The Pillars Hotel – Fort Lauderdale

The Pillars Hotel, a boutique hotel on the Intracoastal Waterway in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is an oasis of tranquility. The hotel is a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World and has received many awards over the years for its excellent service. My husband and I feel that the Pillars is probably the finest small hotel in South Florida. When we want to relax and forget about the pressures of everyday life, a few days stay at the Pillars is a real treat.

The Pillars Hotel, An Oasis Of Tranquility

The area of Fort Lauderdale Beach where The Pillars Hotel is located seems to be the “hot and trendy” spot where everyone wants to be. It is called the “Venice of America” because of all the canals lined with multimillion dollar homes, mega yachts, and outdoor cafes and waterfront restaurants. There are many towering oceanfront hotels in the area where we could stay but my husband and I prefer this charming two story, eighteen room boutique hotel which is known for its gracious and personalized service.

“Venice Of America”  Where Canals Are Lined With Million Dollar Homes And Mega Yachts

We think the hotel is in the prefect location…an easy five minute walk to the famous white sand beach, restaurants and all the popular tourist spots. What also makes it so appealing is that it is just far enough removed from the traffic and crowds to be able to peacefully relax by the pool enjoying the shade of the palm trees, the tropical breezes and a cooling beverage.

Click on any photo to enlarge and see a slide show.

The Pillars Hotel was originally created from a two story home built in the 1930’s and a small motel. When driving by, you might not guess that the yellow building with tall white columns surrounded by lush tropical foliage is a hotel.

After parking on the circular drive, you enter through the tall front door into the casually elegant lounge area.

With comfy sofas on either side of the fireplace, a harp and a chess table nearby, you have the feeling you are visiting someone’s lovely beach home. The decor is a mix of classic British Colonial and modern Art Deco with dark woods and pale walls hung with original artwork.

Enjoy A Welcome Cocktail At The Pillars Hotel Bar

After registering, head to the bar or the sophisticated yet comfortable lounge area to enjoy your welcoming glass of prosecco or wine before heading to your room to unpack.

We usually stay in the Intracoastal Suite, a large corner room with a nice sitting area on the ground floor.  Three walls of white plantation shutters offer privacy when needed yet let in lots of natural light during the day with views out to the Intracoastal, the pool and the tropical gardens. We have also stayed in the hotel’s King Deluxe Poolside room,  smaller than the suite but also very nice.

All of the hotel rooms face towards the pool and garden courtyard. Outside each room, there is a small table with two chairs. It is a nice place to enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning in your bathrobe or bathing suit while reading the newspaper that is brought to your door each morning. In nice weather, you can also have breakfast on the dock.

During our stay, we try to have a couple of dinners at the hotel’s restaurant, The Secret Garden. It  is only available to the guests of the hotel and members of the hotel’s Secret Dining Club. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served in the hotel’s intimate dining room with views out to the pool courtyard, tropical garden and the Intracoastal waterway.

In nice weather you can also eat poolside or at one of the white linen covered, candlelit tables along the dock. There is nothing quite as enjoyable as a romantic dinner at sunset while listening to soft music and watching large yachts cruise by on the Intracoastal.

The Pillar’s Beautiful Yacht Available For Charter

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My husband and I first started coming to The Pillars when we lived in New England. We would fly south to celebrate our anniversary and at the same time take a much needed break from the cold and snow. We now live in a small yet charming beach town on the east coast of Florida where cold and snow aren’t part of our lives. When we now drive  two hours south to the cosmopolitan city of Fort Lauderdale, we go for great shopping, wonderful restaurants and to visit family and friends in the area. We try to make the most of the “big city life” but we also enjoy the tranquility that we find at The Pillars.

The hotel is a hidden gem among all the towering ocean front hotels with names you will instantly recognize. While some of those famous chain hotels are starting to show their age, each time we visit The Pillars Hotel it always looks fresh. The bedding has been updated as well as some of the furniture but one thing that never changes is the warm welcome and genuine hospitality that is shown to us during each of our stays.

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Balsamic Marinated Skirt Steak

Balsamic Marinated Skirt Steak, seared on the outside, cooked to your liking on the inside, is one of the most flavorful pieces of meat you can prepare. The steak is left to marinate in a mixture of balsamic vinegar, oil, fresh garlic, mustard and Worcestershire sauce along with cayenne pepper for four to six hours, which makes the meat tender and really flavorful.

