DIVA DIAMOND MUSEUM, ANTWERP BELGIUM

Prepare for sparkle. Prepare for shine. Prepare for scandalous stories of courtesans and opera singers and movie stars. Prepare to be educated and entertained. Prepare for DIVA, a museum dedicated to diamonds, silver and other dazzling objects that opened in Antwerp, Belgium, in May, 2018.

Located in Antwerp’s historic city center, DIVA has already emerged as one of Antwerp’s most treasured tourist attractions for good reason.

Although showcasing about 600 items, the museum offers more than just displays for pass-by viewing. Dark lighting, creative staging, soundscapes, multimedia and interactive features plunge the visitor into the deep and delightful world of diamonds, showcasing the many facets of the diamond industry that has flourished in Antwerp since the mid-15th century.

Beautiful as they are, it’s not only objects that make DIVA so seductive. Visitors tour the museum guided by a variety of voices telling diamond-related stories that are mostly fictional, sometimes factual and always fascinating.

Sound tract narrator, Jérôme, a fictional butler serving a lady (also make believe) whose house the museum is said to represent, provides the verbal thread that ties the six themed galleries together. 

Designers staged the first gallery as a Wunderkammer (or room of wonder that wealthy aristocrats of past centuries used for displaying collections). DIVA’s Wunderkammer showcases objets d’art collected from around the world.

The Atelier, or Workshop, comes second in the line of galleries and focuses on the art of diamond cutting, polishing and setting.  

The third gallery, Trade, centered by a dramatic interactive globe, takes visitors through historic periods in Antwerp’s diamond industry, exploring trade routes and other aspects of the global business.

From Trade, visitors enter the intriguing Dining Room which reveals the evolution of silver table pieces as well as the etiquette and dining habits of rich and elite of centuries past. 

In the full-size Vault, visitors find a fun, interactive array of information to test their own savvy about gemstone crime and security. 

And the Boudoir, the final gallery, links diamonds with desire displaying objects associated with famous Divas. 

Contemporary diva wannabes (and the selfie crowd) can end their visit by  trying on virtual diamonds and posting the resulting images on social media.

 

In addition to galleries, the museum sports event space, a workshop, a library and two shops—the Museum shop, selling books, gadgets, curios and souvenirs (DIVA-brand gin among them) and the Silvius Druon jewelry store, offering a treasure trove of items including loose diamonds and diamond baubles ranging from €500 to €50,000.

More information on DIVA click HERE 

For another top-notch Antwerp attraction click HERE

 

 

 

10 THINGS TO LOVE ABOUT LONDON IN DECEMBER

CHRISTMAS DECOR. HERE. THERE. EVERYWHERE.

 

 

WARMING AND LINGERING AT LONDON’S TOP INDOOR ATTRACTIONS

MADAM TUSSAUDS

 

CHURCHILL WAR ROOMS

 

NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY

 

NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM

 

VICTORIA AND ALBERT MUSEUM

 

THEATRE

THE DIVINE NATIONAL THEATRE

 

AFTERNOON TEA WITH A HOLIDAY THEME

Winter Wonderland Tea At The Chesterfield Mayfair Hotel

 

ONE-STOP CHRISTMAS SHOPPING

 

PUBS, PUB GRUB AND HAPPY PEOPLE 

The Swan in Hammersmith and Bunch of Grapes on Knightsbridge

 

FULL ENGLISH BREAKFAST

Breakfast At The Rubens At The Palace Hotel

 

POP UP ICE RINKS AND MERRY GO ROUNDS

Natural History Museum Ice Rink

 

COSY HOTEL ROOMS

A Sweet Suite At The Rubens At The Palace Hotel

 

MERINGUES, MARZIPAN AND ESPECIALLY MARSHMALLOWS

MERINGUES

 

MARZIPAN AND GLACÉ FRUIT

 

MARSHMALLOWS

MARSHMALLOWS

Marshmallow Welcome Gift From The Rubens At The Palace Hotel

Sarah Houghting

Recipe supplied by Sarah Houghting, pastry chef of Rubens at the Palace hotel, London

 

 

Yield: Depends on size of pan and way of cutting. 

A 9- by 13-inch pan will yield about 42 1-inch marshmallows. 

Vegetable oil for coating pan and cutting knife

1/2 cup cornstarch

1/2 cup powdered sugar

3 packages (1/4 ounce each) powdered gelatin

1 cup water, divided

1-1/2 cups castor or superfine sugar (see NOTE below)

1 cup light corn syrup 

Flavoring (see NOTE below)

Food color, optional 

Coat bottom and sides of a metal, glass or ceramic pan with oil. 

Sift cornstarch and powdered sugar into a mixing bowl. Sprinkle a generous amount of the cornstarch mixture in the oiled pan and swirl pan around to coat with mixture, knocking out excess back into the mixing bowl. Set prepared pan and bowl with remaining cornstarch mixture aside. 

Put  gelatin in a small glass bowl. Cover with 1/2 cup water and stir to dissolve gelatin. Set bowl aside to soften gelatin.

