Down On The Farm: Austrian Wines

A balmy evening at a favorite summer dining spot, The Well at Jordan’s Farm, yields Austrian wines to savor and some solid wine-tasting advice.

Go Slow

“Your first taste is practically a throwaway,” says my wine-savant pal, Chris Ziagos. “Enjoy,” he says, “but disregard that first sip. Then taste again.” Hm.

Start light, finish heavy

We start with Tegernseerhof’s Mittelbach Zeigelt Rosé from Wachau, a bubbly beginning. We finish among the swoony, robust reds like Netzl’s Anna Christina and Zweigelt Classic.


I always assumed the swirling business was a show-off move. “No,” says Ziagos, “it aerates the wine, it’s been trapped in the bottle a long time.” Oxygen unleashes wine’s essence — free the wine!


Like a diamond, we study the wine’s color and clarity. Like a dame, we check out her legs. Tilt your glass so the wine runs down the sides – “legs” indicate alcohol, sugar and flavor.

Stay Cool

Temperature affects taste. Train yourself to keep your hands off the bubble of your glass. Hold it by the stem – it’s what the pesky, tippy things are for.


Not Too Serious

The Hillinger rep has us in the groove when he describes his sparkling Pinot Noir Rosé as a “nice breakfast wine.” Advice: Find your peeps, have a laugh – it’s not that serious.


I try a beery Meinklang Foam that’s just not for me. “Spit!” says Ziagos, “people don’t spit enough at wine tastings.”  I’m relieved that spitting is not only acceptable, but encouraged. I’m cultivating a confident, direct, un-spewy style.


Tastings ideally pair foods that complement the wines – there’s a reason for all that bread and cheese. Some sommeliers recommend not eating, but that’s not our Epicurious style.

Summer salumi – cured meats at Jordan’s Farm

Ask Questions

There are no stupid questions when it comes to wine. You’ll hear tales of history, method and magic – each unique and fascinating. The more you know, the more fun you’ll have.

Keep Sipping

Wineries are delighted when you find something you love, and happy to offer another sip or two to seal the deal. Don’t love the Reisling? Taste the Zweigelt or Cabernet Sekt.

Take Notes

We circle back to our favorites: A smooth and minerally Gruner Veltliner T26 Federspeil – delicious! And the Grace Kelly of wine, the elegant Gruner Veltliner Hohereck. We take notes for later purchase. I’m delighted to discover the Meinklang Frizzante Rosé in my neighborhood Rosemont.


As we sip, savor, and explore our way through this wonderful working Maine farm, we promise to return for dinner at The Well soon – summer is here at last!

Ziagos and Margolis-Pineo at Jordan’s Farm



Posted in East Coast Travel, Farm-to-Table, Food and Wine, Magic, Maine, Maine Travel, New England Travel, Staycation, Sustainable Travel, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Montreal Jazz Festival: Colossal Musicianship for 38 Years



Vocal or instrumental sounds combined to produce beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion.

June 28 to July 8, 2017

The 38th edition of the Montréal Jazz Fest will possess all the beauty of form, harmony, and expression that jazz fanatics, blues believers, folk devotees and fans of world music have come to expect. Whether your bag is an intimate club or vertiginous multi-tiered venue, whether you’re into rock, R&B, or have an abiding interest in a particular form or instrument, you’re guaranteed to find something extraordinary during the 11-day musical love-fest in Canada’s most sophisticated city.

Find Your Bliss

Thousands of fans will flood the world’s largest jazz festival to revel in over 500 concerts (2/3 are free) presented on 20 indoor and outdoor stages in the heart of downtown, as the sprawling Place des Festivals closes to traffic and becomes a walkable, urban oasis.

Family Friendly

Children’s musical installations combine playtime, technology and interactive performances. The Little School of Jazz invites kids of all ages to participate in a musical initiation – always fun to watch. Blues Camp is a free day camp for 50 young people ages 13-17 that invites kids to live out their musical passion for a week – and everyone enjoys the fruit of their labor at the grand finale.

Green and Sustainable

The festival is increasingly green, with 25 years of environmental initiatives and responsible festival management. Their commitment to using organic products, biodegradable dishes and utensils, rainwater collection, composting, and local sourcing of 90-95% foods won them a 2016 Vivats award for sustainable environmental stewardship … impressive!

