The delightfully quirky Hotel Estheréa in Amsterdam earns a spot as one of my favorite hotels of the year. The lobby’s eclectic décor entices hotel guests to look and linger. Each day, the staff puts out a tier of Dutch cookies and chocolates that guests can accompany with complimentary espresso, cappuccino, or tea. Plus, the location can’t be beat. Our trip to Amsterdam was made that much more special by this hotel.
Décor: Eclectic Dutch
Location: on the Singel Canal
Room Size: Small, but large enough for two to move around
Most surprising: the riot of disparate objects in the public spaces creates an elegant, relaxing ambience.
During our last trip to Florence (Firenze), the staff at our hotel recommended that we try Rosso Crudo for dinner. The location suited us, being only a block from our hotel, the Domux Home Ricasoli, on a day when we hadn’t slept much the night before. We wanted something nearby but delicious as our culinary entry into the city.
Specialty: steak and pasta
Dress: Business casual
Price: antipasti 5-19 Euros; primi platti (pasta) 8-12 Euros; Steaks 17-24 Euros or, for premium cuts, 5-8 Euros per 100 grams.
What to order: steak, pappardelle cinghiale, proscuitto e melone
Our three days in Amsterdam, the Netherlands became a whirlwind tour, mostly because, in truth, we had only two-and-a-half days. Plus, we cheated a bit by taking a tour outside of the city. No matter. Our jam-packed itinerary gave us plenty to do and see. I’m amazed by how much we managed to fit into a short period of time.
Best museum: the Rijksmuseum
Best restaurant for foodies: Rijks
Most surprising: the speed and danger of the cyclists whirring down the streets
We never would have stayed in the Domux Home Ricasoli in Florence if my husband’s colleague hadn’t found it first. I argued that I wanted a full-service hotel, with a front desk and housekeeping, not an apartment. My husband wanted to stay in the Domux Home Ricasoli because of the reviews. Eventually I relented after reading what he had. Even so, the reviews didn’t prepare us for the luxury within. We had a real wow moment when we stepped inside. Despite my fears, our trip to Florence had begun in style.
Location: a block from the Galleria dell’Academia and down the street from the Duomo.
Most surprising: the luxurious dual bathroom with the tiled, jetted tub and rain shower head.
Room size: huge, with a living room, kitchenette with island, enormous bathroom, and king-size bed.
Disadvantage: Housekeeping every other day. Front desk is manned only during business hours.
Security: You are given a security code to be used on the front door keypad to gain entry.
The Kimpton Hotel Palomar Philadelphia has historically been one of my favorite hotels in downtown Center City. This time, however, we experienced a few glitches that took it down a notch in my estimation. Not that I wouldn’t return, because I would. It just won’t be my obvious first choice when I stay in the Rittenhouse Square area. Still, this luxury hotel in the heart of the city offers a comfortable haven from the bustle of the city.
I had wanted to try Vetri Cucina in Philadelphia for a long time, ever since a friend mentioned it. On a recent trip to the city to celebrate our wedding anniversary, my husband and I finally had our opportunity. For the average person, Vetri will be viewed as insanely expensive; however, for a foodie like me, it provides a whole evening of entertainment, with a price comparable to a ticket to a Broadway show.
We booked the first seating, at 6 pm. It took almost three full hours before we walked out, just in time to make room for the second seating. I loved the experience so much that I named Vetri Cucina as one of my top restaurants of 2019.
Recommended strategy: Let the chef choose for you unless some items turn you off.
Favorite dishes: Sweet onion crepe with truffle fondue; proscuitto cotto: almond tortellini with truffle sauce; fig caramelle with gorgonzola; porcelet chop; pistachio flan
Cuisine: Upscale Italian
Most surprising: The building once house the renowned Le Bec Fin.
Dress: Business casual to urban chic. No formal dress code.
Décor: Old World
Price: $165 per person, excluding alcohol and gratuity.
My review of The Bachelor Farmer in Minneapolis highlights an excellent farm-to-table restaurant. Don’t be fooled by the casual atmosphere. This trendy establishment, located in the Warehouse District, offers innovative dishes for carnivores and vegetarians alike. Its companion bar, Marvel Bar, hides around back and, in true speakeasy style, can be found by only those in the know.
Recommended dishes:Duck breast, housemade cheese with smoked honey, popovers.
Most surprising:The “secret” Marvel bar and its back staircase into the restaurant
Dress: Business casual
Décor:Vintage warehouse combined with country
Price:$27-38 for entrées
While technically a separate establishment, any review of The Bachelor Farmer in Minneapolis should include Marvel Bar as a prelude to dinner. If you go around back of the restaurant and down a few stairs to what looks like a delivery entrance, you’ll find it. Unmarked, of course. Open the heavy metal door and step inside. You’ll likely have to blink a little to adjust to the dark, beamed interior. If you’re lucky, you can score one of the booths, but you can also cozy up to the bar or set your drink on one of the barrel tables.
Specialty cocktails are unusual and delicious. Of course, you can always order traditional cocktails. If you have reservations in the restaurant above, your server will show you to the back staircase after you settle your tab. You are free to carry your drinks upstairs.
The Bachelor Farmer
As much as I love to begin dinner with a cocktail from Marvel Bar, I look forward to the real attraction, dinner at The Bachelor Farmer. We almost always start out with one of the toasts. The housemade cow’s milk cheese with smoked honey, warm apricot “mostada,” and pine nuts makes a great appetizer to share or to keep for yourself. We always order popovers as starters as well. During my last dinner there, my husband and I shared a foie gras appetizer that came with a radish and peashoot salad.
The vegetarians who dined with us ordered the wild rice, soft-boiled egg, shiitake mushroom, and hazelnuts entrée. I’m not an egg person, so I take their word for it that it tasted delicious. The walleye with pancetta and argula cream and the grilled lamb with wilted greens were both excellent. Because the menu changes seasonally, you can’t always expect to see what you ordered the time before. On my first visit, I ordered duck breast, and it was the best duck breast I’ve ever had. The second time, I didn’t see duck breast on the menu.
In a city with many great dining options, The Bachelor Farmer remains one of the best. Its emphasis on local ingredients and “Northern food” makes it an apt restaurant for visitors and residents alike. Make sure to check out Marvel Bar either before or after dinner.
I never thought of making a sous-vide ice cream base until recently, when I happened upon a mention of it in an article. It was a huge ah-ha moment. I mean, I’ve used sous-vide for years and never once thought of this application. The controlled environment of a water bath would ensure that the custard base cooked to the perfect temperature without curdling. I could mix it and walk away while my Anova sous-vide circulator did its thing. Perfect! But I didn’t want to use just any recipe. I’ve sampled excellent ice cream all over the world, and I wanted my homemade version to taste just as good.
Two days in historic Philadelphia works well for ambitious tourists like me. Because the historic district is compact enough to sightsee on foot, you can easily hop from one attraction to another. Of course, if you have three days, you’ll be able to see a bit more. And if you really want to see Philadelphia as a whole, including its world-class museums, then you’ll want to add at least another two days.
Most iconic sight: The Liberty Bell
Sight that requires the most planning: Independence Hall
Best Museum: The National Constitution Center
Newest Addition to the District: The Museum of the American Revolution
Best historic district restaurants for foodies: Buddakan and Amada