Put sugar, corn syrup and 1/2 cup water in a heavy 3- to 4- quart saucepan. Put saucepan over moderate heat and bring mixture to a boil, stirring until the sugar completely dissolves. Put a candy thermometer into the boiling syrup and continue boiling without stirring, until thermometer registers 240°F. Remove saucepan from heat and set aside until the bubbles dissipate slightly.

Meanwhile, put gelatin in a microwave and heat for a few seconds to melt gelatin.

Scrape gelatin into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. With mixer on low speed, slowly pour hot syrup in a thin stream down the side of the bowl into the gelatin. Gradually increase the mixer speed to high and beat until the mixture is very thick, white in color and forms a thick ribbon when the beater is lifted, about 5 minutes. Beat in flavoring and color if desired. 

With a spatula dipped in water or wet hands, transfer the marshmallow mixture to the prepared pan, spreading mixture evenly and smoothing top. (The mixture will be very thick and sticky. You may need to repeatedly wet the spatula and/or your hands to smooth marshmallow mixture evenly in pan.)

Set pan aside, uncovered, at room temperature, until marshmallows are set and no longer sticky, 4 hours to overnight.

Sprinkle a generous amount of reserved cornstarch mixture over a large cutting board. With a rubber spatula, release marshmallow from pan and invert onto cutting board. 

Sprinkle top with a thick layer of cornstarch mixture. 

Lightly oil a long sharp knife and dust with cornstarch mixture (or wet knife with water). Cut marshmallows as desired. 

Working with a few at a time, put cut marshmallows in the bowl of  the cornstarch mixture and toss to coal all sides. Transfer marshmallows to a sieve and shake off excess cornstarch mixture (can shake back into bowl for next go around). 

Store marshmallows at room temperature in an airtight container, layered between sheets of wax or parchment paper, for up to 1 month. 

NOTE:  Castor sugar is a British term for superfine sugar. If you can’t find superfine sugar, you can whirl granulated sugar in a food processor or blender for a few seconds until the sugar is a cross between granulated sugar and powdered sugar. 

NOTE:  Marshmallows may be flavored and colored in a variety of ways. Here are a few suggestions:

Vanilla: Add 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.

Peppermint: Add 1 teaspoon peppermint extract. To color peppermint marshmallows, add a few drops of red food color randomly onto top of marshmallow mixture in pan and pull table knife through food color to create a swirl pattern. Sprinkle top with crushed candy canes.

Green tea: Add 1 teaspoon green tea powder and a few drops of green food color.

Raspberry: Add raspberry oil or flavor concentrate to taste.  

For more information:

Visit London

The Rubens at the Palace 

Tea at The Chesterfield Mayfair Hotel

 

 

THE SPIRITS OF GULF SHORES & ORANGE BEACH ALABAMA

Beer? Okay. 

Wine? Fine. 

Cocktails? Now you’re talking. 

Although beer and wine may float your boat, cocktails best capture the free-wheeling beach spirit of Gulf Coast Alabama. The coastal cup runneth over with bars and restaurants serving a staggering array of house-speciality cocktails, and although many raise the bar of pleasure, I’ll tell you about three favorites. (Will also include restaurant-provided recipes for those not lucky enough to be in Gulf Shores or Orange Beach to sample and savor in person.)

 

THE BUSHWACKER 

I know. Locals claim Flora-Bama, a bar located on the Alabama-Florida border, is the best place to enjoy a Bushwacker, but I liked the one I devoured at the Sunliner Diner in Gulf Shores.

New in 2018, and wearing decor of the 1950s complete with a booth fitted into a 1952 Ford Sunliner convertible, the diner serves breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as a collection of knock-out ice-cream concoctions and desserts. 

With an old-fashioned, apple-pie atmosphere, the Sunliner provides a wholesome environment for the kids to sugar-up on vanilla shakes while the adults down look-alike, rum-soaked Bushwackers. Life is sweet! (See NOTE below.) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE QUEEN’S DOWERY

Fisher’s at Orange Beach Marina has a split personality, with both aspects worthy of praise. The Dockside downstairs serves casual food in an easy-going setting. Upstairs’ diners find elegant and refined food with decor to match. Of course, the bar Upstairs offers cocktails just as sophisticated as the food and setting, which brings me to The Queen’s Dowry. Bar manager Michael Gaona said he invented The Queen’s Dowry to capture the crisp flavors of fall. He makes the cocktail with Ketel One Grapefruit & Rose Vodka, a simple syrup that he infuses with a whisper of sage and Cave de Bissey Brut (Crémant de Bourgogne). Although Gaona specifies the sparkling wine used at Fisher’s, his recipe says any brut bubbles will do. Cheers! (See NOTE below.)

 

https://fishersobm.com

THE LOOPY LU

 

What can I say about Lulu’s Gulf Shores that hasn’t been said before—by me, (click HERE for more Sweet Leisure). Guess I could talk about the open air setting directly on the water, the fun beach activities, live music and the nachos, fried okra, tuna dip and “down-home” catch, such as crab claws and shrimp. Lulu’s serves family friendly food and crayon-colored adult-chummy cocktails.

I love the Loopy Lu, a grownup lemonade enhanced with both tequila and vodka. Happy days are here again! (See NOTE below.)

