Exotic, Edible, and Intriguing: Last Minute Holiday Gifts

It’s very last minute but there’s still time to order some great holiday gifts. Here are a few recommendations for unique presents. So get online and get going. But even if they arrive a little late (blame it on the mail and not procrastination) they’re still be appreciated. Happy Holidays!

The Worthington Collection

Candles may have originated 5000 years ago but The Worthington Collection has upped the game when it comes to exquisite fragrances and odor-eliminating candles. Before, often used for marking time, lighting in the days before electricity, and made from such less than desirous ingredients—tallow from rendered cow and/or sheep fat and spermaceti from whales, their smell was more reminiscent to fatty meat than the aromas of The Worthington Collection.

The luxury candles that are part of TWC’s Signature Collection and include Oceanfront Dreamscape with its three stages of fragrance: First Impression: Pear, Mandarin, Grapefruit, Eucalyptus; At the Heart: Lily Of The Valley, Wood Violet, Cinnamon, Clove; and Lasting Memory: Amber, Vanilla, Tonka Bean.  The First Impression of the Sense of Opulence in the Luxury Collection are Jasmine and White Peach, followed by At the Heart with its notes of Hibiscus and Mandarin and then Lasting Memory: Citrus, White Musk, Freesia. The 12-ounce candles have a burn time of about 80 hours. TWC is designed as a clean burn, fragranced candle that eliminates odors from any room.

Fab Slabs

Made from the camphor laurel tree that grows in Australia, Fab Slabs are beautiful grazing and cutting boards, perfect for serving charcuterie but also environmentally friendly and permanently antibacterial. Indeed, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health, camphor laurel wood exhibits a number of biological properties – such as antimicrobial, antiviral, anticoccidial, antinociceptive, anticancer and antitussive activities.

The beautifully patterned wood is milled, kiln dried and manufactured on Australia’s Sunshine Coast located about one hour North of Brisbane but available here at Macy’s, Wayfair, Lowe’s, Overstock, and, of course, Amazon. Each board is made from one slab of wood and each is unique in color and characteristics.

WINEWISK

An aerator that doubles as a wine charm, WINEWISK is a handy gift for those who want to experience a restaurant quality glass of wine in three easy steps. Attach WINEWISK to your glass, swirl the liquid around to create bubbles, and voila! you have fully aerated wine at its peak. Aerating, also referred to as letting the wine “breathe,” releases flavors and aromas not noticeable when the bottle is first opened. The WINEWISK speeds up the process. Great for whites and reds.

As a wine charm, it’s perfect for entertainment as everyone can recognize their own glass. Just rinse to re-use next time around. It’s as simple as that.

Available through Amazon

Tea Runners

For serious tea connoisseurs, Tea Runners offers high-grade loose teas with a pedigree. Encompassing many types – black, green, herbal, pu-erh (a fermented green tea that’s aged for months), oolong and white – they’re available in customized, delivered-to-your-door boxes that also contain a list of ingredients for each and steeping notes.

The types of tea include Golden Monkey, a high-grade black tea with notes of malt and honeyed peach; Ancient Pu-erh Tuo Cha, which has been aged for two to four years and comes in single-serving tea cakes; and Butterfly Mango Dragon Fruit White, a low-caffeine tea with ingredients like butterfly pea flowers, freeze-dried marigold flowers and mangos. The pea flower gives the tea a blue hue that can be turned pink with the addition of lemon juice.

Coo Moo Jams & Jellies

Highland coo cows? To see one of these fluffy, large, long-haired cows, you’d have to travel to the Scottish Highlands.

Or, more easily, you can find a drawing of one of these cute – and supposedly sweet-natured cattle – on the label of CooMoo, the name Julie Deck chose for her line of jams.

Her Peachy Mango Madness, Apricot Habanero and Wooster Sauce can add a burst of flavor to a variety of dishes.

Celebrate Autumn with These Wonderful Libations

Now that we’ve finally come to terms that summer is definitely over, my friend Victoria Cohen advises to embrace fall with these amazing cocktails from some of the coolest restaurants around.

Nearly Ninth at Arlo Midtown – New York, NY   

Cocktail Name: The Applejack Sazerac 

It’s time to say goodbye to the days of rosé and warm up with the seasonal fall cocktails at Nearly Ninth at Arlo Midtown. Now available are the Cider-Car, Apple Cider Mimosa, Chai-Town, Hopscotch, Bourbon Smash and the gorgeous Applejack Sazerac (pictured below). The Applejack Sazerac is the ultimate autumnal cocktail, including Laird’s Applejack, Woodford Reserve, Honey, Peychaud Bitters and finished with Absinthe and a rinse of Allspice. 

Zuma Miami – Miami, FL 

Cocktail nameJapanese Old Fashioned 

A drink crafted to the warm the soul, Zuma’s Japanese Old Fashioned is garnished with a freshly cut orange slice and two berries and takes a new twist on a timely classic. Made with Toki Japanese Whisky, Hokuto sugar and bitters this rich, smooth and silky cocktail will leave you begging for another.  

 
Marker 92 Waterfront Bar & Bistro at The Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village  


Cocktail name: Pumpkin Spice Martini 
Westin Cape Coral Resort’s restaurant, Marker 92 Waterfront Bar & Bistro, is serving up the delicious Pumpkin Spice Martini, made with Smirnoff Vanilla Vodka, Bailey’s Irish Cream and Pumpkin Liquor. This festive drink is then topped with Whipped Cream, a dash of Cinnamon and Nutmeg. For those traveling to Cape Coral for Thanksgiving this fall, Marker 92 will be celebrating with a dedicated holiday dinner menu, as well as additional festive cocktails like their Apple Cider Mimosa, Cranberry Apple Sangria and Thanksgiving Punch. Price: $14 

The Irvington – New York, NY  

Cocktail Name: The Cider Car  

If you’re looking to shake off the chilly fall weather, look no further than The Irvington. Located in Union Square, the bartenders are now offering chic fall cocktails including the Bourbon Smash and our personal favorite, the Cider-Car (pictured center, below). Served in a coupe and topped with a dry apple chip, this Insta-worthy cocktail features Cognac, apple cider, lemon juice, apricot liquor and a hard cider float.  

The Bar at Deer Path Inn Lake Forest, Illinois   

Cocktail name: The Birds Poison Punch  

The English-inspired boutique hotel is renowned for its innovative (and oftentimes whimsical) cocktails, and someone who plays a large role in that recognition is its chief spirits officer, Jorge Centeno, who spearheads the property’s beverage program and mixes up some of the inn’s most popular, Instagram-worthy creations. Now, visitors to the inn can embrace spooky season all autumn long with Jorge’s fun play on Alfred Hitchcock’s creepy fall classic, The Birds, with The Birds Poison Punch cocktail – infused with mezcal and tequila, tepache, blue curaçao, lemon juice, mineral water and lavender smoke.  

Mahina & Sun’s at The Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club – Honolulu, Hawaii  
Cocktail name: Cacao Muerte  
Name of bartender: Ian McKinney, Bartender at Mahina & Sun’s at The Surfjack Hotel  
Recipe:

1/2 oz SelvaRey Chocolate Rum  

1/2 oz Casamigos Anejo Tequila   

1/2 oz St George Nola Coffee Liqueur   

1/2 oz Campari  

3/4 oz Carpano Antica Formula Sweet Vermouth   

Combine ingredients over ice & stir for 30 revolutions. Can be served up or on a large format Ice cube. Garnish with an orange twist.

What makes it unique: “For those chocolate lovers. A savory balance of incredible spirits that accentuate the beautiful dark chocolate flavor you crave. The orange & vanilla notes from the Anejo tequila pair deliciously with the bitter notes made famous by Campari. A wonderfully warm and cozy libation for the fall” – Ian McKinney 

MDRD atop the Amway Grand Plaza, Curio Collection by Hilton – Grand Rapids 

Cocktail Name: Spanish Coffee 

With temperatures dropping as fall arrives, the newly opened, Spanish-inspired restaurant MDRD atop the historic Amway Grand Plaza in Grand Rapids, MI boasts flavorful twists on classic warm Spanish cocktails, including its cozy Spanish Coffee, which is crafted with rich overproof demerara rum and orange curacao flamed to perfection, both mixed into European roast coffee. The drink is then topped with whipped cream and a garnish of freshly grated nutmeg and gold leaf, satisfying imbibers’ taste, smell and sight on chilly autumn evenings.  

