Blues City DeliDoesn’t matter when you show up for lunch, even minutes after the doors open at 11 a.m. you’re apt to find long lines.

Blues City Deli, located in St. Louis’s Benton Park neighborhood is a popular place. It’s also casual, comfortable, and party friendly—no doubt reflecting the casual, comfortable and party-fun personality of its food-and blues-loving owner, Vince “Vinnie” Valenza.

Vince "Vinnie" Valenza by Susan Manlin Katzman

Vince “Vinnie” Valenza

Lines move quickly through the first floor of the old brick building to the counter of the sandwich shop where one places orders.

Counter at Blues City Deli

Vinyl flooring, wooden tables with assorted black chairs and banquette seating add to the aged urban decor, further enhanced by a spirited vibe radiating from old posters, record jackets, news clippings, paintings, photos and a mishmash of miscellaneous music memorabilia covering walls.

Art Walls at Blue's City Deli
Delivering SandwichesAfter ordering one tries to find a table—or maybe even just a spare chair at a shared table and waits while staff, in a backroom kitchen, constructs sandwiches. Wrapped in butcher paper, tuck into plastic bags, the sandwiches find their way to you by way of playful servers. 

A PA system sends background blues through the cafe, that is unless it is Thursday evening or Saturday afternoon when blues musicians show up to play live—sometimes inside, sometimes outside—always free of charge.

Blues City Deli keeps short hours, opening at 11 a.m. Monday through Saturday and closing every day at 4:00 p.m., except on Thursdays when blues bands sends soulful sounds into the cafe until 7:45 p.m.

Some say that the deli reminds them of a Greenwich Village hangout. Others claim it’s totally New Orleans. All are partially right and somewhat wrong. Blues City Deli is a St. Louis original and has been for the last decade.

Vinnie says that he scored the menu to pay tribute to many of the blues music cities on the “Blues Highway.” And indeed, the menu’s play list includes such sandwiches as the Memphis Stax, Delta Bayou, and St. Louis Primo. Po’ boys, New York-Style pastrami sandwiches, classic clubs, veggies, and a variety of good tastin’ dogs make the scene, as do local beverages and simple sides in the form of a few salads, cole slaw, chili and bagged chips.

Local Drinks at Blues City Deli Collage by Susan Manlin Katzman
Items change from time to time, but the Muffuletta stays put on the menu, as it strikes a particularly popular cord with the Blues City population.

Muffuletta Photo by Maya Gann-Bociek

Muffuletta Photo by Maya Gann-Bociek

As Muffuletta fans know, olive salad is the keynote condiment adding flavor to the New Orleans speciality, but Vinnie spreads the joy and uses olive salad to jazz up other sandwiches as well.
He didn’t miss a beat in sharing his recipe. And after testing and tasting, we can only say: Bravo, you make our heart sing!


Yield: about 4-1/2 cups.

2 cups pitted Sicilian olivesOlive Salad
1 cup pitted kalamata olives
1 cup giardiniera (Italian-style pickled vegetables)
1 rib celery
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
Ground black pepper to taste
Additional seasonings to taste, optional (See NOTE)

Coarsely chop olives, giardiniera, and celery. Put chopped ingredients in a mixing bowl. Add olive oil, oregano and pepper.
Stir to mix well. Taste. Correct seasoning if desired.
Refrigerate in a covered container until ready to use.
Serve with roasted meats, sandwiches, or just as a snack on crackers.

NOTE: Much of the olive salad’s flavor depends on the giardiniera used. Add additional seasoning to the salad if you like.




Glory be. InveIrlochy Castle Hotel just won the 2015 Scottish Hotel Award for Hotel of the Year. The property double dipped the prizes by also claiming Restaurant of the Year.
Let me tell you why.

Inverlochy Castle Hotel by Susan Manlin Katzman
Built in 1863 as a private home named for the nearby 13th century Inverlochy Castle, the baronial mansion has been polishing, perfecting and practicing the art of public hospitality since becoming a hotel in 1969.
Everything about Inverlochy Castle Hotel charms.
First is the setting.

Inverlochy Setting College
The hotel sits on 50 acres in a green glen at the foot of Ben Nevis (Britain’s highest mountain range), near Fort Williams, in the heart of Scotland’s western Highlands. The setting couldn’t be more enchanting. The mountains glow in each day’s ever- changing light. The lock glimmers. Grazing sheep on the grassy green continually rearrange their groupings into a million picture postcard images of countryside beauty and serenity.

Sheep at Inverlochy Castle Hotel

 Queen Victoria, a guest at Inverlochy in 1873, said of the site, “I never saw a lovelier or more romantic spot.” Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America, a guest in 1869, wrote ”The scenery about here is the grandest of all the sublime spectacles I have met in Scotland.” 

The hotel’s interior matches its rich surroundings. Registration takes place in an entry hall outfitted with oriental rug and antique furnishings.

Entry Hall at Inverlohy Castle Hotel

The Great Hall’s impressive high ceiling frescos and crystal chandeliers, overlook intimate seating arrangements defined by groupings of upholstered easy chairs and couches. A whisky cabinet, antique French piano, and stack of boxed games add congenial homey touches as well as entertainment elements.

Frescos and chandeliers

The Great Hall at Inverlochy Castle Hotel

Games & Whisky

The next-door Drawing Room is just as hospitable and welcoming although lighter and brighter due to sparkling rococo mirrors and sunshine-colored walls and drapes gracing almost floor to ceiling windows.

The Drawing Room at Inverlochy Castle Hotel
The Great Hall and Drawing Room provide relaxed and lovely locations for afternoon tea, pre-dinner Champagne and/or just reading in a quiet corner—then again, so does the terrace.

Terrace at Inverlochy Castle Hotel
Inverlochy boasts three dining rooms if one counts the Library (practically hidden and outfitted for private parties). Decorated with furniture and table dressing reflecting the upscale style of bygone elegance, the dining rooms serve as tasteful frames for the castle’s famed Michelin-starred modern British cuisine.

