7 Farmers Markets To Visit This Summer

It seems to be basic human nature to take everything outdoors in the summer. Answer us this: Why dine at the kitchen table when you could have a barbecue out in the sunshine? Who hits the treadmill when they could take a breezy sunset jog? It’s simple – when the weather’s nice, we want to […]

It seems to be basic human nature to take everything outdoors in the summer. Answer us this: Why dine at the kitchen table when you could have a barbecue out in the sunshine? Who hits the treadmill when they could take a breezy sunset jog? It’s simple – when the weather’s nice, we want to be out in it, absorbing all that wellness-inducing vitamin D. Continue reading

Secret Gardens

The slow food revolution continues to sweep across the country. While restaurants in Europe and elsewhere have been utilizing locally sourced produce, meat and dairy for some time, Americans were slow to catch on. Beginning decades ago with activists like chef Alice Waters (Chez Panisse) restaurateurs around the country are continuing to realize the benefits of buying locally, whether its to help local farmers and purveyors or to have fresher and more beneficial foodstuff. If you live near a large city, chances are, you’ve eaten at a farm-to-table restaurant.

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Bermuda Old and New

Years after a Spanish captain first discovered Bermuda in the early 1500s, a fleet of British ships departed Plymouth to sail to the then-colony of Virginia in 1602. Several weeks into the crossing, a storm felled one of the ships, Sea Venture, separating it from the rest of the fleet. The ship ran aground on one of the reefs near Bermuda’s eastern coast. All 150 passengers survived and made it to land, and thus Bermuda became inhabited.

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10 Outdoor Dining Spots We Love

Rooftop Bars have been all the rage of late in big cities, from New York to L.A. and everywhere in between. And while this trend shows no sign of stopping, with more and more watering holes opening up atop dormant rooftops, most are suited for drinks and appetizers and are not true outdoor dining destinations. Continue reading

Interview with Travel Analyst Adam Kwan of TomFlies.com

TomFlies.com is an NYC-based, new-concept travel agency that aims to provide several essential aspects of travel that may have been overlooked throughout the years. Not selling exaggerated experiences, but rather leading their clients to genuine discovery is a key goal at the new age travel agency. We asked their Lead Flights Analyst, Adam Kwan some questions about the future of travel and how TomFlies.com plans to be a part of it. Here is what he had to say.

 

Q.It appeared for a while that the Internet (and D.I.Y. booking) would deal a major blow to travel agencies, however they have actually seen a strong resurgence in recent years. Why is this and how does the pandemic factor in?

 

A.What we try to do for each one of our clients is to identify where we can add value above and beyond the services they can book themselves. Whether it be monetary value from negotiated rates or service-oriented benefits such as expertise and personal vetting of providers and vendors, we think this goes a long way in showing clientele the benefits of booking with us.

 

People nowadays are inundated with what are essentially cookie cutter options that provide instant gratification. Just go on Amazon and you’re a couple clicks away from getting whatever you want, shipped straight to you from a warehouse containing hundreds of the same whatever-you-wants. We believe that this type of standardized mass merchandising is not befitting of people’s travel needs. People don’t buy vacations as nonchalantly as they do household goods. They want to be sure that they will get the best experience and best value for their travel. Especially since, for many people, a vacation is a significant expense relatively.

 

Right now, travelling in a pandemic-stricken world, people are more nervous than ever. Their confidence has been shaken and many people are unsure what will await them when they exit their plane. Making sure that people are confident that their travel will go off without a hitch has always been one of our main goals, so we view travel consultants as more beneficial than ever. There is a deluge of information out there with each country having different regulations. The last thing someone wants to do is spend their hard-earned money on a trip, only to find out they cannot board the plane or leave quarantine during their stay. That’s where we step in, making sure that our clients are making completely informed decisions with confidence.

 

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Q. Loyalty and rewards programs play a much larger role for airlines and hotels than meets the eye. Can you discuss how and why these programs are so vital for the travel industry, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic?

 

A. We see two main benefits to loyalty programs. The first is obvious—reducing customer churn and encouraging purchases with your company over your competitors; i.e. customer loyalty. The second benefit is liquidity through corporate partnerships.

