Thursday, July 5, 2018

Too Hot for the Beach: Hiking Alternative

Fort Tryon Park

NYC is stuck in a heat wave and though we did spend three days at the beach, we avoided the beach on July 4.

Why would we stay away from the beach on the quintessential beach day? For one, NYC. Though the city boasts several white sand beaches, the proximity to the millions living here means every beach is crowded. We were driving a car to the beach, which means the beaches inaccessible to public transportation would be marginally better, but still..scarce sand real estate = no place to relax.

Also, having just spent three days at the beach, we were eager for something a bit more active. So we decided on an urban hike in Fort Tryon Park.
#pacificahybrid #chryslerpacfica #electricvehicles

Into the Woods

This park is home to the Cloisters branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but we were taking the dog. And the museum is so unwelcoming to dogs that when I was using the Cloisters restroom and my friend was standing near the door to the staircase entrance, trying to catch an AC breeze when people entered and exited, a guard came out and told her to move. No second hand AC for canines, or their handlers.

My friend posing with the sculpture
And despite mostly wooded paths, the park was still unreasonably hazy, hot and humid. We mostly admired the Heather Garden from afar, since it was in the sun.

An urban hike
We briefly checked out the outdoor sculptures of armored knights. There are three pairs, each a knight with a nude figure. The nude is androgynous. So is the knight, though when's the last time you saw a female knight? But the Icelandic artist is female, Steinunn Thorarinsdottir.

The Chrysler Pacifica hybrid we drove for the week served us well for both the beach and the day trip with friends. For the beach, we folded the rear seats flat - they sort of disappeared into the underbelly of the minivan. This created a huge space for two bicycles. We still had plenty of room for luggage, and if we'd wanted to bring two more people, we could have easily done so.

Could only see the rhododendrons for a minute
The second row captains chairs gave those passengers a big, comfy chair. But even the third row had plenty of room. One of my tallest friend's, who is 6'4", elected to sit in the third row (we picked him up last). But he was comfortable. And on a triple H day, the air conditioning cooled everyone off.

We didn't tell our friends that only the front seats were ventilated, but the panoramic sunroof, a premium, ensured that no one felt claustrophobic.

Chrysler taking the lead in minivans

With the rear seat folded down, bikes inside the Pacifica
Chrysler produced the first minivan and now it has the first hybrid minivan.

The Pacifica has an electric range of 33 miles. But even just using gas, it gets 32 miles per gallon. For a 7 seater, that's pretty cool.

The minivan was loaded with safety features, like front and rear park assist. The 360 surround view camera helps with parallel parking.

Family friendly of course

Powering up at the beach
The power lift gate was useful for loading our bikes and the power sliding doors would have been great with little kids. A bonus if you are in a tight parking lot; with the sliding doors, you don't have to worry about the rear seat passengers dinging the car next to you.

You can open and close the doors from the key fob, or from the driver's seat on the ceiling. Very family friendly. And the Blu-ray / DVD player - with headphones - and seat back video screens, keep kids entertained. This was part of the extra customer preferred package, which also included more advanced safety technology. Still, the base price was $44,995. With options and destination charge, the van is $48,580.

Note: Chrysler loaned me the Pacifica hybrid minivan. I was not otherwise compensated. Opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Ignoring Most of the Menu: Gems at Quality Italian

Quality Italian's baby kale salad 

When I was invited to lunch at Quality Italian, I was not expecting a great meal. Techlicious held its annual CTATravel Lunch & Learn at this Italian steakhouse and, well, vegetarian.

Shrimp cocktail 
But I was pleasantly surprised. There was plenty for a non-steak eater to savor at this lovely restaurant.

Each table got a huge shrimp cocktail platter. The jumbo shrimp had cocktail sauce, chipotle mayo or lemon and the shrimp were utterly fresh and perfectly cooked.
Corn gnocchi

There was also a lovely baby kale salad, with pickled red onions. The colorful salad was devoured by all the meat eaters and vegetarians at my table.

Brussels Sprouts
We also had warm bread, with fruity olive oil for dipping. The pretty sausage and pepper garlic toast was not for me, but the others enjoyed it.

For my entree, I had corn gnocchi with pistachios. The sweet corn tasted of mid-summer, even though it is still technically late spring.
Steak fries

We had Brussels Sprouts Calabrese, roasted till crispy. And the Tuscan fries were really steak fries, properly salty and crunchy. I'm not a ketchup person, but I appreciated the Sir Kensington ketchup served with the fries.

