Archive for the ‘travel’ Category


Sigara böreği

   Posted by: Livia N

The last day I was in Istanbul, my host let me help her make Sigara böreği. Here’s my attempt to document what we did so I can remember for the future.


3 bunches of fresh spinach (with large leaves) from the farmers market were washed thoroughly in several changes of water. She had 2 salad spinners going at once.

In a skillet, 1 minced medium/large white onion was softened in a generous glug of olive oil. Once it was soft, she peeled and shredded in 2 smaller potatoes (all that she had on hand, perhaps more would have been used if she had it) (large holes on a box grater). Stir stir stir. Cook Cook Cook.

And then the cleaned and roughly chopped spinach went in. And we cooked it until is was a soft and homogeneous mixture.

Season with black pepper and salt.

Then the heat was turned off, and it was set aside to prepare the wrappers.


Was not made with phyllo dough! She hod bought freshly made circles of thin dough from the local market. Yufka! Which I just found at a market in this city, which is why I am now thinking about making them on my own.

So she spread out this 2″ round of dough in a single layer on the counter (and kept the rest covered lest it dry out).

And she mixed together yogurt, eggs, and olive oil until it had a soupy texture (and she added ingredients as needed to get the right consistency).

Spread a thin-ish layer of the egg mixture over the yukfa. Fold the yukfa in half, so you now have a semi-circle. Slice the semicircle into 6-8 (I forget which) long triangle wedges.


Spoon 1-2 Tablespoons of the spinach filling on the wide part of the triangle. Tuck in the corners and roll the dough around the filling. If it seems dry, feel free to add more of the egg mixture to seal, but it shouldn’t be wet either.

Lay your finished cigars on a lined baking sheet. They can now sit overnight in the refrigerator (I don’t remember if this is just okay or preferred).

When ready, bake at 425F for 15-20 minutes.

Things that are missing from this recipe
She also had white cheese (like feta) that went into this dish. Was it mixed into the spinach once it had cooled? Or was it in the egg mixture? I don’t remember.

Were there any herbs in the spinach mixture? A bit of parsley wouldn’t hurt.

Other similar recipes online

vegan ->

ETA: Okay – so I’ve made it now and can answer all the questions I had before!

First – this is not a crispy version. This dough looks terrifyingly designed to be crispy. I was sure that everything was ruined because I only had storebought Yufka instead of getting a fresh batch from a local market. Everything turned out fine.

Second – Yes, add the cheese to the filling once it has cooled. I ended up using a mixture of peccorino romano and sheep milk beyaz peynir. Whatever brined white cheese should be tasty. Also, I was worried about the saltiness of my cheese, so I was moderate about the salt in the filling. But, really, it could have used more salt.

Third – resting time is important! The first batch I cooked was the last batch I made, and it ended up releasing a puddle of oil that made the rolls soggy. I was resigned to finding them tasty anyway. But the second batch, which had been sitting long enough for the dough to fully hydrate and the tops (brushed with more of the egg/yogurt/oil mixture) to get a little tacky, didn’t lose any liquid and came out fairly similar to the ones I’d had in Istanbul. And the tops turned lovely golden and brown.

Cooking time – 425F for 20 minutes.


Planning a trip to Rome

   Posted by: Livia N

Trip to Rome

So I’ve scheduled all of the side trips, and written up the itinerary for my parents. It feels to me like it’s not covering nearly enough, but when my parents looked at it, they thought it was mostly within their limits possibly a little challenging. Let me know if you have any suggestions of places to see/eat. Or just stuff.

We have flight reservations with British Airways

leaving PHL (BA0068) at 21:00 Saturday
arriving Heathrow 09:30 Sunday

My parents vote not to leave the airport – OMG. I might need to get out and do something.

leaving Heathrow (BA0558) at 18:15 Sunday
arriving Fiumicino 21:45 Sunday-ish

They have hotel reservations at Rome Marriott Grand Hotel Flora

I also have a reservation at a hostel.

All of the necessary Marriott points have been converted into codes for points redemption on the stay and travel.

After arriving in Rome at the butt crack of night, we shall spend the morning relaxing. If my father wakes up and feels perky, he and I shall have a jaunt exploring the city and finding restaurants to eat at the rest of the week.

That night at 8pm, we shall all three take a bus tour of Rome by Night

Now that we’ve had a rest, let’s start with the hard part (so if we need to split this is up into multiple days, that’ll be fine.

So I’ll pick up a picnic lunch on the way over to your hotel. You’ll have a leisurely breakfast.

We’ll try the subway and see how stressful it is. We’ll ask the Concierge whether there is an easy path through the Villa Medici grounds to get the to Metro-Spagna stop. Otherwise, we’ll walk about 600 yards to the Metro-Barberini stop (by the Spanish Steps). We’ll transfer at Termini from the A line to the B line, go two more stops, and then get out at the Coliseum.

