Reno’s ‘Cheese Truck’ Subject Of Quirky Documentary

“Reno, Nevada. The Biggest Little City in the World. Famous for our casinos, quick divorces, and legalized prostitution.”

So goes the opening narration to “The Cheese Truck,” a funny little documentary made by Jason Spencer of Storm Front Productions. The 26-minute film follows what amounts to a day in the life of GourMelt owners/drivers/cheese geeks Jessie and Haley, as they feed Reno’s hungry masses.

This gem of a film caught my attention for three reasons: I just flew in from Reno last night, after spending a week in Lake Tahoe visiting my brother and his family; I work in the cheese industry and did a book signing at Wedge, Reno’s new (only?) cheese shop, six days ago, and I couldn’t believe someone had made a movie about Reno’s on-trend food scene. Ouch.

“The Cheese Truck” may also gently poke fun, but its objective is to show viewers how much work goes into operating a food truck, as well as highlight Reno’s Renaissance. As my experience at Wedge also showed, there are a lot of fun things popping up in the Biggest Little City, especially the South Virginia Street Corridor neighborhood.

Look for more details on the second coming of Reno next week. I’ll tell you where to find a great bottle of wine, used combat boots, and handcrafted soppressata, amongst the tattoo parlors and crack houses.


Getting To Know The Faces Of Holland


bikes


Holland‘s most recent campaign, “Faces of Holland,” allows travelers to get to know the iconic facets of the region. Here are the six “faces,” and how you can meet them for yourself.

Bicycles

Biking and Holland are almost synonymous. In fact, out of Holland’s 16 million inhabitants, 18 million own bicycles, which means there are more bikes than people. With a flat landscape and over 18,000 cycling paths, there are many opportunities to enjoy the active pursuit.

Renting Bicycles

Biking in Holland is safe and there are many marked routes, even in busy cities. In Amsterdam, a majority of bikes are old-fashioned, one-speed cycles with a back-pedal brake. You can get a biking map from the tourist office, which also gives information on safety, routes, repair shops and restricted areas. Major rental shops include Bike City, which use traditional bikes to disguise you as a local, Mike’s Bike Tours, which offers daily tours and rentals, and Damstraat Rent-a-Bike, one of the cheapest options.Amstel Gold Race

This race began in 1966, with the original organizers being sponsored by Amstel Gold. The brewing company has been a part of the event ever since. Generally, it’s held in April, with the best international professional teams riding from the market at Maastricht to the Cauberg in Valkenburg. The race is part of the UCI World Tour.

Limburgs Mooiste

Originally a touring version of the Amstel Gold Race, the event expanded into professional and family tours. Professional routes include two 60-mile tracks, one with more hills than the other, and a 93-mile challenge. The next event will be Sunday, May 26, 2013.

4Days Cycling the Achterhoek

At this annual cycling event, riders cycle distances of 16 to 37 miles in the Achterhoek past castles, windmills, forests and farmlands. The next event will be August 6 through 9, 2013.


cheese


Cheese

The Dutch love cheese. In fact, they eat about seven pounds of it each year per person. Holland is home to two famous cheese destinations, Gouda and Edam. Gouda, the city of cheese and stroopwafels, or syrup waffles, has earned an international reputation thanks to its rich gouda cheese. A visit to both places in the summer will allow you to see a traditional cheese market, with the delicacy being traded in the same way it was centuries ago. In Gouda, you can find the market on the square between ‘Waag’ and City Hall. In Edam, 18th century cheese warehouses sit along the canal, with the market being in Jan van Nieuwenhuizen Square.

Even when it’s not summer, visitors can still enjoy Holland’s rich cheese culture. In Amsterdam, there are a plethora of cheese shops where you can go to sample a large variety of cheeses, which is one of the city’s top three exports. If you want many choices, head to L’Amuse, located on Stadionweg in the Oud Zuid neighborhood. With over 400 varieties, their cheeses are stored in climate-controlled facilities specific for each cheese. Additionally, Kaashandel Kef on Marnixstraat was the first to specialize in French cheese and is still well respected for their French and Dutch types. To taste cheeses from one of the most popular shops in the city, visit
Reypenaer Shop and Tasting Room on Singel. This small cheese company offers tastings and classes in their basement.

