I like to eat at restaurants that take reservations. I’m not pretentious; I just like to make the best use of my time. There is one type of restaurant, though, where I make an exception: Texas barbecue. Texas is home to the original cowboys, the gunslingers and trailblazers. They pushed 20 million head of cattle through Dustbowl territory during the era of historic cattle drives. Beef is in their blood. Texans pride themselves on one of the most difficult cuts of all — beef brisket. They smoke it slow and low until that cow falls apart when poked with a spoon. There’s nothing like it on Earth, and to get the good stuff you’ve got to stand in line.
And while Texans may not have invented barbecue, they perfected it: a quick survey of regional imitators show the fine folks of Kansas City parading hopeless pieces of flesh dripping in ketchup and calling it ‘cue; the never-ending Memphis debate over sugary sauce or dry rub is meaningless if they keep cooking over charcoal; and in the Carolinas they’ll tell you they invented the stuff, as they choke down mouthfuls of vinegar and pork. Yeah, the best ‘cue is here in Texas, and if you find yourself in the Lone Star state, get in line for a plate of meat at these six legendary joints.
We know you’ve never heard of it, which makes trying Chili Granola ($11) half the fun. Chili Granola is a super-new condiment from Bad Seeds, but it feels familiar. It’s crunchy, earthy and wholesome like grammy’s granola, with a rebellious, spicy streak. It’s a stand alone feast or goes well with yogurt, fish, vegetables — pretty much anything. Each bite is a unique flavor-bomb of sweet, savory, garlicky, and spicy. The spice is right.
Get it: $11
We love crepes. They’re dainty and delicious, and they make me feel fancy and French. Since we met, we’ve been visiting this adorable historic home turned crepe shop as a special treat every so often. It’s one of our favorite places to eat, so much that we even went there for my birthday. We love crepes.
However, those quaint little crepes can get pretty expensive when we order two each plus coffee. We usually spend about $30 (for paper thin pancakes basically!). So this weekend when we really wanted to visit said charming crepe shop but thought we should save that money for an upcoming travel adventure, we decided to pull out the cookbook (aka find a recipe online, here) and make the tasty French treat. I’d never thought of that before, but I’m so glad we did. It was a lot of fun, and I don’t think we’ll be going back to overpriced crepe shop any time soon. Without further ado, the best crepes recipe ever.
Easy French Crepes
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Servings: 4 (but we ate them all between the two of us)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- Filling of your choice
- Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Beat until smooth.
- Heat a large nonstick pan over medium high heat. Pour 1/4 cup batter onto the pan. Tilt the pan to thin out the batter. You can make it as thick or thin as you’d like, but I prefer as thin as possible.
- Now, you wait. After one side is becoming slightly golden, flip with a spatula. Two minutes on each side worked well for us.
- Transfer to a plate, and fill with whatever your heart desires. We chose fresh strawberries and homemade whipped cream (recipe below or here). Now, enjoy!
Southern Homemade Whipped Cream
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
Servings: 4 (we won’t be bashful – we ate it all)
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- Chill a large mixing bowl and whisk in the fridge or freezer until cold. Do not skip this step – it makes such a difference!
- After bowl and whisk are chilled, whip the heavy cream until peaks and valleys are about to form.
- Add vanilla and sugar, and beat until peaks and valleys do form (basically until it looks like whipped cream is supposed to look, fluffy and magical and cloud-like). Be sure not to over beat; it can very easily turn clumpy and gross looking.
Often referred to as “Earth’s Lung”, the Amazon rainforest is 2.124 million square miles of sprawling vegetation that pumps out over 20 percent of the world’s oxygen. The region can receive rainfall in excess of 175 inches annually, more water than parts of the American Southwest see in a decade; these deluges feed the Amazon river and her many tributaries, which wind a path through the rainforest for over 4,000 miles. This is the largest river in the world, by volume.
Traveling the Amazon’s waters by boat during the middle of low-tide season is the best form of transportation to be found in the region. And so we set off from Iquitos, Peru, fondly dubbed the Capital of the Peruvian Amazon, aboard the Aqua Aria, a river boat that would take us roughly 100 miles up and down the Amazon River. Along the journey we caught and ate Piranha, danced with indigenous peoples the from Cocama-Cocamilla tribe near the San Martin de Tipishca reserve, weathered a notorious Amazonian rainstorm, swam with pink dolphins, bartered with locals, dodged poisonous dart frogs, and macheted our way through thick forest. When venturing into this part of the world, authentic adventure is never far from reach and only one thing is certain: expect the unexpected.
