About Renee Blodgett
Renee Blodgett is the founder of We Blog the World. The site combines the magic of an online culture and travel magazine with a global blog network and has contributors from every continent in the world. Having lived in 10 countries and explored nearly 80, she is an avid traveler, and a lover, observer and participant in cultural diversity.
She is also the CEO and founder of Magic Sauce Media, a new media services consultancy focused on viral marketing, social media, branding, events and PR. For over 20 years, she has helped companies from 12 countries get traction in the market. Known for her global and organic approach to product and corporate launches, Renee practices what she pitches and as an active user of social media, she helps clients navigate digital waters from around the world. Renee has been blogging for over 16 years and regularly writes on her personal blog Down the Avenue, Huffington Post, BlogHer, We Blog the World and other sites. She was ranked #12 Social Media Influencer by Forbes Magazine and is listed as a new media influencer and game changer on various sites and books on the new media revolution. In 2013, she was listed as the 6th most influential woman in social media by Forbes Magazine on a Top 20 List.
Her passion for art, storytelling and photography led to the launch of Magic Sauce Photography, which is a visual extension of her writing, the result of which has led to producing six photo books: Galapagos Islands, London, South Africa, Rome, Urbanization and Ecuador.
Renee is also the co-founder of Traveling Geeks, an initiative that brings entrepreneurs, thought leaders, bloggers, creators, curators and influencers to other countries to share and learn from peers, governments, corporations, and the general public in order to educate, share, evaluate, and promote innovative technologies.
Latest Posts by Renee Blodgett
If you want silence, then head to Middle Caicos, a remote part of the Turks and Caicos Islands with prestine beaches and glorious star gazing at night. A wonderful secluded vacation rental option is the Blue Horizon Resort, where we spent some time in August. Located on Middle Caicos, on fifty acres of privately owned land with over 2,200 feet of beach front, it is on the largest but the least commercially developed of the eight inhabited islands with only 168 residents. Small and remote makes this an ideal location for a romantic getaway as well as a solo retreat if you happen to be a writer or artist looking for inspiration. In addition to Mudjin Harbor and Dragon Cay Cove at Blue Horizon Resort, Middle Caicos is home to reef protected Bambarra Beach and secluded Wild Cow Run on the far east end of the island.
It’s not just the glorious beaches and remoteness that makes this place special, but by night, there’s stunning star gazing that will blow your mind — be sure to bring a tripod. As a vacation rental, you will have access to basic dinette facilities which are more equipped in the larger cottages that can sleep around six opposed to the smaller ones which are ideal for one or two. Blue Horizon offers five Caribbean style cottages and three villas which are seamlessly set into the landscape with ocean views. You can take take it all in from one of the villa porches, cook for yourself or head to the onsite restaurant, Mudjin Bar and Grill. They have an onsite manager who knows the landscape fairly well, from nature-based activities like fishing, kayaking, hiking, caving, snorkeling and biking to more logistical things like transportation, other restaurant options in the area (there are very few btw) and history of the area, including the nearby Mudjin Harbor.
Each cottage and villa is surrounded by nature and only a short walk to the beach on paved paths. With bright Caribbean-colored decor, air conditioning, queen beds and satellite TV (cottages only), wifi and fully equipped kitchens, you have all that you need if daily “activities” are not your thing. This is a haven for those who truly want to escape the hustle and bustle and want some alone time or to connect with nature. There is wifi as noted, however I’d note that if you want reliable wifi, it’s much better in the restaurant area, which is just a short walk from any of the cottages or villas. Let’s take a look at a few of them so you can get an idea of what would best serve your needs visually and otherwise.
First up is Whale Watch, which is a two bedroom, two bath villa set high on a ridge. There is exceptional 360 degree degree views of Middle Caicos from the large open air front porch. There’s a twin guest room with two single beds and en suite bath and air conditioning in bedrooms as well as a washer and dryer.
Star Gazer is a spacious, secluded three bedroom, three bath villa at the far east end of the site. It boasts a large open living space with porches at the front and back. There’s private beach access with spectacular views and both guest rooms are equipped with queen beds and en suite bath — it’s ideal for up to six people.
The Tropico Studio cottage is perfect for couples and has full eat-in kitchen for two with serviceware, love seat, club chair and a large screened-in porch with sliding glass doors that open to the living space. I love this one as it is brightly decorated and “happy.” Nestled in lush tropical settings, the cottage offers privacy and views of the Blue Horizon Resort landscape looking toward the north shore. The Dragon View Cottage, Ridgetop Cottage and Tropico Cottages are all of similar size and layout and are approximately 650 square feet.
