5-Room Boutique Royal Hotel in Downtown MarshallContinues a Historic Tradition.
It’s been more than 50 years since a hotel has operated at 115 S. Eagle St. in historic downtown Marshall, but starting this summer guests will once again find overnight accommodations at The Royal Hotel – a name honoring the original hotel that stood at the corner of Eagle and Green, purchased by Albert Schuler in 1924. Reservations are being accepted now exclusively through the website for stays beginning June 16th for the 5-room boutique hotel located above Schuler’s Restaurant & Pub.
Phase II of the Schuler’s Rehabilitation Project is wrapping up now in a defined wing of the building, where thoughtfully designed and decorated rooms (ranging in size from 192- to 366-square-feet) reflect the unique character of the building. In December, Phase I of the project opened up seven mixed-income apartment units on the second and third floors of the building.
Several local companies collaborated to bring this project to fruition, including financing through Homestead Savings Bank in Albion, architectural work from Driven Design in Battle Creek, general contracting services with First Contracting in Ovid, and granite countertops from MKD (Michigan Kitchen Distributors) in Marshall.
“The last year has been a whirlwind as we transformed what had become nothing more than storage, first into much-needed apartments and now into our own boutique hotel,” says Schuler’s President and CEO Sue Damron, who purchased the company in November 2019 from Hans Schuler, grandson of founder Albert Schuler. “Schuler’s is synonymous with hospitality. It’s a philosophy we have embraced since we first opened in 1909. While we’ve focused our attention over the past half-century on feeding our customers, neighbors, family and friends, the opening of The Royal Hotel allows us to once again provide lodging in our charming little community.”
Each of the hotel units offer contactless entry and are outfitted with Keurig coffee makers, 55-inch smart TVs, AC, WiFi and walk-in showers. Four of the five units include mini fridges, three feature bar sinks and one is ADA compliant. Four of the rooms are equipped with king beds and one with a queen; the Grand Suite features a separate living/bath area. A washer and dryer in the hall will be available for guests. Specific room amenities can be found here: https://schulersrestaurant.com/the-royal/.
Damron’s next project involves rehabilitating and repurposing a dilapidated downtown building that she plans to turn into an event space that can seat up to 250 people.
Founded in 1909, Schuler’s is noted as one of Michigan’s most iconic restaurants. With more than a century of successful years in the industry, Schuler’s remains a hospitality leader not only in Michigan, but throughout the country.
About Marshall Michigan
Settled in 1831, Marshall has one of the nation’s largest architecturally significant National Historic Landmark Districts. The Royal Hotel is located in the historic downtown, within walking distance of such landmarks as the Honolulu House Museum, the Brooks Memorial Fountain, United States Postal Museum, andThe American Museum of Magic. The downtown also has many shops, restaurants, green spaces, and galleries.
My friends at Mindy Bianca Public Relations tell me they love representing Bowling Green, Kentucky for many reasons, but at the top of their list is the fact it’s the hometown of Duncan Hines. Most of us know his name from boxed cake mixes sitting on the grocery shelves, but that’s just part of his story as Mindy would say. Here’s a big wedge of American pop culture for you … perhaps best served with a tall glass of milk.
Let’s start close to where Duncan Hines himself did … right near Bowling Green, Kentucky. Boyce’s General Store is a foodie heaven, serving as the kitchen and retail shop for two phenomenal dessert bakers, The Pie Queen and The Cake Shop. Though the dynamic duo who bake the cakes create all sorts of flavors – the display case simply makes your mouth water – we’re most intrigued by the bundt cakes. No matter which flavor you get, you can expect a cake that’s moist and rich and covered in a cream cheese glaze. If you don’t need to serve 10 to 12 of your closest friends, go for the mini sampler, which features one each of chocolate, apple spice, snickerdoodle and red velvet.
