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!

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browncompanyMy sister and I went to Portland for the annual Champagne and caviar tasting at Browne Trading Company, a world class purveyor of high-end fish, caviar, smoked salmon, wine and cheese. Browne Trading Company is a Portland, Maine treasure like Petrossian is to Paris.

This little city on the harbor is only an hour ride from my home in Belgrade on a two-lane highway with hardly any traffic at this time of year. Portland is beautiful with many old restored brick buildings and a nice harbor view of small islands off in the distance.

To me, it looks like a mini San Francisco but much more manageable and the food scene is starting to be as exciting. A new restaurant, brewery, distillery or specialty food store have been opening every week or two for a while. Things are changing at warp speed!

I really like food shopping in Portland and love how close it is. Yesterday our first stop was the tasting and to do a bit of shopping at Browne trading. I bought a package each of Iberico Ham and chorizo, an iridescent fillet of farm raised halibut from Scotland that beckoned to me from the iced filled case and a baby octopus salad. We tasted four different champagnes from Riedel flutes accompanied by four different small spoonfuls of caviars. Life is good!

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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.

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