Back in Time: Phillipsburg Manor and Gristmill in Sleepy Hollow

From Grand Central Station in New York City, we traveled on the Metro-North Railroad (MNR) line that follows along the shores of the Hudson River to Tarrytown. It’s a longish walk from the depot to Phillipsburg Manor and so a stop at Muddy Water Coffee and Cafe at 52 Main Street for lattes and pastries was in order. The restaurant, located in historic downtown Tarrytown, is cozy and comfy with original tin ceilings, wood floors, and a small garden tucked away in the back. Then it was on to the manor and old gristmill dating back to 1850. A note to those that make the journey. Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow (yes, the Sleepy Hollow where the Headless Horseman rode) are built on steep hills and if you’re so inclined (and I was on the way back to the depot) Tarrytown Taxi is a cheap and easy alternative to getting around.

The manor, gristmill, and rebuilt millpond bridge are accessible at the Historic Hudson Valley (HVV) Visitor’s Center which is also where you catch the shuttle to Kykuit, the Rockefeller Mansion that rises above the Pocantico Hills overlooking miles of woodlands and then, in the distance, the Hudson River. Other tours include Washington Irving’s Sunnyside and the Union Church of Pocantico Hills.

For those who visited the mill and buy some of the grain ground there, HHV provides recipes including the following for Pumpkin Cornmeal Pancakes re-created from the travel accounts of Swedish botanist Peter Kalm, a Finnish explorer, botanist, naturalist, and agricultural economist, who journeyed to Colonial America in 1747 to bring seeds and plants that might be useful to agriculture.  In his description of foods eaten by the Colonists, Kalm described a thick pancake “made by taking the mashed pumpkin and mixing it with Corn-meal after which it was…fried.” He found it “pleasing to my taste.”  Further recipes are including from HHV for recipes from an article titled Cooking with Cornmeal Fresh from Philipsburg Manor’s Gristmill .

Pumpkin Cornmeal Pancakes

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar, plus extra for the topping
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2½-3 cups milk
  • Butter for frying

Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Combine eggs and pumpkin. Beat into the dry ingredients. Add the milk slowly to make a smooth batter.

Heat some butter in a frying pan and pour some of the batter in. Swirl the batter around to make an evenly thick pancake. Cook on both sides until brown.

Serve hot, dusted with confectioner’s sugar.

Light Corn Bread

  • 1/4 cup sweet butter
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1¼ cups buttermilk
  • 7/8 cup cornmeal
  • 2 cups cake flour, sifted
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 egg whites, beaten

Cream the butter and sugar until smooth. Add the egg yolks. Mix dry ingredients together in a separate bowl. Stir in the buttermilk and the mixed dry ingredients alternately. Fold in the stiffly beaten whites last. Bake in a greased, floured 8 by 11 by 1½-inch pan about 20 minutes at 375 degrees F.

Cornmeal Shortcake

  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs (lightly beaten)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease an 8″ baking pan and set aside.

In large mixing bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt; stir until well mixed. Add buttermilk, eggs, and shortening; mix until smooth (about 1 minute).Pour batter into pan. Bake 30 minutes (until lightly browned); toothpick inserted in center should come out clean.

Serving suggestion: Top with fruit and whipped cream.

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.

Supper Clubs: An American Experience

Neon lights. Big cars with rich men and beautiful dames. Martinis and music. Relish trays and super-sized steaks. Tucked away on country roads—perfect for bootleggers to deliver their goods in the dark of night or on the streets of big cities where midnight deliveries are no problem.

These are the supper clubs of old and while these vestiges of a glamorous past maybe somewhat different now, author Ron Faiola chronicles it all in his series of book, including the most recent, “The Wisconsin Supper Clubs Story: An Illustrated History, with Relish” (Agate Midway 2021; $26.66). His other two books, “Wisconsin Supper Clubs: An Old Fashioned Experience” and “Wisconsin Supper Clubs: Another Round” as well as his movie, Wisconsin Supper Clubs: An Old Fashioned Experience makes Faiola a supper club expert. His books, which make for great reading, are also perfect as guidebooks, taking us on a round of supper clubs still in business.

In his latest book, Faiola, a native of Wisconsin a state that seems to have the most of supper clubs of any state, went deep into their history and along the way dispelled at least one major legend—that the first American supper club was established in the 1920s in Beverly Hills, California by Milwaukee native Lawrence Frank.

 “It always bothered me because it named the guy, but not the supper club,” said Faiola.  “And why Beverly Hills and not New York City or even Wisconsin?  Once I delved into the Frank family history, I had my answers which became chapter one in the book.”

There was another legend to question as well. Faiola has visited close to 150 of the places. But there was a guy named Al (last name Capone) who seemed to have visited even more—at least according to claims by owners. Faiola demolished that one as well.

Join us in a conversation with Faiola.

The resurgence of supper clubs has been going on for several years.  It first began when my documentary, Wisconsin Supper Clubs – An Old Fashioned Experience,” was released in 2011. 

Additionally, once the first book–“Wisconsin Supper Clubs: An Old Fashioned Experience” was released, instead of sitting on a coffee table, people brought their copies along on trips to supper clubs and had the owners and staff sign their pages. They’d put menus and make notes about the drinks and food that they had. That snowballed as more people saw what others were doing.  It was fun for them and the supper club owners loved the attention.  I’ve heard from so many owners about the number of books they’ve signed.  They’re very proud of that.  

More recently, when all restaurants closed as the pandemic started, people thought they were going to lose their favorite supper clubs.  Once clubs started reopening, even just for take-out orders, customers were very supportive.  As clubs fully reopened, diners returned in droves in the summer of 2020 and even more so during 2021.  I’ve seen photos on social media of people standing in line waiting to get into supper clubs.  Last summer the wait for a table at Ishnala was three to four hours and yet people were cheerfully tailgating in the parking lot!  The great return to the Restaurants of Yesteryear has not only drawn more people to the clubs, but there is now a wide range of supper club souvenirs: glasses, apparel, posters, and even more books.  

