Re-discover Your Inner Child Along Alabama’s Gulf Coast

Though I missed Be a Kid Again Day on July 8th–and you may have too, it’s never too late to connect with our inner child. And don’t we all need that considering not only our own busy lives but also what’s going on in the world. Sigh! It’s enough to make you want to crawl into bed and pull the covers over your head. But here’s another suggestion.

Why not head to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama, two twin beach towns along the Gulf Coast known for their miles and miles of sugar-white sandy beaches and myriad water and land activities as well as great seafood and lots of you-can-only-find-it-here fun. Want examples?

Think prehistoric creatures that go beyond the big screen this summer. That’s right. It’s Jurassic Golf. But don’t worry. You don’t have to run from these creatures. Your only concern at this indoor, glow-in-the-dark miniature golf course is whether you can get finally get a hole-in-one,

Or further your education. That’s right. But this isn’t calculus. Instead it’s Sand Castle University, a program teaching “students” the very best ways to build sand castles. Yes, soon you’ll be the beach equivalent of Frank Lloyd Wright. Well, maybe not. But you’ll certainly have some Instagramable moments.

Those covers aren’t looking like such a great option anymore, are they?

Well, let’s do some more convincing. Building sandcastles and playing miniature golf with prehistoric relics calls for sustenance. And since calories don’t count on vacation (honest, trust me on this) check out The Yard Milkshake Bar for their creative mind-bending dessert concoctions served in jars. 

The options at City Donut include their unique, made-from-scratch donuts with toppings like Nerds or Fruity Pebbles, or you can just go glazed–all are yummy.

Now that we’ve gotten dessert out of the way, sit down for dinner at LuLu’s, a family-friendly restaurant which not only has great coastal cuisine (including allergy-friendly dishes) but also features ropes courses (including the Mountain of Youth, a three-story climbing structure), an arcade, a seasonal caricature artist and live music. Oh and views of the water. Last time I was there I saw a dolphin pop up but he didn’t stop to say hi.

Fortified, stop at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo which offers up-close and personal animal encounters with kangaroos, lemurs and sloths. For kangaroos and lemurs, kids must be at least 3 years old to attend, but sloths will hang with guests of any age.

Thye’re definitely not hands-on or good for close encounters but the zoo recently brought in three new African lions (Daniel, Chadwick and Regina from the Pittsburgh Zoo) to assist in lion conservation efforts. Guests will be able to spot them as they’re introduced to the zoo’s resident lion, Nandi.

Nothing is more relaxing and rejuvenating than getting out in the fresh, coastal air. Hop on a bike at Gulf State Park and enjoy the 28 peaceful miles of the Backcountry Trail. The park offers a free bike-share program, so visitors can explore the nine different ecosystems that make up the park. Bikes in the park are designed for adults and bigger kids; if you have younger children, several local bike shops rent kids’ and tandem bikes. And if biking seems like too much effort, that’s okay. The park also offers more than three miles of public beach to the visitors who prefer to just sit on the sand and listen to the sound of crashing waves.

Looking for a day trip from the Gulf Shores? Consider Magnolia Springs, a true step back in time.

Convinced? Then begin planning your trip at https://www.gulfshores.com

Michigan Brewers Guild Releases “Great Beer State” in Honor of 25th Anniversary

 In honor of its 25 Anniversary, the Michigan Brewers Guild has announced the release of its Great Beer State Documentary which draws from more than 60 interviews gathered over four years. Building on the work from the 2019 book A Rising Tide – The Story of the Michigan Brewers Guild and Michigan’s Great Beer State Podcast which was launched in 2020, the film was produced by The Beervangelist, Fred Bueltmann, author of A Rising Tide and co-host of the Guild’s podcast.

“Besides celebrating 25 years, this film shows stark differences between then and now, when it comes to locally brewed beer and its contribution to community culture. From before the Michigan Brewers Guild in the mid-eighties, to the formation of the Guild in 1997 and up until the present day, there has been a cultural transformation,” stated Bueltmann. “The storyline is loosely held, shared through stories and observations from dozens of brewery folks who have been a part of the brewing scene; past, present, and future.”

The documentary premiered at the Michigan Summer Beer Festival in Ypsilanti last weekend with a private viewing for brewery members on Friday evening and a VIP screening for Enthusiast Members on Saturday morning. A series of public viewings is being organized across the state at member breweries, Allied Member locations and community friends of Michigan beer. The schedule will be posted on MiBeer.com and shared via the Guild’s Facebook page. This is an essential element in the 25th Anniversary campaign which will culminate in a “Wrap Party” on October 22 following the Detroit Fall Beer Festival at Eastern Market (the actual 25th Anniversary of the Guild).

“The film is a fun and engaging look inside the Michigan beer community,” says Scott Graham, the Guild’s executive director. “After 25 years local beer is truly part of our culture and fabric; it is part of what makes Michigan great.”

It was October 22, 1997 when a surprising collection of 49 people representing 30 operating breweries gathered at a pub in Saginaw to discuss how they could collectively promote Michigan-made beer. A consensus arose out of that meeting that a formal association of Michigan brewers should be organized and on December 3, 1997, the Michigan Brewers Guild was officially formed.

The Michigan Brewers Guild is the network of innovative and passionate brewers that serves as the recognized advocate for the Michigan craft beer industry. The mission of the Guild is to promote and protect the Michigan craft beer industry with an overarching goal to help craft beer acquire 20% of the market by 2025.

Michigan’s thriving brewing industry conservatively contributes more than $144 million in wages with a total economic contribution of more than $600 million. In terms of overall number breweries, microbreweries and brewpubs, Michigan ranks #6 in the nation – thus supporting its claim as “The Great Beer State.”

Formed in 1997, the Michigan Brewers Guild held its first festival in July 1998. Today, it hosts five festivals dedicated exclusively to Michigan beer produced by its nearly 300 member breweries (a number that increases on a monthly basis). Within the state, and beyond, Michigan is referred to as “The Great Beer State” ranking #6 nationally for the number of breweries. 

