wisandwichHave you ever tasted Limburger cheese?  So you think you're eating a pair of regular socks.  Then you realize you're eating your brother's socks. 

How did I come to enjoy this delight?  As it turns out, flights around the holidays to Costa Rican crunchy granola yoga ranches are unusually pricey when you attempt to book them a few weeks in advance.  Vacation #1 scrapped.  Vacation #2 born - depart home-base (Chicago) with my partner in crime and spend a few days enveloping ourselves in the beer and cheese of Wisconsin.

Day 1. Monroe, WI

In Monroe, I fell in love with an unattractive older swiss man, seduced by his cheese tour of the Roth Kase plant.  Did I know that parmesan sat in the salt brine for 2 weeks?  No, sir.  I didn't even know what a salt brine was before this tour.  I'd been consuming passionately but ignorantly for 30 years.  The tour group discussed and debated what gave cheese it's flavor -- the cultures!  the aging!  the milk!  the land!  whilst I peppered them with questions and succumbed to the brain tingles.

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anchoragepic.jpg Anchorage, Alaska has some of the best restaurants in the world. Especially if you like salmon.  Years ago, I spent a summer in Anchorage-it was the Exxon Valdez trial, and it went on for months.  I remember some things about the trial.  I remember everything about the dinners, which isn't particularly remarkable, as I had the exact same thing-in different restaurants-every night (except for this one place where I always ordered venison).

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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. 


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Hey, it’s raw. But that doesn’t make it simple.

It’s a commonplace that sushi is a culinary style that comes very close to offering food in it’s natural state. So we expect it to be ridiculously fresh, clean and manipulated only for presentation.

There’s a new-ish sushi place here in Portland, its tiny space appropriately described by many as a jewel. Portland Maine you say? Japanese cuisine in Maine? Then you don’t know just how much of what starts out here in Maine ends up Tokyo’s Tsukiji market – the greatest fish market in the world and a mecca for sushi chefs and other seafood nuts. Ah, but I digress… 

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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.

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