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Weekend Getaway Where to Go Next – Durham, NC


Photo courtesy of 21c Museum Hotel

Photo courtesy of 21c Museum Hotel

The 21c Museum Hotel is situated in the heart of revitalized downtown Durham, this former bank building (the vault is still intact and is used as a lounge and event space) lights up the skyline with a purple glow casting through the windows. We later learned that glow was from the bathroom vanity mirror. Check-in is on the second floor in the midst of an art gallery. Rooms are modern and chic with space-efficient closets and drawers and comfortable, low flatform-like beds. Bathrooms are expansive with large, double vanity sinks, a huge walk-in shower big enough for two, and a rubber ducky to keep you company. Bath products are by Malin + Goetz. Oh yes, and that purple light lighting up the back of the vanity mirror can be set to cast a club-like glow or turned off for a more classic atmosphere.

Eat and Drink

Photo courtesy of Mateo

Photo courtesy of Mateo

There are nearby karaoke bars, but if you’re looking for more of a sophisticated setting head to the bar on the rooftop of The Durham Hotel with sweeping views of the revitalized downtown.

Photo courtesy of 21c Museum Hotel Durham

Photo courtesy of 21c Museum Hotel Durham

Another option is to cozy up to the bar at the Counting House. We began (and ended) our nights there. We started with perfectly-crafted classic martinis, mine a little dirty brightened up with a garnish of olives with a bright green hue and a mild, buttery flavor. They accompanied an assortment of raw oysters perfectly. We couldn’t resist the interesting selection of bar snacks and chose an assortment of tobacco-cured tuna (after all, Durham is known as tobacco land), trout terrine, and a scallop appetizer special. We proceeded to Mateo for tapas, Spanish wine, and a Port flight. It did not disappoint. The scene is bustling and lively with a bar that spilled out into the dining room occupied with high cocktail tables and closely arranged dining tables. We tried Datil, which are dates, goat cheese, and country ham; Patas Bravas, fried potatoes with a spicy sauce; and Crispy Chicken Skins accompanied by green tomato & cabbage escabeche, aioli, and piquillo hot sauce. Not the healthiest of options, but so incredibly good!

Other notable restaurants include Piedmont for the wine list alone, oh and then there’s the food (or so we have heard!) and not to be missed is Vin Rouge for classic French  bistro fare. 


Photo Courtesy of Duke University Gardens

Photo Courtesy of Duke University Gardens

The Durham Performing Arts Center, otherwise known as, DPAC, is a stone’s throw from the hotel right in the heart of downtown. National acts perform on a regular basis and a full schedule of upcoming shows can be found here. While we didn’t make time to squeeze in a show, it gives us great reason to return!

Our other form of entertainment did include a walk to the Duke University GardensIt was a healthy walk from the downtown, but an enjoyable one and made us feel not so guilty about the decadent dinner at Mateo the night before. This breathtaking 55-acre garden is open to the public to enjoy and is equipped with an an outdoor amphitheater. This is a sight not to be missed!


Photo Courtesy of Parker and Otis

Photo Courtesy of Parker and Otis

While there were other shops to be discovered, in our short time there we did not seek out clothing stores. What we did do is come across Parker and Otis while looking for a light afternoon snack to hold us over until dinner. It’s a spot worth mentioning! We walked into the revitalized warehouse store to find an abundance of specialty food items, wine, gifts, chocolates, and a deli case of beautifully prepared salads to go. We were back the next day for morning coffee and a light breakfast and the place was bustling with what looked like brunch time regulars. I could have spent hours in the place, it has a little bit of something for everyone and is a utopia for foodies.

While we couldn’t do it all in this short weekend trip, Durham is definitely a destination to add to your list and experience some of the gems we mentioned above and so much more.


Mexican Mantra: Take Your Yoga Practice to Mexico

Stand Up Paddleboarding is all the rage. It combines the tenets of yoga with the water world of surfing. Proponents swear to more focus, tweaked technique and stronger cores. Fitness retreats like this one near La Paz at Costa Baja Resort draw many to Mexico. Phot credit: Costa Baja Resort

Stand Up Paddleboarding is all the rage. It combines the tenets of yoga with the water world of surfing. Proponents swear to more focus, tweaked technique and stronger cores. Fitness retreats like this one near La Paz at Costa BajaResort draw many to Mexico.
Photo credits: Costa Baja Resort

I am posed in Downward Dog on a paddleboard atop the cerulean blue Sea of Cortez. Or, I was. Right now, I’m swimming with a throng of particularly colorific fish, whose threatening nibbles prompt me to heave myself out of the water and back on the board with heretofore unknown deftness.