New York City: Katharine Hepburn Garden

One of the wonders of New York City is the constant discovery of hidden treasures. And so it was when we came across the Katharine Hepburn Garden, a small fenced wonder of brilliant hydrangeas, viburnums, Mountain Laurel, dogwoods, flowering perennials, and groundcovers bordering the narrow pathways of this tiny garden. Located in the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, the several times I’ve been there, the gates been unlocked and I’ve wondered through this delightful hidden-in-plain-spot in the city. Hepburn, the noted actress who delighted audiences for decades, loved gardening as the text, part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project, that’s a posted within the park, tells us. But it doesn’t mention Hepburn’s penchant for making brownies and I’m sharing the recipe here as well.

From the Park’s sign:

Katharine Hepburn was born on May 12, 1907, in Hartford, Connecticut. She graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 1928 and in the same year she made her professional debut in a minor role in a Baltimore stock company production of Czarina. By 1932 she was a star on Broadway in The Warrior’s Husband, followed in the same year by her screen debut opposite John Barrymore in A Bill of Divorcement. On Broadway Ms. Hepburn originated the Tracy Lord role in The Philadelphia Story (1939) before taking it to Hollywood a year later. In 1942 she starred opposite Spencer Tracy in Woman of the Year and began a twenty-five year relationship which included working on nine classic films.

Acting Kudos

Ms. Hepburn won numerous honors for her acting. She was nominated for twelve Academy Awards and garnered four Oscars for best actress. In 1962 Ms. Hepburn won the best actress award at the Cannes Film Festival for her performance in Long Day’s Journey Into Night. In the 1970s she worked in television, where she and co-star Laurence Olivier earned Emmys for Love Among the Ruins.

Her two memoirs, Me and The Making of the African Queen, or How I Went to Africa with Bogart, Bacall, and Huston and Almost Lost My Mind and Me: Stories of My Life were best sellers. Ms. Hepburn has always gone her own way, wearing slacks, refusing interviews, shunning autograph seekers, keeping her private life private, and all the while speaking her mind.

Garden Enthusiast

Hepburn was passionate about flowers and gardening beginning during her childhood in West Hartford. On Sunday afternoons the Hepburn family went for drives and walks in the hills west of the Connecticut River and during these country excursions that children competed to see who could spot the first Lily of the Valley, Bloodroot, Columbine, or Pink Lady’s Slipper.

When Ms. Hepburn moved to Turtle Bay with her husband Ludlow Ogden Smith in 1932, she transplanted wildflowers from her parents’ home to her backyard garden. She joined the Turtle Bay Association in 1957, and for more than thirty years she fought to halt the destruction of trees, to defend the sidewalks from encroaching development, and to protect mid-blocks from high-rise construction.

Garden Dedication

On May 12, 1997 community members gathered to dedicate the Katharine Hepburn Garden in Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza. The naming pays tribute to her lifelong love of flowers and gardening and thanks Ms. Hepburn for her commitment to the park and the neighborhood. A wide variety of species were used in the border planting. The plant list included birch, dawn redwood, and dogwood trees; mountain laurel, witch hazel, viburnum, rhododendron, hydrangea, and abelia; as well as numerous perennials, groundcovers, and ferns.

Katharine Hepburn’s Brownies, recipe courtesy of the New York Times.

  • ½ cup cocoa
  • ½ cup butter (1 stick)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1 cup chopped or broken-up walnuts or pecans
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  •  Pinch of salt

Heat oven to 325 degrees.

Melt butter in saucepan with cocoa and stir until smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes, then transfer to a large bowl. Whisk in eggs, one at a time. Stir in vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine sugar, flour, nuts and salt. Add to the cocoa-butter mixture. Stir until just combined.

Pour into a greased 8 x 8-inch-square pan. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Do not overbake; the brownies should be gooey. Let cool, then cut into bars.

This famous recipe makes a rich, gooey brownie as it only uses one-fourth cup of flour.

NORTHERN LIGHTS IN STYLE & COMFORT

Skip the Expedition – Enjoy the Comfort of a Private Tour and Lodge with a Glass-Fronted Sauna

The new five-day/four-night A Polar Night adventure takes you close to the North Pole with a private tour and stay in comfort and isolation at the Juva Cabin in Svalbard, Norway. Launched by specialist travel company Off the Map Travel, the exclusive program brings adventurous travelers in search of the Northern Lights to a remote area with 24-hour darkness and a complete absence of light pollution where chances to see the Aurora are strongest. Only accessible in the snow during the winter months, Juva Cabin is the most remote comfort-oriented tourist accommodation in Svalbard.

The secluded cabin is positioned strategically to deliver the best possible views of Svalbard’s wild, pristine scenery, and optimal viewing of the Aurora. Equipped with cushy beds, a fireplace, a Scandinavian-styled lounge room, kitchen, and a barrel-shaped standalone wood sauna, the Juva Cabin allows for comfort in an Arctic experience.

Customized by Aurora Experts

Designed by Off the Map Travel’s Aurora experts, A Polar Night takes travelers to a remote location marked by a dark, clear sky. Optimizing the possibility of witnessing the colorful Northern Lights, the program offers guests a comfortable experience, different from that of a traditional Arctic expedition. Beginning in Oslo, the program travels North to Svalbard, an archipelago between mainland Norway and the North Pole.

“To have the best chance of seeing the Northern Lights you need a polar sky. Where the sun never rises, going as far north as possible, there’s greater possibility of viewing the brilliant colors,” noted Jonny Cooper, founder of Off the Map Travel.

Priced from £2699 ($3252.54 USD per person at the time of this writing), based on two people travelling, the program is available from January to May and includes all meals, one night’s lodging in Oslo’s boutique Amerikalinjen Hotel, two night’s lodging in Funken Lodge in Longyearbyen, one night in Juva Cabin in Svalbard, transfers, and all activities. Flights are additional.

Program Summary

After a night in Oslo’s premier boutique hotel, the Arctic portion begins with a night at Funken Lodge, a luxury accommodation located in Longyearbyen, a small coal-mining town on Spitsbergen Island overlooking the Lars- and Longyear glaciers. The evening kicks off the Northern Lights search with a panoramic ice-and-snow filled tour on a snowcat.

