Travel

Thoughts on the Boston Globe Travel Expo

As a Globe Correspondent, I was invited to attend the 10th Annual Boston Globe Travel Expo at the Seaport World Trade Center last weekend. Cruises dominated the areas nearest the entrance and Aruba had a huge presence. All I could think was "Norovirus" and "Natalee Holloway". I moved quickly past both.

I wanted to see what companies might be offering different travel experiences - who would be using technology in interesting ways? Who would be talking about reducing the carbon footprint or eco-tourism? Who would speak to the traveler not looking for a family cruise bargain or an adventure trip for millenials?

Who indeed?

Tech disconnect

Nearly every booth I stopped at required you to fill out a form to enter a giveaway. By hand. Usually on one of many paper pads attached to a many clipboards.

And yet, the badge/registration was done electronically so EACH attendee has an electronic confirmation, a QR code designed to be scannable with any smart phone and a free scanning app. No paper. No handwriting. No clipboards. No manual entry later of all the probably illegible entries. I can't read my own handwriting these days, can you?

When practically everyone I know is concerned about reducing our carbon footprint, why completely ignore the technology in the palm of nearly every person's hand and waste all that paper? The cost and hassle of packing and carrying the paper and junk with it, the manual labor of data entry could all be avoided completely? Complete misfire.

 

Food Connects us to each other, memories

I had another two goals for the show: connect with any travel editors there (would Afar? Travel & Leisure? or any publications be there?) No and no.

Would I get to see Chef Pierre Thiam there to demonstrate a Senegalese dish with fonio - saw him but didn't get to actually say hello, sadly. He and I met at IACP years back when his beautiful book Yolele! was nominated for an award. Chef Thiam introduced the Travel Expo crowd to fonio, "the new quinoa", and described waking up in the Sahel to the rhythmic pounding of grain in large mortar and pestles. Immediately I could hear the gentle, bird-like singing of the women in this photo I took in Mali.

 

 

As we turned a corner in Tombouctou I saw what I'd heard in the distance: two women, gently pounding millet and singing gently, rhythmically as they processed the grain. Everywhere we went women carried large pots or bundles on their heads, babies wrapped around their midsection (heads bouncing unsupported) walking, carrying, pounding, fetching water from wells.

Pierre described fonio as the new quinoa, but better, because it is drought resistant and must be grown organically as it withers and dies under pesticides. Must find some of this fonio!

Connecting with your city, new cities

Walking to the seaport area, I crossed the icy channel. It was an interesting contrast to the salsa dancing, the beachy murals and the reminder of warmer places.

One of the great things was connecting "IRL" (in real life) with Max Grinnel AKA The Urbanologist. Max teaches, writes, and speaks on walking through urban environments. I'm a huge fan of this and of Max now, too. I love a walkable city (sorry, L.A. you leave me cold) and share Max's enthusiasm for looking up more overlooked gems in any city; in meeting locals and asking what THEY love, where THEY eat. Check out Max's site.

He share four tips for visiting a new city:

1. Slow down & look up. (I thought I invented the hashtag #lookup - turns out some Architects beat me to it...)

2. Ask Questions. (I love asking cab drivers and people at the bar, on the street.)

3. Do your homework. (Go beyond Yelp! Ever heard of Archive.org?)

4. There's always next time. (When I fall in love with a new place this is my mantra: "it's just reconnaissance for next time!")

Travel Expo Collage

 

Well, thanks to the Boston Globe for hosting. JetBlue, for getting how to use tech and Pierre and Max for inspiring me. It was worth that snowy schlep.

Allons-y!!

See you at the Boston Globe Travel Expo!

So excited to be heading to the Boston Globe Travel Expo. I'm looking forward to the culinary demos, meeting old friends and editors, and making new acquaintances. While many of my regular readers know about my focus on food, they may not be as familiar with the travel writing I've done. As much as I love food, it was travel that first inspired me. From my earliest days, I would lose myself in the Canary-bordered National Geographic Society magazines. How I loved learning about far-flung places around the globe. Secretly, I made lists of destinations: Xi'an and the armies of terra cotta warriors; the Mayan ruins; Machu Picchu.

The sterile environment of Air Force bases I grew up on left me hollow and bored. But, inside those magazines...I could be anywhere. Jungles, deserts, in a swirl of dust around Flamenco dancer's heels. Then, the oceans themselves were illuminated by Jacques Cousteau and Undersea World. I added scuba diving to my list of things to do once I became a grown up.

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

I once dreamt of filling a passport before it expired but have not come close. Still, I have been so very lucky to sit with penguins in Antarctica, to ride a camel into the Sahara at sunset, to clamber around the ruins in Machu Picchu, Chichen Itza and Tulum. I've walked near active lava flow and tiptoed across a black sand beach. I've done dives with bestie Catherine in Mexico (she figures into half these travels) and dove down to a wreck off the coast of Curaçao. Raced around Florence in a thunderstorm to catch the perfect vantage for a sunset to match my butterscotch flats ruined in the rain. So worth it. Gasped at the color of the sea near Santorini. Slurped belons in Brussels and laughed with rediscovered relatives in a Tokyo tatami matted living room while a Japanese Elvis impersonator sang "Brue Suedo Shoes." Stumbled upon one of Paris' oldest oyster bars and celebrated Jesse's newfound love of les huitres. Ordered more food than our table would hold, more than once, in New Orleans.

Chichen_Itza

More than any passport could hold, my heart is full of these memories and yet hungry for more adventures. Allons-y!

Here are some links to pieces I've written about just a few of my trips.

Check out my full pressfolio set of clips here.

 

atomium_Brussels

Don't Let Food Allergies Ground You - me in the Boston Globe

Thrilled to share my food allergy/travel piece in this morning's Boston Globe. This has been in the works a while and my editor did a great job preserving the heart of the piece while trimming it enough to accommodate the section's need for space.

I wanted to share some of the info omitted due to space constraints.

In addition to those Energy Bites, TSA travel-friendly foods include:

rye crackers

Ivy Manning (another IACP friend) has an excellent book on the simple joy of homemade crackers. If you are allergic and traveling crackers are another great thing to make and bring, particularly if you crave crunchy things as I do.