Balsamic Marinated Skirt Steak

If you are not familiar with skirt steak, it might be because the meat may go by a different name at your local butcher shop. Depending on where you live, it might be called beef plate, inside or outside skirt steak, boneless diaphragm, fajita steak or even Philadelphia steak. This particular cut of meat is known for its outstanding beefy flavor and is often used in fajitas and stir-fries. Since this is not a tender cut of meat by nature, it is very important to only cook skirt steak to rare or medium rare and then cut the steak against the grain very thinly just before serving. This all helps to ensure that your steaks will end up tender and delicious.

Balsamic Marinated Rear Skirt Steak, Crispy Potato Cake And Tomato Salad

Balsamic Marinated Skirt Steak

Serves two, adjust the recipe accordingly.

  • 1/2 to 3/4 lb. skirt steak
  • 1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 c. oil (I used peanut for high heat grilling)
  • 2 – 3 cloves garlic, mashed to a paste
  • 1 tsp. mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper or to taste
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Skirt steak is a long piece of meat so cut it into shorter, more manageable pieces and then place into a resealable zip bag. Mix all the rest of the ingredients except the salt and pepper until blended and pour over the meat. Remove as much air from the bag as possible and seal. Refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours but I like to marinate the meat 4 to 6 hours so that the vinegar in the marinade has a chance to tenderize the meat. When you are ready to cook, take the steak out of the refrigerator and remove from the marinade. Season the meat generously with salt and pepper and let come to room temperature before cooking.

Preheat your grill until hot and cook quickly. I use the sear burner on my gas grill which has intense heat and cook each side for about a minute for rare. Timing on your grill may vary but try not to cook the steak to more than medium rare which has a very rosy pink center, approximately 2 to 4 minutes depending on the thickness of the meat. The steak should register 120 to 125 F for rare, 130 to 140 F for medium rare when checked with a meat thermometer. Once you take the steaks off the heat, wrap with foil and let rest for about 10 minutes for the juices to even out. *If you don’t have a grill or it is the wrong time of the year to be cooking outdoors, you can prepare the steak in a very hot grill pan or skillet on your stove top.

If you would like, you can use the excess marinade to prepare a sauce. Simply bring the balsamic marinade to a boil, lower the liquid to a simmer and cook for a few minutes to reduce then serve with the sliced steak.

Skirt Steak Cooked Medium Rare With Chimichurri Sauce

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This balsamic marinated skirt steak  is very simple to prepare and I believe your family and friends with enjoy it. You can make your marinade early in the day then marinate the skirt steak a few hours before you are ready to cook…I suggest 4 to 6. Prepare your sides at meal time and then grill your steak. While the meat is resting, you can get the rest of the meal on the table then slice your steak and serve. I served the balsamic marinated skirt steak with cheesy potato cakes which were crispy on the outside and soft and flavorful on the inside along with an heirloom cherry tomato and basil salad. Other good options for side dishes are twice baked potatoes, sweet potato wedges or sautéed spinach. If you don’t reduce the marinade to use as a sauce, a nice accompaniment when serving skirt steak is Chimichurri Sauce, you can find the recipe here.

 

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Caribbean Spiced Rum Chicken Thighs

Caribbean Spiced Rum Chicken Thighs, glazed with a barbecue sauce that is flavored with Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum and pineapple juice and then grilled, will have you dreaming of a trip to the islands. Honey and pineapple juice give the chicken sweetness, sriracha gives heat and the spiced rum, fresh ginger and five spice seasoning add lots of aromatic flavors to the barbecue sauce.  When cooked on the grill, the rum glaze caramelizes as it cooks, adding lots of lip smacking good flavor to the tender juicy chicken.

Caribbean Spiced Rum Grilled Chicken Thigh

I served the spiced rum chicken thighs, which were drizzled with a little extra sauce, alongside curried rice. The rice, seasoned with browned onions, curry powder, turmeric and fresh cilantro, complemented the flavorful chicken and added color to the plate.

Caribbean Spiced Rum Chicken Thighs

Serves two, adjust the recipe accordingly

Sauce

  • 2 Tbsp. butter or olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
  • 1/4 c. catsup
  • 1/4 c. pineapple juice
  • 2 Tbsp. Captain Morgan Spiced Rum or spiced rum of your choice
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. sriracha or to taste
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 2 tsp. five spice powder

Chicken

  • 4 chicken thighs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • onion powder and garlic powder to taste, optional but recommended

Melt the butter in a small sauce pan and add the garlic and ginger. Cook for about 30 seconds and then add all the other sauce ingredients. Simmer for a few minutes until the  sauce comes together. If the sauce appears too thick, you can thin with a little water. Set aside to cool. If the sauce separates after cooling, whisk before using.

