El Floridita: An Opening into the World of Cocktails and Hemingway

         When Piña de Plata or the Silver Pineapple first opened in 1817, the location in what is now La Habana Vieja, Spanish for Old Havana would have been just known as downtown Havana back then. Located at the end of Calle Obispo, across Monserrate Street from the National Museum of Fine Arts of Havana, the streets in front of the muddy pinkish-red stucco exterior with its famous neon sign bustles with cars with fins in Easter egg colors and matching interiors. It’s a sea of pinks, purples, sky blues, two tones of white and maroon and other combos. We could be in a scene from “Mad Men,” but instead of crystal clear martinis, we’re heading to El Floridita.

200 Years and Counting

The name changed from the Silver Pineapple happened in 1914 about the same time that Constantino Ribalaigua began learning to mix drinks from his father. Four years later, Ribalaigua, who later earned the nickname of “El Rey de los Coteleros” or The Cocktail King of Cuba, had earned enough money to buy the place. He was only 26 and would own it for decades, creating more than 200 cocktails and adapting dozens more.

Creating the Hemingway Daiquiri

         It was one of Ribalaigua’s adaptations that made him famous—the recipe and the person who frequently left his apartment down the street after spending the morning writing and relaxed with a couple—or maybe even more—daiquiris. A concoction of white rum, maraschino liqueur or cherries depending upon the recipe, freshly squeezed lemon juice or pineapple juice and sugar or a sugar syrup, it pleased Ernest Hemingway so much, that soon El Floridita, daiquiris, and Hemingway became an icon of the bestselling author’s days in Cuba. El Floridita soon earned a subtitle, becoming “la cuna del daiquiri” or the cradle of the daiquiri.

Historic Architecture

         At opening time, the doors open and people stream in. They’re a mixed lot. College students, older literary types, locals probably bemoaning that they can’t have a quiet drink because of all these tourists, men who looked like artists and musicians, women in exotic outfits looking like poets and writers. The shiny mahogany bar is an extravagant piece of beautiful wood where red-jacketed bartenders swiftly add ingredients and then buzz them in the blender.

Daiquiris for All

These bartenders are smooth, able to mix and pour two daiquiris at a time. They need to be, the surge of people is endless. There’s a neo-classicist style to the decor. Huge paintings back up the bar and line several large walls. Chandeliers drip from the ceiling, the tables in the large dining room have white tablecloths and louvered doors. The bar itself is rather dark though streaks of the stunning sunshine stream through the door. Musicians come up on the small stage and play Cuban music, jazz, Bolero, Timba, and their own compositions as well including music from the eastern end of the island.

         You don’t have to imagine Hemingway sitting at the bar, a bronze bust of him in his favorite corner was sculpted in 1954. And it’s easy to pause when my eye captures the lifestyle statue of him at the bar that was added almost 50 years later. Another honorific is a plaque with a Hemingway quote: “My mojito in the Bodeguita del Medio and my daiquiri in the Floridita.”

         But probably the best indication of the author’s prestige and power as a tourist attraction is the lure of the blender as it mixes another daiquiri (there are four varieties associated with Hemingway and I’ve included two of them below) and the clinking of glasses as patrons toast the author and, of course, his drink.

Recipes

Floridita Daiquiri

  • 2 oz. white rum (Floridita uses Havana club)
  • ½ oz. fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp. maraschino liqueur
  • 1 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 1½ cups crushed ice

Mix the lime juice and sugar in a blender and pulse to combine. Add the maraschino and crushed ice and blend on high speed, gradually adding rum to the mix. Pour into a chilled large cocktail glass.

Floridita Cocktail

  • 2 ounces white rum (I prefer Brugal)
  • Juice of ½ lime
  • ½ ounce fresh grapefruit juice
  • ¼ ounce maraschino liqueur
  • 1 teaspoon simple syrup

Shake with ice, and strain into coupe. Garnish with a lime wheel.

Eight Historic Hotels for Those Who Love History and Travel

Knowing how much I love historic architecture and enjoy immersing myself in the grandeurs of centuries past, Sara Martin sent me a list of resorts and hotels dating back a century or more. All are in the U.S. except for one in St. Croix. But because it is located in the U.S. Virgin Islands passports are not required for American citizens. Whether you’re looking for a warm weather, winter, an urban or country stay all are relatively easy places to get to by plane or car. So take this step back into history and have a wonderful time.

The Buccaneer Beach and Golf Resort, Trademark Collection by Wyndham in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

Back in 1653, Charles Martel, a Knight of Malta, constructed the first building on the eastern end of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. After the Denmark purchased St. Croix 80 years later, a sugar mill and home were built on the estate. Later the land was used for growing cotton and raising cattle. In 1922, the Armstrong family took over the property and continued raising cattle until when, in December 1947 they built and opened an 11-room inn. Now the Buccaneer Beach and Golf Resort, Trademark Collection by Wyndham remains in the Armstrong family and is today considered one of the Caribbean’s finest resorts.

Don’t expect to find a lot of cows mooing around now days. Instead of hay bales, the Buccaneer boasts 131 elegant guest rooms, three restaurants, three beaches, two pools, a water sports center, a full-service spa, a 24-hour fitness center, an 18-hole golf course, eight tennis courts, and more. Committed to remaining an individually owned and operated resort, the Buccaneer recently partnered with the Trademark Collection by Wyndham. Located just a short drive to Christiansted, the capital of St. Croix.

Because the Buccaneer is located in the U.S. Virgin Islands no passport is required for U.S. citizens.

The Otesaga Resort Hotel

Located in Cooperstown, New York, The Otesaga Resort Hotel, which opened in 1909 has been the crown jewel of this lovely town nicknamed “America’s Most Perfect Village.” Commissioned by the Clark family, who still owns the hotel today, The Otesaga was a very model of what was state-of-the-art back then featuring such luxuries the many Americans didn’t have in their own home like a telephone in every guest room, individually controlled central heating, and a refrigerator cooled with 30 tons of ice.

Maintaining its old-world aura of charm and grace while evolving with time, The Otesaga today features 132 luxurious guest rooms, including 26 suites, spread among a diverse collection of accommodations. A sampling of all there is to see and do at The Otesaga includes golfing at the resort’s highly rated Leatherstocking Golf Course, swimming at the outdoor heated pool, rejuvenating services at Hawkeye Spa, playing tennis at the two all-weather courts, fishing in Otsego Lake using equipment provided by the resort, and more. Guests can also enjoy a rich diversity of dining options at the resort including The Hawkeye Bar & Grill, which serves comfort foods and delicious cocktails.

