Travel

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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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Cultural Asset, Nyeon-im Kim, Dorothy

So why can’t the U.S. Government have designations like “Intangible Cultural Asset?” I actually met one on my recent trip to Korea. As most foodies have read and some have been lucky enough to taste, Korean cuisine is different, delicious and comforting. One of their most iconic dishes, is bibimbap.

Bibimbap

Jeonju Univesity students

On my recent trip I was invited to speak at Jeonju University which is about 3 hours south of Seoul. Jeonju is the culinary heart of Korea (similar to Lyon in France). The university has a much respected hospitality program and the town is a food mecca. Right before I gave my lecture and met the wonderful and welcoming students, we needed to tuck into lunch. That is when I met the Intangible Cultural Asset and Master of Traditional Korean food, Ms. Nyeon-im Kim. So unassuming and so dynamic, she’s in her seventies and still gets up every morning to oversee her restaurant, Gajok Hwegwan. The restaurant is touted outside with a large sign saying that this where you will find “the intangible cultural asset.” Then you enter a corner stairwell walking up two flights above a CVS type store. There on the second floor landing is an entrance lobby stacked with an array of fermenting bottles. You turn a corner and you think half of Korea is having lunch. The packed restaurant is within arms distance of a room length kitchen.  She oversees about half a dozen cooks lining up the feasts. Waitresses are buzzing back and forth.

Old Fashioned Fermentation

We were greeted in a private room by two professors from Jeonju. J.C. is one of ICC’s culinary graduates. They were so excited to have me taste Ms. Kim’s exceptional cooking. Not only did we eat the outstanding bibimbap but I had an incredible soufflé, that was more eggy than the traditional French version and had a slight fishy, acidic bite. Believe me, it was good.

The souffle

Roasted Rice Soup

When Koreans eat, they put all the plates on the table at once. It’s a bit overwhelming at first, but I got to really like it. You just feel like you pulled up a chair to a buffet table and could then concentrate on your conversation with people at your table.My favorite sound in a Korean restaurant? All the laughter. No waiters interrupt the punch lines! I’d also like to share two final photos of meals with friends, one with our wonderful host for the visit, Rose Hyejung Han, the CEO of DreamVille Entertainment, and her colleague Ethan Woo, who was our indispensable liaison.

Front: Rose Hyejung Han, Dorothy Back: Jin-A Cha, Associate Professor, Department of Traditional Food Culture, Jeonju University, Jung Soon Kim, ICC Alumna and Associate Professor of Wester Cuisine, Jeonju University

Our liaison Sung Bong "Ethan"-Woo of DreamVille Entertainment and The ICC's Assistant Dean of Student Affairs/International Student Adviser Leland Scruby

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I found myself in Hong Kong on a Sunday. I was staying on the Kowloon side, so I took the opportunity to check out the local color. After walking through the Bird Garden and Flower Markets, I found Fa Yuen Street Market. It was 2 pm on a Sunday afternoon. I thought I would just see the cleaners hosing down the stalls. Boy, was I wrong. I found a vibrant fish market, so alive with not only people but every animal species they were selling. I couldn’t identify most of the fish. A picture is worth a million words, so check them out.

Bird Market and Flower Garden

Speckled Turtles

Fish with Air Bladders

Scallops and Prawns

Frogs anyone?

L: The office R: "Don't Touch!"

I thought I would probably go to my grave with not understanding what I just saw…but lo and behold- I serendipitously got the education I was looking for in a massage parlor. You see, after walking all afternoon, I treated myself to a foot massage. Right off Nathan Road I saw a sign with a large foot on it. I got the message and made it up to the 11th floor of a dimly lit building. It felt a bit sketchy but it was Sunday afternoon, so what could happen?
I knocked at 11F and they unlocked a big steel door. I was feeling a little uncomfortable but then the women inside were so welcoming (mainly with sign language) and ushered me to a big comfy chair. My feet were plunged into a warm bath. After a while a man came in, he was obviously a relative of some sort. He asked me in English when I got to Hong Kong. The masseuse had decided my feet needed a lot of work, and I didn’t have time for a two hour extravaganza. They of course, wanted me to come back. I told them I was sorry but I wouldn’t have time. One thing led to another and the man asked me what I did. When I told him that I ran a cooking school, he turned out to be a gonzo foodie. I pulled out my camera to show him my fish market shots.