Seawings Villa is two bedroom, two bath villa set on a ridge offering sweeping views of Mudjin Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean with en suite baths. It has a large open living area, which is great for groups and families and the screened in porch and open air sun deck are perfect spots to relax and take in the views.
Dragon View Studio cottage is another great option for couples — there’s a love seat, club chair and large screened-in porch with sliding glass doors that open to the living space. I love the view from the front screened in porch here. Also worth noting is just how spectacular the sky is at night here; as astronomer lover’s paradise.
Birds are a special attraction on Middle Caicos and osprey pairs nest along the shore and egret flocks take to the sky at sunrise, to feed. The rare West Indian Whistling Duck raises its young here and you can often see Pelicans and Flamingos feeding in ponds, close to the resort.
Beyond the beaches, the views are spectacular in every direction. Below are additional shots of walks you can take on the property.
Blue Horizon Villas and Cottages
As avid travelers and readers of WBTW, you’ll likely be the kind of traveler who appreciates comfort but doesn’t want to give up style. After all, we bring you unusual and creative styles and fashion through our curation process and try to find brands who do a great job at both. After all, who wants to look like a geek while you’re on the road? You want to feel chic but be comfortable too.
Meet Khombu, a new shoe brand we discovered who also doesn’t believe in sacrificing style for warmth and reliability. Their shoes are really great at dealing with all-terrain and all weather. Their mantra is innovative footwear with unique features and benefits that deliver waterproof and water-friendly protection, exceptional performance and comfort. They offer choices for men, women, and for kids as well, making them a great family travel brand choice for footwear. My favorite for women? The Khombu Molineo which I opted to test out because of it’s combination of functionality, and fun vibrant color.
The first thing I noticed about the Khombu Molineo was its fun factor. Sure, tons of brands have running shoes and trainers in wild vibrant and even neon colors, but what I loved was the richness of the purple combined with high quality material that was obvious even before I put them on. The other thing to note about this shoe is its durability and grip, making it a great shoe for hiking trails and hills. It is crafted from black and purple scuba knit, which cuts back on the weight of the shoe. I love the adjustable bungee toggle which makes it easy to tighten as you go. My foot is very narrow so even with medium width shoes, my foot can get a little lost. The Khombu shoes tend to run a little wide, which isn’t a problem for those of us with narrow feet as long as you wear a thicker than average sock or add an inner sole which I do when I wear them.
Want to test them out? Head on over to Amazon to order this vibrantly colored and comfortable gem.
For men, we went with the what they refer to as the Reef Shark 2.0 which comes in a couple of color options. Echoing with what we experienced with the woman’s Molineo shoe, the Reef Shark combines high quality material with comfort. Since they don’t come in half sizes, I’d suggest ordering a half size up from your regular size. We wanted to put these to the test together, so Anthony and I went on a hike up a moderate hill near our house, one which has a combination of grass and dry dirt as we don’t get a lot of wet terrain in the San Francisco Bay Area, at least not recently. The traction was definitely above average (two thumbs up!!) and unlike some of the other outdoor walking shoes in this category, they are very light, which is a nice feature for avid travelers.
This trail walking shoe will also work in less than ideal weather conditions, including water rapids. While the upper is leather, it’s a waterproof leather with a mesh upper for breathability. There’s a perforated cushioned removable insole, a water drainage bottom and like the Molineo, there’s an adjustable bungee lace strap. We love the quick dry materials, one of the features we were thrilled about since it makes for a great buy for adventure travel gurus. You can order the Reef Shark on Amazon and the price is oh so reasonable!
They have something they refer to as All Season’s Technology and K-Guard is part of that all season’s technology, to help protect your shoes when you’re out in the rain. Their shoes feature memory foam insoles so make it oh so comfy for those longer walks, whether it be on rocks, climbing a hill or while sightseeing in a city. Because they focus on being so crafted for all weather outdoor environments, they have included slip resistant outsoles to really deal with those more complex and wet terrains.
Athletes will love their shoe’s breathability and ventilation, which means that you’ll feel good in them for long periods of time, which is especially useful for travelers who can’t bring tons of shoes with them on a trip. Often a few pairs have to serve multiple purposes, which we believe Khombu does very well, especially if you have an adventure trip planned.
Refuge is no ordinary spa. Located in the ever so relaxing town of Carmel, California, a lovely relaxing getaway option around an hour and a half from San Francisco, it is focused on what they refer to as Thermal Cycle: a hot and cold water process mixed with relaxation in between. While they do offer massages, don’t expect pedicures, facials or other traditional spa treatments at this fabulous discovery, a must visit for anyone interested in wellness and mindfulness. First of all, it’s a quiet sanctuary, which means no cell phones or talking – YAY! Secondly, it’s co-ed, so you can experience it with your significant other if you wish. While it’s all about relaxation and shutting your mind down for awhile, there are apparently significant health benefits to the process. The Refuge experience helps to eliminate toxins from the body and improve your circulation, something I definitely need. (I’m always cold!). If you have high blood pressure, a heart condition, are pregnant or are under the care of a physician for any condition, they suggest checking with your physician first before going to Refuge.
Here’s what they recommend to take full advantage of the benefits that thermal cycle can provide. First, they suggest you heat up for about 6-10 minutes — there’s a cedar sauna overlooking the waterfalls and a spacious Eucalyptus steam room with a soothing light show (both are co-ed). Next is cool down for only 10-60 seconds — I oped for the 10 second cycle. There’s two cold plunge pools which are about as cold as the ocean (forewarning) and two Nordic cold plunge pools with waterfalls and yup, that’s pretty icy as well….roughly the temperature of a cold river. All the pools are identified by suns and snowflakes, a quirky fun fact worth noting.
One sun means that it’s a warm pool, two suns a hot pool, one snowflake is a cool pool and of course, two snowflakes symbolize a cold pool. Brrrr! My favorite of course was the warm pool and frankly, I felt like I could stay in it all day. Next up is relaxation time for around 10-15 minutes. There are a bunch of options here on the premises, from a silent relaxation area with Adirondack chairs and fire pits that overlook the Santa Lucia Preserve to three indoor relaxation sanctuaries with zero gravity recliners and serene music. In between cycles, they suggest taking in some of the other options available: 3 sparkling UV cleansed, warm pools with thermal (YES) waterfalls, and 3 sparkling UV cleansed hot pools with thermal waterfalls. Skipping any one of these steps apparently lessens the overall experience and the benefits. Relaxation time can be either outside or in btw — your preference. I would recommend doing both!!
Refuge says that there are many health benefits to the process. It is meant to improve cardiovascular performance by opening the body’s vascular system, flush the body of toxins, relax your muscles and enhance muscle recuperation, soothe aches and pains, release endorphines which allow your mind and body to settle into a euphorically relaxed state, regulate body temperature and relieves sinus congestion. The process can also help to burn more calories and increase your metabolism. And, overall, it is designed to boost your immune system and reinforce your natural defenses, helping you to better ward off illness and disease in your body.
They suggest repeating these steps 3-5 times and allocating a few hours for a visit. We spent the better part of an entire afternoon here and I wished we had more time. The steam room was one of the better steam rooms I’ve experienced in years — if you have a cold, allergies or suffer from seasonal sinus issues, a strong steam room with Eucalyptus is the way to go and this one was top notch! So many steam rooms just don’t use Eucalyptus and it’s such a great remedy for so many ailments. Steam inhalation is helpful to ease symptoms such as nasal congestion in people with upper respiratory tract infections. Besides clearing congestion and mucus, the heat supposedly helps to kill off the cold virus an d Eucalyptus oil is thought to help loosen mucus.
A Summary of the Process
27300 Rancho San Carlos Road
Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93923
If you’er a music lover, you’ll want to take note of three theaters doing some creative work in San Francisco. I’m a huge fan of Broadway, jazzy tunes and Cabaret and while New York might “own” that world, it doesn’t mean you can’t find some compelling performances elsewhere in the country. Recently, I took in three different acts all of which has great talent behind the productions. Let’s start with Cabaret vocalist Sandra McKnight who has an act she calls Get Happy Now, which is centered around happiness.
She sang at Society Cabaret, an organization that is churning out some great performances in the heart of San Francisco. On piano was David Austin who is also Musical Director. An uninhibited celebration of Happiness, Love and Joy! Sandra brought her warmth, spirit and humor from Santa Fe, NM to perform her musical adventure of Broadway songs, Standards and Light-hearted Anecdotes. Tunes by Gershwin, Harold Arlen, Kander & Ebb, Carole King, James Taylor, Sophie Tucker. All things Cabaret, she chooses very sensitive and emotional ballads on love, joy, relationships, including with yourself, and happiness. As part of her act, she also does a sexy red-hot tribute to Sophie Tucker.
