Royal Pop-Up at Tempo Dulu

15400356_1281721841885575_473972061319488583_nchef-sLucky me – I’m invited to an eight-course Royal Thai dinner designed and prepared by Chef Goy Siwaporn, left, who hides a prodigious talent in her tiny frame. Best of all, the sparkling eight-course dinner is held at The Danforth Inn’s deeply romantic restaurant, Tempo Dulu. I put on my princess shoes and summon Uber.

Photos: Liz Caron  / Video: Diane Hudson

15337448_1281721855218907_877399195016595719_nThe evening begins with dazzling cocktail reception under the auspices of master-mixologist Trevin Hutchins. We enjoy delicate but potent lychee cocktails, blushing pink and infused with with rhubarb. The inn’s welcome-signature of bubbly Prosecco is also served. Finger food is refined, with trays of sweet melon, salty dried fish flakes and mint. Rich and savory egg-nests with root vegetables are followed by cucumber cups of briny tuna tartare and Thai herbs. Small bites and big flavors rule at Tempo Dulu.15355841_1281721885218904_4096466205741590600_nWe’re seated, family-style, in three dining rooms. The staff is attentive and smiling as each guest is greeted with warm towels and an evening menu. Amuse bouche arrive in contemporary glassware, beautiful, setting the mood. Details are dazzling and as always, the service is almost clairvoyant — magic.

Host and husband of the chef, Florian Gypser

Host and husband of chef, Florian Gypser

The Danforth has been updated and modernized, its elegant rooms jazzed with modern furnishings and contemporary art, much of it with an Asian theme. The atmosphere is intimate and upscale with sophisticated lighting. Oversized chandeliers cast a warm glow. The green dome in the lounge is alive, made of moss that is occasionally misted. Always expect the unexpected at The Danforth.10570396_10156271075830062_3696025961673648359_nOur culinary journey continues with garlic chicken served in a lettuce cup, fresh and lively, topped with green pepper and lemon. A delicate spring roll holds curried pork and tomatoes, piquant and spicy. Salmon and seasonal vegetables with Thai garlic sauce gradually intensify the progression of flavors, which the sommelier tames with a crisp grenache blanc. Perfect.15390957_1281723225218770_174430860957127419_nFull disclosure: I love Tempo Dulu. Here, my imagination is allowed free range. The restaurant’s legendary Indonesian rijsttafel, a medley of dishes from the islands, sends each diner on a world tour enhanced by exotic fragrances and flavors. A reverence for history plus international flair and sophisticated design combine for wonderful ambiance.tugu-tempo-duluService at Tempo Dulu is reliably impeccable and attentive. Cutlery is changed with every course, and napkins are replaced when the diner, or even just his gaze, leaves the table. Service is formal but relaxed, somehow – I don’t know how they do it.An amuse of lettuce with Thai herbs and palm syrup awakens our palates with herbaceous sweetness. Small pieces of steamed flounder in Chinese ginger sauce, a bit disappointing in texture but not in flavor, are served with a Hillinger Secco that balances the dish nicely. The dining rooms hush as we’re served Thai coconut chicken mushroom soup, Tom Kar Gai — unctuous and velvety. I would keep eating it all night; it’s my favorite dish of the evening. Accompanied by surprising wine, Prisoner Blindfold, the combination reminds me that what’s in your glass at Tempo Dulu is often as impressive as what’s on the plate. Next up is another knockout — grilled Maine lobster in Thai seafood sauce, a feast for the senses. Chardonnay Copain Tous Ensembles is crisp and perfect with robust, sweet lobster. A last course of Thai Burmese ginger and fragrant jasmine rice, Gaeng Hang Lae, is smoky and savory, served on a green banana leaf — a perfect last bite. Sadly, I can only manage a few bites of my gorgeous dessert, smoked coconut milk with tapioca and sweet mango. I content myself to sip and savor Gaudet Loupiac, a sweet and warming conclusion to a wine-soaked and soul-satisfying evening.15356481_1281723238552102_3868110953406089196_n

