Friday, October 26, 2018

Feasting in Europe: Food glorious food means fresh, pretty

Cookie's favorite lamb chops -- served rare -- with asparagus, lentils and a balsamic drizzle. 
Cookie and Keller enjoy a leisurely lunch in Monterosso.

TRAVEL IS FUN for me, and no part of travel is more pleasurable than exploring the gastronomic pleasures of far-away places.
I love watching what the locals order in European restaurants, even asking a fellow diner what that attractive offering on his freshly served plate is.
In Asia, I keep my eye on take-out customers in noodle and dim-sum shops. Fast-food in Asia is tasty and fun to try.
HERE ARE a few tips for dining abroad. My hope is that they will broaden your tastes without flattening your wallet, and make you a bit more adventuresome on the road.
* Use your concierge.  Hotels are proud of this amenity and the concierge is often the most knowledgeable person in the hotel when it comes to good places to dine.  Tell him/her you want to eat in a local favorite, not a tourist trap.
* Consider traveling off-season (before Memorial Day and after Labor Day).  You'll miss the huge crowds and find the restaurants less busy and the staff more accommodating.   In France, Italy and Spain in August, nearly everyone – including chefs, restaurateurs and key suppliers – goes on holidays. Americans also flock to Europe in those three months. You don't want to be there then.
*Always check addresses and  opening-closing hours. If you have your heart set on a particular restaurant, make sure it is open!
A breakfast buffet in Tarragona,
Spain, featured fresh bakery items.
Appetizers arrive shipboard on Celebrity's Century during
a family cruise celebrating the birthday of Ellen Cosgriffe.
* Keep an eye on key dates for religious festivals, public holidays, big  soccer and other sporting events. We also avoid places with televisions -- or you might find your bistro turned into a  World Cup screening room. Go back a street or two from the main drag.
Take a wine tasting now and then, particularly in southern 
Europe.  Then ask the sommelier where he dines out.  
If you see chestnuts, mushrooms and lemon in the street stalls, find
items on the menu featuring those same local ingredients.
*When in Europe, South America, southeast Asia and Australia, we look for terrace restaurants and open-air dining if it's nice.  But particularly in the Far East, check the weather.  Heavy rains and monsoon season can dampen the spirit and who wants soggy noodles?
Look for ingredients in local shops
knowing that those are good bets
for dining later in the day.

*If you're cruising, ask your waiter to recommend your appetizer, entree and dessert.  He knows what the food looks like in the kitchen and what the chefs put their most energy into. 

Don't discount fast food on the road.
We found this tasty wrap in Vietnam. 

With Halloween around the corner, consider a pumpkin
dish -- pie, pudding, cookies.  Look for seasonal fare.

UP NEXT:  While we're in a traveling mood and 
mode, consider taking a youngster of two on a holiday with you.  It needn't be a three-week cruise, but could be a refreshing long weekend, or even an overnight.  We find traveling with kids is eye-opening and endlessly entertaining, and offer a few pointers on making the young part of your life and living to tell happy tales about it.  Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a novel look at travel, the arts, nature and family.
(Left photo: at a snow lodge near Truckee, Calif., with
the Ganner family, Cookie's niece et al from the Bay Area.)   

Friday, October 19, 2018

Jazzing it up on the Midway, celebrating near half-century of Jazzercise

Saturday's USS Midway aircraft carrier will host one of the state's largest Jazzercise gatherings, benefiting cancer research.


Jazzercise founder Judi Sheppard Missett and the writer,
Christene "Cookie" Meyers, at an earlier Midway fundraiser.

Jazzercise teachers and students will
 put their hearts and money into an 
  energetic fundraiser Saturday on Midway. 
Thousands gather each year on the Midway deck to transform the aircraft
carrier into a dance stage.  Here, dancers jazz to rhythmic pop tunes. 

