Foodtripper

01.09.2013 | by: Meghan
Inns & Hotels

Check In: Mast Farm Inn

Banner Elk, North Carolina

The week before Christmas we had to go to a wedding in Florida. Not great timing, but we loaded up the car and made the most of it with a road trip through the Smoky Mountains (we flew back). One of the most outstanding highlights was the historic Mast Farm Inn. A restored farm inn that dates back to the early 1800s, the place was decorated with antiques, quilts, old farm tools and a countrified array of awesome folk art and crafts. The Loom House, named for Aunt Josie Mast who turned it into a loom house for her coverlets and rugs (some of which are in the Smithsonian), is the oldest log cabin in North Carolina.

We stayed in the old post-and-beam Woodwork Shop with its tin roof, Vermont casting stove and rock terrace. This place is amazing for families. Farm animals, a sprawling organic garden that feeds the restaurant, and impeccable service. Our littlest guy became very sick during our stay, and the staff could not have been more accommodating and doting. They brought dinner (farm-fresh roast chicken, heritage farms pork chop and shaved brussels sprouts) to our room, and made special dishes for our picky eater at breakfast the next morning (what child does not like french toast made with potato and raisin-cinnamon bread with caramelized fruit, egg custard and heavy cream… topped with whipped cream and powdered sugar?). Custom designed with our names dropped into each dish’s description, the menu was such a fun treat for our six-year-old to read. It was pouring rain when we were there, but we can’t wait to make it back during better weather–and health–to take advantage of the beautiful property and all the nearby hiking trails.

10.26.2012 | by: Meghan
Inns & Hotels

Check In: Boonville Hotel

Boonville, California

In a recent story I wrote for the Guardian– 10 characterful hotels and B&Bs in the US – I tapped a contributor to guide me to an interesting spot in Northern California. Gemma and Andrew Ingalls have been to the Boonville Hotel three times, and Gemma assures me it is a tremendously lovely and worthy spot. Described as “a modern roadhouse,” the 15-room Boonville Hotel is situated two hours away from San Francisco in Anderson Valley, a laid-back wine region in Mendocino County known for bucking the posh pretences of Napa. Stay in one of their simply appointed rooms or spread out in a suite or standalone bungalow nestled in the garden, some of which have linen sofas, porches and hammocks. The cozy in-house farm-to-table restaurant is a destination in its own right (reservations-only). A recent menu, which changes daily, included prosciutto and melon, roast fig, local goat’s cheese, baked halibut, and late summer vegetable gratin, pea shoots and Pernod cream. While you’re in the area, make sure to taste the pinot noirs that the region is known for, take a hike through the Redwoods, and drive along the craggy mystical coast. It’s a real-deal family run affair, and relatives own the nearby Philo Apple Farm, responsible for more than 80 varieties on 30 beautiful acres and boasting a b&b/cottages/cooking classes on site. They also own the Farmhouse Mercantile downtown. Gemma and Andrew sent over some photographs of the hotel and the surrounding landscape, the latter a heart-stopping farm-meets-coastline combination of redwoods, rugged rocky cliffs over ocean, farmland, vineyards, orchard. Not sure it gets much better.

 

09.27.2012 | by: Meghan
Foodtripper

Stay (and Eat): Casa Cilona

Aside from crumbling masseria, the other distinctive, vernacular structure you’ll notice dotting the Puglian landscape is the trulli– adorable little conical houses, stacked stone on stone without any cement or mortar. An architectural feat! They look like tiny gnome houses, and if there’s any truth to legend, their origin, which dates back to mid-1600s, is related to the very clever fact that owners could disassemble their homes in order to evade the taxman and quickly put them back together afterwards. In nearby Alberobello, where you can buy cheap keychains and miniature replicas but can’t get inside a real one, the trulli experience has been reduced to something of a tourist attraction. But people still live in trullo, and more and more folks from the north are buying and fixing them up as country homes.

