Cruising River St. Joe

Located at Eagle Point Marina in St. Joseph, Michigan, Nia’s Pontoon Rentals offers boating opportunities on both the St. Joseph River and Lake Michigan. Available for full or half day rentals, in certain cases animals are welcomed aboard.

The St. Joseph River is a great place to cruise with sightings of bald eagles, herons, seagulls, deer, squirrels, and even, very rarely, beavers.

Pack a lunch or dock at one of the restaurants located on the river including Plank’s.

Head out into Lake Michigan past the century-plus old lighthouse, Silver and Tiscornia beaches, and downtown St. Joseph.

2351 Niles Road, St. Joseph, Michigan. For more information contact Nia at 269-932-2070.

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   

Dorie Greenspan suggests a classic July 4th dessert: Atlantic Beach Pie

Photo courtesy of Mary Dodd

Cheryl Day’s take on the Bill Smith classic is a make-again (and again) recipe writes Dorie Greenspan in her July 1 bulletin. Here Dorie shares a great recipe from Day’s new cookbook for Atlantic Beach Pie that she describes as perfect for Fourth of July. I, for one, am definitely going to make this for the upcoming holiday.

Almost as enjoyable as the pie is Dorie’s background on the dish—and Dorie, you weren’t the only one who had never heard of this pie. I hadn’t either so at least there are two of us. Dorie also introduces us to a new cookbook, Cheryl Day’s Treasury of Southern Baking. Now here’s one I am most likely the only one not to know about Day or her Back in the Day Bakery in Savannah, Georgia as Dorie has long been a big fan.

Since July 4th is coming up, I’d better cut to Dorie’s bulletin and the recipe for the pie. Please let me know what you think. Also, be sure to subscribe to Dorie’s newsletter. It’s the best and it’s free. I mean, really, what’s there to lose? Well, of course, your waistline but hey, save your calories for all the good things Dorie has to offer.

Here we go.

From Dorie Greenspan:

We just wrapped up choux month in Playing Around // xoxo Dorie — look at what we baked together! If you’d like join the group before the next project launches, click here to subscribe.

Bonjour! Bonjour!

Am I the last person on the planet to discover the joys of the Atlantic Beach Pie made famous by Bill Smith at Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, a James Beard Foundation America’s Classic restaurant that featured fresh, seasonally-focused Southern cuisine. I’m thinking I might be. I’m also thinking I might not have ever come around to it had Mary Dodd not mentioned how much she loved the recipe for it that’s in Cheryl Day’s newest cookbook, Cheryl Day’s Treasury of Southern Baking.

I might be slow on the recipe front, but I’ve been a Cheryl Day fan for a long time. Cheryl, who founded and owns the Back in the Day Bakery with her husband, Griffith, in Savannah, Georgia, is one of the country’s most important voices in Southern foodways – one of its most beloved too. She is a bestselling author, the co-founder of Southern Restaurants for Racial Justice, a legacy baker and an inspiring speaker – it was marvelous to hear her at the Cherry Bombe Jubilee this year.

Photo courtesy of Mary Dodd

 It was funny that when Mary said the name of the pie, I thought that there was a Maida Heatter recipe for it – but I was wrong. Maida Heatter didn’t publish a version, but a million other people did. It’s cherished. And even if it weren’t as great as it is, it would be easy to have a soft spot for it because of the story that spins around it. I loved hearing Katie Workman on NPR/All Things Considered talk about the first time she had the pie – she called it an OMG, “When Harry Met Sally” experience.

THE SHORT SALTY BACK STORY

You can get a fuller telling of this story in a bunch of places – I love how Margaux Laskey wrote about it in The New York Times (subscription) – so I’m just going to tell you the part I like most.

While the name “Atlantic Beach Pie,” is Smith’s, he doesn’t claim the dessert as his own, saying that it’s served all over East and North Carolina, where it’s called Lemon Pie. Growing up, his mother – and evidently everyone else’s mom, too – was convinced that if you ate dessert after you’d eaten seafood, it would kill you. The one exception was citrus – life could go on after a citrusy sweet. And so, this lemon pie was the specialty at fish places along the coast.

And what a pie – it’s a quirky one.

Photo courtesy of Mary Dodd

SALTINES, LEMON JUICE AND SWEETENED CONDENSED MILK – WHODDA THUNK?

