Tag Archives: travel

What’s your beef?

The story begins with the best meatloaf I’ve ever tasted. Yes, it’s chock fun of vegetables. The carrots look like jewels when it’s cooked. Thank you chef Josh Drage of the Ranch at Rock Creek in cowboy boot central Montana.

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Welcome to the Ranch at Rock Creek in the Big Sky Country of Montana.

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Yup, this is why they call it Big Sky Country.

The Ranch at Rock Creek is near the historically charming small town of Philipsburg, MT and one of the very special properties on the lux list of Relais & Chateau. 

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Let’s get this glamping party started. Surrounded by wildlife and luxury, it’s so quite that you can hear the creek babbling and the birds singing.

 

 

Activities include horseback riding, hiking, fishing and I loved getting around on my bicycle. The gravel crunches under your wheels and the wind whistles in the trees. Ahhhhhh.

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Finally caught a trout! My guide looks happier than me.

 

 

 

 

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Hiking with my friend Carol Anne Kelly to The Top of the World summit above the ranch. OK, now we’ve worked up a ranch hand appetite so back to that meatloaf!

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I added mushrooms to the mix to create a healthy blend of half pound ( 8 ounces) of fresh mushrooms mixed with one pound of ground meat ( I used ground chuck). The mushrooms add moisture, flavor and take the place of some of the beef, so the meatloaf is lower in total fat. Mushrooms are also a good source of many nutrients including vitamin D. Surprise!

Chef Josh Drage’s Montana Meatloaf features carrots, leeks, an egg, and breadcrumbs and was fabulous. I added the mushrooms for even more vegetable variety.

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The more you know, the more you can eat. That’s the food philosophy I believe in as a registered dietitian and healthy foodie. So if you thought you had to cut beef out of your diet to eat more healthfully, I have good news. You can enjoy beef and a healthy lifestyle.

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Watch the TV Segment here

The secret is learning how to prepare leaner cuts of beef and knowing that three ounces provides 25 grams of protein and 10 other nutrients including iron, B vitamins and zinc. These nutrients help build and repair muscles, maintain brain function, protect cells from damage and help convert food into fuel giving us energy. For lots more on beef and good nutrition as well as a list of leaner cuts and how to prepare them I like this website: www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com 

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Meanwhile…..back at the Ranch………a little sunset wine time with freshly baked tortilla chips, guacamole and salsa.  I love camping!!!

 

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Explore Ireland’s Countryside in Style

Irish Countryside Serves Up Local Fare and Active Outings

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It’s the weather that keeps the Emerald Isle so green, the gardens lush and the creamy dairy products so delicious.

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“It’s a soft day,” said Damien Bastiat general manager of Ballyfin hotel, an elegantly restored country estate set in the middle of Ireland.

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Bastiat was referring to a gentle mist of rain calling for a light jacket but not enough to require an umbrella.

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He led us on a tour to explore the walled gardens and expansive landscaped grounds including a climb up a stone tower built as an architectural folly.

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The formal kitchen gardens boast a gourmet grocery of vegetables, herbs, apple trees, and even artichokes.

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“Irish producers are just starting to promote their own,” said Ballyfin executive chef Michael Tweedie.  His ‘garden to plate’ menus star farmhouse cheeses, and yogurt from Irish dairies, shellfish and sea salt from the coast, eggs from the estate and Thomas Salter’s free-range pork from a nearby farm.

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“It’s nice to meet the farmers and hear their stories,” said Tweedie.

Just the right touch of Irish butter or cream adds indulgence to lovely desserts at Ballyfin.

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More local tastes include braised lamb from Kilkenny with wild garlic, mint and peas.

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(Nutrition note: Irish sea salt is very salty so you only have to use a little to add flavor to foods. I bought the adorable little silver butter dish below at the Ballyfin gift shop. Had to have it. Helps you savor butter’s flavor even more.)

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To the Manor!

Step inside Ballyfin’s neo-classical manor house…

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….originally built in the 1820’s, and step back in time for cocktails in the Gold Room overlooking the lake or the library with a secret door that opens into the glass conservatory.

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Guests can time travel to dinner by donning formal wear from the hotel’s collection of period costumes. I felt as if I’d burst into song. Must have been the song bird perched on my head.

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More echoes of history: Ballyfin spent time as a boy’s boarding school.

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The hotel’s serene indoor swimming pool sits in what was the student’s (no doubt raucous then) dining hall. Ballyfin is truly a magical place where you can escape the world and enter your own surrounded by peace and grace.

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Irish Country Estates: Gardens and Guns 

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Clay shooting at Ballyfin. Pull!!!
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Walk this way…with a falcon at Ashford Castle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s a country estate experience without a few sporting activities?

Now let’s visit dreamy Ashford Castle. 

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Crystal clear waters of Lough Corrib

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At stately Ashford Castle (a member of Leading Hotels of the World) on the shores of Lough Corrib in southwest Ireland in County Mayo guests can golf, fish, learn archery, shoot at sporting clays or try their hand (safely cloaked in a leather glove) at Ireland’s School of  Falconry.

 

 

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Dating back to the 13th century, Ashford Castle with soaring turrets, stone towers and sunken gardens…

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is now brought to life for today’s travelers (who want luxury and technology) with a loving restoration led by Beatrice Tollman of the Red Carnation Hotel Collection. The restoration brought a new roof, new windows and interiors lavish with antique filled guest rooms and a luxurious spa and indoor swimming pool. Details of the decor are a joy to discover such as the tiny tassels on the canopy over the bed in my suite.

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There’s a wine cellar to explore and taste a world of vintages and then join the guests for dinner in the elegant George V dining room where the table is set in luxurious style.

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…..or hide away in the casual and cozy ( yes!) Dungeon restaurant.

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For a taste tour of the Irish countryside, sample woodland mushroom soup or the wild game terrine with plum gel and purple potato chips…and salmon of course!

A full Irish breakfast at Ashford Castle includes the luxury of baked ham served to you from a silver and mahogany trolley.

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Did I mention the ham cart? (:

Good thing there are 350 acres of land to explore on horseback, by bicycle or via running shoes before the next enchanting Irish meal. More salmon please…..

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But perhaps my most precious memories from my trips to Ireland are those of the friendly Irish people who laugh, tell a story and make you feel at home in their home.

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I’ll be back Ireland….or my name isn’t Carolyn O’Neil!

 

 

 

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Green Light for Tourism Ireland: Delicious Dublin

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There may be a touch of rain as you stroll the storied streets of Dublin, but the Emerald Isle is enjoying sunny times in tourism.

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Restaurants, hotels and attractions are teed up to greet visitors with their legendary Irish charm, including new enthusiasm for sharing Ireland’s culinary scene.

