JADE MOUNTAIN SAINT LUCIA & DEATH BY CHOCOLATE

Jade Mountain Saint Lucia by S.M. KatzmanWhat can I say about Jade Mountain in Saint Lucia that hasn’t already been said. Readers of travel magazines know the resort has been called the best in the Caribbean as well as one of the three top in the world. Devotees of luxury know Jade Mountain is over the top in terms of service and amenities. Lovers of architecture know that owner/architect, Nick Troubetzkoy, designed a masterpiece—as unique in the world of hospitality as it is dramatic.

Jade Mountain (brown) sits above Anse Chastanet (green)

Jade Mountain (brown) sits above Anse Chastanet (green)

Perhaps what is not known, is that the incredibly luscious resort sits on a verdent mountanious hill above it’s sister resort, Anse Chastanet, with whom it shares facilities, and there is not one elevator, escalator, funicular on property. Guests must climb heart-panting flights just to reach the nearest restaurant or the shuttle that twists and turns down a narrow road to the beach. Those not in tip-top shape could find the exercise taxing (just to mention one drawback to keep the gods from getting jealous before I tell you of the glories).

As to the heavenly, Troubetzkoy designed Jade Mountains infinity pool sanctuaries (aka rooms), to maximize views. Each sanctuary is unique in design and decor. Like most, mine (JC2) had only three walls. The fourth is open air fronted by an infinity pool that seems to stretch into the Caribbean. I am willing to bet that photographers head to my sanctuary when they are snapping pictures for postcards of Saint Lucia’s ionic World Heritage Site Pitons—the two iconic mountains (volcanic spires) thrusting up from the sea.

Room with a view.

Room with a view.

My sanctuary’s bathroom, up a short flight of stairs, is also open air and packed with amenities such as duel sinks, a whirlpool tub big enough for two, and a shower spraying water water everywhere.

Bathroom at Jade Mountain Collage

 

Major Domo at Jade MountainRooms lack air-conditioning, TVs, radios and telephones, but do have Major Domos (aka butlers) on call 24/7 to see to every need. Right after offering a welcome drink, your Major Domo hands you a cell phone embedded with his number. Want something, just call. Major Domos see to everything: arranging sightseeing, making restaurant reservations, packing and unpacking. If you are at the beach and forgot your suntan lotion, a Major Domo will bring it to you. Major Domos run bubble baths. They bring you chocolates, cocktails and afternoon tea. Major Domos ruin life forever after.

One never has to leave the sanctuary as room service sends luscious meals, the spa sends therapists for massages and the Major Domos bring everything else. But if desired guests can enjoy both Jade Mountain and Anse Chastanet (stay tuned for next Sweet Leisure post) facilities which include two glorious beaches, spas, tennis courts, boutiques, a variety of water activities and a luscious choice of restaurants and bars.

 

 

Hard as it was, I did leave my sanctuary on several occasions. I headed to the beach, of course,

Anse Mamin Beach

 

and to the divine Jade Mountain Club restaurant for some magical meals.

Jade Mountain Club Collage

 

I enjoyed a heavenly “Chocolate Delight” massage in Jade Mountain’s spa, Kai en Ciel (translates house in heaven). Masseuse Kayla Augustin used fragrant chocolate-based body products for the massage and, instead of tea that is served at oh so ordinary spas, brought a plate of chocolates after the massage. Rapture! Exaltation!

Jade Mountain Spa

And I also left the room for a few resort-organized activities, including a trip to Emerald Estate—the resort’s organic farm.

Emerald Estates College by Susan Manlin Katzman

Talk about farm-to-table perfection, this farm produces an Eden’s worth of fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices that are used at both at Jade Mountain and Anse Chastanet. I toured the tropical paradise with three men who totally captured my culinary heart.

From L to Right: Elijah Jules, chef de cuisine at Jade Mountain (and cooking teacher at Emerald Estates); horticulturalist Pawan Srivastava, Emerald Estates manager; and Stefan Goehcke, executive chef of the whole shebang.

From L to Right: Elijah Jules, chef de cuisine at Jade Mountain (and cooking teacher at Emerald Estates); horticulturalist Pawan Srivastava, Emerald Estates manager; and Stefan Goehcke, executive chef of the whole shebang.

Over 2000 cocoa trees on the resorts’ property produces cocoa beans that are turned into chocolate in Jade Mountain’s Chocolate Laboratory. The lab crafts single estate organic chocolate bars for sale in the resorts’ boutiques, produces pralines to put in guest rooms and fashions chocolate into a variety of sumptuous dishes for the restaurants.

Chocolate at Jade Mountain

The Death by Chocolate recipe below comes from the Jade Mountain’s chocolate menu used at one of Saint Lucia’s chocolate festivals.
I don’t know if the drink/sundae classifies as a cocktail or dessert. I do know that it is unusual and absolutely ambrosial—as is Jade Mountain itself.

 

DEATH BY CHOCOLATE

Death by Chocolate by S.M. KatzmanYield: 1 serving.

2 large scoops dark, rich, chocolate ice cream
Chocolate syrup
1 ounce coffee liquor
1 ounce dark creme de cacao
1 ounce vodka
Whipped cream

Put ice cream in a large glass.
Drizzle with chocolate syrup.
Pour coffee liquor, creme de cacao and vodka over syrup.
Top with whipped cream.
Drizzle chocolate syrup over whipped cream.

