Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday Food Porn - Umi Nom

Filipino food is still pretty new to me. I had yet to go to a Filipino restaurant until I checked out Umi Nom, on the border of Clinton Hill and Bedford-Stuyvesant (Bed-Stuy to Brooklynites and other NYers). Umi Nom is really more Pan Asian with major nods to the Philippines and Korea.

I just stopped in for a quick lunch and went with the Pancit Canton you see above. It's chicken, egg, noodles, soy and some fish sauce as well as some other things that I am sure I'm not catching. The most intriguing flavor was the sweet sausage. The mix of sweet and spicy in meat form is something that I don't think I've had before.

By the way, remind me to write about the fact that I have been sorta kinda but not really eating meat more lately. I'm trying to process this, but my meat eating is mostly for you, my dear readers. At least that's what I am telling myself. :)

This has definitely whet my appetite for Filipino food, and there are a few places I've got my eye on for a visit.

Happy Weekend!

Umi Nom
433 DeKalb Avenue

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Zoning Out In Arizona - Old School Style at the Grand Canyon's El Tovar Hotel

I wish I could claim the brilliance of choosing the El Tovar Hotel, the South Rim's prime hotel, but the credit for that smart choice goes completely to Husband J. While I didn't learn this until months later, you really need to plan far ahead (I mean really far ahead!!) if you want accommodations within the Grand Canyon, especially at the El Tovar. My understanding is that accommodations can be booked up six months or move ahead of time, especially for the summer high season.

Having celebrated its 100th Anniversary in 2005, I still felt the old Western lodge feeling even in 2010. Given my lack of experience with the Southwest, I loved walking through the lobby and imagining what the hotel would have been like in the early 20th century.

Can you tell I got a little obsessed with the stuffed mounted animal heads? Kinda weird to me

In addition to the dark woods, there are also small artistic touches.
A Native American mural

There are beautiful paintings of the canyon throughout the hotel.

While it may look like you've stepped into the Old West, there are modern amenities in the lobby area like free-wifi. I'm glad they got that right! Isn't it crazy in 2010 that many hotels in the U.S. are still charging exorbitant fees for wi-fi?

I was pretty shocked when I overheard that Husband J had booked us in the Painter's Suite on the second floor. Go Husband J! A suite for us? While not the ginormous space that it sounds, the Painters' Suite was three small, yet quite comfortable, interconnected rooms: a nice compact and classically decorated bedroom; a modern, bright bathroom; a small bar area in the hallway; and finally another room with a small, round dining table, antique-looking leather couch, flatscreen TV (good enough for Sunday afternoon football viewing) and a gorgeous wood work desk (Husband J actually used it quite a bit while fitting in some work. Sigh...).

Also the Painter's Suite has a history. The Santa Fe railroad employed well-known artists of the time to document the Grand Canyon through their art. When staying at the canyon, they stayed in our room like ours. Sadly, I didn't get more pictures of the Painter's Suite, but take in these:

Our very comfortable bedroom

In addition to being a beautiful historic place, the El Tovar is right next to the canyon rim.
Look to the left of Husband J. That's the El Tovar. Look to the right of Husband J. That's the canyon rim. It's that close!

The view of the canyon from the El Tovar's back porch.

All this, and I haven't even mentioned anything about the food. That's another post.

After having stayed at the El Tovar, I would definitely recommend it as a way to treat yourself while staying at the Grand Canyon.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Zoning Out in Arizona - Walking the Grand Canyon Rim, Part 1

Husband J and I decided to enjoy the Grand Canyon like most people do, by walking its rim. Now I should let you know that we spent time in the South Rim, which is the most popular area of the park to visit. The North Rim area is also available to visitors, but has a little less going on and is closed during the winter months beginning in November.

When we first got to our hotel, it was pouring down hurricane rain, so I couldn't see the canyon at all. At first I refused to look until we got right up to the canyon's edge. I even closed my eyes when we left our hotel so that I could have my own special "first look". Pictures just don't give you the impact of what the Grand Canyon is really like in person. I joked with Husband J that all that we were seeing just couldn't be real. It couldn't be. It's that spectacular.

