Latest recipes

Acclaimed Seafood Restaurant in Porto Destroyed by Waves

Acclaimed Seafood Restaurant in Porto Destroyed by Waves

Shis, recently hailed by The Daily Meal, is no more — but there are plans to rebuild it

Shis was recently recommended by The Daily Meal in 5 Bites of Porto.

Word has belatedly reached us that Shis, a popular contemporary-style seafood restaurant on the Atlantic Coast in the northern Portuguese wine city of Porto, was totally destroyed by raging waves following a tornado in early January. Shis (the name is Portuguese for "x," and is pronounced somewhere between "cease" and "sheesh") was recommended by The Daily Meal in 5 Bites of Porto — published, ironically, the day the storm hit.

Expecting a high tide to come, restaurant employees had begun removing perishables and valuable table settings (the restaurant flooded under similar circumstances three years ago), but a massive wave hit the place around 4 p.m., knocking it down to joists and plywood. About ten people were in the restaurant when the wave hit, but none were injured. Another restaurant next door, Praia de Luz, suffered only minor damage, including the destruction of glassware.

The owners of Shis promise to rebuild quickly, perhaps reopening by early summer. The new restaurant will occupy the same spot, but be placed a few yards back from the waterline.

Lefkada (Island), Greece

Lefkada Island, a Greek island in the Ionian Sea, is often linked to love (through myths linking the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite, to the island) and is believed by many to be the home of Odysseus (Ithaca) in Homer’s Odyssey.

Anchored off Nydri on Lefkada Island, Greece

This large island (35 kilometers, or 22 miles, long) and the surrounding smaller islands are very popular yachting destinations. Adjacent to Lefkada on the southeast is Skorpios (Greece’s largest privately owned Island) which was formerly owned by Aristotle Onassis and has a beach known as Jackie’s Beach, which was her most popular spot on the island for swimming. Also nearby and popular for yachting is Meganissi Island.

Nydri harbor on Lefkada Island, Greece

Nydri (also spelled Nidri) is the most popular tourist resort on the island we anchored for two days just outside the harbor, between Leftakda Island and Skorpios. While it has a small permanent population (800), Nydri is chock full of harbor-side restaurants and many tourist-oriented shops on the main street (High Street).

Papanikolis Cave on Meganisi Island, Greece

The Papanikolis Cave is named after the Greek “Papanikolis” submarine that reputedly used the cave on the southwest end of Meganisi Island as a hideaway. The cave is the second largest in Greece and has a huge volume. Being 30 feet deep, it is believed that the Papanikolis submarine would tuck up inside this mammoth cave after its blitzkrieg attacks on the Italian armada.

Harbor on Meganisi Island, southeast of Lefkada island, Greece

We had a delightful al fresco lunch at Errikos restaurant on Meganisi Island.

Porto-Vathi “Errikos” Fresh Fish Restaurant on Meganisi Island, Greece

Local excursion boat on Meganisi Island, Greece

Church and small private harbor on Meganisi Island, southeast of Lefkada island, Greece

Skorpios, the private island of Aristotle and Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, is now leased to a Russian oligarch for 99 years. His daughter is reputedly living on the island and throws many jet-set parties on the island.

Private yacht of Russian oligarch leasing Onassis’ Skorpios Island (east of Lefkada Is.), Greece

Acclaimed Seafood Restaurant in Porto Destroyed by Waves - Recipes

Rating: Bold and balanced flavors

For our last Hedonist group dinner of 2014, we celebrate at LA’s best Indian restaurant, Akbar (Hermosa Beach branch).

Fellow Hedonist Chef Avi commands the kitchen!

The Menu can be found here, although the chef designed our feast himself and it features many unusual and off menu items.

The chutney’s and pickles. The green one is mint, the yellow-ish coconut, the one with corn spicy-pickled vegetables (yum! and oh, so gut burning) and the back corner a tangy one.

2002 Pol Roger Champagne Extra Cuvee de Reserve. RJ Wine 94. Delicious. Elegant in the mouth. Long. Really liked this a lot. Great aperitif. Ready to drink but probably a long life ahead too.

Papadum. Crispy slightly spicy “bread.”

2008 Kongsgaard Viorous. IWC 94. Nose dominated by peach nectar, flowers and spices from the viognier, with a complicating element of wild herbs. Dense and tactile yet with terrific bright fruit character and lovely brisk acidity to lift and frame the wine’s intense peach and stone flavors. Finishes chewy and very long. The roussanne here is “as thick as potato soup,” notes Kongsgaard, adding that its job is to “take the viognier down off its floral pedestal.” Both of these are high-pH varieties, and yet the net impression is of an energetic wine.

agavin: really interesting Rhone-like white. Really held up the spice.

Chicken chili. Although an Indian dish, this has Chinese influences. Sort of like a spicy super tender general Tso’s chicken!

2002 Dönnhoff Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle Riesling Spätlese. IWC 94. As with last year’s rendition, the first thing that hits me here is the distilled fruit character, discreet and high-toned in the nose, then intense and mesmerizing on the palate. Tropical, orchard and black fruit essences, sweet herbs, nut oils, brown spices, forest floor, sweet herbs and stones are all present, if scarcely possible to account for.

2005 Dönnhoff Oberhäuser Brücke Riesling Spätlese. IWC 90. Pale yellow. Rich aromas of lichee, lemon oil and pine.Luscious yet piquant tropical fruit flavors accented by smoke. In spite of the wine’s substantial depth, subtle acidity brings spice and finesse to the finish.

Chicken 65. Spicy south indian specialty served with serano and onion. Hot wings crossed with chicken nuggets!

2012 Carl Schmitt-Wagner Longuicher Maximiner Herrenberg Riesling Spätlese. MFW 90. Great nose of pears, slate, and citrus. On the palate rich almost at an Auslese level of density with golden apple, pear, mineral, and citrus. Long finish with mouth watering acidity. Hold 5+ years.

Pan sautéed Fresh Scallops topped with mixed pepper chutney. Succulent and delicious with only a mild heat.

2004 Bink Wines Pinot Noir Weir Vineyard. 89 points. agavin: weirdly grapey and concentrated for a pinot, but not bad.

2013 Ritual Pinot Noir. 87 points. Dark ruby but not so dark as to be unrecognizable as a pinot. Very serious, heady nose of a pinot that definitely has aspirations: smoke, spice, blood, and meat are dominant. You can tell from the first sniff that you’re going to enjoy this if you like “big” pinot noirs. Generous mouthfeel that persists. Flavors of roasted (charred) chestnuts, cola syrup, and a bit of candy apple (but not sweet, if that makes sense). Just a bit of gentle tannin. The only fault I find is that there is a bit too much of a roasted, bass note, oakiness overpowering the rest.

Indian style gobi Manchurian. Cauliflower with “Manchurian” (aka Chinese) sauce. Very similar to the chili chicken, but cauliflower. And it was one of the best cauliflower dishes I’ve ever had!

1975 Trentadue Winery Petite Sirah. agavin 94. Probably about as obscure a wine as one is likely to find. It was late harvest and has an Amarone like style to it. Full of velvety grapes and tons of strong fruit — 39 years later!

From my cellar: 1978 Château Mont-Redon Châteauneuf-du-Pape. JG 95. Gorgeous brick red with tawny rim.
Sweet rich fruit, plummy, earthy, rich blackberry compote, tar and licorice spice, but fruit dominant.
Fresh and smooth, superb balance and length, finishing with a deep long resonating kiss. Loving this. Hints of sherbet zest but mostly a rich earthy compote of plummy fruit with a lightly spicy edge. Amazingly fresh and crisp for its considerable age, better than many 15 years it’s junior. I have another and will happily lay to rest for another 5-10. Drinking beautifully.

agavin: I didn’t love this bottle (even though I brought it). The nose had a kind of wet towel vibe, although it wasn’t on the palette (fortunately). Good, but not all I was hoping for.

Apollo fish. Fresh Catfish marinated in spiced batter with hot chili chutney. Fabulous fried fish. Not too heavy, with a bright chili flavor.

2000 Lynch Bages. Parker 97. Beginning to open magnificently, the still dense purple-colored 2000 reveals a blossoming bouquet of blackberries, cassis, graphite and pen ink. Full-bodied with velvety tannins that have resolved themselves beautifully over the last eleven years, this wine is still an adolescent, but it exhibits admirable purity, texture, mouthfeel and power combined with elegance. One of the all-time great examples of Lynch Bages, the 2000 is just beginning to drink well yet promises to last for another 20-25+ years.

2012 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon 40th Anniversary. Parker 96. They appear to be immune to some of winedom’s less than intelligent trends and fads that we see from time to time, and the result is a spectacular 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon 40th Anniversary offering. Its dense purple/black color is followed by copious quantities of crème de cassis and blackberry fruit, silky tannins, a voluptuous texture and stunning purity as well as length. This full-bodied effort is a fabulous example of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon as well as a tribute to this amazing family. It is so good now, why wait? However, I’m sure that like most vintages of Caymus, it will last for 20-25 years. Amazing!

agavin: as one person put it, “more vanilla than haagen daas!”

Tandoori Battair. Quails marinated in a medley of spices and grilled in tandoor. Really tender and bursting with flavor.

2005 L’Aventure Winery Optimus. Parker 94. The least expensive red wine is the Optimus cuvee. The 2005 Optimus (51% Syrah, 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Petit Verdot) barely qualifies as a Rhone Ranger, but it offers classic chocolate, cassis, espresso, and subtle wood notes along with a dense ruby/purple hue, gorgeous concentration, and plenty of spice, cedar, and a Pauillac-like complexity and richness. This serious effort is more French than Californian. It should drink well for 6-10 years.

2008 Linne Calodo Nemesis Syrah. Parker 92-94. The dense purple 2008 Nemesis (always the heaviest in Syrah, with 85% Syrah and the rest Grenache and Mourvedre) is still youthful and intense, with plenty of body and hints of asphalt, graphite, blackberry and blueberry fruit, with some licorice and white chocolate. It is deep, full-bodied, rich, and should prove to be one of the longest lived wines of the 2008s from Trevisan, lasting well past a decade.

agavin: First we have Optimus, then Nemesis. Where is Hubris?

Fresh baked garlic naan.

2009 Lilian Ladouys. Parker 90. Elegant, with loads of black currant fruit, cherries and dusty, loamy soil notes as well as hints of tobacco leaf, spice box and cedar, it is a medium to full-bodied, nicely textured, fleshy wine that should drink nicely for 10-15+ years.

Peas Pillau. The Indian cousin of Chinese vegetable fried rice.

2007 Saxum Syrah Broken Stones. Parker 97+. The 2007 Broken Stones (71% Syrah, 18% Grenache, and 11% Mourvedre) is a gorgeously seamless wine with an inky/blue/purple color, a tight but promising nose of blue and black fruits, incense, charcoal, and extraordinarily pure black raspberry and blackberry fruit, fabulous concentration in the mouth, velvety, well-integrated tannins, and a mind-bogglingly long finish. This wine will benefit from 2-3 years of cellaring, and should keep for 15 or more.

agavin: I’m normally a New World hater, but I had to admit, I liked this wine. It’s grapey intensity shot through the spice wall too.

2009 Alban Vineyards Syrah Reva Alban Estate Vineyard. Parker 97. Moving on to the vineyard designated Syrahs and a fantastic vintage for this cuvee, which goes back to the 2005, 2006 and 2007 levels of richness, the 2009 Syrah Reva (100% Syrah aged 42-months in French oak) offers up more fruit and purity than normal, with only hints of its normal iodine/seaweed tinged profile. Loaded with sweet black raspberry, cassis, wild herbs, flowers and subtle blood and iodine qualities, it is a full-bodied, decadent Syrah that has incredible mid-palate depth, beautiful freshness and a blockbuster finish. It will continue to gain in depth and richness with short-term cellaring and have an easy 12-15 years or ultimate longevity. Drink 2015-2024.

2002 Peter Lehmann Shiraz Stonewell. Parker 92. The 2002 Stonewell Shiraz was barrel fermented and aged in new French and American oak hogsheads. The fruit was sourced from several of the Barossa’s top addresses. It offers up aromas of toasty oak, spice box (cinnamon, clove, nutmeg), asphalt, blueberry, and blackberry liqueur. This is followed by a structured, tightly wound wine in which black fruits and chocolate make an appearance. It will benefit from another 8-10 years in the cellar and should drink well through 2027.

House favorite Chicken Tikka Masala. Another perfect batch of this amazing dish. The chicken itself is all super tender chunks of white meat. The sauce has this snappy tang and complex flavor.

2002 TOR Kenward Family Wines Syrah Old Clones Los Carneros. IWC 90. Good ruby-red. Very ripe if slightly medicinal aromas of blackberry and white pepper, with some minty lift. Nicely juicy and light on its feet, with varietally accurate flavors similar to the aromas. This has a high pH (3.9) but also sound structure and reasonable alcohol (14.2%). Quite stylish. (The young 2003 was distinctly more gamey, with almost Cornas-like flavors.)

Coco Lamb. Lamb prepared in coconut milk with crushed peppers and a saute of red chilies and mustard seeds. Was in Top 10 dishes in 1997 – LA Los Angeles Times.

2012 Aubert Pinot Noir Ritchie Vineyard. Parker 91-93. Made from the Calera clone, the 2012 Pinot Noir Ritchie Vineyard offers up plenty of cola and root beer notes intermixed with black cherry, dusty, loamy soil and foresty nuances. Deep and medium to full-bodied with fresh, lively fruit, it should drink well for 10 + years.

