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Welcome to delicious Destinations, a GourmetStation blog. Through the charater of T.Alexander and occasional real-life guests, our aim is to share with you light-hearted fun ideas about food, gift giving, entertaining and culture. At the same time we would love you hear from you. Please share your experiences from home or abroad.

Southward Bound On The California Coast…


Posted: June 28, 2012
by: Mark Stine

Departing from Sausalito on a recent weekend trip, my traveling friend Colleen and I headed down the coast towards the beautiful Big Sur coastline.  Passing the infamous Nepenthe, a famed coastal dining spot dating from 1949, it is renowned for it’s sunset dining.  Nepenthe Restaurant serves lunch every day of the year from 11:30 - 4:30. They also serve dinner from 5:00 - 10:00 every day except Thanksgiving & Christmas.

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Nepenthe Menu

The whole focus of the restaurant is hospitality and is based on the vision of its founders Lolly and Bill Fassett. True to their founding tradition, the family has maintained a commitment to exceptional caring service in a relaxed atmosphere. Visit Nepenthe here.  

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A Nepenthe Sunset…nature’s artistry..

Nepenthe sunsets are not to be missed, but on this day we were pushing further down the coast to the Post Ranch Inn. Post Ranch, is the epitome of coastal Big Sur isolation and a tranquility experience. Room rates are …how shall we say…challenging for the 99%ers, but with a little budgeting or the right stock trade, it is entirely doable for mere mortals. The key to Post Ranch Inn is to make it a lunch stop if nightly rates are not in your comfort zone. The atmosphere is wonderful…the views at its restaurant, Sierra Mar are, incomparable and the food and wine were congenial to excellent.

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Dining Bluff Side

You dine 1200 ft above the crashing surf of the Pacific…and we were doubly treated in that a migrating grey whale breached not once but twice and then spouted as it continued its journey back north to the traditional feeding ground for summer. What an experience…

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A Hot tub with a view…

Dodging outside, I was able to slip into the private hot tub area which is an infinity pool perched right at the edge of the cliff…soothing and relaxing with the vast expanse of the Pacific and the rhythmic sounds of the crashing waves crashing below. Visit the Post Ranch Inn website.

When you stop for lunch…make sure you have dessert… all of the selections were worth the caloric intake.

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And the lodging views well…are equally outstanding!  Take a look at the website…it should motivate you to make Post Ranch Inn Resort and Spa and the Sierra Mar restaurant stop in your future.

Headed further down the coast, an afternoon was spent at the Hearst Castle…again more great views and a lunch the next day in Cayucos….a wonderful coastal California Beach town. Any number of spots along the beach are the perfect place to while away an afternoon.  

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Lodging that night was spent at Bacara

Bacara..a Santa Barbara Spa tradition (photo courtesy of the Bacara website)

Haven eaten that large lunch earlier in the day in Cayucos, we opted for bar dining, but for a special treat try the bluff side dining at their premiere restaurant Miro’. As noted on their site…

 

Miró

On a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Miró is named for the Spanish abstract impressionist, Joan Miró (1893-1983). In this four-star restaurant, the interior reflects the vibrant colors and imagination of this acclaimed artist. Adjoining is a spacious terrace with panoramic Pacific views. Miró offers innovative New American Cuisine, with an evolving style of cooking built on classical techniques with a focus on regional ingredients. New American cuisine puts an ethnic twist on old world dishes by utilizing the finest ingredients and incorporating influences from Asia, Latin America, the Mediterranean, molecular gastronomy and fusion cuisine. The restaurant also features an artful bar and lounge area offering specialty drinks and small plates.

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Bacara’s bluffside coastal sunset

You won’t be disappointed if you make Bacara a romantic getaway…rooms are spa-like luxurious and just like Nepenthe…great sunsets. We met a romantic couple on the bluff…and in just a few minutes we were snapping pictures of James and his lovely girlfriend. 

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Young love!!!  Learn more about Bacara.

Before heading back to Las Vegas the next morning...it was a short drive down to Montecito and then breakfast at Jeanine’s…which I have written about before on delicious destinations as a favorite of myself and Barb( Rhubarb Barb- for Delicious Destination readers)s followers.  It has become a favorite of Colleen’s now too… Jeanine’s ….An American Bakery…check out their breakfast menu and well…tough to make a choice!  http://jeannines.com/breakfast.html

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Colleen enjoys a Montecito kind of morning at  Jeanine’s

Business Travel - Tips from Hollywood


Posted: May 22, 2012
by: T.Alexander

Has anyone ever written a book on business travel? Maybe Business Travel for Dummies? Perhaps Hollywood can help us out here. If you’re in the mood for some tips (funny ones I might ad), check out this article on The 10 Best Movie Scenes About Business Travel. From hilarious Bill Murray in Groundhog Day and Lost in Translation to George Clooney racking up travel points in Up in the Air, there’s a tip or two for us all. And if you don’t find a tip, you’re guaranteed a good laugh!

Homeward Bound….and a look through happy traveler’s eyes


Posted: February 27, 2012
by: Mark Stine

Heading home to Las Vegas after a long work week in the NYC area generally means a five hour flight...and my preference is to try and rest. For me, Las Vegas is home…Red Rocks Park…desert vistas, skiing on Mt Charleston and a laid back life in the Summerlin community. But to most passengers on a Friday night flight… out of the Big Apple…well Vegas means party time!

