insights on art, culture, lifestyle, spirituality, travel, music, society and much much more from a jet-setter currently on "furlough"…

Archive for the month “July, 2009”

Gazpacho time!

gazpachoI am making this for our D-group party tonight… the perfect summer treat. Been craving it since I got back from Spain, and since I don’t trust how [most] Spanish tapas restaurants makes and overcharges this Andalucian cold tomato delight, I thought I’d try my hand at it. Will let you know how it goes! Here is the recipe I’m using, taken from Jose’s Made in Spain show (or should I say, Made in ES-PAIN):


For the soup:
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
3 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled
¼ cup sherry vinegar
½ cup Oloroso sherry
¾ cup Spanish extra-virgin olive oil

For the garnish:
2 1 inch-thick slices rustic bread 
¼ cup Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
½ cucumber, diced
½ green bell pepper, seeded and diced
½ red bell pepper, seeded and diced
Sea salt to taste


To make the soup, combine the cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, garlic, vinegar, sherry, olive oil and 2 cups of water in a food processor or blender. Puree the ingredients until everything is well blended into a thick pink liquid. Pour the gazpacho through a medium-hole strainer into a pitcher. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

For the garnish: Preheat oven to 450??qF. Cut the bread into 1-inch cubes and toss in a mixing bowl with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Spread the bread on a baking sheet and bake on the middle rack until golden brown, about 7 minutes. Set the croutons aside to cool.

To serve, pour the chilled soup into cups or bowls. Top with croutons, cucumbers and peppers. Sprinkle with salt and drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil.


A Taste of Nepal + India… in Baltimore!

Nepali-Indian Food alla Laurettao8

Though there may only be a handful of decent places to eat in the DC Area, Baltimore (less than an hour’s drive north) is a city that’s thriving with great eats. After Artscape on Saturday evening, fellow Baltimore fibers + sculpture artist and good friend of mine Janie Ehle and I were famished, so we went on the search for a delicious meal in the Mt. Vernon Arts District. It was a toss between Afghan, Thai and Indian food. She recommended a restaurant called Kumari (911 N Charles St, Baltimore, MD 21201) which features dishes from both India and Nepal. We agreed to eat here, and man, did we make the right choice!

Our meal started out with peppery pappadam chips dipped in your choice of the following sauces: tangy tamarind sauce, minty green mint chutney and blood-red sweet & sour peppers (free refills) and an appetizer of chaat papdi. This can be described as Indian-style nachoes, consisting of tomatoes, onions, yogurt sauce, chickpeas, crushed baked potatoes mixed with crunchy and long diamond-shaped roti crackers. The rest of the meal was extremely flavorful and made my taste buds sing. J got a typical Nepalese vegetarian dinner called Daal Bhatset, which was a heaping plateful of pureed yellow lentil soup, veggie curry, mango chutney and aloo achar, a curried based potato salad. I got a creamy red based vegetarian curry that I cannot remember the name of, but it was fused with onions, bell peppers, cauliflower and other spices. The rice was probably the best part of both our meals: white basmati topped with green cilantro, cinnamon, cumin and almonds. AND… it was free (unlike some places in DC that make you pay for it). Mmmmm… it can’t get any better than that!

The portions are huge, so unless you are super hungry, you can always get a to-go box and take the rest of your food home to enjoy later. Dinner entrees range from around $11 – 20, depending on what you order, but in my opinion, the quality and portion size of the food is totally worth it. They also feature a lunch buffet with your typical Nepalese-Indian fare, delicious naan bread and all you can drink chai tea. Now that’s a reason to keep going back!

oh lomo.


Today is the first day of installation at DCAC (District of Columbia Arts Center) for the annual 1460 Wallmountables show. I participated in this exhibition last year and wanted to do it again this year, but it’s not coming to pass. My original idea was to take beautiful [paparazzi] shots of people and food while in Europe, but alas, that didn’t work out since my Nikon D80 was stolen on the last leg of my metro journey from Barajas Airport to my hostel in the center of Madrid. Yeah, that was a devastating experience and it took me almost a week to get over what had happened. My back-up plan was to display some of the pictures I took in Spain this summer with my lomo fisheye camera (I brought that one and a Canon point-and-shoot, so it was better than nothing) using these cool Photoclips, but Urban Outfitters no longer carries them and it was too late to order online. That’s what I get for slacking off and waiting till the last minute to put some potential ideas together. A friend and I were supposed to do this show together, but she had a family emergency and I just… ummm, lost my mojo. My latest excuse is that I’m either too busy or the economy sucks so there’s no way I can sell anything, so what’s the point? Plus, I just haven’t really been focused lately with showing my work since I got into shooting events for people.  Hmmm… since when did my art become a commodity?
lomo photos

I have to say that not having my Nikon D80 with me in Spain forced me to be more creative with my lomo fisheye film camera and the dinky little point-and-shoot, so I’m actually pretty happy with the results. The advancements in digital photography amazes me, especially the auto-focus features on professional DSLR cameras (I am now a proud owner of the Nikon D5000), yet also makes me lazy to do things the old fashioned way. But let me assure you that happy accidents do happen, and congratulate my little fisheye (aka. TOY CAMERA) for performing a photographic miracle! (see below: one of my favorite pictures taken with the fisheye, at Plaza Mayor in Madrid, Spain).

Plaza Mayor - redscale film alla Lomo Fisheye

Most people, upon hearing about my camera getting stolen, assume that I was unable to document ANY portion of my time in the land of siesta y fiesta. Little did they know that I brought 2 back-up cameras and took over 1500 images during the 2 weeks I was there. *wink*

So the lesson I learned (yes, there is ALWAYS a lesson) is to simply realize that sometimes, circumstances (yes, even unfortunate ones) are out of your control, but if you improvise and have a back-up plan, the results might surprise you. It never hurts to experiment outside of your comfort zone, even when you are on vacation!

Deep Creek Lake, MD

I am Kayak...After being sick with swine flu symptoms this past week, I was more than happy to feel well enough to resume my 4th of July plans… one of them being a day trip to Deep Creek Lake in Garrett County, MD. My friend from college and I ignored the invasive weather reports, which called for rain for most of the day and headed up there anyway. It didn’t rain one drop, and was actually sunny on the way up and back from the lake (though mostly overcast while we were actually ON the lake). It was exciting to finally visit Maryland’s largest freshwater lake, and to venture off to another side of Maryland that is completely different from the suburban sprawl that I call home. We got there well past lunch time and had the afternoon and early evening hours to enjoy the peaceful setting. It was too cold to go swimming (around 65 degrees F), so we had a lovely picnic on the beach and did a quality photo shoot. Everything was super laid back and really chill… a much needed vacation from the stresses of work and school! Western Maryland is a total gem – full of natural beauty, small towns, cascading green mountains and many interesting rock formations. A total treat… so I hope to be back later on this summer! 

Closest town: McHenry, MD (where you can find some delicious homemade ice cream, popcorn and fudge…. mmmmmm!!! The tastes of summer…)

Directions: {from the DC Area and points EAST} Follow I-70 to I-68, Take Exit 14 onto Route 219 South. Follow Route 219 for approximately 13 miles. The Visitors Center is on the right. The drive is beautiful and absolutely worthwhile!

if food critics could mislead…


La Pupatella *Neopolitan* Food Cart - Arlington, VAActually, they did! Is it just me, or is it exceptionally hard to find inexpensive, quality food in the Washington, DC Area?

Now, before you start shaking your fists and start a heated debate, allow me to explain myself. Back in the day, the quality of food was not important to me at all. Eating freshly prepared foods was a foreign concept, especially during the time I was in college. I had no idea how much I was missing out until I spent 4 months studying abroad in Orvieto, Umbria, Italy in 2004, and had the privilege to dine on freshly prepared, authentic Italian cuisine from a variety of regions and secret recipes. Simply put, food is serious business in Italy and the rest of the world. Since then, I’ve been more picky about not only Italian food, but other cuisine in general. It wasn’t hard to see which foods were carefully prepared and which ones were simply thrown together. In fact, I’ve been overseas (to Asia and Europe) almost every year since then and every time I venture back from my travels (I just ate my way through Spain in June), the more I realize how bad the food really is in this area. 

Which brings me to last Friday… my fellow foodie friend (and even harsher critic) G wanted to try out this food cart in the Ballston area of Arlington, VA.We have heard and read rave reviews about this place, so the next right thing to do was to try it for ourselves. Pupatella, which is Italian slang for “doll”, is a diminutive fire engine red food cart that is parked in front of the Ballston Metro. It is owned by 20-something CIA graduates Anastasiya Laufenberg, who works inside the cart and does most of the cooking and Enzo Algarme, who comes at lunchtime to grill. Their main specialty is Neopolitan pizza (Margherita – $6/with Mozarella di Buffala – $9) and on Fridays only, arancini (stuffed, fried rice balls). Just reading the descriptions made my heart leap with joy and took my taste buds on a trip down memory lane. Perhaps this will be just as good as the food carts I use to frequent while living in Bella Italia…

The best pizza you've ever eaten?!

Unfortunately, that was NOT the case. We had to wait over 20 minutes in the hot sun for our food (the Friday lunch crowd was out and about, however) and when we took the pizza and arancini back home to eat, it was a major disappointment. The pizza had BLACK PEPPER on it, which is something un-Italian and simply unheard of. Plus, the crust was hard and it tasted like a propane tank had leaked on it. The arancini was over-fried and flavorless, plus way too small and overpriced to be considered a “meal”.

Arancini that should have tasted better...

On a positive note, however, the owners were exceptionally friendly and good-natured, and their lunch cart seemed to draw locals and tourists alike. Perhaps we caught them on an off-day, but still… let’s hope that in the future, when they open their first restaurant, things such as careful food preparation and authenticity will be taken into consideration. 

As for dining from the cart again?! Che ne so…

Ballston Metro Station
Stuart St and 9th St

ArlingtonVA 22203

(571) 243-2952

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