For years, Caroline’s Cakes has been sending its delicacies out through their successful mail-order service. Last year, though, the bakers finally opened a storefront along Beaumont Avenue in Spartanburg, meaning that visitors to this town along the northern border of South Carolina can finally walk into a shop for an immediate taste of one of the city’s most delicious exports. The 7-Layer Caramel Cake features – surprise! – seven layers of moist yellow cake crowned by melt-in-your-mouth caramel icing. It’s a Southern classic that has achieved ultimate success: making it to Oprah’s list of favorite things! (It’s on our list of favorite things, too, but we know that doesn’t carry nearly as much prestige as Oprah’s.)
When Hurricane Katrina blew through Louisiana in 2005, Keith and Nealy Frentz, who were both sous chefs at the world-famous Brennan’s restaurant in New Orleans, found themselves out of work. They evacuated to Keith’s hometown of Covington and opened their own restaurant just a year later. It’s hard to decide on the very best meal at Lola – we can confirm that everything on the menu is delicious – but one thing is certain: You must end that meal with a piece of hummingbird cake. Nealy uses her grandma’s recipe to craft this moist banana cake that’s filled with chunks of juicy pineapple and a dash of cinnamon. It’s all topped off with a decadent cream cheese icing, ensuring that both the fruit and dairy food groups are beautifully represented. Hooray for Nealy’s take on the food pyramid!
Lane Cake was invented by Emma Rylander Lane more than 100 years ago as an entry in Alabama’s state fair, with its recipe being officially published in a cookbook in 1898. It entered popular culture through multiple mentions in Harper Lee’s 1960 novel To Kill a Mockingbird, and it ultimately bumped hummingbird cake (sorry, Nealy!) out of the way to become Alabama’s official state dessert. The cake gets its incredible flavor from its rich icing, which is made with chopped pecans, golden raisins, coconut and Alabama whiskey and then spread between layers and layers of moist cake. Chef Jim Smith, proprietor of The Hummingbird Way Oyster Bar, one of Mobile’s favorite restaurants, is the former executive chef for the State of Alabama … so we can confirm he knows his way around the state’s favorite dessert.
The MBPR team is proud to represent an array of Southern destinations, and you’ll see a running theme among them when it comes to their baked goods: moist cake, some sort of fruit or nut, cream cheese icing. Our favorite selection in Lafourche Parish, Louisiana, aka “Louisiana’s Cajun Bayou,” is the Italian Cream Cake from the charming Cajun Pecan House. The place lives up to its name and tosses pecans on and in pretty much everything. Lots of folks come here looking for a pecan pie or a praline – both of which are delicious – but the bakers also put plenty of their namesake nut into a yellow cake batter that’s made extra-moist by the addition of coconut. Then they slather it in a rich cream cheese icing that’s topped with additional coconut and – you guessed it – more pecans! It feels more Southern than Italian to us, but we are NOT complaining!
Your sweet tooth will get quite a workout at the Deep South Cake Company, which is home to a dazzling array of cakes and cupcakes. But the winner by a landslide – the bakery sells at least 1,400 of them between Thanksgiving and Christmas alone – is the legendary caramel cake. Shannon Rumley and her team put a lot of time and energy into this cake, which features a burnt sugar icing that Shannon’s mother and grandmother taught her how to make when she was just a kid. Achieving the proper consistency for the icing requires constant stirring, so this cake truly is a labor of love. If you’re not into caramel – or if you’re loyal to Caroline’s Cakes (see above) and feel guilty eating a caramel cake from anywhere else – don’t fear: Shannon’s second-best seller is a strawberry cake that cuts the sweet with a little zip from the berries.
Speaking of strawberries, how about that classic romantic combo of berries and champagne? There’s a lot to love about a stay in the historic HOTEL DU PONT in downtown Wilmington, but we think that being just a few paces away from the offerings at Spark’d, the hotel’s bake shop, is one of the strongest motivators for booking a room here. The Pink Champagne Cake is the delightful merger of strawberry cake, strawberry jam and Champagne buttercream icing. With a little advance notice, the hotel’s pastry team is also happy to create a custom design to ensure that the cake you order is perfectly suited to its recipient.
