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Eleven Madison Park – New York

Eleven Madison Park

Eleven Madison Park

Eleven Madison Park – so named as it is located on Eleven Madison Avenue facing Madison Square Park – is a three star Michelin restaurant, a designated Grand Chef Relais & Châteaux restaurant and the fourth ranked restaurant on San Pellegrino’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Housed in the classical looking Credit Suisse building, the spacious dining room speaks of grandeur with its huge floor-to-ceiling windows and impressive art deco design.

Eleven Madison Park is the brainchild of Executive Chef Daniel Humm, a Swiss-born chef who earned his first Michelin star with Gasthaus zum Gupf, a restaurant located in the Swiss Alps. Humm also cooked at the famed Restaurant Pont de Brent, a Michelin starred restaurant in Montreux before moving Stateside to San Francisco in 2003.

His rise in the States was meteoric. In 2004, the San Francisco Chronicle named him a 2004 Rising Star Chef, and in 2005 Food & Wine named him one of Best New Chefs of 2005. Humm took over the reigns as executive chef of Eleven Madison Park in 2006, and under his guidance Eleven Madison Park received a four star rating from The New York Times in 2009. In 2010, Humm was awarded the James Beard Award for “Best Chef, New York City.” And of course, Eleven Madison Park holds three Michelin stars and a ranking as one of the best restaurants in the world.

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Odyssey Cruises – Chicago

Note: Words and pictures by Food Porn Nation and myself.

Odyssey Cruises

Odyssey Cruises

Night one in Chicago and we escaped on board one of Chicago’s Odyssey Cruises for a dinner. Sailing back and forth on Lake Michigan, we relaxed to sweeping views of Chicago’s downtown area. Odyssey Cruises also offers brunch, lunch, fireworks and sunset champagne cruise options ranging from $51.90 – $129.90.

Odyssey Cruises - Chicago by night

Odyssey Cruises – Chicago by night

Boarding commences an hour before departure time, and to get to the cruise ship you first walk along the sparkling lights of the fun filled Navy Pier, before being welcomed on board the modern and stylish Odyssey ship which has recently undergone a $2m renovation. The DJ set a relaxed mood, and before long he had a few of the guests up and on the dance floor, or at least bouncing around in their seats! The cruise host also took the time to mingle with all the guests and to make sure we were all having a great time. There were many birthday parties on board and a whooping 50-year wedding anniversary to celebrate too.

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Sullivan’s Steakhouse – Austin, Texas

In Texas meat is king and nowhere did I experience this more in Texas then in Austin. Dinner one night was a steak meal at Sullivan’s Steakhouse, an American chain that had its origins in Austin some twenty years ago and is therefore an Austin institution. Alongside its hearty selection of steaks is a varied selection of seafood starters and mains dishes as well. Side dishes are also plentiful as is customary in a US steakhouse.

To start your meal at Sullivan’s I would thoroughly recommend the ‘knockout martini’ ($11), the Sullivan’s signature cocktail. This is made using Clementine vodka, infused with fresh Hawaiian gold pineapples for two weeks and it is this long slow infusion that provides the martini with its ‘knockout’ flavour. This martini easily deserved its signature cocktail status as it was delicious, beautifully sweet and yet delightfully refreshing.

Seafood starters on the menu included a jumbo shrimp cocktail ($16.50) containing five pieces of firm and reasonably tasty shrimp served with a well made cocktail sauce. Another seafood starter of shrimp and lobster bisque (bowl – $9, cup – $7.50) bore more similarities to a chowder rather than a classic French lobster bisque with a rich lobster flavour. It was pleasant in taste, and also a little spicy and would therefore offer a certain appeal for the most typical of American palates.

Sullivan's Steakhouse - Shrimp cocktail

Shrimp cocktail

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Lone Star Court Hotel – Austin, Texas

Next stop Austin. The capital of Texas is a hip, happening city and prides itself on being called the ‘Weird City’. But it’s not so much weird as extremely liberal, with a thriving live music scene and a reputation as the live music capital of the world. It is also emerging as a new destination of choice for tech startups and consistently ranks number one for jobs in the US on the Forbes’ annual list. It also scores highly on other demographic rankings as well and openly embraces alternative life styles. In short, Austin is a cracking city.

I loved Austin and there is much for the tourist to enjoy. Rather than me listing all the things that you can do in Austin, check out this website. I followed many of the tips on here and enjoyed every place I visited (including Franklin Barbecue, but more on that in a later post). In fact I loved every minute I spent in Austin and I hope if you visit this fabulous city that you will too.

Lone Star Court Hotel

Lone Star Court Hotel

While in Austin I stayed at the Lone Star Court Hotel. The hotel is located in an area of Austin called The Domain, Austin’s newest commercial and residential district, which is about a 15 minute drive from downtown. It’s not the most centrally located hotel, but in Texas EVERYONE drives. A boutique hotel, Lone Star Court Hotel is every bit as quirky as Austin itself. Visiting the hotel is like a trip back to a bygone era, with the hotel being designed in the vein of a ‘retro-ranch’.

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Hotel Valencia Riverwalk – San Antonio, Texas

Hotel Valencia Riverwalk - The patio

Hotel Valencia Riverwalk – The patio overlooking the Riverwalk

From Houston I headed to San Antonio, a city famous for its basketball team the Spurs, the site of the Battle of the Alamo, and the beautiful San Antonio Riverwalk. The Riverwalk is a gorgeous network of walkways that run for about five miles along the banks of the San Antonio River and is a showcase in first class architectural design. It is lined with bars, shops and restaurants and connects a number of the city’s tourist attractions and forms an important part of the city’s urban fabric. San Antonio is a city filled with a quirky irresistible charm and an effervescence that is surprisingly delightful.

Perched right in the centre of the city with views overlooking the Riverwalk is the Hotel Valencia Riverwalk, a boutique hotel listed on Condé Nast Traveler Gold List of World’s Best Places to Stay. The hotel is a beautifully proportioned hotel, romantic in its essence and unique in its design. The rooms are stylish and spacious, and comfortably appointed with luxurious furnishings which allowed me to perch my head for a wonderful night’s sleep.

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