BOB'S cruises & tours's Blog

Seize the End of Summer with Recipes Inspired by Favorite American Hot Weather Travel Destinations
The kids are back to school (whatever that looks like this year for your nearest and dearest), but on the calendar, summer isn’t quite over – yet. The Autumn Equinox – the first day of Fall – arrives this year on Tuesday September 22, so we still have a couple more weekends of ‘summer’.

You may not have done all the traveling you wanted this summer, but you can catch up now in spirit. Serve up an celebration of summer travel with a party in your backyard full of summer flavors from beloved American hot weather destinations.


1. Pensacola, Florida: Grits à Ya Ya

Along Florida’s Northwest Coast, Pensacola is home to The Fish House, the restaurant behind the unique and delicious Grits à Ya Ya, created by Chef Jim Shirley. A combination of grits, a southern staple, heavy cream and lots of smoked gouda cheese, this is comfort food like no other. This delicious dish is sure to be a hit with your guests!
 “In 1998 I developed this Fish House favorite during the Mardi Gras season. Mardi Gras, properly celebrated, can sometimes last for days. Recognizing the toll this marathon celebration had on my friends, I created this fare that not only provided sustenance but tasted great, too. Since then we've whomped up hundreds of thousands of dishes of my favorite child. Enjoy it at home with this recipe.”
Serves 4
INGREDIENTS
The smoked Gouda Grits
1 quart chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
1 lb Dixie Lily grits
1/4 pound butter
1 lb shredded smoked Gouda cheese
The Ya Ya
8 strips applewood-smoked bacon, diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced shallots
3 tablespoons butter
White wine
1 lb peeled and deveined jumbo shrimp
1 portobello mushroom cap, sliced
1/4 cup diced scallions
2 cups chopped fresh spinach
2 cups heavy cream
3 cups smoked Gouda cheese grits
 
PREPARATION
*For dietary restrictions or preferences, you can make this recipe shellfish-free if you replace the shrimp with 1½ lbs of an assortment of your favorite mushrooms, chopped.

First, make your grits. Run the chicken stock into a thick-bottomed saucepan and turn on high till it boils. Mix in the grits and stir like crazy. Reduce to a simmer and allow to cook for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add cream if you need more liquid. Then tumble in the butter, add creamed corn, drizzle in the rest of the cream and stir till it’s all in the family. Then shake in the shredded cheese and stir very well till it’s all nice and smooth.
 
While your grits cook, bring a large saucepan to medium heat. Add bacon and cook for about 3 minutes, then add garlic and shallots. Saute and then add butter and a splash of white wine. When butter is half melted, add the shrimp. When the downsides of the shrimp become white, flip them and add mushrooms, scallions and spinach. Saute for 2 minutes. Remove the shrimp. Pour in heavy cream and let simmer while stirring. When reduced by 1/3, add salt, pepper and hot sauce. Return shrimp to sauce and combine. Spoon the sauce and shrimp onto heaping mounds of cheese grits.

 

2. San Antonio, Texas: Seafood and Quail Paella

This 300-year old city that originated as a Spanish mission and colonial outpost is now the second-largest city in Texas and the Southern US. 

It’s one of only two American cities designated a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy and it’s easy to see why. If you're in the mood for some ‘Tex-Next’ dining, this seafood and quail paella - a twist on the traditional Spanish dish in an ode to the city’s heritage - created by Chef Steve McHugh of Cured should hit the spot. 

“Experience the taste of Spain, with a San Antonio flavor in your own kitchen. This paella is meant to be enjoyed with family, friends and good wine.”

Serves 20
 
INGREDIENTS
 
1 ¼ cups extra virgin olive oil
Healthy pinch of saffron
Healthy pinch of red pepper flakes
Healthy pinch of paprika
2 lbs quail legs
2 lbs smoked Spanish chorizo
4 tablespoons shaved garlic
1 diced & roasted red pepper
1 sliced jalapeño
2 cups Sofrito
3 cups escargot
4 cups mussels
3 cups large shrimp
8 cups Bomba rice
4 quarts chicken stock
Salt
Pepper
Large cooked white beans
Pickled serrano peppers
½ cup preserved lemon rind, sliced thin
½ cup peas
Pea sprouts
 
PREPARATION
 
*Although paella traditionally includes and is most delicious with seafood, for dietary restrictions or preferences, you may wish to switch out the shellfish with cubed chicken and chunks of your favorite barbecuing sausage.

Heat your oil in the Paella pan. Sauté the chorizo and the quail. Turn the heat down to medium, add the saffron, red pepper flakes, garlic, red pepper, Sofrito and jalapeño. Sweat the vegetables until they are translucent in color. Add in Bomba rice, mix well. Add mussels, and shrimp. Arrange the ingredients in a nice pattern across your entire paella. Add in chicken stock, and allow to simmer until the rice is cooked, and most liquid is gone. Continue cooking until the bottom of the paella forms a Socarrat, or crust (this is the key to a delicious paella!).
 
FINISH & SERVE
Garnish the top with preserved lemon, pickled serrano peppers, white beans, peas and pea shoots. Serve hot to your loved ones.
 
Share your finished product using #TexNext and tag @visitsanantonio!

 

3. Hawaii: The Mai Tai

Often mistaken as Hawaiian, tiki is actually imaginary, made of a collection of romanticized concepts of Polynesian and South Seas culture, including humanoid teak carvings, coconut shell bikini tops, grass skirts, pineapples… and powerful cocktails featuring pineapple, coconut, rum, and other tropical flavors. Tiki and tiki bars have become shorthand for ‘Pacific Island getaway’ and they abound in Hawaii.

A staple in any tiki bar, the Mai Tai is the perfect Summer drink - or your drink of choice during a visit to America’s Pacific island state. You’ll be carried to Hawaii’s clear blue waters after your first sip of this fruity concoction.

Serves 1
 
INGREDIENTS:
1 oz spiced rum
1 oz coconut rum
1 tsp grenadine syrup
2 oz pineapple juice
2 oz orange juice

PREPARATION
Combine the rums, grenadine, and juices in a cocktail mixer with ice. Shake and strain into a glass of ice. *Party Tip: make these up a pitcher at a time with a bucket of ice and garnish handy.
 
SERVE
Garnish with wedges of fresh pineapple on a skewer topped with a cherry.
 
With these 3 recipes delivering up the taste of travel for a late-summer get together, dress in your most festive summer wear, soak up the last of the season’s sun, and enjoy, dreaming of your next summer weather vacation.
 

#TravelAgainSoon

 
Recipes and images courtesy of
·     Visit Florida
·     Travel Texas
·     And the respective restaurants/chefs referenced.


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These 'Hotels' are Full of 'Guests' Throughout Pandemic - Part of Fairmont's 'Bee Sustainable' Program
The global pandemic closed the doors of nearly every hotel in the world. But thousands of very special ‘guests’ at some Fairmont hotels stayed.
Some have even been ‘residents’ for years.

'HOME SWEET HIVE'

In 2008, the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto and Fairmont Waterfront in Vancouver installed honey beehives. These two urban hotels may not seem likely places for apiaries. But the thriving hives made headlines, raising awareness of the importance of bees to our world, as well as producing honey for (human) guests, and highlighting local products and food.
Fast forward over ten years, and other Fairmont properties have joined the ‘Bee Sustainable’ initiative, from the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle and Fairmont San Francisco, to Fairmont Yangcheng Lake in China and Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club in Africa. Onsite local honey produced replaces purchased honey in the hotels’ bars and restaurants. Six rooftop honey beehives at the Royal York alone – home to 350,000 bees - are producing 450 pounds of honey every year.
Every hotel’s honey is one-of-a-kind, tasting of the nectars of dozens of indigenous flowers from humble dandelions to cherry blossoms. And the bees do double duty, foraging up to 12 square miles, pollinating area gardens and parks as they visit over 1 million flowers for every pound of honey they produce. 

WILD BEE 'HOTELS'

Not all bees produce honey. But all bees are essential pollinators.
So Fairmont broadened its groundbreaking Bee Sustainable program in 2014, building and installing wild bee ‘hotels’. These wooden structures feature sticks drilled with holes to attract wild bees in the area in need of a safe haven.
Now, millions of bees call Fairmont hotels ‘home’. Nearly two dozen honey bee hives, and a similar number of wild pollinator bee hotels grace the grounds and rooftops and terraces of Fairmont hotels around the world:

CANADA

  • Fairmont Royal York - Toronto
  • Fairmont Waterfront -Vancouver
  • Fairmont Chateau Whistler
  • Fairmont Empress - Victoria
  • Fairmont Vancouver Airport
  • Fairmont Le Château Frontenac - Québec City
  • Fairmont Palliser - Calgary
  • Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth - Montréal
 

USA

  • Fairmont San Francisco - San Francisco
  • Fairmont Washington D.C.
  • Fairmont Copley Plaza- Boston
  • Fairmont San Jose
  • Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa - Sonoma, USA
  • Fairmont Dallas
  • Fairmont Olympic Hotel – Seattle
  • Fairmont Orchid - Hawaii
 

INTERNATIONAL

  • Fairmont Southampton, Bermuda
  • Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club - Mount Kenya, Kenya
  • Fairmont Mayakoba - Playa Del Carmen, Mexico
  • Fairmont Le Montreux Palace - Montreux, Switzerland
  • Fairmont Yangcheng - LakeSuzhou, China
  • Fairmont Beijing - China
 
Bees have also become part of their hotels’ guest experiences over the years, from culinary and cocktail menu items, beekeeper courses and packages, garden and bee tours, honey tastings, and special gift items.

BEE SUSTAINABLE

Fairmont has even opened a bee hotel at parent company Accor’s global HQ in Paris. The Bee Sustainable program is a cornerstone of the company’s commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainable tourism.
The program works with the Pollinator Partnership, an organization dedicated to protecting and promoting pollinators and their ecosystems – not just bees, but also the birds, bees, butterflies, beetles, and other creatures whose pollination efforts produce one out of every three bites of food we eat.
In that way, Bee Sustainable isn’t just about sustainable tourism and supporting local foods in Fairmont hotels. The company says supporting bee habitats is part of its commitment to hotel communities, food production and the economy, noting that bees pollinate 1,000 of the 1,200 crop varieties that provide 80% of human food worldwide and contribute billions of dollars to the US economy alone.
That’s the big picture, and Fairmont is also encouraging everyone to support bees in your own backyard just as Fairmont hotels support bees on their properties. Families and nature lovers will It sells mini bee hotels at fairmontstore.com – a perfect way for nature lovers to get involved, and for families to learn more about bees at home.
 
You can also learn more about the Fairmont Bee Sustainable program and the importance of honeybees and wild bees at fairmontbeesustainable.com.
 

#DREAMNOWTRAVELSOON


Images courtesy Fairmont

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Places You Can Tour Wine Country Close to Home
There may be more places than you think.

California's legendary wine regions and famous wineries have the weather, the scenery, the lifestyle, and of course, the wines, that put them at the top of global wine travel lists.

But as we are planning our first post-COVID trips, wine lovers should expand their lists of wine tour regions close to home to get our fix of wine tastings, vineyard strolling, and re-stocking our cellars with one-of-a-kind vintages.

Vastly different landscapes throughout America's states and Canada's provinces have resulted in some surprising wine regions with thriving scenes and award-winning wines.

If you love discovering new wine, pack your bags for these US and Canadian wine regions, and remember to leave plenty of space in your luggage for bottles of the delicious new wines you're sure to discover!

By Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/Host BestTrip.TV
 

Texas

The very first vineyard in North America… was in Texas. Franciscan priests in the mid-1600's toiled to grow the continent's first vines and produce its first wines in mission outposts. European immigrants brought more grapevine cuttings to continue expanding the region's wine through the 19th century. Prohibition wiped out all of America's wine production in the '20's, but Texas has reclaimed its historic wine roots – literally.
These days, the Longhorn State boasts 8 AVA's (American Viticultural Areas) producing wine from grapes that thrive in the state's unique climate and soil. The Texas Hill country AVA is the 2nd largest in America, 9 million acres in the heart of Texas north of San Antonio and west of Austin. The vast wine region is home to a range of one-of-a-kind microclimates that produce cool climate wines to Bordeaux and Italian varietals. 
Idaho's Snake River Valley

Idaho

Move over, potatoes. Idaho's most famous crop has competition. Idaho lies to the west of the Continental Divide of the Rocky Mountains. The terrain, explored by Lewis and Clark and a central feature of the Oregon Trail, these days is home to a fruitful wine industry you'll want to explore too.  
You may think of Idaho as a very new wine region, but in fact, it dates back to the mid-19th century. The first grapes in the Pacific Northwest were planted in Idaho by French and German immigrants. Prohibition in the 20's took out this wine region, too, but grapes are back again in Idaho. The Snake River Valley became the state's first AVA, and now covers 8000 square miles at latitudes similar to other global wine-growing regions, with a unique combination of seasonal temperatures, rainfall, and soil not only rivaling other wine regions, but even giving Idaho wines an edge in quality.
Idaho now has more than 50 wineries producing cool climate wines, especially whites like Riesling, Chardonnay and Gewurtztraminer, and more recently, reds like fan favorite Cabernet Sauvignon.
(Shore Lodge, McCall, Idaho)

Washington State

This newcomer on the global wine scene has been a quick learner. Washington State is already America's 2nd largest wine producer. Its wines win acclaim and awards that rank Washington as one of the world's top wine regions.
Wine has a pedigree in the state. In 1825 the Hudson's Bay Company planted the area's first wine grapes at Fort Vancouver.
The last decade or so has seen a resurgence of wine-making in Washington. Now, over 55,000 acres are devoted to vineyards. The viticulture trend is growing fast, drawing wine-makers from Europe and New World wine regions to the state's unique terroir and conditions for producing premium white and red wines.
Washington's young and internationally-influenced wine culture exhibits some of the latest trends in wine-making that visiting oenophiles will love. Hand-crafting, sustainability, as well as organic and biodynamic wines make visits to this Pacific North West wine region so unique.
Shea Wine Cellars, Oregon/ Carolyn Wells Kramer

Oregon

It's America's 3rd largest wine grape producing state. Oregon has over 700 wineries growing 72 grape varietals in a thousand vineyards. In spite of that scale, Oregon's famous for its small-batch wineries and artisan wines. Most Oregon wineries produce fewer than 5000 cases a year of an incredible range of wines from Riesling to Viogniers, Pinot noir to Syrah, with sparkling, rose, and dessert wines to tempt your palate.
For wine-loving visitors to Oregon, that means two things. In winery tasting rooms, you'll have the chance to taste small-batch vintages that will never see wide release on store shelves in your home town. And hands-on, artisan vintners love to share their passion for wine, their vines, and wine-making styles with visitors to wine estates.

(Above and Top Images Courtesy Wines of British Columbia)

British Columbia, Canada

North of the border, British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley is the 2nd largest-producing wine region in Canada, with over 150 wineries and nearly 10,000 acres of vines. The valley stretches 155 miles from Lake Okanagan, south along the Okanagan River into Washington State (where it’s spelled differently: Okonogan) into the Columbia River, itself a growing and renowned wine region on both its Washington State and Oregon banks.
The Columbia and Cascade Mountains shield the region from Pacific and Arctic moisture, and the Okanagan’s desert-like conditions result in slow-ripening, smaller fruit with concentrated flavors. There’s still a variety of landscapes, growing both red and white varietals, from its signature Merlot, to Cab Sauv, Riesling, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, as well as Chardonnay.

Michigan

Michigan is the 5th largest wine-producing state in the US, producing nearly 3 million gallons of wine a year. The unique, Great-Lakes microclimate that makes Michigan a famous cherry producer also nurtures acclaimed wines.  Most of the state's wine grapes are grown within 25 scenic miles of Lake Michigan, benefitting from 'lake effect' moderation of both winter and summer climate.
There are over 100 wineries in Michigan, and 150 tasting rooms where visitors can sample and buy the wide range of Michigan wines from red, white, dry, sweet, even ice wine, sparkling wine, and wines made from its famous cherry crop. Michigan's Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail in the north-west part of the state is considered one of the best in the country.

(Toronto in the distance on the shores of Lake Ontario. Photo: Wine Country Ontario)

Ontario, Canada

Many people outside Canada think it’s too cold, and don’t think to add the country to their list of wine touring regions. If this is you, think again.
One Canadian wine sweeps global wine competitions by taking full advantage of those famous Canadian winters.
The granddaddy of Canadian wine regions is the Niagara Peninsula. Ontario is the country’s top wine province, with over 130 wineries and nearly 20,000 acres of vineyards that take advantage of the Great Lakes’ moderating effect on the weather to grow grapes, especially cool-climate Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay, for wine.
Ice wine is Canada’s award-winning claim to fame in the international wine circle. More ice wine (originally white, but now, red, too) is produced in the Niagara Peninsula than anywhere else in the world.
The silky, sweet dessert and cheese wine has become virtually synonymous with the Niagara region, where consistently reliable cold winter temperatures allow vintners to harvest grapes after they have frozen on the vine. Freezing concentrates the juice, resulting in higher levels of sugar and an unmistakable wine. This may be the only place in the world whose annual wine harvest celebration, the Ice Wine Festival, takes place mid-winter!
As the name suggests, the wine region shares one of North America’s biggest tourist attractions, Niagara Falls, that straddles the US/Canadian border. And the Niagara Escarpment, a 650 mile-long limestone ridge that runs from upstate New York through the region, has a big influence on its wine.
Only an hour and a half’s drive from the big-city attractions of Toronto, the Niagara region also boasts a world-renowned theater scene, and the epically-charming historic town (and wine micro-region) of Niagara-on-the-Lake.  
 

#PlanNowTravelSoon


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Celebrate This Holiday Weekend with Travel-Inspired Picnic Recipes
With back-to-back national holidays, Canada Day on July 1st and America’s 4th of July, many residents of both countries have often packed up as soon as the kids were out of school and headed across the border or across the country for family summer vacations. 
COVID-19 restrictions mean the biggest holiday weekend of the summer won’t feel quite the same. But we’ve created a US and Canadian travel-inspired menu of sandwiches and sweet treats so your Celebrate-From-Home long weekend in your backyard can feel like the cottage or seaside or big city summer vacation you’ll be able to do again soon.
Gather your favorite summer sipping beverages, some chilled watermelon, and get the recipes below for this cross-border picnic menu (pictured above, clockwise beginning top left):
·     Lobster Rolls from Maine
·     Cubano Sandwiches from Miami
·     Beignets from New Orleans
·     Butter Tarts from Ontario, Canada

Wishing you a Happy 4th of July and Canada Day!


LOBSTER ROLLS

From Canada’s Maritime provinces, south through New England, the coastal lobster harvest season runs from about June through October, making lobster rolls summer’s staple seafood sandwich.
Throughout the season in Maine, lobster boats dot the sea like gulls, lobster shacks are open all along the coast, and every restaurant seems to have at least one fresh lobster dish on the menu. Tasting lobster is an essential experience on a visit to Maine, from lobster shacks and food trucks to fine dining establishments across the state – even a famous fast food restaurant with golden arches out front offers lobster rolls in season! 

(Seaside lobster shack courtesy Visit Maine )
Some chefs tweak original lobster roll recipes with new seasonings or ways to serve. But Chip Gray, the innkeeper of the Broad Arrow Tavern at Freeport, Maine’s Harraseeket Inn, shared this authentic and traditional lobster roll recipe. 
“This is my mother, Nancy Gray's, recipe which we have been serving to guests since we started innkeeping in 1943. It was her mother's.
“Boil and pick enough lobster for 3 to 4 oz per roll, (approximately one 1 1/4 lb lobster per roll). Fresh caught and fresh picked is the secret to truly excellent results.” 
 
Ingredients:
·     Hot dog roll (top split, if available)
·     3 to 4 oz fresh picked lobster meat
·     lettuce
·     mayonnaise 
·     butter
·     salt and pepper
 
Method :
Brush with butter and toast both sides of your favorite hot dog bun in a frying pan.
Line roll with chopped lettuce and add the fresh lobster meat tossed with mayonnaise and salt and pepper to taste.
OR
Warm the lobster meat in melted butter and place in lettuce lined toasted hot dog bun.
 

CUBANO SANDWICH


Even in the summer heat, some like it hot, and a ‘Cubano’, or Cuban Sandwich, from Miami’s Little Havana, fits the bill. The grilled pork, ham, cheese, mustard and pickle sandwich is just one of the cultural contributions of the expat Cuban community in south Florida. It’s even become the ‘official dish’ of Miami!

Little Havana, courtesy Miami and Beaches
Tampa challenges Miami’s claim to the original and authentic Cubana. But this recipe was shared with us by Versailles, the landmark Cuban restaurant on Little Havana’s main street, Calle Ocho. Versailles does more than serve timeless staples of Cuban cuisine. The neighborhood institution is also the ‘unofficial town square’ for the Cuban community. 
The restaurant has weighed in on the debate, telling us that Tampa’s Cuban Sandwich, “includes ingredients that aren’t traditionally Cuban. Their version includes Genoa salami and mayo, a melting pot of the strong Italian influence in that city. Versailles’ “Cubano” and the rest of the Cuban restaurants in Miami make it the way it’s been made in Cuba for many years… no salami in Miami! It is one of our most popular dishes and has been on our menu since 1971. We serve hundreds of authentic Cuban sandwiches every day!” 

Ingredients for 4 Cubano Sandwiches:
·     1 Cuban bread loaf
·     12oz. sweet ham, thinly sliced
·     8oz. lean pork, thinly sliced
·     8oz. Swiss cheese
·     8 dill pickle slices
·     Mustard
·     Butter
 
Method:
Preheat a large frying pan over medium heat or a sandwich press to 300 F.
Cut the loaf of bread horizontally. On the top side of the bread layer the mustard, pickles, swiss cheese and then the ham. On the bottom side of the bread layer the pork. Cut the loaf into 4 even pieces. Place the mounted halves face down on the pan so that the ham and pork heat up. While this is happening butter the outside of bread. Once cheese begins to melt close the sandwich and grill both sides of the sandwich, occasionally pressing down. Grill until bread becomes golden brown. Remove from heat. Cut each piece diagonally.

BEIGNETS

 
The rest of America eats doughnuts, but in NOLA, its signature, square doughnut-without-a-hole taps into the city’s French heritage and goes by the name ‘beignet’ (pronounced bayne-YAY). 
A key pastry of Creole cuisine eaten at any hour of the day or night, the Louisiana version of fried dough heavily dusted with powdered sugar has expanded its fan base beyond New Orleans' coffee shops to the entire country.

New Orlean's French Quarter, courtesy Visit New Orleans
The ultimate New Orleans experience today, is a piping hot beignet with a café au lait, or local coffee with chicory at one of the beignet shops like the famous Café du Monde in the French Quarter.
New Orleans tourism shared this classic beignet recipe you can use to recreate the favorite pastry of the Big Easy at home.
 
Ingredients for about 32 Beignets
  • 4 oz unsalted butter
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons sifted all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • vegetable shortening, for deep frying
  • confectioner's sugar
Method
In a small saucepan combine the water, butter, granulated sugar, and salt and bring the mixture to a rapid boil. Remove the pan from heat and add the flour all at once, stirring vigorously. Cook the paste over low heat, beating briskly, until the ingredients are thoroughly combined and the dough cleanly leaves the sides of the pan and forms a ball. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. By hand or with an electric mixer set at medium speed, beat the paste until it is smooth and glossy. Stir in the vanilla.
In a deep fryer or deep saucepan, heat 3 inches shortening to 370 degrees F or until very hot. Drop the dough by tablespoonfuls into the shortening, and fry the beignets in batches, turning them, until golden brown (about 3 minutes). With a slotted spoon, remove to paper towels to drain. Sprinkle the beignets with the confectioners' sugar and serve hot.
 

