Category Archives: Food

Best Credit Cards for Dining and Groceries – Bonus Points for Fine Restaurants and Frozen Dinners

Anyone who takes a lookat my Instagram or Facebook pages might get the impression that I never eat at home. Yes, I’m one of “those people” constantly taking pictures of plates of food. However, I can’t eat out ALL the time. Therefore, trips to my local grocery store are essential to taking the strain off my wallet … and my waistline!

Dining and Grocery expenses comprise a large part of my household budget. I’ve previously written about the importance of incorporating miles and points accumulation strategies into your daily routine (what I like to call Pointing). Thankfully, there are several credit cards that offer everyday spending bonuses for these categories.

For example, recently American Express announced several new bonus categories and benefits (effective June 1, 2015) for its Premier Rewards Gold card.

American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card New BenefitsWhat’s particularly noteworthy is the introduction of a 2X points spending bonus on Dining. Along with the existing double points I earn on groceries, the new benefits associated with this card makes it a more powerful tool in my Pointing arsenal. There are also several other cards that offer spending bonuses in these categories. Here’s a chart that summaries some of your other options:

Best Credit Cards for Dining and Groceries - Grocery and Dining Bonus Points

However, what makes the American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card special is that it earns you Membership Rewards points which are one of the major flexible points currencies. Not only do such points provide you with a variety of redemption options, but they also serve as a hedge against future award program devaluations.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred and various Citi ThankYou cards also offer a variety of spending bonuses. However, the additional benefits and bonus categories make the Premier Rewards Gold Card a compelling option for any Pointers interested in focusing their spending on just one or two cards.

So whether you’re dining out …

Caffe Pitti Florence Restaurant across the street from the Pitti Palace Firenze

… or just hitting the wine section at Whole Foods

Whole Foods Wine Section

… make sure you’re armed with the right card to maximize your points earning. Have I missed any cards on my list? Are there are other cards out there that offer points bonuses for dining and groceries?


Disclaimer: Please bear in mind that I am NOT a professional financial advisor by any means. My discussion of credit card strategies or other financial matters are based on my own personal experiences and financial situation. In addition, I am not an employee of any of the financial institutions that issue the cards discussed nor do I receive any compensation for discussing these products. The reader is solely responsible for any financial actions that he/she may choose to undertake.



Five Firenze Fooderies – Places to Eat in Florence, Italy

Okay, I know my use of alliteration for the title of this blog post really massacred the English language. But hey, I hope I caught your attention! After a heavy day in search of “Rooms with a View” and partaking of Florence’s various cultural offerings, a guy’s gotta eat. So, if you’re famished in Florence and foraging for food (sorry, I just can’t stop), here are a few ideas:

Trattoria Le Antiche Carrozze

Address: Piazza di Santa Trinita – 50123 Florence
Tel: +39 055 2658156
TripAdvisor Reviews:

This centrally located trattoria has been around since 1875. During our last two trips to Florence our daily activities seemed to regularly bring us within close proximity to this restaurant. We’ve eaten here several times and this place has become a favorite “go to” option for a reasonably priced, no-fuss, quality meal. The menu offers a wide variety of classic Italian, Tuscan and pizza options in a traditional and rustic setting.

Le Antiche Carrozze Trattoria Restaurant Florence

After you’re done carbo-loading, you can stroll across the Piazza to the nearby Salvatore Ferragamo Shoe Museum where you can burn off some calories by wandering through the displays that take you on a journey through the history of footwear.

Ferragamo Museum Florence Firenze

Alternatively, you can take a quick air-conditioned Disco Nap while watching the surreal, Tim Burton-esque animated short film White Shoe which was inspired by the life and work of the famous designer.

Ristorante Il Latini

Address: via dei Palchetti 6/r (Palazzo Rucellai) – 50123 Florence
Tel: +39 055 210916
TripAdvisor Reviews:

Il Latini is another restaurant that we’ve visited on each of our recent trips to Florence. The key to enjoying this place is to view it as a fun, albeit somewhat touristy, “food experience.”


Reservations are recommended. However, this place is pretty big and it seems that even if you don’t book in advance, most patrons are accommodated in a reasonable amount of time.

The “experience” begins when you see the big crowd milling about the entrance to the restaurant. Even arriving with reservations, you’ll need to navigate your way to the front in order to provide your name and the number of people in your party. Although the scene may initially seem quite chaotic, the staff does a pretty efficient job of getting their guests checked in and seated.

Unless you’re part of a group of four people or more, you should expect to be seated at a large communal table with other guests. The meal is served “family style” and the interesting conversations you strike up with your fellow international patrons contributes to the festive atmosphere in the restaurant.

There’s really not a formal “menu” at Il Latini. Rather, the waiter comes out and starts talking through some options of what’s available in terms of appetizers, pasta and a main course. Your server will question you in a friendly and informal way about your food likes and dislikes and come up with some suggestions for your table. That said, vegetarians may be out of luck as the selections tend to be a bit “meat heavy” …

Il Latini Restaurant Florence Grilled Meat Platter Firenze


The meal wraps up with some dessert options, biscotti and a round of liqueurs. Portions are extremely generous and you will definitely NOT leave hungry! We stuck with the house wine and the meal was priced in an “all-inclusive” fashion. The waiter kind of “eyeballed” our jug of wine to see how much we consumed. However, my sense was that at the end of the day we were each charged a fixed price of about 50+ Euros per person. Upon request, it should be possible to order from a traditional menu and upgrade your wine selections for an additional charge.

Ristorante Caffe Pitti

Address: Piazza Pitti, 9, Florence (across the street from the Palazzo Pitti)
Tel: +39 055 2399863
TripAdvisor Reviews:

We discovered the Caffe Pitti when were looking for a quick place to grab a bite to eat prior to a concert that we were attending just across the street at the Palazzo Pitti.

Outdoor Verdi Concert at the Pitti Palace Palazzo Pitti Florence

The restaurant’s food was well-prepared and high quality – a real surprise given that it’s located so close to a major tourist attraction.

Caffe Pitti Florence Restaurant across the street from the Pitti Palace Firenze

However, what distinguished this venue is that it specializes in truffle dishes and even operates a store where the restaurant’s products may be purchased.

Caffe Pitti Florence Restaurant specializing in truffle dishes

We didn’t have time to linger on this particular visit. However, you can be sure we’ll make it a point to work our way through the entire truffle menu the next time we’re in Florence!

Golden View Open Bar

Address: Via de Bardi, 64/58, 50125 Florence (within view of the Ponte Vecchio)
Tel: +39 055 214502
TripAdvisor Reviews:

The very un-Italian sounding name of this establishment actually perfectly describes the views that are the focal point the restaurant. The Golden View Open Bar is located in the shadow of the Ponte Vecchio with the famous bridge framed dramatically by the dining’s room large picture windows.


The restaurant’s interior is ultramodern and its stark white interior serves as a neutral backdrop for the views outside. Of course, I did feel a bit worried that my deliciously prepared spaghetti pomodoro might cause some serious “splatter damage” during our meal.

Golden View Open Bar Restaurant Florence Firenze Spaghetti in Pomodoro Sauce

Adding to the ambiance are the jazz performances that are held nightly (except on Tuesdays and Thursdays) starting at 9:00 pm.


Address: Via del Campanile angolo via delle Oche – 50012 Florence
Tel: +39 055 216158
TripAdvisor Reviews:

What’s a trip to Italy without gelato?

Grom Gelato Florence FromPointATo with his hands full

In order for us stay to true to our “gelato-a-day” program we were pleased that this branch of the high-end ice cream chain was located just down the street from the Hotel Brunelleschi which was our base of operations during our stay in Florence.

Grom Gelato Florence Interior View Firenze

Although the gelato at Grom isn’t cheap, the variety of flavors and the quality of the ingredients justify the higher prices and waiting in the ever present long lines snaking out of the store.

Grom Florence waiting in line for gelato Firenze

Fortunately, you won’t have to go too long without a Grom fix as you continue your travels since the chain maintains branches in all of the major Italian cities as well as in New York, Malibu, Paris, Tokyo and Osaka.

Do you have a favorite dining spot in Florence? I’d love to hear about it!


Sea, Shrimp and Celebrities – Food with a View in Positano

There’s often an inverse relationship between food quality and the vistas that you take in as you’re tucking into your Caesar Salad.  For example, I’ve had many a mediocre meal at the top of a tall building.  However, in a place like Positano, where you’re constantly surrounded by beautiful scenery, I was pleased that the food did justice to its surroundings.

Our days in Positano started with breakfast on the outdoor terrace of our hotel (for more information on our stay at the Hotel Marincanto check out my earlier postHercule Poirot Should Have Slept Here):

Hotel Marincanto Positano Outdoor Terrace for Breakfast

Where even the cappuccino was pleased with the view:

Hotel Marincanto Positano View at Breakfast

Just a vertigo-inducing stairway descent away …

Hotel Marincanto Positano Stairs down to Beach

… located at the base of the cliffs below the Hotel Marincanto was  the La Scogliera beach club.

Hotel Marincanto Positano Beach Club

 Where we had a couple of seaside lunches …

Hotel Marincanto Positano Beach Club Lunch

… and ordered a fantastic caprese salad featuring some of the freshest and juiciest buffalo mozzarella I’ve ever tasted.

Hotel Marincanto Beach Club Tomato and Mozzarella Salad

Another beachside café we tried was Pupetto Evittoria which was located an easy 15 minute walk away through the town center and on Positano’s other major beach, the Spiaggia del Fornillo.

Pupetto Restaurant Sign on the Via Positanesi D'America

Getting to Pupetto included a stroll along a scenic cliffside walkway, the Via Positanese D’America.

Walk along the Via Positanesi D"America in Positano

Where we enjoyed some simple but fresh pizzas on the restaurant’s breezy open terrace …

Pizza at Pupetto Restaurant in Positano

Along with some “sexy” Diet Cokes.

Drinks on the terrace of the Pupetto Restaurant in Positano

Also located along the Via Positanesi D’America is Lo Guarracino.

Entrance to Lo Guarracino Restaurant from the Via Positanesi D"America

At this restaurant we enjoyed our dinner under a rustic vine covered canopy that gave you the feeling that you were sitting in a treehouse …

Lo Guarracino Dinner on the Terrace

… in full view of the ocean with sailboats bobbing in the distance.

Lo Guarracino Dinner with a View

On the menu for dinner was  spaghetti alla puttanesca

Spaghetti alla puttanesca at Lo Guarracino

…. shrimp scampi

Shrimp Scampi at Lo Guarracino 

and a main course of Baked Fish (Al Forno) with Potatoes and Grilled Fish.

Baked Fish Al Forno at Lo Guarracino

Grilled Fish at Lo Guarracino

The following night we went from the seashore to the hills above Positano for dinner at Il Ritrivo. Given its sky-high location far from the town center, the restaurant provides a complimentary van pickup and return from your hotel.

Il Ritrovo Restaurant Positano Van Pickup

We had a great table looking down over Positano to the sea.

Dinner at Il Ritrovo Positano

… and enjoyed prosciutto with ripe cantaloupe …

Prosciutto and Melon at Il Ritrovo Restaurant Positano

… and grilled fish.

Grilled Fish at Il Ritrovo Restaurant Positano

However, the highlight of the meal had to be the Salt & Pepper Shrimp.

Salt and Pepper Shrimp at Il Ritrovo Restaurant Positano

Of course, I would have been fine if I stopped at the lemon cake for dessert.

Dessert at Il Ritrovo Restaurant Positano

But I just couldn’t resist the complimentary sampling of the restaurant’s various homemade dessert liqueurs. Needless to say, I slept very well that night!