The alternative bus line is the 117. It runs along the southwest side of Villa Borghese and down a road of many names (Via del Babuino, Via del Due Macelli, Via del Traforo, Via Milano), it will make a right turn onto the Via Panisperma, a left on to the Via del Boschetto, a short right onto the Via Leonina, and a right onto Via dei Serpenti, just after you turn left onto Largo Gaetana Agnesi there’s the stop for the Coliseum.

It’s a couple blocks farther to walk to get the bus than the train, but no tranfer.

We’ll explore the forum (walks card #20-24). If we haven’t seen anywhere with decent food (fairly likely), we’ll pay admission to the Coliseum, find a nook and have a picnic. Maybe more forum after?

Pretty much everywhere is steeply uphill from there. So we might just catch a cab back to the hotel.

If you are up for an uphill walk on the far side of the Coliseum, we can aim for the Via Labicana and San Clemente (open Mon-Sat 9am-12:30pm; 3-6pm), which has Byzantine mosaics. Then, hopefully, there will be food near there, and I can explore the basements of San Clemente (walks card #25, which include a Mithraeum (admission 5 euros).

If you are feeling more energetic, the uphill just to the left of the Via Labicana is the Via della Domus Aurea. It should lead to an entrance to the excavations of the Domus Aurea (walks card #28), open for guided tours (by appointment) Tues-Fri 10am-4pm for 6 euros. (06 3996 7700).

And then either catch a taxi or back downhill to the Coliseum for the ride to dinner.

I’m putting the uphill walk at the end of this trip because I am considering it optional. If you want to change that priority, we can put it first by taking transit to the Coliseum and then immediately catching a taxi. And then walking down the hill to the Forum/Coliseum.

And then an early night.

This is a slightly more laid back day. If you are antsy in the morning, I recommend a stroll around the Borghese gardens or the Spanish steps. Possibly even the nearby Piazza Navona (walks card #12-13), full of bustling tourism with cafes and shops.

We’ll want an early lunch (11ish-11:30) so that we can comfortably be back at the hotel by 1:30pm.

At 2pm, we’ll be waiting for a shuttle pick up before going on a tour of the Roman Countryside.

Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel

The 116 bus starts right by your hotel, jiggles all around the city. And then ends at the Vatican Museum. It should be a fun ride.

And then in the evening, we can catch the 116 bus across the river. We’d get off the bus right after it turns off the Lungotevere, to a small road, and then onto the Via Giulia.

And then go to La Taverna Di Martin for dinner

Then we can go back to the Via Guilia and walk along it (walk card #39) touristing until we are tired of walking. The 116 runs all along the street, and goes back very close to the hotel. After the stop we got off, the next pick up is between Via di Sant’Aurea and Via della Barchetta.

I vote we grab one of the on/off buses and take a full loop around and see what we’ve missed.

We can catch more of the Forum. We can hit the Jewish area (walk card #30) and Isola Tiberina (walk card #31). All sorts of fun.

There’s also the Piazza del Quirinale and the Trevi Fountain (walk card #7)

Get picked up very early in the morning for the Tivoli trip.

national holiday this day, so many things will be closed

I say we leave the day open for a) wandering the gardens, b) wandering the city, c) getting massages, or d) something else suggested by the concierge. Possibly a day of napping.

If we haven’t yet had a day of rain, than this is the day for the Pantheon (walk card #9-10). Even on holidays, they should be open 9am-1pm. And if they aren’t holding to a holiday schedule, then they should be open until 7:30pm.

early night

leaving early in the morning for Pompeii


A very early plane departure. Make sure that by Saturday, we have made shuttle/taxi reservations.

leaving Fiumicino (BA2545) at 07:30 Tuesday
arriving Gatwick 09:10 Tuesday


leaving Heathrow (BA0069) at 16:15 Tuesday
arriving PHL 19:30 Tuesday

Things not on this specific list:
Ara Pacis

Info about riding the bus


Perhaps Rome?

   Posted by: Livia N

had the opportunity to go is more likely to have been the walking type, but otherwise I’m stuck trusting random reviews from internet sites.

Actually, a good link for comparative tour reviews would also be helpful.


Burlington, VT

   Posted by: Livia N

Okay, Burlington People:

So I’m having trouble getting student coverage at work for the week of vacation. Because instead of starting the first week of September, this school has decided to start classes two days before I had my vacation planned (what do you mean it’s my fault for not checking since the academic calendar is posted three years ahead?). Erm… so I might be trimming my vacation a little.

Here’s the plan. I’m taking off work on Friday. And we are driving up as far as Connecticut and staying the night.

Saturday (9/12), we are driving to Burlington, and I’ll be checking into my swanky B&B. My parents and I will be going out somewhere delicious for dinner, if you have any recommendations and/or want to meet up then. I’m also taking sight seeing suggestions for that day. After dinner (say by 7-8pm-ish), my parents will probably turn into pumpkins, and I’ll be free.

