August 01, 2009

Honeymoon Series: St. Maarten!

My favorite island of all time is St. Maarten so it was the obvious choice for the first honeymoon location feature.

St. Maarten is located in the Lesser Antilles, about 150 southeast of Puerto Rico. The island is half Dutch, half French. The French side is spelled St. Martin, the Dutch side is spelled St. Maarten. English is spoken throughout the island, but you'll hear both Dutch and French spoken on their respective sides of the island. The 37 square mile island has 37 white sand beaches.

Getting to St. Maarten has never been easier. You can now take direct flights to the island on Contintal Airlines, American Airlines, US Air, United Airlines, Delta Airlines, Spirit Airlines, and Jet Blue Airlines. It's a three and a half hour flight from New York City.

Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort & Casino

The Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort & Casino is a three star resort located on the dutch side of the island. It is a quick 25 minute drive from the airport and a short ten minute walk to downtown Phillipsburg where you can find shopping, dining, and nightlife. There are 257 rooms as well as a casino, spa, tennis court, activity center, and one mile beach. Prices start at $205 per night. All Inclusive and Honeymoon Packages are available.

The Westin St. Maarten Dawn Beach Resort & Spa

The Westin is only a 20 minute drive from the airport. The 308 room hotel has a casino, fitness room, spa, and scuba shop. It also features the island's largest freshwater infinity pool with a swim up bar and hot tub.

St. Maarten is called the "culinary capitol of the Caribbean" so food is a main focus. If you didn't want to, you wouldn't have to even leave the hotel property to experience the incredible cuisine. The resort has two oceanfront fine dining restaurants, a poolside cafe, lobby and pool bars, as well as room service.

Rooms begin at $149 per night and do offer a Honeymoon Package.

Restaurant Le Cottage

If you do want to venture out and experience the amazing food, you must check out Restaurant Le Cottage. My personal recco? Anything from the Local Lobster Tasting Menu. The restaurant is known for it's foie gras and wine list, so don't hesitate to ask the experts to help you pair a wine with your meal.

The Butterfly Farm

One of the most popular attractions on the island is the butterfly farms. It is an enclosed farm that you can walk through at your leisure as the butterflies fly around. The best time to experience the butterfly farm is in the morning when the butterflies come out of their cocoon and take their first flight.

Phillipsburg Shopping

My favorite thing to do in St. Maarten is shop. Old Street in Phillipsburg is filled with local shops, outlets (such as Tiffany's and Coach), and small cafes.

The islands are a great place to buy jewelery. Ballerina Jewelers are the best jewelers on the island. If you're in the market for something sparkly, don't go to any other shop. Go straight to Ballerina Jewelers and ask for Michael. You'll get the best, most reputable deals on the island.

Another can't miss stop is Last Mango In Paradise. It has all-things Jimmy Buffet. You won't miss it - there is a huge 7 foot shark out front that's perfect for a unique photo-op.

Liqueur is made right on the island. Head in for a free sample. It's the perfect stop to get out of the heat, try something new, and get some really unique souvenirs. It's the perfect thing to bring home and break out on your first anniversary to re-live your honeymoon.

Guavaberry Colada

Put ice in a blender. Add 2 ounces of Sint Maarten Guavaberry, 1 ounce of Cream of Coconut, 3 ounces of pineapple pieces or juice. Blend well. Garnish with Pineapple, toasted coconut, and fresh nutmeg.

You'll know you have arrived in the right place when you see this courthouse, which is often the main star of local artwork.

You do need a passport to get onto the island and to get back into the United States. There is a departure tax of $30 per person for international destinations ($10 per person for Netherlands Antilles destinations) which you can pay at the airport or at your resort. Ask the front desk for assistance. Average temperature in the winter is 80 degrees Fahrenheit and 84 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. Visit the St. Maarten Hospitality & Trade Association website for more details.

Have you been to St. Maarten? Please share your experiences and any recco's that you have!

July 31, 2009

Honeymoon Series!

Happy August! In honor of going on vacation myself this month, I will have a daily feature on all things honeymoon: locations, hotels, packing tips, and travel accessories. If there is anything specific you'd like us to focus on, please let us know! We hope you enjoy the series and get some ideas for your honeymoon or next summer vacation!

Specialty Cake: Christian Louboutin Shoes!

I love specialty cakes. Many people overlook the wedding cake and choose something plain and simple. It's one of the last details they think about so it often gets overlooked. When people come to a wedding they love to see those little details that make your wedding stand out, and your cake is one of the first places they will look. Take the time to make it stand out. Get creative. If a specialty cake is more your style, have a unique cake made in addition to your wedding cake. Or, have a groom's cake at your rehearsal dinner. For my friend Jannet's wedding, I had an amazing shower cake made in the shape of one of her favorite things: Christian Louboutin shoes!

Not only did it look incredible, but the cake tasted great too. We chose vanilla cake with chocolate icing. It was SO delicious, it completely exceeded my expectations.

I had the cake made by Wendy's Cake Art in NJ. I can't say enough about them. The customer service was great, the prices were great, and there is no denying that it looked just like a shoe and shoebox!

July 29, 2009

NYC Restaurant Recco!

When I was a freshman in college, I went for my first real interview at Vero in New York City. I was a complete nervous wreck and could barely eat, so I just ordered a caesar salad. Not only did I land the internship, but I ordered the best caesar salad I have ever had. Since then, I have been back many times. A few weeks ago I had dinner at the new Midtown location with the amazing Tammy Golson. Every Monday, you get a free panini when you order a drink. It was a great meeting over panini's, caesar salad, and watermelon sangria. They have a ton of outdoor seating. It's a great spot to check out if you're looking for a night out in the city.

My personal recco's at Vero?

Bruschetta Trio
Classic Caesar Salad

Spinach, Olives, Roasted Tomatoes, Fontina Cumin Aioli Panini
Portobello, Balsamic Onion, Tomato, Goat Cheese Panini

Penne with Roasted Mushrooms
Braised Lamb Shank

Watermelon Sangria
Vero Lemonade
Caramel Appletini

Vero Uptown is located at 1483 2nd Avenue btw. 77th and 78th. Vero Midtown is located at 1004 2nd Avenue at %3rd Street.

July 27, 2009

Save On Champagne!

Having champagne at your wedding can get very costly very quickly. Check your bar package to see if champagne is included. Oftentimes, there is only a champagne toast included with the option to upgrade your open bar to include champagne all night. If pricey champagne all night long is not in your budget, serve it just for the cocktail hour. Most people will not drink champagne all night anyway, they just have a glass or two to get the party started. By the end of the night, no one is even aware that champagne is no longer an option. If you are being charged on a consumption basis for the champagne, serve it as a champagne cocktail rather than a full glass of champagne. It'll last twice as long that way. Try a bellini, kir royale, or mimosa. You'll still get that elegant champagne feel for a smaller price tag.

If you need champagne suggestions, I have three. My top pick for a more inexpensive, sweet champagne, try the Martini & Rossi Asti. For a local champagne, try the Carpe Diem from Brotherhood Winery in Washingtonville, NY. If you want to go all out, my favorite champagne is the Veuve Clicquot Rose.