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Thursday
Jun252015

Catalina Island: California's Island Resort

 
Although just 22 miles off the Southern California coast, Catalina Island remains a world apart from the hustle and bustle of the mainland. The town of Avalon, founded in 1887 as a seaside resort, evokes a charm that is undeniably unique and captivating. It's no surprise that it was a favorite stomping ground for the rich and famous over the decades. Click on the image below to see this magical island through my eyes (and camera lens)!
The beautiful harbor of Avalon, Catalina Island

 

Thursday
Jun112015

Il Cortile Ristorante....an Authentic Taste of Italy in Paso Robles California

     The quaint city of Paso Robles, with its picturesque historic downtown and renowned wine region,
delights the visitor with its share of Central Coast charm. But it also offers something very special: an
authentic taste of Bella Italia at the Il Cortile Ristorante in the heart of downtown.
     While the restaurant's hip, chic décor evokes California cool more than rustic Tuscan, the spirit of
Italian cuisine definitely is reflected in the innovative and extensive menu.
     Having traveled many times to Italy, the birthplace of our parents, my husband Tony and I pride ourselves on ourknowledge of the authentic cuisine of our heritage.
     Our culinary tour of the Old Country began with our “antipasti” a masterfully seasoned plate of
grilled octopus in a spicy vinaigrette, followed by carpaccio di anatra, thinly slice duck blanketed with gorgonzola sauce, balsamic reduction and caramelized onions.
     Il Cortile's pastas are all home­made, which was clearly evident after our first bite of our secondi
piatti, second course. Tony claimed that his selection (ravioli stuffed with lobster and served in a
shrimp-­infused tomato sauce) ­­competed nicely with his Sicilian grandmother's similar family
recipe.
     I, in turn, savored ravioli stuffed with ricotta and tossed with asparagus in a light white wine sauce. To be honest, my grandmother never came close to creating such a wonderful dish. Magnifico.

     Our main course featured the restaurant's signature osso bucco which, as it should, melted off the bone to be enjoyed in its rich sauce. Paired with 2011 Halter Ranch Syrah, it was indeed a culinary match made in heaven.
     We ended the meal with Il Cortile's Panna Cotta, a light creamy dessert topped with fresh Central Coast berries.
     Once again,Tony declared it was every bit as delicious as his grandmother's version and as he admitted later, may have been even better!
      Il Cortile offers an impressive wine list, but if you wish to bring your own special vintage, there is a $20 corkage fee with a limit of two bottles.
     So, when in Paso Robles, do as the Romans do (or visitors who love incredible Italian cuisine) and enjoy an authentic taste of Italy at the Il Cortile Ristorante in the heart of downtown.

 

Wednesday
Jun032015

Savor the Best in Food, Wine, & Art at Maine's Kennebunkport Festival

The Kennebunkport Festival is an annual celebration of the best food, wine and art that Maine has to offer. Now in its 11th year, the festival will take place from June 8 – June 13, 2015 in the seaside village of Kennebunkport, Maine. The festival is packed full of prominent chefs, bartenders, sommeliers, musicians, and artists that will make appearances in some 40 events, including cocktail parties, intimate gourmet dinners hosted in private homes, a gala party, a grand tasting event, art shows, after-parties, and an outdoor concert. Learn more about this year's upcoming event at http://kennebunkportfestival.com.

 

Food & Wine Under the Stars

Come June 8-13, 2015, Maine gears up for its signature annual event: The Kennebunkport Food and Wine Festival. One of the premiere events at the festival is Pop the Kennebunks presented by Cellardoor Winery, one of Maine's signature wineries. This year's event features six chefs who have been recognized as "Maine Chef of the Year", each preparing a taste of the best food coastal Maine has to offer.

Photo courtesy C.A. Smith Photography

Seafood Fresh from the Surf

The Kennebunkport Festival is an annual celebration of the best food, wine and art that Maine has to offer. At the festival, you will taste some of the freshest seafood you’ve ever had in your life, giving new meaning to surf to table cuisine.

Photo ©Joanne DiBona

Raise a Glass

Wine tasting is a favorite activity at this popular festival. Not only are varietals from around the world featured here, but also those of Maine vintners who have mastered the art of fine wine production. Did you know Maine features a Wine Trail comprised of 24 wineries across the state?

Photo by Tony DiBonaRustic Elegance

All dressed up, this antique barn at Wells Reserve, Laudholm, Maine is just awaiting guests. Imagine if you only had a wood fire to prepare a gourmet dinner! That’s all some of Maine's premier chefs used to create an amazing culinary experience inspired by wood elements at this elegant, yet definitely rustic, event.

Photo ©Joanne DiBonaLobster Crostini

The Kennebunkport Festival is not your lobster roll and bib kind of event. While every dish prepared uses the best ingredients Maine has to offer, you’ll find yourself looking at lobster and other Maine sea food in a whole new light.

Photo ©Tony DiBona

Wine and Tapas 

Guests are treated to a variety of tastes and flavors at the Grand Tapas Party. Under a beautiful white tent along the Kennebunk River, over 25 chefs and wineries are on hand to offer samples. You will not leave this event hungry!

Photo courtesy of C.A. Smith Photography

Art & Wine, A Perfect Fit

Imagine having an intimate dinner in an 18th Century barn-turned-art gallery. At last year's event, not only did guests enjoy a culinary feast of multiple courses paired with exquisite wines (prepared by Aurora Provisions in Portland), they were able to savor the fine art, photography, and ambiance of the Maushart Gallery while they dined.

