Christmas in Charleston

cobblestones and palm trees in Charleston

And now for something completely different.

Tiring of our glamorous European lifestyle, we decided to hop across the pond for Christmas in the Deep South. It’s possible that our decision was swayed by the generous invitation of my parents to join them there, but in the end we found Charleston to be a most pleasant place to spend a few days (lack of appropriate Christmas weather notwithstanding). Continue reading

The Lag

pink sunrise from an airplane

Ah, here we are back in Germany after spending the holidays in the US. We’ve made the transatlantic journey dozens of times by now, and while I still dread the long flights, at least I’ve gotten pretty good at dealing with jet lag (although people who have repeatedly watched me fall asleep in my first-night-in-the-US dinner might disagree). Given that I’ve never been good with sleep deprivation (even in college I couldn’t swing all-nighters), I’m feeling rather accomplished.

There are many approaches to jet lag, but mine is a simple one: you need to be overtired going into your first night in the new time zone. That way, when you finally fall into bed, you’ll sleep for a a good solid night and wake up at a reasonable time the next morning. After that first night, you’re most of the way home.

Traveling from Europe to the US Continue reading

New York food porn: the vegetarian restaurants

Welcome to part two of my 2011 New York food porn. I got too hungry working on the first post, so I had to divide it up. Here are the vegetarian restaurants we sampled in the city in May, with my favorites marked with asterisks.

Mushrooms at Dirt Candy

*Dirt Candy is a tiny little restaurant celebrating vegetables in all their glory. Each dish features variations on a single vegetable (even the desserts), and so many of them sounded good that we had trouble choosing. Continue reading

New York food porn 2011

New York food

Scott and I get back to New York to visit friends and family about once a year. Well, we pretend we’re there to visit, but mostly we are there to eat. Here are some of the culinary highlights from our most recent visit (those marked * were my absolute favorites from this trip). Continue reading

The New York food post 2010

Our last trip to New York City was a whirlwind of friends, family, and food, topped off with a little bit of art and some volcano drama. Here were some of the culinary highlights from this time around (if you don’t feel like reading the whole post, scroll to the bottom for the best restaurant of the trip).

We arrived in New York exhausted and much later than scheduled, but dammit we weren’t going to miss a single NYC meal opportunity. Continue reading

Hooray for Dollywood

In order to preempt what would surely become FAQs, there are two things I will make clear at the outset of this post:

  1. There really is a place called Dollywood.
  2. I really did go there. Jealous yet?

You may share your boob jokes in the comments.


There is a special little part of the Great Smoky Mountains where the peanuts are boiled, the t-shirts are air-brushed, and the museums are upside-down. There is so much to see and do in this little pocket of heaven, but the ultimate little piece of kitschy goodness had eluded me until now. Dollywood is a theme park dedicated to thrill rides, folksy crafts, music, and the glorification of God for putting Dolly Parton on this earth. Kettle corn, too.

We had the good fortune of visiting during the ‘Festival of Nations.’ Given the homogeneity of the park guests, it was nice to see a little diversity. Check out this charming young Italian lad:

In addition to the regular park performers such as the Kingdom Heirs (presumptuous much?), the Festival of Nations involves performances from groups from all around the world. We sat down for an acappela show. After a promising first number, one of the young African men on stage started talking about how his life was changed when Christian missionaries came to his little village and shared the love of Jesus with them. We left to go find something that would calm our twisting stomachs, such as a roller coaster. Luckily there were lots of those.

Many of the rides have ‘example cars’ outside the entrance, which larger guests are encouraged to try out for size.

The guided tour of Dolly Parton’s tour bus was led by her number one fan, a local lady who could not say enough wonderful things about the star. As we left the bus she called out that we should be sure to find lunch in one of the park’s many restaurants. “Everything’s been baptized in grease and is absolutely scrumptious!”

I do have one bone to pick with Dolly. The museum in the park – the one covering Dolly’s life journey from poor country girl to international singing superstar? It’s called Chasing Rainbows. Dammit, that’s what I was going to call my museum. She stole my name. Now where will I put my collection of amply-bosomed sequined dresses?


What will the museum that showcases your life story be called?

Eating New York

Every visit it’s the same… not enough meals in the day to eat everything I want to in New York. After briefly considering adding a 4th and 5th meal to my days, I resign myself to the fact that I can’t go to all my old favorites and try lots of new places all in the same trip. Alas, some food must go uneaten. At least we squeezed in most of the essential food groups this trip: the Mexican group, the sushi group, the cannoli group, the martini group. And we also made it out to my aunt’s house for a feast that, as usual, rivaled the fare of the yummiest of Manhattan’s eateries. Speaking of which, these are the ones we visited this time around:

Amber* – tragically hip, colorful sushi bar. Good martinis. I wish Munich had places like this.

L’Annam – basic Vietnamese food. Our re-introduction to American portion sizes.

El Parador* – yummy, elegant Mexican. As I am not particularly elegant when it comes to Mexican food, I found my dish a little lacking in the copious-amounts-of-melted-cheese category, but otherwise everything was delicious. Margaritas!

Cho Dang Gol - a Korean restaurant specializing in homemade tofu. Happy vegetarian.

2nd Ave Deli – Jewish deli food at its most famous. No longer located on 2nd Ave. Fresh pickles. Gigantic portions.

The Smith – brunchy. Decent cocktails.

Obika* – I was thrilled to come across this familiar sign in NYC. Obika is a fresh mozzarella bar started in Rome which opened a branch in Milan while we lived there (best happy hour snacks ever). While the NYC location is much less fancy than its chic Italian counterparts, the mozzarella is just as heavenly.

Noodletown* – Chinatown at its noodliest. Loved the veggie dumplings. And the noodles.

The Porter House (Columbus Circle) – fancy NYC steakhouses offer surprisingly good eats for vegetarians, since they tend to take their vegetable side dishes (and cocktails) very seriously. The Porter House’s dirty martinis were not as fab as I had hoped, but the food was pretty good. The steak house we ate at last year was better, but I can’t remember its name.

And on to dessert…

Chinatown Ice Cream Factory – black sesame ice cream = yummy!

La Bella Ferrara – standard Little Italy bakery for all my cannoli needs.

Grom* – another favorite from Italy which has been recently exported to New York. The prices at the NYC location were kind of ridiculous, but it was worth it for a little taste of their heavenly gelato. I was too busy eating to take pictures, but you can get an idea from the last photo in this post.

Puck Fair – OK, so beer isn’t really a dessert, but I wanted to mention this cozy, fun bar we visited for a couple pints of ale. Mmmmm… ale. (Don’t go getting all upset now, Germany – I like your beer, too.)

What are your favorite places to eat and drink in NYC?

* denotes my favorite eats of this trip.

Where did my New Year’s go?

I lost it somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, in one of those unimportant time zones where nobody lives.

As consolation prize, we happened to catch the test release of confetti at Times Square a few days ago.

Speaking of Times Square, you couldn’t pay me to spend New Year’s there, but it was a nice place to play around with our new grown-up (ie, SLR) camera. Hooray for wide angle!

Here’s wishing you a fabulous 2009 in which all your wildest dreams come true.

Much love for San Diego

This trip to San Diego was for a family wedding. I really didn’t want to go. Having spent six weeks in the US at the end of 2007, I felt no desire to return to the States again so soon. Especially to somewhere as far away as California – 15 hours of flying each way. I hate long flights. But in the end, I couldn’t justify missing out on this celebration and the opportunity to see so many family members in one place at one time (some of whom I hadn’t seen for many years).

And I’m very glad we went. Not only was it great to hang out with folks, but we also ended up liking San Diego itself, much to our surprise. It’s a very cute city, and the beautiful beaches are plentiful. The weather managed to be warm enough for swimming in the sea yet cool enough for me sit on the beach in the sun (and we all know how much I hate the sun). And Tower23, the hotel with the cool fire pit, made a great backdrop for the first half of our stay. I even started imagining how fun it would be to live so close to the ocean for a year or so, eating Mexican food and shopping at Trader Joe’s to our hearts’ content. Wouldn’t that be awesome?

“All joking aside, don’t move back.” The sternly-delivered unsolicited advice came from our friends we met for dinner on the second night, American friends who moved from Zurich to San Diego around the same time that we moved from Zurich to Munich. It seems that the temptations of southern California aren’t quite enough to make up for the downsides of living in Bush’s America.

We had a secondary goal of abusing the exchange rate and using the American banana currency to stock up on clothes and electronics on this trip. We were only partially successful at this, since we ended up spending more time at the beach and less time at the mall. The mild food poisoning we were suffering on our last free day there didn’t exactly put us in the mood to shop, either. Sign of a bad wedding caterer: guests all have mysterious stomach problems the next day.

At least the wedding itself was a blast. Especially the photo booth! Note to Italian wedding vendors: start offering more photo booths, fewer balloon bouquets.

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