Article and photos by Margot Liebman
The entrance to Eataly from 23 street
Eataly was the perfect combination of old-world European market and true Manhattan glamour. Centrally located on 23 Street, one of the main cross-town routes in New York City, it was easy to get to and fun to visit. I went with friends on a Saturday afternoon in October, a popular time to go, and again in March. It seemed to me that locals and tourists were visiting Eataly.
An example of the signage scattered throughout Eataly
When I walked in I noticed two things, an exquisite selection of produce and a huge crowd. I admit that I panicked, but only momentarily. After marveling at the orange chanterelle mushrooms, baby purple artichokes, and tiny rock-like potatoes, I made my way into the main part of the market.
The produce display near Eataly’s main entrance
The entire place was over 50,000 square feet (4,600 square meters) with high ceilings and pools of light. There were marble tables, white walls, stainless steel shelves and an abundance of food. The market sections had packaged pastas, sauces, olives, meats, sweets and many imported items. There was a Gelateria (Italian ice cream section), an espresso bar, a chocolate counter, a fishmonger, a butcher, and a bookshop. It was a bit overwhelming, but after I took some time to wander around I got the lay of the land.
One of the pasta aisles in the market
There were six restaurants, each one focusing on one type of food. Il Manza (reservations were required for this one), Il Pesce (Italian for the fish), Le Verdure (Italian for vegetables), Birreria (Italian for the beer place), La Piazza (The Plaza, selling sandwiches and charcuterie products) and La Pizza & La Pasta. We found a spot at the bar at Il Pesce where we had a direct view into the kitchen.
Macelleria, where you can buy fresh red meat
To start we ordered a raw fish selection that included sea bass and tuna topped with tiny roe and a citrus glaze. It was better than my favorite sushi restaurant. Next was a whole branzino (a silver-skinned fish found in European sea and saltwater lakes) prepared simply on a salty bed of paper-thin potatoes. We also ordered grilled scallops in a lemon and butter sauce served in a large seashell. On the side we had a bed of sautéed, garlicky mustard greens. The fish was fresh and flavorful, and each dish complemented the other. The service was fast and friendly and we had a great time watching the chefs prepare each plate.
Rounds of cheese stored near the wine bar
Next, we toured the market. On some days Eataly offered classes. I planned to check the website’s Learn section for a schedule of upcoming programs. In the past, topics have ranged from olive oil tastings to cooking classes, to history of Italian Cuisine with prices between $60 and $275.
The antique-style espresso machine made a delicious cappuccino!
That day there was a free grappa tasting so we tasted a few sweet liquors like Strega and Limoncello. Next we made our way to the espresso bar where coffee was served from an antique-style machine. Of course, we also had to try the Gelateria and helped ourselves to a raspberry and chocolate double-scoop; when I closed my eyes I thought we were eating a real raspberry.
Overall, Eataly appeared to me to be a food-lover’s paradise. Offerings the day I was there were high quality, exotic, fun and well organized. Staff served the food quickly. We paid the kind of high prices we have paid at upscale Manhattan food shops.
Mushrooms, artichokes and dried peppers in the produce section
Eataly was founded and created by Oscar Farinetti, an Italian entrepreneur. His partners included Mario Batali and Lidia Bastianich, celebrity chef and restaurateur respectively, as well as Joe Bastianich, a restaurateur and Lidia’s son. I liked that Eataly partnered with Slow Food, a nonprofit organization founded to counteract fast food and fast life.
The store offers many imported goods such as these pasta sauces
I will return because I had so much fun exploring the whole place and I would like to try the other restaurants. If I were in the neighborhood, I might stop in just for a scoop of gelato at Eataly NYC (200 5th Avenue, New York City, (212)229-3560, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.eatalyny.com).
