I’m back!! After a 3 1/2 year journey!

After a very long hiatus to give full attention to the building our family’s forever dream home, I am back to my writing, most importantly the writing of my travel blog.

But what a journey it has been. The home build was a year in the design process and another 2 1/2 years in the construction process. As much as the home build was a labor of love, it became a full time commitment in the final 18 months and I chose to put my writing on a temporary hold to give the build my full undivided attention.

In those 3 1/2 years I’m sure I logged enough road miles to earn AAA elite status – if there is such a thing! We chose to build on top of hill – but to accomplish our desire of building a one level home we had to excavate 25 feet deep from the highest point of the hill to the lowest point of the foundation. But after 6 plus months of digging, and exporting over 1200 truckloads of unusable material (325 of those were boulders alone), we had our flat lot. Now we can stay here until we are old and can race up and down the hallways with our walkers with no worries of stairs!

Luckily I somehow managed to fit in some very special trips during this busy time!

My last post was May of 2015. The following places are where I’ve been since then: Big Sky and Billings, Montana; Sedona (twice), Scottsdale and Wickenburg, Arizona; Napa Valley (twice), California; Vancouver, British Columbia; 4 different trips to Brooklyn and Manhattan, New York; Palm Springs, California; Sao Paulo, Angra dos Reis and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and a few other jaunts betwixt and between these amazing trips.

I will also reprise my monthly food blog. My need to fill my foodie desires never wavered during the home build project. Had to keep that strength up!

As much as I love to travel, there is no place like home and nothing like coming home. Especially when home allows me views that equal any I’ve ever experienced in my travels. Rugged red mountain ranges, hawks soaring through the open skies, lush green golf courses and orchards dotting the saguaro laden desert landscape, owls and coyotes making their presence known in the dark of night with their hoots and howls .

But…this is a travel blog, and there are many more amazing destinations on my bucket list to see and experience. So time to get back to my nomadic living and narrate!

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Fall is for feasting – Part 1, September: CA, NY & SC

Throughout the last 16 months since I started this blog, I have shared many travel experiences and many of those have been with my daughter. The one constant theme we revisit over and over again, no matter where our actual travels take us, is our love of food. We are self-professed foodies to the point that many of my posts were becoming as much about food as it was about the destination.

I probably have enough memories from our eating experiences to start a whole new blog on food. But for starters, or appetizers as the case may be, I have decided to dedicate one post a month on places we have eaten in the last month. Whether that be on our travels, or just great local fare where we live – NYC, Kansas City and the Phoenix Valley.

By doing this, it will also allow me to expound more on the travel destination highlights and my personal reviews in experiencing my travels, and leave the food portion of the trip for these monthly posts.

So grab a cold one, throw a sheet of chicken wings in the oven, and while they are crisping up, enjoy a journey through the eyes and stomachs of two food lovers:

NEW YORK CITY:

Nowhere to sit, but plenty to eat by Allison Malecha

Almost anywhere you go in New York, the food will be more than passable. The portion may be smaller than you wanted. The price higher. And sometimes that C Grade on the door might give you pause. But I can’t think of a time that I’ve pushed my plate away in this city out of distaste.

Usually, for me, atmosphere counts for a lot. If I know I’m going to have a pretty good meal, I like to enjoy where I’m eating it. But in the last week, I’ve tried out two places with chow so enticing, and prices so reasonable, that I didn’t bother to care about much else: Silver Rice ($$), in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood, and Brooklyn Taco ($$), on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

At Silver Rice, Kombu Kelp and Beet Pate are wrapped up into innovative sushi bites that are scarcely more expensive than a California roll in Manhattan, but the real draw are the eponymously named “Silver Rice Cups.” I had the spicy tuna one–a mouth-watering stack of flaxseed-threaded white rice, diced raw tuna, fresh scallion, and punchy mayo served inside a plain white paper cup for $6.50. Alternate with sips of the $1.95 organic miso soup, and you won’t give a damn that the only place to sit is at a slip of light-wood high-top next to the door.

Silver Rice Cup from Silver Rice Cup in Brooklyn

Founded by a Brooklyn native with South American roots and a Danny Meyer alum, Brooklyn Taco can take a while just to locate within the maze-like Essex Street Market. Last Saturday, I sat perched on another tiny bar stool in full view of a fish stand with a coconut shrimp taco that took two hands to hold and about two seconds to eat. The friend I was with told me her chipotle chicken one was the best tacos she’d ever eaten–she didn’t spare a bite to see if I agreed. And while their regular prices aren’t a total steal, the lunch deal is: $10 for two tacos and an agua fresca to wash them down.

