Ethiopian Options

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I have stated my own preferences for certain pros critiquing and explaining food and the places where you can explore it anew. I have recently been appreciating those like this one–not least because I love Ethiopia, and its contributions to humanity, and in general I am an Ethiopian diaspora fanboy–by the newer reviewer, Nicholas Niarchos and look forward to his providing many more. I am happy to see in the image accompanying his review what appears at first to be popcorn on the lower left, but is more likely a lightly toasted version of a superfood we came to favor when in Ethiopia, (speaking of superfoods):

A Vegan Ethiopian Feast at Bunna Café

The absence of meat and dairy isn’t obvious while you’re there, but when you leave your step will have a new spring in it.

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Get To Know Daniel Dennett’s Ideas, Take A Deep Breath Of Fresh Air

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Daniel Dennett’s naturalistic account of consciousness draws some people in and puts others off. “There ain’t no magic here,” he says. “Just stage magic.” PHOTOGRAPH BY IRINA ROZOVSKY FOR THE NEW YORKER

Joining colleagues for a conversation about how to make sense of the post-2016 world provided me strong motivation in recent weeks to return to philosophy, something I had not done since graduate school 2+ decades back. With all the hyperventilation, there is a clear need for calm reflection. I recently listened to this man on one of the best podcasts out there; and by virtue of his voice, his ideas, his science of the soul (thanks to Joshua Rothman and the New Yorker for illumination on this science), he offers the perfect antidote to the current crescendoing chaos:

Four billion years ago, Earth was a lifeless place. Nothing struggled, thought, or wanted. Slowly, that changed. Seawater leached chemicals from rocks; near thermal vents, those chemicals jostled and combined. Some hit upon the trick of making copies of themselves that, in turn, made more copies. The replicating chains were caught in oily bubbles, which protected them and made replication easier; eventually, they began to venture out into the open sea. A new level of order had been achieved on Earth. Life had begun. Continue reading

A Conversation About Sustainability

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This is a shout out to friends at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, particularly the team leading this year’s Hotel Ezra Cornell, and especially Carmel Bendit-Shtull (she invited me to moderate this panel and for several months helped us plan it all out). The panel included Diana Dobin, President & Chief Sustainability Officer, Valley Forge Fabrics, Inc.; Bennett Thomas, SVP – Corporate Finance & Sustainability, Hersha Hospitality Trust; Eric Ricaurte, Founder, Greenview; Uttam Muthappa, Founder, Ithica Hospitality Consulting; & me (Panel Moderator). I will share a video of this if and when it is made available. Continue reading

Come See, Enjoy, & Count With Us!

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We had the good fortune some weeks ago to host one of Europe’s finest birder-guide-photographers at Chan Chich Lodge. His bird photos are wow quality (see below for an example) but my favorite of all his photos is the one above of an ocelot. We are gearing up for Global Big Day at Chan Chich Lodge. Our primary goal is simple. Follow the leader, and lead by example. Our secondary goal is kind of competitive, related to the program’s own details:

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For the past two years, the second Saturday in May has been the biggest day of the year for birds: Global Big Day. More than 6,000 species of bird. Tens of thousands of people. 153 countries. Immeasurable fun. Continue reading

Vermontini & Other Delicacies

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Braun Hughes, a cook, center, stokes a fire while another cook, Andy Risner, keeps watch. Drew Anthony Smith for The New York Times

Last week at Chan Chich Lodge we had guests from Vermont who were on their 6th visit, the first having been back in 1998. This couple started at dawn each day and while primarily birding they witnessed plenty of the other wildlife. Each sunset they enjoyed a classic dry martini with olives, and some conversation with Migde (yes, that is the spelling, pronounced mig-day) the bartender.

By the end of the week watching their sunset ritual, I had the image of a martini we might create in their honor. Instead of their favored olives we would put a few small cubes of chilled Harrington’s of Vermont smoked ham. Perhaps just to humor me, they said they would like to try that during their next visit. In the last few days I have been looking into the matter and I can find no evidence that this is a good idea.

I can also find no evidence that it is a bad idea. So I am continuing the investigation. And today I am happy to see a review related to another form of smoked meat, quite different from that of Harrington’s, in this case at a restaurant in Texas. Pete Wells now holds my attention better than any reviewer, on any topic. Anthony Lane, for a long time, held it on the residual strength of the laughter produced by one film review in 2005; his predecessor Pauline Kael also held it a long time before that. In the era of crowd-sourced reviews, the professional is still relevant for a reason. Today’s restaurant review is a case in point:

AUSTIN, Tex. — “How much brisket are you having?” Continue reading

Island Life Is Always Different

611_200px2006-2007 was among my favorite stretches of time, both for our La Paz Group work and for life with my family. We were living on an island in the Adriatic Sea where the only other residents were fishermen and their families. Besides learning how blissful life can be on an island, I learned that island people are somehow different from mainlanders. It seems to be a cultural phenomenon worldwide. So when I heard this story about life on an island in Hawaii, I was expecting to hear about differences; this is about as different as I have ever heard of:

That’s Just How I Rule.

