Friday, September 9, 2011

We Have Moved...

trippin: a travelogue has moved to a new location at See you there!

Friday, September 2, 2011

The South Has Risen

I'm a Yankee. Born and bred. I love sushi, New York City, and about a hundred other things Northeastern and bourgeois. But, like most great country love songs go, the South has a very real peace of my heart.

I fell in love with what is often said will "rise again" a year ago in Memphis. Since then I made a trip down to Birmingham, and most recently I drove from my beloved Memphis to New Orleans, which only solidified the obsession. Personally, I don't see what about the South has fallen. For those of you who are not yet Southern converts, I must ask you: why the f**k not? What do you have against the Blues? Or Jazz? Or a pulled pork sandwich oozing with spicy barbecue sauce and mounted, almost pornographically, by a dripping, cold heap of fresh cole slaw? God…take me back where I belong!!

But I digress.

If you should find yourself on a similar soul searching journey to parts of our country below the Mason Dixon, I am a firm believer that you must do so in August. August, she says?! In the South? Madness. And yes, my friends, yes it was hot. But also…cheap. And when you are a writer on a road trip, cheap is always ideal. But August just happens to be the time of the Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Clarkswhat? If you haven't heard of Clarksdale, it's that spot right at the crossroads of Highway 61 and 49, where famed Blues virtuoso Robert Johnson allegedly sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for his panty-dropping musical ability. Clarksdale is also the hometown of Sam Cooke (of Chain Gang fame). What better spot to enjoy some out-of-this-world Blues and Gospel music from a bill of no-names who sing better than anyone I have heard on the radio.

The Festival is free and runs for three days on a grassy field right next to the Delta Blues Museum (admission is $7 and completely worth it). Food stalls line the field selling everything from rib tips to chili cheese fries. And the beer is flowing. And the music will haunt you in the best way possible as local librarians or waitresses get up on stage and belt with all of their might the songs that they have heard for generations and generations, and no one will ever know their names. But their fans are local, and that's all that seems to matter.

Barbecue, Blues and Beer. The South holds its head high still.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Manhattans in Shanghai

This post is a little dated, but while I hunt for new material, you may enjoy this blast from the past. Last February I took my first trip to Asia when I visited the newly renovated Fairmont Peace Hotel in Shanghai. Enjoy!

I never drink liquor. But when you walk into the Presidential Suite of the Fairmont Peace Hotel, the Sassoon Suite, which overlooks the Bund, and the general manager hands you a Dirty Martini, the least you can do is drink happily.

The Sassoon Suite is located on the 10th floor of the 11-story hotel. It was originally the private apartment of Victor Sassoon, the first owner of the Peace Hotel. It has a sizable living and dining area, two bathrooms, master bedroom and master bathroom with one of the largest marble tubs I have ever seen.

After sipping our swank cocktails, the GM, Kamal Naamani  escorted our group to the Shanghai Room for a private dinner reception - a blend of east meets west. We dined on traditional drunken chicken (chicken soaked in rice wine), steamed dumplings, marinated vegetables and a deliciously unctuous fois gras.

As if we weren't treated enough like 1920s high society, dinner was followed by a trip to the world famous Jazz Bar, where we swilled chilled Manhattans and listened to the plunk of the bass and the snap of the snare. I felt like I should have been sporting a bob haircut and sipping gin from a flask hitched under my skirt: from zero to high society boozehound in just one night.

The evening was enough to put my weary, jet lagged bones straight to sleep in my giant king sized bed. I had to be well-rested for my grueling day of spa treatments....I know, you hate me.

After waking up with a bowl of hot won ton soup (not as good for a hangover as you may think) I was ready to lay back down on the spa table and allow the therapist to do whatever she wanted to do with my lush of a self.

I made my way to the brand-spanking-new Willow Stream Spa, which was added to the Peace Hotel as part of Fairmont's $64 million restoration. The spa has nine treatment rooms, two couples rooms, a fitness center, pool, sauna and steam room.

I was greeted by Spa Director Lyndell Nelis who guided me to the resting area and handed me a cup of hot ginger tea. Linda, my therapist, came to fetch me and brought me into one of the treatment rooms for a 90-minute Mystic Peace treatment. Dear lord. All I could think during the 90 minutes (or at least for the portion during which I was awake) was 'how much does this cost, because I'm scheduling another one for tomorrow."

The treatment involves a massage that traces a continues knot on the body. Linda worked her way up and down my spine located exactly where my problem areas were and then proceeded to loosen up tension with a blend of essential oils and firm pressure. She had to pry me up from the table after the 90 minutes were up.

Little did I know that this hour and a half of bliss was absolutely imperative to keeping my sanity when I ventured out into the Shanghai night to tackle Yuyuan Garden, one of the largest gardens in Shanghai. It was built in 1559 as a private garden during the Ming Dynasty. Today it serves as a shopper's paradise, built within the Imperial buildings and alleyways. Looking for your Louis Vuitton knockoff? It's there. Jade bracelets? Silk prints? Wood carvings? Check, check and check. Get ready to dust off your haggling skills. It's easy to talk vendors down at least 40 percent. And in some cases, say for instance, when you are taken to the back room on the top floor of a dirty department store and shown the back closet which is lined with designer bags, you are cornered while the vendors shout lower and lower prices at you until you finally agree to buy...but I'm speaking only hypothetically here...anyway....

