Books · food · Life · travel

New York/BookCon 2019 Weekend (part 2)

Earlier in the week I told you all about the amazing time I had at BookCon this year, but I didn’t get to tell you about the rest of my fabulous weekend in New York. I’m sure I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. I love New York City – the sights, the sounds, the people, the endless amount of things to see and do, and (most of all) THE FOOD. I could have easily spent the rest of my week there and still wouldn’t have been ready to come home.

I arrived Friday morning and made a beeline for Chelsea Market, which, in my humble opinion, is one of the best food/shopping halls in the country. While I was there I downed a huge bowl of delicious, thick hand-pulled noodles with cumin-lamb sauce, immediately followed by a black-and-white cookie (a childhood favorite of mine). Definitely not a bad start to my trip.

After checking onto my AirBnb I spent several hours wandering the streets of the city, hitting up old favorites and new places that I wanted to check out. One of my favorites was a bookstore called Kinokuniya. The bottom floor was filled with nothing but books in Japanese and a huge selection of stationary and Asian-themed gifts. The second floor was packed with English books of every genre, including tons of Japan-focused books (the cookbook section was amazing!). The top floor was packed with nothing but English and Japanese language manga, graphic novels, and anime. If there weren’t a dozen other places I wanted to visit, I would have easily spent half of my day in that store.

That night I ate Japanese curry and paid a visit to one of my favorite bakeries, Bibble & Sip, where I got a white chocolate-matcha cream puff, plus Totoro and Lucky Alpaca macarons.

BookCon took up most of my days on Saturday and Sunday. When I wasn’t hanging out with all the other book nerds, I was eating more delicious food and simply enjoying my surroundings. By the time Monday morning rolled around I was tired from all the walking and adventures, but it was worth every minute (and calorie). 🙂

Books · Favorites · food · Non-Fiction

Book Review: Buttermilk Graffiti by Edward Lee

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My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

According to Chef Lee, the best way to get to know someone is to eat the food that they eat. Not only do you learn about their personal tastes, but you develop a deeper connection to them and where they came from. This is exactly the notion that Lee chased when he began travelling all over the country, in search of American immigrants and the food and stories that they bring to the table.

In Buttermilk Graffiti we’re introduced to Lee and his own background as a Korean American chef with one foot in the deep South, the other firmly rooted in his family heritage. On his journey he takes us everywhere from New Orleans to learn about beignets, Connecticut to learn about smen, West Virginia to sample slaw dogs, and Louisville for some down-home goodness. And that’s only the beginning. The point of his journey was not only to taste delicious foods, but to learn about how they’ve evolved, if at all. How did authentic Korean food come to be in Montgomery, Alabama? How did Brighton Beach become a haven for Russian immigrants? At times, the answers he recieveonly inspire a dozen more questions.

Sometimes he’s the odd man out, other times he blends in flawlessly. That’s both the beauty and (sometimes) ugliness of American culture. Throughout his travels, Lee gives a voice to the other odd ones out, the ones who have much to say, share, and cook about. The ones who so seldom actually get a voice.

This was not only an inspiring and creative story about food, but an incredibly insightful look into the lives of who really makes up the melting pot that is America.

Books · food · Life · travel

How YOU doin’?

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It’s been a little while since I’ve posted, so I thought it would be good to check in. I’ve been super busy lately with work, as this is our busiest time of the year. Between the extra hours worked and the stress of it all, I often come home and act like a giant slug in the evenings. Fortunately, we only have about two more weeks of this nonsense and then things should be returning to normal.

Despite the craziness at work, I’ve actually been feeling a lot better lately. I’ve been incorporating some alternate forms of medicine into my routine, plus more daylight hours means I have more capability to get outside and exercise. Winter is a rough time for people with depression, but fortunately I think I’m pulling myself back out of it again.

Boyfriend and I took an overnight trip to Raleigh this weekend for some exploring and shenanigans. The majority of the trip was spent consuming ridiculously delicious food (Morgan Street Food Hall is amazing!) and going to the Museum of Natural Science. Of course, we also paid a visit to one of my favorite independent bookstores, Quail Ridge Books.

 

What I’m currently reading:

Books · food · Life

How You Doin’?

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This have been rough lately. Two people that I know passed away last week, both somewhat unexpectedly. My heart aches for the families and people affected by the loss of both individuals. It’s a very discouraging feeling when you want to help someone who’s grieving, but there’s little you can do other than say “I’m here for you.”

On top of such heavy news, the weight of my own personal issues have been dragging me down quite a bit. My mood has been pretty low lately – the familiar feelings of loneliness, anger, and insecurity brought on by depression settling in the cracks that they had temporarily vacated. As always, my eating disorder likes to sneak appearances in, as well, particularly when (or because) I’m already down. Every morning he rears his ugly little face out from the folds within my closet, or at the edge of the mirror, and whispers nasty things in my ear that make me feel horrible about my appearance and my worth as a human being.

*sigh*

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It hasn’t all been bad, I guess. I went to cat yoga a couple of weeks ago and really enjoyed it. I plan on going back either this week or next and incorporating it into my regular repertoire. I’ve also been working on a new routine for a dance show that’s coming up soon and planning for my solo Spring/Summer trips. Of course, I’ve also been playing around in the kitchen, experimenting with new foods and recipes. There have been multiple trips to the Asian market recently, so I could find new ingredients to play with and to feed my obsession with steamed buns and mochi ice cream.

What I’m Reading:

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How YOU doin’ this week? What are you currently reading or working on?

food · Life

Kiersten Bakes Stuff

You guys know I love to bake. As the former owner/cake baker/master of madness of a small dessert company, obviously my love of all things sweet and carb-y runs deep in my veins. When I’m not reading or writing, I’m either experimenting in the kitchen or obsessively watching the Great British Baking Show, plotting what to make next.

Despite how confident I usually am as a baker, one area that has always intimidated me is yeast doughs. For a long time I absolutely hated making anything with yeast because I felt that they never turned out well. After years of shunning yeast and breads, I feel like I’ve learned enough about the process that I’m beginning to test the waters again. This past weekend I made a successful batch of hot cross buns (with raisins and dried figs) that I was super proud of. Check them out, plus some of the other yummy things I’ve made lately:

Hot cross buns

Banoffee (banana + toffee)  roulade 

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Swedish cardamom buns (another successful yeast recipe!)

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Hazelnut croquets 

Anyone else been creating fun things in the kitchen lately? Tell me about them!

 

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Books · food · Life · travel

New Orleans: Where you Beignet All My Life? (Part 2)

My second day in New Orleans was an early one. I woke with the eager anticipation of a child on Christmas morning, only it wasn’t presents I was looking forward to. It was something better: Beignets! Cafe du Monde had been on my list of places to try for about 15 years now. Yes, it sounds touristy of me to say that one of my favorite things about NOLA was Cafe du Monde, but I don’t care. If there’s something wrong with eating hot, crispy French doughnuts covered in powdered sugar than I sure as hell don’t want to be right.

Strolling around the French Quarter in the morning is quite a different experience than it is during the afternoon/evening. There are less people about, making things a little more laid-back and quiet, which is always preferable. I loved strolling along the canal early in the morning, watching the ferries in the distance while the smell of beignets fresh out of the fryer filled the air. I could certainly use more mornings like that.

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Mid-morning I hopped on a streetcar and rode out to the Garden District. The Garden District has quite a different feel than the Quarter. It’s more of quiet, residential area, with picturesque homes, tree-lined streets, and old cemeteries. The first (and probably my favorite) cemetery I visited was Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. I’ve mentioned before how I’m a little obsessed with cemeteries, especially ones with lots of character. Lafayette was by far one of the coolest cemeteries I’ve ever visited. I took so many pictures that it’s hard to pick out just a few to share!

I even made a friend while I was there. 🙂

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After the cemetery, I paid a visit to another local bookshop, Garden District Books. It was a great shop with a nice variety of genres to choose from. Small as it was, I still probably could have spent a few hours wandering around there. I ventured a few  blocks over to Magazine St., to check out the shops, art galleries, and (of course) the food scene. On my way there I paid a visit to author Anne Rice’s house. (I now realize that I should have gone in the evening to see if I could catch glimpse of any vampires.)

That evening, I took part in a Haunted History tour that took us all around the Quarter, pointing out various locations that were rumored to be haunted by ghosts. I don’t really believe in ghosts, but it was still fun, nonetheless. I enjoyed learning more about the history of the city and hearing about some of the creepy/disturbing things that have happened along the way. (For all you American Horror Story fans: Part of the tour was the infamous Lalaurie mansion, which just so happened to be a couple of blocks from my hotel.) I definitely thought about sleeping with the lights on that night. Hehe.

My last day was filled with more wandering, both in and outside the French Quarter. I was truly amazed that even on day 3, I still came across places I’d yet to discover. There were street performers, musicians, and all manners of folks out and about, simply enjoying the weekend. After spending a few days eating and sight-seeing my way across the city, I was quite sad to leave. I realize now that my original perception about New Orleans was not entirely accurate. New Orleans isn’t just a city where people go to get drunk. It’s a place to celebrate beauty, culture, and the art of being alive.

food · Life · travel

New Orleans: Where You Beignet All My Life? (Part 1)

Greetings, friends! After three exciting, fun, and exhausting days in New Orleans, I am back home.