 

Reducing customer churn (the rate at which customers stop buying your product over time) is important for every industry, but even more so in leisure travel where each individual customer may only purchase something once a year or less. It is tantamount that a travel company remains prominently in view of their clientele. Regular newsletters, deals, and targeted ads help with this, but a loyalty program will take this a step further. Loyalty programs create a sense of investment in your clients and strongly encourage them to return to you for their travel needs. There have been many detailed studies done on the psychological effects of loyalty programs, but the benefits are essentially the following:

 

  • Goal Anticipation – Creating something for your client to work for. By giving them a concrete goal and a way for them to track their progress towards that goal, people will be strongly motivated to complete that goal; i.e. purchase more. Not only that, but customers will invest more to complete the goal the closer they are to achieving it.
  • Positive Reinforcement – Encouraging customers to stick with you by giving them rewards is an obvious example of positive reinforcement. But just as important is the converse. Not only are you encouraging people to purchase through your company, but you also create a sense of “lost value” when they book with your competitors. Studies have shown that people generally tend toward being risk-averse when faced with a value-loss proposition.
  • Creating a sense of exclusivity – Simply put, people like being in exclusive groups and feeling unique and appreciated. Top-tiers of loyalty programs offer this prestige. If you make JetBlue Mosaic, you’re going to feel pretty good being the first one on the plane.

 

 

The second main benefit is more simply explained. Airlines and hotels will create liquidity by selling their points to corporate partners. When Chase or American Express offer their cardholders point exchanges or deals with specific travel partners, that likely means the bank has purchased points in bulk from the travel provider. This accounts for a surprisingly significant portion of the liquidity for several travel companies and is important in supporting daily operations and business development.

 

Both of these benefits are eminently important during the pandemic. When your clients are ready to travel again, you want to make sure they come back to you. And while traditional sales dry up, you want the extra liquidity from corporate points sales to keep things running.

 

Q. Should consumers be thinking any differently about their loyalty/rewards memberships during this period? Are there any tips or strategies you have for people who travel frequently and accrue a lot of points?  

 

A. There are a few tips and tricks we have for maximizing the value of your points, however more so in general rather than specifically during the pandemic.

 

First is to absolutely do your research. There’s no way of knowing if you’re getting a good value for your points unless you know the baseline value of them. For example, TrueBlue points are worth 1.1 cents each on average. I would only book flights with points where you meet or exceed that exchange rate. During COVID, we’d suggest to make sure that there is no expiration on your points and benefits, at least until you’re ready to travel again. If there is, ask the airline or hotel if they can extend the expiration for you.

 

Second is to shop around. Just because you have points with American Airlines doesn’t mean you can’t buy a British Airways ticket with them. Airlines have partners which often allow you to book the same exact flight through them. For example, Alaska Airlines offers many of the same flights operated by its partner American Airlines, however the flights usually cost fewer Alaska Airlines miles than AAdvantage Points. You can simply transfer your points from AA to Alaska and use them there for more value per point.

 

Philip Pilosian/Shutterstock

 

Q. What have been the most frequently asked questions by your clients during the pandemic and how are you advising them? 

 

A. Far and away the most asked question is whether a traveler will have to quarantine when they arrive at a destination or if they will have to take a COVID test before travelling. We’re keeping track of the ever-changing regulations for each of our most popular destinations so we can make sure all of our clients are fully informed.

 

Q. What destinations, US and international, do you expect to see the most interest in once virus fears subside and travel returns to pre-pandemic levels—or close? 

 

A. Hard to tell, but it’s between the Caribbean and the Mediterranean in our opinion. We’re already seeing a large uptick of interest in the Caribbean, especially for all-inclusive resort destinations like Cancun and Punta Cana. The amount of interest can only go up from here. We think that the private and comprehensive experience offered by all-inclusive resorts does add a sense of security for their guests. Knowing that everything you need is in an environment you’ve seen being sanitized goes a long way towards making people feel safe during a pandemic. They can have it all without having to go out into unfamiliar surroundings that may not be clean.

 

Positano at sunset/Shutterstock

 

We also think people are just itching to head back to the Mediterranean, we know we are. Italy, Spain, Egypt, Israel, and Greece et al have always been some of our most requested destinations, and people miss those places more than ever now that travel is restricted.

 

Q.What is the single biggest reason to use a travel advisor?

 

A.Simply that the cost to benefit ratio is great. With our agency’s negotiated rates and worldwide reach, we can offer prices competitive with OTAs while also offering the added benefit of travel planning expertise and dedicated e-concierge services and support before, during, and after travel. Essentially, people will be able to pay roughly the same amount of money for their travel as if they booked it themselves, without actually having to do anything themselves.