LIQS 

Our favorite fall vegetable is tequila. LIQS, the world’s first premixed cocktail shot, is bringing you all the fall flavors with their Tequila Cinnamon Orange shot. In European countries, it’s common to take a shot of tequila with a cinnamon-sprinkled orange slice instead of salt and lime; thus, LIQS’ version was born. This mind-blowing flavor combination will change the way you look at tequila for a sweeter, smoother shot. Portable, pre-packaged, and premixed, LIQS’ lightweight four-packs are perfect for taking on-the-go. The shots are low carb, low sugar, low cal and gluten free and available across the U.S. for $9.99 – find the Tequila Cinnamon Orange here on Total Wine

MILA Restaurant – Miami, FL  

Cocktail: Spice Market  

Price: $21  

Akin to a premium rum punch, the Spice Market is made from Plantation three-star rum and Plantation original dark rum, mixed with complimentary sweet, spicy and sour flavors: charred banana, Orgeat (a nutty floral syrup), aromatic fall spices, and lime. This autumn orange-colored cocktail is topped with smoked banana foam and garnished with a peony.  

Estiatorio Ornos – Miami, FL 

Cocktail: Smoke of Hephaestus  

Price: $16 

This deep orange cocktail is a more riveting spin on a classic margarita, using fresh ingredients from tropical environments and mezcal, giving it a smokier flavor. Garnished with a mint leaf and a tajin-crusted glass, this one puts a fall twist on a summer staple. 

The Bar at The Spectator Hotel – Charleston, SC 

An Apple a Day 

Channeling the refreshingly crisp autumn air that engulfs the Holy City, the “An Apple a Day” cocktail utilizes organic apple cider, apple brandy and vanilla liqueur to provide immediate refreshment and invoke memories of fall days spent at the orchard. Combined with bourbon, a spritz of fresh lemon juice, and house-made fall spice syrup, it’s the ideal drink to sip on after a beautiful fall day exploring Charleston. 

Grand Hyatt Baha Mar – Nassau, Bahamas 

Pumpkin Mojito 

This cocktail from T2, a sophisticated rum and cigar lounge at Grand Hyatt Baha Mar, an expansive oceanfront luxury resort in the Bahamas, gives a kick to the classic Caribbean mojito combining rum and fresh mint leaves with house-made pumpkin syrup and pumpkin whipped cream, topped with a dash of soda. Guests can sip and savor as they take in the surrounding tunes of live Bahamian music and indulge in cigar pairing suggestions from in-house mixologists to create an all-encompassed experience. 

Fargo Bar & Grill at the Inns of Aurora – Aurora, NY 

Cocktail Name: Lost Moose 

The Inns of Aurora, a luxury lakeside boutique resort in the Finger Lakes, serves up the warming “Lost Moose” cocktail at their Fargo Bar & Grill, a tavern serving elevated eats and late-night drinks. Cozy up with hazelnut liqueur, Jack Daniels honey and apple juice, with a splash of ginger ale, in a mug – served hot. 

 
DenimatThe Joseph, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Nashville 
Cocktail name:Life Is But a Dram 
Comfortable luxury, seasonally-inspired craft cocktails and an all-day menu of American and Italian favorites by Chef Tony Mantuano and team await at The Joseph Nashville’s rooftop bar, Denim. One of Denim’s signature cocktails perfect for Fall, Life Is But a Dram, is a spirited take on a Manhattan made with Heaven’s Door whiskey and The Joseph’s “Highway 61” whiskey blend, espresso-infused Carpano Antica, Angostura bitters and orange bitters.  

 Recipe

Life Is But a Dram // Heaven’s Door and The Joseph’s “Highway 61” whiskey blend, espresso-infused Carpano Antica, Angostura bitters, orange bitters Denim at The Joseph, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Nashville

1.5 oz Heaven’s Door Highway 61 The Joseph Blend whiskey 
1.5 oz espresso-infused Carpano Antica sweet vermouth 
2 dashes of Angostura bitters 
Orange twist or orange oil 
Dehydrated orange slice (optional) 
 
Add ingredients to mixing glass. Add ice and stir for 45 seconds. Strain into a coupe glass. Spray with orange oil or express oils from a fresh orange peel. Garnish with a dehydrated orange slice. 

Espresso-Infused Carpano Antica 
1L Carpano Antica sweet vermouth 
1/4 Cup whole espresso beans 

Add espresso beans to vermouth and allow to soak for 12 hours in the refrigerator. Strain out the espresso beans, and store infused vermouth in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. 

InterContinental New York Barclay – New York, NY 

Cocktail Name: Chili Mule  

Find the perfect fall respite within Manhattan at The Parlour Restaurant and Bar, where the Chili Mule is the perfect blend of classic fall spices. Made with premium Scottish Vodka, Arbikie infused with Chili, Ginger Beer, Fresh Lime Juice, and Rosemary Simple Syrup, it’s the perfect drink to enjoy on fall nights along with The Parlour’s Jazzy Wednesdays, featuring the Café Society.  

Brugal 1888  

Cocktail name: “East to West” Cocktail  

Cocktail enthusiasts looking for a drink to sip during the crisp fall months should try Brugal 1888’s “East to West” cocktail. This unique fall-themed recipe fuses the premium rum – produced in the Dominican Republic by the 5th generation Brugal family – with maple syrup and apricot liqueur, adding a sweet flavor with hints of fruity and citrus notes.   

 
Merriman’s Hawaii – Hawaiian Islands 

Cocktail name: Merriman’s Coconog  
Sip on Merriman’s Coconog this holiday season for a tropical twist on the classic eggnog cocktail. Highlighting tastes of coconut and cinnamon, Merriman’s Coconog uses an Old Forester Bourbon and Licor 43 base mixed with coconut milk and freshly ground nutmeg. Top it off with whipped cream and enjoy in paradise!   

Recipe:  

13.5 oz Coconut Milk  

6 oz Whole Milk  

3 whole eggs  

1/2 cup granulated sugar  

3/4 tsp freshly ground Nutmeg  

1/4 tsp Cinnamon  
 

Blend on high speed for a full minute.  

Whisk over double boiler until mixture reaches 160 F.  

Chill overnight.  
 

Shake 6 oz of chilled Eggnog Mix with:  

1/2 oz Licor 43  

1/2 oz Old Forester Bourbon  
 

Pour in carved Coconut  
Top with a dollop of fresh whipped cream and a sprinkle of ground nutmeg.  

MR CHOW – Miami Beach 

Cocktail name: Lychee Martini

The Lychee Martini is one of MR CHOW’s most popular cocktails, featuring Absolut Elyx Vodka, lychee and a touch of ginger for a delicious twist. 

Texas Winter Lights at Marriott Marquis Houston 

Cocktail name: Spiced Apple Pie  

Marriott Marquis Houston’s completely reimagined holiday lights event, Texas Winter Lights, will be serving innovative, boozy fall cocktails for any crisp autumn day. High Dive (the rooftop restaurant & bar) curated an all-new hot “Spiced Apple Pie” drink inspired by the aroma and taste of a delicious homemade apple pie. With the smell of cinnamon and spiced apples, this cocktail is sure to put anyone in the fall mood.   Other fall cocktails will include a “Spiced Pear Martini,” a fruity seasonal punch with a crisp cranberry and orange finish, and a glow-in-the-dark “Starry Night” ginger mule (that even chan

Celebrate The Solento Surf Festival in Encinitas, CA September 22-24

For those who love a great tequila at the Solento Surf Festival taking place in the company’s hometown of Encinitas, CA on September 22nd – 24th.  The upcoming Solento Surf Festival is not only fun and a chance to sample the much lauded organic spirit made from the agave plants grown in the Mexican state of Jalisco but also is a giveback event hosted by Solento founder and award-winning surf filmmaker, producer, and director Taylor Steele. Proceeds from all ticket and drink sales will be donated to the following charitable organizations: Changing Tides Foundation, Rob Machado Foundation, and SurfAid

Attendees can partake of exclusive film premieres as well as never before seen edits from the classics. There will also be giveaways, and conversations with special guests such as Kelly Slater, Rob Machado, Steph Gilmore, Mick Fanning, Kalani Robb, Pat O’Connell, Pat Stacey, Dane Gudauskas, Benji Weatherley, Gigi Lucas, and more.

Solento Tequila

Like his films, Steele says that Solento “is about creating something that I wholeheartedly stood for, whether that be the taste, the design, the give back or simply how people interact with it. That’s when I started looking at the elements of my life I really valued. One part was sipping tequila with friends after a good day. As I researched turning that into a brand  I fell in love with everything about the idea of a tequila company. The history, farming process and how the end product affects others.”

