The Perfect Staycation

I have something to share with you.

I have checked into hotels over 30 times this year. I do a lot of overnight trips and am constantly in different cities. I have my routine- I always deadbolt the door, check the bed, the bathroom and hang my suit for the next day. As long as I know what city I am in when I wake up, I’m doing good. But this check-in was different. VERY different.

It was  Friday, the last day of school before Thanksgiving break.  My 9-year-old was in the back seat. I had already spent the night in another city that week but I could not arrive fast enough to this hotel to check-in. She said why are we at a Renaissance hotel? Then the valet opened the door and asked for my last name and if we were checking in. I said yes and a loud cheer came from the back as she LOVES staying in hotels.  We grabbed our bags, walked into the lobby and our experience began.

I have to give the biggest THANK YOU to Ainsley who welcomed us at the registration desk.  My daughter was so excited to check in for this surprise night and he made us feel like we were their most valued guests.  I admit, as an Elite member, I had called after making the reservation to let them know I was doing a special surprise mom-daughter staycation and to ask if they could leave something special for her in the room when we arrived (chocolate chip cookies?).  But what Ainsley did instead was to make sure that both of us would have the most wonderful experience at his property.  He told us about the pool on the third floor, and the concierge lounge we could access, and how she could get room service or walk across the street to Sprinkles for cupcakes!  After she told him how stressful fourth grade can be, he told her the room he was giving us was a NO STRESS room.  And he wanted her to just relax and enjoy her time with mom.

We headed up to the 15th floor, the top floor of the Renaissance Dallas at Plano Legacy West.  I had booked a king room and hoped they would upgrade us to the king room with the huge Asian baths I read about so she could have a fun spa night.  Nothing prepared me for what Ainsley had arranged for us.

You know the rooms with double entrance doors that you see as you walk down the hall to your room wondering how much they cost per night or how many nights as a frequent traveler you need to stay in order to get upgraded to that room when you do a family vacation?  That was our room.  And I was so surprised and appreciative that I videotaped my daughter entering the suite and exploring the entire “apartment”.

I continued to hear the words WOW and THIS IS AWESOME.  And that created a permanent smile on my face for the rest of the night.  Three sitting areas, a full dining room, a huge bathroom AND when she saw the pool table in our room – well, this hotel became her favorite place in the Dallas area.

 

We had the whole evening to enjoy.  And Legacy West had tons of shops and restaurants.  First we “unpacked” for the night and played a few games of pool in our suite.  We went to the rooftop pool and made boomerang videos.  We explored the lobby of the hotel.  Then we changed our clothes and headed out for our “date”.  We saw the fountains at Legacy West, decided on Italian for dinner at North Italia(her other favorite food besides sushi), explored the new books at Barnes & Noble, stopped by Sephora to try on fun lipstick colors and finally ended up at Sprinkles to end our night out.  We took fun pictures with the holiday lights in the background and headed back to the hotel bar to order a lemonade for her and an adult drink for me before heading up to our room.  But the evening wasn’t over.  Certain rooms have these huge tubs and Japanese bath salts for an in-room spa experience so of course we had to try it.  But the surprises from the hotel continued.  After the bath, we enjoyed cookies, milk and other treats that Rudy arranged to send up to us at bedtime.  Rudy – thank you.  Those oatmeal cookies were AWESOME and we sat on the couch (one of the three sitting areas), watched HGTV and talked about our day.  It was the perfect way to end the night before heading off to the bedroom for bed.

The next morning we made a quick run to the concierge lounge for coffee and chocolate milk and decided to order a big breakfast from room service.  I had the Asian breakfast and she had a classic American breakfast.  The service was friendly (and quick) and we got to eat at the huge dining room table in our pajamas!  A few more games of pool before we got dressed and headed out for a quick walk around the hotel and Legacy West to find a heart stone for our collection.

We finally headed back to the hotel with a stone in her hand to pack our bag and find Ainsley to say a big thank you.  A few high five’s later, we were in the car headed home, only a 15-minute drive.

A huge thank you to the Renaissance for the wonderful experience.  Time with my daughter is precious and this experience surpassed my expectations.


