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Friday, July 01, 2016

A Must-Stop at the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market

First started in 1750, Halifax’s farmers’ market is the oldest continuously running market in North America. Over its history, it bounced between many locales from church basements to breweries. That all changed in November 2010, when local purveyors finally got a permanent home right on the harbor. The 56,000-square-foot multilevel building is open year-round; its hours change depending on the season. The best time to visit is during breakfast on a Saturday. Grab an egg or bacon sandwich (only 5 bucks) and a hot cinnamon bun at Wrap So D and eat at one of the tables in or outside. Then go shopping for souvenirs like jewelry made from sea glass, folk art, or the handcrafted cutting boards. I always stop at the Rudi’s hot sauce booth for his Sweet Cherry Bomb, good with chips, and the spicy Candy Reaper Burn, perfect on a veggie and tofu stir-fry. 
Happy Canada Day! It’s been a wonderful week revisiting Halifax and Cape Breton. I want to thank Pam Wamback at Tourism Nova Scotia for her help designing a fantastic itinerary. To my American friends, enjoy the 4th of July! See you back here on the 5th. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/01/16 at 04:30 AM
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Thursday, May 05, 2016

Visit a Massachusetts Cheesemaker This Summer

According to the Massachusetts Cheese Guild, there are now 22 artisanal cheesemakers across the across the Commonwealth. Some, like Dave Smith at Smith’s Country Cheese in Winchendon, have been in business since 1985, creating Gouda wheels from his Holstein herd. Eric and Ann Starbard at Crystal Brook Farm in Sterling milk 60 goats to make their award-winning chevre. Berkshire Cheese in Dalton is another pioneer in the state, producing raw cow’s milk blue cheese since 1998. Order a map from the Massachusetts Cheese Guild, call a cheesemaker in the morning to see if production is scheduled that day, and then bring the family to see how the cheese is made and to hopefully hug a cow or two. You won’t regret it. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/05/16 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, April 01, 2016

Chef Michael Smith Makes His Triumphant Return to the Inn at Bay Fortune

When I first ventured to the Inn at Bay Fortune on Prince Edward Island’s western shores, I arrived via kayak, courtesy of a four-day inn-to-inn sea kayaking jaunt. I paddled onto the grassy shores and walked across the sloping manicured lawn, getting my first glimpse of this grey-shingled estate and its Repunzel-like towers.  After washing the salt and rust colored sand from my body, I arrived for dinner expecting the usual PEI meal of lobster and mussels. Little did I realize that I was in for a culinary epiphany.
The first course was pan roasted oysters in a soothing soup, creamy but not overwhelmingly rich like chowder. Then came a salad of mixed greens where the waiter announced matter-of-factly that “everything is grown on the property, including the edible daisy.” A seared rainbow trout topped with tomato risotto and black olives was followed by the meat course, a roasted leg of lamb, butchered by the farmer down the road. Dessert was a peach, strawberry, and mint compote, made on premises, of course. Before calling for a wheelbarrow to be escorted out of the restaurant—after all, I spent the day paddling 8 miles along the island’s fabled red clay cliffs and the night feasting—I had to first meet this talented chef who shrewdly took advantage of all his homegrown goodies.  
Standing tall in the kitchen was Michael Smith, a transplant from Manhattan who was once sous chef at Bouley, one of the few restaurants in the city awarded four stars (extraordinary) by the New York Times. When he left, his peers thought he fell off the map. Little did they know he was venturing to a farming and seafaring mecca.  
The gregarious chef pointed to a large map of the island, dotted with more than 60 golden tacks. “These are all the fishermen and farmers around the island that we use to get our supplies,” says Smith, adding “when we don’t grow it ourselves.” Smith would go on to much acclaim, with the success of his Food Network television show “The Inn Chef,” and the release of his best-selling cookbook, “Open Kitchen--A Chef’s Day at the The Inn at Bay Fortune.” But thankfully he never forgot his past. Last year, he purchased the Inn at Bay Fortune and this May, Smith and his wife, Chastity, will launch PEI’s first five-star inn after a complete redesign of its 15 rooms. He has also developed Fireworks, a brick-lined open hearth, grill, and smokehouse. I’d say it’s time for another kayaking trip. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/01/16 at 07:05 AM
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Friday, March 04, 2016