From Funken Lodge, guests meet a dog sled team that will take them to the Juva Cabin in Svalbard. Once there, guests can cozy up by the fire or head to the barrel-shaped, glass-fronted sauna which offers panoramic views of the mountains.

Following breakfast, guests will mush their way back to the dog kennels before returning for a final night at Funken Lodge and dinner at the lodge’s international-cuisine Funktionaermessen Restaurant. The restaurant’s onsite Champagne cellar is a special attraction.

As with any itinerary from Off the Map Travel, the program can be customized to fit the wishes and requirements of the guest.

For more information visit www.offthemap.travel, call 1-646-701-0041 or email info@offthemap.travel

Full itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Oslo and make your way to the city center to your centrally located hotel, Amerikalinjen. Check into your superior room and get settled before heading out for dinner at one of the city’s many restaurants.

Day 2

Check out for your flight north to Svalbard. On arrival into Longyearbyen, you will meet your private transfer who will take you to the luxurious Scandinavian-designed Funken Lodge. Check in before heading out to explore the city. This evening you will head out on a panoramic snowcat tour to the viewpoint of ‘Linken’ on the side of the mountain ‘Hiorthfjellet’ on the other side of Adventdalen to take in the views of Longyearbyen.

Day 3

Today, after breakfast, you will meet your guide who will drive you to the kennels to meet your dog sled team. You will set off with the dogs and follow the riverbed that heads into Bolterdalen, surrounded by mountains. As you travel through the valley you will find a place to stop for lunch and after an enjoyable day behind the sleds, you will arrive at the new Juva Cabin in the heart of the wilderness, equipped with electricity, bedrooms, lounge room and kitchen. January offers the possibility of 24-hour Northern Lights searching. In February, March, April and May, the light is particularly magical, with limited hours of daylight. Unharness and feed the dogs, before enjoying your dinner in your comfortable cabin where you can relax and warm up in front of the fire. For more viewing in a warm, secure setting, the outside barrel-shaped sauna offers large glass windows facing the night sky.

Day 4

After breakfast, it’s time to get the dogs ready to head back to Longyearbyen. You will head west and mush your way into Helvetiadalen before you make your way back towards Bolterdalen. Relax in Longyearbyen prior to dinner at Funken Lodge’s own restaurant, or opt for a reservation at a town restaurant such as Huset.

Day 5 

Check out for your private transfer to the airport.

OFF THE MAP TRAVEL

The team at Off the Map Travel works with experiences and destinations that allow people to explore hidden wonders of our planet. Specializing in Soft Adventure OTMT creates tailor-made holiday itineraries offering authentic experiences not offered by many larger travel companies.  For more information on Off the Map Travel itineraries visit www.offthemap.travel; call 1-646-701-0041; email info@offthemap.travel  or join in the conversation on FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTube or Pinterest.

Bocuse d’Or in Lyon: Honoring the Legendary Paul Bocuse

On July 21, the Selection Committee presided by Jérôme Bocuse met to decide which countries in the Asia-Pacific region would qualify for the Grand Final of the Bocuse d’Or, a two-day biennial world chef championship. Named in honor of Paul Bocuse, the renowned chef and restauranteur who was the recipient of the coveted France’s prestigious “Meilleur Ouvrier de France,” the Bocuse d’Or is considered one of the most prestigious gastronomic competition in the world.

Held in Lyon, the home town of Bocuse, the next competition is scheduled for January 22 and 23, 2023 and is held during Sirha Lyon, the World Hospitality & Food Service trade show. Lyon, the capital city in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of France is nestled at the confluence of the Rhône and Saô rivers.

According to Inés Carrayrou of Monet+Associates Agency for the Bocuse d’Or Americas 2022, each team vying for a chance to participate in the Grand Final was required to submit a recipe based upon a main ingredient and make a presentation. 24 chefs will ultimately be selected and during the intense two-day competition will have just five hours and 35 minutes–and not a second longer–to prepare their dish which is then presented ‘à la française’ on a tray or platter. Each entry is exquisite and the winner recieves what the Bocuse d’Or website describes as “the most beautiful trophy in the world of gastronomy.”

5 TALENTED TEAMS JOIN THE WINNERS OF THE PREVIOUS 2022 SELECTIONS

The five winning countries are:

Australia – Alexander McInstosh
China – Nick Lin
Japan – Tomoyuki Ishii
New Zealand – William Mordido
South Korea – Hwang Byeong Hyen

The teams, the recipes as well as the theme plates they’ll be preparing will be announced this fall.

Listed below are the teams that qualified for the different continental selections.

Bocuse d’Or Europe 2022

1st: Denmark – Brian Mark Hanse
2nd: Hungary – Bence Dalnoki
3rd: Norway – Filip August Bendi
4th: Sweden – Jimmi Eriksson
5th: Iceland – Sigurjón Bragi Geirsson
6th: Finland – Johan Kurkela
7th: France – Naïs Pirollet
8th: United Kingdom – Ian Musgrave
9th: Switzerland – Christoph Hunziker
10th: Belgium – Sam Van Houcke

Bocuse d’Or Americas 2022

1st: USA – Jeffery Hayashi
2nd: Canada – Samuel Sirois
3rd: Chile – Ari Zúñiga
4th: Colombia – Carlos Pajaro
5th: Mexico – Marcelo Hisaki

Paul Bocuse was the incarnation of French cuisine,”  said then-French President Emmanuel Macron in 2018 when Bocuse passed away in Collonges-au-Mont-d’Or, in Lyon, where he was born and operated his main restaurant. Bocuse, credited with changing French cuisine with the introduction of nouvelle cuisine, a lighter, fresher approach to the classic cookery of France.

At the time of his death, Bocuse’s restaurant, L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges, had retained three Michelin stars since 1965, which according to The Washington Post, was “one of the longest runs in Michelin history.

Below is one of his famed recipes.