Postscript: Not Quite Done…

9c3acff446af5da8b64524a2032644e2A few days later, my friend Diane and I head back to Tempo Dulu to check a few details. Read: we’re heading back to the bar. If you want a stunning cocktail experience in Portland, Maine, this is it. We belly up and order two Jakarta cocktails, an creative infusion of genius, bourbon and smoke, with boozy alchemy supplied by a gifted mixologist — don’t miss it!  •

jakarta-smoke-better

Tempo Dulu  | 163 Danforth St., Portland, Maine  http://www.tempodulu.restaurant

Posted in East Coast Travel, Food and Wine, Holiday Travel, Lobster, Magic, Maine, Maine Travel, New England Travel, Off-the-beaten-track, The Other Portland, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Addendum

BEST BITE NYC 2016 – The Clam

clams-the-clamSweet clams piled in white bowls, or served stuffed, in chowder, over linguine, or rough-chopped on pizza. Lobster “Louie” style and briny oysters chilled on beds of pebbled ice. new-lobsteroystersMy soul sister Seeky is infatuated with The Clam: “The rolls, they’re salty and sweet with a little shake of sea salt on the top, warm and yummy and they give you real butter, not some stupid bowl of olive oil. BUTTER, baby!” Seeky has supernatural enthusiasm.rollsthe-clamDon’t miss the astonishing white clam pizza with ricotta and parmesan. This pizza is grilled, ladies and gentlemen, different from the legendary white clam of my misspent New Haven youth. And dare I say, it’s better, with the unexpected genius of pickled red peppers. Delicate, yet densely flavorful. Robust and chewy. Black magic, wizardry.clam-pizza-the-clamThat Seeky knows her stuff.  Brunch at The Clam in two weeks is all I’m saying, girl.

Go to theclamtext300pxThe Clam – 420 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014

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Manhattan Magic 2016

ap-frame-082e-carter-the-great-vintage-magic-posterLovely. Magical. The city-that-never-sleeps is aglow in twinkling lights, draped in mistletoe, holly and pine boughs. We haven’t slept much, and after bumpy flights and confusing arrival, my friend The Magician and I are starving. First things first. header_oiliveoil2We head for Eataly’s Il Pesce where we savor Black Rice with Uni & Crab, unctuous and creamy. (We obsess over this uni all year long.) Our second course of grilled octopus is charred and gorgeous, tossed with yellow potatoes, roasted red peppers and festive green parsley. With a crisp Vermentino, it’s magico nero, black magic.

octopus-and-potatoes-at-eatalyRegrettably, it’s also Santacon, with hordes of red-suited Santas wreaking drunken havoc in midtown. I ask The Magician to levitate us out of Santa-anarchy. “Abracadabra!” he says, hustling us off to the West Village where there’s nary a Santa in sight.

santaconmich-mick-mickWe head to Industria‘s multi-level loft-space for holiday magic with a backbeat: Exhibitionism–The Rolling Stones. The sprawling retrospective includes diaries, engraved guitars, hand-written lyrics, and some very distinguished album and poster art. For the fashion-obsessed, there are Victorian cravats and ruffled shirts, velvet frock coats, lacy cuffs and brocade that evoke swinging London at its best.

mick-by-warholicon-stonesExhibitionism follows the band’s trajectory from moody bad-boys to fashion-forward rock ‘n’ roll icons. The show pulls from private collections and from the lads themselves. An anthropological standout is the meticulously disgusting recreation of the band’s infamous digs in London, complete with olfactory magic of stale-beer and dirty-clothes whiff. Concert footage and audio put viewers in a blissed-out, nostalgic and occasionally hilarious place. Loved it.

photo-exhibit-stonesgowanus-at-joes-pubWe rock on, crashing Gowanus Music Club’s performance at Joe’s Pub where the assembled young rock bands and my niece Matilda put on a fab show — hip, youthful, vibrant, and whatever the opposite of ‘retrospective’ is. The magical multigenerational mojo works: “The kids are alright!” as Pete Townshend roared in the ’60s. Yes, they are.

illusionists_logo_210x274From Aztec Lady to Linking Rings, Severed Ropes, a billion card tricks and Devil’s Torture Chamber, my friend The Magician is a wizard. He twinkles his way into The Illusionists while I enjoy the musical, Waitress. We both have supernatural experiences.

