Go Big: Luxury on the Island of Hawaii

Sunset at Waikoloa Beach © CT Shier.

The Big Island

If you have visited more than one Hawaiian island, you will have noticed each island destination has its own vibe. While Oahu is “the gathering place” and often a gateway to experiencing Hawaii, Kauai is known as “the garden isle” for its lush landscape and sparser population. The largest island, Hawaii, offers luxurious resorts along the coastline with a breathtaking, diverse topography perfect for day trips. The Big Island is known for its active volcanoes, lava fields, rainforest, tide pools, and beaches. You’ll immediately feel a world away from the ordinary when first setting foot on Hawaii, yet completely at home at the island’s world-class resorts.

Mauna Kea Beach on Kaunaoa Bay © CT Shier.

Mauna Kea Beach on Kaunaoa Bay © CT Shier.

Escape to Kohala Coast

The thirty mile drive from Kona International Airport to resorts along the Kohala Coast offers an introduction to Hawaii’s lava fields. Queen Kaahumanu Highway is surrounded by evidence of volcanic eruptions, yet tucked along the water is a sandy beachfront where you’ll find Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. The resort property has all the appeal of a luxurious getaway, yet is far removed from the tourist vibe you’ll find along the Kailua-Kona waterfront.

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel © CT Shier.

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel © CT Shier.

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel is the island’s first resort, built after Laurance S. Rockefeller fell in love with the picturesque qualities of Kauna‘oa Bay. Contemporary island-inspired decor welcomes resort guests, and the serene beachfront location makes this a go-to destination for swimming and snorkeling. Calm bay waters attract manta rays to a small cove at the resort and moonlit snorkel sessions are available for guests who wish to swim alongside these gentle gliders.

Seared Dry Rub Scallops at Manta © CT Shier.

Seared Dry Rub Scallops at Manta © CT Shier.

Carrying the marine life theme into the resort, a must-visit dining venue on site is Manta. The open-air restaurant offers panoramic bay views and fresh seafood, from Mac Nut Encrusted Mahi Mahi to Seared Dry Rub Scallops. Koi ponds dot the path from the main building to the oceanfront pool where palm trees tower overhead and cabanas offer relief from afternoon sun. The five-star property also offers immediate access to the crescent-shaped beach, with resort chairs, umbrellas, and other amenities available to guests.

Waikoloa Beach Luxury

Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, located on South Kohala Coast, is a beachfront destination with ample options for shopping and dining. Directly across the street from the resort is Kings’ Shops, an open-air plaza with high-end retailers and restaurants including The KOA Table by Food Network star Chef Ippy Aiona. Around the bend, Queens’ Marketplace offers a series of boutiques, souvenir shops, and grab-and-go eateries.

Sunset Luau at Waikoloa Beach Marriot © CT Shier.

Sunset Luau at Waikoloa Beach Marriot © CT Shier.

You won’t go hungry on site at Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, though, as menu options are abundant morning through night, from the breakfast buffet at Hawaii Calls to the Sunset Luau. The luau features a Polynesian dinner and show set amid spectacular sunsets blending into ocean surf.

Unearthing the Kalua pig at Marriott Sunset Luau © CT Shier.

Unearthing the Kalua pig at Marriott Sunset Luau © CT Shier.

For mild adventure, Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa offers on-site equipment rentals including snorkel gear, boogie boards, kayaks, hydro-bikes, and stand-up paddle boards. Between the resort pool decks and the beach, you’ll also find ancient Hawaiian fishponds with information to help identify the critters below. If you prefer to bask in the sun poolside, it’s worth noting the expansive pool deck is open into the wee hours of the morning, perfect for a dip under the stars.

Island Exploration

While the Kohala Coast offers five-star resorts to call home during your time in Hawaii, you’ll want to rent a car for a day or two to explore more of The Big Island. One requisite destination is Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to see the glory of two active volcanoes, Kīlauea and Mauna Loa. Park rangers are available to share the history of Hawaii’s volcanoes, but much of the park can be self-explored.

Guide at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park © CT Shier.

Guide at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park © CT Shier.

If you’re a wine lover, be sure to stop at Volcano Winery, in the town of… you guessed it: Volcano HI. The small vineyard has a tasting room open 364 days annually. If unique outdoor adventure is on your bucket list, head to the southeast corner of Hawaii to experience the island’s tide pools. About an hour east of the Volcanoes, you’ll find Kapoho Tide Pools and other pools where warm water is protected from crashing waves. Some tide pools are perfect for relaxing during an afternoon soak, while others offer an incredible snorkeling experience.

Tide Pools on The Big Island © CT Shier.

Tide Pools on The Big Island © CT Shier.

If You Go

Thanks to the diverse landscape on The Big Island, weather patterns may change throughout the day. Plan for sunshine along the coast during the day, but keep cooler evening temperatures in mind. Layer up for misty rain patches when you visit higher elevations en route to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Hawaii Tourism Authority: www.gohawaii.com
Mauna Kea Beach Hotel: http://ift.tt/2CCOVxG
Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa: http://ift.tt/1hGk16k

The post Go Big: Luxury on the Island of Hawaii appeared first on FWT Magazine: food wine travel.

from FWT Magazine: food wine travel http://ift.tt/2CDBCgE

from Luis Zehr http://ift.tt/2qeNH9m

from Thomas Kellar’s Blog http://ift.tt/2CqONUx


Professional Headshots Denver

Selecting a professional headshot photographer in Denver can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be that way! Proper studio lighting is paramount to shooting top-quality headshots. Natural lighting from a window or skylight is often the way to go but if need be lighting umbrellas can also be used for proper shadowing effects on the subject. An experienced Denver headshot photographer needs to be able to connect with his or her clients in such a way to make them feel relaxed and confident. Body language is a huge part of headshot photography. Professional headshots are hard enough to capture when the subject is having a pretty good day emotionally but can be a nightmare when they are having a really bad day, as most of us have a great deal of trouble when it comes to hiding our emotions. For more on having your headshot taken in the Denver area please peruse our other videos


from Luis Zehr http://ift.tt/2lqX5RT

from Thomas Kellar’s Blog http://ift.tt/2DyDhmG


Inspired by Bawa – Sri Lanka’s Nisala Arana Resort

Lake Dedduwa, Lunuganga

I like the fact internationally-famous Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa bottled out of a legal career in his mid-20s, judging himself dangerously incompetent. It’s a crisis of confidence you don’t typically pair with a high-flyer. The irony appeals to me.

But dropping out like that can’t have been easy coming from a well-to-do family and with your dad a wealthy, influential Sri Lankan judge. Just what his parents thought when Bawa then took off overseas for two years to find himself is anyone’s guess. It was the 1940s after all.

But something happened on his overseas jaunt that would change the direction of his life – and the trajectory of the architectural world – forever.

Bawa discovered a passion for Italy’s extraordinary Renaissance buildings and gardens. It’s this revelation that spurred him to take up architectural studies in his 30s. And it’s this revelation that led to Bawa ‘the architect’ and an entirely new design genre melding East and West known as tropical modernism.

Guest house interior at Lunuganga Gardens. Geoffrey Bawa. FWT Magazine.

Guest house interior at Lunuganga Gardens, Bentota, Sri Lanka (c) Jacqui Gibson.

I first come across Bawa’s brilliance in Bentota, a coastal resort town located 64 kilometres south of Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital. I’m staying at Nisala Arana, a boutique hotel run by Aussie-born manager Ben Pereira. It’s a tucked-away, four-and-a-half acre, walled heritage property styled on Bawa principles.

Purchased in 2000 by Pereira’s mum Jill, a Melbournian, and dad Kevin, a Burgher (Sri Lankan of Portuguese descent), Nisala Arana was once home to an Ayurvedic doctor noted for curing snake bites more than a century ago.

Gateway to Nisala Arana resort. FWT Magazine.

Gateway to Nisala Arana, Bentota, Sri Lanka (c) Jacqui Gibson.

To soothe their ills, the Sinhalese doctor would concoct medicines from the various trees and plants on the property. For venomous bites, he’d reach for neem leaves. For asthma or general coughing, the mandarin trees probably came in handy.

It’s difficult to know exactly what potions the doctor administered. He’s long gone now. But Ben says the decision to keep Nisala Arana’s heritage trees was as much a nod to Dr. Leonora’s natural healing legacy as it was part of the garden’s overall Bawa-inspired design aesthetic.

He says it was his mum, Jill, who led the six-month renovation, which included upgrading the grounds, as well as renovating the doctor’s original Dutch-style colonial home and Buddhist shrine room.

Nisala Arana owners Jill and Kevin Pereira. FWT Magazine.

Nisala Arana owners Jill and Kevin Pereira, Bentota (c) Jacqui Gibson.

Walking the property today, guests are treated to Bawa in miniature. There are crafted lawns across which squirrels, mongoose and white herons dart for cover. There’s Bawa’s seamless blend of house and garden and his deft sequencing of outdoor and indoor spaces connected by lawns, classical glazed pots and intimate seating areas.

