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along the turquoise trail

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Flying in to Albuquerque, New Mexico from there I took the Turquoise Trail to reach Santa Fe and spent a night at a Bed and Breakfast on a ranch along the way. A National Scenic Byway, Highway 14 starts to get interesting once you reach Madrid. A small old mining town that’s full of character, it’s a quaint stop. It’s also full of dust, but bright colors splashed everywhere from stores to mailboxes makes up for it. The Mine Shaft Tavern is a must-stop to enjoy a local beer and catch Harley riders. It also happens to be a historic saloon, and a gem of a spot. The locals quickly pointed out it’s pronounced Maad-rid unlike the city in Spain. There’s plenty of art studios, galleries, vintage shops and cowboy boots to find along the main street. Venturing on to Cerrillos, you’ll feel as though you ventured back in time. It’s a quintessential old American Western town. A number of films have been made in the area, it captures the heart of the West. Though you won’t find turquoise along the way, one of the best things about sleeping in one of the resorts or ranches along the trail is that you will find a multitude of stars at night. Serene and peaceful is the best way to describe my overnight stay. A short trip, with still more to explore, I hope to venture back.

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For more posts on New Mexico, have a taste of Chimayó Chiles.

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chimayó chiles

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San Francisco Chronicle’s Michael Bauer spent time in Santa Fe earlier this month and shared a taste of his visit to the city’s farmer’s market for a green chile cheeseburger smackdown. With harvest behind, bushels of peppers to buy and festivals to look forward to, it’s prime chile season in New Mexico this time of year. Reading about it reminded me of my own trip to the Land of Enchantment a couple of years back, and it served as an incentive to revisit and dish up my own memories.

With the exception of staying a few nights along The Turquoise Trail, Santa Fe served as my home base for the duration of my visit to New Mexico allowing me to take leisurely day trips to nearby places of interest. With the hopes of capturing postcard views, I set my sites on a northeastern town that promised adobes and an opportunity to experience local culture.

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Destination: Chimayó
Roughly 28 miles heading northeast from Santa Fe along what’s dubbed as the high-desert corridor, I set out to see El Santuario de Chimayóm, an old adobe church that’s visited by thousands of pilgrims each year. Food is always on my mind, but traveling a bit on a whim I hadn’t realized at the time that Chimayó is not only a draw for its church, but it’s also famous for its chiles. I learned this along the way when I stopped at a roadside stand selling green and red heirloom peppers along with locally grown squash.

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Harvested in late summer, Chimayó chiles are picked when green, or left longer to ripen on the vine and then picked later in the fall when a lush red. The red dried peppers are strung into chains or wreaths that are called ristras or dried and ground into a chile molido or powder. Though both are from the same plant, the green chiles tend to be fleshier than their red counterparts. The red peppers tend to exhibit a deeper, richer flavor. The founders of the Chimayo Chile Project describe the flavor of these peppers as “chocolaty with more flavor than heat” and “if sunbaked they get an added tang”. Red or green, chiles are synonymous with New Mexico’s cuisine and are incorporated into almost all traditional dishes.

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The Chimayó Chile Project grows its chiles using “natural cultivation methods” and is intent on preserving the seeds to pass on to future generations. These heirlooms have a long history, arriving with the Spanish to the New World more than 300 years ago. Similar to wine, “terroir” and uniqueness of place is important to this industry as well as the state goes to great lengths to protect its name affiliated with these premium homegrown peppers.

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If you’re curious for more about Chimayó chiles and for a taste, here are a few reads and recipes:
Chimayó’s Chile Culture Saveur
Mrs. Sanchez’s Red Chile Sauce Saveur
Huntley Dent’s Red Chile Sauce Serious Eats
Chimayó-Chile Risotto with Shiitake Mushrooms Food & Wine

While you have chiles on your mind, be sure to checkout East of Eden’s Chili Corn Bread made with Hatch chiles, a variety also grown in New Meixco.

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somek winery


Off a main narrow road in Zichron Ya’acov, in a rather obscure location, you can find Somek. I wasn’t familiar with the winery or wine until a friend arranged a visit. On a whim, I had a chance to visit this small boutique winery, taste their wine and spend an afternoon with their vigneron.


