Thursday, October 28, 2010


If you didn't grow up in the south and if you don't have a southern grandmother to cook for you, then visit Amy Ruth's in Harlem! Opened in 1998, I had heard this place was the best to visit in New York City for Soul Food and Chicken and Waffles. So, I had to go there for myself and see if it lived up to all of the hype...and it so did! I ordered the Rev. Al Sharpton (chicken and waffles that you can order fried or smothered in gravy). I have to tell you, this was some of the best fried chicken I had ever eaten, so crispy and not too greasy at all. As for the waffle (I am not that much of a waffle person to begin with), this waffle was hands-down THE BEST ONE I EVER ATE! No exaggeration!I also tried their macaroni and cheese, candied yams, and collard greens on the side, which were good, but nothing great. Next time I want to try the "Stan Hoffman & Lu Willard" (BBQ spare ribs). You can also find things like fried catfish, chicken and dumplings, and ham hocks on the menu here. I was too full for dessert, but I know I will be back there again for sure!AMY RUTH'S
(212) 280-8779

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Just saw this on Yahoo and thought you might be interested as well...

America's Meanest Airlines
By Hamooda Shami

A lot of the time it begins with the airports: dizzying parking garages, overpriced food and a series of long lines have a way of making even the most serene travelers a little bit agitated. And that's even before the airplane leaves the ground. So it's easy to see how poor service from an airline can put the finishing touches on a ruined day -- long check-in lines, flight delays, lost luggage, baggage fees and general rudeness have a way of doing that. Not to mention the scary food (at least it used to be free scary food).

Based on the Airline Quality Rating (AQR) Report, which covers 18 domestic carriers, here is a list of the airlines that could stand to do the most work on making their customers happy. The report's conclusions are based on surveys of airline industry experts, with positive and negative values assigned to different elements in airline quality. Several common complaint areas were factored in -- including on-time arrival, mishandled baggage, delays and involuntary denied boardings -- the scores of which were then calculated to produce an overall quality score. We also took a look at a number of other sources, including the American Customer Satisfaction Index and the Air Travel Consumer Reports by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Regional airlines are ranked separately because of their tendency to score lower.

Worst Major Airlines
5. US Airways

2009 AQR Score: -1.19 While US Airways improved five percent in passenger satisfaction according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, they were one of three airlines cited as having the rudest flight attendants and serving the worst food, in a survey conducted by SeatGuru last year. Additionally, US Airways received a below-average score in the J.D. Power 2010 North America Airline Satisfaction Study.
Domestic Baggage Fees:
1st Bag: $25
2nd Bag: $35
3rd Bag: $100
Overweight Bags: $50 Extra (51 - 70 lbs) $100 Extra (71 - 100 lbs)
Oversized Bags: $100 Extra (larger than 62")

4. American Airlines
2009 AQR Score: -1.25
American Airlines has an Airline Quality Rating (AQR) of -1.25 -- which isn't awful, but where its reputation takes the hardest hit is with its regional airline, American Eagle (more on it later).
This year AA has had frequent incidents of mishandled baggage with an average of 4.07 reports per 1,000 passengers, according to the Air Travel Consumer Reports (this is the worst rating among the major airlines in the study). SeatGuru's survey named American Airlines as one of the three airlines that have the rudest flight attendants and the worst food.
Domestic Baggage Fees:
1st Bag: $25
2nd Bag: $35
3rd Bag: $100
Overweight Bags: $50 (51 - 70 lbs) $100 (71 - 100 lbs)
Oversized Bags: $150 (larger than 62")

3. Alaska Airlines
2009 AQR Score: -1.39
Alaska Airlines has an Airline Quality Rating (AQR) of -1.39, which can be partially attributed to the airline's high number of mishandled baggage reports. According to Air Travel Consumer Reports, the airline averaged 3.98 incidents per 1,000 passengers last year. However, Alaska Airlines did a stellar job when it came to delays, with 88 percent of its flights having on-time arrivals (in the 12-month period ending August 2010).
Domestic Baggage Fees:
1st Bag: $20
2nd Bag: $20
3rd Bag: $20
Overweight Bags: $50 (51 - 100 lbs)
Oversized Bags: $50 (63 - 80") $75 (81 - 115")