Fish Taco at Brooklyn Taco, Lower Manhattan

More NYC… by Lisa Malecha

One of our favorite mother-daughter outings is to check one of the many boutique NYC neighborhood hot spots, and Jeffrey’s Grocery ($$$) fits the bill. Set in the West Village, the seating might be tight, but their seafood is big on flavor. Like the Blackened Flounder served on a Jalapeño-Cheddar Polenta Cake and smothered in an Andouille Gravy.

Blackened Flounder served up at Jeffrey's Grocery in the West Village of NYC

Blackened Flounder served up at Jeffrey’s Grocery in the West Village of NYC

Jump on the subway and head to 78th St. and Woodside Avenue and head to Ayada Thai ($$) restaurant in Queens for some really tasty food. The ambiance is pretty plain Jane, but the food infuses so many great flavors together it’s hard to stop eating when you know you don’t have any more room for another bite. A great starter is the Papaya Salad served with Salty Crab. Follow that with a Crispy Duck in a Red Curry Coconut Sauce and a wide noodle Pad Thai – all washed down with a Lychee Sangria.

Papaya Salad with crispy Salted Crab – yes you eat the whole crab, shells and all – at Ayada Thai Restaurant, Queens

If you’re in upper Manhattan, in the Upper East Side, taking in all the amazing museums and galleries, stop in at Cafe’ Sabarsky in the Neue Galerie and enjoy some authentic Austrian cuisine like the very flavorful Pikantes Ei mit Gurkerl und Paprika – a/k/a Spicy Eggs with Cornichons and Paprika. After a filling lunch be sure to take in the two levels of German and Austrian exhibits in this architecturally classically ornate museum.

Spicy Eggs on Cornichons with Paprika served at Cafe' Sabarsky in the Neue Galerie in the Upper East Side of NYC

Spicy Eggs on Cornichons with Paprika served at Cafe’ Sabarsky in the Neue Galerie in the Upper East Side of NYC

CHARLESTON:

Early September found my daughter and I sweating our way through Charleston. Thank goodness Charlestonians like to eat and drink as much as we do. We had no problem staying properly nourished to have the energy to walk the historic streets of this beautiful town, meander through their immense plantations and stroll along the water fronts.

We stayed at the Wentworth Mansion, an old estate home turned hotel, and also home to Circa 1886 restaurant, housed in the old carriage house. Our room included a complimentary breakfast – and “…honey this weren’t no slim pickings,..”-  a plate of fruit and a basket of pastries for starters, and then a menu to compete with any restaurant in the area. I chose a heaping helping of Shrimp n’ Grits so flavorful I could have had that for every meal and been content. My daughter chose Crab Cake Eggs Hollandaise. We also enjoyed a fine dining experience with dishes of Beef Tenderloin with a Chantilly Mustard Demi-Glace or Atlantic Lobster Tail with Vanilla Mascarpone Grits.

Wentworth Mansion in Charleston has a complimentary breakfast serving local favorites such as Shrimp & Grits

Wentworth Mansion in Charleston has a complimentary breakfast serving local favorites such as Shrimp & Grits

For lunch we checked out two local favorites. Charleston native, Stephen Colbert, recommends Hominy Grill. The line was long when we arrived, but an exterior bar window was serving chilled spiked beverages to keep us cool while we waited in the sweltering heat. Inside this old Colonial style home, we were given a starter of boiled peanuts in the shell and then ordered Cornmeal Crusted Flounder served with Mac & Cheese, Collard Greens and Tomato Jam. Husk, another local favorite restaurant, also housed in a renovated old mansion, had a line-up of hungry patrons. The menu here was a little more avant garde’ when it comes to southern cooking. We had starters of Shishito Peppers and Crispy Pigs Ear Lettuce Wraps. For lunch we split a Fried Chicken Po’boy sandwich and washed this all down with a couple of southern sweet teas.

Cornmeal Crusted Flounder served with Mac & Cheese, Collard Greens and Tomato Jam, at Hominy Grits in Charleston

Cornmeal Crusted Flounder served with Mac & Cheese, Collard Greens and Tomato Jam, at Hominy Grits in Charleston

At Husk we enjoyed a Fried Chicken Po'Boy sandwich topped with peanuts, red peppers and slaw.

At Husk we enjoyed a Fried Chicken Po’Boy sandwich topped with peanuts, red peppers and slaw.

