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Thursday, March 10, 2011

My Favorite Hamburger in America

Strike it up to nostalgia for my youth in upstate New York, but I’ll take a Jackburger at the Jumpin’ Jacks Drive-In in Scotia, New York, over any other burger in the country. Grilled on a large charcoal pit, the double patties are topped with melted cheese, cole slaw, and an option of grilled onions. The addiction is so strong that I drag my family here every summer from Boston, a 3-hour trek to down this mouthwatering stack of meat. Order the Jack with fries, onion rings, and a thick milk shake while waiting in line. When the food is ready, wander over to the picnic tables with views of the Mohawk River. The only problem is that I try to take my time eating the burger, but it’s gone within minutes. Then I get sad knowing that I no longer live in the tri-city area and have to wait another year to down my next Jackburger. Opening on March 31st for their 59th season, I’m already planning my upcoming visit!

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/10/11 at 02:00 PM
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Wednesday, March 09, 2011

My Favorite Hummus in Israel

All it takes is one dinner at Dallal in the Neve Tzedak section of Tel Aviv to understand the exceptional quality of food in Israel. Dine on grilled calamari, hot focaccia bread that’s used to scoop up the babaganoosh, and entrees of red snapper and osso bucco, all washed down with the country’s fabulous lemonade, spiced with fresh mint leaves. At Mehane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem, merchants shout out their wares, selling freshly baked challah, chocolate rugelach, dates, figs, pomegranates, the sweet sticky Middle Eastern snack, halvah, nuts, and a bevy of colorful spices. Yet, if you want to taste the best hummus in the country, a creamy concoction of mashed chick peas scooped out with warm pita, then follow the taxi drivers to Abu Hassan in Tel Aviv’s old section of Jaffa. Plop yourself down on one of the plastic chairs and the dishes of hummus soon arrive, some topped with fool, a blend of fava beans. To spice it up, ask for the hot chile sauce. This is the place I dream about when forced to eat falafel with hummus in Boston.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/09/11 at 02:00 PM
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Tuesday, March 08, 2011

My Favorite Lobster-in-the-Rough Joint in Maine

Talk about lobster rolls in Maine and you enter into a territorial catfight where everyone seems to choose their local favorite. I happen to love the affordable rolls at Quoddy Bay Lobster in Eastport, topped with a full claw, the chockful of meat served in a bun at Red’s Eats in Wiscasset, and sitting at the pier at Beal’s, just outside Acadia National Park. But if you ask those same foodies where to find the best lobster roll with a view, the majority of Mainers will point you to the Lobster Shack in Cape Elizabeth. Not far from where Winslow Homer set up shop on Prouts Neck, the picnic tables overlook that same boulder-strewn coastline Homer loved to paint. Order your food at the window of the rustic shack, wait for your number to be called, and grab a spot with vistas of Casco Bay, framed by two lighthouses. One of those lighthouses is the picturesque Portland Head Light, a favorite subject of artist Edward Hopper. For more information on the Lobster Shack, see the story I wrote for The Boston Globe.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/08/11 at 02:00 PM
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Monday, March 07, 2011

Sustainable Food at Craigie on Main

Last Wednesday, I was invited to a “Road Less Traveled” dinner at Craigie on Main, one of my favorite restaurants in the Boston area, just over the Charles River in Cambridge. Chef and owner Tony Maws was focusing on sustainability in food, using all parts of the animal so as not to make waste. While this is already being practiced around the globe, especially in countries that can’t afford to throw away precious meat, it’s only slowly gaining traction in America. We started with a tasty trio of crostini that included monkfish liver, lobster roe, and my personal favorite, the white cod milt, otherwise known as cod sperm. Maws, a James Beard-award finalist, could make a telephone book taste good. But as the night progressed, I found the texture of certain body parts to either be agreeable or disagreeable. The duck’s heart, placed on a skewer, was a tantalizing treat along with the pig’s head taco, where half a head was placed on a platter and you dug out the tender meat to roll into the soft tortillas. The duck’s testicle I found too chewy and the lamb’s brain had the consistency of hard string cheese. Then there was cock’s combs, the gelatinous top of a rooster that I feel no need to order again.