The kindhearted Michela, who helps manage Villa Pizzorusso (in addition to teaching Italian at a school in Messagne), suggests we make dinner reservations with her uncle Tonino, a talented chef who recently took some time off from his job as a seasonal chef in Greece to put the finishing touches on three conical trullo about a half mile down the winding dirt country road from his own beautiful trulli. He and his charming, funny wife, Mariagrazia, have already hosted a few guests at the b&b, and Tonino has been taking dinner reservations from visitors who’d like to experience traditional Puglian cuisine. And for those not familiar with what that might entail, you’re in for a treat. I cannot imagine better ambassadors to the food or the culture.

Tonino usually hosts dinners or classes in the shared kitchen at the b&b, but on this night, they had already invited friends and family over for dinner at their home. After getting hopelessly lost, we arrive at dusk, and Mariagrazia suggests we take a walk–with a glass of Puglian rosso in hand–to check out their recently-finished b&b space while Tonino cooks. There’s still a hint of light left to guide our way through the grove, beside the ancient stone walls that snake along with the winding dirt paths. The entire scene feels nothing shy of a living fairytale: potted plants on steps, horses, lights strung in fruit trees, a sweet white pendant announcing the entrance, almonds drying on a blanket out back. My biggest regret is that I didn’t have the time or light to capture the experience better with my camera. I snapped a few ill-lit photos of the exterior and grounds, but you’re just going to have to trust me on this one. By the time we got back to their place, it’s the kind of dark that happens only in the country. Even though we come nearly face to face, I can hear but not see the donkey, who hangs out in the back by a dirt lane flanked by two parallel rows of regal old trees.

Our unlikely group sits outside around a big wooden table on the stone patio, and for people who have never met each other and don’t all speak the same language, it’s a boisterous and familiar affair. There are a couple cousins, and some neighbors from Rome–a photographer for National Geographic and a restoration architect who was recently assigned the ruins at Pompei–who help with translations from time to time. And the food! Tonino, the humble chef sits at the head of the table watching the faces of his contented guests, while Mariagrazia tells   stories and panfries perfect, just-picked squash blossoms on the outdoor stove top. More than six courses stretches over two and a half hours: almonds they cracked with a rock and roasted this morning; fava bean puree topped with shrimp; super-fresh eggplant and zucchini roasted and then drizzled with their own hand-pressed olive oil and mint; red peppers topped with toasty bread crumbs; bluefish that resembles anchovies or sardines but tastes like neither; silken pasta with fresh herbs, cheese and calamari; a famous slow food biscuit; and a hazelnut cheese loaf made with milk from their neighbors cows and drizzled with balsamic vinegar, which remains one of my favorite parts of the evening. They bring out a circular tray full of glass jars and vials filled with aged balsamic vinegar, a few up to 40 years old. It feels like the kind of special taste reserved for when a firstborn daughter announces she’s getting married, not for some stranger from Detroit. Hugs, scribbled emails and profuse thanks all around, I’m touched by how opening your home and sharing food can create an intimacy never found in a restaurant.

[Call +39 338 336 3610 to make reservations]

07.18.2012 | by: Meghan
Foodtripper

Stay: Leelanau Peninsula Farmhouse

Leland, Michigan

I spent the past weekend with a couple girlfriends in this dream of a farmhouse, situated in the agricultural center of the Leelanau Peninsula. The owner Sean rehabbed the old farmhouse, which was built in the early 1900s and owned by the Kovalik family (the same family of farmers the road is named after). Sean grew up in Leland (he went to Leland High School and his mom taught there), and when he moved away–first to Colorado, later New York–he wanted a place of his own back home, so he didn’t have to depend on the sofas of friends and family while visiting. He’d had his eye on this place for awhile, in all its glass bubble window and faded carpet glory. No one was living there, and during the recession, after it went into foreclosure, he was able to buy it, transforming it into this impecable beauty a few years later. The interior is well-done country vintage modern–not a farm lamp or sisal carpet out of place–but if you’re anything like me, being outside in this setting with this set-up is the first matter of business. Hammock? Check. Fire pit? Check. Hulking old oak for shade? Check.

