Article and photos by Josette King
Squam Lake panorama
I took to the hills this past summer, and discovered one of northern New England’s best-kept secrets. A merciless heat wave had settled over the Boston area like a steamy wet blanket. There was no end in sight. Thoughts of the Lakes Region, in the southern foothills of New Hampshire’s White Mountains, were getting more compelling by the day. I became particularly intrigued by Squam Lake. A large lake (the second largest in New Hampshire), secluded within densely forested shores, a short two-hour drive from my urban Massachusetts home, and I had never heard of it? I was on my way to what became a deliciously relaxing summer break.
The house made famous by the movie On Golden Pond
As I soon found out, the lake has been a favorite retreat from the heat of the cities to the south for wealthy New England families for generations. A number of them built summer homes in the lush hills and shores around the lake as early as the second half of the 19th century. Some of these have remained private homes to this day, while others have become welcoming bed and breakfasts and country inns. One of the latter was the exquisite The Manor on Golden Pond in Holderness (the largest of the villages scattered around the lake), which I had the good fortune to call my home on the lake for this impromptu summer escape.
Loons are a frequent sight on Squam Lake
Nestled among groves of ancient pines and rolling lawns on a slope overlooking the pristine waters of Squam Lake, the property was originally built in 1904 as a summer home for wealthy British businessman Isaac Van Horn. At a time when industrialists were building ever more extravagant summer residences, Van Horn opted for an elegant country manor that reflected his English heritage. Over the past decade, its current owners Brian and Mary Ellen Shields have lovingly restored the graceful stucco and wooden shingles home to its timeless old world elegance, albeit with the latest modern comforts and an intimate gourmet restaurant, the Van Horn Dining Room.
The Manor on Golden Pond
Another revelation was that I had previously heard of Squam Lake, under its Hollywood pseudonym. It was the setting for On Golden Pond, the award-winning 1981 film starring Katherine Hepburn and Henry and Jane Fonda. Little has changed on the tranquil lake in the past three decades, as I was able to ascertain on a memorable morning cruise with Cindy O’Learey, owner of Experience Squam, the only private boating excursion company on the Lake, aboard her slick 23 foot Sea Ray Bow-Rider. Captain Cindy has grown around her beloved lake; first spending her childhood summers there before permanently settling in Holderness with her own family. She was just a girl that summer thirty years ago, but old enough to remember every star studded instant of the filming. She took me past all the sights made famous by the movie. We stopped by the house, gazebo, fishing spots and the “jumping rock.”
Captain Cindy O’Leary at the helm of her speed boat
Children were still shouting with glee as they hurled themselves into the water. We went by a boat dock, “where Jane Fonda did her back flip. And she did on her first try, “ Captain Cindy reminisced. We continued on to “the place where they crashed the boat,” and I got to hear all the details of how it was accomplished. We then left Hollywood memories behind and headed to remote coves where loons fished to feed their young, and juvenile bald eagles were experimenting with the dynamics of flight.
A jumping rock on Squam Lake
A family was picnicking under the trees on one of the lake’s tiny islands, their boat secured on a sandbox-size beach. I regretted that I hadn’t allowed myself enough time to plan for a wilderness lunch. Although it was over too soon, my morning with Captain Cindy remains to my mind the ultimate way to experience Squam Lake. Visit the Simon & Baker Travel Review to read more about Squam Lake, my stay at The Manor on Golden Pond and my dinner at the Van Horn Dining Room.
Article, video, music and photos by Joachim Castellano
Travelers in Japan have the opportunity to stay in ryokans, traditional Japanese inns. Typically ryokans involve sleeping on the floor in tatami-matted rooms, bathing in a communal bath, and consuming an excellent Japanese dinner and breakfast included with the room charge. Recently while traveling in Izu, an area of Japan famous for its ryokans, I stayed at Arcana Izu (the hotel writes it arcana izu all in lowercase letters), a luxury ryokan that blends the traditional Japanese ryokan with Western concepts.
Arcana Izu blends modern architecture with the nearby Kano river
The fusion of East and West began with its name. Arcana is Latin for mysteries. Furthermore, Arcana Izu bills itself as a luxury auberge, and the hotel had a noticeable French influence, exemplified most by its Lumiere restaurant. After my taxi driver pulled into a stony entrance barely visible from a windy, rustic road, it seemed like I had discovered a secret place in the mountains.
High quality Thann body wash, shampoo, and conditioner
How had this mysterious and luxurious inn in Japan come to exist? Three Japanese entrepreneurs collaborated to create it: A French chef, a designer, and a graphic artist. Good design is about making tasteful choices. And almost every detail at the hotel revealed a discriminating eye, starting with its picturesque location near the Kano River.
I was delighted by the chocolate center of this berry treat
I was greeted by name at a large entrance gate, and ushered into River View Suite Number 5. A hotel butler checked me in inside the room itself, as there was no traditional front counter. Besides confirming the details of my stay, my butler briefly explained the amenities of the room and asked my preferred dinner and breakfast times. Another staff member entered the room and served me a welcome treat of bubbling fruit juice, ice-chilled berry, and a cookie.
A view of the Kano River
Check-in completed, I had a chance to consider my room while sipping the welcome drink. I was awestruck by the incredible view before my eyes: tall door-length windows wrapped around the room, showcasing Mount Amagi’s lush forest across and a rushing Kano River below my room.
An instruction card suggested drawing and painting techniques
To the left I spotted Arcana’s hallmark feature, an outdoor private hot spring bath. This bath was connected to my room via the bathroom, which had three sections. My room was the smallest room offered at Arcana Izu, yet I didn’t feel cramped at all; the room was spacious and modern.
From the hot spring bathtub, I could view of my room and the river below
During my stay I felt relaxed and rejuvenated. The staff were friendly, attentive, and easy to communicate with. Soaking in the views of nature from my bath and from my room soothed my city-worn spirits. Staying at Arcana Izu even inspired me, a technology addict, to include more nature-related breaks in my daily life.
Shinjiro Kobayashi, the sommelier, guided me through Arcana Izu’s twelve-page wine menu
Next time, I’ll be sure to bring along someone special to share in the wonderful secrets of this magical ryokan. The total experience, the private bath, the view, the French food, and the excellent service added up to artistry in action, a masterpiece in the mountains called Arcana Izu.
Article and photos by Elena del Valle
Braised “prahok” with coconut milk at Cuisine Wat Damnak
It was a rainy night in Siem Reap, Cambodia and I was hungry after spending the better part of the day in tourist endeavors. I was scheduled to have dinner with a friend who called Cambodia’s most popular tourist city home. We had narrowed our choices down to two, Italian for a comfort food meal or as my friend put it, “interesting” food at a newly opened gourmet Khmer restaurant owned by Joannès Riviere, the former chef of the Hotel de la Paix in Siem Reap (see Delicious tasting menus at Meric in Siem Reap, Cambodia) for five years and a native of Rhone, France. Italian we could eat anytime. A gourmet Khmer meal, at least for me, was a limited time option since I was leaving the following day. We called Cuisine Wat Damnak and were fortunate to find a table as a large group had booked most of the restaurant that night. The restaurant was named Wat Damnak for the pagoda next to the restaurant and the area where it is located.
Carol Salmon and Joannès Riviere of Cuisine Wat Damnak
“We decided to call it like this in honor of this neighborhood we’ve been living in since we arrived in Cambodia,” said Carole Salmon, a native of Nantes and one of the owners. “It is also a way to indicate where we are since we are a little bit out of the way. Cuisine because it is a French word (and we are French) that either means kitchen, cooking and gastronomy at the same time. Our vision was to create a place entirely dedicated to Cambodian food.”
Steamed Mekong langoustine with rice wine and Kurata pepper
Pan fried wild snakehead fish and eggplant
There were two set menu options with amouse bouche, a four course ($17) and a five course ($24) selection, presented in a four-page printed menu with beverages in the first and last pages and the set menus in the middle. There were four types of cocktails, a variety of spirits and aperitifs, Cambodian, Asian and European beer options, soft drinks, mineral water, two types of cider and a selection of red, white and rosé wines from Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, and South Africa.
Free range chicken and grilled garlic sour soup
We both chose the five course menus: Siem reap sausage and cucumber salad with dry shrimp and chili; Steamed Mekong langoustine with rice wine and Kurata pepper; Free range chicken and grilled garlic sour soup with purple yam and wild mushrooms; Braised “prahok” with coconut milk; pan fried wild snakehead fish and eggplant, and Chocolate and wild cardamon light ganache, cashew nut praliné and puffed rice. We shared a bottle of red wine to accompany the meal.
Dinner in the air conditioned and colorful restaurant was very good. Staff were friendly and helpful and the set menu was satisfying. There were enough exotic ingredients to make it fun without any seriously challenging flavors. It was one of my favorite meals during my 10 day visit to Cambodia.
Chocolate and wild cardamon light ganache, cashew nut praliné and puffed rice
At the end when all the guests were gone Chef Riviere and Salmon, the owners, joined us briefly for a drink. The chef had learned to cook with his father who was a chef and an organic vegetable farmer and his grandmother who graduated from the Cordon Bleu cooking school in the 1950s. The young couple from France had recently had a baby and opened their new restaurant almost at the same time. Cuisine Wat Damnak restaurant (Siem Reap, Kingdom of Cambodia +855 (0) 63 965 491, www.cuisinewatdamnak.com, firstname.lastname@example.org).
A refined dinner at Raffles Hotel Le Royal
The food I sampled in Cambodia was surprisingly flavorful and, in some cases, refined. In Phnom Penh, the capital city, the restaurants at Raffles Hotel Le Royal, my hotel, were good and quite convenient. I was particularly impressed with Le Royal the hotel’s fine dining restaurant which was managed by Christoph Sclatter, a Swiss executive with exacting expectations and great enthusiasm. My dinner on a quiet night was a blend of recreated traditional Khmer dishes from the royal household and western dishes like tuna tartare and crepes suzette prepared table side.
Crepes for dessert at Raffles Hotel Le Royal
A nice chicken mayonnaise amouse bouche was the first eatable item to arrive at my table. In addition to the tuna, which was served with a full compliment of condiments, I sampled the Duck consomme with Takoe River lobster won tons; Takoe River lobster with coconut milk and red curry (mild at my request); and a delicate and perfectly cooked Black cod with fish eggs and Madagascar vanilla sauce.
Khmer Kitchen, a family owned restaurant in central Siem Reap
My favorite dish at Khmer Kitchen
The owners of Khmer Kitchen
I spent twice as much time in Siem Reap as I did in the capital. The extra time afforded me the opportunity to dine at several places. Khmer Kitchen, a family owned restaurant founded by Perk Sophalon, on Pup Street in the heart of the tourist area of the city, served tasty Khmer dishes including the traditional Amok with fish. Their recipe was savory and flavorful. While I’m no expert in Khmer dishes, it was my favorite Amok dish. I also enjoyed their fruit juice. Started in 2000 with four tables the popular restaurant had grown to two locations 200 meters apart. Khmer Kitchen Restaurant & Khmer Kitchen Restaurant BBQ (#203 Group 6 Khum Svay Dang Kum, Siem Reap Kingdom of Cambodia, +855 63 964154, 855 77688677, email@example.com, www.khmerkitchens.com).
The owners of The Sugar Palm Restaurant & Bar, an open air restaurant in a two-story building
Crispy rolls at The Sugar Palm
On another rainy night I visited the Sugar Palm Restaurant and Bar, owned by Bruce and Kethana Dunnet who had moved to Siem Reap from New Zealand (Kethana was originally from Cambodia). The open air restaurant was on the upstairs of a two story building with indoor and terrace seating, high ceilings and fans to cool guests. There was artwork for sale on the walls and Cambodian music played in the background. I liked the crispy rolls made with fine noodles and served with julienne of green papaya and sweet sauce; the minced pork eggplant had a smokey sweet delicious flavor.
The only down side was finding a tuk tuk (covered bicycle for hire commonly used in Siem Reap) to take me back to my hotel. After a long wait, about 40 minutes, two showed up but refused to take me because they didn’t know where my hotel was located. In the end, the kind server offered me a ride on his motorbike. By then the rain had become a drizzle and I gladly accepted. Sugar Palm Restaurant & Bar (Taphul Road, Siem Reap, Kingdom of Cambodia, +855 63 964 838).