Table setting at Inverlochy Castle Hotel

Scottish breakfast in the dining room

Scottish breakfast in the dining room

(Incidentally gentlemen…well all males, are required to wear coat and tie at dinner. The hotel provides a stash for those unprepared.)

Coats and ties are required at dinner at Inverlochy Castle Hotel
The 17 bedrooms in the main house vary in style and configuration. Some wear period Victorian wallpaper and floral-patterned fabrics on headboards and upholstery. Others sport four poster beds, with dark-colored striped and plaid spreads and drapes. All contain a treasure trove of antique furnishing and appointments. And all have ultra-modern flatscreen TVs, good views and dynamite bathrooms.

Bed in the King's Suite at Inverlochy Castle Hotel
I stayed in the Mary Shaw room, which was named after the property’s first cook. Although I am sure the other rooms, especially the King’s and Queen’s suites, are just as nice, I can’t believe the cook’s room was not the jewel in the crown as it was so incredibly comfortable and well appointed. I especially loved the huge bathroom with a green velvet chair, shower big enough for four, bathtub big enough for two, and luscious toiletries that lent fragrance to all.

The Mary Shaw room at Inverlochy Castle Hotel

Bathroom in the Mary Shaw room at Inverlochy Castle Hotel

Toiletries at Inverlochy Castle Hotel

As to what to do at Inverlochy? Once one can pull themselves out of the deeply comfortable bed, and leave the beautiful room, the environment and surrounding countryside offer many activities. Skiing, biking, hiking, stalking in the mountains. Fishing in the lochs and river. And a variety of country-gentlemen sports such as clay pigeon shooting, falconry, tennis, tomahawk throwing, and snooker on the property itself.
For a hotel that racks up the accolades—including Best Hotel in Europe (Travel and Leisure magazine 2006), and a property that has hosted many of the world’s elite, Inverlochy remains unpretentious and informally grand—no doubt due to the friendly staff and the property’s attention to details that make every aspect of a stay enjoyable. Morning coffee as served at Inverlochy Castle Hotel
Services run the gamut from chauffeuring guests from any Scottish airport to the hotel in a Rolls Royce Phantom (the property also has it’s own Helicopter landing site) to the simple amenity of bringing coffee to the room as a wake-up call.
Granted most luxury hotels have room service deliver coffee, but Inverlochy enhances their coffee delivery with plate of buttery, melt-in-the-mouth shortbread cookies—providing an extra sweet start to the day and stay.


(Adapted from a recipe provided by Inverlochy Castle Hotel.)
Yield: 15 three-inch in diameter cookies.Shortbread
17 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon superfine sugar (see NOTE)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
A little granulated sugar to sprinkle on top of cookies before baking
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Fold in flour and cornstarch to form a dough. Either put dough in piping bag and pipe cookies into 3-inch circles or roll dough 1/4 inch thick between sheets of plastic wrap and cut into circles with a cookie cutter.
Put dough circles on parchment paper, leaving space between the rounds. Sprinkle tops of circles lightly with granulated sugar.
Bake until cookies are set and just barely beginning to brown, about 15 minutes.

NOTE: If you can’t find superfine sugar (also called caster sugar), blend granulated sugar in a blender or food processor for a few seconds until it is in fine particles.


Key to Happiness





Travelers love Scotland for many reasons, among them the welcoming fun-loving residents, serene scenery, world-class golf, and delightful places to stay. But there is one Scottish lure that makes all of the others shine brighter. We’re talking whisky here. (Notice the spelling differs from Irish whiskey. According to one Irish drinker, “the Scots are just too thrifty to add the e.” )
Bars and pubs do their bit to train visitors to the pleasures of whisky, but those wanting to jump to the chase of understanding, should make their way to Glengoyne Distillery

Glengoyne Distillery
Located in Dumgoyne, near Glasgow, Glengoyne’s property straddles the border road dividing the Scottish Lowlands (where the warehouses sit) from the Highlands (holding the distilling facilities).

Noted as the southern most of the Highland whiskies, Glengoyne (pronounced glen GOIN) receives accolades on many levels. First and foremost comes praise for Glengoyne’s single malt Scotch, known around the world, beloved by many. In addition, tourists applaud Glengoyne’s postcard-pretty setting, in a countryside green-glen at the foot of the Campsie Fells range of verdant hills.

At Glengoyne Distillery

Visitors also rave about the distillery’s outstanding tours.Glengoyne Tours

Disclaimer and confession: I don’t drink whisky. I loved my Glengoyne tour.

Glengoyne sells a variety of tours, among them the basic Wee Tasting tour; the No. 1 Warehouse Session (described as “Wield your dug. Dip two casks. Drink the drams. Bottle your favorite”); a Whisky and Chocolate Matching; and a five-hour, in-depth Masterclass.
David Dick  Offering WhiskyMost tours start in the visitor’s center where a guide offers each person a dram, shows a short film on the distilling process and talks a bit about whisky making and labels. 
Next comes a guided walk through the facilities.
As we head out the Visitor Center’s door, our guide, the smiling, super savvy David Dick, points to a picturesque waterfall from Campsie Fells pooling in a pond at the back of the property and tells us that the water is used, along with barley and yeast, to make Glengoyne whisky.

Campsie Fells by Susan Manlin Katzman
David continues to describe the processes of malting, milling and mashing, fermentation, distillation and maturation as we stroll through various buildings.


He tells us that Glengoyne first made whisky in 1833 and has followed pretty much the same techniques to this day; that the components contributing to Glengoyne’s unique smooth flavor include a very slow distillation process, barley dried by warm air (not peat), and maturing in fine sherry-soaked oak casks.

Scotch Warehouse

We learn that “Angel’s Share” refers to the evaporation from casks as the whisky ages, and that the favorite whisky toast to good health, the Scottish Gaelic Slàinte mhath, rolls right off the tongue after downing a few sample drinks.

