Category: Travel

Meet Farmer Tyler

Every now and again I meet someone who is so full of joy and gratitude I can’t help but like them. And when he or she shares my love of gardening? Well, that’s a friend for life. So it went when I met the winner of our 100,000 Fan Giveaway sponsored by the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau. Tyler Baras (a.k.a. Farmer Tyler) entered the contest last summer and was selected as the winner of a trip to Little Rock to visit some of the city’s hot spots and to tape a TV segment with me.

Tyler wasn’t the only winner in the deal. I got to learn something about his specialty – hydroponics. Tyler works at The GrowHaus, which is a non-profit urban farm in Denver that provides fresh vegetables and education on healthy living to the surrounding community. The GrowHaus uses greenhouses and hydroponics to produce greens year-round in the cold Colorado climate. Hence Tyler’s expertise in the method.

Tyler and I taped a segment about how to build a home hydroponics system.

Another talent Tyler shared was playing the accordion.

While Tyler was in town we wanted to make sure he saw some of the best of Little Rock and good food was on the top of the list. He had barbeque and greens at Lindsey’s Hospitality House, fried black-eyed peas at the Capital Hotel and catfish with hoppin’ John at South on Main. We also made sure he tried a locally brewed beer and some of Kent Walker’s cheese at Stone’s Throw Brewery.

Having a beer, homemade pickles and Kent Walker Artisan Cheese at Stone’s Throw Brewery. The pickled squash was our favorite.

Tyler couldn’t leave Little Rick without walking The Big Dam Bridge, visiting Central High School and touring the Clinton Library.

We had lunch at the Clinton Library. Tyler was tickled to see that Moss Mountain Farm was listed as a food supplier on the menu.

At the Clinton Library Tyler demonstrated how he would drive the Presidential state car. He should probably stick to growing lettuce.

 This is the mid-way point across The Big Dam Bridge. It’s a gorgeous view any time of the year.

Because Tyler is into urban farming we wanted to make sure he got to visit a few area agriculture-related attractions. The first stop was Little Rock Urban Farming in the heart of the city. He spoke with Chris about the farm’s operation and intern program. On Friday we headed to Lonoke to meet with Dr. Anita Kelly at the Cooperative Extension Center. And finally we toured Barnhill Orchards also in Lonoke.

Chris and Tyler walking through a bamboo thicket heading to Little Rock Urban Farming’s high tunnel greenhouses.

Dr. Kelly demonstrated her work combining aquaponics with hydroponics.

Bob Barnhill toured us around his farm.

Even this late in the year Mr. Barnhill has crops he harvests to sell. Tyler got to harvest a few persimmons and learn how to operate a pecan cracking machine.

I want to say a BIG thank you to everyone who entered the 100,000 Fan Giveaway. We received some fantastic videos and it was hard to pick just one. I also want to thank the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau for making Tyler’s trip possible. They hooked him up with a hotel room, passes to the Clinton Library and a $250 gift card to use for pocket money. Thank you Little Rock for being such a swell place to live!

Turn Up the Lights!

It’s not shocking that light plays such an important role in the December holidays. It is, after all, the darkest month of the year when days are the shortest. Who wouldn’t want a little extra glow?

It’s also not a big surprise that the inventor of the light bulb introduced the idea of using strings of electric lights to decorate for the holidays. If you were riding the subway past Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park lab in December 1880, you would have undoubtedly seen his Christmas light display. His motive was product promotion, but his legacy is the tradition of adorning our homes in festive lights.

I’m thankful for Mr. Edison’s marketing ploy because I really enjoy seeing my town lit up for the holidays. This year I’m planning to take it on the road to visit some places along the “Arkansas Trail of Lights.” Sixty communities across the state participate with outdoor holiday light displays, parades and festivals. My first stop will be Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs, where they have over 4 million lights. It’s a sight to behold! I also want to make my way to Mountain View to see their historic court square festooned with lights and hopefully get a ticket to “Caroling in the Caverns” at Blanchard Springs Caverns. I imagine the sound of singing in an underground cave is magical. For a pre-Edison experience I hope to go to Historic Washington State Park to see the luminaries and take the candlelight tour.

