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The Catlins, a coastal region in New Zealand’s South Island is a must-do for anyone who loves an off-the-beaten-track adventure. Part of the Southern Scenic Route, The Catlins area takes in rural heartland, podocarp forests, rugged coastlines, hidden lakes, stunning waterfalls and rare wildlife.
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Long time New Yorker and experienced food and wine writer Darren Paltrowitz picks his five favorite spots in Manhattan for food and wine. Get an insider’s guide on New York’s culinary scene.
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Travel writers pick their favorite food and wine festivals around the world where you can stomp grapes, visit chateaux, and watch celebrity chef demonstrations.
The post Travel Writers Share their Favorite Food & Wine Festivals Around the World appeared first on FWT Magazine: food wine travel.
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Early morning in Fairlie Basin, MacKenzie Country
It’s early morning in New Zealand’s Fairlie basin. Farmer Angie Taylor lies in bed. Drat, she thinks. It’s bucketing down outside – and has been for hours. There’s a herd of 800 dairy cows to feed, a mob of pregnant ewes to tend and a coach load of international tourists due for a three-course lunch in just a few hours – provided Highway 79 doesn’t wash out. Without taking her head off the pillow, Angie’s got a pretty good idea of how this sodden, winter’s day on Morelea Farm will play out.
She and husband Stan have farmed their 320-hectare property for more than 20 years. They’ve raised three children, Mitchell, Ben and Julia, here. Before that they were newlywed farmers in Cromwell. Before that, they were a couple of fourth (Angie) and third (Stan) generation farm kids growing up on the Canterbury plains – Stan in Ashburton with Angie just 50 kilometres down the road.
So today’s relentless, icy rain doesn’t bother the couple too much. Stan will say there’s no use getting upset about these things. You’ve just got to work around it. Angie reckons storms are all part of their story. Today it’s rain, with the likelihood of flooding. In a few months’ time the temperatures will reach 30 degrees and there’ll be drought. And, anyway, it’ll have nothing on the horrendous blizzards of 1992 and 2006 – or even last week’s storm, which dumped 300mm of snow on their doorstep and took out the power for four days straight.
Welcome to MacKenzie Country
Welcome to MacKenzie Country – a 7,300 square kilometre inland plain region 180 kilometres southwest of Christchurch that sits pretty much at the centre of New Zealand’s South Island. This is rugged, isolated country where scenery dominates, large country sheep stations have been the norm for more than a century and very few people live. There are not quite 4,000 people scattered among the region’s five main centres – Mt Cook (on the western-most edge at the base of the Southern Alps), Twizel, Omarama, Lake Tekapō and Fairlie.
Most MacKenzie people farm (sheep, beef and, more recently, dairy) or work in the hydro-electricity industry, which produces a large portion of the country’s energy supply. Increasingly, locals like Stan and Angie make at least some of their living from the region’s well-established tourism industry.
Arriving in Fairlie today, though, it’s hard to pick why more than 900,000 people visit the MacKenzie every year. A thick grey mist has muscled out all obvious clues. We’re told the skies of nearby Tekapō are a big attraction. Most days these skies are blue. Infinite. Joyous, even. At night, they are said to be so clear, so unpolluted they’ve become a protected International Dark Sky Reserve – the largest such reserve of only four in the world and ideal for stargazing.
You wouldn’t know it today. But the Taylor’s farm is usually a plum spot year-round for relaxing on the front lawn and taking in the skyline ridges of Mount Dobson, Two Thumb Range and Fox Peak. Angie knows our group will have to wait for today’s storm to pass to enjoy a moment like that. By then, we’ll be in Dunedin or Queenstown and another AAT Kings Southern Spectacular coach tour will be headed her way.
So the afternoon we arrive, Angie and Stan opt to change things up. Ushering us off the bus, shoes on, into their single-storey stucco home, the couple welcome us inside for a chat and a sit-down lunch by the fire. There’s homegrown beef steak, sausages and lamb chops on the go. There’s salad from the garden, minted peas and home baked bread. Angie’s pavlova topped with cream and kiwifruit will finish us off.
