Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Switzerland's Fete Des Vignerons


Once every generation, the centuries-old viticultural festival, Fete des Vignerons, unfolds in Vevey, Switzerland. Watching this spectacle of music, dancing, wine and fanciful costumes, felt like I had been transported to something out of a Dr. Seuss story. With a law that prohibits the fest from taking place more than five times in a century, I felt incredibly lucky to witness this celebration of Swiss wine traditions dating back to the 17th century.

 Some of the fetes 5,500 performers in costumes strolled the narrow streets of Vevey after a show that featured fairies, bees, royal courts, playing cards and 17th-century wine growers. The performance was in French but the drama transcended language barriers.

It's a difficult experience to describe but if I had to sum it up, I would explain it as the magic of Cirque Du Soleil combined with the pageantry of the Olympics, topped with the history of folk celebrations.  Take a peek at my videos below to view some of the scenes:

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Guadeloupe's Ultimate Street Food

The island of Guadeloupe offers so much more than a pretty landscape. This French Caribbean beauty is drenched in culture, history and it's no surprise, food. I was familiar with the artful blend of African, French and Indian cuisine from visiting neighboring Martinique but I had never heard of Guadeloupe's famous bokit, until I stepped foot in the island's main city of Pointe-a-Pitre. On every other corner and on food trucks, I glimpsed signs for bokits and long lines of locals eagerly awaiting the chance to bite into the delicacy. So what is a bokit? It's also called a creole burger and it's two pieces of fried dough or johnnycakes, stuffed with everything from lamb, chicken, conch, shrimp and everything in between, plus cheese, salad and sauces. It's basically a portable meal and it generally lasts me two days. It is absolutely essential to try a bokit whenever you visit Gwada. I wrote an in-depth exploration of my discovery of bokits for my new column in The Takeout, called "National Treasures." You can check it out here: The Crispy Golden Joys of Guadeloupe's Bokit.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Scenes From Spain's Ribera Del Duero Wine Region

Wine may be the highlight of Spain's Ribera Del Duero wine region but this cultural landmark, which stretches through four provinces, offers many stunning vistas besides vineyards and sloping hills. The Castle of Curiel De Duero perched on the hilltop pictured above was one of the first sites that caught my eye. The ancient fortress overlooks the area's vineyards and wineries and reminds visitors of the area's impressive history that dates back to the 11th century.

This charming spot is part of the terrace for Molino de Palacios restaurant in Penafiel, which was converted from a 16th-century flour mill.

The spectacle of the Duero River flowing through the town of Castronuno immediately grabbed my attention. This is the river that fortifies the region's vineyards and it's one of the longest rivers of the Iberian Peninsula.

This monument to the local cantareras, the women who traditionally carried jugs of water from the river to the towns, was my favorite piece of public art. It honors the importance of these women who helped sustain the culture that produced heritage wines.

The Romanesque Church of Santa Maria in Castronuno rises above the town and its 12th-century structure lends a sense of intrigue to the surroundings.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Copper Containers and COVID-19

I ordered a copper water bottle from Copper H20 two years ago. Besides being pretty, the bottle makes tap water alkaline, which neutralizes acidity in the body and boosts immunity. I've also followed the Indian wellness system of Ayurveda for years and know the benefits of copper on overall health.  So I was happy to sip from my copper bottle during yoga class and during hot days at the beach.

Fast forward to 2020 and the horrors of COVID-19.  I hadn't even used my copper bottle because I grab it when I travel or go to yoga class and that is not happening now. So when Jessica from Copper H20 contacted me about reviewing the bottle, I laughed. She didn't realize that I already owned a copper bottle and I had overlooked the benefits of using it during the Coronavirus pandemic.  There have been a lot of studies about the antiviral properties of copper and how it can help combat coronavirus.  Copper was shown to kill 90% of bacteria after repeated exposure during a 2008 Environmental Protection Agency study.  I hadn't thought about copper's strength in killing bacteria when Covid-19 hit but it all came back to me with a quickness. When I visited villages in India, copper bowls and containers were always scattered around houses and courtyards. The vessels were filled with water and stood for hours so that the water would become purified and the contaminants killed. Besides strengthening immunity, copper is also believed to have positive effects on skin.   I did not consider the effects of a large container compared to my 20 oz bottle but I wanted to find out.  So Jessica sent me a copper pitcher from Copper H20's sister site, Shantiva. The company donates fifteen percent of profits to non-profit organizations to supply clean drinking water to developing nations. I've been drinking from my copper pitcher and bottle for two months and here's what I discovered:


I've always thought that water from my copper water bottle tasted smoother and fresher, sort of like spring water.  I usually sip the contents from my bottle quickly so having a pitcher makes a difference in the amount of water I drink. I typically drink two 2.1 liters from the pitcher, as opposed to one or two servings from the 20-ounce bottle. (I also drink several liters of tea per day)  Copper H20 recommends storing the water in the pitcher for eight hours to make sure that the water becomes alkaline. I have a Britta water filtration pitcher and water from my copper pitcher tastes sweeter to me. Another part of the appeal is the sheer beauty of the pitcher. It's handcrafted by artisans from a single piece of copper and hammered so there are bright textured grooves that glow when it catches the light. (Those grooves increase the surface area that touches the water.)  It really qualifies as a piece of functional art.

