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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?

 

 

Booking it in East Hampton

Lauren Visits Authors’ Night in East Hampton.

East Hampton Library's Authors Night 2013

Marcus Samuelsson (Photo by Sonia Moskowitz))

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Gwyneth Paltrow (photo by danielgonzalezphotography.com)

I recently had the pleasure of attending one of the best summer events in the Hamptons— Authors Night. If you don’t know, this is when authors, most with local ties, show up to sign their books and chat with fans to benefit the East Hampton Library. I just couldn’t stop rubbernecking there were so many celebs! Gwyneth Paltrow and her husband—Chris Martin of Coldplay, chef Marcus Samuelson, Nelson DeMille, Nile Rogers, Dr. Ruth, Phillipe Petit, Kelly Bensimon, Lynn Scher and, of course, Alec Baldwin. It was a swell evening with good food and drink. I actually got to talk to these authors about their recent works and buy an autographed copy of their latest tome. DJ Bonnie Grice was interviewing for the local station. Fun was had by all!

After the signing, authors were invited to dinners hosted by local fans. Boo hoo! I wasn’t invited to that, but I did have an awesome time and it was all to benefit the library in East Hampton.

East Hampton Library's Authors Night 2013

Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly (photo by Sonia Moskowitz)

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Nelson DeMille (photo by danielgonzalezphotography.com)

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Writers and readers filled the tent in East Hampton. (photo by danielgonzalezphotography.com)

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Nile Rodgers (photo by danielgonzalezphotography.com)

I have always loved going to the library. Reading a book can transport you to anywhere in the world. I have to give kudos to the Amagansett library and my peeps that work there! I’m always demanding that they get me this or that. And they cheerfully do. Ah well, I don’t have to wait a whole year to read anything. I’m just going to my library.

Chefs & Champagne

A Great Night for Food and Fun in the Hamptons

lauren is feelin’ the love at wofflers

Andrew Zimmern does not think Lauren is Weird.

Andrew Zimmern does not think Lauren is bizarre. All photos by Gemma Kahng.

 

Today I was so feelin’ the love on Long Island. I’m talking about the passion displayed at the James Beard Foundation Chefs and Champagne New York event at Wolffer estate in da Hamptons. The chefs so tenderly presented their creations. They were lovingly displayed and prepared with care. Many “hot” chefs were represented their from the tri state area including Masaharu Morimoto with his tuna trio, Eric Miller from Madison & Main with his grilled Montauk pearl oysters, and Stefan Karlsson from Sweden with his salmon tartare.  I had a hard time working because it was difficult not to spend all my time stuffing my face with all the goodies available. I also got to take a photo with the JBF award winner Andrew Zimmern star of the Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods

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Masaharu Morimoto lovingly created and served a Tuna Trio to appreciative guests at Chefs & Champagne.

Besides feeding me—and hundreds of others— the Foundation does stellar work giving students scholarships that honor and nurture America’s diverse culinary heritage.  They educate and inspire the young to be creative and learn their craft whether it’s food, wine, champagne, or whatever. They also had very cool items and travel opportunities to bid on both online and in person. All and all it was a fun time had by me —and all. I think everybody gained at least five pounds!  The only problem is I have to wait a whole year for such fine food grazing. In the meantime, I’ve just have to visit some of the restaurants that were represented there.

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Wofflers in Sagaponnick was the scene for Chefs like Stefan Karlsson

Chef Stefan Karlsson from Fond restaurant in Sweden served Tuna Tartare.

B. Smith and her man enjoy the evening.

B. Smith and her man enjoy the evening.

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Rosa Ross from Scrimshaw in Greenport.

Rosa Ross from Scrimshaw in Greenport.

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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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Sotto Sopra Scores

 Worth a Visit in Amagansett

Sotto Sopra

Sotto Sopra offers fine dining in Amagansett.

