Sue's Travel Tip of the Week is to place your valuables inside
one of your shoes and place it in your safe in your hotel
room. That way you won't leave something behind when
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.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
"Let's Go Down To The Sunset Grille"
Those words are part of the lyrics of a 1984 Eagles song and give you my thoughts on the Radisson Hotel, Resort and Spa's signature restaurant on the island nation of Aruba. The Sunset Grille is a AAA Four Diamond, Wine Spectator 2008 Award of Excellence restaurant that has also been named Caribbean Travel & Life magazine's "Best Restaurant in the Caribbean". These pedigrees certainly got my attention, but the food and service truly won my heart.
Our recent trip to the "One Happy Island" of Aruba (that phrase is stamped on their license plates) was an incredible vacation. The weather is perfect, very little rain, a constant 10 to 12 mph breeze and the fact that they are outside of the hurricane zone makes Aruba a fantastic destination. Aruba is a mixture of Dutch tradition and architecture with the easygoing lifestyle of the Caribbean. This eclectic mixture also carries over to Aruba's cuisine.
The Radisson's Sunset Grille appeals to the eye as well as the palette. The Art Deco interior is reminiscent Miami's South Beach sector. Earth colors and hardwood floors are accented by hammered brass, glass dividers and mosaic covered pillars. When you enter the Sunset Grille you will be greeted by the genuinely friendly staff who will show you a display case featuring the evening specials and a climate controlled wine cellar. Your choice of seating includes the main dining room or the covered balcony that overlooks a waterfall, garden and beach. There is not a bad seat in the house.
Realizing that all food products served on Aruba are imported, I was amazed at the number and types of items on the menu. I was also pleasantly surprised at the reasonable pricing.
I began my meal with the "Chop House" Martini Salad, Chopped romaine lettuce, hearts of palm, sliced egg, tomatoes, blue cheese, bacon and sweet pepper with creamy Chopin vodka dressing. This salad came to the table in a large stainless steel martini shaker and was served "shaken not stirred" into a large martini glass. A very unique presentation.
Sue started out with the Lobster Bisque served with a puff pastry shell. This was another unique presentation and an extremely tasty example of this traditional soup.
The Sunset Grille specializes in Angus Steaks so I decided on a Roasted loin veal chop topped with thinly sliced onion rings served with apple chutney, maple balsamic glaze with a garlic and spinach custard. This was a remarkable combination of flavors and textures.
Sue chose a petite fillet, which came with baby corn and an edible flower. Once again, a beautiful presentation. We also tried the sautéed mushrooms and Gorgonzola scallop potatoes. We highly recommend these items! They were sooo…good!!
The Sunset Grille's wine list includes more than 100 different wines of all styles and prices. We had a Chilean Merlot that was a perfect match and very reasonably priced.
Somewhere along the evening our wait-staff said we looked like we were on our honeymoon, and at the end of the meal we were presented with our "honeymoon" cake. This warm chocolate lava cake was a perfect end to a perfect dining experience. There are also many other incredible desserts on the menu. The staff took our lead of a casual fine dining experience and were truly our friends by the end of the night. The ambience was upscale and the food was fantastic.
While we went for the USDA Prime Angus beef, the Sunset Grille's menu also includes lamb, chicken and a huge number of fresh seafood items. There are also many healthy "Spa Cuisine" items. There is definitely something for everyone at the Sunset Grille.
Reservations are recommended, call: 297.526.6612 or 297.526.6613. You can also make reservations and review the menu at www.sunsetgrillearuba.com
Located in the Radisson Aruba Resort, Casino & Spa, J.E. Irausquin Boulevard 81, Palm Beach, Aruba
One of our favorite travel products Kevin and I
have tested is the inflatable Travel Pillow by
Travel Rest. This ergonomic pillow gives
you support from your head to waist. We
have used it on a plane, train and car. Our
8 year old grandson, Nathan Pritts, loved it
on his Amtrak birthday trip to Chicago.
Soft, washable material
Hooks over seat or snaps to seatbelt
Saturday, August 8, 2009
Today's Travel Planners Show Guests were:
Mark Shea, Australia
Ira Freedman, GM
Myrtle Beach, SC
Kevin - Travel News
Sue - Travel Tips
Joe Sonderman, Author
Rt 66 in Missouri and Ozarks
Patrice Raplee, TravelWriter
Colorado Paleontology Dinosaurs
Patty Savant, Chamber of Commerce
Annual Duck Race (2,000 ducks)
Patrice Raplee (www.offbeattravel.com)
Talked her trip to Colorado for a
Dino-Wino trip near Grand Junction, CO
If you have questions, email Patrice directly at
Thursday, August 6, 2009
My subject on Channel 2 News this morning was about those
Last Minute Vacations. I suggested Amtrak to Chicago,
Cleveland's Rock n Roll Hall of Fame or Cedar Point Amusement
Park, St. Louis - stay in your own hometown at a hotel, visit the
FREE zoo and last Washington, D.C. where the Smithsonian
Museums are FREE. I recently walked 4 mi. from the
Capitol Building to Lincoln Memorial, visited the American
History Museum and American Indian Museum. If you plan
to visit the Air and Space Museum go early...the line was
very long later in the day.
DEALS - www.bestfares.com
Airfare and Hotel - $339pp/$678 per couple
STL to Las Vegas
4-STAR LUXURY PLANET HOLLYWOOD
EVERY NIGHT YOU WILL RECEIVE A
FREE BOTTLE OF WINE, CHAMPAGNE OR
WEEKEND VACATION TRAVEL DEAL
STL to NY CITY
AIRFARE & HOTEL - $389pp
3 NIGHTS 4-STAR HOTELS NEAR
TIMES SQUARE, BROADWAY THEATER
DISTRICT and EMPIRE STATE BUILDING.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Monday, August 3, 2009
The August 1 show was a previously recorded show.
Kevin's mom passed away and we attended the
burial in Springfield, IL and then drove 1,430 miles
to Western Pennsylvania for Sue's class reunion.
Thanks to all who sent condolences and prayers
during her illness.