Five Beers to Celebrate This Oktoberfest

August 28th, 2014 | Author: | No Comments »

German Beers Oktoberfest

I had the chance to interview Horst Dornbusch, perhaps the premier expert on German beers, for this recent roundup of five must-try rare brews in Rhapsody magazine, just in time for Oktoberfest. He was a very charming guy and managed to give me a gloss of the entire history of beer in about 15 minutes. While I am not going to get too detailed into that here, I did want to include an additional beer he recommended that could not fit into our roundup — an ideal drink for those seeking an organic option to sip at their local beer hall.

At Der Ratskeller in München (a vaulted restaurant in the basement of the old City Hall at Marienplatz in the very center of Munich, try a 100% organic Weizen or Pils from Neumarkter Lammsbräu; or a 100% organic “historic emmer bier” from the Riedenburger brewery.

Read the story in Rhapsody magazine.

Watch That Man

August 28th, 2014 | Author: | No Comments »

David Bowie Is Chicago

Trying to encapsulate in a single space the career of one of rock music’s most prolific and perpetually reinventive artists is no simple task. Yet that was the challenge before the curators of “David Bowie Is,” a retrospective on the musician opening at the Museum of ContemporaryArt, Chicago on September 23.

“The goal was to show what an innovator he’s been all these years,” says chief curator Michael Darling, summarizing what unifies the show’s more than 400 objects, including handwritten lyrics, 60 costumes, music-video set designs and even personal diary entries. As Darling puts it, every piece was selected to reflect how the Thin White Duke “has a good nose for the zeitgeist and where the culture is heading.”

He points to the section on Bowie’s “Berlin period” in the late 1970s, which includes brooding paintings and photographs that the artist made while holed up in a German apartment. During that time, Bowie created albums like Low and Heroes with minimalist sound and abstract lyrics that not only captured the Cold War mood of the moment but influenced rock music for decades to come. Darlingorganized the show chronologically, and he says it will offer “a dynamic and immersive experience,” with design cues that signal Bowie’s transformations during his near half-century of creative output. But, as the exhibit’s title suggests, the only era that matters to Bowie is now.

“He’s not someone prone to look backward,” Darling says.

Read the story at Rhapsody magazine.

A Culinary Eco-Tour Across Louisiana’s Southern Coast

July 21st, 2014 | Author: | No Comments »

Louisiana Grosse Savanne Eco ToursTo really appreciate Louisiana’s amazing food, take in the state’s striking landscapes — and vice versa. Viewing the sugar-cane fields or Gulf of Mexico shores helps you fully enjoy the food produced in the area, while shelling a crawfish or eating boudin will deepen your appreciation of the terrain from which it came.

During a weeklong road trip across the state’s southern coast, I immersed myself in Louisiana’s vistas and food, and the work many in the state are doing to sustain them both. A Southern Louisiana road trip can go west to east — flying into Houston and out of New Orleans — but I opted for the more scenic route, looping through the state from New Orleans to Lake Charles, and back. This meant a little extra driving, but if you’re a fan of open water, cypress trees and the spookily stunning backdrops of HBO’s “True Detective,” you’ll savor the extra hours on the road.

In Louisiana, food is like fingerprints: No two gumbos, bread puddings, or étouffées (a thick stew usually served with shellfish over rice) are alike. It’s this diversity that led the city of Lake Charles to formalize its Southwest Louisiana Boudin Trail (

Boudin (pronounced “boo-dan”) is the Cajun cousin of sausage links, made by blending pork, liver, rice, onions and seasonings, then stuffing them into a casing.

I got my first taste of the finger food at B&O Kitchen and Grocery, a meat market owned by the third generation of the Benoit family, which sells at least 150 to 200 pounds of boudin daily. While B&O’s smoked links were my favorite, visitors can sample around at any of the 27 stops on the Boudin Trail, which include restaurants, markets, and even a gas station, scattered along Interstate 10 and Highway 90.

Read the rest at the New York Daily News.

