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.