Today I am a guest on the podcast Serious Talk. Seriously. hosted by Johnny Flores! We chatted about my rebranding of cakegrrl.com to cavegrrl.com, Paleo, gluten free, bread, Oprah, the importance of having a supportive significant other, alopecia, the changing roles of men and women and even vocal fry! Click below to have a listen and if you enjoy, you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes HERE or on Stitcher here. Click the link below to listen! 🙂
In Carmel-by-the-Sea, the Theis family is celebrating 70 years of European hospitality in their Bavarian-inspired Hofsas House Hotel.
The Hofsas House Hotel is within walking distance to the beach, multiple restaurants and shops, and several tasting rooms.
The hotel is also within just minutes driving distance to Monterey, Pebble Beach, Big Sur and Pacific Grove. The Hofsas House’s boasts 38 spacious rooms (all unique) with fireplaces, private balconies, wet bars, kitchens and patios, and the Dutch doors in every room allow guests to welcome in the ocean air.
Before I jump into all the amentities the Hofsas House has to offer, I want to talk about the hotel’s rich history, and what makes the hotel so special. On the Saturday morning of our stay, Andy and I met with Doris Theis, the mother of the current owner of the hotel, Carrie Theis. She was such a joy to interview and she filled me in on a lot of the history of Carmel as well as the Hofsas House.
The Hofsas House story begins with a woman named Donna Hofsas and her husband Fred. They moved to Carmel from Los Angeles in the late 1940s, and purchased four cottages in town. They lived in one of them and rented out the other three. The cottages were the humble beginnings of the hotel, as the main building was built in 1957, adding 25 more rooms.
Donna commissioned her friend, artist Maxine Albro (also famous for painting a fresco at Coit Tower in San Francisco) to paint a Bavarian-themed mural which has since been restored and still remains as a lovely welcome to guests. A swimming pool was also added at that time, making Hofsas House Hotel a Carmel destination.
Fred Hofsas created the mosaic coat of arms, the Latin inscription translates to English as “Leisure with Dignity”.
The various additions to the hotel proved to be very stressful on their marriage, and eventually Donna and Fred divorced. Donna retained ownership of the hotel and in the mid-1960s, she added the north wing and a meeting room. Also around that time, she built her house, and the cottage she had occupied became a family suite (Room 9/10) and is still available to guests today, as well as the three other original cottages.
In 1981, Donna passed away, and her only son Jack took over the Hofsas House Hotel. Which brings us to Doris, the incredible lady I spoke with about the history of the hotel. Doris was Jack’s wife. Together, they had two children: Carrie and Scott. The hotel was very much a family affair and Jack ran the hotel until 1996, when he passed away. Doris and Scott then took over the management from 1996-2000.
Then in 2000, Carrie Theis returned to Hofsas House to become general manager. Carrie was no stranger to the Hofsas House Hotel, because she had been escorting guests to their rooms since she was 8 and working behind the welcome desk at check-in since she was 12. Carrie had pursued a college education and a career path of her own, however, felt it was important to carry on her grandmother’s legacy of service and hospitality at the hotel.
And the hospitality is really what keeps the guests coming back to Hofsas House Hotel. I’m told that there are many guests that return because they know the history and the family and there is simply no other place in Carmel where they would rather stay.
I can understand that. My first visit to Carmel was in June of 2013 and I stayed at Hofsas House Hotel. It was my birthday weekend and incredibly special. I think once you know the family and the history of the hotel, you just have to stay there. For me, it’s like being part of the hotel’s legacy. Below is a shot of the bedroom in which we stayed during this visit.
Below is the incredible view from outside our room.
Hofsas House Hotel is located on San Carlos Street, north of Fourth Avenue in Carmel-by-the-Sea. For more information, call (831) 624-2745 or visit www.hofsashouse.com. You can like them on Facebook here and follow them on twitter here.
Before I go on to recommend some dining in the area, I’d like to list some add-ons the Hofsas House offers that you can book during your stay:
• First is the Monterey Wine and Cheese Pairing (which we enjoyed, there were two cheeses and a bottle of wine in our room upon arrival) for $30. It’s pretty wonderful to finally get to your hotel room and there’s a chilled bottle of wine with cheeses waiting for you!
• Champagne and Cheese Pairing with Hofsas House engraved flutes for $50.
• The Carmel Wine Walk-by-the-Sea Passport for $65.
• In-room his and her couples massage starting at $160 for 45 minutes.
• Decoration of room in a romantic, anniversary, or birthday theme for $75.
• Golf packages that start at $65 per person including cart.
• 2-day pass for the price of one Monterey Bay Aquarium tickets.
And right now and valid until December 31st, 2016, you can celebrate Carmel-by-the-Sea’s 100th Anniversary and Hofsas House Hotels 70th Anniversary with a History Tour! Delight in the special charms of Carmel on a leisurely, fun and informative two-hour guided walk past enchanting Fairy-tale cottages, through secret pathways, hidden courtyards and award-winning gardens. At the end of the tour, you’ll feel like a local. Cost is $25 per person. Guests who book this package will also receive a Carmel-by-the-Sea history book complimentary upon arrival (value $26.00). Learn about the 100-year history of Carmel-by-the-Sea. When booking use promotion code: HHWALKS. (Block out dates apply.)
On Friday evening, we were hoping to visit, Dametra Cafe. Since the restaurant was completely booked, we ended up at Mediterranean Restaurant (the sister restaurant of Dametra and just a few doors down). I have to say, if you can’t get a table at Dametra, Mediterranean is the next best thing. OK, well, except for a few menu items, it’s exactly the same thing. And you even get the same live music! They did not host our dinner, but I am recommending them as a favor to YOU! If you like Greek-Italian-Middle Eastern food combined, you should check it out!
Another routine in Carmel for us is a lunch stop at La Bicyclette. It’s my annual excuse of the year to eat a high calorie lunch and love every bite. 🙂 Right now they have a cassoulet special (you must try). And they have a gluten-free dough which they can substitute for any pizza on their menu (I picked the fig, arugula & prosicutto). Pretty much heaven with the Alsatian sparkling rosé we had.
On Saturday evening, we visited Lover’s Point walked around the coastline for a while, and then and went to the Beach House at Lover’s Point for dinner. It was one of the most beautiful walks I have ever taken and the weather was still really cooperating. It wasn’t cold or rainy that evening.
The Beach House at Lover’s Point is a very popular restaurant. I highly suggest making a reservation and then arriving a little early to have a drink at the bar. The restaurant is right on the water, so the views are spectacular.
For dinner we started out with a Brussels sprouts appetizer. It was prepared with roasted garlic cloves, chorizo, butternut squash, shaved parmesan, smoked paprika oil. I am probably the biggest fan of Brussels sprouts you’ll ever meet, which is funny because I HATED them when I was a kid. Not anymore. Especially when you throw in chorizo AND cheese! This was an interesting dish and I loved the roasted garlic cloves that added a a slightly sweet flavor–balancing out the spicy sausage.
For my entrée, I ordered the Crab-stuffed Petrale Sole with sautéed spinach, smashed potatoes, saffron cream, shaved fennel, micro green salad. I am getting hungry all over again just looking at the picture and remembering the textures of the tender crab and flaky sole and the creamy sauce over the potatoes.
Andy had the Hazelnut Crusted Sand Dabs with charred Brussels sprouts, pumpkin gnocchi, cipollini onions, beurre blanc, arugula pesto, and balsamic glaze. We shared both entrées because they were equally fantastic. By the way, the chef could have put pesto, hazelnuts, or balsamic glaze on a shoe and I would probably eat it. #allmyfavoriteingredients!!
In closing, I’d like to tell you about two upcoming events at the Hofsas House Hotel! One is the hotel’s 70th birthday celebration on Monday, November 7th, at 10:00am.
The event will begin at with coffee and light bites from Paris Bakery, then at 10:15 there will be a ribbon cutting with the Carmel Chamber and a Champagne toast with birthday cake at 10:30. There will also be a property tour and history discussion of the hotel’s 70 years.
Additionally, there will be a raffle to win an overnight stay! To RSVP (required by November 1) to marci at chatterboxpublicrelations.com
The second event is a little closer to the holidays. On Saturday, December 3rd, the 5th Annual Fundraiser for The Carmel Library Foundation will be held. The event will be a Gingerbread House Making morning/afternoon for the family. Together, families can create a gingerbread house to take home and display throughout the holidays. Children will receive one gingerbread making kit, hot cider and a cookie for a $25 donation to the Carmel Library Foundation.
Adults that want to attend will receive a glass of wine of award winning Monterey County wines from Twisted Roots Winery and can enjoy a gourmet cheese and fruit and tray for a $10 donation to the Carmel Library Foundation. Additional glasses of wine can be purchased for a $5.00 donation to the Carmel Library Foundation. (The $10 donation for adults does not include decorating a gingerbread house.)
There will be two sessions and you can sign up for 10:30 a.m. or 1:30 p.m.
Cost: $25 per child and $10 per adult (Adult does not include decorating a gingerbread house. The cost to decorate a gingerbread house is $25. All proceeds benefit The Carmel Public Library Foundation.)
Call Carrie at the Hofsas House (831) 624-2745 to make a reservation.
I’d like to extend my gratitude to the Hofsas House Hotel for hosting us during our stay in Carmel and being a direct ambassador to the 5th Avenue Deli and the Beach House at Lovers Point during our stay. Happy birthday to Hofsas House Hotel and happy 100th birthday, Carmel!!
A few weeks ago I was invited to be part of a media preview at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square for the unveiling of their 46th floor lounge, Cityscape. Cityscape is located inside tower one of the Hilton (which also happens to be the largest hotel on the West Coast).
It’s hard to leave out hyperboles when describing the Cityscape Lounge, because it’s almost too pretty to believe. I was giddy as we rode the elevator up and as I watched the number climb on the display. Once inside the lounge, I was awestruck.
The Cityscape has a 360-degree view of San Francisco and beyond. Through it’s 14ft floor-to-ceiling windows, you can see the Golden Gate Bridge, Coit Tower, the Transamerica Pyramid, Chinatown, AT&T Park, the Marin Headlands, Nob Hill, Oakland, and giant barges on the Bay. Now that Cityscape Lounge is open to the public, it’s at the top of my list for must-see sites in the City.
“No two days look the same from Cityscape, where San Francisco weather flows over the ever changing skyline,” said Lenny Gumm, general manager, Cityscape. “What doesn’t change are the views and the great food and drinks to enjoy with them.”
Lenny Gumm is a veteran bar and lounge manager in which he’s held positions with several local watering holes, including Hotel Rex, One Market Restaurant, Temple Nightclub, DOSA Restaurant, La Urbana and the Four Seasons.
And instead of trying to put anymore of what I saw into words, below are the photos I took and a Facebook live video I broadcasted that evening to give you a full view of the space!
The tables, couches and seats line the windows inside the lounge, which means wherever you are seated, you’ll have a magnificent view. If that’s not enough, here’s a peek at some of the libations and nibbles available to enjoy!
This is one of the drinks from the Cityscape’s signature cocktail menu (drinks all named after areas in San Francisco)––the Mission: Maestro Dobel Diamond Tequila, St. Germain, ruby red grapefruit, and lime. Other selections include a Russian Hill: Stoli Elit Vodka, Cointreau, white cranberry, and fresh citrus, a Pacific Heights: Hennessy VS Cognac, Cointreau, squeeze of lemon, a Noe Valley: Tito’s Vodka, Aperol, lemon, agave nectar, splash of Prosecco, just to name a few. The full offering of specialty drinks as well as a list of wines and beer available can be found here.
The media group and I also previewed the Cityscape‘s menu of small plates, designed especially to be enjoyed with the signature cocktails. The appetizers were all neatly arranged on a shelf and we were encouraged to sample all of them and as many as we wanted.