kellar_levitation_posterswing-timeb-zadie-smith-766915It’s Christmas, which to us means books books books. 192 Books is hosting a reading and signing with Zadie Smith, whose Swing Time is on my nightstand. Now that’s holiday magic. Synchronicity.

murray-cheese01As always, shopping makes us hungry.  Grilled “Murray’s Melt” sandwiches at the eponymous Murray’s Cheese Bar on Bleecker St. are a hot drippy gooey mess. Perfect. Even my friend The Magician is stumped by Murray’s secret cheese blend. Me, I think Murray ought to keep an eye on the magician, he’s a pretty canny fellow.

rothko-exhibitionWe head around the corner to the Pace gallery for the Mark Rothko exhibition, Dark Palette. Do see it and get there fast. It runs through January 7 at the PACE on West 25th Street. The exhibition is a small wonder, a dark jewel.

th_statics_1000x387_03216_r2_v2Yes. The Humans is quirky, funny, sad and heartbreaking — beautifully written, a little dark, and thoroughly accessible. As the wonderful actress (Mom!) Jayne Houdyshell said, “Audiences recognize themselves in The Humans.” I saw myself, my daughters and my mother. For more multigenerational holiday magic, see The Humans.

screen-shot-2016-09-19-at-1-46-44-pm-1024x498The Magician and I are delighted to conclude our holiday adventure in DUMBO with our luminous friend, Justin Townsend. We catch the last show of Longing Lasts Longer at St. Ann’s Warehouse with performance artist Penny Arcade—a feast of wit and snarky one-liners. Penny’s magic is that she is both a total badass and kindred spirit.

show-pages_tablet_2016-2017_pennyarcade_01DUMBO “Down Under Manhattan and Brooklyn Overpass” is a gritty Brooklyn neighborhood that is so cool I suddenly feel completely square. I console myself at adorable Almondine Bakery with several delicate French almond macarons in hip flavors like blood orange and passionfruit. Better.

2ffcb920f0a3b6f607c1a5aba5f47fd8We reserve a last late-night bite at Babbo as is our holiday habit. The place is as welcoming and golden as always, but Mario is definitely having an off night. Tonight, beloved Babbo is uneven at best, disappointing at worst. Oh my. Old habits die hard on this trip. We resolve to tuck some nifty magic tricks up our sleeves in 2017, and perhaps consult Penny for tips on breaking some of our stale sorcerer’s habits in the New Year. Cheers! •

6878805020_fd6a7d1151_zprosecco-wine-pouring-webHappy New Year from EpicuriousTravelers.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Art and Culture, Documentary Film, East Coast Travel, Food and Wine, Holiday Travel, Magic, New York City, Off-the-beaten-track, Theater, Travel | Leave a comment

Roman Holiday

We arrive in Rome on Halloween, la festa di zucca. Our Roman reentry is smooth despite a brief frightening blackout on the subway. Three short stops from Termini, we emerge blinking in the bright sun of the Piazza di Spagna — unchanged, full of tourists, window shoppers and fashionistas. Our suitcases click-clack across the black cobbles down a narrow alley to our B&B, My Secret Condotti. We think a B&B with the word “secret” in its name has to be wonderful.  It is.

69064788The rooms are bright, sleek and modern — as blessedly unfussy as any we have had in Rome. Breakfast of fresh orange juice, cappuccino and cornetti is served at nearby Café Marziali. The concierge is funny and kind, remarking that my Italian is good.  It isn’t.  But this B&B is good, a perfect Roman pied-a-terre. Well done me.

Our American Friend meets us just in time for passeggiata, the traditional evening stroll. We stop for a glass of wine and aperitivo, relaxing into the rhythm of the city. We admire the edgy fashions displayed in endless shop windows, and crowds clustered up and down the Spanish Steps. A stop at the Pantheon assures us, yes, we are really here. Once the sun sets, the Bernini fountains in Piazza Navona are as stunning as always, and the street performers are still unabashedly in-your-face. Yes, we have arrived.

fashion-neighborhood-1A walk to the Vatican the next morning puts us squarely in the middle of a road race surrounded by thousands of Italian citizens in spandex. The race feels infinite, anarchic, incomprehensible, and a little claustrophobic — a perfect start to our Roman odyssey.middle-of-road-race-vaticanmadonna-and-iphoneWe cross the Tiber and walk the lively river bank to Trastevere where we have coffee in an outdoor café and admire the graffiti.

exhibit-a-iphoneWe examine the ongoing restoration of Portico d’Ottavia in the Jewish ghetto neighborhood. We wander the ancient and surprisingly crowded alleyways, grateful to see the street signs still in Italian and Hebrew. The historic ghetto continues to grow in popularity, which is about to affect us directly, peccato!  But that’s life.

