In Search of the Perfect Tarte

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by Lee Harrington

tarte01.jpgWhen I told friends I was going to spend four weeks in St. Tropez last summer, more than one of my foodie friends told me I must try the Tarte Tropezienne—which was described to me as a giant brioche filled to the heavens with a creamy vanilla custard. This sounded like a dream come true. As I child I loved pudding—homemade butterscotch pudding, or bread pudding, or crème brulee, were the best—but mostly we ate packaged pudding, the Jell-O Brand. I liked vanilla and my brother, ten months older, liked chocolate, and my father told us that as toddlers we would sit facing each other in twin highchairs and smear our respective puddings all over our faces, smiling in ecstasy. 

So naturally, finding and sampling this so-called Tarte Tropezienne went to the top of my “list of things to do” while I visited St. Tropez. That’s what one does when one travels to France—you get obsessed with pastries. And wine. And bread. And olives. And cheese. Plus, we New Yorkers tend to become obsessed with finding “the best” (primarily so that we can go back and tell our friends at dinner parties that we found “the best” goat cheese or the best rosemary-and-olive fogasse or the best early-season figs. 

A Trip to Paris

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by Susan Salzman

paris.schedule.jpgParis is one of those cities that gets into your system and stays with you. There is something magical. Magical about the lifestyle, the fashion, the ease of movement, and the food.  The food is simple, perfectly crafted, and delicious. I ate my share of eclairs, croissants, baguettes, steak-frites, souffles, crepes, ice cream, and croque monsieur’s. I ate whatever I wanted, when ever I wanted. Boulangeries are in abundance and sneaking in for an eclair or a mille-feuilles is a temptation I wasn’t about to pass up.

I went to Paris, research in hand, and a small, green journal filled with places I didn’t want to miss. I vowed I would conquer all corners of the city and find these little treasures, pastry shops, chocolate shops, and cafes. My list was long, too long. So, each night, before I went to bed, I prioritized, plotted and planned which part of the city I was going to attack. I was on a mission. I was able to cover almost everything: Pierre Herme, La Maison du Chocolat, Le Grande Epicerie, Cuisine de Bar, Laduree, Berthillon Ice Cream, Luxembourg Gardens, Musee d/Orsay, and E.Dehlerrin, but my expectations were too grand. However, what I did see, do, taste, and experience was perfect.

A Hideaway in the Pyrenees

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by Rachel Parker

ImageTucked into the tiny village of Meranges, high in the Pyrenees of Spain and a stone’s throw from both France and Andorra, is Can Borrell. In Catalan, the home language of Meranges, Can means house. This little treasure of a house is a very old inn with 6 rooms for guests and a restaurant that turns out fantastic breakfasts and dinners. We got to Can Borrell the hard way – taking a 5-hour drive with endless switch backs on a cliff-hugging road. This is deep in the Pyrennees, home to Catalan, French, and Spanish speakers in miniscule stone villages, lots of cows and sheep, and granite faced cliffs in the distance. We learned too late that there is a 2 hour drive from Barcelona complete with a tunnel that literally cuts through the mountains. For scenery, the long way is better viewing, but 5 hours of constant vigilance on mountain turns can be nauseating and exhausting, so I suggest the tunnel.

We saw only about 8 of the reported 75 residents of Meranges when we were there for a 4 day stay. There was the old woman with chickens and roosters living on her front patio which was just a few steps down from her bedroom, and another woman sweeping the steps of a small café which never seemed to be open when we wanted it to be, a farmer repairing his tractor alongside his wonderful loping spaniel that accompanied us on a morning walk, and the family that runs Can Borrell, Oliver Verdaguer, the chef, his wife Laura Forn, the manager who spent summers in Meranges as a child, and their 3 adorable and sturdy young sons.