Sunday (9/13) – Sunday brunch with parents is a must. Noon to 5pm, we’ll take a bus tour of close bits of Vermont. 5:30-10:30pm – there are various opening ceremonies and mediocre cocktails parties with the conference. I can go or skip.

Monday (9/14) – I think I want to find somewhere to do fancipants yoga on Monday morning. And my mother and I are free for an excursion. I’m thinking King Arthur Flour over in Norwich (1 hour away, if we don’t get lost). What else is out that way? Want to come with/guide us? And then we have to be back by 5pm because there’s a dinner cruise on the lake at 6pm. It’s my mother’s birthday.

Tuesday (9/15) – will I have had time to hang out with you by then? If so, I’m going to go ahead and book a 9am train back to philly. If not, I’ll spend Tuesday socializing and go home on Wednesday. Let me know so I can adjust train/hotel reservations as necessary.

Other things to do:
Shelburne Museum
Vermont Country Store


Waverly Farmers’ Market

   Posted by: Livia N

I love my local farmers’ market. That said, I get very excited whenever I have a chance to visit Baltimore and go to the one in Waverly.

There are a wide variety of prepared foods – from the Curry Shack to the mango sticky rice vendor. Oh, and there was a woman there this last time whose soups looked delicious, but I was on my way to brunch after.

My prepared food purchase this trip was some granola. I wandered over to Michele’s Granola and was drawn to taste the Ginger Hemp, and didn’t even bother to try to others before buying. The ginger flavor could be more pronounced and I would still be happy. But it’s gluten free, so it’s fully of many different seeds and toasted coconut, and it has this nice woody taste. I’ve been especially enjoying mixing it with dried cranberries.

And then I bought butter. Seriously, I’ve been wanting to gush about this farmers’ market for about two weeks now, but I held off because I wanted to make sure I had bought my butter first. Sometimes they sell out. South Mountain Creamery makes the tastiest butter in the world. It’s made with pure cream, and they estimate that it’s 42% butterfat. I buy the salted version, and it’s prenty salted and perfect. There are times when I have been tempted to just dive facefirst into the container of butter it is so good. For Passover, there’s usually some need to change things up a bit for the bland boring breakfasts – maybe some matzoh brei or matzoh meal pancakes. Oh, no – I just went through a couple pounds of matzoh with nothing but this butter and considered it a luxury indulgence. So good!

There’s also a woman who goes to the farmers’ market who sells fresh peas and beans. I woke up extra special early so that I’d be able to get there before she sold out (there’s usually a line and swarming and it’s not pretty), only she wasn’t there. I brought a cooler for her peas! I guess I’ll have to hope the season hasn’t passed by the next time I’ll be in the area (mid June-ish).

I did catch the guy who was there selling nothing but his fresh asparagus picked that morning.

What else? There’s one produce vendor who is more awesome than the many awesome produce vendors, but I have no idea his farm’s name, so I can’t link you to him. He’s a real sweetheart, though.

And the people with the ginger and the salsas are always very patient with my taking many delicious samples but never buying anything. Though in the dead heat of summer, their ginger drink will sustain you though your shopping.

And the mushroom people! Wide varieties of fresh mushrooms! I’ve never had a mushroom dish planned, so I’ve never bought from her because I was afraid of wasting the expensive fungus. Maybe, you know, planning around buying mushrooms wouldn’t be a bad idea sometime in the future.

Oh, and there was a new guy! He had his big copper kettle and was popping popcorn right there. It seemed an odd thing to pay for when I have only recently discovered the joys of popping my own, but a friend of mine was telling me that she loves his product and that it keeps for over a week.

So, yeah, I make excuses to see my friends in Baltimore so that I can schedule trips to the farmers’ market.



   Posted by: Livia N

I just got back from a Women in Media conference in Boston. And I ate delicious food there.

We changed venues to the Radisson Hotel in the theater district. And – wow! – what a hotel. Aside from one concierge who sent me off a mile and a half looking for a PNC bank ATM, only to find that it was a CitiBank building (Fail!), all of the staff was generous and helpful. They had sleep number beds, which while I can sleep on anything so I don’t know about quality they sure were hilarious. They had showers I could marry: the bathtub was wide and deep enough to fully relax and submerge and supported your head comfortably while lounging and I am not a small person, but this was the best tub ever. And the shower head also provided just the right spray, and the water was hot forever. I would move in to this hotel.

