Tongabezi, Victoria Falls, Sweet Potato Jam, Zambian Beans


Let’s cut to the chase. Victoria Falls is certainly worth a visit. Called the world’s largest sheet of falling water and deemed one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a bucket-list must-see.

Victoria Falls from Plane Window

View of Victoria Falls from a plane window


Victoria Falls Collage by Susan Manlin Katzman

Victoria Falls viewed from Zambia

But to those who love distinctive hotels, resorts, and other accommodations, Victoria Falls is just a sideline to a stay at Tongabezi, a well-loved small and intimate luxury lodge located on the Zambezi River, about 15 miles upstream from the Falls in Zambia.

At first glance, Tongabezi so blends with nature that one doesn’t catch the pizzazz of the place. But down the welcome drink and follow a staff member along the stone path graced with shady trees, song birds and playful monkeys to your cottage or house, open the door and magic starts to slip into your soul to reside forever more.

Old Tongabezi Boat

Arrival at Tongabezi

Guest accommodations thrill for what they don’t have as much as what they do have.

They don’t have cookie cutter configurations or intrusive neighbors or ho-hum décor. Some don’t even have four walls.

What they do have is peaceful privacy, amazing views, and lovely design and decoration elements.

Guest houses and cottages string along the riverbank and up a hill. Each is a contained unit spaced apart from its neighbor. Although architecture is somewhat different, all accommodations sport thatched roofs and open-air designs, with most offering splendid river views. The amazing three-sided houses face the river, with nothing but vegetation to screen river sights and sounds.

The Bird House at Tongabezi

The Bird House


Ben Parker

Ben Parker

All facilities feature decorative pieces hand-picked by owners Ben and Vanessa Parker to suit their personal tastes. Ben likes to decorate with vintage maps, postcards and photos slipped into picture frames recycled from old wooden boats. He sources (and so can you) the lodge’s lovely beaded linens and textiles from Katundu, a workshop in Malawi that employs single mothers from a local orphan program.

 Decor Details at Tongabezi Collage by Susan Manlin Katzman

Valet with wake up call.

Valet with wake up call.


Perhaps the best feature of houses and cottages is that each comes with a personal valet—a wonderful, attentive, spoiling valet who will pamper as desired, doing such delightful tasks as bringing morning coffee or tea (and buttery shortbread cookies) as a wake-up call, filling the outdoor bathtub with bubbles for sunsets soaking, picking up laundry and offering insider information as to tours and local customs—in short, seeing to every need.

 Outdoor Bubble Bath







In addition to accommodations and service, Tongabezi gets high-five raves for:

1. UNIQUE AMBIANCE:  The lodge manages to combine the rustic with the luxurious, the natural with high style and the private and unregimented with pampering care.

2. ACTIVITIES: No need to contact an outside source for tours, Tongabezi provides a slew of activities, both inclusive and exclusive of room costs. Sunset and sunrise river cruises, tours to the Falls and trips to Livingstone’s markets are complimentary.

Tourist Souvenir Market

Livingstone’s Souvenir Market


Livingstone's Food Market

Livingstone’s Food Market

Helicopter flights over the Falls, white water rafting and elephant-back safaris come with extra cost, as does a fabulous trip to Livingstone Island, the small island at edge of the rushing water where the Scottish explorer David Livingstone first sited the Falls and wrote, “No one can imagine the beauty of the view from anything witnessed in England. It had never been seen before by European eyes; but scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.”

From Livingstone Island

Livingstone Island


3. GOOD DEEDS:  In 1996, Vanessa Parker established a school to teach the children of Tongabezi’s staff. Today, Tujatane (the Tongabezi Trust School) serves over 240 students, providing an education to not only families of staff, but also children in the surrounding community where educational opportunities and resources are scarce. The school operates completely on donations. To help, click HERE

Tujatane Tongabezi Trust School



The sight of sunset sending sparkling ripples of golden rays across the river.

Zambezi Sunset


The sound of hippos making love (or war) in the dark night and bush birds singing to dawn’s early light.

Hippos on the Zambezi


The touch of a deeply comfortable bed and sunshine spreading warmth as you nap on a lounge chair and the chill refreshment of cool water as you dive into the swimming pool.

Tongabezi's Swimming Pool

Tongabezi’s Swimming Pool


The seductive scent that whiffs from the kitchen, awakening taste buds in anticipation.

The talented kitchen staff.

The talented kitchen staff.


The taste of that first cocktail, sipped around an open fire with other guests, waiting for the dinner call—discussing the awesome day.

Where Guest Gather for Cocktails

Where Guest Gather for Cocktails


5. DINING/FOOD AND VENUES:  Guests have a choice of  dining locations. In addition to both private and communal tables in the main building’s dining areas, and in The Lookout—a riverside structure that the lodge calls “the ultimate chill out zone,” guests can enjoy breakfast in bed, a picnic served on a private island and a romantic dinner on a Sampan floating on the Zambezi with each course delivered by canoe. 

Dinner served on a Sanpan.

Dinner served on a Sanpan.

As to food, it’s billed as gourmet and organic, with menus showcasing local fish, farmed beef and produce grown in the lodge’s own garden. Although international in scope, menus offer local specialties such as Sweet Potato Jam and Zambian Beans, favorite native dishes made from local commodities. Both dishes travel well to home tables, especially made with these recipes supplied from Tongabezi chefs.

Zambian Sweet Potato and Beans

Zambian Sweet Potato and Beans


Yield: About 7 cups.  (Recipe may be halved.)

Sweet Potato Jam for Morning Toast.

Sweet Potato Jam for Morning Toast.

3-1/2 cups granulated sugar

Juice from 4 large oranges

1 cup lemon juice (about 5 large lemons)

1 scant tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 vanilla bean, split

4 large sweet potatoes (2 to 2-1/2 pounds), peeled and grated

Put sugar, orange juice, lemon juice, ginger and nutmeg in a 3-1/2 quart saucepan. Split vanilla bean in half, lengthwise, and scrape seeds into mixture in saucepan. Add the vanilla bean shell. Set pan over medium heat and bring mixture to a boil, stirring constantly until sugar completely dissolves. Boil 1 minute.