Photo © Joanne DiBona

Meaty Selections

While seafood is definitely king at the festival, visitors will find a wide array of food to sample.....from vegetarian to hearty meat dishes. Wine is paired with each dish to round out the culinary experience.

Photo © Joanne DiBona

Paradise on Earth

When you've had your fill of food and drink, there's nothing like watching surfers at dusk to remind you that you're in a little paradise on earth!

Photo © Joanne DiBona

Rural Charm

Guests at the festival's Wood Fired Grand Cru Event enjoy a spectacular view of Maine's rural charm from the Barn at the historic Wells Reserve at Laudholm during cocktail hour.

Photo © Joanne DiBona

Top Chefs Prepare Intimate Dinners

One of the highlights of the festival is The Art of Dining, a series of intimate dinners prepared by Maine's top chefs and featuring seasoned sommeliers, hosted in Kennebunkport's most exquisite homes. Chef Chris Gould of Central Provisions restaurant in Portland, Maine, whips up a culinary masterpiece in the kitchen of a private residence, to the delight of all.

Photo © Joanne DiBona

Dancing the Night Away

This festival not only features incredible food and wine, but top musical entertainment from some of the nation's hottest bands. Last year's Moroccan-themed event under the tent, which offered culinary delights such as swordfish and lamb kabobs, chickpea fritters, grilled shrimp, and calamari and orzo salad (not to speak of a harem of belly dancers), inspired guests to work off their dinner by dancing the night away.

Photo © Tony DiBona 

Moonlight Stroll

After indulging in some of Maine's premiere food and wine, there's nothing like a moonlight stroll on Kennebunk Beach to digest the day's happenings.

Photo © Joanne DiBona

 

 

Tuesday
May192015

Discover the "Galapagos of North America"--the Channel Islands

View from Santa Cruz Island Toward Anacapa Island

 
Those of you residing in--or visiting--Southern California might want to add a trip to the Channel Islands to your travel itinerary. This chain of islands, which includes the popular and historic Catalina Island, is often referred to as the "Galapagos of North America." This article highlights a day trip to the ruggedly beautiful and pristine Santa Cruz Island, located just 35 miles from Ventura, California.
Beauty in Our Backyard, published May 17, 2015, San Diego Union Tribune

 

 

Tuesday
Apr142015

A Springtime Trek Through Old Japan: The Kiso Road

 
There is no better way to discover the beauty of Japan than by seeing it on foot. Walk Japan, a pioneer of off-the-beaten-path walking tours of the country, offers a wide variety of excursions for every fitness level in key locations throughout Japan. Check out my photo essay, recently published on USA TODAY TRAVEL/10Best, which details a magical Walk Japan trip that took us from the modern city of Nagoya to the historic old city of Matsumoto via the ancient Kiso Road and Nakasendo Way.

 

Everyone worries about staying connected while traveling abroad—and about racking up hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in roaming charges with your local provider if you aren’t careful.

One solution many opt for is to purchase a roaming data bundle from your U.S. provider. But I found a less expensive and extremely effective solution through CellHire. The company offers super fast 4G-LTE coverage with unlimited data (and that is the key here, as you will need it to access maps, information, Skype and your favorite social networks) for $14.95 a day-$79 a week-$159 a month. They also allow five users to connect to the MIFI, so this is a no brainer for families or people traveling in groups.

The connectivity was flawless. Whether I was in a train speeding through the Japanese Alps, overnighting in a remote mountain inn, or walking through city streets, this device was a lifesaver. Very simple to use, it also boasts hours of battery life. Sweet!

Cellhire also offers a variety of other connectivity options, so check them out before your next trip abroad.

 

 

 

 Powering Up

My internet connectivity issue being solved, my next worry was how to power my phone and laptop while I was traveling on foot over hiking trails and by train from town to town.  This is when my Apelpi external battery charger came to my rescue.

In addition to packing a hefty 6400 mAh capacity via two USB ports (and robust enough to charge multiple devices throughout the day), this charger doubles as a fashion statement. Who can resist a red (or pink or green) apple doing its thing next to your phone or tablet?  Light-weight and extremely durable (it was dropped by mistake a few times and survived the abuse), this will definitely be my favorite tech accessory on my future trips.

 

 

 

 

Keeping Healthy

Sure, keeping connected on international trips is important…..but so is keeping healthy.

I had heard about the importance of wearing compression socks on lengthy international flights for people with deep vein thrombosis and other circulatory disorders, but I never considered them for myself—until I ran across the stylish RejuvaHealth line!

The company features a series of slimming, shaping and supportive stockings, leggings and socks that utilize graduated compression to relieve soreness, pain, and reduce the swelling that often occurs on long flights.

Figuring it was worth a try, I opted for a pair of Rejuva Knee High Coolmax compression socks for the flight as well as a pair of black footless compression leggings for the walking trails. I selected the 15-20 compression level, which was perfect for me.

To be honest, I didn’t expect much. But now I am convinced I will never fly again without a pair of compression socks nurturing my restricted circulation! I can’t believe what a difference they made in my comfort during that long flight, especially when I couldn’t move my legs except for under the seat for hours on end.

The leggings also made a significant difference on our trek--when we hiked more than 7 miles daily—in that I didn’t get the soreness in my calves as I expected. I’ll soon add more RejuvaHealth items to my travel wardrobe, to be sure.