A Louisiana bakery that proves that so-called seasonal cakes are amazing all year round is Mrs. Johnnie’s Gingerbread House. Locals know – and visitors are finally discovering – that gingerbread is appropriate for every season, not just Christmastime. This low-key shop, which is easily mistaken for a neighborhood home, is hidden in plain sight. But those in the know (many of whom learned about the Gingerbread House thanks to a viral TikTok video last year) can tell you that this popular establishment offers a special cake that throws one heck of a Christmas party in your mouth. Leona Guillory Johnnie, the original owner of the bakery, spent 40 years perfecting the recipe. Today her son, Kevin Ames, continues her legacy, also serving traditional tea cakes and an array of pies.
It’s not gingerbread, but some people swear that ginger is the magic ingredient in a dessert that our client resort in Jamaica turned us on to. It’s called “gizzada,” but it also goes by the nickname “Pinch Me Round.” Though it’s technically more of a tart than a cake, the fact that a guy called the “Cake Man” sells gizzadas during his rounds on the beaches of Negril convinced us that the dessert warrants a spot on our list. Each islander has their own spin on this classic Jamaican dessert, which features a pinched pastry shell filled with plenty of sweet, grated coconut. Some bakers like to add a touch of ginger to give it a little kick. The dessert is said to have originated among Portuguese Jews who came to Jamaica to escape persecution, but over the years the Jamaicans have made the dessert truly their own. In fact, they say that the shape of the treat will remind you of the shining sun you’ll see on your trip to the island.
If you can’t get to Jamaica right now, you may be able to live vicariously with a visit to Market Wego, a proper Cajun market in southeastern Louisiana. Its owner, River Shay, says her grandmother, Tricia, simply loved visiting Jamaica. On each of her trips, Tricia liked to sample the island’s rum cakes. Over the years, she took what she loved about each variation to create her very own recipe. Her cake truly pays homage to Duncan Hines, because Tricia swore by using only a Duncan Hines cake mix as the base … and then adding an extra splash of rum at the end. Her recipe is still used to this day, and patrons order the cake at all hours – breakfast, lunch and dinner!
Dolly Parton’s theme park is known for its delicious meal offerings – around here, “park food” means way more than hot dogs and funnel cakes – but during Dollywood’s annual Flower & Food Festival (this year held April 21 through June 11), the culinary team really steps up its game to make foods that are as attractive as they are tasty. One of our favorites is the collection of “flower cupcakes” available at Spotlight Bakery near the park’s entrance. Each flower cupcake is a beautiful work of art that celebrates the natural beauty of the park, which is nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee. And to bring it full circle, Parton recently collaborated with Duncan Hines’ namesake company, resulting in her very own line of cake, muffin and biscuit mixes.
Guest Road Tripper and award winning author Kathy Witt takes us to LaGrange, Georgia in her latest travel piece.
Hidden away in southwest Georgia, LaGrange is a small town with Southern heart and French-laced history. A textile town founded in 1828, LaGrange’s moneyed roots show up in the stately manses and architecturally significant buildings surrounding Lafayette Square, the city centerpiece named for the Marquis de Lafayette, and its countless cultural assets.
The town itself takes its name from an estate belonging to the Marquis and it is a statue in the French nobleman’s likeness that tops the tiered water fountain anchoring Lafayette Square. Ringed by flowers, trees and greenspace, it is a gorgeous place to sit, stroll and take in the picture postcard setting of downtown with its boutiques, restaurants and museums.
Nearby, the free-admission Legacy Museum on Main is tucked into a 1917 bank building, the steward of a section of steel from a structural column from one of the World Trade Center Twin Towers destroyed on September 11, 2001.
