What an immense pleasure it was joining fellow author Maria Rochelle in what became quite a revealing conversation… A discussion on travel, literature, writing, life, love and losing oneself in the beautiful madness of all things.

Since reading Knausgaard i’ve determined to take several wide steps away from the ego (easier said than done, right!). Giving my literature room for accuracy, honesty. It’s too easy to dress yourself up with fancy words, credentials, achievements etc. but what I want to hear, what I need to hear, comes from the fabric of reality — the truth.

So, it’s my objective this year to be more honest, with myself as much as others. Learning to say “no” more, and feeling less obliged to the prophetic “yes.” And in turn, taking care of my very self — I have a tendency to overcompensate, to be “too nice,” as they say.

Without further ado, I hope you enjoy our conversation and be sure to visit Maria’s work as well. As a multi-genre author, she’s covered some very impressive territory, including her tour de force children’s series, Jasmine Dreams.

Read the full interview here.

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All of these things are true...

I had been in Jordan for several weeks and my love affair with Arabian sweets had reached a lofty peak. In fact, I would begin and end each day with a platter of pastries, smothered in honeys and syrups that would flood through heaps of pistachios on my plate.

Then it happened… I voraciously reached junkie status. More, more. Never enough! Every bakery that caught my sight was fair game,  out for a greater high, exploring the labyrinthine neighborhoods for the more legendary bakeries. But it was in Wadi Musa where my friend, Khaleed, led me right into the snare of Kanafeh.

An unmarked door led to an unnamed bakery where, despite the raging 100f degree day, a father and son were cheerfully slaving away, racking out sheets of pastries. They were using round, shallow pans and alchemy to produce what many call “Arabian cheesecake”.

This “cheesecake” was Kanafehe

A definitive oxymoron- soft and crunchy, sweet’n’salty, cheesy, gooey and crispy. All neatly encased in a glaze of simple syrup and rose water. Good enough to make one prostrate in reverence to the baker.

The ingredients are few yet they lend themselves to an endless array of pastries. We all know and love baklava but it wasn’t until I discovered Kanafeh that the Arabian culture opened up before me, so delicate and sweet behind that mysterious veil.

Now, please excuse this appauling photograph…

…but 1879!!!

IMG_2298
Knafa, Kanafeh, Kunafa? Whatever it is… Tel Aviv, Israel

Let’s just say there’s no right/wrong way to spell it- “A rose by any other name” and all that-

523975_3679462710501_1083950525_n
Kanafeh in Ramallah, Palestine

 

IMG_2093
Kanafeh and assorted pastries in Wadi Musa (Jordan)

There are three variants of kanafeh but in this recipe we’ll focus on khishnah (rough Kunafa)

Ingredients

  • 1 Package- Kataifi Pastry (kataifi is something like spun phyllo. Rather than laid out in thin sheets, it is processed in a way that produces vermicelli-like noodles. Check out this great video to see how it’s made)
  • 1 cup- Ghee
  • 2 cups- Akkawi cheese (you can substitute with mozzarella)

Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup- water
  • 1 1/2 cup- sugar
  • 2 tbsp- Rose water (or orange blossom water)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Optional Toppings

  • Pistachios (crushed)
  • Almonds (whole or crushed)
  • Whatever else catches your fancy (if you dare stray from pistachios…)

As with all recipes- preheat your oven (350f/180c)

Prepare the simple syrup (so that it can cool entirely before the kanafeh is finished) by mixing the water and sugar in a pot- bring to a boil. Add the lemon juice and continue boiling for 10 minutes or until the mixture has thickened. Promptly remove the syrup and allow to cool for several minutes. Then add the rose water, or orange blossom water.

At this time, you’ll want to begin shredding the kataifi. This is best done with a food processor but can be achieved by hand. As packaged, kataifi comes in endless noodles and you’ll need to shred them further- so that the average noodle is around one inch in length.

 

Once you have the noodles at the right size, place the kataifi in a large mixing bowl and gently incorporate the melted ghee (clarified butter.)

As the noodles set, begin the process of cutting down the cheese, or even shredding it if possible. I’ve experimented with many cheeses, some sweeter, some saltier, and there’s no rule for what you use. Just be sure to have 2 cups of a quality melting cheese to your liking either shredded or cut in long, narrow strips.

Taking a 9×13 pan, spread out a generous layer of the processed kataifi (about 2/3 of your noodles). Press the noodles firmly into the pan working it into a flat, even surface so that you can then evenly distribute the cheese, all of the cheese.

Follow the cheese with the remaining kataifi and, again, pack the noodles into the cheese, evenly.

With the oven heated, cook the kanafeh until the noodles have become a golden brown (around 10-15 mins)

Once the kanafeh has baked through you’ll want to allow it to cool for 10 mins

At this point, the kanafeh should have become more firm and set into its cheesy, sexy self.

Now, carefully place a cookie sheet atop the baking dish with the kanafeh and invert the pan so that the kanafeh is now on the cookie sheet.

Litter the surface with crushed pistachios and drown your darling with the simple syrup/rose water concoction.

Voila.

OK, so the example given below, about that. I had a tough time finding kataifi, so I substituted the noodles for simple phyllo sheets… no harm done. Yet, I will admit that iteration does neglect all the pleasing textures that comes along with kataifi. However, i’ll take what I can get. So get creative.

20140418-111911.jpg

20140418-111902.jpg

 

So, any takers?

Yallah’bye!

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All of these things are true...

A couple weeks in my desperate affair with Arabian sweets had reached dangerous highs. In fact, I would begin and end each day with a platter of pastries, smothered in honey and flooded with syrup and pistachio.

Junkie. That’s what you’d call me. A baklav-addict. More, more. Never enough. Every bakery was fair game as I lurked ancient cobbled alleys, out for a greater high, wandering deeper into the labyrinth in search for legendary bakeries. All of this was is good and well but it was in Wadi Musa where my friend, Khaleed, led me right into the snare of Kanafeh.

I followed him downtown through an unmarked door into an unnamed bakery where, despite the raging 110-degrees, a father and son were cheerfully slaving away, racking out sheets of pastries. Round shallow pans and alchemy. Arabian cheesecake.