A Well Deserved Best Chef in the Southwest Nod to Steve McHugh

In May 2014, my sister and I walked into a new restaurant in San Antonio called Cured and were blown away by dish after dish. Everything presented that meal was masterful from the selection of innovative charcuterie to the symphony of favors found in that ridiculously good pig’s head dish. “Crawfish Love Letter” was a tribute to the decade Cured’s chef Steve McHugh spent in New Orleans as chef de cuisine to John Besh. Even the mundane burger, a patty made with bacon and topped with smoked onion and homemade American cheese was one of the best burgers I've ever had. All delivered in a classic 1904 space in the burgeoning Pearl District (see my story on this emerging foodie neighborhood in The Washington Post). So I was delighted to read last week that McHugh is getting the acclaim he deserves, chosen as one of the semi-finalists by the James Beard Foundation as one of the Best Chefs in the Southwest. He’s the only nominee from San Antonio, which I find hard to believe, because it’s one of my favorite places to dine in America. Do yourself a favor this spring and book a room in the new Hotel Emma, housed in a former 19th-century brewery, and simply walk to dinner every night in the Pearl District to one of the 15 restaurants. You’ll thank me. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/04/16 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, November 02, 2015

Exciting Changes in the Newton Food Scene

It’s not everyday that I write about my hometown, Newton, Massachusetts, but I’m excited to tell you about the latest batch of restaurant openings. For once a week this past decade, Lisa and I have been having lunch at Coffee Corner in Newton Highlands, home to the best tuna melt, iced coffee, and salads in the area. Owner Danielle sold Coffee Corner in the spring and has now opened Newton’s Nectar (87 Union Street) in a great space across from the T in Newton Center. Nearby, the owners of the consistently tasty fare at Sycamore will soon be opening Little Big Diner, an East Asian-style diner featuring ramen, rice bowls, buns, and more. In Newton Highlands, Boston’s favorite burrito, Anna’s Taqueria will be opening in mid-November at the former Baker’s Best site. Last but certainly not least, New Haven’s Frank Pepe’s, home to one of my top 10 pies in New England, the white clam pizza, is finally making its debut in Massachusetts on December 1st at the former Paparazzi’s in Chestnut Hill Mall. Never thought I’d be saying this, but the Newton food scene is happening. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/02/15 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, October 01, 2015

The Perfect Paris Picnic

When designing itineraries for clientele headed to Paris, I always tell them to drop their bags off at the hotel and head straight to the Rue Cler neighborhood in the 7th Arrondissement. Purchase a hot out of the oven baguette from a boulangerie, soft reblochon (one of my many weaknesses in Paris!) and harder comte cheese from a fromagerie, some jambon and saucisson from a butcherie, and a pint of strawberries and a bottle of water from a grocer. Then head to the grounds in front of the Eiffel Tower and have a memorable meal. Now that I’ve heard about a new company, Paris Picnic, I might have to make some changes. Paris Picnic does the work for you, partnering with the top artisanal food and wine producers in town, to create a gluttonous picnic basket one can only dream about. Le Classique (priced at 32 Euros per person) includes a choice of wine, baguette, assortment of cheeses, charcuterie, fresh salad du jour, artisanal crisps, mineral water, and dessert. Or you can go for broke and order Le Chic, which includes champagne and foie gras. Paris Picnic will deliver the goods and blanket to any number of picnic spots in town—under Eiffel Tower, along the Canal St-Martin, or the grassy slopes of Buttes Chaumont. Oui, oui monsieur! 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/01/15 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Nova Scotia Week, Clamming for Lunch