Each of these destinations is an easy day trip from Little Rock and the state makes planning my trip a breeze with their interactive map of locations and itineraries for the different regions. Who knows? With the price of gas so low right now, I might just try to hit all 60 stops!

Blanchard Springs Caroling in the Caverns

Garvan Woodland Gardens

Candlelight Tour at Old Washington State Park

Arkansas Wine Country

You might not think of Arkansas when you think of wine, but my home state is actually one of the oldest and largest wine producers in the South. The groundwork for this started millions of years ago with the formation of the Ozark Mountains in the upper northwest corner of the state. These ancient mountains help create a beautiful sandy loam that has proven to be an exquisite terroir for growing wine grapes.

Vineyards at Chateau aux Arc

Bacchus blessed us again in the 19th century when German-Swiss immigrants began flowing into the area to work in the coal mines. The European transplants found that the conditions were perfect for planting vineyards like those they grew back home. Many of these vineyards are still in production today and touring them is a fun way to take in the beauty of the region.

Visiting the heart of Arkansas wine country is an easy day trip to the town of Altus, where it’s possible to taste over 100 different wines in just a five mile stretch. I recommend making the trip in spring when the dogwoods are in bloom or fall as the leaves turn and the grapes are ready for harvest.

There are about a dozen wineries in Arkansas, but for this post I’m focusing on three – Post Familie Vineyard (www.PostFamilie.com), Wiederkehr Wine Cellars
(www.WiederkehrWines.com) and Chateau aux Arc (www.ChateauAuxArc.com).

Post Familie Vineyard

Open daily for tours and tastings.
800-275-8423
1700 St. Mary’s Mountain Rd
Altus, AR 72821
www.PostFamilie.com

Viewing processing grapes with Joseph Post.

The Post Familie Vineyard specializes in wine made from the muscadine, a native of the southeastern United States. Because they are a native grape they are easy to care for with no spraying necessary. This quality also makes muscadines a great choice for homeowners. And if you select a self-pollinating variety such as ‘Noble’ you don’t have to plant both a male and female vine.

At Post you’ll find 100 acres in cultivation. Northwest Arkansas is the northern boundary of where this grape will grow so Post plants the most cold hardy varieties. The most coveted in the red is ‘Noble’ and in the white, ‘Carlos’. The winery processes in excess of 1,000 tons each year, which makes them the leading grower and buyer in the central U.S.

Wiederkehr Wine Cellars

Open daily except Sunday.
1-800-622-WINE
3324 Swiss Family Drive
Wiederkehr Village, AR 72821
www.WiederkehrWines.com

Al Wiederkehr and me in front of the Weinkeller Restaurant.

If you want to learn more about the German-Swiss immigrants who settled in Altus Wiederkehr Wine Cellars is a must see. Established in 1880 by Johann Andreas Wiederkehr it is the oldest winery in continuous operation in central United States.

The Champagne Cellar is a beautiful example of 19th century stone work. All the stones are dry laid with a mix of lime and sand for mortar. It was the first wine cellar on the property and now houses a restaurant where you can dine on dishes from the French, German and Italian regions of Switzerland. Even the tables and chairs were handmade on the property in the style of the Swiss Alps.

If you are a festival-goer head over to Wiederkehr in October for their annual weinfest. Flowing wine, great food and beautiful scenery; it’s a party you won’t want to miss.

Chateau aux Arc

Tasting Room open Monday – Saturday, Sunday noon to 5 p.m.
800-558-9463
8045 Champagne Drive-HWY 186
Altus, Arkansas 72821
www.ChateauAuxArc.com

Chateau aux Arc

If you’re into sustainability practices like I am, then you’ll love the Chateau aux Arc vineyard and winery. The owner, Audrey House, is doing everything she can to produce an extraordinary glass of wine while reducing her carbon footprint on the planet.

Audrey set her sights on viniculture after a 1997 tour of a California winery. It just took ten minutes for her to realize that growing grapes and producing wine was her life’s ambition. Less than a year later she bought ten acres of Chardonnay grapes in Arkansas.

Her philosophy of working with the land is evident from the vineyards to the tasting room. She built a series of ponds that take advantage of a natural spring. Fish in the ponds fertilize the irrigation water so there isn’t any need for chemical fertilizers. Cover crops are planted to attract beneficial insects and return nitrogen to the soil.

It’s a beautiful place with a beautiful tasting room.

Enjoying a glass of local wine with Audrey House.

Destination Northwest Arkansas

I know I know… You’re headed up to Bentonville, Arkansas to visit the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. And you’re going to love it because it’s one of the most amazing places in Arkansas. But did you know the whole northwest portion of the state is filled with exciting things to do as well as some of the best food the region has to offer? In fact four Bentonville restaurant chefs where invited to cook at the James Beard Foundation in New York because, well, they’re just that good!

Boston Mountains in Northwest Arkansas

To help you get the most out of the trip I’ve created a Northwest Arkansas itinerary for you, which includes art, gardens, and of course food!

  1. Pig Trail Scenic Byway – If it’s on your route be sure to take the short cut between Ozark and Fayetteville lovingly referred to as the Pig Trail. This winding two-lane highway through the Ozark Mountains offers spectacular views, especially in spring and fall. Jump on Highway 23 just past Ozark and enjoy 19 miles of beautiful scenery. To get to Fayetteville take a left on Highway 16 at Brashears.
  2. Coffee Break – The first stop on your way to Crystal Bridges is Fayetteville. It’s a university town with lots of charm. I always like to take a coffee break on my road trips so I can stretch my legs. At Mama Carmen’s Café I can do some good while I’m at it. Mama Carmen’s was born out of a partnership with the namesake who runs an orphanage in Guatemala City. The café purchases the beans grown on Mama Carmen’s farm as well as donating 10% of the profits to the orphanage. And the coffee is good to boot. www.mamacarmen.com
  3. Garden Tour – While in Fayetteville be sure to visit the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks. There are 12 gardens to discover plus a butterfly house. www.bgozarks.org
  4. Lunch – The next town you’ll pass through on your way to Bentonville is Rogers. The historic downtown area is delightful with brick roads and classic storefronts. There are a number of wonderful restaurants, but I suggest Heirloom Food + Wine. Everything is made from scratch using only fresh, local ingredients – they even make the bread and condiments! Every day they create a soup, salad and sandwich based on what’s in season. www.heirloomfoodandwine.com
  5. Garden Tour and Crystal Bridges – From Rogers it’s just a 15 minute drive to Bentonville home of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Either before or after visiting the museum take a stroll along the woodland trail at Compton Gardens. This public park is open from dawn to dusk and is a wonderful place to pick up ideas for using native plants. www.peelcompton.org  crystalbridges.org
  6. Dinner – At this point you’re probably looking to sit back, relax with a good meal. Petit Bistro is a French Mediterranean restaurant that is sure to please. Delicious 5 star recipes that is the perfect way to end a great day in northwest Arkansas. petitbistro.biz

Whew, that’s one very big day. If you decide to make it a weekend trip, I suggest the 21c Museum Hotel. It’s within walking distance of the museum and located right on the town square. Remember, there are so many more things to do here and all over Arkansas. The best way to find them is to visit Arkansas.com.

Arkansas Eats

As an Arkansas native I’ve always known that we have some stellar places to eat. Everywhere I go in the state there is a fantastic feast waiting at a restaurant, diner or roadside stand. Which is good because I love food.

The state is famous for southern staples such as fried catfish, barbeque and pie but our food is also influenced by our proximity to the southwestern flair of Texas. As we are an agricultural community a traditional Arkansas meal always includes a generous helping of something that was grown nearby. Purple hull peas slow cooked with a ham hock, cornbread, sliced tomatoes and fried okra are all sides you’ll find on the dinner table in Arkansas.

We’ve never strayed far from our culinary roots, but the national trend for locally sourced ingredients has produced a number of sensational restaurants that specialize in home-style cooking with a contemporary twist. How about catfish served over a bed of hoppin’ John and fried okra? Or perhaps a grilled pork chop with creamed corn, peppers and almonds. Are you hungry yet?

