I'm counting down my top 5 trips we have taken. You'll find our past reviews and posts along with where I would visit today!
So far during the holiday break we have been very busy in the best possible way! We have gone hiking at the sand dunes, baked cookies, enjoyed a Christmas Carol trolley ride, visited the Museum of Fine Arts, family dinner at Fogo de Chao, and enjoyed a Christmas Eve meal at my sisters.
Can't wait for some more fun this week and looking forward to an amazing 2018!!!
I'll be counting down my top 10 favorite dining experiences. You'll find past reviews, posts, and pictures. I would easily go back to any one of these restaurants.
6. Zur Germania was recommended to us by a work colleague in Frankfurt, Germany. Zur Germania is a little off the tourist path and we were so glad it was! The staff didn't really speak English and we didn't speak German but together we were able to select the perfect drinks and meal! I never knew how amazing German food could be!
5. Bar Boulud has multiple locations. The amazing meal we remember was in London, England. The staff were attentive, the food was amazing, and the environment was nice but also comforting. We still recreate one of the dishes we enjoyed at the restaurant.
2. Le Lapin Saute is a casual restaurant in Quebec City. The service is friendly and warm. The food is comforting, perfectly cooked, and seasoned beautifully! We dream about going back and enjoying their food again!
We were still debating should we go home early or stay as planned after we woke up. In the end we decided it's the smart choice to head home today.
After getting dressed we attempted to find the Starbucks inside the Oculus mall. While it was fun to see the architecture and the stores offered. It was too early for anything to be open and we never found Starbucks. Oh well. We continued on north to our final destination which was Keki Modern Cakes.
Along the way we stopped at Barnes and Nobles. We were hoping to find a couple more Fingerlings for Ruby and her friends. Unfortunately we were still a little too early. I was getting hungry at this point so we went next door to Whole Foods for something to eat and a coffee for Greg. I ordered a blueberry matcha smoothie made with coconut milk - so yummy!
Back outside we made our way past Columbus Park to Chinatown. Keki Modern Cakes creates insanely good Cheescakes. We purchased a bouncy cheesecake and 2 fancy cheesecakes (bring on the lactaid pills). On our earlier visit Greg and I tried the bouncy cheesecake. It was unique, not overly sweet, and very satisfying. This time we purchased the fancy cheesecake for ourselves. The fancy cheesecake is smooth, creamy, the bouncy texture at the bottom, and so addicting!
With cakes in hand we made our way back to the Millenium Hilton Downtown. We advised the front desk that we would be checking out early and asked for the car to be brought around. We ended up losing 40K points but I'd rather have that than be stuck in hours of slow snow travel or worse end up in an accident.
After checking out of the Hilton Burlington we loaded up the car and made the 5 hour trek to New York City. Along the way there were a few adorable towns and shops that we would love to get to again.
When we got close to our hotel we hit some major traffic. Sadly an accident occurred nearby where a car ran into several people. We were detoured all around the hotel never being allowed to turn right. We finally pulled up in front of the Hilton Millennium Downtown. The doorman helped us with our luggage and calling over the valet.
The lobby was small but nicely decorated. Our check in was easy and we were upgraded to a high floor room (thanks again Hilton Honors). Our room was a King room with plenty of room for the two of us and a good size bathroom. Our view was the stunning and moving sight of the 9/11 Memorial and One World Trade Center.
Hailing a cab at this time and in this traffic was nearly impossible. We ended up walking several blocks north and finally snagged a cab from across the way. We were dropped off in front of Chelsea Market a few minutes later. For lunch we decided to keep it simple and order sandwiches from Num Pang. I opted for the Ginger Barbecue Brisket sandwich while Greg chose the Pulled Duroc Pork. I thought I was being smart by not order my favorite 5 Spice Glazed Pork Belly because it can be a little messy to eat. My brisket sandwich ended up becoming extremely messy but oh so worth it. Num Pang sandwiches are full of flavor and texture.
After lunch we walked up to the David Zwirner Gallery for the Yayoi Kusama exhibit. Score! The line isn't that long! After a 40 minute wait (which wasn't bad just cold) we entered the gallery. We waited inside for our turn to enter the 1st infinity mirror room. Afterwards we had to put booties on our shoes for the 2nd infinity mirror room. Our last stop was in the flower room. All in all we were probably inside the gallery for 5 minutes but it was a very cool 5 minutes that we'll always remember.
