London Round-up

Brick-lane

Dear Cath,

I want you to feel like you were there with us, but I hope that doesn’t mean you’ll get finger-scrolling-itis — there are an excessive amount of photos in this one. It’s the only way it can be done.

London: 2 weeks ago
Your first full morning in town, you wake up and head to Brick Lane with us. It’s a gloriously sunny and warm day in east London (yes, London!) and the marketeers are just tying their tarps to metal poles and unpacking their wares: everything from cutsey dresses to tangles of wires to vinyl and chipped tea cups.

We were so early we made it before all the amazing food had fully started bubbling away in their shallow cast iron pots: thai curries mingled next to tacos who rubbed shoulders with samosas. But before we get ahead of ourselves … breakfast.

Beigel Bake. Open 24 hours. Cheap as chips and delicious as any self-respecting New York bagel would be. We got cream cheese and smoked salmon on ours. It wasn’t fancy — just served wrapped in a napkin. We ate ours blinking under the florescent lights (even on a sunny day in London, it doesn’t mean you turn those off):

Beigel bake

There are a lot of bricks in Brick Lane:

Brick lane luncheonette

Next up, let’s go across the water (Thames not Channel) and visit the Tate Modern. Matisse’s cutouts are on view!

Tate Matisse Cut Outs

(I took this pic before I realised we weren’t allowed. Don’t you love Matisse’s handwriting for his Jazz book? He made it purposefully large to match the curvy robustness of his dynamic paper shapes:

Matissies

We didn’t just stick to Matisse though. I wanted to see some of the permanent collection too. I’ve never heard of Chen Zen, but I loved this piece by him called Cocon du Vide. It’s an oriental chair (like the ones we had in our living room growing up — French Horn seat!) with a cage of abacus and rosary beads woven above it. I know it’s a bit cage-like, but instead of feeling trapped it makes me feel safe (says the semi-agoraphob):

Cocon-du-vide

Matisse and Zhen were not at all contemporaries (and not connected in the Tate) but both of them worked while very ill. Zhen had terminal cancer and Matisse was recovering from a very difficult surgery after being diagnosed with colon cancer in the 50s. I wonder if art was a solace for them or an absolute necessity in dealing with illness. One to ponder.

Pondering make you peckish? Why don’t we stop by for some lunch while we rub elbows with some overpriced designer handbags? To Harrods’ Food Hall!

Harrods sandwich

To work off all our salmon and watercrest, I think we should probably (window) shop. How does Liberty sound?

Liberty

Liberty-london

I love how Tudor-y the facade is and all the displays on the inside! I managed to drag myself away with just one delicious smelling (£6 gulp!) bar of soap. It smells like heaven. Citrus, Italian, heaven. Anything strike your fancy? It’s not really our style, but I think the bits and bobs we picked for Mom are right up her alley.

Ooops! Too much dawdling we’ll be late for our appearance in Covent Garden. To the the-a-tah! (Such lovely lighting London has after a fresh washing in the evening):

Covent-Gardeny

Did you remember your opera glasses? Being in the nose bleeds, they will be absolutely necessary to see Thomas Cromwell rise to power (and Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn circle around each other in Tudor fashion):

Opera glasses

Tomorrow morning! (You’re not tired, are you?). As we know we’ll be eating and eating and eating again, shall we start with good intentions? Expensive green juice at the juice bar just a few blocks from our flat? Alkalize away (because this ends with cronuts)!

Green juice london

A delicious appetizer to Borough Market, just a jaunt to the southern end of London Bridge:

borough-market

We might have had some curry and cookies and brownies (no photographic evidence on blog means calories unconsumed). Back north for some more (window) shopping (I really am trying to consume just with my eyes — and mouth — and not with my wallet) on Carnaby Street:

Carnaby street

Phew! Now that’s out of the way, there might, I say might, be some more eating in store (not all in one afternoon, I promise). It wasn’t all dangerously heart-clogging. One lunch I actually stuck to my endo diet and had this lovely salad plate from (ironically) Pan Quotidian:

clean salad

And we went to one of London’s best pizza places (and my favorite pizza ever), Homeslice Pizza, with Gracie and Nicolas. This one was zucchini and deliciousness:

Home-slice-pizza

But by far my most favorite eating all weekend was Chinatown — the street food. We got the most delicious char sui baos I’ve ever had — and they were vegetable! Usually I think the pork is the only way to go (and you know I don’t like pork) but these veggie ones were the bees knees:

char-sui-bao

Right next to char sui bao heaven was what looked like a teeny savory crepe stand. I couldn’t read most of the menu but there was something that said “Pancake + crispy + Egg” so we got that. Here’s how it went down: lady ladles out pancake batter on the crepe cooker plate, while it cooks she breaks a raw egg on top and scrambles it around so it cooks and then sprinkles on green onion and cilantro. Flip. This side gets some hoisin sauce and duck sauce with a bit of chili. And then the crispy. Which is exactly that: layers of crispy (wanton dough?) goes on top of the sauces and then everything gets folded up into a neat pocket for you to munch while walking to lunch (bibimbap, to be exact):