I’d like to say that SUP (Stand Up Paddleboarding) yoga is easier than it looks. But, it isn’t. That’s because this exercise combines two distinct disciplines: the spiritual-cum-pretzel-like ancient regimen of yoga and the au courant rage of standing on an over-sized surfboard afloat a body of water. It’s essentially meditative fitness. And, when the wave ripples beneath me, I struggle for balance—even when crouched in the resting mode called Child’s Pose. At Costa Baja Resort, a thousand miles from Tijuana, in Mexico’s Baja California Sur, I don’t care if I topple off the board and fall into the ocean’s depths. After all, who wouldn’t want to swim in what Jacques Cousteau once dubbed “the aquarium of the world?”

The yoga traditions at Rancho La Puerta, just across the border from San Deigo, are tried and true. The godmother of Western Yoga, Indra Devi, helped formulate the Ranch's programs in 1955, and her influences can be seen today.

The yoga traditions at Rancho La Puerta, just across the border from San Deigo, are tried and true. The godmother of Western Yoga, Indra Devi, helped formulate the Ranch’s programs in 1955, and her influences can be seen today.

Still, I try my best to balance. My instructor at this five-day retreat, Michelle Gierst, a yogini and superstar fitness buff, thinks the first fall should happen fast. “It’s a metaphor for life,” she says. “The sooner you fall in, the sooner you get back up on the board for downward dog.” She leads yoga retreats at Costa Baja, a five-star wellness resort, located just ten minutes from the still authentic Mexican pueblo of La Paz. Ensconced amid desert terrain, dotted with coco palms, with views of the purple-tinged Sierra Madre Mountains, this resort by the sea is easily accessible from Los Cabos—yet it feels a world apart. With a Gary Player-designed golf course, pools galore, and opulently appointed rooms, it might seem more a place for repose. Yet, many trek here, as I do, to exchange their yoga mat for a board and their gymnasium room for the ocean’s fluidity. This form of yoga increases focus, tweaks technique, and empowers its participants. Deep meditation can result simply from the sounds of the sea. As a change from your regular routine, SUP Yoga is simply a respite that keeps the habit interesting. An added bonus?  Do your asanas along Mexico’s Pacific Coast during whale watching season (January through April), and you may discover some migrating whales and a coterie of friendly dolphins masquerading as classmates. Five-day, four-night sessions include daily yoga and meditation classes, a spa treatment, and all meals including alcohol. $1042 and up. Costabaja.com

The mystical landscape of Mexico's Baja California enriches yoga  and wellness retreats. Set in desert terrain, on the Sea of Cortez and shadowed by the Sierra Madre Mountains, Costa Baja offers a variety of yoga retreats and packages year round.

The mystical landscape of Mexico’s Baja California enriches yoga and wellness retreats. Set in desert terrain, on the Sea of Cortez and shadowed by the Sierra Madre Mountains, Costa Baja offers a variety of yoga retreats and packages year round.

Other Mexican Havens For Inner Balance:

Haramara Retreat

Unplug at Haramara Retreat, named a 10 best yoga getaway in the world by Yoga Journal. Spread over 16 acres that edge the Pacific Ocean in Sayulita–the Riviera Nayarit’s hippie chic surfing town north of Puerto Vallarta–Haramara has thatched-roof palapas complete with hammocks, open-air yoga studios with 360-degree views of the jungle and ocean waters, vegetarian-based gourmet meals and a rotating array of famous yoga instructors. With no electricity in the rooms or restaurant, turning off the external noise becomes second nature here. Customized private sessions, group classes, and locally derived food set the tenor for a successful mind-body experience. $1159 and up for two people when you book the 3-night Sampler Package, which includes two yoga classes, two daily meals, a 60-minute massage each, and $60 voucher to be used on site.haramararetreat.com