Elephant Nose Clam

That’s when I found out about the elephant’s nose, the air balloons and rice soup. The white balloons attached to the fish in the photo are considered a delicacy. He said to boil them and serve with rice. The sausages hanging above the preserved ducks made him jump up and down. He told me to boil those with the rice and let the rice overcook to brown and stick to the pot. After eating the rice, one should scrape the browned bits and add water. His eyes were rolling while he told me how good that soup would be.

Fat Pressed Ducks, Pork Sausages

Crabs

I was so disappointed when my foot massage was over, since my culinary education came to an abrupt end too. My friend was so happy to share his culinary prowess. He insisted that I make it over to the Temple Night Market and eat the spicy crab.

All I can say is, if you find yourself in Asia…definitely do anything you can to eat in Hong Kong. Oh, and get one of those foot massages too!

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As far as I am concerned Korea is the ‘it’ country in Asia right now.  How do I know? All my Japanese friends told me so.  They are enamored of Korea. Why? Because this country has been open to the west for only 50  years and they are rapidly keeping pace with the most advanced countries.  There is a real spirit of curiosity, entrepreneurship, artistry as well as a respect for a deep culture. They are a unique people.  Their language is different from Chinese and Japanese. Their dress and beliefs are distinct.  I was intrigued and met intriguing people.

Firstly, we have a dynamic alum, Suji Park, who became my mentor and tour guide in all things Korean. She packed so much into our 24 hour day. (Will Boze from FCI and my daughter Olivia were with me.)  We started by wandering into a small Korean café at 10 am, gulping down delicious soups, noodles, omelets and cast iron fired pots of meats.

Seoul-Cafe
When we finally pried our way from the table we hit the streets- they were colorful and retail oriented and not surprisingly full of street food.  Not only was the food for sale on the street but it was being made on the street. My favorite vendor had a Tommy gun look-alike perched on a covered flat bed truck.  It churned and chugged and every 45 seconds spit out a rice cake with a puff of smoke trailing.  What fun!  Of course we had to try it.  We bought a dozen.  They were so delicious we carried them to Japan.

Down the street we saw a man in white making blanc de blanc, incredibly thin white noodles.  He was  a magician.  Between his hands he swung this sugary thing up and down, up and down and voila  strands appeared, hundreds if not thousands of them. When they were the right size he placed them in small mounds for sale. They were a bit too sugary for me but Olivia was addicted.

When we finally got to our luncheon destination, I felt I was in a movie. The surroundings were vintage Korean. We were going to try temple food. Sanchon was the first restaurant in Korea to offer to the public the food of the monks. In short, monks are vegan. Minimalism was not the style though. At first we were brought  a large round wicker basket filled with small bowls of various greens and root vegetables.  Then more and more bowls followed.  Whenever I asked what things were, basically the answer was, “mountain vegetables”.  It was early spring (Korea enjoys roughly the same climate as New Jersey.)  The vegetables tasted of fresh greens with hints of minerality.  Nothing lush.  Crisp and clean. Oh by the way, temple cuisine does not use garlic or onions….they are bulbs that might cause arousal!



We met the famous monk, Kim, Yon-Shik a.k.a Monk Jungsun, who made it his mission in life to bring the food of the temples to the people. He was smiling and polite. We were seated at the back of the restaurant near his work area.  His desks were covered with art paper and literally hundreds of bottles of nail polish. What was a monk doing with nail polish?  He was painting portraits of the Buddha!  And they were superb.  If you don’t believe me, you can go to Paris next January and see his exhibition!  These paintings were not miniatures either.  Some were yards long.

Monk, food, art… don’t stop there. Monk Jungsun is also a jazz pianist.  I was astounded.  My Japanese friends were correct.  Korea is fascinating.
Monk-Jungsun


Now to the highpoint of my stay-I was going to meet alumnae. We stayed at the lovely Seoul Hyatt hotel with it’s grand view of the city.  The service and décor were serene and modern. When our alum arrived for a cocktail there was genuine excitement.  They were doing very interesting projects (Suji herself has 5 restaurants!).  Some were bloggers, others working for small shops.  All of them pleaded for  The FCI to have a greater presence in Seoul.  I am in!  I love the place, I love Koreans and I can’t wait to go back.

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