Posts Tagged ‘where to eat’

Exploring the Baltics: Weekend in Vilnius, Lithuania

Editor’s Note: Anastasia Chernykh, the social media manager for this blog, recently returned from a weekend getaway to Vilnius, Lithuania. Her photographs made me curious to know more about this Baltic capital. I asked her to write this guest post about this gorgeous European city.- Jen 

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The Cathedral Square in Vilnius

Normally when people hear the words “winter getaway” they imagine some place warm, sunny, with white sand under your feet and calm ocean breeze touching your cheek in the morning. But for some of us travelers, winter is the best time to go North. You see, most of the countries here in Europe show their true character only in winter. This time I went to Vilnius, to see, to eat and to freeze 🙂

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Pilies Street

Lithuania is a young country with an old history. It regained independence in 1990, but the history of Lithuanian kings go back to the 13th century, and once was one of the largest countries in Europe. It included present-day Belarus, Ukraine, and parts of Poland and Russia. The best way to see and touch that history is to explore the Old Town of Vilnius, one of the largest medieval sites in Europe. Let’s start the walk!

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A view from the steps of Town Hall

Cathedral square is the heart of the city, and also a good point to start a walk through the Old City. It looked completely white on a cold winter day, and I loved minimalistic neoclassical architecture of  Cathedral. Don’t miss checking it out inside – the place looks  like a museum with more than forty frescoes and paintings from the 16th through 19th centuries on it’s walls. Here’s an interesting factoid-  it is believed the pagan temple was located at the same place long before the white walls and liturgies.

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Statue of St. Mark on Vilnius Cathedral

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Facade of the Vilnius Cathedral

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Inside the cathedral

Gediminas’ Hill and the Tower located right near the cathedral. The way on top looks harder that it is (tip, you can use a funicular!), and the tower itself despite looking very old was actually rebuilt in 1930. The origin legend of the tower (and the city) is rather fascinating.

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Gediminas’ Tower

The story goes that Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas was hunting in the woods, and spent the night on the hill. He dreamt about a large iron wolf howling loudly. He went to magician for explanation of his dream, and was told that this was an omen telling the Duke to build a city in this place, which would become the capital of Lithuania. So Gediminas built the city named Vilnius after the nearby river Vilnia, and a castle in the center of it.

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A walk through the Old City

The second you get to an old city you also notice another thing – Vilnius is a city of churches. There are 28 churches in Vilnius Old Town (21 are Roman Catholic and 4 are Russian Orthodox) with their spikes and crosses popping up all around.

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Facades of the St Ann and the St Francis of Assisi churches

Aside from Cathedral, one of the most exquisite and elegant catholic churches is a red-brick St Anne’s Church (paired with the larger St Bernardine’s Church) to the east of Pilies gatvė.

To get up close with Orthodox Christianity, you can visit St. Nicolas church (one of the oldest Eastern Orthodox churches in Vilnius) built in Neo-Byzantine style.

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Saint Nicholas Orthodox Church

South of the Pilies street is the quirky Užupis neighbourhood, also called Republic. The name Užupis means “the other side of the river”, it is separated from the Old Town by the Vilnia River, and on the second side there are steep hills. The place was a home to an artistic crowd for quite a long time (as the rent was much cheaper) and on April Fool’s Day in 1997, the city’s bohemian quarter declared itself an independent Republic. Užupis holds feasts, fireworks shows and open-air art exhibitions.

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Funky inhabitant of The Republic of Užupis

It even has it’s own constitution, which includes such rights as:

Everyone has the right to love and take care of a cat.

Everyone has the right to cry.

A dog has the right to be a dog.

The constitution is written in 23 languages and can be found on a wall on Paupio street in the area.

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Street bookshelf in Uzupis

Vilnius is small, so the best way to explore it is on your foot. Unfortunately, winter wasn’t the best time for walking,  so I didn’t get to see it all. But I promise to go back in summer, everybody says the city is completely green and the weather is very lovely.

Sightseeing is a good thing, but may require some additional calories, so here is the list of some useful places to stop by and fuel up:

To kick-start the long day of walking, go for a coffee and quick bite to Taste Map Coffee Roasters or Kavos Era. The coffee is simply great!

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Very straightforward sugar sachet at Taste Map Coffee Roasters

For a nice modern European lunch stop by Comfort Hotel LT, and check out the best hotel restaurant in Lithuania – Time Restaurant. It was started by Egidijus Lapinskas, rated as one of the best chefs in Lithuania, and sommelier Arminas Darasevcicius. They serve new seasonal lunch and dinner menus every day and the food is delicious. Make sure to score reservation ahead, the place is always busy.

Seafood and Salmon Salad at Time restaurant

To check out the local specialty visit Forto Dvaras, located in the heart of an Old City(zeppelins are weird and interesting, but don’t try to order more than one per person, too fulfilling!), and for late night dinner Bukowski Baras is the place to be. Hip interior, mixed crowd of locals and tourist plus tastiest hot-dogs in town and craft beer!

