my take on cars 2

although pixar’s cars was a good movie…i personally felt it was the weakest film in their body of work.  when they announced a sequel, i was disappointed because i felt pixar was only doing it for the money (because cars appeals to the nascar-loving, middle american crowd).

it does make me a feel a little bit better that john lasseter is a part of this crowd and loves cars and the movie itself, but i still see no reason for a sequel.

but still, i planned on watching it because i’m an avid fan and while most sequels can’t compare to the original, pixar has produced sequels that are just as good, or even better, than the originals with the toy story franchise.

pixar has such an amazing track record–consistently producing box-office successes that all score higher than 90% (except cars at 74%, which is still decent), at a total of 11 movies,  is unheard of.  to be honest, i was kind of waiting for when they’d finally “mess up” and i said earlier this year that cars 2 could possibly be that fumble in their otherwise perfect track record.

as cars 2 opens this weekend, i’m choosing not to watch it.  this will be the first time i won’t be watching a pixar movie on opening weekend.  mostly because my gmat is coming up soon and i need to really buckle down so i don’t have to take it a third time (which seems likely at this point).  but also because, cars 2 actually is their fumble…it’s currently at “rotten” with a 40% on rotten tomatoes.  i expected this but i’m still sad.

josh berta over at the design observer is also choosing not to watch cars 2, but he won’t be watching it all, not just opening weekend.  but his reasoning behind that decision is because he feels that cars is too intelligent-design/creationist…i’m not sure if i agree with that.

i read a comment somewhere that said pixar loses out to the “green guy” (shrek and i guess now, rango).

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the weekend in review

** friday 6.17.11 **

MESA

after work, i headed over to mesa (pretty much the only cool lounge in orange county) to have drinks for a co-worker who’s transferring to our singapore office.  i was surprised that even at 5:45 pm, the parking lot in the camp was terrible.  it didn’t take me too long to find parking though.

i had a black cherry lychee martini, which was delicious, and a strawberry caipirinha, which was strong and tasted more like tequila than cachaca rum to me.

it’s been about 2 years or so since i’ve last been inside mesa (i attempted to go for my birthday last month but the line was too crazy).  it’s pretty much the same as i remember except the addition of some tv’s in the lounge area and the bathrooms.  i smelled the sizzling mussel plate every now and then and remembered how tasty it was but our group didn’t order any food.

our group got pretty big, taking up the entire corner of the place…i eventually had to take off early for a friend’s birthday dinner in la.

SON OF A GUN

to celebrate my friend’s birthday, we went out to dinner.  he requested american seafood fare and boyfriend suggested son of a gun in west hollywood (pretty close to little door).  we had a group of 12 so our reservation wasn’t until 10:30.  the restaurant’s pretty small and inconspicuous and had a hipster crowd.  the decor/patrons made me think of lumberjack sailors.

it’s supposed to be family style…although i’m not really sure how that works since the portions are so tiny, how are you supposed to share anything.  the waitress said the average person eats about 2-3 plates each.  we were all excited about the lobster roll after our first encounter with the lobsta truck (which was delicious, but not worth the $13 or freaking long wait) because it’s pretty hard to find that kinda food in socal.  it was priced at $7 and for about half the price of the lobsta truck roll and with rent to pay (vs. a crappy taco truck), we should’ve been prepared for its tiny size.  it was annoyingly cute because of how small it was…like the size of my iphone…with its bulky case on.  it was really good though…i really enjoyed the embedded potato chips.

lobster roll

then, we had the shrimp toast…i took one bite and declared it to be even better than the lobster roll.  most people agreed after their initial bites too.  we got over zealous and ordered more and by the end of the night, most people agreed that they liked the lobster roll more because it was lighter.  even though everything’s tiny, i think the shrimp toast was a good size.  i could eat like 3 lobster rolls and still not be satisfied though.

shrimp toast

i think the rest of the dishes we had were average for the most part: oysters (didn’t have, but they were tiny…like everything else), citrus salad (just looked sad), soft shell crab with bacon, peel & eat shrimp boil (again, didn’t try…but i didn’t hear anyone mention how good/bad it was), bay scallops, niman ranch hanger steak, and the salmon collar.  the only other item that was pretty good was the fried chicken sandwich…i liked the very fried and crunchy chicken.  the chicken sandwich is probably the best bang for the buck because not only is it pretty tasty, it’s massive compared to the other dishes (so like pretty big on a normal scale).

fried chicken sandwich

actually, some of the food seemed to have some asian influence: the shrimp toast had mint and what tasted like hoisin sauce while the salmon collar tasted like something i’d eat at a chinese restaurant.

it was pretty pricey for a rather casual american restaurant, but not terrible.  i’d come back, but stick to the lobster roll or shrimp toast.

as far as cocktails go, i had one sloe gin fizz which i really liked.  boyfriend ordered one too but was embarrassed when they came out all pink and topped with maraschino cherries.

the highlight of the night was the birthday boy’s complimentary “dessert”.  since he didn’t order one, they stuck a candle in…ONE…swedish fish gummy candy.

** saturday 6.18.11 **

U2 360 @ ANGEL’S STADIUM

boyfriend had gotten birthday boy tickets to u2 for his birthday last year, but u2 canceled their tour and it was rescheduled to this year.  although i’m not really a u2 fan, i do enjoy a lot of their songs and had a good time.  lenny kravitz was the opener and although i don’t consider myself a fan, i was surprised by how many songs i liked of his.  this was definitely the biggest concert i’ve been to and was surprised to see that people would actually come early and tail gate.  we sat in the nosebleeds but in the middle.  the u2 stage is 360 so there’s a view no matter where you sit and they like to walk/run/play around the outer ring.

lenny kravitz rocking out

i have to admit…the stage was pretty sweet.  it owns daft punk’s pyramid, sorry boys.

seriously though, i can’t even begin to describe how cool the stage is.  it has 2 bridges that connect the main center stage with the outer ring, which moves; the drum set platform rotates; there’s a woven tv display system that not only moves up and down, but can expand/contract; there are all kinds of lights; it looks like a rocket/dinosaur/monster/octopus tentacles; and my favorite, it can turn into the world’s largest disco!

u2's 360 stage inside angel stadium

bono singing on the movable bridge that connects the stage to the ring

displays contracted

displays expanded

tron-inspired: laser lights & mic with a lit-up jacket-wearing bono

discooooo!

the finale: "with or without you" a la disco

i can’t believe this crazy thing travels on the tour with them.  i heard that it takes workers 3 days to set up/break down everything and that $250,000 goes to paying all the staff per day.  i wonder how many trucks follow the bus around…insane!