This cheesecake was Kanafehe

The edible oxymoron – soft and crunchy, sweet’n’salty, cheesy, gooey, and crispy. All neatly encased in a glaze of syrup and rose water.

The ingredients are few yet they lend themselves to an endless array of pastries. We all know and love baklava but it wasn’t until I discovered Kanafeh that I finally tasted the essence of Arabian culture: so delicate and sweet behind that mysterious veil.

Now, please excuse this appalling photograph…

IMG_2298
Knafa, Kanafeh, Kunafa? Whatever it is… Tel Aviv, Israel
…but 1879!!!

Let’s just say there’s no right/wrong way to spell it. A rose by any other name

523975_3679462710501_1083950525_n
Kanafeh in Ramallah, Palestine
IMG_2093
Kanafeh and assorted pastries in Wadi Musa (Jordan)

There are three variants of kanafeh but in this recipe we’ll focus on khishnah (rough Kunafa)

Ingredients

  • 1 Package- Kataifi Pastry (kataifi is something like spun phyllo. Rather than laid out in thin sheets, it is processed in a way that produces vermicelli-like noodles. Check out this great video to see how it’s made)
  • 1 cup- Ghee
  • 2 cups- Akkawi cheese (you can substitute with mozzarella)

Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup- water
  • 1 1/2 cup- sugar
  • 2 tbsp- Rose water (or orange blossom water)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Optional Toppings

  • Pistachios (crushed)
  • Almonds (whole or crushed)
  • Whatever else catches your fancy (if you dare stray from pistachios…)

As with all recipes- preheat your oven (350f/180c)

Prepare the simple syrup (so that it can cool entirely before the kanafeh is finished) by mixing the water and sugar in a pot- bring to a boil. Add the lemon juice and continue boiling for 10 minutes or until the mixture has thickened. Promptly remove the syrup and allow to cool for several minutes. Then add the rose water, or orange blossom water.

At this time, you’ll want to begin shredding the kataifi. This is best done with a food processor but can be achieved by hand. As packaged, kataifi comes in endless noodles and you’ll need to shred them further- so that the average noodle is around one inch in length.

Once you have the noodles at the right size, place the kataifi in a large mixing bowl and gently incorporate the melted ghee (clarified butter.)

As the noodles set, begin the process of cutting down the cheese, or even shredding it if possible. I’ve experimented with many cheeses, some sweeter, some saltier, and there’s no rule for what you use. Just be sure to have 2 cups of a quality melting cheese to your liking either shredded or cut in long, narrow strips.

Taking a 9×13 pan, spread out a generous layer of the processed kataifi (about 2/3 of your noodles). Press the noodles firmly into the pan working it into a flat, even surface so that you can then evenly distribute the cheese, all of the cheese.

Follow the cheese with the remaining kataifi and, again, pack the noodles into the cheese, evenly.

With the oven heated, cook the kanafeh until the noodles have become a golden brown (around 10-15 mins)

Once the kanafeh has baked through you’ll want to allow it to cool for 10 mins

At this point, the kanafeh should have become more firm and set into its cheesy, sexy self.

Now, carefully place a cookie sheet atop the baking dish with the kanafeh and invert the pan so that the kanafeh is now on the cookie sheet.

Litter the surface with crushed pistachios and drown your darling with the simple syrup/rose water concoction.

Voila.

OK, so the example given below, about that. I had a tough time finding kataifi, so I substituted the noodles for simple phyllo sheets… no harm done. Yet, I will admit that iteration does neglect all the pleasing textures that comes along with kataifi. However, i’ll take what I can get. So get creative.

20140418-111911.jpg
20140418-111902.jpg

So, any takers?

Yallah

Whether you’ve come for The City of Fountains, Paris of the Plains or Cowtown, Kansas City is an innovative and inspired place, full of kinetic and potential splendor. People frequently ask us, What’s fun here? Where should we eat? drink? shop? We love talking about our city and thought it helpful to compile a list of our favorites. These are among the various places and reasons to make Kansas City your next Weekender

No longer the Midwest’s flyover town, KC is striding forward with newfound vigor and a burgeoning sense of self which has the world watching — as if to say, ooh, what’s all this? When juice bars replace steakhouses and the maker movement is now commonplace, you know something interesting is brewing. 

**disclaimer: this is a deep dive into locally owned and small businesses. Like us, these businesses are unique and non-mainstream. To us, that is what makes them the best places to patronize. 

Eat: It’s not all steak and potatoes

  • Port Fonda: Why we love it: Port Fonda is an absolute gem. Authentic, yet creative Mexican cuisine. Chicharrones and Salsa, Borrego, Jackfruit al Pastor. The brunch menu is one of the best in town. Their agave (tequila/mezcal) collection is monumental and arguably unmatched. {locale: Westport}
  • Rye: That rare quality of providing comfort food done right. A difficult task and executed masterfully. Upscale comfort food prepared beautifully. {locale: Plaza}
  • Extra-Virgin: Sure tapas are trendy, overblown, and often leave one feeling empty and cheated. Not the case at this lively eatery. A marriage of purposeful menu groups, meaningful bartending, and a rotation of fresh ingredients spearhead Chef Michael Smith’s bistro. He has a James Beard thingy so take note if your into that stuff. Regardless of accolades, Extra Virgin remains our favorite treat when the mood strikes — which is always. {locale: downtown/crossroads}
  • Room 39: Atmospheric ease. Room 39 is the kind of place you walk into and never leave. We love the small, intimate and all around low key vibe the space and staff provides. The farm to table menu never disappoints. {locale: midtown/39th St}                                                           

Worth noting: Novel, The Majestic.

Drink: (Bars & Cafes) Early Mornings and Night Caps, something good is brewing about. 