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A survey conducted by The Leading Hotels of the World found that 89 percent prioritize culinary experiences as a main motivation for travel, and Ireland is set to satisfy.  Survey here. 

There are lively pubs to enjoy folk music…

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I thought this place looked O’good.

…..a pint of Guinness, perfectly poured…

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with traditional Irish stew or Cottage Pie…

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Or Hey! even gluten-free fish and chips!

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One of the most popular taste tours in town is Dublin’s own Guinness Storehouse…..

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…..where visitors learn how the world famous brew was born and continues to be the best. And I had my first sip of Guinness ever. Honest.

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I really got into being a Guinness fan.

Cafes, bars and restaurants within the Guinness Storehouse (including a bar with floor to ceiling glass panoramic views of Dublin)

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……serve up food and beer pairings, of course. Including the perfect pairing of oysters and Guinness.

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Or maybe you’d rather indulge in chocolate dessert…..paired and made with Guinness. 

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But the big draw for those who go to for the gastronomy is the local-meets-modern cuisine created by Dublin’s innovative chefs.

Dynamic Dublin Dining 

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Cosmic Apple with Pistachio Dessert  at  Michelin Two-Star Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud in Dublin exemplifies contemporary Irish cuisine.

Irish Art at the Table

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Art Afternoon tea in the elegant Georgian Drawing Room at The Merrion Hotel Dublin (a member of Leading Hotels of the World) surprises guests with intricate little cakes by executive pastry chef Paul Kelly designed to mimic paintings in the hotel’s extensive collection of 19th and 20th century Irish and European art.

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Kelly, a judge on Ireland’s TV series The Great Irish Bakeoff, paints and sculpts with confections to create edible works of art.

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Stepping into this hotel is a step back into Irish history. Originally built as four townhouses in the 1760’s, the Merrion preserves old world architectural charm with antiques and landscaped gardens enhanced by modern luxuries including a spa and swimming pool.

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At the hotel’s Cellar Bar you can tuck into Irish Halibut with Dublin Bay prawn broth, barley and peas for lunch and walk to nearby Trinity College or St. Stephen’s Green.

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Return for dinner at two-star Michelin ranked Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud….

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…where Ireland’s beef, lamb, and seafood are globally inspired in dishes such as Turbot Poached in Aromatic Milk
 with Leeks, Ginger, and Yuzu Hollandaise. Now these are delectable lucky charms…..

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Modern-Day Dublin

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If you crave a contemporary perch in Dublin then head to the trendy Docklands district, the Irish home of Facebook and Google and The Marker, an ultra modern hotel (and member of Leading Hotels of the World) with hip lobby lounge, sleek brasserie and panoramic city-views from the roof top garden.

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Enjoy a sunset cocktail on the rooftop over looking the Dublin skyline and country hills in the distance.

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Then watch out! Things can change in seconds as clouds roll in and pelts of hail fall from the sky!

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But in the time it takes to enjoy that last sip of Champagne the Marker staff doesn’t miss a beat picking up cushions and guiding guests to the elevator where dinner waits below in the The Marker’s chic brasserie.

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Executive chef Gareth Mullins pleases palates seeking healthy alternatives such as a green salad with Broccoli sprouts, bee pollen and wheatgrass.

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The menu also celebrates the rich tastes of Dublin Bay lobster with Irish country butter and locally raised Wicklow Lamb with delicious dots of a savory sauce of roasted onion and stout.

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Next post from the Emerald Isle adventure takes me into the Irish countryside for elegant and exciting outdoor pursuits. Oh, and several tastes of Ireland’s fabulous farmhouse cheeses.

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Where are my falcons????!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Galapagos Eco Gourmet

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Imagine if your grocery list was edited to remove foods considered a threat to the balance of nature in your own backyard.

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That’s the culinary challenge Norman Brandt faces everyday as executive chef of

the Pikaia Lodge in the Galapagos Islands.

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“When I got the position I made a list of ingredients I needed for the kitchen and I was told you can’t bring those in,” said Brandt.

No blue cheese, no cherries, no chia seeds and no imported citrus to name just a few of the foods tightly restricted by Ecuador’s biosecurity regulations for the Galapagos.

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The goal is to prevent the introduction of invasive species and pests that could threaten indigenous plants, many vitally important to the islands’ world famous wildlife.

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The Galapagos Islands have become a mecca for ecotourism attracting over 250,000 visitors a year who arrive with binoculars and cameras in tow ready to spot giant tortoises, sea turtles, penguins and unique birds including the blue-footed booby.

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Galapagos National Park rules control the number of people and time limit spent in wildlife areas and you must stay at least six feet away from the creatures.

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Birds don’t fly away when you walk by and curious cute baby sea lions hop towards you.

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“They thrive because there are no predators here,” said Andrew Balfour, general manager of the boutique eco-property Pikaia Lodge where rooms include a copy of “The Origin of Species” by Charles Darwin.

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Elegantly furnished rooms overlook an extinct volcano now covered in lush green foliage.
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Strikingly modern architecture of Pikaia Lodge

 

Guests drink in the DNA Bar…

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….and dine in the Evolution dining room.

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Andrew Balfour, Pikaia Lodge

“The magic of the Galapagos is that you see nature in an intimate way and see how the adaptation of the species is crucial from island to island,” says Balfour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Chef Brandt, from mainland Ecuador, has enthusiastically learned to adapt to his new environment by getting to know local farmers, discovering wild cherry tomatoes and showcasing Galapagos seafood including tuna, grouper, octopus, and spiny lobsters.

 

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On the menu is a seafood Carpaccio with peppers from chef Brandt’s kitchen garden and the crunch of yucca chips with seafood terrine.  Some imported foods are allowed but restricted and undergo close inspection. Chef Brandt has to make his grocery list at least 9 days in advance,

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Avocado, passion fruit, and oranges are grown here planted by early settlers.

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Dairies produce milk but only fresh cheeses.

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“So I’m trying to make my own aged cheese,” said Brandt.

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He showed me a small wheel of yellow cheese. “I want to wait for two or three months more. It’s an experiment so we’re all learning about it.”

He makes his own red wine vinegar and ages the local grass fed beef so it’s more tender.

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Traditional tastes of Ecuador at the Pikaia Lodge including a quinoa risotto and Arriba chocolate mousse with passion fruit chili coulis add a gourmet touch to Galapagos adventures. What’s a pikaia? It’s the first organism discovered with a spine. See the design with little dots in the dessert above? That’s a pikaia.

 

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Getting to the Galapagos and Getting Around 

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From Atlanta I flew to Quito, Ecuador which is super high altitude at over 9,000 feet above sea level. Took my breath away, literally.

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But so did the fabulous hotel we spent the night in before flying to the Galapagos islands the next morning.