 

Jade Mountain Sign and Sculpture

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BARBECUE AT Q39 AND APPLE COLESLAW RECIPE

Rob Magee

Rob Magee

It takes a lot of nerve to open a new barbecue restaurant in Kansas City.
Boasting over 100 extremely popular and enthusiastically patronized BBQ joints, shacks, stands and restaurants, KC seems saturated to the max. Then along comes championship barbecuer Rob Magee who opens Q39 and quickly sends most competition to the pits.
Q39 ExteriorThe hip new kid on KC’s barbecue scene is smokin’ hot and distinctly different. The opposite of a joint, Q39 is a sleek and sophisticated restaurant in design, food and service.

Named for it’s location at 1000 W. 39th Street in Kansas City, Q39 sports an open urban “industrial” design with overhead piping, brick walls, stained concrete floors and see-into kitchen.

Interior of Q39

The bar area can seat 50. The main dining room, 122. And the restaurant has set aside a separate area for take-out, yet, on weekends, all tables fill quickly and long lines form to wait for a seat.

A legendary barbecue contest winner, Magee fills his menu with prize dishes, making everything from scratch and grilling over a wood fire as well as barbecuing using hickory wood in indirect heat.

All the usual barbecue suspects show up on the menu, including cooked-to-perfection ribs, succulent burnt ends, absolutely luscious pulled pork and wonderfully tender, tasty beef brisket.

A Sampling of Q39 Favorites

Menus also feature the unexpected, such as grilled salmon salad, veggie burger, and smoked fried chicken.

Everything is a must-try from the smoked cocktail (yes, indeed)

Drinking a smoked Cocktail

to the feast-of-flavor main dishes to the cornucopia of sides (with apple coleslaw becoming the signature stand out).

Some sides at Q39

Q39 offers innovative, eclectic and simply delicious barbecue in a contemporary setting with full-service—in other words, modern Missouri barbecue at its winning best!

Q 39’S COLESLAW DRESSING

Yield: 2-2/3cups. Q39's Apple Coleslaw
2 cups mayonnaise
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup yellow mustard
1 tablespoon celery seeds
1 tablespoon garlic salt
Put all ingredients in a large bowl and mix until well blended. Refrigerate in a covered container until ready to use.
Use to dress lettuce salads, steamed vegetables (especially wonderful on asparagus) and coleslaws (especially good on Q 39’s Apple Coleslaw).

Q 39’S APPLE COLESLAW

Yield: 6 to 8 servings.
1 head green cabbage, thinly shredded
1-1/2 cups granny smith apples, diced
1 cup shredded carrots
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion
Q39’s coleslaw dressing

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Just before serving, coat with dressing to taste.

Coleslaws at Q39

 

 

 

THE TRAILS, GRIFFITH PARK, L.A.

Trails Sign by Susan Manlin KatzmanTalk about a fork in the road. Metaphorically speaking, the best fork in the road in Griffith Park is found at The Trails, a popular coffee/snack cafe and almost obligatory stop before or after hiking.
As the lucky of us know, Griffith Park is a sprawling 4,210-plus acres natural and landscaped park situated in the eastern Santa Monica Mountain range, smack in the middle of Los Angeles. Considered the “largest municipal park with urban wilderness area in the United States,” Griffith Park sports a 53-mile network of trails, fire roads and bridle paths (complete with ridges, canyons, creeks, and fabulous variety of flora and fauna). The park attracts local hikers as well as savvy tourists seeking exercise in the midst of California nature and sunshine. And the Trails cafe is a well-known secret stop that hits the spot for breakfast/lunch/snacks before hiking or after.

The Trails sits across the street from the end of the park’s Ferndell trail and the trailhead to the Griffith Observatory’s west trail loop.
If you are a novice wanting a wonderful and not-too-taxing L.A. hiking/snacking experience, here’s what you do:
Find the entrance to Griffith Park at the intersection of Los Feliz Boulevard and Fern Dell Drive (a sign and bear-cub statue marks the spot). Drive into the park and park in the first place you find on the street (no meters—hurrah!).

Griffith Park Sign
Now look for the Ferndell sign (on the left, about a block inside the entrance). Ferndell is a charming, quarter-mile path bordered by a man-made stream, shaded by sycamores and surrounded by a lush green garden that includes an awesome variety of ferns. Walk through the iron gates and enjoy.Ferndell Sign by Susan Manlin Katzman

 

Ferndell Collage by Susan Manlin Katzman
When you come to the end of Ferndell (at the playground) you have several choices: either turn left and walk across the street where you will find The Trails, or veer right and start the loop trail leading to the Griffith Observatory. The 2.5 mile west trail loop rises in elevation to offer overviews of the Observatory, The Hollywood sign and the L.A. basin, before curving back to Ferndell and The Trails.

Trails at Griffith Park Collage by Susan Manin Katzman
So, what’s special about The Trails?

The cafe is actually a small wood cottage/hut where one usually stands in long lines to order at a window. Seating is outdoors at a variety of picnic tables set under an umbrella of shade trees.

FRONT AND BACK of the Trails Collage by Susan Manlin Katzman

Hikers like the cafe’s totally laid-back, dog-and kid-friendly atmosphere; the outdoor rustic woodsy setting; the coffee and the food.

