Category Archives: U.S.A.

Hamilton in Puerto Rico

The 58th GRAMMY Awards - Photo by Theo Wargo/Wire Image

Do not throw away your shot to see the musical Hamilton… while on a Caribbean vacation…while contributing to rebuilding Puerto Rico.

On September 20, 2017, Hurricane Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico, knocking off power to the entire island, devastating homes and landscape, and creating a humanitarian disaster on the U.S. territory.

By August 2018, the death toll had risen to 2,975. (The number of casualties has since increased.)

But while the devastation was vast, Puerto Rico has been steadily rebuilding, reopening and reviving its tourism market. In an effort to continue his support for the island, Lin-Manuel Miranda will once again star in the title role of Hamilton, when the Tony, Grammy and Pulitzer Prize winning musical plays San Juan from January 8 to 27, 2019.

As expected, general ticket sales (which went on sale November 10) quickly sold-out, but limited tickets are still available through trip packages offered by Discover Puerto Rico. Additionally, premium tickets sold for $5,000 each, will raise money for Miranda’s Flamboyan Arts Fund, dedicated to strengthening arts on the island.

Puerto Rico wants visitors to know they are open for business. Remember the S.O.S. photo that went viral immediately following Hurricane Maria? The plea has evolved into an invitation and a message that we are “Bienvenidos” on the island. Catch a glimpse of the progress in the touching video below: 

 

You can play a role in the rebuilding effort merely by visiting. Be in the room where it happens and let the theatricality of Hamilton affect you while effecting positive change in Puerto Rico.

…And Peggy!

*For additional travel information, visit DiscoverPuertoRico.com.

 

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A Tasting Tour of Astoria, Queens

AstoriaSubwayPhoto via flickr/Ed McGowan

New York is a city of immigrants, a place where diverse cultures co-exist, thrive, expand and blend. We are a mish-mash of transplants. And that mish-mash tastes real good.

Last month, I had the delicious joy of joining Cristina Lombardi, the insanely knowledgeable owner of Follow Me New York City Adventures on their “Taste of Queens Adventure.” This private, customizable walking tour focuses on the neighborhoods of Astoria or Flushing, depending on the interests of the guests. In fact, Follow Me NYC can customize pretty much any type of tour you’d like: from a tipsy tour through the city’s speakeasies to a sweet-tooth tasting of the city’s best candy and dessert spots. They also offer a la carte adventures exploring Times Square & Theater District, Wall Street & Financial District, Central Park and Greenwich Village.

On a sunny and blustery fall day, our small group set out to taste our way through Astoria, Queens. Queens is the most diverse borough of New York City and, depending on what survey you read, it is either in the top three or the most diverse county in the entire United States. According to the last U.S. census in 2010, 48.5% of the population of Queens is foreign-born.

We began our tour with a brief history lesson. We learned Astoria was named after the wealthiest man in America (at the time), John Jacob Astor, in the hopes he would invest in his namesake neighborhood. And though he could literally see it from his palatial home on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, it is rumored Mr. Astor never actually set foot in Astoria, nor invested any substantial money. Regardless, the name stuck and, through the years, Astoria became home for every wave of immigrants that landed on our shores.

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Galaktoboureko

Throughout the early to mid 1900’s it was primarily Irish, Italian and Jewish. It wasn’t until the 1960’s that Greek immigrants began flocking to Astoria and creating one of the largest centers of Greek culture in the United States. So, it was fitting that our first stop was the family-owned Yaya’s Bakery for a taste of Galaktoboureko, a traditional Greek phyllo dough pastry filled with warm custard and drizzled with a light syrup made from honey and lemon juice. Not only was it delicious, but it was a dessert I would have never thought of ordering had it not been for our guide, Cristina, who chose this pastry specifically for that reason.