Though formerly a seasonal hotel, closing in October, The Otesaga is now open year round.

HOTEL DUPONT in Wilmington, Delaware

In the early 1900s, the growth of the DuPont Company and the need for hotel and entertainment venues lead the company’s president and secretary-treasurer to commission the development of HOTEL DUPONT. The building, which originally served as the headquarters for the DuPont Company, was the first skyscraper in Wilmington. When it opened in 1913, the luxurious European-inspired hotel featured 150 guest rooms and served as a financial and social epicenter for Wilmington’s elite. A 1918 expansion brought such additions as 118 more guest rooms, a “Gold Ballroom,” and a theater that is today known as the Playhouse on Rodney Square. Throughout the years, the iconic hotel has undergone renovations true to its original roots but with all the amenities expected by discerning travelers. A prime example is the reimagining of the legendary Green Room, originally serving as a venerable gathering place for politicians, business leaders and the occasional celebrity, after a recent remodel, it now is known as Le Cavalier at The Green Room, a French brasserie with a relaxing and inviting vibe.

Inn at Montchanin Village & Spa in Montchanin, Delaware

The Inn at Montchanin Village & Spa, located in the beautiful Brandywine Valley and at one time part of the Winterthur Estate. Its name is a homage to Alexandria de Montchanin, grandmother of Henry Francis du Pont who founded the DuPont Company. One of the few villages or what were also known as company towns still remaining, thee village was where those laborers working the DuPont mills lived. Comprised of 11 restored buildings dating back to 1799, the Inn’s 28 guest rooms and suites today blend historic charm with luxury and modern comforts. Furnished with period and reproduction furniture and marble baths, several of the rooms include cozy fireplaces and many offer beautifully landscaped private courtyards. The property also features a spa, a restaurant housed in a renovated blacksmith shop, and a private “Crow’s Nest” dining room for up to 40 guests.

Hotel Gunter in Frostburg, Maryland

Hotel Gunter, located along Historic Route 40 in the heart of Frostburg’s growing Arts and Entertainment District, was originally named Hotel Gladstone when it opened in 1897 on the National Road, America’s first federally funded highway. The name changed in 1903 when William Gunter bought the property and embarked upon a 20-year, $35,000 renovation adding such enhancements using electricity instead of gas lamps with electricity. Other improvements meant adding a dining room that sat 175, and when Prohibition loomed, a speakeasy in the basement bar. A savvy businessman Gunter added a jail cell—but not for regular guests. Instead, it was a place for federal agents transporting prisoners to house their charges and enjoy a wonderful stay themselves. T Marhe jail cell is still there but now it’s just a place for the guests to explore. As a nod to its past, the speakeasy was restored though there no longer is cockfighting as there was one hundred years earlier. Amenities also include cozy rooms and event banquet facilities. Hotel Gunter also shares space with Toasted Goat Winery and Route 40 Brewing and Distilling Company.

Town Hill Bed & Breakfast in Little Orleans, Maryland

Sitting atop Town Hill Mountain and surrounded by the 44,000-acre Green Ridge State Forest in Allegany County, “The Mountain Side of Maryland,” Town Hill Bed & Breakfast was originally built as a fruit stand in 1916. By 1920, it had become the first tourist hotel in Maryland offering accommodations to those traveling by machine as automobiles were commonly called at the time. Up until then, car gypsies as they were sometimes called, when ready to get off the road, would stop at a farmer’s house and inquire if they could camp on their property. The prices were typically right–$5 might get you a spare room in the house and a homecooked breakfast by the farmer’s wife. Camping was even cheaper.

Like the Hotel Gunter, Town Hill Bed & Breakfast is on the historic National Road. It’s also near the C&O Canal National Park, a perfect place for cyclists and hikers traveling along the historic canal’s towpath. The Inn retain much of its original woodwork and furnishings loving preserved during its many renovations. Today, the 101-year-old Inn offers such amenities as 27 guest rooms, a 65-seat dining room where their legendary breakfasts are served, campfire area and easily accessible hiking trails. Another plus is the overlook with its panorama view of three states and seven counties.

Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa

The Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa in Mobile, Alabama

The site of the Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa dates to the beginning of the 19th century when it served as the headquarters of General Andrew Jackson during the War of 1812. The first hotel to debut here was the Franklin House in 1825. In 1829, new hoteliers opened the Waverly Hotel on the site, before the Battle Brothers – James, John and Samuel – constructed their own hotel here in 1852. After operating as an independent hotel for more than a century, the proprietors sold the company in 1958 and is now one of Marriott International’s prestigious Renaissance Hotels brand. The Battle House has 238 sleeping rooms, including 31 luxury suites; a 10,000 square-foot European spa with eight treatment rooms; a state-of-the-art fitness center; and a rooftop pool. Unique dining experiences include The Trellis Room, which serves family-style Italian cuisine at dinner; Joe Cain Café, which serves soups, sandwiches, pizza and salads; and Royal Street Tavern, featuring a menu of appetizer favorites.

Fort Condé Inn in Mobile, Alabama

MBCVB Facebook Banner shots – Thanksgiving Season

The Forte Condé Inn, the second-largest house, built in 1836, was an elegant mansion but time isn’t always kind and the hotel fell into disrepair before being expertly restored in 2010. Now the Inn, alongside nine other restored historic properties that are part of Fort Condé Village. Located in the heart of downtown Mobile, Forte Condé Inn is among the city’s most historic landmarks. A four-star boutique hotel, guests can immerse themselves into the unique charms of its past but have the most modern of amenities. Featuring dozens of one-of-a-kind accommodations in the village with its cobblestone streets lined with century oaks, and verandahs lit by gas lanterns. The inn, known for its legendary breakfasts that pay homage to the many cultures and cuisines in Mobile, recently opened Bistro St. Emanuel.

ZYDECO, GUMBO, AND CAJUN HERITAGE: IT’S ALL PART OF THE CAJUN BAYOU FOOD TRAIL

Follow the Cajun Bayou Food Trail: A REAL Taste of Louisiana Cajun Country

Just 45 minutes from New Orleans, the Cajun Bayou Food Trail is a journey through the heart of Lafourche Parish and the ultimate road trip for those wanting to explore Louisiana’s food scene. Known as the Louisiana’s Cajun Bayou, this region of the state takes its culinary delights so seriously that the name Lafourche is French for the fork. While some will explain, patiently, the term is a geographical reference to a split in the  Mississippi River, we’re thinking that any place with a name synonymous with an eating utensil surely knows its way around a menu.

