St Charles, MO Historic South Main St.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
We live in the historic town of St. Charles, MO.
Every Christmas season the quaint shops on
the brick-lined streets are decorated in white
twinkle lights, boughs of evergreen garlands
and red bows. There are a lot of people
Christmas shopping and stopping by
Granny's Cookies (est. 1976) for one of
the fresh homemade snickerdoodles, chocolate
chips or peanut butter cookies served with warm
apple cider. This Saturday was the last day of
the historic South Main Street's old-fashioned
Christmas complete with a Santa Parade and
rides on the Trolley. We spent the afternoon
videotaping and photographing the Santas
from Around the World, the storybook characters
and the Victorian Carolers singing those familiar
If you missed the Christmas festivities don't miss
the Fete de Glace (Festival of Ice) on 1/30/2010.
There will be professional ice carvers in the juried
show and they will be judged for best of show.
Stop by one of the fire pits for hot coffee and cocoa.
DOT - Dept. of Transportation announced the new rules governing length
of time for airline tarmac delays. There will be a three-hour limit for
domestic flights, unless airport operations would be disrupted, safety-
related or security-related impediments would occur.
International flights length of tarmac delay is determined by the
individual carrier for a set number of hours.
The airline will assure passengers have adequate food, water and
functioning bathrooms no later than two hours after the airplane leaves
the gate or touches down. Adequate medical treatment will be made
available if needed.
Failure to follow the new guidelines would result in a fine for the
airlines in the amount of $27,500 per passenger for each violation
of the three-hour limit. The rule takes effect in approximately
100 days into 2010.
After sitting in a plane on a tarmac for six hours we can
appreciate the new rules. Thank you.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Here is one of my favorite holiday treats to make.
Recipe by Sue McCarthy
Mix together: 1/2 lb. butter, 1 c. sugar,
3 egg yolks, 3 c. flour, 1 tsp baking soda,
1 tsp baking powder, 1/8 tsp salt,
3/4 tsp vanilla (or almond flavoring).
Mixture will be crumbly. Spread on
Spread 1 c. of your favorite jam
(I use apricot jam). Beat 3 egg whites.
Spread over the jam. Sprinkle with
2 TBS sugar and chopped nuts.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
Serves 12 - 15
Monday, December 21, 2009
I was doing my Christmas shopping at the Galleria Mall in St. Louis when I walked by a kiosk and heard "let me show you something". This is when I usually turn and run in the other direction.
But Roy got my attention by saying "go ahead click the little coin in this pouch, just click it and see what happens". In Missouri this is too close to "I bet'cha ain't never seen nothing like this before" so I "clicked" the coin and I was sold!
The liquid in the plastic pouch in my hand looked like a tsunami was taking place within it and suddenly my hand felt a gentle warmth that would last for more than an hour. I had just experienced the Helios Heater.
The Helios Heater comes in various shapes and sizes such as a hand warmer, pocket warmer, lower back heater and shoulder/neck heater.
There are no batteries or cords because the Helios Heater does not use electricity. It is non-toxic, non-allergenic, and environmentally safe. Helios Heaters are reusable and have a lifetime warranty.
Helios Heaters should sooth all your aching muscles, keep you warm in cold weather and could also be used to warm a baby bottle. I plan to use them to keep our camera and recorder batteries warm when we visit Quebec City for their Winter Carnival.
Helios Heaters are also available on-line at heliosheaters.net
Saturday, December 19, 2009
One of our regular travel guests, Cassie Eckard,
and her husband Jim returned from a two week
cruise on the NCL Jade. The Mediterranean
cruise started in Barcelona, and continued on
to Rome, Turkey, Egypt and Malta. To read
Cassie's travel blog and photos of the destinations
go to her site on www.travelpod.com/s/Beanblossom?st=user
Cassie was on the Travel Planners Radio Show 12/19/09.
Friday, December 18, 2009
|Sue's appearance on Channel 2 on|
Friday, December 18th at 7:50am central
LAST MINUTE HOLIDAY TRAVEL GIFTS
1. Safe Skies TSA Lock $9.95
Complimentary lifetime lost and
found return service.