Perched atop the south end of the Carmel Mountain range in Israel, overlooking the Mediterranean sea, Zichron is an alluring place to visit. A beautiful and unpretentious spot for a stroll, the downtown cobblestone streets are aligned with bistros, cafés and other eateries along with various shops and small boutiques where you can find hand-made crafts. Interspersed amongst homes and shops are a couple of museums, converted old buildings that share the history behind the place. The original agricultural based moshav was established in 1882 and called Zamirin. A year following, the Baron Edmond de Rothschild, taking interest in its success and supporting the early pioneers, became a patron. He changed the name of Zamirin to Zichron Ya’akov in memory of his father, Baron James de Rothschild of the world renowned winery Château Lafite. Playing a pivotal philanthropic role not only in the establishment of Zichron and other towns in Israel, the Baron also takes credit for bringing vines to Zichron and planting roots for a future wine industry as a way for the pioneers to support themselves. Winemaking in Israel, an ancient craft, dates back to biblical times. The pioneers of Zichron harnessed their passion to return to the land of their forefathers, and took on the challenge to bring back this ancient tradition. They cultivated the early vines from France, and along with the Baron, established one of Israel’s first wineries and bottling centers (another winery was founded slightly prior but around the same time by the Baron in Rishon LeZion).

Barak Dahan

Somek Estate’s Proprietor – Barak Dahan

Barak Dahan’s great-great-grandfather was one of the original families from Romania who helped establish Zichron. Barak’s family continued farming for generations, living and growing wine grapes near the area. Barak, a fifth generation farmer, in 2002 along with his wife Hila, who holds a Masters in Viticulture and Oenology from the University of Adelaide, Australia, decided to try their hand at crafting wine. They established Somek in Barak’s grandfather’s home and converted the old place into an operational winery.


Barak greeted us that sunny afternoon to share his personal history, and his experience with growing grapes to creating and bottling wine. He took us through the process, from vine to bottle, explaining in-depth each stage of winemaking. Recreating and describing each task, we toured Somek (which means “blush” in Hebrew), the indoor oak barrel room and ventured to the small office where Barak himself puts labels on the bottles, then gets the bottles ready for market. Continuing to grow grapes for the large wineries in the region, Barak and Hila dedicate a portion of their land to harvest their own grapes and create wine that first and foremost pleases their palate. A small boutique establishment, Somek produces roughly 10,000 bottles a year. The wine is crafted using traditional machinery though the end result is different than wine being bottled en masse by the more established wineries. The grapes are crushed in a manually operated old crusher and then moved in small buckets to French oak barrels for fermentation. This technique, and lack of filtering, is an effort to extract as much color from the grapes and preserve as much of the essence of the grapes as possible.


Somek’s Chardonnay for example is much deeper, almost golden in color, rich in fruit. Barak notes this might not win him points with old-school wine reviewers, but he jokes if the wine doesn’t win rave reviews, at least he and his family will have plenty of delicious wine to enjoy. Somek may be producing relatively small quantities, but a few top chefs and restaurants in Israel are already recognizing the high quality of Somek’s wine, giving it praise and are adding Somek to their wine list. Israel’s modern day boutique wine industry may be relatively young, but wineries such as Somek are producing results that are starting to impress wine connoisseurs and are garnering more attention.


After the detailed tour, and a chance to ask questions, we had a chance to taste Somek’s wine, starting with the Chardonnay. Rich and golden in color, with a lightly floral nose of honey and citrus blossoms, medium-bodied and lightly oaked, the wine was creamy with a mix of stone fruit and an almost spring-almond nutty taste. It was distinctly different than the Chardonnay’s I was more familiar with from California; this Chardonnay was well enjoyed.

After the Chardonnay we tasted the 2008 Adom (adom translates to red in Hebrew), comprised of 40% Syrah, 40% Carignan, 10% Malbec and 10% Mourvèdre. The Adom models a Côtes du Rhône or Rhone style wine. After fermentation, the wine was aged in French oak barrels for 24 months. Deep red in color with a nose of berries, and dark sweet cherries, medium-bodied and balanced tannins.

Onto the 2006 Bikat HaNadiv (this literally translates to “the generous valley”, the name of the valley pays homage to the late Baron Rothschild). Bikat HaNadiv is a Bordeaux style blend comprised of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot. The grapes for this wine are picked and crushed the same day, then aged in French oak for 24 months. A floral nose of dark stone fruits, plums, and cocoa, the wine is also dark in color with a long finish.


It was the 2006 Carignan that I was most intrigued by, having not been familiar with this grape varietal or having tasted Carignan in pure form. Coming from old vines, the grapes are handpicked in the early hours of the morning and crushed the same day. After fermentation, the wine is oaked in French barrels for 24 months. The Carignan is not filtered, and after bottling, the wine continues to age for another two years before going to the market. On the nose, plums, blackberries, and currants along with dark fruits a just a hint of orange zest on the palate. Medium bodied, a nice balance of soft tannins, fruit and acidity and a long finish.