A family that owns a private island in Hawaii sets rules for the people who live there. But when the rules are administered in an unpredictable way, the islanders get upset. Sean Cole and Adia White tell the story. (22 minutes)

Sense & Sensibility Off Grid

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“Sanditon” is robust, unsparing, and alert to all the latest fashions in human foolishness. Illustration by Rutu Modan

It has been nearly two decades since we adopted and adapted the two words, made meaningful as a study in contrasts and complementary values by a favored novelist, to remind us of what we are out to accomplish.

In recent weeks at Chan Chich Lodge the senses have been stimulated by wildlife sightings. Meditation on and in nature seems to fix, if momentarily, everything.

Apart from those meditations our guests find time to relax in a hammock, reading. Whether on paper (we prefer its off grid feel), or even on modern devices (on which there are some clear advantages) reading is a perfect complement to the day’s action. The quiet contemplation is a perfect counterpart to the nature excursions, so we are pleased to see Jane Austen has more to say than any of us knew:

On March 18, 1817, Jane Austen stopped writing a book. We know the date because she wrote it at the end of the manuscript, in her slanting hand. She had done the same at the beginning of the manuscript, on January 27th of that year. In the seven weeks in between, she had completed eleven chapters and slightly more than nine pages of a twelfth—some twenty-three thousand five hundred words. The final sentence in the manuscript runs as follows: Continue reading

Marvelous Marvin’s Magical Mysteries

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At Chan Chich Lodge, in the northwest of Belize, something brings loyal guest back year after year, sometimes multiple times a year. There are many guests who have been coming to Chan Chich year after year for decades; there are more than a handful of guests who have had more than 200 total night stays at the Lodge, one couple approaching 300 nights and at least one couple approaching 400 nights. Having grown up in this business and knowing no other business, I do not have metrics to compare this level of loyalty to any other kind of business. Continue reading

Last Of A Kind

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The word “endling” has given artists, writers, and others a new way to reckon with the meaning of extinction. ILLUSTRATION BY BJØRN LIE

Douglas Adams provided my first adult consideration of extinction, after a childhood fascination with dinosaurs, which I loved in part because of the mythology that their extinction seemed to encourage; Last Chance to See was an eye-opener, sad, funny and more. So this post on the New Yorker website catches my attention. Same depressing topic, with a New Yorker twist of wit:

WHAT DO YOU CALL THE LAST OF A SPECIES?

By Michelle Nijhuis

When Robert Webster, a physician in Jasper, Georgia, died, in 2004, he was survived by his wife of more than half a century, two daughters, four grandchildren, and a single word, which he had coined himself: “endling,” defined as the last person, animal, or other individual in a lineage.

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Model Mad, Marcus

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[Update: this post was originally published 48 hours ago but it definitely needs further attention so please do listen to Marcus]

This book came out late last year, and ever since I started sharing links to this man’s wonders  a of couple years ago, I keep watching for more reasons to do so; he always moves me. Today, again. Below is a link to a podcast he recently recorded to promote the book above. The conversation is artful. Powerful.

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Marcus is an immigrant to the USA, so his reflections on recent policy shifts in the ultimate country of immigrants are worth a listen even if you are not a foodie. If those observations do not move you, all I can say is wow. It fits the “model mad” theme we have been linking to in recent weeks–people and organizations speaking out and creatively resisting when something is wrong; and doing so at risk of significant loss. Continue reading

Her Majesty’s Secret

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The guests of Chan Chich Lodge who had the good fortune to see her majesty last week were kind enough to share their photos. Thanks again to Al Erickson for his follow up visit the day after the mother jaguar was spotted, back to the same general location; this time he spotted these two adolescents wandering on the road. They must have been out of sight the day prior, mother guarding her secret while she posed for a portrait. This day, no secrets. Only pride.

Scott Chaskey, Inspiration

Chaskey.jpgI had not heard of him before, but as we move the Chan Chich Lodge farm to table program forward it is instructive to listen to him speak about his journey:

Farmer, poet, and pioneer of the community farming movement, Scott Chaskey is the kind of progressive thinker that doesn’t come around often. Weaving together his passion for farming and prose, the 66-year-old has penned multiple books on the community farming movement, creating a road-map for Americans who want to live off the land as a community. He talks to Here’s the Thing host Alec Baldwin about deciding to “eat consciously,” watching his love for the earth go global, and the food his kids hid from him when they were little.