Angel Share
I am on the Malt Master Tour, so after the basics, my group settles into the Sample Room, which is set with bottles of different Glengoyne whiskies, small glasses, and all of the paraphernalia necessary to sample and then create a take-home bottle of our own blend.

Ready to Blend Whisky
All tours end at the shop, which sells not only Glengoyne whisky, but also a variety of fine whisky merchandise. Glengoyne Label
Before saying goodbye, David imparts a tidbit of wisdom concerning mixing whisky and water. 
A Scottish proverb says, “There are two things a Highlander likes naked, and one of them is whisky.”  Winston Churchill said, “The water was not fit to drink. To make it palatable, we had to add whisky. By diligent effort, I learnt to like it.” 
And David Dick says, “The only thing one should add to good whisky is, perhaps, a drop of water to release the subtle flavors, and, of course, more whisky.”

For more about whiskey, click HERE






Unknown-1I trace my love of houseboating to the 1958 film Houseboat. In the film Cary Grant lives on a houseboat with his motherless kids and Sophia Loren, a symphony-conductor’s runaway daughter masquerading as a housekeeper. So romantic. So fun. Made me (and every woman and man in 1958 America) want to trade lifestyle—and spouse—for the houseboat experience.

As charming a picture as the movie paints, it can’t capture the pleasure of the real thing. My two houseboat trips exceeded all movie expectations. But then, how could they miss. In both cases I traveled through some of the most remarkable scenery in all of the United States—on totally luxurious vessels—with 12 dearly beloveds (one of them a dog).

Family Houseboat Trip


My family chose to houseboat on Lake Powell and Lake Mead for several reasons. Dramatically spectacular scenery topped the list.

Lake Mead

slot canyon, Big Bend National Park, Texas, USA

Cove at Lake Mead

As you know, Lake Powell, straddling the border between Utah and Arizona, and Lake Mead, situated in Nevada and Arizona, are both reservoirs of different, but equally astonishing natural beauty—the full wonder appreciated only by water travel. These million-plus acre, man- and nature-made playgrounds of crystal water, desert, cliffs, twisting canyons and gnarled rock formations offer not only magical landscapes, but also land and water activities (boating, fishing, swimming, sun bathing, hiking, relaxing). 

Maggie on Water Slide

Charlie fishing


In addition, Lake Powell’s 1900 miles of shoreline and Lake Mead’s 759 are packed with secluded sandy coves surrounded by isolated rocky landscapes. We could moor the boat in pockets of primeval-like privacy, and hike in surroundings as if we had been first and only to explore and enjoy.

Houseboat in Secluded Cove

Houseboat Docked at Lake Mead

We rented houseboats for both trips from Forever Resorts. The company offers a variety of boats, ranging in size and amenities, at 12 marina properties around the country.

Some of the houseboats were too small for my family. Some were too big. But we found just the right ones, sleeping 12 and having a fully equipped kitchen, gas grill, air conditioning, sundeck and all of the comforts of home. (Well, even more comforts as our home lacks windows facing constantly changing natural vistas, water slides, and sundecks for sunbathing and star gazing under skies unencumbered by pollution and/or city lights.)

We also rented powerboats that we tethered to the houseboats and used for water sports and easy exploring, leaving the houseboats docked in their secluded coves for several nights in a row.

Family in Powerboat
Well in advance of our first trip, Forever Resorts sent instructions on operating the houseboat, which we ignored, enabling us to show up at the marina totally clueless. But no problem, before staff hands over the keys, they require us to designate “captains” and “co-captains” to take a personalized-on-site course in operating both houseboats and powerboats.

I can’t say it didn’t take work at the git go. On the first trip, my family ranged in age from 4 to 87, and, on both trips—four years apart—each family member assumed a job.The youngest helped set the table. The next youngest and oldest fished for dinner and helped with dishes. I cooked. Everyone else took turns helping maneuver the boat through the twists and turns of the lakes and docking the boat at night (a procedure requiring strength and energy).

Steering a Houseboat on Lake Mead
After a day learning the ropes, we could slip our water home in and out of secluded coves with the greatest of ease.
Operational mechanics in hand, we spent the days and nights of both trips enjoying sequestered family time. We ate, slept, played, hiked, and relaxed together, gaining new appreciation for each other. We loved and appreciated the natural beauty that encased us, paying special tribute to the desert flora and fauna—the sunrises, sunsets and skies full of bright-burning stars.

Lake Mead Flora Collage by Susan Manlin Katzman

Sunset on Lake Mead by Susan Manlin Katzman
As to food, we took enough supplies onboard for all meals and our houseboat had all of the equipment needed for preparing, cooking and serving the food.

Dinner on a Houseboat

On the last morning, before disembarking and reluctantly relinquishing our water home, we gathered for one last breakfast, agreeing that the houseboat adventure was the best multi-generational family vacation possible.

We also agreed that we liked the breakfast, which was an egg strata. The casserole was perfect for several reasons: it is assembled the night before baking, utilizes leftovers, and like houseboating, greatly pleases both kids and adults.


Yield: 10 to 12 servings.

Spinach Strata

Spinach Strata

About 1/4 cup butter
1 large loaf French or Italian baguette, cut into 1-inch cubes (a little stale works fine)
Shredded cheese (Swiss, Cheddar, Monterey Jack or other or mixture)
Additions, optional (cooked sausage, bacon, ham, mushrooms, and/or onions; well-drained cooked spinach or other vegetables; and/or chopped fresh herbs.)
12 eggs
About 3 cups half and half or milk
Salt to taste
Black Pepper to taste.
Dash Dijion mustard
Dash Tabasco

Butter a large baking dish.
Line the bottom of dish with bread cubes.
Sprinkle a generous portion of cheese over top of cubes.
Dot with additions of choice.
Break eggs into a bowl, Beat in half and half or milk and season with salt, pepper, Dijon mustard and Tabasco. Pour egg mixture over ingredients in baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap or foil and refrigerate overnight.
Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking.
Bake, uncovered, in a preheated 350°F oven until well puffed and golden brown, 45 to 55 minutes. Serve immediately.





