Portland & Portland

Before diving into new farm life I continue to recap my favorite destinations from five years of excessive work travel. Portland, Oregon and Portland, Maine are two of my favorites and though a country apart, hip food scenes make both my experiences quite similar. They both involved excessive eating and drinking and some hiking. In both Portlands I was hosting chefs for the week which made it exceptionally more entertaining while reminding me that I am in no way cut out for the life of a chef. Unless perhaps I was in charge of salads and worked from 11 am – 2 pm. I could do that… maybe.

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A few days in St. Helena

Another frequent destination on my work trips has been St. Helena, California… yes, a career in produce marketing is highly recommended. The Culinary Institute of America has a campus in St. Helena which would host a few summits and events throughout the year. I might be biased recommending St. Helena among the many destinations in the Napa Valley but I consistently have a wonderful time here so between meetings and culinary demos here are few highlights not to miss on your trip.

When driving to St. Helena from either San Francisco or Oakland airports try to avoid weekend traffic out of the bay area. See if you can catch an earlier flight to make the most of your first day. Visit Oakville Grocery to grab supplies and a late take away lunch for your drive up Route 29.

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Running away to Monterey Bay

In the last five years at my job I have been lucky enough to be sent to Monterey Bay, CA annually for a produce foodservice conference along with a few other one offs for meetings and events. I will never complain about the long journey to the California coastal town. It only took one visit and Monterey Bay quickly became my absolute favorite town. I always thought if I found myself in a desperate situation I would pack a bag and apply at the Monterey Bay Starbucks and rent a little apartment. Now that I think about it the apartments there are probably a bit above the Starbucks salary price range but that would have to be figured out.

Regardless of the season I have always enjoyed temperatures in the 60s-70s, a bright sun and a salty breeze. Monterey Bay and its neighboring towns are, to me, the most authentic version of old California. Some of the box-y aspects that are so common in the planned communities up and down the coast are still apparent but well integrated into the coastal town, vintage feel. Every time I visit I love it more and more. Well worth the drive or connecting flight to spend a weekend away from some of the more popular California destinations. Here are a few of my favorite activities and most loved aspects of Monterey Bay:

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Books I am currently reading

Sometimes I can’t think about anything but the book I am reading and sometimes weeks go by and I haven’t found anything to read. I feel myself getting extremely choosey with what I decide to read and spend WAY too much time browsing “Best Book” lists and Good Read recommendations. I keep looking for the mix of a well written, page turner in an unfamiliar story line. If every single book did not proclaim them self the next “Gone Girl’ I might not be so cynical in my book selection. I have enjoyed a few books recently while eagerly waiting the next “Sharp Objects” .

Image result for american wife curtis sittenfeld

American Wife – Curtis Sittenfeld – I picked this up while “working” a booth at the farmers market, but mainly killing time looking at books at the booth next to ours. I HATED Prep so I am not sure what made me bring this home. Maybe the familiarity of the author. Anyway, the first hundred or so pages of this very dense book were tough to get through and this sat on my bedside table for awhile while I re-read my favorite Tana French books (see below) but on a lazy Sunday with the Ravens out of the playoffs I picked it up again. I just loved it. Continue reading “Books I am currently reading”

Six days in Cuba

Two nights in the remote seaside village acros de canasi.img_0720

For Americans the ability to travel to Cuba is a recent opportunity due to the restoration in the relationship between Cuba and the United States in December, 2014. However the first commercial flights for non-Cuban natives began in late 2016. Now, pretty affordably and a 45 minute hop from Southern Florida airports Americans can enjoy what the rest of the world has been enjoying for the last fifty years. Visit quickly because the intrigue of Cuba is the extreme lack of US influence and commercialize. Our visit brought us to a country where time both stopped and continued since the 1960/1961 embargo. The beauty of Cuba at its height of decadence is still evident in the extraordinary architecture but the austerity measures and lack of low-cost trading is evident in the dilapidation of many of these grand buildings. However, growth and rehabilitation are imminent as restoration and infrastructure projects could be seen throughout the country especially in Havana. The Castro administration has developed several restoration projects funded through tourist money to repair the aging architecture. So how did we spend our six days? We had two Casas Particulares (private homes where rooms are available to rent similar to a B&b) booked and a tentative plan to visit Mantazas, Acros de Canasi, Havana and Varadero.  Continue reading “Six days in Cuba”