Travel

A Lunch Made By Angels

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by Brenda Athanus

ImageLast week, when Saveur Magazine arrived, I immediately started reading the many articles on "greatest meals ever" with great curiosity, all the while thinking what would be my greatest meal? A meal of a life time. What makes a great meal different from all the other wonderful meals that you have eaten?

I decided that a great meal is about all the minutes of your experience that are saturated with tastes, smells, the room and the people lovingly cooking it with only you in mind. My memory flashed back to a dinner that I had almost fifty years ago in Madrid that had shaped my life as an eater and a cook by being jolted by the intense smell of food cooking, but that wasn't the meal of all meals. That meal took 30 more years to happen...

The meal of all meals was lunch in a tiny little town in the mountains of the South of France, a village that is nameless, but that seems unimportant as I am sure that it could never be relived. It just wouldn't happen that the restaurant would be empty and the same women Chef and son would cook it all in the same way again. It's is best preserved in the past.

On the Floors of Tokyo*

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by Ashley Maddox

ImageI’ve just returned from a quick trip to Tokyo, where The Hub was promoting a new film and where we were both doing our best to eat from morning to night.

Eating in Japan is serious business, and sushi is no less than an art form.  The Michelin Guide expanded to Japan for the first time in its history in 2008, and in its debut year, it awarded more stars to the Land of the Rising Sun than any other country, including its native France.  In fact, there are now more than twice the number of cumulative stars found in Tokyo (227) than in Paris (97)!  (Not that any of the Japanese chefs really cared.  One 3-star designee apparently asked, “Why does a French restaurant guide care about what we’re doing in Japan?”).

Over our four days and nights, we ate like kings.  We sampled hot oden noodles, hot ramen noodles, cold soba noodles, mounds of tempura, shark fin soup (supposedly very good for your complexion), skewers of yakatori (basically chicken on a stick, though our selection included chicken skin on a stick, which was inedible), and all sorts of other delicacies that I’ve now lost in a haze of sake and jet lag.  Speaking of sake, we knocked it back – always cold and dry and delicate.   We were also given a shot of something that looked like a weak Bloody Mary but turned out to be 40 proof vodka laced with turtle blood.   My arm hairs were on end for about 10 minutes.

Indonesian Bartenders

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by Joshua Heller

Last week I went on a cruise with my family. One night, before dinner I ordered a "Maker's and soda" from the Indonesian bartender.

"Grey Goose?"

She'd misunderstood me. I clarified and she poured me some whiskey.

At dinner I ordered a second drink from another Indonesian bartender. The drink came back looking much clearer than normal.

It tasted like high-end vodka. He'd made the same mistake as his paisano.

Why? Several hypotheses...

Paris...the Place to Be

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by Carolan Nathan

If you are looking for a most romantic place to celebrate an anniversary, holiday, or any day for that matter, then why not take a quick hop across one continent and one ocean to Paris. For centuries this has been the romantic center of the world regarded as such by those whose spirit soars with the magic of this beautiful city.

To wander through narrow winding streets happening upon gracious squares and fascinating houses under clear blue skies; meander along the banks of the river Seine, and over ancient bridges whose stones emanate the passing of history and all the colourful characters who have crossed; the wide avenues and soaring monuments, and immense museums storing great treasures from around the world.

Staying at the Wick

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by Rachel Parker

outside-our-window.jpgMy husband and I were approaching a big anniversary and wanted to celebrate. As we considered lovely and exotic locales, we realized what we really wanted was a touch of wilderness and fresh air that involved no time changes from our California home. The Wickaninnish Inn, a straight shot north to British Columbia, bills itself as “rustic elegance on nature’s edge.” One look at the hotel’s web site, and we both sighed. It was perfect.

Wickaninnish was the name of an 18th century chief of the Tla-o-qui-aht band of First Nation people. First Nation band is in Canadian parlance what we Americans call a Native American tribe. Wickanninish means, “He who no one sits in front of in the canoe.” Based on our experience, the Wick, as it is called by the locals, clearly deserves the front seat among hotels. From our room, the windows looked out on one side to the Clayoquot Sound and Chesterman Beach and on the other side to volcanic rocks and rain forest. We woke to bald eagles flying by with prey in their talons. One sunny morning, a family of sea otters made their way down the rocks and flipped into the Pacific. A little brown marten emerged from the woods, looked all around and scooted among the rocks and disappeared. At breakfast, a gray whale on its annual migration to Mexico puffed out a big spout of water from its blowhole. 

Welcome to the Hunstrete House

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by Carolan Nathan

hunstrete.jpg Where a certain quality of light illumines the lush foliage and warms the honey coloured brick of this fascinating country house hotel. It dapples the grey and pinkish white hides of the does as they playfully flirt and then shyly turn away from the piercing eyes of the antlered deer. It ripples across the quietly moving waters of the trout stream and turns the shining leaves of the great towering trees to gold.

