Photo of the day 6.29.09

Today I’ve been keeping a close eye on the happenings in the Honduras — it appears that even though military troops have sent President Jose Manuel Zelaya into exile, and there have been a few skirmishes between demonstrators and the Honduran police, the country remains relatively calm. Here’s hoping they remain that way.

And in the meantime, take a look at this wonderfully cozy kitchen in a small Mayan village in the Honduras, shared by Adal-Honduras. It certainly speaks to peaceful times, doesn’t it? Lovely shot.

If you’ve got some great travel shots you’d love to share, be sure to upload them to the Gadling pool on Flickr. We might just pick one as our Photo of the Day.

Ardeonaig: South Africa in Scotland

Tucked away in Loch Tay is Scotland‘s best-kept secret. Ardeonaig brings a touch of South Africa to the simultaneously rough and enchanting countryside, fusing two cultures that one would not expect to see interwoven. The resort offers only a couple dozen rooms, most of which are freestanding thatch-roofed cottages scattered across the property. Each is quite large, accommodating two with plenty of space, and the small accompanying patios give you a chance to soak in the crisp local air.

Every inch of Ardeonaig offers a glimpse into the life of owner and executive chef Pete Gottgens. The rooms are named for friends and family members, a nice alternative to the room numbers that we’ve come to expect. In the main building, large photographs from Gottgens’ childhood line the walls, along with original paintings by his sister. Several living room-style lounges are offered, where you can relax with an espresso or glass of wine. It’s about as far as you can get from traditional hotel chains.

To understand the essence of Ardeonaig, you have to look past the guestrooms and lounges and sit for a meal. Seating is available in two rooms, which are served by the same kitchen. Don’t look for a static menu: the contents change daily. Gottgens serves what is fresh, so he is constrained by availability – though when you see what he creates, it’s hard to imagine limits. Carefully planned meals reflect an expertise honed over decades. The lessons began when Gottgens was a teenager, leaving South Africa to wash dishes in Switzerland. He later left for London, where he refined his culinary skills and ultimately opened a series of restaurants – catching the attention of Nelson Mandela along the way. In fact, “chef,” as he is called, became the civil rights leader’s preferred chef in London and engaged him to prepare meals for various official events.


Gottgens, while in London, would disappear to Perthshire, when possible, to fish in the quiet surroundings afforded by the Scottish countryside. One day, he flipped through real estate listings – with no particular plans to act – and saw an ad for a vacant hotel. On a whim, he decided to take a look … and fell in love. Another bidder beat him for the property, but it only took three months for the buyer to become seller. Chef scrounged the down payment, hoping to satisfy the difference through operations (which, fortunately, he was able to do).

While every aspect of the guest experience is a priority, the kitchen is understandably Gottgens’ domain. He appears in alleys in the dark hours of the morning to meet fishermen and their latest catches. What they bring to tk is what comprises the menu. A local hunter who carries hares to the back door defines the evening meal.

The one constant at Ardeonaig is the wine. Lifelong relationships give Gottgens access to small batch wines that are hard to come by. Because of this, pairing is difficult. Unlike most chefs, he’s happy to alter his style to match the wine, “respecting the effort” that has already been bottled. The wine is already there, he says, so it only makes sense for him to consider it when he sets to work.

For at least one meal, dine at the chef’s table, situated in the immaculate kitchen. Gottgens is more than happy to showcase his team’s work as it occurs and hides nothing. The secret ingredients are the vast knowledge and profound energy that he brings to his craft. Neither can be replicated.

The kitchen closes when the last guest arrives, a rule that tk has imposed and by which he abides. From a hospitality perspective, Gottgens doesn’t want guests to arrive and go to bed hungry. He concedes, however, that there’s an economic reason, as well. “If you’re going to eat somewhere else or eat here, we’d rather have you eat here.”

When you’ve finished your evening meal – whatever the hour – you can walk to your cottage or be driven by a golf cart. Sensors turn the exterior lights on as you approach. Climb into your large, warm, soft, bed, and start to dream about what Gottgens will serve for breakfast.

