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New Tanzania mammals field guide available

June 29th, 2015 · No Comments

Larger Mammals of Tanzania copy

*A Field Guide to the Larger Mammals of Tanzania

Safari goers headed to Tanzania may be interested to know that a new field guide highlighting 135 species of larger mammals (60 percent of mammals identified in Tanzania are rodents, bats and shrews), ranging in size from the hedgehog to the humpback whale, was published. The East Africa country is best known among game viewing and nature enthusiasts for the Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, and Mount Kilimanjaro.

Part of the WildGuides, A Field Guide to the Larger Mammals of Tanzania (Princeton University Press, $29.95) by Charles Foley, Lara Foley, Alex Lobora, Daniela De Luca, Maurus Msuha, Tim R. B. Davenport and Sarah Durant is a 320-page paperback book published in 2014. It includes 300 color illustrations and 140 maps. The book is the second in the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)-Tanzania Programme field guide series. Author royalties from the book are to be donated to the Wildlife Conservation Society to support the Tanzania Carnivore Project or other wildlife projects in the country.

Forty percent of Tanzania's larger mammals are strictly or mostly nocturnal, requiring night drives or walks for optimum viewing. The authors recommend red colored filters during those hours.
For land animals there is information on identification, subspecies, similar species, ecology, behavior, distribution, conservation status, and where best to see each type of creature. The conservation status categories are: Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable, Near Threatened, and Least Concern. There are also plates with side-by-side photographic comparisons of species that are easily confused, and first-time-ever species checklists for the national parks.

Charles Foley is assistant country director for the Wildlife Conservation Society in Tanzania. Lara Foley is program manager of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Tarangire Elephant Project. Alex Lobora is senior research officer at the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute. Daniela De Luca is senior scientist for the Wildlife Conservation Society’s conservation programs in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania and Zanzibar. Maurus Msuha is head of wildlife information and education at the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute. Tim R. B. Davenport is country director for the Wildlife Conservation Society in Tanzania. Sarah Durant is senior research fellow at the Zoological Society of London’s Institute of Zoology.

*Photo: Princeton University Press



Larger Mammals of Tanzania copy

Click to buy A Field Guide to the Larger Mammals of Tanzania


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What we liked about dinner at Vinland in Portland, Maine

June 15th, 2015 · No Comments

By Elena del Valle
Photos by Gary Cox

The front window of Vinland faces the Portland Museum of Art

The front window of Vinland faces the Portland Museum of Art

The theory of locally sourced gourmet meals offered by Vinland restaurant in Portland, Maine appealed to us. Wondering how well theory translated to practice we made dinner reservations. We were pleasantly surprised.

The salad of local greens and herbs

The salad of local greens and herbs

The first thing we noticed was the minimalist décor with an open kitchen in the back of the single space and the warm welcome (Dylan and Timothy looked after us) and ambiance. Wood floors and few adornments lent it a streamlined functional appearance. The armless seats were less than comfortable, and by the end of the meal we were eager to leave just to part company with the seats. In the rear there was a unisex bathroom.

The mussels with polenta

The mussels with polenta 

The menu featured multi-plate options as well as an 18-item tasting menu, and wine pairings. On our first visit, we sampled the multi-plate menus. For the following dinner, we opted for the Tasting Menu with wine pairing to get a broad sampling of the cuisine and celebrate a special occasion. Wines were biodynamic, natural (unfiltered, wild fermented and without sulfites) or wild fermented.

The open kitchen allows diners to watch the chef at work

The open kitchen allowed diners to watch the chef and his staff at work

From Beet chips served with crispy beets, chevre cheese and micro greens to the  messy but nice mascarpone Buckwheat Fennel Seed Cookies at the end, and the Austrian, French, and Italian wines by the glass paired to the menu we had a most enjoyable and unique dinner.

Locally sourced lobster

Locally sourced lobster served on a stone platter

As the evening progressed the dining room filled and the noise level grew. Staff became busier although we were not neglected. We appreciated our meals at Vinland and look forward to dining there again the next time our travels take us to Portland.