Elizabeth MInchilliAmerica’s favorite guru of luscious Italy, Elizabeth Minchilli, is at it again. April 7 marks the debut of her seventh book, EATING ROME.
To say that Elizabeth has great taste and knows all of the great food places in Rome is to understate. She also knows the in and outs of Italian culture, style, art, architecture, interior design, ceramics, gardens, and travel.
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Elizabeth first moved to Rome with her parents and sisters when she was 12 year old. She studied in Italy and settled happily ever after in Rome after marrying Roman architect Domenico Minchilli.
By all accounts Elizabeth lives the dream life. She has an adoring husband, two beautiful deating rome-pbkmech.inddaughters, and two homes: one, a rooftop apartment in Rome, and the other, a country cottage complete with olive groves and roses in Umbria. There is probably no one more qualified to write a book on Roman food and subtitle it “Living the Good Life in the Eternal City” than Elizabeth. 
To say that she generosity shares her experiences and expertise through her writing, only skims the cream of her productivity. In addition to authoring books, designing apps and writing numerous articles for prestigious publications, she leads food tours, blogs (Elizabeth Minchilli in Rome); supplies Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest with copious material, and guests post on Sweet Leisure. (See Elizabeth Minchilli Picks: Ten Best Restaurants in Rome.)
You can tell that we are crazy about Elizabeth and her many endeavors—as are a slew of star-studded food-centric celebrities, including Ina Garten, David Lebovitz and Frank Bruni who join ranks to praise EATING ROME.
To say EATING ROME is useful to food lovers traveling to the city doesn’t cover the range of the book’s information and appeal.
Any traveler to Rome—even the armchair variety, and anyone interested in Italian food and cooking will gain from Elizabeth’s insights.
She filled EATING ROME’s 256 pages with photos and information, telling readers about not only her favorite restaurants, trattorias, and pizzerias, but also the way to order coffee at an Italian coffee bar,

Italian Coffee


the difference between ice cream and gelato,

Gelato by Susan Manlin Katzman

and how to shop in a Roman market. She telescopes on topics as diverse as cured pork products,

Oggi Porchetta


mama cooking, artichokes and grappa. And last but never least, she loads EATING ROME with easy to follow, authentic Italian recipes—some from restaurants and others from the Minchilli family’s treasure trove, as is this meatball recipe from Elizabeth’s mother-in-law, Rosa Minchilli.



Yield: 4 to 5 main course servings.Minchilli Meatballs

7 ounces ground pork
7 ounces ground beef
7 ounces ground veal or turkey
1/2 cup grated onion
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to season
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 can (18-ounces) pelati (peeled whole San Marzano) tomatoes
In a large bowl, gently combine the pork, beef, veal, onion, bread crumbs, cheese, parsley, garlic, salt, pepper, egg, and the 1/4 cup olive oil. Form the mixture into about 30 small meatballs, 1-1/2 inches in diameter.
In a large heavy-bottomed skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the meatballs to the skillet, about 10 at a time, so as not to overcrowd. Cook, using a spoon to turn the meatballs, until they are well browned all over. Remove from the pan, set aside, and repeat the procedure to cook the rest.
Add the tomatoes to the oil in the skillet and bring to a simmer, scraping up the bits of browned meat, and season with salt. Return the meatballs, and any juices that have formed on the plate, to the skillet. Bring back to a low simmer, cover, and cook until done, about 30 minutes.

“EATING ROME, Living the Good Life in the Eternal City,” by Elizabeth Minchilli is published by St. Martin’s Griffin in both paperback and eBook. Click HERE for more information.

Back of Eating Rome





It’s sunny and bright, hip and happening, and loaded with celebrities. We could be describing Southern California and Los Angeles in general, but instead are telescoping in on Farmshop, an artisan market and restaurant that perfectly reflects the cool vibe of Farmshop in the Brentwood Country Martboth the region and the city.
Actually, there are two Farmshop restaurants—one in L.A. and one in Marin County. The restaurants are brainchildren of Chef-Owner Jeff Cerciello of Thomas Keller Restaurant Group fame. Although both share similar DNA, like all siblings, each property claims it’s own personality.
As the L.A. Farmshop came first (in 2010), serves as flagship, and has a speciality food market attached, we’ll focus on it.
The L.A. Farmshop sits on the Westside of Los Angeles in the Brentwood Country Mart.
The Mart, itself, claims historic significance. When built in 1948, it was considered innovative, consolidating shops and useful services in one location. Compared with the mega-malls of today, the Mart feels positively intimate and super select—the perfect home for Farmshop.
Market and restaurant share the same space and are divided by function, rather than partition, into two areas that flow together.

Farmshop L.A.

The market offers a cornucopia of artisan-produced, local and regional products including cheeses, chocolates, charcuterie, coffees and wines. Talented bakers, butchers, farmers and chefs add speciality departments to the abundance. And a choice of housewares and gifts complete the bounty which is rich enough to fill a discriminating cook’s pampered pantry and a food-lover’s luxury larder.

Cheese Counter at Farmshop

Bakery at Farmshop

Take Out at Farmshop

The restaurant space feels casual and comfortable in a super chic, Southern California kind of a way.
Design elements include white-tile walls, a busy see-into kitchen, abundant windows for natural lighting and a large farm-scene photo mural covering the back wall. 

Farmshop Restaurant Los Angeles

Table at Farmshop

 Counter service and some long tables for communal dining reinforce the laid-back atmosphere as does the informal bar and friendly knowledgeable staff.

Bar at Farmshop

In the kitchen, talented staff.

In the kitchen, talented staff.

 But design and fellowship take one so far—-it’s the food, served with fabulous flair, that brings the most accolades and repeat guests. 

