Category: Travel

Eating in New England

For those unfamiliar with San Francisco and its many oddities, summer doesn’t really start in June — nor does it really start in July. As not-Mark-Twain so sagely put it, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” A year ago, I remember arriving as a total newcomer to the paradox of San Francisco weather and bundling up in tights and jackets in mornings that were characterized by the soul-sucking mist known as San Francisco fog, shedding the layers once the temperature peaked in the mid-60s by the middle of the day, only to throw them back on by the evening (aka a mist-filled hell). In SF, “summer” (at least summer in the traditional sense) doesn’t actually begin until mid-August, which is a total bummer for those (hello, self!) who are used to unadulteratedly sunny, breezy weather. And for somebody who adheres to the textbook definition of summer, the prospect of having to wait yet another two months for decent weather was a grim one.

Fortunately, I didn’t actually have to wait very long, as I was in Boston and Providence for the first week of June: the former to visit my parents (who happened to be on the East Coast), and the latter for work, where I was manning the booth at Google’s Get Your Business Online. Despite the fact that I hadn’t been to either of the two cities in a while — other than random visits to my Harvard friends, my time in Boston is largely defined by the summer after my junior year in high school when I had interned there, and I had last been to Providence seven years ago, when I had briefly considered applying to Brown for college (oh, the days of college visits — how young I was then!) — I mostly skipped out on the standard touristy fare and instead worked at the Google Cambridge office and … ate a lot. As terribly fascinating as working and eating sounds, I’ll spare you the details and convince all of you that I lead an exciting life by providing you with visuals of the contents of my stomach, before they ended up in my stomach. Cool? Cool!

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On my second day in Boston, Annie and I went to Mistral, a French bistro in the Back Bay, where I ordered a roasted duck with wild mushroom risotto and Annie ordered the grilled salmon.

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Later that week, George and I went to Mr. Bartley’s Burger Cottage, an establishment near Harvard that serves some mighty delicious burgers (surprise) with creative names. Case in point: my burger, which included Boursin cheese and bacon and a side of sweet potato fries, was aptly named the “Mark Zuckerberg”, due to its super-richness.

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The above two photos, however, do not qualify under “Things That Inevitably Ended up in Cindy’s Stomach”, but we could all use a nice, cliched beachfront photo or two, right? Anyway, this here is Winthrop Beach, a stone’s throw away from the place my parents were staying and a nice place to walk about.

Nearby is a local ice cream place called Twist & Shake, which I highly recommend after a long day at the beach.

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My coffee Oreo ice cream and my mom’s butter pecan ice cream

During the weekend, my parents and I went to Boston proper, where I insisted on taking them to Mike & Patty’s, which is everything a neighborhood sandwich shop should be. The place barely seats six people, but you can instantly tell that it’s one of those really good places based on the number of people sitting outside the steps, waiting for their breakfast sandwich. Yes, it’s a bit secluded in the Bay Village, you have to get there before it closes at 3pm, you will probably end up eating on the steps of a random building, you might have to wait at least fifteen minutes, but I promise you, those minor inconveniences don’t even begin to counter the deliciousness of the sandwich. Plus, this place, from the food to the owners to the phone number (617-423-EGGS), is just downright charming.

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My dad got the avocado toast: sea salt, olive oil, arugula/radicchio/lettuce, tomato, avocado, and onion sandwiched beneath two slices of multigrain.

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My mom’s turkey avocado sandwich with cheddar, red onion, and mayo.

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This beauty above is my order, the North South classic: egg, collard greens, peameal bacon, and cheese on an English muffin. At $5, the price was way too good to be true. Sandwiches that good don’t come that cheap in New York, that’s for sure.

Our bellies still full from the eggy sandwichy goodness, we hopped across the Charles River to Cambridge for our final destination: Toscanini’s. Toscanini’s happens to be a bit of a rockstar in the ice cream world; it’s a mainstay on the Best Ice Cream lists of publications and food blogs, up there with Humphry Slocombe (which I highly recommend), Big Gay Ice Cream Truck, Bi-Rite, etc.

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And for good reason! The ice cream packs a punch — the burnt caramel (which I didn’t take a photo of, lest you wanted to see a melted puddle of brown in a cup) has a sharp aftertaste that offsets the smoothness you’d expect from regular caramel. For those who aren’t so fond of bitter ice cream flavors, I highly recommend the ginger snap molasses (below), which has crumbs of ginger snap cookies that melt in your mouth and a rich, velvety texture thanks to the molasses.

