We’re Bringing the Puerto Rican Food Party to Atlanta

The coast, the mountains, and the home: that is the landscape of authentic Puerto Rican cuisine painted by Atlanta-based renowned Chef, Hector Santiago. Known for his stint on Top Chef, Santiago has made a name for himself through his restaurants Pura Vida, and his most recent foray in the Atlanta food scene, El Super Pan.

INSPIRED BY THE WORLD – El Super Pan boasts traditional dishes from all around the Spanish Caribbean (Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic), some of which have very non-traditional fusion elements from other international cuisines, particularly flavors from East Asia. One would never see pork belly buns, fish sauce, or anchovies in Puerto Rican cuisine, but Santiago is a firm believer in the expansion of what we know about food. He is inspired to create by the fresh ingredients grown in whatever environment he happens to be cooking in.

El Super Pan's pork belly bun, a fusion of Spanish-Caribbean and Korean cuisine
El Super Pan’s pork belly bun, a fusion of Spanish-Caribbean and Korean cuisine

Santiago, along with other Atlanta-based Puerto Rican Chefs, Julio Delgado and Andre Gomez, will be planning a menu for Go Eat Give Destination Puerto Rico that provides a true glimpse into the everyday food in Puerto Rico; a real slice of life. But don’t get me wrong, there is nothing “run-of-the-mill” about everyday Puerto Rican food. It is full of layers of spices, textures, and strong flavors, because food and eating is such a big part of Puerto Rican culture. Santiago said that when he was a kid in Puerto Rico, cooking at a young age was extremely common, and all of his friends used to come to his house to cook together, laugh, play, and eat. 

Two staples of Puerto Rican cuisine that you will see as a base for just about every Puerto Rican dish are Sofrito and Adobo. Sofrito is a rich mixture of peppers, onions, tomatoes, salt and pepper that serves as a starting out place for much of Puerto Rican cuisine. Adobo is a complementary mixture of spices that one would be extremely remiss to leave out of their Puerto Rican dish: cumin, corriander, oregano, black pepper, garlic, etc. These spices and vegetable bases make cuisine so flavorful and bold, it’s easy to take for granted. Santiago recalled the first time that he tried oatmeal in the mainland United States, and he thought, “what is this?” “Puerto Ricans hate bland food,” he laughed “at home oatmeal has vanilla, orange zest, cinnamon, sugar, a little salt. It’s one of those big differences.”

YEAR-ROUND FOOD FESTIVALS – Santiago explained that there is an immense festival culture in Puerto Rico. There is always something going on and with that, comes the food. He joked, “If you’re not drinking Cerveza in Puerto Rico, you’re probably eating!” There is truly a festival for every occasion on Puerto Rico and for the harvest of every possible staple food you could think of. There are coffee festivals, banana festivals, taro festivals, corn festivals, tomato festivals, orange festivals and more than five different festivals dedicated to crab. Puerto Rico is also a growing home to very large, internationally recognized culinary festivals, like Saborea (savor) where over 70 chefs, brewers, mixologists, and baristas come together to celebrate the best the country has to offer.  I’m not sure there are many other places in the world where food is SO central and so celebrated–that’s how you know it’s going to be good. 

Bacalaitos--fritters of salted cod, a common beach snack
Bacalaitos–fritters of salted cod, a common beach snack

THE COAST – To start, the chefs will present a taste of the coast. Attendees will taste bacalitos, which are fritters of salted cod. Santiago says bacalaitos are a very traditional Puerto Rican dish, despite the fishes’ natural cold water habitat. They are a food tradition left over from Spanish influence, so they import the cod to keep the tradition alive. There will be a variety of empanadas and alcapurrias. Alcapurrias, unlike empanadas, are made with a batter of mashed root vegetables like plantains and taro, and are often stuffed with fish or crab. This is the food people think of and crave in the coastal regions of Puerto Rico: little, deliciously crunchy, fried seafood snacks that are easy to grab and go.

An example of mofongo, a staple of Puerto Rican cuisine
An example of mofongo, a staple of Puerto Rican cuisine

THE MOUNTAINS – For the main courses, Santiago, Gomez, and Delgado will prepare a taste of the mountains, a frequent weekend escape destination for many Puerto Rican families. One of the dishes include Mofongo. Although you will find similar cuisine throughout the Spanish Caribbean, mofongo is thought of as originally Puerto Rican. It features green plantains mashed, fried, and served with crispy pork chops spiced with, of course, adobo and garlic. Pork is a common and celebrated form of protein in Puerto Rico. So, we will also get to taste Lechon Asao, pork slow roasted until the skin is thin and crispy, which will be served with arroz con gandules (pigeon peas).

