The Local Restaurant in Naples, FL/sweetleisure.comWish The Local restaurant was local—to me that is. The restaurant is local to lucky residents of Naples, FL, which I think is essentially unfair. It may be jealousy talking, but folks in Naples get all the breaks. They enjoy great weather, sand and sea and a cornucopia of other pleasures. I don’t see why they should have the added perk of this inexpensive, super cool restaurant open for lunch and dinner six days a week (closed on Monday).
Located in a strip mall on Airport Pulling Rd N, The Local takes casual dining to a tasty, healthful high.

Inside The Local Restaurant in Naples, FL./
Most ingredients come from sustainable Southwest Florida farms (thank you Florida weather)

The Local serves locally sourced foods.

and menu items present a feast for vegans, vegetarians, carnivores, omnivores, pescatarians…well…let’s just cut to the chase. People with all sorts of food preferences will find something to strike their fancy from the ever-changing menu of delectable


Tomato Soup from The Local Restaurant/

The Local restaurant in Naples, FL, serves terrific Salads/
flatbreads, both constructed and deconstructed (see recipe below)

Flatbread from The Local Restaurant in Naples, FL/

Sandwich from the Local Restaurant in Naples, FL/

Specials at The Local Restaurant in Naples, FL/

Dessert Table at The Local Restaurant in Naples, FL/

and beverages.

Bar at The Local Restaurant in Naples, FL/
Although owner-chef Jeff Mitchell serves some of the freshest, most gorgeous vegetables in Florida,

Crudités Served at The Local Restaurant in Naples, Florida/

he also devotes detailed attention to pork. “We butcher a hog daily,” Mitchell says, “and use everything from the hooter to the tooter.”

Owner/Chef Jeff Mitchell of The Local Restaurant in Naples, FL./

Jeff Mitchell

Much can be said about The Local’s food. Often used descriptors include:
“organic,” “grass-fed,” “free-range,” “farm-to-table,” “sea-to table,”“so delicious” “beautiful” “clean,” “healthful” and “Mmmmmmmmm!”
Meticulous sourcing, creative preparation, vibrant presentation—oh, how I wish The Local was local to me.


Yield: 2 to 4 servings.
2 ripe tomatoes
1 cucumber
1/2 red bell pepperMediterranean Flatbread Recipe at
1 stalk celery
1 tablespoon diced red onion
1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill
Juice from 1/2 lemon
Extra virgin olive oil
3 mint leaves
1/4 cup feta cheese
Seasoned toasted flatbread (recipe follows)
Trim tomatoes and cut into bite size pieces.
Peel and cut ends off cucumber. Cut cucumber in half lengthwise. Remove seeds. Slice cucumber crosswise into 1/4-inch thick half moons.
Trim, seed and cut red bell pepper into 1/4 inch thick strips.
Trim celery and cut into 1/4-inch thick pieces.
Put all cut vegetables into a medium mixing bowl. Add onion and dill. Sprinkle lemon juice over ingredients. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with sumac. Toss gently with two spoons to distribute ingredients and seasonings. Taste and correct seasonings. Put into a serving bowl. Tear mint leaves into thirds and sprinkle over top of salad. Top with feta.
Serve with seasoned toasted flat bread.

Olive Oil
Cut flatbread into wedges. Brush both sides of each wedge with extra virgin olive oil and set on a baking sheet. Sprinkle wedges with za’tar. Place baking sheet in a preheated 350°F oven and toast flatbread until golden brown and crispy, about 7 minutes.
For more information about The Local click HERE.

Menu Items from The Local Restaurant in Naples, FL./




Shhh!…keep this between us as it’s not too cool for a travel writer to claim a favorite cruise. But when it comes to barging, I’ve taken two trips that I adored above all the others and just can’t stop praising them.
Both were on the same Horizon II, one of the luxurious hotel barges in the French Country Waterways fleet. Both traveled divinely, dreamingly, deliciously through the ancient man-made canals of the Upper Loire in France. Same vessel. Same country. Same itinerary. Different years. Double-dipped delight.

So what is it about the Horizon II that inspires devotion?

A barge is a barge is a barge. Most reconstructed hotel barges floating in France have the same dimensions. The number of passengers tucked into allotted space offers best clue to comfort.
The supremely comfortable Horizon II carries only eight passengers, which maximizes bedroom size, public area space per person and personal attention.

The large bedrooms sit on a lower level, down a few stairs.


En suite bathrooms overflow with amenities including Bvlgari products, heated towel racks, fluffy bathrobes and great showers.


The dining room/lounge/library/help-yourself bar (which staff stocks with passengers’ favorite brands) occupies the mid-level deck and is the place where passengers gather for drinks, meals, relaxing and conversation.


The upper level sundeck stretches over the front of the barge, a few steps up from the lounge. Passengers use the sundeck for alfresco dining, sunshine lounging and to embark and disembark from the barge at docks.


Passengers can borrow a bike stored on the sundeck and hop off of the barge as it travels through a lock, and then bike or stroll to the next lock to re-board.


Sounds like heaven? There’s more:

French cherry wood walls, red and blue solids, patterns and plaids for fabrics, and nautical finishing touches make the barge feel as cozy as a country house, and chic as an upscale boutique hotel.

The Horizon II’s talented crew consists of a captain, a chef, two hostesses, a tour guide and a deckhand. (Six crew to eight passengers—a pampering ratio if there ever was one.) Although some of the crew on most of the cruises are French, all speak fluent English.

Eating and drinking on the Horizon II could substitute as a crash course in French culinary delights. Breakfast comes with breads and pastries purchased in dawns early light from the best bakery wherever the barge docks.

Buffet lunches include an array of colorful salads with ingredients sourced from local markets and/or farms along the route. (See recipes below.)

Multi-course dinners match any served at three-star restaurants.


Three extraordinary French cheeses accompany each lunch and dinner as does a dramatic selection of Premier Cru, Grand Cru and special wines available only locally.