Maws is not only a master of using the whole animal, but makes a habit of using the best local and organic produce, fish, and meats that are available during that particular time of year, the reason why I find myself returning to his restaurant as often as possible. Local food and culture is an important part of sustainable travel and are topics I’m going to delve into further as ActiveTravels branches out this year to not only cater to Active Bodies, but Active Minds. This week, I’m going to focus on some of my favorite restaurants around the world.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/07/11 at 02:00 PM
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Friday, March 04, 2011

The Historic Nelson’s Dockyard National Park in Antigua

There are few other Caribbean islands that can match the impressive history of Antigua. The biggest attraction on the island, English Harbour, is a long inlet popular with the Caribbean yachting sect, especially during Sailing Week festivities in late April. From 1784 to 1787, however, it was home to the British fleet and naval hero Admiral Horatio Nelson. The restored Georgian buildings and pier are now part of Nelson’s Dockyard National Park. You’ll get a guided tour of the buildings and a bit of history on Nelson, who was only 27 when he became Commander-in-Chief of the Leeward Islands. Up the hill from English Harbour stands a dilapidated fortress called Shirley Heights. The view of the harbor and the rocky coastline from the Lookout is the best on the island. If you’re lucky enough to tour the facility on a Sunday, you’ll hear a steel drum band play live music and watch a game of cricket. The lone cannon at Shirley Heights points to the terra cotta roof of a rambling house that’s owned by singer Eric Clapton. Yes, “Slowhand” plays his guitar, not surprisingly, on Caribbean time.


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/04/11 at 02:00 PM
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Thursday, March 03, 2011

The Caves and Monkeys of Barbados

The allure of Barbados has always been the stretch of soft white sand on the west coast that serves as a welcome mat for the warm aquamarine waters of the Caribbean Sea. Yet, it’s the ecological wonders in the northern and eastern section of the island that make Barbados an intriguing island destination. At Harrison’s Cave, you hop on a tram that slowly ambles into the dark corridor of limestone coral. The 100-foot high Great Hall is teeming with stalagmites and stalactites, the color of a creamsicle. Even more impressive is the crystal-like formations found in the Rotunda above pools of rushing water. Next stop is the Barbados Wildlife Reserve, home to green monkeys that were first brought to the island as pets of slave traders in the mid-17th century. The monkeys tend to be shy, so you have to be still. There are also flamingos and pelicans drinking from the shallow ponds, toucans that blurt “hello” from inside an aviary, and peacocks who squawk at the slow moving red-footed tortoise. You finish with a swim on one of those blissful beaches.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/03/11 at 02:00 PM
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Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Diving Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos

On terra firma, Grand Turk is a sleepy former British outpost, where you stroll past the Victorian homes on Front Street in a matter of minutes. Underwater, Grand Turk is home to the Wall, where without warning the reef plummets to a mind-boggling 7,000 feet to mark the edge of the Turks Island Passage. On the rim of this great blue abyss, it’s not uncommon to see humpback whales migrating in winter, hawksbill and loggerhead turtles swimming gracefully and unafraid, and herds of spotted eagle rays, with wing spans upward of eight feet, their thick black tails churning behind. Better yet, the dive sites are all less than a five-minute boat ride away on the leeward side of the island. Here, the reef is protected by strong winds and current, allowing divers of all abilities to access one of the most pristine locales in the Atlantic. Try the Tunnels, where you hit the reef at a depth of 65 feet, go through a tight chute and get your first glimpse of the Wall’s dramatic plunge. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/02/11 at 02:00 PM
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Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Sailing on an America’s Cup Yacht in St. Martin

One of the most unique opportunities in the Caribbean is the chance to race aboard authentic America’s Cup boats used in the actual competition. In the three-hour sailing fantasy camp called the Sint Maarten 12 Metre Challenge, you have the rare opportunity to step into Dennis Conner’s soft-soled shoes. After an introductory talk about the history of the America’s Cup, four captains choose teams and off you go to your respective boats. The boats include the winning Stars & Stripes yacht which Connor used in the 1987 America’s Cup in Fremantle, Australia; his back-up,  Stars & Stripes '86; and two Canadian yachts, Canada II and True North IV. Once aboard your boat, crew assignments are designated by the captain. You could be chosen to be primary grinders (grinding a winch as fast as possible so that the foresail can change direction), timekeepers, or handlers of the mainsheet or rope. Simulating the America’s Cup, you sail against one other boat around a triangular course, about one-tenth the size of the actual race. Afterwards, you’ve earned your rum punch.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/01/11 at 02:00 PM
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Monday, February 28, 2011