** sunday 6.19.11 **

FATHER’S DAY @ BOILING CRAB

my dad said he wanted to eat at red lobster for father’s day.  since it’s a special day, i opted for the boiling crab in garden grove because it’s way yummier.  i was worried about how long we’d have to wait since it’s always insane there and i’m sure father’s day would make it worse.  when we got there at 6:45 pm, we were told it’d take 1 hr 45 min, so i tried the other location on euclid before possibly settling for the red lobster.  at the euclid location, we were told it’d be over 2 hrs.  i called the closest red lobster and they said it’d take 1 hr 30 min (also doesn’t take reservations) so i figured we might as well just wait for boiling crab.

i was hoping it’d be one of those places where they grossly overestimate the wait, but the hostess was pretty spot-on with her initial 1 hr 45 min estimation.  i’d check-in about every 30 min and sometimes someone would say it’d take about 30 min more only to be told 30 min later that it’d be another 45 min.  but overall it was slightly under 1 hr 45 min.

there are very few things that i think are worth waiting for that long…especially since they had ran out of blue crab, lobster, clams, and sweet potato fries.  we ordered 2 corn on the cobs, 1 dungeness crab, 1 lb of king crab legs, 1 fried shrimp basket with cajun fries, and 6 cajun hot wings.  boy, it was tasty…especially the king crab legs and fried shrimp.  it was a first trying their hot wings, and they were really good…i must admit, that pretty much all their food is really good.  i’d love to come back but i don’t know if i can bear the wait anytime soon.

and at under $35/each, really reasonably priced.  i want more king crab…drool…

even after we left, at around 9:30 pm, there was still a crowd of people waiting outside…crazy.

art in the streets

** warning: photo heavy **

a couple of weeks ago, i went to the “art in the streets” exhibition at the geffen contemporary at the museum of contemporary art (moca) in little tokyo, los angeles.  i think the exhibit had already been running for 2 weeks so i was surprised that there was a lengthy line to get in–last time i was here for murakami i don’t think it garnered crowds of this size.  interestingly, shepard fairey, one of the street artists exhibiting and famous for obey clothing and his obama campaign posters, was there and showing actor john krasinki, who plays jim halpert on “the office”, around.

i have to admit that although i was looking forward to visiting, the exhibit completely blew me away–it’s the coolest.  ever.  as much as i’m dying to go to the “savage beauty: alexander mcqueen” exhibit that i won’t shut up about, i doubt that it’ll top this–although they’re very different.

what was so great and cool about the exhibit?  well for one thing, there’s just so much to see and it’s pretty big.  it was bigger than the murakami exhibit because they opened up another wing.  even though i already saw the exhibit, i already knew i wanted to come back another time and look more carefully.  there are so many different artists, covering different styles and time periods.  it’s really a very fun exhibit because of the nature of street art (art for everyone, in an accessible environment) and there were some installations that were setup in really creative, interactive ways–like the drum kit and guitar set, the skate ramp, and the “manhattan” microcosm.  i don’t claim to know anything about street art and i still don’t even know most of the artists that participated but i really enjoyed it nonetheless, and highly recommend it to anyone (yes, anyone!).

it’s funny that i took more photos here during my one-t0-two-hour visit here than i did during my 10-day trip to chicago, new york, and philadelphia.

art in the streets @ the geffen contemporary at moca

i really love this one

this is the line...mid-way through

my first invader sighting

"i see you...invader!"

shepard fairey with his daughter climbing onto him

john krasinski / jim halpert, the cool kid with the sunglasses on to the right

engage yourself with the art

"wow", indeed

i like this keith haring car

photos documenting all the tagged subway cars that no longer exist

i love how clever and witty he is

kneel in the house of banksy

it's like i'm back in new york

swoon's piece made me swoon

enter through the gift shop

andré

shepard fairey, obey, moca, art in the streets, street art, graffiti, geffen contemporary

2008: shepard fairey creates obama's iconic "hope" campaign poster

2001: fashion meets art with the louis vuitton x stephen sprouse collab

mister cartoon

os gêmeos

hello shepard fairey and john krasinski...we meet again

jean-michel basquiat

i thought the rammellzee battle station was really fun

kenny scharf

love how he subtly "invaded" the exhibition

what also made it really cool was the levi’s film workshop:

green screen effects

these guys were playing with the green screen, you can see what background shows up on the tv on the left

stop-motion animation station

the actual "adaptation" script written by charlie & donald kaufman

this week, i received an invitation to the premiere of outside in: the story of art in the streets, which is a film by alex stapleton in conjuction with the levi’s film workshop about the “art in the streets” exhibition.  the premiere was held at the historic egyptian theater in hollywood, followed by a q&a with the director, and an after party deejayed by shepard fairey, himself.

the doors opened at 7 pm, but after leaving work in irvine with my coworker, traffic, and making a pit stop to drop off his car at my house, we didn’t make it there until close to 8 pm, when the screening was supposed to start.  i had rsvp-ed ahead of time, but it was first come first serve and there was a long line.  and we didn’t get in!  but they said that they decided to have a second screening after the first at 9:30 pm if people wanted to come back…but it would be taking place at the same time as the after party.

so i had a dilemma: did i want to watch the screening for which we drove all the way out here for, or did i want to go to the after party with guest dj shepard fairey?  hm…i want to do both!  as we deliberated over some less-than-savory italian food nearby, i decided to go to the screening in hopes that we could catch the tail end of the after party.

we got back to the theater at around 9:20 and there were some people already lined up; we were toward the front of the line this time.  not too long after, people from the premiere were let out and the after party started with shepard fairey at the turn tables.  shepard fairey is a talented street artist, enterprising business man, father…and a horrible dj.  he was terrible, really.  after only 2 songs, we agreed that we had made the right choice to prioritize the screening over the party and that even if the party was still going on after we got out, we wouldn’t stay for long.

i’m really glad we went to the screening.  i don’t think it’ll be too accessible elsewhere and we also saw two trailers that were made at the levi’s film workshop prior to outside in.  watching outside in made me realize how much there was still left at the exhibit that i hadn’t seen and missed on my first trip and solidified my feelings of what an incredible installation it was.  i was definitely motivated to make another trip back.  it was pretty short…only about 45 minutes or so with the other 2 short trailers.