With warmer bellies, we headed to La Cabaña Grocery for Tacos al Pastor (a pork taco with fresh cilantro, pineapple, chopped onion and a squeeze of  lime). The bodega sells traditional spices, authentic ingredients and beloved Mexican treats in a no-frills but all-taste setting.

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Samosa at Seva Indian Restaurant

From one characteristically spicy cuisine to another, we next savored a vegetable Samosa at Seva Indian Restaurant, which specializes in Northern Indian dishes. Don’t forget to dunk the potato, onion, pea and lentil-filled pastry in the mint chutney for the full flavor explosion.

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Spinach Burke

Our walk continued to Djerdan for a Spinach Burek, a Balkan staple and probably my favorite of the day. The crispy phyllo-dough pastry is filled with cheese and freshly sautéed spinach and shaped like a (very tasty!) cigar. Insider tip: In between trips to Astoria, you can order from their online store.

At our next stop, Zenon Taverna, a member of the family that owns the restaurant greeted us with a crash course in Cypriot cuisine, explaining “we use a lot of mint and cumin… we use all the spices that Greeks won’t.” He continued describing the flavors as a blending of traditional Greek, Turkish and Middle Eastern influences, before serving us Trahana Soup. The traditional Cypriot soup is made with bulgur wheat, thickened in chicken stock, Greek yogurt, halloumi (a type of goat cheese) and finished off with a squeeze of fresh lemon.

From the traditional to the trendy, our group headed to the very popular Queens Comfort, which had a line of folks waiting to enter. Inside, there was a DJ spinning for a brunch clientele that was equal parts multi-generational families and Millennial hipsters. Our takeaway was a taste of the Atomic Fire Balls–deep-fried, Siracha-infused mac ‘n cheese balls. If these spicy nuggets were indicative of the other menu options, I can easily understand the long line of eager diners.

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Atomic Fire Balls

Our final stop took us to Little Morocco for a taste of the Merguez sausage, a minced lamb sausage spiced with cumin, chili peppers, sumac and harissa. The area of Steinway Street, where the restaurant is located, is often called Little Egypt or Little Morocco, as Lebanese, Northern African and Middle Eastern immigrants have been steadily settling in the area since the 1980’s.

This tour through Astoria was a much-needed reminder that diversity makes New York City great—always! As a now seasoned New Yorker I too often stay within my own neighborhood out of habit and, well, laziness. But no one moves to New York to stay within his comfort level. Especially as politicians are using the topic of immigration to stoke unfounded fears, it’s important to remember that our diversity makes us stronger, makes us better, and makes our walks through Astoria all the more tasty.

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(The restaurants we visited on our tasting adventure; our fabulous guide, Cristina Lombardi, in center; Trahana Soup lower left.)

***To share in the experience, visit the “Astoria Tasting” highlighted story on the @travelingiq Instagram

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Sipping for a Cause

IMG_8685Want to fight LGBTQ discrimination? There’s a wine for that. Want to empower girls to grow into strong women? There’s a wine for that. Want to celebrate the women’s suffrage movement ahead of the mid-term elections? There’s a wine for that too.

Jim Obergefell, who in 2015 fought for the recognition of his marriage all the way to the Supreme Court–resulting in the landmark ruling Obergefell v. Hodges, which made same-sex marriage the law of the land–has continued his fight for equality.

And this time he’s getting a little help from the grapes.

In 2016, Mr. Obergefell partnered with Matt Grove to create Equality Vines, the world’s first cause wine portfolio dedicated to equality for all people. To date, Equality Vines has launched lines supporting LGBTQ causes, women’s empowerment and voting rights, donating a portion of sales to organizations associated with each cause.