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Later that afternoon, we drove over to Providence, where I was staying for work:

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For those who use Google Maps, that pin may look mighty familiar. And no, it’s not shopped. 😉 The convention itself was fun, and I did a lot of talking, which is to be expected when you’re helping people set up websites and such!

Later that night, we headed to Local 121, a restaurant in downtown Providence that specializes in dishes made from locally harvested food — as if the name wasn’t a dead giveaway!

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To start, we split an appetizer: a fresh English pea crostini!

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My entree was a dish of pan-roasted, vanille-scented Bomster scallops that I will forever dream about, because I basically just love scallops.

The next morning, I went to Pastiche, a dessert cafe recommended by Annie, and decided to treat myself with a brownie for the flight back to San Francisco.

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Ta-da!

Unfortunately, the food in the airport was not as memorable, but eh, at least I got to catch a bit of the Euro Cup, so I’ll take what I can get.

—–
footnotes:
*It’s actually hilarious, because despite the fact that I definitely have the credentials to become a California resident, I am legally and technically still a New York resident. To get me to forfeit my NY license and retake a written test (WHY, CALIFORNIA, WHY) requires some well-executed coercion, because let’s face it, keeping that driver’s license is my valiant last-ditch attempt to cling to my four years as a New Yorker.

I Heart New York

Fun fact: Before this trip, I hadn’t been back to New York since exactly a year ago, the day of my graduation.

As much I would love to say that the fortuitous timing was pure kismet, I had actually wanted to visit much, much earlier — back in winter, actually. But then I went to Europe and fulfilled my vacay quota. And then friends from New York started flying out to SF to visit me, and these visits would always end in hugs and somewhat baseless promises of, “I’ll definitely come back to New York and visit you!”. Days of should-I-or-shouldn’t-I whenever I started searching for transcontinental flights on Kayak/Priceline/Travelzoo/whathaveyou turned into weeks, which turned into months. Soon it was the beginning of May, where I was dangerously approaching the one-year anniversary of my departure. Giving up any and all pretense, I finally cut the cord of self-restraint, purchased the tickets to New York on a whim, proceeded to email all of my college friends, and started counting down the days until May 16th, the (freakishly early) morning I’d leave for the concrete jungle.


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Maybe it was serendipitous that I landed in New York and saw the Empire State Building lit up in shades of Columbia blue and white in honor of all of the students who had graduated from my beloved alma mater. It doesn’t exactly help that a certain song always plays in my head every time I arrive in New York. Or the fact that it’s all too easy to believe that coincidences like these will align up so perfectly in this city.

ANYWAY. I don’t want to wax nostalgic and sappy with my 2389483 feelings about New York (and trust me, 2389483 feelings is a lot. Plus East Coast time has messed with my sleep cycle, so I’m not even remotely coherent enough for that.), but I will give you photographic evidence as to why this weekend was easily one of the best weekends ever. And I have been lucky enough to experience some really awesome weekends, so congrats, New York. I owe you one.

REASONS WHY THIS WEEKEND WAS AWESOME:* (also Reasons Why Weekends are Best Spent in New York, Reasons Why Cindy Still Insists on Keeping Her NY Driver’s License Even Though She’s Technically a California Resident, Reasons Why Cindy is a Hopeless Glutton, Reasons Why Cindy Needs to Get Off Instagram, Reasons Why Cindy Just Likes Taking Photos and Blabbing on About Them, among other title substitutions)
*list is not in any specified order

I got to visit my home away from home. Or, if you want to get all Inception up in this grill, my home away from home away from home. I can’t believe it’s been almost 5 years (August 2007, wow) since I biked across the George Washington bridge without having showered for four days (HAHAHAHA), down Riverside, and through those gates of Columbia, ready and eager to start my college experience.

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Seriously, it feels so good to finally look at Butler Library with a pang of nostalgia and not the dread I used to experience during finals week. Time sure does heal all wounds. Even academia-induced wounds.

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SHOPPING. Okay, no. Try as it might, but SF will never hold a candle to New York in this department. SF doesn’t have Uniqlo (…yet), MUJI, Fashion Week, or an abundance of sample sales. Or a legitimate equivalent of Soho.

Needless to say, I came to New York with a 20 pound suitcase and left with a 40 pounder that proved a bitch to lug up the stairs to my apartment.

There’s no better place to watch football this side of the Atlantic. First off, I’m not going to ramble about the outcome of the Champions League final, because, as a diehard Bayern fan, it hurts. It really does. And I don’t ever want to see another photo of a devastated Bastian Schweinsteiger again (on my Tumblr dash or the news or anywhere), because no football player should ever have to experience that level of pain and heartbreak on their own home field.

All Bayern feelings aside, I will say that football watching in San Francisco just isn’t the same. Games are aired way too early in the morning (why are timezones so cruel to me!) for me to properly function, and I have yet to find a good pub in the Bay Area that airs Bundesliga/Champions League games like the big freaking deal that they are. But, hey, if anybody wants to correct me and introduce me to the football-watching culture in SF that I have obviously been ignorant about, feel free! Because watching the games at stupid o’clock on a low-quality torrent just doesn’t cut it, you know?

Anyway, I’ve sorely missed the feeling of being in a crowd of football enthusiasts. The yelling and cursing and screaming never gets old — and I swear, we’ll get that trophy one day. 🙂

Nothing beats New York for museums. MoMA, the Guggenheim, the Museum of Natural History, the Whitney — and the mother of all museums, the Met.

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If you’re ever in New York, check out the Impossible Conversations exhibit. The Prada and Schiaparelli displays are phenomenal stuff, and the curation is top-notch. I still drool over the Prada S/S ’08 collection, fyi, and seeing the dresses and shoes in person did not help.

Koreatown and Karaoke.

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Good food and singing at the top of your lungs to those pop songs you secretly, non-ironically love, at the expense of your voice? Hell yeah!

The Great Googamooga happened.

If you’re not a foodie living in New York, you may be wondering, “The hell is a Googasdjkflasda?” Think of it as a glutton’s paradise, the Burning Man for your taste buds, a festival devoted entirely to food.

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There were different food stalls where you could buy food/drinks from some of the best vendors/restaurants/trucks in the area: Big Gay Ice Cream Truck, Colicchio & Sons, Jean Georges, Brooklyn Soda Works, Momofuku, Red Rooster Harlem, Calexico … you name it! I realize that if you do not live in NY, these names probably mean absolutely jackshit to you — just take my word for it when I say that these are all things that are synonymous with mouth-watering, good food. We good? Bacon Flight, as you can see above, was a sampling of different bacon from all the BLT rock stars.

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Beer tasting!

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Wine tasting!

My friends and I got to the festival on the second day with the singular goal of pigging out. Trust me, I am ashamed at the level of gluttony I unlocked that day. In fact, I am still ashamed to the point where I have been stocking up on veggies to atone for the amount of meat that I had shamelessly devoured that day.

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Screw Wheaties — this is the breakfast of champions!

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Thai sausage from DBGB

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Pork belly tacos from Colicchio & Sons

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M. Wells‘ Horse Bologna and Foie Gras Grilled Cheese

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Soft shell crab sandwich at Vinegar Hill House

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Foie gras doughnut (YEAH, you heard me!) at Do or Dine

Verdict? Soft-shell crab sandwich was a winner. However, the foie gras offerings made me realize just how much I’ll miss foie gras when the California ban finally takes effect.

FOOD. Yes, there was Googamooga, but even that doesn’t wholly account for the amount of hedonism my stomach has experienced. Let’s be honest — when I came up with a list of things to do for this visit, all of the items on the list were food related: go eat at Shake Shack, buy macarons at Ladurée, get chicken and rice at 53rd and 6th, etc. So if it’s a surprise to any of you that I spent the good majority of this trip eating, then we have probably never met before.

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1. How cute is this Hello Kitty case?
2. MACARONS!!!

You honestly have no idea of the level of jealousy-induced rage I experienced when I left New York back in the summer, only to hear that they were bringing Ladurée to Manhattan. The timing was a slap in the face — I could hear the echoes of New York all the way from California: “HAHAHAHA, this is what you get for leaving us, sucker!”. THE INJUSTICE. THE RAGE. THE UNFAIRNESS OF IT ALL, I seethed.