Sound & Spectacle

Okay, it’s a “jazz festival,” but the lineup is far more diverse – 2017 headliners include Buddy Guy, Bob Dylan, Feist, Melissa Etheridge and Joss Stone, Robert Glasper, King Crimson, Walk Off The Earth, Tanya Tagaq, Xenia Rubinos, Anderson Paak & The Free Nationals, Joey Bada$$, The Four Tops, Thievery Corporation, and The Barr Brothers. I can’t wait to see Charles Bradley, who’s “on” while I’m in town. I’m sad to miss legends Bob Dylan and Melissa Etheridge, but here’s the good news: You can still make it!

Range of Delight

Montreal Jazz Festival offers hundreds of free concerts, including Pokey LaFarge, my favorite. You can spend June 28 – July 8 catching dozens of outdoor gigs a day on stages set up in various outdoor squares around the Quartier des Spectacles without spending a dime. We’ve done the festival at the high end, and on the cheap — it works, either way.

Festival Honors

This year, the festival honors exceptional musical contributions by Charlie Musselwhite (left), Lizz Wright, Jack DeJohnette, Buika and Christine Jensen, as well as the remarkable oeuvre of Michael Bourne. During this 38th edition, winners will be presented with the B.B. King Award, Ella Fitzgerald Award, Miles Davis Award, Antonio Carlos Jobim Award, Oscar Peterson Award and Bruce Lundvall Awards — moving and fun to watch.

World Class Lineup

The line-up to date follows, below, an ever-expanding, star-studded array of colossal musicianship that will be arriving from every corner of the globe for Summer 2017!