Hunstrete is an 18th century Georgian house set in ninety-two acres of deer park at the edge of the Mendip Hills between Bath and Bristol, dating as far back as 963 AD when Houndstreet Estate was owned by the Abbots of Glastonbury. In 1621 "Hownstret" passed to the Popham family of Littlecote whose home it became for the next three hundred years. It is definitely one of my favourite places to visit not only because of its historical background, but for the superb service headed up by general manager, Bertrand de Halgouet whose peerless French ability to charm guests makes your visit unforgettable.

Tap dancing

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by Ashley Maddox

louboutin.jpgI walked right past Christian Louboutin last weekend.  He made an impression.

Louboutin is Paris’ most well-known ladies shoe designer, notable for his sky high heels and their trade-mark red patent sole.  Louboutin’s shoes eclipsed Jimmy Choo and Manolo Blahnik at the peak of the swinging hey-day of ‘Sex and the City’, and I can see why: every pair I own are well-cut, sexy, and outrageously comfortable (and, to be fair, outrageously expensive).

Louboutin was easy to recognize: I remember seeing pictures of him in an article about how he spends his free time drifting down the Nile in an over-sized Egyptian dhou, and I also knew that his Parisian flagship was just around the corner in one of the covered ‘galeries’ in the 1er. Of course, it didn’t hurt that he was wearing a well-cut khaki suit, accented by an outrageous and sparky pair of silver studded black leather shoes that flashed in the light as he hopped up onto the pavement.

Medieval York

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by Carolan Nathan

minsterwithwall.jpgOne of the most important historic cities in Great Britain is York. Famous for its towering Minster and ancient walls that surround the city, York was the home to the Romans where in 71 AD the first Roman outpost was created. Today beneath the stage of York Theatre Royal lies a well dating back to that era. An important and spectacular part of the Roman defenses was the Multangular Tower built between 209 and 211 that can be visited on your tour of the walls. Monk Bar Gatehouse is the most elaborate and ornate of the surviving gates and contains a dedication to King Richard 111 who is revered in this city. The Vikings came to York in the 10th century intending to make it the trading post of their kingdom and you can visit the Jorvik Viking Center to board the state-of-the-art flying capsules and travel back in time to experience the sounds, smells and images of the city of Jorvik in AD 975.

York’s winding streets with overhanging beams date back to medieval times and the Shambles is one of the best-preserved shopping streets in Europe lined with quirky boutiques, cafes and bookstores. Georgian York ushered in a period of new elegance still to be seen in many shop fronts in Stonegate. Ghosts, of course, abound in York and every night of the week there are guided walks around the city in search of the supernatural and the unexplained. The Black Swan in Peasholme Green is just one of many York pubs said to be haunted.

Eating Horse

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by Tracy Tynan

verona3.jpgI did it for you, dear reader. I did it all for you. I did something I vowed I would never do. Not in a million years. But there I was in Verona. City of Romeo and Juliet. City of beauty. And after seeing so many beautiful things, one does get a bit peckish. And all the guidebooks recommended the same thing: horse. It’s a specialty of the area. So when Jim and I found ourselves at the local restaurant perusing the menu, there it was, staring us in the face: smoked horse with arugala salad. There was also pasta with a donkey ragú on the menu like it was the most normal thing in the world to eat these equines. “ I guess we had better try it,” said Jim. “Really?” “Yeah. How bad can it be?” He said nonchalantly. I could sense a challenge. “OK, go ahead order it.” “Ok, I will,” he countered, adding, “and we’ll share it.” I took a large gulp of my prosecco and waited anxiously for the dish to arrive.

It’s not as though I am vegetarian or even a vegan. It’s not as though I grew up riding horses through the British countryside or fox hunting, thank God. But I suppose the prospect of eating horse is like eating dog. i.e. eating a pet. Although to be honest I’m not much of a dog person either. I prefer cats. And thankfully no one ever talks about eating cats. OK, maybe in Asia But nonetheless horses and dogs are our friends: we feed them, we take care of them and there is something about turning around, killing them and eating them that seems rather upsetting. A ‘Charlotte’s Web’ syndrome, if you will.

Trying to Do the Right Thing in London

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by Tracy Tynan

london6.jpgIn our effort to downsize but continue to have fun, we scrambled together all our frequent flyer miles and managed to put together two return flights to London and Italy. Then, by making a small investment on a home exchange site, we found a young woman in Prato (twenty minutes from Florence), willing to do a non-simultaneous exchange with our desert house in Joshua Tree.

Our first stop was London, where a kind friend loaned us her house. Although I grew up in London I have not lived there in over 30 years. The minute I walked off the plane, I was surprised by the intense 80-degree heat, a byproduct of global warming, and something I had never encountered in my childhood, where you were lucky if it reached the mid 70’s in the summer.  After struggling with the new monetary denominations and a new subway system, I began to feel like a stranger in my hometown,

Yet, one area that has vastly improved since I lived in London is the food. But like everything else, it is very expensive. Fortunately, another ex-Brit friend had recently visited London and her sage advice was that bargains could be had at posh restaurants if you went at lunch, rather than dinner.  Following her recommendation, backed up by “Time out”– still the best magazine to tell you what is going on in London – I made reservations at Gauthier, a French restaurant in Soho.  

 

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