My Summer Vacation, Part II: Favorite Market Shots

July 1, 2013

One of the joys of my life is visiting and taking food shots at farmers markets when we are traveling.

Below are the best of the best from our recent Seabourn cruise from Lisbon, Portugal, to London.

Look at the shots and read the captions and relive some of my favorite moments vicariously!

Fresh seafood display in Rouen, France

Fresh seafood display in Rouen, France


Pheasant salami and other charcuterie at Bordeaux, France farmers market

Pheasant salami and other charcuterie at Bordeaux, France farmers market

Tomatoes at farmers market in Bordeaux, France

Tomatoes at farmers market in Bordeaux, France

Giant artichokes at farmers market in Bordeaux, France

Giant artichokes at farmers market in Bordeaux, France

Fresh seafood display in Rouen, France

Fresh seafood display in Rouen, France

Fresh seafood display in Rouen, france

Fresh seafood display in Rouen, france

White asparagus at the farmers market in Bordeaux, France

White asparagus at the farmers market in Bordeaux, France

My Summer Vacation: Best Dishes Lisbon to London

June 24, 2013


Shrimp cocktail on the seabourn quest

In May, we enjoyed 18 days out of the office taking a Lisbon to London cruise aboard the Seabourn Sojourn. Here are a few of my favorite dishes we discovered along the way, beginning with this Shrimp Cocktail from the Sojourn’s Restaurant 1 (main) dining room. Gorgeous presentation on Rosenthal china.

Fried soft-shelled crabs on the seabourn quest

Also aboard the Sojourn, Soft-shelled Crab, better than my mother used to make (sorry, Mom!).

Tofu chow mein on the seabourn quest

A vegetarian entrée aboard the Sojourn–Tofu with Chow Mein–light and full of interesting Asian spices.

Asturian bean and meat stew

During our first port call, in Gijon, Spain, we tried the traditional Asturian bean and meat stew offered to us for lunch at a traditional Sidre (hard- cider) factory.

Raw oysters on the half shell in bordeaux

Fresh oysters at Le Noailles, a restaurant we chose for our one dinner in Bordeaux (a beautiful city where we enjoyed an overnight port call).

Sole meuniere in bordeaux

Sole Meuniére at Le Noailles, our dinner restaurant in Bordeaux. One of the best (if not THE BEST) version of this dish we’ve ever had.

Steamed artichoke in bordeaux

The giant “artichoke salad” I ordered at Le Noailles in Bordeaux. Big as your head! Served with traditional aïoli sauce.

Bouillabaisse aboard seabourn quest ship

Back aboard the Sojourn, I dove into this beautiful Bouillabaisse, made from the local fish we bought during our Market Tour with Seabourn chef Martin.

Three-minute boiled egg aboard seabourn quest ship

A gorgeous three-minute egg I enjoyed aboard the Sojourn during a sunny morning in Bordeaux. Look at that gorgeous saffron-colored yolk!

Fruit plate aboard seabourn quest ship

My fruit salad made a colorful photographic study when taken with my favorite Hipstamatic iPhone4 app.

Giant meringues in St. Malo


Giant meringues in a bakery window in St. Malo, France–the “Buccaneer City!”

Fresh seafood display in St. Malo

Gorgeous seafood displays at a restaurant in St. Malo.

Fresh lobster in Guernsey

Grilled lobster and boiled potatoes (local specialties) in Guernsey, England.

Macaron ice-cream sandwiches in Rouen, France

Macaron “ice-cream sandwiches” in Rouen, France.

French fries in Bruges, Belgium

Frites with mayonnaise, our well-deserved lunch after a busy day of sightseeing in Bruges, Belgium.

Steamed mussels in London, England

Back on shore during our three days in London post-cruise, we enjoyed steamed mussels at Wright Brothers, a well-known seafood restaurant in London.

Spinach soufflé at Langans Brasserie, London, England

The beautiful Spinach Soufflé I enjoyed during our last dinner of the 18-day trip. . .at Langan’s Brasserie, partly owned by actor Michael Caine, in the Mayfair section of London.


Cruising into Seattle

May 27, 2013

Space needle seattle city skyline photo

We’ve long been a proponent of cruising, and are especially devoted fans of Seattle-based Holland America Line and Seabourn Cruise Line.

I’ve even written about our Alaska cruise experience for both Wine Press Northwest magazine and on this website in my Northwest Notes blog.

The Seattle cruise industry’s season runs from May through September, with boats leaving from Bell Street Pier (Pier 66) and Smith Cove (Pier 91) cruise terminals.

According to The Seattle Times, the first cruise ship of the 2013 season–Crystal Cruises’ Crystal Symphony, arrived on May 1. During the 2013 season, the Port of Seattle estimates that more than 175 cruises will sail through Seattle with eight different cruise lines represented. They include Carnival Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Holland American Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, Princess Cruises, and Royal Caribbean.

Seattle’s cruise industry is best known for its seven-day journey to Alaska. During pre- and post-stays in Seattle, passengers can visit the iconic Space Needle, Seattle Art Museum, Pike Place Market, and Seattle Aquarium. For more information about cruise schedules, and to book packages, visit the Port of Seattle website.

And to learn more about the venerable Pike Place Market, please pick up a copy of my “Pike Place Public Market Seafood Cookbook,” available in both print and e-editions.

Photo credit: Braiden Rex-Johnson



James Beard Foundation’s Top-14 Summer Reads

July 13, 2012

Our friends at the James Beard Foundation recommended the “Best Books for the 14 Weeks of Summer,” (ranging from Memorial Day to Labor Day) in the July/August 2012 edition of JBF Events.

The 14 great reads designed for foodies run the gamut from memoirs to fiction, and even natural history. Writers are as current as Gabrielle Hamilton, or as venerated as A.J. Liebling and M.F.K. Fisher.

Selected by an array of culinary experts from the James Beard Foundation Book Awards Committee, this essential list was inspired by the popularity of the Book Committee’s 2010 “The Baker’s Dozen” list, a compilation of 13 essential baking books that spanned almost four decades, from 1973 to 2010.

Here are the 14 selected tomes:

1. The Art of Eating by M. F. K. Fisher (John Wiley & Sons)

2. Between Meals: An Appetite for Paris by A.J. Liebling (North Point Press)

3. Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton (Random House)

4. Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War by Annia Ciezadlo (Free Press)

5. A Debt to Pleasure by John Lanchester (Picador)

6. An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace by Tamar Adler (Scribner)

7. The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food by Jennifer 8. Lee (Twelve)

8. Heat: An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany by Bill Buford (Vintage)

9. Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen by Laurie Colwin (Vintage)

10. The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten (Vintage)

11. Oranges by John McPhee (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

12. The Oysters of Locmariaquer by Eleanor Clark (Ecco Press)

13. Simple Cooking by John Thorne (North Point Press)

14. The Tummy Trilogy by Calvin Trillin (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux)

And please don’t forget to tuck a copy of my very own “Pike Place Public Market Seafood Cookbook,” into your beach bag, or read the new e-edition on your Kindle, Nook, or iPad.

Québec City to Montreal

December 2, 2011

Once we got off the Eurodam and were on our own for another day in Québec City, we did more sightseeing on our own and decided to take it easy by having dinner at our hotel, the venerable Chateau Frontenac. It’s a former Canadian Pacific RR property, now Fairmont, whose main dining room, Champlain, is named after the founder of Québec.

A formal and rather stuffy place, we had a strange waiter (at first) who didn’t speak English. Our food was better than the service, but the whole experience was quite a disappointment, especially with when paying high prices characteristic of Old-World-style hotels.

The next morning, bright and early at 7:45, we caught the train from Québec’s downtown station to Montreal.

It was during the train ride that we caught our first glimpses of really brilliant fall foliage colors. Sadly, it was hard to capture much of the brilliant beauty from behind the rain-spotted windows aboard the fast-moving train.

But here’s one shot of the pastoral surroudings.

And a better shot of the leaves.

Once in downtown Montreal at the train station, we asked a railroad worker where to catch a taxi to the hotel. He almost laughed in our faces, since the Fairmont Le Reine Elizabeth is located right above the train station, so it was an easy walk up the escalator to check-in and our beautiful room.

Here’s the city-scape view. The domed building in the foreground is a half-scale-sized copy of St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome.

Unfortunately, we weren’t nearly as impressed with Montreal as we were with Québec City. The Old Town allowed cars, so wasn’t particularly pedestrian-friendly.

But a few highlight in Montreal included:

Lunch at Dominion Square Taverne.

Spencer’s Roasted Chicken Caesar with Cheddar Dressing (the best Caesar he’s ever had, he told me!).

And my Steamed Mussels, perfect with a crisp glass of French Rosé.

And dinner at the hip, happenin’ Garde Manger, where I enjoyed a sublime Cold Seafood Tower (finally got some PEI mussels!) and Spencer had amazing short ribs.

Dessert was the clincher, though–a Fried Mars Bar à La Mode. Gotta love Canadian cuisine!

And with that, dear readers, I end my diary of our Fall Foliage Cruise.

Wine Tasting in Québec City

November 29, 2011

Uncle Tony’s Pub was the setting for our afternoon wine-and-food-pairing in the Old Town section of Québec City.

While some might think of the phrase “Québec wines” as an oxymoron, we were happy to try to prove them wrong. Here’s some useful background info from the Quebec Wines website:

“There are over 30 wineries in Quebec located in five distinct regions.

“Although grapes have been cultivated in Quebec for centuries, it is only in the last 20 years that local wine production has taken off in a big way.

“Few people outside the region are familiar with Quebec wines because the majority of production is consumed domestically. Many wineries sell out their inventory simply by marketing to visitors of the winery.”

When we arrived at Uncle Tony’s, places had been set up in a back room with three wines and samples of Wild Boar and Venison Paté, Brie Cheese, and dried apricots, along with a basket of sliced bread.

The white wine, Orpailleur Classique, was sourced from one of the original five founding wineries in Québec, Vignoble de L’Orpailleur. Made of 90% Seyval Blanc and 10% Vidal, it was a light-bodied and crisp wine that displayed green-apple aromas and flavors as well as what our wine guide described as “boxwood” notes and a green-bean finish.

Comparing the wine to a Sauvignon Blanc (which was more of a fond wish than actual reality), she suggested we pair it with the raw-milk, Brie-like local cheese.

Orpailleur Rouge, a red blend made from three local varietals, displayed notes of cherry and black currants, and, once again, “boxwood.” It was designed to pair with the paté, and was likened to a California Merlot, Beaujolais Nouveau, or a Spanish or South African red. Hmmm. . .again, wishful thinking.

Les Vergers de la Colline L’Ensorceleuse 2008 Mistelle de Pomme was an intriguing dessert beverage described as an Ice Cider.

The multi-award-winning Ice Cider was produced from a whopping 80 McIntosh apples per each bottle, according to our wine guide. It was very apple-y tasting, with notes of licorice and oak.

It paired okay with the dried apricot, but would have been better with our wine guide’s suggestions–drizzled over a fruit salad or served with a dark chocolate tart.

Incredible Québec City

November 25, 2011

We arrived in Québec City right on time at 8 a.m. and were excited to have an entire day to spend there before returning to the Eurodam for one last dinner prior to disembarkation the next day.

We had scheduled a shore excursion that included a 1 1/2-hour walking tour of the Old Town and a tasting of Québec wines at an atmospheric pub during the afternoon.

So we were on our own all morning, and after several hours of window shopping, we decided to eat lunch al fresco at a famous Old Town restaurant–Le Lapin Sauté–where the patio dining area overlooked a pumpkin-filled plaza.

Here’s the homey interior of Le Lapin Sauté, clearly being enjoyed by locals and tourists alike.

Our Planked Salmon Salads were among the best dishes on the entire trip!  The salmon had a light maple glaze and the greens were very fresh and clean. I’m not usually much of a fennel fan, but the layer of pickled fennel was surprisingly refreshing and formed a fitting contrast to the lovely fatty salmon.

I had a glass of Québec Vidal, a light white varietal that smells and tastes slightly of apples. As you might imagine (since it is so cold with such a short growing season in this new wine-growing region) it was a bit thin with there wasn’t much of a finish.

Québec winemakers might do better to stick to their famous ice wine and hard cider. There were more than half a dozen hard ciders on the menu!

Cruising the Gulf of St. Lawrence

November 22, 2011

After our exciting day in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, we had a relaxing day at sea cruising the Gulf of St. Lawrence on our way to the remote town of Saguenay, in Quebec Province.

We got up at 6:30 this a.m. to see the parade of islands.

Although we had high hopes, you can see that the fall colors were sadly underwhelming. After we returned, we heard from East Coast-based friends that the leaves never did much this year.

Some theorized that the hurricanes forced salt water into the leaves and they didn’t turn; others said there wasn’t a long enough of a cold snap to foster fall colors.

At our next port call, Saguenay, Canada, we were met at the $50-million dock by costumed locals who performed dances and songs as their ancestors might have done. The music reminded me of Zydeco and the costumes looked like American frontiersmen.

We were plied with fresh blueberry pie and frozen maple syrup when we got off the boat. The costumed locals poured the maple syrup on fresh snow so it would harden around wooden sticks, like very tasty, cold lollypops.

The sugar rush allowed us to walk up the hill to the small downtown, which we walked through before heading back to the boat for lunch.

Halifax and Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

November 18, 2011

Continuing our Fall Foliage cruise diary, once we left U.S. waters, the weather took a decided turn for the worse, as the Eurodam started playing hide-and-seek with the remnants of Hurricane Ophelia that was working its way up the Eastern Seaboard.

The result was 40-foot waves and unsettling groans and moans of the ship all night as the expansion joints in the windows and walls moved back and forth ceaselessly.

Communications with the Mainland (or any land!) also became dodgy. As expected, the moment we entered Canadian waters, our cell phones quit working unless we paid odious data-roaming charges. So I broke down and bought a computer plan at 55 cents a minute so I could stay in touch with my work and family as needed.

Our first port call in Canada–Halifax, Nova Scotia–was underwhelming. After we trudged up the hill to The Citadel, a Canadian military outpost (from where the photo above was taken), we went back downtown in hopes of finding interesting shops and a good place for lunch.

Finding neither, we went back to the boat and enjoyed delicious salmon and lamb burgers. Oh, well!

The storm was so serious that our scheduled stop in Sydney,Canada, the next day was cancelled! This is referred to as a “blow-by,” and really upsets the local economy and residents of these other-worldly places who rely on tourism to scratch together a meager living.

Our next port call after Sydney–Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island (PEI), Canada–was in question due to Ophelia’s wrath. It’s a place I’d always wanted to visit since I’d heard a lot about, and even sometimes eaten the famous PEI mussels.

But after another rocky night, we got through to Charlottetown okay. Even though we were greeted by extreme wind and cold and weather that ranged from hail to sleet to sun and even snow (!), it was VERY nice to be on terra firma once again.

We enjoyed a long bus ride through the countryside en route to the Anne of Green Gables house and a lobster lunch at a local jam shop and restaurant–the Prince Edward Island Preserve Co. This shot was taken through the bus window as we were leaving–it was so cold and drizzly we didn’t even want to get off the bus for a better shot.

Our lobster lunch was fun and tasty and the shellfish was from local waters. We shared our table with a Dutch couple who were very experienced mariners–the husband had worked for Holland America for many years, although there was a bit of a language barrier and we never could figure out exactly what he did.

Dessert–Raspberry Cream Pie made from local berries–was to die for.

Driving back to the ship, we marveled at the wild waves (turned a dramatic rust color from the hurricane!) on the Island’s north shore.

Our guide pointed out the mussel beds. But sadly for this foodie, we never did get to taste the Island’s most famous export.

“Lobsta” in “Glosta!”

November 11, 2011

Glosta lobsta: Braiden wrestles a 1 ¼-pound lobster

During the second port call of our Fall Foliage cruise on the Holland America Line, we stopped in Gloucester, Massachusetts, a.k.a. “Glosta.”

It was a small and not very interesting town, sadly. But we did enjoy lunch at the Seaport Grille, a popular waterfront restaurant and bar, before we got back on the boat.

I was drawn to this particular place (among several recommended dining options) when I saw one of the specials of the day–Steamed lobster with coleslaw, puréed squash (which reminded me of sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving) and potatoes au gratin–all for an astonishingly low $12.95.

I didn’t eat much of the starch or coleslaw, but I did manage to eat the entire lobster. Here are the poor creature’s sad remains.

Glosta lobsta eaten

After I excitedly emailed the “before” photo to a select group of family and friends, I received this response from my talented web designer, Christopher Prouty, founder of Studio 99 Creative.

“There is no better lobster than a Gloucester lobster,” he said. “And here’s a tip. A splash of vinegar in your melted butter adds some incredible flavor… got that from an old Maine lobster man.”

I was intrigued. But what kind of vinegar to use, I wondered. Balsamic would certainly be a big statement. Apple cider would add an interesting tang. Blueberry? Not so much.

Another round of emails elicited suggestions from both Chris and his wife, Amy.

“Malt vinegar for me,” Chris replied, “but Amy is a traditionalist and likes white. You know you get the right amount when it is indiscernible, yet different than regular butter. Yum-yum.”

BTW, my Gloucester lobster paired perfectly with a glass of California Sauvignon Blanc.

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