FOOD & WINE FESTIVALS

EPICURIAN AGENDA 

Here are the Bon Vivant top picks for food and wine events around the globe from December to June.  Bon Apetit! 

DECEMBER The 12 Days of Christmas – Dec. 6-20, 2019

Chef Christopher Kostow and his team at The Restaurant at Meadowood, a three Michelin star restaurant in St. Helena, CA is once again hosting a charitable celebration meal, which also includes specially-invited chefs from different corners of the globe. Tickets go for $1,000 USD per guest inclusive of service, a canapé reception and dinner.

JANUARY Key West Food & Wine Festival – Jan. 26-Feb. 2, 2020

Whether you’re there for the paella cook off, grilled cheese & beer event or to rub shoulders with a master chef or two, the Key West Food & Wine Festival is sure to entertain. Plenty of tastings are scheduled over the course of the week, featuring local sites and flavours.

St. Moritz Gourmet Festival – Jan. 31 – Feb. 8, 2019

Mums the word on which guest chefs will be joining the 2020 St. Moritz Gourmet Festival, but regardless of who’s going to be there, you can expect nine days of non-stop culinary indulgence. Plenty of tastings are scheduled over the course of the week in a program that blends new options with tried and true experiences from years past.

FEBRUARY  Marlborough Wine & Food Festival – Feb. 8, 2020

Choose from more than 40 local Marlborough wineries showcasing their world class product, and pair the goods with gourmet cuisine available among 28 food stalls. Taking place at Brancott Vineyard, this one-day-only festival will also feature live entertainment and a top chef culinary pavillion. 

Devour! The Canadian Rockies Film Festival – Feb. 7 -10, 2020

Devour! The Canadian Rockies Film Festival is being touted as “Jasper’s newest high-end culinary event,” now going into its third edition. For food, film and wine lovers, all of the above will be available for consumption during this four-day affair.

MARCH

The Spirit of Amsterdam – March 7-8, 2020

More than 500 types of whisky from Scotland, Ireland, the USA, Japan, India and Taiwan are available for tasting at The Spirit of Amsterdam annual celebration, set to take place at the stunning Zuiderkerk once again next spring.

Ñam Santiago – March 21-27, 2020

Experience Chilean culture in the most immersive way possible: through food & drink. This culinary festival (the country’s largest) includes workshops, wine tastings, parties and more.

APRIL

Experience the Taste of Vail – April 1-4, 2020

Coming on three decades, the Taste of Vail festival will showcase international vintages, world-class restaurants, and perhaps best of all, breathtaking Colorado vistas. Cook-offs, apres ski and mountain top tastings are just the beginning of the long list of activities in store.

World Gourmet Summit, Singapore Dates TBD

Only featuring Michelin-starred culinary masters, the World Gourmet Summit is truly a one-of-a-kind occasion. Fine dining enthusiasts can partake in special events, a gourmet golf experience and specially-themed dinners. 

MAY

Porchettiamo -May 22-24, 2020

Celebrating one of Italy’s most traditional foods, the porchetta, this bash is “dedicated to the queen of street food.” Workshops, tastings, beer pairings and more are all on the menu. Enjoy this festival as it takes over various streets and city squares throughout Italy. 

Alresford Watercress Festival – May 17, 2020

No doubt a niche culinary event, this day kicks off with music, dancing and a procession by the watercress king & queen, who hand-out freshly cut watercress to attendees. Watercress-inspired dishes are prepared by well-known chefs, as the leafy green takes over Alresford, England.

JUNE 

BC Seafood Festival – June 12-21, 2020

An ongoing tradition since 2006, the BC Seafood Festival brings together west coast seafood producers, top chefs and guests from coast to coast and beyond. Try your hand at shucking oysters, indulge in seafood feasts and connect with neighbours over a 10-day span.

Food & Wine Classic in Aspen – June 19-21, 2020

If you’re interested in sitting-in on food-focused panel discussions led by world-class chefs and wine experts, the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen is likely made for you. Outside of these conversations, go on an epicurean adventure with some of the best in the biz, surely to expand your palate and perhaps even your social circle.

 

Exploring the Cafe Culture of Vienna

Exploring the café culture of Vienna

By Smita Chandra and Sanjeev Chandra

We have experienced Vienna’s charms in many different ways: visiting museums, listening to scintillating concerts, admiring baroque palaces and simply walking along its grand boulevards. But for us, the real Vienna lives in the coffee houses that are at the heart of the city’s culture. 