BUTTER TARTS

The ‘True North Strong and’… sweet. English Canada’s famous sweet treat, the butter tart, is deceptively simple: flaky pastry shell with a butter, egg and syrup filling. While it dates back to pioneering days, it has remained a mainstay of pastry and coffee shops across Ontario’s small towns, farm communities and cottage country, where the subject of butter tarts can incite intense debate about how runny the filling should be, the use of raisins, and other variables.
Every baker and bakery has their own butter tart recipe, with variations that use maple syrup and add other dried fruits, nuts, even bacon! To the filling.
You won’t ever be able to taste all the countless versions, but you can try. There’s a Butter Tart Tour with over 50 locations along the waterways and scenic country roads of the cottage and farming region of the Kawarthas outside Toronto. 

(The Kawarthas, courtesy BestTrip TV)

This recipe was shared by South Pond Farms in the Kawarthas, which you may recognize from its popular Netflix TV series, Taste of the Country.
Southpond Farms’ Honey Butter Tarts
Pastry:
2 cups flour
½ lb of butter cold cut into pieces
½ tsp of cardamom
1 tsp of salt
¼ cup of ice water more or less
Make a crumb with the butter and dry mixture. Add water until it hangs together. DO NOT OVERWORK THIS DOUGH. Pat into a ball and wrap and put in the fridge for 1 hour or more.
 
Butter Tart Filling for 24 tarts
1 lb butter
1 cup honey
1 cup brown sugar
4 teaspoons (20 mL) of vanilla extract
4 eggs
1/4 cup of all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly oil a standard muffin pan.
Make pastry and let the dough rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
Brown the butter by melting it in a saucepan, then keep on cooking it, swirling gently. Watch this butter! Don’t let it get too brown. If you blacken the butter, toss it and start again. The line between brown and burnt black is crossed quickly. Cool for 10 minutes. Whisk together the brown sugar, vanilla, and eggs then whisk into the butter as well. Lastly, stir in the flour.
Flour your hands, the dough, the work surface, and a rolling pin. Roll the pastry out into a circle about 15 inches (38 cm) wide and 1/4 inch (5 mm) thick. Using a 3-1/2-inch (9 cm) cookie cutter (or an empty 19-ounce/540 ml can with both ends removed, or the ring from a wide-mouth canning jar), cut circles from the pastry, as many as you can. Form a pleat along one side and fit the pastry into the muffin cups, evenly filling each cup right to the rim. Gather up the remaining dough, roll out, and repeat.
Evenly divide the filling among the pastry shells. Bake until the pastry is browned and the filling partially sets but stays a bit runny, about 12 minutes. Cool slightly until you can remove the tarts from the pan.
 

#DreamNowTravelSoon

 
Top Images, clockwise beginning top left:
South Pond Farms’ Ontario Butter Tarts, https://southpondfarms.ca/
 
Copyright BestTrip.TV/Influence Entertainment Group Inc or Rights Holder. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this material from this page, but it may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



There may be no dish that evokes cruising more than Baked Alaska.


A miracle dessert of warm, caramelized meringue on the outside, still magically full of layers of frozen ice cream on the inside. No one really knows why, but somewhere along the way, it became a classic of traditional cruise culture.


Even today, Baked Alaska is often served on celebration, formal or farewell evenings. The ultimate Baked Alaska experience includes 'parades': a procession of dining room staff each bearing a flaming Baked Alaska for each table of diners to top off an evening of formal dining. (Hilariously, these days, often to the unofficial Baked Alaska parade theme song of 'Hot, Hot, Hot'). 

Rarely seen anymore on land, a flaming Baked Alaska never fails to awe and delight a table of diners at sea.

The story goes that Baked Alaska was created in New York's famous Delmonico's restaurant in 1867 in celebration of the American acquisition of Alaska from Russia. Regardless of its origin, creating Baked Alaska back in the day was only for the fearless. The elements are not complicated - it's really just cake and ice cream and meringue, all within reach of even a moderately good chef.

But the trick is in the execution. Get the temperatures wrong and you had a plate of dripping, soggy mess. Baked Alaska was a feat of culinary ingenuity in the days of unreliable refrigeration.

The dessert, flaming and resembling a snow-topped Alaskan mountain, became almost a status symbol and a classic showstopper of a dessert.

Perhaps the reason we still see Baked Alaska on cruise ships is that they seem to be the last bastions of hospitality traditions and a sense of ceremony.

And where better than a cruise to Alaska to learn how to make this classic cruising dish?

Regent Seven Seas Mariner's pastry chef showed BestTrip.TV his tips and tricks to perfect Baked Alaska… and shared his recipe here for you.


Until we can sail again to Alaska – or anywhere – this Baked Alaska recipe can help re-create the fun ceremonies of cruise ship dining.


 
Regent Seven Seas Cruises' Recipe for Baked Alaska
10 Servings
Ingredients
  • 250           grams          French Meringue (see recipe below)
  • 150           grams           Raspberry Coulis (Sauce)
  • 100           grams          Vanilla Sauce
  • 160           grams          Vanilla Ice Cream (or a combination of your choice of ice creams)
  • 160           grams          Chocolate Ice Cream           
  • 160           grams          Strawberry Ice Cream
  • assorted berries
  • mint leafs
Syrup
Bring to a boil, cool down
  • 62.5        grams          water    
  • 31           grams          sugar
Add the kirsch liqueur, keep refrigerated          
  • 6.5           grams           kirsch liqueur
Sponge (or purchased sponge cake)
  • 78           grams          whole milk
  • 23.5        grams          butter
  • 23.5        grams          flour
  • 5          fresh egg yolks
  • 6             fresh egg whites
  • 15.5        grams          sugar
  • grated zest of 1/3 of a clean orange         
  • 6            mL          Grand Marnier liquor
French Meringue
  • 9             fresh egg whites
  • 170         grams           sugar
  • 1.25        grams          vanilla extract
Method:
French Meringue:
  1. Start whisking the egg whites by incorporating one quarter of the sugar little by little.
  2. Once the egg whites have doubled in volume, add another quarter of the sugar and the vanilla.
  3. Keep whisking until firm and shiny, then add the remaining sugar and whisk for another minute.
Sponge:
  1. Combine milk and butter and bring to a boil.
  2. Pour the flour into the milk, keep on stirring over the heat until it starts to become a paste.
  3. Put mixture into mixing bowl, at low speed add the egg yolks, grated orange skin and Grand Marnier.
  4. Keep beating on fast speed for 10 seconds.
  5. Meanwhile whip the egg whites to a meringue with sugar.
  6. Mix a little meringue into the batter until obtaining a homogenized paste; then gently fold the meringue into the batter.
  7. Line sheet pans with pan liners, spread the mix onto it and make a fine layer of ½ cm in height.
  8. Bake in a preheated oven at 190°C for 10 minutes and until the sponge is baked properly, cool down to room temperature, then before using in Baked Alaska, sprinkle the syrup over the sponge cake.
Assembly:
  1. For each serving, use a 6 cm ramekin, lined with plastic wrap.
  2. Cut a round disk of the sponge to fit the inner part of the bottom. Fill with chocolate first, then vanilla then strawberry ice cream.
  3. Cut a round disk out of the sponge fitting the inner part of the top, press gently down and freeze immediately
  4. Meanwhile prepare the meringue.
  5. Place your serving plate over top of the frozen ramekin, turn over and remove plastic wrap. Spread the meringue all over, using piping technique or a spatula. Mimic a mountain landscape.
  6. Turn on your blowtorch and brown the edges of the meringue. Decorate the plate with raspberry coulis and vanilla sauce, berries and a spring of mint.
  7. Serve instantly.

#DreamNowTravelLater


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Revealed for the 1st Time: This Hotel’s Famous Cookie Recipe

Challenging times call for fresh-baked cookies. For your COVID-19 #StaySafeStayHome pleasure, a cookie recipe for all the home baking and snacking we hear everyone is enjoying during lock down.

Not just any cookie recipe. These are cookies of legend.

They are the welcoming treat so many guests of DoubleTree by Hilton look forward to when they check in. Receiving a paper sleeve of straight-from-the-oven warm sweet treats makes a hotel stay at one of the company’s nearly 600 hotels in almost 50 countries feel a lot like coming home.
DoubleTree cookies have a long history and - no surprise - an avid fan following. More than 30 million cookies are eaten every year, and copycat recipes have been circulating on the internet.
They are also the first cookies baked in space! The hotel chain partnered provided the recipe for its world-renowned cookies to test cooking equipment for space on the International Space Station.
Travel on earth may be grounded. But now, DoubleTree by Hilton’s beloved cookies can continue to put smiles on faces. For the first time, they’re sharing the official bake-at-home recipe for the chocolate chip cookie so at-home bakers can create the warm and comforting treat in our own kitchens. 
“We know this is an anxious time for everyone,” said a spokesperson for DoubleTree by Hilton. “A warm chocolate chip cookie can’t solve everything, but it can bring a moment of comfort and happiness.”
 

DoubleTree Signature Cookie Recipe

Makes 26 cookies

½ pound / 225 grams butter, softened (2 sticks)
¾ cup + 1 tablespoon / 165 grams granulated sugar
¾ cup packed / 150 grams light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 ¼ teaspoons / 6.25 mL vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon / 1.25 mL freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 ¼ cups / 280 grams flour
1/2 cup / 45 grams rolled oats
1 teaspoon / 6 grams baking soda
1 teaspoon / 6 grams salt
Pinch cinnamon
2 2/3 cups / 465 grams semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 3/4 cups / 220 grams chopped walnuts 
 
  • Cream butter, sugar and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed for about 2 minutes. 
  • Add eggs, vanilla and lemon juice, blending with mixer on low speed for 30 seconds, then medium speed for about 2 minutes, or until light and fluffy, scraping down bowl. 
  • With mixer on low speed, add flour, oats, baking soda, salt and cinnamon, blending for about 45 seconds. Don’t overmix. 
  • Remove bowl from mixer and stir in chocolate chips and walnuts.
  • Portion dough with a scoop (about 3 tablespoons) onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper about 2 inches apart. 
  • Preheat oven to 300°F.
  • Bake for 20 to 23 minutes, or until edges are golden brown and center is still soft. 
  • Remove from oven and cool on baking sheet for about 1 hour.
 
On the off-chance you haven’t just eaten all the dough or baked and enjoyed the full recipe of cookies all at once, they’ve even provided a tip so you can enjoy fresh-out-of-the-oven cookies for days.
 
You can freeze the unbaked cookies, and there’s no need to thaw. Preheat oven to 300°F and place frozen cookies on parchment paper-lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake until edges are golden brown and center is still soft.
 
The Doubletree spokesperson says, “We hope families enjoy the fun of baking together during their time at home, and we look forward to welcoming all our guests with a warm DoubleTree cookie when travel resumes.”


#DreamNowTravelLater


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You know the rum, but do you know the story? Bacardi is the world’s most famous rum, but it’s also the largest private, family-owned spirits company in the world.

When the first Bacardi traveled from Spain to Cuba in the early 1800’s, he tasted a raw local spirit made from sugar cane. Recognizing the potential, the wine merchant worked to refine rum. Bacardi eventually identified a proprietary strain of yeast that brought out rum’s best flavors, began filtering rum through charcoal, and ageing it in white oak barrels that mellowed and enriched the final result.  It was the first ‘white’ (clear) rum in the world.

The rest, as they say, is history. The origins of the instantly-recognizable logo inspired by the ‘lucky’ colony of bats in the building where the Bacardi family began commercial production in Cuba, making rum cocktails like Cuba Libres, Mojitos and Daiquiris part of the early 20th century cocktail party craze, relocating Bacardi production to Puerto Rico following the Cuban revolution in 1960…

The story of Bacardi is legendary. And visitors to the House of Bacardi in Puerto Rico (called ‘The Cathedral of Rum’), with its mid-century, stylized ‘bat wing’ pavilion is so much more than a distillery visit.