Add grated sweet potatoes and cook over medium heat until potatoes are soft and infused with syrup, about 10 minutes. Remove vanilla bean.

Set aside to cool at room temperature. When cool, put in covered containers and refrigerate until ready to use. Use promptly.

Serve with all types of breakfast breads.



Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

2 cups dried beans (See NOTE)

Tasty Zambian Beans

Tasty Zambian Beans


3 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 to 5 large ripe tomatoes, peeled and diced (about 1-1/2 cups diced tomatoes)

1 onion, peeled and diced

Salt to taste

Rinse beans well, discarding any foreign matter or defective beans. Put beans in 4-quart saucepan. Add water to cover by 1 inch.  Set beans aside to soak overnight.

Drain and rinse beans. Put beans back in the 4-quart saucepan. Add water to cover by 1 inch. Set beans over medium heat and bring liquid to a simmer. Simmer beans for 45 minutes.

Drain and rinse beans and return to saucepan. Add water to cover, oil, tomatoes, onion and salt.

Gently boil beans until they are tender, but not disintegrating and tomato and onion have formed a thick sauce, 1 to 2 hours.

Serve as a main dish or side dish to all kinds of meats and poultry.

 NOTE: Zambians use Kabulangeti beans, but red kidney beans, white beans and other dried beans will also work.

Zambia Sign





Eat, drink—mainly drink—and be merry while you reduce your carbon footprint. Guzzle up and your efforts to save the planet get even better. Too good to be true? Au contraire.

BLVD 16 LoungeEspecially if you are in Los Angeles. Especially if it is Tuesday. Especially if you are drinking at BLVD 16 Restaurant and Lounge at the Hotel Palomar Los Angeles/Westwood.

Hotel Palomar is part of the Kimpton chain, and we all know Kimpton hotels go green at every opportunity, so it is not surprising that the Hotel Palomar follows suit. But good as green gets in other areas of the hotel, it reaches new highs with the intoxicatingly creative Trees Tuesday promotion designed by BLVD 16’s chef Richard Hodge and general manager Josh Porter.

Chef Richard Hodge and Josh Porter

Chef Richard Hodge and Josh Porter

Working in partnership with Greenbar Craft Distillery, a Los Angeles company that produces and distributes the world’s biggest portfolio of organic spirits and runs all of their business dealings with sustainability and flavor at the core, Hodge and Porter designed a program where Greenbar will plant a tree for every Sittin’ Pretty, Barbados Winter and/or Herbal Remedy cocktail sold at BLVD 16 on a Tuesday from rush hour through the dinner service. That’s right: one cocktail, one tree.

Trees Tuesday Poet Joyce Kilmer wrote, “I think that I shall never see, A poem as lovely as a tree.” Well, Sweet Leisure thinks that it shall never see a promotion as lovely as Trees Tuesday. The cocktails rock! The planet is better off. And guests can drink to distraction without driving.

Named for the 16 miles of Wilshire Boulevard (a.k.a. “Main Street” L.A.), BLVD 16 is located at 10740 Wilshire Boulevard in upscale Westwood. Regulars come from condos in the neighborhood and can walk home. Hotel guests are already ensconced and indulgers reliant on driving can leave their car with valet parking and rent a room for the night.

BLVD 16 CollageEven homebodies can participate in bettering the world through booze—if they make cocktails from BLVD 16’s recipes (see below). Each recipe calls for two ounces of Tru vodka, Tru gin or Crusoe rum—all Greenbar Distillery’s brands and the company will plant a tree in the rainforests of Central America for every bottle of spirits sold.

So bottoms up! Here’s to a beautiful world through blissful beverages and beneficial drinking.


Sittin' PrettySITTIN’ PRETTY

Yield: 1 serving.

2 ounces Tru vodka

3/4 ounce Fair Goji Liqueur

1/2 ounce Marie Brizard Triple Sec

1/2 ounce fresh lime juice

1/4 ounce simple syrup


Lemon peel for garnish

Combine all ingredients except the garnish in a cocktail shaker and shake.

Double strain into a cocktail coupe. Garnish with lemon peel expressed over the top.




Barbados WinterYield: 1 serving.

2 ounces Crusoe Spiced Rum

3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice

1/2 ounce Velvet Falernum

1/2 ounce clove-flavored simple syrup

1/2 ounce pineapple juice



Pineapple leaf for garnish

Put rum, lemon juice, Velvet Falernum and simple syrup into a cocktail shaker and shake.

Strain into an iced-filled large rocks glass. Drizzle a little (about 1 teaspoon) Aperol on top. Garnish with a pineapple leaf.



Yield: 1 serving.

2 ounces Tru gin

1-1/2 ounces fresh lemon juice

3/4 ounce green Chartreuse

1/2 ounce simple syrup

5 dashes Bar Keep Lavender Bitters

Large pinch of dried lavender flowers


Sprig of sage for garnish

Put gin, lemon juice, Chartreuse, simple syrup, lavender bitters and lavender flowers into a shaker and shake to combine. Strain into an ice-filled large rocks glass. Garnish with a sprig of sage.





Sign Wald & SchlosshotelThe Wald & Schlosshotel (Forest & Castle Hotel) Friedrichsruhe covers all bases. This award-winning, “five-star, superior” resort hotel is at once historic and contemporary, luxurious and casual, healthful and indulging. Its top-notch facilities provide ideal venues for both business and leisure travelers, gourmets and dieters, and active guests as well as those who just want to relax. Enjoy it all or focus on one delight—it doesn’t matter as Wald & Schlosshotel Friedrichsruhe delivers a multidimensional, mega-pleasurable getaway that can be structured, as the individual desires.

Located in southern Germany’s Hohenlohe region, about 70 kilometers from Stuttgart, Wald & Schlosshotel Friedrichsruhe maintains a-retreat-in-the-secluded-heart-of-nature ambience—as was its original function.