Available locally at Walgreens and
2. Lush Products $2.95 - $10.95
Solid soaps, deoderants and
shampoos. Unusual scents
and spices, preservative free.
Available locally at Macy's
West County Center at a kiosk
at St. Louis Galleria.
3. Ellen Sirot Hand Perfection
Hydrates hands while flying with
a rich creamy lotion 1.7 fl oz.
Nail & Cuticle Treatment
$22 (combo $42)
Omega-3 fatty acids and hydrators
4. Travel Pillow By TravelRest $26.95
HiGear Design - Inflates for comfort
for head and body.
5. LugBuddy $15
Small, lightweight, easy
to store and it secures
your coat or small bag
on top of your suitcase.
6. Dr. Scholl's Compression Socks
for Men Under $5
Great for traveler to help
prevent DVT, helps reduce
swelling of feet and ankles.
Available at most local stores
7. White River Fingerless Fleece
Reduces heat loss from
hands while it provides
finger dexterity for using
camera or for outdoor sports.
Available at Bass Pro
8. Toshiba Mini Computer Netbook
Weighs 2-1/2 lbs. Pack lighter.
Available at local computer stores.
Mediterranean Cruise including
Egypt, Turkey, Greece, Barcelona
Sue and Kevin talk about those
LAST MINUTE TRAVEL GIFTS
Kevin - Travel News
Sue - Travel Tips
Director of Public Relations
State of Californis
Snow and general travel
for January and February
and California 5's
Consul, Director of Midwest Region
12 Unesco World Heritage Sites
Thornton Photography, Godfrey IL
Eagle Photography Safari
Kevin with Travel News
Sue with Travel Tips
Stratton Mountain Resort
Stratton Mountain, VT
Ski season is open
Monday, December 14, 2009
A Special Exhibition Dinosaurs Unearthed
When the 2 - 4 year old grandkids come to visit I try
to find activities to entertain them. St. Louis Science Center
offered just the place to go. Both Dori (2) and Wayne (4)
know more names of Dinosaurs than I do since they are avid
watchers of the PBS show Dino Train. The exhibit will
be there through March 28, 2010 and makes the perfect
family activity while the kids are off school for the
holidays and family comes to town to visit. A special
thanks to Beth at the St. Louis Science Center for
helping make our visit an enjoyable and memorable
fun day with the grandkids. Have you ever seen a
62-foot long Omeisaurus? Animatronics let the kids
push a button and make the dinosaurs move their heads
and tails. www.slsc.org
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Good news! The Travel Planners show segments are now available 24/7 at http://www.kmox.com/
You may also download these segmenta and/or subscribe to an RSS feed at this site.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Travel Planners Radio Broadcast
Saturday, November 28
CVB - Holiday talk
Cassandra, Chicago Travel Agent
Riviera Maya, Karisma Resorts
Kevin - Travel News
Sue - Travel Tips
Riveria Maya, Karisma Resort
Riveria Maya, Karisma Resorts
Seaside Suites, Maroma Boutique Hotels
Monday, November 30, 2009
Sharon and Doug Paul, Owners
Contributed holiday recipe for
Holiday Gluhwein, a traditional
German Holiday Spiced Wine
1-2 bottles Holiday Wine
6 Cinnamon Sticks
6 Whole Cloves
1/8 tsp Allspice
1/2 - 3/4 cup Dixie Crystal Sugar
(sweeten to taste)
1 sliced orange
Heat in crockpot, add sugar & spices,
stir until sugar is dissolved. Heat (don't
boil). Add 1 whoole sliced orange once
mix is hot. Serve hot. Garnish with
cinnamon stick and orange slice.
Annual December Holiday Open House
Saturday and Sunday until Christmas.
Complimentary tasting for over 21 yrs.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Stephen Smith, Chamber of Commerce
Talking about the town square, great
restaurants, wineries, historic
Holly Theater and GOLD.
