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November 6, 2010

NC: Fatback by the pound

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Probably the most bizarre moment of my recent trip to North Carolina was when we drove up to this pick-up truck, I got out, reached in the back and took something like 15-20 pounds of fresh pork fatback. True story.

So, here's the thing, while you might be able Liver Mush at the supermarkets in Chapel Hill, you can't find pork belly anywhere. I even hit the farmers market looking for it, but was told that that there's no demand, so they just use it all for bacon. (I think this all very odd in the land of biscuits, barbecue and Paula Deen)

Last time I was in Chapel Hill, I benefited from the different demands by finding a farmer who gave me 7lbs of fatback for $3. This time, I ran into him again and he had more he wanted to get rid of.

Continue reading "NC: Fatback by the pound" »

October 27, 2010

Quick Bite: Lasagna at Four Eleven West

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Dinner my last night in North Carolina was this lasagna at the bar at Four Eleven West on West Franklin. The pasta was a little too thick and doughy for my taste, but the bolognese sauce was magnificent.


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October 26, 2010

NC: No Escape from Condo-mania

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I guess I wasn't terribly surprised to find the familiar figure of a shiny new condo development in college town North Carolina, but I was a little disappointed.

Hearing stories of landlords and developers gentrifying an area in order to attract the more lucrative middle class market is commonplace here in New York, but the idea of it happening around Chapel Hill was a little jarring. I just hope that my own little college town doesn't have such issues.

October 23, 2010

NC: Nature Walks

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My visit here to North Carolina isn't all wandering suburban supermarkets and finding oddities like Liver Mush.

We've also been going out on daily walks through one of the local woodland trails. Once again, I decided to try my hand at a little nature photography. Last year I tried the same thing, but I was using Tammi's point and shoot due to an equipment failure with my 30D.

You can see more of the photos from out in the woods on Analog UltraClay.

April 7, 2009

NC: Tienda Vaquita

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Across the small parking space of Taqueria La Vaquita, sits a Mexican marketplace that reminded my aunt of the little shops in the country back in Jamaica.

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She and I went in looking for dried chipotle peppers, above, which she had been looking for for some time. While there, though, we found a variety of other peppers along with jamaica (sorrel) and tamarind, which brought back more memories.

To my surprise, I found powdered lime, an ingredient called for in a recipe for Posole in a Mexican cookbook I got a couple years ago. Despite concerns of being detained by the TSA or the DEA, I managed to get this home without incident.

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April 5, 2009

NC: Taqueria Vaquita

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Possibly the best meal we had in North Carolina was at Taqueria Vaquita or Taqueria Cow, so known for the giant cow statue that has loomed over the small structure since it was a dairy market way back when.

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Not long after brunch, we stopped in for a taco or two as a snack, just to try them out. The plan was to swing by for a few minutes and then be on our way. We ended up sitting at a picnic table snacking and hanging out with some of my aunt's friends for a couple hours

Tammi and I started out with Tacos al Pastor, Lengua and Chorizo, above. Before we were done, I was already eying the menu.

My aunt, the vegetarian only had a quesadilla without any filling. This confused the counter guy, because who would pass up the wonderful delights that could be on a quesadilla. All the same, she loved it so much that she requested a stack of their homemade corn tortillas, served up hot off the griddle. We all picked at them between rounds of tacos.

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Tammi and I imbibed sweet Tamarind juice, going through 3 of them over the course of the afternoon. My aunt and her friend Tanya found a familiar flavor from the islands to quench their thirst. Jamaica, known as Sorrel to most West Indians is a drink made from dried red flowers that are a holiday staple in my family.

It may not have been the most historically 'authentic' meal to have in the South, but it was definitely the best. My aunt may regret taking me there as it will definitely be a required stop on future trips.

Taqueria Vaquita
2700 Chapel Hill Road,
Durham, NC 27707

April 1, 2009

NC: Free Range Pork

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As penance for my supermarket envy, I insisted that we go to the Farmers Market first thing Saturday morning. I was well-rewarded.

I had read about the pork available at the market in Carrboro, outside of Chapel Hill particularly of the Ossabaw heritage breed, so that's what I was seeking out.

There were a number of stalls selling meat, many of which offered pork, but this was the only one that had fatback on sale. And at $1 a pound it was already a bargain.

After talking to the seller, above, I walked around some more, checking out the other vendors and considering how much pork I could fit in my carry on. When I came back around, I looked at how much he had and what sizes were available. Before I could decide on how much to buy, he offered the entire batch for $3. I walked away with 7.3 pounds of fatback...

I crammed it in my bag and got it home this morning without incident. Before the week's over, it'll be turned into lovely liquid gold, ready for frying or a glorious batch of pork confit...

March 31, 2009

NC: Mama Dip's

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There are a great many Carolinians who will be offended by this, so I'll get this out of the way first, our dinner at Mama Dip's was not very good. Easily the worst meal of the weekend. We raced over there Sunday night, to get there before their 9pm(!) closing time.

The choice of restaurant was clear because how could we go to the south and not have some southern food? Turns out that we could have gotten far better options here in NYC. Tammi had the veggie plate which included overcooked Lima Beans and bland cornbread. My dish of Fried Chicken and BBQ Pork Ribs (which wasn't the pulled pork I actually ordered, but I let that go) were similarly middling. The ribs were overdone to the point of mushiness and the sauce was sweet without any of the tang or spice or smoke that makes a good barbecue sauce. The chicken didn't have nearly the crispiness they should have had and the mac n cheese was gritty and unpleasant. Of all people, my aunt, who tends toward the pickier side was happiest with her meal, but she lives there and knew that the catfish was exactly what she wanted.

Sad, sad, that we didn't get any great bbq or fried chicken, but I'm not complaining. The rest of the food we had this weekend was wonderful, so, one iffy meal is fine.

NC: Tar Heels Country

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While we were in town, The Tar Heels won twice, moving up to the Final Four. We didn't spend any time watching the NCAA tournament this weekend, but there was no escaping the March Madness.

More than usual, Carolina Blue was on display all over town and even the local wine bar, West End, was jammed with fans watching the team beat the (ahem) tar out of Oklahoma.

NC: A Walk in the Woods

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Sunday Morning we wandered down my Aunt's favorite trail out in the woods of Chapel Hill. I took the opportunity to try my hand at nature photography, something I'm not so familiar with. I stuck to the random little details I tend towards, like these mushrooms creeping up the sides of a tree:

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The walk was fun, if terribly muddy after weeks of rain. My sneakers have seen better days...
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March 28, 2009

Markets: The Suburban Supermarket

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I could never live in the suburbs for any number of reasons beginning with the fact that I don't drive, an essential skill in any place outside a real city. Beyond that, the suburban aesthetic and the concept of the subdivision offend me to my quite citified core.

But, there is one thing that I find attractive about the world outside of The Big City: the supermarkets like this one we visited near Chapel Hill while visiting my aunt.

They are gigantic. And Clean. And full of so many wonderful things that I temporarily lose my sympathy for local small businesses and pine away at the many, many options on hand.

The airplane hanger-sized space is full of so much wonderful stuff that I find myself wandering through the aisles wistfully, raising my arms to full length and appreciating all the space. It's like a different world.

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Another wonderful feature of the supermarkets outside of New York is that they stock wine, something that is still unavailable at home. Racks and racks of bottles of medium to low-priced wines are on sale in the same place you get the rest of your groceries.

The selection does not include the highest end bottles, but it has more than enough wonderful everyday bottles.

Given space and legal concerns, I don't expect to see a place like this in NYC-proper for some time, but I can dream. . . .

March 25, 2009

NC Trip: Food Recs

We're just a couple days away from heading to North Carolina, so I'm looking forward to warm weather, hopefully rain-free, and some nice downtime. Here's a note my Aunt forwarded to me from a friend with more recommendations on where to eat. . . .

Hey Heather,

I've been brainstorming dinner places (you'll probably want to make a reservation for a Saturday night).

DINNER
I love Piedmont. It's my default restaurant for a good meal, good cocktails in downtown Durham.


Revolution is the newest on the scene. I haven't been, but I've heard good things from those who have. My coworker Anna who is self-appointed restaurant critic likes it a lot.


Na Na's isn't cheap and isn't the newest or funkiest, but I think they have some of the best food and service around.


Rue Cler is a good standby, if you're feeling Frenchy. Their mussels w/fries is a winner. And again, a downtown Durham restaurant, which I like.
http://www.ruecler-durham.com/

LUNCH
If y'all decide to just do lunch, I would suggest Toast, on Main St. Paninis and a great, simple salad.


PIedmont also has a great lunch.

As does Watts Grocery. They annoy me for dinner, but damn they make a good hamburger.


And of course, the ubiquitous, basic taquerias are fabulous. I'm a big fan of the mole enchiladas at Taco Cow. Actually called Taqueria La Vaquita.


DESSERT
If you decided to skip the meal altogether and go straight to drinks and dessert, I'd suggest Magnolia Grill. It's the original Durham great restaurant and has been written up mazillions of times. I've had a fantastic dinner there and a so-so dinner there. But the desserts are otherwordly.

xo,
A

February 28, 2009

The Travel Bug

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31 days. That's the number of days I can tolerate before absolutely
need to get out of town or at least start planning another trip.

Yesterday I booked a flight down to North Carolina to see my aunt. It's all
I can do not to also plan another trip while I'm at it.

I've been thinking of a return to Philly after seeing all the graffiti pieces last weekend at going postal. Seeing the interesting work on display from UWP, Maalic and Morg, I'm really interested in seeing what's gone up since I was there last. Not to mention the food, particularly, Marc Vetri's restaurants Vetri and Osteria, which I always meant to write up, but never did. And of course, a trip to Reading Terminal Market would be wonderful.

Along the topic of graffiti, there's Toronto which has a great Graf scene that I've been wanting to explore again since my first visit there in 2005.

On the other hand, I've hoped to try to explore new places this year and Quebec City has been high on my list of new cities to explore for some time.

That said, the weather in Canada this time of year is worse than it is here in New York, so neither is particularly attractive right now.

Last weekend's trip to DC left Tammi wanting for more, so she's been interested in a return visit pretty soon. And with Shepard Fairey's show in Boston, both of us have been thinking of going up there.

Our March is all booked up before it's even begun, but April is wide open.... Let's see how long will power can hold out.

July 16, 2008

Summer Vacation Options Part 2: The South


Streetcars, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

This is clearly more of a Barbecue trip. I'd probably just fly down to DC to meet Guy and we'd head out from there.

North Carolina:
Again, we'd see my aunt and hunt down some pork.

South Carolina:
Guy mentioned a cool vibe in Charleston and perhaps a visit to some of the coastal islands. I'm less familiar with the region, but it sounds interesting to me. Particularly those island populated by the Gulla.

Memphis:
I've heard so much about Tennessee's barbecue that this is a must as far as I'm concerned. Barbecue and blues, no question.

New Orleans:
As I've mentioned, I've been wanting to return to New Orleans for a while now and this would be a good opportunity. Unfortunately, I wouldn't want to make plans to go there at the end of august until the exact last minute, so that would have to be decided on the fly.

July 15, 2008

ATL: Robbed Part 2

It's been a month since our room at the Atlanta Marriott Downtown was robbed.

When we discovered it, security came to our room, took our statement and directed us to discuss the issue with management. The manager on site told us not to bother filing a police report and that we should check with the general manager when we got back home. The general manager directed us to their risk management department. The risk management department returned my call once, didn't have the file on hand and said they'd call back. They never did.


Finally, after calling again three or four times, Tom Sislo from Columbia Sussex, the franchise owner told me that, even though he hadn't even seen the report yet, the Innkeeper's Statute absolved them of all responsibility of the theft.

Literally a month after the theft, after speaking to 7 different people on this subject and a number of unreturned calls, I was told that no matter what, the hotel would not accept fault and that apparently it's not in the hotel's interest to investigate this case significantly.

So, there you go. Apparently we should all expect that anything we don't leave in a safe (which isn't provided in the room) will be rummaged through and potentially stolen. Good luck!

June 25, 2008

Photo of the Day: STOP


IMG_1632, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Atlanta, GA. 2008.

I'm not really sure who this sign is for. This rather small sign was posted on the Bus Stop sign about 5 feet in from the curb. On a hill. In the grass.

June 20, 2008

The Wedding: Line Dancing


IMG_3682, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

One of the few hard rules Tammi and I set for the wedding was that there was to be no "Electric Slide" or any other such line dancing. This has already caused some static as, to some members of my family, this seems to be as important as the actual vows. I've been less concerned with this since I am required to be on the dance floor for exactly one song and I will not be there again after that. Generally though, banning such banality is something I can get behind. Besides, we couldn't imagine any of our friends actually being into such a thing.

Yet, at my cousin's wedding last weekend, each of the -several- line dances seemed to be the only songs that brought the Jamaicans and the Americans out on the floor together. We'll have to see how that all works out.

