Travel Expert and Radio Talk Show Host Stephanie Abrams - Travelers411 Travel Radio Shownotes - December 03, 2011
"Travelers411" Radio Show - December 03, 2011
Fish and Chips at Nick's Restaurant in Pacifica, California Getting Ready for Club Med in Ixtapa, Mexico Plus Stephanie's Restaurant Recommendations for San Francisco and Nearby Areas in Italian Cuisine and Homestyle Cooking; Courtney Conlon Tells All About The Exciting Outdoor Attractions of Relaxing, Beachfront Pacifica, California; Sampling Delicious Crab in Pacifica at Family Owned Nick's Rockaway Restaurant; Stephanie's Tried and Tested Picks for Asian Cuisine in San Francisco and San Jose.

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Hour 1

Topics Include:

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News and Updates from Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams broadcasts live from the Aeromexico VIP Premier Lounge at the Mexico City airport. She is on layover en route to Ixtapa, Mexico from San Francisco. The VIP lounge is for first class passengers or members of the airline's lounge club. In Stephanie's case, she has a membership with Priority Pass, which gives access to over six hundred airport lounges worldwide. Often, even if you're traveling as a first class passenger, some airlines don't give automatic access to their airport lounge unless a traveler is a member of their lounge club. Stephanie finds this odd, and says that most international carriers will give lounge access to business and first class passengers. Some airlines even have two separate lounges for the two different classes. She recommends that travelers look into day passes or the Priority Pass program, calling lounges "a little oasis of sanity" for frequent travelers.

Travelers411 Community Forums - This interview's thread:
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?p=14289


In Mexico, Stephanie will be staying at a Club Med resort. She explains that there are Club Med Villages all over the world, but if listeners would like to first get a taste of the "unique, unusual, all-inclusive nature" of Club Med in the United States, they can go to Sandpiper Bay Club Med Village in Port St. Lucie, Florida . The closest airport is West Palm Beach, and there are also frequent flights into Fort Lauderdale and Miami but keep in mind that these are two and a half to three hour drives away and require car rentals.

Stephanie is just coming from twelve days in California, where she stayed at the Kabuki Hotel in Japantown as well as the Fairmont San Francisco both of which she highly recommends. She says the hotel has a beautiful design and decor that really evokes the history and culture of the region. While in the area, she did some interviews that visitors will hear later on today's show, as well as her restaurant recommendations for wonderful places to eat in San Francisco and nearby areas. Stephanie also visited Napa Valley and Sonoma, including stops at the region's famous wineries, which she calls "amazing" and says are like taking a trip to Europe in a day. For another nice getaway, she recommends making the short drive to Pacifica, where you'll "think you're in another world." She likens it to Montauk Point in Long Island, New York, except much more easily accessible.

"If you enjoy great food, you're going to find it in San Francisco. Like New York City, restaurants can't stay in business unless they're really good." Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams explains. She has recommendations for San Francisco restaurants in a variety of different ethnic food categories, being shared on today's show in the first and third broadcast hours. First up is Italian, and her first pick was discovered during the drive to Sonoma to visit the region's famous wineries. She says that the California wineries reminded her of those in the countryside of France, Germany, and Italy.

Stephanie visited the Castello di Amorosa Winery in Napa Valley, which she calls "sensational" and says that it is not to be missed. Getting there, she drove along California Route 12, also called the Sonoma Highway. Stephanie shares that "just about every vineyard" can be found along this road. She stopped for a bite in a restaurant along the highway called Mary's Pizza, about a mile to a mile and a half from the Fairmont Mission Inn in Sonoma. She reports that Mary's is reasonably priced and places an emphasis on wholesome product and foods. She says that it's not just a pizza place, but is an "experience", adding that some places don't know what a real pizza is, but promises that Mary's does. In addition to the outstanding food and service, she said that after asking their waitress if they were on the right track to visit the Castello di Amorosa, she brought them a printout of a map and directions and went over it with them to make sure they knew their way. She says this is not something you often see and she appreciated the extra care and service.