Chinatown pancake

Chinatown-street-food

Before we hop on the train back to Edinburgh (a place that now seems sorely lacking in abundance of constant foodstuff variety), let’s stop by a French bakery and get some cronuts (or crodoughs as they were called). We’ll take them to Bloomsbury Square to sit on a bench and digest — all our meals and trip well spent, me thinks:

crodoughs

Pan-de-pie-london

The end!

Do you feel like you were right there with us and are now too stuffed to eat dinner? Fun had by all, but so wish you were there! Can you believe the last time we were there together was 11 years ago? Criminal, that is.

Love you like Cripsy loves Egg,

Lar


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Londontown: Where we stayed

The Thames

Dear Cath,

Oooh lala isn’t she beautiful? This pic above is from a few days into our trip but I wanted to give you a nice opener to London: sun, the Thames, standing on the South bank, eying St. Paul’s.

When we first alighted from our train however, she wasn’t so very well behaved. Five minutes after leaving Euston Station, the skies opened up and monsooned (is that not a verb?). Heavy, heavy rain that lasted about 45 minutes and laughed in the face of our water repellent jackets and dashed under everyone’s umbrellas. We took refuge in a doorway and waited it out with our fellow drenched Londoners. The pic below doesn’t do justice to how sodden we felt (duck face is misleading as ducks like water):

London rain

We airbnb-ed it this drip. Not cheap right in the heart of Covent Garden, but totally worth it and best birthday prezie (would have been best ever if you were with us!). In the photo below do you see the dormer widows peaking out on the roof? That’s our wee flat! Just a studio, but with a nice little kitchen and bathroom. Oh and 4 windy flights of stairs to mount every evening when we got back home:

Monmouth Shaftsbury

This is the main room with the stairs/ladder up to the sleeping loft. Just enough room for a table and chairs — no sofa, but lovely windows on all three sides:

Air-bnb

Our views looked right down at Monmouth Street and Shaftsbury Avenue and across to Neal’s Yard and then the Royal Opera House in the not-to-far distance. At night the trees’ sparkly lights would come on — it was so lovely and not at all noisy even with the hustle and bustle below because we were up so high. Our Edinburgh flat is way noisier.

Covent-Garden-flat

Below is a pic of Monmouth: lots of cute shops and coffee places and the best pizza I’ve ever had at al place called Homeslice. We would go to Monmouth Coffee in the morning and sit on the bench and people watch: mustaches, waistcoats, man buns (shaved head except for the top which is bunned), well-dressed cyclists, way more summery clothes than you could ever get away with in Edinburgh:

Monmouth-street

Another perk to our teeny “lofty” flat? We had access to the roof via the kitchen window. The last morning there, we crawled out we ate breakfast perched between the eaves. After posing for numerous selfies and shoveling oatmeal down my gullet, I looked across to the office building next to us and someone was waving. I scurried back in the window after that:

rooftop Lar rooftop

I know you guys are all worried we will run away to London and never come home, but as much as London is my favorite city in all the world (or at least the small bit I’ve been to), it doesn’t have you guys in it. That outweighs Old Smokey by a couple tons.

4 weeks until I see you!!!

Love you infinity more than I love London,

Lar


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Adventures in Detroit

Exploring Detroit

Dear Lar,

While you were exploring Lindisfarne Castle, I was spending time in the equally exotic Detroit. Alright, not the most exotic place in the world, but I was still excited to visit since I love exploring cities  - especially ones that I’ve never been to.

(Note to our readers: I went to Detroit for a conference, but also had the added bonus of getting to visit Troy’s cousins who live just 25 minutes north of the city. This trip was probably my only summer “vacation” since I’m trying to buy a house and have zero extra money to spend)

I know Detroit gets a bad rap, and some of that is warranted, but there are some amazing things about the city. Get ready for some scrolling! I’ve including lots of pics and text so you can get a feel of the city – or at least my very biased view of the city.

First on the tour: The Fox Theater!

Fox Theater Detroit

This place is just like the Atlanta Fox Theater except MUCH bigger and even more fabulous. It’s so hard to believe that in the 1920a amazing, opulent theaters were built for the movies. Troy, his cousins, and I got our own private tour of the place and we had an amazing tour guide that turned out to be the theater’s organ player. After the tour he played the Star Wars theme music, which is crazy to hear on a giant organ in a nearly empty theater that seats 5,000.