A recent flight of mine got out of the gate on time…started down the runway at JFK and just before lift off speed the front of the aircraft shook violently…we slowed then sped up again…followed by another shuddering jolt. Dismayed looks among the passengers conveyed our understanding that maybe…just maybe we weren’t supposed to take off. Our pilots wisely took us to a side runway and back to the gate. An hour and a half delayed ensued with the announcement that no ascertainable problem could be found and we would try it again. Confidence…not so much!

While we waited, I did not suffer. I was in an exit row...not exactly first class…but with plenty of leg room and a sleepy couple from India zoned out next to me I made the most of it. In the delay at the gate, a new passenger boarded…a somewhat animated individual who was seated across the aisle in the opposite exit row and I think she had already started “Vegas festivities.” The couple sitting in the two furthest seats opposite had been quiet…but once “Laura”, as I later learned her name; entered…well the party seemed to get off the ground even though the airplane hadn’t initially!

Once airborne and the beverages started flowing…many of the passengers started their Vegas experience in mid-flight. As the energy of Laura and her seatmates Katie and Chet ramped up they kept the flight attendant busy with drink orders and I couldn’t resist their enthusiasm. So much for resting! I learned Laura was a teacher of 9th grade algebra and 11th grade calculus and Katie and Chet were young Manhattan attorneys…who as the night progressed offered up all kind of amusing legal musings! Let’s just say they became the “trusted exit row passengers!”

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Laura, Katie and Chet enjoying the trip to Vegas!

Their questions about Las Vegas put me in the position of talking up the latest Vegas hot spots. Being a local , I don’t usually hang out on the strip, since I am more into the desert lifestyle… but I thought…Advice…hmmm...well the recently opened Cosmopolitan is an action spot…great restaurants and the only strip front elevated pool. See and be seen!

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The newest hotel on the strip – The Cosmopolitan

As to restaurants, The Cosmopolitan features an eclectic blend and my favorite is Jaleo, where I have dined with my friend Isabelle from France, who attends conferences in Vegas each year. .

Jaleo

The website detail provides this background, “Culinary mastermind José Andrés and his ThinkFoodGroup brings the authentic flavor of a Spanish tapas restaurant to Las Vegas with the award-winning Jaleo restaurant re-imagined to include the excitement and spectacle of Las Vegas. A perennial favorite in Washington DC, Jaleo restaurant was one of the country's first successful tapas restaurants, setting the standard for Spanish cuisine in the U.S. for almost two decades.”

Check out this link for a full listing of the Cosmopolitan restaurants.

Another suggestion I had for the trio was the Aria Hotel based in the City Center complex. Connected to the Cosmopolitan by elevated walkways, City Center is the anchor for the “Internationale moderne style” that blends the two complexes.

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City Center…the future today

So…hotels and gaming…check…dance clubs. ..check…great places to eat ..check… About this time the young couple from India woke up from their 26 hours of flying and started to join in the conversation. They were flying half way round the world for a wedding and were arriving just in time for a reception. As a tired business traveler, it was actually fun on this trip to pick up the excitement and energy of this weekend party crew… At one point I though the flight attendant had become a cocktail waitress…one whole tray was for my three compadres… mixers and min bottles for all! Bottles and mixers made for an interesting flight Strangers when they met on the plane...Laura infused enthusiasm and energy…Katie and Chet bonded with everyone and as I walked up the ramp when we landed, I had a good feeling they would be up all night and contributing to the Las Vegas economy. You can too…give it a try!

Spring Skiing…Smooth Jazz …and Park City Living


Posted: March 8, 2009
by: Mark Stine

I try and make my annual ski pilgrimage in the spring...much as I like the snow...I prefer the bright sun and warmer days of spring when the kodachrome (do we still use that term now that everything has gone digital??) blue skies make for great skiing or lounging on a sundeck with a micro beer in hand. Park City and environs, Deer Valley and The Canyons have become the neighborhood of choice for me. A simple shuttle flight from Las Vegas and a fast shuttle van ride can get you to the mountains in minimal time and maximum enjoyment. 

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As I plan this year’s trip, I remember back to last year when I had such a great time visiting a ski buddy who lives in Salt Lake City and then staying up at the Jeremy Ranch near Park City.

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What made this trip so much fun was an in town cocktail party hosted by a local attorney. A rather eclectic group of individuals attended the party making for great conversation. My ski friend Mark pulled together a rather simple dish, high on cholesterol and taste. I wondered how well it would be received, but once arriving at the party and seeing how quickly the whole thing disappeared, I felt it was worth passing along.

Cheese Crisp Appetizer

1 large glass or ceramic baking dish
2 pounds of Very sharp cheddar
1 large jar of the hottest Jalapeños
Six eggs
2 cups of milk
Mix ingredients, pour into the baking dish and then bake on 350 for 30 minutes or until the liquid is bubbling and the top is turning brown and a crust is forming. Allow to cool for one hour before serving.
Serve with interesting crackers of choice…and sliced apples are nice too!