  • The Campground: Why we love it: They do it all. We couldn’t decide which category to put this in. The drinks and the food are tops. And both are prepared with flawless execution. The cocktails are timeless yet full of nuance. Inspired, yet not highfalutin – and still not your fathers drink. Additionally, they offer a collection of naturally fermented Pétillant Naturel wines — also known as”PétNat” — which have become our drink of choice! {locale: West Bottoms}
  • Green Lady Lounge: A hallmark of the freshest Jazz Kansas City has to offer. That late night feeling. {locale: downtown}
  • Our Daily Nada: Boozy Bookstore – Enough said. Add to that an impeccable wine list, craft toasts (hello smoked salmon) AND a thoughtful selection must-read books: from the Greats to the hidden treasures. Our Daily Nada emerges ahead of the crowd in a movement to marry both liquor and literature, literary fancy and libated fun. Pouring coffee from one of our favorite roasters, the baristas-cum-bartenders never miss a beat. Lounge: this is the sort of place you can hang around all day.. {locale: River Market}
  • Ça Va: “Champagne for the People.” Ca Va features a list of bubbly from across the world specializing in Grower Champagne (wine produced in small batches by artisanal vintners). Those who like to indulge will love their menu with everything from duck fat kettle corn to caviar. P.S they offer the best absinthe service in town which I’ve indulged many a night!  (locale: Westport}

Worth Noting: Mildred’s. Nomad’s 

Shops: Keeping it local 

  • River Market Antiques: Our go-to resource for past treasures and present whimsy. At 30,000 sq.ft. and boasting nearly 200 vendors, this remains one of the true resources for finding vintage gems. The Rivermarket stands its ground and we stand in solidarity. From vintage clothing to esoteric vinyl, Victorian ephemera, this is one of the funkiest, freshest collections of randomness through which to find some legitimately valuable and meaningful pieces. {locale: downtown/river market}
  • Foxtrot Supply Co: Owned & operated by two genuine and friendly guys, their leather goods are utilitarian and elevated (we happily represent their line here at Coveted Home). {locale: downtown/crossroads}
  • Shop Dear Society: Modern & Vintage. Thoughtfully curated pieces from centuries past and present. All things dear in fashion, accessories, and home. {locale: midtown/broadway}
  • Fine Folk: Shop high-end apparel and accessories as well as the beauty and wellness shop en shop, Within Apothecary {locale: downtown/crossroads}
  • George: A lifestyle shop after our hearts. George marries a beautifully curated arrangement of high-end accessories, apothecary, antiques and jewelry. {locale: south plaza/Crestwood shops}

Worth Noting: 45th & State Line Antique District houses many quirky and wonderful small shops filled with curiosities

Do: Do/do not miss.

  • Nelson Atkins: Why we love it: Museum with a world-renowned collection. Everything from Monet to Lautrec. Reconstructed Hindi temples to regional exhibitionists. A brilliant Egyptian/Near East collection. If you visit during lunch hours, the Rozelle Court Cafeteria, located inside the museum is both beautiful and delicious and worth a visit in its own right. {locale: east plaza}
  • Country Club Plaza (home of the Coveted Home!): Why we love it. Touted as America’s, maybe the worlds, first modern shopping mall. Established in 1922, the Plaza boasts beautiful architecture and fountains. Don’t miss the last few standing locally owned shops (besides us), The Better Cheddar (with one of the biggest cheese selections in the country) and Made In Kansas City Marketplace, where you can get beer on tap, t-shirts, coffee and more that are all..you guessed it, made in KC. And if you’re in town for an event, Parlor, next door to us, does amazing blowouts/up do’s/braids and makeup. 
  • River Market: Shops, cafes, restaurants, mostly locally run businesses with a genuine spirit. Worth an entire day: Brunch, lunch or dinner at The Farmhouse, pick me up at Quay Coffee, Al Habashi Restaurant and Spice Market, Japanese Imports, and much more. Come Spring, Summer, and Fall Farmer’s Markets fill the square with produce grown everywhere from Kansas City to parts unknown, offering cheeses, flowers, produce, honey, and an abundance of repurposed goods (weekends only). If you have the chance we encourage you to check it out. {locale: downtown}
  • Union Station: Not that long ago KC was the end of the line, everything West belonging to the various tribes and nature herself. Schlepping itinerants since 1914, Union Station remains a KC icon. catch a train home or dine in the luxurious Pierponts Restaurant — an exquisite 1920’s steakhouse feat. an extraordinary wine list, oysters, the most detailed service. A number of shops, from chocolatiers to KC memorabilia, Science City  Imax, all great places to entertain kids. {locale: downtown}
  • Loose Park/Rose Garden: To “escape the city,” head just south of the plaza to discover 75-acres of rolling hills, expansive fountains, and secret gardens. A popular destination for weddings and picnics alike, you can truly lose yourself in the rose bushes or spend the day meandering the fields. Also, a great place to take kids, with a large playground and water splash park in the summer. (locale: South Plaza)

Stay

  • The InterContinental: Legendary, swanky, conveniently South Plaza, the InterContinental plays host to celebrities and staycation-ers alike. Newly remodeled and we love the modern brasserie’s swanky new decor. (locale: Plaza)
  • The Crossroads Hotel: Downtown’s newest gathering place, for locals and out of towners alike, known equally for their hospitality, restaurant/bar, and accommodations. Enjoy a delicious upscale Italian meal at Lazia, located on premise. (locale: Crossroads)
  • The Bell Victorian: On a budget? Consider staying at our newly remodeled historic 100+ year old Victorian home, listed on Airbnb. We currently offer a guest room in a shared living space, suitable for 1-2 people. (locale: West 39th/Midtown)

Afterthoughts

  • Southwest Boulevard with its drag of authentic Mexican restaurants: menudo, lingua, and traditional dishes abound. A Kansas City past time and the best lineup in the Midwest. Try El Patron, La Bodega and Tropicana. 

                 The Majestic: Old World steakhouse meets 30’s Jazz club.  

A Note on BBQ: There is a dispute among local residents as to who remains the truest, most OG of all BBQ pits. These are among the most popular:

  1. Arthur Bryant’s: FRIED CHICKEN. Simply the best. 
  2. Q39 (a newcomer but immediate 1KO contender): Classic BBQ plates, from brisket to burnt ends.
  3. Gates. Known for their sauce and their friendly greeting. 
  4. Kansas City Joe’s (formerly Oklahoma Joe’s) Featured by every food critic on every food network covering KC BBQ. Charmingly located in a historic Shamrock Gas Station (still fueling the empty!) Try the Z-Man Sandwich or the pulled pork. Noteworthy vegetarianoption: Portabella Sandwich 

Cheers, and welcome to Kansas City! We look forward to meeting you and know you’ll enjoy the beautiful people and businesses that make this a great city. 

