Hey, are you guys still there? Fantastic. Because it’s time to dish up part two on Antigua’s Jumby Bay Island, and it’s all about the food.

As in fresh-from-the-farm organic food. Plucked from the lady hen herself. Did I tell you that I’m now a chicken farmer? It’s all true. I learned how to enter a chicken coop without any of the residents escaping (harder than it seems) and cautiously step over forty or so chickens who like to greet their visitors like some kind of frenzied poultry paparazzi. It was all very zen, believe me. There was no screaming, no panicking, no running, no clinging to a ledge for dear life, no Hail Marys before plunging my bare arm beneath the feathered breast of a she-hen guarding her egg with a fierce case of stink eye. I may pick up the hobby this summer. Nothing beats fresh, still-warm chicken eggs. Nothing. And I’ll sacrifice life and limb to do it.

Fortunately Jumby Bay’s supremely talented kitchen and farming staff were there to help out with the remainder of our meals. Leaving that one joyous experiencing of plucking my own tomatoes, snipping some kale leaves, trimming herb flowers from the organic garden, and yes, even harvesting my own eggs…to an isolated incident of tomato salad-making for two. Forever encased in that memory box in my brain with the boldface letters A-N-T-I-G-U-A printed on the front. It’s a good set of memories.

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It’s the year of travel, or so I hope! 2018 is off to a good start with a January long weekend in Antigua.

The Caribbean ranks high on my list of must-visit destinations, particularly during the dead of winter when below zero wind chill temps make the simple act of walking the dog around the block a daunting task.

For the past few years, we’ve opted to fly south during the winter months, spending our time in Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica (again), the Dominican (again), Barbados, St. Barths, and the Cayman Islands. We’re lucky that we’ve had the chance to travel so much and build up some serious Caribbean island chops, believe me, I don’t take this for granted. Plus, it puts us in a good position to share our experience at an island previously unexplored: Antigua.

I confess that prior to our trip, I wasn’t well-versed in all things Antiguan (and will even admit to having hopped on Jet Blue flight 743, due south, without having checked to find out exactly where in the emerald green Caribbean archipelago we’d be landing).

For the geography buffs out there, Antigua lies just east of St. Kitts, south of the US Virgin Islands, and north of Guadaloupe and St. Lucia. It’s one of the top islands in a chain that looks like an elongated spine that meanders from Puerto Rico in the north to Venezuela in the south.

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It’s officially the holidays. Although we already knew that. I knew that as far back as early November when I touched down in the UK to find that seasonal lights, Christmas trees, and sequined nutcrackers were already in full swing.

But that was London. There were other parts of Britain that I visited too. Parts less showy, less flashy, more understated, defined by rolling green pastures and black rubber boots. Parts that were no doubt celebrating the holidays, but you had to look for it. A seasonal mince pie here, some Christmas pudding gelato there.

Welcome to the countryside.

The Talbot Hotel

Yorkshire that is, and the second and final post of my two-part series on the UK, food + travel.

If there were ever a fitting stop to begin my Yorkshire adventures, it would be Malton. After departing from York and driving past endless meadows dotted with sheep and the occasional herd of cattle, I found myself staring up the imposing stone façade of the Malton Hotel where I’d be spending two glorious nights in the type of comfort that would have driven Laura Ashley into a jealous rage. Fabrics full of bounce and English rose. Handsome paintings of stallions and hounds and fine men in even finer hunting dress. Verdant dales, kissed with sun and a touch of English mist, peeking through every window. Those Bronté sisters knew where to set up shack.

The point of my visit though, despite my sudden desire to learn a craft like floral arranging or needlework, was food.

And much like I did on my city adventures, I tuckered into all that Yorkshire and its countryside had to offer.

The Talbot Restaurant

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“What’s the purpose of your stay?”

“I’m on a food tour of the U.K.”

“Is that right?”

“Yes, I have a food blog.”

“I was thinking of starting me one of those too. Me ‘n my partner, we had a name for it, ‘The Wobbly Table’. That’s the worst part of a restaurant experience isn’t it? The wobbly table. The name was taken though. What’s the name of yours?”

“Feed Me Dearly.”

“You got a card on ya?”

I rooted around my 20-year old blue canvas passport wallet, the one that still carries a yellowed love note from my husband, and passed him my information in pseudo-laminate form: website name, email address, social details.

The passport control agent looked at it, smiled at the three mischievous toeheads staring up from his palm, and let me through.

“Welcome to London.”

 

London

The Knightsbridge Hotel

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

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It was Monday September 19, 2016 and I’d flown back from Portland, Oregon the previous day, exhausted, sick of food, happy.