Menu the Trails Collage by Susan Manlin Katzman

As to the latter, the avocado and the egg salad sandwiches, quiches, cookies and pies are particularly popular as are the Eggs in a Basket, which, I am told, are made like this:

EGGS IN A BASKET

Sliced breadEggs in a Basket by Susan Manlin Katzman
Butter
Eggs
Pesto (made from basil, olive oil, parmesan, garlic, salt & pepper, but no nuts)
Grated Parmesan
Finely chopped rosemary
Finely chopped chives
Fresh ground pepper
Cut 3-inch circles from the slices of bread. Generously butter a muffin tin. Fit each bread circle inside a muffin cup, molding bread to make a “basket.” Brush each bread basket with a generous amount of butter. Drizzle 1 teaspoon pesto inside each bread basket. Crack an egg into each buttered basket. Drizzle more pesto over each egg and then sprinkle with grated parmesan, rosemary, chives and pepper. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven until the egg is set as you desire, usually 11 minutes for runny centers to 13 minutes for firmer.

Eggs in A Basket from The Trails by Susan Manlin Katzman

 

 

 

RUM, W.C. FIELDS AND A TERRIFIC COCKTAIL

“All roads lead to rum,” says W.C. Fields, and roads in Louisiana lead directly to Lacassine, the location of Louisiana Spirits, the largest privately owned rum distillery in the United States and home to Bayou Rum.

Louisiana Spirits
Tourists can visit the shop, tour the distillery, and sample the rum which is made from sugarcane grown in the surrounding fields of Louisiana’s cajun country, distilled in copper pot stills and rested in American oak.

Louisiana Spirits Mural

To make Bayou Rum

 

“There are only two real ways to get ahead today—sell liquor or drink it,” says W. C. Fields and Louisiana Spirits is way ahead of the game by making and selling four varieties of rum for drinking pleasure: Bayou Select Rum; Bayou Satsuma Rum (made with satsuma oranges grown in south Louisiana); Bayou Silver Rum (as producers say, “The new gold standard for rum happens to be Silver.”) and Bayou Spiced Rum.

Types of Bayou Rum

 

The cup runneth over with great ideas for cocktails based on Bayou Rums, but the best, bar none, is The Mardi Gras Special. This cocktail was created by the Golden Nugget Casino Hotel in Lake Charles, LA, for a Mardi Gras party hosted by Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Convention & Visitors Bureau.
“A man’s got to believe in something. I believe I’ll have another drink.” says W. C. Fields. The Mardi Gras Special is staggeringly delicious. One is never enough. As the cocktail is sure to be a glittery high point of any party, make an abundant amount and laisser les bon temps rouler.

Party-Ready Mardi Gras Cocktail

 

THE MARDI GRAS SPECIAL

Rum or pineapple juice for rimming glassesThe Mardi Gras Special
Gold-colored sugar crystals
Two parts pineapple juice (4 ounces for each cocktail)
One part Bayou Rum (2 ounces for each cocktail)
One part Midori Melon Liqueur (2 ounces for each cocktail)
Ice
Set out two saucers. Put a little layer of rum or pineapple juice in one saucer and spread a thick layer of sugar on the other. Holding a martini glass upside down by the stem, dip the rim of the glass the liquid. Shake the glass slightly to knock off excess liquid and then dip the wet rim in the sugar; twist glass gently to coat rim well with sugar. Set glass aside so that sugar dries.
Combine pineapple juice, rum and Midori in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake briefly. Strain into glasses. Serve immediately.

Now a little lagniappe from W.C. Fields, a rummy character if there ever was one.
W.C. Fields says:

“I certainly do not drink all the time. I have to sleep you know.”

“If I had to live my life over, I’d live over a saloon.”

“I drink therefore I am.”

“Back in my rummy days, I would tremble and shake for hours upon arising. It was the only exercise I got.”

 

 

 

THE BROAD—L.A.’S NEW SUPERSTAR MUSEUM

 

Here’s what you need to know about The Broad, L.A.’s newly opened contemporary art museum:

The Broad

 

1. It’s fantastic.

MORE ART FOR L.A.

 

2. It’s free.

 

Jeff Koon's Party Hat

 

3. It’s popular. Long lines form to get in, but one can bypass the wait by securing advance reservations for timed entry tickets online. (The online reservation spaces disappear quickly so plan ahead.)

Entrance of The Broad

 

4. Philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad built the museum to showcase their more than 2000-piece collection of postwar and contemporary works.

Some art shown at The Broad

 

5. The architectural firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R) designed the dramatic building, which is already a landmark in the downtown L.A. The sculptural honeycomb exterior of the building, dubbed the “veil,” is designed with skylights on the top floor that bring indirect diffuse natural light to the galleries.

Diffused Natural Light at The Broad

 

6. The first and third floor of the museum showcases art. The second floor holds administration offices.

Gallery at The Broad

 

7. The Broad’s inaugural installation (on view until late April or early May) features more than 250 works by over 60 artists, including: Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Barbara Kruger, Jeff Koons, Kara Walker, Takashi Murakami and John Currin.

Galleries at The Broad

 

8. Works in the Inaugural Installation are displayed chronologically starting on the third floor where galleries showcase works by artists that gained fame in the1950s through the1980s and continuing on the the first floor where the most contemporary works are displayed.

Shown at The Broad

9. The Broad is located at 221 S. Grand Avenue adjacent to Walt Disney Concert Hall. (The street just could be one of the most architecturally interesting in the city.)

The Broad and Walt Disney Concert Hall

The Broad and Walt Disney Concert Hall

 

10. Visitors can peek into the storage center of the museum, called “the vault,” from a glass elevator and from the central staircase that takes visitors from the first to third floor.

