Category: Travel Edition

Salgueiro Samba School in Rio de Janeiro (2014)

In August 2014, I visited the Salgueiro Samba School (Academicos do Salgueiro) for their weekly public rehearsal (ensaio), which basically turns into a big party! It was an amazing experience. That night I made new memories and new friends.

While we got there before 11pm, the show doesn’t really kick off until 1am. There was live pagode music, followed by a mini parade through the quadra set to the most recent carnaval enredo. From what I understand, there is a passista show after the parade. Those are the videos that I love to watch online. This is apparently when the party really starts. They go all night! I can’t wait to return so that I can experience this portion of the party. But I enjoyed what I experienced.

I filmed as much as I could while still staying in the moment. And upon my return to the US, the first thing I did was splice all the footage together to an amazing song about Salgueiro. Below is an abridged version of the original video.

I’m annoyed and flattered by all the people who have posted the original video as their own. So, thanks and you’re welcome. LOL. #watermarkednow

TIP: Take a nap before you head out and wear cute but comfortable shoes. Even my comfortable heels hurt after standing on the concrete for 3 hours. And if you’re a person who sweats, take a rag. Its one of those types of parties!

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Safety Tips for Travel to Rio de Janeiro

Praia Leme Aug 2014

Rio de Janeiro has a reputation for being a dangerous city. There are steps you can take to increase your changes of staying safe. |DineWithDani

Before I went to Rio de Janeiro for the first time, just after the World Cup, many people warned me about the dangers of traveling there. I was told all about the “street kids” who will rob you blind and the cab drivers who will rip you off.

Recently, a video surfaced of street kids picking pockets and snatching items from random passersby. It has a lot of people rattled. Admittedly, I was taken aback as well because all 27 incidents happened at the same intersection.

I’m grateful that founder and editor of Brazil Magazine, Bruce Jones, and Miriam Silva of Sweaty Sexy Samba, personally gave me some safety tips that I want to share with you.

Carry a copy of your passport. You don’t need to walk around with your passport. Unless you’re dealing in banks, you probably won’t need actual ID all day. To get into the clubs, the copy will suffice. And of course if you’re robbed, you won’t have lost your most valuable asset.

Invest in a money belt. Money belts are basically fanny packs you wear under your pants or an actual belt with a secret compartment. This is a way for you to store emergency cash, cards and identification in case you are robbed. The trick is to NOT go into the money belt in public. Only do so in a restroom if you must.

money belt options

Avoid the city bus and the train if possible. Your chance of being robbed increase on the bus. There are comedy sketches on youtube and Brazilian TV about it. Cabs, walking in your neighborhood or taking the metro to your destination are preferable. The metro and the train are different. The metro goes through a lot of the popular areas in Rio. The train will take you to the west zone and north zone—poorer suburbs compared to the south zone, which include copacabana and ipanema.

Walk on the beach side of the road. If you want to walk along Avenida Atlantica (the beach road in Copacabana), or any beach road– be sure you walk on the beach side. If you walk on the city side, it is very easy for someone to rob you and disappear down an alley.

Don’t use your smart phone on the street. If you need to look something up, map your location, etc.—do NOT do so while walking the streets. Duck into a store (not just the entry way) to use your phone. Keep your phone in your front pocket or purse.

Don’t carry a lot in public. Large backpacks, big shoulder bag purses, lots of jewelry, big wallets, loads of electronic devices—all of these things can make you a target. If you’re doing video, have an entourage to keep watch.

 

Don’t give cash to the street kids. I know this sounds heartless, but you kind of open yourself up to being robbed later. If you give cash to one (or two), they may come back with their friends to rob you later because they know you have cash.

Beach kiosk/barraco workers are good resources. Along the beach road in Copacabana and Ipanema, there are covered kiosks where you can buy food and drinks. In the sand, you’ll find a tent pitched that rents chairs and umbrellas to beachgoers– those are the barracos. Typically, the workers speak decent English and are on the beach all day every day. They can be a wealth of information. And if they aren’t in on the petty theivery, they are witness to them and can help you avoid bad situations. PS– don’t eat at the kiosks. Just drink.

Stylized and standardized Kiosk named "Posto 6" with restaurant and bar at Copacabana beach sidewalk. The promenade is a pavement landscape in large scale ( 4 kilometres long ) having a black and white Portuguese pavement design by Roberto Burle Marx, a geometric wave. Sugar Loaf mountain in background.

Don’t chase your robber. Your pocket can be picked at any time of day. And the strangers around you are not likely to help. In fact, they will get out of the way and keep moving. If you chase the robber, you may find yourself alone somewhere.

Don’t expect the military police to help. The police are everywhere in Rio, but keep in mind they are not there to help you. Do not talk to them, do not take pictures of them, just ignore them—like the Brazilians. There are Tourist Police in Rio, but you may not see them as frequently as you like.

Keep a small amount of cash in your front pocket. If you are robbed, you can hand this to robber and say that’s all you have. If you open a wallet or purse–they will take the whole thing.

favelaKnow where you’re going. There are neighborhoods that one should not enter without a Brazilian friend or guide. Some people will say to avoid the favelas all together, but I personally had a great experience in Rocinha. It was a guided walking tour– not a safari trip on truck. I won’t pretend that all favelas are created equal. So just make sure you’re aware of your destination and surroundings.

Petty crime is almost inevitable in a country where the wealth disparity is staggering and virtually ignored by the government. Keeping these things in mind, can decrease your chances of victimization. And none of these tips should impede upon you having a fun time in the marvelous city.

rio safety

Where To Eat in Miami

I recently traveled to Florida to celebrate my birthday. I checked out a few spots based on recommendations of TV personalities, friends and locals. Here is my round up of faves. Check them out when you’re there.

Boteco
IMG_2365[1]Legit, the most Carioca place I’ve ever been in the U.S. I’ve been to Brazilian spots in Atlanta, DC, Los Angeles and New York. This was very special. I only wish I had my samba sisters with me. The DJ played all of my faves from Timbalada to Zeca Pagodinho. And the live band played all the latest and greatest in pagode. We went on Saturday (my actual birthday) which is their weekly feijoada (a dinner centered around black bean stew). The caipirinhas were on point, the food was delicious, the atmosphere was lively and colorful. It was a great time.
DineWithDani recommends: The caipirinhas are perfect.
Boteco Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

La Camoronera Seafood Joint & Fish Market
This spot is tucked in Little Havana, which is not exactly a neighborhood that most tourists venture to. I didn’t feel unsafe when I got there, but we did drive through some areas that looked bombed out, abandoned and forgotten. The restaurant is small, but the service is fast and pleasant. Locals know and respect this place with good reason.
DineWithDani recommends: Anything involving shrimp is the reason you go. Period. 
La Camaronera Seafood Joint & Fish Market Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Rusty Pelican
IMG_2364[1]This is a classic upscale seafood restaurant. Every Floridian knows, has been or recommends this place. Located on Key Biscayne, it offers a stellar waterfront view of Downtown Miami. The menu hits all the marks: oyster, lobsters, fresh fish and delicious sides. This was a surprise dinner for me and it didn’t disappoint. Tip: Sit outside at night and enjoy the view. Its very romantic. The couple across from us couldn’t stop making out. They felt it! You will too.
DineWithDani recommends: The oysters and lobsters are actually not over priced.

Rusty Pelican Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Flanigans Seafood Bar
This spot may be the opposite of the Rusty Pelican– a local chain of hole-in-the wall bars serving up seafood classics. One thing I noticed: almost nothing on the menu is fried. But you can get a whole fish with two sides for a nominal price. You’ll find lots of beers to choose from, a full bar and loads of TVs tuned to sports. This is paradise for my man. Beer, sports, seafood, flip-flops-level casual attire and loud music. No wonder he was excited to show me this spot.
DineWithDani recommends: The clam chowder surprised me, as did the shrimp alfredo and smoked fish dip!
Flanigan's Seafood Bar & Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Yardbird Southern Table & Bar
IMG_2363[1]This southern restaurant in South Beach rivals some of the top spots in Atlanta. The server (who was from Atlanta) said they were known for their Chicken & Waffles & Watermelon. Girl, what? I mentally moved past the addition of watermelon and ordered the entree which is meant to be shared. It was perfection. The music is retro. The cocktails are hand crafted and strong. And the guests are a hodgepodge of locals, tourists, celebrities and notables. I sat next to someone from the cast of Empire (who was on a date). That’s all I’m going to say. LOL. The tables are so tight together, however, that I could have eaten off their plates. But instead I talked to the couples on the other side of me about all kinds of shenanigans and we shut the restaurant down with raucous laughter. All in all one of my favorite nights in Miami. I can’t wait to go back.
DineWithDani recommends: Obviously the Chicken & Waffles and & Watermelon are worth ordering, but also the charred okra is a great addition.
Yardbird Southern Table & Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

