Posts Tagged ‘foodie’

Exploring Montana: A Stay at the Ranch at Rock Creek with Dogs

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Horsing around at the Ranch at Rock Creek

I’m a big fan of Montana and try to visit the Treasure State as often as I can. Last month my husband made a repeat visit to The Ranch at Rock Creek in Philipsburg and this time we took our two Labrador Retrievers with us.

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Wildfires in the area made the Montana skies less picturesque than usual

There is a huge difference between properties that tolerate pets and those that are truly pet-friendly. The Ranch at Rock Creek is the latter. While the resort does charge a pet fee of $50 a pet per night, it’s totally worth it to be able to wander the Ranch and hang out at the bar with your dogs. Our labs weren’t the only dogs on the property. They made a few friends including an extremely friendly Golden Doodle named Tex and Flint, a black lab who lives at the RRC.

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Charming porch outside Eagle’s Perch

Wildfires have been a big problem in the west this year, and Montana had a lot of them during the time we visited. This gave the air a constant chargrilled scent and the skies a bazaar cast that made it look they had a sunset filter on from sun up to sun down. But that didn’t hamper the three days of fun we had at The Ranch at Rock Creek.

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Morning view of the Welcome Pond

The Ranch provided pick up and transportation for us (and our two labradors) from the airport to the property. The nearest major airport is Missoula, which is approximately 90 minutes by car. We arrived at the Ranch in time for lunch, which we enjoyed outdoors since the fall weather was still warm enough to dine outside. Lunch was delicious, as the RRC is an all-inclusive property as well as the world’s only Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star ranch.

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Supermodel Horse

We wanted to stay in the Loft of the Historic Barn because the room stood out during our last trip to the Ranch. It was very nicely situated close to the Barn and the Rod & Gun Club which were the staging area where most of our activities started.

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The western chic bathroom in the Loft of the Historic Barn

You never go hungry at the Ranch at Rock Creek. It’s a Relais & Châteaux property and chef Chef Josh Drage’s food program keeps getting better. The day started with morning coffee in the Granite Lodge and breakfast a bit later. Our dogs enjoyed joining us for Social Hour with Cocktails and Hors d’oeuvres at 5 pm.

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Grilled steak salad in the Granite Lodge

Breakfast and lunch are served in the Granite Lodge, and for dinner they mixed things up. One night we had a great BBQ. We also enjoyed long trail ride followed by a picnic lunch at The Top of the World, the highest viewpoint of the ranch. Normally the Top of the World is is known for it’s stunning views of Big Sky Country. The views were hampered by the smoky air but we still enjoyed the experience, complete with homemade lemonade and locally brewed beer.

Fun fact: Montana is #2 in number of microbreweries per capita (only Oregon has more)

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Ribeye and Zeppelin enjoying Montana life

We took a lot of long walks around the property because the the dogs really enjoyed roaming and running and playing in the creek (which was pretty shallow this time of the year). RRC has hired naturalists on staff to help show you around the property, and we loved loved it.

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Girl goats at the barn

My younger lab, Ribeye was less charmed by the three goats who roamed the grounds. They were friendly but he’s definitely not a fan.

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Dog day afternoon at the Ranch at Rock Creek

We like to get on horses in Montana and took daily trail rides. My husband especially enjoyed the shooting sports raving about the pistols and rifle range.

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Getting ready for a trail ride

I passed on the guns and hung out at the bar where the bartender made a great margarita and delicious Montana Mule served up in a copper mug made from locally mined copper from nearby Butte.

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trail riding fun

We were even given two Ranch at Rock Creek copper mugs as a welcome amenity.

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Scene from a trail ride

The staff at the Ranch at Rock Creek is great and laundry service was speedy (riding clothes get dusty quick). The barn even has quite an array of loaner boots in case you forgot a pair that is suitable for riding.

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Obligatory cow photo

During the summer months, the Ranch at Rock Creek has a rodeo on the property. Riding lessons can also take place in the ranch’s arena.

 

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Good to go trail riding

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Left: Montana Craft Beer Right: Smoky views at the Top of the World

The dogs were sad when our three day stay at the ranch came to an end. I hope to bring them back during another season, since winter and summer have different experiences to offer.

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Morning ride

The Ranch at Rock Creek is also a popular spot for corporate retreats, destination weddings, and family reunions since it has lots to offer in a fun yet luxurious atmosphere and can accommodate 125 guests.

 

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targets from the shooting activities 

In the winter, there is even an ice skating pond complete with a warming hut. I’d love to spend the holidays here!

