Cedar Ridge Winery & Distillery
Cedar Ridge Winery & Distillery is right in the Corn Belt, located in Swisher, Iowa. Not only does it have endless Iowa-grown grapes, but it also has never-ending bushels of corn straight from our fertile Midwestern soil. This ensures that there’s a personal touch to all of the wine and spirits at this place. They also age their whiskeys in a non-temperature controlled climate to make sure it tastes as natural as possible. Whether enjoying your favorite bottle of wine or some smooth dark liquor, Cedar Ridge Winery & Distillery is a great place to unwind.
Located off of Fleur Drive, the Jasper Winery hosts weddings, tastings, and events. The Groben family owns the winery — they’ve been running it for almost ten years. Since everything is locally grown, their philosophy manifests itself in Iowa grapes in every bottle or glass they produce. That doesn’t mean they are behind on the times, of course — they use an innovative process to determine which grape varieties to use during fermentation and how to age the wine once it’s been barreled. Their dry wines are aged exclusively in French or American Oak casks.
This winery offers a variety of different events that allow wine lovers to explore its grounds. Choose the “VIP Tasting Tour” for a 90-minute educational tasting that will teach you how to properly taste wine while you learn about Iowa history ($15), or the “Wine and Chocolate Pairing” session to learn how to best to take your chocolate with your wine ($15). The winery also offers a Bachelorette special for bridal parties that includes your own table, five bottles of wine, two cheese plates, and chocolates to share for only $100.
The tasting room at Summerset Winery is open every day Tuesday to Sunday all year long. If you want to get in on a Monday though, make an appointment. They boast friendly and knowledgeable staff who is down-to-earth enough to understand amateurs and wine aficionados alike. Their formal wine tasting and tour package costs $20, and includes a taste of six wines and a cheese plate. This also includes a look at the wine cellars and a branded wine glass to take home with you. For a slightly larger fee, tours can be private and include your very own dedicated winery representative to show you the wine tasting ropes. It’s great for big groups of friends, but the undivided attention is also useful for curious first-timers too.
Tassel Ridge Winery
The Tassel Ridge Winery offers many events aside from your traditional tasting and wine tour. Each week, they host a wine and small plates event, a wood fired pizza day, a wine and pasta night, and a series of other less regular special events. A hosted tour of the winery is free and includes a winemaking process tour as well as a tour of the grounds. Here, you’ll learn vineyard planting techniques and get a glimpse of the harvesting process, followed by the processing, fermenting, blending, and bottling of wine. If you’re with a group, you can book a ride on the Vineyard Grapemobile, an aptly named open-air trailer that will take you through the vineyard as well. It’s a great way learn all about the vineyard’s history and how to harvest grapes in Iowa’s semi-cold climate.
Fox Ridge Winery
If you’re willing to travel about forty-five minutes outside of Des Moines, the Fox Ridge Winery is one local spot you won’t want to miss. It’s located in gorgeous Northern Tama country just northwest of Traer, Iowa. Though the Fox Ridge Winery doesn’t offer tours, they make up for it in entertainment options. It’s the perfect place to go to enjoy live music on the lawn while enjoying their robust wine selection. Their wines are made exclusively from grapes from the region, and they encourage patrons to wander the grounds as they please. This is the place to go if you’re looking for a more independently led experience that allows you to choose your own itinerary.
La Vida Loca Winery
The folks at La Vida know how to tell it like it is, and their wines don’t hide behind any pretenses either. They offer four wines, each variety harvested and bottled using the freshest grapes for superior quality. Their La Vida Loca Red variety won a silver medal in the Mid-American wine competition this year. Though they don’t offer winery tours, they hold feature evenings where guests are served smoked pork loin or smoked St. Louis ribs. This more than makes up for it, especially when paired with the perfect wine. Be sure to check out their Murder Mystery Dinner nights, which involve an action-packed dinner theater experience and the opportunity to discover how loca la vida truly is.
Eating healthy is the new in!