الْأُرْدُنّAl-‘Urdunn, Aqabah

Sun Blazing, the Red Sea, still, cool with Spring. I sit over Cafe Salaam, coffee, freshly roasted with cardamom and a handful of roasted nuts, wedged between an abundance of potted sage and a crumbling banister.

Open my sketchbook and look into the valley…

…Al-Sharif Al Hussein Bin Ali Mosque — open air markets winding and knotted, where camel heads swing from butcheries and parrots are sold hand over fist — all common fare. Beyond the mosque, the water opens in an uninterrupted display of coral and sunset pink, shipwrecks spot the depths like freckles between Egypt and Jordan.

al-Aqaba sketch

Could there be a better rooftop for writers and their manuscripts on a romantic getaway?

NAH!

Let’s hear it, tell me about your favorite rooftop experience. Where? Why?

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It was during my long and dusty sojourn in the Middle East when I first saw them. Buried deep in this old collapsed village, on the far end of town where the market spills into a sea of sand and slate. My boots had worn thin, literally, threadbare the cheap rubber soles were no thicker than a sheet of paper and I was due to return to the excavation any minute. Pressed for time I went to the tattered edge of an old cobblers shop and there they were, hanging in pairs of two, from the vaulted ceiling down to the cobbles like lattice.

The Turkish Yemeni

Now, i’m not the most fashion-driven or even fashionable guy, but the effortless, dare I say, timeless cool of these utilitarian shoes embedded deep within my heart. So much so that I refused to wear anything else –weather climbing, hiking, excavating or swimming the coral banks of the Red Sea (true!).

But it wasn’t until I returned to America that their spell had fully settled in. When I was heartbroken to find my home country a desert for yemenis…

Then in 2012 I met the Sabah Dealer.

(more…)

Rhythmic swells reverberate trough my lungs. The back streets of Valencia.

Back street Europe.

Romani enclaves and gypsy parts of town.

We’ll sit here in the Plaça de la Virgen with our stiff sangria, smartly bashful in red-faced delerium.

For it is Spring and the blossoms have begun to sing.

A nod to blanco nerium.

The Bosphorus splits Istanbul in two parts. A rift in the madness of Europe and Asia, drifting between bodies of fresh and salt water cooling the heated passion of a most ancient urban jungle.

The hot, hot, heat of human movement generates organized chaos as this great strait, this rift, cushions the blow, keeping this romantic city on its axis.

Gulls parade our smooth cruise to the Black Sea as Istanbul, in all its glory, surrounds us reaching out with minarets and the omnipresent aromas of a heavily spiced city.

It’s here, in the interstitial space between East and West, that time stands still…

photo


Will Write for Food. Or Coffee!

Being an artist, whether poet or ventriloquist, violinist or Beck, it's a taxing gig. Low pay, long hours. Sleepless nights,spotty work. If you find that my writing provides any pleasure, any sense of joy at all, I hope you will consider throwing me a bone, or an espresso.

$5.00

Don’t do it.

For he love of all things Didion!

I mean, I get it, there is this undeniable sex appeal. This intrique: scattering your notes across that old bistro set, the heady demitasse begging for your lips: what’s the WiFi code? Nah, I write longhand.

I fall prey to this allure now and again. Loading my satchel with pencils, paper, notes, books. Stalking southbound traffic to my favorite watering hole. Order a Gibraltar, catch up with barista, discuss life. By the time I’m sitting down to write, like an hour later, my coffees cold and the cafe packed.

Cling-clang cutlery. Blah-blah-blah business meeting. “Well I just don’t know about Johnny Depp anymore, why is he so… extra” “Girl, that latte art though.” “Third quarter” shakes head “third quarter, down, down, down.” Steaming, always grinding. Cling-clang. Blah-blah-blah.

Meanwhile my fingernails are digging into the wood of my pencil and just before I think I am going to… SNAP! the pencil breaks. Crickets. Everyone stares. The business man, the gossip girls, the mustache twirling hipster, even the pour-over pauses in its drip, letting out a hesitant sh*******t!

And I scurry home, past the bookstore. Down 39th Street, by the old folk artists coop that may or may not double as a junk yard. Climb the two flights of stairs to my apartment, counting the first, wooden set stapled with AstroTurf, and the second wooden set awaiting carpet that may never come.

I brew up a fresh cup. Sit down. And that’s when it happens…

When

I

Write

It

Out

Never again, I tell myself. But next week, I’ll try once more…


I’m curious: what’s your writing habit? What fuels you’re creativity? Boosts you morale? What get’s you going? The more self aware, the more writerly I become, I find that solitude is key. Quiet. Voiceless and calm.

How I used to be a travel blogger is beyond me. The world kept closing in…

Will Write for Food. Or Coffee!

Being an artist, whether poet or ventriloquist, violinist or Beck, it's a taxing gig. Low pay, long hours. Sleepless nights,spotty work. If you find that my writing provides any pleasure, any sense of joy at all, I hope you will consider throwing me a bone, or an espresso.

$5.00

Earlier this year, I set a goal to finish a solid draft of my memoir and to achieve this mission i’m going into the wild, er, offline…

A MONTHLONG period away from social media, the internet, ethernet and all those nets, in an archaic approach to finish this labor of love that i’m damn excited to share with you.

Now, I generally write longhand, heavy Cross pen, paper, table and tea–so this writing without a computer business is basically how I conduct my work anyway. But, to be away from my peers, my colleagues and you people taking time to read these articles, that’s the toughest part.

I want to keep this short so let me finish by wishing my fellow Americans an enlightening and restful Thanksgiving. And, you Turks, love him or hate him, happy Ataturk Day (Nov 10th.) The same goes for you Zoroastrians out there, happy Adargan (celebration of fire Nov 10.)And, to you Moroccans and Lebanese–happy Independence Day (Nov 18th, Nov 22nd respectively.) And, you, yes you, take a break and celebrate “Buy Nothing Day” (Nov 28th.)

You can reach me at info@nicholasandriani.com and I’ll get back to you in 30 days or more. It’s just little strange to say that.

Thank you for all the support and encouragement. I look forward to catching up with all of you in one month.