 

Q.In just a few words, what is your philosophy at TomFlies.com?

 

A.“Always wander!”

 

See our full report on The State of Travel: 2021

LATEST

Jimmy Buffet Comes To the Island of Manhattan

The newest Margaritaville Resort recently opened on an entirely different kind of island… the island of Manhattan!

 

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Margaritaville Resort Times Square, the newest addition to the Margaritaville Lodging portfolio, is now open to the public. This 32-story laid back lounge-y resort destination sits smack in the middle of NYC’s hustle and bustle, truly transporting guests to an island oasis in the middle of Manhattan.

 

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You can still nibble on a sponge cake and watch the sun bake from Margaritaville Resort Times Square’s 234 guest rooms, five restaurants and bars, year-round outdoor heated pool, and street-level Margaritaville retail store.

“The resort brings paradise to the island of Manhattan and offers something for everyone from families to happy hour with friends,” says Kori Yoran, General Manager.

 

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Located at the corner of Seventh Avenue and West 40th Street, Margaritaville Resort Times Square is blocks away from the bright lights of Manhattan’s entertainment district and provides the ultimate location for a “no worries” vibe vacation immediately adjacent to New York’s most notable attractions, shopping, and museums.

 

 

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Among its dining and drinks options, Margaritaville Resort Times Square’s LandShark Bar & Grill is home to Times Square’s only year-round outdoor heated pool, bringing the beach to Manhattan with a menu of poolside eats and drinks. And guests can also see jaw-dropping, 360-degree views of New York from Margaritaville Resort Time Square’s 5 o’Clock Somewhere Bar without even changing out of their flip-flops!

Jimmy Buffett performs at Margaritaville Resort Times Square “First Look” at Margaritaville Resort Times Square on June 10, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
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To celebrate the opening, the resort is offering a limited-time SummerzCool package, offering discounts for longer stays and a complimentary 1:00pm checkout… so they can sleep past noon in the city that never sleeps.

5 New Places to Visit This Summer in NYC

New York City is back in full force, and brand new bars, restaurants, and lounges are popping up all over the city. Here are 5 brand new chic places to add to your list for the summer:

 

 

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POPULAR at The Public Hotel 

In a collaboration between Ian Schrager, Peruvian Chef Diego Muñoz, and Michelin-starred chef John Fraser, Popular at The Public Hotel brings to life a menu Latin culture at its finest. Opened in June 2021, POPULAR, which means “of the people,” offers a culinary tour of the many styles and traditions of Peru, showcasing made-to-order Ceviches, wok-fried dishes to wood-fired specialties.

“Never before have two chefs of such world-renown collaborated to bring a luxurious, multicultural, culinary experience to New York City,” says Schrager. “I have long been impressed by Chef Diego’s innovative cooking, which spotlights Peru’s healthful cuisine that effortlessly marries indigenous, European, and Asian influences. His ‘live’ Ceviche program, where guests watch their dishes being freshly made, brings excitement and theatricality to the experience. I truly believe that Pisco is about to step into the limelight and Chef Diego creating our Pisco cocktails really takes them to a new level.”

 

 

 

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WRITING ON THE WALL 

The Lower East Side’s most exclusive new lounge and cocktail bar is hiding in plain sight on East Houston Street and Avenue A. A new venture from 29MONROE Hospitality that opened in March 2021, the energetic vibe features a resident list of amazing DJ’S, Handcrafted cocktails, and tropical bites.  Don’t miss The Roaring 20s signature cocktail made with Louis Roederer bubbly, Ketel One Vodka, muddled blueberries, and fresh mint or the Mont Blanc Cake. wotwnyc.com

 

 

 

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CASA LIMONE 

Take a trip to Southern Italy with a visit to elegant Casa Limone. The first NY restaurant by Monte Carlo Hospitality Group, Michelin- starred Chef Antonio Salvatore from Monaco’s favorite Rampoldi highlights the flavors, sights, and scents of Basilicata, Italy. Don’t miss the meatballs, Frittata Casa or Carpaccio di Polpo.

 

 

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THIEF 

Opened in June 2021, Theif is the first solo venture from John McNulty (Katana Kitten, Swine and Cocktail Kingdom). The 50-seat quaint neighborhood spot is inspired by the 1980’s NYC graffiti, art, and music scene. Boomboxes and spray paint line the bar, as well as small craft producers for both spirits and wine.  Don’t miss out on the Friesling (Frozen Riesling), truffle grilled cheese, or Vegan Mini Corn Dogs.