Chocolate cannoli for dessert
Dessert was a chocolate cannoli with pistachio gelato. Yum!

Note: I was a guest of Techlicious at its #CTATravel Lunch & Learn event. I was not compensated for this post, but I was sated.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Travel Essentials: Headphones & Videos

Sony True Wireless Sports Headphones

Back in the not so distant past, travel entertainment meant an assortment of DVDs, a portable player and clunky headphones. My kids had cute pink DVD players, which then morphed into DVD slots on laptops.
Look at all the content you can access from the Roku streaming stick
Now, my Mac doesn't even have a DVD player and sometimes I want to watch a movie or binge a TV show on a long layover or airport delay.

At the CTA Travel Lunch & Learn Event, hosted by Techlicious, I got a first look at a portable Roku streaming stick. It lets you access content from your Netflix, Amazon Prime or Hulu account when you travel. You can also use it at home, but this little stick is perfect for travel.

The Ashley Chloe Helix Cuff (and my bracelet)

Fashion AND Function

Ashley Chloe showed off fashionable bracelets with Bluetooth headphones hidden inside. The Helix Cuff is a fashionable way to carry headphones. And the cuff comes in different color combos - black on black, for the inveterate New Yorker.

There is also black with gold, black with silver, white with gold or white with silver (for the Hamptons, of course). The cuffs are about $99.

Fashionable running

I rarely run with headphones because they always pop out. Sony has new wireless earbuds that stay in. And they are sweat resistant. They come in black, white, pink and yellow. The pink coordinates well with  the rose gold of an iPhone.

Best of all, the Sony True Wireless Sports Headphones are noise canceling, with an ambient sound mode. So at the gym, you can eliminate extraneous noise from, say, your husband grunting on the next mat.
Sony noise canceling headphones

But on a long run, you can keep the ambient sound so you hear a car or bike approaching.

The Sony buds retail for $179.99.

Discloser: I received a Roku stick and courtesy of the Consumer Technology Association. I was not compensated for this post.

Friday, June 1, 2018

NY Early Riser Brunch with Kids: Gallow Green

Green street signage for Gallow Green

Sleep No More could be a description of parenting. It also, of course, the name of the immersive theatrical experience at The McKittrick Hotel.

This site specific rendition of Macbeth moves throughout the hotel, much like parents chasing kids at the playground.

But if you are one of those beleaguered, sleep-deprived parents, you can have some fun at Gallow Green, the rooftop garden at The McKittrick

Magical setting

Planting at the kid friendly event
Potions & Planting, held on several Saturdays during the spring and summer, is for families who aspire to hip child friendly experiences.

In addition to the ‘High Tea’ (which is served at 10am) kids learn about both potions and planting. We saw happy children leaving with their plants. Officially, the event ends at 11:30am, but there is some lingering. [Note: grown up brunch starts at noon].

Each kid can bring a doll or teddy bear, which gets its own place setting.

Magical garden setting for brunch
The food includes mini sandwiches: melted cheese, jelly, cucumber and cream cheese for the adventurous.

Have you read The Secret Garden with your kids?
There are plenty of sweets, from chocolate croissants to cupcakes and jam tarts. And pink lemonade to drink.

Potions & Planting is designed for kids ages 5-10, and each adult can bring no more than 3 young guests. So no surreptitiously holding your kid’s birthday party.

Quinoa salad for a healthy brunch

Grown up brunch

Though my kids are too old for Potions & Planting, we did go to the regular Saturday brunch. This vegetarian friendly buffet includes unlimited food and live music.

The buffet includes fresh fruit, Greek yogurt and granola, croissants, cinnamon buns and bread. There was shrimp cocktail, quinoa and kale salad, marinated beets and tomato with teeny mozzarella balls. Plus another tomato salad with pomegranate and a bulgur and greens salad.
The band

Hot foods included meat and baked salmon. Coffee and tea are included; brunch cocktails are extra.

Fresh berries and granola

After the summer

Gallow Green remains open even in rain. There is a canopy, and the sides drop down. The rooftop becomes The Lodge at Gallow Green in colder weather. There are heat lamps and blankets, but dress for the weather.

For both Potions & Planting, you have to buy tickets in advance, and check in before getting on the elevator. There is one flight of stairs up to the roof.

The next Potions & Planting is June 8.

Note: Gallow Green offered me a complimentary brunch. Opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Driving to Asia? Culinary Adventure in DC

The view from the rooftop bar, Whiskey Charlie

Driving to Washington, DC, can be a tragic mistake, with traffic jams and short tempers. But on our recent trip, we had smooth sailing.

