You say potato I say potato

Once upon a time, travel journalists pitched editors with their credentials and clips, not posts and followers, for writing assignments that paid. I was one of these reporters. Hungry for adventure, and literally hungry (New York City is an expensive place to live, even in the early 2000s), I was constantly pitching editors of top magazines with my story ideas. My ambition and love for adventure were married when I began writing for Condé Nast Traveler for their budget section. Destinations with tight purse strings were perfect for this fresh post-graduate grad student.

One of my assignments was Idaho, really because I was invited to spend a long weekend with friends-of-a-friend, but I also saw it as an opportunity to dig up something notable about the “gem state” other than potatoes.

Play 

Courtesy of Coeur d'Alene Resort Golf Course
Courtesy of Coeur d’Alene Resort Golf Course

Welcome to the Northwest’s playground at the Coeur d’Alene Resort Golf Course in Coeur d’Alene. One of the world’s top destinations for vacation, business, romance and fun, and especially golfers, where they will appreciate playing the world’s challenging only floating green, while everyone else escapes to the spa or infinity pool at the resort. The entire party will enjoy taking in the sights of the beautiful alpine lake in a quaint, friendly downtown lakeside atmosphere. A memorable and magical experience now is the time to go while renovations are still fresh and packages are available. The staff is incredibly helpful and friendly.

Listen

Travel has long influenced people to create, enjoy the new cuisine and in some cases, discover new artists. In the early 2000s, this was listening to Jack Johnson, a former surfer from Hawaii turned singer-songwriter who was already popular on the West Coast. Downloading Brushfire Fairytales still takes me back to those carefree days of one’s 20s.

 

Eat

There will be plenty of opportunities to eat potatoes, (and meat) in Idaho. The Idaho® Russet thrives in high altitudes and lots of warm sun during the day and cool evenings. Mineral-rich soil thanks to the volcanic material that once covered Idaho, that is well drained but also absorbs the pure snowmelt from the Teton Mountains, also helps yield noteworthy spuds.

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Georgia on my mind

What is it about southern living that attracts Northerners? Is it the vision of long graveled drives lined with arched Spanish moss that welcoming? Or is it the charming residents?

Americans have been gaga for the south since Gone with the Wind, so grab the pearls and a plate, and get ready to dish up dessert after taking a tour of Savannah, Georgia’s coastal city.

Walk

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Courtesy of Visit Savannah

Savannah is a pedestrian paradise home of the nation’s largest registered Urban Historic Landmark District, with over 1,600 historically and architecturally significant structures within 2.5-square miles. Guide services can tailor walks based on personal preference, and they usually last about two hours. Long onto, Visit Savannah for details.

 

Eat

The peach is easily Georgia’s most visible symbol, yet it’s surprisingly rare in the state, according to The Georgia Peach (Okie). The peach emerged as a viable commodity when the south was in need of a reputation makeover. The agriculture success made it a lasting icon, despite the difficulties growing it.

Endure the renaissance of the peach by bringing its sweetness home, wherever that may be.

Page-to-pantry

PEACH CRISP

Active time: 30 minutes Start to finish: 1.5 hours

Yield: Makes 3 servings

Ingredients

½ cup organic sugar

¼ cup organic whole-wheat flour

¼ cup organic whole grain rolled oats

¼ tsp cinnamon

Pinch of salt

½ stick salted butter, softened

½-lb. peaches, peeled and sliced into cubes (to peel fresh peaches, cut an X at the end opposite the stem and immerse in a large pot of boiling water for 10 seconds)

2 tbsp. fresh squeezed orange juice

Instructions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Stir together sugar, flour, oats, and salt in a bowl then work in butter with a pastry blender or your fingertips until mixture forms small clumps.

Spread peaches in lightly buttered ceramic ramekins. Stir in juice and top with crumb mixture.

Bake in middle of oven until topping is golden and peaches are tender 30 minutes. Cool slightly and serve warm with vanilla bean ice cream.