Grounds and pool of Nisala Arana. FWT Magazine.

Grounds and pool of Nisala Arana looking into the main pavilion (c) Jacqui Gibson.

Nisala Arana bungalow. FWT Magazine.

Nisala Arana bungalow (c) Jacqui Gibson.

Nisala Arana has a central, open-air pavilion for dining. And each of the resort’s bungalows (including the original 165-year-old doctor’s house) is styled in mostly mahogany and teak antiques to capture Bawa’s preference for simple, masculine interiors. And yet Nisala Arana – now registered as a heritage home with the Sri Lankan Tourism Board – is no Bawa pastiche.

Ben explains: “Mum took a lot of time to understand Geoffrey Bawa’s work. She used to meet Geoffrey here in Bentota at Lunuganga gardens, his private retreat. She had a personal relationship with him and sought out his head gardener for advice and input into the grounds here at Nisala. She also made sure we had local craftsmen work on the restoration. From memory, the entire building team of 40 workers stayed on site for more than half a year.”

“Mum’s got a great eye, but she wanted craftsmen with an in depth knowledge of local materials and techniques to work on the property. She wanted to achieve a style that was in keeping with the original buildings on the place, while maintaining a contemporary vibe. In that sense, Nisala Arana is very much mum’s take on Bawa’s notion of tropical modernism,” says Ben.

Interior of Nisala Arana's main bungalow. FWT Magazine.

Interior of Nisala Arana’s main bungalow (c) Jacqui Gibson.

Not everyone who stays at Nisala Arana is treated to the property’s backstory or its connection to Bawa, Sri Lanka’s most famous architect. Stay at Nisala Arana and you can go bike riding, visit the local Buddhist temple and dine on chef Aroy’s signature white fish curry as the sun goes down to the sound of croaking frogs.

Buddhist temple. FWT Magazine.

Buddhist monk tending the the grounds of Nisala’s local temple (c) Jacqui Gibson.

Guests commonly daytrip to nearby turtle sanctuaries, swim at local beaches and grab an air-conditioned car and driver to explore the ancient fort city of Galle. Nisala Arana is also a popular yoga venue for small groups wanting a retreat from the world in the literal sense.

Turtle, Sri Lanka. Geoffrey Bawa. FWT Magazine.

Turtle sanctuaries dot the southern coast of Sri Lanka, close to Nisala Arana (c) Jacqui Gibson.

In my Bawa-obsessed state, I opt to spend my final afternoon at Nisala Arana touring Lunuganga Gardens, Bawa’s 10-hectare homestead bought in 1948 and re-fashioned over a period of 50 years.

It takes just a short drive in the Pereira’s vintage Morris Minor to get there. There’s no signage, just a winding dirt road that takes me past rice paddies and emerald green jungle to a clearing of parked cars and chattering drivers.

These days Lunuganga is run as a country hotel of six guest rooms and cottages, with the gardens open to the public. My guide meets me at the main entrance of Lunuganga in the dappled shade of towering tamarind trees.

But soon I am out in the unforgiving heat, trundling down skinny stone pathways, flanked by rippling lilyponds, taking in the story of Bawa’s life’s work. My guide explains how Bawa purchased the property as an abandoned rubber and cinnamon plantation furnished with a modest bungalow, which he promptly turned into his creative HQ.

Geoffrey Bawa's Lunuganga Gardens, Bentota. FWT Magazine.

Lunuganga Gardens, Bentota (c) Jacqui Gibson.

Lunuganga gardens and wildlife. FWT Magazine.

Lunuganga gardens and wildlife (c) Jacqui Gibson.

It took him over half a century to move hills, transplant woods, cut terraces and experiment with landscaping, essentially making a series of outdoor rooms from the property’s jungle setting. Out of local materials he created courtyards, water features and generally expressed his love of combining traditional and modern forms.

Moving between the portico and the Cinnamon Hill house, it’s easy to trace Bawa’s trademark style of black and white interiors and the clever lines of sight that take you from one outdoor courtyard to another or draw your eye to the edges of the majestic Dedduwa Lake.

Lake entrance, Lunuganga. FWT Magazine.

Lake entrance, Lunuganga (c) Jacqui Gibson.

What is extraordinary is that Bawa had time to design such a place given his frantically successful 40-year career. In total, he designed about 70 private homes (though fewer were built), 35 hotels, as well as schools and many commercial, religious and public buildings, including Sri Lanka’s Parliament House. Possibly, then, Lunuganga was his muse.

Dotted throughout the property, my guide tells me, are some of Bawa’s favourite sitting spots – modest bench seats with bells attached. He’d simply sit in these spots, take in the views, then ring the bell to indicate precisely where he’d like to receive the pen and paper he needed to jot down his next big idea.

Lunuganga seating. FWT Magazine.

Lunuganga seating (c) Jacqui Gibson. FWT Magazine.


  • Get to Nisala Arana or Lunuganga by taking the two-and-a-half hour drive from the international airport or the one-and a-half-hour drive from Colombo (alternatively, Nisala Arana or Lunuganga will arrange an airport pickup if required).
  • Take a Lunuganga garden tour for $10.00 (tours take place at 9.30am, 11.30am, 2.00pm and 3.30pm daily).
  • Stay at Nisala Arana or Lunuganga Estate.
Doorway, Lunuganga. FWT Magazine.

Doorway, Lunuganga, Bentota (c) Jacqui Gibson.

The post Inspired by Bawa – Sri Lanka’s Nisala Arana Resort appeared first on FWT Magazine: food wine travel.

from FWT Magazine: food wine travel http://ift.tt/2Ch49uu

from Luis Zehr http://ift.tt/2C3AAxy

from Thomas Kellar’s Blog http://ift.tt/2pNdMMH


The Birds, Bees, Baskets and Olive Trees of Um Qais Jordan

The Birds, Bees, Baskets and Olive Trees of Um Qais Jordan

The roads are narrow and snake through the little village of 7,000 people known as Um Qais in Northern Jordan. They are so tight that our tour bus has to park on the main street a short distance away from our destination, Beit Al Baraka Bed and Breakfast. Our luggage is transferred into pickup trucks to travel the remainder of the journey, while we make our way on foot.

As we walk the winding streets, at the sight of foreigners the neighbourhood children take a break from their game of street soccer and, like little birds, chase and flutter around us. They practise their English by repeatedly chirping, “Hello”, “How are You?”, “What’s your name?” and squeal, laughing with delight when one of our party of travellers replies.

We have a busy day planned, and there is little time for this fun game with our adorable new friends — adventure awaits us.

Beit Al Baraka Bed and Breakfast

The Birds, Bees, Baskets and Olive Trees of Um Qais Jordan - Beit Al Baraka. FWT Magazine.

Beit Al Baraka Bed and Breakfast, Um Qais Jordan © Mary Chong.

Um Qais, on Jordan’s northern border, is not a typical spot for tourists but is worthy of a visit if you are seeking a unique immersive travel experience.

Beit Al Baraka Bed and Breakfast is the first of its kind and the only guest house in the village. Operated by Baraka Destinations based 100 kilometres to the south in Amman, Jordan, the mission of the organisation is to “stimulate economic growth while conserving and protecting cultural heritage and natural resources.” Specializing in sustainable tourism development, Baraka Destinations partners with local community members to establish businesses with them to connect tourists to the culture and living history of the region. As a result, guests staying at the bed and breakfast have access to many immersive Jordanian experiences such as basket weaving, cooking, foraging, beekeeping, cycling and hiking.

Before Baraka Destinations’ involvement in the community, travellers would come for 2 hours, tour the archaeological site of the ancient Decapolis city of Gadara and leave. Now travellers stay a few days, and the community has flourished.

Our accommodations at Beit Al Baraka are lovely and comfortable with four bedrooms, three bathrooms, the main sitting room and dining room as well as an outdoor garden. It’s shared accommodation but I don’t mind; it’s peaceful here, and a homestay is a welcome change from the large hotels in Amman.

Creative touches fill the rooms. The overflowing fruit baskets that adorn the coffee table are by the local basket weaver who also skillfully wove the seats of the chairs in the dining room, a local woodworker handcrafted the furniture, and the local blacksmith forged the wrought iron bed frames.

Local and organic is what it’s all about when it comes to the meals during our stay – honey, capers, pomegranates, citrus, papaya, herbs, bulgur, wheat, grains and olives are all harvested in Um Qais.

The Honey Bees of Um Qais

The Birds, Bees, Baskets and Olive Trees of Um Qais Jordan - Beekeeping. FWT Magazine.

An introduction to beekeeping, Um Qais Jordan © Mary Chong.

Beekeeper Yousef Adle Sayah’s memorized speech is hesitant, and he starts over when he loses his way. He’s quiet and reserved, and we all smile and nod with encouragement. He’s just learned English a short while ago, courtesy of Um Qais’s resident English teacher Roddy — an expat from Scotland who came to Jordan to study Arabic and never left.

