Article and photos by Josette King
When I headed for the verdant shores of Squam Lake on a recent summer road trip, my main purpose was to escape for a few days in the southern foothills of New Hampshire’s White Mountains the brutal heat wave that had been roasting New England for the previous couple of weeks. I hadn’t given much thought to food, and since it was my first visit to the area, I figured I would have to rely on word-of-mouth, sometimes a hit-or-miss proposition. This time was definitely a hit. My local hosts pointed me to some exciting eateries that in and of themselves would have justified my visit to the area.
The Corner House Inn in Center Sandwich
Although they differed widely in cuisine and atmosphere, my favorites turned out to have some significant commonalities: all were chef-owned, with unpretentious menus based on high-quality locally-gown organic products. And all were reasonably priced to boot.
The Corner House Inn
The Corner House Inn is located in a former inn
Built in 1849, the “house on the corner” managed to survive the Civil War and some major town fires to become the foremost eatery and boarding house in Sandwich. Current owners Don and Jane Brown acquired the property in 1981. Over the next two decades, Chef Brown’s cuisine drew an ever-larger following and one by one, the guest rooms were converted into dining space. I especially enjoyed the historic house surrounding and the room-sized dining areas that made for an intimate, casual atmosphere.
Chicken Rosa is a favorite dish at the Corner House Inn
I found it hard to get past the appetizer offerings. Should I have the lobster bisque (one of the Inn’s signature dishes) or the fried oysters with their aioli dipping sauce? But then, what of the crab cakes, and the intriguing sweet-potato polenta in roasted red pepper and orange ginger sauce? Mercifully, my understanding server arranged for a sampler of all. My espresso-cup size lobster bisque had enough bouquet to fill a bowl, and nuggets of fresh lobster aplenty. Each appetizer was beautifully executed and delicious. I especially enjoyed the oysters, each a soft morsel that had retained a hint of briny ocean taste within its crisp golden crust. Having also succumbed to the fragrant home baked bread and the delicate field greens salad with its light buttermilk-dill dressing, I felt already satiated. But there was still the imaginative Chicken Rosa, in a creamy white wine sauce, served on fresh vegetable ravioli. I could manage only a few bites. I was saving myself for the chocolate ganache terrine, served with a dollop of white chocolate mousse, and was glad I did. The Corner House Inn (15 Oak Street, Center Sandwich, New Hampshire, + 1 603 284 6219, http://www.cornerhouseinn.com/, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Squam Lake Inn Café
Although the surroundings were decidedly New Hampshire, with a big red barn turned gift shop at the edge of the Inn’s parking lot and Walter’s Basin, Holderness’ main harbor, a short walk away, the atmosphere of the Squam Lake Inn Café channeled Napa Valley to me. On the deck, tables were neatly lined under two rows of green market umbrellas for al fresco dining, while inside, the light-filled dining room had the uncluttered charm of a garden porch. The menu, changed daily to take advantage of the best seasonal offerings from local organic farmers and freshly caught sustainable seafood, reinforced the impression. And in addition to the meat and fish dishes, the Café featured a number of tempting vegetarian options.
The Squam Lake Inn Café has scrumptious crab cakes
The wine list focused mainly on California wines, rounded with a few interesting foreign labels. The emphasis was on artisan wines from small production vineyards that favored sustainable farming. I was not overly surprised to discover in the course of the evening that the owners, Rea and Cindy, had relocated from Orange Country, California, when they purchased the Inn in 2003. Rea and daughter Taylor officiated in the kitchen while Cindy managed the dining room.
Glazed scallops at the Squam Lake Inn Café
I have a special fondness for fresh crab cakes, which I order at every opportunity. The ones served as my appetizer were exceptional. Two delicately seasoned patties of the freshest crabmeat, pan seared to a light gold, served with a tangy remoulade sauce. Perfection in simplicity. My dinner companion’s appetizer, a crisp mesclun salad with red onions, sliced almonds and crumbs of feta cheese, glistening with a light poppy seed dressing and garnished with slices of ripe peaches was another fine example of Chef Rea’s fresh and simple approach. My entrée of seared and lightly glazed scallops was served over sautéed baby spinach and grape tomatoes with just a hint of chopped mango. Light and satisfying, just right for a hot summer’s evening, as was my friend’s roasted portobello caps layered with artisan Vermont goat cheese, sliced tomato and basil, drizzled with a balsamic reduction. We finished our meal with a fruity wild strawberry sorbet and an ice cream sandwich of molasses spice cookie and ginger ice cream respectively. Squam Lake Inn Café (28 Shepard Hill Road, Holderness, New Hampshire, +1 603 968 4417, http://www.squamlakeinn.com/dining.html, email@example.com)
Although not located in the immediate vicinity of Squam Lake, the Coyote Grill was warmly recommended to us and proved well worth the 30-minute drive to the nearby mountain sports resort of Waterville Valley. Chef Sean Stout, a graduate from Johnson and Wales Culinary Institute in Providence, Rhode Island, honed his skills in several fine restaurants around New England before he and his wife Barbara opened the Coyote Grill almost two decades ago. Chef Stout relied on local sources for his meats, fish, dairy products and produce. He developed menus that varied with seasonal availability and created his own recipes, adding an original twist to New England favorites.
Coyote Grill sole and grilled asparagus
I especially enjoyed my appetizer, a terrine of summer vegetables that would have been at home in a ratatouille Niçoise, but had been thinly sliced, stacked and baked with goat cheese, then served cold on a balsamic glaze. Meanwhile, my friend’s simple sliced heirloom tomatoes and fresh mozzarella took on a new dimension with its roasted garlic and fresh basil dressing. After several days of eating our way round the area, we fancied a somewhat light fare. My main course of pan-fried filets of sole drizzled with a tangy lemon butter sauce and served with grilled asparagus and yellow peppers was delicious, as was my friend’s grilled chicken breast on a pinwheel of finely diced vegetable rolled in a tortilla, also served with grilled asparagus. My desert was a gourmet take on the traditional strawberry shortcake, a fluffy genoise layered with pureed fresh strawberries and whipped cream; a lovely, light ending to an enjoyable summer’s meal. Coyote Grill (98 Valley Road, Waterville Valley, New Hampshire, +1 603 236 4919, http://www.wildcoyotegrill.com/, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Coyote Grill vegetable terrine appetizer
Visit the Simon & Baker Travel Review to read more about Squam Lake and my stay at The Manor on Golden Pond
Article and photos by Elena del Valle
Angkor Wat temple
After exploring the best known and most interesting Angkor Wat temples (sometimes more than once) I longed to see a little more of Siem Reap and its environs. As I was pondering options I mentioned to the hotel manager at my hotel, the Raffles Hotel D’Angkor, my interest in cultural and artistic shops or activities. His suggestions and assistance led me to visit the Golden Silk Pheach farm (see Interesting, inspiring visit to Cambodia golden silk farm), the workshop of Eric Raisina, a Madagascar born and French educated textile designer, and the House of Theam, the shop and art gallery of Lim Muy Theam, a French educated local artist, the following day.
Sirivan Chak and Loic Dumas, owners, Galerie Cambodge
That day at my hotel I browsed the small shopping arcade. While I was enjoying afternoon tea the previous day I met Sirivan Chak and Loic Dumas, two of the three owners of Galerie Cambodge, a clothing and home furnishings store and my favorite shop there. It was distinctive in that unlike many stores in the city selling foreign made goods, 90 percent of the items in the boutique were made in Cambodia. The exceptions were Panama Hats (made in Ecuador) and stunning Burma lacquered bowls made from horse hair and 17 layers of lacquer, requiring six months to complete.
Items for sale at Galerie Cambodge
Bowls from Burma, one of my favorite items at Galerie Cambodge
The shop sold housewares, sandals, and casual men’s and women’s handmade clothes with Khmer touches integrated within the chic designs. Prices ranged from $16 for cotton bags to $630 for beautiful and soft golden silk wraps (a favorite). The owners, Nathalie Safon Ridel, an architect, Sirivan, a designer, and her husband Loic, a former production manager in the high tech printing industry, had moved to Siem Reap from Paris, France. I liked their original designs with Cambodian elements and monk-blessed yuoan talismans. I appreciated that they used natural dyes, and natural fibers and followed responsible tourism and fair trade practices, buying products and working with small and family owned producers as well as supporting local non profits. Galerie Cambodge (Raffles Hotel D’Angkor shopping arcade, +855 (0)12 855 204, www.galeriecambodge.com)
Eric Raisina, textile designer and shop owner
Eric Raisina arrived in Siem Reap in 1996 and fell in love with the area. By 2001 he had based his business in the city and by 2004 he had opened his first shop. When I met the silk textile designer he had two shops in Siem Reap and one in Phnom Penh. The villa shop I visited (by appointment only) housed a showroom sandwiched between a workshop on one side, where a half a dozen seamstresses worked on bright and colorful silk fabrics, clothes and accessories, and a dye section on the other.