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The historic and gloriously luxurious Hotel Gangotena in Quito, right of the wide San Francisco Plaza, is a member of Virtuoso.  It’s beautiful.

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I had the best, the best scrambled eggs I’ve ever experienced. What a way to get ready to launch off to wilds of the Galapagos!  Hey, even the airport in Quito was super nice.

Check out the sleek and modern airport bathrooms!

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Souvenir shops in the airport got us primed and ready to experience Galapagos wildlife viewing …blue footed booby neck pillow anyone?

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But….why oh why didn’t I buy that Blue Footed Booby throw pillow?! I love it! OK, next time for sure!

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Galapagos Glam – no vortex left behind!

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Let’s River Cruise 2016

This is how we roll…..on the river!

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If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like on a river cruise then hop on board and take off with me along the Rhone River on the elegant Scenic Emerald. Best part?

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Well there are so many best parts…but if you’re like me  you’ll really relax and enjoy the cruise from morning to night because Scenic is all-inclusive.

IMG_5712That means no pesky bills to sign for shore excursions or adult beverages.

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Pop goes the Champagne from breakfast to bed time.

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All aboard who’s going aboard!!!!

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The first difference you notice is that the river ship glides along calm waterways instead of riding choppy seas often associated with ocean cruising.

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These long sleek ships built to transport passengers along wide European rivers, past picturesque villages and vineyards are gaining momentum as a sought after vacation experience.

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Virtuoso ranks river cruises in the top five 2016 travels trends.

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On a seven-day cruise on the Rhone River in France aboard the Scenic Emerald, I discovered many delightful advantages of traveling by river.

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The pace is leisurely with pastoral scenery in view from large windows or on open decks.

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There’s an impressive display of crew navigation as the ship traverses river locks with only inches to spare on either side of the ship!

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On the top deck you can chat with the Captain as he guides his Scenic “Space Ship” carefully through the locks.

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Please don’t try to distract him.

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Another bonus for travelers ready to explore, when docked in town you’re in walking or biking distance to most of the sights.

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Scenic provides electric bikes for passengers to do solo exploring and get some exercise.
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Your castle or mine?

In Arles…..or Arlys…

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…we walked in Vincent Van Gogh’s footsteps.

IMG_5088The wharf here inspired the artist’s iconic painting “Starry Night.”

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The bakeries in Arles inspired me; where fresh strawberry tarts are a culinary work of art.

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France on the Menu

On board the Scenic Emerald, meals feature the regional foods and wines of France with many of them produced in the Rhone River valley.

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Menus are hyper-local with cheese selections changing to include varieties from the area we were cruising through that day.

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Don’t know the difference between a goat’s milk Rigotte from Lyon and a cow’s milk Charolais from Burgundy? Join the cheese class with a dozen French cheeses to sample.

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Adding to the laid-back luxury, wines and cocktails on Scenic cruises are all inclusive. Pop some bubbly for breakfast and end the evening with a cordial in your coffee. It’s all part of the gastronomic experience included in the fare.

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For passengers craving a deeper dive into what’s for dinner, executive chef Tamas Kiss leads a tour through the bustling Les Halles market in Avignon.

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He chats with butchers and bakers and offers sample tastes of local breads, cheeses, and produce of Provence.

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“It was great to see the foods of summer,” says Kiss.

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“But now it’s autumn and there are exciting new things like mushrooms and different olives in the market.”

IMG_5091Chef Kiss caps off the visit with a tasting of freshly shucked oysters.

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Hey look! Someone found a pearl!!!

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Meanwhile back on board the Scenic Emerald things are really cooking!

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It’s literally all hands on deck to provision the ship as boxes delivered to the ship in Avignon are loaded into storage areas near the galley by all of the crew. Even the bartenders, housekeepers and piano player help in the ‘bucket brigade’ to get the groceries on board!

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All of this exceptional teamwork leads to exceptional meals from beautiful buffets…

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…to elegant dinners.

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Breakfast, lunch and dinner are highly anticipated adventures for the palate.

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This Scenic culinary team is serious ……

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…..without taking themselves too seriously!

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Thank you Chef Tamas Kiss. You can take a little break now.

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The menus are inspiring and exciting and miraculously appear from this tiny galley!

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One evening we’re treated to dinner featuring dishes from the great chefs of France.

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Your every whim from sushi to sensational desserts are on the Scenic menu.

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Baked Alaska? Of course!

Late night craving for BLT with fries? Whoops, that was for me after a night of dancing to the late night disco music. (:

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From artichoke truffle soup to whole roasted lamb, menus are marked with indications to alert those with food allergies. Even more good nutrition on the “Vitality Corner” vegetarian menu with entrees such as bulgur risotto with mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes and spicy basil salad.
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As the river flows …..

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so do the fabulous foods and wines on Scenic.

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Maybe just one more small glass of rose….
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French Lessons: Enjoy Your Food!

French Lesson with a Southern Accent:

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With Liz McDermott and Beatrix Kondor. #girlsgoneworld #parisescape #joinus

How DO those French Women Stay So Trim? 

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First, introducing the best worst souvenir in Paris.

Yes, I bought the chef’s hat that says France!

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Now, let’s go to Paris!

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To Marche to Marche!

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Bustling with shoppers, even in the rain, the weekly street market stretching along the Avenue du President Wilson in Paris was an eye-popping spectacle of peppers and pastries, spices and seafood, flowers and fromage.

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While I’m not used to finding fresh rabbit and blue lobsters in my supermarket at home, seeing these foods and more in the open-air markets of Paris was a big part of the foodie fun during my recent trip to the City of Light.

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Visiting the Louvre and other must-see Parisian sites was on the list, but my travel objectives were motivated by mealtime.

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My first lunch was a leisurely paced three-hour tour of tastes in the elegant Le Gabriel restaurant at La Reserve Paris Hotel and Spa quite near the famed Avenue des Champs-Elysees.

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The elegant dining room draped in the soft light of a September afternoon…we knew we were in for something very, very special.

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Let the games begin!!!

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Our first treat….surprising savory bites of foie gras in dark chocolate. Oh and some caviar.

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Beatrix Kondor apparently happy with the Champagne pairing.

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Then the delightful dishes just kept on coming…..

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The highlight of the culinary adventure was experiencing chef Jerome Banctel’s specialty dish of cocoa marinated pigeon (or squab) with the bird’s little feet intact served with organic buckwheat pasta.

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Liz McDermott says, “We love an adventure!”

A cheese course preceded no fewer than three desserts including cloud-like marshmallows  with a tart sorbet of aloe and lime…..

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….a wild strawberry creation under an envelope of strawberry glee…

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…then a plate lined with hazelnut chocolate you scooped up with tiny brioche and sticks of meringue.

