Flavors of the Mekong

By James

Gems must be on my mind because the colorful fruits along the Mekong provide subtle reminders of the multi-colored sapphires and diamonds embedded in gold bangles back at the studio.

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In this instance, I’m admiring a woven basket holding bright red dragon fruit and yellow mango aboard our boat rounding Tân Phong island. Nina breaks open the scaly, layered folds of the dragon fruit to reveal a delicate white flesh studded with black seeds. The texture and flavor is much less dramatic than its appearance, reminiscent of a kiwi fruit. This contrasts with the meaty flavor of yesterday’s jack fruit. Meaty, really? Surprisingly, jack fruit is a hearty carnitas substitute for the vegan taco-lover.

Of course, the Mekong Delta offers much more than just tropical fruit. An early morning walk to the market at Hoà Ninh reveals the raw bounty of the region, especially the seafood or I should say riverfood. Bags of dried shrimp sit alongside buckets of live fish, eels, snakes, and frogs at the waterfront. Avoiding a catfish leaping from a bucket, I move to wander through the less animated stalls of produce, baked goods, and household items.

Heading back to our homestay, we watch a busy couple deliver blocks of ice by boat, reminding me of ca phe sua da back at the homestay. A day on the Mekong (really, any day in Vietnam) is not complete until a delicious iced coffee with milk is at hand. Vietnamese coffee is very dark, strong, and bitter so the condensed milk and ice create the perfect balance.

Packed up and back on the river, we enjoy snacks of coconut-sweetened tapioca with sticky rice wrapped in green banana leaves and jasmine green tea as we head to the homes of artisans scattered throughout the region.

In the next post, I’ll share more about how the women we meet create both practical and beautiful items with local materials like water hyacinth and nipa palm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mekong: Mother of Water and More Than a River

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by James

What starts with elephant ear fish and ends with jack fruit? Lunch on the Mekong Delta after a full week rolling out production of the latest collection. Nina invited a lucky few staff from the Saigon office to see her inspiration for the Mekong Collection this past weekend.

We left motorbike-happy Saigon for the motorboats of the Mekong at Cai Be early on Saturday morning. Shaded by droopy banyan trees, we boarded a slender wooden riverboat and puttered past a green carpet of water hyacinth into the silty brown Mekong with our guide Hoa.  For the rest of the weekend, she led us by boat, bike, and foot to not only see the river, but also the islands where skilled women produce most of the food and crafts of the region.

The Mekong River is a defining feature of southeast Asia. The river flows from the Tibetan Plateau through five countries before emptying into the sea south of Saigon. The meandering braids of the richly biodiverse delta literally shape the landscape. The name translates to Mother-of-Water because these waters bring life to the countless communities, farms, and ecosystems along its fabled path.

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In the next post, I’ll share more about the memorable foods and flavors of the Mekong Delta, like bug-eyed elephant ear fish and the world’s largest tree-borne fruit. Inspiration didn’t happen on an empty stomach!

Tulum

Long stretches of spectacular coastline, pristine water, confectionary-sugar sands for relaxing. Local live music for night life, a foodie mecca and Mayan ruins dramatically situated on a 12 foot cliff for adventure.
Tulum has everything I could have wanted, and is one of my top beach vacations.
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Tulum is a small Mayan town that stretches between white sand beaches and the rich and vibrant rain forest.
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Tulum is also known world-wide for its deep history, lively culture and unique charm. Visitors don’t soon forget the mixture of serenity, beauty, history and adventure.
20150119_105119Sitting just meters from the second largest off shore reef in the world, and home to hundreds of cenotes (natural swimming holes) and with thousands more near by, the marine life and water adventures of Tulum have been tantalizing visitors for years.
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Between its breathtaking views of the Caribbean Sea, the ruins and swimming peacefully in one of the amazing cenotes in the area, Tulum is one of the best beaches I’ve visited.
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Life in Naples magazine, features Nina Nguyen

Its been over a year since we moved to Boulder, Colorado and we are so happy to receive love from our hometown Naples, FL. Thanks for the love Life In Naples#DruzyliciousNation

March 2014 Life In Naple...Life In Naples Magazine

by Diana Jarrett GG RMV
Published  | By LifeInNaples

March 2014 Life In Naple...Life In Naples MagazineAh, the Naples lifestyle… accent on style, darling. There’s a chic nonchalance about our way of doing things elegantly but with ease. Is it our drop dead
gorgeous backyard on the Gulf, or those balmy nights allowing us to linger over dinner alfresco? Whatever it is, we’ve grown accustomed to a life that is at once elegant but with a casual air others can’t quite duplicate.

The Naples fahionista pulls together a look that is effortless but always on point. Jewelry designers now are more daring when it comes to creating

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          Nina Nguyen Opulence Necklace

one-offs for a confident woman like the Naples native. Gone are the days when the only stone one wore was the Trinity of Tried-and True gems: merald-ruby-sapphire.

Today’s collectors look for exotic stones with names like Chrysoprase, opaque and opulent. It’s the unique natural look of these stones that are so appealing.  You never actually see the same thing twice. And these exotics are likely to be designed a
round their natural form, as illustrated here in Nina Nguyen Designs Maharani Opulence neckpiece. Nguyen favors natural stones for their artful individuality. And she treats these materials in a refreshing way, often leaving parts of the original stone intact, so the wearer is more connected to it in an organic way.

You may only need t collect a few natural stone pieces to invigorate you wardrobe and give it a fresh modern vibe. Pair these gemstone lovelies with simple solid
-color fabrics, and allow your accessories to hold center stage. Now go out there and enjoy a leisurely stroll down 3rd. You look fabulous.

March 2014 Life In Naple...Life In Naples Magazine
Life in Naples March 2014 Issue

 

 

 

 

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More amazing images from my photo shoot in London.

I know we all have been waiting to see all of these fabulous images from my photo shoot in London. The talented, creative photographer I had the pleasure to work with is Joanna Kustra. 

Enjoy and look forward to your feed back.