First Trip of 2019: New York City!

4 Feb

I didn’t go at all to NYC last year so decided to join James for his first work trip of 2019. It’s the middle of winter here in the US – you can’t really tell in SF since it’s still hoodie weather, but we were definitely feeling it in NY!

Monday

It was a high of -9C when we arrived on Monday afternoon. While we waited for our Uber I saw a discarded bottle of water that had frozen solid.

This time we stayed at the Dream Downtown, which is normally James’ least preferred of the three hotels closest to Google because it’s attached to a nightclub and gets loud and crowded. It does, however, have an outdoor pool – which is just what you want when it’s below freezing.  IMG_20190121_160451I was pleased with the pictures my new Pixel took underwater!

The pool was heated to 26C so it was actually really nice. IMG_20190121_160345Getting out of the pool was a different matter though. When we walked to get our clothes it was so cold our wet feet kept freezing to the ground. We were too afraid to stand still in case we got stuck.

We had a fortifying shower then went to I Sodi for dinner (and on the walk there my damp hair got all hard and frozen). It’s a popular restaurant but we easily got a walk-in spot at the bar since it was so cold – I guess most people were staying home and getting dinner delivered.

Afterwards we went to a couple of bars (Employees Only and Little Branch), then headed back to our hotel to crash.

Tuesday

Thanks to the night before I craved greasy food all morning. I was also feeling very tired so spent pretty much the entire morning googling easily-accessible potsticker restaurants. I eventually settled on Halal Guys, since I remembered really loving it when James and I first visited NY.

I walked to the East Village location:IMG_20190122_123614It was OK but not as good as I remembered. =( I feel like I make a better version using the Serious Eats recipe.

For dinner we continued my comfort-food binge and went to Xi’an Famous Foods for hand-pulled noodles and had some pork dumplings at Vanessa’s.

Wednesday

I walked in a different direction this time and headed down Bleecker street. I had a toasted cheese sandwich at Murray’s Cheese, then went to the Dominique Ansel bakery where I had a cronut:IMG_20190123_131107It was almond and cherry flavoured and very good. I also got a Blizzard Bear because I thought it was adorable (though it was maybe 20% as good as the cronut). But look at it – so cute!
IMG_20190123_131037I removed the bear’s scarf and sent James a pic:Screenshot_20190129-100420 (1)Rude.

After some post-lunch window shopping I headed back to the hotel for a quick nap before meeting James for dinner. We went to Olmsted in Williamsburg with James’ colleague and his girlfriend. The food was delicious and dessert was adorable s’mores in the backyard of the restaurant.
IMG_20190123_211537Afterwards James’ colleague took us to his local bar, where we drank insanely cheap craft cocktails because he’s buddies with the bartender. The bartender was chatting with our group all night, doing shots with us, making random drinks for us to try … and the bill at the end of the night was $25 (not each – altogether). I told James afterwards that I have never felt like such a VIP.

Thursday

Once again it was difficult to wake up because we drank too much the night before. But we had to go to YouTube so dragged ourselves up at 9am.

The last time I visited New York James was still part of the Play organisation, so this was the first time I’d seen the YouTube office. Behold!MVIMG_20190124_095145We couldn’t go in because it was in use, but behind this wall there’s a fancy secret VIP room with nice booze and insanely expensive speakers.
MVIMG_20190124_100151Here I am looking tired and doing a voice recording for YouTube.IMG_20190124_115621 (1)And here is James editing file names so the sound editors could tell which file was which.
IMG_20190124_112408Then it was lunchtime! We had sushi and pasta, both of which were really good. The food in the New York office always seems better than the food in the Bay Area. James said the coffee is much better too.

The pasta was cooked on the spot for us, which was pretty cool. I had bolognese with capers, olives, onion and tomato, and parmesan sprinkled on top.
IMG_20190124_123203
Then I went back to the hotel for what was becoming my daily nap. When James got back we went out for dinner and drinks at The Office and The Aviary.

The drinks at The Office were better but the drinks at The Aviary were way more fun! We had two at The Office so were already feeling a bit tipsy by the time we headed to The Aviary.
IMG_20190124_200751(That’s right, busting out the Junya Watanabe top again. Once again it was a compliment magnet).

A ship in a bottle! Unfortunately the actual drink was poured into a glass. Note the atmospheric candle behind it.IMG_20190124_202357We also ordered this pork skin to eat. It’s not on the menu but The Aviary is pretty famous for it.

OooooOOoooooh!
MVIMG_20190124_203010It was delicious. So crispy and salty – like a prawn cracker but SO much better. At that point we’d had 4 or 5 drinks so that pork skin really hit the spot.

This is the pork skin about 20 minutes in. To be honest, if this was what they had given us to begin with I still wouldn’t have been disappointed.IMG_20190124_205508They gave us these classy little moist towelettes to clean our hands and James was so drunk he thought it was a tiny complimentary drink.
IMG_20190124_222355Also a group of three came over and said we looked adorable and gave us their leftover snacks – some olives and cheesy popcorn. It was very nice of them. =)

James’ cocktail marinating:
IMG_20190124_205753My cocktail smoking:
mvimg_20190124_210458_exported_stabilized_2902587954644618319At the end of the night (and by that I mean 9:30pm – which was doubly pathetic because it was only 6:30pm West Coast time!) we took an Uber back to the hotel where James was lured by a Halal truck and got some lamb and rice to eat in bed.MVIMG_20190124_230747

Friday

The original plan was to get spring onion pancakes for breakfast but James was feeling a bit ill (possibly from Halal cart) so we decided to go to Google instead.

Breakfast is thataway!IMG_20190125_094615No pics but I had eggs over medium, bacon, grilled tomato with mozzarella and some rocket (which Americans call arugula).

I always feel super bloated when I leave New York because of how much we gorge ourselves, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to going back and having some more pork skin. It was good to get home to lovely temperate San Francisco weather though. =)

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Google Holiday Party 2018: Under the Big Top

13 Jan

Hello everyone! Wow it’s 2019 already – where does the time go? I’ve been meaning to blog but James and I both got sick late last year which sucked. =(

Anyway, the 2018 Google holiday party was circus themed and held at the De Young Museum. There was a weird entry process which involved showing ID and scanning individual QR codes. We thought the extra security was maybe because of the YouTube shooting.

There was a station with various fancy hot dogs:
IMG_20181201_194216(From recollection: regular, kim chi, chilli and reuben)

We got there right at the start and managed to knock out some activities that we knew would have long lines later. We did a tarot reading and also had caricatures drawn. You can tell from the progress picture that it’s not going to look anything like James haha.
MVIMG_20181201_201112The semi-outdoor area had fairy floss (two flavours! Pumpkin pie and I think either lychee or passionfruit), drinks, popcorn, a sushi stand and noodle stations. IMG_20181201_195857I went back for fairy floss like, 4 times.
IMG_20181201_200059That’s the Junya Watanabe top that I bought from Japan. People went nuts for it – I must have had 20 people come up to me and tell me they loved it. So that was nice. =)

This year they had a cool ball pit photo booth (with the camera overhead).
IMG_20181207_150737The museum opened the exhibit halls so we could just wander through without crowds.
IMG_20181201_211241We found my doppelganger in the Contemporary Muslim Fashions exhibit.
IMG_20181201_214912The food was pretty nicely spread out this year, so there weren’t any obvious bottlenecks. However, the big scandal was there was no decent booze this year. Normally they have cute little cocktails but not this year – just beer/wine and mocktails. =/ One of James’ coworkers told him about a rumour he’d heard that there was a proper bar in the observation room, so we headed up there only to be disappointed.

However, we did find a lady who wrote poetry on demand (the same lady who was at Googleween). I picked out a nice piece of paper and she asked what I wanted my poem to be about – I asked her to write about my top. I explained how I’d bought it in Japan on a whim, and how people had been coming up to me all night to compliment it.

Guys. The poem was perfect. IMG_20181201_210828James even calls it my Bowser top, so you can imagine how delighted I was.

Fortified with poetry but also deflated from lack of booze, we took the elevator back down, where I collected yet another compliment and we bumped into the colleague who had told us the drink rumour and James had to inform him the bar was a lie. (We checked in with a bunch of our friends who work in different parts of Google and only one of them had cocktails at his party, so maybe this is a new trend).

We took another photo at one of the photo booths, doing quick changes in between shots to try and display the food options.
IMG_20181207_150809James held the hot dog too close to the lens in the second photo, which I am still somewhat bitter about.

I like seeing James’ coworkers, eating and taking fun photos, but have to admit that Google parties are way less fun without cocktails. Am I spoiled? I’m probably a little bit spoiled. (Narrator: She was a lot spoiled).

Aaaand Back to Melbourne For a Bit!

4 Dec

Last month James and I headed back to Melbourne for Cat’s wedding. It was a shorter trip (about 10 days) since our last visit was relatively recent. Don’t want people getting sick of us!

Pre-flight cocktails in the Polaris lounge:
IMG_20181113_205407The flight was scheduled to leave quite late – around 11pm – and it was probably midnight by the time they started dinner service. Who wants dinner at midnight???

I slept for most of the trip. James’ in-flight entertainment was busted but it worked out because they gave him $250 for the inconvenience and we just switched seats. =)

About to touch down in Sydney (check out the Opera House!) MVIMG_20181114_133645(Also for what it’s worth, connecting in Sydney is so annoying. You have to take a bus between terminals and it takes forever).

The wedding was the night after we arrived and luckily we weren’t too jet-lagged. =) The ceremony was beautiful and we had a great time catching up with family and some of Cat’s old friends.

My incredibly talented friend Kim made the wedding cake.
IMG_20181117_171243And in the background are my cousins Victor and Henry!

Here James and I are taking advantage of the ice cream cart.IMG_20181117_190613Cat had very kindly made sure there were plenty of dairy-free food options for James, including a delicious pizza at the end of the night.

It was a really fun way to kick off our trip to Melbourne!

We stayed at an AirBNB in the city and the location was pretty much perfect – right near Melbourne Central. We were near all our favourite restaurants and we ate ourselves stupid.

Also the current “thing” seems to be edible flowers (Nicola tells me they’re pansies, but I didn’t want to write “edible pansies” for obvious reasons). The pansies were very popular at brunch and we also encountered them in cocktails. Sometimes the brunch placement made sense – on top of a stack of pancakes or something. Sometimes the brunch placement was perplexing – “oh, here’s a flower on top of some scrambled eggs”.

But anyway, we went to some old favourites (*cough* Rose Garden *cough*) and also discovered some amazing new places. I know I say it every time, but Melbourne gets more and more cool every time we go back.

Miznon:
IMG_20181121_212325 The food was fantastic and their music playlist was even better.IMG_20181121_212206I am unique like a pita!

And James with the flagship dish, the flowering cabbage.
IMG_20181121_205050 He looks like he is wearing guyliner but those are just his beautiful eyes.

Din Tai Fung:

We ate soo many xiao long bao!
IMG_20181122_132252
Eau de Vie:

Last time we went we promised ourselves we’d do their cocktail and food degustation menu. Damo and Joel joined us and it was super fun catching up.

Our first drink of the night – mezcal and aloe.
MVIMG_20181123_194548 Mushroom soup with a surprise duck egg inside.IMG_20181123_195505Wine cocktails getting smoked:
IMG_20181123_203940 Our host making a sorbet palate cleanser: IMG_20181123_210342And the finished product!
IMG_20181123_210815Pillar of Salt:
IMG_20181124_111010 (1)(This sign doesn’t make sense to me. It’s not much of a statement – wouldn’t everyone rather live full than die hungry?)IMG_20181124_114424Melbourne brunches are so, so good. This meal was delicious (and the guy brought me an extra serve of turkish bread for free, yay!)

Mjolnir:
IMG_20181125_185757 Skol! IMG_20181125_192102Us and our wonderful friends! (Also check out our giant viking horn drinking vessels).
MVIMG_20181125_194911They lit a lot of things on fire that night. Here is a Baked Alaska: 00000IMG_00000_BURST20181125211320_COVERThe bill came in this gorgeous pop-up ship!
IMG_20181125_213109As usual we had a whirlwind schedule, meeting up with  for lunch and dinner pretty much every day we were back. I only took photos of 30% of what we ate but most of it was amazing. Every time James and I think maybe we’ve overhyped the food in our memories but every time it’s just as good as we remember.

Also, have some Melbourne street art:

We passed this every day and I kept thinking that I should take a photo – I finally did on our last evening in Melbourne.
IMG_20181125_091646 I saw this one while I was in a car and had to take a photo because it was so gorgeous: MVIMG_20181124_143152Ever since I bought my Gucci Aces, James has been saying “that’s Gucci” (apparently the children say it to mean something is good) so this graffiti pleased me despite its subject:
IMG_20181124_132456Everybody likes raccoons:
MVIMG_20181116_112953Oh my.IMG_20181125_152649Our last day in Melbourne wasn’t really a day at all because we had to leave at 8am. Though it turned out we could have hung around a little longer because our flight to Auckland was over an hour delayed, which unfortunately meant that we missed our planned connection.

They put us on an Air New Zealand flight five hours later and during that time we just killed time at the lounge. We had some cocktails (not nearly as good as the ones in the Polaris lounge) and a light lunch. Also baos!MVIMG_20181126_181858The flight was really nice – I think the seats are a bit wider than United’s and the service was better. Though Polaris is better in terms of couple seating – the only real option with the Air New Zealand herringbone layout is to go one behind the other or across the aisle from each other. Though they had a little ottoman you could perch on to chat to the other person or eat a meal together which was quite nice. (James: It was Gucci).

Oh hey!
IMG_20181127_074818
We were glad to get back to the cats and our normal routine, though it’s always a bit sad to leave. I think I’ll forever be a Melburnian at heart. Also, there were so many restaurants we wanted to try but weren’t able to get around to. Next time!
IMG_20181126_064844New Things About Melbourne:

  • Flowers on food
  • Cheese tea
  • Yeezy’s everywhere
  • Food delivery couriers also everywhere
  • Supermarkets now charging for shopping bags (though they’re sturdier than the old shopping bags)
  • Lines outside designer stores
  • Google office! (Though James said it’s really small and just sales/marketing)

Things About Melbourne That We Had Forgotten:

  • How you split the bill (everyone takes it in turns to line up and tell the cashier what they ate)
  • Sunday surcharges at restaurants
  • Were there always this many smokers?
  • Myer Christmas windows!!!