Can you share a story or two about discoveries that most surprised you?

One of the things that surprised me the most was that the price of food was about the same as today when adjusted for inflation.  I tell people to multiply the menu prices they see in the book by 10, so those $3.95 T-bone steaks and 60¢ old fashioneds in 1950 would be about $39.50 and $6.00 today.

If readers wanted to take a road trip and visit some of your favorites that are still in business, which ones would you suggest?

Start by going to some of the supper clubs that are a little below the radar – Roepke’s Supper Club in Chilton, Pinewood Supper Club in Mosinee, The 615 Club or The Butterfly Club in Beloit or The Duck Inn in Delavan.  Then hit the more well-known clubs: Ishnala or the Del-Bar in the Wisconsin Dells, HobNob in Racine overlooking Lake Michigan, Five O’Clock Steakhouse in Milwaukee and The Buckhorn Supper Club in Milton with a great view of Lake Koshkonong.

Do you have a favorite supper club dish? Besides, the relish tray that is?

I enjoy a nice medium rare cut of prime rib, or a New York Strip, but one of my favorites that is only found in the southern part of Wisconsin is Shrimp de Jonghe.  It’s a Chicago recipe and is basically a garlicky, buttery shrimp casserole.  

How did you get interested in supper clubs?

I’ve always enjoyed going to supper clubs my whole life, whether it was around where I lived in the Milwaukee suburbs, or up north when I’d go fishing with my grandfather.  I got the idea to do the movie when I was working on a fish fry documentary–Fish Fry Night Milwaukee, 2009–and I was looking for a supper club fish fry to put in the movie.  I realized no one had documented supper clubs and there needed to be a light shined on that tradition.  I went on the road to visit 14 clubs in 2010 and the documentary aired on Milwaukee PBS in 2011 and was licensed to PBS stations nationwide for several years.

Anything else you’d like readers to know?

I’m going to be busy visiting even more supper clubs this summer (hint hint).   

Photo credits: Hoffman House courtesy of Bob Prosser. The El Dorado photo and the Ray Bussler photo are Photo courtesy Ron Faiola

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.

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

9 things you didn’t know about Pioneer Playhouse

By Special Guest Blogger Kathy Witt.

In 1950, Kentucky’s legendary Pioneer Playhouse in charming Danville, KY, debuted its first season, opening at the Darnell State Hospital, now Northpoint Prison. On June 10, 2022, Kentucky’s oldest outdoor theater – also one of the oldest in the country – opened its 73rd season with “Dracula Bites,” a kooky spin on Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Theater History

More than seven decades of history have been written on the page and the stage of this Kentucky Historic Landmark, a time capsule of 1950s summer stock theater that was the dream of its visionary founder, Col. Eben Henson, who wanted to bring Broadway to the Bluegrass. And boy, did he ever!

At Pioneer Playhouse, an evening of theater under the stars begins with the ringing of the Old Danville Firehouse Bell to announce dinner – a Kentucky farm-fresh menu that is served on a covered patio and accompanied by live music. It is followed by outstanding professional theater and a chance to explore moments and memorabilia on the Playhouse’s timeline as well as browse the gift shop.

Here are nine things you may not know about the Pioneer Playhouse:

  • The actor best known for his roles in “Pulp Fiction,” “Saturday Night Live” and “Grease” got his start at Pioneer Playhouse. John Travolta was a 15-year-old kid from New Jersey when he made his theatre debut here in 1969. The show was “The Ephraim McDowell Story,” an original play about a nineteenth-century Kentucky surgeon. (Visitors to Danville can tour the former home and office of this pioneering surgeon, considered “The Father of Abdominal Surgery,” at the McDowell House Museum and Apothecary.
  • After serving in WWII, founder Eben Henson studied acting in New York City on the GI Bill with such promising up-and-comers as Harry Belafonte, Tony Curtis and Bea Arthur.
  • You know him as the “Six Million Dollar Man,” but back in the day, he was Harvey Yeary – a name he changed immediately to Lee Majors upon his arrival in Hollywood direct from the Playhouse. His first show? The TV western, “The Big Valley,” starring Barbara Stanwyck.
  • Eben’s wife, Charlotte Henson, has been singing for Playhouse dinner guests for over 50 years. The great Kentucky composer and collector of ballads, John Jacob Niles, called Charlotte’s voice one of the purest he had ever heard. Want to hear for yourself? Buy a CD of Charlotte’s record from the early 1970s at the Playhouse gift shop.
  • The Pioneer Playhouse box office is the original train station from the 1957 MGM classic, “Raintree County,” starring Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift. Eben Henson moved the train station to its current location and used it as an anchor for the Playhouse complex, which includes the theater, Antiques Alley, gift shop, patio dining, indoor exhibits and campground. 
  • Charlotte and Eben Henson raised four children on Playhouse grounds, with the kids helping out behind the scenes and sometimes acting. The late Holly Henson was a nationally known stand-up comedian. Robby Henson has made acclaimed movies with such stars as Kris Kristofferson, Chris Cooper, Patricia Clarkson and Billy Bob Thornton. Eben Henson has a successful sign and design company and is also a drummer for many local bands. Heather Henson is a nationally recognized, award-winning author of children’s books.
July 18, 2017, Pioneer Playhouse, Danville, KY “Guarded” – July 11-22, 2017
  • Speaking of books, Heather’s most recent book is a novel for teens called Wrecked, a contemporary reimagining of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, set in Kentucky against the gritty backdrop of the opioid crisis. Her most well-known book is That Book Woman, which celebrates the work of the Pack Horse Librarians of Eastern Kentucky and has become a classic of children’s literature. It is published in many countries around the world and is part of the fifth grade curriculum in South Korea. Heather’s books are available in the Playhouse gift shop.
  • Holly Henson was artistic director for many years following the death of Eben Henson in 2004. She lost her battle with breast cancer in 2012. Robby and Heather returned from Los Aneles and NYC respectively to help keep Pioneer Playhouse going after Holly’s untimely death, and Charlotte, at 91, remains the backbone of the theatre – and still sings for dinner guests.