Learn about the Nancy Harts, a women’s militia named for the American Revolution heroine from Georgia that defended LaGrange during the Civil War. On the quirkier side, see the world’s oldest cotton bale. “Hitting the Road: Shifting Through Automobile History,” runs through June 16, 2023, and goes full throttle into America’s love of the car and car culture.
Also downtown is the free-admission LaGrange Art Museum, housed in an 1892 Victorian building that was originally the county jail. The museum’s permanent collection was established in the early 1960s when one of the most influential Georgia artists of his generation and a pioneer of arts education donated a painting. That was Lamar Dodd (1909-1996), who grew up in LaGrange and at one point worked as an official NASA artist for rocket launchings, including Apollo 11.
Three floors of gallery exhibits, both permanent and rotating, showcase the works of local and national artists across a range of mediums—painting, photography, print, sculpture.
The Lamar Dodd Art Center, located on the campus of LaGrange College—the oldest private college in Georgia—hosts everchanging art collections in an enormous three-story facility that is open to visitors when classes are in session. Also here is Price Theatre, which produces high quality student productions throughout the year, also open to the public.
Enjoy the artistry of Mother Nature with a stroll on The Thread, a 12-foot wide multi-purpose trail wending through picturesque neighborhoods and marked by pocket parks, historic cemeteries and boardwalks. It is accessible downtown at Southbend Park, a new park with playgrounds and skatepark, and Sweetland Amphitheater, which hosts a variety of entertainers, including comedian Jeff Foxworthy, who will perform on April 29, and the Southern rock band, 38 Special, appearing on May 4
The Lafayette Loft (www.visitlagrange.com/things-to-do/the-lafayette-loft), rented through Airbnb with Superhosts Lisa and Leon, is located on the second floor of the 1875 Historic Davis Pharmacy Building, overlooking Lafayette Square. Comfortable with a modern edge, the Loft has plenty of cushy seating warmed up with wood flooring, plus equipped kitchen, king bedroom and queen bunkbeds. Outside, two seating groups on the public pavilion are perfect for watching the goings-on at Lafayette Square.
Warm, crusty bread and herby olive oil dipping sauce are a prelude to a memorable meal at Venucci’s (www.venuccis.com), a small, upscale restaurant located on Lafayette Square. Venucci’s is known for heaping portions of authentic traditional Italian fare, a cozy setting with soft lighting and distressed brick wall and impeccable service, all in an atmosphere that feels like Sunday dinner with family.
Chef Tulla White is a fourth-generation restaurant owner who says cooking is in his blood. From washing dishes to making desserts to bussing then waiting tables to attending culinary school and eventually opening his own restaurant, White’s path eventually led to his opening what has become a favorite evening out for locals and visitors alike. Reservations are strongly suggested.
What began as a small plot nearly two centuries grew to encompass gardens arranged in a formal Italian design of boxwood patterns on descending terraces. The themed gardens of Hills & Dales Estate, the historic home of textile magnate Fuller E. Callaway and his wife Ida Cason Callaway, date back to 1832. Considered among the best preserved 19th century gardens in the Southeast, it is filled with fountains and statuary, all selected to enhance the Italianate character.
The centerpiece of Hills & Dales Estate is the classically designed Georgian Italian villa, its white columns and stucco and terra-cotta roof tiles in sharp contrast to the lush green gardens and surrounding countryside it overlooks. Containing more than 30 rooms, the house is furnished with family heirlooms and antiques, including a mid-18th century Chinese export porcelain punch bowl and a circa 1800 sarcophagus-shaped tea caddy made of yew wood with inlaid boxwood lines.
Hills & Dales Estate offers a guided house tour and self-guided tours of the gardens, where something is abloom year-round. In March the gardens rouse from winter slumber with azaleas, camellias, forsythia, pansies, redbuds and other plants, each adding a splash of color to the landscape. April brings more showy shades with Carolina silverbell, Spanish bluebells, candytuft, rhododendron, roses, dogwood and more.
