Eat Vienna

It’s our second entry in Bearleader’s “Eat a City” series, where we pick a city and hit the road to find great eateries we think you will enjoy. This time we are reporting back from Vienna, Austria.

For a major European capital, Vienna is relatively small. With only 1.7 million inhabitants, it is a city that can be easily explore and its old world charm can be absorbed in just a few days. We decided to search for places where you can experience authentic-contemporary-Viennese life, that are frequented mostly by locals. These are places that don’t cater to the familiar Viennese stereotypes. If it’s schnitzel and apple strudel you are looking for, you may want to look elsewhere.

1 Gasthaus Woracziczky

The first stop on our culinary tour takes us to Vienna’s 5th district, close to the famed Naschmarkt, the largest open food market in Vienna. The name of this restaurant is a bit of a tongue twister but don’t let it scare you. It’s pronounced Wora-schit’-ski.

Number 52 Spengergasse was the address of another restaurant for a long time before husband and wife team, Marion and Christoph Wurz, took it over, breathing new life into the place. What was a dark, smoke-filled, wood-paneled dining area and bar has been turned upside down. Now the rooms are bright, light, fresh and airy with classic old Viennese chairs and Marion’s flea-market-vintage bric-a-brac finds, lending the rooms an air of eccentricity.

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The kitchen is in the experienced hands of young Austrian chef Martin Buzernic, who specializes in local, traditional fare, deconstructed and reinterpreted into fresher and lighter versions. The wine list is Austrian only. Not familiar with the local wines? Just ask Marion for advice. She will know the best pairings for the day’s menu.

At lunch hour, the restaurant is full of regulars from the neighborhood taking advantage of a very reasonably priced lunch menu. The crowd is small enough that Marion and Christoph know many of their patrons by name, giving the place the feel of a canteen, but with one important distinction: The food is great.

The menu changes daily based on what farmers bring, which you can see announced every morning on Facebook. It is written in German, but with a little help from Google translator you can easily evaluate the menu’s general yumminess. Or just show up and use Google’s “I’m feeling lucky” technique and order whatever’s on offer. You won’t be disappointed.

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In the evening a new menu is handwritten based on the morning’s experiments. The names of the dishes may be unfamiliar but the friendly waitstaff is happy to assist with descriptions and suggestions.

Gasthaus Woracziczky is a true reflection of Marion and Christopher’s warm charm and kind hospitality. It’s a great place to while away a few hours over good food, wine and conversation.

2 Zum Finsteren Stern

Next we visit Zum Finsteren Stern, meaning “to the dark star”. Situated in Vienna’s first district, the restaurant is on the ground floor of a 17th century Palais where in October 1762, a young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his sister Maria Anna gave their first public concert at the invitation of Count Thomas Vinciguerra Collato.

Nowadays you won’t likely hear the sounds of Mozart in the air. But you will hear the rhythmic sounds of horse drawn carriages carrying tourists past the restaurant on their tours though the first district: the carriages are, perhaps, the one sound that would also have been familiar in Mozart’s day.

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At Zum Finsteren Stern, a former actress, Ella De Silva, now pours her talent into creating great experiences for her audience through food and hospitality.

The decor is simple, and direct. Dramatic vaulted ceilings take center stage and in the lower dining room, a series of carved wood panels line one wall, serving both as art installation and light fixture.

If your visit to Vienna is during the summer months, be sure you book a table in the beautiful outdoor plaza. The plaza is sheltered by an enormous tree and dining here is cinematic, enjoying Ella’s delicious creations as horse-drawn carriages slowly roll by, the sound of the horses’ hooves echoing through the narrow streets.

Ella’s menus draw on traditional Austrian ideas with influences from Austria’s southern neighbor, Italy. Fresh local and seasonal ingredients shape her menus.

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I am lucky to have dined at Zum Finsteren Stern several times, which allows me to give you a bit of an inside scoop. Ella makes a signature dessert called “Schoko Bombe”, a rich chocolate dish served cold. It is quite literally “the bomb”. They go quickly, so ask your waiter to put one aside for you when you order your meal. That way you won’t be disappointed, as I have been more than once.

3 Labstelle

For restaurant number three we head over towards St. Stephens Cathedral. Just a stone’s throw away from the cathedral is Lugeck Square, a medieval plaza that was traditionally designated the emergency meeting place in times of war. Now it’s the home of the restaurant, Labstelle.

Labstelle has built its reputation on fresh modern design and farm-to-table cooking. Owner Thomas Hahn works with a tight-knit community of purveyors whose names are proudly displayed on a big blackboard in the restaurant’s entry.

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Style, service and modern cuisine are hallmarks of a visit to Labstelle. The young waitstaff is helpful and friendly, and the dining room is outfitted with Danish Modern Wegener chairs, neutrally-toned linen napkins and reclaimed wood tables. The place is packed full of small, thoughtful, design details, making the space as thoughtfully constructed as the food. The menu is driven by what Labstelle’s purveyors are able to provide on the day, so you are always in for a surprise.

In the summer it is nice to sit in the outdoor courtyard – a quiet spot set back from the hustle and bustle of Lugeck Square.

If you have already been in Vienna for a few days, and just cannot face another schnitzel or apple strudel, Labstelle is a refreshing change of pace. On the day of our visit we saw a steady stream of local professionals, visitors and young creatives coming through the door. A sophisticated and diverse crowd, which speaks well for Labstelle’s local reputation.

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Searching for a special something to bring home from your visit? Purchase a bottle of the house soap that was custom-designed for the restaurant by a young Viennese Soap maker. Feels good and smells great too. We loved it!

4 Zur Herknerin

Next we venture into the 4th district to meet Stefanie Herkner, one of the most vivacious and lively chefs I have come across. Full of life, love and enthusiasm, Stefanie abandoned a career in art management and a stint living in London to take over a former plumbing store and pursue her culinary dream.

The sign from original plumbing store remains in place above the restaurant, advertising “Installationen” (pipe fitting). It’s a good omen that everything still flows smoothly at the plumbing store’s appetizing successor.

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The restaurant business runs deep in the Herkner family. Stefanie’s dad answered to the title “Wirt”, the Austrian term for chef. He was famous for his authentic Viennese cooking and is still regarded as a trailblazer for what we now call gastropub culture. Now it’s Stefanie’s turn to bring her versions of dumplings, gulasch and all manner of traditional Austrian fare to the hungry hordes of Vienna.

For out-of-towners the fully Austrian handwritten menu can be a little hard to decipher. But plenty of help is on hand to assist you in make your selection, and to advise you on, say, the best wine to pair with spinach dumplings, or Spinatknoedel as the menu might read.

In case you want to learn the art of dumpling making, Austrian style, email Stefanie. She sometimes turns her kitchen into a classroom to educate aspiring chefs on the vagaries of the dumpling. Sounds like a fun activity. I make a pretty mean dumpling but I could definitely use a refresher course.

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In the summertime Stefanie installs a few small wooden tables out front on the sidewalk. It’s not quite Italy, but quite enjoyable on a balmy Viennese night. Zur Herknerin was a great find and a fitting conclusion to our Eat Vienna Tour. Bon appétit!

The Small Print

There are a couple of oddities that you might experience eating out in Vienna. Here is a rundown.

First, as of the writing of this article many Austrians continue to have a difficult time embracing the concept of not smoking inside public spaces, that most of Europe and the US have now mastered. The Austrian government has made some half-hearted attempts at complying with current EU law on this, but alas, somehow it is not yet working.

So if you prefer to eat sans smoke, always check that the restaurant you are going to is non-smoking before heading out. If you are a smoker, Vienna is your nirvana.

Second, an issue we came across again and again is that it is rare in Vienna for a restaurant to take credit cards. It is always a good idea to be prepared with cash in hand should the need arise.

And last but not least, if you find yourself in Vienna on a Sunday, many restaurants will be closed. You might be left with few choices, and mostly of the tourist variety. Note to self, find some good places to eat in Vienna on Sundays.

Details

Gasthaus Woracziczky

Spengergasse 52, 1050 Vienna
Phone: +43 1 69911 229530

Open Monday to Friday
Lunch service 11:30am – 2:30pm
Dinner service 6:00pm – 12:00am
Closed Saturday, Sunday and holidays
Closed August 10th – August 30th

Non-smoking | Cash only | Ask your hotel concierge to make a reservation for you.

Zum Finsteren Stern

Schulhof 8, 1010 Vienna
Phone: +43 1 535 2100

Open Tuesday to Saturday for dinner only
6:00pm – 1:00am

Non-smoking in the downstairs dinning room until 10:00pm | Credit cards accepted: MasterCard and Visa | Ask your hotel concierge to make a reservation for you.

Labstelle

Lugeck 6, 1010 Vienna
Phone: +43 1 236 2122
www.labstelle.at

Open Monday to Saturday
11:30am – 2:00am
Lunch service 12:00pm – 2:00pm
Dinner service 6:00pm – 11:00pm

Non-smoking | Credit cards accepted: MasterCard and Visa | Ask your hotel concierge to make a reservation for you, or book online.

Zur Herknerin

Wiedner Hauptstrasse 36, 1040 Vienna
Phone: +43 1 699 1522 0522

Open Tuesday to Friday for dinner only
5:00pm – 10:00pm

Non-smoking | Cash only | Ask your hotel concierge to make a reservation for you | To inquire about Stefanie’s cooking lessons email her at buero@zurherknerin.at.

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

Toasted, with a Pat of Butter

A few months ago I shared a story about my visit to the Dulwich Picture Gallery in South London. The gallery’s name comes from is location in the village of Dulwich. The problem with Dulwich is that it is located just far enough south of London that you wouldn’t likely visit there on a whim. You need sufficient motivation to make the trip. For me the Picture Gallery is more than enough to get me on the road. But on my last trip I decided to take the 15 minute walk from the gallery, through Dulwich Park and into the village, to see what else was going on in Dulwich. And as it turned out, we found another good reason to make the trip.

Situated on Lordship Lane, the main street of Dulwich, is the restaurant Toasted, a collaboration between Chef Michael Hazlewood and Manager Alex Thorp. Michael, or Hazel as everyone calls him, hails from the Southern Hemisphere and began to develop his considerable culinary skills at the well-regarded Attica in Melbourne. He later moved onto positions at a few famous London foodie hangouts.

Michael has a relaxed and quietly enthusiastic demeanor. And in spite of our arriving in the midst of a busy lunch-service prep, he was happy to engage with us as we peppered him with questions about the ingredients for the day’s menu and their sources. I am always intrigued by the alchemy that can happen in a kitchen in the right hands and Michael’s meticulous manner and adventurous ingredient combinations are testament to a real talent for food, beyond what practice can achieve. It’s an inspiration to see him work.

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As we chatted with Michael, Alex was nose-down and up to his elbows in the previous day’s receipts. Surely much of Toasted’s success is due to Alex keeping the front of the house up to the same high standard as Michael’s Cuisine.

By now the dough was fully proved so Michael got to work forming the boules for the day. Speaking of bread, even something as simple as butter has not escaped Michael’s attention. You first notice the color, an unusually bright shade of yellow. And then the taste, like a tangy cream but much thicker. It’s so good you could eat it on its own. Michael makes it daily from fermented raw milk sourced from a dairy just outside of London.

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There are three dining areas, one in front next to the bar, one almost in the kitchen where some prep work takes place (sit here if you want to eat immersed in the kitchen action), and one in an adjacent room.

In the adjacent room are also three large stainless steel tanks, purposely built to hold wine (in quantity) that Toasted has sourced from a small artisanal producer. The quality is good, and buying in quantity makes the cost quite reasonable. Coincidentally, Toasted’s predecessor at this location was a wine shop, so there is also a steady flow of customers looking to take advantage of the on-site bottled wine.

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In the end, Toasted’s charm is that it is simply a relaxed local joint where regulars come for a meal, or stop in for a coffee or a glass of wine. It just so happens that the meals are exceptional and it is an excellent room to hang out for a drink anytime. It’s definitely worth the trip to Dulwich.

< More fascinating vacation destinations await. Let’s go.

Details


For more informant, current menus and a schedule for win tasting events, go to; www.toastdulwich.co.uk


Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

Planning a visit to Dulwich? Here is the current weather and what to expect for the next few days.

Eat Munich

We have received several emails of late from loyal Bearleader readers asking us to highlight more great food venues in and around the places we cover. You asked for it and here it is, the first of our new “Eat a City” series. Each time we visit a city we will be searching out four great places for you to dine. We will be picking options in different price ranges, styles of food and places that are good to visit at different times of the day. All our suggestions will serve fresh, local and mostly organic food. And of course any place we suggest will be a fun outing.

First up, Eating Munich. If you are like me, images of Wurst (sausages), pretzels and beer immediately come to mind. But if you move beyond the Oktoberfest stereotype, you will find a small group of enthusiastic chefs working with local suppliers, whipping up a cuisine that is uniquely München. Yes, it is true, if you visit Munich any time in the other 11 months of the year you will have an equally good time, with a bevy of food and activity options that will delight, inspire and entertain. Here is what we found.

1 Garden

The Hotel Bayrischer Hof is a family-owned Munich institution, in operation since 1841. It has recently been renovated to enhance its five-star luxury reputation for another generation. Along with the hotel, the long-running Garden restaurant has also received a makeover under the direction of famed Belgian designer and art dealer Alex Vervoordt. Vervoordt transformed the Garden’s classic winter garden into a light-and-airy glass-enclosed dining room reminiscent of an artist Studio. Large expanses of glass, rough industrial materials and well-worn patinaed surfaces combine with a mix of natural linen fabrics to produce a dynamic lively space.

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Vervoordt controlled all visual aspects of the renovated restaurant with menus designed to his specifications, and commissioned fellow designer Ann Demeulemeester to produce uniforms for the wait staff. Demeulemeester created a work-coat-inspired Kimono in heavy dark blue linen, which is a brilliant and practical flourish that animates the new dining room.

The cuisine is just as inspiring as the décor, with chef Jan Hartwig at the helm since May. This is his first head chef position and along with his young, energetic creative team, the kitchen is producing solid dishes that seem quite mature for the short time he has been in charge.

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A real craftsman, Jan’s dishes all feature carefully composed intriguing flavor combinations, each full of charm and subtle in taste. You will also find a great variety of thoughtful meatless options equal to his more carnivorous concoctions.

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Jan’s love for effusing various fresh herbs into his dishes is a thread that runs through the evolving seasonal menu.

2 Waldmeisterei

Now we are heading over to the Maxvorstadt district to check out Waldmeisterei, a favorite eatery of design-savvy locals and students from the nearby Ludwig-Maximilians University.

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On arrival we are greeted by co-owners Damir Stabo Stabek and Christina Pawelski. We sit down for some cake and a fresh lemon/elderflower gespritzt to chat about how the recently opened Waldmeisterei came to be.

Stabo set out to create a breakfast-to lunch-time venue, offering simple, fresh food with a concentration on great cakes and coffee. It is part deli, part cafe, part local hang out. As we talked there was a steady stream of patrons coming and going, clearly on their daily pilgrimage to Waldmeisterei.

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The interior is quite new but constructed with recycled materials to look well-worn from day one. Walls and furniture are built from rough, reclaimed wood with bright copper-covered counter tops where cakes and other to-go offerings are displayed. Vintage chairs and chandeliers are paired with bold graphic posters to complete the comfortable and modern look.

Christina bakes many of the cakes fresh daily. And you will find a great selection of seasonal lunch dishes on offer each day, prepared by lunch chef Aramis.

A favorite of mine is the classic German-style open-faced sandwich called “Wurstbrot” and “Kaesebrot”. It’s a thick slice of dark whole wheat bread adorned with fresh cold cuts or cheese or both. A nice change of pace from the run-of-the-mill sandwiches we are so accustomed to, and good any time of day

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Afternoon is a great time to visit for “Kaffee und Kuchen”. A very German tradition that is still observed religiously by locals. And with Christina’s cakes, all the better at Waldmeisterei for your afternoon break from sightseeing.

3 Fraeulein Grueneis

Just a short trip south and east and we arrive at the southernmost point of the English Garden, where the Eisbach River rushes into the park.

Of all the restaurants I have visited lately, this one has the best back story. Built in 1906 as a public toilet for the English Garden, it served its intended purpose for many years. Eventually the building acquired a reputation for drug dealing and other illicit activities, and it was officially boarded up and left to decay.

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Then one day a few years ago, the overgrown ruins caught the attention of local residents Sandra and Henning Duerr, who somehow had the vision to see that this dilapidated English Garden folly could be put back into service for public use as a restaurant.

Having a vision is one thing, but bringing that vision to fruition is quite another. Standing in Sandra and Henning’s path was the city’s building department who would have to give them permission to occupy the property in order to move their plan forward. They soon found out that this permission was not going to be easy to extract. As Henning tells it, without Sandra’s dogged determination it would never have happened. Sandra attacked the problem with such tenacity that the city finally surrendered and gave permission, if for no other reason than to stop Sandra from calling them every day.

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With all the paperwork in order, the project began and the building was soon restored to its original exterior appearance. Henning did most of the work himself, and in 2011 the building reopened. When you are there, notice one of the few original details that remain from the original building, the sign “Frauen”, from the women’s room entrance.

Now an integral part of the neighborhood, the restaurant attracts a healthy lunch crowd from local businesses, tourists and surfers arriving from the nearby Eisbach River. There are not too many places you can eat lunch with such a diverse crowd.

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The lunch menu changes daily, based on what’s available locally, with two dishes served as long as supplies last. Sandra and Henning live next to the local green market so they can easily buy their produce fresh daily. A great selection of home-baked cakes and other treats are also available for dessert or “Kaffee und Kuchen” in the afternoon.

Fraeulein Grueneis is open year round. In the winter season, a small wood-burning stove in the main room is enough to keep everyone warm. And with the cold comes mulled wine season, which is well worth braving the cold for.

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Being situated within the English Garden provides more benefits than just a scenic location. To start with, there is a steady supply of wood from the local gardeners to keep the stove stoked all winter. And Henning told us they also tend several beehives in the gardens, producing a steady supply of their own Fraeulein Grueneis honey. A great souvenir to bring home with you from your lunch in the garden.

After lunch, be sure you stop by the bridge over the Eisbach River. From the bridge you get a prime view of the locals surfing the famous stationary wave. The Eisbach River is the only river surfing location in the world within a city. But that is a story for another time.

4 Chez Fritz

For dinner we are heading east over the Isar River to Munich’s French Quarter in the neighborhood of Haidhausen to visit a wonderful French brasserie called Chez Fritz

The Franzosenviertel (French Quarter) district in Munich dates back to around 1871 when, to commemorate Germany’s war with France, many streets were named after battlefields where Germans were victorious.

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The energetic crew at Chez Fritz know their chops. The menu features a selection of French classics such as: Steak Frites, Entrecôte, Jarret D’Agneau, and Moules et Frites. Seafood figures prominently on the menu and the daily fresh offerings are on display for individual selection in the dining room.

The dining room feels like it has existed for at least as long as the local streets bearing French names. Whether by age or design, it’s a great room and just what you would want as a setting for classic French cuisine.

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During the warm summer months, try to get a table outdoors in the shadow of the neighboring St. Johannes church. Chez Fritz’s eclectic mix of vintage furniture under the old trees of Preysingplatz adds to the old world ambience.

Details

For details and reservations at the Garden restaurant go to; www.bayerischerhof.de

For opening hours and additional information about Waldmeisterei go to; www.waldmeisterei.com

For details and information about Fraeulein Grueneis go to; www.fraeulein-grueneis.de

For reservations and additional information about Chez Fritz go to; www.chezfritz.de

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

Conquering Chania

Just north of the African continent, a little southeast of Italy and southwest of Turkey lies the island of Crete, the southernmost island in Greece. Its location plumb in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea has made Crete a stopping-off point for thousands of years. Throughout history, anyone going from here to there in the Mediterranean likely had a layover in Crete. And these successive waves of traders, marauders and pirates are the key to understanding the many layers of modern Crete.

Much of the flux in Crete has centered on the city of Chania in the west of the island. Here the successive layers of conquest and immigration by various Mediterranean and European groups is hidden in plain sight. You just need to know a few clues and, like an x-ray machine, all the intricate layers of history are revealed.

Today’s invaders of Crete are mostly package-holiday goers, a relatively benign force that, as a rule, stays in camp, rarely venturing out. When they do go out, a popular destination is the historic and beautiful harbor at the center of the old city. On our initial visit to Chania we too headed straight for the harbor in search of history, local culture and fresh regional cuisine. What we found was fast food, cocktails and the drum beat of euro-pop echoing across the deep blue waters.

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Briefly disoriented, we thought surely this is not the Chania we had read about. Were we mistaken about this place? We quickly changed strategies.

It is true that Chania’s harbor is the most picturesque part of town, and probably for this reason uncontrolled development has taken over, making the place a bit of a mess. Realizing we needed help ferreting out the hidden delights of Chania, we sought professional assistance.

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Dr. Alexandra Ariotti is an Australian born archaeologist and historian. She works all over the world researching, lecturing and digging. She has extensive experience around the Mediterranean and a particular focus on the Middle East. However when she is not working abroad, she calls Chania home. Alexandra hosts fabulous private historic walks, each lasting 2.5 to 3 hours, guiding you through a maze of streets and alleys on routes which reveal the mysteries of Chania’s fascinating history. Alexandra knows the city inside and out. Listening to her weave historical and present day Chania together brings the place alive.

I jotted down some observations from our tour with Alexandra:

• Chania is the second largest city of Crete and until 1971 it also was the capital (today the capital is Heraklion). The old town of Chania is the site of the Minoan settlement the Greeks called Kydonia, Greek for quince.

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• Crete has quite a tumultuous history due to its strategic location in the Mediterranean. Ever since the Byzantine era, the Venetians, the Ottoman, all the way up to the Germans in World War II, fought for and occupied the island. You can see the scars of conflict all around you. Alexandra points out the dividing lines in some of the excavations, where one group co-opted buildings from the past to build on Crete’s evolving urban landscape.

• Walking around town you come across various excavation sites seamlessly woven into the fabric of a neighborhood. Some of them feel a bit neglected, but since everywhere you scratch the surface you stumble across some important archeological find, important ones are simply stabilized, protected and left for future research.

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• We saw many old houses falling apart and in ruins while right next door a house would be beautifully restored and fully occupied. Alexandra explained that in World War II during German occupation, the city was heavily bombed, killing the occupants of the buildings. Ownership is often shared between family members or is murky with the former owner deceased. Without clear ownership or agreement on who can develop the homes, they fall into disrepair and eventually fall down.

• Walking through town while Alexandra points out details dating back to Minoan times is like walking through a mystery novel. All the while locals come and go among the ancient structures seemingly oblivious to the history around them.

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• Walking through the market area where in days past fine Cretan leather products would have been made and sold, we notice that most of what’s on offer is imported. There are exceptions though. We found one obscure shop still making the famous black leather boots worn by men throughout Greece. You have to look hard but there are a few shops that still practice the traditional Cretan crafts.

Having completed our time with Alexandra we had a good overview of the old city and could start navigating on our own. We set out to explore some more. Here are some of the places we found that are worth checking out.

The Archeological
Museum of Chania

The museum is housed in the former Venetian monastery of Saint Francis, a truly wonderful place to explore. The old worn walls in pinkish colors and the 1950’s-era museum cases make for an interesting mix of styles. You can see jewelry, vases, sculptures and coins from the Minoan, Roman and Byzantine times.

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Etz Hayyim Synagogue

We sat down with Dr. Nikos Stavroulakis in the Synagogue’s courtyard, to talk about the buildings long history.

Etz Hayyim Synagogue is the only surviving Jewish monument on the island of Crete. The building goes back to the Venetian period and became a synagogue in the 17th century to serve a vibrant Jewish community living in Chania at the time.

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For about 2,300 years, Jews thrived in Crete, sharing in its history and contributing to the complex local culture throughout the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Andalusian Arab, Venetian and Ottoman periods, until near the end of World War II, when the Cretan Jewish community was, decimated.

In early June 1944, virtually all the Jews in Crete were rounded up and arrested. Together with some 600 Greek and Italian prisoners, the Jews were put on the German merchant ship Tanais and shipped off the island. Tragically, soon after its departure, the Tanais was spotted by the British submarine HMS Vivid and fired on. The Tanais and all on board were lost.

Canea Gift Shop

While wandering around, we happened across the Chania Gift shop. Owner Konstantinos Konstantinidis was born and raised in Chania and after living abroad for many years came back home to start a local business. His idea was to make a gift shop that sells unique products that are designed and made in Greece.

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You will find smartly designed mugs, towels, bags, T-shirts, and notepads: absolutely the best place to get a souvenir to bring home from Crete. I still use my mugs from Konstantinos regularly and remember my time in Chania every time.

Tamam Restaurant

After talking to Konstantinos for a while about his shop and his great products, he invited us to come by his restaurant, Tamam, to meet his partner. Tamam is quite well known for its authentic regional cuisine. And like his shop, at Tamam, Konstantinos’ mission is to support local producers.

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Located one street behind the harbor but still in the hub of the old town, Tamam has been in operation since the 1970s. It is still one of the best places to eat in Chania. There are two indoor seating areas across the street from each other. And in-between, a narrow row of tables where you can sit outside and watch the people passing by. As usual, in high season it will be very, very busy, and off-season a real delight.

The Well of the Turk

Wandering through the back streets of old Chania, we stumbled across the restaurant, The Well of the Turk, and recalled that it has been recommended to us by friends. Located in a quiet neighborhood, it’s a great restaurant serving an eclectic mix of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food.

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House 66

There are many homes for rent in Chania, but we happen to have the inside track on one of the best. This apartment is right in the heart of the old town and owned by an architect husband and wife team living in London. It’s a great place to spend a few days … or much longer. Check the details section below for contact information.

Doma Hotel

A wonderful hotel owned by two fascinating sisters who were born in this house which has been owned by the family for generations. If you are looking to immerse yourself in Chania history this is the place for you.


< More fascinating vacation destinations await. Let’s go.

Details


To book a tour with Dr. Alexandra Ariotti go to;
www.chania-oldtown-walks.gr

To visit the Archeological Museum of Chania, go to 25 Chalidon Street.

For more information about the Etz Hayyim Synagogue go to;
www.etz-hayyim-hania.org

For more information about the Canea Gift Shop go to;
www.facebook.com/caneagiftshop

For more information about Tamam Restaurant go to;
www.facebook.com/tamam

For more information about The Well of the Turk Restaurant go to;
www.welloftheturk.com

To book House 66 in Chania go to;
www.residencechania.com

To book a accommodation at the Doma Hotel go to;
www.hotel-doma.gr

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

Planning a visit to Chania? Here is the current weather and what to expect for the next few days.

Day Light, Blue Nights

Trevose Harbour House: If you have never explored Britain’s South West, there is a place on the coast of Cornwall that is a particular favorite of mine. And it is not surprising because this town has been a magnet for more than a century, attracting notable artists and all manner of spirited individuals to experience the unique combination of light, air and sea.

Before I visited for the first time I recalled reading about the “light of St. Ives” and honestly, when you have not been there it is impossible to imagine. Since I am particularly interested in the work of artists from the St. Ives School, I knew there must be something to the place, but I suspected all the fuss about the light was a little over hyped.

Boy, was I in for a surprise. It is definitely a thing. Some people say it has to do with the relationship between land and sea, with St. Ives being uniquely situated with water on two sides. That makes sense, but after several visits, I still couldn’t tell you what it is. All I can say is there’s a palpable, positive feeling that results from being in St. Ives and I suspect the light has a lot to do with it.

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I have stayed in several places in St. Ives, and each time the experience was somewhat disappointing. Walking up to catch my train back to London on a recent visit a new place caught my eye. It looked promising and I made note of it for next time, the Trevose Harbour House.

On arrival Owners Angela and Olivier were at the door to meet us. Crossing the threshold we immediately felt at home. It was a rainy afternoon and the little lobby containing a cozy living room, small breakfast area and well-appointed honesty bar, was warm and welcoming. The room was light and fresh, decorated in a blue and white color scheme. The fire place was glowing.

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Angela and Olivier immediately engaged us in conversation. The combination of charming hosts and an interior I could easily make my own, gave me the feeling that I was getting reacquainted with old friends. You know your old friend you don’t see very often, but you can just pick up with immediately whenever you see them? That’s the feeling.

It’s clear that Trevose Harbour House is borne of experienced hands. While the place feels casual and new, the service feels more like that of a mature hotel. Both having studied at the famed Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne and subsequently worked for some of Europe’s top hotels, Angela and Olivier live and breathe hospitality. Good service has to be pervasive and invisible at the same time, a difficult balance to maintain. But Angela and Olivier pull it off like pros.

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Trevose Harbour House is only a year old, but back when it was first being considered, it was not certain at all that it would come to fruition in its current location. Olivier tells me that the original plan was to open a small hotel in Brazil. But on reflection the focus moved dramatically northeast, and with a leap of faith, they planted their dream in St. Ives. Everything fell into place when they heard that The Sunshine B&B was up for sale and they decided to have a look. “We knew in a matter of minutes this was the place” says Olivier. And so the plan was complete. With a top-to-bottom renovation Trevose Harbour House was born.

In my opinion it’s the small details that make a place, and Angela’s personal touches are everywhere. She has a clear preference for mid-century furniture, which is quite refreshing in a small seaport town where the vernacular style can get a little tiresome. From antique books and vintage suitcases doubling as night stands to mid-century cherry sideboards combined with sleek new wash basins, Angela has seamlessly combined old and new into her own signature style. I am particularly fond of how she has upholstered vintage chairs with striking patterns from Designers Guild. Great idea.

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Neal’s Yard is a great British natural cosmetic brand, and the house brand for in-room personal care. You will definitely want to buy more after using their products during your stay. Rounding out the room details is the help-your-self tea service. The perfect thing after a day of hitting the surf or relaxing on the beach.

Trevose Harbour House is Your Private lookout on the Changing Light of Beautiful St Ives

As this is a Bed AND Breakfast, you will be glad to know that Olivier is as adept a chef as Angela is an interior designer. For breakfast you are in for a real treat. Olivier prepares the most important meal of the day, mostly with fresh local produce. My favorite is the heavenly home-made muesli and the perfectly fluffy scrambled eggs: yum.

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I heard talk of a Trevose sponsored beehive to come. Can’t wait to try that at a future breakfast. It will go nicely with the house-made jam, on sale to take home as a souvenir.

Along with their two lovely children, the Noverraz family is an integral part of close-knit St. Ives community. As it is with small towns, everyone knows what’s going on, so Angela and Olivier can easily advise you on how to fill your days while in St. Ives. When we visited, we expressed an interest in discovering more about the artists that have made their home in St. Ives. Olivier promptly set us up with a private tour of the Sandra Blow Studio, which was a real treat. Need restaurant reservations or a surf lesson? Angela and Olivier will have great ideas for you.

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On our last afternoon we took advantage of Trevose’s picnic basket service. Olivier prepared scones, sandwiches, salad, coffee and a bottle of chilled Champagne, all packed in a classic wicker picnic basket. We whiled away our last sunny afternoon on a grassy hill near the beach, enjoying the sea and the spectacular changing light that makes St. Ives such a special and a unique place.

Details

If you plan to vista during high season make sure you book early. Personally, I prefer the off-season which is about now. For more information and booking go to; www.trevosehouse.co.uk

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

River Cottage To Table

Having been a fan of the UK TV series set at River Cottage farm, hosted by food advocate Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and without any new shows to watch of late, I came across Hugh’s talk at TED Exeter from a few years ago. One thing Hugh said resonated: “In order to help us connect with food, we should seek food with a story.”

With so many aspects of the world’s food supply in crisis, what’s one person to do? Well with River Cottage farm resturant and on the TV show, Hugh has made a personal appeal for us all to live better, healthier and more sustainably, by each week telling his personal stories about food. And his stories have had real impact. The national awareness towards eating locally and sustainably has never been higher in the UK. And in national and international politics, Hugh has successfully advocated for sensible and sustainable food policies in ways that will reap great benefits for consumers the world over for years to come.

Now, sadly, that the show has ended its run, Hugh has turned River Cottage farm over to the public, enabling us all the opportunity to experience, hands on, all the food stories we enjoyed on TV.

Upon arriving for our day at the farm we were greeted by operations manager Simon. He led us down the garden path, so to speak, as we made our way from the reception through meadows of grazing sheep, beehives, and crisp rows of dew-laden crops. Lambing season was in full swing so bouncing baby lambs hopped and scuttled in all directions as we passed through their domain.

River Cottage Farm and Restaurant in Devon | Bearleader No.29

We sat down in the new dining hall and Simon treated us to some hot-drink hospitality as we learned more about River Cottage farms and resturant’s new mission and mapped out the day’s activities.

First, River Cottage farm was a TV set and laboratory of sorts for Hugh to test his farming, foraging, and husbandry ideas. Now it is a working farm and a modern state-of-the-art culinary school, which spreads Hugh’s message through hands-on instruction one person at a time.

River Cottage Farm and Restaurant in Devon | Bearleader No.29

The facilities are state of the art and quite literally set into the landscape with vast areas of glass along the edge of the classroom. The message is clear, consider not just the food in front of you, but also where it comes from. And in most cases, the food prepared at River Cottage farm and restaurant could have been observed at some point through those windows.

The professional kitchen was buzzing with food production for the classes, and preparations for the soon-to-be-arriving guests. Dining at River Cottage is a great outing. You can visit for lunch or dinner year round. I have often been to restaurants where the term “farm to table” is batted around. Always with justification, but in this case the relationship is so close, sitting at the table while observing the farm is an altogether unique experience.

River Cottage Farm and Restaurant in Devon | Bearleader No.29

The range of classes on offer year round cover an amazing variety of skills and topics: meat cookery, bread making, gardening, food foraging, preserves, making cider and beer, butchery. And for each subject taught in the school there is a corresponding book to remind students of what they learned once they get home. The books are also handy if you cannot make it to the farm: There is still a literary route to the River Cottage experience.

… Hugh has turned River Cottage farm over to the public, enabling us all the opportunity to experience, hands on, all the food stories we enjoyed on TV.

Because I am a bit of a fan of the TV show, getting to explore Hugh’s kitchen was a high point. One thing I learned from Hugh was that, with an old stove and an old table and a warm fireplace, you can make almost anything you want. And seeing Hugh’s old stove, table and original 17th century working fireplace in real life, it all looked even less auspicious than the simple set of tools and appliances where Hugh worked his magic on TV.

River Cottage Farm and Restaurant in Devon | Bearleader No.29

Outside the kitchen window is the wonderful Victorian kitchen garden. It was still early spring when we visited, but you could see light green shoots all around starting to push out of the ground.

Simon explained that it took a few years to get the overgrown, abandoned farm back to where it is today. A farm is a machine for food production, but to work naturally it requires time and strategy. Each crop grows best with a certain set of nutrients which may be generated naturally by the crops grown in that ground previously. And once those nutrients are depleted the crops must be rotated. Getting the order right is the key to a productive yearly harvest. And coming up with ways to prepare food from all the crops in the rotation is the key to productive farming. Some plants have become more popular than others and tend to be over-farmed. But each plant is good if you know how to prepare it.

River Cottage Farm and Restaurant in Devon | Bearleader No.29

We walked by a noisy gaggle of geese dashing for the pond to avoid us, and carefully avoided the chickens roaming freely around the farm, pecking the ground for any tasty morsels they could dig up. We stopped off at the pig pen for a visit with a couple of River Cottage’s heritage breed pigs. Simon politely knocked on their roof and both pigs poked their heads out to greet us. Both curious about the stranger at their door, they quickly warmed up to me, having a chew on my Hunter boots, which I took as a friendly gesture.

In the greenhouses, the first lush and juicy strawberries were starting to ripen. A few more weeks and they will ready to serve. Finally we made our way up a small hill, along a narrow footpath, and emerged in a large meadow covered with bluebells in bloom. What a brilliant mass of deep blue. On the way out we made a final stop at the lambing shed, where the newborn lambs were as curious to see us as their mothers were apprehensive.

River Cottage Farm and Restaurant in Devon | Bearleader No.29

It is a great feeling when everybody and everything works towards a common purpose. And this is how the evolving story of River Cottage is being written every day by the people working on the land, in the kitchen and those plotting a future for this amazing place.

They say it is best to leave a place wanting more. And my departure from River Cottage was with the determination to come back soon.

Details

For information about tours, classes, or dining at River Cottage, go to; www.rivercottage.net

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

Pigging Out—Oink Oink

In our travels we had heard talk of Chef Robin Rea and his establishment the Rusty Pig Ottery St Mary in Devon. So as we made our way around Devon, we could not resist the opportunity to stop in and visit the man himself, to see what all the talk was about.

Arriving in Ottery St Mary we parked in the town center and walked up the eerily quiet Yonder Street looking for Robin. It was not entirely clear that we were on the right path until we stumbled across a sow-themed shop window, complete with faux knives, metaphorically at the ready, to dispatch delicious pork parts to hungry diners everywhere. Ah, this must be the place.

The Rusty Pig Ottery has the feel of being undiscovered. The kind of place you stumble across in an out-of-the-way place and can proclaim to the world, “Look what I have found”. Unfortunately for us, The Rusty Pig Ottery is quite well known in these parts, and much further afield, as attested by his name coming up several times in conversations with strangers. But, as we discovered, through Robin’s relentless pursuit of his passion for food, charcuterie and various other food innovations, quite a unique establishment has developed. Part butcher shop, part restaurant, part lunch counter and local meeting place, Robin has created the perfect spot to work his magic.

As an aside, Robin welcomed us in one of Teresa Green’s silkscreened aprons. A blood red linen one made especially for Robin. Who is Teresa Green? Check out Check out Journal Entry No.28.

Robin’s story is as diverse as the style of his establishment. He started cooking as a teenager. First leaving Ottery St Mary bound for Australia, and then returning to London, eventually ending up at the nearby River Cottage. Finally returning home to Ottery St Mary, he decided to take over his mom’s former 99p store on Yonder Street. After a gut renovation, the Rusty Pig Ottery was born.

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Passionate about pigs, Robin keeps a few of his own, which he “lodges” at a friend’s vegetable farm. They fertilize her gardens and in return she provides the Rusty Pig Ottery with excellent veggies. He is also on a mission to educate people about animal husbandry and how we need to change our farming practices to be healthier and more sustainable. That means more vegetables generally, but better meat when you have it.

At the Rusty Pig you will only get what is in season from Robin’s local purveyors. But in Devon, that is not terribly limiting. With all its lush farmland and adjacency to the sea, it’s a food lover’s paradise. When I took Robin’s portrait in front of his store I momentarily held up traffic as I backed up into the street. As the trucks passed, Robin realized one of them was his seafood supplier and shouted “Hey! Where’s my fish?” He sped off shouting, “be there in two”. How’s that for a purchase order!

Rusty Pig Ottery St Mary in Devon | Bearleader No.30

Wasting food does not sit well with Robin. His roof-top smoker cabinet bears testament to that. He built it himself, to my eye having the approximate proportions of the puppet theaters I remember from childhood. He smokes sausages, hams, but surprisingly, also carrots and any other vegetables he has left over. The smoked carrots are the main ingredients for his home-made ketchup which is just delicious.

… returning home to Ottery St Mary, he decided to take over his mom’s former 99p store on Yonder Street. After a gut renovation, the Rusty Pig Ottery was born.

Sometimes Robin’s drive to not let anything go to waste has driven him to extremes. One of his specialties is blood meringues. For Robin they are part object lesson and part dinner entertainment. Working with a food scientist, Robin found that the protein structure of pig’s blood is virtually identical to that of egg whites. So to illustrate his no-waste message, he now makes beautiful little desert meringues out of pig’s blood. They are slightly beige, and believe me if you were not told otherwise, you would not know the difference between Robin’s blood meringues and their egg-based cousins. “It took a lot of testing”, he says. “You just need to get the sugar level right, or it tastes like you got hit in the mouth”.

Rusty Pig Ottery St Mary in Devon | Bearleader No.30

His real passion is Charcuterie and originally he set out to do exclusively that. But one thing led to another and soon Robin was preparing food for his customers on site, which turned out to be a better business model to support Robin’s constant culinary experiments. And luckily for you and me, you can now enjoy Robin’s extensive talents for breakfast and lunch from Thursday to Saturday. The day we visited, breakfast was already in full swing with locals and urban weekenders, all in for their weekly breakfast treats.

On Robin’s recommendation, we went for the Full English, which I have to say, was my best to date. Seriously, the flavor ensemble was perfect, and it was a food stylist’s dream in a sturdy black skillet with lovely vegetables, simply roasted, with blood pudding, sausages, hash and lovely thick cut of white toast.

Rusty Pig Ottery St Mary in Devon | Bearleader No.30

You would think that someone that is so passionate about charcuterie would be snobbish with vegetarians. Not so with Robin. He very clearly expresses that in this day and age a good chef should be able to cook a main course with whatever is available to them, meat or not. Learning to be improvisational allows you to develop a much more interesting palette of taste. And as with doing anything risky, mistakes happen, which then become the next innovations.

So come hungry and don’t be shy about ordering vegetarian. I was torn as to which I liked best.

Rusty Pig Ottery St Mary in Devon | Bearleader No.30

One of the Rusty Pig Ottery specials is his “dinner on demand”. If you make arrangements ahead of time Robin will prepare an ethically sourced four-course dinner for 40 pounds a head. He can host up to 15 people. Just remember, you need to book way in advance. His dinners are extremely popular and patrons travel from far away for the experience.

I left thinking this guy should be famous, I mean seriously famous. And then I remembered, he is already. It was just a lovely down-to-earth experience chatting with Robin and his team. His charm, wit and enthusiasm for food is something you very rarely see. He has created exactly the kind of place where people from all walks of life like to come and spend time with him and eat.

Go there. All I can say you will love it.

Details

For further details go to; www.rustypig.co.uk

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

Taking the Train Back in Time

When the Bearleader was invited to take a day trip on the Belmond British Pullman train to York, we jumped at the chance. We are avid readers of Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot stories, and to have the chance to briefly step into their fictional world of early-20th-Century travel glamor was too good to pass up. What better way to experience first hand what it would like to go along for the ride in an Agatha Christie novel?

Early in the morning we made our way to Victoria Station, platform No.10 to meet our train. After checking in you are directed to one of eleven coaches, each identified with a sign showing its original name; Audrey, Cygnus, Gwen, Ibis, Ilone, Lucille, Minerva, Perseus, Phoenix, Vera, and Zena. We had a private coupe compartment in Zena, a first-class parlor car with 24 seats. built in 1928 by Metropolitan Cammell Carriage and Wagon Ltd, this carriage was recently used as a location for movie “Agatha” about Agatha Christie.

The train is owned and operated by the Belmond group. Researching the trains I was intrigued to learn about James Sherwood, the man who bought the trains and put them back on the tracks. He made his fortune in shipping and purchased two carriages at auction in Monte Carlo. Everyone thought he was crazy to buy something as useless as a couple of old train cars. After all, isn’t luxury train travel dead? Funny though, the British Airways Concorde has come and gone, but the great British Pullman trains are still chugging along, well frequented and still hugely popular. Belmond offers a variety of excursions and specialty trips (week-long, overnight and day trips) departing from Victoria Station to York, Scotland, Folkstone and Cornwall.

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The carriages are beautifully restored to their original condition. The interior detailing is just gorgeous. And since this kind of craftsmanship is rare in our modern world, being in these old rail cars, you really feel like you have stepped back in time.

The trip is part historic adventure and part fine dining on wheels, which calls for a bit more style than what normally passes for travel attire these days. Dressing up a bit makes sense since many people take this trip as a way of celebrating something, even if it is just a celebration of early train travel. I chatted with some of the other guests to see why they came on this trip. The responses were wide ranging, from anniversaries to birthdays, and a group of school friends celebrating and an engagement. Speaking of engagements, if that is your plan for the trip, the train is equipped with all the necessary props for your proposal. A special pillow for kneeling is on board and ready at a moments notice—in case the mood takes you.

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During the trip I took a walk through all 11 carriages to get an up-close-and-personal look at all the interior details, and to see how the staff managed in cramped and constantly moving quarters. It was quite something to see the staff glide up and down the train with hands full of dishes, always friendly and never a dropped plate. I on the other hand was thankful for the narrow hallways that several times prevented me from taking a spill. Planted firmly back in my lounge chair for dinner, I was amazed how the beautiful table settings also resisted the tendency to move back and forth with the train. Here you come to appreciate the sturdiness of old dishes and silver. Classic style, and with a weightiness to resist motion

And of course we should mention the food. One cannot help but make the comparison with what’s on offer in a modern train: a pack of crisps, a soda and a packaged sandwich if your lucky. No no, This is truly fine dining on wheels. A prix fixe menu drawn from British classic dishes, and of course all the ingredients, british caught, raised or otherwise produced on the Isles. And as you dine, all the while the picturesque English countryside is slowly passing by.

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If there was one thing that really set the stage for our trip back in time, it was the amazing original hand-crafted interiors. All the cars are wood paneled and each uses a different decorative motif, implemented in the paneling with a technique of wood inlay known as “marquetry”. Following our trip we researched this technique further, and discovered that the company that created the original cars is still in operation not far from London.

We couldn’t resist extending our story to include the back story on the interiors. so we made arrangements to meet Sheryl Dunn and her mother, the fifth generation to carry on this traditional craft at the company started by her great grandfather. An hour train ride from London we arrived at a wonderful old building, the home of A. Dunn and Son for the last two generations.

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Sheryl gave us a tour of the operation and demonstrated the various steps in producing marquetry. We learnt that all the intricate pieces of wood are cut with a special hand-saw rig called a “donkey”, that the special shading in the woodwork, so distinctive to marquetry, is produced with the “hot sand” technique, and that decorative panels are glued together with natural glues, the same as has been used for generations. Sheryl showed us that antique panels using natural glues, like the ones in the Pullman trains, can easily be heated and re-pressed to make them virtually like new. More recent work with modern glues is less flexible and once damaged, it is very difficult to restore. This is one example of how the old way is often the best way.

It was Sheryl’s grandfather who did the original work on the Pullman cars we rode in. As Sheryl tells it, when the Pullman cars were ready for restoration, the new owners were cleaning up and by chance happened across a loose receipt for the original marquetry panels. The receipt was from A. Dunn and Son, which led the new owners to put the restoration work back in the hands of the company that made them.

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During our tour Sheryl pointed out a large stack of architectural drawings and casually said: “somewhere in there are the drawings for the Titanic panels. But we don’t know what they look like since no photographs of the interiors were taken prior to the first voyage, so now there is no way to reference them”. Sheryl’s great grandfather did all the marquetry work for the Titanic. The schedule was so tight that there was no time to document the work before the maiden voyage. So that undoubtedly beautiful work was only briefly used, and never to be seen again. At least we can still see work of like quality in daily use by the Belmond British Pullman trains.

On the modern train back to London, with a bag of crisps and a plastic bottle of water in hand, I got a bit nostalgic for the British Pullman trains. Truly a journey through time. We cannot recommend this experience enough. All aboard!

< More fascinating vacation destinations await. Let’s go.

Details


For information and booking visit; www.belmond.com

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

Planning a trip on the Belmond British Pullman train? Here is the current weather and what to expect for the next few days.

Taking Flight in Doddington

Since childhood I have been fascinated by falconeering. In particular, I remember being drawn in by early representations of falconeering in an art book at home, and whiling away the hours thinking about adventures that could be had with a flying companion. The idea of forging a bond with a bird of prey, a wild animal, still intrigues me.

Falconeering at Doddington Place Gardens | Bearleader No.19

Evidence suggests that the art of Falconeering may have begun in Mesopotamia around 2000 BC. The man responsible for bringing the practice to Europe was the Roman Emperor, Frederick II of Hohenstaufen (1194-1250). He reportedly would have come in contact with Arabic falconeering through his connections with Tunisia’s Hafsid rulers. And upon obtaining a copy of an 8th century treatise on falconeering, he had it translated into Latin, and this resulted in the first manual for falconeering in Europe.