 

A Week in New Orleans

26 Oct

There are three great cities in America: New York, San Francisco and New Orleans. Everywhere else is Cleveland.

-Tennessee Williams

We live in San Francisco, James spends a month out of the year in New York, and after 6 years in the US, it was about time we visited New Orleans! Kieren and Sam were visiting from Australia and New Orleans was on their list so we decided to all catch up there.
MVIMG_20181010_130212

Thursday

Our flight landed around 3pm, and after checking in at our hotel we grabbed a very late fried chicken lunch at Willie Mae’s. Our Uber driver said we were lucky to not have to wait in line – hooray for eating at off-peak times!
IMG_20181004_160109The chicken was amazing – one of my favourite things we ate in New Orleans. The batter was crispy and not greasy, and the chicken itself was super moist.

We very briefly met up with Kieren and Sam, had a fancy and delicious dinner at August, grabbed at mediocre cocktail at a bar called Loa, then crashed.

Friday

James and I picked up our rental car in the morning to drive 1.5 hours out of New Orleans to Global Wildlife Center in Folsom. We originally weren’t sure whether to include this in the itinerary but it ended up being the best thing we did, and I would highly, highly recommend going.

We drove across the Pontchartrain Bridge, which is the world’s longest continuous bridge over water.MVIMG_20181005_095029It took 30 minutes to cross. About 5 minutes into the bridge we were like “wow this is a long bridge” and checked Google Maps to see how much longer there was to go. Motherfucker …

All the reviews of Global Wildlife Center said that a private tour was the way to go. The public tour was $19 each and the private tour was $35 (but paying for a minimum of 4 people). We saw the public tour and it was soooo crap compared to ours.

This was the giant bag of feed we purchased – it was a little bit too much in the end, but better too much than not enough!
IMG_20181005_105111Look at this lovely llama’s sweet smile.
IMG_20181005_105729 Oh my.MVIMG_20181005_105715And alpacas! Our driver said the way to tell llamas and alpacas apart is that alpacas have bangs.
IMG_20181005_111520
(The alpaca in the foreground finds that very amusing .”Haha it is true, we do have bangs”)

But of course the giraffes were the highlight. Like the other animals they would walk up to the car and eat straight out of our hands. It was amazing to see them so close. =)
IMG_20181005_111015This is George, and he just put his head straight into the food bucket (look at that jealous deer behind him). IMG_20181005_110438James makes friends with a lady giraffe:
IMG_20181005_111044I also really loved the bison. The cows had a particular way of asking for food – they’d come up to the car, stick out their tongues and kind of … swivel them around beseechingly.

Exhibit A:
IMG_20181005_112919Exhibit B:
MVIMG_20181005_113154 Exhibit B is embarrassed by Exhibit A: IMG_20181005_113203Look at this massive unit.
MVIMG_20181005_112757James was super freaked out when the bison exhaled on him because he said there was just so much warm air.

But anyway, the bison also got in on the tongue action:IMG_20181005_112909We weren’t allowed to feed the zebras (apparently they get quite food-aggressive and will bite the other animals) but that didn’t stop them from stalking the car and trying to get food.
IMG_20181005_113858Please.IMG_20181005_113618Please.IMG_20181005_113644(There were also kangaroos at the end of the tour, but they weren’t free-range like the rest of the animals, and also you can imagine how unimpressed James and I are by kangaroos).

Deer though – so cool!
IMG_20181005_122304 So yeah, the safari was amazing and we had such a great time. =)

Also, when we were in the gift shop there were a ton of regular souvenirs like mugs and stuffed animals, but they also sold naturally-shed antlers from the different breeds of deer – how awesome is that! MVIMG_20181005_121202The ones on the middle shelf were only $25!

Here the one we bought is on our mantle at home, as a nice souvenir of our fun day with all the animals. =)IMG_20181025_111734 Afterwards we drove to Harbor Seafood for a very deep-fried seafood lunch. IMG_20181005_140039After we returned the rental car and had a fortifying nap, we decided to brave Bourbon street. It was pretty tacky and packed with drunk people, and we were both really relieved to find O Bar, where we drank nice cocktails and listened to live jazz.

They’re known for their gin fizz, which is shaken for 6 minutes (nowadays by machine but originally by hand) to get this very impressive height: IMG_20181005_201736 James ordered a traditional absinthe drip: IMG_20181005_203003(The barkeeper accidentally diluted the absinthe too much, and James was very pleased when he rectified it by topping his glass up with more absinthe).

Afterwards we kept the party going and went to Frenchmen street where we listened to some more jazz at the Spotted Cat Cafe. IMG_20181005_223039 (1)We walked up and down the street listening to music from the different bars, then James grabbed a late night po’boy for the walk back to our hotel. It was the longest (and most satisfying!) day we had in New Orleans. =)

Saturday

The next morning we started with some oysters at Acme Oysters. We only waited a minute or two but by the time we left a line of 50+ had already formed, so if you go I’d recommend getting there early.

Neither James nor I were super impressed with the oysters – we both think Gulf oysters are impressively large (and cheap)  but don’t have as much flavour as West Coast oysters. The chargrilled oysters were good but that was mainly from the butter and cheese. The oyster shots were interesting though!IMG_20181006_113618The original plan was to hit Cafe du Monde for a breakfast-dessert but the line was crazy so we just grabbed a second breakfast muffaletta at Central Grocery. We ordered the half-sandwich and it was huge.IMG_20181006_125902We then did a self-guided walking tour of the French Quarter. It started off with various historical sites, then at some point devolved into a bar crawl. There were a ton of notable bars and James and I would be like “well we have to get at least their signature drink”.

Here we are at Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, one of the oldest bars in America: IMG_20181006_135845I ordered the voodoo daiquiri which was like terrible slurpee. At one point we saw them pouring a big jug of coloured syrup into a drink and were like “yeah that looks about right.”

The bar was a bit loud for us so after resting a bit we decided to just keep going with the tour. As an aside, when we first got to New Orleans we were like “why is everyone so excited about being able to drink on the street?” but it definitely grew on us. My drink was massive (and gave me brain freeze if I drank too much) so it was not having to stay in a shitty bar until I finished it.

The next bar we went to was Tropical Isle. We got the two signature drinks – the Hand Grenade (which you see everywhere in the French Quarter) and the Shark Attack. Both drinks were predictably gross but also really fun. At this point we were kind of getting into the terribleness of the cocktails – we’d take a sip and just start laughing at how bad they were. They were surprisingly strong though! IMG_20181006_144001The Shark Attack was cool – the bartender filled a plastic shark with grenadine, and when she made the drink, she rang a bell, yelled out “blood in the water!” then squeezed the shark so all the grenadine spread out like blood. James was entranced, and kept the shark so he could make his own high-end version at home.

We continued on with our walking tour and saw some Second Lines, which are these wonderful marching band mini-parades where people walk behind the band and twirl handkerchiefs.

We’d be looking at buildings, hear some music and be like “oooh another parade!” Yes, we were drunk, but also brass bands and wedding parties walking around the city celebrating is so charming.IMG_20181006_145951 Also this next photo reminded me that there was a toy alligator in my Shark Attack for some reason. IMG_20181006_150214Another Second Line selfie! IMG_20181006_152107We’ve done it. We’ve finally become those old people who take photos of strangers’ weddings.

On our walking tour we also saw a ton of stuff like haunted houses (with pretty gruesome histories), psychics, tarot readers and of course, voodoo shops.

James: I would get a voodoo doll of you and pat it on the head.

Another stop was Napoleon House, which some guy originally intended for Napoleon to take refuge in, but Napoleon never even visited, and it’s now a restaurant. James was particularly enamoured with this sexy Napoleon painting. IMG_20181006_160040 (1)Apparently Napoleon House is famous for its Pimm’s Cup so that’s what I got (spoiler: it was too lemony).

James (sounding betrayed): I thought we came in here to sober up so I got a coffee – and then you ordered a Pimm’s!

We also went to Antoine’s Restaurant where we ordered the Cafe Brulot Diabolique. IMG_20181006_164532 So very, very tipsy by then.MVIMG_20181006_164807James was a bit peckish so he got a po’boy before we headed back to the hotel to take a nap. Even though it was hot (and I know I didn’t really mention that – but it really was disgustingly hot and humid) we had a really enjoyable afternoon walking around the French Quarter. =)

Sunday

Sunday morning we had a jazz brunch with Kieren, Sam and their kids, then in the evening we had dinner at Brennan’s.

By this point we were both feeling like we’d overdone it with the alcohol and rich food. We did have to order the famous bananas foster for dessert though. 00008XTR_00008_BURST20181007221243
After dinner we went to The Sazerac Bar which is where the sazerac was invented – but apparently not perfected, since it wasn’t very good. Oh well!

Monday

On Monday we did a swamp tour. We chose to do it in a small airboat because it’s supposed to be much better/faster than the regular boats. It was loud so we all had to wear ear protection.IMG_20181008_101309 I’m assuming this is the engine? IMG_20181008_102723On the swamp tour we saw two alligators, which our guide lured with marshmallows and hot dogs: IMG_20181008_104747There were also giant spiders and some sweet little raccoons. The raccoons also liked marshmallows: IMG_20181008_110915 The swamp was surprisingly lovely (despite the spiders and giant mosquitoes): IMG_20181008_111559After the tour we showered and grabbed an early dinner at Coop’s Place. It was our first time trying gumbo and red beans and rice. James said this was his favourite meal (for the price) in New Orleans. Then we went to Cafe du Monde for their famous beignets, and fortunately there was no line this time.