<< Our American Friend – busted by the Blessed Virgin in Trastevere.neighborhood-1We can’t wait to share a meal at Sora Margherita with Our American Friend. We wait for hours in the pleasant sunshine of the Piazza Cinque Scuole, only to learn that our highly coveted table for three has ruthlessly, cruelly been handed to another family. I briefly lose my temper, which is tricky in another language. Porca miseria!

We manage to recover our good humor over a lovely meal at nearby Trattoria Giggetto — a fine choice although not quite the “insider” experience we imagined. But as our smiling, courtly server brings plate after plate of carciofi Giudia and fiore di zuccha, we are reminded that the world is indeed a wonderful place. The convivial and relaxed dining experience almost makes up for our savage betrayal at Sora Margherita. Almost.

tartarugha-fountainA stroll to beloved Fontana Tartarughe in Piazza Mateotti restores us completely as the dearest, sweetest, happiest fountain in Rome. We meander “home” through favorite piazzas, Campo de Fiori, Farnese and Navona. We push through mad crowds throwing coins over their shoulder into the Trevi Fountain as we work our way back to Spagna. We walk so much this day that we resort to cabs the next — an unprecedented indulgence.more-than-meets-the-eye-romaen-route-to-museo-romaThe next morning we head to the MAXXI Museum of 21st Century Art, above, in the Flaminio neighborhood. Designed by Zaha Hadid, broad swooshes of concrete and glass express the museum’s mission to celebrate innovation and creativity. The permanent collection is magically open and free to all.

Surrounding antiquities and gritty parks add contrast. “It works,” says Our American Friend. With the possible exception of the bumped-up bollards in the exterior courtyard, where we all trip and stumble — watch your step.

img_0224canova-antonio-paolina-borghese-as-venus-victrix-detail-1804-08-white-marble-galleria-borghese-rome-1366009275_bA walk to the Borghese Garden & Galleria is a must, especially on an art-soaked holiday such as this. Lady Paolina and the expansive Borghese collection is always a treat, and the family-friendly park is a perfect place to relax under a canopy of green, in a beautifully landscaped English-style garden. Like Central Park in NYC, I have always felt that the Parco Borghese is Rome’s backyard.

As always, art makes us hungry. We enjoy an unexpected, delicious surprise of ravioli pillows with butter & sage in one of the Borghese’s outdoor cafes. We’re talking picnic table ambiance, here, with fare delivered by a gum-cracking nitwit in pigtails — a delightful reminder that when in Rome, you must expect the unexpected.

ceiling_council_of_the_gods_in_galleria_borghese_romevia-marguttaVia Margutta in Rome is a vine-covered lane of galleries and art studios — quiet, sophisticated, dreamy. Uh-oh. In a tiny gallery, a proprietor is raging at Our American Friend, roaring, “The painting is 300€, decide now! If you come tomorrow, the price is 1,200€.” Louder: “1,200!” He narrows his eyes at me, “Does the American capisce?” Eyes wide, our friend scuttles sideways like a crab out the open door.start-of-long-nightThings seems to be heading downhill rather quickly. Desperate to impress our beloved friend, we commence what is to be a wonderful night of drinking. We begin with several Negronis, very strong, mostly gin, which begin to put the world back on its axis. Outstanding. We follow with a convivio wine-soaked dinner at Edy’s around the corner. Here, details begin to get a little hazy, but I remember a robust and satisfying pranzo; I think one of us has the trippa Romana. The evening ends with more drinks and some very loud 1980s music at a small deserted bar where we recover our collective sense of humor over several Sambuca con mosca.

We say arrivederci to the eternal city and make sure Our American Friend is delivered to Fiumicino airport with a pounding hangover. Mission accomplished. Next stop, Tuscany!

painterly-shop-window-rome

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Staycation Part II – Up the Munjoy

Hill - The Right Idea 2My neighborhood of Munjoy Hill is a wondrous place where endless ocean meets blue sky.

Hill floraWe have fussy formal gardens in brand new pots.

Hill overgrown and effusiveMessy gardens in antique containers, overgrown and effusive.

Hill food gardenAnd, oops! a few accidental gardens – there’s a squash!

Hill RosemontWe have twee neighborhood markets with dewy, angelic produce.

Maine produce RosemontThese pink onions are organic, cherubic, and locally grown in Freedom, Maine.

LolitaWe have truly fab restaurants like Lolita with tables saved for locals even in tourist season.

Lunch at Blue SpoonMe, I simply adore the Blue Spoon as I have repeated a billion times in these pages. Yum.

Hill GazeboA quaint and sturdy bandstand in Fort Allan Park is perfect for summer concerts, oompah.

Hilly HydrangeaHistoric Fort Allen is surrounded by shaggy gardens and benches with grand ocean views.

Hill BenchesGazing at Casco Bay islands is cheaper than a therapist. Try the 25¢ viewers to go deep.

Hill sculptureAnd don’t miss Munjoy Hill’s public and private art.  It’s everywhere and it’s free.

Hill architecture OLDThe Hill is also a great place to appreciate classic architectural styles from long ago.

Hill LoftsLots of modern architecture, too – the future of urbanism in our little corner of the planet.

Hill wreckWe also have plenty of architecture that’s sitting around, waiting to happen.

Hill informationMunjoy Hill is well-informed.

Hill AdviceWell-instructed.

DSCN1513And sometimes a little confusing. Yet somehow, it all works.

Handsome Hill PalsA hometown staycation is my kind of ecotourism: it’s sustainable, boasts a high walkability index, and includes some of my favorite people, like these cool cats Richard and Jamie.

A sunny summer staycation is a beautiful thing.

Angela Adams started hereNEXT UP: Staycation Part III – Ogunquit by the Sea

Posted in Art and Culture, East Coast Travel, Food and Wine, Lobster, Maine, Maine Travel, New England Travel, Staycation, Sustainable Travel, Travel | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Summer Staycation, Part One

20121213-dylan-moderntimes-thumb-624x420-1355454022“People are crazy and times are strange
  I’m locked in tight, I’m out of range
 I used to care, but things have changed”

Summer usually finds me on the road visiting inns and bistros. This year I decide to change things up with a month-long staycation at home in Portland, Maine. I kick things off with a Bob Dylan concert at Thompson’s Point, where something magical happens.

Thompson's PointMAVIS STAPLESThe primed crowd of fifty- and sixty-somethings is buzzing under a wide summer sky. Tiny iridescent rainbows jazz the sunset. In full voice and sexy as hell, Mavis Staples opens for Dylan, belting out Respect Yourself and I’ll Take You There. She delights us all with a cougar-style description of Dylan’s sexy strut. “Watch out, ladies,” she says, “he’s still got it!”

Mavis is right. He still has that full-on swagger.

dylan Okay, Dylan’s legendary voice has seen a lot of road. He doesn’t play guitar, offering instead a few precious licks of piano and harmonica on gently reinterpreted classics like Tangled Up in Blue, which makes some of us cry. His beloved craggy rasp goes all croony in what I’d call attempts at romantic ballads — imagine a ragged, wrecked Sinatra. He doesn’t really ruin anything until his atonal rendition of Autumn Leaves — ouch. In spite of this, or maybe even because, we share a rich and rambling evening under a dreamy sky.

Summer SunsetShake it up baby, twist and shout
You KNOW what it’s all about

When Dylan sings “shake it up baby,” I’m reminded of last summer’s non-staycation in Paris, France, as Paul McCartney thundered through a near-perfect set to the delight of a vast, multi-generational audience. Like Macca, Bob Dylan could perform his greatest hits if he felt like it. But Mavis’s Bob doesn’t pander. Mavis’s Bob is not a pleaser. Mavis’s Bob has nothing to prove.

So rock on Mavis, and rock on, Bob.  Thanks for an unforgettable evening under an ever-changing Maine sky on a grassy Portland promontory. And Bob — don’t look back. •

dylan-DLB-fixedNEXT UP: Staycation Part II – Munjoy Hill

 

 


 

 

Posted in Art and Culture, East Coast Travel, Maine, Maine Travel, Music, New England Travel, Staycation, Travel | Leave a comment

My Little Town

1234382Westport is a quiet hunk of Connecticut shoreline originally populated by the native Pequot tribe. Nestled between the Saugatuck River and Long Island Sound, this pretty tidal treasure is a mere 47 miles of commuter rail from New York City, one of several sleepy suburban communities immortalized by mid-century masters Updike and Cheever.

The town became a creative hub in the early 20th century, attracting artists, musicians and writers. Then came the ad-men, and later, an alarming influx of CEOs and high-level executives. The small New England community with rural, agricultural roots now wears an unmistakable gloss of wealth and privilege.

Williams SonomaDSCN1246In the ’60s, Westport’s leafy Main Street housed Klein’s department store, Achorn’s Drug, a mom-and-pop hardware, and the Remarkable Book Shop (it really was remarkable). Penny candy and tobacco could be found side-by-side at Bill’s Smoke Shop. Bill’s is now a Williams-Sonoma — which pretty much tells the whole story. But if you know where to look, you can still catch a glimpse of Westport’s precious, poky past.

REMARKABLE

Edge of the parking lot IIGreat Bones, Grand Viewssnowy-egret

Westport has a tidal marsh with ducks and a graceful, stand-offish snowy egret. The little riverside park offers a quiet spot to read, reflect, sip coffee and examine the graffiti carved by decades of high school sweethearts.

Graffiti 2

Development Happens

The former Westport YMCA is being converted into loft apartments and commercial spaces. I am sure they will be expensive and tasteful, whatever that will mean in this little corner of post-modern New England.

Development at the Yice_stormIn the Movies

Ang Lee’s film The Ice Storm exposed our cozy little burg in Technicolor Blue, although I never heard the sound of a key dropping into a bowl, anywhere, in my whole sheltered life.

The area was also lampooned by Ira Levin in his thriller, The Stepford Wives, which satirizes the the fawning, submissive and beautiful wives in fictional Stepford, Connecticut. Ira nailed it.

Fab Friendssuzanne2

We enjoy a spectacular homage to country life with friends Rozie and Suzie of grilled lamb chops, asparagus, and gorgeous berries. The evening of laughter, jokes and stories neutralizes our fear, “You can’t go home again.” Yes oh yes you can. And if you’re very lucky, you will find wonderful friends like Rozie and Suzie when you get there.

Compo Beach

Shoreline

Sherwood Island is a wonderful stretch of beach, but Compo is the family favorite. We still have a beach-locker, but no one wants to open it. Too many happy memories—we don’t want to let them out.

Earthplace has acres of walking trails, a wildlife center, live animals and an aquarium. Don’t miss Cocktails & Clams, a delicious evening of Copps Island Oysters straight off the boat, plus cocktails and live music for a cause.

Or rent a sunfish at Longshore Sailing School. I remember sunny summer days taming a wet, flapping sail with Susan.

Paul NewmanSummer Stock

Westport Country Playhouse is one of the country’s oldest summer theaters. Since the 1930s, the venerable summer stage has mounted comedies, dramas and musicals from June through September. Longtime supporters Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman combined forces for a wildly acclaimed production of Our Town that continued to Broadway. The two longtime residents of Westport agreed with us: “We just like it here.”

th-1Sip & Savor

Don’t miss Oscar’s signature pastrami on rye with Russian dressing — our oddball version of Proust’s Madeleines. If it’s Sunday morning, walk to SoNo Baking and grab a croissant and coffee. Or meander a few miles up the Post Road for a beer at Two Roads Brewing Company in Stratford.

It’s Connecticut. Childhood is calling. Stop and smell the dogwood. Life is good. •

LibraryLive by the SoundWestport riffraff in 1965Five Westport knuckleheads – 1965

 

 

Posted in Art and Culture, East Coast Travel, Food and Wine, New England Travel, Off-the-beaten-track, Retro-Travel, Theater, Travel | 5 Comments