The Vault

 

11. One can eat at Otium, a restaurant on the plaza next to the Broad, but not eat or drink in the museum itself.

Otium Restaurant

 

12. Photography is fine. Selfies rock—but selfie sticks do not—leave them (and tripods and camera flashes) at home.

Reflected Selfie

 

13. A separate, free, timed ticket is required to line up to enter Yayoi Kusama’s dazzling, shimmering, shinning Infinity Mirrored Room. The piece accommodates one visitor at a time for only 45 seconds each. Visitors get tickets after arriving at the museum. These tickets go very quickly, with most spaces gone within the first two hours of the museum opening. (Which means you should plan your visit to the Broad as close to the opening hours as possible and get the room ticket immediately upon entry.)

Infinity Mirrored Room

 

14. The Broad is closed on Mondays.

Roy Lichtenstein's I...I'm Sorry!

 

15. The museum’s underground garage charges $12 for three hours with a validated ticket, which is available at the entrance.

At the Broad

 

16. The Broad has a shop and a Website: www.thebroad.org

Ads For The Broad

 

17. The Broad is an absolute must-visit for anyone interested in art and architecture!

The Broad

 

 

 

 

 

INVERAWE and SMOKED SALMON PATE

Inverawe LogoAnyone hooked on smoked salmon has probably heard of Inverawe and Robert & Rosie Campbell-Preston.
Robert & Rosie opened Inverawe Smokehouse in Argyll, on the West Coast of Scotland, in 1980. Robert was the fish smoker, an art he learned growing up on the banks of the Awe. Rosie tackled the marketing, a talent she developed after marrying Robert in the early 60s, moving to Scotland, raising a family and helping promote the fish farm that the couple created in 1974.
As expected with a fine artisan product, Inverawe’s smoked salmon caught on with the locals.

Rosie Campbell-Preston

Rosie Campbell-Preston

Knowing she could reel in more business, Rosie started a smoked salmon mail order business in 1982. The move spawned more attention. Soon the back-yard smokery developed a widespread reputation and its smoked salmon became a smokin’ hot product not only in the Scottish Highlands, but also throughout the UK and beyond.

Today the family-owned and operated enterprise, Inverawe Smokery and Fisheries, includes a range of endeavors.
Stretched over the property (which is situated 80 miles north of Glasgow, 15 miles inland from Oban, between Loch Awe village and Taynuilt) visitors will find:
Inverawe House, the family’s 300 year old home and the Smokery—where all sorts of fish are infused with the full-bodied, robust and oak-log flavor so favored by connoisseurs. The living quarters and Smokery are not open to the public.
Visitors are cheerfully welcomed at Inverawe’s Exhibition Center (a homemade, folksy and informative display of the fish smoking process), and at the Smokery Shop and Cafe.

Inverawe's Shop

The shop sells a variety of smoked fish and accompanying accoutrements, gift items, luxury food hampers and books, including, of course, Rosie’s INVERAWE SEASONS COOKBOOK (also available on Amazon).

Inverse Seasons Cookbook Jacket

Back Jacket of Inverawe Seasons Cookbook

Inverawe’s cafe serves a feast of smoked fish as well as a catch of non-fishy dishes and home-baked specialities.

Inverawe Cafe/TearoomInverawe Cafe Menu
Tourist facilities on the estate include: four self-catering cottages (where well-behaved dogs are welcome); fly fishing on three trout lakes and a salmon river, with fly fishing lessons available for beginners; a children’s play area; and nature trails and tracks.

Map of Inverawe
To learn more about Inverawe, see www.inverawe-fisheries.co.uk.
To sample a favorite dish served in Inverawe’s Cafe, check out the following:

Smoked Salmon Pate at Inverawe Cafe

INVERAWE SMOKED SALMON PATE

Smoked Salmon from Inverawe(Basic smoked salmon pate recipe by Rosie Campbell-Preston. Serving suggestions by Sweet Leisure.)

Yield: About 4 cups.
1 pound cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup low fat plain yogurt
About 14 ounces smoked salmon, minced
About 3.5 ounces roasted smoked salmon, minced
Juice from 1/2 lemon
Pepper to taste
TO SERVE (all optional)
Crackers
Crudités
Thinly sliced bread
Endive leaves
Baked miniature tart shells
Salmon “roses” (made by rolling small strips of salmon into rose shape) Parsley leaves
Chopped scallions and additional diced salmon.

Put cream cheese and yogurt in a mixing bowl and beat until smooth and well blended. Add minced salmon and lemon juice. Beat until blended. Season to taste with pepper.
To serve as a spread, put salmon pate in a bowl and serve with crackers, crudités or bread.

Smoked Salmon from Inverawe
To serve as a canapé, pipe small dabs of salmon pate into the hollows of endive leaves and garnish with smoke salmon “roses” and parsley leaves;

Smoked Salmon Canape

To serve as a tea time treat (as they do at Cameron House on Loch Lomond) pipe pate into small baked tart shells and garnish with chopped scallions and diced salmon.

Smoked Salmon Tart

 

 

 

 

S.S. CATHERINE RIVER CRUISE SHIP & DOUBLE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

Making a list? Checking it twice? Want to give something much better than nice for Christmas or Valentine’s day or that special birthday or anniversary? Then consider that the most splendid, all-occasion, glory gift that one can give is a trip on the S.S. Catherine.