Now it is my turn…

Why a staycation? Because it is my time to have all of my mom’s attention. When we got to the hotel,  I was just like,  I love it, it is so modern.  Then we checked in with someone named Ainsley, and he told me it was going to be a stress-free night. We went to our room TRIPLE, NO QUADRUPLE WOW it was awesome. We unpacked and played pool. We went to the deck and went to the pool and did some boomerangs and then we went inside. After being in the room we went to go get dinner and candy. We went back and watched TV. Then we went and took a bath. Then we went to bed. The next morning we went to the lounge and got milk. Then we ordered food. We watched TV and then we had to check out, we said thanks to Ainsley and checked out. So that was the end of our staycation. That was the first but definitely not the last.

On the Road Eats: Kansas City

I have something to share with you.

I have been to Kansas City so many times for work and almost always have a great food experience.  And there is one restaurant that will remain on my favorites list!

Oklahoma Joe’s
My favorite spot – I can visit the original location at a gas station, eat great barbeque and be in and out within 30 minutes.  Pulled pork and coleslaw on a sandwich – AWESOME!!!

Gram & Dun
It’s been a few years since I have been here but the food is always good, it’s an easy walk from the hotels on the plaza and they are on OpenTable.  After a crazy rain storm that forced allowed me to get some work done at the hotel, I walked to the restaurant with iPad in hand and got a high top table in the bar.  A glass of wine with the double cut breaded pork chop, creamed brussels sprouts with house-smoked bacon – my happy dance took place on the way home!

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Tavernonna
I admit, I didn’t love this restaurant but I think they had an off day.  I had the lunch special – salad and pasta (and added a meatball ).  The caesar salad needed to be chilled – it was as if they plated it and left it sitting on the line while they waited for the hot items.  As for the pasta, should have been cooked a minute or so longer to be perfect.  The flavors were good and I would return but there are too many other great spots to try.

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Residence Inn Kansas City Country Club Plaza
I stay here quite often IF I cannot get a room at The Raphael Hotel.  It’s super convenient to walk to many of my appointments and a block off the plaza.  It’s quiet and clean and they have a good amount of parking.  One night, Marriott points…all is good.

 

On the Road Eats: Cincinnati, Ohio

I have something to share with you.

I got lucky.  I was able to fly into Cincinnati rather than Dayton for my recent business trip which saved me over 40 minutes in commute time.  Of course I went to Chowhound to get recommendations for dining and booked a stay at the newer Renaissance in the city.

Senate
Yup, Triple D filmed here but that was not why I wanted to visit.  I like the OTR area and they had poutine on the menu.  So of course, I started with the short rib poutine and had a pork belly grilled cheese.  Super rich food so I didn’t finish all of it but a great spot to try. They are known for their hot dogs so I guess that will be next time!
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Jean-Robert’s Table
I was told that this was one of the better restaurants in town and they were right….the atmosphere was casual and it was a short walk from the hotel.  I was dining with a colleague that is great to do the foodie thing with(he was with me in Austin for a trip last year).  We decided to share the two appetizers – escargot prepared in a classic style and the Foie Gras with peach(both specials for the night).  Both were delicious.  For my meal I ordered the skate wing the keep things a little lighter rather than the lamb or steak special. We both enjoyed the meal and decided to skip dessert and head to Graeter’s!

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Graeter’s
There was a line out the door and my colleague had never been.  Last time I was here I tasted the Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip so I recommended he try that…after all, it is their most popular flavor.  I had to try the Salted Caramel.  The weather in Cincinnati was super comfortable compared to Texas and it was the perfect way to end a long day of travel and meetings.

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Green Papaya
We had a meeting northeast of the city and I wanted to eat somewhere close by rather than have to walk and deal with downtown parking.  I asked at the Renaissance for a recommendation and Green Papaya was mentioned.  Great Thai food…I’m in.  It was not as good as Cafe Thai in Southfield, MI but it was just as good if not better than some spots I visit here in Dallas.  Another great meal in Cincinnati!