 

 

The Sunshine State

fortybefore40Being a New Yorker, it’s a given that one would travel to the southern state that borders both the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, at some point in their life if not on a regular basis. Whether it is for spring break, Easter vacation or being a snowbird, Northern residents tend to flock to where palm trees sway in warmer weather and the living is easy.

While some of the most headshaking news stories can come from Florida, it’s also a place where you can eat, play, shop and explore your way from coast to coast

EAST COAST

Welcome to Miami. The east coast of Florida covers the spring break checklist: sun, beach, drinks, food and beautiful people. However, do beware of hotel packages that do not live up to their descriptions. Make sure the hotel is within walking distance of the restaurants. Sites like Expedia however, will compensate for vacations gone awry.

Stay

Fontainebleau Miami Beach
Courtesy of Fontainebleau Miami Beach

The freshly renovated Fontainebleau Miami Beach is a must. If the walls could talk at this luxury hotel, they would sing – croon that is. A known hang out of the “rat pack” in the 1960s, this iconic destination is situated ideally on Miami Beach.

Eat

JoesStoneCrab
Courtesy of Joe’s Stone Crab

A visit to Miami isn’t complete without a stop at Joe’s Stone Crab (11 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, FL 33139). Originally a lunch counter started by Joe Weiss, who moved to the tropical area per doctor’s orders, to help with his asthma. After he and his wife got into the society crowd, with their homegrown lunches, he discovered the bay was full of crabs. The lunch counter grew and it’s still a family-run business. A perfect dinner at this landmark would be stone crabs, hash browns, creamed spinach and of course, key lime pie for dessert.

Have a hankering for stone crabs, and more, at home? Packed on dry ice, they can be shipped north (and elsewhere)! Visit joesstonecrab.com for more information.

WEST COAST

Nestled along the Gulf of Mexico in southwest Florida is the formerly sleepy city of Naples, now known for its world-class culture and sophisticated dining. It is also welcoming to families and nature lovers. No wonder it was ranked the happiest place in the United States, according to Gallup, two years running.

Shop

Situated by miles of fine white sand beaches, the adventure in Naples begins at the intersection of Fifth Avenue South and Third Street, where high-end shopping within a historic district is found. There are numerous art galleries, over 100 chic clothing boutiques, and home décor shops.

Browsing the windows in this charming and elegant, southern section of Naples, can work up ones appetite. When it comes time for lunch or dinner, choose a chic resort or funky bayside bar.

Play

GolfGet outside before it becomes too warm, and there are plenty of activities to choose from. Whether it’s a walk, golf, or the ever-growing popular Pickleball. The US Open Pickleball Championships are held in Naples, and it attracts the best players in the sport, as well as Pickleball enthusiasts of all ages and ability. The company responsible for creating the event recently launched the US Open Pickleball Academy, which will offer destination camps, day clinics, lessons and leagues all with top instructors.

Explore

Pack the camera and the kids and head to Naples Botanical Garden (4820 Bayshore Dr., Naples, FL 34112) where 170 acres and 10 gardens welcome you. Naples Botanical Garden is a paradise that features plants from around the world. Take a journey through different ecosystems and delight in the Smith Children’s Garden where a brightly colored cottage garden invites the smallest patrons to play in water fountains, and watch butterflies flittering above in the Pfeffer-Beach Butterfly House.

Relax

After all this activity enjoy some downtime at the Ritz-Carlton. Local residents and non-resort guests* are welcome to enjoy traditional salon services and facials at the The Salon, located on the Lobby Level. Open seven days a week, the atmosphere is enough to immediately transport clients to a luxury experience that includes hair, nail, waxing and facial treatments.

*Membership may entitle clients to a full menu of options.

Visit ritzcarlton.com for details.

 

 

One of the original thirteen

150d3c7ebff90ca4454b7851b116f3f9Today Delaware may be best known for its tax breaks, being home to the school that set the stage for “Dead Poets Society” and its gem of a coastline, but the most delicious fact about the second smallest state in the country (and most densely populated) is something from its past.

