Swedish Food Truck Dishes Up Airport Cuisine

Whether you like to hunt down the hidden hole-in-the-wall eateries, the popular street food stalls or the city’s best haute cuisine, you probably agree that food is an important part of the travel experience. But if there’s one aspect of travel dining that is universally loathed, it has to be airport food. Bland, congealed — not to mention overpriced — airport meals seem to be an inevitable part of the journey.

So it comes as a bit of a surprise that one country has decided its airport food is so good that it is part of its marketing campaign. Sweden believes the fare at Stockholm Arlanda Airport is so nom-worthy that it is loading up food trucks with the airport cuisine to tempt the taste buds of the city’s residents and visitors.For $10, hungry patrons can dine on dishes like braised veal, pulled pork, truffle risotto, lasagna and ramen soup with wasabi-marinated smoked salmon. Those behind the concept say they believe people will be surprised by the quality of the food, and will hopefully be encouraged to get to the airport earlier to sample more of the cuisine on offer.

The food truck will make rounds of Stockholm for several weeks, but may stick around longer if the idea proves a success.

What do you think of airport food? Would you try out the Arlanda Food Truck?

Forget Room Service, Groceries Now Delivered Straight To Your Hotel Room

It used to be that if you wanted to cook while on vacation, you had to stay in an apartment, campground or other special facility that included a kitchen. But now, even traditional hotels are giving travelers the chance to enjoy healthy snacks and home-cooked meals thanks to the rise of grocery delivery services.

USA Today reports that increasing numbers of hotels are arranging food deliveries for guests, including fresh groceries. Some hotels are offering snack kits, including things like Greek yoghurt, chips and salsa, fresh fruit and vegetables. Other hotels will deliver pre-made meals that just need to be zapped for a few minutes in a microwave, and some will bring pizza to your door to satisfy late night cravings. Many of the food packages offered at hotels can be customized for travelers with special dietary needs, such as those who are gluten-free or who suffer from allergies.We told you recently about the death of room service in the hotel industry, and the grocery delivery trend seems to be a way of giving guests the ability to still enjoy food in their rooms. Hotels save money by shedding the expense of running room service and guests no longer have to rely on the stale (and pricy) peanuts in the mini bar.

What do you think? Would you take advantage of this service?

White Collar Travel: A Tale of Two Meals

Business travelers lead dual lives when they’re on the road. One is nothing short of luxurious, and the other is nothing short of depressing. This isn’t a case of good weeks and bad, and there is little they can do to engineer the frequency of the former over the latter. It all comes down to an uncertain mix of luck and timing. The contrast is most evident in the dining experience. Some meals are grand, while others are eaten from a desk, dashboard or on the corner of the bed.

When clients and your own company’s executives are involved, meals tend to be … ummmm … a tad more upscale. The restaurant is chosen with care, and reservations are made in advance. Usually, attention is paid to where in the restaurant you’ll be sitting, with a private room preferred over a meal with the masses. Several choices are evaluated, and the menus are examined for content rather than cost.

Cocktails tend to come before seating, and wine flows abundantly when the party gets to the table. You’ll go through salads and appetizers (and bottles of wine) before enjoying the entrée that you’ve been thinking about all afternoon. By the time dessert arrives, you’re stuffed … but it just looks so good! There’s always room for something sweet, and you eventually return to your hotel room fully satisfied. You start to think, “I really could get used to this.”You wish all your meals could be that tasty, especially on the nights when you experience the other side of your business travel life.

It’s well past 9 PM, and you’re sitting in a conference room with six of your colleagues. The task of the day is projected onto a screen, and the answers just aren’t flowing. Or, you’re faced with a mammoth amount of work, and a deadline is looming. Someone finally realizes that nobody has eaten since breakfast (or the night before, if you prefer sleep to food) and starts taking orders. Fast food fare eventually materializes in the conference room. The smell is a distraction, since the quarters are tight. As you chomp between clicks on the keyboard, you realize that you aren’t tasting a thing. Rather, you’re just trying to fuel up for what is going to be a long night.

