“Lonely Planet’s top U.S. destinations is an annual list of places that travelers should add to their wish lists specifically for the coming year. They’re not necessarily the must-see places, lest New York City be on the list every year,” says Emily Wolman, Lonely Planet editor-at-large. “We dig deeper and shine a light on destinations that are emerging, perhaps historically overlooked, and/or experiencing something wonderful in the coming year. These destinations aren’t necessarily where U.S. travelers are going in 2014, but where they should go in 2014.”
The list is more art than science. To compile the annual list, Lonely Planet asks its U.S. staff and authors for urban and nature recommendations, well-known and lesser-known spots and locations that have a timely angle for 2014, says Wolman. ”From there, our editors whittle down the list to ten, and a natural order emerges.”
Since working Americans don’t get as much vacation time as their European counterparts, consider using your limited vacation days to explore Lonely Planet’s top destinations right here at home. Here are the 10 spots that came out on top:
1. Grand Rapids and Lake Michigan’s Gold Coast
It’s such an overlooked part of the Midwest, says Wolman, and so deserving of attention by travelers who love art, beer and food and the beach. The second-largest city in Michigan, Grand Rapids has beer and food festivals almost year round, perhaps inspired by more than 25 craft breweries in the area. It has a beautiful art scene, including the LEED-certified Grand Rapids Art Museum and Frederik Meijer Gardens Sculpture Park.
From Grand Rapids, it’s an easy 30-mile drive to Michigan’s Gold Coast, “one of the United States’ most unexpected beach getaways,” says Wolman, at least to folks outside the Midwest. Enjoy the sugar white sand beaches, orchards, cider houses and wineries. Take a dip, and have a drink.
2. Yosemite National Park, California
With 3.8 million visitors last year, the third-most visited national park in the country is well-known among park lovers and novices alike. Yet the federal government shutdown and Rim Fire hurt the park and surrounding communities that depend on park visitors for their survival.
Add to that a reason to celebrate: the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the Yosemite Grant, giving the Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove to California to be administered. Yosemite was turned into a national park in 1890. The grant is widely seen as a precursor to the creation of the National Park Service in 1916.
“Yosemite is celebrating that with a bunch of preservation efforts,” says Wolman. “It’s a good time for the nation’s and world’s gaze to be on Yosemite. It’s one of the most majestic parks in the U.S. Also, it’s been an incredibly wet season so it will lead to a great spring.”
3. Boston, Massachusetts
The eyes of the world will be on Boston next year, as thousands descend upon the historic city to run and support the Boston Marathon come Monday, April 21 — Patriots’ Day in Massachusetts. It will be the first running of the marathon since the Boston bombing on April 15, 2013.
Fans of this New England city also know that U.S. history comes alive on the Freedom Trail, and walkers can include a stop at the Bell in Hand Tavern, the nation’s oldest tavern, along the way. “The past in Boston is always very much alive,” says Wolman.
4. Central Coast, California
While many visitors in the know have experienced the beauty of the area from Santa Cruz to Santa Barbara, it can be ignored as flyover country between San Francisco and Los Angeles. “It’s quintessential California at its best,” says Wolman. “The weather is generally gorgeous, and even when it’s foggy, it is still romantic.”
Check out the Pacific Ocean driving along Highway 1 and stop by the gorgeous inns and restaurants hugging the coast. Stay on the Monterey Peninsula and enjoy the Monterey Bay Aquarium during its 30th anniversary year. Explore Paso Robles wine country — it rivals Sonoma and Napa, says Wolman.
5. Jersey Shore, New Jersey
With Superstorm Sandy last year and the boardwalk fire this year, the Jersey Shore has been through the wringer. The storm caused monumental damage, but there has been an incredible effort to revitalize.
From Sandy Hook to the north and Cape May to the south, you will find kitchy towns, classy towns and everything in between, says Wolman. “As recovery efforts continue, it’s important to have tourism in 2014. We encourage people to go, and there’s a lot of family fun. “
6. Kansas City, Missouri
Kansas City has its barbecue, of course — more than 100 spots to celebrate its culinary accomplishments in that area. Yet there is so much more to Kansas City.
“It’s another one of those cities in the central swath of the United States that is often overlooked,” says Wolman. “It’s really wide open and inviting, with 200 foundations, jazz and barbecue. It also has a very vibrant African-American community.”
The city will be in the spotlight in 2014 with the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I. The city’s National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial, which is getting a $5 million makeover, will shine the spotlight on the Great War.
7.Cumberland Island, Georgia
Cumberland Island is a magical Southern getaway, a national seashore that’s part of a collection of sea islands on the Southeast’s Atlantic coast. One of the most underdeveloped places in the United States, there’s room for backcountry camping among the mossy oaks and wild turkeys. For a bit of history, visit the First African Baptist Church (which dates back to 1893) and the ruins of a Carnegie mansion.