Nothing much happens on the barge trip and that’s the beauty of it.
The barge docks at night, on the outskirts of tiny villages.


During the day, it glides with the grace and pace of a swan through ancient canals and locks, floating through backyards of villages and fertile countrysides.

Once a day, passengers take a tour or excursion, by foot or car to some point of nearby interest. Excursions could, and usually do, include: visits to legendary châteaux, wine tastings, and tours of tiny villages, some with terrific shopping opportunities, e.g. famous chocolate shops and the  renowned Gien French Faience dinnerware factory and outlet.


But excursions aside, the best part of a Horizon II trip is simply being on board, drinking fabulous wines, eating luscious meals, maneuvering through locks, and relaxing on deck while floating through scenery where every blink reveals a picture postcard image of rural perfection and every minute brings pure pampering pleasure.


Cyril Bedu

Everything that Horizon II’s chef Cyril Bedu makes pleases, but he is especially gifted with preparing a variety of salads with the freshest vegetables sourced from markets and farms along the barge’s route. Two favorites include:



Yield: 6 to 8 servings.
1 small head red cabbage
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted (See NOTE)
1 tablespoon chopped chives
Hazelnut vinaigrette (recipe follows)
1 large tomato for garnish, optional
Halve cabbage. Cut away core. Sliver remaining cabbage and put slivers into a bowl.
Add raisins, pine nuts and chives. Toss. Sprinkle to taste with hazelnut vinaigrette and toss gently to distribute ingredients.
Cut tomato peel off of tomato and form into a “rose.” Place tomato rose in center of salad. Cut remaining tomato into wedges and place wedges around outer edge of salad.

Yield: 1/2 cup.
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons hazelnut oil
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste.
Put vinegar and mustard in a small bowl and whisk together until blended. Slowly whisk in the oils until dressing is emulsified. (Or place all ingredients in a screw-top jar and shake vigorously to blend thoroughly.) Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spread pine nuts on an ungreased baking sheet. Place in a preheated 350°F oven and roast, stirring often, until nuts are light golden brown, about 5 minutes. Watch carefully to prevent burning. Immediately remove from heat and transfer pine nuts to a plate to cool.



Yield: 6 to 8 servings.
About 2 pounds small red potatoes
2 tablespoons dry white wine
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons finely minced parsley
1-1/2 tablespoons finely sliced shallot
1 tablespoon finely chopped gherkins
Freshly ground pepper
Lettuce leaves for garnish, optional
Cocktail tomatoes for garnish, optional
Mushroom rose for garnish, optional
Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil and add 1 teaspoon salt. Cut unpeeled potatoes into bite size pieces and add to boiling water. Boil until potatoes are just tender when pierced with a small knife, about 10 minutes.
Drain well.
Sprinkle potatoes with wine and toss very gently. Set potatoes aside to absorb wine.
Make dressing: Whisk vinegar with mustard and 1/4-teaspoon salt until salt dissolves. Very slowly whisk in oil. Stir in parsley, gherkins and shallots. Pour dressing over warm potatoes and toss gently to blend. Serve warm or chilled, garnished as desired.

For another great Horizon II recipe click HERE.
For French Country Waterways Information, click HERE.




Oh man, I’m hungry. All I can think about is the original Petit Trois in Los Angeles. This restaurant proves the proverb that good things come in small packages. Really good things. Really small packages.

Located in a strip mall on Highland just off Melrose, the narrow French-focused bistro seats only 21 lucky folks on stools at two counters. One counter faces the open kitchen—the other, a wall of arched mirrors.

There are no tables. No chairs. No reception area to hold the crowds that gather for first come first served seating. Customers line up outdoors with seating on a bench facing the parking lot (just FYI, the wait is shorter on rainy days).

The bathroom, in the back, shares space with Trois Mec, Petit Trois’s older, more formal sibling restaurant. A small, well-stocked bar at the entrance completes the set up.
It’s not the intimate space, but the food that gathers the crowds and garners the accolades. Under the direction of celebrity Executive Chef Ludovic Lefebvre and the charming Chef de Cuisine Will Marquardt, the “Bar á la Carte” serves simple, unpretentious, perfectly prepared dishes that some critics claim is the best French food in all of America.

Chef Will Marquardt

Petit Trois sports a slew of contradictions.
Small space/colossal reputation.
Casual setting/serious food.
Old-school bistro/trendy L.A. vibe.
Credit cards only/no cash accepted (can you imagine!).
So what am I craving? Actually the full menu, particularly
the pate de campagne

the dreamy omelette

the cassoulet and other specials

the salted caramel rice pudding

the awesomely rich, velvety divine, melt-in-the-mouth chocolate mousse.

Chef Will and Hostess Natalie with Chocolate Mousse



Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

About 7 ounces 70% dark chocolate
6-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 eggs, separated
About 10 tablespoon sugar, divided
1 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

Melt chocolate with butter over a baine marie and stir until well blended. Set mixture aside.
Put egg yolks and 1/4 cup sugar in a medium mixing bowl. Beat with an electric mixer set on medium-high speed until mixture is pale yellow and thick enough to form a ribbon when the beaters are lifted, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
Put egg whites in a clean medium mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer with clean beaters, beat whites slowly adding 3 tablespoons sugar. Continue beating until soft peaks form, about 3 minutes.
With a large spatula, gently fold yolk mixture with chocolate until no streaks remain. Gently fold whites into chocolate mixture, scooping around bottom and sides of bowl and rotating bowl as you fold.
Spoon mousse into ramekins. Cover each ramekin with foil or plastic and refrigerate for 4 hours before serving. The mousse can be made a day in advanced and refrigerated until ready to serve.
When ready to serve. Whip cream with remaining sugar until soft peaks form. Spoon dollops of whipped cream on top of mousse in each ramekin. Put each ramekin on a serving plate. Put cocoa in a fine mesh sieve and dust top of whipped cream and surrounding plate with cocoa.
Serve immediately.

Bon appétit!

