Thursday, 10 January 2013

Weekend in Barcelona

I have fallen, hook, line and sinker, in love with Barcelona! The weather, the friendly, beautiful people, the food, the drink, the architecture, and...aaah, the Turkish baths.
Unfortunate about the economy because it is fully understandable why locals don't want to leave and immigrants would love to come.  Amazing.
Here are the highlights to my fantastic weekend:

Air BnB~ we stayed in a gorgeous 2-bed, 2 bath apartment with a balcony, right off of Passeig de Gracia  for 175 euros per night. It was perfect.

Grand Hotel Central~ Beautifully simple, sleek, and very centrally located.

Hotel Arts~ located close to Olympic Village and close to the seaside, this hotel probably is the most glam in the city.  Great pool and restaurants.

Near our apartment, and I'm sure all over the city, you find excellent coffee, jamon and beer if you choose!, small sandwiches, cookies, and small pastries for breakfast which is the most common diet. Not hard to get this right at all.


Passadis Del Pep~ Perhaps one of the greatest dinners we have ever had.  It is a MUST when in Barcelona.  NO menu just a maitre d' who asks if you have any dislikes, and on and on and on the platters come. We were a group of 6 ppl and one after the other, the most interesting and exquisite of seafood kept coming.  At some point, you'll need to "pause" or "stop" and tell the maitre d' when you are nearing your peak of fullness. Each course is more wow than the previous.  We universally LOVED this restaurant.

Cuina Santa Caterina~ Is in the Parada de Mercado (market).  Wide variety on menu.

Loidi ~ Contemporary and more affordable bistro by this Michelin starred chef.

Moritz~ Brewery restaurant.  Lovely, lovely casual German menu (think Brats and Wurst and sauerkraut) all awhile sitting atop a brewhouse.  Tours of the brewery too, (brush up on your Spanish!)

Palau Dalmases~ a real hidden gem! We went after midnight Roman Bath for late night drinking under the stars...Absolutely stunning.

Mirablau~ stunning views! Great spot for after dinner drinks

Boadas~ I loved this little bar, a la 1940's style in La Ramblas, for pre-dinner aperitif.  Truly charming and old school

DO and SEE
You are in home city of one of the greatest architects of all time, Antoni Gaudi.  His influence can be seen all over the city but a few of the highlights which are a must see:

Sagrada Familia

La Pedrera

Casa Batllo
Casa Calvett

Markets, Markets and Markets

And last, but not least, one of my MOST favorite experiences was a post-dinner visit to Aire Ancient Baths.  Pack a bathing suit, make an appointment, and take 2 glorious hours rotating amongst plunging into hot baths, cold baths, salt bath, steam room.  A truly outstanding experience and especially decadent after a long day filled with sites, food, and drink for a total decompress.  Of course, to stop in to Palau Dalmases on your way home is not a bad idea either.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Downtown Mayfair "Cipriani" London

I had, without a doubt, the worst dining experience ever, in London last night at Downtown Mayfair "Cipriani" (15 New Burlington Place)
First and foremost, what set the wrong mood off very early in the night was the service, or OVER service if I can give a name to it.  It was extremely disruptive and intrusive all night long.  Like parent to kid, hanging over the dinner table saying, “drink all your milk and finish your dinner or no dessert”.  Why I didn’t ask the server to back away and give us some space, I do not know. We were 7 people seated at an oval table and if the server leaned over me once, he leaned over me 40+ times to pour water, wine, more water, more wine, pass plates, pick up plates, and pour more wine. It was completely unnecessary.  His arm was in my face all night. And I mean, between bites of food, I had to put down my fork and lean back for fear of getting elbowed in my nose.  All by a waiter wearing a white dinner jacket and bow tie, circa 1960, Casablanca.  If this is the only way to reach someone in that corner, than this table is too small for 7 ppl.
Food was entirely average. If all else fails, I’ve always known Cipriani to serve wonderful food. Not last night.  Or, is it that this food is just passé? But then, great food is never passé, so I think its just lazy cooking at this stage of this brand.  My salad was below average. A bowl, a small bowl no less, of chopped cucumber, avocado – not ripe enough – and tomatoes, thrown together.  That’s it. Not terrible, but its something anyone can manage to make at home.  At Jean-George in NYC, I once ordered a tomato as an appetizer.  That’s it. Just a tomato.  It was the most exquisitely prepared tomato known to man.  Presented like a piece of art and that flavor is still with me long after its not offered the menu any more.  I assure you this cucumber, avocado, tomato salad was a long, long way off of that. Not an ounce of anything special about this.
Cipriani can do pasta I understand.  I had A’matriciana.  Fine. But fine is not fine, if you know what I mean. Frankly, it was too oily and too much sauce vs. quantity of pasta. 
Atmosphere in the restaurant is non-existent.  No music, unless you count a group of 12 singing “happy birthday” to a family member.  I thought I was in a sports bar for that minute, but then I realized otherwise.  It was the servers buzzing around in their white dinner jackets and bow ties, singing madam this and madam that.  I wonder where the cigarette girls where. They would have completed the picture.  And the book shelf with the contrived arrangement of books made to look like people read “Porsche” or “What to Cook and How to Cook it” all the while waiting for your food to be brought to you. Who concocted that as good restaurant design?  Or is that what the waiter was leaning in for, actually?  A good read.
And then, the inevitable:  the bill arrives.  And it’s extortionate. Almost uncomfortable.   Of course the prices are on the menu, but when you are hit with a bill of hundreds and hundreds ….and hundreds more £ pounds, you think the better of the choice to come here to begin with.  The “buffet” of desserts that our server brought to the center of our table, was pithy, fluffy and amateur.  All white, all meringue of some shape and at bill time, I notice first that they are £11 each.  I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. 

