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Posts Tagged ‘dining’

Bordeaux,France

January 24, 2010

Bordeaux, France, Wine Region

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En route to the city of Bordeaux from Bergerac, France, where Belingard is located, is the impeccably preserved medieval town of St. Emilion. Its winding, cobblestone streets are lined with expensive wine shops, all tout­ing “worldwideshipping” in English and Japanese. Here you can descend into the cramped hermitage where the monk, Emilion, received pilgrims in the 8th century. The disciples who followed Emilion herewere the ones who started a wine trade in earnest. 

At Chateau Franc Mayne, a nearby vineyard, it’s possible to tour the former limestone quarries whose pale ochre innards were used to build the town. The quarries beneath this and many other St. Emilion chateaux are now wine caves-happily, they possess the perfect conditions for aging wine in oak barrels. A tour guide points out a skylight punched into the roof of Franc Mayne’s cave. It shows the cross­-section of limestone that gives St. Emilion’s mostly merlot and cabernet franc grapes their character, along with the stories of Roman poets and monks and queens, of course. 

In Bordeaux, the busy Place de la Comedie is the city’s social center. Mayor Alain Juppe launched an ag­gressive clean-up and modernization initiative when he was elected in 1995, and today the city is an obvious “after.” A sleek tram makes it easy to get around, and the bulk of 8th ­century facades have been sandblasted to remove centuries of built-up dust and grime from the porous yellow limestone. The broad avenues gleam, and the tiny squares at the ends of the St. Pierre quarter’s narrow streets are packed with students, young couples and families, caffeinating, kissing and splashing in fountains. 

On the banks of the Garonne River, many plaques adver­tise the offices of negociants, or wine merchants. Negociants have been trading from this port since the mid-r2th century, when Eleanor of Aquitaine married Henryof Plantagenet, the future Henry II of England, which led to many trade exchanges between Bordeaux and England and the golden age of claret. 

That tidbit is imparted duringatwo-day course called “Bordeaux Wine Tasting, from A to Z” at L’Ecole du Vin de Bordeaux, a few blocks from the Regent Grand Hotel. After this crash course in a classroom with white-slab countertops and chrome spit-sinks, it’s practically required to apply the new knowledge downstairs at the posh Le Bar a Vin. More than go wines by the glass are available, and little foldout maps on each table pinpoint where each wine originat­ed. The servers are well equipped to steer people toward clarity when the breadth of choices becomes overwhelming.


Bangkok,Thailand

January 21, 2010

Bangkok Dining

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At first glance, Bangkok seems to be one of the world’s most tumultuous cities, with mad­dening traffic and crowded sidewalks. But the Thais have mastered the art of creating tran­quility in their homes, hotels and restaurants. From a dazzling array of street food to the flower market, royal sites and sophisticated hotels, Bangkok is a dream destination.

Drink With a View

Bangkok is a sprawling city whose main artery is the always-churning Chao Phraya River. The very best way to get a handle on the city is from on high-like 63 stories up, at the world’s highest al fresco restaurant, Sirocco, atop the State Tower downtown. Watch Bangkok’s lights come on at sunset over a signature drink at the adjacent bar. If you suffer from vertigo and find the perch too scary, opt for Breeze, u stories down, where the outdoor seating is more enclosed.

Bangkok by Boat

Inexpensive taxi boats ply the Chao Phraya, but it’s more fun to take a private tour of the klongs, or canals, that branch off from the river by hiring a long-tailed boat at the Oriental Pier, next to the famed Mandarin Oriental Hotel. These slim, long boats are driven by entirely-too ­powerful automotive engines mounted above the water line and wielded by expert drivers who can turn on a dime. You’ll cruise down se­rene waterways, past homes built on stilts with lush gardens-and get a close-up look at how many of the locals live. Negotiate a price of $15 an hour and refuse a detour to a common rip­off stop, a pathetic snake farm.

Street Food

Ask any tuk-tuk or motorcycle taxi driver to take you to Yaowarat Road in the heart of Chinatown around 8 p.m. and have dinner the Thai way at any of the hundreds of street-food stalls 0. Cleanliness standards are excellent, and the eating is among the best in town. Figure on $6 per person for an enormous fried fresh fish seasoned generously with sublime Thai spices, rice and drinks. Or visit the Suan Lum Night Bazaar, a popular night market where you can walk off your dinner visiting small stores selling stylish household items and clothing.


Asheville,North Carolina

January 16, 2010

Asheville Street Scene

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“Eating out” taktes on a whole new meaning when you do it at one of Asheville’s signature sidewalk cafes.

With colorful street performers and talented musicians livening up downtown, you can count on some delightful entertainment with your meal.

Whether you choose an outdoor table or sit under the awnings, al fresco diners undoubtedly have the best seats in the house.

From April to October, during Friday evening Art Walks, leave your table and join the fun. You’ll be inspired as you browse through downtown’s distinctive galleries and mingle with local artists.


Asheville,North Carolina

January 15, 2010

Asheville Restaurants

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Asheville residents’ passion for delicious, health­ conscious, locally produced food is an important thread in the city’s cultural fabric. That’s why Asheville is home to the world’s first Foodtopian Society, an initiative of the Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau that celebrates the city’s thriving food scene. “Asheville has a truly unique restaurant atmosphere,” says Dwight Butner, owner of Vincenzo’s Ristorante & Bistro. “Those of us in the food industry here see ourselves as colleagues, but at the same time, there’s enough rivalry among us to keep us all producing great quality, creative foods.”

To learn about the Foodtopian bliss Asheville residents and visitors enjoy, curious epicureans may visit the official Web site at www.foodtopiansociety.com and watch food videos, snag recipes from area restaurants and read suggestions for local food adventures. There are even profiles of local chefs and farmers and an interactive Ask a Farmer feature that lets visitors talk with local producers directly about everything from starting a backyard vegetable garden to the benefits of eating organic foods.

Many of the Foodtopian Society’s member restaurants are also part of the Asheville Independent Restaurant Association, or AIR, a flourishing organization of more than 60 restaurants dedicated to fostering a stronger business environment for locally owned and operated restaurants. Vincenzo’s is one such enterprise.


California

December 29, 2009

Sonoma, California

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Fori the foodie and wine buff, it’s no exaggeration to say that Sonoma could be called heaven. l can think of no other place where you can find local, world-class examples of every possible wine style-and the artisanal food to go with them.      

The reason is the county’s incredible climate and geographical diversity. For example, near the seacoast, ocean breezes create the cool climate needed to grow amazing chardonnay whites along with pinot noir reds that are every bit as good as French Burgundy. Look for the subregions of either Sonoma Coast or the Russian River Valley on the label, and you’ll know you’re in the right place. Away from the coast, there are sun-soaked valleys with ripe and juicy chardonnays, sauvignon blancs and merlots  that are often labeled as Sonoma County and typically budget-friendly. The Dry Creek Valley and Alexander Valley subregions serve up wind-whipped hillside vineyards and pleateaus so rocky and rugged you’de thinl no vine would want call them home, yet, big zins and cabernets thrive there. For a sensory experience of wine and food, visit Kendall-Jackson’s estate in Santa Rosa. For a taste of history and excellent pinot noirs, visit Buena Vista, California’s oldest winery, in the town of Sonoma.


Asheville,North Carolina,United States

November 18, 2009

Asheville, North Carolina Festivals

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During any given week in Asheville, North Carolina there likely is a festival going on where you might see a top-notch film, enjoy gourmet food and fine wines, listen to music, or laugh at the jokes of a standup comedian.

Asheville’s tag line, Any Way You Like It, aptly describes the many events locals and visitors alike can take advantage of during the course of a year.

One of Asheville’s newest offerings is set at the spectacular Biltmore Estate. The inaugural Field to Table Festival was held Sept. 19-28, 2008, honoring Biltmore owner George Vanderbilt’s determination to make his estate self-sustaining. The event featured cheese making, canning, sorghum making, bluegrass music and demonstrations by the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project at River Bend Farm. Then, at the Biltmore Winery, cooking demonstrations, seminars, wine and cheese tasting and talks by noted Southern cookbook authors brought participants “to the table.”

The respected Asheville Film Festival celebrated its sixth anniversary Nov. 6-9, 2008, screening about 80 films at a variety of venues within walking distance of each other downtown. Character actor Brad Dourif, known as the voice of the doll Chucky in Child’s Play and for his role in the HBO series “Deadwood,” was honored with a career achievement award.

“The Asheville Film Festival is a way to highlight Asheville as a venue for films, but also to highlight some of the talent that exists here,” says Diane Ruggiero, superintendent of cultural arts in the city’s parks, recreation and cultural arts department.

Oter popular festivals include the Laugh Your Asheville Off Comedy Festival in July; the Goombay Festival, celebrating African and Caribbean culture, in August; the Great Smokies Craft Brewers Brewgrass Festival in September; and for the calendar-conscious, the Trinumeral Festival, a music and arts festival held on the date the day, month and year align.


Lisbon,Portugal

October 13, 2009

Lisbon for Art, Culture, and Dining

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Lisbon has been busy lately doing what it does best: embellish­ing its inimitable, gilded history with world-class venues for contemporary culture, art, and dining. Even as Baixa, the city’s cheerfully decrepit 18th-century downtown, applies for UNESCO World Heritage site status, a roster of starchitects among them Renzo Piano, Santiago Calatrava, and local talent Alvaro Siza-are vying to leave their marks on Lisbon’s parks and residential developments. While independent fashion designers and antiquarians still reign in Principe Real and Bairro Alto, interior designers have established themselves in adjacent Santos, followed by adventurous restaurateurs who are looking beyond Portugal’s borders for inspiration. And as the Continent’s capital cities seem to move ever closer to a state of homogeneity, Lisbon remains delightfully free of the signs of global bleed. (There’s exactly one Starbucks downtown, and it opened just months ago). The resulting balance of old­world charm and edgy avant-gardecreates a dynamic that’s full of surprises and definitely worth exploring.


British Isles,England

October 9, 2009

London in Autumn

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An electric energy buzzes through London in the fall. Starting with the lively fireworks on Bonfire Day until the sparkling display over the River Thames on New Year’s Eve, the action is nonstop, from blockbuster musicals to brand-new galleries, cozy jazz bars, and unique experiences that you can find only in London.

ART AND HISTORY LOVERS

London is a modern city where trends are set and the latest fashions are made; it’s a place where cutting-edge cool meets centuries ­old grace in the flash of a Tube ride. This diverse mix supplies endless events and new openings, such as the unveiling of the world­class Darwin Centre at the Natural History Museum last month, which is one of the only science-in-action experiences of its kind.

CULTURE CRAVERS

London’s dining scene has come a long way from fish and chips-today you’re as likely to put vinegar on your fries as you are to savor impeccably fresh sushi prepared by some of the world’s best chefs. Get your taste buds up to speed at the first-ever, city-wide London Restaurant Festival (Oct. 8-13). The six-day event will feature a diverse range of eateries, menus, and events.


San Sebastian,Spain

September 29, 2009

Tapas and Pintxos in San Sebastian

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Pintxos, the pleasure of tiny food

It emerged as a simple and tasty way of killing time before having lunch or dinner. This custom was called “ir de pintxos” (go for some tapas) and, as time went by, it evolved, became sophisticated, and reached our days as a distinguishing mark of gastronomy not only in San Sebastian, but in the whole Basque Country. At present, the pintxo is not only for misleading our stomachs, but it goes far beyond, as we can see in the many bars and taverns of the city. Eating standing up has never been such a pleasure. From Spanish omelet or the traditional “gilda” (a hot, spicy kebab­type snack named in honour of Rita Hayworth and made with chili pepper, anchovy and olive), nowadays we can enjoy more complex and succulent recipes, giving place to the so-called miniature cuisine that is essentially tasted in the bars of the Old Town, the City Centre, the Gros Quarter, and other areas in San Sebastian. The dish diversity is endless and impossible to summarise in few lines: in order to know the idiosyncrasy you must visit the bars, brimming with gastronomy delights and, above all, being carried away. A piece of advice: do not forget the number of tapas you have eaten; you will be asked.