And don't forget apple-quinoa cake. I love Yvette Van Boven's recipe.

What I'm Doing Instead of the Ice Bucket Challenge - Building Access to Water for Women of the Sahel

If you're doing or thinking of doing the ALS Ice Bucket challenge, or if you've already done it. I appreciate your enthusiastic support of efforts to end that terrible disease. I have been asked a number of times why I haven't done the ice bucket challenge.

This is why. I had the life-changing experience (thank you Catherine, Eva) of seeing the beautiful Sahel - the lower Sahara where people, women often with children, must walk MILES to get water. Water that we get to take for granted many times a day. One day I was awoken by a beautiful sweet singing outside my window. In my sleepy-headed state, I scrambled to find my camera and run to the window. Through the roll down screen I saw a woman walking by. She was singing to herself as she stopped to take her load off her head and re-balance it, then place it back her head and continued on her way.

sangha commuter adjusting load

I wanted to see where she was going, I didn't recall a well near the hotel when we'd checked in.

off to work

I threw on something and went outside to see where the path she was following was headed. I saw her and other women, all following the same trail, as far as the eye could see. The Sahel is flat. I could see pretty far at that point. Then it hit me: this was her morning commute. Early to beat the blazing sun. Women walked. And walked. Many with babies on their backs.

bandiagara commuters

dawn_sanghaIt was only later when our driver took us passed suddenly lush green fields - I realized this was where they were WALKING to - to tend the fields of green onions. An unlikely oasis of green, miles from their simple mud huts.

oasis well (1)

Other women I saw as we hiked to our cliff and La Falaise hike, were walking miles to a well. This was two years ago, not a tap in sight.

baobob dusk

When I returned to Boston, I could not bear to see a faucet run or even an ice cube wasted. I always thought how long and hard women worked for every drop in Mali.

Bandiagara well

Cow well

Cow well (1)

Please watch this heartwarming clip and donate what you can, where you wish. ALS is a horrendous disease and we're contributing to that cause, too. So very many could use that water we're tossing about to make a point. Could we donate without wasting water? Or donate as well to help those who have not a drop to spare?

September Campaign 2014 Trailer: The Sahel from charity: water on Vimeo.

 

Right now a donor is matching every dollar up to $1,000,000.

Do what you can.

What to pack, how to prep when you're a food-allergic traveler

The thrill of travel is my siren song. I used to dream of filling a passport before it expired. Never happened, but I did manage to get to many great places. Machu Picchu, Xi'an, Tulum. Life can throw you one curveball after another, some good, some not so good. Layoffs, pink slips, food allergies. My high-flying life came to a decidedly more earthbound home. For several years I had time to travel but not the money.

The bitter and the sweet

As we get older, we begin to appreciate that one is enhanced by the other. Fast-forward several years and I am slowly building an entrepreneur's life. This means we swing from one trapeze landing to another, sometimes the grip is so tenuous, the next check so long in coming. But we learn to live with the anxiety that would have done us in before and push on, move forward. Grab and let go. Let go, grab.

This week I'm preparing for my first trip to Europe since my flight through de Gaulle to go to Mali but the last visit when I stayed and explored was a media trip to Valencia, Spain. That was wonderful, too. Both trips like evanescent dreams. Wonderful memories.

New opportunities, new challenges

I'm getting on a plane again 48 hours from this moment. I'm off to Brussels to work with the fabulous Nathan Fong on behalf of sustainable, delicious British Columbia seafood. After our success at  Seafood Expo North America (#sena2014) - stir-frying with the Trade Minister! We're bringing the dynamic duo to the largest seafood expo in the world, Brussels! Now I'm dealing with multiple food allergies. Looking at the food there, dairy is definitely going to be a problem. I won't have time to shop all over and my Flemish is pretty weak. I think I've got this one down though: "Aangenamen Kennismaking" (Nice to meet you) it's just plain fun to say, isn't it?

It's hard to explain to someone who doesn't have food allergies. But imagine you're somewhere unfamiliar, and you literally cannot risk eating food because you may end up in anaphylactic shock. And traveling in a professional capacity, you don't want to make every group meal a tiresome litany of your issue and allergies. "Who knows Flemish for 'allergy'?"

Moules Frites? Waffles? (butter, dairy) Carbonnade? Waterzooi? (butter, cream) Food, glorious food. It's what I live for, what I organize my life around, what I share with friends, family and clients. But the prospect of being unable to find anything to eat made me realize I now have an extra list of travel prep tasks: researching, prepping, baking, planning. Even the flight to Belgium is a problem. Special diet meals include vegetarian (with cheese, nuts) Asian Vegetarian (may include dairy); Vegetarian (dairy). So what can I eat during the flight? Grab and go in the airport? Can you trust the labels on pre-packed foods? The fast food training? Erm, no. Basically, there was not one option that I could choose that was both free of dairy and free of tree nuts. Swiss International Airlines announced an "allergy friendly" service but to me it sounds like only a baby step further than what other airlines do.

Chips? (made in a facility that also processes nuts) etc. It's impossible!

Luckily, I'm a good cook. And I have good friends. And a very caring husband. He has turned into the best food sleuth!

My goal was to find things easy to pack and dense with protein to keep me going in the worst case scenario.

Tips:

1. Research, research, research. What are the typical foods in your destination? What capacity does your hotel have to accommodate your allergies? (Or even, to speak English?) Check with TSA and your airlines.

2. Pack pouches. Really good tuna, quinoa cereal, and terrific peanut butter all come in these easy-to-pack pouches. Thanks Doc!

pouches

3. Bake ahead. Energy Bites; Crackers, Apple-Quinoa Cake.

choco chunks, fruit

rye crackers

travel snack

4. Try to order Allergy warning cards in the destination language. I ordered cards from Allergic Traveler - hope they'll arrive in time!

 

Recipes:

The energy bites are great pre/post workout snacks. I love that they're not overly sweet and they're super easy to customize. This is based on Kim O'Donnel's original recipe from her Washington Post days. Her Lulu's Cookies became my Choco-fruit Energy Bites.