here’s the trailer for outside in: the story of art in the streets:

the documentary also showed the street artists’ points of view vs. law enforcement’s.  i can see both sides, although i think the punishment is pretty extreme for the crime.  i think you can get 7 months of prison or something like that.  2 of the artists that were part of the exhibition were detained and one of them is still serving time.

and it was interesting to hear how big street art is.  apparently it’s the largest art movement ever (or since pop art)…that’s huge!

the party was still going on, so we stuck around for a little bit to take a photo and drink some of the complimentary drinks from izze (have i told you that izze rocks?).

dj shepard fairey @ outside in

a better photo stolen from hypebeast

never stay at planet hollywood vegas

so i recently took my mom to las vegas for mother’s day/her birthday since she hasn’t been to las vegas in about 10 years or so and the strip looks pretty different now then it did the last time she was there.  i found a pretty good deal at planet hollywood and had never stayed there, but it was such a bad experience that i had to blog about it.  the last time i was in vegas, i stayed at the cosmopolitan and while it was bad enough to prompt my boyfriend to write a bad review for it on yelp and tripadvisor, i wasn’t too upset and would give it another chance.  but planet hollywood was terrible and i’m inclined to never stay at any harrah’s/caesar’s properties again.  how could they have messed up so badly?  let me count the ways.

  1. when we checked-in, their computers were down and they couldn’t issue any room keys so we had to wait forever (keep in mind that we had a show to catch in about an hour…there was a couple in front of me that canceled their reservation and looked for a different hotel)
  2. the room needs to be renovated as it’s pretty worn out…but i didn’t hold it against them
  3. there weren’t that many lights in the room, one of them needed its bulb replaced
  4. there was no mini fridge…not a big deal for me, but my mom wanted to refrigerate something.  i was pretty surprised by this…how ever will they rip off their customers?
  5. the speakerphone on our phone was broken
  6. the tv’s sound kept going in/out
  7. whenever my mom called housekeeping/front desk, they put her on hold for a very long time and sometimes even hung up on her!
  8. we were locked out of our rooms when both our keys wouldn’t work
  9. i tried to use the phone by the elevators about this problem, but it was broken
  10. i went down and waited in line for the front desk to get the problem fixed, and was given an attitude by the woman helping me.  she told me that the cards had been demagnetized, that’s why they weren’t working, and not to keep them near other credit cards or cell phones
  11. holding the key cards in my hand the entire time, i go upstairs and they still don’t work
  12. pretty pissed by this point, i come back down and the line is much longer.  i tell the guy working that i would like to speak to the manager
  13. the manager makes me wait for a very long time (i think he was on a phone call)
  14. i tell him that our experience at the hotel has been rather unpleasant and he offers to give me 50% off one night’s rate.  this isn’t too much since i had booked the deal at a very affordable rate and when i ask if this is the best he can do and he says yes, i accept
  15. we ask for an escort to our room to make sure the keys work because i do not want to come back down a third time and he’s kind enough to arrange technicians to make sure we get in ok
  16. since i had already paid in full when i booked the hotel, i asked if i’d be credited on my card and he says yes.
  17. throughout this experience, i am most offended that the woman i spoke with, and especially the manager, never apologized.  when you work in hospitality, service should be a top priority and even if it’s not your fault directly, you can still say something like “i’m sorry that happened, let me see what i can do”
  18. the vending machine on our floor ate my mom’s money then broke
  19. this trip was about a week and a half ago and i realized yesterday that i had not seen my credit card credited yet
  20. i had to call them today to have it processed

i don’t know…am i expecting too much?  have i been spoiled by nicer hotels?  i know this isn’t a five-star hotel, but it’s still supposed to be pretty decent, and i would think that the level of service should be better.  i don’t think i’m asking for too much…i’ve stayed at nicer hotels, but i’ve also stayed at worse ones and never had these kinds of problems.  this has been the worst stay and hotel service i’ve experienced so far, and i hope it stays that way.

i will never stay at planet hollywood again, and i have my doubts for the rest of the brand now.

…and the food tour!

i visited 5 schools within 10 (well, really more like 9) days so i didn’t have much time to play.  especially in chicago, where i only had about 2 days for 2 schools, and philly, where i was only doing a day trip to do an information session.  i have been to both chicago and nyc before for fun so i had done a lot of the touristy sight-seeing things already, so the only fun things i had planned prior was to eat good food.  and i did have a lot of good food!

also, the first time i went to nyc, it was pre-yelp so we never looked into food too much during that trip.  it was mostly sight-seeing and shopping.

CHICAGO

HOT DOUG’S

the first time i visited chicago, hot doug’s was in my itinerary but it never happened because it’s not located in the downtown area and because they close at 4 pm.  i regretted this more as i heard from friends about their amazing hot dogs.  so this time, i told myself i would definitely go.  this proved trying for this trip as well.  i had wanted to try their duck fat fries, which are only sold on fridays/saturdays, but that would’ve been impossible for me with my schedule since i landed at midnight on thursday and left saturday morning.

but i was determined!  i decided after landing at midnight thursday, taking the train to my hotel downtown, waking up bright and early the next morning for my 8:30 am campus visit at booth near hyde park, i’d conclude my visit with a student lunch, take the train up to hot doug’s to wait in line and eat before they closed, then walk about a block to eat at kuma’s corner (since i’m in the neighborhood right?).

the line, starting from the inside

the menu

autographed by its namesake

doug sohn himself, manning the register

a history of wieners

this great piece of art was in the ladies' room. i was told by another customer to check out the bathrooms.

the men's room

i didn’t really want to try any of the specialty dogs (sounded too cheesy or unappealing to me in general) or the game dogs (i don’t like game meat).  so i ordered the marty allen, which had beef, pork, and garlic, chicago style, which is garnished with tomatoes, onions, sweet relish, pickles, mustard, and celery salt.  while my friend ordered the foie gras and sauternes duck sausage dog.  you can also choose how you want your sausage cooked–grilled, fried, or boiled i think (of course mine was fried).

hot doug’s became famous with their foie gras dog because foie gras is banned from chicago due to cruelty to animals.  doug sohn refused to stop serving it and has been fined multiple times.  i’m not a huge fan of foie gras or pate, but i tried it anyways…it was pretty good, but i liked mine more.

left: foie gras dog, right: chicago-style

so this was one of my priorities in the chicago-leg of my trip and i really went out of my way to go…was it worth it?  yes!  the distance and wait weren’t all that bad.  the difference is truly in their sausage.  i didn’t really care for my (non-duck fat) fries but the sausage part was really good.  i think the bun could be better though.

portillo’s is really good too and it’s located in downtown, cheap, and pretty big.  much better than the location near home!