Arroz con leche, a puerto rican rice pudding
Arroz con leche, a puerto rican rice pudding

THE CASA – For the final course, we’ll get to taste Puerto Rican desserts commonly served at home such as flan, arroz con dulce, rice pudding with cinnamon, coconut and raisins, and a Puerto Rican favorite: papaya con queso. As I was speaking with him, I could tell Santiago clearly favored the latter as he nodded and said, “It’s amazing.”

All of these thoughtfully planned out and expertly prepared dishes, combined with the live music and dancing always present at Puerto Rican food festivals, we are all going to feel as if we are actually there. We can’t think of a better way to celebrate this amazingly rich culture than through a fiesta of food, one of the things it holds most dear. So let’s eat!

GET YOUR TICKETS TO DESTINATION PUERTO RICO TODAY!
DestinationPR_SocialMedia

Read more about Hector Santiago and El Super Pan

Read more abut Julio Delgado and JP Atlanta

Read more about Andres Gomez and Porch Light Latin Kitchen

Changing the Face of Craft Beer

Jason Santamaria is a Beer Architect, a somewhat unusual title. He is the president and one of the co-founders of one of Atlanta’s newest players in the Craft Beer scene, Second Self Beer Company. I recently had the pleasure of visiting the brewery at their location on the West Side of Atlanta, and got to know how exactly he and Chris Doyle, “The Alechemist”, were building.

Jason (left) and Chris (right) at the opening of their Tasting Room.
Jason (left) and Chris (right) at the opening of their Tasting Room.

Chris and Jason have been brewing together since 2005. Jason comes from a culinary family and he claims that this background is part of the reason he felt a connection to brewing craft beer. But for him, it wasn’t just about making the best version of a beer that many others were already producing, it was about making something entirely different.

The first beer that Jason and Chris produced and took to brewing competitions, was a Red Hop Rye. The problem was, it didn’t exactly fit into any particular beer category. Essentially, they combined elements from three different beer categories: Red Ale, IPA, and Rye Wheat beer, and came up with a new style of beer. For Jason, “it’s a perfect example of American ingenuity in beer.” This is Second Self’s beer philosophy. They are constantly working to create beers that have never been thought of or heard of; sophisticated not just in structure or flavor, but in concept as well.

Jason has even introduced international cuisines to American craft beer. Second Self’s “Thai Wheat” was inspired by Jason’s travels to Thailand in 2010. He took cooking classes while there and learned about a tradition spice blend, “well, technically a tea,” he said, that is now the base of the beer. They use fresh lemongrass and ginger, which is something you would never find in a traditional wheat beer. He mentioned that it took about 100 iterations to perfect this drink.13717447_1137234076297947_7784726724660029685_o

This kind of detail-oriented production is what is needed to make the type of beers that Jason envisions: Beers that are able to pair with a multitude of cuisines and flavors. Beers that are not too overbearing, but that still maintain a complexity of flavor that make them a delight to drink on their own. Jason talks about beer as a sophisticated sommelier would talk about wine, and there’s a reason for that. “Wine’s been at the dinner table too long and beer needs to have its place too,” he says.

I believe Second Self is creating a new space within American Craft Beer that is doing just that; it asks for a spot at the dinner table based on its merit and thoughtfulness, and I believe the beers Second Self is producing deserves that spot. So does renowned Atlanta-based Puerto Rican Chef, Hector Santiago, which is why you will see Second Self beers alongside our amazing menu of expertly prepared Puerto Rican dishes at Destination Puerto Rico (by the way, I am partial to the Mole Porter). Any beer with as much insight, enterprise, and creativity behind it as the ones Jason and Chris painstakingly draw the blueprints for, build and perfect, is sure to bring not just beer, but any dining experience, up to a whole new level.

Second Self Beer Company has just opened a new Tasting Room. You can book a tasting tour of the brewery on their website!
Second Self Beer Company has just opened a new Tasting Room. You can book a tasting tour of the brewery on their website!

Get your tickets for Destination Puerto Rico today

Read more about Jason Santamaria and Chris Doyle 

~ By Virginia Spinks, intern at Go Eat Give. Virginia is a senior at Emory University majoring in religion and anthropology. As an Atlanta native, she has grown up around many different cultures and cuisines, and has always had a passion for food. She views food as an experience: a point of connection to bring people together and create lasting memories.

