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alaska: ice blue

glaciers and blue ice galore

Original images are in 35mm film and part of Alaska | A Look Back Series.

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alaska: kennecott mill

Ghost Town | Historic Kennecott Mill and Mines

Original images are in 35mm film and part of Alaska | A Look Back Series.

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a spring visit to love apple farms

If you keep tabs on the gourmet food scene, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of the incredibly talented Chef David Kinch and Michelin rated Manresa Restaurant in Los Gatos. Aside from being lauded by locals, Chef Kinch is noted in scores of publications and has garnered both national and international accolades for good reason. Dining at Manresa is a memorable experience. Chef Kinch’s food philosophy is clearly infused into each dish, and the source of the foods he chooses to cook with is a key ingredient in his compositions.

Chef Kinch’s choice to use only organic, pure grown produce brings us to Love Apple Farms. Back in 2005 the chef formed a symbiotic relationship with Cynthia Sandberg’s biodynamic farm which delivers a growing list of foods exclusively to Manresa Restaurant including chickens, eggs, honey, vegetables, goat milk, and multiple herbs.

Beyond sourcing a great deal of the ingredients on Manresa’s menu, Love Apple Farms shares their passion for the earth through cooking and gardening classes at their educational center located in the Santa Cruz mountain range. They also sell their farm-grown tomatoes and edible plants in Scotts Valley.

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Though the notion was initially piqued by David Kinch, my desire to visit Love Apple was driven by my fascination with farms that started as a child. At the age of five or six, after a visit to a farm in Upstate New York I wrote a poem capturing the details of the experience. From then on, regardless of which farm I visit, I find myself at peace in the garden and in the open fields. Growing up I would periodically visit a relative’s farm where I had the chance to help pick cantaloups and honeydew melons, and even gather fresh laid eggs from the chicken coup. Later I found myself spending several months working in a citrus grove in a beautiful lush valley.

Oddly, as much as I love farms and visiting them, I don’t seem to have much of a green thumb which explains why I don’t have my own garden just yet. That may eventually change thanks to inspiration by Love Apple Farms along with my friends In My Garden Country Edition and The Daily Palette.

If you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area and have an opportunity to venture to the Santa Cruz Mountains for a cooking or gardening glass at Love Apple Farms, do. The excuse may be to have a taste of Manresa’s kitchen garden, or like me enjoy a walk through the garden and take a bite of the farm.

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For more on Love Apple Farms, Manresa Restaurant and David Kinch visit:

Grow Better Veggies
Manresa Restaurant
Manresa’s Blog

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symbolic blue

photos du jour

All across Israel it’s possible to find the most beautiful doors. From vintage to modern styles, fabricated from wood or metal or other creative material, on private limestone homes or public sanctuaries, the doors can be found in many shades of symbolic blue.

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california’s artisan cheese festival

An event to look forward to in March is the Artisan Cheese Festival which takes place in Petaluma, Sonoma County. The marketplace at the festival brings together “handcrafted cheeses, foods, wines and beers from California and beyond”. I had the pleasure of attending back in 2011 with Chef Arnon Oren of Oren’s Kitchen and I look forward to going back again. The event is a wonderful opportunity to taste delectable cheeses, meet cheese makers, and sample artisan foods like savory nuts, tasty jams, chocolates, sweets from local bakeries, artisan beer and award winning bread. There’s also organic hand-churned butters to try that will make you wonder if it’s possible to ever buy anything else. Creamy cheeses and savory crackers pair beautifully with wine and a few local wineries are happy to oblige and pour a glass.

The California Artisan Cheese Festival may happen once a year, but the local cheesemongers and their cheeses are accessible year-round and can be found in markets, cheese shops and along the Sonoma Marin Cheese Trail. California eateries, bakeries and artisan food producers presenting at the marketplace are also worth visiting; be sure to checkout a list of past Artisan Festival Participants

For more details about the event visit: California’s Artisan Cheese Festival
Pick up a map and head to Marin and Sonoma County:
The Milky Whey: Following the Sonoma Marin Cheese Trail

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the shwartzman dairy

A visit to the old and tiny one street village of Bat Shlomo will make you feel as though you took a trip back in time. The small agricultural settlement, known as a moshav in Hebrew, and being even smaller referred to as a moshava, was established in 1889 as an offshoot to the neighboring town of Zikhron Ya’akov.

Beyond the few stone houses along a tree-lined narrow road rests fields, farmyards and a few scattered vineyards. Though rustic countryside is what awaits you when you journey here, the reason for venturing to Bat Shlomo would be no doubt to have a bite at the quaint dairy shop and restaurant owned by the Shwartzman family.

As you enter the enclave down a stone paved entrance way you’re greeted by vintage paraphernalia that dangle off trees and other knickknacks that align the pathway. A chicken coop rests off to the side along with an outdoor seating area. Moments after entering inside the shop you’ll be warmly greeted by Ziv Shwartzman, third generation farmer, cheese maker, olive oil producer and owner of the Shwartzman Dairy.

Before you’ve had a chance to gather your bearings, Ziv will be tempting you with bites of assorted cheeses and house cured olives, and while you are busy tasting cheese, your eyes are tempted to wander around the room. The small shop functions as a museum of sorts; old jars and cans along with framed articles and signs that capture the history of the Shwartzman family and the dairy itself are scattered throughout the place.