What it was like in biblical times in the Garden of Gethsemane or on the streets of Jerusalem? Book an Empty Tomb Tour with the Biblical History Center (www.biblicalhistorycenter.com) and take a walk into history and Holy Week with guides dressed in period attire and learn about the day-to-day lives of the people as well as historical and archaeological details of the events that transpired. As part of the experience, see over 250 ancient relics—tools, pottery, farming equipment, coins, oil lamps and more.
Ninety-minute tours take place Tuesdays through Saturdays through April 8, 2023. The Center’s Biblical Meal Experience is an add-on option—and well worth the time and money. Recline like the Romans did at a triclinium (three-sided table) for a 4-course meal that includes soup, salad, fruit, main course and dessert—15 different food items—in a first century-style dining room. This tour lasts two and a half hours. Visit the website or call 706-885-0363 for details, ticket prices and reservations.
For more information about planning a trip to LaGrange, GA, visit www.visitlagrange.com or stop by the Visit LaGrange Visitors Center, which features artwork from the LaGrange Art Museum.
Chef Tulla White’s Shrimp and Scallop Fra Diavolo
Makes 2 servings.
The owner and chef of Venucci’s Restaurant in LaGrange, GA, shares a seafood recipe with a spicy tomato wine sauce—a favorite recipe of his and his customers.
10 (16/20 count) white shrimp
6 (10/20 count) sea scallops
1 small can whole peeled tomatoes
4 fresh basil leaves
1 TBSP fresh ground garlic
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/3 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp ground oregano
4 oz butter
3 cups Carlo Rossi Chablis
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Coat shrimp and scallops with flour.
In sauté pan heat olive oil.
Sear shrimp and scallops on both sides and remove from oil. Coat half the butter with flour and add to pan, add all spices and stir. Add white wine and whole peeled tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Add shrimp and scallops back to sauce till finished cooking. Serve over linguine pasta. Top with chopped parsley and pecorino Romano cheese if desired.
About Kathy Witt
Writer and author Kathy Witt is a member of SATW Society of American Travel Writers and the Authors Guild
January signals the triumphant, sold-out comeback of First Bites Bash after a three-year hiatus. The all-inclusive January 19 event inside the iconic Field Museum kicks off the 16th annual Chicago Restaurant Week, celebrating the area’s acclaimed culinary scene across 17 days and more than 300 top restaurants. Restaurant Week includes special prix fixe menus ($25 for brunch or lunch and $42 and/or $59 for dinner).
These signature events are a great way to indulge in around-the-world delicacies without leaving the city. Immersion takes on a new form with Stage 773’s WHIM, a walk-thru experience inviting guests to partake in a whimsical night out inside a world where every art form comes together – paintings, music, sculpture, street art, and live performance – all by Chicago artists.
The Chicago Auto Show, the largest auto show in North America, returning to McCormick Place Feb. 11-20. And throughout the month, raise a glass to great American writers at the American Writers Museum’s new Get Lit happy hour series.
Complete with the 60-plus-year tradition of dyeing of the Chicago River green, March makes a colorful point to the world that no city celebrates St. Patrick’s Day quite like we do. From the signature parade downtown to neighborhood-specific festivities, Irish history and culture run deep in neighborhoods like Beverly, Albany Park, and Mt. Greenwood.
With so much in store this year, go ahead: Discover big-city culture, Midwestern hospitality, and urban adventure. Come explore the city that feels like home! Visit ChooseChicago.com for more information.
Little did we know that when we dined at the corner restaurant near our hotel in Paris we were eating at a place where for decades a family divided had fought over the secret sauce 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, known as Batignolles-Monceau,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–buy food for quick meals and snacks.
One intriguing café was Le Relais de Venise (the name translates to Venetian Inn) where every night we would see long lines of people waiting to eat either in their dining room or on their outdoor patio. 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. So depending upon your mood you could choose where to dine.