A Cheese and Charcuterie Plate with Beet Pickled Egg, Quince, Grain Mustard, Olives, Black Garlic and a Selection of fine Meats and Cheeses.
The Ahi-Salmon Hamachi Poke with Sweet Onion, Inamona Jus, Micro Wasabi, and Lotus Root Chips
I brought Catherine Enfield of Munchie Musings as my guest and it was a fab Girls’ Night Out. The bonus of the evening was parking the car and never leaving the hotel, so in a way, it was actually a Girls’ Night In!
The photo below is a shot of the suite on the 26th floor (also inside tower one), where the Hilton was kind enough to let me stay for the night. There is a balcony outside the room and a fairly large patio with outside seating to enjoy the views (also incredible at a 26th floor level). I can’t wait to go back and spend the night there again!
The next morning, Catherine and I enjoyed the breakfast buffet at Urban Tavern, located on the lobby level of the Hilton. Below is a You Tube video of items available (everything!) on the buffet. I was really impressed by the Congee bar with several toppings, as well as the availability of healthy items. (There’s also lots of pastry, cereal, bread, bagels, too, if that’s your thing.)
Cityscape Lounge is open seven days a week from 5pm-Midnight. You can find the Hilton San Francisco Union Square on Facebook here, and follow them on Twitter here. Much thanks to the marketing team at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square for your hospitality. I’ll be back soon!
Recently, Andy and I had a chance to experience the Marriott Napa Valley Hotel & Spa’s stunning remodel. The property, located in the heart of the Napa Valley, has within the last few months, revealed a stunning new resort-style pool and courtyard that will serve as the hub of upcoming weddings, events and activities––from poolside gatherings, dining and yoga, to movies, wine and cocktails under the stars.
Upon arrival, I explored the newly renovated room and was greeted by an exquisite plate of goodies and a fine bottle of wine. A bottle of Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon to be exact.
We had a big day ahead of us with two tastings scheduled at Walt Wines and Gundlach Bundschu, so we only had one drink in the hotel’s bar before retiring. As you can see below, the bar area has been updated and is quite beautiful.
The next morning, I snapped a few pictures of the sun outside our room before I took off to the also updated workout facility and spa.
After our workouts, Andy and I went wine tasting, headed to Walt for a Pinot Noir specific tasting, and then to Gunlach Bundschu for a tasting and a lesson on the winery’s history. We ended up spending a few hours at both wineries and then returned to the Napa Valley Marriott to relax by the pool for a few hours before dinner.
After the pool and outdoor excursion, we got ready for dinner and then enjoyed some time in the lobby with a wine tasting. The lobby wine tastings feature different wineries each day. That evening’s featured winery was Raymond Vineyards.
Soon, we settled into dinner at the Marriott’s restaurant VinEleven. Brian Whitmer is the head chef and focuses on American cuisine that celebrates culinary traditions from around the world incorporating locally and sustainably-grown produce.
Andy and I like to order several different items and share them. Our appetizers were the Truffle Fries served with Parmesan Cheese and Truffle Oil:
For our entreés, Andy ordered the scallop special, which upon tasting, we begged for them to put on the regular menu. The scallops were presented on a bed of mushroom risotto and were perfectly seared as you can see in the photo below.
For my dinner, I ordered the Spiced Chicken Cashew Lettuce Cups (which are on the menu in the appetizers section). Since Andy and I share food, it’s not strange for us to order only one main course and 2-4 different appetizers. I believe that it’s possible to get a solid impression of a restaurant this way. Appetizers are one of the most important parts of a menu because they are supposed to intrigue a customer and make them look forward to the next part of the meal.
At VinEleven, you can enjoy a signature summer cocktail at the beautifully lit bar or outdoor patio from 6:30 a.m. to midnight, and as late as 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. The Heirloom Organic Gardens feature over 2,000 square feet of raised and in-ground beds, a lush herb garden, and a communal dining table that serves 18 guests. After such a grand meal, it was time to retire.
The hotel’s pool and outdoor wedding and event space also proves to be a showstopper. The Marriott Napa Valley Hotel & Spa has made their outdoor space a place where visitors and locals alike can gather. The pool is a sparkling 100-by-30-foot oasis with luxe lounge furniture and umbrellas, cozy fire pits, shady Redwood nooks, and all-day dining. Poolside yoga is available for guests to begin their day and then afterward they can enjoy a swim.
All 275 guestrooms have been completely renovated with a design specifically to mimic the colors and feel of a tasting room. They have warm greys and Earth tones that appear naturally in wine caves, as well as burgundy/grape hues that take on the grape color so familiar in Napa. There is a sliding wooden barn doors with exposed hardware that provides bathroom privacy while creating a rustic wine country feel to the tranquil space.
Crisp white tile, grey granite and luxurious amenities provide a spa-like experience in the bath with electric mirrors for ideal lighting. Modular seating by large windows provide a cozy sitting area to enjoy a bottle of wine or in-room dining.
All guestrooms come fully equipped with a new state of the art guest entertainment system that provides unique content choices such as, on-screen weather, flight data, and Bluetooth® connectivity. The Enseo guestroom entertainment system will allow you to access your Netflix®, Pandora®, YouTube®, Hulu® and Crackle® accounts directly through the guestroom TV.
The Napa Valley Marriott Hotel and Spa $20 Daily Destination Fee includes the following daily amenities:
- Culinary Garden Tour with Sparkling Wine (4pm)
- Yoga Class every morning meet in the lobby (7:30am)
- Preserve Spa Access Eucalyptus Steam Room (8:30am to 12:00pm)
- Specialized Bicycle Access with hybrid bicycles with helmet, available from dawn to dusk
- Bottled Spring Water replenished in your room daily
- Starbucks House Blend Coffee, two available daily in VINeleven Market
- Daily Vintner Pour every evening in the lobby (5-6pm)
- Wireless High Speed InternetTo learn about the Marriott Napa Valley’s special packages, you can click here.
