My favorite weekend getaway spot is Palm Springs. Call me a lizard, but there's something about laying by a pool all day in 90+ degree heat that makes me sooo happy.
This time as we were walking around downtown Palm Springs, the bf and I discovered an adorable Greek restaurant called Greek Islands. The owner grew up in Corinth and several of the Greek isles that we happened to have visited, so we had a nice little chat with him about our adventures. Plus, Chris was wearing his Greece shirt which the owner loved.
We ordered the cold appetizer dip sampler which came with (from left to right in picture) Tzatziki - greek yogurt, dill, cucumber, garlic, olive oil, Tyrokafteri - feta cheese with roasted jalepenos and red peppers, whipped, Melitzanosalata - roasted baby eggplant whipped with garlic, fresh herbs, lemon and olive oil, and Taramosalata - red caviar whipped with lemon and olive oil. The tzatziki was delish (hard to mess up), but my favorite was the roasted jalepeno and feta dip. Very flavorful and not too spicy. The eggplant dip was ok, and I didn't care too much for the caviar (not my thing). It was really nice to try a bit of everything, though!
For my main dish I ordered the Moussaka (one of my favorite meals in Greece), which is a traditional Greek dish made by layering eggplant, potatoes or other veggies (in this case), spiced ground meat, and béchamel sauce. It's all baked in a clay pot. This dish will put you to bed, seriously. It's so savory and comforting.
Chris ordered the Youvetsi, which is lamb baked in tomato sauce served over orzo pasta. Also baked in a clay pot. The lamb was super tender and flavorful and the tomato sauce with orzo balanced out the heaviness of the lamb.
Overall: casual, friendly service just like in Greece. We really enjoyed the service, atmosphere, and food. Traditional home made Greek food with fresh ingredients. Oh, and I almost forgot - order the sangria! Best sangria I've ever had. Chris said it better, "I could drink like 5 glasses of this and get totally shitty."
My boyfriend, Chris, and I love taking weekend getaways to Palm Springs. There's nothing I love more than sitting by a pool in sweltering heat while sipping a cold beverage all day after a hectic week in LA.
One of our favorite places for a quick lunch (and, cough, cheat meal) is Bill's Pizza. It really is some of the best pizza you will ever have. They use a sourdough crust which has a unique flavor and the toppings are fresh and delicious. Check out the menu for a list of their creative specialty pizzas, or just create your own. One of my favorites is the Blue Moon with blue cheese, caramelized onions, and toasted walnuts. Sa-vor-yyy.
One of the best things about Bill's is that they let you customize your pizza, make alterations to their specialty pies, and you can even go topping halfsies on a large pie with your partner. If there's one thing Chris and I are polar opposites on, it's our pizza toppings.
On my half I ordered B-Fire's Favorite - garlic infused olive oil sauce, cooked spinach, sundried tomatoes, four cheese, ricotta cheese, mozzarella, mushrooms, and caramelized onions.
Chris ordered a regular red sauce pizza with green olives (nice that you have that option instead of black), mushrooms, and red onions. Essentially the 3 things I hate on pizza. But hey, to each his own.
Now, back to my half pie of heaven. Holy crap. For starters, there are huge globs of fresh ricotta cheese covering the pizza. A lot of the toppings hide under the cheese, but you can see the spinach and caramelized onions peaking out.
Look at those dark, delicious caramelized onions here. Those dark, sweet onions are the key to my heart. The spinach and the sundried tomatoes add a little zing to balance out the heaviness of all that cheese. This is my new go-to.
Here's one complaint: other than pizza and a few salads, there is nothing else on the menu. My boyfriend said, "Gosh, I really would enjoy a basket of fries right now." As if there weren't enough carbs in the pizza.
Anyone visiting Palm Springs - do yourself a favor and stop by Bill's Pizza. This message is coming from a New Yorker!
119 S. Indian Canyon Drive
Palm Springs, CA
For Sunday brunch to wrap our weekend getaway to North County San Diego, we met friends at Chandler's Restaurant & Lounge, which is the restaurant at the Hilton Carlsbad Oceanfront Resort. The restaurant has stunning ocean views with outdoor seating, but indoors by the window was also nice. The brunch menu was pretty fancy for a hotel restaurant. We ordered: Baby kale salad, egg white frittata, duck confit hash, and a pizza (not on the brunch menu).
My baby kale salad had a nice balance of flavor. I was nervous about the fried egg on top, but it gave the salad a nice rich flavor when I broke the yoke over everything and mixed it up.
Chris's egg white frittata was okay. Presentation wasn't that nice and I feel like I could do better.
I didn't try the other two dishes, but both looked solid. Posted pictures for reference.
You can tell this hotel was built within the last few years and the design is something out of Architectural Digest - from the dark wood to the granite bar tops, the restaurant is definitely worthwhile if you're in the area.
The best part about eating here was sneaking into the gorgeous pool area after brunch and zonking out on a lounge chair for the rest of the afternoon.
Sedona is famous for its beautiful red rocks. The hike we chose is called Brins Mesa and it's about a two hour drive from Phoenix. Like most of my travel gems, I found this hike through a little googling. Click here for detailed trail information and directions. The website calls this hike "moderate," but I would describe it as "easy's attempt at being moderate." The views, however, are unbelievable throughout the entire hike.
Sedona is also known for the prickly pear cactus which produces a delicious fruit used in prickly pear margaritas (and various other treats I don't care to remember). What better reward after a few hours on the trail?
During our hike we saw several helicopters wiz through the canyon on red rock tours. This is something I would absolutely look into for next time - the helicopter gets (uncomfortably) close to the canyon walls and I'm sure the views are stunning. Check this out.
Fun fact: the red color in the rocks comes from rich deposits of minerals like iron, caused by movement of the ocean and volcanic activity over millions of years…. or it could just be the "blood of fallen angels."
