Archive for April, 2013

Eating Our Way Through Seattle With Savor Seattle’s Gourmet Food & Cultural Tour Part 1

During my recent girls trip to Seattle, I was thrilled when my traveling companion, Vancouver-based digital storyteller Erica Hargreave of Roamancing reached out to Seattle tourism who arranged for us to go on Savor Seattle‘s 3 hour walking & tasting tour of Gourmet Seattle.

While I consider myself a “casual foodie”– I enjoy fine food as much as the next person, I’m not the type who plans a trip around it. But the tour, which is limited to 16 guests and focuses on F.L.O.S.S. (fresh, local, organic, seasonal, and sustainable) foods and beverages, seemed like a great way to get to know the Emerald City, as well as to investigate more of it’s dining stops than we could have even if we hit a different spot for each set meal time.

Our group was led by the upbeat and super-entertaining Seattle native Mark Boeker. We met up to start the tour at the Yellowleaf Cupcake Company, which is famous for it’s Pancakes n’ Bacon flavored cupcake.

1st stop: The Yellowleaf Cupcake Company

Left: The Tomato Soup & Chocolate Cupcake Right: The Pancakes n’ Bacon

As a Los Angeles resident, I’m over the hyper-inflation of the importance of bacon as an ingredient and/or food group. I’m also over the whole trendy cupcakes thing, as the upscale cupcake market is over-saturated in Southern California.  While I was a bit of a reluctant tour goer at the beginning, I was totally game to go along for the ride.

Yellowleaf is the source for all your Seattle bacon needs: bacon brittle, cupcakes, and frozen custard are all available

Cupcake decorating supplies for sale at Yellowleaf Cupcake Co.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much fun (and tasty food and drink) I had on this tour. Our group was fun and pretty much all in their 3os and game to eat our way through Seattle.

I was intrigued by Yellowleaf’s extensive menu of cupcake flavors and didn’t know what to expect when our tour guide told us that we’d be sampling a tomato soup cupcake, but the portion size was appropriate so I took a bite. Truth be told, the tomato was very subtle and I would never have guessed it– it tasted like a pleasant chocolate to me.  Next up was the famous pancakes n’ bacon flavored cupcake. This was worth the hype. It was truly light and delicious. It had fluffy and had deliciously airy frosting and unlike a full-on short stack, went down pretty easy. I was surprised and charmed by this little baked wonder. Yellowleaf cupcakes cost $3.25 as a single, but our two tastings were included with our Savor Seattle tour package (the Gourmet Seattle Food & Cultural Tour costs $69.99 and includes over 20 food & wine tastings. We agreed with our fellow tour goers– it’s a lot of tasty bang per buck).

I visited Yellowleaf as part of Savor Seattle Tours Gourmet Seattle Food & Cultural Tour

The Yellowleaf Cupcake Company
2209 4th Avenue
Seattle, Washington 98121
Phone 206-441-4240

Verdict: A win. I would have never have walked into this place without the tour and now I can’t wait to bring my husband here to check out the flavors. I also liked the serving size.

Stop 2: Serious Pie

On the job at Serious Pie

Behold: the roasted seasonal mushrooms and truffle cheese pizza

Did I mention that Erica & I purposely skipped breakfast so we’d be able to enjoy this tour to the fullest? I’m so glad we did because while we ate dessert first, our second stop was Serious Pie, which is part of the Tom Douglas empire of restaurants. For those of you who don’t watch Top Chef, Tom Douglas is an award winning chef and restauranteur who has made Seattle his home since the late 70s. He’s won James Beard awards and runs a bunch of Seattle’s top restaurants and has won Iron Chef.

I’ll be back to Serious Pie and I intend to taste this banana cream pie

I was really excited about this stop on the tour because we got to try some flavors of pizza I’d never think to order but really enjoyed. For me the standout was the roasted seasonal mushrooms and truffle cheese pizza ($17 if you order it off the menu, but our slices were included in the ticket fee). It was really flavorful and satisfying and accessible– I’m pretty sure gourmet pizza is the gateway drug to food snobbism.

Serious Pie
316 Virginia
Seattle, WA 98121

Open daily 11 am- 11 pm

Verdict: Another Win. Next time I want to try to Banana Cream pie.