How to get there:

The most convenient way to get to Vilnius is by plane. Vilnius International Airport is only 4 miles away from the city center, and has flights from New York, London, and major European cities including Paris, Rome, Moscow, Vienna, Istanbul, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Oslo, Stockholm, Barcelona, Riga, Tallinn, Minsk, and Brussels.

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Mexican Food in GIFs: Dining at Las Alamandas Jalisco, Mexico

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The shrimp tacos became a daily must have at Las Alamandas

My recent trip to Mexico involved my first visit to Jalisco’s Costalegre, where my husband and I stayed at Las Alamandas. We’re both fans of good Mexican food and arrived hungry and ready to eat a late lunch at La Palapa Beach Club.

Shrimp Tacos

 Shrimp tacos GIF

We were quickly served our first round of excellent (and inexpensive) margaritas and were very surprised when we saw the menu and found very little Mexican food on it. Instead selections included dishes like Asian shrimp and pasta. Who comes to Mexico to eat Asian shrimp? We asked our waiter to speak to the chef and Head Chef Alejandro Morales quickly arrived to chat with us.

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Gazpacho GIF 

Chef Alex (as he’s called) was very friendly and had no problem letting us order off the menu. He prepared chicken enchiladas, shrimp tacos, and guacamole for us. He even honored my request for no raw onions and the dishes were all muy delicioso. We continued to order off the menu for the rest of the trip, and Chef Alex had no problem serving whatever we asked for.

Huevos Rancheros

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The breakfast menu featured many more Mexican specialities– eggs a la Mexicana, Eggs Machacha with dried beef, onion and poblano chile. Chilaquiles were on the menu as well as what became our go-to favorite, the Huevos Rancheros, served with either red salsa or green. The green salsa was outstanding and Chef Alex remembered our preferences.

Fresh Fruit

Tropical fruit platter with Mexican lime GIF

The breakfast menu also had a host of other non-Mexican options, including organic oatmeal, muesli with coconut milk, French toast, pancakes and waffles.

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Coffee con leche with a hammock at La Palapa Beach club

The coffee was tasty and the views of the pacific from La Palapa were a great way to start the day. The space is beautiful and also includes a lovely hammock should you wish to hang out while you’re digesting.

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Top notch margaritas for $6 US at Las Alamandas

I don’t think the menu at Las Alamandas would work for serious foodies who are looking to explore the vibrant and happening Mexican food scene. Chef Alex had no problem accommodating all our requests, which is great since the resort is so private and isolated that there are not a lot of other options for dining nearby.

Las Alamandas Resort
Carretera Federal 200 km 83.5
Costalegre, Jalisco, Mexico

Toll Free US: 1888 882 9616
Toll Free Mexico: 1800 8366640
Tel 52 322 285 5500

info@alamandas.com

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Where to Eat in Sydney: Mr. Wong For Dim Sum

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The house special: pork and asparagus wontons

Sydney is one of my favorite cities to visit and I always enjoy checking out the food scene when I’m there. But unlike New York or LA where reservations are essential if you want to dine a hot foodie spot, many of Sydney’s of-the-moment restaurants don’t take reservations at dinner. The last thing I want to do when I’m traveling is wait in a line for over an hour for a meal.

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Solo diners can eat at the counter at Mr. Wong

Fortunately, Jonathan Fambart, the amazing concierge at the Park Hyatt Sydney, pointed out that many of these same restaurants do take reservations for lunch. So my husband and I switched our plans to make lunch the primary meal of the day. Jonathan got us a table at Mr. Wong, the contemporary Chinese restaurant run by the Merivale group.

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Craft cocktails at Mr. Wong focus on Shochu and fresh ingredients

While we had a table reserved, we opted to eat at the bar downstairs because it was slightly quieter. This is not a restaurant for serious conversation, as the brick walls and loft-like space make it rather loud. I started with a Yin martini made with shochu, vodke, Aperol, apricot brandy and fresh peach. It was not overly sweet and not Mad Men-strong, making it a nice choice for lunch.

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Dim sum being prepared in the kitchen at Mr. Wong

Dim sum is only available at lunch, and we ordered a few different things to share. I very much enjoyed the pork and prawn shumai (AUS $12). The duck spring rolls (AUS $12) were also a nice alternative to an entire Peking Duck.

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The oysters at Mr. Wong go for AUS $4 per piece

My husband very much enjoyed his rock oysters served drizzled with a ginger rice wine vinaigrette.

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Duck Spring Rolls at Mr. Wong

There are also a wide variety of roast meats and live seafood on the menu at Mr. Wong, should you be in the mood for mud crab, rock lobster or a whole roast duck.

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The Yin Martini at Mr. Wong

The atmosphere is stylish and the Central Business District location make Mr. Wong a popular spot for business lunches as well as dinners.

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The decor is Cantonese contemporary chic

The standout dish of the meal was the special pork and asparagus wontons (I can’t remember the price). They were exceptional and had the right amount of smokiness and heat. I was expecting the duck to the highlight of the meal but I can’t stop thinking about those wontons!