Usually, I’m partial to staying on the lake in Leelanau County, but there is something about being out in the wide open country–flanked by cherry orchards, barns and rolling farmland in every direction–that feels so peaceful and remote. The immediate property is surrounded by wildflowers, dried milkweed poufs as big as grapefruits and wild asparagus, curling above the sightline like giant tumbleweeds. Chickens roam the property and head back to the henhouse at nightfall (we boiled freshly laid eggs for breakfast). We picked loads of fresh herbs and vegetables from the giant garden nestled in front of a small rustic barn, which Sean hopes to turn into a little speakeasy some day. We made big dinners and ate around the extra-long wooden table under strung lights and a sky full of stars. There were big plans for cooking and baking (the area is known for its orchards and farms), but in the end, more time was spent in the hammock and the lake than in the kitchen. Next time we want to cook up a storm, the work space will have to be far less appealing.

The Details
Three bedrooms, three bathrooms (one with a sauna, another with a clawfoot tub with  a view of the countryside). Sleeps six comfortably. Prices start at $239 a night. Rent it at airbnb.com.

05.23.2012 | by: Meghan
Foodtripper

Honor & Folly: Food & Wine

Detroit, Michigan

I’m certain he will hate that I’m saying this, but former chef Marcus Nilsson is kind of like the original Todd Selby of the food photography world. He’s been doing that thing for years–where the natural, peripheral mess of things is part of the photograph, part of story. A few months ago, we were lucky enough to welcome him to Detroit for a story in Food & Wine (out this month) about our humble little block of food- and drink-related businesses. The Slows chef, Brian Perrone, whipped up a bunch of BBQ at Honor & Folly and we shared a big meal at the dining table overlooking the old train station across the street. It’s the best seat in the house. We entertained everyone with funny stories about the old days (all of eight years ago) when we had to drill our apartment doors shut behind us, because there were no locks, and there wasn’t a single working streetlight. Marcus and crew also visited Sugar House and Astro downstairs, and the photos he took of Astro are my favorite, especially Jess Hicks’ almond-polenta cake with lemon (photo below; recipe here). Alison Attenborough was the food stylist on the project, and besides being incredibly charming and witty, I appreciate her subtle, natural approach.

Going into it, I was a little worried about how the block would be represented. Food & Wine can be pretty fancy, and there’s a certain rough-hewn quality to Detroit that usually gets exploited or ignored. I thought perhaps they’d try to gloss over or airbrush away, but everything looks exactly as it should (firemen hanging out with little lattes in front of Astro? Not staged.). There’s an honesty to Marcus’ photographs. He sees what we see–that there’s beauty in the contradiction–and he manages to capture the heart behind the efforts. Below, some photos from the shoot–a few from the magazine and others that didn’t make the cut. (Important note: I urge you to thoroughly  cover every square inch of his blog, where he collects all his best travel and food work, ranging from somber chef portraits from Denmark’s famed Geist to a stunning spread of food markets and vendors in Marrakesh.)

05.09.2012 | by: Meghan
Inns & Hotels

Check In: The Pig

Brockenhurst, England

It’s not just that I love the idea of relaxing country house hotels (I do–especially when they’re covered in climbing wisteria), I’m also drawn to thoughtful, self-sustaining food-focused experiences that immerse you in your surroundings. Planted squarely in the middle of the New Forest in Hampshire, The Pig hotel is both. In fact, the owners refer to it as a “restaurant with rooms.” The chefs and on-site forager source 80 percent of the ingredients from their local woods and nearby beaches;  long walks wind through the gardens, greenhouse and forest; and there’s an onsite pig farm and chickens. You can even borrow a pair of Hunter wellies for the occasion.