But if I can’t have the constant presence of Ladurée in my city, surely I can settle for a six-pack of macarons that I can bring home. It’s hardly a consolation prize, but who am I — who have I ever been — to pass up macarons? And if you must know, I got rose, cherry blossom, pistachio, fleur du sel caramel — among other flavors. Pity they didn’t have my all-time favorite flavor: licorice. 🙁

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Also, another thing that I’ve taken for granted in New York is the fact that everything is open 24/7. In SF, it kind of blows when I’m craving a sandwich at 9pm (a perfectly reasonable dinner hour for a 20-something who tends to work a little late, mind you), only to find that the sandwich places close at 7pm. In NY, it’s never too early or too late to be taking public transportation, you don’t need a map to figure out where you are and how to get from point A to point B, you can hail a cab virtually anywhere without having to stand in a 45-minute queue and yell at the person behind you that you were first in line and therefore you get precedence (ugh, Caltrain), and you can walk down the street during the late night without having to bat a single eye or worrying that you’ll get chased down the street and harassed (ugh, true story). The sad thing is, I never realize how much I miss (or appreciate, even) those things until I’m already across the country.

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They talk about the reasons why they might leave —- there are many and they all are valid — which invariably include the desire to have more space, more bang for your buck, and needing to make healthier lifestyle choices. Maybe they’ll go through with it and leave it all behind. What they talk about when they talk about living in New York will be treated like a valuable faded Polaroid you always keep in your top drawer. Whatever happens with you and the city though, you’ll always regard it with a sense of fondness, and above all, feel lucky you got to experience it at all. Time has a way of removing the blemishes so after a certain point, you’ll have forgotten about the high rents and the lousy jobs and the tears you shed in public spaces, and choose to remember only the creamy delicious frosting on an otherwise stale and overpriced cake.” – What People Talk About When They Talk About Life In New York


So yeah, New York is an egocentric, self-aggrandizing city with an overly inflated sense of self-worth. It’s too crazy and it’s “not for everybody”, say people from the outside looking in. I’m not going to argue with that assessment, since, yes, it is a crazy city, and one that wholeheartedly believes that it’s the center of the universe. But for four years, it was the center of mine, and I think it still is, because even though I’ve lived in California for almost a year now, I still feel that odd sense of displacement whenever somebody brings up that city. I feel it, even now, as I’m typing this entry in the comfort of my apartment, 3,000 miles away.

The Obscenely Late Holiday Vacation Post

You know all of those Christmas songs they play on the radio during the holidays (“Let it Snow”, “White Christmas” for starters)? And how they always conjure up images of white, powdery snow? And how wonderful and magical and delightful it is? Even when, in all actuality, it is cold, wet, and ultimately a pain in the ass when it inevitably gets into your boots? Despite the false sense of fluffy comfort that snow often lulls us into, the fact remains that winter has always been inextricably linked with snow (at least, coming from a Midwesterner-turned-East-Coaster), so it came as a source of confusion when I went to college, only to realize that half of my friends (most of whom had grown up in sunnier climates) had never seen snow before.

I, being the jaded veteran to snowy winters, often kanyeshrugged at my friends’ visceral reactions to the first snowflakes on Columbia’s campus (“SNOW!!!!!!!1111”). And, you know, I thought my blasé attitude was totally merited — until this topic of snow was brought up at work several months back. I thought Columbia was strange, but being in the company of people who had lived in California their whole lives was a total eye-opener altogether. However, as I tried to rack up memories of white Christmases in a vain attempt to prove that not everybody has been deprived of snow, I mentally came up with a list of winters past. But then I realized that I couldn’t mention the Christmas before, because I had been sweating bullets and enjoying the sunset at Angkor Wat. Nor could I mention the year before, because I had spent Christmas riding elephants in Bangkok. Or the year before, because I had just arrived in Sydney. Mid-conversation, I found myself at a loss for words, as I had to actually stop and think about the last time I had a holiday season with snow, and I eventually came to the stunning conclusion that I have not had an actual white Christmas since …

… wait for it …

middle school.

Case in point:
2010: Vietnam, Cambodia
2009: Thailand
2008: Australia
2007: Florida
2006: Mexico
2005: Indianapolis … and it didn’t snow! Hah!
2004: Las Vegas
2003: Mexico
2002 and before: HAHAHA COME ON. All I remember was that I was in middle school and therefore, I was an irritable, pubescent teenager with a crotchety temper, an unhealthy addiction to Neopets, and an alarming tendency to rage over petty middle school drama on her LiveJournal. Anything from this time period will remain forever blotted out in my memory.