I wish movie theaters still had crazy, over-the-top decor. Now  a-days you’re lucky to get a seat without squished up popcorn and a sticky floor.

Next stop: Lafayette Park.

Layfayette Park

The conference I was attending offered a downtown bus tour of Detroit. I’m so glad I signed up for it because one of the stops on the tour was Lafayette Park, a mixed income neighborhood just east of downtown Detroit. My absolute favorite part was the rows of condos designed by Mies van der Rohe. They look timeless in their peaceful, grassy surroundings and I felt like I was walking around in a Dwell magazine article (Funnily enough, I just found an online Dwell article about Lafayette Park. See the slideshow here). What made the tour even better was that one of the homeowners (wish I could remember his name to give him credit!) opened his home for the tour group so we could see what the interiors looked like.

Lafayette Park home

Lafayette Park details

I fell in love with the floor-to-ceiling windows at the front and back of the house and efficiency of van der Rohe’s designs. Also check out the extra tall doorways in the photo above. You’d think that would look silly and disproportionate in a small townhouse, but it just adds to the airiness of the space. If I ever had to move to Detroit, I would live in one of these townhomes – if I could. I hear there’s a long waiting list to move in. Can you imagine a waiting list for housing in Detroit?! That’s what good design does!

Next stop: Shinola

Shinola Detroit

I recently learned about Shinola at Worthmore Jewelers in Decatur. They started carrying Shinola watches and have a Shinola bike in their storefront window that I pass by everyday on my way to Starbucks. When I was planning my trip, I knew I wanted to visit the Shinola store.

Back in the day Shinola used to be a brand of shoe polish and the famous saying went, “You don’t know shit from Shinola.” Poetic. Anywho, now it sells/creates made-in-America products like watches, leather goods, and bikes. Apparently if you buy a Shinola watch, you’ll get a little tin of Shinola shoe polish.

Shinola

The Shinola store is located in midtown Detroit – an up and coming yupster area. I took tons of photos in the store and tried to cull it down to my favorites. I loved the succulent display in the front and there’s a juice bar, Drought, right inside the store. I bought the yellow juice (pictured above), which was a combination of apple, ginger and lemon. It was so delicious! Across the street from the Shinola store are two other super cute stores, City Bird and Nest. I highly recommend visiting all three stores if anyone finds themselves in Detroit.

Next stop: Food and bev around town

Eating in Detroit

Since I was stuck at my conference in downtown Detroit for most of my trip, I didn’t get to explore as much of the dining scene as I would have liked. Nevertheless, I did find some gems (with the help of some suggestions on Instagram – thanks @moybien1212!). The first and third photos are from Public House in Ferndale, a Detroit suburb 20 minutes north of the city. Ferndale is filled with mostly independently-owned shops and restaurants, which you know I love. I always look for neighborhoods like that when I travel and Ferndale doesn’t disappoint. The second photo is of Sugar House located in Corktown – a downtown neighborhood. It feels like a bar in Brooklyn. I stopped in for a Negroni before heading next door to Slows BBQ for dinner (not as good as southern BBQ, but still worth a visit). Another restaurant favorite was Roast. It’s in the touristy area of downtown and is more for the fancy business-types, but the quality of food was so good I figured it was worth a mention here.

Next stop: Eastern Market

I took some pictures of the Eastern Market on my iphone, but none of them did it justice so I’m skipping photos for this section. What is the Detroit Eastern Market, you ask? Well, think of your favorite Farmer’s Market and multiply that by 100 and you’ll roughly have an idea of the size of this place. It consists of multiple buildings and is only open on Tuesdays and Saturdays. I was incredibly lucky to be in town during the annual Flower Day, which pretty much means every plant/flower nursery in the state of Michigan comes to sell their plants. Between all of the amazing flowers (check out my Instagram here), food vendors, and street performers, I could have spent all day at the market. If you come on Flower Day, you would have no idea that Detroit was suffering economically. It is so crowded that you have to shuffle along at such a slow speed I swear I saw a snail pass me as I was trying to get to a succulent booth.

Next stop: housing

Detroit Houses

Detroit has an abundance of housing stock. The further you get away from the city core, the more empty homes you see. It almost reminds me of NOLA post-Katrina. The houses in the photos above are actually in the city center near midtown, which used to be filled with mansions (the wealthy auto CEOs had to live somewhere!). Some mansions are still standing, but most of the them are abandoned and in total disrepair. There are a handful that have been fixed up like the house on the left in the photo above, which gives me hope.

And no visit to Detroit would be complete without stopping by the old train station building:

Detroit train station

It’s been vacant since the 1960s and was too big for the city even when it was initially built 100 years ago. There are hundreds of thousands of photos of this building online so I almost didn’t post it, but it’s so eerily amazing and the architecture is breathtaking that I’m including it anyways. If only we had something like this in Atlanta!