Oh, and the hotel restaurant, the Theatre Cafe, had good food, too. I only ate Sunday breakfast there, but I heard several people at the conference exclaiming over the delicious soups available. So for breakfast I had the buffet, and for $16 it really should have had eggs to order. So overpriced, yes. The scrambled eggs, however, were surprisingly tasty steam table eggs – they were juicy without being wet. And they had the best breakfast potatoes ever (not hyperbole) – small wedges with the skin still on, onions, peppers, and the best combination of texture and flavor (soft, melting in the mouth, with still some texture and a hint of crispiness – I know that sounds undistinguished, but it was surprisingly addictive). Plump sausages and crispy bacon. I skipped the pancake and waffle option. But I did get a biscuit when they put out fresh after we were already full to bursting – and I ate it all because it was buttery and crumbly and had a simple sausage gravy that was equal to the best I’ve had. The fresh fruit (standard cantaloupe, honeydew, pineapple, and watermelon) was tucked away in a corner, but was surprisingly flavorful for early spring. The pastries were the only disappointment – they were a bit stale tasting and not even slightly flakey. Note that I used the word surprising frequently – the buffet did not look promising at all through the window, and I had originally planned to try somewhere else, but the rest of my group was eating there, and I easily succumb to peer pressure.

Also, the hotel was directly opposite a Legal’s Seafood, a food court, and a whole bunch of other tasty restaurants. My group had packed a lot of food because the previous venue had very few eating options, but I ended up abandoning the cheap route in favor of trying new places.

Friday night, however, I took the T to Porter Square to meet my sister and brother-in-law at an old favorite, Elephant Walk (who seems to have uglified their webpage, but trust me that this is an elegant place). I had a special of duck and eggplant over napa cabbage in a light green curry and coconut sauce. The flavors were light and sparkling. I have yet to have anything bad from their menu.

Saturday lunch – P.F. Chang’s Despite being a chain, seemed like the perfect destination for a bunch of women who had only just met. The lunch bowls were tasty, but unexceptional. The sides, however, were amazing. I ordered the spinach stir-fried with garlic, and was glad to eat all that was left after it was passed around the group. Someone else ordered the spicy green beans, and I had to fight hard not to take all of hers, too. Next time, just sides! We were delighted by the $2 dessert shooters, but I sent back my great wall of chocolate when I found that it was contaminated with raspberry coulis – seriously, people, the 90s are over and we don’t need raspberries in everything chocolate.

Saturday dinner – Tantric. So when I was heading back from Friday’s dinner, I noticed this restaurant, but I couldn’t figure out whether it was a swanky nightclub or a bar for trendy trendsters, but there didn’t look like there was anyone in there eating or being unattractive, so I wrote it off. Luckily, my friends did not make this first impression and I am easily swayed. We were close to 5pm going to dinner, and there weren’t many people in the restaurant at that hour, which was wonderful. We had very generous service – not only did I easily persuade someone to leave us a pitcher of water, but also they kept coming by trying to refill our glasses. And people stopped by three or four times to make sure we were enjoying our food. And, boy, were we ever! Since I hadn’t budgeted on going out to eat this much on this trip, I ordered the soup of the day: tomato coconut. This was a lucky thing, too, because it was delightful. I have no idea how to make this soup, but it was a bit like a really comforting cream of tomato but with coconut and lemongrass flavors perking it up and making it almost delicate. Genius! My compatriots ordered Muttar Paneer (Mmmm! buttery), Chicken Vindaloo (delightfully spicier than most American restaurants), Uttapam (ordered by a woman who remembered it fondly from her year in (I think it was) Malasia and she was not disappointed), and a dosa (masala dosa, perhaps) (it was huge, as always, and served rolled in a cigar-shape instead of a cone. The slice I had was delicious and filling). I recommend this restaurant, and I plan to try their lunch buffet in two years when the conference returns… hmmm… though another shot at their soup would be good, too.

Sunday lunch – Maggiano’s. Another chain. Actually, I was wandering around Boston looking for an ATM for most of the lunch break, but I ended up* meeting people just as their food came. One of my friends was kind enough to split her huge eggplant parmesan with me. It was food and the company was lovely, but it was mushy and not exceptionally tasty.

*So after taking the T back, I decided to save time meeting up with people by hailing a cab. Only I didn’t have any cash because the ATM mission was a failure. Did you know that most cabs in Boston are not capable of taking credit cards? How are they more behind Philly? My city rocks. Anyway, the second cab I hailed ended up offering to drive me for free! Yay Boston! He was a sweetie.

Sunday dinner – Montien – a thai restaurant near the hotel. I ordered crispy Pad Thai because I had never had it before. Again, I was late to pop in, so I did not read the menu carefully when ordering. Sadly, crispy pad thai does not mean that they take the finished dish and fry it a bit in a hot skillet – no, it means they substitute delicious noodles for little crispy ones like you use to top salads. 🙁 And without a mess of hot noodles, the bean sprouts stayed quite crispy and didn’t meld into the dish at all. On the other hand, the other three dishes I tasted from the table were all excellent: Pineapple fried rice (not much pineapple, but the dark raisins in the rice surprised everyone by being just a mellow dark flavor of awesome without being obtrusive), tamarind duck (so I love duck, and I totalyl should have ordered this dish! – lots of slices of duck with very little sauce), Salmon Choo Chee? (I think this was the salmon dish. delicious!). The thai iced teas were only average. And I missed the appetizer course

