Archive for January, 2012

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Last weekend was the hub’s birthday and it’s been a ritual now for the past few years to celebrate at a steakhouse.  Being new to the area, we selected Harris’ Steakhouse based on yelp reviews and it lived up to expectations.  I’m not a red meat-eater so most of the review will be based on the hubs’ opinion.

First off, as you can see above, the decor of the restaurant was reminiscent of a 1960s steakhouse for businessmen.  It was still in good condition but definitely gave off a stuffy formal vibe.  I made reservations and due to the weather, we were 10 minutes late, but despite that, the host was really nice and we were seated promptly, which is a huge improvement from House of Prime Rib, where we waited nearly 45 minutes before being seated, despite having reservations and being early.  The service at Harris’ really was quite good and our waiter did a good job of making sure we had everything we needed.

On to the food.  We started off with the Veal Sweetbreads and Crab Cakes with Beurre Blanc.  The hubs loves sweetbreads and was eager to try Harris’ version.  While he liked the dish and thought it was tasty, he preferred sweetbreads just simply grilled to really taste the flavor over Harris’ saucier version.  I thought the crab cakes were done really well.  It was very flavorful, although maybe a tad on the salty side.  For entrees, hubs got the Bone-in Ribeye Steak and I had the Salmon served with scalloped potatoes instead of the rice.  The salmon was good, but the champagne sauce was a little rich so it wiped out the healthiness aspect of the dish.  The scalloped potatoes however were absolutely delicious.  The hubs thought the rib-eye was done well, he likes it medium rare, and definitely could tell that it was quality meat.  We also ordered a side of the Deep Fried Onion Rings which was good, it was fried just the right amount and it was a very generous portion.

Overall we both felt that the food was good, but not spectacular.  The formal feel of the restaurant and the good service makes this restaurant a safe bet for a special occasion, especially for steak lovers.  But if you’re looking for a good piece of meat for a reasonable price, then House of Prime Rib definitely is the better option, even with the annoying wait.  One other thing, the restaurant calls for business casual attire, but there were definitely customers dressed casually and they still got seated and served.  We also saw customers that were dressed for a night on the town too so really you can just wear whatever you feel comfortable with.

Harris’ Restaurant

2100 Van Ness Ave, at the corner of Pacific Ave.

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4 years ago, roughly around this time, the hubs and I took a week long trip to Montreal, Mont Tremblant, and Quebec City to celebrate our first wedding anniversary.  At the time, everyone, including the hubs, thought I was crazy for suggesting Canada in January, but it turned out to be such a fantastic vacation.  There was so much to do in the region and with all the snow and festive holiday decorations, it was uber romantic.  There’s also lots of active family friendly activities, so I would highly recommend this trip to anyone looking for a fun family trip.

We started our trip in Montreal, about a 5 hour drive from the NYC metro area.  Unfortunately we didn’t see as much as we would’ve liked in Montreal since it had snowed pretty badly and we only had one full day before we were off to our next stop.   We spent most of the day walking around Old Montreal, taking in all the historical, quaint buildings on Rue St. Paul and also doing some light shopping on Rue St. Catherine.  Old Montreal is touristy, but it is a very pretty area.  There’s lots of little shops, restaurants, galleries, and of course famous sights like the Notre-Dame Basilica.  We also spent a day in Montreal at the end of our trip, windowing shopping in the Plateau neighborhood, a hip residential area, and visiting the Canadian Centre for Architecture, which was interesting and something different from the usual art museums.

What we ate:  Modavie – good french bistro located in the heart of Old Montreal with a reasonable prix fix menu and nice ambience.  Fairmount Bagel – delicious Montreal bagels, freshly baked on site and open 24 hours a day!  Poutine – can’t remember which one we went to but it was a fast food chain and it was greasy and fattening and good.  L’Express – french brasserie with great comfort food, croque monsieurs, steak frites, etc.

The next part of our trip was in Mont Tremblant, a ski-resort 2 hours from Montreal.  We stayed at Le Westin Resort and Spa, which is right in the heart of the pedestrian village and has ski-on access to the mountain.  Below is the view from our room.  All the rooms are suites with a living, bedroom, and kitchenette, so extremely spacious and so convenient.

We spent one whole day snowboarding and another day dog-sledding! I also had reservations for a  horse drawn sleigh ride through the forest, but unfortunately it was cancelled last minute.  Other activities there include ice-skating, snow-mobiling, tubing, zip-lining, and just strolling through the village.  See, TONS of activities!

What we ate:  La Savoie – restaurant that specializes in fondues and raclettes (melted cheese that is scraped off and eaten with potatos, bread and cured meats), which is so delicious and can only be found in Switzerland or certain parts of France.  Creperie Catherine – sweet and savory crepes, tasty and satisfying since the crepes are about the size of my head.  BeaverTails – a super delicious pastry that’s the best snack in between skiing/snowboarding.

The final stop on our Quebec trip is Quebec City, about 3 hours north of Montreal.  It was so absolutely charming there, I definitely recommend for a winter trip.  We spent our time there exploring the Upper and Lower Town of Old Quebec (first picture).  There was fresh snow almost daily and all the shops and restaurants were decked out in holiday decor.  We walked uphill to the Chateau Frontenac (above picture) which had beautiful views of the partially frozen St. Lawrence River and the Lower Town.  Right outside the Frontenac was a toboggan slide and some taffy, which I imagine would be pretty popular with the kids.

We also went ice-skating in the evening, visited the Ice Hotel, one of two in the world, and went snowboarding again in nearby Mont St. Anne, smaller but less crowded than Mont Tremblant.  We stayed at the boutique Hotel le Germain Dominion, which is centrally located in Old Quebec, and was really charming.