Before lunch is served, Angie explains she and Stan will tend 3,000 sheep this summer once the lambs are born. In January, the four-month-old lambs will be sold live to the meat works in Timaru. Until then, their flock will enjoy fresh farm air, water from mountain-fed streams, mum’s milk and green grass. It’s a similar story for the cattle, says Stan, although only a third will be killed for beef. The rest are dairy grazing stock and will return, well-fed and pregnant, to three nearby dairy farmers.
“For Kiwis, our story is quite typical I suppose. But for people from the big international cities of Asia and Europe, it’s something quite different,” says Stan. “People love it when I come in from the tractor, with a bit of my knee out of my trousers, string trailing from my back pocket. They can see this is a real working farm and we’re real-life farmers.”
Change arrives in MacKenzie Country
Perhaps what isn’t so obvious to tourists passing through Morelea is the fact that life is on the change in this part of the world just like it is everywhere.
Stan says, “Having the bottom fall out of the meat and wool industry in the 1990s had a major impact on us. You’ll see there’s a lot more corporate dairy farming in the MacKenzie these days and more pressure on farmers to convert to dairying. We won’t do it. But our son Mitchell who is taking over the farm may do so.”
The change has disrupted the social fabric of towns like Fairlie too, says Stan. There are more absentee farmers – business people who own or have shares in a dairy farm but don’t live locally, choosing instead to have a manager run the farm on their behalf. Yet, says Stan, there’s not much use worrying about it and there’s still a wonderful high country lifestyle to enjoy.
Most summers he and Angie take their jet boat out on Lake Ophua where the trout and salmon fishing is good. One summer was extra special with daughter Julia coming home to get married at Lake Tekapō. Later in the year, they’ll follow the Fairlie rugby team. Stan was president of the club for several years and now Mitchell has taken over. Often in winter, on a Sunday afternoon, Angie and Stan will rug up, grab a bottle of whisky and head to Tekapō for a couple of hours’ curling with friends – either at the new artificial ice complex or at their own homemade rink dug out at a secret spot about six years ago. The wives drive, so the men can play.
Stan says the competition starts out tough among the 25 teams who turn up each season. But, as each good stone is rewarded with a swig of Scotch, the game becomes more of a test of one’s constitution than one’s sporting ability. An old outdoor farm broom is the makeshift tournament trophy – and Stan’s pretty keen to win it this year.
Another draw card of the MacKenzie is its close-knit community, says Angie. Neighbours know one another well, socialise regularly and help each other out in tough times. And, while Angie regularly heads off to Timaru for the weekend farmer’s market or to Christchurch for some shopping, Stan leaves the farm only when he has to. In many ways, he says, it’s all right here at their fingertips. And, anyway, why not stay put and let the world come to you?
If You Go
AAT Kings six-day Southern Spectacular Tour starts in Christchurch, travels to Twizel, Dunedin, Te Anau and finishes in Queenstown. It takes in several historic sites, including a stop-off on Pioneer Drive at The Church of the Good Shepherd, a small stone church on the shores of Lake Tekapō. The church was the first of its kind to be built in the MacKenzie Basin in 1935. Today it serves as a South Canterbury memorial, commemorating the original European settlers of the area and their ability to brave the harsh alpine environment and establish high country sheep runs. The writer travelled to the MacKenzie care of AAT Kings.
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Jordan was never on my bucket list, but returning to Jordan is now on that list. Heck, before my trip there, I would not have been able to find Jordan on a globe. But after 10 days exploring this simply amazing country, I cannot only tell you where Jordan is, but also where its major cities and best tourist attractions are.
There’s really never been a better time to visit the country. Jordan tourism has decreased due to the conflicts in the region, which means there are fewer tourists so you can really enjoy and explore the sites. But tourism is rebounding as the government has worked hard to send a message that the country is safe and stable, and definitely open for business.
