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Trend Alert: Artisanal Ice Pops to Beat the Heat

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Want a way to maintain your highbrow tastes while cooling off this summer? Gourmet and artisanal ice pops are popping up across the country. These aren’t your kids’ red dye #5 white-shirt-oblitterating coolers either—they’re high-class, big-flavor and the most fun you can have on a stick.

Loco Pops, Chapel Hill, NC
This triangle area—that’s Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill—establishment serves a daily selection of both water- and dairy-based pops to satisfy every palette. Adventurers should try the Mango Chile pop for a sweet and spicy treat. Follow them on twitter @locopops for daily flavors and promotions.

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New Obsession: NYC's Meatball Shop

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Trendy as they may seem, I am a big fan of food joints with a singular focus: concentrate on just cupcakes, and you’re bound to have great ones. Only mac n’ cheese? Yes please. There will always be flash-in-the-pan imposters, but the greats stick out—and stick around. A visit to the February-opened, Lower East Side-situated Meatball Shop is simultaneously an exercise in control and an embarrassment of riches: with a meatball-only menu and seemingly endless ball, sauce, and cheese combos, this uni-concept resto is anything but limited.

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Europe Without Hotels

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New York Times
|  In the middle of a cool, cloudless Parisian afternoon, light was pouring into my guest room from a turn-of-the-century courtyard in the 10th Arrondissement. I clambered up to the loft bed, suspended above dark oak floors, and stared at the textiles shop sign swinging in the courtyard through the large, almost floor-to-ceiling windows.

A bottle of Bordeaux was breathing; other amenities included a pantry stocked with cereal, milk and yogurt. I also had a phone number to call if I needed dinner recommendations or, perhaps, extra shower gel. But I was happy sitting at the window, nodding at my new neighbors as they wheeled their bikes onto the street and headed into the cafe-lined Marais.

Hotel guests pay handsomely for such perks, but I wasn’t in a hotel. Nor was I in some vacation rental. I was in the home of Julien Szeps, a 26-year-old chef whom I met through a new kind of short-term rental service called AirBnB.com. And the studio apartment was only 65 euros a night, about $80 at $1.23 to the euro. Not bad for an entire apartment with a full kitchen and bathroom, less than 10 minutes by foot from the Louvre. (Image credit: AirBnB.com)

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Menu Mind Games

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Ever wonder where that sudden craving for pork belly comes from while perusing the latest it restaurant’s menu?  It may have less to do with spontaneous pig lust and more to do with what—and how—you’re reading.

“Menus are essentially mini-billboards,” says Brian Buckley, a chef-instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City who teaches a class on opening restaurants.  And like all advertising, plenty of forethought goes into the concept, design, and execution.

A major tactic: menu layout.  “Restaurants use boxed items to single something out as the specialty of the house or the evening,” says Buckley.  Of course, these specials are often big-ticket items, or dishes that the house has a vested interest in selling.

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Interest Grows in Trans-Atlantic Travel to Europe

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Despite the ash cloud that closed European airports and stranded passengers in April, more Americans intend to travel to Europe this year. Yet many would-be vacationers are considering traveling by ship instead—and reliving the glory days of trans-oceanic travel.

“There’s definitely an upsurge in interest, which is terrific,” says Peter Shanks, president of Cunard Cruise Line which operates the Queen Mary 2’s six-night crossing between New York and Southampton, England. “There’s a feel-good factor about trans-Atlantic travel. It’s back on people’s radar.”

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Hotel Buzzz: Apiaries are the Bee’s Knees

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Recently I went to a Toronto tourism event that featured a honey tasting. My favorite nectar—a luscious caramel-brown with herby mint notes—belonged to the Fairmont Royal York’s 14-story-high rooftop hives (called the Honey Moon Suite), and is served to guests at tea service and in specialty cocktails. The mint flavor (someone snootily insisted it was a hint of “eucalyptus”) comes from the rooftop garden’s herb plots, where the bar gleans much of their greenery for muddled mojitos and caipirinhas.

The apiary is a cross-brand initiative with hives already set up at the Fairmont Algonquin in St. Andrews and the Fairmont Waterfront in Vancouver with more on the way.

Honey—golden, sticky, amber goodness—turns bitter and looses nutrients during pasteurization. Hotels looking for an eco-luxe draw are turning to the home-grown raw stuff like, well, bees to honey.

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Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah: 3 New Ziplines Offer Extreme Thrills

Remember that time I said I would never go bungee jumping or even entertain the notion of ever going on any of these extreme rides? But then I went ahead and threw a curve ball by saying I wouldn't even hesitate to swim at the edge of Victoria Falls? Well, here's another one of those kinda sorta crazy things I'd love to try: Ziplining.

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U.S. Hotel Chains Expanding into Asia

New York Times |  ASIA is beginning to look a lot more like America—at least when it comes to hotels.

Major United States hotel chains are aggressively expanding into Asia, creating new options for travelers looking for familiar brands abroad. Starwood Hotels & Resorts plans to open 34 to 40 properties in the Asia Pacific region this year, or about three hotels a month, including the first St. Regis in Japan, the first W in Thailand and the first Le Méridien in Taiwan. Hilton plans to open new hotels in Japan and China by year-end. And Marriott will add about 20 properties, including four JW Marriott properties in India, four Courtyard by Marriott properties in China, and a Ritz-Carlton in Shanghai.

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Child-Free Dining: The (Blissfully) Silent Trend

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Call me a grinch, a misanthrope, a DINK (dual-income-no-kids), or the anti-cute-police, but I hate (hate a thousand times over) ill-behaved children/infants/screaming banshees in upscale restaurants.

Upon doing some research, it turns out I’m not alone. Not only are there message boards, websites, even petitions to promote child-free dining, it turns out there’s an international social club devoted to the baby-free lifestyle.

I’m not a card carrying NoKidding member yet, but for now I plan on asking restaurants what their child policy is before attending.

Here, a few pre-screened restaurants that refuse to break out the coloring books and crayons:

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Trend Alert: Bacon Cocktails

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Sure sure, bacon is as ubiquitous a guilty pleasure as the Twilight saga, but with more bars serving pork by the glass, this trend might have some highbrow staying power. Here are just a few spots where you can sip some smoky goodness:

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