Arkansans aren’t the only folks who recognize what our state has to offer. Recently Forbes Travel Guides included our capital city Little Rock as one of five secret foodie spots with shot outs to Ashley’s, Ciao Baci, ZaZa’s Fine Salad + Wood-Oven Pizza Co. and Whole Hog Cafe.

Arkansas Farm to Table Restaurants

In addition to these recommendations I have a few others that I suggest you try for a plate full of local flavor featuring seasonal ingredients.

Brave New Restaurant – Get the mixed grill that includes a variety of grilled meats served with an herbed demi glace.

South on Main – This is where you will find the fried catfish and hoppin’ John. Yum!

Trio’s – In the summer they have a farmers’ market plate with seasonal vegetables that’s wonderful.

Table 28 – The restaurant offers unusual interpretations of southern favorites. Make reservations for a seat at the chef’s table (table 28) for an exclusive 6-course meal prepared and served by Chef Rains.

The Root Café – Great burgers and sweet potato fries. A definite must if you have a hankering for breakfast on a Saturday morning.

Capital Hotel Bar and Grill – The Friday lunch special is red sauce braised brisket with rice bread and chow chow. That’s what I’m talking about!

The Hive – If you love a good pork chop this is the place to go. Chef Matthew McClure sources the pork from a local farmer raising heritage pigs known for their exceptionally tender and flavorful meat. Oh, and be sure to stop in at the nearby Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. The current exhibit is a collection of French modern masters including Matisse, Cezanne and Degas. It will be on view until July 7, 2014.

28 Springs – You can’t come south and not eat chicken and dumplings. Savory herb gravy and a flaky biscuit crust make these some of the best chicken and dumplings to be had.

The Farmer’s Table Café – One look at the breakfast menu and you’ll know why this place is the talk of the town. The Hash Skillet is to die for.

HEIRLOOM food + wine – A glass of wine and a platter filled with artisanal cheeses, seasonal fruit, walnuts, honeycomb and fig-rosemary crackers plus an amiable companion? Is there a better way to end the day?

Special thanks to Lyndi over at NWAFoodie.com for recommending some great restaurants in northwest Arkansas!

Fried Dill Pickles


It’s astounding to me but it wasn’t until 1963 that someone thought to fry a dill pickle. I know, right? Bernell “Fatman” Austin was the first to serve these treats at the Duchess Drive In in Atkins, Arkansas and they’ve been a southern staple ever since. If you don’t believe me try them and get back to me. Here’s a recipe that is similar to those served at a local catfish joint.

Ingredients
1 quart jar dill pickle slices
2 teaspoon red pepper
2 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoon black pepper
1 eggs
8 ounces milk
5 – 6 drops hot sauce
2 cups flour
vegetable oil

Instructions
Mix egg, milk, hot sauce, and 1 tablespoon of flour in bowl and set aside.

In a separate bowl combine the red pepper, paprika, black pepper and 2 cups of flour.

In a large, deep skillet or fry cooker heat vegetable oil to 375 degrees.

Dip the pickle slices in the egg and milk mixture, then dredge them through the flour and spices, then the egg and milk again and then the flour once more.

Next drop the battered pickles into the hot oil and fry until they float to the surface and turn a nice golden brown.

Serve immediately.

We Eat A Lot of Pie in Arkansas

I’ve heard that food and music hold the personality of a region most strongly. After a recent road trip  I feel safe in taking it one step further and specify that a local favorite dessert really shows off a place’s personality.

Whether they’re fruit, nut, cream, meringue or cheese, baked, fried or frozen — pies come in a dazzling range of combinations. We like our pie in the south. The baker who masters the perfect flour to butter ratio in a crust is spoken about with the utmost reverence, given a place of honor in the community and undoubtedly, asked to bring a pie to every gathering until the end of time. While pies can be graham cracker or cookie crusted, hot or cold, latticed or exposed on top, they must all be delicious to survive in these parts.

Now you’ve probably heard the phrase easy as pie, but I’m not a fan. It strikes me as flippant. The creation of pies shouldn’t be reduced to anything less than an art. Bakers mix a tremendous amount care, thought and tradition into their pies, and most of them have worked on their technique for years. Respect for my favorite dessert led me to travel from Little Rock to Northwest Arkansas along Highway 65 in a quest to experience Arkansas’ pies.