“It’s otherworldly,” says Wolman. “If you have the opportunity to stay overnight (there’s an old inn), you’ll have the place to yourself. It’s off the beaten path, a magical Southern natural getaway.”
8. Las Vegas, Nevada
Of course Las Vegas is about casinos, but it’s not all about casinos. “We chose Vegas this year because it is reinventing itself,” says Wolman. There are vibrant art districts popping up and attracting visitors in their own right. On the Vegas Strip itself, the “High Roller” Ferris wheel is scheduled to open with great views of the city in 2014.
9. Sun Valley, Idaho
While the crowds travel to Colorado’s famed ski slopes, those looking for a less expensive and crowded vacation might want to head to Sun Valley. “It’s a perfect alternative to places that can be more expensive,” says Wolman. “It’s a gorgeous setting with the Sawtooth Mountains, culinary events, great food and world class skiing and a lot of hiking in summer. It’s really mellow, with no crowds or lift lines.”
10. Lanai, Hawaii
An often overlooked, really unique speck of paradise, with old shipwrecks and petroglyphs, most of the island was recently purchased by Oracle founder and billionaire Larry Ellison.
“It will be interesting to see how the island transforms over the next few years, but it’s worth seeing now before it transforms,” says Wolman. “There’s snorkeling and diving without the crowds. It’s a real slice of Hawaiian life.”
For the ultimate gifts that keeps on giving, we opt for cookbooks and keep our fingers crossed that an invite to dinner isn’t far behind.
Here, we keep it close to home with some of our favorite new local food-centric books:
“The Art of French Pastry,” by Jacquy Pfeiffer (Knopf, $40). As the co-founder of the Loop’s French Pastry School, Pfeiffer knows a thing or two about pastries, as well as tarts, cookies, cream puffs, beignets and plenty of other sweet treats, all of which he shares in this user-friendly book.
“The New Chicago Diner Cookbook,” by Jo A. Kaucher with Kat Berry and the Chicago Diner Crew (Agate Midway, $19.95). What better way for Chicago’s famed vegetarian restaurant to celebrate 30 years in business than with a cookbook featuring 100 meat-free recipes?
“Middlewest,” by David Tamarkin (Middlewest, $20). Not quite a magazine and definitely not a book, this innovative food-centric publication, now in its second edition, features beautifully photographed recipe cards from local favorite chef Jason Vincent of Nightwood.
“Food Lover’s Guide to Chicago, 2nd ed.,” by Jennifer Olvera (Globe Pequot Press, $16.95). Chicago’s culinary scene is amazing and complex. Lucky for us, local food writer Olvera isn’t afraid to dig deep. She shares her tips on the best ethnic eateries, food festivals, specialty markets and more in her recently revised guide.
“1,000 Food and Art Styling Ideas,” by Ari Bendersky (Quayside Publishing, $35). Chicago food writer Bendersky did his homework for this visually stunning book, which includes images from food photographers, stylists, chefs and bloggers from around the world.
“Fried Walleye and Cherry Pie,” edited by Peggy Wolff (University of Nebraska Press, $19.95). The gustatory pleasure (and peculiarities) of the Midwest come alive in this collection of unique tales from 30 local writers.
“Taste Memories: Recipes for Life and Breakfast,” by Ina Pinkney (self-published, $34). In just a few weeks Pinkney will be closing her eponymous West Loop restaurant after 23 years. But her beloved recipes live on in her recently released cookbook.
“Hot Doug’s: The Book,” by Doug Sohn with Kate DeVivo (Agate Midway, $24.95). Get a peek inside the Hot Doug experience, minus the inevitable line, in this exploration of what has made this small hot dog stand such an internationally celebrated encased meats emporium. Hint: It’s much more than just the hot dogs.
“Hoosier Mama Book of Pie,” by Paula Haney with Allison Scott (Agate Midway, $29.95). Chicago pastry chef Haney takes the mystery out of pie making (no, really) in her debut book, which includes 120 sweet and savory recipes, as well as a step-by-step guide to flaky, golden crusts. Sweet, indeed.
“Soak Your Nuts,” by Karyn Calabrese (Book Publishing Co., $19.95). While the title of this raw and vegan cookbook might seem odd (it refers to the process of soaking nuts for easier digestion), no one can deny that Calabrese, Chicago’s reigning guru of healthy eating who operates a raw cafe and holistic therapy center, looks amazing.
… even more so in Ahmedabad this time of the year as it’s perfect to be out having fun
While the slight drop in temperature makes you want to snuggle in bed under warm blankets, there’s a lot you could be missing. Not too hot, not too cold, it’s just the right weather to step out of the house and have a ball under the mellowed sky. And if you thought there’s nothing much to enjoy, or you were running short of ideas, here’s what you can do when the sun’s out.