We capped it off with some jazz at Preservation Hall. IMG_20181008_175930 It was very hyped up but honestly of all the jazz we saw in New Orleans we both enjoyed this the least. It’s still probably worth doing just to cross it off the bucket list, but considering it was the most expensive performance we went to, it just wasn’t as great as we expected.

Tuesday 

We went to Commander’s Palace for an early lunch. Originally we’d been thinking of cancelling the reservation because we were both sick of eating so much high-end Creole food but I’m glad we kept it because it was really good! MVIMG_20181009_125212The main draw of the weekday lunches are the 25c martinis. Yes, that’s right, 25c.

James: They could throw the drink at me and if I opened my mouth and I’d still be able to drink 25c of gin.

(Definitely just order the classic martini though – the cosmo/citrus/melon variations they had were pretty awful – I ordered the citrus because I was like “ooh, sounds like it’ll refreshing!” and it was blue).

We walked off our martinis doing a self-guided cemetery tour across the street at Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. We also did the Garden district tour but quickly got bored since it was just walking around looking at mansions. Instead we grabbed an Uber to MS Rau, which is a cross between an art gallery and a high end antique dealer.

Here are Abraham Lincoln’s opera glasses from the night he was assassinated – pretty weird!MVIMG_20181009_152915There was a secret door that led to a series of rooms with lots of paintings which was pretty cool.IMG_20181009_152232In the evening we had dinner at Jacques Imos. MVIMG_20181009_195502 There was a 1.5 hour wait after we left our names but luckily there was a board game cafe down the street, so it was actually quite pleasant. =)

Holy shit, a deep fried po’boy. MVIMG_20181009_214939It took forever to cool down. We ate the fried chicken and brussels sprouts that arrived after it, and it was still too hot to touch. It did make a very satisfying sound when we tapped it though.

James was feeling a bit ill so he skipped the Rebirth Brass Band, which was a pity because it was my favourite performance of the trip. The acoustics of the room weren’t great but the band put on a fantastic show! MVIMG_20181010_012928

Wednesday

Our final day in New Orleans! We packed in the morning, and then went the Carousel Bar. We’d tried a couple of times already at (what we thought were) off-peak times like 3pm, but the carousel was always full.

Since it was our last day we were taking no chances, and went right at opening to snag a seat.IMG_20181010_111050And yes, the bar actually rotated! I also only just noticed that the chairs have pictures of different animals on them. =)

As the bar slowly went around you would occasionally see yourself in the mirrors at the top. James took a lot of time to line up this photo:IMG_20181010_120603Hello!

The drinks were actually much better than I was expecting – not as good as SF/NY, but a lot better than you’d expect at a very touristy bar! Though after a couple of drinks each we decided we needed a non-liquid meal before our flight, so went to Cochon Butcher.

James had a pork belly sandwich and I ordered their take on a Big Mac – the Pig Mac. IMG_20181010_123709It was spectacular.

Overall we had a great time in New Orleans, James’ butter-poisoning notwithstanding. Yes, Bourbon street was a shitshow and all the tourists were a little (or a lot) drunk all the time, but everyone was so friendly and we loved the architecture, history, food and music.

New Orleans has such a distinct identity – it’s definitely one of America’s great cities and I’m glad we finally got to visit!
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Outside Lands 2018

26 Sep

This year we went to Outside Lands again. We decided to take it easy this time and not get too close to the stages, which was fine because there weren’t many must-see acts for us.

Here we are with the Ranger Dave statue:
MVIMG_20180812_125355(I wonder where they keep him the rest of the year)

Friday

James said his favourite part of the festival was seeing the comedy shows. We went on Friday afternoon because there weren’t any music acts we were interested in. The comedians we saw were really funny and we got great seats without having to wait too long – like 4th row near the middle!

Waiting outside:
IMG_20180810_154740And inside the tent:
MVIMG_20180810_160356We also saw some improv later that day, with Paul Scheer and Phil LaMarr which was pretty funny.

Something else we quite enjoyed was the Chase Sapphire Lounge. If you had one of their Sapphire credit cards you could go in and hang out inside or on their rooftop deck. Can you spot James?IMG_20180810_143821There were drinks, snacks and chargers inside, and the roof had a pretty good view of the Panhandle Stage:IMG_20180810_142338Also the lounge had the best toilets at the festival (I would walk across the park so I could use their toilets instead of the gross portaloos).

We also wandered into the cocktail section, where the cocktails were overpriced and unimpressive, but we did see this colourful statue:
IMG_20180810_184938We also saw Beck, which was a good show. I really like the hill to the side of the Twin Peaks stage because you get a decent view but still have a ton of elbow room. =)IMG_20180810_212702

Saturday

The line to get in on Saturday was pretty intense – I think it took over 30 minutes to get to the front and through security. IMG_20180811_155740The main act James was interested in was Chvrches and we broke our “don’t get too close to the stage” rule for them.IMG_20180811_165652Even though James liked the upcoming acts, he wasn’t interested enough to brave the crush of the crowd, so we retreated to a hill where we could sit down on our blanket without getting jostled around.

We did see some weird clouds above the stage. I’ve never seen weird, smudgy clouds like that before, and James and I were quite mesmirised.IMG_20180810_192723

Sunday

On Sunday we arrived much earlier so we could avoid the entrance crowd. =) We set up our blanket on the same hill spot and just camped there all day because we are old and lazy.

I did nick off to the Gastro Magic stage to watch members of Portugal. The Man make sausages.
IMG_20180812_153306(Two of them are on the stage and the rest of the band are to the left).

Then afterwards I hung around to see the Bounce and Beignets show because I was hoping to score some free beignets (which I did – I caught one of the many beignets they chucked into the crowd!)

The beignets were from Brenda’s, and here is the eponymous Brenda, making it rain with powdered sugar.IMG_20180812_164724(This was the most star-struck I was all weekend)

They also handed out King cake, and I managed to get a slice. =) I held it carefully in my hand until after the show, then scuttled back to James to share it with him.

Here it is, and here I am, all covered in victory sugar.
MVIMG_20180812_170131You might be able to tell from the photos, but the Sunday was actually quite foggy and chilly. We huddled in our blankets to watch Portugal. The Man and Janelle Monae. James  likes Janelle Monae but he’s already seen her perform this year (at a private Google concert /sigh) so he didn’t care about getting close.

This was the view James had at his work concert:

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And this was our view: =P
MVIMG_20180812_165811We skipped Janet Jackson because neither of us are super into her and we didn’t want to get caught in the Uber surge at the end of the night.

There were fewer must-see acts for us this year, but that just meant we had a more relaxing time – though it’s still quite tiring going for three days in a row! But it was OK because James took the following Monday off and we just chilled at home with the cats, like the boring oldies we truly are. =)

Souvenirs from Japan!

18 Sep

We bought a ton of stuff while we were in Japan. Behold!
IMG_20180711_144001I love the clothes we got. I purchased some super comfortable, super soft lounge pants from Muji. And on the other end of the spectrum, a Junya Watanabe top with spiky shoulders – which I still haven’t worn because I live in jeans-and-hoodie-SF, but it makes me happy every time I see it.

My absolute favourite souvenirs were our Fuji walking sticks, which Clever James managed to mount vertically:
IMG_20180725_194157The souvenirs I bought that I use the most are my Totoro watering can, hojicha tea (I’ve already run out and repurchased more), and my Muji diffuser. I bought hinoki and yuzu oils to use in the diffuser and every time I smell them I’m reminded of Japan. =)

I also use my tea cups a ton (left is from the Pokemon store and right has etched icons representing the different Japanese prefectures): IMG_20180711_140914And of course, James has very quickly gone through the booze he brought back from Japan. It’s virtually impossible to get aged whiskey so he quickly gave up on that dream, but he brought back some non-aged whiskey, some gin, and sakura blossom and green tea flavoured liquors.

James’ favourite thing he bought was a handmade Japanese paring knife engraved with his name. It is super sharp and he uses it to cut fruit for his cocktails. =) IMG_20180711_134842 (1)For our friends we bought a billion flavours of Kit Kats: MVIMG_20180711_122610There were some very Japanese flavours like Tokyo Banana, sake, green tea and wasabi, and also some weird flavours like red bean dessert and rum and raisin.

We also brought back a ton of instant ramen:IMG_20180711_122740They are collaborations between 7/11 and the chefs from Tsuta and Nakiryu (the first and second ramen restaurants in Japan to get a Michellin Star). The Nakiryu one was definitely reminiscent of the meal we had!

We found out afterwards that a lot of people bringing back ramen have had it confiscated by US customs, but nobody stopped us, so I guess we got lucky! Especially since it was such a pain lugging it around the airport.

Our (possibly contraband) ramen haul:
IMG_20180711_122903James bought the cats lots of little plush toys, and for Mouse we bought an assortment of stylish gachapon hats.

Orange: 00007IMG_00007_BURST20180711135414_COVERWhite teddy bear: IMG_20180711_135908And a communist hat. We’d been hoping for the Uncle Sam hat, but at least this was the second best one: MVIMG_20180711_140101Also we bought some fancy fruit/vegetable plates. We haven’t used them yet but I think they’re really cute (plus they were super cheap – something like $2 each).
MVIMG_20180711_130337This was our loot from the Pokemon store (though the plush Mimikyu is for Cat):
IMG_20180711_125745And this is my favourite of the windchimes we bought at the Hozuki-Ichi festival. It has a plush cherry flower on it and makes the loveliest tinkling sound.MVIMG_20180711_124808And finally, this was the extra bag we ended up buying in shame because we’d picked up too many souvenirs.MVIMG_20180711_131145It packs flat but expands into a giant piece of luggage. It’s sturdy, but there’s no padding so we just chucked our dirty clothes in there and put the more fragile items in our suitcases and carry-ons.

