Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Weekend Getaway

by Allison Jackson

In October, after I closed out a busy summer season of events, my husband told me to pack my bags for a long weekend in Puerto Rico. He needed to be in San Juan for some business meetings and thought if I joined him, I’d get to decompress after months without a break. Truthfully, Puerto Rico wasn’t on my priority list of travel destinations, and I had a thousand things to do around the house, but the promise of pool time and a few mojitos was enough to convince me to join him.

So I packed my bags… And I am so glad I did. San Juan is a wonderful city! It offers everything you want in a city – hip hotels, interesting restaurants and luxury shopping – along with a gorgeous oceanside setting. We stayed in the Condado district at La Concha, and the hotel in every way surpassed my expectations. I’m not sure what I expected from a hotel in downtown San Juan, but it didn’t include lounge chairs in the form of curtained beds and infinity pools dropping off into sandy beaches.

I was reluctant to do anything but hang by the pool, but my husband came back from his meetings ready for a nice dinner out. Our first night a business associate directed us to Budatai. After googling it quickly, I learned that this was Chef Roberto Trevino’s restaurant. Any of you fellow Iron Chef addicts know he had the guts to take on Mario Batali and that his more than decent performance won him the chance to compete to become this year’s Next Iron Chef. Chef Trevino’s “Nuevo Latino” cuisine is a delicious fusion of Latin and Asian flavors and techniques. And it is not to be missed. We loved the sushi and couldn’t resist trying the “La Rocca” roll, as La Rocca happens to be my maiden name. It featured rock shrimp tempura, tobiko and a wonderful creamy smoky sauce that gave the sushi some Latin flavor and heat. Other favorite dishes included truffle infused pork dumplings and the seared day boat scallopswith Budatai noodles pictured below.

The next day my husband needed to meet someone in Old San Juan, and he dragged me along with him. I had forgotten about Old San Juan. Old San Juan is rich with history, and it happens to be the oldest settlement within the U.S. territories. It also is home to one of our National Parks – the San Juan National Historic Site -- which includes Forts San Cristbal, San Felipe del Morro, and San Juan de la Cruz. These incredible forts date back to 1539 and are named on the World Heritage List as cultural wonders of the world.

For those of you who haven’t been to Old San Juan, it’s a very narrow island off the north coast of Puerto Rico. It’s a bit like a European version of Georgetown, but much older. The streets are narrow and paved with old cobblestones. And like Georgetown, the streets are filled with storefronts, cafes, bars and rowhouses painted in bright colors that just want to make you smile. While walking the city streets, I couldn’t stop looking at doors. I know that sounds strange, but the doors of the homes in Old San Juan are just beautiful. There is something about the juxtaposition of the old European architectural details with what I consider to be modern and Caribbean-style color combinations that is just so inspiring. See for yourself below!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Celebrating the Bride-To-Be

By Liza Tanner

This is the Year of Weddings for me. Beyond our many beautiful Pineapple weddings, by year-end I will have been to ten weddings for family and friends! While of course I enjoy the actual wedding ceremony and reception, I really love the more intimate parties that precede the big celebration – the bridal showers and the bachelorette weekends. Usually during those parties the bride isn’t anxious or running around to spend a moment with each of her many guests – she’s just enjoying spending time with close friends gushing about her to-die-for dress and her handsome husband-to-be.

One of my favorite bridal showers was a kitchen and bar cocktail party for my friend Leslie at CulinAerie, a cooking school in downtown DC. Guests enjoyed delectable passed hors d’oeuvres and glasses of wine, while mingling and admiring the happy couple’s beautiful engagement photo. The CulinAerie staff then invited all of the guests into the demonstration room, where we learned how to cook the parmesan crisps and other appetizers we had just enjoyed. The evening ended with a sweet treat beyond compare: the mother of the groom had created these bourbon cupcakes decorated with a fondant topper featuring the couple’s initials. A truly delicious evening.

A popular theme I have seen this year is the “Around The Clock” luncheon. This is a great way to ensure that the bride-to-be receives a diverse selection of gifts for her new home, and it’s a good option for a cross-generational guest list. The “Around The Clock” theme is also fun because it encourages guests to be creative with the time that they’re assigned – 5pm means many different things to different people – whether it’s cocktail hour, workout time, the early bird special, or something else! I love this invitation from www.creationsbyleslie.com.

I recently returned from my friend Jessica’s bachelorette weekend at The Shore Club in Miami – it was a fun-filled weekend of celebrating the bride-to-be and pure girliness. During the days we lounged by the pool, working on our tans, flipping through gossip rags and enjoying the fantastic people watching. Then at night we took the bachelorette dancing at some of the many South Beach hot spots. Taverna Opa was the perfect spot for our bachelorette dinner, because between courses of delicious Greek cuisine the lively servers and belly dancers made us dance on the tables! But my personal favorite was the lounge at the Delano Hotel, where the exquisite décor is inspired by Alice in Wonderland, with large tilted mirrors, billowing drapes, an oversized armchair, and chess on the perfectly-manicured lawn. In keeping with Miami’s saucy culture, we showered Jessica with lingerie that will surely keep the newlyweds blissful!

As I’ve showered many of my girlfriends with best wishes this year, I’ve cherished the opportunities their upcoming weddings have presented to spend time with each of them and share in their happiness.