Choco-fruit Energy Bites

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 C of a combo of: sunflower seeds, pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and sesame seeds (I omitted sesame and used a combo of peanuts, bran, amaranth for the third 1/2 C.)
  • 2 tablespoons flax seeds.
  • 3 C flour [I used 1 C Irish Wholemeal flour +1 C White Whole Wheat + 1 C AP flour]
  • 2 cups rolled oats [I used rolled instant] + 1/3 C brown rice crispies + 1/4 flaked coconut
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup dried fruit - cherries, prunes, apricots
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 3/4 C coconut + canola oil
  • 3/4 C honey + golden syrup
  • 1/2 - 3/4 C cup Enjoy Life chocolate chunks (free of 8 major allergens and made in an allergen free facility)

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast seeds on a baking sheet about 8 minutes, or until the seeds turn a golden color. Be careful not to burn seeds.
  2.  Remove from oven and allow to cool thoroughly.
  3.  In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, baking powder and salt.
  4.  Soak dried fruit in hot water for about 15 minutes. Drain, but reserve soaking water.
  5.  Add dried fruit soaking water to dry mixture, plus oil and honey. With a rubber spatula, stir until combined. Add cooled seeds and stir to combine, then add fruit and chocolate chips. Don't over-mix.
  6.  Form teaspoon-sized patties onto a cookie sheet, preferably lined with parchment paper.
  7.  Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Don't over-bake; the cookies will turn into rocks.

Makes about 50 cookies.

I love that these are like two bite energy bars without all the overly sweet, highly processed ingredients. These are like bites of shortbread chunks of sweet dried fruits and chocolate.

 

What are your tips for traveling with food allergies or intolerances?

Next up, the apple quinoa cake!

Taking a Dim Sum View - Chinese New Year Whets Foodies' Appetites

Since we're approaching the Chinese New Year people are getting excited about banquets (like the Boston Food Tours special Chinese New Year tour and banquet) and poking around the edges of Chinese food maybe more than they usually do.

lion dance 2008

Why not take our tour, or even throw your own Chinese New Year party? Here' are two excellent books to help you prepare your own Chinese New Year event:

 

If you are approaching Chinese food as a spectator sport, definitely get your hands on the latest Lucky Peach - Chinatown edition (!)

luckpeach

 

 

 

 

 

and have a look at this Wall Street Journal piece on dim sum: Taking a Dim Sum View - WSJ.com.

 

Mali -A little armchair travel for you while I'm away

By Thursday I'll be en route to Mali a small land-locked country in West Africa that many of us know very little about. While I'm gone, exploring ancient cliff dwellings, giant mosques made of mud bricks, and the Festival au Desert, I thought it might be interesting to share some information with you about my destination.

 

  • From BBC News World profiles: Mali.

 

Stay tuned for some links on the food and culture...

What are you Doing New Year's Eve? Events in Boston, Traditions Old and New

Maybe I'm crazy to supposeI'd ever be the one you chose Out of a thousand invitations You received

Ooh, but in case I stand one little chance Here comes the jackpot question in advance: What are you doing New Year's, New Year's Eve?

 

 

I can't imagine Ella (whose voice I always hear with these lyrics) spent too many New Year's Eve nights alone, nor Diana Krall who also sings it beautifully. Me, I'll be hanging home, quietly with my boys. Maybe we'll pack a flask, bundle up and go check out ice sculptures. Check out Boston First Night for a full run down of the City's celebration.

In case you haven't made a plan here are some ideas out and about:

 

Most years we get some bubbles, I make some nibbles and we hang out at home with maybe a friend or two.

What will you do this New Year's Eve?

Do you have special treats you always make? Traditional dishes you must eat?  Special routines for luck and prosperity?

Roundup of Rituals & Foods for New Year's

Itʼs a natural time to reflect on the year thatʼs past and to think about the one just beginning. Every culture and every family has their own unique foods, rituals and traditions that welcome the start of each new year. These rituals help tie us to our culture, our people, and make us feel connected.

Here are a few New Year’s foods and traditions (including one of my very own) from around the world.

Foods Evoking Prosperity, Longevity and Luck

Black eyed peas – symbolize wealth. The peas (really beans) are said to represent coins, (sometimes served with greens for money, cornbread for gold)

Noodles – symbolize a smooth transition to the new year in Japan; longevity in China.

Eating 12 grapes – each one representing a wish. Spain, Mexico, and Columbia share this tradition, which may correspond to the ringing of the clock at 12 midnight, or the 12 months of the new year.

Red foods – mean luck; Lycheeʼs relative the Longan fruit has a red shell; lobster cooks up red…Lapcheong Fan, the Chinese cured sausages that are red and anise-scented and cooked in rice (fan), is another delectable red dish. Many cultures associate the color red with vitality or luck, and in some Latin cultures, red underwear is worn for luck or romance in the new year!

 

 

Whole fish – Chinese consider the whole fish to be a symbol of health and wealth, part of the circle of life.

Lentils symbolize money and are often served in Italian and Hungarian families. Like black eyed peas, they symbolize wealth and are thought to resemble little coins with their perfect round shape. Speaking of circular or round foods – in the Philippines clothing with circles on it is said to be auspicious at New Yearʼs, and the Dutch have a special fruit studded donut whose circular shape is also associated with New Yearʼs.

Pickled herring – In Scandinavian or Polish families at midnight a bite is taken to assure a bountiful catch in the New Year.

Rituals

In some countries, old items are thrown out the windows of houses in a symbolic and literal “out with the old” ritual.

Fireworks – ward off evil in the New Year. Think of our noisemakers or of kids clanging pots – these noisy rituals can also be meant to scare away bad spirits.

Cleaning up, settling up – In both Chinese and Japanese families, debts should be settled and cleaning should be done before the new year begins. Chinese will also say no sweeping or cleaning on New Yearʼs Day because you might sweep out the good luck! Some even say not to wash your hair, lest you wash away that luck.

Red envelopes – Chinese children and single relatives are given red envelopes with small amounts of fresh bills.

Yellow underwear for love or positive energy – ask someone from Ecuador!

Puerto Rico and Spain – Suitcases – are put outside or walked around the block – to bring travel.

