Friday, July 29, 2011

Food Porn Friday - Baohaus

I've seen Tawainese gua bao sandwiches before. What pushed me to finally try them was being intrigued by Eddie Huang, the owner of Baohaus. For some reason, this guy seems like a kindred spirit: a former lawyer running away from anything having to do with being a lawyer and a lover of classic hip hop (check out some of his statements from a recent New York Magazine article on Asian American male identity and his often very funny and thought-provoking blog. He's an interesting guy). One article called him "the Jay-Z of the NYC restaurant scene." Not bad, Mr. Huang.

After closing down his last restaurant, Xiao Ye ('cause of pesky Four Loko issues), he's been focusing on the teeny subterranean sandwich shop, Baohaus. Just so you know:

There's not much seating.
I hope you like hip hop 'cause that will be your background music.
You could get gua bao cheaper elsewhere.

They were running a special with three baos and a drink included.

From left to right: Haus bao (hanger steak bao with crushed peanut, Haus relish and Taiwanese red sugar), Chairman bao (braised Berkshire pork belly with crushed peanut, Haus relish and Taiwanese red sugar), and the Uncle Jesse (pan fried organic tofu coated in sweet potato starch with Haus sauce, crushed peanut and Taiwanese red sugar)

What Baohaus does get right is the way they cook their meat fillings. Tender, well seasoned meat should be the basis of any sandwich. I actually wish the sandwiches were bigger on the whole. As for the toppings, I think the added sugar might have been a bit too much sweet. I enjoy sweet-savory combinations, but they need to be balanced.

My drink was a sarsaparilla soda. I've definitely never had one of these before. The chef and I were talking about the fact that it kinda tasted like Dr. Pepper.

I'm going to try more of Eddie Huang's take on traditional Taiwanese dishes. The staff that works at Baohaus is pretty friendly, and I had a great conversation with them about Brooklyn and secret sauces. Nice guys. Eddie Huang's actually opening a new Baohaus location in the East Village.

137 Rivington Street
New York, NY

Happy Weekend, everyone!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Back Trackin', California Edition - Traipsing Through Downtown San Francisco

**For those of you newer to the blog, Back Trackin' post are posts about places that I've been to in the past (usually more than a year or more in the past).**

On our way to Napa Valley, we didn't spend very much time in San Francisco. I'm disappointed about that. Now that I know a few people who live in the area, I hope to go back for a visit and to see parts of the city that we didn't get to explore.

We stayed right in downtown near the Civic Center, which allowed us to walk to most centrally located areas in SF.

Our first stop was pretty easy since it was essentially across the street from our hotel. Under the impression that we were just walking through a pretty park, we stumbled onto the Martin Luther King Memorial.

Pretty, isn't it?

I appreciated the quotation on the back wall.

After sitting in the park for a short while, we made our way over to Chinatown. I was very excited to see San Francisco's Chinatown since it's the largest Chinatown outside of Asia and the oldest one in North America. I actually think I liked it a bit better than NYC's. Don't worry...I'm not losing my NYC love anytime soon.

By the way, we had a great meal at R & G Lounge in Chinatown. It was a little bit of a wait, but even a very hungry Husband J said it was worth it. It closes at around 9:30pm and seems to be popular with families, which is always a sign to me that there's good food to be had.

I love the fact that there is a street in downtown San Francisco named after Jack Kerouac. I still haven't read On the Road yet. Is it worth it? I hear it's a little out there/esoteric. Apparently there is going to be a movie adaptation coming out later this year.

By the way, I think the Transamerica Pyramid is pretty darn cool. I wouldn't mind a funky looking building like that to dot NYC's skyline.

If I am in a new city in the U.S., I refuse to miss much of the touristy stuff, which essentially meant that I wasn't going to miss winding Lombard Street.

Too bad the walk up to Lombard Street was almost vertical. San Franciscans (did I get that right?) must have awesome legs, bums and cardio endurance. These hills are NO JOKE!
Husband J walks ahead. I was a little slow walking up. :(

At least we got a nice view after all of the effort.....
Do you notice Alcatraz in the distance?

I hope this post did downtown San Francisco justice. If you've been to or live in San Francisco, where are some of your favorite places to visit?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

DeKalb Market

Have you ever heard the phrase "curiosity killed the cat"? Well this weekend, curiosity almost stifled me with heat! I wanted to pass through the opening of DeKalb Market in downtown Brooklyn so badly that I endured another hot and humid day to walk there. I thought that the heatwave couldn't be that bad anymore...WRONG! Luckily, we're over it for now.

Does Brooklyn need another market of local producers plying their food and other goods? Probably not, but this particular area of Brooklyn is in need of some cheer, and I think DeKalb Market will totally help to make it feel more neighborhood-y. :) The area has been experiencing a boom in residential and hotel development recently, and this 7 day per week operation will give this area much needed attention and retail diversity.