Accoules Sax•Acid Arab •Adam Birnbaum•Adam Cruz•Adam Rogers•Afrikana Soul Sister•AfrotroniX•Al Bourgeois•Al McLean•Alan Springer•Alex Bellegarde•Alex McMahon•Alfredo Rodríguez•Alicia Olatuja•Aliocha•Allison Au•Ambrose Akinmusire•Amy Sacko•Anderson .Paak•Andrea Lindsay•Andrée Dupré•Another Side•Ariel Pocock•Aron Ottignon •Arturo Sandoval•Atlantis Jazz Ensemble•Aubrey Logan•A-WA•Bad Plus (The)•Barbara Diab•Barbra Lica•Bareto•Barr Brothers (The)•Bassekou Kouyaté•Ben Monder•Ben Solomon •Ben Street•Benjamin Deschamps•Beth McKenna•Betty Bonifassi•Big Band Collège Lionel-Groulx•Big Band Intersection•Big Band Montcalm•Bill Frisell•Billy Georgette•Binker and Moses•Bixiga 70•Blick Bassy•Blue Moon Marquee•Bob Dylan•Bob Ricci•Bobby Bazini•Body Talk•Bokanté•Brad Cheeseman•Brandi Disterheft•BrassDrumBone•Bria Skonberg•Brian Blade•Brisa Roché•Brody Buster•Brooks (The)•BROS •Buddy Guy•Buffalo Hat Singers•Buika•Cab Calloway Orchestra•Camille Bertault•Camp de blues•Caravan Palace•Carla Bley•Carlos Jiménez•Carlos Veiga•Carly Rae Jepsen•Carolyn Fe•Catherine Russell•Cécile Doo-Kingué•Champion•Charles Bradley•Charles Lloyd•Charlie Musselwhite•Charlotte Cardin•Charlotte Day Wilson•Chet Doxas•Chiquita Magic•Chouk Bwa Libète•Christian Lane•Christian McBride•Christine Jensen•Coco Méliès•Colin Stetson•Combo D•Concept Jazz Big Band•Connie Han•Cordell Henebury•Cory Henry•Coyote Bill•Cuban Martinez Show (The)•Curtis Lundy•Daniel Clarke Bouchard •Daniel Freedman•Daniel Jobim•Danilo Pérez•Dave Douglas•David Virelles•Dawn Tyler Watson•Deelee Dubé•Deluxe•Dennis Hamm•Dessy Di Lauro•Diana Krall•Dinosaur•Dixieband (Le)•Dixieland Band•Django Reinhardt Allstars (The)•Djmawi Africa•D-Lounge •Donny McCaslin•Dwane Dixon•Dwight Grant•E.J. Strickland•École secondaire André-Laurendeau•Edmar Castaneda •Elena Roger•ensemble de jazz du CSA (L’)•Eric Allen •Eric Harland•Escalandrum•Esmerine•Essiet Essiet•Face-T•Fast Romantics•Feist•Félix Stüssi•Flavia Coelho•Four Tops (The)•Franco Luciani•Franky Selector•Fryr-Tùk•Fuel Junkie•Funkxie Groove•Fwonte•Gabacho Maroc•Gabriel Genest •Gabrielle Shonk •Gentiane MG•Geoffroy•George Cables•Gerald Clayton•Ghost Town Blues Band•Gilad Hekselman•Gilbert Charlebois•Gipsy Kings•Glenn Zaleski•Godboogie•GoGo Penguin•Grand Ensemble Jazz de Saint-Eustache (Le)•Groenland•Guillaume Martineau•Guy Bélanger•Gwilym Simcock•Gypsophilia•Gypsy Sound System•Halie Loren•Harfang•Harlem Gospel Choir•Harold López-Nussa•Harry Manx•Helena Deland•Her•Hichem Khalfa•Hiromi•Huu Bac•ÌFÉ•Imany•Ingrid Jensen•Interzone•Itamar Borochov•Jack Broadbent•Jack DeJohnette•Jacob Collier •Jacob Deraps•Jacques Kuba Séguin•James Gelfand•Jane Bunnett•Jason Davis•Jason Palmer •Jazz Band 1•Jazz Band Saint-Luc•Jazzamboka•Jean Fernand Girard•Jean Millaire•Jean Vanasse•Jean-Michel Blais•Jean-Willy Kunz•Jeremy Pelt•Jesse Cook•Jesse Mac Cormack•Jessica Molaskey•Jim Zeller•Jo Hell•Joe Sullivan•Joel DaSilva and The Midnight Howl•Joey Bada$$ •John Coltrane•John Hollenbeck•John Medeski•John Pizzarelli•John Roney•John Scofield•José González•Joshua Redman•Joss Stone•Jowee Omicil •Just Woân•Justin Saladino•Kalle Mattson•Kalmunity •Kandace Springs•Kat Wright•Kellylee Evans•Kendrick Scott•Kevin Garrett•Kid Koala•Kim Richardson•King Crimson•Knower•KROY•Krzysztof Kobylinski•Kurt Rosenwinkel•La La Land Cast•La petite école du jazz•Larry Grenadier•Laurent Coulondre•Lee Aaron•Les BlueBell Sisters•Lil’ Ed & The Imperials•Lisa Simone•Lizz Wright•Lola Marsh•Lorraine Desmarais•Lost Heroes•Louis Perron•Ludovic Beier•Ludovico Einaudi •Malika Tirolien•Manoel Vieira•Maqueque•Marc Fecteau•Marcel A Trio•Marie-Fatima Rudolf•Mark Guiliana•Mark Leclerc •Mark Sextet•Martin Goyette•Martin K. Petersen•Masashi Usui•Massey-Vanier Jazz 5•Mathieu Rancourt•Matt Andersen•Matt Holubowski•Maxence Cyrin•Melina Soochan•Melissa Etheridge•Men Without Hats•Meredith Marshall•Meryem Saci•Michael Blake•Michael Kaeshammer•Michael League•Michelle Sweeney•Mick Martel•Mirada Flamenco•Misc•Misses Satchmo•Monterey Jazz Festival – Next Generation Jazz Orchestra•Montréal Dixie•Montreal Horn Stars•Montréal Jubilation Gospel Choir•Morgan James•Mr. Boom •MTL Pachangón•Music Is My Sanctuary•Myriad3•Nepean All-City Jazz Band•Nicholas Payton •Nicolas Reyes•Nomadic Massive•Nomad’Stones•Norman Marshall •Notre Dame de Grass•O’Jays (The)•Oktopus•Only a Visitor•Orchestre national de jazz de Montréal•Oscar Williams •Ozias BigBand•Parc X Trio•Parlor Social•Pat Thomas & Kwashibu Area Band•Paulo Ramos•Phronesis•Pierre Blanchard•Pink Martini•Pokey LaFarge•Polly Gibbons•Portico Quartet•Pull-Up Selecta•Puma Blue•Quatuor esca •Quinn Bachand•Rachel Therrien•Radio Radio•Ranee Lee•Raül Refree•Ravi Coltrane•Renee Wilkin•Reuben Rogers•Richard Beaudet •Ric’key Pageot•Robert Glasper•Roberto Fonseca•Robin Eubanks•Rockabilly Rascals•Rodrigo Amarante•Roger Man•Ron Di Lauro•Ron Miles•Ron Seguin•Ron Sexsmith•Rosalía •Royal Pickles•Rudresh Mahanthappa•Salsafolie •Sam Gendel•Sam Wilkes •Sammy Miller & The Congregation•Samson Schmitt•San Fermin •Scott Colley•Seb’s Music Shop•Selwyn Birchwood•Serena Ryder•Shabaka Hutchings•Shobaleader One•Shyre•Sidewalk Chalk•Sienna Dahlen•Siv Jakobsen •Snacker’s Delight•Snooksta•Solid Ground •Somi•Songhoy Blues•Sonido Pesao•Sonny Wolf•Sons of Rhythm•Souljazz Orchestra (The)•Soundshaper•Speakeasy Electro Swing•Stanley Clarke•Stephan Dumont•Steve Hill•Street Meat•Streetnix•Strumbellas (The)•Sugaray Rayford•Superbrass•Sweet Daddy Luv•Sweet Dixie•Swing Tonique Jazz Band•Sylvie Desgroseillers•Tami Neilson•Tanya Tagaq•Taurey Butler•Thanya Iyer•The Brooks•The Deslondes•The Excitements•The Free Nationals•The Johnny Max Band•The Liquor Store•The Neil Cowley Trio•The Rawsoul•The Silveresque Quartet•Theo Bleckmann•Theo Lawrence & The Hearts•Thievery Corporation•Thomas Morgan•Throes + The Shine•Tigran Hamasyan•Togetherness•Tonino Baliardo•Tonique Big Band (Le)•Tony Allen•Tonye•Too Many Zooz •Topium•Trabuco Habanero•Transe Express•Two Timer•Urban Science•Urban Science Brass Band•UZEB•Valaire•Victor Lewis•Victor-Jacques Ménard•Vijay Iyer•Villalobos Brothers•Vincent Stephen-Ong•Vivalda Dula•Walk Off The Earth•Wallace Roney•Wang Dang Doodle•Wax Tailor•Whitehorse•William Monette•Xavier Cugat Orchestra•Xenia Rubinos•XIII•Yann Perreau•Yannick Rieu•Youn Sun Nah•Youngstown•Yunior Terry … and more!