What could be so great that people would wait for hours for a table when there were so many great cafes and restaurants around? And so we didn’t go until one evening, after ascending 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’s on the menu? Steak frites, she replied. “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? As it turns out, there is no menu and only one entree, one salad with one dressing, steak frites (French fries), and bread. Do not expect butter, ketcup, mayonaaise, or any other condiment. They do only one thing but they do it very well. That’s how it was when Le Relais de Venise opened in 1959 and that’s the way it is now at all the restaurants throughout the world–New York City, London Marylebone, London City, Mexico City
When Gertrude 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 de Entrecote was unique, she continued, because they only served one dish—steak with French fries and their famed green sauce called Le Venise’s Sauce de Entrecote. I guess that makes decided what to order for dinner super easy. If you’re wondering what entrecote is, as I was, it’s a cut of meat like a New York strip or strip steak. Or at least in it is in Paris.
Since the creation of the sauce, its exact ingredients have long been a secret and that probably worked until invention of the internet. After a family squabble resulted in 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 eight 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. So large in fact that’s there was a million dollar lawsuit as to who had rights to use the name and sauce.
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 she must have changed her mind because she never returned my phone calls or emailed it like she said she would. She may have been afraid Gertrude would get mad at her or maybe the restaurant owners wouldn’t allow her back in. Neither would be surprising. And believe me, you don’t want to cross Gertrude.
I noticed, as we were eating, that the servers were moving through the crowded café with platters of meat and piles of crisp, hand-cut pomme frites. Almost as soon as I had cleared my plate, Gertrude showed up again, heaping—without asking but that was okay—more frites and slices of bloody steak and then pouring the secret sauce on top. At no charge. but no ketchup or mayonnaise either for dipping the fries Gertrude informed us.
“They’ll do that until you say you don’t want anymore,” the woman told us about the second and third helpings.
“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 produced 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 more restaurants—in New York City, Mexico City, 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 wis one of the classic sauces that are considered the backbone of French cuisine.
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.
In an update to my previous post about George Diamond Steak House and for all those who are into 1950s-style supper clubs and Chicagoland food history, check out this great You Tube post about George Diamond Steakhouse. Back in the day, there were several in the Chicago area including at 630 S. Wabash in the South Loop, Las Vegas, Acapulco, and Antioch (where there was also a George Diamond Golf Course) as well as in Whiting, Indiana.
If you’re thinking how does Whiting, an industrial city on the Indiana-Illinois border fit in with such locations as Vegas, Chicago, and Acapulco–well, consider this–at one time Whiting, now best known as the place where Polish foods are celebrated every year at the Pierogi Fest, one of the top festivals in the U.S. was a major destination for both Chicago and Northwest Indiana residents who enjoyed swank dining and perch dinners. It rocked from the early 1900s to the early 1980s and had such classic places as Phil Smidt’s and Vogel’s. Indeed the latter sold so many frog legs that they started raising their own in nearby Lake George.
And, if you’re really into George Diamond history, Etsy has two of the restaurant’s shot glasses for sale for $145.
Born in the United Kingdom, Tony Burton, a Cambridge University-educated geographer with a teaching certificate from University of London, first traveled to Mexico after spending three years as a VSO [Voluntary Service Overseas] volunteer teaching geography, and writing a local geography text, on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts. From there his travels took him to Mérida in summer 1977, where he spent several weeks backpacking around southern and central Mexico, returning two years later to teach at Greengates School in Mexico City.
Over the next seven years, Tony traveled extensively throughout Mexico, visiting every state at least once, and organizing numerous four-day earth science fieldwork courses for his students. He co-led the school’s extensive aid efforts following the massive 1985 earthquake.
From Mexico City, he moved to Guadalajara, where he continued to organize short, residential fieldwork courses for a number of different schools and colleges and began organizing and leading specialist eco-tours for adult groups to destinations such as Paricutín Volcano, the monarch butterfly sanctuaries, and Copper Canyon.
An award winning author, he’s written numerous books about Mexico including his latest Lake Chapala: A Postcard History(Sombrero Publishing). It’s part of a series he’s written on this region which is located about an hour south of Guadalajara. The 417-square-mile lake, Mexico’s largest, located in the states of Jalisco and Michoacán is situated at an elevation of 5,000ft in the middle of the Volcanic Axis of Mexico and is known for its wonderful climate, laid-back ambience, and is a popular destination for both travelers and ex-pats looking for a charming, low-key place to relocate. The three main towns along the lake are Chapala,Ajijic and Jocotepec. In an intriguing aside, Tony met his wife Gwen Chan Burton when she was working as at the director of the pioneering Lakeside School for the Deaf in Jocotepec. Gwen writes about the school and all that it has accomplished in her book, New Worlds for the Deaf, also published by Sombrero Books.
Because I’m always interested in foodways, Tony was kind enough to share a copy of an undated Spanish language project put together by students from the Instituto Politécnico Nacional School of Tourism titled “Gastronomy of Jalisco.” It includes numerous recipes from the region including one for the famous Caldo Michi of Chapala (the recipe is below).
I had the chance to ask Tony, who currently is the editor of MexConnect, Mexico’s leading independent on-line magazine, aboutLake Chapala: A Postcard History as well as the time he spent in this beautiful region of Mexico.
How did you first become familiar with Lake Chapala?
I first visited Lake Chapala in early 1980, on my way back to Mexico City from the Copper Canyon and Baja California Sur. Little did I imagine then that it would be where I would later fall in love, get married, and have two children!
What inspired you to write Lake Chapala: A Postcard History?
There is no single overwhelming inspiration. I realized, while living at Lake Chapala and writing my first books about Mexico, that a lot of what had been previously written was superficial and left many unanswered questions. In the hopes of finding answers, I decided to trawl through all the published works (any language) I could find, which resulted in Lake Chapala Through the Ages (2008), my attempt to document and provide context to the accounts of the area written between 1530 and 1910.
Lake Chapala: APostcard History is my attempt to widen the discussion and summarize the twentieth century history of the entire lake area. Its reliance on vintage postcards makes this a very visual story, one which I hope will appeal to a wide readership, including armchair travelers.
What were some of the challenges you encountered in writing this book? Was it difficulty finding the numerous postcards you included? And doing the extensive research that went into the book? Are there any intriguing stories about hunting down certain postcards and any “aha” moments of discovery when writing your book?
The main challenge was in deciding how best to structure the material. Because of the originality of what I’m doing, it is impractical to follow the advice that writers should start with a detailed plan and then write to that plan! In my case, after collecting the information and ideas that exist, the challenge is to select what can be teased and massaged into a coherent and interesting narrative.
Because the postcard book is the product of decades of research, I had ample time to build my personal collection of vintage postcards, through gifts, auctions and online purchases.
There were many significant “aha” moments in the process: some concerned the photographers and publishers responsible for the postcards and some the precise buildings or events depicted. While I’m saving some of these “aha” moments–because they are central to a future book–one was when it suddenly dawned on me that wealthy businessman Dwight Furness was the photographer of an entire series of cards (Figs 6.3, 6.4, 6.5, etc.) that relate to my next response.
If you could go back in time to visit one of the resorts that is no longer there that you featured in your book, is there one that stands out and why is that?
Ooohhh; I’d love to go back to about 1908 and stay at the Ribera Castellanos resort (Chapter 6) during its heyday. While staying there, perhaps I could interview owner Dwight Furness, his wife and a few guests? Apart from a few ruined walls, Furness’ postcards of the resort are pretty much the only remaining evidence of the hotel. And perhaps one night I could invite local resident and prolific professional photographer Winfield Scott and his wife to dinner to hear their stories?
How long did it take to write Lake Chapala?
The writing took less than a year; but only because of the many prior years of research.