An award winning USDA-certified, organic tequila, Solento is meant to be enjoyed slowly. It’s smooth taste making it ideal for kicking back and enjoying life at a leisurely pace. The concept is a slow sipping spirit, one that creates a space for conversations that are both elevating and inspiring. elevate. Each of Solento’s tequilas represent the mindset behind their creation–the belief that their tequila is more than just a drink. They are, instead about carving out time and appreciating the real experiences that are already here.

Solento offers three unique expressions, all harvested in small batches of agave that have slowly ripened in the Mexican sun for seven years on a single estate located in Amatitán, Jalisco. Tequila is made from the hearts or pinon of the agave.

After harvesting, the agave hearts are cooked for two days in stone ovens and then pressed in order to release their juices. Fermented and distilled naturally, the tequila comes out pure in flavor, and—in its aged versions—gains complexity from the time spent American oak barrels.

“Solento Reposado is aged for nine months and Solento Añejo for 18 months,” said Steele in an interview in Whitewall Presents, a website that goes behind the scenes and inside the ateliers of historic homes and today’s luxury brands. “Our American oak barrels were previously used for whisky, so by leaving our organic tequila to rest in these barrels we are caramelizing and slightly sweetening the flavor profile leaving us with a smooth, buttery sip.”

Solento is sold in sleekly designed bottles that reflect a Streamline Modern-style, an international style of Art Deco that was popular in the 1930s.

·       Blanco– Flawlessly clear with a smooth and silky mouthfeel subtle notes of Meyer lemon and Tahitian vanilla.

·       Reposado – Aged in American oak barrels for nine months, slightly sweet notes of homemade caramel and cooked agave exude a soft amber warmth.

·       Añejo – Aged in American oak barrels for eighteen months, smooth notes of buttery maple, toasted hazelnuts and hints of oak form a bold flavor profile.

With its glowing popularity,  Solento Organic Tequila continues to expand and now will be available in Arizona with partner Republic National Distributing Company (RNDC), a world-class distributor of fine wines and spirits in North America.

A Double gold winner at 2019 SIP Awards, Solento’s expanasion to the Grand Canyon State follows its successful debut in New York, New Jersey, Florida, California, Colorado, and Hawaii earlier this year. By partnering with RNDC, Solento Organic Tequila is significantly expanding the brand’s national footprint to the highly engaged Arizona market.

“We have partnered with RNDC because of their extensive market expertise not only in Arizona, but across the United States. This partnership allows us to grow long lasting relationships with their existing connections to ensure Arizona locals will be able to find Solento in their favorite bars, restaurants and retailers,” says Steele.

Solento is available in stores across the country and online. For more information visit www.solentotequila.com and @solento_tequila.

Taylor Steele

About Solento

Made for those who appreciate the ritual of slowing down and being present, Solento is an award-winning, USDA certified organic tequila range made in small batches from a single estate in Jalisco. Founded in 2019 by filmmaker and surfer, Taylor Steele, Solento (or “slow sun” in Spanish) is a sippable mindset that invites space for conversations that elevate and inspire. Three expressions – Blanco, Reposado and Añejo – are crafted from certified organic agave grown leisurely under the Mexican sun for seven years. 

COCKTAILS

CALM WATERS

Create chamomile honey syrup by combining 1 part honey with 1 part chamomile tea.

Combine 2 oz Solento Blanco, ¾ oz lemon juice, and ¾ oz chamomile honey syrup. Shake with ice. Strain into a coupe and garnish with a lemon wheel and chamomile flowers.

Calm Waters

SLOW CIDER

Place a large sphere of frozen apple cider into a rocks glass and pour 3 oz of Solento Reposado Tequila on top. 

Garnish with a stick of cinnamon and a slice of fuji apple. Lightly sprinkle cinnamon on top. 

Slow Cider

AGED AUTUMN

Muddle 8 organic blackberries, 1 tablespoon of fresh rosemary, ½ oz of lemon juice, ¼ oz honey in a cocktail shaker. Add 2 oz of Solento Añejo and orange bitters.

Strain into a martini glass. Top with Topo Chico and garnish with fresh rosemary and blackberries.

Aged Autumn

SOLENTO EASTSIDE

Gently muddle 4 mint leaves, 4 slices of cucumber, and ½ oz agave syrup

Add 2 oz Solento Blanco, ¾ oz organic lime juice + ice

Shake and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with mint + cucumber

SOLENTO EASTSIDE

PALOMA TO THE PEOPLE

Rim a rocks glass with Himalayan salt

Combine 2 oz Solento Reposado, 1.5 oz organic grapefruit juice, 1 oz organic lime juice, ½ oz simple syrup + ice. Shake and then strain into the salt-rimmed glass

Garnish with grapefruit slice

For more information, please visit solentotequila.com and follow @solento_tequila.

  Lighthouse Wine Shop: A Beacon to Great Vino in Southwest Michigan

       Cade Carmichael doesn’t want us to drink what he calls “supermarket wines” but he also isn’t advocating we take out a loan for an expensive bottle of wine. That’s why when he opened Lighthouse Wine Shop last year in St. Joseph, Michigan he decided to feature value wines.

         “I didn’t want to start off with big wine names,” he says. “Good wine doesn’t have to be expensive.  Value wines are those that taste like they should cost more than they do.”

         It’s all about knowing where to look and for those of us who don’t want to begin the laborious process of understanding the intricacies of every wine region and producer, Carmichael is willing to do the hard work for us. His fascination with wines came not from living in Southwest Michigan where we have a wonderful abundance of wineries but when he moved with his wife to Frankfurt, Germany where they lived for five years before returning to this area. From Frankfurt, it was easy to explore the wine regions of such countries as France and Italy as well as Germany.

         In the wine appellation of Côte de Nuit Villages in Burgundy, a historic region of France that produces some of the most expensive wines in the world. Appellation or appellation d’origine contrôlée or AOC which stands for “controlled designation of origin” is certification granted by the government that refers to the area’s agriculture products—a list that includes not only wines, but other categories such as cheeses and butters.

         But the thing is, Carmichael tells me, is there are some value wines from the Côte de Nuit Villages that are very affordable if you know where to look. He shows me bottles from Domaine Faively, a winery founded in 1825 in the Nuits-St. Georges.

         “Right next to Nuits-St. Georges is a small village called Vosne-Romanee,” says Carmichael. Another historic village like Nuits-St. Georges, Vosne-Romanee is known as having some of the most expensive burgundies in the world.

         “Vosne-Romanee literally shares a border with Nuits- St. Georges, so they have the same soil and growing conditions- the vineyards facing east get the morning sun and shade in the evening,” says Carmichael. “But there’s a huge difference.”

That means instead of spending a small fortune for a bottle from Vosne-Romanee, you can enjoy the wines of the Côte de Nuit Villages by choosing those produced by wineries in Nuits-St. Georges.

         In an interesting aside, Carmichael tells me that China is now producing Bordeaux style wines, using five Noble varietals— Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot—which comprise the best for making that type of wine. How is it working out?  Well, the 2013 vintage from Ao Yun—the name means flying above the clouds as the winery is 8,500 feet above sea level, in the foothills of the Himalayas that has similar growing conditions to the Bordeaux region of France—was awarded  a score of 93 by Wine Advocate and sells for around $300. But that’s an aside.

         When sourcing his wines Carmichael looks, of course, for value but also the unique such as those made from indigenous or natural yeast rather than cultivated yeast. Sometimes, through diligent searching he’s able to score big.

         “I bought the last three cases of Terreno Vitigno,” he says about a wine from Monleale, a sub region of Piedmont in the Tortonese hills of Italy. “It’s all that’s available.”

         He also has (or maybe had as Lighthouse’s specials sell out very quickly) Piccolo Derthona made from Timorasso, a varietal grape that’s nearly extinct.

         “I try to find things—they’re not weird—but unique,” he says.

         The Lighthouse Wine Shop is in the small mall on the corner of Glenlord Road and Red Arrow Highway and right across the street from Coach’s Bar & Grill in Stevensville. In keeping with Carmichael’s vow not to be a cookie cutter type place, he and his father-in-law built display boxes, used wine barrels as tables for showcasing wines. His wines are divided by country and there’s a good representation of Italy, Spain, France, South America, and California to name a few.

He also sells wine accoutrements like corkscrews, gift baskets and boxes. A major focal point on the store is the large white board or what Carmichael calls “a lyric board” that changes. He uses vinyl records for the music that plays in the background. The groups performing are modern and include Phoebe Bridgers & Waxahatchee as well as classics such as Johnny Cash, the Beatles and Chicago. Speaking of the latter, Carmichael says that his Chicago patrons seem to prefer French wines while those from this area choose Italian. He thinks that might a reflection of Whirlpool Corp. having manufacturing plants in Cassinetta, Naples, and Trento in Italy. Coincidentally as he’s saying this, Doug Washington walks in to buy a bottle of Italian red wine. A Whirlpool employee he says he worked for the company in Italy.