So grab your car keys and your sunglasses—but you won’t need to bring your own Lafourche as any place on the parish’s Cajun Bayou Food Trail have their own—and hit the road. There are currently 18 restaurants on the trail including the recently added Cinclare Southern Bistro.

“We’re thrilled to be included on the Louisiana Cajun Bayou Food Trail,” says Michael Dalmau, the owner of Cinclare Southern Bistro. “The restaurants that span this historic waterway might be different in what they do and how they do it but know this …. they all do it well. In South Louisiana – and especially up and down the Bayou – feeding and serving friends and family is not only what we do to pass a good time, but it’s how we show our love and support. It’s part of our DNA and that’s why we’re so good at it.”

All the stops on the trail feature authentic food accompanied by the unparalleled Southern hospitality.

According to my friend Mindy Bianca, chefs down this way tell how their favorite recipes feature the finest local ingredients along with a true love of their surroundings and heritage. The latter means treating guests the same as family–well, almost, you don’t have to clean up after dinner like you would at your mom’s. All this makes navigating the Cajun Bayou Food Trail an unparalleled culinary and travel experience.

The lives of the people of Lafourche Parish are fully intertwined with the bodies of water that are accessible throughout the region, most notably Bayou Lafourche, a 100-mile waterway that bisects the parish, and the Gulf of Mexico. Residents of the area view the Bayou and Gulf as their personal pantries, finding seafood and other delicacies within and along their waters. If you live here, you’re most likely not going to get kicked you out of the parish for not knowing how to whip up a tasty gumbo (though we can’t promise that’s true) but fortunately most if not all figure it out from an early age using recipes passed down through the  generations. That’s why those following the trail get to taste dishes authentic traditional foods that are part of the Parish’s gastronomic heritage–prepared and served as they have been for as long as some can remember. But that doesn’t mean some chefs don’t do their own riff with added ingredients or other ways to make them uniquely their own.

Celebrating not only the restaurants and local food purveyors that honor the culinary customs of the region, the parish also hosts six festivals and events dedicated to honoring and preserving its distinctive traditions. Think La Fete Des Vieux Temps in Raceland, Louisiana

Calling it a cultural gumbo, Mindy says that “restaurants lean toward plenty of fresh seafood and run the gamut from mom-and-pop operations to sophisticated dining rooms.

“The unifying element is that whether it’s fried shrimp at Spahr’s, a restaurant that now has three locations and that has been a staple here for more than 50 years, or an elegant and savory alligator-and-andouille sausage cheesecake appetizer at Kincare, which offers craft beverages and a more upscale dining experience in the heart of downtown Thibodaux, your meal is going to be both delicious and memorable.”

Visitors and locals alike are encouraged to pick up a Food Trail passport and map from any of the participating restaurants or download it from this website, then eat their way through the parish. Collect enough passport stamps and you’ll earn your way into a comfy Food Trail T-shirt. Trust us and order one size larger before hitting the trail. In these ever-changing and unpredictable times, requirements for completing a passport have been modified and the Food Trail can now be experienced more “virtually,” meaning that participating Trail restaurants offer curbside service.

For more information about the dining scene in Louisiana’s Cajun Bayou, to download your passport and map, or to check out some pictures and start dreaming of crawfish and crabs, gumbo and gator, please visit http://www.lacajunbayou.com. The local businesses up and down the Bayou are ready to fill up your plate and offer you a lafourche to use.  

Other places to dine include Rose’s Cafe, Holly Marie’s Seafood Market in Raceland, Punch’s Seafood Market in Lockport, Harry’s Poboys in Larose, Politz’s in Thibodeaux, Cher-Aimee’s in Cutoff, and C. Moran’s in Golden Meadow.

What to Do in Lafourche Parish

You can’t eat all the time, right? In between meals check out some or all of the following stops:

Swamp Tours

Described as an otherworldly experience, like time travel into the state’s prehistoric past by  touring Lafourche Parish’s swamplands. Tour options includes the 2 Da Swamp Bayou Tours & Museum trips to Bayou Des Allemands with traditional Cajun music, and museum displays of artifacts Des Allemands’ early years. Airboat Tours by Arthur Matherne, open seasonally, is a high-octane thrill rides on its fleet of airboats. Torres Cajun Swamp Tours’ guides takes visitor the history and ecology of wetlands’ Bayou Boeuf.

 E.D. White Historic Site

The White family was once among the Louisiana’s political elite. Patriarch Edward Douglas White was the state’s governor in the 1830s; his son and namesake became a U.S. Supreme Court Justice in the 1890s. The elder White’s home is now a Louisiana State Museum site and is a step back into the past showcasing the state’s history. Built from cypress in the Creole Plantation style in 1825, White purchased the home, re-imaging it as a Greek Revival mansion. Learn about the White family, the history of both the home’s history along with that of Chitimacha Indians and Cajun settlers, sugar plantation owners and the slaves that worked the fields in service of them by taking a tour of the E.D. White Historic Site in Thibodaux.

Restaurants in Thibodaux

Thibodaux’s restaurants and fresh markets reflect the local culture and cuisine. Top-rated restaurant spots include Fremin’s Restaurant, where you can take in the architecture of Thibodaux’s downtown area. The food is prepared with a view into the kitchen and the duck-and-andouille gumbo is like heaven in a bowl. Head to Off the Hook, a down-home spot with awesome po-boys, fried seafood and more gumbo! And try something different at the Cajun Potato Kitchen, a quirky and casual restaurant serving huge baked potatoes loaded with Cajun toppings. It’s fun and different and popular with the university crowd.  Get a full list of locals’ favorite restaurants.

Bayou Country Children’s Museum

You’d be hard pressed to find another museum in the U.S.—or really anywhere—that’s a Cajun-themed children’s museum. At Bayou Country Children’s Museum in Thibodaux brings together Cajun history, education and fun, making it a great stop for family fun. Here children can play on a full-size sugar harvester, toss beads from a Mardi Gras float, climb aboard a shrimp boat and more.

Center for Traditional Louisiana Boat Building

The wetlands flowing through Southern Louisianna are a distinct part of Lafourche Parish where more than 100 miles of bayou meander throughout the parish. The Center for Traditional Louisiana Boat Building, located in Lockport is the place to learn how traditional Cajun boats were constructed, including their iconic pirogue boats and flat-bottomed vessels known locally as putt-putts that once common in the region’s bayous.

Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center

Part of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park & Preserve in Thibodaux, the center’s mission is to preserve Cajun tradition and offers such programs as their free Cajun music jam sessions every Monday afternoon, a Cajun-French meetup on Tuesdays, historical Thibodaux walking tours and boat tours of Bayou Lafourche. While there, stop at the Center’s museum store, which has Cajun music recordings, crafts and books for sale.

America’s Wetland Birding Trail

The trail, made up of 22 parishes includes Lafourche which is part of the Grand Isle Loop. The loop includes sections of Louisiana’s best-known barrier island as well as inland birding destinations teeming with shorebirds and seabirds. Download more information about the Grand Isle Loop on the Wetland Birding Trail.

Charter Fishing

Here are both a full list of charter boat companies in the area as well as saltwater fishing in Louisiana.

Bayou Lafourche Folklife and Heritage Museum

Located in a 1910 bank building in Lockport, , enjoy learning about the area’s fascinating history.

Mardi Gras in Lafourche Parish

They really know how to celebrate the two weeks leading up to Mardi Gras Day or as it is also known—Fat Tuesday. Typically there are more than a dozen parades roll through the towns of Golden Meadow, Galliano, Larose, as well as the parish seat of Thibodaux. Learn more about the parade schedules.

Shrimp and Tasso Pasta

Recipe courtesy of Bourgeois Meat Market, a stop on the Cajun Bayou Culinary Trail

1 lb. Bourgeois Tasso

2 lb. shrimp

1 large onion

1 large bell pepper

1 talk of celery

1 can Rotel

1 qt. heavy whipping cream

1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese

1 bag bow tie pasta

Boil Bourgeois Tasso in a pot with just a little water until tender.

Add onion, celery, bell pepper, Rotel, and shrimp and smother down.

Add heavy whipping cream and let mixture come to a rolling boil.

Lower fire and add cheese to thicken.

Combine with cooked pasta and serve.

,

YOU’RE INVITED TO A SPECIAL CENTENNIAL WEDDING RECEPTION FOR ERNEST AND HADLEY (RICHARDSON) HEMINGWAY

Get set for the wedding of the last century when, as part of its year-long HEMINGWAY HOMECOMING celebration, the Village of Walloon Lake hosts its “Hemingway Centennial Wedding Reception.”

Tickets for the event are now available for its “Hemingway Centennial Wedding Reception” on Friday, September 3 at the Talcott Center. The event, benefitting the Michigan Hemingway Society, is being held on the 100th anniversary of Ernest Hemingway’s wedding to Hadley Richardson. A special appearance by the newlyweds Ernest & Hadley is one of the highlights of this commemorative evening.

The evening begins at 6 p.m. with a Hemingway themed Happy Hour that features a cash bar and such spirits as wine from Walloon Lake Winery, Two Hearted Ale from Bell’s Brewery and spirits from Michigan’s Wise Men Distillery and Papa’s Pilar, a brand endorsed by the Hemingway Foundation.

Dinner, featuring foods from the Pinehurst Inn in Horton Bay (the same place the real Ernest and Hadley said “I do) will be served by Wine Guys Catering in Petoskey at 7 o’clock. Menu items the inn’s famous fried chicken, poached local fish, cabbage salad, tomato pudding, sweet potatoes with apples, Parker House rolls and Velvet cake for dessert.

Throughout the evening, attendees are invited to bid on a variety of unique Hemingway and Walloon Lake themed items and experiences, with live auctioneer Scott MacKenzie of Boyne City.

For those interested in an after-hours party, a cash bar with signature cocktails as well as cigars – available for purchase on-site from Ernesto’s in Petoskey – will be offered on the Talcott patio until 11 o’clock.

Tickets for the “Hemingway Centennial Wedding Reception” are $125 per person, $200 per couple or $1000 for a VIP sponsored table for eight guests (with space limited to 200). Tickets can be purchased online here: https://hemingwayweddingreception.eventbrite.com.

On Saturday, September 4, village officials will dedicate a series of historical signs in Circle Park downtown, which tell the story of early visitors and residents to Walloon Lake (first called Bear Lake, then Tolcott/Talcott) – from the trains, passenger steamboats and resorts – as well as several pieces specific to Hemingway, in partnership with the Michigan Hemingway Society.

Ernest Hemingway was just three months old when he made his first trip from his hometown of Oak Park, IL to Walloon Lake where his parents – Clarence and Grace (Hall) – had purchased property along the North Shore. He spent time each and every summer until 1922 at the family’s beloved Windemere cottage (including his 1921 honeymoon). The cottage is still owned by descendants of the Hemingway family.

Details for all upcoming events will be posted on the village website at WalloonLakeMi.com or online www.Facebook.com/WalloonLakeMi

Walloon Lake YouTube (The Nick Adams Stories Discussions)

Hemingway Daiquiri

We don’t know if Ernest drank these at his first wedding, but they are said to be one of his favorites so in case you want to toast this great American author, celebrate with one of his cocktails.

Hemingway Daiquiri

  • Ice
  • 2 ounces white rum
  • ¾ ounce fresh lime juice
  • ½ ounce fresh grapefruit juice
  • ½ ounce maraschino liqueur
  • 1 lime wheel, for garnish (optional)

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add all of the remaining ingredients except the lime wheel and shake well. Strain into a chilled coupe and garnish with the lime wheel

ROCK SPRINGS CAFE: A TASTE OF THE OLD URBAN WEST

         At one time a stagecoach stop because of its natural springs creating the ideal place for watering horses and passengers as they crossed the Sonoran Desert, Rock Springs, a chunk of land just north of Maricopa County off Interstate-17, is the site of one of Arizona’s oldest restaurants as well as an iconic salute to the old west.

         It started in 1918 when Ben Warner erected a canvas tent and started selling mining equipment for those digging for gold and silver in the Bradshaw Mountain range. One of the mines, the Tip Top, ultimately yielded over $4,000,000 worth of silver. Now a ghost town with some buildings remaining, at one time the population reached 500.

  Ranching was also big and so even though the stagecoach era was ending, Warner soon had gas pumps and a building that functioned as a hardware store and café with hotel rooms on the top floor. Early Silver Screen actress Jean Harlow—known for her platinum hair—stayed so frequently (why we don’t know but it may be because of the still found on the property signifying that despite Prohibition alcohol could be had here as well as water) that the room where she stayed is now a museum. Cowboy movie star Tom Mix was also said to spend the night.