Rancho La Puerta

Yoga pioneer Indra Devi is considered by many to be the godmother of western yoga. Having lived in India and studied under the nation’s most influential yoga master, Krishnamacharya, she broke both east/west and male/female barriers by becoming a master herself in the mid-20th century. She brought her skills to Shanghai and Hollywood, and finally to Tecate in Mexico, where in 1953, she opened her own yoga estate —just across the border from San Diego. Today, her legacy can be experienced at the renowned Rancho La Puerta, located near Devi’s original yoga hideaway. At the Ranch—as it’s called by its guests–, Devi developed a strong yoga program in 1955, which the resort still honors. With 3,000-acres at the foot of Baja’s mystical mountains, salubrious Rancho La Puerta restores and revitalizes its guests with healthy cuisine and more than 80 activities, from hiking to cooking to kickboxing. But, yoga fans can take advantage of varied yoga classes and Devi-infused retreats year round, many of them embracing a theme, such as Spirit Week: Yoga and Everyday Mindfulness in February and Prime of Life Yoga in March $1,393 and up, includes meals and all fitness classes. Rancholapuerta.com

Resort at Pedregal

Perhaps Los Cabos’ most swank address, this resort took a hit during last year’s unbridled Hurricane Odile. But, the storied Resort at Pedregal reopened better than ever and artfully re-imagined. Be among the first to experience the 24-acre site and its beach front villas. A new culinary component called the Champagne Terrace specializes in bubbles and canapes, but don’t let it lure you away from your yoga practice. Sign up for the Yoga Getaway and be under the tutelage of the curative Luna Y Mar Spa. With three private yoga classes, including an evening outdoor yoga/meditation, a spa treatment, and a luxurious beachside room, and butler-style service, regeneration is bound to happen. $525 and up per night. theresortatpedregal.com

Becca Hensley spent her summers in Mexico’s colonial city, Puebla, with her ex-pat grandfather. A widely published freelance writer, based in Austin, she has been practicing yoga since age 17, when she met a yoga master from Rishikesh, India.



All Things French in the South of Fifth – Café Nikki Miami

Photo credit Gianfraco Bianchi

All photos  Gianfraco Bianchi

Start your day in the South of Fifth, neighborhood that is, while you’re transported to the South of France at Café Nikki, a new French cafe in the courtyard of Nikki Beach. Newly opened, this cafe offers coffees, teas, and delicious bakery items including croissants, quiches, and pastries. Freshly baked bread by Zac the Baker is also available as well as Allain Milliat marmalades. I just recently learned, from a dear British friend of mine, the appreciate of a fine European marmalade made readily available in the States. The outdoor terrace setting provides the perfect spot for stimulating conversation and getting the day off to a great start. Or cozy up inside the cafe among stacks of books, comfortable seating, and the bountiful case of enticing baked goods. We all know and love Nikki Beach for its idyllic setting for Sunday brunch and dancing the night away and now we can start the day right at Café Nikki, a welcomed addition, oui oui!

If you’re one of the lucky few to call the South of Fifth neighborhood home, enjoy free coffee now through September 30, 2015.

For more information please visit, www.nikkibeach.com


The Resurgence of Vodka – Why You Should Rethink Your Drink

Elyx Vodka Recipe

Driving Miss Daisy photo courtesy of Elyx Vodka

The craft cocktail scene has taken the nation, and possibly the world, by storm – is a good way – for the past few years. Bartenders or mixologists have bravely taken us out of our comfort zones and have gotten us to not only like, but prefer, spirits we would never think of drinking, let alone order at the bar. You know the drill, a vodka soda, a vodka tonic, etc and there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, welcome to the “new” world of luxury brand vodkas and rediscover this classic spirit worthy of a sip or two.

Photo courtesy of Elyx Vodka

Photo courtesy of Elyx Vodka

In the recent past, we wrote about Ultimat Vodka, a fine vodka that we, personally, enjoyed on the rocks with a simple twist in the stunning Riedel glasses that accompanied the cobalt blue decanter-style bottle. Welcome Elyx by a brand we know and trust, Absolut. The bottle alone is a work of art and one worthy of being on display. The brand debuted at a pop-up club of  Ian Schrager’s EDITION Hotel in Miami during Art Basel.

Curious about the copper pineapple pictured above? It’s symbolic of the filtration process done by hand in a 1921 copper rectification still, or a Column 51, as it’s called, and made entirely of copper.  The copper purifies the vodka and lends a silky texture and taste. While we enjoy a mixed drink, we enjoy this luxury vodka martini-style, up, cold, and a little dirty. For those who are more adventurous behind the bar, we’ve included a fabulous cocktail recipe below. As Keith Richards says, “I’ll have a screwdriver and throw a hammer in it!”  Take our word for it, this is is one heck of hammer!


Driving Miss Daisy






Fast Cars and Fabulous Hotels – Porsche and Four Seasons Pair Up

Porsche Headquarters Atlanta, GA

Porsche Headquarters Atlanta, GA

You already know we are big fans of Atlanta, when we wrote about a weekend getaway there,  and while there a stay at the Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta is the icing on the cake! When we learned that the stunning hotel hooked up with Porsche we couldn’t wait to find out more and share the news with you, our wonderful readers.

Porsche Experience Center

Porsche Experience Center

Porsche brings an extraordinary driving experience and has upped the ante with their Porsche Experience Center located in Atlanta, GA. The center features a 1.6 mile driver development track, a fine dining restaurant, classic car gallery, restoration center, human performance center, and driving simulator lab.

Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta

Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta

Pairing up with Four Seasons and their “Extraordinary Experiences” program was a natural fit for Porsche. Customers of the Experience Center enjoy special VIP treatment at this Midtown Mecca including special rates and amenities, spa discounts and food and beverage credits. Fast cars + a fine hotel = a fabulous fit!

For more information please visit,  www.porschedriving.com/centers/Atlanta or www.fourseasons.com/atlanta


Up Next: Asheville Wine & Food Festival August 20-22


We continue our adventures in good taste exploring the country’s best wine and food festivals. One to add to the list is the Asheville Wine and Food Festival, set in the beautiful backdrop of the North Carolina Mountains. In its 7th year, this year’s festivities kick off with ELIXIR, a craft cocktail contest which reveals the area’s best mixologists. Local distilleries including Blue Ridge Distilling, Davis Valley Distillery, and TOPO Distillery will be present.


On Friday evening, enter Candyland , with the festival’s SWEET event celebrating desserts, champagne, wine, spirits, and shopping. We’re most excited about Saturday’s Grand Tasting, a three-tier tastings taking place at the U.S. Cellular Center located in downtown Asheville. Local and international wineries, area breweries, regional distilleries, restaurants, artisan food producers, chefs, and more will all be present showcasing the best delectable eats and quenchy drinks. We can not wait!

Photo courtesy of the Hotel Indigo

Photo courtesy of the Hotel Indigo

Fantastic accommodations at the nearby Hotel Indigo put us right in the center of the action. I’m especially excited for this decadent weekend as a celebration of the big 4 0 -1 as I like to call it, i.e. turning 39. Hoping to cheers and celebrate with you there. For more information and for tickets, please visit Asheville Wine & Food.


Bali Hi: An Island Resort in Paradise

Photo courtesy of Royal Davui Island Resort

Photo courtesy of Royal Davui Island Resort

Grahame Southwick comes to our rescue.

Actually, I think he just wants to join our party on a secluded pocket-sized cay in the South Pacific.  Surrounded by a cobalt expanse so varied in blues it might have been painted by David Hockney, we relax atop blankets sipping bloody marys and nibbling Lilliputian quiches. Though the waves roar and a siege of black and white gulls cackle away, nature mutes its own noise, fusing the cacophony into a meditative silence. On a breakfast picnic, we’ve taken over this cloistered islet as if we were the Swiss Family Robinson shipwrecked in the possession of a master chef. In truth, its our hotel, Royal Davui, located on its own private island nearby (just a bit bigger than this one) that arranged our outing. They have supplied this breakfast repast of Babette proportions. We’ve spent the morning searching for shells, sunning and storytelling, and now its time to return to civilization—that is if you consider Royal Davui, an 8-acre island with 16 vales (villas) perfectly perched on volcanic cliffs , a new spa, pristine beaches, a tree house restaurant, and fairytale foliage, to be “civilization.” I call it heaven.