Article and photos by Josette King
Hoatzin birds were a frequent sight near the lodge
“Stop, stop!” I sputter, too excited to keep my voice down. Fabian, the local park ranger who is paddling, doesn’t speak English but he gets the idea and brings the canoe to a smooth halt. Roberto, my Ecuadorian guide who speaks English fluently, looks at me askance. He has just pointed out a large bird perched in the dense jumble of rainforest. It looks like a chicken with too much turquoise eye shadow and a bad hair day. “The bird,” I exclaim. “Yes, it’s a hoatzin,” he reiterates matter-of-factly. He clearly fails to grasp the importance of the moment. So does the bird, which has by now been joined by two of its friends. They are engaged in a croaky argument while heartily tucking into the foliage. I feel compelled to explain that on a previous Amazon visit, a thousand miles downriver from here, I had once spent a whole week, including a half-day hike in the waterlogged underbrush, in search of a hoatzin. And I had only managed to hear its distinctive cry and ponderous take off as it vanished into the forest canopy. “We have lots of hoatzins here,” Roberto assures me after I have photographed these to my heart’s content, and for good measure a rare rufescent-tiger heron that has been observing the proceedings from a nearby stump.
The king size bed was draped in mosquito netting
We resume our slow way upstream under an arch of tangled mangroves and palms, along the narrow channel that connects the Napo River, one of the most important tributaries of the Amazon, to Anangucocha Lake. We are in the heart of 21,400 hectares (82 square miles) of conservation land located on the ancestral territory of the Kichwa Anangu community, in the northwest corner of Ecuador’s Yasuni National Park. The park is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve regarded by scientists as one of the most bio-diverse areas on the planet. Several notable sightings later, including a tree-toed sloth and my first ever monk saki monkey, we reach the lake. On its far side, the shore is dotted with the thatched-roofed, bright ocher adobe bungalows of the Napo Wildlife Center luxury eco-lodge.
My bungalow had a shaded terrace overlooking the lake
Set into some of the most pristine rainforest environment I have ever visited, the lodge is designed to meet the high expectations of international tourists for wilderness accommodations. It features attractive bungalows with private terraces overlooking the lake, modern bathrooms, round the clock electricity and WiFi connection throughout the property. Strategically located observation towers at the lodge and in the forest offer a unique perspective of the abundant wildlife around the lake and above the forest canopy. My wildlife viewing is exceptional, not only for its abundance and variety but because of the excellence of the guiding. At the lodge, guides come in pairs: a bilingual, state-licensed guide and a native Yasuni Park-licensed ranger who also acts as a local guide, sharing his knowledge of plants, medicinal plants and Kichwa traditions. One evening, they take me on a nighttime canoe ride in the swamps near the lodge, with a special spotlight to view nocturnal creatures.
Coffee was served around the clock in the main hall
Beyond the excellence of accommodations and wildlife viewing opportunities, a highpoint of my visit is the opportunity to observe first hand the positive impact of the Napo Wildlife Center on the daily life of the Anangu people. The lodge and conservation land are wholly owned and managed by the Kichwa Anangu community. They are the keystones of a far-reaching program to improve the quality of life of the people and preserve the integrity of their ancestral territory and culture while providing them with sustainable employment. Most of the staff comes from the community. Their pride in the Napo Wildlife Center is palpable, and translates into warm and attentive service. Additionally, while the life of the community is separated from tourism activities, one hour downstream from the lodge, I see women welcome guests to the Interpretation Center facility adjacent to their village. It is especially rewarding to be able to connect with them (with Roberto as interpreter) as they introduce me to the tasks of their daily lives as well as their traditional Kichwa crafts and dances.
An Amazon forest dragon
I am gratified to hear of the rigorous sustainable tourism practices implemented by the Napo Wildlife Center program. Profits are reinvested within the community, with education and healthcare as major priorities. The center also returns a share of the annual profits to each family and provides a stipend to the elderly. To limit the lodge’s impact on its environment, it has implemented an environmentally sustainable sewage system, with waste waters treated to high standards before being released into the swamps. Trash is kept to a minimum and composted whenever possible. What is safe to burn is burned and buried, with the remainder transported to designated landfills outside the park. And these practices have been extended to the Anangu community at large, for a cleaner, healthier living environment.
