St. Louis´ Other Wild Side

Japanese Garden

Immersed, I took in the sounds of screeching birds and pushed huge leaves from my path as I made my way to investigate the bursts of color that were still just a blur in the distance. I pressed on. After dodging the occasional puddle, I discovered the tropical pink pineapples, deep violet banana blossoms sprouting from their tree top perches some 25-feet above me and bright white orchids, all sprinkled with water droplets. The air felt even more moist than the flowers looked and I realized it was at least 20 degrees hotter than only just moments ago, yet somehow the sound of rushing streams made it seem less sweltering. As I wiped the sweat from my forehead, I almost forgot this was early March in downtown St. Louis.

Ottoman Garden
Ottoman Garden

I thought to myself that a botanical garden was an entertainment option most people don’t take advantage of in the big city. It was then that I realized that St. Louis was more than an arch, blues and riverboat gambling—it could be a natural oasis too. The Missouri Botanical Garden’s Climatron Conservatory hosts not only these plants but also displays an array of exotic animals, like poison frogs and puffer fish, and is just one of the 31 gardens and conservatories that stretch over some seventy-nine acres.

When back outdoors, I followed a walkway through electric blue magnolias and fountains, going from garden to garden and it even afforded me a pass by the 1850s Victorian estate of Englishman Henry Shaw, who founded the garden in 1859.

The English Woodland Garden certainly made up in aroma what it lacked in color. Among the simple green and brown, with only an occasional burst of yellow daffodils, I felt my eyes almost sting from the strong pine scent. The Boxwood Garden was full of walled hedges arranged in a maze I could have easily gotten lost in had they been taller than my knee. Manicured in the shape of an ancient emblem, this garden seemed to be stolen right out of another time. I stayed longer there than I did at any other garden, taking my time admiring the precision and craftsman ship—and resting.

Japanese Garden
Japanese Garden

After a break, I was eager to see the famous Seiwa-en Japanese landscape garden and it wasn’t long before I started noticing the perfectly rounded bushes and carefully drawn lines in the sand around them, known as Karesansui. Amidst the stone walkways and willows exploding in lavender blossoms was an old bridge where I fed the hungry aquatic animals below. I tossed the food over the side and had to laugh as I watched the ducks in fierce competition for my meager gifts of sustenance with the giant koi fish, who were considerably bigger. The downfall of this visit, aside from sore legs, was that I came too early to see the orchid show, which employees say is a favorite among visitors, who come from all over the world. They´ve met people who come from as far away as South Africa. Not bad for $8 a head, leg workout included free of charge.

The next day I found myself wiping my brow again as I entered the tropical conservatory at the Butterfly House in Faust Park. Approximately 60 species of butterflies from all over the world filled the room. Their sizes varied from as small as my palm to as big as my hand. Amongst the huge tropical plants, flashes of blood red, black, lime green, lemon yellow, purple and light and dark blues appeared and disappeared in the same instant right in front of me making the experience as nerve-racking as it was exhilarating, mostly because of the caution signs warning not to touch the butterflies, as it could injure or kill them. I found myself adopting a walking rhythm of slow, leery starts and panicked, abrupt stops when one would dart out in front of me. I regretted bringing my purse too. After a few accidental swings and close calls, I learned to keep it clutched to my side. Elsewhere in the Butterfly House are some not so desirable creatures like giant cockroaches, rhinoceros beetles and millipedes. The House, started eight years ago by Sohpia M. Sachs, is an educational facility, after all. So, though I groaned through it making faces, I figured it is only fair to display a full range of the Earth’s bugs, beautiful or not and I can put up with anything with a mere $6 admission.

The place that was most expensive and farthest to get to may have been the best of all three. The Meramec Caverns, located in Stanton, Mo., an hour outside the city, opened to the public in 1933. Further exploration revealed 26 miles of underground passages and as I found out, those 26 miles held a past full of rich history, natural phenomena and, surprisingly, pop culture.

It was the first time on this trip I was chilly as my tour group entered the first and largest of the cave’s rooms—the ballroom. It is not a nickname. Socials were held here in the 1930s as much as Boy Scout meetings are today. Complete with a disco ball, it houses up to 3,000 people. As green, blue, yellow and red lights lit the way, we were led through winding walkways with some low ceilings and up 58 slippery steps, which the guide later admitted to me was tourists’ least favorite part. One of our first stops was at Loot Rock, where Jesse James and his crew hid out from police. A million scenarios ran through my mind when the tour guide the pointed out the bear dens no more than ten feet away from it. We were also shown secret places where gun powder was made during the Civil War.

Hollywood has even been attracted to the cave on occasion. We were shown the spots where scenes were shot for Lassie, the famous fight between Tom Sawyer and Injun Joe in the film Tom and Huck and an episode of the show People Are Funny, in which two newlyweds got tricked into staying in one of the caves for a ten-day honeymoon.

It is a magnificent cavern that extends 364 feet below the ground and seven stories above it. The most fascinating parts of the tour for me were the formations, taking on shapes of a wine table, a curtain of stalactites up to 70 feet long and Onyx Mountain. This 33 million year old underground mountain is the 3rd largest in the world. While one side glows in peach, white and pale blue hues, the other side was black and dying from a lack of oxygen. Maybe the most intriguing feature of all was what the locals affectionately call Adam and Eve, a stalactite and stalagmite directly aligned and are the closest in the world to meeting and forming a column. On my way out, I decided that I would pay another $15 and do it all over again if I didn’t have to be back home the next day.

These special places showed me people can escape tourist traps and get to see what else there is to a big city other than concrete and congestion. When I looked past the typical big buildings, crowded bars and constant road rage, I found a whole new wild side to St. Louis.

Up, Up and Away with Quique Dacosta

Quique Dacosta has been one of the skyrocketing new generation leaders of traditional Spanish vanguard signature cuisine in the past few years and at the age of 37, he has been experimenting and researching for example, the uses of aloe vera plants in their embryonic stage. He didn’t know if aloe vera was even edible at that point during it’s development when he began his trials.  However, he had known of it’s emulsifying properties. He told me, it was simply a process of trial and error until he managed to create the delectably edible. His investigative spirit has earned him global recognition, a host of awards and two well earned Michelin stars.

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He totally understands that Spain’s current status is not due to chance. He is part of the 4th generation of Spanish chefs who embrace and expound gratitude for those who came before them. Being at the very pinnacle of the vanguard epicurean movement, he continues breaking free, without boundaries, and his design aesthetics are all a part of Dacosta’s impeccably flawless creations, including his re-engineering and transformation of the live sensations and aromas of surf and turf, utilizing the most cutting edge, marvelous products on the market to do so.

Face to Face at El Poblet

  • Mar: Firstly, how would you describe your cuisine?
  • Quique: Vanguard Spanish cooking.
  • Mar: The economic crisis and El Poblet?
  • Quique: I believe it is somewhat complicated for my team, my clients and I was born during a recessive economy so I have had to be more prudent. Nevertheless, we shall overcome this.
  • Mar: Define your palate.
  • Quique: I do not have a favourite dish or preferred flavour. I like just about all.
  • Mar: Can you tell us about your star ingredients?
  • Quique: To name a few: marine algaes, sea lettuces, almonds, Valencian oranges, embryonic vegetables, tuna belly, sea urchins, Dénia red prawns and the Diabetic Green Sugar plant.
  • Mar: What motivated your culinary career?
  • Quique: By accident actually. I arrived in Dénia from Jarandilla de La Vera to spend a summer vacation when I was 14. I was terribly bored and didn’t know anybody. I decided to get a part time job at the local pizzeria. This had been my first contact with a restaurant. It was not exactly a culinary position, however, it sparked the flames of culinary interest.
  • Mar: Tell us about your latest bill of fare.
  • Quique: The idea was initially very clear and quintessential. I have reconstructed Montgó Nature Reserve and the shore, that is to transform the live sensations and the aromas utilising marvelous culinary products and state of the art kitchen equipment.

The Latest Taster’s Carte

  • Snack, crackle & crisp toast snacks: Reggiano Parmesano, Black olive, Walnut, Greek Phyllo and Dried Fruits
  • Trufa blanca de Montgó: White truffles filled with parmesano, fresh goat cheese & blended with white truffles and sprinkled with 5 wild mushroom dust
  • La Bruma: Steamed snow peas, baby lima beans, embryonic stage sweet peas, aromatic herbs, pinenuts and sprouts in a garden steamed
  • Moshi: Cockles, langoustines and pansies in broth.
  • Impresionismo La Roca: Fresh oysters and baby squid in gel
  • Expresionismo rojo: Inspired by painter Mark Rotho, red mullet with saffron
  • Dessert 1: Budding cherries with crumbs of pastry
  • Dessert 2: Green melon, cantaloupe, dried fruits and mandarin smear

Additionally, there were 5 white wines that paired perfectly. “Our point of view? It was a magical experience in every aspect.”

