A Bespoke Tour of Segovia

my article from Ensemble Winter 2020 Vacations Magazine . . .


I travel to visit friends, to explore history and culture, and to taste the local cuisine. My recent visit to the city of Segovia, in Castilla y León, Spain, combined all three, and I had a blast!


After a 30 minute train ride from Madrid, my friend Tomas met me at the Segovia station for a bespoke tour of this beautiful city with the best-conserved 2000+ yr old Roman aqueduct in the world. The double-arch, freestanding structure is almost 100 ft high over the Plaza del Azoguejo. Its nine mile length, constructed without any mortar, has survived centuries, major earthquakes, and conflicts to become a leading example of Roman engineering in Spain.


The aqueduct is awesome! As we strolled in its shadow, Tomas pointed out the indentations where each of the 1000s of stones was lifted into place. It’s almost too tall to look at from the plaza, but elsewhere it dribbles down to street level before finishing its water delivery underground.  Together we walked the UNESCO designated old city and found the best spot to admire it from the top of the Postigo steps leading down into Plaza del Azoguejo.


That is, until Tomas surprised me with a balloon ride over the city at dawn.

There is more . . . Vacations Magazine is a trade-only magazine for travel agents. I posted this here so you get an introduction to my travel writing you would not see unless you were a travel agent or booking a trip through a travel agent.

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A Time For Change (An Inauguration Day Manifesto)

(I know this is a foodies blog, so please consider this food for the soul.)

New day, new President, new expectations . . . here are some needed changes I hope to see:

1. Tax payers should no longer have to subsidize racist, misogynist or seditionist government employees. People have a right to their opinions, but not the right to ask the public to support them while they spew their hatred. If the job description says to serve, represent and/or protect citizens, that does not mean only privileged white males – it means EVERYBODY. If they can’t do that, they are not fit for the job. They should be fired.

2. I don’t have any student loans, but I don’t think having a generation so indebted with them that they can’t afford to buy cars, houses, or even start a family, helps our country at all. We need a way to forgive the loans – through volunteering, public service jobs, or excellent grades . . . something – so that we all will benefit and the economy will get a boost.

3. I’m old enough to have Medicare, but the people who are not are dealing with a Health Care in crisis. Many are one medical emergency away from being homeless. Every major country in the world – except the United States – offers some form of universal health care. It is time we stepped up and offered at least basic health care to everyone.

4. We are a nation of immigrants, built by immigrants and attractive to immigrants of every nationality. Their diversity will make us the innovators in technology, medicine, and education we have been in the past and can be again. Let them come. They’ll fill the jobs we’re aging out of. And if we want them to be good citizens, we have to treat them better. And not just here, but everywhere in the world!

5. We have the best government money can buy. It is time to take the big, dark, and corporate money out of politics. Our tax dollars already pay for free and fair elections on local, state, and federal levels. We should also finance campaigns. We can demand more of the candidates, hold them to higher standards, and legislate term limits when we control the purse strings of our elected employees.

6. There should be a minimum established for the money each state contributes to the federal government equal to the amount they get back from the federal government. Right now some states pay far less to the federal government then they get back (Mitch in Kentucky – I’m talking about you here) and some pay much more, such as New York State. Then New York gets assailed for being a high tax state, often by the people in states we’re subsidizing. If the third most important person in federal government can’t fix the economy in his own state, I don’t want to have to pay for it.

7. When it comes down to the end of the day, our environment – healthy family, clean air, clean water – is all we have. We’ll know we’ve done enough to protect them when scientists stop issuing dire warnings about climate change, flooding coastlines, forest fires, severe weather, and drought. Until then, we need to do more for our own good, and the good of future generations. Support climate change legislation!

There. I’m done ranting (some would say pontificating). But I’m not done working to make things better. I hope you aren’t either. Stay safe and healthy everyone – Here’s to a Grand New Day!

Posted in bigotry, congress, corporate greed, environment, ethnicity, LGBT, Martin Luther King, military, peace, Political Reform, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Homemade Pizza!

More people are cooking pizza at home during the Covid-19 pandemic than ever before. It is easy, it’s a great way to use up leftovers, and they can be very delicious. (So long as you can find the yeast!)

Slices storebought pizza
When I can’t find the yeast I buy one of the top 5 pizzas in New York State at Slices in Saugerties.

Me – I usually make my own pizza. I learned to make bar-pizzas from scratch when I tended bar at the tender age of 18 (Thank you Uncle Willy.) and have only improved since then. Now, I sometimes buy a pre-made dough in a bag at the supermarket, (the yeast issue again) but never a pre-made crust. And I’ve never made a Cuisinart recipe crust until now.

It’s hardly difficult – pulse flour, yeast, oil, salt, and water – there isn’t even any kneading, but the recipe in my book makes two 15 inch crusts or four nine inch ones. That’s a lot of pizza for two. What a dilemma! Here’s how I solved it: I made two 15” pizzas; one for dinner and one for breakfast. And, NO, not frat-house left over Saturday night pizza reheated for breakfast, (we are so many decades beyond that phase) but a real freshly-made in the morning breakfast pizza.
First, I divided the dough, rolling one half into a large pizza, (and – yes – following directions I used a rolling pin instead of my traditional pizza trattoria-style tossing in the air) and leaving the other as a ball in a plastic bag to refrigerate for the next morning.

home-made Capressa-style pizza

The dinner pizza was easy. I wanted a capressa-style pizza. I turned my end-of-season fresh basil into pesto (sans Parmesan) and spread some of it on the uncooked pizza round. (The rest of the pesto I froze in an ice cube tray for a bright summer addition to winter soups and stews.) Then I topped the dough with a sprinkling of freshly grated Parmesan, a layer of thinly sliced tomatoes, and mozzarella cheese. 15-20 minutes in a 500 degree oven and – Voila! – we shared one delicious pizza.

A balsamic reduction drizzled over the top would have made a nice touch (try it) but it wasn’t a flavor I wanted. I served it on the side.

The breakfast pizza (really a brunch pizza) was harder because I’d never cooked eggs on a pizza before. Then there was the runny, or jammy, or hard yolk question I always face when cooking eggs at home. I live with a guy who thinks runny eggs are uncooked, and therefore horrible things to serve. I think runny yolks make so many more dishes tasty and interesting. I was first introduced to this in a delicious Frisée-Lardon Salad on a tour of France, and wanted to use this technique in my breakfast pizza. I like my eggs runny, but that wasn’t going to happen. I knew there would be difficulties getting the yolks just right, especially to his satisfaction! But that’s yet one more proof that opposites attract.

After rolling out the dough Sunday morning, I spread two tablespoons of tomato paste on it. That was topped with a layer of shredded gruyere cheese and some small pieces of mozzarella cheese left from the 8 oz I opened for last night’s pizza. (Waste not, want not.) On top of the cheese I sprinkled black pepper and dried basil before layering two sliced Italian peppers and the chopped white part of three green onions. Then I sectioned the pizza off with spokes of partially cooked bacon and put it in a 500 degree oven for 10 minutes.

Bacon and egg breakfast pizza
Bacon and egg breakfast pizza

When I took it out, breaking the eggs on the hot pizza was the weirdest part, one between each of the bacon spokes – six in all. I added a few sliced tomatoes for color and popped the whole pizza back in the oven for an additional five minutes or more, joking as I did it that – instead of cooking it any more – I’d turn off the oven and let the eggs “set” before serving. The look on his face was priceless! So, knowing that, leave the oven on depending on how cooked you want the eggs, and how much you want the relationship. Watch it closely at this point to get the eggs just right.

Finally, the green tops of the onions and some chopped parsley are sprinkled over the finished pizza which created the photographic moment that made me grab my camera. You see the results. I’m sorry there was nothing left to share, (no leftovers – SUCCESS!) but trust me – it was as delicious as the evening pizza.

individual breakfast pizza slices
individual breakfast pizza slices

There you have it – another crisp, moist, and delicious pizza – from scratch!

