fenn-sign-350.jpg Living in a city with 6,000+ restaurants, why would you ever drive 150 miles to eat in a city with a population of 1,500? For me, it’s a kind of a Hillary Clinton type thing. She was right, it does take a village to raise a child. Unfortunately for my wife and I, parents of a 16 month old boy who believes soil is a basic food group, we left the village back in our home state of Michigan when we moved to Chicago. So when we need a break from the exhaustive process of keeping our son’s mouth free of dirt and other things you find on the average floor, we gotta go to the village.

It turns out Fennville, a one Subway franchise town surrounded by farmland and located two hours from Chicago and about six miles from the nearest freeway, is the perfect halfway point between Lansing, home of my in-laws, and our West Loop loft. Luckily for us, it’s also home to one of Michigan’s best restaurants, the Journeyman, our drop off point for junior’s sleepovers, aka parental sanity breaks, with the grandparents.

The Journeyman is a culinary dream, a destination so incongruous with its location you’re not sure it really exists.

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seaglass.jpgEvery time we are in Mendocino we find ourselves at Glass Beach. It's just up the road in Fort Bragg and is the most interesting State Beach Park I've been to. We happened upon it accidentally many years ago and now the kids beg to spend every waking minute of our vacation time there.

Starting in 1949 garbage was dumped into the ocean in and around the Glass Beach area. We're talking old cars, miscellaneous household items and lots and lots of glass. This went on until 1967 when it was finally realized that dumping trash into the ocean may not be a good idea. However, by then so much refuse had been dumped, it just became kind of an aquatic graveyard.

Amazingly, mother nature took over. After years and years of grinding and pounding in the waves of the rocky coast, Glass Beach was born. These rocks and millions and millions of pieces of glass sit on top of the sand. No spot is left uncovered. There is enough sea glass to fill millions of wheelbarrows and there would still be some left over.

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nightlove.jpg Cecilia was a ‘10’ on a scale of one to two. She had unmitigated primal passion. Her sexual appetite was unparalleled and horizontal. It was vertical and diagonal. When I suggested to Cecilia that we spend the Fourth of July in Hawaii, she responded by giving me a fireworks show in the bedroom that went on till daybreak.

After Cecilia made my night, I made travel plans. We would first go to Hanalei Bay on the North Shore of Kauai. Then to Maui – Kaanapali Beach and Hana.

As I was packing for the trip, the phone rang. It was Cecilia. She stammered and fumfered and did everything audibly possible without actually forming words.

“What’re you trying to tell me?” I asked repeatedly.

“I can’t go,” she finally said. 

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cafe-rougeMy mother, Shannon, and I scurried down Little Clarendon Street, Oxford at around 10:15 at night.  We were starving and eager to sit down and talk.  My mom had steered us down this road because there are a number of good restaurants to choose from: French, Italian, Tapas, Indian.  I peered into each window and chose the least crowded of the bunch – the French one.  If left to me, I will always choose the emptiest because I find that the din of busy restaurants these days overwhelms any chance of having a decent conversation.  We hadn’t traveled all this way to explore new cuisine.  We had come to see my mom.

My birthmother just graduated from The Continuing Education Department at Oxford University, with a focus on regional history.  I couldn’t be more proud than to celebrate her continuing achievements, so Shannon and I flew to Oxford to watch her graduation ceremony that evening.

We pushed open the big red door of Café Rouge and walked through the bar into the dining room of the brasserie.  The room was big with dark oak floors and tables, burgundy velvet banquettes, and antiqued mirrors which hung from every wall.   We waited for a few minutes and then were shown to our table by a disinterested, lanky blonde waiter.  He carelessly danced around, making faces at another lanky blonde waiter working the other side of the room.  Menus were tossed onto our table, orders taken and we started to catch up. 

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umbriapoppiesAround the first of June, we’ll fly to our house in Italy for the summer, but until then I’ll just close my eyes and dream about Umbria in the spring.

The poppies are starting to pop right about now and our whole neighborhood looks like the road to Oz. Everybody’s tucking into abbacchio, spring lamb, roasted in the oven with potatoes, rosemary and garlic.

Or simpler yet, scottadito, lamb chops pounded thin, brushed with olive oil and flash-grilled over a wood fire. You hold the chop by the bone end and eat it with your fingers. Scottaditi means burned fingers.

The thing about the lamb in Umbria is that it tastes better. That’s about all you can say. Americans have great beef and they’re starting to figure out how to raise pork – not there yet, but better — but as for lamb, forget about it; go to Italy.

It has something to do with the way the lambs eat over there, how they live and also how they die — at a much younger age that anyone would allow them to die in the States. American lambs get older; Italian lamb tastes better.

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