A striated heron
The Napo Wildlife Center is also engaged in a strong anti-poaching program, with its conservation land patrolled by community rangers employed and equipped by the lodge. The Napo Wildlife Center was recognized in 2009 with the Rainforest Alliance Community Sustainable Trend Setter Award, and the Best Jungle Lodge Award from the Latin American Travel Association at the World Travel Market in London, U.K. And it is becoming a model for other sustainable tourism community projects throughout Ecuador.
The banks of the Napo River were a tangle of dense rainforest
And by the way, Roberto was right. We came across so many hoatzins during my four-day visit that by the time I left, I barely spared them a glance. Visit the Simon & Baker Travel Review to read more about my stay at the Napo Wildlife Center.
By Elena del Valle
Photos by Gary Cox
The SeaDream I
Last December we spent a week aboard the SeaDream I making our way between small Caribbean islands. As with the European SeaDream II voyage we took in the past what we liked most was the intimate ambiance, gourmet offerings and service orientation of the all-inclusive luxury voyage.
A great spot for morning coffee near the Top of the Yacht bar
We were half full with 54 passengers and nearly a full crew compliment of 94 aboard the 344 feet long vessel with a 47 foot beam. Although our ship was small and offered a limited variety of entertainment options compared to the mega cruise ships with scores of decks, multiple restaurants and facilities and thousands of passengers and crew that now pepper the oceans it was the perfect size for a small group such as ours. While there were fewer activities than aboard larger vessels there were enough options to meet our desires. We were pleased to relax and meet some of the other passengers at happy hour, meal times and between shore excursions.
Our cabin on the SeaDream I
One of the hallmarks of SeaDream is service. When we arrived at the dock on our way to the ship, as we were exiting our taxi, an energetic young man from the ship, in uniform, approached us and introduced himself purposefully. He immediately coordinated the delivery of our luggage and escorted us through the security point. That kind of friendly and efficient service was repeated on board. That first impression set the tone for the remainder of the trip.
Welcoming bubbly on ice
The size of the group and ship offered myriad advantages we enjoyed. Aboard the ship there were never crowds, lines or reservations necessary for meals. Staff and even fellow guests could often easily recognize each other. Nearly all the staff we encountered greeted us and other guests by our names during that week.
On the beach in Anguilla
At anchor we were often the only large vessel at the places, several of them off-the-beaten-path islands, we visited. As we walked along the beach in Sandy Ground, Anguilla a local couple we spoke with commented that it was rare to see ships in that area. In Saba, we heard from the crew and the locals that often inclement weather prevented access to the island and few large ships stopped there. Although the weather had been dubious at times Lady Luck smiled upon us that day, making it possible for us to explore the tiny and picturesque Dutch island.
The SeaDream I tender heading out to the yacht
Another benefit we appreciated were the speedy and comfortable shore transfers within covered tenders. We became aware of the difference when observing fellow passengers from a similar ship embarking and disembarking, partly wet, from their ship’s dinghy when we went ashore completely dry and in the superior shelter and comfort of our small water craft.
Grilled lobster tail on a bed of vegetables
What we noticed and many experienced cruise aficionados in our group shared with us was how special the meals were aboard SeaDream I. Food, as is common aboard cruises, was abundant. Meals, often plated and prepared a la minute, were outstanding. Gilles de Cambourg, executive chef, Ferenc Béres Molnar, pastry chef, Pablo Raschetti, sommelier, and the dining service staff went the extra mile to ensure our meals were delicious and well served, every time. There was even a celebrity chef from the United Kingdom, Levi Root, spicing things up aboard that week. The quality standards extended to room service meals. Twice we ordered from the in-room dining menu; both times the dishes were well prepared, well presented and served within minutes of our order.
A favorite breakfast and lunch dining spot
We will keep Sea Dream yachts at the top of our list for luxury, laid back, all-inclusive, service and gourmet oriented intimate sea voyages and recommend them to friends who share our appreciation for cozy luxury voyages. Click here to read more about our week in the Caribbean aboard SeaDream I.