I’ll be honest with you, I was a tad nervous my first day there, as I always am when arriving in a new city by myself. I wasn’t about to let fear ruin my trip though! After a quick check in at my hotel, I took a stroll around the French Quarter to combat any doubts that had been lingering. Within minutes I was in awe of the beautiful sights the city had to offer and immediately felt more at ease. Everywhere you look in the French Quarter you’ll find stunning architecture and art. Every building, whether a small business or large mansion, is resplendent with balconies and galleries framed in cast iron railings, colorful facades, and arched windows. There are hidden courtyards with tables and chairs, elaborate fountains, and classical statues. Every nook and cranny has as much art and beauty as you’d find in any museum. It’s like stepping back into a piece of history every time you walk down the street.

 

I spent most of my first day just exploring and people-watching. I took a ten minute stroll down Bourbon St. (the famous street in New Orleans where everyone goes to get drunk and party) and quickly decided that it was not my scene. Even while avoiding Bourbon St., I found plenty of things to keep me busy. There’s so much to do in New Orleans, that it’s impossible to even make a dent during just one visit.

 

I paid a visit to Faulkner House Books, the former home of William Faulkner, where he wrote his first novel. It was a tiny little shop, but it was packed floor to ceiling with classics and rare editions. They didn’t have much in the way of the genres I like, but it was still cool to check out anyway. I discovered lots of other fun and quirky shops, the French Market (an airy, outdoor market that was half specialty stalls and half flea market), Jackson Square, the wharf, and, of course, restaurant after restaurant.

For me, no trip is ever complete without me sampling as much of the local cuisine as I can. One of the biggest reasons I’ve always wanted to visit New Orleans is because I’ve heard how amazing the cuisine is. “Amazing” doesn’t even cover it. The food I had there was probably some of the best I’ve ever had. It’s not all about the fancy restaurants either, even a po’boy from the corner deli is carefully crafted and packed with more flavor than you can imagine. I ate SO much during my trip and it was worth every freaking calorie. 🙂

Part 2 to follow!

Books · food · Life · travel

My Weekend in Portland, OR (Part 3)

I’m going to be honest, getting back to work this week was a struggle. I still can’t believe Portland was a whole week ago. 😦

On day 3 of my trip I slept in a little and let myself recover from all the exercise I got the day before. With the time changes and daylight savings happening all at once, my sleep schedule was pretty thrown off. After acquiring coffee and something light to nosh on, I explored the downtown a little bit. That early, before the streets get crowded with tourists, it is quite lovely to look at.

By the time lunch time rolled around I had ventured my way to the Nob Hill/Alphabet District, which was about a mile from where I was staying. The walk there alone was so peaceful with all the pretty old houses and churches, trees, street art, and laid back vibe. The main street was lined with interesting shops and fun food places (and coffee, of course) to check out. I spent some time perusing the main street, but only after I ventured over to my intended stop: Salt & Straw.

Salt & Straw is a super popular ice cream place that I’d been dreaming about for months, almost as much as I was dreaming about doughnuts. They’re known or their homemade, unique flavors. There’s usually one or two “weird” flavors on the list, as well. The menu was creative and there were lots of flavors I wish I could have tried, but sadly my stomach is only so big. The seasonal offerings were all Thanksgiving-themed flavors, including turkey salted caramel. I didn’t want to order a whole scoop of this, but I just knew I had to at least sample it while I was there. (Because where else am I ever going to find turkey ice cream?!) The flavors I actually ordered were sweet potato casserole and almond brittle. Both flavors were delicious, especially the sweet potato! The turkey spoonful that I sampled, however, was quite odd.

After stuffing myself with ice cream I made my way to The Meadow, which was also on my list. The Meadow is a super fun gourmet salt, chocolate, and bitters shop owned by Bitterman Salt Co. As a foodie and former employee of a spice/salt shop, I was super excited to finally check it out. Just look at the walls of chocolate and salt:

 

When I finally ventured back to the Pearl District/downtown area I was in need of something other than dessert, so I headed over to one of the food pod areas. There are various places throughout the city that have food cards and food pods lined up. I love the whole food truck thing, as it’s easy to get to try different types of foods for relatively cheap. I went with a pod called The Eggy Pocket, which sold Jian Bing. Jian Bing is a Chinese street food, consisting of an egg crepe and some kind of filling. Mine had vegetables and Chinese sausage in it. It doesn’t look like much, but it was really good.

I spent my last afternoon sipping on coffee from one of the dozens of local coffee shops in the city. (The counter culture coffee scene there is huge.) Of course, I paid one last visit to Powell’s, as well. I’d share a picture of my final haul, but I actually didn’t get to take one…The store is actually shipping the rest of my books to me because I was running out of room in my bag. Hehe.