Sunday dessert – Finale – Instead of staying at the thai restaurant for dessert, we went on a quest for a sexy dessert place one of my friends had passed earlier in the day. Instead of sitting down, we decided to go over the bakery side and get small things we could take back to the hotel. It seemed like all of their chocolate items had coffee incorporated in some form, so I just went for a hot chocolate – especially after I saw that their traditional bittersweet hot chocolate was made with Valrhona Equatoriale. Yes, it was as good as it sounds. Sinful and subtle and just the right balance of bitter and sweet. Other people had the lemon tart (butter to which lemon happened – pure hedonism made for tea), and a crème brûlée that’s the best one I’ve had on this coast. Seriously, Washing state has spoiled me for crème brûlée anywhere else – no matter what restaurant we went to there, always amazing crème brûlée. Finale was not quite as good, but it had the excellent quality cream and it had the temperature almost perfect (i.e. not cold, people!). It was delicious even if it was in a cheap aluminum tin. Ignore the packaging and indulge!


Back home

   Posted by: Livia N

Just spent the last fortnight in the UK.

Quick overview:
Fly into London (Heathrow) Dec.25 – plan to take rail to Birmingham – find out that the entire national rail service shuts down (and just assumes you know it will be shut down, so no special notice) on Christmas Day – rent a car – drive to Birmingham – return car – train to Llandudno (middle of the coast of northern Wales) – see some sights in northern Wales – train to Cardiff – train to London – see fireworks over the Thames for New Year’s Eve – toodle about London for a few days – fly home

Because I blew my budget on renting a car and buying shoes (they have wider lasts and just more comfortable shoes), I was very conservative on the eating front.

I highly recommend meusli for the traveling diet. All I had to pack was a liquid-tight container. Once abroad, I bought rolled oatmeal, dried dates, and a fruit and nut trail mix – all for about £3.50 (and that lasted through the entire fortnight, as more than half of my dinners). And then the refrigerated ingredients (milk and orange juice) came free with even the simplest breakfasts served in the hostels on my trip.

I did indulge in hot chocolate. But after spending the last year or so figuring out my favorite hot chocolates, I found that Cadbury’s powdered cocoa wasn’t something I enjoyed. No matter how strong I tried to make it, I could never quite get it to taste like chocolate – only leave a lingering chocolate feel on my tongue. Oddly enough, my favorite hot chocolate in the UK was found at a chain restaurant called Pizza Express; I asked the waiter what brand of cocoa they served, and he said it was Abyss (but I did not see any packaging to confirm that I am linking to the right company).

So, yeah, speaking of Pizza Express – it’s a crappy name because it sounds like some sleazy pizza joint on the corner, but it’s a fairly decent restaurant, even if it is a chain that I saw everywhere I traveled. The first time I ate there, I had cannelloni. It was very tasty, with rich sauces, but for some reason it was filled with ricotta and spinach instead of a surprise mixture of meat, but it was very tasty nonetheless. I sopped up the sauce with the dough bits and their sexy garlic butter (ended up being much tastier than the proper garlic bread looked). And they had a special running for your next meal in the new year, so I ate their again later in the trip and got a proper pizza. They do two styles of pizza: Romana and classic – “Our Romana bases are stretched thinner, making your pizza bigger and crispier, so the bold flavours really stand out.” So I tried the thin, crispy kind topped with “goat’s cheese, spinach and red onion with tangy caramelised onion confit and a drizzle of garlic oil” (Padana). The toppings did soak through the crust a bit, but I folded the soft parts over the crispier parts toward the outside and got good bites of tastiness all the way around.

I refused to eat at another chain that was usually near the same locations: Gourmet Burger Kitchen. The cheapest burger on the menu was £6.80, and most were over £8, and that’s just crazy talk.

I did have a good burger in Cardiff Bay at a bar called Salt. I ordered a mozzarella & mushroom burger, topped with sweet tomato chutney & crisp salad. First of all, I was thinking a portabella mushroom cap – but it was minced mushroom and cheese all balled together, breaded, and fried. And the bun and the patty all formed a spherical shape. But once you mushed it down and gave up on the idea of health food, it was very tasty. I did laugh when I had to ask for salt for my chips. Oh, but the best part was the salad. Okay, so it was just a pile of lettuce that you could put on your burger, but it was interesting lettuce – and green – and tasty. And I’d been feeling a little green vegetable deprived. So instead of dessert, I ordered a bowl of that lettuce with a bit of balsamic vinegar. It was awesome.

