Savannah: Top 5 Restaurants

1  Although we can’t guarantee a ghost sighting as rumoured, at the Olde Pink House does deliver great food (try the Shrimp and Grits appetizer) and a charming atmosphere. Dine in beautifully appointed rooms and then take dessert in the  basement pub where the live music infuses the party.

Dabble does Savannah40

Sautéed Local Shrimp w/Country Ham Gravy & Cheddar Cheese Grits Cake

 

2   Experience southern food, boarding house style at Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room. Come early and be prepared to wait in line for at least an hour (yup, it’s worth it!). Once inside you’ll sit family style at a table that’s set for 10 but ready to feed 20.  It’s all for sharing, so try a bit of everything, but save room for banana pudding. And mind your manners – return your dishes to the kitchen just as President Obama does when he visits.

Dabble does Savannah56

Home Southern cooking at Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room

3  A long day of exploring Savannah’s  squares earns you a treat from Leopold’s Ice Cream. Try  the Tutti Frutti and you’ll understand why Johnny Mercer wrote the famous song of the same name.

4  Looking for a taste of Manhattan in the south? Then Local 11 Ten hits the spot. Start the evening with a Gin, Lime Juice and Basil cocktail  on the upstairs patio.

5   For a great view and good food, Vic’s on the River rewards. Try southern classics like Fried Green Tomatoes and Crab Cakes . 

Dabble does Savannah2

Crab cakes at Vic’s on the River

 

Savannah: Top 5 Food Experiences

1  Take tea at the Gyphon Tea Room and you’ll nibble on tea sandwiches and scones in a turn-of-the-century pharmacy with original stained glass ceiling and wood panelling. . Fresh salads are also worth digging your fork into.

2  Save some dough by sharing a New York style pizza at Vinnie Van Go Go in the City Market.

 The Pirate’s House may have been the drinking spot back in the 18th century, but it’s still a top watering (and dining) spot. There are fifteen separate dining rooms and a resident ghost, Captain Flint (made famous in Treasure Island) who is said to appear in the Captain’s Room.

Dabble does Savannah54

The Pirate’s House

4  Sure, fresh seafood is plentiful in Savannah, but if you love crab take a 20 minute drive to Deposito’s Seafood Restaurant (recommended by interior designer Lynn Morgan). It’s the locals’ secret spot, so shhh, we didn’t tell you.

5   Beautiful exterior window displays will likely draw you into The Paris Market on Broughton Street. Shop the French inspired wares and then enjoy a café au lait before you resume your walking tour of Savannah.

Dabble does Savannah19

The Paris Market

Nashville’s Top 5 Food Finds

blogimg419

Nashville’s southern fare is getting a makeover, as Lena Diaz’s taste buds discovered.

Redefining Dining

1. Set in the residential neighbourhood of historic Germantown is City House, with a menu that marries Italian ingredients to traditional southern cooking. Try the chocolate pecan pie; a light shell with a chocolate, rum and pecan filling topped with coffee, caramel gelato. Hello heaven. Fun fact: Most cocktails are named after staff pets.

2. You’d never guess, with its unassuming cafeteria style setting and yellow painted cinder block walls, that Arnold’s is nearly as much an institution as the Grand Ole Opry. Come on in, grab a plastic tray and slide it towards your choice of meat and three (a Nashville tradition of 1 meat dish + 3 side dishes). Side dishes include collard greens, pinto beans, mashed potatoes and cornbread muffins to die for. Bring your stretchy pants.

3. Dinner at Margot is an herb-infused occasion where every dish from first to last leaves a fine impression. Start with an appetizer of Parmigiano Reggiano and Capriole goat cheese served with mostarda (candied fruit cooked in a spicy mustard flavoured syrup) and fresh focaccia bread; a great prelude to the daily house-made pastas.

4. Nashville’s iconic Loveless Cafe started as a pit stop in the early 1950s and, thankfully, neither the decor nor the home cookin’ has evolved. Biscuits served in a heap, waffles piled high with pecans and maple syrup; you wouldn’t want it any other way. The gift shop is a hoot; pick up a ‘Praise the Lard and pass the Biscuits’ tee shirt or some of their famous homemade jam.