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Wait! If this is how those French women stay so trim, I’m moving here!

More simply sensational scenes from the jewel box that is La Reserve Paris Hotel and Spa.

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View into the Fitness Room

 

 

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How about a swim? #swoon
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Upstairs…
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…Downstairs.

 

City of Light Eaters

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Paris fashions help you focus on fitness goals. #pretty

 

As author of the best selling book French Women Don’t Get Fat, Mireille Guiliano recommends bread, Champagne, chocolate and romance as key ingredients to a balanced diet and lifestyle.

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I was willing to put it to the test and while in France take some time to observe the eating habits of French women.

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A young woman who works at the Dior restaurant in St. Tropez told me that she was taught to eat slowly so that the meal is more satisfying. Dinner most nights might be a simple soup with bread, a piece of cheese and fresh fruit.

Portions are definitely smaller in France as compared to the U.S.

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And the fashion sense is grande!

 

But that’s a good thing because it allows for a variety of more tastes.

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The multi-course lunch Liz and I enjoyed with our new friend, Marie Dumarest-Petavi, at the one-star Michelin La Table restaurant in the Hotel Lancaster Paris left me feeling satisfied and energized, not stuffed and tired.

An ample two-ounce portion of beef was paired with mushrooms and sautéed red grapes.

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Our incredibly friendly waiter couldn’t wait to tell us he was a big fan of the Green Bay Packers!
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Beautifully tender beef with mushrooms and grapes is a modern art form in cuisine and design.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the very special members of Leading Hotels of the World, The Lancaster Paris, was home to film legend Marlena Dietrich. You may stay in her suite of rooms if you want to feel like a movie star.

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Of course life in Paris comes with a hefty serving of walking and many days we racked up six kilometers on  Bea’s fitness app.

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Add to that the breath-defying 284 step climb up the Arc de Triomphe and running to catch Metro trains and Paris measures up as a great getaway for food and fitness.

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Fine Tuning Cruise Fare


Ahoy there from the Sunny Med!

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Hello from the Nieuw Amsterdam, one of the elegant ships of Holland America Line, as we sail on a 12-day dream cruise from Venice to Barcelona with many exciting and beautiful ports of call.

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View of the Nieuw Amsterdam from one of the ship’s tenders. Port of Kotor in Montenegro.

On the Menu Out to Sea

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Small plates are making big waves in cruise ship cuisine. From tiny dishes of mozzarella with fresh tomato or hummus with feta cheese, dolmades and olives, an artfully arranged selection of tastes from breakfast to late night snacking is set out for passengers dining casually in the Lido Market on Holland America Line ships.

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There’s no shortage of comfort food favorites such as roast beef and mashed potatoes and vacation treat foods including burgers and fries.

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But gone are the serve yourself steam table vats and buffet style trays that passengers used to fill to capacity.

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How about a Mediterranean meze plate?

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Now at each step of the way from the salad bar to the hot entrees, members of the culinary team smile and place what you want on a plate and hand it to you.

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The salad bar is a fresh cornocopia of creative ingredients

Prettily packaged sandwiches such as chicken salad with arugula on freshly baked multi grain bread take the place of a deli concept where you’d typically stand in line.
There are three distinct dining advantages here.

-Fewer people handling the food improve food safety. -Portion control allows passengers to enjoy a wider variety of tastes and decreases food waste. -And because the culinary staff create and garnish the plates they look much better for your vacation food photography.

Foodies at Sea

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My recent vacation on the Nieuw Amsterdam to celebrate a rather big birthday served up a bucket-list Mediterranean itinerary and a peek into current cruise fare philosophy.

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So much fun to dress up at night and enjoy dressed up dishes.

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I took notice that menus afloat from the elegant Manhattan Dining Room to made-to-order thin crust pizzas on the pool deck reflect dining trends ashore.

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There’s a sushi bar in Asian inspired Tamarind and shared platters of salumi and pastas at Italian themed Canaletto.

Popup dinners such as a special evening of dishes from famed New York restaurant Le Cirque add more glamour to gourmet meals in the Pinnacle Grill.

Lobster salad with grapefruit is a Le Cirque classic.
Lobster salad with grapefruit is a Le Cirque classic.

Specials on the Distant Lands menu connect to the local cuisine of each port of call. While docked in Dubrovnik, I sampled Croatian foods onboard including pastry stuffed with seasoned beef, meatballs with coriander sauce and a flaky cheese pie called Burek Sa Siron.

Croatian traditional dishes served with view of Croatia!
Croatian traditional dishes served with view of Croatia!

Chefs’ cooking demos and mixology classes add extra entertainment for food lovers on board.  After completing a series of four mixology classes you get a diploma!

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Nice work guys!
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Of course I joined the class!!

Galley Ho!

A behind the scenes tour of the ship’s gleaming galley leads guests everywhere from the dishwashing to dessert stations.

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I learned that 137, 000 pounds of fresh vegetables are consumed by two thousand guests in a typical week.

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Oh, and nearly 1700 pounds of butter.

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“At the start of the week passengers eat a lot because they’re excited about all of the choices,” says Martin Van Winden dining room manager of the Niew Amsterdam’s Pinnacle Grill “Then we do see a decline in food consumption as the cruise continues.”

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The elegant Pinnacle Grill on the Nieuw Amsterdam.

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Ship Shape

Special diet requests and food allergy concerns are taken seriously with gluten free choices and creative vegetarian fare such as barbecue tofu with creamy grits one day for lunch.
While there’s a fabulous fitness center and spa on board, my chosen exercise was taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

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When you walk up and down from deck 2 to deck 11 a few times a day it’s a work out. Especially when realizing you’re looking for a place that’s aft when you’re at the stern so have to walk another five minutes. Then you forget something in your stateroom……we racked up a lot of steps!

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There were 2300 passengers on board for the 12-Day Mediterranean Romance Cruise on the Holland America Line Nieuw Amsterdam.

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Actually the liveliness of this shared community at sea added so much enjoyment to the journey.  Traveling with my friend Liz McDermott, we never felt that any space was crowded or had to wait for a drink! We even got to meet Captain Edward G. Van Zaane for a special tour of the bridge.

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Did you know there are no paper navigation maps anymore? But still a tradition of handsome Captains at sea.

Now, how about a recipe from Allen and Antonio, our favorite bartenders and the “professors” of the mixology class series on board? Bon voyage!

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Chocolate Martini

Garnish chilled glass with chocolate sauce in swirled pattern

Shake 1 oz Vodka with 1 oz Creme de Cacoa White in a cocktail shaker with some ice.

Strain and pour into the glass.

Enjoy and you’re on your way to earning your very own bartender certificate.