By Elena del Valle
Photos by Gary Cox
The entrance to One Flew South in Terminal E, Atlanta airport
I asked John from Missouri, our server, what he would order if it was up to him and he said one of each item on the menu. I knew we had to narrow it down from there and keep it light as we were facing a five hour layover before boarding a 15-hour flight to Johannesburg, South Africa. A few minutes later we settled on Pork Belly Sliders (two in a shared order), Cauliflower and Parsnip Soup, Seaweed Salad, Benton’s Bacon “BLT” and a Salmon Hot Pot from the mains. That turned out to be a lot of desirable food. We washed that down with glass bottles of Saratoga Springs still water and iced tea. We liked that John brought a carafe (and refilled it during our meal) with extra iced tea and a glass with large ice cubes so the iced tea was always plentiful and chilled.
The BLT with emphasis on the bacon
While we waited for our order to arrive I looked more closely at the uncrowded restaurant. We sat in the back of the room at a small table with a stone top and a gray runner in the middle on metal and white cushioned half back chairs. One side of the room faced the main area of Concourse E of the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, one of the busiest concourses in one of the busiest airports in the nation. Although it was possible to see the concourse through wood slats for a brief while we forgot we were at an airport.
The Seaweed Salad
One wall was papered with a forest motif. Modern urban music played in the background and although we arrived in between meal times a few guests were scattered around the restaurant and sushi bar. It had been crowded earlier, our server told us. One man sat against the window with a chilled bottle of wine and his laptop. A woman with a British accent sat facing away from us toward the restaurant entrance. In the corner a man ate while he spoke on his cell phone. At the nearest table there was a couple.
Pork Belly Sliders were decadent and tasty
The first items to arrive were the sliders and the soup. As John set the soup, in a white soup bowl atop a matching square base, before me the scents of cauliflower and paprika wafted to my nose. A swirl of paprika oil and a handful of crunchy pumpkin seeds perked up the subdued cauliflower color of the soup. It was just the right temperature and the flavor combination worked. My lunch partner’s eyes sang with joy when he bit into the pork belly slider. When my turn arrived I too was delighted. The slider was outstanding. The flavorful bun had just the right texture and tasted homemade. The pork belly was alternately crunchy and soft and the sweet barbeque sauce rounded everything together, dripping gently onto the plate. Crispy sweet potato shavings served as tasty garnish and a sweet gherkin was attached to each slider with a natural toothpick.
The salmon resting on its rice island in the miso soup
The BLT sandwich and salmon arrived next. The salmon itself was tender, perfectly cooked and delicious. It sat on a rice bed with tofu, vegetables and miso soup. The base of the salmon dish won over one fan at the table. The bacon part of the Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato Sandwich was king. Our server told us the chef makes his own bacon; and it was delicious. The sandwich, garnished with shredded lettuce and small slices of tomato, had a strong smoky bacon flavor. The focaccia bread was a match for the contents and a truffle mayonnaise took the bacon flavor to the next level. Thin five flavor French fries in a bowl picked up any hunger slack. Yum.
The “OFS” Banana Pudding
I didn’t think I could eat any more until I tasted the “OFS” Banana Pudding that John confidently recommended when we asked about dessert. Fresh whipped cream (with a real homemade texture and taste) with crunchy sweet crumbles made up the top layer. Below the cream there were layers of fragrant and creamy banana pudding. It was just what we needed to complete the meal.
The sushi bar set next to a wall of the restaurant
The food alone was worth a return visit. Hats off to Executive Chef Duane Nutter and his staff. The setting and the service complimented the meal well. We had hoped to stopped at the restaurant on our way back home but we barely managed to make our connection. Should we find ourselves with enough time for a meal while connecting flights in Atlanta in the future we will return at the first opportunity. An 18 percent gratuity, the menu indicated, was automatically included in the bill. John earned his and then some. One Flew South (Concourse E, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Atlanta, Georgia, +1 404 816-3464, fax +1 404 816-3467, www.oneflewsouthatl.com).