Archive | February 2017

Mercat Bistro

Dallas, Texas

Mercat Bistro is located in Uptown Dallas but feels like you are dining at a little sidewalk cafe in Paris, France. It is tucked into a little building off Harwood and is located on the corner next to St. Anne’s Cafe. This small eatery serves contemporary French and American cuisine and is now one of my favorite brunch places. It is an intimate venue that is perfect for couples, friends or family. The noise level is energetic and the service has been very attentive when I have dined here.

The main dining room is quite small with very cozy marble-topped tables. The artsy, hand-lettered menu is located over the bar. The decor is European modern with touches of antiques and recycled items throughout…I feel safe calling it “French Charm.” There is an outside covered patio that truly looks as if it is steps away from the Metro in Paris. The metal scrollwork and open air dining is very indicative of an authentic French cafe. There is a beautiful view of Uptown from the patio as you overlook a spacious lawn, shady trees, fountains, strings of lights, etc.


delicious Peche Mignons

The cocktails at Mercat Bistro are magnifique! You can order delicious Mimosas by the carafe. On my first visit, I enjoyed the Santa Rosa – a very refreshing cocktail made with St. Germaine and champagne. The “star” for me was the Peche Mignon (pictured above). Champagne was poured over a frozen fruit ball made of muddled berries, orange juice, pineapple, peaches, and Creme de Violette Liqueur. It was light and delicious and as the fruit melted – it sweetened the dry champagne. Be sure to ask for a spoon to eat the remaining ice ball when your glass is empty….it was yummy!

The menu had a nice selection of pastries, salads, sandwiches, wraps, egg dishes, crepes, quiches and desserts. Their Ricotta & Honeycomb dish was my favorite appetizer. It consisted of creamy ricotta cheese, a fresh honey-filled honeycomb and crostinis. My only complaint was that I wanted more! The Green Chile Crepe was also impressive. It was a thin crepe filled with scrambled eggs, green chiles, cheddar cheese and herbs with a creamy mornay sauce and was served with roasted fingerling potatoes on the side. The Strawberry & Mascarpone Crepe was so light and delicate that it literally melted in my mouth. One word -DELICIOUS!


Strawberry Mascarpone Crepe

For those of you looking for a cool new brunch place to try and would like to experience a little piece of Paris, put Mercat Bistro on your list. Portions were on the smaller side but the quality was top notch…I guess this just gives you an excuse to order more! 

Valet parking was available in front of the restaurant and across the street. I am looking forward to returning and trying out lunch and dinner. They have a wonderful dinner menu and also feature live music a couple of nights. I hope to see you there. Au revoir!


One World Observatory

New York City, NY


If you have the opportunity to visit New York City in the future, be sure to put One World Observatory on your “must see” list. 

The building itself is a breathtaking site as it rises 1776 feet up from street level. The One World Observatory is located on floors 100-102 of this beautiful new One World Trade Center Building. On a sunny day with blue skies, this reflective building is even more impressive. It proudly claims the title of the Western Hemisphere’s tallest building.

I was recovering from knee surgery when we visited NYC this past summer, so we booked our visit online and paid extra for the VIP “Skip the Line” Expedited Entry tickets. These upgraded tickets were a god send! Instead of standing and sweating outside for hours with hundreds of others, we bypassed all the general admission ticket lines and were ushered right in. We entered through the front doors, cleared security and walked directly to the elevators. We were inside the Observatory in less than 5 minutes. The VIP tickets were a little costly but they were worth every penny to me.

The 60-second ride in the elevator to the 100th floor was very smooth. The elevator walls were LED screens that illustrated 500 years of NYC’s past history as we ascended to the top floors. When the elevator stopped, we stepped out and saw the skylines and city scenes that awaited us. (Near the elevators, you can rent iPads that actually label the sights you are viewing.) The Main Observatory had outstanding panoramic views of Manhattan, Brooklyn, New Jersey, and all surrounding areas. On a clear day like we had, we could see 50 miles out in every direction. Fantastic!

In the center of one area was the Sky Portal. This is a large glass disc that you can walk across or stand on. It shows the actual street 100 floors below you and was a little scary for me. I did not care for standing on glass and seeing people, cars and taxis moving below me in real time…..a little unsettling, to say the least.

 As we walked around the circular site, all the area views were spectacular from this vantage point. We saw something different in every direction. We spotted the Statue of Liberty, Manhattan, the NYC bridges, the rivers, barges & boats, Time Square, the Empire State Building, Central Park, the Chrysler Building and the 9/11 Memorial next door – just to name a few. It was a very neat experience and something I will never forget. 

The observatory itself was quite open and spacious and there was plenty of room for everyone to get great views. The elevator rides are conveniently timed to keep crowds evenly dispersed. We never felt crowded or unable to see what we wanted. There were restrooms, restaurants, a gift shop, and various speakers scattered throughout the 360 degree site. You choose to spend as little or as much time here as you prefer.

When you decide to leave this building, you are merely steps away from the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. It was somewhat mentally difficult and quite emotional for me at times being in this building on this very sight. More than once, I stood and gazed out at the horizon looking for airplanes and imagining that horrific day that will forever be locked in my memory.