S. S. Catherine Cruise Ship
Not a nautical term, S.S. in front of Catherine stands for “Super Ship.” The letters could also mean “Sensational” and “Sumptuous,” as everything about the river cruise ship is spectacular, including the itinerary, the decor, the food, and the general sweet sybaritic style of just being aboard.
The 159-passenger Catherine joined Uniworld’s fleet in 2014 to cruise on the Rhône and Saône Rivers in France. Most river cruise ships traveling the Rhône and Saône follow similar itineraries, and most are similar-size vessels built with widths to move through locks and heights to fit under bridges. But the S. S. Catherine is the fairest of them all, distinguishing herself with both lavish decor and luscious cuisine.
If laid end to end the amount of Murano glass decorating the Catherine would stretch 6.21 miles.

Collage of Murano Glass on the S.S. Catherine by Susan Manlin Katzman
Framed art (mostly purchased at auction houses) fills hallways.

Hallway Art on S.S. Catherine

And stunning commissioned pieces, such as a white porcelain mural backing the reception desk, a wildly colorful glass and porcelain jungle scene framing the swimming pool, and a life-size glass horse sitting on the main landing, enrich public areas.

Reception Desk on S.S. Catherine by Susan Manlin Katxman

Swim Pool on S. S. Catherine by Susan Manlin Katzman

Horse on the S.S. Catherine

In addition to an assortment of lounges, bars, and dining areas, the Catherine sports a sun deck, laundry area, spa, fitness center, and boutique.

S.S. Catherine Facilities
The 74 guest rooms and six suites spread over each of the three main decks and offer assorted amenities according to category (determined by location, size and configuration), but even cabins in the least-expensive category are decked out with rich fabrics, Savoir of England beds, flat-screen TVs and marble bathrooms complete with L’Occitane en Provence products.

Suite on the S.S. Catherine

A sweet suite.

And if setting was not enough glory, the Catherine’s food equals her decor. Chefs prepare a dazzling array of familiar international foods intermixed with local specialties for both breakfast and lunch buffets and lean to classic French-accented dishes for the more formally served dinners.

Chefs and Dessert on the S.S. Catherine

Between meals, guests can raid the two large containers filled with the most delectable cookies that always grace the Leopard Bar’s counter top.

Cookies on the Catherine's Leopard Bar
Wine matches the food, and the ship could be viewed as a luscious laboratory for sampling delights of the region, often only available locally.

Wine on the S.S. Catherine

Wine on the S.S. Catherine
The Catherine’s eight day/seven night cruise titled “Burgundy & Provence” stops almost daily for sight-seeing excursions,

Collage of stops on the S.S. Catherin

but the spirit that elevates Catherine’s cruises to a luxurious art form is best captured by sitting onboard, watching the changing scenery as the ship glides through French landscapes celebrated by painters and poets, oenophiles and gourmets.

The view from a verhanda on the S.S. Catherine
Yes, indeed for a superb gift filled with joie de vivre, one couldn’t do better than giving a trip on the S. S. Catherine. On the other hand, if you are making a list and checking it twice, and want to give something simply homemade and nice, go for the Catherine’s double chocolate chip cookies:

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES Á LA the S.S. CATHERINE

Yield: 5-1/2 dozen.Chocolate cookies served on the S.S. Catherine
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups butter, softened
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
4 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
Heat oven to 350°F.
Sift together flour, cocoa and salt.
Cream butter with confectioner’s sugar and vanilla until light. Slowly beat in flour mixture and chocolate chips. Dough will be very stiff (use your hands to knead dough together, if necessary).
Roll dough into balls about 1 inch in diameter. Put balls on ungreased baking sheet. Press each ball with your finger tips to flatten to about 1/2 inch.
Place baking sheets in the center of the 350°F preheat oven and bake until cookies are slightly browned around the edges, 12 to 15 minutes.
Transfer hot cookies to a rack and let cool completely.

The S. S. Catherine at Night

 

 

 

PARADORES, SPAIN & TORTILLA ESPANOLA

ParadoresTravelers adore Spanish Paradores for a multitude of reasons.
First is location.
The Spanish-government owned and operated inns are sprinkled throughout Spain in spots most useful to tourists. Some are near major tourist attractions in large cities. Others grace small villages. And a few sit in far-flung, remote areas with little other choice of accommodations.
Next are the structures.
The most interesting Paradores occupy historic buildings. Some fill ancient castles, and centuries-old mansions and monasteries. Others are built into such unusual places as former forts and 15th century hospitals.
And last, but never least, is style and substance.
Each Parador is unique. Some are WOWs. A few, bare bones. Yet Paradores share similar traits. All offer restaurants serving authentic regional specialities; rates that are downright bargains when compared to similar hotels—as if there were similar hotels; and experiences rich with style and substance.
Parador de Cáceres is one of the greats and sports all of the attributes that make Paradores so popular.
First is location.
Parador de Cáceres sits within the walled historic Ciudad Monumental, a UNESCO designated World Heritage Site in the city of Cáceres, in the sparsely populated Extremadura region of western central Spain. The Parador is in the heart of Old Town, a super-short stroll away from all of the city’s attractions, which is good, as cars are strictly limited and walking is the primary way to maneuver. (Incidentally, the Parador provides parking for those who arrive by car.)

Cacares 4 Collage by Susan Manlin Katzman
Next is the structure.
Parador de Cáceres spreads through two large and rambling 14th century palaces. The oldest part of the property is a tower, which stands tall despite Queen Isabel’s orders of 1477 that all towers of Cáceres be cut down.

Parador de Caceres by Susan Manlin Katzman
Within the Gothic buildings, guests find a wonderful array of architectural gems: stone arches and pillar, vaulted ceilings, iron railings curving up slender stone staircases, a magnificent mantelpiece and a courtyard with an original cistern used to collect rainwater.

