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No bones about it: Moto-Foodie Heads South to Cayo Hueso.

23 Nov

Sunset Key

Sunset Key

 

 

 

One does not have to board a plane or boat to experience the Caribbean Islands. Jump on a motorcycle and there’s another 127 miles of highway south of Miami before one runs out of pavement on Cayo Hueso, the Island of Bones.

The Overseas Highway, U.S. Route 1, connects “The Keys” like beads strung on thread that are spaced by 43 bridges. There’s no other stretch of pavement like it, but sometimes the 100-mile conga-line of traffic diminishes what otherwise would be one of the great motorcycle roads in America—and I wouldn’t want to ride it when there are high winds.

The southern end of U.S. Rt. 1

The southern end of U.S. Rt. 1

U.S Rt. 1 ends at mile 0. While this is not the westernmost island, it’s as far as the highway goes. The word “key” is actually the Spanish word “cayo” for a low-lying island. Ponce de Leon, of fountain-of-youth fame, discovered Cayo Hueso in 1513 and the imaginative Spaniard named it for the proliferation of human bones discovered here: the Spanish name is pronounced Kéy Wes.

There’s no fountain of magic water on the island—in fact, water is piped in from Florida City 120 miles away—but there’s still plenty to drink. Moto-foodie’s excuse for visiting was to research Key lime pie and margaritas with a bit of the local culinary scene thrown in to balance sugar and alcohol intake.

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Moto-Foodie Meets Taste Trekkers

22 Sep

     Some will ride a hundred miles out of their way for a good meal.  At five in the morning with fog drifting across the big slab interstate highway I was dimly questioning whether or not  I should be one of them.  Taste Trekkers, the first conference for food tourism to be held in the United States, was taking place in Providence, Rhode Island and I was attempting to make it to the Providence Biltmore in time for the opening keynote address. 

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       Food tourism is finally being recognized for its economic importance and—like motorcycle tourism—is one of the fastest growing niche markets in a global industry.  For me the two go together since one has to travel to get to a foodie destination and when traveling one must stop to eat.  Food tourism is simply the flip side of motorcycle touring, but somehow very few people have recognized this symbiotic relationship.   

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     The opening address was by noted chef Matt Jennings, who has devoted himself to developing sustainable food networks.  His talk focused on community and paraphrased my old expression of voting with your wallet to that of voting with your fork.  Motorcyclists understand community and degrees of separation so it’s pointless to reiterate this new-found foodie wisdom.  It was after his presentation that the conference got down to “meat and potatoes” in a series of morning seminars.

     Taste the Terroir of American Honey was the first of my seminars.  It’s obvious when thought about: bees make honey from the nectar of different plants blooming at different times in different regions.  The honey produced during a Vermont spring is going to differ from that made during July or in Mississippi.  Since bees rarely venture more than three miles from a hive their honey is completely dependent upon terroir.  It’s also a food eaten completely raw and that doesn’t spoil, so understanding more about it seemed like a logical choice.

     Seminar tickets were issued and participants then had to trade them if they wanted to attend specific presentations.  Two of my three were traded, but the one I was reluctantly left with turned out to be equally interesting.  Tom Tew, a rum named after a famous Rhode Island pirate, is based on historically researched 18th century recipes and distilling processes.  Yo ho ho: from a foodie perspective, this rum ticked all the boxes.    The third was about an ice cider being produced in Vermont—and a bit more that included the Vermont Fresh Network and Black River Produce.  Since honey tasting, rum sampling, and pairing ice cider with food was very much a part of my morning activity, moving to the tasting pavilion was icing on the cake.

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     Imagine a ballroom filled with tables where New England chefs and food producers put out the best they had to offer.  Salads, cheeses, sushi, wines, beers, hard liquor, guacamole, charcuterie, and deserts made the tasting pavilion a real smorgasbord.  Certainly fun and filling, but also providing bit of education and certain presentations will impact my travel and tour-development plans for 2014.

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     Wrapping up with a panel discussion about food tourism in which more questions than answers were raised, left me feeling that Moto-Foodie had a unique approach that is worthy of further development.   However, in the end, I once again found myself back on the highway with two wheels heading north as the sun was setting and contemplating how this adventure would fit into my next.

Moto-Foodie in Milwaukee

17 Sep

 

I could dimly see through the blacked-out windows of the van as our driver rolled slowly down the narrow alley past a line of overflowing trash bins.  I could smell the river when we stopped at a non-descript doorway. This late in the evening the dim glow of the lamp mounted on the yellow brick wall barely illuminated the small bronze plaque that read, International Exports, Ltd. / 779 Front St. / Estab. 1968. Clad in a London Fog trench coat, our driver merely indicated the heavy door and we quickly stepped through into a small room. Two women barred our way and demanded the password. We had arrived at the Safe House.

This wasn’t London, nor was it a James Bond film, but it might as well have been. This was my first night in Milwaukee and while I could find people who admitted knowing about this long-established watering hole, not a soul would tell me more or divulge the password. Even our driver claimed that he wasn’t privy to it.

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However, it’s no secret that Milwaukee is a motorcycle-friendly town or that was once known as the “beer capital of the world.”  Most of us are on a first-name basis with Miller, Schlitz, Pabst, and Blatz, but the renaissance of craft beer and the amazing foodie scene in Wisconsin’s largest city were excuse enough to linger a couple of extra days before heading home. Continue reading

Best Western, Mid-Western Ride

10 Sep

On a dreary spring morning I received an email invitation to join a promotional tour that promised free food and three days of riding with other moto-journalists—so, without reluctance, my gear was packed and I flew to Kansas.  Two things motivated my decision to fly-and-ride: I needed a get-outta-town-free card and wanted to see what Best Western and Harley-Davidson were up to.

For decades there have been numerous small businesses that have welcomed motorcyclists, but seven years ago, Best Western Hotels and Harley-Davidson created the first corporate partnership that specifically promoted motorcycle tourism. Extremely successful with over 110,000 Harley owners in the Rider Rewards program it came as no surprise that they wanted to announce that this partnership has been extended for another three years.  However, Best Western had something else on their agenda.

Picking up my bike at Worth’s Harley-Davidson in Kansas City I followed what would become the group’s chase van to the KC Speedway Inn. Outside it looked like a nice Best Western property but inside it definitely was a boutique hotel.  The fact that the open, elegant bar was being thoroughly enjoyed by a group of riders merely added to the ambiance.  Aparently, not all Best Western hotels are created equal.

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Taking In The CROP

16 Aug

The gleaming copper glimpsed through the glass of a two-story atrium is the first thing that catches the eye.  Located on the Mountain Road in Stowe, this property was once known as The Shed Restaurant, the place where après ski was conceived, and long a favorite of mine for Sunday brunch.  One of Vermont’s original brewpubs, it was forced to close it’s doors in October 2011 when its lease expired.  This would be a tough act to follow.

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Motor Bar & Restaurant: A Harley-Davidson Moto-Foodie Experience

31 Jul

The bar is graced by a replica board track racer.

The bar is graced by a replica board track racer.

Three days of riding and dining got us here.  We arrived on different flights, picked up our Harleys and met at the Kansas City Speedway Best Western Premier hotel.  Three days of riding and scrumptious dining as we crossed Missouri and rode north through Illinois.  However, all things must come to an end and, in the parking lot behind the Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Museum, the Motor Company reclaimed the bikes.  However, before we went our separate ways there was still one more dining experience to savor: the Motor Bar & Restaurant. Continue reading

Absinthe Cafe

29 Jul

Marble sculptures of fire hydrants topped with vegetables decorate corners along Wellington St. West in a neighborhood called Wellington Village. It’s an area in transition from a staid to hip, offers interesting private boutiques, a few specialty bars, nouveau-hippie stores, and reputedly great restaurants. One of these is the Absinthe Café.

The restaurant has a very unpretentious storefront with large windows facing the street, and the neat, but understated, décor is infused with great vibes. As a member of Savour Ottawa, the owners are committed to locally sourced ingredients and their community involvement includes donating a dollar to Cornerstone Housing for Women for each Benevolent Burger
sold.
Absinthe-exterior-72 Continue reading

Cafe At The Plaza

26 Jul

It’s not a place you’re likely to stumble across when wandering around Milwaukee during Harley-Davidson’s 110th Anniversary Celebration. Located in a vintage luxury hotel just off East State Street and very close to Veterans’ Park where many of the official H-D venues are taking place, the Café At The Plaza is one of those secret places the locals are reluctant to share.

Art-Deco elegance and friendly diner atmosphere.

Art-Deco elegance and friendly diner atmosphere.

Open kitchen means there is nothing to hide.

Open kitchen means there is nothing to hide.

Don’t expect to find a big sign outside this small restaurant, instead, enter the lobby of the Plaza Hotel, turn right, up three steps and proceed down the hall. The original 1920’s Art Deco details, gorgeous 1950’s styled curved lunch counter, and recently renovated open kitchen blend together in harmonious synergy to create a gentle elegance without pretention. The outside garden patio was another tempting setting, but I chose to sit at the counter where I would have the opportunity to chat with chef Christopher Stoye Continue reading

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Cooking On The Road: Tin Pan Galley

16 Jan

Camping is big business and outfitters offer a tremendous array of cookware, stoves, and accessories.  In fact, there are so many options that making a decision is often paralyzing to the novice.  Unless you are hauling your bikes in/on a trailer and have room for a gas barbecue and a massive ice chest, choices are limited mostly by size and to a lesser degree, weight. Continue reading

Gallery

On The Rocks: A Night At The Ice Hotel

1 Jan

With wind blowing out of the northwest and the temperature at minus-19 degrees Celsius the Quebec forest feels like a setting for one of Jack London’s stories. However, once through the massive iron-strapped oak doors, the relative warmth of the interior, even with breath rising hard and white in the still air, is surprising.  Ahead stretches a reception hall of a style that can only be described as Tolkienesque: walls the color of the finest Carrara marble are carved in bas-relief beneath a Gothic arched ceiling supported by crystal-clear pillars of ice.  In the center of the hall a massive ice chandelier infused with ever-changing spectral hues glows in dim splendor. Boots leave a trail of waffled imprints across a floor raked with Zen precision and one expects to encounter an ice queen or perhaps the White Witch of Narnia at any moment.

This is the Waldorf-Astoria of igloos, the world-famous Hôtel de Glace (Ice Hotel) near Quebec City.  Detailed descriptions are useless: the hotel is built to a new design and the sculptural theme differs each year. Embedded LED lighting transforms 500 tons of carved ice and 15,000 tons of sculpted snow into surrealistic visions.  Animal skins cover chairs and benches carved from special ice that’s made in Montreal and trucked north. Foam mattresses grace crystalline beds.  One suite has a fireplace and a hot tub; one of the monastic rooms has a floor to ceiling pierced wall of ice as the footboard to the bed.  Other bedrooms feature elaborately carved walls with fantasy designs, dragons, hockey players, and artifacts or photographs embedded in blocks of ice. Continue reading

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