Friday, May 26, 2006

Outer Banks Here I Come!

I am off to visit the outerbanks next week so there may not be any updated posting while I am gone. This will be my first visit and I am really looking forward to it. We have a great house rented for the week and I can't wait to taste some fresh seafood and play some great golf.

We will be playing Kilmarlic Golf Clubon Tuesday. From the looks of their web site it may not be a bad idea for me to invest in some new balls! Their signature hole (pictured) is 150 yard island green that will have my knees shaking for sure!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Beautiful Views...Beautiful Golf!

You want swank? You got it. Try The Montage Resort & Spa in Laguna Beach, CA on for size. Their luxurious guest rooms will make you spit at four star establishments. Their staff is friendly, courteous and attentive to every single detail. Each person you meet will likely call you by name and when you pick up your car from the valet, you'll find complimentary bottles of Fiji water waiting on you. The guestrooms? Unreal. Tastefully appointed, they come off more as beachside bungalows then they do hotel rooms. Perfectly painted bead board and the most incredible baths make these rooms aesthetically gorgeous. The beds and linens make you never want to leave.

Be prepared to pay for this kind of experience though. The Montage comes with a price tag, and a hefty one at that. Rooms start around $750 per night, but seriously, The Montage is worth every single penny.

Hungry? No need to go to downtown Laguna Beach. Five star dining is only a press of an elevator button away. Ding. For lunch, you must sit down at the bar at The Loft Bistro on the fourth floor. Have the lobster bisque and the pulled pork sliders (pulled pork with coleslaw and double-dipped crispy red onions on buttermilk rolls) and thank me later. If you're interested in scotches or whiskeys, ask the guys behind the bar. They're extremely knowledgeable. When dinner rolls around, Studio (their on-site formal restaurant) offers no contemporaries. Pan seared wild black bass or the Summerfield Farms veal loin with Dijon-crusted sweetbreads will do just fine. Be prepared though, you will spend $100 per person and you'll need to make reservations well in advance for that opportunity.

After dinner, the hotel lobby offers the perfect environment in which to relax. A huge fireplace sets the tone as the cool Pacific Coast breeze blows in through the gigantic open-air balcony that overlooks the coastline and the resort's gorgeous pool area. This is a perfect place to watch the sun set. The lobby bar is a great place to hang out and meet new people, and Steve Siu on the piano (taking requests I might add) keeps the party going.

Looking to play a little golf while you'’re in town? Head directly for Monarch Beach Golf Links. After you plunk down your $175 ($210 on the weekends) you will enjoy a breathtaking 4.5 hours of golf that winds you through the incredible coast of Dana Point. From the back tees the course plays a challenging 6052 yards. Though not terribly long the course challenges you with winds and quick greens. Be sure to have one of the snack bar attendees make you one of their fabulous peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, on wheat of course. After your round, retire to Club 19 for one of the best grilled hamburgers you'’ll ever taste.

Maybe you'’ve spent all of your bankroll on The Montage but you'’d still like to hit the links? Try Aliso Creek Golf Club. It'’s a charming 9-hole executive course (Par 32) that'’s nestled in a beautiful valley. It'’s not Augusta, but it's a ton of fun at a very reasonable price ($30 for 18 holes with a cart).

If you find yourself in beautiful Laguna Beach I hope you take srecommendationsecomendations.

Review by Chris T.
See how he rolls at the Thomas Report.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Keep 'EM Coming!

I wanted to thank each of you for the terrific launch of I am pumped about all the feedback I've been getting and the reviews are really starting to come in. We currently have writers working on travel stories about Mongolia, Chattanooga Tennessee, Laguna Beach, The Gaylord Texan Resort in Grapevine Texas and I will be heading to the Outer Banks in North Carolina for a vacation the first week of June.

As you can see...lots of great travel reviews coming up. If you have a trip you've taken and would like to share your review please email me at

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Hi, I’m Tim, but most people just call me Smitty. My girlfriend Jessica and I went to Chicago to visit her parents towards the end of April. We left Nashville a day early though to give us a chance to run around and play in Chi-town. Below is a few things we checked out:

We rode the South Shore Line in to town to avoid the hassle of driving a car and it worked out wonderfully. I totally recommend mass transportation when riding in and out of Chicago because it makes the day a lot less stressful.

We got off at Randolph Street and instantly were surprised – tulips in bloom everywhere! If tulips were currency in this town we’d be rich, but alas they’re not, so instead we just marveled at how great they all looked and took a bunch of pictures. As we wandered the city the rest of the day, we found the tulips were everywhere.

We walked across the street to check out Chicago’s brand new Millennium Park. It’s a massive open area that borders Lake Michigan on one side and Chicago’s towering skyscrapers on the other. It was built to unite the city and its people through the tradition and architecture of Chicago along with the celebration of the arts. I’m not really sure what that means, but this Big Mirrored Millennium Bean was really cool!

After the Millennium Park, we did a few of the normal Chicago things (Sears Tower, Michigan Ave., etc.), but then we realized something…we were super hungry! Jess, being the wonderful girlfriend that she is, knows how strong my passion is for sports and made the great suggestion of eating at the ESPN Sports Zone.

With close to 3,000 TVs on the walls, sports memorabilia at every turn and awesome sports-related games in the arena, the ESPN Sports Zone is a sports lovers dream. We got a great booth facing the 12’ by 16’ main screen (that’s feet, not inches) that came with a mini-TV of its own. The restaurant was running 12 different feeds of sports content and just by touching the screen at our table we were able to select the one we wanted to watch. All this, plus the food was the best I’ve ever had at a themed-restaurant! Jess and I ordered a Warm-Cookie Ice Sundae dessert that came out in a frying pan with you guessed – a big ole Chocolate-Chip cookie with ice cream and a bunch of other stuff on top. The ESPN Zone was reasonably priced and rocked our faces off!

