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Food and Drink

November 02, 2012

The Best Craft Brewery in California

The sampler at Russian River Brewing Company

When it comes to taste, everyone has their say. Often one beer-lover’s nirvana is another beer-aficionado’s moment of mneh. So let’s use crowd-sourcing to justify our claim that Russian River Brewing Company ranks as the best of California’s many craft breweries. And by that I mean the blocks-long line that crowds out the otherwise unassuming town of Santa Rosa every two weeks each February when anxious beer hounds line up for hours, just for a sip of Russian River’s Pliny the Younger, a limited-release triple IPA.

But we don’t praise Russian River Brewing Company solely because of its hard-to-acquire limited-release beer. They win our affections because of the craftsmanship that goes into each bottle, barrel, and keg, from the hard-to-make Pliny the Younger to their Belgian-style sours to the endlessly award-winning Pliny the Elder, a double IPA named after the first person to write about hops back in 23-79 A.D.

Continue reading "The Best Craft Brewery in California" »

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Related Topics: Culinary Travel · Food and Drink

June 20, 2012

What to Drink in Puerto Rico

As the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and countless Captain Morgan commercials testify, rum is the drink of the Caribbean. But if you’re like me—cursed in college by a night of ill-advised overindulgence—rum is palatable only when disguised in a mixed drink like a piña colada or a dark and stormy. Until, that is, I went to Puerto Rico.

It was late evening, and after wandering the cobblestone streets of San Juan for a few hours, I searched out a bar stool at El Batey, a dive near the famed El Convento Hotel. Medalla Light, the local beer, is surprising flavorful… but I needed a bit more punch to cut through my aching feet (those scenic cobblestones can take its toll), so I ordered my standby: Jameson’s on the rocks.

“Why don’t you try the local rum,” said the bartender, a brusk young woman with a mop of brown curls made wild by the island humidity. She wore a New York Knicks jersey, and carried herself as if she hailed from the edgier part of the Lower East Side; her suggestion was more a command than a question.

I said sure, figuring I’d muscle through what I predicted to be the sickly-sweet, oh-so-uninspired rum on the rocks placed before me.

Continue reading "What to Drink in Puerto Rico" »

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Related Topics: Food and Drink · Travel Raves

May 25, 2012

Get Rewared for Telling Your Best Fish Tale


Avid fishermen (and those who love—or tolerate—them) know the story of the one that got away is part of the experience. And with fly-fishing, which these days mostly embraces a catch-and-release philosophy, all you have to show at the end of the day is your wide smile. But if you’ve been inspired to capture some visual proof to back up those tall tales, here’s your chance to immortalize that perfect catch. 

Scotland’s Speyburn Single Malt Whisky recently announced their search for the “Perfect Catch.”  Upload a photo of your favorite fish, pair it with a 100-word story about the catch, and you could win a professionally framed artist rendering of your photo and a $500 Orvis gift card. Better yet, for every photo submitted, Speyburn will donate a dollar to American Rivers, the leading organization to restore and protect the country’s rivers and streams. In other words, not only do you get to brag about your epic fish prowess, but your (well-intended) vanity also gives back to the rivers that offer you so much joy.

As for the whisky itself? It’s distilled in the Speyside region of the Scottish Highlands, a landscape tailor-made for fishing—as well as paddling, hiking, camping, and mountain biking. The caramel-colored, medium-bodied whisky drinks smooth and easy, and is best enjoyed with only a few drops of water to open up the hints of green apple and vanilla spice. We find it's also best enjoyed after a day spent on your favorite river.

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Related Topics: Food and Drink · Free Stuff · From Around the Web

April 03, 2012

What Book to NOT Read While Flying

Heat_bill_bufordThe flight from DC to Seattle lasts nearly five hours, which is almost long enough to sate yourself with a free snack mix and then grab some half-decent seafood in Seattle—which had been my plan last week when I flew from Reagan National to Bend, Oregon, on Alaska Air. Grab a big lunch and then a decent dinner while laid over in Seattle. Until, that is, I got on the plane and started reading Heat.

Bill Buford’s book chronicles the author's obsession with Italian cuisine, a months-long path that starts in Mario Batali’s New York restaurant Babbo and ends with him working under a Dante-quoting butcher (the best butcher in the world, no less), all of it written with nominal flourish and a true passion for food, both where it originates and how it’s prepared. Midway through the book—and the flight, as it happened—Bufford visits Italy for the first time, and encounters the cuisine that has made that part of Europe so utterly, justifiable famous. And as I read through his descriptions of the fine smoked meats and the right way to prepare bolognese, it was all over. Seven dollars later, I was inhaling the poorest substitute of what I was reading: a pre-packaged fruit and cheese plate (they were out of the meat plate). Reading a well-written book on food while traveling assures that you’re going to eat whatever the airline offers, and it’s never going to measure up.

And when I reached Seattle, I also had fish tacos. Again, a poor substitute for Italian fare. But the one-hour jaunt from Seattle to Redmond, Oregon, on Horizon Air did include a FREE glass of microbrew beer from Bend, my eventual destination. And that helped shift me toward a different world of enjoyment.

What books do you always avoid while flying? Tell us in the comments section.

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Related Topics: Air Travel · Food and Drink

March 19, 2012

Why Indians Like to Drink

From my experience, Indians love their blended whisky (specifically Johnny Walker). Perhaps it’s a lingering influence from the days of English colonization. But I hazard to guess that, if they elected to try a single malt whisky harvested and distilled in their own country, they may change their allegiance.

Last week I had the good fortune to be introduced to Amrut, a whisky distillery whose variety of single malts are fully developed in India—a kind of locavore movement for the drinking set. I was able to sample two of their whiskies at a tasting event held on a surprisingly balmy night on the roof deck of Washington, D.C.’s Jack Rose, one of the best cocktail-themed restaurants in the nation’s capital.

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Related Topics: Asia Travel · Food and Drink

December 28, 2011

Anthony Bourdain Shares His Top Five Travel Tips

ANTHONY BOURDAIN- NO RESERVATIONS COLLECTION 6-PARTSeasoned traveler and punk rock celeb chef Anthony Bourdain  (host of the Travel Channel's No Reservations) presents his top five travel tips to avoid travel nightmares and make the most out of your time on the road.

Eat like a local.  Wherever you are, eat what the locals are good at or famous for, and eat where those locals like to eat it. Do not rely on your concierge for dining tips. He’s in the business of making tourists happy. You want the places that make locals happy. Seek out places crowded with locals. Avoid places where others of your kind are present.

Show appreciation.  People everywhere like it when you are appreciative of their food. I cannot stress enough how important your initial reactions to offerings of local specialties are to any possible relationships you might make abroad. Smile and try to look happy, even if you don’t like it. If you do like it, let them know through word or gesture of appreciation.

Visit local markets.  Get up early and check out the central food market. It’s a fast way into a culture, where you’ll see the basics of the cuisine.  You’ll often find local prepared foods at stands or stalls serving markets’ workers.

Travel prepared.  Be prepared to be stuck in an airport for indeterminate periods of time.  Load your mobile device with as many games, songs, apps, and e-books as possible to keep busy during long waits. Also, make sure to pack a battery charger to power up.

Continue reading "Anthony Bourdain Shares His Top Five Travel Tips" »

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Related Topics: Food and Drink · Travel Tips

July 14, 2011

Courtyard Marriott Bids Adieu to the Waffle Iron

The new look of Courtyard Marriott's breakfast space (courtesy Courtyard Marriott)

Travelers staying at Courtyard Marriott are getting a healthy (and delicious) kick in the pants when it comes to the breakfast buffet. The old standards found in hotels and motels across the country (stale cereal, carb-loaded muffins, and yes, the ubiquitous waffle maker) are giving way to egg white sandwiches with havarti cheese and heart-healthy apple-cranberry oatmeal. The move is part of Courtyard's Bistro concept, which aims to give weary business travelers an excuse to stay in when on the road.

The project, being rolled out to Courtyard's 700+ hotels through 2012, brings comfortable, modern accents to once staid hotel lobbies. "Media pods" (small booths where groups of two to four can have a multimedia meeting) and communal tables allow solo travelers to chit-chat with others while checking email or having a glass of wine.

Courtyard-salad But the big change is the food menu. Open for breakfast, lunch, and light entrees, "The Bistro" has a menu crafted by chefs at the test kitchen in Marriott's D.C. headquarters, combining seasonal dishes with tried and true favorites. We recently got a sneak peak at the menu items, and though there were hits and misses, the food was a significant step above your typical chain hotel fare. A falafel sandwich surprised and impressed this reviewer, both for the fact that it was light and tasty and that Courtyard, whom I know from my days on the road to healthcare marketing conferences, would risk such niche item. The roast beef sandwich sources bread from California's well-known LaBrea bread company, and the Asian noodle salad would have made a perfect fill for that state of hunger that only six hours of airline travel can bring.

Now only if they could work on airline food.

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March 17, 2011

Honoring St. Patrick's Day


You can have your green beer and your Irish pubs today, America.  Gulping cheap brew polluted with food coloring while accessorized with plastic four-leaf clovers has always felt like the perfect example of the way us U.S. citizens “celebrate another’s culture”: by getting shamelessly wasted before noon at a much-hyped Irish brunch in the nearest mall-theme restaurant to the tune of the latest U2 song (which, for the record, sounds about as Irish as Justin Bieber). Go head…swaddle yourself in various shades of green, head to toe, underwear to overcoat, and let the Irish car bombs splash all over you.  But know that this does not make you Irish. Really—it doesn’t even make you seem as if you even like the Irish.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m the worst kind of Irish-American. I have just enough of Irish blood to have some red hair in my beard.  My deep affection for all kinds of Irish whiskey qualifies me as a functioning alcoholic. And I’m one of those guys who screams along in an off-tune warble whenever The Pogues grace a jukebox (and yes, I also close my eyes and mouth the words during some of their slower numbers—but only to Macgowan-era tunes, thank you very much).  I love a well-poured pint, and I love my Irish pubs (D.C.’s Irish Times and Nanny O’Briens, in particular), and I’m the bastard that reminds you that Guinness tastes better in Ireland than anywhere else—because it does.

Continue reading "Honoring St. Patrick's Day" »

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Related Topics: Culinary Travel · European Travel · Food and Drink · Travel Rants

February 07, 2011

From Pizza to Pasta: Get Cooking in Rome

(Kendra Bailey Morris)

It goes without saying that Italy is all about the food. Whether you're downing a big bowl of wild mushroom risotto with a glass of Sanviogese or diving into a pile of fried zeppoles drizzled in chocolate sauce, you can bet your bolognese you're going to eat really, really well in Italy, especially in the Lazio region, including the city of Rome.

Roman cooking, like much of Italy's cuisine in general, is based on simple preparation procedures using the freshest of local ingredients. Spaghetti is tossed with bacon, eggs, and parmesan to make a classic carbonara while bucatini is simply accented with salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil, and pecorino for "cacio e pepe" (a very simple cheese-and-pepper spaghetti dish). Fresh vegetables, such as eggplant and zucchini are rolled in seasoned breadcrumbs and fried for frittis, and of course, wood-fired pizzas are topped with everything, from hand-pulled buffalo mozzarella to earthy porcini mushrooms.

Continue reading "From Pizza to Pasta: Get Cooking in Rome" »

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Related Topics: Culinary Travel · European Travel · Food and Drink · Travel Tips · Trip Ideas

January 20, 2011

Epicurian Skiers Rejoice: The Beaver Creek Master Chef Classic Is Upon Us

Joey Campanaro displays his talents (Courtesy, Beaver Creek Master Chef Classic)

For those of you who envision a ski vacation as more than just ski-eat-ski-eat-sleep-repeat, you now have another reason to head into the mountains this January. From the 27th to the 29th, Colorado’s Beaver Creek Resort hosts the 13th-annual Beaver Creek Master Chef Classic, a three-day epicurean event that brings Bon Appetit magazine-selected celeb chefs like Marco Canora, Joey Campanaro, Francois Payard, and John Besh to the resort’s famed restaurants. Prices—which include two nights lodging, two lift tickets, and tickets to the Master Chef Challenge and the Grand Tasting—start at an insanely reasonable $522 per person. Other activities during the event include wine and cocktail seminars, cooking classes, tickets to the Master Chef Dinner, and more. And if you need something to placate all this gluttony, know that a portion of the proceeds goes to the Bright Future Foundation, a local organization that works to prevent domestic violence.

Oh, and for those hardcore skiers and riders out there, most events happen in the evening, so consider crowning a day of deep powder turns with heady epicurean indulgence. It might even change the way you think about taking on a mountain.

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Related Topics: Culinary Travel · Food and Drink · Last Minute Trips · Outdoor Adventures · Skiing & Snowboarding

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