Creating New Traditions

Family-centered activities. Years ago, when I was single and protesting many couplesʼ parties or family activities, I created my own ritual.

It began when a friend brought me some special incense from an Indian reservation sheʼd visited. The note in the box said they believed that their hopes and dreams were carried to heaven on the smoke.

While many cultures smoke use smoke for this symbolic purpose, whatever oneʼs belief system is, this ritual is both freeing and centering. Itʼs a nice way to start the new year!

Each person gets two squares of good paper (I use handmade paper or rice paper) and a pen.

• Write on one piece – a grudge youʼre hanging on to, something negative youʼre ready to let go. • On the second piece of paper – write a hope you have for the new year. • Usually people get very solemn while thinking about what to write. It gets quiet. • Then, move to the fireplace or kitchen sink. One at a time, each person takes their folded papers and burns them. I like to begin with the “letting go” card.

It’s a great way to start the new year with a little less baggage and one more hope. Afterward, have a toast to the new year, make some noise, and let the fun begin! — Just donʼt sweep away any stray ashes, you wouldn’t want to brush away that luck.

 

Valencia in 36 Hours?

 

Seeing that the New York Times "36 Hours in..." featured Valencia brought a rush of warm memories back. Thought I'd share the links as we head into a deep freeze here in Boston - enjoy!

 

 

Here are a few photos in this first post after my return:

The hotel mentioned in the NYT piece, I stayed there.

 

 

This is very near the oldest Horchata place.

 

Altos las Hormigas Pours Sun and Soil into your Glass

 

What would you do with 320 days of sun?

In Mendoza the answer is: make wonderful wine. At Altos las Hormigas they want you to taste the unique characteristics of the Mendoza region in their wines. And you do.

 

Malbec wine has become more popular with consumers. As a consequence, more and more growers are planting it, producing it, and many think, turning it into a generic-tasting wine. You might say it's become treated as a commodity. Think of the difference between a commodity coffee, supermarket brand X. Yes you can tell it's coffee. You may even enjoy a cup. But what about a single-origin from Indonesia? There you have a unique cup to enjoy.

While some consumers may be satisfied with a standardized wine world, it depresses me. It’s like applying a McDonald’s mentality to wine. No matter where it’s from or who made it, I can order a glass of Malbec and it’ll taste exactly the same. Those folks should stick with soda, better yet, read on for a wine suggestion. Me? I want to taste the place, the climate, the soil, the winemaker’s skill, as well as the grape’s characteristics.

Thankfully, a number of winemakers now recognize that I’m among a growing body of wine drinkers who want to experience the place, the grape through the glass. These winemakers also recognize that in a competitive market, treating wine like a commodity is a losing game for many, especially smaller, operations. Taking a different tack and going the direction of the artisan, are wineries like Altos las Hormigas. Their goal is for you to "taste Mendoza in your glass."

With 320 days of sun you might expect overpowering heat and alcohol in the wine. Yet, these are not austere or overpowering wines. They possess a touch of spiciness, balanced by fresh juicy fruit, with a careful acid balance and some floral notes.

 

 

In the shadow of the Andes

In Mendoza, the elevation is about 3,000 feet above sea level. The near-absence of humidity means the vines are not vulnerable to many diseases that would necessitate more chemical interventions. There are challenges for the winemakers here. Like their namesake “hormigas” or ants, they needed a team of people working together, over time, to unlock the secrets to making great wines in this area. They survived the ants without chemical intervention and have used canopy trellising and pruning techniques, hands-on picking, sorting and pruning, to achieve success with the vines.  In addition, the use of gravity as opposed to pumping of the berries to move them releases less tannins as the skins are left intact. These are some pampered grapes.

Meeting the ALH Team

 

Recently, I met two of the ants, I mean the team, of Altos las Hormigas: Winemaker Alberto Antonini and Antonio Morescalchi. Alberto travels the world consulting to wineries all over. Antonio manages the winery and its marketing with experience gained at his father’s vineyard in Tuscany. They explained how micro-zoning gave them an

advantage with the unique terroir, further enabling the transmission of a sense of place through the wine. They brought in a noted Chilean soil expert Pedro Parra, to enhance their knowledge of the terroir characteristics in very fine detail. You’ve heard of microclimates, here we’re now able to define micro-terroir.

Within the Mendoza region, you have rich alluvial soils of the Vale de Uco; the best sub-region, producing the Reserva. Within the Vale de Uco there are further micro-zones, designations with a variety of other types of soil and mineral deposits at various layers. By carefully selecting both for terroir and altitude, they can produce Malbec with fresh acidity and balance. In a smaller parcel with even better terroir, we get the single vineyard Malbec “Vista Flores” with its floral notes gracing the well-structured wine.

And for those soda drinkers...

Look, wine can be intimidating. I get it. But there's no reason to be afraid of variety, to avoid unique wines that express something special. The very accessible Bonarda, which ALH has been making since 2003 was the surprise for me. It is a wine anyone could enjoy. It's very drinkable, food-friendly and retailing under or near $10 a bottle. This is a great wine to introduce the region to your palate and to spark your interest in wines with a sense of place. Today a Bonarda, tomorrow a Malbec. We ants have much work to do introducing the world to Mendoza in a glass. Better get back to it!


Detail of "las Hormigas" on the neck of the bottle

 

Altos las Hormigas Wines - look for these wines where ever wines from the Classic Wines importer are sold.

 

 

Bonarda - Colonia Las Liebres - The Rabbit Colony - look for the bunny on the label. This is the sister wine to the Hormigas Malbec line. I could drink this wine every day. Easy, food-friendly and it doesn't break the bank. Still, you get a sense of the place in the glass.

 

Altos las Hormigas - The entry level Malbec of this portfolio. 100% hand-picked grapes. Available at Sagarino's for those of us in the Leather District.

 

 

Vale de Uco Reserva - Micro-zoning techniques in the riverbeds of the Uco river valley yield long finish and an age-worthy wine.

 

Vista Flores Single Vineyard - Many years of micro-zoning investigation helped Antonini to single out this vineyard producing exceptional wine with special minerality.

