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October 24, 2012

Lima: The Tasting Menu at Astrid y Gaston

Since we're going back to South America, I've decided to go back to some of the stories I forgot to tell about last year's trip.

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Last year, as soon as we decided to spend time in Lima while in Peru, I began hearing about all the food options. And at the center of any food conversation about Lima is Gaston Acuria. The defining chef of Peru, Acuria's flagship restaurant is Astrid y Gaston, which happened to be just a couple blocks from the apartment in Miraflores where we stayed.

On our first night in town, we showed up at their door and managed to get dinner at the bar, where we ordered the tasting menu. A few hours and twelve courses later, we
Finished one of the best meals I've had... Pretty much ever. I won't claim to remember exactly what every course was 7 months later, but you can see a good deal of it after the jump.

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October 17, 2012

Heading South

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This may seem like deja vu, but a month from now, Tammi and I are going back to South America. This trip, like our trip last year, starts in Peru, then takes us to Argentina.

We start in Lima, continue to Argentinian wine country in Mendoza, then finish with a week in Buenos Aires. It may seem like a bit of a rerun, but last year was so great that waiting another five years for a return visit seemed foolish.

I'm in ful on obsessive mode planning and researching places to visit, eat and drink, so stay tuned for links and reminiscing from last year's trip.

July 25, 2012

Montreal: Plateau Mont Royal

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I've been a fan of Montreal since my first trip there a decade ago. That time, I made the mistake of going in November - which is really winter there. I got there just in time for a two day snowstorm that left a couple feet of accumulation on the ground. Lesson learned, I made a point of going earlier in the year on subsequent trips, but I never made it there during the summer.

Going in June this time, I got the brand new experience of being immersed in crowds of Montrealers walking through the street festivals and block parties that make up for all the forced indoor time from November to April.

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July 11, 2012

Montreal: Birthday Dinner at Joe Beef

Yes.

The culinary highpoint in a trip full of amazing food has to be the dinner Tammi and I had on my birthday at Joe Beef. A month after our trip to Montreal, I'm still drooling over the extreme and delicious meal we had there.

Rather than attempt to narrate the meal, I'm just going to give a visual recap of the spectacle after the jump. Enjoy!

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June 27, 2012

Montreal: Dinner at Au Pied du Cochon

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I wasn't messing around when I planned out our recent trip to Montreal. From a month before, I made reservations for our first night at the legendary Au Pied du Cochon. No relation to the Parisian home of cheesy onion soup and pork spread, the Montreal restaurant is often seen as the flagship for Quebec's special brand of rich, hearty, foie gras-laden cuisine.

It's where Hugue Dufour of M Wells got his start and has, until recently, been THE destination restaurant in Montreal. These days, Joe Beef probably puts up a pretty good fight for that title, but more on that later.

For now, you can see our amazing meal after the jump...

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June 13, 2012

O Canada: A Birthday Trip to Montreal

In #montreal, this is a firehouse. #canadagram

To celebrate my 35th Birthday, Tammi and I just spent a long weekend in Montreal. I've been a longtime fan of the city, but Tammi had never been. We spent five days partaking in all sorts of deliciousness. Much of this has already been documented via Twitter and Instagram, but rest assured there's more to come.

You can see my set of phone photos on my Montreal by Phone Flickr set. Stay tuned.

May 9, 2012

Self-Promotion: My NoMad Photos in Travel + Leisure

Finally got the new Travel + Leisure - featuring photos by yours truly.

In my years as Flatiron Lunch correspondent for Midtown Lunch, I spent a lot of time in the area that's now being called NoMad. While covering the area, it grew from being a dead zone to being one of the more interesting areas to eat these days. Travel + Leisure magazine agrees - this month's Food Issue includes a piece highlighting a number of the places to eat in the neighborhood and two of my photos are used to illustrate them.

See which ones after the jump.


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April 25, 2012

Mexico-Bound

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Next week, Tammi and I are heading to Tulum, Mexico for the wedding of some good friends of ours. I'm not one to get excited about spending time in beach towns, but I had a great eating experience in Mexico City years ago and I've been hearing people talk about Tulum for a little while now. Of course, I don't have much in the way of specifics about where to go or what to eat while there, so let me know if you have any tips!

April 16, 2012

Lima: Public Displays

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In the park up above the Lima waterfront, this statue stands as a monument to the Peruvian proclivity for showing affection. Any doubts about how accurate this was was erased by a walk through the park. It was impossible not to pass at least one pair of entangled teens sucking face for all to see.

April 13, 2012

Lima: Dancing in Kennedy Park

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Lima's Kennedy Park is a five minute walk from our apartment in Miraflores and chock full of activity from markets and events and locals just enjoying the space. Every time we walked through the park there was some sort of performance or dance party happening there.

Get a look after the jump.

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April 12, 2012

Lima: Perpetual Cloud Cover

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Having spent our first week or so in Peru up in the mountains, it was easy to forget that it was winter time down there. During the day, the sun shone and temperatures got to the 60s. When we landed in Lima, closer to sea level, we encountered an entirely new weather pattern. It wasn't the cold, snowy winter we (usually) know at home, but there was a chill in the air and we didn't see the sun at all over the four or five days we were there. At all.

We read that it's like that for most of the year, but it's remarkable being right on the coast of the Pacific with a huge cliffside park across from the beach going for miles and miles and not seeing the sun once. I can't imagine how gorgeous it must be on a sunny summer day.

April 9, 2012

Peru: Incan Constellations

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One interesting thing I picked up from our visit to Qorikancha was that unlike the European astrology, which traces the stars to find deities, the Incan constellations find patterns in the darkness around the stars.

This representation of Incan Astrology was painted by Miguel Araoz Cartagena, a local artist in Cuzco. To read more about the constellations, read this.

April 6, 2012

Cuzco: Eating Cuy at Victor Victoria

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It's a fine line between being an open-minded eater and being the idiot who'll eat anything on a dare. I try to be adventurous enough that I don't miss a good meal due but not so much that I'm just eating something because it's there. In Peru, cuy was the elephant in the room. Guinea pig is a local delicacy that I admit had me both curious and a little grossed out. Really though, when was I going to have the opportunity to try it again.

In Aguas Calientes, I almost had cuy confit at The Tree House But they didn't have any on hand. I didn't go hunting for cuy after that, but I mentioned that I wanted to try it to Arturo, a friend of a friend, who leads food tours in Lima (more on that later). He recommended Victor Victoria, a small restaurant that's small, divey and off the beaten path.

We got totally lost the first time we tried to go there, but managed to track it down the next night. Joined by fellow anglophones from Brooklyn and the UK that we met at an Aussie bar down the road, we dove in together and had a pretty good meal.

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April 5, 2012

Cuzco: Craft Museum

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Peru is known for it's textiles and weaves and materials, so it's no surprise that we ended up at the craft museum in Cuzco. While Tammi shopped for "gifts" (ahem), I headed to the back of the shop to see weaving being done by hand. Take a look after the jump.

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April 4, 2012

Cuzco: Qorikancha

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In what was probably the last historic site I laid eyes on over my month long trip to South America, Tammi and I visited Qorikancha, the site of a former Inca temple, which was inevitably looted by the Spaniards and turned into a church. This isn't much a sightseeing blog, so I'll let you read the Wikipedia entry for details and stick with the visuals after the jump.

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April 3, 2012

Cuzco: Chicharron Row

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Our trip to Peru wasn't all eating and hiking - Tammi and I did some sightseeing while we were in Cuzco, too. It just so happens that as we walked to the remains of an ancient inca temple, Qorikancha, we ended up walking down a strip of chicharrones joints. Go figure.

Baskets of freshly fried pork bits were on display in front of each of these places. How could we resist? Culture could wait. Get a look after the jump.

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November 30, 2011

Cuzco: The open kitchen at Cicciolina

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While the eating options were a bit limited in Aguas Calientes, Cuzco was an entirely different story. One night, while looking for a place to grab a drink, we stumbled upon Cicciolina, an Italian place hidden in a courtyard of shops a block or two away from the main square.

We may have come for a drink, but as soon as I saw that our spot at the bar was directly in front of the open kitchen, it was pretty clear that we'd be spending hours there. See cooks, prep, pasta making and cocktail shaking after the jump.

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November 2, 2011

A walk through the cemetery. Recalling Recoleta for Halloween.

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Yes, Halloween is over and everyone's looking to either Thanksgiving or just going straight to Christmas, I've decided to linger a bit and look back. Two months ago, I was wandering the aisles of Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires enjoying a tranquility that is almost unheard of in my life or my city. The days and weeks and months since I've returned have been anything but calm - its been great and I hope to take some time to write about it - but it certainly hasn't been tranquil.

As the spiral into the holidays approaches, this week seemed like a good time to appreciate a moment of stillness. I'll be posting photos from Recoleta today on Twitter and for the rest of the week on Analog UltraClay.

Enjoy.

September 22, 2011

Peru: The Tree House

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As I mentioned yesterday, the town of Machu Picchu, formerly known as Aguas Calientes, is pretty much a tourist town. That includes the food. Pizza and Mexican and Chinese all stand next to restaurants selling the same ten Peruvian dishes, no one offering anything quite good.

There were a couple exceptions that we enjoyed and a month later, the one that sticks with me is The Tree House. Check out the space and the food after the jump.

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Analog Machu Picchu

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I've finally made my way through my film photos of Peru and have started posting them on my analog tumblr site. I'm starting with the photos from Machu Picchu and working my way through the rest of the trip. I'll be posting a few every day, so check back regularly.

September 20, 2011

Peru: Aguas Calientes a.k.a. Machu Picchu town

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The closest town to Machu Picchu was historically called Aguas Calientes, but apparently has recently taken on the name of of its main attraction to avoid confusion.

It reminded me a lot of a smaller Siem Reap: full of travelers and an entrenched tourist economy that offers a little too much of a variety, little of it particularly great. Still, it was interesting to explore. See a bit more about it after the jump.


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September 7, 2011

Peru: Climbing Machu Picchu

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Well, ok, we didn't actually climb Machu Picchu. Not technically. For various logistical reasons that Tammi explains in great detail, we didn't manage to get the appropriate ticket to climb the actual mountain called Machu Picchu. This, it turns out was not a big deal. In fact, given the week of aches and pains I had after the hiking we did do, I'm not sure I'd have managed the mountain.

Since I'm so behind in my posts (and photo editing), I'll minimize the commentary and make with the photos after the jump.

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September 1, 2011

Peru: Altitude Adjustment

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I was warned before heading to Peru that the altitude in Cuzco and to a slightly lesser extent the Machu Picchu area would take its toll on us. Having been gradually acclimatized to the 8,000 foot elevation of Aspen over the years, I was a little skeptical that it would be much worse than a minor headache and a nosebleed or two.

It turns out that 11,000+ feet is a whole different experience.

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August 13, 2011

Heather Williams, Historian, Aunt

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This is my aunt, Heather Williams, she's an Associate Professor in History at UNC Chapel Hill. The week before I took off for my big trip to South America, I took a shorter trip to meet her in Philadelphia for a day of photographing her and her cover art for her upcoming book.

Her book, about the black family and separation due to slavery has recently become even more relevant than it ought to be. She's worse at self-promotion than I am, so you won't hear her talking about it much outside of a classroom or a conference, but keep your eye out for it next year.

In the meantime, you can find her first book, Self-Taught: African American Education in Slavery and Freedom on Amazon.

August 10, 2011

Lima: Late Night at the Airport

The 1am crowd at Lima's airport. #travel #airports #Lima

Our flight arrived in Lima just before midnight local time. We weren't the only ones. Hundreds of people, coming and going, were swarming around the airport when we got here. Even now, four hours later, as we wait for our next flight to take us on to Cuzco, there are many, many people wandering its halls. The stores all seem to be open and we're sitting in a Starbucks, with other exhausted travelers.

I have no idea why, but judging by all the staffers walking about bright-eyed, it seems like this is a normal thing. I have no insight. I'm wiped out and writing this more to stay awake than to inform.

August 9, 2011

And we're off!

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The first big consequence of my new job situation is that I suddenly have a schedule that isn't restricted to corporate vacation policies. For years, I've grumbled about never having enough time to really know a place while traveling. So, I've decided to correct that. On Tuesday, I leave New York for a six week trip to South America. The general plan is to visit Peru with Tammi and then I'll head off to Argentina and Brazil with the possibility of making some stops in the area along the way.

Clearly, there will be more to come...

July 7, 2011

Philly: Frankford Hall Opens in Fishtown

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For Memorial Day Weekend, Tammi and I took a trip down to Philadelphia. High on my agenda for the weekend was to check out the new beergarden in Fishtown, called Frankford Hall. Check it out after the jump...

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May 2, 2011

Hong Kong: Loon Kee Seafood Restaurant

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At the head of Hong Kong's Gage street, right across the street from Lan Fong Yuen tea house, Loon Kee draws passersby in with a visual siren's song of roasted meats hanging in the window.

Behind them, men stand in the window chopping and prepping meat for customers. Their hands, shiny from the greasy skins of pork and duck and chickens, just looking at them work, going in was an inevitability, not an option.


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April 29, 2011

Hong Kong: Thai Hut

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On a particularly debaucherous evening out in Hong Kong, our host took us out to Wan Chai to give us a peek at the seedier side of town. Its probably pretty telling that above all the working girls and over the top everything, we saw there, the thing that I really remember is Thai Hut.

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April 28, 2011

Hong Kong: Tsui Wah

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In our first week in Hong Kong, we passed by branches of the Tsui Wah chain more than a few times without realizing that it was another of the cha chaan tang tea houses, like Lon Fong Yuen (basically diners), that we'd read about. Thankfully, we discovered it in time to stop in a couple times before we headed home.

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April 27, 2011

Hong Kong: The Peak

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Hong Kong is beautiful. I fell for it the moment I looked out the window of the Midlevel apartment we stayed in. The view of the world below, the harbor and Kowloon off in the distance made me want to find explore it as much as I could. That view probably also ruined me for The Peak.

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Hong Kong: Cha Chaan Tang at Lon Fong Yuen

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Among the notes I got from friends and friends of friends ahead of our trip to Hong Kong, I read a couple references to cha chaan tang tea houses as a particular institution in local culture. Despite what I read about it being the home of low budget comfort food, it never occurred to me that it would basically be a diner.

One in particular, Lon Fong Yuen, was highly recommended and conveniently turned out to be right at the beginning of Gage Street, the strip of markets that I obsessively returned to, ogling the Butcher shops and the people who worked there.

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April 25, 2011

Hong Kong: Gage Street

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Walking through Central Hong Kong, it was easy to forget that I was 8,000 miles from home. There were skyscrapers and office buildings this way, hi-rise condos that way, Westerners abounded and English was everywhere. Central certainly didn't have any of the challenges of Saigon or even Tokyo in navigation or communication. I enjoyed exploring the area a lot, but it almost felt like cheating.

Then we took a turn off from under the Mid-Level escalators and found ourselves on Gage Street and found ourselves somewhere else, entirely.


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April 21, 2011

Quick Bite: Bar Mut in Barcelona

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After we left La Sagrada Familia on our last day in Barcelona, Tammi and I went to Bar Mut, in L'Eixample for some wine and a few snacks. We were there in that late afternoon dead period that confounded us just about everyday, but thankfully, they were open through the siesta and we spent a couple hours snacking and drinking wine there. See the food after the jump.

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April 20, 2011

Barcelona: La Cerveteca

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If there's anything I really find myself missing when traveling abroad, it's the availability of good beer. In Barcelona, we imbibed in wonderful cavas and red wines, but when it came to beer, nearly the selection everywhere boiled down to international mass-market dreck and a few, slightly better imports like San Miguel, the Filipino beer I discovered in Hong Kong. If ever there's an American beer, it's the worst of the big brands that made it all the way across the Atlantic.

So, it caught my attention when we passed Le Cerveteca. It looks more like a shop than a bar and in the window, there were signs up with the logo for the Victory Brewing Co., a Pennsylvania-based brewery known for it's quality, hop-laden beers.

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April 18, 2011

Scenes from Barcelona: Kiosko Universal

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Heading to Barcelona, I was obsessed with the Boqueria marketplace. I wanted to photograph it and sample all the different foods there, gorging myself on slice after slice of jamon and who knows what else. Once we got there, though, I ended up mostly window shopping, ogling the wares and wondering how one cooks a cockscomb.

On the one 'morning' we did eat there (and by morning, I mean afternoon), we went to Kiosko Universal.

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March 28, 2011

Barcelona: History All Around

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Directly across from our hotel in Barcelona stood this plaque honoring Salvador Segui. He was an anarchist and part of the republic that was overthrown by Franco in the Spanish civil war.

I don't know enough about the war to be able to regale you with facts about it, but suffice it to say that it was significant and fascinates me for its context in history. Seeing reminders of those events around us while we traveled reminds me of the other fascinating

March 23, 2011

Aspen: The food of BB's Kitchen

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The interesting part of my annual sojourns to Aspen has been tracking down the new restaurants and bars that pop up over the years. This year, I discovered BB's Kitchen, which had only been open for a couple weeks when I got there.

I had a few great meals there and just missed the opportunity to photograph their meat operation for my butchery project. I spoke to the chef, Mark Buley about the restaurant and their plans to bring whole animal cooking to Aspen. If I'd written this post two months ago, I'd probably have a lot more details, but it's all faded a bit, so I'll let the food talk for itself after the jump.

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March 19, 2011

Barcelona: The Vila Viniteca Food Market

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As usual, I took some time while we were in Barcelona to pick up a couple bottles of wine to take home. After reading about the selection available there, we sought out Vila Viniteca in the warrens of El Born, a neighborhood we ended up wandering around quite a bit. When we got there we discovered that it was much more than a wine shop.

Turns out there are three or four different storefronts, this one, above with stacks and stacks of wine, another for private events a third that we didn't get a good look at and a food market that captured my attention for a full half hour. Check it out after the jump.

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March 16, 2011

Barcelona: Cal Pep

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Tapas bar, Cal Pep has been on Barcelona's must visit lists for so long that I almost skipped it just because it's so over-exposed. Except that it was clearly on the list for a reason. I wasn't going to skip it just to be contrary.

The crowded line of people waiting for one of the prized seats at the counter Was enough to scare us off one night, but after our lovely lunch at Quimet i Quimet, I was very excited to keep trying the more amazing options in town.

The line, it turned out, wasn't so big a deal. We walked in to find half a dozen people ahead of us and we were seating within 15 minutes. We passed the time with some house wine and watching the show behind the counter as the chef chatted with customers and the staff presented new dishes to each party.

When we sat down, we were asked what sort of foods we liked and whether we had any particular restrictions. It seems the standard serving style is what the Japanese call omakase - chef's choice. You're in their hands and they bring up whatever is fresh and fits your preference. We went with it and enjoyed course after course - plus one addition we couldn't skip. See the blow by blow after the jump.

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March 15, 2011

Barcelona: Agua Con Gas

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I took a liking to sparkling water back on our honeymoon in Paris. There, as in Barcelona, every meal begins with an offer of water with or without 'gas.' Tammi prefers her water flat, but I found that I really enjoyed the sharp bubbles and, in the case of the Vichy Catalan water that I had nearly everywhere, a slightly salty flavor.

March 7, 2011

Barcelona: La Sagrada Familia

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Much like our time at home, when traveling, we often mean to explore cultural attractions and sites, but usually end up spending more time exploring the local food and drink. I'll walk for hours through neighborhoods tracking down hidden culinary delights, but the museum down the block from the hotel often gets missed. Sad, but true.

So, when we found ourselves with just a day left in Barcelona and we hadn't been to La Sagrada Familia, I considered skipping it. But just briefly. I took my sister to see it 8 years ago and before that had seen it on my high school Spanish trip back in '94. It is quite literally a wonder and not to be missed.

As a site that's been under construction for a century, it's been different every visit. Where I remember the various piles of marble and concrete stacked from my last visit, there is now a huge open hall, a pulpit, statues and gorgeous stained glass windows lighting much of the space.

If I was surprised, Tammi was blown away. The size and scope of the entire building, the beauty and the detail brought her to tears. Neither of us is religious, but walking through the place is a humbling experience.

This week on Tumbr, I'll be posting photos from the La Sagrada Familia, inside and out.

March 4, 2011

Barcelona: Quimet i Quimet

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When I put out the bat signal requesting recommendations for where to eat and drink in Barcelona, no less than four friends insisted that we try Quimet i Quimet. The small wine shop in the Parallel district is famous for its tight quarters and it's wonderful selection of tapas.

The talk of its small space certainly made me hesitate. I'm not partial to being bumped and jostled at every turn, but given the word of some of my most respected food geeks, I had to go. We went for a late lunch and actually found plenty of room.

We weren't super hungry, so didn't get that much - although I could certainly have kept gorging myself just because it was all so good. Check out the courses after the jump.


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Barcelona Observations: Broken Benches

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Walking around Barcelona, I noticed that instead of benches in public spaces, there were sets of three chairs bolted down slightly askew and spread out. I suppose it stops anyone from trying to sleep or spread out over them.

March 3, 2011

Barcelona: Gracia

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We spent most of our time in Barcelona in the tourist centered Rambla/Barri Gotic area with regular excursions to the vaguely less overrun El Born area. There is much to do there and it wouldn't have been a loss if we had spent the entire time wandering the corners and alleys of this area, but I wanted to see a bit more. A friend who had lived in Barcelona told me to check out the Gracia neighborhood. It's a neighborhood more for locals than visitors with quite a few bars, shops and restaurants and a vibe that is less about selling stuff to tourists than offering a cool environment where people actually live.

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March 1, 2011

Barcelona: Cafe Viena

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It's been several years since Mark Bittman wrote that the best sandwich he'd ever had was from a cafe in Barcelona, but it's been in the back of my head ever since. Now that we were there, it was high up on my shortlist of things to try while we were there.

The inauspicious Cafe Viena doesn't stand out from the various shops and cafes along La Rambla, but it's so worth the visit.

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Barcelona: Sant Jaume Sunday Danceparty

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We got to Barcelona on a Sunday morning. While we waited for our room to be available we wandered the Gothic District looking around and seeing what's what. Somehow, we missed the dancers of San Jaume until later in the evening as we were searching for the Picasso museum.

I'm glad we did. It turns out that the plaza hosts a weekly musical performance, along with some sort of traditional circle dance by some of the older Spaniards. It was a fun little glimpse beyond the busking and nonsense of the Rambla.

February 28, 2011

Barcelona Observations: Spanish Time

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Since we were only in Barcelona for four days, we didn't try to acclimate to the time zone too much. Except the first morning, when I woke up early and took this and a few other sunrise photos from the roof of our hotel, we rarely got out before 1pm.

Most often, we'd start the day with lunch in the early afternoon, then tapas around 6-7pm, then dinner around 10 or 11pm. Occasionally, the night was finished with a late night doner kebab from one of the Turkish spots in El Raval near the hotel.

Our only real issue with the local schedule was the siesta period from 2 or 3pm to 5pm - invariably the exact times when we were hunting down a shop. We also had some difficulty finding open restaurants and bars Sunday night - the hazard of visiting a catholic nation.

We usually managed to get back to those places, but sometimes it took a few attempts.

Barcelona Graffiti

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My last trip to Barcelona was back in 2002. I was already taking a lot of photos, but not nearly as seriously as I have been in recent years. Using a borrowed point & shoot, I shot scenery and my sister, who I was traveling with and, for the first time, lots of graffiti.

The street art scene was starting to pick up here in New York, but it wasn't until I saw all the interesting pieces up in Barcelona that I started to really consider photographing it.

This week on my non-analog Tumblr blog, I'll be posting my pics of the local artwork I came across.Enjoy!

February 24, 2011

...And back again

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Tammi and I got back from Barcelona this afternoon. It was a great trip and I've got loads to write about. I hope to spend the next day or two catching up on my posts about this trip, San Francisco, Aspen and Hong Kong.