For more information about Petit Trois click HERE.

To see a video of Will Marquardt click HERE.




I’ve driven past it many times without going in. That’s never happening again.
Located on the route from Denver to Aspen, Colorado, where drivers switch from I-70 to Hwy CO-82, Glenwood Hot Springs lures like a siren song.


From above, the “largest mineral hot springs pool in the world” looks like a greatly elongated bright-blue football field, although it’s narrow at one end, broad at the other. Drive a bit closer and one sees swimmers frolicking under bright blue skies and hears splashing squeals drifting over the water waves like an invitation to join the fun.

Looks joyful. Sounds festive. But one can’t tell how relaxing and rejuvenating the spring water feels until actually plunging in, which folks have been doing since the facility was founded in 1888.

Driving by and want to partake? Go for it. There is no excuse to pass on the pleasure.
No suit. No worry. The facility rents swimsuits and towels for those without their own. And an on premise shop sells swimware along with upscale clothing, souvenirs and water-fun sundries.

Hungry? No problem. An indoor/outdoor grill offers breakfast, lunch and snacks along with beverages that include beer and wine. One can even bring a cooler (but no glass or alcohol).

Not sure what to do? No sweat.
Park the car (plenty of free spaces) and enter through doors located in front of the peach-colored sandstone bathhouse.

Pay at the entrance for access to the pools and to the men’s, women’s and family changing rooms and showers. A number of factors, including season, time of day and age determines charges. Be sure to reserve change for the coin-operated lockers.

What looks like one enormous pool is actually two. Separate water slides and a kiddy wading pool, located at the west end of the property, operate in summer.

Water for the main pools come from the Yampah spring (Yampah means “big medicine” in the Ute Indian language). The spring water, naturally heated to about 122°F., is cooled with fresh water before being pumped to the facility’s pools. Temperature of the 405-foot long main pool hovers around 90°F. With diving board and lap lanes at one end, this is the ideal pool for swimming play.

The 100-foot long therapy pool maintains a 104°F temperature ideal for soaking and socializing. Coin operated “bubble chairs” add effervescence to the therapy experience.

Backdropped by mountain scenery and surrounded by clear fresh mountain air, Glenwood Hot Springs provides an all-season Rocky Mountain high for those seeking water fun. So don’t skip the delight on the drive to someplace else. Stop. Submerge. Soak. Swim. Socialize. Sunbathe. Smile.





Jamie Pearce knows almost everything there is to know about Moab and the town’s glorious surroundings. She has devoted most of her life to exploring and helping others explore the postcard-scenic, red rock wonderland that holds the city, the Colorado River and two dramatic national parks, Arches and Canyonlands.
A native of Salt Lake City, Jamie became a river guide in Moab after completing high school. She received her real estate license and sold real estate while earning a degree at the University of Utah where she studied, among other subjects, Parks Recreation and Tourism.
After college Jamie landed a job at the Moab Adventure Center where she has served as manager for the past 12 years. The Moab Adventure Center arranges guides for a single outing as well as design complete vacation packages for tourists with a range of different interests. Hummer safaris, paddleboarding, balloon rides, scenic flights…well…Moab Adventure Center offers just about every way to explore this gorgeous pocket of America and Jamie knows them all inside and out.
We know this sounds like an ad, but Moab Adventure Center ranks as the quintessential place for one-stop shopping/sightseeing in the whole magical Moab playground and Jamie is more than partly responsible. That’s why Sweet Leisure asked her to share her expertise and tell us the top ten things every tourists should do/see/experience when in the Moab region.
Here’s Jamie’s list—in her own words:

It’s a vast list of things to do and see in Moab, narrowing it down to just a handful felt a little bit like having to narrow down my relatives to just a few favorites. Now, I’m not going to lie, I could do that without much consternation, but just because I can doesn’t mean I should. In an attempt to avoid naming favorites, I’m going to offer you the 10 things I would do if one of my family members were visiting Moab for the first time (one who would have made the favorites list, of course).


#1 The Colorado River- It would be a tragedy, I’m not joking, a real tragedy if you came to Moab and didn’t experience the stunning beauty of the Colorado River Canyons. There are many ways to travel the river corridors, whether it be adrenaline pumping whitewater, or a leisurely jetboat tour across calm waters, or something in between (like a paddleboard), you simply must experience the Colorado River.


#2 Scenic Byway 128- The road connects US 191 with I-70. No matter if the road is not on your intended path, seeing the contrast of the Sandstone cliffs against the Colorado River is worth the drive.


#3 Arches National Park- Allow yourself at least a half day to drive the park. However, there are more than 2,000 arches in Arches National Park, so a half day barely gives you time to scratch the surface of all there is to be seen.


#4 Petroglyph Panel on Potash Road- The Potash Road is arguably one of Moab’s most magnificent drives. Just a few miles down the road roughly 25 to 30 feet up hides in plain sight a 125 foot panel of prehistoric rock art. How cool is that?


#5 Hummer Ride on Hell’s Revenge-  This off road tour will be one of the most unique, thrilling and fun experiences you’ll find in Moab, or maybe anywhere.


#6- La Sal Mountain Loop Road – This paved scenic drive offers spectacular overlooks of Moab’s red rock rims from Alpine perches high in the La Sal Mountains, Utah’s second highest mountain range.


#7 Dead Horse Point-  Take in the majesty of one of Moab’s iconic photo spots 2,000 feet above a goose neck bend in the Colorado River.


#8 Mesa Arch Hike- If you’re ambitious, catch this one at sunrise. Located in the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National park, a short easy walk leads you to an expansive view of the fierce canyon country desert through the frame of a rugged arch.


#9 Movie Museum at Red Cliffs Lodge- Ever heard of a fella named John Wayne? He helped put Moab on the map. A collection of  Moab movie memorabilia is housed at Red Cliffs Lodge. While you’re there, take the time to enjoy a meal and take a tour of their Castle Creek Winery.