Restaurant El Poblet

Centre Les Marines
Km 2.5
Dénia, Alicante
Reservations: 96. 557. 4179
Website:Restaurant El Poblet

Email: Restaurant and Reservations

Riding The Crest of the Waves with Chef & Author Angel Leon

Tartar de Gamba Blanca con Plancton - Chef Angel Leon
Riding the crest of the waves with a totally evolutionary vanguard cuisine offering an experience he entitles calm gastronomy is one of a kind Chef Ángel León.

The Sea Against The Current

Chef & Author Ángel León

At his Puerto de Santa Maria restaurant Aponiente, Ángel has conjured up an epicurism with the enchantment of the world under the sea. He has proven himself a master investigator of Plankton, marine lettuces and algaes, which he filters in his own concoctions and gastronomic gadgets. Additionally, he is an expert in fish, shellfish and seafoods and their preparations. Furthermore, he has invented CLARIMAX for clarifying liquid ingredients to create transparent consommés and utilises olive pits in place of carbon for braising, grilling and barbecuing on open flame.

His pure Andalucian hedonism has brought him many awards at Madrid Fusion and on Canal Cocina T.V. His father, a medical doctor and researcher coupled with his medical doctor mother have instilled in him the investigative nature. His ultimate research project at the University of Cádiz derived in the development of the state of the art CLARIMAX, a kitchen machine constructed by JP SELECTA in Barcelona. Whether coaching, cooking or fishing, Ángel is detail oriented and a perfectionist. His inspiration, inventiveness and “the product” culinary philosophy has enabled him to dazzle diners with his dramatically provocative presentations at your table. His extraordinaire vanguard culinary methodology, unique ingredients an enrapturing touches from his home land all provide the most incredible dining experience one can ever have.

This is an adventure in which you shall savour the mysteries of taste, aroma and textures inspired by the evocative food notes in Ángel´s 22 seat unique magical Soho Manhattan style little restaurant. Furthermore, he has catalogued 100.000 marine species and has constituted algaes, marine flora and marine fauna as the most quintessential of his extensive work with phyto-plankton and the ideal means of culinary diathermy for heating.


  • Mar: Your culinary philosophy ?
  • Ángel: The product and no chemicals. I specialize in the natural.
  • Mar: Who are your mentors ?
  • Ángel: Chef Joel Robuchon of 3 Michelin star Restaurant L´Atelier where I worked in France for seven years and for three years in Toledo at La Casa de Templo where I was learning about the historic roots of Spanish culture including the Arabic Moorish and the Sefardic.
  • Mar: The sea ?
  • Ángel: I have always had an obsession with the sea and I enjoy fishing with my dad, cleaning, cutting and preparing fish.
  • Mar: What does Plankton taste like ?
  • Ángel: Here is a sample. The palate tours many new territories of taste while submerging your senses in an astonishing awakening. Plankton contains the highest measurement of Omega 3 thus, this is for health. How would you describe the taste of Plankton ?
  • Mar: It tastes sort of like a fusion between creamed spinach with a slightly oily finish similar to extra virgin olive oil or wild salmon – must be the Omega 3 consistency along with tasting notes of fresh marine herbs, algaes and sea salt perfectly merged together. I like it.
  • Mar: Thank-you. Do you fish for Aponiente ?
  • Ángel: Yes I do, however I am also very community minded and I coach crews on ships and small fishing vessels who are working for 15 Euros hourly. I have taken 30 day fishing excursions bringing in 50 tons of fresh fish. I have also wanted to mention, that I have sourced fish in Cádiz for 4 Euros a kilo and in Madrid these species sell for 40 Euros a kilo.
  • Mar: I believe you would do quite well in politics! What exactly are you doing with plankton ?
  • Ángel: Plankton groves. I filter 1 gram in 17.000 litres of water. The Omega 3 content is the most numerous of all edible species and / or plant life. Plankton is the cellular origin of all.
  • Mar: I understand that you have invented some gourmet gadgets and kitchen machinery ?
  • Ángel: Firstly, CLARIMAX which clarifies a large variety of liquids and soups. I have also created a micro algae diathermy which is a robot capable of making liquids transparent in color. Through extensive research and investigation, I have found that olive pits can be used instead of toxic carbon for grilling, barbecuing and braising of fish, vegetables and meats and the olive pits impart their golden nectar on the exteriors of the products one is grilling.
  • Mar: Do you have any research investigation projects scheduled for 2010 ?
  • Ángel: I am in the process of a joint venture, in which we are collaborating on a baby foodline with a Japanese manufacturer.
  • Mar: And your dream trip ?
  • Ángel: To lose myself in the Alaskan Arctic on a boat.
  • Mar: The crisis ?
  • Ángel: Complicated, hard. I have 22 seats and 11 employee team staff members. Crazy !
  • Mar: Science and ideas ?
  • Ángel: My parents are doctors and medical researchers so I have always respected science, the sea and the culinary arts. Day to day, ideas come to me.
  • Mar: Have you thought to author a book ?
  • Ángel: In March 2010, my trilingual book shall be launched in the market in: Madrid Capital, Washington D.C. & Paris, France. The title: MAR CONTRA CORRIENTE which signifies THE SEA AGAINST THE CURRENT. This is not a run of the mill cookbook. This is a book that comes from passion and fully lives up to the challenges of the title.
  • Mar: I look forward to seeing you in Madrid in March and reading your first book. Tell us, what was your first elaborated recipe at home ?
  • Ángel: Well, my 1st recipe prepared at home was a caramel custard dessert. My mother was livid with me for the tremendous mess I made in the kitchen. I was sort of a Dennis the Menace!
  • Mar: Do you cook at home ?
  • Ángel: Never. I enjoy my mortadella hero sandwich and an ice cold coca cola.
  • Mar: Last but not least, music in the kitchen while working ?
  • Ángel: Instrumental jazz & instrumental flamenco can work. I am also a believer that ”in the stillness of silence is the power.”


An array of perfectly pairing wines by the glass to accompany each dish

  • Salmuera Gaditana: a marine based antipasto palete opener
  • Magnificant Marine Plankton foam, fresh clams, mussel s & Moroccan lemon
  • Freshly caught marvelous mackerel sashimi marinated in sea salt
  • Exotic & delicious Marinated gilt bream and wasabi saffron infusion
  • Phenomenal grilled sardines on olive pits with spearmint confit
  • Perfectly prepared Lula Portuguese squid puntilla calamar ravioli filled with squid stew interior

Incredibly white fleshed silky textured whole fish Borriquete or Burro fish and in English: Rubber Lip Grunt fish, served with mint tea consommé. Ángel explained that he was going to filet the fish for Pilar and I at the table because the stomach of this fish is unedible.

The outstanding Dessert Wines:

  • San Domingo Jerez Pale Cream a Chocolate perfume with sour orange concoction
  • Dandelion flower & Granny Apple Burst ! (And it does burst!)

Restauarante Aponiente

Puerto Escondido 6
Calle Ribera de Marisco
El Puerto de Santa Maria, Cádiz 11500

Book : 956. 851. 870

Website : Aponiente Restaurante in Cadiz

Edited By Janet Song

Dining Dëco Style with Joaquin Felipe Peira

Chef Joaquin Invention
Chef Joaquin
Chef Joaquin

Located in the luxurious five star, award winning Derby Hotel Urban, Dëco is overseen by one of the country´s most exceptional Chefs, downtown Madrid native Joaquin Felipe Peira.  Pulsing with all the excitement of a modern-day cosmopolitan Madrid, Restaurante Europa Dëco is one of the most talked about centre city restaurant venues. Joaquin Felipe Peira´s penchant and enormous talent for multicultural, 21st century, urban-global-twist cuisine are obvious in his unforgettable inventions and presentations. And… the culinary stars of his fashion plates are the phenomenal raw market materials he has personally selected.

Joaquin & Margaux – Ear to Ear

  • Mar: What are some of your objectives for 2008?
  • Joaquin: Since we opened on February 5th, 2005, my point of view is, the 1st year is about doing, making & producing, (hacer). The 2nd year is positioning your restaurant or business, (positional). Now we are in our 3rd year, the maintaining, (maintainer).
  • Mar: Do you believe the culinary arts are an innate talent or that Chefs can study and practice?
  • Joaquin: One can study, learn the techniques, prepare formally and practice.
  • Mar: How do you define your cuisine and what is your culinary philosophy?
  • Joaquin: New tendency, urban multicultural, like in most capital cities, New York City, Barcelona, Sydney & Madrid.
  • Mar: What are the star ingredients at the moment?
  • Joaquin: Red tuna, Iberian Ham, Natural Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Corn Bread.
  • Mar: Where are you from and what are the origins of Peira, your maternal surname?
  • Joaquin: I was born in the Centre of Madrid and my mother is from The Pyrenees of Áragon.
  • Mar: What was the first recipe that you elaborated and where?
  • Joaquin: French fried potatoes at home.
  • Mar: From your experience, do you consider that men and women have distinct palate differences when they request their selections at a restaurant?
  • Joaquin: I believe it is individual tastes verses gender.
  • Mar: I have read that when designing your plates, you have been inspired by vanguard architecture?
  • Joaquin: Firstly, it is organization of the ingredients as they all have a function. Pyramids, squares, cubes, straight lines, geometrics, colors, textures and visual balance.
  • Mar: What are your plans for the Spring Season bill of fare?
  • Joaquin: Red tuna, wild mushrooms, fresh vegetables, fruits, fresh salad greens & herbs. Market and the Spring Season.
  • Mar: What are your dream trips?
  • Joaquin: Hong Kong and Paris.
  • Mar: What had been your motives and inspiration to study the culinary arts?
  • Joaquin: Secure formation for employment and continuing formation for growth & enhancement.
  • Mar: Tell us, I heard the Condé Nast Award for best Hotel 2007 was given to Hotel Derby Urban.
  • Joaquin: Yes, the 2007 Condé Nast Award for the best European Hotel.
  • Mar: What are some of the international projects that you have been involved with and which Chefs have you been teaming up with?
  • Joaquin: Firstly, Carme Ruscadella and I were at the Vanguard Japanese International Ecological Trade Fair AICHI EXPO in Tokyo. Additionally, I participated at the Norwegian Sea Products Council Event and at Madrid Fusion 2008 in January, I was on the Dessert Board of judges. My permanent projects also include Club Gourmet´s Corporate Clientel and Chef Paco Roncero and I have been doing numerous promotions for Spain´s olive oil industry and Iberian Ham producers.
  • Mar: How is your understanding of English?
  • Joaquin: Gastronomic vocabulary is good and the necessities which I have learned for travelling and communicating. Would you like to have lunch?
  • Mar: A Lite Lunch! A very lite lunch! At Europa Dëco, you wine and dine like royalty. The unforgettable lunch once again.

Chef’s Specialties

  • White Wine: 2007 Conclasse from Sitios de Bodega D.O. Rueda
  • Fresh Home Baked Corn Bread
  • Hot out of the oven Grapes & Seeds Black Bread
  • Palate Opener Mini canapé Red Tuna with a Manchego Pisto Bed
  • Freshly caught Cockles (berberechos) Al Vapor on a bed of escarole, red oak leaf, radicchio, rucola & sprouts. Served with a Yellow Tomato & Golden Yellow Bell Pepper Gazpacho.
  • Seared Sea Bass with Marine Algaes & Tempura. Quite a Frank Gehry Concoction!
  • Red Wine: D.O. La Rioja Ysios 100% Tempranillo Grape Reserva 2002
  • Kobe filet mignon dotted with sea salt & light drizzle of extra virgin olive oil served with fresh aromatic field greens
  • Dessert Wine: Enrique Mendoza´s Moscatel De La Marina D.O. Alicante
  • Green & Orange Melon Sorbet
  • Joaquin´s Chocolate Sins with one Red Rose
  • Espresso

Contact & Location

Hotel Derby Urban

Carrera San Jerónimo 34

Metro Lines 1,2 & 3: Puerta del Sol or Sevilla
Book a Table: 91. 787. 7770

Amsterdam – The Dam Video

The Dam of Amsterdam is located in the middle of the downtown center. It’s a meeting place where many locals as well as tourists gather.  This wide open space surrounded by old interesting buildings is a good spot to stretch out a little and do some people watching.

Amsterdam – Streets, Canals and Bikes Videos

Amsterdam's Canals and Bikes

The beautiful city of Amsterdam in the Netherlands in the summer.  It’s a beautiful place to watch the boats on the canals and the people on bikes go by.

Burning Man Burns in the Desert North of Reno Nevada

In the desert north of Reno Nevada there is a festival called Burning Man. This takes place over the labor day weekend every year and it’s quite a festival to behold. Our last trip here was back in 2003 and we have been really wanting to visit again. It was a great time and definitely worth the time and money to take part in this unique art festival.