Everything about this pie is beachy, especially it’s saltiness. The press-in crust – which could be made from graham crackers, and I read that it was in many places – is made from crushed saltines, butter and sugar. It’s thick and salty-sweet and fun. The filling, which was traditionally lemon, but which can be a mix of lemon and lime (or why not all lime?), is satiny and jiggly, slip-through-your-teeth smooth and reminiscent of lemon-meringue pie – gets its shimmy from egg yolks and sweetened condensed milk. (Remember how Jessie Sheehan used sweetened condensed milk in that terrific recipe for potato-chip and pretzel fudge, and called the canned milk her BBF – her Baking Best Friend?)

As for the topping – as near as I can tell, it was meringue, until it wasn’t. (Meringue makes sense, since you’re using yolks for the filling and will have whites left over.) Bill Smith opted for whipped cream and Cheryl Day, (scroll down for her recipe), went for whipped cream tanged-up with buttermilk – a genius partner for the sweet filling. (Hold onto the recipe – it’s a nice way to get the flavor of crème fraîche when you can’t get crème fraîche.) In some recipes, the pie gets a grating of lemon or lime zest, and in many it gets a light shower of flaky sea salt. The constant is the see-saw sweet-salty balance. Oh, and the life-saving power of citrus.

PIE FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ATLANTIC

Maybe I could have searched all over Paris and nabbed Saltines, but when you want to bake a pie, you want to bake a pie. I was going to go with a graham-cracker base, but I found some crackers that did the trick. They weren’t salty enough, but that was an easy fix. And just because I could, I topped the pie with little meringue stars straight from the supermarket shelf. I love a country where you can buy meringue ready-to-go.

 Would this be a good Fourth of July dessert? Yes? Good for a picnic? Yes? Good for a weekend brunch? Also yes. It’s an over-again recipe – a dessert you’ll make over and over again.

Happy weekend to all. I’ll see the members of the Playing Around club back here on Tuesday – that’s when I’ll tell you what the project for July is (so excited) – and we’ll all be back here together on Friday. Sweet, sweet wishes to everyone.

 BILL SMITH’S FAMOUS ATLANTIC BEACH PIE

•            Adapted from Cheryl Day’s Treasury of Southern Baking by Cheryl Day

•            Click here for printable recipe

Excerpted from Cheryl Day’s Treasury of Southern Baking by Cheryl Day (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2021. Photographs by Angie Mosier.

GOOD TO KNOW BEFORE YOU START

The crust: For the fun of it – the saltiness, too – you should try the pie with Saltines. But if you can’t find them or don’t think you’ll like them, jump on the graham-cracker-crust bandwagon. You can use a food processor to crumble the crackers, but it’s easily done by hand, and you won’t have a machine to clean when it’s over. Cheryl says: When you make your crumbs, be sure to leave a little texture, rather than making a fine dust. Make sure your butter is super-soft because you’re going to smush it with the crackers to get a pressable mixture. (Mary melted and cooled the butter. I smushed it. Good both ways.)

The citrus: Cheryl goes with all lemon juice and some others, including Food 52, suggest all lemon, all lime or a mix. Mary made hers with all lemon and I went with some of each. (I’m a well-known sucker for lime.)

The topping: The allure of Cheryl’s Buttermilk Whipped Cream is great – also it’s such a smart way to add some tang to a sweet dessert. But thrift suggests meringue (some history does, too). And no one would turn down straight-up whipped cream. Mary made the buttermilk cream and loved it. I used store-bought meringues because I could. You don’t need me to tell you that you should do what you’d like.

 My store-bought meringues

The finishing touches: Cheryl’s pie is gorgeously pristine – I love how she covers the top with beautifully piped little rounds of that ethereal cream. But grated zest is a possibility as is a few shiny pieces of flaky sea salt here and there.

Makes 8 servings

INGREDIENTS

For the piecrust

•            About 60 saltine crackers from about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 sleeves of crackers (190 grams) to make 2 1/2 cups crumbs (see above)

•            3 tablespoons granulated sugar

•            6 to 8 tablespoons (85 to 113 grams) very soft unsalted butter

For the pie filling

•            One 14-ounce (300 ml) can sweetened condensed milk

•            4 large egg yolks, lightly beaten

•            1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

•            1/2 cup (120 ml) fresh lemon juice (or see above)

For the whipped cream

•            1 cup (240 ml) heavy cream

•            2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

•            A pinch of fine sea salt

•            1/4 cup (60 ml) buttermilk

DIRECTIONS

To make the piecrust: Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350-degrees F. Have a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan at hand.

In a medium bowl, blend together the cracker crumbs and sugar. Add the butter and mix with a fork (or your fingers or a combination of both) until the crumbs are moistened.

 Press the mixture evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pie pan.

Bake the crust for 12 to 15 minutes, just until golden brown and firm. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.

To make the filling: Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325-degrees F. Place the baked piecrust on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

In a large bowl, whisk the condensed milk and egg yolks together until smooth. Add the lemon zest and juice, whisking until combined.

 Pour the filling into the crust. Bake for 16 to 18 minutes, until the filling is puffed up at the edges and the center no longer looks wet but still wobbles slightly when jiggled; it will continue to set as it cools.

Cool the pie on a wire rack for 1 hour, then refrigerate until cold, at least 3 hours, or overnight.

To make the cream: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or in a large mixing bowl, using a handheld mixer), whip the cream, sugar, and salt on medium speed until the cream starts to thicken. Add the buttermilk and beat until the cream holds nice soft peaks. Use immediately.

STORING: The pie can be refrigerated, loosely covered, for up to 3 days.

Excerpted from Cheryl Day’s Treasury of Southern Baking (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2021. Photographs by Angie Mosier.

PLAYING AROUND: I’m guessing that you’ll find lots of ways to use the salty crust and the excellent sweet filling separately and together. I think the crust would be terrific with a chocolate pudding filling and I think the filling would be terrific as a pudding. Of course you could make the pie in a different shape or size, play around with different toppings or just go straight to the freezer and scoop some ice cream over it. I think you’ll have fun with this one.

 New to XOXO Dorie? You can find an archive of past newsletters here.

 Subscribe for free to find me in your inbox on Fridays, or upgrade to join Playing Around // xoxoDorie, a premium tier with a new monthly project we bake together. It has great recipes, riffable ideas & our own clubhouse.

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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.

Great Lakes Lighthouses and Keepers’ Manitou Windjammer Cruise

One of the most unique hands-on Pure Michigan experiences is to spend several days sailing the freshwaters aboard a dual-masted tall ship. You’re invited to board one of the largest sailing vessels in the Great Lakes during one of these autumn windjammer cruises aboard the Tall Ship Manitou with the Traverse Tall Ship Company. Coming up September 13-17 is a four-day excursion focused on the hundreds of historic lighthouses throughout the Great Lakes region with best-selling author and freelance travel writer, Dianna Stampfler.

“We introduced this themed cruise last year and it was a sell-out success,” notes Stampfler, who has been researching and writing about Michigan’s nearly 130 lighthouses and their heroic keepers for close to 25 years. “There was something really special about projecting images on a canopy aboard the tall ship after dark and sharing spooky stories from my first book, Michigan’s Haunted Lighthouses. This year, I’m excited to also add tales from my newly released title Death and Lighthouses on the Great Lakes. A third presentation, “Ladies of the Lights” will focus on the many female keepers who served in the state.”

Each passenger will receive an autographed copy of one of Stampfler’s books (with an option to purchase additional copies). The tour also includes a special tour of the 1852 Grand Traverse Lighthouse in Northport, inside Leelanau State Park at the end of the Leelanau Peninsula.

“Last year it was great to just sit around and share stories about Michigan with all the passengers,” says Stampfler. “Today, we all seem so busy running around that we don’t often find the time to relax and just get to know people in a casual and serene environment — the Manitou provides the perfect opportunity. The backdrop of Grand Traverse Bay is also inspiring for would-be writers and I welcome guests to bring their projects with them. If there is interest, I’ll offer guidance on how to get things moving along for those who aspire to become authors or published writers.”

Chuck and Brenda Marshall – creators of the lifestyle blog Life in Michigan – posted a detailed account of their experience (along with dozens of photos) after the 2021 Lighthouse Cruise: https://www.lifeinmichigan.com/tall-ship-manitou-life-in-michigans-sailing-adventure/.

“Each evening, I’ll be presenting for about an hour on the deck of the Manitou, sharing stories from my two books as well as the fascinating tales of our female keepers here in Michigan,” said Stampfler. “The setting really is unparalleled…as the sun sets around 7:45 (and I present around 8pm, so it is twilight). It is something special to be on the tall ship after having sailed all day – from Traverse City up to Suttons Bay and Northport. It’s also a little challenging as when we aren’t docked and hooked up to power, we’re drawing from the battery for an hour to run my laptop and the projector! It definitely is the most unique venue I’ve ever presented in. Not only do we get a chance to tour Grand Traverse Lighthouse, but we get within camera view of Old Mission Point Lighthouse. I think several people were planning to visit that light on their way home, or to travel down the coastline to Point Betsie near Frankfort.”

Guided by the passionate, skilled and entertaining crew, this voyage sets sail out of Grand Traverse Bay aboard a replication of an 1800s “coasting” cargo schooner. A traditional two-masted, gaff rigged, topsail schooner, Manitou measures 114 feet in length with more than 3,000 square feet of sail. Passengers are free to leave the sailing to the experienced crew, but it’s much more fun to lend a hand and learn the arts of the sailor.

“It’s also pretty cool to see people lounging around the boat during the day reading your book while sipping on a cold beverage,” said Stampfler.

The exact course of the trip cannot be determined in advance, as the captain and crew rely on the winds to guide the path of the ship. Yet, no matter what the route, the sights, sounds and stories meld together for a truly one-of-a-kind experience. There is plenty of space for sitting and moving around Manitou’s deck while under sail on the freshwaters of Michigan’s inland seas.

This trip is limited to 22 individuals, with accommodations provided in 11 double-bunk cabins. Fare includes lodging, all meals and sailing activities. Boarding takes place on the first day between 6-8pm, with a return in mid-afternoon on the final day. To make reservations, call 800-678-0383 or order tickets online at www.TallShipSailing. Gift certificates are also available.

Traverse Tall Ship Company is located at 13258 S.W. Bay Shore Drive (M22) in Traverse City.

Making the Case for Macon

Macon, Georgia, which is just 90 minutes from Atlanta and 3.5 hours from both Birmingham and Chattanooga and four hours from Charleston and Jacksonville, is often an overlooked destination.  Located in the center to Georgia–or should we say the very heart and soul of the state–Macon is a fun-filled destination with both a fascinating history, an exciting present, and a bright future. Still need convincing? Here are four reasons among many to put Macon on your bucket list.

  • Makin’ Fun: Macon is the home of the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, so sports-aholics can get their fix of every sport at every level of play. But for some what’s best about Macon’s athletic scene is that it’s home to the best-named baseball team in the whole game: the Macon Baco. Yes, really. That alone should prove that Macon is a fun place. As for the Macon Bacons, it’s part of a wood-bat collegiate summer league whose roster teams (pardon the pun) with top players from schools around the country. Not only does the team have a delicious name, but it also has a mascot that really sizzles: Kevin, a seven-foot-tall slice of bacon. Get it … Kevin Bacon? Our pal Kevin Bacon loves to dance particularly it’s one of the songs from the movie “Footloose.” A dancing strip of bacon imakes sense. After all Macon is a city that’s all about music. As an aside, the Bacons’ archrivals are the Savannah Bananas. We love that name but really, if it’s a contest between bacon and bananas, we’d choose bacon every time.
  • Makin’ Movies: The baseball team plays at historic Luther Williams Field, built in 1929 and recently refurbished. Even if you haven’t been to a game (yet), the field might look familiar to you because it’s starred on the screen in “The Bingo Long Traveling All Stars and Motor Kings,” a 1976 movie starring Billy Dee Williams; “The Trouble with the Curve,” a 2012 film featuring Clint Eastwood; “42,” the 2013 biopic about baseball legend Jackie Robinson; and the Hank Azaria TV comedy “Brockmire.” Macon is the site of plenty of movie-making, most recently welcoming an all-star cast that was in town filming the remake of “The Color Purple,” which is set for release in 2023. The film is being produced by Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg and Quincy Jones. (As an aside, if our mention of Kevin Bacon above has you playing “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,” you might be interested in knowing that each of those producers has a Bacon Number of 2. The actor, we mean. Not the baseball mascot. The version wearing a frying pan as a cap is probably separated by a few additional degrees.)
  • Makin’ Music: This new version of “The Color Purple” is an adaptation of the Broadway musical, so Macon was the perfect location. This is a city with deep musical roots (fun fact: this is where the kazoo was invented, by a formerly enslaved man named Alabama Vest all the way back in 1840), and it lives up to its tagline, “Where Soul Lives.” It’s the hometown of Otis Redding, Little Richard and The Allman Brothers, all of whom left indelible marks on the place and its people. Today, visitors can learn more about Macon’s musical history by checking out live performances at an array of venues, visiting the Otis Redding Foundation Museum or the Allman Brothers Museum at the Big House, or taking a public or private Rock Candy Tour, which could focus on music alone or the delightful combo of music and food.
  • Makin’ Dinner: Macon has an incredible food scene, and some its top restaurants have ties to music. The Downtown Grill a fancy English steakhouse, is where Greg Allman proposed to Cher, but it’s H&H Soul Food where the band spent even more time … and then took its former owner, Mama Louise, on the road with them so they could have their favorite meals on the tour bus. Today you’ll find everything from upscale to down-home offerings, plus plenty of liquid refreshment to accompany all the amazing tastes.

Pro tip: For a great lunch option, hit The Rookery and order pretty much any sandwich or burger … and a milkshake chaser. We don’t think it’s a coincidence that many menu items feature bacon in a starring role. Because, as we know, it always comes back to bacon.

And there you have it … in just three degrees of separation from baseball to burger, Makin’ it in Macon is all about fun, food, sports, history, and so much more.

For more information or to begin planning a trip, start here

Celebrate with Babs: Holiday Recipes & Family Traditions from the TikTok Grandma

              Barbara Costello didn’t do social media when she first helped her daughter by posting a cooking video on TikTok.

              “I thought TikTok was all about dancing,” says Costello, the mother of four and grandmother of eight, who is known as Grandma Babs. Her first post was in April 2020 during the pandemic. Nine months later she had 200,000 followers. Now it’s closing in on two million.

              “By the time we hang up, you’ll probably have 20,000 more followers,” I tell Costello who is in the car with her daughter, Liz Ariola, on their way to a book signing.

              I’m only half joking.

Soaring Numbers

              Besides TikTok followers on her Brunch with Babs site, Costello also has 660,000 followers on Instagram. In comparison, I have 1989. Not that I’m jealous.

              Costello, who is 73, is considered a granfluencer—a growing trend of older people who are kicking it on social media. And now she has a cookbook, “Celebrate with Babs: Holiday Recipes & Family Traditions” featuring one hundred of her tried and true handwritten recipes that she pulled from her wood recipe box.

              “I started collecting recipes before the internet,” she says. “You used to go over to someone’s house for dinner and leave with recipe cards of what was served that night.”

              The book is divided by holidays and celebrations which are a big deal in the Costello family.

              “We’re Italian and we like big noisy get-togethers,” she says. “My mom was one of nine and I have 21 first cousins. Even after Bill and I got married there were so many of us that we still sat at the children’s table when everyone got together.”

              Originally from the Chicago area, Costello taught middle school in Schaumburg before the family moved, ending up in Connecticut where they’ve lived for decades. Costello opened her own pre-school (they called them nursery schools back then) in the basement of her house. She thinks the skills she learned as a teacher and administrator are part of what connects her to her audience. And she is all about connections.

              “I still get invited to the weddings of my preschoolers,” she says. “And many of them have remained friends with their pre-school classmates and they’re at the weddings. I think that’s wonderful after all those years.”

              Costello describes herself as having gone from zero to 60 miles-per-hour.

              “I never expected this,” she says. “People ask me if I have a business plan and I say what’s that? I’m making it up along the way.”

              It was Ariola who got her mom in the business. Social media savvy, Ariola writes the popular mom blog Mrs. Nipple blog (get it—aureole/ariola) and asked her mom for help during her pregnancy. Despite morning sickness, Ariola was trying to launch a TikTok channel and got her mom to agree to film three videos while her two grandchildren were napping.

              The first video showing Costello making her grandmother’s Greek chicken recipe garnered 100,000 views. Somewhere along the line, one of her viewers was a cookbook editor. The rest, as they say, is history.

              Even though the book is divided into holidays, each section with a special memory or anecdote, Costello says they recipes are good for everyday as well.

              “Recipes are recipes,” she says. In other words, you don’t have to wait until Easter to make marinated leg of lamb, apricot glazed ham, or Grandma’s Easter Bread.