For centuries, the aristocrats, intellectuals and artists who made Vienna one of the most exciting cities in the world flocked to cafés to meet, flirt, gossip and debate. Philosophers, writers, musicians, even revolutionaries, had their favourite cafés, and many of the intellectual and political movements that defined the twentieth century were shaped in heated arguments over cups of coffee.

Vienna claims to have the oldest cafés in Europe, dating back to the late seventeenth century. A frequently recounted story traces the founding of the first café to 1683 when the Ottoman Turks, who had besieged the city for months, retreated hastily while abandoning most of their supplies. Among these was a large stock of coffee beans, which were widely used in the Middle East but little-known in Europe at that time. The only person to recognize their value was Georg Franz Kolschitzky, one of the Viennese defenders, who had spent time in Turkey. Kolschitzky promptly commandeered the beans, opened a café, and served coffee with milk and sugar to make it more suitable for western palates. This story is now part of Vienna lore, immortalized by a statue of Kolschitzky pouring a cup of coffee, placed on a street named after him. 

Cafés soon came to define Vienna’s cosmopolitanism and charm. For the price of a cup of coffee, any ordinary person could enter a world of luxury, sink into an armchair, and be waited upon deferentially. Cafés set out a wide selection of newspapers for their patrons and provided chess boards and cards, giving them more reasons to linger. Pastries and food were added to the café menu, so that customers could stay all day if they chose. Young artists and intellectuals, who often had no other space to congregate, found a new home in cafés and made them the hub of Vienna’s buzzing political and creative life. 

The cafés of Vienna are as busy as ever and serve a bewildering variety of coffees. However, asking for coffee will only get you a perplexed look for they have developed their own unique terminology which you should learn before you order. You can choose between a Schwarzer (espresso), Brauner (espresso with cream), Melange (espresso with steamed and frothed milk), Franziskaner (espresso with steamed milk and whipped cream), or Einspänner (diluted espresso with whipped cream). Here are a few we recommend:

Café Frauenhuber 

Every one of Vienna’s historic cafés has a hundred stories to tell of the people who passed through its doors, but only Café Frauenhuber, Vienna’s oldest, can truthfully claim that both Mozart and Beethoven played music here for their guests. The décor inside the café is understated by Viennese standards, but still full of charm. This a place where you can relax and linger over your coffee. They also serve meals with all the Austrian classics such as schnitzel and goulash on the menu, and it is a great place to try strudel, both the common apple strudel and the harder to find plum strudel.   

Café Central 

This is a place that exudes Viennese elegance at its best. Housed in a building modelled on a Venetian palace, it has high vaulted ceilings, soaring marble columns and portraits of Austrian royalty on the walls. Leon Trotsky was a regular at Café Central during his time as an exile in Vienna and met Joseph Stalin there. They may have caught sight of the foreign minister of Austria, another frequent visitor, as they plotted to undermine the great empires of Europe. The café was a favourite meeting place for writers such as Stefan Zweig and Peter Altenberg, the latter who was famous for having his mail and laundry delivered to the café. Altenberg’s devotion to Café Central has been memorialised by a life-size figure of him at a table near the entrance. Seat yourself next to him and order a slice of their signature chocolate-orange Café Central Torte.

Café Hawelka

In a city famous for lavishly furnished and decorated coffee houses, Café Hawelka defiantly stays the same modest haunt for artists that it was half a century ago. Leopold and Josefine Hawelka opened the café in 1945 and ran the place for the next 66 years during which time it entertained visiting celebrities such as Andy Warhol, Arthur Miller and Peter Ustinov. Entering Café Hawelka is like stepping back in time, as it has not been renovated since its founding and still has the scarred wooden chairs, creaking floors and vintage posters on the wall that make it a unique Vienna institution. You can dawdle as long as you like, leafing through one of the many newspapers provided. There is no menu, but the food on offer is listed on a blackboard. Try the buchteln, sweet jam-filled buns made according to Josefine’s original recipe.

Café Landtmann 

Franz Landtmann’s ambition was to build the most elegant coffee house in Vienna, and most people would judge that he succeeded when he opened his establishment in 1873. Renovated several times, its stylish interior is marked by wood panelling, high-backed sofas and glittering chandeliers. Sigmund Freud often dropped into Café Landtmann, where he was likely to encounter other regulars such as composer Gustav Mahler or writer Thomas Mann. They offer an extensive selection of pastries – try their unique Maroniblüte, a waffle cup filled with sour cherries and chestnut mousse.

