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May 2008

April 2008

Chef Diesy, The Panuch Queen

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When I say I miss Mexican food, these little babies are what I am talking about.  While I was on Isla Mujeres, I used to head over to Jorge and Diesy's house for lunch in their bright pink kitchen every couple of days.  Diesy would have spent the morning (usually with a string of kids flipping around) putting together panuchos...sometimes they were smeared in beans, other times they just had a little cheese, egg, onion, cilantro and tomato.  And, always, always, I'd douse them in giant squirts of crema and a hit of crazy spicy charred pepper...and for real, they were the most delicious thing ever.  Lis almost had a heart attack when I took her over there for breakfast one morning..the first bite is literally that breathtaking.  So clean, simple, fresh and homemade.

I'm not sure I've ever had panuchos before being welcomed into Diesy's kitchen, but these little treats ( I could easily chow on four in one sitting) are what I am on the hunt for while I am out here in LA.  It's tough to go on a for real MST discovery fest, especially since all I do is work and I've got less than 3 weeks left here, but I promise, I will make it to East LA before I roll.  I want tostadas and panuchos--real ones. 

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2008 is Finally Starting to Unfold....

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Ah, to continue the Central America trip...I am on it bigtime as soon as this job in LA ends.  The plan slowly comes together--some days it's all solid, some days it's loose as a goose. 

But, that is what travel is all about, especially long-winded travel.  That's why I work like a maniac for 3 months (literally 18 hour days every day) on shows...it's so I can hit the road and not worry about life...it's so I can just make up my mind on a whim--while quaffing a cold one, while cruising down a back road, while getting all jacked up on some exotic pictures in a magazine.  Whatever I want (I'm sure that is the exact reason I'm still happily single, too).

Here's what the rest of 2008 is looking like--though things tend to change at the very last minute.  As it must for the real adventures to unfold.

I am thinking that mid-May I will drive from LA to my parents place in TN--just to visit with them a spell and eat biscuits and gravy all the live long day.  After that, it's a trip back to my place in Chicago--which is gonna be perfect because I missed ALL OF WINTER.  I wanna chill there a month or so and just regroup, do yoga and pilates, freak out on my place, spring/summer clean, and get my life even more streamlined.   And, hopefully see my pal J before she moves to Germany and gets married!

Then...it's time to get back on the road again.  I'm gonna head back to San Miguel de Allende first--I gotta check in on Yatz, my little trailer and hang out in this wildly special mountain oasis for a bit more.  Explore the magic a little deeper; volunteer some; eat many more pieces of goat cheese cheesecake from Natura; drink loads of cortados from tiny two stool coffee shops and most of all---dive back into my Spanish lessons (rollingrs.com, here I come again)!  *If you are interested in seeing a charming documentary on SMA, check out Caren Cross' take on what its like to become an expat in San Miguel. Good stuff.

After San Miguel, I feel like a pitstop over on my fave little island, Isla Mujeres is in order.  God, maybe a few weeks or a month of snorkeling, early AM Pacifico's at Manana and reading, reading, reading.  Deep tan, more Spanish with Miguel, Jorge and his whole family, the best tostadas ever and a whole lot more of NADA.

Then, it's time for whole new countries...each and every one of them...all the way to Panama.  I've set up volunteering missions in each country, so at least a few weeks will be spent in each one...continuing my research so I can finalize my own NGO that I am working on creating--4th World Love.   

After I hit Panama and the Darien Gap (and check out at 50' schooner that is for sale down there)...well,  hmmmm....that is a whole new beast that I prefer not to tackle quite yet, lest I get overwhelmed.  But, there are the loose plans of heading down to Bolivia to visit a pal I wanna do a TV show with; I gotta get back over to Indonesia to get the first leg of 4th World up and running; I was hoping to pick olives in Italy in late October (for my b-day); I have a whole Turkey/Croatia/Montenegro trip I need to flush out...the list just goes on forever.  Oh, and there's that book I gotta write, too.  And a monster trip back to Africa somewhere on the horizon.  So much...but all such good stuff.

Just over a month, man...and I am back in my true element.  Driving, thinking, assessing, brainstorming, eating, chilling, laughing and living~~and most of all, drinking margarita after margarita~~
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Hyderabad House and Briyani Blues... {From The Raving Dish}

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There's a town in India famous for its briyani. It's a sprawling IT metropolis named Hyderabad, and people come from around the world to sample this ancient, soldiers-once-scarfed-it staple. Made with basmati rice, onions, saffron, lemon and various spices, the fluffy pile of starch is usually ladled with giant portions of mutton and served steaming hot with generous vessels of water. Spicy is the name of the game with Indian food, especially that which has a direct link to the City of Pearls.

What does any of this have to do with Chicago, you ask? Well, troll on down Devon Avenue and look for a tiny scrap of a building surrounded by junk cars and still warm cabs, and you'll have your answer. Hyderabad is alive and kicking in the side streets of Chicago, and my belly is a whole lot happier for it.

Continue reading "Hyderabad House and Briyani Blues... {From The Raving Dish}" »


Eating LA

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Lately, I've been complaining about food in LA to anyone who will listen.  Not that there isn't good stuff out there, it's just that you have to haul so far to acquire it.  I'm used to having the world at my feet back in Chicago--every cuisine you can imagine just around the corner.  Not so here in always-perfect LA.  It's all just one big sprawl across dozens of miles and you gotta really be on the lookout to spot a place that isn't So-Cal influenced.  I've almost wrecked a trillion times on my random food quests.

I have to admit, though...I have managed to have some good food--not great, mind-blowing, daydream about it all the livelong day food--but good nonetheless.

There was some fantastic goi cuon (with a Tiger, of course) at a small, jam-packed Vietnamese place in Silverlake; I wolfed some interesting Peruvian food--tofu mixed with french fries and doused in lime--in Burbank (Choza Mama); I inhaled a buffet of Indian goodies washed down with a big fat Kingfisher just off Montana Ave. (with one very new, very confused waitress making a mess of the order); there was some insanely rich shrimp in a bath of cream sauce at a fish place on the edge of Venice (the seared tuna sandwich was even better, though I was sick as a dog after the meal); and I've been privy to a whole lot of faux Mexican. Gross.

Nothing has really made my heart swell here--and I believe it's just because I haven't had time to truly research or explore as I'm used to.  Too much work (which I try not to do), too much fast food (which I never eat), too much orange Fanta (which I never drink), and too much time spent driving all over the place (though traffic is def. not as bad as in Chicago).

I did spy a stretch of eateries along Santa Monica Blvd. today--as I was heading toward Westwood and a bit of Indonesain food (my new extreme favorite hideaway).  That tumble of restaurants is definitely gonna be my next stomping grounds when I have a minute (There was Oaxacan, Lebanese, Persian, Thai and Indian--all lookin' cheap and good...and all in strip malls).

Oh..and there was a just fried donut shovedown topped by a just-baked cupcake attack that put me into a coma soon thereafter.  Healthy in LA...not so much.  Full in LA...all the time.  Ready to beat it?  And then some.
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Cheap Livin' But The Best Life

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The past few years or so have been so dotted with incredible amounts of worldwide travel for me that when I sit down and really think about it, even I am blown away.  Spain, Nicaragua, South Africa, Indonesia, Mexico, the Virgin Islands, all over the USA, Zanzibar, etc....And, the question I get asked the most is always, always--how the hell can you afford all of this? 

I guess I wonder, how could I afford not to?  First of all, I work alot internationally on TV shows.  That gets me to places free and with a per diem. I try to sked a side trip afterward as a treat for the living hell that was my life during the production.  Second, I have a crapload of frequent flyer miles (all my credit cards gain me FF miles)...so like for instance, on my past two trips to Indonesia, I was able to fly first class for $5.  For real.  I also am very selective about where I travel.  Third World countries are really the only way to go because the dollar stretches on and on and on. 

I do things like buy a sailboat and use it for a season...maybe fix it up a little...and then sell it for more than I paid for it.  I have a little $1000 solar-powered vintage travel trailer that I just hauled through all of Mexico and once this LA job is over in a few months, will continue to drive all the way to the Panama Canal.  No $100 hotel nights for me--it's more like $300 a month in a funky little RV camp (free wi-fi included).  Or,  I do an apartment switch with a couple from Barcelona.  They get my Chicago place and I get theirs--in one of the most expensive cities in the world.  Thanks craigslist.com! 

Plus, I chose wisely and secured an affordable condo right on Lake Michigan in Chicago--in an up-and-coming hood, instead of the friggin' Gold Coast. If I was freaking out about a $2500 a month mortgage every month, life would not be as sweet.  Instead I have a mortgage that is cheaper than when I was paying rent in Roscoe Village.  And, I have more money to spend on personal pilates sessions or day-long spa treatments or volunteer excursions or donations to worthy causes.  Things that are more of a balm to my soul than a pair of $300 sunglasses.

I also double dip alot and have a gazillion jobs going on at once.  I write about food and travel, I work on top-notch TV shows, I produce Pilates/Volunteer retreats...I mean, you gotta keep the ball rolling and have multiple sources of income flowing in all the time.  Never put all the cookies in one basket, you know?

I own my truck--and it's 10 years old.  I don't buy $600 boots.  I live lean and mean (most of my $ goes for travel books, magazines and tech gadgets).  I have no kids.  No high overhead.  I eat out a ton and usually write about where I am eating at, so that is paid for quite often.  I'm a corporation, so the majority of my travel is a total write-off.  I invest wisely--all green for the most part (mutual funds, stocks, ingdirect).   

It's really quite simple actually.  You just gotta be smarter than the system.  Just a little Mistylivin'101 for all you folks who've been askin' lately.