Thursday, January 19, 2012

January 21-23 Foodie Activities for Adults and Kids in NYC

Kids Food Festival: At this weekend’s Kids Food Festival at Citi Pond in Bryant Park, Chefs Jehangir Mehta, Sam Talbot, Ben Pollinger and David Burke join other food personalities to present culinary demonstrations and offer healthy samples designed to educate parents and kids about the importance of making balanced food choices. The festival will engage families through fun activities such as the “Balanced Plate Scavenger Hunt” influenced by the USDA guidelines, a puppet show, and the “Silly Workout.” General admission is free from 10am-6pm on January 21 and 22, but tickets are required for cooking demos and other chef events. Festival partners are the James Beard Foundation and Share Our Strength. To purchase tickets or for information, Bryant Park, Sixth Avenue, between 42nd and 41st streets.

Mehtaphor’s Global Dinner Series: Chef Jehangir Mehta launches a unique concept this week at New York City’s Mehtaphor—the global New Year dinner series. Chef Mehta and his amazing culinary team will be creating menus influenced by New Year celebrations of various cultures worldwide. The series kicks off with a celebration of the “Year of the Dragon” with a Chinese-inspired New Year feast on Monday, January 23. The six-course wine-pairing menu is as eclectic as the dishes found in Mehta’s Graffiti and Mehtaphor restaurants, including cucumber ginger slaw with lychee granita, sesame scallion shrimp with chickpea bitter gould, a crab almond roll with chili reduction, garlic tomato pork dumplings, persimmon green chili duck with bok choi, and a chocolate steamed bun with red bean ice cream. In addition to providing detailed descriptions of each sweet and savory dish, Chef Mehta will share the pairing rationale for each of the evening’s six wines, which include selections from Italy, France, Austria and Spain. The prix fixe menu is available for $75 per person. Seatings are from 5:30-11pm. 130 Duane Street; 212-542-9440;

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Free Winter Whale Watching Trip from Solmar Hotels in Los Cabos

Now that the weather has changed from freakishly temperate to ridiculously freezing, I am lusting for a beautiful warm-weather vacation in a favorite location. Perhaps it’s my most recent cuisine encounters at the new Agua Fresca in Harlem or the new Toloache on the Upper East Side, but I can’t seem to get Mexico off my mind. In my last post about my visit to Los Cabos, I mentioned how unfortunate it was that I didn’t have time to go on a whale-watching trip.

I guess the Solmar folks read my lament, as they now have an offer that’s designed to ensure my quick return. The “Whale Watching Special,” a bonus for guests who book five or more nights at any of the five all-suite Solmar hotels, gives a chance to view the hundreds of whales that settle into their “snowbird” home around the Baja Peninsula. Included are tickets for two adults and two children to an intimate whale watching tour where spouting (when the whales exhale air) and breaching (when the whales leap out of the water and dive back in) are the order of the day. The special is available for travel through March 31, 2012. Call 1-800-344-3349 or visit for reservations or more information.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

How to Keep the Pounds off When Traveling: Eat Well and Smart

Travel and Food Notes welcomes guest blogger Judie Fein, author of LIFE IS A TRIP: The Transformative Magic of Travel,

Five pounds, ten days. That’s what happened to me on a trip to Puerto Rico. I couldn’t help it. The food and I were both there, and we met, in tropical environments, under moonlit skies, with balmy breezes, fluttering palm trees and no scale in sight. The food was offered, and I consumed. Shamelessly. Often.

Rather than launching into a cautionary tale about what can happen to roving foodies, let me reference Puerto Rico as an example: devouring yucca and malanga chips that are placed in the middle of the table with tomato and mango-laced salsa; eating mofongo (roasted and mashed plantains topped with anything from chicken to lobster), duck breast with daikon radish, Caribbean paella, or a slice of 26-layer chocolate cake. Still not convinced? How about vanilla sour cream sorbet, sweet yucca corn bread or multiple servings of a seasonal pistachio coquito cocktail made with rum, coconut cream, cinnamon and milk?

So what is a hungry human with a normal waistline to do? The answer is: say “yes” to most things, consume other things in moderation, and just say “no” to those things that push you over the top. You know what the “yes” foods are—reasonable amounts of protein and fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and all those other comestibles on the food pyramid or the food plate or whatever is the latest icon of foods that are good for you.

What can you consume in moderation? Grains (whole, preferably), dairy, a little wine, a sorbet here and a chocolate treat there. What should cause you to shake your head from side to side? More than one drink, bread and butter that are served while you wait for your meal, deep-fried foods, anything cooked and served in its own body fat, heaps of rice, mounds of potatoes, clumps of cheese, breakfast pastries, and more than an occasional dessert. In fact, the best strategy is to decline the dessert menu or, better yet, excuse yourself and leave the table before desserts come.

And when you come home, your scale will thank you for your restraint. You’ll be proud of your ability to travel, really enjoy food, and respect your body enough to be the gatekeeper for whatever enters it. But if you have tried to practice moderate consuming on the road and failed, if your trips are movable feasts with increasing girth, then come home, cut the carbs, savor your salads, drink a lot of water, omit sweets, and soon you will be ready to hit the road and practice restraint again.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

January Restaurant Week in NYC: It's Time to Try Out Some New Places

From January 16-February 10, New York City restaurants are on sale with three-course prix fixe dining for $24.07 for lunch and $35 for dinner at a wide array of Manhattan restaurants. I've booked five reservations thus far. Care to join me? Reservations and information.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Valentine's Day in Fiji: Two Free Nights at Namale Resort & Spa

Travel is my favorite Valentine's Day gift, and with the cold weather descending in a major way tomorrow, I'm hoping for something warm (and romantic). The uber-romantic, all-inclusive Namale Resort & Spa in Fiji has a Holiday Romance Package that has me swooning. The resort encompasses all the things dreams are made of: gorgeous, sexy locale; 19 private villas and bures (bungalows); small, intimate setting; and dedicated service by its more than 120 staff who will treat you like any of the celebrities who frequently hide there.

Starting at $975 per night, based on double occupancy, you and your sweetie will enjoy seven nights for the price of five with all meals and beverages (including mini-bar), round-trip airport transfers, daily laundry service (amazing!), complimentary fitness center, hydrotherapy center at the spa, and indoor entertainment center. If you want to be busy, there's kayaking, snorkeling, waterfall hikes, movie theater, horseback riding, and even bowling (yes, seriously). And did I mention the spa? Pick an indoor or outdoor locale for your massage as you're transported into a world where time is meaningless. Delicious.

Namale Resort celebrates Valentine's Day through the end of February (a great idea) February 28, 2012. 1-800-727-3454