What makes DeKalb Market different from any market I've ever seen is its layout. All of the stalls are old shipping containers. Really...

It's just a little bit of grass, but this busy intersection needs it!

Each vendor has its own little small store in a way. Some containers have entrances for shoppers to enter while others are a little more open air.

Joe: The Art of Coffee, a popular local coffee chain

Of course, one of the main reasons I was there was to check out one of the food vendors, BUT I did stumble onto the Dafnei table (not all of the vendors rent out containers). I fell in love with her purses handmade in Haiti. We had a short discussion about how Haiti was doing and about her mechandise. I want to do a post about her business another time. Husband J, take note for birthday/Christmas. :)

One of the clutches I admired

I was primarily there to check out Robicelli's cupcakes, which I have been wanting to try more of since the Taste of Brooklyn event earlier this year. They don't have a brick and mortar store, and most of their sale locations are not convenient for me. This one is. I don't know if that's a good thing or not. :)

It was way too hot to eat the cupcake(s) there, and Robicellis deserves their own post on this blog. I will show you their chicken and waffle cupcake.

That's a piece of CHICKEN on a cupcake. Brilliant!

They've also got cupcakes named after all of the actresses on the Golden Girls...more brilliance! I took home the Bea Arthur and will be writing about that. I may need to try all four, except I don't think there's one for Betty White? Hmm...I'll research, and get back to you on that.

I'm really happy that DeKalb Market will be adding something new to downtown Brooklyn, and I hope it grows. Good luck to all of the vendors!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Food Porn Friday - Il Laboratorio del Gelato

I'm not sure what it's like where you are, but we are having a ridiculous heat wave in the northeastern U.S. right now. It's 95 degrees Farenheit as I'm writing this and will go up to 100 tomorrow. Just walking 15 minutes outside turned me into something akin to a wet mop. I was running an errand and happened to be passing by the new brick and mortar shop for Il Laboratorio del Gelato. I was surely about to wilt, and this was like seeing an oasis in the desert.

This gelato producer has been primarily a wholesaler of gelato for quite some, but this shiny, new shop will definitely have me coming back (even if it's just to stop and take advantage of the samples and air conditioning).

The space itself is pretty sparse and industrial looking, but honestly, if you're there for the gelato, do you really care all that much?

Simple stainless steel benches

Also this place is not about the usual gelato flavors only (stracciatella, vanilla, chocolate, etc.) I peeped some flavors that I would not have even thought of.

Apple Calvados
Calvados is a French apple-based brandy

Turkish Fig

I ended up getting the small, which is two scoops for $4.50 (I never said this place was cheap). Turkish Fig? How could I resist? I also tried the Toasted Almond.

The Turkish Fig was rich with bits of fig throughout and a just right amount of sweet. The Toasted Almond was a little too light on the sweet factor. There was really no sweetness at all actually, but the cold richness of the cream was enough to satisfy me on this hot day I was experiencing.

I think I'll have to find some more ice cream to stay cool for the next few days. :)

Il Laboratorio del Gelato
188 Ludlow Street (at the corner of Houston Street)
New York, NY

Happy Weekend & stay cool wherever you are!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

My 7 Links

The lovely Oneika of Oneika the Traveller has tagged me for the My 7 Links project that has been circulating among travel bloggers lately. This requires me to go through my archives and share with you some of my favorite/memorable past posts. This was much harder than I thought, but I'm going to give it a try.

1. My Most Beautiful Post - Is it Spring Yet?
It was the end of February, and I was missing warm weather. I posted some pictures of Antigua to remind me of the beach, warmth and sun.

I'm not sure if popularity is based on page views or comments, so I'll let you know about both posts that fit that description. When I checked out my all-time most viewed posts, I was shocked to see that it was a post about my longing to go skiing. I've never been and hope to go someday (whenever that is....). I have no idea why this posts get hits. The most commented post that wasn't me feeling sorry for myself was my post on healthy eating and exercise. I'm definitely not a model of perfect health, but I try. :) I'm glad so many of you were moved to comment.

3. My Most Controversial Post - Antigua Me Come From: Life Outside the Resort
In my opinion, I don't really think I've written a controversial post on this blog yet. I've got a few in mind, and I hope to write them soon. This post voiced my frustrations with many tourists' perceptions of the Caribbean (especially people who choose not to leave their resort) with a special emphasis on Antigua, my native country. There's a whole life on the island outside of the confines of an all-inclusive.

4. Most Helpful Post - Any post about hotels/see the health one above
This was hard. I feel bad because I don't really feel like most of my posts are particularly helpful. Please let me know if you think otherwise. I would like to think that my hotel reviews help someone out there. Often helpful hotel reviews are pretty general without relevant specifics, non-existent or without accurate pictures. I think I need to get better in providing useful information here.

