Sunday, August 28, 2011

After Irene: Some Images from New York City after the Hurricane

We were very lucky here, and we send our best to those who weren't as fortunate. Here are some shots and a video of the windy rainy aftermath in Manhattan at Central Park and Carl Schurz Park. Yes, that's a park bench under those branches.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hurricane Preparedness: Irene is Coming (or Maybe She's Already Here)

I got up at 5:30am today to drive non-stop from Burlington, Vermont to New York City -- we wanted to be sure we got back in the event of bridge closings and such, particularly now that no one wants to be in a "Katrina-esque" situation again. Hence NYC mass transit has been curtailed, 370K people are in a mandatory evacuation situation in certain parts of the city, and virtually all stores (including all-important grocery stores) have been closed.

Being prepared is key. If you have to drive, please review this list, provided by AAA of New York. It's serious business:

If you must drive:

  • Pack an emergency travel kit designed to sruvive extended traffic delays or road closures. The kit should include water, food for all travelers and pets, extra clothing and blankets, fully charged cell phones, battery-operated NOAA weather radio, extra batteries and extra medications.

  • Be sure to have a full tank of gas

  • Never drive through high water or flooded areas

  • Be aware of fallen trees, limbs, and downed power lines

If you must travel:

  • Stay abreast of local forecasts both at your departure city and at your destination

  • Check your airline flight status before leaving for the airport

  • Check with your hotel for local updates on thes torm's impact

  • Monitor weather conditions on a regular basis as things can change quickly

  • Travel with only a carry-on bag when flying. This will give you greater flexibiltiy if your scheudle changes and you have your luggage with you, if you are delayed

  • Pack "emergency" comforts with you like snacks, raincoats, and extra clothing. A flashlight with good batteries, radio, and extra water are essential.

  • Heed all evacuation advisorires and/or orders

If you must evacuate:

  • In case of evacuation, plan NOW where you will go and have the plan in place where your family members will meet to evacuates

  • Know multiple routes to your destination

  • Secure your home the best you can

  • Top off your car's gas tank before the storm

  • Have a print-out of all important phone numbers

  • Have your "go" bag ready with all essentials: clothing, first-aid kit, meds, etc. Have at least three days' worth of mecications and supplies with you

  • Have canned foods and energy/vitamins bars with you

  • Have flashlights and extra batteries

  • Have a portable raido, monitor the advisories, and be prepared for anything

  • Have cash on hand, as ATMs and banks may not be accessible

  • Have protective clothing, rain gear, blankets or sleeping bags

We've been evacuated from the Outer Banks (North Carolina) twice and we acknowledge this list from our own experience. Be prepared -- this may turn into an adventure, and you want it to end happily.

Stay safe.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Combining Work and Play: the Perfect Business Trip in Austin, Texas

Travel and Food Notes welcomes PJ MacInnis, a fellow road warrior with a passion for baseball and sightseeing. He shares some of his recent finds from a business trip to Austin, Texas here.

We’ve all traveled for work countless times for that short little trip a few hours away or to a different time zone. But how much do we really get to see of those places that we visit? When I’ve traveled for work it usually goes like this: I see the airport first, next it’s either a taxi or rental car, and then it's off to the hotel. There you check in, setup on email and catch up or prepare for the next day. Then you do your business thing and it’s back home before you know it. After many years on the road, I’ve learned to stretch the trip to include local sightseeing and fun.

The recent trip I took to Austin, TX was a special one. It started just like every other one: airport, taxi, hotel, meetings at the corporate office all day, hanging with my co-workers for some events outside the city, and then back to the hotel. Repeat. This time I decided to spice things up a bit. Here’s what I recommend:

Barton Creek Resort & Spa (8212 Barton Club Drive Austin, Texas 78735 Phone: 512.329.4000) Definitely stay here. Great facilities, great staff, great pool. And the staff will treat you like family.

W Austin (200 Lavaca St Austin, TX 78701 phone 512-542-3600) When you want to be close to the fun of Downtown, you need to stay at the W Austin. Close to everything -- running the Lady Bird Lake Trail, 6th Street, awesome restaurants (Lamberts, and Eddie V's, or even just eating in the hotel). Of note, especially when the weather is a scorching 106 degrees, the wait staff from "Wet"(the pool bar) were great and did their best to keep us cool.

Eddie V's
, (301 East 5th St Austin, TX 78701 512-472-1860) - the best place in Austin for dinner. Try the Chilean Sea Bass Steamed "Hong Kong" style.

Lamberts (401 w 2nd St, Austin, TX 78701 phone 512-494-1500) Close to the W with a great vibe. Order the spicy deviled eggs and wild boar ribs to start, then pulled pork and cold smoked Bandera quail. Quite an eclectic combination but delicious.

Austin’s slogan, "Keep Austin Weird," means fun. You will see anything and everything on a Saturday night in Austin. If you’re open-minded, the bar/club Kiss & Fly (404 Colorado Austin, TX 78701 512-476-7799)is an interesting choice. It’s great for dancing and the people watching is also great.