Since I often talk about food and travel, are there any culinary specialties in the Lake Chapala region?
Long standing culinary specialties of the area include (a) Lake Chapala whitefish (b) charales (c) caldo michi. And, when it comes to drinks, there is a very specific link to postcards. The wife of photographer José Edmundo Sánchez, who sold postcards ( Figs 7.5, 7.6 and 7.7) in the 1920s from his lakefront bar in Chapala, is credited with inventing sangrita, still marketed today as a very popular chaser or co-sip for tequila. (Chapter 7, page 74).
Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about your book?
I hope readers find the book as fun and interesting to read as it was to write!
2 tablespoons corn oil
¾ kg of tomato seeded and in pieces
¼ onion in pieces
½ kg carrot, peeled and cut into diagonal slices
½ kg of sliced zucchini
4 or 6 chiles güeros
100 gr. chopped coriander
2 sprigs of fresh oregano
Salt to taste
2 ½ liters of water
1kg well washed catfish, yellow carp or red snapper
PREPARATION: Heat the oil and stew the vegetables in it, add water and salt to taste, let it simmer over low heat until the vegetables are well cooked, then add the fish and leave it for a few minutes more until it is soft.
I had the opportunity to stay at Tres Rios Nature Park, a 326-acre eco-resort north of Playa del Carmen and was first introduced to sangrita during my stay. I took several cooking lessons and learned to make a dish with crickets, but that is a different story. Chef Oscar also talked to us about the history of sangrita. The Spanish name is the less-than-appetizing “little blood” but hey, when you’re learning to grill crickets, you can deal with a name like that. The drink, as Tony writes in his postcards book, originated in Chapala in the 1920s.
Here is the excerpt:
”In the same year the Railroad Station opened, Guillermo de Alba had become a partner in Pavilion Monterrey, a lakefront bar in a prime location, only meters from the beach, between the Hotel Arzapalo and Casa Braniff,” he writes. “The co-owner of the bar was José Edmundo Sánchez. Regulars at the bar included American poet Witter Bynner, who first visited Chapala in 1923 in the company of D H Lawrence and his wife, Frieda. Bynner subsequently bought a house near the church. When de Alba left Chapala for Mexico City in 1926, Sánchez and his wife—María Guadalupe Nuño, credited with inventing sangrita as a chaser for tequila—ran the bar on their own. After her husband died in 1933, María continued to manage the bar, which then became known as the Cantina de la Viuda Sánchez (Widow Sánchez’s bar).”
Sangrita is typically used as accompaniment to tequila, highlighting its crisp acidity and helping to cleanse the palate between each peppery sip. According to Chef Oscar, the red-colored drink serves to compliment the flavor of 100% agave tequila. The two drinks, each poured into separate shot glasses, are alternately sipped, never chased and never mixed together.
Here is Chef Oscar’s recipe and below is one from Cholula hot sauce which originated in Chapala. Tony has a great story about that as well. More in my next post on his books.
For one liter of Sangrita:
400 ml. orange juice
400 ml. tomato juice
50 ml. lemon juice
30 ml. Grenadine syrup
20 ml. Worcestershire sauce
Maggi and Tabasco hot sauce (mixed up) to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix together all the ingredients and serve cold. Suggested duration of chilling : 3 to 4 days.
1/4 cup (2 ounces) fresh orange juice
1/4 cup (2 ounces) fresh grapefruit juice
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
20 pomegranate seeds
3 fresh sprigs of cilantro or to taste
1/2 stalk celery
3 teaspoons smoked coarse sea salt or sal de gusano, divided
1 tablespoon Cholula® Original Hot Sauce
Place all ingredients except salt in blender container, with about 1 cup ice cubes. Puree until smooth.Strain twice though a fine mesh sieve, discarding any solids.
Rim shot glasses with sea salt. Serve sangrita cold in rimmed shot glasses alongside your favorite tequila.