Get sporty Most walks and marathons are being organised during this time of the year, so why not get a little sporty? Get those bicycles and jogging shoes out and smell the early morning winter air, feel the cool breeze touching your cheek and breathe in the fresh morning air. Kick start your mornings with fun sports, finishing off with a scrumptious hot breakfast and some cutting chai. Says Deepika Kanojia, state player on the women’s cricket team “Winters are the only time you get to enjoy the outdoors and I like to make the most of the weather.” When it comes to fitness too, it’s the best season to eat and stay fit. Adds Deepika, “For people looking to lose weight or gain some muscle mass, winter’s the best season to exercise. You don’t get tired easily and can burn off more calories.
Hog away Have friends over for a terrace or balcony barbecue party and watch the sun go down as you wrap yourself up in comforters sipping hot beverages with a delicious rooftop or garden barbecue. “Piping hot tikkas and succulent kebabs are best enjoyed when the nip in the air tingles your skin. Winter is not only a great time to enjoy non-veg delicacies but the increased appetite also gives way for some scrumptious cheese, cream and nut varieties. You can add colour to your plate with fresh fruits and vegetables,” says food consultant Sujit Mehta. You could even have a prolonged weekend brunch and get some sun while you enjoy those soul warming winter specialties. Gujarati cuisine itself has such a lipsmacking winter menu to offer, be it undhiyu, made with those fresh winter greens or the entire platter consisting of bajri no rotlo, ringan no olo, urad dal, ghee gol and white butter and an assortment of chutneys and accompaniments to go with it. And of course, the kachariyu and chikkis and the adadiya and methi pak, one can’t give those a miss either!
It’s one big affair! From shopping to food and entertainment, winters are most preferred for fairs, festivals and concerts. A lot of colleges host their annual fests during the winters and so come December, you will see the streets outside colleges lined with youngsters queuing up for passes and tickets. Hotels and restaurants host food festivals during this time too. Student Ridhi Shiv believes, “Ahmedabad heat is unbearable, you don’t want to stand or sit sweating in close proximity to hundreds of people, which is why maybe a lot of concerts are held during winter. People can concentrate on the concert instead of the hot weather.”
Soulful solitude Winter’s no reason to hide in bed even if you’re home alone. Just grab a book, make yourself some tea and get some vitamin D on that comfy armchair in the garden or the balcony. Winter evenings are great for walks too, a pair of headphones is all it takes to take a break from the rest of the world and enjoy a little me-time. The pleasant weather just demands a little soul pampering.
So get together with friends and family to enjoy a little wintery cheer. Gajar ka halwa anyone?
The culinary-driven traveler has ever-expanding options for a taste of more than just meals, and experiences can be enjoyed together. Here are six ways to give (or get) food and travel in one.
The USA alone hosts hundreds of annual food festivals a year, and we have complete guides to more than 50 of the best events in the biggest culinary destinations. Get a taste of top chefs in each of the world’s food capitals, learn of up-and-coming trends in a city’s food scene or be the first to sample new creations. International festivals offer travel inspiration and plenty of events to work an itinerary around, and beer and spirits festivals often debut new makers or exclusive products. Whether you’re dying to meet a celebrity chef, pining to taste a wine out of your price range or looking for cooking tips and demonstrations, these are the ultimate experiences covering a wide range of interests and locations.
Tickets can run from $17 (for California’s Gilroy Garlic Festival) to $500 (for Food Network South Beach Wine Food Festival’s Tribute Dinner honoring Danny Meyer and Chuck Wagner) and often benefit charity.
With the right host, cooking classes are as much fun for seasoned home chefs as they are for novices, and as cooking surges in popularity, classes and facilities have expanded to cover every food group, region or skill imaginable. Venues range from formal institutions to recreational classes in laboratories or studios with renowned chefs and experts for countless themed experiences.
New York City’s Institute of Culinary Education offers classes covering the basics like Knife Skills ($105) or internationally-themed courses such as The Essentials of Tuscan Cooking ($120). The Culinary Institute of America hosts courses in Hyde Park, N.Y.; St. Helena, Calif., and San Antonio, covering everything from An Indian Feast ($250) to Everyday Grilling ($250).
From factory tours to wine tastings to distillery and brewery tours or stops at artisan shops, visits to the source of your favorite foods or beverages – or the ones that define a city you’re visiting – give context and appreciation for the products you consume. Plus, tours and tastings are fun, interactive activities for groups or couples traveling together.