Speaking of green vegetable deprived… so there I was in northern Wales, and I took a bus (because not only were the trains not running on Christmas Day, but this little line gave up on running the Sunday after Christmas Day, too) down to Dolwyddelan, had a lovely short hike, and went to a pub for Sunday Lunch. I was given a choice of lamb or chicken and then offered a seat on a cozy leather couch by the fire in the pub because the dining room was a bit smoky as they were still building up the fire in that room. I chose the lamb. And when I was presented with the lamb and fresh veg, it was definitely what you think of as stereotypical UK food. The lamb was very tender, and had a lovely salty sauce (with a side of a thin mint sauce). There was a yorkshire pudding on the side. And each seasonal vegetable (diced potatoes, mashed potatoes, mushy peas, parsnips, rutabega, carrots, turnips) had been cooked separately, with love, just to the point of complete mushiness. Very much like the southern way my mother used to cook vegetables, only she started from frozen, instead of fresh. But, hey, it was warm and tasty and very soothing, even if I did get a smile over it not being what we consider gourmet.


New York People

   Posted by: Livia N

It looks like my aunt’s apartment might be full on the weekend of November 9th, and I’ll need somewhere to sleep.

The reason I’m not staying with my grandmother is that I have a lot planned that weekend, and she’ll end up worrying about me getting home late.

Plus, I am hoping to stay somewhere closer to the 92nd street Y than Battery Park. This would be especially helpful Sunday night (and then I can leave bright and early Monday morning).

my schedule for that weekend

  • morning – Chocolate Show – starts 10am – 711 12th Avenue and 55th Street
  • evening – The Seagull – starts 8pm – Walter Kerr Theatre, 219 West 48th Street


  • morning – spending time with ex. Had planned to go to the Met because it’s close to my aunt’s, but that can change – open hours – 9:30am-5:30pm
  • evening – Neil Gaiman – 20th Anniversary of Sandman – 7:30pm – 92nd Street Y, 1395 Lexington Avenue
  • – (note: this event does not seem to be sold out!)

And, yeah, I have no idea whether the Neil Gaiman thing will be a 2 hour event or a 4 hour one, so that’s why I’m not sanguine on hopping on a bus right after – or trekking way far downtown.

If you can’t help, do you know anyone who can?


Hell’s Kitchen

   Posted by: Livia N

No, not the one in New York.

A bit before the third Lord of the Rings movie was publicly released, I went to Minnesota to visit an internet friend and see the third movie. And while there was a lot of good food on that trip, some delightful culture (highbrow and lowbrow – including a delightfully communal book arts center), and some wonderful people – the one thing that really stuck (other than how much I wish to see that same friend again – because she’s amazing) was this restaurant we went to for breakfast near the end of the visit (because if it had been earlier in the visit, I might have attempted another meal there).

Now before I talk about this restaurant, let me assure you that fine dining in the twin cities is an art form. In fact, I don’t think I have been anywhere else that has taken the business lunch to such a high art form that most restaurants have black and white cloth napkins so that they can match the color to blend in with your suit pants, be they khaki or pinstripe.

So – Hell’s Kitchen

Full of kitsch. Not only is it full of hellish glee, but for breakfast all of the servers are attired in their pajamas and other nightclothes. And they seemed happy.

There were some hard choices on the breakfast menu. My friend chose the Lemon Ricotta Hotcakes, and they were some of the finest pancakes I have ever stolen off of someone’s plate. I tried something completely out of character. I mean, I’m a bagel girl – I think everything breakfasty tastes better on top of a bagel. If I’m getting an omelet, it’s going to be cut into little bites and mushed into the cream cheese on top of my bagel. You get the idea.

Instead, I decided to be daring and I tried the hot cereal. No, really. Well, not really, since it wasn’t really oatmeal or farina or grits. Nope, it was rice. Wild rice with roasted hazelnuts, dried blueberries, sweetened cranberries, heavy cream, and maple syrup on the side. And this converted me to the warm cereal side of the cold morning breakfast side of the force.

It’s almost cold enough to be fixing this – and I’ve got some wild rice in the pantry and a recipe that needs some cranberries coming up.


I *walked* all over New York City

   Posted by: Livia N

I <3 the Chinatown bus
I did the usual routine of betting on a crosstown bus and then walking to chinatown and buying a ticket to NYC. But when I got on the bus, it was a strange and new experience – apparently, my usual bus line had all shiny new buses! So new that the registration sticker was still taped to the window. And not just bought used – so new that the upholstery was clean and the floor not sticky. The air conditioning even worked!

I am carefully not mentioning that because of some delivery in the cargo area, we were dropped off three blocks away from the usual depot – luckily, this was not my first trip to the area, so I was not lost.

What is more, they capped the bus right before I had someone sit next to me, so I was able to shift my hiking pack (which I hadn’t checked because I might have gotten out in Tribeca, before they unload the luggage racks) over to the other seat. I got in some quality napping time, since I’d been up late procrastinating on the packing.