This sight has so many memories for all of us and I think NYC has done a tremendous job with the One World Observatory. Please visit if you have the chance – it is very worthwhile. If you have visited, please leave your comments below. I would love to hear of your experiences.

Rest in peace, all those unfortunate souls who lost their lives here on 9/11. Your spirits live on.

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Ida Claire

Addison, Texas

When I first heard of this restaurant called “Ida Claire,” I knew instantly that this was for me! While growing up in Mississippi, I know I heard my grandmother exclaim, “Well, I declare!” hundreds – if not thousands – of times throughout her life. With this phrase meaning “I am surprised to hear that” or “my goodness!”, those words brought back memories.  This was definitely a restaurant calling me back well south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

Ida Claire is located in Addison off Beltline Road and the Tollway. The building itself is the warehouse style that is quite popular now. The interior is very open and welcoming. The noise level is energetic. The design and upcycled decor can be described as quirky and/or funky. There are beautiful hanging lamps, bird cages, decorative plates, blackboard signs, open books nailed to the wall, an Elvis bust and Buddha statues. Right outside the front door is an Airstream trailer used as a cozy “hippie-esque” dining space. There is also a well-lit outdoor dining area with tables and umbrellas. It is quite eclectic and very appealing.

The two times we dined here the service has been really impressive. We had brunch the first visit and dinner the second time. The cocktails were very enjoyable. The Bloody Mary, Pear-fect Martini, Margarita Julep and Hurricane Punch were all cold, strong, and delicious. For appetizers, we sampled Ida’s Biscuits (with butter & jam and bacon gravy), Fried Green Tomatoes (with lemon herb dipping sauce) and the Low Country Chopped Salad (fresh butter lettuce, okra, pickled peppers, boiled egg, bacon and a honey mustard dressing). All were delicious, but this Southerner will readily return for the fried green tomatoes – perfection!

We enjoyed sharing the Coffee Crumble Pancakes for brunch and did not leave one single bite. These pancakes were light & fluffy with a blueberry & cardamom topping, maple flavored butter, whipped cream and toffee crumbles. Delicious! The Muffuletta with sweet potato chips was very good. The Wild Isles Sea Trout was very similar to salmon and was served with yellow and red roasted beets. The Nashville Hot Fried Chicken was my favorite entree. The chicken was moist and very flavorful (think Buffalo style) and was served with pimento cheese toast, pickled cucumbers and onions. The smaller brunch portion was also served with a crunchy okra salad. The chicken was quite spicy…..thankfully I had plenty of ice cold rum punch to cool my mouth off. 🙂

For dessert we ordered Ida Claire’s special Vice Cake. Wow! It consisted of a huge slice of stout cake, layers of coffee buttercream icing, and chocolate ganache topping. It was decorated with a piece of candied bacon (yep….I ate that too!).


Vice Cake

If you are looking for a new place to have brunch or dinner, I hope you will try Ida Claire’s. They do have a bit of a limited menu, but what we have tried so far has been delicious. The restaurant also serves burgers, shrimp & grits, sandwiches, turkey & biscuits, crawfish beignets, etc. They have definitely taken Southern food, updated it and added a twist. I think there is more of a Louisiana feel to their dishes – rather than just pure ole “Deep South” cuisine.

Both of our dining experiences here were quite enjoyable. More fried green tomatoes and okra, anyone?

If you have eaten at Ida Claire’s, please share your experiences in the comment section. I would love to hear from you! If you enjoy reading my dining and travel blogs, please subscribe in the upper right hand corner.  Thanks.


Amelia Island, Florida


A few years (and several hairstyles ago!) David and I took a great little summer vacation to Amelia Island, Florida. I had not heard much about Amelia Island prior to our trip but wanted to get away from the Gulf of Mexico and the Florida Keys since we had already visited these areas. We wanted something new and different this time. So we flew into Jacksonville, rented a car, and began our adventure.

Amelia Island is an Atlantic coast barrier island on the northeastern corner of Florida, very close to the southeastern Georgia border. It is the perfect place for anyone wanting luxury resorts, golf courses, sandy beaches, shell collecting and small crowds. It is also very rich in history and has been under Spanish, French and British rule at one time or another.

We stayed at the wonderful Elizabeth Pointe Lodge located right on the beach. Our room was perfect and we kept the windows open every night and enjoyed the calming sounds of the ocean. The owners David and Susan (coincidence, right?!) had a wonderful staff and we had 24/7 room service available. We enjoyed  fantastic breakfast buffets every morning and a Happy Hour every evening with wines, cheese & fruit trays, and heavy appetizers. Drinks and snacks were always available throughout the day. The owners and manager were always available for a chat, to give suggestions for restaurants or activities, or to book reservations for dining or excursions. One of the best things about Elizabeth Pointe Lodge (besides being adults only) was the gorgeous private beach and the complimentary chairs and umbrellas – all just steps away from our room. You gotta love a hassle-free vacation!