         When I started working on this column, I received an email from Janet Fletcher, who lives in Napa Valley, California  where she develops and tests recipes for cookbooks and magazine features, evaluate cheeses for her classes and columns, does extensive gardening, and prepares dinner nightly with her winemaker husband. I’ve talked to her frequently in the past and wrote about several of her cookbooks including Wine Country Table and Cheese and Beer. I also follow her blog Planet Cheese.

Fletcher, who has won three James Beard Awards and the International Association of Culinary Professionals Bert Greene Award, has a new cookbook out called Gather: Casual Cooking from Wine Country Gardens and I asked her if she would share recipes. She agreed, including recipes easily made at home and the California wines she suggests using when serving them.

The following are recipes she shared along with anecdotes about their origins and Fletcher’s wine recommendations. These wines are necessarily easily available but when a Merlot is called for you can substitute a local Merlot or one from another area though keep in mind that Fletcher paired her food and wines very carefully.

Maggie’s Ranch Chicken

Serves 4

Ranch chicken has nothing to do with ranch dressing, says Katie Wetzel Murphy of Alexander Valley Vineyards. “It’s what we called this dish as kids,” she recalls. “It seems that my mother, Maggie, only made it when we came to ‘The Ranch,’ which is what we called the vineyards before we had a winery.” Baked with honey, mustard, and tarragon, the quartered chicken emerges with a crisp brown skin, and the sweet aroma draws everyone to the kitchen. “Kids like it and adults like it,” says Katie, “and most of the food we make has to be that way.”

1 whole chicken, 4 to 4 1/2 pounds, backbone removed, then quartered

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup honey

4 tablespoons salted butter

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

4 fresh tarragon sprigs, each 6 inches long

Wine: Alexander Valley Vineyards Merlot

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Season the chicken quarters all over with salt and pepper. Put the quarters into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

In a small saucepan, combine the honey, butter, and mustard over low heat and stir until the butter melts. Pour the honey mixture evenly over the chicken. Place a tarragon sprig on each quarter.

Roast the chicken for 30 minutes, then remove the dish from the oven, spoon the dish juices over the chicken, and return the dish to the oven for 30 minutes more. The chicken will be fully cooked, with beautifully browned skin. Let rest for at least 15 minutes before serving to allow the juices to settle.

Antipasto Platter with Southern-Style Pickled Okra

Makes 6 pints

“Napa Valley’s Regusci Winery proprietor, Laura Regusci, developed a passion for pickling in her grandmother’s Kentucky kitchen,” he writes. The family pastime began as a way to preserve vegetables for winter and share homegrown gifts with neighbors. Today, Laura carries on the tradition, growing okra and other seasonable vegetables in the Regusci estate garden for pickling. Each Thanksgiving, pickled okra adds a southern spirit to the family’s antipasto board

3 pounds small okra

6 cups distilled white vinegar

4 cups water

1/2 cup kosher or sea salt

1/4 cup sugar

For Each Pint Jar:

1/4 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds

1/4 teaspoon dill seeds

6 black peppercorns

6 cumin seeds

2 cloves garlic, peeled

1 fresh oregano sprig

1 bay leaf

Pinch of ground coriander

Pinch of red chile flakes

When creating the antipasto platter use the pickled vegetables along with alongside figs, salami, other charcuterie meats, and marinated  veggies like artichokes.

Suggested Wine: Regusci Winery Rosé

Have ready six sterilized pint canning jars and two-part lids. Trim the okra stems if needed to fit the whole pods upright in the jars. Otherwise, leave the stems intact.

In a saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, salt, and sugar and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Keep hot.

Into each of the six jars, put the mustard seeds, dill seeds, peppercorns, cumin seeds, garlic, oregano, bay leaf, coriander, and chile flakes. Fill the jars with the okra, packing it in upright—alternating the stems up and down if needed—as tightly as possible. Fill the jars with the hot liquid, leaving 1/4-inch headspace, and top each jar with a flat lid and screw band. Process the jars in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes, then cool on racks without disturbing.

Refrigerate any jars that failed to seal and use within 2 weeks. Store sealed jars in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year. Wait for at least 1 week before opening a jar to allow the flavor to mellow.

In Goldberry Woods: An Inn and Farm Far Off the Beaten Path But Close to Everything

       Nestled on a peninsular formed where the curve of the Galien River is intersected by a small unnamed creek, Goldberry Woods Bed & Breakfast is definitely off the beaten path even for those who know their way around the backroads of Southwest Michigan.

       “Yet we’re close to Lake Michigan and Red Arrow Highway,” says Julie Haberichter who with her husband Eric own and operate the inn.

       You wouldn’t guess that by looking around at the surrounding woods and lack of traffic sounds. And, of course, that’s part of the charm. Here on 30 acres of woods, old and new orchards, grapevines, and gardens, the Haberichters have re-imagined an old time resort albeit one with all the modern twists—swimming pool, farm-to-table cuisine, kayaks ready to go on the banks of the Galien, walking trails, and cottages and their Innkeeper’s Inn with suites for large groups or individual stays.

       Goldberry Woods is the story of how a couple painstakingly restored a resort that had fallen into disrepair, creating a major destination for those who want to get away from it all.

       But this is also a story about how two engineering majors from the Chicagoland area met in college, discovered they lived just towns apart, married, honeymooned at a B&B that was a working flower farm in Hawaii and decided that quirky inns were the type of places they wanted to stay.

       That is, until, while vacationing in Harbor Country in 2011 they happened upon what had been the River’s Edge B&B in Union Pier and decided that unique places were instead where they wanted to live. By 2012, Julie and Eric had bought the property, restored it and had opened Goldberry Woods B&B.

       A little more explaining is needed here. If you’re like me and are thinking goldberries are some rare, antique type fruit like say lingonberries, marionberries, or gooseberries, you’d be very wrong. It turns out that Goldberry, also known as the River Woman’s Daughter,  was a minor character in Christopher Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, though she never made it into the movie series. An ethereal blonde with a penchant for green velvet gowns, she was from the Withywindle River in the Old Forest and certainly seems as though she’d be at home here surrounded by ripening fruit and veggies.

       It’s obvious that the Haberichters are more familiar with The Lord of the Rings than I am but then Julie also knows someone who learned to speak Elvish, the language of the elves. If that sounds unique, consider this. According to some sources, there are more people now who speak Elvish as it is spoken in The Lord of the Rings movies than Irish.

       Whether that’s true or not, I’m not sure but the name Goldberry does speak to the charm of this place where the Haberichters forage and grow old fashioned foods, plant organic, practice sustainability, and  harvest the eggs from the heirloom chickens, ducks, and quail that at times run free range in Goldberry’s gardens.

       Julie brims with excitement as she takes me on a tour, pointing out the novelty and heritage produce she grows. There are pumpkin eggplants also known as pumpkin-on-a-stick which indeed look like miniature pumpkins, ground cherries which she uses in her Jasmine and lemon tea,  Malabar spinach with its rich glossy oversized leaves, and cucumelons (tiny little veggies that can be eaten straight from the vine) among many others.

Because what’s in season changes quickly as does the weather, there’s always something different or a variation of a favorite at Goldberry Woods.

       “The oatmeal we serve at Goldberry Woods is constantly changing from season to season, served hot or chilled based on the outdoor weather and the availability of seasonal fruit,” says Julie, who shared the summer version of her Chilled Coconut Steel Cut Oatmeal (see below).

       There’s also some serious forging going on.

       “We started looking for as many fun and unusual ways to use the wild plants growing throughout our flower beds and woods as possible,” says Julie. “ We have experimented with dandelions, violets, spruce tips, and sassafras to name a few.”

       While she’s talking, Julie brings out glass jars of jam. I try the spruce tips—made from the new tips of the spruce tree at the beginning of spring. Scooping up a small teaspoon to try, I note a definite evergreen taste, refreshing and somewhat woodsy with just a touch of sweetness. It would work on buttered biscuits, toast or even as sauce for lamb and pork. The violet jam is a deep purple and there’s an assortment of pepper jams such as habanero gold pepper jelly with chopped sweet apricots. Unfortunately, Julie didn’t any have jars of the dandelion jam or the pear lime ginger jelly she makes—it goes fast. But she had a large bushel basket full of colorful peppers which would soon become a sweet and spicy jam.

  August, she told me as we walked into the old growth orchard, was begging her to make a yellow floral jelly from goldenrod flowers. So that was the next chore of many on her list.