Paul Bocuse’s Apple Tarte Tatin

Shortcrust Pastry

Caramel

Tart

Melt the butter in a double-boiler, stirring it with a whisk. Let cool for a few seconds. Add the salt and mix. Add the confectioners’ sugar. Mix. Add the flour in a steady stream, while continuing to mix. Once the dough begins to come together, take out the whisk and continue to mix with a spatula. Work in the baking powder.

Break the egg into a ramekin, beat it with a fork, then pour it into the dough. Mix it until the dough comes together into a ball. Flatten it slightly, put it on a plate, and leave it to rest in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

If you prepare the dough the day before, remember to take it out of the refrigerator a bit before you want to use it, so that it is not too hard.

You can also make the caramel several hours in advance. There is no need to reheat it before arranging the apples.

Step 2: Caramel

Heat the sugar over high heat in a saucepan. When the sugar has turned a nice, golden color and is beginning to foam, mix it with a wooden spoon. Add the butter. Mix until the butter is melted.

To make a successful caramel, wipe the pan out carefully before starting the process. Move it around during the cooking of the sugar, but do not use any utensils.

The caramel should have a good color without becoming at all brown. Allow 3 to 4 minutes or so.

Pour the caramel into a 8-inch (20-cm) metal baking dish. Split the vanilla pod in two without separating the two halves. Put it into the pan, right in the middle, to form a “V”.

Step 3: Tart

Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C). Peel and core the apples. Cut them in half vertically. Arrange the apples, standing them upright in the pan. Fill in the center, and fill up any gaps.

It is important for the success of the tart that the apples are all the same thickness. Peel them immediately before cooking to make sure they do not oxidize when in contact with the air.

Place the pan in the bottom of the oven and cook for 1 hour. Check that the apples are cooked. Allow to rest for 10 minutes, then chill for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Place the dough on parchment paper, and flour it lightly. Roll it out into a circle about 1/8-inch (3-mm) thick. Lay the lid of the dish upside down on the pastry, and cut the pastry out to the same interior dimensions as the lid. Cut away the excess.

Prick the surface of the dough all over, using a fork. Trim the greaseproof paper to within 1/2 inch (12 mm) of the edge of the dough. Slide the dough, on the paper, onto a baking tray. Bake for 10 minutes. Lay the cooked pastry on a cooling rack. Allow it to cool and harden.

It is always helpful to use parchment paper: there is no need to butter the pan, and the transfer of the pastry base is easy.

After 10 minutes of cooking, the pastry will still be soft. It hardens completely when cool. Handle it with care!

A few minutes before serving, gently warm a serving plate. Place the pastry disk over the apples. Unstick the apples by holding the pastry with one hand and turning the pan from all angles.

When the apples are unstuck from the bottom, turn out the tart. Lay the plate upside down over the pan, invert, and lift the pan away. The tart is ready to be devoured!

This recipe was originally published in “My Best Paul Bocuse” (Éditions Alain Ducasse). 

Road Trips & Recipes: Follow the magic to Dublin, Ohio

Special guest blogger Kathy Witt is back with another great road trip.

Legend holds that fairy doors are magical portals and, while humans can’t travel into this realm, they can at least find the tiny doors if they know where to look.

That place is Dublin, Ohio, home to the very first Irish Fairy Door Trail in the United States and a land of enchantment itself, from its picturesque historic downtown, where cheery gift, toy and sweet shops line bricked-paved streets, to the bustling blocks of Bridge Park – an entertainment wonderland with fun, games and gastronomy.

Dublin embraces its Irish through this experience and others, including the Celtic Cocktail Trail, a 19-stop libation celebration with an Irish twist. And it brings a touch of Brigadoon with its many waterfalls and water features, including Indian Run Falls, located minutes from downtown.

Play:

Boho 72 lets Irish fairy door finders know to come here to check off one of the 11 resident fairies on Dublin, OH’s Irish Fairy Door Trail. Photo: Kathy Witt

Following the Irish Fairy Door Trail (www.visitdublinohio.com/things-to-do/fairy-door-trail) is something-for-everyone fun and the perfect way to get acquainted with downtown Dublin. From high-energy North Market Bridge packed with local merchants, including a 75-year-old confectionery, to the quieter historic district with its locally owned shops, the trail meanders across the S-shaped suspension bridge spanning the Scioto River, past architecture both contemporary and centuries old and into the happy-go-lucky vibe of this community.

Decisions . . . Decisions . . . Winans Chocolates & Coffees presents a challenge to those on the Irish Fairy Door Trail. Photo: Kathy Witt

No purchase is necessary at any of the 11 trail stops, but you’ll want to bring your mad money anyway. Irresistible goodies await at Winans Chocolates & Coffees; Our Cupcakery and Johnson’s Real Ice Cream.

Candy Chef Carolyn Gasiorek hand-dips apples at Kilwin’s, a stop on the Irish Fairy Door Trail in Dublin, OH. Photo: Kathy Witt

Make sure to stop at Kilwin’s – where you can watch Candy Chef Carolyn Gasiorek hand-dip apples or shake sprinkles onto handmade chocolates; the Cheesecake Girl (a bonus trail stop); and Dublin Toy Emporium, where mom and former educator Enas Lanham has created a world of pure joy and imagination with plush puppets, science kits, books, puzzles, arts and crafts kits and more.

Find all 11 doors on the Dublin, OH Irish Fairy Door Trail and earn an official t-shirt from the Dublin Visitors Center. Photo: Visit Dublin, Ohio,
Enas Lanham, owner of Dublin Toy Emporium, rings up purchases by two Irish Fairy Door Trailblazers. Photo: Kathy Witt

Find the tiny fairy doors hidden among French macarons, boxes of chocolates and candles, clothing and tea towels, make note of the name of the resident fairy on your passport, available at the Dublin Visitor and Information Center (www.visitdublinohio.com), and earn an Irish Fairy Doors of Dublin t-shirt.

Stay:

With its separate bed, seating and workspace areas as well as mini-refrigerator, microwave and coffee maker, the SpringHill Suites by Marriott (www.visitdublinohio.com/hotels) is ideal for multigenerational family stays. Plus, it’s well located in the Bridge Park area with easy access to the Irish Fairy Door Trail and Celtic Cocktail Trail and the shops, restaurants and waterfalls of the surrounding area.