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Stay tuned as we set sail for more foodie destinations on shore in my next blog post.

A cruise is a great way to explore and discover the traditional foods, exemplary eateries and exciting markets in ports along the way.

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Liz and I stumbled upon one of the best lunches of our lives at the tucked away and affordable Dior restaurant in St. Tropez. More to come……

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Active Travel a Healthy Trend

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While there are still plenty of vacationers looking for ‘find me a hammock’ rest and relaxation time, the real action in vacation planning includes a lot of action. Paddle boarding, hiking, biking, kayaking, hot air ballooning to hot yoga.

“I call it the kale, quinoa and cardio trend in travel,” said Jack Ezon, president of New York based Ovation Vacations. “Fitness is a huge part of their daily life so they want it to be part of their vacation life. We hire guides to jog with clients in the morning to see the city,” said Ezon. You don’t even have to pack your fitness gear. Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, for instance, provide guests with workout shoes and clothes through a partnership with Reebok.

On The Go

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Ezon joined a panel of travel advisors attending Virtuoso Travel Week held recently at the palatial Bellagio Resort in Las Vegas.

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Billed as ‘fashion week’ for the luxury travel industry nearly five thousand Virtuoso members including travel advisors, tour operators, tourism officials, hotel and cruise line executives met to talk shop, swap business cards and share top trends.

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Active travel is popular for all age groups. Look out; grandma wants to go zip lining now.

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“Even older clients are not looking for sedentary travel. They want adventure,” said travel advisor Tony Huffman, chairman of Huffman Travel. Cruising on big ships is still big business but ‘excursions cruises’ on small luxurious vessels that get closer to Mother Nature are becoming wildly popular.

Food and Travel

Gastronomic adventures are high on the high-end travel list too. “Food is the most important beyond anything.

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Does the Bellagio Resort have great food? You Bet! These are salads with romaine, avocado and bacon.

They want to experience local flavors with a cool vibe,” said Kelly Grumbach, travel advisor with Quintessentially Travel. “If they’re going to be stuck on an island for a week it’s not just about menu options. It’s the quality of the ingredients and being creative.” For health conscious baby boomers and older travelers Huffman says, “Sauce on the side is a food group.” But Grumbach who plans trips, often very last minute, for the millennial age group says, “It’s a high maintenance generation. They want gluten free, want or don’t want diet drinks in their room, demand no bread basket at their table and might add they’re allergic to feathers.”

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My idea of wellness. It was 102 degrees F in Vegas. You don’t walk!

Making it a bit harder for travel advisors ( yes, we used to call them travel agents) plan a wellness focused vacation is the fact that not everyone has the same vision for wellness. That’s why Anne Dimon of Travel to Wellness  created a questionnaire for travel planners to use, “Some people might want to meditate and eat vegetarian foods while others define wellness as walking tours by day and fabulous meals paired with wines at night.”

Seeing friends is good for your health. Hello John Romfo of The Resort at Paws Up in Montana. That explains his fashions.
Seeing friends is good for your health. Hello John Romfo of Resort at Paws Up in Montana. That explains his fashions.
Paws Up has been doing active travel since the letter A was invented. Giddy up!
Paws Up has been doing active travel since the letter A was invented. Giddy up!

With all of the on line resources to plan (or implode) your own vacation, it’s important to note that travel advisors (AKA travel agents) are busier than ever. Matthew Upchurch, chairman of Virtuoso said, “It’s the hottest new thing that never went away.”

 

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Fashion footnote: Vegas has the best worst souvenirs!

 

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Nanjing Discovery: Books, Cooks & Looks

No bodyguards needed in Nanjing, but who doesn’t love a few escorts?

 

Just as most tourists to Italy choose Rome or Florence as their first time destination, most pick Beijing or Shanghai for their inaugural visit to China.
But, my first trip to The People’s Republic of China led me to discover Nanjing.  Never heard of it?
Well, either had I until I began my research which started with randomly flipping through On Demand and finding a recent movie called “Flowers and War” starring Christian Bale about the horrible 1937 Nanking massacre of 300,000 Chinese by the Japanese during World War Two.
Nanking, now Nanjing, suffered atrocities ranking among the worst in human history. And now I was going there, coincidentally the very week the city would commemorate the 75thanniversary of the massacre. But, there’s more to Nanjing than dark history.  Continue reading Nanjing Discovery: Books, Cooks & Looks
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Nanjing Discovery: Books, Cooks & Looks

No bodyguards needed in Nanjing, but who doesn’t love a few escorts? 

Just as most tourists to Italy choose Rome or Florence as their first time destination, most pick Beijing or Shanghai for their inaugural visit to China.
But, my first trip to The People’s Republic of China led me to discover Nanjing.  Never heard of it?

Well, either had I until I began my research which started with randomly flipping through On Demand and finding a recent movie called “Flowers and War” starring Christian Bale about the horrible 1937 Nanking massacre of 300,000 Chinese by the Japanese during World War Two.

Nanking, now Nanjing, suffered atrocities ranking among the worst in human history. And now I was going there, coincidentally the very week the city would commemorate the 75thanniversary of the massacre. But, there’s more to Nanjing than dark history. 
Art class at East Beijing Road Elementary School, Nanjing

It’s a bright and beautiful place, boldly stepping into the future of China and the world, as I would soon learn.  Hey, there’s an H& M here and a Ritz-Carlton hotel under construction. Also, they’re super excited about being chosen as the site of the 2014 Youth Olympic Games.

Nanjing Now

Known historically as the ‘southern capital’ of China, Nanjing (the capital of Jiangsu province) is a bustling city of eight million people and over 50 universities and colleges.

View from the backseat of cab. Nanjing at night.
Riding alone I made sure to have my intended destination
written on a card in Chinese.  I can fake Italian and French
but can’t fake Chinese. 

Surrounded by the longest city wall in the world, built during the Ming Dynasty in the 1300’s, Nanjing’s beauty is a contrast of silver skyscrapers, pretty pagodas, architecturally impressive tombs, tree lined streets, lakes, rivers and mountains.  

Nanjing is ready to welcome you! 

An evening cruise in a painted boat past temples, palaces, pagodas and dragons on walls all lit up with brightly colored neon lights on Qinhuai River took me back in time to old China as we sipped hot tea in the cold December night. 

So why was I there?

Look up, there’s a bar on the 78th floor. 

The 89-story Zifeng Tower, the tallest in the city, was the setting for the Sino-American Media Exchange I was invited to attend by Emory University in conjunction with Chinese hosts from Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

Conference tables and talks around them are high art in China. 

We stayed at The Intercontinental Hotel, located in the tower and my room was literally in the clouds on the 52ndfloor with Nanjing’s city streets far below.