One closing piece of advice: If you have the time, the best way to see the city is on a weekend and early in the morning on foot. You can hear the sounds of the place you are visiting at your own speed.

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Spa Escape to Costa Rica: Mineral Springs, Temazcal, Yoga, and Massage

I may have overdone it a bit at the gym today -- too much yoga, lifting, squats. I could use some thermal springs therapy, a massage, and maybe a Temazcal. Planning a trip back to Tabacon in Costa Rica as soon as possible. The Grand Spa will definitely fix me up! And the rainforest and volcano is the perfect setting. Love those howler monkeys and teeny dart frogs.

Monday, August 15, 2011

A New Italian Find: A Beautiful Red Schioppettino Wine

Travel and Food Notes welcomes Kathy Bechtel, Culinary Programming Director of Italiaoutdoors who is an expert at discovering new and interesting wines in Italy. Here she tells about one of her newest finds, Schioppettino.

During my visits to Italy on our Italiaoutdoors active culinary tours, I seek out any opportunity to enjoy a new wine, be it a tiny producer that we pass by on our bikes, or a glass of a totally unfamiliar varietal after a fun ski day. My new favorite is a varietal called Schioppettino.

Schioppettino, also known as Ribolla Nera, is a varietal from Friuli-Venezia Giulia, between the commune of Prepotto, near Udine and Slovenia. Like many of the indigenous grapes in this region, it was almost lost to us after the phylloxera epidemic devastated most of the vineyards in this region. When the vineyards were eventually replanted, growers favored the popular French varietals, turning their nose up toward the old local stalwarts. In fact, at one point the planting of Schioppettino was actually illegal, as it was classified as an undesirable varietal. Winemaker Paolo Rapuzzi searched out the few remaining vines, and through his efforts an EU decree was created to encourage the planting of Schioppettino, saving it from extinction.

The origin of the name is Schioppettino is unclear but often attributed to the fact that when bottled young and fermented in the bottle, Schioppettino became slightly sparkling, with "popping" (“scoppiettare” in Italian) on the tongue because of the carbon dioxide. This young bottling produces a medium-bodied wine with a fairly low alcohol content. More recently, Schioppettino is vinified in oak barriques, creating a more full-bodied and intense wine that is suitable for aging.

Following local tradition, the grapes are pruned in July, and then, close to harvesting, the leaves closest to the fruit are removed to maximize sun exposure. The harvested grapes are collected in wooden crates and left to dry until late autumn. Aging first occurs in wooden barrels and French barriques, followed by refining period in the bottle.

I’ve only just recently tried this wine in the US when I participated in the Italian Life Expo in Portland, Maine and sampled Vigna Petrussa’s own, from Prepotto, Italy. The wine is clearly becoming one of the rising stars in this relatively unknown, but highly respected wine zone. The Petrussa 2009 Schioppettino is a deep ruby red, decidedly cherry and berry on the nose. Its fruity palate is followed with a peppery spice, another “popping” on the tongue. As the flavors develop after opening, everything blends, and it presents a persistent pleasant smokiness. Try it with game, other full-flavored red meats, and hard cheeses.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Summer Streets 2011 -- Manhattan's Car-free Festival

It's Summer Streets -- Year 3. If you haven't done this before, here's your chance to experience a very different view of New York City. Grab your bike or skates, don your helmet, and head over to Park Avenue to bike down the grand via all the way to City Hall. En route you'll be entertained, fed, amused, distracted (hopefully not too much), and surrounded by the freedom of no-cars, all-bikes, and great company. It's now a city tradition -- Saturday August 13 and 20, from 7am to 1pm.

This year's highlights include sand boxes and live sand sculpting in Foley Square, free bicycle and roller blade rentals, performances by Fringe Jr. Festival, and a guacamole-making demonstration.

See you Saturday!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Korea Day in Central Park -- August 16 -- Free Food, Music and More from 11am-7pm

The Second Annual Korea Day takes place August 16 at Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park (located south of Bethesda Terrace between 66th and 72nd streets). It’s a day of Korean traditional and pop music, food, spirit and culture where you can learn to cook, compete in a singing and dancing competition to win a trip to Korea hosted by and the Korean New York Culture Committee, and create your own Korean fashion show trying on traditional Hanbok clothing. Everything is free.

Shown above, Sorea, a Korean band that plays modern Korean music, will kick off the event. Come hungry – some of the Korean dishes that await include Japchae (stir fried potato noodles with vegetables), Tteokbokki (rice cake in red pepper paste), Bibimbap (rice with vegetables and beef), Jeon (Korean pancake), and the staple Korean condiment Kimchi. You can also don a toque and try your hand at ‘dduk-mea chi-gi’ the process of making dduk, Korean rice cake where the rice cake is beaten with a giant wooden hammer to make it more adhesive; or making Kimchi and bi-bim bob while you learn about traditional Korean sauces and condiments. .