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Creek Crossing

The RRC is constantly improving and upgrading. The property is closed from late mid- January to mid-February and this is when some of the improvements happen. We heard a new Rod & Gun Club in is the works.

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Left: BBQ goodness Right: Grilled veggies and ribs

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Spicy beans

We had so much fun at the Ranch at Rock Creek. Our dogs did too. The staff was even helpful locating a hose so we could rinse off our dogs after a particularly dust-filled day of exploring.

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Flint, the ranch dog, joined Zeppelin and Ribeye for a game of fetch

The other guests at the Ranch at Rock Creek are also cool. We socialized over cocktails and everyone had interesting tales from their day of adventure.

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Zeppelin on the wagon

 

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Left: Ribeye enjoying nature Right: Zeppelin on the go

It was pure joy watching our labs play in the creek and run free at the ranch. They don’t have this kind of freedom at home in Seattle.

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Zeppelin and Ribeye enjoying Rock Creek

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Smoky mid-day sun at the Ranch at Rock Creek

My trip to the Ranch at Rock Creek was booked through Linda Clark of Lake Forest Travel Bureau. You can reach her via the email below.

linda@lakeforesttravel.com

(All inclusive rates at the Ranch at Rock Creek begin at $900)

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Exploring Italy: Where to Eat in Taormina, Sicily

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Burrata for breakfast at the Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea

Tell people you are going to Sicily and you are sure to get a positive response from those who have visited that will some variation of “the food is amazing.”

Sicily has a reputation for being part of Italy, yet separate from it with it’s own unique traditions, customs and food. It’s definitely still Southern Italian cuisine, but with Greek, Arab, Spanish and French influences. Sicilian dishes often have olives, pine nuts, saffron, pistachios and an enthusiastic dose of exotic spices.

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Perfect plate of pasta at The Giardino dei Limoni

Be sure to read the fine print on the menu– it’s not uncommon to see horse or donkey meat on the menu. I saw donkey listed as an ingredient for the “hamburger.” Curiously enough, on the Children’s Menu at the at same restaurant, the dish was simple called “hamburger” with no mention of what type of meat was used.

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Spritz o’clock at the Belmond

Of the local specialties I found the stand out to be the arancini (deep friend rice balls filled with ragu sauce, mozzarella and peas and covered in bread crumbs), which were surprisingly light and completely delicious.

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Perfectly plated appetizers at the Hotel Metropole Lounge

Sicily is famous for it’s sea food and I was looking forward to enjoying some octopus. My visit took place during a heatwave, and after seeing flies on some of the fresh fish set up for display in restaurants, I decided to avoid it.

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Belmond breakfast options at the Villa Sant’Andrea

I did indulge in the spaghetti all vongole (spaghetti with clams) which was light, savory and delicious. The restaurant in Taormina which served the best one I found was at Ristorante Da Giovanni, just a 5 minute walk from the Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea Mare hotel.

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Heart shaped caprese salad

Ristorante Da Giovanni turned out to be my favorite dining spot in Taormina. The casually elegant cliffside restaurant became my go-to spot for lunch and a few Aperol Spritz, where were served at bargain prices compared to the restaurant bars.

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Left: Frozen fruit bars in Taormina Right: Yummy arancini at the Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea bar

Sicilian deserts tended to be light and appropriate to the August heat. Frozen fruit bars seemed more popular than gelato and are easily found at many spots along the main streets of Taormina. Mango, lemon and melon were light and summery.

Spritz O’Clock at Ristorante Da Giovanni

The two hotels where I stayed, The San Domenico Palace and Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea, both served excellent breakfasts. While the San Domenico Palace had a fine dining restaurant that gets rave reviews, but in the heat I preferred dining at The Giardino dei Limoni, the casual  pergola-covered pool side dining spot. They serve an excellent Penne alla Norma, a Sicilian pasta with eggplant, tomatoes, olives, and basil.

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Spritz with a view at Ristorante da Giovanni

Breakfast at both hotels was typical five-star Italian, with a variety of meats and cheese and eggs served all the usual ways. There was plenty of yoghurt and muesli as well. Mozzarella di bufala for breakfast might have tasted extra good when paired with stunning views of the Ionian coast.

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Left: Spaghetti alla vongole at the Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea bar, Right: Pasta alla Norma

At dinner be sure to try some wine grown on the nearby hills of Mt. Etna. The nutrient-rich volcanic ash makes it ideal for vitoculture. The Lounge at the Hotel Metropole has a lovely deck which serves up five star sea views along with classic cocktails and fine Sicilian wine. In lieu of a heavy dinner, happy hour here was delightful. They have a nice riff on a mezze platter complete with a lovely eggplant parmigiana, which is much lighter and served cold like a salad.