         I-17 was a sheep trial back then and herds of 20,000 sheep were driven up the dirt trail to Flagstaff. The Rock as it was called had the only telephone in the area. The number, if you needed to call, was Yavapai County #93. The post office was housed in the hotel and Warner was the postmaster until it closed in 1955. There were no tanker trucks delivering gas and so Warner brought it in five-gallon cans. Because cars used a lot of water back then, there were canvas bags that could be filled with water to take along for when the radiator went dry.

         “Cars going up the incline which was made of gravel and dirt would stop here to add water to their radiators,” says Augie Perry who owns the Rock Springs Café outside of Black Canyon City.

         Now you can buy all the hardware you want at one of the big box stores in Phoenix, everyone has cell phones, the hotel is closed, and the rooms where people stayed are now used to sell arts and crafts but much of Warner’s original store remains. The original flooring, timber, and staircase remain as does the reputation for traditional American diner food—steak and eggs, chicken fried steak, liver and onions, fried chicken, and grind the meat for the hamburgers and meat loaf they serve. 

 Mrs. Warner made pies and Perry has kept up that tradition as well but on steroids. Rock Springs Café sells about 120,000 handmade pies a year—their busiest times being around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. During the regular non-holiday week, they sell 250 to 350 pies daily and 500 each day of the weekend. The demand was so high that they started shipping pies about six years ago.

Their most popular pie is the Jack Daniels Bourbon Pecan Pie which Sean Penn ordered when he stopped by a few years back. My favorite is the Tennessee Lemon Pie, but for whatever taste, there’s a pie—chocolate silk, lemon meringue, banana cream, mixed berries, you name it. Their cream pies have a signature top to them—beehive cones that twists up and has been lightly given a pass over with a torch for a slight touch of golden brown atop the peaks. The pie business is so good that Perry, who has a long history as a consultant for large restaurant groups and also owns another eatery in Prescott, Arizona, has just renovated the old stone building where the Warners lived into The Pie Box. It had fallen into disrepair but now will sell pies and other pastries and feature seating areas both inside and out. Another plus, instead of crowding the restaurant and gift shop, people can come and get their pies here.

The property—about 60 acres—is private and it’s a free-range place. For Great Lakes people like me, that doesn’t mean much but in Arizona that translates to cows getting to roam free—which they do. Typically, in the morning they come around to drink from the spring. We haven’t heard of any ordering a pie to go but may be that’s next. They usually are gone by afternoon, maybe because they don’t want to be in vicinity when it comes time to make hamburgers. Because there’s a spring here, the gardens are pretty and lush with flowering plants, grass, and leafy trees. A small collection of historic buildings sells Native American art, organic and freshly grown produce, and specialty foods. There’s a wide selection of foods in the gift shop area of the café as well including cactus candies and other cactus goodies. Another room contains a huge Brunswick Bar built in 1856 and other artifacts from its early history.

Rock Springs in the 1920s and 1930s was what Perry describes as being an “urban western” place with a mix of cars and horses. That’s in comparison to Tombstone which was “frontier western”—pretty much just horses.  Whichever you stumble upon, it’s a refreshing reminder of what the west once was like.

Chicken Fried Steak

1 1/2 cups whole milk

2 large eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons seasoned salt

Freshly ground black pepper

3/4 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 pounds cube steak (tenderized round steak that’s been extra tenderized)

Kosher salt

1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil

1 tablespoon butter

Gravy:

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

3 to 4 cups whole milk

1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

 Mix the milk with the eggs. In another bowl, flour with the seasoned salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper, paprika and cayenne.

 Sprinkle both sides of each steak with kosher salt and black pepper, then place it in the flour mixture, coating on both sides.  Dip in the milk/egg mixture, again coating each side and then dip on both sides in the flour.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the steaks three at a time making sure not to crowd them until their edges turn golden brown, about 2 minutes each side. Drain on paper towels and cover with another plate or tin foil to keep warm. Repeat with the next batch..

After all the meat is fried, pour off the oil/butter/dredgings into a heatproof bowl. Without cleaning the skillet, return it to the stove over medium-low heat. Add 1/4 cup of the oil back to the skillet and heat.

 Sprinkle the flour evenly over the hot oil. Mix the flour using a flour and stir until it turns a deep golden brown color.

Pour in the milk, whisking constantly. Add the seasoned salt and black pepper to taste and cook, whisking, until the gravy is smooth and thick, 5 to 10 minutes. Be prepared to add more milk if it becomes overly thick.

Jack Daniel’s Pecan Pie

 6 servings

1 cup granulated sugar

4 tbsp melted butter

1/2 cup dark corn syrup

3 large eggs, beaten

1 1/2 cup Pecan halves

2 1/2 tbsp Jack Daniel’s

1-9 inch pie shell, unbaked

Preheat oven at 375.

In a bowl, add sugar, melted butter, Jack Daniel’s and stir well.

Then add dark corn syrup, beaten eggs, pecans and stir well.

Place filling into pie shell. Transfer pie onto cookie sheet and place in oven.

Bake at 375 for 10 minutes. Then lower to 350 and bake for additional 25 minutes or until pie has set.

Tennessee Lemon Pie

3 eggs, separated

Zest of 1 lemon

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup extra-fine sugar, divided

1 9-inch Pure Butter Pie Crust, pre-baked (see recipe below)

In a medium-sized bowl, beat egg yolks for 2 minutes. Add lemon zest, lemon juice, salt and 1/2 cup granulated sugar.

Transfer mixture to a double boiler and cook, stirring constantly, until very thick and a thermometer reads at least 182°F, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and let cool for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, beat egg whites with a hand mixer or stand mixer, until stiff peaks form. Add remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar and beat until just combined.

Fold egg whites into the custard, until just combined. Pour into pre-baked pie crust and then bake for 15 minutes, until pie is set. Top will lightly brown.

Pure Butter Pie Crust

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, preferably unbleached

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, unsalted and very cold

1/4 cup buttermilk or ice cold water

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon extra fine granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place flour in a bowl of an electric mixer and place in freezer along with mixer’s paddle attachment for at least 20 minutes.

Cut butter quickly in small cubes and place in freezer for 15 minutes.

Combine buttermilk with salt, sugar and vanilla extract and place in refrigerator.

Remove cold flour bowl from the freezer and add butter. With paddle attachment mix mixture on medium speed until butter pieces become smaller than peas and mixture feels like coarse meal.

With machine mixing on low speed add buttermilk mixture very fast and mix just until dough forms. Do not overmix. Chill dough in refrigerator for at least one hour.

Roll dough into desired thickness of about 1/8 inch and use for baking pie. Shapes of leaves can be cut out for pies if desired.