 

 

 

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ELECTRIC BURRITO
From Alex Thaboua and Will Wyatt of Mister Paradise, comes Electric Burrito, a SoCal style eatery inspired by Thaboua’s upbringing in San Diego. Find a variety of burritos, tacos, nachos, house-made sodas, and orange sauce for sale (a staple of any San Diego burrito). Electric Burrito is also committed to sustainability, re-using waste from tomato salsa, bacon fat and more in creative ways. Electric Burrito is located at 81 St. Mark’s Place.

A Versatile Vermentino

For whatever reason, when talking about Italian wines many people think of red wines—Barolo, Brunello, Barbaresco, Super Tuscan. Yet Italy produces 17 different white wine varietals—more than any other country—with a variety of styles and characteristics that can work with almost any cuisine. One of these varietals, which tends to fly a bit under the radar, is Vermentino. Considered to be one of the most important white wines produced in Italy, Vermentino, if done right, can be one of the great food wines. It’s perfumed nose and rich minerality make it a great match for light summer meals from fresh fish and produce, to light pasta dishes with olive oil and herbs to a simple burrata salad.  It can also stand up to heavier dishes such as Gnocchi with mushroom sauce, Bouillabaisse or even a classic Chicken Piccata.

 

Produced mostly on the island of Sardinia, Vermentino is generally light in body yet is quite complex with alluring aromas of peach, white pepper and lemon zest. On the palate, Vermentino can have a slight oiliness to it but is otherwise dry and crisp. What I love most about a good Vermentino is the mineral and saline characteristics. Wine, after all, is made from fruit off a vine that is grown from the earth’s soil. And while a wine’s bouquet may greet you, and its mid palate may strike up conversation, it is the earthiness, the soil, the terrior of the wine that lingers on the finish, leaving an indelible mark in your wine memory bank. Subsequently, it is also what makes a good food wine.

 

2020 Surrau “Limizzani” Vermentino Di Gallura DOCG (SRP: $16)

 

Located fifteen minutes from the stunning Costa Smeralda in the northeastern corner of Sardinia, Vigne Surrau is home to the only DOCG on the island of Sardinia—Vermentino di Gallura DOCG.

 

This 100% Vermentino is a blend of fruit from all of Surrau’s estate vineyards and was fermented and aged in stainless steel. The 2020 Limizzani is quintessential Vermentino with a bouquet of spice, crushed flowers, white peaches and apricots that lift up out of the glass. The perfumed nose leads to more stone fruits, pepper and lemon zinger, followed by crushed stones and a viscousness on the palate that is typical of Vermentino. The round, supple mid palate finishes crisp and clean.

 

Surrau’s 2019 “Sciala” Vermentino di Gallura Superiore DOCG (SRP: $27) is wonderful as well with similar characteristics, but I actually preferred the lower priced Limizzani, without knowing the price difference. At $16 a bottle the Limmizzani is a great wine to buy several bottles of or even a case of and enjoy throughout the summer with fresh seafood, pasta and other summer fresh dishes.

 

Best Hotels for Active Travelers

While relaxing vacations certainly have their virtues—think pina coladas on a white sand beach, or a deep tissue massage at a desert spa—many people prefer a daily dose of action and adventure on their vacations. No, I’m not talking about golf, or tennis or long walks on the beach. I’m talking about real activities and adventure—perhaps even a little danger.

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TRENDING

Raw Bar Hopping – 8 Great Oyster Bars in NYC

In the book The Big Oyster, Mark Kurlansky writes “before the 20th century, when people thought of New York, they thought of oysters.”  Though that sentiment along with New York’s oyster population has diminished over the past two centuries with the city’s drastic growth, oysters are currently making a strong comeback in Mahattan via the Oyster Restoration Research Project. Continue reading

6 New England Beach Resorts to Stay at This Summer

While booking a summer rental has its merits, there is something about beach resorts—convenience, amenities and hospitality to name a few perks—that can make it much easier than hassling with the research and paperwork normally associated with summer rentals. Here are 6 resorts in New England that are sure to satiate your summer travel cravings, without any hassles. 

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7 Great Hotels In San Francisco

While San Francisco may have become too expensive to live in, it is still relatively affordable to visit. Unlike New York City’s hotel scene, which seems to grow and grow, with trendy newcomers stealing the show, many of San Francisco’s top places to stay are the same properties they have always been—albeit some minor name changes.