Koreatown Takes Over at Chai Pani Atlanta

I use to call myself a Korean food enthusiast because I’ve probably tried ten different Korean restaurants around Atlanta. Truth be told, I’m more of a Spicy Seafood Tofu Soup enthusiast because that’s the only thing I ever order when I go to Korean restaurants. Looking back after attending Koreatown Takeover at Chai Pani, I must say I’ve failed miserably to thoroughly savor the Korean cuisine offered in Atlanta.

The event was meant to celebrate Chef Deuki Hong and writer Matt Roddard’s new Korean cookbook titled Koreatown. All attendees went home with a copy of the beautifully illustrated book with hundreds of Korean recipes. A group of chefs from Chai Pani, Heirloom Market BBQ, Gaja Korean Restaurant, Buxton Hall Barbeque (North Carolina), and chef-at-large Chris Hathcock gathered together for one night to create a five-course meal of savory and seoulful dishes inspired by recipes from Koreatown.

Thirty minutes into the event, all 140 seats at Chai Pani Decatur were filled. Each guest was equipped with a cocktail or beer to start, and an hour later, the feast began. Everyone quickly picked up their chopsticks, and for those who were chopsticks challenged, they had their forks and knives ready to go!

Rainbow Banchan (side dishes) created by all the chefs
Rainbow Banchan (side dishes) created by all the chefs

A banchan tray presented with texture and flavors ranging from soft and crunchy, to sweet and sour that accommodated all palettes. My particular favorite was the beet and lime juice pickled cauliflower (the bright pink dish in the photo) prepared by Deuki Hong, one of the authors of the book.

Los-Pyunche

Los-Pyunche Smoked galbi trip-tip, shaved onion, Korean pear, sesame leaf, uja mayo, soy wasabi dressing by Atlanta’s very own Heirloom Market Barbeque.
Los-Pyunche
Smoked galbi trip-tip, shaved onion, Korean pear, sesame leaf, uja mayo, soy wasabi dressing by Atlanta’s very own Heirloom Market Barbeque.

This dish was so delicious that it deserves a full presentation and a close up. You can savor similar tender and flavorful pieces of meat at Heirloom Market Barbeque located at 2243 Akers Mill Rd SE.

goan-chujang pork vindaloo, idli  (fermented & steamed rice&urad dal cakes) by chef Meherwan Irani & James Grogan of Chai Pani
goan-chujang pork vindaloo, idli
(fermented & steamed rice&urad dal cakes) by chef Meherwan Irani & James Grogan of Chai Pani
Smoked Beef bulgogi sausage, Carolina gold rice grits, kimchi, and radish gold rice grits, kimchi, radish by Chris Hathcock.
Smoked Beef bulgogi sausage, Carolina gold rice grits, kimchi, and radish gold rice grits, kimchi, radish by Chris Hathcock.

These two dishes took me by surprise. I didn’t expect Korean dishes to carry such drastic flavors. Chef Irani and Grogan’s dish was a blend of Korean and Indian spices while Chef Hathcock’s dish was a Korean and Southern comfort fusion. I was pleasing surprised.

Although everyone seemed generously fed with more than enough food, Chef Deuki’s last dish—the classic fried chicken — still generated a lot of excitement. And the chicken tasted as good as it looked – crispy on the outside, succulent and soft on the inside, fulfilling to the core.

 Korean fried chicken with roast garlic heads and scallion salad.

Korean fried chicken with roast garlic heads and scallion salad.

Once three dishes and several cocktails were consumed, I noticed the upbeat K-pop music playing in the background. I asked my neighbor if Korean music had been playing this entire time, and he amusedly answered that he had been too focused on the food to notice any music. I think that’s a very good indication of the food!

The dessert was my all time favorite ice-cream, Melona Melon ice-cream bar. Although all the dishes presented were made at the event and difficult to replicate, you can always purchase Melona Melon at any Korean/ Asian market near you. It’s an irresistible chunk of flavored ice to cool you down in the Hotlanta summer.

I left the event completely satiated and with a change in perception about Korean food and food in general. I’ve always been so basic (for lack of a better word) when it comes to ordering food. I deemed fusion restaurants unauthentic. Perhaps, fusion restaurants are unauthentic to their native countries, but not for Atlanta, a city with such diversity in both people and cuisines.

~ By Vy Nguyen, current intern at Go Eat Give. Vy was born and raised in a small village in Vietnam and attends Emory University studying Economics and Linguistics.

