Land of the Rising Pun

Work has been keeping me occupied lately, but for those who could use an uncomfortable laugh, check out this hair salon in Tokyo, Japan:

koto-ku-tokyo-japan-cubic-hair-hair-salonJapan, you’re the capital of weird.  Never change.

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The Q-rious Quince and More

I had no idea what a quince looked like, let alone tasted like on its own, but there was one excellent memory of the yellow pomequince paste, or membrillo in Spanish:


Stewed Quince and Tea, in Tbilisi, Georgia

Yes, I can recall greedily taking sample after sample of membrillo at a local supermarket.  It was often served with manchego, a Spanish sheep’s milk cheese, and paired very well with…whichever toothpick I could find to get the most out of the stewed fruit native to the Caucasus and Iran.  It was delicious – no argument there – but I can’t help but feel somewhat disappointed in adding sugar to something fruit-based…rather, if you had to do it (such as with cranberries), add other fruit juices/honey as opposed to the unnecessary granulated stuff.

So, is a quince one of those cranberry or hachiya persimmon-types that is typically processed into a jam, stew or other playground for botulism?

As hinted at above, yes.

Fast forward to last year’s visit to Baku, Azerbaijan. My first meal in the Azeri capital was punctuated by a small haadiya (gift) from the restaurant owner- a fresh quince:


Quince with Azeri Dishes in Baku, Azerbaijan

Knowing just a tiny bit of Turkish and roughly two words of Azeri, I forced out a ben bu yemek istiyorum, which I took to mean “I want to eat this.”  Stupid me, I should have just used hand gestures.  Either way, the managers motioned that it was ok to eat raw, though in retrospect, probably uttered the opposite.  It was very tough, tart, and didn’t take long for me to stop eating that way (hmm, perhaps I could poach the next quince in a hotel room tea kettle?).

In other words, if you’d like to experiment and cook with quince, check out this site for a few suggestions.  Meanwhile, I’ll have to scour the esoteric co-ops and produce stores of Manhattan for another try.

n.b. The second photo also contains a souvenir from my Azerbaijan Airlines flight between New York and Baku.  I asked flight attendants to jot down some local Azeri dishes; ironically, the air sickness bag was the most convenient way to do it.  Still, I prefer the halcyon pen and paper method to notes on a phone (phone batteries die, and paper usually won’t draw unwelcome attention).

Posted in Europe, Food & Drink, Turkey, Southwest Asia/Middle East & North Africa | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Event Review: The 2017 New York Oyster and Beer Festival

Disclaimer: In exchange for an event review, I received an entry ticket.  All photos were taken by my associate.

On February 11th, the Tunnel/La.Venue at the Waterfront (269 11th Avenue between 27th and 28th Street) in Manhattan, New York hosted The New York Oyster and Beer Festival. Included in the ticket price, in addition to the bivalves and some liquor samples, also present were a dj (this time, spinning tunes at a reasonable volume) and another obnoxious crowd incapable of lining up.  Perhaps that’s where the alcohol came into play…perhaps not.

the-2017-new-york-oyster-and-beer-festival-1Whereas I don’t have too many photos, to sum up The 2017 Oyster & Beer Festival, it was a mess.  I noticed one ceviche booth that had either already exhausted its supply for the day by 1:30 (the show ran from 12-4), or had decided not to show up.  Lines for drinks and oysters were often conflated, there were no wet-naps, and raw oysters (e.g. as opposed to grilled ones) predominated.

That said, let’s have a look at a few photos:

the-2017-new-york-oyster-and-beer-festival-5This may have been the one oyster booth that wasn’t simply raw oysters, which would explain why I asked my colleague to take a picture of it.

the-2017-new-york-oyster-and-beer-festival-7Clam chowder?  Where are the oysters???

the-2017-new-york-oyster-and-beer-festival-2The best thing in the place (the sign, not the beer)

the-2017-new-york-oyster-and-beer-festival-4OK, some of the oysters were good.  What I did miss was a sign signifying the type of oyster and its point of origin.

Ah, if only I had some chilies with which to eat them…

the-2017-new-york-oyster-and-beer-festival-3Sounds better than it was…

the-2017-new-york-oyster-and-beer-festival-6The potatoes were nice, but the bbq and goat cheese version had more shell and flotsam in them than actual oyster.  Garlic butter oysters though, those were nice.