Detroit doesn’t have the critical mass – or the money/economy – to see an immediate rejuvenation, so beautiful mansions and huge historic buildings are left to rot. But after spending five days in the city, it’s evident to me that the situation is not hopeless. There are pockets of life throughout the city. And one benefits to having a shrinking and slow economy, is that it’s affordable. So creative/entrepreneur/artist-types are drawn to the city and are moving in to set up places like Shinola and Public House. I hope I’ll get a chance to visit Detroit again and can’t wait to see how it’s changed for the better.

Goodness! I never thought I’d have so much to write about Detroit, but there you have it. Have I convinced you that it’s a city worth visiting – at the very least?!

Love,

Cath


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Exploring Lindisfarne Castle

Lar-lindasfarne

Dear Cath,

Are you ready? This is gonna be a long ‘ne — lots of piccies. Get your scrolly finger limber and settle in with a cuppa. Oh wait, you probably don’t want hot steamy tea in Atlanta at this point, do you? Iced soy latte then?

We are house museum people through and through, aren’t we? Remember one of our very first AsianCajun posts? House museums make me giddy. I think it’s all the historical voyeurism. What did they eat, draw, listen to, see? Lindisfarne Castle, run by the National Trust, totally scratched all the nosy itches. You would love it! But since you weren’t there, I’ll take you! Step-by-step through this post:

Lindasfarne-Castle-view

Firstly, it’s located on Lindisfarne (aka Holy Island) just off the north eastern coast of England — spitting distance to Scotland. It’s a lovely walk from the village of Lindisfarne to the castle rock (see below). It sits in the midst of a green, sheep-dotted field on the shore:

HolyIsland-castle

The castle was originally built by Henry VIII to keep out invading Scots (maybe to be used again come September?) but was never used for more than housing bored military men.

Lindasfarne-edwin-lutyens

Skip ahead a few centuries and Edward Hudson, editor of Country Life magazine, decides he wants to make the castle his summer home. Who doesn’t love a bit of cold stone and rain for a summer holiday? Regardless of his questionable climatic tastes, he was by all accounts a lovely, shy man who would entertain the likes of J.M. Barrie, Lytton Strachey, Anna Markova and cellist Madame Suggia here.

Country-life-magazine

To make his castle more hospitable, Hudson hired famed English architect Edwin Lutyens (pronounced “loo-chins”): an arts and crafts man through and through. So this castle is arts and crafts coziness meets Elizabethan stone. A good combo if you’re into dark rooms, roaring fires and comfy sofas.

Lutyens’ signature is his herringbone brick, which you see a lot about the castle passageways:

Edwin-Lutyens-herringbone

Want to see the kitchen? Here’s Matt inspecting some veg:

Matt-veggies

Lindasfarne-castle-kitchen

I love when house museums are set up to look like their owners just left. In this case, they made a mad dash for the sun as they were having their tea and reading the newspaper:

newspaper

And someone was just about to give the dishes a good scrub-a-dub:

oldsoap

They were expecting guests for dinner too:

Lindasfarne-castle-dining-room

I love this Yves Klein blue in the dining room:

Lindasfarne-blue

Someone spent their morning sketching:

Lindasfarne-watercolours

Writing letters:

letters

Powdering their collars (?):

stiff-collars

This is known as the ship room because of the wooden ship suspended from the ceiling. A good place to kick your feet up and read Country Life magazine:

Lindasfarne-ship-room

Another good reading spot: the windowseats looking out toward the ocean (don’t they look like the Mary’s windows at Applecross in Persuasion?):

windowseats

You could also go upstairs to the music room and listen to Madame Suggia play her cello or at least have nose around her sheet music:

Madame-suggia

Or maybe a room tidy? Seems you’ve left your Edwardian chemises hanging all over your Renaissance canopy, tsk, tsk:

edwardian-chemise

A few things didn’t exist when Mr. Hudson was around, like this anthropomorphized tapestry chair:

anthropormorpized-chair

Another delight? Famed gardener Gertrude Jekyll planted a small garden where the garrison used to keep their veg patch:

Lindasfarne-gertrude-jekyll

Lindasfarne-garden

She also landscaped the harder-to-reach bits around the castle mound by shooting pellets of seeds into the cliff-side: gives Garden and Gun magazine a whole new point of inspiration. Nicely done, Gertie:

Lindasfarne-flowers

Here’s one last look of the castle (and the sheepies!) from Gertrude’s garden:

Lindasfarne-castle-2

And one last view to the sea from the castle:

Lindasfarne

How’d you like the tour? Could you smell the salty air and the rain moving in across the grass?