As far as the physical effects of drinking from my copper vessels, my ayurvedic dosha is vata, which means I have a sensitive digestive system and dry skin and hair. It's probably because I'm drinking an increased amount of water but my digestive system has been more balanced and my skin less dry. Even after constantly washing my hands, they are not as dry as they were before I started using the copper containers. The most important reason that I'm using these is for immune protection. I believe that the anti-viral and antioxidant benefits make my COVID -19 immunity regime even stronger. In addition to sipping the copper-infused water all day, I pour room temperature water from my pitcher to drink with all my supplements. I used to buy alkaline water for the more effective hydration and mineral benefits  but having a copper pitcher means I don't have to.  I think that Copper H20 water bottles and Shantiva's copper pitchers are high-quality products worth checking out, regardless of whether you follow Ayurveda or not. I bought my mom the copper bottle and tongue cleaner to encourage her to drink more water and get rid of buildup on her tongue and it really helps. The company has also just introduced self-sterilizing copper masks. Have you ever used a copper vessel?

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Black Lives Are Not A Passing Trend

Some people think of this time as a major inconvenience. The protests, the petitions, the painful hashtags.  I see the averted eyes when marches stream through neighborhoods filled with comfort and gentrification. I notice the glazed expressions when accounts of microaggressions and blatant racism are detailed. I recognize the lip service for humane treatment, fair opportunities and cultural awareness. But I have not seen any real action. There have been lots of posting, friending and sharing of outrage on social media. I am sure it helps some people feel better. But I don't feel better. This is not a passing phase for Black people. We are fighting for our lives. Lives that have never been valued in this country and still aren't. It appears that a lot of people are just waiting for all of this to magically go away. It is not going away, we are just getting started.

So if you're waiting for things to go back to the way they were, you are in for major disappointments. We are not going back. We can only go forward and the change this brings is not typically a comfortable process. Black people are accustomed to living with the discomfort of racism so do not expect comfort as its evils are finally addressed. If you can not protest, if you can not donate, I suggest you find some way to volunteer your skills to the Black Lives Matter movement. and the organizations pushing for change.

Most importantly, educate yourself with this thoughtful list of books, movies and TV shows that address the systematic racism that has plagued this country since its inception. We are in the midst of a revolution and this country will never be the same. It does not matter if you accept or approve of it or not. But it would be helpful if we were all on the same page.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Organic Wine Tasting in Spain's Ribera Wine Region

Surrounded by a pine forest and the Duero River, Finca Villacreces winery offers a bucolic vision of traditional Spanish winemaking. Founded in the 13th century by Franciscan monks, I explored the estates 171 acres of vineyards that supply Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes.  As the region’s biggest organic winery, Villacreces doesn’t use sulfates and it employs butterflies, ladybugs and birds to eat insects instead of insecticides.

The grapes are harvested by hand to preserve the quality. Strolling and biking through the sandy and rocky terrain, I learned about the fermentation process that produces the wineries signature Pruno wine, a  deep burgundy, fruity wine created with Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.  I sipped Pruno at the elegant picnic that was laid out for a scenic wine tasting among the twisting vines. Gourmet cheeses, charcuterie and regional dishes blended with the wines to create savory flavors.

A visit to the Villacreces chapel, filled with medieval artifacts and paintings, gave the perfect glimpse into how the region’s wine history is connected to the monasteries that originally planted many of the vineyards.Villacreces was one of the most charming wineries I've ever visited. What are some of your favorite wineries?

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Next Stop: Rueda and Ribera Del Duero, Spain

Fall represents harvest time in many countries. I'm thrilled to return to Spain  this week to witness the famous grape harvests of Rueda and Ribera Del Duero.  I will be hosted by the Tourism Office of Spain and I'll be exploring the provinces of Burgos and Valladolid and the region of Castile-Leon. My itinerary features vineyards, castles and lots of restaurants! Spanish wine country holds a lot of history and cultural traditions that I will be  highlighting so please look out for posts and lots of wine pix!