Soup to Nuts at Farmshop

Soup to nuts—dishes delight.

Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (when the lighting changes and becomes more mellow and romantic), Farmshop produces menus that change according to not only the meal and time of day, but also the day of week and the season.

Table Setting. Notice the linen napkins. They are for sale, four for $112.

Table Setting. Notice the linen napkins. They are for sale, four for $112.

Chef Brian Reimer

Chef Brian Reimer

Many dishes on assorted menus receive raves, but non are more popular than the Avocado Hummus with Pistachio Salsa Verde & Nigella Seeds. No ordinary hummus, the dish enjoys iconic status, and guess what. We scored the recipe for you! (Thank you Chef Brian Reimer.)

Farmshop serves the hummus with an assortment of colorful vegetables, but it is also luscious scooped onto crackers, a spoon or even a finger.


Yield: About 3-1/2 cups. Avocado Hummus with Pistachio Salsa Verde & Nigella Seeds
1 pound (about 3 cups) cooked chickpeas (see NOTE)
A little crushed ice
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 ripe Haas avocados, peeled and seeded
1 recipe Pistachio Salsa Verde (Recipe follows)
Nigella seeds
Assorted cut vegetables
Pulse the cooked chickpeas with a little bit of crushed ice in a food processor until a smooth paste is formed. (The ice will facilitate the blending and produce a smooth texture.) Add tahini and pulse until smooth, then add the lemon juice. Continue pulsing, adding olive oil until texture is very smooth.
Peel and seed the avocados, then add to the processor, continuing to pulse to a smooth paste. Add salt to taste.
Put hummus in a serving bowl. Distribute Pistachio Salsa Verde over top. Sprinkle with Nigella seeds. Serve with assorted vegetables.

PISTACHIO SALSA VERDE Avocado Hummus Farmshop
About 1/3 cup pistachios
1 lemon (zest only)
3 tablespoons sliced chives
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
Fleur de sel to taste
Olive oil
Spread the pistachios on a baking sheet and put them in a preheated 325°F oven until very lightly toasted. Remove pistachios from the oven and while they are still warm, put them on a cutting board and lightly chop.
Use a micro plane (very fine hole grater) to zest the lemon and add to the warm pistachios along with the chives and parsley. Mix well and season to taste with salt. Add just enough olive oil to make pistachios glisten. Toss well.

NOTE–TO COOK CHICKPEAS: Put good-quality, small dried chickpeas in a large strainer and wash under cold running water, removing any foreign matter or damaged chickpeas. Transfer chickpeas to a large bowl or pot, cover well with cold water, add a pinch of baking soda and let soak overnight.
Drain chickpeas from soaking liquid and, again, wash well under cold running water.
Put chickpeas in a large pot and generously cover with water. Add another pinch of baking soda. Set pot over moderate heat and bring water to a low boil. Skim any foam and/or skins from top of water. Boil until chickpeas are very soft and can be easily smashed when pressed between two fingers, 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Drain chickpeas and use as desired.
One pound dried chickpeas will yield about 2 pounds 4 ounces cooked.





Ellen Sack: The Barge Lady

Ellen Sack: The Barge Lady

As a native of landlocked Chicago, Ellen Sack developed wanderlust early in life. She started traveling to Europe at 19 and has been at it happily every after, developing a love for Europe, particularly Europe by barge.
She took her first barge cruise in 1984, and shortly thereafter decided she wanted to help others discover the pleasures of barge travel, opening her travel agency, Barge Lady Cruises in 1985. 
Ellen’s reputation makes her a leading expert in European canal barge cruises.

Stephanie Sack

Stephanie Sack

Today she represents over 50 different barges, and employees a small staff that include her daughters Caroline Sack Klein and Stephanie Sack. Between Ellen and her entourage, Barge Lady Cruises visits each and every one of the barges she represents before she recommends them.

To help understand why barge cruising  captivates Ellen (and countless others), daughter Stephanie describes  some of the pleasures for Sweet Leisure:


Welcome Aboard! Barge Cruising in Europe

By Stephanie Sack

A vast network of preserved waterways wind through the heartland of Europe, navigated by a fabulous fleet of floating house parties, ranging from the leisurely low-key to the over-the-top opulent. Welcome to the world of barge cruising, where happy travelers aboard these marvelous vessels enjoy a prime perch for ogling old-world wonders, visiting vineyard-strewn valleys in the unspoiled countryside, and attending bustling markets in charming villages.

While often confused with river cruises, which typically traverse several hundred miles on Europe’s major rivers on large ships carrying over 125 passengers, barges are handsome vessels converted from reclaimed cargo boats into luxurious floating hotels, carrying four to 22 passengers which cruise through European canals, primarily in France. Barge cruising’s intimate ambiance and leisurely pace appeals to a sophisticated traveler with culinary and cultural leanings. 



Barge on a French Canal


While a dedicated crew cooks, cleans, pilots the barge, and gives chauffeured tours of local attractions, guests go on daily excursions, bicycle along the towpath, enjoy the scenery, mingle with other guests, and read and relax on the deck. And, best of all,  barges surround all activities with fabulous food and wine. Gastronomes, food tourists, and bon vivants thrill to barging’s focus on chef-prepared, gourmet meals served with the region’s best wines. (See NOTE below.)

Dining Table

Choosing a barge cruise perfect for a dream European vacation depends on your group, your travel preferences, and your budget.  Although there is no official rating system for barge travel, The Barge Lady created her own system, classifying barge cruises into four categories: Boutique, First Class, Deluxe, and Ultra Deluxe.

Barge Dock in Burgundy These classes are determined by a handful of factors, primarily the size of the cabins, on-board amenities such as decor, deck space, and number of crew members. Ratings are affected by the number of guests; for example, an eight-passenger boat can earn a higher rating than a 22-passenger boat. All barges at all ratings are available for chartered groups. 

