Maria Shollenbarger’s “Exploring France’s Basque Country” [May] is beautifully done—but I don’t love how it starts. She says that everyone in Carmel, California, is retired, newly wed, or nearly dead. I have lived in this lovely town for 34 years and am none of the above. This fall I plan to take time off from work to drive around French Basque Country with my boyfriend, using her article as a guide. My favorite thing about that region is that the people know how to enjoy life; Ms. Shollenbarger should spend some more time in Carmel to see that we do here, too. —Carmen Aján, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif.
My best friend recently moved to Alaska and is living in a tiny log cabin that is completely devoid of amenities. Visiting her seemed like it would be brutal, but after reading about Alyeska Resort and seeing the beautiful landscapes in your May issue [“Trekking Alaska’s Wilderness”], I’m looking forward to spending my summer vacation there.—Monica Castillo, New York, N.Y.
Food for Thought
As a wine industry professional, I’ve dined at most of Anya von Bremzen’s “50 Best New U.S. Restaurants 2009” [May]. I’m baffled by the fact that she overlooked NoCa, in Phoenix, Arizona. Chef Chris Curtiss puts a modern spin on classic American dishes—his take on bacon and eggs is a confit of pork belly and duck egg with onion jam and maple syrup. If you ask me, this place upstages some of the restaurants she chose. —Jon Mcdaniel, Scottsdale, Ariz.
I have a bone of contention with “50 Best New U.S. Restaurants 2009”: Why didn’t the writer include more Los Angeles options? It has arguably the best dim-sum and noodle houses in the country, not to mention Mexican, Persian, and more. —Danny Muro, via e-mail
Editors’s Note: The story highlighted five cities that we found to be the most exciting food destinations right now. Under the sidebar “More Top New Restaurants,” we included other cities like Los Angeles with impressive recent openings. Thank you for your suggestions—there’s no doubt that L.A. and Phoenix have vibrant food cultures, and we plan to cover them again in the future.
World’s Best Dream Trip
My wife and I recently returned from an amazing trip to Rome and Venice, courtesy of your 2008 World’s Best Awards Sweepstakes. We had the pleasure of working with Sally Watkins of Century Travel & Cruises, one of your A-List agents specializing in Italy. This was the first time we used a travel agent to organize a trip, and Sally’s help made a world of difference—in all eight days, we did not have a single setback. Thank you for an exceptional experience. —Larry Carlson, Hillsdale, N.J.
Reader’s Find: Costa Rica
In the remote Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve area of Costa Rica one would not expect a restaurant “find,” but my friends and I made a unique discovery: Trio. Located next to a supermarket in the town of Santa Elena, this small eatery stands out with its sleek black-and-white décor and a contemporary menu that offers much more than the standard rice and beans. Instead, we enjoyed creative Nuevo Latino dishes that use mostly local ingredients, like chicken breast stuffed with figs and goat cheese, and beef tenderloin with Manchego and a Dijon-balsamic sauce—not to mention desserts like homemade meringues with fresh fruit and a mango split with butter-rum sauce. There’s even a small wine list. We’d expect to find this type of place in a big city, though it doesn’t have big prices. After a day exploring exotic high terrain, it was a welcome respite. —Linda A. Bielinski, Chicago, Ill.