Stone Elements in Parador de Caceres by Susan Manlin Katzman
Decorative leftovers from former occupants, such as a 2nd century Roman tombstone, a Baroque coat of arms and a knightly suit of armor, fill nooks and crannies.

Decor in Parador de Caceres/Collage by Susan Manlin Katzman
As to style and substance, this Parador’s cup overflows.
Created in 1989, and refurbished between 2009 and 2011, the Parador now sets the standard for energy efficiency without sacrificing any of its historical attributes. The 39 guest rooms, reached by two small elevators and a marvelous maze of walkways, differ in size and configuration, but wear similar, simple-but-comfortable decor. All rooms have T.Vs, Wi-Fi, mini bars and sleek bathrooms with bidets and huge bathtubs.

Parador de Caceres room.

 

Bathroom of room in Parador de Caceres by Susan Manlin Katzman
My room’s window opened to overlook a narrow cobblestone passage Bells in Caceres by Susan Manlin Katzmanand another ancient building. In addition to country-fresh air, the window ushered in a sound track of medieval times in the form of footsteps clopping on the cobblestone walk and bells from many churches ringing in the hour.

In addition to great location, stunning architectural features and comfortable rooms Parador de Cáceres offers guests pleasant places to gather, including a cosy second floor sitting room, a contemporary cafe/bar and a terrific restaurant.

Parador de Caceres meeting places Collage by Susan Manlin Katzman
Perhaps now is the time to mention that Cáceres was claimed Spain’s culinary capital for 2015 and the Parador’s restaurant does the title proud.
Lunch and dinner menus feature specialties of the Extremadura region, intermingled with a fusion of dishes influenced by Portuguese neighbors as well as Roman, Arab, and Jewish cultures that one time flourished in the city. All dishes are beautifully prepared and artistically presented.

Food From Parador de Caceres' Restaurant. Collage by Susan Manlin Katzman

But it’s the buffet breakfasts that best captures the spirit of the region by serving not only a stunning array of Extremadura’s best cheeses and meats, but also local favorites including pastries made by nuns in cloistered convents, and traditional Spanish dishes, such as the beloved Tortilla Española.

Although known in English as Spanish omelet, Tortilla Española is more of a flavorful potato cake held together with eggs than a traditional omelet. The Parador’s serves a classic version made with potatoes and onions as well as a variant made with added ingredients, such as zucchini. (The zucchini version, shown below, is called Tortilla de Calabacín.) Each version is surprisingly much better that one would imagine from the sum of its parts, which you can see for yourself by following this Parador provided recipe.

TORTILLA ESPAÑOLA

Tortilla Espanola

Yield: 4 servings.
About 1pound (3 medium) potatoes, peeled, halved lengthwise and very thinly sliced
1 medium onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
1 small zucchini, trimmed, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced, optional
Salt
Black pepper
About 1-1/4 cups olive oil
6 eggs
Put potatoes, onion and zucchini in a large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss gently to combine
Put oil in a 10-inch heavy or nonstick skillet. Set skillet over high heat. When oil is very hot, but not smoking, add potato mixture. Reduce heat to so that oil simmers and cook, occasionally lifting and turning ingredients, until the potatoes are tender, but not brown and not falling apart, about 15 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer sautéed potatoes, onions and zucchini to a colander and set aside.
Drain oil from skillet, reserving 4 tablespoons. Scrap any potato particles from pan with a spatula. Wipe pan with a paper towel to remove any residue.
In a large bowl, beat eggs until well blended. Add potato mixture to the eggs and gently mix to evenly distribute ingredients.
Put 2 tablespoons of the reserved oil in the pan and set pan over high heat. When the oil is very hot, but not smoking, gently add the egg/potato mixture, spreading ingredients evenly in the pan. Reduce heat to medium and cook until the bottom of the tortilla is lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes.
Gently shake pan so tortilla doesn’t stick, then slide a spatula along edges and underneath tortilla. Place a large plate over pan and quickly turn plate and pan over so tortilla falls onto plate. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons reserved oil to pan and heat until oil is hot. Slide tortilla, uncooked side down, into the skillet, carefully tucking in sides with the spatula. Continue cooking over medium heat until eggs are completely set, about 3 minutes. Give the pan a shake to loosen the tortilla (or help it along with the spatula) and slide tortilla from pan onto a serving plate. Cool slightly or to room temperature before cutting into wedges to serve.

For more information about Cáceres (beautiful by day and night), click HERE.

Caceres Day and Night by Susan Manlin Katzman

 

 

 

 

ATRIO/MICHELIN STARS AND RELAIS & CHATEAUX

 

ATRIO Door Sign by Susan Manlin Katzman

Atrio is one of the main reasons to visit Cáceres. Actually, Atrio is one of the main reasons to visit Spain. The two-Michelin-starred restaurant and Relais & Châteaux hotel is worth not only a detour (in Michelin speak), but also a bucket-list trip—at least for lovers of food, wine and architecture.
Atrio sits in the sparsely populated Extremadura region of western central Spain, within the ancient walled-center of Cáceres, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Views of Caceres from Atrio

Views of Caceres from Atrio

The property manages to perfectly fit into its surroundings of medieval monasteries, churches, palaces and towers, while being thoroughly, beautifully, divinely contemporary in both architecture and food.

Emilio Tuñón Álvarez in his garden.

Toño Pérez in his garden.

Owners, chef Juan Antonio (Toño) Pérez and his partner, maître d’ and sommelier José Polo, teamed with architects Luis Moreno Mansilla and Emilio Tuñón Álvarez to create a unique space within ancient buildings once used as a palace’s servants’ quarters.
While respecting the integrity of the historic exterior, the architects filled the interior with minimalist modern excitement.