For another cheese experience, visit the Alkmaar Cheese Museum. Located on the second and third floors of the Alkmaar cheese-weighing house, visitors can learn about cheese making, its history and how it relates to the culture of Holland. Some exhibits include illustrating the contrasts between cheese making on a farm and in a factory, as well as historic portraits and life-sized costumes of North Holland 16th century dress. Guided tours are available throughout the year with a reservation.


portrait


Dutch Masters

Many influential and pioneering artists like Rembrandt van Rijn, Johannes Vermeer, Jan Steen and Frans Hals were Dutch, developing an international reputation in the 16th and 17th centuries. The Dutch Masters changed the art world with their brush strokes before, during and after the “golden era of painting.” Additionally, they positively affected the culture in the 17th century as trade grew and battles were won, allowing more people to afford art.

There are various museums located around Holland where you can see the works of these Dutch Masters. In Amsterdam, there’s the Rembrandt House Museum, which showcases works from the artist and gives free demonstrations on how Rembrandt made his etchings and prepared his paint. There’s also the Rijksmuseum, which features paintings from the Dutch Golden Age as well as Asian works, and the Vincent Van Gogh Museum, where you can learn about the artist’s life and see his art. Outside of Amsterdam, you can head to Delft to visit the Vermeer Centre and see the work of Johannes Vermeer. And in the Hague, you’ll find an expansive collection of Golden Age paintings in the Mauritshuis.


canals


Canals

Many Dutch cities, like Amersfoort, Alkmaar, Dordrecht, Leiden, Utrecht, Leeuwarden and Groningen, were built with canals as a focus. The most famous canal city in Holland is, of course Amsterdam, whose canal district is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In fact, the city’s name is the “Venice of the North.” Along with simply strolling along these waterways, you can experience them in the following ways.

floating dutchmanRenting Boats

Renting boats and floating around the city, taking photos and enjoying a picnic.

The Floating Dutchman

The Floating Dutchman is a floating bus tour in Amsterdam (shown right), that starts at the airport Schiphol or the Amsterdam City Center, drives around the city then splashes into the water to continue the tour for 45 minutes through the canals.

The Houseboat Museum

Located in Amsterdam near the Anne Frank House, The Houseboat Museum was created by houseboat owner Vincent van Loon when he noticed how curious visitors were about his floating home. You can take a tour and learn about houseboat living and typical Dutch decor, purchase a gift in the shop or grab a coffee in the 1950s style Dutch-lounge.


tulips


Tulips

Holland is home to the world’s largest flower park, Keukenhof, where seven million tulips bloom annually. Their love of tulips runs deep, and there are numerous sites and events taking place each year to help locals and visitors experience it for themselves.

Amsterdam’s Floating Flower Market

Located in the Singel Canal, flowers are sold on floating barges. First held in 1862, the market is a symbol of the old days when plants were shipped and sold on boats. It’s open Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Sundays between 11 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.

Amsterdam Tulip Museum

The Amsterdam Tulip Museum is located in the Jordaan neighborhood and outlines the history of the tulip in the Netherlands. While small in size, visitors can learn interesting facts like how tulips were used as food during wartime and how the flower helped the Dutch economy during the mid-17th century.

Holland’s Botanical Gardens

There are many worthwhile botanical gardens throughout Holland showcasing their prized tulip. The oldest in the Netherlands is Horus Botanicus located in Leiden, which has been collecting and analyzing plants for over four centuries. There’s also Hortus Haren in Haren, which has 20 acres and 15 gardens of tulips, fruits, herbs, coffee bushes, cinnamon trees, Chinese gardens and more.