And we stayed at a waterfront hotel where we could have gone sailing - or kayaking, or on a water taxi.
First, a Korean car. Then, Korean food

Not only that, we 'drove' to Asia, courtesy of a new restaurant, Kaliwa, that featured food from Korea, Thailand and the Philippines. And we were driving a Korean car, a Hyundai.

First, the car: thanks Hyundai

The Wharf 'street' for cars, walkers, bikers and runners
We hit the road early in the 2018 Hyundai Elantra on a Thursday, hoping to avoid weekend traffic on I-95. And we did. In fact, the only traffic at all was around our hotel, the Canopy by Hilton. This hotel is part of the new District Wharf development. The area is still under construction, so it can get pretty hairy or there.

Apple CarPlay in the Hyundai Elantra
Also, the 'street' along the Wharf is for cars, bikers, runners and walkers, with no clear delineation. We stuck the car in the hotel's garage, and only used it to drive our daughter home at night.

The Hyundai Elantra has Sirius XM radio, so we had great music for our whole drive. And our phones connected with Apple CarPlay so we could listen to a podcast or two. The GT model that we drove had premium speakers and the cabin was quiet, even with the windows open.

There was a wireless charging pad, as well as a USB port for charging.
Pickled vegetables at Kaliwa

Asian food, a short walk from the hotel

District Wharf has quite a few restaurants. The Canopy by Hilton hotel has a rooftop bar, Whiskey Charlie. Bar food like crab cake sliders and a warm soft pretzels with beer cheese sauce stave off hunger. We had just two of us drinking, so we couldn't have the cocktail tankard. These giant cocktails serve 4-6, and you aren't even allowed to get one for less than 4 people.

By rooftop standards, $52 for a cocktail that serves 6 is a bargain. We had delicious Manhattans. There is, naturally, a great selection of bourbon and rye.

Korean vegetarian bibimbap
Kaliwa, a short walk from the hotel, divides its menu into three sections. There were no vegetarian choices on the Philippine section, which I expected.

From Korea, we had vegetarian bibimbap. This stew of pickled vegetables and rice had a spicy chili sauce. A sunny side up egg topped it

We also got a plate of more pickled vegetables. The sweet pickled shiitakes were delicious.

Thai crab curry
The Thai Kaeng Daeng was blue crab with red curry. Since it was rich, I were happy to share with 3 others. The stir fried green beans retained their crunch and the clams with black beans was so generous we couldn't finish it.

We also took the Hyundai Elantra with us to shop in Dumbo, Brooklyn
Drinks include a wide variety of Japanese beers. There are rice lagers and rice ales, beers from Korea and the Philippines and cocktails that include tropical fruits, Thai chilies and ginger.

We ate outside, watching the water lap the boats bobbing on the Potomac and felt transported far from I-95.

Note: Hyundai loaned us the Elantra GT for this trip. Opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Farm to Glass: Farmers & Distillers

Impossibly delicious: the Impossible Burger

The very urban Washington, DC, does not seem like a place for fresh produce. But Farmers & Distillers goes one step further than farm to table cuisine. Here, you can have farm to glass.

The restaurant works with a local distillery for its own alcohol, including Founding Farmers Rye and Founding Farmers Gin. They also have local beer.

Everything here is made from scratch, from the bread to the fresh donuts. They even have their plates made for them. And though the emphasis is on comfort food, there are plenty of vegetarian options.

In fact, there was a whole meatless section. And the Impossible Burger was an option. [Oddly, it cost more than beef].

There are also pizzas, pastas, and lots of salads.

The Farmers & Distillers plates
I had the cauliflower steak, which came with creamy cheesy grits. It also had roasted heirloom carrots, and a tasty green sauce.

Both my husband and daughter had that Impossible Burger. All burgers come with fries, cole slaw, pasta salad or house salad. On a homemade brioche bun, of course.

The 'Baby Macs' is a great deal. The burger comes with cheese, special sauce and a shake. Or a beer. Not bad for $15. Or $16 for the veggie version.
Homemade vegetarian dumplings

We didn't need our appetizer, sweet potato dumplings, but they were delicious. But we were too full for dessert.

Next time I'm in Washington, DC, I plan to tour the distillery. And return for breakfast.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Dog Friendly Hotel - AND Car

Dog friendly Canopy by Hilton, District Wharf
Hanging out in District Wharf, Washington, DC

Finding a dog friendly boutique hotel is getting increasingly easier. A new lifestyle hotel brand, Canopy by Hilton, opened its first United States iteration in the fall, in Washington, DC.