Photo courtesy of Royal Davui Island Resort

Photo courtesy of Royal Davui Island Resort

Enter Grahame Southwick: adventurer, shark wrestler, sailor, tuna fishing entrepreneur, fifth-generation Fijian, and owner of  Royal Davui, located just 45 minutes from Nandi by helicopter. He docks his rotomodeled, fiberglass 14-foot Hobie Wave—one of two the hotel has on hand for guests to sail,–and points out that this sandy cay might disappear with the tide. We help pack up the crusts and detritus from our meal, and stand with Grahame on the sand. The sun illuminates his handsome, weather-worn face, while he tells us about the wrecked ship he salvaged from the sea, carried to Royal Davui, then resunk near the reef just to add extra romance to the already fish-flocked waters—a clear boon for divers.  Suddenly, as if summoned by a bell, his eyes widen. Grahame focuses on the vista—as if for the very first time. “Just look at that,” he says. He gestures to the horizon, which features a mesmerizing blanket of blues as far as the eye can see.–and absolutely nothing else.  We internalize his passion for this island nation, an archipelago of more than 300 islands, only 100 of them occupied. Fiji. Not Tahiti. Not Hawaii. This is a world apart. Though its time to sail back, we ponder the gravitas of this setting, and the strange loud quietude. Though in the middle of nowhere, we are everywhere. Here, on this Fijian motu, the world feels entirely enormous, but comfortingly intimate, too.

Photo courtesy of Royal Davui Island Resort

Photo courtesy of Royal Davui Island Resort


So, clinging to Grahame’s fast speeding sailboat (did I mention he’s a world class Hobie racer?), we rollick through the waves to the tranquility and romance of adults only Royal Davui. When we return, legions of staff (the guest to staff ration must be 3-to-1) greet us ebulliently, as if we’ve been gone a very long time—or as if they thought we’d never return. But, then, that’s what happens in Fiji. People welcome you—like family. When they say “bula (their catch-all word, like aloha, which translates to welcome), they mean it. Still, this amicable spirit feels more embracing on Royal Davui than anywhere else.  They don’t just welcome you at this have onf barefoot luxury—they adopt you.  So, like family we enjoy our stay. We retire to our villa’s private plunge pools, tropical drink in hand; we grab snorkeling equipment and take to the reef; and we cuddle up in the love shack—a hidden spot overlooking the Pacific with couples in mind. One day we visit a neighboring island village to attend church—and watch the local children’s choir croon. Some days we do nothing at all.

Just like you do when you visit family. (royaldavuifiji.com)

Fun Facts:

Drink Kava, the “relaxing” national beverage which looks like mud and tastes like dirty socks. Residents meet and greet you with it, and sip it all day.

The official language of Fiji is English—though Fijian is spoken. Literacy rate is almost 94 percent.

Fiji’s waters are home to over 1,500 species of sea life.

Fiji’s waters are home to over 1,500 species of sea life.


The Perfect Summer Sipper – Apricot Sour Recipe from The INN

Photo Courtesy of the INN, Montgomergy Center, Vermont

Photo Courtesy of the INN, Montgomery Center, Vermont

School’s out, vacations have started, and the days and nights of sultry summer have begun. Here at VODA we think the best way to beat the heat is with a crisp, cool cocktail and this one from The INN located in Vermont fits the bill perfectly!


1.5 oz dried apricot-infused brandy

1.5 oz whiskey

2 oz home-made sour mix

Orange slice

Maraschino cherry


To infuse the brandy, simply soak a bottle of standard brandy overnight with dried apricots. The longer the soak the better; it won’t go bad.

For the sour mix, make a standard simple syrup and mix that 1:1 with lemon/lime juice and two egg whites in a mason jar.

Leave enough room in the jar to shake with air.

Garnish with orange slice and cherry.