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“Love Wins” Series

The inaugural “Love Wins” series is anchored by The Decision Pinot Noir (celebrating the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling) and Stonewall Zinfandel, with sales contributing to SAGE, an organization that tirelessly advocates for LGBTQ elders. As stated on their website, “SAGE stands proudly with the LGBT pioneers across the country who’ve been fighting for decades for their right to live with dignity and respect.” Earlier this year, the series launched two new sparkling wines: the Love Wins Blanc de Noirs and Love Wins Sparkling Rosé, benefitting the Mattachine Society, one of the first gay rights organizations in the U.S. and one that (near to my heart) in 1965 protested Fidel Castro’s internment camps for homosexuals in Cuba. Today the Mattachine Society of Washington D.C. conducts archive activism, “identifying, conserving and interpreting the LGBT historical record.”

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19th Amendment Sauvignon Blanc

The first releases of the “Empowerment” series celebrate the women’s suffrage movement and are named after the constitutional amendment which gave women the right to vote, in 1920.  Sales of the 19thAmendment Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay benefit the League of Women Voters, the nonpartisan organization that believes in the “power of women to create a more perfect democracy.” Especially now, as the U.S. nears the November 6 elections, I will happily drink to that! Also of note, the 19thAmendment Sauvignon Blanc is handcrafted by Alison Doran-Green, one of the first female winemakers in the United States.

Respect Wine

“Respect” Series

To find out what R-E-S-P-E-C-T means to Equality Vines, look no further than their latest partnership with the YWCA Metropolitan Chicago. Five dollars from every bottle sold of the “Respect” series ensures the YWCA can continue serving its community. “YWCA Metropolitan Chicago does great work to positively impact the lives of women and families, and Equality Vines is honored to partner with them on this wine to help fund their many services and advocacy work,” said Mr. Obergefell. “Women deserve equal rights, equal pay and equal opportunity and this new wine allows customers to participate in making that a reality.”

Now you can use your drinking for good and uncork your activism with your next wine purchase. Order the limited releases through the Equality Vines website (they can ship to 44 states as allowed by current shipping laws), sign up for the wine club or visit their California tasting room. Just this year, they’ve donated over $17,000 to some exceptionally worthy causes. And you can help, one sip at a time.

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All photos courtesy of Equality Vines

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Wakanda on Tour

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Photo from Black Panther film (Source: Heroes & Sheroes) 

The badass looks of Black Panther are bringing a blast of Wakanda to Pittsburgh, before embarking on a world tour.

Currently on display at the Heinz History Center, “Heroes & Sheroes: The Art and Influence of Ruth E. Carter in Black Cinema” showcases the costumes, career and inspiration behind Academy Award and Emmy-nominated costume designer, Ruth E. Carter, the woman who helped create the cinematic worlds of Malcolm X, The Butler, Selma, Amistad and Black Panther, among others. “The exhibition is a celebration of film culture, Black culture, African culture, American culture,” said Carter.

The multi-media exhibit uses sketches, stills, behind-the-scenes media and (of course) costumes to celebrate a thirty-year career, while tackling the complicated ways in which underrepresented communities are displayed in film. “I will have to rethink ever dressing a young African-American man in a hoodie in a film ever again,” Carter said after the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

Heroes & Sheroes” will be on exhibit in Pittsburgh until December 2, before touring to Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and Paris, with additional cities planned.

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Cleveland: A Cultural Center in the American Heartland

1-Photo courtesy of Destination ClevelandThis summer, the cultured traveler is looking beyond the coasts and discovering a contemporary art center in America’s heartland. With the inaugural FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art, the city of Cleveland has commissioned more than 100 local, national and international artists to join the city’s evolving transformation into a prominent cultural center. And everyone’s invited to the party. After all, in 2014 Cleveland hosted the Gay Games, an international sporting event for LGBTQ athletes and their allies, and in 2016 hosted the Republican National Convention that nominated Donald Trump. (For the record, Cleveland voted for Hillary Clinton by 66.1%). It is the rare city where everyone is welcome, and where the moxie of its people is on par with their midwestern charm…

Read the full article published in Travel Squire

ilthy, photo by Ivan Quintanilla

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Cleveland Triennial – “The American Library”

Photo©FieldStudio2018

Photo courtesy of FRONT International

This summer, the contemporary art world is converging in Cleveland.  Through September 30, the city hosts the inaugural FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art, engaging the region with over 100 programs by international, national and local artists. From traditional museums to repurposed spaces, the Cleveland Triennial is enabling art lovers to explore the city’s major attractions and travelers to revel in world-class contemporary art.

One of the highlights, The American Library by artist Yinka Shonibare MBE, fittingly displayed in the Cleveland Public Library, celebrates the diversity of the United States—never more topical than with the backdrop of the immigration debate, the President’s controversial travel ban and the recent outcry over the separation of families at the border.  The American Library consists of approximately 6,000 books, each wrapped in a traditional African textile and stamped in gold with the name of a first- or second-generation immigrant to the United States. And the featured Americans will surprise you: from Leonard Bernstein to Scarlett Johansson to—yes—Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin and Donald Trump. Though the backgrounds are all different, each person shares a common bond, they are the American product of immigration.

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Curious about an individual’s background?

Head to theamericanlibraryinstallation.com to research the cultural heritage that has shaped each of these Americans. I was particularly drawn to the stories of those who are actively fighting against immigration, though they themselves have greatly benefitted from our nation’s history of welcoming other cultures. For example: Ted Cruz, born in Canada to a Cuban father; or Donald Trump, whose mother is from the U.K. and paternal grandparents are from Germany.

Chances are, you have your own immigration tale. Visit the website to add your story and photograph to the expanding narrative.

For more information and help planning your Cleveland experience, visit the websites of FRONT International and Destination Cleveland.

And follow @TravelingIQ on Instagram to see more of my travels through Cleveland and beyond.

 

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Brewnuts: Donuts & Beer

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What is better than a donut shop? …A donut shop with beer!

Located in the Gordon Square neighborhood of Cleveland, Brewnuts combines two delicious tastes, not typically enjoyed together. Clevelanders Shelley and John Pippin, not only incorporate craft-beer as an ingredient in their doughy deliciousness, but also serve sixteen local brews on tap (and even more bottled). The donuts are all hand-made in their shop, with a regularly changing menu that includes traditional favorites and seasonal features. During my recent visit, the daily offerings included Maple Bacon, Strawberry Sprinkle and Peanut Butter Cocoa Pebbles, among others.

The shop features artwork by local artist Glen Infante and bright-pink donut floaties adorning the tropical-leaf printed wallpaper. Enjoy a donut or brew at the counter or relax in the lanai-inspired sitting area. The Brewnuts shop is trendy and tropical, with decor fitting for both the ladies of Mean Girls and Golden Girls.

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*Photos by IQ

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Can Wine is So Gay

HouseWinePride

There’s a gay-party-in-a-can giving us a rainbow of reasons to celebrate beyond Pride.  This summer, House Wine is honoring LGBTQ equality with the Limited-Edition Rainbow Rosé Bubbles cans, available until August 31. The colorful cans are fantastic for summer day drinking. They are fruity and effervescent, just like you. And like you, they’re  more than just pretty. Standing behind their “Everyone’s Welcome in Our House” motto, House Wine is donating $2 per case to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).  So you have multiple reasons to drink up this summer.

The 375mL Limited-Edition Rainbow Rosé Bubbles cans are priced at $5.99/can and are equivalent to half a bottle of wine. They are available at wine stores throughout the country or you can order 6-packs from the online store.