 

  • For good reading about food and wine of Mendoza, read From Argentina with Love. The author Rebecca Treon Caro also shares Mendoza travel information on her blog. Buen Viaje!
  • For South American Culinary tours, including Mendoza, see  Liz Caskey's site.

 

 

 

Duckfest Farm to Table Weekend

There's a story my family told of the first time I ate duck. Dad had been invited to go hunting with the neighbor across the street. They bagged a couple and my father roasted ours, and the story goes my parents looked at each other and said "wonder if the kid would like duck?" Put it in front of me and shortly thereafter the place in front of me was a pile of dry bones. Tasmanian Devil- style, I tore through that duck and savored every bit.

My love for duck has never wavered. Unfortunately I am without code geek skills, and without a trust fund, scraping by as I do making it up as I go along. My travel "budget" and we use that term loosely, is going to be reserved for the Seafood Choices Alliance conference in January. Otherwise I WOULD BE HERE:

DUCKFEST!!!

Neal and dinner, er um, duck.

Farmer, chef, and it's generally agreed, good guy, Neal Foley is hosting his annual weekend workshop for those committed to good food. You will learn how to grow it, kill it, cook it and eat it.

This is what you get:

  • 3 workshops with Neal Foley & Kate Hill
  1. Cassoulet- making the classic French the authentic way
  2. Ducks- slaughter to salting
  3. Duck charcuterie: confit, rillettes, pate, & duck prosciutto
  • 2 breakfast, 2 lunches, 2 dinners- all made with the good homegrown food of  Claddaugh Farms.
  • car pool from Belfast Harbor Inn
  • Pick up from Portland airport
  • whole transformed duck to take home (confit, pate, magret & rillettes; extra ducks available at low cost)
  • MadeinMaine gift bag
  • All of the above for $495. that's $100 per workshop including tuition, equipment, location and ducks. $20 per meal, and $25 for local transportation per day. A good value, really.

Neal is a agro-jewel. His commitment to establishing resources and teaching goes beyond a sustainable family farm. He deserves to be supported.

Kate Hill whom I had the great pleasure of meeting, laughing with and learning from in Portland is coming to share her Gascon knowledge with others.

So... my fellow farm-to-table foodies, locavores, homegrown friends, chefs, butchers, starving off the land folk...check this out.

And if you go, you could save me one little confit leg, perhaps?

Duckfest 2010 for more info see here.

 

 

Valencia - a Few Photos to Whet your Appetite

Once in a while the stars align and a wonderful opportunity falls in your lap. So it was back in June when a spot opened up in a Wines of Valencia media tour. Would I be available to join some food and travel writers to learn about the wines of Valencia? How fast could I say "Si"?

 

Welcome to Valencia (front door of Hotel Palau de la Mar, our hotel)

This is a plaza just blocks from my hotel.

 

Small quiet streets...I was able to walk the city prior to our official tour "duties" began.

No time for the museums, this trip.

Through the middle of the city runs a park - or a series of them - that was once a river that flooded the city. After the flood, Valencia re-routed the river, filled in the old river bed and did what the Spanish seem to have a unique ability to do. They built a modern city center complete with eye-popping modern architecture, science and nature parks, music halls and bridges that incorporate historical references.

Palau de les Arts - the opera house

The Hemisphere

 

A bridge that reminded me of the Zakim Bridge.

 

Imagine a place where people place beautiful tiles on the undersides of balconies. You know, just in case a pedestrian should look up she should have something beautiful to look at.

I am smitten and looking forward to when I can return.

Stay tuned as more posts and links are coming!

 

 

IACP Sessions Sold Out - Lucky Me

Wednesday at IACP Portland, the first session I tried to sign up for was a sold-out digital photography course taught by the ever-charming Matt Armendariz see MattBites.com.

Standing in line for potential no-shows, I glanced at the name tag of the woman standing next to me. The unfailingly polite and generous Cindy Mushet signed a book plate for me and let on that she was hoping to get in, too.

The key to success with my new camera? RTM according to Matt.
R Read
T The
M Manual

Really? Now the question is do I want to learn badly enough to overcome my loathing of reading manuals. Is there a stronger word than loathing? I couldn’t protest too much as friend and editor, Lia Huber sat next to me (she who corrects, augments or supplements my photography as needed, for Nourish Network posts.) It’s great to be contributing and learning and to be among professionals who value both. At Lia’s and Matt’s urging, I did pick up a gray scale card to make white balance and color correction easier. (At least I think that’s what it does.)

I offered Cindy a few tips like URLs for sites like Diane & Todd’s White on Rice Couple and Jaden’s Steamy Kitchen too, both sites generously share knowledge. Jaden even offered more tips in class. Hope I saved those notes here somewhere.

At the photo store near the hotel, I picked up a card reader (having left my USB cable at home) and the gray card. I mentioned to the guy there that I was loving my Nikon D40 but still had SO much to learn. He sold me a DVD tutorial for less than $20 - if you’re guessing that I’m hoping it will relieve me from the dreaded RTM exercise, you’re correct.

Listen, the reason I put “photographer” on my business card and my website even though I’m barely one, is to keep myself honest and on track toward becoming one. It’s aspirational.

Lunch with one Kim, chocolate with another.

One of the great city hosts, Ken Rubin, was near by so asked for a good spot that Kim O’Donnel and I could escape to, not too far, not likely to be overrun. We needed a little catch up time. He recommended [ hotel ]

Then I met Kim Carlson, Editor of Culinate, for one perfect shot of hot chocolate at Cacao in the Heathman Hotel. So nice to finally meet in person, someone who’s face and words appear in the Inbox regularly. I love Culinate and one of the nice things about it is that their authors actually answer questions and respond to comments. They engage their readers. I wish more sites would do so, but then I’d never have time for anything else. I got to meet Hank Sawtelle of Culinate, too.

Best Bites from PDX - Pork & Pinot

Pork & Pinot

Before the actual IACP Conference started, some of us took optional field trips including the Pork & Pinot Tour. Others included the Alternative Diets and Natural Foods Tour, From Land to Sea Seafood Tour, the Discover Oregon Craft Brewing Tour and the Urban Bike and Bite Tour. The host committee and conference planners really paid attention to offering us chances to see the city as well as affordable options so important to so many of us. This year, in particular, we had many first time attendees and I'm sure there's a correlation. Austin planners, take note!

