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Monday, April 13, 2015

The Tasty Debut of Hungryroot

Trust me, when you’re celebrating Passover and trying to stick to a Passover diet—no wheat, no rice—the options become less and less during the course of the week. That’s why I was delighted to hear about Hungryroot, a vegetarian-based 7 minute meal that made its debut on March 31st. Thinly cut vegetables take the place of pasta noodles and are topped with delicious sauces like Thai sesame or walnut pesto. Our favorites were the Zucchini Noodles with Sweet Basil Gremolata and Sweet Potato Noodles with Creamy Cashew Alfredo. You can add chicken to any dish, but it’s really not necessary. Our son, Jake, not one to love his veggies, downed the zucchini meal in record time. Hungryroot is the brainchild of three partners well known in the culinary world. Ben McKean founded restaurant reservation service Savored, which was acquired by Groupon; his partner Greg Struck founded Long Island Iced Tea brands; and chef Franklin Becker founded The Little Beet and starred in Bravo’s Top Chef Masters in 2013. Cost of each dish is $10 and Hungryroot is now shipping direct to clients in all cites east of the Mississippi. By the end of the year, they’ll be nationwide. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/13/15 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, October 27, 2014

What’s New in the New England Après-Ski Scene

There’s very little “new” in New England and that’s just the way we like it. We’re proud of our history in this little corner of the country, including home to some of the oldest ski resorts in the nation. After all, we’re the hearty bunch who still cherishes the single chair at Vermont’s Mad River Glen. Yes, we’ll happily embrace the new heated bubble chair at Okemo this winter, but we like our predictability. This is especially true of the après-ski scene, where we’ve been going to the same bars and restaurants for years, if not decades. That’s why it’s always a surprise when a new restaurant comes on the scene and creates a buzz in town. This is exactly what happened in Stowe this past March when the small eatery Plate made its debut. Los Angeles natives Jamie Persky and Mark Rosman create a Californian mix of salads made from local produce and meat dishes like a pork belly and egg appetizer. Local microbrews like Lost Nation Brewery from Morrisville are on tap and their signature dessert, the banana pudding, is already receiving rave reviews.

To read about other new restaurants close to ski areas in New England, see my latest story for Liftopia

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/27/14 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Three New Restaurants to Try in Toronto

With its mix of intriguing ethnic choices, like the Cree food I sampled at Keriwa Café on my last visit, Toronto has always been one of my favorite food destinations. Having dim sum is always high on my list of priorities, but this time I didn’t head to Spadina Avenue. I checked out the latest offering from chef Susur Lee, Luckee, at the SoHo Metropolitan Hotel. Called one of the “Ten Chefs of the Millennium” by Food & Wine magazine, Lee became a media sensation on the Food Network’s Top Chef Masters and other hit show, Chopped. When he’s not in the kitchen, he’s out on the floor greeting clientele and agreeing to take selfies with fans. 
His dim sum was the most memorable I’ve had in a long time. The ubiquitous har gow (shrimp dumplings) arrived orange thanks to a hint of butternut squash, on a bed of wild mushrooms. If my brother Jim was with me, we would have ordered 6 plates of these. Even his vegetable dumpling, something I rarely order, was a tasty mix of spinach, celery root, mushrooms, and jicama in a light as air dumpling. Lee excels at other dishes besides dim sum, like the sautéed scallops sweetened with soya glaze, and “Luckee Duck,” an apt name for the person who orders this version of the Peking Duck served with a schmear of foie gras. Susur, I’ll be back again for my selfie! 
When a friend from Toronto recommended I visit the new America Restaurant on the 31st floor of the Trump Hotel in the Financial District, I was skeptical, thinking the place would be some Texan steakhouse offshoot. As soon as I stepped foot into the restaurant, I realized I was wrong. The vibe with subdued lighting is more New York supper club, circa 1940s, especially with the Ella tunes in the background. I sat on the comfortable banquette and dug into a foie gras pancake, a buckwheat pancake topped with a healthy dollop of the meat, chunks of peaches, peanut marzipan, and hot Canadian maple syrup. For entrees, the scallop jambalaya was served in a hot skillet, coupled with grilled octopus and Andouille sausage. It goes well with the Blue Mountain pinot noir from BC. Run by Oliver & Bonacini, the same people who brought you the award-winning Canoe, America is here to stay in Canada. 
SIGNS, another new venture in town, seemed like a gimmick when I first heard about it. All the servers are deaf and you order the food via sign language. As a travel writer, I’m used to ordering my food though sign language since I spend a good part of my life in places where they don’t speak English. But the thought of putting deaf people on display made me uncomfortable. My worries were quickly allayed when I met my server, a young woman who helped me learn signs quickly like “thank you” and “what do you recommend?” A tip sheet is handed to you when you sit down at a table, sort of a Berlitz guide to sign language, where you can learn how to sign “I’m a vegetarian” or “we’re in a hurry.” My favorite was “Fantastic!” where you thrust your hands high in the air. “How was your entrée?” my server signed me, pointing to my lamb shank. “Fantastic!” 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/23/14 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, October 09, 2014

Have a Home-Cooked Meal With a Local Thanks to

I recently wrote a column for Men’s Journal on how to find the best restaurants on the road. As usually happens, someone contacted me after the piece ran and mentioned a new crowdsourcing site called Sign up to be a guest or host and simply share a home cooked meal around the world with locals. How cool is that? Guests are asked to bring a bottle of wine and share stories of their travels. Hosts typically want to discuss their culture and turn you on to their favorite things to do in their city or village. Some of my most memorable meals have been at local’s home, like the Friday night dinner I had in Jerusalem sitting next to an 11th-generation Yemenite Torah scribe. Or dinner Lisa and I had with an Amish couple in their home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Found a little notice at the local general store about this rare opportunity and had to show up. I remember the food was excellent and we discussed not only the differences but the striking similarities between our religions. Fascinating. Then he told me about his favorite homemade root beer joint in town. After all, no one knows his or her neck of the woods better than a local. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/09/14 at 08:00 AM
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Monday, October 06, 2014

Food for Thought, Lake Geneva Region Dining

The Vaud or Lake Geneva Region of Switzerland is known for its fine dining, arguably the best in Switzerland. After all, this is the French-speaking side of the country and home to the Lavaux and La Côte wine regions. We had many memorable dishes last week. In the heart of the Lavaux region in the village of Epesses, I loved dining al fresco at Auberge du Vigneron on wild mushroom risotto. The view of the surrounding vineyards and Lake Geneva below was memorable. In Lausanne, the multicultural offerings at Eat Me included a spicy tuna sashimi and a tasty “Sultan of the Street” lamb loin. The Greek salad at National was like an abstract painting, each of the core ingredients like cucumbers and olives separated on the plate. The local blue trout at Café L’Union in the charming village of Bursins did arrive blue on the plate, and was served with the local deep-fried cheese puff they call the Malakoff. 

Talking about cheese, we couldn’t leave Switzerland without trying the fondue. We chose well, walking into the casual restaurant, Les Trois Sifflets, in Vevey. When the creamy concoction was served at each table, the Swiss National Anthem blared from the speakers and the chef’s daughter came out with a large Swiss flag, followed by a guy carrying an oversized pepper shaker. The fondue was the best I’ve ever had, but that shouldn’t be a surprise since we were in Switzerland. The town of Gruyere is just up the road. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/06/14 at 10:00 AM
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Friday, September 26, 2014

Driving Iceland’s Golden Circle? Be Sure to Stop at Friðheimar

When told that we would be making one last stop on our Golden Circle route, at a greenhouse, most of the people on our tour scoffed at the idea, simply wanting to get back to our hotel in Reykjavik. It sounded like some hokey add-on, like visiting a gift shop owned by the bus driver’s brother. We were pleasantly surprised to find that Friðheimar is no ordinary greenhouse, but a massive year-round tomato and cucumber growing operation that yields close to a ton a day of crop thanks to the geothermal energy. I met the owner, Knútur Rafn Ármann, popped a tomato in my mouth (delicious), and then was treated to a sublime cup of tomato soup garnished with cucumber salsa and paired with fresh baked bread. It was probably the best dish I had in the country. Afterwards, we watched Knútur’s son and daughter (he has five children) ride the Icelandic horses he breeds. Friðheimar is open to the public for greenhouse tours, meals, and, in the summer, a 15-minute horse show. It’s the ideal way to end your trip on the Golden Circle. 

