Saturday, July 5, 2008

Paradise Cove, Malibu

Paradise Cove,  Malibu, CA 

I had lunch here while visiting my friend in los
 angeles. It was a beautiful drive, and the lunch
 was just as great! We were taken right to a table on the beach and got to eat
 with our feet in the sand. The service was surprisingly slow seeing as the place was not too crowded, but it was lunch time...

We all got salads, and I had "bob's Cobb" which was absolutely huge, but delicious and I was able to get the leftovers to go, so it was more than one meal for the price. The highlight was when a seagull started dining at the table next to us after the customers who were eating there left. Everyone was amused by him! 
 Beyond the slow service (we waited quite awhile for drinks and then after we ordered it was another lengthy period before our food actually came...) it was a gorgeous place to eat, with wonderful food. The perfect beach lunch! I'd definitely recommend it to anyone to try at least once!

Overall:  ****
Liked:  Great food, good atmosphere!
Disliked:  slow service...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Firestone's Restaurant- Woodstock, VT


On the search for dinner before ascending Mt. Killington for a conference, I randomly ended up at the Firestone Restaurant and had no regrets.

It must be absolutely majestic in the winter, as it's beautiful even in the off season. The door to the place resembles that of a mythical castle, and when you walk in, it's like entering a giant ski lodge. Everything is made of wood, there's a fire burning, and the bar is accented with strings of twinkle lights. The ambiance is to die for! And this was before I even had food!

Our waitress was very friendly and brought us our drinks quickly while we browsed the menu. We began the meal with a smoked salmon platter that had decent sized portions of smoked salmon rolled up with capers, as well as onions a small salad of greens and a dipping sauce. We also got a basket of delicious bread with two different types of homemade butter to start our meal.

This restaurant prides itself on its flatbread pizza, and they were delicious. My colleague got a cheese and mushroom pizza with three different kinds of mushrooms, and we ended up getting most of it to go since it was so large (good thing since there was no food at our hotel)! I decided on the mediterranean pasta with kalamata olives, feta cheese, and artichokes, which surpasses my expectations and was exactly what I had been hoping for!

The meal was very enjoyable, and we left, very full and content with our leftovers. For both of our entrees, appetizer, and a salad, the bill was less than $50.
I would definitely recommend this restaurant to anyone who wants a great meal in a cozy atmosphere and I will make sure to return if I am back in the area!!

Overall: **** (4 out of 5 stars)
What I loved: the food, the atmosphere, the service.
Not so much: very out of the way unless you're heading to Killington....

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Killington Grand, Killington VT

"Off Season" = No Food?

First of all, I do want to preface this review with the fact that
1. I was staying here for a one day conference, not an actual ski vacation
2. It was "off season" so perhaps it is not an accurate portrayal of the overall quality of the establishment...

But on we go. I drove about 4.5 hours from my home in Maine for a one day health conference at the Killington Grand. Before we even arrived at the hotel, I received a text message from my coworker that said "eat dinner before you arrive! No restaurant!"
I found that hard to believe, but just to be safe we had a delicious dinner in Woodstock before we began driving up the mountain
Thank goodness we did because it was true the restaurant was not open! I could not believe that with two large events going on, they wouldn't have any food available!
The conference was skimpily catered. We were told there would be a full breakfast, but there was only pastries and donuts (which, some people may not even have been able to eat due to health restrictions!) We then had boxed lunches, which were filling enough (sandwiches and chips), but the conference was over at 3, and that was the end of the food! In order to get any meal after that you had to drive down the entire steep mountain, which we really had not anticipated doing until we had to leave.

Besides that, I thought this was a pretty nice establishment. We had a decent sized room with a flat screen TV, DVD player, and stereo system! There was also Starbucks coffee stocked with our coffee pot which I found to be very impressive! The bathroom was small, and our little "deck/balcony" only overlooked the parking lot, but I didn't find either to be too upsetting. The out of this world soft sheets, and flawless internet connection to quickly make up for the flaws of the room.
Something else that was small touch, but I found made the room very cozy was little ski decorations and accessories throughout the room. The handles on the entertainment center doors and drawers were little wooden skis and there was a painting of snowmakers on the mountain at night!

