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Monday, October 20, 2014

Seoul Street Food (Round 3)

It's been two years since my last visit, and there's been major progress in the street food business here in Seoul. I'm talking more than just spicy rice cakes and tornado fries. I was able to dabble with a few street treats in Myeongdong last night and this is what I learned...
Churros. Or at least that's what it looked like to me. It's fried in tube form or stuffed with ice cream (i.e. Fried ice cream). This one I didn't try because I knew the road ahead was much tastier than that and I had a savory snack in mind first. 
Okay, I said I wanted something savory but I couldn't pass up the fresh pomegranate juice. It was mixed with ginger ale to cut the tang I assume. It was sweet and tangy with a little fizz. Delicious. 
I basically came to Seoul for this. The egg toast. Baked right there in that street oven, it's an egg baked in some kind of sweet bread. It tasted like cornbread to me. It was piping-hot, sweet-and-savory heaven. If I could change anything it would be for the yolk to be runny.
This corn. It's magical corn. I don't know what the Koreans are doing but this corn looks straight out of a cartoon. It's the Giselle of corn. Not only does it look good but it has a great personality. With each kernel seemingly on steroids, the taste is suspiciously buttery and sweet without the slick butter residue on your lips and face afterwards. Because there IS NO BUTTER! This is the natural flavor. And guess what else? Each kernel pops out without a fight, leaving nothing stuck between your teeth. No floss required here. Again, magical corn.
"I'll have the octopus tentacles with a side of chestnuts!" Said no one ever. They are big on fish chips and octopus jerky here. Maybe chestnuts are in season. Maybe it goes well together. Or maybe it lures in the tourists like myself? Regardless, I passed this time.
I never leave without dessert. This ice cream cone is stuffed from both ends with dark rich chocolate and creamy vanilla. I realize I look like a complete idiot in the street eating drippy ice cream from both ends of this suspicious tube, but for me it was symbolic. "J" for Jack Of All Travels. "J" for jeans are tight. "J" for one jacked up looking ice cream cone.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Barcelona's Best Lunch Deal

La Rita
I find this restaurant in Barcelona, La Rita, to be the perfect lunch spot for the frugal traveler. The value of this 3-course meal (with wine!) is much more than the price they are charging. Choose an appetizer, entree, and dessert off the pre-fixe menu of the day and it'll cost you €10 after tax is added. This includes a generous size glass of wine. The lunch menu changes daily, and they only stay open from 1pm-3:45pm, so that explains the long line that was out the door for the entirety of the meal. 
So the food wasn't exactly what I would imagine Spanish food to be famous for, but it was delicious nonetheless. The appetizers consisted of squid ink noodles with garlic sauce, a chilled creamy leek soup, a lentil salad, and a meat sauce cannelloni dish. We each ordered a different appetizer but I enjoyed my leek soup the most. It was a nice summery dish with crispy leeks on top.
The entree I chose was more German than Spanish but it was so rich and comforting. Sausage with rosemary potatoes. Other options included cod and chicken with eggplant. The dessert was he real highlight. I passed on the fruit salad and baked apple. The Mini Timbaon was calling for me. It was nougat ice cream with chocolate sauce and Catalan creme brûlée. The top layer was crispy and the inside was perfection. 
What added to the enjoyment of the meal was not only the fact that it was inexpensive, but they didn't charge for sparkling water for the table, or even a bread basket! The tablecloths were linen and it was an elegant atmosphere to get acquainted with the city of Barcelona.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Beer Town USA - Asheville, NC

Me and my 'big city' mentality. How typical of me to believe there is nothing worthwhile down in North Carolina. That is just straight IGN'ANT! Asheville kind of swept me off my feet. My visit to beer town USA was too short but very sweet.

It was a perfect spring day, and I walked through the streets of Asheville feeling all kinds of hippie vibes. I got butterflies in my stomach as I passed a microbrewery on every. single. block. This really was a city of craft beer, I just wish I could stay long enough to try them all. 

I went in for lunch at Wicked Weed. The place was already crowded and it wasn't even noon. I tried a glass of their Imperial Coolcumber beer (9% ABV). It was served in a glorious goblet with a cute cucumber garnish. This particular beer spent 3 months in Cardinal Gin barrels and is infused with cucumber and basil. 

During lunch, where I had a delicious green curry chicken wrap on naan bread, I sampled many beers. One gluten free, one from Cabernet Savignon barrels, and others were strong and fruity. The variety at Wicked Weed is unreal, and it'll be revisited again soon. 