       Having learned to determine the edibility of certain mushrooms she forages the safe ones from where they grow in the woods, frying up such fungi as puff balls which she describe as having a custard-like interior. In the spring, there are fiddlehead greens easily available, but Julie has to trade for ramps which though they seem to grow wild every place where there are woods, don’t appear anywhere within Goldberry’s 30 acres.

       Now focused fully on running Goldberry Woods and raising their three daughters, Julie previously worked as a chemical engineer in a food processing plant that used a million gallons of corn syrup per day. Now she teaches classes in how to harvest honey–there are, naturally, bee hives on the property.  If all this sounds like a real divergence from a career in corn syrup and a degree in chemical engineering, Julie started an environmental club in high school and gardened in college.

       Unfortunately, you can’t eat at Goldberry Woods unless you’re an overnight guest. But you can stop and visit as the couple has set up their Goldberry Market in a 1970s trailer.  It’s very cute plus they have an outdoors stand on the property. They also take their produce to the New Buffalo Farmer’s Market which is held on Thursday evenings. As for what to do with the unique produce they sell, there are recipes on their website and Julie will always take the time to give ideas. It’s her passion to share the best of what Southwest Michigan produces.

For more information, visit goldberrywoods.com

The following recipes are courtesy of Goldberry Woods.

Chilled Coconut Steel Cut Oatmeal

Serves 8

  • 2 cups coconut milk (1 can)
  • ½ cup steel cut oats
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • ¼ cup of seeds such as quinoa, chia, flax or amaranth
  • ¼-1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon cardamom
  • Drizzle of honey
  • Fresh sliced peaches

Bring coconut milk, 2 cups of water, salt, and the steel cut oats to full boil in an 8-cup microwaveable bowl, approximately 6 minutes.  Do not let the oats boil over as this makes a sticky mess.

Remove bowl to the counter and stir.  Allow the concoction to cool down a bit, stirring occasionally, maybe 30 minutes (this is to keep from heating up your fridge!)  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, add the old fashioned oats, seeds, sugar and spices.

You may need to add more liquid at this time to reach your desired consistency.  We find this recipe to be refreshing and like the oatmeal to be a bit thin.  Adjust sweetness to your taste.

If it’s chilly out, reheat in the microwave.

Here’s the fun part.  Stir in whatever looks good to your taste.  Here are some ideas:

  • Use coconut milk and stir in vanilla, shredded coconut, bananas, honey, dried apricots, almonds….
  • Use apple cider and stir in applesauce, sautéed apples, raisins, nuts, maple syrup, walnuts

Goldberry Woods Egg Rollup

Makes about 8 servings

Egg Mixture

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 12 eggs
  • Salt and pepper

Filling

  • 12 ounces precooked meat and veggies of your choosing (Malabar Spinach, sausage, ham, bacon, asparagus, peppers, greens, mushrooms…..)
  • 2 cups shredded cheese (we usually use a good sharp cheddar and a shredded Monterey Jack that melts well—feta is great, too)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Combine all the Egg Mixture Ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Spread parchment over a 11×17 jelly roll, tucking into the corners.  Pour the egg mixture onto the parchment paper.

Bake the eggs for 15-20 minutes.  Wait until the top sets completely.

Remove the egg roll pan and spread the filling over the eggs evenly.

Use a towel and the parchment paper to tightly roll up the eggs.  Leave the seam side down and cover the whole rollup with the parchment paper so that it doesn’t dry out.

Return to the oven for 10 more minutes to allow the cheese to melt and the filling to heat up.

Slice into 1 ½ inch slices.

About 8 servings.

Golden Rod Jelly

YIELD: Makes 4 pints

  • 8 cups packed Goldenrod flowers
    4 teaspoons lemon juice
    2 packages pectin powder
    6 cups sugar

Make a goldenrod tea.  Put the flowers in a stainless steel pot and add just enough cool water to cover. Bring to a gentle simmer for 3 minutes.  Turn off the heat and allow the flowers to  steep for at least an hour or overnight in the refrigerator. Strain the flowers through a fine metal sieve.  Gently squeeze excess liquid from the flowers.  Measure 5 cups of liquid.  Add water if necessary.

Place goldenrod tea back into pot and add lemon juice.  Add the pectin, stir, and bring to a boil until pectin is fully dissolved.

Add sugar and bring to a full boil for one minute. Remove from heat and pour into sterile canning jars.  Keep jelly in the fridge for up to one month.

What to do in Union Pier

While visiting Goldberry Woods, take time to stop at St. Julian Winery’s tasting location in Union Pier. St. Julian is the oldest winery in the state. There’s also the Round Barn Tasting Room next door.

Stop at Union Pier Market for a great selection of gourmet goods, beer, and wine. Next door, also on Townline Road, is the Black Currant Bakehouse for made from scratch pastries as well as sandwiches and such distinctive beverages as their Rose Quartz Latte, Chaga Chai, and Honey Lavender Latte. Milda’s Corner Market next to Union Pier Market features foods from over 40 countries and freshly made Lithuanian fare including “Sūreliai” Mini Cheesecake bars, Koluduna (dumplings), and Kugelis.

Head to Townline Beach and then consider dinner at The Grove Restaurant, just off Townline Road and steps from the beach.

For more information on what to do in the area, visit Harbor Country.

The article on Goldberry Woods previously ran in the Herald Palladium.

Best destinations for traveling gourmets

If you believe that every meal when you travel should be sublime then you’re in luck because BSpoke Travel has curated a marvelous list of Italian—and one Moroccan—hotels and restaurants that’s perfect for traveling gourmets.

Borgo Santo Pietro, Tuscany, Italy

At Borgo Santo Pietro a team of farmers, culinary gardeners, and talented chefs work together to create an ultimate Michelin-starred dining experience. Meo Modo offers a well-balanced gourmet tasting menu with a right proportion of vegetables, protein, and carbons. Borgo estate’s productions include over 300 types of vegetables, fruits, herbs, cheese, and meat.

If you are fancy for more traditional Italian food Trattoria sull’Albero offers a menu with a wide selection of pasta dishes, main courses, and antipasti made only from the fresh estate’s products or bought from local producers.

Nordelaia, Piedmont, Italy

This new boutique hotel situated in the UNESCO world heritage site of Montferrat, deep in Italy’s Piedmont wine country, has two restaurants curated by a head chef and mentor Andrea Ribaldone and a resident chef Charles Pearce. Two restaurants L’Orto and The Bistrot combine the authenticity of Piedmontese cuisine with the experimental ambition of modern fine dining.

L’Orto Restaurant is a relaxed fine-dining concept. The menu is based solely on freshly caught seafood from the Ligurian coast and locally grown vegetables.

The Bistrot offers a more informal experience, focusing on Piedmontese ingredients, culture, and stories of the region. The main approach chosen by the chefs is respect for the traditions of the region while experimenting and pushing boundaries.

Ciasa Salares, Dolomites, Italy

Run by the Wieser Family ever since its establishment in 1964, the hotel is well known for its outstanding wine cellar and food experience.

Cocun is a wine-cellar restaurant with over 1900 labels, 24,000 bottles from every corner of the world, and a voyage over 1,000 culinary latitudes by the cold cuts, the cheeses, and the 15 dishes prepared with carefully selected ingredients.

        Nida is the cheese room and boasts a selection of 65 raw-milk cheeses, jams, chutneys, and jellies.

  Nodla is the chocolate room, where you can dive into a world of no less than 120 different kinds of chocolate.

Other dining options include a new Sori Restaurant with the sun-kissed Infiní “Eat on Beat” Terrace and Bona Lüna Dine Bar – perfect for early-evening aperitifs or after-dinner drinks.

Capri Tiberio Palace, Capri, Italy

Capri Tiberio Palace, the iconic property located just a few steps from Piazzetta, is known also for its fizzy splendid style inspired by La Dolce Vita. At Terrazza Tiberio the Executive Chef Nello Siano offers a new menu inspired by the Mediterranean diet but with an unexpected international flavours.

Fairmont Taghazout Bay, Agadir, Morocco

Nestled in the heart of Taghazout Bay, the resort sprawls on 18 hectares of olive groves and argan gardens with the Atlantic Ocean as its backdrop, Fairmont Taghazout Bay features a wide variety of culinary experiences through different themed restaurants and bars:

•          Morimoto restaurant – modern Japanese cuisine with fresh ingredients in an elegant and sophisticated atmosphere;

 •          Beef & Reef – Mediterranean cuisine where seafood and meat dishes are presented with unexpected pairing suggestions;

 •          NOLA bar – a wide selection of original and creative cocktails and a list of premium spirits to be paired with chocolate and cigars.

Vilon, Rome, Italy

Vilòn Roma, located steps away from Palazzo Borghese and Via Dei Condotti, is now known for the restaurant Adelaide that just won the prize as one of the best places for all’amatriciana – a famous traditional Roman dish.

The menu changes according to the seasons and includes Roman classics with modern twists. Sunday’s lunches are dedicated to “Il Pranzo della Domenica” when, according to the local market’s offer, Executive Chef Gabriele Muro expresses his creativity at the best.

Maalot, Rome, Italy

Located in the original residence of Gaetano Donizetti Maalot Roma is primarily a restaurant, and then a hotel. Designed to celebrate life and social gathering, Don Pasquale is set to be an all-day dining experience for locals and hotels guests. Named after one of the most renowned works of Gaetano Donizetti, the restaurant menu pays homage to the tradition and attention to what the new modern food lovers are looking for.

Expect Maritozzo con la Panna, Pizza with Mortadella, and a vast choice of cooked eggs reinvented with roman traditional ingredients. Lunch and dinner options include a wide range of vegetables from local producers to meet the needs of modern trends. And do stay for an aperitif – Maritozzo Salato is a must-try!

Because I always like to include a recipe, here is one for Gricia from my acquaintance Katie Parla, a food writer and author of Tasting Rome: Fresh Flavors and Forgotten Recipes from an Ancient City: A Cookbook and Food of the Italian South Recipes For Classic, Disappearing, and Lost Dishes: A Cookbook who lives in Rome. The following recipe was featured in her story, When I First Moved to Rome, I Found the Sunday Dinners I Never Had, sponsored by Lagostina.

“This classic Roman pasta sauce always features Pecorino Romano, guanciale, and plenty of black pepper,” writes Katie. “But if I’m making a few dishes for a dinner party, like this Roman-style stuffed zucchini, I’ll often enrich the pasta with the insides of the zucchini that’s leftover from the recipe. After all, there’s no sense in wasting the cored inside of the zucchini, which is suited to cooking in rendered guanciale fat until creamy. Toss the zucchini and guanciale with the pasta (a large, round type of pasta called mezze maniche), plus a little bit of pasta water, and stir it vigorously until a thick sauce forms.”

PREP TIME: 10 minutes

COOK TIME: 25 minutes

SERVES: 4 to 6

  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 7 ounces guanciale, cut into 1 1/2 x 1/2-inch strips
  • Cored insides of 6 zucchini, roughly chopped
  • Sea salt
  • 1 pound rigatoni, mezze maniche, paccheri, or other tubular pasta
  • 1 cup grated Pecorino Romano
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over low heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the guanciale and cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Add the zucchini, season with salt, and cook until the zucchini is softened and cooked through, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil over high heat. Salt the water. When the salt has dissolved, add the pasta and cook until al dente.

Add a ladle of the pasta cooking water to the skillet with the zucchini and bring to a simmer. When the pasta is very al dente, drain, reserving the cooking water. Add the pasta and another ladle of its cooking water to the pan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring vigorously, until a thick sauce forms, adding more water if necessary to achieve the desired consistency.

Remove the skillet from the heat and, add 3/4 cup of the Pecorino Romano, and mix thoroughly. Season to taste.

Plate and sprinkle each portion with some of the remaining Pecorino Romano and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Hummingbird Lounge: Appalachia cooking Meets New American Cuisine on Michigan’s Sunset Coast.

         Raised in Southern Appalachia in Stagg Creek, a slip of a town tucked in a corner of North Carolina hills and hollows near the Tennessee state line, Shane Graybeal describes the region as “food heaven” and the beginning of his fascination with food.

         “Both my grandparents had farms,” says Graybeal, who after graduating from culinary school at Johnson & Wales University in Charleston, South Carolina worked in France, Italy, Washington D.C. and spent seven years in Chicago working at such well known restaurants as  Bin 36 and Sable Kitchen & Bar. Along the way he was inducted into Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, the world’s oldest, largest and most prestigious food and wine society.

         But he missed small town living and being close to the farms where he sourced his foods.

          “I’ve been a fan of Southwest Michigan for many years,” says Graybeal who now is executive chef at the recently opened Hummingbird Lounge in New Buffalo. “When I was living and working in Chicago, I  sourced a lot from Southwest Michigan.”

         Among the local food producers they use are the Mick Klug Farm in St. Joseph and Kaminski Farms Meats in Three Oaks.

         Another plus for Graybeal was being back in a small town.

         “Though compared to Stagg’s Creek, which has a population of about 300, New Buffalo seems like a big city,” Graybeal adds with a laugh.

         Graybeal describes his food as a “cheffy take on American classics, comfortable food all dressed up.” I loved the description but was surprised to learn that “cheffy” is an actual word meaning relating to or characteristic of a chef.

         His take on food matches the overall philosophy of Hummingbird’s owner and operator Ben Smock who wanted to create a cocktail bar and restaurant that was comfortable and “served food you want to eat.” The lounge opened in April and is located in what had been a grand home built in 1901 that once housed a creperie in  New Buffalo.

         Smock has an extensive background in the food industry starting when he worked at his grandfather’s bowling alley in Davison, Michigan where he grew up. He graduated from Michigan State University’s hospitality program, worked at McCormick Place, Levy Restaurant group and the Ravinia Music Festival and started his own consulting business where he provided food service planning and events. He’s also opened a number of venues.

         The menu changes frequently, depending on what’s in season. Graybeal was excited because the first peaches were hitting the market along with blueberries and raspberries.

         “I’m thinking fruit cobblers,” he says.

         He also brings a bit of Appalachia to the menu.

         “Food is very important there,” he says, making one want to jump in a car and head south to see what he’s talking about. “And I think in the right context—pickling, charcuterie, foraging–it comes across very well.”

Earlier in the season, he took ramps, cut them into a tiny matchstick size and flash fried the garlicky wild greens to add to an asparagus dish. We’re guessing that the round super thin pickled with cherry Kool-Aid hails from the mountains as well—and they’re delicious.

Graybeal also made ramp vinegar which he now uses in some of his dishes. Now with fresh Michigan peaches available, he makes a jam to pair with pork, but kicks it up a notch with the addition of jalapeno peppers.

But, he notes, the food is a side note to the cocktails and what’s on the menu are more like a tapas bar—nibbles that are share,able. The Lounge’s cocktail team takes what Graybeal is preparing in the kitchen and concocts drinks to accent his flavors.

The cocktails—which also change frequently—have in the past included a Smoked Pineapple Margarita, a tequila based drink with seasoned and smoked pineapple and salted foam, The HRG Manhattan using Traverse City Whisky Company blend along with sweet Vermouth, Angostura bitters and a fancy cherry and A Real Dandy Old Fashioned with rum, demerara syrup, bitters and expressed orange. For those who don’t drink, there are spirit-free cocktails. There’s also a small wine list offering by the glass or bottle and local brews.

         Why did they name the place Hummingbird? Smock says they chose it because hummingbirds drink all day and it just fit because they are open throughout the season. For warm weather dining, there’s a large back porch and garden area. The garage has been redone and is now an inviting event space. The interior of the restaurant itself is very cozy with a curated antiquated feel to go with the history of the home including a fireplace flanked by columns, its mantel topped with a large mirror and coach lanterns, cozy rooms, polished wood floors, and the deep gray walls are accented with lots of white woodwork. The bar is sleek—less Victorian and more urban trendy which makes for a nice contrast.

Chef Graybeal’ s Pork and Peaches

Rub pork belly with salt, sugar, and vanilla powder. Place in pot. Cover and marinate overnight. The next day cover with lard and cook on low heat for three to four hours. Cool and then crisp up in a hot pan until golden brown and tender.

Peach Jam

Cook together for two hours, them finish with a squeeze of lime juice. Puree in blend until smooth and cool.

To serve—crisp the pork belly, put two ounces of jam on a warmed plate, top with the pork belly, slice a peach and toss with aged sherry vinegar, basil, parsley and mint and a little olive oil. Place on top of the pork.

Beef Skewers with Whipped Feta

For the Beef Skewers:

Grind the brisket, combine with the other ingredients and whip with the paddle attachment. Form into balls and then into long rolls, place each roll on a skewer.  Grill for six minutes on both sides.

For the Whipped Feta:

Combine in the mixer, whip using the the whip attachment until light and fluffy-like similar to icing.

Just for fun, I thought I’d include a recipe for Kook-Aid brined veggies.