Limited on space, I brought back only one bottle of the Carignan to California, though my local friends bought several bottles of Somek wine to enjoy in their home in Zichron. I look forward to going back to the winery to enjoy more wine, meet Barak again and maybe even be lucky enough to visit the vineyards next time. For now, my bottle of Carignan and pictures remind me of a wonderful afternoon spent with friends. It was a terrific opportunity to hear first hand the effort that goes into making quality wine, spend time with a winemaker and visit a boutique winery that I hope will grow for many more wine enthusiasts to enjoy.


Discover more about Zichron Ya’acov, the Baron Edmond de Rothschild, visit Somek and learn more about the Carignan grape via these links:
Go Israel and Discover Zichron Ya’aacov
The Traveler
Zichron Ya’acov Home of Wine and Spies
Zichron Ya’acov – Home of Israeli Wine
Ramat Hanadiv Memorial Gardens
Jancis Robinson on Carignan
Israel Adventure: Somek Winery
Israel Wine Tour: Why We Love Taking Our Guests to Somek Winery

For more wines in Israel visit: Award Winning Wine in the Judean Hills: Flam Winery

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in the old city of jerusalem

I love the street foods of Israel. With a multitude of accessible small shops, kiosks and bakeries that deliver savory along with sweet delights, there’s always something within reach for a bite or drink on the go. Ripe fruit can be squeezed on the spot and turned into a cup of fresh juice. For something more filling, flaky pastries such as burekas, or sambusak, a calazone-like turnover filled with either cheese, sautéed vegetables or minced meat fillings is a quick fix. There’s of course toast which is actually a panini, or Israel’s version of grilled cheese, a variety of flatbreads to choose from including a favorite which is covered with a blend of herbs known as za’atar, and of course there’s falafel. The list goes on and it provides an endless menu of tasty foods to find on the run.

Slowing down for a moment to stroll through the Old City of Jerusalem, in the winter you’ll be delighted to find sahlab. The hot creamy drink is available throughout Israel (and the Levant in fact) though not always easy to spot. Sahlab, also written as sakhleb, salep, or saalab is essentially made from “dried tubers of various Old World orchids”. The orchid roots are ground into a flour or powder that’s high in starch, and when combined with milk creates a pudding like drink that’s a treat especially in cold weather. It’s topped with shredded coconut, toasted pistachio pieces and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Here the sahlab is kept warm in a beautiful ornamental metal jug and the toppings are stored in decorative wooden boxes.

Sesame bagels, referred to as “bagaleh” in Hebrew is another popular street food that can be found year round. Though called a bagel, the dough is quite different than your typical New York New Jersey variety. Eaten as is these can be covered with sesame or za’atar. If you’re curious for a bite (or miss these from back home) here’s a recipe and guide on how to prepare: Jerusalem Bagles

Mild weather the day of my stroll through the City of David; warm with blue skies and a bright sun that illuminated the limestone, and as it set turned the city to gold. Walking through Jerusalem you’ll find not only a tasty bite to enjoy, but a feast for the eyes and nourishment for the soul.

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the port market: shuk hanamal tel aviv

Now just a few years old, Shuk HaNamal which translates to The Port Market, is a trendy albeit family friendly destination in uptown Tel Aviv. Overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, the indoor market is a few steps away from the sand, the newly built building adjacent to remnants of an old port and an existing boardwalk that now caters to a new crowd. Inside this emporium you can find a smorgasbord of foods, such as a wide variety of pickles, breads, baked goods, a wonderful selection of halva a tahini or sesame paste sweet confection, along with a wine shop, charcuterie, cheese stop and you can shop for organic produce here. It’s a comfortable place to meander through, to stop and taste a bite of something simple or gourmet, enjoy a gelato or even pack a few things for a nearby picnic. Shuk HaCarmel, a bustling farmers market in central Tel Aviv, may be the spot to stock up on for produce, but in both destinations you can enjoy a taste of Israel. And there’s nothing like experiencing and exploring with your taste buds. Enjoy the market.

Enjoy more of the Port Market at Slow Food or go People Watching at Shuk HaNamal with Sarah Melamed. Find more markets to visit at Go Israel. And directions to and hours of Shuk HaNamal at

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duarte’s historic tavern

One of my favorite Bay Area back road destinations in California is the small town of Pescadero. Located off scenic Highway One and a few miles inland from the Pacific Ocean, this quaint town is situated midway between Santa Cruz in the south, and Half Moon Bay in the north. It’s close to both San Francisco and the heart of Silicon Valley, and yet it is worlds away. Arriving in Pescadero after enjoying scenic views along the coast, I often stop by Harley Farms to take pictures of their goats, and visit Phipps Farms to pick berries when the fruit is in season. I also enjoy leisurely strolling down Pescadero’s main street to search for hand-made treasures or antiques at the local shops, and eventually stop at Duarte’s for a bite.