 Café Sacher 

Franz Sacher, an apprentice cook at the imperial palace, saw his opportunity to advance when the royal chef de cuisine fell ill just before an important banquet in 1832. He did not fail, serving a chocolate cake with a layer of apricot jam covered with chocolate icing. This dessert so captivated the diners that it was henceforth known as the Sachertorte and became one of the most beloved of Viennese specialities. Franz’s son Eduard went on to found the Hotel Sacher, whose café now has the exclusive right to sell the “Original” Sachertorte. Café Sacher is located next to the Vienna Opera House, making it a great place to watch the crowds go by. The interior is in classic Viennese style, with couches covered in red velvet, which is reminiscent of the splendour of imperial Austria.  

HYDRA GREECE – THE ISLAND THAT TIME FORGOT 

HYDRA GREECE – THE ISLAND THAT TIME FORGOT
By Rachel Lees

Two hours by boat from Athens, crowd-free Hydra has a tendency to steal the hearts of those who seek a taste of traditional Greek life.

Navigating slick cobblestone staircases on donkey back can be a nerve-wracking experience, especially for first-timers. Should my jack put a hoof wrong, I worry as we make our way down into town, we could slide comically, if not dangerously, down the stairs, legs akimbo. 

Of course, this scenario takes on significantly more gravity when you’re also carrying a feast of Greek take-out food for your husband’s entire family.

It’s early fall – no pun intended – on the idyllic island of Hydra in Greece, when I find myself in precisely this situation. We – my husband, his parents and two sisters, along with their partners – have flown in for one week of relaxation and reconnection. 

Two large bags of souvlaki, gyros, several Greek salads and a massive size portion of baklava, balance precariously on my knees while I try to hold my position as we clip-clop up the steep staircases to our villa on the hilltop. Though the journey makes me mildly anxious, most of it is spent laughing with my sister-in-law at the absurdity of it all. Well, that, and being struck by the beauty of the location we are in. 

“Aesthetically it is perfect,” said American writer Henry Miller of his first view of Hydra (pronounced ee-drah) – and he was right. There’s something undeniably enchanting about the crescent-shaped island in the Saronic Gulf which, Miller says, “rises out of the sea like a huge loaf of petrified bread.”

The town wraps, amphitheatre-like, around a postcard-perfect port that glimmers in the sunshine. Content cats laze on those cobblestone streets, which weave through piazzas and past whitewashed houses adorned with pink and purple bougainvillea, before tapering off to make way for rock-strewn hills, speckled with wildflowers and pine trees. 

And then there’s the sunset, when a golden tangerine glow spans the horizon, turning the surrounding islands indigo and casting the ocean in a steely blue. 

Miller and I aren’t the only ones enamoured with Hydra; Italian actress Sophia Loren described it as “one of the most beautiful places in the world.” The island was the setting for her 1957 romantic film “Boy on a Dolphin,” in which she plays a local sponge-diver – during the 1940s and 50s, sea sponges were the island’s main industry. 

In the 1960s, Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen bought a house here for $1,500, a few days after his 26th birthday. In a letter to his mother, he wrote, “It has a huge terrace with a view of a dramatic mountain and shining white houses…I live on a hill and life has been going on here exactly the same for hundreds of years.”

He wasn’t exaggerating. Back in the 1800s, the island hummed with wealthy merchants, admirals and sea captains, who built stone palazzos in the Venetian style, in the hills surrounding the port. By the time Cohen arrived, it had begun attracting artists but little else had changed – and was still largely devoid of running water and electricity; Cohen’s seminal hit “Bird on a Wire” was inspired by the introduction of powerlines, which provided the island’s winged creatures a new place to perch.

Even today, Hydra clings to vestiges of a simpler time. Although we arrive by hydrofoil, when we step onto the dock, there are no cars, scooters or bikes waiting for us – they’re not allowed on the island. Rather, donkeys and mules wait to ferry fresh produce and luggage from the port to the homes, tavernas and inns throughout Hydra. We chose this island because unlike Greece’s famous party islands, life moves at a gentler pace here. Our days are spent hiking through the hillside, plunging into the ocean off pebbled beaches, and eating home-style Greek food at family-run restaurants in courtyards and on cliff sides.