Here are Jordan’s Do-Not-Miss Experiences
It goes without saying that this UNESCO World Heritage site, dating back to 300 BC, is one of the world’s most iconic sites and one of the highlights of Jordan tourism. What’s most amazing is that Petra was hidden in Jordan for thousands of years until it was (re)discovered in 1812.
You’ll want to spend a full day exploring as your journey starts with a walk down the Siq, a narrow gorge, that leads to Petra. You’ll walk between towering pink sandstone cliffs, dotted with facades of ancient temples, tombs and residences. But you’ll lose your breath as you round the corner and come face to face with The Treasury, a massive 43-meter tall Greek-style temple carved into the sandstone. (Be sure to watch ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’ before your trip to fully appreciate this iconic site.)
But this is only the beginning of Petra. There are many many more marvels of this ancient city to explore. I highly recommend hiring a guide as there’s so much history and many hidden features you’ll miss if you visit on your own. If you’re not too weary from a day of exploring, go back to Petra at night – it will be one of your most memorable night time excursions as you walk the pitch black Siq to experience a special ceremony at The Treasury, lit up by luminaries.
Where to stay: The Petra Marriott Hotel is the perfect base for your visit. After a long day of walking, treat yourself to a Hammam in the hotel’s spa before you relax in your well-appointed room.
2. Bedouin Experience at Feynan Ecolodge
As we exited our tour bus and boarded a few older model and well-traveled Toyota pickup trucks, I wasn’t sure what we were in for. We bumped and tumbled across the desert passing a few Bedouin camps as our keffiyeh-scarfed driver navigated the rough and dusty path.
We arrived at Feynan Ecolodge, built in 2005 and the first of its kind for Jordan tourism. Clearly, there are no power lines so the lodge is completely solar-powered with open-air rooms that provide natural ventilation with fresh spring water pumped in.
At night, the entire complex is lit by candlelight. The expansive terrace doubles as the dining room where vegetarian meals are served looking out over the rugged desert terrain. The 26 guest rooms are minimalist, designed to represent those of a caravanserai, a roadside inn where travelers, in this case Bedouins, would stop for the night along their journey. As if experiencing the tranquility of the desert far away from daily life was not enough, guests can spend their days hiking the nearby desert trails followed by a sunset stroll into the mountains to enjoy a pot of tea with sage, brewed over an open flame.
The lodge’s guide will also invite you to experience the Bedouin life with a visit to a nearby family where you can join them in a cup of Jordanian coffee with cardamom and learn to make kohl (Bedouin eyeliner). The darkness of night brings on the most magical stargazing experience of your life as you lie on the rooftop of Feynan Ecolodge and enjoy a curated talk about the constellations.
3. Dead Sea
We drove by the Dead Sea on one of our first cross country drives and my first impression was the serenity and peacefulness of the long, narrow waterway. But I was also surprised to find a number of luxury resorts dotting the coastline.
No trip to this region would be complete without experiencing the magical feeling of complete buoyancy in the Dead Sea. Just don your swimsuit, walk into the thick salty water, lift your legs, and you’ll instantly float. It’s a strange feeling but definitely worth the experience. After floating, it’s time for a little au naturale spa treatment. Find one of the urns filled with Dead Sea mud and slather it all over your body. It will harden in the bright sun, rinse it off in the outdoor shower and you’ll be surprised how soft your skin is.
Where to stay: The Dead Sea Marriott Resort & Spa is a luxury resort with breathtaking views. From the resort’s multi-leveled pool deck to the spacious, well-appointed guest rooms to multiple dining options, this is where you’ll want to experience the Dead Sea.
In my opinion, one of the country’s, if not the world’s, most underrated sites is Jerash. An ancient city that was another modern day discovery just 70 years ago, Jerash was a walled Greek-Roman city from the Bronze Age. The site is now generally acknowledged to be one of the best-preserved Roman provincial towns in the world. From the city center’s grand columns to hilltop temples to outdoor theatres, it’s worth a full day of exploration.