As we sit in the shade of the Yarmouk Forest Reserve and sip glasses of pomegranate juice sweetened with honey, Yousef passionately explains the ecological importance of bees to the environment, the pollination process, the hive infrastructure and the purpose of the queen bee. It’s a challenging speech for someone new to English, and he does it well.

Yousef tells us the story of his love for bees, a love that began at the age of 12 when he would visit his uncle’s beehive each day after school. He found the bees relaxing, and he would have a feeling of complete joy whenever he was watching them in their colony. After leaving the military 20 years ago, he immediately turned again to his first love. A solo entrepreneur, Yousef has 60 hives and produces an average six kilograms of carob-based organic honey each winter with another harvest of honey in the summer after he moves his hives into the Jordan Valley.

The best part of our visit with Yousef is when we don our protective suits and head out to the hives to witness the bees at work. The bees buzz and fuss around our group of beekeepers in training and Yousef uses smoke to calm them as we eagerly surround the hive for a closer look. It is soporific and meditative, and I can see how one can get lost amongst the world of order.

Basket Weaving with Alia

The Birds, Bees, Baskets and Olive Trees of Um Qais Jordan - Basket Weaving Demonstration. FWT Magazine.

Basket weaving demonstration in Um Qais Jordan © Mary Chong.

We visit with Alia, a master in the ancient art of weaving, in her home. Over cups of sage tea, she shares her craft. She has a shy smile as she spreads out the banana leaves and straw in the middle of the room. With a determined expression on her face, she demonstrates how to weave. A few volunteers in our group try to create a handcrafted reminder of our visit to Um Qais while the others in our party are happy to sit back and relax on cushions, sip our tea, and watch the busy hands at work.

The Birds, Bees, Baskets and Olive Trees of Um Qais Jordan - Basket Weaving Demonstration. FWT Magazine.

Basket weaving demonstration in Um Qais Jordan © Mary Chong.

The shyness leaves Alia as she shows off the baskets on display that take hours to create, and with a big smile of pride, she points out the intricate patterns and the bright colours made from natural herb dyes that she, of course, forages and prepares herself.

She is truly a master – we have a lot to learn.

Picnicking Amongst the Olives

The Birds, Bees, Baskets and Olive Trees of Um Qais Jordan. FWT Magazine.

Olive picking, Um Qais Jordan © Mary Chong.

We sit on mats amongst the trees of the olive groves for a picnic lunch of tea flavoured with wild thyme and kishk, fried dumplings filled with cheese and sundried tomatoes. It’s olive harvest season, and we aren’t alone as other families picnic nearby. After our meal, we join the harvest. It’s labour intensive as it’s all done by hand. A sheet on the ground under each tree catches the plump olives as the fruit is stripped off the branches. Our guide, Ahmed, tells us that green olives taste better than black olives, but the latter produce more oil. No part of the olive tree goes to waste as the olive pits and tree trimmings are used to burn as fuel.

The Birds, Bees, Baskets and Olive Trees of Um Qais Jordan. FWT Magazine.

Picnic in the olive grove © Mary Chong.

The Birds, Bees, Baskets and Olive Trees of Um Qais Jordan. FWT Magazine.

Kishk, apples and cucumbers © Mary Chong.

Later, we visit a nearby factory to watch the freshly picked olives as they go through the pressing process for oil and leave with two bottles of liquid gold for our cooking class.

Cooking with Um Sulaiman in Galsoum’s Kitchen

The Birds, Bees, Baskets and Olive Trees of Um Qais Jordan - Making Bread. FWT Magazine.

Um Sulaiman making bread, Um Qais Jordan © Mary Chong.

Lastly, we meet Um Sulaiman and her family in her beautifully adorned home. She smiles with her eyes – it’s infectious, warm and welcoming. Everyone I meet during my journey through Jordan is incredibly hospitable, always with an offer of sage-flavoured or thyme-flavoured tea, pomegranate juice or the most delicious blend of lemon mint juice.

The house smells fabulous, filled with the scent of our dinner cooking in the oven, makmoora, a traditional rural dish of layered dough, onions, chicken, spices and olive oil. I can’t wait; the intoxicating aroma teases my taste buds.

We are there for a cooking class, and we get to work slicing and dicing green olives, peppers, lemons and carrots, Um Sulaiman gently correcting our technique as we go along. The chopping done, the mixture is seasoned and scooped into little jars, and the luscious freshly pressed olive oil is poured over the top to preserve it. It’s our tasty little gift of Jordan that we’ll take home with us, and we all smile with our eyes just as Um Sulaiman did.