KUMA’S CORNER

so at that point, i’m full and really don’t need to eat anymore.  i had  slices of pizza only about an hour earlier followed by fries and a hot dog with a soda.  but kuma’s corner was so highly recommended and it was only about 2 blocks away from hot doug’s…how could i not?

when we got there, the wait was pretty crazy.  it’s not a very big place but there were a ton of people waiting–fine by me, i’m full anyways.

it definitely has a metal/rocker vibe to the place and has about 20 different burgers.  i ordered the lair of the minotaur (they all have these crazy rocker names) which had caramelized onions, pancetta, brie, and a bourbon-soaked pear;  it was really tasty.  as full as i was, it was still one of the better burgers i’ve had–that should be a testament to how good this burger was.  unfortunately, i could only finish 1/4 of it and although i boxed it up and took it back to the hotel with hopes to eat it again, it never happened.

kuma's corner

POPS FOR CHAMPAGNE

it’s kind of funny how we ended up here.  we were supposed to meet another friend at a different restaurant/bar, but we took a wrong turn and i saw this place.  i remembered it because i had wanted to come here the first time i came to chicago but didn’t–i think it was closed the day we came or something.  we turned back and went back to the meeting place but the restaurant/bar/lounge was really busy and loud so our friend suggested we go somewhere else and i suggested pops for champagne.

it had people inside but wasn’t really that busy.  they sat us in what was basically a corner in an unoccupied side of the lounge…eh.  i didn’t eat but my other 2 friends did…i think they said it was pretty good.  i had 1 or 2 cocktails that were good/fine.

and that concludes day 1 of chicago.

EARWAX CAFE

i have a friend from high school that happens to work at northwestern, so after my visit at kellogg concluded, she very kindly took me and picked my friend up from the art institute (which apparently has a contemporary art wing now–must revisit!).  she took us to wicker park, which she described as the “hipster” area (stark contrast to the “yuppie” description i heard from my other friend the previous night) but i soon understood when i got there: some streets had nicer, more high-end shops, while other streets were more independently 0wned and small.

we walked into a cute little thrift store for a little bit then she suggested we eat at earwax cafe, a vegan restaurant.  apparently my friend wants to be a nutritionist.  the decor felt “hipster”…i think i ordered a mexican hot chocolate and some sort of soft taco platter.  it wasn’t bad, but not really my cup of tea–nothing beats meat (although i do like veggie grill).  i decided there that i would finish the rest of my kuma’s corner burger when i returned to my room.

iCREAM

after earwax cafe, we decided to go to nearby icream for ice cream/frozen yogurt.  the selling point of this restaurant is that the ice cream/frozen yogurt is made with liquid nitrogen.  i shared an ice cream with the girls…i forgot what it was called but i think it had white chocolate and strawberries.  the shop itself was very small and you can watch the employees in the “lab” making the cold treats as the mist spills over.   it took a while for them to make ours but it seemed to get a lot of traffic.  the ice cream was pretty good; the texture was a little different than regular ice cream i guess.

after, my friend drove around and i saw areas of chicago that i had never seen before, like boystown (the appropriately-named gay district).  what was interesting to me was how official it seemed.  i’ve been to the castro in san francisco but boystown had actual city fixtures heralding their pride.  we also drove by wrigleytown and wrigley stadium and i attempted to take photos of it while we were at the stop light.  my friend is allergic to alcohol so we couldn’t think of what else to do and she dropped us off at our hotel.

but it was our last night in chicago!  we couldn’t just stay there!  so i looked up a nearby bar and out we went.

THE DRAWING ROOM

this was pretty close to our hotel but it’s a little hidden.  it’s not a speakeasy but there’s only a closed, window-less door to indicate its location.  after going through the door, you walk down and the restaurant/lounge is underground.  it was a good size…not too big or too small and low-lit with some nicer decor.

it was pretty busy when we got there and although we saw the couple in front of us steal a table, we were told we would have to wait for a while.  it didn’t take too long before we were seated at a table though.  we requested some girlier drinks and the waitress said she could recreate some based off their valentine’s menu.  they were all really yummy, and still packed a punch–just what i like. fun fact: as i was looking up their website, i just learned that their bartender charles joly won the $100,000 prize for nbc’s reality tv competition on the rocks and the winning absolut tea time cocktail’s now being served at the drawing room.  congrats to them and can’t say i’m too surprised.

we also ordered the bacon2, which is bacon-wrapped duroc pork belly and it tastes even better than it sounds.  when i cut off a piece i could tell it’d be so good because of how tender it was.

bacon squared @ the drawing room

my friend was pleased to receive a free dessert after she checked-in on four square–her first!  i forget what we got, ice cream i think.

i plan on returning when i come back to chicago.  it was a really good way to conclude my visit to the windy city.

lupe fiasco | “i’m from the city in the midwest, best city in the whole wide wide world”


NEW YORK

CRIF DOGS

when i got into nyc, i called up my friend who lives in brooklyn to meet up.  i feel bad for making him try to figure out what to do/eat and pestering him the week i was there.  but he said there were some places he wanted to check out that he hadn’t been to before and i’m pretty much down with anything.

we decided to eat something small at a few places.  he had been to crif dogs before and i don’t think any tourists really stop in here.  we shared a good morning dog, which is a bacon-wrapped fried hot dog smothered with melted cheese and a fried egg.  a tad too cheesy for me but yummy.

PORCHETTA

after crif dogs, we walked a little to porchetta, known for its pork belly.  i certainly am eating a lot of pork this trip!  we shared a plate which includes their pork belly, cooking greens with garlic and chili oil, and cannellini beans.  the place is really small so i suggested that we sit and eat on the bench right in front.  the pork belly was pretty good and even the beans, which i normally don’t like, were not too bad.  my friend decided at the last minute to add a side order of roasted potatoes and burnt ends and i am so glad he did–they were easily the best part of the meal.  burnt ends are the crispy, salty pieces of the pork belly–so good!  while we were eating, we were joking that porchetta should pay us to eat in the store front because a lot of people were walking by and looking at us eat and commenting on how good it smelled.  there was even a couple with a baby boy that ended up buying some food after asking us what we were eating.

we were joined by his other friend who tried the porchetta sandwich and said it was amazing.

BURP CASTLE

after food, comes drink.  we headed off to this dive bar that had a monk theme.  i didn’t know any of the drinks listed on the chalkboard so i just got a hard cider.

BUA

then onto the next bar.  this was probably the nicest bar of the evening and was pretty busy.  this is more my style type of bar to hang out in and was happy to see a lot of the bars i went to in nyc had caipirinhas, but i ordered the bees knees (gin, honey, lemon juice).  but i think my friend thought the place was too “fancy” so we headed off to the next dive bar.

BLUE & GOLD TAVERN

apparently my friend comes here pretty often, and with drinks this cheap, i can see why.  i bought a round of 3 drinks and i think it was like $10 or something.  nyc is freaking expensive so a place like this is awesome.  it was really busy and has a pool table or two.

again, i didn’t know what drinks they had so i drank hard cider.

several of my friend’s other friends joined us and we all went to a house party in chinatown.  it felt like a house rave and my friend ended up being a drunk hot mess at the end of night (he could barely even walk).

and that’s how my first day in nyc ended at around 5 am.

BROOKLYN FLEA MARKET

my friend was hungover but since the brooklyn flea market’s only on the weekends, i wanted to check it out since i was leaving the next saturday.

it was much smaller than i expected it to be.  i thought it’d be bigger, or at least as big as, the melrose trading post.  everything was inside a smallish parking lot and there was plenty of space.  what was really nice was that on sundays, it’s located in a more gentrified (this term seemed popular this leg of the trip) area of brooklyn and it was right next to the river, with a beautiful view of manhattan and the bridges.

i was more interested in the food vendors at the flea market, although there was one shop with cool, old typewriters.

i was deciding between the lobster roll or the smoked meat sandwich.  on one hand, it’s pretty hard to get lobster rolls in southern california.  but the roll they were selling didn’t seem quite as good as the one i had at the the lobsta truck so i opted for the cheaper smoked meat sandwich.

the brooklyn flea market

MILE END DELI

i love pastrami and while it was called a smoked meat sandwich, it was basically pastrami on traditional rye bread.  it was a rather small sandwich but it was really good.  the meat was smoky and tender and i loved that the rye bread was of good quality too.

SCRATCHBREAD

there was a bread vendor too and the various fresh breads looked amazing.  i walked by it a few times debating whether to buy something.  there was one guy roasting garlic and spreading it on the bread with olive oil and sprinkling it with sea salt–that smelled so insanely good.  i had to buy a piece and was a little disappointed by how tough the bread was to eat.

since my friend was badly hungover and he lives in brooklyn, we parted ways and i thought it was going to rain so i just stayed in the apartment…a somewhat boring end to day 2.

BROWNIE’S CAFE

after my class visit at columbia, i yelped a good place for lunch in the area since i was planning on meeting someone there in a few hours.  given how close the campus is to harlem, i wasn’t sure if i wanted to venture off too far by myself.

i found brownie’s cafe–a cafe in the school of journalism building that had better reviews than the off-campus restaurants.  i literally spent like an hour walking around campus trying to find the darned building!  even asking random students, people didn’t know where it was.  it’s in the basement level of the building and i ordered a roasted turkey sandwich with brie and sliced apples and a bottle of real ginger ale.  the sandwich was really good; they make it fresh and i could tell the brie was pretty good quality…very tasty.  if i end up going to columbia, i’m sure i’ll come here often.  i couldn’t finish my sandwich so i gave it to the girl i met with and she really liked it.  even though she goes to columbia, she didn’t know about this place (different dining options in different buildings in different schools).

after i left columbia, i swung by the discovery museum in times square to check out the harry potter exhibition.

HALAL CART ON 56TH ST/3RD AVE

i went to the lupe fiasco concert at roseland ballroom with my good friend–which was amazing, but i won’t get into that…this post is about food.  on our way there, we decided to eat at the infamous halal cart after.

my other friend who went to law school in nyc briefly said i MUST eat there as soon as i land and i heard from another friend about how much this place gets talked up.

after the concert, we rushed over (to beat the crowds) and ordered the standard chicken and rice plate.  i don’t know if it’s because i didn’t add enough white sauce, or i didn’t add the correct hot sauce, or if it’s because we took it back to her apartment to eat instead of on the spot–but i didn’t get the hype.  yes, it was good…but crazy good?  no.  out of the food i ate my entire trip, i think this was toward the “less tasty” end of the spectrum (but to be fair, i ate A LOT of good food this trip).

the end of day 3.

JOE’S SHANGHAI

after having a glass of wine with an editor at b bar & grill, i headed to chinatown to try joe’s shanghai for their soup dumplings.  i’ve never had the highly raved ding tai fung soup dumplings, but joe’s shanghai’s supposedly puts those to shame.

i had one order of the pork soup dumplings, which i think is about 8, and a side order of the green onion fried pancake.  the soup dumplings were so good.  i usually have to be very careful not to break the skin, spilling all the delicious soup and even then, it breaks anyways.  but at joe’s shanghai, i didn’t have that problem…very good.

the green onion pancake was good too…very oily and crunchy–that’s how i roll.

i later saw another location near the apartment, and apparently there are several–a little disappointed that it’s a chain but the original chinatown location has better reviews than the other locations so i guess it’s ok.

INK48

later that night, i took a cab to ink48, a boutique kimpton hotel in hell’s kitchen, for its roof-top bar to meet my friend and the new guy she’s dating.  i had a really tough time getting a cab because my friend lives in midtown in the theater district and i think the shows had just finished.  it wasn’t too far from her apartment but hell’s kitchen is supposed to be kinda seedy at night.

since the kimpton is located pretty far west, it offers lovely views of the city at night.

the view from ink48

i had one drink…i think it was pretty good.  after some conversation (about cannibalism), i headed back and called it a night to day 4.