Banana Split Pie

We first stopped at the Wagon Wheel in Greenbrier. Restaurants like these work as anchors and a hub of community life in small towns— a place to connect at lunch or celebrate with the team after a game. Don’t be fooled by this restaurant’s nondescript exterior. It boasts a spectacular spread and is known for its meringue pies. The bakers in this kitchen know how to whip egg whites and sugar into heavenly bliss. I had a banana split pie that had about three inches of meringue on top. So decadent!

Strawberry Pie

Every one of the restaurants we visited has a top pie, a pie that’s flavor is discussed like a legend, and at the Skylark Café in Leslie, that pie is strawberry pie. Cool and refreshing with impeccable balance between sweet and tangy, this dessert is a summer staple not easily forgotten. The filling is just the right consistency, not too thick and packed with juicy strawberry pieces. I dined on the porch and took in the café’s equally charming exterior. Originally a home, they remodeled the building into a restaurant, painted the outside turquoise with red trim and surrounded it with garden art and potted plants. Save me a seat on the porch. I’ll be back.

In addition to the sugary ecstasy, I also experienced a treat for the eyes. Highway 65 winds elaborately, offering dramatic views of the mountains and valleys, and the October leaf display has earned the region the nickname the New England of the Ozarks.

We detoured to Gilbert, an old railroad town with one sign that reads ‘population 33’ and another that reads ‘coolest in the state.’ They’re referring to temperature, but it works on multiple levels. The little town sits right on the edge of the pristine Buffalo National River. We had to pull over, not for pie, but for a view of the water.

The production crew and I stopped for lunch at Big Springs Barbecue in St. Joe after that, and I ate a bacon-filled “sammwhich.” It was nice to taste something fat-laden and savory to break up all the sweet. Plus they roast the meat themselves. I sampled an apple pie, and tried to wheedle the crust recipe out of the baker to no avail.

Apple Pie

In Jasper, we stopped at the Arkansas House, a restaurant that uses organic, locally produced ingredients, to learn the subtleties of the nut pie. Janet Morgan, the owner, showed me how to make her signature black walnut pie. Time, she said, makes all the difference between a mediocre dessert and a perfect dessert.

Black Walnut Pie

Top Six Must-See List for Arkansas This Fall

I’ve always known that Arkansas is the place to be and now the secret is getting out. Just this year Little Rock was named a top ten midsized city by Kiplingers and Editor’s Choice by Outside magazineIn this guest post Arkansas Tourism Director Joe David Rice shares six great places to visit in Arkansas during one of the best times to come – fall.

All four of Arkansas’s seasons have their charms, but fall’s my favorite. That first crisp morning after the dog days of summer recharges my flagging batteries and reminds me that cooler days are coming. Shown below, in no particular order, are half a dozen options for entertaining autumn getaways in The Natural State:

1) Driving the length of Crowley’s Ridge Parkway in eastern Arkansas should be on everyone’s bucket list. For nearly 200 miles, this national scenic byway traverses the winding terrain of Crowley’s Ridge, a fascinating geological anomaly extending from Helena-West Helena north to the Arkansas-Missouri state line. Civil War battlefields, historic districts, cemeteries, state parks, antique shops, golf courses and some fine barbecue joints line the route – and the fall foliage can be stunning.

2) Checking out the harvest in southeastern Arkansas is worth a trip, especially when you work in visits to Lakeport Plantation, historic Arkansas City and the Japanese internments sites at McGehee and Rohwer. Bargain shoppers will enjoy a stop at Paul Michael Company in Lake Village.

3) Walking the grounds at Crystal Bridges is a true delight. We’ve all heard about the outstanding collection of masterworks in the Moshe Safdie-designed complex of buildings, but don’t forget the 120-acre site includes 3.5 miles of splendid trails – complete with outdoor sculptures, picturesque bridges and a gurgling stream. Park your car on the square in downtown Bentonville and walk to nearby Compton Gardens where you’ll catch trails winding through the lush landscapes to the museum.