For more information, visit www.NapaValleyMarriott.com or call (707) 253-8600. Become a fan of the Marriott Napa Valley Hotel & Spa on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Napahotel and follow the hotel on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NapaMarriott and on Instagram here.
Hyatt Regency Washington D.C. on Capitol Hill Home to this Year’s National Alopecia Areata Foundation Conference
This year marked the 31st Annual National Alopecia Areata Foundation’s Convention, and this year we convened in Washington, D.C.
What the heck is alopecia? Click here to find out.
Though many rallied at the Capitol to raise awareness and urge their congresspeople to consider legislation that would help cover wigs/hairpieces for a patient diagnosed with alopecia, the home of the convention was at The Hyatt Regency Washington, D.C. on Capitol Hill, where conference attendees gathered together in support of each other, danced together, cried together, dined together, laughed together, learned together, and did nothing short of have a ball together.
You see, for alopecians, this is the most important event of the year where we can get together from all parts of the world and share our experiences. Because sharing and relating is medicine for the soul. The magic of the conference is that it provides a gathering place for people and their families from all walks of life who are affected by this disease.
I arrived very late on Thursday night, and did not go to Capitol Hill with the others, but I attended a workshop on Friday afternoon called Empowering Lives, Building Resilience, led by Dr. Renee Thomason.
Then on Friday evening, I was treated to dinner by Roti Meditteranean Grill (located in Union Station). It is only about 1/3 of a mile to Union Station (pictured below).
If you have never tried Roti Mediterranean Grill, it’s pretty much like a build your own burrito place, but instead with Mediterranean food. What drew me to Roti is that they have a gluten-free/gluten-friendly menu with gluten-free pita bread. Probably enough said there, too. I am sure all my gluten-free readers are now just as intrigued as I was! 🙂
So, I went with the salad with kabob, tahini sauce, and feta, cabbage slaw #becauseprobiotics!, and a side of hummus with an order of gluten-free pita bread. I would have dined in, but I was ready to head back to my room and relax. Plus, I had some yummy wine to pair with my meal chilling in the refrigerator.
So I scurried back like a hungry little squirrel and spread out my Mediterranean feast on the coffee table in front of the TV in my (rather extravagant for one person) hotel room.
I loved the chicken kabob salad because it was filling and healthy, which is how I like to eat even when I am out of town. I could not tell a difference between this pita bread and regular pita bread, and the side of hummus was enormous, and would be used on other food throughout the weekend thanks to the refrigerator in my room. If you’re curious about the wine, I packed three bottles with me to save money on beverages during my trip. Tonight’s wine was a Chardonnay which is a lovely pairing with grilled chicken.
Then for dessert, I snuck down to the Hyatt’s bar, the Article One Lounge, and ordered this cocktail (below) The Ketel One Watermelon Cooler. The title describes exactly the contents of the drink: watermelon, basil, and vodka with a lime wedge. I sat with some other alopecians who were hanging out and having some drinks. I love our community and how you can just ask to sit with someone and you’re accepted. Wig or no wig. It’s whatever makes you comfortable and people understand and can relate. 🙂
The next day, I headed out to explore Washington, D.C. via foot/running. I did a five mile run from my hotel to the Capitol building and down to the Washington Monument and back and below are the pictures I took during the run (while managing to get 5 miles in).
When I got back to the hotel, I finished my workout in the StayFit™ Fitness Center. It is a well-equipped gym with several treadmills, ellipticals, weights, a sauna, locker rooms, an indoor lap pool, and an outdoor sundeck. The gym’s set up reminded me of a greenhouse, as detailed in the picture (below). I ran three more miles and did 20 minutes elliptical thanks to the air-conditioning!! 🙂
Following my workout and gym time, I headed to another conference session: Ask the Experts. The Ask the Experts presentation was a panel of medical and research experts from a variety of fields to answer questions about the different aspects of alopecia areata including treatment and research. Though I don’t attend the conference anymore in search of a cure (I come for the camaraderie), it’s always interesting to hear the latest research.
Following the Ask the Experts panel, it was time to get blown away by the strength and courage of the panel during the Young Adult Perspective presentation. Seven young adults gave their testimony and answered questions from the audience about their experiences with alopecia. I admired this panel of kids (to me, now at 39) because they were diagnosed with alopecia during more formative years. I was diagnosed at 25 and never had to deal with bullying any of the weirdness an adolescent would have to face like these panelists surely did. They all gave helpful advice to audience members, especially the parents of children with alopecia, on what to say, how to react, and what to do to be a community advocate. It was a powerful seminar to say the least.
Then I headed back up to my room to get ready for dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, Article One. I had contacted the hotel the week of my trip to see if we could work together on a Paleo meal to feature here on my website. The marketing team for the Hyatt Regency Washington, D.C. was very receptive to my request. In addition, I received a room upgrade from a regular room that I paid for to an Executive Suite with many more amenities and a separate living room and sleeping area. My room included a refrigerator and a microwave, 2 televisions, and 2 different air/heating controls for the two rooms in the suite. The Executive Suite includes access to the Regency Club King room (a private access 11th floor lounge with dedicated concierge service, Continental breakfast, daily refreshments, evening cocktails and hors d’oeuvres). With the upgrade to Regency Club, I didn’t have to spend any extra money on meals during the day.
I snapped a pic of me all decked out for dinner (before heading up to the Regency Club for some early evening snacks and a glass of wine).
Following my visit to the Recency Club, I headed down to Article One for dinner.
The restaurant is very contemporary with vibrant reds/burnt orange and browns in its decor, and open to the hotel lobby. I was impressed with the open feel because you can still experience the buzz of the lobby, but still feel like you are tucked away for a private meal.
And a very special and private meal it was for yours truly, as I was treated by the Article One staff and Executive Sous Chef Ryan Ward.
I was thrilled with the amount of research Chef Ryan did on the Paleo diet, and I promise you if you have a dietary restriction, all you have to do is let the hotel know when you make your reservation. The staff will do everything they can to meet your needs and make your dinner a memorable one.
For your reference, here is the wine list at Article One.