Talking about the Honor Freedom Flight to
Washington, DC with WWII Veterans and
being on a tour of the War monuments and Arlington
National Cemetery with Elizabeth Dole
Kevin with the Travel News
Sue with Travel Tips
Tom Parsons, BestFares.com
Three Sisters Winery
Forrest Hills Mountain Resort and Spa
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
|Yesterday I Had the travel experience of a lifetime. I accompanied more than fifty World war Two Veterans from the St. Louis area on an "Honor Flight" to Washington, DC.|
These men and women truly are our "Greatest Generation". Members of this group raised the American flag over Hitler's Eagle's nest, were part of the Bataan Death March, liberated Dachau and the list goes on and on.
These hero's of our Nation were given a trip to visit the WWII Memorial, Korean War Memorial, Iwo Jimi Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery where they witnessed a changing of the guard at Tomb of the Unknowns.
Were it not for their military hats, insignias and a few medals, these elderly men and women would have gone totally unnoticed. But yesterday they were the recipients of a great deal of well deserved acknowledgment and thanks. I was there to video tape a documentary of their day of recognition.
As we left St. Louis at 6:35am, the employees of American Airlines surprised these Vets with acknowledgments from the PA set. As our plane pushed back from the gate, a baggage tug on each side of the plane accompanied us to the taxi way with huge American flags flying as a salute to these Veterans.
Upon our arrival at Reagan National Airport our plane was given a water cannon salute from the airport fire department. What happened next had me swallowing hard and fighting back tears. Apparently an announcement was made that these Vets were about to arrive.
I honestly think we may have shut down the airport because it appeared that everyone waiting to board other flights came to our gate to stand and cheer and shake the hands of these deserving Veterans. I was stunned by the genuine respect given to these men and women.
At the WWII Memorial two college aged young ladies spontaneously sang the National Anthem to these Vets because they "just thought it was appropriate" That did bring a tear to my eyes!
Elizabeth Dole came to meet our group (her husband, Bob Dole, was preparing for knee replacement surgery) and personally thanked each member of our group.
Every where we went these Veterans were greeted with standing ovations, cheers and handshakes.
On the return flight the Vets were surprised by a true "Mail Call". Each Vet received a packet of cards and letters of thanks from hometown school students, family members, business leaders and more.
When deplaning in St. Louis they were again greeted with cheers and handshakes from other travelers and after clearing the secured area, were greeted by at least 200 people with cheers, banners, handshakes, hugs and tears.
This was an incredible experience for me and I am sure it was an experience of a lifetime for these well deserving WWII Veterans.
Today I documented the "naturalization" of 52 new American Citizens from 20 different countries, but that is another story.
All I can say is that I am proud to be an American and thank full that I was able to witness these events that make our country so great. I am truly humbled and thank my host for this unbelievable opportunity.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Tom Parsons www.bestfares.com on Holiday Travel Specials.
Tom says, "If you love your money more...then you better be
flexible this holiday season. Check nearby airports and be
flexible on dates of travel."
Thanksgiving, Fly Nov. 23 - Nov. 27
RT non-stop to Newark $368
RT non-stop to LaGuardia $222
If you travel on peak days Nov. 25 - Nov.29
RT non-stop to Neward no difference
RT non-stop to LaGuardia $505
Taxes and surcharges not included in price.