Once the wine started flowing, the group proved to be congenial and diverse in interests. I found myself seated between a Park City chanteuse relocated from Los Angeles and an Interior designer mom whose adult son competes in the Pizza tossing competition of the world.

Cd Darling, a recent locator to Park City is a songstress. She had supplied her cd to our host and it provided a warm jazz backdrop for conversation. As any good marketer would do (and with a name like CD promoting a cd – well enough said) CD just happened to have a supply on hand for sale.  “Rat Packin’ – with Love CD Darling is the epitome of smooth jazz and perfect for your own social or cocktail get together.  CD has a very long and varied musical background and has toured from Australia to Japan , UK, Mexico and Canada and most major US cities. I scooped one up and downloaded it to my computer so I can relax when working. But I digress…. Hearing her recording stories was a real treat…so if you would like to obtain a copy of her cd check out her website and email her for more information.
http://www.cddarling.com

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Seated to my other side was a mom, who was an interior decorator. As any good mother does, she talked about her son and not herself. Her son competed in a national World Pizza Games Pizza tossing competition and had learned quickly from his mentor, who worked with him at the pizza shop and had taken top honors. The event, which followed my Park City trip, was in March 2008 and he had won in 2007. I just checked and the next event will again be in Las Vegas March 10th   2009.  If Interested, check out this web link http://www.worldpizzachampions.com/games.php

They had both out-competed the Italians, which was amazing as her son at that time had only been pizza tossing for one year. So next time you order a pizza somewhere…have a new found respect for those pizza tossing “preppers” in the back...they might just be in competitive practice on your pizza!

When traveling I have found it is always fun to be open to new experiences…you never know who you might meet at a cocktail party and what new friends you make along the way.

As they “Andiamo”!!

Castello di Spaltenna...The Heart Of Chianti


Posted: March 1, 2009
by: Dave, Edie & Simonetta

There is an area of Tuscany that offers the traveler breath taking beauty.  It affords the traveler a challenging terrain of mountains and valleys combined with a maze of winding roads which if stretched straight could possibly reach from this earth to heaven.  But they do not need to be stretched for they wend their way through vineyards and olive groves, villages and past villas and castles.  This is the Chianti region of Tuscany, a region some believe is “heaven on earth”.  This is an area of Tuscany which is steeped in the history and traditions of the Middle Ages and of the conflict between Florence and Siena. 

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Situated among the rolling hillsides of Gaiole in Chianti is the historic castle of Castello di Spaltenna. As you enter into the courtyard of Castello di Spaltenna you pass the entrance of Pieve di Spaltenna (Santa Maria di Spaltenna), a small church dating back to the 11th. Century.  Pausing to look into the chapel, we are taken with the simplicity of its Romanesque architecture.  As we check in, we learn that Spaltenna was once a medieval monastery connected to the Pieve.  What was once the cloister of the monastery serves today as a welcoming courtyard to the hotel.

As we were taken to our room, we could not help but appreciate the beauty of the medieval architecture surrounding us.  Our room, complete with canopied bed afforded us a unique feature.  It had a small window overlooking the altar of the Pieve di Spaltenna and a kneeling bench so prayers could be offered while viewing the church’s altar.


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Perhaps this had been the room of the priest when Spaltenna had been an active monastery.

After “settling in”, we strolled the beautiful grounds and enjoyed the roses and the many floral gardens as well as the views of vineyards and mountains.  The quiet and relaxed beauty was striking. 

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Dinner that evening was in Il Pievano, an absolutely marvelous restaurant at Castello di Spaltenna  The dinner menu offered such wonderful selections as: Pappardelle di farro al sugo di fagiano in infusione di alloro broccoli e tartufi (Pappardelle pasta made of spelt with pheasant ragout flavoured with bay leaf, broccoli and truffle) or Filetto di Rombo arrosto con capperi di Pantelleria indivia brasata e pappa al pomodoro all’olio extravergine di oliva (Roasted fillet of turbot with capers from Pantelleria endives and pappa al pomodoro). 

For desert choices included, but were not limited to Tartelletta di Zucca e mandorle con gelato al bianco latte e amaretti (Tart of pumpkin and almonds with ice cream of milk and almonds) and Lacrima di ricciarelli avvolta da un velo di cioccolato, il cannolo al panforte di Siena e il gelato al panpepato

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The food was prepared to an excellent standard and the service was perhaps the finest we have ever had.  Enjoying dinner at Spaltenna is a marvellous way to spend an evening.  The wine steward paired an excellent choice of wines to be served with our dinners.  Spaltenna's wine cellar offers the widest range of wines...fantastico.

Some say that in real estate, location is everything.  To us who travel, location is also important and Spaltenna offers its visitors an ideal location from which you can enjoy superb day trips.  As an example, just a short ride from Castello di Spaltenna is the medieval borgo of Vertine, complete with its original tower, walls and gates. 


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The other side of the valley from Spaltenna and a short drive through the winding country roads of Chianti is Volpaia, a small village perched atop the mountain.  Dating back to circa 1172, Volpaia is home to some of the finest Chianti Classico.  After a stroll through this beautiful medieval village a relaxing lunch on the terrace of the Osteria di Volpaia is in order.  Our suggestion would be that you enjoy a frittata with a glass of Bianco di Volpaia.

