Calistoga Dreaming

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by Brenda Athanus

calistoga20276_cs.jpgLeaving Maine in the long, dark days of Winter and heading west to Calistoga, California's mud baths is a a tempting break this time of year. Calistoga is a precious, tiny town at the top of Napa valley that hasn't changed in the least in the last 20 years that I have been going to "take the mud".  I must confess I am a spa junkie and this place is pretty wonderful – a town of spas all with different mud blends, super restaurants within driving distance, nice weather with dreamy morning fog and wineries every 100 feet. What is not to like?

We enjoy staying at Dr. Wilkinson's Hot Springs, a basic, no frills place. They always have great mid-Winter deals on room/spa specials that are irresistible. The 2-hour treatment starts by being lowered into a large tiled tub of volcanic ash and peat moss with the help of the attendant who then places ice cold cucumber slices onto your eyes and slathers old fashion, fragrant Pond's cold cream on your face. For the next twenty minutes, as my bones warm up with the weight of the hot mud, I can feel the toxins flowing out of every pore, as each part of my body relaxes bit by bit.  As the mud starts to cool near the surface you find yourself pushing you arms and legs deeper into the tub closer to the heat source. It feels so good!

Letter from Palm Beach

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by Nancy Ellison

palm_beach_life_postcard.jpgThere are strict rules to live by in Palm Beach according to the Shiny Sheet (our local newspaper). Rule Six, for example, is - No socks. Ever. If your feet tend to become cold easily, consider purchasing a pair of Stubbs & Wootton slippers, but Rule Number One - the one broken that could destroy one's standing at Club Collette is the following:

"One does not travel over a bridge.  In the event of a hurricane evacuation or a gala benefit at the Norton Museum, this rule can be waived, but only under those circumstances." In other words do not be caught dead in West Palm! Bill and I, however, gladly risk our rep to eat at Sushi Jo's - a storefront, plate glass dive in the middle of a strip mall in West Palm Beach Florida, proclaiming itself "sushi for sexy people", whose chef is named Jo Clark - Can it get any better than that!

Sushi Jo's chef, Joseph Clark's first "joint" was at the Ritz-Carlton in Manalapan, after having apprenticed at Yama in Lake Worth. This chef is Occidental, L*O*C*A*L and Unashamed!

"Fresh" also comes to mind! Everything at Sushi Jo's is deliciously fresh including the sexy wait-staff, and it is always fun waiting to see if you actually get what you order.

Coco Lezzone

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by Steve Zaillian

steve_zaillian.jpg The first time I ate at Coco Lezzone in Florence, it was at the invitation of film producer Dino De Laurentiis, who knows a thing or two about Italian cooking:

(1) He created the gourmet Italian DDL Foodshow Emporiums in New York and Beverly Hills about 20 years ahead of their time,

(2) His lovely granddaughter Giada, with many of her family’s recipes and great charm and skill, has become a best-selling cookbook author and very popular Food Network chef, and,

(3) He is Italian and always has been.  

We were in Florence because that’s where Hannibal was being filmed, and Dino asked my wife Elizabeth and me and some others working on the film to join him at Coco Lezzone for dinner.

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We Always Have Paris

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by Brenda Athanus

brendaage6.jpgLike a mother hen sweetly teaching their young how to find the water and food bowl is the way our Mother taught us how to appreciate the world of wonderful food that awaited us at a very young age. We were on our first trip to Europe, I was 6 and my sister was 11 when my mother became very ill in Paris. We were staying in the 5th Arrondissement at the Lutetia Hotel and as my mother faded in and out of consciousness she was worried that we needed to eat. She gave us money and told us that we weren’t allowed to – #1 not cross any streets and #2 we had to hold each other’s hands. We could eat what ever we wanted and we were armed with plenty of francs.

On our first sojourn, we happily discovered a precious little Bistro with a delightful French female owner that surely must have wondered what the story was with the two small hungry American children popping into her restaurant hand in hand. But all curiousness aside, her mission was to feed us and introduce us to French food and maybe our story would unfold. For three days we visited morning, noon and night always hand and hand. As we waited for our meal she placed a tiny kitten in each of our hands to help pass the time until we ate and to make us feel at home.

A Week in Provence

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by Doug Cox

provence1.jpgI’m not a foodie.  I seldom watch the Food Channel.  The one cookbook I own came with my microwave.  I only go to Williams-Sonoma to get a gift for someone else.  So I’m surprised that some of the best memories of my bicycle trip in France last summer are of food.
I was the only American in our group of 14, the rest were Irish or British.  Every day we biked 20 to 35 miles through the beautiful Provençal countryside and every evening we had dinner at one of the many restaurants in the village where we stayed.  Even the smallest towns had dozens to choose from.  Sometimes we were the only ones in the place. 
Dinner was our evening’s entertainment.  The group would meet in the hotel lobby, then wander the narrow streets checking out menus in restaurant windows until we reached a consensus.  Usually, the only dissenter was a snooty vegan, a London financial planner studying to be a yoga instructor.  She would frown as she studied a menu. “Can’t eat that.  Won’t eat that.  Ugh, no way.”  Then she would drag her poor husband off for a salad somewhere.  Once, I offered her some of my sunscreen.  “I don’t put chemicals on my body,” she told me.  She came back at the end of the day with a spectacular sunburn. 


Off Season in the Sonoma Wine Country

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by David Latt

benzigerfamilywineryvineyard.jpgSpring is the perfect time for an off-season weekend in California's Sonoma Valley. Premium rates don't begin until just before the Memorial Day weekend.

Off-season extends from the end of harvest in November through mid-May. In December, January, and February there can be a bit of rain, which is good for the grapes. Even for visitors, the inclement weather adds to the valley's charms, especially with so many restaurants serving comfort food and great wines.

During March and April, day time temperatures hover in the mid 60's to low 70's, with the nights still in fireplace-cozy mid-40s. Only a few buds appear on the vines, but brilliantly colored wild flowers are already in full bloom.

Fields of bright yellow mustard plants spread as far as the eye can see. Tall green grasses wet from the coastal air surround mile after mile of still dormant, grape vines. The lifeless looking vines mask the vitality that will burst forth as the day time temperatures climb into the 70's.

Linked In at Pebble Beach

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by Laura Johnson

pebblebeach.jpgI become the biggest sports fan for whatever I am exposed to for the moment. Sort of a lucky combination of being a stewardess for a major airline and being able to travel the world for free has put me in a position to be in the right places at the right time. This week I will be absorbed in the World Baseball classic series as I am taking the USA team to Toronto. Two weeks ago it was golf at the AT&T tournament in Pebble Beach. 

Last summer I was in New York City. My flight got in so late that the only room the hotel had left was the Penthouse suite. I am sure they balked, giving it to me who was paying nothing. I got in the elevator and happily pressed the PH button. The other two guys in the elevator commented on how the heck I got that room, how was it, how did I get so lucky. Later on I wandered down to the free coffee station and ran into the same two guys. They said instead of having coffee that I should join them and their friends in the bar. So I did. They said they played golf and not until I looked up at the TV in the bar and saw one of them being interviewed on ESPN, did I realize they were 'real PGA golfers.'

Plain Food, Please

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by Amy Ephron

maryland.jpg We’d walked past it a couple of times, a simple storefront set back from the street with a small porch, a glimpse of tables inside, unassuming.  The Key Lime Cafe.  Full at lunch-time, we assumed it was a Maryland version of a diner.  We never even ventured up on to the porch....

We walked across the road to Big Al’s Fish Store the first day for lunch and had a fried clam sandwich, we had fancy hotel food at the Perry Cabin and so much soft-shelled crab that Alan spent an afternoon in bed.

We’d moved my son into his dorms at George Washington University in D.C. three days before and driven to Chesapeake Bay to the small town of St. Michael’s, Maryland (birthplace of Frederick Douglass) for a few days of rest. It was hot and we were tired and the plantation style Inn at Perry Cabin was a lovely place to rest.


Mandolettes and Mandelbrot

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by David Latt

jerseyshore.jpg Like many people, we're taking an end of summer trip. This time of year makes us appreciate those things that fill us with joy. Spending time with friends and family, having leisurely meals, taking long walks on the beach, and, special to this summer, watching the Olympics and following the political campaigns.

More than usual, the fall will bring big changes to our household because our son, Michael, is preparing to leave for his freshman year at college. So it was important to find time to take a trip to New Jersey to visit with Michelle's parents.

With few exceptions, Michelle's extended family has stayed on the East Coast. A few years ago they had a family reunion at a nearby resort and 75 aunts, uncles, and cousins came for the weekend. Sunday at Helen and Warren's means brunch for 20, setting up a table in the living room, bringing out the folding chairs, and sharing platters of bagels, lox, coffee cake, cold cuts, cheese, egg salad, tuna salad, fresh fruit, and lots of Helen's special iced coffee.

Pining for Tjome

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by Bumble Ward

osloview.jpgMy mother phoned from Tjøme, the little island in the Oslo fjord that she calls home every June and July. She told me that the house was not too dusty, that the garden was overgrown but that a nice man was coming over to cut the lawn and trim the hedge so that she could see the ocean over it from her breakfast table. Of course, no-one had filled her fridge, so she had no milk, or tea, or bread, or jam. My aunt doesn't think of these things and I find it quite strange. I wonder if it is a cultural thing, or whether she doesn't think or whether she is just selfish. I wonder if my sister had made the long trip by boat and car all the way from England to spend six weeks with me on the island we grew up spending summers on since we were children, I could even imagine not greeting her with a full fridge and a vase of flowers on the table, a cup of tea, a glass of wine, a simple supper?

My mother can't walk very well but soldiers forth with her stick into the unknown and complains relatively little although I know she is often in pain. It is particularly cruel that someone so athletic would lose the proper use of her legs. She brings delicacies in her suitcases – food from Waitrose, eggs from the hens, wine, British tea bags – packed into her car for the long journey.


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