Ancient and Modern Meet in Istanbul

May 28th, 2014 | Author: | No Comments »

Istanbul Grand BazaarIstanbul may be a world away in both geography and culture, but New Yorkers who visit will feel right at home.

The Turkish metropolis, which straddles the Bosphorus Strait dividing Europe and Asia, has seen a population explosion, now with more than 14 million people living in the city, coming from all corners of the country and world.

This influx of people not only makes Istanbul a bustling destination (with a vibrant art and film scene, as well as sidewalks packed with pedestrians, just like Gotham), but has led to rapid development and great new attractions in previously overlooked areas.

A number of new hotels have opened recently, with others slated for completion in coming months. Among the most notable is the Hilton Istanbul Bomonti Hotel & Conference Center. When it opened in January, the 34-story tower atop a hill in the once-sleepy Sisli district became the city’s largest hotel and conference center, with 829 rooms and suites with floor-to-ceiling windows and cutting-edge in-room technology.

Among the cool conveniences: The surround-sound system connects directly to your MP3 player, and you can activate the “Do Not Disturb” alert with the push of a bedside button.

But while the hotel exudes modernity, what sets it apart is how it simultaneously embraces Istanbul’s past. The Hilton’s Eforea spa, in addition to a full menu of treatments drawing on health research, provides a traditionalhamam , in which the guest lies on a marble slab while being soaped and rinsed by an attendant. The Globe restaurant downstairs provides high-end dining in the evenings and traditional Turkish fare throughout the day.

But the most significant connection to the past is where the hotel gets its name from — the Bomonti Beer Factory, which adjoins the property. The 125-year old structure had for a century produced one of the country’s favorite beverages but it fell into disuse. It’s now in the process of being converted into a massive restaurant, shopping and entertainment complex that will maintain the factory’s original structure and incorporate its history into the new bars, stores and venues slated to open this August.

This balance of old and new is reflective of Istanbul as a whole. The city’s history of art, innovation and transformation dates back millennia and is central to the destination’s identity today.

Take the astounding Hagia Sophia, the grand church-turned-mosque-turned-museum, which captures in one structure the seismic changes the area has experienced. It sits where a Byzantine temple to Greek gods and goddesses stood until A.D. 360, when it became a Christian place of worship, expanded in 532 to become the largest church in the world. It stood for 916 years, until Sultan Mehmet II conquered the city, it became part of the Ottoman Empire, and he plastered over the Sophia’s Christian iconography, converting it into the largest mosque in the world. Five centuries later, Turkey declared its independence, Constantinople became Istanbul, and the structure became the museum it is today, where artifacts and architectural elements tell the story of this varied past.

Read the rest at New York Daily News.

All-Inclusives Raise the Culinary Bar

April 3rd, 2014 | Author: | No Comments »
Chef Walter Staib, culinary ambassador for Sandals Resorts

Chef Walter Staib, culinary ambassador for Sandals Resorts

“All inclusive” may be synonymous with “all-you-can eat, drink and do,” but recently some major resort brands have taken steps to make their culinary offerings as much about quality as quantity.

Recent initiatives from Sandals, Iberostar and others are aiming to show that all-inclusive resorts can offer top-notch meals, too.

At the beginning of last year, Sandals introduced its “Discovery Dining” program. While the brand has made a variety of international cuisines central to its offerings for years, the Discovery Dining initiative aims to elevate the existing menus to offer a more localized, personal take to the 140 restaurants throughout the brand’s 15 Caribbean resorts.

For example, instead of offering generic “Italian” cuisine, as it once had, each of Sandals’ Italian restaurant brands now specialize in a specific region of the country, incorporating its particular ingredients and culinary approach into the menu. Fine Italian restaurant Armando’s offers dishes from the Campania region, such as Spaghetti Puttanesca (with anchovies, olives and caper) or M’pepatella Di Cozze (mussels with parsley and lemon), in addition to an expansive anti-pasti bar.

“The whole idea is to extend what we do well and do it even better,” says Paul Bauer, group manager of F&B standards for Sandals Resorts.

