Friday, March 30, 2012


The tagline of this blog is "Exploring Food, Continents & Life," so this is one of those life posts.

For some reason this year, I've been feeling the urge to encourage people. Even though I'm going through my own "stuff" (aren't we all?), I really have the urge to say to someone (anyone) "YOU CAN DO IT!!"

Today is March 30, 2012. Even though we've got one more day left in March, it means that 2012 is 1/4 over...ALREADY. While that freaks me out, I think there's another way of thinking about it: You've still got 9 months to achieve whatever goals you may have set for yourself this year both big and small.

I've been obsessed with time this year. I think about how well I'm using it or how I may be wasting it. Perhaps it's that I'm getting older or moving closer to making larger life changes. Maybe I've just finally come to the deep realization that time is one of the biggest commodities I have in my possession right now. At this very moment, I have the time to make things happen for myself and for others.

Anyway, I thought I would share some words of encouragement and reveal some of the things I've been thinking about in the first 3 months of 2012 in Pinterest quotation form.

Lots of running

(I struggle with this one)

(I'm still learning this one)

If I ever change the tagline of my blog, it will be to this....

I created a Vision Board for 2012 with these quotations and more on Pinterest. Feel free to follow me there by clicking this link.

I know I'm getting a little Deepak Chopra/Yoda-like on you today, but the travel posts are coming. :)

I hope the next 3/4 of the year will allow you to learn more about yourself, accomplish goals and have experiences that you never imagined you would.

How has 2012 started off for you? Do you have any favorite quotations that help motivate and encourage you?

Happy Weekend!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Eat It. Don't Tweet It.

I don't even know where to start.....

Maybe I should think twice about some of my tweets. :) This is beyond over the top....I loved it.

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


I've been wanting to try Parm for a long time. This casual spot in the heart of Little Italy is an offshoot of a popular Italian restaurant called Torissi Italian Specialities, and it serves old school Italian-American sandwiches like Chicken Parmesan and Eggplant Parmesan. These sandwiches by the Torrissi folks were so popular and their old space so small that they spun off the sandiwich business into a new place called Parm. I had actually tried to get here before, but was so annoyed about the line and cramped quarters that I left.

The entire time I've been hearing about Torrissi & Parm I'm thinking, "Are these sandwiches really THAT good? I mean its Eggplant Parm. Not exactly rocket science."

Ummm...they are good. Very good.

Meatball Parm Hero
You can choose to have the your parmesan sandwich on a roll, Italian hero bread or as a platter with no bread and a choice of what they call a Sunday salad (not clear to me what that is) or ziti.

The mozzarella was fresh. The meatballs were flavorful and not fried beyond recognition. The sauce thick and rich. Awesomeness between two slices of bread.

Because I felt bad about just having a meatball sandwich, I got some spicy brocoli rabe. Gotta have those greens! Husband J hates broccoli rabe, but I love its bitterness. I usually eat it sauteed with garlic and olive oil, but this was mixed with onion and pepper of some sort. I appreciate the spice and the reduction of my guilt.

There are other items besides the parm sandwiches including roasted turkey and club sandwiches, but going to a place called Parm and ordering turkey just seems so uncivilized. :)

If you ever plan to come here, be forewarned that it's tiny, and there can be a wait for a table during peak hours. I feel like I repeat this all the time, but that just seems to be the case with so many places in New York City right now.

I've already bragged about this hero to Husband J and piqued his interest, so I suspect that I'll be headed to Parm again some time soon.

Do you have any favorite places to eat that specialize in comfort food?

248 Mulberry Street
New York, NY
Also check them out at Yankee Stadium!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Book Project 2012

Late last year I mentioned that I had started a book reading project that required me to read most of Jane Austen's novels. I finished in time for the end of 2011. I asked for your help for my book reading project for 2012.

Thanks to Grace for her suggestion! My reading project author for 2012 is Mark Twain.

I'm currently reading through some of his major works and travel writing. I realized that I'd never read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which many consider to be one of the greatest American novels ever. I've finished both of those books so far this year.