Until then…

IMG_0992

 

–Andriani

 

It was nearly a year ago that I discovered the Sabah Dealer.

A chance meeting on Twitter led me to this exotic, almost whimsical Instagram where I was transported to Anatolia. To the bazaars, the buskers and baksheesh and medieval villages. To a world still crafted by hand.

I soon found that behind the Sabah Dealer’s travels were shoes–Sabah’s themselves–hand stitched slippers crafted from calfskin and buffalo leather in the countryside of Turkey.

In other words–I was moved! Moved by a bloody pair of shoes that hit my like a Sufi poem.

At some point I shared my newfound passion for Sabah’s with Jaclyn and, with a trip to NYC in the near future, she emailed The Dealer. His reply came swift and his demeanor warm. He described his story:

“This style of shoe (and more importantly the construction technique) was once the chosen footwear of southeastern Turkey and Syria (dating back nearly 1,000 years), but has now mostly disappeared from daily wear. I personally discovered the shoe style because I lived in Istanbul for several years (working as an expat) and was gifted a pair by a friend’s grandmother who grew up wearing them.

The original style looks more like a genie slipper, not a Sabah. However, I was so impressed by the comfort and quality of my first pair that I wore them almost everyday and everywhere I traveled: the beaches of France, dancing in Beirut, a work trip to Munich, hiking through Morocco, even once with a Tuxedo to a fancy Turkish wedding.

A year later, in that same pair, I was back in NYC (they had worn in beautifully and were even more comfortable) and I couldn’t find anything like them in the market. My friends and even strangers on the street were always asking me about them as well. So I sought out the craftsman through my friend’s grandmother, and over the course of nearly a year, a couple trips to the ancient bazaar, (and many mistakes, I did not know a thing about shoemaking), I launched Sabah utilizing this family’s traditional construction technique and skilled craftsmen, but with a more modern design, better fit, higher quality leathers and a replaceable rubber sole. We still make every pair by hand with those same craftsmen today and are actively working with them to grow the business and train additional skilled labor.

To make Sabahs, we employ a traditional method of shoe construction that has been cultivated over generations in the ancient bazaars of southeast Turkey. We work with the few remaining traditional cobblers in the region whose families have been making this style of shoe for generations. The process to make a Sabah is quite difficult and tedious (requiring extensive training and practice), but the result is a pair of shoes that are remarkably comfortable, really well made and distinct looking. Also, since we use very high quality leather for all components except the rubber outsole, Sabahs mold to your feet after a few wears and continue to gain comfort and take shape over time. And, as a testament to the quality of materials, Sabahs never, ever smell – no socks, just Sabahs, all summer, no problem.” 

Sabah’s aren’t sold online. They’re made in small quantities, can be ordered to size in a multitude of colors and when they sell out, they’re gone. At least, until another batch arrives from Turkey. The only way to get your trotters into a pair is by arranging a visit to their showroom called the ‘Sabah House‘ or emailing The Dealer.

August came and we found ourselves on the subway towards the Sabah House. Jaclyn confessed a vivid dream about arriving to the Sabah House and swimming in a sea of colorful shoes (she still had not made up her mind on a color–red? blue? mint green?) but the only color in her size–white. The one color she really had no intention of buying. As we exited the subway we laughed about the fact we had become so obsessed that we were dreaming about them. Shoes!

Tucked between noodle bars and residential buildings, the Sabah House sits, low-key, harboring the goods that brought us to Koreatown. The only indication of what’s inside is the address. No signage, no neon lights, no fanfare. Just a Manhattan address.

While arranging for this trip we found that The Dealer would be out on a reconnaissance mission (aka – road trip across the States) and that we would be meeting with one of his trusted colleagues.

We were greeted at the door by Gabby, a former customer, now intern, who would act as our guide through this apartment-gone-showroom and we were quick to see that once you’re involved with Sabah’s you become part of this family, this movement.

Before getting down to business Gabby engaged us in conversation. Less business, more get to know you. Sparkling water and chocolate espresso beans flowed as she led us through the showroom, insisting that we take our time to explore the wide range of shoes by “dressing up” and getting to know the slippers themselves.

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Butter. Oh, the pleasure of slipping your feet into the softest,  form fitting calfskin leather. I grab a pair of oxblood red Sabahs, just for kicks, and they melt to my feet.

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This red pair on Jaclyn were perfection and they would have gone home with her had it not been for the sticky note on the inside reading “sold”. She tried on several other pairs before we realize that Jaclyn’s dream had manifest. The only pair that fit her was white. Deciding to take it as a sign, they left with us.

Gabby pulled out a pair of olive colored Sabahs explaining that this pair came in with a shipment that were produced during the month of Ramadan. Now, if you’re no stranger to Ramadan you’ll know that this is a time of fasting for the Muslim world. So these craftsmen, in rural Turkish villages, were fasting from sunup to sundown, high on piety and a abstinence, making this very pair of shoes! Meaning, that while still structurally sound, they exhibit more human error than is typical of Sabahs.

SOLD.

Without trying  them on I was completely infatuated with the humanity of this pair.

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Despite being the sort of place in which you could kick back for hours on end, where good conversation and mellow vibes are guaranteed, this is New York City and we had just tapped the surface of our itinerary.

Decisions made, white Sabahs, olive Sabahs, high on espresso beans, we bid Gabby farewell, strolling off into the sunset… OK midday sun, towards the Brooklyn Bridge.

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I wear them as a charm and in exchange they carry me safely through life. And, now i’m talking about a pair of shoes as if they were my brothers in arms… You know what? They are. To the market, on my back patio, and to the pyramids.

Onward.

Chichen Itza, Mexico

Orquideas Hostel, Cancun, Mexico

On the Manhattan High Line.

*All photos by Jaclyn Joslin unless noted

We stumbled away from Another Kind of Sunrise high on good food and despite this the lure of chocolate never wore off. I felt like a child longing for a view into Willie Wonka’s chocolate factory. Knowing that what lies beyond contained the secret of cacao alchemica; that is, the transformation of cacao from plant to biodynamic and holy confections.

Rounding the alley we found ourselves in the presence of a true American pioneer- ZenBunni

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Overturned turtle shells emit a soft glow as they light a path through the rabbit hole.

