Corner Bistro NYC, No Cell, and Nothing But Communication Surrounding Me.

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When I very, very first moved to LA at the tender age of 20, I had no cell phone.  Did they even exist then?  I somehow made my way to Hollywood and moved straight into a youth hostel til I found a little place up in the hills.  Livin' on a dream and a 3k limit credit card.  God - I wish I could be that naive again...or maybe I am.  I just somehow knew I'd "make it" - whatever that meant then, and whatever that means now. 

How did I even get around?  How did anyone ever contact me - I had no phone!  How did I get jobs, how did I communicate with the world?  I think I got a beeper minute one.  Could you imagine toting around a chunky pager these days? 

Everywhere you step - and I mean from the dang volcanoes of Indonesia to the outlaw desert lands of Baja to the yummy smelling kitchens NYC, every single person has a cell phone.  Some even sport the dreaded blue tooth.  You can skype from the iphone - ring back home to anywhere in the world for pennies.  You can work the floor, or the kitchen, or the trails, or the dusty backroads - all while making shit happen on your cell.

Chores get done, errands get run, fun is had, work is completed no matter where you are in the universe.  I met a pal at Corner Bistro in NYC a bit back and while I sat there sipping martinis awaiting his arrival, I tucked away my cell and made buds with the regulars and the Mexican employees - hopping behind the bar to snap photos of anything that caught my eye.  I let them do the communicating for once - all things happening while watching the tele, sizzling up incred burgers, frying up crispy fries, texting on their phones, taking incomings on the blue tooth and watching me ignore my phone and focus all attention on them.

Back to the basics - it felt real good to disconnect, open up my eyes, and really watch dark bar moments unfold.

And, I guess I never had the opportunity (until that day) to show someone how to pound on the raised 57 on a bottle of Ketchup to make it pour out.  No more shaking til a migraine sprouts up!

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Local Artisan Food + Homemade Wine On-Site + Beautiful Germany = Weingut Geissler!

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My great amiga Jamie has not only mastered the art of taking a 9-way photo (I have no idea how to do that!), she's just sent me intel on a delicious sounding evening over her way - in Germany.  It's a night full of food, wine, laughs and I'm sure lots of funny misunderstandings (unless you speak German, of course).

She's living over there these days with her rock star hubby...near his family...that happens to own an enchanting wine farm.  Sometimes she rolls back to the US to work with me on TV shows, but once the insanity of production and reality show crazies is over, she's on the first flight out.  Straight back to the simple life - with lots of wine, of course.  I can see why.  All fresh, all fascinating, all new, all things that we should all experience once in our lives.

She and her team over there deserve a shout out to all Toothies for living the inspiring life -- so here are the deets (in Jamie's words) for those of you headed to Europa soon:

weingut geissler was started by dave's grandparents after the war and is now owned & run by their son/dave's uncle- wolfgang geissler and his wife, christiane.

so over here, winemakers can open a weinstube (which is a cross between a restaurant & a bar- but a bar that only offers the winery's wine!) for a total of 4 months a year and they are allowed to serve ONLY regional specialties in terms of food... like, we can't do a pizza night or even put olives on the table as a little welcome bite... so anyone that runs a true weinstube it's almost always a small menu. plus, most places do a lot of pre-packaged/pre-made stuff (i.e- frozen fries, store bought potato salad etc. like equal to costco style in the usa). 
(MST - Grody)

we are different in that EVERYTHING is either homemade or bought from local artisans. high-end weinstube! our potatoes come from the organic farm the next town over; our bratwurst- the meat was literally hunted, killed, broken down, gone through the old-timey grinder, special seasonings added and filled the traditional way... all by the winemaker himself. christiane bakes almost all the bread and what she doesn't make we buy at the baker fresh in the morning. tonight we literally used wild chives that wolfgang saw and plucked out in our vineyards this morning...  also, weingut geissler is a founding member for our chapter of slow food here in the rhineland-pfalz.

everything is super simple - we just serve all our wines and maybe a menu of five special things...we open every thurs, fri and sat at 6pm from now through the end of may and then we'll open again after our harvest: october through- december. 

all toothies are welcome - and you can come in anytime the 'stube isn't open for a tasting!

we are in duttweiler- neustadt an der weinstrasse (this is the town), rhineland-pfalz(this is the state)- exact address and info:

weingut geissler
Burggarten 7
67435 Neustadt - Duttweiler
Tel: 06327 2770
Fax: 06327 1546

email: info@weingut-geissler.de


web:
www.weingut-geissler.de

*Back to MST - I can't get past how delicious this all sounds, how fun the night would be, how tanked I'm certain I'd leave there, and how great it is to have friends 'round the world doing really cool stuff.  Life gets shorter and shorter every day.  Live now.  Eat now.  Travel now.  Be happy now. 


I Think I'm Done with Eating Out For a Minute

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Was hauling back from AZ for the holidays and popped onto Roadfood.com on my iphone and happened to zone right in on a soul food restaurant in downtown Phoenix.  Done. 

Looking back - I mean, REALLY?  Who needs this much food in their tummy?  All veggies, which is good, but I killed that plate of food in about 5 minutes.  With cornbread.  That cannot be right.  Cannot be healthy, even. 

If I eat a meal I made, I feel like a billion dollars.  If I eat out, well...once I'm over the initial excitement - I'm always exhausted and need a nap immediately.  It might not fit into my upcoming program at all.  I need to nest, to cook, to putter a bit.  And, for real - to finally master organize my life.  I think eating out will just slow me down.  I read yesterday that it takes 40 days to break a habit.  Could I possibly go 40 days without eating out? And, let's toss in no sugar to that mix as well - except in rum and coffee!

OK - no eating out, but I can drink out.  Which is even harder, cause after a few Cuba Libre's - all I want are some salty fries with ranch.  That's the resolution thought and I'm sticking to it.  Interesting to see how my mood will flow with only homemade in the system.  

And, you know what - though the meal was "good," in no way, shape or form did it compare to the spread my Granny can make in her sleep.  Nothing from a restaurant ever quite does. 

I already miss my fave Vietnamese joint, and the pupusas I can't have for 40 days.  What to do when I'm traveling then? Which is coming up in a few weeks for work...OK - whilst traveling, I'm good if I just eat right.  None of this wild pizza fiasco, everything all smothered in ranch nonsense.

Prepare for me to finally achieve health.  I'm really serious :)


The Best Food in the World Comes out of Kitchens Like These

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The super rough-hewn, incredibly primitive kitchens 'round the world - those are the kinds of melting pots that manage to sling out mind-altering food.  It's not the high tech, it's not the most advanced.  Never has been, never will be.

This kitchen belongs to Am, my 4th World Love Field Director over in Indonesia.   His beautiful wife expertly manages a handful of meals pumping out of here every single day - for the whole extended family that happen to live on the premises and share everything.  Flavors you've never tasted, spices you've never heard of.  Deep unstoppable groans of utter joy with every spoonful. Food pleasure is the ultimate global language in my eyes.

Cut to me in NJ, still working on this TV show.  We just have a few weeks left and the one shining light in all of it - I've managed to discover some sick, sick food.  Everything from Afghan to Cuban to Portuguese.  I've got my favorite Mexican bodega where I grab cafe con leche and practice my Spanish.  There's the Cuban buffet that makes my heart flutter every time I remember the thick, caramely flan and the dancing owner.  There's the happy folks in Planet Chicken that we cater from - it's all about the paella there.  Across the street is the Portuguese BBQ joint - think huge chunks of BBQ salmon.  I've slurped down Thai iced tea from the Gods, and the Italian is always superior, no matter where you dine.

Go figure - a strip mall of dirty cities in Central NJ - tastebud haven. 

That said, I CANNOT WAIT TO BOLT!!!  And, never return.

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Mom's in Utah and Baby Whale in Marina...Equal Parts Happiness

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Who do you know that drives across country alone and manages to chow down at close to every all-you-can-eat buffet that they come across?  Ummm, me.   So tragic.  What's literally astounding is that I made the trip from Chi to LA in 2 days on all that food.  Legend.

I did get lucky and trip upon a country place called Mom's Cafe somewhere in Utah.  Blueberry sour cream pie, homemade french fries, simple salad bar with the best ranch ever, and these fluffy doozies called scones but were more like funnel cakes doused in soft liquid honey butter.  Reason enough to do a long haul, if you ask me.

Meanwhile, I came back to a WHALE chillin' in the marina channel.  So cool, saw it up close and personal -- and made me so happy you could not smack the smile off my face. She was on her way to Alaska and somehow got sidetracked and now could just be hangin' tight here for the summer.  Has to be one of the neatest things I've ever had show up in my back yard.  How I'm not is as big as that whale is a mystery to me, too.  Bless Mom n Dad, I guess...

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Lobster in Nicaragua - Just for You, Dale...

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Sometimes it's $5, sometimes $10 -- but just feast your eyes on these big fat lobster found on Little Corn Island.  Dale is heading to LCI soon and is gonna try to hunt down my treasure box I hid a few years back for a Travel Channel show I was doing...and, he's gonna MOW on some lobster.  I will be livin' thru him for sure right about then!  I don't think I've even had lobster since Little Corn, which is nothing but a shame...

Now, Dale...while you are on LCI, you must grab some ropa viejo from the Cuban joint on the beach, as well as some mojitos from Casa Iguana.  Additionally, Paula makes the best flan at her little Italian restaurant and the tamales sold out of a bucket are soft, hot and steaming.  Then, there is the coconut items - pies, bread, etc...that show up everywhere you look and if you happen upon someone selling rondon soup, well...give it a go.  It's fish head soup in coconut milk.  A tradition on the island that takes hours and hours to make.  And, about 2 minutes to slurp down.


Food in Louisville--You'd be Very, Very Surprised...

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I've had some of the best food in my belly's career here in Louisville.  The best Vietnamese ever at Vietnam Kitchen (way on the south side); the most delicious $9 tuna sandwich ever at Ramsey's; the biggest and best ice cream cones ever at Dairy Queen; awesome chicken soup and shrimp cocktail at Los Azteca's. 

Just 5 more weeks of exploring and I'm outta here (back to LA til mid Jan...then to Mex and Indo...so happy).  FYI, it's so hard to stray when you find the goods though...but I'll keep tracking down the perfect bites while I'm here.  Who knew Louisville was so dang global?
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*F* is for Food (Street, Homemade & Pure)

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F is for Food

Food is really the reason I travel.  Sure, I love everything about meeting new people, examining foreign cultures and traditions, and exploring hidden villages, but the usual reason that I'm so intent on hitting the road is for the food.  No way in the world would I trek somewhere that didn't have good food.  No matter how beautiful, how amazing, how incredible the place was.  It's just not what drives me.  The food--which is ultimately the history and soul of a country--is what propels me to hop on a plane or jump in my truck and GET THERE asap.

I usually start with the street food and slowly build my way up to tiny stalls, back-alley restaurants, beachside shacks and ultimately a homemade meal in a locals home.  Anything that doesn't cater to tourists is exactly what I'm looking for and it's most definitely where the best food can be found.   It's the stands, the stalls, the shacks, the rough-hewn firepits, the homemade BBQ grills and the coolers full of warm goodies that are turning out the best grub, bar none.

Everyone always tells me I must have a tummy made of steel.  And, I always laugh because I think the reason I never get sick is because I keep it simple.  I almost never eat the meat (sometimes the juice on rice or a few bites if it looks irresistible).  I eat often and with great voracity.  I stick to the most natural items I can find--those that are closest to the earth.  Rice, corn and lentils are usually in the mix somewhere (be it in Africa, Mexico, Indo, Spain, Greece, Italy, or Tanzania).  I usually spend most of my traveling dollars on food, but very little real dinero is needed when you eat at the kind of places I frequent.

All my travel memories can usually trace a very thin line back to a certain meal.  A freshly caught fish grilled at the beach and a sprinkling of stars. Maybe a stewpot full of bright red soup as a parting gift from a happy new friend.  Or a just-picked vegetables breakfast at a volunteer homestay in Indo.  For me, watching a old fella with rickety pullcart at the bottom of a busy hill somewhere in Indonesia prepare his fried goodies (with great pride and concentration) is deeper satisfaction that watching a master chef  prep food in his all teched out kitchen. 

Food is what makes the world go 'round. It's the one thing everyone on the face of the earth has in common. It breaks language barriers..and when given the proper care and attention, it's the most powerful force in the world.  Clearly I am obsessed with it~~
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Nasi Campur...the c is pronounced ch

Img_4086After a trip like the one I just took, it's hard to figure out where to start, so I'm just gonna go back to my roots and being with food.  There is a dish in Indo called nasi campur (mixed rice) that literally took over my entire train of thought.  I woke up thinking about it, I went to bed thinking about it, I dreamed about it and I even found myself whispering "nasi campur" to not a soul--I just wanted to hear the words over and over again.  I had a favorite warung (eating place) in Balinese village of Candidasa that served it (but all of them do) and I developed a little understanding with the always smiling woman who ran the shop (she didn't speak a lick of English).  I'd come in and grab a huge cold water from the freezer (I needed the whole big bottle not only because it was sweltering but because my selections were so spicy) and while I was searching for the coldest vessel, she'd cone off some wax paper and stuff it with nasi (rice) and whatever veggies she'd whipped up that day.  Then, as I stood patiently and giddily by, she'd toss on a fried egg and maybe a little tempeh or tofu and gently fold up my lunch (all this for 40 cents).  I would bound back to my hotel and wolf the whole thing with my fingers (right hand only) while gazing out at the crashing ocean by the infinity pool.  Besides the village and people of Sembalun, the crazy flavor of this simple dish is what I will miss most about Indo.  Say it with me, "nasi campur"...it just feels so right whispering out of my lips.

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San Diego and Baja Fish Tacos...

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Winding up my hectic three day Baja jaunt, I found myself back in San Diego on the way to the airport craving what else?  Fish tacos!  Fortunately, just around the corner from the SD airport is Los Ranchos Taco Shop, a tiny six table fast food joint (of course, they serve beer and wine). I made it my final pitstop before hitting the airport and heading back to Chicago.  Their fish tacos were gigantic (and delish) and in typical American style...when I ordered a bag of chips, I was thinking I'd get a small basket ot tortilla chips, but oh no!  Out comes a freaking HUGE sack of chips.  I mean WTF?  Who serves that many chips with a couple of fish tacos?  I had five of them and then flipped them my neighbors way.  He was delighted...Hasta pronto Baja y San Digeo