At this point we needed to warm up so we stopped at Starbucks for warmth and to fuel up! Back outside we continued on to Desigual for some shopping. I am in need of a winter coat and a gift for someone and Desigual is one of my favorite designers! Most of my wardrobe is black, grey, or navy but something about the colors and combination of prints just makes me happy. Inside the store I ended up trying on jeans, dresses, scarves and coats! I totally needed to reign it in and settle down. I chose a scarf for a friend, a coat for me, and a dress for a party I had coming up. Perfect (especially because of a sale)!
We are running out of time before our dinner reservations so we hopped into a cab and made our way back to the Hilton Millennium Downtown. Time to drop off our bags, freshen up and change clothes for dinner.
Jungsik is close to the hotel so we opted for a refreshing walk. We were greeted and our coats were taken for us before showing us to our table. I keep going back and forth on my feelings about our dinner at Jungsik. On one hand the service was incredibly slow to start. Our greeting, drink order, and food order took a good amount of time. From the time we sat down to the time we left we were at Jungsik for 3 hours.
We decided to drink cocktails along with dinner and the cocktails were well crafted. For dinner we chose the Signature Tasting Menu. The meal started with an amuse bouche which represented Korean side dishes. These small bites were a beautiful start to dinner. We enjoyed a variety the flavors, textures, and scents. Our 1st course was the OSETRA CAVIAR. The caviar was a good dish although not memorable. The 2nd dish was FOIE GRAS MANDOO (not dairy free so I decided to risk it with a lactaid pill). The Mandoo and the Japanese Wagyu were delicious but the star was the broth. The broth was scrumptious and satisfying. 3rd course was OCTOPUS. With it's perfect combination of crunchy exterior and tender inside this dish was outstanding. Our 4th dish was BLACK COD. Black Cod isn't usually my favorite but I found that this dish wasn't overly sweet so I enjoyed it. 5th dish was TUNA KIM BAP. This was probably the most inventive dish. The Kim Bap was rolled into a small cigar and was a wonderful taste and crunch. The 6th dish was GALBI. This dish confused me honestly. I still am not sure whether or not this was supposed to be served cold or not but it definitely was. I found it rather off putting and would have said something but there wasn't staff nearby. Next came OMIJA which means "five flavors", which are sweetness, sourness, bitterness, saltiness, and pungency. Enjoyable. The 8th dish was the start of dessert. Greg was given a Baby Banana which was actually a small pastry. Unfortunately, it didn't wow him. He felt the focus was more on the presentation that actual flavor. I was given Pears along with Pear Sorbet. As a person with a dairy allergy, there are two desserts which always disappoint me from a fine dining establishments; fruit or sorbets. Other restaurants with the same amount of notification have stepped up and presented pastries and/or composed dishes to me. In addition to this I have to ask, where was the Korean influence? I basically ended up with pears tossed with cinnamon and sugar. The 9th course was the ROASTED CHESTNUT. Greg was presented with a bowl of roasted chestnuts (for show) and a chestnut truffle to eat. Unfortunately, Greg felt it was truly lacking any chestnut flavor. I was given a different sorbet (not thrilled again). To end the meal we were given a small bowl of petit fours. Luckily these were a combination of sweet flavors and textures that saved the ending of our dinner.
We enjoyed most of dinner but in comparison to other like restaurants we agreed we wouldn't return.
On our walk back to the hotel we discussed our plans for the next day. We were considering the Guggenheim Museum, the Intrepid Museum, Christmas Markets and more. Sadly, we then checked the weather and saw that snow was coming and it would be coming earlier than originally thought. In order to not have a miserable drive home on Saturday we decided to be adults and spend Friday morning in New York but then check out early and make our way home.
After waking up and getting dressed we walked up to Church St Marketplace in search of Starbucks. Church St is adorable and welcoming with it's decorations, stores, and restaurants. I can't wait to come back later today and explore the area more.
Once back at the hotel we hopped in the car and made our way to Mount Philo. Along the way we passed lots of shopping and dining venues. We also passed a placed called Shelburne Museum which looked incredibly interesting. Definitely going to make a pit stop on the way back!
We decided to take the trail up but skip the Devils Chair rock formation. Along the way we let those hiking faster than us to pass. We were taking our time and stopping for photographs along the way. The climb is relatively easy but does have some areas of scrambling and a few steep inclines. At the top of Mount Philo we were greeted with amazing views and an accomplished feeling. We took the road down for something different and were happy with the relaxing route.
On our way back to Burlington VT we definitely made our way to Shelburne Museum. The Shelburne Museum is odd, a little eerie (when you are the only ones walking around), but incredibly unique and interesting. We paid our entrance fee inside the gift shop and were given a map that showed us the entire museum but circled the buildings that were currently open.
We wandered around on our own stopping at different exhibits and entering a couple of them. Along the way Greg helped keep us in good spirits with his silly side! We weren't here very long as it was kind of cold and we were also getting pretty hungry. Shelburne Museum is a worthwhile stop for everyone!
For lunch we made our way back to Church St for some lunch and then some shopping. A cold winter day and energy used for hiking calls for a comforting bowl of Ramen! At Gaku Ramen we were greeted and shown to a table. Our server brought us some water and asked if we'd like to order any other drinks. Sake please! For a starter we chose Karaage (Japanese fried chicken). The chicken was hot and seasoned nicely however it felt more like chicken fingers. I felt that there was too much flour vs a well mixed batter. I ordered the Spicy Tonkotsu with a soft boiled egg. My Ramen had a flavorful broth with for the most part nice toppings and good noodles. I do wish that the pork Chashu was cut to be thicker. Unfortunately the pork seemed more like deli meat. Greg ordered the Black Garlic Tonkotsu along with pork belly and a soft boiled egg. Greg's Ramen was good and the pork belly was a thicker cut.
Time to walk off all of those noodles! Church Street had so much for us personally and also for gifts we needed. We shopped inside Saratoga Olive Oil Co for delicious vinegars, salts, and agradolce's. Our next stop was for some delicious chocolates at Lake Champlain Chocolates. Our last stop was to Homeport where we looked through gifts, home goods, and Christmas ornaments.
To end the day we brought our bags back to our room and headed back out to catch the beautiful sunset. We crossed the street and first wandered about Battery Park. Our next stop was down the street to Waterfront Park where we walked along the water and admired the sunset and surrounding scenery. We would have loved to continue on to the Burlington Greenway however at this point the wind was turning bitter and we were ready to relax.
Back at the hotel we re-organized all of our bags and purchases so that we would be ready for New York City in the morning.
Before we would check out we ordered room service for breakfast. Greg opted for the Healthy Breakfast and I chose the Japanese Inspired Breakfast. The order was taken smoothly but after a short time the staff member called us back. Apparently there was a glitch in the way they process orders and she was resubmitting it so there would be a short delay. This wasn't a problem for us since we weren't in any rush.
Today was probably our busiest and slowest day of the vacation. On one hand we were insanely trying to figure out where we should go instead of Mont Tremblant over our breakfast. We really would like to visit Mont Tremblant but the weather was miserable (rain) and the next day was going to be freezing cold and we felt we would end up just sitting indoors rather than be able to go hiking.
After some research we made the decision to head to Burlington VT. Burlington was somewhere we have wanted to visit and it wasn't too far away so we decided to go for it! We called for our car and help with the luggage before checking out downstairs. Before exiting the hotel I stopped and mailed a postcard to my friends daughter who is battling cancer. To read about how amazing she is and how you can also send her some mail visit here.
The 4 hour drive took us on the highway for a while. We took a chance and pulled off the highway to shop at Toys R Us. We totally lucked out being able to buy some Unicorn Fingerlings and Star Wars BB8's to send to Ruby and her friends.
After that stop we were on small country roads until we got to the border crossing. Once we got to the border we noticed that the agent was looking through our passports again and then he had to close the window for a question. We were then asked about our travels to Indonesia (that occurred 4 years ago). . After telling him we went for vacation and hiking he gave us back our passports and we entered the country. This was definitely knew for us.
We made our way into Burlington and found the Hilton Burlington. We pulled into the hotel and had an easy checked in. Our room got upgraded to a lake view but this gave us 2 queen size beds. We don't like 2 beds in hotel rooms but it was only for 2 nights so we went with it. The hotel and room are a bit dated but clean and seem to be maintained.
After the long drive we were in need of a snack and some adult beverages. The Mounted Cat (inside the lobby) was very relaxed and the staff terrific. We ordered drinks along with fresh made chips which came with fry sauce.
After freshening up we walked up the street to Hen of the Wood for dinner. We called earlier and were able to snag a last minute reservation. The staff seated us at a nice table for two (although the tables were a little too close for my preference). To start our meal we ordered the Hen of the Woods Mushroom Toast and the Calamari. Both dishes were good but the toast amazing flavors but a little messy to split and eat. Both of our entrees were satisfying in taste and texture. The only downside to the evening was that we felt the restaurant used a little too much salt.
Once we were back at the hotel we decided to just hit the hay. Hopefully we'd be refreshed and ready for our hike in the morning!
After bundling up we went for breakfast at Starbucks. I was happy to see that I was able to get a Matcha Lemonade here in Quebec City unlike when I was in France. We sat down and enjoyed our drinks and pumpkin bread (dairy free).
Our first adventure was climbing the snow covered hills of Parc du Bastion de la Reine for views of the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac. We weren't the only ones enjoying the area as there was a family who was enjoying the snow by sledding. Our next stop was to the Citadelle de Quebec. The fort is still an active military base so you are limited in where you can go. We toured the museum and heard (thank to a friendly and enthusiastic guide) a wonderful story of bravery.
On our way to Le Marche du Vieux Port we stopped for pictures along the Ramparts of Quebec City and at Parliament. Once at the market we shopped for Pate de fruit, maple digestifs, donuts, and so much more! A foodie haven!
Climbing the hills back to the Fairmont we worked up an appetite. We decided to enjoy lunch at Bistro Le Sam. We were seated right away without a reservation. Our table was in a lovely room that provided us a view of the Terrasse Dufferin. To start our meal we ordered wine along with the duck wings and salmon tartar. I only had a small bite of the duck wings but they were delicious and not overly sweet. The salmon tartar was cold, fresh, and nicely balanced. My entree was the fish and chips. The dish was hot and extra crispy just the way I hoped it would be. Greg ordered the "Big Sam" and big it was! My picture doesn't show the enormity of this sandwich! Greg did enjoy it but was full the rest of the day.
After lunch we spent some time resting and getting organized as we would be living Quebec City in the morning. Once it was dark we ventured out into the city again. Where did this wind come from! I guess the forecasters weren't joking about the cold front! We wandered around the hotel and then made our way back to the Petite Champlain District. I absolutely love this city there is so much to see and do and it's so photogenic!
After gathering our belongings we decided to skip a big breakfast and get on the road to Quebec City. Our drive was a mix of cloudy skies, flurries, and very thick fog! Not exactly the stress free start we were hopping for but mother nature has a mind of her own. Halfway there we stopped at a Tim Hortons (my favorite coffee chain after Starbucks) for some coffee and donuts. I chanced fate, took a Lactaid pill and enjoyed every bite of a maple frosted donut!!
Before heading into the city center we stopped at Montmorency Falls for some pictures. There were a couple other cars in the lot (several more pulled up after us - who also happened to be from Massachusetts). We figured out that the open entrance was all the way to the right of the visitor center. We also considered driving up to the top for more photos but were too excited to get into the city.
We pulled up to the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac and the valet greeted us and helped with our luggage. We walked into the lobby and entered the check in line. We were helped by a very friendly gentleman who also happened to be from the area we just drove from. After a nice chat and an easy check in our room was ready with one small exception. The foam pillows I requested weren't in the room yet but he was sending someone to deliver them right away.
Room 6128 was on the 6th floor and offered a king bed, a bigger bathroom than at the Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu but it also had a noisy air system. A few minutes after we arrived a staff member knocked on the door with our foam pillows. Perfect! We grabbed our hats and gloves and went out to explore the area and to visit the Christmas Market. We started with the pool area then on to the lobby, stores, bars, and restaurants. The hotel is stunning and maintained to the highest degree.
The Christmas market was incredibly busy! Two different areas of stands and people were packed in at both. We looked around an the artisan crafts for a bit and purchased a couple of items. We were hoping to enjoy a pork shank at the restaurant inside the market but unfortunately right when we were hoping to enter they were closing for a bit.