This also has me looking at his books: Continue reading

The Future Of News

2503_cover_beigeThe purpose of this, where I am typing this just now, is to share information. Sometimes that information comes in the form of a personal story, which is highly subjective but informative about the challenges, the innovations, and accomplishments related to conservation and the wellbeing of communities around the world. We depend on the New York Times for this kind of information every day, and more days than not we link out to stories they publish related to the environment, community, or other topics of interest on this platform; so this story matters to us:

ARTHUR GREGG SULZBERGER doesn’t remember the first time he visited the family business. He was young, he says, no older than 6, when he shuffled through the brass-plated revolving doors of the old concrete hulk on 43rd Street and boarded the elevator up to his father’s and grandfather’s offices. He often visited for a few minutes before taking a trip to the newsroom on the third floor, all typewriters and moldering stacks of paper, and then he’d sometimes go down to the subbasement to take in the oily scents and clanking sounds of the printing press. Continue reading

Truffle Entrepreneur, Immigrant Son’s Success

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Ian Purkayastha, the twenty-four-year-old wunderkind behind the luxury-food company Regalis, aims to “demystify this bourgeois product for a new generation.” PHOTOGRAPH BY KRISTIN GLADNEY / WIEDEN+KENNEDY

It could just be that I have had a nearly two-decade love for truffles; or the storyline combining entrepreneurship, economics and food, a mix that I favor; or maybe my being the son of an immigrant explains my response to this post at the New Yorker’s website; probably it is because I can almost picture my own son in such a story, in a parallel universe; whatever, enjoy:

HOW A TEXAS TEEN-AGER BECAME NEW YORK CITY’S PREMIER TRUFFLE DEALER

On a bare side street in Long Island City, Queens, beside Oh Bok Steel Shelving & Electric Supply, the Regalis luxury-food company keeps its goods. Upon entering the warehouse through a small red door, a visitor is immediately greeted by an intoxicating and pungent scent: the unmistakable, and nearly indescribable, odor of truffles. Continue reading

Same Jaguar, Different Camera

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Yesterday I posted a couple images from a guest’s phone camera, including one of the cat above seen through the lens of a scope. What I did not know when I posted that was that another guide, Marvin who was with two other guests, had come upon the cat first and had signaled to Luis to bring his two guests to see the cat, which seemed quite relaxed in this location. Al Erickson, who is at Chan Chich primarily for photographing birds, took the photo above. Incidentally, he and his wife were the ones who pointed us to Bird Tales.

Jaguar & Other Surprises At Chan Chich Lodge

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I was just starting to think how surprisingly awesome broccoli is, when a guest at Chan Chich Lodge showed me the photo he took about an hour ago. It was taken using his phone, through the scope that our guide Luis had while they were on the morning Gallon Jug tour. That complements well, to say the least, the photo the guest took with just his phone last night. Continue reading

Fossils, In Technicolor, Can Get You Thinking

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Evidence of marine life that was thriving about 1.3 million years after the largest mass extinction on Earth has been found in what is now Paris Canyon in Idaho. Credit Jorge Gonzalez

The moment I saw this illustration above I was taken back to the books of my childhood–the ones my parents knew I liked the best, and a favored gift on birthdays, with fantastic illustrations of prehistoric creatures. These books also taught me the value of a public library, where I could triple my inventory for weeks at a time, and they kept my flashlight in use after lights out.  Thanks to illustrator Jorge Gonzaelez for this memory, and for providing another reason to appreciate the importance of the work of Nicholas St. Fleur and his contemporaries, the new generation of science writers who bring natural history to life:

After Earth’s Worst Mass Extinction, Life Rebounded Rapidly, Fossils Suggest

By Nicholas St. Fleur

One day when L. J. Krumenacker was a teenager, he left his home to hunt for fossils. He drove about an hour and a half to Paris Canyon in Bear Lake County in southeastern Idaho and stopped at a foothill covered in sagebrush. Mr. Krumenacker got out of his car, picked up the first large rock he saw and smashed it with a hammer, uncovering seven or eight fossilized shark teeth. Continue reading

Recommended By Guests At Chan Chich Lodge

bird-tales-kitWhen guests of Chan Chich Lodge told me last evening about their local Audubon Center in Connecticut (USA), my first thought was a memory of the Audubon Center in my hometown, also in Connecticut, and how essential it was to the decisions I made to do what I do today.

Then they mentioned Bird Tales, and I had never heard of anything like this before, but it made so much sense to me I thought I should excerpt the description here and point it out to the many bird-centric visitors to our platform here (click the image to the left to go to the website of the Center that created the program):

…Initially working with four facilities operated by Transcon Corporation, our Audubon Center Bent of the River Education Program Manager, Ken Elkins, incorporated Audubon at Home environmental principles into the goals of these facilities to improve the quality of life for their residents. Continue reading

Chef Ram At Chan Chich Lodge

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Chef Ram and I have multiple chef colleagues and foodie friends in common, but this is the first chance that he and I have had to work together. I have been looking forward to this opportunity for quite some time.

He will be expanding and strengthening the farm to table program that Chan Chich Lodge started nearly three decades ago. He will work primarily with Amie, whose success with food programming (and places where that food is enjoyed, which has also been widely appreciated) in India since 2010 made sure that the projects got attention. You will see those ideas here, so stay tuned. Continue reading