EVEN FOR veteran Jazzercise dancers like myself, dancing with a cast of thousands is a thrill.
This Saturday, Oct. 20, thousands will convene to dance their hearts and feet off to benefit cancer research. The venue is the vast deck of the USS Midway in downtown San Diego, Calif.
To know that this fun fitness morning is also a benefit for breast cancer research makes the dancing all the more pleasurable.
  Jazzercise instructors will gather from Southern California and across the U.S., to "Dance for Life," fighting breast cancer and seeking a cure aboard the venerable Midway. The time Saturday is 8 a.m. until 10 a.m. Cost is $45 and includes a collector's item Jazzercise t-shirt.
MORE THAN 1,000 Jazzercise instructors, dancers, family and friends have already booked it, including cancer survivors and others whose lives have been affected by breast cancer.  The benefit will top a half-million dollars given to the Susan G. Komen research since the project's beginnings.
The writer, Christene "Cookie" Meyers, right,
and Sharon Ticho of  Jazzercise Carmel Valley.
    In the last five years, co-chairs Pacific Beach/La Jolla
Jazzercise owner Andrea Singer and El Cajon Jazzercise owner Susan Shofner with support from many southern California Jazzercise locations have raised more than $495,000 with the Dance for Life event, part of the Susan G. Komen 3-Day, 60 mile walk for breast cancer research.
Besides the epic group workout led by Jazzercise instructors, breast cancer survivors will be honored as they dance together during the “Survivor Song.”
Founder Judi Sheppard Missett created Jazzercise in Chicago nearly a half-century ago, in 1969 as a student at Northwestern University. She was teaching at a dance studio and noticed her classes had high dropout rates. Her "Jazzercise" concept arose, as a way to make dance more fun while enhancing the dancers' strength and fitness.
I  BECAME a Jazzercise devotee 10 years later, when I interviewed Missett for an airline magazine article.
Judi S. Missett, right, and her daughter,
Jazzercise CEO, Shanna Missett Nelson.
To my delight, Judi remembered that long-ago story when we met at the Midway two years ago. I told her how much Jazzercise means to me, how I find it wherever I go.  "That makes my day. Good for you," said Judi.
The three-day Komen walk for the cure includes Saturday's Midway dance.
As a travel writer, I venture out in the world for more than four months a year.  Jazzercise membership allows dancers to show their  EFT (auto-pay) cards and dance anywhere in the world where Jazzercise exists.  I've danced in a dozen U.S. states, and in several foreign countries, including Japan, where there are thousands of enthusiastic devotees.  Jazzercise has 8,300 franchises globally. I go on line to connect and participate regularly in San Diego, and often in Montana, Oregon, New York and Georgia, where I spend time each year. I've made many friends, including a sprightly 95-year old Jazzerciser, Betty Lowe (click the link below.)
Betty Lowe is well past 95 years old, and attributes her
fitness in part to her years with Jazzercise.
Dancing into her 90s!
Each dance-based group fitness session is 60 minutes featuring a fusion of jazz dance, resistance training, pilates, yoga, kickboxing and latin-style movements set to popular music. I frequent two venues in San Diego, and when I can, venues in Billings, Montana, Atlanta, Bronxville, N.Y., Portland and Medford, Oregon, and San Francisco, all regular haunts. My weekdays Carmel Valley Jazzercise venue is with franchise owner Sharon Ticho, one of a half-dozen varied and energetic coaches, all of whom enrich my life. We dance with lively women of all ages and many backgrounds.  My lively Saturday Jazzercise is with Rick Nesbitt at the American Federation of Musicians Union on Morena Avenue. Both of my fine coaches will lead dancers on the Midway stage.
DESCRIBED as "a huge group dance party,'' Saturday's event receives national coverage as the deck of the aircraft carrier is transformed to a gigantic stage. To get in on the fun and contribute to the cause, come to 910 N. Harbor Drive, San Diego. And consider Jazzercise to keep mentally and physically fit. It makes a beautiful day even better!  

Dining abroad can be a special pleasure, if you're daring and eat
what and where the locals do.  Here, a shrimp-sausage dish.
UP NEXT:  Feasting in Europe. Let's go!  No one dines better than when on vacation, and our many holidays in southern Europe have given us insight into great food, fine restaurants and best bets to order when in particular countries.  Join us on the trail to tasty dining far away from home. Our best advice is to find out where the locals eat and avoid the highest-priced eateries, which often disappoint.  We also look for venues with live local music.  Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each Friday for a refreshing look at travel, the arts, food, family and nature.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Salute to New Orleans: sassy, sultry, seasoned city celebrates tricentennial

The Dukes of Dixieland have been around New Orleans for decades. They specialize in traditional New Orleans jazz.

Street music is a New Orleans tradition.

THE 'BIG EASY' is  big fun. It's not hard to "laissez le bon temps rouler."
The city is celebrating its tricentennial this year, with all the jazz and pizzazz one expects from one of the country's most colorful towns.
Celebrations began on New Years Eve, honoring the diversity, energy, come-back energy and artistic accomplishments.
Iconic buildings and tour buses abound.
Above is the famous Gallier Hall.
Celebrities, including native son Harry Connick Jr., have been in on the festivities.  He is one of many famous New Orleanians.  Satchmo leads the list -- aka the endearing trumpeter and singer Louis Armstrong. The talented Marsalis family is rooted here.
Dance and music come alive daily.
Beignets and coffee at Cafe du Monde are a tradition.
Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres was born here, along with band leader Pete Fountain.  Voodoo queen Marie Laveau worked the streets and shops of New Orleans. The city also gave birth to perhaps the world's most famous madam,
Fried shrimp -- and sometimes fried oysters --
make up the city's famous "po boy" sandwich.
Harrah's in downtown New Orleans
celebrates the city's music and art.
Below, a paddlewheel plies the river.

Norma Wallace, whose pleasure palaces were legendary.
Fun city for foodies
GOTHIC NOVELIST Anne Rice was born here, as was writer Truman Capote. Award-winning radio host Cokie Roberts is a native daughter.
The city's founder was a Frenchman named Jean-Baptiste LeMoyne, Sieur de Bienville.  He liked the lay of the land at the mouth of the Mississippi River and named city center Place d'Armes.  Colonists flocked in to what soon would become the French Quarter. 