You’ll be greeted with a cocktail before taking an historical tour, rum-tasting tour, or a mixology class. 

BestTrip TV got an extra treat: a chance to meet the head of the Bacardi family business who shared the personal passions behind this global brand. 

It’s one of our all-time favorite BestTrip TV videos we wanted to share with you again while we’re staying safe at home – along with a lesson BestTrip's Lynn Elmhirst and TV interior designer Karen Sealy got in how to make Bacardi’s original, simple, balanced and classic daiquiri (with only three ingredients you might even have at home right now.)
 

Bacardi’s Original Recipe: A Hand-shaken Daiquiri


Rum, lime and sugar are timeless ingredients in the Caribbean. The origins of this classic cocktail go back to an engineer in Cuba who developed its refreshing taste, and the Bacardi family's epic parties made it famous stateside, then around the world.

Bacardi's classic Daiquiri is a perfect blend of BACARDÍ Carta Blanca rum, the crispness of fruit and the sweetness of sugar. Serve ice cold for a refreshing drink on a hot day in the islands... or for cocktail hour at home dreaming of your next trip to the Caribbean.
 
THE INGREDIENTS
  • 2 ounces BACARDÍ Carta Blanca Rum
  • 1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tsp Sugar
 
THE METHOD
  1. Place sugar and freshly pressed lime juice into a cocktail shaker and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Then pour in the BACARDÍ Carta Blanca rum and fill the shaker with half-cubed ice, followed by some half-crushed ice.
  3. Place the lid on the shaker and shake vigorously until thoroughly chilled.
  4. Finally, strain through a fine tea strainer into a chilled coupette.
 
 
 
 

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A Distiller in Wine Country Switches Production to Hand Sanitizer to Help the Community During COVID-19 Plan a trip to Ontario, Canada's Niagara region, and your list may include the iconic Falls, world-class theater at the Shaw Festival, fine dining inspired by the region’s orchards, most definitely a wine tasting, especially the ice wine that is its global viticulture claim to fame. read more
And Now For Some Good News In Travel We hope you are well and keeping yourself, your family and your community safe by staying at home. Now, more than ever, we all really need some good news. read more
Top Souvenirs from a Trip to... Ireland
If you’re one of the almost 20% of Americans and Canadians with Irish ancestry – or have fallen in love with the lore of the ‘Emerald Isle’ – a trip to Ireland is the perfect way to immerse yourself in its vivid scenery, storied towns and landscapes… and of course, stock up on the souvenirs that symbolize the country’s history, craftsmanship, and flavors.

Here’s a list of the best places in Ireland to visit to shop for ways to remember your trip to Ireland, or treat your friends and loved ones to a taste of Ireland.


Irish Whiskey in County Cork


It means ‘water of life’, and was once the most popular drink in the world. The distilled grain spirit that’s now called whiskey was developed beginning around the 12th century by creative monks. Today it’s enjoying renewed popularity, and has regained its top standing as the fastest-growing spirit in the world. 

There are dozens of distilleries dotting the cobble-stoned towns and green rolling hills of Ireland, and the list keeps growing. In nearly every county, you can tour historic stone, or ultra-modern distilleries that expand on Ireland’s breadth of whiskeys.

Visiting one or more of the country’s distilleries and tasting rooms, and packing one or more of the 80 million or so bottles produced in the country every year in your luggage (carefully!) for the trip home, is a must-do for any visitor to Ireland. 


The essential experience is in County Cork at Jamesons’. As the world’s biggest producer of Irish whiskey, and dating from the 1700’s, it defines ‘traditional’ Irish whiskey. It’s a ‘blend’ whiskey: locally-grown Irish barley, some malted and some unmalted, or ‘green’, is distilled one of two ways, then the different distilled spirits are mixed. Irish whiskey differs from most whisky from Scotland that is made from grain dried by a peat fire, giving it a smoky flavor -  not present in smoother Irish whiskey. 


Crystal in Waterford County


Nothing will make your Irish whiskey taste better than drinking it from a Waterford crystal low ball glass or decanter.
Crystal was not invented in Ireland, but 200-year old Waterford is one of the world’s most famous crystals, and a tour of the House of Waterford Crystal facility is one of the top reasons to visit the Irish county of the same name.

You can watch artisans in action in each of the steps in the creation of Waterford crystal’s pieces, seeing pieces come to life, from blowing molten crystal into elegant shapes, to mould making, to inspections, marking patterns onto approved pieces for master artisans to cut the signature designs that result in the clarity and sparkle that rival diamonds in vases, bowls, glass and stemware and of course, décor items like chandeliers.


Ireland isn’t the only place you can find this famous crystal. You’ll spot Waterford crystal some of the finest bars and restaurants and hotels in the world. And you’ll see Waterford chandeliers in Westminster Abbey, Windsor Castle, and across the pond, in the Kennedy Center and… it’s the famous ball that drops every New Year’s Even in New York’s Times Square.
 

A Claddagh Ring in Galway


After the shamrock and the Celtic cross, this must be the most iconic symbol of the Emerald Isle. It’s certainly Ireland’s essential piece of jewelry – with a delightful and touching meaning.

The Claddagh ring’s hands cradling a heart topped with a crown symbolize friendship, love and loyalty. Rings are worn in Ireland and often by people of Irish ancestry around the world as friendship, engagement and wedding rings. 

They are often passed down mothers to their eldest daughters or grandmother to granddaughter and worn differently to advertise the wearer’s current relationship status, useful in the days before you could look it up on facebook! Worn
·     On the right hand, with the heart pointing toward the heart, you’re in a relationship; your ‘heart has been captured;
·     On the right hand with the heart pointing outward, you’re single and looking;
·     On the left ring finger with the heart pointing outward, you’re engaged; and
·     With the heart pointing to your heart, you’re married.


Start your own tradition and add some extra meaning to your new Claddagh ring by making the trek to the fishing village of the same name in Galway, where Claddagh rings were invented in the 18th century. The original goldsmith’s shop still stands. Thomas Dillon’s Claddagh Gold is the oldest jeweler in Ireland, and houses a museum to the iconic ring.

Irish Wool from the Aran Isles


When you picture Ireland’s famous green pastures, you may also picture those pastures with grazing sheep. Throughout Ireland, keeping sheep and spinning, dyeing and weaving or knitting their wool was a cottage industry for centuries.


You can still see looms at work throughout Ireland, and enjoy the fruits of the artisans who craft colorful scarves, wraps, hats, and other useful, beautiful, and wearable examples of Irish history, creativity and skill.

Perhaps the most Irish of woolen knitwear is an Aran sweater. The Aran Islands off the country’s western coast have historically been home to hardy fishing communities whose women used wool ‘unscoured’ of its natural oils, making it water resistant and perfect for fishermen working in harsh Atlantic waters – or anyone who spends lots of time in the outdoors. 

(Image: Getty)

Sweaters are marvelously complex works of art, comprising 100,000 stitches of each maker’s own design. Different patterns of stitches represent different meanings and omens for the success and safety of the fishermen wearing them .
 
Ireland’s deep culture and heritage make an unforgettable impression on any visitor to her shores, and you’ll want to take home memories and mementoes of your journey. These are just a few of the many souvenirs of Ireland that really beat a ‘Kiss me, I’m Irish’ t-shirt from your last St. Patrick’s day at the pub!

 

Start your Trip!


All images courtesy of Ireland.com unless otherwise indicated.

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It's one of the top destinations in Europe, let alone the Mediterranean. Barcelona tops everyone's travel bucket list, and for excellent reasons.

  • It has a collection of some of the world's most unique and distinctive Modernist architecture - hint: by the same local designer whose masterpiece church is still under construction 130 years after it was begun.

  • One of Europe's most famous local markets, and restaurants serving the abundant harvest of Catalonia's land and sea.

  • One of the world's most picturesque pedestrian promenades (where you'll find the tongue-in-cheek bronze 'Thinking Bull' statue that plays on the iconic 'The Thinker' by Rodin, pictured above).

  • And a lifestyle any visitor is loathe to leave.

We never depart on a cruise from Barcelona without taking time to indulge in one of our favorite cities, and of course, any tour of Spain or the Western Mediterranean wouldn't be complete without an immersion in Barcelona's culture and way of life.

See the best of Barcelona come to life in the BestTrip video above, and...

Start your Trip!




Virgin Voyages' 'Save Water, Drink Champagne' Easy Button
Oh, and there’s a caviar bar, too.

Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Voyages says it’s committed to ‘disrupting’ cruise travel, and that means a twist on one of the luxury cruise standards: champagne and caviar.

The cruise line has already shared its ‘ship tease’, with the slogan ‘Save Water, Drink Champagne’ proudly displayed on an outdoor lounge.


Now, it’s revealed what that slogan really means to guests, or ‘sailors’ on the Scarlet Lady when she sets sail in Spring 2020. 

In the rebellious luxe/ music festival at sea atmosphere of Virgin Voyages, it’s never too early for champagne and there’s always something to celebrate.  To help every guest feel like a rock star, they’re offering a one-of-a-kind champagne service: Shake for Champagne.

Virgin Voyages sailors have an app to facilitate their on board experience. When you shake the app, a secret ‘Save Water, Drink Champagne’ button appears, and at the press of the button, you’ll have a bottle of Moet & Chandon Imperial instantly delivered in an eye-popping, glamorous Virgin red champagne bucket… anywhere you are on the ship.


In addition to on-demand champagne delivery to your side, the Scarlet Lady introduces the first dedicated champagne lounge and caviar bar, with the fun and cheeky name Sip.

So you can go find champagne in effervescent surroundings when you don’t feel like having the champagne come to you.  The rose, gold and marble of the bar are not only perfectly on-trend in fashion and design, they echo the delicate tones of the champagnes served.


Circling the bar, deep ocean blue banquettes and cool, Carrara marble tables anchor your experience of luxury any time, day or night you visit.

Not only will you discover caviars and a range of champagnes from single glasses to a $1000 vintage bottle, in a nod to Virgin’s quintessential British heritage and eccentricity, Sip offers its own deluxe and eccentric version of a signature afternoon tea. On the Scarlet Lady, you know it’s not going to be your grandmother’s tea!


Start your Trip!


Images courtesy Virgin Voyages.

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See the World's Tallest Indoor Waterfall at this New Airport

It's one of the world's top ten busiest airports, with a flight every 80 seconds. A hundred airlines transport over 60 million passengers yearly to and from Singapore's Changi airport. So millions of travelers are already familiar with the breathtaking Nature features in the airport that's the gateway to Asia's 'City in a Garden'. 


But 2019's new Jewel Changi Airport brings the natural world into an airport environment in a whole new, spectacular way that makes Singapore's airport a destination itself.

The Rain Vortex was inspired by Singapore's tropical rains. It's a 7-story feat of design and engineering that astounds you the moment you walk in the door. At over 130 feet high, it's the tallest indoor waterfall in the world, cascading dramatically through an oculus in the glass and steel dome.


The experience of the Rain Vortex changes depending what time of day you are at Jewel Changi Airport. Every evening, the flowing water, along with mist and music, becomes the centerpiece of an hourly, magical Light & Sound show designed by the same company responsible for the fountains at the Bellagio in Las Vegas and hundreds of other water, fire, light, fog and music installations around the world.

Jewel's indoor waterfall is surrounded by 5 acres of lush gardens and greenery – 2000 trees and 100,000 shrubs from 120 species in different 'parks' that make Jewel Changi Airport a lifestyle destination for visitors and locals too.

Areas like Forest Valley and Canopy Park are shopping and dining neighborhoods in a whimsical green wonderland, with cobblestone walking trails, indoor clouds, play attractions like Sky Nets, Hedge Maze, Mirror Maze and Discovery Slides that flow through themed gardens - all in climate-controlled comfort. In a man-made environment, you can enjoy tropical gardens without tropical weather!
 
