Posts Tagged ‘Happy Hour’

Oasis in the Desert

October 6, 2015

After 2 weeks of lackluster dining experiences, we met my sister and her husband at Paul Martin’s American Grill (6186 North Scottsdale Rd) Scottsdale, Arizona.  In all my years of dining in the desert, this was my first visit to Paul Martin’s but it will certainly NOT be my last!

Heather - Server Extraordinaire!

Heather – Server Extraordinaire!

It started with our server, Heather.  What a joy!  It has become all too rare to find wait staff who take pride in their jobs and who love providing killer customer experiences.  Remember the old song for Burger King “Hold the ketchup, hold the lettuce, special orders don’t upset us, all we ask is that you let us serve it your way”?  Well that should be Heather’s theme song because she is unflappable.  Whatever we asked for she delivered with a wink and a smile!

We came in during happy hour which here extends from 3:00 until 8:00pm daily and started with cocktails.  A mojito or skinny margarita for only $5.00?!?  Who could say no to that?  Lots of great food options on the happy hour menu as well.

Butcher Board + Ribs

Butcher Board + Ribs

A butcher board with meats and cheeses including a truffle drizzled salami!  Chicken skewers were tasty and a generous portion – 3 skewers for only $5.00!  The ribs were a bit pricey ($9) but delicious and an appropriate appetizer or small meal serving.  I think I just got spoiled by all the awesome $5 options!

We could have easily made a meal of the great happy hour offerings but then my husband would have missed out on the delicous skirt steak.  When my sister and her hubby said they were going to split the pork chop dinner, it was delivered to the table already split onto two plates!

Be sure to leave room for dessert and may I recommend the apple crisp?  The homemade bourbon vanilla ice cream on top was a nice touch and the crisp was large enough to share.

Matt of Matchbook Wines

Matt of Matchbook Wines

As if great food, an incredible server and an attentive Manager (Eric) weren’t enough to make this a memorable evening, Matchbook wines was set up offering free tastings of 3 of their wines.  The Chardonnay and the Tempranillo were amazing!  Too bad the Tempranillo isn’t available in our local AJ’s.  If you don’t know Matchbook wines, they are sure to become a new favorite.  The brothers had a fascination with fire as youths and were always burning part of the family farm.  Today the nod to their pyromania shows in the name of some of their wines such as the Arsonist Chardonnay.

All in all, a night worth repeating again very, very soon!




Let’s Drink on It

July 6, 2012

My husband and I just got back from a 12 day cruise.  Cruises have a lot of pluses; you can visit a lot of places and only unpack once, you can eat whatever you want and not have to cook or clean, there are always interesting people to talk to and since you typically booked months in advance, the vacation is already paid for so you can just relax and enjoy.

With rare exceptions, cruise lines do not include a couple of items which can get pricey in a hurry.  

Internet (which I’ll cover in another blog upcoming), shore excursions (also a future blog topic) tips and drinks.

Some cruise lines now include the tips, others allow you to “pre-pay” them.  Tipping can add an average of $500 to the price of your cruise but the real “incidental” you will find is your bar tab which includes not only the price of the drink, but a mandatory 15-18% “tip” as well.  Many cruise lines charge for soft drinks as well!

Very few cruise line include the alcohol and those that do are the most expensive lines such as Silver Seas, Seabourn, Crystal and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.  River cruises typically include wine with meals as does Azamara.

So how can you save some money and not resort to just drinking water, coffee and tea on your cruise vacation?

Soft drinks:  Many cruise lines offer a package that allows unlimited soft drinks for a flat rate.  This can be a real savings if traveling with kids or other heavy soda consumers.

Drink of the Day:  Most cruise lines promote a drink of the day.  The trip we just completed had 3 options each day for $5 each.  They were listed in the newsletter left in our cabin each day and we found this to be a great way to try some new things and save some money.

Happy Hour:  Yes, some boats even have happy hour.  Ours had 2 for 1 drinks.  Check the hours in the newsletter and plan accordingly.  Maybe you can have dinner a little later and drink your cocktails in the lounge with some live musical entertainment rather than having your before dinner drink at the table in the dining room.  Again, both a fun experience and a cost savings.

Tastings:  During the length of a cruise, some ships will offer events such as “Martini tastings” or “Wine tastings”.  My husband did the martini tasting on our cruise for $15 (no tip added because it was an “activity).

Wine:  Buy a bottle.  It’s less expensive than the “by the glass” price and what you don’t drink tonight, they will store for you and bring to your table tomorrow night for you to enjoy the rest.