What we ate:  Le Lapin Saute – a cozy restaurant specializing in rabbit and duck, it was delicious.  L’Echaude – an upscale French restaurant with great ambience.

I absolutely loved visiting all 3 places and would definitely love to visit Montreal in the summer when I can do more outdoor activities.  The only thing I would’ve done differently is to make sure we put anti-freeze in the car, it really does get below freezing in Canada! And have dinner at Au Pied de Cochon, we meant to go on our last day for lunch but realized that it’s only open for dinner and unfortunately we had to be on the road by then.

Just remember to dress warmly and you’ll have the time of your life!

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No trip to New York City would be complete without a visit to Times Square.  While I don’t normally recommend it to people, unless you like being pushed and jostled, it’s the place to be if you love theater or want to experience it NY style.  If you’re looking for a big Broadway production, then you have to go watch Phantom of the Opera, a classic, or Wicked, which is just a really great show.  I’ve also really enjoyed Chicago, Mamma Mia and Lion King.  And if you’re looking for the newest buzzed about show, then you’ve got to watch The Book of Mormon.  There’s basically 3 ways to get tickets:  1) Buy them online, highly recommended if there’s a particular show that you’re dying to see, 2) buy them the day of at a TKTS booth, recommended if you’re flexible on what show you want to watch and if you want to get tickets at a discount (wait in line 1 hour before opening to guarantee shows won’t sell out before you reach the front) , and 3) buy rush or standing only tickets, recommended if you’re on a tight budget and have tons of free time and you just want to try your luck.  Most of the shows sell a limited number of tickets a few hours before showtime through a lottery system.  If you’re lucky enough, you can end up with front row seats to a sold out show for a mere $30!

Grabbing dinner nearby before your show starts can be a bit of a challenge since Times Square is full of chain restaurants and expensive mediocre food.  If you’re in a big group, hit up Carmine’s or Tony’s DiNapoli for family style Italian food or John’s Pizzeria for New York style brick oven pizza in a cool space.  If you’re on a budget or looking for something quick, head to the famous Shake Shack for burgers and fries or Go Go Curry for Japanese curry.  And don’t forget post theater desserts at Junior’s Cheesecake.

While you’re in the area, walk over to Bryant Park where you can ice-skate in the winter or tan and people watch in the summer.   You can admire the beautiful Chrysler building in the distance, or walk over to 42nd St. and Lexington Ave to check out the beautiful art deco lobby.  Make sure to also visit the beautiful NY Public Library and finally finish up with Grand Central Terminal.

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So as you all know, I recently went back to NYC/NJ to visit family and friends for the holidays.  While my main purpose was to catch up with everyone, I did manage to visit a few new places and restaurants, yay!  I’ll spend the next few posts talking about places I went to, in addition to some of my favorite city activities, by general area, to give you guys a flavor of the Big Apple.

The hubs and I spent our 4 year anniversary wandering around NYC and one of our stops was to the High Line park.  I visited the park last winter when it was only partially finished so I was excited to see it was nearly completed this time around.  Even in the winter, this park is awesome.  Located in the Meatpacking district, the park has a great urban feel to it.  It’s set amidst old warehouses and new architecturally stunning apartment buildings.  There’s loungers and benches scattered throughout the park and in the warmer months, there’s even movies projected onto the side of a building, making for a great respite from the hustle and bustle of the city.

If you find yourself visiting the High Line, start off at the cool looking Gansvoort Hotel.  There’s tons of restaurants, high end designer stores, and art galleries housed in old warehouses in the area.  For lunch, head to Pastis, the sister restaurant of Balthazar (one of my favorite restaurants), or Del Posto, a michelin starred restaurant with a $29 lunch prix fix!  Or if you just want to snack, go to Chelsea Market.  There’s tons of unique food shops (try the brownies at Fat Witch Bakery, baked goods at Amy’s Bread, or amazing hot chocolate at Jacques Torres) and boutiques, making for a fun afternoon!

If you walk the High Line to the end at 30th Street and 10th Avenue, make your way over to 8th Avenue, head south and you’ll find yourself  in the Chelsea neighborhood, which is a great residential neighborhood full of great restaurants, nightlife, and unique stores.  Make sure to cap off your day with a stop at Billy’s Bakery for dessert.

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Hey There! Happy New Year!  Well, I’m back from my wonderful/hectic trip to NY/NJ and I’m ready to post again.  What better way to start off the new year than with a bucket list of places I’d love to visit.  Here’s the ten places I’d love to visit in the near future and I think I may even get to cross off two of them by the end of the year!

1. See Old Faithful, Mammoth Hot Springs, and numerous wildlife at Yellowstone National Park

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2. Be stunned by the beautiful landscapes of the Emerald Isle and experience authentic pubs in Dublin

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3. Bicycle through Loire Valley, visit beautiful chateaus, and drink amazing vinos

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4. Visit the charming historical city of Bruges in the winter and take in the wonderful Christmas atmosphere

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5. Go to Provence in the summer and stumble upon fields and fields of lavender

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6. Visit Amsterdam in the spring during the peak tulip season and bike through the Farmers’ Fields

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7. Climb the Harbor Bridge and take in the beautiful Sydney harbor and Opera house

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8. Relax in Cabo San Lucas and take a romantic stroll to the Arch of Poseidon

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9. Hike through the quaint Mediterranean villages of the Amalfi Coast

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10. Go to Maui and take the Road to Hana to the Seven Sacred Pools

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What’s on your bucket list of places to travel?

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