Hotel Elysee: Pure Elegance

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Not only is Hotel Elysee in a fabulous location (it is close to Central Park), but it also screams luxury and elegance. As soon as I walked into the hotel I was cheerfully greeted by staff and checked in right away. “Welcome, I see you have the Presidential Suite. You have a great room.” He was not lying, it was a great room, indeed! As I opened the door to the room, I was taken aback by the gorgeous design of the room and the beautiful furniture that filled it. I can only describe it as old New York meets Paris.

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Greeting me in the room was a lovely bottle of wine and box of chocolates. How did they know that wine and chocolates is the way to this girls heart? Walking around the main room, I realized it had everything that you’d ever want in your own home. There was a long dining table, couches in front of a fireplace, a writing desk, flat screen television, chairs that were as comfortable as a couch and beautiful paintings around the room. This place is (considerably!) better than my apartment. To top it off there was even a grand piano! I don’t think my child like rendition of Chopsticks was really what it was made for. There was also a full kitchen in case, I felt the urge to cook, which I must admit is a rarity.

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The beautiful decor continued into the bedroom, which was as equally stunning as the main room. Attached to the bedroom was a full terrace with a table and chairs, making it a perfect spot to sit and eat your breakfast, as you watch all the morning hustle of Midtown Manhattan.

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After I got settled in my room, I headed down to the Club Room where guests are offered complimentary wine and hors d’oeuvres every night from 5pm-8pm. The Club Room did not disappoint. The room itself was huge, so there was plenty of room for guests to sit and relax at tables or couches while also being able to keep a level of privacy if you so wish. That being said, it is a fantastic area to socialize with other guests. My friend Julia and I sat by two guests of the hotel and ended up exchanging stories while enjoying our wine and food.

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In the morning, guests are also offered complimentary breakfast. It had a great variety ranging from bagels, pastries, cereals, fruit, yogurt and coffee, as well an impressive assortment of tea. Everything was incredibly fresh and delicious. I had to run out early, so thankfully they had “to go” cups, so that you are able to take your tea or coffee on the road. During the day, the Club Room has coffee, tea, fruits and cookies incase you want to grab an afternoon pick me up or hangout and relax as there is also a library filled with books, magazines and newspapers along with a computer which is conveniently connected to a printer incase you need anything.

If you don’t want to lose out on your workout routine, guests receive complimentary passes to the New York Sports Club which is only a few short blocks away from the hotel! Each room has a couple of bottles of water included so you will be all set for the gym!

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Thank you to Hotel Elysee for providing our stay. All opinions are, as always, my own. 

My ideal #TasteofTravel menu

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Picture your favorite starter, main dish and dessert from anywhere in the world, but all in one menu. That is what I have put together for my #TasteofTravel menu for the Celebrity Cruises blogger competition! They have just won the 2014 Ocean Cruise Line of the Year in the Food and Travel Awards and they have now teamed up with Great British Chefs to help make their food offerings even better! Now they want to hear from travel bloggers to find out what their dream menu would be, from food that they have sampled on their travels. It was quite a hard task to pick only one of each, as I have been lucky enough to try countless amazing dishes from all over the world. After much soul searching I have managed to narrow it down to my most memorable dish for each course.

Starter

I have always wanted to go to Greece, but unfortunately I haven’t made it there yet. After hearing numerous reviews I decided to try a small Greek restaurant in New York called Taverna Kyclades. The ambiance and friendliness of the staff was exactly how I imagined it would be on a Greek Island! The three courses I had were all tasty, but in particular the Kyclades Veggie Chips were just too good not to make the list. It is crispy eggplant and zucchini slices fried tempura style with a creamy tzatziki dip. Not only was it incredibly delicious, but it was unique from anything I have ever had before. The batter was so light and crispy and cooked to absolute perfection, so that it did not taste too greasy. Then to add to the dish, you are given a zesty tzatziki dip. It was so good without the dip, that I didn’t think I needed it, but once I tried it.. woah! It definitely added to the taste making it one of the most memorable dishes I have ever had. Their original location is in Astoria – Queens, which is known as an being an absolute hotbed of Greek culture, so it is not surprising that there is such a gem of a Greek restaurant there.

