Welcome to Punta Cana’s All-Inclusive Barceló Bávaro Beach Resort Complex

img_6073All-inclusive experiences are by definition luxuriously over-the-top. That said, my time at Punta Cana’s Barceló Bávaro Beach Resort exceeded those high expectations, and here’s why.

Situated on what is known as the “Coconut Coast,” the award-winning resort complex is comprised of two adjacent resorts: Barceló Bávaro Palace Deluxe and the adults-only Barceló Bávaro Beach. While the sheer size of this property is enough to surprise even the most experienced traveler, what is most impressive is the number of attractions, shops, pools, and restaurants that are found on site. Evoking a sense of child-like excitement, the complex is a cross between Disneyworld and a tropical paradise.img_5966img_5969img_6006Located right on the Punta Cana coast, 80 percent of the 1,991 rooms face the ocean, and the property’s beach is rated as one of the top ten beaches world-wide. After being welcomed to the resort with glasses of Champagne, I was escorted to my own suite which offered bottles of complementary rum, fruits, and of course, more bubbly. While the spacious room features modern design and plenty of natural light, the highlight is the patio which overlooks the pool complex, countless palm trees, and the ocean. However, this patio is extra special, as it includes a private hot tub.

Only after a tour of the entire property are guests able to grasp the grand size of this complex. For those in the mood for fun in the sun (minus the sand), guests have the option of four different swimming pools. Each is equipped for ultimate relaxation thanks to a plethora of hammocks, waterfalls, built-in pool seats, and more. Kids can enjoy the Barcy Water Park, complete with water slides, castles, and waterfalls, while the whole family can join in on the adventure at the recently completed Pirate-themed water park.

If you’re feeling lucky, head over to the 24-hour casino, which has everything from slot machines to poker and blackjack. Adjacent to the casino is the nightclub where you can dance the night away, and don’t forget the bowling alley and entire shopping center at your disposal. Take in a show in Barcelò Palace’s Vegas-inspired theater which can accommodate up to 1,400 guests with two levels of seating. Nightly shows are performed with dancers and live music. Itching to get active? There are endless ways to break a sweat on the resort. Pick anything from working out in the fitness center and golfing on the premier 18-hole golf course on property, or get competitive with a game of soccer or tennis. And when you’re ready to unwind, head over to their therapeutic spa.img_6022When the sun is out, there is no easier way to soak it in than by walking over to the beach. Aside from the clear warm waters of the Caribbean, which are kept calm by surrounding coral reefs, guests have complimentary use of kayaks, windsurf boards, sailing boats, paddle boards and catamarans.img_6092

img_6201Going on a resort-organized excursion is highly recommended. Riding through the stunning landscapes of Punta Cana on an ATV is exhilarating, and it’s an excellent way to check out the countryside on the way to the picturesque Macao Beach. Make sure to stop at Rancho Macao where you can learn about hand-rolled cigars, coffee, and cacao production, and have a taste. Toast to the beauty of the Caribbean with some pineapple wine after cooling off in an underground cave filled with five meters of crystal clear water and a waterfall.

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Last but not least, Barceló Bávaro Beach Resort has 14 specialty restaurants, including à la carte options such as México Lindo (Mexican,) Kyoto (Japanese,) and La Dolce Vita (Italian). In addition, there is a 24-hour sports bar with countless televisions and luxurious seating. There are also 16 various bars scattered throughout the property to ensure you’re never without a piña colada or other refreshing beverage of your choice.

Before you book a trip, keep in mind that the resort can be a bit noisy at times, given the large amount of vacationers and young children on the property. Though the scenery surrounding the area is stunning, the enormous capacity of the resort may cause some trouble when searching for a secluded, peaceful spot to truly unwind. All in all, if you’re looking for a tropical getaway with enough activities, shops, and restaurant options to keep even the most demanding traveler busy, this is your place.

Since Barceló Hotel Group’s recent restructuring, three new distinctive brands have been introduced to its already impressive collection: Royal Hideaway Luxury Hotels & ResortsOccidental Hotels & Resorts; and Allegro Hotels. Barcelo Hotel Groups now is involved in more than 109 properties and 33,000 rooms in 20 countries.

Check out LuxeGetaways for the complete article.

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The Everyday-Is-Your-Bday Cake

img_7640Over-the-top, colorful, filled with surprises, super sweet, multi-layered, and perhaps too much for some… this cake is basically me in dessert form. The Everyday-Is-Your-Bday is the ultimate cake. Why not treat yourself like the queen you are, birthday or not?

Live everyday like it’s your bday!

With the help of Fillables Bakeware, you can pack lots of variety into any baked treat. Thanks to its innovative two piece design, you can fill the inside of each individual cup with surprises like candy, pudding, brownie, chocolate chips… almost anything!