4) Floating the lower end of the Buffalo National River (from Buffalo Point down to Rush – or on to the White River if you have time) can be a wonderful fall experience. With the summer crowds pretty much gone, your chances of seeing wildlife are that much better. The gravel bars and bluffs provide great scenery, particularly if you can time your trip with the peak of fall colors. Bring your camera and poke around a bit in Rush, one of the state’s only surviving ghost towns.

5) Touring Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs is always a special treat, but it’s even better with the enchanting Splash of Glass exhibit featuring 225 pieces of James Hayes’ handcrafted art (through September). This 210-acre peninsula, located on the shores of Lake Hamilton south of Hot Springs, includes 3.8 miles of easy-to-negotiate trails. For those not up for a good walk, tours by golf carts are available.

6) Last but not least on the list is hiking the Cossatot River Corridor Trail. Maybe a bit lengthy for most at 12 miles, this southwestern Arkansas treasure can be broken down into more manageable segments. There’s no better place to grasp an appreciation of the Ouachitas than along this relatively unknown footpath which parallels a beautiful mountain stream.

Between football games, county fairs and festivals, fall in Arkansas can slip away before you know it. So grab your calendar and set aside a couple of days for yourself. If none of the above ideas appeal to you, check out www.Arkansas.com for plenty of others.

Buffalo, Yoga and Black Walnut Pie

I recently spent a great couple of days around the Jasper area shooting some segments for an upcoming episode of my Garden Home television show. This scenic town is nestled in the Ozark Mountains and surrounded by the natural beauty of the Buffalo River.

The Buffalo River Valley

My trip included a stay at the historic Arkansas House. This inn is ideally located along scenic Highway 7 with easy access to both the Buffalo River and Ozark National Forest. Janet Morgan, owner of the Arkansas House with her husband, Joseph, graciously taught me how to make her famous Black Walnut Pie.

Janet showed me how to make the famous Arkansas House Black Walnut Pie.

I also visited with the Ratchford family on their farm. Originally founded in the 1950s, Ratchford Farms grazes buffalo, elk, and cattle on a 500 acre spread. The farm is located along the Buffalo River, which provides a beautiful area for the cattle to roam the open meadows and drink from pure spring water.

Jethro mugs for the camera and for a treat.

Finally, I visited with Holly and Matt Krepps, owners of the Circle Yoga Shala. They were kind enough to walk me around the 25 acre working homestead located on Shiloh Mountain. The property includes a fruit orchard, grape vineyard, pastures, and walking trails. They also showed me some easy, but beneficial yoga poses for gardeners.

A little yoga before gardening.

It was a wonderful trip and I highly recommend spending a few days in this beautiful part of our state.

Ten Cool Things I Discovered in Chicago

There was lots to see at the IGC show.

Whatever way you spin it, Chicago is a great getaway. Pair a week there with a gardening conference, fabulous fall weather, and interior design shopping and you get a better picture of why I loved my visit to the Windy City. My production crew and I headed north for the annual Independent Garden Center Show where we met up with old friends, bloggers, Garden Home partners, and a whole slew of Chicagoans ready to show off their city. These were a few of my favorite experiences and finds:

Peterson Garden Project

The Peterson Garden Project is a collection of Chicago’s urban gardens started by my friend LaManda Joy and inspired by WWII victory gardens. I love American history, so pair this with my appreciation of community gardening and you’ll understand just how much I enjoyed learning about them.

Moss Garden at Garfield Park Conservatory

I spent a morning at the Garfield Park Conservatory and each of their nearly dozen garden rooms were fabulous. While the outdoor garden drew my attention, it was the moss garden full of ferns and other tropical growth that really transported me to a different place.

Artiflor

Artiflor is a Dutch company that had a booth of home and garden décor at IGC. Besides the fact that the two owners were a couple of the nicest men I’ve met in a long time, they had some fabulous and fun designs.

Topsy-turvy Pots

As I was rushing to find the room where I was meant to speak, I got distracted by this funky, and functional, garden sculpture. I can’t remember who made it, but I sure do wish I had bought one.

Colorful Dramm Water Tools

Having lived through this summer’s Arkansas drought, I’ve become well acquainted with my hoses, sprinklers, and water tools. Coming across the Dramm booth at IGC was like stepping into the sunlight! These watering tools are not only functional, they’re beautiful! I wanted one of everything, all in different colors.

Jellies at the Shedd Aquarium

Speaking of colors, I have never seen color composition like the jellyfish exhibit at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium. We got an early morning pass and had those silent wonders all to ourselves. With about 10 different species in the exhibit, I found myself simply mesmerized. Luckily we had penguins to visit post-jellyfish, otherwise I may still be there!

Salvaged Metal Cello

My friend Julia Edelmann from Buckingham Interior Design has a simple, stylish and somewhat quirky sense of design, and this upright bass shows that off. It was resting in a corner of her office, and she mentioned that it was made of recycled WWI aircraft metal! She bought it for her a son, a cello player, but it ended up in her shop. Sadly, it didn’t fit into my carry-on.

Jute Light Fixture

Julia also brought us to an apartment in downtown Chicago that she had recently redesigned. While the views stole the show, this particular light fixture made from jute really centered the breakfast nook and gave the airy space a cozy feel.

Skydeck

We began our final day in Chicago at the former Sears Tower, 103 floors up at the SkyDeck. While a couple members of my crew were nervous about the glass-floor lookout, I couldn’t wait to experience that view!

All in all, it was a fabulous trip full of good finds and great memories. I can’t wait to head back to IGC again next year.

New York City Trip – 5 Places I Never Miss

For a guy who loves his fruits and veggies, the “Big Apple” can’t be beat. New York City is a place that inspires me every single time I visit, and I was lucky to be there early this summer. I’ve been going to New York for years, and while I love hunting for new restaurants or book stores or furniture shops, there are few staples that I can’t seem to pass up when in the city.


The Met

Located in the heart of Manhattan, The Met is as much an architectural gem as it is art museum. Besides the fact that it’s one of the world’s largest art galleries- it holds over 2 million permanent works!- it also is packed with an incredible array of temporary exhibits that I like to research before I arrive. If you get to visit, I recommend the rooftop garden. With a café and bar, it’s the perfect place to sit and ogle the Manhattan skyline and Central Park.

The Whitney

As much as I adore The Met, it’s the much smaller and less well-known Whitney Museum of American Art that I turn to first. I have always been a fan of American History, and the museum focuses on 20th and 21st-centuray American Art, pieces that tell the story of our country’s modern history. My favorite aspect of the museum it that it sources many of its works from living artists and showcases young and upcoming artists each year.

Theatre

Whether it’s off Broadway or on, the theatre scene in New York is unbeatable. I always try to make time for at least one show, and on my most recent visit I got to see Wicked! I’ve been in the audiences of some of the most famous and long-running shows like Cats and The Lion King, and gotten to be one of only a few thousand people who have seen shorter-lived productions, but you just can’t go to New York and NOT see a show. I think it’s actually a state law…

NY Public Lib

I never seem to spend as much time as I want to at the New York Public Library, a space whose history is almost as lovely as the building itself. The library originated in the 19th century from the combined efforts of all different kinds of groups- grass-roots organizations, social libraries, and private donations from bibliophiles and philanthropists alike. Each time I visit the newly-restored Rose Main Reading Room I feel like I’ve entered one of the great cathedrals of Europe- the ceiling is painted with murals that give the impression that you’re actually look through the ceiling, up to the sky- but it’s the thick red quarry tile from Wales that gives the room its powerful echo, reminding you just how big the space is.

Union Square Farmers Market

You can take a farm boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy! New York may be famous for its restaurant scene, but on a breezy day there’s nowhere better to be than the Union Square Farmers Market. At the peak of the season, there are almost 150 farmers, fishermen and bakers sharing their New York-sourced goods, but there are also 60,000 shoppers enjoying the cooking & canning demonstrations, recycling & composting how-to’s and general camaraderie of the market. I recommend grabbing some local cheese and tomatoes and fresh bread, sitting down in the grass, and watching the world pass by.

Best of all, New York is the perfect place for people-watching. No matter when you go, or where you stay, just make sure you have time to wander through the different boroughs and imagine your life as a New Yorker.