The drive into town from the lodge only took a few minutes and there were so many things to see on the way. We actually began our first day at the Amelia Island Museum to understand more about this area and the history. We explored Fernandina Beach’s historic district and found neat little artisan shops, boutiques, and bistros. We drove to the Amelia Island Light which is the oldest existing lighthouse in the state of Florida (built in 1838). David and I noticed there were no chain restaurants and we enjoyed trying several of the small local eateries – many that served fresh seafood that came off fishing boats from the harbor that very day. We had some wonderful food!

We dined on fresh seafood at Brett’s Waterway Cafe (at the main harbor) where you board the fishing boats or sightseeing cruises. Manatees were spotted here regularly, but we were not lucky enough to see one this day. We had a wonderful lunch at Joe’s 2nd Street Bistro another day after shopping in some of the little downtown shops. One of my favorite meals was a dinner at Espana Restaurant & Tapas where we sat at the bar and drank some fruity sangria and ate some very unusual and wonderful seafood-inspired tapas. We ate fresh crab cakes another night at Lulu’s, a New Orleans inspired restaurant located in a cozy old coach house. On our final night, we dined at David’s Restaurant (yet another David!) and had some of the best cucumber and basil martinis ever. They served a fantastic baked brie with homemade bread (in a little wooden chest) with pesto and oil & vinegar for dipping….Yummy! Every meal we ate was fresh, delicious, reasonably priced and was indicative of the local fare.

We booked two excursions while on Amelia Island and they became the highlights of our trip. The first was a boat ride on Amelia Cruises with Captain Pajama Dave. This Capt. Dave was exactly what his name promised! He was a big ole red-bearded guy who wore funny printed pajama bottoms and had an over-the-top personality to match. He told jokes, stories, and was the perfect source of information regarding the history, sights, and wildlife in this area. We sailed from the harbor at Amelia Island up the Cumberland River and off the coast of Georgia to the beautiful Cumberland Island.

We saw the house where Pippi Longstocking was filmed. We sailed past Fort Clinch and had a great view of this well-preserved Civil War fort, complete with a sea wall and cannons. We sailed west of Cumberland Island and saw dolphins, sea birds, and wild horses on shore. We glimpsed the historic Greyfield Inn, mansions, campsites, and the place where John Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette had their secluded wedding next to a pig farm. It was a most interesting and very enjoyable day with smooth sailing the entire way.


Fort Clinch, the old Civil War fort


a herd of wild horses on Cumberland Island

The second excursion that we enjoyed was a segway tour. Ecomotion Segway Tours of Jacksonville had a wonderful tour of Ft. George Island and Kingsley Plantation that turned out to be such a fun day and a unique way to explore the island off the beaten path. We joined a couple of other families and had a group segway lesson learning how to operate, steer, and stop our vehicles on a practice field with traffic cones. (I almost flunked out and got placed at the back of the line with someone to watch over me!) Anyone who knows me well, knows that I have issues with balance. Unfortunately for me, riding a segway is all about balance and I am lucky that I did not end up in the ocean, a swamp or a ditch! When all was said and done – I must say that I did quite well. 🙂

These segways were specialized vehicles with huge all-terrain tires that certainly came in handy later when we traversed the roots, logs, rocks, sandy hills, and “jungle” type trails we explored.  We wore ear pieces under our helmets and our leader was miked to communicate with us. He was most informative and relayed interesting facts about the area and the history of the island as we rode along. He also pointed out local plants and wildlife we came across on the trail. We rode single file through dense forests and dodged Spanish moss hanging from branches. We saw tortoises, butterflies, gorgeous flowers, sea birds and spiders. We came across a baby tortoise crossing our trail. We stopped and watched a gopher tortoise furiously burrowing into the sand. We ventured to Kingsley Plantation where we rode past the slave quarters, each formed by hand and decorated with sea shells. We took a break off the segways to explore the plantation house, the surrounding buildings, barn, gardens, and the waterfront where porpoises were playing close to shore. I highly suggest this tour for anyone, any age. It was a remarkable experience and I am still alive to tell about it! Yay!!


Kingsley Plantation house

Nearing the end of our trip, we explored some of the luxury resorts on the island. We had drinks at the Ritz and booked a massage at the Amelia Island Plantation. The resort hotels and golf courses here were gorgeous and covered lots of prime real estate. All the resorts had private beach property, large pools, playgrounds, bars & restaurants, etc. and were more family oriented. The landscaping and lush floral plant life in this resort area was a sight to behold and everything was meticulously cared for. It was all very beautiful and very expensive!

We spent most mornings in the ocean, had a late lunch in town, then spent the afternoons exploring. The sunsets were beautiful and we spent several evening on the beach (photos below). There was so much to do and I am certain we only scratched the surface of all this area had to offer. You could do as little or as much as you want to do here and have a great time.

This was a most enjoyable trip and I highly recommend visiting Amelia Island for anyone who enjoys the beach, ocean views, quaint restaurants & shops, and a bit of history. We could have found much more to do and more places to explore if we had had more time. We just may have to go back one day…..

 Please feel free to leave comments and let me know of your experiences if you have been to Amelia Island or if you would like to visit. Happy travels!

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