The National Sandwich of Chile

The 'lomito' is a right of passage in Chilean culture. I'm told you haven't tasted Chile until you've had the lomito. After referring to my favorite travel book, Where Chefs Eat, and crosschecking numerous Anthony Bourdain show clips with locals opinions, I came to the conclusion that Fuente Alemana was the place to go to eat the famous sandwich.
Everything is made in a big open kitchen before your eyes by women dressed in old school diner-waitress attire. My waitress wasn't keen on communicating with me. It was clear that she didn't speak English and I did, yet my simple sentences in basic Spanish left her puzzled ("Uno lomito, por favor?"). It's clearly a fast paced atmosphere so fast ordering with zero questions will afford you a friendlier experience. Luckily, I had a third party communicator to help. Orlando, a native Chilean, offered to help translate. He was very helpful and informative while explaining the menu. 
A schop is a beer on tap, and that's exactly what we ordered. One dark and one light. Then we ordered the lomito. Slices of juicy pork are topped with tomato and an alarming amount of avocado and mayo. A sprinkle of salt and the sandwich is ready to be served between two slices of hearty sandwich bread. The amount of mayo that was on the sandwich actually overshadowed the fact that at least two whole avocados were mashed up on there as well. This was definitely a fork-and-knife sandwich. We also ordered the completo, which is the hot dog version of the lomito, plus sauerkraut and tomato sauce. It was frighteningly good, maybe even better than the lomito...

Monday, May 26, 2014

Santiago's BEST Lunch - El Hoyo

I did enough research to know that I want to eat at El Hoyo, a name that means 'the hole' as in, a hole in the wall. First off, Anthony Bourdain went there so that alone has me interested, I won't lie. I wanted traditional food and an authentic dining experience. We walked 3.5 miles from the hotel to El Hoyo. From what I heard about the food, I knew that walking there would eliminate some of the guilt of eating the monstrous portions we were about to indulge in. Santiago is the safest city in South America so walking was an enjoyable experience. Except when we hit the halfway mark and I started to wish we were there already. So lazy. 

We arrived on San Vicente, a quirky residential street with multiple pastel colored houses and a bright purple building sticking out in the neighborhood sky. Down the street was a cute cantina, more quaint than I expected, with wine barrels decorating the facade. We sat inside, and were served by Anthony Bourdains waiter. Good start already! The bread basket arrived, it was crunchy and delicious with the super spicy salsa. We ordered a pitcher of Terremoto, it means earthquake and it's a mixture of wine called pipeño mixed with pineapple sorbet. Our waiter mixed it table side until it was frothy. It tasted sweet but it packed a punch, as I slowly noticed my cheeks getting hot from the alcohol. 
We ordered the arrollado and the pernil. The arrollado is a unique dish made from marinated beef bits rolled up in pork skin, then cooked in a loaf and sliced. Honestly, I was disappointed when I saw it because I thought it looked like mystery meat bits in a lard roll with boiled potatoes. I also heard that Chilean food can be bland so I wasn't sure what the taste would do for me. I was blown away by how flavorful and tender the meat was. Best meal in Santiago hands down. Aside from the skin and the bits of fat, it was incredible! The locals ate the fat and skin but I wasn't ready for that. The pernil is pork shoulder. It also looked barbaric and bland on the plate with boiled potatoes but again, it blew us away. The skin trapped in all the juices of the meat and it literally fell off the bone. We were so disgusted with ourselves afterwards for cleaning our plates but this was a meal that would go down in history. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Santiago, Chile - Dining in Bellavista

I found an area four blocks from Loreto Hotel called Barrio Bellavista. It was filled with restaurants and bars. At night it was busy, even on a Monday. We found that some restaurants seemed touristy, and some seemed more authentic. Regardless, the only people we ever saw were locals. We were the only NORTH Americans in sight. We had a beer on a busy street of restaurants called Constitución, at a corner cantina called Ciudad Vieja, with a library of beer and wine behind the bar. The bartenders would swing across the shelves on the ladder to get the beers requested. We didn't eat here, but I would if I had more time in Santiago. The tables around us had huge sandwiches (like the lomito) with piles of avocado. 

Across the street we ate at Galindo on Calle Dardignac where there was a bit of a wait. We don't mind a little wait time when we travel because it usually means the food is worthwhile. A guitarist was playing music on the corner while two stray dogs barked wildly at cars driving by. It was more than enough entertainment for us foreigners. We were seated outside and ordered the house wine and an empanada to start. It was the highlight of the meal. The dough was crispy and filled with beef, onions, egg, olives, and raisins -- a combination of food I would normally heave at, but it was perfectly sweet and savory.
The main courses arrived in huge portions as we soon realized is custom in Santiago. We had the corn pie with all the fillings of the empanada in the bowl. The corn pie came with a sugary crust on time. It was so rich, a bit too rich for two people to finish it all. The seafood soup was no joke. It literally looked like there was a piece of every species of sea creature in this one bowl. Some chunks had scales, some were mysterious, and I even found a barnacle with whatever barnacle meat is hanging out of it. The broth was fishy like Rockaway Beach, nice and warm on this chilly autumn day. Next time I'll pass on the soup but the rest of the food was straight hearty comfort food! 