Trish Yearwood’s Fruit Drink Pickles

Drain the brine from the pickles into a bowl. Add the fruit drink packet and sugar into the brine and stir until dissolved. Pour the brine back to the jar, discarding any that’s leftover. Refrigerate at least 2 days and up to 1 month.     

Choose Chicago Announces a Relaunch of the Chicago Greeter Program

Just in time for the  summer 2021 season, the Chicago Greeter program will now showcase the city’s diverse neighborhoods through four different initiatives

Chicago, IL – June 17, 2021 – Choose Chicago announces a relaunch of the popular and world renowned Chicago Greeter program. The program now includes four different initiatives bringing the knowledge and passion of this network of 200 volunteer guides to locals and visitors alike in new ways, while remaining free to the public: the original In-Person Greeter experiences, Welcome to Our Neighborhood walks, InstaGreeter Downtown meetups and Self-Guided Greeter tours presented by Bank of America.

From Chinatown to Pilsen and Greektown to Little Italy, Chicago’s neighborhoods tell the stories of the people who made the city their home throughout history. Since 2001, Chicago Greeter has shown how these neighborhoods have remained just as vibrant today, with bustling cafes, restaurants, museums, public art and more.

“Choose Chicago is proud to relaunch and expand the renowned Chicago Greeter program this summer and share authentic Chicago neighborhoods with locals and visitors alike,” said Jason Lesniewicz, Director of Cultural Tourism for Choose Chicago.  “We now have four great ways to experience fascinating histories, diverse cultural traditions, iconic landmarks and off-the-beaten-path gems.”

Chicago Greeter Experiences

A recipient of TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence for over ten years, the original In-Person Chicago Greeter experiences offer deep dives of 2-to-4 hours of the Chicago neighborhood of your choice. Guests are paired with a friendly, local volunteer based on their neighborhood and subject of interest for a personalized experience. Tours are available in over a dozen languages and are available to book now.

Welcome to Our Neighborhood Walks

Explore Chicago’s neighborhoods with these new, free walks led by diverse community groups and neighborhood organizations. Walks will dive deep into the highlights of each community’s unique stories, top attractions and under-the-radar finds, all through the eyes of people deeply embedded in the community. The first of these tours to launch will be through Chinatown in collaboration with the Chicago Chinese Cultural Institute on June 19 and July 17.   

InstaGreeter Downtown Meetups

The InstaGreeter downtown meetups, returning July 2nd, were designed with those who are pressed for time or looking for a more flexible option in mind. These free, hour-long tours of Chicago’s downtown Loop neighborhood operate Friday, Saturday and Sundays departing at 11:30 am. No reservation is required and InstaGreeters depart from the Chicago Cultural Center’s Welcome Center located at 77 E. Randolph Street.

Self-Guided Greeter Tours

The new Self-Guided Greeter Tours, presented by Bank of America, provide visitors and locals alike curated, virtual tours designed by local experts to showcase each neighborhood’s unique history, culture and hidden gems. 

Through the power of video, blog and social content, this series will shine a spotlight on six Chicago neighborhoods by leveraging the knowledge and expertise of the Chicago Greeter volunteers. Each part will feature a different neighborhood, including a unique Chicago Greeter itinerary and logistical instructions on how to best explore the neighborhood in person.

The digital content will launch this month, with a blog post highlighting a self-guided walking tour of Chicago’s South Loop. Additional content will follow on a monthly basis, with Kenwood, Bronzeville, Bridgeport, Pullman and West Ridge to follow. 

“Chicago’s neighborhoods are teeming with history and culture, and that deserves to be celebrated,” said Paul Lambert, President of Bank of America Chicago. “We’re honored to partner with Choose Chicago to spotlight communities across the city’s South and West sides, to encourage people to visit these local landmarks, and to drive economic activity where it is needed most.”

This self-guided program is an extension of the successful 2020 International Greeter Day “do-it-yourself” tours, which was created during the COVID-19 pandemic. The virtual series highlighted Ukrainian VillageUptownPilsenHyde ParkChinatown and the Chicago Riverwalk.

For additional information about the newly updated Chicago Greeter program, visit https://www.choosechicago.com/chicago-greeter/.

# # #

About Choose Chicago

Choose Chicago is the official sales and marketing organization responsible for promoting Chicago as a global visitor and meetings destination, leveraging the city’s unmatched assets to ensure the economic vitality of the city and its member business community. For more information, visit choosechicago.com. Follow @choosechicago on Twitter and on Instagram. Like us on Facebook.

Weelicious: Fourth of July Meals and Beyond

Red, white, and blue food is always part of the upcoming Fourth of July holiday and so this year, I turned to Catherine McCord, founder of Weelicious, a website and cookbooks dedicated to healthy eating, getting kids into the kitchen and to the table. She also is co-founder of One Potato, the first organic home meal delivery kit service designed getting family meals together in 30 minutes or less and that are kid-friendly so that children can help. All the ingredients for One Potato are pre-prepped, making it easy indeed.

As if that wasn’t enough, McCord, has authored several cookbooks including Weelicious: One Family. One Meal with 140 original recipes and Weelicious Lunches: Think Outside the Lunchbox created to go beyond peanut butter and jelly sandwich and featuring more than 160 recipes.

A former model, actress,  and culinary school graduate McCord, the mother of three, who has been on the cover of such magazines as Glamour and Elle magazines, also appears as a judge on Food Network’s Guy’s Grocery Games.

Named by people magazine as “one of the 50 most influential “Mommy Bloggers.” She updates her blog with a new recipe a day. Visit her at www.weelicious.com

The following recipes are courtesy of McCord.

Fourth of July Parfaits (makes 8 parfaits)

Prep Time: 5 mins Cook Time: 0 mins

Angel food cake (store bought or homemade, recipe below)

  • 1 cup strawberries, stemmed & quartered
  • 1 cup raspberries
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • Coconut whipped cream (recipe below)

Homemade Angel Food Cake:

  • 1 cup cake flour, sifted
  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 12 large egg whites
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Cut the angel food cake into 2-inch cubes.

Alternately layer the angel food cake, coconut whipped cream, and berries in clear glasses or mason jars so you can see all the colors and textures.

Homemade Angel Food Cake:

Preheat oven to 325F degrees. Whisk the flour and powdered sugar in a large bowl.

In a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment beat the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt on medium-low speed for about 30 seconds. Increase the speed to medium-high until the egg whites are very foamy and barely form soft peaks, about 45 seconds longer. Gradually add the granulated sugar and continue to beat on medium-high speed until whites are firm and glossy and hold stiff peaks (if you over beat, the meringue will look dry and curdled). Beat in the vanilla and lemon juice.

Sift one-third of the dry ingredients over the meringue. Continue to beat on low speed until just incorporated. Continue the sifting and mixing process 2 more times. Remove the bowl from the standing mixer and fold batter several times with a large spatula to make sure all ingredients are fully incorporated.

Pour half of the batter into ungreased tube pan. Using a spatula push the batter all around the pan as it will help with a more even cake after baking. Scrape remaining batter into pan and spread the top evenly.

Bake the cake about 40 minutes or until top is puffy and golden. Immediately invert the pan onto a baking rack. Allow the cake to cool at least 1 hour.  Turn the cake right side up and using a thin metal spatula, cut around sides and loosen cake. Release the tube from the cake pan. Using thin metal spatula, loosen cake from bottom. Invert cake onto a plate or cake stand and remove bottom. Allow to cool thoroughly before cutting into cubes.

Coconut Whipped Cream

Makes 1 ½ cups

  • 1 can full fat coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon powdered sugar

Place the jar of coconut milk in the refrigerator to chill overnight.

Being careful to not shake the can, open the coconut milk.

Spoon out the thick coconut cream into a large bowl, which is about 2/3 of the can. Once you get to the liquid, stop and discard or save for smoothies.

Beat the coconut cream with a handheld electric or stand mixer for 1 minute.

Add the powdered sugar and continue to beat until light and fluffy, about 30 more seconds.

Fruit Wands

  • 1 watermelon
  • 2 pints blueberries
  • 20 skewers

Slice the watermelon into 1/2 inch round slices, and then cut out star shapes using a three-inch star-shaped cookie cutter.

Gently slide the blueberries on wooden skewers* and finally place a watermelon star on the top.

Place the skewers in a tall glass or in decorated floral foam as an eatable centerpiece.

Red, White & Blue Pops

Makes 8 Popsicles, depending on the size of your molds

Prep Time: 5 mins Cook Time: 0 mins

  • 12-ounce bag frozen blueberries, defrosted
  • 6 tablespoons agave, divided (you can also use honey)
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup milk (you can use cow’s milk, almond, rice or soy)
  • 12-ounce bag frozen raspberries, defrosted

Place defrosted blueberries and 2 tablespoons agave or honey in a blender and puree until smooth.