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A trip to Villa Vignamaggio, the estate that was home to the Mona Lisa and the film location for “Much Ado About Nothing” is another must for day trips from Castello di Spaltenna.  Here you will enjoy gardens and magnificent views across the vineyard covered hillsides.  Our suggestion is that you phone ahead for a reservation to tour the gardens and the wine cellars.

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Located near Spaltenna, Badia a Coltibuono was formerly a Benedictine monestary. You will enjoy a well-ordered monastic garden and magnificent views of the countryside.  Stop by the ristorante and enjoy a dish of some of the most delicious lemon-basil sorbet ever made.

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Home to the Ricasoli family, Castello di Brolio, is also home to the now famous Chianti Classico.  It is widely acclaimed  that here, at Brolio, Baron Bettino Ricasoli developed the formula for Chianti Classico wine.  The castle, surrounded by huge fortress like walls provides visitors with commanding views of valleys and vineyards  Plan your trip around lunch time and enjoy a delightful dining experience at the Osteria del Castello.  The menu offers traditional Tuscan dishes which will be a delight to your taste buds.

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Castello di Spaltenna is a historic castle steeped in the finest of traditions of Chianti.  Its rooms, service, restaurant and wine cellar are second to none.  Its pool and outdoor dining make it the best of both worlds...a fine resort hotel and a great location to enjoy the surrounding areas of Chianti country.

Edie and Dave
www.fototoscana.com
 

Mountains From Coast to Coast


Posted: October 27, 2008
by: Mark Stine

This past Labor Day, pre and post, I had the good fortune to visit my place in Banner Elk, NC…a beautiful, peaceful place where I often end up being just plain lazy. Resting reading… and as happened this trip, watching a CSI Las Vegas marathon. You may remember Banner Elk from last year’s blog. This portion of the trip was pre Labor Day…..post Labor day I ended up in Reno visiting ski buddy and environmentalist, of the Sierra Club variety, Dave Hornbeck.

Reno is a small easily managed town….high desert surrounded by mountains with Lake Tahoe within easy striking range. Dave is lifelong resident, stints hopping around the globe not withstanding. The first day after my arrival, we did a walking tour from his close in suburban styled home to downtown Reno. Situated along a scenic river…Reno, while hosting gaming like Las Vegas, was actually a real city before gaming ever came along, with lots of local flavor and history.

One of the spots we stopped in for local flavor and refreshment was a Basque Bar/restaurant. Basque influence abounds around town and in many of the surrounding mountain community areas.

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The bar was empty save for one individual, who Dave finally recognized as an old acquaintance. We were greeted with a smile by Erika, the bartender. Dave ordered us something called Picon Punch. I heard it as Pecan Punch…having lived in the south for so long…I thought Picon was just a peculiar local dialect for Pecan. Wrong!!

 

Picon Punch

Grenadine

* Torani Amer / Picon Amer  (American and French versions of the liqueur)

Club Soda

Brandy

Lemon twist

Picondrinks

So try one and enjoy!

from www.wineglobe.com

* Torani Amer is a liqueur made in a similar style to Amer Picon, a French aperitif with notes of bitter orange, cinchona bark and gentian. It's almost impossible to find Amer Picon -- a key ingredient in the Basque cocktail Picon Punch -- in the States these days, but fortunately the South San Francisco-based Torani syrup company has filled the cocktail gap with this version. This is a very sophisticated liqueur, and probably not to everyone's taste, but people who enjoy Italian bitters such as Fratelli Averna will likely love Torani Amer, and some folk who usually shun such products might just enjoy it in the Hoskins Cocktail.

Esquire magazine had a recent article coincidentally on Basque food. “Traditional Basque food specializes in its mastery of sweet and hot peppers, salt cod, anchovies and fish and shellfish from the Bay of Biscany”

The bar adjoined a family style Basque restaurant, with checkered green table clothes

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and a lively history in its long term location, provided a wonderful old world ambiance backdrop. As a boost to the potential future of the area, a new minor league baseball stadium was being constructed nearby and should contribute lively crowds and patrons to this area for many years to come.

If you are interested, check out the Santa Fe Hotel, not an operating hotel now, but where the “Family Style Basque Dinners” are served up and worth the price of a tasty Picon Punch too. And when you are there say hello to Erika! She was very informative and friendly and while not Basque…certainly knew her local history.

Erika  

Santa Fe Hotel

235 Lake Street

Reno, NV

775 323 1891

Lots of historic old buildings have been preserved in downtown Reno, so if you have the chance, take a walking tour of town. The old Postal building…art deco vintage is one worth checking out. There are plenty of cafes, bars and restaurants, some fronting on the scenic river, to give you rest spots along the way as you tour.

The next day it was off to the mountains of California. The destination was to an area north of Yosemite. There is a wilderness area north of Yosemite and north of that is a recreational area in the Stanislow National forest. We were headed off to the family cabin  there…a rustic affair dating to 1923 built on National forest land that are maintained through long term leases. On the drive up, the first stop was Levitt Lake.

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An alpine lake surrounded by incredible mountain peaks, I would like to have said that I hiked in the four miles to reach it from the main road, but four wheel drive got us there over some rough bumps, even if Dave’s vehicle did take some scratches from some road hugging brush. Great fishing there if you care to give it a try.