Some classic American tours include Napa and Sonoma vineyards, Kentucky bourbon distilleries, Tennessee whiskey manufacturers or restaurant crawls sampling the best spots in a city. These can range from as little as $8 (for a tour and tasting at Corsair Artisan Distillery in Tennessee) to $65 (for a tour and tasting at Far Niente Wine Estate in Napa Valley, Calif.).
A variety of farms welcome visits in the winter for tours and hands-on experiences, and the most tempting options offer an excuse for international travel, from olive orchards in Tuscany to coffee plantations in Costa Rica or truffle hunts in France. Aficionados of these products can often stay on-site and book half- or full-day tours of the farms with tastings. Many Tuscan tour operators pair olive orchard tours with cheese or wine experiences, and French truffle tours are typically followed by a meal. Of course souvenirs serve as gifts in themselves with olive oil, coffee beans or truffles to take home.
Tours range from $22 for a Britt Coffee Tour in Costa Rica, to $82 for a half-day olive orchard tour (for hotel guests only) at Casina di Rosa in Tuscany, to $95 for a truffle hunt in Provence with Les Pastras.
DIY artisanal crafts
Many of the most famous artisans in America now offer DIY kits for foodie fans to recreate the crafts, or versions of them, at home. Seattle’s Beecher’s Handmade Cheese has a “World’s Best Mac Cheese Kit” ($55); New York’s Jacques Torres Chocolate sells hot chocolate mix ($18), chocolate chips ($9.50), baking discs ($14) and a cookbook ($22); Beverly Hills’ Sprinkles Cupcakes offers its signature cupcake mix ($14) through Williams-Sonoma; and Texas’ The Salt Lick Bar-B-Que combines its original sauces and dry rubs in gift packs ($19.95-$29.95), to name a few. Gifting a DIY kit opens a favorite food experience up to the whole family or works as a fun couples activity in the comfort of your home.
Food TV tapings
Fans of food television can see their favorite cooks, hosts or reality stars in person at live tapings. Audience tickets are typically free and only require a little research or waiting in line. Stop by ABC’s The Chew on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, The Rachael Ray Show in Midtown or Hell’s Kitchen in L.A. on your next vacation.
To request tickets to show tapings in advance, sign-up for the show or network’s e-mail newsletters to stay up-to-date on availability, or fill out an online application where available.
PADSTOW is making final preparations for an influx of foodies and families for its annual Christmas Festival this week. Taking place from Thursday to Sunday, the festival is a unique Christmas celebration that attracts locals and visitors alike.
Alongside festive entertainment, food and drink is the real talking point as top chefs mix with local producers and award- winning brewers swap stories with baristas in a large marquee around Padstow Harbour.
Now in its sixth year, the festival has continued to grow, attracting 30,000 visitors in 2012. Padstow resident and festival organiser Tina Evans said: “We can’t quite believe how far the festival has come. This year we’ve moved locations to the opposite side of the quay in order to accommodate everyone.
“The festival is a not for profit event and is only possible with the help of incredible volunteers, sponsors and the businesses and chefs that get behind it. Padstow has always been a ‘foodie’ destination but the calibre of chefs that we have here has really helped put us on the map on a national scale.”
One of the biggest free food festivals in the country, the line- up boasts over 40 of the UK’s best chefs including: Rick Stein, Jack Stein, Angela Hartnett, Tom Kerridge, Michael Caines, Nathan Outlaw, Paul Ainsworth, Mitch Tonks, Mark Sargeant, Phil Vickery and Sat Bains.
Live demonstrations will take place across two theatres, with chefs including Rick Stein preparing dishes from their restaurants, cookery books and television series. The Cornwall Living stage will focus more on culinary techniques and local produce, with demonstrations from chefs, butchers, brewers and bakers.
Rangemaster and HBH Woolacotts will be giving away one of their Professional Deluxe range cookers. The Pounds 2,000 cooker is top of the range and will have been used by by all of the chefs in the Cornwall Living Theatre at the festival.
The festival’s famed food forums are returning with fresh topics and new panelists. On Friday, The Sunday Times food writer Gizzi Erskine will be joined by Jack Stein from The Seafood Restaurant and star of BBC Two’s Proper Pub Food, Tom Kerridge, as they debate gourmet trends.
On Saturday, industry experts will discuss what makes Cornwall such an enduring destination and Sunday will see the first question- led Audience With The Chefs.
The expanded Christmas market will house 100 local producers, selling artisan breads, juices, tasty cheeses, and Cornish charcuterie. Outside pop-up food stands will serve wood fired pizzas, homemade burgers and locally caught seafood.
Christmas shoppers will be in their element with numerous arts and craft stalls alongside Padstow’s shops, many of which will be running special festival offers.