Our favorite dining experience in Charleston was a placed called Edmund’s Oast. An upper end Brew Pub, we were seated at a bar that fronted the open kitchen where we watched mouth-watering after mouth-watering dish by us. Good thing we had 49 cold brews to choose from to calm our taste buds. We selected a tender Grilled New York Strip that was teamed with Smoked Potatoes and Okra, with a side of Collard Greens.

Some of the delectable dishes being served up at Edmund's Oast in Charleston

Some of the delectable dishes being served up at Edmund’s Oast in Charleston

Enjoying a fun dining experience at Edmund's Oast - brew pub with a front seat to the kitchen.

Enjoying a fun dining experience at Edmund’s Oast – brew pub with a front seat to the kitchen.

The next weekend found my husband and I spending time on the west coast in both Napa and San Francisco. In Napa, we had some great meals at the Lakehouse Restaurant, at Calistoga Ranch where we were staying. But one night we took a ride down the road to its big sister Auberge resort, Auberge du Soleil which showcases a Michelin Star restaurant, appropriately called, “The Restaurant“. When you eat at a place like this, you should make great effort to try something you wouldn’t find on many other menus – like Squab (a young pigeon) served with Figs, Foie Gras, Caramalized Onions in a Port Wine sauce. For lunch in Napa check out Solbar Restaurant at Solage Resort for a menu full of unique delectable dishes like Sweet Scarlet Peaches with Prosciutto or Lucky Pig Roasted Pork.

Squab served up Michelin style with Figs, Foie Gras, Carmelized Onions and Port.

Squab served up Michelin style with Figs, Foie Gras, Carmelized Onions and Port.

Lucky Pig, roasted pork, served with lettuce or black sesame seed crepes, at Solbar at Solage Resort

Lucky Pig, roasted pork, served with lettuce or black sesame seed crepes, at Solbar at Solage Resort

In San Francisco we took checked out Eno Wine Bar right around the corner from the The Westin St. Francis Union Square where were staying. A flight of wine is their specialty teamed with a plate of cheeses, sausages and chocolates. Need I say more!

Check out the numerous wine flights to pick from and pair with a plate of cheeses, sausages and chocolates at Eno Wine Bar in Union Square, San Francisco

Check out the numerous wine flights to pick from and pair with a plate of cheeses, sausages and chocolates at Eno Wine Bar in Union Square, San Francisco

Check out more food pics in the Food Gallery under the Global Gallery!

Brooklyn Bound

Brooklyn (71 sm) may live in the shadow of it’s smaller but better known sibling Manhattan (23 sm) in terms of being a destination location, but Brooklyn can certainly hold its own in being well worth the effort to cross the bridges over or take the subway under the East River. It’s about a 15 minute ride either way. If you are feeling energetic, the best way to cross back and forth between the boroughs is to walk over the Brooklyn Bridge.

Walking from Brooklyn to Manhattan across the bridge offers up some of the best views of the Manhattan skyline. With the new 1776′ One World Trade Center looming off to the left views along the bridge on the southeastern tip of Manhattan. To be able to view those two iconic landmarks in one sighting is an amazing site to behold. With this week being the 13th anniversary of the 911 attacks, One World Trade Center is a beautiful reminder to the strength and character of the NYC people and the throngs of well-wishers that come to the site on a daily basis to pay their respects and honor the fallen.

One World Trade Center looms off to the left of the Brooklyn Bridge, in the southern tip of Manhattn

One World Trade Center looms off to the left of the Brooklyn Bridge, in the southern tip of Manhattan

The Brooklyn Bridge is a historical reminder of the foresight and engineering abilities of a generation long ago. Construction began in 1870 and was completed in 1883. To think that the designers, Jason and his son Washington Roebling, built a bridge for an era of horse and buggies, but built the bridge six times stronger than code required and so has stood the test of time as vehicles became heavier and a lot more of them. In the days that followed Hurricane Sandy, the Brooklyn Bridge pedestrian and bicycle walkway became a main artery to get back and forth between Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Old glory waves in the in the window of the west tower of the Brooklyn Bridge - days after two German's exchange the flags for bleached out American Flags - apparently to honor the 130th anniversary of the German designer of the bridge - Joseph Roebling

Old glory waves in the in the window of the west tower of the Brooklyn Bridge – days after two German’s exchange the flags for bleached out American Flags – apparently to honor the 130th anniversary of the German designer of the bridge – Joseph Roebling

The Brooklyn Bridge gives you fairly direct and easy access to great Brooklyn neighborhoods such as Dumbo, Brooklyn Heights, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Clinton Hill, Fort Greene and many more. Walking through these neighborhoods gives you a good feel of the diversity of inhabitants of Brooklyn – from the more family oriented Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens to the heavily sought after quaint neighborhoods of Park Slope, Prospect Heights and Crown Heights that still boast larger units for less money when compared to equal sized units in Manhattan.