Monday, November 16, 2009
FAMILY PLAN 3+1 = SAVINGS
Buy 3 tickets and get 1 FREE
Tickets must be purchased by December 15
Blackout dates November 19 - December 1
Travel valid through the holiday season
Chicago to Guadalajara, Mexico City and Morelia, Mexico
www.aeromexico.com Call 800-237-6639
Sue will be on Fox News Channel 2,
7:40am discussing Holiday Fare Specials
Sunday, November 15, 2009
SEG1A Ramsey Quebein
Business Travel Writer
"Creative Things Hotels Are Doing To
SEG1B Ramsey Quebein
WTM - World Trade Market in London
SEG1C Susan Rose, Owner
Littlefield Cottage and Spa
SEG1D Kevin Travel News and Tips
SEG2A & B Tom Parsons, www.bestfares.com
SEG2C Patrice Raplee, Travelwriter
Music, Music, Music
Muscle Shoals, AL
SEG2D Patrice Raplee, Travelwriter
Home of Helen Keller in
Friday, November 13, 2009
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Topic of Interview:
Holiday Travel Specials
Southwest Cruise www.southwest.com (Click on Special Offers
Norwegian Cruise Line NCL - Norwegian Spirit
7-night Western Caribbean $43 a night $299 inside cabin
$50 a night $349 ocean view cabin
New Orleans; Costa Maya, MX; Santo Tomas de Castilla, Guatemala;
Belize City; New Orleans
Departure Nov. 22 Thanksgiving
Dec. 20 Christmas
Other dates are available.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Kristin Mitchell, www.visitpittsburgh.com
Jeff Pritts, GM, Marriott Hotel and Conference Center
New 4 Diamond Hotel Opened on Oct. 30th
Exec Chef Roger Li
Restaurant Mgr Tom Mastacuza
Lawrenceville, PA Neighborhood
Kevin and Sue Travel News and Tips
Tom Parsons, BestFares.com
Janeen Aggen, CVB
Holiday Kickoff and new $68 mill Events Ctr
O'Bannons Oriental Carpets
Lawrenceville, PA Neighborhood
16:62 Design Zone
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Saturday, October 31, 2009
National WWI Museum, New Orleans
Kacey Hill PR Officer
Robert A Tino Gallery
Churchhill Memorial/Westminster College
Freedom Without Walls Celebration of
Fall of Berlin Wall
Kevin Travel News/Sue Travel Tips
Michelle Newman, Regular Contributor
Alaska Celebrity Millenium Cruise
Kevin and Sue talk about upcoming
Pittsburgh, PA trip
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Tracey Teo, Regular Contributor
Holland American MS Oosterdam
Onboard Exec Chef Lee Hillson
Italian and Greek ports (Rome and Santorini)
Dan McGinnity, Travel Guard Insurance
H1N1 Flu and Travel
Kevin Travel News/Sue Travel Tips
Tom Parsons, Regular Contributor
Amanda Maples Marr, Chamber of Commerce
Tanger Outlet Mall, Wilderness Resort Water Park
and Golf, Appalchian Trail, Super Scrapbook Store,
KT's Grill, Mimi Golf
Saturday, October 10, 2009
BOO - Carolina Inn Ghost Tours
Rails to Trails Conservancy
Robinson Film Center
Kevin Travel Talk/Sue Travel Tips
SHREVEPORT, LA LIVE BROADCAST
Saturday, October 3, 2009
Brandy Evans, VP Communications
Kip Holloway, Exec Dir
Red River Revel Arts Festival
Julia Foley, Mktg Dir.
Shreveport Regional Arts Council
Big O's Restaurant
Chef Michael Brady
Wine Country Bistro and Bottle Shop
Heritage Creole Cottage
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Kelly Schulz, VP & PR
New Orleans New Tourist Attractions
Audrey Firth, GM
Authentic Seacoast Resort
Mika Doyle, CVB
Dinosaurs to Sock Monkeys
Discovery Center Museum
Scott Nagel, Producer
Regional Chamber of Commerce
Dungeness Crab & Seafood Festival
Olympic Peninsula and
Port Angeles, WA
Sunday, October 11, 2009
On our recent trip to Louisiana we had the good fortune to be taken to two of Shreveport's more unique family owned restaurants. Our first night found us at Big O's A Taste With Class.
Odis and Drenette Johnson, along with their children, opened Big O's just one year ago and have already become the talk of the town. Their menu combines the best of Southern cooking and Soul Food specialties served with a friendly family smile.
Sue had the Catfish Platter with Hush Puppies, Fries and Corn Bread. Big O's Famous Louisiana Homemade Tarter Sauce was a perfect accompaniment for her dinner. "Big O"
said the recipe for this fantastic condiment came to him in a dream. It is the best tartar sauce I've ever tasted and there was no way I could talk him out of the recipe.
I chose the Thursday night special, Barbequed Baby Back Ribs, with green beans, yellow rice, purple hulled peas (black eyed peas to us Yankees) and hot water corn bread. I also ordered a small portion of Big O's Southern Style Beans with smoked sausage and rice.