Keema Mattar. Usually is with ground Lamb, This is wild boar Keema sauteed cooked with serano, onion, tomato. Nice and spicy.

2001 Panza Petite Sirah Stag’s Leap Ranch. 91 points. Remains a restrained, subtle pet with great balance and relatively elegant for the varietal. Will live a lot more years, but not sure it will evolve much more.

Brussel sprout curry. South Indian style brussel sprout.

2012 Prisoner Wine Co Proprietary Red The Prisoner. Parker 90. There are 20,000 cases of the 2012 The Prisoner, which is an interesting blend of 46% Zinfandel, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon,18% Petite Sirah, 12% Syrah, and a small amount of Charbono. Its deep ruby/purple color is followed by a big, peppery, meaty, Rhone-like bouquet with hints of bay leaf, unsmoked cigar tobacco, black currants and sweet jammy cherries. Medium to full-bodied and explosively fruity, this is a lovely, hedonistic, seriously endowed red to drink over the next 3-4 years.

Dal Makhani. Black lentils prepared with kidney beans with butter.


1986 Raymond-Lafon. Parker 92. It is hard to believe this wine will eclipse the great 1983, but the differences in the two wines are negligible. I do not believe the 1986 makes quite the impact on the palate that the huge, massive 1983 does, but there is a great deal of botrytis, and a profound, penetrating fragrance of sauteed pineapple, vanillin, toast, and honeyed peaches. In the mouth, the wine is more streamlined than the 1983, but lusciously rich and full bodied, with very good acidity and a creamy, intense finish. It will be interesting to compare the 1983 and 1986 as they evolve. My guess is that the 1986 will age faster. Anticipated maturity: Now-2012. Last tasted, 3/90.

Mango Cheesecake. Homemade Mango cheesecake, Chef Avi’s sister in law, Marla Kapoor’s recipe. Still going strong.

Kheer. Rice Pudding saffron flavored.

Kulfi. homemade Indian saffron and pistachio flavored ice cream. Really nice and creamy.

Akbar has long been my favorite LA Indian, and this meal was probably my best yet — and very different than usual. Chef Avi really turned out a lot of unique things tonight, including a bunch of southern specialties. And the wines were really great too. All in all an excellent way to send out the Hedonist year.

Palace of Pepper

Location: 6420 Rosemead Blvd. San Gabriel, CA 91775. (626) 286-5508

Date: December 28, 2014 & June 16, 2015

Cuisine: Beijing / Szechuan Chinese

Just six months ago I ate in this same space, but it was a different Chinese restaurant at the time, Beijing Duck House. Now, due to the rising popularity of Szechuan cuisine it has been rebooted. It still looks the same. It still serves Peking Duck. But there’s a lot more pepper on the menu.

2012 Gérard Boulay Sancerre La Comtesse Monts Damnés. IWC 93. Bright yellow. Spicy aromas of tangerine, lemongrass and cardamom, with a subtle floral twist. Tightly wound, offering citrus and spice flavors, with excellent clarity and finesse. The tenacious finish is long, saline and pure. This is one of the finest Sancerres of the vintage.

Boiled peanuts. On the table at most real Chinese restaurants.

Cold appetizers. Shredded potato. Cured spicy meats and cabbage. Beef tendon.

Water. The mason jar is one little tidbit of trend that has crept into this otherwise fairly old school SGV place.

2005 Gérard Raphet Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Lavaux St. Jacques. Burghound 91-93. A gorgeous and seductive mix of red pinot, raspberry, cool minerality and a touch of earth complements to perfection the full, rich, deep, serious and intense flavors that manage to pull off being powerful and concentrated yet supple and delicious without compromising in the slightest the balance, which is not easy to do. A really lovely 1er that offers grand cru quality.

They have a real duck carver.

Peking duck. This was one of the better peking duck’s we’ve had. Maybe not quite so good as Tasty Duck, but the meat was fabulous. The skin could have been a tad crispier, but the hoison sauce was top notch.

On our second visit the duck came in this cute duck plate.

Awesome hoisin sauce.

Pancakes and condiments.

Leftover skin is for some reason placed on a separate plate.

2011 Louis Jadot Meursault Les Narvaux. 90 points. Nice strong vanilla notes.

The second of the 𔄛 ways” for Peking duck is the duck soup.

Duck soup. A mild but pleasant broth with bits of meat and tofu.

Duck lettuce cups. The third of the ways. Not really that exciting.

House pancake. A nice fluffy bit of fresh bread with a little sweetness.

2004 Newton Chardonnay Unfiltered. 90 points. Well integrated with pear and apple notes and overtones of oak and vanilla, but not cloyingly so… Great body, mouthfeel and smooth finish.

Bean noodles. This is mixed up and the mung bean noodles are coated in a peanuty/spicy/tangy sauce. The sauce was awesome, with a bit of a mustard component. The tofu had a spongy texture, but the dish was overall quite nice.

Pork fried rice.

It’s evil cousin, chicken fried rice.

Spicy and sour glass noodles. I love this dish, with it’s heat, both hot and numbing, and strange vinegar tang. Not for the mild mannered or uninitiated.

You can see the noodles here. And the pepper!

2013 Errazuriz Chardonnay Wild Ferment Aconcagua Costa. 90 points. On the nose, a bit of young Burgundy-like tar on the nose in addition to some lively tropical fruit. Rich fruit on the palate, along with the aforementioned tar in the background. Nice acidic foil that is approachable now but should contribute to aging this a bit. Very approachable and enjoyable now, but I suspect better and more integrated in 2+ years.

Sweet corn. Pretty much what it looks like.

Cumin lamb. A really nice version of this dish. A lot of good lamb flavor.

Sizzling beef. Isn’t the animal-shaped dish cute?

2007 Dönnhoff Schloßböckelheimer Felsenberg Riesling Felsentürmchen Spätlese. 91 points. Ripe apples, nectarine and slight tinned peach aromas dominating. A slight struck flint quality and also some creamy notes. In the mouth the flavours of ripe, but slightly tart, red apple is to the fore – on this tasting the acidity is a little spiky for the residual sugar but it really is very good. Fresh and lovely, I think this wine has a long life ahead of it.

Whole fish in peppers. The last part of the name is true. There wasn’t so much fish, even if the pan was huge.

But there sure were a lot of peppers, peanuts, lotus root, garlic and the like. The sauce was actually pretty darn good (and hot).

Fish with two chilies. Under that mound of tangy chili sauce (in green and red) is another fish. It was pretty darn good.

1998 Nikolaihof Riesling Federspiel Steinriesler. 93 points. Light on its feet, pure, focused with bright citrus and pear fruit, a stony mineral undercurrent, and gentle floral and high toned herbal accents. Seamless and very polished on the palate.

Kung Pao Chicken. This slightly unusual take on the classic was hot AND sweet. Very interesting, and delicious!

Spicy chicken. This classic triple fried dry woked chicken was amazing. It was hot in both ways, and full of intense fried flavor. Very salty.

Have a few peppers!

Sweet and sour spareribs. Bony, very fried, and quite tasty.

2005 Faiveley Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru Les Chaignots. Burghound 88-91. Strong wood influence currently dominates the dark berry and black raspberry-infused nose that precedes the somewhat woody medium weight flavors that are round and sweet with fine depth and complexity but the wood is not subtle and it causes me to question whether it will cause the finish to eventually dry out?

Spicy noodles. Kind of a pepper noodle soup with bacon.

Dan dan mein. Tasty, but way way too soup to really be proper dan dan. The sauce on the mung bean noodles was closer.

2011 Faiveley Monthélie Les Champs-Fulliot. IWC 89-91. Good bright red. Vibrant aromas of cherry and pungent minerals convey a strong limestone character. Then sappy and serious on the palate, richer and deeper but less open than the Duresses. Finishes with big, rich tannins and noteworthy persistence. Very suave and structured Monthelie with good mid-term aging potential.

Shredded potato. The more or less typical Hunan / Szechuan version of this dish.

Vegetable dry hot pot. Mostly cauliflower. Nice spicy flavor. Similar to the dish (and only dish) served at Tasty Dining.

More peppers! Perhaps you sense a theme.

2007 Domaine de la Mordoree Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee de la Reine des Bois. Parker 97. Evolving beautifully, the 2007 Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee de La Reine des Bois has shed some of its crazy tannin and is showing a more layered, voluptuous profile. Possessing beautiful kirsch, blackberry, candied licorice, flowers and lavender, it offers knockout richness and decadence to go with brilliant purity of fruit, superb concentration, and a full-bodied, layered mouthfeel. While I don’t think it matches the ’01 or ’10, it’s an incredible bottle of wine that can be consumed anytime over the coming 10-15 years.

Lamb skewers. Nice cumin flavor.

MaPo tofu. One of my favorites in general. This was a fine rendition. Not the best I’ve ever had, but certainly still had that nice soft texture and gradual heat.

2010 DeRose Zinfandel Dryfarmed Old Vines Cedolini Vineyard.

Dumplings. Very nice straight up steamed potstickers. No sauce was in evidence, so we made due with Hoisin.

Kung Pao shrimp. Same sauce as the chicken above. Fabulous dish actually, even if not totally typical (with that spicy sweet vibe).

Fish filet boiled with green peppers. I couldn’t resist photoing this at a neighboring table. This is a Szechuan classic, with more of an emphasis on the numbing peppercorns (see them floating in the broth?).

Mixed Szechwan skewers. Little random bits in hot sauce.

Morning glory / Ong choy. Or some similar colon sweeper.

Overall, another highly enjoyable Chinese meal. The duck was on par with Tasty Duck and the other dishes were arguably better. This place was good before, and it’s even better now. Really, this was some very enjoyable food. A number of dishes were off the charts like the “spicy chicken.”

It should be noted that service was very good. On our second visit, our server Lulu did a fabulous job handling our “chaos.” She helped out with the ordering, managed the pacing well (not always the case at Chinese) and along with the other staff really were on point replacing plates, providing napkins, and the like. At one point when I was hunting for toothpicks she even went and brought some on a plate!

After all that heat we felt the need to cool off with a pair of massive shave ices:

Mango shaved ice with almond jelly, mango jelly, strawberries, and vanilla ice cream.

Strawberry shaved ice with almond jelly, vanilla ice cream, and honey boba.

Then finished off with a nice foot massage next door. Ah, the SGV.

How many Saddles to Peak?

Location: 419 Cold Canyon Rd, Calabasas, CA 91302 (818) 222-3888

Rating: Great ambiance and terrific game oriented food.

Ever year, both in the summer and winter, we Hedonists return to Saddle Peak Lodge. It’s pretty much the perfect venue for both a winter or summer food and wine blast, with gorgeous lodge patio, game driven food, and awesome wine service. For those of you who don’t know, Hedonist events have amazing wines (each diner brings at least one bottle).

Saddle Peak Ranch used to be a game lodge back in the early part of the 20th century. The rich and famous used to come up and hunt Malibu’s finest, such as this poor fellow. Now the deer are just served up on the menu.

Our private room.

2004 Taittinger Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs Comtes de Champagne. AG 96. I am thrilled with the way the 2004 Comtes de Champagne continues to evolve in bottle. A few years ago, the 2004 was quite focused and linear, in the style of the vintage, but more recently, the wine has begun to fill out beautifully. The 2004 remains bright, with a full range of citrus, white flower and mineral nuances that dance on the palate. A brisk, saline-infused finish rounds things out beautifully in a Comtes that impresses for its crystalline purity. I expect the 2004 will always remain a bit cool next to the more opulent 2002, but it is still drop-dead gorgeous.

1979 Château Rieussec. Parker 84. A lightweight Rieussec that does not have the intensity and richness of vintages such as 1981 or 1983, it does offer an elegant, well-made, less powerful wine that is light enough to be served as an aperitif.

Special liver. Somehow, this free food arrived on ours plates. It was kinda disappointing though, small, and not the best bit of “whatever it is.” The prep was good though.

And the sauternes looks good in the glass.

From my cellar: 1993 Robert Ampeau & Fils Meursault 1er Cru Les Perrières. Burghound 92. A fully mature and expressive nose of elegant secondary fruit and floral aromas introduces intensely mineral-driven, pure and beautifully well-detailed middle weight flavors that possess excellent depth and fine length. This is drinking perfectly now and should continue to do so without effort for at least another decade. Tasted only once recently.

An amuse of tomato soup.

Pretzel bread.

Chef’s daily selection of market oysters.

We tried to organize the Burgundies into a flight.

From my cellar: 1978 Remoissenet Père et Fils Richebourg. 84 points. Shrill on the palate. Not a great wine. Fill looked excellent, and there was some fruit, but way too much tannin.

1988 Remoissenet Père et Fils Richebourg. 84 points. I liked this one even less, or maybe about the same.

1996 Louis Jadot Richebourg. Burghound 92. The nose offers a blast of powerful black fruit and flavors that are dense, intense and amazingly long. This is a big-bodied wine with dusty, muscular tannins and penetrating, potent flavors culminating in a slightly warm though nicely complex finish. Impressively constructed and while this does not offer the refinement and finesse of the best of this range, the unusually concentrated, robust Richebourg character is admirable.

agavin: best of the 3 by a longshot.

Venison Carpaccio, horseradish, avocado, parmesan, capers, ciabbata.