I had such an amazing time exploring Portland. I’m already trying to figure out when I can go back and visit (*coughmovetherecough*) because there are still so many other things I want to see/do there. If you’re a book lover/hipster/foodie/artsy type, like myself, you should definitely check it out someday.

(Check out Part 1 and Part 2 here)

Books · food · Life · travel

My Weekend in Portland, OR (Part 2)

Before I write the second post about my Portland excursion, let me just tell you that the post-vacation blues are starting to sink in. It’s always rough returning to reality after spending a few days away, exploring and enjoying yourself. (I want to go back! *sad face*)

I got up early on Saturday and made my way over to one of the local coffee shops to wait for the rest of my tour group. I’m not normally one for group tours, but I really wanted to go see the beauty that the Oregon mountains and the Columbia Gorge had to offer. We visited Multnomah Falls (the tallest waterfall in Oregon), a few smaller waterfalls, Vista House (the fanciest rest stop I’ve ever seen, with the world’s prettiest view), a fish hatchery, and just drove through the amazing Fall scenery of the mountains. It was only a half day trip, but it was a perfect 4 hours.

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After the waterfall tour I returned downtown and fed my grumbling stomach. I’d lie and pretend that I ate something healthy for lunch, but after all that sightseeing and hiking, I needed another doughnut. For my second visit to Blue Star, I tried the pumpkin creme brulee doughnut. (The little syringe sticking out of the top had some kind of boozy cinnamon syrup in it.) Don’t worry, I did eat food other than doughnuts that day. For dinner I headed over to Lardo, a highly recommended sandwich place that I’d been hearing about for months. I ordered a pork meatball bahn mi, which may have been the best damned sandwich I’ve ever inhaled, I mean eaten, in my life.

Of course, on my way back to the Air BnB that night I took a detour to Powell’s again. This was my haul from day 2:

Part 3 coming soon! (Check out part 1 here.)

Books · Life · travel

My Weekend in Portland, OR (Part 1)

Last night I got back from an amazing long weekend in Portland, OR! To be one hundred percent honest, if I wouldn’t be abandoning Boyfriend and my fur babies, I would never have come home. (Obviously, I would have had someone send my books to me. I’m not that crazy.) I fell in love with everything about Portland – the scenery, the people, the food, and the culture. I may or may not have already put the bug in Boyfriend’s ear that we need to move there.

I have so much that I want to share about my trip that I don’t even know where to begin. This will have to be a multi-part post, so bear with me.

Day 1: After a long, early morning flight I arrived in Portland a little after 11:00 a.m. As I wasn’t able to check into my Air BnB until 3:00, I decided to head straight to the downtown/Pearl District area and get a feel for what it was like. Exploring a new city is always such an exciting experience for me; this time was no different. After months and months of planning and reading about Portland, it was interesting to compare the picture in my head to reality. Downtown and the Pearl District were exactly as I expected: like a cleaner, less chaotic, more artsy version of New York. There were so many fun shops and restaurants, and cool street art to look at that I hardly knew what to check out first. My stomach dictated that I look up one of the places on my list and find lunch, so that’s exactly what I did, only to follow up with one of the most important reasons for visiting Portland: DOUGHNUTS.

There are a lot of popular, “must try” doughnut places in Portland, but the one I had my eye on was Blue Star. Blue Star has “doughnuts for grown ups.” Common favorites get fancy, more mature spins on them like the Valrhona Chocolate Crunch, Blueberry Bourbon Basil, Hard Apple Cider, and PB&J (filled with marionberry-habanero jelly). For my first taste, I went with Raspberry-Rosemary Buttermilk…and YES, it was worth every ounce of hype.

After getting situated in my Air BnB and dropped my bags out I headed back to the streets to find my #1 destination: Powell’s City of Books.

It wasn’t hard to find, considering it’s an entire city block. That’s right, an entire block of books. I can’t even begin to describe the excitement I felt when I walked into Powell’s and saw how freaking huge it was. Never before have I seen so many books in one place in my entire life.

There are 4 floors, each consisting of different rooms, which are designated to specific genres. The first thing I saw when I walked in was the cooking section. Row after row of beautiful cookbooks. *swoons* After about 30 minutes I had to force myself away from the cookbooks just to go investigate the rest of the store.

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I’m pretty sure if I did that evening I would have been fine with it. Nothing will ever top that euphoria I experienced when I first explored Powell’s after dreaming about it for so many years.

I wandered around Powell’s for about two hours that first day. I could have stayed even longer, but I already knew I’d be back the next day. This was my first haul:

After Powell’s I ate a delicious dinner at a restaurant that specializes in handmade pastas. After that, I journeyed back to the Air BnB and slept pretty hard. It had been an exhausting, yet super awesome first day of the trip.

Part 2 coming soon! 🙂