After dinner liqueurs at Il Ritrovo Restaurant Positano

We wrapped up our stay in Positano with dinner back on the beach at Chez Black which not only offered up more seaside dining …

Chez Black Positano Sign

… but also a celebrity sighting …

Samuel L. Jackson and Magic Johnson at Chez Black Positano

If you squint, you can make out that this is a photo of Samuel L. Jackson and the back of Magic Johnson‘s head. Sigh, I guess I have quite a bit of work I need to do on my paparazzi skills, don’t I?

How about you? What has been your experience with restaurants with a view?


Afternoon Tea at the Langham Hotel – A Tale of Two Teas

These days when most people get that afternoon “sinking feeling” they often do a “Betty White” and turn to a Snickers candy bar to satisfy their hunger.  However, back in 1865,  when the Duchess of Bedford experienced the afternoon munchies she had her footman deliver all of her tea making equipment and some bread and butter to her private room in London’s Langham Hotel.  And Voila! The Afternoon Tea is born!


A few years ago, my Partner F and I on one of our London trips made a pilgrimage to the Langham Hotel to enjoy Afternoon Tea at the place where the tradition had its beginning.

The hotel is stately and traditional and served as the perfect quintessentially, British backdrop for our afternoon break.


Afternoon Tea takes places in the hotel’s Palm Court which has a glamorous Art Deco feel that is accented by modern touches.

Palm Court Langham Hotel London

Photo Source: Langham Hotel London

Service at the hotel was formal, yet gracious.  We were able to choose tea from an extensive menu and enjoyed a selection of traditional finger sandwiches and sweets.


The Langham Hotel London offers a tea service that does justice to its standing as the birthplace of the Afternoon Tea.

I was therefore excited when Langham opened its newest outpost in my hometown of Chicago which features its own modern interpretation of the Afternoon Tea.

The Langham Chicago occupies the first 13 floors of the iconic IBM Building which was designed by the celebrated architect Mies van der Rohe. The hotel has a very luxurious Mid-Century Modern feel.  Afternoon Tea takes place in the hotel’s Pavilion lobby restaurant.

Pavilion at the Langham Hotel Chicago

The tea service began with an amuse-bouche of Passion Fruit Pearls in the house’s Palm Court blend.  This was a wonderfully elegant take on the concept of a bubble tea!

Afternoon Tea Amuse Bouche Langham Hotel Chicago

Savory finger sandwiches were served. The selection included:

Coronation Chicken Salad, Marcona Almonds, Black Figs
English Cucumber, Red Pepper Butter, Watermelon Radish
Maine Lobster, Green Goddess Aioli, Celery Hearts
Roasted Beef Tenderloin, Truffle Remoulade

Afternoon Tea Sandwiches Langham Hotel Chicago

The sweet selections were served on a beautiful tiered silver tray …

Afternoon Tea  Presentation Langham Hotel Chicago

… and were delicious as well as colorful!

Afternoon Tea Desserts Langham Hotel Chicago

Of course, Afternoon Tea wouldn’t be complete without scones, clotted cream and jam on the menu.

Afternoon Tea Scones Langham Hotel Chicago

… and since we were celebrating my Sister’s birthday, a special treat was prepared for her.

Afternoon Tea Birthday Treat Langham Hotel Chicago

All of the “classic” Afternoon Tea items were served.  However, the Langham Chicago puts a definitely more modern spin to its version of this institution.

However, what really defined our experience was the flawless service by the Langham Chicago’s staff.  The team was attentive, crisp and professional. Every person we encountered made an effort to make us feel welcome and special.

In addition, although the hotel has been getting quite a few favorable reviews, it doesn’t seem like a regular stop on the “tourist trail.” The clientele consisted of a nice mix of upscale international travelers combined with “in the know” Chicagoans.  The resulting effect is an atmosphere that’s quiet and fashionably elegant.

We enjoyed being able to compare and contrast two different interpretations of the institution of Afternoon Tea. However, one element that remained constant was the excellent service provided by the Langham.  Oh yes, that and the delicious tea and scones!

Have you ever had Afternoon Tea?  What was your experience?