Scrapple, a pot pudding made from meat scraps and grains, became the staple cuisine for the area by Quakers in the early 1700s. It was created due to their Puritanical ways, and generations since have carried on the tradition.

Eat

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Courtesy of the Food Network

Scrapple is primarily sage and pork, (the cornmeal is tasteless) but hot peppers can be added. Many season it with ground black pepper. It’s pan-fried and usually served as a side at breakfast. While scrapple appears to be exotic, it seems as though it can be found just about anywhere in Delaware Valley region.

Served in quartered slices, plain or with sweet or savory condiments: apple butter, ketchup, jelly, maple syrup, honey, or mustard.

Go

 

19990320_1606483366042919_2054618816285320953_n (1)Embrace your inner fall festive and attend the 26th annual Bridgeville Apple-Scrapple Festival October 13-14. This small town has some of the best apples in the mid-Atlantic region and organizers expect 25,000 to attend. Start the morning with an all you can eat scrapple breakfast, followed by carnival rides, kids’ games, scrapple chunkin’, scrapple carving, live entertainment, car show, trade show, two craft show and food, including a BBQ, oyster sandwiches, apple fritters, scrapple sandwiches, hamburgers, hot dogs, ice cream and more.

For more information visit applescrapple.com.

 

Page-to-Pantry

Scrapple

6 servings

 

1-cup white or yellow cornmeal

1-cup milk

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp salt

2 ¾ cups boiling water

8 oz bulk pork sausage, cooked, drained and crumbled

All-purpose flour

2 tbsp butter

Maple syrup, optional

In a saucepan, combine the cornmeal, milk, sugar, and salt; gradually stir in water. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Reduce heat; cook, covered, 10 minutes longer or until very thick, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and stir in sausage. Pour into a greased 7 ½-inch by 3 ½-inch by 2-inch loaf pan (the pan will be very full). Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerator.

To serve, unmold and cut into quarter slices. Dip both sides in flour. In a skillet, melt butter over medium heat; brown scrapple on both sides.

Serve with maple syrup if desired.

 

Excerpt from “Taste of Home,” Originally published as Cornmeal Scrapple in Country February/March 1992, p49

Connecticut – it’s better in fiction

The New England states can get a bad rap – standoffish people, preppies, and an overpriced experience, to name a few. But still, nothing says summer like time in the Northeast.

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Courtesy Boston Globe

Through the sea of khaki pants, button down shirts and dock shoes, there’s a beautiful coastline in Connecticut to be found, giving way to an abundance of seafood restaurants. So if you can’t stand the attitude, eat and drink your way through the trip. However, if lobster and clams don’t tempt your palate, the pizza cannot be refused.

Eat: Best known for a pizza place, Mystic, Conn. still has the nostalgic restaurant Mystic Pizza that inspired the 1988 movie by the same name. Located at 56 W Main St., squeeze into this small space and enjoy a fresh slice – made with their “secret sauce,” and a unique blend of spices, there is a zesty flavor in each bite.

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Matt Czuchry as Logan, Gilmore Girls

Another pop-culture craze set in Connecticut is Gilmore Girls, about a fast talking, coffee drinking, mother-daughter duo living in a quaint New England town and making weekly trips to Hartford for a visit with their old money grandparents. Chances are if you visit Connecticut, you will just be passing through this capital city.

Fly: Bradley International Airport is small but functional. Surrounded by major hotels, it’s convenient to stay within minutes of the airport, especially at The Sheraton Hartford Hotel at Bradley Airport. Located in such close proximity you can walk from the gate to the front desk.

Settle in with a nightcap overlooking the runway. There are numerous bars offering food and drink.

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Mystic Seaport, courtesy of Visit Connecticut.

Explore: Take the Metro North to the Old Greenwich train station, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Past the farmers market and tennis club, experience small-town America, complete with a main thoroughfare that leads to an unbeatable shoreline. This town was the first area settled by Europeans and does feature a picturesque green space known as 32-acre Binney Park. The duck pond and footbridges are quaint, but it isn’t Greenwich.