#10 Moab by Air- Whether by airplane, biplane, balloon or helicopter, you’ll garner a whole new appreciation of Moab once you’ve viewed its expanse of red rock towers, canyons and spires from above.

If you stick to even a handful of these 10 things, your Moab visit will be a guaranteed success. I’ll look forward to seeing you in Red Rock Country!

More information see:

Moab Adventure Center 

Discover Moab 

Canyonlands National Park 

Arches National Park




I know where Santa Claus vacations.
And I know why he chooses Sunset at the Palms in Negril, Jamaica. The resort is the polar opposite of the North Pole.
Here wooden treehouse-style guest rooms sit on stilts surrounded by tropical splendor.


A profusion of palms and ferns and bamboos fill the property, covering the grounds, rising to heights that shade the treehouse roofs. Orchids, jasmine, ginger, lilies and a cornucopia of other garden glories garnish walking paths.

Woodpeckers add drum beats to songbird serenades. Frogs join in with lyrical mating calls. Trees sway in the breeze like reggae dancers. The sun shines with intensity and rainy season showers add spurts of growth to the already lush vegetation. The whole resort is a Garden of Eden with guest rooms, pool, restaurants and bars attached.

Guests seeking the serene find Sunset at the Palms enchanting for not only what the resort has, but also what it lacks.

Being an adult-only property, the resort lacks noisy kids.
Having only 43 treehouses spread over 10 acres, the resort lacks crowds.
Personal and intimate, the resort lacks razzle dazzle activities found at mega resorts. A weekly mixology class, cooking demonstration and garden tour sum up the scheduled events.

The resort lacks sports bars with giant TVs blaring and lacks speakers booming pulsating soundtracks in public places. Instead, Sunset at the Palms employs a mellow mix of musicians for lively, but not intrusive, nightly entertainment.
And the beach lacks…well…just about everything that interferes with a great beach experience. The resort’s beach sits on a two-mile crescent of glistening white sand, said to be one of the loveliest beaches in Jamaica. Located on five acres across the street from the treehouse guestrooms, (a crossing guard stops traffic), the resort’s beach lacks struggles to claim lounges (as there are plenty for guests), lacks an overload of haggling merchants (controlled by local laws, location and resort staff) and lacks loud and disruptive motorized sports equipment (banned by Sunset at the Palms).

In addition to the treasured lacks that make this resort blissfully relaxing, Sunset at the Palms offers a Santa’s sleigh full of amenities to pamper guests.
A welcoming service run by Club Mobay meets resort guests as they exit their plane at the Donald Sanger International Airport in Montego Bay. The service (included in the resort fee) fast-tracks guests through immigration, customs and luggage claim, then takes them to a private Arrival Lounge to await their assigned driver for transport to the resort 75 miles away.
Staff greets arriving guests in an open-air pavilion, that, like other buildings on property, reflect Balinese style-architecture. Dark wood and gracefully high ceilings with exposed rafters offers shady respite from Jamaica sun.

Check in couldn’t be easier and made even more fluid with a welcoming rum punch (or two).
Garden paths lead to individual treehouses, some containing two-level suites and others divided into two individual guest rooms.

Rooms repeat the Balinese influence with dark wood furniture, white linens and modern bathrooms with large showers. Guests adjust room temperature by turning on the air conditioning, opening the louvered screened window or just letting the ceiling fans whirl overhead. French doors open to a private balcony with table, chairs and a daybed (divine for early morning lounging, heat-of-day napping and cocktail sipping).

Now comes the best part. Sunset at the Palms is an all-inclusive that
serves exceptionally good food and premium liquor in a choice of restaurants and bars.
Dining options include a range of international and Caribbean favorite foods served at breakfast, lunch and dinner in the open air Palm Grove Restaurant buffet. (Santa loves the buffet.)

The beach grill sports nachos and sandwiches, such as bacon cheeseburgers, red snapper in coco bread and jerk chicken.

Upscale specialities, such as lamb chops and chocolate mousse, grace the menu of the white-tablecloth Lotus Leaf restaurant.

And creative fusion dishes, such as risotto cakes with sautéed salmon, callaloo sauce and watermelon chutney, highlight the Chef’s Showcase, which is held several nights a week in a garden setting.

Credit executive chef, Dwight Morris, with not only buying ingredients from local organic farms but also adding a generous sampling of Jamaican specialties to menus. Here’s where to find authentic, well-prepared ackee and saltfish, curry goat, patties, jerk chicken and pork, bammy, rice and peas…well…the list goes deliciously on and on.

So there you have the lure: graceful accommodations, glorious gardens, gourmet food. But there’s even more to keep Santa returning year after year: Perks include a pool with swim-up bar,

a tennis court, fitness center, spa with one large open-air treatment room, Blue Mountain coffee and a charming, helpful, friendly staff.

The following recipe comes from a Sunset at the Palms’ cooking class taught by Junical Bruce, the resort’s butcher. Junical said that the hardest thing about making a “rundown” is prepping the ingredients. Those addicted to chicken rundown, feel the hardest thing is to stop eating when full. But nuh worries mon, Collinton Jennings, the resort’s food and beverage manager, shares the secret of making room for more:


Yield: 6 servings.
2 chicken breast, skinned, boned and julienned
Curry powder
Black pepper
About 1/2 cup vegetable oil
About 6 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 slices Scotch bonnet pepper
1 large sprig thyme
2 onions, peeled and sliced
2 small potatoes, peeled
and julienned
2 carrots, peeled and julienned
5 pieces okra, trimmed
3 green onions, chopped
About 1/2 cup julienned pumpkin or acorn squash
13 to 14 ounces coconut milk

Put chicken in a bowl and sprinkle heavily with curry powder and lightly with salt and pepper. Stir until chicken is well coated with curry. Cover, refrigerate and marinate about 2 hours.
Put oil in a large skillet and set over moderately high heat.
When oil is hot add garlic and about 2 tablespoons curry powder. Cook ingredients, stirring constantly, about 3 minutes. Add Scotch bonnet pepper and stir well. Add thyme sprig. Stir in chicken and continue cooking and stirring until chicken pieces are separate and partially cooked, about 5 minutes.
Add all remaining ingredients except coconut milk.
Stir well. Cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add coconut milk and stir well. Cover pan and simmer until chicken is completely cooked and coconut sauce thickens, about 10 minutes.
Serve with rice and peas.

For more information about Sunset at the Palms, click HERE.

To find fun excursions to supplement a Sunset at the Palms vacation, check out:
Jamwest Motorsports & Adventure Park for ATV, zipline and horseback riding tours.


Cosmo’s Seafood Restaurant and Bar for local Jamaican foods served beach front.


Scuba Caribe for cruising, snorkeling, fishing, scuba diving and more.

Rick’s Cafe to drink rum punch, take part in Jamaican-style party pizzaz, watch cliff divers and the sunset.





Canyon of the Ancients Guest Ranch Sign by Susan Manlin Katzman
Wish you were here to experience the glories that can’t be put into words: the quiet so peaceful as to hear the cattle chewing in the pasture, the wings of a bird flap overhead and the swishing sway of the wild apricot trees that line the creek; the air so fresh as to send scents of damp earth, growing grass, wood fencing and green herbs that grace the cultivated gardens; the welcome so warm as to remind one of returning to a family home for Christmas after a long stay away.
All this magic surrounds Canyon of the Ancients Guest Ranch & Vacation Rentals, located in the scenic McElmo Canyon near Cortez, Colorado.

Peace by Susan Manlin Katzman

Ming and Garry Adams

Ming and Garry Adams

The ranch was originally owned by the legendary Eldon Zwicker (subject of the video “Zwicker—An American Cowboy,”). When Eldon died in 2000, the ranch land, parceled into thirds, passed onto his three sons.
Garry Adams and wife Ming bought nearly 2,000 acres from the youngest son in 2005 and set about fulfilling their own ranching, farming and hospitality dreams.
Today the property multi tasks to perfection.
The ranch raises grass-grazing beef and lamb sold to restaurants, at farmers markets and on property. The farm produces organic vegetables and herbs, apricots, plums, peaches, apples and eggs from chickens free to wander their home on the range.
And the rental units, six independent guest houses, offer unique stays for those in search of privacy, natural beauty and life on a working ranch/farm that is set in the mists of a dramatic canyon packed with archeological sites.
Oh my. The glory.
Let me tell you about the guest houses.

Collage Four Guest Houses at Canyon of the Ancients Guest Ranch by Susan Manlin Katzman
Each is unique, but all have a kitchen, TV, WiFi, updated bathroom and patio with barbecue equipment. Most have washers and dryers.
Although building materials, exteriors and configuration of interiors differ house to house, each is packed with dashing decor that manages to mingle Old West with Native American, Indian (as from India) and highly personal items from Gary’s childhood (such as his father’s hand-made train sets and photographs of relatives who led fascinating lives).
Ming, a native of Taiwan, decorated each house with results that are not only comfortable and cozy, but also stylish enough to be centerfolds in glossy interior design magazines. When asked to describe her style of decorating, she responded with a laugh, “I just use what my eyes like and buy mostly from consignment shops.”

Bedroom Style Collage by Susan Manlin Katzman

Stylish Seating Arrangements at Canyon of the Ancients Guest Ranch collage by Susan Manlin Katzman


My family rented the Elden Stone House.

Elden Stone House by Susan Manlin Katzman

As the name describes, the house is built of stone and has three bedrooms, two of which have a queen bed and one, a twin. The house sports a large living room, fitted with a TV and tons of books; one bathroom, fitted with a combo shower and tub; and a large kitchen, fitted with cooking equipment and dining table.

Elden Stone House Decor Collage by Susan Manlin Katzman
Guests do their own cooking and bring their own groceries, but Ming puts just-laid eggs in the kitchen and allows guests to pick from the garden and orchard what ever they want to make for meals. She also will sell them beef or lamb to supplement the farm goodies.
But it’s not just indoors that is so appealing. Outdoors holds a wonderland of enchantments.
Can you imagine the pleasure of:
Drinking the first cup of morning coffee on a patio overlooking the pasture where the sun is spreading light over grazing cattle.

Drinking Coffee at Sunrise by Susan Manlin Karzman


Watching the children go into the chicken coop and collect eggs for breakfast?

Eggs collage by Susan Manlin Katzman


Counting the new babies in the pasture?

Counting Babies


Hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and otherwise exploring the property and surroundings.

Trailhead Sign


Thumbing through Garry and Ming’s new book, Spirits of the Stone, seeing the rock art and petroglyph photographs taken by Garry and Ming in Utah and Colorado and wondering what your own explorations will yield.

Spirits Of The Stone Photo by Gordon Skalleberg


Taking excursions to nearby Mesa Verde National Park, Canyon of the Ancients National Monument and/or Hovenweep National Monument.

Mesa Verde by Susan Manlin Katzman


Sitting under a tree reading as the birds and bees buzz by.

Hammock for Ultimate Relaxing by Susan Manlin Katzman


Visiting neighbor Sutcliffe Vineyards, catching the stunning views, tasting wine and picking up a luscious bottle or two to go with dinner.

Sutcliffe Vineyards


Watching what has to be the most glorious sunset in all the land burst into flame on the mountains.

Edge end of Sunset by Susan Manlin Katzman


Cooking a grand meal with ingredients grown within steps of the kitchen to eat alfresco by star and candlelight.
The following recipe yields a lamb stew that is both rustic and elegant—just like the ranch. Buy the lamb from Ming. Pick the vegetables from the garden. Serve with wine from Sutcliffe Vineyards. Breath in the fresh air. Stargaze. Savor. You will think you have found one of the most heavenly spots on earth. And you would be right!