The next stop, at a slightly lower altitude was Kennedy Meadows, which to me felt like a step back into 1940’s California. Tall pines….horse corrals… old buildings, barns and the smell of campfires. What was intriguing was the bar area (are we detecting a theme here?) which was spartan in appearance and featured a dance hall area adjacent with old framed photos on the wood lined walls. We were 3 hours from Reno, yet the Basque influence was evident again with shots that looked to be from the 30’s. All you hear about today is Basque Separatists ...but I found nothing but Basque integration going on, in food and drink and warm cultural influences. …this influence came about through Basques arriving from France and Spain to work in the sheep industry moving herds of sheep between grazing areas with their specialized dogs.

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The real treat though, was rustic camping and hiking at Mill Creek, a campground area. an hour or so drive from Kennedy Meadows …adjacent to the rustic old cabins, some which have been in the same families since the 20’s Localized hikes uphill, (actually up mountain ) revealed spectacular views of the Dardanelle’s a series of three peaks…as well as up close looks at lava flows in an area that was very active 100,000 years ago.

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Back at the Hornbeck cabin…after hiking and touring about, I slept on an outdoor sleeping porch. The views at night were incredible with a stunning glow from the milky way, views of ancient red spruce soaring like spires into the night and occasional shooting stars. (more pedestrianly  known as asteroid debris burning up in the atmosphere).

The air even in early September was crisp at night and cold weather sleeping was a welcome respite. However it being bear and cougar country…at every snap crackle and pop all night, it had me snapping to attention! How did the pioneers ever do it?? We won’t talk about the baby bear I swear I saw in the shadow of the flashlight one night around 2 am, munching on the spilled dog food, which actually turned out to be a shadow cast by the Weber grill. Ah yes…something to laugh about in the light of day.

If you ever get up this way, make a point to also stop at the Pine Crest Lake reservoir. Surrounded by cabins of varying vintage, there is a wonderful hiking trail which takes a few hours to circumnavigate the lake and brings you back past a beach area. It all had a distinctly 1950’s “Summer Place” feel to it… a place locked in time….warm ..safe…secure….without all the drama of that old movie.

Eating was also a treat….cooking on vintage stoves and heating devices at the cabin, my host Dave, in addition to being a lawyer, former pilot, Sierra Club hike leader and one man historian was able to pull off some tasty meals…all with some great wine.

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This was one of my better Labor Day holiday memories, thanks to my place in the mountains of North Carolina and Dave’s family cabin in the Sierras of California. Two different world views of the mountains, culture and food…and a bear’s shadow too!

A Kiss Around the World


Posted: March 9, 2008
by: Mark Stine

A recent vacation and birthday celebration trip to Hawaii turned into an art hunting adventure coupled with fun dining around the island of Maui, sponsored by friend and software guru Wayne, celebrating his impending 40th birthday.

An overnight in LA and a dinner at the Encounter restaurant and bar in the landmark theme building in the center of the airport features early 60’s space age design, ubiquitously featured in 70’s and 80’s TV shows when they wanted LA to look moderne…suffice it to say, if you are between flights it makes a fun stop for drinks and appetizers...dinner however was less inspired…But if like me, you have flown in and out of LA for decades and never made the stop...its fun from a nostalgic standpoint.

The next day, the morning flight to Maui landed uneventfully and it was off and running for a week in the sun…ok so it rained four days, who really cares when you are in paradise! Now the things I love about Maui are the diversity… beaches, upcountry highlands, populated with ranches, protea farms and eucalyptus groves, with yes… a wonderful vineyard to visit.

Tedeschi vineyards makes a variety of wines using local tropical fruits as well as wines and a sparkling wine made in the traditional méthode champenoise.

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The Tasting room is described as historic according to the Tedeschi Vineyards web site. “Located in one of the most historic buildings on the island of Maui. The King's Cottage dates to 1874, when it was built specifically for the visit of Hawaii's monarch David Kalakaua and queen Kapi'olani. During his turbulent reign, which began that year and lasted until his death 1891, Hawaii’s last king often came to Ulupalakua to find peace of mind The centerpiece of the Tasting Room is an eighteen-foot-long bar cut from the trunk of a single mango tree.  Shelves are stocked with Hawaiian-made products and specialty foods and gifts Today the ranch is a destination for visitors exploring rural Upcountry Maui. They picnic here and learn island history by touring the grounds”.

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Guided tours are available at 10:30 am,1:30 and 3 pm and well worth the time from both an historical perspective and for the views….or check them out at www.mauiwine.com.

Well wine and champagne tasting seemed high brow enough, so we next tackled the art galleries of Lahaina…the best stop of all was Vintage European Posters, featuring original posters from 1890 to 1960, where General Manager Franck Soler (Franck@europeanposters.com) personally waited on Barb (Rhubarb Barb from earlier blogs) and I in our endeavor to find the perfect vintage poster. The search took about an hour and we each found the right one for us. Franck in his wonderful French accent regaled us with historical facts on vintage posters, their rising value and diminishing availability. Franck also explained they do not maintain a website, as the world’s largest European vintage poster, they sell too quickly to scan and post. So if you want one, plan on a trip to Maui or email Franck for some great recommendations.

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Mark and Franck with P.L. M – Arles-St. Remy poster, a lithograph from 1910 by Georges Dorival.

I found a wonderful old vintage poster from 1910 mounted on linen to preserve and stabilize the old paper.  Barb also found a French poster from 1921…a stone lithograph... which had hung in an old French rail office…and never having been exposed to the outdoors, hers was in pristine condition! Titled Chemins de Ferdo L’Etat …Excursions in Bretagne, with the town of Dinan, from the Emerald Coast of France. A town coincidentally that I once visited in 1990 with my friend Isabelle from Rennes, France, so a connection was immediately established with the poster.

Ahh…but the French Connection continued. In concluding the sale, Franck kissed Barb on each cheek, one for her and one for a” free dinner” if she delivered one of the kisses to his father who runs, along with his charming wife, the restaurant Le Gazan. At 3 rue Gazan in the city of Grasse known as the parfum capital of France.

And since my French friend Isabelle is planning her 40th birthday party in Provence this July and had taken me to the city of Dinan in 1990..or was it 91 and Barb unknowingly bought the vintage French poster about Dinan and since both of them will get to meet each other in Las Vegas, in March at my home, due to an unexpected business trip Isabelle will be making from Montpelier, France after a 15 year absence of being able to visit….whew….well based on all of these psychokinetic connections , we are planning to go to Grasse, France and collect on that free meal when we head off for Isabelle’s 40th bash! And then Barb can deliver the “Kiss” from half way round the world to Franck’s father and mother. What a nice custom! Bon Appetit’!

And to continue our “French Connection” in Maui, we brunched in the upcountry at Le Provence…a hidden away treasure in the eucalyptus scented highlands in upcountry Maui. Not even a decent roadside sign to spot this gem. I stumbled on this spot quite by accident years ago and am always pleased to be able to introduce friends to it. With views of the island and the ocean spread out below, with strong Kona coffee and chocolatines, and several really great and light and fluffy quiche…it’s a wonderful and peaceful spot for any meal. Le Provence – The French Eater, can be found at 3158 Lower Kula Rd. in Kula the upcountry in Maui  (808) 878- 1313.

Jumping whales spouted right off our ocean front room in Ka’ anapali and one night we dined ocean front in Lahaina at our hosts choice for his birthday dinner. Wayne recommended

I’o at 505 Front Street (iomaui.com) where the ocean front and patio view was exceptional. The appetizers are wonderfully prepared and the entrees were delicately seasoned, with all of the fish dishes exceptionally fresh, as one would expect in Hawaii. A hint…the Cowboy ribs appetizer went quickly in our group, as did the Thai curry asparagus soup. The entrees and desserts were equally as impressive, with Wayne’s favorite , the I’o trio of seared fresh catch with lobster curry, petit filet mignon and petite osso bucco with a braising demi and mushroom risotto. (www.iomaui.com)

All in all it was a wonderful trip. Wayne turned 40 with no visible trauma….I bought art…Barb bought art…a new French friend was made…whales jumped and spouted and the sun set...as only it can in Maui.

Oceanbarb

Escape to Banner Elk and Black Mountain


Posted: November 13, 2007
by: Mark Stine

Sometimes the pressure of work and everyday living forces you to look at your life and realize you need a break and a well planned retreat can be just the answer. Well North Carolina and specifically Banner Elk, tucked into the “High Country,” has been just such a refuge for me for the last 20 years.

There is something about the gentle peacefulness in the mountains that lowers the blood pressure and puts things in perspective.  Breathing the cool mountain air amidst lush rhododendron and hiking up trails, knowing your hard work will be rewarded at the end of the day with a nice glass of Merlot is a satisfying experience.


So… on a recent trip, an invitation was extended to two friends, Colleen and Kim, both in need of some mountain time, to spend a week exploring Asheville, Black Mountain and the environs around Banner Elk and Sugar Mountain.

Weight_world

When you feel you have the weight of the world bearing down on you….escape!

Asheville has been receiving a lot of press as a new boomtown for retirees and a growing eclectic force of artists, new age proponents and real estate investors and developers has swooped in to make that a living reality and driven up the prices for retiree wannabes.

Asheville has its finer points, a well preserved downtown, the stunningly beautiful Biltmore estate on the near outskirts of town and some decent eateries. But…it lacked something in spite of all the hype and my traveling friend Kim agreed. Not exactly what we were looking for.  Perhaps a little too touristy…pleasant and all….made for a nice afternoon, but it wasn’t until we ambled up the road a piece, headed back towards Banner Elk that we felt we had hit the right spot. And that would be Black Mountain.

Just a little more real and unreal at the same time, this small community traces its roots back to the Black Mountain College, which gives the community the right influx of intellect, new age-ers, real estate growth, retirees and a semblance of balance we found lacking in Asheville. The shops were just a little more friendly too, as was the entire town. 

Now for those in need of a Chakra adjustment, some sound-energy work, including singing Himalayan bowls then I suggest you check Black Mountain out. We treated ourselves to a number of approaches and left feeling energized!  For appointments or more information, check out the web site RayneMaker.com and touch base with Calen. An additional treat was listening to native American flute music and meeting the musical genius, Marina Raye-“ the feminine voice of the native flute”, behind itA serene, calm woman described by my traveling friend Colleen as a “Goddess,” her serenity permeated the surroundings and we each purchased a cd (www.marinaraye.com) which has provided me with soothing moments back in the unreal world of Las Vegas.

Raynemaker1 


After the exploration of Black Mountain…we retired for the balance of the week to Banner Elk.  A formerly “little” spot on the map between Sugar and Beech Mountains- four season resorts in the High country with mountain tops in the 5,000 ft plus range…  And now a booming real estate market as the entire 76 million baby boom generation seems to be colonizing the entire Smoky Mountains in faux Adirondack styled homes with spruce siding, Adirondack chairs, and price tags that hardly seem like second home prices! .

Perched amongst the trees …

Mossycreekbannerelk I was content to enjoy my pedestal home of 20 years, where we enjoyed some tasty dinners and selected wines from Eric’s Wine and Cheese Shop, a 20 year plus local institution.  Knowing now that FedEx delivers there, I am also going to order GourmetStation dinner gifts the next time to compliment the experience!

Stops at 6,000 ft. Grandfather Mountain and the mile high swinging bridge were highlights, as well as dinner one evening on Beech Mountain at over 5,000 ft…looking out over lush lawns and right on cue, pre-dusk, the small herd of deer that bounded out onto the lawn to entertain us.

One very indulgent afternoon we arranged a three hour massage therapy session. I can only say that it is worth the extra expense to have the massage therapist come to you, so that afterwards you can just relax and not have to worry about moving. The pedestal home features a spa room at tree level…cedar lined with a built-in sound system. So we listened to some flute music courtesy of Marina Raye and sat for well over two hours after our respective massages, in the  giant four person soaking tub looking out into the tree canopy.  Kim received an extended foot massage in the soaking tub, whilst she sipped a bottomless glass of Merlot and Colleen disappeared towards the end of the soak to surprise us with a wonderful pasta dinner, resplendent with a display of locally grown Heirloom tomatoes and mozzarella stacked and swirled in a creative presentation. This was a perfect way to end our last evening in the mountains of the High Country. Cool night air descended…the sounds of crickets came up in a chorus around us and great conversation ensued.

Sadly, the week ended far too quickly… and at the airport in Johnson City, TN, the goodbyes were hard to do. Our sheltered retreat was over and we were being thrust back into the real world of email, Blackberry, investment banking, communication support and the non stop stream of data interpretation. All we have to sustain us going forward would be the memories…but great memories they are.  So if you are in need of a wonderful relaxing retreat, then I suggest the High Country of North Carolina.  Hiking, white- water rafting, sight seeing, and relaxation on your terms are just some of the activities of the High Country. For further information on rentals try checking out NCMountainRetreats.com and remember life is worth living, so enjoy it and put the stress of unimportant things behind you. It is after all about friends and good food and wine and simple things done well. Thanks Colleen and Kim!

ThousandFlavors.com - A Taste of Peru


Posted: October 26, 2007
by: T.Alexander

How many emails do you receive daily? After a while you stop counting - delete / delete / delete. Rarely an email arrives that speaks to your heart. You don't even think about deleting – just read & get lost for a moment in something very lovely. I received such an email and it's all about the flavors of Peru. A trip to Cusco anyone? I won't even begin to match the writing skills of Alvaro Bedoya. Just read this & enjoy. (Alvaro has given us permission to write this post). Perhaps a trip to Peru will be in your future.

Mac_p2_2

“When one hears the name Peru what comes to mind are images of mysterious Inca ruins, and snowed capped peaks of the Andes mountains. But what very few know is that Peru offers some of the most amazing cuisines in the world. At Land of a Thousand Flavors we want to show people what an incredible country Peru is by taking them on exclusive and unique gourmet trips around this fascinating country.

We invite you to visit our web site: Land of a Thousand Flavors

Our services are aimed for people looking for a unique traveling experience of discovery of new flavors, amazing places, while learning the secrets of the local cuisine, and meeting people working at extraordinary Peruvian gastronomy, while enjoying gourmet meals and pisco & wine tastings, we are proud of offering this side of Peru and Argenitna,  our programs will simply surpass all your expectations, we look foward to hear form you, and see in which way,  can we work together, we have many recipes, articles, trips and secrets of this wonderfull gastronomy and are more than happy to share them.

Peru has been blessed with a gigantic amount of different ingredients, ranging from more than 3.000 thousand different varieties of potatoes! To tropical fruits, and fish from the Pacific Ocean , there are also rare meats like Alpaca and guinea pig, and wonderful herbs like Huacatay. This rich variety of ingredients has been used for thousand of years by the ancient Peruvians, but what made today’s gastronomy so unique has been the outside influences first by the Spanish Conquistadores, African slaves, and then by Chinese, Italian, and Japanese currents of immigrations. They all brought with them their own ingredients and cooking techniques, this mix has produced a cuisine in its own right.

There is a wealth of extremely rich flavors that will leave even the most seasoned gourmand in culinary ecstasy. From the coastal sea food classics like tiradito (sashimi like fish with a chilly sauce) to the Andean dishes using Quinoa and wonderful aromatic herbs, not to mention the sweets which since colonial times are a passion of Limenos.