I hope you are having a wonderful time in Detroit, Cath! I know that you are probably not going to house museums (Detroit must have some beautiful, crumbly old places) while you’re conferencing, but I do hope you are having some fun.

Love you like Lutyens loved brick!

Lar

 


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Living in a Scottish Castle

Roslin-castle-scotland

Roslin-castle-door

Last week Matt’s family came to visit us in Scotland — it was schwonderful and I miss them already. But do you know what was the icing on top of the trip cake? We stayed in a castle. A for real castle. With a turret and everythang. And dungeons, people. Dungeons. It would have scared the bejebus out of me staying there alone, but luckily I had my nephews to hold my hand when I wanted to go exploring:

Roslin-castle-stairs

Originally (we’re talking 1590s-1700s) the castle looked a bit more like this (that house-y bit to the left is what we stayed in):

Roslin-castle-drawing

We spent most evenings by a roaring fire in this room (the portraits looked way creepier at night with the fire flickering):

Roslin-castle-lounge

Cath and I have stayed in a number of grand houses via The Landmark Trust (in Italy, Cambell Town, and Aryshire). The difference with this ole pile is that it’s still owned by the St. Claire family (aka the Earl of Roslin and his brood) who’ve been around this neck of the woods since the Norman Invasion. So Roslin Castle still feels quite lived-in, what with the ancestral portraits, photos with the Queen (for reals) and such. And it’s quite cosy, you know, for a castle (she says like she’s stayed in lots).

Roslin-castle-couch

Roslin-castle-details2

So what does one do in a castle all day, you ask? Drink tea, eat copious amounts of clotted cream with warm scones and sunbathe in the courtyard-which-used-to-be-the-great-hall-in-1590 natch:

Roslin-castle-courtyard

Roslin-castle-details

We had lovely dinners in this red dinning room which is supposedly haunted by a lady in white (wayyy creepier at night when it’s just lit with candles — but good creepy).

Roslin-castle-dinning-room

Roslin-castle-dinning

Another thing to do in your castle? Take timed self-portraits — such good backdrops for blog photos! But know that if you are staying in a castle with nine other souls (or more — lady in white and co.?) someone will walk in when you are doing your blogger posing and then you end up looking like a startled prairie dog:

Roslin-castle-tapestry

This was the stair down to one of the bathrooms. When I was little and in princess-mode I never imagined Princess Buttercup et al descending the turret stairs to the toilet. What do princesses need loos for?

Roslin-castle-turret

Roslin Castle is situated right above a gorgeous glen that acts as a sort of three-quarter moat (Yes, a moat! And there was a bridge over the moat!). So lots of lovely walks to be had. And it’s just a short walk up the hill to Rossyln Chapel of The DaVinci Code fame. Rosslyn Chapel is beautiful and really magical even if you don’t care for the Dan Brown-iness of it all.

Roslin-glen-mill

Roslin-castle-ruins

Do you want to hear some modern day magicalness surrounding Rossyln Chapel? Weeeeell, we went up to the Chapel for mass on Sunday. When I walked in I noticed this lovely young Asian woman in the back pew — one notices such things in more rural parts of Scotland where the general population is decidedly not Asian nor young. Halfway through mass I noticed she’s waving at me and mouthing the words “Lar.” Holy smokes! I know that lovely young Asian woman!

Three and a half years ago Cath and I met the author Cheryl Tan at the Decatur Book Festival and got to interview her for this here blog (read the interview here). So a writer from New York met a blogger from Atlanta once in Decatur, and then they meet again in Roslin, Scotland nearly four years later?! What are the chances?

Lesson to be learned here? All Asians do know each other. Red coats are in. Rosslyn Chapel is magical.

Cheryl-tan-author

(Cheryl, I’m still so excited about this! And I’m so glad I’ll get to see you in a few weeks post-retreat!)

So, hows about it guys? Have I finally convinced you that Scotland needs to be number 1 on your places you must visit now? If you come, we’ll go castle hunting together.

—–

Dearest Cath,

Even though this year has been utter poop in a lot of ways, it has also been the exact opposite of that. I got to see you like FOUR times in six months and we stayed in a villa in Italy. And now me in a castle. Next stop? Move over Karl, the AsianCajuns are staying in Versailles.

The only logical next step, non?

It’s only been a week, but I feel like I haven’t talked to you in 20. We have to stop being busy and just skype each other all day. What are you doing? Whatchu you got on this week? When are you coming?

LOVE YOU!!!!

Lar

 


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I Dream of Shiro’s Sushi

shiros-sushi

salmon-nigiri

sushi-shiros

tamagoyaki-shiros

Not so very long ago (say, last week), I didn’t get sushi. Chunks of raw fish or eel or squid or sea urchin? Good for aquariums and not for my belly, says I! Oooo how very wrong I was.

