Friday flyby of links

It’s the best day of the week, and it’s also time for some link lovin’. I was excited to include the Independent Weekly‘s special 2013-2014 Eats guide to the Triangle, but it appears to only reside in the real, non-virtual world. If you’re a Triangle resident/transient/hungry passerby, try to snag a copy.

I’m off to DC tomorrow to celebrate my cousin’s college graduation (woo!) It’s the first time I will have visited since the exodus in March. At the very least, it should have warmed up.

Find a hardcopy of this dining guide, which includes new restaurants and fun articles like "Dining for Introverts"

Find a hardcopy of this guide, which includes the newest eateries, hilarious food pyramids for the different Triangle cities, and the lighthearted “Dining for Introverts”

  • Take me away from my computer [Condé Nast Traveler]: While this Grand Tour of Asia is not gastronomic per se, the details of sipping coconuts on the beaches of Sri Lanka to perusing the food stalls in Singapore whet the appetite for adventure.
  • Half say “Ew” and half say “Ooo” [That Winsome Girl]: I stumbled upon this recipe for coffee Jell-o after my wisdom teeth extraction. It sounds like a java version of panna cotta, leading me to feel more intrigued than squeamish.
  • Grill, baby, grill [Apartment Therapy]: The Internet is abuzz with grilling recipes, tricks, and tips, but what if you don’t have space for wardrobe-sized machinery? The Weber Smokey Joe Grill would be my top choice, but sadly the apple green hue is no more.
  • Colonel Sanders’s contraband [NY Times]: If you were on a desert island/in the Gaza strip, what would you pay to have smuggled through tunnels for you? Ice cream sundaes? Fresh sushi? KFC?

Atlanta without the heat

This past weekend I met my “big” from college — who, of course, is quite tiny — in Atlanta. She’ll be move to the city for her residency in the summer and needed to scout out a place to stay. Despite a slightly smarmy company of relocation headhunters, my friend fell back on her NYC instincts and found a fabulous place in mere hours. Thank you, craigslist.

Cityscape as seen from Piedmont Park

Cityscape as seen from Piedmont Park

Growing up in nearby SC, I visited “Hotlanta,” but never in the summer when rumor had it that the concrete jungle created its own weather. This trip was unseasonably cool (highs in the 60s) and sun-sunny. From Midtown and Downtown to Five Points and Decatur, we toured (and tasted) the city, and despite the epic traffic jams, still found it quite sweet.

Victory drink at Leon's in Decatur. Tequila, jalepeño and a medley of spirits pack a refreshing but hot punch

Tequila, spirits and jalepeño make for a spicy victory drink at Leon’s in Decatur

A food truck festival that would make DC blush, had we not been on an apartment hunting mission, we would have stopped

Food truck festival that would make DC blush; also one source of the aforementioned traffic

My first trip to NYC was to visit my "big" when I was a freshman in college

Still travelin’: My first trip to NYC was to visit my “big” when I was a freshman in college

Not just biscuits (yes, we had them, too) -- a grain bowl brunch at Radial

Not just biscuits (we had them, too): a grain bowl + over-easy egg for brunch at Radial Cafe

Art from one of the many booths at the Atlanta Dogwood Festival

Art from one of the many booths at the Atlanta Dogwood Festival

Best of Boston

It’s a sad day when an iconic race that brings people together from across the country and even the world warps into something so scary and so sad.

Many people have pointed out that the single malicious act was overpowered by the goodwill and bravery of countless people in Boston and beyond.  In the end, the good will always outnumber the bad.

Along that same vein, I wanted to post a quick visual feast of the best of Boston. I went once (literally 20 years ago) as a kid but remember it as a vibrant, walkable city filled with a perfect mix of historic and new; city and town; down-to-earth and extraordinary. Let’s send them all some lovin, even if we’re far away.

Start the day with a hearty Irish breakfast via Flickr

Start the day with a hearty Irish breakfast [Flickr]

A lunch of Boston chowda via TasteBook

Warm up to a cup of  ‘chowda’ [TasteBook]

Stop for a drink where everybody knows your name

Drink where everybody knows your name

Finish with lighter-than-air Boston Cream Pie

Finish with lighter-than-air Boston Cream Pie [America’s Test Kitchen]

Ode to oysters

Monday I went for an overnight trip to Indian Beach on Emerald Isle, and today I’m heading to Wilmington. It’s hard not to feel spoiled living just two to three hours from the beach when growing up, it was more like four or five.

According to NASA, more than a third of the human population lives within 60 miles of the coast. While there is no conclusive data on the correlation between oysters and oceanside residence, I think the shellfish speak for themselves.

These bivalves hailed from Bordeaux

These bivalves hailed from Bordeaux

While visiting Paris for the first time last October, I also got to taste these raw beauties for the first time. Until then, the only indirect experience I’d had with them involved an uncle nearly missing Thanksgiving dinner following a nasty bout of food poisoning.

When my friend and I sat down to La Cabane a Huitres — a hole-in-the-wall, family-owned establishment that was probably the best dining experience of the entire trip — I was timid about the bivalves.

“What do they taste like?” I asked.

“The ocean,” she said.

And it was that simple. Letting a half-shell slide down your throat is not unlike submerging the deep blue. Briny, salty, sweet and totally satisfying.

Happy Friday, all!

At La Cabane a Huitres in October

At La Cabane a Huitres in October

Oysters of North Carolina

Oysters of North Carolina

A sunny day by the sea

A sunny day by the sea

Enough reading for a desert island getaway

Last weekend, Stone Ridge High School in Bethesda, Md., held its annual used book sale. I’d seen a small ad in the paper about it, but it wasn’t until a coworker said that he was selling his beer fest tickets to attend the sale instead that I called up my friend Shawny and we made plans to meet Saturday morning.

