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Rough Point

My Mom and I went to Newport, RI to tour the mansions… and we toured them!  In 3 days, we explored 6 Mansions.  It doesn’t sound like many, but when you go on the tours, it’s a lot.  We covered: The Breakers, Rosecliff, Marble House, The Elms, Chateau-sur-Mer, and Rough Point.

View from Rosecliff

View from Rosecliff

I am going to review them in the order I liked them… Meaning, if you only see one see the first one, if you can only see two, see the first two… You get the drift.

The Breakers Grounds

The Breakers is the best mansion to see.  The parking lot fills up pretty early, because it is the most popular of the mansions.  I am pretty sure it is the largest and most lavish of the Mansions.  From indoor fountains under the stairs to landings bigger than my apartment, this place is the epitome of the gilded age.  The audio tour was good – especially for an audio tour.

Entrance to Rough Point

My personal favorite, Rough Point- the Doris Duke house, had a live tour… which I like so much better.  The house was not as impressive as the tour guide’s knowledge, and Doris Duke’s story.  Her house was the most homey of all the mansions.  I loved hearing the stories about how some one actually lived in one of these giant houses.  Doris had her dogs running through her house and they were allowed on the outrageous furniture.

The Elms Grounds

The Elms is also a beautiful summer “cottage”.  I think this mansion had the most beautiful grounds.  The audio tour was well done, and the house was beautiful.  Completely worth seeing, unless you are starting to get mansioned out…

Marble House

Marble House was beautiful, and surprise, surprise, completely covered in marble!  It was surprising warm (in feeling, not temperature) inside, though.  The audio tour was well done, and told different anecdotes than the other mansions.  All of the houses did a fantastic job of giving you the idea of Newport in the gilded age, without being repetitive.

Chateau-Sur-Mer

Chateau-sur-Mer was weird.  It was a weird mansion, not as gilded as the other mansions, with much more dark, heavy wood.  Although it was very cool seeing the beginnings of the mansions of Newport, our live tour guide was an odd duck.  It made my mom and I laugh, and it was truly unforgettable.  The grounds are nothing to write home about… but I did like this house because it was so different.

Rosecliff

I disliked Rosecliff, and in fact, I would skip this tour.  This house was basically empty on the first floor, because it is still used for weddings and other private events.  The chairs stacked up on the patio really took away from the experience, on top of which, the furnished  rooms had all been redone in the forties.  It didn’t really reflect the Newport gilded age, and lacked the charm of Rough Point, or the unique experience of Chateau-sur-Mer.  It was a mehh for me.

The Elms

No pictures were allowed inside any of the Mansions, hence all of the outdoor photos.

http://www.newportmansions.org/
http://www.newportrestoration.org/

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The Courtyard

My mom and I took a girls weekend to the Fancy Fancy city of Newport, RI.  Normally, I don’t comment on the hotels I stay in, because, generally, a hotel is a hotel.  Well, The Francis Malbone House is a HUGE exception to this rule.  I LOVE this B&B.

For starters, the location is FABULOUS.  It is a little far from the Mansions or the beach, but it is smack in the middle of downtown, and a very short walk from the Wharf.  Parking downtown in horrible, expensive, and generally unavailable.  The Francis Malbone House has a parking spot for each room, right in the downtown area.  This alone would make it worth it.

Secondly, the rooms are quaint, quiet, and comfortable.  There is also a beautiful courtyard – perfect for reading, breakfast, afternoon tea, or a glass of wine after dinner.  But, this is only a small part of what makes this place special…

The real standouts are the breakfast and the staff.  This breakfast is included in the room charge, and seriously, DO NOT skip breakfast.  Or Afternoon Tea.  The food here is AMAZING.  There are two made to order dishes a morning – a sweet and a savory.  My mom and I ordered one of each and shared.  Waffles with fruit compote, perfect omelets, pancakes… you name it, it was delicious.  OUTRAGEOUS.  Not to mention the pastries, fruit, oatmeal, and everything else that was left out to nibble on.  I was so stuffed with breakfast that I only needed a snack for lunch… which was great, because I stuffed myself at dinner.

