ALL POSTS IN [Food]

“You’ll only gain 1 pound, rather than 20.” Those were my final words when I appeared on NBC Miami as the resident travel expert last month with InterContinental Miami’s Toro Toro executive chef Rodolfo Cuadros. Together, we introduced a dish that we created specifically for Intercontinental’s Kitchen Cookbook iPad app, an interactive app created in 2011 by the executive chefs of InterContinental Hotels & Resorts and filled with delicious recipes from around the world.

To create fresh content for the app, the hotel chain appointed 4 travel personalities to accompany 4 top chefs in select InterContinental hotels in the US (Miami, Atlanta-Buckhead, San Francisco and Boston). The individual “tastemakers” spent time with the chefs in their kitchen to create and cook these new recipes that paid tribute to their respective destinations. I was honored to be chosen and truly overjoyed to spend a few days in sunny Miami.

As soon as I arrived, I partnered up with chef Rodolfo Cuadros to create turkey pastelon, a new spin on the traditional Puerto Rico entree. Instead of ground beef, we used a leaner turkey. We also dropped the pasta layers and replaced it with sweet plantains. Thousands of viewers watched on NBC as we explained the innovative dish that will appear exclusively on InterContinental’s Kitchen Cookbook iPad app. And if I – even though I haven’t cooked in 10 years — can make the dishes, you can too!

But that’s not all that I whipped up in the kitchen. I had the privilege to prepare other innovative dishes with Rodolfo, including Pork Belly Skewers Al Pastor, served as an appetizer, and Churros con Dulce de Leche, a Latin dessert representing the holiday season (and one of my personal favorite desserts!). I was surprised to learn it was a super easy dish to make, and you can watch us prepare it in this short clip on InterContinental’s YouTube page. As per my request, I also had the opportunity to team up with head bartender of Toro Toro to create a Red Sangria cocktail, using Malbec, Cava, Beefeater Gin and Cointreau, as well as cinnamon, spices and a colorful assortment of fruits. Needless to say, I indulged.

But indulging is an understatement regarding the entire experience. My hosts exceeded expectations and checked me into the 2-story, 3,300-square-foot Royal Palm Presidential Suite, recently redesigned by tennis icon Venus Williams. I had breathtaking views of Biscayne Bay, not to mention a stand-alone soaking tub, private dining area and a bevy of turndown amenities that included everything from fresh-fruit sangria to chocolates.

InterContinental Miami wanted to make sure my stay wasn’t just all about the hotel (even though I was perfectly fine never leaving!). They set me up on an “Insider Experience” with Chef Concierge Eduardo Rosello to explore Miami through the eyes of a local. Rosello, who’s served as concierge at the hotel for 20 years, knows the city like the back of his hand and, quite frankly, knows everyone you need to know. He introduced me to institutions like Joe’s Stone Crab, La Gloria Cubana Cigar Company (where I learned how to roll a cigar) and even a private tour of the wine cellar at the high-brow restaurant, The Forge. This turned out to be my favorite, considering the hearty dishes and Enomatic wine dispenser.

But nothing topped the inventive dishes I created at Toro Toro with Chef Rodolfo. I even learned—as a virgin to the kitchen—that cooking isn’t an impossible feat. Who knows? You may see me again wearing an apron, making my own version of Chef Rodolfo’s version of turkey pastelon.

The Kitchen Cookbook iPad app has been a culinary hit, and it can be downloaded for free on iTunes. Check it out to experience some amazing dishes, and watch Chef Redolfo and me in the NBC Miami clip here.

- Jimmy Im

Jimmy Im is NYC-based travel writer, TV host and instructor, as well as the cofounder of OutEscapes.com

Calling all coffee junkies — we want to know where your favorite coffee is from! Are you a Papua New Guinea purist? An Ethiopian enthusiast? Instagram your favorite coffee with the hashtag #DangerousGrounds and we’ll feature our favorites next week, just in time for the Dangerous Grounds season finale!

Tonight, Todd Carmichael heads to one of the world’s least-explored countries —  Papua New Guinea — on an all-new episode of Dangerous Grounds. He scours the villages of this Oceanic country in the hopes of finding delicious Blue Mountain Coffee. But first he must brave the notorious Highlands Highway that’s known to be ravaged by local bandits, giving it a reputation for armed robberies and murders.

Will Todd make it down the highway in one piece? Can he convince PNG’s villagers to part with their most prized commodity? Find out on an all-new episode tonight, Jan. 8 at 11|10c!

And don’t forget to Instagram your favorite coffee with #DangerousGrounds!

Joshua Tree National Park

Photography by Kwin Mosby

When most people think of a warm winter getaway, they think about Florida or the Caribbean as prime destinations to soak up sunrays. California can be an iffy destination if you’re looking for hot weather, but bargains abound if you’re willing to don a jacket for a quick weekend getaway.