Cohen and his bohemian pals – Australian writers George Johnston and Charmian Clift among them – could often be found below the clock tower on the port at Kafenion O Katsikos, a small grocery store with a few tables outside. It was here he played his first concert, with just a guitar and a handful of friends for an audience. Now Roloi Café, we discover it’s a lovely place to sit with a coffee or ouzo in hand and watch boats dock. 

One of the most enduring portraits of Cohen, which appeared on the cover of LIFE Magazine, was taken beneath the tree outside Xeri Elia Taverna. Often referred to as Douskos Taverna, it has been run by the Douskos family for close to 200 years. We stumble upon it by accident during a late morning stroll, and decide its too inviting to pass up, so we stop for lunch. 

Occupying a private square, strung with white lamps, the taverna is known for its fresh local seafood and authentic Greek dishes such as gemista (roast tomatoes and peppers stuffed with rice). Though it’s off-season and we have the courtyard to ourselves, save for a few locals, during the summer peak the music lives on, if in a slightly different guise; old men play guitar and sing Greek songs on weekends.

It’s an almost farcical scene – the stereotype of a Greek feast, where the residents of a close-knit community come together, linking arms, clinking glasses. While Hydra may not have celebrity chefs, there are slick modern restaurants such as Techne, which serve fine modern Greek cuisine and inventive cocktails. 

Still, the island’s heart can be found in its tavernas, which offer an authentic taste of traditional local life and culture. Wooden chairs and chequered tablecloths aren’t a gimmick for the tourists, and the kitchens are truly a family affair. And, just like at Xeri Elia, the emphasis is on locally-caught seafood and traditional fare. It’s no wonder we gravitate to them repeatedly during our time here.

We gorge ourselves on classic staples of the Hydriot table, including meze (small share plates) laden with fresh dill or parsley, fava (yellow split pea dip), gigandes (butter beans roasted in tomato sauce) and moreish lemon-drenched dolmades (stuffed vine leaves). They’re followed by entrées of grilled octopus xinato (marinated in oil and vinegar) and keftedákia (meatballs) served with homemade tzatziki (yoghurt, garlic and cucumber dip), and washed down with a shot of anise-flavoured aperitif, ouzo or tsipouro.

Plates decorated by customers, including celebrity diners British model Kate Moss and fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, may line the walls of Piato restaurant but in the kitchen, the owner’s 80-something mother, Mrs. Keti, commands the stove. It’s hard to pass up her homemade meze, like the dolmades (rice-stuffed grape leaves), smoky melitzanosalata (roasted eggplant dip) and creamy taramasalata (cured cod roe dip) – made all the better by the port views. 

Then there’s Vlychos Beach, only five minutes away via water-taxi ride, where chef Marina is calling the shots in the kitchen at her down-home, eponymous tavern, where chunky eggplant dip, awash with garlicky oil and lemon juice, pairs beautifully with house-baked bread. We round it all out with a plate of grilled fish and a glass of rosé.  

As a result of a tip from a local man we meet down at the port, our little clan also makes our way to Taverna Christina. Visitors and locals alike flock to this unpretentious family-run eatery in Kamini for grilled fagria (red sea bream) or melanouria (saddled sea bream), hauled fresh off the boat. 

Nowadays, Christina’s son Dimitris and his wife Maria are in charge of the restaurant. Herbs and vegetables, wherever possible, are plucked straight from the family garden, Maria tells us. They’re used in favourites such as buttery saganaki (fried cheese), creamy beetroot salad and horiatiki (Greek salad) loaded with large chunks of feta drizzled in oil. Topping it off are “spoon sweets” of yoghurt with cardamom and candied carrot. 

The tendency to refer to restaurants by the owner or cook’s name rather than its official moniker sometimes sees travellers led astray. Taverna Christina, for example, is not to be confused with another eatery in Hydra Town called Gitoniko; previously owned by Christina and Manolis, it is now in the capable hands of their son Constantinos. 

Here, elevated traditional Greek fare is served in a typical old Hydriot house with stone floors and wooden ceilings, and on the vine-covered roof terrace. The specialty here is magirefta, classic Greek dishes cooked deep-dish-style in the oven or in a pot on the stove, such as octopus stifado (stew) or moussaka (lamb and eggplant lasagne). We end on a sweet note, with a flourless amygdalota (almond cookie).

Famous among the coastal villages of the Saronic Gulf, in the old days, sailors packed the macaroon-style cookies for long journeys at sea. Typically made with only a handful of ingredients – ground almonds, rose water, semolina and powdered sugar – the delightfully chewy treats kept well, and are still sold in bakeries all over Hydra today. We should know as we almost buy the island clean of them but despite our impressive haul, none even make it as far as the airport.

At Tsangaris, a store near the port, 80-something Anne Tsangaris has been making amygdalota for more than 50 years. And she shares her recipe with willing students in her charmingly antiquated bakehouse. Her secret ingredient? Like so many kitchens across this special little island, Anne’s food is made with love. 

Reason Why North Spain Is Called “Green Spain,”

By: Mary Luz Mejia

There’s a reason why the north of Spain is called “Green Spain,” or as our Trafalgar Travel Director Javier jokingly informed us, “The rain in Spain, in this region, does not fall mainly on the plane.” Much of the rolling green of northern Spain is also close to the coastline, from Santander on the Cantabrian coast to Galicia’s Atlantic shores, meaning that fresh seafood is as abundant as it is flavourful. If you happen to find yourself meandering in the north, here’s a crib sheet on some must-try northern Spanish seafood dishes you don’t want to miss!

Scallops (aka vieiras)

Visit any town or city along the Camino de Santiago (or St. James Way), and you’ll notice the scallop shell pointing the way from France and beyond through to northern Spain, ending at Santiago de Compostela. While the shell represents rebirth, reproduction and life, it’s also a delicious dish worth ordering at any bar or eatery. Steamed and served open on the half shell with a wedge of lemon, or with an onion, pepper and breadcrumb mixture (called vieiras gratinadas), either way, you can’t go wrong.

Razor Clams

These long, or rod-like, bivalves have a fitting name, given that the shells look like straight razors from days past and are razor sharp (so be careful when handling!) They taste a lot like any other clam and are best served grilled with a drizzle of Spanish olive oil, parsley and garlic. We advise a good hunk of crusty pan (bread) on the side for mopping up any errant sauciness.

Pulpo a la Gallega (aka pulpo á feira)

This is adult octopus, including its tentacles, that gets slow boiled until tender. Once that stage is reached, Galicians like to use scissors to snip the tentacles into round medallions. Flavour is amped up with a generous anointing of good, Spanish olive oil and smoky pimenton (or Spanish paprika) and served over excellent potatoes from Ourense, also in the department (Province) of Galicia.

To Drink (aka para beber):

You can wash any of these dishes down with some local Ribeiro wines or enjoy the crisp, floral Albariño whites from neighbouring Cambados. And if it’s a night cap you’re after, a local Orujo, or pomace brandy (obtained from the distillation of marc, the solid remains left after pressing of grapes), is also a fine choice. Set it alight like you would a shot of Sambuca and olé! You’ve just enjoyed a queimada that’s likely to ensure a good night’s sleep.

Feasting In The Rugged Outdoors

By Karen Leiva

Imagine the Alaskan wilderness where salmon run through creeks and gold miners’ strike it rich; all the while enjoying freshly-caught wild salmon barbecued over an open fire, paired perfectly with sides of reindeer sausage and wild-rice pilaf.

This is exactly the kind of incredible culinary excursion that you can experience aboard Holland America Line’s Alaskan voyages in 2015. There are 16 Sip and Savor shore excursions that allow guests to enjoy the rugged outdoors and get a taste for local culinary delights, including the “Glacier View Bike and Brew” and the “Louder Chowder Cook-Off” competition, where guest chef will go head to head, preparing chowder.

If you prefer a bird’s eye view of Alaska’s breath-taking scenery, there is the “Mountaintop Flightseeing & Crab Feast.” This excursion is an exclusive opportunity to experience the spectacular views of the Tongass National Forest aboard a floatplane. The flight begins at the Tongass Narrows, which is home to more float planes than any other port in the world. After 20 minutes, the flight ends at the remote George Inlet Lodge where guests will enjoy a gourmet feast of Dungeness crab and melted butter, finished off with Alaskan blueberry cheesecake.

If you’re looking for a hands-on experience to take home some delicious Alaskan recipes, there is also a cooking class excursion in Homer, Alaska, to join a local chef at the award-winning Tutka Bay Lodge set amongst a rugged coastline of fjords, mountains and forests.

Of course, any Alaskan food adventure will include an opportunity to sample Juneau’s Alaskan Brewing Co. award-winning craft beer or premium wines from Northwest vintners, including Chateau Ste Michelle, Betz Family and Long Shadows Wineries.

Contact your Ensemble travel agent for more information on Alaskan adventures.

The Best Fish Fry In Galapagos

By Karen Leiva

One of my most favourite travel and food memories is from a fish fry in Galapagos Islands. My partner and I had heard the fish fry happens every night; the only direction to find its location was ‘near the pier.’ It would be impossible to miss it: fishermen were docked bringing in their hauls from the day, while others were lined up around stalls cleaning the fish by the water.
fish_galapagos
All that fish attracts a lot of attention, particularly from hordes of pelicans surrounding the cleaning stations. At one point, I realized there was even a seal in the middle of a swarm of pelicans also trying to get its share. And, if you look over the pier, you’re bound to see small reef sharks coming up for whatever left overs are thrown overboard.
Alongside the commotion, one family set up a barbecue area with deep fryers, preparing the catch of the day along with slices of fried plantain, rice, onions and a spicy salsa. The first time we went to the fish fry, red snapper, lightly battered and fried, was served up whole – head and all –on our plates. There really is nothing as good as ocean to plate! It was simple, but delicious.
Over the course of the next week, following extraordinary days of swimming with seals, hiking and turtle spotting, we returned as often as we could to the fish fry. Every time, the catch of the day varied between tuna and snapper, but on the last day we had a special treat: langoustines, a shell fish similar to a lobster.
langostine_
We sat on the small make-shift patio while a local dance troupe performed modern dance at a nearby square, entertaining tourists and locals alike. All the while, the pelicans kept fluttering by while we dug into our dinner of langoustine and snapper. It really couldn’t get much better than that!

A Famous Poet’s Ode To Eel Soup

By Karen Snider Leiva

So beloved is Chile’s congrio (conger eel), that even famed poet Pablo Neruda wrote about it in a poem called Oda al Caldillo de Congrio. To taste congrio soup is to know heaven, he said.

I got my first glimpse of congrio at the historic Central Market in Santiago, Chile. The market first
opened in Santiago in 1872 and is now touted as one of the largest in the world. Sipping mote con
huesillio, a drink of peaches and barley, I strolled past stalls of newly-picked grapes and fresh
strawberries, so rich in colour and mouth-wateringly sweet, before entering the hall to the market’s
famed seafood market.

Mote

While fish mongers were hawking their catch of the day, locals were shopping for their weekend
barbecues and tourists snapping photos of striking mounds of seafood, including the conger eel.  It
didn’t appear heavenly; ugly, long, and thin with razor sharp teeth.

eel

I got to sample congrio at a nearby restaurant, frequented by locals and famed for unexpected guest
appearances by celebrity musicians. Sitting near the bar amongst a mish-mash of Chilean art and black- and-white photos from celebrities of the 1950s, the server first brought a pitcher of clery – a mix of white wine, sugar and strawberries.

clery

The eel was served in a traditional tomato- and potato- based soup. When stewed, it is a hearty white
meat with a mild flavor. The soup is a simple, but delicious, broth spiced with coriander, garlic, bay
leaves and pepper. The secret to its flavor is that the spine of the eel gives the broth its flavor.

congrio

It is, indeed, as heavenly as Neruda boasted.

Want more?

Read about Dining in Santiago
Read about Comfort Food in Chile
Look for the new edition of Bon Vivant magazine for a full story on gourmet dining in Santiago.

Bathing In Beer

Recently, travel writer Tim Johnson toured the Czech Republic to get a taste of its famed beers. The Czech’s are a beer-loving nation, so much so that there is even a beer spa. So, Tim did what any beer lover would do – he took the plunge!
“Having visited breweries and drunk copious amounts of beer, only one experience remained—that of actually bathing in beer, something available at Purkmistr, a complex just south of town that combines microbrewery, beer-infused restaurant, hotel and beer spa,” he writes. “Stepping into a wooden tub, I let the warmth of a soupy mixture of malt, hops, beer and water wash over me. After dunking my head all the way under, I wiped my face and reached to my right, placing a frosty mug under a tap, filling to the top, then tipping it back. Supremely happy, I mused that you must truly be in a nation that loves beer, to be able to drink beer while bathing in it. And I pledged to return, soon.”
A beer-filled bathtub? That sounds incredibly fun!
Read more about Tim’s adventures in Czech Republic in the upcoming edition of the Bon Vivant magazine.

