Monday, November 28, 2011

Celebrate, Shop and Be Charitable at Winter's Eve - Time Warner Center and Lincoln Square, November 28

If you’re a holiday (and shopping) junkie, here’s yet one more night to celebrate, Monday November 28, and kick your holiday charity-giving into gear. There will be lots of food (as if you haven’t had enough this weekend), plus free entertainment and lots of good holiday energy. Monday night is Winter’s Eve night in Lincoln Square, Manhattan.

The 12th annual Winter’s Eve, sponsored by Time Warner, kicks off at 5:30pm with a performance by Arlo Guthrie and the Newark Boys Chorus, followed by the Upper West Side traditional neighborhood tree lighting ceremony at Dante Park (Broadway & 63rd St). Events will continue throughout the night along Broadway from the Time Warner Center to 68th St.

The best of all musical genres will be featured throughout the night, from performances by Big Apple Circus and various school groups including the LaGuardia High School Show Choir at the Time Warner Center, jazz artist Catherine Russell at the American Folk Art Museum, and rhythm and blues bassist Christian McBride at the West Side Apple Store. Don’t miss the live ice sculpting by the father-son design team of Okamoto Studio in front of the Time Warner Center on at Columbus Circle.

One of the best events of the evening is the signature dish sampling by Lincoln Square’s favorite restaurants, with dishes priced from only $1 to $5 each. The stellar line-up includes A Voce, Bar Masa, Ed’s Chowder House, Francesco’s Pizzeria & Restaurant, La Boite en Bois, Luce Restaurant & Enoteca, Magnolia Bakery, P.J. Clarke’s and others. Tastings will also be held in front of the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle from 6-8:30pm.

Some of the activities throughout the evening, catering to both children and adults, include Arts & Crafts with the Big Apple Circus on the 2nd floor of the Time Warner Center, a World Dance presentation by Dance Parade, Inc, and free admission to The American Folk Art Museum’s 9/11 National Tribute Quilt & Super Star exhibition.

Most Lincoln Square retailers, including all stores at the Time Warner Center and many on Broadway, will remain open late for the night, offering special values and holiday features for this Monday evening only (much better than Black Friday or Cyber Monday).

The New York Cares Coat Drive asks you to bring any new or used coats to the event. The annual coat drive is in particular need of children’s coats and large men’s coats this season.

All in all, this is a great way to morph one holiday into the next. For more information and entertainment listings check out: or call 212.581.3774.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving: Dining Tips to Keep You Healthy during the Holidays

Travel and Food Notes welcomes guest blogger Sarah Wickline. Continuing our tradition of providing tips for staying food-sane and calorie-healthy during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season, Sarah shares her tips for healthy dining survival.

Great food on the road

The holidays are here, which means many of your meals will be enjoyed with family and friends. It also means a lot of travel for some, which can also lead to bad food. You probably already have plenty of easy dinner recipes, but what about finding good food on the road? Follow these tips to make sure you don’t find yourself underwhelmed during your holiday travels this year.

Preparation is key

There are two ways to eat well while travelling: Being spontaneous or making a detailed plan beforehand. The former used to be harder when all you had to rely on were suggestions from locals or the concierge. They might have sent you in the right direction, but what if your taste didn’t match theirs? Nowadays, technology makes it easy to find great food almost anywhere. If you’re a smartphone user, there are many apps like Yelp and Urbanspoon that also have web versions, so you can also plan ahead if you don’t feel like researching on the go. Crowdsourcing is the surefire way to make sure you dine at tried and true restaurants during your travels.

Leftover goodness

Homemade goodies can still fit into your travel plan, even leftovers. Holiday food is almost as good on the go as it was straight from the oven. Thanksgiving food is perfect for the road. Make a turkey sandwich with cranberry spread. Pumpkin pie is as good chilled as it is warm.

Create a balance

When you’re traveling, it’s easy to get stuck in the same routine, so use the holidays as inspiration to keep the rest of your travels more balanced. You’re naturally going to be eating more home-cooked food around this time of year. There’s no reason you can’t make that happen the rest of the year. Make a New Year’s resolution to find lodging with a kitchenette and start making your own food while on the go!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

I Miss Basketball: How to Get Your Basketball Fix while Staying at Home

If you're like the fan in this picture (who probably travels to cities around the country as I do), you're probably Jonesing for some basketball right about now. Given that no games are likely in the near future, how about watching some movies to fill in the blanks?

Here are some of my favorites:

White Men Can't Jump -- (1992), Larry Bird would certainly disagree with the title of this comedy with all-star performances by Woody Harrelson, Wesley Snipes and Rosie Perez.

Coach Carter -- (2005), a touching success story starring Samuel L. Jackson as the phenomenal high school coach who transformed a team by putting education first.

Hoosiers -- (1986), Gene Hackman and Dennis Hopper bring to life this story of teamwork and spirit.

