The Westin at The Woodlands is my new favorite staycation spot for a number of reasons including but not limited to the fact that it's far enough away from work to render it impractical to have to rush back to the office, but within easy driving distance of my house such that I could in theory return home if there were a kitty emergency. But here are seven other reasons why you as well as me will feel lucky to be their guest.
7. The Opportunity to Bathe Under A Rain Cloud. Book an executive suite and you can enjoy a bubble bath in one of the largest tubs I've seen in a long time while gazing at this relaxing cumulo-nimbus portrait.
6. Proximity to The Nestle Tollhouse Cafe. Chocolate chip cookies are my absolute favorite food. Thus, it is more than reasonable that I regularly require a half dozen or so to consume for last-minute viewings of Undercover Boss. Warm, chewy cookies in many flavors in addition to chocolate chip are available just a hop, skip, and a jump from your room at the Cafe.
5. The Crab Cake at CURRENT. There is much competition in the world of crustacean cakes, and many great version can be found in Houston. What distinguishes those at CURRENT is not only their composition (giant chunks of lump crab) but the absolutely divine lemon-dill beurre blanc garnish. But resist the temptation to place a double order because you will need to save room for...
4. The Largest, Most Flavorful Battered Whole Gulf Snapper in Houston. Having eaten many a whole deep-fried fish (sometimes with my bare hands while the cats looked on in disgust), I can attest to the fact that CURRENT's impressive snapper is a good 25% larger than others vended at Houston restaurants. Its main virtue, however, is not its girth, but its unique tongue-tickling flavor due to the confluence of generous amounts of ginger and garlic.
3. Knowing Who Caught That Big Fish You Just Ate. Along with any serving of snapper comes a small tag with a tracking the number for that specific fish. Enter the number at GulfWild to learn more details about when, where, and by whom the snapper was snagged. In my case, it was the adorable Captain Charles Graham of the Angela C.
2. Herbal Adult Libations at SideBar. After stuffing yourself to the gills on snapper (har), head upstairs to SideBar, where master mixologist Patrick has created a terrific menu of innovative riffs on traditional cocktails. See, for example, the Pineapple Margarita, made with Avion Reposado tequila, tepache (a pineapple spirit from Central Mexico), pineapple liqueur, agave simple syrup, pineapple juice, and house sour. Those partial to ginger like Bridey will also enjoy the Texas Mule, featuring ginger liqueur, Tito's vodka, Ancho Reyes chili liquer, lime, ginger syrup, and Fever Tree ginger beer. Feeling nerdy and want to chat about all things switchels, shrubs, and other cocktail esoterica? Patrick is always game.
1. Suite Settings Available For Pre- and Post-Performance Partying. I don't know about you, but the last thing I want to do when I'm high off the energy from a smashing performance by Jim Gaffigan or Pittbull at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion is to sit in horrendous traffic for the next hour in an attempt to reach the highway. Set up camp at one of the Westin's suites for some pre-show drinks and post-show room service, then zip back home early next morning.
This past weekend, I mega-bustled it to Austin, Texas for the Food & Wine Festival, which was cancelled in light of 'inclement' weather. (It should be noted Mother Nature granted us some serious clemency on Saturday, however, with non-stop sunshine and a pleasant breeze.) Although I was a bit down upon my arrival as I was really looking forward to the festival and stalking Andrew Zimmern, my spirits were significantly buoyed by my experiences at my host accommodations, The Westin Austin Downtown. Here are seven reasons why I felt lucky to be a guest:
7. Knowledge That Next Time I Can Bring a Canine Friend. The Westin Austin Downtown is dog-friendly and even honors their pet guests via a daily announcement on the lobby chalkboard.
6. Small Details That Expand Upon the Guitar Design Theme. Such as the clever "strings" lining the ceiling. Once you notice one manifestation of the theme, you're guaranteed to find a dozen more.
5. The Proximity (8 minutes' walk!) to Whole Foods Flagship Store. Where I devoured this amazing cupcake and pondered buying more healthful things.
4. The Fabulous-Yet-Not-Douchey Rooftop Pool Scene. Frequented by friendly guests (real quote: "here, have my chair--you look tired!") and Austin residents.
3. The Azul Bar At Said Rooftop Pool. Where unflappable bartenders (3 bachelor parties at once, yikes!) served me a terrific bubbly version of the traditional Bees Knees cocktail.
2. Brunch at Stella San Jac. More proof that hotel restaurants need not be mediocre as here I enjoyed a decadent salmon eggs benedict with oversized local eggs. Pro tip: Ask to sub in the flaky #16 biscuits for the English muffins.
1. A Most Heavenly Bed To Rest My Head. After long days of walking in search of the best food trucks in town. (More on that to come!). Seriously, these mattresses are stuff with angel feathers.