A few weeks back, I was super excited to get the opportunity to travel to Tampa, FL for business and the chance to escape the frigid NY winter weather. Phew…a very much needed break from 26 º Fahrenheit to 72 º and sunny 🙂 A mani/pedi + bikini wax were required before my departure as I planned to spend some time by the pool between meetings.

I arrived at the Hyatt Tampa Bay in the late afternoon after a rather eventful flight, checked in, and immediately got in my bathing suit and went to the pool.
Oh, what a delight, I thought as I swam my 30 laps which felt amazing.

The Problem:
After my swim, the team decided to get dinner at nearby restaurant so we rendezvoused at the hotel bar for a drink before going to the restaurant. We sat at the bar for about 45 minutes and I noticed that I was really cold. I ran upstairs to get my winter coat and noticed my nose and arms were turning blue with cold. Then I saw that the room AC was on full blast! Wait, I thought, it’s only 62º outside—why is the AC on full blast?
When we got to the restaurant, it was the same situation: the AC was on full blast and I wasn’t sure I would last a whole meal without ordering a hot soup and a cup of tea – which I ended up doing because by the time the waiter showed up, I was shivering! My colleagues were freezing too, and we asked if they could turn down the AC. The manager came over and said that they had turned it down, but unfortunately, we couldn’t detect any difference 🙁 We got the check and left.

The fix:
If hotels and restaurants are going to insist on making “green” claims, such as: organic ingredients, non-GMO, farm-raised protein, and “we don’t change towels in your room unless they’re on the floor” (which is a big BS in my mind, just a typical Greenwash), why don’t they devote any thought to the energy they’re wasting? Do they ever think about how much CO2 goes into the atmosphere from cooling (and heating) buildings? If they really want to be “green,” then climate control is an issue that management must focus on!

At the beginning of 2017, my partner and I decided to try one of the prepared home meal box services. We picked Blue Apron as our choice, as they offered the best sign-up discount. The system works really well in terms of choosing your meals 1-2 weeks in advance, and they claimed that their ingredients were truly seasonal, provided by local farmers.
Over a course of 3 months, however, we had a few not so pleasant meals, mostly with regards to the fish as well as other proteins that tasted either like over-boiled eggs (dry and stinky) or sour shark (a cured, rubbery, Icelandic shark that is positively un-chewable). So, we decided to try another service.

A friend who is a foodie referred us to Sun Basket, based out of California, and after doing some research, we decided to give it a try. It’s the same concept as Blue Apron, but all the ingredients are organic (if possible) and seasonal. So far, it has been good, and I much more prefer Sun Basket over the others we have tried. No more gagging over bad poultry or Tilapia as Sun Basket won’t provide ingredients that aren’t in season 🙂

The disappointments (but not too bad):
The people at Sun Basket promote that their packaging is recyclable and it is, but trash is trash. I wish they’d find a way to combine some of the ingredients in fewer bags to eliminate some of the tubs and plastic. It’s terrible tossing out all that paper and plastic, including an outer paper bag and several tiny Ziploc bags that cannot be easily reused. That said, my partner and I love the little plastic tubs, which we reuse constantly 😉
Also, on a few occasions, the recipes have been drastically off in terms of cooking time, resulting in either undercooked rice or rock-hard, inedible sweet potatoes 🙁 Basically a waste of meal!

My new favorite restaurant in town, Fiskur (which means “fish” in Icelandic) Bistro, is the go-to place for the freshest fish ’n chips, langoustine, arctic char, cod, shrimp salad, and gluten-free dipping crackers that are freshly made in their kitchen daily. The best part: the fish is caught in Iceland in the middle of the night, then airfreighted directly to NY that same day! Can it get any fresher? Not to my knowledge. Oh, and let me tell you: their cocktails are out of this world! My favorite, Dúfa (which means dove or pigeon), is made with Icelandic schnapps and other scrumptious ingredients that I won’t list here—you just have to try it.

The Problem
On a recent visit, I sat at the bar with a friend of mine, whose favorite drink is called Videy (an island in Reykjavik bay), a cocktail mixed with Brennivín and some sort of dill infusion. We had a few drinks and appetizers, and the place was happening. When we were ready to leave, we didn’t see a single staff member and no bartender was visible. All the staff members had disappeared, while there were at least 30 people in the restaurant, not including the bar scene. We waited a good 5 minutes before we found a manager who could bring us our check. Oh, dear. I emailed the owner (whom I know through a family friend) and expressed my concern. Of course, she wasn’t happy to hear my report. No one was fired, but they really had to step up their game, and they have somewhat done so.

The Fix
The staff needs a mentor on site all the time, meaning: don’t hire a young person who doesn’t have a stake in the restaurant’s success or someone who hasn’t been properly trained in hospitality. The immediate fix is to also set a rule that no one should leave the floor without checking in with the customers. It’s as simple as asking: “Can I help you with anything before I step away for a moment?” Train the staff to look up and scan the room, not stare at the floor. The waiters shouldn’t be lingering while waiting for their orders to be filled but rather they should be walking the floor and returning to the bar with (hopefully) more orders. These are such simple fixes, and yet this kind of attention can make or break a bistro! I, for one, hope they’re here to stay!