Did I mention one of the most famous dumpling houses, Nanxing Dumplings, is also located in Yuyuan Gardens? Anthony Bourdain made a stop here in his Shanghai episode of No Reservations. That's enough for me. Twelve yuan (about $2) gets you 12 little soup dumplings.

Three days in China is not much at all, but it definitely gave me enough of a taste that I know I need to get back as soon as possible.

Friday, August 5, 2011

My Cup Runneth Over

There has been a lot to fret over lately. The headline in today's Daily News mentioned something about 401(k)s taking a hit after the Dow plunged 512 points. What's happening with the debt crisis? What the hell is going on in Syria? But most importantly….what happened to Meg D?

Rest assured, friends. It has been a long (…okay VERY long…) hiatus, but I can say with confidence that I am back baby. Inspired by my good friend Lauren E., who has her own successful food blog (seriously, check it out, it's pretty great), I thought I'd take some time to revisit with you fine people.

Next week I embark on a clash-of-cultures, all-you-can-eat-and-drink, groove-to-the-music road trip from Memphis through Delta Blues country and down into New Orleans. Can you smell the BBQ sauce and beer oozing out of my pores, yet? I sure as hell can. Anyway you may be interested to know that both the party-heavy Beale Street in Memphis and the streets of New Orleans are pretty lax on their open container laws. For the rest of you lushes out there, I've rounded up some other places in our great nation where you can do what our fore fathers set out to establish: drink freely, which, in effect lends itself to a good life and the pursuit of happiness. Forget the New York Stock Exchange and Representative John Boehner. America must be doing something right.

Where to Drink Freely

Butte, Montana
Power & Light District of Kansas City, Missouri
The Las Vegas Strip
Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee
New Orleans, Louisiana
Savannah Historic District, Savannah, Georgia
Fredericksburg, Texas

Where to Drink Less Freely That Other Places, but More Freely Than Most Places
(aka, where open container laws are tolerated)

Duval Street, Key West, Florida
Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee

Friday, December 17, 2010

Sinfully Good New Orleans

Image from
There isn't much new I can tell you about New Orleans. In fact, I feel a little outdated that it took me so long to get there. I had friends who went to Tulane in college who would regale me with tales of topless women, Hurricanes (in both beverage and natural disaster form) and general debauchery (combined ever so gracefully with Creole history and a touch of Jazz). But I'm sure you knew all this already.

What I can tell you about that may be a bit different is an off-the-beaten-path restaurant. Yeah, yeah I know this is my second post in a row about food, but, hey…I really can't recall much about my first night on Bourbon Street, so I wouldn't be of much assistance.

I was in town for the 2010 United States Tour Operators Association Annual Conference & Marketplace (it was about as exciting as it sounds). On my third night in the Big Easy, my buddy Jose and I took a trip outside of the trendy Downtown and French Quarter area to Jeannette Street where we dined at Boucherie, an adorable French bistro-esque restaurant tucked on a residential street.

Now this is a restaurant worth visiting, if only for the fact that as soon as you walk in the door you are treated like family. In fact, Boucherie itself is family owned and operated.

Jose and I sat at the bar and ordered a glass of Hondarrabi Beltza wine from Spain (a Gorrondona, to be exact) before eyeing the 'Small Plates' section of the table with greedy, beady little eyes. I loved this restaurant because it took that New Orleans French flare and twisted it nicely with down home Southern comfort and cooking, while still retaining the elegance that even New York snobs like Jose and myself much appreciate.

Without hesitation we blurted out "Fresh Cut French Fries with Garlic Butter & Parmesan Reggiano." Can you blame us? These came heaped in a bowl with an avalanche of white, tangy cheese on top. Next we tucked into Steamed Mussels with Collard Greens & Crispy Grit Crackers. Tip: The fries taste absolutely orgasmic when dipped in the mussel sauce. Finally the waiter brought us a complimentary taste of the Crispy Duck Confit with Pumpkin Latke and Apple Cider Vinaigrette. If we weren't already in a food coma, this certainly set us over the edge. I was in a sleepy state of plump and bloated bliss. I can't speak for Jose, but the empty plate sitting in front of him certainly said enough.

So that, my friends, is just a taste (no pun) of New Orleans. I wish I had more to share, but that Bourbon Street is designed to make sure you don't recall any sin you committed the night before, for better or for worse. But luckily for you, Boucherie serves the type of sinfully delicious food that is worth remembering ever bite of.