 

Marg=Margaritaville Last Mango Tequila/ Lemonx= Lemon-X Sour Mix (sweet and sour mix).

https://lulubuffett.com/gulf-shores/

NOTE: Drink responsibly. Don’t drink and drive. Appoint a designated driver. Take care. Don’t overload.

Click HERE for destination information.

 

 

 

HOTEL LUTETIA ADDS SPARKLE TO THE CITY OF LIGHTS

Spoiled as it sounds, I would try to plan a trip to Paris every year on my birthday, so that I would look forward to aging. Now that I have ripened with multiple years of Paris pleasure I still crave the city. It just gets better and better.

The same could apply to Hotel Lutetia, an iconic Paris hotel built in 1910.

I was fortunate enough to be invited to stay at the Lutetia in its last incarnation, just before it closed for a four-year, 240-million-dollar renovation. I loved the hotel then and couldn’t imagine changing one inch of the Art Nouveau/Art Deco charisma. But the grande dame emerged from her revamp with much of her original glory intact plus a score of added enhancements to enchant.

Built in 1910 by the owners of Le Bon Marché department store to service shoppers, the Lutetia wraps around a corner in hyper-fashionable Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Always an icon of Parisian high-style, boho pizzazz, the hotel attracted the likes of Josephine Baker, Picasso, Matisse, James Joyce, Hemingway and countless other artists, writers, celebrities and statesmen (Charles de Gaulle honeymooned at the Lutetia).

The Lutetia also attracted the Germans, who in World War II requisitioned the hotel for their counter-espionage headquarters. Immediately after liberation, the Lutetia won a forever first-place in the hearts of Parisians by housing survivors of concentration camps and filling it’s lovely halls with posters of missing persons, thus becoming the city’s focal point for reunions and rejoicing.

Today’s Lutetia guests see the hotel in a new light—one that positively glimmers and glows. Skylights were installed, windows enlarged, a newly built interior courtyard captures and spreads sunshine. Great expanses of polished white marble add shimmering shine to public areas, enhancing the rich and plentiful cornucopia of natural light.

Whereas the lobby-floor corridor ceiling wears bright-white paint and twinkles with recessed spotlights reinforcing the daylight mode, upper-floor corridors are clad in dark eucalyptus wood and cocoon guests in a sedate evening glow as they walk to their rooms.

The “new” Lutetia sports 184 rooms, 47 of which are designated suites. My sweet suite on the fourth floor offered hotel heaven. Most startling, and what sets the Lutetia’s suites apart from other luxury hotels, is the view. Balcony windows overlook the flower-decked Square Boucicaut, the Bon Marche department store and the Eiffel Tower. I could watch the tower sparkle all through the night from my pillow on the super comfortable bed—or I could press a bed-side button and close the shades and sleep in the deep dark.

The room, decorated in shades of white, dark blue, and grey, held a large bed, a marble topped desk and chair, plus two chairs placed around a coffee table filled with welcome gifts (white hydrangeas, Champagne, chocolate pastries, a bowl of fruit).

Of course there was a coffee/tea/mini-bar station stocked to capacity, a separate closet/ luggage area and a large marble bathroom with separate toilet, shower and  a tub big enough for two. The bathroom held white roses  and an array of fragrant Hermès toiletries. Perfection!

 

Should one ever get the gumption to leave their room, the Lutetia offers choice places to enjoy.

The library stocked with coffee-table books.

A 7,500-square-food spa and wellness center.

A 55-foot-long indoor swimming pool.

A gym.

 

L’Orangerie

Although the Brasserie, for which the Lutetia has long been famed, has not yet reopened (think end of this year), people can enjoy an extravagant breakfast buffet in the peaceful, light-filled L’Orangerie.

The breakfast buffet in L’Orangerie

 

The Saint Germain

Breakfast, lunch and dinner is offered in the the Saint Germain, a living room-like dining room under a glass roof ceiling colorfully decorated by artist Fabrice Hyber.

Roasted cod, cranberry beans, zucchinis and yuzu lemon in a bed of foam served in the Saint Germain

Bar Joséphine (named for Josephine Baker) serves lunches, canapés, light dinners, coffee, tea pastries, and a choice of cocktails including the luscious house signature Rive Gauche (see recipe below).

 

Pleasure greets the eye wherever one looks at Hotel Lutetia. I loved the violin table made by sculptor Arman that sits in the reception area.

And all of the art and decorative details that fill both inside and outside of the hotel.

 

The Lutetia has it all—history, elegance and state-of-the-art comfort.

Yet despite the grand hotel designation, despite the importance to the city of Paris, despite the countless dignitaries and celebrities that have called it home and despite the upper-echelon pricing, Hotel Lutetia radiates non-pretentious, easy-going joie de vivre. I think it was Shakespeare who once wrote about the Lutetia: Age cannot wither her, Nor custom stale her infinite variety; Other hotels cloy the appetites they feed, but the Lutetia makes hungry where most she satisfies.

True for me. I stayed as an invited guest of the hotel, but if I only had money, I would let the Lutetia satisfy me the rest of my days.

 

THE RIVE GAUCHE

Yield: 1 serving.