Events

There is an array of tulip events throughout Holland. “Get Into The Greenhouse” takes place the first weekend in April. This is when greenhouse owners allow visitors to learn about produce and flower cultivation, see demonstrations and take cooking classes. There’s also the annual Tulip Festival each spring in the Noordoostpolder, home the largest amount of tulips in the country. Attendees can hike, bike or take a wagon tour or a carriage ride through the flowers. In the winter, travelers can experience the Holland Flowers Festival and stroll through colorful gardens, learn about cultivation and be exposed to the latest trends in Dutch gardening.


windmills


Windmills

Windmills are a large part of Holland’s culture, with five of the world’s largest windmills being in the center of Schiedam in South Holland. They are over 130 feet high, and played a large roll in the production of gin. Additionally, in the village of Kinderdijk you can find a UNESCO Heritage-titled mill network of 19 polder draining windmills. Along with visiting these areas, you can experience windmill culture through:

Windmill And Beer At Brouwerij ‘t IJ

Brouwerij ‘t IJ in Amsterdam is a combination of windmill and brewery, as it sits in front of Molen de Gooyer windmill allowing visitors to experience Dutch culture in two different ways. The beer is 100% organic, and the tasting bar is open from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Originally built in 1725, Molen de Gooyer is one of six original windmills in Amsterdam still standing today.

Molen de Valk

Built in 1785, Molen de Valk in Leiden was made into a municipal museum in 1966, with exhibits on the milling process, books and tools from the last miller. The windmill is still in operation, and you can purchase flour onsite.

Celebrating National Mill Day

Each year on the second Saturday of May, the locals of Holland celebrate National Mill Day. This is when 600 watermills and windmills welcome the public to come learn more about this Dutch icon. Not surprisingly, many locals like to explore the mills by bike.

[Images via the Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions]

An Artisanal Taste Of Denver, Colorado

wine While it’s easy to find big-name chain restaurants and mass-produced foods, it’s always nice to get a more local experience. One city with excellent quality and craft tastes is Denver, Colorado. To help you navigate the artisanal flavors of the area, here are my top picks.

Wine: D’Vine Wines
1660 Champa Street

The only winery in downtown Colorado, D’Vine Wines, also known as the Wild Women Winery, imports grapes from California then ferments them and puts their own unique spin on the blends. It’s a boutique winery with a cozy and inviting atmosphere, as well as a friendly and knowledgeable staff who will help you learn about the art of wine tasting. For example, I learned that to aerate the wine you don’t softly move the glass around, but fervently spin it in quick circles while pushing the base of the glass down onto the table. Likewise, the drier the wine, the higher the alcohol content because it has only a small amount of residual sugar. You can do tastings for three for $5, seven for $10 or four for $12 with a souvenir wine glass. Some of the best wines I tasted included:

  • Sangiovese- Made with the grape used to create Chianti, it has a silky finish with flavors of strawberry and plum.
  • Zinfandel and Syrah Blend- While these two aggressively flavored grapes are not usually combined, the Zinfandel is so light it tastes better blended than alone. Together the two compose a spicy wine with a smooth fruit finish.
  • Green Apple Riesling- This wine tastes just like a sour apple Jolly Rancher, and smells like one, too. It’s a tart yet refreshing sweet white wine.
  • Chocolate Port- A unique desert wine, it is fermented to a higher alcohol content while using less brandy than most port wines. It’s smooth and sweet, with a dark chocolate finish.

A fun aspect of the wines is each variety has its own special bottle, complete with a sexy female character and story. You’ll get to know ladies like Miss Booty, Dusty Twilight and Royal Ruby, and how they relate to these delicious and rare wines. Moreover, the winery allows visitors to make their own wine with help from qualified vintners.

cheese Cheese And Meat: The Truffle Cheese Shop
2906 E. 6th Avenue

As soon as you walk into this gourmet cheese shop your nose will be in heaven. The Truffle Cheese Shop features hard to find specialty items and rare cheeses. They work under a sustainable philosophy, creating organic, free-range and all-natural products. What’s really great about the shop is they offer free cheese and meat tastings. Some of the best things I sampled include:

  • Memoire Truffle- This Dutch Gouda cheese is made with heady Italian truffles and packs an Earthy punch.
  • Goat Cheddar- This blended cheese has a sweet, mild flavor. It’s less aggressive than goat cheese, but still gives you that interesting flavor.
  • Charloe- This raw cow’s milk cheese has a delicate aroma, and a hint of roasted nuts.