Bohemian and whimsical in equal measure the storefront carries the timeless essence of passion and sustainability. After repurposing an old broom closet husband and wife -Zen and Bunni- created this space using clay and mud from their property outside Los Angeles. If that isn’t admirable enough, this was followed by a final dusting of cacao powder (the walls are chocolate!). Thus encouraging any and all to take a trip down the rabbit hole.

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Packets of hand selected chocolate mingle with pine cones and antlers on display for a quick fix.

Below the counter ten artfully prepared recipes await for you to explore the world of dopamine enhancers.

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This is the kind of chocolate in which it’s a shame to chew. That which you’re drawn to for the sensation of all those well balanced compounds like phenylethylamine and cannibinoids; a recipe for childlike giddiness.

We sample the “Lost Salt of Atlantis” following up with an order for the Rainbow Pack (which comes with 9 chocolates and a little crystal) and several bars (Maui Turmeric Ginger, Cali Almond and the Shiva Rose). It’s hard not to smile after breaking a bar in your mouth. Sit back and let the good times roll. But know your limit. Between Jaclyn and myself, we could have cleaned out this store in one sitting!

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With one final pass we bid farewell to Zen as our last day in Los Angeles comes to a close.

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In the alleyway between ZenBunni and Another Kind of Sunrise.


Our original plan had us on the road, leaving L.A. at 9am. It was just past noon as we left ZenBunni. And that is how to travel consciously.

Abandon your precepts and break the rules. Otherwise ZenBunni, Another Kind of Sunrise would have been nothing more than chalkboards I probably wouldn’t have seen and Abbot Kinney just another place-name on a map.

One last thing–ZenBunni is up for a Guinness World Record for smallest chocolate shop. How cool is that?!

until next time–yallah’bye

 *Photo credits to Jaclyn Joslin

All cities come equipped with a beating heart. A cultural core that stimulates the genius in urbanites giving them a unique identity to stand apart from the rest of the world. Some cities, like Los Angeles, race to the tune of several hearts and it was on our way out of L.A. that we came across one such nucleus while on the hunt for breakfast in a seemingly deserted town at 9am. IMG_0405

It was reggae music that came first, then voices and finally we found ourselves part of a small crowd, down a tight alley, in front of a makeshift cafe where a young woman stood with confidence between the grinding of coffee beans and noting of detailed orders.  We were the last in what became a line as the crowd dispersed leaving us alone with chef Lela Buttery.

Another Kind of Sunrise

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Biologist and self-described food sorcerer, Lela “yes, my last name really is Buttery,” Buttery projects her addicting personality and revolutionary approach to diet.  Talking us through her own philosophies and menu items such as Buttery Brew and Paleo Granola we were quickly becoming entranced.

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After placing our order (Buttery Brew, Farfurina’s Paleo Granola, a Meri Acai Bowl and a Dandelion-Lavender-Ginger Tea) we set out on a tour around the tight alley.

Not only the chocolatier but a handful of other merchants lie beyond the cafe/cereal house.

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Trail marker. So that Hat-maker, that’s Nick Fouquet-local Mad Hatter=He who made not only a personalized head piece for Madonna but also Pharrell.

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Urban jungle. The alley which holds many, many secrets.

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ZenBunni: It’s clear that there be something magical behind these closed doors. But sadly the doors were locked shut.

Food ready Lela called us back to the cafe at the entrance of this quirky alley.

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With the Buttery Coffee to wash it all down I dove into my Paleo granola a boy and emerged a caveman (no offense Neanderthals), in a complete food-centric rage. Ravaging every morsel of berry and gluten-free granola. All balanced by the tart grass-fed whole-milk yogurt. Jaclyn was equally pleased with her spicy gingery tea and acai bowl.

Lela gave us the rundown on Buttery Coffee and the wrongful villainization of butter in our society. Freshly roasted coffee beans (from Handlebar Coffee) are brewed and married to equal parts ghee and raw coconut oil. It’s royal, decadent, smoothly silken, and seductive. All without being overly sweet. I’ve never been fond of coffee, nor lattes, nor mocha-whatevers. This miraculous concoction spoke my language.

Jaclyn and I move about the cafe, savoring our bowls of cereal and sipping our brews like children with hot chocolate on Christmas morning.

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What treasures are to be found if you follow the trail of the UniWolfCheetah?

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Art and greenery envelop the alley giving it an organic, natural feel.

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*A note on the UniWolfCheeta- Diana Garcia is the mastermind behind these Unicorn-Wolf-Cheetah hybrids which are part of her series titled “I’m Not a Wolf”. Indeed, you are not a wolf. They can be seen down the street on Abbot Kinney, in Mexico City, NYC, and Austin, Texas. This mytical creature gets around, you could say.

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 Only a quarter of the way through the alley we’re ready to move on to the next shop as the rest of Abbot Kinney stirs to life. We meet the owner of ZenBunni, a regular at AKOSunrise as he ordered his breakfast and assured us that the shop would now be open.

On we march to chocolate paradise where the door has been peeled away leading us down a rabbit hole…

Let’s save that for next time


P.S. I can’t close without noting that the food sorcerer, Lela Buttery, authored a book titled We Can Do Butter. It’s an informative goldmine covering sustainable living and sourcing better quality food. Full for recipes, scientific evaluations, and logic the book serves it’s purpose well. If you’re one to question the world of commercially processed foods do take a look at her site.

Abbot Kinney Part II: ZenBunni

until next time–yallah’bye

*All photos taken by Jaclyn Joslin

There’s a new craze going from town to town, calling on travelers to break the mundane and deconstruct that rigid barrier between local and outsider. This movement is manifest in vehicles such as Airbnb.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept think of it as a refined, more mature approach to hosteling or couchsurfing. Which never really took off in the US so I decided to try my hand at this more popular alternative.

Maybe it’s the communal aspect or the in-house local expertise that I find more inviting but I’ve realized that hotels now feel too impersonal to me. Sure, it’s great to unwind after a day of sightseeing in a private suite but that’s not why I travel.

It’s more about sharing stories with people of other vocations and nationalities.

