Category Archives: Travel

Tickets Now on Sale for Sixth Annual Clearwater Beach Uncorked

Sip. Savor. Repeat. at Sixth Annual Clearwater Beach Uncorked Food and Wine Festival

Tickets Now on Sale for Two-Day Food, Wine & Craft Beer Festival – Dec 2 & 3

Have you heard? Tickets are on sale for the Sixth Annual Clearwater Beach Uncorked! This is the sixth year for this highly anticipated two-day, food wine and craft beer festival. The event will be held December 2-3, in a new location directly on Clearwater Beach (Right next to the official host hotel, Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach), just south of Pier 60.

Clearwater Beach Uncorked will celebrate the Bay area’s most renowned chefs, restaurants, and breweries in a culinary showcase served with 180-degree Gulf of Mexico views. The event is the west coast sister of the new Cocoa Beach Uncorked, which debuted in June and was dubbed one of the best food, wine and beer festivals on Florida’s East coast. Tickets and details are available online at ClearwaterBeachUncorked.com.

Clearwater Beach provides an ideal setting to showcase an impressive roster of the Bay area’s culinary offerings to thousands of foodies, wine lovers and beer aficionados,” said Tammy Gail, event producer. “This taste-fest brings together people with a shared interest for an unforgettable weekend for attendees, partners and exhibitors alike. This is our sixth year, and we’re pulling out all the stops to highlight the culinary attributes of Florida’s west coast.”

The two-day event will feature interactive experiences, tastings, cooking demonstrations and competitions between some of the area’s most notable and award-winning chefs and restaurants. To help create a full weekend culinary experience, the Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach, the official hotel sponsor of the event, is offering an Uncorked Getaway during the weekend of December 1-2, which includes accommodations and a pair of General admission tickets for just $289.

Event tickets are $65 per person, per day for general admission and $95 per person, per day for VIP access. All guests will receive a limited-edition wine glass, custom tote bag and enjoy the Grand Tasting Village with unlimited tastings from 1 to 4 p.m. Guests who purchase a VIP ticket will also enjoy one-hour early admission to the Grand Tasting Village and exclusive access to the Spirits Pool Lounge at the Wyndham Grand pool deck from 1 to 5 p.m. to sample exciting and intriguing crafted libations.

A portion of the proceeds from Clearwater Beach Uncorked will benefit University of South Florida’s Sarasota Manatee School of Hospitality and Tourism, Vet to Chef program. Funds will be used to help the training program give veterans who are struggling a fresh start and pull their lives together by entering a civilian career in the culinary arts.

For more information on Clearwater Beach Uncorked and to purchase tickets, visit ClearwaterBeachUncorked.com. Follow Clearwater Beach Uncorked on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram #Uncorkedweekend.

About Clearwater Beach Uncorked:

Clearwater Beach Uncorked has been dubbed the hippest, most exciting two-day food, wine, and craft beer festival on Florida’s West Coast. The event welcomes thousands of attendees to Florida’s award-winning Clearwater Beach.  In celebration of its sixth anniversary, Clearwater Beach Uncorked will play host to foodies, wine lovers and craft beer aficionados who long to wiggle their toes in the sugar white sand as they enjoy some of the area’s most delectable offerings. The 30,000 sq. ft. Grand Tasting Tent will feature a vast array of mouthwatering taste experiences for discerning palettes. A percentage of ticket sales will benefit the University of South Florida Sarasota Manatee School of Hospitality and Technology.  

Good Times to Be Had at the Florida State Fair!

Have you been to the Florida State Fair? I was fortunate enough over the weekend to spend an entire day there thanks to Cox Radio and Magic 94.9. Although I did score free tickets and some other sweet freebies, all opinions below are my own!

 

I love the Florida State Fair. In recent years, I haven’t been able to go as frequently as I like, but when I do get to go, it’s ALWAYS a good time.

One of my favorite things about the Fair is the wide variety of entertainment. We watched a little bit of the Florida Cheer competition, we wandered around the art exhibits, and of course…we rode the rides!

My favorite rides were the ferris wheel and the sky ride. Not only were they a fabulous way to rest my tootsies from a whole lotta walking, they gave great bird’s eye views of the grounds. I prefer going on these types of rides at night because there is nothing prettier to me than all those lights shining bright at the fair!

Check out my bloggy friend Marisa’s post on her Florida State Fair musings here!

The 2017 Florida State Fair runs February 9 through February 20. Admission for kids and adults aged 12 & up is $11 Monday through Thursday, and $13 Friday through Sunday. Children aged 6-11 are $6 Monday through Thursday, and $7 Friday through Sunday. Senior citizens age 55+ are $9 February 13 through February 17.

All you can ride armband vouchers are $25 on February 9, 13, 14, 15, and 16. The cost goes up to $35 all other days. The armband is good for one day’s use only. Pay one price and ride all day!

Learn more about the 2017 Florida State Fair by visiting their website!

My First Time – Getting a Chocolate Pedicure

This article first appeared in the Tampa Bay Times. It has been slightly updated and I’m posting it here for my blog readers to enjoy.

I have gotten pedicures before, but after hearing about a process known as a chocolate pedicure I had to skip my traditional one and try it. It had been a rough week so being pampered sounded good to me.

It turns out there are several benefits to using chocolate for pampering. First, there are antioxidants in chocolate. Second, cocoa butter, a key ingredient in several types of chocolate, is a great skin moisturizer. Lastly, and in my opinion most importantly, just the smell of chocolate has been proven to release endorphins which are a mood booster.

I had mine done at a Spa in New Tampa that has since closed it’s doors. However, I did learn the Spa Evangeline offers a similar pedicure! Theirs is called the Dulce Delight

Here are the details on Spa Evangeline’s Dulce Delight:

Inspired by Chocolate Pi’s Salted Caramel signature dessert. A coffee salt exfoliant of Arabica bean extract energizes, exfoliates, and soothes dry skin. A full body dark chocolate mask is applied, and wrapped in a cocoon for better absorption & detoxification. Shower off, and a Sweet Cream body milk massage seals the deal. A sampling of salted caramel to conclude.
Also available as a hand and foot treatment.
120 minutes

I would strongly recommend doing a massage and a pedicure. By the end of the day you will smell like a dessert, and feel like a million bucks!

How my pedicure went down:

My pedicure began with a warm chocolate foot bath.  The aroma of the chocolate and the bubbles of the jets in the foot bath melted all of my leftover stress away within minutes. Just as I was beginning to feel the calm come over me I was presented with a chocolate martini. Delicious. Its smooth texture went down like chocolate milk, and in the bottom of the glass was a piece of chocolate for me to munch on while my pedicurist scrubbed my feet. (I highly recommend grabbing a chocolate martini at Edge if you get your treatment at Spa Evangeline. Their drinks are delicious!!!)

My pedicurist used a cocoa scrub to wash and exfoliate my tootsies, and then it was time for my mask. I never had a mask on my feet before, but it was extremely moisturizing and felt so nice. The mask was, of course, infused with chocolate.

Following the mask my feet were massaged with chocolate oil. After that my toes were dried and nail polish was applied.  My feet have never felt so good. My treatment delighted my senses to say the least.

When I got home my husband asked me if I had baked brownies. The scent was strong, and made us both hungry, but I was more interested in continuing my tranquil state than cooking. I felt so good from a day of chocolaty indulgence that I already wanted to book another one.
Chocolate Pedicure
Where to get it: Get a similar one at Spa Evangeline
Located at The Epicurean Hotel across from Bern’s Steakhouse

1203 South Howard Avenue
Tampa, FL 33606

Cost: $85 for the 60-minute experience as of February 2017.

Three things I learned
1. Chocolate contains 300 different compounds, some of which can have a significant impact on one’s health and beauty.
2. Chocolate re-mineralizes and energizes the skin.
3. For some people the scent of chocolate has a psychological effect of relaxing your mind and therefore relaxing your body.

Would I do it again? Yes! It was so relaxing and luxurious. I look forward to the day when I can afford one every week!

The My First Time was a column about me trying new things in Tampa Bay. I’m reviving it here on my blog! Got a suggestion for something I can try? E-mail me at famousashleygrant@gmail.com.

Cross Country Road Trip Series

Famous Ashley Grant on the Road

For those of you who don’t know, this summer I went on an EPIC bucket list adventure. I spent 3 and a half weeks traveling the United States. My husband, my two dogs and I took off from Tampa, Florida to California, then headed North toward Washington state before making our way back east via South Dakota, Minnesota and then south through Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and finally back to Tampa, Florida.

The entire experience was intense, exciting, horrifying, nerve wracking, emotional, amazing, wonderful, breathtaking – you know what I’ll save some time by simply saying I felt nearly every emotion in the book on the trip. I saw things I’ve only dreamed about seeing. I ate some pretty amazing foods. I got to hang out with some fabulous people – a couple of which even hosted my little family for the night (thanks again Jim and Lauren 😀 ). I froze my bottom off in a few states. I thought I would die of heat exhaustion in Texas, New Mexico and Nevada. I drank some delicious wine. I tried a few things I never thought I would and learned some pretty spectacular lessons on the way.

Now, all I want to do is write about the entire trip, but rather than try to stuff it all in one post, I’ve decided to break it up into a series. This way my friends and family can see the pictures that they’ve been asking me to see and I can tell everyone all the things about the trip they want to know! So, stay tuned. I’ll be adding everything to this little blog of mine – a virtual scrapbook if you will of the most amazing working vacation I’ve ever had in my life!

As I add write ups I’ll post links below of all of my additions to my virtual scrapbook!

2016 #FWCon Recap

Buckle up folks, because this might just be the longest post I’ve ever written on my personal blog, like EVER! LOL! But, it’s not my fault, that’s just how much was packed into my one weekend at the Food Wine Conference. Enjoy the read…

Although the ambassadorship did score me the awesome deal of a discounted ticket, this did not affect this recap of the conference. All opinions below are my own!

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the 2016 Food Wine Conference put on by Sunday Supper Movement hosted by the fearless leader known as Family Foodie aka Isabel Laessig. Not only did I simply attend, I got to attend as a brand ambassador for FeedBlitz which is a kick ASH ad-free email service perfect for Bloggers looking to grow their brand.

Score a FREE 30 day trial of FeedBlitz here:http://bit.ly/AGFeedblitz
Score a FREE 30 day trial of FeedBlitz here :http://bit.ly/AGFeedblitz

 

food wine conference 2016The weekend began innocently enough with my arrival at the stunning Rosen Shingle Creek hotel. If you have never stayed there, I highly recommend it for Disney and Universal Studio visits. It’s gorgeous. Ya know, if you can afford it! Luckily, we had a group rate 🙂

After checking in, my roommate and I quickly set up shop. We created an instacooler in one of our sinks and I had brought along a minibar in a bag filled with snacks to avoid any ill-advised overpriced purchases. Here’s the cooler and below is what was in my minibar bag:

2016_FWCon_1011 2016_FWCon_1015Once our room was all set up, it was conference time! First up, registration and mingling with CK Mondavi wines. Here’s me with the biggest wine glass I’ve ever seen in my life:

2016_FWCon_1021Once we’d wined a little it was off to the Florida Milk Spa! I rather enjoyed this! They allowed us to make Greek Yogurt masks, gave us a bottle of lavender scented milk bath and there was even a milk bar. I didn’t drink the milk, but everyone said it was really yummy!

2016_FWCon_1025At the conclusion of the spa time, I headed back to my room to drop of my swag bag. Although I had it in a cart instead of carrying it on my shoulder this year, my roommate wanted to drop them at the room before heading out to other festivities, so I complied. We hurried to the room and then hurried back to the end of the Strawberry Reception hosted by Florida Strawberry Grower’s Association. Luckily, even though the reception was all but over, they still had some of those delicious milkshakes which I thoroughly enjoyed.

2016_FWCon_1038Once I sucked it down, it was off to the Taste of Rosen Shingle Creek to try some miscellaneous food items. As a blogger I’m embarrassed to report I didn’t get any decent images at this event. For my next conference I’m bringing a better camera and/or an external flash! This was the end of “day 1”, but there was still much fun to be had!

Onto day two…

Day two was filled with classes and information. I did get a cool pic with Food Network Star Donatella Arpai


and I met some awesome people! I even got a yummy “around the world” lunch by the folks at Idaho Potatoes complete with my own personal Spuddy Buddy, but, the highlight of my day was….

Mac and cheese bar with @cabotcheese at @foodwinecon!!!! #thisisiwhyiblog #baconbliss #bloggerlife #FWCon

A photo posted by Ashley Grant (@famousashleygrant) on


Oh my goodness! A mac and cheese bar. Why was THIS my highlight of the day? Because mac and cheese PLUS bacon equals heaven. If you can’t understand that, you can’t sit with us! (us being me and my many personalities! hahaha)

Moving on…the end of the day brought the wine to the food wine conference and CK Mondavi did not disappoint! Overall the dinner was a fabulously fun experience and I loved the folks I got to sit with.

The after party was a VIP experience poolside, but I confess I didn’t partake in it very much. So, I’ll wrap with day two by saying this – It was a day of fun, food, wine and truths, and I am grateful for the experiences I had and the lessons that came from them!

Day 3, The Final Day

Day 3 was spent mostly at the Rosen  College of Hospitality. There was a fun brunch by the golf course prior to that, but it was a little too sunny for my taste. I was melting! The bacon and waffles were delicious though!

Onto the College of Hospitality – The morning started with a cheese lesson from Cabot cheese. Man oh man! The pairings they created with the cheeses were out of this world! I was so amazed by all the things I never thought to do with cheese, and can’t wait to play with my food now that they have schooled me. They even gave us a copy of their cookbook and I’m looking forward to exploring it.

Anywho- during the tasting my bloggy friend Tracy and I had a crazy urge for a soda take over so we slipped out to the vending machines. Both her and I won steaks during our expedition! Yep, the awesome people from Certified Angus Beef had been hiding these little cows all throughout the conference and if you found one that said “you win steaks” you won! I found a cow, and then Tracy found a cow in one innocent trip to get our carbonation fix! Amazing! Oh, and I scored an extra soda when two popped out of the machine instead of one. I was on a roll!!!

2016_FWCon_1208

After the cheese it was time to go to class. I enjoyed the Podcast class with Carole Sanek and Josh Elledge, but felt the class was too short. Can’t wait to learn more from them now that the conference is over.  Once class was over, this happened:

Before the craziness ensued! #teamcakeordie #FWCon #hashed #gonnawin @wishfarms

A photo posted by Ashley Grant (@famousashleygrant) on


I have never pretended to be a chef or even a decent cook, but when you’re asked to be in a #hashed competition not once, but twice, you accept! My team was called Cake or Die and although we didn’t win, it was the most intense competition I think I’ve EVER been in! It was nuts, it was crazy, but above all – IT WAS FUN!!!!!!!!!!

The competition was perhaps the most fun I had all weekend and I sincerely hope that Isabel and the team behind the conference make the #hashed competition a staple of every conference going forward.

The rest of the day consisted of another class, lunch and then an amazing presentation by Denise Vivaldo and Kita Roberts on food styling and photography. Finally, the weekend was over and it was time to go home. I argued with myself all weekend as to whether I not I would attend in 2017, but after digesting everything that happened this year, I sincerely hope that I will be a part of next year’s Food Wine Conference event in some way! I have even inquired about potentially being on the planning committee, so we’ll see what happens next.

All in all, the conference was a rewarding experience. Although there are some things I would have done differently, I’m exceptionally grateful for the lessons I learned and the relationships I made and/or renewed. I’ll post some additional things on the conference later, but for now, I think that wraps up my wild and eventful weekend at the 2016 Food Wine Conference!

Now, I want to hear from you. Did you go to Food Wine Con? If so, leave me a comment with your favorite part of the conference! And, if you were there, follow me on my social channels of Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and LinkedIn, and I PROMISE to follow you back 🙂

Best Western Premier Saratoga Resort Villas – Resort Review

Best Western Premier Saratoga Resort Villas
photo courtesy of Best Western Premier Saratoga Resort Villas

On September 26, 2015 I got to stay at the Best Western Premier Saratoga Resort Villas for one night. The resort did accommodate me with a complimentary stay, but this did not impact my review and all opinions are my own. For my full disclosure policy please click HERE.

I knew I was going to be visiting the Disney area for the weekend of September 26, 2015 because I wanted to do a bar hop similar to one that some of my pals on facebook have done annually for the past few years. They call it the “Happiest Hour on Earth” and during this bar hop they visit several of the Disney hotels and have an adult beverage at the bars of each location. Knowing that by recreating this for myself and my husband it would mean lots of drinking and being the responsible (sometimes) adult that I am we decided it would be best to stay the night in the Disney area to avoid potential DUIs, accidents or other drinking and then driving issues. Enter Best Western Premier Saratoga Resort Villas!

20150926_101400

Have a drink you want me to try or a product/event/service/place you want me to review?

Contact me HERE! I’m PR friendly!!

Located a short drive from Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Best Western Premier Saratoga Resort Villas offers a complimentary shuttle to the Disney area. Unfortunately, we arrived too late to get on said shuttle which meant that my husband officially became the designated driver for the day and night, but we were grateful for the night’s stay anyway because by the end of our adventure we were so tired that the thought of driving all the way back to Tampa exhausted us even more.

Best Western Premier Saratoga Resort Villas 2

Anywho, onto the pros and cons of the resort:

PROS:

  • we got a kick ASH two bedroom townhouse to stay in for the night
  • Gated community so you know you’re going to be safe for the night!
  • The AC worked great and there were fans in the rooms for awesome circulation
  • super comfy beds and pillows!!! I forgot where I was and slept so well!
  • The toiletries were Neutrogena products and they smelled good and left us squeaky clean
  • The property felt more like homes than a hotel
  • Great kitchen complete with stovetop, microwave, dishwasher, full fridge, pots & pans, plateware, glassware, utensils and more that would have made for an awesome long stay away.
  • Hairdryer in the bathroom
  • Iron and ironing board
  • High-speed Internet access included with resort fee
  • Non-smoking property- LOVE this because I hate me some cancer sticks ya’ll!
  • Friendly staff
  • restaurant located on site
  • Pool on site
  • Coin laundromat on site
  • Gym on site
  • Check out full list of hotel and room amenities here.

 

CONS

  • small bathrooms – we had to close one of the bathroom doors just to comfortably sit on the toilet
  • small shower and the water pressure was low, but at least the water was hot! (more than I can say for some of my showers at home)
  • the hot tub was under construction, but given that the weekend we visited it was kind of rainy this didn’t affect our stay
  • Breakfast is not included with your stay
  • We did have a strange thumping that wouldn’t stop in our first room, but the management quickly moved us to another room after discovering we had a problem with the first one and all was well after that!

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Overall, our stay at the Best Western Premier Saratoga Resort Villas was exceptionally pleasant. Other than our need to move to another room, I honestly can’t complain about the property. It was nice that it didn’t feel like a hotel and that the staff was so friendly. I would definitely recommend this property if you’re coming to Disney or just to Kissimmee for the weekend or longer. Discounts are available for AAA members, AARP members and government personnel. *Frugal tip- Save money by bringing another couple with you and splitting the nightly fee! There are also three bedroom villas available for larger parties.

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The Best Western Premier Saratoga Resort Villas is located at:
4787 W Irlo Bronson Hwy
Kissimmee, Florida
Phone number: (407) 997-3300

Have a drink you want me to try or a product/event/service/place you want me to review?

Contact me HERE! I’m PR friendly!!

A Few Reasons to Use a Travel Agent for Your Travel Needs

 

 

If you have travel in your future I would like to suggest you use your local travel agent for all of your travel needs. In 2012, seven out of 10 travelers booked their own rooms and flights online, per eMarketer (source). Here are just a few problems with this:

1. You are working with robots instead of live people who can answer questions for you

2. You have no one to call in case something goes wrong!

3. It’s more difficult to change your plans should you desire to

4. A travel agent can make suggestions you may have never thought of

5. In booking online you are left to research everything on your own and may not even have anything but a destination in mind when you begin…

Worried about pricing? Think online sites are cheaper? Not only do many travel agents price match, they are there for you every step of your travel adventure. If you need to make travel plans, book through a travel agent, not one of those online sites that could screw you with the fine print!