We set out from our hotel, the El Tovar, and literally walk less than 50 feet to the rim. I'll talk more about the El Tovar and the great advantages to staying there in another post. Since we weren't ready for a far-flung walk that day, we stayed pretty close to the hotel. I will say that the National Park Service has made walking the Grand Canyon Rim pretty easy for almost any visitor. There is a main paved walkway that provides great views, and you can take it almost the length of the South Rim.

For the adventurer, you can move off of the main walkway for an even closer look at edge.
That's about as close to the edge as I was going to go!

The Trail of Time is also a part of the main walkway in this part of the park. Ever so often there were rock markers with their scientific names and geological ages. Science buffs take note!

I was still in my initial awe of the canyon and busy taking waaay too many pictures like this.

This portion of the South Rim happened to have a few shops that are their own historic structures. Verkamp's Visitor Center has been around since the early 20th century (1905 to be exact) and is one of the oldest buildings surrounding the canyon. It started out as a curio (craft) shop and has become an integral part of the South Rim experience.

Verkamp's floor actually has a nice time line showing major points in the history and development of the canyon as a park and tourist site. I learned quite a bit myself including the fact that our hotel was over a 100 years old.

Less than a hundred feet from our hotel is Hopi House, a wonderful example of Hopi architecture as interpreted by architect, Mary Colter. What's most impressive about Ms. Colter is that she was one of the few female architects actively working in the West in the early 20th century. She designed six buildings within the Grand Canyon National Park. I'm going to give her a post-humous "You go, girl!" The purpose of Hopi House was to provide a place for the Hopi Tribe to sell their crafts and celebrate their culture within the park.
Hopi House

I wish I was more of a shopper and that we had more room in our apartment for these gorgeous pieces. Check the prices, though.

I will say that I am sad that we did not learn more about Native American culture on this trip. Arizona is home to over 250,000 Native Americans from 21 recognized tribes. At the same time, I'm going to cut myself some slack since this was really only a long weekend. :(

I'm not done with walking the canyon yet. Stay tuned for my pseudo-hiking!

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Versatile Blogger? - Seven Things You Didn't Know About Me

The oh so intriguingly cool Nodakademic (the girl is a female Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor) is playing some blogger tag and has tagged little 'ol me. I feel special. Thanks for thinking of me! I'm sending a hug (and some donuts) to you in the upper Midwest.

Anyhoo, I have to tell you all seven things that you probably don't know about me. Can I tell you that this was hard? Some of you have read some of my blogs in the past, so I knew tat I couldn't just write just anything in this post. Here's what I came up with:

1. I like to eat seasonings. Huh? Okay, just basic ones. I started eating sugar packets a while back. It's a bad habit. I don't really eat much sugar but sometimes I would just want a little taste of sweet without actually having to eat..anything sweet. Lately I've it's gotten a little worse. I've been eating salt and pepper. I love the coarseness of salt that comes from the grinders that we got as wedding presents. It reminds me of Kettle chips salt and pepper potato chips. Yum! When I want a kick of salt and pepper I just grind a little out and done. I'm officially weird to you all, yes?

2. I have a fear of driving. Due to growing up in a city with upteen public transportation options, thinking that I would never really live anywhere else, and also thinking that I would never ever be able to afford to own my own car (I've never owned one to this day), I decided that it wasn't a priority to learn how to drive. I didn't learn how to drive until I got to graduate school and that's because I was going to be spending some time in L.A. and needed to. I got my license, but HATED driving in L.A. (aggressive drivers!!). The whole experience rattled me so much that I haven't driven since. The idea of visualizing myself drive makes me want to cry. I'm not kidding. It's probably one of the few things that give me any anxiety. I've never had to live anywhere where I've needed to drive, and where we currently live maintaining a car is a luxury. When Husband J decides that he is going to drag me out of NYC kicking and screaming, it's not going to be pretty.

3. I sucked dirt and got hit in the head with a cricket bat (we don't really play baseball in the Caribbean) all before the age of 3. I know you're thinking, "No wonder!!" :)

4. I am big sports fan and a superstitious one. I really can watch almost anything sports related live or in person. I wasn't really an athlete in high school, but I was athletic. I preferred to dancing to sports teams. Either way, I think my interest in sports taps into my latent love of moving my body but also seeing people excel at something or reach their own individual or group goals. As for my superstition, it mostly applies to the New York (American) FOOTBALL Giants, my favorite team in my favorite sport. I have this weird idea that if I actually do WATCH them, they'll lose. I've even made Husband J turn the TV if a game they're playing begins to go awry. I spent the second half of the Superbowl back in 2008 in my bedroom. Don't worry though; the special Patriots fan in my life, Husband J, was not subjected to the DVD I bought with highlights of their season.

5. When I was in high school, one of my goals in life was to start the most successful third party in U.S. history. I was fascinated by politics then. In college, I was more interested in grassroots organizing, and I've always been interested in social movements. My last job was in the government/political realm; and honestly, it took any sort of aspirations of political anything out of me. New York State politics is particularly bad, and I was surely disillusioned after my experience.

6. I've never held a job for more than three years. that's why I've got a jacked up career. Got it! Just kidding. Apparently this is quite common in our generation. I want my next job or career move to be something I do for a very long time.

7. I went to the same high school as the creator of Gossip Girl. I've only watched fifteen minutes of the show, and I had to change the channel. It brought back too many bad memories of high school for me. I went to a very ritzy NYC girls' school except I was not ritzy. I always joke with people that "Gosssip Girl" didn't have a working class, person of color, focused, brainy character on the show (I think they had a Black person on once, right?). I'm glad I went to my high school though. I got an amazing education, and it made me a stronger, well-rounded, more confident person.


Notes from the Bench

Big Apple Nosh
The World Around Her
Fresh Brioche
Forty Twenty Four

Tagged persons: You don't have to write this much. I am annoyingly verbose. :)

Happy Weekend!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Are You an Eater or a Cooker?

I've never really written about food before writing this blog. Can you tell? :) But seriously...I have often noticed a little bit of a rift in food blogs. The rift is between what I like to call "eaters" and "cookers." Often I find the food blogs are either writing about recipes and cooking or, on the flip side, about restaurants, food culture and eating experiences. I would not say that there is a total wall up between these two types of food blogs, but for the most part many seem to fall into these two categories.

I definitely think one gets a little less street cred when writing about restaurants and eating (Maybe I'm just zensziteeeeve? :)). When I perusing some information on the BlogHer Food Conference, I definitely saw more of the cooking side of food blogging represented. While the workshops were good for bloggers of all stripes to build up their skills in social media, branding, and the like, many of the food related workshops seemed to be slightly tilted towards "cookers." That's not a bad thing, but I think there are many people writing about food in a variety of contexts that could use some encouragement from a conference juggernaut like BlogHer. Maybe I'm just a tad biased? :)

If you haven't noticed, I don't write about the recipes I try or the food I cook. I'm sure some of you might even be surprised to read that I DO actually COOK. :) It's not that I don't cook often (since starting this blog, NYC had a ridiculous hot summer, which lessens my desire to cook). Cooking just doesn't inspire me to write. That doesn't mean that I don't enjoy it. I made a pretty fabulous Eggplant Parmesan this weekend that Husband J is still talking about, and I had fun making it. Lots of dredging large eggplant pieces in flour and egg...woo hoo! :)

I think part of my lack of inspiration to write about cooking is a function of me wanting to blog about a certain type of relationship to food that intrigues me the most. I'm interested in why we eat what we eat and where we eat it. I'm interested in the public culture of food and the role it has in our daily lives. So far that's taken the role of telling you where I eat and whether I liked it. I hope to write some more of the social context of food and eating soon too.

On a practical level, unless I'm having a dinner party or trying to prepare for a holiday dinner, I don't go searching high and low for recipes. I just go to my old standby of the few cookbooks I've got and my trusty monthly Food and Wine magazine. Maybe it's the bad-ass food styling or the articles with fast or challenging recipes, but I usually cook at least one to two recipes from Food and Wine per month. Other than that, I am pretty lazy in my search for fascinating recipes.

Honestly, I think there are just people who do the cooking blogging waaaaay better than I would. Like who? Check out my some of my blogging friends:

Fresh Brioche
The Nifty Foodie
Big Apple Nosh (By the way, I think she's a good mix of "Eater" & "Cooker" (more like "Baker"))

So I will throw it out there to you folks. Are you a "cooker" or an "eater" or both? What intrigues you the most about food? Its preparation? Eating different cuisines? Finding a fun out of the way hole-in-the-wall joint? Finding a cool recipe that you can make your own? A little bit of everything? I'd like to know!