For more information about Rock Springs Café, (623) 374-5794; rocksprings.cafe

Historic Swiss Journeys

 Travel back into the past by car or aboard the Treno Gottardo, a VIP train trip along an ancient trade route that crosses the fantastical Gotthard Pass, a north south journey connecting the German speaking region of Uri to the Ticino, the Italian speaking area of Switzerland.

Prehistoric Pile Dwellings in the Alps

In 2011, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee added the remains of prehistoric pile-dwelling also known as stilt house settlements in and around six Alpine countries that were built from around 5,000 to 500 B.C. on the edges of lakes, rivers or wetlands to their list.

The sites provide glimpses into what life was like in prehistoric times during the Neolithic and Bronze Age in Alpine Europe as well as the way communities interacted with their environment. In an exciting new find, archaeologists diving in Lake Lucerne discovered pile dwellings from the Bronze Age.

Exploring Roman History           

Augusta Raurica near Augst/Kaiseraugst, a 2000-year-old settlement on the southern bank of the Rhine, is located near the beautiful city of Basel. Named after the Celtic Rauriker tribe and the Roman Emperor Augustus, the city at its peak had a population of around 20,000 with workshops, commercial enterprises, taverns, temples and public baths closely strung together. Because no new towns were established during the Middle Ages or our modern area, Augusta Raurica is amazingly  well-preserved.

Visitors can view the myriad of wonders discovered here like the largest silver treasure dating from Late Antiquity, a Roman domestic animal park with ancient animal species, and the architectural remnants of the city, the museum offers great insights into the daily lives of the people who lived here around the time of Christ’s birth.

1821—Napoleon’s End

On May 5 was the 200th anniversary of the death of Napoleon I on the island of St. Helena, where he was placed in exile. His stepdaughter Hortense des Beauharnais also lived in exile at Arenenberg Castle and Napoleon Museum in Switzerland.

As the only German-speaking museum on Napoleonic history, a special exhibition during the “Année Napoléon 2021” will take place from October 10-24, 2021, showing the long lasting influence of Napoleon on Switzerland even today.

Inventing Milk Chocolate

Food and beverages reflect a country’s culinary traditions and customs. Many of today’s Swiss cheese brands go back to the 12th century, but Daniel Peter’s much newer creation in 1875 really took the world by storm—a passion that continues today. Peter was able to solve the problem of how to combine chocolate and milk. Most Swiss cities offer chocolate tours and several chocolate brands features visitor experiences.

Newly Restored LGBT Pioneer’s Spectacular Painting Returns to Monte Verità

After a lengthy restoration, the super large circular painting “Il Chiaro Mondo dei Beati” or “The Clear World of the Blessed”  by Estonian artist and LGBT pioneer Elisàr von Kupffer (1872-1932) is on display at the Monte Verità museum complex located in southern Switzerland near Ascona.

Ballenberg

Instead of destroying more than one hundred historic buildings, many of them farmhouses, were instead carefully taken dismantled and rebuilt at the Ballenberg Swiss Open-Air Museum.

The museum is nestled in the beautiful pastoral landscape of the Bernese Oberland and can be reached by bus from Brienz. The many hands-on activities were created to provide insight in old traditional crafts like forging, weaving, and herbal medical treatments

View Point: HISTORY AND LUXURY AT NEW HAMPSHIRE’S MOUNTAIN VIEW GRAND RESORT

Tucked in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, the Mountain View Grand Resort waits as a classic place to slow down.

When I was young, my family and I traveled along back roads that twisted through rolling hills and historic hamlets as we made our way to grand hotels dating back to the late 1800s. Once there, we’d swim, ride horses and play games such as horseshoes and croquet. But as I grew, these journeys to sprawling old resorts gave way to trips by airplane to big cities, sleek hotels, museums and shows.

And so those distant days seemed irretrievable, a way of vacationing that belonged to a different time. That is until I once again followed a winding country road through the small towns of the White Mountains and arrived at the Mountain View Grand in Whitefield, New Hampshire.

In the late 1800s, the U.S. had more than 1,000 summer resorts, many like this wood-framed escape with its towers, porches and neatly clipped green lawns. Now the 144-room Mountain View Grand, where luminaries such as Mark Twain, Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt, and Babe Ruth stayed, is just one of a handful remaining.

Its luxury is based on old-fashioned style: the attendant-operated elevator, the uniformed bellmen, the arched doorways, the long veranda. Always supercharged, I grow at ease sitting there while I sip Apple Blossoms, fresh cider mixed with local honey, and watch the night mists gather over the mountains. It’s easy to slow down among details that bespeak a time gone by.

The activities that attracted visitors long ago are still part of the resort’s offerings as well. The nine-hole golf course was designed in 1900. The clubhouse was built in 1939. The heated pool was dug in 1946, and the tennis courts were added about the same time.

I opt for taking walks through the extensively landscaped gardens and kayaking on Martin Meadow Pond, where loons provide the day’s soundtrack. And while on a trail ride through the hills, I look for wild turkey, deer, moose and black bears.

Before Mountain View Grand became a hotel, in 1865, it was the Mountain View Farm. And even after the transition, the original owners still relied on their farm to feed guests. Harkening back to those days, the menus in the resort’s four restaurants reflect what is raised here as well as from food producers nearby.

And in another throwback to the resort’s farm heritage, wool is spun from the hair of Mountain View Barn’s alpacas, goats and angora rabbits and sold at the front desk.

Although there’s reverence for the past, there’s respect for the present, too. A wind turbine supplies some of the resort’s electricity. There’s not one stoplight between here and the Canadian border an hour away, but my cell phone signal is strong.

Each day I order a latte, sit in the antique-filled lobby and tap away on my laptop while using the free Wi-Fi. And I get a deep-cleaning facial at the resort’s Tower Spa with its panoramic view of the mountains, one of the many amenities that  has resulted in the resort being award the AAA Four Diamond status since 2002.

On my last day as I drive down Mountain View Road, I turn for a final look at the expansive resort with its green shuttered windows that offers a way to span the centuries and feel at home all in one.

>> Mountain View Road, Whitefield, N.H., 866-484-3843, mountainviewgrand.com

 Depending Upon the Season

Fall | When the 1,700 acres of rolling hills become a confetti of jewel colors, saddle up for a guided trail ride on horseback.

Winter | Become a musher as snow blankets the pine forests, or travel like days of yore in a horse-driven sleigh.

Spring | As the sap rises in the spring, learn about tapping trees and making maple syrup, one of the agricultural programs.

Summer | Head out on the property to search for moose with an experienced guide as dusk falls on a soft evening.