Then my meal arrived, served by the Chef himself. It was a Rib-Eye steak, cooked medium rare, with turnips and potatoes. There was also a decadent mushroom sauce (I ordered on the side). Let’s just call it mushroom ketchup because I used it as a condiment for the perfectly cooked bites of steak and tender turnips and potatoes.
Chef Ryan also put together a dessert especially for me with mixed berries and mixed nuts and seeds. I ordered a glass of Pascual Toso Brut (an Argentinian sparkling wine) to have with dessert.
After my workout, which was again finished in the StayFit™ Fitness Center, I got my things all packed up and went down to attend the Closing Session led by NAAF Communications Director (and totally rad DJ) Gary Sherwood, Chief Development Strategist Maureen Smith, and the guest speaker, an NFL linebacker with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ryan Shazier.
I want to thank the Hyatt Regency Washington, D.C. for the room upgrade, as well as the custom Paleo meal and wine I enjoyed during my stay. Everything was perfect including the 24-hour room service (not previously mentioned), which saved me from starving on Thursday night after a late flight and arrival to the hotel. I recommend the Field Greens Salad with Grilled Chicken!
I’d also like to tell you about Hyatt Hotels in Washington 2016 Summer Offer, which is a great deal for anyone who wants to visit D.C. It is available for Hyatt Gold Passport® Members, and offers up to a 15% off stays at participating Hyatt Hotels in Washington DC through September 10, 2016.
Here is the link with more details about this offer: http://www.hyatt.com/content/partnerlandingpage/en/corporate/global/hyatt-member-washingtondc.html
You can find the Hyatt Regency Washington D.C. Capitol Hill online here, on Facebook here, on Twitter here and on Instagram here.
Beginning photo credit: NAAF’s Facebook page
The Carmel Highlands/Monterey getaway tour continued last weekend, and leg two of the trip was a stay at the Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa.
Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa is an enormous property featuring 550 guestrooms (32 suites), a President’s house, TusCA Ristorante, Knuckles Sports Bar, Lounge, fitness facility, tennis courts, fire pit, 2 swimming pools/whirlpools, the Marilyn Monroe Spa (a full service body treatment, facial, hair care, waxing, makeup, massage and nail bar), and a conference center (with 40,000 square feet of meeting and event space). It is located next to and overlooks the Pebble Beach Company’s Del Monte Golf Course. The beach and bay are just minutes away, as are prime attractions like Fisherman’s Wharf, Cannery Row, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Below is a rundown of all the amenities and services to be enjoyed at the Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa:
Rooms & Amenities: 550 guest rooms, 32″ LCD flat-panel TVs, iHome stereo with iPod®docking station (love!), Hyatt Grand Bed™, In-room safes and refrigerators, bathrooms with walk-in rain showers, and raised sinks.
Guest Services: Complimentary shuttle from Monterey Airport, Hyatt Fast Board™, PDA Check-in, Self Check-in kiosks, the Regency Club, a 24-hour fully automated business center, a gift shop with wine tasting room, pet friendly, les clefs d’or concierge.
Dining & Entertainment: TusCA Ristorante, award-winning Knuckles Sports Bar, Fireplace Lounge with live entertainment, a coffee bar with barrister, in-room dining.
Meetings & Events: 40,000 square feet of flexible function space, unique indoor & outdoor settings for weddings and social gatherings, innovative catering for onsite and offsite events, expert planners and an AV company on-site.
Activities: Marilyn Monroe Spa with full service salon, Pebble Beach Company’s Championship Del Monte Golf Course, a full-service racquet club, corporate team-building events, 24 hour gym, 2 pools (one of which Frank Sinatra once drove his car into!!), biking and jogging and walking trails.
Local Attractions: Monterey Bay Aquarium, Cannery Row, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Big Sur Coastline, Monterey County Wineries, Pebble Beach Golf Courses, and Fisherman’s Wharf.
This property has more amenities than any other I have stayed. You really never have to leave the hotel if you don’t feel like it. There’s really something for everyone here, even for families. I discovered that immediately after check in when Andy and I spent some time pool side at the main pool behind the lobby and restaurants. There are giant outdoor games for kids and adults and a play area. The weather was perfect and just warm enough to swim, soak up some rays for a few hours. I read a few more chapters of Dan Barber’s The Third Plate and we sipped some Bogle Sparkling Wine.
Approaching early evening, our media group met at up with David Lambert, Director of Sales and Marketing at Hyatt Monterey. We gathered around the fire pit to talk about the property, wine, Monterey, food and share a little bit more about ourselves and our websites. We were treated to this cheese and fruit plate and a few of my favorite wines: Cakebread Chardonnay and Talbott’s Kali Hart Pinot Noir.
After our gathering at the fire pit, we made our way to the hotel’s main restaurant, TusCA Ristorante, and were all seated at a large oblong table for dinner and drinks. I sat at one of the ends of the table to spare everyone from my left-handedness. 😉 We each ordered an appetizer and entree from the menu, which I would describe as California/Italian Tuscan (hence the TusCA name), and were treated to this amuse-bouche of prociutto, roasted red pepper, cheese and an olive duo:
For my appetizer, I ordered the White Bean Soup with cabbage, celery root, carrot and fennel sausage:
My entrée choice was the Chicken Piccata with sautéed patty pan squash, olive oil smashed potatoes and a lemon caper picatta sauce:
Andy decided on the Swordfish served with roasted root vegetables, citrus, fennel and watercress:
Other entrée selections available are Scallops, a vegan Farro Risotto and several different pizza and pasta dishes. Chef Steve Johnson oversees the culinary functions of the Hyatt which includes TusCA Ristorante, the Fireplace Lounge, and Knuckles Historical Sports Bar and all weddings, meetings and events. You can find TusCa on Open Table here.
The next morning, a few members of our tour group were treated to a one-hour massage at the Marilyn Monroe spa.