This is the perfect place to plan for a picnic, as the shop also offers sweets, crackers, pickles, olive tapenades, hot sauces, jams, olive oils, vinegars and unique cured meats like venison and duck salami and traditional Spanish chorizo. Additionally, on weekends and certain weekdays, The Truffle Cheese Shop offers cheese classes and events.

olive oil Olive Oil And Balsamic: EVOO Marketplace
1338 15th Street

EVOO Marketplace is a truly one-of-a-kind shop, as it’s essentially a giant tasting bar of olive oils and balsamic vinegars. It was the first of its kind in Colorado, and is still family-owned and operated. The shop features over 50 products to sample in unique flavors. Moreover, you can basically travel without leaving the store, as the oils and balsamic vinegars come from all over the world like Italy, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, California and Tunisia.

In terms of olive oils, some of the unique flavors include Persian lime, wild mushroom and sage, black truffle, roasted almond, grape seed and arbequina. For the balsamic vinegars, visitors can sample blood orange, dark chocolate, blackberry-ginger, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon pear and Vermont maple. Tip: Mix the blood orange balsamic with the dark chocolate. My friends and I were all in agreement that the blend was one of the best things we’d ever tasted.

beer Beer: Falling Rock Tap House
1919 Blake Street

While there are myriad breweries and brew pubs in Denver, the Falling Rock Tap House has something special about it. The boutique brewery just turned 15 years old, so they’re not new to the beer business. In fact, you can check out the wall of over 2,000 beer bottles lined up, most of which owner Chris Black drank himself. Additionally, they feature 88 beers on tap, making them one of the largest breweries in Denver. What I really love about this place, though, is how the bartenders are completely honest. For example, when I went to order a Redstone Meadery Sunshine Nectar, he answered, “I don’t think you should get that. It’s terrible.” He then suggested the Julian Apple Cider, which was delicious with a refreshing, crisp taste and a bit of tartness. I also sampled their Rockyard Hopyard, a lightly carbonated pale IPA that had a hoppy taste, with hints of oats and grain. Other popular choices on the menu include Dry Dock Double IPA, “Bull & Bush” Big Ben Brown, “Sandlot” Barmen and “Avery” White Rascal.

hot dogs Unique Delicacies: Biker Jim’s
2148 Larimer Street

Biker Jim’s is a unique hot dog eatery beloved by both locals and travelers. While they do serve beef, you’ll also find elk, rattlesnake, pheasant, reindeer, buffalo, wild boar and duck dogs. If you’re in the mood for something really juicy and fattening, their bat dog is made of bacon, and topped with bacon bits, avocado and tomato cream cheese. It’s also a great place to eat on a budget, as hot dogs start at $6 and cost $1.50 extra for unusual toppings like Harissa roasted cactus with Malaysian jam, scallions, cilantro and onions and cream cheese with caramelized onions. They’re open late on weekends, and also have a food cart across from the clock tower on the 16th Street Mall.

chocolate Chocolate: Dietrich’s Chocolate & Espresso
1734 E. Evans Avenue

Dietrich’s Chocolate & Espresso was opened in 1975 by a German man named Erich Dietrich. While growing up in Germany, he apprenticed under a master chocolatier, learning the craft of fine chocolate making. Walking into the shop, you’ll be amazed at the cases of flawless handmade chocolates. You can sample chocolates and truffles for $1.50 and up. Some interesting chocolate varieties include hot chili pepper, pomegranate truffle, French mint, blueberry pecan and creme brulee truffle. Additionally, the shop is the only place in Colorado where you can find chocolate made from the rare Peruvian cacao bean, Nacional. They also serve breakfast and lunch if you’re in the mood for food.

Olympics 2012: Best Markets And Shops For Food Lovers

public marketsJust because you’re in London for the Olympics and watching world-class athletes torch calories, doesn’t mean you should be deprived of saturated fats and carbs. Despite its former reputation as a culinary wasteland, 21st century London has become one of the world’s great food cities, renowned for its fine dining and ethnic eateries, markets, specialty shops, and food artisans.

Take one for the team and pay a visit to the following for a taste of today’s London.

The city has its share of farmers and public markets, but if your time is short, the Borough Market is, in my opinion, one of the world’s great food markets. I discovered it on my day off from working at a restaurant in Marylebone in 2001, and I’ve found few other markets that offer comparable delights with regard to quality and diversity.

Located in Southwark along the Thames, Borough Market was established in 1755 and is London’s oldest produce market. Today, you’ll also find baked goods, meat and poultry, seafood, charcuterie, cheese and other English artisan foods, as well as international specialty products: argan oil from Morocco; spices, pickles, fruit pastes and preserves from the Eastern Mediterranean, India and Grenada; Croatian patés, French goose fat and fresh Perigord truffles; and Calabrian licorice root.

The Borough Market is open Thursday through Saturday; click here for times and bus and Underground directions.

Maltby Street is a selection of “breakaway vendors” from Borough Market, including Neal’s Yard Dairy, Monmouth Coffee and St. JOHN Bakery (owned by chef Fergus Henderson he of the much-loved St. JOHN Restaurant, a champion of offal and author of “The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating”). Unlike the market vendors, these are permanent shops that primarily wholesale during the week, and open to the public on Saturday mornings. Psst: Go early to get the custard or jam doughnuts at St. JOHN.cheeseWorld-famous Neal’s Yard Dairy has two shops (the other is in Covent Garden). If you love – or would like to learn about – handcrafted cheeses from the UK, be sure to stop by for a taste.

London’s other great cheese shop is La Fromagerie, with locations in Marlyebone and Highbury. Next door is The Ginger Pig, “butchers and farmers of rare breeds raised on the North York Moors.” Opt for a butchery class, farm tour, or some meat pies in lieu of purchasing fresh product. There’s also a location at the Borough Market.

Marylebone has a lively farmers market, held every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Spitalfields, in the East End, started out as a traders’ market in 1666, and today is a fashionable complex with food, fine dining, boutiques, community events and public art. For non-edible souvenirs, check out Divermenti, a kitchenware store and cooking school in Marlyebone.

[Photo credits: vendor, Flickr user nakedsky; cheese, Flickr user Stepheye]

Tips to Help You Keep Fit While Traveling

Heifer International: Working To End World Hunger, One Llama At A Time

bolivian farmerGot an extra $20 burning a hole in your pocket and want to make a difference in the lives of others? Buy a flock of ducks. Eighty-five dollars will get you a camel share, while a mere $48 purchases a share in a “Knitter’s Gift Basket (a llama, alpaca, sheep and angora rabbit).”

Since 1944, Heifer International has provided livestock, and animal husbandry, agricultural and community development training to over 125 countries, including the U.S. The goal: to help end world hunger and poverty by improving breeding stock, providing valuable dietary supplements such as milk and eggs, and creating viable business enterprises for commodity products such as cheese, wool, honey, or crops cultivated by draft animals like horses and water buffalo.

The livestock species used to support disenfranchised communities are diverse, but traditional to their respective regions. They include goats, sheep, honeybees, beef and dairy cattle, water buffalo, yaks, horses, donkeys, llamas, alpacas, camels, rabbits, guinea pigs and poultry.

When I was a kid growing up on a small ranch in Southern California, we used to donate our male dairy goat kids (which, if sold here, would most likely be relegated to dinner) to Heifer. Although the program no longer ships live animals overseas (it’s easier and safer/more humane to ship frozen semen), the concept remains the same: using top bloodlines to improve the quality and enhance the genetic diversity of herds or flocks in impoverished regions.

Heifer teaches the concept of the “Seven M’s: Milk, Manure, Meat, Material, Money, Motivation and Muscle.” These are the benefits livestock animals provide to people in developing nations. With the training provided by Heifer employees and volunteers, the cycle of poverty can be broken, and families and villages can thrive. During the holidays or for birthdays, I like to make animal gift donations in the name of the recipient, an especially valuable lesson for children (who, let’s face it, really don’t need another electronic piece of crap to foster their ADD and lack of global awareness).

Never doubt the power of a furry friend to change the world. To make a donation, click here.

Check out this Heifer International gallery of animals and their proud owners from around the world:

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