Historically, falconeering was not only a practical means of hunting prey too quick to capture by other means, but a popular sport. The ownership of certain kinds of birds was an important status symbol among the nobles of medieval Europe. Strict rules dictated what kind of bird you could own according to your station in life.

Falconeering at Doddington Place Gardens | Bearleader No.19

Birds of prey had such importance that they occupied a special place at the table during nightly feasts. With the rise of firearms in the 18th and 19th centuries, falconeering gradually faded from wide use. Only recently has the public become interested again in the practice, due in large part to the success of the Harry Potter novels.

Evidence suggests that the art of Falconeering may have begun in Mesopotamia around 2000 BC. The man responsible for bringing the practice to Europe was the Roman Emperor, Frederick II of Hohenstaufen

Although it’s an ancient practice, falconeering has changed little over time. The key equipment required is virtually identical to what would have been familiar back in the 8th century; the hood that keeps the birds calm, the glove and the bell leather jesses. Only a modern radio transmitter has been added to the kit of tools for the modern falconer to help chase down errant birds.

Falconeering at Doddington Place Gardens | Bearleader No.19

Modern falconeering is mostly on view to the public in sideshows for tourists at old castles. This usually involves bad actors in cheap Halloween store costumes, trying to get you into the spirit of medieval life; not interesting in the least.

So I began a search for a place where an amateur could truly participate in the sport. I was thrilled to come across The Hawking Centre in Doddington Place Gardens, Kent.

Falconeering at Doddington Place Gardens | Bearleader No.19

The gardens alone at Doddington Place are wonderful. If you come with your family and not everybody is into falconeering, there is plenty to keep you occupied in the garden. The immense clipped yew hedges are worth a look. Left to grow unchecked during World War II, then owner John Oldfield decided he liked them better in their over-grown state, and now they are famous for their naturalist expression. They remind me of giant ground-dwelling clouds.

For this trip we took the train from Central London, leaving from Victoria station. We brought our bikes along for the four-mile ride from Teynham station to Doddington Place Gardens.

Falconeering at Doddington Place Gardens | Bearleader No.19

Arriving on time, we joined in with the group; all from different walks of life but with our falconeering interest in common. It was a gorgeous sunny Spring morning when proprietor and head falconer Leigh Holmes arrived to give us a quick run down on what he had planned for our day. Leigh introduced us to his team; Laura, Katie, young apprentice Lewes and Jo his wife, who runs the wonderful tearoom.

Leigh started working with birds as a teenager and has never looked back. His dream to bring falconeering to a wider public really shows in his enthusiasm for the sport. His young son Edward joined in on the activities periodically, in between romps in the garden. He is already an accomplished falconer, following in dad’s footsteps.

Falconeering at Doddington Place Gardens | Bearleader No.19

First Laura brought out Maggie the vulture and divided us into two groups. We took turns wearing the baited glove to attract Maggie’s attention. Whoever was wearing the glove in the opposite group, Maggie flew to. Back and forth from group to group, landing on whoever had the glove with some food. It was a bit like tennis; back and forth, back and forth. We each had a turn.

Vultures are not really trained for falconry, but seeing a full-grown vulture up close was a real treat. It was interesting to learn that vulture’s feet are rather weak, but they have very strong necks, the opposite of a bird of prey. Since they live off animals that are already dead they don’t need to hunt so they have evolved different strengths to suite.

Falconeering at Doddington Place Gardens | Bearleader No.19

Then a quick tour through where the birds are housed. The care and maintenance of the birds is a lot of work, the most important aspect of which is their weight control. The birds need to be the right weight in order to want to fly and look for food. If a bird is too skinny it will not be able to fly. If it weighs too much it will not be interested in flying. So in order to get the right balance, each bird is weighed regularly to decide which ones are ready to fly each day. Also, each variety of bird has a different optimal weight. The constant care required to keep these birds healthy and performing well is what makes for such a close bond between bird and owner. It takes a special kind of personality to commit to caring for these beautiful, valuable and high-maintenance creatures.

In talking to the handlers, they all developed a passion for their birds quite young. And all said the same thing about their first encounter with falconry, they knew in an instant that they wanted to work with birds of prey. It was love at first sight.

Falconeering at Doddington Place Gardens | Bearleader No.19

Next Laura took us on a walk around the wonderful Doddington gardens with one of the falcons. Again, we walked in two groups with the falcon flying between the groups, each time searching out the one wearing the baited glove.

Falconeering at Doddington Place Gardens | Bearleader No.19

I have to admit that I found the experience quite enthralling. The first time the falcon flew towards me and landed on my hand I had a split second thought, “oh boy, what have I gotten myself into now?” but then I remembered that Leigh said not show fear because they can sense it and will challenge you. So I relaxed and went with it … bird safely in hand.

Arriving back at the tearoom Jo and her helpers had prepared a lovely lunch for us with sandwiches, tea and cakes. All homemade and delicious.

Falconeering at Doddington Place Gardens | Bearleader No.19

After a good break we gathered in the gardens and Laura took us on a walk around the whole estate with one of the falcons named Jojo. As we walked through grazing sheep and lambs, and past the occasional horse, the falcon would fly ahead and perch in a tree. Then on seeing one of us with the baited gloved, she would swoop down onto the glove to feed. This falcon had quite a mischievous personality. She would often swoop down, flying so low as to just clip one of us with her wings on her way to the glove. Testing us all, I presume, to see whom the weak ones were.

Next we made our way back for the big finale, Margo the eagle. We headed out to the large meadow and Margo took off. First we thought she might head off for a long high glide on the stiff breeze. But instead she flew to the middle of the field, stood there with wings spread, just letting the wind blow through her feathers.

Falconeering at Doddington Place Gardens | Bearleader No.19

She is only seven month old and when she lands on your hand you can see that she is a bit like a puppy, not very certain of her skills yet and rather playful. She weighs 11 pounds so you need to summon all your strength to hold her until she takes off again to take food from another of your fellow participants across the field.

That was really the highlight of the day, and the perfect ending to a wonderful excursion to Doddington Place Gardens.

Back on our bikes, we rode to Teynham station, for the short trip back to London.

Details

The Hawking Center is in operation from the 30th of March through the 30th of September. But check the website for the latest information and for directions to Doddington Gardens; www.thehawkingcentre.co.uk

For a more in depth experience you may be interested in the five day course.

For more information about Doddington Place gardens, check out; www.doddingtonplacegardens.co.uk

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

High Altitude Greek Cooking

“Forget gourmet, discover gastronomy“ is the mantra of our hosts Fanis, Vagelis and Andonis. And they wear their message proudly. It’s the first thing we saw when they greeted us for our Natour Labs Cretan Cooking Class in the village of Milia Crete at the Milia Mountain Retreat, the words were emblazoned on their T-shirts.

I heard about these three ambassadors of Greek culture during a stay at Hotel Ammos. I contacted Andonis to learn more, and he graciously invited me to join the group for one of their Tuesday cooking courses.

The trip to Milia Crete is a story in itself. Traveling from the warm beaches of Chania to the top of the mountains takes less than an hour. The road is steep and quite rudimentary, with many stretches built with just one lane. For the uninitiated, driving up this road can be quite nerve wracking. But once you learn that what the roads lack in width, the drivers make up for in friendly cooperation, it all seems quite adequate. The caution necessary to transverse the route guarantees a slow and gentle ascent with ample time to take in the breathtaking views.

Milia Crete: High Altitude Greek Cooking | Bearleader No.20

On arrival at the Milia Crete turn off, the road narrows even more and becomes gravel, more a path than a road.

The difficulty in accessing Milia Crete is in fact by design. In the past, the route to Milia would have been invisible to anyone not belonging there. Also, the hidden nature of the village has provided shelter and security during many wars and sieges and it kept the self-sustained villagers safe and fed while they waited for treacherous events to pass. Its obscurity was its main defense and the reason that today you can walk into approximately the same village you might have visited in the 17th century.

Milia Crete: High Altitude Greek Cooking | Bearleader No.20

In the ‘70s, with the infrastructure of the village crumbling, the father-in-law of Tasos, the current owner, decided to save the village and turn it into an eco lodge with a restaurant open to the public. Every Tuesday, this is the home of Natour Labs Cretan Cooking Class. The beautiful stone houses of the village have been restored and outfitted as guest accommodations, with fire places inside, and hammocks outside perfect for reading in the afternoon sun to the occasional sound of bells from goats wandering the surrounding hills.

Milia Crete: High Altitude Greek Cooking | Bearleader No.20

On the day of my visit, a varied group showed up hailing from New York, London, Paris and Greece. Our youngest cooking participant, who came with mom and dad from London, was just short of two years old! Tasos pitched in with child-minding duty and kept the little girl entertained with visits to see the piglets raised on the premises.

Milia Crete: High Altitude Greek Cooking | Bearleader No.20

The island of Crete is rich in agriculture. A diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables has amply fed the islanders for many centuries. Locals were healthy and lived long active lives. Many studies talk about the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. However in Crete, as in most countries, modern industrialized food has taken over. Imported foods abundant in carbohydrates and sugar dominate in the local grocery stores, as a result, the Cretans now suffer from an obesity epidemic. I can provide a first-hand account of this as I have been coming to Greece since I was a teenager. Years ago it was rare to see anyone overweight, but on my recent visit it was shocking to see XXXL shops prominently advertised on the main thoroughfare.

Milia Crete: High Altitude Greek Cooking | Bearleader No.20

The mission of Natour Lab is to remind fellow Cretans (and visitors) about the traditional way of cooking and eating, encouraging a return to the practice of cooking with simple fresh ingredients, in season, and from local sources. At Natour Lab in most cases right from the Milia Crete. It’s a message beginning to be heard wherever you travel these days, and one championed by an ever-increasing chorus of voices advocating a more sustainable way of living.

Milia Crete: High Altitude Greek Cooking | Bearleader No.20

The take away from the course was that with few ingredients and little time you can create the most wonderful dishes. Our three-course meal illustrated it. First, was a starter of local mountain cheese and tomatoes on crostini followed by a wonderful tomato and peach soup. Peaches and tomatoes go together naturally, we were taught, as do braised lamb and a honey dish with potatoes and courgette (which is zucchini if you live in the US or Australia).

Milia Crete: High Altitude Greek Cooking | Bearleader No.20

Bread was made fresh that morning in a wood-fired bread oven. Delicious! A high light for us all were the cookies that we made from a simple dough of flour, olive oil, honey, and cinnamon. Repurposing a countertop sausage machine, the dough was extruded into delicate shapes. This resulted in a rustic “shortbread” cookie, just as good as the original, but with no sugar or butter.

The difficulty in accessing Milia Crete is in fact by design. In the past, the route to Milia would have been invisible to anyone not belonging there.

As is usually the case when a group of strangers are thrust into a room together, it begins with a “warming up” period! And as the class was conducted in English with most in our group speaking other languages, we had additional communication hurdles to overcome. But once we all started chopping and mixing, barriers quickly melted away. By late afternoon, we were all seated around a communal table in conversation, eating and drinking the fruits of our labor, wishing we could linger into the evening.

Milia Crete: High Altitude Greek Cooking | Bearleader No.20

Check Natour Lab’s website to see what is being offered during your visit to Milia Crete. They also offer a variety of specialized experiences, including bee keeping, and hiking excursions throughout Crete. You can arrange private classes and tours to suit your schedule.

Some of the more challenging hikes require proper equipment. So if you are interested in those activities, enquire before you arrive, and get advice on what equipment to bring.

Details

For more information about Natour Lab; www.natour-lab.gr

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

A Few of My Favorite Things

… Cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudels
Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things.

Did Oscar Hammerstein and Richard Rodgers think schnitzel and noodles belonged together? Or did it just work out better in the phrasing. In any case, when in Austria, it is not noodles but potato or cucumber salad served with Schnitzel. And if you have a craving for it, you won’t find a better version of traditional Austrian Schnitzel than at Vienna restaurant Skopik and Lohn. On a recent visit I headed over to talk with co-owners Chef Horst Scheuer and wife Connie about food, their restaurant and Austrian cuisine.