It’s low tide on Digby flats, not far from the largest scallop fishing fleet in North America. I took full advantage of their catch last night, trying the tender pan-seared scallops at the classic Digby Pines resort. But today my attention turns to my favorite seafood, the clam. A handful of clam diggers have already drove their trucks up to the sand bar to snag their 100 clams, the limit for recreational clammers. I’m here to meet Wanda VanTassel, owner of Fundy Adventures, and that legendary Nova Scotian, Terry “The Clammer” Wilkins. Wilkins will be turning 60 soon, but he’s been digging in this muck since the age of 11 and he’s not going to stop anytime soon. 
Fundy Adventures takes our group of 8 onto the flats, where Terry teaches us to look for small holes in the mud, a clear sign that there’s a clam down there. Then he hands out a 4-pronged clam hack and a bucket with a small circular ring used to measure the clams and ensure that they’re at least 1 ¾ inches big. I start jabbing at the mud, excited to score my first clam. But it’s a lot harder than it looks. A lot of times I hacks away at the Bay of Fundy bed and come away empty handed. Terry threw down 1,000 pounds of clam seed a year ago and it’s just starting to sprout. 2 years from now, the Digby flats should be back to the taking of Terry’s youth. 
Once we tire of digging, we head back to the high water line and watch the amazing tidal shift happen on the Bay of Fundy, a whopping 26-foot difference between low and high tide. The sand bar completely disappears under the water. Wanda serves us buckets of steamed clams, with meat so sweet you really don’t need the butter. It also helps that the bellies are some of the biggest I’ve ever had. She also serves tasty dulse biscuits and a roasted nori seaweed snack. The Clammer breaks out his guitar and starts singing “I am a fisherman, lowly digger of the clam.” His voice is excellent, the sun is shining off the water, with spectacular views of headlands across the bay, and my stomach is full of just-caught clams. Life is bliss. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/10/15 at 04:59 AM
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Monday, June 08, 2015

Nova Scotia Week: Oyster Farming at Eel Lake

With its slight mix of salt and fresh water, the 5-mile long Eel Lake is ideally suited for oyster farming. The clean, cool water is home to the premium Ruisseau oyster, high on the chef’s wish list of oysters in Toronto. On our first day in Nova Scotia, after the smooth and easy ride on Nova Star Cruises and a stroll around the stunning seascape of Cape Forchu Lighthouse, we met up with Colton D’Eon. Colton’s dad, a lobster fisherman, Nolan, started Eel Lake Oyster Farm with his wife Kim. Now the business is thriving with over 4,000,000 oysters in various stages of growth. Colton and another employee, Jed, took us out on their boat to show us the many rows of oyster beds. Through use of hydraulics, they pulled up one cage to show us how much one oyster had grown just in the past month, no longer dormant in winter. The oyster you typically suck down in a restaurant is approximately 3 years in age or 3 ½ inches in length. When harvest starts in the fall, Colton notes that there are often 100,000 oysters being shipped from their small plant. When we get back to the docks, Colton shucks one of his oysters and we quickly understand what all the fuss is about. The meat is tender, rich and sweet. But it’s that Eel Lake water, with its slight brine that enhances the flavor. Tours are open to the public, so be sure to schedule one for an intriguing glimpse into the life of a Nova Scotian oysterman. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/08/15 at 04:00 AM
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Tuesday, June 02, 2015

A Carnivore’s Delight at San Antonio’s El Machito Restaurant

One look at the 12-foot-long open fire mesquite grill, where flames roast the myriad of meats standing tall on metal poles around the rim, and you understand why chef Johnny Hernandez named his latest restaurant, El Machito. “It means little tough guy, as in takes a little tough guy to cook over this fire,” says the gregarious chef, greeting diners on the patio when he’s in dire need of a break from the heat. It took Hernandez 6 weeks to master the art of cooking over his handcrafted asadero, the massive iron grill that was created by metalworkers in Guadalajara. Chicken needed to be near the higher flames, shrimp as far away as possible, beef and pork ready for a slow roast. The chef’s signature dish is cabrito, milk-fed baby goat that is sourced locally at a farm in Utopia, Texas. The chance to savor this one traditional northern Mexican meat has quickly made Hernandez’ latest San Antonio restaurant a must-stop for folks craving a Jalisco-style parrillada or barbecue. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/02/15 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Celebrate D’Artagnan’s 30th Anniversary

I recently went to a 5-course meal at the stylish Liquid Art House in Boston to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the gourmet meat and charcuterie purveyor, D’Artagnan. Founder Ariane Daguin, who I last met at a luncheon a decade ago at No. 9 Park, has successfully filled a niche for both chefs and consumers, delivering healthy free-range meats from farmers all over America. For example, the rabbit in the first course, Rabbit Ballotine, created by one of my favorite Boston chefs, Tony Maws, was raised on a farm in Arkansas. Other dishes included duck, bison, and porcelet. Daguin is headed across the country this year to host special 30th anniversary dinners, so be on the lookout in your city. In the meantime head to the D’Artagnan website to see special discounts on many of her meats. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/20/15 at 06:00 AM
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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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