Monday, September 8, 2014

Photo Tour: Charleston Cooks in Greenville


We cook a lot at home, so I'm always collecting fresh recipes to try. I have a pocket on the side of my recipe binder where I file new ideas, and once they've been tested and pass the "keeper" criteria, they get filed into the binder under the right category - cocktails, mains, sides, desserts, so on and so forth.

One thing I've always wanted to do is take a cooking class. I love learning about ways to combine flavors and make even the staples taste better. And I finally got to sink my teeth into a class at Charleston Cooks in Greenville last month! If you're a hands-on foodie, I definitely recommend taking a class with Mark. He's so friendly, helpful and highly entertaining.

Plus, he's generous with his wine pours. So that never hurts.

Our class was a mix of couples, families and girlfriends. In fact, there was a group of women who said they take a girls' trip together every year and a cooking class is something that's always on their itinerary. GENIUS. Note taken.

The theme of our class was all about working with fresh herbs. We made poached salmon with some kind of a dill creme sauce, steak and an amazing chimichurri, pesto pasta with tomatoes and peas, and zucchini fritters with a sour cream and chive dollop on time. I've already made some of the recipes at home and, needless to say, they all went straight to the "keeper" categories.





PHOTOS BY: Stjepan Alaupovic and Me!
MORE INFO: Charleston Cooks
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Friday, September 5, 2014

Destinations: BMW Performance Center, Greenville, S.C.


Here's a little fun fact for you: Any BMW X4, X5 or X6 that you see in the world was manufactured about 30 minutes from Greenville, S.C. in Spartanburg. A little unexpected, right? Turns out, BMW has a large factory in the area. We did a guided tour at the Zentrum Museum during our visit and I have to say it was one of the most surprising parts of our trip.

After all, I'm not exactly into cars; but what I am into is nerdy science stuff and a tour of the BMW facility is nerdy science stuff in its most impressive, coolest form. Tours are $10 for adults and $3.50 for students, and they take you through the production line. It's a total Monsters, Inc. experience - car doors are zooming overhead, line workers are floating in these cool-looking chairs from one car to the next to install their parts, and something called a "smart cart" (reminded me of WALL-E!) is zooming from station to station to deliver tools.


Photos are understandably restricted during the factory tour, so I unfortunately don't have any visuals of the place. But it's a highly organized, super clean and really efficient operation. Definitely something I would recommend seeing, whether you're into cars or just like geeking out over robots and gadgets. You get to see a BMW being made from start to finish!

I also loved the Zentrum showroom where you can see old BMW models. I'd happily drive one of the Isetta BMWs, pictured at the top, which are from 1955 and so. cute. Parking would be a cinch here in the city!

Afterward we went around to the BMW Performance Driving School and did a round of hot laps on the track. I sat passenger-side as a pro driver took us up to 120 mph in an M5! The ride was over in a matter of moments and I wanted to go again and again, it was so fun. Besides hot laps, BMW offers hands-on driving schools, which is what you see in this video.

So unexpected. So worth the trip!

PHOTOS BY: Stjepan Alaupovic
MORE INFO: Yeah, That Greenville

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Destinations: Greenville, South Carolina

Destinations: Greenville, South Carolina - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

I love exploring and writing about unexpected places. One of my favorite cities that I've visited in recent years is Indianapolis and of course I'll always have a soft spot for Cleveland. (Hm. Perhaps I have a slight obsession with the Midwest?) In Croatia, I prefer the quieter towns where I have family connections over the more touristy spots like Dubrovnik and Hvar.

That's why I jumped at the chance to visit Greenville, S.C. I love the allure of southern charm and I'd been noticing the city popping up in articles celebrating everything from its old timey, walkable Main Street to the local food scene. We spent a few days in July eating, drinking and biking our way through Greenville and loved every second of it - rain and all!

Destinations: Greenville, South Carolina - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Destinations: Greenville, South Carolina - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

First, the city's Main Street completely lives up to its reputation. It's got unique architecture, delicious restaurants and shops that are more stylish than kitschy. (Though the kitschy stuff you actually want is there, too!) The area is really pedestrian-friendly and there's even a major bike path that lines downtown (more on that in an upcoming post).

Like Indianapolis, one thing I really appreciated about Greenville's downtown is that people actually live there, so there really is action all day and night. The city puts on free concerts and lively events on a regular basis. And it's also the only city in the region with a major theater, so people travel from places like Atlanta and Charlotte to see Broadway shows.

Destinations: Greenville, South Carolina - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Destinations: Greenville, South Carolina - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

It's no wonder representatives from cities across the United States come to Greenville to take notes and inspiration on their downtown development. Downtown Greenville's renaissance is fairly recent, though it's a project that's been in the works for years. A major catalyst for revamping the area was the opening of the Hyatt Regency Greenville, which is where we stayed.