Summer of 2017 promises to bring another extraordinary musical celebration to Montreal, my favorite North American city – I’ll see you there!

Posted in Art and Culture, Canada, East Coast Travel, Festivals, International, Jazz Festival, Montreal, Music, Quebec, Sustainable Travel, Travel | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Indecent + Irresistible

New York City. I didn’t discover the joys of this place until Theater Boy beguiled me with his dazzling array of art, theater, dance, music and cuisine. It worked.

Here are a few of my favorite ways to navigate choice bites of the Big Apple:

Go High: It doesn’t matter if it’s the the Empire State Building, Rainbow Room, or the High Line – get yourself a bird’s eye view.Surprise!  Examine the orderly grid of streets and wealth of building styles – many can’t be seen from the street.

Walk: Brooklyn Bridge offers glorious views of the city. Stroll the broad expanse of this engineering marvel – in 1883, it was the world’s longest suspension bridge.

Go Low: Don’t be afraid of the subway. It gets you where you need to go – fast. The people-watching is ­­­­a gas, the mosaics are lovely, and musicians are often astonishing.

Theater:  The stage is magic. It’s why we’re here. There’s nothing better than watching crazy-talented people making you laugh, cry, or both.

Broadway: This season’s thoughtful and provocative “Indecent” delivers music, dance, and electricity – a tight production with deeply affecting performances. Go.

Off-Off:  Or find something off the beaten track that’s epic and alive, like Bobby Cannavalle in “The Hairy Ape,” a swoon-worthy performance of very political O’Neill.

Big city, big opinions: Lean in.

Stay Up: Get yourself some nightlife in bars, restaurants or clubs. I’m not a night person, but this friendly city has always rewarded my efforts to stay awake.

Savor: Casa Mono is our go-to in Union Square. We huddle at a small table and order the delicate dish we have come all this way for – creamy scrambled eggs with sea urchin, walnuts, and ancient anchovy oil. Maybe it’s the word “ancient” that gets us.Sip: We share a Spanish red that’s too robust for the dish but abundantly satisfying. It’s not about what’s correct, it’s about what we like – we’re mad for the first bottle, so we order a second.