Right now, I'm slowly making my way through A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, which is highlights Twain's more political side. I wasn't expecting that. After this book, I"ll be starting either The Innocents Abroad or Following the Equator, some of Twain's major pieces of travel writing.

I've got a lot of travelling coming up in the next few months, and I'd like to ask for your help again with some reading choices. This time I'm looking for light reading. I'm still not interested in the Hunger Games (sorry!), but I like romances (quality stuff like The Time Traveler's Wife, which I wasn't interested in finishing but thought was fine), memoirs, food writing and just good storytelling. If I've seen the movie, it might be hard for me to want to read the book (I'm lazy). This means no Water for Elephants because we just saw the DVD. I just started using Good Reads, so any tips on how to use that effectively would be great, too (I just started using the app, but I haven't had much time to play with it).

What do you recommend for some lighter reading? What are you reading right now?

Friday, March 23, 2012


Hey, all!

I don't know if you've noticed it yet, but there is a big, orange badge on the left side of the blog now. Yours truly is now a featured blogger on a site called What's that? Well, it's a new site that is essentially a virtual pin map with a social twist.

I love maps. Sometimes I just look at them for the fun of it. You all should be used to my dorkiness by now, so this should not come as a surprise. I used to have a great map connected to my personal Facebook profile, but after one of the many Facebook changes, it went away. Now I've got one that won't go away. I can pin many of the places, I've been with descriptions of what happened there and who accompanied me. I can follow others who are pinning the places they've been or lived and even join discussion boards.

I think is such as great idea is because it's not just a map but a way of connecting to people. There is a section where you can search for your long lost friend from camp or that person you met while traveling years ago. Plus, there is also a section to THANK people. Imagine getting a chance to say thank you for the first time (or even the second time) to someone who's touched your life. Essentially, is a way of virtually connecting through the places we've been.

If you click on the badge, it will take you to my pins, which have links to my blog posts. It may look like I've only got a few, but if you narrow the map to very local and specific places, you'll see that I've got about 40 pins up so far with more to come. Feel free to check me out there, and become one of my "links." I warn you that Uencounter. me can become addictive. :)

Happy Weekend!

P.S. Disclaimer: I have received no funds to be a featured blogger or write this post. The day I start making funds off of blogging, I'm going to write it in big, bold letters because I will be soooo happy. :)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Where to Next - Sing it, Madonna!

I was going to do a nice, splashy pic filled post about where I'll be off to next, but then I thought I'd just let Madonna tell you. She's a little more eloquent than me and perhaps has a better voice. Perhaps.... (although I thought she did a great job at the Super Bowl. She's having a concert at Yankee Stadium on my birthday. Should I go?)

That's right..I'm headed to Argentina!

I'll be learning a lot about Eva Peron in Buenos Aires. She was a performer, First Lady of Argentina, a suffragist, and a politician popular with the working class Argentines. I'm looking forward to learning more about her in Buenos Aires at the museum dedicated to her.

So, Husband J and I will be off to Argentina in a few weeks. We'll be spending most of our time in Buenos Aires. We'll also be heading down to Patagonia to see some big chunks of ice. :)

Buenos Aires - It's often called the Paris of South America

Perito Moreno Glacier

I had really wanted to head over to Mendoza, which is Argentina's wine country, but it just wasn't going to work. Internal flights in Argentina are not cheap. :( With Argentina being the 8th largest country in the world in terms of area (it's BIG), I figured that we needed to defray costs by only going to one other part of Argentina. Perhaps Mendoza and Iguazu Falls next time?

Has anyone been to Argentina, specifically Buenos Aires and Patagonia (We'll only be in El Calafate)? If so, I'd love it if you gave me some of your recommendations of places that you liked during your visit, especially food related ones. I'm making my own list, but I love hearing others' suggestions. Also anyone have a favorite Argentinian Malbec?

