A Miami Moment

I live in South Florida and only about an hour’s drive from Miami. But, somehow, I don’t get down there much. For some reason, the hassle with traffic to get there always seems to stop me. But, there are always great events going on and my friends convinced us to join them for this Art and Chocolate show last week that was taking place in the Wynwood Arts District.

We decided to stay overnight and make the most of our trip. I’m so glad we did. We found a terrific place to stay just 4 blocks from the venue for the show. Check in time was 3PM but we got there at 1PM. Since we were told we’d be charged an additional $39 if we wanted to check in early we left our luggage and went off to find a place to eat.

How fortunate that just across the street was Beaker and Gray, a place I had actually read about as one of the neighborhood’s best. It’s situated in an old factory and although there are outside tables, the Florida steaminess lured us in to the cool inside. The décor is basic and rustic with exposed brick walls, concrete floors and old wood beams on the 20170518_141012ceiling but it is still quite cozy.  Although they are known for amazing cocktails, it was a bit early in the day so I chose a refreshing glass of rose wine to start. The server explained the popularity of their “bowls” that can be interchanged with different proteins (octopus, skirt steak, chicken, shrimp.) I needed to eat light so chose the house salad with avocado, hearts of palm, queso fresco and the most delicious dressing (cilantro lime.) My husband and two friends each had a bowl, one with octopus that is prepared sous vide prior to grilling. Amazing. While we ate, the heavens opened up and we were happy to be inside after all.

We quickly made it back across the street to the hotel and while we hoped to spend some time at their rooftop pool, instead we sat in one of our suites and shared a couple of bottles of wine that we each had brought with us.

We had a couple of hours to relax before heading to the show and hoped that the relentless rain would stop. Thankfully, it did for the walk there. But, as we waited for the late opening of the gate, the rain began again and we had to yell to get in.20170518_200913 Once inside, we were surprised to find that there really wasn’t much happening. There was a long bar where you could buy drinks and then a hallway that led to one large room and one smaller room that had the artwork on the walls. As far as the chocolate, there were displays being set up as we walked around and a chocolate fondue fountain that wouldn’t be ready for another half hour.  It took us about 15 minutes to look at the paintings so once the rain had stopped (not too much longer), we left.  It wasn’t the type of show we expected but we figured we’d make the most out of being in the area.

Being hungry again and wanting a drink we came to Wynwood Kitchen and Bar. This is another one of the neighborhood’s gems. Our server explained the Latin influenced small plate theme and gave us some pointers for what to choose. My friend and I had their super tasty “Shot of Love” cocktail, a blend of Peruvian Pisco, Lychee, lime juice, mint and hibiscus and we ordered a whole bunch of different dishes to share. Each one was better than the one before. We had roasted beets with blue cheese, valencia orange and an incredible vinaigrette, grilled pork belly skewers with a brown sugar/soy glaze  and baby octopus skewers with lemon and garlic,  braised short ribs with a boniato mash, crispy pork with white cheddar chipotle grits and the pan seared fish with a corn salsa.  Hungry yet? This really was a fantastic restaurant and will be worth making a return trip.

The next day we had one final delicious meal sitting on the porch at Morgan’s where I had an incredible breakfast burrito filled with pork, cheddar cheese, rice, black beans, avocado, fried eggs and salsa. Good thing I shared this one with my husband or I don’t think I would have been able to move. Great fresh and natural ingredients are used here so I don’t feel that guilty. 20170519_110523

I have to admit that even though we made the trip for an art show that was quite a disappointment, we certainly made up for it with the great food and company. I now can’t wait to go back to Wynwood.

Cheers and all the best,

Zita

 

 

 

A Bit from Barcelona, Spain

Here’s a little bit (or bite) from our Barcelona, Spain segment from All the Best with Zita Keeley. We had such an amazing day filming with Yves Nicolier.

It was a great ending to our Holland America Line Mediterranean cruise on MS Oosterdam.

Enjoy and cheers,

Zita

Visiting Corsica on All the Best with Zita Keeley

One of our filming stops in the Mediterranean was in Corsica. I had a short time to discover some of it’s delicacies thanks to Olivier of Coloratour and Holland America Line and the MS Oosterdam.

Cheers,
Zita

A Tropical Thanksgiving at Sea

When my mother and I were discussing what to do for Thanksgiving, she came up with the idea of a cruise. Well, who am I to argue with spending the holiday at sea. We quickly booked ourselves on the Holland America Line, Eurodam for a 7 day Tropical Caribbean sailing. As my mother likes to do things in style, she also booked herself a special suite as well as a private cabana in the ship’s retreat. (I love traveling with my mom.)

On the first day, things are a bit hectic as people find their way around the ship and the ships crew reorganizes for a brand new set of guests. However, it didn’t take long before we settled in to the relaxing and easy going pace having our first champagne toast on the very large balcony of my mom’s suite.1

I had a spa balcony room on the 11th deck just down the hall from the private retreat. What a perfect location this turned out to be since we spent all our days at sea by that cabana.

The ship first headed to Nassau and although we’ve been there numerous times we decided to at least hop off for a drink at Senor Frogs. That place is always a fun spot.20161120_142838

Dinner that night was in the ship’s beautiful Pinnacle Grill where I had the tastiest crabcakes and 16 oz bone in ribeye. (The dessert is my husband’s.) Needless to say, I needed a good walk around the promenade deck a few times to work that meal off.

Our next stop was Grand Turk. Here, we got off the ship to try and get a wifi connection. There’s not a lot to do here but snorkeling and diving which neither my husband or I were up for doing. So, we just strolled around by the water taking pictures of the ships. I know it doesn’t sound too exciting but it somehow was quite enjoyable to us.