Fun Food Festivals Around The World

By Karen Snider Leiva

Looking for extraordinary food experiences in 2015? Consider these three fun food festivals from around the globe. From Milan to Maine, there is something for every food lover.

Expo 2015 in Milan: From May to October, Milan will host the Wonderful 2015 Expo. Foodies will want to pay particular attention to the World of Taste pavilion where more than 147 countries will showcase their culinary expertise. The Expo is conveniently located in Milan, a launch pad to exploring Italy’s northern communities such as Langhe Roero. Here you can expect rolling hills covered in vineyards, small villages adorned with castles, and of course, a gastronomical experience. Langhe Roero is home to delicious white truffle and Barolo wine; not to mention 12 Michelin star restaurants and some of the country’s finest wine cellars.

Panorama_BarbarescoMaine’s Lobster Festival, July 29- Aug.2: What could be better than a holiday centred around eating lobster! At the Maine Lobster Festival you can expect: the world’s greatest lobster cooker, 20,000 pounds of lobster, a sea goddess coronation, a big parade, top notch entertainment, an international crate race, fine art, talented crafts people and vendors, cooking contests, marine tent, etc. Just imagine 20,000 pounds of lobster! And if you’ve eaten too much and need to work off a few pounds, you could always partake in the ‘lobster crate race’. (http://www.mainelobsterfestival.com/main-events/lobster-crate-race)

lobster_rollIreland’s Oyster Festivals, August – September: Get ready for a whole lot of shucking in Ireland this summer! Ireland surely must be the undisputed champion for countries hosting the most oyster festivals. In total, there are four oyster festivals happening across the country, not to mention a competition to beat the current Guiness World Record for eating the most oysters (currently, an Irishman holds the title after eating 233 oysters in three minutes). Ireland is also home to the Galway Oyster Festival, which is said to be the oldest annual festival of its kind in the world. Match that with Irish craft beer and you can’t go wrong. Galway Oyster Festival

oyster_fest

Expect Eclectic: Destination Dubai

A city of luxurious hotels, beaches and a gateway for extraordinary activities, such as dessert safaris, camel racing or shark diving, it’s no surprise that Dubai is quickly becoming a popular tourist destination and an exciting stop-over. The city has taken great strides in making itself more attractive to tourists and in 2020 Dubai will host more than 25 million visitors as part of the World Expo.

Dubai_Hotel_Bon_Vivant_Travel

Courtesy of  Jumeirah.com Hotels

 Easier than ever to fly directly and comfortably to Dubai – it’s only an 11-hour direct flight from Toronto. (Did you know it takes less time to fly directly from Toronto- Dubai then it does to fly Toronto-Hawaii? It’s true!)

But, what makes Dubai special for a Bon Vivant?

dubai jeramiah

Courtesy of  Jumeirah.com Hotels

 Here are some highlights of what a foodie can expect to find in Dubai:|Expect eclectic: With more than 200 nationalities living in Dubai, you can expect a variety of flavors and fusions

Taste culture: Emirate traditional cuisine commonly includes fish and lamb bursting with flavors of cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg

Spectacular setting: Dubai is never short of spectacular, lavish settings to enjoy your meals. Of note are the 117 luxurious Jumeirah hotel restaurants

Try za’atar: This Middle Easter spice is an herbal citrus blend with sesame seeds popular to the region

Camel for special occasions: It’s common for camel meat to be served for special celebrations, such as weddings, but you can find it in some restaurants throughout the year

Desert farming: There are more than 40 organic farms along the outskirts of Dubai in the desert are growing approximately 62 products, including crops of vegetables, along with honey bees and free range hens

Jamie Oliver: Yes! Jamie Oliver is one of several celebrity chefs to open up a restaurant in Dubai.

Oliver has two restaurants, the most recent opened at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel

Savor bold coffee: Rich, sweet coffee is favored in the Middle East, and you will find a great selection of cafes to unwind it

Exploring bazaars: Middle Eastern markets are quite the experience! Look for colorful stands of gourmet grocers and farmers markets in the souks and bazaars.