Is there any aspect of Argentine culture that interests you? Gauchos? Tango? Good steak? Soccer/Football? Let me know in the comments section, and I'll be sure to take pics or write about it in future posts.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Austrian Food of Edi & The Wolf

I'd like to think that I'm a pretty adventurous eater. I like trying lots of different types of cuisines, but even I have to draw the line somewhere. Confession: I usually don't like German/Austrian food. Sausages? Sauerkraut? Wiener schnitzel? was worse when I didn't eat meat. I had to go to German beer gardens and survive on overly buttery spatzle.

When New Friend M invited me to a tasting dinner with Chefs Eduard Frauneder and Wolfgang Ban from the hip Austrian restaurant and bar, Edi & the Wolf (pronounced "Eddie"), and its higher end cousin, Seasonal, I was curious. I really wanted to like Austrian food. I wondered if I could finally learn to like it.

If you ever want to get me to like your food or cuisine, start off with smoked salmon.

Smoked Wild Salmon
Mustard Creme Fraiche, Leek Water & Crispy Brown Bread

That ranks as some of the softest, "melt in your mouth" salmon that I've ever tasted. The salmon is brined and becomes like a tartare, which is an inventive and smart touch. Cool. This appetizer was more like a deconstructed smoked salmon on dark bread with better sauces and attention to detail. This meal was already starting of well.

Like the other chef event I attended with New Friend M, the chefs demonstrated how to cook their dishes in between courses. Edi and Wolfgang definitely have a good schtick going on. They play off of each other well.

Edi & Wolfgang


The next course was butternut squash soup, but it came out a little bare at first.

Beer-Cheese Crouton & Speck (a type of ham)

Each of our soups was poured tableside.

Looks lovely, right?
It was lovely. Unlike many butternutsquash soups, this soup was had no cream and was sweet with the salty contrasting flavors of crouton and speck. I doubt there can be anything bad that contains both cheese and beer. Just sayin'.

The next course was going to be a big test for me. A big one.

Wiener Schnitzel
with Potato Salad, Cucumber & Ligonberry

I usually hate wiener schnitzel. It's usually fried beyond recognition and greasy, and I can barely tell that it's some form of meat. Well, I am now a schnitzel convert. This thinly sliced piece of veal tasted like veal and and wasn't overly fried and had very subtle spice. So this is what GOOD schnitzel tastes like? Got it. The potato salad was tangy and not overly dressesd. No cloying mayonaisse. Also there's cucumber salad with a perfect amount of dill underneath all of that beautiful schnitzel.

It was finally time to end the meal with Austrian sweetness. Woo hoo!

with Apple Compote

Honestly, this is really just flour, eggs, sugar, salt and milk baked in a pancake form topped with some cinnamon and powdered sugar, a typical and total homey Austrian dessert. I'm going to try to get an invite to an Austrian home just for this.

Edi & Wolfgang did it. They changed how I view Austrian food. It can be more than just horrible fried patties of meat or sausage slopped together at a biergarten. It can actually be just as good as any other gourmet cuisine when it's done right. I guess that it's just about taking the time to just make food in a way that highlights all of its goodness. Lesson learned.

Is there any type of food that you disliked in the past and now you really enjoy? Mine is Austrian. :)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Friday Brain Dump

Hey there!

I know that I've been pretty quiet here this week, but that's because I've been busy working (well, who doesn't get busy doing that?) as well as planning what is going to be a RIDUNKULOUS spring and early summer for me. I'm trying to finish out March as organized as possible, which means more work now and less blogging. More details about some of my plans next week!

Things I've been thinking about this week:

1. I was filling out a visa application, and I had to put my country of birth. I look at the drop down menu, and I see "Antigua & Barbados." Huh? I'm not from Barbados. I have friends from the lovely island and even dated a few guys from there, but I've never set foot on Barbados. :) Antigua and Barbados are, um, like, two separate countries.


See where Barbados is? Not really close... :)

It's pretty in Barbados, too.