I decided to go with the classic funfetti and strawberry cake layers surrounded by a nice coating of vanilla (outside) and strawberry (inside) frosting, topped with sprinkles, covered in coconut, filled with Meyer lemon bar and another layer of coconut flakes, and finally garnished with a lemon twist. Think: strawberry lemonade + coconut confetti.

All you need is three mixes: one box funfetti, one box strawberry, and one box Meyer lemon bars. Follow the directions on the back of the boxes, but disregard the crust portion of the lemon bar instructions. Get baking! Once the cakes are done, let the them cool. Proceed to scoop some of the baked lemon filling into each pocket for a zesty surprise that will break up some of the more intensely sweet flavors. Put the non filled layer on top of the other. Then go crazy with frosting and decorating!
img_7653img_7651img_7650img_7652img_7639img_7656img_7655img_7642Photos by founder of Makeplease, the talented Haley Davis — check her out!

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The Ultimate Guide to New Year’s Eve 2017 Parties in NYC

IMG_7572.jpgNew York City never sleeps, and definitely not on New Year’s Eve!

New York City is known for throwing over-the-top celebrations on New Year’s Eve, so don’t miss out on all the excitement! Grab your crew and welcome 2017 with a night you won’t soon forget (hopefully!). Here’s everything you need to know about parties, dining and drinking on New Year’s Eve in New York City.

Troy Liquor Bar
675 Hudson Street, New York City
Ring in the New Year in style at Troy Liquor Bar, a high-energy lounge and an ideal venue to party without the bougieness of a lot of nightlife spots. Troy has top-notch cocktails as well as billiards, arcade games, and a photo booth to capture your memories. This event features a two hour premium open bar and a Champagne toast at midnight. With DJs, dancing, VIP tables and caves, a New Year’s Eve countdown and more, this is the spot to be.

Click here for more information.

Hammerstein Ballroom
311 West 34th Street, New York City
Ten fully stocked bars. Over thirty bartenders. Multiple DJs. Head over to The Manhattan Center’s Hammerstein Ballroom to celebrate the New Year with a five hour premium open bar and a night of dancing to the most poppin’ music spun by NYC’s top DJs. Countdown to midnight as you watch the ball drop live from projection screens and cheers at midnight with bottles of Champagne.

Click here for more information.

Photo courtesy of Hammerstein

Apotheke
9 Doyers Street New York City
Apotheke is hosting a black and white masquerade ball, inspired by Truman Capote’s notorious masquerade ball that he threw in the Plaza Hotel (which incidentally just celebrated its 50th anniversary). Get festive in black and white attire and bring an animal mask — it’s going to be a crazy night. Ticket includes open bar all night, Champagne toast, live music from our house band Broadway Brassy and the Brass Knuckles, burlesque and a DJ.

Click here for more information.

The Roof
120 W 57th St. New York City
Guests of The Roof will get spectacular views of the fireworks over Central Park this New Year’s Eve. DJ Tim Martell will be spinning throughout the night. Look forward to dancing, bites and a Champagne toast at midnight.

Click here for more information.

CATCH NY
21 9th Ave. New York City
Dine like a star at CATCH NY by reserving a table as part of an early seating or a late seating this New Year’s Eve. With an a la carte menu and a few tasty specials (think: five pound Maine lobster with Champagne brown butter), guests can watch the ball drop while eating in style! Who knows — you may even be dining next Mariah Carey or Kate Hudson — just a couple celebs who’ve been spotted there.

Click here for more information.

Best New Year’s Eve Parties in NYC
Photo Courtesy of Catch NYC

Marea
240 Central Park South New York City
Go all out with an elegant seven-course grand tasting menu. Get the night started with a live band and hors d’oeuvres on the dance floor before and after dinner.

Click here for more information.

VANDAL
199 Bowery New York City
After 10 p.m. enjoy a family style dinner including items from the regular VANDAL dinner menu along with New Year’s Eve specials. Guests will also enjoy party favors, a live DJ and a champagne toast at midnight. Or step in to the trendy lounge where the party starts at 9 p.m. and includes passed hors d’oeuvres and an open bar.

Click here for more information.

Best New Year’s Eve Parties in NYC
Photo Courtesy of Vandal

Blue Fin & Dos Caminos
1567 Broadway (at 47th Street), New York City
Blue Fin and Dos Caminos Times Square restaurants are hosting a multi-floor New Year’s Eve party inside the W Times Square Hotel just steps away from the world-famous Ball Drop countdown. The event will feature open bar, passed canapés and custom food stations including a Carving station, Guacamole station, Mexican Candy station and more by Executive Chefs Sam Hazen, Juan Carlos Ortega, Boo Lim, Reed Osterhold and Ivy Stark.

Click here for more information.