February 19, 2011

Hong Kong: Darlie

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With all the flights between Vietnam, Cambodia, Hong Kong and The Philippines, we ended up needing to replace toiletries during an overnight stopover. Tammi found a Darlie toothbrush, the descendant of the Darkie brand and just had to get it. I had never heard the story before, but she had. Apparently, back in the day, this brand had a top hat sporting Al Jolson-style logo, seen here. After the obvious uproar, they changed it to Darlie and adjusted the logo, although apparently in Chinese, the name of the brand is still "Black Person."

February 18, 2011

SF: Stopover

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On my way back home from Aspen, I ended up with an unscheduled 18 hour layover in San Francisco. I'm happy with any time I get to spend in the Bay Area, so it was welcome. Most especially since between the snow storm I had just come from and the ice storm that had covered pretty much the rest of the country had left California blissfully alone.

I credit those few hours in SF for planting the seed in my head that I absolutely needed to get the hell out of dodge and that convinced me to go for tomorrow's trip to Barcelona. I'm so sick of being cold. Four days in the 60's without the spectre of another cold snap and any moment will be like heaven.

February 16, 2011

Barcelona-Bound

Barcelona

Apologies for the lack of content lately. I have much to catch up on, but first a bit of news: I found a last minute fare deal from New York to Barcelona and Tammi and I are taking it. This weekend, we're off to spend 4 days on the Mediterranean.

I plan to spend a good deal of that time photographing and eating and hopefully practicing my Spanish. When I get back in a week, I hope to have many stories to tell.
Stay tuned...

January 31, 2011

Aspen: Homeward...hopefully

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After nearly a week without snow, the skies over Aspen have opened up and let loose. It's not unspeakable, but along with the eastward storms in the Midwest, there are probably going to be a couple obstacles between here and home. Here's hoping it all works out.

January 28, 2011

Quick Bite: Steak & Egg at Lulu Wilson in Aspen

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Last year in Aspen, I had Lulu Wilson's Bacon and Egg dish, which I lit with my iPhone.

The other night, I made a return visit and found that the dish had grown into this Steak and Egg entree. This time, I used my iPad for a broader light over the whole dish.

January 27, 2011

The Philippines: Cebu-style Pig

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It wasn't until after the ceremony that I found out that Julia and Toby held their wedding in Cebu for one reason: The food. They both have family in The Philippines, but mostly in Manila and hour's flight away. Instead of gathering friends and family there, they chose Cebu City, the home of a particular type of lechon or suckling pig.

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January 20, 2011

Hong Kong: Brew Dog Punk IPA

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After drinking all that yellow, fizzy beer all over Asia, I was craving something with hops. Every beer you find out there, be it local or import, is light, sweet and after a while, cloying. San Miguel was my favorite of the bunch in Hong Kong and The Philippines, but really, it was all mostly the same.

So, I was very happy to find Brew Dog at a pub in the expat nightlife area, Lan Kwai Fong. The ad, posted on every table spun its marketing campaign as being 'punk,' different, possibly 'too good for you.' The idea would be more clever if the folks that make Arrogant Bastard hadn't been doing it for something like 10 years, but I certainly didn't care. It had hops and was unapologetic about it and for that I appreciated it.

I had the blue label, which provided the over the top hoppy experience that was all the range in beer in the US five years ago. As happy as I was to have it, I could only enjoy a round or two at a time. By then though, my palate was more than happy to return to the lighter local brews.

Weddings: Julia & Toby

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Tammi and I have Julia and Toby to thank for inspiring our trip to Asia last year. We had been racking our brains trying to figure out where we wanted to go for our annual trip until we got the invitation to their wedding in The Philippines. It served as the perfect excuse to go further than we might otherwise have.

The ceremony was a full mass at Sacred Heart Parish Church in Cebu City after which we all headed back to the Shangri La Mactan for the cocktail party and reception. See more photos from the wedding after the jump. The whole set is posted at claywilliamsphoto.com

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Aspen-Bound for the Last Time

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This weekend, I head to Aspen for the final time in the service of my current company. There's plenty more to report about why, but for now, let's stick with the usual trip preparations. Tammi's joining me for a couple days to assist me in set up (having a geek wife has its benefits) and to allegedly take on some of the local activities that I've thus far avoided every year going out there.

My list of restaurants I want to visit for my last time around is long. Ajax Tavern, Ellina, or maybe Brexi

January 18, 2011

Vietnamese Coffee

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One of the delicacies I read about before heading to Vietnam was the local style of coffee brewing. It's sweet and milky and usually served on ice. I don't really drink coffee, but I do like to at least experience distinctive foods and drinks of a place, so I tried it a few times.

Most often we got it served already 'brewed,' but when we went to Pho 24, we received this brewing contraption that filtered the coffee out at the table into a cup with condensed milk.


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January 12, 2011

Vietnam: Pho 24

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When planning to go to Vietnam, I had two major foods I wanted to eat as much of as possible: pho and banh mi sandwiches. Our trip to Cambodia didn't leave us as much time to explore as I'd hoped, so my pho exploration was limited to a couple visits to Pho 24, one of the local pho chains around Saigon.

I'm sure there are a million varieties of pho to be had around Vietnam, much of which may be better than what I had here, but I can say honestly that this was the best I've ever had.

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January 11, 2011

Cambodia: Half-Marathon Through Angkor Wat

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Coincidentally, the day we ended up visiting Angkor Wat the same day as the Angkor Wat Half Marathon. We arrived as the race was wrapping up, but we got to see the familiar sight of the finishers stretching and walking off the long run.

January 10, 2011

Cambodia: Angkor Wat, Destination

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Like the rest of Siem Reap, Angkor Wat was filled with tourists and those seeking the tourists' dollars. Wherever we went we were nudged and jostled by tour groups and picture-takers. I counted German, French, Spanish, Russian, Korean, and Japanese groups over the course of the day.

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Cambodia: Angkor Wat

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Ten years ago, before I caught the travel bug, before I'd ever booked a flight on my own or gone further than New England unaccompanied, I worked in an office in Times Square. In the entryway to my department was a large print of a photo from Angkor Wat. I passed it several times a day and wondered where the hell Cambodia was and honestly never really thought I'd be there in person. A decade later, here I was in Siem Reap walking through the ruins and seeing the real thing up close. Without intending to, I'd accomplished a travel goal.


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January 7, 2011

Cambodia: Street Sandwiches in Siem Reap

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Most of the eating we did while in Cambodia was in the sit down joints up and down 'pub street,' the main tourist drag in Siem Reap. I didn't get a lot of opportunity to explore the street carts offerings the way I did in Saigon. There was the lady selling those yummy sausages and someone else who I got some barbecue chicken wing nubs from, but I didn't see nearly as many sandwich carts as I did in Vietnam.

After visiting Num Pang here in New York, I was curious to see how different the local sandwiches stood apart. I only saw one cart around where we were selling them, so of course, I tried it. Twice.

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January 6, 2011

Cambodia: Travel by Tuk Tuk

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The primary mode of transport around Siem Reap was tuk tuk, a motorcycle-driven rickshaw that was much sturdier that I'd expected and cost a buck or two to get us pretty much anywhere. We even ended up taking one to the airport.

Cambodia: Barbecue on Pub Street

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In a town as full of tourists as Siem Reap, Tammi and I indulged in some of the typically touristy spectacle-seeking activities like the fish pedicure and eating some odd meats at a barbecue joint that clearly catered to the sensational eating crowd.

While I eat my fair share of foods that might gross some people out, I seldom engage in the bizarre foods contests that becomes more about eating weird stuff rather than food that actually tastes good. This time we figured 'what the hell?' Check it out after the jump.

Continue reading "Cambodia: Barbecue on Pub Street" »

Cambodia: Fish Pedicure

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Based on what we saw, the entire economy of Siem Reap is based on tourist traffic and dollars. Besides the kids hitting everyone up selling books and postcards, everyone around us called our attention to massages, restaurants, tuk-tuks and ... fish pedicures.

Giant tanks sat all around town full of small fish that suck the dead skin off of your feet. Tammi tried it for about 10 seconds before freaking out. I stuck my hand in and have to say it is a rather strange sensation.

January 5, 2011

Cambodia: Kid Hawkers

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Throughout Siem Reap, pretty much wherever we went, kids of all ages approached us to sell us something - anything. Persistent as they were ubiquitous, the tourist economy of this area was most obvious watching them follow and harass visitors with offers of guide books, postcards, bottled water and god knows what else.

My instincts as a New Yorker stopped me from even considering making a purchase from them. This apparent heartlessness was validated after seeing one lady swarmed upon after buying postcards from one child. Seemingly a dozen of them flew over demanding that she buy something from them too. No thanks.

Interestingly, the one exception for all hawking was within the bounds of the temples of Angkor Wat. Outside, they badgered and encircled potential customers, trying everything from striking up conversations to offering compliments - I was even told by one that I look like Obama. Yet, as soon as you walked in the ruins, it all stopped. Some of the kids were inside, but they sat and rested or napped.

I won't read any reverence or respect into this and just assume it's just not tolerated there. Regardless, it provided a much appreciated break for all of us.

January 4, 2011

Cambodia: Shellfish Street Cart

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I saw a few carts like this while walking around town in Siem Reap, but I didn't partake. They were selling what looked like tiny clams tossed in spices and hot pepper flakes. Get a closer look after the jump.

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January 3, 2011

Cambodia: Car Logos

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I have no idea why, but many of the cars around town in Cambodia had the automakers' logos on the side.

Cambodia: Street Cart Sausages in Siem Reap

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Compared to Vietnam, the street food in Siem Reap, Cambodia was pretty sparse. I did manage to find some carts selling skewers of chicken wing ends and even a cart with a variation on the banh mi sandwiches I love so much (more on that to come). The best of the cart food I found was from a lady selling these sweet, salty sausages.

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Cambodia: A Weekend in Siem Reap

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Though I could have spent weeks exploring the street food and sidewalk culture of Saigon, after a week of the hustle of urban life in Hong Kong and Vietnam,Tammi was ready for a break. We booked a weekend trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia to see a quieter side of Southeast Asia and to explore the temple ruins of Angkor Wat.

Two days isn't a ton of time to see a lot, but we managed to get a trip to the ruins and some R&R in town while we were there. More to come.

December 31, 2010

Vietnam: Tricia and Verona

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When I told friends that we were going to Vietnam, more than a few of them suggested that I look into getting a suit there. In Hoi An in particular, but throughout the country, it seems, there are many accomplished tailor shops that can put together bespoke clothing within a day or two.

I don't get dressed up very often, but having just lost a suit due to a tear while shooting a wedding, I found myself in the market. So, our first destination in Saigon was to Tricia & Verona

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December 30, 2010

Vietnam: The Cu Chi Tunnels

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As an American traveling to Vietnam, the elephant in the room is clear. We sort of had a war here. And we sort of lost. And we've sort of been arguing about it ever since.

When Tammi told my father in law about out trip, he was baffled. "You're going to 'Nam?" he asked. He's just young enough to have missed the draft, so the idea of spending a couple days visiting scenic Saigon probably didn't make any damn sense to him. I expect that my little godson, only a few months old will go somewhere like Afghanistan or Iraq in decades to come and that I'll be equally perplexed.

To see more about the local perspective of the war, we went to the Cu chi tunnels. A network of what amount to crawl spaces spread miles around the town of cu chi and as far as Saigon. Built to fend off the French, the US went and built a base right on top of it, having no idea that the enemy was literally under their noses.

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Vietnam: Barbecue Beef at 3T Quan Nuong

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We found 3T Quan Nuong while rummaging through our guidebook for restaurants near the Dong Khoi area where we spent most of our time in Saigon. It doesn't take a lot to sell me on barbecue of any kind, but cook at your table barbecue in a roof garden pretty much demanded my attention. How could we go anywhere else? See the food after the jump.

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Vietnam: Sidewalk Culture

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I risk losing any credibility I might have by gushing over and over about how 'fascinated' I am by one aspect or another of Vietnamese culture, but I can't help it. The scooters zipping around Saigon clearly got my attention. And how could I not be obsessed with the myriad banh mi carts serving up any number of variations of pork on pork deliciousness?

Similarly, how could I not be fascinated by the sidewalk culture we saw there. Day and night, people sat out on little plastic stools talking, eating and generally gathering with their communities.


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December 29, 2010

Vietnam: Scooter Cabs

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When getting around Saigon, Tammi and I didn't really think much of hopping a cab to get around. Considering a ride rarely cost more than a dollar (except when the driver is ripping you off - which happened coming from the airport).

For locals though, the cheapest and easiest way to get around is to hop on the back of someone's scooter. Guys like this hung out on nearly every corner waiting for a 'fare' to come by looking for a ride.

Vietnam: Com Tam Moc

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Having spent most of my eating time in Saigon obsessing over banh mi sandwiches, I didn't really get a chance to explore too many of the other culinary stylings of Vietnam. But on our first morning, we grabbed breakfast/lunch at Com Tam Moc, down the block from our hotel. Cơm tấm apparently refers to the leftover fragments of rice grains which are sorted out and sold cheaper.

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December 28, 2010

Vietnam: Hotel Bars

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At the end of our first day in Saigon, Tammi and I decided to get a little western hospitality at the roof bar at the Sheraton Saigon. The view was gorgeous and the wine list wasn't bad. What we didn't really realize until we got the check was that the prices were also quite western. The typically high hotel mark up is dramatically higher here compared to the wine bar across the street we discovered later, which stocked plenty of good wine for as low as $5-8 a glass.

Whoops.

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December 23, 2010

Vietnam: Crossing The Street

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Before going to Vietnam, a friend who'd been there had one piece of advice about crossing the street through the swarm of scooters: Don't hesitate, don't run, don't panic.

Just as the scooters manage to (seemingly safely) zip this way and that without and sort of rules or order, they can ride around you as long as it's clear where you're going and how fast you're going. Adjust your pace as necessary, but don't break out into sprint unless you want to get run over.

Vietnam: Bier Garden

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Bier Garden ended up being our central spot while we were in Saigon. After a week or so of pretty much exclusively drinking those sweet, fizzy Asian beers like Tsingtao, Tiger and San Miguel, the option of having an international selection available was really appealing to me.

The more 'exotic' selections available mostly came from Western Europe from Belgian and German wheats along with English and Irish ales. They also had Cooper's, an Aussie beer I've been fond of for some time. Yet, interestingly, I found little relief in these western brews. Despite differences in styles and country of origin, I soon came to find that nearly all of the beers available had similar tasting points. All were lighter in body and sweeter in flavor without much in the way oh hops or sharpness to balance the experience.

The crowd, clearly, was made up entirely of tourists enjoying a pint or three of their home town brew. Sadly there was no such nostalgia for me. Remarkably there weren't any American beers available that I recall.

December 22, 2010

Vietnam: Colonial Decay

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Walking around Saigon, it was interesting to see all the old deco-era buildings that have fallen into disuse and decay. The scenes around town were so vibrant and active, yet many of these old buildings looked as if they hadn't been touched in decades.

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December 21, 2010

Vietnam: Scooter Helmets

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While we were in Vietnam, Tammi coveted these helmets, fashioned after baseball caps. She'd hoped to buy one but couldn't find one while we were there.

December 20, 2010

Five Tips for Eating Banh Mi in Saigon

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Going to Vietnam, I was excited more than anything else for the street food. I mean, obviously. After all, I even made a lunch expedition to Chinatown ahead of the trip just to pre-game it at Banh Mi Saigon.

So, while in Ho Chi Minh City - which everyone we spoke to continues to call Saigon - I made a point of seeking out as many of these sandwiches as I could find. In the process, I came up with a few tips for the hungry traveler seeking out this particular deliciousness while in Vietnam.


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Vietnam: Scooter Madness


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My first view of the streets of Saigon were dark, blurry and in constant motion. I'd heard that nearly everyone in Vietnam gets around on scooters and motorcycles, but I didn't really 'get' it until we were surrounded by them.

Apparently, government taxes and restrictions make buying a car prohibitively expensive, so pretty much everyone gets around on two wheels.

I have to say, it fascinated me. As much disdain as I may have for cars, I don't think I could ride around the way they do out there. It definitely captured my attention though, I couldn't stop taking pictures of them. See more after the jump.

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December 19, 2010

Hong Kong: No Dog Fouling

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Mid-Levels, Hong Kong.

Hong Kong: Smog

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On our first morning in Hong Kong, I looked out at the gorgeous view from our friend's apartment and peered through the haze across the harbor to Kowloon.

It reminded me of San Francisco and the fog that comes in in the morning off the bay. It seemed pretty cool until our host mentioned that it was actually smog coming off of the mainland. Apparently this time of year is the worst. Above is the view of the Hong Kong Island from the Star Ferry terminal on the water. It reminds me of how clean the air is in New York, even if we can't always tell it on the ground.

December 18, 2010

Hong Kong: Just Married

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Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong. 2010.

Hong Kong: Spanish Hourly Hotel

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Apparently when it's not inundated with shoppers, Kowloon's Mong Kok area hosts any entirely different marketplace after hours. It wasn't the first time in Hong Kong we saw some blatant signs of prostitution, but I have to wonder what makes this place 'Spanish."

December 17, 2010

Airport Security: Toner Cartridges

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It's easy to criticize, I know it is. Easier than securing a nation, certainly. That said, it seems ridiculous the piecemeal rules that get put into effect indefinitely after a threat is discovered. I just feel like there should be a smarter way.

Hong Kong: Egg Tarts at Tai Cheong Bakery

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On my list of recommendations for places I should not miss in Hong Kong, a friend added the egg tarts at Tai Cheong Bakery. I didn't know much about it, but it sounded like a nice snack, so we went for it. When we finally found it, the line out the door and the newspaper clips posted of the former British governor scarfing down the famous tarts confirmed that we were in the right place.

The bakery appears to sell other items, but it seemed like the egg tarts were the main attraction. Right in front of the counter a warming tray keeps them hot and ready for each new customer. Take a look after the jump.

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Christmas in Hong Kong

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The timing of our annual trip means that every year we end up seeing the Christmas season kick off in some place far from home. From the unfamiliar displays in Paris to the cognitive dissonance of sun and palm trees in Hawaii, it's always interesting to see how different cultures handle the holidays.

In Hong Kong, that's entails playing Christmas music in every subway station and shopping area as well as putting up these huge decorations in Kowloon near Victoria Harbour.


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December 16, 2010

Hong Kong Food Finds: Cream Flavoured Collon

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Found in a Hong Kong supermarket. I'm pretty sure there's nothing I can say that will make this more ridiculous.

Hong Kong: Amazing Ramen at Butao King

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When planning the Hong Kong portion of our trip around Asia, I expected to partake in all sorts of Chinese food from Cantonese to Szechuan and all sorts of foods I'd never heard of. What I didn't plan on was spending two hours in line to go to a Japanese ramen shop, but that's what happened. The night we arrived, I picked up a copy of the local Time Out to see what food and events were below the radar of the guide books. The review for Butao King, a tiny ramen shop in Central was so amazing that there was no question we had to try it.

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Hong Kong: HSBC Protest

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Protest at HSBC office building, Central Hong Kong.

December 15, 2010

Hong Kong: 7-Eleven

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When we had our little TV Dinner adventure on our first night in Hong Kong, the idea of 7-Eleven there was secondary to the urgent need for something to eat.

7-Eleven has always been something of a mystery to me. There are a few in New York now, but growing up in the land of bodegas, it was a fairly foreign brand. It existed in the suburbs and on television - comedians joked about it and I didn't really get it. So, it was pretty funny to find this brand of Americana on nearly every block in Central and the Mid-Levels.

Hong Kong: Bamboo Scaffolding

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I'm all for using sustainable materials as a way of cutting down on waste, pollution and all that. It's a noble effort and we all ought to be involved. That said, I have to admit to being totally freaked out by the use of bamboo for scaffolding just about everywhere in Hong Kong.

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Hong Kong: Rush Hour

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Rush hour at the Admiralty MTR Station, Hong Kong.

December 14, 2010

Hong Kong: Makeup on the Subway

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Apparently, this happens in Hong Kong too.

Hong Kong: The Mid-Levels Escalators

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This is one of the Mid-Levels Escalators. It is remarkably useful for getting from sea level in Central to up in the hills where we are staying. It is remarkably less useful after midnight when it shuts down.

At the end of our first day in Hong Kong, we hung out in SoHo and drank wine and took advantage of the fact that our bodies thought it was the middle of the day. When the bars closed at 2am, we discovered that we had a long climb ahead of us.

This was all days before we found out that the cab ride up the hill only costs US $3. Even so, drunkenly hiking up the side of a mountain making our way home after a day of exploring was a fun experience - just not one I plan to do again soon.

Hong Kong: The Mong Kok Market

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A couple days after we landed in Hong Kong, Tammi and I went on an expedition for a yarn shop. We made our way up to the northern part of Kowloon to an area called Mong Kok. This turns out to be the big shopping neighborhood - not the fancy shopping of Central, with the Louis Vuitton and such, but the real Herald Square/Fulton Street-type of shopping. We made the mistake of going on a Saturday afternoon, which lead to an hour of fighting a tide of humanity searching for a particular address, hidden behind rows of street stalls.

Not recommended. On the plus side, there was some great looking food around that I'd have loved to have tried, but never got the chance to.

December 13, 2010

Hong Kong: Brat

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Among all the western foods available in SoHo, Brat stuck out most of all to me. An American-style sausage shop, done up like it could be in Brooklyn or Downtown Manhattan - in fact there's a place called Brats in Chelsea.

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I stopped in once and was tempted to eat there. I was put off by the lady who worked there who insisted that I could only take photos if it was for personal use. I don't know the restaurant politics in Hong Kong, but I didn't really feel like going somewhere where I'd be hassled about taking food photos.

Still, given the American junk I ate on my last day of the trip, I should definitely gone here instead.

Analog: Airport Security

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Tammi and I landed back home in New York yesterday from Hong Kong. I've got plenty to post about and hope to get them flowing out of there next week or two.

Over the last couple weeks, we've been on 10 flights through six countries and dealt with countless different stages of airport security. Ever since I started shooting film, one of the biggest potential hassles has been dealing with airport security.

X Rays can severely damage the emulsion on film in a way that can totally screw your images. Now, the first thing any screener will say is that it'll only affect film that's faster than ISO 800 or even 1600. What none of them understands is that slower film isn't invulnerable to X Rays, it's just that it takes more passes to do the same damage because it's less sensitive.

I've read that it takes five passes to damage 100 speed film the way one pass damages a faster roll. Given that we've passed through maybe a dozen security checkpoints on this trip, the hazard is still there.

In one of the few compliments I've ever really considered about the TSA, I will say that they invariably will do a proper manual swab of my film without giving me a hard time.

Less so in Japan, above, where the security guy at Narita insisted on opening up and visually inspecting each of my 20+ rolls. In the end, it's better than the Cambodian guard who insisted that I put my one roll of 1600 speed film in the x-ray because the sign said it was 'film-safe.' I haven't shot it yet, so we'll have to see how it comes out when I get home.

Hong Kong: 13 Hours

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When Tammi and I went to Japan three years ago, the huge time difference was significant. It took us a few days of waking up at 3am before we finally adjusted. This time around in Hong Kong, it's been more challenging.

I think what's made it harder this time around is social media. Back in 2007, we'd check email once or twice a day but otherwise be pretty disconnected from the world at home. Now, we're so wired to Twitter, Facebook, tumblr and everything else that make us constantly aware that we're not on our usual schedule. Every evening we'd get back to our room and as we were winding down, a slew of posts and tweets and updates would start flowing in. It could be a little disorienting.

I also put together a couple Midtown Lunch posts while away and had to keep in mind what time it was at home - and when communicating with Zach, what time it is in California as well. That's not including the changes between Hong Kong and our stops in Vietnam and Cambodia to the west and The Philippines to the east.

