A curated list of events, restaurants/bakeries, local attractions, and new things Jiaxin will be trying out in the month of November.Read More
Visiting my friend Sydney and her boyfriend Julian in Naxos felt like a complete dream. After landing in Athens, taking the metro to Pireaus, then patiently waiting out a 7 hour ferry ride, I was greeted by one of my best friends at the dock.
I did not anticipate the intense feelings of happiness and even nostalgia upon seeing Sydney. Perhaps it was the backdrop of so many people rushing off the ferry into their loved ones' arms, faces lit by the lights of the town. Nevertheless, my heart felt full to be in a place that meant so much to her.
Our day were filled with beaches, Greek salads, and good conversation. With so many beaches around the island, you can't really go wrong with any. Agios Prokopios is where we spent most of our time embracing the freedom of no bikini tops, followed by great post swim meals at local restaurants. I recommend Naxian for great food, pictured below.
Our goodbye took me by surprise just as much as our greeting. Upon leaving Naxos, I felt pangs of sadness and a longing to stay. We hugged goodbye, and wished each other safe travels.
To American tourists, London takes the spotlight away from lots of other UK destinations. That would be like New York representing America – not completely inaccurate for some things, but definitely unrepresentative of the nation’s geographic and cultural diversity. I was so glad to be able to spend a weekend in Cardiff, the capital of Wales, with my hometown friend Sarah and her buddy Bethan. I felt so spoiled having my own room in Bethan’s house, and also having access to a washing machine. Aside from the comforts of home, Cardiff itself was charming and beautiful. We hit up a few of the local attractions, and it was nice to have a local to show us around.
1. Roath Lake
Everyone kept telling me that I must have brought the weather with me, because the usual Cardiff rain was replaced with beautiful and sunny blue skies. The children were out, the adults were out catching Pokemon – a relaxing Saturday for all.
2. Cardiff Bay
Nice weather brings everyone out, including all the fans for miscellaneous British rowing teams. The Bay had was quite charming with all the attractions it had to offer to residents, and the cheering of the rowing fans made the regatta atmosphere really exciting even though I didn’t know what was going.
3. Castle Coch/Red Castle
Sunday brought the rain clouds that were nowhere to be found on Saturday. Bethan brought us to a castle, and the rain actually made for a more dramatic backdrop. Being too cheap to go in, we just snapped a few pictures and made our way to dinner.
4. Sunday Roast
This born again omnivore was all about Sunday Roast. Meat meat meat we did eat eat eat!
Like New York, London can feel like a bit of a concrete jungle – although it’s a much cleaner and friendlier one. But also like its American counterpart, London has green spaces where you can escape from the chaos. I spent some time walking across Kensington Park before meeting my friend for tea near the palace.
There were lots of runners out donning hydration packs, as well as tourists and families. I was listening to a How Stuff Works podcast while enjoying the green space and nice weather, secretly thanking the weather gods for not raining on me.
I made it to the palace, and then slowly made my way over to Orangery. The entrance is quite grand – I felt mega fancy and spoiled, and really enjoyed the experience of afternoon tea with my friend Devin.
Shibuya is one of Tokyo's many wards, known for shopping and nightlife. Right when you get off the subway, you’re welcomed with Shibuya crossing. Cars and pedestrians alternate turns, and when the 90 seconds start for pedestrians it can seem like a somewhat overwhelming crowd. No one is pushing or rude, but it's still quite a sight for someone who is used to different crosswalks.
There are lots of really cool shops in Shibuya, and the experience in it of itself is worth it even if you don't purchase anything. I spent a lot of time hitting up cool shops like Tokyu Hands and Daiso, and didn't break the bank while doing so.
For lunch, I had looked up what to do on TimeOut the evening before, and headed to Zuicho Katsudon. It was a hole in the wall restaurant, and a very traditional Japanese experience where dining out is viewed as quite a utilitarian experience. You wait in line, go in, and eat; it would be quite an operational inefficiency if you expected the staff to chitchat with you.
My anxiety over what to order mounted as I waited in line, but I quickly realized that they only served one thing (katsudon, lol, duh) and I wouldn’t need to test my limited Japanese.
While waiting at Zuicho, I met another American who I grabbed a drink with at Fulgen. Their intimidatingly trendy **mixologist** (I feel like bartender doesn't quite capture his suave) made me an incredibly smooth negroni, complete with lemon zest on the rim of the glass.
It was definitely a nice vacation moment to have a Thursday afternoon cocktail without having to think twice about it.
Outside of its warm weather and beautiful beaches, Puerto Rico is a great vacation spot because you really don't need any Spanish to get around. While my friend Johnny's Spanish was helpful at times to hash out more specific details, my "Do you speak English?" request was usually met with a nod or a point to someone who could.
I utilized my non-Spanish skills a lot at Tresbe, a cafe restaurant about 5 minutes away from our airbnb. Housed in a re-purposed yellow shipping container, Tresbe was a really great place to grab a bite or acai smoothie on their outdoor patio. On the first day, I stayed within my food repertoire and got fish tacos (which were probably the best fish tacos of my life). But towards the end of our stay I got more adventurous and tried ceviche: raw fish cured with citrus juices. I can't wait for my next encounter with ceviche.
Calle Loiza, a great area to stay at. Walking distance to Ocean Park Beach, and close to bars, restaurants, and grocery stores.
The most bombtastic fish tacos ever.
Look at that fish meat. Yum.
Ceviche: not scary at all, and served with sweet fried dough.
Flan that tasted like straight up condensed milk, my absolute favorite.
I started my internship at an education technology start up a little under two months ago, and have grown to love not only the start-up culture but also the city I work in. While the city itself is fighting urban blight and slowly picking away at its negative media image, a rich food culture has remained strong and continued to flourish.
I find myself at Hot Taco on a weekly basis, as it is a favorite amongst the team and someone always wants to go there. I am a sucker for their 3 for $6 tacos, especially because they are always made with fresh avocado. Food truly is a uniting factor, and over a Hot Taco meal, I am fortunate to get to know my co-workers better as well as the culture that defines Detroit.
Chinatowns are a weird place for me. On one end, there is a sense of belonging even though I do not flaunt my Asian identity. For most of my life I grew up in a very Asian household, eating a blend of Chinese, Korean, and Japanese food. I often denied my roots though because of a desire to fit in with my American counterparts, so I find it quite strange when I find comfort and solace in a cultural identity I rejected for so long.
On the other end there is a fierce nostalgia, but one that feels largely out of place as it burns for a country that I visit only every couple of years. Maybe it is the connection I feel to my family rather than the place itself, but I consistently find myself feeling not only comfortable but extremely sentimental as well whenever I frequent a Chinatown.
On top of that, a whole set of different memories are triggered when I step into an Asian bakery, as I spin back into my childhood in San Francisco. Every morning before school, my mom would stop into a bakery near Alamo Elementary and get two green onion rolls for my lunch that day. While I had slightly resented not having a "normal" American lunch everyday (sandwich, juicebox, fun snacks like fruit snacks and granola bars), the memories of walking into that shop every morning with the most important woman in my life are something that I would never trade for anything.
On my most recent trip to Philadelphia, Matthew brought me to Sabrina's Cafe. Part of the reason I love breakfast/brunch foods so much is because I love eggs--especially omelettes. Combined with tons of vegetables and cheese, omelettes are the perfect way to get me going for the day and I am glad I enjoyed one in the company of my favorite.
Before every visit to Philadelphia, Matthew makes a google doc of potential places we could eat, shop, or just relax at. I always feel his anticipation of my arrival through this gesture, and it increases the excitement of going to Philadelphia before I even step onto the plane. One of the most memorable dates he planned for us involved First Friday, where local art galleries in Philadelphia's old district welcome the public with wine and independent artists fill the streets. Before we roamed off into the many galleries, we revisited one of my favorite restaurants for a great dinner of seared tuna with mushroom risotto and Asian shrimp po boys.
While it was tempting to splurge thousands of dollars I don't have on magnificent paintings, I did end up choosing a handmade wire ring with Matthew's assistance (the one pictured on my middle finger). A month later, I still have that ring on and vividly remember the wonderful date night where it came from.
Vegetarians are falsely perceived as health nuts, who max out on their daily fruit and salad intake. For me, this is far from the truth: I take in carbs and fats as if my life depended on it. It was thus quite fitting that instead of something light for lunch like a salad or falafel wrap, Matthew and I chose a hearty combination of good ol' white bread and loaded amounts of dairy via Meltkraft's gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches.
After a whirlwind week of studying for finals and finishing term papers, I am done with my sophomore year at the University of Michigan! It is a little scary to think that I am now halfway through college, and slightly intimidating that I am supposed to have a real "job" in a short couple of years. Overall though, it's an exciting and accomplished feeling that I am happy to have reached.
