Monthly Archives: June 2017

A food and drink tour

The Grand Canyon might be Arizona’s hotspot, but its food and drink scene sizzles. Tucson, America’s first Unesco ‘world city of gastronomy,’ lives up to the hype, and the melding of Mexican, Native American and Sonoran Desert influences on menus around the state make for an enticing foodie road trip.

Whether you opt for classic Southwestern (grits, biscuits and gravy) at roadside diners or explore the desert’s unique ingredients (prickly pear syrup, mesquite) at upscale ranch resorts, our tour of must-try flavors also takes in Arizona’s thriving craft beer and coffee scene. All you need to bring is your appetite.

 

The freshest guacamole of your life in Scottsdale

For your first foray into Arizona’s multi-influenced fare, head to Scottsdale, northeast of Phoenix, Arizona’s capital. About a mile from the whimsical Old Town, where you could buy some Wild West cowboy boots or scorpion lollipops (yes, really), you’ll find The Mission. This is Nuevo Latino food that will surprise and entertain. Stroll pass the Himalayan salt wall (you can lick it if you want!) to the candlelit courtyard. Watch transfixed as your server wheels over a wooden trolley laden with a huge mortar and pestle, along with bowls of super fresh ingredients: chunky Haas avocado, jalapeño, red onion, garlic, sea salt, lime, tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, chipotle puree, cilantro, cotija cheese & roasted pepitas. As the guacamole is expertly ground and mixed before your eyes and dolloped into your serving bowl, know that all future supermarket-bought tubs of guac will only disappoint.

A pleasant stroll around Phoenix’s Desert Botanical Garden will educate and amaze. Here, among the hummingbirds, owls, woodpeckers and roadrunners, you can learn about the desert’s 500 edible plants and even see what your next cocktail ingredient might look like: the prickly pear cactus. The fruit from the cactus is refreshing and cooling, almost watermelon-like in flavor. Try it in a vibrant pink margarita at La Hacienda in the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess resort. Or kick-start what will become your Arizona chile addiction with the pineapple and serrano-infused tequila. Hey, you’re on vacation.

 

Grits, biscuits and gravy, and the Ale Trail in Flagstaff

Only heard about eating ‘grits’ and ‘biscuits and gravy’ in Western films? Head north to Flagstaff, a laid-back college town and gateway to the Grand Canyon. Similar to polenta, grits are made from stone-ground dried corn and you can get them real fancy at Tinderbox Kitchen, a cozy restaurant that bills its style (rather aptly) as ‘American Comfort Food…Redefined’. Try the blue cheese grits, oozing enticingly beneath juniper-cured venison, balsamic black figs and fennel salad.

Biscuits and gravy are a popular breakfast choice in Southern USA and you may find you need a snooze after this hearty meal. The all-vegetarian Macy’s, which also does a perfectly good (freshly roasted) coffee, dishes up a healthier-than-usual serve of the iconic dish: its homemade buttermilk biscuits are dunked in a vegetarian gravy (sausage gravy being the traditional choice).

Guide to Brussels in the summer

Brussels may not scream Speedos and sunscreen, but when the big ball in the sky is ablaze and the city’s thermometers are on the up, the Belgian capital has plenty of places to cool off.

From sun-drenched terraces and rooftop parties to pop-up al fresco food events, here’s how enjoy the sunshine in Brussels.

 

Swimming in the city

When the mercury begins to bubble and dreams of a crystal-blue swimming pool start appearing like a mirage in front of your sunglasses, fear not: the hippest (and perhaps the most hidden) spot in Brussels right now is the Jam Hotel’s rooftop bar – which comes complete with its own pool. The bartenders are gratifyingly gallant with the ice in their legendary gin and tonics, so soak up the sun in a deckchair or kink and coil into a sweet summer submission thanks to one of their pop-up yoga sessions.

 

It’s hip to be square

Sun seekers will fall in love with Saint-Géry Square, it’s a crowd-pleaser with plenty of choices between sunny and shady areas. Keep cool with a fresh juice from the Zebra Bar or get a beer in Le Roi des Belges. You can’t miss the Halles Saint-Géry – a stunning Flemish Neo-Renaissance style building bursting with history that now houses a café and hosts various exhibitions and concerts. Once you’ve finished exploring inside, get a stoemp (Brussels’ richer version of a stamppot, mashed vegetables usually served with sausages) at Be my Stoemp and bask in the cool of the hall’s impressive shadow.

 

Local’s choice

If you start to overheat, try a chose (a house mocktail made with grapefruit juice and tonic water), an iced latte or a local ‘Bruxellensis’ beer from Chez Franz. One of the most Belgian cafés in town, this is where locals come to mingle in the cosy atmosphere over long brunches, sophisticated jazz evenings or an Italian aperitivo.

Café Belga is home to one of the capital’s largest terraces, overlooking the Place Eugène Flagey and the shimmering Ixelles Ponds. Mixing tables and loungers, it is busiest when the sun is out. At weekends, a market invades the square selling everything from trinkets to bed sheets as well as a beautiful range of foods such as oysters, rotisserie chicken and heaps of fresh fruit and vegetables. The market is also right next to the iconic Frit Flagey fritkot (a traditional fast food kiosk often serving fries), which is well worth a visit. Belga also hosts seasonal events including tastings, exhibitions and concerts.

October for relaxation ideas

Choose from one of Fiji’s 333 islands to swim, surf or snorkel off palm-fringed shores; explore Italy’s rugged coastline in Liguria; enjoy natural spas and lush landscapes in New Zealand’s Coromandel Peninsula; and discover picturesque colonial towns and paradisiacal rainforests in Costa Verde, Brazil.

 

Head to Fiji for a quieter Pacific paradise

Fiji is paradise made easy. The most accessible and tourism-attuned outpost of the South Pacific, Fiji has an idyll to suit everyone across its 333 islands. That makes it popular, which is why October is perfect: it’s after peak season but still pleasantly cool and dry; you may find cheaper deals, and you will find fewer people.

There’s white-sand-blue-sea magnificence across the archipelago – the dreamy Yasawa and Mamanuca groups are the most ‘developed’, but even here no buildings are taller than a coconut palm. You could happily swim, surf, snorkel and loll about at a lively or low-key resort here for weeks. Viti Levu, Fiji’s largest island, offers the greatest variety. Make a circuit: drive the coastal Queens Rd and highlands Kings Rd, hike at Sigatoka sand dunes and taste colonial architecture and Fijian-Indian cuisine in capital Suva.

  • Trip plan: Fly to Nadi (Viti Levu). Boats run from here to various ports on the Yasawas and Mamanucas – pick a base or hop between spots. Allow a week to explore Viti Levu. Divers should head for Astrolabe Reef or Taveuni’s waters.
  • Need to know: English is the official language; ‘Bula!’ means ‘Hello!’ in Fijian.
  • Other months: Jul-Sep – dry, busy; May-Jun & Oct – dry, shoulder seasons, quieter; Nov-Apr – wet, cyclones possible.