Before you decide to just buy alcohol at the first port of call to save some money make sure you know your cruise lines rules.  All cruise ships make you go through airport type security as you reboard the ship so they see the bottles you purchased ashore.  MANY will ask your cabin number and then “store it for you” until you get off at your final port.  Others will charge a per bottle “consumption fee”.  Most have a “corkage” fee to open and serve the bottle in one of the dining rooms.

If your ship does allow you to bring outside alcohol on board to “consume in your cabin” for little or no fee and you drink something simple (no blender required) you can save some money by pouring your own drink in the room and then taking it with you around the ship.  No one blinks an eye at someone walking down the hall, into the showroom, casino or dining room with a full glass.   Of course that also means going back to your cabin every time you want another round which I guess is one way to burn a few extra calories as your cruise!

When evaluating cruises for your next vacation, consider your beverage consumption and be sure to factor in the costs before you book.  Check the FAQ section of your cruise website or call their representative for specific information so you can budget – or book – accordingly.

Fighting Vacation Bulge

June 1, 2012

Most of us put on a couple of pounds while on vacation.  There are a number of contributing factors:  you eat out every meal, food is part of experiencing a new place so we eat differently and we tend to drink more to relax.

Knowing this, there are a number of ways you can minimize the amount you gain while on vacation.  Here are some tips and suggestions:

  •  How are you getting there? If you are flying, what time of day and how long is the flight?  If your flight extends over a meal – bring your own food from home.  Make healthy sandwiches or salads (toss with dressing right before you leave for airport and use disposable plastic container) and carry them on board.  Be sure to bring napkins, wet wipes and plastic silverware.

    If the flight is not over mealtime and not very long, bring your own snacks,  Trader Joe’s has great prepackaged snack bags of nuts and dried fruit. Quaker Oats 90 calorie granola bars and mini-bags of baby carrots work great too.

  • Driving, pack a cooler with low calorie, easy to eat foods to avoid bags of chips and cookies as your road trip menu.
  •  Where are you staying?  We like to stay places that offer at least a mini-fridge and microwave.  Many time shares also offer nightly or weekly rentals without an ownership requirement (don’t attend the sales presentation to get the free gift unless you really want to own a time share!) and those typically have a kitchen.  If not, most hotels will bring up a small refrigerator (they keep them because diabetics have to keep their insulin cold) for free or a nominal charge.
  •   Go to a local grocery store and stock up on water, flavored waters, fresh fruit and healthy snacks as soon as you arrive.  Bottled water in most hotels is expensive.  Stock your fridge and you will save a lot of money over the course of the week and have more control over at least some of your calorie consumption.
  •  Eat breakfast in your room.  Most places, breakfast is not a “cultural experience”.   It’s also an easy meal to make with just a refrigerator – even better with a refrigerator and a microwave.  At the grocery store you can get a package of the disposable storage containers which can double as bowls.  Cereal, instant oatmeal, milk, reduced calorie muffins, fruit, yogurt – all grocery store items can save you money and calories by letting you stay closer to your home routine.
  •  Lunch by the pool.  We grab chicken salads at the grocery store and put them in the refrigerator to have for lunch by the pool.  Look in the refrigerated cases near the deli and be sure to grab a fork from their salad bar or get one from the deli clerk.  Again, a big savings in both cost and calories.  After all, do you really need to “experience” a poolside hotdog?
  •  Happy hour dinner.  Ask for the places with the best happy hour or if the best local cuisine places offer happy hour.  If so, make this your dinner.  You can save some money, get and share several appetizers to try more of the local offerings and likely save some calories too.

    If you do order too much food, eat the items that won’t reheat well and take the rest back to your hotel.  Using the refrigerator and microwave this way can stretch your budget and help NOT stretch your waistline!

  • If you are a “foodie” like many of my friends, pick a night or two of your vacation to indulge.  This comes more under the “experience” category and is worth both the cost and the calories.  You may not want to waste your calories on items you can easily have at home and instead focus on the local or highly reviewed recipes.  Maybe you can walk to and from the restaurant to burn a few of the consumed calories.
  •   Need a drink?  Wines or spirits are far less calories than a margarita or pina colada.  A gin and tonic with some fresh mint makes a good substitute for a mojito.  A glass of chilled white wine or rose’ is refreshing and only about 110 calories a glass.

A few months from now, you won’t remember the hotel breakfast or the poolside hotdog – but your hips will!  Saving even 200-300 calories per day can make a huge difference on the scale when you get home.  Spend your money on experiences – that’s what you will long remember.

In addition to exercising some control over what you consume on vacation – I’ll also focus this summer on ways to put some physical exercise into your vacation with active travel options.

%d bloggers like this: