December 30, 2011

A New Year's Letter for Adventures to Come.

A splash of holiday color along the Lungarno.

As the year comes to a close, like many of you I am full of gratitude. For love, health, safety (after miles of traveling), family and friends and the kindness from all those who keep these programs afloat.

To quote poet David Whyte, "I am twice blessed to have a first love as a work, but also, ultimately, to see it as no work at all, but as a way of being in the world; a way of holding the conversation of life that is enlarging, generous, deeply satisfying and a full reward in and of itself."

What we look for when we travel is to find 'authenticity.' We want to rub up against something unfamiliar so it sparks us out of our daily slumbers. Waking up our senses to notice Piero's hands dancing through the air when he teaches a cooking class in Tuscany, Francesco the busdriver's spontaneous opera in Sicily, the perfection of Fabrizia's elegant Sicilian cassata, Antonio's tack and wind-shift with the sails while octopus slow cooks on the gimbled stove, Bahija's excitement to get her elegant hands in to fluff the hot couscous... these are the gestures that touch us unexpectedly and make our trips meaningful.

Our culinary adventures get you into the kitchen, all sorts of kitchens where few others have been welcomed. It's like crossing a border where connection, kindness and curiosity are the passport for getting in. We learn new recipes, become familiar with new tastes, but the most satisfying part of the journey has come from going a bit beyond the kitchen, beyond our comfort zones to stretch parts of ourselves that we are unacquainted with. Letting down our guard to change our view of others who live differently and learn about ourselves at the same time offers something for the soul as well. The trip therefore, has been not about getting away...but about coming home. The world is not such a foreign place after all, and we seem to fit in it better than we thought. We see ourselves as citizens of the world. More similar than different.

As the refrain of "Auld Lang Zyne" says, should "times gone by" be forgotten?

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang zyne?
For "times gone by," my dear, for "times gone by," we'll take a cup of kindness yet, for "old times gone by"...
Please join me in whatever way you can to make this upcoming 20th anniversary year of 2012 a celebration of "times gone by." Send us your stories, a memory, a photo, a word if it affected your life in some way. Join us on a new trip, or the anniversary trip to re-visit a few of our old haunts and pals.

Happy Holidays and Buon anno nuovo!! Happy New Year!

Peggy, et al.

December 20, 2011

Alumni Story: The Ravioli Crisis

When all is said and done, what we do here at PMCA is all about people. Those we meet and those we travel with. The ingredients that become familiar and the recipes we learn bloom into larger stories, even after we have returned home.

During this 20th Anniversary year, we are making it a priority to collect and share stories from our alumni, about the moments that stand out and the ways that a trip with PMCA has impacted your lives upon returning home.

We invite you! to send them as emails, to record them as videos or audio, to include photos and/or to post them on our facebook page.

Here, we would like to share a story from Kate Fortney, who has attended our Tuscany and Morocco programs with her husband, Heschel - and will soon join us in Spain!

Kate and Heschel in the kitchen on our Fall 2010 program in Morocco.

In 2000, we took our first trip with Peggy. It was Heschel's 50th year and for his birthday celebration we decided a cooking school in Florence would be a great way to commemorate the milestone. It was a perfect trip: accomodations were comfortable, our classmates all seem to be kindred spirits, the excursions were a perfect accompaniment for the classes - informative, but more importantly a wonderful way to meet Tuscans and experience the culture. And of course the food was fantastic. And although even 11 years later we have detailed memories of each day, our story really happened after we came home.
I guess Piero's class just made all the cooking seem so easy. Once we arrived home, swelled with confidence, we invited several friends over for an Italian dinner using the recipes we'd learned. Heschel was making a chicken dish that required the chicken to be deboned. After pretty much shredding his first attempt, he opted to use boneless chicken breasts from the store. I took on making the ravolli. While the ragu and stuffing came out well, for some reason it took three attempts to get the pasta dough right and then I struggled to get it rolled thin enough. Luckily we had some frozen ravolli that we mixed in.  
While I was having my ravolli crisis, Hesch was whipping up tiramisu. Since I had my back to him, I'm not sure exactly what went wrong. All I know, is that all of sudden I heard him cry out, "Oh no, they are floating!" When I turned around, his ladyfinger cakes were popping up to the surface. He went back to the store for ready-made.
By the time our guests arrived, we had regained our sense of humor and were able to greet them at the door with, "Welcome to our Italian dinner, where every course has a story." And ultimately that's what Peggy's wonderful culinary trip in Florence gave us-besides some new cooking skills, an appreciation that it isn't about the perfection of the food, it is about sharing that food with friends and creating memories.

December 13, 2011

Announcing the 20th Anniversary "Trip of a Lifetime"

June 11-20, 2012

In honor of our 20th Anniversary year, we have designed a trip to commemorate all of the chefs, artisans, farmers, estate owners, and characters that we have worked with for nearly 2 decades.

A once-in-a-lifetime culinary tour of Florence, Liguria and the 'Bay of Poets', and the island of Elba. With an optional sailing extension around Procida and the Amalfi coast.  

Grapes hung to dry for Vin Santo, Tuscany.

We begin at 'La Cucina al Focolare' in the Florentine hills
, where Chef Piero still drives the mothership even more skillfully after 20 years. We'll settle into the Chianti countryside, taste and cook the same rich, extra-virgin olive oil-based traditional Tuscan dishes from our wood fired ovens.

     Piero Laughing

La Cucina al Focolare, Florence, Italy.
Next, we travel to Angelo Cabani's gastronomic hotel, Locanda Miranda, overlooking the Bay of Poets, where the most important ingredient is 'amacizia' (friendship). We'll be in the artistic hands of Angelo's 75 years, 60 of which he's spent in the kitchen mastering fish.

Tellaro, Liguria, Italy.
Already on the coast, we'll be drawn to the rustic island of Elba, to Luciano Cassini's well-loved alley-way restaurant, 'Il Chiasso,' for an unforgettable experience with a treasured chef from a disappearing era.

Luciano Cassini, chef, clown and actor, with Peggy on the island of Elba.
We'll end the program back in the city of Florence, where we will hit all of the old haunts - cafés and wine bars, the markets, and a celebratory dinner at Cibreo.

Cibreo Caffé in the center of Florence.

Come prepared to be surprised!

Guest Natalie Beck on deck of the 'Tonnado' off the coast of Amalfi.

For more information or to reserve your room, please email us or call our booking coordinator, Merete, at 303-910-0897. 

Double: $6200/per person
Single: $6750

Program includes:
~  Accommodations and most meals
~ Cooking classes and visits with local chefs and artisans
~ Transportation between Florence, Liguria, and Elba  
~ Market excursions, kitchen clowns, produce jugglers, Tuscan fires, singing bus drivers, poetic moonlit nights, full bellies, laughter, plenty of world-class vino and saucy sommeliers... and your open-hearted willingness to enjoy the celebration!

Holiday Recipe: "Pick Me Up!" Tiramisu

A few years ago, our friend Moya told us a story about her Tuscan mother-in-law, who used this phrase in a sentence when her husband told a bit of gossip. She said, “Tiramisu le calze!! Well, pick up my stockings!” It’s our favorite elegant dessert and always pleases.


  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 (8-oz) container mascarpone cheese (1 scant cup)
  • 1/2 cup chilled heavy cream
  • 2 cups very strong brewed coffee or brewed espresso, cooled to room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons sweet Vin Santo (more traditionally Tuscan) or Marsala wine
  • 18 savoiardi (crisp Italian ladyfingers, 6 oz)
  • 1/4 cup fine-quality bittersweet chocolate shavings or 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 8 “balloon” red wine glasses

Beat together yolks and 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until thick and pale, about 2 minutes. Beat in mascarpone until just combined.

Beat whites with a pinch of salt in another bowl with cleaned beaters until they just hold soft peaks. Add remaining 1/4 cup sugar a little at a time, beating, then continue to beat whites until they just hold stiff peaks. Beat cream in another bowl with cleaned beaters until it just holds soft peaks. Fold cream into mascarpone mixture gently but thoroughly, then fold in whites.

Stir together coffee and Vin Santo in a shallow bowl. Dip 1 ladyfinger in coffee mixture, soaking it about 2 seconds on each side, break it into with your fingers and transfer to the wine glass. Pipe the marscapone mixture into the glass with an icing pipe bag and layer with another soaked ladyfinger. Top it off with another swirl of marscapone mixture. Fill the glass only half full. Fill your other wine glasses.

Chill tiramisu, covered, at least a couple of hours. Just before serving, sprinkle with cocoa or shave with chocolate.

November 14, 2011

Explore Morocco with us this March!

March 18-27, 2012


When I meet fellow Americans traveling abroad here in North Africa, I ask them, "What did you expect to find here?" Almost without exception, regardless of the way they express it, the answer reduced to its simplest terms is: a sense of mystery.  

~ Paul Bowles.    

Email us or call our booking coordinator, Merete, at 303-910-0897 to reserve your spot!
Program includes:
~ Airport pick-up by private driver
~ Six nights at a private guesthouse located in the Marrakech's posh Palmeraie
~ Two nights in the Atlas Mountains
~ One night in a candelit pension along Morocco's Atlantic coast 
~ All accommodations and most meals
~ Cooking classes and guided cultural excursions

November 7, 2011

Recipe: Francisco Lillo's Sweet Potato Fritters

Croquetas de Boniato

(A great alternative to Thanksgiving sweet potato pie!)

> 3 cups sweet potatoes (cooked and mashed)
> 2 tablespoons butter
> 1 teaspoon salt
> 2 eggs
> 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
> 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
> 1/4 cup sugar
> 3 eggs (beaten for egg wash)
> 1 1/2 cups crushed almonds
> oil for frying

Heat safflower oil in a deep frying pan.
In a large bowl thoroughly mix together the sweet potatoes, butter, salt, 2 eggs, cinnamon, vanilla and sugar.
Shape the mixture into croquettes (small rolls).
Roll the croquettes in the egg wash, and then in the crushed almonds.
Fry the croquettes in oil until golden (a couple minutes per side). Be careful not to burn.
Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with a little sugar.
Serve warm.

November 6, 2011

She Might Be In Tangier

"If you see her, say 'hello', she might be in Tangier..."This Bob Dylan song came to me, along with "Boots of Spanish leather," while crossing the strait of Gibraltar a few days ago. It was no different than any other ferry crossing, just more significant. Leaving Tarifa, Spain's final beach, for the minarets of Morocco follows the thread of many a famous traveler.

I frequent ferries in Italy, going from the mainland to many of the outlying archipelago. Yet, leaving Europe behind to cross over only 9 miles of open sea to end up in North Africa, has adventure written all over it. Especially for those who swim it.
When I meet fellow Americans traveling abroad here in North Africa, I ask them, "What did you expect to find here?" Almost without exception, regardless of the way they express it, the answer reduced to its simplest terms is: a sense of mystery.  

~ Paul Bowles.    

 Paul Bowles                                                                 Matisse's Green Door. Tangier

 I can only imagine what it must have been like when author and composer, Paul Bowles (The Sheltering Sky) was encouraged by Gertrude Stein to go to Morocco, for the first time in 1931. Tangier was accessible and exotic. A completely different world full of magic and mystery. Unknown places delight the imagination at every turn with intrigue, curiosity, and heightened awareness. It has attracted and inspired artistic expression from the likes of Delacroix and Matisse. Bowles was the 'go to' man for many writers like Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams. Beat poets like William Burroughs, Allen Ginsburg, Gregory Corso, and Kerouac also knocked on the door,  attracted by the avant-garde Parisian playground. Yet, he was no beat poet himself. Even though he had experimented with hash from the Rif mountains and delved in exploration of consciousness, he was an older well-dressed, serious writer and composer.

Influential cookbook author Paula Wolfert, who came to Tangier also as a young beatnik 50 years ago, just came out with a new book simply called, The Food of Morocco. In it she writes,
"I had come to an exotic land in search of "The Other". I was, I thought, prepared for most anything. I soon discovered that it was I who was actually "the other" and as I explored, and made my way through the narrow streets of the medina of Tangier. It was not the kind of adventures described by Bowles that befell me, but something that I was not prepared for: the seduction of Moroccan Cuisine."

There was nothing extraordinary about the markets or the streets that we saw, Tangier now 50 years more modern. Yet we could imagine what they were like 50 years ago, when we turned the corner in present time and saw a woman in a quiet square at the well cleaning her fish, her head covered and her clothing simple. She was a shy portrait of the past. I didn't take her picture.

Remnant bread was gathered and put into a sack and set by a central neighborhood door. Bread is precious and recycled into other dishes, such as puddings.  Still, nothing is wasted.

We stumbled across a doorway where people, even young girls, were carrying trays covered in cloth. It was the community oven, where a man stood at the mouth of it in a pit and shuffled trays of roasted seeds, nuts and bread around. He would dump the roasted seeds into a woven basket, slosh a bit of water on them, then  sprinkle some salt. The seeds would be mixed by tossing the basket up and down. They were pitch black sunflower seeds, not ones that I would want to eat, but supposedly the Tanjawi's like them that way.

The old man,  tiny with a grey beard and faded clothing, had the sweetest eyes. He offered us a small round cake to try. We were peckish and quite grateful for the nosh. What a hot life to live in the mouth of the oven all day. What a blessing to bake bread for your community.

We passed another stall where women were making the breakfast bread. They had their flour cloths out with mounds of dough on top. When they were ready to cook it, they flattened it a bit with their hands and put it on a flat-top stove. To further "iron it out", they sat an old tin kettle on top, half full of water. It's uniformed flatness and crust no longer a mystery. Generous and kind, they tore off pieces of warm bread for us to try. At every turn, traditional Berber women with conical shaped hats from the Rif mountains were busy selling something. In their tradition, the women run the business. Whether selling goat cheese, chickens or fresh sardines, they rise early, make their way to town, trade, tuck their money into their skirts and head back to the hills.
Our lunch came next, and by this time, who was hungry? We were taken to simple place, La Tavern de Poisson; a Moroccan fish restaurant populare, where we were served a brothy fish soup with barley couscous out of a large terra cotta vessel heated over a standing coal fire. It was settling and delicious. Two savory dishes followed, another seafood dish full of the tiniest squid, shrimp and white fish, with celery root and spinach, spiced with lemon, cumin and ginger. Quite tasty. Grilled John Dory and Sole came after, with baby shark skewers on the side. No wine of course, but Hassan the waiter, who looked
like a genie, took us into the back room where he showed us that he was brewing figs, grapes and their stems, quince, apples and who knows what else. It is their own special non-alcolholic 'vino di casa'. Odd to drink with fish really, but refreshing. Freshly plucked pomegranates and sweet strawberries were served with honey for dessert.

Our day in Tangier came to an end when we met our driver to Fez at the historic old, classic
Continental Hotel. We said goodbye to our guide, SaID, and hopped into the car with Hassan, to take
us 5 hours south to Fez. An hour later, he pulls over and starts retching violently. "Bad Fish for lunch",
he says. We race through the night on two lane roads, dodging trucks full of sheep and men, boys on  bicycles, donkeys bundled with grasses, dogs and donkey carts full of Rif mountain tradeswomen.

He stops, all in all, 3 times to retch before finally arriving in Fez. We snake through the streets with a man who carts our luggage and turning the last and final turn to the left onto a broken road with bricks laying about, he knocks on a door and points to the name. Dar Roumana.


From monotone sand color of stone, building and streets, the door opens onto a kaleidoscope of blue and white tiles and a welcoming dining room set with linens, soft music and a fountain. Home~at least for the next few nights. Ginger pumpkin soup and sea bass calms the nerves.. creme brulee heightens the spirits~ but nothing quite does the trick, like the gin and tonic.

My friend Kim, still white from the journey says..."make it a double please."

Photos by Peggy Markel

October 29, 2011

Cooking in the Alpujarras, Spain: Chestnut Soup with Sherry

The end of October is definitely chestnut time. The air cools and the spiny balls drop to the ground when the wind blows. Its a bit of bother getting into them, but well worth it. If you find them on the ground, you can put your foot on top of one and just apply pressure, rolling over it carefully, until the nut pops out all shiny and and brown.

There are several areas of Andalucía where chestnuts are cultivated, the Alpujarras village of Valor in Granada province, and the Serrania de Ronda in Málaga, in particular the villages of Igualeja, Pujerra, Cartajima and the upper Rio Genal valley in general.

We made this wonderful chestnut soup in our cooking program at Casa Ana, having gathered the chestnuts from the "ruta medieoval" in the village of Ferrierola in the Alpujarras.

Now we have traveled south to Cartajima to stay with friends in "Los Castanos", a boutique hotel in the village, surrounded by a sea of chestnut trees. We have decided after all, not to go the curvy roads to the festival in Pujerra, even though there is a procession tonight. It's quite far and the roads are not friendly in the dark. Plus, It's too tempting to sit and roast chestnuts on the fire here "at home" and drink some lovely "aqua ardiente" a local wine, or anis. It's quiet and we can tell stories. 

All of us sitting around this fire tonight, Zoe Ouwehand, our English friend who owns Dar Cilla in Tarifa and has lived in the Congo and other parts of the world, our hostess Di Beach, a courageous, intrepid traveler who restored three houses in Cartajima to make this charming hotel, Anne Hunt, another super English woman who came to the Alpujarras on her own to restore a guesthouse she now calls Casa Ana. Kim Schiffer, a southerner who became an extraordinary chef and lives in Santa Barbara, and myself, who always enjoys the company of women visionaries.

We will have plenty to tell. No doubt, picking up on a thread of the other. 

Here's to chestnut soup in the Alpujarras and roasting chestnuts in Cartajima.

Chestnut Soup with Sherry
1 3/4#      chestnuts
6T             unsalted butter
2                garlic, sliced thin
3                shallots, medium, sliced thin
1                 leek, sliced thin
2                celery stalks, sliced thin
2                thyme sprigs
2                bay leaves
2 1/4 c     white wine
1 1/4 c     Sherry Fino
2 qts         homemade chicken stock
2t               salt
3/4t         pepper

 Make an X in the bottom on each chestnut.  Boil in water for 20minutes.  Cool slightly and remove shells.  If bitter, boil one more time for about 10 minutes and remove thin dark membrane.
 Cook garlic, shallots, leek, and celery in butter until very soft, about 15 minutes.  Add thyme, bay leaf, and chestnuts.  Cook about 10 more minutes.  Add wine and cook until there in very little left.  Add 3/4 c sherry and cook 10 minutes more.  Add stock and cook 1 1/2 hours. 

 Remove thyme and bay.  Let cool slightly and puree.  Taste.  Stir in more sherry if desired.  Strain. Reheat slightly and ladle into bowls.

Recipe: Kim Schiffer

October 28, 2011

Spain: Marketing in Malaga

Kim, Anne and I started our journey with six culinary enthusiasts in Malaga on Friday. 

Hitting the outdoor covered markets we gathered all that we could think of to create the menus that Kim had devised for our next six days in the mountains. Each student received a list and fulfilled it on his or her own. Not one of them spoke Spanish, including me—and my Italian can only go so far. So what to do? Most of it became sign language, although "quisiera un kilo di .... " and point... goes a long way.


But a trip to the market doesn't always imply that you know what you want, you just know that you are in search of the most succulent thing.

If I want a firm fish for a brocheta, are the fish choices different? Who are the fishmongers that you can trust? How do you find that out if you don't know anyone? You can look and see quality, but knowing is always better. So I asked the butcher at Carniceria Villamuela. Kim found Manuel last year. He had an "I speak English" sign hanging over the counter. After buying numerous chickens and pork loins,  she asked him how he learned English. He said, "I had good teachers, Snoop Dog, Doctor D, Iron Maiden..."followed by other rappers she had never heard of. His answers to our questions didn't rhyme, but he was charming in every way.

As I wandered the market and scoped out the fish, I had questions that needed answering. I wandered back to Manuel. He said, "I know nothing about fish and I don't trust anyone." Yet, he offered to go with me. Luckily, we ran into a chef friend of his who gave me advice and told me which vendor to go to. I was pleased, as it was the one I liked the best. Javier—we now know him by name—definitely had the best sword fish for our brocheta. Costly at 20 euro a kilo, but fresh!

Piling into the bus after loading all of our goods, we headed for a seafood lunch at Tito Yayo. I couldn't possibly tell you where it was, yet we were feet from the sea and ate like rogues. Plates of bocarones, (fried anchovies), grilled octopus, gambas plancha (potato chips with thin slices of jamon on top), pimentos de padron, (3 inch fried-green peppers where every third one is hot!), berenjena con miel (thinly sliced eggplant with honey), and to finish black (squid ink) paella. Yayo was a delight and welcomed us into his exquisite seaside shack open-heartedly. His chef? A Cuban from Bilbao, quite pleased to meet Kim, a chef from California.

After a full meal, we still had an hour and a half to go. Ferrierola lay waiting for us in the black night with bright stars,  hot tea and cozy beds. When we woke in the morning, we fell into the arms of the Alpujarras.


Now on full day three. Hikers took a walk in the pouring rain. They came back for hot toddies and warm bowls of sopa de garbanzo, pureéd with a sfumato of rosemary and garlic in olive oil. Escarapuche, pork tenderloin and tomato salad, and the afore mentioned smoky eggplant salad. A bottle of good Sherry.

Francisco Lillo, owner of La Oliva, a specialty shop of all things delicious, has come from Granada
to show us how to make a good paella.

"First you have to make a fire," he says, "and that is what we will do on the stone patio with dirt and wood."

To be continued...

October 24, 2011

Spain: Recipe for Smoky Eggplant with Yellow Peppers and Red Onion

Bearing left at the bridge, we leave the GR142 and follow the right bank of the Rio Trevelez, almost immediately crossing a stream over large slabs of smooth stone. Beyond the stream, a yellow waymark indicates a rough path that zigzags up through big bushes of retama.

We follow this path, crossing an erroded, rocky section and climbing towards a small chestnut tree where theres a very old dot on a rock, the path becomes clearer. After winding through a small stand of chestnut, the path climbs steeply then bears right on a gentler slope below a long rocky outcrop tropped with a couple of dead chestnuts.

The rock gives way to stone retaining walls until the path bears left then right to pass a partially dead chestnut, after which it winds up below ans acacia to rejoin the outward route. Turning right here, we reach Ferreirola five minutes later, where we retrace our footsteps to the church square. 

This is to give you an idea of the terrain that surrounds the village, if you were to arrive by foot, according to Charles Davis, author of Walk! the Alpujarras.  Not to mention that we hang on the side of a mountain, with other steep and craggy mountains so close as to touch, right outside the door.  There is an ancient rock threshing ground which juts out over a valley. I suppose it was used for separating the wheat from the chafe. It seems it should also have been for ceremony, as it is a powerful ground for being in direct contact with the great unknown. And for this, also seems an internal threshing ground as well. It's not unusual for me to be in touch with the doubts and fears that lurk beneath the surface which seem to rise like cream and scream, "see me, hear me!" And I look and I listen and I cry.

Back to Casa Ana, Anne Hunt's lovely restored private retreat house, the HQ for our Andalucian cooking adventure.

Kim Schiffer, a dear dear old friend from Santa Barbara, California, is making fresh ricotta. While the curds separate from the whey, she roasts eggplant over a flame, to give a smoky flavor to her "smoky eggplant with yellow peppers and red onion."


2          medium eggplant
2          yellow peppers, cored and cut into 1” dice
1/2c    red onion, diced
24       cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4c   parsley, roughly chopped
1/2c    walnut oil or sunflower oil
2T      lemon juice or cider vinegar
1T       ground cumin
salt and pepper
flat bread, grilled or heated

Place the eggplant directly on a moderate gas flame and roast for 10-15 minutes, turning them occasionally with tongs, until the flesh is soft and the skin is burnt and flaky.  Cool slightly.  Cut in half.  Scoop flesh into a colander and drain for at least an hour or overnight.

Chop the eggplant flesh roughly and mix with all the other ingredients.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  It should be robust and pungent.
Serve with flat bread.

October 19, 2011

Upcoming Program: Tasting Royal Rajasthan, India

 This February 5-17, 2012: Tasting Royal Rajasthan

February 5-17, 2012

Feel a culture beneath your feet as you walk the noble hallways of Indian palaces

Stop and gaze through a windows at villages, dotted with baby blue houses painted in Krishna's honor

Walk streets of turbaned shop keepers selling chai and spices.

Become familiar with ingredients and vegetables you have never seen before

Peak your curiosity and palate while being served like a Raj with utmost care and respect. 

Marvel at the world in contrast, color and texture and smile back at the Indian spirit which welcomes you. 

It's a potent experience, and will be a truly unforgettable adventure. 
India Market  India Landscape

Three rooms available
Email us or call our booking coordinator, Merete, at 303-910-0897 to reserve your spot!

"The traveller has to knock at every alien door to come to his own, and
one has to wander through all the outer worlds to reach the innermost
shrine at the end."   

~ Rabindranath Tagore, Indian poet. 


Program includes:
~ Airport pick-up by private driver
~ Domestic airfare within India
~ All accommodations and most meals
~ Cooking classes and guided cultural excursions

October 16, 2011

Relaxing with "Thé Petales": Rose Petal Tea from Perfumer Miller Harris, London.

Paul Grimes smelling the roses at Jalil Belkamel's aromatherapy garden in Marrakech.
"My name is Peggy Markel and I haven't written a blog in over 15 days". This is what I imagine a meeting at Bloggers Anonymous would sound like. In this case, I confess that I can't keep up with blogging, or other social media word flow. My life moves fast in the "slow food and travel" lane.

Just this late summer and fall, I have kept moving at the speed of light. I've been steeped in poetry, fed warm sheepsmilk ricotta, tasted numerous full-bodied wines, eaten rustic ragus, seafood stews and delicate volutes topped with fennel pollen and drizzles of  aromatic oils on various stuffed pastas, meats and frilly fresh salads. I've sucked on salt chocolate, cinnamon chocolate, hot Sicilian chocolate and soon to be, ambergris chocolate. I've traveled by air, train, ferries, sailboat and zodiac. At times, I switched to donkeys, camels, mopeds and bicycles.  Even when I have stopped for a few short days here and there, I am constantly asked to do something, organize something (even a closet), make plans, write out a recipe, think of a plan for next year (but right now), price something, talk to this person, introduce that person, meet these people, re-pack a bag, hop a taxi, book a ticket, or deal with the details of the moment. Old and new friends are constantly coming and going.

This sort of existence has texture and depth, rich in meaningful, earthy experiences. A constant massage, it touches the places that love attention, offering a sensual smorgosbord for the eyes, ears, nose and palate, engaging me deeply in body, speech and mind. So much so, that at times I feel like my life is like a flimsy lacy petticoat, hanging half way off the shoulder and my legs are dangling out the window of a brothel. Enough already.

I have a thousand stories to tell and many details of discoveries to share. Most of them seem like they wait like wallflowers to be noticed or disappear all together.

Today, with another bag to pack and upcoming transition to make, I sat down to write instead. I made a cup of assam tea with a precious pinch of thé petales (rose petal tea) from Miller Harris. It was a gift from the perfumer herself. I met Lyn Harris at Jnane Tamsna in Marrakech. We share a passion, not only for tea, but for this private guesthouse that we frequent every year. It feels like a home away from home. I know everyone, including the carob trees and rose bushes, surely she knows every aromatic plant.

The interesting thing, is that I was aware of her perfume before I met her. I have her "fig" and "fluer oriental." Unusual fragrances, they stand apart from the plethora of powdery perfumes. Meeting her on casual turf in caftans and bare feet brought a certain air of authenticity to her product and mutual like-mindedness of mood.

"Drinking rare and beautiful teas has always been an essential luxury," says Lyn Harris. "Inspired by the delicate art of balancing flavor and aroma, Lyn has combined the world's finest teas with pure, natural extracts to create a collection of blends with top, heart and base notes. This tea demands the prettiest of cups. Smooth and sensual Turkish rose combines with velvet notes of vanilla Ceylon. A heart of Taiwanese White Tip Oolong is entwined with geranium bourbon from the island of Reunion to create a delicate refreshing cup. " So says the back of the tea canister.

So that description my friends..."is my cup of tea," on this fine Sunday afternoon in Florence. Life no longer hanging out the window, but sitting quite properly enjoying one's tea in a pretty cup reading a novel, Everything Beautiful Began After by Simon Van Booy.

Visit the Miller Harris tea collection.

October 1, 2011

Sicily: These are a few of my favorite things....

 A basket of small pears..
 purple cauliflower next to chicory and a pink graffiti'd wall..
 baked onions who's aroma beckons you near...

 Fruits we never see with names that twist our mind...

a color-coordinated melon seller..

when the train strikes.. when our feet hurt.. when we're feeling tired... we simply remember some
fabulous things and then.. we don't feel.. .so tired...!