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Pandemic Scalloped Potato Recipe



Held hostage by the virus pandemic, I’ve been experimenting with recipes as I try to use what is in my refrigerator before it goes bad. This dish of scalloped potatoes was a way to put a big dent in my leftover Easter ham, as well as soon to expire cheeses and dairy. So use what you have and leave out what you don’t. (You’ll need cheese, meat, potatoes and dairy – plus seasonings – or you need to call it something other than scalloped potatoes!)

I had 3 recipes out all day – and I read them every time I passed, thinking about combining the best parts of each – which I did. So let me get them all out again and reconstruct the scene of the crime for you.


RECIPES: in photo, Ina Garten, Savour, Joy of Cooking

I decided to use the measurements and methods below, but you can look at the recipes and make your own decisions.

2 lbs potatoes – peeled, thinly sliced, parboiled in salted water 8 mins


1/2 to 3/4  cup each – three cheeses (your choice or see photo) mixed together

1 onion – diced

2 TBS flour

1 to 2 cups ham – diced (I used 2 cups)


4 TBS butter – plus butter to grease the dish


2 cups dairy (the richer the better – I used half & half)

½ TBS mustard – to taste (I used homemade strong German-style mustard)

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp salt

½ tsp freshly ground pepper


Heat oven to 350 degrees and liberally butter a 9x13x2 glass baking dish.

Scoop half the potatoes into the prepared baking dish. Level. Sprinkle half of the next 4 ingredients over top, dot with half of the butter – repeat.

Bring dairy to a simmer, add next four ingredients, stir to dissolve mustard.

Pour dairy into baking dish over potato mix. Bake for 45 – 60 minutes, or until desired brownness on top.

Let rest while you prepare a vegetable. Serve on warm plates.

ALTERNATE LAZY METHOD: Don’t parboil the potatoes, lay them out raw in three layers alternated with filling. Don’t heat the dairy, bake until potatoes are done and sufficiently browned. (It will take longer.)

ALTERNATE REALLY LAZY METHOD: Follow Ina Garten’s method of mixing all the ingredients together in a big bowl and just dump it into a  greased baking dish.

MAKES: Hearty dinner for four plus leftovers

ADDENDUM: There is room for a fennel bulb (cooked as in Ina Garten’s really delicious recipe) to be layered in as well, if you have one and like the taste.

There you have it – ENJOY!


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Torta Elaborata


When I first saw a picture of this elegant pastry I knew I had to make it. It is a starburst of flavorful beauty that elevates any party! The problem is, after one attempt I realized that I didn’t like the filling (only four ingredients) or the dough (too dry), and the baking temperature /time was all wrong. But the description of the construction (with photos) was so good I mostly followed the instructions for future tortas, but definitely not the ingredients. Instead I used ingredients similar to a Greek spanakopeta for the filling, adjusting them to match the packaging, and a boiled dough I like that is easy to shape.


1 – 10 oz pkg frozen spinach – thawed and squeezed dry

1 – 15 oz container of Ricotta cheese

1 – small onion – chopped and sauteed in oil until translucent, not browned

2 – cloves of garlic – chopped and sauteed in oil until translucent, not browned

½ cup Parmesan cheese

½ cup feta cheese

½ tsp dried thyme

1/3 cup Italian parsley – chopped

Salt and pepper, and cayenne pepper (optional), to taste

Mix all above ingredients together, taste and adjust seasonings if needed

Mix in one beaten egg

Use immediately or refrigerate while you make the dough.


For the pastry I used the “boiled dough” recipe I use for empanadas:

1 ¼ cups water

½ cup olive oil

½ tsp salt

Bring just to a boil and off-stove quickly stir in

4 cups flour until combined

Set aside 1/3 cup breadcrumbs for use in construction

CONSTRUCTION: Turn crumbly dough out on flat surface and knead until it comes together (I wear kitchen gloves for this because the dough is still quite hot) separate into thirds and cover two with plastic.  Roll out remaining dough on a floured surface until about 13 inches round. Place on parchment paper for ease of moving once constructed. Sprinkle dough with bread crumbs (basically in the ring and mound areas) to absorb any excess moisture from the filling.

Disregard the instructions on the photos – these are for illustration only


In the center of the dough mound some of the filling. Then make a ring of the remaining filling around it leaving space to crimp the dough down between them. The center will become the sunflower seed part and the ring will become the leaves – see photos.

Roll out another portion of dough slightly larger than the first, and drape it over the filling roughly shaping the mound and ring with your hands. Next, a small bowl is essential – one with a rounded edge won’t cut the dough when you press it down to seal it. Cut off excess dough ¼ inch outside of ring, then using a fork, crimp the outside edge of the pastry to seal it.

Disregard the instructions on the photos – these are for illustration only


Leaving the bowl in place, make cuts 1 inch apart all the way around the bowl to make the “leaves” bite sized. Then gently lift each “leaf” up and give it a quarter twist to the right so that the filling is pointing up. Repeat until all are turned.

Lightly oil the center mound and sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired.  Then slide onto a baking sheet.

NOTE: I measured my largest baking sheet and made my pastry round small enough to fit in it. You have some flexibility here to go larger or smaller to fit your pan.

Disregard the instructions on the photos – these are for illustration only


Bake at 375 for 40-50 minutes on the center rack of your oven until lightly browned, turning once after 20 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet for 30 minutes. Slide onto a serving plate. Serve room temperature.

ADDENDUM: The pictures are the key to your success. However, if your top crust tears or breaks during the construction, remember – you have another piece of dough as insurance – so you can remove the damaged piece and make a new one. Depending upon your ability, after some practice you can use the excess dough for a one or two crust pie. (It makes a lovely quiche.) Or make two smaller tortas. Now that would be a spectacular presentation!

Let me know what you think in the comments below, and please share your photos there too!

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Alumbrados Navideños or El Alumbrado Christmas in Medellín, Colombia

Medellin02 168

Medellín is a warm friendly city, really a bustling business center, and the Colombian people are gracious hosts. It is a city of eternal spring with moderate temperatures year-round. But for five weeks every year Medellín is the center of all things Christmas.

The largest municipal power corporation in Latin America, EMP, sponsors an extravagant Christmas Festival every year called Alumbrados Navideños or El Alumbrado, in and around its headquarters. There is a city-wide theme for all the decorations.

Medellin02 136

The year I visited, my excellent guide, Carlos Carmona, showed me around the city to experience his hometown’s celebrations. The theme was the Nativity, and there were all shapes and sizes of Nativity scenes throughout the city, ranging from miniatures to 20 feet tall. These often colorful religious symbols were in stark contrast to the secular tree and Santa displays we are used to being publicly displayed in the US. Colombians do not hesitate to celebrate their religious holidays.

This year is the 52nd anniversary of Medellín’s Christmas display. The theme is an Old Fashioned Christmas, primarily set up along Parque Norte with huge displays and colorful booths. Medellín’s Christmas celebration is second only to the scale and scope of Mardi Gras in Rio de Janeiro or New Orleans. It is a huge event!

For the greatest infusion of Christmas Spirit, plan a trip to Medellín, Colombia in December. The light show runs from the end of November through the first week in January. Have other Christmas plans? Medellin is fun all year round. There’s great nightlife, many cultural events, fantastic food, and amazing architecture to enjoy. Check out their version of Mardi Gras, the Tango Festival, or the Flower Festival, just three of the many reasons to visit Medellín, Colombia.

Medellin02 044.jpg

A lethal but local favorite drink pleasantly served


American Airlines has connecting flights from everywhere in the US through Miami. www.aa.com


Intercontinental Hotel Medellin – with over 150 hotels in 65 countries, InterContinental Hotels & Resorts are the premier place to stay. It was my choice of where to lay my head.

Hotel Poblado Plaza – Located in the heart of the most exclusive area of Medellín, the Golden Mile of El Poblado neighborhood. This is where the main business and financial corporations of the city meet the shopping malls and restaurants. Or their sister resort: Hotel Poblado Alejandria

Medellin02 019

guandu & pork at Restaurant Bijao


Unfortunately, my favorite restaurant in Medellín (Restaurant Bijao) closed since my visit. But I can tell you that the excellence of the place sparked a lively conversation between myself and the Food Editor of the largest local newspaper. We bonded over our admiration for their food. Their guandu & pork  riff on a Cartagena seafood dish was amazing!

En Casa de Oliva  an equally excellent restaurant with fresh food and a kindly waitstaff

Image may contain: 2 people, including Carlos Carmona, people smiling

Both of us in Colombia

Carlos on the right with me in Colombia


Carlos Carmona is a freelance tour guide in Medellín, Colombia. He embodies the culture and customs of Medellín and its citizens, while sharing a decade of professionally honed skills to show you the real Medellín.

More Information:



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World Paella Day Is September 20th

paellabehindtheline Chef Rafael Vidal from behind the line

What better way to celebrate World Paella Day than to taste the original paella from Valencia, Spain, cooked by the world famous paella chef Rafael Vidal?

Let me back up a bit. I cook “American” paella, meaning I mix seafood and meat, and add broth, peppers, and onions – a blasphemy within the rarefied paella circle in which I found myself last Tuesday. That day I was invited to Mercado Little Spain (30th St & 10th Ave, NYC) for a lunch where Chef Rafael would cook me the perfect paella.

Video of Chef Vidal cooking paella

If you were there that day in line ordering ordinary paella, you saw the open kitchen with wood-fired stations, and me in it, in an apron, videotaping Chef Vidal as he cooked his signature dish while you waited to be served.

It was an amazing “behind the line” experience capped with delicious food!

paellaingredients Clockwise from top right: bone-in chicken legs and rabbit,  fava beans, artichoke, rosemary, tomato, saffron  & salt, green beans, rice, olive oil. (not shown – water) Serves 12

The ingredient list is simple as paella. There’s no broth or soffrito, the meat is browned in olive oil with green beans stirred in, then artichokes. Tomato sauce is added, water, then a local to Valencia type of fava bean, before rice is sprinkled evenly into the bubbling mix. Saffron and salt add flavors until there is nothing to be done but bring the liquid to a boil and cook. There are no peppers – hot or sweet – and there is only a final sweeping of the paella with a rosemary branch to complete the flavor.

paellaessentialsdisplay of paella ingredients for sale at Mercado Little Spain

As the liquid cooks down, the rice, which is a local to Valencia rice that keeps its shape and an “al dente” core, “marries” the pan to create a rich toasty crust called “socarrat” that is the prized portion of the meal.

paellafinishedfinished paella

To see the perfect paella created – not once, but twice by the expert – was a fantastic experience. Then Chef Vidal plated the paella with care to have each element included, and even refilled my plate after I inhaled my first portion. It was so delicious that I slowly ate my second helping to savor each mouthful.

A word about the ingredients: use the finest you can. If you don’t want rabbit use more chicken. Bone-in is ideal, but American tastes being what they are – boneless is OK – you’ll just lose some flavor. The saffron is crushed and soaked in a small amount of hot water for 15 minutes or so to release the flavor. If the fava beans are not fresh they must be pre-boiled.

paellachefsChef Vidal & Chef Andres

There you have it! You can watch the video for ingredients and technique, but you had to be there to feel the heat and have the aromatic smoke (traditionally from orange wood) tickle your nose and burn your eyes, as beads of sweat dripped off you, all the while watching the intensity of Chef Vidal – and his smile when perfection was achieved.

Buen Provecho!

Tourism in Spain

Mercado Little Spain https://www.littlespain.com/

paellaheaderfinished paella

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Saugerties Pro Musica 4-Hand Piano Concert Sunday 4/28 @ 3 p.m.

Saugerties Pro Musica welcomes back pianist Yalin Chi, who is joined on our stage by Steven Bech on his first visit, for a very unusual four-hand piano concert  on April 28, 2019 – Sunday  – at 3 p.m. They will be playing Mozart’s Sonata in B-flat major, K358, Debussy’s Six épigraphes antiques, Hindemith’s Sonata for Piano Four-hands, and Jeux d’enfants by Bizet.


Yalin Chi & Steven Bech

The concert is at the United Methodist Church, on the corners of Washington Avenue (#67) and Post Street in Saugerties. Tickets are $15 and $12 with all students admitted free. For more information please visit our website: http://www.saugertiespromusica.org or call 845-679-5733

Bios and more

Originally from Beijing, China, Yalin Chi made her début with the Central Opera Orchestra before moving to the United States to study at Interlochen Arts Academy. Yalin has performed at venues including Alice Tully Hall, Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, Kumho Art Hall in Seoul, Korea, and ZhongShan Music Hall in Beijing China. As an orchestral musician, she regularly performs with Albany Symphony, New Jersey Festival Orchestra, and has held the principal keyboard position at the Hudson Valley Philharmonic since 2014.

American pianist Steven Beck continues to garner impressive acclaim for his performances and recordings worldwide. Recent highlights include premieres of new piano works by Charles Wuorinen and John Zorn, and performances of Beethoven’s variations and bagatelles at Bargemusic, where he first performed the Beethoven sonata cycle.

Full Program:

Sonata in B-flat major, K358 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (3 movements)

Six épigraphes antiques Claude Debussy

Sonata for Piano Four-hands Paul Hindemith (3 movements)

Jeux d’enfants Georges Bizet (12 movements)


Our 23rd Season finale is May 12, 2019 – Drummer Dennis Mackrel’s Jazz Trio plus One.

After a summer hiatus during which we hope you will be entertained by the Maverick Concert Series, Saugerties Pro Musica will return on Sunday, September 15th, at 3 p.m. for our 24th Season featuring our first harpist ever in Ensemble Aubade (Peter H. Bloom, flute; Francis Grimes, viola; Mary Jane Rupert, harp). This flute, viola and harp trio is sure to surprise and delight you.

Saugerties Pro Musica concerts are quality musical performances by world-class musicians in a comfortable, intimate setting, and at very affordable prices. Concert times are 3 p.m. Sunday afternoons at the United Methodist Church, on the corners of Washington Avenue (#67) and Post Street in Saugerties. Adults $15 and Seniors $12. Students are always free. Call 845-679-5733 for more information, email info@saugertiespromusica.org or visit our website for the most up to date programming schedule: http://www.saugertiespromusica.org

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Shout Out Saugerties is hosting a Food & Art Walkabout


The perfect event for a Fall Foliage Weekend is a celebration of the season’s bounty. That’s why Shout Out Saugerties is hosting a Food & Art Walkabout Saturday, October 20th, as part of its annual festival. Join international culinary travel writer and chef Richard Frisbie in a tour of the best eats in his home town of Saugerties.edgefarmIMG_4029

CSAfarmIMG_0688The tour will begin at the Farmers Market with an introduction to some of the farmers by the market founder (and NYC’s Greenmarket founder) Barry Benepe. You’ll have a chance to hear from some of the hardest workers on the planet before tasting the fruits of their toil. Their fresh, just-picked-at-the-peak-of-its-flavor produce and tastes from market vendors will give you an insight into why the Hudson Valley is one of the Nation’s finest food baskets.


Then, the tour will stroll through Saugerties Village’s Historic District, noting the art shows in the windows between stops at some of our finest eateries. You’ll sample the region’s bounty in every form as the skilled chefs and bakers share cooking tips, recipes, and their tastiest creations.  On today’s menu you can expect to savor: house-made kielbasa, artisanal beer, local artist-decorated cookies at the Best Bakery in the Hudson Valley, house-smoked brisket sliders, locally made ice cream (Finalist New York State’s Best Ice Cream) and gelato, pizza from one of the TopTen USA Today New York State Pizzerias, local cheeses and a surprise from one of the area’s top chefs. This is the ultimate foodie tour of Saugerties Village.slices

Participation is very limited. Only 20 people will receive the best introduction to the growers, the cooks, the art – and especially – to the wonderful foods of the Village of Saugerties.  $40 each gets you all that, plus discount coupons, great memories and a swag bag of local goodies.  Dress appropriately – we’re committed to rain or shine – so wear walking shoes and, if necessary, bring an umbrella . . . and an appetite!

Posted in cheese, Culinary, culinary travel articles, dessert, dessert, Farm to Table, Festivals and Fairs, food, Food Fads, Hudson Valley and Catskill Mountains, journalism, tourism, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“It smells like death in here.”

NiagaraParks11That’s the first thing I said when I entered Niagara Parks’ Floral Showhouse,  a pyramidal tropical greenhouse and formal gardens just a hop, skip and jump from Horseshoe Falls in Niagara Park, Canada. Not the best greeting, I know, but the stench was unbelievably vile. The room was lush and humid, a verdant tangle of plants and blooms that should have smelled like – well, flowers – not death. The lady behind the counter smiled broadly and said “right this way” gesturing around the central planting. “Just follow your nose.”


Suddenly it dawned on me. I was about to see a very rare sight, one seldom seen outside of the jungles of Sumatra. It was the Amorphophallus Titanum, a.k.a. Titan Arum, commonly referred to as “corpse plant”. And it was as big as it smelled! At approximately six feet tall and four across, it was actually small for the Floral Showhouse, whose first bloom in 2012 was eight feet tall. Nevertheless, it was a most impressive bloom, the first I’d seen in real life.


Gardeners research these things, so naturally I’d read a National Geographic account of finding one in the Sumatra Jungle and seen a time-lapse video of the 24 hour bloom taken in a laboratory by horticulturists studying the plant’s life cycle. And, while I could appreciate the size, there was no distracting smell either time. Still, I’d never heard mention of the Floral Showhouse in connection with Titan Arum. I stepped back a bit to appreciate the naturalistic setting this one was blooming in and saw that there were more plants in various stages of development. I’d stumbled into the largest collection of blooming size Titan Arum in the world. What a coup!

How rare was this bloom? Italian botanist Odoardo Beccari first discovered the Titan Arum in the Sumatra jungle in 1878. He sent seeds to the Royal Botanical Gardens in London where it first bloomed outside of its natural habitat in 1889. Over the next century only 21 blooms were recorded. Since 1990 that number has jumped to more than 150.  Only 40 blooming-size plants are known to exist outside of Sumatra, where the plants numbers dwindle in a declining and degraded habitat. It is in danger of becoming extinct in the wild. The Floral Showhouse has approximately 60 plants including many seedlings.


Niagara Parks’ Floral Showhouse manager, Joan Cornelious, said “We have two plants coming into bloom this summer, the first in June and the second about 3 weeks later. We don’t know how big they’ll get, but the world’s record height is 10 feet 2 inches.” There was one bloom last year as well. Altogether the Floral Showhouse has recorded seven blooms since their first in 2012.

Another unusual aspect of the Titan Arum, aside from the smell and its short 24 hour bloom, is the growth after the bloom. The Floral Showhouse’s first plant, whose flower was approximately 8 ft tall, sent up a shoot 15 ft tall and 11 inches wide. Its canopy spread was 17 feet – it looked like a small tree but was (to be scientifically correct) just one leaf. Typically, that growth absorbs nutrition for the corm underground during its 1-2 year life span, then dies back and the plant lies dormant for awhile before blooming again. In this case, it has bloomed every other year since the first, with its flower growing progressively shorter by about a foot each time.

While the Floral Showhouse has another Titan Arum expected to bloom later this year (check their website for timing) it is so much more than just a corpse plant showcase. There are 8 floral shows a year, a large rose garden, display greenhouses and working greenhouses, a water garden and lovely display gardens with some specimen trees. They were setting up a geranium show inside when I was there, while outside was their annual and very popular miniature village, with tiny ornate buildings appearing in the most unlikely places around the grounds.


Niagara Parks is a 35 mile linear park along the Canadian side of the Niagara River with landscaped cliff-top walks, white water trails, an extensive Botanical Garden with an amazing butterfly house, the Floral Showhouse plus boats and trams and tunnels under the falls – enough activities to keep every member of your family happy to be there and wanting to come back.  With five restaurants and plenty of accommodations, including the reasonably priced and stylishly understated Double Tree Fallsview Resort and Spa by Hilton you could park your car and walk or take the WEGO bus to everything. Discount attraction ticket packages called Adventure Passes are available.

Posted in Adventure/Sports, Canada, environment, free lance writer, gardening, horticulture, Niagara Falls, tourism, Travel, Uncategorized | Leave a comment