Yup, that’s my view of Nanjing. Former President Jimmy Carter was apparently there this day.

From Kindergarten to College in One Day
Our days were focused on meeting students and teachers at schools from kindergarten to college. 

 Sissel McCarthy of Emory University with me and festive students at Jingling High School
Cutest kids at Nanjing Gulou Kindergarten founded in 1923  


What Do You Think That Is? 
I swore I wouldn’t eat anything that looked  like an eyeball


The evenings brought Chinese and U.S. journalists and academics together for extravagant dinners. The most memorable moments of Chinese hospitality and cultural exchange involved the sharing of food and drink. “We’re a city of books and cooks,” explains Nanjing native Liu Kang who is the Director of Chinese Studies Center at Duke University and Dean of the Institute of Arts and Humanities at Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

Prof Liu Kang and I at Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Mausoleum
We climbed the 392 steps to the top and back down again.
A good thing to do to prepare for yet another glorious banquet!

We sat at huge round tables with a Lazy Susan set up in the middle to facilitate presenting and sharing dozens of dishes in a mind-boggling series of flavors, textures and colors. 


“The banquets were relentless, gorgeous, terrifying,” said Daniel Wagner, a financial reporter from Washington, D.C. “Everyone warned me not to stuff myself on the early courses. Nobody mentioned that all 20 dishes that come before the whole fried fish count as ‘early courses.'”

Daniel Wagner and Gary Xu favorites to win the Lazy Susan Chinese Banquet Contest

Added Wagner: “The food really helped me understand how similar to the Chinese we are, and how different. Similar because we all love gorging on delicious food; different because there is simply no excuse for sea cucumber.’”

Salted Duck shows up on every Nanjing table 

Nanjing’s Own Cuisine

Expertly carved vegetables

Nanjing’s unique Haui Yang cuisine may not be as well known as Szechuan-Hunan’s hot and spicy dishes or the shark’s fin soup of fancy Cantonese cooking and that’s what makes it an exciting taste discovery.

Fresh water fish in light soy

“The dishes are lighter with less oil and more vegetables (including sea vegetables), fresh water fish and shrimp, “ says Cecelia Yang of the Intercontinental Hotel, which boasts the highest restaurant in Nanjing on the 78th floor of the Zifeng Tower.

Food and Beverage Director Giuseppe Losciale oversees
the highest restaurant in Nanjing

Get Ready to Duck

Menus feature Huai Yang specialties such as precise angle cut vegetables, salted duck, duck blood soup and a Nanjing version of Peking duck.

Duck Blood Soup and Dynasty Wine 

Wondering about duck blood soup? Don’t ask me; I gave the wheel another turn.

Brave Barbara Ortutay readies her banquet worthy napkin for another spin of the Lazy Susan

“Each banquet was an adventure, I came ready to try anything at least once. Jellyfish, octopus tentacles, purple corn, duck blood soup. The duck blood had the consistency of silken tofu with a hint of foie gras, much lighter than the pork blood-sausage I’m used to from Hungary,” said Barbara Ortutay, a technology writer who lives in New York.

Nanjing Impressions is one of Sissel McCarthy’s favorite Nanjing restaurants because,
“You can watch them prepare the dishes at stations and learn a bit more about what you’re eating.”


Sissel McCarthy, professor of Journalism at Emory University says, “This is my third trip to China and while I’m not a hugely adventurous eater each time it gets easier because you recognize certain dishes. It’s challenging at the multi-course dinners so I let a few go by. I like the Nanjing cuisine because there are so many vegetables. But you’d better like salted duck.”  

Gan Bei!!
And you’d better like to toast. Every meal was punctuated by a series of toasts followed by “Gan Bei!” the Chinese phrase for ‘bottoms up’ as we were served (thankfully) thimble sized glasses of powerful white liquor to down in honor of our new friendships.

For some reason I don’t have any toasting shots, but I here’s what we call a “Banquet Aftermath” photo.

Tips on toasting in China: look your toastee in the eye, touch glasses together the whole time you are speaking, say something nice about them and how grateful you are to know them and thankful for their generosity and hospitality and then yell, “Gan Bei!” which literally translates “dry glass” and shoot the booze. By the way, the white lightning they call baijiu (which translates ‘white liquor’ or ‘white wine’) tastes and smells to me a bit like sweaty socks. It’s an acquired taste, but don’t worry, with all of the toasting madness you’ll acquire the taste quite quickly. 

An elaborate display for delicious dish we named “Squirrel Fish” 

Another side effect of the toast-a-thons according to Ortutay is the culinary courage it summons, “But I should have drawn the line at sea cucumber. I mean just look at it! Why I didn’t draw the line after the first time I tried it is still unclear. Probably the relentless rounds of baijiu, deceptive because it was served in doll-sized glasses.”

More Banquet Glory. This elegant meal was served at The Intercontinental Hotel

And the Chinese love red wine. They prefer French but China produces wine too. We had bottles from wineries called Dynasty and Great Wall. But, I wanted white wine, OK?  I made a mistake consistently requesting white wine at dinners and guess what kept showing up? Yup, more of that baijiu!  You get what you ask for, high maintenance American girl.

Of Jet Lag, Swimming and Corn for Breakfast
The Farmer’s Delight; part of the breakfast buffet at the Intercontinental Hotel, Nanjing


There’s a 13 hour time difference between Nanjing and Atlanta and I got kind of messed up the very first day because even though we left on a Monday, apparently we totally skipped Tuesday and I woke up to discover it was already Wednesday. I didn’t realize the effect of crossing the International Dateline. Oh well, everyone promised we’d get the day back when we returned home. Whatever. All I know is that I woke up most mornings at 4am Nanjing time ready to roll. Swimming helped and the hotel had a beautiful indoor pool where I swam laps at 5am in the quiet darkness. The pool and spa didn’t officially open until 6am but I just walked around the velvet rope thing. There were plenty of towels and I had my pick of lounge chairs.

Other American journalists used their early morning time to jog around the nearby Xuanwu Lake Park and told me about the well-marked trails and beautiful scenery.

By the time breakfast rolled around I was starving. Happily, the Intercontinental Hotel has a huge breakfast buffet with everything you can imagine. Everything! Want sushi? Korean kimchi? Indian food? French pastries? German dark bread? Omelet bar? Chinese dumplings? Noodle soups? Yogurt? Fruit? Cereal? It was like a cruise ship had collided with the United Nations.

Wonder what’s inside? You’ll just have to try these dumplings to find out. 

What really caught my eye was the collection of bamboo steamers on a table marked “Farmers Delight.”  Lifting the basket lids one by one revealed each contained a different steamed vegetable. Orange squash, purple yams, yellow corn.  Who needs corn flakes when you can eat corn on the cob for breakfast. A lot of folks did.  I had an omelet with vegetables and a side of bacon with a slice of that German bread.

