Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Grab and Go in Goa

When the sun disappears from the sky on the rare winter afternoon in the Indian province of Goa, intrepid tourists flee the legendary beaches for a day trip to the old port city of Panjim. Set on the delta of the river Panjovi, it’s a great place to explore colonial neighborhoods where classic architecture coexists with modern concept, cultural landmarks nestle side by side with bustling commerce, and fresh seafood is the name of the culinary game. Goa’s pace - slower than the madcap vitality of megacities like Bombay (an hour by air to the north) - invites leisurely meandering along the tree-lined riverfront, where casino ships wait at the shore for night to fall. The pleasing, humid afternoon air seems more appropriate for picnic-style al fresco dining rather than indoor restaurant experiences.

On a recent walkabout in Panjim we stumbled upon Chicken Man, who may sound like some kind of a Marvel Comics superhero, but isn’t. A new quick-service restaurant concept for Goa, the just-opened modern storefront caught our attention, and turned out to be the flagship location and first in India under this new brand name. The menu is a simple one, but perfect for the picnic mentality: good rotisserie chicken (spicy or crispy), excellent sides, packed to go, ideal for the park bench feast. There’s fast counter service, a few window tables for those in a hurry, and -unheard of in Goa- free delivery, in case you’re staying in a Panjim hotel. The kid-friendly menu looks like a good value, too and there are free refills on the fountain drinks.

Save your seafood feast for later. Chicken Man turns out to be the ideal grab and go meal for a day of wandering. You need only locate a couple cold Kingfisher beers from any of the tiny groceries, and your outdoor banquet is complete.

Chicken Man
+91 832 242 3333

Monday, September 22, 2014


You never quite know what you’ll find happening in the city of Vicenza.

Take, for example, a commemoration honoring the 500th anniversary of Magellan’s voyage around the world. Why in Vicenza? Magellan didn’t make it home from the 2-year cruise, struck down in a hail of spears on a remote Phillippine island, after turning his canon on indigenous residents, having chosen the wrong side during a local rebellion. But Antonio Pigafetta, a Vicentino scholar and paying passenger on the ship, survived the attack. Upon his return he gave the only eyewitness account of Magellan’s untimely end. Pigafetta’s house still stands in Vicenza, the finest example of Gothic architecture in the city, and an oft-visited destination on the architectural walking tour, which mostly includes the finest examples of works by Palladio.

Unexpected things always appear year-round in little Vicenza, less known than its nearby sisters Venice and Verona, both easily accessible, about a half hour distant. A re-enactment of Pigafetta’s return home included a procession of costumed actors followed by horn players, drummers and flag-throwers, who stopped intermittently among Vicenza’s narrow cobbled streets and Renaissance plazas to perform balletic routines to stirring drum rolls. The procession ended on Pigafetta’s doorstep, where the great man himself read from his diaries of the circumnavigation completed five centuries ago.

In the town square called the Piazza Signori, a thriving market of delicacies was in progress, and later in the day local residents could be seen sampling from the stalls: cheeses, salumeria, exotic honeys, rustic breads and the first black truffles of the season.





Thursday, September 18, 2014


In a whirlwind week, two extraordinary events occurred in northern Italy, both under the stewardship of Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo.

On the night of Wednesday, September 10 at the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Torino, a traveling exhibition showcasing the finalists to this year’s Prix Pictet launched. This year’s theme, Consumption, introduced by Pictet’s Stephen Barber at a gala reception, themes the world’s most prestigious annual photography prize. You can visit this important show at the Fondazione’s impressive and expansive space, a converted factory, through October 12.

The following Sunday, September 14, Divine, an installation focusing on highlights from the 20th century costume jewelry collection of Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, opened at Ca’D’oro in Venezia. A gathering of local luminaries and international guests witnessed the official launch of the show. Over 400 objects notable for their history and elegance are displayed in the Galleria Georgio Franchetti, remaining on exhibit through January 11, 2015.

In her exhibition notes, Sandretto re Rebaudengo says she first developed interest in accessible costume jewelry designs because they represent a cultural heritage that “brings us back to hard times and great social change.” But you will find they are also remarkable for their craftsmanship and inherent beauty.

Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo 
Via Torino Modane 16, Torino
tel. +39 011 3797600

Ca D’Oro Galleria Giorgio Franchetti 
Cannaregio 3932, Venice 
Tue-Sun: 8:15 to 19:15 / Monday: 8.15-14 

Prix Pictet reception in Torino

Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Venezia

Stephen Barber introduces the Prix Pictet exhibition in Torino

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Gifts By The Sea

The last dozen oysters at Drake's Bay Oyster Farm.

Back in 2012, Lucire reported to readers on the little luxuries to be discovered in Tomales Bay, California, specifically the splendor of local oysters found there. In the intervening years conditions have changed for the oysters, with a shrinking world population.

Recently well-meaning activists forced the shutdown of the retail store at Inverness’ Drake’s Bay Oyster Farm, a fixture of the community for a half century, renowned for succulent Pacifics, and a company which furnishes 40% of all the oysters produced in the state of California. A strange coalition of environmentalists, the Sierra Club, politicians and moneyed newcomers in collusion with government bureaucracies managed to cancel the farm’s lease, a decision largely unpopular with residents, not to mention the end of livelihood for a dozen families, and to the disappointment of a cadre of restauranteurs and aficionados. Subsequently an advocacy group has filed yet another lawsuit with the US Supreme Court to protest this action. We made a visit to Drake’s Bay on the last day that their retail store was open, sampled a dozen on the half-shell opened before our very eyes, and exchanged a poignant hug with Nancy Lunny, a member of the family who owns the farm. We stood at the water’s edge, staring out at the pristine landscape, gobbling down the oysters, rich in the flavor of the sea, tender and gelatinous, garlanded with a dash of home-made mignonette. For the slowest food available you must seek out the source, and Drake’s Bay was just that. A rare opportunity which may disappear, go while you can. May they remain open, may we continue to profit from their bounty of the bay.

We had the opportunity to sleep at Osprey Peak Bed & Breakfast, a 3-room Zen-style inn tucked into a cypress grove on a hillside just beyond the hamlet of Inverness. Quiet, elemental, totally comfortable, with every modern convenience, the property stands far away from the main road, yet accessible to all the local landmarks. On arrival, Innkeeper Nancy set out a table in a clearing, steps from the front entrance, with a platter of local cheeses, condiments and bread, accented by seasonal fruits, accompanied by glasses of Beaulieu Coastal Cabernet. The simplicity and elegance of the display and the gesture epitomize the property. This tranquil retreat may appear austere, but the breakfast table (included in room rate) features a bevy of fresh cut fruits, house-made granola, and other specialties, ordered the night before from a detailed menu. During your meal you can watch hundreds of hummingbirds zipping about the adjacent terrace sampling at suspended feeders. Their thrumming may be the only extraneous sound you hear beyond the whooshing of the pines close at hand. You’re guaranteed a deep sleep in a comfortable bed, a graceful awakening, not to mention a discreet and private refuge to return to after your day of activity. Highly recommended, but reserve early.

Nature watching, hiking, kayaking and small craft sailing complement rich dining possibilities around Tomales Bay. We stopped back into Nick’s Cove in Marshall, intending to put away a quick dozen Kumamotos, but we couldn’t stop, and next ordered half-dozens three different ways: Mornay, BBQ and Rockefeller, washed down with a delicious NZ Sauvignon Blanc. A wonderful interlude resulting in 30 empty half shells, after which we remembered the Walrus and the Carpenter: “they’d eaten every one.” Chef Austin Perkins continues to tantalize guests with seafood offerings worthy of your attention. And Lucire also recommends a night in any of Nick’s eccentric cabins on the water.  

Back in Inverness we had the distinct pleasure of a world-class meal at Saltwater, Luc Chamberland’s celebrated restaurant just across the street from the southern shoreline where the hull of a beached fishing boat can be viewed. Think Slow Food Marin style, with a great wine list of West Coast luminaries, and outstanding French and Italian bottles thrown in for good measure. We chose a bottle of classic Chablis, Domaine Chantemerle, a 2010 Burgundy, which paired perfectly with our dozen Hog Island Kumamotos shucked by the owner himself. Next we moved over to Chef Ryan Cantwell’s rustic fare: Sweet Brentwood Corn Soup accessorized by a refreshing and surprising mint relish. As a main course, wild Oregon Coho Salmon, set on a foundation of white bean ragout, accompanied by a soft farm egg (genius!), olive relish and roasted watermelon radishes. For dessert we tried the Double 8 Meyer Lemon gelato, delicate and not sweet, served with a Scottish shortbread, clairvoyantly prefiguring our next destination. Hard to believe there is such a lively place out at the end of the highway, but Saltwater’s a destination restaurant deserving of its great reputation. We enjoyed the optimum of hospitality and fine preparation, and recommend adding this establishment into your travel plan. But again, reservations a must, and understandably so.

Several weeks later we found ourselves halfway around the world, at the very top of the Scottish mainland in the harbor city of Scrabster, waiting for a ferry to take us across to the Orkney Islands for a visit to the Ring of Brodgar. Down south in the Edinburgh area you undoubtedly could locate some exciting culinary choices, but off into the hinterlands the delectability quotient drops precipitously. The one great barometer of quality might be fish and chips, the ubiquitous equivalent to fast food in the UK. Here we were at yet another shore almost 5000 miles away from Tomales Bay, zero food miles from the source. Thus we were fortunate to identify a compact and unmarked takeaway stand next to The Captain’s Galley seafood restaurant which faces the ferry terminal. There we discovered owner Jim Cowie dipping freshly-filleted haddock pieces in handmade batter, delicately placing the pieces in a bubbling vat of superheated palm oil. The result was beyond reproach: the finest fish and chips ever sampled, feathery, light, flavorful, and for good reason. Jim’s a proponent of Slow Food, and had purchased the haddock that very morning at the harbor, directly from the fisherman who caught it. We learned that the adjacent restaurant he operates with wife Mary in a repurposed ice house originally constructed in the 1700s is known for the freshest, finest fish in the region. Scrabster is the “Gateway Port” where fishing boats land their catches from some of the richest fishing grounds in the world. But was this pescatory discovery evidence of a consistent experience or simply a fluke? Several days later, on our return from Orkney we disembarked and headed straight back to the The Captain’s Galley for a return engagement. Again we found Jim at the same fryer, but recommending today’s catch of the day, hake: delectable, flaky, sweet to the palate. Impossible to resist! We next ordered battered Highland langoustines, and doused them with malt vinegar and sea salt. They disappeared in less than 120 seconds. It proves once again that a voyage to the source, whether here or there, pays the highest culinary dividends. Look to the shore, traveler, and rewards always follow.

Osprey Peak Bed & Breakfast
Nancy Beck & David Herbst, Innkeepers
10 Miwok Way, Box 923, Inverness, CA 94937
415 669-1467

Nick’s Cove
23240 Highway One
Marshall CA 94940
415 663-1033

Saltwater Oyster Depot
12781 Sir Francis Drake
Inverness, CA 94937
415 669-1244

The Captain’s Galley
The Harbour, Scrabster KW14 7UJ, UK
01847 894 999

The delta leading to Drake's Bay

Picnic table overlooking Drake's Bay

All that's left at Nick's Cove, after a dozen Kumamotos and a half dozen BBQ'd.

Cheese platter and wine al fresco at Osprey Peak

Regenerated fallen tree at Osprey Peak

Dining room in repurposed ice house- The Captain's Galley, Scrabster UK

Jim Cowie, frying up the haddock at the takeaway stand next to The Captain's Galley

Daily specials at the takeaway stand, The Captain's Galley, Scrabster

The best haddock and chips in the world

The unmarked takeaway stand at Scrabster Harbor

The Captain's Galley, Scrabster, housed in a repurposed ice house from the 1700s

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

New author interview from India

This fantastic interview on NJKinny's blog just posted.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Another great review for The Hacker

Thanks to NJKinney for a terrific piece on The Hacker:


I really appreciate your good read!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Letter from Venice

December 28, 2013

Greetings the week after Christmas 2013! I'm living here for the month, writing and reporting, and the city is grand. You still see huge tour groups of curious Asians- welcome, friends! But the lanes are comparatively empty now, and they will thin out next week after the New Year. It's the perfect season to visit. Just bring your warm clothes.

Luna Baglioni's Chef Cosimo
I'm gearing up to write an article for www.italiantalks.com about shopping with Cosimo from the Luna Baglioni, one of my favorite hotels in the world. Paula and I will accompany Chef Cosimo on an odyssey to the Rialto market and observe him as he selects the best of the region for the Canova Restaurant. We'll photograph him, take some movies, and share his secret places and choices with you. Stay tuned!

This week we dropped by the Luna to finalize our appointment, and we shared a coffee with Cosimo, our old friend GM Gianmatteo Zampieri, and were expertly taken care of by the legendary Nicoletta. Cosimo sent out a dessert sampler with zabaglioni, dates and mascarpone, cheesecake, chocolate mousse, and a delicate custard. It's always great to visit the Luna, since it feels like home and family- also to consult with the world's greatest concierge, Antonio Massari about the latest insider places of interest. He always knows what's happening. The hospitality quotient is especially high at the Luna. They earn their stars every day.
The Luna's GM Gianmatteo Zampieri
Stanley Moss and Nicoletta

Later, we went wandering, due East, out to the Castello neighborhood, where a local resident pointed us to the Campo Ruga. It doesn't get much more real than this. You may need your GPS to find it, but tucked away in this tiny square you’ll find Trattoria alla Nuova Speranza, where chef Alessandro (and his Viszla dog) welcomed us for an authentic Venetian lunch.

Typical lasagna at Trattoria alla Nuova Speranza
Chef Alessdandro
A half litre of Valpolicella, traditional salad, and a lasagna which made us cry out loud, “Mamma mia!”

Then traditional Venetian cookies and vin santo, followed by a macchiatone, a coffee service unique to the Veneto- ask for it anywhere else and get a blank stare. The Trattoria is one of those real experiences that can’t be choreographed. True to custom, we had a shot of grappa before stepping back out into the windy chill. As the winter sun set behind the Gothic silhouettes, we strolled along Via Giuseppe Garibaldi, back to the lagoon, where fantasy lights illuminated a temporary row of kid’s rides.

Trattoria alla Nuova Speranza
Campo Ruga
Castello 145, Venezia
Tel/fax 041 528 5225