2. United Airlines
2009 AQR Score: -1.43
Now that the merger with Continental Airlines is official, United can turn its attention to improving customer service. United received a score of "about average" in the J.D. Power 2010 North America Airline Satisfaction Study but it placed last in passenger satisfaction in the American Customer Satisfaction Index. According to the SeatGuru survey, United joins American Airlines and US Airways as one of the three worst airlines for meals and rude flight attendants. In addition, the Air Travel Consumer Reports places this airline second in consumer complaints (behind Delta), averaging 1.82 per 100,000 enplanements in 2010.
Domestic Baggage Fees:
1st Bag: $25
2nd Bag: $35
3rd Bag: $100
Overweight Bags: $100 (51 - 100 lbs)
Oversized Bags: $100 (larger than 62")

1. Delta
2009 AQR Score: -1.73
Delta had the worst AQR among major airlines with a -1.73, and a couple of its regional airlines did even worse (see Comair and Atlantic Southeast below). It also had the largest drop in passenger satisfaction in the American Customer Satisfaction Index. According to the Air Travel Consumer Reports, Delta was number one in delays for major airlines (78 percent of flights arriving on time in the 12-month period ending August 2010) and first in consumer complaints (averaging 2.23 per 100,000 enplanements in 2010). Also, make sure to note Delta's baggage fees below, as they can get quite painful for those hauling heavy and/or large cargo.
Domestic Baggage Fees:
1st Bag: $25 ($23 if checked online)
2nd Bag: $35 ($32 if checked online)
3rd Bag: $125
Overweight Bags: $90 (51 - 70 lbs) $175 (71 - 100 lbs)
Oversized Bags: $175 (larger than 63 - 80") $300 (larger than 81 - 115")


My favorite traveling fitness spa is planning ahead for next year. Escape to Shape is out with their destination list for 2011 and I wanted to share it with all of you. Basically, the program includes a vacation to a fantastic locale with luxurious accommodations, a total-body workout everyday (like pilates, yoga, hiking, biking, swimming, etc.), eating healthy delicious cuisine, spa treatments, and cultural excursions. Bottom line, you get to jet set to unique, trendsetting locations around the world to discover new food, culture and language while toning your body. Sound like a win-win scenario to you? It does to me! The price is an investment (but one that's truly worth it)- plan to shell out around $3,000.

BALI: 1/29-2/5 and 3/3-3/10
PUGLIA, ITALY: 6/4-6/18

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Honestly, jet setting to Dubai has not yet been included on my "must-go-to" destination list. To me, my impression thus far has been "excess on a grand scale", a lot of "man-made" and "too much new, not enough old." But, knowing that it is such a popular destination, especially for the "jet set" crowd, I figured I might as well at least read up a little more about Dubai. Dubai is one of the seven different emirates—Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm Al Quwain are the others—that form the United Arab Emirates. WHY GO: Dubai is a good destination if you are interested in beach, new-design architecture, luxury, nightlife and shopping.

WHEN TO GO: You can get year round sunshine in Dubai, but the best time to visit is from November-April, or more specifically, December, January, February and March. If you want to save some money (jet set smart travel), and don't mind the heat, then I suggest jet setting there in May when temperatures are in the 90s, but you can find lots of bargain hotel rates (just hang out a lot indoors in the AC).

WHAT TO SEE: Burj Khalifa- the world's tallest skyscraper which opened just this year. And the Burj Al Arab- the second tallest building in the world that also houses a very luxurious five star hotel and stands on an artificial island. I have to admit that the hotel is absolutely beautiful inside, but with a very beautiful price tag (rates start from $1,9oo a night during off-peak season and around $5,200 a night and up during peak-season)!!!So, jet setters, are you intrigued? Maybe if I was jet setting close to this part of the world I would check it out for a night or two, but as my only destination I don't know if I'm totally sold on it yet. What do you guys think? I'd love your feedback?

