June 29, 2011

Ajijic, Mexico: La Nueva Posada Donato; hotel review + restaurant review

If you’re looking for the old Mexico of cobblestone streets lined with colorful bougainvillea, Ajijic will satisfy. Located just 35 miles south of Guadalajara in the often-foggy area surrounding Lake Chapala (Mexico's largest lake), this tiny town is popular with expats, so you reap the benefit of many English-speaking residents and restaurants that cater to American tastes. It is famous for tropical weather and lush vegetation.

La Nueva Posada Donato Guerra #9, (376) 766-14-44;. 19 rooms; 3 stories. Unheated pool. Breakfast included. No smoking; small dogs ok. Free gated parking lot. 

Though it looks just as you would expect a colonial Mexican inn to look, this authentically replicated lodging was molded from a former lodging only in 1990. The Canadian family that owns it arrived at the lake in 1975, fell in love with the area, and started turning a rundown inn resembling a sow’s ear into this delightful silk purse. Located lakeside, in a quiet residential neighborhood just a few blocks from the center of picturesque Ajijic village, it is credited with putting this town on the tourist map. The grounds are planted with native tropical vegetation. Rooms are oversize, with cool stone floors; ten have a lake view. Walls are colorful--picture a shade of pumpkin cutting to cantaloupe--and  decorated with original art. Furniture is heavy Spanish-style, but painted perhaps a light shade of blue. Locally-made baskets hang over light bulbs and cast romantic shadows onto the walls. Some rooms have sliding doors with screens permitting you to open the door to mellow Mexican music drifting up from the restaurant patio, and to the deep, deep silent nights broken in the morning by the pealing of the town’s church bells at 6 a.m. and followed by a cacophony of birdsong at sunrise. Rooms are cooled to a comfortable temperature by a ceiling fan; air conditioning is not available.

Restaurant La Rusa is named for a young ballet dancer from Budapest who inherited a gold mine in the early 1900s. It features an expansive patio fronting the lake, with seating under a gigantic banyan tree, and the menu offers both continental and Mexican cuisines.

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image c2011 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

June 27, 2011

NYC: Asia Dog; restaurant review

Asia Dog 66 Kenmare St. (btw. Mott &; Mulberry, in Nolita, 212-226-8861. L-D daily.

 A few steps up from the street, this tiny brick-walled spot has just a few tables. The specialty is hot dogs. Selections are unusual (the Sidney is topped with Thai mango relish and crushed peanuts), dogs are small, and receipts arrive in e-mail. The Korean yam fries are yummy, as is the wasabi potato salad.

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image c2011 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

June 24, 2011

Taveuni Island, Fiji: Waitavala waterslide; things to do

Waitavala waterslide

 This is a spot where locals slide down through a stream running over smooth rocks that mimic the form of a waterslide. It is dangerous, and you probably shouldn’t go without a local guide. Ours, Ben, was very helpful, with a strong hand and big smile, and he laughed that it was “the longest I’ve ever held a girl’s hand.”

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videos c2011 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

1-walking up:

2-Where'd he go?-sliding down, climbing up:

3-sliding down the rest:

June 22, 2011

NYC: Five Points; restaurant review

Five Points 31 Great Jones St, btw. Lafayette & Bowery St., in NoHo, 212-253-5700.

 This cheery spot shines at brunch. Choose then from specialties baked in the wood oven—eggs in cocotte made with goat cheese and artichokes—and other items such as lemon ricotta pancakes and smoked salmon eggs Benedict. Fried chicken, a burger, and several sandwiches are also usually options.

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image c2011 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

June 20, 2011

Taveuni Island, Fiji: Holy Cross Catholic Mission Church; things to do

Wairiki Village is home to both the Meridian Cinema and 19th-century Holy Cross Catholic Mission Church. Built to reward a French missionary for helping locals defeat invading Tongans, the church overlooks a soccer field and the Somosomo Strait. An important canoe battle also took place on this beach in the mid-17th century; a painting depicting it is on display in the church. The mission was built to thank a French missionary who helped the local warriors with their fight strategy. The priest gave a silver cross to the chief and said it would help them win the battle with the Tongans. The chief promised that if they won the battle they would become Catholics. Win the battle they did, but before they became Catholics, or so the story goes, the warriors cooked their dead enemies in a lovo oven and ate them with breadfruit. Sunday mass is in Fijian, and the choir singing is spectacular. The church overflows with worshipers, and most sit on the floor.

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video c2011 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

June 17, 2011

NYC: La Esquina; restaurant review

La Esquina 114 Kenmare St./Lafayette St., Nolita, 646-613-1333.  B M-F, L-D daily.

Diners have their choice of three venues here: a fast-food/take-away taqueria; a sit-down cafe; and a subterranean back room reached by walking downstairs and through the kitchen to a dark, windowless, brick-walled secret spot that is popular with celebs. The menu is Mexican, the execution is delicious, and the prices reflect the chosen venue. Especially delicious downstairs are the chili relleno and tiny tostadas appetizers; sides of plantains, black beans, and rice are recommended. This spot is famous for its tacos de pescado and colorful Pepino Diablo cocktail made with fresh cucumber, lime, and Tequila and served in a glass dipped in ground red chili pepper.

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image c2011 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

June 13, 2011

Yasawa Island, Fiji: Yasawa Island Resort and Spa; hotel review

Yasawa Island Resort and Spa On Yasawa Island’s upper west side, 679-666-3364. No children under 12 except during 20 specified weeks. 18 units (12 private bures, 3 duplex bures). Pool; tennis court; full-service spa.  T

his private island resort is reached by chartered small-plane transfer that beats anything Disney has to offer.

A superb upper-end resort, it offers an idyllic white-sand beach and every comfort you wouldn’t expect in such a hard-to-reach location. It is not glossy or polished but offers the essential luxuries and the experience of getting in touch with nature, local culture, and yourself. The central public complex was burned by an unfortunate fire in December 2009 and has been replaced with a more contemporary but still comfortable lounge, bar, and restaurant. Fortunately, the individual bures were not damaged and are superbly decorated in contemporary Fijian style, with a thatched roof, breeze-permitting plantation shutters, an expansive deck, an outdoor shower, a personal hammock, and a private beach hut at the edge of the water.

Meals and soft drinks are included, but alcoholic drinks are extra. Guests gather at the open-air bar at sunset and begin ordering cold Fijian beer and frothy Fijian rum-fueled cocktails. A fave cocktail is the Yasawa White Surf, made with local Fijian OP dark rum--which the bartender claims is the strongest in the world at 58%--white rum, fresh banana, and cream, but after drinking one, most guests are still able to stand. Succulent seafood is caught daily just offshore, and lobster plucked from the nearby reefs is a specialty. Guests may dine at the restaurant, on a deserted beach, or in their bure, as they please. A traditional Fijian feast is presented weekly with all the food cooked in a pit dug in the sand; it also features a meke of traditional Fijian song and dance performed by the local villagers.

A prime excursion takes guest via speedboat to the Sawa-I-Lau Caves/Blue Lagoon Caves at the southern end of Yasawa Island for a swim within its chambers and a look-see at the low-key shell market. This spectacular lagoon was one of the settings for the 1980 movie, “Blue Lagoon,” starring Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins.

The resort’s land is owned by nearby Bukama Village, and the village also supplies many of the employees. With the permission of the chief, guests can visit to attend Sunday church service (kids squirm, parents shush, and clothes wave outside on clotheslines in the sun; men attend barefoot in suit jackets, ties, and knee-length sulus) or to just meet some of the villagers. All activities are included except spa treatments, scuba diving, and sports fishing. A Wedding Packaged includes a tala tala—the priest who performs weddings.

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videos c2011 Carole Terwilliger Meyers   

June 11, 2011

NYC: Babycakes; restaurant review

Babycakes 248 Broome St./Orchard St., 212-677-5047.

 All items dispensed at this old-fashioned bakery are certified Kosher, pareve, and vegan and are made with organic ingredients and allergen-free alternatives. Sweeteners are used sparingly and don’t include white sugar. I wasn’t expecting their version of a red velvet cupcake to taste as good as it did. A cookbook, Babycakes Covers the Classics by bakery owner Erin McKenna, is available.

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image c2011 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

June 7, 2011

Coral Coast, Viti Levu, Fiji: Shangri-La’s Fijian Resort & Spa;; hotel review

Shangri-La’s Fijian Resort & Spa On Yanuca Island, 6 1/4 miles west of Sigatoka, 866-565-5050, 679-652 0155. 442 rooms; 2- &; 3-story bldgs. 2 children under 19 free. Breakfast included. 6 restaurants; 4 bars. 3 pools; fitness center; 5 tennis courts; 9-hole mini golf course.

 Also known as “The Fijian" and Fiji's largest hotel, this mega-resort occupies all 105 acres of flat YANUCA ISLAND, which is joined to the mainland by a short one-lane bridge. It is bordered by a crystal clear lagoon and a coral-colored sand beach, both superior to those at Denarau Island. Water sports activities here include diving. Covered walkways link the hotel blocks to restaurants and bar buildings adjacent to swimming pools. The spacious rooms and suites are all shore-side, and each room has a view of the lagoon and sea from its own private balcony or patio. Suites have separate bedrooms and two bathroom sinks, and six luxurious Ocean Premier units on one end of the sprawling property are reserved exclusively for couples. The resort has a striking glass-walled wedding chapel, and many boutiques, including a Jack’s handicrafts shop. Flying foxes (very big bats) literally hang out from the trees by the handicrafts area. Away from the throngs at the end of the island, the Chi Spa Village is a knockout, with bungalow-like treatment rooms where you can spend the night after being pampered. Firewalking and meke are presented on Friday nights.

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image c2011 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

June 5, 2011

NYC: Casa; restaurant review

Casa 72 Bedford St./Commerce St., West Village, 212-366-9410. D daily, Sat-SunBr; $$$. 

Located on what must surely be one of the most charming streets in NYC, this delightful venue presents regional Brazilian cuisine in a cozy home-like setting complete with lace-edged white placemats. Do start with a passion fruit-.lime caipirinha made from cachasa--a Brazilian rum-like liquor. The Brazilian national dish, feijoada, is a favorite. Diners compose their own plate from a cast-iron pot of black beans mixed with meats and a platter overflowing with orange segments, white rice, garlicky collard greens, and farofa (crumby cassava meal). Bobo de camarao (prawns in a coconut-milk-yucca puree) and pan-fried fish with fried bananas are also choice, and the menu offers many more intriguing options. Superb housemade rolls are complimentary.

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image c2011 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

June 2, 2011

NYC: Steps to Nowhere Gallery; things to do

Steps to Nowhere Gallery  99 Prince St., in front of J.Crew, SoHo.

 Matthew Courtney has been displaying his art in this informal gallery for 10 years now. He says it is “a child’s play area and a place to lay your bags” and calls himself “the newspaper man of SoHo” (he paints creatively over newsprint).

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