1986 Lafite-Rothschild. Parker 100. The 1986 possesses outstanding richness, a deep color, medium body, a graceful, harmonious texture, and superb length. The penetrating fragrance of cedar, chestnuts, minerals, and rich fruit is a hallmark of this wine. Powerful, dense, rich, and tannic, as well as medium to full-bodied, with awesome extraction of fruit, this Lafite has immense potential. Patience is required. Anticipated maturity: 2000-2030.

Spanish octopus, fingerling potato, tequila vinaigrette, chermoula.

1999 Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia. Parker 88. Dense ruby-colored, with a tight personality, the 1999 Sassicaia offers up aromas of smoke, vanilla, and red as well as black currants. Medium-bodied, with high tannin and excellent purity, this elegant, restrained, moderately concentrated effort needs another 2-3 years of cellaring. It should keep for 12-15 years. The abundant tannin in addition to a certain austerity may prove troublesome in the future.

Caesar salad, garlic croutons, Parmigiano-Reggiano.

2005 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Monprivato. Parker 94+. The 2005 Barolo Monprivato is a very pretty, harmonious wine endowed with tons of purity in its fruit. All of the telltale aromas and flavors of Monprivato are there – geraniums, roses, spices and flowers – but backed up by quite a bit of heft and body as well. Today, the 2005 Monprivato is quite tannic, but it should come around with a few more years in bottle. In some ways, the 2005 reminds me of the 1999, another vintage in which the Ca d’Morissio was not produced. Monprivato is typically one of the hardest wines to accurately assess when young, and only time will tell what heights it ultimately reaches. For now, the future certainly seems bright. This is a mysterious, seductive Monprivato that will be fascinating to follow. Mascarello was especially selective with his Monprivato and only bottled about 50% of his production. He also blended in the juice kept separately for the Ca d’Morissio, which in this vintage is about 20% of the final blend as opposed to the more typical 10% in vintages when the Ca d’Morissio is produced. Anticipated maturity: 2015-2035.

Roasted Pink Lady apple salad, endives, St. Agur blue cheese, pecans.

Butternut squash agnolotti, cranberry port reduction, purple kale, pine nuts.

1995 Penfolds Grange. Parker 92. An impressive Grange that may ultimately prove to be underrated, like many wines from this vintage, the 1995, a blend of 94% Shiraz and 6% Cabernet Sauvignon, exhibits a saturated plum/purple color and a sweet blackberry liqueur nose intermixed with cassis, licorice, and new oak. The wine is textured, jammy, full-bodied, with impressive levels of extract, glycerin, and black fruit flavors. It is long, ripe, with unobtrusive acidity and tannin. Anticipated maturity: 2004-2018.

1996 Penfolds Grange. Parker 96. Deep garnet colored, 1996 Grange is scented with stewed plums, warm cherries and mince meat with hints of Ceylon tea, black olives and Chinese five spice. Medium-full bodied and with a generous amount of flesh on the palate, it gives very crisp acid and a medium-firm level of grainy tannins, finishing long. The layered complexity of this wine is just beginning to emerge, promising better things to come.

1990 Paul Jaboulet Aine Hermitage la Chapelle. Parker 100. The 1990 La Chapelle is the sexy and opulent. I had the 1990 at the Jaboulet tasting, and again out of a double magnum three months ago. On both occasions it was spectacular, clearly meriting a three-digit score. The modern day equivalent of the 1961, it deserves all the attention it has garnered. The color remains an opaque purple, with only a slight pink at the edge. Spectacular aromatics offer up aromas of incense, smoke, blackberry fruit, cassis, barbecue spice, coffee, and a touch of chocolate. As it sits in the glass, additional nuances of pepper and grilled steak emerge. There is extraordinary freshness for such a mammoth wine in addition to abundant tannin, an amazing 60-second finish, and a level of glycerin and thick, fleshy texture that have to be tasted to be believed.

1995 Chateau Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape Hommage A Jacques Perrin. Parker 96. The 1995 Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Jacques Perrin reveals a black/purple color, and a huge nose of Provencal herbs, smoked olives, grilled meats, and sweet, jammy black-cherry and black-raspberry fruit. Full-bodied, and oozing with extract and glycerin (nearly concealing the wine’s formidable tannin levels), this blockbuster Chateauneuf du Pape will need a minimum of 10-12 years of cellaring it should keep through the first half of the next century.

New Zealand Lamb Rack.

Saddle Peak Wild Game Trio, served with chef’s accompaniments.

Elk with bacon.

Buffalo short ribs.

Durham Ranch Bison T-Bone 20 oz.

2005 Harlan Estate Proprietary Red Wine. Parker 97. Not unexpectedly, the 2005 Harlan Estate performed slightly better than it did last year. As these wines often do, it continues to put on weight as it is bottled very late by Napa standards, and there is no fining or filtration. The 2005 exhibits a gorgeous thick-looking, ruby/purple color in addition to a beautiful nose of burning embers interwoven with creme de cassis, roasted meats, sweet black truffles, and spring flowers. A hint of lead pencil shavings also emerges from this cuvee, which seems to want to be both a Pauillac and a ripe vintage of La Mission Haut Brion. Full-bodied, dense, pure, and revealing sweeter tannin than I remember, it can be drunk now, but it will no doubt display even greater complexity in 10, 20, and 30 years.

1974 Ridge Zinfandel Monte Bello. Surprisingly intact. It had some kind of nostalgic meaning to Yarom and Ron, and Yarom points out how rare it must be — if there are even any left. The Zin wasn’t a big production wine anyway, and so now 40 years later, not so many.

2005 Verite Le Desir. Parker 99. This blend of 87% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc and 2% Malbec (the highest percentage of Merlot ever used for Le Desir) reveals notes of truffles, mocha, wild mountain berry fruit, crushed rock and coffee. Fabulous fruit, tremendous viscosity and opulence and a full-bodied, voluptuous texture result in a wine that is hard to resist even though it remains an adolescent in terms of development. It should provide pleasure over the next 15+ years.

Sautéed Vegetable Selections.

Lobster Mac & Cheese. Good but needed more lobster.

Truffled French Fries, Parmesan, Parsley. Awesome. Black Garlic Ketchup on the side.

Onion Rings, Black Garlic Ketchup. Amazing.

Sautéed Wild Shimeji Mushrooms. Really yummy.

2003 Giuseppe Quintarelli Amarone della Valpolicella Riserva. AG 93. Kirsch, cloves, leather and licorice are some of the many notes that emerge from Quintarelli’s 2003 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Riserva. Dark, powerful and brooding, the Riserva is a bit less marked by the year than the straight bottling. Here it is the wine’s explosive, full-bodied finish that stands out most. This is a fascinating wine from Quintarelli. I am a bit surprised to see a Riserva in 2003, but it works, and beautifully. When they are on, these wines are utterly hypnotizing, as is the case here.

agavin: had a grapefruit note that was totally odd for an Amarone!

2001 Sine Qua Non Mr K The Noble Man (Chardonnay). Parker 97. While richer, sweeter, and more unctuous than the Iceman, 2001 Mr. K The Noble Man (Chardonnay), a Trockenbeerenauslese look-alike, possesses nervy, vibrant acidity that is hard to imagine in a wine of this mass and richness. The residual sugar is 255 grams per liter, with an amazing 11.1 grams per liter of acidity, and 11.7% finished alcohol.

Chocolate coffee pot de crème with espresso crème, chocolate-covered coffee beans, and almond coffee dust.

Chocolate raspberry brownie.

Banana huckleberry croissant bread pudding with white chocolate ice cream.

This was a total blow out event. The food was impeccable and the service warm. We had so much wine we left them a little overwhelmed, but that’s par for the course. Plus we had a really great mix of people and some of the most awesome wines. Tonight was particularly killer in the wine department as you have seen.

Trentino-Alto Adige “Diversity and Drama”

Italy as we know it today is a relatively young country. Before its unification in 1861, it was a collection of independent city-states and republics all with very distinct characteristics. Geography, climate, foreign invasions and proximity to other countries shaped the culture and cuisine of each of the twenty regions that exist today.

Their complexities make Italy such an interesting and layered country. How lucky I was to have two such knowledgeable and talented partners to guide me through the history, the culture and the cuisine of each of those regions. Wanda Bottino was my culinary instructor and Italian language teacher (the later by default since she neither spoke English nor had any real interest in learning it) and her son – and my business partner – Paolo Volpara was my travel guide who accompanied me to each region, many of them multiple times. Discovering those regional complexities was the best part of my Italian journeys. There is nothing – no lecture, no book, no cooking class – that could have given me a clearer and more comprehensive understanding of Italy’s diversity than actually being there with the two of them at my side.

As the history books state, the unification of Italy is considered one of the most impressive political and military achievements of the 19 th century. That process, called Risorgimento, started in 1815 and was completed in 1871. The obstacles to unification were as many and varied as the leaders of the movement. Garibaldi, Mazzini and Cavour were only a few of the famous names who sought to unite these very different factions into one country. Finally after years of revolutionary movements and failed negotiations, Italy became the united, richly layered country it is today.

That diversity, I discovered, could even exist within a region. Trentino-Alto Adige, a region in the northwest corner of Italy, is comprised of two distinct autonomous provinces very different from one another. The southern province of Trentino reflects the Italian cuisine and character of its regional neighbors, Veneto and Lombardia while the northern province of Alto-Adige (also known as South Tyrol), strongly exhibits the “Germanic” characteristics of neighboring Austria and Switzerland. I was amazed to learn that Trentino-Alto Adige was not even a part of the original Italian unification of 1861. Before it was annexed in 1919 after World War I, it was a part of Austria-Hungary so it is no wonder that many areas still remain distinctly German.

Our visit to this region was two-fold one to experience the dual nature of these two provinces and the other to explore the Dolomites, the mountain range that forms a part of the Southern Limestone Alps and according to Paolo, features some of the most beautiful and dramatic mountain landscapes in the world.

We arrived in the city of Bolzano, the capital of the Alto Adige province, on a very cold February day in 1980. It was dusk and the sun was slowly slipping behind the crest of the mountains casting a blue and violet light over the city. Since our hotel was near the center of the city and close to the restaurant Paolo had selected for dinner, we decided to quickly unpack and take a leisurely stroll through the town. Walking its narrow streets lined with buildings of a very Tyrolean character, I knew without being reminded that we were in the more “Germanic” of the two provinces.

Bolzano (or Bolzen as it is referred to in German) has a distinct Austrian flair. German was the language I heard both in our hotel and on the streets. Occasionally it mixed with the more lyrical, musical Italian, but mostly German dominated. Its throaty, harsh tone always sounds so reprimanding to me. To this day it makes me want to be on my best behavior. Or else!

The restaurant we chose was known for its wild game specials and classic German dishes. Rabbit, the guide stated, was one of the restaurant’s frequent specials. Rabbit is a favorite of mine and I always order it when I see it on a menu (which is infrequently). I looked forward to choosing it that night as my entrée.

The warmth of the restaurant embraced us as we entered. Flickering candlelight combined with the subdued light from the brass wall sconces cast a welcoming glow over the restaurants’ soft green walls and lovely German lace curtains hanging in each window. As promised, the menu offered a wide assortment of German specialties although, as Paolo noted, the German names were “Italianized”. Crauti, the Italian word for sauerkraut was paired with pork spareribs. Canederli, the Italian word for knodel (dumplings) came with a hearty tomato sauce. Both tempted me but I was holding out for rabbit. But alas – no rabbit on the menu.

The waiter arrived at our table exhibiting a decidedly superior air, both in the way he held himself and in his manner of speaking. Paolo inquired if by any chance coniglio (Italian word for rabbit) would be one of the specials that evening? The waiter offered nothing but a cold rather haughty stare tilting his head to one side in a quizzical gesture. “Lepre?” Paolo then asked. (another Italian word for rabbit – the larger variety). Still the same look. Did this guy speak Italian, I wondered? Certainly he lived in Italy. Even if it was the predominately German part of the region and even if his main language was German, he must understand Italian food words. He was, after all, a waiter…in a restaurant…in Italy.

Paolo quickly understood the game – this very conspicuous vie for superiority – a veritable “pissing contest.” But for what? The German language over the Italian language? Was the waiter still holding a grudge against his city’s annexation into Italy back in 1919 and taking it out on Paolo? The annexation was, I learned later, controversial and unpopular with some of its citizens – but come on! This was some sixty plus years later.

Whatever the reason – Paolo was determined not to use the German word for rabbit (hasenpfeffer) even though he clearly knew it. It was the “principle of the thing.” So instead Paolo very carefully, very deliberately “air drew” a rabbit dramatically emphasizing a rabbit’s long ears. Would this finally make it clear what we were asking for? I could not suppress a laugh. The waiter, however, did not appreciate my laughter or Paolo’s “theatrical” rabbit drawing. Whatever finally motivated him to acknowledge Paolo’s question – whether it was his desire to tend to his other tables or his realization that it was becoming increasingly apparent that he was not winning this contest, the rabbit question was ultimately answered. No there was no coniglio on the menu that night.

That issue resolved, we went back to studying the menu in front of us. I wanted something cozy and comforting – something that might ameliorate the negative, very unwelcoming rabbit “discussion” that had just occurred. I finally decided upon what seemed like a nice winter-friendly dish – Rindsgulasch served with Spatzle. How can one not be comforted by spatzle?

Rindsgulasch is basically goulash, a peasant dish (my favorite category) that comes from the medieval Kingdom of Hungary. The story goes that when the herdsmen would go on long cattle drives all over Europe to sell their famous Grey cattle, their own sustenance came by butchering the weaker cows in the herd. That meat was used to make stew, which they cooked in kettles over an open fire. Those herdsmen were called gulyas, thus the name goulash. Goulash is a dish found all over Central Europe especially in Hungary, Germany and Austria and in two Italian regions that were originally a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire Friuli-Venetia Giulia and the region we were visiting this cold February weekend, Trentino-Alto Adige.

© rob warner photography 2017

(serves 4)

2 ¼ pound beef (chuck), cut into bite-sized pieces
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1-tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1-½ cups chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 ounces pancetta, diced
3 teaspoons sweet Hungarian paprika
½ cup tomato paste
5 – 6 cups beef broth
zest of 1 lemon
salt & pepper to taste

In a large dutch oven, heat the butter with the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the beef and brown for approximately 15 – 20 minutes. Make sure meat is well browned on all sides.

Remove the beef and set aside.

Add the onion, pancetta and garlic to the same pan and continue to sauté for another 5 – 10 minutes.

Return the meat to the pan and sprinkle with the paprika.

Whisk the tomato paste with 1 cup of the beef broth then add to the ingredients of the pan, stirring constantly, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

Add the remainder of the broth, the lemon zest, salt and pepper. Cover and turn the heat to low. Simmer for 1-¼ hours until the beef is tender and the broth has thickened to a dark reddish brown sauce.

Note: you want enough sauce to ladle over the accompanying starch so you might need to add a little more broth or water if sauce gets too thick or reduced too much.

Serve with spatzle, polenta or potatoes.

(serves 4)

2 ½ cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup milk
½ cup water

Combine flour, salt & baking powder in a bowl. Mix together the eggs, milk and water. Gradually add to the flour mixture. Mix well. Dough must be firm enough to retain its shape.

Bring a large pot (3 – 4 quarts) of salted water to a boil. Using a spatlze maker place the dough in the holding cup and slide back and forth forcing the dough through the holes into the boiling water. Or place dough in a colander and force the dough through the holes or place dough on a wooden board and cut or break off small pieces with a spoon into the boiling water. Cook in boiling water for 1 to 2 minutes. Drain into a colander or remove from the water with a slotted spoon.

Toss with a little butter or olive oil so they don’t stick together.

When ready to serve the goulash, place goulash on each plate or bowl with spatzle on the side or in the middle (as pictured in photo) and ladle spatzle with the sauce from the goulash.

Over coffee the next morning Paolo and I had a good laugh about our “rabbit evening.” Even though I never so much as took a bite of rabbit during my trip to this town, rabbit is the first food that comes to mind whenever I remember my night in Bolzano.

During our weekend, I also recalled my Trentino-Alto Adige cooking session with Wanda that had taken place in Milan the previous month. Wanda’s views were never wishy-washy! She had rather indignantly stated “This region is not very much like the rest of Italy! Their food does not appeal to me – it actually does not appeal to most Italians.” I had to agree that what I had seen and eaten so far was certainly not the typical Italian food most of the world knew and loved. But its appeal? Unlike Wanda, it did appeal to me. I loved that rich, flavorful goulash with the warm savory spatzle I happily consumed the night before. Actually, many of the dishes on the menu looked appealing. Sauerkraut (described as crauti) is one of my favorite German dishes and one that Wanda and I had tested in our Trentino-Alto Adige session. Maybe it’s my German roots. Sour is my thing – from sauerkraut, to pickles, to German potato salad to the classic German sweet and sour cabbage rotkohl, I love them all. But of course I agreed with Wanda – who would think of those dishes as Italian?

Certainly my perception of Italian regional cuisine was changing with each region we visited. Italy, I discovered almost immediately, was not just pasta and pizza. I encountered dish after dish of incredibly delicious but unexpected products and preparation. Only a year prior to this journey I had visited another region whose culture and cuisine surprised me – a region in the opposite corner of Italy – Valle d’Aosta right on the border of France. Valle d’Aosta also did not feel like the Italy I knew. Like Trentino-Alto Adige is a bi-lingual region. But instead of German the second language is French. Street signs are in both French and Italian and almost all place names and local surnames are French in origin. The cuisine doesn’t feature much pasta – it is known for being hearty, full of filling starches and rich dairy. (See blog Chapter 2 – Valle d-Aosta “You had to be there”)

Our discussion of diversity would continue throughout the weekend. It was now time, however, to explore the Dolomites. As we drove out of Bolzano (often described as the gateway to the Dolomites), we first encountered the rolling hills that led up to more dramatic mountainous landscape. The hills were blanketed with row after row of vines and orchards all organized in orderly patterns reminding us that we were in an area of the world that clearly exhibited the neatness of Germany and Austria – even in its agriculture. Wine and apples are two of this region’s most important products. Rust-colored roofed chalets dotted the hillside and lovely glistening lakes hidden in between rocky, rugged cliffs seemed to pop out of nowhere.

Paolo near an Alto Adige lake

Further into the mountains, the landscape became more varied. Pinnacles and steeples inserted themselves alongside steep vertical snow covered peeks. We stopped for lunch at an unpretentious Alpine Chalet sandwiched between a rich green valley (still green even in February) and a sheer icy vertical wall. The crisp, clear blue sky dotted perfectly with small white clouds completed what felt like a scene out of an idyllic winter wonderland.

Next to a welcoming fireplace, we relaxed with a glass of Gewurztraminer, one of the great wines of the region. I was surprised to learn that this wine originated in the Alto Adige winegrowing village of Tramin. “Traminer” was a word known since the thirteenth century throughout the German-speaking world. Its aromatic, slightly sweet-spicy flavors went perfectly with the plate of Speck I ordered to begin my meal.

Speck, the most prominent cured meat of the region, has an intriguing taste. Unlike prosciutto which is air-cured, speck is smoked, but in a most interesting way – first marinated in brine flavored with black pepper, pimento, garlic, sugar and juniper berries then dried and lightly smoked for two to three weeks. Next comes the air curing (just like prosciutto). It is hung in a cool place for up to five months. Both speck and prosciutto are made from the hind leg of a pig but speck is deboned before curing. In my opinion, I find speck to be more flavorful and less mushy than prosciutto. I love both but my preference is speck. For some reason it has not developed the same popularity in America as prosciutto.

The plate of speck I ordered for lunch was drizzled with a horseradish cream (called cren) and garnished with thinly sliced cucumbers.

© rob warner photography 2017

For my main course I ordered canederli (also known as knodel in German). Canederli are bread dumplings served either in broth or with sauce. They had been served in a tomato sauce at the restaurant the night before. This version was studded with pieces of speck and served in a rich beef broth sprinkled with grated Parmesan cheese and chives.

© rob warner photography 2017

Serves 4

10 oz. stale bread, diced
1-cup milk
3 eggs, slightly beaten
½ teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped (approximately 1 cup)
3-tablespoon parsley, minced
½ cup flour
¼ grated Parmesan
2 oz. speck, diced
12 cups broth – vegetable or chicken
Beef broth
Grated Parmesan

Place stale, cubed bread into a large bowl. Add the milk, eggs, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Mix well and let rest for approximately 2 hours, covered with a towel, in a cool place. Stir occasionally making sure liquid is absorbed evenly.

In the meantime, melt the butter with the olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the onions for approximately 5 – 10 minutes. Let stand until cool.

After the bread mixture has rested for 2 hours, mix again. Then add the flour, the parsley, the cheese, speck and the cooled onions along with the melted butter and olive oil from the onion sauté pan. Mix well.

Press into balls with your hands (2 inches in diameter). Mixture should make about 14 balls.

After making each ball, roll it in flour to prevent the canederli from sticking to one another. When all canederli have been formed and rolled in flour, re-roll them in the flour and mold them a second time.

Bring the broth to a boil. Place the canederli gently in the boiling broth. When the broth has resumed a boil, boil them for approximately 15 minutes. (They will be floating the whole time) Drain them gently.

In the meantime bring beef broth to a boil. Add the canederli and boil gently until heated through (if they have cooled). To serve, put 3 canederli in a bowl and ladle beef broth over them. Top with grated Parmesan and chopped chives. Serve immediately.

Note: Canederli can be made ahead and refrigerated.

Though somewhat less dramatic, our drive through the southern province of Trentino was still breathtakingly beautiful. I was amazed at the vineyards that covered many of its steep slopes making viticulture, I imagined, incredibly difficult. But just as in other Italian regions that face similar challenges, there is an emphasis on high quality wine in this region. I guess when anything is that difficult you want to make certain that your efforts produce the very best.

The province of Trentino tends toward wines made in large co-operatives whereas Alto Adige has many smaller producers. Amazingly – even though Alto Adige is Italy’s smallest winegrowing region it leads Italy in wine meeting the DOC designation. Its climate naturally suits white wine making – the bright alpine sunshine mixed with the heat of the valley floor during the summer results in rich, ripe styles of white wines. Convito has carried many over the years – especially the whites. I very much like the Sauvignon Blanc from Tramin, a winery located in the Alto Adige province. Sauvignon Blanc has been my favorite wine for a long time. This one exhibits the aromas of grapefruits, melons and cut grass that I love so much about this varietal.

Time constraints prevented us from staying another night in the region (Paolo had an early morning meeting back in Milan) so we stopped at Riva del Garda, a town located at the southern extremity of the Alps – still in Trentino-Alto Adige but on the edge of the Italian Veneto region and on our way back to Lombardia.

It was still rather early in my regional journeys but I was certainly getting a very clear picture of the culinary diversity of this country. “You will see as we visit each region, “ said Paolo, “all the many well-known civilizations that impacted Italy – the Etruscans, Romans, Phoenicians, Greeks, Arabs. I could go on and on.”

In Riva del Garda, we chose a trattoria tucked away in a backstreet just off the main square with a warm and bustling atmosphere and a menu filled with some gutsy flavors. It was clear that we were in the more Italian part of the region – not a German sauerkraut dish or a canederli to be found. But still speck was on the menu mostly as an ingredient in several pasta dishes. I chose one with a cauliflower and speck sauce. The lightly smoked flavor of speck combined beautifully with the distinct nutty, slightly bitter taste of cauliflower.

© rob warner photography 2017

Pasta with Cauliflower and Speck
Serves 3 – 4

1-pound pasta cooked al dente
1 head of cauliflower (approximately 1 ½ pound, cut into small florets (end result after trimmed and cored, will be approximately 1 pound or 4 ½ cups)
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup chopped onion
1-tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 oz. speck diced
pinch of chili pepper flakes *
¼ cup dry white wine
zest of one lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
minced Italian parsley
Grated Parmesan

Melt the butter with the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and the cauliflower and sauté for approximately 10 minutes until cauliflower begins to brown. Remove the cauliflower and onion and set aside

In same pan, add 1-tablespoon olive oil

Sauté speck until browned – about one minute. Add garlic continue sautéing for one more minute. Add chili pepper flakes. Mix well. Deglaze pan with the wine. Add cauliflower back into pan. Add lemon juice and lemon zest.

Serve mixed with pasta

*for those who like a little more spice in their food, increase the pinch to a larger pinch

At this point in my regional Italian journeys I had visited enough “traditional” regions to be able to embrace the diversity of some of the less traditional ones. It had been both Paolo’s and my desire that our café and market represent the cuisine of all regions of Italy. But eventually I would discover that many dishes – like those of this region in particular – were not always well received by our customers. “Crauti” with spareribs, which I prepared for the market hot case on many occasions just didn’t sell. After several attempts we dropped it from our selection. And” Jota”, a cabbage and red bean soup from the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, went down the same path. When offering it as the soup of the day in the café there were very few takers. Even though I usually described those items and others by their regional history, customers simply did not recognize them as “real Italian”.

However, as time has gone on, the love for Italian food and wine in America has increased exponentially. American tastes have become more sophisticated and more adventuresome which has allowed some of our more remote regional Italian dishes to catch on. Melanzane alla Parmigiana (Eggplant Parmesan) from Campania (a dish also claimed by Sicily), could be enjoyed as well as Lasagna Calabrese (meat, egg & artichoke lasagna from Calabria or Risotto alla Milanese (risotto with saffron) from Lombardia and Trenette col Pesto (noodles with pesto) from Liguria. Spaghetti and meatballs and Fettuccine al Fredo were still wildly popular (and are to this day) but customers began to be more adventuresome and order risottos, polentas and pasta dishes with other compelling sauces like Matriciana (tomato and pancetta) and Carbonara (egg, cream, and pancetta) – two dishes from the central region of Lazio. So on one hand, there was a widening acceptance of Italy’s diversity but on the other – some dishes still crossed the line for American taste. Sauerkraut on Convito’s menu was just never going to make it.

Our dinner in Riva del Garda was an incredibly satisfying meal to cap off an incredibly satisfying trip. Though brief, I was happy to add it to my ever-expanding appreciation for Italy’s diversity. Wanda’s words of wisdom often came back to me during my intense Italian learning experience “La ricchezza della cucina italiana risiede nella sua diversita?” (The richness of Italian cuisine lies in its diversity). This I realized more with each new journey. Peeling back those layers to discover who and how and why a region’s culinary dimensions came about appealed to both my love of history as well as my love of food. It is the layering of a region, actually the layering of the world that makes everything so compelling – so very interesting.

With the mountains rising in back of us, we drove along the shores of the great Lake Garda, finally reaching the highway where Paolo stepped on the accelerator and took me on yet another of his infamous high-speed rides back to Milan. Viva Italia!

The 30 little known gems to visit first, before they become massively popular

It’s a big world out there—so big that it can be daunting to decide what international destinations to visit in the course of a lifetime. From natural wonders to man-made masterpieces, from wildlife to cityscapes, the choices are seemingly endless.

But how do you choose your next destination and arrive there before the masses destroy it and convert it to a tourist trap?

We’ve whittled it down to thirty amazing places to see before they become the next hit.

Pick one or pick them all—you can’t go wrong.

1. Manchester, U.K.

Once famed for its towering industry and more recently, vibrant music scene, Manchester is now one of the fastest growing cities in Europe, buoyed by an influx of digital and media companies. Servicing this boom are a number of upscale and design-led arrivals. The new Cultureplex, an ex-railway goods warehouse in the northern quarter, offers up a restaurant, bar, and café, alongside a constantly revolving program of film, visual arts, and performances. Opening this spring, Hotel Brooklyn, inspired by the New York City borough from which it gets its name, is housed in a Victorian brownstone. The team behind Chiltern Firehouse recently unveiled Native Manchester, a new multi-use 166-apartment hotel in the northern quarter.

Meanwhile, chef du jour Tom Kerridge has opened an outpost in the new Stock Exchange hotel, a 40-room Relais & Chateaux property in a storied Edwardian Baroque building. Kerridge’s Bull & Bear restaurant serves smartly prepared British classics, such as crispy pig’s head with celeriac rémoulade. Epicureans are also flocking to Mana, which recently won the city’s first-ever Michelin star. The Nordic-leaning restaurant’s highlight is a 12- to 16-course tasting menu featuring morsels such as barbecued duck broth and lavender or yakitori-style eel with roasted yeast and blueberry.

Plan your trip with the help of our travel expert

2. Rijeka, Croatia

With amazing views of the Adriatic coast, blockbuster beaches, and a colorful Baroque heart — not to mention one of the world’s biggest Carnival celebrations — it’s a wonder that Rijeka isn’t better known. But despite ticking pretty much every conceivable vacation box (toss in world-class museums, a bevy of top restaurants, and cinematic hikes in the surrounding mountains), it remains an under-the-radar Adriatic treasure. That’s all set to change in 2020, when Croatia’s third city is honored as a European Capital of Culture. Plenty is planned within the port town to mark the occasion: more than 1,000 official musical performances, literary events, art exhibitions, and parties the multimillion dollar overhaul of the historic Sugar Refinery building into the Rijeka City Museum and the addition of Hilton’s new five-star resort, the Costabella, in April. But perhaps most anticipated is the reopening of the ship Galeb (“Seagull”). Used as Tito’s personal mobile home while he was President of Yugoslavia, the yacht — where countless global leaders and celebrities were entertained — is being refurbished and transformed into a museum ahead of Rijeka’s moment in the global.

Plan your trip with the help of our travel expert

3. Porto de Pedras, Brazil

Porto de Pedras, gives you a pretty good idea of what heaven might look like. You know, the kind of place where you wake up every morning to a blood red sunrise and palm trees silhouetted against the sky. Between the estuaries of the Camaragibe and Manguaba rivers, on the northern shore of Alagoas, lies a stretch of Brazil’s coast where the ocean water is hot and clear, the landscape is framed by coconut trees and it’s still possible to go for miles without seeing a soul. A place where the full moon rises on the sea and manatees swim free. Where large, colorful houses share the few vestiges of civilization with town squares, where the inns have hot tubs, bungalows with private pools and decks with lounge chairs (with caipirinhas made with key lime or lemongrass at the snap of your fingers). Where the restaurants serve platters of seafood and fish encrusted with ground nuts. Some chilled wine to go with it? Always. We traveled the most charming 12-mile [20 km] stretch of the Ecological Route, part of an environmental protection area on the Coral Coast, and we surveyed all its secrets. Not to mention the natural pools – an added bonus in these parts.

Pedras do Patacho hotel with just 7 bungalows, is located in a wide strip of white sand, warm waters and virtually untouched vegetation. Patacho Beach, located in the middle of the Ecological Route of Alagoas, stands out for its paradisiacal look. The perfect destination for those who value nature and, above all, tranquility.

Plan your trip with the help of our travel expert

4. Sicily, Italy

Sicily is mesmerizing, all compact in this beautiful island. Sicily is an authentic place having remarkable sites renowned world-wide. The historic Valley of temples located here consists of the Doric temples standing tall, with the breath-taking backdrop of gardens of olives and almonds. Hamlets’ names Noto are well-known for the ‘Baroque-type’ architecture having facades made of limestone. It is a must-visit place in 2020 for both families, newly-wed ones, and a singleton! It is not every day you get the chance of exploring the unnerving scenery of Mount Etna, which is Europe’s largest and most active volcano. Sicily stands amongst the most preferred holiday destination in the past few years.

A romantic hideaway set on the Bay of Mazzarò, Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea retains all the charm of a private residence.

Built by an aristocratic family in 1919, Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea is a luxurious hideaway surrounded by subtropical gardens. Here on the rocky, romantic, and lush shores of Taormina, moments of pause are plentiful. Perhaps the spa is your preferred spot to ponder? Or perhaps you’d instead prefer to venture out in search of inspiration to Taormina, a “paradise on earth” full of ancient culture, food, and architecture.

Plan your trip with the help of our travel expert

5. Tbilisi, Georgia

This city’s creative groundswell has been building for a few years now, with young designers, chefs, architects, and artists — many of whom never knew life under the USSR — lending a palpable energy to the place. Georgian design, its profile boosted by Balenciaga creative director Demna Gvasalia, is on full display at the city’s surfeit of concept stores — find many of them, such as clothing atelier Flying Painter, at the mixed-use development Fabrika, which occupies a Soviet-era clothing factory. And “new Georgian” cuisine is finding its footing as young chefs bring traditional foods into the 21st century, with a glut of wine bars and standout restaurants like Shavi Lomi, Keto and Kote, and Kharcho (located inside a new creative hub and workspace called Art House).

There are also an outsize number of excellent hotels for a city so small. Fabrika houses a colorful hostel, the brainchild of Adjara Group, also responsible for the trendy Rooms Hotels and the soaring, sensual Stamba, opened in 2018 inside an old Soviet printing factory. Next year, Stamba will expand its photography museum, which displays work by Georgian artists. Others followed in Adjara Group’s wake, with the opening of several small properties including a Moxy and the colorful City Wine Hotel, an offshoot of favorite wine bar g.Vino. If all goes according to plan, 2020 will see the opening of a Kempinski in Tbilisi — a gleaming, glass complex on Mount Mtatsminda that will shout to the world that Tbilisi has arrived.

Plan your trip with the help of our travel expert

6. Galle, Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has long been popular among surfers and adventure travelers. Though the country is still on the mend after last Easter’s bombings in Colombo, a new crop of resorts opening in 2020 make the island nation a luxury destination to be reckoned with. Haritha Villas & Spa, for one, debuts in December. It’s an elegant property located in Hikkaduwa, a resort town known for surfing, beaches, and sea turtles. Guests can enjoy infinity pools overlooking private gardens and one-of-a-kind treatments at the property’s jungle spa.

Alila Koggala, a new sustainable resort located near the city of Galle, is set to open in fall 2020, offering 40 sleek suites and villas, plus guided excursions to nearby rain forests.

Plan your trip with the help of our travel expert

7. Barichara, Colombia

Barichara is often described as the prettiest town in Colombia, and not without good reason: it’s a truly lovely little town with stunning architecture, beautiful natural surroundings, and excellent boutique hotels and restaurants. The main church in Barichara is a gorgeous building made of the sandstone that dominates the architecture of the town—it’s particularly lovely at sunset when the stone turns a rich orange. The steps leading up to the church are a great place to sit and watch the world go by or enjoy the beauty of the town. Barichara makes a great base for outdoor pursuits such as white-water rafting, mountain biking and rappelling. Fly into Bucaramanga and take an hour-long cable-car ride over a canyon.

For your accommodation the stylish new Yahri villas, a trio of homes in town, with terraces that provide views of the surrounding mountains.

Plan your trip with the help of our travel expert

8. Jaipur, India

The colors, creative traditions, and opulent palaces of Rajasthan are what many of us picture when we think of India — but this coming year, even those who think they’ve been there and done that should plan a return trip. Fall will see the launch of Six Senses’ first India property, the 48-suite Fort Barwara, which is set in a 14th-century fortress south of Jaipur. In nearby Udaipur, the Raffles group is also due to make its Indian debut later in 2020.

Set on a private island in Udai Sagar Lake, the palatial hotel will have a rooftop restaurant, an outdoor pool with gardens, and a capacious spa. Just outside the city, India’s first sculpture park opened at Madhavendra Palace, displaying the work of heavy-hitting Indian artists like Subodh Gupta and Mrinalini Mukherjee in a dramatic fortress setting. And in downtown Jaipur, the recently opened Amrapali Museum Jaipur showcases some of the 4,000-plus Indian gems collected by the founders of the Amrapali jewelry brand.

Plan your trip with the help of our travel expert

9. Quito, Ecuador

High in the Andes, the Ecuadorean capital, with its unwieldy urban sprawl and car-centric downtown, has never quite held the allure of Rio or Lima when wanderlust strikes. The city’s been making real strides to address that: Several years ago, Quito moved its airport from the city center to its fringes in an effort to make landings less treacherous and satisfy noise-addled locals, and work is underway to transform the former terminal into a public park. Now, the long-awaited 2020 opening of Quito’s first-ever underground railway line, running 14 miles north-south, promises to truly transform Ecuador’s mountain city, putting once-inaccessible neighborhoods within reach and bringing locals downtown. The city’s skyline is changing, as the likes of Moishe Safdie and Jean Nouvel are enlisted for major new buildings in town. And after last year’s protests caused damage in the area, a community restoration effort has brought the Spanish Colonial Centro Historico back to its former glory.

Check into the 12-room Carlota Hotel, and don’t miss a meal at Nuema, the much-lauded Ecuadorian restaurant that moved to a new space in San Marcos last year.

Plan your trip with the help of our travel expert

10. Paros, Greece

Paros is a place overtourism forgot. The rugged Greek island, located smack in the middle of the Cyclades, can only be described as the cooler cousin of more populated islands like Mykonos and Santorini. Part of what makes it so cool.

The newly opened Parilio, a 33-suite high-design hotel that rises from the landscape. A neutral palette graces its interior and exterior, while traditional building techniques elevate the Cyclades’ classic cubic houses. The island is home to those white-washed and blue-roofed buildings Greece is famous for, too, but with far less travelers elbowing you for the perfect Instagram. It’s worth navigating the labyrinthine streets in the town of Naoussa to spot some picturesque alleys, and booking a table at the much-loved Sousouro for a colorful breakfast spread.

Plan your trip with the help of our travel expert

11. Cafayate, Argentina

When Argentinian’s want to see a different side of their own country, they head north to the Salta Province. This is a land of contrasts, with towering red rock formations and lush green valleys that are home to the world’s highest altitude vineyards. The pretty town of Cafayate makes an excellent base for exploring what the area has to offer. It’s the perfect place to sample the Salta Province’s iconic empanadas and immerse yourself in the cultural traditions that have inspired generations of musicians and poets.

One of the things not to be missed is the Tren a las Nubes.

The train leaves early in the morning from Salta’s central station and makes the long journey up to the Quebrada del Toro high up in the mountains, so high in fact that the train regularly passes through clouds. By the end of the journey the train reaches a height of 4220m, where there is a viaduct crossing the valley below – quite an engineering spectacle. The journey through the mountains reveals beautifully colored rocks, due to the numerous minerals, and travelers are likely to catch a glimpse of a llama or two.

For your stay, the ubiquitous Patios de Cafayate, amidst the vineyards of the winery El Esteco and with the breathtaking Calchaquí Valleys in the background, the estate’s farmstead – that once belonged to Michel Torino’s family and was founded in 1892 -, is today the soul of this unique hotel that boasts thick walls, corridors with glazed domes, Spanish roof tiles, wrought iron gates, murmuring fountains, colonial water wells and a vast collection of vintage furniture and pictures. A unique and exclusive wine experience in Cafayate. Patios de Cafayate is a must for those who want to enjoy the surrounding landscape, the history and the art of the region, as well as the incredibly welcoming and warm local people.

The hotel’s 32 rooms, located among large colonial-style patios, welcome you with their comfort, their roominess and their antique pieces of furniture, but also with the most up-to-date features and services.

Plan your trip with the help of our travel expert WOPA Travel & Events

12. Zanzibar, Tanzania

Step off the boat or plane onto the Zanzibar Archipelago and you’re transported through time and place. This is one of the world’s great cultural crossroads, where Africa meets Arabia as well as the Indian Ocean.

In Zanzibar Town, the narrow alleys of historic Stone Town meander between ancient buildings decorated with balconies and gigantic carved doors. Meanwhile, on the coast, fishing boats set sail, and in the country side farmers tend fields of rice or the clove plantations that give Zanzibar its ‘Spice Islands’ moniker.

Beyond these little-changed traditions, visitors see a very different landscape. The idyllic beaches are dotted with hotels, and the ocean becomes a playground for diving, snorkeling and kitesurfing.

With its tropical tableau and unique culture, plus an active beach-party scene for those that want it, the Zanzibar Archipelago offers a fascinating and highly enjoyable East African Indian Ocean experience.

Zawadi, a private, intimate getaway beach retreat with only 12 spacious villas & spectacular view of the Indian Ocean. Available for exclusive use.

Plan your trip with the help of our travel expert

13. Nur Sultan, Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan’s glittering capital is already regarded in niche travel circles for its captivating architecture, with the skyline increasingly filling with ambitious, space-age skyscrapers and monuments, including the 150-metre Bayterek Tower and the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation, designed by acclaimed British architect Norman Foster. But it is now taking a confident step towards showcasing its cityscape to the world.

For all its grand pretensions, Astana retains something of the Russian and Soviet steppe trading post of its roots. Traces of elegant, pastel-coloured, tsarist merchant mansions the bustle of the dusty streets the familiar Soviet grid-avenues lined with birch trees and ugly 1950s housing blocks Placid, gold-toothed women sit all day at street stalls selling raspberries, cucumbers and varieties of forest berries in cut-off plastic bottles.

St. Regis Hotel with 120 rooms in a palatial, neoclassical design is truly stunning.

Plan your trip with the help of our travel expert

14. Palawan, Philippines

Dubbed the “Best Island in the World” by Travel + Leisure and Condé Nast Traveler magazines many times, Palawan is undoubtedly a slice of paradise. Travelers from all around the globe fly for the well-known municipalities of El Nido and Coron. While they truly are stunning, the island has so many other lesser-known gems that make it worthy of its title: Port Barton, slowly being discovered by travelers who want to get away from the crowds of El Nido, is the fishing village of Port Barton. About 3h north of the Palawan capital, Puerto Princesa, is a less commercialized, more laid-back version of El Nido. There are no bars and no crazy nightlife, but the evenings and sunset views are serene. Boatmen can be hired for trips to surrounding islands like German Island, Exotic Island, and Paradise Island, as well as to wonderful snorkeling sites.

Araceli, Here, visitors can enjoy the pristine beaches and crystal clear waters people come to Palawan for, but without the crowds. It’s not yet considered a tourist destination, and is surrounded by untouched islands and well-preserved marine life, making it a great place for snorkeling. Visitors can expect close encounters with many sea friends like lobsters and manta rays, which alone are enough to make the two-hour bus ride from Puerto Princesa and four-hour boat ride from Roxas completely worth it.

For your stay, Pangulasian Island Resort, the resort offers 42 individual villas all with a private balcony either on the beach, in the forest, 17 meters from the ground, or with a private pool. With a marine sanctuary right on the doorstep, this place is a divers’ dream. A library, restaurant and bar in the Clubhouse, an infinity pool and a spa are wonderful respites on land.

Plan your trip with the help of our travel expert

15. Lille, France

Crowned as the World Capital of Design 2020 for its advances in urban development, the once-struggling industrial city of Lille is on its way to enjoying optimized public spaces thanks to a slew of sustainable design initiatives. It’s also quickly becoming a cosmopolitan oasis with new galleries, museums, restaurants, and boutiques. Among the new art-forward destinations is La Piscine, an Art Deco indoor swimming pool turned art museum that just reopened after a two-year renovation.

The bohemian-chic brand Mama Shelter also debuted a hotel in the city center last summer — its rooms offer sweeping views of the skyline. And jaw-dropping restaurants like Coke, a brasserie and hotel serving French classics beneath ornate moldings and crystal chandeliers, and La Belezza, a new Italian spot from the owners of Big Mamma in Paris, are marrying old Lillois style with contemporary flair.

Plan your trip with the help of our travel expert

16. Busan, S. Korea

When in Busan, just look around and let the breathtaking scenery blow your mind! With its magnificent beaches and its historic temples, Busan has legitimately earned its title as the San Francisco of South Korea. Do not miss Haedong Yonggungsa, a temple right beside the ocean, and definitely pay a visit to Dongbaek Island, a very small island with dongbaek trees and evergreens thriving there. At the top of the island, there is a statue and a monument of Choe Chi-Won, a scholar and writer of the Silla Kingdom era. Walk around its newly transformed art districts, do all the vintage shopping you can do, get your beer break in hip and trendy breweries and treat yourself with all the street food delicacies a man can take.

Consider visiting Busan at the beginning of August, when the Seaside Festival takes place at Haeundae Beach, with live music sessions and a highly festive mood.

Stay at the Paradise Hotel, by the beach which is also well situated.

Plan your trip with the help of our travel expert

17. Porto, Portugal

Portugal remains a popular getaway — and in 2020, it’s all about experiencing it from the water. Last spring, Viking River Cruises christened the Viking Helgrim, a vessel built for its new Douro itinerary. A few weeks later, Ama Waterways debuted the Ama Douro, which sails between Porto and Vega de Terrón in Spain. This year, Tauck will launch the 84-passenger Andorinha, and Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection will christen the S.S. Saõ Gabriel, which has décor that channels the ambience of the Douro Valley. On land, wineries like Quinta do Portal and Quinta do Seixo serve light reds, vinho verde, and the ubiquitous port.

Stay in Porto at recent additions like the Art Deco stunner Le Monumental Palace or the art-filled Torel 1884, whose 12 rooms and 11 standalone apartments feature art inspired by fabrics, materials, and spices from faraway lands.

Plan your trip with the help of our travel expert

18. Trinidad, Cuba

Many people argue that Trinidad is one of the best-preserved colonial cities in the whole of Latin America. In fact the architecture and cobbled streets of Trinidad are so highly regarded that the city is now UNESCO listed, protecting it from development and safeguarding its beauty for future visitors. The history of the city is fascinating, founded as it was in 1514 by the Spanish conquistador Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar, and the colonial influence runs deep.

Dance the night away at Casa de la Musica, an open-air bar where the standard of dancing always seems to be pretty impressive.

Visit the beautiful beach at Playa Ancon just seven miles away. You can sit back and watch as the local fishermen go about their business or buy a conch shell from one of the divers to take home as a souvenir.

Avoid the hotels and stay at a Casa Particular, one of those wonderfully preserved private mansions run by its owners, where most likely the patron will be there to make sure you get a nice breakfast and enjoy a nice cigar at the evenings paired with a rum…

Plan your trip with the help of our travel expert

19. Antananarivo, Madagascar

Antanavarino, the capital of Madagascar, widely known as Tana, is at the heart of culinary experiences, full of historical interest, as well as the starting point for many day trips, like for instance to Andasibe, Anjajavy and especially the wonderful Anjajavy le Lodge. Look for the historical and cultural elements that have established the city as the home of Malagasy power for three centuries.

In Tana, one can find an amazing variety of African, Indian and western garb, and streets choked with all manner of motorized, human-powered, and animal-driven transport. It is a city of faded glory that still shows signs of a more prosperous past. Its beautiful villas covered by tumbling bougainvillea, palm-lined avenues, Anosy Lake crowned by blooming jacaranda in October, wonderful restaurants and great shopping, can leave no one indifferent.

Enjoy a breathtaking view of Tana on the sunset hour from Lokanga Boutique Hotel, go to Lisy Art Gallery to get your special souvenirs from the red island or visit one of the local market places to look for bargains. Do not live Tana, without visiting Croc Farm, not only home of the huge Nile crocodiles, the biggest predator of Madagascar, but also of some other typical animal species, plants and flowers from Madagascar.

Plan your trip with the help of our travel expert

20. Lviv, Ukraine

Most people never heard about this gorgeous gem of a city located in the west of Ukraine.

A UNESCO World Heritage-listed town, Lviv, with its great culinary offerings, artistic flavour and coffee obsession, sounded right for a romantic night but it turned out to be much more than that.

There are around 1500 cafes in the city making it the highest amount of cafes per capita in the world!

You can spend a year in Lviv, visiting cafes only and you still wouldn’t go to them all!

Some of them are really old, cozy and charming and with a great interior that you will want to visit them anyway!

Lviv is a city with a special atmosphere, which more than half a century was ruled by the kings.

This is city of coffee, a city of lions, a city of jazz, rain, chocolate, terraces and passionate tango.

Food is a big deal here restaurants range from the traditional to the hipster but tend to focus on Ukrainian staples. Coffee shops abound in the 1600s, a Lviv native was the first person to pair sugar and milk and open a coffeehouse (though in Vienna). Today, you can visit its namesake — “Under the Blue Bottle” — where coffee is prepared on an open fire in copper jugs in a candlelit room.

Places like the POST OFFICE in Drukarska street or the PRETTY HIGH KITCHEN will definitely nudge your senses with their originality and vintage ambience.

If you are not a beer person, worry not – liquors are also always in season and every bar you stumble into will greet you with their signature twist. GASOVA LAMPA, for example, serves their selection of spirits in test tubes with the guests having no idea what’s inside until they taste them.

And for a truly unforgettable experience head to GRAND HOTEL. Your stay there, will be full of grandiose emotions and endless care, exceeding your expectations!

“I love you #Ukraine,” Paris Hilton wrote in an Instagram post featuring her arrival at the opening ceremony. We too.

Plan your trip with the help of our travel expert

21. Nanyuki, Kenya

Nanyuki serves as a gateway to the Laikipia plateau, one of Africa’s most important wildlife conservation areas. Despite being a market town, it is probably the most cosmopolitan city in the area outside of Nairobi, with visitors who come often here to climb Mt Kenya or to visit the myriad safari parks. UNESCO proclaimed Mount Kenya as a World Heritage Site , one of the most impressive landscapes in East Africa, located right on the equator.

Everyone agrees that the Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club Nanyuki is an exclusive retreat. Situated some one hundred and ninety kilometres to the north of Nairobi, on the slopes of Mount Kenya, it has a reputation for relaxed elegance. Many of the world’s famous names, be they royalty, film stars or merely the rich, seek it out as a secluded heaven where, although you do your safari during the day, you always dress for dinner.

Sir Winston Churchill was reputed to have been a founding member. The list of those who joined after the Club opened in 1959 reads like an international Who’s Who, and includes Prince Berhard of the Netherlands, Lord Louis Mountbatten, author Robert Ruark, former US President Lyndon Johnson, Conrad Hilton, Bob Hope Bing Crosby, and a bevy of celebrities.

Today featuring 120 Rooms, Cottages, Suites and Villas is one of the world’s top hotels. Spoil yourself in a William Holden Cottage (170 sqm) and dine as a celebrity at Tusk’s Restaurant.

Plan your trip with the help of our travel expert

22. Gdansk, Poland

Gdansk is the city, where you can’t get bored.

Poland’s Baltic seaside city of Gdańsk has sat in the background for years as one of the most underrated cities in Europe. For a long time, this sleeping giant went unnoticed, until recently when the city suddenly became hugely popular with tourists. Gdańsk is a city steeped in history and brimming with activities all year round. If Gdańsk isn’t yet on your list of cities to see before you die, it is high time to include it.

Be ready for one of the most beautiful streets in Europe. Gdańsk’s Długi Targ is basically the main square, although it translates into English as ‘Long Market’. Leading down to it, is the Ulica Długa, or ‘Long Street’. Put simply, it is one of the most photographed streets and squares in Europe and a feast for anyone’s eyes on your first glimpse.

St. Mary’s Basilica in Gdańsk is an enormous Roman Catholic church (located on the aforementioned Ulica Piwna) that contains more red bricks than any other church in the world. In its time, the church was used by Protestants and Catholics and contains a lookout platform at the top – you must walk up the steps as there is no elevator, but the views from the top are tremendous.

Take a stroll along Gdańsk’s beautiful harbour front, and you may just fall in love with this city. Pretty colourful buildings reflect against a river amidst a flurry of local street musicians and aromas from popular restaurants, and in the background boats cruise to and from Hel, Gdynia and Westerplatte.

Situated just off the Crane over the Motława River in Gdańsk, Hotel PODEWILS OLD TOWN Gdansk is a small, luxurious hotel which features spacious and quiet rooms with a marble bathroom with great views at the old town.

For great food and amazing view head to Paco Perez’s (Famous Spanish Chef) ARCO restaurant located at the 33rd floor of Olivia Star building.

Plan your trip with the help of our travel expert

23. Lofoten Islands, Norway

The ultimate destination where culture and history meet nature! Fjords, mountains, white sandy beaches, and surprisingly warm water, that’s Lofoten.

A landscape of skerries, red fisherman cabins, lapping waves and the cries of gulls that will ease your tensions away. Not only the endless days but also the midnight sun gives you extra energy and you might find yourself playing golf at midnight, or forgetting to go to bed! Take a stroll in old, charming fishing villages, where creative people settle to find inspiration, active ones to find challenges, wanderers to find peace, where we all find endless beauty.

Jump on speed boats to explore the beautiful nature and watch sea eagles, catch fish up close, take a hike with rewarding world-class views and enjoy a pier-front meal of self-caught seafood. So do not miss Anita’s Seafood. It will blow your head off.

Choose to stay in an authentic fisherman cabin, or a panorama suite with both mountain, city and sea view at the same time.

Our favorite: HATTVIKA LODGE.

Lofoten will take your breath away as there is no place like that elsewhere!

Plan your trip with the help of our travel expert

24. Arequipa, Peru

The preserved colonial architecture of “the White City” — so named for its gleaming structures made from sillar, a volcanic rock — earned the historic center of Arequipa UNESCO World Heritage status in 2000. But a dearth of upmarket lodgings has kept this Peruvian destination off most travelers’ radar. Now, the town finally has accommodations befitting the local history:

August saw the opening of Cirqa, originally built in 1540, the year Arequipa was founded, as an inn for guests of the Church of San Agustín next door. The property marries preserved elements of the original parador — high vaulted ceilings, textural stone walls — with contemporary flourishes, such as black-steel-framed windows and a plunge pool.

Further steeped in history is the cuisine at La Nueva Palomino, where a female-led staff cooks hearty stews from heirloom recipes. It’s all best enjoyed while admiring the three volcanoes in the distance (Chachani, Misti, and Pichu Pichu) with a tall glass of chicha, an Andean beer made from corn.

Plan your trip with the help of our travel expert

25. Inle lake, Myanmar

Inle Lake is a magical watery world of floating gardens, stilted villages and crumbling stupas. An alluring attraction, where mountains tumble down towards the lakeshore, shaping heaven on earth. Enjoy a full day silent boat trip on Inle Lake – an instagrammer’s dream. Its calm waters are dotted with floating vegetation and fishing canoes, on a scenic hills backdrop. Observe the lake’s unique ‘leg rowers’ – Intha fishermen who row standing up with one leg wrapped around a single oar, leaving their hands free to handle the conical fishing net. Pay a visit to Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, the holiest religious site in southern Shan State, as well as to a traditional silk-weaving workshop which combines wooden handlooms with a blacksmith’s forge. Pass endless floating gardens, where Intha lake dwellers grow fruit and vegetables. Do not miss Nga Phe Kyaung Monastery, one of the oldest on the lake, where you can see exquisite Buddha statues, more than 200 years old.

The new SOFITEL is the hotel to stay. Great rooms and amazing views.

Plan your trip with the help of our travel expert

26. Papagayo, Costa Rica

Several just-opened eco-retreats are offering more ways to unwind in Costa Rica. Perhaps the most-anticipated is Nayara Tented Camp, a safari-style retreat inside a sloth sanctuary. Adjacent to the famed Nayara Hotel and Nayara Springs resort, the camp debuted in December, and offers 29 family-friendly suites linked by footbridges across the rain forest. Then there’s Kasiiya Papagayo, which opened as an adventure-focused getaway walkie-talkies and headlamps are distributed at check-in. Its five sustainably built, ocean-facing tents rest on platforms above the local flora, leaving much of the landscape undisturbed.

Farther south is Kinkára Luxury Retreat, built on the slopes of the Talamanca mountain range. The wellness resort’s 31 glamping tents are centered around a thatched-roof yoga pavilion and a garden. Seriously indulgent bathhouses feature indoor-outdoor rain showers outside, you can take a dip in the waterfalls and wading pools that dot the property.

Plan your trip with the help of our travel expert

27. Gokayama, Japan

The remote, mountainous districts of Shirakawa-gō (白川郷) and Gokayama, between Takayama and Kanazawa, are best known for farmhouses in the thatched gasshō-zukuri style. They are rustic and lovely whether set against the vibrant colours of spring, draped with the gentle mists of autumn, or peeking through a carpet of snow, and they hold a special place in the Japanese heart.

Gokayama is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site that also encompasses the nearby village of Shirakawa-gō. Both areas are known for their traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses. These centuries-old houses feature distinct thatched roofs, designed to withstand heavy snowfall. Gokayama is less accessible than popular Shirakawa-gō, and, as a result, its villages are more quiet and secluded.

Other attractions include the thatched roof temple of Myozenji, the Doburoku Festival Museum where you can sample local sake, and the Shiroyama observation point which is the site of a castle ruin and the best place from which to view the whole village.

Our favorite Ryokan in the area is the one and only: Shiroyamakan. When I stayed here I had a stunning experience, wonderful host: the food, the view, the house, the beauty of nature… everything was a magical, unique and beautiful experience I will never forget!”

Plan your trip with the help of our travel expert True Japan Tours

28. Alacati, Turkey

Alaçatı, a small town very close to Izmir, on the west coast of Turkey, on the Aegean Coast is hidden treasure, full of history, beauty and tradition. Having a Greek past, dating back to the 17th century, makes Alaçatı uniquely beautiful and picturesque, bearing a dazzling aura. Though the Greek population of Alaçati was banished in 1914, the place holds up to its Greek essence with its traditional, well preserved Greek stone houses, its bougainvillea-framed cobblestone “sokak” (streets) and its extraordinary cuisine. Although it has been declared as a historical site in 2005, this place remains up to date with windsurfers and flying kite surfers choosing it, for its ideal wind conditions for these sports (there is also a Kite Festival being held annually).

Stay at the Alavya boutique hotel in the center or if you are looking for posh accommodation then BIBLOS is the undoubtful choice. For food head to Fava Alacati, a great seafood restaurant.

Plan your trip with the help of our travel expert

29. Baja Sur, Mexico

Just when you think the Baja buzz has reached a fever pitch, new arrivals make it all the more thrilling. This year, the locus of the excitement has shifted away from the towns of Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo up to the East Cape, where a dreamy new 1,000-acre luxury enclave has finally come to fruition near Los Barriles.

The Four Seasons Resort Los Cabos at Costa Palmas opened in October, with 141 rooms overlooking the placid Sea of Cortéz, and the Costa Palmas Beach & Yacht Club is welcoming members and hotel guests to its pools, golf course, two miles of beachfront, and — should you need a place to park your superyacht — a glittering, lake-size marina. Keep an eye out in 2021 for the arrival of Amanvari, Aman Resorts’ corner of Costa Palmas, with 20 villas and 24 residences. But all of that is merely the gateway to the real draw: An undisturbed corner of Baja where desert, mountains, and water meet.

Plan your trip with the help of our travel expert

30. Durban, South Africa

Despite a thriving food scene and tropical beaches, Durban has always lurked in the shadows of Cape Town and Johannesburg. But with the unveiling of Durban’s new seaside promenade, part of a $2.5 billion development designed to rejuvenate the waterfront area, the city is becoming South Africa’s next cultural and coastal getaway to watch. Dubbed the ‘Golden Mile’, the shiny 3.7 mile strip, which is an ongoing development over the next 15 years, will flaunt glistening buildings with apartments, shops, a hotel, and public hangout spaces, plus a hotly anticipated new cruise terminal, which began construction in late 2019 and is set to open in 2021. Beyond the shiny waterfront, the city’s food scene, which is rooted in South Asian cuisine due to the substantial Indian community, thrives. Street food dishes are a must: look for bunny chow (a hollowed out bread loaf filled with curry) at Cane Cutters and lemony pieces of chicken and slap chips (fries doused in vinegar) from Afro’s Chicken. Another key stop: A trip to the newly relocated African Art Centre for clay pots and beaded baskets.

Finally for your stay the stunning OYSTER BOX HOTEL is just breathtaking.

Plan your trip with the help of our travel expert Extraordinary Events and Tours

Eat Local — Corfiot Cuisine cooking class, Corfu, Greece

Enjoying the fruits of our cooking — Greek mousaka, spanakopita, fried eggplant, Greek tzatziki, and fresh tomatoes with feta cheese

About 20 of us joined the resident chef at the Villa of the Roses for a hands-on cooking class in the hillside above Corfu Town on the island of Corfu.

Villa of the Roses, Cofru Town, Corfu, Greece

We all were able to help chop, mix, prepare and cook a variety of traditional Greek dishes.

Resident Chef at the Villa of the Roses, Cofru Town, Corfu, Greece

Layering ingredients for Greek Mousaka on the left (meat sauce in pan and fried eggplant not shown, fried potato slices on the bottom layer and Bechamel sauce to go on top)

Cooking calamari and onions (tomatoes yet to be added) for sauce for penne

Demonstration — making Greek Creamy Tzatziki

Demonstration — making Greek Spinach Pie — Spanakopita

Frying homemade dough balls for dessert (to be served with honey)

Dessert buffet- fried homemade dough balls with honey, melon, peaches, cherries and homemade baklava

The Champagne Academy Annual dinner

Earlier this week I had the honour of joining my good friend Amanda Baxter to the Champagne Academy Annual Dinner at Goldsmiths’ Hall.

The Champagne Academy is designed to foster appreciation of the 16 Grandes Marques it represents one of its principle tools is a money-can’t-buy week-long study course in Champagne hosted by the member houses.

The Champagne Academy 16 Grandes Marques

It is my new mission in life to be extended an invitation to the course and deepen my knowledge of the Grandes Marques. Robert Wade was celebrated as the winner of the Golden Magnum for receiving top marks on last year’s course. With examinations every morning and Champagne dinners every evening – the week is as much of a test of endurance as it is knowledge, and Robert won on both counts.

Chandelier at Goldsmiths’ Hall

The dinner was set in the stunning Goldsmiths’ Hall, an incredible building dating back to 1835. My favourite element of the ceremony – aside from being formally announced to arrival and bespoke fanfares -was the formal introduction of each wine. As each new wine was presented the waiters came out in a flurry, circling the head table and in unison poured for each guest on the top table before proceeding to pour for the rest of the room.

To start we were treated to the delightfully fresh and elegant Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque 2004 paired with Wye Valley Asparagus with pink grapefruit hollandaise and soft boiled quail eggs.

Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque 2004

The iconic bottle featuring hand-painted Japanese anemones was designed in 1902 by Emile Gallé, a leading light of the art nouveau movement. For me while the Chardonnay was expressive the hollandaise overpowered the beautiful elegance of this Champagne (50% Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir and 5% Pinot Meunier). It is a stunning Champagne and has been aged on lees for around 6 years to help create those lingering toasty notes.

Heidsieck & Co. Monopole Cuvée Impératrice NV

From one beautiful bottle to another, the Heidsieck & Co. Monopole Cuvée Impératrice NV is fashioned out of a green cut glass bottle. It is made with 50% Chardonnay: 50% Pinot Noir and had enough fruit and acidity to balance the pan seared Guinea fowl breast and pomme purée.

From there we enjoyed the G.H. Mumm Demi-Sec NV, although literally translating as semi-dry, demi-sec is counter intuitively one of the sweetest classifications of Champagne. There can be an element of snobbery around demi-sec Champagnes as the fear is that sugar is being used to hide a multitude of sins. This rich, sweeter style of Champagne is increasingly popular and I’ve always been a fan on the right occasion with the right pairing – and this is it.

This particular Champagne has 44g of dosage but is not cloying due to a racy acidity, it has spent only two years on less so retains a lot of the fresh fruit and works well with the Rhubarb Custard. While the majority of Mumms’ vineyards are planted with Pinot Noir, this demi-sec is made largely with Pinot Meunier (55% Pinot Meunier, 35% Pinot Noir, 10% Chardonnay).

G.H. Mumm Cuvée R. Lalou 1999

Where the French would have enjoyed cheese first and then finished on a sweet note, in the UK we finish with cheese. We were incredibly lucky to be treated to a glass of the G.H. Mumm Cuvée R. Lalou 1999 with our Red Chester Cheese Rarebit. It is a bone dry Champagne made from the 12 very best parcels of G.H. Mumm some of which can be less than one hectare. It is a rich blend with nutty highlights and bountiful bread, fresh butter and toast.

After dinner, the President of the Champagne Academy, Hugues Le Marié provided some insight into the 2012 harvest. By all accounts it didn’t start well – with a frost that destroyed 2,900 hectares and got worse before it got better with hail in June/July that destroyed a further 1,000 hectares and more cool weather which reduced the number of bunches. Thankfully, 2012 enjoyed a near perfect August and grapes developed properly. It will be one of the lowest harvests yield wise in 20 years with volumes down 30% compared to 2011 but it will be an exceptional vintage when, not if, the houses decide to declare it as such.

The bad news was that last year volume sales were down although value sales flat, helped by a stronger performance in the on trade. On the plus side we heard via Chairman, Martin Dibben, scientific evidence has been provided by that Jeremy Spencer biochemistry professor at Reading University that three glasses of Champagne a week can help improve memory and protect against Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. You don’t need to tell this room twice that Champagne makes life more memorable, they already know.

What are the Social Benefits and Risks of Decarbonising Buildings?

Decarbonising the built environment will involve re-purposing and renovating existing buildings, minimising the carbon footprint of new builds (through their construction and use), and expanding access to green space in urban areas. The process presents major opportunities to benefit people throughout Europe, helping to set the region on a just and sustainable track as it recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Decarbonisation can improve the quality of housing and public buildings. It can create new jobs, including for workers displaced from fossil fuel industries. It can clean the air people breathe and improve both physical and mental health. These are all areas that are reflected in the Declaration 2030 Porto Agenda for Sustainable Wellbeing, agreed in advance of this week&rsquos Summit.

The full benefits will not be realised automatically, however. Without effective policies and real collaboration, there are risks that the decarbonisation of buildings will generate and/or intensify human rights risks and deepen inequalities within communities and regions.

For example, green improvements can push up home prices, further deepening the housing and homelessness crisis already affecting countries across Europe. If the large majority of green building finance gravitates to prime location urban centres, it will exacerbate existing wealth differences between these locations and peripheral and rural areas.

If climate action in construction is not accompanied by shifts in business practices, vulnerable construction workers &ndash particularly migrant workers &ndash will continue to risk exploitation on worksites and through supply chains, such as discrimination, unsafe working conditions, and wage theft.

To be effective and fair, approaches to decarbonising the built environment require: governments protecting human rights and harnessing their role as change agents effective collaboration between public and private finance and shifts in financial sector practices and active engagement throughout with local communities and workers.

Le Havre,Zeebrugge,Rotterdam,Rotterdam,Hamburg,Southampton,Le Havre Add To Favourites Remove From Favourites

Le Havre, founded by King Francis I of France in 1517, is located inUpper Normandy on the north bank of the mouth of the River Seine, which isconsidered the most frequented waterway in the world. Its port is ranked thesecond largest in France. The city was originally built on marshland andmudflats that were drained in the 1500’s. During WWII most of Le Havre wasdestroyed by Allied bombing raids. Post war rebuilding of the city followed thedevelopment plans of the well-known Belgian architect Auguste Perre. Thereconstruction was so unique that the entire city was listed as a UNESCO WorldHeritage Site in 2005.

In 1895 work began to construct a new seaport and harbour next to the tiny village of Zeebrugge, situated on the North Sea coast. Today the fast-expanding port of Zeebrugge is one of the busiest in Europe and its marina is Belgium’s most important fishing port. Many attempts were made to destroy this important port during both World Wars. Zeebrugge is ideally located for discovering the historic city of Bruges, and delightful seaside resorts with long sandy beaches can be visited by using the trams that run the whole length of the Belgian coast. Please note that no food may be taken ashore in Belgium. We shall not be offering shuttle buses to Bruges, but you may visit the city on an optional excursion: those visiting Bruges should note that there may be quite a long walk from the coach to the town centre.

Rotterdam is a city that’s a long way removed from most people’s stereotypical notion of the Netherlands. There are few, if any, canals to be found here nor are there any quaint windmills. There is, however, a thriving modern city which is one of the busiest ports in the entire world.

Rotterdam is a city that’s a long way removed from most people’s stereotypical notion of the Netherlands. There are few, if any, canals to be found here nor are there any quaint windmills. There is, however, a thriving modern city which is one of the busiest ports in the entire world.

Hamburg is Germany’s second-largest city with a history dating back to Charlemagne. A major port, this vibrant city is home to art and culture, extensive shopping facilities, Baroque buildings and waterfront vistas. With its well-known fish market, art galleries and Museums together with several beautiful parks including a botanical garden, this is a city with something for everyone. British visitors who remember the Swinging Sixties may like to visit the streets around Grosse Freiheit, where an unknown pop group called The Beatles gave their first public performances in various local clubs before achieving worldwide fame. Please note: Those on the Saga Pearl II P2216 cruise in December 2018 should be aware that the Christmas Market is likely to be extremely busy during your call.


Lying near the head of Southampton Water, a peninsula between the estuaries of the Rivers Test and Itchen, Southampton is Britain’s largest cruise port. It has been one of England’s major ports since the Middle Ages, when it exported wool and hides from the hinterland and imported wine from Bordeaux. The city suffered heavy damage during World War Two and as a result the centre has been extensively rebuilt, but there are still some interesting medieval buildings including the Bargate, one of the finest city gatehouses in England.

Le Havre, founded by King Francis I of France in 1517, is located inUpper Normandy on the north bank of the mouth of the River Seine, which isconsidered the most frequented waterway in the world. Its port is ranked thesecond largest in France. The city was originally built on marshland andmudflats that were drained in the 1500’s. During WWII most of Le Havre wasdestroyed by Allied bombing raids. Post war rebuilding of the city followed thedevelopment plans of the well-known Belgian architect Auguste Perre. Thereconstruction was so unique that the entire city was listed as a UNESCO WorldHeritage Site in 2005.

Ship Information

Combining the relaxed sophistication of the Musica Class with the variety and opulence of our Fantasia Class ships, MSC Magnifica brings cruise guests the best of both worlds.

The superb venues on this ship spoil you for choice and include 5 gourmet restaurants serving food from around the world,12 bars and 5 different Kids and Teens clubs with their own themed venues.

The ship’s award-winning MSC Aurea Spa brings you traditional Balinese massages and ultramodern beauty treatments: a sauna, Turkish bath, fitness centre, thalassotherapy room and relaxation area.

The leisure facilities are no less impressive, with an open-air pool complex, 4 whirlpools, a solarium and a sky lit indoor pool with retractable roof, allowing you to enjoy perfect bathing whatever the weather. For something more energetic there is tennis, mini-golf, a high-tech gym and a jogging track as well as 10-pin bowling and billiards.

The entertainment continues into the evening with a spectacular casino, panoramic disco, 4D cinema, internet café, cigar lounge, plush 1,200 seat theatre and live entertainment in the bar lounges. For a quieter evening step out onto the deck for a romantic drink under the stars and watch the waves go by.

Features a balcony and a double bed, which can be converted in to two singles. Also includes: air conditioning, spacious wardrobe, bathroom with bathtub, interactive TV, telephone, wi-fi internet (for a fee), mini-bar, safe deposit box.

Features a double bed, which can be converted in to two singles. Also includes: air conditioning, bathroom with shower, interactive TV, telephone, wi-fi internet connection (for a fee), mini-bar, safe deposit box.

Features a porthole and double bed, which can be converted in to two singles. Also includes: air conditioning, bathroom with shower, interactive TV, telephone, wi-fi internet connection (for a fee), mini-bar, safe deposit box.

Features a double bed, which can be converted in to two singles. Also includes: air conditioning, bathroom with shower, interactive TV, telephone, wi-fi internet connection (for a fee) mini-bar, safe deposit box.

Features two single beds. Also includes: air conditioning, bathroom with shower, interactive TV, telephone, wi-fi internet connection (for a fee), mini-bar, safe deposit box.

Features a porthole and two single beds. Also includes: air conditioning, bathroom with shower, interactive TV, telephone, wi-fi internet connection (for a fee), mini-bar, safe deposit box.

Features two single beds. Also includes: air conditioning, bathroom with shower, interactive TV, telephone, wi-fi internet connection (for a fee), mini-bar, safe deposit box.

Acclaimed Seafood Restaurant in Porto Destroyed by Waves - Recipes

Tree of Life Support Group

Since 2016 I have been hosting a family support group in Laguna Beach for those whose loved ones suffer from mental illness. I became a member of the National Association for Mental Illness (NAMI) about six years ago when I discovered that my son, Erik, suffered from a mental illness ̶ a neurological breakdown of his brain.

Erik had graduated from Biola University in La Mirada, Calif., with honors about 12 years ago. Upon his graduation, he got a great job with a larger local company and then a year into his job, he suffered a mental breakdown. He suddenly left his job, his apartment, his car and all his belongings, and hopped on a bus to Portland, Oregon with only the clothes on his back and his cell phone. He was homeless for almost five years. I did not know what was going on with Erik that would cause him to do this. He and I would talk almost every day – I thought that he was just “going through a phase” and would snap out of it. I would visit him twice a year and stay for a week at a time. We would walk the streets together I wanted to see who he talked to, where he slept, where and what he ate.

One day, someone suggested that I take a 12-week class put on by NAMI Orange County. NAMI provides education, support, and advocacy to families and friends of a loved one with a mental health diagnosis as well as for ones suffering from the diagnosis itself. All programs and services are at no cost to the consumer. After the fourth class, I realized that my son, Erik, suffered from schizophrenia. To me this was an absurdly impossible situation! But now that I knew what was going on, I started studying and learning all that I could about this disease.

Click on photo for a larger image

NAMI was a big help in steering me in different directions that I needed. This gave me some hope. Soon, I was trained by NAMI and I started teaching 12-week classes at Mission Hospital and at the Net-Works Church office, both in Laguna Beach. I decided to teach these classes because I realized that so many people were in the same situation as I was – at a loss as to what to do when your loved one is in crisis. Through NAMI, I realized that education and encouragement was a big help and would give the hope that we so desperately need. I felt an ingrained responsibility to share what I had learned and more importantly to let other family members know that there is hope!

My son, Erik, returned to Orange County in 2014 and became homeless in Laguna Beach. He started attending Laguna Beach Net-Works Church on a weekly basis, so I started attending the church as well so I could see my son at least once a week and make sure that he was OK. During this time he was in a psychosis mode and he was not talking to us, but I just wanted to see him and know that he was alive. My husband and I liked the services at Pastor Don Scortino’s Net-Works Church, so we started attending this church as well.

I was still teaching NAMI classes in Laguna Beach. I would co-lead with another leader in the same position of having a loved one suffering from mental illness. We are all trained by NAMI to teach these classes and at the beginning of these classes, everyone looked like they were deer caught in headlights (as I surely did!). Some attendees cried for the first several classes because there seemed to be no hope, but by the eighth or ninth class, their perspectives would change. They seemed to “get it.” Their loved one had not necessarily changed, but their mind and attitude did. They now had hope.**

After one of the classes, a couple of attendees approached me and said that they were so encouraged by the classes and they needed more, they needed to continue to interact with other family members in a supportive group environment. I approached Pastor Don late 2016 and we discussed forming a support group for these family members he agreed to help form the support group and also offered Net-Works Church’s office space as our regular meeting site.

Click on photo for a larger image

Erik and Betty Callaway

It has been amazing to see the changes some of the group members have been going through. We help and encourage each other, and it truly has made all the difference in the world. Some of the group members have gone through horrific situations, but we remind each other to keep putting one foot in front of the other and move ahead.

When a loved one goes through a mental breakdown from a mental illness, it is not only the loved one who suffers – family members also suffer tremendously. It is as if that person as we know them died. The old person, the one who we hoped would become a doctor, a prosperous businessperson, a well-rounded and successful adult, a husband or wife, father or mother, etc., doesn’t exist now. Their future as we had hoped for, is gone.

This “new” person in his/her place has an unknown future and many times we do not know what to anticipate, as their actions towards us could be violent. Our greatest fear, that they will be homeless and die on the streets someday, is more of a reality than we would like to think. It is here at this place in our hearts where we in this group meet each other. We talk about our reality, our grief, our hopes, our fears of the future, our fears of that loved one and of what that loved one might do to us.

And then we can one by one let go of the past and look to a future that is more real for us and our loved one. We can now see what we need to do to deal in and with this new reality for us and for our loved one ̶ beginning with a realistic view of who our loved one is and is capable of being, and what boundaries we have to set for ourselves. It has really been life-changing for many of the group members.

My son is now living with us. He is taking his medication and our lives are better now. I can see my “old Erik” again. He has changed miraculously. He still suffers from schizophrenia and has his moments of depression and delusion but is adapting well.

Our Tree of Life Support Group for family and friends of those struggling with mental illness meets on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month at 303 Broadway, Ste 107, Laguna Beach.

Our next NAMI group will be Tuesday, Oct 8 from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

**Proverbs 13:12 – “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” This is the heading on a private Facebook page that I created for this support group.

Art of Fitness to host breast cancer awareness fitness fundraiser to benefit The Laurus Project

Art of Fitness is partnering with ​The Laurus Project​,​ ​a Laguna Beach 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with a focus on breast cancer awareness and risk reduction, to offer a community fundraising event at the fitness club on Tuesday, Oct 29 from 5 - 7 p.m.

Collectively, Art of Fitness and The Laurus Project are excited to offer the Laguna Beach community and The Laurus Project Thrivers the opportunity to team up to raise funds for breast cancer research.

“Both Art of Fitness and The Laurus Project share the mission to empower people and help them thrive, which makes this a perfect partnership between us,” says Fernanda Rocha, co-owner of Art of Fitness. “We are thrilled to join forces with local Thrivers and the Laguna Beach community to raise funds for breast cancer awareness, progressive research, and risk reduction,” added Marian Keegan, co-owner of Art of Fitness.

The fitness fundraising event will be hosted at Art of Fitness Laguna located at 1080 S Coast Hwy. The event includes two donation-based classes: 5 - 5:50 Cycle and 6 - 6:50 p.m. Yoga. Participation in both classes is not required but encouraged.

Space is limited and guests are encouraged to sign up in advance by calling Art of Fitness at (949) 464-0202.

Click on photo for a larger image

(L-R) Charlie Owens, Megan Cauley, Marian Keegan, Chelsea Burch, Melissa Whitworth, Daphne Martino, and Fernanda Rocha

Each class will be voluntarily co-taught by multiple Art of Fitness instructors. The recommended minimum donation is $20 per person per class. 100 percent of the funds raised during the event will be directed towards The Laurus Project.

“We are thrilled to find a local organization to support in our community outreach efforts during Breast Cancer Awareness month.” says Fernanda Rocha. “We share the sentiments of The Laurus Project and believe in helping each person find a personal path to greater health and wellbeing.”

Noted ​by The Laurus Project​, “the majority of women diagnosed with Breast Cancer suffer PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and ​a recent scientific research has shown that practicing mindfulness helps decrease the levels of stress response hormones in the body, lowers inflammation, and reduces feelings of sadness and apprehension.”

This breast cancer awareness fitness fundraising event is conceived with the intention to support participants on their way to greater health. Participants will be rallied to elevate their endorphins, the happy hormones, in cycle then guided to reduce their cortisol, or stress hormones, in yoga. “This is our way of giving what we can to a meaningful and impactful cause,” adds Marian Keegan. “Our goal is to pack the place and put out the thrive vibe.”

​Art of Fitness ​ offers an array of health and fitness modalities for members of all ages and fitness levels, including cardio equipment, circuit training, pilates equipment, personal training, aerial, barre, boot camp, cycle, HIIT, sculpt, and yoga classes.

Art of Fitness also has Art of Juicing within its walls, a full-service health station with made-to-order juices, smoothies, and shots made from local organic fresh ingredients, which is open daily.

With a focus on prevention in at-risk women, ​The Laurus Project partners with leading researchers and institutions to advance innovative medical research and delivers up-to-date breast cancer risk reduction education to women at risk, through The Laurus Project health education and outreach programs. The incidence of breast cancer in women remains high at one in eight diagnosed with breast cancer over their lifetime.

Women who are breast cancer survivors are at risk for recurrence of disease. It’s thought that the same factors that can increase risk might also promote cancer recurrence after treatment. The Laurus Project®, a Laguna Beach-based breast cancer nonprofit is taking action.