Monday, October 25, 2010


This past February, I got the chance to jet set to Santa Ynez Valley (wine country) near Santa Barbara, California. I absolutely fell in love! Click here to read more about my time there. While I was there, I ate at a restaurant right in the town of Santa Ynez called Trattoria Grappolo. It's an Italian restaurant hidden right in the middle of strip mall, but don't let this throw you off because it's excellent! The restaurant is owned by three brothers from Italy, and all the dishes are fantastic! I tried the Homemade ravioli stuffed with spinach, ricotta filled and parmesan cheese...Linguine Vongole which is linguine with clams (in a white sauce)...Rigatoni Bolognese with their traditional meat sauce...And for dessert, the Panna Cotta and the homemade tiramisu. Funny enough, I was watching Giada's Weekend Getaways this past weekend on the Food Network, and she headed to Santa Barbara for the weekend. Well, as part of her weekend trip was a day drive to Santa Ynez Valley, which included dinner at Trattoria Grappolo! She tried different things than I did (Rollino Veneto, Melanzane alla Parmigiana, salad, and lavender infused creme brulee and chocolate tartufo for dessert). Nevertheless, I was so thrilled to see that I had picked a place to eat at that was obviously good enough for Giada and Food Network!

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Listen up New Yorkers! Want a great weekend trip getaway idea? How about checking out the town of Beacon. It's only about an hour and twenty minute drive from the city, and it's a cute place to check out for an afternoon. I've told you before about the town of Cold Spring (very close to Beacon) here if you didn't read my post on it. Last weekend, I met some friends for breakfast in Cold Spring and afterwards, decided to see what Beacon was all about. If you take Metro North, Cold Spring is the stop right before Beacon, so my recommendation is to check out both towns when you head up north. There are restaurants, coffee shops, art galleries and boutiques up and down Main Street in both Beacon and in Cold Spring.

WHERE TO EAT: Max’s on Main (246 Main St; 845-838-6297), Homespun Foods (232 Main St; 845-831-5096), and Beacon Creamery (134 Main St; 845-838-6233) are all supposed to be very good.

WHERE TO STAY: Beacon is not a big-hotel kind of place: There aren’t any. However, there are some B&B's like Mt. Beacon B&B (829 Wolcott Ave; 845-831-0737, $165–$195 per night). Or you can try the Swann Inn (120 Howland Ave; 845-234-3204, $157–$187.50 per night). You can also stay at one of the places I recommend in Cold Spring instead.

HOW TO GET THERE: Take the Metro-North Hudson Line to Beacon Station. Take the Metro-North Hudson Line to Beacon Station; the 80-minute ride tours you through some of the Hudson Valley’s most scenic landscape. A round-trip ticket costs $24.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


It kicks off today! That's right, Food Network's third annual Food and Wine Festival 2010 starts today and runs through Sunday, October 10th. A lot of the big tickets items are already sold out at this point, but there are still some available and you can click right here to purchase them. Unfortunately, I won't be able to make it this year. I did get the chance to go last year, and that's when I met Giada De Laurentiis and even got to cook on stage with her. I also met Bobby Flay. If you want to read more about it click here. If you are going, let me know how it was this year!

Saturday, October 2, 2010


So I did it! I finally went to see what the Ironbound section of Newark, New Jersey is all about. I really didn't know what to expect, and if there would really end up being that much stuff to do there, but I was wrong! Pretty much all of Ferry Street (a.k.a. Little Portugal) is filled with Portuguese and Spanish restaurants, cafes, grocery stores, and boutiques that sell goods from Portugal and South America. You get a sense (walking the entire stretch from Newark train station to where the restaurants are) that this is a neighborhood filled with families and children, people walking dogs, and folks just hanging out where they live and work.

I checked out all of Ferry Street and then decided to eat dinner at Vila Nova Do Sol Mar, a Lisbon-style marisquiera (seafood specialist). We dined Al-fresco (thanks to the dogs) and had a fantastic meal. We started out with the Almeijoas A Balhao Pato (Steamer Clams) which come in a garlic and wine broth- delicious, and really good juice to dip your bread into. For dinner we tried the Bacalhau Assado (Grilled Cod Fish served with boiled potatoes and broccoli in olive oil)... and the Bacalhau A Casa (CodFish Sol-Mar style which is fried and served in a bowl with fried potatoes and peppers in a little bit of a light yet creamy sauce)...I liked this dish better. Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera to take pictures of the food, but this is a photo of what some of their dishes looks like.
The food at Sol-Mar is really reasonably priced, especially compared to seafood restaurants in New York City. Plus, they have a great wine list filled with Portuguese wines which are really hard to find here in the states. Being here at the restaurant and in the Ironbound in general, reminded me so much of when I jet setted to Portugal (see a couple of pics from my trip below). I had a great time, and will go back for sure!