Hunting Lodge FacadeThe resort dates to 1712 when Count Johann Friedrich II (later to become Prince of Hohenlohe) built a Renaissance-style hunting lodge and cleared the forest surrounding the lodge to create a majestic royal park. (The name of “Friedrichsruhe” basically means Friedrich’s place of relaxation – the prince’s retreat.)  The Hunting Lodge (with its stag antler façade) and park (with its ancient trees and songbirds) is much a part of today’s resort, which was first opened as a small hotel in 1953 and has been added to and renovated happily ever after. The Würth Group took over in 2005, adding a majestic spa, expanding the golf course and enhancing guest rooms, conference facilities and culinary offerings.

Today’s resort offers 66 rooms divided among four different buildings, the original Hunting Lodge among them.

Walds & Schlosshotel Buildings

Each building showcases specific style elements with rooms wearing décor that ranges from country-house charm to high-tech, minimalist sophistication and reservation staff tries to place guests in a room type they would most enjoy.

Rooms at Wald & Schlosshotel


San Vino ProductsAlthough each room in each building is individually decorated, all rooms include a flat-screen television, mobile telephone, safe and fragrant toiletries from the resort’s own specially designed SanVino line of products.



Guests also have a choice of where to eat on property.

Dining Rooms at Wald & Schlosshotel

Michelin starred Chef de Cuisine Boris Benecke brings refined seasonal dishes to the upscale Gourmet-Salad from the Spa Restaurant Wald & SchlosshotelRestaurant. Regional delights show up on the menu of the charming and informal Jägerstube restaurant. Traditional and rustic Swabian meals can be had at the Forest Tavern. And the Spa Bistro serves light fare to spa guests.

But restaurants don’t account for all of the dining delights. Breakfast, alone, is worth a stay. Served on white table clothes, with fine china, heavy cutlery, in the Conservatory, a graceful room lined with windows overlooking the park, the buffet breakfast features specialties from around the world and makes greeting the day a glorious pleasure.

The Conservatory at Wald & Schlosshotel

The Terrace in summer, the Fireplace Lounge in winter, and the Bar in all seasons provide lovely settings in which to enjoy afternoon tea or coffee and cake

Tea Cakes Served at Wald & Schlosshotel photo by Susan Manlin Katzman


as well as cocktails and drinks. (As to drinks, don’t miss the Pharmacy, an after-dinner, gin-based concoction said to cure all ills.)

Bartender at Wald & Schlosshotel

Bartender Guido Luppi makes the gin-based Pharmacy

Although the setting, the rooms and the restaurants shine, many consider the spa the most sparkling jewel in Wald & Schlosshotel Friedrichsruhe’s crown.

Walkway to the Spa

Indoor Spa Pool at Wald & Schlosshotel

Indoor Spa Pool at Wald & Schlosshotel

Covering over 47,000 square feet the spa holds large indoor and outdoor pools and a KLAFS-sauna area and 13 treatment rooms where top-notch technicians pamper guests with an array of health and beauty treatments.

A fully equipped fitness center with personal trainers, a beauty salon, a 27-hole golf course with a golf academy, tennis court and an array of art and antiques from the owner’s own collection round out the resort facilities.

Art at Wald & Schlosshotel


Add an attentive staff offering extraordinary service (hand-cleaning golf clubs, limousine shuttles, picnics in the park)

Front Desk Staff at Wald & Schlosshotel

and it’s easy to understand why guests consider Wald & Schlosshotel Friedrichsruhe one of the best retreats of pure peace and pleasure in all of Germany.

Lawn at Wald & Schlosshotel






Central, Clinton, Capital and cheese, the centerpieces of contemporary Little Rock tourism, represent not only the top charms of the city but also cornerstones of American history, charismatic hospitality and culinary delight. All are musts when visiting Little Rock.




Central High School, Little Rock  by S.M. Katzman

In 1957, nine courageous African-American students braved contentious crowds to test the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that declared segregation in public schools unconstitutional.

The students and their school, Central High School, skyrocketed to fame, winning a battle for equality and earning a revered place in American history. 

LittleRock9/ Photo by Susan Manlin Katzman

Today the still functioning high school sits within the boundaries of the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site. Central High School’s Visitor’s Center (located across from the school and interesting itself) arranges emotionally packed tours for groups of 10 or more when the school is open.

At The Visitor's Center/Photo by S.M. Katzman

A visit belongs on the curriculum of every man, woman and child interested in courage, equality, education, race relations and American history. Central High School provides living proof of Margaret Mead’s declaration that a small group of committed citizens can change the world.

Margaret Mead Quote photo by S.M. Katzman

 Norman Rockwell Painting



Clinton Presidential Library and Museum photo by S.M. Katzman

One can’t visit Little Rock without stopping for a tour at the Clinton Presidential Library and Museum located on the banks of the Arkansas River near the downtown River Market district. The Library’s modernist, industrial-style main building, designed to represents a bridge symbolizing Clinton’s campaign promise of “building a bridge to the 21st century” is praised for it’s energy efficiency and environmental soundness.

Inside Clinton's Presidential Library/Photo by Susan Manlin Katzman Its exhibition spaces showcases a treasure trove of personal, official and public documents, photos, films, memorabilia and all else representing the 42nd president’s eight years in office—even full-scale replicas of the Clinton-era Cabinet Room and Oval Office.

In Clinton Presidential Library photo by S.M. Katzman

At the Clinton Presidential Library photo by S.M. KatzmanIn addition, the main structure contains a restaurant on the lower level (open to the public on Monday through Friday for lunch only) and Hillary and Bill’s private residence on the upper level (not open to the public).

Archives held in the Library are open by appointment only. Visitors can supplement a museum and library tour with a stroll in Riverfront Park (the park on which the Library sits) and can catch a shuttle to the Clinton Museum Store to load up on “I miss Bill” t-shirts and other Clinton-related souvenirs.

Riverfront Park photo by S.M. Katzman 



Exterior of The Capital Hotel by Susan Manlin KatzmanNamed because it was a capital enterprise, located in a capital building in the capital of the state, The Capital Hotel is a capital success. Opening in 1876 with such extravagances as indoor plumbing, heating and a “magnetic annunciatior” for calling room service, the hotel quickly earned the reputation as a luxury property, a status that remained through the years despite (or maybe because of) multiple closings, renovations and reopenings.