04.03.2012 | by: Meghan
Inns & Hotels

Stay: Tenuta di Spannocchia

Sienna, Italy

There’s been a steady stream of journalists and photographers coming through Detroit lately, many of whom, like the Montreal-based travel writer Alexandra Redgrave (assignment: local craft for enRoute magazine), either stop or stay at Honor & Folly. It’s been great fun. After arriving from the airport (without her luggage), Alex and I grab a quick drink at Sugar House downstairs, and she gives me a recent copy of the magazine. Inside, I immediately spot a story she wrote about Tuscan farm estates, including Tenuta di Spannocchia–a gorgeous sprawl of a place with lemon trees, climbing ivy, crumbling farmhouses and animals.

“Spannocchia is rustic,” she tells me. “You’re not staying on a farm that was set up at the same time as the hotel to add to the overall bucolic experience; you’re visiting a working farm that has existed in some form or another for centuries. The spaces are sparse, with very simple furnishings but also a few unexpectedly ornate details.” Details that make you realize there’s something special at work. You know the type. A hand-painted porcelain sink covered in pink roses and a ceiling stamped with old family crests.

According to her story, the owner Randall Stratton has been running the 1,100-acre property for the last 20 years with his wife, Francesca, whose grandfather bought the land in 1925 to use as a writer’s retreat. Creative visitors have been leaving their mark on the property ever since–from a painter who is recreating Spannocchia’s entire history on the granary’s walls to an architecture student who helped rehab a guesthouse that previously sat abandoned for at least 30 years. My favorite quote from the owner, also an architect by training: “We’re not really restoring the property,” says Randall. “We’ve just adapted it to the modern world. I think it’s a monument to a way of life that has almost disappeared.”

The Details
To stay at Tenuta di Spannocchia, you have to be a member of the Spannocchia Foundation (it’s $45 a person or more, depending on membership level). Once that’s ironed out, you can rent one of the guesthouses, starting at about $1000 a week in low season. Or an individual room in the b&b for $113 a night.

[Photos from top: Danilo Scarpati (top two), via Tenuta di Spannocchia, Alexandra Redgrave, Danilo Scarpati, Alexandra Redgrave (last two)]

03.28.2012 | by: Meghan
Foodtripper

Good Neighbors: Astro/Santa Rosa

Detroit, Michigan

Jess Hicks lives a couple doors down from my house, and Astro, the coffee shop she runs with her husband, Dai, is a couple doors down from Honor & Folly.  I could not wish for better neighbors at either place. Essentially, Astro acts like the communal breakfast table for the inn, and everyone who stays at Honor & Folly ends up making friends and learning about the city from folks who live here. It’s a glorious place (do yourself a favor and order a flat white and an anzac cookie), and I don’t think H&F guests would have the same experience if it didn’t exist.

When Jess isn’t baking up a storm at the shop, she runs a little side, pop-up-style business called Santa Rosa, and together, we have a series of exciting collaborations coming up (a monthly creative-ladies-who-lunch lunch date at H&F). We’ll also be in Chicago at the Dose Market April 15, selling a mix of Astro/Santa Rosa baked goods and Honor & Folly wares. If you live nearby, please stop by to say hello! We’d love to see you. Here, some photos from the Santa Rosa provisions market Jess organizes once in awhile in the shop when it’s closed on Monday. There’s fresh bread, beautifully packaged dry goods, her amazing cakes, and meat from Porktown Sausage, our brilliant neighborhood sausage makers. This week Jess whipped up the most delicious ricotta-spinach-raison spread and sold it in little tubs, and I’ve been gorging on it at every meal since.

02.29.2012 | by: Meghan
Inns & Hotels

Check In: Babylonstoren

Cape Winelands, South Africa

In the debut issue of Wayfare–an extremely well-designed, brand-new online travel magazine–I wrote about photographer Bob Coscarelli and his wife Karen Valentine’s one-night farm and food adventure at Babylonstoren in the South African winelands. It’s a stunning sprawl of a place in the Cape Dutch vernacular, where all eight acres are wide-open for the exploring, picking and tasting. Their brief stay reminded me how much enjoyment you can pack into a single day. Answer: a lot, apparently. Preferably in the form of orchard traipsing, herbal baths and fireside picnics. And since every vista and vignette is as stunning as the next, here are a few bonus photographs from their trip that really capture the intimacy of the spaces–and how the interior and garden feel so connected.