Navarin Printanier by Susan Manlin Katzman
Yield: 6 servings.
3 pounds lamb
7 carrots, divided
3 shallots
1/3 cup red wine
3 tablespoons flour
About 3 cups lamb or beef broth, divided
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, peeled and pressed
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme or rosemary
1 bay leaf
8 parsley stems (no leaves)
6 to 12 small new potatoes
12 to 18 small onions (about 1 inch in diameter), peeled
1 cup shelled green peas
12 slender asparagus spears, peeled and cut into 1-1/2 inch lengths

Heat oven to 450°F.
Trim excess fat and fell from lamb and cut into 2-inch pieces (keep a few bones as they add flavor to the stew). Peel and chop 1 carrot and shallots.
Put a thin layer of oil in a Dutch oven (or similar heavy casserole with lid) and set over high heat. When oil is hot, brown lamb. (You may have to brown lamb in batches to keep pieces from touching.) Transfer browned lamb to plate. Drain fat from casserole.
Add 1 tablespoon butter to casserole and set over moderate heat. When butter is melted add diced carrot and shallots and sauté, stirring often, for 3 minutes.
Deglaze casserole with wine. Boil to reduce all but about 1 tablespoon wine. Remove casserole from heat.
Return lamb to casserole and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar. Toss lamb and vegetables to distribute sugar and set in a preheated 450°F oven for 5 minutes.
Sprinkle lamb with flour, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Toss to distribute flour and cook, uncovered for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, put 2 cups beef broth, tomato paste, garlic, thyme or rosemary and bay leaf in a small saucepan bring to a simmer, stirring often. Stir in parsley stems. Pour mixture over lamb in oven, adding more broth if necessary to almost cover meat with liquid. Set lid on casserole. Reduce oven heat to 350°F and cook at a gentle simmers for 75 minutes.
Meanwhile prepare vegetables. Peel and trim remaining carrots and cut into 1-1/2 inch lengths. Peel potatoes. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add carrots and potatoes and boil 6 minutes. Drain well. Set aside.
Cut a cross in the root ends of the onions. Melt a little butter in a medium skillet set over moderate heat. Add onions to skillet. Sprinkle with a little sugar and toss gently. Sauté until onions begin to brown. Add enough beef broth to skillet to barely cover onions and simmer until onions are tender. Set aside.
Drop peas and asparagus into salted boiling water and cook until green colors intensifies, about 4 minutes. Drain in a sieve and and run green vegetables under cold water to stop the cooking and set the color. Set aside.
Remove lamb from oven and pour contents of casserole into a sieve set over a large bowl. Rinse out the casserole or wipe it clean with paper towels. Remove bones and stems and bay leaf and return lamb to casserole. Add potatoes, carrots and onions (with skillet broth).
Skim fat from sauce in the bowl, correct seasoning and pour over ingredients in casserole. Mix gently so that all ingredients are covered in sauce. Cover casserole and return to 350°F oven. Cook (at a slow simmer) until vegetables and meat are tender, 15 to 30 minutes.
When lamb and vegetables are tender. Scoop as much fat as possible from top of sauce. Add green vegetables and heat just until the vegetables are hot. Serve immediately.


For more information contact: Ming & Garry
Canyon of the Ancients Guest Ranch

Canyon of the Ancients Guest Ranch Collage by Susan Manlin Katzman


Watts Towers of Simon Rodia

Cardboard Cutout of Simon RodiaOnce upon a time, a tiny slip of a man decided to build a tower in the backyard of his modest house in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. The man was an Italian immigrant and dreamed that his tower would resemble a tower he remembered from his homeland. So he searched far and wide for bits and pieces of iron and steel and decorations such as broken pieces of colored glass, mirrors, pottery and tile and when he had enough stockpiled, he started to work on his tower.
He bent his steel pipes on railroad tracks, tied them together with wire mesh and covered all with layers of concrete. He placed tidbits from his collection of broken pretties and shells and rocks and other found objects in pleasing patterns in the wet concrete. Over and over he followed the routine. His tower grew and grew and grew to amazing heights. The decorations shimmered and shined in sunlight.

Tower by Simon Rodia by Susan Manlin Katzman

Inside Look at Simon Rodia Tower by Susan Manlin Katzman


When his tower reached the sky, he started on another and then another and then another.

Collage of Towers at Watts Towers by Susan Manlin Katzman


Collage of Watts Towers by Susan Manlin Katzman


He added a “boat” to the towers and a gazebo and a fish pond and surrounded the masterpieces with a scalloped wall.

Collage of Boat and Tiers at Watts Towers by Susan Manlin Katzman

Collage of Wall at Watts Tower by Susan Manlin Katzman
Collage Details at Watts Tower by Susan Manlin Katzman

Unlike many people at the time the man had a paying job, some say as a construction worker, some say in a pottery factory, some say as a tile setter. Obsessed with building, he started paying others to bring him materials—scraps of iron and broken pretties, yet he always worked alone with the simplest tools. Instead of fancy drawing board designs he used his imagination for patterns. Instead of scaffolding he used a window-washer’s belt and buckle to climb heights. Instead of machinery he used hand tools and a bucket that he would carry as he climbed the towers one rung at time.

Detail at Simon Rodia State Historic Park by Susan Manlin Katzman


He worked on his towers in all his spare time, night and day, for 33 years. Then, in 1954, he abandoned all, giving his house and towers and land on which they stood to a neighbor. He left Watts, never to return.
When Sabato Rodia (aka Simon Rodilla, Simon “Sam” Rodia and, sometimes, Don Simon ) completed the project that he named Nuestro Pueblo (Spanish for “our town”), he left 17 major sculptures in place.

Sculpture at Simon Rodia's Watts Towers by Susan Manlin Katzman
Today The Watts Towers of Simon Rodia are a National Historic Landmark, a State of California Historic Monument, a State of California Historic Park and a Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Monument. The towers are listed in the National Register of Historic Places and considered one of the top four iconic must-see L.A. sites.