The latest (2007) reincarnation beautifully weaves the old historic with the best contemporary.

The hotel was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974, so all renovations since have meticulously respected the historic aspects of the property. Today’s guests can still ride the huge elevator, said to be built to accommodate President Ulysses S. Grant’s horse (or more likely, the hoop skirts of Southern belles). Guest can also enjoy the graceful lobby with original colorful tile floor and white marble walls that beautifully framed the elite of times long gone.

Capital Hotel Lobby by Susan Manlin KatzmanAlthough Victorian charm abounds, contemporary Southern comfort fills the lovely 94 guestrooms. Amenities include high definition LCD TV’s, free WiFi, Frette bed and bath linens, Molton Brown bath products and a welcome snack of positively addictive-spiced pecans (recipe below).

Guest Room at the Capital Hotel by Susan Manlin Katzman

The Capital Hotel complements its public spaces and guestrooms with two restaurants under the direction of executive chef Joël Antunes.  The upscale Ashley’s serves French accented dishes along with favorite traditional Southern specialties. Capital Bar and Grill’s menu focuses on “provincial comfort food with a particular emphasis on the bounty of Arkansas.”

Capital Hotel Restaurant by S.M. Katzman

Which brings us to cheese. The Capital Hotel is reputed to serve the best pimento cheese in the whole of the South. It’s absolutely delicious on burgers, crackers or a naked finger, but you don’t have to take our word for it. Here’s the recipe:



Yield: 1-1/2 cups.Pimento Cheese by Susan Manlin Katzman

1/2 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated

About 6 tablespoons mayonnaise (see Note)

About 6 tablespoons finely chopped roasted red bell pepper

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Splash of cider vinegar

Pinch of cayenne

Dash of Sriracha hot sauce


Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Adjust seasonings to personal taste.

NOTE: Add mayonnaise according to your own taste—start with 4 tablespoons and see if you would like more.




Yield: 1 pound.

1 quart simple syrup (recipe follows)CAPITAL HOTEL SPICED PECANS photo by Susan Manlin Katzman

1 pound pecan halves

Oil for deep frying

2 teaspoons finely ground kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Put syrup in a heavy saucepan. Set saucepan over medium heat and bring the syrup to a simmer. Add pecans. Raise heat so that syrup gently boils. Boil the pecans about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile fill a deep fryer with oil and heat oil to 375°. Drain pecans thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels. 

Combine salt and pepper in a large bowl.

Put pecans in the 375°F oil and fry approximately 30 to 40 seconds. Remove pecans from the fryer, drain well and toss in the bowl with salt and pepper. Spread pecans on a baking tray and them to cool completely.


Yield: 1 quart.

3-1/4 cup water

3 cups granulated sugar

Put water and sugar in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. Simmer, stirring constantly, until sugar completely dissolves.

Remove from heat and let syrup cool completely. Refrigerate in a covered container until ready to use.

Can be used in a variety of recipes.








Back Yard Orange Grove by S.M. Katzman



(click HERE for suggestions) 

Breakfast collage by SM Katzman



Melrose Trading Post Sunday flea market

Melrose Trading Post
Sunday flea market



Dress Code None by S.M. Katzman



Lenin’s Head on La Brea Ave.


Raoul Wallennberg Sculpture/photo by S.M. Katzman

Raoul Wallennberg on Fairfax Blvd.



Paradise Cove



Elsewhere by S.M. Katzman






 Los Angeles Drive By Art/photo S.M. Katzman


Hollywood photo by S.M. Katzman


Street Art Photo by S.M. Katzman



(click HERE for suggestions)

Restaurant collage by SM Katzman


Those not lucky enough to be on the scene can find tidbits of L.A.’s restaurant pleasures in cookbooks. Case in point, this recipe for the extremely popular bruschette served at the extremely popular Pizzeria Mozza from the extremely popular “The Mozza Cookbook.”


Yield:  2 cups pâté, or enough for 24 crostini978-0-307-27284-3

1 pound chicken livers

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup extra- virgin olive oil

2 ounces pancetta, chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 tablespoons brandy or


2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves

2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots

2 tablespoons capers (preferably salt- packed), soaked for 15 minutes if salt-packed, rinsed, and drained

Grated zest of 1 lemon, plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

12 thin slices guanciale or pancetta (about 6 to 8 ounces)

24 crostini

Use a small knife to remove the connective veins from the chicken livers, discard the veins, and place the chicken livers on a plate lined with paper towels. Pat them with paper towels to get out the excess moisture, and discard the towels. Season the livers very generously with salt and pepper and toss to coat them all over with the seasoning.

Heat 1⁄4 cup of the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium- high heat until the oil is almost smoking and slides easily in the pan, 2 to 3 minutes. One by one, carefully add the chicken livers to the pan. (By adding them one at a time the pan doesn’t cool down too much, and it also ensures you will have room for all of the livers, as they shrink immediately when they hit the pan. You should be able to fit them all in the pan at the same time.) Cook the livers for about 3 minutes per side, until they’re deep brown. Add the pancetta, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until the fat is rendered from the pancetta. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute, stirring constantly to prevent it from browning. Add the brandy, shake the pan or stir the livers to deglaze the pan, and cook for about 30 seconds to burn off the alcohol. Turn off the heat and turn the contents of the pan out onto a large cutting board, making sure to get all the bits out of the bottom of the pan.

Pile the parsley, shallots, capers, and lemon zest on top of the mound of chicken livers and pancetta and drizzle with the lemon juice and 1⁄4 cup of the olive oil. Run a large knife through the mound five or ten times to roughly chop the livers and all the other ingredients. Drizzle another 1⁄4 cup of olive oil over the mound and continue to chop, gathering the ingredients into a mound from time to time. Add the remaining 1⁄4 cup of olive oil and chop until the livers are the consistency of a coarse paste, almost puréed. Serve the chicken liver spread or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to three days; bring to room temperature before assembling.