Pioneer Playhouse has been managing a NEA (National Endowment for the Arts)-funded, life-changing outreach program for 12 years called “Voices Inside at Northpoint Prison,” so in a sense they’ve come full circle. Playhouse Artistic Director Robby Henson teaches playwriting to inmates and works with a New York City theatre to bring inmate-authored plays to NYC each year. Several participants of the program have won the PEN Award for Best Inmate Play in America.

Celebrating Almost Three-Quarters of a Century

The Pioneer Playhouse’s 73rd season runs now through August 6 with these shows: “Dracula Bites,” “Southern Fried Nuptials” and “Cockeyed.” On Aug. 12 and 13, the Playhouse presents “Elvis and Patsy Cline Together Under the Stars!” and on Aug. 19, Music Weekend complete with food trucks and bar. See show details here. Performances are nightly, Tuesday through Saturday. Dinner and Show: 7 p.m.; show only: 8:30 p.m.

Plan a Danville theater getaway: Book an overnight with the Hampton Inn Danville or Holiday Inn Express & Suites and receive a discount when you mention “Pioneer Playhouse.”

Tickets may be purchased online at www.pioneerplayhouse.csstix.com. For more information, visit www.pioneerplayhouse.com or call 859-236-2747.

PHOTOS: Courtesy of Pioneer Playhouse

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!

Follow Kathy on Instagram, Facebook, and Linkedin.

Mr. Jiu’s in Chinatown: Contemporary Asian Recipes

He cooked in Italy, honed the seasonal California-Mediterranean style in the kitchen of the Zuni Café, and learned Californian contemporary cuisine with Italian influences at Quince. But when it came right down to it, Brandon Jew of Mister Jiu’s in San Francisco who just last night won this year’s James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef: California, missed his grandmother’s cooking.

“What I remember from eating my grandma’s food is after eating, you feel good,” says Jew whose original family name was spelled Jiu but was changed when the family moved here when going through customs. “That sensation is what I want people to experience. Understanding that chefs back in old China—they were considered doctors too, where they were healing people and giving remedies to fix your ailments. A lot of it was basically what they were feeding you. I try not to take it too seriously, but there are things I feel like as a chef, I feel like it’s my responsibility to make people feel good afterwards too.”

But those years cooking Cal weren’t wasted.

Lion’s Head Meatballs

“Cantonese cuisine and California cuisine really align in how ingredient-driven the food is and how minimal—the goal is to do as little to a perfect ingredient,” says Jew. “Finding that perfect ingredient and thinking of the cooking method to showcase its natural flavors the most, to me, is very Cantonese and Californian. I’m using that mentality to bridge the two together.”

A bio major, Jew says it starts with the ingredients.

“There are just some classic things we want to reinterpret,” he says. “There isn’t a lot of specific recipes for a lot of things. Chop suey just doesn’t have really any recipe to it. We’re taking the creative freedom to do our version of that, or even something like egg foo young.”

All the recipes and images used in this story are with permission from Mister Jiu’s in Chinatown: RECIPES AND STORIES FROM THE BIRTHPLACE OF CHINESE AMERICAN FOOD.

LION’S HEAD MEATBALLS

Anything that needs slow braising will do well in a clay pot. The porous clay distributes an encompassing gentle heat all while sealing in the juices. The slightly alkaline clay also keeps proteins loose and tender. I appreciate a clay pot for its kindness to cooks. It holds heat so well that you can set it aside off-heat for an hour or two and come back to find everything inside still nice and toasty. And if you don’t have one, a small Dutch oven with a tight lid will do. Lion’s head (獅子頭, shī zi tóu in Mandarin) are a classic Chinese meatball (the bumpy texture looks like the curly manes of mythical lions). We use savory ingredients ingredients—mushrooms, seaweed, and a blend of pork—that compounds the sīn flavor exponentially. Use whatever delicious fungi you’ve got. Sometimes I drop a handful of fresh cordyceps (蟲草花, chóng căo huá) sautéed with garlic, or shave matsutake as in this recipe. For the bacon, choose an intensely smoky kind. You can use a meat grinder or hand-chop everything old-school.

Active Time — 1 hour, 15 minutes

Plan Ahead — You’ll need about 3 hours total, plus time to make Chicken Stock; pre-soak the clay pot for 2 hours

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Special Equipment — Meat grinder (optional), soaked 9-inch clay pot or a small Dutch oven

Lion’s Head Meatballs

  • 3 oz / 85g nettles or stemmed lacinato kale
  • 1 tsp neutral oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 oz / 115g skin-on pork belly
  • 12 Savoy cabbage leaves, thick stems trimmed
  • 12 oz / 340g pork shoulder, cut into 1½-inch pieces
  • 3 oz / 85g pork back fat
  • 3½ oz / 100g medium-firm doufu
  • 4 tsp peeled and minced ginger
  • 1½ Tbsp light soy sauce (生抽, sāng chāu)
  • 1 Tbsp powdered milk
  • 1¼ tsp freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • 1½ cups / 360ml Matsutake Broth (recipe follows)
  • 2 Tbsp neutral oil
  • 3 oz / 85g fresh wild mushrooms (such as matsutake, black trumpets, or chanterelles), chopped if large
  • ½ rosemary sprig, about 2 inches long
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 Tbsp toasted pine nuts
  • 1 fresh matsutake mushroom, very thinly sliced or shaved with a mandoline

To make the meatballs: While wearing thick gloves, strip the leaves from the nettles and discard the stems.