Established back in 1894, Duarte’s Tavern has been lauded with local and national recognition and is a James Beard American Classic award recipient. Being close to the ocean, the menu offers fish and seafood options along with garden grown dishes and American classic pies for dessert. Pescadero means fish monger in Spanish, and Duarte’s Crab Cioppino tastes as though the ingredients were hauled off a boat the same day by fish merchants. Cioppino is an Italian fish stew, but being the Duarte family is of Portuguese decent, they added a bit of Portuguese inspiration to their soup recipe. Soup is perfect for the often cold fog-covered central coast, and whether it’s stew or their artichoke heart soup, both are filling and a perfect way to warm up. Served with hearty artisan bread, the soups, stews or even mussels steamed in a broth are popular.

Dessert at Duarte’s means pie. Flaky, crispy and buttery crusts packed with fruit that spill all over the plate, the pies are delicious. My favorites are classic apple and local favorite ollaliberry. The pies are served with fresh whip cream though I tend to like just pure pie.

If you head to Pescadero and Duarte’s, after enjoying a bite, visit the edible garden behind the tavern where you can find artichokes growing in abundance, along with crops of corn, kale, lettuce, squash and a host of other vegetables. It’s easy to be inspired by this backyard farm and the dishes served at the restaurant. Visit the Country Store down the road or other nearby farm stands in the area, pick-up artichokes, ollaliberries or the herbs and ingredients for the Cioppino and bring a taste of Pescadero home.

Duarte’s Olallieberry Pie Recipe
Duarte’s Crab Cioppino and Artichoke Soup Recipe

Read more about Historic Duarte’s Tavern a family-run restaurant
Step back in time with modern day photos of old Duarte’s Tavern
Venture into Duarte’s Garden

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a taste of a historic tavern

Photos du Jour | Pescadero, California

Duarte’s Tavern established in 1894

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alaska: a look back

Brisk and cloudy overcast days during the summer often trigger memories of a visit I took to Alaska many years back. It was one of many memorable trips I had taken when my schedule was more forgiving for longer excursions. The images from the trip are on 35mm film (yes, it was that long ago) and were left as is, raw, just like what Alaska seemed to be at the time.

Anchorage to Denali
With the Milepost in tote, the bible to navigating around the state (and a thick book back then), I set off on a five hour trip heading north from Anchorage to Denali National Park. Passing through miles of wilderness with glimpses of wildlife along the way, I remember how amazing and untouched everything looked. The occasional java huts, sporadic along the road, were perfect coffee stops and while the buildings stood out from the view, there were so few of them and confined to a small structure, they didn’t impact the scenery.

Once at the gate to Denali, a shuttle bus took me deep inside the park. Here I truly found miles of raw open lands. Dall sheep could be found perched high atop mountain rocks. With binoculars I spotted a few red foxes, likely a mother with her brood of pups (also called kits). When bears had come into view, the shuttle bus would pause to enjoy the moment (we spotted several black bears in the park, and one grizzly during the visit). It’s true what you may read about Wonder Lake, it’s home to gargantuan sized mosquitoes which seem to infest the place. Bird-sized mosquitoes aside, backpacking out to the lake is glorious. One of the perks to visiting Wonder Lake of course is the opportunity to camp out at the park and wake up to the views of North America’s highest mountain peak, Mount McKinley.

The Drive to Valdez
Heading to the port of Valdez I found long rough-road ways and again miles of open terrain, speckled with waterfalls running down hills, fresh ice cold lakes and inlets. I enjoyed finding a moose nonchalantly wading in water, deer, and caribou along with a host of other animals in their natural habitat. Along the route I stopped at Worthington Glacier in beautiful Thompson Pass. But I think I was most intrigued by a scenic detour to Kennecott which required a 4×4 jeep to reach the place. The abandoned mill, now a ghost town and nearby glacier left an impressions and were a highlight of the trip. It was a true trip back in time to pass through the historic site then hike on the snow and ice.

The journey continues.

For more details about places along this route visit:
Denali National Park
Worthington Glacier
Kennecott Historic Mill Town and Mines

Original images are in 35mm film and part of Alaska | A Look Back series.
Alaska | Kennecott Mill
Alaska | Ice Blue

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