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Crispy eggplant and zucchini with tzatziki dip

Main

I’ve tried Pad Thai a few times in different places and finally gave up on it as I realized I really did not enjoy it that much. That was until I visited Thailand. I decided to give it another try since I was in the country it originated from and I was given a recommendation from a local, to try a specific street cart that was recognized as making the best Pad Thai in the area. I am so happy I gave it another chance! What I do not like about this dish normally, is the overwhelming taste of peanut but this version did not have it. It actually had a complex taste that differed from any other time I had tried it before. It had a perfect balance of spices, that I could not possibly name, but it certainly did the trick! It easily makes my list and I can honestly say that I haven’t been able to find another Pad Thai that even comes close to it since my adventures in Thailand. It is however a great excuse to go back for another visit!

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Pad Thai

Dessert

When I am travelling, I am always on the hunt for treats, so when I was strolling through the streets of Amsterdam and got caught in the intoxicating aroma of a local waffle shop, I just had to go in. Once inside the waffle shop it was hard to choose from what seemed like an endless amount of options, but after much drooling I finally settled upon a warm waffle with Nutella and cherries. It definitely wasn’t one of the neatest dishes I had ever had to eat, but I hardly cared that I had enough chocolate on my face to make me look like one of the naughty children from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory! This was really an easy choice for my dessert selection, as I still vividly remember scrumptious tasting delight that crossed my lips. Yum!

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Nutella and cherries on a warm belgian waffle

I hope you enjoyed my #TasteofTravel menu! Now I nominate We3Travel, Vagrants of the WorldDifferent Doors and JS Living the Dream to make their own three course menu. Entries will be accepted until January 12th and those entries will be judged by two top Great British Chefs and Deputy Editor of Food and Travel Magazine, Mark Sansom. If you win you’ll be awarded a seven-night European cruise and one £150 voucher to use at one of the Great British Chef’s restaurants. Runners up will receive £75 meal vouchers. May you have as much fun as I did, reliving your delicious meals, as I did mine.

My delicious food tour of Greenwich Village

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The only other thing I love as much as traveling is eating! So as soon as I heard about the Foods of New York Tours, I just had to go on the tour. It doesn’t matter if you are a local like me or a tourist, as long as you like food, this is the tour for you. Not only do you get to try different food at some of the highest rated establishments in New York, but you also learn historical and fun facts about the area. They have a wide range of tours, but I decided to go on their most popular which is the Original Greenwich Village Food & Cultural Tour. I chose this tour as I love the Greenwich Village, this area of Manhattan has such an incredible aura about it.

When I first met our very friendly tour guide Kerri Anne, she greeted me with a bottle of water and a handy booklet, which had all the places we were going to visit, coupons and suggestions of other places we should go to eat. On this tour we would get to partake in tastings at eight different establishments. The first place we went to was Joe’s Pizza. Joe’s Pizza is known as being some of the best pizza in New York and it really did not disappoint. I never order my pizza with a bunch of toppings, so I was happy that we tried a slice of the classic cheese pizza. Original is always the best!

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It is actually the pizzeria that was used for filming the beginning of Spiderman 2, when Tobey Maguire was a pizza delivery man. I knew this place looked familiar!

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The next stop was at O & CO Olive Oil Shop, where we tried a number of different olive oil spreads on Tuscan bread and popcorn with truffle salt. It was delicious! One of the workers in the store spoke to us about the different kinds of olive oil spreads and we even did a balsamic vinegar taste testing to compare the supermarket version vs their premium version. I was in shock at the difference! I have balsamic vinegar all the time, but never like this one. It had a sweet taste to it that made it very unique and extra tasty.

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Our tour guide and one of the shop workers talking to us about the different types of olive oils

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The third stop on the tour was to Faccio’s Italian Speciality Shop, where we had the most mouth watering rice ball and traditional soppressata (Italian salami). I didn’t realize that Greenwich Village had so many Italian delights! Most of the places there are Italian, because apparently it used to be a primarily Italian neighborhood. In fact, our guide told us that if we want truly satisfying Italian food to come here instead of Little Italy. I never would have guessed that!