The Bowery Hotel
335 Bowery New York City
Head over to the Bowery Hotel for a premium open bar, live performances, a DJ, a Champagne lounge, whiskey bar, and an outdoor terrace cigar lounge. Into the night, enjoy special after midnight snacks “NYC” style (think: pizza and pretzels) and infused premium chocolate treats.

Click here for more information.

Ascent Lounge
10 Columbus Circle, 4th Floor, New York City
The super glamorous Ascent Lounge will host a Va Va Voom New Year’s Eve Celebration overlooking Central Park from the fourth floor of New York’s Time Warner Center. Featuring entertainment from Lady Alcehmy, Christina Everett and DJ Tom Macari, the evening also includes a live a projection of the Times Square Ball Drop and a Champagne toast at midnight.

Click here for more information.

Photo Courtesy of Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Ascent Lounge

Haven Rooftop
132 West 47th Street New York City
This party is near all the excitement of Times Square without being a part of the stress. Just steps away from the ball drop, guests can see the confetti canons go off at midnight, but unlike standing in Times Square, Haven offers two bars and delicious food! Opt for a table with bottle service for the night and get your drink on at the four-hour top shelf open bar and munch on passed hors d’oeuvres.

For a classy, sit-down dinner to celebrate 2017, Tender Steak & Sushi will be serving a prix-fixe dinner with two seatings for the night. The menu includes an amuse bouche, three courses, and one glass of champagne. Dinner guests are invited to join the celebrations on the rooftop, as well!

Click here for more information.

Best New Year’s Eve Parties in NYC
Photo Courtesy of Haven Rooftop

The Cannibal
113 East 29th Street New York City
Kick it old school this New Year’s Eve with the first ever The Cannibal Award Tour at The Cannibal Beer & Butcher and Liquor House. A tribute to 80’s and 90’s old school hip hop music, this event will include bites from chef Francis Derby’s menu, a whiskey bone luge and an open bar or draft beer, draft cocktails, wine and a Champagne toast. Tour around Beer & Butcher and Liquor House to explore six separate food stations.

Click here for more information.

Mastros Steakhouse
1285 Avenue of the Americas New York City
Mastro’s is a lively, high-end steakhouse and seafood restaurant in midtown. So, if you’re looking to go all out this New Year’s Eve, reserve a seat at this fine dining establishment, eat like royalty, and cheers to 2017 with a Champagne toast at midnight.

Click here for more information.

Supercinema: The King’s Winter Masquerade at The McKittrick Hotel
The McKittrick Hotel, 530 W. 27th Street, New York City
Supercinema: The King’s Winter Masquerade at The McKittrick Hotel — home of the immersive theater spectacle Sleep No More — is a bohemian-inspired soirée complete with live pop-up theatrical performances, scenic installations and open bar all night long. Each Supercinema party requires guests arrive in costumes inspired by iconic films — all gold, black, white, or red for The King’s Winter Masquerade. A decadent dinner option is available at the venue’s restaurant The Heath, with items like foie gras torchon, Maine lobster and NY strip steak, plus free flowing libations and entertainment from the Paisley Players and special guests. Revelers can also attend a Sleep No More performance as part of the night.

Click here for more information.

Photo courtesy of The McKittrtick Hotel

Beauty & Essex
146 Essex St. New York City
Head over to Beauty & Essex after 10 p.m. for a prix fixe dinner featuring a family styled dinner with a Champagne toast at midnight. Guests will also leave with VIP party favors to start your 2017 off on the right foot.

Beauty & Essex is also offering a Rat Pack-themed ball that will take place in our Grand Dining Room that will include passed canapés, a five hour open bar and a Champagne toast at Midnight.

Click here for more information.

Osteria Morini
218 Lafayette Street New York City
Get your tickets to Osteria Morini’s roaring 20s themed NYE event featuring a worldwide-inspired cocktail list. Get your Gatsby on with live music by Andrew’s Wild Tiger, an acoustic prohibition era jazz and blues trio drinks and dancing.

Click here for more information.

Squares
360 Park Ave S. New York City
Head to the recently opened hotspot, Squares for an open bar, music from DJ George Garcia and a live performance from Zak Downtown. Party in a stylish, sleek setting while you ring in the new year like a celeb.

Click here for more information.

Photo Courtesy of Squares

White Street: Winter Vibes 2017
221 West Broadway New York City
This New Year’s Eve, we invite you to the glamorous White Street in the heart of Tribeca. Soaring ceilings are adorned with crystal chandeliers which are sure to reflect off clinking champagne glasses and smiles the night of New Year’s Eve. Enjoy cocktails during the five+ hour premium open bar, classic hors d’oeuvres offerings, VIP table service available for small & large groups, Champagne toast at midnight, state of the art sound & light system and more.

Click here for more information.

Fogo de Chão
40 W 53rd St. New York City
Before you go dancing, treat yourself to a fabulous Brazilian steakhouse experience at Fogo de Chão. This all-you-can-eat feast of 16 fire-roasted meats and full Market Table is a perfect way to start the night. In addition, new holiday menu includes include: seasonal beef roast, sweet potato casserole, and roasted butternut squash and pear and endive salads.

Click here for more information.

The Jane Ballroom
113 Jane Street New York City
Head over to the West Village favorite, The Jane Ballroom to celebrate the New Year. Highlights of this trendy event include a four hour open bar, midnight balloon drop, music by world-renowned DJs and New Year’s Eve Party Favors. VIP and table packages available as well.

Click here for more information.

We the People Presents: New Year’s Eve 2017 Party at The Time New York
224 West 49th Street, New York City
Celebrate the New Year’s Eve inside The Time New York Hotel in Times Square. LeGrande boasts an exquisite multi-room collection of chic décor, illuminating a range of sleek, ultra-modern, and glamorous interiors. The best of the New York’s DJ scene will be spinning today’s hottest tunes into the wee hours as you ring in 2017 in style.

Click here for more information.

Photo courtesy of The Time New York

Little Frog NYC
322 East 86th Street, New York City
Take in a New Year’s Eve Special pre-fix menu at Little Frog NYC, with or without wine pairings. Bubbly champagne midnight toast, fabulous food and good company. What else do you need to ring in 2017?

We all know a good amount of us will be hung over New Year’s Day. So if you didn’t do dinner the night before, head over to Little Frog NYC the day after all the celebrations. This French bistro is offering a New Year’s Day Brunch special item, the Little Frog Hangover Platter with rosti egg benedict, boudin sausage, grilled steak, breakfast sausage, Vermont bacon, truffle egg en cocotte, jalapeño grilled cheese sandwich, and side of papas bravas.

Click here for more information.

Photo courtesy of Paul Wagouicz

Rainbow Room’s New Year’s Eve Black Tie Event
30 Rockefeller Plaza, 65th Floor New York City
Guests are invited to enjoy a premium open bar, passed canapés and magnificent views in The Gallery to start the night off right. This upscale event includes: cocktail hour with premium open bar, elegant four-course tasting menu, premium live entertainment and dancing, and of course a Champagne toast at midnight.

Click here for more information.

Bar Sixtyfive at Rainbow Room
30 Rockefeller Plaza, 65th Floor New York City
Get festive with a Champagne and caviar bar, complimentary passed canapés, live DJ performance and dancing, and a Champagne toast at midnight.

Click here for more information.

Best New Year’s Eve Parties in NYC
Copyright 2016 © Bar SixtyFive at Rainbow Room. All Rights Reserved.

Mitchells Fish Market
541 River Rd, Edgewater, New Jersey
Although not located in the heart of NYC, Mitchell’s Fish Market in Edgewater has the best view of Manhattan. From the George Washington Bridge all the way to the Freedom Tower, you won’t want to miss on this view, not to mention the freshest selections of seafood around.

Click here for more information.

Refinery Rooftop
63 W 38th Street New York City
This New Year’s Eve enjoy insane rooftop views at Refinery Rooftop. Highlights of this New Year’s event include a premium open bar, passed hors d’oeuvres, live entertainment, and a midnight champagne toast.

Click here for more information.

The Roxy Hotel
2nd Avenue of the Americas New York City
Get into character at the Roxy Hotel’s The Surrealist Art Ball (Inspired by Rothchild’s 1972 Surrealist Ball) featuring live performances by the legendary Buster Poindexter, premium open bar and food service from 9:00pm – 11:00pm. Themed attire is a must.

Click here for more information.

Upstairs at the Kimberly Hotel
145 East 50th Street New York City
Enjoy this luxe midtown hotspot this New Year’s Eve. This penthouse level lounge sits 30 stories high atop the Kimberly Hotel setting the mood for a great night. This event includes four hour premium open bar, gourmet hors d’oeuvres, assorted passed desserts and cocktails, DJ Greg Hansen spinning, and a celebratory Champagne toast at midnight

Click here for more information.

For more of my articles on the City That Never Sleeps, visit GRID-NY.

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Dessert Alert | Spot Dessert Bar

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WHERE
13 St Marks Place (basement level)
New York, NY 10003

WHAT
Spot Dessert Bar is the perfect place to enjoy many desserts at once (as it should be). Known for its innovative and decadent creations, Spot features seasonally inspired dessert tapas. The end result of infusing your favorite Asian flavors with the commonly seen desserts like tiramisu or cheesecake? Miniature sweet works of art. Sadly, I haven’t had the chance to taste each one, but I did experience the signature Chocolate Green Tea Lava Cake. This warm, dark chocolate lava cake is filled with a indulgent green tea ganache that oozes out of the rich cake with your first scoop in. The cake is dusted with green tea powder and served with a side of green tea ice cream and a thin butter cookie.spot2

GO or NO?
Definitely go. Bring two or three friends so you can have an excuse to order multiple things to “share”. The atmosphere is friendly, clean and cozy so you can chill with your friends leisurely as you try out all the fun, unique combinations of dessert tapas offered.

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Dessert Alert | Michel et Augustin Two Kooky Cookies

melty-middle-praline-toasted-almond-iiAs most of my friends and readers know, I consider myself a dessert connoisseur. With that said I’m almost shocked I hadn’t tasted Michel et Augustin Two Kooky Cookies before just recently. Chances are you’ve seen these goodies around New York — they can be found at Whole Foods, Starbucks and Union Market to name just a few locations. For those of you that don’t know, Michel et Augustin is a French cookie company that entered the United States after over a decade of successfully satisfying the sweet tooth of people around the world.
melty-middle-praline-toasted-almondRecently GRiD-NY had the opportunity to speak with Michel et Augustin’s Communications Director in the U.S., Lily Dionne-Jermanovich on the future of Michel et Augustin in the states. Their mission is to “spread the French pastry know-how across the universe,” told Dionne-Jermanovich. “We want to be the first company to be made up of 100 percent pastry-certified kooky cookies (our staff) and we launched our first class on Nov. 21.” Two lucky New Yorkers were offered spots in this exclusive 27-week pastry class to prepare for the official French pastry exam in June 2017.
banner-bakingTo clarify, when they say pastry certified, they mean actually getting the certificate from France, known as CAP, or professional aptitude diploma. This requires a 78-hour curriculum, lots of practice and an exam administered by the French state. Serious business.

Chocolate lovers will adore the Super Cookies with melty middle which comes in two decadent flavors: dark chocolate, caramel and pecans and milk chocolate and hazelnuts. If you’re feeling particularly indulgent, warm them up and devour with a glass of milk or some ice cream. Personally, I love grabbing the to-go packs of the buttery cookie squares whenever I spot them at the store. My favorites include the milk chocolate, caramel with a pinch of sea salt — I can never get enough of the sweet n’ salty combination — and the lemon meringue which reminds me of lemon squares that I loved as a kid.
super-cookie-sky-linemelty-middle-1If you have yet to taste these fabulously authentic French baked treats, Michel et Augustin hosts an Open House at the “banana farm” in Brooklyn every 1st Thursday of the month. Think: cookies on cookies on cookies! As always, the event is free and not only do you get to taste the cookies, but you can also preview upcoming recipes, listen to music and mingle with likeminded cookie lovers. The Banana Farm New York is located on 98 4th street in Brooklyn and the event goes from 6:53 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. I’ll be there this Thursday (Dec. 1) so definitely holler if you’ll be checking it out too!

For the complete interview between GRiD-NY and Michel et Augustin’s Communications Director in the U.S., Lily Dionne-Jermanovich, click here.

This is a sponsored post by GRiD-NY; this in no way influenced the opinions stated. For more of my articles on the City That Never Sleeps, visit GRiD-NY.

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NYC Spotlight | Cosme

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Flatiron District’s Cosme serves outstanding contemporary Mexican-inspired cuisine time and time again.

Chef Enrique Olvera brings together the beloved, traditional elements of Mexican food with innovative flavor and ingredient combinations at New York City’s Cosme restaurant. Setting this super trendy, upscale Flatiron spot a part from the countless other exclusive, majorly-hyped restaurants is the creativity of the menu offerings. In addition, its lively bar is top notch and is stocked with around 30 mezcals and 20 tequila, making for a great variety of fantastic cocktails. With warm lighting, copper tones and wooden tables and shelves lining the walls filled with bottles of wine and mezcal, books and chic kitchen ware, the atmosphere is modern, yet comfortable and cozy. Another nice touch are the vibrant, leafy green plants throughout the restaurant.  img_8034cosme3cosme6Start with a tuna tostada which comes with capers, avocado and a slight yuzu citrus on a crispy signature tortilla. Another solid seafood dish is the octopus-scallop cocktail which is served over a black aguachile with charred avocado and slivers of cucumber. The tender lobster with shiso, ginger mojo and brown butter is a unique play on the lobster and butter combo. The freshness of the ginger and shiso flavors keep this dish from feeling too heavy. Any fan of soft shell crab should go for the crunchy soft shell crab that features a well-spiced yellow mole, green papaya salad and lemon verbena.cosmecosme1On to the meat dishes! If there’s one thing you absolutely need to get it’s the duck carnitas which comes sizzling in a iron cast skillet with onions, radishes and cilantro. The duck is ridiculously flavorful. Rich, the right amount of fatty (as duck should be) and indulgent, the carnitas falls apart and is literal roasted perfection. Wrap it up in a purple corn tortilla. Boom. There you have the best soft taco ever. The short rib with scallions, cipollini and avocado is a close second must-order. Likewise extremely tender, this hunk of meat has enormous flavor and practically melts in your mouth.
cosme4cosme2You can’t leave Cosme before wrapping up your dinner with the instagram-famous and drool-inducing husk meringue with corn mousse. Cracked open and filled with a creamy, luscious corn mousse, this dessert is the ultimate balance of sweet and savory. It has a slight salty component to it which pairs excellently with the sweet crunchiness of the meringue and the decadent mousse.

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Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival 2016

img_5535This Fall, Epcot threw its 21st annual International Food & Wine Festival. From Sept. 14-Nov. 14, over 30 food booths were stationed around Epcot’s World Showcase featuring the cuisines of various countries. Each destination area is impressively designed to reflect an experience in that country. From Africa and Morocco to Japan and Brazil, this is the ultimate event for adventurous eaters. Guests have the chance to fill out their free “passport” with stickers as they visit each booth, though it’s unlikely one person could eat their way around the world in one day. I definitely recommend getting the rides out of the way before you start feasting. Nausea is no joke. Soarin’, Mission: Space and Spaceship Earth were the three highlights of the ride experiences. Don’t miss out on them.

Here are a bunch of pictures from my first Epcot Food & Wine Festival experience.  I can’t wait for next year!
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Buttered Chicken with Micro Cilantro and Naan Bread
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Grilled Sweet and Spicy Bush Berry Shrimp with Pineapple, Pepper, Onion and Snap Peas
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Crispy Pork Belly with Black Beans and Tomato

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Liquid Nitro Chocolate Almond Truffle with Warm Whiskey Caramel & Rosa Regale Sweet Red Sparkling Wine
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Pineapple Dole Whip Soft-Serve Ice Cream with Bacardi Coconut Rum

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NYC Spotlight | Sanatorium

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Sanatorium: a hospital for the treatment of chronic diseases or various nervous disorders. 
 If you’re over regular, run-of-the-mill, Lower East Side bars, then rejuvenate with innovative libations at Sanatorium — a new, hidden cocktail bar from Apotheke creator, Albert Trummer, also known as the “scientist of cocktails.” Truly one-of-a-kind, the theme of this upscale cocktail lounge is, you guessed it, a hospital.

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Though it might seem a bit off-putting to order drinks with names like Stitched Up (Turkish fig-infused rye whiskey) and In the Ambulance (thyme elixir, orange oil, and fresh rosemary), after one sip you’ll forget all about your former hesitations.
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The lounge, modeled after a 1930s medicine hospital, exudes cool with its green Venetian plaster walls and vintage furniture like blue velvet love seats, chandeliers, and chrome and steel accents. There’s also an operating table equipped with surgical lights that illuminates the bar, beakers, test tubes, bottled up elixir potions, and more hospital-ish décor throughout the space.
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Guests can request unique cocktails based on their own tastes, but some of the drinks on the menu might hit the spot, too: One option is Recovery Time (vodka, raspberry, earl grey, lemon, and hibiscus elixir), and another is the O.R. (rum, pineapple, lemon-infused sugarcane, cilantro, habanero, vanilla elixirs, and angostura).
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The charming bartenders are well-dressed, seasoned professionals. Special shout out to bartender Chris Norton for making our first time experiencing Sanatorium both educational and intoxicating.

For my articles on The Daily Meal, click here

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5 Under-the-Radar New Yorker Fall Getaways

img_3121It’s that magical time of the year when it’s no longer sweltering but not yet freezing. It’s perfect for Fall getaways, so take advantage! Though most New Yorkers are well aware of the commonly crowded, much-hyped, and occasionally pretentious vacation spots like the Hamptons, Montauk, or Martha’s Vineyard, here are five destinations that are equally — if not more so — gorgeous, quaint, and relaxing for the perfect Fall weekend getaway.

1.) Cold Springs, New York
img_3609Want to get out of the city but don’t want to drive? Go by boat! Venture on a catamaran Fall Foliage Cruise before it gets too cold and jet up the gorgeous tree-lined Hudson River to the adorable and historical small town of Cold Spring, New York. Guests will enjoy fantastic views of New York City on the way to the destination and can look forward to insanely vibrant foliage while on the water. Fiery reds, bright oranges and golden yellows — the colors are literally glowing this time of year!

While on the cruise, guests can listen to their enthusiastic tour guide point out all the noteworthy places that include the Cloisters, George Washington Bridge, huge castle-like mansions, West Point, Bear Mountain, as well as the delightful towns on the shore of the Hudson. Arriving at Cold Spring, established 1846, feels like taking a step into the past. The streets are lined with grand Victorian homes. Strolling along the 19th century waterfront main street will be a huge contrast to walking anywhere in New York City — you’ll love it.
img_3563Activity options include boutique shopping, pursuing through local artisans’ shops, and dining at farm-to-table restaurants. In addition to a variety of packed antique shops, other locales include a trendy apothecary, general store, and some great places to get unique gifts. Get some brick oven roasted pizzas at the restaurant, Riverside, while taking in views of the Hudson.

Stay the weekend at the three-story Pig Hill Inn and unwind in one of its nine individually decorated rooms or outside on its garden terrace. Built in 1895, the Inn is filled with antiques, romantic allure, and offers a full country breakfast every morning. Cold Springs is just the place to unwind and enjoy small town living in a beautiful setting.

2.) Berkshires, Massachusetts
The Berkshires is home to beautiful scenery, lots of great hiking and outdoor activity, culture and art museums, and all the charm of a small town. Check out the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art which houses larger-than-life installations and boasts over 100,000 square feet of open and naturally lit space for art lovers to explore. MASS MoCA is also home to over 75 performances year-round. Or there’s the Clark Art Institute which features a range of masterpieces that include paintings, sculpture and drawings.

img_5165Just want to be outside? Take a walk on its 140-acre oasis filled with looming trees, meadows, landscaped walking trails, and experience the vibrant colors of fall foliage. Swing by Hilltop Orchards for some old fashioned apple picking, fresh cider doughnuts, wine tastings, and hikes on its 200 acres of land. Feeling adventurous? Take a hike on one of the Berks’ many trails. Climb up Bash Bish Mountain for an unbelievable views of Bash Bish Gorge, New York’s Harlem Valley, and the distant Catskill Mountains; or hike the Jug End Loop Trail for a more peaceful, chill excursion.

Stay at one of the many lovely bed and breakfasts or inns around. A few recommendations are: Devonfield, a Colonial style inn that sits atop a hillside that overlooks 32 acres of meadows; the Gateways Inn, originally the Procter (of Procter & Gamble) mansion converted into a charming, 11 room B&B; or the Whistler’s Inn, a fairytale 1870 English Tudor mansion.

3.) Adirondacks, New York
img_3122-jpgAnyone who loves Fall needs to visit the Adirondacks now when the foliage is at its peak for the season. Mountain lovers, and anyone seeking the opposite feeling of being in Times Square, won’t want to leave this outdoor wonderland. Rent a boat or kayaks at Mirror Lake and explore; venture through High Falls Gorge, a 22-acre nature park, complete with four scenic Adirondack waterfalls cascading over boulders; or get your boots on and hike through the trails of Adirondack Park and savor its panoramic mountain views. You can also go fishing, hunting, or rock climbing… this is truly the destination to-be for any outdoorsy person.

Stay at an upscale lodge such as the Lake Placid Lodge, with luxury comforts, a view of the lake, rustic hand-crafted furniture, fireplaces, deep tubs and cushy beds; or the Mirror Lake Inn which offers a spa and salon, indoor and outdoor pools, and Colonial-style rooms with views of Whiteface Mountain. Looking for more of a nature-filled campground? Stop by the Adirondack LOJ, a 1920’s lodge on the shore of Heart Lake where you’ll sleep in classic log beds stacked four or six to a room.

4.) Portsmouth, New Hampshire
img_4749Fans of Gilmore Girls will be thrilled to know that the picturesque town of Portsmouth, New Hampshire is basically a real-life version of Stars Hallow. For those of you not familiar with TV’s most beloved mother/ daughter duo, Portsmouth is a peaceful, friendly New Hampshire town, filled with museums, history, wide sandy beaches, and good food. Did we mention that it’s also home to Lindt Chocolate USA headquarters and a glorious Lindt outlet shop? Because it is must-see.
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As the nation’s third-oldest city, it’s filled with historic sites such as the Strawberry Banke Museum, a historic waterfront museum featuring homes and exhibits from three centuries; landmarks that include Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse, a 48-foot tower of Portsmouth Harbor Light; and Moran Towing Tugboats. Day trip locations such as the Isles of Shoals, which was discovered by Capt. John Smith, of Pocahontas fame are also nearby. Take one of numerous Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail Sankofa Tours if you want an afternoon of educational information and a bit of exercise. In addition, stroll through Market Square for an eclectic range of small shops, cafes, restaurants, and waterfront attractions.
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Stay downtown at the historic mansion, The Hotel Portsmouth, a 135-year-old historic hotel that is a classic example of Queen Anne Victorian architecture. Each room in this boutique hotel is individually decorated and designed with a mix of both retro and modern touches. Or spend a night at the Inn at Strawberry Banke, a unique seven-room colonial bed and breakfast.