LOMBARDI’S

and since i’m in nyc, of course i have to try the pizza.  apparently the debate for best pizza in nyc is between lombardi’s in manhattan and grimaldi’s in brooklyn.  i decided on lombardi’s simply because of the convenience of location.

unfortunately, at a restaurant-style pizzeria, i can only order by the pie, not slice…so even though i was eating alone, i ordered an entire pizza for myself.  i got the standard margherita (mozzarella and basil) with pepperoni.  it was really good with fresh, quality ingredients.  i think i still favor mozza because of their more inventive and special variations (there are a limited selection of toppings at lombardi’s) but it was quite good.

i ate half (!) the pizza for lunch, bagged the rest and stuffed it into my bag while i finished my day with the new museum and visit to nyu.  i ended up eating the rest of my pizza for dinner.  it didn’t taste as good as it did at lunch, but still pretty good.

HECHO EN DUMBO

between lunch and dinner, i met up with my hipster brooklyn friend at his office where we walked to hecho en dumbo for a drink.

it was my first time having a michelada, which is like a mexican bloody mary.  this boy is introducing me to so many drinks.  i like bloody mary’s as it is so the michelada was pretty good.

dumbo is one of the newer areas of new york…i think it stands for down under manhattan bridge overpass.  my friend was telling me that when he was talking about it to someone who used to live in nyc, that person didn’t know what it was.  it’s amazing to me that somewhere as dense and developed as nyc is still growing and developing new neighborhoods.

we decided we’d do our own thing for dinner (pizza for me), and then i’d head out to his place in brooklyn and hit up some bars.

BARCADE

after watching a little bit of the voice at my friend’s apartment while he finished cooking and eating, we headed out to barcade, a nearby bar and arcade (not like dave & buster’s).  it has a lot of the old arcade games and apparently the guy who holds the donkey kong record (chronicled in king of kong) frequents this place and of course, holds barcade’s dk record.  i think i had a black cherry lager that didn’t really taste like black cherry (because they never do, hints of = not to your untrained palette).

LARRY LAWRENCE

this is a hidden bar that has no sign on the outside and no windows.  i guess you just have to go with someone who knows.   it was pretty empty (wednesday night) but looked like a cool place.  the interior was decently sized and it had couches.  there’s an outside area up the stairs for people to smoke and hang out.  i think i had a gin & tonic here.

LUCKY DOG

so i insisted that we go somewhere where i could try a pickleback after hearing about them for the first time on saturday.  i think it came up when he ordered some other pickle kind of drink from bua.  apparently it’s not a new york thing since he’s had them in san francisco, but i still wanted one.

picklebacks are typically a shot of bourbon chased by another shot of pickle brine juice.

i don’t like bourbon/whiskey/dark liquor, so i had a shot of vodka with my pickleback.  the pickle juice is a nice chaser…totally covers the taste of alcohol, but i like pickles.  i have my jar of mcclure’s spicy pickles from the brooklyn flea market for more picklebacks.

before heading home to conclude day 5, we snuck into his friend’s apartment building to hang out on the roof…just talking while looking at the view of manhattan.

SHAKE SHACK

i had lunch at the shake shack in the theater district because it was close to my friend’s apartment.  there was a line but i’m sure it wasn’t nearly as bad as the original location or what it used to be before they had multiple locations.

it’s kind of cool that each location’s menu is slightly different.  i ordered the stack burger even though i don’t like cheese that much…it’s a cheeseburger with a deep fried portobello mushroom stuffed with cheddar and muenster cheese.  i also made the mistake of ordering a vanilla malt and the great white way frozen custard (vanilla custard, marshmallow sauce, crispy crunchies)–it was like 2 of the same thing!

the burger was pretty good.  i’ve heard it compared to in & out but i didn’t really see the similarities.  i think i still prefer in & out though.  i liked the great white way a lot because i love rice crispy treats.

HUDSON TERRACE

after my columbia information session, i wanted to check out their weekly happy hour.  my friend knows someone in the program so we were supposed to all hang out.  i got there first and was pretty bored and lonely for about 2 hours until my friend got out of work.

the happy hour was pretty much over at that point, but the after party continued off-campus at hudson terrace.  it’s like a bar/club in hell’s kitchen near ink48.  i think the cbs students took up like 80% of the venue.  the place was decently sized and wasn’t that classy or anything.  the music was pretty good though.  i had about 2 drinks and we danced a little before my friend and i left to eat and go home.

i don’t remember the name of the thai restaurant we ate at, but i know there were like 3 of them on the same street and they’re all pretty close to each other.  i had the pad thai and it was ok…nothing memorable and the end to day 6.

PHILADELPHIA

THE BURGER & SANDWICH STOP

my trip to philly was so brief that i feel like i shouldn’t even writing about this one.  i was a little apprehensive coming here after i heard the night before about how 3 people my friend knows got mugged their first week at wharton.

i wanted to try a real philly cheesesteak sandwich but i was short on time and bravery so i just ate at the food court.  i got a cheesesteak from the burger & sandwich stop and it was ok…but man was it massive!  look at this thing!

maybe it’s not obvious how big this thing is from the photo but let’s just say it’s much bigger than a 1′ long from subway…this thing’s like vomiting meat.

…AND BACK TO NYC

TURKISH KITCHEN

as my last night here, i was hoping to eat at babbo, mario batali’s restaurant, but i couldn’t get reservations.  my friend and i were going to try walking in anyways but i came back from philadelphia later than i expected to.

my friend and the guy she’s dating suggested turkish food, which i’ve never had so i said ok.

we ordered several dishes, none of which names i remember.  i know we got 2 lamb dishes and i think another chicken.  it was pretty good…even the lamb, which i normally don’t like (ed: geez i sound picky in this post).

INOTECA

after dinner, my friend and i walked a little to this wine bar.  since it was my last night, my brooklyn friend was coming out too.  i went to the bathroom and proceeded to walk in on a couple having sex…classy.

i had about 2 drinks that were pretty good.  my brooklyn friend got a free drink after checking-in on four square (his four square list actually helped me remember where i went during my trip).

my friend was totally falling asleep here so we sent her home in a cab and stayed out a little longer.

ME BAR

this was a rooftop bar at the la quinta in koreatown…pretty random.  actually, we had planned to go to the ace hotel but the bouncer said only hotel guests were allowed inside…bummer.

me bar is pretty off-the-radar and it’s not tall enough to offer crazy views, but you do see neighboring buildings.  the drinks were pretty cheap and we stayed outside, drinking and talking until it got too cold.