Inside, it’s intimate and yet traditional, where you sit around very small tables to watch the performance; the venue is so small that there really isn’t a bad seat in the house. There offer small plates, cocktails, wine and beer so you have dinner on-site if you wish.
636 Jackson Street
(Between Powell & Mason)
San Francisco, CA
It is a contemporary tale of misunderstanding between two families who, prompted by tragedy. A humorous and yet tragic tale, Wyatt and Emma Cooke return home only to receive a visit from a stranger. But what’s even more startling is their realization that this surprise guest will impact their lives forever. Now two families find themselves highly motivated to communicate with each other in the wake of tragedy.
The play deals with race relations and tensions between a white family whose daughter was dating the son of a black family, only that the white family never knew it until a tragic car accident happens and both are killed. Both families grasp at hope, try to deal with sorrow and grief, while coming together to make sense of it all. Conflict erupts between races in a beautifully authentic but raw way that all of us, whether black or white, can resonate with, especially if you’re over 40. The timing of this theme is fitting with growing tensions in America and is sure to pull on your heartstrings. Emmitt & Ava weaves some humor into its tale of woe, providing perspective on life and how we cope with hardship. It shows each side’s world and perspective, and in their sorrow, you grieve with them for the loss of their children and for the blatant reality check that race relations in this country still has a long way to go.
For more information, visit http://www.bhpsanfrancisco.com/.
414 Mason Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
If you’re an entertainment fan, especially of unusually interesting and creative performances, you’ll love the alternative Cabaret mash-ups that Misfit Cabaret puts together in San Francisco. We recently went to their latest show, which is held at Great Star Theater. Located on Jackson Street in the heart of China Town, there are 14 local Chinese and Asian restaurants on the same block, making it easy and fun to grab a bite to eat before or after the show.
Misfit Cabaret is a splendiferous variety show centered around magical music with a rotating cast of eccentric performers. Each show is completely different– with changing themes such as the cult filmed Cinepheilia and the naughty nautical Whimsea. From burlesque to drag to circus to magic, you never know what you’re going to see. I love the concept and we had a boat loada fun. Some people get dressed up to match the theme and later, a couple of dozen people get dragged up onto the stage to dance to the last song with the rest of the crew and performers. For each new Misfit Cabaret, emcee Kat Robichaud writes two original songs keeping with the theme of the evening and plays them with her Darling Misfit band, as well as a special medley to kick off the evening and welcome in the spirits of San Francisco’s saucy past. There’s comedy, romance, and bawdiness around every corner. We loved her tribute to David Bowie song which she sang at the performance last week.
There’s Prosecco, beer and wine on-site as well as popcorn to add to the evening’s festivities and later, beach balls were thrown into the audience just to mix things up a bit and add to the fun. Another fun factoid to note is that the very old and very authentic Great Star Theater, a local underground miscreant, is meant to be haunted. For more info, go to http://www.katrobichaud.com/ and click on Misfit Cabaret or simply google Misfit Cabaret. They’re having a “bloody” themed one in October so be on the look out (venues changed however) but more info on the Great Star Theater and performances there can be found at http://www.greatstartheater.org.
Great Star Theater
636 Jackson Street
San Francisco, CA 94133
If you read us regularly, you know we’re huge fans of farm-to-table dining, organic food, restaurants who source from local farms and chefs and establishment owners who pay attention to where food comes from. We care and applaud restaurants who take the time to think through their menus, buy high quality organic ingredients and support nearby communities and farmers.
Meet one of our new favorite chefs: Soerke Peters, who’s the co-owner and main chef at Basil Seasonal Dining just off the main drag in Carmel-by-the-Sea California. Nestled in the middle of an alley off the main shopping street (get there early to view for creative window shopping and cafes), this cute and casual, but authentic and local gem features locally grown produce and organic ingredients. A certified Green European style restaurant, Basil boasts a seasonally rotating menu, which also features gluten-free and vegan alternatives. They also have an elegantly curated list of local wines to complement their fresh, wild and sustainable seafood and grass-fed beef, which have been raised on family-owned ranches.
“It’s never wrong to to do the right thing…..go green.” — Chef Soerke Peters
The place has a whole lotta charm, first and foremost because it’s tiny and has warm inviting paintings on the wall, including a large photo of Chef Soerke Peters himself. They compensate for their small space by having a large outside dining area in a quaint courtyard and they have heat lamps for those who get cold easily.
