Monthly Archives: February 2012

Paintings of Childhood Summers by Leigh Mulley

There is just something about an ice cream truck painted with fun colors, tooting that familiar tune that brings back the nostalgic memories of childhood, of summer, of whimsical times. Paintings by a UK-based artist Leigh Mulley elicits these memories and warm fuzzies that are sure to warm any cold heart in the winter. I was surprised to read that these were paintings, because they looked so real. Like a snapshot frozen in time.

For more paintings click here.

 I’m ready for my ice cream cone, carnival prizes, lollipop, Popsicle, and gum balls now.

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Kramerbooks and Afterwords Cafe

We came here for a midnight snack after a night out and about in Dupont Circle couple weeks ago. I’ve been in here during the daytime hours in their bookstore part. Unlike the larger bookstores like Barnes and Noble and previously Borders Kramerbooks has a very cozy, home-like feel to it with wooden floors and beautifully laid out books. I’ve heard only good things about the cafe, so good thing we got those late night munchies.

Kramerbooks and Afterwords Cafe 

1517 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, DC 20036

The place is comfortably situated in the back of the bookstore. I love the concept of cafes inside bookstores. It’s whimsical, it’s comfortable, it’s a fantastic idea. If more bookstores open up a cafe inside I would totally be there all the time.

Mac & Cheese

I ordered the appetizer sized Mac & Cheese. It was delicious. Not overly cheesy with a perfect crunch layer on the top.

Apple Crumb Pie

My friends shared the apple crumb pie. It was beautifully plated with a crispy top, moist apples in the center, and perfect crust.

The food was great, but the price was just a little pricey for the kind of food. Even though the Mac & Cheese was really good it was not the best. I adore the environment. Sometimes I guess half of what you pay for is the atmosphere you dine in. Might have to go back again to try their actual food.

Stars4/5

Toki Underground

R A M E N. Toki Underground is a Taiwanese/Japanese ramen and dumpling restaurant with a defined sense of character. Bold colors, Japanese action figures made for a really fun atmosphere.

Toki Underground 

1234 H St N E
2nd Fl
Washington, DC 20002
Neighborhood: H Street Corridor/Atlas District/Near Northeast

I read on Yelp that most people who try to go to Toki Underground have to wait 2-3+ hours to get a seat. Seating is extremely limited at Toki Underground, so bringing large groups here would probably not be such a good idea. There are no table seating just stool and counter seating making for a very authentic ramen experience.

Fortunately we came here pretty late in the night. The food area opens until 12AM on Fridays which was very convenient for us.  No line, no wait time for us. We walked right up and was immediately seated at the bar. We browsed through the menu, and we all decided to get the Toki Hakata Classic Ramen.

Toki Hakata Classic Ramen

The Toki Hakata Classic Ramen with pork loin, egg, and pickled ginger was really great! I think the thing that really makes a bowl of ramen exceptionally good is the broth, and this broth was fantastic. Flavorful without being too overpowering. I really enjoyed the poached egg that came with the ramen. The softness and delicate character of the egg really brought a special touch to the bowl of ramen. I was tempted to just drink up all of the broth cause it was just that tasty!

the interior - Japanese action figures

No only was the ramen delicious the decor was great. The mini Japanese action figures that lined the room were fun to look at. I loved the bold, bright, abstract art on the walls. Made for a very chill, cool atmosphere.

the hidden entrance

There is just something so attractive about mysterious,  hidden entrances. There are no signs indicating the Toki Underground is above the bar on the first floor. Only a blue icon with an Asian character in the center to indicate the restaurant’s location. Hidden away on H street, but still word gets out and hungry ramen lovers wait hours for a bowl of amazing ramen. So if you do decide to check out Toki Underground make sure to note this door, because the wonders of ramen awaits right upstairs.

This place is amazing! Though I don’t know if I can justify waiting hours for a seat at Toki Underground when they are packed. Perhaps check out the bars on H street and come back for the reservation? That shall be my plan next time!

Stars5/5

Pleasantly Pittsburgh

Wanted to wrap up my Pittsburgh trip with one last blog post. Tidbits, odds and ends, my favorite parts about Pittsburgh.

Hofbrauhaus

a liter of beer!

Rekha has been telling me about her adventures at this place, a German restaurant turned bar during the night. Where it is normal to have a liter of beer all to yourself and stand on top of the tables and sing to the merry songs playing over the speakers. Totally German! I got my own liter of their Hofbrau Dunkel described as a dark lager that is easy to drink with a simple roasted malt flavor and slight caramel undertones. I am usually not a big fan of beer, but the Dunkel was really good. Good enough for a liter of it.

outside

The outside of the Hofbrauhaus was beautiful. The shiny metal things surrounding the outside are the beer brewery tanks which I thought was extremely cool. I’m guessing for decorative purposes.

Heinz Chapel

The stained glass windows at Heinz Chapel were gorgeous. Unlike other chapels these windows display not only religious figures but also historic and cultural figures like Dorthea Dix and Abraham Lincoln.

Nationality Rooms in the Cathedral of Learning

Austrian Nationality Room

Can you believe that University of Pittsburgh students have classes in beautiful rooms like these? Built and decorated by architects from the corresponding nations: Austria, China, Israel, India, etc. Not all rooms are as striking as the Austrian room made for small discussion seminar based classes, but each of them are different and accurately portrays each nation.

Primanti Bros.

Pitts-burgher Cheese Steak topped with fries and cole slaw

Each city has their famous sandwiches, and the IT sandwich for Pittsburgh is the one served by Primanti Bros.. All of their sandwiches come topped with fries and cole slaw. I choose the cheese steak sandwich. When the waitress brought my sandwich over to our table I just stared at it for a good minute or so trying to figure out how in the world I would be able to eat such a large sandwich without having all of the contents fall out. Steak, cheese, fries, cole slaw, tomatoes all in between two thick slices of french bread. Surprisingly it wasn’t as fatty or oily as I thought! The fries were fresh cut and were not completely soaked in oil. The cole slaw was light without the excessive mayonnaise. Very good sandwich. I was full after eating just half and had to take the other half to go.

Bridges in Pittsburgh

one of many bridges in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh is known as “The City of Bridges”. It has the most bridges with piers and stands. With three major rivers cutting in and out, hills and ravines no wonder there are 455 bridges within the city limits.

The Mattress Factory

When my friend told me we were going to The Mattress Factory I thought it was a warehouse for mattresses. My friend is crazy! Well it turns out that The Mattress Factory is actually a museum of contemporary art housing one of a kind installation arts.

Infinity Dots

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Repetitive Vision

These two rooms made by artist Yayoi Kusama were fun to be in. Infinite dots under a black light and repetitive dots and figure in a room where there are numerous images of you in the mirrors. I realized afterwards that this was the same artist that made children’s dot room. Her fascination with dots really makes for exciting exhibits!

 Pamela’s Diner

board games galore

This cute diner was board game themed, and I’m not talking about just the modern day board games but also vintage board games. I have never heard of or seen a lot of the board games adorning the walls. Makes me wonder in the technologically advanced society we are currently in do we not have the time or the need for board games anymore?Instead of the simple joys of board games we fiddle around with our phones and play Words with Friends. Maybe it’s time to have a board game night.

Tex-Mex Omelet

I got the Tex-Mex Omelet to share with Rekha. The Omelet had cheese, chorizo, and sweet bell peppers topped with guacamole and sour cream. I especially enjoyed the potatoes. Pamela’s is famous for their Lyonnaise Potatoes. They were soft, but not soggy. Creamy with just the right amount of butter.

What a wonderful trip to Pittsburgh. An urban city with a small town feel. People walking at a slow pace, local stores without the pretentious storefronts. Perhaps all of this is just a modern day representation of the steel making, bustling city of Pittsburgh in the 1900s. The Primanti Bros. sandwich was originally packed with fries and cole slaw, because it was a convenient way for the steel workers to carry and eat their lunch in one compact sandwich.

A city with history, with charm. Definitely impressed me! 

Past and Future of Logos

I stumbled upon this website that made some pretty amusing predictions about the future of popular logos of everyday brands including Starbucks. Even Motorola gets an unexpected food twist.

Starbucks

Motorola

Motorola turned M&M? Perhaps that wouldn’t be so bad.

Check out more transformation of logos here.

Waffallonia

During my trip to Pittsburgh we came here before going to the Andy Warhol Museum and the Mattress Factory (installation art museum). Belgian waffles for breakfast. Only the best!

Waffallonia

1707 Murray Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15217
Neighborhood: Squirrel Hill

Belgian Waffle galore

The place is really small with limited counter, stool seating. The Belgian Waffles are made fresh and topped with fresh fruits and fresh whipped cream. My friends and I all got different Belgian waffles. The first one topped with Nutella and fresh banana slices. The second one with Nutella, fresh banana slices, and fresh strawberries. The third one with fresh strawberries and whipped cream.

Belgian Waffle topped with strawberries and whipped cream

I got the Belgian Waffles topped with strawberries and whipped cream. It was just delicious! The Belgian Waffle was soft on the inside and just perfectly crunchy on the outside shell. With certain bites you get the crunch of the sugar crystals scattered throughout the waffle. The strawberries gave the waffles a nice sweet touch. I especially enjoyed the whipped cream, because it tasted so fresh and light. My friends whose waffles were topped with Nutella said that it was a little on the heavy side especially for the morning.

waffle maker

I never had fresh Belgian Waffles before, but this is so much better than a regular waffle. Made from dough rather than batter like a normal waffle. The dough is placed in the waffle maker and made to order.

This place is just wonderful. Their menu is simple with only 5 different types of waffles and topping options with endless additions of various toppings including banana, strawberries, Nutella, ice cream, and whipped cream. Can we say delicious?

Stars – 5/5

Spice Island Tea House

My friend Rekha was really excited about taking me here. She warned me that it looked like a hole in the wall from the outside, but is super cute and quaint on the inside.

Spice Island Tea House 

253 Atwood St
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Neighborhood: Oakland

Check out their Menu

the inside of the restaurant

The inside of the restaurant was a pleasant surprise. The curtains surrounding the entrance were a beautiful red color that perfectly fit in with the rest of the room. Moody lighting with wooden floors and red toned chairs made it feel like I was in somebody’s home. It had a very home-y feeling which I thoroughly enjoyed.

The place was super packed. We had to wait about 10 minutes for a table, but that was not a problem. The wait was definitely worth it. I wouldn’t come here in a large group though, without a reservation, because there is such limited seating it would take forever.

Spicy Laht Nah

Spicy Laht Nah – Minced chicken, shredded vegetables and jalapeno pepper stir-fried in a tangy gravy and glazed over broad rice noodles.

I got the Spicy Laht Nah noodles. It was really good. All of the rice noodles are at the bottom of the dish, so it is hard to see them in the picture above. The noodles were soft, but slightly crispy from being pan fried. The vegetables were extremely fresh. The crunchiness of the green beans and broccoli were great. I loved the spicy sauce that came with this dish. It was salty, spicy, and flavorful.

I really enjoyed this place. I felt like I was eating in somebody’s dining room. A carefree, comfort that just felt natural.

Stars – 4.5/5

Strip District

Greetings from Pittsburgh. I made it on the next bus to Pittsburgh without missing it. This morning we went to explore the Strip District. The Strip District is this big outdoor hustle and bustle of ethnic grocers, street grills and food vendors, sidewalk merchants, and rows of small shops. The authenticity of this place is like no other. Pittsburgh Steelers gear all over, wafts of all different types of smells, bright colors of goods, fruits, foods, sounds of laughter of families, shouts of the vendors, and the sound of spontaneous fun.

 Peace, Love and Little Donuts

Raspberry Lemonade Donut at Peace, Love and Little Donuts

donut maker

This place has the most wonderful donuts. Tinier than your usual Krispy Kreme donuts or Dunkin’ Donuts, but just the perfect size. They come in so many different, unusual flavors like Rasberry Lemonade Donut and Maple Donut with Bacon Toppings. You can smell the aroma of these wondrous donuts a block away. The donuts are freshly made and dropped into the fryer before being frosted and sprinkled with toppings.

Reyna’s Taco Truck 

Barbacoa Taco

Taco Truck

This stand supposedly had the best tacos in Pittsburgh. Reminds of the taco trucks I’ve seen in NYC. I got a Barbacoa Taco and a Horchata drink. The taco was delicious. The meats were very well grilled. It was topped with cilantro, onion, and cheese. My favorite part of it was the actual corn tortilla. Crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. The horchata was excellent. Horchata is a Mexican milky sweet rice drink. Delicious drink to pair with the taco.

Fortunes Coffee 

I love coffee stores, and this store had so many sights and smells selling coffee by the pound.  This place had so many different types of coffee.

Penzeys Spices

Rekha checking out the baking spices

what an adorable kitchen!

This place has whatever spice that sparks your fancy. The best part about this place was that with every spice they had there was an accompanying jar of the spice to smell it. So many smells to smell.

Robert Wholey and Co Fish Market 

I love going to markets, because there are so many sounds, smells, and sights. Overstimulation of the senses in the best possible way. I wish I actually lived in Pittsburgh, because I would have gone crazy shopping at this place. Buying seafood, meats, produce, and all kinds of foods.

Stamoolis Bros 

Grape Leaves

An ending to a wonderful day at The Strip. I got a box of 5 grape leaves at the Greek Market Stomolis Bros to go.They were delicious! Spiced rice wrapped in grape leaves.

The Strip was an excellent place to wander around. Every store we went into there were so many new things to see, touch, taste, smell, and hear. In my visit to The Strip I walked into Greek, Korean, Polish, Italian, and Mexican markets. A wonderland of ethnic foods!

Missed Travels

My friend and I have the worst luck with traveling. Currently I am at a Barnes & Noble as I am writing this after missing my bus to Pittsburgh to visit my friend, the same friend whose bad luck with traveling is intertwined with mine. Here are the various times where I almost or actually did miss my travelling plans.

Champaigne, IL –> Chicago, IL 

Adventures at U of I with Rekha

This was the very first time where I missed my travel plans. I was traveling with my fellow bad luck travelling buddy. It was Spring Break 2009 my freshman year at college, and both my friend and I went home for Spring Break. We decided to visit our friends who go to University of Illinois at Champaigne-Illinois. It was going to be a fun trip especially since  our visit  coincided with their “Unofficial Weekened”. A week of what college kids do best – party. After a fabulous weekend we were on our way to the train to return back to the city. We were already running late on the train we were suppose to take, so no use rushing and missing it. We decided to take the next train which was in a couple of hours. Then all of a sudden, because of a massive rainstorm, the power went out in the dorms. Scrambling to pack in the dark, running up and down the stairs, trying to make our train. We rushed to the train platform only to watch the train leave before our eyes. We were 1 minute late. 1 measly minute. From then on my friend and I declared that we have the worst luck with traveling.

New York City, NY –> Washington, D.C. 

The Pudding Face on the subway

Not an actual instance of missed travelling, but literally 1 minute away from missing it. Would make anyone’s heart race. It was Summer 2011, and I was trying to get from Queens to Manhattan in rush hour period. The traffic in NYC is just terrible. A ride on the train would have taken probably 25 minutes max, but with all my luggage with me that was not an option. We sat in the taxi in traffic that didn’t seem to move for about 45 minutes. Vamoose buses usually leave on time, and with a block away from the bus it was time for the bus to leave. I was convinced that I was going to miss my bus. Another missed travel plan confirming my bad luck fate with traveling. As we sat in the bus we saw the bus about to pull out. My friend gets out of the taxi, and he runs after the bus telling the bus attendant standing outside the bus to wait for me while I hurriedly grab all of my luggage and run to the bus. I was the very last person to get on the bus. Made it with no time to spare.

Washington, DC –> Pittsburgh, PA 

Pittsburgh Visit 2010 - Surprise Visit for Rekha's 21st

I am going to visit my friend the same friend whose bad luck in travelling is intertwined with mine. It’s President’s Day weekend, and that means long weekend with no school on Monday. I checked my email, and I get an email from Megabus saying that they have changed the bus stop to 11th and Pennsylvania Avenue, because of an event going on. I automatically assume that is the DC stop knowing that there is an 11th and Pennsylvania Avenue here in DC. And with everything going on in DC I don’t think much of it. Come the morning of my bus, and I get to 11th and Penn. Ave., and I don’t see my bus. I freak out thinking I read the email wrong. I anxiously called the Megabus company, and they tell me the changed bus stop is for the Pittsburgh stop not the DC stop. I felt so silly.

The most amusing part of my missed bus to Pittsburgh is that same friend who I am trying to visit tried to visit me several weeks ago and missed her bus, because of a car accident that stalled her transportation to the Megabus stop. We just can’t seem to get our travel plans together.

Missed a bus, missed a train. Cross my fingers I never miss a plane.

Food for Thought

Recently I have encountered various sites depicting everyday foods in normal life that will make you cringe. A serious food for thought moment. That packet of Ramen that you are about to make… think twice. Perhaps that Starbucks drink you are loading up with shots of espresso check this guy out with his $23.60 Starbucks drink.

What happens in your body when you eat Ramen and Gatorade? 

In this study Fellow Steafani Bardin uses a Smartpill to observe how the body digests differently processed foods. A Smartpill is a capsule with a tiny camera inside used to observe what is going on in the body. In this case to observe what is going on inside the body after different foods are eaten. One subject eats gatorade, ramen, and gummi bears. The other subject eats hibiscus drink, homemade broth with fresh noodles, and gummi bears made from juice. The distinction being one subject eats all processed foods and the other all natural. The results are astonishing. The inability of the body to digest the yummy Top Ramen is scary. Makes you think twice before indulging in the craving for some Ramen.

The Most Expensive Starbucks Drink in the World, Ever – $23.60

Click here to view his blog post

Imagine blowing a week’s worth of coffee funds on one drink. The ultimate 31 ounce cup of coffee. All of the following is inside the massive Trenta cup of Starbucks coffee:

One Java Chip Frappuccino in a Trenta cup, 16 shots of espresso, a shot of soy milk, caramel flavoring, banana puree, strawberry puree, vanilla beans, Matcha powder, protein powder, and a drizzle of caramel and mocha

16 shots of espresso! Oh my! That is a lot of caffeine in one mighty cup. The total caffeine is 1400 mg. A heavy dose of caffeine consists of 400+mg. That is more than 3 times that dose. Drink at your own risk. Drinking that $23.60 cup of Starbucks of coffee would send anyone to the Emergency Department with heart palpitations with your heart racing, irregular possibly life threatening heart rhythms, sky high blood pressure. Imagine a nurse or doctor asking why you are in the ED. “Well I drank the most expensive cup of Starbucks coffee”. Diagnosis – Caffeine Overdose.

Really makes you wonder what kinds of foods you are putting into body. Just something to be aware of.