Thank you, Iceland! I’m off to the Lake Geneva region of Switzerland where I’ll be reporting live from Lausanne, Montreux, and Vevey. Please stay tuned next week! Thanks, as always, for checking in to ActiveTravels! 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/26/14 at 10:00 AM
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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Mandatory Stop at Duckfat

On every trip to Portland, Maine, the first stop is always Duckfat, a family favorite. I drive right up to the small restaurant, hungry after the 2-hour drive from Boston and not really wanting to wait the usual 30 minutes to snag a table. But then I sit down and order the heavenly shakes (this time I tried the yummy blueberry butterfat), a large order of fries with sublime truffle ketchup and the poutine (better than any in Quebec), topped with a duck egg. The salads and sandwiches are always excellent, from a pork belly grilled sandwich, to a duck salad with fresh greens. Yet, I’m always stuffed from my fries and shake, so I’m usually bagging half a sandwich to bring home. This is the one lunch spot that’s worth the wait! 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/19/14 at 11:00 AM
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Friday, August 08, 2014

Lake George Week, A Recap of Our Lodging and Food

We were fortunate to spend our first two nights this week at The Sagamore, the premiere resort on the shores of Lake George. Set on a 70-acre island near the village of Bolton Landing, this large wedding cake of a hotel has been the lake’s top address for over a century. Steps from the patio lead past the manicured lawn to the Sagamore’s shoreline, offering views of Dome Island, a large round uninhabited forest of firs that looks almost tropical, a place that King Kong would find homey. On the opposite shores is an uninterrupted carpet of trees that soon rise to 2,000-foot mountains. The serenity of the lake stems from a decision by civil engineers not to extend the road more than eight miles on the eastern shore. So when you reach the Sagamore, a little less than halfway up the lake, there are no signs of civilization on the other side.

Our final two nights were spent at Fort William Henry Hotel, within easy walking distance to all the arcades, shops, and restaurants in Lake George Village. Perched on a hill, Fort William Henry also rewards guests with wonderful views of the lake. I enjoyed sitting in a rocking chair and taking in the vista of lake and mountains while writing this blog.  
Of course, I made the 30-minute drive to my favorite restaurant in the lower Adirondacks, The Grist Mill. Located in Warrensburg, overlooking the rapids of the Schroon River, the Grist Mill is housed in a genuine working mill built in 1824. Yet, this is no museum. It’s a popular restaurant for foodies in the know who travel from as far as the Saratoga track in the summer months.  The consistently tasty food includes sesame-encrusted ahi, veal scallopini, and rack of lamb.
Sitting under a gazebo on the shores of the lake, peering at the ridge of mountains, it was easy to love the Boathouse, just north of Lake George Village. The food matched the view, with juicy cuts of sirloin and strip steak washed down with an affordable pinot noir. We topped it off with a dessert of tollhouse cookie pie and granny apple cheesecake. I can’t believe I never dined at the Boathouse before, but I’ll be back. 
We also had dinner at Cate’s Italian Garden in Bolton Landing and East Cove in Lake George Village, two classic restaurants that my parents adored. Cate’s is known for their mom and pop Italian fare, including excellent chicken marsala, veal parmigiana, and salmon. At East Cove, we enjoyed the lobster clambake, including a lobster, steamers, clam chowder, and corn on the cob. We made two stops on the emerging Adirondack Craft Beverage Trail, Cooper’s Cave Ale Company and Adirondack Winery. Both venues impressed me so much that I’m hoping to come back and write a story for The Boston Globe solely on the trail, especially when the new mobile app makes its debut next spring. Last, but certainly not least, there was no way Jim and I were going to miss breakfast at Lone Bull, where we both ordered a huge stack of pancakes.
I want to thank Joanne Conley for her help setting up my trip this week and giving me the opportunity to reflect and write about my years at Lake George. Also the chance to revisit many of the spots that I hold true and dear to my heart like my parent’s favorite picnic spot at the tip of Commission Point. I also want to thank my brother Jim for joining me and taking many of the photographs that appeared on this blog and on my twitter page, @ActiveTravels. I’m taking next week off to celebrate my birthday with my family in Portland, Maine. I’ll be back on August 18th. Thanks again for checking in!

