Tag Archives: local farms

Southern Laos’ Ecotourism Future

From post-revolutionary obscurity, the once ancient kingdom of Champasak is at the center of southern Laos’ eco-tourism incentive.

On Don Khone, the Siphandon, Champasak Province, Laos

Cheap airfares, especially from Australia, and even cheaper cost of living attracted budget seekers of alternative vacations in the early 1990’s to the sleepy isolated islands of the Siphandon.

The Siphandon (4,000 Islands), from Don Khong, Champasak Province, Laos

Just 25 miles from the Cambodian border, Laos’ Mekong spreads up to 8 miles wide creating a delta-like region, the Siphandon, sheltering human and wildlife.

Hotel Senesothxeune and the Siphandon

Don Deth and Don Khone epitomize the Western vision of a tropical existence, sleeping in a hammock with mosquito netting, playing the guitar at night, picking fruit and spending as little money as possible.

Purple sticky rice: this nutty deep purple variety of Laos’ ubiquitous grain is usually reserved for desserts. Although a festive addition to dinner and delicious even when not sweetened, I was reminded of my favorite recipe for Purple Sticky Rice in Coconut Sauce.

varieties of sticky rice

You can read about all these topics in my latest articles on Suite101:

Southern Laos’ Eco Tourism Future

The Siphandon: Laos Mekong River Oasis

Purple Sticky Rice with Coconut Sauce: Laotian Khao Gam

Laos is an ancient land that is being rediscovered one (trekking) step at a time.

City Support for Sustainable Agriculture

Columbia and AgriMissouri is putting money where its mouth is supporting farmers markets and sustainable agriculture.

Carolyn Todd, Market Director, “Local is not 1,500 miles away,” as she informs me that membership is open to producers living within a 55 mile radius of Columbia.

Walk About Farm's honey

5,000 Columbians a day patronize the market.

Eric and Chert Hollow Farm garlic & herbs

Despite my love of garlic, and being a chef, I was unaware that garlic originated in ancient Persia.

Read more at Suite101:

Columbia Farmers Market: City Support for Sustainable Agriculture

Les Bourgeois Vineyards

It’s best if you do not suffer from a fear of heights while standing in front of the towering window walls inside Les Bourgeois’ Blufftop Bistro. The panoramic vista of lush countryside hundreds of feet above the Missouri River could distract you from Executive Chef Arron Wells superb cuisine.

Read more at Suite101:

Les Bourgeois: Fine Wine and Dine in Rocheport, Missouri

Shawnee Inn’s Own Local Sourcing

Great Shawna Island Farm at Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort

Pennsylvania’s Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort takes food sustainability seriously, and creates profits, taking food from their farm to their tables.


Shawnee’s beekeeper Erin Schroll

ShawneeCraft Brewery: aging beer in oak casks & hand bottled
Foodshed Alliance products at Shawnee Inn’s Tuesday market



Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort: Preserving Pennsylvania’s Best for a Century

Jackie Gleason learned how to play golf at Shawnee in 1959

“Out with the old and in with the older.”

Shawnee’s Centenary motto


On Pennsylvania’s Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort’s spacious and secluded grounds guard bees congregate on the porch of the hives providing ventilation for the life of the queen. Six varieties of tomatoes, white eggplant, Chinese five-color peppers and multi-colored chard thrive in the middle of one of America’s oldest award-winning golf courses. Micro-beers are being bottled by a former electronics engineer of advanced defense weapons. Goat cheese is delivered fresh from a local farm. The mist on the Delaware River swirls through the tree-covered Pocono Mountains, and Frank Sinatra’s voice croons softly through the 100 year old lobby. This is the 21st Century?


The River Sanctuary
Shawnee Inn (1911)
guard bees in the Apiary – they’re providing cooling ventilation for the Queen
Chinese 5-color pepper at the Shawnee Farm
The Verandah at Shawnee Inn
The Inn in the evening


Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks: Days of Food and Wine

From the moment you drive across the 1931 Bagnell Dam you know you’ve entered a different world.

Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks: Days of Food and Wine

Read more at Global Writes, the journal of the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association

Columbia, Missouri: A Zou for the Lively Arts

Be it jewelry, painting, film, music, writing or culinary, 100,000 Columbians enjoy a surprisingly rich artistic life – and a lively “Zou” of 50,000 students.

Beetle Bailey and Me
Thomas Jefferson’s original tomb stone at the University of Missouri
Sycamore’s Missouri Legacy Beef Tenderloin
University of Missouri
Organic Beet Salad at the Main Squeeze Natural Foods and Juice Bar


Great dining experiences in Missouri

Great dining experiences in Missouri: the heartland of America has more to offer than just being “that empty space” one flies over from coast to coast.


The Lake of the Ozarks


Restaurant, Seafood, Hotel – Hoi An, Part III

River Lounge, Hoi An

For a tourist town, Hoi An has a surprising number of decent restaurants at some of the lowest prices outside the major cities. My first dinner in this city of 200 + year-old-buildings was at a hip new boutique hotel and café, River Lounge (35 Nguyen Phu Chu). The simple, modern white interior provides a nice foil for imaginative interpretations of traditional Vietnamese cuisine.

