Asia, Countries, Europe, Food & Wine

Water into wine in Israel

For fear of poking the Almighty an old joke about changing water into wine in Israel.

Jesus at the Marriage Feast of Cana and he announces he will change H20 into vino when St Peter pipes up.

‘No, you don’t, you’ll buy your round like everybody else.’

The wine was certainly flowing at the Travel Connection Group’s Media Getaway in Leeds this week.

And wine was on our lips too as we talked The Promised Land with our Israeli friends.

Holy wine

Where’s the vino? The Marriage Feast

A thought here the destination team around Israel then might have done with the likes of exhibitor Carla.

I mean ‘the home of vino’ would have been better than ‘the land of milk and honey.’

Because if you read the story of Jesus or listen to your preacher.

Or dwell on the centre point of the Catholic Mass, the transubstantiation, you’ll know how important booze is in Jesus’s life.

Because he’s still feeding the people, changing water into wine.

While at the back end of his life too he was using wine to promote his people, his life, at the Last Supper.

And so endeth the lesson and onto Carla’s message that the wine still flows freely at Eilat on the Red Sea.

Festival time

And soak it up: The Red Sea

Of course, we know that all too well from the Jordan side of the Sea, from cruising and snorkelling on our memorable G Adventures trip.

And they’re quaffing too over there in Eilat.

Every Friday to be specific with a wine tasting… and what better way to celebrate the Sabbath.

And this means you don’t have to wait until the Wine Festival Batzir in the Autumn.

Across the wine regions of Israel, the Golan Heights, Galilee, Coastal Plain, Judea, Central Mountains and the Negev.

Jerusalem juice

Or two: Let the wine flow

Of course along with with everything else in Israel all palm-lined roads lead to Jerusalem.

And from August 20 with the four-day Jerusalem Wine Festival.

Be one of the 20,000 gathering to sample the hundreds of wines.

Again there are free wine tasting opportunities.

Along with a culinary oasis of stalls offering cheeses, chocolates, olive oils, exceptional sauces, and jams.

Wine water of life

Glass act: Little wine drinker me

With the party getting started every night with two different live music concerts.

We do expect a lot, too much, at times from our hosts when we traverse the world.

But they will do everything for you, short of changing water into wine in Israel.

Because there’s plenty enough of the grape to go around for everyone.

Countries, Europe, Food & Wine

World Championchips of French Fries

They’re the planet’s most popular side food so it makes sense that there should be a World Championchips of French Fries.

Only it’s taken us until now to get the contest up and running, or more accurately the French have got it going.

There is, naturellement, so much to learn about French fries that we thought we knew, but didn’t.

Lords of the fries

Grab a mouthful: A full plate of fries

Firstly, and you’d think this was obvious, they are French and not Belgian.

Because you might have been duped, as I’ve been, into thinking that they were created by their neighbours.

And that the Americans, who didn’t take the time to differentiate Belgian from French misnamed them.

Mais non! French fries are, in fact, made from vegetable oil, and Belgian fries from animal oil.

On such splits wars have been fought.

Thankfully we, the sensible ones, now settle our differences in the sporting or culinary field.

And so without further adieu a précis of the World Championchips.

Arise Arras

What’s your order? Arras

La Championnat du Monde de la Frite will be held for the first time on Saturday, 7 October in Arras’ Grand Place.

That’s Arras, near Lille in the north-east of France.

Notre amis in the Haute-de-France region of Gaul-land tell us that Arras holds a particularly hallowed place in l’histoire des pommes de terre.

As the birthplace of the 16th-century botanist Charles de l’Écluse who conducted one of the first studies on potatoes.

L’Écluse planted this little-known tuber from Peru in his own experimental garden, and so promoting it among great European Lords.

Well before Monsieur Pomme de Terre Antoine-Augustin Parmentier in the 18th century.

Get frying

Homer run: Simpson’s a fan

Pre-selected contestants will face off in a number of different categories: family fries, authentic fries, creative fries.