Immediately after I finished my last exam, my mom and I powerhoused through my room and packed everything up, and twelve hours later I got on a plane to see Matthew! I got in to Philly around lunch time, so he took me to Honest Tom's where I had a really great (and really filling) sweet potato burrito. The joint was extremely small and intimate, and perfect for a relaxing first meal together.
My love for breakfast probably stems from my desire for a more settled lifestyle: a desire to not be running around all the time and to have meals at somewhat consistent intervals. It also stems from the hopeless romantic stuck inside a long distance relationship, as breakfast with my dear is something that I know I want to be part of my future life that is filled with love and (hopefully) whimsicality. This past spring break, Matthew and I made waffles for brunch and had a nice sit-down meal together before he left to go back to school. I double dosed on the chocolate, not only adding them in the waffle press but also generously piling them on after they came out.
Maybe it's my lack of baking supplies, (or more likely, my sheer laziness), but I have never really been a fan of complicated recipes with multiple ingredients. I like things that don't require trips to the grocery store, measuring cups, or kitchen timers. So given my constraints, Matthew and I get really creative with the things I have on hand. Before we headed back to school, we had fun dipping oreos in chocolate and decorating them with frosting and sprinkles. And naturally, despite the simplicity of our methods, making these still took much more time than eating them.
As an aspiring entrepreneur getting her business education in the city of Ann Arbor, my courses often look at the local Zingerman's family of businesses as a case study. They have successfully built a brand that is known not just for their excellent delicatessen and roadhouse, but have also flourished in gaining national recognition as a market for superior food products. Their open-minded culture also creates a very positive work environment, making Zingerman's a pleasant experience for employees as well. Having been to the delicatessen before, I wanted to try something a little different than a sandwich. Instead of my usual Leo's Friendly Lion, I ordered the Stewart's Farmer's Hash ("Zingerman's vegetarian hash; Oven-roasted sweet potatoes & redskin potatoes, piquillo peppers, sauteed spinach & crispy onions"). A warm and filling dinner, it made the walk back to my dorm slightly more bearable.
A few weeks ago, hundreds of thousands of Michigan residents were without power--with no exception to my own household. Instead of dealing with a cold unheated home though, we decided to temporarily escape the cold and take a short trip down to Chicago (especially since my dad was away for a business trip). Aside from spending time with my mom and my siblings, there wasn't anything in particular that I wanted to do. Admittedly, we spent a lot of time in the hotel watching Unique Sweets, but it was thoroughly enjoyable to sit in a warm heated room snuggled up with my little brother and sister. Our hotel was within walking distance to the stores on Michigan Avenue and many other Chicago attractions that my siblings had never been to, including the Hershey Store. Although the store itself is a pretty small space, the amount of chocolate upon walking in is somewhat overwhelming--especially for younger children. We gawked at the mega Hershey bars before we sat down with rich milkshakes and indulgent brownies that we quickly devoured.
While headed to Reading Terminal Market (as previously mentioned here and here), Matthew and I had high hopes for making something really spectacular for dinner. We hatched up plans to make a mango-tomato bruschetta, potato gnocchi, and also dessert to top it all off. As we wandered through the market though, we grew increasingly lazy and lost the desire to put so much work into a meal--especially if it required getting things like balsamic vinegar that he probably wouldn't use after I left. We also kept spoiling our appetite by indulging in a bunch of market sweets. A cookie here, a few chocolate truffles there....by the end of it, we definitely were in no state to have an actual dinner. We abandoned our elaborate plans for dinner and settled on getting a baguette, fresh mozzarella cheese, and some garnishes. It was a relatively simple meal, but sometimes it's the simple things in life are what we appreciate the most.
If being vegan were as simple as frequenting this delicious restaurant 2-3x a day, anyone would be able to do it. Hip City Veg's 100% plant-based menu is far more appetizing than your typical vegan offerings of boring salads or meager pastas. Mouth-watering options like Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches and Udon Noodle Salads make eating vegan approachable for even the most carnivorous omnivores, and not for the price of an arm and a leg too.
After bringing home over 40 apples from our apple orchard adventure, we put the fruits of our labor (get the pun?) to good use. Using a recipe pulled out from Matthew's great grandmother's recipe book, we whipped up something that was simple yet still made us feel like novice dessert chefs.