A Touch of Cuba
On our last day, we went on an adventure looking for something obscure I’d heard about. This worked up an appetite and we thought back to the Cuban spot that looked packed out at 9am. Around 11am we stopped there for an early lunch. This teeny spot in Hallandale serves Cuban classics with a smile. And much like the rest of Hallendale: no muss, no fuss. And it’s all good in the hood.
DineWithDani recommends: The coffee. I’d never go to starbucks again if I lived near this place.
A Touch of Cuba Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Visit the “Vineyard in the City” through June 2016

by Christopher A. Daniel (@journalistorian)

courtesy in Atlanta Food & Wine Festival
photo by Christopher A. Daniel

A selected group of us foodies, media and influencers were invited out for a glimpse of Atlanta Food and Wine Festival’s (#AFWF16) “Vineyard in the City” the day prior (Jun. 2) to the culinary extravaganza’s official activities. Located directly across the street from the Four Seasons Hotel in Midtown, the four-acre plot is the country’s first ever pop-up vineyard.

The weather couldn’t have been more beautiful…until it started to rain once the event ended. Still, the vineyard’s pastoral landscape is garnished with bushels of sungrown grapes dangling everywhere. In the midst of the grape patches sit a wildfire tupelo, an Athena classic elm tree, a Japanese maple tree and quite a few Silver Date palm trees. On the top of the hill sits a really cool, Keith Haring-inspired mural as part of an “Art in the Vineyard” program.

The groundbreaking vineyard itself has a beautiful, countryside ambiance. As guests made their way down the path leading into the vast green space, everyone sipped on refreshing glasses of chilled Villa Sandi prosecco. The first stop on the tour had thin slices of country ham that cured for the last two years. David Bancroft from Acre Restaurant in Auburn, AL flipped between shaving the rose-colored meat and convincing us to try some ham fat whiskey pickling in a Mason jar.

courtesy of Atlanta Food & Wine Festival
Photo by Christopher A. Daniel

Stepping down a small flight of ascending grassy stairs, Chef Todd Richards from downtown Atlanta’s White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails unveiled some samples from his upcoming eatery (Jun. 15 precisely) located inside of Krog Street Market, Richards’ Southern Fried Chicken. He introduced everyone to his scarlet-hued hot fried chicken and its sibling golden brown classic fried chicken.

Considering I was the first one to sample (which I typically unapologetically am), I was totally blown away by the marriage of seasonings that actually take awhile to set it. It’s a nice mesh of ginger, garlic, curry and onion powder among others that explodes on the tongue upon chewing and swallowing. Adding onto the sensation of the Southern staple is Chef Richards’ bourbon hot sauce. Needless to say, I made countless trips to his table until all of the white meat had disappeared because that sauce was winning!

WP_20160602_14_03_06_Pro (1)
photo by Christopher A. Daniel

Adjacent to Richards’ table sat Chef Gerry Klaskala’s vegetable casserole. At first sight, it appeared to resemble a broccoli casserole. Chewing and tasting was a different story. I appreciated how the casserole totally resembled potatoes-au-gratin, one of my all-time favorite side dishes. However, I couldn’t stop making trips to Richards’ fried chicken table even though I had two servings of Chef Klaskala’s dishes.

Anyhow, the Vineyard is here in Atlanta throughout the month of June. #AFWF16 will host a series of master classes and signature events there. Every Tuesday and Thursday will host arts programming, but it’s quite a nice atmosphere for enjoying a light lunch outside or tranquil enough to enjoy a romantic, brisk walk with that special someone.

Christopher A. Daniel is an Atlanta-based journalist, cultural critic, historian, ethnomusicologist, and public intellectual. His work is primarily published digitally on The Burton Wire, where he is site’s music and pop culture editor. He’s also a frequent contributor to Albumism.com and soulhead.com. His work and passion for diversity and multiculturalism have been recognized by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), and NewsOne.com. Christopher was also awarded a Community Journalism Fellowship for the U.S. Consulate’s Office of Rio de Janeiro, where he traveled to Salvador, Bahia.

Cocktails| The Bitter Truth About Bitters

The Bitter Truth Cocktail Bitters Traveler's Set
The Bitter Truth Cocktail Bitters Traveler's Set
The Bitter Truth Cocktail Bitters Traveler’s Set

Bitters are an important ingredient for any true bartender or cocktail aficionado, with an interesting history. 

I have to admit that for years I had no idea what “bitters” were. I would see the word in cocktail ingredients list and shrug it off. 

I also didn’t know that there were so many different types of bitters. I only ever saw angostura bitters and orange bitters on the shelf at the grocery store. So you can imagine my surprise when I started talking to “mixologists” about why they used bitters in drinks. 

So for those of you who don’t know:

What are bitters? Bitters are literally liquid extracts of herbs, seeds, barks, roots, rinds, flowers and leaves. .

What do bitters do? Bitters were historically used by apothecaries to aid in digestion among other things. Today they are used to add very specific flavors and to add amazing smells that bringing out mild, unique flavors in your cocktails.

Can I use bitters at home? If you want to upgrade your home bar, you should absolutely include at least two different types of bitters. You’ll seriously really impress your friends with your extensive home bar if you include these key ingredients.

Where do I start? Purchase The Bitter Truth Traveler. This set includes five different flavor bitters in a cool box. As an added bonus, this set is TSA regulation for in-flight carry-on bags! And from my personal experience, since you only need a few dashes per drink, this kit will last you a long time! 

Thank you for purchasing your bitters starter kit using the link below. It helps to keep this blog up and running. I appreciate your support!

For more information about the kit click here

 

 

Get Your Passport… It Is Time For Your First International Trip!

from the monitor on the plane
from the monitor on the plane

GET YOUR PASSPORT! IT IS TIME FOR YOUR FIRST INTERNATIONAL TRIP!!!

So you’re ready to take your first international trip? I went to mexico at 17, the same year as 9/11 (don’t do the math) and I didn’t need a passport– just parental permission. But now, a passport is needed to leave the U.S. period. And my passport never saw a stamp until 2014. I held on to it for years. And I was so proud and cheesing from ear to ear when the Brazilian government official stamped my passport and said “bem-vindo”. Actually i think he said “welcome”, but whatever.

If you don’t know where to start for your first international trip, I’ve got ten steps for you!

  1. Get a passport. I know that may seem like common sense, but you won’t believe how many people say they want to go to London or France or Japan, but they never take the first step to invest in a passport. In the grand scheme of travel expenses, its probably one of the best and cheapest investments you’ll make. $135 + cost of photo. PS- don’t expect your photo to be good.
  2. Pick a Country (and maybe a city). If you’re like me and lust after everything on the travel channel or inside national geographic, the choice could prove difficult. So for this I say follow your heart and go big. If your heart is torn, talk to friends and family, or whoever you intend to travel with. Actually, finding a travel companion can be harder than picking a location.
  3. Do Your Research. Common questions to have answered early that could change your decision: What language(s) do they speak? What kind of food can you expect? What are some local customs? When is the best time to travel? What’s the weather like? Does my church or alma mater offer group travel with excursions? How much is average for airfare and accommodations? Do I know anyone who has been? Do I know anyone who lives or lived there? Does our government discourage or regulate travel to this place? Does it require an entry visa in advance of travel?
  4. Apply for a Visa. Not all countries require an entry visa, but that should be part of your research. Is a visa required? How much does it cost? How long does it take to approve? How long is it valid? What are the requirements for approval? Some countries will give you the visa when you get there (aka the stamp in your passport) but others require advanced application. For Brazil, the process of gathering materials for the application and awaiting the response made me kind of anxious. It was all worth it.
  5. Book Airfare. Some visa applications require you to have your airfare already booked. And if you don’t need a visa, book it as far in advance as is feasible for you. Consider your financial, personal, social and professional obligations at this time.
  6. Book Accommodations. In your research, you already found out what prices were common, but you should remember that hotels are not your only option. Airbnb is blowing up. Hostels are getting better and better. And truthfully, depending on how exotic or remote your chosen location, those may not even be options. So be open minded.
  7. Make a List of Activities. When you pay the premium to travel internationally, staying in your hotel or laying on the beach all day probably isn’t the best use of your time. Go see something historic. Go do something philanthropic. Go learn something new. Your vacation will be better for it. And if it goes badly, at the very least you’ll have an interesting vacation story. But just keep in mind the cultural customs and try not to piss off the locals.
  8. Don’t Piss Off the Locals. Travel blogs, books and more can give you the do’s and don’t for nearly wherever you want to go. If the city you want to visit expects one to dress modestly, do that. If the city you’re visiting is one where people smile and say hello to strangers, try that. Most importantly: if they speak another language and you hit a wall of communication do not, DO NOT yell in english at the locals expecting them to understand.
  9. Prepare for the Expected. There are a few things that will keep coming up in your research, like the suggestions to learn to say a few phrases. If you leave your hotel, you’ll need them. And avoid high exchange rates by exchanging your money at your bank before you leave. Speaking of money, a flesh tone money belt to wear under your clothes may not be a bad idea– just don’t open it on the street. Again, most of the “common sense” international travel tips will come up in your research.
  10. Embrace the Unexpected. Some people say to prepare for the unexpected. That oxymoron doesn’t fit with international travel. No matter how much research you do, you’ll never be prepared for everything that comes your way. So just do your best to go with the flow. You’re on vacation now!

Beer Dinner at the Hyatt Regency Orlando

I had the pleasure of dining at Fiorenzo Italian Steakhouse at the Hyatt Regency Orlando. The chef’s special menu was paired perfectly with five different brews by New Belgium. Chef Will Walters did amazing job, the hotel staff treated us like royalty and after a great meal, it was nice to go up to a tidy, comfortable room. Enjoy this recap. 

 

 

 

A Summer Sensation in Orlando… Get Your Tix NOW!!

Summer Sensation - Josh ThompsonEvery year my Memorial Day weekends have been a fixed series of events that include the Atlanta Jazz Festival, a family cookout and a day of rest! This year I’ll be deviating from that formula completely by traveling to Florida to attend the Summer Sensation at the Hyatt Regency Orlando!

This year the hotel has packaged a holiday weekend stay that includes pool parties with mermaid lessons for the kiddies, an Italian-American barbecue with their acclaimed chef and a concert featuring some of the hottest up and coming country music artists!  On Sunday May 24, Josh Thompson, JT Hodges and Nikki Lane will heat up the night at an outdoor concert on the hotel garden terrace. I’m not the biggest country music fan, but I have to admit after doing my research that these acts are pretty good. And I wouldn’t be surprised if we started hearing their names everywhere!

I love to travel, so the opportunity to check out a a new city and hotel is always a thrill. Although I’ve been to Orlando, I rarely stay in a hotel there. So I’m excited to see what the Hyatt Regency Orlando is bringing to the table. You all know that I’m a bit of a hotel snob. I look for comfort (that includes cleanliness and ambiance), style (well designed with nice fixtures) and service (room service and more from a friendly accommodating staff). Of course value matters, but that is subjective in each city. I’ll let you guys know if they bring it!

Anyway, what I’m most excited about is the food! Is that bad? The reviews of Chef Will Walters are pretty impressive. So I hope he’s given free reign to get dowwwn(!) at this barbecue– my mouth waters just thinking about what it could be. I love Italian food. And as a southern girl, barbecue is in my blood (low country style of course). So I’m curious to see what he comes up with!!!

I don’t have any little ones, so I’m a little jealous that I can’t attend Mermaid Academy in the grotto pool, but I’ll survive as long as I can hang poolside for a little while. I’m really anxious for summer at this point!

Anyway, facebook me or tweet me @DineWithDani if you’re (going to be) in Orlando for Memorial Day! And let me know if you’re coming the Summer Sensation! Its going to be a good weekend! Click here for tickets!!

Rio de Janeiro… Salgueiro Samba School

This is the first in a series of posts related to my recent trip to Rio de Janeiro Brazil. It was an amazing experience. And I look forward to sharing it with you all.

On August 16, 2014, I had the opportunity to visit the popular Samba School Salgueiro in Rio de Janeiro with friends. It was so much fun! The music, the dancing, the pageantry, the drinks, the food, the people… All of that together nearly sent me into sensory overload.I hope you all enjoy this extended compilation of clips!

For other images and information about my trip, be sure to like the page on Facebook!

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