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Old Vegas, New Vegas

Are you Old Vegas or New Vegas? New Vegas is the strip and its immediate vicinity–plush and opulent, shiny and modern, fairy tale and fantasy. But sometimes the glittering exterior doesn’t deliver on the expectation it creates.

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Hello, Gorgeous: California’s Monterey Peninsula is a Head-Turner Without Even Trying

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If Monterey Peninsula were a woman, she’d be the one that all the others envy. The one who doesn’t give much thought to hair or clothes or makeup. For her, it all just comes together effortlessly, a unique kind of beautiful that you can’t get from poring over the fashion boards on Pinterest. Like the Kate Upton character in last year’s female revenge comedy, The Other Woman:

“You smell amazing! What is that?”

(Pause) “I think it’s just sweat.”

That’s Monterey Peninsula. The gorgeous seems to ooze from every rock and tree and wave. Continue reading

Night and Day in Austin, Texas

We make our way through the picturesque farm and ranch country of central Texas, headed for downtown Austin and then to the north shore of Lake Travis. It’s a spur of the moment road trip. An impulse to get out of town before the summer slips away, do a little wining and dining someplace fresh and different. We’ve come to the right place.

Downtown Austin and its surrounding neighborhoods are bursting with activity everywhere you look, yet somehow the city manages to rebuff the frenzied pace of its Texas siblings, Houston and Dallas. This is a pretty amazing feat considering that within a fairly small perimeter, you will find one of the largest universities in the country, the legislative bustle of the second largest state in the union, shopping that spans from resale to ritzy, historic homes, notable museums, extensive hike and bike trails, water recreation on Lady Bird Lake, a stellar live music scene, abundant nightlife, and, most importantly, scores of creative and fun places to eat. If you pick the right lodging, there’s lots to do, all within a laid back stroll of your hotel.

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The Zydeco Chef Dines at Houston’s Peli Peli

So where do you take a chef for dinner? Ohio chef Johnny Schulze of gourmet food truck Zydeco Bistro made his way to Texas with his family last week for a little R&R and to get a taste of Houston’s booming restaurant scene. (Note:  Johnny is married to my sister.)

Chef Johnny grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and did his culinary training in New Orleans, where he also worked under Andrea Apuzzo, whose Metairie restaurant, Andrea’s, is an institution in the greater New Orleans area.  Johnny’s latest project is The Bourbon Street Barrel Room, a gastropub in Cleveland’s historic and hip Tremont neighborhood.

Since Chef Johnny’s expertise is Cajun/Creole and Italian cooking, he would rather dine outside of his professional milieu–the more unusual the better. After several brainstorming sessions, we hit upon something that Johnny had never tried–South African cuisine!! So on a rainy Thursday evening we headed out for our reservation at Peli Peli.

Peli Peli may be the only South African restaurant in Texas, and it is one of only a handful in the whole United States. Executive chef and co-owner Paul Friedman characterizes his menu as South African fusion, reflecting the contributions of the country’s diverse mix of people and cultures, from indigenous tribes to Portuguese, Dutch, Indo-Asian, British, French, Italian and Greek influences.

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Eating Lyon

If you are planning a trip to Paris, consider making a side excursion to Lyon.  Adding a couple of nights to your travel itinerary is well worth the effort in order to experience this unique French city. Reserve a seat on the TGV, France’s high speed train, and you’ll zip through picturesque country villages and fields of bright yellow canola, making the 465 km trip in two hours.

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Lyon is located southwest of Paris and is part of the Rhone-Alpes region.  The heart of Lyon, Presqu’ile, which literally means “almost an island,” is nestled between the Rhone and Saone Rivers.  Lyon is a vibrant city–an important banking center for France, the headquarters for INTERPOL, and a hub for the pharmaceutical, chemical and technology industries.

An official UNESCO heritage site, Lyon’s ancient Roman ruins and Old Town are two of many historic areas to explore.  Just as important to me, though, is the city’s unofficial title–gastronomy capital of France! Continue reading

Paris Wine & Dine

 

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Springtime in Paris–everything in bloom!  Including my appetite for French cuisine.  Yes, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and Notre Dame Cathedral are obligatory and awe-inspiring, so visit these, of course.  But do a little homework before you leave the States, and you will have some of the most satisfying meal experiences in the world without spending a fortune. Continue reading

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