In a wok or a medium frying pan over medium-high heat, warm the neutral oil until shimmering. Add the nettles and a pinch of salt and cook until wilted but still bright green, about 1½ minutes. If using kale, this will take about 3 minutes. Finely chop and set aside.

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Line a baking sheet with a double layer of paper towels.

Remove the skin from the pork belly. Add the skin to the boiling water and blanch for 30 seconds to firm up. Using tongs, remove and set aside. Add the cabbage leaves (work in batches, if needed) to the water and blanch until just wilted, about 30 seconds, then transfer to the prepared baking sheet to drain.

Place the pork skin, pork shoulder, belly, and back fat in a single layer on a plate and put in the freezer until the surface is just frozen but the center is still soft enough to be ground, about 15 minutes.

If using a meat grinder, grind the fat and skin through a fine grinding plate (⅛-inch / 3mm holes) into a large bowl. Switch to a coarse grinding plate (¼-inch / 6mm holes). Regrind about half of the fat-skin mixture back into the large bowl, then grind the shoulder and belly through the same grinding plate. Mix gently to combine. Regrind about half of the pork mixture again. Grind the doufu through the coarse grinding plate into the large bowl.

If chopping by hand, separately mince the pork belly skin, pork belly, pork shoulder, pork fat, and doufu using a chef’s knife or cleaver (two if you got ’em). Transfer to a large bowl as each one has formed a sticky paste and then mix well.

Add the nettles, ginger, soy sauce, powdered milk, 1½ tsp salt, pepper, and fish sauce to the bowl and use your hands to mix until well combined and a sticky paste forms but the meat is not overworked.

Divide the mixture into six portions. Roll each portion into a ball that is firmly packed and smooth. Wrap a cabbage leaf around each meatball, leaving the top exposed (save the remaining cabbage leaves for the clay pot). Refrigerate until ready to cook, up to 4 hours.

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Place the wrapped meatballs in a single layer in a soaked 9-inch-wide clay pot or small Dutch oven. Tuck the remaining cabbage leaves between the meatballs, then add the broth. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.

Transfer the pot to the oven and bake uncovered until the meatballs are browned and cooked through, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, warm a wok or a medium frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the neutral oil and let it heat up for a few seconds. Add the mushrooms and rosemary, season with salt, and stir-fry until the mushrooms are browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Discard the rosemary.

Spoon the stir-fried mushrooms and any oil left in the pan over the meatballs and top with the pine nuts and shaved mushroom. Serve immediately.

MATSUTAKE BROTH

Makes 1 ½ cups / 360ml

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, sear the bacon until dark golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Add the onion to the pan and sear until very browned on one side, 1 to 2 minutes. Turn the heat to medium-low; add the seared bacon, chicken stock, both dried mushrooms, and kombu; and simmer until reduced to 1½ cups / 360ml, about 1 hour.

Fit a fine-mesh strainer over a medium bowl. Strain the broth and discard the solids. Stir the fish sauce into the broth. Let cool, transfer to an airtight container, and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for up to 2 months.

SIZZLING FISH

On a weekly basis, my mom would cook corned beef with cabbage, or chicken à la king, or sausage lasagna. It was too expensive to travel internationally, but we got to eat all over the world from our kitchen table. When she cooked food from her childhood, though, she would make us this steamed fish, topped with ginger, green onions, and fermented black beans. The flavor of steamed fish in Cantonese cuisine is all about sīn tìhm (鮮甜), the essential flavor of a fresh ingredient in combination with a pure, smooth sweetness. The final lashing of hot oil in this dish infuses the green onions and ginger into the flesh of the fish and enriches the soy. Take care not to overcook the fish; I like to turn off the heat in the last minutes of cooking and let the steam finish the job. The flesh should pull off the bone in tender morsels, not flake. I always score round, fleshy fish to help it cook evenly. Then I steam the fish only until the thickest flesh right behind the gill area is not quite opaque or, as Cantonese cooks say, “translucent like white jade.”

Active Time — 20 minutes

Makes 4 servings

Special Equipment — Steamer, 9-inch pie plate

  • 1 Tbsp fermented black beans (optional)
  • One 1½-lb / 680g whole fish (such as black bass or Tai snapper), gutted and scaled
  • large handful aromatics (such as thinly sliced ginger, green onion tops, and/or strips of fresh citrus zest)
  • ¼ cup / 60ml high-smoke-point oil (such as peanut oil)
  • 2 Tbsp premium soy sauce (頭抽, tàuh chāu) or light soy sauce (生抽, sāng chāu)
  • 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and thread cut
  • 3 green onions, thread cut (white parts only)
  • Young cilantro sprigs for garnishing

In a small bowl, cover the black beans (if using) with water, let soak for 30 minutes, and then drain.

Prepare a steamer in a wok or a large, lidded pot following the instructions on page 167 and bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat.

Meanwhile, using kitchen shears, cut off the gills and the fins (careful, sharp!) on the top, bottom, and sides of the fish. Run your fingers over the skin, especially near the gills and belly, toward the head to check for any last scales; remove the scales with the edge of a spoon or the back of a knife.

On both sides of the fish, make eight 2-inch-long parallel slits into the flesh, not quite deep enough to hit bone, starting about 1 inch from the gills. Place the fish in a pie plate. (The fish can hang over the edges so long as everything fits in the steamer. If not, cut the fish in half to fit and hope none of your guests are superstitious.) Tuck some of your chosen aromatics into each slit, then stuff the remaining aromatics in the cavity. Top the fish with the black beans.

Place the pie plate in the steamer, cover, and steam until the eyeball is opaque and the flesh of the fish is white and flaky at the thickest part near the head and first slit, 10 to 12 minutes.

While the fish is steaming, in a small heavy-bottom saucepan over low heat, slowly warm the oil.

When the fish is ready, remove it with the pie plate from the steamer. (Reassemble as a whole fish if you cut it in two.) Drizzle with the soy sauce, then top with the ginger and green onions. Turn the heat under the oil to high and warm until it just starts to smoke. Immediately pour the oil over the fish, getting as much of the ginger and green onions to sizzle as you can. Garnish with the cilantro and serve with a spoon big enough for drizzling the juices.

TAIWANESE-STYLE EGGPLANT

For this recipe, I prefer medium Chinese eggplants, the pale purple, slender ones that are ten to twelve inches long, over similar-looking but more bitter varieties. This calls for oil-blanching and, because eggplant is basically a sponge, brining them for an hour first until they are saturated but not bloated. During frying, the water turns to steam and makes the eggplant creamy and not at all oily.

Cooking is really the study of water. It takes water to grow everything, of course, and so the amount of water that remains in an ingredient after it is harvested or butchered dictates how it will heat through in the pan, whether it will soften, seize, crisp, or caramelize. You’re adding water when you use stocks, vinegars, or alcohol. You’re creating barriers to water with starches. How you cut ingredients and the order in which you add them to the pan is about controlling how and when they release the water inside them. Even the shapes of cooking vessels are about releasing or retaining moisture. When cooking with a wok, changes to water happen so quickly that split-second timing is essential.

Active Time — 25 minutes

Plan Ahead — You’ll need 1 hour for brining

Makes 4 servings

Special Equipment — Deep-fry thermometer, spider

  • 2 medium Chinese eggplants
  • 5 qt plus ¼ cup / 1L water
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 2 qt / 1.9L neutral oil
  • 3 Tbsp oyster sauce
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • 2¼ tsp granulated sugar
  • 5  garlic cloves; 2 thinly sliced, 3 finely chopped
  • 5 red Fresno chile, cut into thin rings
  • ¼ cup / 5g packed Thai or opal basil leaves, torn in half if large

Trim and discard the eggplant ends, then cut into thick wedges, like steak frites—first cut crosswise into three 3-inch chunks, then halve those lengthwise repeatedly until you have 1-inch-thick wedges.

In a large bowl, combine 1 qt / 950ml of the water and the salt and whisk until the salt is dissolved. Add the eggplant, making sure it is submerged, and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour.

Fill a 5-quart or larger Dutch oven with the neutral oil and secure a deep-fry thermometer on the side. Set over medium-high heat and warm the oil to 375°F.

Meanwhile, drain the eggplant and dry very well with paper towels. In a small bowl, combine the remaining ¼ cup / 60ml water, oyster sauce, fish sauce, and sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Set this sauce aside.

Add the sliced garlic to the oil and fry until crisp and light golden brown, about 30 seconds. Use a spider to transfer them to a paper towel to drain.

Check that the oil in the Dutch oven is still at 375°F. Set up for the second fry by setting a dry wok or large skillet over high heat.

Carefully slide all the eggplant into the oil. Stir until the eggplant has darkened and caramelized at the edges, about 1 minute. Remove the eggplant with the spider and drain well over the Dutch oven, then transfer to the screaming-hot wok.

Immediately add the chopped garlic and most of the chile rings (reserve a few for garnish) to the eggplant in the wok and toss everything to combine. Add the reserved sauce and continue to toss until the sauce thickens to a glaze and the eggplants are browned at the edges, about 1 minute. Add most of the basil leaves and toss until wilted.

Transfer the contents of the wok to a serving platter. Crumble the fried garlic and scatter it over the eggplant with the rest of the basil and chile rings. Serve immediately.

Women Traveling Solo

Dining aboard the Costa Verde Express, a luxury train through Northern Spain.

More and more women are hitting the road—and they’re traveling alone and loving setting their own itinerary and the freedom of being on their own. Indeed, consider the following statistics.

Travel companies dedicated to woman-only customers increased by 230% over the past few years.

32 million single American women traveled by themselves at least once over the past year and 1 in 3 travelled 5 times or more.

The search volume for the term ‘female solo travel’ across all search engines has increased by 62% over the past three years.

Bruchsal Palace, Bruchsal, Germany. Photo @janesimonammeson

But inflation and costs are also a concern. According to Seven Corners, a global travel insurer, released data in spring 2022 showing that one of the greatest concerns of Americans traveling this summer was the rising cost of travel. For women traveling alone, the cost of travel is different than when traveling as a family. Rather than worrying about the expense of 4+ tickets to a theme park, the concern could be based on up charges for accommodations for a single occupant. It can also be more difficult to find cost-effective transportation.

T/F talked to Becky Hart, communications specialist with Seven Corners for insights and tips on women traveling solo.

BH: Women travelers have come a long way in a relatively short amount of time. Up until 1925, women in the U.S. could only receive a passport in their married name. As a result, it’s safe to say that if you weren’t married, you weren’t going to be taking many international trips prior to 1925.

Maulbronn Monastery, Maulbronn, Germany

Today, it’s estimated that women account for 56 percent of leisure travelers. They also make about 85 percent of all travel decisions, such as where to go and what to do. Women are making these decisions, not only for their families, but also for themselves. Pinterest saw a 350 percent increase in women “pinning” solo trips from 2014 to 2021.

Although women still experience travel guilt more than men, the number of women who report feeling shame for bucking traditional gender roles and responsibilities in favor of traveling is declining. If we can continue on with that trend, and as women gain greater financial independence, it’s likely that we will see even more women traveling by themselves in the future.

T/F: For women wanting to travel for fun, what are some of the best/safest destinations and why?

Korakia Pensione, Palm Springs, California

For those traveling solo in the U.S., I recommend Portland, Oregon. As the largest city in Oregon, there’s just about anything you could want or need, yet it doesn’t feel overwhelmingly large. You shouldn’t have trouble finding the right accommodations for your budget in a neighborhood where you feel safe. You’ll also find excellent food and reliable public transportation, two things that can quickly eat up your budget. You can save even more money by bicycling. It’s an extremely bike-friendly city. There are plenty of bike lanes, and drivers know how to share the road.

Boredom can be a concern for many solo travelers, especially if you’re away for a long time. Portland has plenty to do, from quirky art exhibits and nature parks to late-night doughnut runs at the famous Voodoo Doughnuts and wine tasting in the nearby Willamette Valley.

If you’re looking for a destination outside the U.S., I recommend Chile. Having traveled in South America more than once, Chile is one of the countries I felt the safest. Its geography provides endless activities, whether you love beaches, mountains, or desert, and it doesn’t take much to get off the beaten path. Isla Chiloe in the far south is a fishing village full of fascinating — and sometimes humorous — folklore you won’t want to miss. This part of Patagonia is a relatively inexpensive region as well, so you may be able to make your travel budget stretch farther here.

Princess Majestic

T/F: I understand you’ve traveled by yourself. What are some insights you’ve gained?

Especially the first few times you travel solo, it’s hard. Harder than when you travel with someone else. That makes it the perfect opportunity to lean into challenges, whether it’s the logistics of rebooking canceled flights, navigating a new city, or feeling comfortable in your own skin. All the small victories that come during a solo trip build confidence, not only for your next solo adventure but also in your everyday life.

Trakošćan Castle, Croatia. Photo courtesy of Croatian Tourism Board.

Because solo travel can be more difficult, build in a little more time to recover during your trip than you might normally. For example, after a big day of touring an unfamiliar city where you’re using a lot of mental energy to learn your way around, staying aware of your surroundings, making sure you get the right train, maybe even communicating in a different language, spend the next day doing something more low-key. Schedule a single museum visit or a walk around a botanical garden so you don’t burn out.

I also recommend joining groups when it makes sense. While I enjoy the freedom of traveling solo, only doing what I want to on my schedule, teaming up with other travelers can work to your advantage. When I visited the Scottish Highlands, it didn’t make sense to rely on public transportation, which I’d been doing all over the UK for financial reasons. Buses didn’t always go to the rural Scottish castles I wanted to visit, and even if they did, it would have taken much longer than if I had my own transportation, limiting what I’d be able to see. I joined a tour group for the afternoon, complete with a van, driver and kilted tour guide. My bucket list was complete, and I didn’t break the budget by hiring a private car. There are plenty of ways to meet other travelers — on social media, through tour companies, in a hostel common room — if you need to find a group.

Dunnottar Castle, Aberdeenshire. Courtesy of Visit Scotland.

Finally, people aren’t paying you as much attention as you think. I only mention this because worrying about sticking out in a crowd is enough to make some people cancel their plans before they even get started. So many solo travelers have a fear of dining alone. If you’re really concerned about eating at a restaurant by yourself, carry a book or journal with you. It gives you something else to focus on besides your anxieties.

T/F: Why do you think the stigma of women traveling alone has changed so much?

I think the stigma around women traveling alone has diminished in many of the same ways women doing anything independently has diminished. As we continue to make inroads professionally and become more self-sufficient financially, we have the freedom to travel more. One of the reasons women enjoy traveling solo is because it puts them in charge of their own adventure. We don’t need to compromise on where we go, what we eat, or what sites we visit when we can call our own shots.

Cheese shop in Amsterdam. @janesimonammeson

I also think continuing to break the stigma of women traveling solo can transfer to empowering women in their everyday lives. We build such important intangible skills when we travel — creative problem solving, empathy and cultural awareness, confidence to advocate for ourselves, greater understanding of our own self — it only makes sense that we would bring our knowledge back home.

T/F: What cost-saving advice do you have for women travelers?

One cost-saving tip is to look for tour companies and accommodations that don’t upcharge you for being on your own. Some hotels, for example, charge you for double-occupancy accommodations, even if you’re the only one staying there. Ways I’ve gotten around this is by staying in hostels that charge by the person rather than by the room (and sometimes sucking it up and bunking with strangers), or by booking a single room at a B&B. A bed and breakfast can be pricier than other options, but I’ve found that you typically also get more for your money. And as a solo female traveler, I also find a sense of security in the personal service. A B&B operator may be more likely to notice if you don’t come back in the evening or if you’re too sick to come down for breakfast. You’re less likely to find that amongst a rotating shift of employees at a large hotel.

Izmal, Mexico @janesimonammeson

Airbnbs are another good option for saving money on accommodations. Look for properties that are renting out a room or apartment that better fits your needs and budget rather than an entire house.

One of the things I love most about travel is eating. I want to sample all the new foods I can’t find at home. With travel companions, you can order multiple entrees and share. However, as a solo traveler, that can be unrealistic. Instead, look for food markets where you can sample smaller portions. Haven’t seen that fruit before? Buy one piece instead of a whole bunch at a store. That one pastry that looks too good to pass up? Get it. Vendors might be more willing than a grocery store employee to give you a taste of something, too. Make a meal out of sample-sized treats. This is one of the things I like about tapas in Spain. I’m not committed to too much of any one dish.

Torre Loizaga, Spain @janesimonammeson

Finally, try to be flexible about when you travel. If you can book during the offseason or shoulder season, you’ll often find better deals on flights, hotels, excursions, maybe even restaurants than at other times of year.


T/F: What safety procedures do you recommend for women traveling alone?

Paris Cafe at night @janesimonammeson

Some safety tips apply to everyone, regardless of who they’re traveling with and where. Number one is to do your research. It’s easy to make sweeping statements about this city or that country being safe. But anywhere you go will have exceptions. Once you’ve decided on a destination, take it a step farther and research which neighborhoods are safest.

If you’re arriving at your destination by plane, try to schedule your arrival for daylight hours. You’ll find it easier to orient yourself in a new city, and it’s safer than at night. Only arrange rideshares or taxis through verified and trusted companies. If you aren’t sure, ask your lodging or host to arrange a ride for you so you can be sure your transportation is legitimate.

Stay alert to your surroundings. The obvious reason is so you can spot if you’re walking into a potentially dangerous situation before it’s too late. But being aware can also help you avoid a cultural faux pas that inadvertently escalates and puts you in harm’s way. Observe what the locals are doing and imitate them if it’s appropriate. This includes everything from how to queue in line at the café to more complex religious practices.

I also think it’s always a good idea to think about your travel style and what you’re comfortable with, then make adjustments to your plans based on that. Some women love to head out for the day without much of a plan and just see where the winds take them. Personally, I get nervous without a plan and knowing where I’m going. I tend to get lost easily, and that makes me feel less safe. So, I rarely set out without having researched bus lines or having a general set of directions if I’m walking, all jotted down in a tiny notebook, which also has important phone numbers and addresses, that I carry with me at all times.

T/F: Why do you recommend travel insurance for women travelers?

Old Montreal @janesimonammeson

I recommend travel insurance because it’s hard to predict what’s going to happen. Especially if you’re a woman traveling solo on a budget, you want to know that the investment you’ve made in your trip is protected if something goes wrong. If your luggage is lost or damaged, travel insurance can help. If you get sick, travel insurance can also help cover the costs of medical treatment. Travel assistance services, which come with all Seven Corners’ plans, are also a great benefit for solo travelers. Navigating a foreign health care system is tricky enough. When you’re the one who’s sick or hurt and you don’t have a travel companion on site to manage things or advocate for you, having a team like Seven Corners Assist to help you find medical treatment, arrange translation services, and even arrange to have you evacuated or brought back home in extreme cases can be extremely beneficial. Those aren’t things you want to have to figure out for the first time when you don’t feel well.

T/F: Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

West Baden Springs Resort, West Baden, Indiana. Photo courtesy of Visit French Lick.

There will always be an excuse to not take a trip. Chances are that those obstacles aren’t as unbeatable as you think. Your family can manage at least a couple of days without you. So can your employer. Your budget might be able to stretch farther than you realize if you plan well and play it smart. All those doubts about whether you have what it takes to do it on your own are in your head. Start small if you have to — a long-weekend microcation or a vacation to a place you’re already somewhat familiar with — but just start. Take the trip.

Cover photo by Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash

The Twisted Soul Cookbook: Modern Soul Food with Global Flavors

“My cuisine has always been at the intersection of food and culture,” said Chef Deborah VanTrece, owner of the Twisted Soul Cookhouse and Pours in Atlanta, Georgia. “Having traveled the world as a flight attendant, I experienced how different cultures have their own versions of what we would call ‘soul food.’ My approach to cooking revolves around taking a modern, global approach to soul food, combined with the food I grew up eating with my family. THE TWISTED SOUL COOKBOOK will take you on a journey around the world right from your kitchen.”

Across chapters filled with vibrant photography, her book offers 100 recipes for dishes ranging from fresh salads and sides, generous entrees, exciting seafood, rich desserts, and brilliant as well as practical pantry staples to amplifying everyday cooking, including dressings, relishes, preserves, and sauces. An engaging teacher and storyteller, VanTrece shows home cooks the way to use techniques both simple and sophisticated to ensure a delicious outcome every time.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Chef Deborah VanTrece opened the acclaimed Twisted Soul Cookhouse and Pours in 2014, and since then, the award-winning soul food restaurant has appeared on numerous Best Of lists, including features in the New York Times, Bon Appetit, NPR, Eater, Essence, Thrillist, Buzzfeed, Kitchn, and Food & Wine, winning acclaim for her mastery of imported cooking techniques and delicious globally informed cuisine.

She is included in 2020’s Tasty Pride: Recipes and Stories from the Queer Food Community; this is her first cookbook.

RECIPES

Grandma Lue’s Spinach Rice

  • 3 cups cooked white rice, chilled
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • ½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • ½ cup chopped celery
  • ½ cup red bell pepper
  • 1 cup chopped red onion
  • 4 lbs fresh baby spinach, washed and trimmed
  • 1 cup chopped marinated artichokes
  • 12 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 350°. Generously grease a deep casserole or 9 by 13-inch baking pan.

In a large bowl, stir together the cold rice and beaten eggs.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the celery, peppers, onions and spinach and cook, stirring occasionally for 2 to 3 minutes, until the onions are translucent and the spinach is wilted.

Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the artichokes, cream cheese, sour cream, Parmesan and garlic. Cool for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cream cheese has melted and all of the ingredients are well combined.

Add the spinach-cheese mixture to the rice. With a wooden spoon, stir in the black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and salt.

Spoon into prepared baking dish, and cover with foil. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned. Let rest for 15 minutes before serving.

Bacon-Praline Macaroni and Cheese

  • 6 cups elbow macaroni, cooked al dente and drained
  • 1 tbsp Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
  • 1 tbsp ground white pepper
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 3 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 8 cups milk, warmed
  • 6 oz cream cheese, diced
  • 12 oz. American cheese, diced
  • 3 large eggs
  • 8 oz applewood-smoked bacon (8 to 10 slices), cooked and crumbled

Praline topping:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped pecans or pecan pieces
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup dried breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Transfer the cooked macaroni to a large bowl.

In a small bowl, stir together the seasoned salt, white pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. Sprinkle half of this seasoning mixture and 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese over the macaroni and toss to combine.

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and continue to whisk for 3 to 5 minutes, until it makes a light roux. Reduce the heat to medium and whisk in the milk. Once all the milk is incorporated, cook for another 5 to 8 minutes, until the sauce reaches a simmer. Add the diced cream cheese and American cheese in batches, stirring until smooth. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of the remaining shredded cheddar cheese and turn off the heat. Add the remaining seasoning mixture and stir well. Quickly whisk in the eggs until they are incorporated.

Country Captain Chicken Stew

This classic dish shows the influence of the Indian spice trade throughout the ports of the old South,’ says VanTrece about her recipe for a dish that dates back centuries.

  • 1 (2 1/2- to 3-lb chicken, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1 tsp Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
  • 2 tbsp duck fat or unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes (3 to 4 medium)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp curry powder
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 (13.5-oz can coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Peanut rice noodles:
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup sliced scallions
  • 1 (8.8-oz package rice noodles, cooked according to package directions, tossed in a little vegetable oil to prevent clumping, and chilled for 30 minutes
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 cup toasted peanuts, plus more for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).

In a large bowl, sprinkle the chicken pieces with the seasoned salt, onion powder, garlic powder and white pepper. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 to 3 hours to marinate.

In a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat, melt the duck fat. When hot, add the chicken pieces and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Transfer to a platter and set aside.

Spring Pea, Bacon, and Radish Salad

“This dressing is so universally loved, it doesn’t need an explanation,” write VanTrece in the recipe’s introduction. “The extra herbs just add a notch to the flavor factor. It’s not only great for salads, you can use it atop salmon, fried green tomatoes, or as a dip for chicken wings.”

  • 3 cups fresh or frozen peas (thawed, if frozen), blanched and drained, then chilled
  • 6 slices applewood smoked bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1 cup thinly sliced radishes
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint, plus additional leaves for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Salt and ground white pepper

In a large bowl, combine the peas, bacon, radishes, red onion, chopped fresh mint, and lemon zest, toss gently with the mayonnaise and honey. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and garnish with whole mint leaves. Serves 6.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving: 195 calories (percent of calories from fat, 54), 8 grams protein, 15 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 12 grams total fat (4 grams saturated), 19 milligrams cholesterol, 324 milligrams sodium.

Buttermilk Dressing

“This dressing is so universally loved, it doesn’t need an explanation,” writes VanTrece. “The extra herbs just add a notch to the flavor factor. It’s not only great for salads, you can use it atop salmon, fried green tomatoes, or as a dip for chicken wings.”

Buttermilk Dressing

  • 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon granulated onion
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

In a food processor, combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, buttermilk, salt, granulated garlic, granulated onion, and pepper and process until smooth. Pulse in the fresh parsley, oregano, thyme, and chives until just combined. The dressing should be creamy but with a pleasing texture from the herbs.

Makes about 4 cups.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per tablespoon: 23 calories (percent of calories from fat, 70), trace protein, 1 gram carbohydrates, trace fiber, 2 grams total fat (trace saturated fat), 3 milligrams cholesterol, 75 milligrams sodium.

Aunt Lucille’s 7UP Pound Cake

About this recipe, VanTrece writes, “This is a pound cake, and the only cake I can ever remember my Aunt Lucille ever making. For me, it will always carry cherished memories of celebrations and good times. This is the kind of recipe that reminds you how good old-fashioned cakes were (and can be). Definitely use 7UP for this recipe because it has a high level of carbonation that helps the cake to rise, and gives it a brighter, fresher lemon-lime flavor than other sodas.”

For the pound cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups cake flour, sifted, divided
  • 3/4 cup 7UP, divided
  • For the 7UP glaze:
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons 7UP
  • 1 teaspoon grated lime zest 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Spray a 10-inch Bundt or tube pan with nonstick cooking spray (see note above).

In the bowl of a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, cream together the butter and granulated sugar for 5 to 7 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Add the lemon zest, lemon extract, and vanilla extract and mix until combined. Add the flour one-third at a time and mix on low speed, alternating with 1/4-cup portions of the 7UP, mixing well after each addition.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool for 30 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack and lift the pan off of the cake. Let the cake cool on the rack.

While the cake cools, make the glaze: In a small bowl, stir together the confectioners’ sugar, lemon juice, 7UP, and lime zest until smooth.

Using a 6-inch wooden skewer or toothpick, poke holes in the top of the cooled cake. Slowly spoon the glaze over the cake, letting it run into the holes and over the surface.

Set the cake aside for 10 minutes before serving to let the glaze absorb into the cake and give it a lightly lacquered finish.

The cake can be made well in advance, wrapped tightly in plastic, and frozen for up to 4 months. It will keep moist and can be pulled out to thaw several hours before serving. It’s great served alone or with ice cream or fresh fruit compote. Serves 12 to 16.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving, based on 12: 598 calories (percent of calories from fat, 38), 6 grams protein, 89 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 25 grams total fat (15 grams saturated), 138 milligrams cholesterol, 36 milligrams sodium.

All the above recipes and images are excerpted from The Twisted Soul Cookbook by Deborah VanTrece. Copyright © 2021 Deborah VanTrece. Photography by Noah Fecks. Published by Rizzoli. Reproduced by arrangement with the publisher. All rights reserved