With a burgeoning Cornish beer scene, local ales and ciders are well represented. Festival sponsors Sharp’s Brewery will be celebrating their recent success at the World Beer Awards, where their newly launched Cornish Pilsner was named World’s Best Lager 2013.
Cornwall Brewing Alliance will also be holding a mini beer festival on Sunday from 10am to 4pm at North Quay. There will be the opportunity to sample local Cornish handcrafted ales and hear talks on the history and art of brewing.
Children are well catered for with face painting, a firework display, reindeer on the quay and the Swamp Circus in town. Father Christmas will delight everyone as his sleigh arrives on Friday evening drawn by his trusty reindeer. He will be led through Padstow’s streets by a lantern parade from local school children, before setting up residence in his magical grotto for the weekend.
Other highlights include Saturday’s Santa Fun Run which raises money for Cornwall Hospice Care, live music and a celebrity carol concert.? For more information and to see a full programme of events, visit: www.padstowchristmasfestival.co.uk
Sixty Etsy artists will be featured at the Holiday Arts Eats Festival at Assembly Row Dec. 6-8 (Photo: Holiday Arts Eats Festival)
Holiday Arts Eats Festival at Assembly Row, Dec. 6-8
Head to Somerville’s Assembly Row to check out a holiday market, featuring 60 Etsy artisans, local musical entertainment, a beer and wine tent, holiday train ride, Santa, and children’s holiday activities. The event will also feature Somerville’s first-ever winter Food Truck festival with a rotating group of local food trucks, including The Bacon Truck, Boston’s Baddest Burger, The Whoo(pie) Wagon, and more. If you want shorter lines, early VIP entry costs $15 from 11 a.m. – noon. Regular admission is from noon – 6 p.m. It costs $5 for adults and is free for children under 12. There will also be a Greater Boston Food Bank food drive area available if you want to donate sealed, non-perishable items.
Friday, Dec. 6 will feature an “Arts Eats After Dark” event for the 21+ crowd. Attendees can partake in beer and Gluhwein (hot, mulled wine), live musical entertainment, treats from participating food trucks, and an early look at the artisan market. Admission is $10.
CraftBoston Holiday Show, Dec. 6-8
If you’re looking for unique gifts this year, the Society of Arts and Crafts will present more than 200 art exhibitors this weekend at Boston’s Hynes Convention Center. Their annual holiday show features unique pieces from a range of media, including baskets, ceramics, furniture, glass, leather, mixed media, and more. The show will also provide a chance for attendees to meet the artisans and learn about their work. If you’d like to customize a tour tailored to the interest of a group of ten or more, private tours can be scheduled. These tours can focus on specific media like jewelry or wood, or can feature specific artisans, like first-year artist booths.
Eat Boutique Holiday Market, Dec. 7
Attention foodies, winos, and beer aficionados: Eat Boutique will gather more than 50 food vendors, drink makers, food authors, culinary stars, sommeliers, wine directors, and more for a day of shopping and sampling at CruisePort Boston’s Black Falcon cruise terminal. Attendees can also participate in tasting sessions (like winter wine, coffee, and craft beer) and workshops by purchasing tickets at www.eatboutiquemarkets.com. Local food trucks will be on hand selling their treats, like Area Four and Mei Mei Street Kitchen. Do you have a food lover on your holiday shopping list? Several cookbook authors, including Joanne Chang, Diana Rodgers, Karen Covey, Tammy Dunroe, and Jeanne Sauvage, will be at the market to sign their books.
Dec. 7. Noon – 5 p.m. General admission: $20; Children under 12: $10; Individual tastings and workshops: $25 – $40. Cruiseport Boston’s Black Falcon Cruise Terminal, 1 Black Falcon Avenue, Boston. www.eatboutiquemarkets.com
Ordinarily, a Port Authority bus would seem like the perfect place for atheists to advertise. If you want proof that we live in a Godless universe, after all, you need only climb aboard a 51-Carrick at rush hour.
But last month, the United Coalition of Reason sued the Port Authority in federal court, alleging the agency had violated the group’sfree-speech rights by rejecting an ad targeting religious skeptics.
The Coalition is an unholy alliance — literally — of local doubters banded together under the auspices of a national organization. Nationwide, the Coalition has sought to raise the visibility of non-religious Americans with ads reading, “Don’t believe in God? You’re not alone.”
“It’s a campaign to get the word out that there are atheists and agnostics,” says Stephen Hirtle, a local Coalition spokesman. “There’s no attempt to convert anyone. It doesn’t say, ‘We hate God.’”
According to the lawsuit, discussions over the ad began two years ago. During that time, the Port Authority lost another free-speech case, in which the American Civil Liberties Union successfully challenged an earlier policy that barred ads from non-commercial advertisers. Stung by the loss, the agency agreed to allow such spots, but its new policy still bars ads “that promote the existence or non-existence of a supreme deity … or are otherwise religious in nature.”