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A glass of wine from Mt. Etna and water views at Hotel Metropole

Contact details for my favorite dining spots in Taormina, Sicily are below.

San Domenico Palace Hotel

Piazza San Domenico, 5, 98039 Taormina ME, Italy

Tel: +39 0942 613111

Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea

Via Nazionale, 137, 98039 Taormina ME, Italy

Tel: +39 0942 627 1200

Hotel Metropole Taormina

Corso Umberto, 154, 98039 Taormina ME, Italy

Tel: +39 0942 24013

Ristorante Da Giovanni

Via Nazionale, 105, 98039 Taormina ME, Italy

Tel: +39 0942 23531

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Exploring Maui, Hawaii: Ho’okipa Beach, Paia and Mama’s Fish House

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The beach outside of Mama’s Fish House

If you’re looking for something different from the mega resorts on Maui, I’d highly advise spending a day exploring Ho’okipa Beach Park and the charming town of Paia.  Ho’okipa is one of the best windsurfing spots on the island if not the planet. It’s also a favorite of surfers and people who just want to watch them while enjoying a day at the beach.

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Summer day at Ho’okipa Beach Park

I am particularly fond of the mix of locals and tourists at Ho’okipa Beach. There are even a few interesting food trucks if you need a quick bite to eat.

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Food trucks at Ho’okipa Beach 

Drink a coconut or grab a nibble, but don’t spoil your appetite. You’ll want it later.

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Another view of Ho’okipa Beach 

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Left: Getting ready to surf at Ho’okipa Right: Surfing rush hour

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Windsurfing at Ho’okipa Beach

Ho’okipa is located close to Paia, which a charming spot to browse, go shopping, or grab a shave ice.

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Sun’s out/buns out at Ho’okipa Beach

Bathing suits are cheeky this season. If you’re doing the sun’s out/buns out thing, don’t forget your sunscreen!

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Kampachi Ceviche at Mama’s Fish House

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After you’ve worked up an appetite at the beach, head to nearby Mama’s Fish House for a meal. Be sure to book ahead… there is a reason Mama’s is so popular!

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Left: Blue Hawaiian at Mama’s Fish House Right: the cute pineapple I found blended right in with the Hawaiian decor

While fresh fish is the specialty at Mama’s they also serve excellent short ribs as well as some island specialities like fresh poi and kalua wild boar.

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Grilled shrimp at Mama’s

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img_9419Left: Ahi poke Right: Fresh poi comes complimentary at Mama’s

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Mahi mahi and ahi Panang curry

This is great place to try a tropical cocktail. Mama’s version of the Mai Tai isn’t too sweet. The Blue Hawaiian is probably more photogenic than it is my taste.

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Tiki pineapple goodness at Mama’s Fish House

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Mama’s menu + pineapple = art

After a mai tai or two, I got creative and noticed my pineapple felt like part of the menu art at Mama’s Fish House.

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View from a table at Mama’s Fish House

Mama’s Fish House also has The Inn at Mama’s right next door, should you wish to stay in this charming part of the island. I plan on doing so on my next visit to the island.

Ho’okipa Beach Park

Located at Mile #9 on Hâna Highway (36).

Mama’s Fish House

799 Poho Place,
Paia, HI 96779
TEL (808) 579-8488
FAX (808) 579-8594

OPEN DAILY from 11am to 9pm

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Exploring Maui, Hawaii: A Sunset Sail on the Alli’i Nui

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Sailing at sunset on Maui

On my recent girls trip to Maui, I decided to take a sunset cruise to check out the scenery by boat. After reading many reviews, I booked on the Royal Feast Dinner Sail aboard the Alii Nui.

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Bare feet aboard the Alii Nui

This two 1/2 hour adults-only cruise provided transportation to and from our hotel (the Andaz Maui at Wailea), and I liked that the luxury sailing catamaran was capacity controlled so that guests plenty of space. The $189.00 all-inclusive price included unlimited cocktails as well as dinner and transportation (gratuity is not included).

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Up go the sails on the Alii Nui

The dinner menu included appetizers such as local vegetable crudités, caprese skewers, cheese and crackers and wide array of selections for dinner. Prime rib, Kiawe smoked baby back ribs, sushi, and crab cakes were very popular. Everything I tried was good but food was not the main focus of this sunset cruise. The full bar with cocktails, beer and wine were also included. There was even a selection of Scotch and after dinner liquors.