A rich cuisine needs a great alcoholic beverage and in Peru its called Pisco, made from the grapes brought by the Spanish nearly 500 years ago, it’s a clear spirituous drink, similar to grappa, with character and a wonderful taste Pisco has yet to win its reputation in the world but there is no doubt it will as it elegant drink that drank straight or on cocktails like Pisco Sour never disappoints.

Kind regards,

Alvaro Bedoya

Executive Director

Land of a Thousand Flavors

Panama…It’s not just for Hats!


Posted: June 16, 2007
by: Mark Stine

GourmetStation’s research into world cuisine has inspired me over the years to look beyond the suburban life I have led and see new and …shall we say tasty opportunities and well…what would the cuisine be like in say Panama?

Having been a subscriber to International Living for the last three years, which touts low cost spots in the world where you can live large on less and whose online emails haunt me incessantly with “about to be missed affordable real estate opportunities,” I finally took the plunge and headed off to Panama.

Panama seemed to fit the bill…civilized and direct flights to the US, the Canal….an emerging Latin Capital that has recently been labeled, “The new Miami” and high-rises sprouting like mushrooms along the bay front and around the “chic-er” neighborhoods. Since I had already missed out on coastal Croatia and newly discovered Montenegro, what with the Brits driving up coastal hot spots in Europe, while I sat reading about it, I thought don’t let the Panama bandwagon pass you by!

So, I talked two friends into an adventure and off we went. But before heading off, I needed two things, a realtor and a place to stay. The realtor was problematic….However after a quick search on the internet I uncovered a gem of a B&B in the Bella Vista neighborhood of Panama.

Our hosts were Patty and Rudy of Patty’s Casita. Her web site reads”“Patty's Casitas offers an alternative to typical Panama City hotel accommodations...as we offer B&B and apartment for short term rental in the heart of Panama city where you will find Panamas major attractions such as the Panama Canal (Miraflores Locks), the Bridge of Life Museum of Biodiversity (soon to be build by the renown architect Frank Gehry), history, shopping, bird watching (Gamboa), Eco tourism, jungle trekking, marine and biodiversity exhibition centers and much more...Our Guest House Bed and Breakfast in Panama City (Arcos de Bella Vista), a beautiful colonial house, offers a spacious suite with en-suite bathroom located in a residential and exclusive green area, called Bella Vista and our self-catered apartment (Amador Rental) is located in the hottest new tourist destination called Amador! You will find excellent restaurants, bars, night clubs and waterfront promenade all within few minutes walk from our panama city lodgingsJ While this country has a large number of hotels in Panama City to choose from, we feel that our non smoking accommodations offer the best deal available...providing you with inside tips (we speak English, French, German, Italian and Spanish), airport transfer service from and to Tocumen International Airport and private guided tours in Panama City and surroundings.”

And I agree with all she had to say in her web site. A wonderful 1930’s vintage estate property, in an up and coming renovation neighborhood right next to the restaurant district, Patty’s Casita offered the perfect location from which to launch our real estate search.

But first breakfast! When one thinks B&B, the range of breakfast items provided can be coffee and a roll, to interesting and tempting breakfast treats. Patty subscribed to the later. Patty, a multi- national person has lived in many global spots, and she offered a wonderful breakfast each morning. Tasty empanadas, fresh local fruit, yogurt, meats and cheeses…locally grown Panamanian coffee, fresh squeezed orange juice, why every morning was like a buffet.

Better yet, while we enjoyed this breakfast repast ( we.. being me, Barb and John…three real estate bargain hunters), Patty and her husband Rudy would graciously provide insights on their own real estate ventures. Joined by her mother, visiting from Germany, whose husband and she had also purchased beach property in Panama, we felt immediately like we were part of an extended family. Rudy in fact had met us at the airport in Panama City, they provide full services to visitors, with Rudy doing tours and assisting visitors and Patty handling the B&B.

Rudyandpatty

We had a wonderful time looking at real estate…sampling delicious sea food and learning about Panama…why we even saw the Panama Canal in action while we enjoyed a champagne brunch one Sunday. I thought it would be dull as dirt watching a large ship go up and down in the locks…but frankly the champagne inspired everyone to gleefully race out onto the terrace and shoot pictures, videos and generally whoop it up! It was a good time and memory.

On a cultural note…I was made aware of a book which reaches into the heart of Panama through a Fantasy tale …a book called, in English, The Forbidden Valley, en Espanol - El Valle Prohibido, available on Amazon.com  The Panamanian author is Eduardo Lince Fabrega and is based on the fantasies and historical events interwoven into memories of his childhood spent in el Valle.

Forbiddenvalley

So…the Panamanian trip was a success. I have four condo projects under consideration as a retirement outpost…very low property taxes a HUGE incentive, coupled with warm tropical weather. My traveling buddy John found a place on the beach to check out as a purchase option (as well as a Panamanian hat), and co-conspirator in world forays Barb…(you may remember her as “Rhubarb Barb” from a prior recipe blog). Well she sees potential investment in the beach too. Living in California and not far from Malibu, she was partial to the Malibu Beach project. Finally...a living breathing …Malibu Beach Barbie…stay tune to see if we join the expat community. In the interim…think Panama…it’s a happening place!

Mark Stine