Reservations include complimentary buffet breakfast and free Wi-Fi and parking, among other amenities.

Can you find the Irish fairy door among all the merch at Extravagifts in Dublin, OH?
Photo: Kathy Witt

Eat:

Dublin revels in its Irish attitude through official “Irish Approved Businesses” that include numerous eateries, like the come-as-you-are Dublin Village Tavern (www.thedublinvillagetavern.com). This neighborhood pub is a favorite among locals and visitors alike for its congenial atmosphere, friendly waitstaff and full-on Irish dishes.

Begin with Hooley Eggs, a deep-fried delicacy featuring a hard-boiled egg wrapped in Irish sausage, then move onto braised beef shepherd’s pie, slow-cooked in Guinness and loaded with veggies piping hot beneath a mashed potato crust. The full bar stocks dozens of Irish whiskeys, plus Guinness and other Irish imports and craft beers on tap, wine, Irish coffee and specialty cocktails.

Treat:

Find all 11 doors on the Dublin, OH Irish Fairy Door Trail and earn an official t-shirt from the Dublin Visitors Center. Photo: Visit Dublin, Ohio

Finding fairy doors is hard work but Dublin has just the place to chill after checking off all the stops: Zoombezi Bay Waterpark (www.zoombezibay.columbuszoo.org). From thrill-ride slides to Tiny Tides – a heated-water playground for little ones – Mexican-style street tacos and ice cream to margarita and daiquiri bar, an afternoon here can be as crazy or lazy as you like. Adding appeal are shaded cabana rentals, furnished with chaise lounges and dining tables/chairs.

Event:

The Dublin Irish Festival (www.dublinirishfestival.org) takes place August 5-7, 2022, in the city’s Coffman Park. It is the largest three-day Irish festival in the world and features seven stages of entertainment with Irish musicians and dancers; storytelling, folklore, music and hands-on workshops; 100 vendors selling everything from kilts to jewelry to handmade instruments; and a menu of foodie options from traditional Irish fish and chips to festival faves to food trucks, pizza and more.

RECIPE

Tuck in for a true Irish experience at the neighborhood Dublin Village Tavern, a must-visit Irish pub dishing up shepherd’s pie, Irish egg rolls and an Irish Kettle Dinner.
Photo: Visit Dublin, Ohio
 

Shepherd’s Pie

Dublin Irish Tavern (www.thedublinvillagetavern.com)

This dish was concocted in the late 1700s/early 1800s by creative and frugal Irish housewives intent of finding a delicious way to use up their leftovers.

  • 2 lbs. chuck road, cubed
  • 4 carrots, medium dice
  • 3 medium yellow onions, medium dice
  • 4 ribs celery, medium dice
  • 1 C peas
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 TBSP fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1 TBSP fresh thyme, minced
  • 1 1/3 C Guinness beer
  • 1/4 C Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/4 C beef stock
  • Prepared mashed potatoes
  • 2 TBSP panko bread crumbs
  • 2 TBSP grated parmesan

Place a large frying pan over high heat and add a thin layer of olive oil. Season the meat with salt and pepper and fry, stirring, in two or three batches, until nicely browned. Once cooked, place meat in colander to drain off the fat.

Place pan back over medium-high heat and add a little olive oil. When hot, fry the onion, celery, garlic and thyme, for 8-10 minutes, until soft and golden. Add the browned meat, peas and carrots. Stir constantly for 4-5 minutes.

Add the Guinness and Worcestershire sauce and boil until the liquid has reduced by half. Pour in the stock and return to boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for 20-25 minutes, by which time the mixture should thicken. Continue to simmer for another 5-10 minutes if it doesn’t seem quite thick enough. 

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Spoon mixture into casserole dish. Spread mashed potato on top of meat. Top with panko breadcrumbs and parmesan. Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown.

Kathy Witt is an award-winning travel and lifestyle writer who writes a monthly syndicated travel column for Tribune News Service, is a regular contributor to Kentucky Living, Georgia and Travel Goods magazines and RealFoodTraveler.com as well as other outlets like County. She is the author of several books, including Cincinnati Scavenger (Fall 2022) Secret Cincinnati and The Secret of the Belles, and is working on another travel-themed book for Fall 2023 release. Kathy is a member of SATW (Society of American Travel Writers), Authors Guild and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.Kathy has a new interactive Cincinnati-themed book arriving summer 2022!

By the Mountains or the Sea: Three Great Luxury Resorts

Go beyond generic and experience the unique with stays at one or more of three distinctive Spire Hospitality properties: The Leta in Santa Barbara, CA, Topnotch Resort in Vermont and High Peaks Resort in Lake Placid New York. 

The Leta

If your idea of the ultimate Southern California retreat is longboards, poolside cocktails and coastal cuisine, we’ve got the place for you. The Leta is the kind of place with the ultimate Golden State of Mind/California Living attitude. So chill and enjoy the California groovy touches such as the surf-inspired décor, and eclectic accommodations, live music scene and VNYL record shop.

Ideally located, 158-room resort is prized for its cool, hip, carefree Californian personality along with it’s artful, quirky, unexpected, open and soulful chemistry. Local art, music, food and wine are at home here and the hotel boasts 6,000 square feet of meeting space welcoming locals and out of town guests alike for one-of-a-kind meetings and events.

Designed with an easygoing, California-cool aesthetic, The Leta’s artful guest rooms and suites channel the radiant spirit of SoCal featuring earthy, eccentric textures and fabrics with a nod to surf-culture nostalgia. This charming beach chic hotel in Goleta also welcomes pets. 

High Peaks Resort

High Peaks Resort in the heart of Lake Placid is the perfect home base for exploring the Adirondacks. Guests can choose from three unique lodging experiences overlooking Mirror Lake and the Adirondack mountains: The Resort, a traditional hotel featuring 105 newly renovated guest rooms; the modern retro-vibe Lake House with 44 guest rooms; and the private and serene Waterfront Collection, featuring 28 guest rooms including 10 suites on the shores of Mirror Lake. 