With all the world-class shopping, dining and entertainment, Jewel is still a functioning airport that anticipates travelers' needs and offers conveniences that are a breath of relief, even for travelers with only a brief stopover in Singapore. 
 
Thoughtful airport facilities that have been added in Jewel include early check-in counters and kiosks, a baggage storage service and the Changi Lounge, a 150-seat lounge with shower facilities, offering seamless transfers for passengers connecting to and from cruise and ferry services
 
Jewel also has the first YOTELAIR in Asia. The tech-savvy, smart-design, space-efficient cabin hotel concept has 130 cabin-units in Jewel in three categories. The Premium, Accessible and Family cabins can be booked for as little as four hours. They are a game changer for travelers with short daytime layovers, a very early arrival in Singapore, even an extra half day to spend time exploring all that the airport has to offer before you fly out of Singapore - even overnight stays. Hotel check-in / check-out is seamless, with time-saving, airline-style self-check-in kiosks.
 
Jewel also adds capacity to accommodate increasing numbers of travelers at Changi Airport. Another 3 million passengers will now be able to be accommodated annually, bringing the airport's total capacity to 85 million. And it's going to be needed with an airport that's enough reason alone to visit Singapore.
 
The multi-faceted innovation at Jewel gives local residents a new destination where lush Nature meets Singapore's urban energy. And it gives a renewed sense of novelty and wonder at the experience of air transportation to everyone traveling to or from Singapore. 
 

Start your Trip!


Photos: Jewel Changi Airport Devt.

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Why Travelers in the Know are Booking A Douro River Cruise in Portugal
Have you taken a river cruise in Europe yet? The 'Big Three' river cruises are the Rhine, the Danube and the Rhone/Saone. You may have heard about cruising on the Seine, even Main and Moselle cruises.

But for a little 'off the beaten track' river cruising in Europe, Portugal's Douro river is enjoying its day in the sun. Warm-weather Portugal, in the heart of the Porto wine region's, scenic villages, history and picture-perfect vineyards, is an idyllic spring, summer and fall river cruising destination.

Here's why we love river cruising on the Douro:

The Route:

 
The Douro river flows from Spain in the east, across northern Portugal to the western city of Porto on the Atlantic coast. Bookended by two UNESCO World Heritage cities, a river cruise on the scenic Douro Valley passes through mainly rural landscapes with historic villages, dramatic cliffs, famous vineyards, and for many people, the heart of Portugal's Latin culture.

 
(Image: Getty/Pietro Faccioli)

Even early and late in the season, the weather in Portugal is warmer and drier than in other popular river cruising destinations in Northern Europe, so if basking in pleasant summer weather is how you picture a river cruise, the Douro is for you.
 

The Highlights:

 
At the eastern end of the Douro: Spain. Most itineraries include nearby, renowned Salamanca, a UNESCO World Heritage city, with a 13th century university where Christopher Columbus once studied, and whose signature golden sandstone architecture glows in the summer sun.
 
At the western end of the route, the port city of Porto (pictured top; image: Getty/Mirifada) is the second largest in Portugal (behind Lisbon), and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If its famous bridge reminds you of the Eiffel Tower, you are not crazy; its architect studied under Eiffel. It was a small world, even in the 19th century.
 
A river cruise on the Douro is even more charming passing through the undisturbed countryside between the ports at either end. The Douro is far less traveled than the major European river cruise routes. You may rarely even see other river cruise boats or guests in the small villages where you can wander in a truly local, authentic, un-hurried rhythm and un-touristy environment. 
 

The Wine:

 
The name of the city of Porto suggests its long-lasting claim to fame. This is the home of port wine as you may have guessed, and also other delectable Portuguese wines like Muscatel. It's one of the world's oldest wine producing regions, with two millennia of viticulture traditions. 
 
When it comes to port wine, a Douro river cruise brings you to the doorstep of some of the region's best places to experience a rich and storied wine that has become less commonly served. (These days, it's mostly in British costume dramas where we see men retreating to their studies and clubs for 'port and cigars').
 
You can sip your way along the Douro river with expert, hosted wine tastings in famous and out of the way wineries, including the UNESCO World Heritage Vinhateiro wine region, the scenic Varosa Valley, the beautiful vineyards of Regua that produce the best range of port wine in the country, Casa de Mateus, the castle made famous on the labels of Portugal’s renowned Mateus wine, and other viticulture treats.
 

Start your Trip!


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Top 10 Souvenirs from a Trip to Hawaii

You'll come home with a million sun-drenched memories of a holiday in Hawaii. Here are 10 mementos you can take with you.

 

ANYTHING PINEAPPLE



They may be the most common symbol of Hawaii, and you'll find pineapples, pineapple products, and pineapple motifs everywhere. Pineapples are actually native to South America, and their Hawaiian name 'halakahiki' means 'foreign fruit'.  They arrived in Hawaii in the 1500's, but it wasn't until James Dole, the 'Pineapple King' came to the islands in 1899, that Hawaii became synonymous the world over with pineapples.


At one time, Hawaii produced 75% of the world's supply. Hawaii is no longer the world's big kahuna of pineapple production. But the second most visited attraction in Hawaii is the Dole Pineapple Plantation Experience. Roadside stands sell delicious, perfectly ripe pineapples you'll enjoy during your stay, and that's where they'll have to stay. You can't take fresh fruits off the islands. But you can take candied and chocolate versions of pineapple with you – as well as an unlimited selection of items with pineapple motifs that will remind you of lazy days in the Hawaiian sun. 
 

OTHER TROPICAL FRUIT

The Hawaiian islands are America's tropical paradise, with market and roadside fresh guavas, papayas, mangos, bananas, lychees, passionfruit as well as pineapples. Like pineapples, they are not native to the islands, although bananas were one of the dozen staple crops brought on the first journey to Hawaii by Polynesians. Other tropical fruit came later and many have even gone wild, even becoming invasive in the wilderness. 


The same no-fresh-fruit in your luggage rule applies. Fresh tropical fruit juices make delicious toppings on Hawaii's favorite refreshing treat: shaved ice. And look for tropical fruit preserves to take home to relive your vacation every morning with your breakfast toast.
 

LOCAL WOOD



Sustainable local woods, especially local, fast growing and immense acacia koa are turned in the hands of artisans into both beautiful and useful memorabilia of your Hawaiian vacation. From salad tongs and bowls, fruit and nut bowls, platters, yes, even in ubiquitous pineapple styling, Hawaiian tropical wood products make a warm and heart-warming souvenir for yourself or family and friends.
 

ANYTHING TIKI



Much of the world associates tiki culture with the Hawaiian islands. Tiki culture is not actually a real 'thing', in fact, it's a mash up of elements, some real and some imaginary, of stylized elements of the Pacific tropics, like statues, sweet and complex cocktails, tropical décor including bamboo, flaming torches, brightly patterned fabrics (see: Hawaiian shirts), rattan furniture, and bead curtains. Tiki culture developed in the mid-1900's, and picked up speed with a post-war fascination with the romantic and exotic - brought home by returning US troops from the Pacific war theater and exaggerated by Hollywood. 


Now, tiki has a fun, retro vibe, and is a perfect theme for a back yard barbecue, complete with mai tai's garnished with fresh fruit and tiny umbrellas.
 

HULA GIRLS - OR GUYS

The adorably kitschy, wiggling, dash-top décor is a fun and retro memento of one of Hawaii's most powerful, unique and authentic traditions: the hula dance. Accompanied since the 19th century by western-influenced instruments like the ukulele, Hawaii's hula is a complex and ancient dance tradition, where hand movements can represent the swaying of a tree or wave in the ocean, even an emotion, along with unmistakable foot and hip movements. 


Hopefully, you'll experience a hula performance live in Hawaii. The hula girl (or guy) on your dashboard gives you fond memories and a little hipster credibility.
 

HAWAIIAN SHIRT



Channel your inner 'Magnum' or Don Ho with the modern man's loudest item of clothing, worn un-tucked and cool in the tropical heat of Hawaii. Traditional and local Aloha shirts are more muted in tones and style, and are considered formal wear locally, equivalent to shirt, tie and jacket in all except the most formal of scenarios, perfect for the local climate. The Aloha shirt is the top textile export from the islands, so you'll be in good company if you add one to your wardrobe at home.
 

ALOHA ACCESSORIES



Not everyone can pull off an Hawaiian shirt. The rest of us may have to make do with more subtle expressions of Aloha style: plumeria/ frangipani flower hair clips, and shell or silk flower leis. The custom of lei floral and leaf garlands was brought to the islands of Hawaii by settlers who made the incredible journey from Polynesia in canoes.  They've become the symbol around the world of welcome to America's 50th state.
 

MORNING JOE AND AFTERNOON TEA

The word in coffee in Hawaii is 'Kona'. Various efforts on the islands in the 19th century to grow coffee failed, but the slopes of the Kona or west side of the island of Hawaii, where sugarcane was unsuccessful, is ideally suited to coffee production. The Kona district became the center of coffee production in Hawaii and is Hawaii's coffee designation of origin; it must be grown in a two-mile-wide belt of terrain at 700-2000 feet of elevation to be labeled Hawaii's most prestigious coffee.


Kona coffee grows on west side slopes, and the opposite, east side has conditions conducive to growing tea. Tea production in Hawaii is much more recent, and growers are experimenting with black, green, oolong teas, scented with local flowers and fruits, so tea drinkers also have a local hot beverage to enjoy on island or to take home.

GET NUTTY



The pale, round and incredibly rich macadamia nut – sometimes even called the Hawaii nut - is also associated with classic Hawaiian snacks and cooking. But it, like the pineapple, originates elsewhere. Macadamia was introduced to Hawaii from Australia in the 1800's, and a local macadamia nut plantation just after WW2 helped spread the popularity of Hawaiian macadamia nuts through the US.  Enjoy them freshly roasted and take them home in cans, made into brittle, chocolates and countless other reminders of the flavor of Hawaii.

SALT



Hawaiians have been living off the land since their brave Polynesian ancestors made their way by celestial navigation thousands of miles across the Pacific. Harvesting sea salt has always been a fundamental part of island tradition, and continues today, with varieties of sea salt highlighting different flavors and unique characteristics of the areas they are harvested. The perfect foodie souvenir!
 

UKULELE

The soundtrack of any trip to Hawaii is the one-of-a-kind tunes of a ukulele. Looking like a miniature guitar, the ukulele is a Hawaiian adaptation of string instruments brought to the islands by Portuguese immigrants in the 19th century. The word has a whimsical meaning: 'jumping flea', thought to reflect the movement of a player's fingers. Ukulele music was popularized by the patronage of King Kalakaua in Hawaii, and it spread to the US and the rest of the world in the early and mid-20th century, along with post-war fascination with the South Seas and 'tiki' culture. Even Elvis famously played the ukulele in Hawaiian-themed performances.


You too can buy a ukulele in Hawaii, even visit an artisan workshop where they're made from traditional acacia koa, and take lessons, to liven up your next summer barbecue with the ultimate sounds of the Hawaiian tropics.
 

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That's a trick question. Michelin, who issues the most coveted fine dining ratings, only evaluates restaurants in three US cities: New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. Not Alaska.

But there is still one place you can dine in Alaska at a restaurant by America's most acclaimed Michelin starred chef.

Chef Thomas Keller is the only American chef to have been awarded simultaneous top, three star Michelin ratings for two different restaurants. At time of writing, he has not one, not two, but three Michelin starred restaurants in the U.S., with a combined total of 7 stars: his landmark Napa restaurant The French Laundry (3 stars), nearby Bouchon (1 star) and New York's hit restaurant, Per Se (3 stars).

Reservations book up months in advance to Chef Keller's restaurants on land, and like most Michelin-starred dining, the prices correspond to the stratospheric culinary experience.