While a category is reserved for catering professionals who will give chefs a chance to express their creativity and concoct the best sauce.

Professionals will also be able to display their best sauce.

And extending our knowledge from red and brown sauce… the Low Countries love their mayonnaise.

A jury of professionals and fries fans will give its verdict.

The public get to savour delicacies at the French fry stands installed for the occasion.

A semi-final will be held in the morning and a final in the afternoon.

European Region of Gastronomy

Saucy: Dip in

A ‘French Fry Village’ will also be open, where visitors can grab a bite to eat, meet local producers and take part in activities.

And what would a World Championchips be without the best local beers to wash it down with in what we learn is Artois country.

While we’re promised entertainment and concerts… we’re thinking some band called the Fry Fighters.

The first Championships will be sponsored by journalist, author and food critic François-Régis Gaudry.

The World Championchips of French Fries is expected to be one of the highlights of the European Region of Gastronomy 2023 calendar.

Be sure to pencil it in via your flight to Lille.

And all of this comes to you by dint of notre ami Marine from Atout France, all at the Media Getaway in Leeds.



Countries, Food & Wine, UK

Tetley and Leeds is my cup of beer

Why Tetley and Leeds is my cup of beer x 3.

You might, of course, be more familiar with the very different Tetley’s brew of tea.

And, of course, you wouldn’t be wrong.

And it is one of those quirks of a name and a history and geography that both the Tetley’s beer and the tea firm originate in Yorkshire.

The tea story is for a different day but I’ve just been on a Flixbus coach from Edinburgh and I’m thirsty.

Here for Leeds’ beer

In the pink: At Tetley’s with Indian drinks writer Rash

Thankfully Mike from Leeds Beer Tours knows the best pubs in town and the Tetley Museum.

And the Scarborough is just next to our hotel, the grand the Queens, centrally based by the railway station.

Apt really as Queen Victoria visited the Scarborough (we’d put her down more as fine wine, but who knows?).

As well as Charles Dickens. A fine old curiosity bar if you will.

And composer Liszt… guess he got well and truly Brahms and Liszt as the Cockneys would say.

Memory Man Mike

Amber glow: In the Adelphi

With a thirst on we ventured to the temple of beer in Leeds, the once Tetley’s brewery, now an art gallery and events space.

Where Memory Man Mike walked us through the history of the family as they looked down on us from their framed pictures on the walls.

The Adelphi was our next stop where we snuggled up in the snug to drink St Austell’s Anthem beer.

And learn about how black beer from what is now modern-day Gdansk found its way to Leeds via the ships.

And how former British Chancellor George Osborne killed it off by removing its special tax status.

The Leeds witch

A Leeds witch: Liz Truss

Leeds Beer Tours and Mike certainly know their ales but walking through the city and across the River Ayre he shared much more.

About the historic Leeds Witch who seduced the locals with her diet of better health and wealth back in the day.

Before she met her fate.

But that’s enough about Liz Truss!


The wrong trousers: The Duck and Drake

We finish off our two-hour tour, Mike normally walks, talks and drinks you through an extra hour, at the Duck and Drake.

In their spectacular beer garden where we quaff a darker Timothy Taylor as the sun beats down on us and the flowers bloom.

There are stems shooting out of a man’s jeans by the garden wall… boy is this stuff strong.

And I am happy to plant myself here for the day and take root.

But I have my Media Getaway international travel fare function at the Hilton DoubleTree to attend.

And refreshing Washington State rosé wine from fair sponsors to imbibe, just to wash down the barbie you understand.

I’ll be back out after though. I’ve decided Tetley’s and Leeds is my cup of beer.





America, Countries, Food & Wine

A tale of two Dubliners

Now, it’s rarely a good idea to get between two fighting Dubliners.

And never the famous fighting Irish, the emigrees who fled the Famine and built America and its best bars.

The two Dubliners in question here are pubs in Washington DC and Boston.

The Washington Dubliner has been pouring porter (that’s Guinness for the uninitiated) since 1975.

But they got a nasty taste in their mouth in the capital following the recent opening of the Boston Dubliner.

We’ll sue you in court

Capital: The Washington Dubliner

Records show that they have taken out a law suit against the Bostonians.

Saying: In the suit against the East Coast Tavern Group, filed in US District Court in Boston, the Washington Dubliner, founded in 1975, is asking for the Boston Dubliner, opened last year in the space where Kinsale used to be in Center Plaza, to be ordered to change its name.

And pay all the profits it’s made, plus damages and attorney’s fees to be determined by the court.’

Now the Boston Dubliner, like its Irish cousin has a healthy opinion of itself.


With its site boasting that it serves the best pint of Guinness in Boston.


Now I’ve yet to road-test it, preferring, of course to patronise my old stomping ground of The Black Rose.

The Washington version in the Phoenix Park Hotel in for its part has its own brand of whiskey.

Sing for your supper

The Black Stuff: In Boston

And that we’ve discovered is really at the heart of the dispute.

Because the Bostonians stand accused of selling that very brand in their bar.

Makes sense as you’d have to imagine that there would be more than two Dubliner pubs on the eastern seaboard.

Because there have been Dubliner pubs from as far apart as Bolivia, Prague and Iraq.

That caps it: Dermot Kennedy

It’s not just drink though where the two Dubliners find a lack of a common ground.

With both claiming the best music.

The Boston Dubliner drawing Dermot Kennedy in to sing there while the Washington bar a fave for its gigs.

We’ll keep you updated when we find out more but hope the two Dubliners settle it over a pint.

Another chapter

Luke who it is: With Luke Kelly in Dublin

As an aside, the most successful Irish trad band of them all, the Dubliners, emerged from a real capital city institution.

O’Donoghues, on Merrion Row, off Grafton Street, where they would play in the snug.

With Ronnie Drew, Luke Kelly et al choosing to name themselves after a James Joyce set of short stories.

Now that’s a tale of Dubliners.

Countries, Deals, Europe, Food & Wine

Portugill a pescatarian paradise

When you see the flat fish smiling back at you you know you must be in Portugill a pescatarian paradise.

If you’re a fish fan there’s nowhere quite like Portugal for fin in the sun.

Which is where Pine Cliffs, A Luxury Collection Resort in the Algarve comes in.

With a series of new experiences at its own on-property cooking school MIMO Algarve.

Because food and especially fish is a religion in the Algarve.

Boom 101

Food board: All the charms

Codfish 101: See we told you the Portuguese believed in Cod.

There are said to be more than 1,000 recipes that use codfish in Portugal.

You’ll learn how to prepare this signature fish as well as its origins and conservation methods.

By preparing a snack, an appetiser and a main entree. €68 per adult.

Stews and soups

Fishing is fun: On a Portuguese fishing boat

Cataplana: Of course our scaley pals, the fish can be cooked up in any number of ways.

And simply speaking sardines on a roadside barbecue grill is quintessentially Portuguese.

There’s something rustic and ravishing too about a stew and the Portuguese version is almost as good as its Irish counterpart.

This pork and seafood stew is a staple of Algarve cuisine.

Guests will learn the unique method of cooking and how to prepare this typical dish. €98 per adult.

Traditional Algarve: And if there’s one food I’ll guarantee not to share it’s clams… sorry, I’m shellfish that way.

Guests learn how to make typical and traditional Algarvian foodsuch as ‘Xerém’ (a thick soup with clams) and ‘Caldeirada (a fish and potato stew).

In this class, recipes from all over the region will be prepared, not only from the coast but also from inland regions, for a broader taste of southern Portuguese cuisine. €88 per adult.

Drinks are on them

Ear, ear: For the wine and the beer

And because we love an oul Vinho Verde and Sagres and want to learn more..

Afternoon Workshops are available from Tuesday to Saturday, from 4pm. These include Portuguese wines and beers:

Algarvian Wines – Take a tasting tour around Algarve’s main vineyards at a wine tasting class and discover five unique grape varieties and their pairings with their certified sommeliers. €48pp.

Portugal in five glasses – Journey through an authentic Portugal, a country of luxuriant colours, unique flavours and delicate scents and celebrate traditions, heritage, and wine. €48pp.

Cocktail Challenge – Learn how to make cocktails, main bar techniques and presentation to impress friends and families. €60pp.

Cookies & Cupcakes – Fun for the little ones who can mess around with flour, eggs, and sugar.

The prepared snacks will be accompanied by fresh lemonade that they will also prepare for themselves.

€65 for 1 child (between 5-12 ages) and 1 adult (mandatory).

Fine Pine

The doors are open: And a big welcome

Rates for staying at Pine Cliffs Hotel start from £278.00 per night.

Based on two adults sharing a deluxe ocean view room including breakfast. Price based on October travel.

Si, Portugill a pescatarian paradise.



Countries, Culture, Europe, Food & Wine, Ireland

Joyce lived la vita bella in Trieste

James Joyce lived la vita bella in Trieste and began charting Leopold Bloom’s course there.

Probably eating crispy frico lollipops, Toc’ in braid, Spring asparagus orzotto and soft frico bites on a roasted polenta tartlet.

While he put Dublin fare and choice words in the mouth of Leopold.

Upper crust: Pinocchio’s

The inner organs of beasts and fowls, thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liverslices fried with crustcrumbs and fried hencods’ roes.

While most of all Joyce tells us ‘he liked grilled mutton kidneys.’

Pinocchio’s by a nose

Odyssey: At Pinocchio’s

Thankfully the good folk of Trieste had the senza to showcase their city in an Italian setting at Pinocchio’s in Temple Bar with best Italian fare.

With Friuli Venezia Giulia chef Manuel Marchetti creating pizzas especially for the occasion.

With toppings consisting of San Daniele Prosciutto and alpine smoked ricotta.

And for dessert, creamy tiramisù, a dessert born in Friuli Venezia Giulia, and Strucchi (no us neither but was gorgeous).

Grazie Ryanair

You dancer: Ryanair

Using Joyce as an entry point Trieste presented the new Ryanair seasonal route.

Available twice weekly until 28 October, with one-way fares start from €19.99pp.

And how Giacomo Joyce as he styled himself in Trieste could have done with a low-fare airlines then.

Portrait of Trieste

Io sono Italiano: Joyce

Joyce had taken a circuitous route to Trieste where he penned A Portrait Of An Artist As A Young Man.

To take up a job as a tutor to a young girl Letitza, daughter of Jewish writer Ettore Schmitz.

Whom it is said he based Leopold Bloom around.

With Joyce also so smitten with Ettore’s wife Livia that he remodelled her as Anna Livia a representation of the River Liffey.

Alongside which today’s tourist hub and stag and hen central Temple Bar flows.

Vino de vici

Chin chin: Il vino

As indeed did the Italian wine. No Leopold Bloom glass of Burgundy ecco grazie on Pudding Row.

No, Ireland’s greatest author. Si, si… it was how Joyce lived la bella vita in Italy.



Africa, Countries, Deals, Food & Wine

Moroccan cookin’

If only they’d taught me Moroccan cookin’ then I might have avoided being up all night star-gazing in the Sahara Desert.

But then I hadn’t been introduced to the vibrant Medina of Marrakech, Hotel La Maison Arabe by then.

Or the good services of Tropical Sky.

I can recommend a riad which is far more preferable to a makeshift loo.

In the Sahara with a corrugated roof which was missing when I got there.

Maison around

Tagine by the pool: La Maison

La Maison offers traditional cooking classes in the hotel restaurant which will come in useful later (believe me)!

At the half-day classes participants can learn the secrets of Moroccan cuisine.

The workshops are run by a dada (a traditional Moroccan chef).

And they include a visit to a nearby spice market and communal bread oven.

The rest of us of course, in the Western World, were taught at a stove by a mama…

Worth remembering with Mother’s Day around the corner.

A little local knowledge

A wrap: Know your tajines

Knowing your way around a tajine will come in handy during your stay in Morocco.

Particularly if you stop for one in a roadside cafe on the Atlas Mountains.

You’ll know what to look out for.

And you’ll avoid Marakech revenge from the rumbles and the tumbles down the dunes.

Even though your camel will try and make it as smooth as possible.

A little local knowledge to know how to avoid false guides and hawksters will also come in useful.

A seven-night stay at Hotel La Maison Arabe is priced from £825pps on a B&B basis, including flights and transfers.

And you can become a tajine genie and learn Moroccan cooking.


America, Countries, Food & Wine

California Drying

The perception of the image -conscious Golden State is that if you take two glasses of wine you’re an alcoholic which is why we’re focusing today on California Drying.

And, yes it is me speaking here, extolling the virtues of non-alcoholic wine.

And all for Dry January California.

Lorra LA bottle

All routes lead to LA: Venice Beach

Or Less Angeles if you will with several non-alcoholic bottle shops opening recently.

With a selection of non-alcoholic spirits, aperitifs, mixers and more.

Soft Spirits opened in Silver Lake in October 2021 and Venice’s The New Bar opened in July.

San Fransisc-low

Jump on board: San Fran

And yes, you lose none of the fun from not imbibing.

With non-alcoholic craft mocktails and booze-free craft beer all flowing at the Ocean Beach Cafe in Outer Richmond.

We have Joshua James to thank for building a San Fran community art cafe to house the largest non-alcoholic beverage selection in the country.

And to conduct regular beach clean-ups.

And just because it’s boozeless doesn’t mean you can’t have a speakeasy.

The Temperance Bar, which is open by reservation can be found by visiting Ocean Beach Cafe.

Faux show

Jimmy’s California: An odyssey

And it’s not just us saying it…

When the Faux Real Bottle Shop opened in Los Gatos The City of Los Gatos in Santa Clara County Faux Real Bottle Shop in February 2022…

They reminded customers that “zero-proof doesn’t mean zero fun.”

The bottle shop carries dozens of zero-proof spirits like gin, tequila and rum, non-alcoholic wine and beer, aperitifs and more.

Faux Real hosts a “sober hour” from 1 to 3 p.m. every Saturday to encourage sober socialising.

Sacre blowout

Feast of colours: The Teetotalist

Now this may very well be your cup of teetotal…

Sacramento is expected to welcome a zero-proof bar concept called The Teetotalist in 2023, where people can gather, socialise and enjoy a night out.

In a setting that feels like a bar, but with an alternate beverage menu.

And who knows after California Drying you may decide like Joshua to give it a year and see how it goes.

Me, I did two days after a 24-hour bug from a fellow passenger.

Before entering the good fight in LA…

And I more than made up for it then.


America, Countries, Food, Food & Wine

Winging it to Buffalo

Our thoughts obviously go out to our friends in the hardest-hit city in the Big Freeze of 2022 and vow to help them out by winging it to Buffalo.

Buffalonians, or Bills if you’re a fan of their American Football team, are a hardy bunch who live life to the full.

Full of cheer, beer and the culinary delight that they are best known for and shared with the world, Buffalo Wings.

All of which our group of Travel professionals were treated to first-hand in Dublin a couple of years ago.

And which, of course, we had to be spoonfed on how best to eat the chicken chunks.

And given the backstory to our favourite wings.

But no, they have nothing to do with buffaloes or Buffalo Bill.

Although it’s fun to imagine the Great Cowboy munching on chicken as he lassoed a buffalo out on the plains.

Buffalo wings on the bill

Downtown: Buffalo outside of the winter

No, Buffalo in upstate New York.

Close to the border with Canada, is far removed from the Wild West.

Although food is food everywhere and its origins often similar, hungry, or thirsty, folk, late at night.

And the need to rustle up something to fill the belly.

Which is where they were at just down the road in Connecticut.

With their Neapolitan apizza and their hamburgers from Hamburg.

As usual though we digress when where we want to be in the Anchor Bar in 1964.

Where Teresa Bellissimo welcomed her son Dominic back from college with open arms.

But with bambino and his amici needing fed.

Hot, hot, hot

Home of the wings? We were here first

Teresa needed a fast and easy snack and fell upon the idea of deep frying chicken wings (normally thrown away or reserved for stock).

And tossing them in cayenne hot sauce.

Where this gets even more interesting and is particularly culinary is that a battle then broke out.

When local bar Duff’s began selling its Buffalo wings.

We’ll let them fight it between themselves.

And content ourselves with the fact that there’s all the more to go around.

Who and why they came to be served with blue cheese and celery takes some more digging.

Wagon ale

Out on a wing: Duff’s

Maybe with a Circle the Wagons local IPA and Pilsner or any of the range of excellent upstate New York ales.

Just a couple of reasons then for winging it to Buffalo when it all thaws out.

So good luck Buffalo and we can’t wait to get around the table with you again and fly out with British Airways.


Food, Food & Wine

Eat like royals this Christmas

It’s the one day we all get together with our families and bitch about everybody who isn’t there… and you too can eat like royals this Christmas?

Forget what you’ve seen on telly about their hilarious tradition of giving each other cheap presents because that’s just mean and condescending.

Do the Cath: Cath Kidston

No, we want to know about their gamey pleasures, or maybe now that Chuck is in charge of the firm at Sandringham in Norfolk, it’ll be all nut roasts and organic veg.

And thanks to our old friends at interior and culinary specialists Cath Kidston we can give you an insight into royal favourites.

Royals get stuffed

Elfy meal! Get stuffed up

Of course anybody who has slaved at the stove for Christmas dinner (er, that’ll not be me) will tell you that the secret of any festive meal is the stuffing.

And Cath tells us people are already starting to plan their menus, as searches for “stuffing recipe” have
increased by 238% within the last three months, reaching a 9,900 average.

From a classic turkey stuffing to a mushroom one, there are numerous recipes that will
satisfy the Christmas appetite.

Markle Christmas: Harry and Meghan

But for the royals it’s a blend of sage and onion flavours, according to former royal chef Darren McGrady.

This recipe by Good Housekeeping combines all the traditional ingredients but with a little twist to
give the stuffing a moreish texture – crumbled and chunky sourdough bread.

Meat-free and perfect for vegetarians, this stuffing recipe is a go-to for any Christmas-loving family!

No prizes for who the Windsors want to get stuffed this Christmas, of course.

Royal puddings

Hot stuff: The Christmas pud

Talking of big puddin’-faces…

The Royals favourite dessert recipe has been revealed by chefs in the Royal Kitchens on the Royal
Family Instagram account.

The recipe features 40ml of brandy to add extra spice to the heart-warming dessert (or maybe cherry brandy as Chas is in charge).

But you can substitute it with orange juice or cold tea if you don’t want to use alcohol.

In the Royal Kitchens, the Christmas pudding mixture is stirred up on the Sunday before the Advent
season, hence it’s called stir-up Sunday.

The Sussexes aren’t coming: Charles and Camilla

The search for “Christmas pudding recipe” increased by 1,038% within the last three months.

Of course the pudding one ginger-headed aristo and his pushy Z-lister wife will be sitting down will be laced with venom.

Whoever’s side you fall on, and you can just sit on the fence.

Literally, as it’ll be warmer than the house you can’t heat.

I’m sure you’ll take comfort that they are can all eat like royals this Christmas.