare, it definitely seems to be the best hotel in the area.

I also recommend Out of the Blue in Dingle for seafood lovers- their slogan is “Meat eaters need not apply”, and you wont be disappointed.

And don’t miss Fenton’s in Dingle as well. While it may seem like a casual, ordinary seafood restaurant, the food was divine. “Crab Thumbs” as they call them (seemed to be just like stone crab claws to me) kept me thinking about Fenton’s for days.

Finally, if you want help planning your own vacation to Ireland, I have to recommend Hidden Ireland Tours, who planned our trip from top to bottom and didn’t disappoint at all. My good friend Binky organizes the trips and has fabulous contacts over there to get you to the most out of the way, unknown spots, the best local restaurants, the best sights and walks that you would never find on your own.