The promenade or walkway leading from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Cobble Hill to the Brooklyn Bridge and on into Manhattan

The promenade or walkway leading from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Cobble Hill to the Brooklyn Bridge and on into Manhattan

Williamsburg Bridge, which takes you in and out of one of the more well-known neighborhoods in Brooklyn – Williamsburg – was completed in 1903 and with a bike path that is the most heavily biked bridge span in all of North America. Williamsburg itself continues to attract an eclectic crowd of tenants. Either those who tend to be more artistically minded and feel the slower pace of Brooklyn allows for a good atmosphere to let the creative juices flow; or for those who work in Manhattan to come home for a respite from that fast pace that usually accompanies daily life in the streets of Manhattan.

Enjoying an $8 glass of wine in the relaxing setting of Wine Bar in Brooklyn, where the owner talks to you like an old friend

Enjoying an $8 glass of wine in the relaxing setting of Wine Bar in Brooklyn, where the owner talks to you like an old friend

There are great one-off restaurants that are independently charming and keep it that way by not trying to venture into the realm of franchising their success lest they lose that personal touch they offer their patrons. You may have to wait upwards of an hour to get into one of these quaint eateries, but the wait is usually worth it. When I’m in Brooklyn, my whole demeanor takes on a laid back attitude and I’ve learned to sit back and enjoy the people watching, the conversation of people around me, and the looks of a city and a neighborhood in the throws of becoming a destination spot.

Brooklyn certainly has its fill of high-profile restaurants that are also worth the effort. Peter Luger Steak House has been a mainstay in Brooklyn for decades (opened in 1887), with picture walls showcasing the well-known clientele that have dined at this historical establishment. Serving only aged short loin bone-in steaks, a minimally available premium cut of steak. Or check out The River Cafe’ that sits at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge and offers up a fine dining experience to match the views of the Manhattan skyline – day or night.

Enjoying the tender short loin bone-in steaks at Peter Luger Steak House, Brooklyn

Enjoying the tender short loin bone-in steaks at Peter Luger Steak House, Brooklyn

Brooklyn is a strong appeal to readers and writers. Or those who just need a quieter place to work, but want a little more social interaction than their apartments might afford them. With the advent of wi-fi accessibility at most places, there are several great little bistros and cafes that have set up their seating to accommodate several small, but open working quarters. Enjoying a locally brewed coffee or an organically and freshly made sandwich at Toby’s Estate allows you to settle in for hours at a time. Something that is often frowned upon in similarly appointed cafes in Manhattan – as there is usually a waiting line to get a place to sit.

The espresso lab, where employees of Toby's Estate create specialty brews for their patrons.

The espresso lab, where employees of Toby’s Estate create specialty brews for their patrons.

If museums are your thing, you’ve come to the right spot. Manhattan may boast world re-known museums, but Brooklyn can certainly hold its own when offering up cultural activities. The Brooklyn Museum is a beautifully housed museum that sits adjacent to the equally visited Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. It has amazing exhibits, entertaining openings, and often teams up with other Brooklynites to offer things such as spinning class in the museum. If you like something a little more on the thought-provoking side – check out the Morbid Anatomy Museum and Library. It takes a look at how the generations have viewed and dealt with death.

One of many bookcases at the Morbid Anatomy Museum and Library, offering insight into the subject of death

One of many bookcases at the Morbid Anatomy Museum and Library, offering insight into the subject of death

Rooftop bars may be the in thing in Manhattan, but rooftop patios abound in abundance on the tops of many of the apartment complexes in Brooklyn. Grab an $8 bottle of wine from Nini’s Wine Cellar on Havemeyer, stock up on several great cheeses, sausage, olives and chocolates at the Bedford Cheese Shop off Bedford Ave. (be sure to read the creative descriptions) and head to the rooftops to watch the sun set over Manhattan.

Two gals enjoying a glass of wine rooftop in Brooklyn

Two gals enjoying a glass of wine rooftop in Brooklyn

Everytime I visit Brooklyn, I realize more and more what this borough has to offer that can successfully grab my attention as equally as any amount of time spent in Manhattan. And I know there is still so much more to discover: Coney Island, Brighten Beach, Rockaway Point, Dumbo, Red Hook. Besides how many people have you heard with the name Manhattan compared to those named Brooklyn (both female and male) – i.e. Brooklyn Decker, Brooklyn Beckham.

