Thursday, December 22, 2011


I was out walking the dogs this morning when a big hunk of mistletoe fell out of an oak tree and landed right at my feet.

The Druid in me took note that this happened on or about the Winter Solstice and hearkened to the ancient Celtic ritual of cutting mistletoe from the sacred oak at this time of year to bolster the chances of prosperity and, ahem, good lovin' in the days ahead. A gift from the gods? You bet.

The Episcopalian in me thought about the birth of the Christ child and how is it that a Druid symbol got entwined with Christmas anyway?

The Jewish guy in me (I lived on a kibbutz, my brother is Jewish, I'm an honorary Jew) wondered if maybe I couldn't make a little extra money selling mistletoe door to door, perhaps even corner the worldwide mistletoe market.

The Buddhist in me contemplated all of the above deeply but then let go and didn't pass judgement one way or the other.

The dogs, well, you know what the dogs wanted to do with it. Or on it. After all, this was their morning walk.

So the Sybarite in me quickly picked it up and took it home and hung it above a doorway with hopes of kissing all the lovely ladies, but mostly my wife, who pass below.

Whatever your flavor, here's to your holidays.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Drinking Chef Does Gravlax for Christmas

I'm liking me this gravlax that just went into the refrigerator for 72 hours of curing so it can be splendid for Christmas Day. Slice it thin, add bagel and capers, maybe a bit of lemon, and you will fight until the death anyone who tries to take it away from you.

The recipe, from Saveur, called for a healthy splash of Aquavit along with the dill, salt, sugar, fennel seeds and caraway seeds.

What's good for the salmon is good for the chef. Cheers all!

Friday, December 16, 2011


The trees in my mother's backyard put out a bumper crop of sour oranges this year. My friends, Diane and Scott Meltz, showered me with Meyer lemons. Garlic, cumin, and olive oil are always in the cupboard.

The happy result: Mojo.

Or, as I like to call it: Cuban gravy.

It's essential for roast pork. Goes good with chicken, shrimp and fish. And I'm convinced it could make a decent cocktail of some sort. But then, I'm convinced most anything can make a decent cocktail. Further experimentation is necessary.

In any event, if you're on my holiday gift list, this might be what you're getting.


Thursday, December 15, 2011


Hiking in New Zealand's Abal Tasman National Park, our guide, John Glasgow, (that's him in the middle above) kept checking his watch and telling us we had to pick up the pace in order to make it to Awaroa Inlet at low tide. We soon understood his urgency.

Five minutes into our crossing, we were already in ankle deep water as the tide turned and the water rushed in from the Pacific. And five minutes after that ....

We were up to our knees in it.
But our brave little band of hikers made it safely across with more adventures awaiting us on the other side. (Coming next: The Sad, Sad Tale of Evered Hadfield)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


I admit this might fall under the category of "A Little Too Much Information." Still, you gotta admit that this is a killer view and the fact that I shot the photo while sitting on the john at the Wakefield Quay House, a B&B in Nelson, New Zealand, should not be off-putting in any way whatsoever. Full disclosure: I was not actually using the john when I shot the photo. Just sitting on it. Lid down.

OK, moving out of the head to the balcony, we're looking across Tasman Bay to Abel Tasman National Park, where I'll be hiking/kayaking for a couple of days.

Yep, that's snow atop them 'thar mountains.

Here's a streetside view of Wakefield Quay House, built in 1905.

And I'm delighted to introduce you to the owners/hosts of Wakefield Quay House, Johnny (left) and Woodi Moore. Johnny is a captain and teaches sailing on Tasman Bay. Woodi is ... well, she's a hoot, actually. She makes a mean breakfast, pours a fine drop of wine on the porch in the afternoons and has plenty of good stories to tell. So hop a plane, get to New Zealand, find your way to Nelson and check in to what just might be the Coolest B&B in the World.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


Lucky me. I just happened to hit New Zealand during the annual white bait run, when tiny fish known as galaxids migrate from the ocean up freshwater rivers and people with fine-mesh nets line the riverbanks trying to catch them.

The season lasts only for a few weeks with most of the white bait taken home for private consumption. It's a pricey delicacy, fetching about $30 a pound, and isn't that common on restaurant menus. I sampled it at the restaurant at Hotel D'Urville in Blenheim, smack dab in the heart of the Marlborough wine region. Chef Maree Connelly prepared it as a light fritter using only egg whites to bind the fish together.

Bottom line: White bait tastes about a million times better than it sounds especially with a hoppy beer to wash it down. I figure there musta been a couple hundred tiny little fish in the entree I downed. And ever since then my stomach has been rising and falling with the tides.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

ASSUME THE POSITION: Why Guys Suck at Yoga

In an effort to prolong my life, advance good health and deceive my body into thinking it remains invulnerable to the ravages of age, I have for some years now been a devotee of yoga.
Yoga, for the uninitiated, is an ancient exercise regimen that originated in India as a way to achieve balance, flexibility and a sense of wellbeing long before big pharmaceutical companies figured out how to do the same thing even faster with prescription drugs.
Yoga takes its name from the Sanskrit words “yo,” meaning “to bounce or stretch,” and “ga,” meaning “muscle,” and is generally translated as: “Wow, I had no idea I could strain myself in such a way that my entire body hurts when I simply blink my eyes.”
The popularity of yoga in the United States in recent years is generally attributed to the fact that it helps participants unwind from stress and remove themselves from the crunch of time, with most classes lasting from sixty minutes to an hour, whichever comes first. There are many types of yoga, including Hatha, Vinyasa, Iyengar, Eeyore, Bilbo and Kardashian (also known as “hot yoga”), but they all share common philosophical ground, which is usually about $15 an hour, or $12 per on a monthly plan.

Sunday, December 04, 2011


On the road between Picton and Nelson, on New Zealand's South Island, I crossed a broad valley that was just getting ready to bust loose with Spring. Had to pull off the side of the road to soak it all up. It was as if a coastal salt marsh -- like the kind you see around Charleston or Savannah -- had been transported far inland, and the air was fresh, the sky way blue.

Later, some of the folks I met in Nelson asked: "Did you come via Hobbit Valley?" Apparently this stretch of the island provides a backdrop for some of the scenes in "The Hobbit," the upcoming film from New Zealand director Peter Jackson. Yes, there is a Middle-Earthy feel, not only to this place, but pretty much all of New Zealand. Can't wait to be that guy who, in the middle of the movie sez, a bit too loudly: "Hey, I've been there!"

Saturday, December 03, 2011


So I'm driving around the Marlborough region on New Zealand's South Island, past miles and miles of vineyards that produce some of the most acclaimed wines in the world, when I spot this sign. A perfect example of the Kiwi sense of humor.

Josh Scott (that's him in the photo) started brewing beer when he was 13 years old, which landed him in a bit of trouble at school after he started selling it to his classmates. Now, at 28, his line of Moa beers, named after the extinct, giant flightless bird that used to roam these parts, is one of the stellar offerings from New Zealand's burgeoning craft brewing industry. Here's the good news: While I was there, Josh told me he had just learned that Whole Foods is picking up a couple of his beers for U.S. distribution, so look for them to reach our shores sometime in 2012.
The lovely Alex Mousley, bar manager at Moa Brewery, pulling me a pint of IPA.

And you gotta love the cheekiness of Moa's ad campaign for its porter (below left) and pilsner (right)

Friday, December 02, 2011

Damn the Bacteria, Full Nog Ahead

You can tell it's officially the holiday season with the first news reports telling people to beware of drinking homemade egg nog. So let me get this disclaimer out of the way right off the bat: If you try this recipe there's a slight, very slight, almost non-existent chance that you might get salmonella poisoning. But trust me. I've been downing it for years without ill effect and it beats hell out of drinking the awful store-bought swill.

Now, the important stuff. You'll need:

12 eggs, separated
2 cups sugar
1 quart cream
1 quart milk
1 quart fairly decent rum, but the bottom shelf stuff will work just fine
Fresh nutmeg (essential)

Separate eggs and beat yolks. Add one cup sugar to yolks. Add rum to yolks (listen to the sound of those salmonella bacteria screaming and dying). Beat whites as stiff as humanly possible. So stiff they stand up and salute you. Then add one cup sugar. Fold egg whites into rum-yolk mixture. Stir in cream and milk. Chill and hold off from drinking as long as you can. Top with grated nutmeg. And don't come whining to me when the stomach cramps set in. 

Thursday, December 01, 2011

You Know It's Winter in Florida When ...

... the buzzards come back to roost.

We have a year-round population, of course, but the numbers start swelling in December when their brethren in Ohio and Pennsylvania and other buzzardy places head south for warm weather and abundant road kill. Spotted this tree-full last weekend while cruising along the Santa Fe River. Made sure I was under the boat's canopy when we passed under the tree.

Monday, November 14, 2011


OK, I gotta admit, I was a bit skeptical about spending three hours cruising around New Zealand's Marlborough Sounds on a "Green Mussel Tour." After all, mussels are mussels, right? And how exciting could the Kiwi version be anyway?

Well, plenty exciting as it turns out. At the helm of our boat was Chris Godsiff (below), owner of Marlborough Travel and one of the pioneers of New Zealand's green-shell mussel industry, which, fittingly, got started some 40 years ago, about the same time New Zealand began producing wine on a large scale. One of those marriage-made-in-heaven kinda things.

Behind Chris, you can see barrels from which hang long lines where the mussels attach themselves until they are big enough for harvesting. Then all you gotta do is steam 'em with some herbs and a splash of white wine until they pop open. They are easily twice the size of our North American mussels, which have blue-black shells. And they go nicely with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc from one of the nearby wineries. Let's jus say I got in a great nap on the boat ride back to port.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Wellington NZ is rightly famous for its cafe/bar scene, but it boasts some world-class graffiti, too. Here's a sampling from the alley behind the hotel where I'm staying, which speaks to a bit of Maori influence.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


I've been reading lots of posts from Florida folks rhapsodizing about being up in North Carolina or Vermont or wherever and looking out on the mountains and seeing all those lovely trees turning colors and how it is just so gosh-darn gorgeous and breathtaking and ...

Hold on, y'all. We got us some fall foliage down here, too. I looked out this morning and this is what I saw: a croton more splendiferous than any tree in North Carolina. Crotons are promiscuous with color. And they perform for us ALL YEAR LONG.

As for our seasonal foliage, there's plenty to be found. True, some of it is kinda subtle and you have to seek it out. But I offer this Golden Rain Tree, which blooms every October, to demonstrate that Florida can put on a show of its own come fall.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Headed back to my old Santa Barbara stomping grounds for a few days, and one of the first things our tribe did was hit our favorite hike -- the Cold Spring Trail. It winds through the hills above Montecito, hills that look a whole lot like mountains to flatlanders from Florida.

I can never figure out the yield signs. They kinda make my head hurt. Are mountain bikes supposed to yield to me? Or me to them? And what about the damn horses? Can't they pretty much do whatever they want? And what if I encounter a horse riding a mountain bike? Then what? So I just yield to everything and everyone. Especially dogs. If I wanted to get all Tao about it, I suppose it could be a credo for life.

There are lots of dogs on the Cold Spring Trail. Big, happy, hairy dogs that romp along ahead of their owners, jump in the creek that runs alongside the trail, roll in the dirt and the leaves, and then, invariably, choose to shake themselves dry the moment they approach me. Getting dirty from a dog-shake ain't a bad thing. They're just sharing a little joyous funk. There are plenty of times that I would like to jump in the water and roll in the dirt and shake myself dry on passersby. And then maybe lift my leg on a tree. Or stick my nose somewhere I shouldn't stick it. Or hump away with wild abandon. But until societal norms embrace such behavior, I'll take vicarious pleasure from random dogs on Cold Spring Trail.

As for the spiders... don't get me started on the spiders. Walk the trail early in the morning and you will surely catch a mouthful of gooey web. Go with it. Tell yourself you're foraging and this is a blessed gift from nature. Spider webs, I'm told, contain lots of protein. Eat enough of them and you just might see a horse riding a mountain bike.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

JUST BECAUSE...'s Sunday and the Gators looked awful last night and Van the Man always puts everything in perspective (even though he is incapable of a smile), plus I got me a crush on the female saxophonist.

Friday, October 14, 2011


Each morning, on my walks across the campus at Rollins College, I pass this statue of Ben Franklin outside Andrew Carnegie Hall. And each morning, I give his head a rub. I started doing this, let's see, five or six years ago, thinking maybe other people would see me rubbing away and that might start a trend, which might lead to a Rollins tradition, and then years from now, when I am dead and gone, folks might fondly remember the guy who got the whole thing rolling.

Hasn't happened. So far, I have yet to spot another human being rubbing Ben's head. And when passing students see me doing it they tend to give me wide berth. Crazy old fart. But the squirrels like to perch atop Ben's head and every so often the ultra-efficient Rollins maintenance staff will come along with squirt bottles and get rid of the residuals.

Ben's forehead is shinier than the rest of him, and I congratulate myself to think I am responsible for that. Some mighty cogent thoughts came out of that head of his. It deserves to shine.

One of the many things that grieves me these days is how the honorable people in the Tea Party have claimed the Founding Fathers as their very own. They've made a grab for the Constitution, too. I'm fairly confident that Ben Franklin and his compatriots would not have abided such corralling. And I'm absolutely certain that the Constitution is open to all comers.

Speaking of which, here's my favorite Ben Franklin quote: "The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself."

And each day I catch myself a little happiness by rubbing on his head.

Sunday, October 09, 2011


I'm thinking the reason Portland and Seattle have such notable food cultures is that it's often raining and folks stay inside and invent stuff to eat based on what they've got on hand because it's too lousy out to even go to the grocery store. We had almost five inches of rain yesterday, more coming today. And what I had on hand was some boiled shrimp, some eggs, some country ham and, as always, Duke's mayo.

I also had the Lee Brother's Simple, Fresh, Southern cookbook which served as a roadmap for this dish, even though I didn't have all the ingredients.

It wound up as Shrimp Deviled Eggs on Tortillas with Chunks o' Country Ham. Squirted it with a bit of sriracha because sriracha goes on everything. And it went down easy.

Supposed to be lousy for the rest of the week. Gonna be a whole lot of food-inventing going on.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011


This is what breakfast looked like on North Island in the Seychelles. Almost too pretty to eat, huh?

So let's turn this into a little contest. There are nine different fruits on this plate. First person to identify all of them wins a free copy of BAJA FLORIDA. You can either leave a comment below, or shoot me an email --

Here's a hint: There ain't no bananas.

Monday, October 03, 2011


It wasn't until the second day of our visit on North Island in the Seychelles that we learned we were staying in the same villa where Prince William and Princess Kate hunkered down for their honeymoon just a few weeks earlier.

Pretty sweet digs. But the least you'd expect when the tariff is $3,000 per day. Per person.

Every now and then, being a travel writer on assignment has its perks.

There are only 11 villas on the entire island -- maximum of 44 guests with about 150 staff to look after them. Meaning, there is plenty of pampering.

One morning, my wife and I set out on a two-hour hike with the island's naturalist. It was a fairly grueling leg-stretcher, the weather quite hot. When we returned to the villa, the bath was already drawn and waiting for us, with orchids floating atop the bubbles, a bottle of champagne chilling in an ice bucket, a box of truffles nearby.

Yeah, a guy could get used to the royal treatment.