That said, if the past 8 years are anything to go by, it’s that I am presumably fated to spend the holidays in a place that Does Not Snow. Luckily, this hasn’t served as a source of bother for me, because (a) warm weather? Bring it! and (b) I don’t really buy into stereotypical holidays anyway. So obviously, it made perfectly logical sense that the 2011 family Christmas trip would take place in Bali, with a bit of time to spare in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

See, since moving to San Francisco, I was essentially in a bit of a rut up until December, travel-wise, seeing as I’m the type of person who demands a temporary change in pace every 3 months or so, lest I go stir-crazy. Besides a two-day work offsite to Monterrey and a visit to my relatives down in San Diego, I had essentially been in the same city (and okay, surrounding area) for nearly six months. And for somebody who thrives on expeditions and excursions, I was going nuts.

Now, enter Bali. Tropical island, lush, green, bursting with fauna — about as far removed from San Francisco as you could get and very much worth the eight hours of flying.

To paint a portrait of Bali requires lots and lots of green paint. No matter where you are on the island, you’re constantly immersed in a thick blanket of greenery, and for somebody who’s so used to urban landscapes and wide open seascapes (none of which are green in the slightest, at least not in a visual sense), it’s a marvel to stare outside your car window just to soak in the scenery. That, and green is my favorite color, so.

If you had to ask me to name my top five animals, monkeys would rank pretty high up there, along with cranes and tigers and dragons (shut up, dragons so count — I will always be proud of my zodiac sign!). So, of course, I was ecstatic when we went to Ubud Monkey Forest, which — surprise, surprise — is populated by a cartload of monkeys. Fun fact: the collective noun for monkeys is indeed “cartload”. Or tribe, troupe, or barrel. I think I prefer cartload.

The forest reminds me a bit of Kenya, in that the monkeys are just right there and in front of you. As cool as zoos are, it sucks that you’re usually separated from the animal by this barrier of glass, whereas in places like Masai Mara and Ubud, there’s no feeling of restriction. There were monkeys literally everywhere that I’m surprised that I didn’t catch some funky monkey disease.

When you’re in Bali, you’ll see these things a lot: tiny, handwoven baskets placed on oversized leaves. These baskets usually contain flowers, money, incense, and the like — and believe me when I say that you’ll see them everywhere: temples, doorsteps, spas, the ground. Balinese families place these spiritual offerings (prepared by the women) every morning on the ground as their way of giving thanks.

Because it’s not a Cindy post until there’s food porn, here you go.

If you ever go to Bali, you must must MUST eat suckling pig. Good suckling pig is roasted to melt-in-your-mouth perfection and the skin fried to a delicious crackle and holy SHIT, is it amazing.

Another dish worthy of note is the Bebek Bengil Crispy Duck at Dirty Duck — it’s different than the duck I’m used to (roasted Peking duck!); think less succulent, but with far more crisp.

Unfortunately, as the Bali leg of our trip was winding down, we finally experienced the true meaning of the rainy season. We had been spared the precipitation for the first few days, but man, when it rains in Bali, it really freaking pours.

A caveat when travelling to Bali: wear pants (I probably shouldn’t have to explain this one) and invest in some good insect repellent and Cortisone. I cannot stress this enough. As somebody who has served as walking, talking bait for mosquitos for well over two decades (years of living in a house shrouded by trees and slumming it in summer camps out in the woods have made me a survivor of countless mosquito bites), I can safely say that you WILL be bitten relentlessly.

Exhibit A: (Please don’t actually click this if you have extremely delicate sensibilities.) my legs after the very first day in Bali. Trust me, it did not get any better after that night. The itching got so unbearable, so I ended up scratching my legs so raw to the point where my ankles swelled to the size of grapefruits and I was limping rather pathetically to my plane from Denpasar to Singapore three days later. Not to mention, I realized that Bali is a hotspot for dengue fever, which is not exactly reassuring.

Bottom line: mosquito bites, thou art a bitch. Also, I do not have dengue fever. The end.

Anyway, one day of being a temporary cripple did little to deter me from exploring Kuala Lumpur. If you’re ever in KL, check out the Butterfly Park and the National Mosque! And wear lots of sunscreen!

There you have it! A Christmas holiday post in the dead of May — ha! In the meantime, I have to go do laundry and pack for my trip to New York. That said, I’m going to be a bit of travelling within the US over the next four weeks, for a variety of reasons that range from work to pleasure to family-related things, so if you’re going to be in the following cities, shoot me an email: New York, Seattle, Providence, Chicago, or Boston. 🙂