Amenities available to all guests include two indoor and two outdoor heated pools, an indoor Jacuzzi, an on-site fully equipped fitness center, the Spa & Salon at High Peaks Resort, and Dancing Bears Restaurant, consistently ranked one of the top restaurants in Lake Placid.

Guests also enjoy private access to Mirror Lake with complimentary use of kayaks, paddle boats and stand-up paddleboards, special activities such as yoga at the waterfront and birds of prey demonstrations, an outdoor barbecue, a fire pit (with complimentary s’mores), lawn games, sweeping views of the Adirondack mountains and close proximity to the region’s top attractions and activities such as the Lake Placid Olympic Sites, Whiteface Mountain, The Wild Center in Tupper Lake, High Falls Gorge, Ausable Chasm, and numerous hiking trails, kayaking, boating and more in the Adirondack Park.

High Peaks Resort is also within walking distance to shopping, dining and entertainment in downtown Lake Placid. Dogs are welcome, with special canine-friendly treats and amenities. 

Topnotch Resort

The AAA Four-Diamond Topnotch Resort is a glorious place to stay. Set on 120 acres of woodland at the foot of Mount Mansfield, it’s located between historic and charming Stowe village and Stowe Mountain Resort as well as within 35 miles of four other popular ski resorts: Smuggler’s Notch, Sugar Bush, Mad River Glen and Bolton Valley. Topnotch includes 68 guest rooms and 17 two- and three-bedroom resort homes that allow for a private and very socially distant experience. 

Guests enjoy Vermont fresh farm-to-table dining at The Roost, the Topnotch Tennis Academy (ranked one of the top 10 tennis resorts in the country offering more than 30 programs for all ages and levels of play on six seasons outdoor and four indoor hard courts), the 35,000 square foot award-winning Topnotch Spa, three indoor and outdoor heated pools, indoor and outdoor Jacuzzis, the Equestrian Center at Topnotch (offering English and Western trail rides, private and group horseback riding, carriage rides and sleigh rides), Mountain Ops Outdoor Gear (an on-property outfitter which can arrange and outfit for any activity year-round, including mountain biking, hiking, kayaking and fishing in the summer), outdoor fire pits with s’mores kits, shuffleboard and other games, specialty cocktails, access to the Stowe Recreation Path and more.

Dog friendly, Topnotch provides Fido with the finer things a canine deserves such as dog beds, CBD treats and special canine-friendly turndown service and spa treatments. Just a short drive from Topnotch, Stowe Village is worth the trip. Peruse the many locally owned shops (a personal favorite is Laughing Moon Chocolates) and art galleries, check out the locally sourced offerings at village restaurants, admire the 18th and 19th century architecture, explore the outdoors in a variety of ways such hot air balloon rides and kayaking, and take in a show at the Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center

About Spire Hospitality

Spire Hospitality, led by CEO Chris Russell, is a third-party operator of 7,033 room keys and over 350,000 square feet of meeting space across 20 states. The Spire portfolio, with a focus on large, full-service hotels, includes unique independent properties and premier branded assets across Hilton Hotels & Resorts (HLT), Marriott International (MAR) and InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), including 29 hotels and resorts. Spire Hospitality offers expertise in all facets of hospitality management and is committed to preserving, protecting and enhancing the value of hotel real estate. www.spirehotels.com.

Explore Norway’s Senja Island From Air, Land and Sea

A new autumn adventure has launched in northern Norway, providing an exclusive opportunity to experience the Arctic from three perspectives — from the air in a private helicopter, on land while hiking and e-biking across dramatic coastal mountaintops, and on the water and under water to meet Arctic aquatic life.

The five-day Senja Autumn Adventure has been created by specialist travel company Off the Map Travel for an exclusive holiday of relaxation and unusual experiences including snorkeling by the fjords.

Senja is Norway’s second largest island and a revelation to travelers to the Arctic. The itinerary has been specially curated for the autumn temperate weather to combine a variety of activities and excursions to showcase Senja in multiple ways. And maybe offer a glimpse of the Northern Lights.

A mountainous island blessed with dramatic topography, Senja is Norway’s jewel when it comes to views, especially in autumn when it presents a palette of dark browns and greens from the mountains and sparkling turquoise from the sea.

The program begins in Trømso, dubbed “the Paris of the North” for its fashion, food and culture. Then the true adventure begins with a helicopter ride to Senja traveling above the island’s mountains and plateaus before landing in the small fishing village of Mefjordvaer on the Northwest coast.

“Senja is one of those unknown areas of the world, an unspoiled part of Norway, bursting with color and dramatic scenery,” commented Jonny Cooper, founder of Off the Map Travel. “This is a special chance to experience Senja from multiple sensory angles. Our program is designed to consider every traveler’s wish and maybe even provide a glimpse of early Northern Lights.”

All meals are included with North Norwegian favorites like reindeer shank and Skreigrunn cod. Accommodations are at Mefjord Brygge, a resort village with hotel rooms, apartments and cabins, a location favored by nature lovers, adventure seekers, photographers and hikers. Guests have access to a wellness area with sauna, outdoor hot tub and solarium, an idyllic area for relaxing and soaking up the 360 degree views. A private pier overlooks a fjord that attracts local wildlife and has even more views of the rugged mountains on every side.

Water-based activities include a private boat trip to explore the island and search out seals playing beneath the surf, a visit to view salmon shoals, and an Off the Map Travel “exclusive experience” — snorkeling in some of Senja’s crystal clear bays and inlets with the opportunity to explore Røst Reef, a cold-water coral reef and home to many distinctive species of fish.

As well as being a wild fauna and flora sanctuary, Senja is a paradise for bird watchers with a mix of marine birds, sea eagles, falcons and golden eagles.

Guests will also enjoy an e-bike tour through the mountains, accessing jaw-dropping viewpoints from the cliff edge and taking in the changing shades of the water along the coast before arriving at a secluded beach for a private-dining, chef-created experience of locally sourced seafood and ingredients.

The five-day, four-night Senja Autumn Adventure itinerary is priced from £5499 per person ($7149 USD at the time of this writing), based on double occupancy, including all activities, all meals, private chef for the secluded beach meal only, transfers, one night’s hotel accommodation in Trømso and three nights’ accommodation in Senja. Flights are additional.

Itinerary Detail

Day 1: Arrive in Trømso for the first night and spend the evening exploring the city. Take a short walk to the stunning viewpoints looking down over the city and maybe watch the sun before dinner at one of the many amazing restaurants on offer. Depending when you arrive, there may be the option of an excursion or boat trip, too.

Day 2: After checking out, a short transfer to the airport will take you to your helicopter to take you across the stunning landscape to Senja. If helicopters aren’t your thing, your Adventure Artist can arrange alternative transport. In Senja, relax and settle into your accommodation before setting out on foot to explore Mefjordvaer, a small fishing village. Enjoy a leisurely dinner with beautiful views.

Day 3: After breakfast, gear up for a day trip on your own private boat to explore this beautiful island from the ocean. You’ll have your own crew and the option to head out in the morning or evening for three hours. Then it’s time to relax and enjoy your surroundings and another delicious dinner.

Day 4: For your final day in Senja, there is a special day planned for you with an activity exclusive to Off the Map Travel. You will be picked up by private boat transfer after breakfast and taken to Torsken, a rugged area on the west coast of Senja. Upon arrival you will experience an ‘underwater fjord tour’ in various bays and water inlets, a snorkeling experience giving you the opportunity to explore Senja’s crystal-clear waters. You will see a variety of sea anemones and flowers, and explore shallow coral reefs that are home to fish and starfish. You can then head up river to see salmon and visit a larger bay where you may even see seals playing beneath the surf. You are likely to see sea eagles too. Once finished, you can enjoy lunch before setting out on a beautiful e-bike tour through the fjords to a secluded beach for a private dinner prepared by your own, personal chef.

Day 5: After breakfast, transfer to Trømso via air, land or sea, taking in the beautiful landscape as you go. If you’re not ready for the adventure to end, speak to one of the team to see how they can tailor the trip for you.

OFF THE MAP TRAVEL

The team at Off the Map Travel works with experiences and destinations that allow people to explore hidden wonders of our planet. Specializing in Soft Adventure OTMT creates tailor-made holiday itineraries offering authentic experiences not offered by many larger travel companies.  For more information on Off the Map Travel itineraries visit www.offthemap.travel; call 1-646-701-0041; email info@offthemap.travel  or join in the conversation on FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTube or Pinterest

For more information visit www.offthemap.travel, call 1-646-701-0041 or email info@offthemap.travel   

Traveling Through Time: Down the Danube Narrows to Weltenburg Abbey

Weltenburg Abbey was more than four centuries old before the monks first began brewing ale—or at least ale worth noting–in 1050. Now vying for the title of the oldest monastic brewery in the world (Weihenstephan Abbey also claims the honor), they set their claim on maintaining the original brewing process. Like the beer, much is as it was remains at the Abbey, the somewhat plain exterior of the cathedral opens onto an elaborately ornate and gilded interior. Services are still held regularly, and monks still live and work on the premises. And just as abbeys were places for gatherings for a millennium and more, Weltenburg also remains a destination. Located 25 miles west of the charming Bavarian city of Regensburg, a UNESCO World Heritage City and just three miles from Kelheim, it is accessible by car. But I totally like immersing myself in history and my goal today is to replicate—as much as I can—the 1050 experience.

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Long Wall and St. Nepomuk

On the ferry from Kelheim, I watch as the boat’s wake cuts through waters reflecting the dark greens of dense woods and whites of limestone rocks of the Fränkische Alb mountains, some rising 300-feet high. Winds, water and time have carved caves and nooks in the limestone and in one of these crannies on an expansive stretch of stone called the Long Wall someone has tucked a statue of St. Nepomuk, the patron saint of water and bridges who was drowned when he refused to reveal the confessions made to him by the Queen of Bavaria. Her husband must have really wanted to know what she was up to.

The Danube Narrows

Today it will take 40 minutes to travel the Danube Narrows, an ancient waterway to and from Weltenburg Abbey or if you want to be really German about it, Weltenburger Klosterbrauerei, a sprawling complex of Baroque stone buildings surrounded by the lush rural beauty of Southern Bavaria.

There are times when the river is a lively place with small boats passing by and bicyclists and hikers making their way along the riverbank. Then suddenly, navigating a bend, it’s all calm waters and quiet.  I imagine this is how it was when pilgrims and tradesmen (and hopefully tradeswomen as well) came to the abbey to retreat from the world, rest or conduct business. It was a time when travel was mainly by water as roads barely existed and their trip would have taken much longer without our gas powered engines. But the sight they saw when making the final curve is much the same as today—Weltenburg’s blue tower roof and the washed pink walls.

Weltenburger Klosterbrauerei

The abbey sits on a bend of the river and in front is a small sandy beach and shallow waters where people play. It’s hot today—a heat wave is moving across Europe—and I envy them as the water looks cool and refreshing. But history calls and instead I move up the walk leading from the dock to the entrance already awed by the size and beauty of the place.

There are always hard choices and today I need to decide whether to tour first (there are self-guided and guided tours available) or take a seat in the sun at the biergarten, It appears that most people have chosen the latter and rather than wait for a table or sit inside the restaurant, I enter the church.

St. Georg Church

We’re talking seriously rococo inside, an overdrive of theatrical flourishes mixed with more Gothic elements. Paintings date back to the 1300s, a statue of the church’s namesake St. George or St. Georg as its spelled here, sculpted in smooth, sleek marble, rides his horse most likely on his way to slay the dragon. The main room, its ceiling 65-feet high, has alcoves off to the sides, each one just as ornate. It’s hard to take in everything at once, the artistry, pageantry and craftsmanship are so amazing.  Standing near a group tour, I hear phrases like “eight ionic columns, Weltenburg marble and gold fresco” and hurriedly write the words down as it helps sort out this wonderment of riches.