Arched Wall at Watts Towers by Susan Manlin Katzman


Barcelona has Gaudi, Paris has Eiffel, and L.A. has Simon Rodia and his remarkable, quirky, mosaic structures, which are open to the public on guided tours certain days and hours of the week.

Ticket Information at Watts Towers of Simon Rodia State Historic Park by Susan Manlin Katzman


Although signs along the fence surrounding the park tell Simon’s story,

Collage of Signs at Watts Tower by Susan Manlin Katzman

and one can catch a limited look at the towers without entering, only on a tour can one catch the full magic.
Adjacent to the towers is an Arts Center

Arts Center at Watts Towers of Simon Rodia State Historic Park by Susan Manlin Katzman

where visitors purchase tickets for tours as well as view a movie about Simon Rodia, shop for souvenirs and view art exhibitions.
Call it what you will, folk art, naive art, outsider art, or simply a magnificent achievement of a poor and probably illiterate immigrant, Simon Rodia’s towers stake a forever claim in the history of art and serve as a stunning tribute to man’s powers of dedication and persistence.

Painting of Simon Rodia


Heart in Cement at Simon Rodia's Watts Towers by Susan Manlin Katzman
For more information see: Watts Towers of Simon Rodia State Historic Park




Laissez les bon temps rouler (let the good times roll) is more than a Cajun French catchphrase; the motto captures the spirit of Lake Charles in Southwest Louisiana especially at Mardi Gras, when the city costumes in fluff and finery and parades and parties like no other. (And by like no other, we mean no bare breast nor intoxicated crowds of other Mardi Gras celebrations, but rather joy-filled pizzazz filtered for family fun.)
But one doesn’t have to be in Lake Charles at Mardi Gras to let the good times roll. The city’s year around charms include casinos, Cajun and Creole cuisine and culture, and a copious supply of nature.

Here are just a few delights awaiting visitors:

One can bet on most of Lake Charles’casinos to provide great gaming, gourmet dining and fine accommodations, but visitors booking a room at the new Golden Nugget Lake Charles hit the jackpot. The prize winning resort includes state-of-the-art gaming, 740 luxurious guest rooms (with more to come in summer of 2017), a slew of restaurants, bars and lounges; a full service spa; a large swim pool; an 18-hole golf course with country club facilities and pro shop; a man-made beach and a marina.

Golden Nugget College by Susan Manlin Katzman

Golden Nugget Pizzazz collage by Susan Manlin Katzman


Lake Charles sits on the banks of three bodies of water: Lake Charles, Prien Lake and the Calcasieu River. And gracing the surrounding area visitors can find a plentiful number of nature trails, wildlife refuges and protected parks. The whole of Southwest Louisiana bursts with outdoor activities to the delight of nature lovers who enjoy birdwatching (about 400 species in the area), wildlife viewing (perky alligators), fishing (in fresh, brackish and saltwater) and crabbing (divine Louisiana blue crabs). Drivers especially like to hit the 180-mile Creole Nature Trail All-American Road, a scenic byway that meanders through landscapes showcasing marshes, prairies and 26 miles of beaches along the Gulf of Mexico.

Southwest Louisianna Nature Collage by Susan Manlin Katzman

Lake Charles at Sunset by Susan Manlin Katzman


The tiny pocket of Southwest Louisiana sports about 75 festivals and fairs per year. Yes. You read that right. Seventy five. The fun includes a Beer Festival, the Iowa Rabbit Festival, a Fur and WildLife Festival, the Black Heritage Festival, Contraband Days Pirate Festival and numerous music and food festivals plus, of course, the biggest festival of them all Mardi Gras.
Although Mardi Gras covers certain calendar days, the magic lives on in Lake Charles’ Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu, where displays include the largest collection of Mardi Gras costumes in the world and exhibits explain characteristics and history of the celebration.

Mardi Gras in Lake Charles collage by Susan Manlin Katzman


Oh my! What glory! Praise be the tongue-twisting delights that flow from the kitchens of Southwest Louisiana! Topping the list of favorites:

Boudin (pronounced boo-dan)—a cajun smoked sausage containing meat (mostly pork), rice and seasonings, but sometimes made of seafood or alligator. The region is so famous for Boudin, that it sports an official Southwest Louisiana Boudin Trail guiding folks to about 34 stops at restaurants, markets and convenience stores selling the tasty speciality.

Boudin by Susan Manlin Katzman


Cracklins (‘crak-linz)—to die for (literally and figuratively) crunchy, bacon-like tidbits of deep-fried hog heaven. Head to Guillory’s Famous Foods for a local-favorite sampling.

Famous Foods collage by Susan Manlin Katzman


King Cake—a sweet and colorfully iced coffee-type cake served during the Mardi Gras season and sometimes found at other times of the year. Click HERE to learn more and find the mail order best.

King Cake by Susan Manlin Katzman
Seafood—a glorious supply of succulent crab,

Crab by Susan Manlin Katzman


Shrimp by Susan Manlin Katzman


Oysters by Susan Manlin Katzman

and crawfish

Crawfish by Susan Manlin Katzman

that cooks boil or fry or slip into famous Louisiana dishes such as Étouffée, gumbo and jambalaya and serve to appreciative diners throughout the region.
Seafood lovers can’t go wrong at any Lake Charles food outlet, but will swoon with joy at Steamboat Bill’s, a super casual Lake Charles based restaurant chain (four outlets) that has been voted # 1 for Best Seafood in Southwest Louisiana.

Steamboat Bill's collage by Susan Manlin Katzman
Kathy Vidrine by Susan Manlin Katzman“The secret to our popularity” says owner Kathi Vidrine, “is we use real ingredients.” The secret to their success, says Sweet Leisure is that they use an overload of real ingredients such as butter, cream and seafood and serve truly generous portions, as in the following:




Yield: 8 large servings.