Next Big Generation

It’s a rare sight in Chinese cities to glimpse reminders of poorer times. 

The history of China is peppered with famine and hardship. 
But today there are actually a lot of fat kids. Rates of obesity and diabetes are unfortunately increasing in China with the influx of western style fast food and less physical activity in a computer screen world. 

McDonald’s delivery guy in Nanjing


It doesn’t help that the Chinese rule “one couple, one child” has also spawned a lot of pampering of those kids and with two sets of grandparents there’s a lot of ‘have another treat’ going on.

So it was good to see elementary school kids demonstrating kung fu and high school students playing basketball during class breaks. School food was really healthy too.

Delicious lunch at Nanjing Lishui School. Tomatoes grown at the school! 
Lots of veggies at Jinling
She loves Taylor Swift

There was a varied selection of fresh vegetables simply prepared, rice of course and usually a soup with noodles. My favorite meal was lunch shared with six teenaged girls at Jinling High School. They smiled when I used chopsticks to eat slightly spicy chicken with peanuts as we chatted about their classes in applied mathematics, food likes (pizza and fried chicken!), exercise (ping pong and jogging) and going to college (most want to go to the U.S).  But things really got cooking when I asked them about music. One girl said, “I love Taylor Swift.”

And then when I followed up, “What about Justin Bieber?” they all immediately shrieked and giggled with the simultaneous outcry “We lo-o-o-o-v-v-v-e Justin Bieber!!!” Teachers, journalists and other dignitaries turned to see what was so exciting at our table and that’s when I knew that cultural connections are the strongest with shared interests – whether it’s music or math –at mealtime.  

Super smart kids at Jinling High School
I told them to stop studying so much so the American kids can catch up!
Things from Nanjing 

You’ve got a friend!
Yue helped me convert RMB prices into US dollars.
Bonus! It’s a sale day with 50% off!
I could figure that out. 

There’s really good shopping in Nanjing. The usual high-end stuff popular in big Asian cities such as Chanel and Gucci presides over the fancy shopping streets.  Or you can get into the bargaining swing of things at more touristy markets near the Confucius Temple to shop for silk scarves, Nanjing’s famous Yun brocades, and other Chinese trinkets. I love the hand made wooden carving of the see-no, hear-no, speak-no evil monkeys I bought from an elderly artisan at the Nanjing Folklore Museum. Since Nanjing was the center of the Ming Dynasty, there are lots of Ming vase themed things- I bought some key chains which are really nice looking. Was not in the market for an actual Ming vase.
But the most fun I had was shopping with my new Chinese journalist friend, Zhang Yue a reporter with China Daily in Beijing.

Zhang Yue, reporter with China Daily, looks even more petite
next a giant shoe outside the department store.

We went to a busy Chinese department store that was kind of like Bloomingdale’s with two whole floors of shoes and boots. We both bought coats in a hip section of the store. She got a cute beige wool coat with a flirty flouncy hemline and I got what I had my eye on all week!

Chinese girls were wearing these quilted down coats with fur collars and I found the one I wanted.
It’s knee length in ivory with a brown fur collar.

Ok I’ll tell you! Cost about $130

It will keep me warm this winter and remind me of Nanjing, the city of books and cooks and fashionable looks.

The coat I actually wore while I was in Nanjing everyday. It was cold in December.


Speaking of books……. 

 Pearl S. Buck, Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winning author of The Good Earth (and many other books including an Oriental Cookbook) lived in Nanjing between 1920 and 1933 and taught English Literature at Nanjing University. Her house on the campus is a museum you can visit now. I signed the guest book, “Hoping your spirit of dedication to writing will follow me home.” 


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Are you ready for your culinary close up?

Culinary Close Ups

Pretty in Pink: peel ‘n eat shrimp Florida and Georgia coast menus
It’s not enough to simply relax and dine on the dishes chefs create for restaurant menus, some folks want to jump in and help cook the meal.  The promise of an “Epitourian” experience in the professional kitchens of the Sawgrass Marriott Resort in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida is what attracted Maureen and Billy Ray Price of Moultrie, Georgia. “I found it online. We wanted to go to the beach to celebrate our wedding anniversary but we wanted something different,” says Maureen Price. “My husband is a really good cook and I thought ‘he’ll learn to make even more great things for me’ and it will be fun.”

So while other guests at the golf centric resort, host hotel of THE PLAYERS Championship, headed out to play one of the areas eight championship golf courses or grabbed a book and a beach chair at the Cabana Beach Club, the Prices jumped on a golf cart with Executive chef David Scalise to visit the on-property bee hives.

Off they go to find the bee hives with Chef Scalise and Heidi Barfels of Miami
Scalise tends two bee hives tucked away in an area guests wouldn’t normally see behind tall trees and overgrown with black berry bushes and other natural plants of north Florida, “At first everyone panicked when they heard I wanted to set up bee hives on the hotel property. But these honey bees are not aggressive and finally even the lawyers understood it was going to be OK, “ says Scalise who set up the hives about a year ago. 
Sweet life: Executive Chef David Scalise tends the hives at the Sawgrass Marriott Resort
“Our first harvest yielded fifteen gallons. The honey is a little nutty tasting with nuances of the wild blackberries. We use pieces of the honey combs on our cheese platters.”  The hotel’s homegrown Sawgrass honey not only sweetens the culinary program, it’s sold in the gift shop and used in the spa for treatments. “We’re even working on using the bees wax to make lip balm, “ says Scalise.  
Proud beekeeper shows off part of the honey harvest.
He says another bonus from beekeeping is developing stronger relationships with local farmers, “We lend our bees to pollinate their crops including a strawberry farmer nearby. So then we get strawberry honey.”

Cook and Learn

Next stop for the Prices on their culinary adventure is the farmer’s market in nearby Neptune Beach to shop for foods they’ll cook with that afternoon.  On the menu for today is a lesson in making fresh pasta.  “I’ve always loved to cook. Even in college at the University of Florida I made spaghetti sauce every Sunday for the other students in my dorm,” says Billy Ray Price who’s a physician in Moultrie.   

Romantic lighting in the Augustine Grille captures the beauty of handmade gnocchi pasta with local vegetables.
A few notches up from spaghetti, Scalise led the Prices through the steps needed to make fresh gnocchi including the delicate broth based sauce that would be served to them for dinner that night as well as other guests in the Augustine Grille. So their “epitourian” experience went beyond creating their own courses, the Prices truly were part of the Sawgrass Marriott’s culinary staff for the day.

