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Half-way Around the World in 14 Days

An Epic Trip to New Zealand

Two weeks of hiking, dining, drinking, exploring below the equator

Auckland, New Zealand

Downtown Auckland from the Bay

It was a dream trip 25 years in the making. It has been that long since my sister, Marianne, moved to Auckland, New Zealand  And for 25 years i kept promising i would visit. But you know how it is. But in February i finally bit the bullet and hopped a looooong flight to Kiwi land on Hawaiian Air. I got a very good price with an overnight stop over in Honolulu. Perfect! that meant i could spend a night with my oldest friend, Joe Ferraro and his wife Nadine. Joe picked me up at the airport around 5:00 and brought me back to their bungalow-style home in Manoa. After a shower and a change into the appropriate shorts and flowered shirt we had a beer on the patio and headed out for dinner on the beach. i have to say, the minute my feet touched ground in Hawaii i could feel the tension seeping out of my body. And it continued into New Zealand. Even the prospect of a nine  hour flight hard on the heels ao a 11 1/2 hour flight and an hour and half delay in taking off from Honolulu due to an equipment problem, couldn’t raise my temperature.

Touchdown in Kiwiland

I arrived in New Zealand late Tuesday night. Marianne was there to meet with at the airport.And i really didn’t feel that bad after the 20 hour trip. Here’s the key: I laid out an extra 75 bucks each leg for exit row/bulkhead seating. well worth it? no knees jammed into the seat back in front of me. no getting pissed off at the person in front of me. There was no person in front of me!

Day 1: Exploring downtown Auckland

Wednesday i got my first look at Auckland. I threw on a t-shirt and a pair a shorts and set out. Yes, it is hilly! My sister’s house is in the Eden Terrace neighborhood of Auckland, just a 20 minutes walk from downtown. I just kind of nosed around downtown. You know how when you go to Boston and you’re walking around and suddenly you wonder, Hey where are all the people? well, it’s not like that in Auckland. not in downtown Auckland anyway. Lots of people walking around. I stopped at the Crown on Custom St. for a pint. It’s a brewpub where i enjoyed a pilsner. Though i thought the $12 price for a pint was a bit steep. But stop to figure it out. The exchange makes that $12 $10.20 American. Also, note that there is no tipping in New Zealand, so knock another 2 bucks off of that and you have an $8 pint. that seems about right. Later Marianne and i went out for dinner at, YUZU,  a Japanese place in Mt. Eden. the miso orange roughy was fantastic.

Day 2: Discovering the Auckland Domain

I took a commuter train to Grafton and walked a few steps to the Domain. Wow! What a place. i entered it from behind a small grandstand that sat at the edge of a depression or bowl. it wasn’t until later that i learned it was one of the many volcano craters dotting the city. Athletes were running, stretching, playing cricket. (Well, maybe calling the cricketeers athletes is a bit of a stretch.) i was there to visit the winter garden but had to hunt a bit to find it in the vastness of the Domain.

The Wintergarden in the Auckland Domain

The Wintergarden

The winter garden is a smallish conservatory with a beautiful annual house, and a tropical room with a lovely courtyard. I found the lovely Wintergarden Cafe outside the courtyard and enjoyed a delicious lunch of a warm salad and a Steingarden beer.

More to come…

24 Hours in Beantown

A Short Post-Christmas Trip to Boston

Last year, my wife and i spent the week between Christmas and New Year’s in Boston, visiting family, sampling restaurants, getting some culture at the Gardener Museum, getting some History at Paul Revere’s House.  We stayed at the Boston Park Plaza in one of the biggest hotel rooms i ever saw. This year, i went solo and booked a “petite” room at the same Park Plaza—with some trepidation. I like this hotel though. great location, just a few blocks from the Boston Common, Boylston st, Newbury street. what i don’t like is the $12 surcharge PER DAY for WiFi.photo(1)

But the petite room turned out to be fine and after i dumped my stuff off, Emme and i drove off to pick up Zea at South Station. She was coming in from Maine, where she spent Christmas with her in-laws. Where to eat? that was the question on everyone’s lips. The answer? The Gallows. I had been there once, for brunch and didn’t require any arm-twisting. At the Gallows, we started with their pulled pork stuffed corn muffin to share. Well, i use the term share loosely. Zea pretty much claimed it. Fabulous! then it was on to the main course.

Earlier, we had decided we would “eat light” after the excesses of Christmas. But by now we had worked up an appetite and when confronted with the menu, i knew it was burger time. I opted for the Carpetbagger with fired oysters atop. Zea chose the Maleson Melt with chanterelle, and porcini-morel butter. Emme, though, zeroed in on the poutine. specifically the daily Out of Control poutine, tonight made with bone marrow gravy. Wow!

Friday night, we hit another, small, beer-centric pub of the type that seems to characterize Boston. This time it was The Five Horses Tavern in the South End. Our mantra again was
“Eat Light!,” but that didn’t happen. not after i got a look at the menu.As son as i spotted it i knew i would have the k.f.c.g.h. With Kentucky fired Cornish game hen, jalapeno mashed potatoes and pork belly mac and cheese, it was comfort food times three. And it did not disappoint.

Fried Cornish Game Hen, Jalapeno Mashed Potatoes and Mac & Cheese

Dinner at Five Horses in Boston

Both of these fine establishments had amazing beer menus–bottled and on tap. And Five Horses happily seated our party when only  four of  six were present. When’s the last time something like that happened in New York?

 

 

For the Love of Ivy

Yum yum gimme some…..more Ivy restaurant! What a feast I just had. Lobster tacos layered shrimp and avocado sautéed Brussels sprouts with bacon and onion covered in cheese. Generous appetizer portions with fair prices. It’s mostly bar food but a bit more upscale than most. My friend had a pomegranate drink and was feeling no pain. I highly recommend this restaurant on 56 and 8th if you are ever in the hood!

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A Vermont Weekend – Part II

More About a Great Vermont Weekend in Burlington

Sunday was the day for the main event, commencement at the University of Vermont. Of course it was an oppressively hot day. Of course, Ira Allen chapel in un-air-conditioned, and was packed with graduates and celebrants. Didn’t matter though. The big day had finally arrived. Was so proud of my daughter Zea who put in all the hard work. Thrilled that she got to March with her fiancee Nick. It was a great ceremony.

Commencement at UVM

Ira Allen Chapel at the University of Vermont was packed for Med School Graduation

The rest of the day was anticlimactic, though we were glad we had taken an extra day off so we didn’t have to rush off like everyone else.

On Monday, after working on cleaning out my storage shed some more, we stole Zea away from moving truck loading duty for a last lunch in Burlington. Because Penny Cluse was closing just as we arrived, we decided to try Leunig‘s. It’s a Vermont class and a Church St. mainstay. Good choice.

Bistro on Church St.

Leunig’s is a Burlington classic.

We snagged an outdoor table and relaxed as the friendly staff made us feel at home. When she arrived, Zea ordered duck tacos. i chose the duck confit and Lauren the salad Nicoise. Each was fantastic. Delightful lunch on a beautiful spring day. Burlington at its best!

It was such a nice day, Lauren and I decided to take the ferry on our way back to New York. To our surprise, the Burlington – Port Kent ferry wasn’t running yet. But with some creative driving were we able to catch the Charlotte ferry.

Ferry to New York State

A lovely view of the Adirondacks from teh Charlotte Ferry

University of Vermont Commencement

All in all it was a great weekend in Burlington, VT.

Proud Dad and Doctor Daughter

A Vermont Weekend

Great Fun for a Burlington, Vermont Weekend

We had a great reason to travel to Burlington, Vermont, the weekend before Memorial Day—My daughter Zea was graduating from Med School! Any reason is a good reason to get back to Burlington in the Spring, but this was special. We left NYC after work on Thursday and drove to Ballston Spa to visit my Mom. The next day i managed to get Lauren up early and we set off for Vermont–a trip of just under three hours. We go to Burlington in time to meet her old college friend Sally, who now lives in White River Junction.

Restaurant

Normally the Chef’s Corner in Williston is bustling for brunch

We met Sally for lunch at the Chef’s Corner in Williston. You know, right next to Lenny’s shoes on the Essex Road. (right around the corner from our motel, too, the something or other extended stay suites. Now i had heard plenty about this cafe from my ex-wife, but had never been.

What took me so long? it was totally charming. You get in line and order from the blackboard behind the counter. then have a seat, indoors or out and wait for the server to deliver.I had the tuna salade Nicoise which was delicious. can’t recall what Lauren and Sally had, but both raved about it.

Then we checked into our room. (now i remember, it was Townplace Suites. Nice place. Our room had a queen bed plus sofa bed and a full kitchen with a large fridge. They have an indoor pool – not that we had any time to use it. There’s no cafe but they offer your standard continental breakfast and pass out 20% off coupons for our new favorite—The Chef’s Corner.

outside burlington

Townplace Suites, just outside Burlington, was the best place we could find for UVM grad weekend

After a leisurely and uneventful check-in we headed off to Costco to do some party shopping. Boxes of wine! Sacks of sweet onions. Meat! Chips! Beer! It’s party time!

The next morning i crept out of the room as Lauren slept and walked to Chef’s Corner for breakfast, where i kept it simple: two eggs over easy, the best home fries ever, and bacon. take off the 20% and i feasted for under 10 bux. Then off to Zea’s to make German Potato Salad and lots of frenzied running around to buy last-minute supplies, until it was time for the party at Burlington’s Oakledge Park.

Oakledge Park in Burlington

Susan, Zea, Emme, Warren, and Casey enjoy the perfect weather on the shores of Lake Champlain.

Saw lots of friends and family at the party. Ate burgers, drank beer. What more could you ask for?

But i wasn’t just eating, drinking, and partying, no. that weekend was also dedicated to finally clearing out my storage shed that i had been supported for too many years. It was a slog down memory lane with college notebooks mashed up with wedding pictures and tax returns—all the phase of my adult life mixed up together.

from Man's Life magazine

Look what i found in my storage shed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(to be continued… A Vermont Weekend)

Lauren Lunches at ‘Lunch’

Lauren Loves Lunch aka the Lobster Roll

She also loves lobster rolls, which this place on the Napeague stretch of 27 between Amagansett and Montauk touts as the best around. She loves a whole steamed lobster most of all. But this Saturday, she said she knew she just didn’t’ have the energy to do the whole cracking and extracting thing. That’s how i knew for sure she was sick. And indeed, she’s fighting a wicked cold.

Lauren Lunching at Lunch

Lauren loves the fresh seafood at Lunch on Route 27 in Napeague

So, following the adage of “Feed a cold…” or is it “Starve a cold?” Regardless soup is always good when you’re not feeling well, so she ordered the Manhattan seafood chowder. I managed to steal a spoonful or two from her and i have to say, it was delicious—full of shrimp, clams, and all kinds of stuff. Lauren followed that with a shrimp roll, which disappeared as soon as the plate hit the table. I didn’t get to sample that, but no worries, i was completely satisfied by my tuna steak sandwich, cooked perfectly and served with some of the best fries I’ve had lately. Sick or not, Lauren wasn’t about to skip desert and so she ordered a slice of their famous, homemade raspberry pie. All in all it was a memorable early spring Lunch at Lunch.

Lunch

Lunch aka The Lobster Roll on the Napeague Stretch

The Day the Dogs Tied the Knot

Bravo Was There When the Dogs Tied the Knot

Chef Roble didn’t quite know what to make of Lauren when she came to her to request catering for the wedding of Carmen and Harpo. Why? They’re dogs! Chihuahuas to be exact. But he was game and he and his sister put together quite a blowout in the Hamptons. The bride and groom were resplendent in outfits designed and created by famous designer Gemma Kahng.

There were plenty of doggie guests and the canines ate better than the humans. They enjoyed duck meatballs and steak and eggs among other treats, while we had salad and fish. i do admit nipping a couple of he meatballs. they were excellent.

It was a fun day and was broadcast in January as part of the Chef Roble show on Bravo. I can’t believe they left out the only little bit of conflict, when a dog peed on my jacket and i had a little sparring session with its owner.

Lots of excitement when the dogs tied the knot.

 

 

Happy Hour at the Palm

The Palm Happy Hour Makes Us Happy

The Palm is an ancient steakhouse, always included on the list of best in New York. There’s also an outpost in East Hampton. We never go there for dinner. We know that Lauren would not be able to resist their famous three pound lobster, and that would decimate out dining-out budget for about six months.

Like any good steakhouse, the Palm is not inexpensive. Unless… you take advantage of

Welcome to the Palm

their Bar Bites Happy Hour. Unfortunately, I’m not often here in the Hamptons during those delightful hours of 5 – 7 Mon – Fri. I’m more of a Friday night jitney east, Sunday afternoon Long Island Railroad west kind of guy. But taking a long weekend for our anniversary provided the prefect opportunity to take part.

The bar at the Palm, East Hampton, is all dark wainscot and time-worn tables. The bar is murky and moody with old wooden booths. The kind of place you want to hide out on a hot summer afternoon. A on those afternoon—from 5 to 7 on weekdays—you can partake of their bar bites, normally ranging from $10 to $13 for just $5.50! That includes steak burger sliders, lobster roll sliders, crab cakes, charcuterie plates and more. Shrimp cocktail is $3.95 and oysters are $1.90 each.

shrimp cocktail

super giant shrimp at the bar

We started with a half dozen oysters and a half dozen shrimp. When the shrimp arrived, they were beyond jumbo, fresh and crisp. Best we’d had in ages. The oysters, too, were fresh and briny. An order each of (3) burgers and (3)lobster roll sliders was all we needed. Well, we did spring for a carrot cake too, not that we needed it. Oh, and a couple of glasses of a crisp California chardonnay. It was a great meal of appetizers.The bar was empty when we arrived at 5:00. By the time we left it was packed with others taking advantage of one of the best dining deals in the Hamptons. We’ll be back for the Palm’s Happy Hour.