Sunday, December 30, 2018

Art, Food, Cocktails and Coffee in Kingston, New York

Many of my friends and colleagues assume that I only travel to far-flung locales. In fact, I'm all about discovery, whether it's along an alley I never strolled along in New York City or a neighborhood that's just a day trip away from Manhattan. That's why I decided to take bus to Kingston, New York, a mere two hours away. So close but a town I never had the opportunity to visit. Though I only spent two days, I could've easily have enjoyed the myriad coffee shops, restaurants, bars and street art for far longer. Below are just a few of the art-centric discoveries I made recently in Kingston, a city that's broken up into three sections -- Downtown, Midtown and Uptown -- that together make up a more than two-mile walkable expanse. Among the must-dos: stay at The Forsyth B&B, where the owner, Tamara Ehlin, is warm, welcoming, and can cook and bake up a storm, and present it all in an elegant manner, no less. You never know what will come out of the kitchen. There's no need to look for another accommodation when The Forsyth B&B has availability. To not stay here is to miss out on Tamara's elaborate breakfasts that included apple cider, yogurt with homemade granola and freshly cut pears, cheddar/scallion scones, and sweet potato hash with eggs any style. Another must is dinner at Wilde Beest, a locavore-centric, minimalist eatery with a slim menu that radiates creativity. I'm no fan of kale, yet I ordered the "I'm Kale" appetizer that came with crumbled kale, pickled peaches, golden raisins, fried millet, porcini mushroom powder and cashew dressing. I could've had seconds. And, in Kingston, I may have found my favorite coffee shop of all time: Rough Draft Bar & Books. Sitting at the corner of an intersection where each of the four buildings dates back centuries, this establishment is a coffee shop, bookstore, cafe and wine bar. As a writer who spends my time working in coffee shops, you couldn't have asked for a better, more atmospheric place to spend an hour or a day. I was lucky to grab a stool at the picture window and watch snowflakes fall as I gazed at the holidays lights strung about this area. Finally, I'm very finicky about bars. They can't be too loud or too bright or too pretentious. Crown, a just-opened romantic lounge in a centuries-old stone building, provides a perfect intimate environment to sip a fine wine or a well crafted, seasonal cocktail.

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Sunday, December 23, 2018

Necessary + Essential First-Aid Supplies

Injuries and illnesses can occur anywhere, whether at home, or traveling domestically or far afield. I carry a very complete first-aid kit with me when I'm traveling that duplicates many of the items I have readily available in my house. Whether you cut yourself in the kitchen when slicing carrots -- and, if you're on anti-clotting medication this would be especially problematic; or you're a woman who develops a vaginal infection while traveling in China, for example, where you might have difficulty easily finding a pharmacy who will understand what you need, especially if you're in a rural locale; or you're sitting beside a campfire making S'mores only to have the smoke irritate your eyes, the supplies (below) should provide relief. This list does not include the more typical items, such as gauze, adhesive bandages, a thermometer, and ACE-type elastic bandages, which are, of course, also important. Each of the supplies (below) are divided by symptom and body system to make it easier for you to determine what you need.

Eye, Ear, Nose, Throat, Teeth

  • OcuFresh Eye Wash
  • GenTeal, Blink Tears or other lubricating eye drops
  • EarPlanes - for unclogging ears on the plane
  • Saline nasal spray

Tummy Troubles
  • Bonine - for motion sickness

  • MiraLax - for constipation

  • Pepto Bismol chewable tabs - for diarrhea and to prevent traveler's diarrhea

  • Electrolyte replacement powder - for diarrhea

  • Peppermint Tummy drops - for stomach upset
Bites, Stings, Rashes

  • Benadryl cream - for itching

  • IvyBlock - prevents poison ivy rash

  • Calamine lotion -- for rash/itching

  • Tecnu - poison ivy skin cleanser
  • After Bite -- for itching after a "bug" bite

Cuts and Bruises

  • Betadine or other antiseptic wipes

  • Bacitracin topical antibiotic cream
  • Blister kit with moleskin
  • QuikClot - to stop bleeding fast
  • Spenco 2nd Skin squares/pads - for a blister