Stay tuned for more posts about the Savor Seattle’s Gourmet Seattle Food & Cultural Tour

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Spa Style at the Four Seasons Seattle

Pink orchids add to the zen chic vibe at the Four Seasons Seattle Spa

Pacific Northwest style is embraced at the Four Seasons Spa in downtown Seattle. The spa’s facilities are 6,000 square feet of understated luxury– basalt rock and glass brick are featured throughout the eight treatment rooms. The rock used in the spa interiors has even been cut in a manner to show off its fossil-like dendrites, which make you feel surrounded by nature even though you’re in the middle of downtown.

The Four Seasons spa’s signature treatments embrace the hotel’s Pacific Northwest environs. You can book a 4 1/2 hour Mount Rainier Journey or try a Deep Forest Bliss treatment complete with balsam and pine body oil. After learning that the spa was open on Sunday (win!), I scheduled an Amala rejuvenating anti-ageing facial for a Sunday morning as a final treat to my Girls Trip weekend.

The spa has a zen charm and very comfy seating. You can even order room service

Scenes from the spa

Fossil Like Dendrites in the stone are a particularly charming detail

After slipping into a fluffy bathrobe, my therapist, the lovely Christine, led me back from the orchid-filled relaxation room to where I would get my treatment. I was thrilled to learn the spa uses Skinceuticals products, which are a personal favorite of mine (I keep a bottle of their B5 Hydrating Gel in my TSA approved liquids bag). The spa has variety of eco-friendly products available for purchase when you check out, but there is no hard produce sell. The relaxed, service-centric style is pure Four Seasons, and really what luxury is all about.

A variety of beverages and a spa menu are available to spa goers

I loved the different textures: soft chairs, glass bricks and fleshy orchids

A Variety of Eco-Friendly Products are available for purchase at the Spa

I relaxed for the next 80 minutes as Christine explained the different steps of the facial. She was lovely and informative but not chatty. The mild glycolic peel was lightly tingly but effective. Halfway through the treatment Christine even took out a hand mirror to show me the lifting effects on half my face, which were surprisingly visible even during the procedure.  I left the spa glowing and excited to learn that the facial’s visible results last for about 8 days.

The spas facilities boast a steam room and fluffy robes

Glass brick adds a modern touch to the spa, and makes it man-friendly

Go ahead– say yes to a lavender infused chilled towel.

Even if you’re not a guest at the hotel property, the spa is fantastic place to book a treatment and enjoy some  fabulous Four Seasons service. You can even order room service right from the relaxation room.

The spa is a favorite among locals.  It was a perfect retreat for a girls weekend, but the vibe was modern enough that guys would be comfortable too. I can’t help thinking the treatments would be a great treat for Seattle mom on Mother’s Day.

The Spa at the Four Seasons Seattle
99 Union Street
Seattle, WA 98101

Phone: 1 (206) 749-7000

Disclosure: my spa service was provided gratis from the Four Seasons. It was so fabulous I gave Christine a really big tip.

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Dining in an 100 Year Old Colonial Mansion at Sri Lanka’s Liya Wela Restaurant

The Motorized Fans Above Gleaming Wood Tables at Ulagalla’s Liya Wela Restaurant

It’s always cool when a hotel has a bit of history. At Ulagalla eco-resort in Sri Lanka, the hotel’s reception, bar, and the Liyawela restaurant of are located in a beautifully restored 100 year old Wallawwa (colonial manor house) that once belonged to the village chieftain.

The Sri Lankan Breakfast Was Spicy and Satisfying

I ordered the Sri Lankan breakfast which included a local specialty called string hoppers, chicken curry and sambol (a chili-like condiment). It was the right degree of hot for me. The menu also had an American breakfast and Continental Deluxe but what would be the fun in ordering that?

The menu had a variety of dishes including vegetarian options. I enjoyed the curries especially. Sri Lankan curries are hot, but I found Ulagalla’s to be nicely spicy. At dinner, the biryani was particularly tasty.

The Wine Tree Was a Whimsical Touch

Why can’t E. Guigal Chateauneuf-du-Pape grow on trees? It’s my favorite (and pairs nicely with spicy food). Ulagalla has an underground wine cellar with a glass roof, should you like to pair your food with a nice bottle. This tree, decorated with empty bottles is located at the entrance to the Lilaweya dining room.

The Motorized fans help keep you cool even if the food is hot

Ulagalla believes in bio-cuisine and has food available whenever you are hungry. While 24 hour room service is available, I preferred to dine with my fellow guests in the hotel dining room. One night during my stay, tables were set up poolside which was a nice treat. You can also arrange to dine in one of the rice paddies if you’d prefer.

Dinner portions were just the right size  for the tropical climate

Night at Ulagalla’s Restored Colonial Mansion

One night I ate at a table set up near the pool. It was lovely.