When you are ready to serve, adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Place the guanciale slices on a baking sheet and put in the oven until they are cooked through but not crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the guanciale from the oven and transfer to paper towels to drain.

To assemble, lay the crostini oiled side up on a work surface and spoon a heaping tablespoon of the chicken liver spread in an uneven layer on the toast, leaving the edges exposed. Tear 1 piece of guanciale in half and lay both halves at an angle on top of the chicken liver, slightly overlapping in a natural- looking way. Repeat with the remaining crostini, chicken liver, and guanciale, and serve.


Who What Where When How

Cranberries by Marshall Katzman

WHO knew? Wisconsin claims the title of cranberry capital of the planet.

Although cranberries grow in various corners of the world including Canada and Chile, it’s Wisconsin that carries the mother load.

Cranberries congregate in the central part of the state, where enthusiasts can find not only acres and acres of fields and farms, but also a collection of cool cranberry-centric attractions including the Cranberry Highway, a Wisconsin Cranberry Discovery Center and, if timed correctly, a knockout festival celebrating all things cranberry.

WHAT’s this about a CRANBERRY HIGHWAYCrazy About CranberriesDrivers wanting a self-guided tour catching the highlights of cranberry country need only follow the official 50-or-so mile Cranberry Highway, a route along highways 54 and 173 that loosely loops between Wisconsin Rapids and Babcock. The drive passes through quiet rural landscapes rich with century-old cranberry beds and small towns holding choices of places to eat, drink and make berry merry.

WHEN to go? Definitely at harvest time (usually much of September and October) when Mother Nature double dips the glory by dressing tree leaves in autumn finery while ripening berries for the picking.

Ripe berries contain a pocket of air and float. To aid the harvest, growers flood cranberry beds with water. Machines troll through the water, releasing berries from their vines. The berries pop to the top of the water where they brighten landscapes with long streaks of crimson as they wait to be corralled and collected.

Harvesting cranberries

Gathering Cranberries by Marshall Katzman

WHY the fuss?  Cranberries in hand by Marshall KatzmanMore than just a pretty face, cranberries top the list of super foods. They are not only good to eat (when mixed with a sweetener of some sort), but also super good for health (when not mixed with too much sweetener). Be warned: some commercial cranberry juices contain more sugar than found in soda and soft drinks. 

WHERE to stop, shop, stay, eat and otherwise savor Wisconsin cranberry country?


The NECEDAH NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, a 43,696-acre refuge for a cornucopia of wildlife including two crane species, the endangered Whooping Crane and the Sandhill Crane.

Just FYI, cranberries were originally called “crane-berries,” either because cranes frequently visited cranberry marshes eating the berries and/or because the cranberry flower resembles the neck, head and bill of a crane.

Cranes at the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge

Cranes at the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge

Also visit the WISCONSIN CRANBERRY DISCOVERY CENTER in Warrens. The multi-faceted property holds a museum showcasing cranberry paraphernalia, a shop selling cranberry products and an ice-cream parlor serving cranberry flavored ice cream.

Here is where to learn some cranberry facts such as:Cranberry Sign at the Cranberry Discovery Center

1. Cranberries are one of the three fruits indigenous to North America.

2. The cranberry is a trailing, woody evergreen vine that grows low to the ground in sandy soil (not water).

3. Once upon a time cranberries were shipped to market in wooden barrels, each holding 100 pounds. Today the barrels are long-gone, but the 100-pound unit of weight remains the industry standard.

4. Cranberries add pizzazz to a cornucopia of products, including wine, jellies, sauces, chutneys, candies, candles and soaps.

Cranberry Products by Susan Manlin Katzman

5. Cranberry-flavored ice cream rocks!


If your family is large and loaded with kids, stay at the THREE BEARS LODGE in Warrens. The lodge offers super-size units with kitchens and has a dynamite indoor/outdoor water park that families will love.

Three Bears Lodge


If you crave comfortable luxury, stay at THE OSTHOFF RESORT in Elkhart Lake. The resort offers graceful suites, a fine cooking school and a fabulous spa that hedonists will adore.

The Odthoff Resort


Cranberry ChutneyBURNSTAD’S EUROPEAN RESTAURANT in Tomah. If possible, try the roast pork or duckling served with house-made cranberry chutney.

Fennel, Cranberry and Orange SaladLOLA’S ON THE LAKE in the Osthoff Resort, Elkhart Lake. If on the menu, order the fennel, cranberry and orange salad with a Parmesan crisp.

Double Chocolate Cheesecake withCranberry SauceHOTEL MEAD in Wisconsin Rapids. Ask for the double chocolate cheesecake with cranberry sauce.


HOW to bring cranberry magic to your home kitchen? Oh sooooooooo many ways, but non better than by baking bread from a recipe supplied by Chef Scott Baker, director of food and beverage for The Osthoff Resort.

Chef Scott Baker making Fougasse

Chef Scott Baker making Fougasse


Yield: 3 loaves.

3/4 cup room temperature waterThree Loaves Fougasse

Olive oil

1 recipe room temperature pate ferment (see below)

2-1/4 cups bread flour

1 teaspoon instant yeast

2 teaspoons fine sea salt

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup toasted, chopped walnuts

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary


Semi-course sea salt

Put water, 1 tablespoon oil, pate ferment, flour, yeast and salt in the large bowl of a stand mixer. Mix with a dough hook set on low-speed until the flour is moistened.  Cover bowl and let the dough rest for 10 minutes.

Again mix with dough hook at medium speed to form a smooth dough, about 7 minutes. Add cranberries, walnuts and rosemary and beat until blended.

Oil a large bowl and transfer dough to bowl. Cover tightly with foil or plastic and set aside at room temperature for 45 minutes.

Gently punch dough down. Cover bowl and set aside at room temperature for 1 hour.

To Bake: Divide dough into thirds and gently work each third into an oval or triangle shape. With rolling pin, flatten each piece to 1/2-inch thick.