Fast… as in speedy
Yeah, so I am going to visit my grandmother, but I don’t want to spend Yom Kippur at religious services and then going over to relatives for a big, awkward meal… so I mention that I have weekend time to kill to a friend that I’ve been wanting to spend more time with. And it is agreed that this is a brilliant plan.

The plan: little coffee shop in Tribeca at 3pm

So my travel time all depends on how I hit the bus schedules and wait times and has taken up to 4 hours… and I might occasionally be a bit compulsive (I think this is because I haven’t worn a watch for years and so I have to work at making sure I am on time for things – the times I have worn a watch, I have checked it almost constantly just to see how my scheduling is going). So… leaving the house at 10:30. Of course, I hit everything perfectly and end up making a phone call around 12:30 saying, “The bus is at Jersey City now… and it’s raining… do you still want to hike over to Tribeca or should I come to you?”

The answer is, “Well I’m running errands in Chinatown right now. We can meet here. Only I’m in an area of Chinatown that is far from where you are.”

Okay, so that totally should not have been in quotes because it took two or three last-minute phone calls to re-work The Plan, but it went well. And then there were two or three additional phone calls going, “Okay, so I am walking either west or north on Canal Street… I think I’m headed toward Mulberry. Does that sound right?”

And then:
“I am at the intersection of Canal and Mulberry”
“So am I”
“Apparently there’s a street fair here today.”
“So where in the intersection are you?”
“I’m almost *in* the intersection. I’m standing at the point of the police line barriers.”
“Turn to the left. Turn some more. Hee! You’re the person turning in circles.” (my real conversation partner was much more polite, but this is a story)

So we meet, and we decide to eat lunch, even though my friend has already eaten, because I haven’t had food yet (because I didn’t have to kill time waiting for the bus). And, of course, neither of us is in the mood for Italian. We end up at a Thai and Vietnamese restaurant where I should have spent more time sampling goodies (their summer rolls looks very tempting, but I went for something quick and simple (chicken with lemon grass and stuff) and also quite tasty.

Then we decide that we shall still walk up to the coffee shop since my friend hasn’t tried it before, and I have given assurances that it isn’t as silly and frilly as its website suggests. At the coffee shop, we share a freshly made crepe filled with freshly purchased (really, we waited for it) Nutella. Good stuff!

My friend then suggested that we seek out an amazing New York department store full of bargains, which we did only to find out that it was closed for Yom Kippur. There were still plenty of people lined up and eager to sell us handbags, watches, and sunglasses, all out of briefcases.

The store was right across the street from the World Trade Center site, so I asked to walk on that side of the street to see whether there was a viewing platform or temporary memorial. I haven’t been to the site before because it always seemed creepy to go out of m way to visit. On the other hand, six years later, it’s now mostly like any other construction site except for a small area. I was expecting there to be a bit on the history as a memorial, but mostly it was the kind of architectural showcase you get for any flashy new construction, with diagrams of the bold new future. And then there were a few, clearly sketchy, people either trying to make money by selling postcards of the towers when they were standing, or asking for donations, or just pontificating on some incomprehensible religious point with a bible in one hand.

Yeah, so. To the subways! To the Bronx!

Beer, music, and conversation
I’ve never been to the Bronx before, but what I saw was nothing like I pictured – hills and trees and single story buildings (the stores more than the apartments, of course).

We went up a winding and tree-lined road, up steps with greenery all around, and past areas that looked cut into stone… not what I expected from New York at all.

As it got later, we changed into bar appropriate clothes, and headed out on a “ten minute walk” up hill and down and curvy a bit sideways to a small Irish pub, where we sat at the bar and ordered beer. I wasn’t too sure about a beer with as clearly local a name as Brooklyn Oktoberfest, but it was just the sort of beer I like: brown and with flavor. Their food is surprisingly good for such a limited menu. My burger was up there as possibly the best restaurant burger I have ever had, and the wings were rather tasty, too. If I ever go there again, though, I think I have been persuaded to try the chicken curry.

And there was live music. So background – my mother always winces at the prospect of live music, and I’ll admit that my experience has more often than not been that the music would have been halfway decent if only the volume had been more appropriate to a small room than an amphitheater. I was especially worried to see the 6 person band setting up 8-10 instruments, including a drum set and a small brass section. No, really, there was one guy playing the saxophone; one guy playing the trumpet; one guy playing drums; one guy playing the tuba; one guy playing the guitar, banjo, manjo, and singing; and one guy playing keyboard and french horn… sometimes simultaneously (okay, so that last part might have been an exaggeration). They were smushed up against the far wall, and I probably could have kicked them from my seat at the bar. Disaster, right?

They were good! It was never too loud. The sounds all blended, and the guy writing the songs had worked them to really suit the sound of his voice. The sound was like a cross between 40s brass bands and early blues. The Woes (warning: link plays music at you)

We ended up chatting with some of the newer members of the band, and it turns out that most (all?) of them have graduated from music programs and are pretty serious about the career. And then we spent a bit talking about Missouri, funny tales from being an ER, and mocking Newark, NJ. I did most of the mocking, but I’ve spent much of my life getting indoctrinated in New Jersey jokes, and he kept setting them up perfectly.