Tuesday

I began the Portland adventure with a pre-conference field trip to wineries led by Chef Cathy Whims of Nostrana and Grape Escapes Wine Tours. The day was capped by a lunch at Nick’s Italian Cafe. Four courses of pork - every part - accompanied by Eyrie Vineyards’ wines. (After lunch I almost missed the bus back chatting to Marissa Guggiana about butchers. More on that topic later.)

Starting at Brick House Winery - profiled in the New York Times just days after we were there, On This Oregon Trail, Pioneers Embrace Organic.

I saw the horn and asked - are you Biodynamic here? - turns out they are. And they are pioneers. As our group was split up by choice of pre-numbered corks in wine glasses.

Interesting to watch the others in the group trying to wrap their heads around the principles of biodynamics. Tasting was partly led by co-owner Doug Tunnell with a sonorous voice perfect for his former life in broadcasting covering Beirut and more for CBS.

 

 

 

 

Co-owner Doug on the left below "just wanted to drive a tractor."

Chardonnay for Breakfast.

 

Deep, rich compost.

Cow horns used in Biodynamic vineyard management.

The proverbial garden gate

Ladybug, mint

Both Brick House and Penner-Ash staff explained the variety of soils that lend a surprising variety of characteristics to the wines of Oregon. At Penner-Ash we were treated to pork belly Banh Mi made by Chef Tommy Habetz of Bunk Sandwiches. I wasn’t the only one who ate two thinking it was lunch. That’s my story, sticking to it.

 

Penner-Ash Winery

The Penner-Ash's explaining the terroir and the valley.

 

The soil in different parts of the property - in a single winery - is different. Sedimentary in one place, volcanic in another.

 

The Winery was built with longevity and green principles in mind, from elevated work tables requiring less bending, to the materials themselves.

LIVE Certification (Low Input Viticulture and Enology) is a sustainability certification, proudly displayed in the foyer of the winery.

 

I love the wall of pulleys designed to store hoses and the light coming in from high windows.

The tank room also can be a function room.

Barrels

 

I don't know why I love this wall of hardware, but I do.

 

One of the Penner-Ash wines.

Bunk Sandwiches - Banh Mi

Who could resist?

Our guide, Chef Cathy Whims of Nostrana, and our Chef for the day, Tommy Habetz of Bunk Sandwiches.

 

We did a quick drive-by the Letts-Eyrie Winery

Lunch with David Lett @ Nick's Cafe

 

We arrived at Nick’s Cafe for the actual lunch. Jason Lett, son of David Lett AKA "Papa Pinot" shared some thoughts on his father’s legacy and the values of Eyrie Vineyards.

 

The Menu

Canella Prosecco Brut

House Made Mortadella, Prosciutto and Lonza

Wood Oven Baked Bread

 

The Eyrie Vineyards 2005 Pinot Noir 'Original Vines'

Prosciutto and Spinach Agnolotti in Pork and Morel Brodo with Parmesan Reggiano and Durant Family Oregon Olive Oil

The Eyrie Vineyards 2009 Rose of Pinot Gris 'Original Vines'

(This morel brodo was one of the singular best bites of the week. Haunting.)


Pork Trippa with Soft Cooked Egg and Salsa Verde

The Eyrie Vineyards 2008 Pinot Noir 'Daphne Vineyard'

Pork Confit, Braised Smoked Belly, and Grilled Tongue on Mixed Local Greens with House Red Wine Vinegar

 

These were Hawk View Cellars, Lange Estate Winery, Penner-Ash Winery presented examples of the new AVAs or American Viticultural Regions. The diversity of the terroir across these AVAs was startling and the introduction to the geological history that shaped them was really interesting.

On the Pork & Pinot tour our driver explained how the economy has affected peoples' drinking habits. "Whereas they used to drink a $60 bottle of wine at night, now they're only drinking a $30 bottle, and of course we're feeling that." Paraphrasing, slightly, but not exaggerating. I shook my head and discussed with my colleagues how few of us are actually "feeling the pinch" as evidenced by our $30 bottles. More than one person laughed when someone suggested "Two buck Chuck is probably more like it!"

I come back to my first revelation about Oregon wines. The reason that I previously had not enjoyed them, was solely because I was drinking far less expensive ones. Not the strongest reflections of what the region can, and does, produce.

My second revelation is the stunning diversity of the terroir and its impact on the wines. Finally, the passion for sustainability that runs through so many businesses is evident in the wineries. They even have a "salmon safe" designation to monitor and prevent harmful runoff from vineyards into spawing streams. It was really encouraging to see these principles integrated into the principles of so many vineyards there.

I came away from this conference with a healthy respect for the unique wines of the region and look forward to when I can go back to drinking those nightly bottles of $60 Oregon pinots. Ahem.

 

 

 

Best Bites from Portland - IACP's New Culinary Order Reigns On in Fond Memories

Yes, it's been a few weeks since I've returned from Portland (AKA PDX). The IACP annual conference (my second) was terrific and I think many of us are still suffering withdrawal.

Life happens. The eternal struggle between doing and writing about doing. Then there’s chasing delinquent clients, trouble-shooting the DSL gateway, and the myriad other things that keep a writer’s life...interesting.

As so many new things pile onto my desk and calendar, I’m dying to get down to work telling you all about Portland. I thought if I begin with food, I’d get the ball rolling.

Side-trip to Eugene

I was delighted to start my time in Portland with a little girlfriend time that included a magical dinner at Andina. Quick detour to Eugene to check out her gorgeous new kitchen, play time with the husband and daughter, picnicking in the rhododendrum park and, of course, Saturday market.

It was so green.

 

 

 

Legendary Street Food

I got to Portland early hoping I might get to meet up with one of the farmers or butchers I’d been emailing with prior to the conference. Since that didn’t happen, I had a day to wander, explore. I found a block of food carts parked just down the street from my hotel. After walking around downtown Portland, finding my favorite Powell’s Books, Whole Foods, I decided on a brunch of Bulgogi in the park. I picked up book plates at Powell's in case I ran into authors whose books I have or are planning to buy. I hoped they wouldn’t mind my asking for signatures.