Season the chicken thighs generously with salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. Spoon some of the cooled sauce over both sides of the chicken, cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes but longer is better. Take the chicken out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before you are ready to grill. Reserve the remainder of the sauce. It can either be used to brush on the cooked chicken or poured into a bowl and passed around at the table.

Preheat your grill for 15 to 20 minutes until hot. (One zone on med. high and one medium.) Arrange the chicken skinned (presentation) side down on the high heat zone. Depending on how hot your grill is, cook for about 3 minutes with the lid down and then rotate the thighs 90 degrees to get crosshatch marks and cook for another 3 minutes. Turn the chicken thighs over and cook the same way for another 4 to 6 minutes until done and the juices run clear. If the sauce appears to be getting too dark, move to the cooler cooking zone. When the thighs are done, remove from the grill and let rest a couple of minutes so that the juices redistribute.

*The trick to good grill marks is to turn the meat as little as possible. When done remove from the grill.

Caribbean Spiced Rum Chicken Thigh

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I hope you will try and enjoy my island inspired Caribbean spiced rum chicken the next time you grill. If you are having friends over, you might want to cook other parts of the chicken as well as the thighs, just adjust the cooking time and double or triple the sauce. The barbecue sauce is easily adapted to your own tastes. I used Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum because that is my husband’s favorite and we alway have it in our home. If you don’t have it, use any spiced rum or dark rum that you have on hand. The sauce is moderately spicy from the use of sriracha. While not nearly as spicy as the well known jerk marinade that is used in Jamaica, you can adjust the heat with whichever hot sauce that you like. Want it sweeter, add more honey. However you decide to make it, I believe you will enjoy Caribbean spiced rum chicken…it is lip smacking good.

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France’s Alsace Wine Region, Postcards To Remember

The French Wine Region of Alsace is a beautiful patchwork of forested rolling hills, valleys filled with quaint picturesque villages and hillside vineyards watched over by medieval castles. This charming wine growing region in the northeastern part of France lies in a valley along the Rhine River that separates France from Germany. While this small region might not be as well known as Champagne, Burgundy and Bordeaux, its vineyards are some of the oldest and highest quality found in France.

Riquewihr, France

Time and again, I’ve been asked about the photo that tops Back Road Journal. It was taken high on a hill at the edge of one of the vineyards in Alsace on a misty day in September. You can see the beautiful patchwork of colors the vineyards create in the fall in the photograph that I mention below.

Alsatian Vineyards Create A Patchwork Of Colors In The Fall

The colors of fall in the vineyards not only add to the scenic beauty of the area but it is also a wonderful time to visit Alsace. The grapes are ready to be harvested and after the harvest, the villages all celebrate with special wine festivals.

Click on any photo in this article to enlarge and see a slide show.

The Alsace Wine Road runs south from Strasbourg, with the Rhine river that borders Germany to its east and the Vosges mountains to its west, and continues down towards Colmar and just beyond. The wine route passes through beautiful villages, some with their medieval walls still surrounding them. Off in the distance, you often see ruins of a castle perched high on a hill top. Haut-Koenigsbourg Castle, one of France’s most widely visited castles has been completely restored and should not be missed when in the area.

Cobblestone streets are lined with colorful half-timbered shops and homes that are laden with flowers giving the villages a look which will remind you of the fairytale books you read as a child.

Enjoy local region cuisine in one of small local bistros or winstubs where you might want to try one of the region’s specialties such as tart d’oignion, tarte flambee, quenelles de foie or the ever popular choucroute garnie with sauerkraut, sausages, ham, bacon, and potatoes. It is usually a very large serving and is hard to finish unless you share it with someone. We have eaten several times at Winstub au Rouge d’Ottrot in Ottrot. It is a very popular place with the locals from the surrounding area. If you would prefer a multi course fine dining experience and we have had them, head to one of the 30 or so excellent Michelin starred restaurants in throughout the Alsace region. Some consider the cuisine of Alsace to be some of the best in Europe because it has been influenced by  not only the cooking of France but Germany as well. All I know is that it is delicious.

When you’re not tasting wine or having lunch, take time out to wander through the village’s winding little streets before heading to the next ancient village, some considered the most beautiful in France. Keep an eye to the rooftops where you may even spy a stock standing next to its large nest.