Two life-long friends open the first gluten-free restaurant in beautiful Barcelona, Spain
...By Robin G. Coles
Sergio, my waiter, graciously excused himself and brought the chef out to discuss my options. They assured me everything is Gluten-free. “Everything is Gluten-free,” says Marta, chef of Chaitea Hausfood. She recommended the lentil burger on a bulky roll. The burger came on a flat board with grooves to collect the crumbs. The board also held four hot baked potato wedges, lettuce, tomato, vegetable and chutney. There was also a whip of avocado and one grape tomato sliced in half. To drink, they recommended a glass of Chilean La Rosa wine.
Chaitea Hausfood seats around 35 patrons. Every table has round straw mats, an aloe plant and cane chairs. Each plant has a popsicle stick in it holding a sign. Mine says “Sonrie” No Hay Excusas (Smile, there’s no excuses!). In the front, there’s a small lounge area to wait for your table or take-out. The dinner menus are pieces of white paper on clipboards with choice of either Spanish or English. Breakfast/Lunch menus are on brown cardboard.
The next day (Sunday) I was heading to Montjuic (Mountain of the Jews) and La Playa (Beach). Not sure what to expect for cafes in that area I stopped at Chaitea for take-out. Lunch was standing room only. While I waited for my order of vegetables with goat cheese, beets, tomatoes, sweet potato and radicchio, I heard a familiar accent from back home; New England. It was coming from a group of college students; 3 girls from New York, 2 of which are studying in Rome, the other one is studying in Segovia, Spain. The young man with them is a student at Penn State in PA. He was on Spring break. Another couple from Delaware was visiting their daughter who is studying a semester in Spain.
After a full day’s excursions, I ended back at Chai Tea for my final dinner in Barcelona. This was after I went to 10 different restaurants. Each one said they didn’t want to cook “sin-gluten” for me. Gabriel Monagas was my waiter. Once again, Marta came out to talk with me. She put together a chicken patty topped with carrots, eggplant and goat cheese. Salad and potato wedges on the side. Tonight’s beverage was a gluten-free Spanish beer called Durum Drum. The perfect choice to ending a long 12-day trip riding up and down the coast of Spain.
Once dinner was over I had the opportunity to talk in length with Sergio. Not only does he wait tables, he co-owns the restaurant. His partner is Gustavo Barrelo.
In Venezuela, Sergio Severino went to school to become a lawyer. Gustavo Barrelo studied to be a dentist. To work in Spain, they would have to start over again. So, they chose to live their dream and open a restaurant. “This place is like we are at home,” says Sergio. “It’s very important for us. We want people to feel good and eat in a place where they can speak with another person, eat good food; healthy food.”
Gustavo is extremely strict with the food, he’s on a diet all year. He’s never eaten McDonald’s his whole life. The restaurant is like his project from himself to the world. How he’s feeling inside because he’s very healthy.
Chef Marta Skolvronek is from Bologna, Italy. Head Chef Andres Paz is from Venezuela. He started over in Spain as a culinary student. Gabriel Monagas is also from Venezuela and works as their waiter.
They came up with the name because Sergio likes the tea and it’s a mix between Asia, Europe and Latin America. Chaitea haus food is a different language, chai is very healthy for you. Together it’s 3 continents difference. “We make new foods all the time with the tides (different),” says Sergio. “Fresher, great taste with a splash of color for fusion. People eat with their eyes. Color and fusion is important for that.”
Why sin gluten? “Because we eat all healthy foods,” Sergio says. “It’s healthy for the people and get them to start eating and thinking healthy, clean for the body and lifestyle. To have good body. They need to think of themselves – kinds of foods they eat, what is better for them, they are what they eat. They can prevent diseases by eating healthy the rest of their lives. Less sickness, cancer, diabetes, etc.”
They opened October 2016. “It was hard work,” he says. “We found this place very different so we started from zero. Everything here is new and expensive too. We’re happy with it.” Severino and Barrelo are happy that they’ve joined their family in Spain and accomplished their “plan”. They carved out the perfect niche right in Barcelona. It’s a dream come true. Plans are already in motion for their next project sometime in 2018.