We sat inside by the window to do a l’il people watching while we waited for courses to come, starting with a little pure basil with garlic, olive oil, and spinach sampler. Whenever meatballs are on the menu as an appetizer, I have to oblige — it’s just one of my things, a bit like my positive relationship with oysters. Their Lamb Meatballs did not dissappoint, prepared with red onions and fresh goat cheese. Blissful!!
The local Monterey Abalone small plate is scrumptious as well. He prepares this dish with vermouth, parsnip puree, sweet corn and an asparagus-potato hash. Note that they tend to use a lot of potatoes in their dishes here, but done in new, fresh and creative ways. Basil too of course!
While we didn’t try it, the Duck Liver-Pear Pate had me at hello and I would have ordered it if the Grilled Quail wrapped in Bacon and the Grilled Octopus from Spain wasn’t calling our names even louder. The Octopus looks like it was pulled fresh from the boat an hour ago (literally),but if you grew up in an Italian household where your grandmother served Octopus with those crazy white delicious Cannellini beans, then you’ll be all over this dish. He gets his beans from Coke Farms nearby and drizzles it with Quail and Olive basil oil. Couple that with warm cherry tomatoes and you’ll be one happy camper.
Because I love salads and don’t feel a meal is complete without one, we went for the California Fig Salad, which he does with Wild Arugula, Point Reyes blue cheese, a Quail and Olive Ambrosia vinaigrette and toasted walnuts. YUM! Beet lovers will be happy to know that he offers a fresh organic Roasted Beet Salad with Belgian Endive, arugula, goat cheese, walnuts and Quail and Olive raspberry vinaigrette.
Since we tend to keep our carb intake in check, we didn’t opt for the homemade Corn Ravioli, although it sounded oh so lovely — it’s a saffron pasta made with radicchio double smoked bacon and a marjoram-butter sauce. Pasta lovers listen up — he also does a Black Squid Ink Linguine with Monterey Bay squid and a Mendocino sea urchin sauce. WOW! Meat lovers beware — there are Beef Cheeks which have been braised for five hours and house-made Lamb-Black Garlic Sausages with a summer vegetable ragout on the menu, which we watched our neighbors devour with smiles on their faces. Soerke has been experimenting a lot with goat over the past year and gets two goats in a month, no older than 8 months old, which apparently is key to ensuring your goat dishes are fresh and tender.
He whipped up a special Braised Goat Shoulder dish for us with creamy polenta, the polenta so smooth it just melted in our mouths. Add to this scrumptious treat, local Chantelle mushrooms and Broccolini and we are still thinking of this flavorful dish over a week later. We paired it with a delicious Duckhorn Cabernet Sauvignon, which was oh so perfect. If you go here – and I’d strongly recommend you add it to your Carmel Restaurant Must List – be sure to order whatever Goat Inspiration he has on the menu for the evening. You won’t be disappointed!!
It’s worth noting their Organic Beer Selection, which includes IPA’s, Belgian Blonde Ales and Lagers from Salt Lake City Utah. Their cocktails are apparently memorable as well — don’t miss out on their Signature Cocktail, the Passion Fruit Basil-Tini, which is made with rum, passion fruit and fresh Basil. For dessert, we went with the Olallieberry Cobbler, which they top with homemade Vanilla Gelato. Prior to that, Soerke came out with a bowl of his Vanilla Gelato which he poured some Basil Olive Oil over while we watched, mouths drooling – OMG! This combination was to die for, so much so that I polished it off on my own and left the cobbler for Anthony. It was so so so divine!
Because of Soerke’s German influence, they have Apple Strudel on the menu, which our waitress whose nickname is apparently Ice Cream, strongly recommended – think Fuji Apples, Figs, Pine Nuts, Vanilla Sauce and whipped cream. Also imagine some homemade Gelato with Amaretto cookies and a shot of Danesi Espresso or if you don’t shy away from the carbs like we do, then for the Italian Bread Pudding, which is a warm flan with Brioche Bread Panettone and Port Wine with a poached pear. Alternatively, you could opt for the Limoncello Cheese Cake with fresh Berry Compote or traditional Creme Brulee. They also have a local cheese plate with nuts, honey and dried fruits or if you want to keep it light after a big meal, then go for a simple Olallieberry Rhubarb Sorbet, which is heavenly — two thumbs up!!