It was very relaxing to get a massage after my workout. I had been so busy with work that I had been putting it off for some time (I belong to a monthly massage place in Sacramento and I never seem to get around booking my appointment in advance. I need an assistant!!) At the Marilyn Monroe Spa, the massage session begins with a plush robe and slippers you are given to change into in one of the nicest locker rooms I have ever seen. The lockers are combination, so all of your clothes and belongings are kept safe during your treatment. After you change into the loaner robe, there is a lounge area upstairs that offers tea, water and light snacks (today it was a dried fruit and nut mix). My therapist Kim could really sense that I wanted more of a relaxation massage more than a sports massage, so it was complete chill time and nap time (kept dozing off) for me!
After my massage, I showered in the locker room in a giant walk-in shower with some of their awesome mango body wash. Can I live here? 😉
Around noon Andy and I headed out to explore Monterey, namely to find a lunch spot and to take advantage of our tickets to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The tickets were given to us by the Hyatt Monterey and we were more than excited to go! 🙂
After walking around a bit at Cannery Row, I suggested a place called A Taste of Monterey. I previously had heard nothing about it, just saw the words “wine market and bistro”, and I was convinced we needed to try it out!
This was the view from our table! As wine lovers, we were so fortunate to find a gourmet restaurant that focuses on wine that happens to be right on the oceanfront! 🙂 The service at A Taste of Monterey was spectacular. They offer wine flights to those who want to try several wines at a time and a menu of wine friendly tapas, flatbread pizzas, salads and sandwiches. A Taste of Monterey also has a wine shop on premises and along with wines, they sell cheeses, snacks, and lots of wine-related accessories. If you love wine and happen to be near Cannery Row, stop into A Taste of Monterey for lunch or dinner.
After satisfying our taste buds, it was time to feast our eyes on the wonder of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It’s such a beautiful place with many different exhibits on the fascinating creatures who live in and near our Pacific Ocean. It’s a museum as well as a giant laboratory that is constantly observing and experimenting with its inhabitants and how to prolong and enhance their lives. The aquarium is appropriate for all ages and provides an opportunity to learn for everyone. Here are a few photos I took during our visit:
We stayed at the aquarium until closing time, because we were fascinated just watching the fish and other organisms carry on about their daily activities. My favorite exhibit is the sea otters. We watched one of them rub its eyes, just like a human. I could have stayed and watched them all day. Adorable! 🙂
After our aquarium trip, we headed back to the hotel to chill out for a while and think about what we wanted to do for dinner. The hotel offered us dinner in TusCA again, dinner at Knuckles Sports Bar or room service. We thought it would be appropriate to eat at Knuckles and check out Monterey Peninsula’s best sports bar for 12 years in a row.
Knuckles menu offers steaks and salads, burgers and buffalo wings, they have 20 beers on tap and 24 HDTVs, a pool table and video games for the kids. We showed up around 7pm and the restaurant was lively and full of sports loving patrons, this night in particular a crew of wrestling coaches. Our server was Yanira—she was very welcoming and good at hearing our requests, as it was pretty loud while we were there. I’m going to blame it one people having a great time! 😉
For our appetizer, I ordered the hummus, served with crudité (not pictured) and pita bread. If I had thought about it in advance, I would have ordered the gluten free bread that you can also order on the sandwiches menu… sometimes even being gluten free I fail to think in advance, so Andy and I shared some pita bread. 😉 The crudité (not pictured is celery and carrots sticks).
Andy’s choice of entrée was the pulled pork sandwich served on gluten free bread and with a side of sweet potato fries and coleslaw. We loved having the option of gluten free bread. The sweet potato fries were crispy and well seasoned. The pork was moist and smoky and flavorful.
For my dinner, I had a Diet Coke with vodka and lime. And then I ordered another. Really good drinks at Knuckles, just so you know… For my main course, I decided I would feast on Knuckles steak salad: a giant platter of spinach, tomato, roasted red bell peppers and sliced steak. The dressing is Gorgonzola, and the salad comes with croutons, both of which I ordered on the side.
Check out Knuckles full menu online here.
Following dinner, we sauntered into the lounge adjacent to the hotel lobby and the hotel’s two main restaurants to enjoy a nightcap and some music. In the lounge there is live jazz very Friday and Saturday night beginning at 7:00 PM, featuring jazz director Dr. Morwood. (Click Here for more information).
Of course I have to mention the Stay Fit gym because I spent a lot of time on both Saturday and Sunday morning. I loved having a great place to workout! Part of this food, wine and travel gig for me is to make sure I work for it. I typically spend 60-90 minutes a day in the gym to offset all the wonderful meals and adult beverages, but I don’t mind. 🙂
After my Sunday workout, it was time to get cleaned up and check out. We were sad to leave such a nice hotel and depart from all the media friends we met, but eager to get home and catch up on work we left behind. I was able to grab a last-minute coffee from hotel lounge (served until 11:30am) during my checkout. What a great trip!
Have you ever just wanted to escape? I mean, just ditch everything and all of your responsibilities?
I was so ready to do that this past weekend!
Lucky for me, Andy and I got the chance to travel to Carmel Highlands and were hosted for an evening at the Hyatt Carmel Highlands. It’s a destination hotel heavy on amenities and a sensory overload of picturesque views of the Pacific Ocean and Big Sur coast.
We were invited to stay there along with a few other writers–including L.A-based bloggers Kat and Kelly of Edible Skinny–and over the course of the weekend (which also included a stay at another Hyatt property) we were treated to dinners, massages, wine tastings and other fun things. For this chronicle, I’ll focus on the sheer excellence of the Hyatt Carmel Highlands and the meals we enjoyed at the restaurants located there. PS: Color me blessed and lucky for sure!
When we arrived at the hotel, we immediately joined up with the hotel tour already in progress. Sacramento is about 3 hours and 30 minutes away from Carmel Highlands. We were welcomed by the hotel staff and a woman from Holman Ranch Vineyards. She poured us a refreshing Chardonnay to sip during the tour. I asked the woman’s name because I thought she just might be “Hunter” for whom one of Holman Ranch’s wines is named, because I had spoken with her before on twitter. She confirmed her name and I laughed saying, “I thought that was you, you’re my favorite wine!” I have written about them before here.