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Best Hotels for Active Travelers

While relaxing vacations certainly have their virtues—think pina coladas on a white sand beach, or a deep tissue massage at a desert spa—many people prefer a daily dose of action and adventure on their vacations. No, I’m not talking about golf, or tennis or long walks on the beach. I’m talking about real activities and adventure—perhaps even a little danger.

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Nomad Hotel Library Bar

Best Library Bars

Ah, the library bar. An urban oasis steeped in history (quite literally). Vintage, deep-seated armchairs, mahogany shelves and leather bound books ease the soul, while a single malt scotch calms the nerves after a long day of work. Ron Burgundy’s kind of place. My kind of place. Continue reading

OPINION & VARIETY

Tales From a Chocolatier

Located high in Utah’s Wasatch Mountain range in the heart of the Rockies resides a small chocolate company—with huge arms —that produces some of world’s best chocolate.  Meaning “by hand” and “they love” in Italian, Amano prides itself on sourcing only the world’s very best cacao beans and ingredients.

Their beans, of course, are not sourced in Utah but rather the lush rainforests and tropical regions of the world. In fact, all cacao beans are sourced between 20 degrees north and south of the equator. Amano visits plantations in these regions, buying from the growers, and when necessary working with them to improve their skill in properly growing, fermenting and drying the cacao beans to meet their exacting standards.

Through working with small, carefully controlled batches and lots of love and attention, Amano seeks not to be the largest chocolate company, but simply the best—and their myriad awards over the past decade reflect this commitment. So do the many Michelin-starred restaurants that use their chocolate—usually in melted form from discus shaped melting wafers—in their deserts.

 

 

I recently met with Amano’s founder and CEO Art Pollard and talked about chocolate and the many adventures that come with this trade. Here is what he had to say.

GLR: How did you get in the chocolate business?

Art: I grew up a die hard foodie and with a background in the hard sciences bouncing back and forth between Los Alamos, N.M. and Seattle. Both New Mexico and the Seattle area are great homes for food. When I was attending my university I worked for the physics department. One day while eating a German chocolate bar, I made an off-hand comment that it would be fun to make my own chocolate. My co-workers (who were working on space shuttle projects and particle accelerators) all said it was too hard. I thought that if it was that hard, it had to be insanely interesting. I love things that are hard and interesting.

A few years later, while on my honeymoon in Hawaii, I found an outlet for what, I thought at the time, was a truly spectacular chocolate. It was then that I realized that chocolate could be so much more than “chocolate”. Immediately upon our return, I started experimenting and designing and building my own machinery. Little did I know what sorts of adventures it would set in motion. It turns out that making a world class chocolate is indeed insanely difficult; in the end, my co-workers were right. However, by the time I discovered that my co-workers were fundamentally correct, I already had a factory.

GLR: Your chocolate has won many awards including gold, silver and bronze medals at the “Olympics of Chocolate.” What makes Amano so high quality and good?

Art: Fundamentally, like all world class products, it is about attention to detail.  Even before we started Amano, I experimented for over ten years on different manufacturing techniques and how they affected flavor. Much of this was on machines that I designed and built. I credit my failures during this experimentation phase for teaching me many of the techniques that we now use today. Your successes never teach you the “whys” but your failures do.  Even today, I am constantly experimenting with different ways of processing ingredients.

Like all food, it is only as good as the ingredients that go into it. To make a world class chocolate, it takes world class cocoa. Everything fights against it. The weather can interfere with the fermenting. Cocoa farmers often aren’t skilled at fermenting, after all, they don’t use the cocoa they produce. Genetics; the large chocolate companies encourage the planting of high productivity strains of cocoa with no regard to flavor. Plant diseases; the cocoa trees are particularly susceptible to. Never mind the problems caused the political unstableity of many cocoa growing countries. Given all this, I have found that having really strong relationships with the farmers is immensely helpful. When needed, we help train them to increase the quality of their cocoa. It is good for them and it helps us get the quality we need.  And hopefully, we can instill the same sense of pride in their cocoa as we have for our chocolate. When people care about what they do, when they truly care, amazing things can happen.

GLR: Where are some of the most exotic places you have traveled, looking for cocoa beans?

