Monthly Archives: September 2009

On the Street

And ready with small bills and change

I could sit and watch a good street performer for hours.

What really fascinates me about these all-the-world’s-a-stage artists is how much they vary from city to city and, directly related, how they really reflect and capture something about where they are.

One of my favorite performers was a combination tap dancer, ball-bouncer and juggler in Barcelona. He was always precise and concentrated, and glanced up at the crowd when his routines ended with a sheepish smile. Sadly, I didn’t shoot a video of the performer myself, but I found a video of him and a friend on YouTube (below).

In Puerto Rico, I spent an afternoon walking around Old San Juan and came across this guitarist playing the song “Guantanamera.” Even though the song is technically Cuban, the scene to me was the essence of Old San Juan: relaxed, colorful, sunny and Spanish. The man sitting next to the guitarist is totally unfazed by his performance or the surroundings, such as the hundreds-year-old convent (now hotel) he was sitting facing. This is everyday for him. Not for me!

Karina for TKGO

Cannolis, Cassatines and Mille Foglie

Chicago Magazine (in the recent “Best of Chicago” rankings) voted one of my favorite bakeries, Pasticceria Natalina, as the producer of the best cannoli in Chicago. Though the cannolis are decadent and far from any other “cannoli” you may have eaten outside of Italy, this little Sicilian bakery beckons the adventurous taste buds — everything tastes as good as it looks. Two of my favorites are the mille foglie and the cassatine tea cakes.

Below is a TKGO original video on Pasticceria Natalina, where Natalina explains her methods as she goes about the daily grind in the kitchen. Enjoy!

Tara for TKGO

A Flea Market Thrives in Brooklyn

Along with a happenin’ outdoor restaurant

One of our first daytime excursions in New York was over (rather, under) the Hudson to the Brooklyn neighborhood of Fort Greene. We’d read about the wonders old and new to be found at the city’s largest flea market and given the cloudless spring sky, perusing trinkets seemed the best way to spend a Saturday.

When we finally emerged from the subway stop (the trains get wacky on weekends, a source of repeated frustration) wide-eyed and looking confused, a man sitting on a stoop selling old wares asked if we were looking for the flea market and gave us the two-block directions. “When you’re done there,” he said, “head to Habana Outpost right nearby. It’s their opening day celebration and they have great drinks and food, especially mojitos.” Mojitos? Done deal. That, and because when a cool-seeming local gives you a suggestion, you take it!

At the food and vintage-wear-stuffed Brooklyn Flea, one of us picked up a pair of new, handmade earrings, and the other found a couple vintage necklaces. We also spent plenty of time drooling over the baked goods, ice creams and artisan foods lining the fence.

Habana Outpost was a party. Think live music, outdoor seating, succulent specialty corn out of a neon-colored truck parked outside and minty mojitos churning in solar-powered machines (in fact, sunlight powers the whole restaurant). Because it was the outdoor patio’s opening day, it was packed. We squeezed at a picnic table with some Fort Greene locals with an extra cob of the sour cream-coated, cinnamon-sprinkled specialty corn (which might be the best way to make friends at Habana!). By the end of our conversation — and day — we were talking dreamy plans of lives in brownstones in Fort Greene.

Tara and Karina for TKGO

Spain on my Mind… Again

The first time I visited Spain was on an exchange program in high school. I stayed with a family in the small coastal town of Burriana in the state of Valencia, and after nearly three whirlwind weeks, I left thinking one thing: I have to go back. Fast forward four years, and I returned to Spain for study abroad in Barcelona. I was exploring, blissful and blogging.

My love affair with the country continues even on American soil, something my parents (as well as probably anyone I’ve ever met) know well, which is why they saved on DVR episodes from the PBS documentary series Spain…on the road again. Quick premise: Actress Gwenyth Paltrow, famed chef Mario Batali, New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman and Spanish actress Claudia Bassols criss-cross Spain on a road trip to eat, drink, sightsee and take in its culture. (Funny, sounds exactly like what Tara and I want to do!)

The other night I watched one of the Barcelona episodes, in which the crew visits Bar Inopia. The wife of Ferran Adria (of El Bulli/molecular gastronomy/one of the world’s most renowned chefs acclaim) joins them for a traditional tapas dinner and essentially, the whole episode is a documentary of their meal. It’s a simple episode, but it captures what I loved about eating in Spain. Meals are unrushed, shared experiences focused on appreciating good food and company, where sometimes all you can say in response to your last bite is “Oh my gosh, this is delicious. You have to try it!”

In between bites of tuna tapas slicked in olive oil and sips of full-bodied Spanish wine, someone at the table asked Mario Batali what he wanted to “take back from Barcelona.” “Everything that’s not nailed down!” was his response. Yes, Mario Batali, yes. I know exactly what you mean.

Oh, and, if you’re reading this, Mario, I’d love to join you on the road in Spain…yet again. I’m sure you’ll be back.

The series actually has a great multimedia site — which you know Tara and I appreciate — with galleries, blogs, videos and links. Above is a Barcelona teaser excerpt video, courtesy of the show.

-Karina for TKGO