Skopik and Lohn opened in 2006, but not where it was originally planned. But for a twist of fate, it might now be located on Orchard Street in New York. But as often happens in the volatile New York restaurant scene, the “money” backed out at the last minute. On re-evaluation, the best location for the project turned out to be 4,226 miles east, at Leopoldsgasse 17, Vienna.

No.16 | Skopik and Lohn, A Few of My Favorite Things

Taking over the space of a former Gasthaus called Platzwirt, Skopik and Lohn opened in the Karmeliterviertel district, the old Jewish quarter of pre-war Vienna. The neighborhood has seen steady gentrification in recent years with a younger generation taking over and occupying the old infrastructure. It’s a diverse, dynamic neighborhood, quite mad at times but built on a solid traditional foundation. Now if you walk along Leopoldstrasse, which runs throughout the district center, you will find all manner of innovative new ventures with restaurants a-plenty to choose from. You could say the same of New York’s Lower East Side. So it is natural that Skopik and Lohn would have landed here.

No.16 | Skopik and Lohn, A Few of My Favorite Things

Skopik and Lohn’s decor does not stray too far from the traditional Gasthaus style. In fact it is in large part unchanged from its previous owner, much like the best Gastropubs in London, where old venues are bought and restored by a new generation of chefs, bringing a modern twist to old establishments. However there is one decorative element unique to Skopik and Lohn. It’s quite simple, but a stroke of genius, and boldly stakes the new owners claim to the space. With his characteristic low key style, Horst asked Artist Otto Zitko to “have a go” at the ceiling. This takes doodling to a whole new level.

The lighting is also something to remember. Small paper bags each outfitted with a tea light make for a very special ambience in the dining room and, weather permitting, outdoors. If you happen to be in Vienna in the summer or early fall, ask to sit in the “Schanigarten”, Viennese slang for the outdoor seating area: so nice when the weather is good.

No.16 | Skopik and Lohn, A Few of My Favorite Things

Staff are all outfitted in traditional white coat attire. It reminds you of the way waiters used to dress in formal establishments and is another subtle nod to the historical underpinnings of the space.

You really don’t want to debate Schnitzel with a local. You will find as many opinions as there are people willing to express them. My personal opinion is: you like what you are used to. When I was growing up, Wiener Schnitzel was most often prepared at home by your mother, grandmother or an aunt, and you got used to that preparation. So now whatever tastes like that, is the “best” Schnitzel.

No.16 | Skopik and Lohn, A Few of My Favorite Things

For the uninitiated, Schnitzel is a cut of meat tenderized by pounding and then breaded and fried. I find that in many Viennese restaurants, the dish suffers from an effort to make the meat larger than the plate. It is unruly, and this quest for size does nothing for the flavor or texture of the dish. It just gets cold faster. This is Schnitzel for tourists, and is more useful as a Facebook post than as something to eat.

… there is one decorative element unique to Skopik and Lohn … Horst asked Artist Otto Zitko to “have a go” at the ceiling. This takes doodling to a whole new level.

I prefer Horst’s, the more subtle and contemporary presentation, cut in half and served in two pieces – an old-school full-lard preparation. The old way is the right way – in my opinion. Horst told me a few other tricks he uses, but swore me to secrecy. Between you and me though, I think he will probably tell you if you ask nicely.

No.16 | Skopik and Lohn, A Few of My Favorite Things

Schnitzel not your thing? There are lots of other dishes, all new takes on traditional Austrian favorites. I also sampled the salmon with avocado and cherry tomatoes, the calf cheeks with lavage puree, and the young salmon with pea puree and amaranth.

You may be curious about the name Skopik and Lohn. This goes to heart of Horst’s life-long love of food and his dedication to tradition and modernity in equal measure. Horst grew up in Lower Austria. In fact his parents operated a local restaurant. Nearby was an eatery, as Horst tells it, way ahead of its time. That restaurant was the work of Josef Skopik and greatly influenced Horst in his early years. It was distinguished by the fact that it contained an American style bowling alley – a strange combination that is documented in a great black and white photograph in the restaurant.

No.16 | Skopik and Lohn, A Few of My Favorite Things

Upon moving to Vienna, Horst became acquainted with restaurateur and raconteur Michi Lohn, a mainstay of the Viennese art scene. For years he famously hosted a weekly gathering of artists and eccentrics called Kunstlabor Stammtisch (Art Laboratory Roundtable). Skopik & Lohn can be seen as the amalgamation of Horst’s experiences with these distinctive characters in local lore.

When you are done with your meal don’t rush off. It is traditional to enjoy an espresso or final small glass of wine (say “ein achterl weisswein bitte”) at the bar on your way out. A great start to exploring Vienna by night.

Details

Opening hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 6pm-1am. www.skopikundlohn.at

For more information on Artist Otto Zitko; www.ottozitko.com

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

Tracing the Secret Tyburn River

Upon moving to London a few years back, I stacked up on local literature about what to do and where to go around town. Being in a city so rich in history, it seems you could never run out of places to go and stories to explore. One of my favorites is a book by Andrew Duncan entitled “Secret London”. I contacted Andrew to see if we could meet and talk about his perspective on this old, old city, and to help me track down one of London’s lost waterways, the Tyburn River.

Andrew is part of an informal group of history buffs and walking aficionados that meet regularly to explore the city. An Oxford-educated historian, Andrew lives in Barnes, near the Thames, itself adjacent to three significant points of interest: Hammersmith, the home of William Morris; Fulham, the ancient Palace of the Bishops; and right by the offices of noted English Architect Richard Rogers, part of the group of post-war architects whose work came to be known for their Hi-Tech style. See, you can’t take a step in London without landing on multiple stories.

Although it’s a closed group, Andrew was kind enough to invite me along on one of their excursions.

Secret London is a handy guide to help you “scratch the surface” as you walk around the city. It highlights things like the peculiar system of land ownership which has, in large part, formed the urban structure, or the gentlemen’s club culture you see in films and read about in literature – such as in Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days – this club culture is still very much a part of modern London. And it contains a multitude of other odd and amazing stories that will make your wanderings that much more interesting.

London's Secret Tyburn River Walk | Bearleader No.17

Even places you may think you are familiar with might surprise you. I find that mapping out a fixed itinerary based on a theme forces you to move through the city along a path you would not normally follow. And by doing this you encounter new things. So, inspired by Andrew’s Secret London, I followed his Tyburn River Walk.

Now, what’s interesting about this walk is that it winds through parts of Central London that everyone knows. And, like most people, I’ve been to these places many times. But by rigidly following this Tyburn River route you end up on unfamiliar streets for most of the walk.

The walk tracing the Tyburn River is about 5.5 km (3.5 miles) and takes about 2.5 hours. There are lots of stops along the way and things to gawk at, so the pace is very relaxed. I walked it twice, once on a Sunday, which was very quiet with some shops closed. And again during the week, which was more crowded, but with a lot of shopping to a take advantage of along the way.

If possible time your start 3 hours before low tide so you can see the Tyburn outlet at the Thames. At high tide it is completely under water.

So, get your book out, and let’s get going …

Since Secret London covers the history in depth, I will just be giving an overview of the route, and pointing out some of the high points from my walk.

The Tyburn (boundary) River, descends Haverstock Hill near Hampstead in North West London. It then makes its way south through Swiss Cottage and is believed to cross the Regents Canal, entering Regents Park and going under Baker Street near the Baker Street Tube station, where you will start your walk.

From Baker Street Station, head down through Marylebone and over Oxford Street, formerly known as Tyborn Road.

Grays Antiques Market claims that the Tyburn River runs through its basement. And they have stocked their little piece of the Tyburn with a nice collection of Koi.

Stop for a game of ping pong in Paddington Street Garden and then, if it’s Sunday, stop for snacks and drinks in the farmers market just outside the park.

London's Secret Tyburn River Walk | Bearleader No.17

On Marylebone Lane, just before you get to a fork in the road and the river divides, visit the fabulous VV. Rouleaux Trimming place.

London's Secret Tyburn River Walk | Bearleader No.17

Continue across Wigmore Street. On the south side of the street you will walk by Work Shop Coffee. They take coffee seriously here and it is worth a stop. The pastries and sandwiches are also fresh and yummy.

London's Secret Tyburn River Walk | Bearleader No.17

From Oxford Street walk through Mayfair, then through Green Park and past Buckingham Palace and the Queens Gallery.

Stop in at Shepherds, specializing in binding and book restoration. They always have a good selection of great antique books on offer.

London's Secret Tyburn River Walk | Bearleader No.17

Grays Antiques Market claims that the Tyburn River runs through its basement. And they have stocked their little piece of the Tyburn with a nice collection of Koi. This is the only time you may actually see the river on the walk so it’s worth stopping in to say you saw it.

London's Secret Tyburn River Walk | Bearleader No.17

Head over to Victoria Station, down through Pimlico, finally ending at Tyburn House on the Thames.

London's Secret Tyburn River Walk | Bearleader No.17

Don’t forget to walk over the bridge to the opposite side of the Thames so you can see the outlet of the Tyburn. And that is the end of the trip. Big thanks to Andrew for giving us a fascinating trip into the past, walking throughout modern London.

Details

Secret London is available at www.amazon.com

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

Time-honored, Locally Sourced

Crossing the threshold of E Smith Mercantile, it is immediately apparent that this is not your everyday modern store. Curiosities, locally sourced goods and traditional products that you just don’t see anymore. Part museum, part general store, part saloon: for an Austrian kid who grew up reading about cowboys and indians, this is how I pictured the general store.

The authenticity comes honestly. Inspired by their grandparents, Elmer and Mary Smith, who lived in a small gold-mining town at the edge of the Sawtooth mountains in Southern Idaho, Kate and her two daughters, Sarah and Jessie, built a brand-new shopping experience that rests gently on the past but points clearly toward the future. Once popular products that have long disappeared from modern shops are brought back to prominent display. And new products with a traditional ethos are promoted for their local sourcing and sustainable manufacturing. Old and new are presented on an equal footing and the balance is spot on.

E Smith Mercantile Seattle, Washington | Bearleader No.12

The ease with which their product range fits together is no surprise once you spend some time talking with Sarah, Kate and Jessie. As a family, they truly exude the relaxed charm and freshness that the store expresses.

E Smith Mercantile is truly a “general” store with interesting offerings in a range of product categories. And like any general store worth its salt, it also offers an interesting range of local edible goods and beverages. Just past the merchandise you will find yourself greeted by bartender Jessie at a wonderfully crafted “U” shaped bar. At four o’ clock the bar is open, along with a tiny well-organized kitchen which prepares small dishes of locally sourced food. Have a seat and you will find yourself in the company of locals and like-minded patrons for good conversation, food and cocktails, all made with local ingredients … of course.

I tried a few things, and heartily recommend all of them.

First, the house-made Ricotta with oven-roasted tomatoes on rosemary nut toast seasoned with E Smith Mercantile’s own salt. All served on vintage plates and glasses. Delicious.

E Smith Mercantile Seattle, Washington | Bearleader No.12

Second, the “Peg Leg Annie”. As Kate tells it, her real name was Annie Morrow, quite the woman. She set out one night in May, 1896, with her girlfriend “Dutch Em” from the town of Atlanta, Idaho, to the town of Rocky Bar. They got caught in a blizzard and lost their way. Dutch Em froze to death and Annie’s feet were amputated due to the frost bite. Alas, the name Peg Leg Annie. The drink is a chilly concoction of black-pepper vodka, Framboise and lemon.

E Smith Mercantile is truly a “general” … And like any general store worth its salt, it also offers an interesting range of local edible goods and beverages.

Then, vodka infused with pine. Refreshing and unique.

E Smith Mercantile Seattle, Washington | Bearleader No.12

Finally, Jessie whipped me up a “Cure-All” (no story needed for this one) containing Horehound infused bourbon with Cheery Heering liqueur and orange. It puts some steel in your spine.

As we sample drinks and culinary delights, the Pooles describe to me their heartfelt belief that people yearn to reconnect with things made by people they know in their local community. And they want a place to have real conversations without music so loud you cannot hear a word their neighbor is saying. So simple, and I couldn’t agree more. It’s time for this.