Cover three baking sheets with parchment paper and lightly sprinkle semolina over paper. Transfer dough to baking sheets. Cut 3 to 4-inch slashes all the way through the dough the dough, making a grain or leaf pattern.Fougasse Cooling on Rack by Susan Manlin Katzman

Set the dough in a warm, moist place until double in volume. (The place could be slightly warm oven with a pan of hot water on the bottom rack.)

Brush risen dough with oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake in a preheated 400°F oven until golden, 25 to 30 minutes.

When baked, remove bread from oven and cool on a rack.


1-1/2 cups bread flour

4 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon medium rye flour

1/2 teaspoon instant yeast

3/4 cup cool water

In the large bowl of a stand mixer combine flours and yeast. Stir in water. Mix ingredients with a hook on medium speed until a smooth dough forms.

Cover bowl tightly with foil or plastic and let rise at room temperature for 1 hour. Punch dough down. Again cover bowl tightly with foil or plastic and refrigerate 12 to 24 hours.

Return dough to room temperature before proceeding with recipe.

Fougasse by Susan Manlin Katzman






Baseball fans headed to St. Louis will strike out if they devote 24/7 to baseball alone. Although baseball is the city’s heart and soul—it is not its total being. America’s quintessential baseball city sports a series of other world-class, major-league attractions and even visitors who put baseball first and foremost can score the most from a city visit by including short stops at any or all of the following.



The majestic Eero Saarinen designed, steel clad Gateway Arch serves not only as an icon of the city, but also a monument to westward expansion. Rising 630 feet, the Arch claims the title of the tallest national monument in the United States. Visitors can ride a tram to the top for views of downtown, the Mississippi River and well into Illinois.




St. Louis has more free attractions than any city outside of the Nation’s capital—and many of the attractions are found in the glorious 1,371-acre Forest Park.

Acclaimed as one of the world’s most beautiful city parks, Forest Park contains the St. Louis Zoo, History Museum, Science Center and Art Museum. In addition, the park enchants the active visitor and lover of the great outdoors with a series of walking and biking paths, golf courses, gardens, nature sites, water features and lovely landscapes.

Forest Park by S.M. Katzman



Perhaps the only garden missing from this 79-acre, mid-city oasis is the original Garden of Eden—as every other type garden is represented. Founded in 1859 and considered the United State’s oldest botanical garden in continuous operation, this National Historic Landmark keeps adding to the magic. Today visitors can stroll through such earthly delights as a Japanese Garden, Children’s Garden, Ottoman Garden and garden for the blind. In addition, a slew of special-interest gardens and displays, including those devoted to herbs, roses and orchids add to the pleasure.



What has to be the world’s most weird, wacky and joyfully wonderful intuitions wearing the name “museum, ” the City Museum, offers a playground of recycled items guaranteed to delight children of all ages as well as adults who can free the wild inner child within.




Dating from 1914, the city’s “new” cathedral holds one of the largest, most heavenly collection of mosaic art in the world. Trust us, the mosaics are glory-be awesome and not to be missed.



And while in St. Louis, be sure to sample the city’s triple plays: TOASTED RAVIOLI, TED DREWS FROZEN CUSTARD and GOOEY BUTTER CAKE. No need to say more. See any one of these items on a restaurant menu, order it. Not on a menu, seek it out.

Most restaurants and bars serve the ravioli. Supermarkets and drug stores stock basic vanilla Ted Drewes, but you’ll have to join the crowds lining up at the stand (6727 Chippewa) to order famed concretes and sundaes.  As to gooey butter cake, some restaurants, some supermarkets and most bakeries sell versions, but the best is found on home plates when make like this:


Gooey Butter CakeYield: one 9-inch cake.


Shortening to grease cake pan

1 cup flour

3 tablespoons sugar

6 tablespoons butter


1-1/4 cups sugar

3/4 cup butter, softened

1 egg

Gooey Butter Cake by S.M. Katzman1 cup flour

2/3 cup undiluted evaporated milk

1/4 cup light corn syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla

Powdered sugar

Heat oven to 350°F degrees. Grease a 9-by-9-by-2-inch pan.

Make crust: Mix flour and sugar in a small bowl. Cut butter into pieces and distribute over top of flour mixture. With fingers, work butter into flour until mixture resembles fine crumbs and starts to hold together.

Pat dough over the bottom and partially up the sides of the greased pan.

Make filling: In a large bowl, with an electric beater, beat sugar with butter until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat until well blended. Alternately add flour and milk to mixture, adding a little at a time and beating after each addition. Add corn syrup and vanilla and beat on medium speed until blended.

Piece of Gooey Butter Cake by Susan Manlin KatzmanPour filling into crust-lined pan.  Place pan in preheated 350°F degree oven and bake until cake’s top is slightly browned and center is almost, but not quite set, 25 to 35 minutes. (Don’t overcook.)

Set pan on a rack and let cake cool.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar before cutting and serving. 

All Gone




Mandarin Oriental Paris

Today is my birthday.Eiffel Tower© Susan Manlin Katzman

I wish I were in Paris.

More precisely, I wish I were in Paris staying at the Mandarin Oriental Paris—a celebration hotel if ever there was one.

Unlike other Paris five stars, which can be elegant to the point of stuffy, the Mandarin creates an atmosphere of luxury gift wrapped with carefree glamour and high-style fun.

The soirée starts at the entrance of the beautifully restored 1930s Art Deco building as roses line the walkway, sending guests to the front door through a corridor of fragrance and pastel loveliness.

Walkway to Mandarin Oriental Paris By SmKatzman

As is the custom, once inside, guests are greeted by name (no doubt scored by the bellmen who whisk away luggage at the curb) and invited to take a seat in the lobby, where chairs and lounge are party dressed in dark velvet with confetti-color accessories. A figure in circles hangs overhead; I am told the sculpture represents “suspending fragile liberty from a thread,” but to me, it’s a trapeze artist about to spin cartwheels in excitement of my arrival.

Lobby of Mandarin Oriental by SmKatzman 

Checking into Room at Mandarin Oriental Paris by SmKatzmanOne of the hotel’s 350 staff members, looking superb in tailored business suits, will check me in from my lobby seat and then walk me to one of the 99 guest rooms or 39 sweet suites, where cake, roses and bubbling bubbly await my arrival like sparkling guests at a surprise party.

Welcome at Mandarin Oriental by SmKatzman

What to do first? Should I check out the subterranean spa pool, one of the largest in Paris, graced with private cabanas—or should I check into the spa, one of the largest in Paris, graced with rich and fragrant Guerlaine products?

Spa  Pool at the Mandarin Oriental Paris by SmKatzman

Treatment Room in Spa of Mandarin Oriental Paris by Susan Manlin Katzman

While I’m wiling away the early hours of my new age, I will send my husband to shop for a birthday present. Located at 251 Rue Saint-Honoré, in the 1st Arrondissement, one of Paris’ most fashionable neighborhoods, the Mandarin Oriental Paris is barely a Chanel’s whiff away from the city’s finest shops and boutiques. He won’t have far to go to find a cornucopia of glory gifts.

Talk about glory—for déjeuner we’ll head to Camélia, the hotel’s restaurant named for the flowers in the garden lining the sunny side of the room. We’ll claim a table near the “central cooking counter” so that I can oooh and ahhh at the oh là là dishes carried past. We’ll order a foie gras terrine plus a citrus lentil salad with salmon and smoked eel to start—and quite a bit more to follow.

Camelia and Wonderful Dishes by SmKatzman

After luncheon, we’ll rest in the hotel’s interior garden where horizontal and vertical greenery, flowering plants and discreet water features add Eden elements of tranquility and peace.

Garden at Mandarin Oriental Paris by SmKatzmanLa Table du Jardin by SmKatzman 

La Table du Jardin, a dining table topped by a cage-like structure, sits in a corner of the courtyard garden like a weird and wonderful hat on Mother Nature at a garden party. This could be the hotel’s best celebratory table as it even floats pink balloons overhead…no. wait…my mistake, it’s a balloon-like light fixture—but festive nevertheless. 

Before heading to our guestroom’s big beautiful bed (dressed by Frette) for some sybaritic napping—we will stop at Cake Shop, the hotel’s pâtisserie, where we buy jewel box bites of pleasure for sybaritic snacking.


Let me tell you a little about the art, décor and design motifs that repeat throughout the Mandarin Oriental Paris. Butterflies flit here, there and everywhere—embroidered on pillows, projected on walls, embedded in sculpture, woven into carpets and printed and painted on furnishings and wall coverings.

Carpet at Mandarin Oriental Paris by Susan Manlin Katzman

Blooms, fresh and man-made, add pizzazz throughout the hotel. Roses cluster not only in guest rooms, but also in public areas on coffee tables, service counters and floor displays. White camellias grow in the garden and hundreds of man made origami look alikes create a fairytale cover for select walls.

Wall at Mandarin Oriental Paris © Susan Manlin Katzman

Suggestive of a prelude to pleasure, and relegated to bedrooms, reproduced and enlarged images of Man Ray’s “The Kiss,” enhance alcoves and headboards.

Guest room at the Mandarin Oriental Paris by Susan Manlin Katzman

Butterflies, flowers and kisses—the Mandarin Oriental Paris epitomizes joie de vivre. And while on the subject of la belle vie, notice the bathtub big enough for two. Notice the Diptyque toiletries. Notice the flat screen TV and remote control on the bath side table. Notice the fluffy Frette bathrobe waiting.

Mandarin Oriental Paris Bathtub by SmKatzman

The Mandarin Oriental’s Bar 8 adds it’s own brand of glimmer, shimmer and shine to the City of Lights. Lalique crystals set into dark wood walls glitter like tiny stars. A Murano-glass chandelier radiates like moonbeams. And enough of the specialty drinks made at the nine-ton block of marble forming the one-piece bar, give guests the inner glow of sparklers on a birthday cake.

Bar 8 Mandarin Oriental Paris Composit by Susan Manlin Katzman

The Mandarin Oriental Paris had me at the rose packed entrance. Public and guest room decor just added to the magic, but frankly, the dramatically designed white on white restaurant Sur Mesure, staged to spotlight the molecular gastronomy infused with Asian serenity dishes of superstar chef Thierry Marx, is THE pièce de résistance of celebratory dining.

Sur Mesure Composit by Susan Manlin Katzman

As it would be difficult to pick a more perfect party venue, I am blowing out my birthday candles and wishing that next year at this time, I will say, “It’s my birthday. I am in Paris, staying at the Mandarin Oriental Paris…

Entrance Sign to Mandarin Oriental Paris by Susan Manlin Katzman





Deb, Travelpro colorDebbi Karpowicz Kickham knows all about the good and beautiful life. As a travel journalist she crisscrosses the globe writing about fabulous places for top-drawer publications.

Debbi racks up more credits than most accomplished women, but not content to rest on her list of achievements, she keeps adding to the mix. For example, she founded Maxima Marketing , a full service boutique marketing/public relations firm where she serves a number of special clients, by writing everything from news releases to newsletters and blog posts. She is also the co-author of a bestselling business book,
Off the Wall Marketing Ideas.”

book cover

Her newest book, “The Globetrotter’s Get-Gorgeous Guide: Diet and Beauty Secrets of Travel and Beauty Pros, Traveling Executives and Celebrity Traveler,” not only revels the secret tips of the rich and famous, but also names products to help the traveler zero in on the best of the best.

6Debbi claims her “Gorgeous Globetrotter” book is the ultimate beauty book for traveling women. Sweet Leisure thinks men would also benefit from her tips and advice as illustrated in the tips she wrote for Sweet Leisure (read on).


Eight  “Off-The-Radar” Tips For Air Travel Success

By Debbi K. Kickham

For some people, travel is a four-letter word. But if you plan ahead—and go armed with my insider advice (culled from my 30 years as a professional travel journalist)—you can make your bon voyage even better. This way, you can look and feel first-class fabulous – even if you travel in coach. Ready for takeoff? Tote these in your carry-on.

