Category Archives: USA
My Favorite San Francisco Spots
A few of my friends have headed to San Francisco lately so I’ve been copy/pasting an email lots. I figured I’d just put it on the blog and point folks there. So here goes – some of my favorite places in San Francisco.
- Toronado. One of my top 5 beer bars in the world.
- Rosamunde. Awesome sausage stand next to Toronado.
- Hama Ko. Tiny sushi place that’s celebrated for its food and atmosphere.
- House of Nanking. Chinese place in Chinatown that will make you feel like a local.
- Stinking Rose. Garlic themed restaurant, if you’re into that.
- Bourbon and Branch. It’s a speak easy. The password is “books”.
- Go see a SF Giants, Oakland A’s or SF 49ers game. I wouldn’t recommend going to see the Raiders, though, unless you’re a big fan.
Baltimore for Halloween
Flew into Baltimore for the weekend. I’d never been there before, but figured it’d be a good place to go for Halloween. The forecast earlier in the week was for sunny and mild temperatures. But by the time I arrived it’d been downgraded to cold and rainy, with a chance of flurries. Damn. Oh well, try to make the best of it. I took some notes and some photos and here they are.
Max’s Empanadas in Little Italy is a small lively Argentine joint. Funky music, funky paintings, photos from around the world, and of course Argentine wine. The empanada is a dish I traditionally associate with Mexico, but it makes sense that there would be a broader use of the term. Certainly the dish isn’t local to Latin America – its fried dumplings or gnocchi or pirogi in other parts of the world. Here at Max’s it’s delicious. It seems like a great neighborhood spot and a hidden gem down a side street.
Fell’s Point is an eclectic area. The main street is called Broadway and it is a broad way. Lined with bars and storefronts, it’s a nice place for a stroll. This is THE place to be on Halloween in Baltimore. All the revelers come out in costume to see and be seen. The uniqueness of each costume made identifying the people much easier. So their behavior was made more apparent as they’d hop in one door, out another (many bars seem to have two doors), in again, out again. Like ants into and out of a mound, or like an episode of Benny Hill.
I visited a couple of restaurants in this area and both were good. Lebanese Taverna had a good Halloween party, with proceeds to benefit the Edgar Allan Poe House – a charity dedicated to preserving the legacy of the famous Baltimoron…Baltimorean…Baltemorite…whatever. The food was good, as was the specialty Raven beer, from a local brewery also participating in the event. Obrycki’s Seafood is a great place to get crabs. It’s been popularized by many TV shows and articles on the Internet.
On Sundays, there’s a Farmer’s Market & Bazaar that looks to have some of everything. I particularly enjoyed the Mexican crepes.
Tracking Your Trip With Your Phone
For a while I’ve been trying to find a device that will let me track myself wherever I go to map out my routes. Then when I got an iPhone I figured there’d be an app for that. Google Latitude came close, but no cigar. But I’ve found a great one!
Turns out, my iPhone tracks what cell towers I’m connected to and stores that data on the phone for a year. Well that’s not going to give you GPS-quality coordinates, but it’s certainly enough for me to show a trip I took and map things out roughly. There’s even an app for that (Mac only for now). Here’s where I’ve been in the last year.
There’s apparently a similar cell tower log file on Android-based phones too. This information has apparently been known for a while, but was just brought up and publicized recently as a security or privacy risk. But that risk is pretty low, considering that someone would have to already have your phone or computer to get the information. And if the data helps you do something positive, then it’s a pretty cool feature. I’d love to see Apple build out a service or piece of software that would accentuate this!
…And Back Again
Many readers of this blog will be familiar with my first trip around the world. It was the impetus for starting meanderingwoods to begin with. Well now I’m headed back around the world. I’m leaving in less than a week.
As great as the first trip was, it had one fatal flaw. The direction we took – east to west – sent us traveling with the time zones. When we passed the International Date Line we effectively jumped ahead one day. We continued around and never got that day back. Our bodies ticked off one day less than the calendar. That means we lost a day of our lives in transit. Well I intend to get that day back.
Phileas Fogg had the opposite problem in Around the World in 80 Days – he didn’t realize he’d gained a day. He left from London, heading east. He kept very detailed logs of his journey and it totaled 81 days. But when he arrived home he discovered, to his surprise, that the folks back there thought he’d only been gone 80 days! It’s a bit like time travel, if only on paper.