That makes Chef Keller's partnership with ultra-luxury cruise line Seabourn even more extraordinary. Every Seabourn ship has a restaurant: The Grill by Thomas Keller, and although reservations are required, every guest has the opportunity to book an evening at The Grill. What's more, like all dining on Seabourn, Chef Keller's restaurant is complimentary.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: An Evening at The Grill by Thomas Keller on Seabourn

We know people who've booked a Seabourn cruise just for The Grill, and for good reason. It's a new restaurant concept for Chef Keller. The Grill is an updated iteration of a mid-century American steakhouse, with brilliantly polished rich wood, the sexy curves of leather banquettes, muted chimes of sparkling crystal, extraordinary custom cocktails, a wine list that celebrates both Old and New World vintages, and a menu of Chef Keller's interpretations of classic, French-inspired American cuisine, from cuts of meat to the same 'Roast Chicken for Two' perfected at The French Laundry, Lobster Thermidor and even ice cream sundaes. He's even resurrected the almost-lost, charming practice of tableside preparations of exquisite Caesar Salad and the sundaes. 

When Vanessa Lee of Cruise & Travel Lifestyles magazine and I dined on the Seabourn Quest at The Grill, we had the pleasure of meeting the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group's ambassador Chef Michael Sandoval tableside, and our wonderful conversation with him gave us real insights into the Chef Keller culinary philosophy and story. A highlight of our journey!

The best part? Everywhere on every continent Seabourn sails, The Grill is there. Even Alaska. 

So you can wonder at the breathtaking landscapes, magnificent wildlife, rustic charm and one-of-a-kind lifestyle of America's Last Frontier by day… and indulge in the phenomenal cuisine of 'The Best Chef in America' on board in the evening.  

I think that's the very definition of good living, Seabourn-style.

 

Start your Trip!


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If you close your eyes and picture 'Italy', chances are, it's the rows of vineyards and cypress trees, villas and farmhouses, fabled towns and household-name works of art of Tuscany that come to mind.


There are a million reasons why Tuscany is the setting of so many escapist novels, movies and life-changing travels. Here are our favorites:

FLORENCE

The red rooftops of Florence are the symbol of Tuscany's capital and epic Italian Renaissance magic. Wandering the alleys and cobblestoned streets, the Boboli Gardens and the Ponte Vecchio lets you drink in Firenze's one-of-a-kind atmosphere. 


But its greatest attractions are indoors. Italy's greatest collection of art is housed in Florence's Uffizi Gallery. The richness of its collection is unparalleled; so many Renaissance masterpieces – recognizable even if you weren't an art history student - you'll hit Botticelli sensory overload quickly, so you'll want to break up your visit into multiple days. Michelangelo's statue of David at the Galleria dell'Accademia makes visitors gasp in awe at the 17-foot marble nude – as does its replica placed in its original 1504 setting outside the Palazzo Vecchio.

SIENA

Art lovers may argue whether it's Renaissance Florence or Gothic Siena that is the most breathtaking Tuscan city for art and architecture. Luckily, you don't have to choose, immerse yourself in the cathedrals and squares and museums in both. In a part of the world teeming with UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Siena's Piazza del Campo stands out in its majesty cradled at the foot of three hills surrounding it. Work off some of that extraordinary Tuscan cuisine climbing the Torre del Mangia, a tower at the Palazzo Pubblico. Your reward is a breathtaking viewpoint over Siena.

 

THE PALIO

Time your visit to Siena right, and you can be a part of one of the world's most famous and storied sports/ cultural historic events. The Palio di Siena is a bareback horse race that feels like a Gothic time capsule. The 10 horses and riders are decked out like, knights of yore, in the medieval colors representing city wards; flags hang from the balconies and buildings in the city.

It's one of the most exciting 90 seconds in sport/ pageantry. The riders cling desperately to their horses for three laps of Siena's packed Piazza del Campo, and often, a few are thrown especially at the tight turns along the way, with riderless horses running into the crowds in the middle of the square or crossing the finish line with the other horses. The Palio is run twice a summer, on July 2nd and August 16th, and the Corteo Storico, a boisterous pageant, precedes the race.  Tip: arrange your visit to Siena's Palio through a tour operator that has balcony access overlooking the Piazza for the best view above the throngs.
 

CINQUE TERRE

'Five Villages' sounds quite humble, but in Tuscany, it's magic. Clinging to the sides of the cliffs overlooking the sea, these five colorful villages are among the most recognizable images of Italy. The area is a national park and also protected by UNESCO World Heritage status that attempts to shield these seaside jewels from excessive tourism/ commercialism.  


It's an epic view from the sea, if you're lucky enough to be on a Mediterranean cruise that sails along the Ligurian coast; smaller ships especially may sail close enough. On land, hiking trails provide both a wonderful outdoor activity and spectacular views of the different villages. There is also a coastal train that stops in each town. 
 

PISA

Pisa's 12th century Leaning Tower has been touristy since there were tourists in Italy – and that's a long time. You too will join the millions of people on Instagram in a photo of yourself 'propping up' the 180-foot tower that is about 4 degrees off a perfect vertical. That doesn't sound like much, but it means the top is 13 feet off center! 

The tower began leaning during construction due to poor foundations. In recent years, hundreds of millions have been spent re-stabilizing the bell tower. Unbelievably, it is safe enough you can even climb 300 steps to the top in a medieval version of a funhouse.

VESPAS

Tuscany is the home of the original, and world's favorite scooter. The Vespa isn't just quaint, retro memorabilia. It was designed (its name means 'wasp' for the insect its shape and handlebars evoke) to lead a transportation revolution: vehicles that are inexpensive and easily parked and maneuvered in urban areas.
 
Vespas are still made at the Piaggio factory in the Tuscan city of Pontedera, not far from Pisa, which has a museum displaying the Vespa customized by Salvador Dali.  They have a cult following around the world. Renting one to tour around Tuscany may be one of the most authentic, fun, and heartwarming local experiences.

WATCH VIDEO AT THE TOP: MEETING A VESPA COLLECTOR/ RESTORER IN TUSCANY


WINE AND DINE IN THE COUNTRYSIDE

As captivating are Tuscany's cities, the iconic scenery of region's rural areas are transformative. Chianti vineyards, white truffle farms, olive groves along country lanes lines with sculpted-looking cypress trees, with villas, farmhouses, and chapels integrated by the centuries into the gently rolling landscape.

To visit Tuscany is to spend time, by vespa or bicycle or on foot, in the countryside, and even better, to stay in a rural castello or villa with its own vineyard and restaurant to treat all of your senses to a taste of Tuscany.
 

Start your Trip!


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The Chinese New Year Dish You Need To Try This Year
Kung Hey Fat Choi! Chinese New Year celebrations brighten up the winter months throughout Asia and Asian communities around the world. It's the most important date on the Lunar calendar and includes weeks of festivities with family and friends from late January through March. Many activities give everyone a chance to get into the spirit of a fresh, healthy, happy and prosperous upcoming year.

Among the many outstanding traditions like lion dances, flower markets, decorations of lanterns, red and gold banners, and orange trees, wearing of red, temple visits, parades, fireworks, family gatherings and gift giving, are, of course, special Chinese New Year feasts.

If it isn't already, put Chinese New Year travel on your bucket list. Every major Asian community in Asia as well as the Americas and Europe holds memorable CNY festivities. Here are a couple of our favorites:

Hong Kong

It's considered one of the world's best festivals, with Victoria Harbour's neon spectacle as a backdrop to 6000 tonnes of fireworks, parades, flower market, temple celebrations and lucky New Year's horse races.

Philippines

Manila's Binondo district is the oldest Chinatown in the world, and appropriately, host of the Guinness world record Chinese New Year's celebrations. Its standout moment is a laser show and a one-of-a-kind LED Lion Dance.

Singapore

Chinese New Year involves weeks of festivities including an International Lion Dance Competition, a riverside carnival, and over 10,000 performers in the continent's largest street procession.
 

San Francisco

This West Coast city's Chinatown is famous, so naturally, it's 2-week CNY celebrations are, too. Flower festivals, a breathtaking, 200-foot dragon finale to the largest CNY parade outside of Asia.

Food is central to the celebrations, and almost every dish carries symbolic meaning or color, or a name that sounds like the Chinese characters for Chinese New Year wishes like longevity or wealth.

Our friends at Hong Kong Tourism have shared with us their recipe for Lion's Head Meatballs – also called Four Joys Meatballs. It's a pork recipe - which seems especially suitable for Year of the Pig – but is equally tasty and relevant no matter which creature's year of the Chinese zodiac it is. The round shape of meatballs symbolizes 'togetherness', and the Lion's Head evokes Chinese New Year Lion dances.
 

It's easy enough to make at home for your own Chinese New Year celebration or any time you crave it.

Braised Chinese Lion’s Head Pork Meat Balls Recipe 

 
Ingredients
 
Meatballs
1 lb Ground Pork
4 large Dried Shiitaki mushroom (soak in warm water until softened, then minced)
½ cup Water Chestnuts, minced
1 Egg
1 teaspoon Minced Ginger
2 Scallions/ Green Onions, minced
½ cup Panko Bread Crumbs
1 teaspoon Minced Garlic
½ teaspoon White Pepper
2 tablespoons Light Soya Sauce
1 tablespoon Dark Soya Sauce
1 tablespoon Cornstarch
2 tablespoons Shaoxing or Rice Wine
1 tablespoon Sesame Oil
1 teaspoon Salt
+
1 cup Vegetable Oil for frying
 
Vegetables in Broth
10 leaves Napa Cabbage
2 pieces Sliced Ginger, bruised
1 cup Chicken Broth

Method

Put ground pork into a large bowl. Add Shaoxing wine, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, sesame oil, salt, sugar, grated ginger, cornstarch and scallion. Add chestnuts, mushroom and eggs. Add panko. Mix all ingredients til sticky and moist. Divide into 6-8 parts. Roll each part into a large ball.
 
Heat vegetable oil in a non-stick skillet over medium high heat til warm. Fry meatballs til all sides browned. Take out and place on paper towels to absorb oil.
 
Place bruised ginger slices in bottom of a clay pot or any round pot. Fill with chicken broth or water. Put in cabbage leaves. Arrange browned meatballs on top. Cover and heat in medium high temperature til boiled, lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add salt or soya sauce to taste. Garnish with chopped scallion or parsley (optional).
 
Ready to serve over steamed rice. You can make and cook the meatballs in advance and do the final heating in broth when you want to serve the meatballs.

Kung Hey Fat Choi!


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Everyone wants to try 'real' local food when they travel. But we don't always have a real local to point us in the right direction.
 
That's why we loved our Avalon Waterways' culinary tour of the Jordaan, a walking-sipping-snacking tour of the revitalized neighborhood in Amsterdam. It gets you out of the tourist core and into the heart of the Dutch lifestyle the way the locals in the Netherlands really live. 
 
Want to taste the local beer? And the snack the locals order at the bar? You've heard of pickled/ raw herring but never had the nerve to try on your own? Do you want to sample a Dutch cheese you'd never find in a market at home? Or discover the best Dutch chocolate shop to buy souvenirs for family and friends?

We did it all on our culinary discovery tour of Amsterdam with Martine, our Amsterdam guide who knew every shop keeper and even better: the best tips to get that herring down the hatch – and love it!
 
BestTrip's culinary tour of the Jordaan in Amsterdam is just one of Avalon Waterways' collection of included shore excursions that let you get hands-on in a destination and experience the local lifestyle the way you enjoy.
 
How do you like to explore? With 3 types of included excursions and onboard activities on Avalon Europe cruises you can create your own personalized trip.
 
CLASSIC
A local expert is ready to guide you through the history and heritage of local destinations and the “must see” sites.
 
DISCOVERY
Inspiring and interactive hands-on activities designed to speak to your interests - you spend your day immersing yourself in the destination’s unique culture, from cuisine, to art, to wine and more.
 
ACTIVE
Embark on energetic excursions keeping you in motion and on the go — from a guided jogging tour, to biking, paddling, and hiking your way through scenic locales.
 