5. Order a veggie lover’s taco of fried avocado with red onions, red cabbage, spicy dill sauce and cilantro at Mas Tacos. And add a cold Aqua Fresca (pineapple, cilantro and lime water) served over ice. Delicioso.

blogimg420

 

Ottawa’s Top 5 Travel Experiences

Tourist attractions are plentiful in the capital city; the problem is fitting them all in.

First time visitors will want to allow several days for exploring the many museums and historical sites. Make sure to save time for a skate on the Rideau Canal.

Ottawa 17

ABOVE: The stunning glass structure of the National Gallery of Canada is most easily identified by the ‘Maman’ spider statue in front.

1. The National Gallery of Canada and The Canadian Mint are just northwest of the bustling restaurant and shopping district known as Byward Market. The gallery focuses on Canadian art featuring works by the Group of Seven, Emily Carr and Alex Colville, but also showcases an impressive display of American and European pieces. Pick up a newly minted or treasured souvenir after a tour at the Royal Canadian Mint.

Ottawa 3

2. It’s hard to miss the castle-like structure that houses the Canadian Museum of Nature. Kids of every age will enjoy the natural disasters exhibits.

3. New skate chalets, found at varying intervals, make changing and resting much easier on the 7.8 km outdoor skating rink known as the Rideau Canal. After a brisk workout on the ice you’ll be able to enjoy (practically guilt free) an iconic Canadian pastry known as the beavertail. Best enjoyed with a steaming cup of hot chocolate.

4. Rideau Hall is home to the Governor General of Canada and, in turn, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II when she’s in town. It’s the only official residence open to the public and it’s worth a visit, especially if you’re prone to royal fever.

Ottawa 6

5. On the edge of the Rideau Canal, in the downtown core, the National Arts Centre attracts prominent theatre including Broadway productions and notable performances in a variety of mediums. Annual tickets to shows like The Nutcracker or Handel’s Messiah are a family tradition for many local residents.

Barcelona’s Top 5 Travel Experiences

Armed with sunscreen and blister bandages, fashionista Christine DaCosta tackles Barcelona’s best travel moments while wearing her finest footwear.

“Always look your glamourous best in sexy Barcelona,” says Christine, “after all, you never know when you’ll be asked to tango.” In addition, well-dressed tourists are often treated more favourably than their more casual counterparts.

Barcelona 1

1. Once you can get past the big lambs’ heads with their eyeballs intact (eww!), marvel at the order and peace at Market Santa Catarina. Unlike its larger, more well-known cousin, the Mercat de Sant Josep or La Boqueria, this one is easier to explore and more civilized. There are lovely restaurants inside too.

2. Housed in five adjoining medieval palaces, Museu Picasso focuses on the artist’s early years of formal training, exposing his classical skill and culminating in a collection from his well-documented Blue Period. Born in Andalusia, young Picasso moved to Barcelona when his father took a job teaching at the Escola de Belles Artes de la Llotja. The adult artist claimed he learned everything during his time in Barcelona.

Barcelona 2

3. All that shopping does some damage to your mani pedi so stop in at Pink Peony for a little overhaul. It’s a North American style salon set on the second floor above the Passeig de Gràcia. The gracious living room setting features a balcony overlooking the busy street.

4. A warm welcome and second helpings await those who sign up for a cooking class at Cook and Taste. The Australians who were cooking on the day I visited were quite happy making paella having shopped at the market earlier in the day. Book in advance.

Dabble Savvy: The location is just steps from the Roman Ruins so ask for directions.

Barcelona 22

5. Some people love Hop On, Hop Off bus tours and Barcelona has two main operators. A 24 hour ticket gets you a ride to all the city’s attractions, which are difficult to get to without a car.

 

Budapest Experiences: Pest

Travellers keen to save some steps on the way up to Buda Castle can ride the funicular for 840 HUF (US $3.75) each way. On busy days, wait times can be up to half an hour, but it may be worthwhile if a 30-minute climb through parkland doesn’t appeal to you.

Dabble Savvy: Sit in the lowest car to enjoy the best views of Pest as you head down the hill.

Budapest 11

1. Spend a cultural evening at the Hungarian State Opera where the music and skill of the performers will charm even reluctant opera goers. The magnificent Neo-Renaissance style building, completed in 1884 and modeled after the Vienna Opera House, is one of the city’s most beautiful.

