Pat

Author or co-author of more than 30 books and several hundred articles about travel and food, Pat was an arts administrator, a museum docent, and a tour guide before she embarked on her career as an author.
Mixing it up with tequila at Occidental Cozumel bar

Mixing it up with tequila at Occidental Cozumel bar

“If you don't drink tequila, it is not a vacation in Mexico,” Alejandro Santos told me in the Lobby Bar at the Occidental Cozumel (Carretera Costera Sur km 16.6, Colonial El Cedral San Francicso, Palancar, Cozumel, Mexico; +1 52-987-872-9730, barcelo.com). To make sure that guests fully embrace this beverage distilled from the blue agave plant, bartenders set out a tequila tasting in the early evening. Mexicans often drink their tequila neat and favor the premium tequilas made with 100 percent agave. But tequila also works well in cocktails, mixologist Santos Elan told me. “The agave is sweeter than other liqueurs,” he said. “That's why tequila works so well in sweet drinks.” The bar churns out more than its fair share of margaritas, including the signature...Read More
Pueblo re-creation conjures Mayan past

Pueblo re-creation conjures Mayan past

Little remains of the eight villages established by the Mayans on the island of Cozumel. But two years ago, the Pueblo del Maiz (Carretera Transversal, Camino á San Gervasio km 5, Cozumel, Mexico; +1 984-146-5771) opened to show how the ancient Mayans lived. The complex is centered around a series of thatched roof huts called palapas and populated with guides in often rather dramatic traditional dress. From the start, a visit has a great sense of ceremony. After I had been cleansed with fragrant smoke, I made an offering of cacao beans to a goddess and then planted a couple seeds of corn in the dark earth. It quickly became clear that growing, harvesting, and preparing food was a large part of Mayan life. In...Read More
Mayan flavors: fish with achiote paste

Mayan flavors: fish with achiote paste

Floating just 12 miles off the coast of the Yucatan peninsula, the island of Cozumel was first settled by the Mayans about 2,000 years ago. The San Gervasio archaeological site on the northern part of the island shows the Mayan presence long before European contact. The language and the folkways are largely gone, but the Mayan heritage lives on through the foodways. That's why chef Ismael Hernandez of Occidental Cozumel (Carretera Costera Sur km 16.6, Colonial El Cedral San Francicso, Palancar, Cozumel, Mexico; +1 52-987-872-9730, barcelo.com) decided to conclude my introduction to local cuisine with his adaptation of the traditional dish Pescado Tikin Xic. In this case, the “pescado” was the fresh mahi mahi that we also used for a delicious ceviche (see previous post)....Read More
Tasting the Yucatan at Occidental Cozumel

Tasting the Yucatan at Occidental Cozumel

In all my years visiting Spain, I've stayed in a number of Barceló hotels. Founded in Mallorca in the 1930s, the group is now the third largest chain in Spain. They also have properties in another 20 or so countries. On a short winter break to Mexico, I finally experienced their international hospitality at Occidental Cozumel (Carretera Costera Sur km 16.6, Colonial El Cedral San Francicso, Palancar, Cozumel, Mexico; +1 52-987-872-9730, barcelo.com). The property is less than 20 years old, but it has a gracious, settled feel. Low-rise buildings in Colonial Mexican style sit in a natural preserve. Nobody blinks at iguanas lounging by the swimming pool or raccoon-like coatis hanging out near the bridge across a mangrove swamp to the white sand beach. Resort...Read More
The Nectary serves delicious juice to chew

The Nectary serves delicious juice to chew

Other than drinking a strawberry mango smoothie for breakfast every morning, I haven't really embraced the “juicing” trend. Sure, I know that juicing is an easy way to consume a greater variety of fruits and vegetables that will give your body a good dose of nutrients. And those nutrients may raise energy levels and promote clear, healthy skin. I also figured that California would be the perfect place to see what juicing was all about. I was right. The Nectary—and its founder Gia Baiocchi—provided the perfect introduction. Baiocchi opened the first Nectary in Sebastopol in 2014 and opened her second location in Healdsburg (312 Center Street, 707-473-0677, thenectary.net) in July 2017. The shop offers a multitude of products, including smoothies, chai, some prepared foods, and...Read More
Cocktails honor the Barnsley spirits