5. A Post Whose Success Surprised Me - Tourist in My Own Town - DUMBO & Brooklyn Bridge Park
Who knew that writing about one of my favorite Brooklyn parks, lobster rolls and ice cream would garner so much interest? Not me.

6. A Post I Feel Didn't Get the Attention it Deserved - So What Happens When There's a Revolution In Your Next Travel Destination?
Another hard one to figure out 'cause there are so many.....JUST KIDDING!! No really, I was hoping that my post about me mulling over the various issues regarding our eventually cancelled Egypt trip would garner a little more discussion. For me, it was the first time that world events were playing a pivotal role in my travel plans and at the time Egypt was front and center in the media.

7. The Post I'm Most Proud of - Up in the Air Over Cappadocia
I was really love the pics in this post, and it was the first time that I was able to incorporate edited video. I made that video after a lot of procrastinating (I usually procrastinate when a task seems overwhelming for some reason), and I'm proud of how it turned out considering I'm still very new to video editing. I also really feel like this hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia is probably one of my most favorite recent travel memories. I really enjoyed sharing it with you all.

So that's it. If you're a long-time reader of the blog, can you remember any post that you really liked? What would like to see more of on the blog?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Touring Turkey - Ephesus, Part 1

While planning our trip to Turkey, I wasn't sure whether we should even go to Ephesus. It's one of the best preserved former Roman cities on the Mediterranean outside of Italy (pretty much other than Rome actually), but I wasn't clear if we should take a full day to see it. The Latin Geek in me felt like I had to though. In case you're interested in eventually seeing Ephesus, you can definitely see the ruins and St. John's Basilica in a day as many tourists often see the area as a port of call on a cruise (Kusadasi is the nearest major port) or fly in for the day from Istanbul.

When we finally got to Ephesus I could see why its founders planted the city here. The scenery is beautiful.

The marketplace (and hotspot for political discussions)

Me at the Agora (I many ruins it's so hard to identify them all!!)

One thing you should know is that Ephesus was THE place to be back in the day. It was at certain points a major trading center with lots of wealthy residents. Ephesus was also a center for early Christianity, but I'll get to that in a separate post.

Part theater, part political gathering place for the Bouleia, a local council made up of the descendants of the Ephesian aristocracy

Tomb of Memius
Memius was the grandson of Sulla, a Roman general and politician who restored Ephesus as a Roman city after it was conquered by Mithridates, ruler of a kingdom bordering the Black Sea.

Before the Romans came through and ruled this part of Turkey, the Greeks were running the show. This tablet below has a Greek inscription. I wish I could tell you what it says.

By the way, I was shocked at how little supervision there was at the ruins. In some respects, it was nice to just wander wherever you wanted, but I feel like some people (i.e., some annoying teens) were not being responsible and respectful of it as a historical space. I think perhaps in other places there would be multiple guards making sure you don't go in certain areas. I'm sure the Turkish government knows what a treasure it has here in Ephesus. I just hope they do what is necessary to preserve this for future generations to explore. Anyhoo...

Temple of Hadrian
Built in honor of the Roman emperor Hadrian. Inside the walls showed the early history of Ephesus. If you want to see those walls now, you must go to the Ephesus Museum in Selcuk.

At this point, we were making our way down Curetes Street, one of Ephesus' main thoroughfares. Think of it as its Broadway or Champs Elysees. We were inching our way closer to one of the areas of the ruins that I had been waiting to see for our entire trip to Turkey.

We had lots of time in Ephesus (a solid 2 1/2 hours) not necessarily by our choice (I'll explain later), so we (respectfully) played around quite a bit in the ruins.
Mugging for the camera

Finally, there it was...the Celsus Library.

At one point, this was the third richest library in the ancient world with supposedly over 12,000 scrolls. It was constructed by the high-ranking government official, Gaius Julius Aquila in honor of his father, Gaius Julius Celsus Polemaenus, who oversaw the Roman empire in Asia (Turkey was considered Asia to the Romans even back then). Anyone building a library for your parents any time soon? Take note.

Each of these statues in the niches of the columns depicts a female representation of a virtue of Celsus (e.g. Sophia = wisdom).

Ennoia = Intelligence

We made sure to go behind the library's facade.

It's in Turkish, but I think this describes the excavation and restoration of the library.

At this point, I was definitely happy that Ephesus was included in our trip. I'm really glad that we didn't miss seeing this in person.

If you've liked what you've seen so far of Ephesus, there's more to come. :)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Happy Monday from Baby J

It's Monday morning. I'm sure many of you are starting off your work week. Most people I know hate Mondays. Hopefully, pictures of my niece will cheer you up. Many of you met her before.