Airbnb allows for unprecedented twists on traditional travel. Instead of the Hilton in Marrakech, rent a Riad inside the Medina. Avoid that resort on the Mediterranean by staying in a secluded bungalow on the same beach but away from “touristopolis”. In fact, it’s easier to rent a castle than to book a room at an all-inclusive resort through their website! They’re on to something and I’m on to them.

So we decided it was time to give Airbnb a chance. Two weeks ago today Jaclyn and I found ourselves in California, at the front door of a stranger’s house that we met online. Nothing kinky, just a little getaway for my 25th birthday.

It had taken a while to narrow down our choices for accommodation. From furnished houses to empty apartments we searched until coming across the listing “Cabin in the Garden”. A 20 minute walk from the beach the cabin shares property with a communal house of four, a tree house overlooking a vegetable garden, and serves as a spiritual retreat from the Los Angeles beat.

We had several interactions with our host via email and poured through reviews left by previous guests. It was clear that this home was an open place. One that welcomes all people and strives to leave little impact on our planet. Quirky hippie vibes and a “come as you are” mentality was invite enough.

When it came down to it we found ourselves spending half the price we would have for a hotel in the area. Our host and other house guests fed us priceless information about local restaurants, helped us weigh what sights were worth seeing versus those of hype, and made us feel like a part of LA.

But if there’s still an air of awkwardness when you walk up to the front door of a stranger’s house who is about to open their world to you–just embrace it and go with the flow. Otherwise, book that hotel room that would cost twice as much.

 

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The “Cabin in the Garden” or “Cabin” in the Garden… Rustic, but very comfortable. Bordered by a fig tree and overlooking their garden.

 

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Interior of our “Cabin”. Has the feeling of an artists studio. Complete with floor pillows, books on yoga, and a loft space for the bed

 

The Pod
The Pod- Another accommodation on site. Designed by one of the residents who found inspiration in her time living off-the-grid in Latin America. Similar to the Cabin on the inside the Pod stands apart in its organic design and placement in the garden itself.

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The tree house- While it isn’t listed on Airbnb would be a great place to spend the night under the ever so cool breeze of the Pacific winds. Equipped with prayer flags, hammock, and clothesline- what more could you want?

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Ah, the bountiful Lemon tree. I’m already missing the fragrant wind that swirled around the sweet aromas of the garden. There’s no wasted space. Plants and nooks in every corner.

 

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A link in their chain of well laid garden space.

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Everything has it’s place.

How could we not walk away with a sense of peace? Overall our visit couldn’t have been better–moving with the Angelenos in their easy-going ebb and flow contradicting the norms of “big city” livin’. It’s a wonderful place.

Interested in booking the Cabin in the Garden? Here’s the link- LINK

until next time–yallah’bye

*photo credits to Jaclyn Joslin

Galata Tower, Andriani Watercolor Like a great minaret, the Galata Tower represents so much more than meets the eye.

Built in 1348 as the re-imagining of an earlier structure the tower has gone from hosting inmates, as a prison, to holding great secrets as an observatory for the astrologer Takıyeddin Efendi. What’s more, Hezarfen Ahmet Çelebi the 17th century aviator… if you can call him that… achieved, through his scientific mastery, sustained flight that actually carried him from the Tower, over the Bosphorus, and landed him safely on the Asian side. 

Busking Euro-Gypsies surround the base of Galata as if worshiping an idol, strumming rhythms on deep acoustic guitars and homemade drums. Like a great heartbeat at the core of an old world metropolis.

From the balcony (at 51.65m) a rewarding panorama of Istanbul waits to expose all the secrets of modern life. A warmth emanates from the Ottoman palaces, the mosques, and grand Genoese structures all spilling their histories across the skyline. If that’s not cool enough to warrant a visit then maybe the swanky cafe on the top floor will get your attention…

This is the lure of the Orient. Of the East.

Ourika, Morocco

 

547357_3665455120320_1240248596_nThough only 6 hours (460 km) separate Marrakech from the oasis town of M’Hamid I could have dedicated six days between the two place names. The villages that scatter Ourika Valley hold their own against the more popular Imperial Cities (Marrakech, Fes, Meknes and Rabat) and it’s out here in the wilderness of the High Atlas Mountains that I come across the Cafe Tajine.

An hour outside Marrakech the Cafe Tajine emerges from an icy riverbed along the narrow road that parallels the River Ourika. Makeshift bridges of repurposed woods and carpets reach across the river at many points along the route, leading to mud-brick villages, markets, and, in this case, one of the finest dining experiences i’ve had to date. 

Here, for a few dollars (it’s truly a steal), you can feast like royalty. A spread of three tajines, salads, breads, mint tea, and a few beggars in between will cost you around the same price as the new Jay-Z album.

Tajines are made to order and, like most “Old World” recipes can take a good deal of time to cook. This is when the industrious locals strike. Peddling handmade goods, women and children make offers on African keepsakes and jewelry boxes, even crystals, as men serenade us, strumming the guitar-like Moroccan sintir and playing unusual flutes and drums.

Over the melodious North Africa beats we dine late into the night, taking our sweet time, dancing and haggling away.

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Yallah bye

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Mount Hood rising beyond Portland proper.

With Portland’s philosophical temperament, insane amount of breweries (something like 71) , and solid, mellow vibes it’s hard to break away from the inner city. Yet, when you manage to, the surrounding areas contain an abundance of natural beauty. Moving away from the bells and whistles of city life, the call of the wild echoes from the mountain tops into the heart of PDX, emerging from the cobblestone streets as a powerful guide, taking you off the pavement and into the wild itself.

In no particular order, I present to you the wild, the ever inspiring, somewhat touristic sights of PDX

The Japanese Gardens

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There’s an influential air of tranquility in the 5.5 acre park where stones mingle with plants and water to create a sense of harmony, balance between worlds. Said to be the most authentic Japanese garden outside of the motherland, the park is separated into five equally important sections displaying traditional flora alongside indigenous plants for a solid assimilation of nature.

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Apparently, this Pagoda came as a gift from the Mayor of Sapporo (Portland’s sister city in Japan) in 1963. There are actually several relics on site. Treasures from Japan, only adding to the holistic beauty.

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“Shishi Odoshi”- Translating to “scare the deer”

I was under the impression that these “shishi odoshi” were used to keep track of time or perhaps for meditation… Nope! This bamboo fountain is truly used to keep birds and other animals away that may otherwise snack on the bounty of plants in the garden. However, like magic, it certainly moves ones bladder!

