Archives for category: Passing Through
Downtown Nashville skyline.

This year, I’ve made it a goal to focus on exploring more ways to illuminate destinations from across the country. Though I’ll never not jump on an opportunity to write at length about Portugal––my trans-Atlantic fave––recent efforts are going well. In January I flew to Nashville as a guest of Hutton Hotel to preview its new songwriters retreats. Songwriters retreats will launch summer 2019 and offer budding musicians an intimate opportunity to receive mentoring from top industry professionals, and maybe even record a demo, if that’s what you want.

Nashville Hotels Are Ambassadors of Music

Musical banter and manifestation take place over several days in one of Hutton’s writers studios. There are two, and each is kitted out by names you might recognize. The warm, Southwestern-inspired studio with guitars hanging from the wall is partly designed by country music singer and songwriter Dierks Bentley––an homage to Bentley’s Arizona roots. The other studio sports a extra long leather couch that swallows you up on contact, and feels like a modern, urban loft thanks to One Republic frontman Ryan Tedder’s influence. The writers studios, which launched in 2018 has already hosted some star-studded names; “The Middle,” that dance pop earworm by Zedd, Maren Morris and Grey was partly recorded at Hutton.

And while songwriting workshops, seminars and retreats are offered elsewhere in Nashville, that a hotel is equipped with the space, equipment and experts needed to produce this type of experience is unique. But this is Music City after all, so it makes sense for the hospitality industry to tap into something that permeates every corner of town. Which is why it’s no surprise that Hutton Hotel also sports Analog. Its own live performance venue was transformed out of a former parking garage and is draped in jewel tones, features a stage situated lower than most to create accessible performances at eye-level, and a full bar for most imbibing whims.

Cambria Nashville Downtown and Dream hotels have dedicated performance venues too.

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Pineapple 🍕 + Nduja… ‘nuff said

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Outside the writers studios, there is food, of course. Over a few days, there is dinner at Folk for seamless service––the kind where every dining need is anticipated; another glass of wine, an extra spoon, a gracious explanation of a sunchoke––and a pineapple pizza I can’t believe I eat and wholly enjoy because I do not believe in cooked fruit (yes, pies are…difficult). There is also Hattie B’s banana pudding, which must be––after sampling what is probably the entire menu––its ringer.

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Nillaaaaaaaa Pudding #HattieBs

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Evenings manifest in two terribly entertaining outings. The first is Big Beer-only karaoke bar (trailer?) Santa’s Pub. The cigarette smoke is thick and jarring (hi, I live in California) and the heavily graffitied bathrooms make interesting reading material while you wash your hands. I also love the tall, young man who does what I wish I could do but don’t because sometimes I’m paralyzed by social norms: drink beer from a straw. The other unforgettable experience happened later that evening, but by then I am several beverages in so it is the beginning of a new day when we enter the sparsely populated, boogie-inducing cardio party of Motown Monday night at The 5 Spot. A quick internet search surfaces The Office in San Diego’s North Park neighborhood offers Motown music on Mondays, so maybe I’ll keep that in my back pocket in the event I want to relive the evening closer to home.

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My introduction to Honolulu’s Kaka’ako neighborhood was hard and fast, and I liked it. On arrival, I was immediately ushered into cocktail-centric and appropriately named Bevy to clink Lilikoi-whiskey cocktails and other fruity concoctions––like, within a half hour of landing. I smelled like airplane and my hair had already begun to frizz from the island humidity. I didn’t care. I was surrounded by family, new friends, good drinks and the island intonation I hadn’t heard in nearly two years––and easily slipped back into during the seven days I was home.


Kaka’ako is trendy yet local; friendly, inviting and casual. It is the island lifestyle elevated, yet it seems the fun I had while visiting is just the beginning of a 15-20 year plan to revitalize the area, according to Our Kaka’ako. Backed by Kamehameha Schools, the intent for a walkable, live, work, play environment with ample green space is already evident in the handful of small eateries and watering holes that dot the cross streets of Ala Moana Boulevard.

A pint at Honolulu Beerworks.

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Lebanese food in Brussels

Given the strength of Europe’s obvious culinary powerhouses like Paris and Barcelona (and practically the entire country of Italy, it seems), Brussels may not immediately jump to mind as a foodie destination. But, there’s more to the city’s food scene than Belgian (not French! As is the common refrain in the city) frites and waffles, as I learned during a recent trip with Visit Brussels.

Case in point, the Lebanese feast we tore through in the Ixelles neighborhood that was one of the most memorable meals of the brief, four-day visit. Think creamy hummus, beets, greens and yogurt-based condiments to drizzle or dollop over it all. Don’t forget the pita, and generous pours of Lebanese wine (my first taste).

Eat, converse, imbibe, repeat. It was glorious. And then the meat course came, and for that I was…not prepared. I should have slowed my roll with the hummus!

And yet, the smell of perfectly charred meat––chicken, lamb, whatever––is painful to resist.

Other culinary moments included stopping for Pasteis de Nata (yes, more than one) in between Art Deco and Art Nouveau tours, amusing myself over Brussels’ “Perfect Egg” dish obsession (like the city’s avocado toast, it seemed like the appetizer was everywhere) and stumbling into chocolate mousse by the scoop near Grand Place, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

You can’t go to Brussels and not have chocolate.

In short, would return, highly recommend and next time, I’m hitting up some of these dishes.

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