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Forget the seashell souvenirs, frozen Mystic Pizza is available to go, and grill at home.

 

South by Southwest

fortybefore40Southwest states are among the most open and least neurotic places you can find, but they also tend to be home to the least extroverted. As someone who can suffer from introversion, a place like Colorado is ideal.

Colorado has the highest elevation of any state, with more than 1,000 Rocky Mountain peaks over 10,000 feet high and 54 towering above 14,000-foot Pikes Peak. A quiet yet vibrant city among the Rocky Mountains is Denver – the mile high-city, one mile above sea level and offering shopping, rest and relaxation. The state’s capitol is convenient, affordable and sunny – and home to unique history.

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DEN via Denver International Airport Facebook page

Fly: The Denver International Airport aka DEN is one of my favorite arrivals. The circus tent appearance from the sky would be enough, but there’s also conspiracy theory allure surrounding it. The 18th-busiest airport in the world and sixth-busiest airport in the United States has 58.3 passengers traveling through each year. Thanks to the internet, many wonder if it’s a tolerable place to be during a layover or a post-apocalyptic hangout?

Explore: The original daughter of adventure Margaret “Maggie” Brown better known as the “Unsinkable Molly B.”, was an American socialite and philanthropist. Her claim to fame was exhorting the crew in Lifeboat No. 6 to return to the debris field of the 1912 sinking of RMS Titanic to look for survivors. Her house on Pennsylvania Street is a museum and enhances Denver’s appeal through her activism, philanthropy and passion.

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Courtesy of the Molly Brown House Museum

The Molly Brown House Museum stands as an enduring symbol of the turn of the 20th century in Denver. In the 1880s the lucky few who made millions in the mountains, railroads or trade moved to this prestigious neighborhood. After the silver market crash the Browns purchased the house and when Margaret was traveling she would rent it to wealthy families. While they were on a world trip it became the governor’s mansion and she continued renting it until the declining neighborhood and Great Depression forced her to turn it into a boarding house. It eventually became a home for girls until citizens saved the house from demolition through a grassroots effort, in 1970.

Shop: Downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods offer an abundance of retail experiences, making Denver the shopping capital of the Rocky Mountain West. In a single afternoon it’s imperative to visit one of the best bookstores in the country, Tattered Cover. With three locations, it’s impossible to miss.

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The Monaco lobby

Relax: At the Aveda salon you get more than a menu of treatments. It’s here your technician will read your personality and your tarot cards. For an afternoon of pampering and entertainment, it’s a must.

Stay: The Kimpton hotel chain always gets a thumbs-up, and the stylish Monaco in Denver is no exception. The friendly staff makes up for tiny rooms; and even if they are cozy, it’s more of an incentive to hang-out in the plush lobby and enjoy happy hour.

“Forty Before 40” is a travel blog series about visiting 40 of the United States before turning the age of 40, in 2018. Additional information can be found here.

 

 

Find the holidays in the golden state

fortybefore40No one thinks of the spending the holiday season in shorts, but when you are visiting a place like Los Angeles, it’s hard to have the Christmas blues when it’s 70 degrees and sunny outside.

Fly: Getting to Southern California via Long Beach Airport is a favorite among those who appreciate art deco architecture and old Hollywood. Three miles northeast of downtown Long Beach, it’s also historic for its convenience. Feel like Grace Kelly as your de-board the plane on the tarmac and enjoy a pre-flight provision on your way out, at the oval shaped bar that overlooks the runways.

Eat: Many residents of Long Beach are transplants from across the country. Those who do not return home often host “orphan” dinners. Friends and co-workers gather for a meal at someone’s home and then head to Pine Avenue in downtown Long Beach or the Broadway Corridor for light barhopping.