8 tablespoons butterSteamboat Bill's Corn and Shrimp Chowder by Susan Manlin Katzman
1/2 cup diced white onion
1/2 cup diced green pepper
1-1/4 cups chicken broth
1-1/2 cups whole corn
1-1/2 cups cream style corn
1 medium Idaho potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
About 1-1/2 tablespoons Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning (see NOTE)
2 teaspoons garlic powder
About 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups half and half
2/3 cup cream of mushroom soup
1-1/4 pound popcorn shrimp (or any other shrimp)
About 1-1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup cool water
Shredded Cheddar cheese, for garnish
Chopped chives, for garnish
Sign at Steamboat Bill's by Susan Manlin KatzmanPut butter in a large saucepan and set over medium heat to melt butter. When butter is hot, add onion and green pepper and sauté 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add broth, corn, potato, Tony’s seasoning, garlic powder and black pepper. Stir to combine ingredients. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until potatoes chunks are tender, about 10 minutes.
Add half and half and cream of mushroom. Stir to combine ingredients. Reduce heat and simmer gently, stirring occasionally for 5 to 8 minutes.
Add shrimp and simmer until shrimp are cooked, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile mix cornstarch and water in a small bowl. Stir into chowder and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until chowder is thick, about 5 minutes.
Ladle into bowls, garnish with shredded Cheddar cheese and chopped chives and serve.
NOTE: Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning is a seasoning blend available in grocery stores, speciality shops and online. It’s a staple for Louisiana cooking.


LAGNIAPPE (a little something).

Mark Twain wrote about the word lagniappe in Life on the Mississippi, “We picked up one excellent word–a word worth traveling to New Orleans to get; a nice limber, expressive, handy word–‘lagniappe.’ They pronounce it lanny-yap. It is Spanish–so they said.”
As a bit of Lake Charles lagniappe, we bring you a peek at Zydeco music as performed by Rusty Metoyer and The Zydeco Krush. Just listen:

Rusty Metoyer and The Zydeco Krush

For more information click:
HERE for information about Lake Charles.
HERE for information about Bayou Rum and a cocktail recipe.
HERE to know more about the Creole Nature Trail All-American Road.





One can gamble on any restaurant that is run by Don Yamauchi being terrific and Asia, at Ameristar Casino in St. Charles, Missouri, is a sure winner.

Don Yamauchi by Susan Manlin Katzman

Chicago born Yamauchi grew up with a love of fusion food fed by his second-generation Japanese-American father and Filipina mother. After attending culinary school, he worked in a variety of restaurants, adding French culinary skills to his repertoire and racking up awards such as “Top Ten New Chefs in America” (Food & Wine Magazine) and “Top Five Rising Chefs in America” (James Beard Society).

Ameristar Casino won big time when they hired Yamauchi as Executive chef in February of 2016.

And Yamauchi hit the jackpot the next September when he hired Hai-Ying Bushey, a native of Guagzhou China, to head the casino’s remarkable Asia restaurant.

Hai-Ying Bushey

Hai-Ying Bushey

Asia sit on the casino floor, tucked into a quiet spot behind the gaming tables. A see-through partition filled with tea sets divides the main dining room from a smaller one that can be used for a private party as needed. With a sleek, sophisticated design, Asia offers a lovely, quiet setting to showcase it’s remarkable food.

Asia Restaurant Interior
The Yamauchi-Bushey team was on a winning streak when collaborating on Asia’s menu. Part Chinese, part Vietnamese and all heavenly, the menu features dishes that look and sound familiar, but up the ante on flavor. We particularly liked:

Pot Stickers and Crab Rangoon

Pot Stickers and Crab Rangoon


Pho Dac Biet and Shrimp Fried Rice

Pho Dac Biet and Shrimp Fried Rice


Hot Chili Catfish and Sizzling Black Pepper Beef

Hot Chili Catfish and Sizzling Black Pepper Beef


Jumbo Seared Scallops and Hainanese Chicken

Jumbo Seared Scallops and Hainanese Chicken


Fluffy Ice and Coconut "Custard"

Fluffy Ice and Coconut “Custard”

and the divine

Honey Walnut Shrimp

Honey Walnut Shrimp


Yield: 2 to 4 servings.
Whites from two eggs
Ground white pepper
Soybean oil
1 pound medium to large shrimp, shelled and deveined
Honey walnut sauce (recipe follows)
Candied walnuts (recipe follows)
2 tablespoons sliced green onions
In a medium-size mixing bowl, lightly beat egg whites with 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon white pepper. Beat in 1/4 cup cornstarch and then 1/2 cup soybean oil. Add shrimp to bowl and toss well to coat all shrimp with mixture. Cover bowl and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Put enough soybean oil to cover shrimp in a deep fryer, wok or skillet and heat to 350°F.
Drain shrimp well and then toss with 2 cups cornstarch. Shake shrimp to remove excess cornstarch.
Drop shrimp into hot oil and fry 2 minutes. Drain shrimp and put in medium-size mixing bowl. Add honey walnut sauce and toss until shrimp is evenly coated. Transfer to a serving dish. Sprinkle with candied walnuts and green onions.

1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon sweetened condensed milk
1-1/2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1-1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon sugar
Put all ingredients in a medium-size mixing bowl and stir until well blended.

Yield: 1 cup.
1 quart water
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup walnuts
About 1-1/3 cups powdered sugar
Soybean oil
Bring water and salt to a boil in a large saucepan. Add walnuts and blanch 20 seconds. Drain well. Put walnuts in a container with sugar. Put lid on container and shake well to evenly coat nuts with sugar.
Put enough soybean oil to cover walnuts in a deep fryer, wok or skillet and heat to 350°F. Add walnuts and fry for 1-1/2 to 2 minutes.
Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread walnuts over parchment paper. Cool to room temperature. Store in an air-tight container.

Bill in Giant Fortune CookieWhen it comes to Asian restaurants, you can bet your bottom dollar that diners who hit the tables at Asia come out big winners. And as an extra stroke of luck, the bill comes in a super large, delicious fortune cookie. Win win all around.

For more information see:

Asia Open Hours