Atrio in Spanish means atrium and the interior utilizes a garden area to create a metaphorical atrium. A dramatic collection of white, dark and natural wood columns provides not only a unifying flow between different spaces, but also a filter for natural daylight which artistically and unevenly streams onto highly polished, shining surfaces of floors and walls, bathing the property in an ever-changing shimmering glow.

Atrio Design Inside and Out by Susan Manlin Katzman

 

As spiraled as a nautilus shell, Atiro’s wine cellar and tasting room occupies the lower level. Named one of the restaurant world’s best by Wine Spectator, the cellar holds a star-studded, decades-spanning collection of superstars, including vintages of Chateau d’Yquem dating from 1806. Atrio’s wine list comes in the form of a thick, 400-page, hardbound book.

Atrio's Wine Cellar by Susan Manlin Katzman

 

A terrace with two pools and 14 guest rooms, each different and each sleekly comfortable, fill the upper level of the property.

Guest room at Atrio by Susan Manlin Katzman

 

Atiro’s architecture, wine and guest rooms attract tourists, but it is the food that draws gourmets from around the world and the food that greatly contributed to Cáceres winning title of Spain’s Culinary Capital for 2015.
Food magic happens on the main floor which holds the reception entrance, a patio garden (perfect for a perfect breakfast on a lovely day), the large open kitchen and the dining tables, which can seat up to 50.

Dining Tables at Atrio by Susan Manllin Katzman
From Ferran AdriaFerran Adrià, a great Spanish chef who created the experimental restaurant El Bulli, once wrote about the evolution of creative cooking. He places reproducing recipes previously created at the bottom of the creative pyramid and technical-conceptual creativity at the top.

Chef Toño’s food sits at the pinnacle, uniquely intermingling (like the building itself) the classic with the contemporary, the worldly with the local, and the extravagant with the affordable (109€ to 115€ for a tasting menu).
Whereas other modern experimental efforts might try too hard and put construction over taste, Toño’s creations are innovative and beautiful as well as delicious. That doesn’t mean the dishes can be described in ordinary terms—not even by the restaurant. The English menu descriptions waiver between dramatically simplified, tongue-in-cheek and just plain plain. For example, following are dishes on a tasting menu with restaurant descriptions:

CUCUMBER Open ravioli, green apple, herring and celery

CUCUMBER
Open ravioli, green apple, herring and celery

 

FAKE PEAS Crispy pork and peas cream

FAKE PEAS
Crispy pork and peas cream

 

BLOODY MARY Frozen tomato and green onion ice cream

BLOODY MARY
Frozen tomato and green onion ice cream

 

MARINATED SHRIMPS Stem salad and sour cream

MARINATED SHRIMPS
Stem salad and sour cream

 

RISOTTO Mushrooms with pig’s trotters paper

RISOTTO
Mushrooms with pig’s trotters paper

 

CRAWFISH in green, seaweed bread and solidify olive oil

CRAWFISH
in green, seaweed bread and solidify olive oil

 

RED PRAWN Corn and Iberian pork

RED PRAWN
Corn and Iberian pork

 

ROASTED SUCKING GOAT Traditional style

ROASTED SUCKLING GOAT
Traditional style

 

TORTA DEL CASAR  In both textures with quince jam and spicy oil

TORTA DEL CASAR 
In both textures with quince jam and spicy oil

 

YOLK CREAM Yoghourt ice cream and cocoa ground

YOLK CREAM
Yoghourt ice cream and cocoa ground

 

THE CHERRY, which is not a cherry

THE CHERRY, which is not a cherry

Other food treats associated with the menu include: Beet macarons served before the meal began and and a variety of sweets including fabulous lemon macaroons and fight-over chocolate truffles served to finish the feast.

Beet Macaroons

Beet Macarons

 

Assorted Sweets

Assorted Sweets

Guests leaving Atrio, are encouraged to take a handful of house-made miniature caramels sitting on a tray at the door. (First time in my life I was sorry I didn’t have huge, super-size, gigantic man’s hands.)

Atrio's Caramels

Atrio’s Caramels

For more information about Cáceres, click HERE.

For more information about Atrio, click HERE.

 

 

 

 

CÁCERES, CULINARY CAPITAL OF SPAIN, 2015 & MIGAS

The food of Cáceres rocks! The restaurants are rad! The take-home edible souvenirs are wicked and wow! No wonder a jury composed of top representatives from Spain’s hotel, restaurant and publishing industries, declared the city “The Culinary Capital of Spain, 2015.”
Where-is-Caceres-on-map-of-SpainThe city, in the province of the same name, sits in the sparsely populated Extremadura region of western central Spain, about 186 miles from Madrid and 137 miles from Portugal. Despite having a UNESCO World Heritage Site walled city center that is so little changed from medieval times that the town serves as movie set, Cáceres was off the tourist radar.

Caceres 4

But now declared the the epicenter of Spanish food, the city lures foodies from around the world and no one leaves disappointed.
Cáceres won the title of Culinary Capital based on a rigid set of criteria including:
1. The luscious local products—eight wearing Denomination of Origin (D.O.) and Protected Designations of Origin (P.D.O.) certifications.

2. The fine chefs. (According to one tourism official, Cáceres, population 95,855, contains about 250 restaurants serving dishes ranging from Spanish classics to the uniquely avant-garde.)