A current popular eatery is the Federal Bar. Originally a bank from the early 1900s, patrons enjoy its “swanky” atmosphere, excellent cuisine (try the Fried Chicken & Biscuit) and the handcrafted cocktails created by friendly mixologists. Located on Pine Avenue, lined with palm trees decorated with Christmas lights, it would be hard not to be in a festive mood.

For a more upscale dining experience, climb aboard the legendary Queen Mary, where she is permanently docked in the Port of Long Beach; or brunch at the scenic Schooner or Later for their Crabs Benedicts and a wine-based Bloody Mary that will cure a holiday hangover.

 

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Courtesy of 4thstreetlongbeach.com blog

Shop: For a unique shopping experience, head to retro row where eclectic small business owners will help you navigate their shops for you or anyone on your nice list, while bargain hunters can head to the Fashion District in Downtown Los Angeles. A flea market that stretches several city blocks, discover great bargains on high-end designers like Dior and Gucci, but be prepared to haggle with vendors! While downtown, it’s always great to visit the Standard Hotel’s Rooftop Lounge or Perch. Both venues feature fresh so-cal cuisine and sweeping views of the Los Angeles skyline. Make sure you depart by 9 p.m. if you’re over 30 and want to avoid the millennial crowd.

 

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Courtesy of perch la

Catch a glimpse of the “Real Housewives of Orange County” being filmed in Newport Beach, while perusing retail favorites like Nordstrom, Neiman’s and Bloomingdales. A quick drive down the Pacific Coast Highway is worth the view of surfers catching waves in Huntington and Sunset Beaches.

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Fashion Island, Newport Beach

Explore: A visit to Southern California would not be complete without being at an event at the Staples Center or photographing the Hollywood Sign. The world famous landmark on Mt. Lee may be visible from all over the city, but it is possible to hike to the sign (but illegal to get too close). The best viewpoints are Hollywood and Highland, The Griffith Observatory and Mulholland Drive.

 

Michael Blackley contributed to this post.

Last contiguous state but not least

fortybefore40Arizona is made for taking in the desert landscape and embracing the hot and dry climate in the winter, but it can also be appreciated for more than it’s natural beauty.

Years ago, after one bitterly cold winter in the Northeast, a hectic work schedule winding down, and recently ended relationship, Phoenix welcomed me with open arms.

Wear: Spring in Phoenix can offer a hot sun, so lather on the SPF. Both long pants and shorts work in almost all resorts, and the former is fine if traveling for work. A light sweater or sweatshirt should be enough to layer. Flip-flops are a must for poolside activity, as are sneakers – even if your schedule permits just a walk among the cul-de-sacs, you’ll be protected against the cacti and burn off the margaritas with a powerful stride.

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The Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort

Shop: If you’re lucky enough to be staying in one of the 80 stylish casitas at The Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort, be sure to visit the gift shoppe where you’ll find fashion forward apparel, including perfect-for-the-weather tunics, authentic Native American art and a variety of Southwest-themed souvenirs.

Explore: Discover the jewel of the desert at the historic Arizona Biltmore, A Waldorf Astoria Resort. This grand space has been hosting vibrant social events since 1929 and 87 years later, charming architecture still greets its guests. If you’re lucky enough to stay here, experience world-class golf and dining; but if you are just passing by, it is still possible to see this majestic site. Schedule a tour with the concierge.

Eat: On the property at the Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort is the Hole-in-the-Wall, a favorite of guests and locals. The iconic eatery is housed in an original 1940s era ranch house and dishes up mouthwatering smokehouse. Open seasonally for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the latter menu includes grill and BBQ including baby-back ribs, smoky mesquite-broiled steaks, and kettle-smoked brisket. End the night with cocktails on the sunken bar, at the adjacent Saloon.

Page-to-Pantry

Bring the savory, southwestern goodness home with you in the form of a rub. This BBQ spice is mild enough to use on just about any meat, especially before grilling. Dry rub gives chicken breasts a nice flavor boost and no sauce is needed when using on ribs or other meat.