Tamarind, the Asian fusion restaurant was tonights’ dining choice. I always enjoy their food and it was as good as ever. Excellent thai beef salad and a lobster dish that was delicious.

We ended up at sea for the next 2 days due to the unexpected hurricane that was on its way to Costa Rica. As I said, the cabana was our true retreat on these days. We had everything we could want with fruit, water, lunch delivered and later in the day, champagne and chocolate covered strawberries.

Our next dinner at the Pinnacle Grill was a special treat. One night of every cruise the Eurodam hosts a tasting of De Librije, a Michelin starred restaurant in the Netherlands  owned by one of the Culinary Council chefs,  Jonnie Boer. I met the Chef a few years back at a culinary council lunch and remember loving his halibut dish. Tonight’s meal was  a feast for the eyes and stomach as we ate our way through 5 different courses plus the amuse bouche and all paired with wines selected by Jonnie Boer’s wife, Therese. She is partner and Sommelier extraordinaire at the restaurant who helped bring the restaurant to its highly acclaimed status. Starting with the incredible amuse bouche of foie gras, egg and tomato risotto, there was more foie gras (in the shape of an oyster) on my oysters on the beach dish. Next I had the pork belly with caviar and goat cheese, then the seared bass and finally miso glazed duck breast. The wines were all Spanish from a smooth and crisp Verdejo to a full bodied and bold Toro. How I still had room to even try to dessert was a miracle but how could I forego roasted white chocolate or my husband’s deconstructed apple pie. Oh yes, this was yet another night to walk around the promenade deck a few times.

Thanksgiving day was a treat at sea lounging around and sipping bubbly followed by a full Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings. I loved how they gave both white and dark meat on the plate with just enough stuffing to satisfy that craving.
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One thing on the ship that is quite special and also new is what they call Music Walk. As you walk through one particular deck of the ship you come across Billboard onboard where 2 pianists sing and play favorite songs and hits. Then,  the BB King Blues Club in the ship’s Queen’s Lounge playing motown, blues etc. and then what was our favorite, the Lincoln Center Stage where each night before dinner we watched incredible classical music performances by a fabulous group consisting of 2 violins, viola, cello and piano. On the last night on board, these musicians took part in a very special presentation of BBC’s Frozen Planet where they accompanied  footage from the incredible program with live music. It was a stunning finale to this ultra relaxing holiday retreat.

All the best,

Zita

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Day (No.. A Few Hours) in Provence

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Cruising on back into France, our ship docked at the busy and bustling port of Marseilles. Although this large old city had a rough and not so stylish past it has rebounded as a big tourist destination with its historical sites and landmarks as well as shopping and restaurants.

However, in my very few hours in the Provence region, my guide today, Sebastian, (Iamnotatourist) has some special out of town visits planned for me. First on the list is the absolutely charming restaurant, Le Bistrot du Paradou in the equally charming and stunning village of Le Paradou. Sebastian tells me that this quaint and off the beaten path restaurant is a favorite for the local Provencal people and one of his number one picks in the region. The interior is classic  French country with bare stone walls, long wooden and marble top tables and all kinds of photos and pictures hanging on the walls. There’s a pretty outside seating area surrounded by oleander bushes and herbs and the noisy roaring sound of the cicadas.

We are there on a Friday and the special is Aioli,  not just the sauce but a  dish of hot vegetables along with some type of fish and served with the special aioli sauce. I follow  Chef Quenin into his kitchen where he is painstakingly stirring the sauce made of garlic, olive oil and eggs. This is the traditional meal that is prepared and served every Friday.

Sebastian and I are served this huge plate of food (with salted cod) as well as salad Provencal and some local wine. As if all that were not enough, we are served a platter of cheeses and French bread and I am given a glass of Pernod to wash it all down.

Having cheese on the brain now,  we head off to Fromagerie Des Alpilles  where owner Mr Sequin and his family have prepared a tasting of more than just a few of their goat cheeses. But first,  I get to spend  time with goats again, (remember the goats in Corsica)!20160708_131138 After a tour of the small farm we head into the house where the actual cheese making takes place. Very briefly, the milk is put in big plastic vats to ferment. (Rennet is added after a few hours to help curdle the milk.) About 24 hours later the “cheese to be” is transferred to individual molds for further fermenting and drying out. (Salt is added at some point.) About another 24 hours later and this is actually edible delicious fresh goat cheese. Some of the cheese is left to ferment and mature and Mr Sequin’s claim to fame is adding herbs and various toppings and coatings. This is what he had lined up for me and  I had to figure out which ones I would try. I loved the black pepper coated creamy cheese and one coated in tarragon too. Basically, I loved them all and wish I could have taken some with me.

Time to wash that all down with some good wine. Driving  through the beautiful countryside we come to Les Baux de Provence and  Le Chateau Dalmeran. The magnificent winery is located beneath the Alpilles mountains and owner Beatrice Joyce, along with her dog Elliott, take us into the heart of the vineyards to do a tasting of a couple of her wines. It doesn’t get better than this.

We have one more visit before having to re board the Oosterdam and on the way we can’t help but stop to take in some of those spectacular views surrounding us.

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Arriving at Moulin Castelas, one of the best olive oil producers in the region, we meet owners Jean-Benoit  and Catherine Hughes.  While there’s no production taking place at the mill now, it’s still very special to hear the passionate story about why and how this olive mill was started in 1997 and the love the Hughes have for the land. I have a tasting of a few oils that  are rich with aromas and taste. The oils here are like the wines, dependent on the terroir, climate, varieties of olives used and how ripe the olives are. I was quite happy to be given a couple of small tins that I could quite easily fit into my suitcase!

Back on the ship and it was another relaxing night for a delicious dinner and time to catch up with my friends.

All the best,

Zita