And, lastly, for kids of all ages,

Like Mike -- (2002), a fun basketball romp with Bow Wow, Eugene Levy, Morris Chestnut as the NBA star... and real all-stars like Allen Iverson.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Los Cabos: A Perfect Vacation at Land's End

I’m in love with Los Cabos, Mexico – the beach, the iconoclastic arch, the town, the craziness of Cabo Wabo and the three oceanfront Solmar Hotels & Resorts within walking distance to town (a real plus compared to some of the other resorts in the area). The setting on the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula feels like you’re at the end of the world, and the views are world class. Looking straight out onto the Pacific Ocean where it meets the Sea of Cortez, you could opt to stay and chill from gorgeous sunrise to gorgeous sunset without leaving the pool or your terrace. But there are lots of other things to do nearby like whale watching, kayaking or snorkeling around Los Arcos, or negotiating for fab silver or handicrafts en El Centro. Sadly, swimming isn’t one of them here, as only a few areas in Los Cabos offer safe access to the ocean which is otherwise characterized by riptides and rogue waves.

Opened just a few months ago, the five-star Grand Solmar Land’s End Resort & Spa commands a privileged location as close to Land’s End and the arch as you can get, with a blend of old-world architecture and royal garden landscaping. The resort is all about pampering with beachside massage cabanas, welcome massages, butler service, luxury transportation and fine dining at La Roca International Restaurant. Luxury accommodations in private suites, complete with kitchen, marble flooring and a private balcony overlooking the sparkling surf and white sand beaches. The vistas from the outdoor decks are magnificent with water surrounding you on virtually all sides.

Similarly set behind granite cliffs, and just a few minutes down the beach from its newest sibling, the Solmar Resort creates a romantic ambiance that is serene and intimate, with outdoor massage tents by the pool and whitewashed adobe buildings. The first of the Solmar properties in Cabo, this resort has a high loyalty factor and is revered for its open-air restaurant, sushi bar and quiet pool ambiance. Open fire pits are evening gathering places for marshmallow roasts and nearby private on-the-beach dining.

Just a few minutes’ walk further down the beach is Solmar’s Mexican hacienda-style resort, Playa Grande Resort & Grand Spa on eight acres of beach. Recently named one of the Top 35 Resorts in Mexico in the Condé Nast Traveler “Readers Choice Awards,” the four-star resort, Playa Grande has multiple restaurants, themed dinner nights, and a lively lounge to keep you busy. From a variety of variously placed pool and rooftop seating areas, you can see both the quiet Pacific Ocean and Los Cabos harbor with its many boats and sea-going excursions. The resort’s Repêchage Spa is world-class. There’s nothing more divine, in my opinion, than the five-layer Repêchage facial preceded by a relaxing soak in the spa’s outdoor thalassotherapy pool, overlooking the Pacific. If only I could replicate that experience at home. Sigh.

Solmar Hotels & Resorts offers several water adventures for ocean lovers, including sunset cruises, snorkeling tours, dolphin adventures and scuba diving. Year-round land activities are equally entertaining with horseback riding, safaris, ATV tours through the desert and beach regions of Migriño, and sightseeing tours through Los Cabos, Todos Santos, La Paz, and various hideaway villages.

Venturing into town is great fun with lots of authentic (and inauthentic) taco joints and silver shops. One of the hosts at a really cool jewelry shop was so excited that I spoke Spanish that he offered my group tequila on the spot. “Arriba, abajo, a dentro por centro”(or however it goes!).
While you’re still sober, however, walk over to Cabo Expeditions where you can take a quick boat ride to Cabo’s famous arch for kayaking and snorkeling. It’s a mind-blowing formation and shouldn’t be missed. The fish are pretty beautiful, too. You can tie up at Pelican Point and snorkel, or kayak close to the rocks to catch a glimpse of the sea lions. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to go on a whale-watching trip, but, if you do, that should be on your activity list, too. Sightings are pretty much guaranteed. Cabo Expeditions also offers parasailing, scuba, and snuba and will give you lessons so you feel secure. As rough as the ocean water is on the beach, the water to Los Arcos is quite smooth and you shouldn’t have any problems picking out a water trip that will keep everyone in your group happy. This company impressed me in other ways, as well, with their eco-sensitivity. They are active in promoting care of the area’s wildlife and eco-systems and also take it upon themselves to clean up any trash found on land or in the water during their excursions.

Still not sure you’ll be busy enough? Solmar Hotels & Resorts will schedule sunset cruises, snorkeling tours, dolphin adventures and scuba diving for ocean lovers, and land activities such as horseback riding, safaris, ATV tours through the desert and beach regions of Migriño, and sightseeing tours through Los Cabos, Todos Santos, La Paz, and various hideaway villages. And, of course, there’s the shopping….

Through December 22, 2011, you can receive a $400 credit and 50% off a four-night or longer stay at Grand Solmar Land’s End Resort & Spa in celebration of the resort’s grand opening, or a $200 resort credit when you book a three-night minimum stay at Playa Grande Resort & Grand Spa. The resort credit comes in handy on those spa services, late-night cocktails or poolside snacks. Information at Solmar Hotels & Resorts or call 1-800-344-3349.