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You can see why the wine growing region of Alsace, France is a place my husband and I have returned to year after year. We love the delicious food, wonderful wines and memorable sights. The majority of the well known Alsatian wine road lies between beautiful cities of Strasbourg and Colmar, making them or any of the charming towns in the area a good base for not only exploring the region but also the nearby countries of Germany and Switzerland which Alsace borders. I hope you will get a chance to visit this wonderful part of France someday. Picturesque villages tucked into valleys sometimes with a castle perched high up on a hill…that is what travel dreams are made of.

Bon Voyage

 

 

 

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Grilled Lamb Kebabs With Mint Yogurt Sauce

Tender and juicy Grilled Lamb Kebabs With Mint Yogurt Sauce makes for a delicious casual summer meal. The lamb kebabs are marinated with fresh herbs, garlic, lemon and olive oil then grilled. The accompanying cool minty yogurt sauce is the perfect complement to the succulent lamb and slightly charred grilled vegetables.

Grilled Lamb Kebabs With Mint Yogurt Sauce

This quick and easy Mediterranean inspired dinner is perfect for a warm summer evening so invite a couple of friends over for a casual outdoor dinner party on your deck or patio. Serve your guests a chilled glass of crisp rosé or white wine along with some toasted pita chips and a platter of feta cheese, grape leaves, Baba Ganoush or hummus and some Marinated Olives or roasted peppers. Everything can all be purchased from your local market if you don’t want to prepare them yourself.

Mediterranean Appetizer Platter

Serve the lamb kebabs with a couscous stuffed tomato which can be prepared ahead of time and you have an effortless meal. Finish the dinner with some fresh sliced fruit or perhaps a simple Almond Cake With A Brown Butter Glaze.

Lamb Kebabs With Mint Yogurt Sauce

Serves 2, adjust the recipe accordingly

  • 4 metal skewers (if using wood, soak in water for 30 minutes)
  • 3/4 – 1 lb. leg of lamb trimmed of fat and cut into 1 – 1 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 red onion, pieces cut the same size as the lamb
  • 1 red bell pepper, pieces cut the same size as the lamb
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 2 – 3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 – 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh mint, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

Prepare the marinade by combining the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, mint and thyme together in a small bowl. Place the lamb in a plastic zip bag and pour the marinade over it, massage the bag to make sure the lamb is well coated with the marinade. Close the bag, place on a plate and refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours or overnight. Remove the lamb and let it come to room temperature for about 30 minutes before you are ready to start cooking the meal. Drain the lamb and discard the marinade.

Preheat the grill to high. Thread the lamb, red onions, and red peppers on metal skewers, alternating the lamb and vegetables, don’t pack too tightly for proper cooking. Season the meat generously with salt and pepper. Note: I like to use two skewers for each kebab so that the meat and vegetables stay in place when turning.

Place the kebabs on the grill and cook, turning halfway, approximately 3 – 4 minutes a side  for medium rare or 5 minutes a side for medium. Exact timing will vary, depending on the thickness of the meat and the temperature of your grill but try not to overcook so that the lamb kebabs remain tender. Remove  the kebabs from the grill and let rest for about 5 minutes before serving.

Serve the lamb kebabs with mint yogurt sauce passed at the table. (Recipe below)

Mint Yogurt Sauce

  • 1 c. plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced finely
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. finely chopped fresh mint
  • salt and pepper to taste

Warm the olive oil and minced garlic (I do this to mellow the flavor of the garlic but it is not necessary) then let cool. Mix all the ingredients together and refrigerate for about 30 minutes for the flavors meld. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if necessary.

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I do hope you will try the Grilled Lamb Kebabs with Mint Yogurt Sauce. The delicious marinade makes the lamb tender, juicy and very flavorful. Once marinated, the kebabs are quickly put together and grilled. I believe that the lamb kebabs are perfect for casual and easy summer entertaining with your friends. Your guests will leave your home talking about the enjoyable evening and the delicious meal that you shared with them.

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Beautiful Italy, Postcards And Memories

Beautiful Italy, postcards and memories so lovely they needed to be shared. A few short months after starting Back Road Journal, a road trip to Europe was planned by two foodies…myself and my husband. It was September, the weather was great and interesting destinations and delicious food was waiting to be discovered. Take a look back and enjoy.

After spending a few days in Provence, France, my husband and I drove across the nearby Italian border and along the Italian Riviera to the beautiful Mediterranean towns of Portofino and St. Margherita. If you are rich or famous, stay in Portofino. The small village with peach, yellow and terracotta buildings lining the harbor, the square and up high on the rock cliffs that surround the town is wonderful.

