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Friday, May 26, 2017

Dining in DC

We had two memorable meals in Washington at Jose Andres restaurants, Zaytinya and Jaleo, both near the National Portrait Gallery. We enjoyed Zaytinya last time in DC and it was just as good on this visit. The restaurant features small plate Mediterranean fare like hummus, falafel, baba ganoush, fresh seafood, and a charred brussel sprouts dish that was wiped clean by our foursome in record time. Jaleo is more standard Spanish tapa fare like chorizo, paella, a tasty ham and cheese sandwich, and perfectly rendered shrimp. On our last night, after the graduation ceremony, we headed to the waterfront in Georgetown for another sublime meal at Farmers Fishers Bakers Restaurant. The eclectic menu features everything from crab dib and mussels served in eight different sauces to sashimi-style tuna, ahi poke salads, and steak frites. Washed down with microbrews and shots of smooth Tequila to celebrate, it was the perfect way to top off the graduation celebration with Ami.
Another week, another niece graduating from college! This coming Sunday we’ll be celebrating with Sarah Schechter at Wesleyan University. A talented artist with an insatiable appetite for art history (much to the delight of my art historian wife), Sarah has a future as colorful as her canvases. She’s already had one exhibition in Brooklyn and we look forward to seeing many more shows. Also, ActiveTravels travel consultant, Amy Perry Basseches, has a son, Jake, graduating from Wesleyan on the same day. So big kudos to Jake, especially after completing his 100-page senior honors thesis. You deserve that trip to South America! 
After the graduation, we’re headed with my brother to Brooklyn Sunday night to see an artist we love in this family, the British DJ, Leon Vynehall. Then we’re spending two days in the city to see the Chihuly exhibition at the New York Botanical Garden. I’ll be back next Thursday. Thanks for being patient with my sporadic scheduling! 
Photo by Melanie Jermanok 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/26/17 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, March 10, 2017

The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Dripping Sap

Maria von Trapp, the woman who inspired The Sound of Music, is no longer with us, but Trapp Family Lodge continues to flourish thanks to one of the finest cross-country networks in the northeast, comfy lodging perched on a hillside in Stowe, Vermont, the launch of their new beer hall and microbrewery, and a restaurant that serves a tasty wiener schnitzel. Mid to late March, during the heart of the maple sugaring season, is my favorite time of year to visit Trapps. When it comes to sugaring, the family does it the old fashion way, picking up the sap in buckets with a horse-drawn sleigh and delivering it to the sugarhouse to boil off the water and create Vermont’s “liquid gold.” The 1200 taps produce 300 gallons of syrup annually and the season lasts from mid-March until mid-April. Join in on the fun each Saturday, when you can cross-country ski, snowshoe, or grab that horse-drawn sleigh to the sugarhouse for a traditional Sugar-on-Snow party. The hot syrup is tossed on the white snow to create a chewy maple taffy, served with donuts and dill pickles. If you’re in the area tomorrow, March 11, Trapp Family Lodge will be offering a Maple Sugar Snowshoe Tour from 10:30 to 12 pm. Enjoy a 1.5-mile snowshoe through the woods, then learn about the process of making maple syrup at their sugarhouse.


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/10/17 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, February 13, 2017

Florence, The City of Chocolate

One of Florence’s best-kept secrets is taking place right now. The annual Fiera Del Cioccolato will be lining Piazza Santa Maria Novella in the Renaissance city from February 10-19. Vendors offer amazing chocolate masterpieces that are unique to the region and allow you to stock up just in time for Valentine’s Day. Offerings range from handmade crepes, waffles, chocolates, cookies, and much more. Along with vendors, the chocolate festival offers cooking shows and parties that allow visitors to truly engage with their love of all things chocolate. The festival’s close proximity to some of Florence’s well-known sights such as the Duomo and the Ponte Vecchio make this a perfect place to relax as you take in the best the city has to offer.  
Guest Post by Mack Kingman 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/13/17 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, February 02, 2017

Cape Town’s Rise to Culinary Prominence

It wasn’t so long ago that the signature dinner in Cape Town was a traditional braai, a barbecue featuring copious amounts of meat like boerewors sausages. If that didn’t satiate your carnivorous cravings, you could always stop at the local butcher for a bag of biltong, the popular South African snack of air-dried beef jerky. Then the Apartheid regime ended and the city started to embrace its diversity of cultures, especially when it came to expanding the palate at your nightly meal. The fusion of Dutch, French, Malaysian, Indian, and African cooking has melded to create an exciting new cuisine. 

The latest batch of talented chefs take full advantage of Cape Town’s melting pot and its envied locale, straddling the Atlantic and Indian Oceans as the largest city on the southernmost point of the continent. Everywhere you look is water and thankfully the fresh bounty of the sea now appears on the menu alongside the many types of meat, all washed down with South Africa’s world-class pinotage and sauvignon blanc vintages. You don’t have to step far from your hotel room to find a restaurant that scintillates the taste buds. Fine dining is sprouting up in all parts of the city like the blooming of king proteas, the national flower, at the city’s Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden. So pick a neighborhood, any neighborhood. 

My entire story on the Cape Town dining scene can be found in the February/March 2017 issue of Virtuoso Traveler


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/02/17 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, January 27, 2017

Arizona Week—Our Fair Share of Excellent Mexican Food

We didn’t skimp on Mexican fare during out time in Arizona. Our first guacamole was made with tender chunks of ribeye at the Mexican-Asian influenced SumoMaya in Scottsdale. The rock shrimp tempura roll and ahi tuna tostada were also big hits at our table. Elote Café in Sedona was our favorite meal of the trip. We arrived when the restaurant opened at 5 pm and already there was a line out the door. A sublime carne asada, topped with a square of blue cheese and served with black beans and rice, was washed down with a perfectly concocted margarita on the rocks. Adding to our bliss was a riveting sunset that enlightened the red rock canyons outside the window. Swanky Café Poca Cosa in Tucson served the finest chicken mole of the trip. We ended the trip at supposedly the oldest Mexican restaurant in America, El Charro Café, which originally opened in Tucson in 1922. We sampled their signature dish, the carne seca. Dried in the Sonoran Desert sun, angus beef is shredded and grilled with green chile, tomatoes, and onions. I’ll be thinking about that hot spicy flavor all winter long in Boston. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/27/17 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, January 05, 2017

Top 5 Dream Days in 2016, Schooner Mary Day’s Maine Lobster Bake

Spending three days with my daughter in August before she left for her first semester of college is a gift I don’t take for granted. A lobster bake on a deserted Maine island after a day of sailing aboard a historic Maine windjammer is just the icing on the cake. Captain Barry of the Schooner Mary Day anchored near a quiet beach with no other boats in sight and proceeded to row us over to shore. The crew built a fire, and then placed two massive pots brimming over with lobsters, corn on the cob, potatoes, onions, and a healthy top layer of seaweed. When ready, Captain Barry threw off the layer of seaweed and grabbed his tongs to place all the lobsters and fixins in a circular design. We each grabbed our lobster and found a spot on the beach to dine. 

The lobster opened easily without the need for crackers, as large pieces of tender claw meat was soon dipped into the butter, washed down with a nice, dry sauvignon blanc. Sublime. After polishing off the tail and leaving a puddle of water on my shirt and bathing suit, I could start all over again. See, the best part of a lobster bake aboard a Maine windjammer is that you can eat as many lobsters as you want. Captain Barry tells me that his record is a college student who devoured 13 lobsters in one sitting. Content with my big 2-pounder, I was happy to make the first of several s’mores over the hot wood. Quite sated, four of us decided to swim back to the schooner instead of rowing. A wise decision. The water was clean, cool, refreshing. The dinner far more memorable than all those James Beard-award winning restaurants I dined at last year.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/05/17 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, December 16, 2016

Stocking Stuffer No. 5: A Night at Mystic’s Spicer Mansion

One foot into inside the Rose Salon of the Spicer Mansion and I was smitten. The fresco ceiling, inlaid wood floors, moldings, and original windows had all been lovingly restored to its 1853 origin. But it wasn’t until dinner that evening that I realized why this new 8-room inn perched on a hill overlooking Mystic had achieved Relais & Chateaux status. The meal started with canapés and cocktails in the Rose Salon, before moving past the small kitchen to the intimate dining room for our six-course feast. An East Beach Blonde Oyster spiced with cider and green chile whet my appetite for more to come. Next up was a beautifully presented Nantucket bay scallop ceviche with slices of radishes and sweet potato in a small colorful bowl. The third dish was a stunner, native cod doused in a porcini mushroom and lobster broth and topped with genuine truffles. Then came a tender Vermont quail under a bed of pistachios, pomegranate, and barley, perfectly paired with the Antica Terra “Ceras” pinot noir from Willamette Valley. Dessert was a cinnamon-spiced apple with a dab of maple cream, paired again brilliantly with the sherry-like Marco de Bartoli Superiore Oro from Sicily. Last but not least was a wooden jewel box filled with macarons and homemade goodies created by the staff. 

Remember the name of the chef, Jennifer Backman, because she’s on her way to winning many accolades. Indeed, I would have to say this was my favorite meal of the year and that includes stops at Shaya in New Orleans, the best new restaurant in America according to the James Beard Awards, and Pot Luck Club in Cape Town, often mentioned as the top restaurant on the African continent. Chef Jen's signed menu is now pinned to the wall of my office, next to another memorable dinner, “Paris 1906” at Grant Achatz’s Next in Chicago. The best part of the meal is that we could simply walk upstairs to our room. Want to impress your loved one this Holiday Season? Make the splurge and book a room and dinner at the Spicer Mansion. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/16/16 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Stocking Stuffer No. 2: Larry Olmsted’s Real Food Fake Food

In 2012, Boston, a city that prides itself on its fresh seafood, was rocked to its ocean-loving core when a two-part expose published by the Boston Globe revealed that a significant number of fish were mislabeled at area restaurants, grocery stores, and fish markets. Diners were served cheap Vietnamese catfish instead of the succulent and more expensive grouper, haddock instead of cod, tilapia in place of pricey red snapper. Indeed, 24 of the 26 red snapper samples tested were some other species of fish. The two reporters went on a fish collecting spree, sending samples of their findings to a laboratory in Canada for DNA testing. The outcome? A whopping 48 percent of the seafood was mislabeled. In his latest book, Real Food Fake Food, writer Larry Olmsted goes so much further, telling us that most kobe beef sold at restaurants is indeed wagyu; extra virgin olive oil is rarely that, usually cut with soybean and peanut oil; grated parmesan is almost always fake; and that grass-fed beef was probably drugged and raised in a crowded feedlot. It’s no surprise this book has already made many “notable books of the year” lists. For anyone who wants to start off 2017 on the right foot, grab a copy and then buy that olive oil from a trusted supplier Olmsted recommends, like Oliviers & Co. One taste of their olive oil and you’ll never go back to the fake stuff again.


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/13/16 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

October is Cranberry Harvest Season in Massachusetts

The Cranberry Harvest Celebration at Makepeace Farms in Wareham, an hour south of Boston near the Sagamore Bridge to Cape Cod, might be over, but it’s still a great time to visit the bogs of Massachusetts during harvest time. We brought a journalist from Cape Town to the region last Thursday and were mesmerized by the men working waist-deep in the flooded cranberries colored a brilliant red. A.D. Makepeace Company is the world’s largest cranberry grower, a founding member of the Ocean Spray co-op, and the largest private property owner in Massachusetts. Cranberries have been cultivated in this part of the world for approximately 200 years. The temperate climate is perfect for growing cranberries with warm days in summer and cold nights in autumn. We watched as workers culled and then vacuumed up the cranberries into a truck that heads to a nearby Ocean Spray processing plant to make cranberry juice, cranberry sauce, and craisins. The harvest continues until mid-November and A.D. Makepeace is offering one last guided tour of its bog this Saturday, October 29th, at 9 am. Afterwards, stop by Tihonet Village for sandwiches and salads, chocolate-covered cranberries, and treats from their bakery like tasty cranberry macaroons. I grabbed a pint of fresh cranberries after a worker told me how to make homemade cranberry liqueur with equal amounts of cranberries, sugar, and vodka. I’ll tell you how it turns out. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/26/16 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, October 24, 2016

New Takes on Old Classics in New Orleans

Start with Cajun specialties like the one-pot wonder, jambalaya, brought to New Orleans by the French of Nova Scotia over 250 years ago. Add the rich sauces and fresh herbs of Creole cooking that blended together from the city’s Spanish, West African, and French roots. Take full advantage of the bounty of shrimp, crawfish, oysters, and redfish found in the surrounding gulf and bayou, and, voila, you have all the necessary ingredients to create North America’s favorite culinary destination. The city that brought you Emeril Lagasse, Paul Prudhomme, and John Besh is now home to a new generation of acclaimed chefs, including Israeli Alon Shaya, whose restaurant, Shaya, was recently named the Best New Restaurant in America according to the James Beard Foundation. They bring a new twist to the old classics, even when it comes to cocktails. 

To find my favorite dishes in town, please see my latest Local Flavor column in this month’s Virtuoso Traveler Magazine. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/24/16 at 06:00 AM
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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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