I’d just spent 4 days drinking and eating my way through the Feast Portland food festival, stopping for a breather on Saturday because my body, I’d realized, could no longer handle mass volumes of pork belly and Oregon pinot.

Still a fan of Snapchat at the time, I’d video scanned my itinerary into the app as I walked through my plans for each of my 4 days in Portland. Sandwich Invitational, drink tank, another drink tank, Grand Tasting, Night Market, yet another drink tank, Smoked, Brunch Village. It was paradise for the lush and the lover of food.

After touching down at New York’s JFK airport, I filed a mental note to return to Feast the following year.

By winter I was feeling a stronger Portland itch and started to look into plans for Feast Portland 2017. I sketched out a list of Airbnb properties where I could stay and live more locally, outside of the downtown area known for its shopping, restaurants and high rise hotels. I was struck by a number of consistencies: craftsman houses, white furnishings, modern lighting, Pendleton blankets, houseplants. I could get behind this for a few days.

Fast forward a few more months and I received an email from Feast Portland’s organizers – would I be interested in cooking at Feast this year?

If there’s ever been a “hallelujah, I’ve arrived” moment in my stop-and-go food career, this would be it. Although I’ll never cop to jumping and fist pumping, a fly on the wall might have seen it.

I’d be cooking alongside three other women whom I’d long admired – Eva Kosmas Flores from Adventures in Cooking, Ashley Alexander from Gather and Feast, and Joy the Baker. The plan was to host a dinner for 60 on Sauvie Island, outdoors in the elements with a fleet of volunteers ready to help us plate, serve, and help make our evening spectacular.

Gilding the Feast Portland lily even further, Travel Oregon invited me to join several other media professionals on a pre-Feast 3-day trip down the Oregon Coast for a tour of Oregon’s notable hotels and restaurants and while in transit, stop to catch sight of the state’s rugged coastline and wildlife.

On September 11, 2017, after a hasty airport terminal re-packing of my entire suitcase to make sure that I didn’t exceed Delta’s second overage fee for bags over 70 lbs, I headed west, touching down in Portland just after noon. First stop, the Dossier hotel located in downtown Portland.

My itinerary for the week was mighty – a quick unpack at the Dossier, then off to transport my kitchen gear to the newly renovated cooking studio and event space “Tendue” from the team at Secret Supper

From there I’d hit up Jacobsen Salt Co. for some kosher and finishing salts for our event. Somehow my buddy Ben suckered me into running a 6K Healthyish fun run on Friday morning, the night after our first Feast event. (Post mortem analysis of the fun run would later indicate that 1. Hangover runs are not fun, and 2. I’m possibly the most competitive person north of the equator, turning our group jog into a single-person Olympic time trial, also not fun.) 

Next I’d meet up with my friend Zeph from Proletariat Butchery for barrel-aged negronis mixed by fellow Traeger Grills pro team member Jeffrey Morgenthaler at Clyde Common; drive to dinner for shaved ham, handmade pasta & meatballs and the infamous cavolo nero salad at local Portland favorite Ava Gene’s. We’d finish the night with beer and coconut ice cream on the rooftop bar at Departure Lounge run by Top Chef runner up Gregory Gourdet. 

And this was just Monday. None of this comprised even a single sentence in the knee-deep itinerary sent to me, in app form no less!, by my friends at Travel Oregon.

I figured that in order to fit this trip into a digestible single-serve blog post that it might be prudent to create a photo journal of sorts. Yes there were stories. Of whales and wolves, and of chefs in Harry Potter outfits. There were friendships formed, hazelnut beers consumed, sunrises watched, forests hiked. I might have used my Feast media pass to sneak into a country music concert. I’m quite certain that I ate my weight in gluten. I definitely chugged a full glass of champagne from a chambong at the Bon Appétit after party, which caused me to (classily of course) lose my footing and topple off a 4-foot wall into a crowd of horrified bystanders. (Note, I’m still not sure if I’m invited back next year or if I earned MVP status that night, Feast Portland organizers, please weigh in.) 

But perhaps these details are better conserved as the lore of Feast. That dreamy destination where no set of words can accurately describe the sprightly conversations, the extended bellies and unbuttoned jeans, the whiskey-inflected off-kilter balance and in some cases, the majestic set of purple thigh bruises that result when food and drink and friendship are combined in awe-inspiring doses.

It’s an experience. One that I hope that I’ll be a part of again and again. 

And now friends, some photographs.

The Dossier Hotel, downtown Portland

 

Wolves & People farmhouse brewery, Willamette Valley wine country

 

Lunch at Valley Commissary, McMinnville

 

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