Friday, September 30, 2011


Head for Little Havana. Go to almost any walk-up window attached to a grocery store or, my favorite, a laundromat. Order a cortadito (60 cents) and one of the bulk cigars they keep in bags by the window. I like the El Barselo torpedo ($1.05). Tell the lady at the window to keep the change. For that money you get a caffeine buzz that will last all morning and a good hour's worth of smoking on the cigar. This explains why Starbucks has not made giant inroads in Little Havana. Thanks, Fidel, for sending the very best of Cuban culture our way.

Monday, September 26, 2011


For starters: Get yourself reincarnated as a Seychelles giant tortoise. Meet Toby, who was one of our neighbors when we were staying on Denis Island, a 350-acre resort at the northeastern tip of the Seychelles archipelago. No one is exactly sure how old Toby is, but best guess is that he was born in the 1860s. Toby's days are pretty much the same: He munches straw, eats fruit from the noni tree and, about 2 a.m. each morning, he sidles up to one of his female cohorts and makes the beast with two backs. It causes quite the ruckus. Good for ol' Toby.

To the right is Brutus, another oldster, in the 130-year-old range, who we encountered on North Island. Giant tortoises really like having their necks scratched. But I had to assure Brutus that it was not foreplay.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Been reading the newish novel from Albert Brooks: TWENTY THIRTY: The Real Story of What Happens to America. It's a fairly brilliant, and funny, distillation of all the woes that grip our world, set 19 years in the future. An excerpt: "Candidates never aligned themselves with the White House anymore, or even with their own party. They ran as individuals, on the notion of returning America to the people. It was all bullshit, of course. What it really did was introduce a new kind of motionless government. Nothing got done.

"Denying new spending provided the House and the Senate with the illusion of expressing the people's voice. But the people didn't want their lives and their nation's infrastructure to rust away. What they really wanted was somebody to make tough choices, which took a leader.  And the one thing the Legislative branch could never be was a leader."

Read the book. You'll laugh. And you'll worry that we really are heading toward a future as Albert Brooks envisions it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


So I was out on my morning walk across the Rollins campus when I spotted a woman wearing skinny jeans, a white t-shirt and ... high-heel sneakers. I stopped to admire. The shoes. They were full-on Converse with maybe a five-inch heel. Apparently, these sorta shoes are nothing new in fashion, but they were new to me.

As the woman approached, I smiled, pointed at the shoes and said: "So you a big fan of Tommy Tucker?"

The only reason I remember the name of the songwriter who penned "Put On Your High-Heel Sneakers" is because my biology teacher at Leesburg High School was also named Tommy Tucker and I was always asking him to sing the song in class. I got pretty lousy grades in biology.

The woman just looked at me.

"Huh?" she said.

"Elvis sang it, too," I told her. "And the Stones. But I liked the Grateful Dead version best."

The woman just looked at me some more. I don't think she liked what she saw. I got out my iPhone.

I asked the woman: "You mind if I take a picture of your shoes?"

"Yes, I do," she said. And she kept on walking.

Been humming that song all morning and can't get the damn thing outta my head.

Monday, September 19, 2011


Welcome to my rum bar, where today we will assemble my go-to cocktail -- the Perfect Rum Drink. It follows an easy-to-remember recipe you'll find throughout the Caribbean, one that allows for plenty of leeway so you don't have to be absolutely precise in the proportions. For this version, I used Appleton VX rum, but any decent rum will do. I suggest you devote much time to experimenting...

Friday, September 16, 2011


File this under: Things I've Done That I Won't Be Doing Again. Ever. 

That would be -- rock climbing. With its sheer granite mountains that seem to shoot straight up to the sky, Kalymnos is a big draw for rock climbers.

I fell in with a group of climbers from Italy and Holland while out hiking one morning. They talked me into giving it a try.

Some of them hung upside down in this dome (below, left). As for me, I took baby steps up a "starter" wall. See that guy in the red shirt? It took me about an hour to get there. You don't want to know about getting down. Let's just say that for Floridians rappelling does not come naturally.

From now on, I'll hang out with the goats. But yeah, the view of Telendos was worth it.