Women's Needs

  • Diflucan (single oral dose) - prescription

  • Monistat vaginal cream

  • Replens

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Thursday, December 20, 2018

Video - My Travel Bags

Whether you're traveling or simply want a practical and stylish bag to carry all your vitals on a day to day basis, you'll now have the option of purchasing my original 7-in-1 micro bag in black, or my new cross-body canvas bag that comes in three different colors/patterns. Check out this video (below) where you'll see how both of these bags function, and how their minimalist silhouette assures that they don't shout out: "I'm carrying valuables." For more information on how to buy these bags, check out my virtual store -- for the 7-in-1 bag click here and for the new cross-body bag, click here

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Monday, December 17, 2018

Sneak Peak - New Men's Multi-Pocket Vest

I'm happy to announce that I now have a fashionable but practical man's multi-pocket vest in my collection. This is a sneak peak at this Made in America item that's constructed of a blend of cotton and poly. And, unlike typical men's travel vests, this one can be worn under a suit jacket for business meetings or trade shows when you need to look good and also keep all your vitals close at hand. Of course, it can also be worn with jeans and a casual shirt if you're traveling domestically or far-afield where it's vital that everything from train tickets to your passport are secure. The six zippers are all on the outside of the jacket and each pocket provides enough room for everything from your cell phone to a small notebook. We're taking pre-orders on this item and anyone who's interested and wants to know more can contact me directly.

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Sunday, December 16, 2018

Greenland: Tours that are Sustainability Focused

Even savvy travelers have misconceptions about Greenland: it's hardly a cultural bastion, it's at the end of the earth, activities revolve solely around the polar ice cab and dog sledding. All untrue! But one of the most remarkable things about Greenland is its wee capital, Nuuk, that brims with contemporary art, design, and architecture. Yet, with soaring mountains within striking distance of Nuuk that sits at the mouth of a picturesque fjord, the capital is oh-so close to numerous nature-based activities. Now, there's a new tour operator in town, Greenland Escape, that offers knowledgeable and fun guides who provide sustainable experiences in Nuuk and far afield for the whole family. This is the article on Greenland Escape that I recently wrote for Forbes.

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Sunday, December 9, 2018

Chattanooga's Art Scene in Photos

Art aficionados who delight in the contemporary will delight in Chattanooga, a city sprinkled with the cool and the creative whether it’s the Sculpture Fields at Montague Park with its three-dozen-some, often avant-garde, pieces; the Hunter Museum of American Art with an extensive array of paintings housed in its glass and steel confection; outdoor murals on myriad facades in downtown; experimental installations along a few of the city's alleyways; or newly-opened hotels that pepper the interior and exterior with some curious works. These are a few discoveries I made on my most recent trip to this vibrant city.

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Saturday, December 8, 2018

Gear Review: Eco-friendly, Packable Dishware for Traveling

Whether you’re planning to picnic along a hiking trail, camp in the wilderness, stay in a hostel that has cooking facilities, or simply bring your lunch to work, easy-to-pack dishware and cutlery is a must. But, imagine my surprise when I was introduced to a stylish, eco-friendly mess kit produced by the Seattle-based company UCO. Their new Bamboo Elements Mess Kit is mostly (90%) natural, made of bamboo fiber plus a little corn starch! The kit includes a lid that doubles as a plate, plus a bowl that, when “locked” together, forms a leak-proof container for carrying along food items. And the shock cord that secures these and the cutlery -- a four-in-one Switch Spork utensil (fork, knife, spoon or extended-length spoon or fork for stirring a pot of stew or spearing a hot dog on the bbq, for example -- doubles as a clothes line, of sorts, so that the just-washed dishware can be hung out to dry. The holes in the cutlery are not for aesthetics; rather, they can be used to clip them to your bag, slip the tether through them and hang them to dry, or cinch them and other utensils together when transporting them. I always love gear that performs well and looks good, too.