There’s still time to book a summer getaway to the INN. Located in beautiful Montgomery Center, Vermont, this quaint inn has just 11 rooms. Its surroundings are picturesque and provide the perfect setting for relaxing and sipping on a summer cocktail. The INN is offering a “Three Nights for the Price of Two” package now. For more information visit, www.theinn.us


La Nuit En Rosé Sails Into New York

Photo credit Guillaume Gaudet

Photo credit Guillaume Gaudet

It’s summer and it this is the sultry season for sipping rosé while enjoying some of the seasons most succulent summer foods. In this all Rosé and Rosé Champagne event, La Nuit En Rosé is sailing into New York’s Hudson River on the Hornblower Infinity Yacht on Thursday, June 25 – Saturday, June 27. This almost all-sold out event returns this year with even more to offer including VIP Rosé Wine Pairing Dinner, a VIP Lounge, more than 150 rosé wines, and live entertainment. There’s still space available to attend Saturday’s general admission cruise from 1 PM – 4 PM, so don’t miss out!

Stemmari Rose bottleshot


Rosés from Italy, France, and New York will be featured at the event and will include STEMMARI ROSÉ 2014 Sicily, Italy; Château Sainte Marguerite, Cuvée Symphonie Rosé 2014 Provence; Cru Classé Côtes de Provence, Domaine Montrose rosé 2014; Languedoc Roussillon, Pays d’Oc; Bridge Lane Rosé 2014 New York, North Fork of Long Island; Ca’ del Bosco Annamaria Clementi Rosé Italy, Lombardy, Franciacorta Riserva DOCG. All of these wines retail for under $25 with the exception of the last mentioned, which sells for $100.

Rosé wine sales are at an all time high in the U.S. with reason! These easy-sipping wines are the perfect pair to chilled summer foods including seafood, salads and sushi. They are elegant to the eye and on the lips and are always best served well chilled. La Nuit’s founder, Pierrick Bouquet created this event to celebrate what is called the “rosé lifestyle.” Food is provided at the event by exquisite restaurants including STK, Butter & Scotch, and my personal favorite Fig & Olive. Dress code is none other than “Pink Chic.” Don’t miss this one! For more information visit, http://nuitrose.com/events/2015/la-nuit-en-rose-new-york


Weekend Getaway Where to Go Next – Atlanta

The fifth annual Atlanta Food & Wine Festival gave us reason to find our way back to this hot city often referred to as Austin’s sister city. I’d describe it as a grown-up version of Austin – the older sister who exudes confidence and grace while still retaining their fun-loving, playful side. In the all too short weekend visit we packed a lot into a city that has loads to offer and we share our must-dos with you below.


Photo credit Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta


Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta

What better way to check into a property on a Friday afternoon then to start off with happy hour … in the Spa! Monday through Friday this midtown Mecca offers spa happy hour complete with two 25 minute treatments of choice and a glass of sparkling wine or sparkling cider for the teetotalers. It’s just the right prescription for kickstarting the weekend in a stress-free and fun state. Rooms are casually comfortable with all the luxuries of home (or what one could wish for at home). Bathrooms are adorned with ample-sized vanities and marble bath and showers with brass features. Service is, as always, top notch! www.fourseasons.com/atlanta/

Ritz-Carlton Atlanta

Get a taste of the downtown flavor at this ornate jewel box of a property situated in the heart of the city on Peachtree Street. We loved the look of the terrace dining at the Atlanta Grill. Flawless check-in with a welcome glass of Prosecco sets the tone. Views from top-floor rooms are like none other – we overlooked the ferris wheel and felt like we were part of the city skyline. The complimentary hotel car gets you where you need to be in comfort and style. www.ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/Atlanta/


Atlanta Grill at the Ritz-Carlton

This is the place to dine downtown. Pick a seat in the cozy, yet elegant dining room or choose a more casual perch on the terrace overlooking the city streets as you watch the action below. Chef Shaun Thomas under the direction of Executive Chef, Ramesh Kaduru, turned out bites so delectable we swooned even more over each course. Sommelier Brian White offers gracious hospitality as he guided us through the interesting wine list and offered his suggestions to complement the courses perfectly. We sipped a French rosé from Provence paired with Chef’s rabbit terrine and were delighted with the Vacqueras Blanc, Chateau de Montmirail, Rhone Valley white wine we enjoyed with grilled octopus. Brian steered us in the right direction with a Russian River Valley pinot noir that enhanced the “Fish n Grits” style grouper.