We go a little small-plate crazy with a gorgeous pork medallions followed by seared scallops. Mono’s Brussels sprouts are spot-on. Baccalá fritters arrive, stacked like Lincoln Logs in a puddle of too sweet orange aoli, but who cares? We blow through several bowls of olives, eat all the bread, and beg for more.

Get a Good Night’s Sleep: Very important.

Get Up Early. Grab the Staten Island Ferry, cruise Lady Liberty and Ellis Island while enjoying stellar views of lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. Disembark briefly on the island. Don’t miss museum portraits and botanical gardens. Return. Best of all, it’s free.

Get Lost: Wander one of the world’s most vital green spaces, Central Park. Visit Angel of the Waters – you’ll start to see angels everywhere.

Stroll: The East River Esplanade; admire Brooklyn and the Watchtower sign across the water. The Pier has expansive decks with seating for lounging and sunning. 

Highbrow: Check out the impressive public artwork throughout the city. Find your face.Lowbrow: Don’t worry, there’s still plenty of Big Apple kitch.Don’t Rush: Lose the agenda. Remember, “getting there is half the fun.” Pause as a random store window reveals a masterpiece.Snacktime: Chinatown’s Big Wong features roast ducks lacquered to mahogany and served lukewarm. Eggrolls are fresh, from carrots to cabbage, and a faint hint of jasmine. Go With It. A great find on Stanton Street.Retro: We savor shrimp cocktails and martinis at reverse-chic Donohue’s, as pale wedges of iceberg sail by awash in bleu cheese. Theater Boy is served a pork chop as big as his head. I get a drippy, messy cheeseburger. We share a dewy moment of mom’stalgia. Designing Women: I explore the Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition of compact, ergonomic kitchens from the ’20s, a celebration of great women designers like Eileen Gray and Anni Albers. I am so proud, I return to for a second and a third look. Amazing.MoMA is the Mother Ship — Happy Mother’s Day!

New York City is friendly.  It’s a total gas.  Find your own way.  Be brave.  Enjoy! •

Posted in Art and Culture, East Coast Travel, Food and Wine, New York City, Off-the-beaten-track, Theater, Travel | 2 Comments

Home Away

As business travelers, we’re no longer tourists. Creating a small network of places where we can do business and feel at home is the ultimate. And anyone can do it.

Responsive. We begin at Villa San Michele, a charming hotel where repeat guests are valued. Savvy receptionist Chiara recently solved a complex problem with insight, grace, and nuanced Italian. My Italian is wide but shallow, so her help was invaluable.

Sip and savor. After work, there’s always an excellent tagliatelle bolognese or pici cacio e pepe available at the hotel’s Antica Torre restaurant. We don’t dine-in every night, but have enjoyed meals often enough to crave whatever amazing fare the chef is creating.

Take a walk. It’s wonderful to exchange ideas in the moist air of a verdant hilltop town. Park your car and leave it. Remove your belongings and forget the autostrada. Stroll through the dreamy rustic scenery and take your time – you’re “home.”

Look down. Delight in natural and man-made details like this pale angel at the base of a stone wall — smooth winged serenity against gritty rock.

Look up. In Rome, we rarely miss the sunset drama of tiny starlings, i storni, swooping and diving in the evening sky. The aerial ballet is abundant and free at our Campo de Fiori home-away.Become familiar.  We’d love a third round, but Bar La Rocca is closing. “No problem,” says congenial Rosanna. “Stay, have another. When you’re done, put your wineglasses in the planter, I’ll find them tomorrow.”  We do and she does.
Relationships. Repeat-renting reduces the stress of finding the corkscrew, figuring out electrical and WiFi (Italian systems are fussy), locating the groceria, farmacia, or street market. You know there will be towels, and where they are.  Trust happens.

Appreciation.  Find a responsive landlord with a sense of humor. When I broke the toilet within five minutes at Ugo’s in Milan, he was there in immediately with superglue and a smile. When I blew all the fuses at Barrie’s, he talked me through it – at midnight.

Make it yours. Minimize inconvenience by becoming familiar, inside and out. Bond with something or someone new at each visit. Learn a new word or phrase. Delight in rituals — Sunday pastries, a walk along the lake, or a big, fresh lasagna with scamorza and basil.

Lean in. This plaque hangs on a wall in Menaggio, Como. As charming as it is, I prefer, “Wherever you go, there you are.” •











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La Primavera: Part I

Wisteria Season

March 20 is the first day of Spring. It is also my birthday. We leave Maine’s four-foot snowdrifts knowing it’s full-on primavera in Italy. There’s nothing I like more than eating my birthday dinner on a plastic tray at 30,000 feet.

We have arrived. We exit the terminal and breathe spring air. Grass is a deep velvety green and the massive mowing of parks and medians has begun, the most fragrant of spring chores. Graceful clusters of wisteria, il glicine, adorn walls and terraces everywhere, from humble apartments to distinguished antiquities.

Off Season

We aim for the sweet spot between high and low season. In April we enjoy artichokes, asparagus, and spring lamb. In October there are chestnuts, wild boar, and porcini. There is plenty of daylight, and seasonal art, design and fashion exhibitions are less crowded.

Gritty Gastronomy

We shop for lunch in a quirky market where the merchandise is piled in colorful chaos – holiday panettone, Snoopy band-aids, tiny jars of pesto, and bright bunches of tulips. We score a sturdy hunk of pecorino cheese, a few bits of salumi, olives and fragrant tomatoes. Our resulting picnic is gritty and gorgeous, an essential rite of spring.

Home Away

I enjoy a haircut at the tiny village parrucchiere in Carmignano. My hairdresser Cinzia says, “My brother is in love with America,” expressing her complaint in English. I answer in Italian (this is what we do here), “Tutti pazzi in America,” everything’s crazy in America. I add that Trump is a “pagliaccio,” a clown. Cinzia laughs. “No, è vero, è pericoloso!” I say, which exhausts my vocabulary of alarming words. The row of grannies under the dryers nod and cluck like sympathetic Tuscan hens.

Take a Walk

We hike the sentiero del castagno, the chestnut path, to La Rocca, a semi-steep climb with bird’s eye views of Florence — no binoculars needed. A distinct aroma of weed drifts from a group of goth teens. Welcome to the modern world.

Tuscan Hills

The surrounding hills are trimmed and neat. Olive trees have been clipped of leggy growth like silver-green poodles. The higher you climb the more organized the landscape. From a plane, it’s a tight grid of straight lines and dots, a linear patchwork in green and umber. From here on La Rocca, it’s unmistakably Tuscan — organized, yet untamed.

The image, above, is is the way my painterly friend and sometime traveling companion, artist Lindsay Hancock, sees Tuscany. She gets the way this place gets under your skin.

Get to Work

It’s time to scout new styles and replenish old favorites. Our pieces are at home against this backdrop – check out our Cashmere Wildflower shawl, whose poppies reflect the local landscape. No surprise – our wraps, ponchos and shawls are true Tuscan originals.

Ciao, Milano

Milan is always a gas. We admire its fine urban bones, fashion sense, and graphic punch. We fight for street-space with bicycles, Vespas, upscale baby strollers, and the elderly who move at their own stately pace.  The city chaos is bliss, and blessedly brief.

We emerge in the tiny hamlet of Chiaravalle where we check into the very arty Hotel Borgo Nuovo. Fashion-forward eyewear is cleverly displayed in glass vitrines. Design books cover every surface. We are the middle of nowhere, yet magically still in design-soaked Milan.


Rooms at the Borgo Nuovo are mod, comfortable and well-appointed. The staff is helpful in the cool, standoffish way that is so Milanese. We discover more wisteria over our expansive shared courtyard. We sit under the profusion of blooms, inhale, and check our messages. The hotel WiFi, pronounced “weefee,” is strong and best of all, gratis.

Out and About

Hotel Borgo Nuovo’s proximity to the Abbey of Santa Maria di Rovegnano is an unexpected bonus. We spend a sunny afternoon wandering the sprawling 12th century campus, admiring the astonishing Gothic tower, frescoes, and woodcarvings. It is no surprise that contemporary Cistercian monks still wear white and work very, very hard.


As always, art makes us hungry. We head to Ristorante L’Osterietta in San Donato Milanese for a lengthy seafood lunch. The catch-of-the-day seems alive, eyeing us from their glass case. We turn away and tuck into our spaghetti vongole and frutti di mare.

We admire Osterietta’s ornate collection of soccer-chic chairs. We savor a luscious berry tart – the Italians are un-sweet dolce masters. We sip an espresso.  Life is delizioso.


We reluctantly leave Milan and head for lovely Como — our next working chapter and beloved home-away. We’ll soon be counting tiny lizards sunning on pale apricot walls, and inhaling the scent of graceful wisteria in our beloved lakeside retreat to the north.

In our next chapter, we will explore what makes a perfect “home away” for international business travelers like us — and it’s more than robust WiFi and a quiet room. •

Checking business messages in the sprawling shared courtyard at Hotel Borgo Nuovo.








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Surprise! Jersey City

Across the Hudson River from Manhattan sits Jersey City — hip and relaxed, taking the long view. This astonishing little city is proof of art’s power to renew and restore.

Cultural Revival

The first thing you see when you emerge from the Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) train is The Jersey City Wave by Shepard Fairey, 150 ft. mural symbolizing the city’s economic and creative renaissance. “Public art enriches people’s lives,” says Fairey. Yes.Chefs, designers and entrepreneurs are upcycling, revitalizing, and re-imagining this ambitious little city. From what’s on the wall to what’s on your plate, Jersey City is enjoying a creative rebirth fueled by art, affordability and livability. My sparkling and savvy sister Seeky lives here — of course.

We head for the TapHaus, a waterfront gastro-pub with panoramic views of the Manhattan skyline, a vast array of brews “on deck,” and world-class truffle fries. Why resist? We savor a flight of Delirium Tremes, La Fin du Monde, Brooklyn Lager, and Lagunita.  As the fragile early moon rises, we’re still sipping local, deep into Jersey Devil IPA.

We chuckle at the names. We savor the fries. Life’s good in Jersey City.

Melting Pot

Since its early days as an Ellis Island hub, this multicultural mecca boasts culinary influences from India, Italy, the Philippines, Cuba, Egypt, Mexico and more. New Jersey noodle queen, Ani Ramen, will soon be joining the colorful lineup. Our fave Hell’s Kitchen go-to, Two Boots Pizza, has an offbeat outpost here — don’t miss the Boss Hague pizza, named for Jersey City’s roaring-twenties mayor. Fresh herbs, briny clams, smoky ham, and provolone combine for a flavorful homage to the melting pot that is Jersey City.


With New York City rents reaching absurd heights, housing remains accessible here thanks in part to a marketing campaign called Across the River, enticing New Yorkers priced out of Park Slope. A 10-minute PATH commute puts Manhattan within easy reach.

Sip. Savor. Repeat.

Jersey City is gentrifying and urban sophistication is on the rise. From landmark Colgate Clock to the Powerhouse Arts District, tempting things are happening here. Dying for a master class in Deep Dark Chocolate?  Try Bucket & Bay, the self-proclaimed “small batch made from scratch” artisanal gelato maker offering tastings, classes, and pairings. For authentic old-school homemade ice-cream deliciousness, my nephew Cody prefers Torico. Jersey City has a decadent, dreamy treat for everyone.

663bba211e626510e592432f293a334a60d6c370Mamma Mia

Whether you’re a red-sauce-and-meatballs traditionalist or churrasco and curry fan, Jersey City has an upscale or down-home restaurant for you. Coffee shops and bakeries like ooh-la-la Chocopain Boulangerie thrive here, balancing the hipster vibe while supporting the local economy. Yum.

Location, Location

Enjoy a promenade through Van Vorst Park, a quiet urban oasis that reminds me of Washington Square Park. Surrounded by stately brownstones, I imagine sharing a park bench with Henry James — literary time-travel. Little Van Vorst is a gem, a historic oasis with meandering gardens, summer concerts, Yoga, Shakespeare in the Park, farmers’ market and film series.

Stop to admire the funkadelic City Hall, a Victorian classic. She’s still a grand dame to me.

Jersey City’s surprising amount of green space includes Liberty State Park, a thousand-acre oasis in the center of town. Skip the winding NYC queues and inhale the fresh air and local history on the Statue of Liberty or Ellis Island ferries, nearby.

Blinded Me With Science

My nephew Cody is an awesome tour guide. He directs us to his favorite spot, the Liberty Science Center, super cool, with hands-on activities in several sprawling exhibition spaces. The live animal collection has over 100 species. There’s a giant aquarium with enormous creepy fish. Don’t miss the tornado wind machine and endless gift shop.

We  savor some very scientific Dippin’ Dots, something new to me. Cody explains that they’re tiny beads of cryogenically frozen ice cream — minus-320ºF, to be precise. We learn that this is NOT the ice cream that the astronauts eat; theirs is freeze-dried. Okay. From reclining cushy seats in the IMAX theater, we enjoy A Beautiful Planet — a vertiginous film about space travel that makes babies cry and grownups feel wobbly. But Cody and his kid-cohort are in the groove.