One of three gymnasiums chockfull of books

Manned by high school students, teachers, and other volunteers, the event had a decent (but not overwhelming) crowd  as we all took turns browsing the stacks and filling our complementary box tops with books. Two hours and three gymnasiums full of  general fiction, history, science, travel, cooking, and probably every book Barbara Kingsolver ever wrote*, we emerged with what can only be called a glutinous loot. The grand total? A little over $30 for 13 books in good, if not excellent, condition. We happened to run into my coworker there, and he said it was the best year yet.

Shawny browses the fiction section

Obviously, I now have to ban myself from stepping into a Barnes & Noble or any other bookstore until 2013.

Here’s a breakdown of what I snagged:

Nonfiction/Adventure

  • Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer — Firsthand account of a failed Everest expedition by the prolific writer who also wrote an exposé on Greg Mortenson with the report “Three Cups of Deceit.”
  • Into the Wild, also by Krakauer — I never saw the movie, but apparently it tells the true story of a young man who gives up his inheritance to live simply… and then dies. Yeah, bummer.
  • In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson — I enjoyed taking A Walk in the Woods with Bryson and thought this travel memoir would be the perfect way to prep for my (hopefully happening) trip to the Land Down Under next year.
  • Under the Black Flag by David Cordingly — I blame growing up in the Carolinas and vacationing in Black Beard’s old stomping ground, but every summer I have this urge to read a book about pirates. Now I just need a beach and some rum.
  • The Amazon: Past, Present, and Future by Alain Gheerbrant — Visiting the northeastern part of Argentina and reading The Lost City of Z last year have left me greatly intrigued by the entire Amazon: its strange flora and fauna, its history, its peoples, and even the bizarre theories of  its lost civilizations.
  • The Year 1000 by Robert Lacey and Danny Danziger — Medieval brain surgery and details on the average height of the original Millennials — need I say more?

Fiction

  • Life of Pi by Yann Martel — I’ve been meaning to read this since about 2002. It’s going to happen. Really.
  • The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kinsolver* — Being on Oprah’s book club list can be a green light (Eat, Pray, Love) or a flashing caution sign (The Tale of Edgar Sawtelle), but since a friend raved about this one, I thought it was worth a shot.
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon — Shawny also bought this one and is already enjoying it. Someone else remarked that it was the “best explanation of life, ever.” High expectations for this one.
Food (of course)
  • My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud’Homme — I loved Julie and Julia, and this sounds equally delightful.
  • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver* — The author and her family set out to only eat food that they raise and produce themselves for a year. Sounds like the healthy antithesis to Morgan Spurlock’s Supersize Me.
  • Skinny Bitch in the Kitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Bornouin — I haven’t read their original book and am not sure I agree with the take-no-prisoners platform, but the recipes looked pretty good. And at $1 (my cheapest buy), I could afford to risk it.
  • The Moosewood Cookbook by Molly Katzen — Lifelong vegetarian friends have recommended the Moosewood books as a staple for veggie cooking, so I swiped this one quickly even though it had a smudge on the cover and no pictures inside (shallow, I know). At $4, it was my most expensive purchase.

My bundle -- technically box-top -- of books

Happy reading and happy weekend! Keep your eyes peeled for GP; rumor has it she’s in town.

*Aside from the two I picked up, we counted four more Kingsolver and therefore gave her the unofficial title of MPP, most prolific player.

A day and a half

During my marathon shopping spree, I popped into Anthropologie, where more times than not I am drawn to the houseware items and books more than the pricey (and often flimsy) clothing. I was on a mission and couldn’t linger long but did manage to glimpse this lovely book.

Apparently The New York Times has a whole series of 36-hour destinations on their website, which include overseas locales like Mendoza, but this charming travel guide focuses exclusively on the United States and Canada, i.e. ideal weekend getaways. From quickly flipping through, it seems that each blurb is informative yet succinct. With the retro illustrations and enticing tidbits, The New York Times 36 Hours seems like an ideal coffee table book — and one that I might actually pick up and read, too.

Five years ago

It’s hard to believe that five years ago, my good friend Meredith and I were experiencing a series of unfortunate travel events that would come to be known as our spring break in Spain. We had just met a few months before while studying abroad in Florence, Italy, and decided to travel together to Barcelona, Madrid, and Palma de Mallorca during the 10-day break.

The trip was awesome in both the common and literal meaning of the word. It started with an airline/booking website error that cost us a day of our vacation and about 20 hours talking with call centers (after which we became easy pros at sleeping in any sort of train, station, airport, or even plane). When I think back on the 4 a.m. call with “Neo” in India who finally helped us salvage our trip; or my rooster alarm noise that had one man thinking there was a chicken in my pack; or the toweled man who slimily invited us into his hostel rom; or the bar that served absinthe with instructions; or the noisy Italian teenagers in Barcelona, it’s hard not to laugh and reminisce fondly (although we were quite stressed when these events actually unfolded).

That spring break in Spain was all part of a larger experience: my first time spending an extended period overseas. It’s hard to describe how much of an impact it had on me, but I’ll suffice it to say that it marked some sort of turning point. Ever since then, I thought of my college years, and my life to some extent, as pre- or post-Italy. It was during these five months that I first succumbed to the travel bug — a condition that I hope is chronic.

So here’s to the five-year anniversary of that crazy spring break. May more travel shenanigans (of the fun variety!) be in the future.

Ever under construction, Gaudí's Sagrada Familia

Churros y chocolate in Madrid

Twilight in Spain's capital

Like much of Toledo, this illuminated text is gilded

Catedral and downtown of Palma on the island Mallorca

Mermaid statue near the docks of Palma