Had there been more of a variety in the preparation of oysters, and perhaps another food (oyster crackers) to help cleanse the palate, that would’ve been a step up.  Maybe next time I’ll just get to the oyster and beer festival as soon as the event starts, to have a basis for comparison.

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A Day in the Life of a Fast Food Patron in Saudi Arabia

You might think I was too full to remotely consider eating lunch or dinner after that buffet experience in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.  You might be right…but still, local food was on my mind, so how else would I try some of it?  By wandering, of course.

and when I say local food, it’s only a half-truth…

riyadh-saudi-arabia-herfy-fast-food-restaurant-2Enter Herfy, the largest fast food chain in Saudi Arabia, which also comes with a woefully outdated homepage.  It was founded in 1981, and has branches throughout the Middle East.  On the surface, it looks like a welcoming place for famished omnivores.

riyadh-saudi-arabia-herfy-fast-food-restaurant-3Oh, no!  I happened to be walking by this old town location while it was closed for prayersC’est la vie Saoudite.  You see, save for government and bank roles, typical working hours are from 7:30/8am-noon, then closed for prayers, then operating again from around 3:30/4 until 7 or 8pm.  Some tourist sites may have extended hours, but get used to seeing the “closed for prayers” sign, and bring snacks.

Think about it this way- the hottest times of the day (say, near Mecca) are usually between noon and 3:30-4, so the government is keeping your well-being in mind! /cough

If you’re already eating while a restaurant is closing (i.e. pulling down the curtains; locking the door; turning off lights), staff won’t kick you out; instead, you’ll either feel special or claustrophobic.

riyadh-saudi-arabia-herfy-fast-food-restaurant-4Fortunately, after a few minutes of wandering around the block, the party was able to start, and Herfy opened.

At first, I didn’t find anything too noteworthy— guest workers running the show, unhealthy options populated the menu, segregated seating for women and families.  Wait…what?  Looks like we’re going back to the future:

riyadh-saudi-arabia-herfy-fast-food-restaurant-1Yep, women and families had to sit behind this curtain.  If you’re male and alone, whether or not you’re married, you’re sitting in front.  Plenty of countries are guilty of similar actions either in their past lives or currently; nonetheless, it’s still a bit of shock.

Additionally, it encourages me to eat much faster than usual…

riyadh-saudi-arabia-herfy-fast-food-restaurant-5There’s my Herfy hamburger.  I clearly asked for no mayonnaise; do you like the ironic condiments provided?  It was ok, sure, but this post is meant to serve two purposes.  One, that nearly every country has a way for you to make requesting seat belt extensions an life goal.  Two, “welcome to Saudi Arabia” (مرحبا بكم في السعودية جزيره العرب marhabaan bikum fi alsewdyt jaziruh alearab).

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Thirsty: The Capitalist Edition

Last year, I took a brief trip to Indianapolis, Indiana.  Overall, I had a good time – the hotel had bikes to borrow, and the weather and food worked out…that is, until I came upon an enterprising CVS (drug store/supermarket) that may have gotten carried away with pricing a certain Lipton iced tea:

indianapolis-cvs-cheap-lipton-iced-teaImagine how many Venezuelan bolivars I would need for a simple bottle of tea…it’s just a tad expensive, no?

Who am I kidding, I’m sure lots of credit card churners would get a kick out of this.

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Event Review: The 2017 New York Beer, Bourbon and BBQ Festival

Disclaimer: In exchange for an event review, I received two entry tickets.

manhattan-new-york-beer-bourbon-and-bbq-barbecue-festival-at-the-waterfront-2On January 28th, the Waterfront (269 11th Avenue between 27th and 28th Street) in Manhattan, New York hosted the local Beer, Bourbonand BBQ Festival. Included in the ticket price, in addition to a free-for-all style of snacking and drinking with a dj on the premises, was the chance to become a football hooligan.  (In other words, it was the usual overcrowded jamboree with ambiguous line-forming, but at least a few shots of whiskey could help you forget that fact.)

manhattan-new-york-beer-bourbon-and-bbq-barbecue-festival-at-the-waterfront-3The venue – The Waterfront – was at first, a distribution center for Hudson River cargo ships and railroads, and then in the 1980s, a nightclub called The Tunnel.  It was a cool space, and evokes remarkably a much-storied past.