Basil Seasonal Dining
San Carlos Between Ocean & 7th
Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA 93921
Since we live in northern California, we drink a lot of red Napa and Sonoma wines on a regular basis — there are so many deals to be had and overflow bins where you can great Cabs and Zins, that it’s no surprising that dabbling in Chilean, Argentinian, Australian, South Africa, Italian wines and beyond are more a rarity than the status quo. Truth be told however and I’ve written about this before, you can drink better wine outside northern California for a more reasonable price. In other words, I’m not suggesting that all wine outside of Napa and Sonoma are better wines, but certainly the price points in California compared to the incredible values I get on the road cannot be compared.
I sampled over-the-top big rich and bold reds that had me at hello, all under $15-18 range in Hungary that easily tasted like $40-50 bottles. The same holds true in South Africa and Argentina and some wines in Australia. It always astonishes me and moreso annoys me that to get a oh so delish glass of red wine in a nice bar or restaurant in the San Francisco Bay Area, you’re looking at anywhere from $12-22 a glass. Yes, really. For those accustomed to these kinds of prices and accept it, great, but avid travelers know just how inexpensive a decent glass of Bordeaux is in the middle of commercial Paris or a serious Chianti can be at a nice restaurant in Rome. When we got the opportunity to sample some Umbrian Wines from Italy, we were excited to have our Sonoma and Napa-trained palettes be challenged and of course, surprised – above is a lovely shot of this part of the world.
Recently, we took a look at six red wine gems from the region (pictured below):
Below is a shot of the 2010 Collepiano Montefalco Sagrantino that received 91 points from Wine Spectator. Its essence: fig cake and sun-dried black cherry notes, accents of black olive, cured tobacco, leather and spice. Let’s compare that to the 2008 which we tried out.
So, how does the 2008 Collepiano Montefalco Sagrantino compare to the 2010? Interestingly enough, we found some of the same tastes in our experience tasting it solo and then later, pairing it with food. It is tannic though also very jammy and full of plums and cherries which we love. Anthony also picked up on some chocolate notes as well. We used our Venturi aerator to open it up a bit faster since we didn’t have time to properly decant it. We tasted this bold and high berry wine with a beef ragu seaweed pasta and then later with smokey cheese and duck pate. I’d also suggest other dishes to pair, including any meat roast, game, mature cheese and stews. We also picked up on a little vanilla and spice on the nose. Worth noting for wine historians — their vineyard average age is 15-20 years.
Let’s now look at the 2012 Antonelli Montefalco Rosso, a rich ruby red wine that is so dark and oh so scrumptious with any red meat dish. See winemaker’s notes below.
Winemaker’s Notes: Deep ruby red with purple tints. The bouquet abounds in fruits of the forest, cherries and plums and enjoyable toasted aromas. In the mouth it is generous, warm, and beautifully balanced. Pair with flavoursome first courses like risotto, tagliatelle, ravioli, rare red meat, and mature hard cheese.
What we Took from these Notes & our Experience: The first thing you’ll notice about this wine is its dark ruby red in color and both the taste and smell of cherries most immediately. In addition to cherries, the plums weave in and out, making the wine incredibly flavorful with great texture, a must try for those who want a dark but dry, well rounded red to go with meat dishes, cheeses and pates and heartier pastas such as ravioli, tagliatelle and risotto. I’d also put chocolate on that list.
Other things to try with this: a boar ragu, sausage, steak or venison and hearty stews!! Then there’s the 2012 Montefalco Rosso Antonelli, which is another dark ruby red wine but at a lower price point than the first two. There’s plenty of cherry in this wine as well, but also some lovely tones of blackcurrants, plum and blackberry. We thought this was a decent value for its delivery. Recommended dishes for pairing include heavier pasta dishes such as calzones or homemade meat ravioli with ricotta cheese. The wine is based on Sangiovese, so medium to bold bodied Italian wine lovers, take note. It’s elegant and smooth and makes for a great every day drinking wine.
The Antonelli Montefalco Sagrantini is lightly toasted in barrels for six months and then in oak barrels for another 18 months before going into glass lined cement vats for 12 months and then aged in the bottle for another year. This wine too is intensely red, rich and bold. Unlike some of the others, there was a bit more fruit forward from this wine and you even get hints of citrus on the nose and tongue. Add to it, cherry, wild berries, mint and even oregano and you can imagine that this luscious wine will go well with any game dish as well as heavy stews, perfect for fall and winter months. It also goes well with grilled meats (we paired it with steak on the grill), a mozzarella and tomato salad with basil and string beans.