I'm not complaining or lamenting, I think it's been really interesting to have to juggle multiple time zones like this. Now that I'm back on EST, I'm of course jetlagged and sitting here writing this at 4am and getting updates in the middle of the night when you can't sleep suddenly seems much more appealing.

December 10, 2010

Hong Kong: Bubies

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In Central Hong Kong, there is a bra shop called Bubies (pronounced boobies). If that weren't awesome enough, the display in the window lists names for many of the 'models' of bra. These names include Chocolate Glory, Tempura, Pepper Steak and Gelato.

So. Wonderful.

Hong Kong: No Napkins

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One odd thing we found nearly everywhere we went in Hong Kong and to an extent in Vietnam and Cambodia: Napkins are few and far between. Except for the most Westernized restaurants, no one provides napkins with your meal. Even here at Yung Kee, a well known and popular Chinese place in Central, when we asked for a napkin, they brought us a box of kleenex-style tissues.

At other places, I noticed that people walked around with packs of tissues and used those. It made for interesting improvisation after long messy meals to have to figure out how to clean my hands without making a mess of my clothes.

December 9, 2010

Hong Kong: San Miguel Beer

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Asia doesn't really have much in the way of great beer. Pretty much all of it is light, yellow and fizzy. It's a bit sweet and most often indistinguishable from one another. You may eventually notice differences between Tsingtao and Asahi and Sapporo, but mostly they're very similar. Given that, San Miguel, a Filipino beer became my beer of choice. Again, it's not significantly better, but you take what you can get.

December 8, 2010

Hong Kong: Guts on a Stick

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I was really excited about the street food when coming out to Asia and I've eaten quite a bit of it, particularly in Vietnam - more to come on that. But I couldn't quite bring myself to try these intestines at a market in Kowloon while we were in Hong Kong. They looked interesting and even Tammi thought about it until asking what it was. The lady gestured to her gut and it was immediately clear.

We'll be back in Hong Kong a couple more times before heading home, so maybe I'll muster up the -ahem- intestinal fortitude to give it a go.

Hong Kong: CraftSteak?

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Walking through one of the restaurant strips in the SoHo area of Central Hong Kong, Tammi and I came across CraftSteak. I hadn't known of Colicchio and co having another branch of the now closed restaurant, so I looked closer.

According to the card, the CraftSteak Hong Kong as a whole family of familiarly named restaurants including Blue Smoke, BLT Burger, and Olive among others. I'm presuming these are all licensees and not some crazy joint venture that somehow flew under the radar.

December 7, 2010

Hong Kong Food Finds: Curry Beef Brisket & Tendon with Rice

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We landed in Hong Kong just before midnight. There wasn't much exploring to be done by the time we got to the apartment and our friend whose house we were staying in was out of town, so couldn't direct us anywhere. But we were both ravenous. We made our way to the nearby 7 Eleven in the hopes of anything to eat.

That's when I an across this particularly interesting Food Find: Maxim's Beef Brisket & Tendon with curry and rice. Adventures in TV Dinner after the jump.

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December 5, 2010

Hong Kong: Brunch Club

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Apparently brunch is a thing in Hong Kong too.

December 3, 2010

And on to the next one

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It's 5am and Tammi and I are getting ready for a flight to Cambodia for the weekend. Vietnam has been quick, but fascinating. We'll have another evening here before we head back to Hong Kong and then The Philippines, so I hope to get a chance to gorge myself further on pho and street banh mi.

I can't promise updates for another couple days, so follow me on Twitter for more up to the minute posts (12 hours ahead).

December 2, 2010

Hong Kong: McDonald's Red Bean Pie

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While in Hong Kong, we made an emergency bathroom run to a McDonald's in Kowloon. I tend to avoid such Americanisms even at home, but really try to avoid them when I'm out of the country. That said, I'm very intrigued by this Red Bean Pie dessert they sell there. The fried pie shell reminds me of the old school apple pies of my youth and I'm curious how it all works with red beans.

We'll be back in Hong Kong twice more before we head home, so maybe I'll give in and try it out.

Hong Kong: Do Not Misuse

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SoHo, Central, Hong Kong.

Saw this on the side of an ambulance the other day. I don't know how bad a problem false alarms are in Hong Kong, but I love the use of these cute little characters to bring home the point.

December 1, 2010

Hong Kong: Jackie Chan Approved!

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"Effectively Reduces Hair Fall" - Hong Kong Supermarket, Mid-Levels.

November 30, 2010

Philly: Tapas Dinner at Bar Ferdinand

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The night before the marathon last weekend in Philadelphia, Tammi and I spent the evening hanging out in Northern Liberties. We had some drinks at Swift Half and Standard Tap and had a dinner of tapas at Bar Ferdinand.

Check out the course by course after the jump.

Continue reading "Philly: Tapas Dinner at Bar Ferdinand" »

Greetings from Hong Kong!

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After five days in Hong Kong, we head to Vietnam today (tomorrow?) - Wednesday. It's been a great time so far and there's tons to post about, starting with this, the view from our friend Bobby's apartment, where we've been staying.

There's so much more to see and do here and I'm happy that we're going to be back a couple more times before heading home. For now, check my tweets and Flickr for semi-regular updates.

November 29, 2010

Philly: DiNic's Again

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After the marathon last weekend in Philly, there was only one thing that my friend Guy needed to make the hurting stop: A roast pork sandwich from DiNic's. Get a look at the deliciousness after the jump.

Continue reading "Philly: DiNic's Again" »

November 28, 2010

JFK: Croque Madame Opens

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Hanging out at the airport waiting for a flight isn't something people typically look forward to, but when I read that Andrew Carmellini of Locanda Verde was going to be a part of a new collection of restaurants and bars in JFK's Terminal 2, I immediately suggested that we get a jump on all that Thanksgiving traffic as we headed to Hong Kong.

It didn't hurt that it is located directly across from that bastion of high end mediocrity, Bonfire, my longtime nemesis in Delta Terminal eats.

Despite all the threats of passenger protests over TSA security measures, we more or less zipped through leaving a couple hours to spare before our flight. All the more time to explore the menu and have what turned out to be the first adventure of our trip. Sparks literally flew. Check it out after the jump.

Continue reading "JFK: Croque Madame Opens" »

Analog Montreal: Charcuterie Hongroise

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If you've been following Analog UltraClay, you may have already seen some of the recent photos I posted from Charcuterie Hongroise. While walking up St Laurent toward Schwartz's on my last day in Montreal, I passed a few old school butcher shops that caught my attention.

It was the sausages hanging in the window that drew me in to boucherie hongroise. Montreal still has some of the old European style butcher shops that are quickly disappearing in New York.

See inside after the jump.


Continue reading "Analog Montreal: Charcuterie Hongroise" »

November 24, 2010

And We're Off! Asia-bound

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Today's the day. Tammi and I are off to the airport for our flight to Hong Kong. Even though I'll be away for the next two weeks, I've still got a bunch of posts that I've been working on that should be going up here from Philly, Montreal and cooking at home. There are also some posts queued up on Midtown Lunch and on Analog UltraClay, so stay tuned!

November 23, 2010

Philly: Marathon Recap

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As I mentioned, Tammi and I spent the weekend down in Philly to cheer on my friend Guy as e ran his first marathon. Any weekend in Philadelphia is an excuse to eat, drink and be merry, so expect a few posts about that over the next couple days.

In the meantime, see the photos from the race after the jump.

Continue reading "Philly: Marathon Recap" »

November 22, 2010

Analog Montreal: Schwartz's Smoked Meat

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If there was any one food I absolutely had to eat in Montreal, it was the smoked meat sandwich at Schwartz's. Viande fumee was a revelation for me on my last trip there and Schwartz's topped the list.

Here in Brooklyn, we've got Mile End's excellent version, but I couldn't pass up an opportunity to go to the source.

So, on our last day in town, when my friends were brunching at the hotel and heading to the airport, I ditched everyone and made my way to St. Laurent to experience it again.

Continue reading "Analog Montreal: Schwartz's Smoked Meat" »

November 20, 2010

Philly: It's Marathon Time Again

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We're back in Philly this weekend to cheer on my friend Guy in his first marathon. Up early and screaming my lungs out is for tomorrow. Tonight, it's catching up with my sister and trying out some new bars and restaurants in the city of brotherly love. Cheers.

November 19, 2010

Lunch: Banh Mi Saigon

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Even though I still have five days left before our trip to Asia starts, my mind has been 8,000 miles away for days. It's pretty much all I can think about.

Yesterday, my mental wandering took me on a trip far out of my usual bounds down to Chinatown to get a Vietnamese sandwich from Banh Mi Saigon, one of the old favorites in the banh mi craze. I'd never been there, but happened upon it a few nights ago and decided I had to return. Having rated first place in the Midtown Lunch Banh mi-palooza in the spring was definitely a good enough reference for me. Read on for the porky goodness.

Continue reading "Lunch: Banh Mi Saigon" »

November 18, 2010

Montreal: Mount Royal

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A month before wandering through the woods in North Carolina with my aunt, I was hiking up the trails of Mount Royal in Montreal. The park, designed by the man who designed Central Park reminds me of our big parks stacked on top of each other. Being built on a mountain literally adds another dimension to exploring the park. I walked down memory lane and got lost in the trees and the hills.

I don't do nature and scenery often, so take it all in after the jump.

Continue reading "Montreal: Mount Royal" »

November 17, 2010

Montreal: Brunch at L'Express

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When I asked around about places to go with my group of friends in Montreal, Zach from Midtown Lunch emailed me right away to direct me to his findings that he posted on Serious Eats a while back.

Only being there for a weekend, I didn't get to check out a whole lot of it, but we did hit L'Express, on St. Denis in the French district for brunch our first morning there.

Continue reading "Montreal: Brunch at L'Express" »

Montreal!

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Hey, remember that time I went to Montreal? Right, the time I didn't blog about...

Yeh, I'm catching up. Really.

My friends and I were up there for Seagram's bachelor party a month before his wedding to Kelly in Daytona Beach. The weekend was quick, but a great time and I managed to get away from the group here and there to wander and explore.

I'll be posting about it for the next couple days here and I'll be posting film photos from the trip on Analog UltraClay. Stay tuned.

November 16, 2010

Daytona Beach: Oceanwalk

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The Daytona Beach Oceanwalk was right behind our hotel. It's where everyone watched the Wings and Waves Air Show from. It looked like a low budget Coney Island, there were bars and an arcade and a few rides that looked like they'd seen better days.

This week in New York we're hearing about the classic old dives of Coney getting shuttered in favor of mall-ified entertainment that's not unique nor local nor interesting. In honor of the old places that are still around, I'm posting a few photos from the Oceanwalk on Analog UltraClay over the next day or so.
Enjoy.

November 12, 2010

The Best Camera

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I was bored on a recent commute and rediscovered the Best Camera app by Chase Jarvis. Based on his book "The Best Camera is The One That's With You," the app is a collection of filters and effects for your cameraphone pics.

After the jump check out some of the results of a train ride worth of playing with recent photos from the air show in Daytona Beach, wandering about town and (at the bottom) a couple potentially NSFW pics from the Arms Drawn party a few weeks back

Continue reading "The Best Camera" »

November 11, 2010

Daytona Beach: Wings & Waves 2 - The Audience

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When we headed down to Daytona Beach for Kelly & Seagram's wedding, I didn't think I'd need a crazy strong telephoto zoom lens with me. It hadn't occurred to me that there might be an air show and with it the opportunity to photograph airplanes large and small booming by overhead and I might want to get a close up of them.

I'm happy with many of the photos that I got of the show, but knowing that I was never going to get particularly close up images without doing some major cropping, I changed my focus from the aircraft to the audience. I decided to do a little street photography by trying to capture the mood and the moments on the ground while the planes were flying up above us.

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Today's post highlights the audience, see more after the jump.

Continue reading "Daytona Beach: Wings & Waves 2 - The Audience" »

November 10, 2010

Daytona Beach: Three

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Kelly & Seagram's wedding last month was in Daytona Beach, Florida, famous for a car race that some of us only know from a Ghostface Killah song. The rehearsal dinner, the night we got there was at the Daytona 500 Experience, up above the track. Standing above the entryway is a statue of Number 3 himself, Dale Earnhardt, seen here. When I saw it the night we arrived, I thought it would be the most unusual thing I was going to see all weekend. Then I found out about the airshow.

November 9, 2010

Daytona Beach: Wings and Waves Air Show

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More surreal than dinner at a NASCAR track was the air show that took place right behind our hotel the weekend we were in Daytona Beach for Kelly & Seagram's wedding.

I had never been to such a thing before, so I had no idea what to expect. The sound of the F-16's afterburner overhead nearly killed me. I don't think I had ever heard anything so loud in my life.

Continue reading "Daytona Beach: Wings and Waves Air Show" »

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" »

November 5, 2010

NC: Breakfast at Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen

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I'm not usually a breakfast eater, but while I was in Chapel Hill, my aunt told me how much her students love it when she brings in biscuits from Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen. I was curious. After a bit of Googling, I found a post about it on Serious Eats and I was ready to go right away.

After it was all done, my only regret was not going every day I was there. Check it out after the jump.

Continue reading "NC: Breakfast at Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen" »

November 4, 2010

It's Cooking Weather

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With apologies to Ruhlman for blatantly ripping off his old logo, I was inspired to take this photo as I've been spending a lot more time in the kitchen lately. The cooling weather has my nesting instincts. As I've been in the house more working on portfolios and plotting my entry into the photography business, I've also been cooking more. There's been braising, roasting, making stocks and I even made my first risotto. (Lesson learned, cook hotter, stir more, but definitely use the cheese rind stock again.)

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When in North Carolina last month, I cooked for a dozen or so people, the biggest audience I've had maybe all year. The big challenge was that I had to feed vegetarians and people with gluten allergies, hence the veggie stock prep above. It was a ton of fun and has only encouraged me to want to cook more. Hopefully one day I'm figure out how to cook and shoot at the same time and I could then actually blog about that from time to time. Here's hoping.

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.

October 22, 2010

Food Finds: Liver Mush


Food Finds: Liver Mush, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

I'm in North Carolina this weekend visiting my aunt. In the past, I've pined for the wide open aisles and the extensive selections of the suburban supermarket, but here's one thing I'm not particularly jealous of: Liver Mush.

I suppose it's aptly named,but I feel like they probably could have worked a little harder on the branding...

October 20, 2010

Weddings: Kelly & Seagram Part III - The Dances

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Finishing up with the wedding posts for Kelly and Seagram today. They threw such a great party that I wanted to set aside a post just for all the dancing that went on. The reception went on into the night, getting extended an extra hour because everyone was having such a good time.

See the 'specialty dances' to the conga line (seriously) after the jump.

Continue reading "Weddings: Kelly & Seagram Part III - The Dances" »

October 19, 2010

Weddings: Kelly & Seagram Part II

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After Kelly and Seagram's ceremony, we all went to the Sunset Harbor Yacht Club for the reception.

Despite some unfortunate circumstances, they threw a great party and everyone really enjoyed it. I know I was very happy to be a part of it.


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After the jump see more reception photos from the cake cutting to the speeches and prayer.

Come back tomorrow, when I'll wrap up with some old fashioned party pics from the dance floor.

Continue reading "Weddings: Kelly & Seagram Part II" »

October 18, 2010

Weddings: Kelly & Seagram

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Last weekend, Tammi and I flew down to Daytona Beach for Kelly & Seagram's wedding. You may recognize him as the best man at Kim and Chris' wedding last winter. Seagram has been a close friend since we were freshmen in college together 15 years ago and it's really satisfying to see him and Kelly so happy together. She's a great person and they make a wonderful couple.

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See more photos in and around the ceremony after the jump. Check back tomorrow for photos from the reception.

Continue reading "Weddings: Kelly & Seagram" »

September 16, 2010

Montreal-bound

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Tomorrow, I'm heading out to Montreal for the weekend for a friend's bachelor party. Expect posts on smoked meat, poutine and awesome beer when I get back.

It's been seven years since I've been, but I've been dying to go back every since. I don't expect a weekend - especially one with a dozen other guys to coordinate with - will give me the time to see, eat and drink all I want to, but I plan to pack as much in as I can.

September 13, 2010

Self-Promotion: Lonely Planet NYC

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I'm very excited to announce that the photo above from Harefield Road in Williamsburg was used in the new edition of the New York City Guide from Lonely Planet.

This will go up on my bookshelf alongside Everyman's Joyce, Off The Chain, New York: A Photographic Album, Untitled: Street Art in the Counter Culture, and last year's Queens International 4.

Onward.

September 8, 2010

Looking To The East

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Pretty much as soon as we got back from Hawai'i last year, Tammi and I were already thinking about where we would go for our annual trip this fall. We had been all over the place, but hadn't really centered on anything specific until we were invited to a wedding in The Philippines two weeks after Thanksgiving.

After a good deal of budget consideration and some awesome finagling with frequent flyer miles, we managed to get everything arranged. We will be spending a week each in Hong Kong and Vietnam this fall, plus a couple days in The Philippines for the wedding.

Right now we are in the information gathering part of planning, so if you've been to the area and have recommendations, please chime in.

In the meantime, I expect to do as much research on Cantonese, Vietnamese and Filipino food in New York as I can. More to come.

August 11, 2010

Quick Bite: Bar Bambino

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Before heading out of San Francisco in June, my colleagues and I grabbed lunch at Bar Bambino in The Mission. Here are a few analog shots from the meal.

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Continue reading "Quick Bite: Bar Bambino" »

August 5, 2010

Analog: San Francisco

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I took the first batch of Ektar winnings out for a spin on my trip to San Francisco in June.

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Last week, I finally got it developed. After looking through all of it, I have to say, I'm hooked on analog all over again. Follow the jump for some SF Street Photography.

Continue reading "Analog: San Francisco" »

August 3, 2010

Quick Bite: Mexican Brunch at Dos Segundos

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On our last trip to Philly, Tammi and I enjoyed our last meal in town at Dos Segundos, a Mexican spot in Northern Liberties. I had the chilaquiles, above, which I discovered in San Francisco a couple years back.

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Tammi had the chimichanga, which is basically a fried burrito and inexplicably, something I've never had myself.

Deliciousness ensued.

August 2, 2010

Quick Bite: Stuffed Squash Blossoms at Rustic Tavern

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Rustic Tavern, Santa Monica, Los Angeles. 2009.

July 30, 2010

SF: Lark Creek Steak

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While in San Francisco, my colleagues and I had dinner at Lark Creek Steak upstairs at the Westfield Mall, the place with the awesome food court I mentioned last year.

The best part was that we scored seats at the counter, watching all the action in the kitchen. The food was great, but for me, the more entertaining part was watching (and shooting) the staff as they worked.

Check out some of the highlights after the jump.

Continue reading "SF: Lark Creek Steak" »

July 27, 2010

Quick Bite: Tapenade

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Olive Tapenade, Fraiche, Los Angeles. 2009.

July 26, 2010

Philly: Yarn-Bombing

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So, yeah. This is a thing. Part street art, part guerilla craft campaign, this tree on Rittenhouse Square is one of many knitted cozies around familiar objects I've seen in both Philly and New York. Interestingly, it's probably the only street art that Tammi's spotted and identified before I did.

July 23, 2010

Photo-Geekery: Night Photography with the Canon 5D Mark II

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One of the spiffy features of the Canon 5D Mark II is that it has can shoot at an astronomically high ISO with much less noise interference in the image than one would expect.

Recently I decided to test it out a little bit and see how effective it can be by doing some night shooting out the window of a taxi on the way home after a late shift at the office.

The photo above is dark and silhouetted, sure, but at 5000 ISO, it's remarkably crisp and noise-less. All of the photos have been tweaked to some degree in Aperture, but none beyond recognition.

After the jump see a couple photos where I pushed the camera up to 25600, the maximum setting.

Continue reading "Photo-Geekery: Night Photography with the Canon 5D Mark II" »

July 20, 2010

SF: Rosamunde's Mission Bar

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Rosamunde Sausage Grill, the closet-sized sausage shack next door to Toronado, the best beer bar in San Francisco, has gone into the bar business.

Get a peek inside after the jump.

Continue reading "SF: Rosamunde's Mission Bar" »

July 18, 2010

Quick Bite: Irish Breakfast

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While we were in Philly, Tammi, my sister and I watching Germany trounce Argentina at Tir Na Nog, a gigantic Irish Pub in Center City.

This was breakfast:
Eggs, baked beans, mushrooms, Irish bacon, maple sausages, and black and white Pudding - black pudding being blood sausage, in case you missed the euphemism.

July 12, 2010

Long Weekend in Philly

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Tammi and I spent Independence Day weekend down in Philadelphia. We visited my sister and ate at a couple new places. New posts, coming up.
::c::

July 9, 2010

World Cup Fever

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I've totally gotten caught up in the world cup. This is particularly odd since I haven't followed sports since I was 10 and even more so given that I've spent the last 6 years surrounded by sports enthusiasts with seemingly no effect.

The secret is that what's really excited me about the games has been the window it's provided into so many countries and cultures that I've wanted to visit and experience for so long. It's brought out my wanderlust and I can't stop thinking of all the traveling I'd like to do.

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Last weekend, we went to Philly for the Fourth of July and these two Argentinians beat their drums and sang and chanted for hours. Even after their team lost, they were rooting for the other South American teams to make it.

It's every accent and national anthem and flag waving that makes me imagine sitting in some plaza or beer hall or pub surrounded by supporters.

Clearly, I'm craving a trip out of the country. Somewhere far away where I can eat and drink and enjoy and shoot something different from our everyday world.

We're starting to look at vacation plans for this fall. Italy is high up, but so are A few places in Asia or elsewhere in Europe or South America. We'll just have to see what materializes between now and November.

July 7, 2010

Los Angeles-less

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The powers that be have decreed that I won't be making my annual pilgrimage to Los Angeles this year.

What's funny is that, I dreaded going to LA my first couple times out there, but after getting my bearings - and a ton of recommendations from friends - I really came to enjoy it out there.

Sadly, I suspect the most work travel the job will be sending me on will be to the mothership in the depths of Office Park Land.

June 28, 2010

SF: Incanto

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My first meal in SF was an early birthday dinner at Incanto, Chris Cosentino's Italian offal house in Noe Valley has long been on my wishlist of places to eat, but was never convenient when I was in town. This trip, I made time for it.

The food after the jump.

Continue reading "SF: Incanto" »

June 22, 2010

Quick Drink: French 75

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You may have noticed by now that my drinking habits tend toward the beer and wine. I typically steer clear of cocktails, but when my waiter at Incanto recommended Heaven's Dog in San Francisco's SOMA Grand hotel as a great cocktail bar, I wasn't going to walk in and ask for their wine list.

Instead, I asked the bartender to come up with a concoction friendly to someone who liked the bubbles of beer or a sparkling and wasn't so into a strong liquor flavor.

He came up with the French 75, a classic drink he said was mentioned in Casablanca.

The drink mixes cognac, simple syrup and lemon juice in crushed ice, strains it in chilled champagne glass, then gets topped off with champagne. The citrus cut through the liquor flavor, although by the end the pucker was a little intense. Even so, I'd definitely order it again if I walked into a cocktail bar and wanted something refreshing that wasn't going to knock me down.

June 9, 2010

San Francisco by Bartender

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This is probably my 10th or 11th trip to San Francisco in the last eight years. I like it here, I feel like I have a good lay of the land and know a fair number of great places to eat and drink. The only problem is that since I'm almost always here for work geekery, my free time is limited and so I often end up returning to the same old favorite places and neighborhoods and don't get quite so much time to explore.

I usually ask around for recommendations, but this year I've got a theme. asked a few bartender friends for recommendations for both bars and restaurants to visit while in the area.