02.08.2012 | by: Meghan
Inns & Hotels

Check In: Villa Augustus

Dordrecht, Netherlands

The first time I heard about Villa Augustus, I was sitting in Studio Aandacht’s studio in Amsterdam’s IJburg neighborhood getting recommendations for a story I was writing about Dutch design. Ben and Tatjana pointed me straight to this playfully designed hotel, promising the most all-encompassing creative experience in the area. I was strapped for time, so I didn’t make it, sadly– but I’ve been following the progress and dreaming of getting back there ever since. I’ve looked at the website so many times, it feels like I’ve stayed there. At the risk of sounding overly praiseworthy and breathless about the place, Villa Augustus represents everything that is right and good in the travel world. It is so inspiring to see such creative care applied to every possible detail: walls with whimsical illustrations and geometrical prints hand-painted by the owner; fresh baked loaves of bread; handmade chandeliers that change every season; custom dinnerware emblazoned with the hare logo; and eclectic, mismatched furnishings handpicked for every room. In place of the typical hotel shop, there’s a flower and vegetable market, which makes perfect sense because the four acres of lush growing grounds surrounding the repurposed 19th-century water tower are dedicated to organic gardens, beautiful flowers, an orchard, and an Italian renaissance garden. There’s even a lemon tree greenhouse.

A testament to the creativity the place fosters, blogger/designer Ingrid Jansen, who makes the coolest wool-covered stools, spends three days a week manning the market shop and raves up and down about the magical design wonderland that owners Daan van der Have, Dorine de Vos and Hans Loos created. ”I’m in love with my workplace and feel privileged to work in such a wonderful place.” There are 37 rooms total–20 in the tower and 17 in garden building–and they’re all different. The interiors were designed by Dorine d Vos, who’s also an illustrator, responsible for the walls as well as a Villa Augustus garden and cookbook. To see some of her work and get a feel for the Villa Augustus aesthetic, check out the website she illustrated. Ingrid tells me there’s a room next to the greenhouse with a secret garden that’s “like a fairytale,” and I think that’s where I’d like to stay. Prices start at $165 and include breakfast, served in the restaurant, which is, of course, located right in the garden.


[Photos: via designskool.net (top, three and five); by Walter Herfst for Villa Augustus; and lilimsadventures.blogspot.com (images four and six)]

01.03.2012 | by: Meghan
Inns & Hotels

Stay: El Garzon

Garzon, Uruguay


A few weeks ago, I posted some knockout-beautiful photos of Andrew and Gemma Ingalls’ trip to Uruguay. Here, a much-deserved closer look at one of their favorite stops, El Garzon–a pretty magical restaurant and guesthouse opened by famed chef Francis Mallmann. They stayed a few days, feasted on impeccable-looking South American cuisine (prepared with an old Andean technique involving griddles between two wood fires) and fell in love with the staff. The aesthetic–a thoughtful hybrid of “frontier colonial style and peasant Italian vibe”–is as much a draw (well, at least to me) as the food. “We loved the color palette of the painted wood benches which dominated the gardens. Each evening we headed out to the sleepy town square, or a few blocks beyond, to watch the sun set over the grasslands,” says Gemma.


[All images by Gemma and Andrew Ingalls]

07.18.2011 | by: Meghan
Foodtripper

Eat: Saltwater Farm

Lincolnville, Maine


I’ve looked at Saltwater Farm’s website so often, I feel like I’ve been there already. But I just recently stumbled across a post about their big summer foodie extravaganza on jauntsetter and was re-inspired. Not only is this place a farm overlooking the coast of Maine–with some of the coolest cooking classes out there–but they also round up a few chefs from Brooklyn every summer to do The Maine Event, at which they make cheese, forage for mushrooms, bake pies, and learn to preserve the bounty of summer. They also slaughter and butcher a chicken. While the timing isn’t quite right, I can’t stop thinking about trying to shoehorn one of their cobbler, buckle and grunts class into my trip to Maine next week. There are so many reasons to visit this beautiful state, but just in case you need one more, Saltwater Farm is as good of one as any.

