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Om curry with dill from LAcha Somtum in Thai Town.

I attended a highly educational and also highly entertaining Zocalo Public Square lecture about food fads on Monday, with journalist David Sax of The Tastemakers: Why We’re Crazy for Cupcakes but Fed Up with Fondue, and it got me thinking about foods that could easily become trendy. My fellow home-cook brother and I exchanged a few emails about it, and here’s my list.

My brother and I are both a little obsessed. Miso, MSG, and fish sauce have all had their moments in the food media spotlight as ways to add flavor, umami, and saltiness to food, so, we wondered, why not one of the most ubiquitous of Korean condiments? Among foodies, it’s not for lack of trying. Gochujang — also known as hot pepper paste or red chili paste or some combination thereof — is a thick, sticky paste of red chilis, sweet rice, fermented soybeans, and salt. It’s been in (near constant) use in Korea for about 500 years, since trade routes opened up in the far east, and it is traditionally fermented in the sun. To me, it’s equal parts sweet, salty, and spicy, felt in that order. Some ascribe a fermented stink to it, but I don’t get it. It’s no kimchee. Read the rest of this entry »

A string trio in Central Park.

Almost a year to the day after my last carload of belongings disappeared into the Lincoln Tunnel and left Manhattan forever, I found myself approaching the island on the Z train from Jamaica with just a small suitcase at my feet, gazing out the window at the Empire State Building as I had on so many arrivals before. I’d always thought the best ways to experience the Empire State Building were from the observation deck on the 86th floor and from a great distance. Even from my apartment building’s rooftop on 29th and Lexington, just a few blocks away, it never seemed as tall and majestic as it did from Queens.

I needed to see New York again. Living there was never going to be permanent — I had eyes for California — but my fifteen months there inevitably felt like a negligible scratch compared to the deep etchings so many others leave on New York’s weathered surface.

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Union Square

I just wrote about a lot of the things I liked about New York. Something I loved about New York was its eccentricity. If time and weather allowed, I walked as often and as far as I could just so I could see what I could see. And thanks to modern technology, I always had a camera on me. Here are some of my favorite moments, many of which I’ve already posted to Facebook and Twitter, but together here for posterity.

And, of course, you can see a lot more of these kinds of photos from a number of other contributors over at my art photography site, Pretty Trashy Art.

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I walked 10 miles yesterday! It had been a life goal for about a week before I decided to do it.

The High Line

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Spring in NYC

My mom’s the kind of person who feels like she’s receiving a gift when she gives one, so all she wanted for her birthday was for our family to be there for her present to her mom, a New Yorker inspired weekend of opera and fine dining in New York City. They both celebrate important birthdays this spring, the kind that end on a “0” or “5” and deserve great parties, so we were thrilled to oblige. She — some might say wisely — turned over a lot of the planning to an event planner who already lives in the city and does pro bono work. (I was thrilled just to be asked.) Here’s my story of the experience.

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Lovely photo my mom took in Central Park I am using to signify “Looking forward to new beginnings, while also looking back.”

Well, guys, this is it! In June, I’m moving to Los Angeles. I’ll spend way too much time writing a self-aware, verbose, seemingly contrived evaluation of my time here in the next month. But right now, I just want to post my “To Do In NYC Before I Move” lists and solicit recommendations from friends and colleagues in the comments field for what needs to be included! Because this list might seem a bit short, I’m also posting my “I accomplished this!” list of my last 14 months of culture, dining out, and nightlife.

So please, recommendations! I’m not leaving until I’ve done everything I want to do, and that you convince me I want to do, in this city. And contributions to my “To Do In LA” list are also welcome.

Lists after the jump!

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pickle guys,pickle,essex,les,lower east side,nyc
Barrels of pickles at Pickle Guys, 49 Essex between Hester and Grand

1. With a slice of history. Today, New York’s Lower East Side is known for its lively nightlife, restaurants whose hype exceeds their collective square footage, and fashion boutiques I wish were my walk-in closet. But as importantly (and arguably more so), the Lower East Side is home to the history of New York City’s Jewish community, and few gastronomic remnants are left — like Katz’s Deli (1888), Kossar’s Bialys (1936 and the US’ oldest bialy bakery), and, arguably, a few places to buy a great pickle. But whose pickle?

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Deviled egg at Red Hook’s Fort Defiance

Informed by friends, the New Yorker, Manhattan Users Guide, Off Manhattan, the Times, and the Voice, and attracted by its calmness, eccentricity, and affordability, I spend a lot of weekends in Brooklyn. This walking tour is composed of three consecutive Saturdays in spring, one with my mom, and I hope you enjoy.

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You sweet thing you.

My sweet tooth is just not as assertive about her needs and wishes as she used to be. But when my mom’s outgoing and energetic sweet tooth comes to New York, the two of them get together and paint the town red velvet. Together, our sweet teeth have hit a lot of bakeries, and lately, my sweet tooth — hoping to have a good story for the next phone catch-up — has been checking out bakeries by herself. Here’s what we girls have to say. These might be in some kind of order… I would never admit to it, though.

Sweet Revenge’s Crimson & Cream cupcake, photo courtesy of the amazing tasters at

Sweet Revenge
62 Carmine Street between Bedford and Downing, West Village, NYC

The sweet: We LOVE Sweet Revenge’s Crimson & Cream cupcake, a raspberry red velvet. Bits of berry make it through the blender, right to the batter. Read the rest of this entry »


Basil Twist’s Ballerina from Petrushka

I am a “festival person.”

Already I have to add an asterisk to that and exclude some festivals. Festivals that involve camping without showers in summer, war re├źnactments, and cute-baby contests. I’m not ruling them out, I’m just saying I’m not that kind of “festival person” to my knowledge.

I’ve worked for two major film festivals and a fantastic regional film festival, and I’ve attended many other festivals for film, music, books, art, photography, health, food, film about food, wine, beer, vegeterianism, BBQ, chili, chili peppers, apple butter, mountain heritage, Welsh heritage, the Salem witches, movies that inform Quentin Tarantino’s oeuvre, motorcycles, classic cars, new cars, fishing, farming, and at least a dozen New York City streets. And still going.

When I learned the New Yorker had a festival, I knew it was something I wanted to do. Last year, living in Virginia, I had the work availability and resources to go, and I had an added sense of purpose.

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