Travel

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As many of you know, I am obsessed with the Fourchu lobsters. They taste like the sea and are so sweet. The ICC’s restaurant, L’Ecole celebrates them for the mere two months they are available. So you better get to L’Ecole in June and July where these delicious crustaceans are making their yearly Soho visit.

In fact, we kicked off the season with Cape Breton Tourism who brought down two native born chefs, Ardon Moffard and Brooks Hart. They joined forces with none other than Master Chef Floyd Cardoz. Chefs Ardon and Brooks delivered ‘naked lobsters’ cooked to perfection while Chef Cardoz worked his personal magic on the Fourchus. Chef C is a huge fan of these crustaceans and was happy to put his light touch of spices on the unctuous sweet meat.

In addition the former Premier (Governor) of Nova Scotia and now CEO of the Gaelic College, Rodney MacDonald treated us to his fiddle and step dancing. Cape Breton has the highest number of fiddle players per capita in the world. Here are the highlights of the ceildh-party- we had at the ICC this month.

Colin MacDonald (guitar) and Rodney MacDonald (fiddle)

Finally, Cape Breton is definitely travel destination, just look at these accolades from renowned publications and travel sites. And I promise if you ever get a chance to visit, you won’t be disappointed!

  • Top Ten Dare to Go, CNN.com 2014
  • Cape Breton Island one of the 20 Must See Places for 2013, National Geographic Traveler, World Edition
  • #1 Island Destination in North America, #3 in the World, Travel & Leisure, 2011
  • Most Romantic Place in Canada, Vacay.ca, 2012
  • Ten Best Island Holiday Destinations in Canada, Where.ca, 2011
  • Cabot Trail named #9 Cycling Destination in the world, Lonely Planet, 2011
  • Louisbourg voted #2 World’s Most Exceptional Castle Towns, msnbc.com, 2011
  • World’s Best Islands, BBC Travel, 2011
  • One of North Ameria’s Most Charming Fall Islands, Fox News, 2011
  • Cape Breton Highlands National Park, #2 Park in North America, National Geographic Traveler, 2006
  • Cape Breton Island one of Seven International Paradises, Fodor’s Online Travel Guide, 2008

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It’s the start of summer, I’m driving and normally fly right by those tempting roadside stands. But this one time I succumbed and pulled over for a soft serve ice cream cone at the Gooseboro Stand on Rte 202 in Connecticut. I had noticed that the building was retro-1960s…I had no idea that the portion sizes would be retro too!

I stood on line and the teenager serving at the counter yelled out ‘chocolate sundae!’ I expected to see a mammoth affair with scoops of ice cream smothered in chocolate sauce and mountains of whipped cream on top. Surprise! It was a modest cup with a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream, a bit of chocolate sauce and dab of whipped cream and a cherry.

I was shocked. In today’s super-sized world, this looked oddly appealing and just right. I thought, no one is going to get obese eating one of these…even every day. The price was right too…$1.99! Can’t we just go back to 1961? It wasn’t that life was easier then but the portions were just so much more sensible and affordable.

Can the obesity solution be that simple?

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The most magical chef lives in a magical valley and creates magical food. His name is Erez Komarovsky. He lives in a valley in Israel snug up to the Lebanese border and works his fires so well you can believe he is the Sorcerer of Food. My good friends Doron and Marianne made sure that on my trip to Israel I was able to meet with this wondrous chef. His home is nestled on a hill. As you walk down the winding path there are whimsical sculptures, wild bushes and cultivated flowers. Jumbled beautifully just as though nature dictated it so.

As you come upon the house there is a wood burning stove right by the front door. The smells smack you in the face. A small vintage mobile oven owned by Erez’s grandmother sits proudly nearby (he still sometimes uses it).

And then you walk into the house with views that go for miles and smells that make you giddy. We were greeted with fabulous unlabeled, unreleased champagnes (they were actually made by Yarden). They were left on the lees and had such depth, fine bubbles and elegance. I felt I was drinking a grand cru! I was in heaven.

Then the parade of food came out. Erez is well known all over the world for being an excellent bread baker. His food is natural. And distinctive. It is Erez. His hummus is made from black beans, not chickpeas. His roasted radishes, blackened by the fire were jewels glistening with the freshest olive oil. With his hands he mushed lamb tartar…he also diced it and asked…which do you like better? Definitely, the mushed. He smiled and said, ‘of course.’

Sorry I can’t tell you where this Israeli Brigadoon is, but savor the photos! I really love what I do…..

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Recently I have been to Madrid, Oporto, Geneva, Milan, Rome, Israel. You would think most of  those places would have decent airport food. That’s what I was looking for, just decent food, some “hold me over” sustenance. And quite frankly in those places, well, that’s only what I found. And then there’s Istanbul, Turkey where I was only passing through- but this time I wasn’t looking for food to sustain me, I wasn’t hungry at all.  Yet like any good foodie I was lured to the food court’s by the siren song. And it was a food court with the usual Burger King, Popeye’s and ….a not so usual ‘Turkcuisine.’