Click on any of the photos below to enlarge and see a slide show.

If you are the average tourist like myself and not wealthy, you can plan a day trip and perhaps enjoy a seafood lunch at one of the many cafes or restaurants on the main square called Piazza Martiri dell’Olivetta. After lunch, take time to explore the back alleyways of the village and then walk up the steep road to Castello Brown for a wonderful view of the fishing boats and the yachts anchored below.

The seaside town of Santa Margherita Ligure, a few miles to the east of Portofino, makes a good base for exploring the coast and is less crowded with tourists and far less expensive than its glamorous neighbor.

Heading inland from the coast, our next stop was the town of Reggio nell’ Emilia. Halfway between Florence and Milan, just south of Parma and north of Bologna, it makes a great base for exploring the Emilia-Romagna region. Again, not as expensive or crowded as its more well known neighbors.

Emilia-Romagna is a foodies paradise as this is the region known for Parmigiano-Reggiano, Prosciutto di Parma and Balsamico Tradizionale as well as food specialties such as local porcini mushrooms and erbazonne, a delicious fried spinach filled pastry.

Oh yes, it is also the home of the Ferrari automobile and Formula One racing car factory, in Modena, established by Enzo Ferrari. I guess you could say that this region of Italy is known for fast cars and slow food…something to please everyone.

A two hour drive north brought us to the picturesque resort town of Bardolino on the eastern shore of Lake Garda in northern Italy. It is a charming spot with small fishing boats neatly tied up in the harbor in front of the old town. If you are hungry, skip the tourist restaurants on the crowded main street. Instead, head down one of the side streets and you will discover small sidewalk cafes where you can enjoy a light and fruity glass of Bardolino wine and seafood specialties fresh from the lake.

If the weather is nice, you might want to take the ferry to some of the other charming towns around Lake Garda such as Desenzano, Sirmione or Gardone Riviera.

Leaving Bardolino, it is just a short hour and a half drive north to the historic yet cosmopolitan city of Bolzano. It is the capital of the province of Alto Adige also known as South Tyrol. The city is located in a large valley surrounded by mountains. It  is called “the gateway to the Dolomites” and is a very pleasant town to use as a base for exploring the region.

The center of town is dominated by the gothic cathedral with a beautiful roof and a two hundred foot tall bell tower and spire. It is across from Walther Square which is lined with restaurants and outdoor cafes that seem to be the gathering spot for locals as well as visitors.

The quaint little town of Bressanone/Brixen is twenty-five miles north of Bolzano. It is located in a beautiful valley surrounded by orchards as far as you can see and large vineyards growing up the slopes of the nearby mountains.

Just off the main piazza, we discovered the oldest restaurant in town, Finsterwirt – Oste Scuro, where we had a wonderful lunch. It has a charming antique, wood paneled dining room but since the weather was beautiful we decided on the cosy terrace on the inner courtyard. The service was excellent and the food was inventive and delicious.

Our final stop in the Alto Adige was in the heart of the spectacular Dolomites, the mountainous region  known for hiking and skiing. Our base was the town of Ortisei, located in the Val Gardena about twenty minutes from the Brenner Autostrada.

The Alto Adige has huge Germanic influence, (it was part of Austria before WWI) and that can be seen in its buildings, alpine chalets with cattle grazing in the meadows, in the spoken language and also in the local food.

One day during our stay at the Hotel Gardena, we accompanied the two sommeliers, Franz Lageder and Egon Perathoner, from the hotel’s Michelin starred restaurant to the well known wine producer, Tramin. The town of Termeno/Tramin, origin of the Gewürztraminer grape variety, is part of the Alto Adige Wine Road. Willi Sturz, the winemaker, lead us through various wine tastings then took our small group to their most prized vineyard in the high foothills. We had a lunch right in the vineyard of speck (smoked ham), parmesan cheese and bread to go along with more wines from the famous producer. It was definitely a memorable experience.

Italy was wonderful, from the seaside towns in the south to the amazing mountains in the north. It was a journey on the back roads that took us to places that I yearn to return to and hopefully someday we will. As I start this new year of blogging, I’m already looking forward to our next adventure this fall. Tickets are bought and we will be on a plane before we know it…I hope you will be following along.