Overall, I was underwhelmed by the amount/quality of bbq, and faced with way too many alcohol options..which is great if you’re a lush, but not so much if you are hungry.  Yes, the food is filling, but even by 7:30pm – the event went to 9:30pm, a few stalls had run out of grub.

These issues notwithstanding, there were a few points worth noting:

manhattan-new-york-beer-bourbon-and-bbq-barbecue-festival-at-the-waterfront-1Let’s start with the find of the night, beef jerky from Jerky Rob‘s.  They had samples for a few of their varieties, but darn, the “hot smokin’ jerky” was the best I have ever tried.   OK, for those who can’t tolerate spicy foods, it’s probably not for you, but if that flavor was sold in New York – they’re only in Westwood, New Jersey, and occasionally, food festival in the Tri-State area – I’d buy in bulk.  Perhaps I should get another sample package to, uhh, test consistency…

manhattan-new-york-beer-bourbon-and-bbq-barbecue-festival-at-the-waterfront-10Hank Sauce‘s hot sauces were another standout.  The logo – a fish – stems from the founders’ origin being the Jersey Shore and their university being in St. Augustine, Florida.  The hot sauces are in general, rather creamy, likely owing to the presence of butter.  They may not be the hottest sauces around (after all, the point isn’t to breathe fire, only to add some spice to a dish), but they make up for this with the pleasant additions of cilantro and basil in some of their flavors. You can find Hank’s Sauces throughout the Mid-Atlantic, though not yet in New York City.

Good times, and here’s a bonus question: does the logo remind you of this band?

manhattan-new-york-beer-bourbon-and-bbq-barbecue-festival-at-the-waterfront-7I dug the name of one of this Michigan brewery’s beers.

manhattan-new-york-beer-bourbon-and-bbq-barbecue-festival-at-the-waterfront-9They had no bottles to show off, but here’s another memorable name.

manhattan-new-york-beer-bourbon-and-bbq-barbecue-festival-at-the-waterfront-6Kloby’s Smokehouse likely had the most enjoyable bbq option of the night– pulled pork.  They also had bread pudding, but I gobbled it up before the camera had a chance.

manhattan-new-york-beer-bourbon-and-bbq-barbecue-festival-at-the-waterfront-4manhattan-new-york-beer-bourbon-and-bbq-barbecue-festival-at-the-waterfront-8Beans and collard greens.  Worth the repeat trip.

Though I did encounter some good eats at the Beer Bourbon and BBQ Festival this year, I’ll hope to see many more food options next time.

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Product Review: Fastachi Hazelnut and Pistachio Butter (Massachusetts, USA)

Disclaimer: In exchange for a review of Fastachi, I received small containers of hazelnut and pistachio butter.

Stemming from a regional New England tribal word that means “little gift,” Fastachi, originally called Mixed Nuts, is the brainchild of an Armenian couple based in Massachusetts.  Formally established in 1990 and emphasizing the less is more approach to ingredients, as well as having an online presence, Fastachi also has two brick-and-mortars; one in Boston, and the other, in nearby Watertown.

Fastachi specializes in steel drum-roasted nuts, dried fruit, chocolates, and snack mixes.  In spite of all of those obvious temptations, I opted to try their hazelnut and pistachio butters.


photo c/o

In addition to the two nut butters I received, Fastachi also offers almond, cashew, peanut, pecan, walnut, and mixed nut butters.  There’s no need to refrigerate any of the containers, though you may want to add an unflavored oil to change the consistency.

fastachi-massachusetts-usa-hazelnut-and-pistachio-nut-buttersSure enough, according to the ingredients list, the hazelnut butter only had hazelnuts, and the pistachio butter just pistachios.

Whereas they were both quite good and tasted quite fresh (as much as possible, Fastachi tries to source from the US), what I should have sought are recommendations to dip into the butters.  Hazelnut is easy- something with chocolate, maple, or another similarly sweet item.  But pistachio butter?  Chocolate…covered pretzels?  (one-track mind, I guess).  Put it in a shake with pomegranate and rose water?  Aha, maybe when I visit Armenia…

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