Over the years, whether I was living in Israel or going back for a visit to see family and friends, I’d stop here to buy olives, sometimes some cheese, dulce de leche and herbal tea or za’atar a popular spice mixture. The dulce de leche was unfortunately phased out over the years but instead the dairy shop expanded their menu to include other homemade specialties.

Sitting down on the small wooden stools to dine on Arabic textile covered tables, it’s fun to enjoy a bite of warm pita or lafah bread, salad, an assortment of cheeses, mostly goat with some cow varieties, as well as labaneh and an olive platter. There’s also house made olive oils for dipping. Ziv is outgoing and hospitable, entertaining each visitor as though they were a personal guest in his home. He also tends to dole out bits of humor along with lunch for an afternoon of entertainment. Hot tea, a house-made blend, or black coffee is perfect after the meal.

The Shwartzman Dairy in Bat Shlomo is certainly a quaint leisurely rest stop or perhaps a vehicle to take you back in time to enjoy a bite of local history and a bite of olives and cheese.

To learn more about the shop and moshava visit:
Bat Shlomo and the Shwarztman Dairy

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strolling through a spice market

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It’s hard to describe most open-air markets as tranquil, certainly not markets in the Middle East. People often walk with a purpose when visiting the market, they hardly stroll. Between the hustle and bustle of shoppers crowding the pavement and vendors actively seeking buyers in an effort to sell their goods, there’s too much excitement going on for shopping in a souq to be deemed relaxing. Even the vibrant colors of spices, produce or knickknacks dangling from windows scream for attention.

For a moment though while visiting the spice market on Levinsky Street in Tel Aviv, known as Shuk Levinsky, I was lost in thought. These pictures collectively capture some of the quieter moments standing at the entrance of a few small shop fronts. The images blend together and somehow reflect my disposition at that moment. I was pondering the origin of markets and trying to conjure up the history of the spice trade. Alas, my thoughts set sail on a long journey back in time. For a moment though I allowed myself to just revel in the simple and enjoy the sights, the sounds and the scents of strolling through the spice market.

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breakfast in the carmel forest

Nestled on Mount Carmel, amidst a backdrop of a pine forest, rests a splendid spa which peers out to the Mediterranean Sea. At the gateway to the resort, standing outside, it’s possible to catch a hint of the salty sea air mixed with the fragrance of fresh pine. It’s a scent that is both invigorating yet soothing to the soul, and the spa commits to even more pampering of the soul once you venture inside. If breakfast in the Carmel Forest sounds enchanting, the feast of food that’s presented for breakfast proves to be just as magical. Breakfast in Israel, and especially here, is both a sweet and savory epicurean experience, and an opportunity that should not be missed.

The morning buffet at the Carmel Forest Spa overwhelms the eyes. It presents a rich bounty of options and an incredible assortment of cheeses, yogurts, labaneh (a strained yogurt popular in Israel and the Middle East), bright fruits, colorful salads, cured fish platters, olives and pickles, halva (a sweet confection made from tahini or sesame paste), fresh juices, a variety of oven baked breads, jams, spreads, cereals and pastries, and the smorgasbord doesn’t stop there.

The delicacies from the buffet accompany a main egg dish, prepared in any manner that you may desire, and of course is served immediately hot from the kitchen to your plate. Espresso beverages or a wide assortment of hot teas are on hand as is cucumber or lemon infused water that is fresh and cleansing. Diners, often clad in comfortable white droopy robes and soft slippers, parade around the dining hall enjoying the abundance of food options before settling down to a leisurely meal and escape from the toils of everyday obligations.

The spa is a place to relax and leave reality behind, though my camera on this trip somehow overlooked this suggestions. I am grateful though that I had a rare opportunity to venture deep into the galley of the kitchen where active sous-chefs and station chefs were busy slicing, dicing, mixing, sautéing and preparing tantalizing dishes. The kitchen is impressive, and the Executive Chef with his Sous Chef run a tight ship. Despite my rather adventure-seeking camera, I did find time to curl up with a good book and just relax, be pampered and rejuvenate. Without doubt, I am eager to head back to the Carmel Forest for more of all of the above.

A moment of spa zen or at least an Israeli-style breakfast can be recreated at home.

The Menu
– An egg dish. Try something different such as an herb omelet, or even a tofu scramble.
– Selection of cheese. I recommend a salty feta or Bulgarian cheese, along with labneh.
– Israeli chopped salad. To prepare, dice ripe tomatoes, Persian cucumbers, toss with a squeeze of fresh lemon, olive oil and a pinch of salt. Add red peepers, onions or parsley as options.
– Hearty breads. Preferably select breads that were baked at home or bought fresh from the bakery.
– Salty and sweet compliments. A side of olives for the eggs and cheese. Jams and butters for the bread.
– Pastries. Chocolate babka is a good choice; a sweet yeast cake, similar to a brioche.
– Beverages. Fresh squeezed juice and frothy coffee or hot tea.

For a spa ambiance, and not required but fun to do, slip into your favorite comfortable robe before sitting down to your meal. Have clean, refreshing scents on your table with either candles or flowers, and flasks filled with ice-water and cucumber, or lemon slices inside. Israeli style breakfasts can easily be made to accommodate vegan or gluten-free diets, and being that it’s based on natural ingredients such as fresh vegetables, pure dairy, whole grains and fresh fruits it’s a diet that most everyone can enjoy. I admit I enjoy my morning meal most when someone else is preparing it, but breakfast for dinner is a meal I’ll be happy to make and equally happy to eat. B’tayavon!

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