I was looking for a somewhat inexpensive vacation spot during the holidays and found out that Palm Springs, CA, is not only a popular gay travel destination, but the resort town is also a short driving distance to Mount San Jacinto State Park and a 1-hour drive from Joshua Tree National Park. So it was a no-brainer because I needed a trip that would provide me with the possible option to commune with nature for a couple hours or even a day.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway/Mount San Jacinto State Park
When visiting Palm Springs, rent a car and explore outside the city limits. And if you’re an outdoor enthusiast, I recommend spending about $20 (per adult) to hop on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway — just a 10- to 15-minute drive from downtown Palm Springs. The tramway (the largest of its kind in the world) offers amazing views of Mount San Jacinto, the highest peak in Palm Springs. Once you reach the top, there are several different self-guided trails as well as the Desert View trail if you want an awe-inspiring view of Palm Springs. And if there’s snow on top of the mountain, it’s a great spot to take the kids sledding.

My advice is to dress warmly and go early, otherwise expect to wait in line for an hour or more. Tourists can grab a bite to eat or warm up with spirits served at the Pines Cafe, located on the third floor of the Mountain Station. Food, alcoholic- and non-alcoholic beverages are also served at the Valley Station’s Cascade Cafe.

Joshua Tree National Park
If you have some time to kill, a day trip to Joshua Tree National Park is a must. The $15 entrance fee is a mere pittance when considering the abundance of natural beauty you’ll be able to explore. Head to Keys View to see — at a distance — Mount San Jacinto, the Coachella Valley, Palm Springs and yep, even the famous San Andreas Fault. And if the weather is clear you’ll be able to get a glimpse of the Mexico border.

I was on the road at 10 in the morning and back in my hotel room by 4 p.m., after visiting Keys View, Barker Dam, Skull Rock and eating my packed lunch at Hidden Valley while I watched experienced rock climbers scale the side of Intersection Rock. Campers can pitch their tent at 8 different campsites located throughout the park.

And if you need to make a pit stop during your road trip, bathrooms are located along the way.  As for food and water, that’s a different story. Neither is found in the park. Park rangers suggest packing ample food and water before entering the park. A small cafe next to the Joshua Tree Visitors Center, located on Park Boulevard, sells a reasonably priced packed lunch if you forget to plan ahead.

Food from Lulu Restaurant in Palm Springs

Photography by Kwin Mosby

Downtown Palm Springs
If outdoor exploring isn’t your thing, then the city of Palm Springs offers other fun activities. Explore the city’s downtown area for shopping, sightseeing and more. One of the biggest tourist attractions is the 26-foot-tall Forever Marilyn Monroe statue, located on the corner of North Palm Canyon Drive and Tahquitz Canyon Drive.  Each day, dozens of tourists stop by for a photo op with the replica of the famous star, created by American artist Seward Johnson and taken from the movie The Seven Year Itch.

Stroll down Palm Canyon Drive to see the Walk of Stars dedicated to entertainers such as Phyllis Diller, Frank Sinatra, Lena Horne and Kathy Griffin. Go bike riding on well-marked paths through the city’s historic neighborhoods or see local crafts, arts and entertainment at the Palm Springs Villagefest every Thursday night.

There’s no shortage of good food and restaurants in downtown Palm Springs. Grab lunch at the local and tourist favorite, Sherman’s Deli & Bakery. The spread of 3-layer cakes and desserts on display is a great reason to stop by. My favorite restaurant while visiting was the always-crowded, but chic Lulu California Bistro at 200 N. Palm Canyon Drive. I recommend the filet mignon or the turkey burger with the side salad.

Gay-Friendly Hotels and Nightlife
In addition to tasty food, Palm Springs has accommodations for everyone, at various price points. After a little research when planning my trip, I found several hotels and resorts that offered off-season rates — some as low as $100 per night. For gay travelers looking for au naturel sun and fun, check out clothing-optional resorts located in Palm Springs’ Warm Sands neighborhood, including INNdulge, Warm Sands Villas and Triangle Inn. Rates during Christmas and New Year’s can be pricey; so plan to stay before or after the holidays when rates are a little cheaper.

Some resorts provide great amenities, including free drinks during happy hour, a multipurpose spa, fitness center, heated pool or a Jacuzzi, which is great way to relax your weary bones after a long day of hiking. If you’re looking for a more luxurious place to stay, try the boutique hotels like The Saguaro, Ace Hotel or the East Canyon Hotel and Spa.

The gay nightlife scene is small with respect to the number of bars and clubs, but each place has a genuinely warm and welcoming crowd. Head to Arenas Road, where you’ll find diverse crowds, including an intergenerational mix of gay men at Toucans Tiki Lounge and Hunters Palm Springs. The latter venue has 2 bars, dart boards, pool tables, an adjoining dance floor and outdoor patio. If you enjoy crooning to Broadway show tunes, then Thursday nights at Spurline is right up your alley.  Across the road, Streetbar is usually a hangout for the mature gay man.