Every European river cruise destination has its own special character, and Active, Discovery, and Classic styles of exploration mean that from the Seine to the Danube, the Rhine to the Rhone, you'll be traveling the way you want on your Avalon Waterways River Cruise, and gathering the travel stories that put a smile on your face for years to come. 
 

Start your Trip!

 
 
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Las Vegas Has a New Culinary Destination

24 hours a day, 40,000 square feet, 400 types of wines from all 20 Italian wine regions, 2 restaurants, 3 bars, an educational chef's table, 6 food counters representing authentic versions of your favorite Italian delicacies and comfort food plus 5000 retail products you can take home – directly on the Strip. Foodies are asking themselves why Eataly hasn't opened a Las Vegas outpost before now.


The debut of Eataly in Vegas' newest resort, Park MGM, marks the world's largest Italian shopping and dining experience's sixth US location.  Now, there are more than three dozen global Eataly centers celebrating high quality, sustainable Italian gastronomy. 

Eataly's philosophy is 'Eat. Shop. Learn'. Part food hall, part restaurant, bar, cooking school, and culinary education destination, Eataly Las Vegas continues favorite experiences and adds some new ones.

'The Kitchen of the Market' blurs the lines between shop and restaurant. Pull up a seat at one of the 6 fresh counters where you can eat what you shop, and shop what you eat of Italy's most iconic dishes:

  • La Macelleria: Butcher & Kitchen and La Pescheria: Fishmonger & Kitchen: choose any cut of sustainably sourced meats and sausages from the case at La Macelleria, or daily catches, seasonal oysters, and Italian ceviche at La Pescheria, watch chefs prepare it for you to eat there, or package it for you to take back to your own kitchen.

 
All Photos: Francisco Lupini/Eataly USA

  • La Salumeria: Cheesemonger & Kitchen: The best of Italian snacking: meat and cheese boards with salumi and formaggi chosen by an Eataly cheesemonger, or by you.
 
  • La Pizzeria: Roman Handcrafted Pizza alla Pala: Ah, pizza. The Roman variety, served up on a wooden paddle and featuring seasonal ingredients
 
  • More Italian Street Food: Il Fritto, La Rosticceria, and Mozzarella Bar: There's more than pizza to Italian Street Food, and this fresh counter is divided into three areas: Il Fritto, offering lightly fried bites like arancini and fried seafood; La Rosticceria, serving rotisserie roast chickens, seasonal vegetables, and panini; and Mozzarella Bar, offering house-made mozzarella favorites.
  • La Pasta Fresca: Market & Kitchen: Everyone's favorite carbs, kneaded, rolled, cut and formed by expert pasta makers in front of you, covering all the regions of Italy and paired with traditional sauces. In season, you can even order black or white truffles by weight because if there's anything that makes fresh, hand-made pasta even better, it's fresh truffles.
 
Italian wines and spirits and coffee traditions hold place of pride in three new venues:


  • L'Aperitivo – The perfect place to start your exploration of Eataly. L'Apertivo is at the entrance, and a hand-crafted Italian cocktail of your taste, from a Venetian Aperol Spritz to a fortifying Negroni, will get you into the spirit of Eataly Las Vegas.
 
  • Gran Caffè Milano – an upscale, full-service bar inspired by the elegant cafes of Milan, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Don't miss the replica of Milan's famous bull mosaic – a good luck symbol helpful to gamblers in Las Vegas when you put one foot on the mosaic and spin three times around.
 
  • L'Enoteca – The 'Wine Bar' is Eataly's premier bar and serves up all of Italy's finest – from more than 80 regional wines by the glass or bottle, craft cocktails, even bitters.  and will feature a wide selection of regional Italian wines by the glass or bottle, craft cocktails, and Amari (Italian bitters).
 
Your wine selection is even greater at the wine shop and tasting table, where you'll find one of the largest selections of Italian wines in the States: over 400 labels from all 20 regions of Italy.

Relax at the table at two classic restaurants: Manzo, La Pizza e La Pasta, or grab take-away pizza by the slice, pastries, all things Nutella at the Nutella bar, true Italian coffee, even pastas, sauces and gifts or souvenirs like Eataly branded clothing, kitchenware and mementos.


Live culinary demonstrations at the interactive Chef's Table inspire visitors of all ages to explore and taste the world of Italian cooking traditions hands on, from shaping gnocchi to understanding the difference between Toscana and Sicilia extra virgin olive oil. And makers at many stations and shops create fresh pastas, bread, gelato, cheese, and more to your wondering eyes.

Eataly's Italian gastronomic playground joins other star power dining and entertainment experiences at the new Park MGM. If you haven't been to the Strip lately, follow the scents anytime day or night to Eataly, which we're predicting will be one of the most iconic, must-do experiences in Las Vegas. 

Start your Trip!


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Champagne Vending Machine at this NOLA Hotel Makes Every Day New Year's Eve
The motto of New Orleans is 'Let the Good Times Roll'. Nowhere is that more true than at the local Ritz-Carlton, which now boasts the area's first permanent champagne vending machine.


This classy, tongue-in-cheek interpretation of lobby fixtures in sadder hotels holds 320 'piccolo' (mini) bottles of liquid celebration, and blends right into the hotel's festive seasonal décor and events.


A nearly life-sized gingerbread NOLA streetcar dominates the lobby, with festive gingerbread making and decorating events throughout advent for the young and their grown up family members who want to sip while they decorate.

Christmas Eve 'Reveillon' feasts throughout December pay tribute to New Orleans' and Louisiana's French founding residents, along with 'Papa Noel' teas and breakfasts, and a Christmas Day 'Jubilee' extravaganza.


As exciting as those are, it's the New Year's Eve 6-course masquerade dinner and ball in partnership with iconic champagne brand Moet et Chandon, that tops out the festive season with champagne taking center stage.

And before New Year's is even over, the Mardi Gras carnival season in New Orleans has already begun.


With a full calendar of festivals and celebrations, never-ending good times really do roll one into another in New Orleans.  The city's 24-hour alcohol serving times plus relaxed policy towards carrying your drinks into the street (a couple of restrictions do apply: only in plastic cups and only in the French Quarter) make the Ritz-Carlton's lobby champagne vending machine not only festive but even practical.  

So whatever celebration brings you to New Orleans, you can let your good times roll in the Big Easy anytime with an elegant bubbly and a hotel home base on Canal Street just a block from Bourbon Street at the edge of the French Quarter.


Start your Trip!


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It's a long-standing tradition and one of guests' favorite experiences of a Seabourn cruise. And it doesn't even take place on board the ship.

Seabourn's Shopping with the Chef complimentary shore excursions to landmark local markets in ports of call are legendary, and a signature of the luxury cruise line.

It's no surprise to find Seabourn chefs shopping in local markets. Take a Seabourn cruise. Then take another. No two Seabourn cruises are quite the same. You'll realize how much effort Seabourn chefs (and all the crew) put into constantly innovating new ways to delight guests. On a canvas of Seabourn service excellence, there's an ever-changing palette of colorful, unexpected moments that become some of your favorite memories of your cruise. 

Unique local ingredients and flavors from your cruise destinations take center stage in those delightful Seabourn moments. The chefs source them locally on arrival, so they change seasonally and even every time Seabourn calls in port through a sailing season in a region.

Shopping with the Chef gives guests behind the scenes insights into what they'll soon find on board on their plates, appearing on the pool deck in an epicurean moment, taking center stage on a breakfast or lunch buffet display, or proudly featured in a new course on the dinner menu. In historic local markets, the chef reveals favorite suppliers of the freshest, most unique ingredients, and discovers what's new at the market. 
 
If you're a foodie like me, the famous local market is on my list of experiences at any port of call in the world. Having the opportunity to experience that market Shopping with the Chef on a Seabourn cruise makes it even more delicious.
Here are 4 renowned markets in 4 Seabourn destinations where you can go Shopping with the Chef.

By: Lynn Elmhirst, BestTrip.tv Producer/Host
 

Cruise: Canada & New England

Market: Old Port Market, Quebec City, Canada


Charming Quebec City is, as they say, a taste of Europe without the jet lag. Its Old Town preserves delightfully walkable 17th and 18th century neighborhoods.  No surprise the Quebec market dates from 1640! Today, following its French heritage, Quebec is one of the epicurean centers of Canada. The famous Ile d'Orleans is a hotbed of gastronomic agriculture only minutes away from downtown, and food producers bring their prize-winning products to the new location of Quebec's market.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE OF OUR SHOPPING WITH THE CHEF SEABOURN EXPERIENCE IN QUEBEC CITY

The Old Port market is just steps away from the cruise port. There are local Canadian products you expect like local maple syrup, as well as things you might never have heard of, like Haska berries and things made from both. French bread like you last tasted in France, local types of cheese you won't find anywhere else, hand-made sausage and charcuterie, even iced apple cider that takes advantage of cold winters to produce a one-of-a-kind taste – the small bottles make terrific souvenirs!
 

Cruise: Australia & New Zealand

Market: Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne, Australia

 
Another market that dates from the earliest days of 19th century colonists, Melbourne's 19th century Vic Market or Queen Vic is now protected by heritage status. The market sprawls over 17 acres that make it the largest open-air market in the Southern Hemisphere. There's even a campaign underway to have it declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Many original structures are preserved and restored, including the oldest, the 1869 Meat Hall, and the Elizabeth Street façade. Shopping in the Queen Vic is experiencing a working modern market in a 19th century Australian streetscape.
 
Victoria State feeds Melbourne shoppers its beef, cheese, local produce, and famous regional wines. If you don't go on a wine tour of the nearby countryside, the market is a wonderful place to explore the local wine flavors alongside residents who do regular shopping here. Watch for local delicacies Murray River salt and gum tree honey. Follow the locals to the famous hot jam donut van. And in addition to local gastronomic treats, you'll find local jewelry, arts and craft vendors to stock up on gifts and souvenirs.
 
You'll hope your Seabourn cruise is in town on the right days; this market closes Mondays and Wednesdays, although there's a Wednesday night market in the summer, that adds dining, bars, and live entertainment to other vendors' stalls.
 

Cruise: The Mediterranean

Market: The Central Market of Valencia, Spain

 
Everyone talks about Barcelona's La Bouqueria, but Seabourn takes its Shopping with the Chef experience to Valencia, further west on the sunny coast of Spain. This is the largest market in Europe, with a whopping 1500 stalls over 2 acres. The building itself is a remarkable Art Deco landmark with high ceilings that dominates the streetscape of this Spanish port city. Shopping with the Chef in Valencia is a morning endeavor; like much of the rest of Spain, it closes before mid afternoon.
 
The Mercado Central de Valencia is still a truly local gastronomic and home-cook experience, as you'll see by the number of elderly ladies still doing their daily shopping for supper and bargaining for the price of their fish or produce. The fish market is its own area, almost a quarter of the market, testimony to Valencia's fishing port status. Local cheeses and local sausage and cured meats will inspire you to go home and serve tapas, and for a culinary souvenir, indulge yourself in local pressed olive oil.  You'll also find stands representing local artists, designers and souvenirs.
 
While you're at the market, follow the locals to the line up for a can't-miss local delicacy just inside the market's main entrance. Fartons is an unappealing name for a delicious sweet bun. Wash yours down with the equally famous horchata (nut milk).
 

Cruise: South-East Asia

Market: Ben Thanh Market, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam


The Saigon district (District 1) of central Ho Chi Minh City is home to the city's most spectacular historic architecture: wedding cake-like confections of colonial buildings, grand hotels… and the Ben Thanh Market. Its stand-out early 20th century clock façade has made it a meeting point, backdrop for countless photo shoots and selfies, and unmistakable landmark of this bustling Vietnamese city.