The dog friendly Hyundai Elantra
Scarlet red pearl 2018 Hyundai Elantra
The first Canopy by Hilton, in Iceland, was a bit far to bring our dog to, but the one in DC is an ideal distance away. Of course, you can't take a MegaBus, or even an Amtrak, with a Labrador Retriever, so we had to drive from Brooklyn to DC.

dog and kid friendly sunroof in the Hyundai Elantra
Open sky through the panoramic sunroof

Dog and child friendly car

We had wheels for the trip, the 2018 Hyundai Elantra. This roomy sedan got 32 miles per gallon, taking us from home and halfway back before we had to fill up. And the panoramic sunroof was a hit with the dog, who loves to feel the sun on her face. The sunroof bathes the entire car in light, and also allows fresh air to circulate.
dog friendly Canopy by Hilton
Karat with her swag, a ball from the Canopy by Hilton

This is the car I wish we had when my youngest was constantly car sick. If you have kids who don't like car travel, the issue is often access to air and light. Particularly for our third child, who was always stuck in the middle seat in her car seat, with no window.

Creature comforts

Easy to use controls on the Hyundai Elantra
The Hyundai Elantra wasn't just designed for bringing along a creature like my dog. It had plenty of driver comforts like heated and cooled seats, and dual temperature controls. We happened to go to DC during the first heat wave of 2018, and opening the sunroof while cooling the seat was an environmentally friendly option.

The roomy trunk and split seat
And since my husband runs hotter than me, he could have the car cooled more on his side. In the rear seat, the vent could be moved around. We had it pointed right at Karat, who never panted during our drive.
#drivehyundai #dogfriendlytravel #canopybyhilton

More Canopy by Hilton choices

The Canopy roll out includes a second hotel now open in Bethesda, Maryland. This summer, locations in Atlanta, Dallas and Portland, Oregon open.

The DC Wharf location has valet parking, and I was glad we had such a sharp looking car. The Elantra exterior was scarlet red pearl, which set off the black interior.

Free Canopy by Hilton bicycles

Other wheels: DC by bike

The hotel has a dozen bikes, free for guests, with helmets and locks provided. These sturdy, three speed bicycles are perfect for short jaunts around town. But, they are too heavy for long bike rides. We wanted to go to Alexandria, a 16 mile round trip. But in the 91 degree heat, we kept trips short.

The Canopy hotel is on a new two-way, protected bike lane. There are also plenty of bike lanes in DC, and since traffic can be heavy, this is a great way to get around the city. My daughter met us to sightsee, bringing her own bicycle. After dinner, we drove her home. The split seat in the Elantra made it easy to fit her bike without removing a wheel. And still seat three adults.

More ways to get around town

Waiting for the valet. This is how close we were to the water
The Canopy offers a free shuttle to the National Mall and the Metro. You can also walk to the station. We walked with the dog to the National Mall in the evening. It's about a mile, and temperatures cooled off at night.

And District Wharf has a free water jitney to East Potomac Park. You can bring your dog on the boat. We didn't since Karat had never been on a boat, but we did ride with a bulldog.

There is also a water taxi to Alexandria, Georgetown and National Harbor in Maryland. No dogs allowed. Fares are $12.60 roundtrip.

Private outdoor plaza just past the hotel's restaurant; Karat laid down here while we had a free breakfast

Canopy perks

Waiting while we sampled drinks
The free breakfast had fresh fruit, flatbread pizza, Greek yogurt, cereal and several kinds of bread. We took Karat outside and ate while she relaxed at our feet. Just kidding -she tried to sample the breakfast. We could have left her in the room. Canopy provides a tag that you hang outside your door, alerting staff that a dog is inside.

Specialty cocktail, made with local vodka.
Canopy will also deliver a breakfast bag, which we tried one morning. It had a piece of fruit, a small yogurt and juice. Our room had a Nespresso maker. But if you want a heartier breakfast, or more options, go to the restaurant.

If you are around the hotel between 5 and 6pm, the restaurant also offers tastes of a specialty cocktail each evening. Perfect for when you return to the hotel to walk and feed the dog; you get a drink. Local spirits and mixers are the focus. When we were there, we tried a local vodka, District Made Vodka. Karat wasn't allowed into the restaurant, but we brought the drinks to the couches right outside.

Note: Hyundai loaned me the Elantra for this trip. Canopy by Hilton provided me with a media room. Opinions are, of course, my own.