So that’s what I intend to do. Go from west to east around the world to get back my lost day. Starting in Atlanta I’m flying to Bangalore, India (by way of Amsterdam and Mumbai). Then to Seoul, South Korea with a layover in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Then back around to Atlanta through Detroit, and arrive shortly after I left Seoul. Here are a couple of graphical representations of that trip.
Download the original Power Point presentation.
Stay tuned for details….
Austin Texas – The Culinary Experience
There is quite a lot of good food in Austin. There’s also some not so good. I ate at some of both while visiting.
Heard about a great breakfast spot called Kerbey Lane Cafe. So I headed over and squeezed into a parking spot – it was crowded – and went on in. Got a spot at the bar right away (one of the benefits of traveling and eating alone is you usually get a seat quickly). The bartender was a frenzy of activity. Sunday morning here, as most places, means hair of the dog in the form of mimosas and bloody maries. The guy must have made a hundred of these while I was seated. The bartender never had to pause as he juggled OJ, vodka, coffee, food, and all the other myriad tasks he had to do. Watching him work was worth the price of admission alone. Great food, world class service, inexpensive and very highly recommended.
If you’re out at night on 6th street, it’s worth it to sample some of the street food. That’s one of my favorite styles anywhere and it’s gratifying to see it here where it lacks in so many other American cities. Three patterns stand out among the street food of Austin: pizza, sausage and food trucks. The first two are self-explanatory. And so is the third, really. It’s a pretty simple formula – get an old truck, van, camper, bus or whatever you can find, put a kitchen in it and hang out a sign. They’re all over. Unfortunately the one run-in I had wasn’t good. But then again I went against my better judgement and got some fake buffalo wings. Some kind of fake soy-based chicken-like substance deep fried and tossed in hot sauce. The sauce was good and they were cooked well, but the imposter meat substitute was like juicy sawdust. Steer clear of that abomination and you should be good.
I have to say, I’ve never understood the Texican fascination with barbecued beef brisket. I’ve yet to have any that compared favorably to a better than average pork BBQ. I just don’t get the fascination with it. You take perfectly good steak and don’t cook it like a steak? How is that supposed to be awesome? Maybe it’s an acquired taste to ruin something great, like when the X-Files kept filling their shows with the conspiracy theory stuff. It was just misleading and dull. Kind of like brisket.
But putting my personal feelings aside I tried two of the finer establishments. In beef barbecue that means one was in the middle of a cattle field and the other was at a gas station. No really, that’s not a snarky comment these were the two most highly recommended places in town. The first place I won’t mention, but when you ask around town it’ll be the first place mentioned. I stopped by the one up in Round Rock, just north of the city. My appetizers were the waft of manure that would occasionally waft in and the feast of flesh my eyes got looking at the waitresses and clientele. Both reminded me that just outside Austin, Texas lurks. The ribs were alright but weren’t anything to write about (despite the current activity I’m engaged in). The pinto beans were bland. The cole slaw was essentially shredded cabbage in vinegar. The potatoes au gratin were cold and that’s the best thing I could say about them.
The second place I visited is called Rudy’s Country Store and BBQ. Here too I visited the Round Rock location – where they also serve as a Shell station and convenience store. The highlight was when they asked if I’d eaten there before. I said no and so was pronounced a Rudy’s virgin, entitled to a tasting of their various meats and a walkthrough of the menu and ordering process. It proceeded well and I got to sample some food. I chose my meat – the moist, rather than the lean, cut of brisket, a couple of sides and a Mexican Coke with real sugar. The food was fairly good – the sides were better than the first place and the brisket was tasty. But still after a few bites I found myself wishing they’d made a burger out of it instead.
A couple of places on 6th street I had good luck with I’ve already mentioned when discussing Austin’s nightlife: Jackalope and Casino El Camino. Jackalope has great quesadillas. Casino El Camino has pretty good burgers. Each has great atmosphere.
There’s a place south of 6th where I had a great breakfast, called Crepe Cafe. Run by an authentic Frenchman (in Texas!) who takes pride in his work. Good coffee there too. And lots of French kitch inside. His wife runs an antique store in town, so I’m told.