Tuesday, June 20, 2006

New York Steak Of Mind

When I used to think of a trip to new York city visions of the statue of liberty and Broadway dancers filled my head but that was all before my first experience with Peter Luger’'s Steakhouse.

Peter Luger'’s is where cattle would dream of having their final resting place if they did in fact dream about that kind of thing. This is in fact carnivore heaven. Peter Luger'’s has been in business for over 100 years and there is good reason. They serve the best steak that this mouth has ever had.

Tell your waiter you want the Peter Luger experience and you will not be sorry. You will win a friend if you say you don'’t even need to see a menu. As a starter get the tomato and onions. What may seem like an ordinary plate of onion and tomato is elevated to another level when you add some of Luger'’s legendary steak sauce on top. This past visit we also ordered two slices of their bacon. These are huge and two slices provided everyone at the table a great taste of the smoky charred bacon. It is best bacon I have ever had.

For the entree it'’s the porterhouse. You come here for the steak. Period. The porterhouse is the steak that has made them a legend and porterhouse is what you will have. If you are well done steak person be prepared to be somewhat insulted by the waiter who will think you are crazy. I ordered mine medium and it was as beautiful as a piece of meat can be. Tender. Tasty. Perfect. To round out the Peter Luger Experience you need to get the Luger potatoes and creamed spinach. Both of these plates are good in their own right but with the steak they are incredible.

Even is you haven't saved room for desert you must order one their legendary ice cream sundaes or creamy New York style cheesecake. Both come with generous helpings of their homemade whipped cream that is so tasty that it seems a sin to eat.

A few things to know if you go to Peter Luger'’s:

The waiters (all men) are not going to win hospitality contests but they will take care of you in an efficient way. You will not want for anything that your server will not think of. On the night we last dined there John was our waiter and he was great…he really took care of us.

Make a reservation ahead of time. I called five weeks prior to our last visit and was able to get a reservation at 8:45 at night. You want a 7:00 reservation then you need to call eight weeks out.

Leave your plastic at home beacuse they only take cash at Peter Lugers. Why? Because they can and people continue to show up.

Be prepared to shell out some money for dinner ($100+ for 2) but know that it will be the kind of meal that will bring a smile to your face every time to think about it.

This is one New York show that you will not want to miss!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

They Grow Em' Bigger in Texas!

I hear that Texans always brag about having the biggest and best of everything. If that is indeed the case then the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine must be the apple of their eye.

I was excited when I learned business would take me to Dallas and to the Texan. I was disappointed when I learned that the Texan is not in Dallas but neighboring Grapevine which is half way between Dallas and Ft. Worth. To some this would be a good thing but to me it spelled inconvenient. First rule of thumb when staying at The Gaylord Texan is to rent a car. You do not want to be dependent on the drivers from the resort to take you around and unlike other hotels there are no cabs just resort cars that cost. One round trip to Dallas or Ft. Worth and you have paid for your rental.

The Texan itself is a thing of beauty. The combination of hardwoods, leather, stone and water make this hotel pure eye candy. The staff is as helpful as any I’ve encountered and always seemed willing to go above and beyond the call of duty. Throughout the resort you will find the typical cute little hotel boutiques. I often wonder how places that sell silver cowboy statues stay in business but they do somehow. The Texan also offers a great fitness center with an indoor and outdoor pool.

Due to its location The Texan does have a captive audience when it comes to food. What that means to the consumer is inflated prices with varying results. The Texas Station sports bar is an overpriced Friday’s or Bennigan’s except with worse food. Texas Station stays open late so hopefully by the time you are eating there you are too hungry to realize you are paying for such bad food. On the opposite end of the spectrum is The Old Hickory Steakhouse. Here is the food dreams are made of. Great steaks, decent service and wonderful ambience. Expect to pay close to $100 per couple here for a full meal but it will be worth it. The veal I had was tender, moist and seasoned to perfection.

Fortunately I was also able to get offsite a few times and had some great meals. One place is the Main Street Bread Baking Company located a 10 minute car ride from the hotel. A great place for a simple breakfast or to pick up something to satisfy that sweet tooth. Downtown Grapevine has a lovely Main Street with quaint Shoppe’s and the nicest people you have ever met. The two older ladies I met at the visitor center and museum were great ambassadors to the city!