Dabble Savvy: Hungarians dress up to attend the opera. A simple black dress or an elegant pantsuit is a good choice. Folk Dancing is a popular Hungarian pastime and concerts are available throughout the city and even on boats which cruise the Danube. Ask your concierge for a recommendation as locations change frequently.

Budapest 33

2. Széchenyi Bath and Spa is one of the largest medicial baths in Budapest with18 pools in total, 3 outdoor and 15 indoor. Rain or shine, locals and visitors take to the water, enjoying the healing benefits of the thermal water and some of the city’s best people watching.

3. The lyrical Moorish Revival style architecture makes Dohány Street Synagogue one of Budapest’s most recognizable buildings. Its history makes it one of the most memorable. Built between 1854 and 1859, the fanciful decoration derived from Islamic influences. A guided tour includes the Great Synagogue, the Heroes’ Memorial Temple, the graveyard, the Holocaust Memorial and the Jewish Museum.

Dabble Savvy: Unless you wish to worship, avoid visiting on the Sabbath (Saturday) and holy days.

Budapest 32

ABOVE: There are no words to accurately describe the impact of the empty bronzed shoes. Echoes of the men, women and children forced to stand at the river’s edge to be shot, falling into the Danube, following World War II. Their stillness speaks volumes.

Budapest Experiences: Buda

Known as the “City of Spas,” no trip to Budapest is complete without at least one visit to a thermal bath. Depending on which of the 15 public baths you choose, plan to spend at least several hours enjoying indoor and outdoor pools, steam baths, saunas and other amenities such as massage.

Budapest 17

Budapest is a city famous for its geothermal baths, vestiges of a Turkish occupation which lasted more than 140 years. Navigating a modern day visit to one of these bathing sanctuaries is not uncomplicated, but it’s a worthwhile endeavour.

Typically, a bather purchases a ticket and receives a plastic wristband, which acts as a key to enter and to a specific locker. Attendants are on site to guide the confused.

Dabble Savvy: Bring a bathing suit and towel. If you forget, there are some stodgy suits for sale and a towel rental service. The“towels” however are more like a corner of a thin bed sheet, neither luxurious nor absorbent.

Budapest 36

1. Built atop the city’s 70 million litres of warm thermal spring water, the Gellért Baths have been soothing souls and pruning toes since doors opened in 1918. Thermal baths, saunas, gender specific plunge pools and an open-air swimming pool with artificial waves provide hours of enjoyment. Design lovers will prefer the Gellért Baths to others, owing to the stained glass roof and Zsolnay tiles in the main hall.

Dabble Savvy: Head to the Gellért Hotel and Spa from the Great Hall Market. It’s a short walk across the Liberty Bridge (Szabadság híd) and on approach you can admire the Art Nouveau beauty of this impressive hotel.

2. Kiscelli Múzeum consists of a collection of fine art from the 20th century to the present, housed in a mustard coloured Baroque mansion opposite Margit Island. Locals rent Kiscelli for private parties but visitors can tour the setting, complete with furniture and an eclectic art collection from the period. There are summer concerts as well, so ask your concierge for details.

Dabble Savvy: It’s a wee climb so wear comfortable shoes.

3. Fortunately, the wine cellars of Királyi Borok are steps from Buda Castle and the Funicular that can deliver a thirsty tourist back down to Pest after a visit…which is strictly for research purposes of course. Traditional Hungarian wines, known as Tokaji are pleasantly sweet and light tasting and there’s no lovelier setting to enjoy them.

Dabble Savvy: If you plan to purchase, make sure to pick up a bubble sleeve, which protects your bottle in transit.

Charleston’s Top 5 Travel Sites

Charleston 13

1. In the French Quarter don’t miss the oldest standing tavern (and brothel) in the South. The famous pirate Black Beard may have had an ale or two at the Pink House. Today, the West Indian coral stone walls (which withstood the great earthquake of1886 and Hurricane Hugo) house a small art gallery. Head across the cobblestone street to the Old Slave Mart Museum to hear an informative recorded history of the city’s slave auctions.