For more pics on the sites of Brooklyn check out the Global Gallery.

New York et al – where sleeping is overrated!

‘Old blue eyes’ (and many others) sing, New York, New York is a city “that never sleeps.” To sleep in NYC is to miss out on seeing a city that offers its visitors a never-ending line-up of must see places and must do events. If you waste extra time sleeping you will miss out on the sun rising over the East River and setting over the Hudson River and all points in between, day and night.

Sunrise over the East River, NYC

Sunrise over the East River, NYC

Late afternoon over the Hudson River, NYC

Late afternoon over the Hudson River, NYC

New York is a place better visited in shorter blocks of time because you feel compelled to partake in the ongoing life that is NYC – which can be exhausting no matter how good of shape you’re in or how old you are. There is no better array of breakfast, lunch and dinner venues. From Harlem in upper Manhattan to Battery Park in lower Manhattan, from the five New York Burroughs to New Jersey, from the well-known hot spots to the unknown boutique neighborhoods – NYC has a life unlike any other in the world.

I made my first trek to NYC, at age 19, during the Christmas holiday season – undoubtedly the most magical time of the year in NYC. Starting with The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade; then the tree lighting at Rockefeller Center; add in the holiday themed windows lining the shops on 5th Avenue; the Nutcracker performed by the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall; hotels like the Plaza and the New York Palace decorated for the holidays; chestnuts roasting on the city corners; and finish off with the dropping of the ball on New Year’s Eve in Times Square.

Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall at the Christmas Spectacular, NYC

Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall at the Christmas Spectacular, NYC

Decorated for the holidays, New York Palace, NYC

Decorated for the holidays, New York Palace, NYC

But any time of the year is a good time of the year to visit NYC. The first couple of visits to NYC are all about seeing the main tourist sites: the Statue of Liberty which survived Hurricane Sandy: the Empire State Building with its top lit up in special colors to commemorate special events; Central Park where taking a bike ride and a ride in the horse-drawn carriages are a must; Times Square with the bright lights and shops that don’t close until the wee hours of the morning; a Broadway Show leaving you sitting on the edge of your seat in an air of pure entertainment; World Trade Center Memorial to pay homage to the fallen.

Empire State Building lit up in blue to commemorate Columbia University graduates, NYC

Empire State Building lit up in blue to commemorate Columbia University graduates, NYC

World Trade Center Memorial, NYC

World Trade Center Memorial, NYC

Living my whole life west of the Mississippi, NYC was rarely on my radar as a place I would visit often. But that all changed the day my daughter chose to go to university in NYC. This gave me a great reason to visit this great city – often! As the years have moved on my ‘never let the grass grow under your feet’ minded daughter has taken to checking out every nook and cranny of this marvelous city, and I have been lucky enough to reap the benefits of her curious personality.

I now have a personal tour guide who has not only shown me the next level of hotspots: Bryant Park – movies in the summer, skating in the winter; Mario Batali‘s restaurants and Eataly Deli; the Highline – a converted overhead railroad track now used for strolling; Katz Diner for melt in your mouth pastrami sandwiches – Shake Shack for melt in your mouth burgers  – Peter Luger for melt in your mouth steaks; museums – The Met, MoMA, Guggenheim, The Frick.

But she has also taken me beyond the borders of Manhattan to: Governor’s Island to ride bikes and drink a new St. Germaine infused cocktail while watching era dressed flappers dance to jazz; north of Harlem to the medieval architecture of The Cloisters museum and gardens; the elaborate Brooklyn Botanical Gardens; Flushing Meadows to watch the fast paced U.S. Open tennis tourney; Carlo’s Bakery in Jersey for “ta die for” cupcakes.

U.S. Open Tennis Tournament, NYC

U.S. Open Tennis Tournament, NYC

Carlo's Bake Shop, New Jersey

Carlo’s Bake Shop, New Jersey

This may be my first NYC blog posting, but it certainly won’t be the last about this great city!

Where to stay: The Plaza for opulence or The Surrey for Upper East Boutique (5-star); The New York Palace for reasonable midtown luxury or the London New York for modern roominess in midtown (4+star); the Hotel Belleclaire boutique style on the Upper Westside or the Sofitel for larger rooms and great midtown location (3+star).

Where to eat: I can safely say almost anywhere. The competition is so fierce, the restauranteurs know they have to bring it or they won’t be around long. In the dozen times I’ve been to NYC I can’t recall having even a mediocre meal.

Check out more pictures in the Global Gallery: NYC.