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/08/14 at 09:00 AM
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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Dining Under the Stars at the Four Seasons, Big Island

As soon as we entered our room at the Four Seasons Hualalai and spotted the outdoor shower with live hibiscus, we knew where we were in good hands. Even more so when we roamed the grounds and found sea turtles sleeping in the sand.  At King’s Pond, we snorkeled in an “aquarium" carved out of the natural lava rock with over 75 species of neon-colored fish and spotted eagle rays. A Virtuoso-aligned travel agent, my wife Lisa also knew about the special amenities the resort offers, including the rare opportunity to dine privately under the stars. Any party over three, including families, wedding parties, and multi-generational get togethers can request this service. You look over a menu a week or two prior to your arrival and then get ready for one of the most memorable nights of your life. 
A golf cart picked us up at our room and escorted us over to a secluded stretch of beach where a ukulele player was strumming Hawaiian tunes. Our waiter, RJ, for the evening led us to genuine sofas that they brought out for the experience, not chaise lounge chairs. Champagne was waiting for Lisa and I while the kids downed a heavenly concoction, coconut lemonade. The sun was starting to set and I was blown away by this magical scene of sun, sand, ocean, ukulele music, champagne, and having the rare opportunity to share this all with my family. 
After the sunset as it started to get dark, RJ led us to a private setting beside King’s Pond to have dinner. We were introduced to our personal chef, who was already at work grilling our entrée choices, lobster tails and ribeye. All dishes were paired with a different wine and I was thankful I only had to walk back to my room that evening. The stars twinkled, the food and service was excellent, and I felt blessed. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/23/14 at 10:00 AM
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Sunday, July 06, 2014

Ko Olina Resort Week—Food, Glorious Food

All it took was one dish at  Roy’s Ko Olina and we knew we were in good hands. The blue crab maki, made with Japanese hamachi, sweet chile mango salsa, and firecracker aioli, was consumed by my family of four in a matter of seconds. The Ko Olina Resort might be best known for its properties, including the JW Marriott Ihilani Resort and Disney’s Aulani Resort, but it’s the restaurants outside the resorts that truly shine. Grab a seat at Roy’s Ko Olina overlooking the golf course and you’ll soon realize that this sister restaurant to the legendary Roy’s in Honolulu is a memorable meal. All the signature dishes are here, including heavenly blackened ahi tuna and the misoyaki marinated butterfish, both so tender that you know it was caught that morning. Save room for the decadent macadamia nut tart. 
Roy Yamaguchi is not the only Hawaiian celebrity chef with a restaurant in Ko Olina. Peter Merriman of Merriman’s fame on the Big Island has opened the casual Monkeypod Kitchen directly across the street from the resorts. Start with a blueberry mojito or one of the 36 microbrews on tap including Longboard Lager from Kona. Then dive into an appetizer of ahi poke, so addictive that I guarantee you’ll order it twice once the first threesome is devoured. The pumpkin patch ravioli, created from roasted squash, spinach, chevre cheese, and walnut sage pesto is also a winner. Then move on to the macadamia-crusted mahi mahi, or the lobster, coconut, and fresh fish stew made with a nice Thai curry sauce. The kids will like the wood-fired pizza and burger choices. 
It’s been a great week at Ko Olina! I’m fortunate to finally have the chance to check out the leeward side of Oahu. I want to thank Sweetie Nelson and Leonie Lam for giving me the inside scoop. I’m off to the Big Island and San Francisco, which I’ll blog about when I return home. Please check back the week of July 21st. In the meantime, enjoy your summer! 
(Photo by Jake Jermanok) 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/06/14 at 10:00 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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