Sitting On A Jet Plane, Ready For A New Adventure

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I hope that my postcards of wonderful moments, beautiful scenery and delicious food that I shared with you in this post will inspire you to explore not only the famous Italian cities of Rome, Florence and Venice as most tourists do but that you will also explore the lesser known cities, towns and quaint villages with their beautiful architecture and history. Beautiful Italy is where memories are made that will last you a lifetime.

 

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New England Post Cards / Favorite Photos

Postcards are a way of saving memories. Since I’ll soon be starting my seventh year writing Back Road Journal, I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite memories and photos through the next several posts called “Postcards”. The first being New England Post Cards / Favorite Photos about my wonderful years living in New England. For my longtime followers, see how many you can remember and for my new followers, take a look back at what you have missed. I hope you all will enjoy them.

I believe that my husband’s and my time spent in New England provided some of our most wonderful memories. Our apple farm in New Hampshire is where we called home and our small cottage on Long Lake, just 45 minutes north of Portland, Maine is where we spent our summers. Many a ride was taken on back roads as we discovered what makes New England such a special part of our country.

Bird’s Eye View of Camden Harbor

During one of our summers in Maine, we drove up to visit the Mid Coast region. This is where you will find Rockport, Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. It is one of the Maine’s most beautiful areas and was on our bucket list. This region is known for its quaint harbor villages, light houses, its rugged but beautiful coastline, its offshore islands, bald eagles and seals.

During that week’s visit, I got a literal bird’s-eye view of Camden harbor from the open air cockpit of a 1933 Waco biplane to celebrate my birthday. Wearing “Snoopy” leather helmets but without the benefit of goggles like our pilot, my husband and I took a thirty minute flight over the coast. It was the most adventuresome birthday gift I’ve ever received.

Click on any photo to enlarge and see a slide show.

Our small lakeside town of Naples, Maine is located in what is called the Lakes Region. It always put on a fun parade to celebrate the 4th of July which we loved attending. Later in the evening, watching the sunset from our dock on the lake was always a spectacular event, barely outdone by the fireworks at night.

Summer living at the lake provided quiet moments of relaxation as well as lots of water activities and, of course, lobsters and Maine blueberries. I guess you could say there was never a dull moment.

New Hampshire’s historic Seacoast region is definitely a great place to visit. Many happy hours were spent driving along its back roads and its eighteen miles of shoreline, discovering small towns and visiting the historic city of Portsmouth.

Several summers we visited the idyllic island of Nantucket off the coast of Massachusetts. It is one of those special summer destinations that you hate to leave.

One of the things that makes New England special are all the wonderful gardens you see everywhere. While gardening is challenging because of the short growing season, critters and brutal winters, the end result was most rewarding.

All those critters that I spoke of, they used to love visits to both our garden and orchard. You might say that cuteness is what made us decide to share our bountiful crops with so many of the “native New Englanders” although we didn’t have too much to say about it.

We grew the most wonderful tomatoes each summer in Maine and when we closed up the cottage in the fall and headed home to New Hampshire, our heritage apples were ready for picking. I think you could say we had the best of both worlds as far as bountiful New England crops.

What better way to end my story about time spent in New England than with one of the amazing sunsets that we enjoyed from the dock of our cottage in Maine.

Sunset From The Dock

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I hope that you enjoyed my New England Postcards as I believe that they show a little of what makes New England such a delightful place to visit or perhaps even live there. I know they represent some of my fondest memories…perhaps you will visit this beautiful region and make memories of your own.

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Corn Beef Hash With Fried Eggs

A crispy and delicious Corned Beef Hash topped with Fried Eggs is the perfect way to used some of your leftover corned beef from St. Patrick’s Day. While you may be thinking of using some of the meat for a Rubin sandwich, I’d recommend that you not pile it too high and save some for homemade hash. While this dish is perfect for a Sunday brunch, corned beef hash topped with runny eggs makes a great dinner, as well.

Corned Beef Hash Topped With Fried Eggs

Just chop up some of your leftover corned beef and cooked potatoes along with some onions and peppers, sauté them until crispy and finish off with fried eggs and you have a hearty and satisfying meal for anytime of the day.  

Corned Beef Hash With Fried Eggs

Serves one generously, adjust the recipe accordingly.

