italianpiazza.jpgNew York’s Café Buloud is a divine restaurant, and it is nearly impossible to order an ordinary meal. We were there the other night – our feast before the simpler joys of summer in Martha’s Vineyard. Saltimbocca Alla Romana was on the menu. Oh Boy! I haven’t seen that on a menu in years! What we received was delicious - stew sized chunks of veal in a thick, dark brown sauce with sweetbread tidbits and a small piece of prosciutto off to the side as an afterthought.

A few tiny green specks, which I fantasized to be sage, were stirred in the gravy… Delicious but disappointing! Time to go back to the 1960’s and a summer spent in Roma living in my painter’s studio just off the Piazza del Popolo, where Marcello Mastroianni would come for his espresso and we all lived La Dolce Vita! “Living” meant buying groceries in the Italian style – Every morning, going from shop to shop fingering the produce, chatting up the butcher, and bargaining in Italian.

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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.

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bath-england.jpgSounds a bit like Bilbo Baggins but when you are journeying around the countryside of south-western England, you are likely to come across many fascinating places and people. Their history stretches back to the Celts, the Anglo-Saxons and the Romans – each race introducing new cultures, different religions and ways of cultivating the land. So a hodge-podge from the past still exists although much has been sanctified and blessed into a greying sameness by the more prosaic and mundane English civil service that seems to run most things in this present day and age. But whilst there is still a King and Lords of the Rings, and folk with imaginations like me who can paint with pictures and words, beauty and good can be found wherever you journey in the U.K. and beyond.

Culture is based in detail. It is based in generations of characters, of peoples, of species building on top of past generation's work. Details will lead you down the path to the culture. We only have to look at the works of William Shakespeare, of Emily Bronte, of Jane Austen – they are played and read and enjoyed by millions of folks around the world. The paintings of Michaelangelo, Rubens, Leonardo da Vinci, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Edward Burne-Jones still evoke the glory of those masters and the rapt attention of ardent admirers.

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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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cataloniaA couple of summer months filled with many beachside lunches of paella so good and so long ago that I am still chasing the memories of a perfect paella. My sister and I were in the Catalonian village of Arenys de Mar for a good part of the summer. On the wide, white beach surrounded by rugged hills were a handful of rustic 'restaurants' that made only paella over wood fires. They were makeshift structures covered with bright pieces of miss-matched canvas tacked down to keep the strong Spanish sun and ocean breeze at bay. These little makeshift restaurants were always busy for lunch, the only meal that they served and I had my favorite one.

The beach side paella restaurateurs were waiting like gulls as the little boats motored back to port around 10 o’clock in the morning. Each boat filled with the fresh caught fish and shellfish still moving violently seeking to be set free. There was fish to fillet and chunk, stock to make, onions and peppers to chop and most importantly the wood-fire had to be started, time was of the essence.

My favorite restaurant had a round stone fire pit built on the sand. A variety of wood collected from the beach was piled into the pit covering yesterday's scrunched up newspaper which was barely visible in the center. A wooden match was struck and the day's cooking commenced. When the flames burned down, the cook balanced a grill on top of the stone pit.

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