[Photos thanks to Ardeonaig]

SkyMall Monday: Personalized Hot Buns Dish & Your Kickasserole Dish

We’ve discussed in the past how much I love to cook in the SkyMall Monday kitchen. In fact, it’s starting to dominate the SkyMall Monday posts, what with the pizza, hot dog, pepper grinder and paper towel products that we’ve featured. I just can’t help it. I travel a lot, so when I’m home I like the comfort of good food and friends. In fact, my favorite activity in between travels is a good old-fashioned pot luck dinner. I get to catch up with friends, enjoy the tastes of home and share good stories. But at a pot luck, how can I be sure I’ll get credit for the food I made? I specialize in hot buns and casseroles, and I’m sick and tired of my friends stealing the credit for dishes. I’ll step away from the table for five minutes and suddenly my friend Matt will tell everyone that he made the hot buns. But I’ll show him. At my next pot luck, I’ll serve my hot buns in a Personalized Hot Buns Dish and my tuna noodle casserole in my Kickasserole Dish.

That’s right. No one will be able to steal my thunder with these dishes that announce to the world, “Hey, I made these hot buns and threw these random ingredients into the oven and called the result a casserole!” I wasn’t convinced that anything could solve my problem and prevent food identity theft, but the product description that these two items share convinced me beyond the shadow of a hot bun:

Serve up piping-hot buns, while giving the baker of the family his or her due…You know your tuna casserole kicks everyone else’s. But social conventions and that mild-mannered demeanor demand that you keep quiet about it. However, if your baking dish says what needs to be said, you can sit back and accept complements graciously.

It’s like they
read my mind and stared straight into my soul. I’m just so mild-mannered and a slave to social conventions that I let people walk all over me. Usually, when Matt steals credit for my casserole, I bite my tongue, smile nervously and then go back into the kitchen to cry. But what will Matt do when I serve my new, improved Sausage Kickasserole in my personalized Kickasserole Dish? What will he do when I present my sweet, sticky hot buns in a dish that announces just who worked hard to make those buns so irresistible? He’ll enjoy those buns and that sausage-fest and he’ll know once and for all who’s on top. And he’ll like it.

Take bake the credit. Take back your life. Get the Personalized Hot Buns Dish and Kickasserole Dish and assert your dominance. You owe it to yourself and your buns.

SkyMall Monday: Towel-Matic

I love to cook. Whether it’s pizza, hot dogs or well-seasoned steaks, I kick up quite a storm in the SkyMall Monday kitchen. But you can’t even begin to imagine the mess that I make. Most of my kitchen adventures result in me being covered in mayonnaise and bleeding profusely. With my hands full of salamis and Rocky Mountain oysters, I have a hard time tearing off sheets of paper towel. The roll ends up coming undone and that breaks my heart. There is nothing more devastating than a paper towel roll unfurled. That’s why SkyMall Monday is so pleased to add the Towel-Matic to the kitchen arsenal!

Thank heavens there is now a device that automatically dispenses paper towels for you! With just a wave of your hand in front of the sensor, the Towel-Matic will present you with one or two sheets. In fact, it can even dispense a half-sheet if you’re one of those people that buys rolls with half-sheet perforations because you’re that anal-retentive about paper towel comsumption.

Why would you need to spend $60 on a device that dispenses paper towel for you? I’m offended by your question but my editors require that I answer it. So, I’ll lean on my dear friends at the SkyMall catalog to explain it:

It never unravels. Built-in optical sensor automatically identifies the perforations on the towel and stops right at the line every time. One-handed operation guarantees perfect tearing and helps prevent the spread of germs.

It identifies perforations! Now you won’t waste valuable nanoseconds of your life finding the perforations on the paper towel with your own eyes.

Think how much easier your life will be now that you don’t have to worry about your paper towel roll looking mildly unsightly. Today is the first day of the rest of your life and you can be certain that you can wipe all that mayonnaise off your forehead.