Here are my ten best kept secrets unknown (mostly) to mankind. In no particular order.
1. The wineries in Bandol — The Bandol wine region in Provence, Southern France may be one of the best kept secrets in the world. While Burgundy and Bordeaux get all the press, the small independent winemakers in Bandol make exquisite reds themselves. The Mourverdre grape is cultivated here like no other place on earth. And the wines…oh, the wines, are big, flavorful and exquisite.
The next time your cruise ship takes you into Toulon, and you consider it a throw away port, think again. Just six short miles away is one of the greatest wine tasting experiences of your life. Try the Gros ‘Noré and Terre Brune caves and see for yourself. Start with a delicious rose and then it will be love at first taste for the most romantic albeit unknown wine regions in the world.
2. The Christmas Eve sale at Central Market — Each Christmas Eve Central Market grinds its remaining filet mignon, brisket and other delectable cuts into ground chuck and for a few short minutes sells it for .99 a lb. We have made it a tradition to be there and stock up for a year’s worth of the best hamburger and bolognese meat you have EVER tasted. Yum! I think I’ll start the grill now…
3. 12 Chimneys Restaurant — A long and scary drive up to an unknown mountain pass outside an unknown capital city (Bishkek) of an unknown country (Kyrgyzstan) leads to one of the most unique dining experiences in the world. Enjoy fresh Beluga caviar for pennies from the nearby Caspian sea, whole roasted horse, complemented by kumyz (fermented mare’s milk) while sitting back on bearskin rugs, served by waiters in traditional dress, as a fire roars in the middle of the room, viewing an outdoor setting that could come straight from the movie “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” Need I say more?
4. Kapari Beach — Hidden on the idyllic isle of Mykonos, Greece lies my favorite beach in the world. Just rent an ATV, ask a local, go to the perfectly painted greek church, turn right down a rugged four wheel drive road to the end, clamber down a steep rock path to…a beach that looks as if it came straight from your wildest fantasy…and chances are very good that you will have it all to yourself.
5. Angel Fire Valley — Over the pass from its more well-known sister community Taos in New Mexico lies one of the most picturesque valleys in all the world. The drive up from Las Vegas (not that Las Vegas) is stunning all its own and leads to this small bit of paradise. Enjoy skiing in winter months, one of the longest zip lines in the world and golf in the summer. Be sure to have a cocktail and dinner at the stunning resort country club. And for a true western experience, mosey on up to Bobcat Pass for a outdoor cowboy steak dinner complete with music and breathtaking sunset. Yee haw!
6. Hendry Wines — Go ahead and have your touristy Silver Oak, Berringer, and Hess opulence in Napa Valley. But the real experience is to be had at understated Hendry Ranch. The Hendry Ranch is composed of 114 acres of vineyard situated in the hills north west of Napa. This latitude in the valley experiences substantial marine influence, and allows Mike and George to grow 10 different varietals, each carefully distributed among their 47 vineyard blocks. All Hendry wines are made from estate grapes, and 2011 will be the 20th vintage of the Hendry label. From their dry rose to their flagship Cabernet and every wine in between, it is one of the finest wineries, bottle for bottle, in the world. Call for an appointment. You’re welcome.
7. Final Say Martini — At Peche near 4th and Colorado in Austin, Texas, you will find the most unusual martini in the known universe. Is it sweet? Is it sour? What the heck is in it? Ah, just order it up and be sure to get it on the rocks. Sit back and enjoy the ambience and people watching. The drink packs quite a kick. And that’s all I have to say about that.
8. An Italian Dessert — It is one of the most simple, but unique and unknown desserts on earth. Every time I serve it, every time!, it is a crowd pleaser. Here it is: One scoop of Blue Bell (or similar) handmade vanilla ice cream topped with…balsamic vinegar. Yes, balsamic vinegar. The better the quality of the balsamic, the better the dessert. Shhhh, don’t tell your guests ahead of time. Just say you have a surprise, and ask them what flavors they taste. You (and they) will be amazed!
9. A Novel — Perhaps the best novel I have ever read that almost no one knows about is Leif Unger’s Peace Like A River. If you are like most people on earth and have not yet read this magical book, I envy you. Next vacation, take it with you and I promise, you will never be the same.
10. Hookah — I will forever be indebted to fellow artist Audrey Assad for introducing me to the decadent joy that is hookah. For those of you who do not know what the heck I’m talking about — it is a single or multi-stemmed instrument for smoking flavored tobacco called shisha in which the smoke is passed through a water basin (often glass based) and cooled before inhalation. The origin of the hookah is around the area which includes India and Persia. It was invented by a physician in the 1500’s. So why does no one know about them? Some of the best conversations of my life have been had around hookah. Try it. And if you do get “hook-ahed”, don’t blame me, blame Audrey.
Question: What is your best-kept secret (virtually) unknown to mankind?If you enjoyed this post, please share it with your social networks.