A Perfect Saturday in the Bay Area

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by Rachel Parker

sanfranciscocablecars.jpg The trouble with San Francisco is that there are way too many fabulous places to eat. Regardless of how much over-eating a person chooses to do, enjoying more than 3 meals a day may be the digestive limit. Just two days in which to eat in the city by the bay upped the ante for my family. Our weekend in San Francisco was to visit with our adult children. What a difference from those early years when only a small selection of beige foods would cross the little lips of our youngest. Now he’s 6’5”, so that early limited palate clearly didn’t stunt the kid’s growth. He and I plotted for months about where to eat, and at first we thought we’d go to one of the recent James Beard award winners, but all were booked four months in advance. How frustrating. But the depth of eating possibilities in the city and beyond left no time for sulking. Rock, paper, scissors, and plans were made.

On this perfect Saturday, we started the day at Tartine, the fabled bakery. A long line of hungry eaters surrounds Tartine every morning and evening, so we planned our arrival at the opening bell. Long lines in that neighborhood are pretty common because there’s such an abundance of good eating in so many places. If you are in the Castro/Mission area of San Francisco, just cruise the streets and jump into a line spinning out of one or another of the local food joints, and you’ll be well-fed.

Eating Around Ireland

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by Laura Johnson

irelandlIt's no secret that my best friend, Missy and I love to travel. We met 25 years ago in the parking lot of a Winn Dixie grocery store in Valdosta, Georgia. I was in college there and she was home on Spring Break from Pepperdine in Malibu, CA. I thought she was the prettiest girl I had ever seen and never imagined that we'd grow up together and travel the world.

She put a damper on that for a few years when she got married and had 3 boys back to back. But I think we've pretty much made up for that in the last 6 months as we have been to Italy, Tuscany, Rome, the island of Capri, Spain, the South of France, Nice and Monaco. Tunisia is in Northern Africa. I hated it, she loved it. We spent a week in Paris in December, with 5 of our best girlfriends in a rented apartment on the Seine.

As many places as Missy and I have traveled to, we both have such a huge love for Ireland. Come Spring and Fall, we both feel a need to go there, to have some fish and chips and a pint of Guinness. Her middle child was doing his class project on Ireland and my 18 year old nephew, his Grandma's favorite child (my only nephew) is about to graduate from high school.

I talked my nephew into telling his grandma that he wanted nothing more than a trip to Ireland with his favorite aunt and Missy talked her son into telling his Dad that it would mean the world to him to go with his mom and me (his Godmother) to Ireland to complete his school project.

A Cook in Rio

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by Eduardo Santiago

rio-sidewalk.jpg“We’re sliding smack dab into the inevitably expensive tourist trap,” you say as the taxi driver curses and swerves through the gridlocked traffic of Ipanema Beach’s main drag Avenida Vieira Souto (with its famously geometric-patterned sidewalks) and onto the narrow traffic-choked streets of the city.

Your destination was suggested by our hotel’s concierge whom you had asked for a suggestion for authentic Brazilian food. You were hoping for a cozy hole-in-the-wall filled with smoke, grumpy locals and slow waiters.

The restaurant, Porcão – which you immediately translated to Poor Cow – was just the opposite of that. Poor Cow was all you feared, expensive and a tourist trap (adding to the blah decor was a wall-size TV playing a silent futbol match), exactly like those places that have popped up all over major U.S. cities where frantic waiters bring huge stumps of grilled meat to your table, where they slice off chunks in perpetuity until you feel as if you’ve ingested a small cow. But you were hungry and jet lagged and needed to get out of the hotel or you would have gone right to sleep only to wake up in the middle of the night, hungry and jet lagged. You felt like a bad tourist, but the outing served its purpose and besides, you have something special to look forward the next day – Cook In Rio – a one-day cooking class at some lady’s house in Copacabana that you had found online. An authentic Brazilian experience was promised and this time you are not disappointed.