  • 1 Tbsp. butter or oil, plus more to cook the eggs
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 small red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 c. leftover cooked corned beef, diced
  • 1 c. leftover cooked potatoes, diced
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 to 3 eggs
  • chopped parsley, optional

Heat the oil in a nonstick sauté pan then add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic and sauté until lightly brown. Add the corned beef and potatoes (if you have a cooking press, place on top of the mixture) and cook until the meat and potatoes start to brown, tossing once or twice. Season with salt and pepper, toss. Plate and keep warm. Wipe the pan clean, add a little butter or oil and cook the eggs sunny side up or cover and cook until the whites have set. Slide the eggs onto the hash, sprinkle with some chopped parsley and serve.

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Corned beef hash is a warm and savory comfort meal and is perfect any time of day. Served with a side of toast, buttered English muffins or bread of your choice, it makes a terrific breakfast, lunch or if you wish, have breakfast for dinner. Using your left over corned beef and boiled potatoes, adding sautéed onions and red peppers for color, then topping with runny fried eggs, you can create a quick and easy meal that is delicious. Hash is also good prepared with leftover roast beef or pork if you don’t have corned beef. Of course you don’t have to wait until St. Patrick’s day or until you have leftovers again. Buy several thick slices of corned beef at your favorite deli, boil a potato or two and proceed with the recipe.

This is my husband’s favorite breakfast that he orders often when you go out to breakfast and he also loves cooking it. I have to thank him for sharing his recipe and of course for letting his breakfast get a little cold so that I could share a photo of his creation with you, my readers.

 

 

 

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Caldo Gallego, Spanish White Bean Soup

Caldo gallego is a Spanish white bean soup and if you are visiting Miami for the first time, it is a great place to enjoy a bowl of this hearty and flavorful soup. You will find Spanish and Cuban restaurants all over the city but if you want to experience true Latin culinary flavors, head over to SW 8th street. Better known by locals as “Calle Ocho” in the area of the city called Little Havana, it is known as the heart of Miami’s Cuban community.

Whether you decide to eat in a small cafeteria or the locally famous Versailles restaurant, try starting your meal with an order of caldo gallego. This traditional dish is originally from the Galician region of Spain and there are many versions, from a thin broth based soup to one with an almost stew like consistency. No matter which version you get, it should be a delicious soup rich with smoked pork, sausage, beans, potatoes and greens.

Only order a cup of this hearty soup then try a medianoche sandwich made with roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese, and pickles or perhaps lechon asado (Cuban roast pork) with black beans and rice or a dish of arroz con pollo (yellow rice with chicken). Make sure to save a little room for flan to end your meal along with a cortadito (a small Cuban coffee).

Caldo Gallego, A Spanish White Bean Soup That Is A Taste of Little Havana

If you would like to bring some of the tastes of Little Havana into your own kitchen, a bowl of caldo gallego would be a great place to start. While originating in Spain, the Cuban community in Florida has given it their own twist just as I have done with my easy recipe. While many versions start with soaking dried beans over night and making a rich stock from ham hocks the day before, I’m sharing a quicker and yet very flavorful version of this comforting Spanish white bean soup.

Caldo Gallego, A Spanish White Bean Soup

  • 2 slices of pancetta or thick bacon, diced
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 8 oz. Spanish chorizo (casings removed), andouille or kielbasa sausage, sliced in half lengthwise, then cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 c. chicken stock
  • 1 c. water
  • 2  15 oz. cans of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 medium potatoes (I use Yukon gold), peeled and diced
  • 1 large turnip, peeled and diced
  • 2 to 3 c. fresh turnip greens, kale or collards, stemmed and chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • a pinch of red pepper flakes
  • salt to taste

Add pancetta or bacon to a large pot and cook until starting to brown. Add the oil and sausage and cook until the edges start to brown. Add onion and cook until soft, then add the garlic and cook for another minute. Pour in the chicken stock and water and bring to a boil. Add the beans, potatoes, turnips, greens and seasonings, reduce heat to medium and continue to cook for about 30 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. The soup is ready to serve now but will improve in taste if kept at a very low simmer, partially covered, for another 30 minutes or longer. If you would like a thicker consistency, you can lightly mash some of the beans with the back of a spoon. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if necessary. Ladle the soup into  bowls and serve with crusty bread.

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While you may not have the opportunity to visit Miami and Little Havana, you can certainly experience one of the area’s well known Latin dishes in your own kitchen. This budget friendly meal is quick and easy to prepare so my suggestion is to make an extra large pot of it and know that you will be rewarded with not one but several delicious meals to share with your family. On days when you have plenty of time, start with dried beans soaked overnight and prepare the soup with a leftover ham bone or a ham hock for additional flavor. Either way, caldo gallego is a delicious white bean soup that is good anytime of the year so I do hope you will try this flavorful, comforting meal soon.