Tono Perez in his garden at Atrio Restaurante and Ivan Hernandez at his cooking show room in Restaurante Cayena. Photo by Susan Manlin Katzman

Tono Perez in his garden at Atrio Restaurante and Ivan Hernandez in his cooking show room at Restaurante Cayena.

3. The plethora of traditional dishes—some classically Spanish and others representing a fusion influenced by Portuguese neighbors as well as historic Roman, Arab, and Jewish cultures that flourished in the city.)

Tapas with Iberia ham, pork carpaccio, lamb stew and luscious desserts represent typical dishes found in Caceres.

Tapas with jamon iberico, pork carpaccio, lamb stew and luscious regional desserts represent typical dishes found in Caceres.

4. The abundance of natural agricultural products, and

5. The general high-quality of…well…of everything.

The city supports its year of culinary splendor by offering food-focused festivals and events as well as maps outlining the many culinary trails that crisscross the city and region.

Map of Careers Culinary Trails by Susan Manlin Katzman

So what are the top flavors uniquely Cáceres?

Jamón Ibérico, an exquisite cured ham from black Iberian pigs. Although there are different types of Ibérico ham, also called pata negra, the finest, Jamón Ibérico Bellota D.O. Deshesa Extrmadura comes from pigs allowed to roam, free range, in oak groves and feed on acorns. Incidentally one can distinguish a black Iberian pig by the black color of the pigs’ nails.

Jamon Iberia by Susan Manlin Katzman

 

Cheese, especially the slightly salty and gently tangy Ibores P.D.O., made from unpasteurized goat’s milk, and the creamy, pungent, complex Torta del Casar P.D.O., made with unpasteurized sheep’s milk and a thistle (vegetable) rennet.

Famous Cheeses from Careers by Susan Manlin Katzman

 

Flavorful smoked paprika from La Vera. This oak-smoked Spanish seasoning, officially called D.O. Pimentón de la Vera, was first introduced by monks in the 16th century. The three varieties sold today—sweet, bittersweet (medium hot) and hot, lend an earthy woodsy taste to everything from soup to nuts and is considered essential to authentic Spanish cooking. (Makes a great take-home souvenir and culinary gift.)

Smoked Paprika from La Vera

 

Extra Virgin Olive Oils known for their fruity nuances, low bitterness and gorgeous complexity.

Olive Oil

 

Wine from the Ribera del Guadiana growing area.
Tempranillos are favored and Cavas delight.

Wine

 

Agricultural products including figs, acorns, chestnuts, cherries that make their way into vinegars, marmalades, liquors and beer.

Artisans Vinegar from Caceres by Susan Manlin Katzman

Spanish Marmalade by Susan Manlin Katzman

Cherry and Acorn Liquors by Susan Manlin Katzman

Caceres Famous Beers by Susan Manlin Katzman

 

Pastries and confections made from ancient recipes by cloistered nuns and charmingly sold from behind closed doors in convents.
(To order: Enter the convent’s open door leading to a small room—a menu and price list are posted on the wall. Use a microphone to order, then put your money on the tray of a revolving window. The window turns and your sweets and change come back to you at the next turn. You never see the nuns.)

Doorway of the Convento de San Pablo

Buying Sweets from Convento de San Pablo by Susan Manlin Katzman

Convent Purchase by Susan Manlin Katzman

 

Lamb and beef from Extremadura’s pastures,

Extremadura Sheep in Field by Susan Manlin Katzman

wild game, tench and other freshwater fish caught in the River Tagus, and migas.

Migas (translated “crumbs”) is enjoyed in several regions of Spain. Each region—well actually each cook in each region, produces a personal version. Think of migas as a rustic shepherd’s dish that is easy to make from leftover bread that is crumbled and fried in a single pan with ingredients on hand. Migas is ever present in Cáceres. It’s served as a main course, tapa or side dish in tapas bars, coffee houses, hotels and fine restaurants.

Midas Served Several Ways by Susan Manlin Katzman

Locals have a curious custom of taking a spoonful of migas and dipping it in their morning coffee or hot chocolate for a snack.

Migas Dipped in Morning Coffee by Susan Manlin Katzman

MIGAS (Crumbs)

Yield: 4 servings as main course (topped with a fried egg) or 6 servings as a side dish or tapa.

Migas by Susan Manlin Katzman4 cups coarse dried bread crumbs cut from leftover crusty French or Italian bread
Water
Extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled and halved
About 1/3 cup diced Spanish chorizo
About 1/3 cup diced Serrano ham
Spanish smoked paprika
Salt
About 3 tablespoons cut strips of roasted, peeled red pepper, optional

Put bread crumbs in a bowl and sprinkle with just enough water to moisten the crumbs. Toss crumbs well and cover bowl with damp paper towels. Set bowl aside until bread is evenly moistened, a couple of hours to overnight.
Cover the bottom of a large skillet with a generous layer of olive oil. Set skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and stir until garlic browns lightly and oil becomes fragrant, about 2 minutes. Remove garlic from pan. Add chorizo and ham and cook, stirring often, until meat browns lightly, 2 to 3 minutes. Add bread crumbs to skillet. Sprinkle generously with paprika and lightly with salt (remember the meat could be salty). Stir to mix thoroughly. Sauté, stirring often, until crumbs are golden brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in roasted red pepper strips if desired.
Serve warm, or cool and serve at room temperature.

Stay tuned for more about Cáceres and the city’s extraordinary restaurants, great places to stay and incredible food—coming soon.

Walking in Careers, Spain by Susan Manlin Katzman