Instead we opted for something sweet! I have seen pictures and videos and finally here I was able to try maple syrup on snow! How could I have not tried this sooner! Decadent, sweet, and oh so yummy!
For lunch we decided to just go nearby to Le D'Orsay Pub. We were seated right away at a high top table. We ordered a couple of drinks and settled into the warmth. Greg ordered the sausages with duck fat roasted potatoes while I enjoyed the fish and chips. The food and service were both very good.
After lunch we walked around Quebec City a bit more before heading back to the Fairmont. I especially had to make a shopping stop at Delices Erable & Cie. After a rest in our room we decided to enjoy a drink at 1608 wine and cheese bar. We were seated a a high top table and our server brought us snack mix along with some popcorn. We ordered the Corpse Reviver and the Little Wing. Both drinks were wonderful!
Our dinner plans for the evening were at Le Lapin Saute. We walked from the hotel down to Petite Champlain Quarter. This was the area I had been dying to see! Between the brick buildings and the decorations it feel magical here!
We entered Le Lapin Saute and told them of our reservation. We were seated right away and had drinks ordered. To start we opted for the Maple Whiskey Smoked Salmon, the Maple-wood Smoked Duck Breast, and the Foie Gras with Maple Blueberry Compote. Our plates were clean when the staff came back for them! All three of these dishes are outstanding but my personal favorite was the Foie Gras. Add the fresh baked bread brought to us and I'm in heaven! For our entree we decided to go with the Cassoulet. I have had several cassoulet's including my own and this is the absolute best. This dish has something for everyone and plenty for 4 people (Our eyes were definitely bigger than our stomachs)! The dish includesVegetables, pork belly, duck leg, rabbit leg, duck sausages and a side salad! At this point we were incredibly satisfied and insanely full. Would you like any dessert? I guess we can't leave without trying the Berry Sugar Pie! I can't wait to go home and try to make a sugar pie. This pie had a wonderful crust, a creamy texture, and the berries cut the sweetness. Perfect! Every single item that came out of the kitchen was well balanced, plentiful, and cooked to perfection.
Le Lapin Saute is a casual restaurant with comforting food and it is also in my top favorite meals we have ever enjoyed! When I think of my favorite restaurants I think of pricey and beautifully plated meals. Le Lapin Saute with their amazing flavors is of the same caliber!
We woke up and decided to order breakfast in an effort to avoid dairy for me. Again the staff were very friendly and easily accommodated my allergy. After breakfast we bundled up and gathered stuff into our day-pack. Greg went downstairs in hopes of finding out more information about the hiking trails and the doorman from the day before hooked us up with a map of the trails and area!
We set out and enjoyed views of the water and the followed the trail led by the solar system (an informative installation of the planets). Unfortunately about 1/3 of the way up our trail we were met with workers who were fixing the trail and had it closed down. We turned around and made our way back to the Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu where we explored a little more.
We decided to take a drive at this point. We wanted to explore La Malbaie and ended up driving for a couple of hours up the coast. We visited several adorable coastal towns that must be wonderful in the summer season!
Before heading back to the hotel we stopped in La Malbaie. We visited the local grocery store. Sounds boring but this is something I do in all new cities we visit. I like being able to find unique foods to the region, sometimes wine that I haven't seen before, and always a good snack for in the car.
Once we got back to the hotel we wanted to freshen up and didn't want to have to rush so we ordered room service. Greg ordered the club sandwich and I ordered the tuna poke. Greg's sandwich was delicious (I may have stolen a bite). My tuna was good with the exception that I couldn't eat the rice. The rice was inedible to do under cooking.
At night we explored the hotel some more. My biggest regret was not venturing into their heated outdoor pool at night! Before unwinding at Bar La Brise we visited the Casino. I love being able to walk underneath the hotel to the casino - no need for a jacket! Score! The Roulette table was empty so we decided to just spend some time at the slots. We both had $20 CAD to spend. I know big spenders right! Greg lost all of his money within 5 minutes! I on the other hand walked away with 80 CAD. Bring on the Le Sour Quebecois! We finished our night at Bar La Brise and then it was time to get organized for our drive to Quebec City!