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Then, we went to Palma Ristorante, which has a beautifully romantic ambiance, I could not think of a more perfect spot for a date night. Our guide brought us straight to the back of the restaurant which to our surprise is actually an old farmhouse! The original owners didn’t tear it down when they built the restaurant, instead they expanded and built on to it. It still has a kitchen downstairs and rooms upstairs, along with their personal library. Many people enjoy eating in this rare atmosphere such as Howard Stern who was a frequent customer of theirs. I couldn’t believe I actually ate in an authentic farmhouse that is over 200 years old that was right in the heart of Greenwich Village! It is still unbelievable to think that there was once farm life in what is now the metropolis that is Manhattan. Not only is the restaurant itself extraordinary, but the food is too. We had Cavolifore Plama which is sautéed cauliflower with pine nuts, caramelized onion, currants and breadcrumbs. Who knew that cauliflower could taste so good?

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Fifth on our list was Rafele Italian Restaurant, where we got to sit down and have a small meal which consisted of eggplant rollatini and foccica bread. If you want to order a drink such as a glass of wine to pair with your food, you can do that as well. My friend Evelyn came with me on the tour and tried eggplant rollatini for the first time here! This was a nice interlude to our eating tour where we got to sit, relax, have a drink and chat to other people on our tour.

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Fresh out of the oven! YUM!

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Now it was time for dessert at Milk and Cookies Bakery. We sampled a classic warm chocolate chip cookie. Is there anything more soothing than a warm gooey cookie straight out of the oven? I am drooling just thinking about it. One of the coupons we received is for here, which I will most definitely be using when I go back for more!

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Next was Murray’s Cheese & Gourmet Food. As soon as you walk in the rich, powerful smell of the cheeses overtake you. I had no idea that there were so many different kinds of cheese! We went upstairs and tried cow, sheep and goat cheese along with a cheesy bread. They were all distinctly different and yet all still delicious!

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Our eighth and final stop on the tour was at Pasticceria Rocco shop. My jaw hit the floor just looking at the dessert display on the window (shhhh, I am sure I left a nose print). I have a huge sweet tooth, so this place was my heaven. I couldn’t stop staring at the scrumptious variety of cookies, cakes, pies, basically any type of pastry you can think of. The slices of cake I saw people eating were gigantic, now that’s my kind of cake! To put a stop to our drooling our guide came over with a box full of cannoli’s oozing with cream. It was the perfect end to a perfect food tour.

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I would recommend a Foods of New York Tours for any food lover. It is a great way to see different areas of the city, hear about the culture and not only try a variety of foods, but learn a bit about their origins as well. Now I know how to choose my olive oil, meats and cheese! The booklet I got at the beginning of the tour gives you additional restaurant and shop suggestions, as well as some choice favorites from each establishment. When I go back to Greenwich Village for something to eat, I will certainly know where to go!

Disclaimer: Thank you to Foods of New York Tours for providing our tour. All opinions are, as always, my own. 

Lights, Camera, Action! My TV & Movie Sites Tour

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Ever been curious to see the places where your favorite movies and television shows have been filmed? I certainty was! So I decided to go on a TV & Movie Sites Tour around Manhattan with On Location Tours. The tour was so much fun! Not only did I get to see famous locations, but I learned a lot of interesting facts about them as well. For example did you know that Times Square was completely shut down, so Tom Cruise could film a scene in “Vanilla Sky” where it appears to be deserted? That was the first and only time that has ever happened. It caused so much chaos and traffic that from now on, they are forced to use special effects to make it look like the city is empty.

