Posts Tagged ‘food’

Mexico City: A Young, Modern, Colorful Metropolis

Starre Vartan in Mexico City.

This story was originally featured on

Over the years, I've heard my fair share about Mexico City, mostly negatives—crime, terrible air pollution and, well, crime topped the list. But upon a recent visit to the capital, I non only felt totally safe (a vibe which is backed up by plenty of news reports that have called the city a 'refuge' from crime in the country), but that I was wandering in the midst of a European city, not one south of the border. In addition to the city's much-reduced crime rate, it has been seriously (and successfully) fighting its pollution problem (like Los Angeles, its once-noticable smog wasn't in evidence when I visited), and even boasts some air-cleaning giant green walls

I spent four days enjoying this capital city; here are some of my favorite sights and experiences, as captured by my camera (there is plenty more to see, so I'm planning a return voyage sometime next year!)


Street cafes and al fresco dining were ubuiquitous in some neighborhoods; the exterior of this restaurant was a gorgeous example, with potted plants shading the sidewalk (and pedestrians walking through the dining area, which would make for some ideal people-watching!) 


Decorative ironwork is popular in most places with a warm climate; Mexico City's Roma neighborhood has plenty of examples that catch the sunshine and give beautiful attention to light and shadow. 

I had such a blast in Mexico City: I can’t wait to go back! (more…)

Brunch at the Breslin in NYC: Cozy Surrounds, Mindblowing Vittles

I chowed. Oh yes I did.

The Ace Hotel in south-midtown Manhattan may be a hipster paradise (let’s just admit that right off the bat), but its dining room, The Breslin, will appeal to a wide variety of tastes. Be forewarned, there is usually a wait (we relaxed at the bar with the newspaper and enjoyed glasses of a delicious dry cider), but the upshot is that they don’t take reservations (unless you have a party of 6 or more), so I’ve never had to wait more than a half an hour.

The food here takes time, but the cozy, relaxed atmosphere more than makes up for the time it takes for your meal to arrive (and everything ends up being cooked to perfection). My boyfriend and I headed up there for brunch last weekend (we also had dinner there last spring) and what a menu it was:


freshly baked pastries
cranberry orange muffin
apple walnut coffee cake
pumpkin bread
mixed berry scone
hot cross bun
selection of pastries

mixed fruit smoothie
greek yogurt with macerated fruit, pistachio praline & local honey
ej’s granola with cold organic milk
chilled grapefruit with ginger sugar & mint
steel cut oatmeal with maple sugar & organic milk
seafood sausage with beurre blanc & chives
fried peanut & banana sandwich with bourbon & vanilla
herbed caesar salad with anchovy croutons
goat cheese & leek tart
welsh rarebit

full english breakfast
fried eggs, pork sausage, blood pudding, bacon, tomato & mushrooms

whole wheat pancakes with apple butter, candied walnuts & maple syrup
poached eggs with curried lentils, yogurt & cilantro
baked eggs with spiced tomato & chorizo
chargrilled skirt steak with fried eggs & tomatillo salsa
grilled 3 cheese sandwich with house cured ham or egg

chargrilled lamb burger with feta, cumin mayo & thrice cooked chips
hangtown fry

2 eggs | house cured bacon | house made sausage | roasted tomatoes
home fries | blood pudding

I tried the seafood sausage (I am 99% vegetarian, but every once in a while, I eat some crustaceans) and it was absolutely divine; superfresh, flavored with a lemon-butter sauce and so rich and flavorful.

My boyfriend ordered the whole wheat pancakes with apple butter, candied walnuts & maple syrup. The dollar-size pancakes were more fun (and less ridiculously belly-stuffing) than a traditional giant American plate of hotcakes, the walnuts were sweet and crunchy, and the maple syrup the real deal.

I accompanied my seafood sausage with a carrot-zucchini muffin and a perfectly-made Stumptown coffee.

Photos by Starre Vartan.

Washington Terroir: The Walrus and the Carpenter Restaurant is the Taste of Seattle


I had traveled much of the world, but had never been to the glorious Pacific Northwest until I met Simon, (now) my boyfriend of two years. In fact, his Oregon provenance was immediately appealing – surely I’d get to check out this new-to-me place if we got together – when I first heard of him from a friend. (His deep intelligence and mix or adorable and handsome later sealed the deal).

Sure enough, I’ve gotten the chance to visit twice now, and Washington and Oregon turned out to be even more naturally beautiful, more smartly peopled than even I had anticipated. During my trips to Seattle and Portland, Corvallis and Eugene, I found a part of the world I had always dreamed existed – a world of 90′s grunge sensibility crossed with tech influence and an outdoors-first style and attitude – and the food! The food was, for want of a better all-encompassing term, kickass.

Assorted oysters, mostly from local waters.

Which brings me to one of the finest meals I’ve enjoyed, an apps and drinks extravaganza at The Walrus and the Carpenter in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle. Since I visited, the restaurant has been featured on the front of the New York Times’ Travel Section, Frommers and others.