I did not have the chance to venture into Dallas on this visit but I did head into Ft. Worth for what I hoped was a good Texas steak. I went to the legendary Cattlemen’s. At some point in its history I am sure that it deserved the fame. Not so anymore. The beef was overcooked and filled with extra fat. The bright culinary spot on this trip was a little Mexican restaurant in Ft. Worth called Esperanzas (which is run by the same family that runs the famous Joe T. Garcia’s). Do yourself a favor and order the pork in red sauce. I have no idea what the red sauce is but it will be something that you will always remember. The fresh homemade flour tortillas melt in your mouth and the service was great. An event every visit to Ft Worth should have.

TUESDAY'S TIP: Rent a car if you stay at The Texan so you are not trapped.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Magnificent Mongolia

If stars stretching from horizon to horizon, rainbow sunsets and sunrises, wild horses, noisy herds of camel, and giant sand dunes are your thing, then you should consider Mongolia. Last fall I spent three exciting weeks there. I’d been interested in going for years, and every time I heard the name Mongolia, my skin broke out in goose bumps. I found traveling there to be a beautiful challenge.

My trip started 30 hours earlier on the train from Beijing. Taking the Trans-Mongolian into Ulaan Baatar (or UB as the locals call it) gives you a wonderful perspective of the immensity of this part of the world. It felt like an old time adventure, seeing the land slowly roll by, watching the local people doing daily chores, and getting to know my cabin mates, as opposed to elbow wrestling and playing seat ‘twister’ as you excuse yourself to the restroom on the airplane. We passed through dusty Chinese towns, sipped tea, read books, napped, and chatted as we made our way north. I awoke early after a surprisingly restful night’s sleep, and watched my first Mongolian rainbow colored sunrise nudge the stars from the sky.

My tour of the Gobi and western Mongolia started early the next morning. My fellow adventurers were a delightful couple from Singapore and Malaysia, a wonderful lady from San Francisco, our hilarious driver, and our energetic and spunky guide. Tours can be easily arranged when you arrive through your guesthouse in UB, and prices vary according to how many are in your group. The tour cost around $40 a day for everything- all meals prepared by the English speaking guide, accommodation in ger, all admission to monasteries, transportation and fuel, national parks, exhibits, etc. A real bargain. We felt very spoiled being cooked for and being so well cared for by our driver and guide. But, traveling in the countryside isn’t easy. The first paved road we were on outside of UB was the last day of our trip, day 10! The back roads are extremely bumpy, but our Russian van could maneuver over anything. There is no running water outside of major cities, so you have to spot wash, or just go without showering for a few days. Also, many toilets are three sided huts, so you have the distinct advantage of watching herds of camels plod by as you do your business. They aren’t for the weak of nose or the faint of heart.

Some highlights of the trip were listening to a monk chant blessings for myself and my family at Erdeen Zuu temple in Ghengis Kahn’s capital of Kharkhorum, eating a goat’s milk Popsicle!, teaching a Mongolian driver the Texas two step at an impromptu dance party, the total silence of the countryside, drinking two liters of fermented horse’s milk to help with a bad stomach ache- believe it or not, it worked!- and getting to know my group members whom I still am in contact with today. Mongolia isn’t high on many agendas, but it deserves a serious look if you’re interested in traveling far off the beaten path.

Review Submitted by Genah W.
Photo courtesy of Nicolas Lim who traveled with Genah.

Monday, June 05, 2006

What A Week!

Our family vacation to Outer Banks in North Carolina was fantastic! We had a great time and I can't wait to share with you some of the wonderful places we ate and other highlights. This was a our first trip there and I doubt it will be our last. There is so much to see and do and all without the 'touristy' feel you can get from other beach areas.

I will post detailed Outer Banks reviews in the next few weeks. Coming tomorrow...Tuesdays Traveler reader Genah's review of Mongolia!

If you have a review you would like featured here please email me at tuesdaystraveler@gmail.com.