E Smith Mercantile Seattle, Washington | Bearleader No.12

I am looking forward to my next step back in time at E Smith Mercantile to see what new things they have cooked up. Also, if you are lucky, your visit may coincide with one of E Smith Mercantile’s hosted dinners, each time with a different local guest chef. Look for an announcement on their website. It will make for a totally unique experience, and a lovely story to take home from your visit to Seattle.

Details

Store hours – Monday through Saturday 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, Sunday 12 noon to 5:00 pm. Back Bar hours – Tuesday through Saturday 4:00 pm to Close. But please check the E Smith Mercantile
Journal or Facebook page for any changes to the published hours.

Contact: 208 First Avenue South, Seattle, WA 98104
Tel: 206 641 7250, E-Mail: info@esmithmercantile.com
www.esmithmercantile.com

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

Foraging for Food

As I put pen to paper to recall my foraging expereince, I am just around the corner from the former St. Vincent hospital in New York where, in November 1953 at the age of 39, the Welsh Poet Dylan Thomas passed away. Along with Richard Burton, he is one of the most well-known sons of Wales.

On December 14, 1944, nine years before Thomas’ legendary drinking got the better of him, he recorded a reading for the BBC of a wonderfully lyrical description he wrote of the quaint village of New Quay on the south coast of Wales where he was in residence at the time.

“Who lived in these cottages? I was a stranger to the sea town, fresh or stale from the city where I worked for my bread and butter wishing it were Laver-bread and country salty butter yolk-yellow Fishermen certainly; no painters but of boats: no man-dressed women with shooting-sticks and sketch-books and voices like macaws to paint the reluctant heads of critical and sturdy natives who posed by the pint against the chapel-dark sea which would be made more blue than the bay of Naples, though shallower.”

Foraging for Food in Wales | Bearleader No.7

Reading Thomas’ words now transports me to my recent trip to the very spot where those words were recorded, and my first hearing of the term “laver-bread” (pronounced LAW-ver). I was on my way to a small patch of Welsh coast known as Fresh Water West, to meet chef and expert at seaside foraging, Jonathan Williams.

When I contacted Jonathan about foraging for food with him, I had no idea what to expect. I arrived at the beach early in the morning at low tide according to Jonathan’s instructions. The beach and surrounding area is part of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. If you are a fan of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, you will have seen Fresh Water West. The shell cottage was located right on this extraordinarily wide beach where I now stood.

Foraging for Food in Wales | Bearleader No.7

Jonathan’s Cafe Mor (mor means “sea” in Welsh) at Fresh Water West is open daily during the summer season from May to mid-September. They serve fresh food, mostly sourced locally, and a range of packaged goods under Jonathan’s brand, Pembrokeshire Beach Food Company.

Fresh Water West is a nature reserve so no fixed structures are allowed in the park. Cafe Mor, therefore, is on wheels arriving in tow early each morning.

I ventured out onto the beach and across the tidal pools with Jonathan, on his daily harvest. Rocky outcrops divide the vast areas of flat sandy beach, with grass-covered dunes behind. On the day of my visit, the sky mirrored the landscape with spacious blue interrupted regularly by fluffy clouds drifting by making for a dramatic and constantly evolving light show.

This stretch of beach is perfect for foraging, an edible feast of seaweed. Jonathan took me through the different habitats, each with its own characteristic seaweed species. Some of the varieties we sampled were Sea Spaghetti, Sea Moss-Caragheen, Dulse and Laver-bread or Bara lawr, as it is called in Welsh. If you’ve had Sushi, you have had Laver-bread. In Japan seaweed is washed, dried and flattened into sheets called Nori. Laver-bread in Wales is prepared in a very different and much moister form.

When I contacted Jonathan about foraging for food with him, I had no idea what to expect. I arrived at the beach early in the morning at low tide according to Jonathan’s instructions.

In fact just behind where Jonathan forages, you can see one of the original seaweed drying huts. It has been restored by the national trust as a reminder of this important local food source in the history of Wales. At the height of the local Laver-bread industry, there were as many as 20 huts along the beach, each one maintained by a local family from the nearby town of Angle. Seaweed harvesting was a thriving cottage industry in the area throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, and was still in operation as recently as 1950.

Foraging for Food in Wales | Bearleader No.7

The first recorded Laver-bread description was written by William Camden in his work, Britannia. There he vividly describes the springtime harvesting of Laver-bread at the beach of Eglwys Abernon, dating back to 1607. In 1862 we find another mention, from the writer George Borrow, who wrote in Wild Wales, that he ate “moor mutton” with piping hot Laver sauce. In recent years Laver-bread seems to have fallen from favor, but with renewed interest in the reviving of old customs and traditions it is coming back and can now be found on the menus of some of the more interesting UK restaurants.

One person described Laver-bread to me as the Welshman’s caviar. It is black, salty and has a very distinct taste, but that’s about as far as it goes. So how do you eat Laver-bread? Typically the raw seaweed is boiled for about 40 minutes until it breaks down. Then it is layered out to drain away all the excess moisture. It is served as a side dish in a kind of stewed or fried form with many local foods such as cockles, sausage, or bacon and eggs, which makes for a very hearty breakfast. Laver-bread is exceptionally healthy, containing iron, iodine and over 50 vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, C and D as well as some B-Complex. Laver-bread was a dietary staple for hard-working miners who would take it with them into the pit for flavor and energy.

At the lowest tide, the rocks furthest out are revealed. And this is where you find some of the most interesting seaweed delicacies. Wading around in water up to our knees, Jonathan pointed out a variety called Dulse, and picked a sample for me to try. He handed me a bunch of small purple colored fronds and asked me, “What it taste like”. It was familiar, but when you are eating raw seaweed while standing in a big puddle it is hard to put the flavor in context. When Jonathan said, “It is also called the truffle of the sea,” it clicked. It really does taste just like truffles with a touch of pepper and, as it grows marinating in salt water half of every day and night, it really is pre-seasoned to perfection. It’s delicious.

Foraging for Food in Wales | Bearleader No.7

Jonathan opened my eyes to the great variety of flavors growing in the tides. Eating sushi, I had never really noticed the taste of Nori. It seemed more of an edible container rather than an actual food itself. Now I see it in a whole different light. The different seaweeds Jonathan showed me were all amazingly flavorful, with distinct and, surprisingly, non-“seaweedy” flavors.

We foraged for about two hours, taking in the natural environment and tasting as we walked. It’s a totally unique and delightful experience. You can arrange a foraging excursion with Jonathan via his website (http://www.cafemor.co.uk/index.php). He will show you some amazing things the sea has to offer, tell great stories … and provide a picnic to boot.

A note of caution: It is prohibited to forage on your own. You need a license, and expertise, to ensure that the seaweed is harvested in a way that keeps it growing for future generations. Jonathan is an accomplished forager and licensed to harvest.

After our trek through the tidal pools, Jonathan prepared one of Cafe Mor’s signature dishes, a seashore wrap: pan-fried flatbread with Pembrokeshire bacon, cockle and laver-bread mixed with egg and cream—absolutely delicious! And it was packed with enough energy to fuel a long walk along the dunes to enjoy the rest of the wonderful scenic views.

Foraging for Food in Wales | Bearleader No.7

As the tide came in, the beach grew smaller and smaller and the rocks slowly disappeared, immersing all that seaweed in the swirling waves to grow again for another harvest.

Details

Foraging: Jonathan runs both scheduled and private foraging trips. Check the Website for scheduled times and be sure to book early, the groups fill up fast. Costs start from: £25 per adult, £10 per child (Under 12’s), Free for kids 5 years or under. Email Jonathan directly to arrange a private foraging event.

Cafe Mor at Fresh Water West: Opening times follow the parks schedule. And be aware that times may vary from day to day. So its best to check their Twitter feed for the latest.

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

Good & Proper

In 2012, Good and Proper Tea founder Emilie Holmes decided to take off her corporate advertising hat and don a trader’s apron, bringing her obsession for tea to the people of London and beyond.

Leaving a successful career at Ogilvy & Mather, Emilie had a vision for tea done right. She parlayed her corporate advertising savvy into establishing a new “classic” brand that restores quality and craft to this quintessential component of British culture. She bought herself a stylish 1974 Citroen H van, had it fitted out for the tea trade, and opened her side window to London’s tea lovers. And the people of London are better for it. Emilie makes a mean cuppa.

Good and Proper Tea first caught my eye while exploring around the King’s Cross area in late summer. I stopped by for a tea and a short chat with Emilie. Both tea and conversation were pleasant and stimulating.

Knowing that Good and Proper Tea also traded south of the river at Brockley Market, a few weeks later I headed over to enjoy another tea, try out the crumpets, and to have a closer look at this quaint neighborhood market.

Good and Proper Tea at Brockley Market | No.9

Arriving early, the market was in full set-up mode. The locals were out in force ready for a quick breakfast and to stock up on groceries for the week.

I went for the Good and Proper Tea “Golden Tips” brew. And to accompany my tea, the “Posh Crumpet” …

Brockley has a nice nostalgic feel tempered by a bevy of hipster handcrafted food offerings. A good mix of meat, vegetables, bread and flowers are on offer as well as some specialties. The game meat purveyor and raw milk concession caught my eye. I’m going to try out those guys on my next visit. Interspersed amongst the food suppliers is a good variety of street food vendors. You will, without a doubt, find something there to suit your cravings.

Good and Proper Tea at Brockley Market | No.9

Even before opening, Emilie’s operation was in full swing, her array of special “steep” timers counting down the seconds to pure tea happiness. Customers and traders alike had started to queue. There was no shortage of self-proclaimed “tea snobs” in line for tea steeped to perfection.

I went for the Good and Proper Tea “Golden Tips” brew. And to accompany my tea, the “Posh Crumpet”, a lovely breakfast treat of salmon, cream cheese, and cheese piled high on a square crumpet – sort of a sister snack to the Manhattan classic, coffee and a bagel with lox and cream cheese. Communal tables and benches are dispersed around the market making for a fun place to mingle and strike up conversations with the locals.

Good and Proper Tea at Brockley Market | No.9

Emilie now provides her loose teas beautifully packaged for home brewing. You just need to supply your own timer. It’s a perfect souvenir of modern British culture, looking forwards and backward in equal measure. Take some home and share the experience with friends and family.

Looking for an authentic London experience? This Saturday-morning outing fits the bill.

Details

You will find Emilie and her spiffy Citroen on Saturdays at Brockley Market, or on weekdays at Kings Cross. Follow Good and Proper Tea on Twitter or Facebook.

www.goodandpropertea.com

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

Morning Surf—Afternoon Tea

I got the chance to visit St. Ives, Cornwall, at the end of September. It seemed a bit late in the season for a beach-town visit but sometimes you have to say “why not?”… What I found was blue skies, quiet streets, wide open beaches, and tables readily available at the best restaurants.

On Sunday night I boarded the Night Riviera train at Paddington Station. I booked a sleeping compartment imagining I was in a Miss Marple story. I arrived early the next morning rested, and fortunately, no one had come to a mysterious end during the night.

After dropping off my bags at Trevose Guest House with owners Angela and Oli Noverraz, I headed across town to the St Ives Surf School on Porthemore Beach. Learning to Surf was really my main objective on this trip, but I must admit I have never engaged much with bodies of salt water. I was born in a land-locked country. I appreciate the beauty of the sea but more from an aesthetic point of view, well above sea level.

No.4 | Morning Surf—Afternoon Tea at St Ives Surf School

I had decided it was high time to tackle this fear. Katy at the St Ives Surf School checked the tides to see when the next class would be, and booked me in. The instructor for my class, Simon, also happened to be on hand when I arrived, and he and Katy expressed such certainty that all would be okay and that I would be riding waves by the end of the lesson, that I had no choice but to believe them.

My fellow students were a diverse bunch: different ages, men and women, and all different fitness levels. And everyone seemed as excited as me about the prospect of riding a wave for the first time.

No.4 | Morning Surf—Afternoon Tea at St Ives Surf School

Simon first gave us a safety rundown, taught us what the flags on the beach meant and, most important, showed us the hand signal to indicate that you’re in trouble – arm straight up with fist clenched, in case you are wondering. Then, he taught us some physics about how to distribute your weight on the board to avoid a nose dive, shared the two techniques for standing up, and we were off to the surf.