After our conference, I had some time to kill before we ventured down the mountain for dinner, and I happened to walk by the spa, which WAS actually open! I treated myself to a facial, and let me just say that was worth the entire trip! They didn't have a nail tech until the coming weekend, so that ruled out manis and pedis for my colleagues, but I decided to splurge and have never felt so rejuvenated! The staff was very friendly, and not overbearing when helping me choose what treatment to have, and they did not rush me out when I was finishing my cucumber water after my facial. The spa itself was cute (with a little zen garden in the waiting area) but offered a great variety of services. It was definitely the highlight of my off season stay!

Overall I think this would definitely be perfect for a couple's ski retreat! I imagine it's beautiful in the winter. But if you're going to stay in the "off season," Be prepared to do some hunting gathering, and make sure to budge some money for the amazing spa, cause it's the only thing open, and SO worth the experience!

Overall- *** (3 out of 5)

What I loved — Spa, free working wireless internet

Not so Much— Restaurant closed!!!!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Blanche & Bill's Pancake House!

Bridgewater Corners: Blanche & Bill's Pancake House: "A Perfect breakfast nook!"
After attending a conference at the Killington Grand hotel, and not having any substantial meals available to us, we were more than excited to stumble upon this spot for breakfast on our way out of town.

It is family owned, and as soon as you walk in (past the menagerie of grandchild photos) you feel like you are in someone's kitchen. Half of the place is devoted to Red Sox memorabilia and there are witty hand written signs lining the wall.
The menu and place mats are basic paper, and you can tell they really started this place from scratch which adds to the charm in my opinion.
In addition to the friendly atmosphere and wait staff, the true home cooked breakfast was DELICIOUS.
I had a simple combo of poached eggs and cheese on an English muffin, and my colleague had a special designed by the grandson of 2 eggs, 2 pancakes, 2 sausage and 2 slices of toast! Both meals together, with coffee was less than $30 with tip! Very impressive!
We left, full and happy to continue our long venture home.

I would recommend this little hole in the wall to anyone looking for a simple place with outstanding food and service!

Overall: **** (4 out of 5)

What I loved: The food, the friendliness!
Not so much: A little small. You really get to know the people next to you!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Great Eggspectations!

Eggspectations- South Portland, ME

Being from Maine, I am always looking for new, classier (if you will) places to eat, beyond the cliched Applebee's and TGIFriday's chains. I was visiting a friend in Portland and drove by this place. Intrigued, I decided we would do lunch here the next time I was in town. We finally did, and man were we pleasantly surprised. We were both expecting a small diner type setting with basic breakfast meals, but what we found was an atmosphere although we had just stepped through a door into New York City.
It was a little noisy as it seats a lot of people and has very high ceilings, but the expansive menu quickly made up for it!
We ordered coffee drinks (I had a wonderful authentic cappuccino, which I have only had in places outside of Maine) and took our time browsing the menu.
Our waitress was very patient, and friendly, and we did not feel rushed to order until we were ready.

If ever there was a place that has "something for everyone" this is it! The menu ranges from 10 kinds of crepes or eggs benedict to steak, pasta and seafood, plus an entire juice bar, and cocktail bar!
I finally decided on the Bagel Benedict, which combined my favorite of eggs benedict with smoked salmon, capers and a bagel! My friends got the Florentine Benedict, and a Grilled Chicken salad. We were in a rush and didn't have time for dessert, but the dessert menu itself left us wanting to come back to try the unique items!
Also a huge plus, our total bill was about $40 for three very filling meals and great drinks! You can't beat that!

All in all, the food and service surpassed all of my expectations, and I definitely plan to go back frequently to try all they have to offer. We had always gone to The Olive Garden as our "meal out" in the city of Portland, but after leaving Eggspectations, we were all saying "the Olive what?"

Overall scrore: ****
Pros: eggstensive menu (ha...), great service, reasonable prices!
Cons: noisy atmosphere

Friday, March 28, 2008

Marco Polo Ramada- DO NOT STAY HERE!!!

Marco Polo Ramada "Resort," North Miami Beach, FL

How this place can even covet the word "resort" I have NO idea.
Like so many other reviewers, I gave the place the benefit of the doubt even after reading other not so glamorous reviews. DO NOT. Believe these reviews and stay ANYWHERE ELSE. Pitch a tent on the beach if you have to!

Upon entering this place, it reeks of mildew...I tried to overlook it.
We were checked in fairly easily and although nobody mentioned it, I think I was upgraded to an accessible room....but in the end it didn't matter.
The bellman was helpful to bring our bags up, even though we believe he was high on something, he was nice enough and it didn't affect his work ethic.
When we got up to our floor the overwhelming odor changed to that of Febreeze as though they were trying to cover up the other stench (I'm sure they were)

The room itself was not bad. The bathroom however had cracked tiles, a broken lock and mildew in the caulking. I only took one shower while I was there and I contemplated wearing shoes.... a la college dorm life. The water pressure was pitiful and I could've taken a better shower in the downpour we got during our stay.

The beds were ok, but not anything outstanding and as soon as we woke up we scrambled to get ready to just be OUT of the hotel.
We saved time in our morning for the "complimentary breakfast," which tuned out to be absolutely shameful. And of course nobody told us you were welcome to order off of the actual breakfast menu, although frankly I'd be afraid of what that would bring.
There was mediocre fruit, stale bread, bagels, and danishes, and ONE working toaster for the entire place. Every single chair had disgusting stains and/or sand on them. One lady was even sitting on her newspaper. The coffee was ok, but to get a to-go cup it was $ much for "complimentary."
Bottom line: Eating breakfast should not make you feel as though you need a shower

We left breakfast and went out to the beach where we had to SIGN OUT measly thin towels (which we later discovered we got charged $8 for)
Eventually clouds rolled in and we went back upstairs to find a decent place to get some real food and just get out of the place. When we got upstairs our housekeeper was still in our room. After an attempted dialogue with her that was completely lost in translation we went back outside for a little while, to give her more time, thinking it would make a difference.
However- when we got back upstairs it was a wonder what she even did!
To our eye all it appeared was that she made the beds (poorly)
Coffee was left in the pot and in one of the mugs we used, while the others were rinsed out and left to dry on a PILLOW CASE(?) She did not empty any of our trash cans or replace anything in the room.
Luckily after some research and a big sigh, we discovered this place is in a decent location and it was like a $10 to the Aventura Mall which has great food options and shopping! We had escaped for the day.
Thank God!

We called that night for a new packet of coffee for the next morning....and it never came. The only request we made the entire time....

When we checked out the next day (as early as humanly possible so we could bathe properly and have a decent meal)
I noticed the "resort" fee (for the cheesecloth towels is all we can figure) and was handed a CHEWED ON pen to sign my bill with. At this point I didn't even care to complain I just wanted out.

You could stay at an Econolodge and get more for your money. Besides the beach and pool, which looked decently maintained, this place has NOTHING going for it. I really could go on, but you get the point.

I plan on writing a letter to the Ramada company, as this place is a disgrace to the name. I am staying in one in Wisconsin for my next business trip, and I was looking forward to it, but to be perfectly honest.... now I'm afraid.

Overall score: ** (2 out of 5 stars....)
Why? For the beach. I only wish it had been sunny so we could've enjoyed that! :(

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

NY Helmsley, Nice but far from what I expected.

I stayed here for 4 nights for a benefit show I was in. In the past for these events we have been put up at some ritzy places so I was expecting the best.
The staff was very friendly, and the first man we encountered went out of his way to help us back our car in properly, unloaded our bags and parked our car for us without any question.
Once we settled in though, we realized the small room had less than your average Hilton. The view was nice, we could see the Empire State Building which was beautiful at night, and there was a flat screen TV.
However, there was no coffee pot at all. There were very few electric outlets, we had a hard time plugging in all our cell phones. The bathroom was ridiculously small, which was quite the challenge when the entire family needs to get ready for the day. Also, the cups were plastic and disposable which I found odd for such an establishment and not very eco-friendly
The pillows were not that comfortable, and if you tossed and turned in bed they basically came unmade.
There was also one day where we came back to our room at almost 4:00 in the afternoon and our room had not been cleaned and our clock was never changed for daylight's savings time.

This is an ok place for a place to crash which is all we needed but even the location I was not crazy about. After our event we needed food and there was nowhere nearby we could go that was open! We didn't eat at the hotel restaurant but we did get Starbucks on more than one occasion, but that's near everything in NYC.

Overall- Not a bad place, nice people, but my stay at the Sheraton Manhattan was more enjoyable!

Overall Score: *** What I loved: Friendly staff, great view!
Not so much: No coffee maker, uncomfortable beds, small bathroom, expensive parking

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Ellen's Stardust Diner- We're amongst friends!

I've been to Ellen's about a dozen times and have never had a bad experience.

Yes- breakfast is slow. I would like to see anyone here belt showtunes first thing in the morning!