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Well prepared fresh fish, regional products, diverse settings made Nevis dining rewarding

June 1st, 2015 · 3 Comments

Article and photos by Elena del Valle

One of my favorite spots to sit at breakfast at Montpelier Plantation

One of my favorite spots to sit at breakfast at Montpelier Plantation and Beach

During my five night stay in the beautiful Caribbean island of Nevis, in the West Indies, I was impressed by the surprising number of good meals I enjoyed, especially for an island of that size. While there I had a chance to eat at eight venues. Whether in one of many informal eateries, at a fine dining restaurant, on a hill setting or beach side the quality of the meals and dexterous preparation was notable.

One of my dinner courses at Restaurant 750 at Montpelier Plantation

One of my dinner courses at Restaurant 750 at Montpelier Plantation and Beach

Seeking local or regional ingredients and fresh produce I often favored simply prepared fish in lieu of classic European dishes made from products that had previously been frozen. I particularly appreciated the availability of fresh caught fish and the chefs' ability to prepare it well. Almost without exception every fish dish I ordered was made to highlight its flavor and texture without overwhelming it with exotic (to the island) or excessive spices and garnishes.

An appetizing main course at Restaurant 750 at Montpelier Plantation

An appetizing main course at Restaurant 750 at Montpelier Plantation and Beach

Stephane Caumont, French executive chef at Montpelier Plantation

Stephane Caumont, French executive chef at Montpelier Plantation and Beach

My first meal on the island was at Restaurant 750 at the Montpelier Plantation and Beach (+1 869 469 3462, info@montpeliernevis.com), the lovely hillside hotel where I stayed. Camera shy owner and operator Muffin Hoffman was a behind the scenes presence at the restaurant headed by Stephane Caumont, a newly arrived French executive chef, which offered "a blend of French and Caribbean cuisine with emphasis on fresh, innovative food." I looked forward to the combination buffet and prepared to order breakfast every morning.

The Sea Breeze Beach Bar at Nisbet Plantation Beach Club

The Sea Breeze Beach Bar at Nisbet Plantation Beach Club 

My fresh caught king fish with a side salad and Nisbet Chips at Sea Breeze Beach Bar

My fresh caught kingfish with a side salad and Nisbet Chips at Sea Breeze Beach Bar

The next day I had a delicious beach side lunch at Sea Breeze Beach Bar at Nisbet Plantation Beach Club (+869 469-9325, NisbetPlantation.com, reservations@nisbetplantation.com). The shaded setting two steps from the sand was comfortable thanks to cooling breezes. I tasted wonderfully prepared fresh caught kingfish served with a side salad and Nisbet Chips, made from thin slices of tania, sweet potato and breadfruit. I had a fresh fruit smoothie without sugar (at my request) and for dessert I tried the coconut panna cotta with fresh melon, strawberries, pineapple and starfruit. Glendina, our friendly server, was accommodating and had a ready smile. The toes in the sand beachfront dining service was available for snacks and lunch. The property, owned by David Dodwell, was managed by Alistair Forrest, general manager, who greeted us soon after we were seated.

For an appetizer I tried the pumpkin fritters with sweet and sour chili sauce at the Lime Beach Bar

For an appetizer I tried the pumpkin fritters with sweet and sour chili sauce at the Lime Beach Bar.

My spiny lobster at the Lime Beach Bar

My spiny lobster at the Lime Beach Bar (click to enlarge)

Dinner that evening was at another beach location although I didn't realize it until several days later. At the Lime Beach Bar (Pinneys Beach, + 869-662-9620, + 869-469 1147, limetourskn@gmail.com) I had pumpkin fritters with sweet and sour chili sauce for an appetizer. I also had a mixed salad with lettuce, feta cheese, watermelon slices and fried zucchini and eggplant pieces followed by a spiny lobster with rice and peas. Randy Jeffers, a local entrepreneur, owned the popular restaurant that served West Indian style cuisine.

My fresh fish lunch at the Oualie Beach Restaurant at Oualie Beach Resort

My fresh fish lunch at the Oualie Beach Restaurant at Oualie Beach Resort

My fresh fish lunch at the Oualie Beach Restaurant Oualie Beach Resort (Oualie Bay, + 869-469-9735, www.oualiebeach.com, reservations@oualiebeach.com) was outstanding. Although there was outdoor seating we chose an indoor table in the shade. The beach front restaurant was owned by John and Alastair Yearwood and managed by Faith Bertie. Our server was friendly and attentive.

The Killer Bee signature drink at Sunshine's Beach Bar & Grill packed a punch (pun intended)

The sweet Killer Bee signature drink at Sunshine's Beach Bar & Grill packed a punch (pun intended).

My fresh fish sandwich with fries and a side salad at Sunshine's Beach Bar & Grill

My fresh fish sandwich with fries and a side salad at Sunshine's Beach Bar & Grill 

During lunch at Sunshine's Beach Bar & Grill (Pinneys Beach Bar & Grill, + 869-662-8817, + 869-469-5817, www.sunshinesbeachbar.com), another beach side restaurant (steps away from the Lime Beach Bar), we were greeted by a smiling Llewellyn "Sunshines" Caines, the owner. The bright interior was chock full of celebrity photos and international flags. West Indian and seafood dishes were on offer. I had another well prepared fresh fish in a sandwich while sitting in the shade steps from one of the island's best known beaches. I tasted The Killer Bee, a deceptively tasty rum punch drink well known on the island.

A shared appetizer at Bananas Bistro

A shared appetizer medley of local specialties at Bananas Bistro (click to enlarge)

A pasta and seafood main course at Bananas Bistro

A pasta and seafood main course at Bananas Bistro (click to enlarge)

For local and international cuisine we went to Bananas Bistro (Hamilton Estate, + 869-469-1891, www.bananasbistro.com, gsmith@sisterisles.kn), a hilltop see and be seen dress up dining venue owned by Gillian Smith, a world traveler turned restauranteur. I liked the romantic rooftop views of the island at sunset and the varied rum offerings.

While awaiting my spa treatments at The Spa at Four Seasons Resort Nevis (P.O. Box 565, Pinney’s Beach, Charlestown, Nevis, + 869 469-1111, http://www.fourseasons.com/nevis/spa, SpaConcierge.NEV@fourseasons.com) I had a spa lunch consisting of a bento box with fresh fish and a smoothie. It was so good I would return just for lunch.

A tasty dinner under the stars at The Rocks at Golden Rock Inn

A tasty dinner under the stars at The Rocks at Golden Rock Inn

The beautiful dinning room at The Rocks at Golden Rock Inn

The beautiful dinning room at The Rocks at Golden Rock Inn

Dinner at The Rocks at Golden Rock Inn (Golden Rock, Gingerland, + 1 869 469 3346, www.goldenrocknevis.com, info@goldenrocknevis.com), owned by Brice and Helen Marden and run by Peter Dunning, was a delight. We sat under the stars facing the hotel's striking water features and enjoyed another outstanding Nevisian meal refreshed by cooling Caribbean breezes. I had a veggie tart amouse bouche followed by beet and citrus salad, and perfectly prepared fresh red snapper with wilted spinach, sweet potato wedges and red pepper coulis for the main course. Key lime pie rounded out the meal. Jocelyn, our server, was friendly and extra helpful. The beautiful and romantic setting combined with the delicious dinner made it one of my favorite restaurants.

Avocado Mousse with Shrimp, Greens and Mustard Vinaigrette

Avocado Mousse with Shrimp, Greens and Mustard Vinaigrette

Pan-seared Mahi Mahi Fillet, roasted Pineapple and Cilantro Sauce

Pan-seared Mahi Mahi Fillet, roasted Pineapple and Cilantro Sauce

Richard Lupinacci, co-owner and manager The Hermitage Plantation

Richard Lupinacci, co-owner and manager The Hermitage Plantation

Chef Janic Ryan, The Hermitage Restaurant

Chef Janice Ryan, The Hermitage Restaurant at The Hermitage Plantation

My final meal on the island was at The Hermitage Restaurant at The Hermitage Plantation (Hermitage,+ 869 469 3477, www.Hermitagenevis.com, Contactus@Hermitagenevis.com), an island estate rebuilt from ruins and owned by Maureen and Richard Lupinacci. I had the pleasure of meeting and dining with Richard Lupinacci, the property's affable manager. The restaurant specialty was Caribbean gourmet, prepared by Chef Janice Ryan.

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Tiny Left Bank gourmet shop where savvy Parisian cooks can get their secret ingredients

May 11th, 2015 · 2 Comments

Article and photos by Josette King

A discrete sign guided visitors to the internal courtyard.

A discrete sign guided visitors to the internal courtyard where the shop was located.

Epiceries fines (gourmet shops) are hard to miss in Paris, France. They range from vast food halls that offer all manner of desirable foodstuff from around France and far beyond, to boutiques specializing in a specific indulgence: caviar, cheese, smoked salmon, chocolate or macarons to name a few. You name it and any self-respecting Parisian will give you at least a couple of bonnes adresses (top places where you are sure to satisfy your particular yearning). Many of these epicurean temples have been in business for well over a century and have achieved the status of local institutions on the checklist of foodie tourists from every corner of the planet.

Unassuming doors led to a treasure trove of delicacies from the French heartland.

Unassuming doors led to a treasure trove of delicacies from the French heartland.

Then there are adresses confidentielles, exceptional places to be shared only as a favor to someone’s friends. Tomat’s (12 Rue Jacob, 75006 Paris, France. +33 1 44 07 36 58. www.tomats.fr), a tiny gem tucked in a 17th century courtyard in the heart of Saint Germain des Prés rates high on my list of the latter. Barely a decade old, its unique appeal is rooted in the passion of its owner-manager Alexandra Blanchet de Pudhot for the traditional delicacies of the French heartland. She was proud to point out that 95 percent of her inventory comes from small French producers. She also featured a few outstanding Italian treats, such as her coarse fresh Genovese Pesto so delicious that one of my friends has taken to slathering it on toasted country bread.

Tomat’s owner-manager Alexandra Blanchet de Pudhot.

Tomat’s owner-manager Alexandra Blanchet de Pudhot

In addition to a broad array of the essentials that great pantries are made of, she also sourced exceptional seasonal specialties. At the time of my early fall visit she had just received a fish and crawfish terrine from the Loire Valley that was otherwise only available at the producer’s. And in anticipation of the holiday season her inventory was being enhanced with attractive assortments of exotic spices each with a cookbook included, as well as new kinds of truffled foie gras, duck confits and traditional goose sausages from the South West of France that I expect will star in my gourmet gift baskets. Alexandra had tasted approximately 80 percent of the products carried at Tomat’s. Her associate was charged with tasting the remainder, such as artisan jams and honeys, the full range of the peerless Bonnat chocolate bars, and other sweets. Products that have become permanent staples of the inventory were re-sampled periodically to ensure that the high quality remained constant.

A tasting of artisanal Huiles LeBlanc.

A tasting of artisanal Huiles LeBlanc

At Tomat’s the emphasis on personal contact was as exceptional as the products on the shelves. Alexandra clearly enjoyed discovering her customers’ tastes to better offer suggestions on what could delight them and enhance their recipes, making her épicerie the sort of place where savvy cooks get their “secret ingredients.” In my case recently, one such find was a small pot of Beaume de Casanova, an exquisite bitter chocolate and ginger mustard, a few dabs of which had my guest raving over a simple roasted chicken. I had not suspected such a thing existed until my visit to Tomat’s. Nor had I heard of Huiles LeBlanc, a wide range artisan oils from Burgundy.

The shelves were brimming with the makings of a great pantry.

The shelves were brimming with the makings of a great pantry.

The family-owned and operated enterprise has extracted exceptional virgin oils from a variety of products from pistachio, pine and hazelnuts to marrow pits for well over a century. In Paris, they could be found at Tomat’s exclusively. I was a bit dubious at some of the most esoteric concoctions such as oil from the nut found inside the pit of prune plums, until I had a taste of several of them. In all cases, it had a more subtle, smoother taste than the nut itself. Their pistachio oil is my new favorite to drizzle over seared scallops and poached mild white fish. As for the prune plum nut oil? A few teaspoons transformed a humble autumn fruit compote into an intriguing dessert. I have also been known to use it as a dipping oil for bits of day-old brioche.

Attractive assortments exotic spices made original gifts.

An attractive assortments exotic spices made original gifts

With its exceptional variety of unusual products, personalized service and this not insignificant detail, friendly prices, Tomat’s has become a frequent stop for me, just in case a new interesting something has come in. It usually has.

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A caviar and salmon tasting in Paris

April 27th, 2015 · No Comments

By Elena del Valle and photos by Gary Cox

The Prunier shop in Place de la Madeleine, Paris

The Prunier shop on Place de la Madeleine, Paris

prunier-redo-1

Inside the Prunier shop - click to enlarge

Tasting more than one type of caviar at a time is not ideal, the sales lady at Prunier, a specialty shop on the ritzy Place de la Madeleine in Paris, France, said when I asked about sampling several varieties of the delicate seafood. She went on to explain that most people's palate has trouble distinguishing the flavors in the same way that after sampling several wines it becomes difficult to taste the nuances of each consecutive one.

The Prunier shop had a selection of caviar on display.

The Prunier shop had a selection of caviar cans on display.

So it was that we settled on only one kind of the four caviar types sold at the shop instead of the two or more varieties we had anticipated when we planned a caviar tasting. We also sampled some Norwegian farm raised Balik salmon which she said tasted "like candy."

Prunier Tradition caviar

The Prunier Tradition Caviar we sampled. (click to enlarge)

She recommended the Tradition Caviar, explaining that it accounted for as much as 60 percent of the company's caviar production. Ours was from the most recent production of September 2014 and had been aged one month. We took home a 30 gram tin of Tradition, a farmed caviar from Montpon Menesterol in France, for each of us. We also took a 120 gram vacuum pack of Balik Norwegian farmed salmon smoked in Ebersol, Switzerland. They came in insulated sealed plastic bags with small frozen packs.

Balik salmon for one.

A box of Balik salmon for one.

The products would be at their best if we refrigerated them within five hours so we made our way back to our place with alacrity, arriving within an hour and placing the bags in the refrigerator immediately. They sat in the corner while we fretted with anticipation until the following afternoon when we sampled them with a glass of well chilled brut champagne.

The salmon was offered in a variety of cuts and sizes.

The salmon display case with a variety of cuts and sizes.

Following her advice we had the caviar by itself first. It was buttery with a pleasing texture, a mild flavor and just the right amount of salt to highlight its natural taste without being too salty. There was also a hint of nuttiness and a pleasant aftertaste but no fishiness.

There was a case containing other products, like foie gras and blinis.

There was a case containing other products like foie gras and blinis. 

The salmon too was subtle and had a buttery melt-in-your-mouth texture. We sliced it into bite size chunks and ate it by itself with no garnishes or condiments. Each package was a single serving which was plenty, yet it seemed to disappear as if by magic. I would buy both products again and recommend them to friends, especially if it is their first time tasting caviar and salmon. Boutique Prunier (15 place de la Madeleine, 75008 Paris, France, +33 147429898, www.prunier.com, info@prunier.com),  a 50 square meter ground level shop, was established in 2005.

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