40 ml St-Germain liquor

30 ml Guillotine vodka

20 ml homemade shrub flavored with citrus and celery (see NOTE below)

50 ml Perrier

70 ml Champagne

Combine all ingredients and pour into a tall glass over ice. Decorate glass with banana leaves, add sprigs of lemon grass and serve with a straw.

NOTE: You can buy ready made shrubs or make your own by macerating fresh fruit with sugar, straining the resulting syrup to remove solids and mixing the juice with Champagne vinegar (find recipes online).

Hotel Lutetia is part of The Set, a hotel brand with three distinctive properties. For more information about Hotel Lutetia click HERE For information about The Set hotels, click HERE.

And for other Paris perks, see:

Les Cocottes de Christian Constant, HERE.

D’Chez Eux for perfect roast chicken, HERE.

Paris wine bars suggested by Noël Balen HERE.

Sightseeing suggestions by David Downie, HERE.

and all about a special little flea market at la Porte de Vanves, HERE.

 

 

BEST FROZEN CUSTARD IN ST. LOUIS

Seemed like a great idea. Justify an overload of indulgent frozen custard gorging, by calling it a scientific experiment. We had four days, five researchers of varying ages and were in St. Louis—America’s ultimate frozen custard city, so we conducted a study following the classic six-step scientific method.

1. INITIAL OBSERVATIONS

St. Louis has a lot of frozen custard outlets.

 

2. QUESTION BASED ON THE OBSERVATION

Which outlet serves the best frozen custard in St. Louis?

3. HYPOTHESIS:

After taste testing all of the frozen custard outlets in St. Louis, we would discover the best and all gain weight.

4. THE EXPERIMENT 

We traveled  to as many outlets as possible in four days, bought vanilla ice cream cones (and other concoctions) and rated the custard on a scale of 1 to 5 in four different categories: texture, taste, density and meltability (could we consume the cone before losing the custard to drips on shirts).

5. COMPILING THE DATA AND DRAWING CONCLUSIONS

We traveled, bought, devoured, discussed and drew conclusions.

6. SHARING RESULTS

First, some disclaimers:

We only visited five places before running out of time and energy.

To validate our comparisons we all agreed to test plain vanilla custard, which we did at the first stop. At  the second stop, a few researchers went off track: Someone ordered a butterfinger concrete with cookie dough (Maggie, how could you!) and another topped the plain vanilla with graham cracker crumbs, chocolate chunks and marshmallow sauce (I confess.).
The 10-year old decided to conduct a tangential experiment of his own, comparing not only vanilla custards, but also chocolate. Of course this necessitated ordering both chocolate and vanilla cones. (He’s a smart cookie headed for big things.)

By the third stop, we all tasted the vanilla custard plain—and then ordered toppings and mixtures we liked—call it double dipping—call it extravagant—call it divine.

So onto conclusions:

The kid said hands down that Ted Drewes had the best vanilla frozen custard in St. Louis. His mom (and probably 30,000 St. Louisans agreed). Ted Drewes produced a smooth, dense custard with a rich taste of egg and vanilla; the downside, said one researcher, was that  the flavor dissipated slightly as one ate.

Maggie, the recent college graduate, declared the butterfinger concrete with cookie dough at Silky’s was better than any of the plain vanilla cones, but we disqualified Maggie as her research lacked validity—she only had the one concrete and no cones.

The Weight Watcher liked Mr. Wizard because he could have super huge cone due to the low calorie option. 

My heart belonged to St. Louis Frozen Custard Factory’s dense, smooth, rich custard with a taste that remained to the last lick.  And I liked the plain vanilla even without the incredible turtle-sundae topping of caramel, hot fudge and pecans. 

Mojo, the poodle, liked everything.

 

Andy’s came in second or third choice for the majority of researchers, and all agreed that the custard melted too quickly and flavor was lighter than the other outlets, but still enjoyable.

In conclusion:

We could not agree on the very best—proving the proverbs: Different strokes for different folks. To each to his own. Everyone to their own tastes.

No one bothered testing the weight gain hypothesis.

All agreed that like any scientific study, the results must be repeatable, so we decided to repeat the research as often as possible.

Now for a recipe that can help you top any frozen-custard/ice cream tasting:

HOT FUDGE SAUCE 

Yield: about 1-1/3 cups.

 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate

1/4 cup unsalted butter

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup heavy cream

Pinch salt

1 teaspoon vanilla 

Melt chocolate and butter in a saucepan set over very low heat. When completely melted, stir in sugar, cream and salt. Raise heat to medium. Cook, stirring often, until sauce is smooth and all of the sugar has dissolved, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove sauce from heat and stir in vanilla. Cool slightly before serving.

 

IN THE STUDY:

Andy’s Frozen Custard (1600 S Hanley Rd)

Ted Drewes Frozen Custard (6726 Chippewa)

Mr. Wizard’s Frozen Custard and Yogurt (2101 S. Big Bend Blvd)

St. Louis Frozen Custard Factory  (9420 Manchester Road) 

Silky’s Frozen Custard (12810 Olive Blvd)

 

 

MAMMOTH EATING IN MAMMOTH LAKES, CALIFORNIA

Mammoth Lakes offers vast opportunities for outdoor activities. The Sierra Nevada Mountains provide a winter wonderland for skiing, snowboarding, cross country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling. The Lake Basin supplies majestic lakes for fishing, boating, canoeing, kayaking and swimming. And the entire region is a scenic playground for hiking, biking, camping, photography and exploring nature.

But as divine as all these outdoor activities are, I like Mammoth’s ever-indulgent indoor activities best. I’m talking about eating and drinking. For a town of only about 8,000 inhabitants, the locally run food and beverage outlets positively bulge with tasty pleasures.

If you only have one day to sample the glory, I suggest enjoying:

Breakfast at STELLAR BREW & NATURAL CAFE, a popular coffee shop selling coffee, tea, protein shakes, juices, breakfast and lunch—all  with a locally sourced, natural and organic focus. As it happens, I would trade all of the nutrition on the menu for a large cup of dark brewed coffee and a giant, crunchy, sugar- and butter-packed cookie that is rich enough to give a nutritionist apoplexy just reading the ingredient list.  Owner Andrea Walker gave Sweet Leisure the following recipe; it produces a somewhat similar, and equally delicious, version of her famous homestead cookies.

 

Lunch has to be at BLEU MARKET & KITCHEN, an upscale organic-focused grocery store/bakery/deli/restaurant/bar & lounge/take-out/catering facility.  I’d have Bleu pack a box lunch for a picnic and/or would eat in the cool dining room loading up on protein-packed sandwiches on just baked bread and kale quinoa salad. Even those who say they don’t like kale, love the salad—it’s that good. See for yourself as Bleu’s owners, Theresa and Brandon Brocia, generously shared their recipe below.

Theresa and Brandon Brocia

Afternoon snacks producing mammoth sugar highs can be had at MAMMOTH FUN SHOP, an ice cream parlor, candy counter and novelty shop specializing in toys, juggling paraphernalia and souvenirs. Although all is lusciously decadent, it’s the super-duper vertical banana split called The Baked Gorilla that grabbed my heart.

Don’t have a sweet tooth? Into breweries? Then head to BLACK DOUBT BREWING COMPANY, a nano-brewery with a cool assortment of ever-changing small batch brews.  An afternoon of flights will have you flying high. (Don’t drive!)

Cocktail Time belongs to SHELTER DISTILLING, a sleek and sophisticated facility that distills spirits, brews beer and serves a spirited sampling of both (food is on the menu as well). Favorite cocktail: The Eastside Retreat. Printed two recipes below. The first is for folks who believe one is never enough and the second for people who savor the solo.

Dinner restaurants abound. My personal favorite is  PETRA’S BISTRO & WINE BAR, a justly popular place serving a contemporary American menu with 30 wines by the glass and many more by the bottle. The duck confit rocks and the salmon comes grilled to perfection.

STELLAR BREW’S GIANT HOMESTEAD COOKIES

Yield: 10 large cookies. 

4 cups shredded coconut

2 cups flour

1 cup whole oats

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup butter, room temperature

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

2-1/4 teaspoons vanilla

2 eggs

Heat oven to 375°F.

Combine coconut, flour, oats, salt, baking soda and baking powder in a medium-size mixing bowl. Set bowl aside. 

Put butter in a large mixing bowl. Add sugars and vanilla and beat with an electric mix until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in coconut mixture. 

Cover baking sheets with parchment paper. 

Roll a tennis ball-size portion of dough into a ball and put on parchment paper covered baking sheet. Either flatten ball by hand or top with another sheet of parchment paper and, with a rolling pin, roll dough into a 1/4-inch thick circle. Repeat, placing dough circles well apart on baking sheets.

Put baking sheet in preheated 375°F oven and bake until cookies are light golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes.

Cool on a rack before removing from parchment paper.

 

BLEU’S KALE QUINOA SALAD 

Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

1 cup quinoa

Water

6 cups finely chopped kale, stems removed

1/2 cup sunflower seeds

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

3 garlic cloves, minced

1-1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

3/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 teaspoons honey 

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Put quinoa in a large strainer and rinse under cold running water until water is clear. Transfer rinsed quinoa to a 2-quart saucepan. Add 2 cups water bring to a boil over medium heat. Turn heat to low and put lid on pan. Simmer until water is absorbed and grains appear translucent and germ ring is visible along edge of grain, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. 

Put kale in a large salad bowl. With a fork, fluff quinoa and add to kale. Add sunflower seeds and raisins. Set bowl aside.

Make dressing: put oil, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, salt, pepper and honey in a medium bowl and whisk until well blended. Pour dressing over kale mixture. Toss well with two large spoons. Sprinkle with cheese and serve. 

 

SHELTER DISTILLING’S EASTSIDE RETREAT

 Yield:  50 cocktails.

 

Yield: one cocktail.

1-1/2 ounces gin (Gin the Third from Shelter Distilling)

1 ounce cucumber juice (make in a juicer)

1/2 ounce simple syrup infuse with mint

1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice

Slice of cucumber

Combine all ingredients and pour into a glass over ice. Garnish with cucumber. 

 

For more information about Mammoth Lakes, see: VisitMammoth.com.