I tried to tell one of the women processing the application that they made a mistake on the application itself. It's Antigua & BARBUDA, Antigua's smaller sister island, which is pretty remote and beautifully unspoilt (and hopefully won't become overdeveloped as Antigua is becoming). I suspect no one has pointed this mistake out yet, and so they've had no real reason to change it on the application. I was just amazed that such a big glaring error has gone pretty much unnoticed and unchanged.

2. Sometimes the weather calls for a fruity cocktail with an umbrella in it. It was VERY warm this week in New York City (March is usually overcast, rainy and chilly), and everyone (including me) is having some major spring fever.

Topanga Canyon cocktail
Hibiscus Infused Absolut, Lychee Liquer, Raspberries, Orange Crush soda from Super Linda

3. Really?! Hmm....I wish her, her fiance, and the baby the best of luck.

4. For some reason, the Knicks won BEFORE Carmelo Anthony joined the team, and while he was injured. The same thing happened with his old team, the Denver Nuggets. I think he's bad luck. I'm sad Coach D'Antoni resigned. :(

When I think of the Knicks, I look just like you do now, Mike. Sigh...

5. I've been in a banh mi phase lately. Right now I'm giving a slight edge to Banh Mi Saigon in Manhattan over Hanco's in Brooklyn. I tried both of their pork sandwiches, and I think Hanco's bread is a tad better as well as their spice. I liked the seasoning of the pork on the Banh Mi Saigon version. Maybe I'll just have to try some more? :) Any other banh mi recommendations in New York City?

Hanco's Banh Mi via my Iphone

Happy Weekend!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Where are YOU Going? - Kimberly P.

Hey, folks! Our first "Where Are YOU Going?" feature comes from Kimberly P.

Kimberly will be heading to Greece this May on a tour with Black Girl Travel. She'll be visiting Athens, Mykonos and Santorini. Kimberly, I'm soooo jealous! I was planning a trip to Greece, but I never got a chance to go in the end. :(

Here's what Kimberly writes about her upcoming travels:

"I always wanted to travel internationally, but it's been slow since I've always tried to travel with others and the trips never happened. Well I'm looking to be more free so I'm traveling with a travel group for the first time ( to Greece. I feel liberated and think it will give me the exposure to eventually feel comfortable doing solo international trips."

Since Kimberly is still going over her itinerary, I thought I would think of ways for her to enjoy the Greek Islands.

I like wandering, and I think Mykonos' main town, Chora, would be a good place to get lost.

Mykonos main town, Chora

Although I'm not a fan of mechanized anything :), it would be fun to see the island on a scooter.

Did you know that the Mediterranean diet was added to the UN World Heritage list? While it's not just the cuisine of Greece (it includes Italy and Turkey), Greek food is still considered rather healthy. I'd try new Greek dishes as well as see if I could find authentic versions of old standbys.

Shrimp Tourkolimano
I've never had this, but it looks GOOD.

Greek Salad

Has anyone been to Greece? Do you have any advice for Kimberly for places to see in Athens, Mykonos and Santorini, especially off the beaten path ones? I would love to hear them. We'll definitely be following up with Kimberly after her trip.

If you're interested in being featured for the "Where are YOU Going?" series, here are the guidelines! I'd love to feature you on the blog!

Monday, March 12, 2012

5 Things I Learned on Passport Day 2012

I should have mentioned late last week that this past Saturday was Passport Day in the U.S. My bad. What is Passport Day?

Well, the U.S. State Department's Passport Services division opens up passport agency centers all over the country for an extra day that so U.S. citizens can have some extra time to acquire and renew passports without an appointment. I was able to get a behind-the-scenes look at how the U.S. Passport Services Agency puts everything together to make sure that U.S. citizens can have the proper travel documents they need.

This particular passport agency in Manhattan's SoHo neighborhood has a special place in heart because it's where I got my first U.S. Passport! It was the year 2000, the year after I became a U.S. citizen. I knew that I could get my passport at the last minute in person (I was worried about sending my very new citizenship documents via the mail. Just being honest.). While the process ate up most of my day, I came in at 9am and had a passport by 5pm.