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So. Many. Gay. Bubbles. All summer long, House Wine is celebrating #LGBTQ equality with the Limited-Edition Rainbow Rosé Bubbles cans. With a taste that’s “Bright, fruity and flavorful” (adjectives I’m totally borrowing to describe myself from now on) these cans are fantastic for outdoor summer #daydrinking… picnics, pools, BBQs. And with $2 per case donated to #hrc I’m finally drinking for a good cause. #housewinepride … (📷 @thefireislander) … … … #TravelingIQ #travel #gaytravel @ourhousewine #canwine #gaypride #fireislandpines #fipines #fireisland #gayinstagram #gayisland #gaywine #gaytravelblog #travelblog #travelblogger #travelwriter #thegaypassport #gaysofinstagram #gaycation #wineallday #travelgram #instatravel #gaydrinks #gaybubbles

A post shared by Ivan Quintanilla (@travelingiq) on

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A Case for the Gay Hotel

Pool at gay hotel

A Perfect Day at the Almar Resort in Puerto Vallarta

I’ve recently had conversations with several gay men in their 20’s about the necessity, or lack thereof, of the “gay hotel.”  First, I think it is truly amazing that many of our younger gay peers feel so completely comfortable in their skin in any surrounding.  I think it is tangible evidence of progress.  And one I celebrate—wholeheartedly—as I toast with my frozen cosmopolitan, pomegranate margarita or glass of crisp sauvignon blanc. But these conversations have made me examine why I personally am still drawn to the congregation of gay.  Now, I love to travel often and on many different types of trips, frequented by many different types of people.  And I don’t ever want that to change.  But yet I find myself consistently drawn to the comradery of the gay hotel.

I’d guess this is greatly generational.  Perhaps it’s the childhood years of being schooled in the appropriate ways boys gesture. Or the exhausting energy expended in youth hoping no one will figure you out.  Or the many times you heard the f-word and continued walking pretending you weren’t the subject.   And I am thrilled if kids these days don’t grow up with any of these same concerns.  Because though I have never been targeted or mocked as a traveling adult, this well-adjusted gay New Yorker still can’t wait to return to Puerto Vallarta or Key West or Provincetown.

There is a world of difference between not feeling endangered and feeling truly welcome.  I am so accustomed to my life in New York City, where I never worry about holding my boyfriend’s hand as we stroll through Hell’s Kitchen or fret if my shorts are the appropriate length on a hot, summer day (I’m bringing the 5” inseam back!).  With so many elements of which to keep track on vacation—currency exchanges, language barriers, convoluted directions—watching yourself so you are not watched seems like wasted energy.

I prefer to spend that time meeting new friends—many of whom, especially now in the age of social media, will continue to be part of my life beyond my departure from the destination.  I have been fortunate to share unforgettable moments with some pretty fantastic people who I may or may not ever see again.  But if I ever visit their home cities, I guarantee you they will be my first call.  Because they are now part of my community.

So, I will continue to travel everywhere and stay anywhere, but I will always have a soft spot for the gay hotel.  And I hope all of our generations can join in the spirited, tipsy conversations which could never be replicated on an app or anywhere else, other than at that pool, with that fruity cocktail in hand, while blasting that Deborah Cox remix that will forever give us life.

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Miami Beach Gay Pride Gets the Olympic Treatment

Gus Kenworthy© Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

On April 2-8, Olympic freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy will trade the snow for sand as a Grand Marshall of Miami Beach Gay Pride 2018.

The Sochi Silver Medalist, PyeongChang puppy-saver and Ricky Martin admirer (see photo below) will join musical guests, festive floats and 135,000 partiers for the week-long celebration.

Celebrating its 10-year anniversary, Miami Beach Gay Pride shifts into party gear on Friday, April 6, with a VIP Gala at Faena Forum and Pride Kick-off Party at Basement in the Edition Hotel.  On Saturday, the festivities move surf-side with the all-day Beach Party Festival, featuring DJ Yazz, DJ Dan Slater and a performance by Betty Who.

Starting Sunday at noon, the Pride Parade struts down Ocean Drive and keeps the party pumping past nightfall with music, fireworks and a headlining performance by perennial pop favorite, Taylor Dayne.  For a view fit for a queen, reserve a table at the recently reopened Palace, alongside the Pride Parade route.

For more information and tickets, visit MiamiBeachGayPride.com.

For a preview of the festivities, check out the video below:

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