Not only was the staff friendly and attentive, Will had the BEST dinner recommendations.  It was surprisingly tough being a vegetarian in Newport, but the dinner recommendations were fabulous, for both my mom and I.  We were sent to places that locals go, not just the run of the mill tourist restaurants.  Being a self-proclaimed foodie, I was very happy to get the true flavor of Newport.  Believe me, I will be posting about all my dinners…

When you go to Newport, make reservations at the Francis Malbone House.  Call up- the staff is super friendly, and will give you amazing advice.  I am normally an online gal, but this staff is worth talking to…

http://www.malbone.com/

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For the past two weeks, I have been fostering a pug.  He came to me with no name, and a very short back story.  This little dude was found on Long Island 6 months ago.  He just had a harness and a leash.  The man taking care of him tried looking for his owner (with no success), but eventually gave him up, because he was “too much work.”

Through the rescue group, SNORT (Short Noses Only Rescue Team), Hampton came into my home, and then wriggled his way into my heart.  We figure he is about 8 years old, and the chillest pug EVER.  I don’t know what “work” meant to the guy before, but seriously, this dog can hold it for 12 hours, EASY.  In fact, if you take him out too much, he looks at you like, “Are you serious right now?  Why am I not on my bed?”

Hampton has even won over hesitant Max.  Max was worried that he would actually be too much work, like the other dofus said.  Some how, little Hampton just KNEW he had to be extra cute for Max.  When the door opens and Max walks in, a chorus of joyous noises explode from Hampton.  Not annoying whines or barks– something in between that’s just adorable.  It is as if he was saying, “OMG It’s YOU!!!!”

Anyway, it’s official- this is the best little foster dog EVER.

Interesting Links:
http://www.snortrescue.org/
http://snortrescue.blogspot.com/
http://www.facebook.com/pages/SNORT-Short-Noses-Only-Rescue-Team/128712140542769

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Part of me thinks that Valentines Day is a little silly, because Max and I do nice things for each other every day and say, “I love you” all the time.  This comes from my irrational fear that anything can happen, and I always want people I care about to know how I feel.  But, part of me really loves our Valentines Day tradition.

After working in a couple of restaurants, I have figured out that going out on Valentines Day is a sham.  It is a way for the restaurants to sucker men into paying for an over priced dinner, which will certainly not be as good as it would be on a regular night.  Therefore, I refuse to go out.  Max makes us dinner (because he is a much better chef than I am), we drink wine (BUT this year Max surprised me with YUMMY Champagne), and we spend time together.  In all the craziness of the world, spending time (without phones/internet/computers) is the best Valentines Day present in the world!  (Full disclosure: I also love all the presents Max got me!)

I hope you all had a great Valentines Day!

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If you live in Manhattan, you know what it like when some one suggests another borough – let alone Jersey.  The first thought in your head is, “UUUUUGHHHHHHHHHHH, REALLY?”  I am not even kidding.

If you do muster up the incredible amount of energy it takes to leave the finest borough in the ENTIRE world  (totally an objective opinion, of course), Jersey City isn’t a horrible way to go.  Now, hear me out – I know what you are thinking… Yes, I would choose to got to Jersey City over Brooklyn, at least occasionally.  (Although, the most visited “other borough” for me is the Bronx… GO YANKEES!!)  You also may be asking why I am treating Jersey City the same way I treat NYC’s other boroughs.  Simply, it is the same time and cost to get there.  Therefore, there is no difference to me.

We also went for a Lehigh Alumni Event – aka, to hang out with our friends, drink, and make spectacles of ourselves, all in the name of Lehigh.  (This event was also the source of the name tags… Great idea to give people name tags after 3 liters of beer.)

Anyway, Zeppelin Hall in Jersey City may be my favorite beer hall in the NYC area.  They have a ton of beers on tap, and for a liter of beer, it really isn’t that expensive.  I think the food is “meh”, but for meat eaters, I understand there is some great drunk munchies… like bratwurst… gross.