New Orleans boasts a memorial to the Holocaust. The city
 has a large, proud and philanthropic Jewish community.
  Step aboard a steamboat
The French ruled until 1763 when the Spanish took over.  It reverted to French control in 1803 then was sold to the U.S. in the Louisiana Purchase.
NEW ORLEANS folks are fun-loving, but they are also resilient.  Hurricane Katrina's devastation can still be seen, but the townsfolk came together to rebuild, after the 2005 disaster and levee failure.
New Orleans has kept its famous
streetcars. Truman Capote's most
famous play is his work 
"A Streetcar Named Desire."
Plan to spend at least four or five days to take a plantation tour, enjoy the garden district, live jazz, zoo or aquarium, and soak up the French and Spanish architecture that mark the city. Gallier Hall has had a major post-hurricane facelift, the Louis Armstrong Airport is expanded and Bourbon Street has been spruced up.
Take a plantation tour
EATING IS an art in New Orleans, which many consider one of the world's best dining towns.
 Visitors won't be disappointed, whether first-time guests or regulars, as we're proud to be. Rich, diverse, enduring -- we consider it one of the most interesting and entertaining cities we've visited.

Jazzercise takes to the USS Midway deck Saturday, Oct. 20, in a fundraiser for cancer research. Fun for a good cause.


UP NEXT:  Jazz it up on the Midway Oct. 20 with Jazzercise Dance for Life! Thousands of dancers will take over the deck of the USS. Midway in San Diego for an 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. workout to benefit breast cancer research and the struggle for a cure. Instructors from around the world will participate.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Madrid born guitarist brings music of Spain to San Diego


Jesus Soriano performs regularly at a popular tapas bistro in San Diego.
Longtime friend and fellow guitarist Fred Fisher designed this colorful poster.


HE STARTED performing when he was 15 years old, in his native Spain.  Many years  later, Jesus Soriano is entertaining appreciative audiences in southern California with elegant classical guitar techniques inspired by his affection for the Catalan tradition.
"I received my first guitar for Christmas," says the soft-spoken Soriano. "Two years later, I was on stage."
 Born and raised in Madrid, Soriano played in several rock bands as a teen-ager, and moonlighted as a folk musician in several “Tunas and Estudiantinas,” wearing traditional costumes and singing serenades.
HE FOUND flamenco appealing and crowd pleasing, for its spirited, rhythmical style. He was being paid by age 17 for sharing his talents.
"But besides flamenco, I pay special attention to old, traditional songs from different regions of Spain," says Soriano.
Soriano, far left, offers friends a beautiful paella on special occasions,
here served for a reunion among old pals, with salad, wine and bread.

He identifies with music and lyrics with strong social content, music born in Spain's streets and legendary tapas bars.  So how did a devoted Spaniard end up in San Diego?
"It was to be a short visit to get acquainted with my first wife's culture." Back in 1969, he met Melody, a UCLA foreign student. The two married in 1973. "I couldn't argue with her contention that it was time for me to learn her culture," he smiles, "since she had spent four years immersed in Spanish culture.  We came to San Diego for 'a couple of years' and it's now 45 years later."
Soriano is still learning the culture that has been his for a near half-century.
 AMERICAN AND EUROPEAN music both left their mark on his soul. "I love Leonard Cohen,
Two old friends Bruce Keller, left, and Soriano, recreate
their musical pose of  1975, at Costa Brava.
Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens and Peter, Paul and Mary, but I don’t sing those in public," he says.
Soriano, right, and friend Bruce
Keller, in 1975, photographed by
mutual friend Carlos Montero.
His Spanish influences include well known and legendary singers, songwriters and performers.
Patxi Andion, Paco Ibanez, Joaquin Sabina, Los Chichos and Los Chunguito.
But friends also know Soriano for two other less obvious talents: motorcycling and cooking.
A paella collaboration by accomplished amateur chef
Jesus Soriano and his longtime friend Carlos Montero.
This writer can attest that Soriano's paella parties are legendary, and he gets to his San Diego gigs aboard a motorcycle, which he rides at least twice a week from his hilltop home in Julian.
HIS SAN DIEGO gigs began in 1973, at places some of which are gone: El Cafe del Rey Moro, Espana, Al-Salam, La Gran Tapa, La Tavola and El Circo Barcelona. He spent many years at Cafe Sevilla, and has been at Costa Brava in Pacific Beach since it opened in 2003. Enjoy him on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7-9 p.m.
The motorcycle passion involves logging a half-million miles.   His current ride is a 2004 Honda ST1300 with 167,000 miles.
   Soriano's three sons are Alonso and Marcos, who live in northern California with Melody, and Anthony, who lives with Soriano in Julian.
If you're planning a paella party, consider Soriano and his apropos music.
And a trip to Costa Brava any night is a good idea, but on Tuesdays and Thursdays, you'll have the bonus of Soriano's beautiful music.
New Orleans is celebrating its 300th birthday!

UP NEXT: While we're in a celebratory mood, consider that New Orleans turns 300 this year.  The city is celebrating through year's end with special concerts, parties, and tributes to the people who have made the city great, including musicians, statesmen and world renowned chefs. Remember to explore, learn, live and catch us Fridays for a new twist on travel, family, art, music and changing culture.