Our lovely hosts and some seriously pretty drinks – the Death in the Evening and the Le Perroquet.

Thanks to Theresa and Zach, my boyfriend’s brother and sister-in-law, we ate there not so long after it opened, and took a seat outside on the patio where we commenced a several hour fest of libations and small dishes. The food was so fresh, so full of terroir (the French name for the ‘taste of a place’) that I went to sleep that night dreaming of what I’d just eaten – and woke up the next morning wishing for more.


Travelling is, after all, about being in a place that’s different from where you usually live – whether that’s a subtle difference or a profound one is as much about how varied the food actually is – and how much care and attention one puts into noticing it. Eating at a restaurant that puts the focus on foods within a given watershed, foodshed, state or region can lend a sense of what that place is, essentially.


Washington State vino.

In Seattle that’s a cold and briny bite of seafood followed by a quaff of full-bodied red wine from grapes that are comfortable with a damper clime. It’s fresh vegetables that tell of the season without a glance at the calendar, and a wholesome, tangy vibe to the food that keeps the damp out. There’s a hint of mushroom everywhere, as if the whole mist moistened inlet is secretly harboring those things that grow from the fallen. It is all quite earthy. And Ocean too, of course.

A classic moscow mule in a hammered copper tumbler.

The locally-based menu changes with the seasons, so what I have taken shots of here may or may not be available, depending on the time of year. The cocktail menu is a little more static, with a perfect mix of the creative and the classic.

Local cheese – can’t remember which one!


The Porch Swing cocktail.

Oysters are beautiful, no?

Fresh, local asparagus.

Dates to finish on a sweet note.

All images by Starre Vartan.

A Green Tour of The Hamptons: Long Island’s Eco Getaway from NYC

The Montauk Lighthouse, via Alex.Benn/Flickr.

Guest Post by Alexandra Jacobs

When people think of an ideal green vacation spot, The Hamptons might not be the first place to come to mind – but it should be. With green B&B’s, tons of outdoor activities, miles of beach and plenty of local food, you can even get there from NYC via public transportation (can’t get more eco-friendly than that).

Located on the far-east end of Long Island, New York, The Hamptons draws crowds of all ages, from retired power couples to twenty-something fashionistas. Once a vacation destination for the rich and famous, (and it is still that) the area known as the Hamptons, which is comprised of the towns and hamlets of Easthampton and Southampton, plus surrounding areas, offer accommodations and activities for a variety of budgets. Despite being known for some of the most expensive real estate in the United States, travelers will be pleased to know that not everything in The Hamptons will break the bank.

Image courtesy of the Art House B&B.

Stay and Chill Out, Hamptons-Style

The towns that make up the Hamptons could definitely be described as a bit ‘quaint’ and offer travelers a unique experience filled with charm and mini-adventures. To gain a true Hamptons experience, the traveler doesn’t have to own a Hamptons House but rather just stay at a famed bed and breakfast (or you can rent a house, a popular option in the summertime months).

One of the most popular B&B’s is A Butler’s Manor, in Southampton. With rooms ranging in price from $150-$395, visitors can expect to receive charming accommodations, gluten-free breakfasts, and an intimate common room with log-fire, (as well as dinner and tour suggestions offered by the veteran-resident owners of the Manor). With a little help from these locals, you’ll find whatever it is that you’re into discovering (even if that’s just sleeping in followed by a great latte).

East Hampton Art House Bed and Breakfast is another top rated bed and breakfast in East Hampton. While rooms are a little on the pricey side (starting at $500 a night), travelers will not be disappointed when they step inside this impressive bed and breakfast, complete with giant pool, hot tub with waterfall, and just a one-block walk to the nearby Clearwater Beach Preserve and Marina. “Step outside into the silent beauty of a country setting; be greeted by a million stars at night or perhaps a giant moon rising in the woods surrounding the house; sight deer, turtles, possum, wild turkeys.” Need we say the breakfast is pretty amazing too?

The Mill House Inn in East Hampton has rooms ranging in price from a couple hundred a night to quadruple that, but for all guests, the Inn is an eco- friendly facility, down to details that include linens made of natural materials. The breakfast menu is extensive and includes the house-specialty lobster frittata and the ‘not-so-traditional’ omlettes like one that includes shrimp, tasso and andouille and even ‘sandwiches for breakfast’. Vegans and those seeking organic options will be glad to know that The Mill House Inn can accommodate all sorts of diets.

A Southampton beach, taken by spacebarpark/Flickr

Go, See, Do

There’s plenty to do in the Hamptons and perhaps surprisingly, the area has a large number of activities that are either inexpensive or free. In an area as lovely as it is, simply being outside can satisfy the interests of nature lovers. Biking, hiking, and boating are all recreational options that are both inexpensive and fun.

Of course, The Hamptons is known for its beaches, like the 7-mile long Coopers Beach (which was named best in the United States) and Gin Beach, are popular among both tourists and locals. But there are plenty more – check out New York Magazine’s list of the top 10 in and around the area, and make it a goal to check out at least half of them (vacation challenge!).