Of course, not every meal is taken at the office. In some cases, you may get out at a reasonable hour. But, you’re eating alone, so you need to make your allotted food cash go as far as possible. Occasionally, you’ll treat yourself to something nice, but on other nights you’ll call for a pizza, prop the box on the desk next to your laptop and munch while sifting through your e-mail with a television show you’ve never had time to watch before blathering on in the background.

This is part of the situation to which the business traveler must adapt, of course. Over time, it becomes part of the grind. You can’t call it a routine, because randomness enters into the picture. You get used to it and learn to look forward to the meals you’ll enjoy most.

Read more White Collar Travel here.

Daily Pampering: The quintessential Upper West Side brunch

I try to get to Compass by 11:30, when the restaurant opens. Brunch on the Upper West Side can get crowded quickly, and I enjoy that brief moment when the meal is its most peaceful. This Manhattan neighborhood is popular among brunchers and offers no shortage of choices. Yet, the most interesting by far can be found at Compass, on W. 70th Street, just west of Amsterdam Avenue. Be sure to make a reservation, because you won’t be the only person in the neighborhood to have this idea.

The brunch menu is not expensive: you’ll enjoy an incredible meal for $28. So, why feature it in the Daily Pampering column, which is committed to the decadent? Well, you don’t have to spend a fortune to live the life luxurious, and any local or visitor to Manhattan would be nuts not to sit for a meal here.

The Compass brunch menu is short on choice but not on variety. The first course to be presented to you includes salmon, bread, pastry and sausage. Bite-sized portions of all are presented for the table, obviating the need for difficult decisions. The flavors are incredibly well balanced, and the presentation is meticulous. Dessert is served the same way – small portions of everything. You won’t need to worry about leaving the table with the concern that you missed something delightful.You do have to select an entrée, and it’s a painful experience. You may be able to narrow it down to three or so that turn you on, but finding your way to one is brutal. If you live in the city, you can just go back a few times. I don’t envy tourists, however who don’t have easy access to this restaurant. On my most recent visit (last weekend), I ate the Lobster BLT, the first time I’ve tried it, and I’m glad I did. There are no good choices on the menu – they’re all beyond that.

The service at Compass is flawless. The staff is quiet, efficient and attentive. Dishes are brought at ideal temperatures, and water and coffee flow before you need to ask. I’d suggest a waiter, but that’s unnecessary – they are all fantastic.

You need a dose of pampering? Head out to Compass for a meal. This is among the most enjoyable culinary experiences in Manhattan, the price is downright shocking. Compass has a full menu for dinner, as well, which is not to be missed.

Want more? Get your daily dose of pampering right here.

11 tips for sleeping on planes

I have been blessed with the gift of being able to sleep on virtually any moving vehicle. I’ve slept in large airplanes, small propeller planes, trucks on unsealed roads, cars, trains and boats. I sleep without the help of drugs, herbal supplements or any other gimmicks. I find my seat and my brain seems to decide, “Hey, this is going to be boring; let’s just skip it.” Several hours later, I wake up as my plane is on final approach.

My personal record for continuous sleep on a plane is 11.5 hours on a flight from Sydney to Los Angeles. Granted, that was in first class on V Australia, so the conditions were optimal. But my coach class record is 8.5 hours of uninterrupted sleep on a flight from Detroit to Tokyo. I followed that up with a 2.5 hour nap later in the flight. I would say that, on average, I spend 85% of my time on airplanes in an unconscious state. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So, how do I do it? Well, if I could guarantee a solid slumber on a flight, I’d be hosting an infomercial right now selling the Mike Method for two easy payments of $49.95. Sadly, I think I am just lucky that I can sleep anywhere. However, there certainly are a few things that you can do to create an environment more conducive to sleeping on a plane (or any mode of transportation, really).1. Relax
Whether you’re on your way to an important meeting for work, visiting your in-laws or just going on vacation, the act of transporting yourself from one place to another can, in and of itself, be stressful. The same things that keep you awake at home – stress, anxiety, pressure – will keep you awake on the plane. Clear your mind and sleep is more likely to come.