Take simple cream of pumpkin soup, found on so many menus, River Lounge serves a cream foam topped with the seasoned pumpkin puree in a swirl on top in a tall clear glass. The textures of hot puree mixing with cooler cream, as well as the visual, is a nice touch. The rest of the meal was equally satisfying.

An assortment of spring rolls, an entrée of grilled river fish with steamed morning glory greens and lime foam and fresh noodles and one of boneless chicken in a sesame/soy/ginger reduction accompanied by a block of rice and grilled mango. Dessert was a perfectly executed creme caramel topped with a crunchy ginger sugar glaze.

Cafe Can

Cafe Can(74 Bach Dang St.) is one of many Hoi An river front restaurants that all basically offer the same menu. Cafe Can caught my eye for both its pleasing outdoor dining and its large wood charcoal grill off to the side with fresh fish and seafood for dinner. In simple large pots of aerated water are freshly caught giant prawns, crabs and clams.

Sold by weight, they are best grilled napped with a variety of herb/garlic/ginger/soy sauces. The meal was accompanied by a large platter of steamed vegetables and mushrooms, with a large local beer.

A variety of other preparations, from fish baked in banana leaves to fried as well as non-fish dishes are available. Being open to the street directly across from the river, don’t be surprised when more than one street vendor wander in selling bracelets, the English language Vietnam Times, dried fruit and homemade candies. It’s all part of Vietnam.

(top left) Cafe Can, (top right & bottom) Dem Hoi Bar & Restaurant

Dem Hoi Bar & Restaurant, just down the block from Cafe Can, has the advantage of a beautiful French colonial building with a large open second floor that offers stunning views of the river and Hoi An harbor. The menu is decent – nothing surprising but well prepared.

Hoi An Market – sleeping on the job… or next in line?

Over on the French Quarter are several cafes that serve, if lucky and they are available at the market, Vietnamese delicacies such as pig’s brain and eel. The brain was unavailable but the eel was nicely fried in a light batter – tasted a lot like trout (see, not chicken!) The Hoi An Market is classic offering everything from hot soup to wonderful French crepes topped with coconut ice cream (top right).

Windbell Homestay Hotel

When it comes to hotels there is a large selection of accommodations with many moderately priced first class venues. The newest choices are on the expanding residential island of Cam Nan, a 10 minute walk across the bridge from the Old City. Cam Nan Island is quiet with a pleasant mixture of old wooden houses with vegetable plots to the larger homes of new middle class residents.

Windbell Homestay Villa has an established  reputation for comfort, service and a good restaurant. Set around a central garden and beautiful blue tiled swimming pool, this family run hotel offers spacious rooms with lots of windows that open onto nice private vistas letting in the sea breeze. Including a full breakfast, strong Wi-Fi, double rooms average in the low US$100s.

Windbell Homestay Hotel Restaurant

Serving all meals, the Windbell Homestay is one of the rare small hotels with a full service restaurant with everything freshly made to order. A Hoi An specialty, White Rose, (bottom left) is a delicate dumpling filled with savory mixtures which the Windbell does particularly nice as well as spicy shrimp, Beef Pho (upper left) and a great herb calamari sauté on mint and watercress (upper right). Add a bottle of white or red from Vietnam’s largest winery, Vang Dalat  and you’ll enjoy a pleasant meal overlooking the lit gardens and pool. (Vang Dalat will not win any awards soon).

Hoi An Folk Art Museum (center) Ba Trao singers, (top right) tea garden, bottom right) Unicorn Dance

The Hoi An Folk Art Museum is well worth a visit. It has a fine display of traditional tools, everyday life items, artistic and musical traditions, the important silk weaving industry and some contemporary art. The large 18th century structure is a treasure in itself.

Hoi An is one of those rare villages tourism has revived that, as of yet, has not been destroyed by its success. Perhaps it’s the strong merchant background of old Hoi An – sails and a port still equals sales. It doesn’t hurt having a strong preservation ethic among the town leaders. New construction in the Old City was following strict building codes using the same materials and methods of construction as 200 years ago. That commitment bodes well that even though it will remain a tourist town, Hoi An’s real, still going about its business and beautiful.


In Rediscovery: Huế, Việt Nam

(top) River park, Dragon boats for hire, (bottom) Imperial City Citadel, house boat on the Perfume River
laughing Buddha at Thien Mu Pagoda

There has been a river port on the Perfume, just a few miles inland of the Pacific, at least since the early 14th century. The unpredictable river has intertwined for 650 years with Nguyen dynastic intrigue to inexorably shape the modern city. Hue exudes a less frenetic pace than Hanoi – although the cyclo and tourist boat drivers are just as “persistent.” It’s a city with an attitude: “I’ve seen it all before, several times, so let’s move on.” Besides, the river moves on regardless fertilizing the farms, and frequently cresting its banks creating destructive floods even the Imperial City cannot defend against.

Before the Vietnam War’s 1968 Battle of Hue severely damaged the city, graceful French Colonial villas blended with ancient Confucian/Buddhist architecture. Much of that is gone, replaced by functional late 20th century commercial whatever. A loss? Of course, but, of course, before the French  it was all Confucian/Buddhist, and yet there was that earlier Champa period and …
keeping one foot in each of three centuries


within the Imperial City

A four day visit is not sufficient to prove, but I have a hunch that Hue has not rediscovered its role in 21st century Vietnam – and I’m not sure they’re all that concerned. In the old commercial city on the south bank of the Perfume, Hue is still a maze of narrow streets but with few pre-1970 buildings. Many charmless new narrow 5 to 6 story hotels and condos are classically jumbled along with cafes, shoe shops, clothing stores, spas and the postcard vendor. Only a few shops noticeably cater just to tourists. Perhaps that’s because most sites for visitors are outside the city or on the north bank, such as The Imperial City.

Han Chen Temple (current temple 1885) - 5 miles north of Hue on the Perfume River - dedicated in the 8th century to Cham goddess Po Nagar
Thien Mu Pagoda

Nearly equidistance between Hanoi and Saigon, Hue has been a meeting ground of the nation’s great cultural institutions. Confucian and Chinese Buddhist Vietnam in the north blended with Khmer/Champa Buddhism from the south and both have dealt with the French legacy of Roman Catholicism. Yet even under the Confucian Court of the Nguyen emperors, and the Socialist Republic, Hue’s mascot has been the 1602 Buddhist Thien Mu Pagoda. As in all Vietnamese cities, both Confucian and Buddhist temples built through family patronage, to publicly honor ancestors, can be found tucked away on many streets.

Roman Catholic Cathedral, shrine to the Virgin Mary
fresh coconuts full of cold cocnut milk - make a hole in the peeled top, insert a straw and enjoy!!

It is convenient to walk along the landscaped river park on both banks of the Perfume River and cross either one of two bridges that connect the Imperial City with downtown. “Convenient” as long as being comfortable with the traffic, the lack of crossing lights, stop signs and constantly being asked if you want to ride a cyclo or buy something. Otherwise, metered taxis are common and inexpensive – a couple of dollars between the Imperial City and any downtown hotel. Excursions to the Imperial Tombs and boat trips on the Perfume River – both highly recommended – should be made through your hotel (more likely to get a better boat at a fair price). I prefer the freedom of not traveling with groups. A private car and driver for a four hour excursion to some of the more remote tombs was US$30. A private dragon boat for a 7 hour trip on the Perfume River stopping at tombs, monasteries and a Garden House was US$20. Rates are less if you join a group.

local "pets:" (left) water buffalo, wooden horse at Han Chen Temple, a temple dog, (bottom) shrine to honor horses, bull elephant at the Imperial City
courtyard Hotel Morin Saigon


Hue has several luxury hotels including the newly restored venerable Hotel Morin Saigon (1904) starting at $100/double. Although featuring the comforts of a 5-star hotel with an attractive pool/garden/cafe courtyard, it possess all the sterility that goes along with such venues. There are many excellent small hotels offering much better service than their 3-stars would indicate. Although at a rate that would make most Western tourists think twice, the US$35/double per night including buffet breakfast Orchid Hotel on Chu Van An Street in the Old City was not only the best hotel at that price in which I have ever been a guest, but a fine hotel by any standard.

Orchid Hotel and breakfast

Clean, modern with a staff that would never even let you push the elevator button, the Orchid’s rooms were large providing ample closets, a spacious bathroom and a desk with a high-speed desktop computer included in each room! Hue traditionally is known for its Imperial Cuisine which, unfortunately, I found in few restaurants. The Orchid only serves breakfast offering an excellent selection of  items typical of Hue – chicken balls rolled in flaked green rice, fried rolls stuffed with vegetable/meat mixtures, banana pastry with caramel sauce and an incomparable Beef Pho, the Vietnamese breakfast noodle soup. A large selection of fresh fruit – including tropical varieties such as whole passion fruit –  baguettes and Western dishes rounded out the buffet.

Am Phu Restaurant

Many decent restaurants are found in the Old City all within easy walking distance of most hotels.  Confetti Restaurant & Art Gallery and the Tropical Garden, both on Chu Van An Street, offer well prepared standard Vietnamese food in pleasant surroundings just like the majority of the area’s venues that are patronized by tourists. Yet there are lots of small places filled only with locals with menus not written in English, but, I’ll be blunt, the sanitation methods I can see frequently make me dubious. Getting a recommendation from your hotel for local restaurants is a must or else I’d never have eaten dinner at Am Phu Restaurant a bit further down Chu Van An Street.  A calamari dish with greens, peppers and cilantro and light, moist coconut batter fried shrimp were as fine as in any dining room except I was sitting on a plastic chair under fluorescent lights with a TV soap opera playing. Dinner for 2 with beer was less than US$10.

street shoe repair man


Pastry, towel art  and Swan boats on the Perfume River, shade trees and gardens, ancient tombs and palaces, markets and street merchants, mountains and house boats – they were all here 500 years ago and, despite the history Hue’s helped shaped, they’re still here today waiting to be rediscovered.

who does not like swans?