Silk clothing at the Eric Raisina shop in Siem Reap
“My main focus is really silk because in my country we do have beautiful silk, fantastic and really soft,” said the energetic and tall designer as he walked me around the ground floor showroom and shop in one of the city’s premier residential areas. “I thought this material is really magical.”
Bright colors and soft silks predominated at Eric Raisina’s shop
What I liked most about his fabrics in addition to the bright colors and whimsical and unexpected textures was the amazing softness of the silk fabrics. Prices ranged between $29 for a scarf to $545 for a travel blanket (my favorite). Villa Boutique Worship (Kot Chork, Siem Reap, Kingdom of Cambodia, +855 (0) 63 963 207, +855 (0)12 580 283 www.ericraisina.com, email@example.com).
Staff working at the Theam’s House workshop
Cambodian art at Theam’s House
I arrived at Theam’s House late in the day, tired, hungry (there had been no time for lunch) and wet from an afternoon of seasonal downpours. Maddy Lim, the Cambodian artist’s sister who had recently quit her job to dedicate her time to the art gallery, welcomed me with a smile. A few moments later she introduced me to Lim Muy Theam, the artist and man behind the shop, and his enthusiasm rubbed off on me. The former artistic director of Artisans d’Angkor had attended the École Boule and the École des Beaux-Arts de Paris before returning to his homeland. He now lived, worked and exhibited his art in the same building. During my visit, he described his artistic style and showed me around the back-of-the-house workshop where his staff were hard at work and the public space where finished artwork was on display.
The gallery was filled with colorful art in varied sizes and shapes. The most distinctive were the oversize acrylic paintings due to be included in the Season of Cambodia exhibit in New York City in 2013. There were also lacquered paintings (starting at $500), bronze and stone sculptures, even cotton scarves from Phnom Srok. The most popular, he said in response to my question, where his souvenir elephants and Buddhas. He was planning on making one thousand Buddhas. Theam’s House (No.25, Phum Veal, Khum Kokchak, Siem Reap Angkor, +855 -0- 12 71 20 39, +855 -0- 78 20 81 61+855 -0- 97 89 855 39, www.theamshouse.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com)
A section of one of the oversize paintings
Late the following morning I took a break from attractions and shopping excursions and scheduled a half day Champagne Spa package at Bodia Spa, a day spa near my hotel. There’s nothing like spa therapy following shopping therapy, I say. The friendly spa ladies spoke English, the spa facilities were quiet (I was the only guest when I arrived) and pretty with water features in a courtyard garden, the treatments were nice and the bubbly, gently chilled, was served with a bowl of fruit. Bodia Spa adjacent to the Heritage Suites Hotel (behind Wat Polanka, + 855 63 762 428, www.bodia-spa.com, firstname.lastname@example.org )
My treatment included a flower filled tub, fresh fruit and a half bottle of champagne
Article and photos by Josette King
The Island Spirit
“How about an Alaska cruise?” a friend suggested as we were discussing potential travel destinations, “I hear the Alexander Archipelago is spectacular.” I dismissed the idea with a reminder that I was not fond of cruises. “Stop holding a grudge,” she laughed, aware that I have been ill disposed toward floating luxury hotels since one of them ruined my gelato break. I was sitting at a canal-side terrace of La Giudecca, the quiet island on the southern side of Venice, when a colossus the size of a city block ponderously glided its way down the canal, obliterating for what seemed an eternity my view of the Laguna and Basilica San Marco.
Ford’s Terror mountains were reflected into the cove
But thoughts of the Inside Passage, as the Archipelago is often called, lingered. The 300-mile (500 kilometer) long, 100-mile (160 kilometer) wide area with over 1,000 islands and a labyrinth-like coastline of convoluted channels, deep fjords and active glaciers is considered one of the most stunning wilderness destinations in North America. I thought there had to be a way to get away from the common cruising lanes and meander through its remote reaches. There was.
The fjords abounded with high waterfalls
My nine-day journey on board the Island Spirit was akin to an invitation on the yacht of a friend who liked nothing better than sharing with his guests his passion for the pristine waters and breathtaking scenery of Southern Alaska. With its 25.6-foot (7.8 meter) beam and 7-foot (2.1 meter) draft, the powerful 128-foot (39 meter) long ship was just the right size to wend its way into narrow fjords and idyllic anchorages inaccessible to larger vessels. And with only 17 guest cabins that could accommodate a maximum of 32 passengers and a friendly crew of nine, it offered an intimate environment and laidback atmosphere that greatly enhanced my enjoyment of this exceptional wilderness experience.
Island Spirit captain Jeff Behrens
The ship’s owner and captain, Jeff Behrens, constantly adjusted his loosely defined itinerary to make the most of the ever-changing weather conditions and optimize wildlife sightings while cruising at a relaxed 10 knots per hour along the most sought-after vistas of the Archipelago. We stopped for whales, orcas, porpoises and colonies of sea lions piled up on rocky outcrops. We slowed for seals hitching rides on drifting ice floes. For Captain Jeff, it was not enough to introduce us to narrow fjords framed by dramatic granite cliffs streaked with waterfalls thundering down from snowcapped peaks. He delighted in nudging the ship to the edge of the rock face, close enough that I could feel the icy spray on my face, and reach out to fill a pitcher with the sweetest water I ever tasted.
My introduction to a live glacier was a morning long, equally up-close adventure. The ice floes became increasingly larger as we headed up Endicott Arm to Dawes Glacier, until Captain Jeff brought the ship to a stop within a mere 600 feet (200 meters) of a mile-long (1,600 meter) wall of jagged ice about 20 stories high; so close that I could hear the glacier snap. Seconds later, a slab of ice would crash into the water to immediately pop back up as one more iceberg on the already cluttered sea. Time flew as I concentrated on the sounds, challenging myself to guess the location of the next slide.
My most treasured memory of this unique cruise is an anchorage known as Ford’s Terror. It is isolated from the outside world by a canyon so narrow, with currents so treacherous that it can be accessed only during slack tide (the moment when currents stand relatively still while the tide turns). The Island Spirit is said to be the only commercial passenger ship around the Inside Passage that is small enough to make its way through. We emerged from the canyon into a stunning oval cove rimmed by steep forests of tall black pines interspersed by tumbling waterfalls. Above the tree line, snowy peaks shone brightly against the cloudless cerulean sky. But the magic of Ford’s Terror went far beyond its breathtaking scenery. As we were finishing our dinner, Andy, the first mate, informed us that a grizzly bear was enjoying his at the water’s edge. One of the skiffs was lowered for those who wanted a closer look. We reached en masse for our life vests and headed for the skiff. By the time we returned to the ship an hour later, a perfect crescent moon was rising into the still pale blue sky.
Orca whales frolicked by our ship
The weather was again radiant the next morning. While kayaks were an option, I chose to board the skiff again for a ride around the cove. In addition to spotting unusual Harlequin sea ducks and bald eagles nesting high in the trees, I was treated to a rare, close range sighting of a black bear sow and her three tiny cubs. Visit the Simon & Baker Travel Review to read more about my Alaska cruise on board the Island Spirit.
Article and photos by Elena del Valle
High fashion dresses were on display in the shop
One of the off the beaten path activities I most enjoyed during a trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia this year was a tour of the Golden Silk Pheach farm, about an hour away from the city. As soon as I found out about the farm I was intrigued. With the help of the staff at my hotel I scheduled a guided visit. This required advance planning as visits, with the owner, were strictly by appointment.
Oum Sophea Pheach explains the process of creating silk fibers
What impressed me about the Golden Silk Peach, before even visiting the farm and store, was the sheer dedication and determination of its owners. Oum Sophea Pheach, a Cambodian and former director of the National Center of Cambodian Silk, and her husband Patrick Gourlay, a French banker, had the vision to manufacture rare fine golden silk in their own farm. In 2002, they created the project from the ground up, funded the farm 32 kilometers from Siem Reap and trained 100 staff (many of them young and disadvantaged rural residents).
The deep golden color produced by the silk worms
It would be nine years before the first silk production was successful. Visiting the farm and watching the staff at work was a learning experience. The painstaking process required time, skill and patience. A single unique silk fabric could take months to manufacture.
The next stage is to make thread from the silk
Visiting the shop was an exercise in restraint. In addition to fine silk textiles and silk products made at the farm, the shop sold art (sculptures, stone, wood, bronze and cotton items) produced in the area. The Golden Silk ikat designs and colors varied; prices ranged from $50 for a basic scarf to $1,200 for an elegant silver gray wrap I fell in love with and as much as $15,000 for an elaborate large wrap.
The cloth is woven by hand
For tourists who couldn’t spare the time to drive to the farm and wished to see the silk products the owner offered private display and sales at her home (by appointment only), a handsome and lovingly built property in one of the most exclusive neighborhoods of the city. We stopped there after the tour of the silk farm. Golden Silk Pheach (+855 (0) 12 59 68 11, email@example.com, http://www.goldensilk.org)