Friday, 8 June 2012

Dining out this week

This week we had friends in from the States, it was my daughters birthday (7th), and over that and this week, we have been out to eat more than at home...
Here is the round-up and the assessment:

Bills~ one of my favorite places in town for a casual breakfast. It was sunny and 75 outside and a perfect day to sit out in their courtyard in Slingsby Place off of Long Acre.  But i must say this was my first disappointing experience at Bill's.  Usually I get porridge which is a too-big portion but with the honey and hazlenuts sprinkled over top, its dee-lish.  But since my yankee doodle friends, settled in to their seats, and first thing ordered was bellini's and bloodies (Monday morning no less!), I succumbed to peer pressure, dissed the idea of porridge and we all went with sausage sandwiches. Diet out the door; a great way to start a week with an "elderflower fizz".  But  I forgot! Sandwiches in England always seem to disappoint.  The bread was white, cut too thick, not toasted, and it just ended up being a hunk a bread with a teeny tiny bit of sausage.  Not good.
Bellini:  8/10
Food 4/10
atmosphere: 10/10

Fifteen London~  Jamie Olivers place off City Rd...really really good.  Loved the line up of cocktails, loved the atmosphere and loved the food.
Drinks:  10/10
Food:  8/10
Atmosphere: 9/10 (would prefer to sit upstairs

XO ~ My kids LOVE asian food. In fact, I think they'd eat it 7 days a week if on birthdays,  b-day kid gets to pick any restaurant they want.  And, yes, you guessed it. Its always asian.  The fan favorite this past year has been XO in Belsize Park.  It manages to be hip enough that there is always a nice crowd there (mostly adults), and yet happens to be quite kid friendly too. I'm not saying its a place for strollers (pleeease!), but for 6 yrs old +, its perfect.  We order a big selection of starters and then mains range from sushi, curry, black cod, salads -- its almost a perfect menu. And our yankee friends were still with us and they LOVED it.  Its a neighborhood favorite.
Drinks: 8/10
Food: 10/10
Atmosphere: 9/10

Olivers Fish & Chips ~ Another family favorite and doesn't ever, ever fail.  It is quaint, small, has a beer and wine licence, and excellent fish & chips of course. And, if you are watching calories, you can choose from a long list of grilled fish dishes and salad side courses.  And value for money is exceptional, as well.  I am very, very embarrassed to say that after my kids cleaned their plates, i actually allowed  them to order the deep. fried. mars. bar. for dessert.  I mean, OMG.  I resisted (easy actually because it looks like sin on a plate) but there was not a morsel left.
Drinks: fine
Food: 8/10
Atmosphere: 7/10