I told Mr. Johnson that I had only one complaint "I like to gnaw on the bones of barbequed ribs and his ribs were so tender that they literally fell off the bone" I tried to pick up a rib by the bone and all I got was the bone. We all got a laugh out that one.
Dessert was Chocolate Cake or Apple Pie with Caramel Ice Cream. These homemade specialties, along with a cup of fresh brewed coffee made us feel right at home.
Big O's is located at 1327 Captain Shreve Drive, Shreveport, LA 71105. Their phone # is 318-828-2271. Their web site is www.bigosatastewithclass.com
The next day's lunch found us at A National Historic Landmark, Fertitta's Italian Deli, "The Home of the Muffy", a patented sandwich.
Fertitta's started out as a neighborhood Italian grocery store. Papa Fertitta's regular customers always asked him to fix them his favorite sandwich, a version of a New Orleans muffaletto. The Muffy contains slice ham, bologna, turkey, three cheeses, mustard and a house special olive mix. This huge round sandwich is then toasted to perfection. A bag of chips and a cold beer, or better yet, Italian mint iced tea and your day is bound to get better!
Over the years this sandwich has become a Shreveport legend and is truly a must have meal in Shreveport. A Muffy is more than enough for two people and if you are not too hungry, perhaps four.
Agatha McCall, Papa Fertitta's only daughter, and her husband continue the historic tradition in the grocery's original location. The interior is truly a step back in time with oiled wood floors, vintage photographs and advertising along with an old butchers scale and cutting board. Tables are set with red and white oilcloth table clothes and a roll of paper towels in a large olive can and the obligatory salt and peppershaker. I suggest you plan an extra half hour or so to enjoy the ambience of this National landmark.
If you can't make it to Shreveport you can order fresh frozen Muffys sent to your door from Fertittas web site. www.papafertitta.com. You can also read more about the history of this great restaurant, view photos and get the recipe for a Muffy and many other great Italian dishes at their website. If you want to order by phone call toll free 866-293-5032. Fertitta's Muffys would be a great addition to your Holiday party.
Friday, September 25, 2009
Tomorrow morning, 9/26/09, we will interview Audrey Firth, the GM of DesBarres Manor Authentic Seacoast Resort. In preparation for the show I looked at their website. I had an instant recognition with one of my favorite gastronomic specialties; Bread Pudding!
If you have followed our show, print articles or conversations you know that I have a fondness for bread pudding. At the DesBarres Manor website I found a recipe for a savory Smoked Salmon Bread Pudding that sent my mind into cartwheels of delight.
I decided to try it for dinner tonight and it was FANTASTIC! It was quick and easy to prepare and oh, so tasty. Rather than making individual ramekins, I baked the bread pudding in a paella dish.
I served it with a field green salad served on herb toasted slices of french bread with chick peas, julienned carrots, artichoke hearts, anise stalks and herbed chevres topped with porcini olive oil.
a chilled Italian Pinot Grisio was a perfect paring for this light, yet filling evening meal.
This recipe would be great for "covered dish" dinner or a "Sunday Brunch" In fact, I think we will have this for breakfast with a Bearnaise Sauce and a Mimosa. I'm in Heaven!!
I have included a photo of our dinner as well as posting the recipe below.
The other photo is of Sue, the Party Animal, at a recent outdoor concert. Being the true gourmand that she is, she is chowing down on Cheese Wizz, Corn Curls and Caviar on a toasted wheat cracker (that makes it healthy?). It was served with a chilled Bud Light!
Now that's livin' large!!!
DesBarres Manor Atlantic Smoked Salmon Bread Pudding
Serves 6 as a first course
Combine all ingredients in a bowl until well mixed. Divide ingredients evenly among six greased ramekins. Bake in a pre-heated, 400° oven for 15 to 20 minutes.
*DesBarres Manor Executive Chef Shaun Zwarun likes to use a light rye bread with this recipe as the flavour of the rye combines well with the smoked salmon. An oatmeal bread or French loaf would also work well.