The list is extensive and if I get to a fraction of these places in the next four days, I'll be lucky. Similarly, if I added links and whatnot to every place listed, this post would never go up. Google's your friend folks, sorry.

After the jump, the bartenders and their recs. As a bonus, I also got a list of recommendations from the waiter at Incanto, where I had dinner Sunday night (more on that to come).

Continue reading "San Francisco by Bartender" »

June 8, 2010

Another Year Gone

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The last year has been intense. I turned 32 in the middle of my big push to really dedicate myself to pursuing photography seriously. A year later, I've worked my ass off, gone out shooting when I'd much prefer to be at home in bed with Tammi and spent a huge amount of money on classes, equipment, film and lab fees.

It's been a busy year, but one of the most fulfilling I've had to date. My efforts have yielded a column on Examiner, a regular blogging gig for Midtown Lunch, photos in three different books and magazines, I placed in a contest - I was even on TV! And finally, a photo show all of my own. My new camera, that I've been ogling for a year, is a part of the harvest, largely paid for with blogging and photography funds.

Now it's time to go further, to push harder to make things happen on purpose instead of by happy accident. This is where it becomes for real. It's the hard part: pitching, cold calling, making contacts all the while continuing what I've been doing. It wont be easy, but given the success this last year has brought - with the incredible support from my friends and family, especially Tammi, I know that the work will pay off. It'll happen so long as I keep pushing forward.

So, with that thought I mark 33 years under my belt and welcome the next.

Cheers.

June 6, 2010

Take the Train to the Plane

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Well, I'm taking a cab, but I loved those old commercials when I was a kid.

After this wonderfully full and celebratory week, I didn't think I could top it in New York, so I'm off to San Francisco to celebrate some more.

Actually, I'm going for a conference and will be surrounded by geekdom all day, but a trip to SF is always a good excuse to catch up with friends, photograph, explore and eat great food.

Stay tuned for updates from out west.

May 29, 2010

¿De que esta hablando Willis?

De que estas hablando Willis?
San Telmo, Buenos Aires. 2006.

RIP Gary Coleman.

May 16, 2010

Pig to Pork: Hair Removal

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As part of my butchery project, I attended "From Pig to Pork" hosted by Fleisher's. There we witnessed the transition from animal to meat and the prep that takes it from the farm to our table. I'll be posting with observations about experience both at the farm and in the shop. Just a heads up, some of the photos are pretty graphic. The point here is to appreciate the value of the process through potentially challenging images, not to gross anyone out, so feel free to skip this post if it's not your thing.

So, the first thing to know is that all pigs are not pink and hairless like what you've seen on TV. Heritage breeds in particular often have hair, which makes sense since the idea is that they haven't been cross-bred for convenience. The pig slaughtered at the event had red, spotted hair.

One of the reasons we've come to expect pale, pink hairless pigs is because the factory farms have engineered breeds to reduce the effort needed to process their animals. They're inbred and have to live in clean rooms because of how susceptible they are to disease, but once they're dead they don't need a haircut.

That's not to belittle the effort that goes into the process. It's not so pretty. More on that after the jump.

Continue reading "Pig to Pork: Hair Removal" »

May 10, 2010

Butchery: The Offal Cook

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This is Chichi aka The Offal Cook. She blogs for herself and Serious Eats about cooking with all those wonderful bits of animals that get tossed aside and forgotten.

Much like I've taken my meat and photography interests to this butchery project, Chichi has followed her lifelong fascination with off-cuts to a similar end.

She has been writing a series called The Butcher's Cuts about traveling up to Kingston to learn about butchering at Fleisher's.

Given the similarities in our projects, It's really awesome to see where she's gone with it. Her posts have chronicled the lessons she's learned from her time butchering. She's also managed to come away with some awesome recipes for working with these cuts. I was especially excites to see what she did with a pig's head, resulting in both a terrine of head cheese and a batch of ramen stock. And because some things still shock me a little, I was fascinated with her account of (and recipe for) cooking scrambled brains.

If my posts on meat and butchery have been at all interesting, I'd definitely recommend taking a look at Chichi's column. Enjoy!


May 9, 2010

Pig to Pork: Pork Blood

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As part of my butchery project, I attended "From Pig to Pork" hosted by Fleisher's. There we witnessed the transition from animal to meat and the prep that takes it from the farm to our table. I'll be posting with observations about experience both at the farm and in the shop. Just a heads up, some of the photos are pretty graphic. The point here is to appreciate the value of the process through potentially challenging images, not to gross anyone out, so feel free to skip this post if it's not your thing.

After an animal is killed, its blood must be drained out quickly so it doesn't clot and get in the way of the meat. Pork blood is often used for making blood sausage, so it doesn't just get thrown away.

The roughly two quarts of blood that came out of the pig slaughtered for the pig to pork class at Fleisher's was drained into this bowl. They stirred it constantly with sea salt in order to keep it from coagulating.

Regardless of your taste for such things, one must recognize how efficient it is to utilize as much of the animal as possible.

May 6, 2010

From Pig to Pork: The Slaughter

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As part of my butchery project, I attended "From Pig to Pork" hosted by Fleisher's. There we witnessed the transition from animal to meat and the prep that takes it from the farm to our table. I'll be posting with observations about experience both at the farm and in the shop. Just a heads up, some of the photos are pretty graphic. The point here is to appreciate the value of the process through potentially challenging images, not to gross anyone out, so feel free to skip this post if it's not your thing.


I've been putting off posting about the actual slaughter part of From Pig to Pork for a little while now. Not because it was life-changing or traumatic or anything. It was actually quite fast. Hans, a retired Master Butcher from the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) walked into the small horse trailer that the pig had spent the night and shot it.

We didn't see the pig before that. Most likely for both our benefit and the pig's, Hans left the door to the pig's compartment closed when killing it. He was concerned about people freaking out about the whole thing and decided to deal with that part of it behind closed door.

Similarly, I'll leave the details of the deed for after the jump.

Continue reading "From Pig to Pork: The Slaughter" »

May 4, 2010

Butchery: Pure Ground Awesome!

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Sadly, I didn't end up buying this when I was at Fleisher's for the Pig to Pork trip, but a burger made of ground beef with ground bacon mixed in is something I have to try. Seriously.

May 3, 2010

Butchery: From Pig to Pork

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Last weekend's trip to Fleisher's in Kingston, NY was instigated by an event they were having called "From Pig to Pork." The premise of the class being to take 'civilians' a step beyond the butchering classes. We went out to a farm in Stone Ridge, about half an hour away from the shop to see the actual slaughter of a pig and the subsequent prep work that is done before it's sent to a butcher.

In other hands, a grisly scene like this could be tastelessly sensationalized, but led off with an introduction by Jessica Applestone, Fleisher's owner and wife of "Moo-ru" Josh Applestone, the event was soberly presented. The point of the exercise is to further bring home the point that our food comes from animals not boxes, they were alive and were killed to feed us. Given that, it's imperative to utilize as much of them as we can, not pick out a few choice lean cuts and let the rest rot.

I've got more than a few observations and photos that I'll be posting over the next couple weeks under the header: From Pig to Pork. The photos may be a bit macabre here and there, but I'll do my best to keep those after the jump, so as to avoid freaking anyone out.

In the meantime, if you'd like to see the photos from without all my insightful commentary, they are posted in a set on Flickr.

April 28, 2010

Butchery: A Weekend at Fleisher's

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The weekend up in Kingston was intense and very gratifying. It took me further into this butchery project than I've been so far and I have more than a few observations and photos I want to post... but not this moment. Expect more photos and posts in the next week.

In the meantime, photos from my first day in the shop are in a set on Flickr.

April 23, 2010

Butchery Weekend: Going to the source

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After much scheduling difficulties, I'm finally taking the trip up to Fleisher's in Kingston, NY this weekend. Sunday, they are hosting a full day butchery class that I'm going to photograph. The event will go from slaughter to sausage and everything in between.

It should be an interesting experience and will give me whole lot more material to shoot.

April 14, 2010

Miami: Señora Martinez

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After the cruise, Tammi and I had several hours to kill in Miami. It's not so much a walking town, so we found ourselves hanging out nowhere in particular until lunchtime when we were one of the first ones in the door at Señora Martinez in the Design District.

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The tapas-ish menu had a lunch time pre-fixe which greatly accommodated both our desire for little snacks, like the pan con tomate, above and for a more substantial main, like my perfectly done burger, below. There was also the roasted red peppers and the bacon-wrapped bleu cheese stuffed dates, after the jump.

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The lunch deal was quite a bargain, but, in the end, it was our bar bill that did us in. With so much time to kill and only airport time ahead, there was little else to do but to spend the afternoon imbibing in the libations on hand.

Miami's not so much my sort of town, but if I were to find myself back there, Sra. Martinez would certainly at the top of my list of places to eat.


Continue reading "Miami: Señora Martinez" »

April 9, 2010

Vancouver: Granville Island Market

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I've been waiting so long to put together a post on Vancouver's Granville Island Market, that I'm just about out of anything to say about it besides that it was a lovely time wandering through it.

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We took one of those tiny boats there and walked around and ogled the food, particularly the meat, on display.

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April 7, 2010

Seattle: Dahlia Lounge

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This was a magnificent piece of braised pork topped with a poached egg and a dollop of sweet and spicy Asian hot sauce. It was one of the many great small courses I had in Seattle at Dahlia Lounge (after a brief starter at Lola).

Again, I don't remember so much of the particulars, so I'll leave the pictures to speak for themselves.

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April 6, 2010

Self-Promotion: Off The Chain

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Excuse the delayed bit of self-promotion: Last year, this photo from Winter X Games was used in the book Off The Chain. The book is a history of snowboarding written by Ross Rebagliati, the first Olympic gold medalist in the sport.

April 5, 2010

Cruising: Vegas at Sea

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The decor of the ship was straight out of Las Vegas, shiny and gilded. Amazingly gaudy.

Given that, it made sense that there was actually a casino in the middle of it all. We didn't go in for more than a minute or two.


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April 4, 2010

Cruising: Mongolian Barbecue

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Cruises are famous for having loads and loads of food. Besides the main dinner with its awkward times and assigned seating, there are buffets and carving stations and it's all you can eat nearly around the clock.

Now, an abundance of food does not mean all the food is good. By and large the selections tend to be more like a college cafeteria, but there are a few gems mixed in.

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My favorite was the Mongolian Barbecue Station. It's basically a stir fry station with udon noodles. Simple and tasty, Tammi and I jumped to get it before the inevitable line formed.

The guys working the woks were amused by my photographing them.

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April 2, 2010

Seattle: The Alibi Room

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On my first day in Seattle, I came across the Alibi Room, just downstairs from Pike Market and across the path from the Gum Wall. Despite being in the heart of one of the biggest tourist attractions in town, the bar was subdued, comfortable and pleasant.

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The beer selection was mostly local, as would be expected in this part of the world. I sat at the bar and chatted with the bartender, who turned out to be one of the owners. He told me a bit of the history of the place. It had been owned by some actors, including Tom Skerritt for a time before he and his partners bought it.

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They sell small pizzas there, and after smelling it for a couple rounds, I couldn't resist ordering one. I presumed that they were typical bar-sized pizza that make a good fit for one. Instead I got this giant, which I couldn't finish even though I hadn't eaten since landing in town several hours earlier.

Alibi Room. 85 Pike St at Post Alley # 410, Seattle. 206.623.3180

March 31, 2010

Weddings: Chris & Kim in Nassau

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It was Chris and Kim's wedding that Tammi and I were heading to during the snowstorm last month. Chris and I have known each other for just about 15 years. It was a pleasure to see him so happy that day.

Due to some technical difficulties, I was shooting all film, which limited me somewhat, but I think left an interesting, vintage look.

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The ceremony was at a local resort in Nassau at the end of a long pier. The scene was gorgeous. I hope my photos managed to capture even a fraction of that.

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More photos after the jump...

Continue reading "Weddings: Chris & Kim in Nassau" »

March 27, 2010

Cruising: Big Ass Boats

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So, yeah. These ships are big. Sorry, these posts can't all be deep pearls of wisdom.

March 23, 2010

Butchery: Ryan Farr at Cochon 555

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Friday night I got an email from FoodBuzz telling me that I'd won a pair of tickets to Cochon 555, two days away. I was elated. At the event, chefs from some of the best restaurants in town had their way with five 125 pound pigs and handed out the results to attendees.

Yet, I only ate a couple small plates. Why? Because I'm a meat nerd and butchery awaited. Instead of grazing all evening, I spent a couple hours in the corner watching Ryan Farr, San Francisco's butcher king take apart a whole pig of his own.

Farr went muscle by muscle to show us cuts and techniques that I can't wait to try at home.

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He frenched a loin rack like one would a lamb roast. I think I'd have to see that several more times to even contemplate doing something like that.

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Really though, the coolest part was what Farr did with the head. He deboned it, removing the skull, then he stuffed the face with shoulder meat. After that, he sewed it all up with butchers' twine and a needle. See the slideshow after the jump for a blow by blow.

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I think I've found my next butchering challenge. Seriously, I've been all about cheeks and such for ages, it's time to graduate up to a whole head.

Talking to Farr about the classes he teaches back in San Francisco, I found out that unlike the classes here in New York, his classes are completely hands-on.

Before the session, I introduced myself and told him about my Butchery project. He was into the idea and told me I'd be welcome to come in to photograph a class the next time I'm in San Francisco. I'm hoping to be there over the summer at some point, so keep your fingers crossed.

Ryan Farr at Cochon 555 NYC

Continue reading "Butchery: Ryan Farr at Cochon 555" »

March 15, 2010

Cruising: Sea Legs

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Before the cruise, I was mildly concerned about adjusting to being on the water. The only boats I've been on for the most part have been riverboats. I wasn't sure how different the motion would be or how sensitive I'd be to it.

Turns out I didn't have much trouble at all. Every now and again, I'd suddenly be aware of a wobbly feeling, not unlike the earthquake I felt in Los Angeles a couple years ago. It typically subsided quickly and didn't usually really bother me.

What's weird is that for hours after leaving the ship, I was still getting that 'wobbly' feeling. I'm sure there's plenty of inner ear science that explains this, but I have no idea.

Again, it makes me wonder what it's like for someone who spends months at sea to return to solid ground.

March 14, 2010

Cruising: Dining Hours

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In the months before taking this cruise, I found more than a few boosters who were happy to tell me how much they love cruises. They went on to dispute the various complaints and stereotypes about cruises. High up on that list was the dining situation.

Assigned tables and set dinner times they assured me are a thing of the past. Many cruise lines have multiple restaurant options and don't require a set seating time every night. Carnival didn't get the memo. The Imagination sports a single restaurant with table service, Spirit. Our seating was set for 6pm. Every night.

To those unfamiliar, here's how it works. The restaurant only does two or three seatings a night and between them, they have to accommodate for all the guests on the ship. The times are assigned, so some people get to eat at a reasonable hour and the rest of us eat five minutes after lunch. Similarly, guests are assigned to large round tables, wedding-style. The same folks eat together every night. In our case everyone at our table was a part of our group, but if you're with a smaller group or just a couple or family, you share the table and all the awkward conversation you want with strangers.

If you miss your seating and want a later dining time, you have to wait until the whole dining group has come in and then be placed in at any vacant spaces that are left.

I'm sure it all makes sense from the logistical perspective of trying to feed thousands of people, but it's definitely not so friendly for anyone who wants some flexibility in dining.

March 13, 2010

Cruising: At Sea

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Pardon the obvious observation, but being at sea means being in the middle of nowhere. Look in every direction and there's nothing on the horizon in any direction. It's a first for me. As a city-dweller, the idea of being surrounded by essentially nothingness is fascinating. Particularly, it makes me think about sailors through history surrounded by a blue void for days or weeks or months at a time.

There's a weird cognitive dissonance being so isolated from the rest of the world, yet still surrounded by a thousand people.

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March 1, 2010

Analog: Appreciating Digital

You'll notice that there's no photo here. That's because I've been all analog for the last week and a half.

In all my recent experimentation over the last couple months, I've enjoyed the process of shooting film and the excitement of seeing the results. I did my best not to overly glorify film, but I certainly have been finding film more interesting. Not enough to replace digital, but I've definitely been talking up film a lot more.

I'll take it as a rebuke from fate or the photography gods that my digital camera crapped out on me a week ago exactly when I needed it for quite a few things including a photography class, a couple events I was covering for Examiner and of course the wedding and cruise this past weekend.

So, yes, I miss digital. Let me count the ways:

• Changing rolls of film in the middle of shooting an event sucks. No ones going to stop walking down the aisle or hold that pose long enough for you to swap rolls.

• Along the same lines, being able to take 1,000+ exposures on a chip allows you to catch more moments just through sheer volume. Everyone wants to think they're going to catch the Decisive Moment through skill, but sometimes skill still needs 30 attempts to get it right.

• Trial and Error. Seriously. You have no idea how scared I am that some setting was off and half the photos I took are screwy because I couldn't glance at the LCD to see that I shouldn't have used that aperture or didn't see that someone was totally backlit.

Finally, there's developing cost in both time and money. Between the snowstorm and the travel, I now have nearly two dozen rolls of film to develop. That's going to cost a lot and I won't get them for a couple days.

February 25, 2010

Adventures in Travel, Snowstorm Edition

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Tammi and I are supposed to be going to a wedding this weekend. This involves us being in Miami tomorrow to catch a ship to take us to Nassau.

Besides my friends wedding, I'm also curious about this whole cruise thing. I've never thought highly of them, but from what I hear it might be a good time.

Of course, this all assuming that we can get through yet another snowstorm to hit the Northeast.

So far, we've got canceled flights, downed check-in servers and scrambling to pack for a flight a day earlier than planned. Not to mention skipping out on a photo shoot and a class I was supposed to do tonight.

So, yeah. I'm bitching. But if I make it to Miami before the night's over, I'll be fine. If not, I'll have dumped quite a bit of money into the travel industry for absolutely nothing in return.

Wish me luck!

February 23, 2010

Vancouver: Homelessness

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One of the striking things about Vancouver to me was how much homelessness there is. Like my first visit to San Francisco, it was a stark reminder of how much less drug abuse and poverty we see in New York these days. Even now, recession and all, the presence of homelessness is nothing like it was when I was growing up.

So, seeing so many panhandlers out and about, not to mention the sketchy scene in Chinatown was jarring.

I hear that many groups are up in arms about the money going to Winter Olympics. It's said that that money could be used to ensure that no one would have to sleep on the streets again.

I have no idea. As a U.S. citizen, I'm certainly in no position to call out Canada on its funding of social programs.

Further, I think that the argument judges that sports aren't important. I'm not much of a fan myself, but I'd be deluded to say that sport doesn't pull people together in a way few other things can. And I'd be arrogant to decide that my disinterest trumps the overwhelming support sports have worldwide.

As far as homelessness goes, I don't have a solution, but I don't know that throwing money at it necessarily resolves it either.

February 22, 2010

Vancouver: On The Water

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New Yorkers take the water for granted. We're a city of islands, but we rarely set foot in the water. Even at our great waterfront views and sightseeing locales, we are looking past beyond it to see our skyscrapers and bridges.

Yes, there is the pollution issue, but that's more a symptom than a cause. Our busy city culture tends to focus getting over, under or through the waters surrounding us.

In Vancouver, I was surprised at how many people were out on the water. Besides those who were fishing or landing planes, there were people rowing crew and kayaking. Instead of the big water taxis and giant circle line boats we have in New York, tiny boats that would fit now more than a dozen people traffic passengers from port to port.

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We sat at water level and waved as this lady passed us by. Yes, this totally freaked me out. Don't mistake this for pining. I won't be kayaking around Manhattan any time soon. It's just an observation of something that is seemingly entirely different to me.

February 19, 2010

Vancouver: Feeding Time

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Walking down the waterfront in Vancouver after lunch at Kitaro, I had one 'city-boy' moment after another.

We saw this guy gutting a fish down by the marina. I was annoyed that he was just chucking the bits he didn't want back into the water. With this gorgeous view around me, it ticked me off a bit that this guy was littering like that.

Then I jumped a little when I saw a blur under the water.

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He wasn't littering, he was feeding the local wildlife. Apparently, there are tons (literally) of sea lions that live in the area and share the water with all the boats and planes that use it daily.

A crowd had gathered to watch and one of the other tourists tried to get in on the action. That was all well and good until the sea lion got a bit friendlier than expected:

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Vancouver: Distance

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I'm not so great with the metric system, but I'm pretty sure Vancouver was the closest I've ever been to the North Pole (on the ground).

February 18, 2010

Vancouver: Kintaro Handmade Tonkostu Ramen

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Our first stop in Vancouver after checking into the hotel was Kintaro. Guy had read about it and as Asian food is always on the top of my list of things to try while out west, I was more than happy to check it out.

The ramen shop seemed to have quite the following. When we got there, the line ran out the door and that didn't seem to be anything unusual. The neighboring restaurant politely insisted that those in line refrained from blocking their storefront.

Once inside, it was clear that part of the reason for the line was the exceptionally small space. Folks were crammed in pretty tight, but then, pork was involved, so I wasn't surprised.

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The specialty of the house is tonkotsu. Not to be mistaken for tonkatsu, this is ramen topped with roast pork and enveloped in a rich, milky pork broth.

We sat at the counter and I watched as huge pork bones were lowered into stockpots and simmered for the next batches of broth. Like most ramen places, there were variations on the basic stock using soy sauce or miso, but they all came from the same porky base.

I can't track down any notes from Kintaro, but I believe I had an order with extra pork because, well, that sounds like me.

One of these days I need to figure out what goes into that base and try to make a batch of my own. I think some research is in order. I'd better go to Manchenko Tei for lunch today to get started...

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Kintaro Ramen Noodle,
788 Denman Street, Vancouver, BC, Canada, 604.682.7568‎

Snapshots from Vancouver

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I haven't really been following the Winter Olympics. I rarely do. But reports and discussion tend to be inescapable.

The other day, I saw Brian Williams reporting from Vancouver with the bay behind him and I was brought back to the few days I spent there last year. One of the best things about travel is how it resonates with you long after you've returned. I heard another report on NPR where the correspondent was drowned out momentarily by a landing seaplane. Before he said anything, I knew what that sound and remembered the city-boy awe at airplanes that land on the water!

Over the next couple of days, I'm going to try to catch up on some of the posts I never got around to writing from my trip to Vancouver. Enjoy!

February 17, 2010

Aspen: Ajax Tavern

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I read about Ajax Tavern in some of my research before I headed out to Aspen and it looked good. I just hadn't figured out where it was and was too lazy to look for it. Then I found it when I was heading to the gondola up to the Monster Party. The next night I headed over for a dinner of appetizers.

The multi-app meal has become my defacto arrangement in the restaurants in Aspen. The entrees at most of the good places run higher than my per diem is ever going to allow, so I've been grazing the smaller portions. The upside is that I get to try out more dishes. The downside is that I end up leaving wanting for more.
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After this meal, I wanted to make my way through the rest of the menu. I started with another take on bacon and eggs, this time with grits. More savory than some of the others, this one had braised pork belly and a fried yolky egg amidst a pool of polenta.

Parpadelle Lamb Bolognese at Ajax Tavern, Aspen. Photo by Clay Williams

Next up was the Parpadelle Lamb Bolognese. The meat was rich, salty and sweet and lovely on the firm pasta ribbons. Topped with a cooling dollop of sour cream, it was wonderful.

Sadly, I had to stop there. I saw many other eye-catching menu items that I would have loved to have spent the entire night exploring. Beef marrow topped the list, but there was plenty more.

Ajax Tavern at the Little Nell
685 East Durant Avenue, Aspen, CO‎ - 970.920.6334‎

February 15, 2010

Travel Observations: Mountains

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Growing up in New York, my idea of mountains has always been giant triangles sticking out of the ground. Even spending 4 years living in a valley didn't really properly convey the concept of what a mountain was in my head. It wasn't until going out to Aspen and actually being in the mountains that I really began to comprehend the size and shape of real mountains.

To this day, I'm still a little shocked looking at them. Flying over them, they're shapes are weird, almost violent.

February 9, 2010

Photography: Egg Tower

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I didn't actually eat any of these eggs on the bar at Wild Fig in Aspen, but they caught my eye.

Looking back at some recent posts, I realize that eggs have been a recurring meme. Both visually and as a food choice, it's been coming up more and more.

Generally, they've been fried and the bright yellow yolks have drawn me into them, whether spilling out of the b.e.l.t. at Swift Half, on top of the Croque Madame at Rouge or in the Bacon and Eggs appetizer at Lulu Wilson that I lit up with my iPhone.

But these eggs, still in their shell brought me back to my High School Photography class. One of our first assignments to photograph eggs, composed in whatever way we'd like. I don't remember what I came up with and I doubt I really 'got' the potential compositions that can be done with the shapes and curves aesthetically.

Every now and then I think about going back to some of those old assignments (that I can remember) as exercises or practice. I make no promises, but if I do, I'll be sure to post them.

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February 7, 2010

Aspen: Ellina

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D19 was one of the most exciting restaurants I found in Aspen. There's plenty of good food in this town, but not so much that's original. Sushi, Bistros, New American, even the dives all seem to have indistinct menus full of food that's good, but similar to the rest. For the last two years, it was my go to spot for food that was actually interesting to me. It was a place for Italian food that wasn't just like everything else.

So, I was disappointed to hear that D19 had closed, but relieved to find that the chef, Dena Marino had a new place, Ellina, just around the corner.

Continue reading "Aspen: Ellina" »

Flying Food: Delta's Asian Shrimp Salad

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No one has great things to say about airplane food. It's rarely good. I know this. But, when I saw "Todd English Selection" on the menu, I figured I ought to give the Olive's chef a second chance after the abysmal hot dog I had at his Bonfire at JFK.

I'm not a salad eater, but the collection of shrimp, noodles and an Asian dressing seemed like it could be worth it.

What I found was completely subjective.

I'm sure many people would have enjoyed this salad. I know Tammi would have. The shrimp was cooked properly, as were the noodles. Both could be messed up pretty easily, but they weren't. It was also topped with crisp slices of bell peppers and red onion which were fresh and crunchy.

Yet, I didn't enjoy it at all. First, it was cold. Outside of ice cream, I'm not so into cold foods. It's a personal quirk, I suppose, but whether it's a sandwich or a salad, I want my food warmed up or at least at room temperature. But this came straight out of the fridge and each crunch of veggies or slurping of noodles reminded me of that fact.

Along the same lines, I like bell peppers and red onions, I just think they'd be much better sauteed and maybe added to a stir fry of those noodles and shrimp. Instead, I was left with the sharp onion flavor for the rest of the trip.

So, if cold salads are your thing, this is definitely one of your better airplane options. But for me, I think I might have preferred some of the microwaved dinner options you used to get in flight. Not very good, but at least it was warm.

February 4, 2010

Analog: Developing film while traveling

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A challenge of my exploration into shooting analog is that outside of the New York area, I have no idea where to go to get film developed by real professionals. So, I have to go to the few one hour photo spots left in whatever town I'm in.

The upside is that invariably they are cheaper than the $13-15 I spend per roll for developing and scanning my film. The downside is that the people doing this are almost invariably incompetent.

In Seattle, the guy at the Ritz knew what he was doing for the most part, but the hi-res scans aren't nearly the quality of my typical scans, meaning that I'll have to go back and rescan if I want to use the images for anything in the future.

In Hawai'i, the staff rotated nearly every time I showed up, meaning that I had to re-explain what I wanted every time to a worker who basically had no idea what to do with film.

Most recently, in Aspen, I got little bit of everything at the Wolf Camera, a part of the Ritz Camer chain. Everyone there gave me something different. No one was familiar enough with film to know what their standard procedure was supposed to be. I got charged different rates (all pretty low), scans at different resolutions and worse, one of my negatives got so beat up that I got scans like the image above.

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And on another set of rolls, the scans were all cropped to 4x5 cutting out the edges of the frame.

Oddly, based on resolution, they also split up the images from a roll into as many as 5 discs. Something about the software they use decides that a CD should only be up to 20% full and after that, the data has to go on to another disc. And another. And another. Better yet, they charge you for each disc. Sometimes.

It's a bad scene all around. But, if you've got no other choice, you do what you have to do. Just keep in mind that who handles your photos can be very important.

Aspen: Brexi

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In the intervening year since my last trip to Aspen, Brexi opened up a block away from my hotel. It's a shiny new brasserie with a nicely put together menu of classics including a seafood plate a la "The Balthazar"

I stuck to more reasonable fare and had a burger there on my first visit there. The guys down the bar raved about what they considered the best burger in town. I should probably have learned from the local advice I got last year that 'best' is wildly subjective.

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Wait. That's not entirely fair. The burger, topped with Emmentaler cheese, caramelized shallots, applewood smoked bacon and Russian dressing would have been very good had it been served at the medium rare temperature I asked for. Instead, it was perfectly raw in the middle. Like steak tartare.

The other issue was just with the structural integrity of the burger. The dressing and the onions, not to mention the bloody burger were a bit too juicy for the buns to hold together. Instead it all came to pieces by the time I got half way through it. Not always a deal breaker on a great burger, but a bit frustrating when also trying to eat around the uncooked center.

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Let's be clear. I'm not slamming the place. actually really liked it and the service I had there was excellent. The people were friendly and the menu's other items, like the Duck Two Ways special was very good. This came with a confitted duck leg and a seared breast. In this case, the breast being very rare in the middle was totally acceptable.

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I'm writing this with one more day left in town. As I consider where to go for what may be my last meal in Aspen, Brexi definitely makes the short list.

February 3, 2010

Quick Bite: Bad Billy's Mini Tuna Tacos

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When I first started coming to Aspen, the space where Bad Billy's was Cooper Street Ale House, one of the few divey bars in town. It was always a little too fratty for me, but you take what you can get.

When I got here last year, the place looked more or less the same, but the name had changed. I popped in for wings or whatever, but didn't really see any huge difference.

What I discovered is that Bad Billy's elevated the bar food in a pretty wonderful way.

Up top are the mini tuna tacos made with seared sushi-grade tuna sourced from sister restaurant, Kenichi, one of the nicer sushi restaurants in town. Wrapped in blistered, fried corn tortillas, they make an awesome one or two bite snack.

I followed that up with more 'traditional' fish tacos with beer battered fish on flour tortillas.

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On another visit, I popped in with some co-workers and we partook in the $15 pitchers and played some music on the internet-enabled jukebox.

Bad Billy's
508 East Cooper Avenue, Aspen, CO‎
970.925.9225‎

February 2, 2010

Aspen: Grape Bar

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One of my favorite places in Aspen from the last few years has been The Wine Spot in the Hyatt Grand Aspen. I enjoyed the cushy, comfortable wine bar not just for the wine, the big leather seats and the real wood fireplace. But I also really liked the friendly owner, Seth, who always had some good conversation and recommendations for food and drink elsewhere in town.

So, I was pretty sad to find that the bar has changed ownership. It's now called Grape Bar. The space is all the same, the fireplace is still roaring and the wine selection is still good. And pretty cheap, with a bunch of wines available at $6 a glass.

Even so, part of being a barfly is enjoying the company of your bartender. When that's gone, you miss it.

Despite that, Ive been there a few times this trip and still enjoy sitting by the fire and getting away from the madness of the rest of town.

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Travel Day: NY Bound

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I'll be in the air most of the day today, finally heading home after a week and a half in the mountains. I've got plenty of posts to catch up on and a little bit of news coming, too.

Stay tuned.

February 1, 2010

Aspen: LuLu Wilson

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When I headed out to Aspen, one of my goals was to explore some new restaurants instead of going back to the same places I always go. I was marginally successful in that those places aren't all the same as they had been in past years. More on that in a bit.

Lulu Wilson, on the other hand was entirely new to me. I had passed there before, but never actually gone in. That night, I walked out of the hotel not quite sure where I felt like going, and sort of wandering aimlessly. I must have looked pretty lost, because some folks stopped me and asked me if I was looking for something.

Turns out they both work in restaurants in town and were more than happy to give me a recommendation.

I sat up front at the bar and had a great meal. The food is contemporary American with many of the same hearty comforting foods you find elsewhere around town.

I started with the bacon and eggs appetizer. The bacon was house-cured and sliced thick. It reminded me that I had cured some bacon before I left and am really looking forward to playing with it in the kitchen when I get home.

The yolky egg was perfect. You can't really come up with a more classic combo. What didn't quite fit for me was the salad, with it's chili aioli. The thickness of the mayo far outweighed the leaves of the salad and the spice just got in the way of the flavors of the bacon and egg.

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After having that, I was afraid the burger I ordered would be way too much food. Thankfully, the burger is perfectly mid-sized. Thicker than any slider or In n Out style burger, but not nearly the quarter- and half- pound behemoths that, though often wonderful, would have injured me on this particular night.

In case you weren't sure, this was where I came up with my iPhone lighting trick that I got so excited about the other day.

This Week on Examiner: Bar Guides!

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Being in Aspen, I haven't had the opportunity to cover all the cool events going on this week. It's been killing me to read about everything going on on Gothamist and Brooklyn Based and the food sites, but alas.

Instead, I went with slightly less timely reports, posting about particular bars around New York that I'm pretty fond of. Head to Examiner to find descriptions and slideshows of Another Room in Tribeca, Bar Henry on Houston and an old favorite of mine, Deity.

I hope to get a couple more out there before I head back home. Then I'll have some reports coming in of all the stuff going on back in the Bright Center of the Universe.

On Saturday, I'll be covering Donuts are Forever 4 at The Bell House, hosted by Rare Form in annual tribute to the late, legendary producer J Dilla. The show will be featuring a number of great DJs including my friend DJ Tara and ?uestlove of the Roots.

So, check back on Examiner often to see what's up and where to go back in the Big City.

January 31, 2010

Aspen: Monster Energy Drink's X Games Party

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Last night, I got a pass to go up to the top of Aspen Mountain for the Monster Energy Drink Party. In all my years coming out to X Games Events, this was my first sponsor party. It was a good time, if not my usual scene.

On stage, Mix Master Mike of the Beastie Boys warmed the crowd up and Del The Funky Homosapien performed old and new songs from his current album all the way back to his 1990 debut. Up front a crowd of hyped up fans bounced to the sounds of Mister Dobalina and Doctor Bombay.

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It was fun to get into a crowd again and keep my music photography going after a little while away. The snowboarder kids are an interesting bunch. Their typical dress is often already pretty outlandish, so when they go all out, it's quite the spectacle. I just wish I had an excuse to post it on Examiner.

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More photos after the jump.

Continue reading "Aspen: Monster Energy Drink's X Games Party" »

Aspen: That X Games Glow

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You can see the glow coming from the Winter X Games from the middle of town, two and a half miles away.

January 30, 2010

Aspen: Winter X Games in Analog

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My recent obsession with film photography means that I've been seeing things I've shot before with new eyes. This includes the action of the X Games. I've only gone out photographing the events a bit, but not a lot. After picking up a couple rolls I took of practice earlier in the week, I'm psyched to spend more time this weekend.


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The way colors are brought out in the highly saturated films I prefer works really well with the bright outfits and equipment that the athletes wear. And the grit in the lower definition that film brings, particularly in the shadows makes for a very cool contrast to me.

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I've even been shooting with the Diana Mini around Buttermilk and in Aspen. I like the vignetting around the edges of this photo where whites seem to battle with grays and people and objects just seem to float in the void.

More after the jump.

Continue reading "Aspen: Winter X Games in Analog" »

Philly: Rouge on Rittenhouse Square

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On the Sunday of our Philly weekend, we had brunch at Rouge on Rittenhouse Square. I haven't spent a lot of time in the area, but all I've heard about it is that it's a little posh and stuffy.

That said, there was some interesting chatter on the internets about Rouge, especially the burgers. And there was shopping Tammi wanted to check out in the area, so off we went.

As we walked in, my internal alarms started going off. It seemed a little too chi-chi. The crowd seemed a little too pretty and the place was a little too crowded. Plus, my cousin, who was meeting us was running late, so I didn't think they'd even seat us. I thought we'd be relegated to a cramped corner of the bar and eventually wedged somewhere in the back.

I was completely wrong. They seated us as soon as a table opened up, and when our third didn't show up for almost an hour, they happily came by offering more wine and not once pushing us to order without him or turn the table. We sat there for a couple hours talking drinking wine and relaxing away the afternoon on a rainy Sunday.


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On top of all that, the food was pretty great. I'm all about the Croque Madame these days, which you see here. I 'd had them before, but really got into them in Paris on our Honeymoon. It's brilliant: A grilled ham and cheese sandwich topped with more cheese or a bechamel sauce and then with a sunny side up egg on top of that. It's all cheese and yolk and ham and a wonderfully satisfying crunch.

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Tammi went with the burger. which is a thing of beauty. She got through about half of it before requiring some assistance to finish it off. I helped gladly.

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Rouge
205 South 18th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103
Phone: 215.732.6622

Photography: iPhone Lighting

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Ok, so, this is pretty cool.

I'm still learning as a photographer, but I've been doing it long enough that I've picked up a couple things here and there in the process. Recently, I had a conversation with my friend Yelena (whose blog you should totally read, because it's awesome) who was asking about this whole photography thing. As I was writing out my response, I realized it would make a good post. Procrastination being what it is, I haven't posted that yet. But there's this, which I think is pretty great.

I often shoot in dark places. Bars, restaurants, clubs all tend towards mood lighting that's not so friendly to photography. And I've never been particularly fond of using a flash. My candid-heavy 'fly on the wall' approach doesn't really work so well when a blinding flash breaks up the flow of the evening.

So, I've adapted to shooting in low light - a steady hand, leaning on various items readily available at the bar, that sort of thing.

The other night I figured out a really cool new trick: lighting the subject with my iPhone. Turns out that in a pretty dark room, like this restaurant in Aspen (more on the meal in a couple days), the light from the phone is plenty to light up a subject.

I did have the ISO set to 400, somewhat high, but not so bad that the noise took over the image. Best of all, unlike a flash, you've got a million different angles you can point the light, moving the shadows wherever you want them.

January 29, 2010

Philly: Swift Half

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After checking out the new Northern Liberties Farmers Market, Tammi and I had brunch at Swift Half. When we were there over the summer, we sat out there with drinks over the afternoon and watched life go by on the Piazza.

This time, it was too cold for all that, so we sat inside and split a few items on the menu.


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We had some good stuff, but the most memorable was the b.e.l.t., a blt with a fried egg in it. The bacon was so amazingly smokey, it tasted like it just came off of the grill. We also had an order of short rib sliders topped with a dollop of horseradish.

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Interestingly, the menu also offered some custom cocktails. Tammi tried the Ghost of Mary, a bloody mary made with a lighter tomato water and rimmed with black pepper and salt. I'm not one for cocktails, but it was actually pretty good. Tammi can't stand tomato juice, so enjoyed it a lot more than a traditional one, but still couldn't get through the whole thing before the tomato flavor got to be a little much for her.

Swift Half is owned by the same folks as Good Dog, a long time favorite of mine in Center City. Just like there, the beer selection is great and the vibe is casual. The service was a bit slow, but it was friendly and we had a good time.

Swift Half,
1001 North 2nd Street, Northern Liberties, Philadelphia, PA 19123-1656
215.923.4600


January 28, 2010

Quick Bite: Standard Tap's Summer Soft Shell

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I know it's snowing in New York today and obviously, it's cold here in Aspen, so here's a glimpse back at summer time.

Since I'm posting about our recent weekend in Philadelphia anyway, I thought I'd post this quick shot of the Soft Shell Crab Sandwich I had at Standard Tap when we were in town over the summer. This time around we just had lingering drinks there after walking around Northern Liberties, but it's still one of my favorite places for food or drink in the area.

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Standard Tap
901 North 2nd Street, Northern Liberties, Philadelphia, PA 19123-2301
215.238.0630

January 27, 2010

Philly: The Bellevue

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We had the great luck to end up in The Hyatt at The Bellevue on this last trip to Philadelphia. It's an older hotel, right on Broad and Walnut, blocks away from City Hall and right in front of a SEPTA Station. This is the only photo I managed to take while we were there, but there were tons of of details and decorative items that I really wanted to shoot while we were there.

The best part was that I managed to get us in there at a rate of $75 per night on Priceline.

Upstairs, on the top floor we stopped in a couple of times at XIX, the hotel's bar and cafe.

Downstairs, there's a shopping space with a Williams-Sonoma, a Palms Steakhouse and a Nicole Miller boutique that Tammi was pretty excited about.

Being right at Walnut Street, it was also a great location for getting to the Rittenhouse Square area.

For swank factor and actual comfort, I'd definitely recommend staying at The Bellevue and hope to stay there again.

January 26, 2010

JFK: Bonfire

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I've never enjoyed airport food. It's invariably overpriced and underwhelming. But it is a place to pass the time. On my way to Aspen, I snacked at Bonfire, another in a long line of mass-marketed celebrity chef driven casual dining spots, this one led by Todd English.

Last year, Tammi and I ate there while waiting for a Friday night flight to DC. It was a month after the shitshow flying to North Carolina at around the same time and out of the same gate, with a dozen other flights all departing from the same place. We figured we might as well find a decent place to relax, get a snack and have a drink.

The menu has an odd collection of offerings, Mexican fare is mixed with pizzas and seemingly random other snack foods.On my first visit, we went with the Latin side of things.

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The chicharrones were unlike any I've ever had, this dish was made up of soft roasted bits of pork topped with a bit too much goopy aioli on top. It may not have been the crispy chunks of unctuous pork bordered with skin crisped to the point of shattering I had hoped for, but it's hard to mess up roasted pork bits, so it was still pretty good.

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We also had an order of Pigs in a Blanket with chorizo, which also had the benefit of being nearly impossible to do wrong.

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This visit, I choose poorly. I skipped the Mexican and Pizza options and instead had a hot dog. At $16, I presumed there must be something interesting to it. Unfortunately, there really wasn't.

The Giant Hot Dog was indeed rather large, but ultimately not nearly worth the hyper-inflated price tag. The rosemary fries that came with them were interesting in concept, particularly with the flaky deep fried rosemary leaves and sprigs as an accompaniment. But, there wasn't really any flavor there.

I've never been to an airport restaurant that I would ever consider patronizing 'on the outside.' I don't know if I would run out to 'Bonfire Downtown,' but it's definitely a good place to know about for the next time I'm in Terminal 2 with time to kill.

Philly: Lyla Designs

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Tammi met Carli at Lyla Designs last time we were in Philly, over the summer and ordered some things that were shipped up to us later. I don't know the first thing about fashion, textiles or accessories. That's Tammi's area. And Sauniell's.

I do know this, though. The fabrics that Carli at Lyla Designs on the Piazza uses for her products are gorgeous. Carli won't spill about where she gets her fabric from and that's smart. Knowing nothing about her what makes one handbag better than another, it's the beauty of the fabric that catches my eye. She even sells framed swatches of fabric as housing decor.

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January 25, 2010

Philly: Farmers Market on the Piazza

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Tammi and popped in at the new Farmers Market on The Piazza in Northern Liberties. It was the first of the weekly markets and a little small compared to the Greenmarkets in New York, but it was a good start.

There were baked goods for people and pets alike as well as veggies, meats and fish. Tammi found baked goods that she enjoyed and I ogled the meat sellers.

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There was fish, which I totally didn't pay attention to, but also meat and hens and roosters. I've bee particularly interested in roosters since the Kauai Jungle Fowl piqued my curiosity. The veggies were light, given the season. Winter veggies like potatoes and greens that were presumably grown indoors didn't really jump out at me as much as the prospect of picking up a rooster for another shot at Coq au Vin.

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I don't think Reading Terminal Market has anything to worry about as far as being a destination in Philly for fresh produce and meats, but for this developing neighborhood, it's great addition.

January 19, 2010

Aspen Awaits

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At the end of the week, I make my fifth and potentially final trip to Aspen for the Winter X Games. While the weather isn't really my thing, I can't say I haven't managed to enjoy myself sampling the cuisines offered out there.

This week is going to be a bit hectic with packing and errands and pre-trip minutiae, so pardon a slight delay posts this week. I hope to get some Philadelphia posts up when I can manage the time.

January 18, 2010

Philly: Restaurant Week

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Just a quick note that this week and next week are Restaurant Week in Philadelphia. Last night we had a huge Middle Eastern meal at Zahev in Old City and this afternoon we nearly hurt ourselves going through the courses at Butcher & Singer, pictured.

The meals are $20 for lunch and $35 for dinner both were incredible values.

More on Philly and the great meals we had to come.

January 15, 2010

Philly: Creepy Cat

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In another plaza around the corner from the Piazza in Philly's Northern Liberties, there was a pet shop with this creature in the window. At first I couldn't tell it was alive. It was sitting there like a statue, creepy and forbidding. Then it moved and Tammi and I both jumped.

Best part: The Bitch and Stud doggy bowls in the background.

January 14, 2010

Philly: Dinner at Osteria

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Perhaps I just hope to keep Osteria as my personal Philadelphia secret. That's the only reason I can think of why I somehow have neglected to post about it for the last two years. It's been a must go place for me since before Tammi ran the Philadelphia Marathon in 2007. Yet, whenever it comes to writing a post about it, I always manage to put it off.

The meal is a multi-course fantasy of interesting Italian cooking ranging from porchetta with tuna sauce to octopus on pizza to rabbit sausage to pig's feet that even Tammi likes. It's all over the place in the best possible way and the courses are small enough that you can graze your way through the experience.

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Yesterday, I made our reservation for dinner at Osteria Friday night, shortly after we get into town. I've been looking back at some of my notes posted on Twitter over the summer when we were there last and it's got me all excited again.


Some highlights:

* polpo totally different than last night. Meat shreds in mouth. Milder fish flvr. Tender, not as firm as most. Char less strong.

* porchetta served cold sliced, like cold cuts. Topped with a mayo laced tuna sauce and greens.

* wow! Tammi's eating pig's feet "and liking it"

* tortellini stuffed with braised, ground, shredded pigs feet. Burrata stuffed delicate pasta pillows with sprinkled olives, pasley.

* we got the last plate of suckling pig. Moist, tender, transcendant.

* "course for course, perfection." says Tammi. I can't argue.

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Seriously, it's a wonderful experience made even better by sitting at the chef's counter and watching the team make their magic in the kitchen. I have my request in for the same spot this weekend. Here's hoping.

Osteria
640 North Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19130
215.763.0920

January 12, 2010

Philly: The Piazza in Northern Liberties

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Tammi and I are heading down to Philadelphia this weekend, so I'm finally taking the opportunity to post some of the observations and such from our last trip in August.

On our last day, we headed up to Northern Liberties, the arts community I've mentioned more than a few times.

When we first came across the neighborhood, it was a surreal point of mid-gentrification. Empty lots alternated with construction sites and vacant shopping plazas on nearly every block. Cute little boutiques stood surrounded by wilderness. Every visit since then, I've noted the progress of development along the way. This was our first time in town for two years, so a lot of progress had been made.

Most notably was The Piazza, the courtyard at the large Schmidt's apartment complex. Modeled after an Italian Piazza, the big open space serves as something of a community center.

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Shops, cafes and restaurants line the perimeter of the plaza. During the summer at least, they all spilled out with signs, displays and outdoor seating. Weekends see an outdoor market where local artisans sell their wares and a DJ spins soulful house.

I'm going to guess that there will be less of all that this weekend. Even If this coldsnap finally breaks, as forecast, it's doubtful to be quite that warm.