Hiking Morne Trois Pitons National Park in Dominica

“Follow me closely,” says our guide Kent Augiste as we make our final steps down the steep flanks of Morne Watt into the so-called Valley of Desolation. The landscape is a study of contrasts, from the rock slides that create the barren brown slopes to our right to the green mountain ridges straight ahead that rise dramatically from almost every viewpoint in Dominica. At the moment, however, it is the white smoke billowing up from the scorching stream at our feet that holds my interest. The smell of sulfur is overwhelming and the sounds of foamy, gurgling water doesn’t exactly instill confidence in my footing. I’m on Kent like an avocado clings to its branch on this nature isle. 

People flock to the Caribbean to sift their toes in the pearly white sands. But in Dominica, the attraction is not the relatively few beaches, but a lush mountainous interior ripe with every tropical fruit and vegetable imaginable, and inundated with so much water that around every bend is another raging waterfall, a serene swimming hole nestled in the thick bush, or a hidden hot spring to rest your weary body after a day in the outdoors.  Indeed, this island closest to Martinique, has become an affordable haven for the active traveler who yearns to hike through a jungle-like forest, scuba dive and snorkel on living reefs, and sea kayak in sheltered coves with little if any boat traffic. Sure, you can still lounge with a good book, but it won’t be on an overdeveloped strip of sand. You’ll be high up in the hills on some small eco-resort balcony sipping fresh passionfruit juice and listening to the waves of the Atlantic crash onto the rocky shores below.

Dominica’s volcanoes might be dormant yet there’s still fire in the belly of this island. The Valley of Desolation was just one of the highlights on a 7-hour round-trip hike inside Morne Trois Pitons National Park. Kent led my climbing partner and me over muddy trails through a dense forest of tall gommier trees, used to make dugout canoes for 20 to 30 paddlers, and past the massive trunks and aerial roots of the banyan-like chatagnier trees, some more than 300 years old. As we made our ascent out of the darkness of the rainforest canopy, iridescent purple-throated hummingbirds kept us company as they stuck their heads into the tubular orange and red heliconia flowers.

At the far end of the Valley of Desolation, we climbed through chest-high vegetation along a river, then up and down a series of hills to finally arrive at the rim of the crater known as Boiling Lake. The second largest lake of its kind in the world, steam emanates from this cauldron of bubbling water where temperatures top out at 198 degrees Fahrenheit. “Don’t get too close to the edge,” said Kent as I peered down, wondering how many people met their demise in this unforgiving witch’s brew. 

Kent Augiste works for Ken’s Hinterland Tours, an outfitter that specializes in guided hikes all over the island. Hiking boots and an experienced pair of legs are advised for the somewhat strenuous Boiling Lake trek.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/28/11 at 02:00 PM
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Friday, February 18, 2011

Rafting Down the Rivers of Jamaica

Two years ago, I was in Ocho Rios riding a tube down the White River under a canopy of green. Today, I’m headed back to Jamaica for a weeklong stay with the family in Negril. This trip, I'll be on the Great River, which starts in the mountains between Negril and Montego Bay. This is the lush Jamaica, the one I think of when Bob Marley sings, “Don’t worry about a thing, because every little thing’s gonna be all right.” I’ll listen to the high-pitched call of the yellow banana quit bird as I float under a green mosaic of ferns, banana trees, and thickets of bamboo that climb the banks of the waterway like ivy climbs a wall. Irie, mon! Have a great week. I’ll be back on Monday, February 28th.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/18/11 at 02:00 PM
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about us
photo of Steve Jermanok
Longtime Boston Globe travel writer, Steve Jermanok, dishes out his favorite travel locales and provides topical travel information that comes across his desk. is an Austin-Lehman Adventure's Top 125 Best Travel Blog Semi-Finalist

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