The 2011 Perticaia Montefalco Sagrantino is also a delicious bottle and a must for your bucket list. I love oak and wood — always have and feel I probably always will, but that’s a personal preference. They age this wine in small and wood barrels – Barriques or Tonneaux – of French oak once the malolactic fermentation has been completed and this one aged for around 36 months, a third of that time in the oak/wooden barrels. Like the other cousins in this category we’ve talked about thus far, this also exudes garnet and ruby red. While cherries are at the core of this gem as well, the bouquet is a little spicier than the others and you even catch hints of cinnamon and nutmeg.
The grape variety is 100% Sagrantino and it is aged in small wood barrels. It’s most definitely a very full bodied wine that will pair well with any game or red meat dish as well as make a lovely accompaniment to more mature cheeses. According to the vineyard, it will mature for at least ten years if stored properly. We tasted it with spare ribs rubbed with smoked Bourbon spices, a mozzarella tomato salad and asparagus – oh so yum! Perticaia is at the center of Umbria, among the hills cultivated with olive groves and vineyards, surrounded by medieval towers, villages and castles. They have nearly 15 hectares of vineyards, of which more than 7 are of the Sagrantino grape variety, 4 of Sangiovese, 2 of Colorino and 2 of Trebbiano Spoletino.
A Bit of Umbrian and Montefalco History
This region of Umbria is particularly special. Montefalco called, because of its location “The Balcony of Umbria”, is the area of cultivation of Sagrantino, but it is also a land rich in history and tradition. Montefalco is known as one of the “most beautiful towns in Italy” and the original city walls encloses the ancient town and is interrupted only by the four medieval doors. Montefalco is also one of the sanctuaries of Umbrian art in particular, the Church-Museum of San Francesco, which houses works by Perugino and Benozzo Gozzoli and the Church of Sant’Agostino with frescoes by Ambrogio Lorenzetti. the “Corsa dei Bovi” (Race of the Bulls), which takes place in mid-August every year, is a testimony of the rich and ancient folk traditions that are proudly passed down and kept alive. La “Strada del Sagrantino” (Sagrantino Road) crosses and connects the towns of Bevagna, Gualdo Cattaneo, Castel Ritaldi and Giano dell’Umbria, with castles and villages rich in archaeological finds.
Our favorite? It’s hard to say as we felt that they all made for great everyday drinking wines. Given that it’s summer in northern California (which means cooler temperatures and fog), we’ve been drinking more red than white lately, particularly with grilled meats and warmer vegetables. The 2008 Collepiano Sagrantino di Montefalco probably made my top vote list however, largely because of it’s jammy-like character which makes it a powerful and bold drinking wine with grilled red meats, which we’ve been doing a lot of in recent weeks. It was aged for 22 months in French oak and has an aging potential of 10-15 years. We did use the Venturi aerator on this wine as well, which helped to open it up just a little faster. On the tongue in addition to berry and cherry, you’ll be pepper, clove, vanilla and balsamic notes. Oh so YUM!!
Other similar wines below.
Photo credit: talk-a-vino.com. Other scenic photos taken from winery’s websites.
I’m a huge fan of essential oils and think that they can be very calming, especially when you’re overly stressed which can happen when you’re on the road a lot. I wrote about Gurunanda Essential Oils back in May and we also tested out one of their diffusers which we use quite regularly at night, most often with the Lavender scent, which I love. Most diffusers work by heating the essential oils and the Aroma 360 folks take a different approach. Since essential oils are very delicate and volatile, they tout that the therapeutic benefits are destroyed when they are heated, as well as their ability to disperse well in large areas. The molecules fall as they come in contact with the cool air, shortening the life of the scent.
We’ve been playing around with one of the Aroma 360 diffusers, which uses cold air diffusion.
They offer a variety of models, so you can select one that best works for the amount of space you have and they come in both silver and black. Their Mini 360 is sleek and compact, a great solution for a smaller apartment or one room. The Picasso 360 is larger and the most robust solution is the one they call Museum which will scene every square inch of space via a HVAC system. We tested out the Mini 360, which works with open areas of up to 600 square feet. It is compact enough to put anywhere, especially since it’s tall and slender — only 2.5 inches in diameter and 12.2 inches tall.
Cold air diffusion is the latest technology in the scenting industry, and it works by using high amounts of air pressure to compress oils into a dry mist of nano particles. This cold air diffusion technology is used in all Aroma 360 diffusing systems and is meant to ensure consistent and subtle scenting without high or low points in the scenting process. Below is an idea of where and how you can set it up in the house — we happen to love using it in the bedroom before we go to sleep as a way to calm our spirits and take in the relaxing aromas of calming essential oils.
We tested the diffuser roughly 80% of the time before going to bed and 20% in the late afternoon when we were winding down on a weekend to get an idea of how it works in an “awake state” and right before a “sleep state.” In both cases, we found it to have a calming effect and of course, this depends on the type of oils you select.
The Aroma 360 folks offers a variety of essential oils to choose from. What’s really cool is that you can choose by scent or by the benefit it provides, such as Beauty Sleep, Focus, Fresh, True Romance, Social Butterfly (gotta love the name), Inner Peace (great one), Signature Scents and more. Counting Stars is one of my favorites, which is French lavender with Nordic pine (Purple Rain and Take a Bow are also great choices if you like Lavender), Dancing Queen has lilies and zesty coriander and Beautiful Day which is a combo of succulent honeydew, zesty lemon and lemongrass with bamboo and sage.
Green Eyes is a bit like a fragrant Asian garden brimming with fresh green tea, aromatic lemongrass, sweet Valencia oranges and plum wine, Moondance gives the fragrance of an ocean breeze with notes of citrus zest and sharp musk and When Doves Cry is meant to help with circulation and cluttered air with thyme and calming mimosa. They have a very impressive collection of scents and the bottles are much larger than most you’ll find out there. What else is nice is that they have a lot of scented candles to choose from as well.
We went with Purple Rain as mentioned above (I absolutely love the power of Lavender), California Love, which gives off a scent of crisp, clean lemongrass and refreshingly smooth green tea. There is also a touch of soft jasmine and serene lilies that comes through as well. The third scent we went with is something they call Across the Universe which is a crisp, clean therapeutic scent of eucalyptus to help clear your mind and awaken your space. Another very relaxing choice is one they rightfully call Serenity, one of my favorite words and states of being (just look at my Instagram feed). Their Serenity oil gives off wild bamboo stalks and fresh water lilies, and is balanced with notes of lotus blossom, vetiver and dark amber. Bravo and oh so lovely!!
I’m not a doctor of health practitioner so full disclosure that I am merely speaking from personal experience using it and not advising diffusers or essential oils for any particular ailment. I do find that having those lovely relaxing essential oil scents in the air, particularly before sleep, helps put me in ultra relaxation mode pretty quickly. Two thumbs up. More info at http://www.aroma360.com.
On my recent trip to Chattanooga Tennessee, I had the opportunity to hang out for an afternoon at the local Tennessee Aquarium. I love spending time in Aquariums, largely because I learn so much about another world, the underwater world, so foreign to our own. Although land-locked, the Aquarium here is definitely worth visiting. Want to know what mesmerized me the most? The fascinating and oh so colorful SEA NETTLES, which is a common free-floating scyphozoan that lives in the East Pacific Ocean from Canada to Mexico. Sea nettles have a distinctive golden-brown bell with a reddish tint. Their scientific name? Chrysaora Fuscescens, which is a whole lot harder to remember.
Pacific sea nettles (also known as West Coast sea nettles) are in the class Scyphozoa, that of the jellies called true jellies. The genus name of sea nettle jellies,Chrysaora, comes from Greek mythology. Chrysaor, reportedly a giant, was the son of Poseidon and Medusa. His name translates as ‘golden falchion’. A falchion was a commonly used curved fighting sword that could cut through armor, a reference to the stinging ability of these jellies. The West Coast sea nettle’s species name, fuscescens, means dusky or dark referring to the dusky color of the nettle’s bell. This jelly uses light-sensing organs (ocelli) to migrate daily from dark, deep water to sunlit surface water. Bell can be up to 30 inches wide, and their tentacles can be as long as 16 feet on giant specimens.
Their predators? Sea turtles and other jelly-eating animals, such as tuna, sunfish, butterfish, and spiny dogfish, keep the jelly populations in balance. All seven species of sea turtles include them in their diets. The largest sea turtle species, the leatherback, depends on jellies for food. Because jellies are more than 90% water and an adult leatherback can weigh more than 2,000 pounds, one turtle can consume a lot of jellies. Fascinating right? I couldn’t stop watching them — they’re relaxing to watch as their motion is so fluid, delicate and seamless.
Below is a quick video I shot to give you an idea of just how relaxing their energy is — meditative and free-flowing. Let’s just say that they made my day!
As for other creatures of the sea, the Tennessee Aquarium, which has been around since 1992 and sits on the banks of the Tennessee River in downtown Chattanooga. You’ll be taken below the surface in the Aquarium’s two buildings and be able to tap into the Aquarium’s IMAX 3D Theater and River Gorge Explorer as well. Join me on a visual journey.