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The Black Forest At Its Best

The Black Forest, known as a source of fairy tales, carved wooden cuckoo clocks, smoked hams and cakes of dark chocolate with fresh cream and sour cherries, has for centuries beckoned travelers who want to experience its beautiful scenery and enjoy its long standing traditions and warm hospitality. Nowadays, they also come to dine in Michelin starred restaurants, hike along trails through the dense woods then relax at one of its elegant spas…they want to enjoy the Black Forest at its best.

Click on any photo in the article to enlarge and see a slide show.

Locally known as the Schwarzwald, this storied region in the southwestern part of Germany, is a traveler’s delight. As you travel across mountains, through dense, dark forests and rolling green valleys dotted with farmhouses, you will spot historic castles and pass through medieval town squares filled with traditional half-timbered buildings with gabled roofs and geranium filled window boxes.

Take a walk in one of the quaint villages and you are sure to find a restaurant where you can enjoy a good meal of Black Forest specialties served with wine from the region’s vineyards and finish with a Schnapps made from plums, pears or cherries from area orchards. All of this along with clean mountain air and healing mineral waters, makes for a memorable holiday in one of the most picturesque areas in Germany.

For the past two years, when my husband and I planned our fall trips to the Black Forest, we knew that we wanted to stay at the small and elegant Hotel Bareiss in Baiersbronn-Mitteltal. I’ve written before about its outstanding hospitality, wonderful facilities and the delicious cuisine served at the three star Michelin Restaurant Bareiss and I totally agree with others who say it is one of the best hotels in Germany and one of Europe’s finest luxury wellness hotels.

What makes the Hotel Bareiss so special…I would say everything. There is the lovely setting in the heart of the Black Forest, the tastefully decorated rooms, the relaxing spa and pool areas, the wonderful cuisine, organized activities to keep you busy all day and the finest German hospitality shown by the staff that tries to make everything you wish for possible. They all go hand in hand to create a truly enjoyable holiday experience.

When I made our reservations for our latest stay, I was told there was lovely room available in the same category I wanted that had “a better view” than the room we had stayed in on our previous visit. When I mentioned  that we had really liked the Weissenbachtal room, with its nice living and bedroom area, a walk-in closet and balcony with a pretty view that we had stayed in before, I was told “yes, but of course”. Stepping back into the same room on this visit felt a little like returning home and as for the view…I’ll let you decide.

The hotel has five beautifully designed guest dining rooms and we were seated in the lovely Biedermeier Room during our visit this year. You can also make reservations for dinner in one of the three à la carte restaurants, including the award winning Restaurant Bareiss but you need to book well in advance for it.

After a wonderful nights sleep, each morning we would head down to the breakfast buffet where there is always a large selection of breads, hams, sausages, cheese and both cold and warm specialties to choose from. Just ask and fresh eggs will be prepared to your liking and served along with coffee, tea, juice or even champagne, if you wish.

In the evening, each splendid meal starts with a large salad buffet and finishes with cheese and desserts. In between, you order your meal from a wonderfully varied la carte menu. On Saturday night, there is a special seven course gala menu and a rose is presented to each of the ladies.

After dinner, we would usually head to the hotel bar for a digestif and listen to the live entertainment. What we like about the lounge is that there is a separate smokers’ lounge so that you never have to sit in a smoke filled room while enjoying a cocktail.

The Bareiss makes the ideal base for day trips to popular destinations such as the charming university town of Freiburg to the south and the fashionable spa town of Baden-Baden to the north as well as Strasbourg and Colmar, which are not too far across the border in the Alsace region of France. After a day of exploring the region, we would return to the hotel in the afternoon for something sweet from the cake buffet before heading to the pools, sauna world and the quiet relaxation areas.

All good things must come to an end and after a wonderful five day stay, we needed to say “auf wiedersehen”. We packed, our suitcases were then loaded in our car for us and we were wished safe travels as we drove away from the Hotel Bareiss and headed to Munich for our flight back home. Will we return to the Bareiss if we are ever in the Black Forest again…absolutely.

Packed Up And Ready To Leave Hotel Bareiss

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Folklore and fairytales, chocolate cake and Michelin starred meals, winding scenic back roads through small villages and hiking trails through the woods, they are all things that bring visitors to the Black Forest. What I’ve never come across during our many visits to the region are witches, wolves and wicked stepmothers. I think you too would enjoy a visit.

 

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