Branche Beauty Sleep1. Satin or Silk Pillowcase and Eye Shades

Why silk?  Because silk is softer on your skin and hair than cotton, and doesn’t cause creases and wrinkles. Bring your own pillow on the plane, and top it with a silk  — or even a satin –pillowcase. Don’t forget eyeshades, which are ideal for keeping out the light and getting a great nap when you’re up in the air.

2. Earplugs

Drown out your noisy seatmate with earplugs or noise-reducing headphones too. 

3.  Scented Towelettes

Many companies make scented towelettes that smell divine—they’re usually fragranced with real essential oils—and have a million-and-one uses.  Use the orange ones on the plane to disinfect your surroundings (including the tray table). Use the lavender type to tuck into your pillow at night, to induce sleep, or to relieve bug bites and remove makeup. And try the lemon variety as an aftershave on your legs, to clean your computer keyboard, or as a pick-me-up after exercising.

4. Flavored Water Packets

Your local supermarket has a wealth of flavored water packets which can add zing to that plain old bottled water you receive from the flight attendant.

5. Low-Fat Snacks

When I travel by plane, I always bring special snacks, so I never fall off the diet wagon. These include dried prunes, which at 20 calories per plum, are filled with antioxidants and potassium, and put a tiger in my tank. I also never leave on a trip without my preferred low-calorie snack and breakfast of champions – puffed rice, raisins, and powdered nonfat milk, packed in a clear plastic bag. Just add water for a great snack. Almonds, low fat cheese, and diet bread are also healthy choices (and after you land, provide more slimming options than the hotel minibar). If you’re like me, when you travel you do not want to take a detour on the Road to Sveltesville!

6. Facial Moisturizer

Up at 35,000 feet, the air is not only stale – it is dry.  And if you don’t do something about it, you’ll disembark with a dry dermis. To obviate a parched complexion, bring moisturizer or skin serum, to apply – and reapply – to your face while in flight.

7. Products From

Most airports won’t let you board with any liquids or gels that are larger than 3 fluid ounces.  The website offers a wealth of cosmetics and goodies from prestige brands in small sizes—everything from cosmetics to duct tape to packets of fat-free salad dressing—which you can take on board. This website is a one-stop travel wonder.

8. Lastly, here’s one more thing that you should always travel with: a sense of humor. It doesn’t cost a thing or weigh you down. It easily goes through customs, and it’s your passport to the best trip ever!




This is not an advertisement. Or maybe it sort of is.

I just had a wonderful prime rib Sunday night supper at Flemings Steakhouse and Wine Bar in St. Louis—taking advantage of a summer promotion that offered three courses (plus a side dish rich enough to feed a family of four) for $29. 



Fleming's Creamed Spinach by SM KatzmanMy chosen three courses (and side dish) included The Wedge salad, a slab of prime rib perfectly cooked to my taste, creamed spinach (the greens force-fed heavy cream and Parmesan) and a Walnut Turtle Pie (caramel, walnuts and chocolate, Sigh!). I also devoured the loaf of bread set on the table with two tubs of flavored butters and, unable to choose from the 100 wines by the glass offered, I drank a flight of flights.Wine Flight

I don’t usually fancy chain restaurants—-and, swallowing all the health reports, I avoid red meat and super caloric meals, but on this warm August evening, temptation grabbed me and set me on the path of glorious gluttony. Retribution came the next day Walnut Turtle Pie by SM Katzmanwith my scale weighing in heaven high.

From now on, until I recover from the diet downfall, I’m sticking with salads.

Luckily I scored the recipe for Fleming’s The Wedge.

I don’t usually adore iceberg, but Flemings Wedge hid the lettuce under coat of mayonnaise, blue cheese, fried onions and bacon that was so lusty, luscious and satisfying, that I plan to wedge The Wedge into my new salad binge at every opportunity.



Yield: 1 serving.

1 large (6 to 7 ounces) wedge iceberg lettuce

About 1/3 cup Fleming’s Blue Cheese Dressing (recipe follows)

2 tablespoons crisp fried onion (see note)NewWedgeSalad_H.jpg.r72

About 7 grape tomatoes, halved

1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts

1 thick strip bacon, cooked extra crispy

1 ounce block of blue cheese

Put lettuce wedge in the center of a serving plate.  Spoon dressing over center of wedge. Top with fried onion. Sprinkle tomato halves and pine nuts around base. Garnish with strip of bacon and blue cheese wedge. Serve immediately.


Yield: 2 to 2-1/2 cups

1 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup buttermilk

5 tablespoons sour cream

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon olive oil

1-1/2 teaspoons lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 pound blue cheese

Put all ingredients except cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium high speed until smooth and well blended, about 1 minute.

Crumble blue cheese and add to bowl, beat until cheese is distributed, but dressing is still chunky, about 1 seconds.

Refrigerate in a covered container until ready to use.

NOTE: To crisp fry onions: Remove peel from onion and cut in half, through ends. Put cut side down on cutting board and cut onion into slivers (about 1/32-inch thick.) Separate slivers. Deep fry slivers in 275°F vegetable oil until golden brown, about 2 minutes (don’t burn). Spread onions (in one layer) on paper towels to drain, cool and crisp. One medium onion yields about 1/2 cup crisp fried onion.






Little Rock








Los Angeles


Ann Arbor



Tel Aviv









Canal de Bourgogne

Door County




Tel Aviv

Turks and Caicos



Saxon Hotel, Johannesburg, South Africa

Saxon Hotel

Château De Cîteaux La Cueillette, Meursault, France

Château De Cîteaux La Cueillette

Grand Velas Riviera Maya, Mexico

Grand Velas

Hotel Lutetia, Paris, France

Hotel Lutecia

Adler Thermae Spa Resort, Tuscany, Italy

Adler Thermae Spa Resort

Coombs House Inn, Apalachicola, Florida

Coombs House Inn

Ashford Castle, Cong, County Mayo, Ireland

Ashford Castle



SteppesTravel: Travel Beyond the Ordinary



 La Fresh Travel Products




Copyright 2009-2013 by Susan Manlin Katzman. Author retains all electronic and publishing rights, except where express given permission has been granted. For information about utilizing any material from please contact Susan Manlin Katzman through the contact page listed above.