Cocktails honor the Barnsley spirits

Jon Mattson, dining manager at Barnsley Resort (597 Barnsley Gardens Road, Adairsville, Georgia, 877-773-2447, barnsleyresort.com), has good advice for mixing cocktails. “One ingredient is the star,” he says. “Others should make that ingredient shine.” From that starting point, Mattson experiments until he “finds the ratios that really work.” A student of American cocktail history, he also delights in showcasing high-quality Southern products whenever possible. “I like to keep things simple and balanced,” he explains. He generally limits his cocktails to three ingredients. Even within that limited framework, he creates libations that nod to cocktail history as well as to the drinking habits of the Barnsley estate's late 19th century heyday. Estate founder Godfrey Barnsley originally called his property Woodlands and the name survives in the...Read More
Barnsley’s Rice House cooking exalts Southern tradition

Barnsley’s Rice House cooking exalts Southern tradition

About 30 years ago, a farmhouse from the Rice Plantation in nearby Rome, Georgia, was dismantled and moved to the Barnsley estate. Carefully rebuilt and restored, the Rice House is now the setting for Friday and Saturday night dinners at the Barnsley Resort (597 Barnsley Gardens Road, Adairsville, Georgia, 877-773-2447, barnsleyresort.com). The meals celebrate the rich tradition of Southern cooking. “Southern cuisine is much more than fried chicken and lots of butter,” says Aaron Stiles, the resort's director of food and beverage. “You never hear people brag about discovering this really great Northern restaurant.” With its stone fireplace big enough for some hearth cooking, the Rice House feels a little bit like stepping back into a Southern grandmother's kitchen. And that's just as it should...Read More
Barnsley lights up a Southern Christmas

Barnsley lights up a Southern Christmas

What's better than an atmospheric ruin with a romantic backstory? An atmospheric ruin with a romantic backstory festooned with holiday lights. That's exactly what I discovered at Barnsley Resort (597 Barnsley Gardens Road, Adairsville, Georgia, 877-773-2447, barnsleyresort.com), about 60 miles northwest of Atlanta. Godfrey Barnsley was only a teenager when he left England in 1824 to seek his fortune in the American South. He settled in Savannah and established himself in shipping and the cotton trade. In 1828, he married Julia Scarborough, the daughter of a wealthy merchant and shipbuilder. In the early 1840s, Barnsley purchased 4,000 acres of former Cherokee land in North Georgia. Because Julia suffered from a lung ailment, Godfrey wanted to build her a home in the more favorable upcountry climate....Read More
Crème de la crème ignites apple crisp

Crème de la crème ignites apple crisp

On my first visit to London many years ago, I ordered a bowl of apple crumble for dessert in a casual eatery catering to students. It was so good that I went back the next night for another serving. I wanted to figure out why the dish seemed so much better than the very similar apple crisp that I enjoyed every autumn at home in New England. I finally decided that the difference wasn't the apple variety or the recipe. It was the custard that topped each serving. Thick, silky, and redolent of vanilla, the delicious custard just seemed so much more elegant than my usual scoop of vanilla ice cream. Even the custard's more formal name—crème anglaise—lent a certain sophistication to a homey dessert....Read More
Kensington afternoon tea shows sweet wit

Kensington afternoon tea shows sweet wit

Years ago on a visit to London, David and I interviewed Benny Hill for a feature in an American magazine. We were surprised when his publicist suggested that we meet the comedian known for his bawdy humor for afternoon tea. It seemed a bit, shall I say, refined. But, in person, Hill turned out to be a gentle man, perhaps even a bit shy. And the ritual of the tea service made for a very relaxed couple of hours. The experience sold me on the afternoon tea tradition. Now I make a point of sampling tea in a different spot whenever I'm in London. On my last visit, I spent a lovely afternoon with a couple of friends in the Kensington (at top). It's one...Read More