Sep 17, 2012

The Best Taco in Grand Rapids

A former drive-thru on Division is now the home of the best taco in GR.

My wife and I conducted our own little taco challenge this past Saturday by visiting 6 taco joints in the Grand Rapids area. All six are undeniably authentic and worth the side trip from one's suburban home. Of the six, Taqueria San Jose on Division avenue is the hands down favorite.

Sep 7, 2012

Full Moon, Wild Mushroom Tea and a Man Named Bomba


Bomba Shack in Tortola, British Virgin Islands, is home to insane Full Moon parties, wild mushroom tea, souvenir undergarments, an ever expanding array of hurricane memorabilia and the ever charismatic owner -  Bomba. I don't think I've ever been to a wilder Full Moon party in the world than this surfside shack. 

Sep 6, 2012

New York's The Great Performer

Matthew Silver - NYC's The Great Performer
Every New Yorker knows of Matthew Silver. Unlike Times Square's The Naked Cowboy, Matthew Silver is actually entertaining. He is a little bit on the whacko side - but in his body suit, pink bra, black fanny pack and pet plastic reindeer, his act is actually worth the few minutes of attention. 

My daughter Margaux and I were in NYC to check out possible NYU dorms for her first year when we stumbled upon The Great Entertainer in Astor Place. Check him out next time you're in the city (he is normally in Union Square). To find out more, visit his website: Man In A White Dress.

Aug 18, 2012

8 Reasons Why Grove Restaurant May Be Your Best Bet For Grand Rapids Restaurant Week

#2 Parisian Gnocchi
Grove restaurant continues to amaze me as one of the stellar restaurants in Grand Rapids. Fresh, Local, Colorful, Aromatic - all describes the tantalizing food here. And if those attributes are not enough to convince you to dine this here week - listen to this - Grove is offering a $25 three-course menu featuring its ENTIRE menu (except dessert) during Restaurant Week. Now that deserves my #1 Reason Why Grove Restaurant May Be Your Best Bet For

Aug 14, 2012

28 Reasons Why LA's Abbot Kinney Rocks

70's California Shop
Here are 28 reasons to fall in love with Abbot Kinney Avenue between Venice Beach Blvd. and Westminster. From rad surf shops to sustainable eateries. From dark watering holes to al fresco beaneries. From Jack Spade to Japanese Garden Spades. Here's a half-a-mile of retail therapy worth the

Aug 13, 2012

Dining Review: Trillium Haven Restaurant in Grand Rapids


Trillium Haven is the first restaurant venture for Jenison, Michigan farmers Michael VandenBrug and Anja Mast. Here's the review as published on MLive.com and the Grand Rapids Press:


The dining scene at any new local restaurant in Grand Rapids is always entertaining. There is a very good chance that you’ll recognize a familiar face in the crowd among those lucky enough to get a table.  You acknowledge each other as if you’re in the first class cabin while you savor the fact that you’re not one of those “economy-class” diners relegated to beg for the first available table while standing behind bar patrons as they swirl their luscious glass of Syrah in your face. We’ve all been there. The lesson

Jun 29, 2012

Finally, a Filipino Restaurant in St. Thomas


I felt like Christmas when I discovered the Asian Restaurant in St. Thomas this year.Of course, it wasn't here when I lived in the Caribbean in the 90's, but as my travels brings me back to the Virgin Islands each month, this food oasis is a welcome treat.  

When cruse ships are docked across the street in Havensight Marina, you'll find this buffet restaurant/grocery store packed with Filipino crew members noshing on a wide selection of Filipino food - think kare-kare, binagoongan babboy, adobo, lechon kawali, dinuguuan - and catching up on their Facebook posts. It definitely feels like home - even if it's just for an hour.


Jun 28, 2012

Dining Review: Public in Zeeland, Michigan


The first restaurant in Zeeland, Michigan's main street is bound to leave its mark on this lakeshore city that desperately needs a dining destination. Read my dining review of Public as published on MLive and the Grand Rapids Press. Click HERE.

Jun 26, 2012

A Boat Load of Sushi


It's been several months since I've gorged myself on sushi - which I highly recommend. My hotel colleagues and I couldn't decide on which sushi to start (I love eel, my wife loves tuna, one friend loves salmon and the fourth couldn't care less) so I made a management decision and ordered the sushi boat for the shock and awe appeal. Fortunately, the sushi chef at Ju Sushi obliged on our requests and didn't bother to give us the crappy stuff for fillers. Needless to say, we were very content, and despite our food babies, forged ahead with the bento box dinners for our entree courses. YOLO!

Jun 5, 2012

Five Lessons I Learned From The French Lifestyle

The Parisian Cafe Society across from Les Halles
Here is my article as published in Shore Magazine's July 2012 edition.

There is some truth to the saying that we Americans “Live to Work” and Europeans “Work to Live.” This became very evident during my family ‘s Spring break trip to Paris this year when we all noticed significant differences between how we live in the America and how the Parisians approach the joys of everyday living.

My family was fortunate enough to have my mother’s home in central Paris as a base during our nine-day visit. This granted us a local perspective as we went about our days in the City of Light.

The French are by no means perfect. However, their approach to life seems more focused, or shall I say, less cluttered, than the lives we live in the states. It became my mission during this trip to identify some of the variances in our lifestyle;

Springtime in Paris

Children playing tag in Jardin du Luxembourg
I love Paris in every season. 

Catch a glimpse of springtime in the City of Light by reading my travel article on MLive.com and The Grand Rapids Press. Click below...



Apr 7, 2012

Marche Aux Oiseaux (Bird and Plant Market)


One of the most charming markets in Paris is the Marche Aux Oiseaux (Plants and Bird Market). The location itself is in the heart of the city on Ile de la Cite where Notre Dame is located. This year round plant market is a must for orchid lovers. However, Sunday's gives you the best experience when the square also hosts the weekly bird market. This is a must for the kids.

Marche Aux Oiseaux (Bird and Plant Market)
Place Louis Lepine on Ile de la Cite
Metro: Cite

Click on the link below for more photos.

Mar 22, 2012

The Review: The White House Bistro, Saugatuck



Read my Grand Rapids Press & MLive.com dining review of The White House Bistro in Saugatuck. Click HERE

Mar 17, 2012

Sunrise at the Ritz Carlton, St. Thomas


I have an affinity for the Ritz Carlton in St. Thomas. This is where my new bride and I spent part of our honeymoon 19 years ago, when it just opened as The Grand Palazzo.  While there are a lot of physical changes to the resort (Ritz Club, larger fitness area, seaside pavilions), the views and the feel of the place is still uniquely The Grand Palazzo.

For a late-night person, I never regret getting up right before sunrise to capture the best light for photography. Most of these shots were taken around 6:30 a.m. except for the next shot which I took at sunset. There is something magical about a place at this time of the day.

Mar 13, 2012

Fashionistas Show Up In Full Force at the JW's LBD!

Close to 500 guests packed the JW ballroom for the third annual Little Black Dress Party. Thank you to everyone who attended this much anticipated event where the city's fashionistas don their LBD's while sipping on LBD vodka and dancing to the tunes of Digitaljoes. 

Click below to see more photos.

Feb 23, 2012

The High Line Park, NYC


THE HIGH LINE/FEBRUARY 22/7:07 AM

Feb 19, 2012

London For Foodies


London's foodie scene is no longer the laughing stock of Europe. Read my travel column in The Grand Rapids Press and MLive.com by clicking HERE.

See more photos below

Feb 12, 2012

Thank You New York Times!



Bucket List...get featured in The New York Times...Check! Read today's Times featuring yours truly. Click HERE!

Feb 9, 2012

The Review: Food Dance, Kalamazoo

Food Dance specializes in house-made charcuterie and local cheeses

Read my MLive.com / The Grand Rapids Press dining review of this gem of a farm-to-table restaurant in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Click HERE to read my entire article and see more photos.

Feb 5, 2012

The Good Life - A Foodie's Guide to College Towns


For this month's The Good Life column on Shore Magazine, read my foodie's guide to America's college towns - from Berkeley, California to New York City. To read column,  click HERE or read below.

Jan 20, 2012

Burough Market, London


The Burough Market on the backside of London Bridge is a must stop if your travel brings you to London. I wandered through the stalls for a couple of hours; sampling lots freebies from local artisans and global purveyors. I finally settled for the "Toastie" grilled cheese sandwich that was irresistible.

Aside from being a foodie heaven, the market is a photographers paradise. So bring your camera and snap away. You

Jan 9, 2012

Belgo Restaurant, London

The Belgo Kitchen Line
This is one of my go-to restaurants in central London. A perfect stop after a day of shopping in Covent Garden. If you love home-style mussels, then this is the place. Belgo is like going to church without having to sit through a boring

Jan 5, 2012

The Asian-Italian Family Dinner

Beef Shabu-Shabu

At the request of my kids, I made our family an Asian-Italian feast for our Christmas dinner. On the menu: Malfadine with Baseball Size Meatballs (my favorite), Sweet Peppers with Spicy Italian Sausage and Beef Shabu-Shabu (Japanese Hot Pot). It was the idyllic Christmas Day. No agenda. No parties to go to. Just the five of us around a table of

Jan 4, 2012

New Year's Eve at the JW Marriott


New Year's Eve in downtown Grand Rapids just keeps getting bigger every year.

40,000 revelers packed Monroe St. for the HOT FM outdoor concert featuring The Romantics. There wasn't a single seat available for last minute dinner reservations and every bar was pretty much packed to the gills. This is definitely no longer the sleepy town it used to be.

My wife and I had great intentions of hitting our regular spots before ending up at the JW Marriott. Reserve Wine Bar

Jan 1, 2012

2011: What a Year at the JW!

JLe's Black & White Party in 2009 kicked off the JW Social Media Parties

Do you remember the days before Facebook and JW Social Media Parties? Social life in GR was pretty much limited to the bars and a few street parties. The JW Marriott Grand Rapids has been going strong since the first social media event 3 years ago when we kicked off the Social Media Party Phenomenon with Jimmy Le's Birthday Black & White Party. We've come a long way, baby! Thanks to our loyal fans and street team of guerilla promoters. 

To say that 2011 was a banner year for the jdub is truly the understatement of the year. Let's recap our social media

The Delicious Dozen



Are you a list hoarder?

If you are like me, New Year’s Day marks the day I jot down a million things I want to accomplish over the next 365 days. Creating to-do lists make me feel like I’m organized and in control even though I have more lists - between my phone, computers, Moleskine notebooks and loose scraps of paper in my office and home - than my actual number of “things to do.” But, what the heck? Lists are fun, and in some auspicious way, a therapeutic remedy to the hectic lives we live. So here I am adding another list, but this one will be worth hanging on to and accomplishing this year.

West Michigan eateries have raised the bar this past year by employing impressive talent and by producing the most memorable dishes I’ve had in the area. So here I am adding another list, but this one will be worth hanging on to and

Nov 26, 2011

Viceroy Lounge Finds Its Hot Spot

Mixologist Steve lights up an orange for a classic cocktail twist

The Buzz: Viceroy Lounge opened as the first "legitimate" speakeasy in downtown GR.
The Vibe: It was a speakeasy dressed up as the overflow for punkish sister bar, Stella's Lounge, before its recent renovation. Former "dining area" is now part of Stella's Lounge. Thank you! The room is more intimate and definitely have that speakeasy atmosphere.
The Scene: For real cocktail connoisseurs. Young professional crowd drinking side cars and housed-infused liquors. Leave your PBR t-shirt at home. 
The Food: Viceroy scrapped the foo-foo vegan dishes for classic bar dishes such as Clams Casino, Tenderloin Tips Louisianne, Escargots Echezeaux and Scotch Egg. I was too full from dinner at another establishment prior to Viceroy, but this new menu is on my hit list. 
The Cocktails: My friend Sin Chun and I were enamored from watching mixologist (and I mean a real mixologist), Steve, concoct, mix and shake cocktails like a true pro. His skills are worth the price of admission. Yes, Viceroy offers beers and wines, but go big or go home. 
Loved: Mixologist Steve and the lineup of the new menu.
One More Try: Soft seating by the entrance takes up too much space. Add more seats or cozier sofas. 
Bonus: Jazz nights and sultry vocalist, for sure. And the code to get back in from the shared bathrooms with Stella's, 1-9-3-3. 

The Wig Party


Every November, Salon Centric hosts the craziest party involving 2,000 hairdressers from all over the country. When I heard the theme this year was "The Wig Party," I knew I had to check this party out with my camera in tow. I asked several of my buddies to join me for a pre-party cocktail before heading to the festivities at the Intersection club in

Nov 25, 2011

The Cristal Party at Cygnus 27


The annual Cygnus 27 Cyg-nature Cristal Party marks the beginning of another winter party season in Grand Rapids. The city's socialites showed up in full force; drinking Cristal and dancing to the tunes of DJ Slim Tim.

Life in Grand Rapids just keeps getting better

Revelers at this year's Just Wicked party (formerly the Deadutante Ball) at the JW
There isn't a better time to live in Grand Rapids than right now. Get a glimpse of what this past year has been like by reading my latest The Good Life column in Shore Magazine. Click here.

For more photos...see below

Nov 21, 2011

KO Cancer Celebrity Boxing - Jimmy Le vs Eric "EOB" O'Brien

video

An epic battle between Jimmy "Social Dragon" Le and Eric "Irish Hand Grenade" O'Brien at the second annual Frank's Fitness KO Celebrity Boxing Event at the JW Marriott Grand Rapids. 100% of the proceeds will help kids fighting cancer at the Helen DeVos Children's Hospital.

Nov 20, 2011

Christmas Holiday in Buenos Aires



Read about my Christmas holiday in Buenos Aires in the my Travel Column in the Grand Rapids Press by clicking here.

Click below for more photos

Oct 30, 2011

The Grove Restaurant


My experience at the new Grove Restaurant is one of the most impressive dining experiences I have had this year. Read the rest of my Grand Rapids Press review by clicking HERE.

Oct 13, 2011

CitySen Lounge at City Flats Hotel


My top 10 Restaurants




Here is my Top Ten Restaurants article I wrote in my travel column, The Aisle Seat, in the Grand Rapids.

Sep 16, 2011

Asian's Night Out, jLe's Birthday, Philippine Madz at the JW



It was another epic night at the JW Marriott as the West Michigan Asian community celebrated another ANO. This time, ANO hosted Jimmy Le's 32nd birthday along with hosting the amazing Philippine Madrigal Singers of the University of the Philippines who is in town for their concert at the Grand Rapids Public Museum tonight. The MADZ electrified the crowd when they surprised the crowd with

Sep 8, 2011

A Steak Affair: Ruth's Chris Opens in Grand Rapids


I have been to many steakhouses in the world and this Ruth's Chris located inside the Amway Grand Plaza hotel has got to be one of the sexiest joints I have ever been to. Thanks impart to the Ruth's Chris development team, the design team at the hotel and the impeccable touch of interior designer, Wendell Gooch, of Wendell Gooch Design in Chicago.

I had distinct pleasure of getting a sneak peak prior to its official opening on Monday, September 12. The staff under the leadership of veteran restauranteur, Buzz Goebel, and chef, Chris Madsen, are prepped to launch the most

Aug 28, 2011

The Most Memorable Shrimp Cocktail in the World


Residents of Indianapolis talk about the Shrimp Cocktail at St. Elmo Steak House as if it's the only thing that mattered in the city. I couldn't make it to St. Elmo's the first time I visited Indy, but I was certain not to miss the opportunity to try this supposedly incredible appetizer on my second trip this month. In fact, I went to St. Elmo's twice in a span of 24 hours. 

Well, the residents are absolutely correct. This Shrimp Cocktail is the most memorable one I have ever tasted in my life. The shrimp itself is no different from most nice dining establishments - U12's. However, it's the fresh horseradish that

Aug 24, 2011

The White Out Party


It was not your typical Sunday night in Grand Rapids. About 200 guests packed the jdek for the summer's White Out Party. Grand Rapids' very own Hat Trick band opened the evening with their popular and classic renditions followed by the spectacular Ark reggae band from Detroit. In addition to the jdek, there was a waiting list in six.one.six and the JW Marriott was near capacity. What's going on in GR these days? You just have to visit to see it for yourself.

Click to see the rest of the photos.

Aug 21, 2011

Could this restaurant be the best place for Italian food in West Michigan?


Amore's Cozze bowl

I don't take anointing a restaurant with "the best" title of anything lightheartedly. Sure, West Michigan is not Chicago when it comes to a myriad of good selections for authentic Italian food, but, we do have a few options. It took me several trips to the restaurant's website to finally convince myself that this place could be worth the twenty minute drive

Aug 8, 2011

A Visit to Michigan's Farm Garden


This is, perhaps, my favorite exhibit at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. I have never lived in a farm, but I have romanticized about the experience of being one with one's environment. Walking through the farm's garden's, barnyard, and farm house is worth the price of admission if this was the only exhibit you have to see.

Below is the description of Michigan's Farm Garden from the Meijer Garden's website along with more photos I took of the farm.

Aug 7, 2011

Sonoma Restaurant & Wine Bar, Washington, D.C.


arugula salad - black trumpet mushrooms, pecorino, pine nuts, red wine P3 vinaigrette
I love stumbling into restaurants I have never been to or heard of when I travel. Such was the case for Sonoma Restaurant and Wine Bar on Capitol Hill. It was well past 1 PM and the entire Aquino clan and some friends were all starving and ready to take a break from the sweltering DC heat.

The interiors of Sonoma has clean lines and a comforting ambiance. The wine bar dominates the first floor main dining

Aug 6, 2011

smashburger: No Ordinary Burger Joint


Secret "Vegas" style smashburger

I really don't frequent chain restaurants. A couple of times a year; mostly  on the road when there are not a lot options in the middle of rural America. Once a year, I would crave a Big Mac meal, but that's about it. Now, things would be different if there was an In-N-Out burger in Michigan - the one chain that I love.  However, there is a new "kid" in town and that frequency might have to increase because this chain is worth the trip.

Smashburger officially opened its 110th restaurant in Grand Rapids in July; the chain's first in the Grand Rapids area. I

Jul 31, 2011

Hercules Restaurant- Saugatuck

Grey Goose Martini at Hercules

Hercules is my new favorite hangout in Saugatuck. You have to get past the name of the restaurant. There is nothing herculean about this garden restaurant tucked away from the bustling sidewalks of this artsy community. In fact, Hercules is cozy and intimate and a delightful setting for  drinks or dinner with friends. A group of us took the 45-minute drive from Grand Rapids to Saugatuck; finding ourselves spending a good four hours in conversation, martini's and indulging in small plates. Later on, two other friends joined us for a drink, and to our delight, they

Check-In: CityFlatsHotel - Grand Rapids


Check-In: CityFlatsHotel, Grand Rapids

The Scenario: My wife and I invited a Dutch friend(from Netherlands) who works in the Caribbean to the cozy CitySen Lounge at the hotel to start off our weekend this past Friday night. My good friend Jimmy happened to be dining with another friend, Chip, so we joined them. I contacted my friend Sin, who was dining in six.one.six at the JW, to join us. Sin brought two people with him. Another friend, Bonzi, happened to call Jimmy from The BOB, so he

Jul 27, 2011

An Indian Buffet worth visiting in Sedona



There is no question that my favorite pig-out food is Indian Cuisine. Forget the fact that I always end up smelling like a Bombay market once I leave the restaurant. Or the sad reality that I ate a lot more than what my stomach wanted me to, Indian food is just simply incredible.

I love discovering Indian dive restaurants in every corner of the earth. One of my favorites is this restaurant in one of

Jul 12, 2011

The "Old" folks at Clark Retirement Community Lipdubs to Michael Buble!

Clark Retirement Community LipDub from Clark LipDub on Vimeo.


I live just a few blocks from Clark Retirement Community in East Grand Rapids and I just had to post this funny video of Clark's amazing residents. This is definitely more my style of a retirement home. Congratulations to CRC and also the students of GVSU for this AARP Approved Cool Video.

Jul 10, 2011

World Cup Fever



I don't know about you but today's dramatic come from behind victory by the USA's women's World Cup team against Brazil got me so pumped up at the the world's most popular sport. I wished I could have been in a bar somewhere to celebrate this miraculous victory.

I got hooked into watching the World Cup after France's victory at home in 1998. I was cheering for France as Paris is

Jul 8, 2011

The Beloved Grill at 1913's Lunch Buffet Resurfaces at Bentham's


The weekday lunch buffet at the Grill at 1913 used to be my staple power lunch in the city until The 1913 Room closed its doors in May. The soup and salad bar had all the trimmings equivalent to what you'd find in most European antipasto buffets. And for a heartier option, the carving station with prime rib, pork loin and salmon en croute can't get