2. Wake early and enjoy a leisurely stroll along Waterfront Park. You’ll get a great view of the Cooper River from the pier and see the Cooper Bridge which joins Charleston with neighbouring suburb Mount Pleasant. After a long walk, stroll across Vendue Street and reward yourself with a gelato at Paolo’s.

Charleston 39

3. No trip to the South is complete without a trip to a plantation. Historic Middleton Place has lavish gardens which take at least an hour to explore. There is also a reproduction home on the property and a popular lowcountry restaurant. America’s only tea plantation, The Charleston Tea Plantation is humble but may be worth a visit if you’re interested. Tours take guests through the tea fields and into the factory. The gift shop has gifts to bring home.

4. Once you’ve had enough history, take a break and spend a day at the beach. Lay out in the sun at Tides Folly Beach in the West Ashley area, only a 20 minute ride from the historic district.

Charleston 33

5. Once you are sold on visiting Charleston, you’ll need to book a place to stay. There are several options: you can stay in a luxury hotel like the Charleston Place Hotel or the Francis Marion Hotel. For a true historic district experience, stay a few nights in a cha

Charleston’s Top 5 Travel Experiences

Dabble Does Charleston77

“There is no better way to learn about interior design than to travel to a city with an extensive history,” says Victoria Drainville.

Eager to explore, Victoria is on a mission to find Charleston’s most unique experiences and learn more about architecture and design. She quickly discovers this small, walkable city is loaded with charming southerners and historic places.

1. The best way to experience Charleston’s rich history is by touring historic homes. Tours typically cost US$10 and are worth every penny to the history buff or home enthusiast. The Edmondston-Alston House overlooks Charleston Harbour and its tour includes the history of this illustrious Charleston family. Visit the Calhoun Mansion and you’ll feel you’re visiting an eccentric aunt whose collections are too numerous to count. The Nathaniel Russell House has a stunning three-storey freestanding staircase and trompe l’oeil crown moulding that is sure to impress.

Charleston 22

2. Typical to Charleston are the Single Houses, an architectural style where the main entrance appears to be on the side of the house but leads to a porch. Experience these homes firsthand through the Fall Tours of Home and Garden led by the Preservation Society.

3. There are many ways to get around Charleston, but taking a taxi isn’t one of them. Since you’re on the move anyway, why not combine commuting with a history lesson? Horse and Carriage tours, Rickshaws or even Guided Walking Tours are pleasant options.

Charleston 34

4. There are two great shopping areas in Charleston: King Street for Fashion and Design and City Market for souvenirs. You’ll find inexpensive crafts, sweet treats, art, jewelry and sweet grass baskets made by local artisans.

5. Theatre fans will love the offerings at the Footlight Players. Affordable and popular productions run year-round. If reading is your hobby, visit the Heirloom Book Company, a bookshop dedicated to the literature of food.

Charleston 11

 

Charleston’s Top 5 Food Experiences

Dabble Does Charleston34

ABOVE: Patrick and wife Fanny Panella warmly greet guests in the ambrosial wine bar at Bin 152.

1. If you’re looking for a great French experience in Charleston, you’ll find it at 39 Rue de Jean. Or, pair a light meal of cheese and meat with a perfect wine from Bin 152. Diners love the décor, and fortunately everything is for sale.

2. A trip to the Charleston Farmers Market in Marion Square on Saturdays is sure to satisfy any craving. Come hungry and try Street Hero’s banh mi sandwiches or tacos, Charleston Crepe Company’s savoury or sweet pancakes and Roots Ice Cream’s small batch flavours like cucumber-mint, beet or caramelized fig.

Dabble Does Charleston27

ABOVE: A chicken satay pizza with peanut sauce and cilantro? Yes. Jeff Johnson from Zahh Pizza makes it in the wood fired oven of his food truck.

3. Food trucks are gaining in popularity around Charleston which now boasts a total of eight diners on wheels. HELLO My Name is BBQ is at the Food Truck Rodeo on Saturdays (have a beer braised BBQ Pork sandwich, yum). Try a Chicken Satay Pizza with peanut sauce from Zahh Pizza. Jeff makes the dough from scratch and cooks the pizza in 90 seconds. Follow them on Facebook to find where they are headed next.

Dabble Does Charleston45

ABOVE: Quite possibly the best dish in Charleston is the John’s Island Tomato Tarte Tatin created by FIG’s Executive Chef, Mike Lata.

4. You can’t go all the way to Charleston without eating some good ol’ Southern food. Maverick Southern Kitchens operates two fabulous restaurants on East Broad Street: Slightly North of Broad (SNOB) and High Cotton. Try the shrimp and grits at both locations. Tip: Don’t fill up on the wonderful corn bread they serve…or do. If you feel like learning how to make a Southern dish, visit Cooks right across the street and participate in a cooking class.

5. Whether you are just looking for a quick meal or a tasty coffee, visit Caviar and Bananas. First, the name is fun to say and second, it’s a beautiful gourmet store and café.

Quebec City’s Top 5 Food Experiences

Quebec City Food3

Driving into Québec City, one feels suddenly transported to a quaint Paris neighbourhood, only with a shorter flight and way more snow. The cobblestone streets and whimsical shops are embellished with the most beautiful Christmas décor, helping our travellers to get into the spirit with ease.

1. Start the day on la rue St. Jean wandering in and out of shops, at whim. Driven by a desire to sample the city’s best pastries, Dee heads into Paillard Le Café-Boulangerie. Turns out Bill Cosby found his way there first but, thankfully, the award winning pastry Chef Sebastien Bonnefils has plenty of his melt-in-the-mouth croissants to go around.

Quebec City Food2

2. Great food experiences don’t always involve eating. A pampered visit to Payot Institute at the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac for a maple sugar hand massage is a no-calorie treat. If you’re getting a pedicure, they’ll let you use their iPad, but don’t check email. Instead, it’s a great chance to catch up on your Dabble reading.

3. Next, find a seat at the bar and prepare for a cocktail experience at the St. Laurent Bar & Lounge on the main floor of Le Château Frontenac. The bar boasts amazing views of the St. Lawrence River and a roaring fire to warm the body and spirit. Try the signature ice wine martini, made from local wine.

Quebec City Food4

4. Seeking a truly French meal? Then make your way to la rue St. Jean to Le Moine Échanson. This restaurant comes highly recommended from locals, who tend to be demanding gourmets. Every dish is paired with a wine recommendation. Be sure to make reservations if you want to enjoy this unique culinary experience.

Quebec City Food1

5. For a night out on the town, grab your sexiest pumps and head to Savini Resto-Bar / Vinothèque on Grande Allée. Share a pizza with friends and dance the night away.

Quebec City’s Top 5 Travel Experiences

Quebec City travel

“Clothed in a fluffy blanket of snow, it’s easy to surrender to Québec’s wintry charms,” muses our Dabble Dare contributor Kathy Buckworth, “but having my photo taken in a towel….now that takes courage.”

1. First on the agenda is a trip to theaptly named Sibéria Station Spa, located 20 minutes outside the city in a wooded sanctuary. The “Nordic Spa” experience involves sliding into an outdoor hot pool, before plunging into the cold water version. Kathy’s pretty sure she knows which pool she’ll like most before she even tries them.

2. Next on the agenda is Le Marché du Vieux Port. The local Farmers Market sells fromage non affine a pâte ferme (aka unpasteurized cheese), an item dear to Kathy’s poutine-loving daughter. If you are nouveau to poutine, it is actually French for “mess”, but the combination of fries, cheese and gravy… c’est magnifique.

Quebec City 12

3. Join the Bonhomme de Neige (official Snowman mascot) for the 58th Québec Winter Carnival, January 27 – February 12, 2012. The largest winter festival in the world features diverse cultural activities such as sleigh rides, skating, dogsledding, canoe racing, snow rafting and ziplining.

4. Directly behind the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac is the imposing statue of Québec City’s founder, Samuel de Champlain. His figure marks the boundary of Upper Town, characterized by the grand buildings and gardens of the Legislature. The best way to see this part of the city is with a somewhat ubiquitous horse and carriage ride. The ripe horsey smells and scratchy wool blankets to keep you warm are part of the complete experience.

Quebec City 30

5. After exploring Upper Town, a toonie (two dollar coin) is all it costs to ride the Funicular back down to Lower Town, where the scene is a magical, snow-filled holiday post card setting of shops, restaurants, cafés, and the occasional sugar shack.