Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

I wanted to wish all of my readers a very happy new year. I hope that 2012 brings much joy and happiness to you including lots of travel and good eating! Although not all of my "dreams" came true in 2011, I did stick to a rather "informal" new year's resolution which was to cook more. My cookbook collection has grown immensely over the last year and I am looking forward to trying out new dishes in the new year. I have no definitive travel plans as of yet but I sure know where I would like to go so stay tuned. And for my last post of 2011, a picture of Sydney, Australia on New Year's Eve.

Feliz Año Nuevo!
inhabitat.com

Friday, December 30, 2011

Winter destination pick

Seeing as how the winter season has officially arrived (even if it wasn't exactly a white Christmas here in the northeastern United States) I thought I would post a winter destination pick that I'd love to visit one day. As much as I love warm temperatures and the ocean, I still am a sucker for spectacular views and I think Chamonix, France definitely qualifies as such:

planetware.com
Chamonix is located in the Rhône-Alpes region of southeastern France and was the site of the first Winter Olympics in 1924. It's also home to Mont Blanc (along with Italy), which is the third most visited natural site in the world. 

I'm not a skier (never tried), but Chamonix does have a lot of things for people to do even if they are not winter sports enthusiasts. I actually considered Chamonix as one of our honeymoon destinations and researched extensively on it. 

There's the Telepherique de l'Aiguille du Midi (cable car) which takes riders to the top of the Aiguille du Midi mountain. It holds the record as being the highest vertical ascent cable car in the world.

worldtopjourneys.blogspot.com
And we would have stayed here at the Hotel l'Oustalet, a very charming alpine style hotel:

rumbo.es
And naturalmente, eaten lots of delicious food unique to the region.

elegantsufficiency.typepad.com
So while winter may sometimes seem like a pain and hassle where you live, in other parts of the world, it can be magnificent. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Tour Operator Review-Pride of Maui

In our hotel's lobby, there were more than a dozen brochures for various excursions, the majority for snorkeling trips to Molokini, a crescent-shaped, partially submerged volcanic crater located in the Alalakeki Channel that forms a small islet. It is located between the islands of Maui and Kaho-olawe and is a Hawaii State Seabird sanctuary.


Pride of Maui was actually our second choice for tour operators. We found out our first choice, Pacific Whale Foundation, no longer offered the tour we wanted even though it was still listed on their website and in their brochures (I didn't think this was very professional or good for business). The problem was with only one full day left on Maui, we didn't want to have another all-day excursion. We had already done the Road to Hana and Upcountry, but most snorkeling excursions are seven hours or more. However, we kept browsing at the concierge desk and finally came across Pride of Maui, specifically their morning snorkel tour. It lasted five hours and included stops at Molokini and Turtle Town. Prices are $96 for adults and $62 for children (you can save by booking online). Check-in is at 7:30 at the Ma'alea Harbor, where the boat departs, at 8 AM. It's about an hour from Ma'alea to Molokini and on the way a continental breakfast of pastries, fruit, and drinks is served. Snuba and scuba diving are also offered although they both cost extra. Snuba, which is a cross between snorkeling and scuba diving (you do not need to be scuba certified) costs $49.50 extra. Scuba does require that you be certified with costs at $42.50 extra for one tank and $66 extra for two tanks. Other add ons include an underwater camera rental and wet suit rentals. My only critique of the company is that you could only rent wet suits with cash or traveler's checks even though the camera rental and other extras allowed you to pay with credit cards. I thought this was a bit tacky since not everyone carries cash.

The snorkeling at Molokini was great and while I didn't see anything except fish, it was still a pretty incredible sight, gazing down 35 feet beneath the ocean's surface. Turtle Town was a bit of a disappointment because the only time we saw turtles was back on the ship. Although other people in our group spotted multiple ones while snorkeling, we weren't so lucky. The sea in the Turtle Town area was also incredibly rough with the waves constantly pushing you back from where you wanted to swim to.

Lunch was barbecue style complete with burgers, hot dogs, veggie burgers, green salad, and pasta salad. Later on, delicious homemade tasting macadamia nut cookies were passed around. There was also an open bar although it did not "open" until the snorkeling portion of the tour was done (for obvious reasons).

The ship's staff was definitely one of the main reasons the excursion was as enjoyable as it was. All appeared to be in the 20-30 age demographic so fun obviously was second nature to them. Coming and going from Ma'alea the captain went slightly afield  so that we could see whales and dolphins. The former was incredibly neat since whale watching season in Maui doesn't normally begin until mid-December, while we were there in November).


The tour was efficiently run with a lot of nice features and I would recommend Pride of Maui for anyone wishing to go on a snorkeling excursion. They also have an afternoon snorkeling excursion, although the concierge at our hotel advised against it as she said the water in the afternoon is extremely rough.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Restaurant review-Cilantro Grill (Maui)

Billed as offering the best Mexican food on Maui, the Cilantro Grill is a great pick for an inexpensive and quick meal. Located in downtown Lahaina, parking is free as the restaurant is actually in a shopping center (Free parking is somewhat rare in Lahaina.)

The Cilantro Grill is a quick service restaurant offering neither waiters nor individual menus. A large blackboard serves as the menu and is the first thing your eyes see upon entering the restaurant. The decor is clever and unique; my favorite was the farewell sign to all its diners which read "alohadios" (the Hawaiian aloha and the Spanish adios combined, both meaning goodbye).

We split an order of salsa and chips and I really like how the Cilantro Grill prepared it. As opposed to receiving a basket of chips with just a tiny cup of salsa to share, tortilla chips come in a bag (ours were piping hot and that much better), and then all diners can go to the salsa bar and pick and choose their own individuals salsas. There was the standard mild, medium, and hot, as well as some more flavorful ones.


For my entree I ordered the classic cheese enchiladas (tortillas filled with white cheese and the house enchilada sauce) topped with crema fresca (fresh cream) and served with fiesta rice, your choice of beans, and spicy jicama slaw. They were delicious, although I was on the point of being stuffed.


D ordered the roasted chicken enchiladas, which were stuffed with chipotle citrus rotisserie chicken and topped with the house enchilada sauce. His also came with rice, beans, and the jicama slaw. D especially liked his because he said the rotisserie chicken really set off the taste, as opposed to just the standard cooked chicken that enchiladas are usually stuffed with.


Also on the menu are burritos, seafood burritos (it's Hawaii, what do you expect?), rotisserie chicken, taco plates, tortas (Mexican style sandwiches), entree salads, and the choice of creating a combo which by choosing three items from either the enchiladas or tacos section.

I read about the Cilantro Grill in my Fodor's Maui 2011 guidebook and am really glad we ate there. One can never go wrong with Mexican food, even on Hawaii, a place thousands of miles from Mexico. Old fashioned, home cooked fare can exist anywhere in the world and the Cilantro Grill is definitely a testament to that.

Cilantro Grill
170 Papalaua Street (Old Lahaina Center)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2011 travels in review

With 2011 set to "close" in just a few days, I wanted to look back on this year's travels which was a combination of old and new.

In February  D and I returned to Chicago, Illinois, one of our favorite cities. We visited just days after they had received a blizzard of epic proportions and in the days leading up to our departure, I was extremely worried that we wouldn't be able to go. Thankfully we did and minus the cold and a few impassable sidewalks due to giant piles of snow, we had a great time as usual. On this trip, we journeyed to neighboring Oak Park and toured Frank Lloyd Wright's house and studio.



In May, D and I drove a long eight and a half hours to stunning Asheville, North Carolina. Although I have traveled extensively abroad, my domestic travels pale in comparison so I thought I should work on rectifying this. In addition to the incredible Biltmore estate, we also visited Chimney Rock State Park and had delicious southern food. 


In September, we "fulfilled" a dream of D's and went on a Disney cruise. Although I had been on one before with my family, it was years ago, so sailing on Disney's newest ship was a lot of fun. Although it's Disney, there is nothing cheesy or average about it. The Disney Cruise line offers all of its passengers a deluxe sailing experience. 


And last but not least, in November we went to Maui, one of Hawaii's many beautiful islands. As I have seen a lot of "cities," both in the Americas and Europe, I was anxious on this trip for it to be more "outdoorsy" and nature themed and it really was. In the area where we stayed the tallest buildings were hotels and elsewhere on the island, coconut trees. I loved it.


Here's to hoping that next year's travels are as memorable as those in 2011!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Attraction review-Ali'i Kula Lavender Farm

When researching things to do on Maui, I immediately knew I wanted to visit Ali'i Kula Lavender Farm. Situated in the island's Upcountry section (an area where the majority of the island's produce is grown), the farm is located on the slopes of the Haleakala crater at an elevation of 4,000 feet, so the views are beautiful.


The farm is free to visit and visitors can walk the grounds on their own. A pamphlet contains an illustrated map of the farm, including an easy lavender reference guide which lets people know what types of lavender they're looking at. There are seven different types of lavender grown at AKL farm.  I opted to do the 30-minute walking tour (a total of five are offered daily). Tours cost $12 a person, although you can save $2 by booking in advance.


We arrived about an hour early for our 11:30 AM walking tour so we first browsed in the gift shop (lovely items but incredibly expensive). Afterwards, we bought a lavender scone and drinks to enjoy outside on their terrace. I found the birds on Maui to be quite friendly and uninhibited around people. While sitting on the terrace, the birds would come extremely near, obviously in hopes of finding some crumbs to nibble on. The scone was delicious and you could definitely taste the lavender.


Our tour was led by Terra-Lyn, who was extremely kind and informative, very resonant of the Hawaiian people I found. A plus for going on a walking tour is that in addition to the facts and information about the plants not found in their pamphlet, you can also have some stems and buds snipped for you. Terra-Lyn would cut flowers during our walk for both D and me so that we could touch and smell them. At the end we were able to make a bouquet out of our cuttings. The one disappointment was not being able to see the lavender I have always wanted to, due to the time of the year we were there (the knee high fields of free growing lavender like you often see in images of the Provence region in France).

In addition to the numerous different types of lavender grown, there is also an abundance of tropical plants, many that are native to the Hawaiian islands. I have never been very big on flower photography before, but at a place like Ali'i Kula it is hard not to be.




 At the end of the tour we did the gourmet lunch basket which I had reserved in advance. It cost $28 per person (this did include the walking tour). Lunch consisted of your choice of either sandwich (chicken salad or chicken pesto) or salad (Greek or garden) and comes with lavender lemonade, lavender chips (these were terrific as I never would have paired lavender with a salty snack and yet it worked) and a lavender brownie (the lavender seemed to be more in the frosting that was drizzled on top). If we went back again, I'm not sure if I would get the picnic lunch basket, but it was a neat and extremely healthy lunch for when we were there.

The Upcountry area is absolutely beautiful, so if you're already in the "neighborhood," I do recommend visiting Ali'i Kula Lavender farm. Even if you're not a really big flower person (as D is not), I think you'll still be captured by the stunning locale and uniqueness of the place.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

I wanted to wish all of my readers a very Merry Christmas. I hope that you're all having a wonderful day with your family and friends, enjoying lots of good company, cheer, and food. I made pumpkin pancakes for breakfast from my Biltmore cookbook and later on will be making carrot pudding and macaroni and cheese from my Colonial Williamsburg Taverns cookbook to go with tonight's Christmas feast. In addition to pumpkin pie that my grandmother made, I also made a bread pudding with caramel sauce for dessert.

In honor of today's holiday, I thought the below picture from 1890 of pilgrims entering Bethlehem at Christmastime was perfect since it's both holiday and travel related.

en.wikipedia.org

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Nochebuena

Today is Christmas Eve, a day in the United States that for many people consists of last minute shopping, meal preparations, and spending time with loved ones. D and I arrived in Philadelphia yesterday to celebrate the holiday with my family. In Spain, Latin America, and the Philippines  nochebuena which in Spanish literally means "good night" refers to the night of Christmas Eve. In these countries the evening consists of a traditional dinner with family and friends and lots of celebrating. In Esmeralda Santiago's memoir When I was Puerto Rican, she details the traditions of nochebuena which take place on her native Puerto Rico every year including the family dinner that centered around the lechon (pig roast).

A Filipino nochebuena meal
jennlord.com

A colonial era church and Christmas tree in Puerto Rico
usatravel.about.com

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The ABCs of Travel

I found this on a travel blog and thought I'd borrow it for myself!

Age you went on your first international trip: Officially, at 16 to Queretaro, Mexico. Unofficially, age 8 to Niagara Falls and Toronto, Canada (I’m sorry but if it’s not French speaking Canada I don’t really count Ontario as an international trip).

 Best foreign beer you’ve had and where: I’m not really a beer drinker but if I had to pick one it would be a cherry kriek I had in Brussels, Belgium at A La Mort Subite (Sudden Death) café.



 Cuisine (favorite): It’s a tie between French and Mexican.

Destinations – favorite, least favorite and why: Favorite would be Paris, France because simply, it’s an incredible city. Least favorite-downtown Asheville, North Carolina. There were too many “undesirables” (i.e. hippies who hadn't bathed in days) walking around which in my opinion, marred my liking it.



Event you experienced abroad that made you say wow: Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Seville, Spain. It’s like the mobs in Times Square at New Year’s Eve except it has a religious focus.

Favorite mode of transportation: A European train. The trains in the United States stink and while I love the places that planes can take you, there is nothing desirable about plane travel anymore, unless you have the money to travel in first class.

Greatest feeling while traveling: Seeing a famous site you had dreamed about for so long.

 Hottest place you’ve traveled to: It’s a tie between Granada, Nicaragua or Seville, Spain. Oppressive doesn’t even begin to describe it.



 Incredible service you’ve experienced and where: Dinner at the French restaurant Remy abroad the Disney Dream cruise ship.



 Journey that took the longest: Flight between New York City and Seoul, South Korea-15 non-stop hours in the air.

 Keepsake from your travels: It’s a tradition now to buy a magnet wherever we go. Our refrigerator is becoming quite full.

Let-down site – why and where: Unless you’re going on a tour that includes a stop there, going out of your way to visit Stonehenge in England is really not worth it.

Moment when you fell in love with travel: See letter A. The excitement of being in a foreign country, eating exotic foods, speaking a different language, that to me is what makes me love travel.

Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in: Westin Palace in Madrid, Spain. It’s from the turn of the last century and the building is incredible. It definitely made me enjoy Madrid more on my second visit there since on my first visit I stayed in a crappy hostal.


    
Obsession – what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling: Anything beyond just the standard “famous picture shots” (i.e. the Eiffel Tower).

Passport stamps, how many and from where: Too many to count and also I no longer have my very first passport. But my favorite ones are from Morocco, Costa Rica, and Uruguay namely because they have a little flare to them (for Morocco the flare is definitely the Arabic script-so cool).

 Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where: I can’t think of any off the top of my head. I generally try to avoid “quirky.”

 Recommended site, event or experience: Driving to the top of Haleakala National Park on the island of Maui. More than 10,000 feet in the air, you ARE above the clouds.



 Splurge, something you have no problem forking over money for while traveling: If I’m traveling in a developing country, definitely first class accommodations. Scrimping in western Europe is one thing, but scrimping in a region like Central American is another and not my idea of fun.

 Touristy thing you’ve done: A Chicago River architecture boat tour on Wendella Boats in Chicago, Illinois. I don’t think there was single local on it and yet it was a highly informative and interesting tour.

Unforgettable travel memory: Emerging through the jungle in the Yucatan Peninsula and seeing the incredible castillo at the Chichen Itza ruins in Mexico.

 Visas: One when I studied abroad in Spain.

Wine, best glass while traveling and where: I’m really not a wine drinker but the glass of rose I sampled at the Biltmore Winery in Asheville, North Carolina was pretty good.

eXcellent view and from where: The view from our balcony of our hotel in Maui was pretty spectacular.



 Years spent traveling: All 27!

Zealous sports fans and where: The fans in Pittsburgh are pretty crazy and absolute die-hards.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tour Operator Review-Valley Isle Excursions (Maui)

Most rental car companies prohibit driving the second half of the Road to Hana (the dirt road past Route 31) due to parts of it being rough and washboard-like, in addition to requiring speeds of 5 MPH or less in order to avoid damaging the suspension of the car. Consequently I knew I would have to find a tour that would take us. Also, I read that a lot of people recommended this way irrespective of the road's rough conditions, since the person doing the driving wouldn't exactly be able to admire the scenery since his or her eyes would have to be on the road at all times.


I researched many companies but by chance came across Valley Isle Excursions. They were definitely on the pricier side ($130 for adults, although you saved $10 by booking in advance); however,  it did seem like a higher quality option. Tour vans are smaller (seating is limited to 10 passengers), seats are quite spacious, and an actual picnic lunch was served as opposed to just cold cuts. Even before booking, their customer service was extremely prompt in responding to an inquiry email, and the day before our tour they called to confirm.

The Road to Hana is an all day affair and our pickup time was 6:30 AM. Luckily there were two other couples from our hotel that were also on the tour so we only had to make one more stop after ours. The tour officially began with a continental breakfast at a golf course, with hot beverages and fruit juice being provided along with croissants, muffins, and fresh fruit. Not realizing (although it made complete sense in retrospect) there are three other tour vans in addition to yours that drive the Road to Hana each day. You're with the other tour groups at breakfast and lunch, as well as at periodic stops along the way.

Our tour guide Debra was definitely one of the major highlights of the tour. A native Hawaiian, as well as a native of Hana, she was a walking legend and regaled us continually with stories about her family and her childhood, areas we were driving through, and anecdotes about Maui. She greatly reminded me of my dad's sister Nancy, both in appearance and in her boisterous personality. Nancy also drives people for a living and always has a plethora of stories to share, so it was as if I had met the Hawaiian version of my aunt.

Although I was initially dismayed over the lack of stops at the very beginning of the trip (the other vans were stopping), as the day went on we stopped a lot, allowing for some wonderful photo opportunities. Even at places where we were not able to get out, Debra would slow down to allow you to take a picture; of course I always seemed to be on the wrong side of the van when this happened).


Lunch consisted of barbecue chicken, green salad, macaroni salad, rolls, and chocolate macadamia nut candies, along with cold beverages. It was served on the grounds of a couple of who had a florist business (they made stunning tropical flower arrangements and shipped them to the continental United States and Canada). Debra said lunch was always there since it was the only available space that could host all of the van groups. Each lady given a cut protea flower to keep. (The only bad thing with this was that I couldn't take it back with me due to United States customs rules.)



It's difficult to say how many times we stopped, but we saw rainbow eucalyptus trees, various waterfalls, overlooks, and then the more well-known sites like Black Sand Beach and O'heo Gulch (also known as the Seven Sacred Pools).



After leaving the Hana area, the tour van continued to make a complete circle around the island, heading back towards the western side where we began. The final stop was at the Tedeshi Winery, the only vineyard on the Hawaiian islands. I wouldn't say a trip there is warranted on its own, but it was nice being able to stop.

If you're in need of a company to host the Road of Hana tour, I highly recommend Valley Isle Excurions. They're well worth the money.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Attraction Review: Maui Brewing Company

When researching things to do on Maui besides the obvious (relaxing, walking on the beach, watching incredible sunsets), I came across the Maui Brewing Company. Since D is such a beer fiend, I thought a tour of the brewery would be the perfect activity to do on our first day there.

The Maui Brewing Company began operations in 2005 and creates handcrafted beers using only natural ingredients. It is the island's only microbrewery and is one of Hawaii's fastest growing companies. The tasting room at the brewery is open five days a week (Tuesday-Saturday), although tours are only offered on Fridays and Saturdays (a total of three tours on each day).



The tour costs $10 and lasts for approximately 30 minutes. Some neat tidbits we learned from the tour is that Maui Brewing only uses cans, not glass bottles, since cans protect the flavor of beer a lot better. I would think this is especially important when located on a tropical island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. One of their beers is a CoConut Porter (this was D's favorite, more on this in a bit) and there are toasted coconut chips added to the beer while it is fermenting. All ingredients the brewery uses in making its beers are local to Maui, something I greatly admire in terms of sustainability. Its canning line operates at a run rate of 300 cans per minute.


The tour concludes in the tasting room where all participants are given a flight of beer (a tasting of all the beers on tap, usually six). They include Bikini Blond Lager, described as the closest thing to an American lager; Big Swell IPA, which is brewed with four different kinds of Northwestern hops and malted barley; CoConut Porter, which is brewed with six varieties of malted barely, hops and hand-toasted coconut; Mana Wheat, an American style wheat ale infused with Maui Gold Pineapple; and Pau Hana, a Pilsner style beer. 

I didn't try the beer flight as I discovered that they also make their own root beer. This I gladly drank instead since I don't really care for the taste of beer. The root beer was delicious and is made with pure Maui cane sugar, Maui honey, and Maui vanilla bean. It's an all natural and local product with no preservatives, high-fructose corn syrup, or caffeine.



The brewery is located in the Lahaina, so if you're staying in the area, it's definitely a neat activity which also won't take up too much time of your Maui day. Although children may find the tour of the facilities a bit boring, they'll certainly enjoy the root beer at the end of it.


Maui Brewing Company
910 Honoapillani Highway (next door to the Sugar Cane train depot)
Lahaina, Maui 
tastingroom@mauibrewingco.com
(reservations are recommended for the tours)

They also have a pub style restaurant which is located on the same highway, just in the opposite direction of the brewery. After the tour, all participants are given a token which is redeemable for a free beer at the restaurant. We ate there for dinner that night. The food was good, portions very large.  

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Food Travels Part II-Christmastown, USA

As Christmas is a week from today, I thought I would devote one more post to the holiday season. I got in a lot of baking this weekend including my holiday breads (gingerbread and macadamia nut pineapple banana bread which was from a cookbook I had picked up while in Maui) and more cookies. But first I wanted to share with you some of my most beloved holiday decorations:

One of my favorite ornaments-from St. Paul's Cathedral in London

I love Winnie especially when he's baking holiday cookies with friends

An ornament we picked up at Disneyland Paris

It's a very Disney oriented household in case you couldn't tell by now


Perhaps my favorite decoration-it's a children's toy from the 1920s that originally belonged to my great-uncle. I was the lucky grandchild to win it.


 Some of the sugar cookies that I made and decorated

Macadamia Nut Pineapple Banana Bread
(The recipe obviously calls for macadamia nuts but since they are so expensive anywhere but Hawaii and I stupidly didn't buy any when I was there, I used Brazil nuts as a substitute which was generally the recommended substitute nut.)
1 2/3 c flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tbsp. salt
dash, ground cinnamon
 1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 cup bananas (about 3 bananas mashed; it's best to use overripe bananas)
1/2 c. buttermilk, or sour milk (combine 1/2 c. milk with 1 Tbsp. lemon juice)
1/2 c. chopped nuts
1/2 c. dried coconut
1/2 c. canned crushed pineapple, drained
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Honey for brushing
Sift first 5 ingredients into a large bowl. In a separate bowl, beat butter until fluffy, gradually add sugar and beat 1 minute more. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well. Add bananas and beat 30 seconds more. Alternately add in milk and flour mixtures, starting and ending with flour. Coat nuts with a little flour to keep them from settling to bottom of cake. Fold nuts, coconut, and pineapple into flour mixture until well blended. Fold in vanilla, mixing well. Pour into a greased pan (you can sprinkle additional nuts on top of batter before baking if you wish). Bake at 350 degrees as follows: For 4 miniature loaf pans, bake 45 minutes. For 2 8 1/2-by-5-inch loaf pans, bake 50-60 minutes. Check for doneness with a toothpick. Loaves should appear golden brown on outside. After cooling for 3 minutes, remove from pan. (Do not cool longer than 3 minutes or cake may stick to pan.) Brush tops lightly with honey. 
(Recipe courtesy of 101 Great Desserts from favorite restaurants)


Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Cookbook share-"Country Cooking in France" by Anne Willan

I received Anne Willan's cookbook Country Cooking France as a purely unintended gift from my first ever piano teacher and dear family friend, Mike (he's actually mentioned in my first blog post  as he was the person to get me hooked on the idea of traveling to Europe, even as early as the age of 11). Mike is a lover of many things but especially the cultural arts, cooking, and France. He lives back in my hometown of Philadelphia and apparently as the story goes (as relayed to me through my mom), he was so looking forward to purchasing this cookbook and although it is expensive ($50) he decided to treat himself to it one day. After buying said book, he came home only to discover shortly after he already owned it (it was buried underneath papers and books on his piano bench). He bought it at Borders after they had announced they were closing their stores so unfortunately for him, all sales were final, but fortunately for me I lucked into a gorgeous new cookbook as he gave it to my mom and me. Needless to say, I can't wait for an especially cold weekend in January when all I'll want to do is stay inside and cook from it. Here are a few of the many beautiful images found throughout it: