Category Archives: Food/Wine

Exploring Mexico City with Le Méridien

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Le Meridien Mexico City eclair, by pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini

In December, I was invited by Le Méridien Hotels & Resorts to come to Mexico City and get a taste for their “Éclair Diaries” program led by pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini. Through his partnership with Le Méridien, Iuzzini has the task of creating signature eclairs for various properties within the U.S. and overseas. So far, the project has taken him to New Orleans, Paris, Barcelona, Cote D’Azur, and New Delhi, where he scouts out venues for obtaining local ingredients and creating a destination-themed eclair.

Now, for the “Eclair Diaries,” Mexico City has become the latest chapter, with Le Méridien Mexico City being the recipient. To see how Iuzzini begins his recipe process, our group accompanied him to Central de Abasto, Mexico City’s major wholesale market. It was the perfect place for Iuzzini to conduct his research, and for me to learn more about Mexican cuisine.

Joining us were Jared Reardon and Sonia Arias, a husband/wife culinary duo from Jaso Restaurant in Mexico City. The couple led Iuzzini around to different vendors, providing details about what was on display and negotiating with various merchants.

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Johnny Iuzzini selects ingredients for the Mexico City eclair.

We followed Iuzzini, as he examined foods by sight, scent, and taste. He tried fruits unique in look and flavor: the citrusy granada china, the papaya-looking mamey sapote, and the dark colored but sweet tasting zapote negro. (I did too.) With every stop, Iuzzini pulled out his notebook, jotting down notes and first impressions. And, of course, he made some purchases like piloncillo, a brown cane sugar molded in a cone shape.

As Iuzzini spent the following day immersed in kitchen R&D, I got to spend time with another Le Méridien ambassador – coffee connoisseur Esther Maasdam. Maasdam is in charge of training Le Méridien’s master baristas and creating a series of latte art inspired by property destinations.

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Coffee expert Esther Maasdam creates a latte work of art.

And she knows her coffee. On the final day of our visit, we got to watch her work her magic at a barista machine and hand-paint latte images inspired by her time in Mexico such as cacti and a Mexican wrestling mask. Also that morning, Iuzzini unveiled the finalized recipe for his Mexico City éclair. It consists of a mole-flavored shell with a mamey-vanilla cream filling, a tamarind-lime glaze, crispy peanuts, caramelized bananas, and crystallized huitlacoche.

Along with Central de Abasto, our group got to explore other sites in Mexico City. They included:

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Amazing fish dish at Restaurante Nicos

Restaurante Nicos: In the Claverai neighborhood, this family-owned restaurant has simple yet elegant décor, and its breakfast/lunch menus are quite refined. For lunch, we had a mix of orders such as a river fish steamed a corn husk, barbecued rabbit, and turkey and pork with mole. Desserts were just as grand: Mexican buñuelos, a fried dough, served in molasses, a corn cake with eggnog sauce; and spiced popcorn paired with pumpkin gelato and zapote negro sauce. Of course, an order of guacamole is great for starting off your meal, and Nicos staff makes it table-side. At the end, order Mexican coffee, as it’s also prepared right in front of you.

Museo Tamayo: Le Méridien’s “Destination Unlocked” program partners each of its properties with a local cultural institution, giving guests get free admission. Le Méridien Mexico City is paired with Museo Tamayo, a contemporary art museum in Chapultepec Park. Named after abstract painter Rufino Tamayo, his featured works include “The Watermelon,” inspired by his childhood selling fruit. Outside, find a swing set that, yes, you can go on. However, it’s best that you don’t climb on the adjacent jungle gym; you might get yelled at by security. The museum’s restaurant offers modern takes on traditional Mexican cuisine, with one must-try being the chicken stuffed with cuitlacoche and goat cheese over pinto beans.

Chapultepec Castle (Castillo de Chapultepec): Also in Chapultepec Park, this hillside castle was once the Imperial residence of Mexican Emperor Maximilian I, and his consort, Empress Carlota. Over time, it also served as the official home of Mexico’s presidents. Now it’s a history museum. Spend some time at the royal couple’s furnished rooms, a stained-glass corridor, an observatory, and a terrace with aerial views of the city.

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Eno Petrarca brews up an assortment of coffees.

Eno Petrarca: In the Polanco neighborhood, this coffee shop/sandwich place gets good remarks for its meal selection but I can more so vouch for its java. I savored a nutty flavored Latte Cacahuate and sipped on a cold coffee infused with almond and lemon. And while we were there, Maasdam had a turn at their machine (ironically, one of the employees recognized her!). This place is also the sibling of Pujol, a fine dining establishment next door that’s hard to get into (it seats about 13) but specializes a seasonal tasting lunch/dinner menu.

Licoreria Limantour: As a place suggested to Maasdam by one of her colleagues, this cocktail bar in Roma Notre is definitely where to get a quality mixed drink. Bonus: If your knowledge of Spanish is un poco, not to worry: the menu feature pictures of their selections alongside drink listings. I had the Vicqua, a fruity concoction topped with a dried carrot/beet garnish.

La Bodega Mexico: It’s easy to spot this restaurant in the Condesa neighborhood, due to its bright red sign and drapery. Inside, it’s even more colorful with decorative fixtures and a room specifically for live music and dancing. The menu is just as interesting with choices ranging from coconut shrimp to chicken in a mole poblano sauce.

Where to Eat in Lake Placid

As I enjoyed taking in the Winter Olympic sites around Lake Placid, plus spending time around the surrounding Adirondacks’ Whiteface region, I have to say that my dining options were good too. Each place I went to is locally owned and stood out in character, through its menu selections, settings, or backstory.

Here is a round up of restaurants in Lake Placid that I highly recommend:

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‘dack Shack
This place on Saranac Avenue is fun and imaginative with a chalkboard wall featuring cool drawings and a counter top seating area that lets you do a little doodling of your own. Candle holders wrapped in birch bark – birch trees are quite common in the Adirondack area – offer a nice touch. Dishes are also inventive. With menus, ‘dack Shack has breakfast, lunch, and dinner choices plus a kids menu and an intriguing theme night menu that lists topnotch orders at a good price point like a confit duck leg at 20 dollars. I was at ‘dack Shack for dinner and ordered the ‘dack Burger, which was stacked with Maple Glazed Bacon, sautéed onions, cheddar and the house specialty secret Shack Sauce (not even my server was told what the ingredients were). To accompany a side of fries, fry dips give ketchup and mayo a step up with flavors like Herb or Truffle Mayo and Dr. Pepper or Habanero Ketchup. Starters are also not your ordinary apps, like breaded mac ‘n cheese balls, and a roast beet, cauliflower and kale dip with crostinis.

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Lake Placid Pub & Brewery
On a side road near Main Street, this three-floor pub and restaurant serves up about seven microbrews and holds brewery tours of its facility from the top level. The Downstairs bar that you first enter into is an Irish pub setting, while second level is more of a micropub with wall art featuring college sports team banners that would make any fan want to sit in here. Also on the third floor, there is seasonal outdoor deck seating overlooking Lake Mirror. As for the beers, its suds extend to English ales likes its popular fruity and malty dark Ubu Ale, to German wheat brews such as the light German Kristalweizen. With food, it’s bar-style selections but with some nice standouts like craft sandwiches, soups, salads, and an assortment of apps. I had the Maple Melt, a charbroiled chicken sandwich with a New York-sourced cheddar that’s nicely melded together.

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the breakfast club, etc.
This Main Street eatery also has lunch and dinner picks, but its name totally reflects breakfast in all capacities. A full service bar and restaurant, this venue has an all-day breakfast menu, so if you’re craving a morning-style meal in the afternoon, you’re good. Known as BC originals, breakfast lovers will find multiple versions of faves like Eggs Benedict such as ones paired with a basil pesto hollandaise sauce or smoked salmon and spinach with a caper dill hollandaise sauce. Fans of home fries should see the röstis, which are seasoned skillet potatoes topped with a choice of anything from corned beef and cheddar to veggies. Perhaps the most eye-catching option is French Toast Fondue, a twofer serving with cinnamon nutmeg French toast sticks, pretzel sticks, and fruit to be dipped in a warm maple-cinnamon sauce. Plus, they have a separate list for 10 different versions of Bloody Marys and Mimosas!

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The Good Bite Kitchen
For vegetarians, this small-sized, lunch-only restaurant is big on flavor with inventive dishes. Also on Main Street, The Good Bite Kitchen is able to hold about six counter sit-in diners, as its location was once a storage hallway until opening in July 2012. The menu rotates, but all lunchtime options are cooked there. Find salads and soup, gluten-free optional and vegan bowls such as chickpea and rice stew or green curry broth, and sandwiches served on toasted focaccia, plus a smoothie of the day. For drinks, if it’s there, try the ginger and allspice hot apple cider.

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Saranac Sourdough
On Saranac Avenue, this good breakfast/deli location offers various counter orders like sandwiches, bagels, lunch plates, and salads, plus breads. As a bagel eater, I also found a neat discovery at Saranac Sourdough: a sourdough bagel. I didn’t think that this type of bread could become an oval option. And as far as I know, I’ve never seen a bagel like this before. So of course I had to try it. I did and it was good.

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Swedish Hill Winery Lake Placid
A mile east of Lake Placid’s downtown area, this tasting room has many assortments of Swedish Hill Winery whites and reds produced by Swedish Hill Winery, which is based in New York State’s Finger Lakes region. Along with chardonnays, Rieslings, and cabernet francs, finds include Glögg, a spicy red wine with a Swedish influence that features flavors of cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and ginger. Swedish Hill Winery has a sister winery called Goose Watch Winery that has a tasting room, the Goose Watch Lake Placid, on Main Street.

Visiting Kennebunk/Kennebunkport, Maine

photo 2(90)Recently, a work assignment brought me up to southern Maine, specifically to Kennebunk and its neighbor, Kennebunkport. Typically, Maine gets many visitors during the summer months, but I discovered that these two towns offer day-to-day attractions to see, do, and dine at year-round. In fact, Kennebunkport puts on a holiday celebration called Christmas Prelude every December.

Though some shops and restaurants may change their hours (or shut down completely) during the colder seasons, your chances of exploring much of Kennebunk and Kennebunkport are pretty good.

Here are my recommendations:

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Get a culinary lesson through Table Maine. Started by the Kennebunkport Resort Collection in February 2015, Table Maine is a weekend culinary program of classes led by local chefs and offering kitchen techniques on food/beverage subjects such as mixology or preparing meat or seafood dishes. Coursework extends to viewing demonstrations, hands-on lessons, and even local restaurants putting on “pop up” dinners. Depending on the subjects, pricing for classes and events usually start at $35 and go as high as $105.

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Go bike riding. By the water, through town, or even on a nature trail, Kennebunkport has places to trek to on your bike. One recommended route is on the scenic Ocean Avenue. This road leads on a route with views of the sea, beaches, restaurants, and the presidential Bush family’s compound at Walker’s Point (but don’t go too far there). Mountain bikers can try  the trails at the Edwin L. Smith Preserve of the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust, which has acquired and preserved various natural areas. If you don’t have — or didn’t bring — a bike, consider renting a set of wheels from Kennebunkport Bicycle.

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Find nature at protected reserves. Just over a 10-minute ride from Kennebunkport, the town of Wells has two nature reserves that can be seen on foot. I spent some time at The Wells Reserve at Laudholm, which has a network of trails that you can walk along and notice the different habitats in this protected coastal ecosystem. The trails stay open year-round, range from easy to moderate, and are mainly self-guided. An admission fee is charged from Memorial Day Weekend through Columbus Day. Not far from Wells Reserve, consider stopping by the Rachel Carlson Wildlife Refuge. This reserve has designated visitor use areas that enable the public to do activities such as kayaking or viewing wildlife.

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Do some antiquing along Route 1. Known as the Maine Antique Trail, this road doubles as a map for 42 miles of over 50 antique stores. Kennebunk contains a few, including Armada Antiques & Collectibles. The shelves and display cases inside this two-level building must get a lot of looks. Merchandise from dinnerware, to books and periodicals, to sports memorabilia, to even relics from another era can be browsed through.

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Stop at the Wedding Cake House. Said to be the most photographed house in Maine, this Gothic style home off of Route 35 in Kennebunk is literally eye candy. Supposedly, this bright yellow house with white trim was built by a sea captain as a wedding gift for his bride. Today this place is privately owned, but most people might stop to get a glimpse or photo.

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Learn about Kennebunk’s history at the Brick Store Museum. Although this museum was closed on the days that I was town, I think it’s worth a visit. Said to be one of the few U.S. museums to open during the Great Depression, this venue serves as part arts institution, part historic site, and part archives center. Its three buildings date back to the 1800s, but inside, rotating exhibitions highlight the town’s overall legacy through its people and objects.

Where to Eat and Drink

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Get local and seasonal flavor at Salt & Honey. In Kennebunkport’s Dock Square, this restaurant has been dishing out comfort food for breakfast, lunch and dinner since opening in May 2014. Its changing menu offer staple dishes and New England favorites, particularly with ingredients like Maine blueberries and lobster. Consider the fish and chips combo with a finely breaded North Atlantic haddock.

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Order breakfast at Boulangerie. In Kennebunk, this village bakery produces artisanal breads, croissants, baguettes, focaccia, sticky buns, meat pies, and other flour-based delights. The location is very rustic – a barn dating back to the 1900s – with indoor and outdoor seating for plopping down and savoring a breakfast treat or afternoon snack. Get  their chicken meat pie and monkey bread!

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Grab some lunch at Duffy’s Tavern & Grill. With one location in Kennebunk’s historic Lafayette Center, this family-friendly place has good pub fare. The venue serves up American food for patrons of all ages – burgers, salads, apps, and wings plus gluten-free options – and the scene is pretty casual.

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Do dinner at The Ramp Bar & Grill. Under Pier 77, in Kennebunkport’s Porpoise Harbor, the tiny yet lively waterside venue has both a local and tourist following. What you’ll first notice are the football helmets hanging above the bar, but the lunch and dinner servings run the gamut from New England seafood favorites, finger foods, to more fork-required dishes like traditional penne Bolognese and a Greek meze.

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Shop at H.B. Provisions. At this general store and deli, also in Kennebunk, pick up a souvenir or order a sandwich, specialty wrap, burger, or panini. There’s table space for sitting down and just watching the shop work, and you can also get some groceries while you’re at it. While eating, take a good look at the walls and see photos of some famous shoppers.

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Tour the Shipyard Brewing Company at Federal Jack’s. At this eatery in Kennebunkport Harbor, Shipyard first brewed its craft beer in 1992. Although its main plant is now in Portland, visitors can still see and learn more about Shipyard on tours at its location in the same building as Federal Jack’s. A seven-barrel system uses state of the art technology to produce house and seasonal ales, plus stouts and IPAs, and keeps its upstairs pub neighbor supplied with continuous suds.

Editor’s Note: My visit and itinerary was scheduled through the Chamber of Commerce for Kennebunk and Kennebunkport. However, the list is all based on my suggestions and experiences.

 

Taiwan Tourism Bureau and Sheraton LaGuardia East Hotel Present ‘Savoring Taiwan’s Cuisine’ in Flushing

Set B (with fish congee)

This October, discover Taiwanese dishes like fish congee at “Savoring Taiwan’s Cuisine” in Flushing.

Taiwan has been making some headlines lately, as a rising culinary destination. Recently CNN featured stories about 40 must-try Taiwanese foods and especially on street food in the city of Tainan. But don’t worry if you can’t get to Taiwan right away. This month, you can get a taste of the country’s cuisine in Flushing, in the New York City borough of Queens.

From Friday, October 16 through Tuesday, October 20, the Taiwan Tourism Bureau and the Sheraton LaGuardia East Hotel in Flushing are presenting “Savoring Taiwan’s Cuisine,” a five-day culinary extravaganza, inside the hotel’s Brasserie Du Dragon Restaurant. It’s open to the public, so they can learn more about Taiwan through a fun way – the food! “Savoring Taiwan’s Cuisine” will feature daily lunch and dinner servings with a choice of different types of Taiwanese street food prepared in partnership with award-winning Taiwanese chefs.

Chefs from Chou's Shrimp Rolls

Well-respected Taiwanese chefs will prepare an elaborate menu at “Savoring Taiwan’s Cuisine.”

Wondering what you’ll find on your plate? Here’s a cooking lesson about Taiwanese food.

This cuisine is a melting pot of China’s regional culinary styles mixed with foreign influences served establishments ranging from fine restaurants to night markets. Another big and tasty aspect of Taiwanese culture is what’s known as snacking. Often happening at night markets, snacking centers on handheld bites, sips of a beverage, or a plate that just needs an accompanying fork or spoon.

Common snack or street foods in Taiwan include bubble (or pearl) milk tea; danzai noodles; oyster omelets; meat rice dumplings; coffin bread; and a sweetly flavored crushed ice. Other local specialties include candied fruits, Taiwanese style meatballs, rice noodles, and various breads and cakes.

Chou's Shrimp Rolls

Guests at “Savoring Taiwan’s Cuisine” will get to try the popular Chou’s Shrimp Rolls.

As for the “Savoring Taiwan’s Cuisine” event, a must-have will be the main entrée: Chou’s Shrimp Rolls. Chef Chou, who was from Tainan, created his specialty shrimp rolls in 1965. This dish quickly earned him fame throughout his home country. In the 1980s, Chef Chou updated his recipe by making the rolls out of fresh and juicy shrimp. Now made mixed with high-quality ground pork, fish paste, celery and green onion, the shrimp rolls have won over the taste buds of gourmands from all over Taiwan and the world.

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Taiwanese cuisine has embraced flavors and traditions from China and foreign influences.

The menu for “Savoring Taiwan’s Cuisine” is as follows:

A Welcome Drink
Ancient Plum Juice, made with roselle, preserved plum, osmanthus, umezuke, and prunus mume.

Hors D’oeuvres
Preserved Fruit or Chou’s Shrimp Crisps

Soup
Handmade Milkfish and Shrimp Balls in Bone Soup

Appetizers
Grilled Mullet Roe, served with radishes and great garlic, or Tainan Coffin Toast, filled with seafood chowder.

Entrees
Chou’s Shrimp Rolls, made with fire shrimp, celery, scallions, onion, fish paste, minced pork, and pig stomach membrane.
Stir Fried Shredded Eel Noodles

Milkfish Congee, made with milkfish, oyster, celery, congee with bone soup, and topped with crisp fried garlic.
Danzai Noodles, made with minced pork, fire shrimp, and noodles in a bone soup.

Dessert
Almond Tofu Pudding or Fresh Fruit

The cost of admission to “Savoring Taiwan’s Cuisine” gives you a memorable experience without needing a passport or airfare. It is at $39.95 per person, with an added 15% service charge and 8.875% sales tax. There is an 18% service charge for parties of six or more. Lunch will be served from noon to 3 p.m., and dinner from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 718-670-7400 or through Open Table (Brasserie Du Dragon Restaurant). The Sheraton LaGuardia East Hotel is located at 135-20 39th Avenue in Flushing. Visit the hotel’s website or the Taiwan Tourism Bureau’s website here.

Editor’s Note: This sponsored post was brought to you by Taiwan Tourism Bureau via Cooperatize.

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Tasting Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee

photo 3(1)On the first full day of our #VisitJamaica Bucket List press trip, we checked off item Number 1: tasting Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee. And we went directly to the Blue Mountains to try it.

About half an hour or so from Kingston, Jamaica’s Blue Mountains provides what these coffee plants need to thrive: misty and cool climate, shady areas, and rich soil. Coffee plants were introduced to Jamaica in 1728, but they were originally placed in a parish field in Kingston. Eventually, these plants were brought to the mountains where they’re still raised and harvested today.

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Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee can carry a hefty price tag, yet the reasoning behind it is a good one. Only coffee grown in a legally defined range of the Blue Mountains – starting from 2,000 feet to 5,000 above sea level – gets the stamp of authenticity: a globally protected certification mark.

It’s also a single origin coffee. Just completely red cherry-colored beans are picked, every by hand. Beans then also have to pass inspection codes set by The Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica on everything from their coloring to sizing and go through various inspection tests before getting a stamp of approval.

When visiting Jamaica, travelers and coffee drinkers can head to The Blue Mountains. From my experience, I would say that it’s best to research and book a tour directly through sites like Expedia or Viator or other tour companies. When you get to the Blue Mountains, you’ll see what I’m talking about. Through a tour, your ride and your admission to a working coffee plantation is covered, of course, but you definitely want a local to handle the driving.

photo 2(3)Getting there is an interesting uphill journey. The ride involves going up winding and unmarked roads but relax by taking in lush green vegetation, mountain shade and blue-sky views from your side window (get one). Small working communities like Irish Town are found along the route, and I spotted simple homes and even shops scattered in between long stretches of fauna.

One coffee plantation up here that’s open to public is Craighton Estate Coffee Plantation. The property consists of an over 200-year-old Georgian style residence once for housing Jamaica’s dignitaries that is now the welcoming area on this farm.

photo 1(5)Bought by the Ueshima Coffee Company (UCC) in 1981, much of the coffee grown here is exported to Japan. The Japanese market is a major importer of Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee, above European and U.S. drinkers, due to their government investing in Jamaica’s coffee production in the eighties to re-percolate it.

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On the porch of this house, guests are greeted with a sit-down lesson on “Coffee 101” and its place in Jamaica.

And, yes, you get a cup of coffee.

Our guide, Alton Bedward, told how well traveled coffee has been over time and over the world (Jamaica first exported beans in 1737). In focusing on Blue Mountain coffee, Bedward shared insights on what makes this beverage so delectable. It is packed with antioxidants, and is low in both acidity and in caffeine levels. “Drinking Blue Mountain coffee is like getting a heart massage,” Bedward said, in that having a cup is locally described as though it’s like drinking to your health.

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Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee has a floral aroma and creamy light yet full-bodied flavor. There is little or no lingering aftertaste. “It’s also got a little sweetness,” said Bedward. I got to add a little more sweetness to my cup through adding in a coffee-infused honey made at Craighton.

After our “coffee talk,” we went to see the property. Harvesting season runs from September through the end of January. After being picked, the beans go through a wet processing method of being washed and pulped and then are sundried (the traditional way of removing moisture) at certain facilities.

While keeping long-term coffee growing methods, modern eco-friendly ones are now more included. As shade is a coffee plant’s best friend, Bedward said Jamaica’s department of forestry is encouraging the planting of mahogany trees to give some ground cover and introduce healthy nitrogen into the ground through their roots. At Craighton, local manure is used as fertilizer and coffee plants are cut back every five years to help them rejuvenate throughout their lifespan.

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Visitors to the Craighton Estate Coffee Plantation can walk on an easy paved uphill path from the property to a gazebo that has great panoramic views. While on your way up and back down, you might spot some beans growing too.

Before leaving, visitors are offered the opportunity to buy bags of coffee. I was advised to do so because I would probably pay more in a store and definitely much more at the airport. So I left with two at first, then changed my mind to get four and then settled on a sure six of them to bring home.

Book Review: National Geographic’s ‘World’s Best Cities’

World's Best Cities CoverLast week, National Geographic released its latest travel book “World’s Best Cities: Celebrating 220 Great Destinations” (Hardcover, $40 US). I got a review copy in the mail, and immediately its picturesque photos and informational tidbits make it an eye-catching read from start to finish.

Even if you can’t get to these cities just yet, this guidebook gives you the feeling of picturing yourself already there, with tips to give you a good head start.

“World’s Best Cities” is inspired by a publication released by the Rockefeller Foundation citing how for the first time ever most people now live in cities – which is impressive.

Photo by Rudy Balasko/Shutterstock New York, New York Central Park, an oasis in the middle of Manhattan. Source: WORLD’S BEST CITIES: Celebrating 220 Great Destinations

Photo by Rudy Balasko/Shutterstock – New York, New York
Central Park, an oasis in the middle of Manhattan Source: World’s Best Cities: Celebrating 220 Great Destinations

This coffee table book starts off list of more than 200 cities based on population, starting with Tokyo and ending with Vatican City. Then there are further breakdown lists of cities by specific traveler’s interests – food, spa, eco-smart, festivals and nightlife – and offbeat or plain cute ones ranging from haunted or walled to happiest or high-altitude. These list-centered pages are mixed in through out the book – smart move! – so you keep going through every page entirely.

Park Guell in Barcelona, Spain.

Photo by MasterLu/iStockphoto Barcelona, Spain – The Gaudí-designed Parc Güell. Source: World’s Best Cities: Celebrating 220 Great Destinations

Overall, its layout is good. Fun or odd facts are on the far right of one page, vital stats or in the lower left corner of the other. Full-color and historic photos really shine here in showcasing various city landscapes and landmarks and the occasional food dish or local person. Some city pages also include point of view essays by residents who have built a reputable street cred (forgive the pun) while other pages go straight to their facts.

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Photo by Ocean/Corbis Mexico City, Mexico Today’s Mexico City is a cultural hub and kaleidoscope of humanity. Its rich, 1,000-year history intermingles distinctly modern atmospherics created by contemporary art with irresistible crafts and street vendors hocking classic Mexican eats. Source: World’s Best Cities: Celebrating 220 Great Destinations

As food and local culture are now key points for many travelers, each city’s respective page gives a lot of explanations on what is the native cuisine and where to find locally-made goods. Best local places to go to tips are a good touch as well.

Nat Geo’s “Urban Insider” columnist Annie Fitzsimmons wrote the book’s preface. I’ve “virtually” met Annie (I follow her on Twitter and we have mutual friends in the travel sector) but she knows her stuff.

For those who enjoy exploring big cities by foot or book, this coffee table is nice for both active and armchair travelers.

I Got to #TrySwedish Cuisine with Visit Sweden

Although I came late to The Old Bowery Station in New York City’s downtown area, I did still get the chance to taste some Swedish delicacies at an invitation-only event held by Visit Sweden last week. The afternoon gathering was all about learning and tasting foods from Western Sweden as part of Visit Sweden’s #TrySwedish promotion.

One of the great food locations on Sweden’s Western coast is the seaside city of Gothenburg. Gothenburg gets high marks for multiple seafood varieties and I was able to sample some Nordic style sushi. If you happen to get to this city, vRÅ is recommended as a good place for sushi and the Michelin starred Sjömagasinet is known for both its fine traditional and creative seafood dishes. I also got to sip on a lovely berry-flavored Rekorderlig Cider, which originated in Sweden.

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In addition to what I ate–and what I sadly missed out on eating–it was nice to later read up on Swedish culinary traditions and growing food movements such saving and using more of indigenous ingredients and a renaissance of artisan beverages. Bread and cakes are said to be still much loved in Sweden, from kanelbullar cinnamon rolls (there’s actually a Cinnamon Bun Day every October!) to a dark rye called kavring.

photo(147)Culinary accolades also go beyond Gothenburg. In Sweden’s Jämtland region, the city of Östersund has been designated as a UNESCO City of Gastronomy with its fine cheeses and meats, herbs, and breads.

Plus with culinary tourism growing in public taste, it’s fitting that Sweden’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs had the foodie foresight to initiate a campaign called “Sweden – the New Culinary Nation” in 2008. It has an ambitious goal of making Sweden a leading country for food by 2020.

Last week’s event tied in with the second annual NORTH Food Festival, a week-long showcase of Nordic culinary presentations and tastings. Learn more about #TrySwedish here.