We were quite pleased with it because we’d had a similar (though not quite as dire) situation in Seoul, so we figured we’d just bring this bag with us on our future travels.

So yeah, that was our haul from Japan! Next time I want to get more hats for Mouse, more hojicha, maybe a nice teapot, and of course some more snacks. =D

Den Tokyo

13 Sep

While we were in Tokyo we had a ton of great meals but the most memorable (and expensive!) one was our dinner at Den. Den has two Michelin stars and is a modern take on traditional Japanese Kaiseki cuisine.

It was also a pain in the butt to get reservations for – their website says you have to call them, so I tried for several nights but their phone was always engaged. Then I read online that someone had just emailed them and that had worked, so I tried that and success!

We arrived a little bit early so waited outside for them to open (later, our waitress told us this area is also used for employee dinners when the weather is good).
IMG_20180707_181428These charming little guys welcomed us into the restaurant:
IMG_20180707_212120We started off with a glass of welcome sake and Den’s version of monaka, which is a traditional Japanese sweet made with bean paste. Monaka is normally a dessert, but Den had made a fruit and foie gras-filled version for our first course.
MVIMG_20180707_183913It was delicious, and the packaging was so cute!MVIMG_20180707_183812 That pig is a traditional mosquito repellent in Japan. This is the one that Den had outside:
IMG_20180707_212100The next course was a kind of refreshing vegetable jelly that we partially self-assembled:
20180829_150123-ANIMATION.gifOur waitress said that they picked plants from around Mt Fuji to go in this jelly:IMG_20180707_184848The taste and presentation of every course was beautiful. Even the plates were stunning:IMG_20180707_185521Our next course was Dentucky Fried Chicken! This is James with his Dentucky box – and the Den owner/chef: IMG_20180707_185948The box was actually super elaborate. There was a picture of the chef’s pet dog Puchi and a list of restaurants that Den has collaborated with.

Also the fried chicken wasn’t actually chicken – it was rice with a mix of other ingredients that I can’t remember (the exact mix differs depending on seasonality). In the background you can see a hand-drawn Australian flag they’d made for us. =) IMG_20180707_190217think this was tuna:MVIMG_20180707_191303The chefs let James go into the kitchen to take a photo of our next fish course getting blackened: IMG_20180707_191145 It was perfect (and again, check out the beautiful plates):IMG_20180707_192051Pretty much all the plates were either antiques or custom made for Den.

And OMG this fantastic salad. MVIMG_20180707_193307Our waitress said it had something crazy like 27 different vegetables in it. The tomato was spectacular and the corn was, I swear to God, the sweetest, juiciest corn I’ve ever had. James and I both had a fun time hunting around for the different ingredients.

My carrot had little heart eyes. =) IMG_20180707_193410Also I should mention that as we were eating, James was getting sake pairings, each of which came in a different, intriguing-looking cup.
MVIMG_20180707_194046 This white cup was very pretty and delicate, and almost seemed to glow:MVIMG_20180707_195939This one was James’ favourite:IMG_20180707_185423Anyway, our next course was beef cooked over rice so the melting fat would infuse the rice: IMG_20180707_200926Our traditional rice dishes, served with pickled vegetables and broth:MVIMG_20180707_201622Dessert was fresh fruit with some sort of jelly:
IMG_20180707_203930It was a really fun, fantastic meal. =) Our waitress spoke english natively which was a great help in explaining all the dishes to us, and the chef was a crack up – he’d strike a pose whenever he saw me taking a photo of the kitchen:
IMG_20180707_200655_1Our waitress explained that this pillar was signed by visiting chefs: IMG_20180707_211619And that Puchi the dog (remember? From the Dentucky Fried Chicken box) was sleeping inside the restaurant!

His snooze location turned out to be right behind this Puchi shrine:
IMG_20180707_204248Hello Puchi!MVIMG_20180707_210057Our waitress told us that Puchi has a “dad-like” palate and his favourite foods are nachos and beer. Puchi could also do this crowd-pleasing trick:

Puchi liked me so they let me cuddle him for aaages even though he was clearly very sleepy:
IMG_20180707_205423 The waitresses called us his new mum and dad and I guess Puchi started to get a bit worried at that: MVIMG_20180707_205433But then real dad came back and it was OK:
IMG_20180707_210014 One last photo Japanese-style:IMG_20180707_205943And that was our dinner at Den! It was an amazing night of modern Japanese cuisine and traditional Japanese hospitality. I’d highly recommend it if you’re in Tokyo for a really fun, memorable evening.