Coffee, Tea, or Me? Meet the Coffee Culture of Santiago, Chile

may have chosen this destination the same day I ventured out. Realistically, the destination chose me, doesn't it always? Anyway, I didn't have adequate time to do research beyond the essentials (i.e. Do I need a visa? Are hotels affordable?) so once again I am winging it. I did, however, watch a couple of YouTube clips on my favorite travel guru Anthony Bourdain.  He spent some time in Santiago, Chile. I saw a clip of him eating enormous avocado pork sandwiches, drinking local beer, and joining in on cultural events like having cafe con piernas served to him by a leggy lady dressed in a Vegas-style cocktail waitress uniform.

Upon arriving in Santiago, we realize we are in the exact same time zone as New York. Bonus!  We also realize it's the end of autumn and winter is around the corner. It's kind of gray out but still pretty mild. We stayed at Loreto Hotel downtown for $100/night. Free wifi, free breakfast, and a charming balcony included! We ventured out for coffee -- actually, cafe con piernas or 'coffee with legs'.
We made three stops. First, a coffee and croissant with avocado at Caffe de Lucia. We quickly found out that avocado is an essential part of the Chilean diet, and there's no portion control. No complaints from me. 

The next two stops are at Cafe Haiti and Cafe Caribe, both located downtown on Calle Huerfanos. At Cafe Haiti, tables surround a stage type of platform with railings for waitresses to strut down with your cappuccino in hand. At Cafe Caribe, it's standing only. Both equally exploit women in rump-hugging minidresses and heels for your enjoyment with your morning coffee. The skin bearing waitresses have fun with it though, flirting with the regulars, who generally seem like harmless old men. It is undoubtedly a dated tradition that got the locals into coffee drinking. So will the inevitable world domination of Starbucks on the coffee industry ruin this uniquely creepy tradition in Santiago? I sure hope not. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Street Foods of Seattle

I found myself with 20 hours to spend in one of the most intriguing west coast cities I've been hoping to explore someday. For a city known for its rainy days, I lucked out with 70 degrees and sunshine.

I arrived in Seattle at 11AM. By noon I was ready to take on a new city that I knew nearly nothing about. What a shame to visit a city without having done the appropriate research. I quickly browsed some geo-tags on Instagram to get a glimpse of the foodie scene before stepping out. I found a new confidence in touring Seattle and stepped out on a mission to get fresh seafood at the Pike Place Market.

Upon entering the market, I see the fish counter and a gimmicky show of fish-tossing that drew in a pitiful crowd, mildly entertained. As I browsed the 9-acre permanent farmers market I found several venders with everything from flowers to foods to jewelry. My first purchase was at Market BarBQ for the Market BiBimBap. It was beyond delicious, though not the most traditional version, and I appreciated the extra spicy kimchi with beef bulgogi and the fried egg on top! 

I walked to the City Fish Co for some fresh seafood. Sea urchin were cracked open and ready to eat in the display window. They were the largest I've ever seen! However, the taste was mild, perhaps from being washed a bit too well. The Dungeness crab cocktail was sweet and fresh. Next time I will try the king crab cocktail or oyster shooters, but eating here does not come cheap. Each item costs between $10-15 and I know I could have eaten lots more. 

Moving right along. I had to make a stop at the original Starbucks. A musician was playing right outside the door. It was all very cute, but I just wasn't in the mood for coffee. Instead, I got on a line at another place simple because, well, there was a line! I knew whatever they were selling must be good. The name of the shop was Piroshky Piroshky. Known for their pastries, it is like he Russian version of an empanada. With a variety of sweet and savory flavors I tried the salmon pate, and the white chocolate cherry. By this point, I am almost too full to enjoy it. Almost.

The rest of the day was spent walking off a small fraction of the calories I had consumed over the past several hours. Walking up and down steep hills made me feel less guilty. It was shocking to see so many homeless people and grungy druggies all intermingling in the park with young families and tourists. I love a good shock. Seattle, I will be back! 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Giant Portions at Benny's On The Beach

grew up vacationing in West Palm Beach, Florida. Well, Greenacres to be exact. I've been going there every year, since I was in the womb. The family and I would drive to Lake Worth Beach for the day and stop at Benny's On The Beach for breakfast. It's been a while since I ate at Benny's, but this past New Year's Day I had the best beachside brunch of my life.

The 30-minute wait for our table was not a problem for us. The bar was outside serving up spicy Bloody Mary's and mimosas so we indulged. We sipped the hair of the dog while sitting on stools facing out towards the ocean. There was an energy in the air that could only be from a mix of detoxing and retoxing.

Just when I thought food portions in the United States were gradually decreasing to conform with the rest of the worlds standards, Benny's proved me wrong. The first plate to arrive was about 2 feet by 2 feet. It was a grilled grouper sandwich that was super flaky and flavorful. The plate was packed with crispy french fries and a jumbo pickle sliced up like sashimi. I wanted to take advantage of all the seafood options on the menu so I ordered the lobster salad. It sounded healthier than the lobster roll. The dish came piled with fresh sweet fruit salad, and a lobster-stuffed avocado in the center. 

Post-brunch we took a walk down the pier and planned our next meal, as fatties do...