JACK DEMSEY’S

i wanted to stay out longer but we didn’t know where else to go so we were sort of just walking around.  we ended up here…it’s sort of like tgi friday’s.

that’s pretty much how i ended my trip on day 7.

GOLDEN UNICORN

the next morning i went out to eat dim sum with my friend at golden unicorn in chinatown before i had to fly back home to california.

my friend from brooklyn was supposed to join us but he overslept.

it wasn’t busy and the dim sum was really good…one of the best dim sum i’ve had.  i’m not used to seeing dim sum in the traditional bamboo steamers–all the places i eat at at home use the steel ones.

it was odd that they didn’t have the pork spare ribs since that’s pretty standard.  but they had bacon-wrapped shrimp deep fried with a mayonnaise dipping sauce…doesn’t really seem chinese and i’ve never seen it before, but it was good.  it even came with some pringles.

after we ate, we hung out at her apartment for a little watching tv before i caught a cab to jfk (he ripped me off!).

other comments:

  • i had to buy new shoes (toms) because my feet were hurting from walking around so much in nyc in my tory burch flats
  • my only souvenirs from the trip are a necklace from the harry potter exhibit and a jar of pickles
  • longchamp’s folding le pliage bags are a travel must…i’m proud that i was able to fit 10 days worth of clothing and toiletries into my carry-on and another bag!
  • chicago > nyc, at least in terms of cleanliness, beauty, space, and ease of navigation for the public transportation system
  • while i was gone, i felt like i had adjusted to living there…especially nyc
  • i must always remember to bring my ear buds on flights in order to get sound while watching tv

photos of the new museum:

this post took forever to write and i’m sure to read as well, so if you made it all the way through–you’re a champ.

i think it’s funny that the purpose of my trip was to visit business schools, and my post on food is several times longer and more interesting.

the weekend in review

this weekend, i watched rango and dined at bottega louie in downtown los angeles; this is my review for both.

RANGO

friday night, boyfriend and i used the discounted amc tickets we purchased through various groupon-like sites to watch rango.  until the movie came out, i had little desire to watch the movie based on the trailer.  to be honest, i am pretty biased and tend to think the worst of most animated family films with the exception of pixar.  but the reviews for rango have been very good with many people already claiming that rango will win best animated film at the oscars.  and if there ever was a year for pixar to lose, it would be the year cars 2 is released.  why?  because cars is their worst reviewed and just plain worst project in their portfolio.  it doesn’t mean the movie is bad, just that it isn’t nearly as good as their other films.  for them to release a sequel is based mostly on the profitability of the franchise (nascar is huge) and john lasseter’s own fondness for cars and route 66.

anyways, back to rango.  the movie indeed was very fun and good.  this is george lucas’ industrial light magic (ilm) studios’ first foray into feature film animation and they have done an amazing job.  not only did the graphics look great (and life-like at parts), the animation was superb–the characters’ movements flowed naturally.  and i was pleasantly surprised to find that the cinematography was very stylized and beautiful even.

the plot follows a pet chameleon, who gets through his lonely, caged life with thespian theatrics, as he gets lost in the desert.  he stumbles upon the town of dirt, which is experiencing a severely diminishing water supply, and creates a new identity for himself as the sheriff.  the overarching themes of the story were hope, identity,  and self-discovery.

i had previously read in reviews that the movie is more for the adults, rather than the kids and i definitely agree with this.  many of the jokes were adult and i found myself wondering if kids would really enjoy this movie since i think they might not get 70% of them.  some of the aspects of the movie that i found fun were the references to other movies and figures (fear & loathing in las vegas; the good, the bad, and the ugly; and clint eastwood) and so many characters had mustaches, including one of the villains, rattlesnake jake, whose mustache was more like painted on since snakes don’t have hair.

rattlesnake jake in rango

the animal characters were not cute at all…maybe because westerns are gritty.  i couldn’t even tell what a lot of the animals were.  the film is essentially an animated western and influenced by the those that came before it; this can be seen in the visual style.

conclusion: i recommend the movie and wouldn’t be surprised if it did win best animated film at the oscars this year.

 

BOTTEGA LOUIE

700 south grand avenue
los angeles, ca 90017

bottega louie is an italian restaurant located in the heart of downtown los angeles.  with over 2,000 reviews and 4 stars on yelp and rave reviews seemingly everywhere, i’ve been wanting to try this place and finally did so on saturday night for dinner.  bottega louie doesn’t accept reservations and as boyfriend and i were heading over there around 7 pm, i read yelp reviews on how the food was mediocre to delicious; the service was horrible to excellent; the wait time is long; and the environment is beautiful and loud.

we parked at the $6 valet next to the restaurant (there isn’t really an other alternative besides searching for street parking, there are other lots that are cheaper, but not by much).  we quickly realized that we had seen bottega louie in passing before and had said we wanted to try it out because it looked so interesting.  the restaurant was once a parking lot with homeless people that was transformed into a dining destination in 2009.  it has tall glass windows all around and is a huge space that includes the restaurant, bar, and patisserie.  as we stepped inside, we ogled at the large space, the hordes of bodies dining or waiting, and the beautiful architecture.  the simple white contrasted with gold, high ceilings, and intricate moldings transported us from the grime of downtown los angeles to new york city.  i think the high ceilings also had a hand in creating the echoey loudness of the restaurant.

we were greeted by a line of people–a line just to put your name down for a table.  expecting at least a 30-minute wait, when the maitre’d told us it would only be a 15 minutes, we agreed that it would definitely be longer than that then hurried over to the patisserie to check out the decadent desserts.  it couldn’t have been more than 5-10 minutes when the hostess tapped me on the arm and asked if i was part of mr. boyfriend’s party and told me our table was ready.

upon seating, we were given complimentary sparking and still water and asked if we had any food allergies.  i think the service throughout the night was very good.  the waiter explained the menu/dishes and gave a few recommendations since we were first-time customers.  we decided on the portobello fries small dish and a 50/50 pizza of the sausage and napoli to share, i ordered the orecchiette pasta, and boyfriend got the recommended trenné.

bottega louie portobello fries, photo from tummy diary

the portobello fries are the most reviewed item in the bottega louie yelp reviews and were also recommended by our waiter.  they’re strips of portobello mushrooms battered and fried and served with a garlic-based aioli.  they were delicious and one of the highlights of our meal.