Bavarian Fare

Back outside, I spot an empty table and grab it. Addicted to German fare (yes, really), I order pigs’ knuckle known as schweinshaxe, schnitzel and even though I’m in Bavarian and not the Black Forest (hey, it’s nearby) the famous cake from that region. Of course, I need a glass of their Kloster Barock Dunkel—an almost black in color ale which is still made on site in a rock cave and then sent by pipeline to the monastery taps. Also available—to drink or take home, there is a gift store of course–are other brews and such medicinal spirits as their Weltenburg monastery bitters and liqueurs. And if you want to go full abbey, there’s their klosterkas and monastery sausage both based on ancient Weltenburg recipes.

Maybe I shouldn’t have eaten that last schnitzel and definitely not the cake. To assuage my conscience, I climb the mountain path as it winds past the Stations of the Cross. It’s steep but the gaps in the woods offer commanding views of the valley, abbey and gorge below. I briefly contemplate spending the night at the St. Georg Guest House to be able to walk the abbey grounds late at night when all the visitors are gone but I don’t have a reservation. Next time for sure.

The Oldest Wheat Beer Brewery in Bavaria

          Returning to Kelheim isn’t exactly like entering the 21st century. In the old town I wander the narrow streets snapping photos of perfectly maintained Medieval-era buildings just a short walk from the docks and on the way to where I parked my car, I let my friends talk me into stopping at Weisses Bauhaus Kelheim.

It’s a beautiful place, all wood, vaulted ceilings and archways leading from room to room. Outside we sit in, yes another beer garden, this one next to a small stream, and order a round of their wheat beer. Really, I had to since they’ve been brewing beer here since 1607, making the Weisses Brauhaus the oldest wheat beer brewery in Bavaria.

 

I’m not typically a beer lover but both the Kloster Barock Dunkel at the abbey and the TAP7 here, made from the original 1872 recipe, are robust and flavorful without bitterness or an overly hoppy taste. I’m driving so instead of more beer, I listen to the live music, enjoy the myriad of colorful blooms cascading from window boxes, baskets and containers and contemplate how I’ve spent the day moving through history and only now have reached the 17th century.

Dolly Parton’s Retired Tour Bus Now Premium Lodging at Dollywood

For those who want a glimpse into the life of a legend, Dollywood is introducing the “Suite 1986” Tour Bus Experience. Today, guests can begin booking stays on the Prevost tour bus that was Dolly Parton’s favorite home away from home for 15 years. The bus was recently acquired by Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa and has been transformed into the property’s ultimate suite, now situated on a permanent parking pad just behind the hotel.

Guests of Suite 1986 will not only have the most interesting accommodations in Dollywood’s history, but they’ll also get the opportunity to enjoy some special amenities. The suite features dedicated concierge service for the entire length of stay, the chance to sample one-of-a-kind food offerings created by the resort’s award-winning culinary team, and customized keepsakes to take home as souvenirs. The tour bus sleeps two guests, but each reservation also includes a room at DreamMore Resort, which can accommodate up to four additional guests.

There’s a two-night minimum stay for Suite 1986 and a starting rate of $10,000. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to The Dollywood Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Dolly’s enterprises. In part, it funds Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, which gifts free books to children from birth to age 5 as part of an ongoing effort to instill in everyone a passion for reading. So far, more than 2 million children have benefitted from the program.

Dolly herself loves to read, and she’s a writer at heart. In fact, she wrote her “Backwoods Barbie” album as well as “9 to 5 the Musical” in the comfort of the bus, plus some books and scripts for television shows and movies.

Though Dolly is a free-spirted traveler, she doesn’t enjoy flying and much prefers to have her own space, food and belongings rather than staying in a hotel. Her tour bus served as a rolling sanctuary that was customized to ensure that she and her companions traveled in comfort and ease no matter how far the journey. And it was specially adapted and upgraded so Dolly could do two of her favorite things – writing and cooking – from any locale.

She enjoyed making meals in the kitchenette and sharing them with her best friend and personal assistant, Judy Ogle, who traveled with her most of the time, and driver Tim Dunlap, who was responsible for the vehicle and its passengers during its length of service. To install a full-size refrigerator in place of the smaller size that comes standard in most vehicles of this type, the bus’s windshield had to be removed and then replaced.

Those who are curious about Dolly’s incredible wardrobe may be interested to learn that three of the bus’s six standard bunk beds were removed and replaced with a special closet that could accommodate all the glitter and rhinestones. When Dolly has welcomed visitors onto the bus, she’s taken great delight in showing off her wig cabinet, which probably isn’t something you’d find on any other tour bus. It’s a truly “Dolly” touch.

Guests may not need the wig closet, but they might appreciate the custom bathtub and electric doors that were added to the vehicle to transform it into a luxury suite on wheels. “I have homes all over the United States,” Dolly once said. “But my favorite place is the bus because that way I can just feel those wheels rolling.”

In addition to providing a unique glimpse into the icon’s life, the bus affords its guests beautiful views of the Smoky Mountains, where Dolly grew up. It also provides easy access to Dollywood, the theme park she established here in 1986 (hence, the bus’s new name) to provide both a source of employment for residents and a spark of joy and inspiration for the millions of visitors who are drawn to the region.

For more information about this once-in-a-lifetime experience in the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee, please visit www.Dollywood.com/Suite1986.

Looking to the future of lodging in the area, Dolly was in Pigeon Forge this morning to visit the construction site of Dollywood’s HeartSong Lodge & Resort, her second hotel in the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee. The 302-room property is slated to open in late 2023.

Tucked away in a beautiful cove in the rolling foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, Dollywood’s HeartSong Lodge & Resort will welcome the outdoors in with high ceilings, exposed beams and natural layered textures. The resort will offer lodging options for multi-generational families and couples, including spacious family suites and bunk rooms that will feature touches inspired by the beauty of the Smokies. Many of the rooms will include balconies that provide sweeping views of the vast resort property.

For more information about anything connected to “Destination Dollywood,” please visit Dollywood.com.