8115 Jeannette Street
New Orleans, LA 70118
Open Tues-Sat

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Voracious in Vienna

Okay, so maybe this is five months overdue. But I swear I've been productive. I've hit up Mexico, Ireland (twice!) and….New Jersey (trust me, a journey all its own). But the creative juices are flowing once again, my friends and I am back. Oh yes, I am back…

…most recently from Vienna, Austria, a city that can be summed up with classic, imperial and elegant. I was in town for a short three days attending the first Austria Destination Summit, a trade show for travel agents looking to learn more about the destination. I could bore you with tales from the private Vienna Philharmonic rehearsal, or the nighttime tour of Shoenbrunn Palace (which ended with a lavish banquet overlooking the city)…but I think I'd rather tantalize you with tales from the table.
Night one: Champagne and hors d'oeuvres in Vienna's iconic Ferris Wheel (the oldest in the world). The Viennese absolutely love their smoked salmon, cheese or ham on bread. And as basic as it sounds, it does the trick. Creamy, salty smoked salmon with a dollop of creme fraiche on a soft slice of baguette. Sold. Then it was wienerschnitzel (lightly breaded and fried fillet of veal) with a squeeze of lemon and a side of scalloped potatoes, with a never-ending glass of crisp, white wine at Wagon 31, the restaurant adjacent to the Ferris Wheel. Did you know Vienna has a booming wine industry? Me neither…but I was not disappointed.

Dessert was loosely translated on our menus as a chocolate-filled dumpling with strawberry sauce. I'm not a girl with a sweet tooth, but man that sounded like a drug that I had to get my hands on. Diabetics: Avert your eyes. Picture a fluffy white cake ball filled with oozing, molten chocolate, crusted in shredded coconut and topped with gooey strawberry sauce.

Night two: A private dinner in the wine cellar of Klosterneuburg Monastery, a Roman Catholic monastery just outside of Vienna on the Danube river. The working monastery is home to not only a cellar chock full of delicious Viennese wine, but it is home to the largest cask of wine in the world (56,000 liters!). Hey, heaven. The monastery capitalizes on this by offering guests the opportunity to literally slide down the barrel. Needless to say, I could not resist after I had sampled a few glasses of the onsite libation.

Night three: A feast for the senses and a true taste of Vienna. Our hosts rented out Cafe Gloriette, part of Schoenbrunn Palace, the summer residence for the Habsburg family. It was built in 1775 as a 'temple of glory' for Empress Maria Theresia. In 1780 it was transformed into a breakfast room for the Emperor Franz Josef I. Today it is an elegant restaurant boasting breathtaking views over Vienna. Arriving at night was an experience all its own as the building was set aglow with dramatic lighting. We entered to a quartet playing delicate Mozart (which later erupted into some sort of hypnotic blend of house beats with electric Mozart - odd, but it grew on me. Or maybe that was the wine). In any event I tucked into a Viennese staple: beef broth with soft dumplings, similar to matzoh balls. Following this we were served flaky cod and saddle of veal, all culminating with my favorite: oh yes, those chocolate-filled dumplings. What a gloriously calorie-filled bookend to an already overindulgent trip.

Despite my waistline's better judgment, Vienna has not seen the last of me.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Classy Business Aboard Lufthansa

I am afraid to fly. There, I said it. Good thing I picked a profession that would keep me constantly on the ground. Whoops. If you are an aerophob like myself, allow me to let you in on a little secret. Two words: Business Class.

I arrived in Dusseldorf, Germany for this long-awaited press trip last Thursday, July 22, and, man, after a seven-hour flight in Lufthansa’s business class, I could see anyone becoming an airplane junky. Even me.

After two glasses of Coppola Shiraz and a plate of charcuterie in the Business Class Lounge at Newark Liberty International Airport, the knots in my stomach seemed to loosen just a smidge. A seamless boarding followed by a very chilled glass of bubbly was enough to almost bring a smile to my panic-stricken face.  Even as we sat on the runway for an hour and a half due to air traffic (oh the joys of flying, right?) the flight attendants were sure to come by with cold glasses of sparkling water and orange juice.

Now for the kicker. As the dinner hour rolled around someone came by and asked if she may set my table. She was kind enough not to laugh at my perplexed look and instead proceeded to place a white linen tablecloth over my tray table. As for menu options I opted for the Tanqueray cured salmon served with orange, pumpernickel and mustard-dill dressing to start. For a main course I tucked into some of the most tender beef short ribs I’ve had in a while. Seriously, this is airplane food? Flight attendants rolled beverage carts by what seemed like every few minutes to top off my glass of red wine.

Feeling sleepy from a full belly (and maybe from that Tylenol PM I popped) I was delighted to find that my chair reclined to an almost 180-degree angle. Pillows propped up just right and TV tilted so that glare would be minimal, I hunkered down to watch “Date Night,” – that Steve Carell and Tina Fey movie with a star-studded cast (think Mark Wahlberg, James Franco, Ray Liotta, Mila Kunis...). Turns out I probably didn’t need to take that Tylenol PM – that movie was a snore all on its own. Note: There are dozens of movie and television options to choose from. I also watched an episode of Entourage and 30 Rock - to which I owe my sanity after suffering through Date Night.

When I awoke breakfast had long been over but I found a nice to-go bag by my seat with a sandwich, yogurt and some fresh fruit. Well rested, satiated and safe I was ready to take on Dusseldorf. Aerophobia cured…or at least until I’m back flying coach.