Art: We currently purchase beans from: Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Papua New Guinea, Ecuador, and Madagascar. I try to work with all the farmers from whom we buy our cocoa. I’ve also traveled extensively through Central and South America, especially Peru and Honduras looking for cocoa. But one of my favorite places was visiting the tinyisland of Guanaja off the coast of Honduras.  I was lucky enough to go with a group of some of the world’s finest chocolate makers.  Guanaja was where Christopher Columbus first tasted cocoa. It was on his fourth voyage to the New World. Off the coast, he encountered a Mayan canoe laden with cocoa. He couldn’t figure out what it was for and ordered the cocoa dumped out. He couldn’t figure out why the Mayans were so upset.  Now we know and I believe, we treasure cocoa just as highly as the Mayans. It was an amazing experience to be in such an important place in the European history of cocoa. And it was on Guanaja that we discussed how we can work together to ensure that the farmers that we work with could earn enough through their cocoa that they could have a livelihood. We dedicated ourselves to working together to ensure that cocoa would remain a sustainable crop and not stoop to using factory farming and to focus on flavor rather than stooping to high-productivity varieties as the large companies do. It was truly an amazing experience.

GLR: Some of the countries you have to visit to source cocoa beans are not exactly stable. Have you ever felt in danger while traveling the world for work?

Art: Yes, it is quite frequent that I end up in situations where if I were not with locals, it could have ended up in a very bad way. Many times the locals that I’m with are armed. I think we often forget that much of the world isn’t in a position to call law enforcement every time they are in trouble.

One time, I laugh about, was during a trip to Venezuela. We pulled into a small town where our hotel was. The entire town was deserted. It was like a scene from a Western movie. We became concerned that perhaps the town was run by drug lords. Right before our hotel, there was an enormous mob which we had to drive through. The mob parted slowly as we drove through. We found out later that yes, the entire town was run by the drug lords and it was the drug lords that were keeping us safe. The last thing they wanted was the Federales to be coming around. What a strange world we live in.

GLR: You don’t just sell chocolate “bars” but also chocolate wafers (discus form used for melting) that restaurant clients melt and use ON or as the primary ingredient IN desserts. What are some of the restaurants using your chocolate for their desserts?

Art: We have been blessed to have some of the world’s finest restaurants using our chocolate. Of course, every chef brings their own interpretation to their creations. But we are particularly proud to be working with Chez Panisse. We have had a long standing relationship with this legendary restaurant. Chez Panisse is the creation of Alice Waters who pioneered America’s fresh food prepared simply movement. Alice Waters and Chez Panisse have had an enormous impact on the way we eat in the United States whether we recognize it or not. Our chocolate Dos Rios (that naturally tastes like burgamot orange and lavender) has historically been a favorite among the chefs at the Fat Duck. Located just outside of London, the Fat Duck has been rated as high as the number two restaurant in the world. (And having eaten there, it deserves its amazing reputation.) The chefs we work with love the fact that our chocolates have such a wide range of flavors and it allows them to pair foods with chocolate in ways that they never were able to before.

GLR: I gather you are foodie. What other foods do you love besides chocolate?

Art: I like simple foods done well. I’m a big fan of steak and I cook a really mean steak.  What I find fascinating is all steaks start with a simple piece of meat. The finished steak can be magic or not – all depending on what you do with it. Same with a good crème brule. It’s amazing how beautiful such a simple dish can be. I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to eat at some of the world’s finest restaurants and while I’ve had some amazing meals where a lot of work goes into them, the most stunning are the ones where simple foods are prepared exceptionally well. It takes a masterful chef to take something simple and turn it into something world class. Along those lines, Thomas Keller has said the way you can judge a chef’s skill is to order the roast chicken. Even so, the true king in my book is an exceptional chocolate. Chocolate after all is the “food of the gods”.

GLR: Have you ever traded your chocolate for other goods?

Art: Yes, one of my favorite trades was for a camera backpack from F-Stop. When I was in college, I worked through the photography program (even though it wasn’t my major) under an amazing photographer and professor John Telford. As I travel the world visiting our farmers, looking for cocoa and working with great chefs, I get to practice my photography. It helps me to always see the world with fresh eyes and appreciate the moment. It is hard to find a good camera bag. One day I found F-Stop to absolutely amazing reviews. I called and the sales person discovered I run Amano Chocolate. It turns out that they were regularly giving our chocolate to their suppliers as gifts. I proposed a trade and their response was: “Done.” I have been absolutely thrilled with my F-Stop camera bag and have taken it all over the world and on many adventures.