If It Was Good Enough for P.T.

Travel to the top of the mountain the old-fashioned way aboard The Mount Washington Cog Railway, the first mountain-climbing cog railway in the world.  “The Second Greatest Show on Earth!” proclaimed P.T. Barnum who rode to the highest point in the Northeast in 1869 when it first opened.

Close By and Not to Be Missed

Voted one of the America’s Best Little Small Town, Littleton, located on the banks of the Ammonoosuc River, is a delight of history, trendy shops, great green spaces, and public art as well as lots of walking paths within town including its River District, along the Ammonoosuc of course, that encompasses the multi modal bridge on Bridge Street through the Apthorp District on Union Street and beyond into Bethlehem via the Rail Trail. Eleanor Porter, author of Pollyanna, lived here and a statue of her title character celebrates her books and the joy of always looking on the good side of life–making Littleton a happy city.

The Littleton Grist Mill, established at the end of 1700s, is now home to Schilling Beer Co. Located right on the flowing river, it’s a step back into history.

While walking through the historic downtown, make sure to take time to check out Thayer’s Inn, built in 1850 and located on Main Street. Candy lovers will love Chutters, a candy store dating back to the late 1800s with the original 112 feet of the original Guinness World Record candy counter.

Dinner is Served

Considered to be one of the most popular menu items at the Mountain View Grand. This recipe serves 6 people.

Ingredients for the Beef Ribs

  • 12 lbs of bone-in beef short ribs, cut between the bones into 6 ribs
  • 4 tbsp Kosher Salt
  • 4 tbsp ground black pepper
  • 2 cups blended olive oil

Cooking Instructions

Preheat oven to 375*F. Heat oil in a large sauté pan until shimmering. Season beef ribs heavily with salt and black pepper and sear ribs, one or two at a time, on all four sides until well browned. Arrange ribs evenly in a deep oven proof pan.

Ingredients for the Braising Liquid:

  • 46 oz V-8 juice
  • 20 oz tomato juice
  • 32 oz beef broth
  • 12 oz tomato paste
  • 4 cups of cabernet sauvignon wine
  • ½ cup cornstarch mixed with cold water
  • ¼ cup chopped garlic
  • 1 Spanish onion, cut into chunks
  • ½ bunch of celery, cut into chunks
  • 2 carrots, cut into chunks
  • 4 bay leaves
  • ½ oz fresh thyme

Cooking Instructions

Combine the liquids into a large stockpot with a wire whisk. Add the cornstarch slurry and the chopped garlic, along with the tomato paste and mix well. Pour over the beef ribs, until they are almost covered. Any extra liquid can be reserved for later. Top the rib mixture with the chopped vegetables, bay leaves and fresh thyme. Add a sheet of parchment paper to the top of the ribs and wrap with aluminum foil. Place in preheated oven for approximately 3 hours. Check ribs with a pair of tongs. The meat attached to the ribs should be almost falling off the bones and very tender to the touch. Remove beef ribs to a platter and keep warm.

To make the sauce; strain the liquid through a sieve or colander lined with cheese cloth, pressing down on the vegetables to extract as much flavor as possible (you can discard vegetables, or eat them, they too are delicious!). Heat the sauce with any reserved braising liquid in a saucepan on the stove and reduce until the sauce is thickened and coats the back of a spoon. Season to taste with additional salt and black pepper as needed.

Ingredients for the Red Onion Straws

  • 1 large red onion, thinly julienned
  • 1 ½ cups buttermilk
  • 1 ½ cups of flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • 3 cups vegetable oil for frying

Cooking Instructions

Slice red onions thinly and soak in buttermilk for at least 1 hour (this step can be done a day before you need them).

To fry onions, heat oil to 350*F on the stove with a frying thermometer. Combine flour, salt, black pepper, and paprika in a bowl until well combined. Flour should have a pinkish hue to it (if not, add more paprika). Drain red onions and add to flour and mix well. Sift carefully and add to the hot oil in small batches. Remove golden brown onions with a wire skimmer and drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Repeat the process until you have fried all the onions.

To serve the beef ribs, set up warm plates with your choice of starch and vegetables. Top each plate with a hot beef rib, cover with the cabernet sauce and top with onion straws. For some color you can garnish with your choice of parsley, rosemary, thyme, or pea tendrils.

CHURROS AND CHOCOLATE: THE PERFECT END TO AN EVENING IN MADRID

In Madrid, we take a cobblestone street down a narrow street between Plaza Mayor and Puerta del Sol to El Pasadizo San Gines and happen upon Chocolatería San Gines, the oldest churro shop in the city, having opened in 1894. There are two shops, just across the way from each other and both have long lines. But it’s our last night in Madrid and we are willing to wait. Ordering our churros and chocolate along with cups of coffee we find a outdoor table and sit down to wait–impatiently–for our treats. The churros when they are arrive are thick ropes of sugar coated dough fried to a golden brown and hot to the touch. We tear off chunks and dip them in deep bowls of thick rich chocolate and then taste. Sublime.

I think of churros as originating in Spain where they may have first been by shepherds, their name coming from the horns of the Churra sheep they tended. In turn the Spaniards, when they invaded Mexico, brought along their foods including churros and  buñuelos–a similar dish. Churro and chocolate shops are now common throughout Mexico. But their history may be more complicated as Portuguese sailors returning from China may have carried the recipe for youtiaos, another fried bread snack.

It’s close to midnight when we finally finished but this being Madrid the streets were just a lively and people still stood in line for their churros and chocolate.

Back in the U.S., I was desperate for my churro fix. Fortunately, there’s Take & Bake Churro Kit from San Diablo Artisan which beats making these treats from scratch. The company says they’re the only churro kit maker in the country making it a one-of-a-kind gift. There’s no messing with dough, making your own filling or frying them up. Instead, the kit contains 13 pre-made and chilled mini churros already fried to a golden brown and dusted with sugar and cinnamon as well as a selection of fillings such as Nutella, dulce de leche or sweet cream already packaged in squeeze bottles. Just fill the churros and pop in the oven or air fryer to reheat.

For the real foodie who wants to do a deep dive into churro making, San Diablo Artisan, a Utah based company, also sells churro dough so you can roll your own. And if you want to go all out when it comes to making churros, you can buy their recently introduced kit with a churro maker and nine different shapes of interchangeable nozzles.