Another Italian pick is Scoma's, on Pier 47 of Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. It's located near the Musee Mechanique where portions of the movie "The Princess Diaries" was filmed. The museum features antique arcade games, player pianos, and stereoptic toys and trinkets from the late 1800s and early 1900s. Stephanie promises that "whatever you order, you're gonna love it", but be careful how much you order because the portions are enormous. She reminds that when you're traveling, it's more difficult to box food up and take it with you for later. Some hotels charge just for opening the refrigerated mini bar in the room, and if you lift out items in the front to see what's stocked in the back, an electronic reading mini bar will assume something has been removed and charge it on your bill.

Next Stephanie recommends Gaspare's Pizza House, on Geary Boulevard between 19th and 20th in San Francisco. She says the pizza is fabulous, and the sandwiches were a pleasant surprise too. She had a meatball parmesan sandwich (hoagie, grinder, sub, hero - depending on which part of the United States you're listening from!) and found that it was made on sourdough instead of Italian bread, adding a surprising and great taste.

Moving to a different dining category, Stephanie says that for those times when you really want foods like meatloaf, fried chicken, and macaroni and cheese, she can provide some restaurant suggestions for the craving! First up, she recommends Tommy's Joynt at 1101 Geary Boulevard in San Francisco. The restaurant is set up cafeteria style, and customers stand in a line and select from different hot dishes, sides, salads, soups, and desserts. She calls it "very reasonably priced" and thus good for balancing out and economizing if you've had pricier meals during your trip. Visitors can expect a very down home cooking style, with long, family style tables and a few booths. A bonus to the location is that across the street and a short walk to the right is a historic bank building, the inside of which is done in tile and wood work makes you think you're somewhere in Seville or Granada, Spain. It's now the large multiplex AMC Van Ness theater with stadium seating. She recommends dinner at Tommy's Joynt followed by a movie here.

Travelers411 Community Forums - This interview's thread:
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?p=14290


For more home cooking style comfort food, Stephanie recommends another San Francisco eatery called the Hard Knox Cafe at 2526 3rd Street. She shares that she enjoyed their fried chicken and macaroni and cheese. Also on her list for good homestyle cooking is Mel's Drive-In. Stephanie says that it has a fun atmosphere and decor, done in a retro "American Graffiti" 1950s style. It's moderately priced and "you don't have to worry about getting dressed up to go". Mel's has several locations, including Geary Boulevard, Mission Street, Lumbard Street, and Van Ness Avenue. Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams also enjoyed dining at a German restaurant called Soupekuche on Laguna Street. She says they serve the best wiener schnitzel she's had outside of Germany and Austria, and the atmosphere is very comfortably Alpine.

For French cuisine, she recommends a bistro called Chapeau! The word "chapeau" means hat in French, and the restaurant's name comes from a French saying for when something is done well; similar to the English language saying of "I tip my hat to you". In French, one can just say, "Chapeau!" Stephanie describes the bistro as "very chic and trendy" and shares that it's not outrageously priced although not entirely inexpensive. Overall she cites it as providing "a wonderful French experience". It's located at 126 Clement Street in downtown San Francisco.

Lastly, Stephanie recommends Nick's Rockaway Cafe which is right on the beach in Pacifica, California. She recommends making sure that you get the crab sandwich but cautions that it's huge, so be aware that one sandwich will easily feed two people! Much more about Nick's can be heard in the third hour of today's broadcast.

Travelers411 Community Forums - This interview's thread:
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?p=14291


Travel Tips:

Stephanie wrote more about her restaurant recommendations in San Francisco and surrounding areas on her blog.

Guests should be aware of the high mini bar prices, and if it's an electronic one that records the device being opened and items removed (like when making room for leftovers) and the items then show up on your bill, she says the staff can check that you didn't actually use anything and remove the item from your bill.

Hour 2

Topics Include:

Link to this segment

Courtney Conlon, CEO, Pacifica Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center, Pacifica, California, USA.
www.pacificachamber.com

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams notes that frequently travelers in a foreign country will follow one set route and visit several cities or spots along the way. She hypothesizes that 80% of the people will go to 20% of the destinations in a given country. She feels that the same is true for California, as visitors tend to gravitate towards major cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles, but miss out on other very worthwhile destinations. One of these is the city of Pacifica, a ten to fifteen minute drive from San Francisco, "so how can you miss it?" Stephanie sensibly asks. To better enlighten listeners about the city, she welcomes Courtney Conlon, CEO of the Pacifica Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center in Pacifica, California to the show.

Courtney has lived in Pacifica for thirty-three years, having been born and raised in San Francisco. She says that Pacifica is worlds away from what she knew growing up in an urban center. Stephanie agrees, adding that she was "wowed" at the Best Western Plus Lighthouse Hotel, which offers picturesque beachfront views. Courtney feels that the community itself plays a big role in making Pacifica special. The city stretches six miles along the coast, and has nine different residential and business districts. "We come with a plethora of outdoor activities," she explains. Among these are hiking trails located throughout the entire city and three Golden Gate State Parks. These include Milagra Ridge and Sweeney Ridge, a historically significant discovery site during the 18th century from the Mexican up to the Canadian border, and featuring a wonderful hike to the top. Another park is Mori Point which hugs along the coast, and visitors can hike along the levee and golf course which was designed by Alistair Mackenzie, designer of the Pebble Beach golf course in Monterey.

Courtney says that the history alone is a fascinating draw for visitors. Pacifica has the Sanchez Adobe, a history site dating back to the early 18th Century, and the Little Brown Church which is about one hundred and fifty years old. There's also the popular attraction of Sam's Castle. Stephanie is very interested in this and Courtney calls it a "jewel". The castle was designed in 1908 after Sam McCloskey lost his home in the 1906 earthquake. He built the fortress and over the years it's had a colorful past as everything from a speakeasy to a brothel. In the late 1950s, a man named Sam Mazza acquired the castle. He was a film buff and filled the castle with an amazing collection of artifacts and film memorabilia. The castle is now under the direction of a foundation that hosts organized tours throughout the year along with the Pacifica Historical Society, an organization currently working on a restoration of the Little Brown Church.

"You had me at the beach," Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams tells Courtney, referring to how much she liked Pacifica from the start. She asks Courtney what else the city has to entice other tourists. Courtney emphasizes the many outdoor activities available, such as hiking, biking, horseback riding, golfing, and a huge surfing community, great for anyone from novices and beginners on up. They have about six surfing contests annually. There's also a skateboard park and a Segway tour company that takes visitors along the ocean bluffs. "Everything about California adds that kind of heightened awareness of raising of the spirit and raising of the health of the body in everything that you're doing," Stephanie comments in response to a discussion about the interest in physical activities and healthy eating she's witnessed in the state. "It's a great place to restore your soul," she adds. The combination of the closeness of San Francisco with the relaxing oceanside atmosphere of Pacifica is very appealing.

Another outdoor activity is the 1,140 foot long fishing pier. It extends a quarter mile over the water. It's a great spot for salmon and crab fishing. Courtney also mentions that nearby Nick's Rockaway Restaurant is famous for their crab sandwich. Ash's Vallemar Station, right on the highway, is both a historical building and another great source for delicious crab. In Spanish, "pacifica" means peace, so Courtney points out that it's an apt name for the city because the serenity you feel there is enough to make the stresses of the world just melt away. Stephanie wholeheartedly agrees, and encourages listeners to "go and experience life in a grand way". Along this line, she says that there's nothing like a waterfront view and that it's always worth the investment and this should not be an area that travelers skimp on. She also adds that the beach is dog friendly, "and even your dog deserves a vacation!"

Courtney also shares that Pacifica has parasailing with certified instructors, and is completely safe and exciting to experience. Stephanie, not one for this kind of adventure, recommends visiting insuremytrip.com and making sure that you're properly covered for all health related incidences such as not being fit to travel following an overly adventurous vacation! For young adventurers, during the summer there's a surfing camp for children every day, Monday to Friday from 9 - 12 in the morning. It's very popular and allows kids to learn to surf in a safe environment. The more skilled surfers are found in the Rockaway area near the Best Western Plus Lighthouse hotel. Stephanie says that Pacifica is the equivalent of Donegal on the northwest coast of Ireland, thanks to the strong surfing community. Courtney mentions how closely knit the community is, with a relatively small population of 40,000, and adds that there are many people in Pacifica with Irish roots. While discussing the Irish connection, they get to the topic of Greece and Greek roots, and Stephanie mentions her receipt of the Goddess Artemis Award.

On the subject of restaurants, in addition to the crab recommendations, they have a new restaurant opening soon called the Moonraker, housed within the Best Western Plus Lighthouse hotel, making it a convenient pick for travelers. There's also a 1950s style restaurant called Rock'n Rob's, serving great hamburgers and milkshakes, according to Courtney. For shoppers, there's a shopping enclave located in the Rockaway area. Pacifica also has a strong holistic community, Courtney shares. There are yoga companies such as Ocean Yoga and Vision Seaside Spa, plus various massage therapy places. Both Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams and Courtney agree that the atmosphere in Pacifica is one of calm relaxation that fosters and encourages getting in touch with yourself and the outdoors, away from the stresses of everyday life.

Related Photo Galleries:
Coming Soon!

Travelers411 Community Forums - This interview's thread:
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?p=14292

For more information visit www.pacificachamber.com


Fun Facts:

Parking and internet access are free at the Best Western Plus Lighthouse Hotel. Stephanie notes that this is a great deal and you can eat well on what you'd spend on parking for a day in San Francisco.

Pacifica Pier in the Sharp Park area was built in 1973. It's a great spot to take a long walk, enjoy some fishing, or just hang out and relax.


Guests Include:

Courtney Conlon, CEO, Pacifica Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center, Pacifica, California, USA.
www.pacificachamber.com

Hour 3

Topics Include:

Link to this segment

Nick Gust, Owner, Nick's Rockaway Restaurant, Pacifica, California, USA.
www.nicksrestaurant.net

Following her conversation with Courtney Conlon in the last hour, Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams decided to try out one of her dining recommendations in the Rockaway neighborhood of Pacifica, California. Stephanie asserts that as a Maryland girl, she is accustomed to the famous Chesapeake Bay crabs, but felt she had to try the dish that came so highly recommended by Courtney at nearby Nick's Rockaway Restaurant. After the meal, she says that the crab sandwich is marvelous and the eggplant fries are fabulous, especially paired with the gorgeous ocean view. Happy with her experience, she invites restaurant owner Nick Gust to the show.

Nick's family started the business in Pacifica in 1927. He grew up in Daly City and his family moved to the area officially in 1938. He says that when they moved to the area, just called Rockaway at the time, there was very little development in the area. In the summertime, young people would come to the beach and live in tents for the whole summer. "You have seen some incredible changes here," Stephanie comments. Nick shares that he's also been the mayor of Pacifica for four terms, as well as serving on several city committees. Stephanie calls Pacifica "an ideal location for the visitor", since its close proximity to San Francisco allows for the enjoyment of a beach vacation along with experiencing a city. "That's the beauty of it," Nick agrees. He shares that there used to be a walkable road connecting to San Francisco called the Hog Ranch Road, and Stephanie laughs.

"We've still got a long way to go, we're still growing," Nick comments about Pacifica currently. Stephanie adds that the potential in the city for tourism is huge. She even comments that if she comes to San Francisco for business again, she'll opt to stay in Pacifica and make the quick trip to San Francisco for work. She prefers to watch the remarkable sunset from the Best Western Plus Lighthouse hotel in Pacifica. "You'd be a very smart woman to do that," Nick agrees.

"Just being in this restaurant is a mini vacation in itself," Stephanie reports of Nick's Rockaway Restaurant. She suggests that a way to attract more visitors to the area is to offer one of their crab sandwiches, although it may have the effect of making people not want to leave! Because the city is not overrun with tourists, it has a relaxing atmosphere. Nick shares that he feels part of the long term success of his restaurant is that it's always been kept in the family. He's ninety years old but is still at the restaurant seven days a week, and his wife, son, and daughter all work there as well. His son has actually owned the restaurant for the past seven years, so he says he can't take all the credit for the current success. "He's standing on a very nice foundation," Stephanie responds.

Nick has a wonderful and warm philosophy for the restaurant, explaining that when you serve well and offer a good restaurant experience, it's nice to then be able to gain the respect of your customers. Nick's Rockaway Restaurant serves more than just delicious food - they also offer a bar and dancing."If you ever want to have a good time, this is the place to come - Rockaway Beach," he cheerfully concludes.

Nick warmly says that he enjoyed talking with Stephanie and her crew, and she says that the pleasure was all hers and she's happy to have found his family restaurant and become acquainted with Nick. "It's always fun to find a place that you can feel confident and comfortable about sharing with other people and knowing that if they should follow the advice that they've heard here, they'll come away saying, 'I'm so glad we went there!'" she adds.

Related Photo Galleries:
Coming Soon!

Travelers411 Community Forums - This interview's thread:
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?p=14296

For more information visit www.nicksrestaurant.net


Link to this segment

News and Updates from Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams

Radio Host and Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams recounts an incidence of being served a "crab" dish that was actually tuna fish, and adds that many places serve crab that has been significantly diluted with ingredients like potatoes, stuffing, and tuna, that it's hardly crab anymore. This is not the case at Nick's Rockaway Restaurant, where the crab is delicious and the portions are very big - you might even want to split with someone!

Sharing more restaurant recommendations for the San Francisco region, Stephanie mentions The Beach Chalet in Golden Gate Park. She says that the location is delightful. The restaurant provides a view of the Pacific Ocean and Ocean Beach and is gorgeously painted and decorated. Stephanie likens it to Rockefeller Plaza with paintings done by the Works Progress Administration. The look of the paintings inside the restaurant are similar, and gives some historical detail of the area. Diners can choose to eat indoors or out. The atmosphere is casual; no dress-up necessary.

Next, Stephanie has some Asian cuisine recommendations. San Francisco has a lot of choices, in her own words: "If you like Asian food, you're going to lose your mind," First she recommends the Shanghai Dumpling King. It has a very authentic atmosphere; no over the top decorations here. She says that it is very basic in appearance and gives the impression of dining in an authentic Chinese kitchen. They serve sensational dumplings, dim sum, and soups - Stephanie says the food is as good as she's had anywhere in the world, including in Hong Kong. The dishes are very affordable, and she adds that the restaurant is frequented by many Asian locals, so you know you've found a good spot! She heartily recommends trying out the food here.

For Japanese mixed with some Chinese cuisine, plus a little snazzier decoration style but still authentic and delicious food, she recommends a restaurant called Little Tokyo on Geary Boulevard. The interior decorations are beautifully impressive and the food itself is presented "like works of art" worthy of photographs. Stephanie has eaten here several times on several different trips, and can attest that "everything that comes out of their kitchen is over the top fabulous." They also serve sushi in addition to other traditional Japanese dishes.

Her next Asian food recommendation is an hour and a half away in San Jose. It's worth the visit to the city, especially in winter when the city has a Christmas market and ice skating rink for the holiday season. During her trip Stephanie stayed at the Fairmont San Jose, and recommends it as an excellent accommodation property that is also in the heart of the city holiday attractions. Tired and not in the mood to leave the building for dinner, she discovered a restaurant within the hotel called the Pagoda. She admits that she didn't have high expectations for a hotel restaurant, but even if she had, the restaurant would have easily surpassed them. She describes it as absolutely gorgeous inside. The decor is evocative of Chinese hotels. She sampled dishes of wonton soup, beef and asparagus, and Mongolian beef, and calls them "outrageously marvelous". She said that she knew before even asking that the chef was from Hong Kong.

A Szechuan option is a restaurant in San Francisco called Spices! on 7th Ave. and Clement in the Inner Richmond District.. She says if you're into Tex-Mex cuisine, you'll love it. If spicy food isn't your favorite, the menu features a rating scale for each item to give diners an idea of how spicy they can expect each to be. Stephanie herself isn't particularly enamored with spicy food, but she had an excellent mild noodle dish with pork, while her husband tried something much spicier - enough to cause perspiration! She does caution that even if you order dishes that the restaurant classifies as mild, they may come spicier than you're expecting. So for diners very averse to hot food, beware.

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams reminds listeners that it's not necessary to escape to farther destinations like Mexico or Hawaii if you need a warm getaway during the cooler months, because California has so much to offer and remains warm (despite her impression that the locals think it gets chilly!) The outdoor activities available such as hiking, biking, walking, tennis, and golfing are perfect for the weather, and Stephanie says that's "inundated with sunshine." But if you're interested in Mexico, make sure to tune in next week, as Ixtapa, Mexico is Stephanie's next stop!

Travelers411 Community Forums - This interview's thread:
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?p=14297


Travel Tips:

"I think Pacifica is one of those better kept secrets that people need to know about." Radio Host and Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams shares. Only an easy ten to fifteen minute drive from San Francisco, getting away to the peaceful, oceanfront city of Pacifica is a must for travelers!


Guests Include:

Nick Gust, Owner, Nick's Rockaway Restaurant, Pacifica, California, USA.
www.nicksrestaurant.net

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