Archive for the 'Food' Category

More Windy City Eats

IN A POST OVER at Jaunted today, I talk about Uncommon Ground, a local eco-friendly restaurant chain in Chicago. Check out that article here, or see reviews at Yelp.


Inadvertently Vegetarian in Chicago

Photo collage of Kopi Cafe by Phineas Jones.

I’M DOWN IN THE Windy City for a couple days visiting my friend The Harbinger. While cycling along the cold streets I came across Kopi, a self-described “Traveler’s Cafe,” serving up a pretty delicious vegetarian menu. (I’m normally a meat-eater, but the seitan Blue Burger was fantastic.)

Warm up here with hot masala tea and lounge at the Thai-style low tables. The walls are stacked with Lonely Planet guides and Moleskine notebooks for purchase, and above the bookshelves hang clocks marking the time in Kyoto, Goa, Yogyakarta and other far-flung locales. Worth a stop if you’re on the north side.

Dining Alone in the International District

IN THE SUMMER OF 2003, my friends and I often took jaunts up to Seattle’s International District – it was a colorful escape from the humdrum suburb where we grew up, and had an indefineable grittiness that I was fascinated by. Walking the streets brought a range of unfamiliar sights: Roasted ducks hanging by their necks in restaurant windows. A shop selling candy and cigarettes – nothing else. Leering elderly Chinese men. A bamboo garden, perched atop a hill on the edge of the neighborhood, where we would sit and while away the afternoon in the sun.

The area has captured the affection of many Seattlites, and the way to their hearts has often been through their stomachs. In a recent article for The Stranger, Angela Garbes tells of her romance with the neighborhood and its eateries, including cockroaches and all. While I can’t necessarily vouch for her restaurant picks (she covers a lot of territory I left unexplored), her story of dining solo in the ID is definitely worth a read.

Photo: international district at night, by P.J.S.

Freeze-dried Rambutan

fresh rambutan. photo by chotda.

As a writing exercise, today my professor passed around a bag of Trader Joe’s freeze-dried rambutan – a spiny red fruit with white lychee-like flesh, native to Southeast Asia – and asked us to describe the flavor in one sentence. Mine was:

Freeze-dried Rambutan smells like something from the sea floor fell into a patch strawberries, goes over the tongue with the texture of artificially fruit-flavored pumice, and dissolves into a mash of half-fishy, half-peachy flavor – and I can’t … stop … eating … it.”

Mom always said to try new things.

Paris: Dine Where You Like

A mob of 7,500 deep, clad in classy white evening wear, descended onto one of Paris’ busiest roads yesterday for a common cause: to dine.

Via SeriousEats: the yearly event is known as “flashmob in white,” and the location is kept secret until the last possible moment. This year? Arc de Triomphe at the top of the Champs Elysees – by the time the police got there, everyone was too busy sipping wine and eating their three-course meal to notice. More at France 24.

Photo courtesy of Eric @ ParisDailyPhoto

Burmese Pickled Tea

My girlfriend is currently reading Emma Larkin’s Finding George Orwell in Burma, a firsthand, in-depth exploration of one of the most oppressed states in the world – and it’s working its way on to my summer reading list. One of the things that Larkin mentions in her book is how tea and teashops are a huge part of Burmese culture and social life, perhaps similar to coffeeshop culture in the West.

This spurred me to do a quick Google search on tea in Burma; while I came across an interesting BBC article about the intersection of tea and politics, one of the more upbeat finds was a short post from In Pursuit of Tea about “laphet,” a popular Burmese snack of which the main ingredient is pickled tea leaves:

It’s eaten both at informal get-togethers and formal events such as weddings and funerals. The tradition dates back to the time of the Burmese kings. Laphet is essentially a green tea; young leaves plucked and fired before being buried underground anywhere from four to seven months; it’s kept underground till it is sold at market. The pickled (sour-tasting) tea leaves are mixed with ginger, garlic, chilis, oil, and salt and all eaten together. It’s a great snack to have with a beer, for instance. It has a slightly bitter taste that, when mixed with the other ingredients, makes for quite an addictive snack or dessert.” [IPoT]

This sounds like an intriguing snack, and I’m wondering how similar the taste is to Korea’s kimchi – check out a picture of a salad made with laphet here on flickr. I’d be interested to hear if any readers have eaten this.

Day 6: Twin Peaks, Smoky Bar

San Francisco is probably the last place you’d look for some good grits – which is a shame, cause you’d be missing out on J’s Pots of Soul.

This cozy restaurant with a purple ceiling serves some of the best breakfast I’ve had anywhere, and I’m a breakfast person, so that’s saying a lot. We had passed by it on our way to the Haight, and our NFT guide had backed up our hunch that it would be good – but I doubt my words could do justice to the fluffyness of the pancakes, the surprising spicyness of the sausage, or the heartyness of the grits. I felt a comforting bliss sipping coffee out of a mismatched mug as soft Jazz swam through streams of morning sunlight.

As a cherry top to our SF trip, my girlfriend and I decided to make a trek to Twin Peaks – the highest point in the city. While we expected a stunning view, what we weren’t prepared for was such gorgeous scenery on our way to the top; the winding streets were silent except for birds and the occasional siren heard from the city below, and the homes were both awesome and quaint. Our favorite was 00 Pemberton St., a small house wrapped in ivy whose only entrance is on a hidden stairway leading up the hill – dare to dream, I guess.

Reaching the summit of Twin Peaks, the entire city sprawled out before us in all of its glass, iron and human beauty. San Francisco, with the many parks and beaches and random patches of green, is perhaps the best example of symbiosis of city and nature – thank god the folks who work for the Seattle tourists bureau don’t work in SF, or they’d have some awful slogan too.

At the top of the city we reflected on our trip, all that we had seen and done, as we gazed out to the bay, feeling our own breath flying out into the breeze – a moment of stillness in this temporary heaven.

On the way back down, some girls (who probably should’ve been back at high school) asked us for directions – we had no idea – and then very nicely offered us a lift, we declined. We wound back through the streets, still enraptured with silly ideas of one day being wealthy enough to live in these quiet homes. I fantasized about flying down the hills on my bicycle when I roadtrip back to SF this September…Janice told me to be careful.

We bussed back to Japantown, hopeful for a delicious sushi meal at Isobune – we were disappointed. Though the floating boats carrying sushi plates around the center bar make this a uniquely cute spot, the lack of anything other than very basic (and rather mediocre) sushi fare is unredeemable. We ate five plates between us (we would normally do 10 or so) before deciding to simply forgo the rest of lunch. Feeling a bit bummed and tired, we walked out into the Peace Plaza to lay out in the shade.

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