Janice Nieder could be the love child of Indiana Jones and Julia Child. A culinary trendsetter, Janice might be found sharing a smoked monkey with the local shaman deep in the Amazon jungle, “running with the dogs” while truffle hunting in Marche, Italy or crashing a wedding in Pakistan, where she was wined and dined by over 200 men — and no women.
To keep things in balance Janice also enjoys writing about her luxury Girlfriend Getaways, such as the time she stayed in a Pasha’s palace in Istanbul ($10,000 /night) in a room that had just been vacated by Paris Hilton.
Janice has received San Francisco’s Community Leadership Award of Excellence for her on-going work as the Volunteer Coordinator for C.H.E.F.S. (Conquering Homelessness Through Employment in Food Service) a program she helped develop that provides culinary and job skill training for the homeless.
She is a proud member of Society of American Travel Writers, Bay Area Travel Writers, the International Travel Writers Alliance, and International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association.
I was raised in Seattle and every Christmas my parents would take our family someplace in Mexico for a much needed sun break. While my sibs were lounging by the pool ordering burgers, I was off scouring the streets for the best Elote, Mexican Corn on the Cob with Cheese, washed down with a colorful Agua Fresca. I knew then that this was my calling since I was the only one who never got Montezuma’s Revenge.
Which are you more passionate about writing or photography?
I’m passionate about other talented writers and photographer’s work but when it comes to my own, there’s no love lost. It really is just long, hard work that can be very rewarding. I wish I had time to learn video since that seems to combine the best of both worlds.
What is your writing process?
After my trip, I spend many tedious hours typing my copious notes. The semi-organized observations in my Moleskine aren’t bad. The problem arises when I try to make sense of the illegible scribbles jotted down on menus, business cards, sticky notes, and napkins– very similar to doing my taxes!
When you get the chance to pick your travel destination, where do you go?
Almost anyplace I haven’t been. I’ve been to 97 countries and I want my 100th to be someplace really special. If I ever get a tattoo it will be Susan Sontag’s motto, “I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.”
Contenders are Isla de sa Ferradura, a private island off Ibiza, where the hacienda rents for a mere $230,000/week. If that’s already booked then I’ll check to see if they have finished building the Poseidon Undersea Resort, where you’re “shown” to your fish bowl-ish room by submarine.
If you could be anyone else, who would it be?
I wouldn’t mind being Angelina Jolie, although I might have to double up on nanny care. I greatly respect how serious she is about her role as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador and that she also has donated considerable monies to conservation groups, Doctors without Borders, and many African causes. Plus, I’d get to come home to Brad Pitt.
What motivates you to be a luxury journalist?
Because it so doesn’t suck! Who wouldn’t enjoy a nightly turn-down service that includes flickering tiki lamps, chilled champagne and scented rose petals floating on your private plunge pool in the Caribbean. I love the unforgettable moments such as trying to understand what the non-English speaking housekeeper was saying to me when she kept waving a blanket out of the window at the Adlon Hotel in Berlin. (She was explaining, Charades style, that I was staying in the same room where Michael Jackson dangled his baby, Blanket, over the balcony.)
It came as no big surprise to me that Oprah featured travel writing as one of the “happiest jobs in America.”
What is one of your favorite experiences while traveling?
I’ve been fortunate to travel to many amazing places but I will never forget the unadulterated joy I felt after befriending a small boy in the Omo Valley in Southern Ethiopia. When I went there many years ago, American women were a complete rarity. From the patting of my lily-white skin and hair, it was obvious that none of the villagers had ever seen a redhead. Every morning I would emerge from my cozy tent (one of the handful of times I ever camped) to brush my teeth in front of a mirror hung on a tree. An adorable, shiny-eyed little boy would come racing up to watch me. He was completely mesmerized. I found out that he would run in from a neighboring village, about three miles away, just to watch the magic white foam flow out of my mouth. Luckily, I had an extra toothbrush, which I taught him how to use. (It was a lost cause trying to get him to understand that you spit out the toothpaste instead of swallowing it!) Afterwards, he gravely took off his bone and leather bracelet and put it on my wrist. We then exchanged huge, clean, toothy smiles.
Do you have a favorite dish or chef?
Funny you should ask. Last month at the Cancun-Riviera Maya Wine and Food Festival, I met my new fave chef, Normand Laprise, Canada’s equivalent to Thomas Keller. I fell head-over-heels in love with his food, his stunningly gorgeous cookbook, Toque! (named after his restaurant in Montreal) just won Canada’s “Best Cookbook of the Year” award and his culinary beliefs. His philosophy involves “Cooking from Scraps” which he explains is about being respectful to his locally sourced ingredients by using every last bit of the trimmings with zero waste. One example is this infusion, made from strawberry stems, which he uses for Strawberry Hull Martinis.
Strawberry Stem Water
-1 pound strawberry hulls
-2/3 C. sugar
In a large container mix the strawberry hulls and sugar and cover with water. Refrigerate for 48 hours. Pour through conical strainer without pressing on the hulls. Save the water.
*Recipe courtesy of Chef Normand Laprise
How do you enjoy spending your free time?
I spend a large part of my time researching upcoming trips. I also enjoy eating my way through a long list of “must-try” San Francisco restaurants. Thankfully, I enjoy hiking, which balances out the last sentence. As an ex-New Yorker, I’m an avid theatergoer, so I take advantage of the great indie-theater scene here. When I’m feeling crafty, I make jewelry out of the charms and amulets I collect on my travels.
What are your thoughts on on how the business of luxury is always changing?
It seems like we’ve gone about as high as possible touting special sleep systems and sky-high thread counts. Many savvy, high-end travelers are now seeking authentic, experiential travel to far-flung places, where they look for life-changing experiences rather than ore material possessions.
If you were stranded on an island, name one person and three items you would bring.
I’d invite whoever won the last “Survivor” because I’m sure the winner would have some handy skills. At the very least, we could amuse ourselves by dishing about the other contestants.
1. I’d bring a Sleep Number bed
2. Set of Ginzu knives
3. Black mascara.
What would you recommend we do if we came to visit your hometown?
If it were Saturday, I’d take you to the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market for fabulous nibbles, starting with Blue Bottle coffee and ending with freshly shucked oysters from Hog Island. Then we’d jump on the historic “F” Tram to the legendary Castro area, stopping at the Castro Theater, a restored 1920s movie palace, for a peek at the all-Wurlitzer pipe organ. If the weather were nice we’d head over to Golden Gate Park to visit the Conservatory of Flowers, which is the oldest Victorian greenhouse this side of the Thames. Then drinks at hipster Bar Tartine in the colorful Mission nabe before seeing Brain Copeland’s critically acclaimed, one-man show at The Marsh. Dinner would be at Cotogna, where Chef Michael Tusk, a James Beard Best Chef winner, cooks the best rustic Italian cuisine. We would end a perfect day with a nightcap in The Starlight Room, a throwback to 1930s San Francisco, complete with red-velvet banquettes, crystal chandeliers and a 360-degree city view.
What are three necessities you won’t travel without?
1. Caramelized Ginger from Trader Joes. Pour some hot water over it for a stomach-soothing ginger tea.
2. My iPad filled with books on tape, which always lulls me to sleep.
3. My super light and snuggly black cashmere shawl.