Photo credit Katie Lesnick

For dessert, he shared with us a very special, and small production, Patron Anejo Tequila, one of his own personal bottles. It was the perfect ending to a perfect meal. www.ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/Atlanta/Dining/AtlantaGrill/


Be sure to make reservations at cool and hip hotspot. I cozied up to the bar and ordered  a well-crafted margarita while waiting for a table. A well-rounded, seafood-centric menu tempted us to keep things simple as my dining companion and I shared several courses including Cobia Ceviche, Yellowfin Tuna Crudo, and Tuna Conserva salad. Service was friendly and efficient. Get there early if you wish to get a seat at the three-deep bar. www.lure-atlanta.com

The Café at the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead

Be an uptown girl (or boy) for the evening at this upscale outpost for fine, yet comfortable dining. Enter through the lounge with live music wafting through the air as you find your seat in the main dining room. We couldn’t resist a sushi start as we eyed the sushi chef and fresh offerings passing through the lounge area on our way to the dining room. We started with the Ritz Roll – Spicy Tuna topped with Tuna and, of course, Caviar. Dinner was a rich Halibut paired with Lafite, Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc, Bordeaux, France suggested by sommelier Linda Torres. My dining companions were content with a rich Bordeaux that complimented a classic burger and beet salad. www.ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/Buckhead/Dining/TheCafe/


Piedmont Park

It’s all about the balance. Situated in midtown, Piedmont Park sits on 189 acres and plays host to a variety of events and is the perfect backdrop for a stroll or jog. We laced up our running shoes and sweated out some of the previous night’s toxins. In addition to the walking and jogging paths, the park has picnic areas, tennis, playgrounds, and the Lake Clara Meer dock. Don’t miss this little slice of heaven on your visit to Atlanta. www.piedmontpark.org

Photo courtesy of  High Museum of Art

Photo courtesy of High Museum of Art

High Museum of Art

Known as one of the leading museums in the Southeast, this stunner has more than 14,000 pieces of works in its collection. Not to be missed are the Gordon Parks photography exhibition, the Coca-Cola bottle exhibition, and the Los Trompos installation on the Piazza. www.high.org

Photo credit Andrew Thomas Lee

Photo credit Andrew Thomas Lee

Empire State South

Also in midtown is the a gem of an adult playground with indoor/outdoor areas. Inside candlelight tables set the mood for intimate dining with friends while the lively bar provides a perch for those looking for a more energetic vibe. The outdoor space is dressed with patio tables and chairs, adirondaks, and a bocce ball court runs straight through the middle of it all. Cocktail service is not provided outdoors – the only flaw at this dynamic dining and drinking spot. Drinks are prepared with care, the bites are to die for, and the wine list is well thought out. Add this to the list on your next visit to Atlanta! www.empirestatesouth.com

Photo credit Nicole Carbon

Photo credit Nicole Carbon


Linger and lounge at Intermezzo – one of the best people watching spots in all of midtown. It sits on the corner of Peachtree Street. Pretend you’re in Paris as you find a seat on their outdoor terrace lined with marble-topped cafe tables adorned with a petite vase of flowers. We took refuge from the rain and sipped on a sparkling rosé cava, it is was divine. www.cafeintermezzo.com

Atlanta Food & Wine Festival

Photo credit Nicole Carbon

Photo credit Nicole Carbon

It’s not too early to start making your plans for next year’s festivities taking place June 2-5, 2016. In its fifth year, the festival stunned with world-renown chefs from the Southeast. We sipped and nibbled our way through the South. In addition to the tasting tents, don’t miss the seminars. These are led by top industry professionals in a fun, yet educational setting. We attended Eric Crane’s and Andrew McNamara’s “Acid is Your Friend” seminar and learned all about what “quenchy” wines are and why you should be drinking them now. Crane is an advanced sommelier and Director of Training and Business Development for Empire Distributors and McNamara is a Master Sommelier and Director of Fine Wine for Premier Beverage Company. We learned that, “alcohol is a social lubricant,” and high acid wines do not cause dry mouth often associated with high tannic wines. With high acid wines, “conversation flows,” so these are the perfect dinner party wines. Examples of high acid wines that we tasted included Veuve Cliquot Rosé, Pewsey Vale Riesling, and Luc Belaire Rosé. Yum and quenchy! There’s so much more to this dynamic city that we didn’t yet experience and are happy to have reason to go back for more! www.atlfoodandwinefestival.com