The Barge Lady especially likes to recommend Boutique Class vessels for smaller parties more interested in authentic experiences than in on-barge amenities. This curated collection of barges are operated with two in crew and offers the opportunity to take some meals onshore at local restaurants and auberges, all organized and selected by the captain. From $3,500 per person, they are the perfect barge cruise for those who wish to spare the expense, not the experience!

Barge cruising is all about the pleasures of food, travel, and the good life—the perfect vacation for indulging in “sweet leisure.”


Cruising Through Serenity

 The barge cruise season runs from mid-April through the end of October, taking advantage of Europe’s mild spring, summer sunshine, and temperate autumn. Although barges fill quickly, dates are still available for some vessels in 2015 and 2016 already beckons, so call The Barge Lady (800-880-0071) and we’ll help you the perfect barge cruise to meet your needs.

Salade Reine Pedauque


NOTE: For a peek at the wonderful food served on barge cruises, have  a look at the Pear and Roquefort Quiche recipe from the Horizon II barge and the beautiful Salade Reine Pedauque served on the Reine Pedauque. 





There is a spirit that hovers over the Mabel Dodge Luhan House in Taos, New Mexico. It’s the spirit of Taos itself, of the mountains and air and light and magic that inspired Native Americans as well as artists, writers, poets and rich socialites from near and far to settle and thrive.

Taos Landscape by Susan Manin Katzman

Mabel Dodge Luhan

Mabel Dodge Luhan

Mabel Dodge Luhan—or more precisely the multi-married Mabel Gans0n Evans Dodge Sterne Luhan falls into the socialite, art-patroness category, a pigeonhole she never fully escaped despite her considerable gifts for writing and her stack of published columns and memoirs.

Mabel made it to Taos at age 37. She had just married her third husband, the artist Maurice Sterne, and sent him, without her, to honeymoon in Santa Fe. Upon joining the honeymoon, Mabel so disliked Santa Fe that she refused to stay and moved to Taos where she fell in love not only with the remote village but also with

Tony Luhan

Tony Luhan

Tony Lujan, a married Native American from the Taos Pueblo.  

With Tony’s help, Mabel purchased 12 acres of meadow adjacent to Taos Pueblo land and built a sprawling Pueblo Revival style home.

Mabel Dodge Luhan House

She also divorced Sterne, married Tony, and invited the cream of the cultural crop of intellectuals, artists, writers, dancers—or in Mabel’s own words, the “great souls” of the creative world to visit Taos and stay with her. Famous houseguests included Georgia O’Keeffe, Willa Cather, Aldous Huxley, Ansel Adams and Martha Graham, but none were as important to Mabel as as D.H. Lawrence, who arrived in 1922 with his wife Freida.

A legacy from the first Lawrence visit remains in, of all places, Mabel’s bathroom. D. H. painted the bathroom windows. 

D.H. Lawrence Painted Windows in the Mabel Dodge Luhan House

Sign in Mabel Dodge Luhan HouseDespite the fact that D.H. wrote about Mabel and Mabel wrote about D. H. and others wrote about both personalities, no one knows the reasons for the painted windows. Speculation suggests that the renowned writer, who broke sexual barriers and was even labeled a pornographer by some, could not bare (in truest sense of the word) using the bathroom without curtains to protect him from bystanders (of course the bathroom overlooked wilderness; so the eyes were only those of lizards and the like).

Then it could have been that he painted the windows to protect him from Mabel, who in a rather intense but fruitless effort to seduce him, would shed her clothes and stretch out on the balcony outside the windows to sunbathe.

Sunbathing Ledge

Sunbathing Ledge

Mabel Dodge Luhan GravestoneMabel died in1962. Her home was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1991.

Although the property has gone through several owners, including movie star Dennis Hopper, it still functions as a guesthouse.

Today, the B & B-type historic inn features nine rooms in Mabel’s original house, eight rooms in the Juniper House, a Southwestern-style lodge, built in 1980 as a conference center and workshop facility, and two rooms each in two separate cottages.

Bedrooms in Mabel Dodge Luhan House
Present day visitors can easily recall ghosts of the guests past as much remains the same as when Mabel reigned.
The property’s setting, bordered on three sides by sagebrush filled desert with the sacred Taos Mountain in the background, maintains the peaceful, retreat-like ambiance.

Window at Mabel Dodge Luhan House by Susan Manlin Katzman

And just as in Mabel’s day, the rooms lack TVs and Wifi, guests enjoy meals in the communal dining room, and the D. H. Lawrence painted bathroom windows protect inhabitants from prying eyes.

The major change is that today the inn is open to the public. Guests come for the history, for the workshops, for the tranquility and/or for the bountiful buffet breakfasts.Breakfast at Mabel Dodge Luthan House

Mabel Dodge Luhan House is reputed to serve one of the best B & B breakfasts in all of New Mexico.

Part of the credit goes to Pamela Martinez, from the Taos Pueblo, one of the cooks who has made breakfast for guests on and off for the past 17 years. She say’s this is her favorite breakfast muffin recipe:


Yield: 12 muffins.

Shortening to grease muffin cupsStrawberry and Cream Muffins by Susan Manlin Katzman
1-3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup fresh blueberries or diced fresh strawberries (or other berries)
6 to 8 ounces cream cheese, divided into 12 pieces
Grease 12 muffin cups and set pan aside. Heat oven to 350°F.
Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a medium-size mixing bowl. Put buttermilk, oil, eggs, vanilla and sugar in another bowl and beat just until well blended.Combine flour mixture with buttermilk mixture and beat until blended. Slowly stir in fruit.
Spoon equal amounts of batter into each muffin cup. Gently press a piece of cream cheese into the center of batter in each cup, smoothing batter back over top of cheese.
Place muffin pan in the center of a preheated 350°F oven and bake until muffins are pale golden brown and cooked through,15 to 20 minutes.
Serve warm or at room temperature.

For more about Taos, click HERE.