The earlier the better for this market – both the crowds and the heat will be less. Any time of day you should still expect a riot of color, smells, and textures unique to this part of the world. Fresh fish still wriggling in pans at your feet. Shrimp too big to fit in your hand. Vast bunches of pungent herbs and greens that make Vietnamese cuisine so mouth-watering. Spices and pyramids of fruit, and other local flavors Seaborn's chefs introduce into the on board menus.
And then there's the non-culinary part of the market with cheap clothing, sandals and electronics to some crafts, jewelry and art where you might happen across something souvenir-worthy.

Markets are my favorite places in any new destination to get a finger on the pulse of the local culinary scene and lifestyle. Seabourn chefs' insights, passion for food and sharing new tastes and experiences with guests make Shopping with the Chef anywhere in the world a travel memory of a lifetime.

Start your Trip!


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Seabourn specializes in culinary memories.
 
This luxury cruise line has long been famous for its tradition of 'Shopping with the Chef'. In Quebec City on a Seabourn fall colors cruise from Montreal through Canada and New England, we took Shopping with the Chef one step further – to its natural conclusion, in a delectable Seabourn dish.

Shopping with the Seabourn Quest's Executive Chef Jes Paskins at the Old Port Market just steps away from the ship, we returned laden with the bounty of Quebec's harvest season.

Seabourn's beloved culinary demonstrations usually take place in the Grand Salon.
(Seabourn Executive Chef Jes Paskins in the Grand Salon of the Seabourn Quest during a Culinary Demonstration)

With the Seabourn Quest docked at the foot of Quebec City's picturesque hill and in the shadow of the famous Chateau Frontenac, Chef Jes decided to celebrate his interpretation of Quebec's local flavors on deck in full view of the Quebec skyline.

Chef Jes' Roasted Quebec Pumpkin Risotto is as delicious as it looks, and he was kind enough to share the recipe for our fall harvest feasts at home.
 
 Seabourn Pumpkin Risotto
  • 4 cups warm Chicken Stock
  • Splash of Olive oil
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • ½ pound of Diced Butter
  • 1 cup Parmesan Cheese Shavings
  • 1 cup Diced Roasted Pumpkin
  • ½ cup Diced Shallots
  • 1 cup good quality White Wine
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup Roasted Pumpkin Seeds (recipe below)
  • Fresh Rocket Lettuce
  • Pumpkin Seed Oil drizzle (optional)
 
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Heat a pan with Olive oil and butter; once hot, sprinkle in your Pumpkin Seeds.
Gently pan-fry them, keeping them moving so not to burn until they start to pop. Lightly season and then put into a strainer to remove most of the oil and butter and put the rest of the seeds onto absorbent paper to remove the rest of the oil and butter allow to cool and use for garnish.
Pumpkin Risotto
Peel the Pumpkin, de-seed and cut the pumpkin into nice diced pieces. Coat with Olive oil, Cracked Black Pepper, and roast in the oven for 25 minutes at a high heat until golden brown. Allow to cool, and set aside.
Drizzle a little Olive Oil in a pan. Sautee Shallots with butter, then add the Arborio rice, and slowly add the White Wine until it absorbs. Then add pre-warmed Chicken Stock little by little, waiting for it to be absorbed by the rice each time before adding more.
As the rice is almost cooked and still a bit firm, al dente (not fully cooked) when you test it, stir in the roasted Pumpkin, Parmesan Cheese and diced Cold Butter. Mix until the cheese and butter are fully melted and incorporated, then test and season to taste.
Serving
Place a serving into the center of a bowl, sprinkle fresh-shaved Parmesan Cheese and Roasted Pumpkin Seeds over the top. Add a little Rocket Lettuce on top of the Risotto, drizzle some Olive or Pumpkin Seed Oil on top to finish, and serve immediately. Bon Appetit!
 
Pair Chef Jes' Roasted Pumpkin Risotto recipe with some sparkling – or if you can get it, Quebec iced cider – and you'll experience Seabourn's interpretation of the taste of Quebec at home. Of course, we recommend trying Seabourn's renowned cuisine in person on one of Seabourn's Canada & New England Fall Colors cruises – or on any Seabourn cruise anywhere in the world. Your taste-buds will thank you!

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5 Stars and Social Consciousness; A Paris Hotel Creates the Future of Luxury Cuisine

The first luxury hotel to win 5 Michelin stars is putting its money where its guests' mouths are. And committing to the cause of tomorrow's food and cuisine.


The Four Seasons Hotel George V in Paris has three restaurants. Between them, they've earned record recognition by Michelin.  3 stars for Le Cinq, 1 star for Le George (pictured, top) and 1 star for L'Orangerie. It's put this historic landmark Parisian hotel on the top of many foodie travel lists.
Now an historic garden is where the Four Seasons Hotel George V is taking the future of social and environmental cuisine.

In the late 1700's, French King Louis XVI gave his sister a 20-acre(8-hectare) estate in the heart of Versailles, the royal residence on the outskirts of Paris. Princess Elisabeth cultivated a fruit and vegetable garden and gave her produce to the underprivileged.
Today, the Estate is a public garden, and now part of it has been turned into a sustainable Kitchen Garden for the Four Season Hotel George V's Le George restaurant. Executive Chef Simone Zanoni has a vision of a multi-faceted approach to lead the future of food production as he forges ahead with the highest levels of fine dining.
Reduced Carbon Footprint
Country hotels may have their own on site gardens. Not so for big city hotels. The hotel's Kitchen Garden is less than 10 miles (15 km) from the hotel in the heart of Paris, reducing the carbon footprint of transporting produce from garden to the hotel kitchen.
 
Organic is Just the Start
The garden has been free of chemicals for over 10 years, ensuring completely organic produce. Testing planting began a year ago, and resulted in fine harvests of a broad range of fruits and vegetables including 15 varieties of tomatoes and vegetables from humble carrots, potatoes and beets through squash,pumpkins, eggplants, and green beans and even fruits: strawberries, raspberries and bush peaches.
 
Helping Hands
The garden has been developed with the assistance of the local 'Green Brigade', a team of twenty people on return-to-work contracts. Their on-site work to harvest at the point of perfect ripeness ensures the produce is served in the restaurant's dishes at peak flavor and texture. 
 
Fighting Food Waste
Green waste recycling? The new Kitchen Garden ups the ante. The hotel has partnered with a Paris start up called 'Les Alchimistes'. They collect organic waste from Le George restaurant, process it into 'made in Paris' compost, and return it directly to the soil at the Versailles garden. The garden's bio-system is a now an elegant plate-to-plate cycle.
 
Passing on Knowledge and Awareness
Chef Zanoni acknowledges the new generation of chefs even in food-conscious France has grown up without personal experience of agriculture, gardens and green space. So sharing that experience of hands-on gardening and awareness of food production is part of the hotel's Kitchen Garden vision. Two to three days a week, staff from Le George are on-site at the Kitchen Garden learning about raising produce and selecting premium produce at its source.
 
Getting Guests Close to the Land and the Source of their Food
The final connection: hotel customers and diners. Not only will people enjoying the cuisine at Le George benefit from the locally-raised, environmentally- and socially-conscious produce on their plates.
 
Four Seasons Hotel George V is unveiling a parallel guest experience at the Versailles Kitchen Garden. In a hybrid Porsche Panamera, guests are taken to the Kitchen Garden for a chance to explore, discover, and participate in ingredient selection. Back at the hotel, they'll have a tasting of the produce with Chef Zanoni.
 
For this Michelin-starred chef, it's the ultimate in the concept of sharing at the table: inviting guests to learn the many facets of this next-generation hotel kitchen garden and share in the pleasures of the soil and its produce on their plates. 
 

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5 Fun Facts Plus 1 Travel-Inspired Tequila Recipe
Tequila has grown up. No longer a frat house or a blurry vacation cliché, Mexico's national spirit has returned in recent years to its roots, with new premium brands sprouting up that are perfect for sipping and stylish cocktails at home or on holiday.
 
Here are 5 things you might not have known about Tequila – and a great recipe from our friends at Altos Tequila to get you in the 'spirit' for your next trip to Mexico.

Mezcal or Tequila?

It all starts with the agave plant. Contrary to myth, agave is not a cactus! It's a desert succulent actually more closely related to lilies. The core is cooked, and the juice distilled into mezcal.

Tequila is a specific type of mezcal, with two distinctions: it must be made from the blue agave plant, and in a designated area around the city of Tequila northwest of Guadalajara, and in the highlands (Los Altos) of central Mexico. Tequila is sold around the world as a designation of origin product. Like true 'champagne' is only from Champagne, genuine Tequila must come from its namesake region too.

Recognized by UNESCO

The region responsible for producing the world's Tequila is also one of Mexico's UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Agave Landscape and Ancient Industrial Facilities of Tequila site is vast – close to 100,000 acres. The area was home nearly 2000 years ago to the Teuchitlan civilization famous for its ball courts, as well as agriculture that led to the cultivation of agave for cloth and the early fermented spirit pulque that set the stage for the distillation of tequila beginning in the 1500's.

It's worth a trip to Mexico's highlands and agave farming areas – before or after your beach vacation, or even as a dedicated journey of its own. The village of Tequila was founded in 1530 and has been designated a 'Pueblo Magico' by the Mexican government. Stroll through the village square, and pay a visit to Tequila's 18th century church between distillery tours and tastings.

Tequila By the Numbers

  • 6-12 years: the time it takes blue agave plants to mature to harvest.
  • 1 life: Agave plants are cut down to harvest the core, so must be replanted for future harvests.
  • 1 Agave core (pina) can weigh a hundred – even hundreds! of pounds when it's harvested. 
  • More than 100 distilleries produce more than 600 brands of Tequila, totaling around 60 million gallons (250 million L) every year.
  • 0 worms. The worm-in-the-tequila-bottle myth may have come from a larva that dines on agave plants and ended up in bottles of mescal – but should never be in distilled Tequila. 

Tequila Variations

We said Tequila could only be made with blue agave, right? That's true, but it only has to be 51% of a bottle of Tequila. If Tequila is labeled 'Mixtos', it may be up to 49% other types of sugars than blue agave. Tequila purists say only 100% blue agave will do; you be the judge.

Once Tequila is distilled, it becomes one of these 4 variations:
  • Blanco (white) or Plata (silver) Tequila is clear and un-aged.
  • Reposado Tequila is aged a minimum of 2 months in oak barrels. Reposado means 'rested', and this process mellows and smooths the Tequila.
  • Añejo (aged) Tequila is yet more refined, spending 1-3 years in small oak barrels.
  • Extra Añejo Tequila is a premium spirit that has aged over three years, with corresponding increases in price. 

Sipping and Celebrating

If you actually need an excuse to celebrate Mexico's national spirit, put these two dates on your calendar. July 24th is National Tequila Day, and February 22nd is National Margarita Day. Would you have guessed the margarita is the world's most famous cocktail? An unbelievable 25% of cocktails sold around the world are margaritas, and Americans are said to drink 4.5 million margaritas every day! 

But in Mexico itself, 40% of tequila is mixed into Palomas. Mexico's most popular tequila cocktail has two versions, and our friends at Altos Tequila have shared their recipes for the Paloma and the Sparkling Paloma.

Altos Sparkling Paloma (pictured above)
  • 2 oz Altos Plata Tequila
  • ½ oz Agave syrup or honey
  • ½ oz Lemon or lime juice
  • Pink Grapefruit Soda
  • A pinch of salt
Pour tequila, syrup and lemon juice in a highball glass. Mix to dissolve the agave syrup. Add ice, top with soda. Garnish with a lime wedge.
Altos Paloma (pictured above)
  • 2 oz Altos Plata
  • 2 oz fresh pink grapefruit juice
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • ½ oz part agave syrup
  • A pinch of salt
Pour all the ingredients, except the juice, into a glass. Mix to dissolve the agave syrup. Fill the glass with ice and finish with the pink grapefruit juice. Garnish with a half slice of pink grapefruit, and rim glass with salt and smashed pink peppercorns for those without nut allergies.

So if you want to drink Tequila like the locals do, mix up one of these cocktails or order one on your next trip to Mexico.
 

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