Bread is next on the list of things to do as we mix and knead the dough. Olive oil plays an active role in bread-making too as it’s used both in the batter and to keep the mixture from sticking inside the grooves of the decoratively patterned wooden moulds.

As night falls, our group sits on cushions on the floor of Um Sulaiman’s living room. The table is crowded with an array of platters and bowls of hummus, tabbouleh, fried bulgur and onions, and of course, the hearty makmoora as we all fill our plates and dig in.

We return to the guest house, our eyes heavy and our bellies full.

The next day, as the sun begins to rise, I awake to the sound of birds chirping and Morning Prayer sung over the village loudspeaker. I lie in my comfortable handcrafted bed in my shared room of Beit Al Baraka reflecting on the adventures that brought me to this point in my Jordanian journey. For a brief moment, I wonder if this is part of a dream… Rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I hear my roommates begin to stir as I start to smell the aroma of breakfast cooking, I stretch my tired body and smile because this is reality.

The Birds, Bees, Baskets and Olive Trees of Um Qais Jordan - Beit Al Baraka Breakfast. FWT Magazine.

Breakfast is served at Beit Al Baraka © Mary Chong.

If You Go

– Baraka Destinations
– Jordan Tourism Board NA

Jordan Tourism Board NA sponsored this trip. My opinions are my own.

The post The Birds, Bees, Baskets and Olive Trees of Um Qais Jordan appeared first on FWT Magazine: food wine travel.

from FWT Magazine: food wine travel http://ift.tt/2zf7RiE

from Luis Zehr http://ift.tt/2Dt7PqX

from Thomas Kellar’s Blog http://ift.tt/2parEQN


4 Last-Minute Gift Ideas for Travelers

Stunning beaches of the Solomon Islands (c) Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau. FWT Magazine.

Has the countdown to the silly season got you in a flap? Need a bit of gift inspiration for the traveler in your life? Look no further. Here are four last-minute gift ideas from seasoned travelers who certainly know how to stuff a stocking. They’ve done the thinking, they’ve done the testing. Here’s the verdict.

1. BESIDE-U travel bags

Best gift idea for travelers? That’s easy. I love BESIDE-U travel bags with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) blocking. RFID blocking protects your sensitive credit card information. BESIDE-U travel bags are ideal for airports and for travel bloggers or any traveler really. I’ve taken mine to easily six countries by now. They are super light and reliable. But for the full run-down on why they’re my new favorite travel product, check out my online review.

Paula Schuck, US blogger for http://ift.tt/19Il8UO

Best Christmas Gift Ideas for Travelers. FWT Magazine.

Paula Schuck with her BESIDE-U travel bag © Paula Schuck.

2. BURST toothbrush

My gift idea is BURST. A toothbrush, you ask? Yes. What better way to show someone that you care about them than by giving them a top-of-the-line toothbrush? If the science is to be believed, BURST gives out 33,000 sonic vibrations per minute, which is faster than any other toothbrush on the market. Its bristles are coated in Japanese binchotan charcoal. It charges on a USB port. A one-hour charge is supposed to last for up to four weeks. It’s priced at $69.99 if you buy it directly, or discounted at $39.99 if bought from a dental professional. That price includes the toothbrush, the USB charger and one replacement toothbrush head. If you opt into the subscription plan — which, I believe, is $6.00 plus shipping and handling — a new toothbrush head will come to you in the mail every three months.

Darren Paltrowitz, New York food, arts and entertainment writer.

3. Travelon Travel Scarf

The Travel Scarf by Travelon is a super gift item for the female traveler because it packs well, is easy care and offers multiple purposes. It’s a scarf or a shawl that can be tied numerous ways, and due to its large size of 60×64 inches, it’s also useful as a blanket on the plane. The best feature of all is the hidden RFID zippered pocket that’s sized to hold your passport and credit cards. It comes in two colours – raspberry and grey. For a more detailed look at the Travelon Travel Scarf, check out my online review.

Mary Chong, Canadian travel blogger for http://ift.tt/1BBdraI

Christmas Gifts for Travelers. FWT Magazine.

Mary Chong with her Travelon Travel Scarf and a new friend in Wadi Rum, Jordan © Mary Chong.

4. Donation to good cause

Best gift idea? Definitely a donation to a worthy cause like Habitat for Humanity on behalf of a loved-one or friend. My family recently started a new holiday tradition where instead of giving gifts to one another, we make donations to our favorite charities. As a traveler, I find it’s great to explore the world, then to come home with renewed perspective and sense of gratitude. That’s why I now embrace donating to good causes during the holiday season. It’s a tradition that’s inspiring and that warms everyone’s heart.