 

 

SOUR CREAM COFFEE CAKE FROM ZINGERMAN’S BAKEHOUSE

For many years I’ve been trying to score the recipe for Zingerman’s best selling Sour Cream Coffee Cake. I’ve flashed my press credentials and requested the recipe at both Zingerman’s Deli  and Zingerman’s Bakeshop in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with no luck. (Well that’s not exactly true. I did feel extremely lucky that Zingerman’s shared a recipe for their second best seller—the absolutely divine Hot Cocoa Coffee Cake which I published on Sweet Leisure in 2011. (Recipe HERE.) 

But it makes hungry where most it satisfies, and I reasoned that if second best was so incredibly delicious, then I had to get Sweet Leisure cooks the first-best, most-favorite, top-seller Sour Cream Coffee Cake recipe. But no matter how much I begged, cajoled and  pleaded, the recipe remained secret. 

Until now. 

In honor of the artisanal bakery’s 25 anniversary, Zingerman’s released it’s first ever cookbook and it’s a stunner. 

ZINGERMAN’S BAKEHOUSE cookbook, fills 255 pages with interesting food and business-related stories, seductive photos, and best of all, 65 well-tested recipes including one for the Sour Cream Coffee Cake and a variation, Lemon Poppy Seed Coffee Cake. HALLELUJAH! 

Trust me, no matter if you are a professional baker or first-time cook, you will want this cookbook.

ZINGERMAN’S BAKEHOUSE by Amy Emberling & Frank Carollo. Photographs by Antonis Achilleos. Chronicle Books/October 2017. Hardcover/$29.95. To order the book from Zingerman’s Mail Order, click HERE.

And just to tide you over until ZINGERMAN’S BAKEHOUSE recipes for cakes, breads, pizzas, doughnuts, stollens, crackers, biscuits, bagels, baguettes, brownies, cookies and the best of the best of the luscious life lands in your kitchen, here’s Zingerman’s treasured cake recipe:

SOUR CREAM COFFEE CAKE 

(Recipe from Zingerman’s Bakehouse by Amy Emberling and Frank Carollo)

Photo by Antonis Achilleos

Yield: 9-inch [23-cm] bundt cake.

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (132 g) walnut halves 

3 tablespoons (41 g) packed brown sugar 

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 cups (395 g) granulated sugar 

1 cup (227 g) unsalted butter, room temperature 

3 large eggs 

3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons (227 g) sour cream 

1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract 

2-1/3 cups (336 g) all-purpose flour 

1/2 teaspoon baking soda 

1 teaspoon sea salt 

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F [165°C]. Spray a 9-in [23-cm] Bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray, coat with flour, and set aside.

2. Toast the walnuts on a sheet tray for 10 to 15 minutes, or until they’re a deep golden brown. After they are done, turn the oven down to 300°F [150°C].

3. In a small bowl, mix together the toasted walnuts, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Set aside.

4. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar and butter. Cream by hand or with the paddle attachment of an electric mixer on medium speed. Mix until the color lightens. Add the eggs, one at a time, creaming thoroughly after each egg until the mixture is homogeneous. Add the sour cream and vanilla. Mix briefly until light and creamy. Scrape the sides of the bowl to make sure all of the ingredients are evenly incorporated.

5. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a separate medium bowl. Mix to combine. Add the flour mixture gradually to the creamed mixture and mix by hand or with a mixer on low speed until smooth and homogeneous. 

6. Scoop one-third of the batter into your prepared pan. Smooth it evenly over the bottom of the pan with a spoon. Sprinkle one-half of the nut mixture evenly over the batter. Cover with another third of the batter. Smooth it evenly over the nut mixture and to the edges of the pan. Sprinkle the remaining nut mixture evenly over the batter. Spread the remaining batter evenly over the nut mixture. 

7. Bake for 60 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes. Do not leave the cake in the pan for much longer than this. The brown sugar in the nut filling might stick to the sides of the pan and make it difficult to release the cake.

8. Put a wire cooling rack on top of the Bundt pan and then invert the pan to release the cake. Cool to room temperature before eating. 

Storage: This cake is so rich that it keeps very well at room temperature for at least two weeks, if wrapped well. It also freezes nicely. Wrap it carefully in plastic wrap and then put it in a plastic freezer bag or airtight container. It will hold well for up to three months in your freezer

 

 

MERMAIDS, THE WRECK BAR, RUM PUNCH & SHRIMP SALAD

Bet you think mermaids are fantasy beings. Hello! The captivating sea creatures are a real deal that you can catch frolicking, flittering and flirting outside the porthole windows of The Wreck Bar in Fort Lauderdale. (Sometimes they even shed their shell bikini tops and fishy fins just to prove how real they are.)

The ship-shaped Wreck Bar, anchored in the newly restored B Ocean Resort (formally the Yankee Clipper), is a buried treasure of funky mermaid fun.

Built in 1956 and famous for reeling in old-time movie stars—Elvis, Marilyn, Joe DiMaggio, Jayne Mansfield among them—the bar stayed afloat through several changes in hotel ownership and assorted renovations. 

Today mermaids show up, with hair flowing like seaweed and tails seductively flapping, at two shows every Friday and Saturday. 

 

The weekend family-friendly show starts at 6:30 p.m. (with doors opening at 5:30). Entrance and seating is first-come, first-served basis so arrive early. The adults-only, reservations required (call 954-727-7090), 10 p.m. show features nice, but naughty burlesque with the sea sirens dipping into the risqué. 

But mermaids aren’t the only lure to this dive bar. The bar’s watermelon rum punch will have you drinking like a fish and the luscious shrimp-filled chop chop salad will shore up any gourmet’s appetite. As one can get hooked on both (they are THAT good), here’s how to enjoy them happily ever after:

WATERMELON RUM PUNCH

Yield: 1 serving.

1-1/2 ounces Bacardi Superior white rum

1 ounce fresh watermelon juice (muddle the watermelon and strain)

3/4 ounce St-Germain (Elderflower liqueur)

1/2 ounce simple syrup

1/2 ounce fresh lime juice

2 dashes Fee Brothers Rhubarb Bitters

Mint leaf for garnish

Shake rum, watermelon juice, St-Germain, syrup and lime juice together in a cocktail shaker and strain into a glass filled with ice.Top with bitters and garnish with mint leaf. 

 

CHOP CHOP SALAD

 

Adapted from a recipe supplied by The Wreck Bar

Yield: 4 servings.

1/2 lemon

Salt

3  black peppercorns

1 bay leaf

20 jumbo shrimp

About 2 cups green beans

2 cups hearts of palm cut into bite-size pieces

2 cups halved cocktail tomatoes

1 large cucumber, ends trimmed, seeded and diced

Bacon vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Fill a 3 quart saucepan 3/4 full of water. Squeeze lemon into water and then add lemon shell. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, peppercorns and bay leaf. Set saucepan over high heat and bring liquid to a rapid boil. Remove saucepan from heat. When bubbles subside add shrimp. Stir. Cover pan as set aside until shrimp are curled, opaque and pink, about 5 minutes.  

Meanwhile fill a large mixing bowl with ice water. When shrimp are just cooked, drain and rinse with cold water. Put shrimp in ice bath until cold. Drain and peel shrimp. Reserving the four largest whole for garnish, cut shrimp into large bite-size pieces and set aside.

Rinse saucepan and fill with cold water. Set over high heat and bring water to a rapid boil. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and the green beans. Boil beans until they become bright green, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile fill a large mixing bowl with ice water. Drain beans and rinse with cold water. Put beans in icy water until they are chilled. Drain well and dry with paper towels. Trim ends off beans.

Put cut shrimp, beans, hearts of palm, tomatoes and diced cucumber in a large mixing bowl. 

Drizzle to taste with bacon vinaigrette. Toss well. Distribute salad among four serving plates. Garnish top of each serving with a reserved shrimp and serve immediately.  

BACON VINAIGRETTE

Yield: About 3/4 cup.

2 thick strips bacon

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard.

1 large clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon finely minced red onion

1/2 cup olive oil

2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil, optional

1 teaspoon chopped fresh cilantro, optional 

Salt

Pepper

Preheat oven to 350°F. Fry or broil bacon until strips are well-browned. Drain bacon on paper towels and set aside to cool. Grind cooled bacon in a meat grinder or chop into very fine pieces. Put bacon pieces in a baking dish and set in preheated 350°F oven until warm.  Put vinegar in a small bowl. Whisk in mustard, garlic and onion.  Slowly whisk in olive oil and continue whisking until dressing is emulsified. Whisk in herbs. Drain warm bacon and whisk into dressing. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Click HERE for more information about B Ocean and The Wreck Bar.

Click HERE for more about Fort Lauderdale.

Click HERE for other places to eat in Fort Lauderdale.

 

BRUGES, WEST FLANDERS, BELGIUM and COCKTAIL

Bruges could be Europe’s most perfect little medieval city.

Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its historic significance, Bruges overflows with charm. Old graceful canals, ancient cobbled streets, distinctive gothic architecture, archaic cafes and bars fill the city. In addition, Bruges sports a variety of contemporary pleasures, such as fine hotels, divine restaurants, nice shops, chocolate and beer. Nothing is needed to upgrade the appeal. All is delightful—which is both good news and bad news.

On the downside, Bruges packs in the tourists, especially on weekends and holidays where crowds…well…crowd. On the other hand most of the tourists are day-trippers who abandon the city as the shops close and Bruges is at it loveliest, quietest and most romantic in the still of the night. Perfect.

So what to see and do in Bruges?  In no particular order:

Stroll around town. Stop to smell the wisteria.

Climb the 366 steps of the 13th-century Belfry for beautiful panoramic views.

Take a canal-boat trip.

Ride in a carriage. 

Borrow a bike and ride along the canals and/or on paths looping almost around the city.

Stop at the Café Vlissinghe, Bruges’ oldest bar (established in 1515), for a brew and bite while you watch a  game of the rather obscure feather bowling.

Check out the glorious Flemish Primitives at the glorious Groeninge Museum.

 

Sit in a park and listen to the bells that spread over the city like sunshine regulating wake up and close down and all in-between.

Visit in the Church of Our Lady to see Michelangelo’s magnificent  Madonna and Child sculpture.

Dip into some of the funky museums, such as the: 
Frietmuseum (Fries museum).

Lamp museum (yes, really, there is such a thing).

Torture museum.