As seen in Gear Patrol.
One of the most thrilling parts of being in the Amazon was getting to try so many different types of foods. Fresh fruits and vegetables were everywhere and were so much larger and more vibrant than anything I’d ever seen. The pure, fertile soil of the rainforest grows the most organic produce on planet earth. Avocados were the size of cantaloupes, limes the size of pineapples, and papayas the size of watermelons. I had sensory overload Walking through street markets because I wanted to take in every sight and smell of the beautiful, unusual fruits and vegetables that were piled on tables and stacked several stories high in crates.
On the Aria Amazon, Chef Miguel Schiaffino prepared delicious and unique dishes that were a delight to our taste buds every time with locally sourced ingredients that you’ve likely never heard of, much less tasted: aguaje fruit ice cream, giant Paiche, Sabalo and Patarashca fish, camu camu juice, and over 31 different kinds of plantains. We know what you’re thinking, and yes, there’s a wine for that — just ask the in-house sommelier. After dinner, we took in the Achaval Ferrer Malbec, or the official drink of the Amazon — the Pisco Sour — as we numbered the innumerable stars on the observation deck. Twas glorious.
Learn More: Here
Riverboat cruises are not exactly new, but tell us you’ve put one on the Amazon River and you’ve got our undivided attention. Aqua Expeditions, which specializes in “luxury cruises on the world’s greatest rivers”, is doing that very thing, pushing the envelope of luxury and adventure with their ship, the Aria Amazon. The Aria — which shoved off from Iquitos, Peru, fondly dubbed the Capital of the Peruvian Amazon — was constructed in 2011 on the successful heels of her sister ship, the Aqua. At 147 feet in length, the grandeur of the Aria is a stark contrast to the rickety canoes and logging cargo ships otherwise found floating these waterways. She’s equipped with 16 well-manicured suites sporting California king-sized beds and luxurious Peruvian cotton, bathrooms with rainshowers, polished timber flooring, accent lighting, and panoramic floor-to-ceiling windows that face the forest.
As beautiful as the Aria is, your trip is about exploration and adventure of the singular Amazon rainforest. To that end, the ship is equipped with skiffs that take guests on various excursions and day-trips to leave the safe trappings of the Aria and embark on uncaged, unplanned adventure. Travel off the Amazon River and down the Marañon River to see animals in the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve and villages near San Pedro de Tipishca. Whether you’re opting for the three, four, or seven day itinerary, each day presents the chance to see over 200 species of birds, 13 species of monkeys, crocodiles and caimans, tarantulas, poisonous dart frogs, pink and grey dolphins, tree boas and maybe even a jaguar. With ice-cold water or a Cusquena always at the ready, these skiff adventures make the trip worth every penny.
The Aria comes with a full schedule, if you choose to participate. The excursions and festive meals are the main affair, but you’ll find the times in between marked with siestas, lounging on the observation deck or panoramic lounge, taking advantage of their exercise room or fulfilling an appointment with the on-board masseuse. At the end of the trip, you’ll be wished farewell by a group of gregarious crewmen who channel popular music through native Peruvian instruments. We dare you to sit silent as they outro with John Denver’s Country Road. It’s a beautiful thing, and a great bookend to what can easily be called the trip of a lifetime.
Learn More: Here
Where Sherlock Holmes and Indiana Jones collide, you’ll find this leather duffel by LL Bean Signature. The leather keeps shape even when this bag is empty and, like all leather, develops character with each use. It’s plenty spacious for a weekend getaway and fits as nicely in the boot of a Bronco as it does a Bentley. The zippers secure your belongings with ease and the fabric liner is a nice touch. Frankly, I love this duffel. The sophistication and quality are unmatched. Like most things, though, there’s a time and place for it. I probably wouldn’t take it camping, or hiking, or on a long trip. This duffel belongs in the boot of an old Austin Healey on your way to the Hamptons. It’s classic and classy, and we love it for that.