The weather was perfect for a hike today. Camelback Mountain is one of the most popular hikes in Phoenix and offers panoramic views of the entire city. We took the Cholla trail because the other one was closed (for renovations?). This is not an easy hike - steep climbs, a little bit of bouldering action at the top, and the sun really zaps you. Bring lots of water, sturdy shoes (sneakers should be fine), and wear sunblock. It took my brother and me about an hour to get to the top.
My only complaint about the hike is that the trails reminded me of a New York City sidewalk at rush hour - soo crowded! We got stuck behind a few slow pokes and had to stop to let people pass on the narrow path.
But once we got to the top we were rewarded with a candy cane from Santa! So worth it. I heard it took a group of locals 5 hours to drag this tree all the way to the top of the mountain!
Where's the down escalator?!?!
During my far-flung travels I've heard many a naysayer condescendingly pronounce, "You won't have time for that," which I have learned never to listen to. From Cinque Terre to Chamonix, locals love to tell tourists that they can't do all the fun things they want to do in the amount of time allotted. Here's another example. Since the trip to the Grand Canyon is 5 hours from Phoenix I understand how getting there and back in one day could be ambitious. However, all it takes is a little research and a little asking around to make it happen. I found the Pink Jeep Tour website through a little googling and voila - they pick you up from your hotel in Phoenix and take you to the Grand Canyon in this pimped out giant pink Mercedes (ok, it's a van, but it's made by Mercedes yo).
During the ride you can relax in the comfy seats and help yourself to complimentary drinks and snacks. Our tour guide knew tons of history and told great stories on the way up. We had a quick stop in Sedona, AZ to take in the beauty of red rocks and walk around the cute little town. We had planned to meet actor Nicolas Cage, a Sedona resident, for lunch but he cancelled last minute (something about having to read a script).
The tour is catered to the customer and you are able to stop for breaks, lunch, to pet an armadillo… whatever. Just keep in mind that any stops take away from your time at the unbelievable Grand Canyon. It really is one of the most breathtaking sights I have ever seen in my life. We stopped at multiple viewpoints for pictures and brief hiking.
It's so difficult to capture the beauty with a camera lens! It is so mind blowing and even tricks your eyes so that you almost aren't sure what you're looking at.
During our last stop on the tour our guide took us out on a pretty dangerous (think, sheer cliff down several miles) path to get to a big rock with amazing views. Dad wasn't loving that, but the views were incredible! Not recommended for the feint of heart, but with great risk comes great reward.
Our family Christmas this year is in Phoenix, AZ. My dad's work headquarters are located here, but no one else in my family has ever been. We figured this would be a perfect time to get the family together and explore a new city. We are staying at the Marriott Tempe at the Buttes, which is a resort with beautiful grounds and a great pool area (much needed in the desert). Though I will admit we called it "The Butts" (cue immature laughter) for most of the trip.
We found an awesome brewpub (I swear, my family's middle name is "brewpub") called Four Peaks. This place has a great variety of beers brewed on location and an awesome elevated bar food menu. I highly recommend the salmon B.L.T. It's nice and light but still packs a ton of flavor. More room for beer!
Many people aren't aware that the Finger Lakes region is a top wine destination in the U.S. Check it out! I have been very lucky to live a stone's throw away from some of the best wineries, and now every time I visit I hit the trail with my family. Today we tasted wine at my absolute favorite vineyard, Thirsty Owl, which has gorgeous views of Cayuga lake and one of the best dry Rieslings I've ever had. It doesn't hurt that my brother works here on weekends and we get free tastings :-D. Usually the tastings are $3 to try 6 wines (each winery varies) - what a deal!
We also tasted at Knapp Winery, where I worked during the summers in college. It really is a fun job pouring wine and mingling with travelers all day! But I think I like being served the wine better. The tasting room was decorated adorably for Christmas.
After our tasting we headed next door for lunch at the bistro. Knapp is one of the few wineries on Cayuga lake with a bistro, and the food is phenomenal. You can also order bottles of wine for the same price as sold in the tasting room. Our favorites were the KV Dry Riesling and the Barrel Reserve Chardonnay. The chef uses the wines and fresh herbs to make the most phenomenal soups you will ever taste. The butternut squash bisque is a favorite and always on the menu. I ordered the baked potato soup of the day, which I remembered from when I worked here. I used to ladle this soup into paper cups and drink it - it's that good!
We also ordered the Brie En Croute appetizer, which is brie baked in puff pastry and served with fig, port sauce, Proscuitto, and crackers. So decadent.
For the best city views Rockefeller Center is where it's at. It's great because you see the entire New York City skyline including the Empire State Building. Insider's tip: Chris and I purchased tickets in advance about an hour before sunset which was perfect timing to watch the sun go down and the city light up.
I took my first (road) trip to Utah for business this weekend. There's not a lot to see in Utah besides Salt Lake City and Park City. The mountains surrounding are beautiful, but it's pretty much desolate land otherwise.
One night Chris and I drove to Park City, which is an adorable little ski town about an hour from Salt Lake City. The ski lifts weren't open yet for the season so we checked out one of the many restaurant/bars. Most are decorated with a rustic cabin feel - lots of wood, antlers, and furs making it feel so cozy in this cold weather.
There is a huge Native American presence here in all of the shops which sell hand made jewelry, pottery, rugs, etc. This stuff is gorgeous!
On our drive home we saw what we thought was a once in a lifetime cloud formation that looks like waves - so cool! Turns out this happens by two layers of air traveling against each other with different densities. Check it out.
Overall Utah is a beautiful, yet desolate state. It's definitely worth checking out Salt Lake City and Park City, especially for people who love to hike/ski. The mountains are just beautiful.