Street Eats and Summer Festivals

This year was the 5th annual Atlanta Street Food Festival, but expectant patrons may have noticed a pretty large difference between the festival this year as compared to the past few years. The event was moved from its popular central location in Piedmont Park to Stone Mountain Park. If you dread what impact festivals have on your car mileage or your pocket, here are my recommendations on how to make the most of your festival experience…

Plan to Spend the Entire Day 

If you are just going for a few hours, a $15 parking fee, a $25 cover charge and the price of food from vendors on top of everything, seems like a lot to ask. Not to mention, Stone Mountain Park is out of the way for many folks inside the perimeter, and this past weekend sported Heat Indexes of over 104 degrees Fahrenheit. However, I discovered that the people able to make the best of this situation, planned to get their money’s worth by bringing their own lawn chairs and setting them up in the shade for the whole day. This way, you could avoid the heat, have guaranteed seating, and have the time to digest between rounds of eating.

Many people had the right idea in bringing their hammocks! There's lots of trees and natural shade in Stone Mountain Park!
Many people had the right idea in bringing their hammocks! There is lots of trees and natural shade in Stone Mountain Park.

Find the Unique Street Eats

From what I saw this weekend, there are trends in what food trucks sell. I felt that every other truck sold the same tried (but true) foods: burgers, lobster rolls, fried green tomatoes, and some variation of low country boil. But the most popular trucks were the ones that specialized on one food type, or sold food that nobody else was selling. Here were some of the highlights:

Chazito's Cuban Food truck from Savannah, GA served up some delicious empanadas con pollo, tostones, and maduros
Chazito’s Cuban Food truck from Savannah, GA served up some delicious empanadas con pollo, tostones, and maduros.
Mac The Cheese Food Truck was never without a small line . They served me up a Fontina Mac and Cheese although they were serving mac every which way, including with lobster.
Mac The Cheese Food Truck was never without a line. They served Fontina Mac and Cheese although they were serving mac every which way, including with lobster.
Bollywood Zing! based out of Smyrna served up some flavorful samosa chaat (samosa with warm chick pea salad on top), however we did miss their biryani!
The Bollywood Zing! truck, based out of Smyrna, served flavorful samosa chaat (samosa with warm chick pea salad on top), however we did miss their biryani.
Roti Rolls, ranked the best food truck in Charleston features eccelctic sandwiches inspired by many global cuisines and sources their food "farm to truck." This sandwich is their "Foghorn Leghorn;" organic chicken, coconut curried vegetables and house-made kimchi all on Indian Roti. Needless to say, it exploded with flavor.
Roti Rolls, ranked the best food truck in Charleston, features eccelctic sandwiches inspired by many global cuisines, and they source their food “farm to truck.” This sandwich is their “Foghorn Leghorn”: organic chicken, coconut curried vegetables and house-made kimchi all on Indian Roti. Needless to say, it exploded with flavor.
cookie truck
The “Not As Famous Cookie Company” made an appearance with their cookie truck. As a dessert truck serving only cookies, it stood out amongst all the Italian Ice stands. And these  cookies were delicious; they should be famous. My favorite was the peanut-butter chocolate pretzel.

Know That You’re Giving Back

The ticket price for entry may have seemed steep for some, but most attendees may not have known that part of the proceeds went to benefit an important Atlanta-based non-profit, The Giving Kitchen. The Giving Kitchen grants help to those in the Atlanta restaurant community dealing with crises (of any sort).

All in all, this festival was definitely worth going to. Although a bit far removed from it’s beloved Piedmont Park location, the new location certainly helped with the crowd problem. The way the trucks were spaced out in Stone Mountain Park made the event feel more like a relaxed family fun day at the park, than like the congested street festivals that can be irritatingly difficult to navigate. The organization and logistics of the festival could still use improvement, perhaps with a more detailed map and description of the food vendors, or use of an app-like guidebook. However, it already seems that the Atlanta Street Food Festival is getting better year after year.

IMG_2589~ By Virginia Spinks, intern at Go Eat Give. Virginia is a senior at Emory University majoring in religion and anthropology. As an Atlanta native, she has grown up around many different cultures and cuisines, and has always had a passion for food. She views food as an experience: a point of connection to bring people together and create lasting memories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advice From LPGA Champions

Continued from Golf + Travel = Passion… Below 21-year old Alison Lee candidly shares how difficult it is to eat healthy and stay fit while on the road. She was ranked number 1 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking for 16 weeks in 2013–14. She is also named the “most beautiful women in golf” by Golf.com.

OCALA, FL - FEBRUARY 03: Alison Lee of the United States plays a shot on the sixth hole during the first round of the Coates Golf Championship Presented By R+L Carriers at Golden Ocala Golf Club on February 3, 2016 in Ocala, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
OCALA, FL – FEBRUARY 03: Alison Lee of the United States plays a shot on the sixth hole during the first round of the Coates Golf Championship Presented By R+L Carriers at Golden Ocala Golf Club on February 3, 2016 in Ocala, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

What do you enjoy most about travel?