Don't be like me when I got my first passport. Plan ahead, and get your passport BEFORE you need it. Passport agencies like this one are scattered throughout the U.S., but these centers should really be your last resort. They are only for people who are traveling within 14 days of the date of their appointment at the center. You can't show up there expecting to get a passport that you don't need immediately.

It's much better to handle your passport issues via the mail (I had a great renewal experience via mail that only took three weeks back in 2010) or at an authorized passport acceptance facility as a first timer. Here's a link with info on the process.

Behind the closed doors. Woo hoo!

Here are the 5 NEW things about passports that I learned on Passport Day:

1. All those annoying documents they ask for are for a reason. In order to issue a passport, Passport Services needs proof that you are a U.S. citizen as well as whether you are who you say you are. An interesting NYC point: Since many folks here don't drive, many people don't have basic ID such as a State ID (what I have) or the more common (everywhere else) drivers' license. Having even the most basic form of ID can help make obtaining a passport easier.

Production room where last minute passports issued by the passport agency are actually made

2. The Smart Travel App is like having the State Department website on your phone!

I always make sure to take a look at the U.S. State Department's dedicated travel website Trave.State.Gov. It's a treasure trove of information. Well, now I can have this all on my smart phone!

Download it like I did (I did it while I was at the Passport Agency!). It will give you country specific travel information regarding things like visa requirements, basic country information as well as the most recent travel warnings issued by the State Department.

It's on my phone now! I used it yesterday to settle a debate with Husband J. He won. :(

3. Passports for minors (persons under 16) are only valid for 5 years, whereas passports for adults are valid for 10 years. Parents, take note!

4. When is the best time to obtain or renew a passport? Avoid the times when families are most likely to travel such as right before summer vacations in June, winter breaks in February or around Christmas time. There's usually a bump in applications for passports and renewals during those times. Think ahead, and don't wait until the last minute to get yours, or it might take longer than expected!

A blank passport book. When I got my renewed passport in 2010, I was surprised by all of the pretty artwork. It really is nice.

5. Passport Cards vs. Passport Books - Since they started issuing them back in July 2008, 4.5 million passports cards have been issued. Should you get a card or a passport book, i.e., a traditional passport? I say get the book, BUT passport cards are great if you are a frequent traveler between the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean (including Bermuda) by land or sea, e.g., driving across the border or going on a cruise. If you are traveling BY PLANE to ANY destination, you need a traditional passport book. Passports books are accepted more commonly, which is why I'd suggest it overall, but it all depends on your circumstances. The passport card is a handy additional form of ID should anything ever happen to your State ID or drivers' license. There's also nothing stopping you from getting both!

A blank passport card

Interesting stuff, right?

I want to thank the friendly and helpful staff at the Passport Agency in NYC for taking the time to speak with me and the other bloggers who toured their offices for Passport Day.

Okay, everyone. Regardless of what country you live in, get your passport!! :)

Friday, March 9, 2012

Food Porn Friday - Food Randoms from the IPhone

For this week's Food Porn Friday, I thought I would show you some pics from a few places that I've been to in the past several months. In a few instances, I'm not in the mood to write a post just yet, or I didn't have my camera with me, hence the IPhone reference. Sometimes I just want to enjoy my meal without the thought of a blog post lingering. :) Also, I know that I don't always give context for who and why I'm eating where I am, so I thought I would this time. There's often a story involved. :)

I met Husband J after work for a beer, and he wanted some more of Luke's Lobster. This is the Taste of Maine item on their menu, which includes a half lobster roll, half crab roll, half shrimp roll, a bag of very good potato chips and a drink (in my case, a ginger soda).

A scallop dish from Ellabess on New Year's Eve. Husband J and I went out for an early dinner, then came home by 11. I think we were both in bed by 12:45. AAAAhhh...the joys of being old. :) Ellabess is changing itself into a different restaurant concept (it's actually in the lobby of a hotel).

