Hidden gems – Red Mango

I had an occasion recently to visit an outpost of South Korean yogurt purveyor Red Mango.  The impetus?  I saw a sign in their window advertising a special limited edition key lime flavored treat.  Now I am an ice cream-aholic of the first order.  I eat it year round.  I figured of the key lime, “How good could it really be?”.  Exceptional, in that it really tasted like key lime pie, crust and all.  I’m still puzzling over how they achieved this magical feat, but I know that I will be back to try more of their flavors.  At just about 100 calories a serving, I can feed my sweet tooth without widening my waist.  How can you beat that?!

Hidden gems – Leland Tea

Nothing is nicer on a crisp Fall day than stopping to have tea.  It not only warms you up, it also gives you an excuse to slow down and enjoy yourself.  Savor the finger sandwiches, dine guilt-free on the mini-desserts and of course, as the Brits would say, “Have a nice cuppa.”  The best place to have tea in my humble opinion is Leland Tea in San Francisco.  Located on Bush just off Polk Street, it has a cool art deco vibe and friendly employees who will ply you with fresh baked goods and handmade truffles.  Can’t make it to the City by the Bay?  Never fear, you can order their fine loose teas online here.  They make great gifts!

Hidden gems – Cako

Nothing will stop my in my tracks faster than a cute, delicious cupcake.  When I was in San Francisco last week I took a walk around Union Square and stumbled upon Cako.  The window was filled with row after row of gorgeous cupcakes.  It’s like nirvana!  For $3 you can buy yourself a little bit of heaven.  I had the apple spice cupcake and was so inspired I couldn’t wait to get home to my kitchen to recreate this delight for myself.

Hidden gems – KLM flight

My husband sent me this article about passengers stranded on the tarmac during a KLM flight.  I had to share it because it’s not often that the media reports good news, especially about airlines.  The thing that made this flight so special?  It was transporting members of the Amsterdam Sinfonietta.  When the flight was delayed they took down their instruments from the overhead compartments and played an impromptu concert for their fellow passengers.  So nice!  You’d never see this happening on a U.S. flight.

Hidden gems – El Yunque rain forest

When you think of stunning national parks you usually think of things like Yosemite or Yellowstone.  What you don’t think of is El Yunque national rain forest in Puerto Rico.  As a U.S. Territory, Puerto Rico is actually a part of the national park system.  El Yunque, the gem in their crown, is a beautiful place full of colorful flowers and wildlife.  Stop by the visitors center to see the movie before you check out the park.  Then spend your afternoon hiking, splashing around under waterfalls or climbing the tower and getting a bird’s eye view of the rain forest.  It’s truly a one of a kind place.

Hidden gems – Japanese tea garden

When you head to San Francisco there are so many things to see ~ Fisherman’s Wharf, the Ferry Building, the DeYoung Museum. It’s easy to overlook the less well known attractions. Especially the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. Hidden behind huge doors it is a beautifully manicured zen garden with a tea house at it’s center.  With Fall approaching it’s the perfect time to plan a visit.  The weather will be warm and the trees are turning amazing colors.  It’s a photo opportunity not to be missed.

Hidden gems – The Chef’s Gallery

I was wandering around historic Stillwater, Minnesota this week.  It’s one of my favorite historic river towns.  Main Street is crowded with antique shops, galleries, gift shops and restaurants.  While meandering I  came upon a kitchen store of the Gods. The Chef’s Gallery is truly a mecca of all things culinary.  The front rooms are full of beautiful dishes, kitchen gadgets and exotic salts, seasonings and mixes.  There’s even a demo kitchen where guest chefs give courses in things like cupcakes galore, asian cuisine and bounty of the heartland.  Wander a bit further back and you’ll find a maze of rooms filled with coffee cups, wine glasses, more martini shakers than you dared imagine and finally fine linens.  It’s a feast for your senses.  The store is located at 324 S. Main Street right on the way into town.

Hidden gems – Jake O’Connor’s Public House

Every city I’ve ever been to has an Irish pub.  Now I don’t think that’s a bad thing and in the case of Jake O’Connors it is surely a good thing.  The atmosphere is collegial, the beers are diverse and the lamb stew is simply to die for.  I haven’t had lamb stew in Ireland this good.  Located near Lake Minnetonka in Excelsior, Minnesota it’s the perfect spot for a Summertime dinner.  Excelsior is a charming little city where you can step out to a concert by the Lake after you dine.  It’s an ideal place to spend the waning days of Summer.

Hidden gems – Bliss spa (SoHo)

Today as I was looking around for inspiration on what hidden gem to post I hit upon an idea.  Go back to the beginning.  How did hidden gems originate?  When was the earliest recollection I have of feeling that I’d hit upon a hidden gem?  Easy, it was my very visit to Bliss Spa in SoHo.  It was very new, hard to find (I walked around the block twice and still missed it!) and it was a haven.  I went in for a mani/pedi and felt like I’d died and gone to heaven.  I remember the scent of the warm almond milk I soaked in, the taste of the brownies they served in the waiting room, even the models hanging out and looking bored while waiting for their appointments.  To this day I try to hit up a Bliss location every time I am in Manhattan.  It’s my place.  Everything I would have wanted if I’d designed the spa myself.  Pure, unadulterated heaven.

Hidden gems – Miss Aimee B’s tea room

While visiting family in St. Louis I was taken out for a ladies’ lunch at Miss Aimee B’s.  It was one of the most enticing places I’ve been in a long, long time.  The tea room and garden are perfect for women who want to meet, relax and have a nice meal.  They serve great food, amazing desserts, and the service is both efficient and pleasant.  I loved every minute of my lunch there. I had  a turkey medley sandwich with tropical Waldorf salad.  That left just enough room for me and my lunch companion to each order a dessert and switch plates.  She had the toll house pie and I the chocolate strawberry pie.  I can’t even describe how amazing they tasted.

Miss Aimee B’s is  located in historical St. Charles, MO in an old manor house and the feel of the place harkens back to a more genteel era.  You feel as if you should be wearing a sundress and a large hat.  Go for breakfast (praline french toast!) or lunch and be sure not to miss the lemonade (right).  They make it with milk and sugar and it tastes for all the world like a cotillion punch.  Delicious!