Monthly Archives: November 2017

Get ready for adventure

A new year symbolises a new beginning, providing the perfect excuse to refresh some of the more well-worn items in your travel gear arsenal.

In this set of reviews, we cast an eye over a range of staple travel kit – bags, clothes and more – that’ll endure whatever adventures 2018 has in store, whether you’re planning on strolling the boulevards of Paris, trekking the jungles of Brazil, or both.

Eagle Creek Flatbed 28 luggage case
Neatly combining the practicality of a suitcase and the flexibility of a duffle bag, with handy features such as chunky wheels and a telescopic handle, Eagle Creek’s Flatbed 28 is well-suited to multifarious travel itineraries. With a functional yet stylish appearance, it’s tough enough to protect your stuff on a taxi roof rack in India, but you can still pull it proudly through the lobby of a fancy Venetian hotel.

The single lid gives access to the bag’s capacious interior (although our tester said the flap covering the zip could be larger for more protection), while external straps provide extra strength and security during transit.

Plus points: small top pocket handy for quick access to essentials
Worth noting: no internal compartments; best used with packing cubes
Cost: GBP165, US$200, €180 (77L) – 100L version also available
Rating: quality 9/10; practicality 8/10; value 8/10

A taste of Zürich’s food revolution

With a focus on local produce and a thirst for new food festivals, Zürich is becoming a hot gastronome destination. Embracing a more playful approach to cuisine, the renowned business hub is now abuzz with spectacular restaurants, bohemian cafes and legions of street food stalls. Here’s what to try for starters.

Artisan eats
‘I was a film-maker,’ says Mika Lanz, tall, spectacled and moustachioed, striding around a small, sterile studio in wellington boots. ‘Feature films, commercials, music videos. Now I make sausages.’

And not just any sausages. In his workshop beneath a church, Mika and his mum (who stitches the sausage packaging on a sewing machine) run Mikas, a company that produces small batches of handmade Stadtjaeger, using pork sourced from organic pigs raised within Zürich city limits.

The output is very much quality over quantity, and a delicate slice of Stadtjaeger, marinated with blueberry, lemon peel and spices, will make you grateful he called time on his film career. Around two dozen delis and shops stock it, including the excellent Berg und Tal in the Viadukt.

Where to eat Zürich’s signature dish
Zürich’s signature dish, Zürcher Geschnetzeltes, is something most visitors will try: sliced veal in a creamy white wine sauce. It’s as straightforward as it sounds, but if you want to see how exciting veal can be, take the train from Römerhof to Saltz, the two-Michelin-starred restaurant in the Dolder Grand hotel.

The trip is worth it for the views over Zürich alone, but also for the hotel’s famous art – over 100 pieces by Damien Hirst, Joan Miró, Salvador Dalí and others are splayed casually along the corridors. Here, a satisfying saddle of veal steak is served with a jus, chanterelles, pan-fried romaine lettuce and mashed potato.

Search out heavenly Swiss chocolate
It’s not just the heavenly treats that make visiting Max Chocolatier something of a celestial experience. Located down a charming cobbled street in the Old Town, the store is just around the corner from the splendid Fraumünster, whose Marc Chagall-designed stained glass windows are enchanting when lit up.

Make the most of the city’s biggest party of the year

People travel from far and wide to join in the city’s biggest party of the year and sate their fancy-dress appetites – the Venice Carnival packs the city with crowds of elaborately costumed people, colourful sights, a slew of sounds and an flurry of events.

Visit the watery wonderland in February for glamorous evenings and to be wowed by elaborate traditions as well as sample carnival-exclusive sweet treats.

What is it and when is it?
The carnival takes place every year in the weeks leading up to Shrove Tuesday. The final day is a last hurrah to gluttony and excess before the forty days of Lent begin. Venice was renowned for its partying during the 18th century, when its carnival was the height of hedonism. Revived in 1979, the Venice carnival today attracts revellers from all over the world to participate in the open-air costume extravaganza.

The final weekend, from Giovedì Grasso (Fat Thursday) to Martedì Grasso (Fat Tuesday), is the best time to come as there are more events leading up to the final crescendo. Be prepared: this is not for the claustrophobic or the ascetic, as staid old Venice lets its hair down and kicks up its heels along with almost three million visitors.

Dress like royalty
Or a cowboy, or a superhero, or a pop star. If you are simply heading out and about, then anything goes. If you are not quite ready for a full-on costume, you could add a quirky touch to your everyday outfit. Giovanna Zanella has an amazing selection of special-occasion footwear, including shoes shaped like gondolas.

However, if you are heading to a more prestigious event and you want the full regalia, you need Nicolao – simply the best costume shop in the city. The lovely Atelier Flavia can also deck out the entire family in fabulous 18th century garb. Remember that it’s February and freezing, so outfits need to be accessorised with cunningly hidden thermals or a faux-fur coat.

If the mask fits
No carnival costume would be complete without a mask. In fact, you really only have to wear a mask in order to be carnival-ready. One fantastic mask-maker is Ca’ Macana, which famously produced the masks for Stanley Kubrik’s Eyes Wide Shut. Tragicomica has a cornucopia of masks and can sell or hire you a traditional costume if you want to complete your look. In the Castello district, Papier Maché has long been crafting intricately beautiful masks.

A vital star in the constellation

Sometimes lightning does indeed strike twice; such is the case for Pittsburgh, a vital star in the constellation of so-called Rust Belt cities. The city’s recent economic developments have re-energized its long culinary legacy, and new restaurants are popping up each week alongside some of the city’s stalwart faves – both types worthy of international acclaim.

Once the apex of industrial America, the Steel City was Andrew Carnegie’s fiefdom, minting him gobs of money as the country quickly expanded outward and upward. Pittsburgh thrived during the Industrial Revolution, and then Western Pennsylvania’s metropolis fell out of favor as technology evolved. But Pittsburgh is back with a vengeance as a refreshed locus of modern industry, with its tech boomlet buoyed by Google’s mini-hub headquarters, Uber’s super-future self-driving vehicle technology and Carnegie Mellon’s world-famous robotics and engineering labs. The promise of forward-thinking careers and a seriously good-value lifestyle has started to attract many newcomers to the city; it’s even encouraged the locals who fled to other cities to return home.

In order to properly get acquainted with the edible side of Notorious P.I.T., we’ve compiled a shortlist of some of the city’s musts with some knowledgeable locals weighing in on their picks from the menus.
If there’s one name on every Pittsburgher’s lips, it’s Morcilla, a Spanish-style setup created by Chef Justin Severino. Severino has solidified his reputation as the city’s champion of slow, thoughtful food, pulling the very best produce from the city’s surrounding farmlands and showcasing the bounty in inventive and – most importantly – extremely tasty ways. He’s mastered the art of charcuterie, with meaty piñatas of Iberico ham ready to be shaved into thin strips of salty-umami heaven.

Local tip: ‘You have to try one of the Gin & Tonics,’ suggests Meredith Meyer Grelli, co-owner of Wigle Distillery. ‘They mix them up with housemade tonic and jam them full of artful, fresh garnishes.’

Primanti Bros.
Before there were Pittsburghers, there were ‘Yinzers’– blue collar citizens with a distinctive local twang. Primanti’s is from that generation, pioneering the brilliant idea to take the standard cold-cut sammy, scoop of coleslaw and side of fries, and cram it all into one sandwich. Brilliance often comes from pure simplicity, and no one will argue with the fact that hot Primanti’s takeaways are the perfect midnight snack. You’ll find wings, pizza and cheese fries on the menu too, but we suggest sticking to their so-called ‘almost famous’ sandwiches of sliced meats tucked between two slices of Italian bread. The best part? The joint’s joined the chain gang, which means there’s probably a location within stumbling distance of where you’re staying (or where you’re going out…).

Artisanal craft of Midcoast Maine

“There’s a quality of life in Maine which is singular and unique,” said Jamie Wyeth, a notable third-generation artist from Maine’s most famous artistic family. “It’s absolutely a world unto itself.”
Anyone who has delighted in the nature, townships, land- and seascapes, and even light of the US state of Maine knows this to be true. But there is arguably no place where this is more in evidence than its Midcoast region, the beguiling stretch of shoreline from Brunswick up the western edge of Penobscot Bay.

Artists and artisans could hardly ignore this, which was the genesis of what has become a full-fledged focus on arts and crafts in the area. “The cities of Midcoast Maine have a lot of art going on and the art economy is a very important part of who we are and why people are coming here,” notes Steve Ryan, Executive Director of the Belfast Area Chamber of Commerce.

Great galleries in Midcoast Maine
Given the long-growing attention to artistic and artisanal creation, the proliferation of galleries in Midcoast Maine has been truly remarkable. In many places, and not just the cities known for their art appeal, “I’ve seen growth from one or two galleries, if that, to vibrant art scenes,” remarks Anthony Andersen, publisher of the Maine Gallery + Studio Guide, the self-styled “ultimate guide to Maine art.”

Unfortunately, given the size and shape of Maine, many visitors never get past Portland, already a great center for art. However, those who do venture farther north along the coast are rewarded with very rich pickings. Here are just a few of them.