CM_Exterior1_Nikolas Koenig_hires-2Those who say money can’t buy happiness have never had cocktails at Chateau Marmont.
This iconic Los Angeles hotel sits overlooking the Sunset Strip like a beacon luring Hollywood stars and other A-listers connected with show-biz fame and fortune.
First built as an apartment building resembling a French Chateau, the property converted to a hotel in the 1930s, making apartments into large suites, some with kitchens and private entrances. The size of the suites and privacy no doubt contributed to the hotel’s draw and helped earn it a reputation for supplying extravagant accommodations as well as accommodating the extravagant.
As to the latter, it is rumored that the founder of Columbia Pictures told his young randy stars, William Holden and Glenn Ford, “If you must get in trouble, do it at the Chateau Marmont.” and they did.
Jean Harlow and Clark Gable were said to have utilized (if you get my drift) the hotel while she was honeymooning with her third husband. And Johnny Depp claimed that he and Kate Moss made love in just about every room in the hotel.
(Chateau Marmont has 63 rooms.) And then there was the elevator story of Scarlett Johansson and Benicio Del Toro, the melt-down antics of Britney Spears, and drug related incidents of…well…too many to mention.
Table at Chateau MarmontSome stars head to the Chateau Marmont to hid (Greta Garbo—Howard Hughes—Lindsay Lohan among them), some to misbehave and everyone else goes to see and be seen.
As we said, money can’t buy happiness, but $18 can buy a specialty cocktail in the restaurant courtyard where you can sit back and star gaze.
As to the specific cocktail, we suggest the Bungalow Two.
Maybe the drink is named for the hotel’s two bedroom, two bath bungalows costing from $2200 per night. More likely it’s named for the hotel’s Bungalow Two, where director Nicholas Ray (age 44) stayed and “entertained” Natalie Wood (age 16) while casting Rebel Without a Cause. Seems that, during a reading of the script at the bungalow, James Dean crashed through a window to audition for a part—and the rest is history.


Yield: one serving.Bungalow Two Cocktail

2 ounces Herradura Silver tequila
3/4 ounce lime juice
3/4 ounce agave nectar
1/2 ounce Campari
1/2 ounce grapefruit juice
Wedge of lime, for garnish.
Shake well and serve in a rocks glass. Garnish with lime wedge.
Chateau Marmont adds a black straw and plastic Pan swizzle stick.

If you remember, Pan is the lecherous half man/half beast Greek god, chaser of nymphs, symbol of lust and sexuality.

Pan Swizzle Stick





Dirk Engelhardt

Dirk Engelhardt

Although born in Göttingen, Germany, in 1967, Dirk Engelhardt moved to Berlin to study at the University of Berlin and stayed. He worked as a freelance journalist, contributing food, travel, and life-style material to a variety of prestigious publications, before moving to Barcelona, in 2008. While in Spain, Dirk set up Tapas Tours Barcelona, taking visitors on a guided walking food tours through the city.                                                                            Dirk and his clients so enjoyed the tours, that upon returning to Berlin in 2013, he founded two walking food tours as adjunct to his writing.

Dirk guides The German Food Tour on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays evenings taking participants to four privately owned restaurants in Berlin’s nicest neighborhood. Each of the restaurants offers a sample of one of Germany’s regional specialities along with wine and beer.  The Berlin Food Tour runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and includes a market tour, tasting of Berlin specialities in a typical wirtshaus (restaurant, tavern and beer garden), and coffee and cake in a café. Dirk includes no more than 12 participants in each tour, speaking English, German or Spanish—whatever the group desires.  

In addition to eating and drinking, tour participants gain Dirk’s insider account of German foods and beverages as well as tips as where to find the best restaurants in Berlin. As to the latter, we jumped to the chase and asked Dirk to list his ten favorite places to go in Berlin for different type food experiences.  He sent the following. Thank you Dirk.


By Dirk Engelhardt


1. Traditional German


Oranienstrasse 162                                                                     

Max and MoritzMax und Moritz, the two boys from the famous book of Wilhelm Busch, have their
own restaurant. Wooden floor, wooden chairs, wooden bar, wooden tables, and everything has been in place for 113 years. Berlin only has 10 German restaurants that still survived from olden times.
Be prepared to receive huge plates that will leave you full to the top. No need for dessert! The biggest meat dish is the Schlachteplatte with everything the butcher just killed (13,5 Euro).
Max und Moritz serves several German beers, the best is the Kreuzberger Molle
brewed by a small brewery in the neighborhood (0,5 Liter = 3,2 Euro).


2. Modern German


Scharnhorststrasse 28                                                                                    

EsszimmerEsszimmer in German means “eating room.” Every house in Germany has an eating room next to the kitchen. This restaurant is situated in an old storage building and the interior is in the old Berlin style with high ceilings and tables covered with white linens.

Chef Thorsten Warnke cooks ”refined German,” as he calls it. The menu changes according to the season and features such dishes as carrot-orange soup with ginger and crabs, salmon with fennel and pasta, and the famous Rinderroulade with red cabbage and knödel.
The restaurant gets its fish from the German North Sea and wines from both Germany and France.


3. Best Brunch


thumb_600Mehringdamm 65

I go there at least once a month on Sunday morning for the best brunch in town.
Not only is the food great, but also the restaurant employs the prettiest (Turkish) waitresses, who are charming to every guest and always smile. 
The brunch is a mix of Turkish and German specialities, and includes olives, fried mozzarella sticks, salmon and horseradish, fried eggplant, humus, eggs and sausage, lasagne, potato gratin and much more. All you can eat for 10,5 Euro!


4. Good Deli


m &mAuguststrasse 11

Situated in the most fashionable street in Berlin Mitte, where you find a gallery in every
second house, Mogg & Melzer is the best place to taste Jewish food. In fact the deli sits in a building which was the home of the Jüdische Mädchenschule (Jewish girls school) in the beginning of the 20 century.
Owners, Oskar Melzer and Paul Mogg, both DJs, have travelled the world and bring the best food to their menu. The menu, by the way, is only available in English, to the anger of some German guests, although some dishes, such as Matzo ball soup, shashuka, pastrami sandwiches and cheesecake don’t need translating.


5. Breakfast PlaceGaststatte St. Oberholz


Rosenthaler Str. 72a

In this place you can have your breakfast until 5 p.m. They have a good choice of bagels, focaccias, sandwiches, toast and cake, and good coffee.
The main reason to come here though, is the excellent and free Wi-Fi. You will
see nearly every customer with a MacBook; many have chosen this cafe as
their office space, and some startups started here.




6. Vegetarian


La LaVegan and gluten-free food
Mainzer Strasse 18

A French couple recently opened this place. It is small, but very personal offering a small number of freshly made dishes. The food is mouth watering, and even meat eaters will like the salads, pastries, soups and quiches. Best gluten-free cakes in the city! On Sunday there is an all you can eat brunch for 13 Euro.


7. Chocolate Cafeberliner_kaffeeroesterei


Uhlandstrasse 173

Go only for the smell of coffee and chocolate, and you will be happy. The place offers more than 100 different house-roasted coffees. You even can choose which brewing method you want: french press, hand filtered or with a Kona coffee pot. They also have homemade cakes and an extensive choice of rare chocolates, such as Gianduiotti, Bonnat, Amatller, Blanxart, Zotter and Valrhona.


Konopkes Imbiss8. Currywurst


Schönhauser Allee 44b
Unter der U-Bahn

Of course currywurst is THE special dish amongst all Berlin fast food dishes, the big rival of Döner Kebab. The recipe is very simple: take a fried wurst (pork), cut it into pieces, pour a lot of Ketchup over it and add some curry powder. Currywurst by Susan Manlin KatzmanKonnopke claims to have invented the currywurst in the year 1930, and since the place is mentioned in every travel guide about Berlin, it is always crowded.
Currywurst also made its way to the expensive West End of Berlin. At a stand on Kurfürstendamm, currywurst is served with a glass of Champagne for less than 10 Euro.


9. Star Place


Tim Raue

Chef Tim Raue

Rudi-Dutschke-Strasse 26
With two Michelin stars, Tim Raue is one of the best restaurants in the city. Chef Tim Raue also owns the Sra Bua in the Adlon Hotel and La Soupe Populaire. He plans to open a fourth place soon, although he spends most of his time at Tim Raue in Kreuzberg. Every dish he serves is unique in character and aroma. Every guest leaves the place with a smile. Price is high even for Berlin; the Unique Menu is 168 Euro without drinks—and without the Peking duck, which you can add for 24 Euro extra. 


10. Unique Food Experience
For a food experience, available only in summer, head to the THAI PARK in Preußenpark in Wilmersdorf, next to U Bahnhof Fehrbelliner Platz, where every Sunday between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., around 40 Thai people cook really authentic Thai dishes. Among the offerings you will find salad of papaya, grilled skewers of pork with peanut butter sauce, fried spring rolls, and seafood soup. Every Thai lady has her own specialities.
They don’t speak much German or English normally, but you can see what you buy.
The average price for one dish is 4 or 5 Euro.
There is also Thai beer and freshly mixed Thai shakes with fresh fruit. You only have to bring your picnic blanket and a great Sunday afternoon on the green lawn is guaranteed!

Thai Park


Read more about Berlin HERE





Albuquerque, New Mexico


Ann Arbor, Michigan


Bangkok, Thailand


 Berlin, Germany

Belin sign


Cody, Wyoming

Cody It's Fun by Susan Manlin Katzman 


Denver, Colorado


Dijon, France


Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Fort Lauderdale at Night 


Little Rock, Arkansas



Los Angeles, California


Milwaukee, Wisconsin


Nashville, Tennessee


New Orleans, Louisiana

New-Orleans by CHRIS GRANGER.


Rome, Italy


Seattle, Washington

Stuttgart, Germany


Tel Aviv, Israel


Tucson, Arizona






Paris at Sunset by Susan Manlin Katzman 



 Albuquerque, New Mexico


Apalachicola, Florida


Canal de Bourgogne, France


Door County, Wisconsin




Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Florida Beach by Susan Manlin Katzman


Hot Springs, Arkansas

Hot Springs National Park by Susan Manlin Katzman


Moss Landing, California

Moss Landing Harbor by Susan Manlin Katzman


Seattle, Washington


Taos, New Mexico


Tel Aviv, Israel


Turks and Caicos



Adler Thermae Spa Resort, Tuscany, Italy

Adler Thermae Spa Resort


Arlington Resort Hotel,  Hot Springs, Arkansas

The Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa by Susan Manlin Katzman


Ashford Castle, Cong, County Mayo, Ireland

Ashford Castle


Atlantic Hotel & Spa, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Exterior of The Atlantic Hotel & Spa in Fort Lauderdale


Capital Hotel, Little Rock, Arkansas

Exterior of The Capital Hotel by Susan Manlin Katzman


Captain’s Inn, Moss Landing, California

The Captain's Inn in Moss Landing California


Château De Cîteaux La Cueillette, Meursault, France

Château De Cîteaux La Cueillette


Coombs House Inn, Apalachicola, Florida

Coombs House Inn


Grand Velas Riviera Maya, Mexico

Grand Velas


Lake Yellowstone Hotel, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Facade of Lake Yellowstone Hotel by Susan Manlin Katzman


Mandarin Oriential Paris, France



Rosewood Little Dix Bay, Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands

Serving Beach Drinks at Little Dix Bay


Saxon Hotel, Johannesburg, South Africa

Saxon Hotel


Tongabezi, Zambia, Africa



Wald & Schlosshotel Friedrichruhe, Germany

Wald & Schlosshotel Friedrichsruhe




Rail Europe

RailEurope Train by Susan Manlin Katzman


La Fresh Travel Products



St. Louis Walking Tour

STL Lost & Found




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.