Joy Steinberg, US travel blogger for www.givejoy.me

(Holiday season donating is great – but did you know you can also volunteer your time to a good cause? Check out my blog post on an experience I had in Honduras in 2015)

Christmas Gifts for Travelers. FWT Magazine.

Joy Steinberg’s gift idea – donation to charity (c) Joy Steinberg.

The post 4 Last-Minute Gift Ideas for Travelers appeared first on FWT Magazine: food wine travel.

from FWT Magazine: food wine travel http://ift.tt/2khd6tR

from Luis Zehr http://ift.tt/2D15var

from Thomas Kellar’s Blog http://ift.tt/2D5RwjO


The Pacific Northwest Gem: Whidbey Island

Whidbey Island, just off the coast of Washington State, is a destination all serious travelers need to add to their list. A 55-mile long green strip, stretched between Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Whidbey is blessed with surprisingly moderate weather.  It enjoys four distinct seasons, but without the extremes endured by many other northwestern areas.

I was extremely pleased with the diversity of the island’s landscape and the close-knit sense of community I felt as I traversed the island from south to north. Whidbey has wineries, distilleries, a lavender farm, cattle ranches, produce farmers, talented chefs, beekeepers, cheesemakers and clever entrepreneurs and artists, too numerous to mention.  It would take several weeks to explore the island properly, yet even in my three days there, I was fortunate to meet a number of these residents and enjoy the gorgeous scenery that is Whidbey Island.

Getting There

Getting to Whidbey Island can be a challenge, but your efforts will be rewarded.  There are two ways to access the island — by Washington State Ferry on the south end or by means of the Deception Pass Bridge on the northern end.  A shuttle also runs about every two hours from Seattle’s Sea-Tac airport to the island.  Reservations are recommended for both the shuttle and the ferry, especially during the busy summer months.

South Whidbey

When you arrive on Whidbey, you will find you’ve entered another world.  I began to relax on the ferry ride over, promising myself I would leave “my worries and my hurries” behind. After settling into The Inn at Langley, I decided to wander a bit, trekking down the hill to see if any shops were still open. The colorfully painted store fronts of Langley were a treat for the eye. As I strolled, I indulged in luscious, rich chocolates from Sweet Mona’s, a superb cup of coffee from Café and Books, and the best lobster roll I’ve eaten outside of Maine at the Saltwater Café.

My favorite spot to explore by far was the historic 1920’s Star Store, an honest to goodness old-fashioned grocery store. The towering narrow shelves and sometimes crowded aisles brought back fond memories of older grocery establishments I frequented as a child.  Of course, the Star Store was brimming with colorful local produce, meats, and cheeses, an extensive wine and liquor selection, along with local craft beers, one of Whidbey’s trademarks…everything local, if possible.

While walking back to the Inn around sunset, I noticed another Langley trademark — wild rabbits.  They were hopping and nibbling everywhere, all colors and sizes, stopping only to pose for my camera, and then they were off in a flash.  If Whidbey didn’t already have my heart, Langley’s charming furry residents certainly won me over.


The wild rabbits of Whidbey Island; (c) Tamra Bolton


After a restful evening listening to the waves outside my balcony, I headed for Mukilteo’s Coffee Roasters and the Café in the Woods. As I discovered, just finding places on Whidbey can be an adventure in itself.  Following several winding roads through looming evergreen trees that seemed to touch the overcast sky, I finally saw a sign for the coffee roasters. An arrow pointed the way farther into the dark green woods, and the narrow road led to a rather large opening with an unremarkable metal and wood building at the center. 

The unmistakable aroma of freshly roasting coffee filled the parking area and drew me in.  I was unprepared for the magical world behind the ordinary door I entered.  Startled by a massive golden dragon’s head protruding from near the ceiling over the baristas’ station, I craned my neck to look at the nearly ten-foot silver carp “swimming” on the ceiling.  Farther in, café tables were surrounded by a backdrop of Tuscan villas and Italian countryside.  Mukilteo’s is a favorite with the locals, and I was starting to see why. As wonderful as the café and roasters are, I discovered it’s the owners, Gary and Beth Smith, and the outstanding staff that makes Mukilteo’s such a special place. Not only do the Smiths give back in a big way to the local community, but they also give back to the coffee growers and their often impoverished communities.