Looking innocent :)

With Uncle J

Having fun at the beach

Baby J says, "Have a great week!" and I do, too. Back to our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow. :)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Summer Dinner - Chipotle Shrimp Tostada

A cooking post? From me? Well, I guess I should try to branch out just a little....

Sunday tends to be our big sit down meal in the TAO household, since Husband J's weekday hours can be a little unpredictable. 9.5 times out of 10 we're home on Sunday nights, and that's when I try new things in the kitchen. Since it's summer, I try to find recipes that are simple, emphasize what's in season, and don't require much time standing over a hot stove.

Chipotle Shrimp Tostada
A very hastily taken picture with my phone amidst bad background lighting.

Here's the recipe.

In some respects, this is probably not the most healthy main dish in the world. The tortilla is fried, and there is some sour cream involved (hangs head in shame). I'm wondering if it might be healthier with whole wheat tortillas. Do you think there was another way to make the tortillas extra crispy without frying them?

Also the amount of chipotle that this recipe calls for results in a pretty decent bite. You might want to reduce the amount, if you don't like very much spice.

I didn't forget the sides.

More phone pics! Left: asparagus/ right: corn

I served some asparagus and corn. For the asparagus I toss in olive oil with salt and pepper (I use the salt and pepper from my grinders because I like the crunchy specks of salt and pepper), and pop them under the broiler for about 10 minutes. I don't like them under there too long because they lose crunch. I'm not a fan of mushy, overcooked veggies. Corn is just boiled for a short time. I find that 10-12 minutes usually does the trick. If it's a good piece of corn, then it won't need butter or anything else.

That's it. I know I tend to be the "non-recipe post" kind of food blogger. I just thought I would mix things up a bit. If you liked this, please let me know in the comments section. Maybe I will write more about what I cook on Sunday evenings.

Happy Weekend!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Travel Challenge, Day 15 - Advice to Those Traveling Abroad

***Last day...better late than never, right? I'm glad I finished.***

Day 15 - Advice to someone who is thinking about traveling to another country

I think Deidre of Vai Via Blog really captured the sentiment of any advice I could give you if you're thinking about traveling abroad, which is (like Nike says) "Just Do It!"

I know that there are a lot of constraints perceived and real that deter people from getting out there to see the larger world: lack of vacation time, money, worry about safety, etc., but I want to tell you to do it anyway.

Here is some of the advice I'd give to folks thinking about traveling abroad soon:

1. Be intentional about travel. If you do want to get away, make a plan and figure out a way to get where you want to go. Maybe that means planning for over a year, but at least you have travel on your radar and are focused about incorporating it into your life. As I get older, I realize that the everyday aspects of life can get in the way VERY easily and take priority over travel, i.e., bills, family obligations, etc. I know one of the biggest roadblocks people experience with traveling is money. I love how Catherine from Forty Twenty Four and her husband purposefully incorporate a line item in their budget for travel savings. That's how it's got to be! I know I have not talked about money on this blog yet, but a post is in the making because I do want to address it.

2. Learn a little about the history and culture of the place you're visiting beforehand. You definitely don't need to read Phd. level history books, but it really adds to your experience if you take a little time to even read the history section of the guidebook, Wikipedia or SOMETHING before exploring another country. Understanding the context for what you see and encounter will deepen your experience while there.

Salvador, Brazil

3. It's okay if you don't speak the local language. Wait, you didn't know I spoke Turkish? :) Just kidding. Melinda from Palindrome at Home did ask me this question a few months ago, and I haven't addressed this yet. If you are reading this blog, you either a) are a native speaker of English, or b) have learned English quite well enough to understand my rambling. I want to tell you that you are lucky in many respects. English is widely spoken by many people in the tourism industry all over the world. I've spoken English to Balinese shopkeepers, Turkish cab drivers and Brazilian street kids. Yes, there are some countries where English is not widely spoken, but to be honest that is actually part of the experience of traveling abroad. In those instances, some good basic phrases or some genuine smiles and hand gestures can go a long way. People have been so nice to me when I have addressed them in their language and made an attempt to speak even if I don't sound like a native (or even close).

Bali, Indonesia

4. Safety is important, but don't let it paralyze you. I know that we live in a crazy, scary world sometimes. I'm not staying throw caution to the wind and make a trip to Afghanistan tomorrow, but the evil forces in the world that perpetrate bad things want many of us to live in fear. I refuse to do that, and you shouldn't either. If I thought about terrorism on a regular basis, I would never leave my apartment or use the subway. We need to be vigilant about our safety wherever we live. With this in mind, actually heading out and seeing the world will only help in understanding that the world can be a welcoming place.

Dublin, Ireland

5. It ain't like home. That's the point though, isn't it? The beauty of the modern world even with its computers and cell phones making it a little bit smaller is that people still have customs, lifestyles and foods :) that make where they live unique. The fun part of traveling is to explore those differences.

What advice would you give anyone thinking about traveling abroad?


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