bottega louie sausage pizza

the sausage pizza is made up of fennel sausage, tomato sauce, and mozzarella while the napoli is made up of red onions, mushrooms, olives, tomato sauce, and mozzarella.  the sausage half was better than the napoli because, well…meat > veggies.  the pizza was pretty good and would have been much better if the center wasn’t so soggy.  i don’t know if it’s because they put too much sauce on it but the center of the pizza was droopy and soggy.  as i ate away from the center toward the crust, the pizza got better and the crust was very good.  i think mozza’s pizza is still better in terms of their dough and flavors, but bottega louie’s would be a strong contender if it wasn’t so soggy.  i’d still want to try the pizza again on my next visit to see if the sogginess is just how the pizzas are made or maybe we had a “bad” one.

bottega louie trenné pasta, photo from gourmet pigs

boyfriend’s trenné pasta was pan sauteed with braised prime rib eye, tuscan black kale, and shaved granna parmesan.  this was my first time seeing trenné pasta; it’s similar to penne but more triangular shaped rather than circular (for the opening).  i had a bite and i liked that the pasta was crisp on the outside.  the noodle itself tasted heavily of the rib eye and i don’t think it’s a dish i would have personally liked and probably won’t order it in the future.  but boyfriend enjoyed it…especially the large shavings of cheese.

bottega louise orecchiette pasta, photo from i heart yummy

the orecchiette is house made with sausage and olive oil in a a swiss chard ragù sauce.  i love pasta but thought this dish was just ok.   i also normally love tomatoes but thought the cherry tomatoes in the pasta were much too sweet;  the dish tasted better after i started avoiding them.  i was getting pretty full after the portobello fries and the pizza so i boxed some of my pasta so i could save room for dessert.

bottega louie le grand macaron, photo from dt diaries

i have a sweet tooth and love macarons so we ordered le grand macaron–french vanilla ice cream sandwiched between a vanilla macaron served with berries.  i paired this with my favorite wine–moscato d’asti.  the wine was good as always and the macaron was also good.  it was difficult to eat with a spoon/fork though since the outside of the macaron was so hard.

we were surprised by the bill–in a good way!  we were expecting the bill to be pretty high since it’s a nice place but the total (before tip) was a very reasonable $75.  i was amazed–i was sure they must have left something off our bill, but nope, they got everything: appetizer, pizza, 2 pastas, glass of wine, and the dessert.  we will definitely be back again.  after boyfriend paid the bill (thank you, dear!) we went back to the patisserie.

there were 5 flavors of macarons available when we went: chocolate, earl grey, lime, raspberry, and vanilla.  i wanted to try earl grey since it’s one of my favorites and was also interested in the lime yuzu.  we also thought there might be more flavors available in the patisserie since it looked like there were a lot of colors.  unfortunately, lime was sold out but apparently there are new batches/flavors every 4 hours and they paint them by hand (probably why the colors looked so different for the same flavor).

we ended up buying 2 earl grey, 1 chocolate (for boyfriend), and 1 raspberry (for me) macarons.  i also got a tiny blueberry tart and pistachio cupcake and boyfriend got a raspberry chocolate ganache tart.

bottega louie cupcakes

the cupcakes are so cute because they are covered in sparkly sprinkles and topped with a tiny macaron.  the pistachio is pictured in the photo above, bottom right.  i ate the blueberry tart saturday night after we got home from the restaurant and thought it was just ok; i prefer the fruit tarts at porto’s.  the macarons were very good and i look forward to sampling more flavors in the future.  i had the pistachio cupcake a few hours ago and was surprised by how light and fluffy the cake was.  most cupcakes i’ve had from western bakeries (like sprinkles) have dense, thick cake.  the cupcake is vanilla with black cherries on the inside, pistachio cream frosting, and topped with pistachio nuts, sprinkles, and a mini vanilla macaron with pistachio cream inside.  i was a little hesitant of cherry and pistachio but it was pretty good.  because the cake was so light, it reminded me of sponge cake–which i really like.

photography disclaimer: all bottega louie photos in this post are from the bottega louie blog unless indicated otherwise.

gucci fall 2011 strikes up my disco fever

i’m not a big fan of gucci, but oh man, the runway collection that was unveiled at milan fashion week is giving me goosebumps and shivers (no, i’m not even joking).  the 70’s are back in fashion and frida giannini is taking disco glam to the next level.  the 70’s motif is looking luxe and not at all cheesy or dated.  i love me some fur…and oh was there fur.  combined with rich jewel tones and a dash of skintight leather–i’m in love.

:: following photos from the sartorialist ::

:: following photos from fashionologie ::

i don’t think i’ve been this excited about a runway collection since christopher bailey’s spring 2010 collection for burberry prorsum.

just because it’s fall/winter doesn’t mean you can’t have some color.  gucci proved that with its well-received collection, saturated with color.  i love the tailored cuts,  flowing fabrics, and silhouettes.  i’ve been wanting some wide-leg trousers for a while…now i feel a sense of urgency.  well done, frida…well done indeed.

wish i was there

primary wave holds a pre-grammy party every year. this time around it was the bazaar at the sls in beverly hills, which i adore. it was sponsored by absolut vodka and just looks like a ton of fun…wish i was one of the lucky attendees!

given the venue, of course they had some of the famous jose andres cotton candy foie gras lollipops. i’m not a big fan of foie gras…it has that liver taste that i can’t get over. but because of the sugary cotton candy, it blends together nicely…even for people with unrefined palates like me. they also had dark chocolate pop rocks–i’ve never tried these but they sound yummy.

cotton candy foie gras lollipops

i went to jose andres’ the bazaar pretty recently for the first time and was really blown away. i love the design of the entire space (done by the talented philippe starck)…it’s very eclectic but done in such a manner that it doesn’t feel disjointed. i wasn’t expecting the food to be very good but i really loved the fun gastromolecular cuisine. everything’s tiny, even by tapas standards, but the dining experience is so fun…i can’t wait to come back. i didn’t get a chance to check out the rest of the hotel but i’ll make sure to do that next time. my personal highlights of the evening were the cotton candy foie gras, magic mojito (best cocktail i’ve had in my life!), and the philly cheese steak with air bread and kobe beef.

:: read more about the party at notcot ::