Image uploaded from iOS-10Over the last few months, I’ve been mining memories of past trips to Caribbean locales like Cartagena and Panama City and translating them into curated city guides for Luxury Living International magazine.

In my most recent piece, we sink into the evolving Panama City neighborhood of Casco Viejo to experience the city’s vibrant nightlife scene by roof top. Aim to head to one of these three roof tops during golden hour and plan for a sip of Ron Abuelo or two:

  • Reach for the Sky at These Rooftop Bars in Panama City
    • Excerpt: “Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997, this geographically petite neighborhood vibrates with activity at sunset and often continues into the next morning. With sweeping views of the Downtown skyline and surrounding landmarks, twenty minutes from the city center are these three Casco Viejo roof tops:”

Dreaming of Cartagena? Read my city guide as a thought-starter piece to create your own tropical getaway:

  • Where to eat, drink and stay in Cartagena
    • Excerpt: “The city that played muse to one of Nobel-prize winner Gabriel García Márquez’s most memorable and fantastical novels is having a moment in the fiery Caribbean sun. Top ranks on must-visit lists, nonstop service from the U.S. to Rafael Núñez International airport and an impressive dining scene have fanned the flames of the Colombian jewel’s rise from local holiday spot to global destination darling.”

In other news, today is my long-awaited interview for Global Entry status. I am hoping all goes well so that I may breeze through international airports during my upcoming trip to Europe next month. As I type this, I realize that the word breeze may be a bit optimistic, but hey anything to make long-haul travel more comfortable is worth trying in my book.

Last weekend, friend and travel content collaborator Alina (of ARose Travels) and I took a mini-jaunt to Anza Borrego State Park to see the #SuperBloom. Here’s a few photos from the trip; I even got to prance around in front of her camera in the name of creativity:

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Super Bloom in full effect at Anza Borrego State Park (Photo: Alina Mendoza)

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(Photo: Alina Mendoza)

Find more photos from the weekend on Instagram:

 

My earliest memories of Caesar Salad involved family nights out at Duke’s, which, during my youth only had a few locations open in Hawaii. During the occasional family night out, my parents would almost always order the Caesar Salad, which came with a thin slice of cheesy garlic bread and a fillet of grilled Mahi.

At home in Kapaa, side salads swam in Caesar dressing as roughly cut tomatoes and herbed croutons floated among the greens. When the Costco finally opened up on Kaua’i, holiday breaks back home during college on the Mainland usually included a trip to the food court where I’d chase a $1.50 hot dog and fountain drink with a Caesar Salad. The portion was, as with most of Costco’s merchandise excessive; the salad was big enough to feed me three times over.

While they may not be the healthiest of food memories, Caesar Salad reminds me of family time in the islands.

Today, where I now call San Diego home I forego croutons in favor of nutritionally dense toppings like the diced avocado and sliced apple that Candice Kumai’s recipe calls for –with one exception, Rare Form’s Butternut Squash and Kale Salad; a go-to lunch spot on the rare occasion I make it Downtown. While the item was still on the menu, they adorned their salad with freshly warm, buttery croutons that killed any desire to top my salads with the store bought stuff moving forward.

As for the Caesar Salad, I prefer to make it at home and enjoy putting different twists on the classic recipe, like this recipe from my friend Jill Haapaniemi, a food photographer and recipe developer based in Melbourne.

In her version, Jill lightens up the dressing with greek yogurt and tops with soft to medium-boiled eggs for a bit of satiating protein.

Enjoy!

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(Photo: Jill Haapaniemi)

CAESAR SALAD

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Roadside, we waited beneath shaded trees to flag down a collectivo bound for Santa Marta. From there, we’d continue to the tiny village of Minca. Eventually, we planned to arrive at Casa Elemento, a thoughtfully constructed hostel perched high enough to boast views of the village, Santa Marta, the surrounding valley and out to the Caribbean.

In Colombia, transportation timetables are approximations. Forget trying to consult Google and talk to a human instead.

“Just wait till the blue and white bus passes by, you will see it,” explained the patient receptionist as we peppered her with questions. 

It took a few attempts on a spotty phone connection to confirm our spontaneous reservation with Casa Elemento.

Skeptically equipped with directions, we checked out of our dreamy cabana at Costeño, squinted into the sun and hoped for the best.
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