At first it was hard to adjust to being away from home and friends, but it is fun to see new places and cities that I have never been to before. I love trying different types of food and doing activities off the golf course. For example, when we had our tournament in Vancouver, my Dad and I went to Stanley Park and rented a bicycle and circled all along the park by the water which was so beautiful. When my mom and I were in Hawaii last year, we went on hikes and went to a couple different beaches and tourist areas.

Do you get enough time to go out and explore the local culture? 

It really depends on the week and where we are playing. Last year, I was able to explore cities and do fun and interesting things if I had missed the cut. Otherwise, I try and practice a little on Monday mornings and have the rest of the afternoon to explore. If I can’t really go sightseeing then the first priority is to try a good restaurant in the area. I either ask around to get local advice on popular spots or use Yelp.

What have been some of your most insightful moments of 2015? 

I don’t think I had any one moment in particular that stood out to me, but overall it was the experience of being on Tour as a rookie in 2015. Everything was new and different and took time to adjust to. The golf, the players, being in the spotlight; it was very overwhelming and not as glam as a lot of people may think it is. It was very difficult and was a grind for sure, but it also made me appreciate the game of golf more.

When you are on Tour, how do you maintain a healthy lifestyle?

It was very hard for me to remain healthy. Since I was traveling and playing more golf than I ever had, it was difficult to keep track of what I was eating and make time to work out after long days on the course. It is definitely something I have to work on for 2016.

What do you like most about golf?

Definitely the competition. I can get very competitive and set high goals for myself, and that is why I love the game. You can never practice enough and you can never be too good. There is so much that can be done to get to the next level and there is always room for improvement.

Besides golf, what are your other passions?

I have a lot of other passions that make me happy. I love everything UCLA, food, cupcakes, shopping, and just having a good time with friends. I feel like it’s so important to have other hobbies and joys outside of golf to help relieve stress.

Do you play for any charities? 

I do not play for any in particular. I do have a passion for helping out foster children and hope to do something on a larger scale for them sometime in the near future. My mother works for DCFS and tells me the stories of a lot of kids and what they are going through just in the Los Angeles system. It really breaks my heart to see that people can forget or overlook this group.

Read other interviews with Brooke Henderson and Ryann O’Toole.

If you are inspired to play golf around the world, join Go Eat Give’s 3rd annual charity golf fundraiser on November 7, 2016 at Laurel Springs Golf Club in Suwanee, Georgia.

Golf + Travel = Passion

Continued from Ladies Who Golf….Ryann O’Toole (age 29) talks about what she loves most about traveling and how she keeps focused on good and bad days.

California native Ryann O'Toole. She holds the course record at Colwood Golf Club in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, with a 66.
California native Ryann O’Toole. She holds the course record at Colwood Golf Club in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, with a 66.

Which countries did you play in during the past year (2015)?

I played in the Bahamas, Canada, France, Malaysia, China and Japan.

What do you enjoy most about travel?

The best thing about traveling is experiencing the vast variety of culture in each country. Being submerged into that country’s culture for a week is so much fun. I love meeting new people, trying different foods and exploring the reasons for what makes that place so special. Every destination seems to have a reason why people have chosen to live there and I love getting to see exactly what that is!

Do you get enough time to go out and explore the local culture? 

I would never say we get enough time, but not many sports get to stay in a place for a week. I’ll take the time I can get and make the most of it. Aside from the obvious tourist destinations,  I think exploring the local food and restaurants is the best way to view a culture.

What have been some of your most insightful moments of 2015? 

Some of my most insightful moments of 2015 include understanding the real value of one golf shot at a time, learning to be happy with slow and steady growth, and that with each day comes with new feels, thoughts, challenges and outcomes. It is vital for a player to stay in the moment and keep the mind present and focused on the shot at hand. I see this as the key to scoring low rounds, or keeping bad days of play under control. I finally became content with this process and watching myself slowly get better week by week. What helped was seeing the consistency increase each day. Low rounds were happening more often, and on not-so-good days I kept under control. My coach Jorge Parada really helped me understand this process.

A good example is a moment from the 2015 CME Group Tour Championship. On hole 9 in my second round, I was five under and playing solid and very steady. I carded a nine on a par 4, costing me to go from five under to even par. All the great work I had done, all the momentum I was building was gone in one hole! This truly tested my ability to stay focused on the shot at hand. When I made the turn and teed up on hole 10, I knew in order to keep my round going I had to focus back into the moment. I managed to stay focused and was able to shoot two under on the back nine. Although I was not happy with the overall score of the round, I was able to recover and keep myself in the race.