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Magic hour aboard the Alii Nui

The crew of the Alii Nui made us feel taken care of before we even got to Maalaea Harbor. They were great about confirming pickup time at the hotel via text and our transportation arrived promptly. Guests were looped in on the plan for the evening, and the high staff to guest ratio was nice. Everyone was ready to have a good time before we took off our shoes once we boarded the 65′ sailing catamaran for this barefoot sunset dinner cruise.

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Pineapple over the Pacific

While the cruise was not a tour, the crew was available to answer questions and made sure everyone got enough cocktails and food. They even offered to take pictures of the guests, which was a nice touch. The music selection was nice and played at a non-intrusive volume.

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Blue hour aboard the Alii Nui

I must confess that boats are not my favorite mode of transportation. But sea sickness wasn’t an issue for anyone during this smooth sail.

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Sundowner aboard the Alii Nui

Alcohol brands were premium and cocktails did not seem especially strong, but everyone was having a great time. There were also plenty of non alcoholic beverages as well as coffee and tea. Guests seemed fond of the signature Slip 56 signature cocktail and the Alii Nui Mai Tais.

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Obligatory sailing selfie with Zan Aufderheide

The other guests were friendly and the boat offered enough space above and below deck for guests to spread out. Everyone seemed to enjoy the experience of taking in the blue Pacific waters and the gorgeous sunset and West Maui views.

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Sailboats, sunset and windmills and moody clouds

The Alii Nui crew had service down to a science and the separate bathroom facilities for men and women were appreciated.

A little video of the Royal Feast Sunset Cruise on the Alii Nui

I started to think that Christopher Cross might be onto something with this sailing stuff!

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Happy customers aboard the Alii Nui

I was impressed with the value for money of the Royal Feast Dinner Cruise on the Ali’i Nui. The Alii Nui offers a wide variety of other charters including whale watching, snorkeling trips to Molokini and Turtle Point, and other speciality cruises. Our experience was so positive we hope to take one of their snorkeling trips on a future trip to Maui.

Alii Nui Sailing Charters
Toll Free (US only): 1- 800-542-3483 Ext. 1 Local: 1-808-875-0333
info@aliinuimaui.com

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Exploring Venice, Italy: Lunch on the Island of Burano at Trattoria da Romano

 

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Charming interior of Trattoria da Romano

If you’re looking for things to do in Venice, Italy taking a day trip to one of the nearby islands is a must. The colorful island of Burano, known for it’s brightly painted houses and fine lace is an excellent choice.

Burano has a few well regarded restaurants, making it a great destination for lunch time excursion.

The only way to reach Burano is by boat. I traveled with friends on a private water taxi arranged by the concierge at Bauer il Palazzo which got us to Burano in about 35 minutes. Water taxi is very fun way to travel!

Time lapse of water taxi ride from Venice to Burano

We had a fabulous lunch at Trattoria da Romano, which came highly recommended to us by an American who is an Italian scholar and part-time resident. Booking reservations ahead of time is a must.

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Canals and colorful buildings of Burano

Trattoria da Romano makes a world famous risotto which won raves from Anthony Bourdain, who featured the restaurant on an episode of No Reservations.

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Smiling water at Trattoria da Romano

Burano has only 2,800 full time residents, most of whom work in the fishing industry. When you come here, you’re coming for seafood! We ate our meal family style, with sardines and branzino for the table.

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My friends contemplating the menu at Trattoria da Romano

The highlight of the meal was the seafood risotto, which will please any foodie. I am not normally a fan of dishes that include squid ink, but the seafood risotto won me over. I’ve been dreaming about it since tasting it for myself.

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Seafood Risotto at Trattoria da Ramano

We ordered both the Bourdain-approved seafood risotto, as well as the traditional risotto. While not much to look at, both were seriously next level. The seafood risotto was black but not overly so. It was so good, we contemplated ordering another round for the table.

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Sardines for lunch at Trattoria da Romano

The spaghetti with clams was also quite flavorful and perfectly al dente.

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Spaghetti with clams

We also heard great things about Gatto Nero Restaurant, but we did not dine there ourselves.

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Picture of Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards on the wall at Trattoria da Romano

Be sure to check out the photographs on the wall near the bathrooms at Trattoria da Romano. They are a fascinating look at the history of this family owned restaurant and it’s guests.

Via San Martino Destra 221, Burano – Venezia
Phone 041 730030
Via Giudecca, 88 – 30142 Burano (Venice Italy)
Tel. +39.041.730120

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