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Sunday, December 2, 2018

Gear Review: Tiny Headlamp for Travelers

If you’re not hiking, cycling or Nordic skiing at night, you might think you have no need for a headlamp. But, I often bring along one on my trips that don’t doing involve any of these or other adventurous activities. Whether I’m staying at a rural accommodation or an urban inn, a headlamp comes in handy. Just a few weeks ago, I was staying in Guildford, Connecticut that’s hardly a wilderness retreat. Yet, my inn was a 10-minute walk from the town green, a 10-minute almost completely dark walk at night where the street lamps were mostly nonexistent. I carried my UCO Hundred, a small headlamp that measures barely 2” x 2” x 2” and weighs in at two ounces. The light is ultra bright and has three settings with the high beam producing 100 lumens that was bright enough to light up the sidewalk almost 200 feet ahead of me. This lamp not only allowed me to avoid any sidewalk obstacles but it also made me visible to drivers who crossed my path at intersections.

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Sunday, November 18, 2018

The Small, Enticing Island of Saba in the Caribbean

A mere 15-minute flight from St. Maarten -- and a landing on the world’s shortest commercial running -- brings visitors to the wee isle of Saba, a diver’s and hikers paradise. The  almost 3,000-foot-high Mt. Scenery is, by far, the most popular destination for hikers. Climbing the more than 1,000 steps to the top, hikers will pass through a cloud forest that makes the last section quite slippery. But, on a good day, the views of Saba's villages and the nearby islands are phenomenal.

The island’s most noted artist is Heleen Cornet who camped on Mt. Scenery to sketch her many evocative forest works. Aside from these treasures, it took Cornet two years to paint this dramatic mural in the Sacred Heart Church in The Bottom, the capital of Saba. The scene melds religious with Caribbean themes and even includes the faces of local children as the cherubs.

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Saturday, November 17, 2018

Pop-Up Craft and Art Market Event

Save The Date!!! December 6. In New York City -- starting at 8:30PM.
Handmade goods -- including my new bag collection
and tee-shirts, photographs and plush AngryJ dollies  -- from
seven creative people.
And artisanal chocolates by Rue Claire .

Plus, yummy tacos and tostadas, wine/sake/beer available
from NYC’s prime poke place, Sons of Thunder.

If you're in NYC, I hope you can stop by.
Fun, informal vibe, good food, and big sales on some of my
creations for this event.

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Sunday, November 11, 2018

Another Connecticut Shore Town

My explorations on Connecticut's southern coast continue with another gem of a town: Guilford. (It’s slightly closer to New Haven compared with Madison.) Not only does this town have one of the loveliest town greens around, as well as Connecticut's oldest house (dating from 1639), but there is also a beautiful beach within walking distance of downtown. On my way to the beach, I discovered this short but scenic boardwalk winding through Chittenden Park. At the end of the boardwalk are a couple of benches to enjoy the scenery. Then I continued my wanderings to Jacob's Beach that was completely deserted. All of this was within walking distance of downtown.

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Saturday, November 3, 2018

A Connecticut Coastal Town Not Far From Manhattan

On Connecticut's scenic coast, not far from New Haven, the town of Madison is a true gem. The downtown is walkable and chock full of contemporary works of art, like this sculpture. (Pick up a self-guided brochure at the visitor's center and try to find all the public works of art.) In addition, it’s a short stroll from main street to three public beaches and an easy bike ride to a fourth. Among the must-dos: sipping a glass of wine at Bar Bouchee, a French bistro with a large selection of wines by the glass; browsing the numerous staff recommended titles at R.J. Julia Booksellers, a large independent bookstore; and enjoying a lunch of crab cakes or mac and cheese at the low-key Elizabeth's Cafe.

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Sunday, October 28, 2018

My New Bag Collection

When I design clothes and accessories, I’m all about minimalism and pockets. I don’t believe a bag should reveal itself to everyone who, for example, may be standing next to you on a crowded metro. My bags -- as well as my vest -- revolve around simplicity, practicality and pockets that are hidden. And that includes my new canvas cross-body bag collection. From the outside, this cross-body canvas bag has a minimalist silhouette with a magnetic snap. Flipping it open reveals three zippered compartments that, together, are big enough for most any of your personal items, including sunglasses, cell phone, credit cards — organized in a separate, easy-to-access section with its own snap flap — currency, plane or train tickets, sunscreen, lip balm, travel toothbrush, you name it. There’s a limited quantity of these bags -- they sell for $49.95 and are Made in America -- that are perfect for traveling to far-flung locales or around town.
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Sunday, October 21, 2018

Michelin-Starred Dining in the Faroe Islands

The Faroe Islands may not be on most people's radar, but they should be for myriad reasons, including that they're noted for their pristine air, land and waters. And in this treasured, far-flung archipelago, I made a surprising discovery: a Michelin-starred restaurant in a wild landscape serving an 18-course menu with mostly foraged ingredients. This is the article I recently wrote for Forbes.

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Saturday, October 13, 2018

A Monolith along the Camino dos Faros, Spain

This dramatically-crafted, granite monolith in the coastal town of Muxia honors the Galician volunteers that mobilized in 2002 to clean up a massive eco disaster. That was the year when the Prestige, an oil tanker, was seriously damaged at sea, splitting in two, spilling tens of thousands of tons of oil all along the Costa da Morte, and contaminating sea and sand. The monolith is appropriate named "A Ferida," which translates to "The Wound." On my hiking trip along this coast, following the Camino dos Faros, I was lucky to meet one of the men who organized the volunteers.

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Sunday, October 7, 2018

This Travel Writer Is Also A Screenwriter - Early Peek

Credit: @Jeanine Barone

Many who read my blog may not be aware that I’m also a comedy screenwriter. (I’ve written 17 shorts and 3 feature comedies.) This is an early peek of “Such A Deal,” a comedy short film that we shot a little over a month ago. According to Dionna McMillian @dionnafilm: “The final color will be magical, just like the adventure our heroine goes on... ”
I’m so thrilled to have worked with Dionna McMillian @dionnafilm and the entire awesome cast and crew.
Story by and co-written by me, @jcreaturetravel
Directed by and co-written by Dionna McMillian @dionnafilm
Starring @ebonyobsidian
Co-starring @damianemcee
Co-produced by @kenziemcheather
Stedicam operator @eddielebron

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Saturday, October 6, 2018

Hiking A Wild and Bucolic Landscape in Spain

I recently signed up for a self-guided hike along the Camino dos Faros -- the Lighthouse Way in Galicia, Spain -- with On Foot Holidays. I never tired of the dramatic and pastoral landscapes, the sense of calm, the fresh seafood, and the convivial spirit of Galicia's populace. Sure, most people know this province for Santiago de Compostela, the terminus for many different routes of the Camino de Santiago. But, having done one of them that courses through the province of Asturias, I prefer the Lighthouse Way any day for its wild and bucolic beauty. Hiking along this picturesque Costa da Morte -- so named because of the numerous shipwrecks along the dramatically rocky shore -- reveals a constantly changing tapestry of scenic vistas. The end of this hike is Finisterre, which the Romans aptly named because they thought this westernmost cape in the province of Galicia was the "end of the earth." Staying at a hotel beside the lighthouse where the winds howled all night long, I was delighted to overnight in the "dos faros" (The Lighthouse) guest room where I kept the blinds up, allowing the darkness to be pierced by the cold glow. During the day, I walked 2 km into the colorful town whose port is bustling with fishing boats. Having traveled extensively through Spain, I can enthusiastically say that Galicia is my very favorite province and the Camino dos Faros may very well be the best hiking route I’ve ever had the pleasure of walking.

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Sunday, September 30, 2018

Gear Review: Performance Mary Jane Shoe for Women

Unlike most women, I only travel with two pairs of shoes -- and one of 'em -- always the heaviest -- is on my feet. (That's another reason why I can travel for weeks on end without checking luggage.) These Mary Janes by Astral Designs -- a U.S.-based company -- are not your average casual, walk-around-town shoes. The sole is made of a material that easily grips wet surfaces, such as metal gratings or steps I might encounter when racing around urban areas. I brought one of these (the red pair) on my most recent trip to Galicia where, during the day I was hiking nine to 10 miles, and, late in the day, I was running around villages and towns, checking out shops, restaurants, lighthouses, museums and wine bars. They have a low profile so they pack small and come in several different stylish colors. Again, it's all about looking good while wearing items that perform well. (Never sacrifice performance for aesthetics.)

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Saturday, September 29, 2018

Perfect-for-Hiking Chocolate Snack

When I'm hiking, biking or Nordic skiing long distances, I tote snacks that are not only healthy but also something I look forward to enjoying on the trail. My latest love is Joe Chocolates, which I carried on my recent hiking trip in Galicia, Spain where I hiked nine to 10 miles a day for more than a week. These chocolates are unusual in several ways. They're simply packaged, produced in the state of Washington with simple ingredients, such as cacao nibs, dark chocolate and organic coconut, depending on the flavors chosen. But, most importantly, these are coffee-infused chocolates, something that not only provides approximately 90 mg of caffeine per one ounce portion but produces a sophisticated flavor profile that I looked forward to as I traveled along the undulating terrain day after day.

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Gear Review: A Flattering Warm Shirt That Looks Good and Performs Well

One of the reasons I'm able to never check luggage -- including on my recent two week hiking trip in Northern Spain -- is because I pack clothes that serve more than one purpose. Stio, a company based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is noted for manufacturing items that perform well and look good, whether you're on the trail or working or playing in town. This item (below) is the women's Thermop Fleece shirt, which is warm and comfortable, perfect for hiking when it's a bit chilly but also ideal when paired with leggings and even a skirt when running around an urban area. The fabric has a little bit of a stretchiness, so the shirt doesn't feel confining, and the silhouette is flattering. Fleece is a perfect material for aerobics in the Fall or Winter because it wicks away sweat while providing warmth. Underneath it, I wear a thin Merino wool long-sleeved shirt. And, though, the front looks like it's a bottom up, in fact these are snaps, which reduced the fuss factor when you need additional ventilation.

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Saturday, September 8, 2018

Three Luxe Properties In Sri Lanka That Are All About Giving Back

All three of these Sri Lanka-based properties (below) are owned by Resplendent Ceylon, a company that revolves around doing the right thing, whether it's protecting the environment or giving back to the local community.

This is one of the many placid and scenic spots to lounge at the luxe colonial-era bungalows at Ceylon Tea Trails.  When staying at either the upscale Summerville or Castlereagh bungalow, one never tires of this view: lake, mountains and fields covered in tea plantations. The days can be spent lounging pool side or mountain biking or trekking through the plantations, perhaps stopping at one of the other three colonial-era bungalows for high tea or maybe a game of crochet. 

When staying at the innovative Wild Coast Tented Lodge property, you have the opportunity to be enwrapped with nature -- it's adjacent to Yala National Park -- while also indulging in ultra contemporary architecture and design. These two organic, bamboo-clad structures house the restaurant, bar and den. 

At Cape Weligama, villas huddle in colorful gardens, and guests can take a refreshing dip in the infinity pool and gaze at the Indian Ocean in the distance.  Since I’m enchanted by gardens, I fell in love with this property. 

Check out more about each of these three properties in my recent article for Forbes.
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Thursday, August 30, 2018

Another New Park for New York City

Domino Park is one of the triad of new New York City parks that opened this summer along the East River. What makes it different from the other two I recently wrote about is that it has a very industrial feel. No surprise, considering it references the 19th century Domino Sugar Factory -- once the largest in the world -- whose edifice stands across the street from the park’s expanse in this Williamsburg, Brooklyn neighborhood. Salvaged sugar syrup collection tanks that stand almost 40-feet tall, crane tracks (as well as gantries now painted a signature turquoise) and almost two dozen steel columns are all part of the park’s design, as is plenty of elements designs for relaxation or physical activity, including a beach volleyball court, waterfront-facing wooden lounge chairs, a playground that also plays homage to the sugar factory (complete with silos). It’s easy to spend the whole day here, sunning, jogging along the esplanade, picnicking or lunching at the Danny Meyer taco kiosk. (The kids will enjoy the nearby water feature.)

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Sunday, August 19, 2018

Art and Other Treasures in Hudson, New York

All it took was a two-hour Amtrak trip from Manhattan to Hudson, New York for me to be
enwrapped in a creative, bucolic environment. Disembarking from the circa 19th
century train depot, I started my adventure by wandering along Warren Street,
Hudson’s main drag that gently slopes uphill from the riverfront.  The buildings
lining this main street as as
well as the cross and parallel streets date back centuries and encompass an
array of architectural
styles, including Italianate, Queen Anne and Colonial Revival.

I chose to spend three days midweek in this Hudson Valley town where I knew the
vibe would be chill as opposed to weekends in the summer when droves of
Manhattanites and other tourists flood the streets. The downside is that many galleries
and some restaurants are either closed or, as far as the eateries, open only for dinner.
And few restaurants open early for breakfast.

Contemporary art peppers numerous outdoor spaces and I scoped out many of
these as I explored the town’s many nooks and crannies. Despite the fact that
the shops exude a Brooklyn hip vibe, Hudson also harkens to another long-ago era,
and melds the unexpected: a Vietnamese food truck easily blends in with an artisanal cheese shop.

These are my recommendations:

Where to Stay: The Hudson Milliner Guesthouse and Inn.  Set smack in
the middle of happening Warren Street, this charming inn could easily be
overlooked because, from the outside, it looks quite ordinary, a narrow
edifice with no sign. Each of the four rooms is named for a style of hat:
Cloche, Fedora, Bowler, and Top Hat. I stayed in The Cloche that, like the
other rooms, retains many of the features of this renovated former 19th
century hat  shop: Ornately carved vintage wooden bed, original window
glass, elaborate ceiling molding, fireplace with gilded mirror on the mantel,
claw foot bathtub. The creative and helpful owners -- Charlotte is a painter
and Shannon, a photographer -- deck out the public and private spaces
with their unique works.

Where to start the day: Tin Can Juicery, which opens early, at 7AM
and has a perfectly shaded patio to relax. I ordered a custom juice that
blended orange with pineapple, pear and lemon juice.
Where to have breakfast: Le Perche
This is the place to enjoy an utterly quiet breakfast in a lush backyard
garden. Among the many delights are delicious baked goods. The
breakfast egg sandwich is made with homemade brioche plus Gruyere
and avocado.
Where to have lunch: Talbott and; Arding
The prices are high but so is the quality at this shop where you order
sandwiches and salads and then, on a sunny day, take them outside to
one of several sidewalk-side tables. Farm-fresh peaches and sugar plums,
and heirloom tomatoes, as well as a salad of corn with arugula, and
thin slices of squash and hot peppers are some of my favorites.
Where to have coffee or a glass of wine: Or Gallery and Tavern
This is a comfortable, informal, funky cafe, bar, gallery set in a converted
garage that became my favorite place for coffee or a glass of wine.
(Or is the Icelandic word for arrow or scar, and apparently the owners --
one is a photographer and the other makes leather goods -- have a love
affair with Iceland. Their creations hang on the walls.) The large patio
out front, with simple wooden plank tables and benches, some with
cushions, and umbrellas makes for an informal hang
out to while away the afternoon or evening. (Tibet prayer flags are
strung all about.) Inside where Japanese-style paper lanterns hang
from the ceiling, light pours in through the wide-open garage doors
and windows.
Where to have dinner: Lil Deb's Oasis
Colorful, low-key and playful, this Mexican eatery is decorated with pastel
colors, and tall votive candles. Like so many things in Hudson, here
you’ll find some unexpected menu items. For example, I chose the salad
of the day, which consisted of heirloom tomatoes, radishes, and a peanut
sauce melded with a salsa and topped with sesame seeds -- it’s  spicy
and bold with flavor -- and side of plantains with a scrumptious cilantro
sauce. For a light dessert, I selected the coconut snow, which is made
with grated frozen coconut milk topped with pistachios and a little black salt.
Where to have dinner: Swoon Kitchenbar
If it’s Tuesday, then Swoon is the place to be for dinner to enjoy Taco
Tuesday. I sat at the bar under an elaborate tin ceiling with molding
where the contemporary art on the walls caught my eyes as did the
huge windows looking out to the street. I mingled with several locals,
finding out that we all came for the tacos, which change
weekly. This night it was chicken, served with rice in a tiny cast iron skillet.
And, luckily I saved room for dessert: Genoise, a sponge cake with a
lemon posset, lemon crumble, and a scoop of a roasted blueberry sorbet
along with fresh blueberries.

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