I really love how thoughtfully designed the entire experience is. From their site, verbatim:
The space is designed around the concept of a summer kitchen. Native to the North, these kitchens are set away from the house, near the garden. They are a place where vegetables are gathered on tabletops, summer berries are preserved for the fruitless months of winter, loaves of bread are baked and set to rest, fish are filleted and smoked, tomatoes are left to warm in the sun and where a chef is free to cook as he/she pleases, undisturbed.

Classes are taught in a post and beam barn set on the oceanfront, in a farmer’s field. The kitchen is fully equipped with a wood burning brick oven, an open hearth for spit roasting, pastry ovens, a Wolf range top and a variety of specialty equipment such as deep fryers, sausage makers, pasta makers, an ice cream maker and more. An outdoor kitchen provides a wood burning grill, lobster burners and a smoker for meat and fish. A vegetable garden with over 100 seed varieties sits beside the barn, providing stock for the kitchen. A chicken coup beside the barn houses 8 laying hens, meat birds and 4 ducks, providing the kitchen with fresh eggs and meat.

06.06.2011 | by: Meghan
Inns & Hotels

Stay: Lost & Found

Melbourne, Australia


There’s a good chance you’ve heard about Melbourne’s bespoke titans, Captains of Industry–self-proclaimed “practical men of wide experience.” They’ve been getting a huge amount of well-deserved press for their rare, special attention to custom work, from handmade suits and shoes to barber shaves and sandwiches. They even hand-make the thread they use for tailoring. Tucked into a black-painted building, the masculine atelier/cobbler/cafe is pretty cool-looking (see Todd Selby’s photos for T magazine below). It makes sense that Lost & Found, an online newsletter dedicated to creative Melbourne and put out by Tourism Victoria, would open their temporary, one-room hotel upstairs. With raw wooden floors and a wall full of big windows, the light-filled space is outfitted almost entirely with local design: furniture from vintage seller Grandfather’s Axe, dinnerware by ceramicist Shelley Panton and cheese from Yarra Valley Dairy. I’m a very big fan of these micro-ventures that give guests an intimate experience, offering a hyper-curated glimpse into the local art, culture, food and design scene. Best part: If you get picked by ballot, you get to stay for FREE.

[Top four photos of Lost & Found by Warwick Baker courtesy Tourism Victoria via Skip Town; bottom two photos of Captains of Industry by Todd Selby for T via nytimes.com]

05.11.2011 | by: Meghan
Foodtripper

Round-Up: The Elevated Coaching Inn

I love the very premise of the coaching inn: Stop at a welcoming inn for a night to lay your head, socialize and fill your belly. And while things have certainly progressed since the days of the horse and buggy, many of us are still seeking the same basic refuge–a couple rooms up the stairs from a cozy, intimate pub or restaurant. Although, the food has gotten significantly better. Some of my very favorite travel experiences are based on this model. And a couple years ago, when I interviewed Ilse Crawford about the design concept of the Olde Bell Inn, she summed it up perfectly: “We’ve re-invented the idea of the coaching inn. Not in an historic sense, but pinning down the essence and applying it. These are places that are warm-hearted and democratic without sacrificing quality. Food is central to the experience–good food cooked simply.”

I’ve been to three out of four of these places, and I would go back to each in a heartbeat. They don’t have many rooms on the property, but if you’re lucky enough to snag one, you’ll stumble up to your bed at night, after an enlightening conversation with the friendly bartender and a few of the locals, with a full, grateful belly. But make no mistake, there’s a major difference between Then and Now: No one’s merely passing through anymore. These establishments have become the destination.

[Longman & Eagle; Olde Bell Inn; Lute Suites; and Casa da Luzi]