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New Orleans has a spring in its step.

I was happy to find, over Memorial Day weekend in New Orleans for a friend’s wedding, that the city appears to be doing better. Much better.

As much was conveyed to me by our taxi driver, a sweet older woman in a brightly colored muumuu who hummed to the jazz music on the radio between our exchanges. I told her I had first traveled there for business in spring, 2008 and returned later that summer. Almost three years had passed since Hurricane Katrina, but the city felt like something terrible had just happened.

No one was walking around in the Business District or Garden District, and what few drunken convention attendees and bachelor parties there were to be found in the French Quarter made the place feel all the more depressing. I stayed at a boutique hotel, a huge studio loft, and a W, all for around $100 a night, which was indicative of a weak local economy. A work contact drove me around what had once been the Ninth Ward but was then mostly cracked cement stairs leading to rotting houses or nothing at all. She showed me Habitat For Humanity’s first completed housing area, dubbed Musicians’ Village, and it was small. Philanthropic attention had long since moved elsewhere.

I started to tear up as we passed the convention center in the taxi cab, and the driver and I had a moment. But as we pulled further into the city, I noticed something was different. There were people everywhere.

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I’ve made it to about three hundred restaurants in four years in LA, and only one of them was vegetarian, so I’m pretty serious about these meat dishes. Pro: they’re all cheap. Con: none of them photograph well. (And in one case, photos aren’t even allowed.) So, pardon my textiness.

Kitfo
Rosalind’s Ethiopian Cuisine, 1044 S Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles 90019

$11

Rosalind’s is one of my favorite Friday date-night restaurants, and my guy and I buy up Groupons for it as often as they come along. Kitfo is hand-chopped beef served nearly raw with butter, chiles, and other northern African spices. It gets sauteed for mere seconds before being delivered to the table with roll-ups of injera, the light, spongy pancake used to pick up food in Ethiopian dining, the sole utensil in this fun and casual culinary culture. We usually order fried appetizers and a lamb stew besides, and the portions are enormous, so we end up with leftovers. In the morning, we scramble eggs with the leftover tartare for breakfast. And the morning after that, I’m craving Rosalind’s all over again. Read the rest of this entry »

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Why can’t I be as brave as this wee wahine?

Today, I need to grow a pair of kahunas. We’re going snorkeling, and I want to be brave enough to float 15 feet above a lot of tiny little vegan fish, and potentially a 50-foot starfish that can suck my eyeballs out of their sockets and then smother me to death.

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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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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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Reading about Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter’s new Midtown venture, Monkey Bar, situated in the Elysee Hotel, I was enticed. By some accounts, it’s his tour de force in Manhattan scene (if not cuisine?); by others, it seemed like a voyage to turn-of-the-century Bombay, an intriguing move, if of questionable taste. Ultimately, Ruth gave it the nod. And I love an adventure. Read the rest of this entry »

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