More from Robin Coles:
"Hyatt Centric", which is a branded subdivision of Hyatt Hotels, focuses on and utilizes the specifics of its locatIon and all its inherent components," stated Braedan Quigley, Hyatt Sales & Marketing Director at Hyatts of the Caribbean.
He continued, "In Key West, for example, we focused on Cuban coffee, Ernest Hemingway's influences, and Tenessee Williams' drink specialties, in giving this location its higher demand and visibility".
The Hyatt Centric Key West offers extremely spacious bedrooms, each with a water view from your own private balcony. A sumptuous bathroom, with a generous sized shower, and the added luxury of your choice of operation including rain shower or hand held, in many ways is mindful of a spa experience minus the massage. Add the fragrant lotions and scents, and, of course, the relaxing effects of simply letting your thoughts slow down, and firmly reconnect with your inner calm.
Couples massages, called "duets", are available as well and can include full body signature massage, hot oil scalp massage , or the extremely rejuvenating footscrub.
Jala, which means "water" in Sanskrit, is really all about getting you in touch with your essential life. Explore the delightful experience of relaxation. You owe it to yourself to slow down even if it's only for one hour.
There's no shortage of imagination or deliciousness on the menu. Frozen drinks are also available and you can order from the Mojiti poolside menu which includes a great selection of salads and finger foods.
For breakfast, lunch or dinner, Shor American Seafood Grill is on property and does an amazing job of delivering five star cuisine.
The eclectic menu offers a wide array of internationally represented flavors with several choices of fresh catch, local favorites and delicately prepared side dishes you won't soon forget.
Breakfast offerings include delicious smoked salmon served on pumpernickel break with egg white, cream cheese and capers which took the dish to another level in its delivery of flavor. The Cajun Omelet was amazing and included Andouille sausage, bacon, peppers, Monterey Jack Cheese as well as several requisite Cajun spices. The menu also included the ever popular Fried Chicken and Waffles, an Island Breakfast Ceviche, Eggs Benedict and even a healthy Warm Tropical Fruit Quinoa. Freshly squeezed orange juice, good, strong Cuban coffee and an assortment of teas are also available. Lunch is available as well and includes great soups, salads sandwiches with a local flare and seafood choices as well.
The dinner menu at SHOR is nothing short of spectacular. Appetizers include everything from Charred Baby Octopus, Key West Seafood Hot Pot, Bacon Wrapped Pork Belly and/or Calamari Fries. Or choose from the Angus Prime Steak, Orange Mojo Gulf Stream Mahi Mahi, Key West Ale Braised Short Ribs, or Pan Seared Local Catch of the Day. Much of the seafood served at this distinctive dining establishment has been caught locally and is done so on a daily basis. The freshness is evident.
With an idyllic location in Old Town Key West, Hyatt Centric Key West Resort & Spa offers access to prime sites for relaxation and rejuvenation. Get out on the water, lounge on the beach, or meander through the streets of Old Town as you marvel at the historical architecture. Whether your passion is golf, snorkeling, or spa treatments, you’ll find that you can experience it all from our Key West resort, leaving you refreshed when the time comes to journey home.
#KeyWest #Hyatt #LindaWalters
by Joe Mack
Thinking about the Caribbean Island of St Martin, for me, there is only one side, the French Side. I had heard about St Martin. I knew half of the island was French. I like all things French. I go regularly to Quebec City, Canada, and I have toured the South of France. Nice, St Tropez, Cannes. But that’s another story. HERE I deal with the Caribbean.
I did research before coming to the island. My wife Jaci and I are “foodies" and I discovered the town of Grand Case is considered the “Gourmet Capital of the Caribbean.” There is a good reason why. Main Street in Grand Case is called Grand Case Blvd. Here you will find some hotels and B&B’s lining the beach side of the street but, the first thing you will notice, are the number of restaurants. They adorn both sides of the street. On the ocean side, you will get the extra benefit of an ocean view while you dine. Anything in Grand Case that is along the beach is RIGHT ON THE BEACH. It is not a walk to the beach, you are right on the beach. In St Martin, as in most Caribbean islands, no beach is private, they belong to everyone.