Treacle pudding (a traditional English dessert that is a steamed sponge cake with hot custard syrup) at the John Dory Oyster Bar. I was with my BFF for our annual holiday/end of the year dinner together. I'd been wanting to go to the John Dory for ages, so I'm glad I went with her. She's cool with one of the bartenders, Ben, who's a very nice guy (and comped us a drink or maybe two. I don't want to get him in trouble).

Chili Hot Chocolate from Vandaag. You really can taste the chili! I was meeting up with my friend, Lady M, who is about to become a Mommy! I'm excited for her.

Happy Weekend!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Money, Travel & Me - Financial Obstacles? (Part 1)

I've been writing this blog for an awful long time and one thing I have not discussed yet is money. I don't like talking about money (Does anyone?), but you can't really think about travel and not think about budgets, costs and personal finance.

I think the best way to tackle this discussion is to talk about how I financed my travels before Husband J. Honestly, with two incomes to pull from and another person's considerations and tastes to contend with, it has changed the way I travel. Also, with both of our salaries, it is/was easier to stay at nicer places and do certain types of activities that I probably wouldn't do myself. Husband J and even me, at certain points, have done well for ourselves financially through our jobs. I'm not going to lie to you about that. That being said, during my early travels, I had to learn how to work the little I did have and that taught me a lot about my priorities and how I wanted to handle parts of my finances.

In Rio de Janeiro, on my last self-funded trip

Before I talk about financial strategies both practical and mental that I used to figure out how to find the money to travel, I thought I would let you know that it wasn't always easy. I have had circumstances that didn't make it easy to fund traveling anywhere but to the grocery store and to my job much less to the places I've been.

Let me give you a picture of what my financial life was like in the past:

1. I had/have student loans. I still have outstanding student loans. I went to what many people consider a very good (well, I liked it) private university for my undergraduate degree as well as law school afterwards. Law school should actually be called "Loan school" because that's how most people finance their legal education. In the U.S. if we choose certain educational paths, we have to pay for it somehow, plain and simple.

Leblon Beach in Rio

2. I don't come from a family that is well off or even close. My mother is the bomb, and I don't know how she raised me by herself. She came to the U.S.A. without any immediate family and was the sole breadwinner of my small family unit. (Love you, Mom!!!) I tell people that I'm a poor girl that has lived a rich girl's life (without the nice clothes). It's true. Neither my mother nor has my family ever funded any of the trips I've taken. My travels have been because I found a way to do it on my own somehow.

At Maracana Stadium in Rio for a great soccer game. Read about it here.

3. I have had credit card debt (in the past). Lots of it. When you spend three years of your twenties trying to live on nothing, it's hard not to rack it up (See #1). I have no qualms saying that I used to have credit card debt, especially now that it's been paid off for years. At the same time, I didn't let it stop me from doing what I wanted to do.

I'm not writing all of these things for travel street cred, but to let you know that even not so great finances or lack of an inheritance should keep you from travelling. I also tell you these things because I hate reading travel blogs that don't mention any of these issues.

In the next post in this series, I'll let you know some of the strategies, opportunities and mental outlooks that I used to find a way to see the world. It's not necessarily rocket science, but I hope it shatters the idea that travel is only for some people. It's for you, too.

Stay tuned...

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Tuesday Travel Pinspiration - Wish List

Over on Pinterest, I've been keeping a little wish list of places that I'd like to go. I thought I'd share some of them with you. This is by no means an exhaustive list. As if I would only have five places on a travel wish list. Pshaw! :)

Stonehenge - England
Okay, so who constructed this? Aliens or the English? :)

Utah, USA
After one of my early Fantasy Travel Friday posts, I really do want to see this part of the U.S.A.

Sydney, Australia
Chris Hemsworth look-alikes and beach culture. I'll take it.

Taj Mahal - India
One day soon, I hope.

Ha Long Bay - Vietnam
Ha Long Bay looks so magical.

Have you been to any of the places on this wish list? What was your experience like? Are any of these destinations on your wish list?


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