General Manager Audrey Firth enjoys a Gewurztraminer with anything smoked and recommends the Pelee Island Gewurztraminer from Ontario. Audrey's other choice is the Pinot Gris from Argentina's J. & F. Lurton Winery. Well-rounded, this full bodied Pinot Gris will stand up well with smoked fish.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Max Hartshorne of GoNomad.com and one
of our regular contributors spoke about
the Connecticut Shores and New England.
Greg Ludwig, Sales Manager for FUNJET
Carlos Canino, Director of Excellence Resorts
Michael Going, President of FUNJET
We attended a FUNJET travel show that was
held in St. Louis at Renaissance Hotel.
Tom Parsons of BestFares.com, Kevin's Travel News
and Sue Travel Tips are also part of the weekly show.
Our September 5th travel radio show was
from a previously pre-recorded show while
we were in Montgomery, AL for TMS -
Travel Media Showcase. This is an annual
event held at different U.S. locations and
provides travel writers, photojournalists and
broadcast media the opportunity to meet
with 45 Tourism Representatives from the
U.S., Canada and Domenican Republic.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
On a recent trip we stayed at an upscale National hotel chain in a room that cost $159.00 a night. This hotel felt compelled to charge us $10.00/day for Internet service and they count it down to the second! When I tried to buy the second day of service my room was "Blocked Out" and it took three phone calls to the front desk before I could give them another $10 to check our E-Mails. The worst part about it was the fact that it wasn't even wireless Internet service!
Regal 8, Motel 6 and other budget motel/hotels offer FREE wireless Internet and their room rates run from $45 - $75, so what am I missing? It is certainly not the hotel's cost of the Internet service.
I finally asked a manager of one of these pricey hotels why they choose to charge their guests so much for Internet service. His response was.."because we can"!
They assume that most of their guests are traveling on business, with an expense account, and their employers don't seemed to mind paying extra for Internet service.
The Manager said if enough people complained about it, they might consider lowering or eliminating these ridiculous fees. Needless to say, my campaign has begun.
In the meantime I have found that it never hurts to search for other wireless networks in the area. Sometimes you just get lucky.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Saturday, September 12, 2009
We just did a driving trip south for a Travel Conference
in Montgomery AL and took a side trip to the UNCLAIMED
BAGGAGE STORE. We always find great bargains here
and this time was no exception. I bought a woman's
Navy Blazer for $7.50, clothes for the grandkids for $4 and
$7.50, Kevin got an IPOD for $65!!! We bought a 4-wheeled
large luggage that we needed. Great Deals and you can
check them out on the website too for Unclaimed Baggage.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Southwest Airlines announced passengers could pay $10 each
way and reserve a spot in the boarding line behind elite flyers
and ahead of families and other travels. The advantage would
be the passenger could choose a better seat selection.
Southwest recently added additional fees for pets and minors
traveling alone. Good news is there still isn't a charge for
those Carry on or Extra Bags.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Sue will be on as Channel 2's "Travel Expert",
Wednesday, September 2 at 8:40am.
The topic will be Cruise Specials and
Check out www.Southwest.com - Cruises
My favorites are the Mediterranean Repositioning
Cruises from Barcelona to NY (NCL)or Malaga to Miami
Sunday, August 30, 2009
We had some great guests and topics on our show
8/29 Kathy Quandt, CVB
"First Heritage Weekend - 400 yrs"
Crown Paradise Resort
Puerta Vallarta, Mexico
Paul Motter, Editor
Carnival Dream, Oasis of the Seas,
Norwegian Epic Culinary Cruise 2010
Tom Parsons, BestFares.com
Kevin - Travel News, Sue - Travel Tips
8/22 Bob Titley, Wales Tourism
"Welsh Ghosts Welcome in Castles,
Manor Houses and Hotels"
Farmer Lee Jones
Chef's Garden and Culinary Vegetable
Institute in Cleveland
Allen Nyhuis, Co-Author
"America's Best Zoos"
Mary Beth Bond, Author
Natl Geographics "Girlfriends
Tom Parsons, BestFares.com
Kevin - Travel News Sue - Travel Tips
8/15 Chuck Coon,
Grand Canyon and Las Vegas Flights
Michelle Newman - TravelWriter
Destination to Chautauqua, NY
I Love Lucy Tour
Tom Parsons, BestFares.com
Kevin - Travel News Sue - Travel Tips
The Restaurant Gods and Goddesses are Greek!