It didn’t take long for me to stop dwelling on these buildings. And they are not the norm. As of this date, places like this are few and far between. Renovations are booming. And now, at least on the ocean side, it’s hard to find a vacant building. The rest of the town is wonderful. And the people really are friendly as the name implies, The Friendly Island.
Grand Case Blvd is narrow. Cars park on both sides. Lucky for you, on most of Grand Case Blvd there is only one way traffic, including the main part. You learn to weave in and out of parked cars as you maneuver down the street. You see people walking, in cars and in their houses. You wave, they wave. You learn the rhythm of the island very fast.
The beach is a small one. The water is shallow, warm as you might expect. There is a sandy bottom. Not really much of a surf. If you want surf, got to Orient Beach.
Oh, this was about food wasn’t it? You have your choice. French, Sea Food, Thai, Italian, Creole, Vietnamese, Indian, Japanese, Tapas and, of course, Caribbean. There is an Island Barbeque type place with traditional island food called “a Lolo”. There is one in Grand Case.
At the end of your stay. Before you pack your bags and head for the airport, you have go to “Tijon Perfumeries & Boutique”. Here you will get a lesson in making perfume. The owner is very knowledgeable about scents, and guides you thru the process of making YOUR own personal scent. You take one of these scents, one of those, one of the other. He mixes it for you. Catalogs it in his data base. YOU give it a name and the formula is saved. If and when you come back, you can have more made, the same fragrance. Or you can contact him thru a web site and re order your own special scent that NO ONE else in the world has but YOU.
From "My Travel in Tuscany"
Even though along the coast summer seems to still be here, with some people resting in the sun and swimming in the sea, the fall came a couple of weeks ago. If you are still uncertain of where you should be traveling during this period of the year, choosing to plan the autumn holidays in Tuscany is definitely a good idea.
There are various good reasons to choose Tuscany in autumn, even if only for a short break or a romantic escape. Together with the spring, the fall is probably the best period to visit this land loved for its relaxing atmosphere, peaceful places, culture and history.
6 good reasons to plan your Autumn Holidays in Tuscany...
In October, the weather is still mild with warm and sunny days where you only need shorts and flip-flops to walk around. In November a bit of rain should fall, but it won’t stop your will to travel. Depending on the forecasts, you can choose to explore areas with less chance of rain, as Maremma or Crete Senesi. For an overview of the climate of the region read also our post about the weather in Tuscany.
Flights, hotel rates and the cost for a room or apartment are cheaper. Taking advantage of some packages and deals, you will be able to organize your autumn holidays in Tuscany without spending a fortune, a big savings compared to the high season.
Autumn is the period of the fall foliage, and the forests of Tuscany are every bit as good as the ones in New England in the United States or in Japan. The colour of leaves turns to different shades of yellow, orange, red and brown, giving the forests a special, magic and relaxing atmosphere where the only sound you can hear is the creaking of the dry foliage under your feet. I am sure your “perfect place” is somewhere out there, between the Mugello and the Casentino areas, up to the mountains of Abetone or Monte Amiata, into the chestnut tree forests of Castagneto Carducci in the Etruscan Coast or of Lunigiana.
Being out of the peak season you can enjoy both the art cities (Florence, Pisa, Siena and Lucca) and the main villages (San Gimignano, Pienza, Montalcino and Montepulciano) without the crowds you find during the summer.
You can even get out the cities and the more "touristy" spots and head for the Tuscan Riviera. It offers you wide empty sandy beaches to walk, medieval villages overlooking the sea to explore as Populonia in the Gulf of Baratti (where you can even visit the interesting archaeological park of Baratti and Populonia) or Porto Ercole and Porto Santo Stefano in the Argentario Promontory.
Taste the fruits of the season
The indisputable ruler of the autumn holidays in Tuscany is the food. Fall is the season of truffles, mushrooms, chestnuts, olive oil, and wine. The Sagre, the traditional festivals where you can taste the fruits of our land and the exquisite recipes made with them, spring up throughout the region.
The villages of San Miniato (in the province of Pisa) and of San Giovanni d’Asso (near Siena) celebrate the white truffle every November with festivals and trade fairs. But, the best places to pick and taste chestnuts are in the areas of Mugello, Garfagnana, Casentino, Lunigiana, and Monte Amiata. In the past, chestnut was one of the main ingredients of the kitchen, especially during periods of famine. Thanks to our grandparents, who passed down to us recipes of delicious dishes made with chestnuts, we still keep alive their memories and their traditions. Do not miss tasting roasted chestnuts or traditional food made with chestnut flour as Castagnaccio (try to make it following the recipe of my Grandma), crepes (called Necci) with ricotta cheese, or the Torta di Marroni of Mugello.
November is also the time of olive oil harvest and the time to celebrate the “Vino Novello”, the first wine produced with the fruits of the grape harvest of September.
Finally, I add another suggestion to the list of reasons why you should plan an autumn holiday in Tuscany: wellness and hot springs. In case of bad weather or chilly temperature you can even think to pamper yourself with a plunge into one of the hot springs of the region. Here is our blog post where put together all the free hot springs of Tuscany.
Do you still need reasons to convince you to spend your autumn holidays in Tuscany? Let me know If you need any other information or suggestions... just send me a story idea anytime through Facebook!
Nicola lives and breathes the travel life. From Cecina, a small coastal town in the centre of Tuscany, along the Etruscan Coast, Nicola works for luxury hotels and, when he's not working, he travels himself.
Nicola spent most of his years in Cecina, on the Tyrrhenian coast, surrounded by the sea, the wine region of Bolgheri and beautiful hills with many little hamlets. As a child there was little opportunity to travel a lot, except for weekends and holidays spent at the families country house in the chestnut wood of the tiny village of Sassetta.
Once gown, Nicola started to travel with friends, or by himself, and he fell in love with travel; discovering new cultures, new ways of life and meeting new people from all over the world.
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ORLANDO, FL: Got a sweet tooth or a craving for comfort food? Sweet Mama’s lives up to it’s name.
If you’re flying into Orlando, chances are you’re hungry by the time your flight lands. If it is earlier in the day you’re in luck.
Lake Nona is a community ("Medical City" is located here) just a short drive from the airport and, if you’re looking for something beyond the fast food, or chain restaurant airport fare, “Sweet Mama’s” is a great choice.
One of the first businesses to open in the Lake Nona area, “Sweet Mama’s” is a favorite of locals and visitors alike and are known for their homemake cakes and pies.
When I travel I try to seek out the “Mom & Pop” restaurants as a way to see the local culture and, after all, what’s the point of traveling if you’re just going to eat at another location of the same restaurants that are just around the corner from your home?
I had never been to Sweet Mama’s, but was visiting the local Keller Williams real estate office there at Lake Nona and Lorena, one of the Realtors, recommended it. She said they had GREAT brunches with $3 Mimosa’s (true!) but, alas, since it was a Monday, and still early in the day, we had to “settle” for lunch and no alcohol.
When we arrived we were greeted by Lisa, one of the “Sweet Mama’s” herself and we grabbed a high top table by the window.
They have both indoor, and outdoor, seating, so if it’s a beautiful day, or if you have your dog with you, you can grab an outdoor spot.
They have some kind of special almost every day, and Monday was $6 burger day… for any burger they have. I choose the mushroom, swiss, with sweet potato fries.
Our waitress, Yaileen, was super nice, and friendly, giving us a little history of Sweet Mama’s… she had been going there herself since high school, when it was in it’s first location.
There are TWO “Sweet Mama’s” ..Lisa, in the front of the house, and Linda, in the kitchen. Lisa and Linda are longtime friends who always dreamed of opening a quaint eatery. They treat their customers like family… because some of them are! When Lisa isn’t whipping up family recipes for her own Grandma’s chocolate cake or key lime pie, she’s serving it to her granddaughter.
When our lunch arrived, I have to say that they messed up my order a tad… giving me regular fries instead of the sweet potato fries. HOWEVER, even though I said it was fine, Lisa brought me out an extra order of sweet potato fries at no charge. She even made sure to tell us it was her fault, that Yaileen had put in the order correctly. Frankly, I never care if a minor mistake is make with an order... what's important is, when it does happen, that the business makes it right. THAT earns my loyalty.
My hamburger was PERFECT. I ordered it medium rare and that’s how it came… just slightly pink and juicy. My boyfriend loved his burger as well and he even saved half, plus the order of fries to take home for his dinner later.
Sweet Mama’s is ONLY open for breakfast and lunch… they close at 3 PM for dining, however they also do “Dinner to Go” (plus catering) with pick up until 6 PM, and with some delicious comfort foods on the menu… like meatloaf, fried catfish, liver and onions, chicken pot pie and chicken and waffles!
Desserts are what "Sweet Mama's is known for... homemade, fresh, delightful AND, best of all, available for you to take home for your family or special event. While they have seasonal favorites, they also have a core selection they make all the time, including...
Everyday Pies: Apple, Cherry, Blueberry, Coconut Cream, Key Lime and Peanut Butter.
Everyday Cakes: Carrot Cake, Banana Cake, Red Velvet, Grandma Mildred’s Chocolate Cake, Extreme Chocolate Cake w/Buttercream Frosting, Gluten Free Chocolate, Peanut Butter Squares AND Smores Brownies w/homemade caramel sauce
We’ve already talked about going back there for brunch to get those $3 Mimosas AND because I saw they make my FAVORITE type of Eggs Benedict… with corned beef hash instead of Canadian bacon. If you’ve never had Eggs Benedict this way you should try it. You’d think the flavors of the corned beef and hollandaise would be too intense together, but they are not… it’s amazing.
Of course, I'm already making a "mental note" to get some Extreme Chocolate Cake with Buttercream Frosting to take home.
Sweet Mama’s is just 16 minutes away from the Orlando International Airport, take the South exit out of the Airport and head East on 417 to Narcoossee Road exit, then go North just a bit. It’s on your way if you’re flying in to go to the beaches, and a bit out of the way if you’re heading for Disney, SeaWorld or the International Drive area. Regardless though, I bet you’ll find it worth your time.
Dining on the Road – Budget ideas
Ninja Level 1 (out of 5)
Cost: $ to $$
One of the great things about traveling today is the number of travel-friendly phone APPS like “Around Me” that allow you to find businesses within your current area. This allows the passenger to browse as you drive down the road. I use the APP to easily find ways to eat well, but on a budget.
I think one of the most fun parts of travel is finding the “Mom & Pop” eateries... like the “HomeFront Cafe” in Altamont, New York (just outside Albany), a charming country diner with patriotic and war memorabilia, including photos and memorials of locals who served our country. It was one of those places you could picture becoming your regular place, and it had an vintage “soda shop and ice cream bar” that is open in the warmer seasons.
One of the pleasures of locally owned, rather than chain, restaurants is that you often find the food to be unusually good, less expensive, and you get to experience the “flavor” of the local area, rather than a homogeneous “cookie cutter” ambiance that doesn't change with geography. Eating in a local place is a great way to get a feel for the community. Why not sit at the bar so you can chat with the locals?
I love meeting locals when traveling... and some are just a delight. In Kentucky my boyfriend and I sat next to an African American gentleman who was a regular at the diner. His name was Clay and he worked at a local non-profit helping men with drug and alcohol problems get back on their feet. He recommended we try the “Hot Brown” which is a Kentucky favorite consisting of Turkey and Bacon, sometimes with Ham as well, and served as an open faced sandwich with either a Mornay sauce or Cheddar Cheese. We did, and their version was a little different than my Mom used to make but very, very good. This diner had drinks, my boyfriend had a beer and I had a couple of cocktails. When we went to pay our bill however, we found that Clay had already picked up our check. So, not only did we have a delightful dinner companion to chat with, but we had that as a pleasant surprise!