5. Wadi Rum Desert
When I heard we were riding 4x4s in the desert, I thought to myself, “I’m more of a luxury resort spa girl. Do I have to?” Well, I’m here to tell you it was one of the most awesome experiences. We climbed into the bed of pickup trucks and set out across the desert landscape that felt a bit otherworldly. We raced other 4x4s, stopped often for photos and just marveled at this vast and magical destination.
Our afternoon of dusty trevails ended with a beautiful sunset, surrounded by luminaries, against the backdrop of desert landscape. We headed back to our Bedouin campsite but the next day held promise for an even more exhilarating desert experience.
In the darkness of the (very) early morning, we boarded, not 4x4s, but camels to head out over the eerily still Wadi Rum desert to catch the morning sunrise led by our Bedouin guides. Sunrise and sunset in the desert is one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
Where to stay: There are over 100 camp sites in the desert. We stayed at Rahayeb Desert Camp, a remote yet authentic Bedouin-style retreat.
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As the 2nd largest city in Greece, it is vibrant, historic, diverse, chaotic and beautiful – often simultaneously. The deep-seated cultural and historical treasures and traditions are evidenced in the monuments, architechture, cuisine. The ancient remains feature Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman lineage along with more modern facades. Following the devastating Great Fire of 1917, reconstruction of the city center now offers 20th-century look and feel offering yet another layer of contrast and interest. As such, you’re sure to be entertained, enlightened, surprised and delighted along the way. From start to finish, plan for approximately 5-hours for this scenic walking tour of Thessaloniki, including lunch and a leisurely coffee in the tradition of the Greek.
While highly recommended, it is best to plan a separate day for visits to the Byzantine Museum, Archaeological Museum and Jewish Museum properly explore and immerse yourself in the wealth of information and historic magnitude.
IF YOU GO:
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Evening at the International Prosciutto Fair in Tinjan, Croatia is buzzing with energy and celebration. Wine glasses clink as thinly sliced parchments of meat are lovingly teased from immense and fatty legs of perfectly marbled pork. The fragrance of roasted chestnuts wafts through the air as they roast over an open flame. Even the ambiance feels delicious.
Anthony Bourdain has touted Croatia as the ultimate foodie destination back when he visited and filmed No Reservations in 2012. “If you like food, and you haven’t come here to eat, you’re missing the [sic] boat”, he said and the world is beginning to take notice. Tourism has increased by over 5 million visits per year since 2012.
Croatia is an emerging food destination that will soon be on your radar. The passion for food in the country is evidenced by the Prosciutto fair and countless other food festivals that pepper the year in the Northernmost Istria region of Croatia alone. Some of the festivals include a truffle festival, asparagus festival, sole fish festival, and countless others. If you are visiting Croatia for the food, the Istria region should be on the top of the list as it is famous for its truffles, wine, olive oil, prosciutto, fresh seafood and more.
During my trip to Istria, we visited the Gastronomija Ville Meneghetti located inside the Meneghetti Wine Hotel. The restaurant serves high brow interpretations of local Istrian ingredients and features a highly aromatic wine and olive oil tasting. The restaurant serves their own award-winning olive oil, pressed from olives harvested from trees grown on the estate. In Croatia, one of our hosts said: “we put olive oil on everything”. A highlight of the meal was the perfectly grilled, delicate turbot fillet dressed with a shot of piquant Mediterranean sauce and dressed with elegant olive oil pearls. The presentation was understated yet upscale and truly gave us a sense of Istrian cuisine.
For lunch the next day we were treated to a four-hour presentation at the famed Croatian slow food restaurant, Toklarija. Overseen by chef/owner Nevio Sirotić, Toklarija is a restaurant built into a converted olive mill. Sirotić possesses a meticulous attention to detail and he had turned down all other reservations for the day to focus on serving our meal. The meal started with a delicate and flaky bread sandwiching a locally raised ham and cheese paired with his own homemade pickles. It ended with a sublimely light and airy chocolate cake and the meal reminded us of the importance of taking the time to indulge in a delicious meal, something we often forget in the US.
The next day takes an hour south to the city of Opatija, in the Kvarner region, also known as the Monte Carlo of Croatia. Opatija is renowned for its Kvarner Scampi, distinguished as the star of all Adriatic seafood. Kvarner scampi is most often caught with longline fishing traps, This method of fishing prevents bruising and is much more highly selective than fishing with nets. Scampi starts off our first meal in Opatija, at the Villa Ariston. It’s a briny, buttery bite paired with a sun-dried tomato and pomegranate seeds. It’s a perfect bite of Opatija. The star of the lunch is the scallop course, perfectly grilled and served atop crispy, creamy spinach fritters. The accompanying sauce of celery and black truffle cream perfectly highlights the dish.
That night we settled in for the night at Design Hotel Navis. This brand new five-star hotel features stunning sea view and balconies in every room. The hotel features a generous buffet for all guests, featuring two entire self-serve prosciutto leg, one deeply crimson and one generously marbled with a thick layer of fat. Local foods were also featured with a trio of sardines harvested from the local island of Kali and a selection of pate and pickled peppers and vegetables.
Finally, we make it to the last stop on the trip, Sibenik, which has gained some recent notoriety as it was the filming location for three episodes of the Game of Thrones. Konoba Pelegrini in Sibenik was anticipated to be one of the highlights of the trip as it has won the title of the best restaurant in Croatia for three straight years and has been called “A place and experience that foodie dreams are made of” by GQ Magazine. It’s located right next to the St James Cathedral, a UNESCO heritage site. This tavern/diner is the unofficial symbol of Sibenik and is devoted to the preservation of the Dalmatian style cuisine.
Head cook Rudolf Stefan prides himself on innovation while showcasing his passion for the Mediterranean region. We later wondered why Konoba Pelegrini hadn’t yet earned a Michelin star. The restaurant is celebrated for its 10-course tasting menu. The procession of locally sourced, yet elevated dishes included a light and airy bite of local fish ceviche – flavored by dashi, veal under the bell, a cuttlefish and black gnocchi. The “Veal under the Bell” course is inspired by the traditional Croatian dish of peca. It’s served under a heavy stone bell which is lifted with a dramatic flourish as smoky meat-scented air wafts into your face and blends deliciously into the room. The sourdough bread served is made from the restaurant’s own mother yeast. All dishes are served by a synchronized waiter train, which orchestrates the placement of each dish in front of each guest simultaneously. Especially memorable was the veal roll ćevapčić, served as a carpaccio and dotted with a bracing mustard sauce and nestled into a bed of crispy panko crumbs.
The KRKA National Park
The last stop of the trip was at the KRKA National Park, a 142 sq km UNESCO World Heritage site, so secluded that it is home to two monasteries. A three-hour hike through crackling leaves while enjoying the crystalline waterfalls leaves us ravenous quite hungry and treated to one of my favorite meals of the trip. It’s at the Stari Mlin i Kalikusa, and outdoor restaurant located inside the park and the meal itself is incredibly simple. We enjoyed a crispy, grilled local monk fish seasoned with only local herbs and olive oil, paired with homestyle potatoes and kale. The accompanying salad was dressed simply with just olive oil and vinegar. We savored the meal outdoors in the fresh air as we reminisced about the trip and were joined by a friendly orange tabby cat, who sat politely nearby until we donated our generous leftovers for his enjoyment.
In the end, the best meals are not only about the food but about the company and the environment in which they are enjoyed.
If You Go
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Nestled just three hours from Los Angeles is San Luis Obispo. Known as “SLO” to the cool kids, San Luis Obispo is not just a college town (although don’t miss visiting the local campuses. Cal-Poly and Cuesta College are beautiful), but a town with a fun main drag. Along with a fantastic array of restaurants, bars and shops, SLO also has incredible wineries, hiking, museums and is home to one of the 21 California missions. Not to mention, it’s just 15 minutes from the beach!
A Fantastic Getaway to San Luis Obispo
With surfer pit stops (Pismo Beach, Cayucos) and quaint small towns like Cambria at your fingertips, San Luis Obispo has become much more loved for its diversity, foodie scene and crisp climate that is ideal for wine making. Those who live in SLO or have gone to school there know, though–it’s always been a “best kept secret”!
The Embassy Suites of San Luis Obispo recently underwent a major makeover, and they cannot wait to show it off to you. Just a six-minute drive from Downtown, the Embassy Suites offer a gorgeous and ample bar and restaurant in an atrium setting that overlooks the lobby. Open, airy and very welcoming, I felt as if I were at home with my kitchenette, living room, desk and comfy King sized bed with my TV favorites on. Some suites offer a fun patio view overlooking the hustle and bustle on the first floor.
One of the reasons I love staying at Embassy Suites is their evening reception featuring an open bar and snacks to enjoy while you get some work done or people watch. And they offer a terrific breakfast starting at 6am daily with made-to-order pancakes, omelettes, and a yogurt and cereal bar. It also makes for the ideal spot to grab a cup of coffee and snack for the road. These complimentary AM and PM perks with Embassy Suites is enough reason for me to choose them.
If you’re looking to start your day in Downtown SLO and do like the locals do, look no further than Mint+Craft. My mouth-watering Obispo Toastie (Applewood bacon, tomato, crushed avocado, micro greens and an over-medium egg on gluten-free rye bread) was paired with an artistically crafted Matcha green tea latte. This was such a fantastic start to my first morning in town. So much so, that it made it hard to go back to a chain store coffee and snack stop post-trip. Reasonable prices and both gluten-free and vegetarian options make Mint+Craft a charming nook to begin your day; even as your coffee stop. Grab lunch or dinner, too! Breakfast is served until 2pm, and the rest of the menu 11am to close.
Just a few steps from Mint+Craft is the San Luis Obsipo Mission, as well as the History Center of San Luis Obispo, the SLO Museum of Art and an array of stores that offer such a variety, everyone will want to shop til they drop.
If enjoying the great outdoors is what you have in mind, there’s plenty of hiking trails all around. Bluff Trail, Poly Canton Loop and Valencia Peak Trail are just few of the trails, parks and hikes surrounding you. If you like unusual, rather, gross history, make sure not to miss San Luis Obispo’s infamous Bubblegum Alley….its name pretty much sums it up.
FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD
While SLO is a fantastic weekend getaway option, you might to try to make it on a Thursday. Each week (as weather permits), the Downtown Farmer’s Market fills the entire block of Higuera Street with all of the locals’ favorite fare from 6pm to 9pm while the stores also stay open. Bars, too! While it was overwhelming to decide on just one vendor to try.
Several eateries offer patio dining so you can enjoy the ambiance and strollers, including Big Sky Cafe. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Big Sky is one of the several farm-to-table restaurants in the area. The dishes were so fresh and elaborate. My pesto chicken sausage scramble (breakfast until 1pm) was one of the highlights of my two-day trip. I loved watching everyone’s afternoon go by from my patio table, too. Big Sky’s staff was also top-notch. My server, Riley, was so personable and helpful in my deciding on the perfect brunch dish.
Big Sky doesn’t fool around with their coffee, either. Getting their beans around the corner at local favorite, Coastal Peaks. My organic iced latte fueled me aplenty for my ride back to LA.
IF YOU GO
The San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Center is an excellent resource. An abundance of information awaits you and they will be happy to assist you with all of your itinerary needs. Rest your head and enjoy the hospitality over at the Embassy Suites. Sight see and learn about the city with the San Luis Obispo Mission, Museum of Art and the History Center. Then, take your appetite to Mint+Craft and Big Sky Cafe.
And, don’t forget to pack some chewing gum to leave your mark!
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