The Estate’s walawwa, or grand manor house, was orginally built over a 100 years ago.


Scenes from a restored colonial mansion

A view from my breakfast table overlooking the pool at Liya Wela

Ulagalla Resort is located in Thirappane village and about 20 KM from the ancient city of Anuradhapura. Ulagalla is member of SLH Hotels and can be booked directly from the SLH website.

 

 

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Sublime Sri Lanka: My Stay in A Private Chalet at Ulagalla

Morning at My Chalet at Ulagalla

I’ve already written about the special vibe at Ulagalla Resort in Thirappana, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka in my previous post. Now it’s time to focus on the facts– Ulagalla’s rooms are actually 20 extremely private and spacious guest chalets are spread over the property’s 58 acres lush green of rice paddies and lush green environs. Ulagalla is LEED certified silver and committed to sustainable tourism, which is perfect for those who like their creature comforts to be environmentally friendly. Each guest chalet comes with it’s own private plunge pool and wifi.

Left: Ulagalla’s Helipad R: Each Guest Chalet has a pair of bikes parked in the “garage.”

A Perfect Start to a Morning at Ulagalla

The Balcony and Plunge Pool Deck Were Perfect For Relaxing and and Enjoying a Spot of Tea

The chalets are comfortably furnished with  Colonial chic interiors. There’s teak furniture inside and on the balcony and pool deck. Each villa comes with it’s own set of bicycles so you can explore Ulagalla’s grounds on your own, should you feel so inclined.

The property is bordered by the Wannamaduwa and Ullagalla reservoirs. Bodies of water are filled with water flowers, lotus, and lilies. Wildlife- from birds to monkeys– happily go about their business in the surrounding environment without being intrusive to guests.

You Can Have Your Meals Delivered to your Chalet if You Prefer Private Dining

In-room Tea Amenity at Ulagalla

My Guest Chalet had a Comfy Couch and Seating Area. I Never Even Turned On the Television!

The Villas consist of a large bedroom, a spacious bathroom and a living and dining room. You can have your meals delivered directly to your chalet or choose to go to the resort’s restaurant located in a renovated colonial villa which once belonged to the chieftain of the village.

Sri Lanka has a long colonial history and is known for the fine tea grown in it’s highlands. So it’s no surprise that each chalet has some pretty impressive tea-making paraphernalia and a wide variety of teas. I really enjoyed my morning cuppa on my chalet’s deck overlooking the plunge pool.

Tea Paraphernalia in my Guest Chalet at Ulagalla

Colonial Chic Bedroom at Ulagalla

The Luxury of Privacy +  This Dreamy Bed= a Good Night’s Rest

Bathrooms are large and packed with every amenity. There was no bathtub, as is common in eco-friendly resorts, but I didn’t miss one. The shower was spacious and had good water pressure.

The Bathroom in My Guest Chalet at Ulagalla

Wooden Blinds Are Featured Throughout the Villa’s Rooms and Bathroom

Ulagalla Resorts Private Label Bathroom Amenities Smelled Wonderful

Ulagalla is committed to sustainable tourism. The property produces most of it’s own electricity and some of it’s own bio-gas also boasts an organic vegetable garden.

Most impressive though is Ulagalla’s link to the nearby villages. Not only does much of the staff live there, but Ulagalla is an important part of their life.

Before I I came to Sri Lanka, what I most wanted to do was tour & photograph the country’s UNESCO World Heritage sites, such as the nearby ancient sacred city of Anuradhapura. Yet the highlight of my stay was photographing sunset at the reservoir on the border of Ulagalla’s property, where the local people where doing laundry and taking a swim in their favorite swimming hole.

Local villagers use the reservoir as a swimming hole and laundrette.

A few local tuk-tuk drivers cooled off at dusk in the reservoir

Jumping at magic hour at Ulagalla

The local residents were friendly and welcoming. Experiencing warm Sri Lankan hospitality both in resort’s own facilities as well as interacting and photographing them at the reservoir was an experience I won’t forget. It was a perfect example of what an unexpected luxury that doesn’t fit into a box to check on a hotel review. Yet it’s this wonderful attitude that makes Ulagalla such a special and kind of magical place.

Morning Sunlight over the Working Rice Paddies at Ulagalla

Ulagalla is a member of SLH Hotels and can be booked directly through the SLH website.

 

My stay at Ulagalla was sponsored by the resort and SLH Hotels.