At 2am, we packed it in and went home and promptly turned into pumpkins.

walking and shopping
I thought I was doing pretty well waking up at 7ish (maybe 8ish), but my host had already been out and had a run!

After breakfast, we went for a quick “ten minute walk” to the grocery store. It was a lovely market that cleverly had a wonderful selection of cheeses cut up for tasting, so I had something with which to pass the time. I almost bought some heavenly gorgonzola, but then I thought about walking all over warm New York with it getting slowly riper and riper. Just a sandwich for me.

“Hi, Grandma. I’m totally just leaving my house for New York as we speak.”
After lunch, I called my grandmother and told her I was about to get on the Chinatown bus. 🙂 Then I packed up and headed off for the subway.

I ended up back in Tribeca too early, so I popped into a cute little quaint restaurant full of characters and gayity for a scone and lemonade in a jam jar.

Not much happened on Sunday other than catching up and asking after all the great grandchildren.

Movie: Monsoon Wedding
I can see why everyone raved about this movie when it came out: it touches on a lot of issues, and yet it treats them all with respect and tenderness. I liked that not every single word was in english was subtitles… and that some of the english words were. All in all, it was pleasing, but didn’t need too much thought on my part.

Yeah, I am cutting from this tale the long and involved details of spending time with my grandmother. You’re welcome.

Movie: Eastern Promises

If I have not mentioned to you that I have finally found an OTP for the LOTRPS fandom, you are probably lucky. Still, let me exclaim: Viggo Mortensen/David Cronenburg = OTP! OMG!

So with that in mind, Eastern Promises is David Cronenberg’s love song to Viggo Mortensen. I mean, History of Violence was great and fit Viggo wonderfully, but it didn’t feel as though it had been specifically crafted to show off Viggo’s assets. Eastern Promises, however, took everything that is awesome about Viggo, and packaged it all together (well, maybe he missed the random artistic side, but still).

Check out the IMDB trivia page for Viggo being a crazy intense method actor. And this role just needed that kind of thing. The movie is just full of violent subtle tensions, with Viggo’s character sliding into and through them.

Naomi Watts’ character was also lovely, but once I was already comparing this movie to History of Violence it was almost impossible to distinguish her character from the one played in that movie by Maria Bello.

I meant to work in excuses to link to these youtube videos, but you can just go look and enjoy.

Fancy Brooklyn
Then I met up with my cousin and relocated to her house in Brooklyn because I was going to see a play at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

An hour ahead of the play, so I started to find my way to the theater.

Touristing by means of coffee houses
I cut up to Atlantic Avenue and walked along there, killing time. I popped into a promising looking coffee shop and ended up not getting coffee at all. I had a pineapple & ginger drink and orange cake.

Then, I thought I had spent too much time there, so I hurried to the theater… only to be plenty early and have to sit around there talking to some random woman from the suburbs of New York who insisted that I really should go to the theater and the opera more often since it was just wonderful. Thanks.

Play: King Lear
So up in the nosebleed section of the Brooklyn Academy of Music‘s Harvey Theater the seats are more uncomfortable that medieval torture. I checked with the line of trim gay boys behind me, and they found the seats agonizing as well, so it wasn’t just my ass. Luckily, however, I was on the end of an aisle and there was a little niche made by the curve of the steps so that I could stand up during the performance without blocking the stairs or anyone’s view. But it wasn’t possible to stand for the whole three hours. (which means that if I am seduced by Macbeth with Patrick Stewart, it would only be if a better tier of seats happened my way. No way in hell am I ever sitting in that section of that theater again)

King Lear, however, was rather impressive. Apparently they decided to do the whole play uncut, and then they decided it wasn’t long enough, so they had this dramatic prologue where the King and his court processed onto the stage to dramatic music, and then everyone knelt to him, and then everyone left. It was very pretty – and dramatic.

This production was afflicted by a syndrome common to productions of Shakespeare – in which the lines become far more important than the message and all of the wittiness gets driven out with the goal of presenting this *lofty work*. Even the jester (played by Sylvester McCoy) had trouble being comedic.

I’d say there were three impressive performances:

(1) Sir Ian McKellen (of course!). He really went for it all with vigour. When he dropped trou, it was completely called for in the script, and it was very impressive. When he had to weep, it was convincing. And then after 3 intensive hours, he carried in the female lead – carried! – and held her aloft for at least a minute while he talked.

(2)Frances Barber, playing Goneril, was a wonderfully keen and plotting woman

(3)Philip Winchester – Oh my god! He really stole the show. He was quick and wicked and just having fun with being malicious, and the actor really played up the role perfectly. He was exciting enough that I would be willing to seek out movies just because they starred him.