June 18, 2008

Food Finds: Pepper Sauce


IMG_1757, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Since I've been finding more interesting food-related artifacts out of the supermarket, I'm changing the name of this feature to "Food Finds." That way, I don't have to preface half of the posts with "Well, this isn't really from a supermarket but..." because that was annoying... Now on to something I found in Atlanta... Pepper Sauce!

At nearly every table in Atlanta I encountered these bottles. Called Pepper Sauce as opposed to Hot Sauce, all there is to it is vinegar and hot peppers. The waiter at Pashcal's recommended using it on Collard Greens. I've made something like this before and had no idea it was a regional delicacy. I'll have to remember that next time I'm making greens.

June 13, 2008

ATL: Watershed


IMG_1677, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

As I mentioned, before heading out to Atlanta, all my research pointed to one thing: Fried Chicken. And over and over again, I found accolades for what may be "The Best Fried Chicken Recipe" by Edna Lewis and her partner Scott Peacock. The story was familiar, I had read about them a few years back, either in Gourmet or the NY Times or both. The key is the redundancy in its preparation. It's both brined and then soaked in buttermilk. Ms. Lewis died a few years ago, but Peacock offers it at Watershed, a restaurant made out of an old gas station in Decatur.

I had to have it.

Continue reading "ATL: Watershed" »

June 10, 2008

ATL: Wedding Photos Posted


IMG_2793, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

I'll be posting more on Atlanta and a bit about SF when I have a little time away from this conference, but for now, I posted my photos from my cousin's wedding in a set on Flickr. Check them out here. ::c::

Graffiti of the Day: Nobody Cares


IMG_1651, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Atlanta, GA. 2008.

June 7, 2008

ATL: From the Depths


IMG00912.jpg, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

When we arrived at our station on the MARTA yesterday afternoon and the train whined out in that distinctive way that BART trains and many of the new models in New York do, I notice the walls of the station. They weren't tiled or covered for the most part, instead it was just exposed rock. I said to Tammi, that I felt more 'underground' than in the subway at home and I wondered if that was because of the aesthetics. I vaguely noticed how high the ceilings were when we were going up the first escalator, then we got to this behemoth and realized that we felt more underground because we were considerably father underground that at home. For the record, there was one more escalator before we returned to the surface world. ::c::

June 6, 2008

ATL: The MARTA Breeze card


ATL: The MARTA Breeze card, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

What little I've heard about getting around in Atlanta I've mostly heard in discussions about urban sprawl gone amok. So, when planning this trip, I presumed we'd have to take a cab to get to our hotel. Apparently not.

We're on the MARTA train as I type this heading downtown to a station just down the block from our hotel. The $2.25 fare beats whatever the cab was going to charge, certainly.

The trains, the map and the card machines are all like the BART. The one thing that's really interesting to me is the fare card, which seems to have RFID.

Just as I was about to start fiddling with the turnstile to figure out how to swipe a card with no apparent magnetic strip, the gate opened.
::c::

June 5, 2008

Atlanta-Bound


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Tomorrow Morning Tammi and I are heading down to the 'durty durty' south for my cousin's wedding. We're only there for a couple days, but clearly I've scoped out the food. Everything I've seen tells me that I have to try the fried chicken. I can't wait.

I put together a quick Google Map of the places that have struck my interest.

After ATL, we're off to San Francisco for a week. We'll be in town for a conference, so our exploring will be limited, but given that this is my 7th time there in 5 years, I'm not going to have too much trouble getting my bearings. More on that later...

October 28, 2007

Nashville: 2nd Ave North

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On my last night in Nashville I got away from Music Row, the main area of Broadway and headed out to 2nd Avenue North. Whereas Music Row is full of small, gaudy Honky Tonks, some authentic, some not, 2nd Avenue North has no authenticity whatsoever. It starts with a Hard Rock Cafe and ends with Hooters. In between it's more or less the same sort of thing. Now, I usually avoid this sort of thing, but given the choice of Honky Tonk or nearly anything else, I have to seriously consider my options. The lesser of two evils actually turned out to be a fair amount of fun, despite my snobbery.

I even managed to see some live music in Music City. A co-worker and I ate at BB King's and watched Cissy Crutcher, a soul singer and her band play. The show was really entertaining. The fried chicken pretty good too. After that we avoided some of the early Halloween revelry and hung out at one of the less crowded bars on this strip.

::c::

Nashville: Jack's Bar-B-Que

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I knew I was in for a much better Tennessee barbecue experience than at Rippy's as soon as I walked into Jack's Bar-b-que. Besides the excess of anthropomorphic pigs that Guy advised me to look out for at the finest of establishments use for decoration, there was also the smell. Wood smoke permeated the entire space.

Another clear indicator was evident when I paid. It was the cheapest barbecue I've ever had. The large pork sandwich, served on a kaiser roll, as opposed to the small's hamburger bun, along with mac n cheese and a bottle of Shiner Bock set me back a whole $10. That's roughly half the price of any such combo available in NYC that I know of.

Continue reading "Nashville: Jack's Bar-B-Que" »

Nasville: Yazoo ESB

Apparently the folks at Yazoo took the name Extra Special Bitter literally. This ESB is much more like a light bodied IPA than a british style bitter. I pity the Englishman who orders this in hopes of a taste of home. It's definitely not a session beer, but it's a good hopped out beer, when that's what you're looking for. It's got dark, golden coloring.

I never made it out to the Yazoo Brewery yesterday. It turned out to be further than I thought, after walking halfway there, I discovered it was still another mile away.

October 27, 2007

Graffiti in Nashville


IMG_9048, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

This is the only notable graffiti I found in the entire downtown area of Nashville. Robot guy, I salute you.
::c::

October 26, 2007

Nasville: Viva NashVegas


IMG_8960, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

This afternoon, after I checked in, I walked down the Broadway strip, past some of the 'Honky Tonks" that made this town famous and, presumably a bunch of others that jumped on after the fact. It seemed a little surreal to me. Odd, because I've never seen a honky tonk before, much less a dozen within a couple blocks, yet the scene seemed familiar.

So much of the street appeared to be commercialized and contrived to sell to tourists. Crazier to me was that the sign above was proudly proclaims that this strip is becoming a little Las Vegas.

It made me a little sad, even though I don't have any allegiance to the music or its history. A little scared too... I imagine The Bronx in 40 years made into an amusement park for hip-hop, complete with stores selling fake gold chains and 50 Cent or Kanye West blaring over the PA system on every corner.

::c::

Nashville Observations


IMG_8931, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

So far, I've only seen the area around the convention center on Broadway, but this is what I've noticed so far...

They have country music piped out on the sidewalk near the convention center.

Every bar/restaurant I've passed on Broadway has live music advertised. Some of them were already performing. At 11:30am.

Apparently attendance is low for the Nashville Predators, the local Hockey team. The restaurant across the street from the stadium, Rippy's, has a campaign to help increase ticket sales so the team doesn't leave town.

The weather here is not any warmer than home. In fact it's exactly the same.

CMT, the Country Music channel is based here.

Nasville: Yazoo Pale Ale


IMG_8941, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Yazoo Pale Ale is a locally brewed pale with fairly typical flavors for an American pale ale. It's not bad, but I'm having a hard time finding much distinctive about it.

Given that I'm drinking it at a place with 10 generic, mass-marketed brews, including 3 different Miller offerings, I'm pretty happy that a beer like this is available, but it's hardly memorable.

It does make me wonder what beer selections I'll have to look forward to elsewhere in this town...
::c::

[Update: It turns out that the Yazoo Brewery is not terribly far from here. I'll have to go check it out htis evening after we wrap up.

October 25, 2007

Nasville: Rippy's


IMG_8950, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Rippy's Smokin' Bar + Grill sprawls. The ground floor space takes up two extended store front, each with it's own bar, one with an eating space, the other with pool tables. Upstairs is third bar and a patio, which I'm sure would be a lot more pleasant on a warmer day.

The service isn't so great, think 40 minutes and still no food. But then a million people - myself included - just dropped in a block away for a conference that they hadn't expected, so they were totally slammed. It happens.

The important thing is the food.

And by that criterion, it's a total disappointment.

A list of offenses after the jump...

Continue reading "Nasville: Rippy's" »

October 23, 2007

Photo of the Day: God-Fearing


Out West Trip 021, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Bob Jones University, Greenville, SC. 2004.
::c::

October 3, 2007

Heading Down to Country Town


IMG_6905, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Even though I'll be missing out on Barcelona, I do have a couple trips in the next month or so. In fact, I just heard that I'm going down to Nashville in a few weeks. I've heard that the bbq isn't nearly what it is in Memphis, but I'll see what I can find.

If anyone has suggestions, let me know.

April 25, 2007

Photo of the Day: The Struggle


Police, Dog, Student, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Civil Rights Memorial Park, Birmingham, Alabama. 2004.


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