One of the things I like to do when traveling is to mix up active searching, observation with more passive, restful, noticing. Exploring I found interesting architectural details, several old signs that Portland seems to love and preserve. Sitting quietly with my lunch, the next observations came to me. A group of girls with cameras came by. A nearby high school released the budding photographers to go shoot.

 


 

Best Bites in PDX

Andina - This Peruvian gem is that rare place that welcomes you like you're the long-lost friend, and also feeds you well without fussing too much, just enough. Through small plate orders we got to try many of the peppers without which "our food is not our food" according to the charming owner who stopped by our table. They were so intriguing that you kept going back for another forkful to see "how was it I'm tasting a little sweet, a little hot and something else..."

Clyde Common - Recently called out in a good way by Tasting Table, Clyde Common was the place I had one of my favorite meals. TT notes the cured cocktails trend and credits Portland, Oregon-based bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler as the originator of the trend. "He tasted a Manhattan that had been aged five years in a glass vessel by noted London bartender Tony Conigliaro. Back at home in his bar, Clyde Common, he began aging cocktails in barrels instead of bottles to cut down the wait time."

At Clyde Common for my last night before returning home I was greeted with a pork-themed coaster:

Then given some wonderful advice about the menu from the bartender. The broccoli rabe was inspired - pistachios offered a perfect foil to the bitter greens. A chicken pot pie with local seasonal wild mushrooms and leeks was comfort food at its elegant best. Dessert was a lemon meringue tart with huckleberry, buttermilk sorbet. I wanted something to offset the tart lemon. An off-the-menu thyme-scented digestif was perfect. Lemon and thyme are natural companions.

 

 

Meat Revival - Encore

During the International Culinary Association's annual conference in Portland, I was fortunate to attend a wonderful Saturday session entitled "Meat Revival" hosted by the Art Institute of Portland's Culinary School. With heritage breed pigs from Sweet Briar farm, a demo of butchering techniques comparing French and American styles, Michael Ruhlman moderating, and charcuterie to sample - you might say I was in hog heaven.

Looking around the packed room of culinary professionals, rapt and ravenous for the information, techniques, explanations made me confident that my book Pig Tales: a Love Story has a market. We're seeing more home cooks, chefs, food enthusiasts asking for recipes, for demonstrations and for real hands-on training.

In case you're wondering if how long ago this conference was, it was the end of April and yes, I have discovered the one downside of having a digital camera. You are apt to shoot too many photos. You have the opportunity to shoot nearly limitless shots without worry about the cost of film. If you're in a hurry and taking notes, you don't even have to stop to erase bad shots from your memory card. You can shoot away and worry about it later! When you have time.

For me, it was a dual dilemma of being in my dream class with a clean memory card. I'm embarrassed to tell you how many photos I shot in this class. This is my way of begging your indulgence with the delay in posting here. See, I've been going over lots of photos from that day. Lots and lots of photos. Here's five in a row of Kate talking which one is the best? This one, or that one? That one or this one? And on and on.

So I have to get more judicious. But this Saturday morning pig fest was no time to start. My gratitude to Camas Davis of PDX Meat, the brand-new Portland Meat Collective, to Dave and the AI staff for hosting, to Sweet Briar for providing the pigs (a Yorkshire cross I believe), Michael Ruhlman for being a great moderator and to our butchery teachers, Dominique Chapolard with his friend and translator Kate Hill, and Adam Sappington Chef/Owner of Country Cat restaurant in Portland. I don't know if the overalls are his daily attire but between them and the berêt you certainly wouldn't lose sight of who was who!

Olympic provisions joined our hosts in offering finely crafted charcuterie, and fine OR wine from Pudding River rounded out this true breakfast of champions. Move over Wheaties, there's a new game in town. The plate was amazing and I cannot get the jerky off my mind.

What I was most struck by is the skill, the quiet grace of the movements of both butchers, really. Their methods were quite different, even to an untrained eye (they even started at different ends of the pigs.) I kept thinking of ballet, the delicate movements, the grace and all the discipline and strength that is behind it all. It was the highlight of the conference and one of the best things for me was the opportunity to spend a little time with Dominique and Kate talking pig. What a treat! I can't wait to get to Gascony and learn more, eat more and enjoy more with these amazing folks.

 

 

At the end of the demo during Q&A I asked where the women butchers are. To my great delight there were TWO in the room! Camas trained with Dominique in France and Tray Satterfield (in the fedora in the photos) spoke eloquently about her epiphany and the nearly spiritual path that led her from her career in Finance to her life's work as a butcher. I got to visit Tray at Pastaworks and hope to interview her separately here shortly. She is the inspiration behind my next post on Good Eater. Stay tuned!

~ ~ ~

Ed note: Here's the Good Eater link:

In Heels and Backwards: Women Butchers Break Bones and Barriers.

 

The Real Water Crisis

 

Okay, full disclosure: I'm a world traveler and I've been many places where the water was probably less potable than what's coming out of our taps right now. I like to think of myself as fairly intrepid. And I'm freaking out, just a little, over our current water crisis here in Boston.

Boston's Fecal Spill

Yes, it pales in comparison to the oil spill in the Gulf. And it pales in comparison to what others go through daily around the world to get fresh potable water, but we are having a pretty icky water crisis in and around Boston.

For those of you who haven't heard, there was a huge water main break on Saturday that caused the water supply to 30+ towns East of Weston to be contaminated with things like e. coli, fecal material and probably stuff like giardia. Here's our official "Boil Water Order".

Today the Globe reports "People in Boston and 29 of its most populous suburbs, whose clean-water supply was cut off by a catastrophic and unprecedented pipe rupture, remained without clean tap water for a third day." They also indicate it may resolve more quickly than originally anticipated. They were saying "weeks" before. This happened to coincide with what must have been record-breaking heat so the elderly and infirm are even more at risk.

As we stock up on bottled water (and by "we" I mean Doc) and boil water (that would be me) and sanitize dishes (again, me) and so on, I keep thinking of people the world over who must go through this hassle every day just to eat, wash, cook, etc.

And, I have to laugh at myself freaking over things like - whether kissing his cheek - bathed in the contaminated water - will give me a case of giardia two weeks from now -- and trying to recall if I santized this mug or that glass. In the heat of Sunday we went to Pho Hoa in Chinatown. (By the way, their renovations are complete and they now have a Banh Mi counter and a bar.) We had bun - thin rice vermicelli - with lemongrass stuffed beef and tea. Every sip of tea I wondered - did they really boil the water? Were the noodles boiled in pre-boiled water? Were the cooking and slicing surfaces washed with clean water? It's enough to make you crazy. Brush teeth with boiled water. They say showering is okay but if we wash our hands we must sanitze them after. What is sitting on my skin and in my hair all day?

 

Well, they're now saying 24-48 hours we might be done with it. "Heavily chlorinated water will be pumped through" to clean out bacteria. Then there's the giardia that we ingested before we got the notice...what's the sound of 90,000 toilets flushing? Come to Boston in two weeks, I'm sure you'll find out.

So we'll be inconvenienced and I'll have a good laugh at my own expense but what's the real issue with drinking water worldwide?

  • 884 million people, lack access to safe water supplies, approximately one in eight people.
  • The water and sanitation crisis claims more lives through disease than any war claims through guns.
  • Poor people living in the slums often pay 5-10 times more per liter of water than wealthy people living in the same city.
  • Without food a person can live for weeks, but without water you can expect to live only a few days.

For more on the world's water situation see Water.org.

At least for now, there's beer, and Gin and Tonic made with ice from last week. And wine. I guess we can't complain too much.

Just for fun, here's a "giant microbe" plush toy version of the bacteria in our water.

Oregon's Salmon-Safe Wines and Amazing Terroir

As part of the annual International Association of Culinary Professionals' conference, I had the opportunity to tour a couple of local vineyards. In addition, there was much sampling throughout the week, including the Willamette Valley AVAs seminar, the Pork & Pinot side trip, and the Meat Revival butchery demo which also included a beautiful Oregon Pinot Noir.

Coming back to more travel, a chocolate contest judging gig for NARAL, and a massive migraine, I've been struggling to put together a few words with anything resembling intelligence. I'm now at the end of the ice-pick-in-the-head feeling and moving into the more comfortable, quiet thudding stage. O joy. It does mean that my word-retrieval has improved slightly. Now seeing this post in the NYT, On This Oregon Trail, Pioneers Embrace Organic Wine, I immediately sat upright in my dimly lit work area. Scooped! Perhaps the author was on the same tour with us, I don't know but this Brick House tour was lovely.

 

 

James Beard Dinner at the Publican, Chicago

In planning the recent Chicago Teach a Chef to Fish workshop (see Radhika-ly Good Meal of Sustainable Barramundi), I was reminiscing with Mary Smith of Plitt Seafood about Alaska and our fond memories of the Reluctant Fisherman's deck and the town of Cordova. Imagine my delight when she extended an invitation to the James Foundation dinner taking place the night before our workshop.

As much as I love the James Beard Foundation and the work they do, as an independent writer the ticket for these dinners is still out of reach. Now I was being invited to share a meal with a new friend - Score! And what a meal it would turn out to be. The Publican (not "Republican" as my hotel staff insisted, "there's no Republican restaurants around here.") is one of the hot tables in Chicago. Blackbird, avec, and The Violet Hour are all part of the same restaurant family, all noted in their own right.

The Publican, Photo credit: Bob Briskey, Publican Website.

Amidst delightful company, we swooned and squealed over course after course, pairing after pairing. Classical guitar, travels in Greece, lamb, goat, pigs and fish, of course...conversation ranged far and wide. We sat in one of the booths with doors like old Puritan church pews. Note the pig artwork. Was I in the right place, or what?

Bob Briskey Photographer, courtesy Publican website

James Beard Foundation Dinner

Executive Chef Paul Kahan - formerly of Blackbird and avec, and now The Publican, Kahan has been honored by selection as a James Beard nominee for Outstanding Chef in 2007 and winner of James Beard Best Chef of the Midwest in 2004.

Each of the courses were outstanding. And each gave us a new talking point, an interesting pairing, a new ingredient, a favorite item.

Sweet Delicata Squash - Koren Grievson
heirloom apples, sicilian pistachios, fiore sardo*, baby chard
2008 Blackbird Vineyards “Arriviste” Napa Valley (deep rose)

*Fiore Sardo is a cheese from Sardinia that predates Pecorino Romano.

Turbot & crispy sweetbreads - Paul Kahan
golden turnips, orange & lucques olives
Sophie, Goose Island Brewery, Chicago, IL

*Goose Island Brewery was new to me, this Sophie had complex citrusy notes and a clean crisp taste that was perfect with the richness of the sweetbreads and the turbot.

Slow roasted goat and crispy goat prosciutto - Mike Sheerin
Crab apples, dates and hazlenut oil
2006 Blackbird Vineyards “Arise” Napa Valley

*Goat was rich and prosciutto was like chips.

Suckling pig - Brian Huston
canadice grapes, matsutake mushrooms, cavolo nero & verjus
2006 Blackbird Vineyards “Illustrator” Napa Valley

*Not surprising that this dish was a standout. The Publican has a reputation for good porcine treats.

"Coldbox" Photo Credit: Sam Rosen, The Publican website.

Sweet potato panna cotta - Becky Broeske
Smoke cider, milk chocolate & bourbon ice cream
Conquistador de la meurte, Three Floyds Brewery, Munster IN

*This dessert and dark beer pairing was really tremendous. A dark cookie shortbread underneath a light but richly flavored panna cotta little cocoa nibs and the cider and ice cream all complemented the chocolately, smokey notes of the brew. Really a surprising and delicious pairing. Our server asked another server how many Floyds were at the Three Floyds Brewery: answer: three.

The atmosphere is bustling and congenial, warm saffron walls and shared tables encourage the friendly atmosphere. Servers were knowledgeable and attentive. I would highly recommend this delicious and funky spot for your next trip to Chicago.

The Publican

837 West Fulton Market
Chicago IL

312-733-9555