Tuesday, September 2, 2014

TRAVEL TIDBITS: Friends’ Central Perk will pop up in New York this September

 One of my all-time favourite TV shows, Friends, is turning 20 this year (it premiered in 1994). My love for this show has gone from purchasing memorabilia like the huge coffee mug from Central Perk to T-shirts to visiting the set at the Warner Bros studio in Los Angeles. And now, the iconic Central Perk set is about to make its debut in New York. In commemoration of the 20th anniversary of its premiere, Warner Bros Television Group, Warner Bros. Consumer Products and Eight O’Clock Coffee are coming together to recreate the Central Perk experience for its fans.



Aside from the excitement of being able to take selfies on the bright orange couch that is a trademark of the coffee house, you may get lucky enough to be served coffee by James Michael Tyler, who played the character of Gunther, Central Perk’s barista. Free coffee, photo ops, musical performances, signature props from the show, contests, giveaways and even a limited-edition ‘Central Perk Roast’—this is a dream for Friends fans!


The pop-up shop will be located at 199 Lafayette St and will remain open from September 17 till October 18. The timings are:

Weekdays: from 8 am to 8 pm
Weekends: from 10 am to 8 pm




Monday, September 1, 2014

TRAVEL TIDBITS: Amsterdam’s Eenmaal restaurant—only for solo diners

One of the few things that I don’t really enjoy as a solo traveller is eating alone. I don’t mind it, but I don’t always like it. Having grown up with a huge family in India where eating together was a norm, eating by yourself doesn’t quite capture the fun of eating with a group of people. However, being a solo diner is good every once in a while because it lets you focus on the food and savour it instead of gulping it down.

Marina Van Goor, creator of Amsterdam’s Eenmaal restaurant, summarises this feeling accurately, “I wanted to break the perception that eating out alone isn't very attractive. Solitary dining can actually be an inspiring experience, because you get a chance to disconnect for a while in our hyper-connected world.” Claiming to be the world’s first restaurant made purely for solo diners, this temporary restaurant offers a fixed €35 (₹2,800 approx) four-course menu that includes cocktails and wine. The d├ęcor is very simple and minimal with just a few chic desks and chairs laid out in a huge industrial space. Whatever reason leads you to try this, it would be a great way to relish your meal without distractions.

Eenmaal is set to open in Antwerp this November. Find out more here.



















Photo courtesy: Eenmaal.com

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Explore Hua Hin Hills Vineyard in Thailand

I am not a wine drinker, but I know it would certainly be unusual to put Thailand and wines in the same sentence. I’ve heard of French wines, Indian wines and even South African wines, but I wouldn’t peg Thailand as a wine producer. So imagine my surprise when I found a vineyard in a place that’s claim to fame is its endless seaside and vast expanses of pristine beachfront. However, don’t dismiss Thailand’s foray into wine production just yet. While they haven’t entered the league of top winemakers in the world, they have definitely proved that they can produce good quality wines in a region that the world couldn't imagine to be conducive to grape cultivation.

The discovery that wine production was possible in Thailand came about over 30 years ago, when a royal project under HM the King began experimenting with grape plantation in the region. That’s when they realised that Thailand’s Mediterranean climate would aid the successful cultivation of grapes. This eventually led Siam Winery to give Hua Hin its first boutique vineyard. Today, Hua Hin Hills boasts of growing over 30 grape varietals that include the Colombard, Summer Muscat, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Hua Hin Hills’ on their loamy sand and slate terrain.

Spread over 560 acres, the vineyard is also home to the Sala Wine Bar and Bistro—which contains a wine bar, retail shop, wine cellar and a meeting facility—where you can learn more about oenology, viticulture, and the detailed story behind the conception of latitude wines in Thailand. Sala, also known as an open pavilion, is a facet of Thai architecture that is meant to be open on all four sides and provide shade, while protecting people from climatic conditions like rain. The bistro is designed using materials like bamboo and red bricks and looks over the lush green rows of grape-bearing vines.

The menu here not only allows you to sample their fine wines, but also offers delicious local food prepared with ingredients grown within the property. You can also request the staff to help you pair your food with their selection of wines. Those who don’t drink alcoholic beverages can choose from alternative grape-based concoctions such as the ever-popular red grape juice, grape smoothie and hot grape tea. People with a sweet tooth must try their grape sorbet and grape yoghurt cheesecake.



However, what makes this vineyard truly ‘Thai’ is the surprising element of elephant rides. Imagine being able to explore a grape plantation seated atop an elephant. Where else but Thailand can you think of doing this?


The activities here include wine tastings, elephant rides, cycling, jeep tours and wine and tapas pairing. The vineyard is open from 8:30am to 6:30pm. For more information, check out their website.

If you’re planning a trip to Hua Hin, do check the official Thailand Tourism website before you go so that you can prepare your itinerary in advance.



P.S.  My visit to Hua Hin, Thailand was at the invitation of the Tourism Authority of Thailand.