We will return to this surprising little city on the Hudson — count on it.  •

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Tuscan Wines Shine

Among my favorite Italian expressions is, “Anni e bicchieri di vino no si contano mai,” or “Years and glasses of wine should never be counted.” Here at Enoteca Athena in Brunswick, I am eager to begin a relaxed, uncounted evening of sipping and savoring the flavors of Tuscany’s Poggio Alloro winery and farm.

Enoteca Athena is bustling and convivial with a flurry of arrivals and warm greetings. I see my old friend, Paul Turina, the Italian wine dealer who arranged this evening. Living in Italy agrees with him.

The county-Italian enoteca is informal and relaxed. A wooden ladder hangs overhead draped in dried herbs and twinkly mason-jar lights. Sliding barn door and bright Italian pottery lend a rustic feel, and the wreath of chili peppers hints at the flavorful evening to come.

Sip and Savor

Sarah Fiorini is here representing Poggio Alloro, her family’s 250-acre winery, farm and agriturismo in San Gimignano. Tonight we will enjoy their lush organic wines, olive oil, and honey.

I visited Poggio Alloro several years ago and it is wonderful to see Sarah again. Her relaxed, friendly manner makes us all feel like family. Our first lesson is toasting — “Salute!” with Italian gusto and vigor, followed by “Buon appetito!”

We begin the evening with a generous pour of light, dry Toscana Bianco, whose flavor evokes citrus, honey, apricots, and Tuscan flowers.

La Prima

Our first course is whipped salt cod or baccalà with olive oil and capers. Maine shrimp are similarly puréed with olive oil and flavored with red saffron threads — unctuous and light. Rustic bread from Standard Baking is perfect for tasting the spreads and sampling the farm’s extra-virgin olive oil. In fact, the whole evening is steeped in in Poggio Alloro’s extra virgin olive oil—which almost steals the show.


Our second wine is a pink-tinged Vernaccia from the Italian vernaculo, or indigenous. This beautiful wine hints at golden apple, almonds and vanilla. An arugula salad with fennel, prosciutto, walnuts and topped with crispy bits of (believe it or not) chicken skin, is a smash with the delicate, minerally wine—definitely a great pairing.

Rosso di Toscano

Our third taste is ruby-colored Rosso di Toscano, an everyday wine that, according to Sarah, improves the heart and circulation. I can feel my heart beating more efficiently already.  People have been drinking this unpretentious red since 1276, “when Dante wrote the La Divina Commedia,” Sarah says. “Wow, you know?”  She winks at us.

If there is a groove, we’re now all in it.

Chef O’Brien

Our third course is my idea of a perfect light supper, una cena leggera, very thin cannelloni pasta stuffed with meat and spicy fennel flavor in a delicate tomato sauce, topped with almost weightless bechamel. Chef O’Brien really knows his way around pasta.

It’s a tough act serving 40 people seated family-style in a small room, and Enoteca Athena is doing the best they can. Since it’s easily the coldest night of the year, some of the courses cool down a bit too quickly, but the staff valiantly runs food and wine from kitchen to guests. Kudos to chef and staff for facing down the icy end of a tough Maine winter. Well done.



The final course is served my favorite Poggio Alloro wine, Convivio. I have loved this wine since I visited the winery all those years ago. The garnet colored red has flavors of cherry, raspberry and hints of cinnamon. The crowd discusses the wine’s “nose,” and somebody yells out, “Tobacco!” Right again. The wine is robust, warm and velvety on this frigid Maine evening.  I have seconds — maybe thirds. But nobody’s counting.

Grilling outdoors in sub-zero weather is daunting, and brave Chef O’Brien is bundled up like Nanook. The last meat course is a challenge. Guests murmur, “At least it will be rare.” It is.  The beef arrives piled high and on-the-bone, served on heavy white platters — Flintstonian and dramatic.

Siamo alla Frutta

Italians express the end of the evening as, “siamo alla frutta,” at the fruit. Traditional vin santo and cantucci arrive, another wow for Poggio Alloro. Made from almost-dry grapes, the amber holy wine is aged six years. With hints of caramel, nuts and honey, vin santo is served with not-so-sweet cantucci biscotti for dipping in the sweet wine. Perfect.

I am starting to feel abbiocco — the lovely drowsiness that follows a satisfying meal. Thank you Poggio Alloro, Paul Turina, Enoteca Athena and Chef O’Brien — sono pieno come un uovo — I am full as an egg.

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