Now “Diners” can vary in quality from state to state. In New Jersey and Michigan, a diner is often like a 4 or 5 star restaurant but with a more casual atmosphere and much lower prices. In fact New Jersey is famous for it's highly rated diners... like the Americana Diner in East Windsor, a delightful treat that made getting a bit lost totally worth it. The Americana serves cuisine best described as “international' in it's range, including curry flavors, Mexican, Italian, Asian, french, Greek and, of course, American!
In other states “Diners” might be slightly grimy places with little more than hamburgers and chicken soup on the menu. Frankly, I don't care which type of place it is, I still prefer being able to relax and get waited on (while enjoying the local ambiance) rather than grabbing a predictable (and generally unhealthy) meal in a fast food joint that looks the same as the one around the corner from our house. Often, you spend the same amount of money, so why not do something different and enjoy one of the pleasures of travel?
Ever been traveling and wanted a meal late at night but there were no options other than the normal fast food joints off the highway? Now here is something you might not even think of... Check the internet for local hospitals! This is something I picked up on while caring for sick relatives over the years... hospital cafeterias are often open very late, and some even have a limited selection 24/7. They generally have some “home cooking style” hot meals like meatloaf, chicken, fish and pasta, salad bars, a wide beverage selection and even desserts. Another plus... pricing! Hospital cafeterias are designed to service both employees and visitors of patients, so generally speaking, they are a low budget option for dining. Most of the time hospitals are located within a few miles of the major highways as well... so just look on your phone APP, then check the website for the hospital to see what their cafeteria hours are. Once I had a great meal at a hospital that served full meals till 1:30 AM.
Most of the time when we are traveling by road we take a couple of coolers with us. This saves us a bunch of money and allows us to snack healthier while driving. Before leaving I make up a bunch of hard boiled eggs, a few sandwiches, sometimes some cold chicken and salads. Throw in a half gallon of milk or tea, some yogurt, blocks of cheese, fig or fruit spreads and crackers and you're good to go, Finding a scenic spot for a picnic is usually pretty easy.
Now that's at the beginning of the trip. On the return, we often don't have much of a kitchen for preparing, but we can restock the cooler from a local grocery store. Additionally having a cooler allows us, when we eat in a restaurant, to have a place to put leftovers. Sometimes, if we are driving through more remote areas, I'll even order another meal to-go, something I know will keep in the cooler well that we can have up the road or the next day.
When we go on trips where we will be in the same spot for a week or two, we try to find places to stay that have somewhat of a kitchen in the room. This cuts down on the number of (more expensive) restaurant meals. You'd be surprised what you can do even in a room with only a microwave and mini fridge. I don't use microwaves for cooking though (only for heating water), so we also bring our trusty CrockPot (slow cooker). I've made delicious lasagna, pot roast and other hot meals right in the room. Like pasta? Cook the sauce in the CrockPot and heat water to boiling in the microwave, pull it out and drop in Angel Hair. It's thin enough it only has to sit in the hot water for a few minutes to be ready.
You can easily bake potatoes in a CrockPot and, if you get an elevated rack for your slow cooker you can bake chicken or meatloaf as well. Just use Google to find great recipes perfect for hotel room “dinner and movie” nights!
For packing, I throw our condiments, salt, pepper and spices, in the CrockPot, along with some of our own silverware and knives for prep. Into a tote goes a couple of plates and bowls, a larger serving bowl for prep, a roll of paper towels, crackers, nuts and other snack items. You can take along a complete kitchen “outfit” in no more than two tote bags.
My final “Road Tip” is this... don't pass up the chance to stop at those roadside stands.. in the Southern USA the boiled peanuts are a delightful snack and, all across the country, you can find some amazing BBQ, crabs, boiled shrimp, jerk chicken, empanadas, tacos and more. If you're not hungry when you come across them... stop anyway and throw something in that cooler!
Author: Sue Copening