I had a chance to sit down for a few minutes with Gary and Beth and listen to their amazing story.  Stories are my passion, and I found that on Whidbey stories of struggle, success, determination, and courage are the norm. This is a community of extraordinary people. People from diverse backgrounds, cultures, religions, and politics together are able to create a wonderful place to live and work. To me, that is one of the best things about Whidbey.

Another couple, Vincent and Tyla Nattress, offer cooking classes, wine appreciation, and farm-to-table dinners that will leave you wanting to start your own garden and raise hens.  At Chef Vincent’s, produce is only steps away from the kitchen, and he carefully chooses local producers of seafood and meats to complement the seasonal vegetable and fruit selections. The night I was there, some of the treats we enjoyed were Scarlet Runner Beans and Sweet Corn Succotash, Braised Beef Tortellini and Roasted Eggplant Caviar, and Ebb Tide Strawberries & Crispy Meringue with Crème Fraiche Ice Cream.  The farmhouse dinners and cooking classes are popular, and reservations are highly recommended.


A bounty of produce; (c) Tamra Bolton



Near the “waist” of Whidbey Island (which is only about 1.5 miles wide), on Penn Cove, sits the seaside village of Coupeville, famous for its delicious mussels.  Penn Cove mussels are sought after world-wide, and if you pass by the cove going north, you can see the long rectangular mussel beds that produce this seafood wonder.

Coupeville has its own claim to fame as the setting for the Sandra Bullock/Nicole Kidman movie, Practical Magic. You can visit the 1890’s former pharmacy building where the scenes in Sally’s shop, Verbena Botanicals, were filmed. Today, it houses the bakery Knead & Feed.  I dropped by to take a look inside and sample some coffee and one of their snickerdoodle cookies that were as big as my head. The entire town was painted white for the movie, and many of the shops maintain that look even today.

I also stopped by the Lavender Wind shop on the corner of Alexander and Coveland Streets.  Housed in a restored 1916 craftsman home, the shop offers dried lavender goods, gift items, and delicious baked goods you can enjoy in their cozy tea room. I’ve wanted to try baking some lavender scones, so I picked up some culinary lavender along with some great baking tips from Sarah Richards, the owner. If you have time, visit the lavender farm about three miles north of Coupeville.  On a clear day, you will be rewarded with stunning views of the Olympic Mountains and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  A small shop at the farm is open in summer. 

Oak Harbor

Busier than the other parts of Whidbey, Oak Harbor has about 23,000 inhabitants, the island’s largest population. Here you will find the only big box stores and chains. The Naval Air Station Whidbey Island is here, and it is not uncommon for conversations to be temporarily drowned out as low-flying Navy jets do their fly-bys, but no one seems to mind.  The Coachman Inn is reasonably priced and centrally located to several attractions like the PBY-Naval Air Museum and Deception Pass State Park.

My favorite chef in Oak Harbor, not only delivers a spectacular culinary experience but gives his heart and soul to the island community.  Chef Fraser donates his time to several community projects. Eight out of the last 12 years, his mentorship has brought home Washington State’s “ProStart Invitational” culinary competition title to Oak Harbor High School. When you go, ask to be seated at the chef’s counter for an up-close view of the kitchen and a chance to speak to him.  Fraser’s Gourmet Hideaway is an experience you don’t want to miss.

Chef Scott Fraser of Fraser’s Gourmet Hideaway; (c) Tamra Bolton


Whidbey Island is a patchwork of landscapes, people, and lifestyles worth exploring. It is a destination I hope you add to your list. I’m glad it was on mine.

The post The Pacific Northwest Gem: Whidbey Island appeared first on FWT Magazine: food wine travel.

from FWT Magazine: food wine travel http://ift.tt/2nK32xk

from Luis Zehr http://ift.tt/2iDYgfz

from Thomas Kellar’s Blog http://ift.tt/2nIZawD


Latest News and Updates on Wine Tasting and Wineries in CT – Enjoy Reading People!

Just a very brief post as a resource for all to check out the latest scoop and news on what’s going on in the wine industry here in Connecticut and other locations in the U.S. Hope everyone had a peaceful Thanksgiving and are now looking forward to spending time with family and friends during Christmas and New Years.

Here are just two of the resources to check out at your convenience:


Thanks for stopping by my Blogger blog, remember to be safe duing the upcoming holidays, and especially while driving to family and friends on New Year's Eve. There's a ton of idiots and drunk drivers out there on the road. Pleae DO NOT become a statistic. 🙂

Take care, 

Luis 🙂


from Luis Zehr http://ift.tt/2jGViau

from Thomas Kellar’s Blog http://ift.tt/2AD9qfb