The tour of all the meeting facilities was very interesting. The hotel is equipped with all different sized meeting/banquet rooms to fit different needs (4,945 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting spaces). Although the hotel can support any sort of indoor or outdoor business meeting you can think of and offers full service catering, as well as controlled heat, lighting and audio/visual systems, Hyatt Carmel Highlands is an even more ideal wedding and romantic getaway spot. Below is a picture of the gazebo (the setting for many nuptials).
One of highlights of the hotel for me was the gym/fitness center, which many hotels in Carmel and Carmel Valley do not have. It is small, but adequate for a property of 48 rooms. From the elliptical machines, you can actually see the ocean. I spent a lot of time in that room during my stay! 🙂
After our property tour, we gathered by the lounge and enjoyed some appetizers and Holman Ranch wine. Hunter told us a little more about Holman Ranch and their wines as well as the estate-grown olive oils.
After a few rounds of appetizers and the fabulous Holman Ranch wines, our group relocated to the restaurant, just a few feet away from the lounge. The restaurant at the Hyatt Carmel Highlands is called Pacific’s Edge, and oddly enough, Andy and I almost went there for my birthday in June, but we were staying in Carmel-By-the-Sea, and opted to eat somewhere within walking distance of our hotel. I was thrilled to learn we would be enjoying dinner at Pacific’s Edge with other travel writers that evening at the only restaurant in Carmel with a view of the ocean!
Soon, we were served two new wines: a 2012 Chardonnay by Domaine Eden and a 2004 Austrian wine: Brundlmayer Cabernet Franc, “Vincent’s Cuvée”. Below is a picture of the Chardonnay. Andy and I had more of it with our dinner, as it was a better pairing with our food.
Everyone in our group was given a menu crafted just for us, just for that evening. We were told to choose one appetizer and one main course. For my appetizer, I chose the Zucchini Carpaccio with wild arugula, shaved Parmigiano Reggiano, picked mushrooms and lemon olive oil vinaigrette.
Andy went with the Octopus “Confit” with fingerling potatoes, smoked paprika, extra virgin olive oil and Maldon salt. Since octopus doesn’t have it’s own fat to be a confit, the olive oil was used to slowly cook it, hence the name.
Then for our main course, Andy and I both ordered the same meal. We usually try to order something different, but this time we couldn’t resist the special being offered for the evening:
It was a line-caught Chilean Sea Bass with grapes and crispy sunchokes. It was one of the best fish dishes I have ever had. There were several layers of flavor and textures going on within the plate: flakey, creamy, crispy, savory, sweet, umami. It was everything I want in a bite of food. Comforting, but not too heavy. And so perfect I had to show you another picture:
We also happened to capture a picture of one of the other journalist’s dinners:
Then came dessert: I chose the fromage plate and a glass of 2005 Château Guiraud Sauternes.
The next day, after a few hours in the gym at the Hyatt Carmel Highlands for myself—Andy opted to go on a 5 mile run—we were treated to lunch at another one of the hotel’s restaurants (open for breakfast and lunch): California Market.
It was bubbles for me (Domaine Carneros Brut) as I decided what I should order for lunch. The patio of California Market features space heaters to keep you warm when the sun is busy hiding behind the clouds, and gorgeous views of the ocean and the beautiful landscaping of the property. I took the picture below from my table at the restaurant.
I order Cobb Salad a lot in restaurants because it has the trifecta of love: avocado, bacon and blue cheese! 🙂 I ordered the dressing on the side (which was actually a very good Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette). It was the perfect low carb lunch after a long workout! The Cioppino was fragrant of mussels, clams, shrimp and cod with a spicy tomato broth. Andy jumped ship on the gluten free boat (momentarily) to enjoy the crusty garlic bread as a mop, catching every drop of the soup. What a satisfying lunch and sure to keep us full until dinner.
Following our meal, we said goodbye (reluctantly) to the staff at the Hyatt Carmel Highlands–one of the nicest stays I have had in recent memory. I think for me it was really all about the views and the cozy fireplace in our room. And OK, someone DID leave a bottle of my current favorite red wine in my room (how did they know about my love for Talbott Kali Hart??) accompanied by a cheese plate. 🙂
Indeed it was hard to leave, but incredibly excited to tour and stay at the next Hyatt property on our agenda for the weekend: The Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa, which I will be writing about in the upcoming week!
You can find Hyatt Carmel Highlands on Facebook here and follow them on Twitter here and on Instagram here. You can find Holman Ranch on Facebook here and on Twitter here. Thanks to Hyatt Carmel Highlands for their generosity and hospitality.
The Applewood Inn is a lavishly restored the historic Mission-Revival home built in 1922 by Ralph “Rooster” Belden for his wife Gretchen “Pet” and their son John “Bunny” Belden. It was purchased in 1985 by Jim Caron and Darryl Notter and converted into an Inn. The Applewood began its first for guests only, dinner on Thanksgiving Day 1985. Christmas and New Year’s Day dinners followed in quick succession and the inn’s reputation as a place to dine as well as stay rapidly began to take form.
This Boutique Wine Country Inn, with its now 19 rooms and suites, a fine food restaurant, and spa, is located one hour north of the Golden Gate Bridge in the heart of the Russian River Valley Pinot Noir growing region. We stayed in room sixteen: Siena and Il Terrazzo di Amore. It’s located atop the Piccola Casa, and was designed with honeymoons and lovers in mind. 🙂 It features a king size bed with a Tempur-Pedic mattress, lofted ceilings, a dual head shower for two, a gas fireplace, and a private terrace.
The terrace showcases a couple’s “love triangle” hot tub, a fire pit table, and a fountain. This suite and terrace is the perfect hideaway for a romantic wine country interlude.
Breakfast is included with every stay and is served exclusively inn guests. It is served from 7:30-10:00 am at the restaurant.
The Applewood has chosen the finest organic coffees and teas from local artisans, and upon entry for breakfast guests are welcome to serve themselves at the bar and then take a seat at any of the tables that have been set. A two course breakfast is then served your table by the breakfast team.