P.S. Perhaps one day I will write about something that I have cooked. I am cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year, and I am definitely going to need your help!! Anyone know how to make turkey?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Zoning Out in Arizona - A Morning at the Grand Canyon

Happy Monday, everyone!

I should admit to you all that I am somewhat of a morning person. I can wake up pretty easily and quickly without caffeine or much of anything to wake me up. I chock it up to having to wake up at 5:45am or 6am almost every weekday morning during middle and high school and then hopping on the NYC subway. That will wake up anyone!

Anyway, during our time in the Grand Canyon we opted to wake up one morning to catch the sunrise there (also our bodies were pretty awake since Arizona was three hours behind NYC). There is something very magical about the way that the sun casts shadows across the canyon walls. Even though I don't have a fancy schmancy camera (whether I should get one seems to be one my mind a lot lately), even I caught some pretty nice pictures.

Since it's Monday, I thought some inspiration might be in order. I hope these pictures inspire you!

Friday, October 15, 2010

KFC This Is Not, Scoping Out Hill Country Chicken

Let me preface this post by saying:

1. I'm not an expert in Southern food. I just know what tastes good to me; and

2. While I didn't eat a lot of fast food growing up, I did love KFC.

I haven't had the chance to check out the much heralded Hill Country BBQ, the big sister restaurant to the newer Hill Country Chicken. That's, like, a total failure on my part. To make up for it in the meantime, I decided to finally check out Hill Country's version of Southern fried chicken.

Some things you should know (I'm in a list mood today):

1. This place ain't cheap, y'all. Hill Country requires that you pay PER PIECE for their chicken. Their breasts, which are actually quite large, will run you $5.50. Granted it's a pretty big piece, but still! I settled for a thigh and a drumstick. I'm a drumstick girl. :)

2. There are two types of chicken to be had: the classic and the Mamma El's Recipe style. Mamma El's is a skinless piece with unconventional spices (I guess perhaps to rival the Colonel?) covered in a crunchy cracker crust. All of Hill Country's chicken is sourced from Bell Evans, a poultry supplier that raises its chickens humanely on an all-natural veggie diet.

3. Unlike KFC, you're not getting any special meal deals here, which I guess is the point of slightly more upscale chicken spot.

My Chicken Lunch

Close Ups

My assessment?

1. The chicken. I went with the classic chicken. I was a little disappointed with the drumstick; BUT, oh my, the thigh! Perfectly cooked, juicy beyond belief and nicely savory. I loved the balance of crispy skin with tender meat. Unlike most types of fried chicken I've had, there is a hint of sweetness along with the usual saltiness (it is brined prior to cooking) as well as a taste of spicy heat. That thigh was on point.

2. The biscuit. Beyond disappointing. I think this is where KFC actually does have a leg up. A little too crispy and waaayy too dry. I was so sad because I totally was looking forward to a satisfying biscuit for lunch. It made me want to search out a KFC or Popeye's just for the biscuit. Unfortunately, there aren't many (if any) in this part of NYC.

3. The carrot salad. Not bad. It reminded me of the carrot salads with raisins that my Mom used to make when I was a kid, hence why I ordered it. I believe that Hill Country's had currants with a small amount of something that was perhaps mayonnaise. Luckily, the mayonnaise (or whatever sauce that was) didn't weigh down the carrots or make it too milky.

I will say that Hill Country impressed me with the breadth of their menu. There are chicken salads and chicken sandwiches too in case you don't want to just eat pieces of chicken. The sides include everything from homemade pickles and coleslaw to some pretty tasty looking French fries.

Of course, besides chicken the other main feature of Hill Country Chicken is PIE. Lots of pies. I fell in love with the mini ones (The pies also come in two other sizes: colossal pizza size and two-person varieties).

Aren't the stars cute? It's Peach Blackberry Pie.
Hidden on the bottom is Cowboy Pie (butterscotch chips, chocolate chips, coconut and pecans).

Pecan Pie

I got taken in by the star made of dough and went with the Peach Blackberry pie. Meh...Dry and not much going on with the fruit filling. Another disappointment. :(

Apparently, Hill Country also offers something called a pie shake: half of one of these mini pies, scoops of vanilla ice cream and a splash of milk. I think I'm going to steer clear of that one. :)

I will definitely be going back to Hill Country Chicken when I need my fried chicken fix (and don't mind paying for it!).

