Sunday, February 25, 2018

Slovenia Cross Country Ski Resorts in Pictures

Cross country skiing in Slovenia couldn't be more idyllic, with fresh powder, tracked trails, no crowds, unbeatable mountain scenery, and quaint villages. At Pokljuka, I found fresh powder and the opportunity to learn the rigors of the biathlon -- who knew the rifle was so heavy. At Planica, a wide, tree-lined trail led up to a pristine mountain hut where I sat with the locals for a hearty lunch. Log Pod Mangart may be small but what it lacks in size it makes up for with dramatic mountain scenery. This area in the photo below, the Nordic Center Bonovec Medvode, is just 20 minutes west of downtown Ljubljana. This YouTube video slideshow offers a window into Slovenia’s cross country skiing treasures.

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Sunday, February 18, 2018

Restaurant Review: New York City's New Rice Noodle Eatery

Focused on mixian rice noodle dishes typical of China's Yunnan province, South of the Clouds, a just opened restaurant in New York City's Greenwich Village, may be small and quite informal but it will leave a delightful impression on your taste buds. I recently dined at this eatery where, as soon as I walked in from the cold, my eyes set on the dramatic mural on one wall, a mountain scene reflective of the topography in that province.

Along with the decor, the menu is minimal but memorable. All the main courses are served dry or in a soup. The signature dish is Crossing the Bridge Noodles that's served in a large steaming bowl of four-hour cooked chicken broth and a wooden palette containing silkie chicken, pork,  beef, fish, bean sprouts, tofu skin, cilantro, and scallion. These are then assembled at the table, a dish that can be shared, like all the main dishes. I also ordered the Tofu Pudding Rice noodles, a dry dish made with minced pork with fermented bean paste atop tofu pudding, plus julienne carrots, cilantro, scallion, crushed peanuts and Chinese pickles. Both were plenty tasty but, of the two, I preferred the latter for its heat, and sweet and sour flavors that were perfectly melded. The side of Yunnan ghost chicken, which is shredded chicken with cilantro, minced garlic and lime, is a perfect accompaniment, offering a different but complementary flavor and texture profile.

The desserts are unusual but a must try, whether it's the Yunnan rose with silver ear mushroom -- a delicate dish with a gelatinous-like texture and an aromatic surprise from the rose petals, or the milky rice made with whole milk, a very soothing dessert that was most welcome after the heat-packed meal.

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Saturday, February 10, 2018

Top Exotic Bicycle Trips

What better way to intimately connect with a destination, whether far-flung or close-at-hand, than straddling a bicycle saddle? With the slow pace of cycling, you become acutely aware of your surroundings: the scent of conifer trees, the sight of locals working the rice fields, the chorus of cicada sounds, or the bracing chill from a salty breeze. Some places, such as Amsterdam, France’s Loire Valley, or Copenhagen, take center stage as being ultra bike-friendly. But, though not as well-recognized, there are other bike-worthy parts of the world that merit exploring. Madagascar, South Korea and the Azores are three exotic gems that share their own piece of paradise with cyclists. I recently wrote about these and other bikeable destinations for the Evening Standard-The Independent.

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