Maureen and Billy Ray Price celebrate their Epitourian experience in the Augustine Grille
Watch and Learn

If you’d rather stay out of the line of fire in a busy restaurant kitchen, but still want to be close enough to see exactly how the chef sears a piece of fish then you can take a seat at the Chef’s Table at The Cloister at Sea Island, Georgia.  
Elegant settings and sumptuous bites of the finest food and wine at The Cloister, Sea Island
Seating four guests comfortably in a small yet elegant glassed-in dining room the table overlooks the expansive kitchen of the Georgian Room where chef de cuisine Daniel Zeal and his brigade of chefs turn vegetables into jewel like shapes, expertly grill meats, poach lobster in vanilla and citrus, delicately prepare fine fish such as cobia, garnish plates with edible flowers and create multi-ingredient desserts.  Can’t keep up with the action? Just change the channel.  Above the picture window in the chef’s table dining room is a wide screen television. “We give the guests their own remote control to switch camera views around the kitchen so they can follow their meal every step of the way and I pop in to answer any questions they might have about techniques or ingredients,” says Zeal.

Under the direction of  Resort Executive Chef Jonathan Jerusalmy, Sea Island chefs
create a wide range of culinary experiences for guests.
Off the Farm

Snapper ceviche with micro greens at Edwards Fine Food & Wine, Rosemary Beach,  Florida
It’s nothing new to see the names of farms and farmers on menus today as more chefs create business bonds to bring the best in locally grown foods to their guests. But, take a look around the dining room and you may even see a farmer. 
Eating dinner one night at Edward’s Fine Food & Wine in Rosemary Beach, Florida I asked chef Edward Reese about the deliciously fresh micro greens in salads and garnishing plates. He smiled and replied pointing to the man sitting at the next table, “Why don’t you ask Claus Kazenmaier, they came from his farm this morning!”

So it seems that another component of judging culinary quality is today is how close we can get to knowing where our food comes from and exactly how it’s prepared even when someone else is doing the cooking.

Now let’s head to the beach……….
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Veggies Culinary Stars in Aspen

What happened to the foie gras and caviar?

It seems top chefs are excited about vegetables. Three days of cooking seminars and wine tastings at the 29th annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen – one of the world’s most exclusive and star chef studded culinary events in the world – enthusiastically embraced the beauty and benefits of Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, zucchini and kale.

Jose Andres, chef, cookbook author and owner of celebrated restaurants in Washington, DC’s including Jaleo and Zaytinya put his passion for cooking produce right up front with a seminar titled, “Sexy Vegetables.” Andres, known for his love of Spanish cuisine, zealously addressed a packed ballroom of enthusiastic foodie fans at Aspen’s St. Regis Hotel and expertly prepared eight vegetable dishes in under an hour including a radish and grapefruit salad with shrimp, watermelon and tomato skewers with a sherry vinaigrette, cucumber and tomato gazpacho with Spanish sherry and Brussels sprouts tapas with green apples and grapes. “Most people cook Brussels sprouts too long for 20 to 30 minutes,” Andres admonished, “Are we nuts? It should be two to three to four minutes! Don’t over cook them; it releases the sulfur smell and that is not sexy!”

Risotto for All Seasons
Sustainability expert and Connecticut chef Michel Nischan who is a culinary consultant to Atlanta’s Terrace Restaurant in the Ellis Hotel presented four risotto recipes –one for each season’s harvest of vegetables- featuring ancient grains called faro and spelt. Nischan, whose restaurant Dressing Room is known for local and organic menu items, centered on the health and taste advantages of eating with the seasons. He shared his definition of sustainability, “It means you give as much back to the earth as you take. For instance, composting leftover vegetable peelings creates more soil to plant more vegetables.”

Drink Your Salad


Andres, who was named 2011 James Beard Award Outstanding Chef, certainly knows about quality but he credits his recent 25 pound weight loss to focusing on quantity, “It’s really about the calories. Learning how much you personally should be eating.” Filling half your plate with vegetables and fruit is the latest diet advice from nutrition experts as illustrated by the USDA’s new My Plate icon. Filling your glass works too as Andres said about his gazpacho recipe, “You don’t eat the salad, you drink the salad!”

Aspen’s summer time vibe is lively with folks headed out hiking, biking, river rafting and fly fishing. The beauty of the wild flowers and Aspen trees spills over into the city’s cuisine. At The Little Nell Hotel, an epicenter for those devoted to dining, Montagna’s menu features great steaks and fabulous fresh fish but vegetables seem to rank just as high in the kitchen. A salad of greens, sliced radishes, fava beans and thin asparagus was so fresh it nearly leapt off the plate.

Wine with Vegetables


“Times they are a changing,” remarked registered dietitian Ashley Koff who noted that one of the Food & Wine Magazine’s Best New Chefs Joshua Skenes of Saison in San Francisco chose to feature a vegetarian dish of cauliflower and sea lettuce, “It was clear that the days of all animal all day are a thing of the past. As for what wines go best with your veggies, wine writer Mark Oldman helped me choose a delicious Spanish Rueda – the new “it” wine he said.” More than five thousand food and wine lovers converge to sample the best vintages and victuals each June in Aspen.

Isn’t That Jacques Pepin?

It’s a weekend where the majestic scenery of the Colorado Rockies is closely matched by culinary icon sightings. Jacques Pepin having lunch at Ajax Tavern with Atlanta chef and recent Bravo Top Chef winner Richard Blais. (Try the truffle fries!)

The French Laundry’s chef Thomas Keller having dinner at Aspen’s chic Cache Cache restaurant with chef Daniel Boulud of New York. My favorite food memory of the weekend- enjoying a grilled vegetable salad of marinated artichokes, butternut squash, Portobello mushrooms with arugula and chards of parmesan cheese at Campo de Fiori with Atlanta friends including winemaker Rob Mondavi and his wife Lydia of 29 Cosmetics. Taste, health, beauty and good fun. All that and plenty of vegetables being celebrated in Aspen this summer.
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Marvelous Marche Region of Italy

Let the love of all things Italian continue…….. Under the Marche Sun.

You’ve probably been to Rome, Florence and Venice. And perhaps you’ve also toured the Amalfi Coast or walked the cliffs of the Cinque Terra. But, chances are you haven’t visited the Marche region on the east coast of Italy. The lavendar scented view above is taken from the lovely Hotel Emelia in Portonovo perched high above the Adriatic Sea.

Marche is a region brimming with culture, beauty, art, cuisine, wine and people who greet you with an attitude, “We’ve been waiting for you!” What the towns and villages of Marche do not have are crowded streets or long lines to get into museums and historic sights.

From stone country houses such as Locanda ca’ Andreana offering a dream sequence of farm fresh lunches to elegant evenings inspired by top Italian designs at Symposium restaurant ……… the Marche is yours to discover.

More to come…..ciao for now.

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