Hill Country Chicken
1123 Broadway (corner of 25th Street)
New York, NY

Thursday, October 14, 2010

In My 'Hood - The 2010 Atlantic Antic

If you can't tell already, I really enjoy living where I do. For the past three years, I've enjoyed a couple of things about autumn in my neighborhood. One of them is the Atlantic Antic. The Atlantic Antic is one of Brooklyn's largest festivals and happens usually in early October, but this year was celebrated in late September. The festival stretches from Fourth Avenue in the Boerum Hill neighborhood to Hicks Street in Brooklyn Heights ( about 1.5 miles). I feel very lucky that I get to pretty much stumble up the block to Brooklyn's biggest and best street fair (I would argue that it is probably the best in the entire city, but I am biased).

Street festivals are pretty common in New York in the summer, especially Manhattan. Sometimes you'll pop out of the subway; and next thing you know, the street you're on has been closed and transformed by vendors selling on each side of the street. Sadly, most New Yorkers have been desensitized to street festivals because many of the vendors are the same and just travel from the one part of the city to the next each week.

Of course we have to do things a little differently in Brooklyn. :) What's great about the Atlantic Antic is that it is truly local, and many of the businesses on Atlantic Avenue really do make an effort to provide fun offerings to the public, whether it's food, music or kids' activities.

There's really nothing that the Atlantic Antic doesn't provide:

Great shopping!

A lot of Brooklyn love (the hearts are arranged in the shape of Brooklyn)

During the festival I was thinking about baby clothes a lot because my niece was due any moment. She was born two days later. I wonder if she'll like a Brooklyn onesie.

Lots of funky fashion available too.

You can even buy electricity! Well, sort of. I finally convinced Husband J to try out Green Mountain Energy. This company allows people to change the source of the electricity that we receive from our service provider, Con Ed (Consolidated Edison).

New York (and many other states) source their electricity from a mix of "not so great" sources.

Since signing up with Green Mountain Energy, the electricity we'll be getting will be from wind and hydro sources. Exciting! Other than a small fee, our electric bill will be the same. Thanks to Husband J for begrudgingly agreeing to get this for our household. :)

Since Brooklyn is teeming with children and this being the ultimate community event, kids are not without things to do during the Antic.

I was never one of those kids who liked getting their face painted, and I'm not sure if this little boy is either.

A bouncy castle! I thought about stopping in.

Now that we've established that the Antic is a pretty darn good street festival, we can talk about what I think it does best: The FOOD! :)

You've got your usual NYC regulation street fair food:

I swear these guys are at every street fair in the city, but their Italian sausage sandwiches are soo good!

Husband J and I gave ourselves permission to eat things we wouldn't normally. The Italian Sausage Guys, as I like to call them, have really upped their prices. I don't even want to tell you what we paid for this! It was unhealthily good though.

Roasted corn is an oldie but goodie.

Theres's also some unusual street fair food options too.

Sangria! There's so much beer at the Antic that we were pretty proud of ourselves for not getting any this time around. We even swore off the sangria, which is a rare feat!

Macarons seem to be everywhere including the Antic this year. I don't think a particular company was selling these, but this independent baker will take special orders. Sample flavors: Apricot & Saffron, Caramel Fleur de Sel & Pomegranate. Oh my!

Jolie, a French bistro, does a pig roast each year and offered roasted pork sandwiches. I was tempted to get one.
I often get freaked out by the pig heads, don't you?

Instead we just got Jolie's fries, or should I say frites?

Later on I got some great pork tacos. Savory and spicy just like I like them. I would have appreciated more salt and juiciness but still not bad at all.

Since we weren't drinking beer (we had a lot at home), Husband J decided to check out some artisinal soda. We enjoyed the NOT cheap but still good root beer (says the non-soda drinker) from Wild Bill's Olde Fashioned Soda Pop Company.

I wish we could have gotten one of those cool stainless steel looking cups with our self-serve drink. Oh well!
We were pretty satiated with all kinds of excellent and tasty unhealthy food that we didn't bother going to the end of fair. We just stopped about 3/4 of the way and walked back towards home.

My friends, that was my experience at this year's Atlantic Antic. I'm already looking forward to next year.

Do you have a favorite yearly local event?

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