The owners of Sotto Sopra (who also own Bobby Van’s) are bold and courageous. Brave and true. They have opened a classy restaurant in a spot where nothing ever lasts that long, even though it’s right on Montauk Highway in the heart of Amagansett. This new incarnation, Sotto Sopra, should change the fortunes of that location. There are a lot of reasons why it should succeed… from the welcoming light and airy space to the thoughtful menu, to the food itself.

We stopped in  for a late Saturday lunch recently and snagged a table in the pleasant and quiet back terrace. Of course, it’s the staff that presents the first, and lasting, impression of a restaurant, and here we were greeted by a cheery and attractive hostess who turned us over to our solicitous waiter. He didn’t miss a beat in delivering a basket of fresh bread and bowl of olive oil. We each ordered a glass of wine for the nifty wine list, Pinot Noir for Lauren and Riesling for me. We were given the choice of ordering from the brunch or lunch menu. We weren’t feeling very brunchy so we opted for lunch.

Portrait of Lauren with Pinor Noir

Lauren enjoys a glass of pinor noir at Sotto Sopra

The first (and only) disappointment of the afternoon occurred not long after we were seated. Lauren was bummed  to learn that the lobster roll was sold out.

No matter, we started with a crostini for Lauren and a arugula salad for me. I swear, I had never seen a bigger heap of arugula. With match sticks of fresh apple and a few delicious cherry tomatoes, with truffle dressing on the side, it was a great start.  Lauren enjoyed her steak sandwich with aoli. While I fell in love with my Linguine Mollusco: tender little neck clams in the shell or pasta with a lovely garlic sauce dotted with chiles. I emptied the breadbasket, sopping up the sauce after the clams were gone.

insalata fresca  with arugula, tomatoes, and apples.

The insalata fresca at Sotto Sopra is a magnificent heap of aruglua.

On to desert. We had a crazy layered crepe kinda thing and some knock-your-socks off chocolate mint gelato.

It turned out to be a wonderful, relaxing meal. We’ll be back.

Sotto Sopra

231 Main St.

Amagansett, NY 11930

(631) 267-3695

 

 

 

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

Starting the Season with Lobster in East Hampton

Lunching on Lobster with Lauren at Bostwicks in East Hampton

Granted they were just opening for the season, but our waiter obviously didn’t know Lauren Ezersky. He mistakenly place some of our order in front of me. Lauren set that straight pretty quickly. One pound lobster—Lauren. Half dozen little neck claims—Lauren. Corn on the cob—Lauren. Cole slaw—Lauren. Clam chowder (New England style) and Peroni—Warren. (Ok, two Peronis) And don’t forget the extra sauce for Lauren! That’s how we roll at Bostwick’s in the Spring in East Hampton.

Lauren in the Hamptons

Look out Lobsters when Lauren hits Bostwicks!

Authors’ Night In Easthampton

Literati Under a Tent at the Library

Scores of authors, both local and national, sat  behind their stacks of books Saturday evening and patiently engaged in conversation with book lovers—and maybe sold a few books in the process. We had a nice visit with Alice Harris who brought the family out to support her and spread the word about her latest book, The Wedding Album. Sitting nearby was the totally charming Marianne Hagan, author of Victoria Hagan, Interior Portraits, a book about her sister’s interior design projects. We also visited with Robert Caro from whom i finally bought a copy of The Power Broker. I told him i had put off purchasing it before because the book was too thick and heavy to lug back and forth on the jitney.

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Danielle Freeman is the Restaurant Girl

Vivacious Danyelle Freeman, The Restaurant Girl, was also there with her book, Try This.

 

Danyelle Freeman’s Latest

I also had a nice chat about one of my childhood heroes with Tom Clavin co-author of Roger Maris. Ex-Yankee Jim Leyritz was there pitching his new book.

Tom Clavin is co-author of "ROger Maris"

Co-author Tom Clavin was at Author’s Night

Also on hand were Martin Amis, Alec Baldwin, Dick Cavett, Robert Klein and many many more.