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Frida 602
Flights were delayed.  And now I had two hours to do, hmm, eat.  I had already driven to the airport once to drop my colleague and decided to stop in Covington for dinner, just on the other side of the river from Cincinnati.  I had done a little homework and saw that Bouquet was written up as one of the best restaurants in the Cincinnati area.  But I walked by and decided last-minute to try something brand new.  I wanted tacos, I guess I missed being home.  I arrived at Frida 602 with colorful picnic benches, artwork and tables.  I was one of three tables to be there early but the place started filling up and I know why.  The food was great.  I started with the Al Pastor tacos and the amazing server was great to order me a single brussel sprout taco, the highlight of the whole night.  Brussel sprouts, chickpeas, peanuts all on a taco…..fantastic!  I ended with the Tres Leches dessert with toasted marshmallow and headed to the airport happy.

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Renaissance Downtown Cincinnati
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Out of all the Marriott brands(excluding Ritz), I love Renaissance.  They just feel more like me.  The interior of the hotel makes me a little happier and the boutique feel is not like a standard chain hotel.  From this hotel, I was able to walk to both of my client appointments, dinner, ice cream and I felt safe.  I will be back the next time I am in town!

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On the Road Eats: Detroit and Beyond

I have something to share with you.

For 6 years I have been traveling to Detroit once or twice a year.  I have seen a lot of changes in the downtown area and have always received great recommendations for dining.  This trip was no exception – four great meals during two days in Detroit, Southfield, Royal Oak and Fenton.

Republic
LOVED
my lunch here!  They have a few lunch specials and I took advantage.  The Ploughman Lunch – pick 1 small plate and 1 sandwich – served in 20 minutes and the cost is $20.  I chose the Cheese Board as my starter – burrata and pimento cheese with toast points.  I ran out of toast and rather than asking for more, I just ate the rest with a fork – delicious!  Then I ordered the Duck Pastrami Dip, served medium rare with horseradish mayo, duck jus, horseradish cheddar and caramelized onion on a hoagie roll with housemade seasoned chips.  Loved it!  Guess I need to push dinner back as I won’t be hungry for a while!
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Bistro 82
imageThis was my first time in Royal Oak and I look forward to returning.   It’s got a lively downtown area with lots of shops and restaurants and I read in the Detroit Free Press that Bistro 82 was chosen as the number 2 best new restaurant in Detroit.  Royal Oak was only a 15 minute drive from my hotel and after I found a parking spot, I walked over and found a spot at the bar.  Their entire menu is presented via iPad.  I had my heart set on the scallops before I walked in but based on the bartender’s recommendation I went with the Sweetbread Tortellini with sausage, carrots and a Dijon bordelaise.  Perfect meal to end my day!

Cafe Thai
imageI have been coming to this tiny restaurant in Southfield for years.  It is my must stop restaurant in this area, whether I get to have just a few bites after a client dinner or if I get to eat an entire meal for lunch. There is something very unique about their Pad Thai – served with a lemon and yes, it is yellow in color.  My absolute favorite place for this dish.  Too bad I have to travel so far to enjoy it!

The Laundry
Of course I posted to Chowhound to ask where to eat on the way to Flint(my departure city) so big thank you to “coneywitheverything”.  I stopped by The Laundry on the way to the airport, sat outside in the beautiful weather(20 plus degrees cooler than Texas) and enjoyed a meal before my flight.  What did I get?  There were so many good choices but I settled on a very simple dish that can be super fantastic depending on how it is made – Chilaquiles.  They served their dish in a cast iron skillet, covered in cheese and my perfectly cooked fried egg.  On the inside was smoked pork, cilantro-lime crema, housemade salsa, black beans, tortillas and more cheese.  I wish I could get this dish in Dallas as they prepared it – it was that good!  As I paid I noticed a small bakeshop in the back and bought an oatmeal cookie on the way out for my flight(s) home.

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Marriott Southfield
Let me start with the good.  The hotel is in the process of a renovation.  The lobby is nice and new and they are upgrading the elevators.   The bad- the rooms are old(but being renovated in the future) and well, I had to have a chat with the very nice manager due to cleanliness issues.  Let’s leave it at that.  There are things the hotel cannot control like the roadwork being done that makes this hotel super inconvenient to get to right now(August 2015) but they can definitely set the standards on the level of cleanliness which they missed the mark on during my visit.  Yes, I’ll get points due to that conversation but I left completely grossed out with plans to stay at the SpringHill up the road or the Baronette Renaissance in Novi(an awesome hotel) during my next visit.

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