A Night at Villa Quaranta

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by Carolan Nathan

ImageA fascinating journey can be made driving through the narrow, winding streets of Verona and onto the busy auto strada. Past AGIP gas stations and tessellated pylons contrasting with the verdant countryside and the endless rows of vines upon which tiny grape buds soon would appear. Almond and cherry trees with pale green leaves beginning to decorate their elongated arms, and ancient farmhouses painted in faded pinks and umbers seemed not to have changed since Romeo and Juliet pranced in the sun stroked fields. In the distance smoky purple hills, unperturbed by the comings and goings of travelers and my group of voluble giornalisti, watched over peaceful vistas, till we arrived at the Villa Quaranta.

Set in sculptured gardens, this lovely Villa became a wonderful setting for a very special dinner orchestrated by the chefs of five restaurants from the surrounding areas of Venice, Treviso, Padua, Verona and Vicenza, together with many wine producers of the Veneto. Before the grand scale dinner began, a classical concert was performed by members of the New Italian Percussion Group. A most unusual concert using bottles as instruments: long, tall and thin bottles; fat, round and bulbous bottles; bottles made from green, blue and plain glass and goblets of red and white wine on multi-level shelves producing varied musical tones, all blending into a cacophony of sound.

London, The Walking City

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by Tamie Adaya

ImageWhat do I look for in a travel experience? The answer is simple: culture, nature, world-class shopping + food and the best nightlife, parties + events I can find. Sometimes in one day! Like many world-class cities London offers diversity, and my trip there this past fall provides a great example of how I was able to combine my favorite vacation pastimes.

In a stroke of good fortune, breakfast at the Soho Hotel resulted in me to sitting next to Howard Marks, best-selling author, intellectual and international drug trafficker. Howard had just wrapped up his press junket for his latest film Mr. Nice. Howard responded to my invitation to my hotel, the Shangri-La in Santa Monica, with a rather charming explanation that he was unable to enter the US due to his previous 'career activities'.

I caught a Black Cab (one of London's great style icons) to Regents Park for a midday stroll around one of the great parks of London. A stroll around the Midsummer Nights Dream style Rose Garden in the parks Inner Circle and the Japanese themed Duck Pond and waterfall which never fails to centers me. Regents Park Inner Circle is perfect for smelling the roses, literally and figuratively.

Paris, Here We Come

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by Laura Johnson

ImageI planned it for months, really almost a year. We all had so much fun in Ireland the year before, that everyone looked to me to plan the next grand birthday celebration. "We" consists of 5 of my best friends, 3 of which, like me, have a December birthday and have also been robbed all these years of having a proper celebration with a birthday in the middle of the holidays. We were making up for it.

I chose Paris. I had not been in years, 2 of the girls had never been and it had been awhile for the other 2. What city could be more spectacular, magical and memorable than Paris in December. Everyone agreed. We knew it would be cold but not as cold as it was for Tina, who lives in Michigan or even those of us who live in Atlanta, which has the worst weather in December. Paris rarely gets snow and ice, average temps are in the high 40's, low 50's and that mixed with the fact that flights are almost empty to Europe in December, it was an excellent choice or so we thought.

I bought a dozen books on Paris and asked everyone I knew for restaurants recommendations (including Amy.) I found out where the best flea markets were, the best place for macarons, and everything we could possibly want to do in Paris.

One Night in Jerome

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by Lisa Dinsmore

jerome22.jpgOne of the things I love most about traveling is finding out-of-the-way places to visit. Especially ones that have a cool history to go along with their surroundings. Which is how we found ourselves in the old mining town of Jerome, Arizona. Well, to be honest the initial draw was the three wine tasting rooms located in this tiny town – it has under 500 permanent residents – perched on the side of a mountain with one hell of a view down.

This tiny haven was founded in 1876 and sits upon what was once the largest copper mine in Arizona. At its peak, 15,000 people lived here. As you wind your way up Cleopatra Hill you will wonder where and how. It became a sort of "ghost town" once the mine shut down for good in 1953. The "Wickedest Town in the West" almost became extinct, but the men and women who grew up there refused to let it die and it is now, after some lean years, a thriving artist colony and daytripper destination for those visiting Scottsdale and Sedona.


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