The Hyatt is really convenient because it basically marks the beginning of Main Street. You can easily access all of the area's best spots by foot. It's really a beautiful downtown hotel - massive, well-designed, comfortable rooms and home to one of downtown's best restaurants, Roost. Right outside the hotel's lobby is the stage for Greenville's free Downtown Alive concert series, which runs every spring and summer and features regional rock, blues, funk and cover bands.

Destinations: Greenville, South Carolina - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Destinations: Greenville, South Carolina - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Destinations: Greenville, South Carolina - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Destinations: Greenville, South Carolina - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

One of Greenville's biggest surprises, though? Falls Park on the Reedy. The Reedy River cuts right through downtown and ends in a rushing waterfall through the park. You can walk the trails, cross the bridge - designed by Miquel Rosales and engineered by Schlaich Bergermann - and explore the scenic overlooks and gardens. During summertime, Falls Park hosts a series of free Shakespeare plays.

I still can't believe this thing is just right there - in the middle of town! It was really impressive.

Oh, and definitely take in a long lunch at Passerelle. It's a cute French bistro in the park with really great views of the falls.

PHOTOS BY: Stjepan Alaupovic and Me!
MORE INFO: Yeah, That Greenville

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Destinations: Willow Stream Spa in Scottsdale

Destinations: Willow Stream Spa in Scottsdale, Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Over the past year, I've covered a number of fitness and workout trends. One class that I've wanted to take is aerial yoga, but I've always been a bit intimidated. After all, I'm not the most coordinated person in the world and I'm far from graceful. And fitness classes in New York City tend to be packed with people, which, to me, always equals prying (judging) eyes.

SO! When I was presented with the opportunity to try aerial yoga at Well & Being at Willow Stream, I jumped into that silk hammock with abandon. It was a small class - maybe six of us total, with space for about 10 - and the instructor was friendly, helpful and as hands-on as you needed her to be, so it was the perfect chance to learn the ins and outs of the workout.

Destinations: Willow Stream Spa in Scottsdale, Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Destinations: Willow Stream Spa in Scottsdale, Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

We started off real simple, learning how to safely and efficiently work with the silk straps and getting a feel for them...namely, gaining an understanding that yes, they can hold your body weight and no, you won't fall on your butt if you sit in it properly. It was more of an introductory class, so we spent a good amount of time getting to and enjoying each pose - highly relaxing and also a lot of fun.

By the end of the class, we worked up to a couple of inversions, including one where you basically flip backward, toss your legs over your head, and extend the strap under the full length of your belly so that you're in some Superman-vampire combo pose...it's the closest I've felt to flying and I loved it. I recommend taking full advantage of this pose and swinging slightly like a kid on the playground.

Actually, that's kind of the best part about Willow Stream's class...you get to tap into your inner child for 60-odd minutes and experience poses and perspectives that you otherwise wouldn't be able to. I'm not really sure how many calories I burned or muscles I toned, but I left in a great mood, feeling totally relaxed and bendy. If I were to visit Scottsdale on a girlfriend getaway, I'd for sure sign the group up for aerial yoga at Willow Stream.

Destinations: Willow Stream Spa in Scottsdale, Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Destinations: Willow Stream Spa in Scottsdale, Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

To back track a bit, Willow Stream is the spa at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, one of a number of luxury resorts in the city. (The Princess is known for its spa and its golf course, TPC Scottsdale, which is the home to the PGA TOUR's Waste Management Phoenix Open.) In a destination of 50+ day and resort spas, I have to say that Willow Stream is one of my personal favorites. (My other top picks include Spa at Camelback Inn, Joya Spa, Alvadora at Royal Palms, and of course Sanctuary Spa.)

Willow Stream has always topped the list of Scottsdale's most sought-after spas and I think that's for a number of reasons. One, it's huge and so beautifully designed. There's a lot of space to spread out and chill - in the relaxation lounges, in an outdoor courtyard, even a warm vitality pool/waterfall. But my favorite spot has to be the rooftop pool. Actually, I think Willow Stream and Joya may be tied for best spa pools.

Another reason people really love Willow Stream is the caliber of treatments. You've got your standard massages and facials, plus specialty experiences like the Havasupai Falls Rejuvenation, which uses desert salts, oils and jojoba body butter for a scrub, massage and body wrap.

With Willow Stream's new Well & Being offerings, the spa has also incorporated more wellness offerings. You can learn how to cook healthier, have a health assessment if you wish (not me, no thanks!) and of course take some interesting fitness classes...everything from TRX and CrossFit to SurfSet and Krank Fusion (I had to Google that last one).

If you're trying to pick from the long list of spas in Scottsdale (so many good options!), seriously consider Willow Stream. I think it's totally worth the time and money if you're looking for a place to hang (ha!) all day.

MORE INFO: Fairmont Scottsdale Princess
PHOTOS BY: Me!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Where to Stay in Scottsdale: Sanctuary Resort

Where to Stay in Scottsdale: Sanctuary Resort - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Scottsdale has a lot of cool hotels and on my latest trip, I got to stay at two of my favorites: Hotel Valley Ho and Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain. I had been to Sanctuary a handful of times when I still lived in Arizona, mostly for work-related events, but had crazily enough never seen a room until now!

The aesthetic is very modern Arizona; rooms have concrete walls and the color scheme has the same sandy reds and earthy greens you'll find in the desert. But there's also a soothing Asian zen about the place, which is most evident in the spa (fellow blogger Kirsten Alana captures this perfectly in her beautiful Scottsdale photo spread).

Where to Stay in Scottsdale: Sanctuary Resort - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Where to Stay in Scottsdale: Sanctuary Resort - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Where to Stay in Scottsdale: Sanctuary Resort - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic
Had to add this! Our awesome group and the always fun Chef Beau.
I like Sanctuary Spa because it's small and intimate but still feels like a special, destination spa. Its design is all about tranquility and treatments are relaxing but still results-driven. Besides the typical body work and skincare options, they also offer aquatic massages, Asian-inspired treatments like Shiatsu and table Thai, and specialty experiences from tarot readings to numerology, guided meditation and astrology.

What the resort does really well is create experiential packages that you won't see at every other property. In the spa, they have the Satori Wellness Retreat, which includes a personalized fitness program, healthy (but still really tasty!) meals, and spa services that are focused on the mind-body balance.

During the month of June, you can even sign up for a fitness retreat with Olympic Gold Medal swimmer Misty Hyman and track cycling champion Terry Roach. The fitness retreat takes a triathlon approach and it also comes with nutritious meals and spa treatments that target fatigued muscles.

If I could do it, Sanctuary would be one of those places where I escaped to for a week of solo travel. And I'd probably spend all seven days going back and forth between the spa's zen garden and the resort's infinity-edge pool.

And, I'd make sure to get in plenty of agave spice cocktails from jade bar and shishito peppers at elements.

Where to Stay in Scottsdale: Sanctuary Resort - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Where to Stay in Scottsdale: Sanctuary Resort - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Where to Stay in Scottsdale: Sanctuary Resort - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Speaking of elements, the award-winning restaurant is probably what you hear about most when people write or talk about Sanctuary. It's run by Iron Chef alum (and winner) Beau MacMillan. My pal Julie from Table for Two has the complete scoop on her blog.

I have to say that Sanctuary's grounds are the stop-you-in-your-tracks kind, especially if you're not completely familiar with Scottsdale's desert scenery. The resort is built into the side of Camelback Mountain and it's got some pretty fantastic views (especially from jade bar).

The resort's organic, eco-inspired feel makes a lot of sense when you consider that a Frank Lloyd Wright protege designed the place. It's a great complement to the hip downtown vibe of Valley Ho (they're actually owned by the same company...a local one, at that). In fact, the name "Sanctuary" is pretty fitting...it's Scottsdale's celebrity haven.

Everyone from Britney Spears to Beyonce have stayed here!

Sanctuary is a great choice if you're looking for a Scottsdale resort that's exclusive, a little hidden, and has a unique sense of place.

PHOTOS BY: Me!
MORE INFO: Sanctuary Camelback Mountain

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

My Life Now: Summer, Summer, Summer Time

I'm not quite sure how it happened, but somehow we're nearing the end of August and my blog has been left lonely for a few weeks. Summer break, I suppose! In New York City, it's feeling a lot more like fall these days and, even though it's my favorite season, I'm not ready to turn in my sandals and rosé for scarves and (spiked) hazelnut lattes just yet.

There's still a whole list of summer stuff I want to do in the city!

And, crazy enough, I'm wrapping up the last of a handful of Christmas and holiday-themed travel assignments. Always working and thinking months ahead! Perhaps this is why I'm always reminding myself to live in the moment...

Meantime, I'm fresh back from two trips - one down to Greenville, South Carolina and then immediately on to the U.S. Virgin Islands. I'll share more in the next few weeks, but here's a quick peek at some of my favorite memories from the two spots:

Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Monday, July 28, 2014

Scottsdale Travel Guide on Afar.com

Scottsdale Travel Guide on Afar.com by Katarina Kovacevic

I'm really excited to announce that I'm working with Afar.com as their Local Scottsdale Expert! My first task was curating the Afar Guide to Scottsdale, a comprehensive travel resource on all of the best hotels, restaurants and activities in the Sonoran Desert. The guide includes content and tips written by me as well as AFAR magazine journalists and there's also some great user-generated recommendations. Check it out!