“We don’t meet the new policy and we don’t meet the old policy, because they aren’t following it in either case,” Hirtle says. “If you are a church, you have a free ticket to anywhere. But if you’re a secular atheist, there’s no place for you.”
You can see why he feels that way. Even as the Coalition filed its suit, for example, state Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Elizabeth) was making headlines with legislation requiring the motto “In God We Trust” be posted in public schools. The Port Authority’s record in these fights, meanwhile, doesn’t inspire confidence. “In heaven’s name, the agency needs a more realistic ad policy” a Dec. 1 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial argued.
And because the Port Authority doesn’t comment on pending litigation, it falls to me to play Devil’s advocate. (Or God’s —theology gets a little confused in these cases.)
For starters, ACLU attorney Sara Rose says the new policy “is better than the old one because it allows for more non-commercial ads.” And unless you can prove a double standard at work, courts typically “give agencies the benefit of the doubt.” (The ACLU is not involved in the current lawsuit.)
The Coalition’s complaint includes photographs of ads it says the Port Authority has accepted. Perhaps the most troubling is a poster featuring a quote from Einstein: “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”
But Port Authority spokesman Jim Ritchie says that poster “is not a Port Authority ad”: The bus shelter it was posted on, he says, belongs to Lamar Advertising.
Other ads feature events like food festivals and fish fries; Hirtle asks “How is a Lenten dinner not a matter of religious belief?” But the authority arguably would risk another lawsuit if it rejected ads for a church-sponsored event while accepting those ads from, say, a secular rib festival.
Consistency can cut both ways. In fact, if the Coalition wins the right to proclaim its philosophy on buses, church groups might demand the same opportunity. A win for atheists, perversely, could result in even more overtly religious ads. (Hirtle acknowledges that possibility, but says, “We already see Christian messages all the time, so we’re willing to risk a few more to get our own message out.”)
Personally, I’d be OK with ads from atheists and believers, especially if they paid for more transit service on the Sabbath. Anyway, the Port Authority already promotes other kinds of godlessness. Entire buses have been sheathed in beer ads, and some light-rail vehicles practically resemble slots parlors.
Rose explains that under a 1974 US Supreme Court decision, agencies can treat commercial and non-commercial messages differently — and “any entity that wants to avoid controversial advertising has relied on that distinction.”
Ordinarily, advertising gets less government protection than other forms of speech. But as courts wrestle over when and where to debate the existence of God, Pittsburgh’s buses will roll by … proclaiming the glory of Mammon.
It all began in 1863 in the small Staffordshire village of Wheaton Aston. Hannah Swift, the great-great-great aunt of Robert Swift, opened a small business supplying bread to locals. Little could she have imagined that six generations and 150 years later her enterprise would continue to prosper.
Swifts’ Bakery has been a staple of Staffordshire, Shropshire and Black Country life since the mid-19th century. It has survived two world wars, economic depression, a technological revolution and, of course, the introduction of the sliced white loaf. In fact, not only has Hannah’s business made it to the 21st century, it has done so in style.
Today the business is in the hands of Robert and John, the family’s sixth generation, and their own father, Richard. It is based at Clee Hill and Ludlow, with additional shops in Craven Arms and Tenbury Wells. The Swift family are regular visitors to food festivals and events around the UK, including many in Shropshire and the West Midlands.
Back in 1863, Abraham Lincoln was signing a deal to abolish slavery, the Football Association was forming in London, the International Red Cross was being inaugurated in Geneva and the Salon des Refuses, in Paris, was promoting such avant-garde artists as Édouard Manet.
Much has changed. However, the 21st century Swifts’ Bakery runs on parallel lines to the 19th century version. Robert rises early each day to prepare the day’s bake, just as Hannah did.
His breads are made with the same five basic ingredients: flour, water, salt, yeast and love. The family is justifiably proud of its heritage. Its passion for bread is reflected in the high quality of each individually made loaf.
Hannah was a pioneer and soon introduced her daughter, Harriet, to the business. Harriet brought a third generation into Swifts’, in the form of her nephew Tom, who took over the bakery at the age of 19, having served apprenticeships in West Bromwich and Stafford.
Tom produced seven children, one of whom was Charles, a fourth-generation baker. He was a fascinating character who continued the baking tradition with his older brother, Walter.
Charles worked in the bakery with Tom before being called up to serve in the Second World War from 1941 to 1945. He was separated from his beloved wife, Mary, but continued to serve in field bakeries during the war, based in Mombasa, east Africa.
When he was demobbed, the partnership with Walter was dissolved. Another brother, also named Tom, had a bakery at Penn, in Wolverhampton, and Charles and Mary took that lease.
Their second child, Richard, kept the family tradition going.
Charles was ambitious and founded a new business at Gnosall, in Staffordshire. He worked hard with Mary to build the business and they became a popular couple.
Charles wrote about his experiences in a small booklet, My Wartime Experiences, which reflected on his life from 1941 onwards. He recalled: “There were no freezers in those days, so regular deliveries were essential. At Christmas time the village people would bring their turkeys and geese to me on Christmas Day so that they could be cooked in the bakehouse ovens – they were always cooked to perfection.”
Charles was passionate about good food and grew his vegetables, as well as making pork pies, cakes and more. His son, Richard, worked hard to build upon his parents’ work. Richard had been born in Gnosall, and after serving an apprenticeship and attending Birmingham College of Food and Technology, he became bakery manager.
He says: “My dad employed three chaps and I started to work there properly during the school holidays. I’d work in the bakery and then go out on the rounds with the delivery drivers.”
Richard’s diploma in bread, flour and confectionery gave him the knowledge he needed to make a start, and he spent 10 years with his father at Gnosall before striking out. He moved to Clee Hill, Shropshire, and built a new business from scratch. “That’s always been the story in our family. My father left his dad to set up by himself. I left my father and set up by myself. My two sons have also come up with new ideas so that they can make their own mark.”
Richard was 29 when he started baking at Clee Hill. “It was owned by two brothers but it was very run down. It had burned down in 1935 and been rebuilt.”
Richard and his wife Margaret went about their task with gusto and their business grew. He introduced his sons, Robert and John, to baking. Like his forebears, Robert has brought new innovations. He works in a new bakery in Ludlow’s Corve Street and has developed a new company called Bread2Bake along with his wife Lucinda.
It provides baking masterclasses and services an ever-growing number of farmers’ markets, food festivals and other shows with demonstrations.
Robert says: “Our bread goes further and further each year, but we’re proud of our roots. We work closely with the local community and get involved in talks and demonstrations for local primary and secondary schools, as well as other clubs and societies. We’ve involved in a project called Skill Builders, which passes on traditional skills to a new generation. This is a volunteer-run organisation that works with local schools to connect youngsters to artisan occupations.
“Hopefully, we’re helping the next generation of bakers so that there’ll still be high street bakers in another 150 years.”
The family’s history is celebrated in Robert’s first book, Born and Bread, which also features a selection of recipes – from age-old classics such as the plain white tin to noveau offerings like stromboli, and from delicious jammy doughnuts to corn bread. The book celebrates the family’s achievements of the past 150 years.
Robert Swift will launch Born and Bread at Waterstones, Shrewsbury, on December 7. He’ll sign books from noon until 1pm. The title is also available from Swift’s shops and online from www.amazon.co.uk
Now, after volunteering his services at three Ventura County-based food trucks, Charlie Cannon, a former alternative-energy manager turned amateur chef, is taking what he’s learned about tiny kitchens, local produce and underground dining back to his native Scotland.
“It’s because of our experiences in Ventura that we are moving. Seeing so much fresh, seasonal food available turned the light bulb on over our heads: There’s patches of great food in Scotland, but making it accessible to everyone isn’t being done at the moment,” said Cannon, 33.
Cannon and wife Tiffany Cannon, formerly a fourth- and- fifth-grade teacher at McKinna Elementary School in Oxnard, hope to help change that by relocating to the capital city of Edinburgh.
“I think of it as colliding movements: farm-to-table meets underground street food,” Cannon said.
DAVID YAMAMOTO/SPECIAL TO THE STAR
Charlie Cannon poses with an oyster po’boy sandwich inside The Jolly Oyster Kitchen during the inaugural Food Truck Friday event in Ventura. Co-organized by the Midtown Community Council, the event will repeat Dec. 20 at the Pacific View mall in Ventura.
With regularly scheduled food-truck events taking place Thursday at Heritage Square in Oxnard and Dec. 20 at the Pacific View mall in Ventura, the gourmet kitchen-on-wheels scene continues to pick up speed in Ventura County.
After experiencing that movement from both sides of the order window, Cannon — who holds degrees in physics and supply-chain management and previously was a director at Clipper Windpower in Carpinteria — said he knows why food trucks are so popular.
“Eating is about the whole experience. If you’ve got a product grown by people who care, prepared by people who care, and add the theatrical aspect of the trucks and the fun of eating with friends by the side of the road, or on the grass, it has the chance of being the best meal you’ve ever had,” Cannon said.
DAVID YAMAMOTO/SPECIAL TO THE STAR
Mark Reynolds, operator of The Jolly Oyster Kitchen food truck and owner of The Jolly Oyster shellfish stand in Ventura, speaks with a customer during the inaugural Food Truck Friday event at the Pacific View mall in October.