I had decided it was high time to tackle this fear. Katy at the St Ives Surf School checked the tides to see when the next class would be, and booked me in.

Simon shouted encouragement and tips from waist-deep water as we struggled to keep board, wave, and body all going in the same direction. Two hours later, completely exhausted, we all had a few decently ridden waves under our belts. I have to say the experience was absolutely exhilarating. I am hooked, as were the others.

No.4 | Morning Surf—Afternoon Tea at St Ives Surf School

After drying off and getting back into some warm clothes we were off to the Portemore Beach Cafe, next to the St Ives Surf School, for a good cup of tea. What a great feeling.

No.4 | Morning Surf—Afternoon Tea at St Ives Surf School

I settled into my comfortable bed at the Trevose Guest House early that night. I was completely knackered. Apparently there are some muscles you use in surfing that are not generally used. I really was sore.

No.4 | Morning Surf—Afternoon Tea at St Ives Surf School

Next day, after enjoying Oli’s fantastic breakfast, he and Angela invited me along for a tour of the studio of the late artist, Sandra Blow. Each Thursday her studio is opened to the public (by appointment and for a small fee to keep the estate maintained) by trustees Jon Grimble and his partner Artist Denny Long. Everything is just as she left it. Various materials and art supplies lie in place, her abstract paintings adorn the walls, and her eccentric wardrobe still hangs on a coat rack in the studio.

Like many artists Sandra Blow moved to St. Ives for the amazing light. Jon, her long-time friend, talked vividly about the beginnings of her art career in Chelsea, and her creative process. I found that part the most interesting. A fabulous morning.

No.4 | Morning Surf—Afternoon Tea at St Ives Surf School

For lunch I met up with Australian Chef Michael Smith, owner of Porthminster Beach Cafe. I had read about him and have his cook book, so I was eager to meet him.

The restaurant is on the second floor of a white Art Deco building lovingly restored to house the restaurant. I’m told that in summer the place is buzzing. Now, everyone seems to be enjoying a bit of a breather from the crowds. Michael uses only fresh local ingredients so seafood figures prominently on the menu. I had the Monkfish Curry, one of his signature dishes, and ate the Sticky Braised Pork Cheeks with wasabi puree, peanuts and prawns. A modern take on surf and turf.

No.4 | Morning Surf—Afternoon Tea at St Ives Surf School

The temperature was pleasantly cool. Sometimes warm when the wind was calm and a bit chilly when the wind picked up. Most people were still out in flip-flops and shorts. I’m always cold so I stood out a bit, dressed in my winter garb. The locals have an interesting theory about the temperature this time of year. The air temperature declines at a much faster rate than the sea and it is around this time that they equal out. So the theory goes that it actually feels less cold than in the summer because you feel the same in or out of the water. I was skeptical, but after my firsthand experience, it did kind of work that way.

No.4 | Morning Surf—Afternoon Tea at St Ives Surf School

Over my three-day stay I would constantly run into people I had met: My fellow students and I would exchange sore muscle stories, I got the thumbs up from the real surfers that have seen me floundering about in the surf, and even some of the shop owners I frequented got to know my name. St. Ives has a quiet charm in the off season with a lovely mix of people.

On the train ride out of town the track winds around the edge of the bay until it heads back inland. With the sun setting the light was, as usual, magnificent. It is easy to see why, for many years, artists and surfers alike have been drawn to make St. Ives their home.

Details

To arrive via the Night Riviera Sleeper train:
Depart from Paddington and change trains in the morning at St Erth. From there it is a short trip to St. Ives which is at the end of the line.

For the best guest house accommodation in St. Ives: www.trevosehouse.co.uk

For breakfast, lunch or tea on Porthmeor Beach:
www.porthmeor-beach.co.uk

For breakfast, lunch or dinner on Porthminster Beach:
www.porthminstercafe.co.uk

To arrange a private visit to the Sandra Blow Estate:
Call Jon Grimble 011 44 (0)1736 756 006. Note: Drop the “(0)” if dialing internationally. Tours can usually be arranged each Thursday.

For surfing lessons:
www.stivessurfschool.co.uk
Telephone: 011 44 (0)1736 793 938 Cell: 011 44 (0)7527 477 492 Note: Drop the “(0)” if dialing internationally. Email: info@stivessurfschool.co.uk

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

The Good Host

I arrived in Chania late at night and was met by a taxi driver Ammos Hotel had arranged for me. As we set off, the driver took great care to explain the circuitous route we would be taking. I wasn’t sure why he went to such lengths to describe the short trip, but I was excited to have arrived, and quickly put it out of mind. Some 15 minutes into the cab ride the scenery was not quite matching up with my expectations of where I would spend my holiday. The area around the hotel was filled with suburban-looking buildings and garish shopping malls, punctuated by abandoned construction sites. A distinct 1980 package-holiday feeling came to mind. I now understood why the driver had taken such pains to adjust my expectations.

But then, after turning off the main road, winding down a quiet neighborhood street, and making a quick right turn into the hotel drive, a very different picture emerged. Nestled by the sea at the end of the street sat the Ammos Hotel – a 33-room hotel built by the Tsepetis family in the 1970’s. Their son, Nikos, a journalist by trade, took over management of the business, and in 2008, in collaboration with architect Elisa Manola, did a complete redesign. I was greeted and delivered to my room by one of Nikos’ lovely staff members, Nektaria, who made me feel at home right away.

No.5 | Crete's Ammos Hotel and its Good Host

The next morning I met Nikos behind the reception desk. He can be found there every day, in his uniform of jeans and a revolving collection of eclectic T-shirts. He is one of a rare breed of hotel owners. He’s charming, funny, immensely patient and deeply knowledgeable about all the interesting happenings around Crete (Nikos’ blog about things he likes in Crete is worth checking out). And his personal traits extend further than just the front desk. Nikos’ keen sense of easygoing design and fashion can be seen and felt throughout the hotel. I was immediately inspired and relaxed.

No.5 | Crete's Ammos Hotel and its Good Host

The charm at the Ammos Hotel is one part calm one part design and one part comfort. The mixture is intoxicating. The layout of the hotel flows effortlessly, with its lounge, terraces, pool, and beach access. The beach is public but the Ammos Hotel maintains its own beach chairs and palm umbrellas for guests. With pool and ocean adjacent to each other you can easily satisfy your bathing whims. There is always a perfect place available to lie in the sun.

No.5 | Crete's Ammos Hotel and its Good Host

The rooms are impeccably designed and well-appointed. Beds are comfortable and the bathrooms are just right. Furnishings are minimal and custom-designed for the purpose. Each room is outfitted with a simple kitchenette. The freedom to be able to prepare a small meal and watch the sun set from your own balcony is a big plus for longer stays. I, for one, was glad for the opportunity of an occasional night in.

On my first day out and about in the hotel it occurred to me that the hotel’s clientele was distinctly on the young side. I mean really young … less than two! Families and small children are welcome at the Ammos Hotel. In fact they are catered to, and I think that is what makes it work so well. Even though I arrived with no little ones in tow, and was momentarily nervous at the sight of several toddlers, it turned out that some youthful enthusiasm actually added to the pleasant ambiance.

No.5 | Crete's Ammos Hotel and its Good Host

At the Ammos Hotel, I sometimes felt like I was a guest at a friend’s house rather than at a hotel. Nikos and his staff took every opportunity to engage with me, whether I needed a fresh beach towel, a trip into Chania, or a rental car for a longer excursion.

The charm at the Ammos Hotel is one part calm one part design and one part comfort.

I had decided that I wanted to hike the Samaria Gorge, a hike that starts high in the mountains and ends at the sea. My plans were the subject of much discussion with the reception desk staff for the few days leading up to the event. I got a range of comments, from helpful tips to genuine concern. “Are you sure you want to do that?” I was asked more than once. On the day of my hike, I had been absent all day and tried to sneak into the hotel unnoticed after dusk, but was spotted by Penelope and Yannis, of the wait staff. They noticed my wobbly legs and said one word, “Samaria?” We laughed and exchanged some jokes and stories about the day’s amazing activities.

No.5 | Crete's Ammos Hotel and its Good Host

If you like, you can eat all your meals at the Ammos Hotel. They have a great kitchen that cooks everything fresh from locally sourced ingredients. The regular menu of simple Greek fare is outstanding, and with daily specials written on the notice board each morning, you can dream about your next meal as you lay in the sun. Even the wine is sourced from a nearby winery, and Nikos can arrange a tour for an afternoon excursion.

I enjoyed the great weather and the lack of crowds during my stay. As with many places around this latitude, summer-like temperatures often extend into October and with the school holidays over you will have a much more pleasant experience at local attractions if you go off-season. I am planning another trip for April or May, as hiking in the beautiful Cretian mountains will be fantastic then.

No.5 | Crete's Ammos Hotel and its Good Host

As I write this story it is raining in London. The memory of falling asleep and waking up to the sounds of the waves each day is still fresh in my mind. I email Nikos to check some of my facts. He emails back right away relating that he has just finished shutting down for winter and that he was a bit sad that the season was now over. I got sad as well, imagining the hotel quiet and empty, everybody gone home until April. Looking forward to a new season opening …

Details

We suggest you visit Chania off season, April to June or September to the end of October.

Nearest Airport: Chania Airport. Easy Jet, Condor, Aegean, Olympic and Lauda Air all maintain service to Chania Airport.

Or take the ferry from Athens/Pireas To Chania. Ferries run daily service year round. The trip takes approximately 5-8 hours and voyage is overnight.

For Accommodation contact the hotel at:
www.ammoshotel.com


Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger

What the Dickens

What the Dickens? … Kedgeree for lunch? That might have been said 100 years ago when Kedgeree was a Victorian English breakfast staple. Nowadays you can still get your hands around a steaming bowl from “What the Dickens,” a street trader just north of the Kings Cross station.

I happened to come across What the Dickens while exploring the newly built campus of Central Saint Martins in the Old Granary complex, which is the centre of an enormous 67-acre revitalization around Kings Cross station.

As the story goes, childhood friends Adam Bernstein, Dominic Rose, and Michael Quinn had a shared passion for traditional British foods and dishes. Kedgeree, long overlooked at best, and disparaged at worst, was a prime target for rejuvenation. And who better to bring Kedgeree back to the masses than the What the Dickens lads. So they left behind their creative jobs, donned aprons and got to work.

No.2 | Kedgeree is on the Menu at What the Dickens in London

On the day I stopped by for lunch, Adam and Dominic were manning the stall. Meeting them was a delight. Tweed-clad, reserved, quick with a dry wit, and all business. Personalities to match their classic outfits. The stall has a distinctly Punch and Judy aesthetic – a hilarious reference that adds to the classic British feel of the operation.

Legend has it the ancestor of Kedgeree is a rice and beans dish called Khichri, dating back to 1340.

Kedgeree is their signature dish. Originally a breakfast staple in India, it was imported to Britain during Victorian times. A simple economical dish composed of leftover boiled rice, curry powder, hard boiled eggs, and poached Haddock, ideally with loads of butter.

No.2 | Kedgeree is on the Menu at What the Dickens in London

Legend has it that Kedgeree’s ancestor is a rice and beans dish called Khichri, dating back to 1340. Once British Colonials got a taste for it they couldn’t help but bring it back with them when returning home.

Anglo-Indian cuisine became very fashionable in Victorian England, giving rise to a whole range of dishes that were absorbed into British culture. Many of them are now enjoying a comeback, including Mulligatawny, and one of my favorites, Piccalilli, an Anglo interpretation of Indian pickles.

No.2 | Kedgeree is on the Menu at What the Dickens in London

What the Dickens is definitely worth a visit for good, fresh British food at a great price. And if you happen to be waiting at St Pancras Station for the Eurostar to Paris, you are just a stone’s throw away from some wonderful British fare, perfect for lunch en route.

Details

For more information about What the Dickens, go to; www.whatthedickensfood.com

Open Monday to Friday from 12-2:30 / Also check out Kerb food for special events at; www.kerbfood.com/kings-cross

Nearest tube station: Kings Cross, serviced by the Circle, Hammersmith & City, Metropolitan, Northern, Piccadilly, Victoria First Capital Connect, East Coast, Hull Trains, East Midlands Trains and Southeastern Eurostar

Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger