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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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Riding the Rideau: A bucolic By-way between capitals

22 Nov

Thousand Islands

Thousand Islands

 

The 8.5-mile-long bridge system skips across four of the Thousand Islands that choke the headwaters of the St. Lawrence River. New York now lies behind and the beautiful Thousand Islands Parkway leads west along the northern shore of the river to Gananoque, where I pick up Route 2 for the last few miles into Kingston, Ontario.

Strategically placed where Lake Ontario empties into the St. Lawrence River, this small city was Canada’s original capital from 1841 to 1844 and has a history that goes back to the first fort constructed at this site in 1673. Like most places, Kingston has had its ups and downs, but right now it’s definitely up.

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A Martello tower in Kingston

The massive walls of Fort Henry dominate the heights above the harbor and four Martello towers protect the entrance to the once strategic Rideau Canal. Constructed between 1832 and 1836, the canal was a military undertaking to connect Lake Ontario to the Ottawa River. During the decades following the War of 1812, the British were concerned that the United States might once again invade Canada to capture the vital St. Lawrence River and cut off supplies to the British naval fleet in the Great Lakes. The canal never was used for military purposes, but until the railroads arrived in the 1850’s it was of vital commercial importance. This is the oldest continuously operated and original canal in North America and was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007. I’ve come to ride the land-based roads that follow this historic canal from the old Canadian capital to the new.

My first destination is the Kingston Brewing Co. where I can get a Whitetail Cream or Dragon’s Breath Ale, a Regal or Dunkelnacht Larger, a Guinnes or McAuslans Stout, or any number of bocks, bitters, and brews that I’m not familiar with. They also stock over a 100 different single-malt whiskies. The food is as stupendous as the bar. I settle for some fresh-cut chips, Ghetto Style Dragon Wings, and a Buffalo Burger. The buffalo is raised on a local farm, chicken and pork ribs are smoked in-house, and I haven’t a clue as to where they get the dragon wings. There are other great restaurants in town, but I’m a creature of habit and keep returning to this one.

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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.

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