Bonding Over Meals

              Even though she was a working mom, Costello always made family meals.

              “People didn’t do fast food like they do now,” she says. “And I think it’s very important for families to eat together.”

              Indeed, one of her hopes for her cookbook and her social media popularity is that it will encourage people to cook more and enjoy dinner together. In the meantime, she’s going to keep cooking.

              “My mom is always over the top when it comes to celebrations,” says Ariola, noting her mother’s tendency to make way too much food.

              “Being raised in an Italian family,” says Costello, “ I learned that the worst thing that could happen is that there wasn’t enough food to feed everyone.”

              That certainly won’t happen on her watch.

Smash Cake

“I always look forward to our grandkids’ first birthdays,” writes Costello. “My daughter loves showering her sons with smash cakes when they have that special birthday. She strips them down and lets them go at the cake. It’s a ton of fun to see how their little personalities shine in this moment. This is not only the favorite of my one-year-old grandson Scooter, but also a hit with my toddler-aged grandkids, too. Even I love it! I’ve made this recipe as just a loaf when not celebrating a special one-year-old in the family. The cream cheese frosting and the cake are the perfect combo.”

prep time

15 minutes, plus 2 hours to cool

cook time

50 minutes

yield

1 smash cake plus 1 loaf (serves about 9)

Ingredients

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 (4 oz containers unsweetened applesauce
  • 1¾ cups  all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of fine kosher salt

Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 8 oz  cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • Natural food coloring (optional)

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and line 2 (4-inch) ramekins or cake pans, and 1 (9 x 5-inch) loaf pan with parchment paper.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together until pale and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the maple syrup and applesauce. Beat until well combined.

3. Using a fine-mesh sieve, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt into the wet mixture. Stir until combined. Spoon the mixture into the ramekins until three-fourths full. Pour the rest of the batter into the loaf pan.

4. Bake the smash cakes for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Bake the loaf for an additional 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let stand for 15 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely.

5. Make the frosting. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter until well combined. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat until smooth and creamy, scraping the side of the bowl once or twice during mixing. If desired, beat in a few drops of natural food coloring of your choice.

6. To assemble the smash cake, place the bottom half on a serving plate. Spoon frosting over. Add the remaining layer. Spread frosting over the top and side of the cake. Add decorations of your choice. To serve the loaf, spread the top and sides with frosting, and cut into slices to serve.

Broccoli Salad (from the Summer Barbecue chapter)

This easy, crisp, classic vegetable salad is a must at any summer barbecue, picnic, or pool party. This is an old recipe I’ve been making for over forty years. The flavors meld beautifully, and the fresh crispness of the veggies, the creaminess of the dressing, and the ease of making it ahead, make this recipe a winner in all categories.

prep time

15 minutes, plus at least 1 hour to chill

cook time

none

serves

8–10

Ingredients

  • 2 bunches of raw broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets (about 8 cups)
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 lb. crisp, crumbled bacon
  • ½ cup chopped, toasted pecans or walnuts
  • 1 cup golden or brown raisins
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  1. In a large bowl, mix the broccoli, onion, bacon, nuts, and raisins.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, sugar, and vinegar.
  3. Toss the dressing with the broccoli mixture. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

The Guardian: Restoring Hawaii’s ancient food forests

The Guardian: The farmers restoring Hawaii’s ancient food forests that once fed an island | Hawaii. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/jun/17/hawaii-traditional-farming-methods-ancient-food-forests

Our community has been using their skills and creativity to pivot, fill food system gaps, and serve Hawaiʻi’s nutritional needs during this unprecedented time.

Through thoughtful interviews and photographic portraiture, we spotlight the necessity of a collective commitment needed to sustain our emerging system of resiliency, of a self-sufficient Hawaiʻi. From Feeding Hawai’i.

The Last of Howard Johnson’s

The loss of an American iconic restaurant and motel chain.:

HoJo’s no mo’: The last remnant of ‘the oranging of America’ has closed https://flip.it/l2.5Rk

It’s the End of an Era

Courtesy of New York Public Library.

With its signature orange roof, glistening pool with both high and low dives, restaurant with signature clam strips and 28 flavors of ice cream when nationwide chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla were typically all that was offered, Howard Johnson’s had it all.

Learn more about it in the book A History of Howard Johnson’s: How a Massachusetts Soda Fountain Became an American Icon (American Palate).