After the great meal, our travels took us to the Tribune Tower, where the Chicago Tribune newspaper is headquartered. In 1922, the Chicago Tribune hosted an international design competition for its new headquarters and offered a $50,000 prize for "the most beautiful and eye-catching building in the world". It’s pretty close. Not only does this building look great, but the outer wall at the base of the building has rocks and bricks from places all around the world. We saw rocks from the Great Wall of China, the Parthenon, the Great Pyramid, the Berlin Wall…they even have a rock from the Moon!

We headed back toward the shore at this point because I wanted to check out Buckingham Fountain. WARNING! The Buckingham Fountain is only turned on from May 1st to October 1st. I didn’t get to see any water, which is kind of the point of a fountain, but maybe I will someday.

Jessica and I had a full day in Chicago. We caught the 5 o’clock train leaving town, rested on the hour ride back and arrived at her parents’ house in time for supper and a night of playing cards.

I hope some of these new and not-so-popular places in Chicago make your trip fun and exciting like ours!

Smitty for

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Art On A Plate

If there is one thing I love it's a good meal at a nice restaurant. If you're like me you often feel the need to travel to get good food or feel as though you have to be in a new place to experience the best. That is why I was so excited when I dined at The Gallery Cafe on Main in Spring Hill Tennessee.

While the city itself has struggled to find it's identity that is not the case with the Gallery Cafe. The interior is warm and welcoming with art produced by local artists adorning the walls (the artists leave the work their on consignment and the local arts center gets a donation from every sale) and eclectic music playing letting you know something speacial takes place here. If you are lucky enough to visit on a Friday or Saturday evening you find local artists creating work while you dine. But the true star of this show is the delisious food. Chef Greg and his staff have done an incredible job fusing together European inspired dishes with a touch of southern cooking.

With shrimp cocktail and minestrone soup as the only the appetizer offerings I chose the soup. The flavors were nice and beans were cooked just right. Though I could have stood for it to be a bit warmer. I would prefer more offerings on the appetizer menu.

Caesar salads followed the soup and they hit the spot. Crisp lettuce (which is not always the case!) and a delicious home made Caesar dressing. So many times chefs feel like they need to make a home made Caesar taste fishy but that is not the case here. I did spy the house salad on another table and it looked beautiful and fresh.

For our entree my wife and I each ordered the herb encrusted filet with goat cheese. First let me say that I enjoy a good steak but this went beyond a 'good steak.' This was as perfect a piece a meat as I have had. The seasoning was perfect and the creaminess of the goat cheese provided the perfect compliment to the tender filet. Each bit we took seemed to be answered by a "mmmmmm." It was served with garlic green beans and smashed potatoes. Both seemed to compliment the filet without overpowering it.

A visit to the Gallery Cafe would not be complete without taking in some of the delicious desserts that are offered. I enjoyed the maple apple creme brulee while my wife tried the Seven Layer Chocolate Cake. Despite it's name the cake was not overly sweet and seemed the perfect finish to the perfect meal.

The Gallery Cafe has been open for just about three months now but we felt like this place had been here for years. The unique combination of art and food make this an enchanting place to eat. If you visit Nashville or middle Tennessee please find your way to The Gallery Cafe on Main in Spring Hill. It will be well worth the drive and who knows you may find that perfect piece of art for above the fireplace. Their website is in the process of being built so check back often.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Top Five Honeymoon Spots

There is no more important trip to be planned than that of your honeymoon. Many hours can and should be spent planning out this journey. The week after the wedding should be a time for you and your spouse to relax without the worries of the world and the stress of out of town family!

Here is a quick list of my top five honeymoon getaways.

5. Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada
This is a definite honeymoon classic. This is the honeymoon your grandparents dreamed of. The falls are amazing and you can split time between the Canadian and United States sides with a simple cross of the border. Great shopping as well as a casino will keep you busy when you get bored!

Special attraction: Take a breathtaking boat ride under the Falls in the Maid of the Mist.

4. Aspen, Colorado
Are you and your partner the outdoorsy type? If so then Aspen could be the perfect spot. Whether it's skiing in the winter or hiking other times of the year Aspen will provide breathtaking scenery at every turn.

Special attraction: Dinner at The Steak Pit.

3. Italy
Need I really say more. When you mention the word thoughts of romance and garlic should dance in your head. From the wine regions to the coast Italy has everything your honeymoon could need. A beautiful country with beautiful people. My advice would be to find one or two cities at the most that appeal to you. Don't try to see the whole country on your honeymoon...remember this is about relaxing.

Special attraction: The leaning tower of Pisa.

2. Hawaii
Seriously...could there be a list of top honeymoon destinations without mentioning Hawaii? This is a true paradise. Depending on your speed you pick the island best suited for you. Maui for its intense nightlife or Kauai which is less commercial and known for its scenic valleys.

Special attraction: You must take in a Luau while you are there.

1. Ambergris Caye (San Pedro), Belize
Okay...Okay...I told you this was my list! This is where I spent my honeymoon and I can't imagine a better place. I will write a full review of Belize in a later post but let me simply say that the peacefulness of this island makes you never want to leave. Though San Pedro owes its existence to tourism you will not feel you are in a tourist area. The crystal clear waters, friendly people and great food make this an incredible honeymoon destination.

Special attraction: Dive the blue hole off Ambergris Caye