Flute~ So I'm never one to buy food & bev vouchers on Living Social mostly because I'm kinda embarrassed to present them at the establishment, followed by I don't normally want to be confined to what they want you to order. And thirdly, just appears kinda cheap.  So, that being said, I had a voucher for a food and bev establishment. Ho hum. Yes, I bought it because it kind of popped into my email in a timely fashion when I was contemplating where to bring a friend to celebrate her new job.  I duly purchased it for immediate use, but due to some glitch, the voucher didn't pop up for use, until a day later. So, now I've had the voucher for 5 months and paid for it, so thought I'd drag my husband to Flute which was relatively near where we could go see a movie i was dying to see: Moonlight Kingdom .
Umm, what do I say? I don't know if I have been in a worse bar in London. Ever.  Generally absolutely terrible. I had this feeling that it was going to be "french" styled as they have one in Paris. I envisioned Parisian cafe Jazz music -- sipping great FRENCH champagne -- sitting on beautiful velvet couches...Let that thought come to a screeching halt.  Picture this. Basement. Leather. VERY dim lighting.  Techno music (whAAt??), and just an air of ...alotta coke(aine) use.  Not my speed at all. We drank. we ate. we left in a flat 22 mins.
Champagne: 10/10  excellent selection and we had a tasting of which all were excellent
Service: 6/10: lovely server but slow and not attentive.
Food:  5/10
Atmosphere: 0/10

And last but not least, to round out this week up to today, we went to see Moonrise Kingdom at Curzon Soho.  THIS is a must see movie. I predict it is going to have a cult following like 16 Candles, Pulp Fiction, and Fargo.  Its kinda strange, but so so so good. I loved it.  The soundtrack is outstanding and man, do I want to have a vacation in that red house!  Amazing. And of course, the Curzon cinema is awesome too.  To see films. Not to have a vacation in.

Until next week.....

Monday, 14 May 2012


There are so many great markets in London and of course, many of the obvious float to the top, and are packed and filled with visitors.  Brixton Market is NOT one of those.  

Access:  Tube in on the Victoria line to Brixton.  

Village Market is a shedded, village like arrangement of streets and avenue's filled with totally cool, independent eateries and boutiques selling the most adorable hand-selected items from vintage french clothing to handmade childrens toys.  As you walk down, say, 1st Ave, and make a left onto 6th Ave, you have choice of Cornercopia, Federation Coffee, French & Grace and the list goes on and on. If you want pizza, asian, soups, british...whatever you fancy, Brixton Village has got a good version of it.  ONe particular favorite is Seven at Brixton. The menu is printed on an envelope, the decor is adorable and the table's, as in all of the cafe's, spill out onto the "avenues".Very social; very fun.  

Saturday Markets:
On rotating Saturdays, there are themed markets ranging from 
Retro and Vintage (3rd Sat of every month), 
Brixton Flea Market (1st Sat of month) is just treasures galore -- the beauty is that there is no need for vendors to book a stall; they can just show up and sell their stuff. One man's garbage is another's gold type of thing!
Brixton Makers Market (2nd Sat of every month) is homemade jewelery, skincare products, baked goods, original art and design.  And the bonus is that there is a guided tour of this reclaimed area at 2:30pm given by the Brixton Society.  Love it.  

Farmers Market:
While I completely recommend going on Saturdays, on Sundays there is a fantastic Farmers Market. Couple that with the already magnificent food vendors, you can stock up on the best of your weeks groceries.  

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Bike ride bliss

The weather this week has certainly leant itself to being outdoors and one of London's best attributes are its fabulous sites.  With the Barclays Bank scheme now open and available to everyone, not just residents,  here is a great bike route fun for beginners. (As told by Danielle Goldstein to Time Out) 