As for working in a truck, “I can think of easier ways to make a living. But there’s nothing like the immediate, honest feedback. There’s no hiding in the truck,” he added with a laugh.
During his self-imposed period as a food-truck intern, Cannon arrived in the wee, weekday hours to help Moises Alcaraz of Alcaraz Catering prep ingredients at the Oxnard commissary used by all Ventura County food-truck operators. The truck then made stops at several construction sites.
“They are looking for hearty foods that they are familiar with. They want to eat and get on with it,” Cannon said of the truck’s patrons before one such stop at a condo development at The Collection at RiverPark.
When a horn sounded to mark the start of the morning break, the truck drove into position and Cannon hopped out to lift the covers on the windows. Within seconds more than a dozen men had gathered, most coated with dust and some still wearing masks from their work installing drywall.
DAVID YAMAMOTO/SPECIAL TO THE STAR
Luz Rule admires a deep fried oyster taco from The Jolly Oyster Kitchen during the inaugural Food Truck Friday event at the Pacific View mall in Ventura in October. The gathering of food trucks will return on Dec. 20.
Alcaraz completed each customer’s order before taking the next, handing the completed dishes through a narrow window. Food in hand, customers slid down the line to chat with Imelda Alcaraz, who eyeballed the plates and rang them up accordingly.
“No order tickets. No stopping to take money. Everything is the model of efficiency, because your customers only have 15 minutes. They can’t wait for you,” Cannon noted.
Cannon implemented some of Alcaraz’s techniques when he stepped aboard The Jolly Oyster Kitchen. The prepared-foods truck spends most weekends parked next to The Jolly Oyster, a shuck-your-own shellfish stand at San Buenaventura State Beach in Ventura. It also appears at Food Truck Fridays, a monthly event that launched in October at Pacific View mall.
Those techniques include limiting work space in the already-tiny kitchen, the better to speed up the clean-as-you-go approach to cooking, Cannon said.
He also worked alongside chef Tim Kilcoyne, who launched Scratch, a farm-to-table themed food truck, after closing his Ventura restaurant, The SideCar, in May.
DAVID YAMAMOTO/SPECIAL TO THE STAR
Self-taught chef Charlie Cannon prepares an oyster po’boy at The Jolly Oyster Kitchen during the inaugural Food Truck Friday event at the Pacific View mall in Ventura, Cannon is using what he learned while volunteering with local food trucks to start a similar movement in his native Scotland.
“Tim has similar ideas about using local ingredients,” said Cannon. He grew up on a farm in Oban, which bills itself as the seafood capital of Scotland; his father owns Kames Fish Farm, known for its halibut.
Gourmet food trucks are comparatively new to but not unheard of in Scotland. Cannon considers them just one way to mobilize his and Tiffany’s idea of bringing seasonal food from farms to the people who want to experience it in the city, he said.
Other ways include food festivals, school trips and temporary restaurant events like the pop-up dinners the couple started organizing in the summer of 2012 to showcase ingredients from farms and ranches in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.
Dubbed London Calling, the series debuted with a menu featuring what Cannon described as simple but elevated bistro fare. One dish paired Scotch eggs — hard boiled, wrapped in sausage, rolled in breadcrumbs and then baked — with purslane grown by B.D. Dautch of Earthtrine Farm in Ojai.
Some view purslane as a weed, others as a crunchy, lemony alternative to spinach.
“A big guy called Bear, not the kind of guy you’d expect to eat purslane, came up after to tell us how much he liked it. He made us write the name down so he could find more,” said Cannon. “That’s what we hope to keep doing; introducing people to things they enjoy so much they seek it out again.”
IF YOU GO
First Thursday Gourmet Food Truck Night runs from 6 to 10 p.m. Thursday at Heritage Square in downtown Oxnard. Ten trucks are slated to appear. They include the Ventura County-based Scratch truck and The Chili Philosopher from Los Angeles County. Hot drinks and desserts by the Oxnard restaurant Fresh Fabulous will be available. Holiday additions include a tree-lighting ceremony and a gift boutique. After skipping January, First Thursday Gourmet Food Truck Night will return on Feb. 6 (715 South A St., 385-2705 or http://bit.ly/1jj0cUH).
Food Truck Friday will take place from 5:30 to 10 p.m. Dec. 20 in the Pacific View mall parking lot near Trader Joe’s. Twelve trucks are expected to attend the third-Friday-of-the-month event co-organized by the Midtown Community Council. They include The Jolly Oyster Kitchen and Sweet Arleen’s from Ventura County and Cousins Maine Lobster from Los Angeles County (100 block South Mills Road, http://www.shoppacificview.com).