 

 

Choco-Story (museum of chocolate).

 

Check out lace for which the city is so famed.

Stay at Hotel Jan Brito,  a lovely 36-room property built into a renovated 16th century mansion. Good location in the city center. Free Wi-Fi. Buffet breakfast. Variety of rooms and suites at good prices. Bike rentals. Friendly, accommodating staff. Nice all around.

Have a luscious dinner at Restaurant De Visscherie.  Order: The Visscherie Cocktail (see recipe below) and then the 1st course: Smoked eel with foie gras, shaved beets, shaved cucumber, sprouts, diced apple and a dressing made with sour cream and buttermilk; 2nd course: Skrai cod with white asparagus, potato mash with garlic, dark toasted sunflower seeds, sauce of ground grey shrimp; and the 3rd course: “Springtime in a plate,” strawberries, white chocolate mousse, basil, flat pieces of lemon flavored bonbon mirror, chocolate and lemon flavored meringues.

 

THE VISSCHERIE HOUSE COCKTAIL

Yield: 5 to 6 cocktails.

2 cup vodka

1 cup St-Germain (Elderflower liqueur)

2/3 cup Aperol (an Italian apéritif)

2/3 cup fresh lemon juice, strained

Cava (or other sparkling wine), chilled

Long slivers of orange zest, for garnish.

To make the Visscherie cocktail mix: Put vodka, St-Germain, Aperol and lemon juice in a large glass mixing bowl or jar; stir well to combine ingredients. Cover bowl or  jar and refrigerate until mixture is well-chilled. (Can store in a refrigerator for a month or two.)

When ready to serve, make each cocktail by pouring about 3/4 cup chilled mix into a cocktail glass. Top with 1/4 cup chilled cava. 

Add a strip of orange zest to each drink for garnish and serve immediately. 

For more information:

on Belgium food specialities and a great fries recipe, click HERE.

on Belgian chocolate, click HERE.

on Bruges art, click HERE.

 

 

BRUGES ART AND ARCHITECTURE TRIENNIAL 2018

Bruges Triennial 2018 contemporary art and architecture exhibition brings a new layer of excitement to Belgium and the already magical city. For the rest of summer—until mid-September—visitors to Bruges can enjoy not only the city’s constant pleasures (enchanting canals, medieval buildings, chocolate, beer and terrific restaurants), but also an exciting array of contemporary art and architectural installations. 

The city invited 15 artists from around the world to create and install works based around a theme titled “Liquid City.” Complex and multifaceted, the theme refers not only to the canals flowing through Bruges, but also to the resilience and flexibility of the city as it moved through time as well as to the changes, uncertainty and fluidity of the modern world at large.

Artists interpreted the theme in a broad variety of ways, placing works in surprising spots throughout the city, many actually in canals or waterside. Although all of the installations are worth close viewing and conceptual understanding, some particularly capture the heart.

Skyscraper (The Bruges Whale)

Lesley Chang and Jason Kimoski, the husband/wife principals of StudioKCA, an architecture and design firm based in Brooklyn, New York, installed Skyscraper (The Bruges Whale) to draw attention to the millions of tons of plastic waste and trash polluting the seas and oceans of the world. The Bruges Whale breaches out of the Bruges canal symbolizing whales that rise from the world’s first “liquid city,” the ocean. 

To construct the whale, the artists worked with volunteers to retrieve five tons of waste plastic from the Pacific Ocean. After cleaning the plastic, artists attached pieces, mosaic style, to wire mesh covering the whale’s steel and aluminum skeleton.

In addition to pleasing the imagination, the artists hope their whale increases public awareness of the 150,000,000 tons of plastic waste swimming in our ocean water today.

 

The Floating Island

It’s a walkway, swing set, hammock—a totally fun and visually intriguing sculpture in which to stroll, picnic, meet friends, hang out. The Floating Island installation from architects Sojung Lee and Sangjoon Kwak, of OBBA (Office for Beyond Boundaries Architecture) in Seoul, Korea, goes  “beyond the boundaries” of the expected. This graceful sculpture of elastic ropes and netting sits on a curvy platform directly in the water at the side of a canal, accessed by stairs attached to the sidewalk. 

The white structure serves multiple purposes. As tall as the canal is wide, the ropes form tilting walls guiding folks along the curvy pathway. At various spots the ropes coil into seats for swinging or just sitting and sunshine relaxing. Horizontal netting provides a comfortable pallet for lounging. Part sculpture, part playground, the elegant Floating Island enchants locals and visitors alike.

 

Selgascano Pavilion

Aglow with vivid color, the Selgascano Pavilion comes from José Selgas and Lucia Cano of SelgasCano, an architectural firm based in Madrid. 

Made from a translucent plastic skin stretched over a steel skeleton, the pavilion’s bubble like tunnel tops a sunshine yellow platform that floats in the canal. A ramp from the street and a gangplank gives the public access to the structure.

In stark contrast to a backdrop of Bruges’s Gothic brick buildings, the pavilion glows with color that changes from oranges to pinks in different natural light. 

In addition to being a visually stunning, navigable walkway,  the pavilion offers space where visitors can, on weekends, dip into the canal for a swim.

 

More information see: http://www.triennalebrugge.be/en