Being New York, productions are constantly being filmed, so we had a lot to see. We drove around the city on an uber comfy bus, which was packed with TV’s showing TV and movie clips related to the tour. This really helped build the excitement up on the tour. It was incredibly cool to watch the clips as we drove by each location, while our tour guide was describing what was filmed there. I must admit it was a buzz picturing Will Smith standing outside of the apartment where he lived in “I Am Legend” and Spiderman climbing up Hearst Tower. There are so many locations that I walk past all the time, that I didn’t even know were used in some of my favorite films! I work right by the National Museum of the American Indian and had no idea it was the Museum used in Ghostbusters. The clips on the bus really help give you that eureka moment.

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The official “Men In Black” MIB headquarters. No alien sightings that day 😛

To keep things fresh we also got to stop along the way. The first stop was at Washington Square Park where they filmed movies such as “Enchanted”, When Harry Met Sally”, “Big Daddy” and popular TV shows such as “Blue Bloods” and “Glee”. Then we went to Soho and were given some free time and a map of different locations that we could check out such as the Dean & DeLuca where “Felicity” worked, Dash where the Kardashians work in “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” and the apartment where Demi Moore lived in “Ghost”. If you decided that you wanted to use some of that time to shop or grab food, you could of course do that instead. While checking out the Dean & DeLuca, I had to buy some treats, which I immediately scoffed on the bus.

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The infamous arch in Washington Square park

After that we stopped at Hook & Ladder which was the firehouse where they filmed “Ghostbusters”, “Hitch” and “Seinfeld”. It is actually an active firehouse, but you can take a peek inside the window and see the “Ghostbusters” sign from the movie! Then we went to the apartment building that was featured in “Friends” where Rachel, Monica and the gang lived. I was amazed by how much smaller the building looks than in the show. I guess the camera really does add ten pounds 😛 Did you know that the owner of the apartment was never paid for any of the shots of the building? Not a penny! Only if they would have had to set up lights or equipment to film the building, otherwise they are fully in their rights to film as they please. I would be pretty bitter if I owned those apartments!

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The Hook & Ladder Firehouse – Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!

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“Friends” apartment in Greenwich Village!

During the tour, I realized I wouldn’t have been able to find many of these places on my own. Most of the addresses and locations are made up, so if you want to see where the Huxtables lived in Brooklyn or the Friends apartment by Central Park, you’d be in trouble because both are in Greenwich Village! When the tour ended, we were dropped off by The Original Soup Man which was where the cast of “Seinfeld” would go for their soup in the show (except for of course Elaine “No soup for you!”), so if you are hungry after your tour you can pop in and have the soup everyone was raving about!

Thank you On Location Tours, I had so much fun and now I will enjoy re-runs of my favorite shows and movies that little bit more!

Disclaimer: Thank you to On Location Tours for providing our tour. All opinions are, as always, my own. 

Amazing brunch spots in NYC

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Weekends in New York are all about the brunch! Since most restaurants have brunch it is extremely difficult to decide upon which place to go to. If you hunt around online for “NYC Brunch” you will literally get thousands of results. It can most definitely be overwhelming! I have been to a ton of places, many were good but there are a few that definitely topped my list, so I feel like I had to share! My NYC experiences have given you a full variety, whether you are looking for a good deal, unlimited drinks or just a mouthwatering meal! These are in no particular order. I tried.. couldn’t decide!

1. Cork ‘n Fork; East Village, Manhattan – This place has a tapas style brunch, which I love because I get to try different things. Why have one huge meal when you can try multiple options? If you prefer a regular meal, don’t worry, not everything on the menu is tapas, there are alternative options.

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Plate at the top: Ave A – Singapore Crab cake: w.fried crispy boiled egg served w. chili crab sauce, Taquitos Wrap: Corn Tortilla wrapped w. chicken, cream cheese, spinach, cheddar and salsa pan fried and Black Angus Beef Slider with seasonal fries with a white win sangria.

Plate at the bottom: Ave C – Croquette Spinach: Spinach croquette and parmesan regiana with aioli, Stuffed Avocado Pico de Gallo: Stuffed w. tomato and pico de gallo, topped w. poached egg and chipotle salsa, Spanish Tortilla: Baked egg omelette w. idiazabal cheese, potato and Serrano ham and a French Kiss which is similar to a bellini (both drinks paid separately).