Pour the blueberry puree 1/3 way up each popsicle mold and freeze for 30-45 minutes.

Combine the yogurt, milk, and 2 tablespoons of agave or honey in a bowl and whisk until smooth.

Pour yogurt mixture 2/3 way up the popsicle molds on top of the blueberry mixture, gently tap to even out the yogurt layer, and freeze for another 30-45 minutes.

Place defrosted raspberries and 2 tablespoons agave or honey in a blender and blend until smooth.

Finish the popsicles by pouring the raspberry puree over the yogurt, place sticks in and freeze 6 hours to overnight, until frozen through. 

*Because all popsicle molds are different sizes, you may have left overs. You can refrigerate the remaining berry purees and use as toppings for yogurt, granola, pancakes, etc.

This article also appeared in the Food section of the Herald Palladium.

Woodstock & Smoke: Volkswagens Transformed into Smokers Create Great Barbecue Hit the Road In Southwest Michigan

        If you missed the 1960s, remember it fondly, and like great barbecue, Tim Carrigan, owner of Woodstock and Smoke, a food fleet of food trucks with a groovy vibe and his son, Max, have a treat for you. A few years back, they started with one old Volkswagen Beetle (also nicknamed in the 1960s as VW bugs), painted it green, removed the chassis, and inserted a large smoker. Oh, and they painted the exterior with flowers just like the Love Bugs of that era which were supposed to represent peace and, you guessed it, love. The term referred to cutely painted VW Beetles which were so popular that two movies were made centered around the concept—Disney’s 1968  “The Love Bug” a comedy about a Love Bug that comes to life starring Dean Jones and Michele Lee and a sequel titled “Herbie: Fully Loaded.”

        To complete the look of that era, the chefs often wear brightly colored tie-dye Woodstock and Smoke t-shirts.

        Garrison says it started off as one of those I’m bored type of things—though with working as a chef at Fernwood Botanical Garden in Niles in Southwest Michigan, catering, and teaching culinary classes at Buchanan Public Schools it’s hard to figure out how he had time to be bored—and decided to something with the smoker and VW he had.

        “I always loved Volkswagens,” he says. “I had a Volkswagen and a grill and so I drew one up and had someone do the fabrication. Then it sat out in a field  for a year. Someone saw it sitting there and asked if they could use it for a graduation party. It was a hit.”

        Now there are six with four more in the works. One of the existing ones is a pizza Love Bug that reaches temperatures of 600° and can bake a pizza in four minutes.

It’s not easy finding cheap Volkswagens but necessary to keep costs down. Carrigan has sourced them from as far away as Warsaw, Indiana, and Jackson and Ann Arbor, Michigan. Then they fix them up. And some sure do need fixing. One, he says, had a tree growing through it, another’s roof was crushed by a falling tree.

        “We find them in sheds, barns, fields, wherever,” says Max who completed his culinary degree at Grand Valley State University; his father’s degree is from the culinary program at Grand Rapids Community College.

        The smokers, at five-feet tall and six-feet long, take up all but the hood and back of the VW. The  use apple and cherry wood to produce the heat needed for a day at a site like Watermark. They also have to pack enough wood to keep the smoker going all day long.

        On a busy Memorial Day weekend, the Love Bugs were busy smoking and grilling throughout Southwest Michigan. Watermark Brewing Company has them booked for every Saturday and Sunday and that’s where Max was when I stopped by to taste their smoked Brussel sprouts. I was disappointed to see that they were sold out of a lot of items including the sprouts.

        “I’m waiting for more food to arrive—we’ve been so busy I called for more,” Max told me.

        Fortunately they still had their slow roasted pork which is then shredded and piled high on a bun. Max made up a sandwich for me and then gave me a sampling of sauces so I could decide which one I wanted as a topping for the pork. I almost declined a sauce as the meat was so tender and tasty. Plus there were so many choices—including Blueberry Habanero (which they sell by itself because it’s so popular), a classic red barbeque sauce, Carolina Gold—apple cider vinegar, chili pepper flakes, and a tad of local honey, spicy strawberry, and a cherry barbecue sauce. It was hard to decide. My favorite was  a white sauce made with mayonnaise, jalapeno peppers, cilantro, and fresh garlic.

        “It’s mayo based,” says Carrigan. “You can find it in some of the southern states but it’s rare.”

        I arrived earlier the next day so I wouldn’t miss out on the Brussel sprouts and was surprised to see so many people ordering them including Richard Russell who kindly allowed me to photograph his pulled pork with sprout. When I said I was surprised they were so popular (my husband thinks they’re akin to poison) he said he thought many people were served the overcooked mushy ones that didn’t have any flavor.

        “I was always in the kitchen growing up,” says Carrigan, who brought Max into the business when he was 14.

        “I learned to cook from my dad,” says Max, as he was loading up 250 pounds of meat for the following day. “In the summer we cook around 300 pounds.”

        Not only do they grill meats and Brussel sprouts,  big pans in the smoker are filled with the family recipe for baked beans and other fishes such their deluxe macaroni, a cholesterol-defying dish, is made with three types of cheese and meat such as their smoked pork put on the top. The meat comes from various local butchers including Lowry’s Meat & Groceries on River Street in Buchanan, a place that’s been in business for more than 50 years. There’s also teriyaki, smoked corn beef, grilled local asparagus when in season, and Max is serving Korean pork and barbecue at Watermark.

        You can find one of the VWs at the Bridgeman Farmer’s Market on Sunday, downtown New Buffalo on Thursday night, Green Stem in Niles and the South Haven Farmer’s Market on Wednesday. They also recently rented a family restaurant on the southeast corner of U.S. 12 and Red Arrow Highway in New Buffalo and though they’re not serving food there (or at least not yet), that’s where they do their food prep and load up the Volkswagens.

        “We also do car shows, food festivals, concerts for the St. Joseph Symphony Orchestra, wineries like Lemon Creek Winery, and parties,” says Garrison. To check out where they’ll be, visit their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/WoodStockandGrill

        “I’ve always been fascinated by all aspects of cooking,” says Carrigan, who with his team create recipes. It was Steve Gargis, who has been with Carrigan’s catering company for seven years and is now also doing Woodstock and Smoke who came up with the Blueberry Habanero Sauces and also has a jalapeno sweet corn that’s very popular. They also make desserts such as brownies, fruit buckle,

Others involved in the business include Melanie  Hutchinson who coordinates events and has been with Carrigan’s JML Catering for 13 years.  JML represents the first initials of his three children. Carrigan married his high school sweetheart Kaylene who works as a nurse though she helps out when things get really busy. Like Max, the other two children grew up in the business. Jayla, the oldest daughter became a nurse but helps out as does his youngest, Lexi, who is studying to be an audiologist at Grand Valley State University. Son-in-law Dough Zundel helps train new hires on how to use the smokers.

Carrigan describes himself as liking to keep things simple (though we don’t really believe that) and notes that he still lives in the same house he grew up in.

Like I mentioned earlier, Love Bugs used to be about Peace and Love, now we can add barbecue as well.

Sidebar: Alabama White Barbecue Sauce     

Tim Carrigan said white barbecue sauce was unique to the south and hard to find even there.  A Google search showed that white barbecue sauce originated in Alabama around 1925 at Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ located in Decatur, Alabama. Gibson’s now bottles the sauce and people use it not only on barbecued meats but also as a dip, on pizza, and anything else you want. It can be ordered from the restaurant’s website, bigbobgibson.com or, of course, Amazon.

There’s even a “Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ Book: Recipes and Legends from a Legendary Barbecue Joint: A Cookbook by Chris Lilly,” the great-grandson-in-law of Big Bob and executive chef at Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ.

Big Bob’s White Sauce

Recipe courtesy of Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q

  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon prepared horseradish
  • ½ half teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Combine all ingredients and mix well.

The following recipes are courtesy of Woodstock and Smoke

Roasted Brussel Sprouts

  • 3 pounds Brussel Sprouts
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic chopped
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cracked pepper
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika

Toss the sprouts with the oil and add in additional seasoning. Place in the smoker for 30-35 minutes or till done.

Pork Butt Rub

  • 1 cup coarse salt
  • ½ cup granulated garlic
  • ¼ cup pepper
  • ¼ cup granulated onion
  • ¼ cup paprika
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup dry mustard

Mix ingredients together and store in an airtight container until ready to use. Rub on the pork butts and let them rest in the refrigerator a few hours before putting them into the smoker. Cook until fork tender and meat shreds easily.