Start at the Victoria Embankment (1) docking station and follow the road west. This is a beautiful stretch that runs alongside the Thames, so you’ll see some major landmarks, including Cleopatra’s Needle and the London Eye, as well as the stunning evolution of architecture, especially in the OXO Tower(’20s), Ministry of Defence (’50s) and Portcullis House (’90s).
As you approach Westminster (2)Big Ben will loom into view above the trees. Once you reach its base, turn right into Bridge Street and follow the one-way system around Parliament Square until you’re on Great George Street. Take the first right into Horse Guards Road, where St James's Park will unfold to your left and, to your right, Horse Guards Parade, where Trooping the Colour takes place every year on The Queen’s birthday.
Prince Charles CinemaPrince Charles Cinema
At the end, turn right into The Mall until you meet the roundabout. It’s quite traffic-heavy here, so you might want to dismount and cross over to Trafalgar Square, Nelson’s Column and the National Portrait Gallery (3)by foot. Otherwise, take the second exit into Charing Cross Road, which will bring you to Leicester Square. Dismount here and cross to the Prince Charles independent cinema tucked down Leicester Place, at the north end of which is Chinatown – home to numerous restaurants. A few minutes away, however, is Tuk Tuk(4), which serves hefty portions of authentic Thai and Malaysian cuisine at reasonable prices (average dish, £4.90). To get there, turn left into Little Newport Street, right into Whitcomb Street, straight across the lights and right into Old Compton Street, where Tuk Tuk will be on your left.
© The Trustees of the British Museum
After lunch, you may want to dock your bike and walk off the meal around the one per cent of the British Museum’s whopping eight million-piece collection that’s on display. To get there, pick up a bike from the British Museum docking station and continue east down Old Compton Street, turn left into Charing Cross Road and follow the one-way system to New Oxford Street, where you should turn left, but merge over to the right so that you can turn at the traffic lights into Tottenham Court Road. Go right into Great Russell Street, which will take you to the museum entrance. If you fancy something more modest, the Charles Dickens Museum is nearby. Pass the British Museum (5), turn right at Bloomsbury Square and left into Bloomsbury Way. After three sets of traffic lights, turn left into John Street, which turns into Doughty Street. Look for No 49, one of the Victorian writer’s former homes, preserved in its original state with furniture.
After this trek you’ll want a sit down and Queen's Larder (6) is a great pub with cosy booths to do just that. At the north end of Doughty Street, turn left into Guildford Street (where there’s a docking station), then the second left down Guildford Place and right on Great Ormond Street. At the end is Queen Square and Queen's Larder is No 1.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Fave Miami Eats

I am actually looking forward to a Dickensonian Christmas in London this year, but lo and behold, its also a great time to vamoose and take advantage of the long break which is so prevalent.
With that I've had several clients ask me lately for my recommends in Miami. So let me share that with everyone here:
Where to dine on Christmas Day~ I wholly recommend The Fontainbleu.  Iconic. Spectacular. Delightful. Fun.  And with no less than 8 restaurants (!) but with 3 of them offering special Christmas Eve and Christmas Day menu's.  I can't imagine anyone who wouldn't be impressed with the "wow" factor but if you are not into bling, forget it.
La Scala at The Fontainbleu

My other faves for the rest of your stay:
South Beach:
Joe’s Stone Crabs — do NOT leave Miami without eating here.

Smith & Wollensky — Steak the American way.  AND spectacular views over Biscayne Bay -- simply GORGEOUS

Prime 112 – steak the American way, also, but with views of ...celebrities.  A fab place, fab food, and a pretty good shot at seeing a Kardashian. One downside, the wait staff hustle the hell out of you as they want to turn the table fast. Ignore them and eat slow. And order dessert AFTER they've given you your check. Wise guys.

I still like China Grille but some people think its passe’.  True, it has been around for a long time. The decor is so 80"s and way OTT but the food is great.  Fun spot for not-to-young kids. No website. 404 Washington Ave.

Jerry’s Deli — honking huge sandwiches and awesome for breakfast! And those diner waitress's serving you that have been there for 50 years, smacking their gum, asking "whaddy'll have, honey??" So experienced, they can run with a cup of coffee without spilling a drop. They are classic. 

Quattro on Lincoln rd. -- amazing Italian

Ice Box Café — dessert after dinner

Miss Yip Chinese Cafe — cute cute and great Chinese restaurant off Lincoln Rd.

The Big Pink — cheap lunch options. Fun. Can walk in barely off the beach. No dress code whatsoever.

Wynwood Kitchen & Bar  - Genuinely one of my FAVE's.  Well worth the taxi ride off the island.. they always have great events there. Sundays, if they still do it, attached to a flea market and you can drink champagne while you shop.

Tobacco Rd – Miami’s oldest bar, amazing burgers and ribs, and a true dirty dive bar. FUN! In my book anyway!

Michael’s Genuine in the Design District is very well revered but I think they are a bunch of pompous assholes.  But its pretty synonymous with Miami.  If you are in area, I suppose that’s where you should go.  

And last but not least, when you get some babysitting organized, be sure to hit the Richochet Lounge ~ a fantastic fusion of art, music and light bites.  

Candy, heavenly Candy

Huge fan of candy here! And I've passed along the addiction to my 3 kids unfortunately.  Blatant, "I'm not hungry {10 seconds passes}, can I have dessert?"
That being said, I don't care?! I get great joy out of candy and glad my kids find such happiness in it too! Our dentist loves us.  Anyway, when in NY, make your way over to Rivington Street to find the Economy Candy Store.. Its delightful, in an old-fashioned, slightly down-brow kind of a way. I can't believe how much they can fit into such small square footage!