Best of Florence

In this April 22, 2016 photo, visitors to the Accademia Gallery in Florence, Italy, pause to admire and take photos of Michelangelo's David. The 17-foot-high marble statue is a Renaissance masterpiece and a must-see in Florence. (Michelle Locke via AP) Photo: Michelle Locke, AP / Michelle Locke

FLORENCE, Italy (AP) — The skies were clouding over as I strode briskly across that famous bridge, the Ponte Vecchio, ready for a productive day checking off Florentine must-sees.

Slight problem: The first museum on my list was open, but the ticket office was closed.

OK, then, on to the Uffizi Gallery. Except this time both ticket office and museum were closed; I had forgotten it was Monday.

A fine rain began to fall as I wandered listlessly past the open arches of the building next door, the statue-studded Loggia dei Lanzi. This wasn’t going at all as planned.

And then it hit me. Wait. This was the Piazza della Signoria, where novelist E.M. Forster‘s adorable Lucy Honeychurchwitnessed a stabbing moments after complaining about the dullness of life in “A Room With a View.” And those had to be THE steps where the brooding George Emerson carried Lucy’s fainting form.

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Presidential Pinots

cosecha pourWine and the White House have long been a solid pairing. Start with George Washington, who sent a four-bottle silver wine cooler to Alexander Hamilton “as a token of my sincere regard and friendship for you.”
Contrast that with stingy Richard Nixon. He kept the good bottles for himself, trickily palming off cheaper stuff on his guests.Almost no one knows more about POTUS and Pinot than Brian Abrams, author of the 2015 book Party Like a President, which chronicles the presidential vices.He calls Thomas Jefferson the “Connoisseur-in-Chief” for spending a small fortune stocking the White House cellar and introducing fine French wines to America. But he certainly wasn’t the only founding father to put the party in party politics.

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How to fly high in Wine Country

NAPA, Calif. (AP) — You know it’s fun to take in the wine country sights. But have you thought about trying the heights?

Whether you’re zooming down a zip line or floating through the air (with the greatest of ease) in a hot-air balloon, there are quite a few ways to experience the high life in wine country.

Here are five options ranging from thrill to chill.

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Make the most of Montevideo

This picture taken March 13, 2016, shows grilled vegetables as served at El Palenque, one of the parillas, or grill restaurants, in Montevideo's Mercardo del Puerto, a popular place for lunch. Montevideo may not be as well known to travelers as some other Latin American destinations but there is plenty to see and do in this friendly, laid-back city, from beach strolls to late-night dinners.  (Michelle Locke via AP)

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (AP) – Uruguay’s capital, Montevideo, may not be as well-known to international travelers as some of Latin America’s other destinations. But there’s plenty here to see and do, and it’s a relatively short hop and worthy side trip from Buenos Aires.

Laid-back and friendly, Montevideo has a mellow vibe. Experience it as you savor a tasty chivito (steak sandwich) at a sidewalk cafe, or on a sunny stroll along a wide sandy beach. Gaze over the rooftops of the old city at sunset and take in the oddly appealing mix of elegant buildings rubbing stone shoulders with squat, concrete blocks.
Here are a few suggestions on making the most of your visit.

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Becoming Bogle

As a kid growing up in a California winemaking family, Jody Bogle had the opportunity to learn the business from the ground up—literally—sometimes getting out of bed at first light to work the fields during the long, hot summers.

She hated it.

“It’s just not what a 13-year-old girl wants to be doing,” Bogle says now with a laugh.

That’s changed.

Bogle_FamilyToday, Bogle couldn’t be happier to be director of public relations for the winery, working alongside brothers Warren, president and vineyard director, and Ryan, vice president and chief financial officer. Each has their own niche, but all have the same goal: keeping the business true to their family values.

“We never set a number. Our growth has been very organic,” says Bogle. “We’ve been amazingly blessed by the fact that folks have sought out our wine, have enjoyed it, and have shared it with friends. The word-of-mouth marketing of our wines has been amazing and is really the reason for the growth over the years.”

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Agrihoods take root

This photo taken April 8, 2016, shows town homes at The Cannery, which is set beside the plowed field of the small, urban farm that is a centerpiece of the community in Davis, Calif. (Michelle Locke via AP)“How ya gonna keep ’em down on the farm?” asks the old song. The answer may be: Build them an agrihood.

Feeding off the continuing interest in eating fresh, local food, developers are ditching golf courses and designing communities around farms, offering residents a taste of the pastoral life — and tasty produce, too.
The latest incarnation of harvest homes is The Cannery, a community designed around a small farm in Davis, about 20 miles west of California’s capital, Sacramento.

Master developer The New Home Co. was looking to build a neighborhood, not just homes, and market research showed that people wanted to connect to community. So “it made lots of sense to take this 7.5-acre piece of property and turn it into an urban farm, have that be the focus point,” says Kevin Carson, New Home president.

Residents can sign up for a weekly box of produce from the farm, and no matter what their level of participation they get to feel part of something, says Carson. “They can see the pumpkins being harvested or the tomatoes being planted or the different seasons that happen on a farm.

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Eating their words: The importance of menu language

fishNapa Valley chef Curtis Di Fede won’t put chicken on his menu. But roasted hen? That he might do.

There’s not much difference; pretty much any chicken you’re getting in a California restaurant is going to be hen, not rooster. But to Di Fede using “hen” sounds more pleasant. It also does what he wants a menu item to do – start a conversation. “I really want people asking questions at the table,” he says. Experience has taught Di Fede something every successful chef/owner knows: the language of menus can speak volumes.

“People think of the menu as the dishes you offer. It’s not. The menu is where you start to tell your story,” says Bradford Thompson, a James Beard award-winning chef and founder of Bellyfull Consulting Inc., a full-service culinary consulting company with clients such as New York’s popular Miss Lily restaurants.

Thompson, who teaches kitchen and back-of-house skills at the International Culinary Center in New York, begins menu construction with the question: Who are you? If you can’t come up with a one-sentence answer – whether that’s the style of food, the history of the chef/owner, or some other thematic element – you’re in trouble, and this is how you end up with hundreds of items on the menu and zero personality.

“When you see a well-written menu, you see a point of view,” says Thompson. “Maybe you seem some whimsy. Maybe you’ll see a French-trained chef who’s spent some time in Asia. You’ll understand their story a little bit.”

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The family feud that juiced the rise of Napa

Canadian wine experts see red on the radio?

Family feuds often come to the boil during the holidays. Not many end up changing the course of wine history.

This family, though, was the famous Mondavi wine dynasty and when brothers Robert and Peter Mondavi fell out in November 1965 it set off a series of events that led Robert to create the Robert Mondavi Winery — the first new winery in the Napa Valley since Prohibition — and fired his resolve to promote the region as a world-class wine destination.

Happily, the brothers, who eventually reconciled, both had successful careers and became industry icons, Peter at the Charles Krug Winery and Robert at his eponymous winery.

But a half century ago, things were less sunny …

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