5.) The Farm at Woods Hill
img_3216The Farm at Woods Hill is the ideal getaway for lovers of fresh air, animals, wide open spaces, excellent farm-to-table fare and those interested in sustainable farming. Owned by Kristin Canty, filmmaker of Farmageddon and proprietor of Woods Hill Table, The Farm at Woods Hill was built to supply pasture raised meats and produce to her restaurant. The farm has a variety of animals from cows and pigs to chickens and lambs, as well as tons of fresh seasonal produce growing out of its flourishing edible gardens.
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If you’ve never spent time on a farm, a stay here will be quite an experience — both tranquil and fascinating at the same time. Guests have the option of staying at the Lodge, a gorgeous 3200-square-foot log cabin overlooking a swimming pond in the peaceful hills of western New Hampshire, or the charming, sky blue Farm House around the corner which houses an extra 20 people. The Lodge has a Jacuzzi tub and shower, a loft with a queen-sized bed and sitting room, a large fireplace for chilly nights, and even an amazing library — reminiscent of the one in the Beauty and the Beast — stocked with unique reads.
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With a fully outfitted kitchen, a huge screened in porch, and a fire pit, you’ll be able to fully take in the nature around you. If you want to explore, the property is surrounded by miles of hiking trails. It is 28 miles to Loon Mountain and Cannon Mountain Ski Resorts, 39 miles to Mt. Washington, and 15 miles to the Appalachian Trail. Plus, you can opt for a stay package, which includes a farm stay with tours; a spa stay including yoga classes, facials, manicures, and pedicures; and a maple stay which offers a taste of real New Hampshire maple syrup!

For more of my articles on the City That Never Sleeps, visit GRID-NY.

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NYC Spotlight | Meatpacking District’s Newest Hot Spot Hybrid: Kola House

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The kola nut is a caffeine-containing nut of the kola tree. {Credit: Kola House}

Meatpacking District’s Kola House had a lot of expectations to live up to. Touted as one of the biggest and hottest openings of Fall, this 5,000 square foot space is the “first experimental kola bar, restaurant, lounge and event space to open in the U.S. market.” According to a recent press release. “The flagship location (in Meatpacking) will also serve as a transformative event space for pop culture moments in music, art, style, film, sports and more.” The Kola House pays homage to the kola nut, a nut that also drives the creativity and inspiration of its cocktails, elixirs and specialty plates on the menu.

PepsiCo owns this modern, oh-so-trendy hotspot, but you’d never guess it based on the atmosphere, décor and style of the space. You won’t see any iconic red, white and blue cans, or any other hint of product-pushing from the food and beverage conglomerate. What you will see are exposed brick walls, a shiny back bar and cocktail infusion area, copper accents, hard wood floors, a space for impromptu pop-up performances and an illuminated square sculpture hanging from the ceiling.

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{Credit: Kola House}

The cocktails and elixirs are some of the best we’ve ever had. Alex Ott is Kola House’s sensory ringmaster — the beverage magician, if you will. Upon reading his bio you’ll read the following about his skills which, “combine sensory dining/drinking psychology with his unique knowledge of hangover preventative elixirs, alcoholic and non-alcoholic functional and disease preventative beverages, nootropics, dietary supplements as well as deep space travel and fine fragrance.” If you’re a little confused as to what that actually means, we can help you. The drinks are out-of-this-world.

The intergalactic peace is described as “a stunning and memory evoking spectacle of beverage induced interconnectedness.” This cocktail comes in a glass dome which houses campfire smells of woods, tobacco, and sandalwood, and inside this dome of fragrance is your cocktail of spiced cognac/rum, tobacco infused honey, sandalwood, vanilla, pear and lime. Before you imbibe, you can inhale the incredible mix of smells which enhances the entire drinking experience.

If you’re looking for something calming, get the Mind & body, which is described as a “resort like elixir with mood regulating and anti-inflammatory properties.” Think: mild bitters, white cranberry, levigated pearl garnished with a delightful spruce pillow of forest scents. Absolutely lovely.

Bottom line: make sure to get some cocktails.

On the food side, Kola House’s Executive Chef, Jon Feshan draws from his Persian heritage to create New American cuisine that highlights purity of flavor and freshness of the ingredients used.

We ordered a nice selection of dishes which began with a fresh fig toast with sweet, crunchy maple-glazed hazelnuts and cheese; the unique wild salmon tartare which came atop crispy sticky rice, and a scallion crème fraiche; and the very filling pork shoulder carnitas which was seasoned with a kola spice rub served with warm tortillas.

To some, that may sound like a full meal. Not for us. We continued the feast with a light dish of braised beets with lemon yogurt, pistachio granola and chunks of pickled strawberry. The grand finally was the roasted & fried chicken with collard greens and a side of house-made Fresno hot sauce butter. Similar to a buffalo sauce on steroids. The roasted chicken was juicy, while the fried chicken had a satisfying crunchy coating surround the also tender meat. This dish is meant to be shared and is a must-try for lovers of buffalo chicken wings.

For dessert we recommend the s’mores bowl – no need for explanation on that decision. It’s indulgently sweet.

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