Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Street Treat: Paleta.

Looking out at the frosty breezes whipping around my house this morning, it's a little hard to imagine-- but up until yesterday evening, we were sweltering in the tropical Mexican heat. There was one treat in particular we sought out to cool us off: paletas. They're described as Mexican popsicles, but popsicles conjure images of flavorless coloured ice, melting into sticky syrup in the wrapper-- these are too tasty for that. They were sold in street-corner shops and out of bell-ringing push carts, and came in both water and fruit base varieties. I tried pistachio, creamy and full of chopped nuts; pineapple, packed with frozen chunks of fruit; and vanilla, coated with crunchy granola and chocolate. There were more tempting flavors that I never got to sample, unfortunately-- like rice, lime, and sour tamarind.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Walton Ford.

There is something a touch dull about those toucan prints, though-- maybe they're just a little too innocent. For it to really work well with our style, we might need images that are just a little off, just a little dark-- like the zoological watercolors of Walton Ford. Though he uses the tropes and style of eighteenth/nineteenth century naturalists, he uses his works to comment on themes like colonialism and the natural sciences. I like the bizarre painting of the gluttonous heron above, or the ominous image of the gharial and the monkey below. Anyone know if he's done one of tropical birds?

Monday, December 22, 2008


I was hoping to have my first Mexico post up today, but I forgot to bring my camera usb-cable with me to Mexico. I'll try to be quick and get one up tomorrow after I return home. In the mean time, I'll offer a taste of the tropical style I'm enjoying here in Puerto Vallarta.

It's been interesting being back in a tropical clime, yet one where the sense of style is so vastly different from Southeast Asia. Browsing through the boutiques here, we've seen white cotton textiles embroidered with blocky animal shapes, wooden crosses covered in tiny silver milagros, and-- a personal favorite of mine-- massive over-the-top paintings of brightly colored toucans. Toucans are such awkward birds, that even when rendered gracefully, they come off looking a little clownish. The paintings are a little too baroque to go with our style, but I think the toucan prints above are a good compromise. The pared down scientific quality of the above prints might work well with our more understated tropical lifestyle.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


We're currently taking a break from winter, on a family vacation to Puerto Vallarta. This is definitely the most vacation-y vacation I've taken in a long time, and it'll be an odd switch from the backpacking Bordeaux and I have been doing for the past few years. I have to admit, I'm pretty excited about travelling--- and not having to make any decisions myself, for once. Whee!

Be back in time for Christmas!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Lights of Madrid, NM.

We've really been trying to make the most of Christmas this year: searching out good recipes for baking, making our own Christmas cards, and browsing at local shops. We've also been able to take part in a few local events. This past weekend, we traveled north through sparse hills and shadowy valleys, to the town of Madrid. We arrived at dusk, just as the light was beginning to bleed light pink and pale violet, just in time to watch the town's strings of lights flicker on.

Madrid isn't a town, exactly. It had occupied a bustling career as a coal mining center in the 1850s, and was even one of the first places in New Mexico to receive electricity. After falling into derelict as a ghost town, it was revived as a community for artists, who now operate a string of quiet galleries, shops, and cafes. Every year in December, the town is decorated in strings of Christmas lights, and weekend openhouses are hosted for visitors.

We went up there this year to view the lights, enjoy a warm latte, and do some shopping ... well, maybe not the shopping. I have to admit that the style of artwork popular in Madrid isn't really my thing. The town looked rather charming though, and had a truly welcoming atmosphere. The shop owners were friendly and inviting, and many even offered cold-weather treats, like peppermint cookies, handmade toffee, and warm mulled cider. One artist even had a fire ready, with marshmallows for roasting.


We've had a few light flakes over the past week, but yesterday morning it started snowing, and didn't stop until long after dark. The white stuff piled up over the day, leaving my neighborhood piled with a powdery three inches! I'm guessing readers from colder climates are probably rolling their eyes, but after a year without seasons, it felt great to be back in the cold.

We spent most of the day warm inside, but we did venture out for a walk-- a few blocks over and across the park to the drugstore, where we gathered ingredients for Bordeaux to make candy cane hot chocolate. Yum. Pictured above is Bordeaux in the park, enjoying his first snow fall.

And today? Mostly melted, turning to slush. Oh well...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Lucky Boy.

It's hard not to like Lucky Boy at least a little. The name that sounds like a brand of soy sauce. The sun-bleached pastel pink and yellow of the exterior, the dated neon sign. The interior that looks like it hasn't changed in 30 years-- probably hasn't-- with avocado green tables in the booths, and faux wood-grain walls. And the concept, a mix of Chinese-American chop suey standards and American fast food, is neither 'authentic cuisine', cutting edge fusion. Maybe that's what makes it fun, though. You can order a chili burger with a side of fried rice, a sweet and sour combo, or the unusual 'egg foo young burger', pictured below-- and don't forget to get a vanilla milkshake or a rootbeer on the side.

Lucky Boy-- Located on the corner of Constitution and Carlisle, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Pink Pan Dulce.

I don't know if it would work as a party food, but I imagine a big table piled with this Mexican sweet bread would look pretty fantastic. I guess you could dye the topping in another hue, but it would be difficult to beat this electric pink.

Friday, December 12, 2008

And next...

... is all a little unclear. And sorry Bkk, you didn't even make the shortlist. The one thing that's for sure is that I'm ready to be settled down for awhile. After five years of being highly international, I think I'm ready to be domestic...

Thursday, December 11, 2008


HSCBC has an advertising campaign called 'point of view', where they compare two things, and show how they can be differently understood according to their cultural context. Images of sumo wrestling and muay thai alternate the words 'violence' and 'art', showing how a little shift in geography can mean a total shift of mind.

I was thinking of this idea a lot in my final days of travel, as I realized how Southeast Asia had become so mundane to me. Two years ago, the towering temples of Bangkok had seemed completely exotic-- yet after my year and a half of residence, they had become quite ordinary. Contrarily, the adobe houses and big blue skies of New Mexico had once been quite commonplace for me, but had since become rather romantic in my mind. At the point where I could pass by a gorgeous glittering wat without raising an eye, I knew it was time to leave Thailand. I wanted to be able to reinvest Asia with a little bit of the exotic I had lost.

I know there's a lot to be said against the exotic. It's a distancing device, a potential method of primitivization, it's the opiate of the tourist. But I have to say that a lot of what keeps me connected to the world is the draw of the exotic. Is there a way to construct the exotic so that it doesn't rest on out of date tropes and patronizing ideas of a disconnected world? What does the exotic mean nowadays, and should we still be opposed to it?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

First Snow of the Season Oatmeal.

Has the theme of my last post suggested what I missed most in Bangkok? Seasons. Ok, we had hot, cool, and wet-- but in Thailand I was missing autumn, winter, spring and summer. In addition to being able to dress for the seasons, or enjoy a change in the weather, I'm happy to be eating seasonally again.

We had our first snow fall this morning (it was light and didn't stick, but it counts!), so I started the day with a warm breakfast. My current favorite breakfast is a bowl of oatmeal, garnished with berries, nuts, and either dark brown sugar or maple syrup. Pictured above is a bowl of oatmeal with walnuts and dried fruit from Flying Star, the Albuquerque Cafe that I mentioned in my last post. It's a great local spot for breakfast, from the above, to delicious muffins, to big plates of huevos rancheros.

What are you eating for breakfast?

Eggnog Cookies and a Celeb Sighting at the Nob Hill Shop & Stroll.

Christmas last year in Bangkok was an odd experience-- lots of lights, Christmas music, and homemade treats, but it all felt strangely disconnected in the tropical clime. So this year, we planned our return to my hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico with the holidays specifically in mind. So far, it's been great-- we were greeted upon arrival with a chill in the air, my sister has helped Bordeaux with some holiday treat making, and we've even gotten to join in some local festivities.

Last Thursday, we took part in the Nob Hill Shop & Stroll. Nob Hill is Albuquerque's hippest neighborhood, a stretch of Central Road lined with cafes, salons, and boutique shops. For the event, the street was closed down, and pedestrians were free to browse in shops, sample street-stand treats, and enjoy roving musicians (pictured above: mariachis in Santa hats, of course).

After squeezing through the crowds in a few shops we ducked into the Flying Star Cafe, for a rich glass of hot chocolate and a giant eggnog cookie. Coming in from the cold, the decadent treat was the perfect cap to the evening. We also got a little bonus celebrity sighting: Ewan McGregor looking very handsome one table over-- thanks to New Mexico's burgeoning role as a low cost filming locale.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Eating American in Los Angeles.

The above photos are not documentation of a bizarre three-course meal, but rather some samples of my first weekend eating again in the United States. Though I obviously had regrets about the food I'd be leaving in Southeast Asia, I was pretty excited about the food I'd be returning to in the US. And luckily the port of entry for my return was Los Angeles, the ideal place to get started eating.

We only had a weekend in LA, which was way too short to get in everything we wanted-- but we managed to do pretty well for ourselves. Highlights (most of which are illustrated above) included a greasy diner-style patty melt, an excellently prepared homemade Thanksgiving dinner, almond and cherry scones with a latte at Peet's Coffee on Larchmont, and a decadent pumpkin-spice cupcake at Swinger's Diner.

And though it doesn't exactly fit with the theme, I will also single out one of our best meals-- a delicious (and long awaited) Ethiopian dinner on Fairfax.

Sadly missed? Zankou Chicken, and even a single Taco Truck. Next time...

Friday, December 05, 2008

Scenes from a hasty departure.

1. With bus tickets to Cambodia purchased and an evening in Bangkok planned, Bordeaux called Asiana Airlines to reconfirm our tickets out of Siem Reap. 'But you can fly out of Thailand tonight,' the operator told him. Out of Suvarnabhumi? No-- U-tapao, a military airport three hours out of Bangkok. We threw together our bags, cancelled our plans, and grabbed a taxi for the long trip, arriving finally at the army base to find a line of travelers snaking to the door.

2. After two hours in a single line, we reached the counter, where we were divided up by airlines. They checked us in, and sent us through security, where we found another long wait. Asiana and Korean Airlines formed two lines, and we wondered which would be first to board their first. Neither, as it turned out-- Malaysia Airlines appeared out of nowhere, pulling their passengers through the security check to get them onto their plane quickly. Despite the confusion, no one complained or stressed-- we were all just happy to be leaving. Finally, at close to 2:00 am, we were allowed to board.

3. A short flight later, we arrived in Seoul-- I almost didn't believe that we were leaving until Thailand until we reached Incheon airport in South Korea.

4. Walking out of our plane, we were greeted by a crowd of reporters, anxious to catch footage of the first flights to emerge from Bangkok.

5. We had hoped to spend the day in Seoul, but we were left with too little time to make the daytrip. Instead, we had five hours at Incheon airport, to browse in bookstores, look at high-end window displays, and enjoy a lunch of warm Korean dishes, complete with kimchi.