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The downstairs dining room and bar at Mr. Wong

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Mr. Wong exterior tucked away on Bridge Lane

If you don’t want to wait for a table for dinner, head to Mr. Wong for lunch. The pork & asparagus wontons are not to be missed.

Mr. Wong

Address: 3 Bridge Lane, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia

Phone:+61 2 9240 3000

Hours:

LUNCH Mon – Sun 12:00pm – 3:00pm
DINNER Mon – Wed 5:30pm – 11:00pm
Thurs – Sat 5:30pm – 12:00am
Sun 5:30pm – 10:00pm
YUM CHA Sat – Sun 10:30am – 12:00pm

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Where to Eat in Milan: Alla Cucina Delle Langhe

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Caprese di bufala (€ 12,00)

It’s not hard to eat well while in Italy. But when I heard that Alla Cucina delle Langhe is one of Tom Ford’s preferred lunch spots when in Milan, I decided to make a point to eat there.

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Left: Rigatoni pomodoro e basilico (€ 11,00) Right: Tagliolini al burro fuso con grattata di tartufo “Bianchetto” (€ 26,00)

Located on the Corso Como, Alla Cucina della Langhe isn’t a tourist spot, but is popular with locals as a business lunch spot. Be sure to book ahead if you want a table. The menu focuses on foods from the Piemonte and Lombardia regions.

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Filet alla griglia (€ 24,00)

The atmosphere was sedate and business-y and the service was top notch. The best dishes were the pastas, with the standout dish being the truffle-laden Tagliolini al burro fuso con grattata di tartufo Bianchetto (€ 26,00). It wasn’t particularly photogenic but it was delicious.

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1998 Sugarille 

My husband and I split the grilled filet, which was served rarer than the medium we ordered…. because Europe.

The restaurant’s wine list is extensive, with a few “by the glass” options and a lot of different price points. We ordered a bottle of the 1998 Sugarille Brunello Di Montalcino, which unfortunately was corked when our server attempted to open it. The server handled the situation appropriately- seeking the manager and quickly and replacing the bottle with another.

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That being said, I can’t recommend the 1998 Sugarille. Go for another Brunello Di Montalcino.

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Alla Cucina della Langhe exterior

 Alla Cucina delle Langhe

Address: Corso Como, 6, 20124 Milano, Italy
Phone:+39 02 655 4279
Closed on Sundays and the month of August

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Where to Eat in Wailea: Morimoto Maui

Hamachi tacos at Morimoto Maui

If you’re looking for a great restaurant in Wailea, I highly recommend checking out Morimoto Maui located at the Andaz Maui Resort. This Hawaiian outpost of Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto’s eponymous restaurant is great for advanced foodies and sushi novices alike.

Left: Ishi Yaka Buri Bop Right: Ramen soup (Morimoto chicken soup)

Morimoto Maui’s menu had so many dishes that I wanted to try, that I ate at this restaurant four times during my recent trip. I also craved it as soon as I left.

Sushi and pickled ginger at Morimoto Maui

The menu focuses on a mix of Western and Japanese dishes, using the freshest local Hawaiian ingredients. The whole vibe is upscale yet casual, and the setting is modern, laid back and Aloha chic.

Patio at Morimoto Maui

The restaurant is has a small outdoor bar, a covered outdoor patio, sushi bar, and indoor seating options.

Tempura calamari salad served with quinoa and white miso dressing ($19)

Morimoto Maui is a great choice for foodies and beach bums alike– the vibe is mellow and you can totally cruise in for lunch in your cover-up and flip flops.

Ishi yaki buri bop: yellowtail on rice bowl prepared table side in a hot stone bowl ($30)

Open for both lunch and dinner, Morimoto Maui has innovative and classic dishes. I loved the hamachi tacos made with yellowtail, avocado, and creamy nuoc cham ($16) so much I ordered them every visit. Despite the hot and humid tropical environment, the ramen soup with chicken ($16) is also a standout and big enough to share. I noticed it on a lot of tables.

The yellowtail on rice after being prepared tableside

Sushi and sashimi is top notch. The Ishi Yaki Buri Bop ($39)– a rice bowl made with yellowtail cooked at your table in a hot stone bowl was inspired, delicious and satisfying. It’s also fun to order.

Sunset Yuzu Drop ($15) cocktail at Morimoto Maui

The restaurant has an inspired and witty cocktail list (Mai Chai or Sibiscus Hazerac, anyone?) as well as an extensive list of sakes and wines.

Morimoto Maui’s Aloha Chic Bar

The service is as impressive as the food. I’d suggest making a reservation if you’re planning on coming for dinner, particularly if you have a seating preference. Reservations can be booked through the restaurant or via Opentable.

Morimoto Maui

3550 Wailea Alanui Drive

Wailea, Hawaii 96753

808 573 1234

Hours:

Lunch: 11:30 AM – 2:00 PM, daily

Dinner: 5:30 PM – 9:30 PM

 

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