As an alternative to the main course you may order eggs (any style) with toast and bacon. Included in your breakfast at no additional charge you may order: apple, cranberry or orange juice, espresso, cappuccino or latte, hot chocolate or mocha, or sparkling wine (Mimosas!!)
The second night of our stay (Sunday evening), we ate in the hotel’s restaurant, which has been awarded One Star by the Michelin Guide for 2011 and 2012. Sunday is local’s night and there is free corkage on All Russian River AVA Wines, as well as a $35.00 Per Person three course dinner available.
We had been wine tasting and shopping earlier in the day, and chose a bottle of Iron Horse Estate Pinot Noir (2012) to bring with us to enjoy the free corkage promotion with our dinner.
For our appetizers, we chose the Dungeness Crab: fresh crab, tomatoes, fennel, mushroom dashi stock.
And a beet salad with radish and chorizo:
For our entrées, Andy selected the Grimauld Farms Duck Breast with celeriac and chestnut puree, swiss chard cipollini onions, and a pinot-cherry jus:
And I ordered the Coffee Crusted Creekstone Ranch Ribeye: baby rocket, pommes anna, point reyes blue cheese marchand de vin:
I mentioned earlier that we had been wine tasting on Sunday, and I would like to mention some of the stops we made. Mainly because I truly enjoy the wines of the area and hope you’ll take my recommendations on where you should visit if you go!
Stop #1: Iron Horse Vineyards: Not only do they make some of the best sparkling wines I have ever tasted, they also make still wines from their all estate grown grapes: chardonnay and pinot noir. (You can find them on Facebook here and on Twitter here.)
Stop #3: Moshin Vineyards: I discovered Moshin wines at Sacramento restaurant (and my loyal advertiser) Piatti. So, when I found out Moshin had a tasting room nearby, they became the last stop in our afternoon of tasting. My favorite in their current release of red wines is the 2010 Lost Ranch Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast. (You can find them on Facebook here and follow them on Twitter here.)
On Monday morning before heading home, Andy and I ran the trails at Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, just a quick drive (about 3 miles) from the Applewood Inn. It was so scenic. The trees were unbelievable! 🙂
Thank you to the management at Applewood Inn. We had a wonderful time and I am blessed to let my readers in on a new place to visit in wine country! You can find the Applewood Inn on Facebook here and follow them on Twitter here.
12 Days of Christmas Picks for the Food and Wine Lover: How to Travel the World on $50 a Day, Revised
Day eleven of my 12 Days of Christmas Picks for the Food and Wine Lover and it’s Christmas Eve!
I want to wish all my readers a Merry Christmas. I am really enjoying this holiday season—more than I have in a long time. Back home in Ohio, my family has grown by one member, my brother’s son Casper Ryan Morris (pictured below), so I kind of wish I was home to meet him and visit with everyone in the clan, but at the same time I am loving the fair weather here and our house and our tree and spending Christmas with Andy. 🙂
If you’re still looking for gift ideas, your time is running out. However, it’s not too late to order my gift idea for today because it hasn’t been released yet! Also, it’s never to plan for next year.
Today’s gift idea comes from a book I received for review called How to Travel the World on $50 a Day (Revised Edition). You can pre-order it by going here and it will be sent out after the release date (January 6th). Actually, this gets you out of hot water if you are a procrastinator, because you can say, “Hey, I got you something, but it hasn’t been released!” 😉
How to Travel the World on $50 a Day was written by Matt Kepnes, a Boston native who was never a big traveler at all until 2006. That year, he went on a tour trip in Costa Rica, and got hooked on travel. He quit his desk job and decided to take a year off to travel. The year turned into 18 months, and Matt is still on the road.
Since then, Matt has been showing readers of his enormously popular travel blog (nomadicmatt.com) that traveling isn’t expensive and that it’s affordable to all. He proves that as long as you think out of the box and travel like locals, your trip doesn’t have to break your bank.
His book How to Travel the World on $50 a Day gets an upgrade in this new revised and expanded edition—it still has Matt’s signature tips, tricks, and secrets to comfortable budget travel based on his experience traveling the world without giving up the sushi meals and comfortable beds he enjoys, but it also has brand-new content, including new chapters on China, Japan, and India. Other tips include how to:
• Avoid paying bank fees anywhere in the world
• Earn thousands of free frequent flyer points
• Find discount travel cards that can save on hostels, tours, and transportation
• Get cheap (or free) plane tickets
Tomorrow will be day 12 of my 12 Days of Christmas Picks for the Food and Wine Lover. Don’t miss it!! 🙂
Day six of my 12 Days of Christmas Picks for the Food and Wine Lover goes to the VinniBag.
The VinniBag is a reusable travel bag with inflatable air chambers and is designed to provide superior protection against impact and leakage.
The VinniBag can be used for wine, olive oil, liquor, fragile items etc., and can hold most 750ml bottles—even larger magnum bottles (Bordeaux style only).
The Vinnibag exceeds all airline requirements and has been independently tested for alititude and temperature changes.
The VinniBag is recyclable & 100% USA Made. You can actually send used VinniBags back and the company has them turned into garden hoses to help keep our planet green and will give you a discount on your next VinniBag purchase.
The VinniBag is made by Ellessco, a women-owned company originally founded by a mother and her daughter (who still get along!). Their passion for travel, design, and technology led them to develop innovative products for life on the go.
The Vinnibag is $28 and $25 if you buy 2 at a time. You can purchase them here.
Why do I love the VinniBag? It’s pretty simple. It gets our wine from point A to point B with no bottle breakage. Andy and I have used it repeatedly over 3 years and it’s never failed. It even transported a magnum of Scribner Bend’s Black Hat Tempranillo to Mexico in perfect condition. Thank you, VinniBag! 🙂
You can find VinniBag on Facebook here and follow them on Twitter here. Check back tomorrow for day seven of my 12 Days of Christmas Picks for the Food and Wine Lover! Cheers!