48 Hours in Milan: How to Hack Your Economy Flight

I went to Milan on a press trip for 48 hours and it was kind of insane. I mean, 48 hours isn’t even enough time to get jet lag, let alone eat all the kinds of cheese on my list. But since I only had 48 hours and lots of them were taken up with work, I had to make my free time count.

That meant getting sleep on the red-eye. And no, this wasn’t an uber fabulous trip with my globe-trotting dad, this was a work trip in coach. For 8 hours.

Here’s how I do trips like this:

20150610_180030

1) Check in early to the best seat you can

Most airlines let you check in for free 24 hours ahead of time. This means that you can grab the bulkhead for extra leg room, the window in case you like to lean against it, or any other seat that isn’t bought ahead of time. In my case, it let me choose the smaller economy cabin which meant that I was served food first, got my choice of overhead space, and didn’t have any crying babies in my section. Win all the way.

via

2) Embrace the neck pillow

They look dumb. They are bulky. They are often covered in hideous fabric. But on an 8 hour flight with 2 inches of leg room and one Jennifer Lopez movie playing on repeat the whole time? It’s a LIFESAVER. You want a really good, on-the-pricier side pillow to help you sleep – memory foam is awesome. Wear it with the opening adjusted to just in front of your shoulder. This helps you lean to the side or drop back your head with total support. Best of all, it lets you have the best of all worlds – use it instead of a window to lean against and you have support PLUS an aisle seat to stretch your legs and have more wiggle room.

20150610_184743

3) Prepare with good booze and food

There ain’t no caviar on these flights and the Krug ain’t exactly flowing. As such, you need to come prepared. I would recommend an awesome vegetarian sandwich on the crustiest bread you can find (so it doesn’t get too soggy), some potato chips, and candy. Candy is the best because you don’t need any more carbs and it won’t get too smushy in your carry on – no chance of it melting in a frigid airline cabin. I prefer one bag of gummy candy and one of chocolate candy. And booze…don’t rely on free booze on board. And even the for sale stuff might not be great. Hit up duty-free for a mini split of prosecco or even a couple of these cans of sparkling wine. It’s not the greatest stuff in the world but it does the trick and will help you drift off to sleep if you prefer.

20150610_164804

4) Treat yourself like you’re in first class

What does that mean? That means come prepared. Bring pajamas and fluffy socks to change into the second that you come on board. Come armed with moisturizer, the best headphones that you have, an eye mask, earplugs, and a personal entertainment device filled to the brim with great stuff. Don’t forget a sleeping aid, tissues, and a pen for filling out immigration forms. Go on Expert Flyer and see what the best seat is, research the plane and find out what the electric situation is (ie, this plane had no outlets but did have a usb charging port), and see what the meal offering(s) are. You want to feel like you are in as much luxury as possible.

20150613_125107

5) Don’t be a jerkhole

It’s a long flight. You’re cranky and tired and hot and achey and whiney. I get it. I TOTALLY get it. But don’t be a jerkhole. Don’t quickly jerk your seat back all the way the second you take off. Ease into it, do it gracefully, and only recline it as far as you need to. Don’t harangue the flight attendants for extra water and soda when they are halfway down the aisle – order extra when they come to you and keep it in your seatback for when you need it. Do be proactive if the person in front of you is reclined too far during mealtime – wait until the flight attendant comes to you and then ask her/him to ask the person in front of you to raise his/her seatback. If you are in an aisle seat, try not to lean on the person next to you and if you are in the window seat, keep restroom trips to when the person next to you wakes up or gets up to use the restroom. Don’t be rude, don’t push, and don’t yell. Basic kindergarten rules that might seem like common sense but are often forgotten on long flights. Do well and reap good karma.

Look, it’s never going to be the glories of flying first class. But with these tips, a sleeping aid, and some good luck, I managed to get some sleep, drink some wine, and be relatively entertained on my medium haul flights.

Next up: Milano memories.

48 Hours in Milan: Milan’s Greatest Hits

On this whirlwind trip I didn’t have a ton of time to eat in Milan, but what I did eat was really pretty great. Here are some of Milan’s greatest hits:

20150611_094000

Risotto Milanese

If you don’t like saffron, this might not be for you. If you have even the slightest affinity for it, this is the greatest use of it since Joel Robuchon’s bread. It’s a little floral, a little savory, and very aromatic. The rice is al dente and the color is a beautiful golden hue. It’s served in a small enough portion to be an appetizer but it can be a light main course as well. If you don’t like saffron, any risotto in Milan is excellent – I had a gorgonzola one that I still dream about.

20150613_061418 Spaghetti Bolognese

I was shocked to discover that pasta is not on every menu in Italy. But Milan, the center of cheese, beef, and rice, is shockingly pasta-light. However, I did manage to have a couple of plates of pasta and they were excellent. This one, at New Art Cafe, is excellent. The spaghetti is al dente and chewy and the sauce is really rich. It’s not that bright, tangy tomato sauce with a few grainy clumps of meat. It’s deep, meaty, and incredibly savory. It’s about all of the pasta, most of the beef, and just a tiny bit of tomato taste in the sauce. It isn’t overly sauced or cheesed. And the mushroom pappardelle is no slouch either.

20150613_182748

Movenpick ice cream

Movenpick ice cream is where it’s AT! I actually enjoyed this on the Swiss flight home, but if you find some in Italy and want to compare ice cream to gelato, this is the brand that you want. It’s soft but still dense, with pure, creamy flavor. This flavor, Carmelita, also has a ribbon of sweet, slightly bitter caramel and pieces of chewy, crunchy caramel candy. The ice cream is the real deal – it kicks Haagen Daz’s ass.

As it made mine larger.

Next up: Let’s hack our economy flight. 

The Great Noodle Tour: Sukiyabashi Jiro

This is the post that I can’t believe I’m writing.

It’s also the post with no photos.

It’s the post about my meal at Sushibayaki Jiro.

eel

You may have heard of this small sushi restaurant in a subway station…it had a little film made about it?

Anyhow, we went there when we were in Tokyo.

Make no mistake, this was the most expensive 90 minutes of our life.

But was it our best?

To begin, the doors don’t open until precisely 11:30 am – the only time that we were allowed to make a reservation, though our hotel concierge. Until then, we queued nervously and made sure that we had followed the rules that had been emailed to us:

Sukiyabashi Jiro Note;

* Please kindly note that all restaurants are strict on punctuality.

*If you would like to cancel, please let us know as soon as you decide.

*Please be noted that they strictly apply 100% cancellation charge.

If you cancel 2 days before your reservation date and a penalty 15,000 yen per person applies.

* Strictly NO perfume/ cologne is allowed at the counter seat.

*No T-shirt, NO-sandales(sic).

*If you are late for dinner, you need to contact to the hotel at least 30 minutes before. They lay all food items for the time of your arrival.

 obviously, I wore my Sunday best and took VERY FEW photographs because our sweet hostess was careful to point out that Jiro does not like when people take pictures

Note: I know that there are photos of this meal all over the internet. What can I say? People are just braver than I am. I didn’t want to offend anyone. Thus, I didn’t take any pictures and if my husband hadn’t snuck a couple with his iPhone, we wouldn’t have had any at all.

We sat down and were jointed by 2 other people at the sushi bar. Behind the bar was Jiro and a sous-chef. It was almost shocking to be seated in front of him in the quiet, elegant room. He barely made eye contact as we sat down and were presented with our menu for the day.

Then, we were served.

By Jiro himself. One by one, he made the pieces for each of the 6 patrons at the restaurant during our mealtime. Women were served first, then men. And the parade of food was excellent.

Insanely fresh tuna, from ruby red and lean to the almost white fatty tuna.

Meaty, mild horse mackerel with a zip of spicy wasabi

Tender clam in a sticky-sweet teriyaki sauce.

Boiled prawn so sweet and snappy that it could be served for dessert

Uni from Hokkaido – doubtlessly the greatest uni of my life. Lush, cold, sweet, delicate…incredible.

Soft and meaty eel with just a glimmer of sugary lacquer

Rich but light tamago, layer upon layer of softly folded and steamed egg atop rice.

Then, when the meal at the sushi bar was finished, we sat at a booth and finished with the sweetest, juiciest melon that I have ever enjoyed. It should really be called cotton candy melon. You have to eat it with a spoon to sop up all of the juices.

The meal was 90 minutes from beginning to end. It was, no doubt, the most expensive 90 minutes of my life. But was it worth it?

Well, it is very difficult to get reservations. There are many rules that you must follow. Jiro himself is a very serious, efficient sushi master and he isn’t one for chatting during the meal. We couldn’t even take picture with him before or after because he was so busy for the rest of the day and couldn’t, or wouldn’t, veer off schedule. The sushi itself is excellent – but is it the best? Well, no. Nakazawa is actually better, in my humble opinion. The rice at Jiro is extremely vinegary and though the fish is sublime, except for the uni, I wouldn’t say that it’s better than what I enjoyed at Nakazawa. That super tangy rice was rather distracting and the lack of interaction with Jiro-san himself meant that I didnt’ know how or if the fish was prepared/aged.

And did I mention that it was expensive?

However…on the upside…this was worth it. Why? Because it is a meal one of the hardest-to-reserve restaurants in the universe. Because it felt unspeakably cool to be ushered into the restaurant while others were taking pictures of the facade. Because I ate sushi for an hour made by none other than Jiro himself. It was a once in a lifetime experience.

Would I recommend it? If you want the best sushi in the world – no. Next time, I hope to try Sawada.

But if you want some incredible sushi in an atmosphere that is unrivaled to my knowledge – yes. This is the place for you.

tamago

And I will continue to dream about it.

Winner of Primal Derma Skincare Giveaway

Hi all!

I’m back from Milan and WOW…what a whirlwind 48 hours it was! Did you know that Milan is not a pasta heavy destination? I know, it shocked me, too, but it’s okay…I ate a ton of risotto to make up for it. I’ll give you the pictoral updates later in the week.

Today, I’m checking in to give you the winner of the Primal Derma Skincare Giveaway

The winner is:

True Random Number Generator  6

Bekah!

Congratulations, Bekah! I’ll email you to get your shipping information!

Tomorrow…the most incredible meal that I had in Japan.

Two Little Red Hens and Other Tasty Bites

I’ve been blogging about Asia for so long that I have neglected my NYC eats – let’s catch up on those for a second, shall we?

20150606_110614 Guacamole and chips at AG

This is great! The restaurant seems to have improved a lot since it opened and I would totally come here again. They make the guac fresh and have several different varieties. This was the standard version but extra spicy, and it is filled with fragrant cilantro and some crunchy, spicy jalapenos.
20150606_131305 Two Little Red Hens

This bakery absolutely deserves all of its accolades. The Brooklyn Blackout cake is thick and moist, with a dark chocolatey pudding in the center. The pudding is a delightful, fun surprise but it still manages to be an elegant, sophisticated taste. The vanilla cupcake is mild and buttery with an extremely rich, none-too-sugary Swiss buttercream frosting. And the coffeecake…WOW, that coffeecake. It’s moist and buttery with a cinnamon-sugar streusel that is addictive. Sleeper hit of the century.  20150608_123800 Watermelon salad at Jack’s Wife Freda

I finally made it down to this SoHo favorite and am sure to return. It’s small but not cramped and the service is excellent. This watermelon salad with feta, basil, cucumbers, and balsamic vinaigrette is everything that a summer salad should be. Bright, light, savory, and just a little tart.

See you next week!

See You Tomorrow… Today I’m in MILAN!

I am in Milan on a last minute press trip and will resume normal posting tomorrow. Disclaimer: I will be at least 17 pounds heavier because the bread products here are GREAT! See y’all tomorrow AM!

The Great Noodle Tour: Eating in Arizona

Some miscellaneous Arizona eats:

20150419_113848 Elements breakfast at The Sanctuary.

This beautiful hotel has a fabulous poolside restaurant. The huevos rancheros is excellent. Eggs are properly rich and buttery, salsa is smoky but not too spicey, and the guac is REALLY great.  20150419_113218 To say nothing of the huge, pecan studded stickly buns smothered in tangy cream cheese frosting. Me want. A lot.
20150419_112101 The atmosphere is really nice, too. Arizona dreamin’. 
20150418_223116 Steak at m wedding, REALLY well cooked, especially for a buffet!  20150418_164258 Pei Wei

 My FAVORITE fast food from college. Dan Dan noodles, I miss you, so! 20150418_152929 Excellent room service from The Sanctuary. The food here is top notch – don’t miss the very cheesy and garlicky Caesar salad or the juicy turkey burger with fresh cut fries.  20150418_012224 No trip to the West Coast is complete without a loaded In-n-Out burger.

20150419_180220

Phoenix airport snack from Humble Pie

20150419_180248 Pretty nice underskirt and tender dough but…
20150419_180214 Meh. No real flavor in the crust, no salt in the sauce, and no stretch in the cheese. I have become a pizza snob – what can I say?

Next up: a little NYC interlude.

The Great Noodle Tour: Jet Blue Mint Class SFO-JFK

I recently flew Jet Blue’s new premier cabin experience, Mint, and though this site does a far better job reviewing most of the aspects than I ever could, I thought that I would do a run down of the food. 
20150430_143827 The flight attendant walked through the aisles with a vodka, mint, lemonade concoction. It is really refreshing and has a nice kick to relax me before the flight. So far, so good! 20150430_155543 Jet Blue works with Saxon + Parole for their in flight offerings, and these veggie chips with herbed dipping sauce is a pleasant departure from the standard mixed nuts. They are fresh and crunchy – a great way to whet the palate.  20150430_161717 From there, it turned out to be somewhat of a mixed bag. From far left:

Steak with mashed potatoes – really tasty. A little overdone but still flavorful and well salted. I would absolutely order this again and it’s a great portion size.

Salad with blue cheese, spiced cashews, and pears – the dressing was not delivered for this flight, so we were offered either lemon or plain mustard for dressing.  Blech. Especially on greens that are rather past their prime and flabby. Not a fan. Most other premium cabins would, I feel, have some other dressing on hand, but not Jet Blue. 

Corn custard with lobster and chiles. The lobster is a little fishy and mushy all at once. The corn custard is unmemorable, but the corn itself is sweet and juicy, with burst of heat from the spicy peppers. I wouldn’t get is again because I found the lobster just a little too off-putting.

Ready for a really #firstworldproblems comment? The roll was cold. When bread is bad, heating it up disguises a world of flaws. Do that next time with this piece of edible cotton, Jet Blue.

20150430_163425 Fruit salad and blue marble chocolate ice cream

YUM! Fruit must have come from California since it is so sweet and juicy. That ice cream is creamy, not too sweet, and thaws beautifully so you can eat it easily. Definitely get the dessert.

In general, I didn’t thin that this flight warranted the price tag. If I was a bigger or broader person, it would be a necessity to be able to lean aback and have more wiggle and stretch room. But, for me, the biggest deal on a daytime flight under 6 hours is 1) the food and 2) the entertainment. The food didn’t make enough of a difference to sway me and the entertainment is exactly the same as in the main cabin. However, if you have the extra cash flow, the cool Birchbox amenity kit, free-flowing booze, and flat seat for sleeping seat may convince you to buy a seat.

The Great Noodle Tour: The Waldorf Astoria Shanghai

I realize that I totally forgot to post about our wonderful Shanghai hotel, The Waldorf Astoria

20150426_011019 The Waldorf Asoria Shanghai has an incredible location, right on the Bund. Every taxi driver in town knows where it is because it has been around since 1910 – well, back then it used to be The Shanghai Club, a gentleman’s club for wealthy British expats. It became the Waldorf in 2009 and includes both the old wing, with its elegant exterior and famed Long Bar and a newer wing where the bedrooms are housed.

20150426_012412

The bedrooms are, in a word, exquisite. Colonial era furnishings with…

20150426_012442

long marble hallways housing an incredible walk in dressing area with wonderful slippers, robes (and a gas mask…freaky), and

20150426_012322

king sized beds with some of the best linens I have ever enjoyed.

20150426_012423 To say nothing of the view of the iconic Shanghai skyline,which only improves as the lights come on at night.

20150426_012301 Our room held sumptuous treats, a sweet note wishing us a happy anniversary, and…
20150426_012355 The largest grapes that I have ever seen! 
20150427_203335 The breakfast buffet is vast, and while you should stay away from egg dishes and anything that sounds vaguely American, the fruit is all wonderful and the Chinese dishes are even better than the buffet in Tokyo.  20150427_203431 Besides the vast buffet, including bread, cheese, dim sum, and every manner of noodle possible… 20150427_211150 you can indulge in made to order wonton soup and congee.

Of course, we did both daily.

The Shanghai Waldorf Astoria is beautifully appointed with a few great restaurants and a great location, but I wouldn’t necessarily return. Don’t get me wrong, it was great – but it was rather impersonal. It felt extremely corporate and though the service was quite good, I definitely knew and felt that I was not a particularly valued client. Trust me, they don’t value me at The Conrad either, but they somehow managed to make me feel like they did. This may just be a difference in culture and it didn’t leave a bad taste in my mouth about The Waldorf Astoria at all. It just means that on any return trips, I am open to try different hotels.

However, for your first trip to Shanghai, I can heartily recommend this excellent abode.

Primal Derma Skincare Giveaway: Eat Your Steak and Wear it, Too!

This is not a beauty blog.

However, I was recently introduced to a product (not through the media, at a friend’s house) that was too good not to share.

Especially because I don’t know of that many moisturizers that are made with the same stuff that you use to make French fries.

20150604_084806 Primal Derma is made from 100% grass fed beef tallow – the stuff that is normally used as a medium for the world’s greatest pommes frites. However, since it’s “virtually bio-identical to human skin cells,” it is also a WONDER ointment. It not only moisturizes your skin, but since skin craves saturated and monounsaturated fats, the more you use this over time, the more toned and well hydrated your skin becomes. It’s not at ALL greasy and sinks into skin immediately, so it’s perfect to use for heat rash or even to tame flyaway hair. Not to mention that you can slather it on sunburns, scrapes, chapped skin, and even your lips (because, duh…beef tallow is edible).  I know that it sounds like I am a snake oil salesman, but this is the REAL DEAL. I’m not getting paid to write a post about this and I wasn’t pitched…I’m just obsessed.
20150604_084854 One small jar will last you a long, long time. You only need a tiny dab because it’s so rich.  20150604_084906 This amount would cover your entire arm or calf. It has a spicy-floral scent that is reminiscent of lemongrass and cardamom. I hate perfume-y, frou-frou scents so this is a true relief. Don’t worry, even though this is made from tallow, you won’t smell like a barnyard.  20150604_085032 It’s become my go to. Callused feet, sunburned nose, dry elbows…everything. I can’t recommend this enough.

Best of all, Primal Derma is offering a giveaway to Fritos and Foie Gras readers!

Just leave a comment on this post and you will be automatically entered to win a jar of Primal Derma! Winner will be chosen Monday, June 15 at random. 

Eat your steak and wear it…what’s not to love about that?