Gone are my days of California rolls and a pouty lip when friends suggest a meal of nigiri. Bring on the raw fish! Particularly if it’s salmon and even more particularly if it’s made by the genius sushi chefs at Shiro’s Sushi in Seattle.

Before being introduced to Shiro’s (thanks, Cath and Troy!), I always thought sushi-lovers were a bit hyperbolic in their love of the stuff. How can cold fish and clumps of rice be satisfying? Turns out I was just eating on the wrong coast. I think I’ll always be an east coast girl through and through… unless I’m eating sushi. Oh heaven!

When we sat down at the sushi bar, Cath and Troy confidently said “Omakase!” I ducked my head down (keeping the planks of raw squid and fish out of eyesight) and looked for the words “roll” and “vegetable” on the menu. When I handed my checked-off menu to the chef, he looked at me (I swear there was a twinkle in his eye) and he said “you let me know if you want anything else as we go along.” And thank goodness!

By the end of the night I was a full-fledged omakaser after watching Cath and Troy chopstick mouthful after mouthful of intriguing-looking delights. For those of you who don’t know, omakase basically means you entrust your menu to the chef, so s/he’ll make you whatever is fresh and most delicious. I love the idea of putting your gustatory trust in the hands of a virtuoso sushi chef. There’s something wholy (and holy) satisfying in surrendering yourself to what is beautifully presented before you. That mean that sometimes you get sea urchin (still scares me a bit), but it also means you get a salmon nigiri that melts in your mouth like warmed butter and pure joy.

Another part of the beauty of omakase is that you don’t just get a big ole plateful of sushi in your lap at once. The chef hand-rolls each nigiri, so you wait every few minutes in between these melt-in-your-mouth mini monuments of delight (now who’s hyperbolic?!). And while you wait, you can chat to the chef and your fellow diners. Suddenly the meal is more than just food, it’s about a relationship to what you are eating and who you are eating with.

Have you guys seen the documentary “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”? If you haven’t, do! I think it’s on Netflix at the moment. I watched it many months ago before my personal sushi enlightenment last week and it gave me an inkling of what I experienced at Shiro’s.

Now tell me, have you guys always been sushi lovers or did it take you a while to come around to it? If you are a sushi lover where is the best place you’ve had sushi? I now feel like I should move to California or the PNW just so I can always drift away into omakase bliss whenever I need to.

——-

Dear Cath,

Thank you so much to you and Troy! I really never understood you guys when you would go on and on about good sushi in LA. I really don’t think it makes sense until you have amazing sushi. So much of my sushi life has been from grocery stores and subpar sushi places. I still will be partial to vegetable rolls when I’m in those places, but I’ll always be yearning for the real thing.

I think that tamagoyaki is one of the best things I’ve ever tasted in my life. And unlike most desserts where the sugar leaves you craving more and more, this was such a perfect balance just as it was. Not more. Not less. Perfection.

You guys basically are responsible if Matt and I end up moving out to the west coast.

Love you like tamagoyaki,

Lar

______

Update to our readers:

Lar wrote this post before her surgery last week so I figured I should include an update on her progress. On Friday she had to go back into the hospital because she was developing an abscess from the surgery and had a high fever. The good news is the doctors were able to drain the infected area before it got really bad, but it has made the recovery process more drawn out. Lar is still in the hospital, but should be released early this week. I’ll keep you all posted and just want to thank you again for all of your wonderful words of support.

xoxo, Cath

 

 

 


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AsianCajuns Guide to Seattle

A guide to seattle
Photo credit

Yes, this is a very impartial, biased guide to Seattle, but we had so much fun eating our way around the city and following our friends’ recommendations that I wanted to share it with you. The shops section is lacking a bit so fill free to leave a comment with some suggestions and I’ll add it to the post.

pike place market Pike Place Starbucks The Walrus and the Carpenter Top Pot Doughnuts Ba Bar Dicks Seattle

Drinking & Dining:

  • Percy’s & Co – We just went here for some cocktails and olives, but I would have loved to stay for dinner because I liked the low lighting and modern farm/victorian feel of the decor. My Negroni was spot on and Lar ordered a mocktail that she really enjoyed.
  • Hot Cakes – Stood in line after dinner for about 30 minutes for boozy shakes that did not disappoint. I wish they had more seating for the night crowds, but I would have eaten my s’more shake standing up if I had to.
  • Pike Place Market – Touristy, but still fantastic. If it was a warmer day, I would have purchased some cheese, fresh bread, olives, fresh flowers (just because), and a bottle of wine from the multitude of vendors for a picnic. It was also fun to join the throng of Japanese tourists at the original Starbucks. My iced decaf tall soy latte was perfect.
  • Ballard Farmers Market - Open every Sunday on a closed-off street in the historic section of the Ballard neighborhood. We loved the sauerkraut tent (seriously – so many different flavors!), the gluten-free bakery, and the mini doughnuts stand.
  • Dick’s - Delicious, nostalgic burgers that you order at a walk-up window. We went to the Wallingford location after drinks and it was the perfect end to a long evening.
  • Top Pot Doughnuts – I loved the old fashion cake doughnuts, but my favorite was actually the cranberry mint rooibos tea Lar and I sipped on.
  • Ba Bar - So, so, so good! I wish all Vietnamese street food-inspired cuisine tasted this good. Order the congee and your life will never be the same.
  • Shiro’s Sushi - the. best. sushi. ever. Stay tuned for Lar’s post on Monday all about this place.
  • Din Tai Fung – unfortunately overrated, but still good. I enjoyed the soup dumplings more than Troy and Lar (they didn’t think they were very flavorful), but the whole experience seemed watered-down and Americanized. We went to the new, fancy location in the university district. I’ve heard the other locations feel more authentic.
  • Brouwer’s – Troy and I went for the great beer selection, but stayed for the delicious food. The muscles and cioppino were out of this world.
  • The Walrus & the Carpenter – Great oysters. Great staff. I loved the vibe in this tiny spot in Ballard.

Fjallraven Seattle Uwajimaya

Shopping:

  • Fjallraven Seattle – Lar and I love our Fjallraven backpacks. You’d think we were getting paid to blog about them since we both wear them everywhere and have featured them here, here and here. I had no idea Fjallraven had any stateside stores so when Lar and I were walking around downtown Seattle and passed by the Fjallraven store, we did a double take and then ran inside. I was so tempted to buy another backpack when I saw the rainbow wall of backpacks and Lar fell in love with this hat.
  • Uwajimaya – a Japanese grocery/mega store. The housewares section reminds me of Pearl River Mart in New York. Plus, Troy and I found giant Pocky, which we’ve been looking for all over Atlanta.
  • Kinokuniya – the Japanese bookstore adjoining Uwajimaya. Yes, it sells plenty of Japanese books, but it also has a great selection of international magazines, books, and gifts.
  • Glass Baby – Beautiful handmade glass votives and cups in every color of the rainbow. Plus, ten percent of all revenues is donated to organizations dedicated to healing.
  • E. Smith Mercantile – An amazingly curated shop with a bar in the back. I loved the old-timey, apothecary feel to it and wish I had had more time to spend in it.
  • Elliott Bay Book Company – Lar and I are suckers for independent book stores and Elliott Bay is HUGE. We spent hours browsing the shelves. Troy loved it because they serve good beer in the store cafe.

_________________

Dearest Readers,

Instead of writing Lar (who is currently sleeping in a hospital bed after a successful surgery today), I want to write a quick thank you note to you. All of your support and kindness about Lar’s surgery was so wonderful and I’m so incredibly grateful for it.

If all goes well, Lar will be sent home later today. Keep your fingers crossed!

xoxo, Cath


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AsianCajuns in Seattle

AsianCajuns-Wallingford-Seattle

Cath and I got to spend five lovely days together in the beautiful, piney, hilly city of Seattle! We hope that while we nibbled nigiri, picked fruit and veg at Pike Place and did some thrift shopping, you guys stayed warm and toasty.

Cath and Troy had a maddening leisurely nine hours at Sea Tac before they could fly home to icy Atlanta last night on the red eye. And I know that’s the least of the crazy ice stories from the south east.

We’ll have some delectable posts coming up soon on our Seattle-ness (what a wonderful city you have, Seattlites!). I feel so very lucky that even though this past year has been a struggle health-wise it’s more than made up for it in the number of times I’ve been able to see my twinie! Next up? We’ll be in Atlanta together again for about 2.5 weeks while I have surgery #2 (for my endo) and recovery. Silver linings abound.

—–

Dear Cath,

Oy, I can’t believe you guys had to do that nine hour waiting game yesterday. I know you must still feel the greasies and the sleepies, that special combination only obtained by long hours cattled in an airport and long flight.

So glad you guys got home okay. Did you have to sled on your suitcases to get from MARTA to your house? Can’t wait to see you Sunday — sooo sooooon!

Love you like rain loves the PNW,

Lar

 

 


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Sun Worship

San-Luis-Obispo

Pismo-beach

Avila-beach

Tacos-de-Alcapulco

Pismo-beach-SLO

Monarch-butterfly-grove

Pismo-beach-town

Mustang

Avila-pier

SLO-sunset

Sun! Lots of brilliant warm glowiness hitting my face — ahhhh heaven. My body is totally breathing a sigh of relief from the influx of much-needed vitamin D. Thank you, thank you, San Luis Obispo (and Pam!).