Each restaurant also now has its own signature cocktail, such as the Rosemary Gin Fizz (gin, honey, lime juice, soda and rosemary) as well as a Manager’s List wine selection. Reflecting the brand’s Jamaican roots, it is also offering Appleton’s Rum at all its properties and Blue Mountain Coffee in all its rooms.

Read the rest at the New York Daily News.

Jamaica Jaunt

March 10th, 2014 | Author: | No Comments »

Dunn's River FallsBeat the cold New York weather by heading to Ocho Rios, where you can relax on the beach, climb a waterfall and check out live reggae. This north-coast Jamaican paradise is just a four-hour flight from JFK Airport and then a 90-minute drive east of Montego Bay.

It’s name is Spanish for “eight rivers,” but the city doesn’t actually have eight rivers. Ocho Rios is best known for Dunn’s River Falls, a 600-foot limestone staircase of lagoons and spring-water cascades.

This is not a natural wonder simply to be admired. Bring your swimsuit and jump right in. Tours are available, in which guides lead you up the falls, telling stories and pointing out the local vegetation, and even filming the ascent to edit into a DVD within the hour (if you want to hand over $40 for a copy). It’s an amazing experience to interact with such an awesome spectacle.

The falls end near James Bond Beach — in the nearby town of Oracabessa — where scenes from the 1962 film “Dr. No” were filmed. Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond novels that inspired the movies, loved Jamaica. His old estate, Goldeneye, is now an exclusive resort in Oracabessa.

Just a short drive from James Bond Beach (about 25 minutes) is Dolphin Cove (, which offers the chance to swim with dolphins and interact with exotic birds and iguanas. Visitors who don’t have a car can get there by taxi; they are affordable and responsive and can be called by most hotel front desks.

Read the rest at the New York Daily News.

Touring Queens’ Christmas Past

December 23rd, 2013 | Author: | No Comments »

flushingtownhallhistory_all_2012_08_09_q9_courtesyflushingtownhall_iLast weekend, many Queens residents took a step back in time by joining in the Queens Historical Society’s 26th annual Holiday Historic House Tour.

The tour, which took place Dec. 8, gave participants a chance to visit seven different historic sites in the borough, which showcased a wide range of previous eras and cultures, from the 17th century to the early 20th.

While the tour has been running for a quarter century, this year was the first time the Louis Armstrong House Museum was included as a stop. The Corona landmark was purchased by the music legend and his wife in 1943. Visitors had a chance to not only learn about the site, but hear some holiday gems from Armstrong as well.

“We had a great response from our visitors,” said Jennifer Walden, director of marketing for the Armstrong museum. “Most of our visitors were first-time guests. They had heard about the house but had not had a chance to visit yet.”

Those who dropped in heard rare recordings of Armstrong reading “A Visit From St. Nicholas” and other Christmas pieces, and also got to sample some complimentary sweets.

Dating even further back is Flushing Town Hall. The 1862 building was once the political center of Flushing, and its rich history was celebrated as part of the historic house tour. Now serving primarily as a performance space, the Town Hall delighted guests with a program of classical music. The Balsam Trio — Alex Hu, Sverre Bauge, and Pei-Hsuan Tsai — from Queens College’s Aaron Copland School of Music, performed pieces from Beethoven and Brahms, accompanied by guest artists Abram Korsunsky and Gloria Shih of the Gracieux Piano Trio.

Read the full story at the Queens Times Ledger.

Scintillating Seattle

December 20th, 2013 | Author: | No Comments »

IMG_2670Sure, Seattle’s weather tends to be gray and somber, but that’s true of little else here.

The Washington city boasts a flashy new exhibit, innovative food and beverage options, and blossoming artsy neighborhoods.

For a colorful cultural experience, check out the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit ( at the Seattle Center. This indoor-outdoor exhibition showcases the elaborate glass sculptures of Washington artist Dale Chihuly, whose work has been shown throughout the world, including current pieces at the Borgata in Atlantic City and the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

Among the many room-size pieces on display are Mille Fiori (Italian for “a thousand flowers”), which looks like Willy Wonka’s factory rendered in glass instead of chocolate; the psychedelic Persian Ceiling; and the Sealife Room, where a massive ocean-blue glass tower imitates a swirling tide of starfish, conch shells and urchins.