The after party took place at Barcade in Jersey City.  There are now a few Barcades… and I have actually been to the one in Brooklyn (I KNOW), but these bar-arcades are completely worth the intense travel.  (What is it, a 15 minute subway ride?)  This is the place to take the nerds in your life, so all of my friends LOVE it.  There is awesome beer on tap – including Bethlehem Brew Works Rude Elf!!  I mean, it was a Lehigh event, so I HAD to have some.  Also, Miss Pacman and Donkey Kong… IT WAS ON.  Until we had to take the Path home… UGH.

Interesting Links:
http://www.zeppelinhall.com/
http://barcadejerseycity.com/

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Yes, I was laughing really hard - Thanks to the Guide!

The final leg of our trip was Sedona.  Sedona is one of our friend’s favorite places on Earth, and I can understand why… it is GORGEOUS.  We decided to enjoy the scenery by taking an off-road jeep tour.  There are several companies to choose from, but we went with Red Rock Jeep Tours.  The guide was fantastic, and the drive was super fun.  We did the “Soldiers’ Pass” tour – as it was one of their premiere/exclusive tours.  The pictures speak for themselves.

After the jeep tour, we headed up to see the Frank Lloyd Wright inspired Chapel of the Holy Cross.  It was truly amazing.  Even the biggest skeptic would feel the urge to light a candle in the chapel, because it was so awe inspiring.  The chapel was built into the side of the mountain, with the pews facing the view.  It was truly a magical way to conclude our Arizona excursion!

Interesting Links:
http://www.redrockjeep.com/
http://www.visitsedona.com/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chapel_of_the_Holy_Cross
https://www.chapeloftheholycross.com/

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FnB is one of the best restaurants I have ever been to.  EVER.  And I have been to some fantastic restaurants.  Let me tell you – it was awesome.

I loved the relaxed atmosphere.  There is an open kitchen in the center of the restaurant with a bar set up around it.  Max and I ate at the “bar”; we loved it so much, we made reservations for the next night too!    Max also is a little mad I am letting this secret out – because with the way the food tastes and the friendly service, I could see this place booking up months in advance.

1) You have to get the Braised Leeks.  This dish has won awards – and may be the best thing I have ever ate.  Braised Leeks, Mozzarella, Mustard Bread Crumbs, and  a Fried Egg.  Max got this as an appetizer the first night, and I got it as my main dish the second night.  (The portions outside of NYC are usually HUGE for me.  I left stuffed even though I ordered two appetizers instead of an appetizer and an entre.)  Long story short – you MUST get this dish.

2)  Fried Green Tomatoes.  I had these as my main dish the first night, and Max had them as an appetizer the second night. They were served with greens and feta.  They knocked my socks off.

3) Falafel… Some of the best I’ve had…

4) Cheese and Nut Bread.  It came with dates and apricot compote.  The apricot compote was fantastic – I don’t even like apricots.  This is the dish I had as an appetizer the second night.  It was really yummy, and probably the smallest (still not small) dish on the menu – which meant I wasn’t too full for the leeks!

5) Roast Jidori Chicken – served with spaetzle.  Max said this was AWESOME.  It looked and smelled yummy.  But, I have no concept.

6) The Steak.  It was really big and it looked good.  But, Max had this the second night, and I was way too into my leeks to remember anything else about it.

7) The first night we were too full for dessert.  The second night we saved room (as best we could), because we kept watching the butterscotch pudding being made and then served.  It looked WAY TOO GOOD to pass up.  Butterscotch pudding, whipped cream, and a little nutmeg sprinkled on top.  Perfect ending to a perfect meal.

We paired all of this with a local wine, called Dos Cabezas.   Umm, FANTASTIC.  The winery is further south than we were, so we couldn’t make it there this time…  Next time, we HAVE to go there.  It was pretty cheap too – especially compared to NYC prices!

Bottom Line:  Get your ass to FnB.  I don’t care if you have to fly there.  If you have no other reason to go to Scottsdale, go just for FnB.

(PS – it TOTALLY makes sense that the Chef had a restaurant in NYC before moving to AZ – just sayin’.)

Interesting Links:

http://fnbrestaurant.com/

http://www.foodandwine.com/articles/10-best-restaurant-dishes-of-2010

http://www.doscabezaswinery.com/tasting-room.html

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