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September 2010

The Maritime in NYC - Just a Chill Spot


All I'm sayin'is the Maritime Hotel in NYC makes me happy.  

It's all nautical-themed, with big port hole windows that actually open out to all the beautiful NYC noise.  The rooms are tiny, like cruise ship rooms, but no's all about the thread count (500, thanks).  The Bloody Mary's are made with olive flavored vokda (rare touch) and the baked eggs are sick.  Makes ya just want a NY Times, a few BM's, a warm breeze and a whole new way of looking at the world around ya.

Choice spot to stay in the Chelsea area.  Love walking that band of road.








I Once Traveled. Now I Eat.


Once upon a time, I used to travel.

I'd take off on a whim and just hit the road to anywhere.  Could be old haunts, sometimes new lands.  Just anywhere but where I was at the moment.  The road is where I figure stuff out.  Where the lines between past/present/future merge together and I can finally, finally get somethings laid out into something proper.

Ah, but that was once upon a time ago.  Now, it seems I just work.  Work and work and work.  So, I must travel thru food.  Good food that is all so fun to track down and introduce to new peeps (namely the crew on this TV show).   Best new find as of late out here in the nowhere-land that is NJ is Pithara Tavern, a little Greek spot in Highland Park.

It's next door to a small grocery/liquor store that sells all Greek wines that ya haul over to the BYOB.  And, the proper thing to do is just order wild.  Plaki-style snapper (unbloodybelievable), spicy hummus with grilled pita triangles, charred octopus in a copper pan dripping with olive oil and tangy vinegar, chunks after chunk of salty feta,  soft gigantes with dill, homemade yogurt that is just silly good, rice stuffed tomatoes, branzino grilled whole.  Couple of bottles of Greek rose and you've got a trip straight to the baby island of Anti-Paros. 

Oh yah, I used to travel.











Swinging Door in Texas...Home Sweet Home...


Texas is just damn big.

We were just down filming in Texas for a few days and to me, the mighty state of Texas is all about Tex-Mex style Mexican food, freezing cold beer and massive plates of BBQ (thank you Swinging Door, which reminds me of home in TN!).  Not much else.  I found good stuff all the way around.  Backwoods BBQ, cold beer in little barrels + you just grab one on your way to a table, and Mexican food so good and cheap it's insulting.  I still couldn't wait to bolt though.  Bolt - back to New Jersey.  Could you imagine?

Who knows when I'll roll back thru Texas...though I do want to make it to Marfa one day (it's supposed to be an incredibly cool little town in the middle of nowhere with skies that stretch forever).  I also love Texas Hill Country, but sadly, I was in neither of those...I was holed up in the Hotel Derek in Houston managing my prosecco habit and trying to make a friggin' TV show.

Onto better drinks...










Mojitos in Todos Santos - Con Killer View


It's all about the crushed ice.

The best mojito I ever had was in Nicaragua.  Little Corn Island to be precise.  It's mainly cause they crushed the ice and used no artificial ingredients.  That, the stars, the pounding surf and the full moon actually are what made the drink mad memorable.  I still toss that memory about my mind at least once a week.

Since then, I've had a rather difficult time finding 'tenders who will use crushed ice.  They look at me like I'm nuts.  But, sometimes they go the extra mile, beat the shit outta some ice, and throw down on a delicious mojito.  Like at a new, super-chill hotel in Todos Santos called Guaycura

It's a very hip place on a dirt road with a killer roof-top deck to watch the sunset from.  Drinks are way too expensive, but when the jazz band is up there playing and the bar folks are willing to go the extra mile, I'm all in.  One after another, after another.  They just go down soooo easy. 

The rooms are quite nice.  I could imagine tucking away and just getting some shiz done in this little place.  $1 fish tacos by day and mojitos 10x that price by afternoon and night.  Look, you pick your savings and sometimes it ain't in the booze.

The whole place is quite lovely - twinkly, sparkling and sophisticated all at once.  But down a dirt road.  Exactly my style.








A Dazzling Drink Called Gypsy Tears


Drinks should be just as special and well thought out as food.  Period.

Not once had I ever tasted St. Germain, before I happened upon it one fine day in NYC.  It's a highly addictive liqueur made from wild elderflower (picked in the Alps), that once you inhale a bit, you're done in.  It's over.  The stars align, the birds chirp and life seems to continually be on the up and up!

This drink found its way into my happy little paws one night in in the city after a pals play.  The bartender had crafted up this doozie one day in the middle of the summer to take advantage of all the fresh produce.  Namely watermelon and cucumber. It's so easy to recreate, which I have done multiple times to the delight of all who get enveloped in her gracefully sippable aura.

So - you muddle cucumber.  You muddle watermelon.  Toss both into a glass and add a couple hits of St. Germain as well as some somewhat dry Savignon Blanc.  Shake it super well and strain the whole bit into a fresh glass of ice (with a bit of the muddle at the bottom).

Literally off the charts as far as drinks are concerned.  I was thinking another good one would be Texas Tears.  But this time, use ginger liquer and something really spicy like baby bits of jalapeno juice to top it off. 

Once you have drinks like this, everything else seems so pedestrian and blase.  I can almost never drink another vodka or rum drink again.  Unless, of course, its Bison Grass vodka.  And, there is that rum I discovered in Nicaragua, Flor de Cana.  And, I still love my Indo rum, Jamaica. 

But I said, all drinks quaffed should be just as special as the food ya shove down.  If only bartenders 'round the world understood this. 









Best Drinks in the World and Where They Be Found


Absolutely my favorite thing to do the in the world is tie one on.  Sort out where I'm having my next one.  Just take the edge off.  Have a bit of a breather. 

So, why not lay out some round-the-world details of where to have the perfect libation?  There are so many goodies.  From South Africa, to San Miguel del Allende, to Baja, to Indo, to Isla Mujeres, to Yelapa, to Greece, to Italy, to TN, to Marina del Rey.  All of them.

My next posts shall explore them all.  Cause it's my favorite thing EVER.  And, why not?  We're all dead soon, anyhow.  Might as well go out lit.

This would be a good one to listen to whilst figuring out where to have your next one.


Me Gustas Tu


Hamilton Grill Room - One of the Best Meals EVER.


Not too many places in the world are worthy of the perfect rave. 

I mean - the absolute, 100%, hands down perfection rave.  But the place I ended up at last night gets it all the way.

Tucked way back down a short gravelly alley, and perched right on the river in Lambertville, NJ is Hamilton Grill House.   Open fire with a chef slinging on fresh seafood.  Champagne bought from the small bar across the way (it's BYOB).  Smiling staff full of spot-on recommendations.  Cookbooks for sale - the owner was just in last month's Food & Wine.  White tablecloth without being white tablecloth. Peachy light filtering if thru the trees that flank the river.  Romantic without being intimidating.  Table and bar seating around the firepit.  Outdoor patio seating with twinkly lights.  Luxe, but casual.

Crazy good grilled caeser salad (never had that before).  Tremendous oysters.  Reed thin pomme frites.  Giant prawns cooked in an anchovy butter sauce.    Whole branzino charred up on grill, deboned and then dressed with fennel slaw.  Grilled white tuna.  Cobbler with homemade ice cream w/ a caramel twist.

It's just one of those meals/experiences that I almost have no words for.  If I had a restaurant, it'd be along these lines. 

















Dirt Floors, Palapa Roof, Plastic Chairs = Best Seafood in Baja


Little known secret -

Sometimes I like to be led.

I maybe would have found this place on my own, but from the minute I got to Todos Santos, my surf instructor was prattling on and on about a place with a dirt floor that had the best ceviche in the world.  Ah...but they are closed certain days, only open certain hours and you just really have to catch them at the right time (meaning go early) if you want crab or octopus ceviche.  So, we surfed...and we waited.

Most days, we ended up at Carlitos Tacos multiple times over, dropping hundreds of dollars on some of the best drinks, seafood & sunsets of my life, but finally the day had come to go to Chavas Ceviche. 

The vibe was low key when we tore up the dirt road and I let Carlos do the ordering first (he eats there 4x a week, mind you).   I wandered about gazing at other ceviche plates on strangers-no-more tables (they always offer up bites of their food when I pop over all wild-eyed, with a camera).  Shredded crab ceviche, fish/shrimp ceviche, bright purple pulpo ceviche, huge chocolate clam ceviche - all mixed up with a myriad of sauces, hot peppers, mayo, ketchup...and tossed onto salty chips or tostados.

B and I said it again and again - Baja has the best seafood we've ever had in our lives.  Carlos would scoop up my foodie obsessed imagination and weave me tales about how fresh seafood is caught and delivered down in Baja.  Where to find the track down oysters.  Which village high in the mountains leading to nowhere has an old woman who hand slaps the most delicious tamale you've ever inhaled.  I salivated...and ate...and ate.

I guess if I could do anything with my life, I'd be going on food adventures and showing/telling people how to do the same.  Maybe that is next up.  My body temperature just rises when I start talking/writing about it and that must mean something in the grand scheme, no?