We went on vacation in NYC last August and ate almost every meal at Ellen's, because our hotel was right around the corner. By the end of the trip the wait staff knew us and we're all friends on myspace now.
Maybe you have to be a lover of musical theater (and the world of trying to "make it") to truly appreciate it, but many of these kids have been in shows or are between shows. They're all very talented.
My sister and I actually ended up being in a show with one of the waitresses and she remembered us! Just a hint- the more into it you are, the more into it they will be.

Also- I find the food to be delicious, as well as the drinks, and I love that they have wine, beer, etc, as well.
Last time we ate there was before RENT everyone remembered us, and our food came in a matter of minutes. We actually allowed ourselves way too much time before our show and kept ordering drinks so we wouldn't have to leave! (and they didn't want us to)
Ellen's was actually our first stop in the city after our hotel.

I will always go there when I'm in the city, even if it is just for a milkshake and to say hi!

Overall Score: *****! (5 stars!)

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Hilton Alexandria Mark Center- One of my favorites I've decided!

Hilton Alexandria Mark Center, Alexandria, VA

I have stayed here twice for work now, and having stayed in other hotels, I realize how much I enjoy it!

The rooms are very comfortable, the second time I had one with a mini bar setup with full coffee station and drink mixer and everything!
The beds are very comfortable, and I'm doing my research to actually buy the same pillows they use at the Hiltons. I also love the hair dryers.
The conference facilities are gorgeous as well.

I have only a few complaints and they were small.
The shower makes a very strange whistling/banging noise that gets really loud when you are in the shower!
Housekeeping knocked on our door every day at 8:30 in the morning! We had barely even woken up yet, that is too early!
After the first couple of days the cleaning person stopped restocking our breakfast room service card so we had to call down each morning.
We ate room service a lot because it was just too much of a hassle to go out every night after being in meetings all day (there is not much in walking distance...) and usually it was great, but once for breakfast the main part of one of our meals was not even on the plate. Another night we ordered dinner and we were not brought a table (there was not one in the room), there was only one set of silverware for two meals, and the food was already cold and it was obvious it had been sitting around, let alone by the time we got the rest of our things to eat with! That surprised us as we had been having a great experience with the food.

The hotel restaurant is nice, but the menu is limited and you get tired of it after a couple of days. Do your research for other places to eat if you're going to be for a while, the staff is also not very helpful. The first time I stayed there I tried to explain to one of the concierges how I found a restaurant on THEIR website so he could make us reservations and he did not understand me at all. I ended up going behind the desk and finding the website myself so we could call.

Overall this is a very nice, and beautiful place and great for business, but I wouldn't mind staying closer to the DC downtown areas if I were going for pleasure.

Overall score: **** (4 stars)
What I loved:Comfortable beds, beautiful facilities
Not so much: Location far from attractions, limited dining, difficult to communicate with staff, internet is pricey!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Michel Richard's Citronell, a taste of luxury!

Michel Richard's Citronelle, Washington DC

I ate here with some colleagues from work while we were in the DC area. I had never heard of it but they were very excited to try it.
Due to the price, it is definitely a once in a lifetime thing (It was about a $1000 for 7 of us) but I am glad we went.

We ordered off the "a la carte" menu which is $95 for a starter and entree. The food is definitely art and is something you won't experience anywhere else. For my starter, I ordered the "Egg Symphony" which is a series of four small appetizers (a cauliflower, lobster scramble with caviar, a slice of tomato and mozzarella, a cheese/mushroom crisp, and some sort of creamy dip in a hollowed out eggshell) all created to look like egg but they're not. Each one was absolutely divine.]
Everyone tried each other's main course and they were very good, but the starts and desserts were the highlight. I got the creme brulee and even that was made to look like a work of art.

The service was outstanding, and they kept bringing us small complimentary courses in between our meal. The waiter chatted with us and the somalier took his time to talk to us and helped us select a bottle of wine that we liked, with no pressure or criticism when we took a while deciding. The mixed drinks were elegant and flavorful as well.

For a basement of a hotel, the decor is lovely, and unique and doesn't feel like you're just dining in downtown DC, it's very classy, and depending on where you are sitting you can view the kitchen in action through a glass window, which is a very neat touch.

Citronelle is definitely a little rough on the wallet, but if you can swing it, or somebody else is treating, definitely do not miss out on eating here at least once!

Overall Score: ****
What I love: The FOOD!!!
Not so Much: The price :(