On a recent trip to New York City Sue and I found a room at The Radisson Hotel in Mid-town Manhattan for $169.00 a night. PriceLine really works! I asked the Bellman where he would recommend for dinner that night. He immediately said the "Greek seafood place across the street". I often take this type of recommendation with a jaundiced eye as the bellman could easily be on the restaurant's payroll. But since it was raining and we both were hungry, we decided to give it a try.
Restaurant AVRA was a rare find! We arrived a little before six and found they were totally booked with the exception of two tables saved for walk-in customers. This, and the fact that the ambience was very European/Mediterranean made me feel comfortable that this would be a great evening of fine dining. We were not disappointed.
Our waitress, Salma, was very pleasant and very knowledgeable of the menu. She immediately made us feel like we were the only customers in the restaurant. She brought us an amuse bouche of humus, mixed olives and quartered radishes. The radishes were marinated in honey water, which brought out the rich buttery taste of these root vegetables. A basket of home made bread with a crusty shell and a light, melt-in-your-mouth center set the stage for what was going to be a wonderful dining experience.
We first ordered an appetizer of three spreads with Pita bread and toast points. The spreads were the traditional Tzatziki. This combination of yogurt, garlic, cucumber and dill was accompanied by Skor Dalia, an almond/garlic spread and Tarama, a carp roe spread served with capers. This $18.95 trio could have easily been a meal unto itself.
We also tried the Yemista Kalamarakia; grilled calamari stuffed with four Greek cheeses and herbs. We found out, all too soon, that all of AVRA's portions are large enough for two persons.
Salma insisted we try the house Greek salad. We convinced her to only bring us a small portion and it was still enough for both of us. I was astounded to find that in the center of Manhattan, all of the ingredients were amazingly fresh! The yellow and red tomatoes were especially good. They must have their own garden in the back of the restaurant!
Sues' entrée was a grilled halibut steak served with dill, fennel, spinach and rice. I chose the Youvetsi; shrimp, scallops, and mussels in an herbed tomato sauce with orzo and feta cheese. Each meal was perfectly spiced and prepared.
On Salma's suggestion we tried a Sigalas Santorini Cyclades 2007 white wine. It comes from the island of Cycladic. The island's volcanic soil makes this wine a perfect match for seafood. Remind me to tip that bellman when we get back to the hotel.
These items were so good we decided that they had to be someone's family recipes. Salma said that "Anna" was responsible for all of the authentic Greek items on the menu. Salma said that Anna arrives by six am every morning and prepares the items for that day's service. Our mental picture of an elderly Greek lady with a passion for her homeland's culinary delights was shattered by restaurant manager, Stelios Tsappas, who explained that Anna is actually a young woman who is the Chef de Cuisine for AVRA.
I am convinced that Anna does have that passion for fine Greek dining. Everything we experienced at AVRA was perfection.
We were ready to crawl across the street to our hotel when Stelios convinced us to try some dessert. This turned out to be a house made yogurt with honey and marinated black cherries. The yogurt was more like whipped cream than yogurt, it was fantastic. We were also "forced" to try the rum soaked walnut cake with home made vanilla ice cream AND the baklava served with home made fig ice cream! So much for the diet! Once again, the portions were huge.
We tried to settle all of this with a cup of coffee. Stelios took us to the back of the restaurant where Turkish type coffee was prepared in copper canisters and boiled in super-heated sand. I've never seen anything like this before and I must say it was a great cup of Joe.
AVRA is owned by a restaurant group that also owns Rue 57 and TAO in New York. I'd like to try one of those on our next trip to New York, but There are too many more items at AVRA that I want to try first.
AVRA turned out to be a perfect place to celebrate Sue's birthday. It was a memorable meal in a fantastic restaurant.
AVRA is located at 141 East 48th Street, New York, NY 10017
Telephone # (212) 759 - 8550 FAX (212) 307 – 9056
AVRA is open seven days a week with brunch on Saturday and Sunday.
Reservations are highly recommended.