OMG! The bakery got me started. Look at those pastries! And Turkish ice cream! And then I found the Turkish fast food court. I was almost hysterical when I saw the assortment of foods. Darn! I knew I had a delicious dinner on the docket in Tel Aviv that evening, knew I wasn’t hungry enough to eat right then, but it was a “know no bounds” moment. I wound up spending $40 on a most delicious lunch that I had no room for! (Does that make me a human equivalent of a foie gras goose?)

They make the “pizza” dough right at the station where you get your cheese pie. It is the Turkish equivalent of a tarte flambé from Alsace. The cheese was slightly tangy and was a perfect texture for melting on flatbread. The assorted appetizers display had everyone in line grumbling at me because I just couldn’t fit all of it on one plate and didn’t want to have to choose. I dithered and then crammed as much as I could on my small plate.

We got to the main food station and the young chef in charge (who has to be the son of Seinfeld’s soup Nazi) kept the line moving fast demanding to know your order. You almost felt like you were going to get a pass/fail grade by the time you ordered. The chefs by the way, were real chefs, spotlessly dressed, very professional and proud of their food. These are chefs at a cafeteria line at the airport, next to the Popeye’s and Burger King. Lord, be praised!



The dried beans with meat in a tomato sauce were among the best I have ever eaten. The stuffed Dolmas…well yes, I have eaten better but it didn’t keep me from wolfing them down. Next on the line, I spot a samovar, a tip off that desserts are next. Baklava heaven! I took one pistachio and one walnut. I am on a sugar high as I write this. Maybe it’s not the sugar. This is an airport after all. If you can pass through Istanbul en route to some exotic land, heed this advice…save your appetite! (By the way Turkish Airlines has my vote for best airline food.)

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If you are in the NYC or Boston vicinity and are looking for a great gastronomic weekend, look no further than scenic Litchfield Country, CT and first check out the town of Washington. Not only are there wonderful restaurants, food shops, bookstores and farms but two Relais and Chateaux inns! Winvian-”113 acres of Norman Rockwell meets Alice in Wonderland” and The Mayflower Inn & Spa so lovely and elegant, each have unique and delicious restaurants along with wonderful spas and stellar accommodations. I’m proud to say both have an FCI/ICC chef at the helm. FCI grad, Chris Eddy, Culinary 1998 is Chef at Winvian and Stephen Barck is the acclaimed new chef at The Mayflower!

The Main House at Winvian, photo courtesy of Winvian

Winvian spa, photo courtesy Winvian

The Mayflower Inn & Spa

Oliva, in the town of New Preston is a local’s favorite with a wood burning fireplace and a superb Mediterranean menu. Riad Aamar has lovingly made this a romantic and delicious bistro. New Preston also has one of the best kitchen stores on the planet New Preston Kitchen Goods, a must stop if you’re in town.

Arethusa al tavalo in nearby Bantam is the real deal for Italian food. The owners are also the founders of the celebrated Arethusa Farm. Anthony Yurgaitis and George Malkemus are busy guys; they also happen to be the proprietors of Manolo Blahnik North America. You can find a previous post about Arethusa Farm here. They spend a lot of time in Italy and decided to bring Litchfield County a gift, this little trattoria. You’ll find it next door to their dairy store which sells housemade cheeses and ice cream. Next on the Bantam list, check out Bantam Bread, an exceptional artisanal bakery.

Bantam Bread Co.

Now, let me make your mouth water. I recently interviewed Chef Joel Viehland of the restaurant, Community Table (Ct) along route 202 in Washington. Joel did stages all over he world. It’s fun to see this world influence (NOMA in Denmark somewhere in Spain, as well as his stints with Susan Spicer and Emeril in New Orleans) in the food here, and it’s also fresh, homey and delicious. Just look at these plates!

Red Velvet, Dark Chocolate, Mascarpone, Beet

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I am proud to share with you that The International Culinary Center and the James Beard Foundation along with the American Chamber of Commerce in Italy have been selected as presenters for the U.S.A. Pavilion at the Expo Milano 2015. The ICC will play a pivotal role and I  have been greatly honored to be appointed as the President of the U.S.A. Pavilion.  The theme of the EXPO is “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”. Our program, aptly named “American Food 2.0″ will work to represent to the world five core values of American cuisine that the ICC and the James Beard Foundation represent….deliciousness, responsibility, innovation, diversity and entrepreneurism.   Below are a few renderings fo the Pavilion and also of our team at press conference in Milan.

Pavilion Front View James Biber Architects

Pavilion Rear View James Biber Architects

Pavilion Aerial View James Biber Architects

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