In the outdoor garden, the sculptor’s multicolored glass flowers and plants sit among real flora in the shadow of the Space Needle (, which continues to command the city skyline. A trip to the top of the 605-foot landmark costs $21 for adults and $12 for kids under 13 (with discounts during later hours). It’s worth the price for travelers looking to get oriented in the city.

In addition to wine, snacks and interactive displays — with new enhancements slated for next summer — the Needle’s rotating SkyCity Restaurant offers locally sourced seafood and entrees that are worthy of the awesome view.

Read the full story at the New York Daily News.

Inside the Music of Inside Llewyn Davis

December 11th, 2013 | Author: | No Comments »

TBoneOver four decades in the recording biz, he’s produced albums for Roy Orbison and Elton John, toured with Bob Dylan and won an Oscar and an incredible 13 Grammys, the latest for a song he cowrote with Taylor Swift. And now, for his latest trick—having apparently conquered the present—T Bone Burnett will travel back in time.

Sort of. As executive music producer for Joel and Ethan Coen’s new film, Inside Llewyn Davis, Burnett’s mission was to reproduce the sound of Greenwich Village circa 1961, just about the time Dylan came on the scene and folk music blew up. The film follows a struggling singer-songwriter (Oscar Isaac) through a week of emotional and professional ups and—mostly—downs. In his own words, here’s how Burnett did it.

It’s called Travis guitar style. It comes from Merle Travis and has to do with using your thumb for alternating bass patterns while playing melodies with your fingers at the same time. It’s a feel thing, and one should really have to do it over a certain amount of time to gain mastery of it—but this is something Oscar just got.

It’s a different process. With a singer, you might say, “Sing louder” or “use vibrato,” but with an actor you’d say, “Sing like you’ve got a hangover.”

Read the full Q&A at Rhapsody magazine.

Thoughtful Bubbles

December 11th, 2013 | Author: | No Comments »


RichardJuhlinI had a chance to interview Richard Juhlin, arguably the world’s top champagne expert, for United Airlines’ new Rhapsody magazine. He has a new book out, Scent of Champagne, in which he tastes and offers notes on 8,000 (!) different champagnes — a world record. While his superhuman sense memory would make a fascinating story in itself, we were focusing on how to enjoy bubbly during the new year:

“Champagne can suffer from its association as a celebration drink,” he says. “When people think, ‘it tastes good, it’s fun,’ they forget about its many other qualities.”

That’s not to say revelers should be spending New Year’s Eve scrutinizing their glasses. But an evening can be elevated by short “technical tastings,” along with a brief discussion about each selection’s attributes. This incudes the champagne’s appearance (a lemon-yellow hue for chardonnay grapes, more reddish for pinot), scent (identifying aromas of flowers, fruits, and even pastries with a touch of chalk or minerals from the soil), and flavor (including density and aftertaste). Juhlin calls this “really listening to the music that the champagne is playing.”

So how best to hear? Surprisingly, bigger is better. A wine matures more slowly in a larger bottle since the proportion of air between the cork and liquid is smaller, so Juhlin urges reaching for magnum sizes (1.5 liters) rather than standards (0.75 liters) for a more refined, less oxidized flavor. Not only does the bottle look more impressive, the drink inside tastes better.

Though there was not enough space for it, Richard also provided me with a suggested four-course menu along with wine pairings that would make for an ideal New Year’s Eve feast with friends.

  • Caviar; paired with Henriot blanc de blancs, Comtes de Champagne or Billecart blanc de blancs
  • Lobster or salad; paired with Leclapart Amateur, Agrapart Venus or Selosse
  • Sole or turbot; paired with Dom Pérignon, R. Lalou, La Grande Dame or Cristal
  • Game or venison; paired with Egly-Ouriet, Bollinger or a Clos des Goisses

Read the piece in this month’s Rhapsody here.