I truly forget how very dark Scotland can be. I complain about the darkness constantly to anyone with a pair of ears, but at a cellular level I think my body believes it will forever be lacking a key vitamin and has learned to live with it — ungracefully. Our few weeks in Atlanta were pretty gray and now Matt and I are in Seattle for a month — more perpetual grayness. But the second we stepped off the plane in San Luis for a long weekend I swear I became a different person. With sun I’m the lighter, happier, blissed-out version of my Scottish self.

Apart from the glorious sun, this SLO trip was: cool nights by the fire, the sweetest raspberries, orange trees ready for the picking, cool sand and even cooler waters, deeelicious for-reals Mexican food, Monarch butterflies, water swirling around pier posts, avocados that taste like avocados, the murmur of prayer, desert hills, sparkling water.

We are back in Seattle now and I feel like a tantrum-throwing two-year-old. Wahhhhh! Where’s my sun?! I want my sun!!! And there aren’t enough SAD lamps in the world to make up for the real thing. Maybe I’ll just move SLO to Edinburgh. Sounds like the most feasible option to me.

In the meantime, the best next thing? A visit from my twinie!!! Cath and Troy get here Friday and I can not wait!!! They will add some much needed glow to the pacific northwest.

I hope those of you under piles of snow right now feel the heat of the sun through these piccies and have lovely beachy day dreams to keep you warm and roasty toasty.

——-

Dear Cath,

Atlanta, Seattle, and then Atlanta. I feel so spoiled!!! This is the most I’ve seen you in years!!! Getting more surgery sucks, but I feel like it has the biggest silver lining known to cloud-land (aka, the sky).

I think you would really like SLO, but I think I will forever be biased about it because of the sunny sun sun and the Scissor Sisters and having a SIL there who is the hostest with the mostest. Can you believe we’ve never been to Cali together? You in LA and me in SLO and SF. We should meet in the middle. Between the bright lights of Los Angeles and the tawdry lights of San Jose.

I can’t wait to see you guys!!!!!!

MUCHO LOVES,

Lar


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Scotland: Country vs City

Lar gave a great overview of our wonderful Thanksgiving trip to the Scottish countryside last week. Auchinleck House was unlike any place I’ve stayed at before. We spent six glorious days drinking tea, reading, watching our favorite tv shows and movies, and walking the countryside.

Scottish countryside

One of the days we spent four hours walking through the mud and cow patties. We thought we were heading towards Robert Burns’ birthplace only to realize we were totally wrong (it was just a memorial). It was exhausting, but really fun.

walking outfit

Chenille sweater (similar here) • Lands End vest • Gap 1969 skinnies • Fyre Melissa Button boots • Fjallraven backpack

I probably should have purchased these Hunters before this trip. Instead I wore my Fryes and they got completely caked in mud.

There was a map in the house that showed a nearby castle ruins. We failed to find them, but we did find some really great bridges – and lots of sheep!

looking for castle ruins in Scotland

You can’t necessarily tell from these photos, but we really lucked out with the weather. It was kind of warm and we saw the sun every once in a while.

walking back to Auchinleck House

For all the loveliness of the countryside, I get antsy if I’ve been away from a city for a few days. So we took a quick day trip to Glasgow and it was wonderful!

on the train to glasgow

Even though I studied abroad in Edinburgh for six month in 2004 and have visited Lar a couple of times, I’ve never spent time in Glasgow. It’s an amazing city – just as wonderful as Edinburgh, but in a less refined, more metropolitan kind of way.

Lar in front of office

Lar and I did a wee bit of shopping (COS, Office, etc.) and then met up with Matt at Starbucks where we finally got someone wifi (which equals civilization to me because I don’t have an international phone plan). I also geeked out a little bit in front of a police call box – The Tardis!

DrWho box Glasgow

J.Crew coat (from the Clearance sale!) • Funktional sweatshirt • Madewell pants • Jeffrey Campbell boots

How amazing are the lights on this street? This is right next to the Gallery of Modern Art and it makes the city feel so magical.

Glasgow lights

It was so much fun to spend a day in the city with my twinie, but it was equally as nice to come back to “our” home in the country and warm up with cups of tea – and the sweaters we bought at COS.

___________

Dearest Lar,

I’m still cherishing our Thanksgiving week together, but it already feels like it was over a month ago! The only good thing about that is that it means you’ll be coming home for Christmas soon.

I just bought your Christmas present today. I almost tweeted about it and then remembered you actually read Twitter ;P

Hope you have a wonderful week! Skype you next weekend.

xoxo, Cath


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