 

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Sublime Sri Lanka: A Stay at Ulagalla Resort

Morning at Ulagalla Resort Located in Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle

During my trip to Sri Lanka, the two days and nights I was a guest at eco-friendly Ulagalla Resort that truly made me fall in love with the country. Located in Anuradhapura in the country’s cultural triangle, Ulagalla is both intimate (2o guest chalets) and grand (the property is spread out over 58 acres of rice paddies). Ulagalla is member of SLH, Small Luxury Hotels of the World, where all the properties are privately owned and small but have high standards for service.

When I arrived at Ulagalla, The smiling staff greeted me with cool towels and said, “welcome to your home.” Then I took part in a smoky and mysterious check-in ritual which involved bell ringing and incense. I was utterly charmed.

The original colonial mansion was built in 1885. It has been meticulously restored and now houses the resort’s reception area, bar & restaurant.

Lotus flowers and water lilies open in the morning on a pond in front of Ulagalla’s main building

With a spa, pool, and stables on the property you could happily spend days at Ulagalla without leaving the property. I have to recommend taking a nature hike or canoe trip with one of resort’s guides to watch the sunset at one of the two lakes which border the property.

But most of guests who stay here are cultural travelers who want to visit the nearby sites in Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle.  Ulagalla is perfectly situated to be a luxurious home base for those who want to visit the ancient capital and Buddhist shrines at Anuradhapura, which is only about half an hour away (and the hotel can help arrange a car and driver/guide).  You can get breakfast at the hotel and explore the he rock cave Buddhist temples of Dambulla an hour later. Or check out the rock fortress of Sirgirya, another of Sri Lanka’s UNESCO World Heritage sites located nearby.

The reception area at Ulagalla Resort is filled with antiques and teak seating areas

Ulagalla’s main building and restaurant are located in a 150 year old old exquisitely restored colonial mansion.  The 20 guest chalets (eaeh with a private plunge pool) on the property are spread out over the resort’s grounds which stretch over lush working rice paddies between two lakes. As fabulous as Ulagalla’s buildings and property are, it’s the genuine warmth of the staff that makes this place special in that rare way that is far harder to describe than gloating about it’s silver LEED certification. The  local ladies and gentleman who work at the resort all share a special spirit. They are perfect brand ambassadors- pleasant, helpful and understated. They are proud of Sri Lanka and Ulagalla and simply delightful to be around. I really enjoyed chatting with several different staff members during my stay. 

The whimsical wine tree in the restaurant at Ulagalla was one of my favorite touches. If only Chateauneuf-du-Pape grew on trees!

I really liked the “bio-clock” dining attitude at Ulagalla- there are no set meal times. The hotel’s management knows that it’s guests have traveled far to get here and might be experience jet lag or simply be hungry and tired at odd hours. You eat when you are hungry. It’s that simple. The hotel accomodates the

The reception area at Ulagalla resort

The zen check-in ritual at Ulagalla was enchanting and beautiful

Warm Sri Lankan smiles and hospitality are everywhere at Ulagalla. The staff is proud of their country’s cultural heritage and happy to show it off. I really enjoyed chatting with whichever member of the staff was driving me around the grounds in golf cart.

Leaving Ulagalla it’s this fellow I will miss the most

Ulagalla’s staff is genuinely warm. This charming fellow used to work heavy construction when the property was being built. The hotel’s general manager, Lalin De Mel, recognized his special spirit and felt he would be a great addition to the staff, so he was asked to stay on and work at the property.

“I won the lottery with my first hotel job a bit late in life,” he told me. I think the guests at Ulagalla who get to experience this sort of special charm are the real winners.

The building that houses Ulagalla’s restaurant and bar once belonged to a village chieftain

Ulagalla’s 25 individual guest chalets are spread out over the property. You can travel the grounds on a golf cart, by bicycle (two come with each chalet) or even horseback (there are stables on the property).

Ulagalla is green & gorgeous. Nature lovers can enjoy the wildlife and scenery right on the property. I saw peacocks and monkeys during my stay. You can also take a canoe ride on one of the two lakes which border the property, or a nature hike.

Early morning view at Ulagalla. Birds and peacocks abound.

Ulagalla is located about 3 1/2 hours by car from Columbo’s Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB). You can also arrange transfers by helicopter if you want to avoid the bumpy roads. Rates at Ulagalla start at about $403 per night and can be booked through SLH.

Stay tuned for future posts with more details on this very special resort.

Editor’s Note: My stay at Ulagalla was sponsored by SLH and Ulagalla Resort


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