I also found in 2015 that each event your body feels different, not only each event, but each day. Not every day is going to be perfect and with that comes acceptance. The best players are the ones who can go out on the course and make the most of the playing ability they have that day. They find a way to get the job done, regardless of how they feel. This is the true test of any athlete who competes day in and day out and wants to win.

When you are on Tour, how do you maintain a healthy lifestyle?

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle really boils down to self-discipline and asking yourself how badly you want to become the best. On the road it is easy to look at a menu and pick the less healthy choice, or say yes to dessert. I work hard in the gym and enjoy the feeling of being healthy, so for me it isn’t hard to stay healthy on the road. The LPGA makes sure to provide us with healthy breakfast and lunch options each week as well. The LPGA is also great with providing a gym trailer that follows us around from week to week. It just takes time to create a routine and keep up healthy habits when you travel on the road.

What do you like most about golf?

I love golf for everything it gives me. The Competition, camaraderie, ability to travel and see the world and meeting people everywhere we go is an amazing experience. It is a lifelong sport that I can play until the day I stop walking. There is nothing about golf that I don’t like.

Besides golf, what are your other passions?

When I am not golfing, you can find me at the beach. I love to surf so when I take vacations, it is to places I can surf. Golfing is my passion, but surfing is my hobby. It is the one place where I can mentally check out and allow myself to get fully consumed with that current moment. Alone in the water, it is a place where I have absolutely no control and that feeling is euphoric.

Do you play for any charities? If so which ones, and why?

Yes, I play for PHIT America. It is an organization that’s setup to bring awareness to the obesity problem we have in the United States. The goal is to main provide knowledge and information for the public to learn what is good and bad for their bodies.

Click here to read part 3 of this post.

If you are inspired to play golf around the world, join Go Eat Give’s 3rd annual charity golf fundraiser on November 7, 2016 at Laurel Springs golf club in Suwanee, Georgia.

10 Reasons to Visit Dutchess County, New York

Perhaps you read my post about spending a weekend in upstate New York. The quick escape offers the best of natural surroundings, charming towns, farm to table dining, wineries and more. If you plan your trip in advance, you can also catch some of the local festivals and concerts.
Here are top 10 Events in Dutchess County:
1. March – St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Held on first Saturday in March, each year the Committee selects an outstanding community person to lead the parade who is the Grand Marshal. www.DCSPPC.org
2. April – Wappinger Creek Water Derby. Who says you need to get to the Caribbean to scuba dive? Take lesson, compete in canoe races and more, right here in New York. www.AquaticExplorers.org
3. May – Rhinebeck 2016 Antique Car Show & Swap Meet. Check out antique and classic cars on display at this 3-days long car show. http://dutchessfair.com/
4. MayWW II Living History, USO Show, Bivouac and Memorial Day Events include the 75th Anniversary of FDR Presidential Library & Museum and Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site, and 100th NPS anniversary. www.NPS.gov/HoFR
5. June – Country Living Fair, Rhinebeck. This weekend long fair includes art displays, live concerts,  food tastings, and dozens of themed gardens to keep the entire family entertained. www.dutchessfair.com
 duchess county fair
6. June – Discover Hudson Valley Bike Ride. Explore forests, waterfalls, hills and gorgeous surroundings of the Hudson Valley on a guided bike tour. www.BikeNYC.org
7. July – DCRCOC Balloon Festival, Poughkeepsie. Over 100 hot air balloons are launched from the banks of the Hudson River, against the backdrop of a picture perfect sunset. www.dcrcoc.org/balloonfestival
BalloonFest
8. August – Jazz in the Valley, Poughkeepsie. An annual festival, showcasing music performed by world-class musicians, fittingly complemented by breathtaking views of the Hudson River Valley as backdrop. www.jazzinthevalleyny.org
new york jazz festival
9. September – Hudson Valley Wine and Food Festival & HV Craft Beer Festival. Taste local products including beer, cider, spirits, wine and food at this weekend long gastronomic festival. www.HudsonValleyWineFest.com
10. October – New York State Sheep and Wool Festival. Features livestock displays, competitions, arts display, cooking demonstrations and lots of kids activities. www.sheepandwool.com
duchess county festivals
~ Information sourced from Dutchess Tourism. 

Weekend in Westchester, New York

If you have made it up to Hudson Valley on your weekend getaway from New York City, also check out Westchester County.

Taste some of the best maple in the world at Crown Maple at Madava Farms. Their certified-organic maple products are so pure, you can taste the woods. Take a tour of the technologically advanced facility and learn how maple is harvested. Sample different kinds of syrup and homemade pastries made on the premise. The 800 acres property of Madava Farms is open to the public for picnicking and hiking. It’s a great place to enjoy the peaceful and scenic outdoors only 80 miles from the city.

crown maple farm new york

 

There are over 35 wineries in the Hudson Valley. If you have limited time, stop at award-winning Millbrook Vineyards and Winery’s 30 acres of vines include plantings of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc and an Italian grape varietal called Tocai Friulano. The winery officially opened for tours and tastings in 1988 and today produces between 10-12,000 cases of wine annually.

millbrook wine

For lunch, stop at Babette’s Kitchen, offering gourmet salads, pasta, sandwiches and entrees using local seasonal ingredients. They pride themselves in having long lasting relationships with local farmers who supply them with the best produce the Hudson Valley has to offer. You can also get boxed lunches to take with you on a scenic train ride or road trip.

Contemporary art lovers would want to take this opportunity to stop at Dia: Beacon art gallery. Occupying a former Nabisco box printing factory on the banks of the Hudson River, Dia:Beacon presents Dia’s collection of unusual art installations and spaces, such as white on white, homepage to the square, fluorescent lights and more. Since its opening in May 2003, Dia:Beacon has helped transform the city of Beacon into a vibrant arts destination for visitors from the region, New York City, and beyond.

Thereafter, take a tour of Lyndhurst Mansion, one of America’s finest Gothic Revival mansions. Overlooking the Hudson River in Tarrytown, New York, The architectural brilliance of the residence, designed in 1838 by Alexander Jackson Davis, is complemented by the park-like landscape of the estate and a comprehensive collection of original decorative arts. Its noteworthy occupants included: former New York City mayor William Paulding, merchant George Merritt and railroad tycoon Jay Gould.

Lyndhurst Mansion

Dinner at Rivermarket Bar and Kitchen is a must. The restaurant and market showcases producers located throughout the Hudson Valley. Menu includes a variety of fresh seafood, poultry and meat paired with local wines. The rustic decor of restored wood ceiling brings the outdoors inside, and gives a subtle reminder of the restaurants’ sustainable initiates.

Those interested in learning about where their food comes from can visit the Stone Barn Center for Food and Agriculture in Tarrytown. Here you can meet some happy chicken, pigs and sheep, who are treated humanely. The center also offers educational day camps for kids to learn about farming, livestock and sustainable eating.

Stone Barn Center for Food and Agriculture

Yonkers is an interesting suburb, where many New York City commuters also reside. Here you can visit the Hudson River Museum to see six art galleries, the Andrus Planetarium, and Glenview Mansion, an historic house museum of 1876; taste local brews at Yonkers Brewery; and enjoy a delicious meal at award-winning chef Peter Kelly’s restaurant, Xaviar X20 on the Hudson. A ride back to Grand Central is only 30 minutes aboard Metro-North Railroad.

This trip was coordinated by I Love New York, the state’s official tourism board.

Read Part 1 of my upstate New York experience in Duchess County.

Weekend in Hudson Valley, New York

When I think of New York, images of the city’s bustling streets, neon lights, Broadway musicals, top chef restaurants and shopping at 5th Avenue fill up my head. The fact is the state of New York has a lot more to offer than Manhattan and the surrounding boroughs. For the first time, I took a train starting at Grand Central Station to explore the surrounding areas of upstate New York.

hudson river bridge

A 2-hour ride on Metro-North Railroad took me along the Hudson River to the city of Poughkeepsie in Dutchess county. A short walk from the train station to the elevator led to the world’s longest elevated pedestrian bridge, spanning 212′ above the Hudson River and 1.28 miles across. This is a great place to get a good view of the river and the surrounding foliage, specially during spring and fall. During season, there are concerts, open air movies, marathons, and festivals taking place in the historic state park.

vanderbilt mansion

Poughkeepsie has a few restaurants, hotels and shop that sustain tourism in the area. Shadows restaurant offers great view of the Hudson and is often used for large events, such as wedding receptions. Also, nearby is the Franklin D Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park. Here you can visit the Roosevelt family home, burial site, see the president’s personal library, and an interactive museum. Just a few minutes drive away is the Vanderbilt Mansion, one of the smaller homes owned by the family. After spending an afternoon in the area, you begin to picture what affluence and stature the neighborhood had up until only a few decades ago.hudson1

Food lovers can take a break at The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) for dinner. The oldest and most well known culinary school in the country offers four student-run restaurants. Here when you dine, you will become part of their classroom experience. The CIA’s new 800-seat, state-of-the-art Ecolab Auditorium in the Marriott Pavilion makes it possible for visitors to experience one of Half Moon Theatre’s New York-style theatrical productions after enjoying a meal at The Bocuse RestaurantAmerican Bounty, or Ristorante Caterina de’ Medici.

Rhinebeck is a charming city to stay overnight. Check into America’s oldest continuously operated hotel, Beekman Arms, for luxurious accommodations in a historic setting. Next day, stroll around the downtown area, shopping for antiques, clothes and local products, as well as boutiques and dining at historic taverns. Not to miss is Oliver Kita Confectionaries for hot chocolate, cupcakes and handmade chocolate truffles. Terrapin Restaurant features farm-fresh organic cuisine under the guidance of award-winning Chef Josh Kroner. There are over 30 wineries in this area and many of them are offered on the menu, paired with locally raised duck, venison and chicken.

oliver kita

Early December is a good time to visit Rhinebeck for the Dutch tradition of Sinterklaas, where a local resident dresses up in a Santa-bishop like attire, accompanied by his long-time sidekick, the Grumpus, as well as the entire town parading through the town.

The Hudson Valley area is roughly 150 miles long and covers various counties. It is easily connected to New York City by train and makes for fun weekend getaways. Read Part 2 of my upstate New York experience in Westchester.

This trip was coordinated by I Love New York, the state’s official tourism board.

Highlights of the New York Times Travel Show

The New York Times Travel Show is the largest and longest-running trade and consumer travel show in North America, featuring the Travel Industry Conference, Consumer Seminars, and an interactive Exhibition including more than 500 exhibitors from Africa, Asia, Australia/South Pacific, Canada, the Caribbean, Europe, Latin America, Mexico and the United States. In addition to discounts and special offers for travel, the show provides educational seminars and live entertainment for families, individuals, couples and seniors.

I attended the 13th New York Times Travel Show at the Jacob K. Javits Center last weekend. There were more than 500 exhibitors, representing 150 countries, which was great but also overwhelming. Entire rows representing geographic areas were set up, featuring different tourism boards, travel agencies, resorts and more. This year, there was a section on wellness travel as well, featuring one of our partners, The Art of Living Retreat Center in Boone, North Carolina.

art of living boone

The winners and their categories were:

  • Best in Show: Turkish Culture and Tourism Office
  • Rookie of the Year: Go Touch Down Travel and Tours
  • Most Interactive: Destination Canada
  • Best 10′ x 10′ Booth: Flight 001
  • The People’s Choice: Mexico Tourism Board
  • Most Imaginative: Curaçao Tourist Board
  • Best Show Service: It’s Easy Passport Visa Services

Here are some of the vendors that stood out the most to me…don’t be surprised if you catch me at these locations in 2016!

Voyage Unique Mongolie organizes trips across Mongolia, the most popular being the Gobi Desert. They own two hotels – Dream Gobi Lodge and Dream Terelj Lodge. Both are yurt style camps with private bathrooms and luxury accommodations.

TimesTravel mongolia

Eco Sicily is a project to promote tours to the small towns in Sicily. The area has access to beaches, hills and villages. Old traditions are still followed when it comes to art, cuisine, agriculture, etc.

Yampu Tours offers unique tours across the world, focusing on local interactions, learning and adventure. You can design a custom itinerary choosing your own date, location and a theme that fits your interest.

Lernidee is a Germany based company that offers rain and river tours to remote parts of the world. The ones that caught my attention were the Silk Road tour across Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, and the Trans-Siberian railroad.

Valdez, Alaska is a destination that encompasses the best of everything Alaska has to offer. Closed to cruise ships, this small town is most enjoyable by driving or ferry. It has access to glaciers, wildlife, fishing, hiking and more. The representative told me I can find myself standing fishing right next to the bears!

Seychelles are beautiful islands off the coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean, which are frequented by European tourists. If you have had your fill of the Caribbean, this would be a great destination to combine with your African safari.

Times Travel seychelles

There were also workshops, seminars, cooking demonstrations, cultural performances and book signings taking place during the show. Celebrity personalities included Madhur Jaffrey (Indian actress, food writer, author), Ruth Reichl (chef, food critic, author), Arthur and Pauline Frommers (travel writers), and many others.Times Travel 2016

If you are in New York City or surrounding area in January 2017, make sure to add The New York Times Travel Show to your upcoming calendar.

Book your stay at the Art of Living Retreat Center through TripAdvisor

Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 12.18.40 AM