2. Max Brenners; Greenwich Village, Manhattan; Even though it is a restaurant that is known for its desserts, they have an amazing range of savory food choices as well. They offer the sweet options such as Cinnamon Apple & White Chocolate Cream French Toast and Chocolate Pancakes, but they also have savory meal options. No matter what you order, you will get a sweet treat with it. My omelet came with sugar buttermilk biscuit and a side of chocolate! I can never decide if I want sweet or savory so we usually order a savory meal and then a sweet treat to share. You better make sure you have room in your stomach for this place!

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Hang-Over Omelet – bacon, onion, red pepper & cheddar cheese with a diamond-dusted sugar buttermilk biscuit, spiced home fries & a pure melted chocolate lick. I also got a delicious drink called Choco-pops! It is a hot chocolate topped with crunchy chocolate wafer balls.


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After Party Belgian Waffle – balsamic strawberries, whipped cream, strawberry honey, melted white chocolate

3. Blue Ribbon Bakery Kitchen; West Village, Manhattan- One word.. Mouthwatering!! The Blue Benedict is a must-have, although tweaking the classic by adding Jarlsberg, tomato and putting it on top of toasted challah is a an awesome icing on the cake. As a disclaimer, I have to warn you, it is not cheap. My meal was $17 and it didn’t include a side or a drink, but it is so good that I didn’t care. The restaurant is small and they don’t take reservations, so I would suggest going off-peak around 2pm so you don’t have to wait.

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Blue Benedict – Ham, Jarlsberg, Tomato on Toasted Challah

4. Agave; West Village, Manhattan – If you choose the $27.95 pre-fixe menu, you get your meal and a two hour bottomless choice of mimosa, wine or traditional margarita. This is the only place I’ve been to that has unlimited margaritas and trust me… they are not watered down! The waiters came by the table a lot with pitchers to refill us and didn’t kick us out after we were there past two hours.

5. Barraca ;West Village, Manhattan – Want some good sangria and a spanish style brunch? This place has unlimited sangria for two hours if you add an extra $15 to your meal, but I assure you, it is most definitely worth it. Instead of the typical red and white, they offer different flavors, which includes guava which is amazingly delicious!

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Guava Sangria

6. Flo Lounge; Astoria, Queens – $15 prix-fixe which includes food and a coffee or tea along with a brunch cocktail. You can choose from sangria, mimosa, bellini, champagne, bloody mary or orange juice. The food was good and you have a great variety on the menu to choose from!

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Southwestern Benedict – Toasted Biscuits topped with Smoked Pulled Pork, Poached Eggs, Cheddar and Chipotle Hollandaise

7. Jane; West Village, Manhattan; A little bit pricey (the cheapest breakfast item is $17) but my food was very, very good and you get a complimentary drink if you order from brunch section. Definitely make reservations!! This place is always packed so you will have a painfully long wait if you don’t.

8. NORMA’S at Le Parker Meridien; Midtown West, Manhattan – Does a donut cake filled with cheesecake, banana-macadamia nut pancakes or chocolate french toast sound good to you? Then this place is a must! I am still dreaming about what I am going to try the next time I go back. It is expensive and ranges from between $25-$30 depending on the dish, however, the plates are huge so you can share or wrap up your leftovers (or devour it all like I did!) If you don’t have a big sweet tooth, they have other options. But why would you? 😛

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Donut Even Go There French Toast – Cheesecake-Stuffed, Coconut-Rolled with Orange Drizzle and Vanilla Ice Cream

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Chocolate Decadence French Toast – Covered in Strawberries, Pistachios and Valrhona Chocolate Sauce. This is only a half a serving! We told our waiter we were going to share it and he had them pre-cut it for us before he brought it out.

Now that you know where to go, here is some additional information you will need. Brunch is typically served on Saturday and Sunday, between 11am-3pm. However, some are only on Sundays or have a different serving schedule so make sure to check online. Reservations are also very important otherwise you might not get in or have to wait 1-2 hours for a table. You can either call or use open table if the company has it. Now go make some reservations and eat up!!!