GLR: What is the most satisfying part of your job?

Art: I believe that chocolate touches us in ways that few other foods do. It is there for births, deaths, weddings, birthdays and our day to day lives. When people taste chocolate that is truly extraordinary, it touches them in a way that is often surprising. It isn’t like regular store bought mass market chocolate, it is sooooo much better. I love being able to see the expression on people’s faces when they try our chocolate. I especially love taking the finished chocolate back to the farmers we work with. It is rare for farmers to be able to taste chocolate made with their very own beans. The expressions on their faces of pure joy when they taste chocolate made with their own beans is priceless. Then when they learn that their cocoa has been turned into chocolate that has received some of the world’s highest awards, you can see their sense of pride grow in their eyes. Nothing is more special than that.

GLR: How was chocolate first invented?

Art: The cocoa beans in the cocoa pod are covered by a sweet white pulp. It tastes like a flowery lemon-aid. It is delicious. Animals will often burrow into the pods to eat this beautiful pulp. The cocoa beans on the other hand are bitter and tannic. They are literally spitting bad which is of course how the tree propagates when the animals spit the beans onto the ground. The current state of research seems to indicate that the first cocoa was harvested for the sweet pulp not to eat but to ferment into alcohol. Or as I like to say: “Never underestimate people’s ability to find a new way to get plastered.” When the cocoa beans are fermented with their pulp, they change. The fermenting breaks down the tannic and bitter components and the flavor of the beans change into something beautiful and wonderful to eat. It is hard to find farmers that ferment cocoa well, but when cocoa is, it is amazing. From the roasted cocoa we had drinks for a few thousand years. Some Catholic nuns in Oxwere the first to sweeten it with sugar and honey in the late 1500’s. By the late 1600’s the prelude to what we now recognize as chocolate bars was beginning to be sold in Europe. Chocolate has a truly amazing history. And like history, it has its demons and heroes and every time we eat a chocolate bar, we become part of that amazing journey that is chocolate.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=JhErfS8LF0I

Take Your Tequila to the Garden Party

Tequila sometimes has to struggle with its brawling-bikers-under-a-hot-sun reputation. Rarely do people write on their garden party invites, “tequila drinks being served.” Which is a shame, because even though a shot of tequila may be the drink of choice for those wearing leather jackets in July, this base spirit also plays well in a variety of cocktails, from traditional numbers such as the Margarita to lighter and less-known summer fare that pairs tequila up with intriguing ingredients.

 

One such lesser-known tequila recipe that’s getting more popular by the minute, and one that’s perfect for backyard gathering when the mercury has risen up the thermometer, is the Green Garden from Paul Abercrombie’s wonderfully green cocktail book “Organic, Shaken and Stirred.” The Green Garden mixes organic Blanco tequila with a cucumber-infused syrup (if your own garden isn’t overflowing, pick up English cucumbers – what Abercrombie suggests using here – at a local farmer’s market), a hint of lime and Italian sparkler Moscato d’Asti. The end result is a drink that doesn’t sacrifice anything in tequila taste, but one that also stays light on its feet. Because even a biker doesn’t want to be weighed down by their drink when the summertime dancing starts.

 

Green Garden

 

1-1/2 ounces organic blanco tequila

1/2 ounce Cucumber-Infused Organic Simple Syrup (recipe follows)

1/4 ounce freshly squeezed organic lime juice

1 ounce organic Moscato d’Asti

Several edible organic flowers (such as small roses or lavender blossoms)

 

1. Combine the tequila, simple syrup, and lime juice in an ice cube-filled cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously, then strain the mixture into a chilled martini glass or champagne saucer.

 

2. Add the Moscato d’Asti and garnish with the flowers.

 

Cucumber-Infused Organic Simple Syrup: Juice one English cucumber (leave the skin on for flavor and color). Place the juice in a small glass bowl with an equal volume of Organic Simple Syrup (see below) and 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed organic lime juice, and stir to combine. The syrup will keep, in an airtight container, in the refrigerator for up to one month.

 

Organic Simple Syrup

 

Makes 2 cups

 

1 cup organic granulated sugar

8 ounces water

 

1. Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. The syrup can be stored, in an airtight container, in the refrigerator for up to one month.

 

Recipe Copyright 2009 by Paul Abercrombie, “Organic, Shaken and Stirred,” The Harvard Common Press; photo copyright 2009 by Jerry Errico