San Diablo Artisan Churros specializes in creating artisan-filled churros for special events and celebrations. The proprietary, award-winning churro dough recipe is made from scratch and fried on-demand. The fried golden brown, hollow-centered churros are filled with “happiness”—gourmet fillings of choice. In a relentless search for churro perfection, the menu has expanded to include seasonal flavors, savory churro offerings, and nationwide at-home delivery. San Diablo members enjoy outstanding quality artisanal food that is undeniably fresh, delicious, and delivered with a unique style of fun. Like their Artisan Churros, San Diablo is filled with social good: supporting local, national, and international non-profit causes. 

Le Relais de Venise’s Secret Sauce

 Little did we know that when we dined at the corner restaurant near our hotel in Paris that we were eating at a place where for years there’s been a fight over the secret sauce that’s served with their steaks.

        Maybe it’s a French thing.

        For some background, my husband and I were on our honeymoon and had booked a Viking River Cruise on the Seine and then added some before and after stays in Amsterdam where it is more easy to get run over by a bicyclist then a car and Paris where we stayed at a little hotel near the metro in the 17th arrondissement so we could visit other parts of the city without spending a fortune on cabs. Though we didn’t plan it this way, Hotel 10 Le Bis, our hotel was near numerous little cafes and a little grocery store where we could easily—and cheaply eat or buy food for quick meals and snacks.

        One intriguing café was Le Relais de Venise where every night we would see long lines of people waiting to eat either in their dining room or on their outdoor patio. Though the interior of the restaurant looked so French bistro with its polished dark wood, tiny tables with crisp white table cloths, and servers dressed in black uniforms, the outdoor section was right on a busy corner filled with traffic and pedestrians, noise, and the rumbled of trucks and sounds of horns honking.

        What could be so great about lining up to eat there, we wondered. But one evening, after climbing up from the metro station and seeing there was no line, we decided to give it a try. The only tables available were outdoors and so we sat at a very small table next to another small table where a single woman sat, smoking a cigarette. That turned out to be a very lucky thing.

        When our server arrived I asked to see a menu and she (we would find out later her name was Gertrude) abruptly told us she was the menu. Well, what could we order? Steak frites, she replied—either “bloody or well done.”

        We told her “bloody”, and she gave us an approving look. But we were a little baffled. Was there really only one dish on the menu?  It turns out that at this restaurant which opened in 1959, there was only one entrée and steak with French fries was it. When our waitress returned with a salad topped with walnuts (no one inquired whether we had a nut allergy—which fortunately we don’t) and a crusty French baguette, I saw there wasn’t butter on our table and asked for some. Oops, one would think I had tried to order a Big Mac.

        “No butter,” Gertrude told us.

        “There’s no butter?” I asked.

        “No butter,” she replied.

        “How about olive oil?”

        “No olive oil,” she told us.

        Now, I knew that in a French restaurant there had to be both in the kitchen, but I guess neither butter nor olive oil was allowed to be carried into the dining area, so we ate the bread—which was very good—without either.

        This is when the woman at the table next to us decided to intervene. She lived in Paris she told us but had spent years in the United States working as a publicist for musicians in New York. Le Relais de Venise was unique, she continued, because they only served one dish—steak with French fries served with Le Venice’s Sauce de Entrecote.  I guess that makes decided what to order for dinner super easy.

        Since the creation of the sauce, its exact ingredients have been kept secret and that probably worked until the invention of the internet.  After some type of family squabble and a going of separate ways, the sauce itself became a battleground so complex and full of intrigue that the Wall Street Journal did a lengthy article about it all six years ago.   I guess when you serve only one dish and the sauce is a necessary part of it, feelings about who owns the recipe loom large.

        Anyway, after we ate our salad (no choice of dressing as it already was dressed with a vinaigrette which was very good), our steak with fries arrived—with the sauce spooned over the meat. It was delicious.

        What’s in it? I asked the woman next to us.

        “It’s a secret,” she said. “But I’ve been eating here for decades so I know it. But it’s really better to come here.”

        She promised to give me the recipe, but I think she changed her mind because she never sent it. She may have been afraid that Gertrude would get mad at her or maybe the restaurant owners wouldn’t allow her back in. Neither would surprise me.

        I noticed, as we were eating, that the servers were moving through the crowded café with platters of meat and piles of French fries. And almost as soon as I had cleared my plate, Gertrude showed up again, heaped—without asking but that was okay—more French fries and slices of the sliced steak and sauce on my plate. At no charge.

        “They’ll do that until you say you don’t want anymore,” the woman told us.

        “Is there a charge?”

        “No, it’s all part of the meal.”

        Which was a deal as the tab wasn’t very high even with the addition of a glass of the house wine which is made at the family owned vineyard Chateau de Saurs in Lisle-sur-Tarn, 30 miles northeast of Toulouse. Indeed, the restaurant was opened by Paul Gineste de Saurs as a way to help market the wines but now there are at least three—the one in Paris and then another in New York and London. As for the sauce there are several stories. A rival restaurant said to serve a similar sauce says that it is not new but instead was one of the classic sauces said to be the backbone of French cuisine.

        Another has it that the restaurant where we ate was modeled after Cafe de Paris bistro in Geneva which has served this dish since the 1940s. The sauce, according “The History and the Development of the L’Entrecote Secret Sauce,”  a Facebook page devoted to the subject, was developed by the owner’s father-in-law.

        I told you it was complicated.

        Of course, as soon as we got back to our room, I Googled the restaurant and the sauce. It took some digging, but I found recipes for both the secret sauce and the salad. Or so I think. I’m planning on trying them soon along with a French baguette or two from Bit of Swiss Bakery which I will be serving with butter.

Le Relais de Venise-Style Salad Dijon Vinaigrette

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
Kosher salt to taste (nutritional info based on 1/4 tsp)
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (or walnut oil)

Whisk or shake in a mason jar until mixture is homogenous.

Serve on a bed of mixed salad leaves topped with some chopped walnuts and shaved Parmesan.

Serving Size: 4

Le Relais de Venise’s Steak Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 large shallots
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons mustard
  • 1 bunch tarragon
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Peel and slice the shallots.

Peel and roughly chop the garlic.

Add the olive oil to a small pot over medium heat.

Add the garlic and shallots and cook until soft and slightly colored.

Add the chicken stock. Simmer for three minutes.

Pull the tarragon leaves off of the stems and put them in a blender.

Add the remaining ingredients to the blender.

Carefully pour the chicken stock mixture into the blender.

Puree until completely smooth.

Pour back into the pan and bring to a boil. Cook for one minute. If the sauce is too thin simmer for a few more minutes.

Pour over slices of rare or as Gertrude calls it “bloody” or however you like your steak. Serve with potatoes or French fries.

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.