Scotch

Before we settle down to a wee dram of Talisker 18-year, peat-smoked, oak-matured, distilled and unfiltered, single-malt Scotch whisky, a handful of definitions: Whisky—A spirit made from grain (as opposed to grapes for brandy or potatoes for most vodkas). The feedstock for a whisky distillery is in fact […]

Smithfield Market

Is it just me, or is there something a bit off about the English staging their public executions across the square from the oldest and largest wholesale butcher’s market in London? Admittedly, Smithfield boasted one of the larger open spaces in town, and executions were one of the […]

Rubha an Dùnain

My mother’s McCaskills collided with their dreary little bit of history in 1832, when they were evicted from their village Rubha an Dùnain on the Isle of Skye and booted off to North Carolina to make way for flocks of more docile and profitable sheep. Thus arrived on […]

Flora MacDonald

When Flora MacDonald died in March, 1790, more than 3,000 mourners made the long and difficult trek to the Isle of Skye in Scotland to drink 300 gallons of whiskey in her honor. And small wonder, because Flora had led a life for the ages. Loyal her entire […]

Cucina Italiana

For what it’s worth, our rules for eating out in Italy (unless you’re desperate, of course): 1. Avoid any restaurant large enough to accommodate a busload of gawkers. Especially one with bright lights, huge, curtained windows, and elaborate chandeliers. Gaudy is good—just not that kind of gaudy. 2. […]

Truffles

No vegetable is invested with more hype and idiosyncrasy in its cultivation and consumption than the hideously ugly, yet über-expensive European truffle. French blacks (Tuber melanosporum) and Italian whites (Tuber magnatum) regularly fetch more than $1,000 per pound at market and are then doled out, one hyper-thin slice […]

Tain-l’Hermitage

Thomas Jefferson might have had better weather in the 1780s when he came to the Hermitage Mountain here and declared this vista of the Rhône River valley the most beautiful in all of France. The trip from the Colonial Ambassador’s residence in Paris—564km by modern roads—would have taken […]