What is going to be there is a Farmers Market Saturday afternoon that I'm looking forward to checking out.

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As a New Yorker, a place so blatantly constructed by developers gives me pause. But the glimpse I've seen of how the area has developed actually seems pretty cool. Of course, the perspective of an an occasional visitor is limited. I'm sure there are tourists that enjoy Times Square too. That said, I'm looking forward to spending more time window-shopping and bar-hopping around the neighborhood.

January 8, 2010

Seattle: Fog

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Nearly every morning I was in Seattle, the fog enveloped the waterfront. I waded through it one day and took the ferry out to West Seattle. As we pulled out of the dock, I got to see if from afar. It looked like a band across the lower section of downtown, with everything above perfectly clear.

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December 30, 2009

Hawai'i: Military School

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One morning on The Big Island, we walked out of our hotel to find an honor guard from a local Military School welcoming guests. We were told that they were 'VIPs' but when we saw them, neither of us recognized them.

When I think of military schools, I think of the kids who get sent away after getting into trouble. The last option for parents looking to teach their kids some discipline. But in Hawai'i, I saw a different context.

The big story in the news while we were there was the severe budget cuts that led to closing down all public schools on Fridays. Throughout the state, Furlough Fridays left kids with an extra day off every week. Considering that, I suppose uniforms and flag carrying becomes a more attractive option.

December 28, 2009

Vancouver: Gas Station

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As if the Seaplanes weren't enough to wow me, I was completely amazed by the idea of a gas station on a river. I mean, it makes sense, right?

December 22, 2009

Hawai'i: Waikiki Busker

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The Kalakaua strip, Waikiki, Honolulu, Hawai'i. 2009.

December 21, 2009

Seattle: The Link

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Seattle's Link also has what comes down to an optional payment system that in theory may be spot checked. Of course, the one time I saw anyone asked for their ticket, when they didn't have it they were just told they had to wait for the next train, not actually kicked out of the station.

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Most interesting to me was the Westlake station downtown. First, it's a huge space with a marble clad mezzanine level, above. Secondly, the 'track' level is actually just a subterranean street. Buses and Link light rail trains roll through from tunnels heading in either direction.

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Vancouver: Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden

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First off, Vancouver's chinatown is sketchy. Like Bowery in the 80's sketchy, junkies crowded around bars, divey hotels and help centers.

So, it was a little jarring to walk a block away from a major thoroughfare of despair and end up in this gorgeous space. It's a recreation of traditional Chinese garden from the 15th Century.

I skipped the tour in favor of wandering on my own and shooting photos, so I don't have much more to add. My only advice would be to be aware of your surroundings on your want there.

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December 18, 2009

Vancouver: A Duck and A Pig Ride Through Downtown

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I have no idea.

December 17, 2009

Vancouver: 3 Door Boarding

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So, the Western notion of a Public Transit system paid for by the honor system is apparently applied to buses as well as the subway in Vancouver. This 3 door boarding process caught my attention when I was out there over the summer. Each of the doors has an automated payment system that riders are trusted to swipe when they board.

Craziness.

December 16, 2009

Philly: SEPTA Stations

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I've often found that Philadelphia takes me back to the New York of my youth. No more so than in the never ending stations of the SEPTA. In Center City, the stations along the Broad Street line literally stretch for so long that you can walk through the mezzanine level from one station to the next. We accidentally did this when we were there over the summer and took a wrong turn.

The spaces are wide open and creepily empty. They remind me of some stations in New York back when I was a kid. My station, then and now, Utica Avenue on the A Train used to have a vast dark space between the two ends of the station. The spaces were first gated off and eventually bricked over and turned into storage and I understand why. Walking through here at 2am doesn't seem wise.

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I haven't decided if the climate control is better or worse. Hot stagnant air is shoved around violently by big dusty fans in the faces of any and everyone nearby. In the dead of the summer, it's certainly an improvement on the sweltering heat that dominates the New York system, but really, by how much is up for debate.

December 15, 2009

LA: Metro Rail

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Back when I went to Los Angeles over the summer, I explored the LA Metro a little more. Last time, I was too intimidated by the lack of turnstiles to go very far in for a look. This time, I braved my fare-beating phobia and wandered in further.

As it turns out, payment seems to be optional all up and down the west coast public transit systems. Besides San Francisco, my western explorations this year yielded a bunch of fare cards that were never read, checked or even requested. It's an odd thing. More on that as Transit Week progresses.

As for what I found deep under Hollywood Boulevard, it was curves and arches and vast open spaces. There actually appeared to be people flowing in and out this time, although even with the traffic of a two trains coming in the space is so big that it seems like just a trickle.

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December 14, 2009

Transit Week

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For no particular reason, this week I've decided to post some impressions of the various transit systems I've passed through or otherwise explored this year. Enjoy!

December 13, 2009

Hawai'i: Two Little Birds

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Hawai'i Cooks With SPAM

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Seriously.

December 10, 2009

Hawai'i: Tiki Torches

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Visually, I've always loved the tiki torches that light up every night throughout Hawaii. The rounded triangular shapes anchoring the wildly blowing flames just draws me.

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December 9, 2009

Quick Bite: Bar 35 Pizza

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This may look like a generic bar pizza, but this mini-pie from Bar 35 in Honolulu's Chinatown was topped with Chinese sausage and sweet Thai chili sauce instead of the usual pepperoni and tomato sauce. It was certainly novel and actually pretty good. What I was really curious about was the Gyro pizza they served, but Tammi wasn't hearing it.

December 8, 2009

Hawai'i: Rum Fire

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Duke's and Mai Tai Bar are the two big bar destinations in Waikiki. They are historic and also rather annoying. Duke's is fratty and irritating. Mai Tai bar matches high end cocktails with higher end prices.

At the Sheraton Waikiki, just down the beach from both, you've got Rum Fire. Tammi and I came on it by accident, but found it to be the best place to grab a drink, take in the sights and see the sunset in the whole area.

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I don't even remember how many times we ended up there. This is where we discovered our Japanese bachelors and some great fish tacos, not to mention a wonderful view of the beach, the sunset and Diamondhead.

Here's the funny thing, through my habit of geotagging, I discovered that four years ago, Tammi and I hung out in the same place. Hotel development being what it is, the space was totally different, but when I tagged the bar, I discovered it was the exact same space that we ended up spending most of our last day in Hawaii four years ago as Tammi knit and we relaxed over drinks.

Hawaii: Chibo

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As I mentioned, we took full advantage of the glut of Asian food available in Honolulu. We breakfasted on Korean Bi Bim Bap, slurped down ramen, sampled Yakiniku and Katsu. And at Chibo, we had Okonomiyaki.

In the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center, I found the only US branch of President Chibo restaurant we visited a couple years back in Ginza, Tokyo. We had dinner there on the first leg of our trip and stopped in again for lunch a few hours before our flight home.

Both times we sat at the Griddle and watched the magic happen. Of course, I took the opportunity to photograph the cooks doing their work.

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The first time we had the tasting menu, which had several courses and included a steamed egg soup that was really interesting; shrimp and beef fillet that were perfectly charred in the right places with crisped garlic slivers sprinkled on top and of course, the okonomiyaki.

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Chibo
Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center
2201 Kalakaua Avenue, Suite A-305
Honolulu, Hawaii 96815
Tel: (808) 922-9722

December 7, 2009

Food Finds: Sweet Potato Snacks

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Honolulu, HI. 2009.

Kauai: The Coco Palms

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This is what's left of the Coco Palms, the site of the old Elvis Movie, "Blue Hawaii." Sadly, I only ever got as close as this while passing by in a car.

The hotel was the 'it' spot back in the 50's and 60's, but was devastated by Hurricane Iniki in 1992. Disputes with the insurance company have kept it closed to this day.

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December 5, 2009

Analog: Expired Film

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The slow living in Hawai'i gave me plenty of time to experiment with various unusual film formats, like the Redscale film I mentioned last week.

This time, I played with a roll of expired film my friend, Mike gave me. It was found in a bag of camera equipment his friend's dad gave him. Most of it had been sitting in storage for decades. This particular roll expired in about 1992.

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The idea of using expired film is interesting to me because I've heard of odd things it can do to the colors. In this case, it was more of a direct fading than anything else, but with some adjustments on the scanned images, I managed to get these. There's not much to them, but the low contrast and deteriorated patches give a really interesting vintage look that I like.

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December 4, 2009

Quick Bite: Tonkatsu at Bairin

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Back in Waikiki, we had lunch at Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin, a Katsu place on a slightly out of the way block. I had a thick cut pork loin katsu platter.

I've mentioned before that I'm a fan of Katsu, but I was a little dubious about the thick cut. The loin tends to be pretty lean and can dry out a lot unless it's pounded into oblivion a la Schnitzel. But this was meaty and juicy and the exterior had crunchy texture without dominating every bite.

They also sold bottles of their sweet katsu sauce that I meant to buy but I forgot to order one before we left.

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Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin
255 Beach Walk,
Honolulu, Hawaii 96815
Tel: 808.926.8082

Kauai: Jungle Fowl

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Chickens run wild all throughout the island of Kauai. We saw them from the moment we left the airport and on through the rest of our time there. They were on the sides of the roads, in backyards, even along the side of a waterfall that we hiked a mile to get to. And you can hear the roosters crowing nearly everywhere.

The locals call them 'Jungle Fowl" It's unclear exactly how they came to be so prolific, but most of the stories we heard indicated that the population skyrocketed after Hurricane Iniki in 1992. The most plausible involved cock-fighting birds that were freed in the havoc the storm wrought.

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Regardless, I found myself inspired by all this wandering poultry. Between that and my vacation reading of "My Life in France," I find myself wanting to try my hand at Coq au Vin.

December 3, 2009

Kauai: Waimea Canyon

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I was blown away by the beauty and the scale of Waimea Canyon. In the US, it's second only to the Grand Canyon in size and it is an amazing thing to see.

I've already made it pretty clear that I'm not a nature boy. The great outdoors is not familiar territory to me. So, as a photographer, landscapes aren't really my strong suit. I can't begin to convey what we saw out there, but here's my attempt.

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December 2, 2009

Kauai: Outdoorsy fun up the Wailua River

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We certainly got our exercise in Kauai. Besides walking a few miles in our misadventures trying to get around, we also got all outdoorsy and did some hiking and kayaking.

Tammi and I joined a group and paddled two miles up the Wailua River. Then we waded chest-deep to the trail to Secret Falls.

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The hike itself was good, not too strenuous, but pretty messy, given the mud and the sloshing around. One lady went all-natural and dispensed with footwear.

Once we got up to the falls, we took it all in for a while. Tammi and some of the others in our group waded into the pool.

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The whole nature thing was more fun that I would have expected, but I don't imagine I'll be kayaking down the Hudson any time soon. When it was all said and done, I ached in places I didn't realize existed.

Hawai'i: Music

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Every place we went in Hawaii, regardless of which island, there was live music. Every hotel bar, out on the beach and along the sidewalks of Waikiki. Most of it was so-so, not a lot to write home about, but with my recent experience shooting music, I tried to keep in practice where I could.

December 1, 2009

Hawai'i: Shooting Stars on The Big Island

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While in Kona, I took advantage of the total desolation of our remote location and played with some night photography techniques I learned in a class I've been taking this fall.

Tammi trudged out with me to the beach and assisted while I tried my hand at capturing star trails.

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We sat out for an hour or so watching the stars and planets sink into the horizon. I had wanted to try to get the swirls around Polaris, like I've seen in many photos before, but accidentally discovering something cooler. We were far enough south that I got the edges of both the southern and northern swirls leaving this effect.

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November 27, 2009

Hawai'i on Foot or "I Never Learned to Drive!"

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I'm an unapologetic pedestrian. I can't drive and I can't say I particularly care to learn. Honestly, I prefer places that driving isn't necessary. And the places I might want to get to by driving are places like Napa, Provence or the Italian countryside where I really want to go to sample wine and have 3 hour lunches wouldn't be especially conducive to responsible driving. Tammi can't drive either, although she actually wants to learn and has been taking classes in pursuit of that.

Regardless, neither of us currently have a license. That proved a bit of a limitation in getting around on Hawai'i's more rural islands. Neither The Big Island or Kauai are particularly accommodating for the non-drivers.

The Big Island, being more rural and, well, Big, was the most challenging of the two. Taxis cost about $5 per mile to get around and I ended up dropping $100 just getting to our hotel from the airport. Besides the tour we took of the island, we didn't get beyond the grounds of our resort and it's sister hotel.

Kauai was a bit easier, with towns only a couple miles apart and a bus system that could get us up to the north shore of the island. But it only runs until 6:15pm and doesn't run at all on Sundays, which led to some rearranging of plans. Even with that, we put in more than a mile or two walking while we were there.

Coming from New York, it's funny to see the reactions of locals and hospitality folks when asked about getting around without a car. They initially assume we're being cheap and try to convince us that it's worth it to get a car. When we explain that that's not an option, they just think we're weird.

I'm writing this back in Honolulu, which though touristy and laden with hi-rises and Waikiki Wackos, is more familiar terrain for a city boy like me.

November 26, 2009

Homeward Bound

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By the time this goes up, Tammi and I will be in the air again, heading for a quick stopover at O'Hare, then on back to the Better Borough. We're giving ourselves a little more time at home this time around to relax and re-acclimate to being at home, catch up on things and maybe to get some cooking done after a couple of weeks out of the kitchen.

Expect some posts in the next week or so about Hawai'i, followed up by various catch up posts from the last few months.

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 25, 2009

Quick Bite: BK Breakfast Spam Platter

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Even Burger King serves Spam for breakfast. Also note the popular Portuguese Sausage, which I tried out at a more reputable place.

November 24, 2009

Analog: Apocalyptic Visions of Paradise

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Last month at the PDN Photo Expo, I stopped in at the Lomography booth and found this really interesting film that they make. They call it 'Redscale' and all it is is a 100 speed color film roll inverted so the emulsion is on the 'wrong' side. This distorts the way the light hits the film and provides a distinct red hue to everything. The woman at the booth said, "It sort of looks like Armageddon, but in a fun way."

Who can argue with that?

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I had been waiting for a while to get a chance to play with it and finally got to in here in Waikiki last weekend. It's really something I'd want to use sparingly, but for particular uses, I think it's very interesting.

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Hawai'i: Around The Big Island in Ten Hours

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I'm generally pretty dubious of tour buses. In New York, they represent those visitors so clueless that they can't be bothered to take the subway uptown or downtown and actually see the city through their own eyes. It's Nebraskans and Octogenarians that are too scared of our reviled city to actually get to know it first hand. I'm probably too harsh.

That said, there's no way we could have seen so much of The Big Island if we hadn't gone on the Island Circle Tour from Roberts Hawaii that we did last week. It was a wonderful and interesting experience.

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The Big Island is amazingly diverse. I spent the last 20 minutes just trying to figure out which picture to lead with. We stayed in the desert land of Kona on the Southeast side of the island. It's the windward side and, though hot and sunny everyday, had winds strong enough to slam doors and blow cups and flatware off of tables.

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Over the course of the day, we passed through and stopped in volcanic wastelands covered in cooled lava rock across from lush green pasture lands, down the road from a black sand beach full of warming Sea Turtles, minutes away from an active caldera spouting steam and sulfur, which in turn is virtually around the corner from a tropical rain forest. We visited a coffee plant, a bakery in the southernmost town in the United States, and we walked through an empty lava tube underneath a jungle.

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It was all very impressive and pretty amazing to cover so much in such a relatively short time.

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November 23, 2009

Hawai'i: The Loco Moco

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This is the Loco Moco: a thick beef patty, topped with a fried egg and starch-thickened gravy served on a bed of rice. Think Salisbury Steak with rice and egg. For breakfast. Weird right? It's actually pretty good and a really interesting example of how Hawai'i integrated so much of the influences that have flooded the islands since Captain Cook 'discovered' them 200 years ago.

Contemporary Hawai'ian cuisine is notoriously low-budget and ingeniously cobbled together with whatever is on hand. Famously, Spam is more popular here than anywhere else in the country. Without getting too involved in a discussion/monologue on the politics of big business and imperialism at the turn of the last century, suffice it to say that there has been a lot of poverty and plenty of cultural intermingling over years.

The Loco Moco pulls together American burgers, Japanese rice and hangs onto the 50's era aesthetic of TV dinners and powder packet gravy.

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I prefer the egg over easy so the yolk mixes in with the rice. The gravy is thick and goopy and rich and binds it all together. It's a little much for me, but it's been interesting to try out a couple examples of it.

November 22, 2009

One Year Married!

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Tammi and I got married a year ago today. It's a little jarring to think about it. Sometimes it seems like it was just the other day, sometimes it seems like we've been together forever. Today, we celebrate in Kauai.

Happy Anniversary, baby!

November 21, 2009

Hawai'i: Waikiki Weirdness

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One can only spend so much time in Waikiki before, apparently, your brains fall out of your head and you do something completely outrageous. This is my theory, at least. We've had the good sense to only ever go a few days at a time. But in our few days in Waikiki at the beginning of the trip, we stumbled across quite the oddities there.

Sitting at a hotel bar relaxing, Tammi and I looked up at the group of Japanese guys at the table over from us only to find this guy stripping down to what you see here. I've surmised that this was some Bachelor Party prank or something, but that's a wild guess. All the English we could get out of his friends between guffaws was that he had to wear that for an hour.

He made the best of it, hamming it up and posing with any number of people who wanted pictures of or with him.

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Converse to that guys personal exposure, there were no less than three guys we saw on our first night in Hawai'i walking around with 'inflated' self-worth. They drunkenly wandered the streets and bars and showed off their temporary enhancements to anyone who would look their way.

November 16, 2009

Hawai'i: First few days

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Leg 1 of our Hawai'ian adventure is over. This morning, we're leaving Honolulu for The Big Island. The first couple days have been busy with relaxing, lazing about and taking in the sun. Tammi's been practicing her swimming and we've both been catching up on our reading.

The food situation has been fun. We've been seeking out the little hole in the wall spots instead of the big chains that are everywhere in Waikiki. Mostly we've been attracted to the many Asian outlets to be found everywhere out here.

The next few days, we'll be on The Big Island, living the resort life, checking out the Volcano and touring the local brewery.

More to come.

November 12, 2009

The Annual Trip: Hawai'i

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With the wedding strategically placed just before Thanksgiving, we have now canonized our traditional holiday trip as the Anniversary Trip.

Friday morning, we take off for Hawaii for nearly two weeks of fun in the sun. We'll be island-hopping, hitting Oahu, The Big Island and Kauai while we're out there. No major plans yet, we'll just be playing it by ear. It's been an eventful 12 months and the both of us hope to take advantage of our first real downtime since the big day.

Given the lackadaisical flow of posts lately, it's not really necessary to warn that updates will be sporadic, but I am hoping to take some time to regroup and get more consistent all around the interwebs. Expect some news about the blog, the photo site (which I hadn't gotten around to mentioning), Twitter, and Examiner before the year is up. You've been warned.

October 27, 2009

Vancouver: SeaPlanes

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I have to admit that one of the most exciting things in the Pacific Northwest to me was seeing seaplanes for the first time. I've seen them on TV and in movies and such, but had never seen a plane land on water before. It was really rather cool to watch.

I can't imagine a row of these little planes flying out from under the Brooklyn Bridge. In fact, given the poor track record small planes flying around New York, I'm pretty glad about that. Either way, more than the gorgeous scenery off in the distance, just seeing these things in action really impressed me.

October 14, 2009

Seattle: Lola

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Lola is one in a collection of restaurants in Downtown Seattle owned by Chef Tom Douglas. It's generally Mediterranean and the menu includes much meat on sticks.

I only got to have this snack there while waiting for dinner at another of his restaurants across the street (more on that later). It's grilled lamb heart, which sounds pretty intense.

I've been curious about heart for a while (see Captain Beefheart), but this was my first real opportunity.

The flavor was intensely meaty without being particularly gamy or overpowering. The texture surprised me. I always presumed that heart would be very tough, but even though the meat was firm, it wasn't excessively so.

I had high hopes to return to Lola to explore the rest of the menu, particularly the other skewers, but alas, my stomach troubles thwarted that. Given all that went uneaten in Seattle, I'm sure I'll return at some point.

October 10, 2009

LA: Kogi

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I've been putting off my Kogi post (for months!) because there is just so much already written about the phenomenal hype surrounding the truck. You've heard it all before. It's been on the food blogs, the food mags, trend reports on the cutting edge and even on NPR. Yes. Food trucks are awesome. Yes. Many of them use Twitter. Got it. And really, more importantly, yes, Korean and Mexican foods fuse well.

So, here's the short version:
Long line, great food, totally earns the hype.

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I had two tacos, one with spicy pork, the other with short ribs and a pair of sliders. All were topped with shredded kimchi.

In hindsight, given that the beef on the sliders is that same as is in in the taco, I'd have made my second taco chicken or maybe have used it as an excuse to gorge myself on a kogi dog.

Regardless, much like the dinner the other week at Minetta Tavern, I walked away disappointed that the hype for Kogi seems to be entirely earned.

Being so good means that it's actually worth jumping through stupid hoops like standing in line for 45 minutes or having dinner at 5:30pm because you aren't important enough to score a reasonable res. And that annoys me, because really, I'm rarely willing to put up with that crap.

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The good news is that the little secret of the Kogi Truck is that they sell the same menu most nights at Alibi Room in Culver City. I didn't make it there on my last trip, but it's definitely on my short list of places to go next time I'm in Los Angeles.

September 30, 2009

Vancouver: Work Less, Do More

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Words to live by.

Food Finds: Big League Chew

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Mitsuwa, Torrance, Los Angeles. 2009.

Who knew they still made this? It seems decidedly unwise to sell gum designed to look and chew like chewing tobacco. But there it is, still on the shelves somewhere.

September 29, 2009

Seattle: The Gum Wall

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On Post Alley, down below Pike Market, is this particularly odd (and sort of gross) spectacle: The Gum Wall.

I'm not sure that more needs to be said about it. It's pretty fascinating to look at though. People put some real effort into 'sculpting' shapes, words and designs out of chewed gum. It's a fairly amazing sight.

September 22, 2009

Seattle: Pike Market

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One of the mot awesome things about Seattle and really, one of the selling points on why I decided to go out there was Pike Market. Not the market itself, specifically. Like most tourist attractions, it's jammed with people, making it impossible to navigate and a bit too sensational.

That said, the fact that a food market that specializes in locally sourced, fresh ingredients is one of the primary attractions in Seattle says more than anything else about the town's dedication to food. It's wonderful.


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For all my distaste for the touristy, I certainly found myself going back just to photograph the gorgeous foods and the people who offer it with such care. I only wish I could have grazed through it as much as I'd have liked.

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September 15, 2009

Seattle: Not Eating in an Eating Town

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Apologies for the radio silence of late. I haven't managed a single dispatch from the Pacific Northwest, in part, due to some of the difficulties I had while out there. I suspect that starting off the trip with a brunch of a seafood buffet and raw bar probably had a good deal to do with my troubles. Suffice it to say that I spent most of the time I was on the road without much of an appetite and the rest of the time downing Pepto to keep myself in one piece.

That said, I did manage to have some great meals despite everything and I saw a lot of both Seattle and Vancouver.

I've got a great many updates to put out and I hope to have many of them out over the next couple weeks.

Stay tuned...

August 30, 2009

LA: Santa Monica Pier

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The pier at Santa Monica sits on the other side of the Pacific Coast Highway from the Downtown area. Walking down the wide wooden pier reminded me of a mini-Coney Island. There are shops, a restaurant and a small amusement park. Buskers danced to Michael Jackson songs and off to the side a dozen people were fishing.

Down below us, on the beach, people played night Volleyball.

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August 29, 2009

Off to Seattle!

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Stay tuned...

August 24, 2009

Philly: Breakfast at DiNic's

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I haven't had a chance to post about our philly trip yet, but here's a good start: for breakfast Saturday morning we split a Roast Pork Sandwich at DiNic's in Reading Terminal Market.

What better way to start the day?

August 14, 2009

Weekend in Philly

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This evening, Tammi and I are going to Philadelphia for a little downtime together. We haven't been there together since she ran the Philadelphia Marathon in '07.

It's just the weekend, but of course the food is pretty planned out. Tonight it's dinner at Amada, tomorrow, it's Osteria. We're staying right down the block from Reading Terminal Market, so I can't imagine we won't check out DiNic's.

Beyond that, we'll be wandering around, and enjoying the city. Tammi has a couple shops she wants to hit and I'll be photographing and such. It should be a lot of fun.

There will be Tweets, so if you want the bite-by-bite, follow away.

August 13, 2009

LA: Japanese Toilets

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The Mitsuwa in Torrance has Japanese toilets! I wonder if the one in Jersey does. Not that I need one, but it would be pretty fantastic....

August 12, 2009

LA: West 4th/Jane

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In the middle of Santa Monica, West 4th/Jane sits in homage to a transplanted New Yorker's memory of Corner Bistro, a couple thousand miles away. I didn't get to go in, so I can't say how well the burger compares.

Apparently they just opened a couple months ago and got a fair amount of blog attention. Based on at least one site, which refers to it as being inspired by "NYC Gastropubs," it sounds nothing like the original.

Hell, the fact that there seem to be more than 5 things on the menu and a hundred beers available should tell you all you need to know.

West 4th/Jane
1432 4th St
Santa Monica, CA 90401

August 11, 2009

LA: Bacon Wrapped Hot Dogs

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While it does seem as though I ate everything while in LA, there was one local delicacy I passed on: The bacon-wrapped hot dog. Oh, I've had hot dogs wrapped in bacon before, I just haven't had any that were 'griddled,' as seen here, on a baking sheet on the street.

As someone who has often celebrated street meat, it's probably dubious for me to draw a line here, but I was skeptical enough to pass it by. All I had heard about the dogs was that the local health department was down on it. I mean, bacon cooking at lowish temperatures in sunny California presents a few obvious concerns to me too.

But apparently there is a long history of these dogs in Mexican lore and particularly in Mexican communities in Los Angeles.

Personally, I've let my cautious side stop me from partaking in these in the past. But seeing the crisp bacon and smelling the aromatic peppers and onions, I was truly tempted. It's only the meal I had just finished that stopped me from finally giving one a try.

August 8, 2009

LA: Traffic

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August 7, 2009

LA: Musha Again

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I've got nothing new to say about Musha that I haven't already said. I had another great meal there the other night.

My only complaint for the evening was that the dishes should have been paced out a little better. Within 15 minutes all of the small plates we ordered were delivered and cluttering the table. It felt a little rushed and diminished the experience a bit. Otherwise, the food was spot on as usual.

Instead of yammering on some more about it, here's some eye-candy:

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August 6, 2009

LA: Pizza Mozza 2 Go

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Following the market trend that has popped up here and there, Mozza has opened up a shop a couple doors down from the Osteria. It's called Pizza Mozza 2 Go. The name is pretty straightforward, but the store is not just a takeout window to the popular pizzeria.

Nancy Silverton stocks the shelves in the front counter area with some of the key ingredients that she uses at the restaurants as well as some gems that she's managed to source on trips to Italy.

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In the back room, customers can wait for their pizza over a glass of wine. The waiting area looks awfully familiar to the New Yorker's eye, with marble-topped tables that look to be the same as those used in the large bar area at the front of Otto.

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And really, because I can't stop raving about Mozza, this is what I had for dinner that night. The housemade fennel sausage was fragrant and wonderful.

LA: How To Hail A Taxi

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Apparently, Angelenos require instructions for this very complicated task.

Update: LAist linked to this image the other day. Since holding out your arm is so difficult, texting may be the answer...

August 5, 2009

LA: Fraiche

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Last Monday, after we finished our main setup, we returned to Culver City to eat at Fraiche, a block away from Ford's. The food is primarily country cuisine from France and Italy, serving rustic meals in what under other circumstances could have been a romantic dinner. If I ever manage to come out here away from work and with Tammi, I would love to take her there.

Above is the Oxtail parpadelle I had. Oxtail is great for this sort of preparation. The meat shreds into pieces that fit just right on the fork with the pasta. The sauce was a puddle of broth that moistened every bite and hung along the face of the rough-textured mustard greens. The sweet meatiness balanced out the greens' typical harsh bitterness.

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To start, I had an order of Tete de Veau, which is a fancy way of saying head cheese, which is really just a euphemism for 'cow face and jelly.' It's the jelly bit that usually gives me a little trouble. Sometimes it's just a little too much texturally and lacks much in the way of flavor. It can just get in the way of the meat that I'm actually looking to eat. But when it's done right, there isn't too much gelatin and what there is of it, melts into a concentrated beef juice.

This was like that. The meat was firm and hammy and in thick chunks that fit well on the slices of bread.

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The meal was great and the space was nicely put together. We sat outside in the dining section of the patio. Right across from us was the bar's patio, which featured high tables and stools as well as a couple couches. I could totally imagine sitting out there, lingering for hours with friends after a meal.

Fraiche
9411 Culver Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232
310.839.6800

LA: Poolside

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Really, after a long day on site, there's little more relaxing that hanging out by the pool. I never actually went in, but just sitting along the side, having a drink and feeling the evening breeze is one of the most relaxing things in the world.

August 4, 2009

LA: Hannibal

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I love it when a plan comes together.

August 3, 2009

LA: Homeward Bound

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Heading home tonight. Back in a bit.

August 2, 2009

LA: X Games 15 is a Wrap

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The last event of X Games 15 just finished up. It's my 9th X event and it went remarkably smoothly. Tonight and tomorrow morning I'll be wrapping up and tomorrow night, I'm homeward bound.

My X Games pics are up on Flickr.

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August 1, 2009

LA Observations: An Industry Town

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Even the parking lots in LA reference the movie industry.

July 30, 2009

LA Observations: Preserved Cars

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I can't take credit for this observation. Honestly, I'd never noticed it until my colleague pointed it out: Cars seem to last longer here. Everywhere you go there are older cars. And not necessarily classic, iconic cars, but also entirely forgettable beaters like Hondas from the mid-80s.

According to my travel companion, this is related to the climate. In the Northeast, we've got moisture all year round, whether in the humid, stormy summers like this one, the rainy springs and falls or the snowy winters. It's a desert out here. In my experience, it really doesn't rain in Southern California. Presumably this means less water and rust damage.

The longer I'm here, the more I start to notice the random mixture of cars on the road. I suppose the fact that cars last longer makes it more affordable to live in a town where you have to have one.

July 29, 2009

LA: Ford's Filling Station

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When I told my travel companion that he might not make the reservation I made for Ford's Filling Station, he insisted that we would just have to go again later in the week. He -had- to go back to Ford's. I managed to move the reservation back a couple hours and we had a late dinner that night.

Like a lot of restaurants these days, Ford's menu is based on the notion of working with local, seasonal, quality ingredients. The restaurant is said to be the pioneer of both this philosophy of cooking and of the downtown Culver City area. Apparently, the area was fairly desolate until some investment in a local theater revived it. In a recent interview with LAist, Chef Ben Ford talked about how perceptions of the area have changed as well as his preference of sourcing food from the farmers market.

The food really shows the care that goes in it. My main dish, the Jidori chicken had a wonderfully crispy skin with remarkably juicy meat. The mashed potatoes and succotash on the side completed a great comfort food combination. I ordered a side of Mac n Cheese too, which looked fantastic, but after this and our starter, I couldn't eat another bite.

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We began with a long strip of flatbread topped with jamon serrano, cheese and caramelized veggies.

My only complaint about the entire meal was the order of Pork Rillettes. I found the grind to be too fine, leaving a pasty texture that didn't really work for me.

Overall, one disappointment out of the whole meal was perfectly acceptable. The meal definitely reinforce that Ford's is a place ot return to again and again.

Ford's Filling Station

9531 Culver Blvd. Culver City, CA
310.202.1470

DC: Dinner at Marvin

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On our second night in DC the other weekend, Tammi and I met up with friends for dinner at Marvin. As I mentioned in a previous post, Marvin's menu stars the somewhat startling combination of Southern American and Belgian dishes. Though it seems odd at first, I have to say it worked well.

I had the chicken and waffle, above, which was wonderful. The breading had just the right crispy crunch to it and was complemented wonderfully by the sweetness of the syrup. Even the side of sauteed greens with a cream sauce that sat beneath the waffle mixed well, adding a slightly bitter edge to all that sweet and savory.

Tammi went with an order of Moules Frites, which came with a huge pile of mussels. She was so full from that, that she barely touched her fries. If you knew how much she loves fries, you'd understand how good the mussels must have been.

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After dinner we headed upstairs and listened to the DJ spin some tunes while we relaxed for a couple hours. The space filled up over the evening and there was a great vibe. Good times.

July 28, 2009

LA Observations: Power Lines

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Most power and phone lines in New York have been underground for well over a decade. So long that I tend to forget that the entire world hasn't done the same. In LA, these towers are everywhere, cutting through the landscape for miles.

LA Recs: The Tower of Justice Returns

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Stephen, a.k.a. The Tower of Justice is a long-time friend of the blog. Last year he offered tips on where and what to eat in San Francisco and he has advised on LA Eats in the past as well. Below is an extended and updated list of recommendations. Note the liberal use of the term 'bomb-ass.' That's how you know it's real.

Here are a few options to consider:

Downtown

Near the Staples Center is Philippe's, which as you may recall is the birthplace of the au jus roast beef sandwich.  They don't serve it with au jus in a dipping bowl, but instead ask you how many dips you want--one, two, or three.  Get it with two, which provides you with enough juice to give the meat some flavor but not too much so that the french roll loses its integrity.  They also serve 10 cent coffee.  It isn't transcendent but it's novel.  At each table, you'll find spicy ass mustard or horseradish sauce (I can't remember), which is bomb-ass.

In Chinatown, which is about 10 minutes northeast of downtown, you'll find Empress Pavilion which has some great dim sum.

In Koreatown, which is about 10 minutes west of downtown, you'll find all sorts of good eats.  My favorite is Beverly Soon Tofu on the northwest corner of Olympic and Vermont.  It's a spicy tofu soup made with all sorts of good meat/seafood combinations.  The bowl is a mini-cauldron that is bubbling when it is brought to your table at which point the waitress drops a raw egg into the bowl so that it can add another layer of flavor.  If you go, order the pork/seafood combination broth and ask for it "regular" spicy.  ("Spicy" spicy is really too hot, to the point where it begins detracting from the meal.)

There is also a Kyo-Chon chicken joint in K-town.  I've been to Bon-Chon, which also recently opened a store in LA k-town, and I still prefer Kyo-Chon.

Two other places to think about.  One is Honey Pig, which is a korean bacon joint.  They have giant pans in the shape of an inverted cone placed over a gas grill.  The inverted shape allows the bacon grease to burn off and collect in a pool at the bottom.  They serve the bacon with all sorts of kim chee, all of which you can wrap either in some leafy green or a rice wrap slathered in sesame oil.  Be sure to save some of whatever meat you're eating because the wait staff will come and make fried rice at the table with the leftovers.

Another place to try is Park's BBQ, which is on Vermont, just north of Olympic (and around the corner from Beverly Soon Tofu).  I've never been to Park's but the word on the street is that this place has the best beef bbq in K-town.  I think they even offer kobe beef short ribs.  Yikes.

Mid-Wilshire

One place in the mid-wilshire area you may consider is Umami Burger.  I have a pic of my burger in my mobile uploads folder on FB.  It's more novel than profound.  My umami burger had a patty, shiitake mushrooms, and a parmesan crisp.  My sister had the green chile burger which was better, I thought.  I hear good things about the triple pork burger.  

Another place you might try is Loteria, which is at the Farmers market at the Grove shopping center.  Loteria serves up some bomb ass chilequiles.  The head chef there is often featured on KCRW's "Good Food" podcast.  

Westside
I noted Musha on your list.  Everything there is good, but here are a few things you MUST try:
Kakuni (slow-cooked pork belly)
Saba: this mackeral, which not everyone loves because of its extremely fishy taste.  I recommend this if for no other reason than to experience having the wait sear your fish at the table with a blow torch.
MFC: Musha-Fried Chicken.  Enough said.
Vongore Udon: this dish is a relatively dry udon dish with clams and mushrooms. Savory goodness.
Spicy Tuna-Dip: they mix up some sashimi grade tuna with some spicy sauce, and serve rice cakes on the side.  

Some other good items include the risotto, which they serve tableside in a big block of parmesan cheese; somen noodles, which are really clean-tasting; an omelette with octopus and soba noodles (I can't remember the Japanese name).

Another place in Santa Monica is Bay Cities Italian Deli.  Their "Godmother" sandwich with spicy peppers is legitimate.  

If you get a chance to swing through Westwood, I also recommend your swinging through Stan's Donuts.  They have peanut butter and chocolate and peanut butter and banana donuts, both of which are great.  I usually go with the banana donut because it has real bananas.

A day ago, ToJ added one more suggestion to this list of wonders,

"Check out Daikokuya in Little Tokyo. Bomb ass pork ramen. The broth is milky white from pork parts having been cooked in it for days."

Bomb. Ass. For real.

July 27, 2009

LA Recs 2: Laura's Finds

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This is Laura. She moved out to LA last year to go to grad school. From pretty much the minute she landed, I've been hitting her up to go eat at places I read about. As she was procrastinating during finals, she put together an extensive list of places she likes or has heard good things about. Here are the highlights:

La Brea Bakery La Brea and 7th St - Los Angeles REALLY delicious sweet breads, seating outside and a few tables only at that but great if you want to grab a cup of coffee and a scone or muffin or breadstick. $-$$ (for pastries...)

Campanile
La Brea and 7th St.
Same owners as La Brea Bakery
Good brunch on the weekends. Fancy place that is kid friendly. Website says brunch times during the week as well but when I went at 11:30 on a Friday they gave us lunch menu only. But that's ok because the mushroom and truffle omelet was still on there and it was YUM!
$$

Phillip's BBQ
Crenshaw just south of I-10
I haven't been here personally but I have seen the trough of meat (pork ribs, beef tip, chicken, you name it-they BBQ it) that my friends have ordered and it smelled good! You order in pounds of meat...and if they run out of corn bread then they just give you a whole loaf of Wonder Bread...mmm
$$

fraiche
9411 culver blvd
culver city ca 90232
310.839.6800
Really good specials and seafood! And wine. Kind of a fancy place, totally delicious!
$$$

Taco truck by the Ralph's parking lot
Glendale Blvd and Alvarado (just off the 101 N Alvarado exit)
Need I say more...great taco truck with like 5-6 salsas to lather on the yummy meat!
$

Chano's Tacos
Figueroa - North of Adams (East side of Fig)
Just a must eat when near USC...took me WAY too long to try this place out! Good carne asada burritos. Nachos are cheap kind w cheddar melted on top and bottom layers don't get any cheese but other than that they have great food!
$

http://www.wingstop.com/
Crenshaw north of The Cobbler Lady on the West side of the street
Just yummy wings in like 7 flavors with at least 3 dipping sauces at a cheap price, w seasoned fries and a drink you can't miss. 10pcs (2 flavors), w fries, and a drink for under $10. Eat in or take-out. One of the few places open after 10pm in my 'hood!
$

Mexican place down the block from Lyric Café
Great drinks and food is delicious! Pricing comparable to NY prices and gives a generous helping of food.
$$

DC: America - The Store

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Reagan National Airport.

July 26, 2009

LA Observations: Parking

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Besides all the smog and traffic, one of the effects of the car culture out here is the amount of space taken up by parking lots.

I'd never really thought about it, but those cars have to go -somewhere- when people aren't in them. And those places take up a ridiculous amount of space.

Being from New York, the idea of wasting all that space on empty cars is unfathomable to me.

William Eggleston at The Corcoran Gallery

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The reason we went down to DC last weekend was to see the William Eggleston exhibit at The Corcoran Gallery. The event is part of a traveling show sponsored by The Whitney. I missed it in New York last year, largely because I'd never heard of him before I started taking classes at ICP.

Once I had, I realized that Eggleston has deeply influenced everything I've ever tried to do as a photographer without me even knowing it. His focus on everyday details and objects, the 'democratizing' effect that this exhibit was named after is the basis of everything that has inspired me to shoot. But I had no idea. At least not until I heard about him in class.

The work was amazing. Beyond the subjects, which I still cling to when making and viewing photographs, his composition did things I barely understand.

After we walked out of the exhibit, there was a performance art piece, above, in the lobby. These people were singing and screaming and falling down -and up- the stairs. I had no idea of it's 'meaning,' I'm entirely unfamiliar with such things. But it sort of captured how I felt after seeing Eggleston's work: Devastated.

It left me suddenly aware of the 'unknown unknowns' that Donald Rumsfeld spoke of. That is, it made me aware of not just how much I had to learn, but how much I had to learn that I didn't know I had to learn.

To my discredit, I let these things intimidate me. I've barely shot any thing since seeing this exhibit. Admittedly, it's been a hectic, pre-trip week, so it's not all nerves. But I hope to spend some time shooting during my off time while out here and getting over my self-confidence issues.

July 25, 2009

LA: Food Recs, Part One

This year, I asked 'the network' (read: Facebook) for some recommendations as well as a couple well placed experts on the ground. The results could fill a month of eating even with an open schedule, so I don't know how much of it I'll be able to actually make, but I intend to try my best to put a dent in the list.

In addition, I plan to make visits to some old favorites, like Musha, Pizzeria Mozza and tonight, when my colleague with the car comes, it's Ford's Filling Station in Culver City.

I was going to collect all the recommendations in one post, but looking at them now, I'm realizing exactly how intense this list is. Let's start with some of the highlights:

First and foremost, the Kogi BBQ Truck, which has lit the blogotubes on fire with praise received forceful recs from no less than four of my friends. I was already hoping to make it out there, but a little dubious about all the hype. I still am, but really, Korean barbecue tacos are too brilliant to pass up.

Beyond that, recommendations varied from Ethiopian at Merkato on Fairfax to Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles.

I got a nice music recommendation from Joshu, who worked in the college radio station with me back in the day, "It's been a while, but last time I was there, Catalina Jazz Club was putting it down with the music and food. Goes without saying that you need to eat some of the divey Mexican that Californians on the East Coast bitch relentlessly about missing."

Along those lines, Harriet, who lives in LA chimed in about the "Great Mexican food ... at Loteria in the Farmers Market at the Grove (a stand) or at their new restaurant in Hollywood."

I've been to both in past years and would definitely go back. She continued, "For dinner, try Susan Feniger's The Street on Highland near Mozza. My favorite restaurant is Rustic Canyon in Santa Monica."

I like Santa Monica because it's the only area of LA I've seen that's remotely walkable, but with one or two exceptions, I haven't been blown away by the food. So, I definitely want to give this a try.

Over the next couple of days, I'll be posting more recommendations from a couple locals. Stay tuned.

LA: On the Road Again

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Last weekend's trip to DC was the start of travel season for me. I just arrived in LA an hour or so ago. This afternoon I'm getting settled in at the hotel and unwinding before the work begins.

I'll, of course, be doing my best to sample the good food around town as time allows. I'll be posting here throughtout the trip, but if you just. Can't. Wait. I have joined the Twitternets and you can find my up to the minute, possibly drunken impressions of every bite of food I take on my feed. Enjoy!

July 23, 2009

Batala at Farragut Square

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I've found that when traveling, sometimes the most interesting experiences are the ones you just stumble upon unexpectedly.

Saturday, while we walked through DC heading down to a Museum from our hotel, we felt, more than heard the thumping beats of The Batala Washinton Percussion Band performing in Farragut Square.

Tammi and I joined the crowd that had gathered to watch these dozens of women pounding on their drums and feeling the rhythms flow through them.

Batala is an international network of groups that celebrate Afro-Brazilian rhythms around the world. This group is all women, but others, including the founding band in Paris are mixed.

If you'd like to see them, Batala Washington can be found rehearsing every Saturday at Farragut Square. They also have a number of performances listed on their calendar


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July 9, 2009

Butchery: The Times Catches On The Rock Star Trend

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I have to say it was pretty gratifying to see The Paper of Record chime in on the Butchery theme I've been going on about.

Most of the New York scene mentioned in the story were things I've been following and planning on posting about, but it was interesting to read about what's going on in San Francisco in particular. I'll have to make a point of seeking out such things the next time I'm in the area.

I'm also interested in reading Julie Powell's upcoming book about her time at Fleisher's, the Meat Mecca of the east. And I may finally have to finish reading Heat just so I can read more about Dario Cecchini, who I've mentioned here before.

In any case, if you have any interest in all this meat talk, the story is worth the read just for tips on others doing this butchery thing. Enjoy!

June 23, 2009

Boston, Briefly

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Last week I spent about 12 hours traveling in order to have a 2.5 hour meeting in Boston.
Oh, the corporate world.

This is how I saw most of the town that day: through a car or train window. Going there, though, reminded me of how long it had been since I've been up there. Had I a bit more time, it would have been fun to wander around a bit by the Commons or Newbury Street or to check out the Shepard Fairey exhibit at the ICA.

Tammi and I have talked about trying ot make the trip up there, but with so much happening this summer, I'm not sure if I'll make it. The idea of seeing a 'street artist,' even one as mainstream as Fairey migrate from paste-ups and stickers to a full-scale museum show is intriguing. I really hope to have the opportunity to make it up there, before it closes in August.

June 22, 2009

Late Summer Trip '09

Once again, I have a week of vacation time this year that I haven't planned for.

I'm considering the same set of places that I discussed last year, but heavily leaning towards the Pacific Northwest option of Seattle, with a couple days in Vancouver.

Off the top of my head, going to Pike Place for seafood and sampling the charcuterie at Salumi jump out as 'must see' attractions. I've heard wonderful things about the food and the food culture of the pacific northwest.

The usual concern about this area is that one doesn't typically see the sun at all, given the propensity for constant overcast and rain. Given the way the weather here in New York has been to date this year, I don't think it's likely to be any worse there than it's already been here.

I'll be spending some time in the next couple weeks thinking about what I might do out there, so if you have any suggestions, don't keep them to yourself.

June 4, 2009

Amherst: 10th Reunion

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Somehow, ten years have passed since I graduated from college. Last weekend I returned to Amherst College for my class reunion. It was my first time on campus since the last reunion, five years ago.

For all my travels, I've only ever lived in two areas in my thirty-odd years. As such, I find myself very tightly bonded to this small town that is so contrary to everywhere else I'm ever drawn to. Returning was comforting, yet jarring.

As a New Yorker, I should be more than a little familiar with the change and progress that transforms the world around us all the time. But seeing it in Amherst fwas slightly traumatic. Dorms were gutted and renovated and the old, decaying bits we thought of as character were replaced with more practical features.

Regardless of the other differences around campus, it was reassuring to take in the same view from the top of Memorial Hill that blew me away as a prospective student 15 years ago.

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May 22, 2009

DC: Alhambra Negra

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I had this Alhambra at an outdoor bar called Rumba Cafe on 18th Street in Washington. It was a dark, malty beer which is unusual for Spanish beer. The body was lighter, according the the website, "adapted to Mediterranean tastes." It was a good find. I hope to find it again here in New York.

May 17, 2009

London: The Message

I took this photo five years ago on my first and only trip to London. It was at a Hip-hop show at Shepherd's Bush Empire. The show was called The Message and it starred Gza from Wu Tang Clan, Dead Prez and a number of British rappers I'd never heard of before. Gza was still doing the same songs I heard him do in the late 90's when he performed at my college. And Dead Prez hyped the crowd saying the crazy shit they are known to say. ("And you white people can be down, too. Just give back what you took!")

But what I still remember now was hearing the British MCs rhyming in an indecipherable accent. There was a freestyler on stage lambasting his fellows for trying to sound American when they are "BRITISH!" Coming minutes after hearing Dead Prez reject their nationality in favor of being "An African," I wondered if anyone else noticed the irony.

I also remember the Palestinian MC whose hook was in Arabic. It was the first time I had seen International Hip-hop live. I've been fascinated with the concept of foreign language Hip-hop ever since.

It's a challenge to me as someone who has always listened to Hip-hop as a form of storytelling to listen to a song and not know the words. But it's an interesting experience.

April 27, 2009

DC: Coal is Dirty

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Here's some more political graffiti I found off 18th Street in Adams Morgan. Maybe I'm seeing a trend where one doesn't exist, but I found it interesting how directly political some of the graffiti in DC was.

This collage of paste-ups pieced together slogans and imagery in protest against the coal industry, including fliers for a rally last month. There's a fair amount of graffiti that references politics in New York, but in my experience they tend to be broader anti-establishment messages rather than specifically regarding policy.

April 26, 2009

DC: Ben's Chili Bowl

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Everyone's talking about Ben's Chili Bowl these days. It's been months since the blogs were abuzz about the where to go in DC during the pre-inaugural festivities.

Ben's, a fixture on the U Street strip that used to be called the Black Broadway, received particular attention after then President-Elect Obama stopping in to ask "What's a Half-Smoke?"

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This is a Half-smoke, topped with everything, including the eponymous chili. It's a damn good dog. Don't let the shop's name fool you, the chili is peripheral, the Half-Smoke is king. The meat is spicy and flavorful and firm enough to give just the right amount of resistance to the bite.

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The chili complements it extraordinarily well, but strictly in a supporting role. It's a condiment, I probably wouldn't eat it on it's own any more than I would have a bowl of mustard or ketchup. It's more a thick gravy that soaks into every pore and crevice of the bun extending the flavor of meat to depths unimaginable.

I'm salivating just thinking of it.

April 24, 2009

DC: Pide at Rosemary's Thyme

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This is a Pide (pronounced pee-day). I had it for brunch at Rosemary's Thyme not far from our hotel in Dupont Circle.

Pide is a type of Turkish pizza, a flatbread with a meaty topping. This one was topped with Sujuk, Turkish sausage on one half, Pastirma, cured beef strips on the other and cheese with veggies all around. Since it was brunch, they threw an egg on top. Based on the meal alone, I'd be raving about the place, but the experience was dampened by poor service.

No one was rude, but everything was very slow. I don't know that there was a single time that the waiter came by without apologizing for the tardiness of one thing or another. Looking around online, it seems that this is a common experience, which is unfortunate. The space itself is pretty nice, with a huge indoor space taking up what seems like 3 storefronts and an outdoor deck that stretches across all of them.

This dish was really great- almost good enough to make me want to return. But given the experience, I'm more likely look for a Turkish place with better service.

April 23, 2009

DC: Post-Election Clearance Sale

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Found at the gift shop at DCA.

April 22, 2009

DC: Thanks Mayor Fenty

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I found this in an empty lot off U Street. It's always interesting to catch a glimpse of the local politics when traveling.

In the case, The Franklin School, which has served as an emergency shelter since 2002, was shut down by DC Mayor Adrian Fenty. This stencil appears to be a part of the Reopen Franklin Shelter Now campaign.

April 13, 2009

CT Travel: Slim Food Options at Union Station

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This food disaster brought to you by S'barro. Yeh, S'barro, the most wretched chain of 'pizza' slingers in the northeast. Yet, when I'm heading home from Connecticut, it's the best of some truly foul options available at Union Station in New Haven. What irritates me about this is that I've spent enough time in New Haven to know at least a couple places to get a good bite, but none of it is convenient to the train station.

When I was in school, I passed through this station semi-regularly and loved the D'Angelo's steak shop that served what was my favorite steak and cheese sandwich until I finally visited Philadelphia.

Now, there's a Dunkin Donuts, whose doughnuts are even chalkier and staler by the afternoon than they are in the morning. And there's Subway, which produces an odor that nauseates me half a block away.

And then there's S'barro, amazingly the lesser evil.

April 11, 2009

CT: The Great Outdoors

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Whenever I go out to the hinterlands, I'm struck by the irony of suburban life. For all the talk of being 'closer to nature' and having tree and whatnot, I find that the only time anyone spends outside is going to or from their car.

In the office park, you may take 5 minutes to walk from building to building, but now you even have bridges between buildings so you don't even have to do that.

April 8, 2009

In The Sticks

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Co-op City, seen here, is always my marker when I'm entering or exiting the civilized world from the hinterlands. I'll be up in Connecticut for work for a couple days. Back in a bit.

::c::

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 3, 2009

Paris: Penguins Bowling

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There's nothing French about these Penguins. Hell, we bought them at Muji, the Japanese shop that also has a branch right here in our own fair city. But we saw these over and over while we were in Paris and pined after it until I finally bought it on our last day, just an hour before we headed to the airport. Not everything needs to be local.

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 26, 2009

Late Night: The Shwarma

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Showing a bare modicum of discretion, I'm going to call this feature 'Late Night.' This category could very reasonably be called 'Drunk Food,' given that while always good, most of the dishes I expect to discuss are 100 times better after an evening of revelry. I've already covered White Castle and the Taco Truck (as well as other tacos),

The Shwarma, also known as the Doner Kebab to the Turks and sharing more similarities than differences with the Greek Gyro is an internationally recognized celebrity in the world of late night fare. In Mexico, they righteously substitute pork for lamb in the al pastor taco. In Paris, we passed a dozen spits roasting layer upon layer of lamb around the corner from the music row where we stayed.

The massive structure of meat is constructed with horizontal columns of fat which melt down, basting all the meat below. But, I expect I'm not telling you anything new. You've either seen these 'meat logs' around town in one way or the other and either fled in disgust or ran gleefully towards it.

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This particular Shwarma was served up from my go to place on MacDougal near Bleeker in The Village, Yatagan. It's not nearly the only one in the neighborhood. And, while I love it, it's not the best I've ever had, it now has a long-standing sentimental value just for being associated with so many of the late nights I've had through the years.


Yatagan Kebab House
104 MacDougal Street
Greenwich Village

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

March 17, 2009

Butchery: Italy's Finest

Here's another example of the butcher in the spotlight: The new food blog by the Atlantic did a post last week on a man they call "Italy's Most Famous Butcher," Dario Cecchini of Chianti.

Tammi and I have both been wanting to go to Italy for years, and may go this fall. Now I have one more must-see to add to the list.

March 13, 2009

NC: Trip Planning


Tammi and I are heading down to Chapel Hill later this month to see my aunt for her birthday. Of course, I'm already looking into my food options. There are quite a few, Bon Appetit called the area "America's Foodiest Small Town" last year. My aunt, a vegetarian teetotaler has spent the last couple of weeks trying to think like me, scoping out local restaurants and wine bars. We've been discussing the options in Chapel Hill and in general Triangle area.

So far, here's the list of places we might try:

Lantern, a pan-Asian place that I read about in Gourmet a while back.

Provence, a French restaurant that my aunt has said we have to try.

Glass Half Full, a wine bar with small plates.

The Carborro farmers market, where I've read meat from Ossabaw breed Pigs are sold. I've been curious for a while about what other heritage breeds taste like, so I may need to get something to take home.

There's another nice little wine bar we went to on our last visit that I'd be happy to visit again and Elaine's on Franklin, which we visited last time I was there.

Of course, we'll have some southern food while we're there. Tammi is particularly fond of grits, and I'm sure I'll track down some fried chicken or pulled pork. We'll probably hit Mama Dip's for brunch.

I'm sure we'll do something else besides eating. We may even actually go to Durham, which I still haven't seen, but I'm not too worried about that right now. If anyone has suggestions for food or non-food related activities in the area, let me know.

March 4, 2009

Paris: Robert et Louise

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Tragically, this piece of loveliness was not mine. I have to mention it anyway. It's the Ribeye steak for two, cooked on the open wood fireplace in the back of Robert et Louise, in the Marais.

I first read about the restaurant in Ruth Reichl's extended Editor's Note in last year's Paris issue of Gourmet. I immediately added it to my short list.

We passed by one night hoping for dinner, but walk-ins weren't available. The small space fills up pretty quickly, so you'll need to make a reservation a few days in advance.

When we got there for our reservation, the beautiful old tavern space was packed tightly from the entryway down to the kitchen. I stood next to the open kitchen watching the staff work as we waited for our table.

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My main was duck confit, while Tammi had a Beef Bourgignon. Our meal was wonderful, although even now the most memorable part was the steak we didn't have. I had a pair of sausages, a boudin noir and a boudin blanc that were grilled in the open hearth in the back wall of the restaurant.

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The spectacle of the fireplace drew our attention for most of the night. Hunks of meat grilling above, while firewood burned to charred embers below. Days later, Tammi and I were still smelling the wood smoke in our coats. I got hungry again every time.

March 2, 2009

SF: The Food Court

Out The Door at the Smithfield Mall's Food Court

I have to say, I was concerned when the words Food Court came up as a suggestion for dinner. I was in SOMA with a couple former colleagues and a few friends from high school who have since become SF expats. I had declined to make any suggestions, in the hopes that the locals among us would come up with some awesome place I had never heard of.

Turns out they did.

The Food Court at Westfield Mall on Market Street is the antithesis of everything those two words have meant together before.

As a part of a high-end revamp of this mall, which included adding "the largest Bloomingdale's west of Manhattan" as the flagship tenant, the basement level was filled with the best fast food I've ever seen. Offerings include a Tri-tip steak shop, Korean Barbecue, a gelateria and an outpost of The Slanted Door, the incredible Asian restaurant in the Ferry building. Called "Out the Door," the space reminds me most of Republic in New York. It's much more casual and inexpensive than the original.

I wasn't in SF long enough after to properly survey the rest of the food, beyond a nicely done burger at Bistro Burger, but I know where I'll be going between sessions the next time I'm tethered to Moscone for a week.

Westfield San Francisco Centre, 865 Market St.
(415) 512 6776

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.

February 24, 2009

Aspen: Piñons

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Word of mouth from locals is usually the best way to find a great meal. So I was excited when I heard the recommendations for Piñons from staff at The Wine Spot and later at Zocalito. At both places the words, 'Best in Aspen' came up. That seemed a little much to me, but with such strong reviews, I couldn't leave without trying it.

Sadly, word of mouth can also lead to unwarranted expectations. I can't say anything bad about the meal I had. It was good. I had a duck quesadilla starter and the steak main you see about.

That said, it wasn't a very interesting meal, particularly given the price. For a steak at their prices, I want something aged and buttery. And the variety of the menu reminded me of my initial impressions of Aspen, years ago: contrived, unnecessarily full of itself and overpriced. I can't speak to the decor or the ambiance, since I sat at the bar and didn't see much of the main dining area. I'm no militant locavore, but the fact that a key item on offer is New Zealand Elk steaks when there are probably elk within 5 miles from the restaurant seemed a little stupid.

Contrasted with Zocalito or The Wild Fig, where my meals weren't great, but displayed an interest in trying new things and challenging the palette, Piñons was just boring.

February 22, 2009

Paris: Pork Spread

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At Au Pied Cochon, as one would expect of a place named after a Pig's foot, they don't sully bread with a pat of butter. Instead they provide a small bowl of pork pate to spread. Much like everything else here, it's profoundly rich.

February 21, 2009

Souvenirs: Coffee Spoons

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I'm not a coffee drinker, but Tammi is and whenever she had coffee, she got one of these cute little spoons. Before we left we went to BHV, the department store near our apartment and picked up a couple to take home.

February 20, 2009

SF: Yoshi's SF

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I went to Yoshi's for the first time last year for my birthday, hours after we got into San Francisco from Atlanta. We had an incredible meal there and then saw Ahmad Jamal perform live there in the attached Jazz club. At the time, the had opened fairly recently in as an attempt to revitalize the historic music district on the Fillmore.

Despite great food and the big Jazz line-up they seem to pull in, apparently it's not making a lot of money. Eater SF has reported more than a few times on it's empty dining rooms, 'deathwatch' specials and government subsidies (as part of the revitalization plan). I, for one, have managed to stop in at least once on each of my 3 visits to San Francisco in the last year. I don't know when I'll be there next, but I hope it's still up and running when I do.

DC Dispatch

What's a Half-Smoke?

This Weekend, Tammi is taking a Ladies' Weekend down to our nations capital to knit, hang out and generally swoon in Obama-Awe. On request, Guyvera chimed in with a number of recommendations on places to eat. I'm posting it here for my own future reference as much as yours.

For further recommendations, Serious Eats posted a DC Eating Guide for Inauguration week last month.

And now, Guyvera...

Typical DC-Fare:
Ben's Chili Bowl

Ben's is close to the U Street/Af-Am Civl War Memorial stop on the Green Line
Ben's is cheapish. Most things on the menu are decently sized, and run $6-7. You can be happy full (and greasy) for $10 or less. Things to get here are 1/2-smoke hot dogs (w or w/o chili); chili fries (quite quite good), scrapple (if you can handle it), greasy breakfasts (with grits!). Ben's is good, but in my personal opinion not earth-shattering. Still, it's a bit of a must-hit for a number of reasons (local celebs, famous place, mix of "real" DC people and assorted hosers). Ben's keeps late hours, and is the kind of place that tastes better the later it is.
(1213 U St NW (between N 12th St & N 13th St) (202) 667-0909)

In the U street Area, there's also a respectable soul food place called Oohs and Aahs (it's good, not transcendent, and tends to be heavy with the salt), a good (if salty and with unpredictable hours) VEGETARIAN SOUL FOOD place run by Black Israelites (no joke) across the street from Howard Univ. It's called Soul Vegetarian. Prices are about $10/plate, but I usually eat 1/2 for dinner and 1/2 the next day for lunch. Yep, the portions are really that big.

One of my favorite hangouts in the general area is a place called Busboys and Poets. It's a bookstore, cafe, and performance space. I find the cafe to be overpriced, though the food is good (not totally worth the price, but not a disaster either). Lots of good looking professional people here in their late 20s early 30s. Nice vibe. Internet, lots of poignancy and whatnot.
(2021 14th St NW (between N U St & N V St) - (202) 387-7638)

Walking distance (20 min walk) away, is Amsterdam Falafel
This place is in the heart of the Adam's Morgan area. Amsterdam's falafel by itself is ok. Where it shines is in your ability to add whatever topping you please from their self-serve bar: beets, yogurt, hot sauce spicy enough to give me the hiccoughs, peppers, cabbage, tahini, etc. The fries here are also particularly delicious, and I'm not much of a french fry-man. Falafel sandwiches here run about $6, but if you stuff the pita well, you won't really need anything else. There are not a lot of places to sit here. If you eat outside on a weekend night, you can watch drunken frat boys wander the streets.
(2425 18th Street NW - (202) 234-1969)

Ok. one or two more for now, and maybe a couple later on tonight...

Chinatown area:
Full Kee Restaurant
Chinatown in DC is a testament to displacement and gentrification. It's becoming Chinatown without Chinese people. Anyway, the food at Full Kee is good, reasonably priced, and there's stuff here both for people who like "General Tso's Chicken" and for people who like Congee, or more "typical" fare. My fave is something like "Stinky turnip greens with pig intestine." No joke. De-lish!
(509 H St NW (202) 371-2233)

Matchbox
Gourmet pizza, tasty sliders. This is a "scene" place. It's not crazy expensive, but you go here in part to see and be seen. It's a hangout, and is often ridiculously packed on weekend nights at prime dining hours. It's ok. You know I'm not exactly highbrow in my dining choices. This place is respectable. You already know where to find truly quality pizza. Food is fine.
(713 H Street NW (between N 7th St & N 8th St) (202) 289-4441)


Two places I haven't been, but am eager to go:

Lighthouse Tofu
This is supposed to be The Spot around here for soon dobu (spelling?), an often spicy Korean stew (rice served on the side) with tofu and your choice of meat. TOJ introduced me to this particular dish at a place in L.A. Very nice. The page on Yelp.com that describes this place is full of typical Yelp nincompoopery, but the reviews collectively do a good job of describing the stew.
(4121 Chatelain Road Suite 100 Annandale, VA 22003)

Honey Pig
Korean BBQ. I can only hope this is the DC area cousin of a place with the same name I've visited a few times in LA. This is pricier, though not fancier than any other place on the list. Maybe in the neighborhood of $20 per person? Korean BBQ. You know the drill. Tasty Pork meat bits. Mmmm.
(7220-C Columbia Pike Annandale, VA 22003 (703) 256-5229)

Also, I'd be remiss to not mention the local chain of burger joints called Five Guys. I've seen one or two in NYC, but the Washington Metro area (actually northern VA) is the birthplace. Think the East Coast version of In 'N Out, except not quite as fresh, but with a lot more toppings, better fries, and a total lack of creepy religious subliminal messages. In 'N Out is still my gold standard for fast food burgers, but when I get a hankering for a greazy cheeseburger, and I'm here, I go to Five Guys.

February 18, 2009

Aspen: Zocalito

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I'm not sure how long ago Zocalito opened up in Aspen, but I had never seen it before this trip. It's not unreasonable to think it may have been there for years given it's location. It's situated downstairs in a side alley off the outdoor mall on East Hyman.

I noticed it once early on and wasn't sure if I wanted to try it. The signs declare it a "Latin Bistro," which hinted of a pan latino fusion concept that seemed pretty annoying. Later, I heard a few good things about it, so I decided to give it a go.

The place was empty. The only ones there were the Bartender/server and his friend sitting at the bar. I was concerned, but figured it was worth a try. I'm glad I did. On closer inspection, the menu presented some really interesting options, that were if nothing else educational.

My main course, below, was a T-bone steak covered in a Mole sauce made from various exotic chile peppers. Apparently, this is one of the Chef's focuses in authenticity. He travels to Mexico every summer to find suppliers items that he can't get in Colorado. The first is chiles, the other is Mezcal. The waiter showed me a book of photos they took when last down there. The piles of peppers dried and fresh at various markets and the collapsed shack that distills the Mezcal make me think their chef would be a pretty awesome travel companion.

T-bone with Red Mole

To be honest, I ordered it less for the steak than the sauce and sides. The mole was thick and earthy.The steak itself didn't have a whole lot to offer, but that was for the best. Whatever a better steak might have had to offer would have been lost in this powerful sauce.

The other thing that drew me to it was the slices of cactus leaf that decorate the top. I've seen them in Mexican Markets before and really wondered how they taste, but never been willing to pick one up and cook it myself. Turns out, it's sort of like okra. Take that how you will. It's firm on the outside and sort of slimy in the middle. Like I said, it was very interesting. Also mixed in with the sides were huitlacoche, corn 'mushrooms' that added a distinctive flavor and texture.

The potatoes on the side were gratineed, crisp around the edges in just the right way.

My starter was, predictably an order of Queso Fundido, which I have raved about in the past and so will refrain now. Suffice it to say it was all I had hoped from a bowl of hot, melty cheese.

I can't say Zocalito made my favorite meal in Aspen, but it was the most challenging I had had in a while and I really appreciated that. It was great ot be able to actually try something new there. With that comes the risk of the unfamiliar. I would go back if I find myself there again next year, just so I could explore their more interesting options further.

420 E. Hyman Street
Aspen, CO
970.920.1991

February 14, 2009

Holiday Weekend

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I'll be taking a little break this weekend to spend a happy Valentine's day at home with Tammi (and do some more cooking). I'll be back on Tuesday with more posts.

Enjoy the weekend everyone.

February 13, 2009

Paris: Scarves

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Of the many observations in Paris that Tammi made that I would never have noticed was that everyone wears scarves. Nice scarves. I don't really understand the concept, but Tammi certainly appreciated it and picked up quite a few for herself and as gifts.

These were beautifully displayed at Diwali a chain that we came across a few times.

February 12, 2009

Paris: The Wheel of Excellence

Wheel of Excellence

I'm not fond of Ferris Wheels. I can't see one without thinking of the deathtrap out in Coney Island. So, it took a little cajoling from Tammi to get me on the giant wheel that towers over Place de la Concorde at the end of the Champs Elysee.

It turns out I had nothing to fear. This one was not nearly as rickety as the Wonder Wheel. There's none of the terrifying creaking and rocking, which is for the best because it meant I could spend more time with my eyes open, affording views like this:

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February 11, 2009

Souvenirs: Sam Flores

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In the Haight, I found a shop called Upper Playground that specializes in Street Art-influenced clothing. I picked up the shirt here, designed by Sam Flores, a local artist. I also bought a T-shirt with his version of the Morton Salt Girl and both of his books published by the gallery associated with Upper Playground.

SF: Magnolia Snacks

Duck Wings at Magnolia

At the end of my Lazy Saturday in SF, before heading to the airport, Will and I grabbed dinner in the Upper Haight at Magnolia a brew/gastropub. I had stopped in once before with TOJ and Guyvera, but didn't eat. This time, we passed through relatively quickly, so I don't have extensive notes, but I had to point out to of the small plates I tried while there.

The idea of honey coated duck wings still fascinates me. Of all the things I see done with duck these days, the wings seem the most neglected. I've been thinking of ways to cook duck and home and this has certainly pushed me forward.

The other, below, is the quail scotch egg, which includes two food items that capture my imagination whenever I hear about them: The quail egg and the scotch egg.

Whenever I see quail eggs in an asian supermarket, I start to think of things that would be cool to try with them. The tiny eggs always seem like a great way to do . . . something, but I never really think of what.

I think of the scotch egg like many consider the turducken: blissfully excessive. A boiled egg, wrapped in sausage, then breaded and deep fried. What's there not to love?

Usually, it's just about everything. The fried breading isn't particularly crisp, the yolks are overdone and everything in between is pretty mediocre.

In this case, the yolks were fine, the breading was good, but the sausage, a homemade Italian, was not quite what I wanted here. All of it was good on it's own, but didn't quite come together the way I wanted it to...

Scotch Quail Eggs at Magnolia

What was great was the beer, including the Bluebird Bitter, mentioned in the '100 things to eat' list I mentioned last week.

Really, Magnolia demands multiple visits, which I just haven't been able to dedicate in my few visits. I don't know when my next visit to SF will be, but this I hope to pencil in some quality time at Magnolia to really taste what they have to offer.

February 9, 2009

Aspen: The Wine Spot

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My recent visit to Aspen was remarkable for being my least social excursion out there to date. The co-workers who usually accompany me there did not go this year and my suddenly sensitive stomach left me a little cranky and not in much of a mood for the crowds that end up in town for X Games.

The Wine Spot was my savior. If not for this place and Seth, its proprietor, I'd have found myself sitting in my room alone every night watching netflix instant or whatever crap was on TV.

Situated in the lobby of the Grand Hyatt Aspen, a 'residence,' which I think is just fancy-talk for 'time-share,' this place is just off the beaten path. It's right across from Rubey Park, the main bus stop for the whole town, right down the block from the bars, clubs and restaurants in the middle of town. Yet, it's not actually in the middle of anything, so most of the people who actually show up here are those who are staying there.

It was the perfect place to go to escape the crowds. I must have stopped in there 4 or 5 times and there were never more than 10 people in, even on Saturday night when packs of teens and twentysomethings roamed the streets looking for a party.

The first night I came in, Seth greeted me and reintroduced himself, remembering me from last year. It's an interesting thing because I've unintentionally become a regular in a place where people often only come in for a week or two a year. After being reacquainted, he went on to help me find some of the wine on the menu that I'd enjoy.

I also partook in the one food item they serve, a cheese and meat plate:

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Both the food and drink were great, but what kept me coming back was the warmth and familiarity of the hearth, the leather couches and the service.