So warm up your winter! Plan a trip to the desert to explore the hidden treasures in and around Palm Springs.

Last night on Dangerous Grounds, Todd Carmichael traveled to Borneo in search of a rare coffee bean that even he hadn’t tasted before: Liberica, also known as “Elephant” coffee — named for its massive beans.

Liberica Coffee

Upon finding the elusive bean, Todd brought the coffee back to the La Colombe factory in Philadelphia for a tasting with his closest buddies, who also happen to be coffee aficionados. Get an inside look at what happens when coffee experts taste something new.

READ MORE

Bite in to a fresh new episode of Food Paradise tonight at 10|9c and enjoy some of America’s manliest places to get your grub on.

Manliest Restaurants 2

From a wild steakhouse in Texas to butcher-fresh burgers in Chicago and a towering mountain of meat in Manhattan, this episode of Food Paradise: Manliest Restaurants is sure to get your heart pounding and your metabolism moving.

Travel along the great Snake River and beneath the towering Teton mountains to the Snake River Brewing Company, Wyoming’s oldest and largest brew pub. Then, take a bite of the corned beef sandwich at Katz’s, the oldest and considered by many to be the best deli in New York City … and if you know New York delis, that’s saying something!

Until then, get a look at photos of some of the mouthwatering creations from the manliest restaurants in America.

Thanksgiving Out

Not everyone is into the idea of slaving away in the kitchen on Thanksgiving, but everyone likes the idea of a warm, fresh Thanksgiving Day meal. There’s no shame is heading to a restaurant for your fill on this holiday. In fact, many restaurants are doing it up better than any of our grandmas could (no offense to Grandma). We found a few restaurants with special holiday menus that are making us second-guess a home-cooked meal.

New York City
There are plenty of restaurants serving a special prix-fixe menu on Thanksgiving in the Big Apple, but the idea of eating just steps away from the site of the holiday’s biggest parade is too good to pass up. At Picholine, Chef Terrance Brennan is serving a $115 prix-fixe menu featuring 4 courses including a choice of Amish farm turkey, beef, salmon, sole or wild mushroom risotto. With pumpkin bisque with black-truffle foam and a lobster and sweet potato appetizer also on the menu, how can you say no?

READ MORE

As Thanksgiving approaches and we gear up for the busiest travel day of the year, we can’t help but think about all those who will not get to enjoy a plate of turkey and stuffing in the comfort of their own home. Many are still displaced because of damage from Hurricane Sandy and are in need of help. If you’re planning on eating out this week, make your reservation through our partners at CityEats, enter the promo code “RECOVERY” and CityEats will donate $10 to the Red Cross Disaster Relief fund. Learn more about CityEats’ support of Sandy recovery on their blog.

Need some ideas for where to dine? Check out CityEats’ top 10 New York, Washington, DC, and Philadelphia restaurants, and be sure to get a look at the new restaurant listings in New Orleans and Phoenix.

By Valerie Conners

La Colombe

Editor’s Note: Todd Carmichael, the host of our new series Dangerous Grounds premiering tonight at 10|9c, is the cofounder of La Colombe Coffee Roasters. La Colombe is known for its premium coffee, sourced directly from the farmers by Todd, who goes to often-dangerous extremes to make sure his cafes are able to serve some of the world’s most sought-after and flavorful coffee. Dangerous Grounds documents Todd’s coffee-sourcing expeditions, and after tonight, the show will air Tuesdays at 9|8c. Travel Channel contributor Valerie Conners shares her experiences enjoying a cup of coffee at La Colombe, and proves that Todd’s passion for the flavorful bean is felt by anyone who drinks his prized coffee.

Tucked behind a simple storefront in Philadelphia’s tony Rittenhouse Square neighborhood lies La Colombe cafe, which proffers what many devout coffee drinkers would argue is the city’s — if not the country’s — tastiest coffee. To call La Colombe a mere coffee shop would be like calling Tiffany’s a mere jewelry store; La Colombe has brought coffee roasting to a veritable art form, and anyone in the neighborhood looking for a stellar cuppa knows to head straight to the cafe. READ MORE

By Matthew Karsten, ExpertVagabond.com

A fierce battle has been raging on in the Canadian city of Montreal for over 50 years. Master warriors hand-forge their weapons using wood-fire ovens, dough, water, honey and sesame seeds. Thousands of citizens line up each morning to arm themselves before heading to work. What started this never-ending war? The quest for the perfect bagel. READ MORE

By Katie Hards

George Motz at the New York Food Film Festival

Photo by Katie Hards

What happens when you combine food- and film-hungry New Yorkers, 20,000 South Carolina oysters, live music, and the Brooklyn Fire Department? You get the closing night party for the New York City Food Film Festival. READ MORE

Latest Pins on Pinterest

  • Lake Placid, New York

  • Before Selfies

  • Atlantic City in the ‘20s

  • Vintage Hamptons