2. Remove Contact Lenses
I always fly with my contacts out and my glasses on. Plane air is dry and sleeping with your contact lenses in is never fun. I’m much more apt to fall asleep if my contacts are out and my eyes are comfortable. In fact, when I’m ready to go to sleep, I take my glasses off and clip them on my shirt. They’re close by for when I wake up, but without them my body knows that it’s time power down.

3. Familiar Music
An iPod (or other portable music device) is a great way to block out the noise around you. But for optimal results, create a playlist purely for sleeping. Fill it with music that is soothing (for you) and, most importantly, very familiar to you. If you listen to music that is new to you, your brain will stay active trying to pay attention to the unfamiliar stimuli. Find some comfort music that you know backwards and forwards so that your brain can listen to it on autopilot. I have a playlist on my iPod entitled “Sleep.” I’ve listened to that 400+ song playlist on countless flights over the years. It has changed minimally and the moment it starts, my mind begins to shut off.

4. Earplugs/Noise-Canceling Headphones
If music isn’t your thing, simply block out the noise with good old-fashioned foam earplugs or new-fangled noise canceling headphones. Whatever you need to block out the crying babies, sniffling germ-carriers and endless announcements from the flight crew about how the in-flight entertainment system needs to be reset.

5. Dress Comfortably
THIS DOES NOT MEAN THAT SWEATPANTS IN PUBLIC ARE SOCIALLY ACCEPTABLE! However, packing a change of clothes for long flights can be very helpful. If you don’t want to carry around a pair of pajama pants, wear an outfit that is comfortable and breathable. Bring layers so that you can handle whatever the plane’s climate control system throws at you. And take off your shoes when nap time comes. But trust me, put them back on when you visit the toilet.

6. Have a Drink
Notice that I said a drink. Drink too much and you’ll only guarantee yourself numerous trips to the lavatory and some fitful half-sleep followed by dehydration and a headache. If one glass of wine makes you drowsy, don’t feel bad. Just don’t let that one drink turn into a party at 35,000 feet.

7. Travel Pillows
This is going to shock many of you, but I do not use a travel pillow. At least not on planes. But I know more than a few people who swear by them. If you’re one of those people, find one that works for you and stick with it. The more you make it a part of your routine, the more likely you are to get comfortable with it.

8. Sit With Friends
Every little creature comfort can help when you’re not used to sleeping on planes. Having friends around you rather than strangers may help you relax and get comfortable. Plus, you won’t feel bad if your snoring keeps your husband awake. He probably deserves it.

9. Sleep Masks
Again, this one isn’t in my toolkit, but it may work for you if you are easily distracted or are a very light sleeper. Sure, you’re going to look like a moron, but if you need to block out everything in order to sleep, then you need to make sensory deprivation your top priority. What’s more important to you: Looking cool in front of people you will never see again or arriving at your destination well-rested?

10. Pack Snacks
Many people eschew sleep out of fear that they will miss the in-flight meal. While microwaved chicken is pretty underwhelming, it is often the only substantial meal you’ll receive on a long-haul flight. Pack a few filling snacks (ie, trail mix, dried fruit, a sandwich or Handi-Snacks) and you can eat whenever you stomach desires. Once you’re not held hostage by the flight’s feeding schedule, you’ll be able to relax, sleep and wake up to a treat of your own choosing.

11. Sleeping Pills
Call me a purist, but I consider sleeping pills and herbal supplements to be cheating. However, if you genuinely cannot fall asleep naturally and truly need to sleep on a flight, then I suppose I can understand going the pill-popping route. But I will put an asterisk next to your name in the record books.

It’s not rocket science, but falling asleep on planes can be challenging for some people. Hopefully these tips help you drift off to your happy place rather than enduring the mundanity of air travel. Your mileage may vary, and I can’t guarantee that you’ll be a plane sleeping machine like me, but utilizing some or all of these suggestions should help you get comfortable and sleep through almost any flight.

Do you have your own method for falling asleep on planes? Any tricks worth sharing? Drop us a line in the comments.