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Multnomah Falls

As the tallest waterfall in the state of Oregon this site has become somewhat of a roadside spectacle. Easily accessible and equipped with it’s very own on-site lodge, Multnomah makes for a great pit stop after visiting the Wahkeena Falls. There’s even a great trail which loops up and around Wahkeena, then back down passing Multnomah.

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 The upper fall at 542 feet is not the source of the ray beam that white washed this photo to near dust…

Wahkeena Falls

While the lesser of our two falls, I find Wahkeena more striking. More gradual, the site less trafficked, and the immediate hiking trail, gorgeous.

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At this vantage point, by the water, it felt at least 10 degrees cooler in the already chill Oregonian fall.

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Peeking over the Columbia River

Forest Park

With something like 70 miles of hiking trails, Forest Park is obviously competing with the breweries in town in an all out mile vs. brewpub showdown. The trails in here contain a striking dose of deep backwoods remoteness. Enough to satiate most appetites. There’s even a movement in the works that will connect a portion of the park to the Pacific Crest Trail. So, Forest Park will technically be part of a 2,600 mile range of trails…

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An early 20th century rest stop along one of Forest Park’s endless trails.

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As you ascend higher, Forest Park begins to fan out. Tree growth becomes more sparse, while ferns dominate the grounds which are far less moist than in the deeper ravines.

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The further you hike, the less noise pollution, the less passerby’s. All that despite the fact that we’re maybe a mile from the city center, well, as the crow flies.

Sauvie Island

Nude beaches, vegetable gardens, and geese hunting. The common denominator? Sauvie Island.

Larger than Manhattan and certainly more sustainable, Sauvie is one of those great escapes that transport you to another time. Farmers markets, pumpkin patches in the fall, U-pick farms, quiet dirt roads, and all surrounded by the calming Columbia River just 10 miles west of PDX.

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At one point a massive freighter passed by sending swells up the beach.

 We found our way to the island for a picnic. Equipped with a bottle of Kansas City’s finest brew and a pack of nuts, we had an exceptional, minimalistic, beach experience.

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Arabic in the sand…

Always working, even on vacation. I had to throw down a little Arabic.

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Ok, i’m clearly a grease-pit who had too much to drink. Jaclyn, however, is charming as ever completing our yin-yang look

The List Goes On…

2013-10-05 13.27.35The suicidal Mt. St. Helens.

This is only a sample of the more accessible sights. The list really goes on and on… Mount Hood, the Pacific Coast, Willamette Valley (post coming on my vineyard experiences soon).

As with the eats of PDX, I’m already planning for the sights of my next trip.

So, what do you think? Did I miss anything truly special?

Yallah, bye!

I’ve met some great people through this blog, twitter and other social media outlets. One person in particular stands out as someone whom I feel especially lucky to have met, the talented creator behind For The Intolerants, JoAnna.

JoAnna and I have a lot of similar interests, as do many travel bloggers; exploring exotic lands, sampling global cuisine, merging into bizarro cultures, but ultimately we share a unique idiosyncrasy, a sort of fervor for the Middle East.

A keystone in my mission being to deflate nasty stereotypes revolving around the Arab world, I found it fitting when JoAnna approached me to write a guest post and mentioned the same enthusiasm to shed light on a more authentic and positive Middle East.

Since some of you may not have had the chance to read the post when it premiered on For The Intolerants I am reposting it here for your reading pleasure.

These are my reminiscings on Aqaba, the jewel of the Red Sea, neatly fitted between Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Palestine, and Israel…

Uncovering the Shores of Aqaba

Working on an archaeological dig in Jordan, I found myself fleeing to Aqaba every weekend. Not only to dive into the cool waters of the Red Sea, but to merge into a city that borders modernity while retaining the flair of time-tested traditions. I would leave only to feel the call of al-Aqabah time and time again with the desire to explore more the following weekend. Exotic markets and exquisite cafes line the beach.

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Aqaba Proper. Vantage from one of the highest rooftops in town. View of Al-Hussein Bin Ali Mosque and Red Sea.

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At the bus stop. Just like every other bus stop.

Just off the local bus I would work my way to the beach, grabbing a coffee from one of the various food carts along the main strip. It’s easy to get caught up in the relaxed culture as the locals have perfected hospitality. After running into the same group of Jordanians it wasn’t long before I was welcome in their ritual, grilling kebabs, smoking hookah, and playing on the beach late into the night, often until sunrise! Luxury resorts with private beaches are stamped across the shoreline just south of the city. This is where I would head for scuba diving, the Aqaba Marine Center, and a little pampering. Yet, I had a preference for the city beach in Aqaba proper. Where glass-bottom boats, camels, and a plethora of vendors to vie for your attention.

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Traditional Bedouin lodging options. Goat hair tent.

Within the city limits are two shopping districts to get lost in for hours. A bazaar with merchants selling anything from Arabian antiques to vintage cameras. And the garment district, where you can be fitted for any number of Arabian garments. I took the opportunity to buy a “thobe” or ankle-length tunic. In fact, my last trip through the city I roamed the town wearing my thobe and headscarf without turning a head! With a light heart and a little humor I shopped through the stretches of textiles, toying with locally mined silver, and haggling my way through teapots and Middle Eastern goods.

 

For a few dinars you can trot along the beach. For even more you can catch a camel trek into the interior of Jordan
Bedouin with Camel. Offering rides/excursions into the Wadi Rum/Wadi Araba deserts.

Across the city taxis call out- “Where you go?”, “Ah, my friend! Good price for you!”, all of which seem in good spirit, yet I became intolerant of their game early on. Due to their exorbitant fares, unreliable meters, and shady antics I utilized the local bus. Though admittedly, they’re less than comfortable and on several occasions I found myself waiting on a ride that would two hours late. As relaxed as I felt roaming Aqaba, travel by taxi or bus can be stressful. Whatever the case, due to Jordan’s size, getting around the country is a breeze. Once you figure out what mode of transport you can tolerate, a few hours in any direction will lead you to some of the world’s greatest wonders.

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The crystalline Red Sea serves as a natural barrier between Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, and Egypt. The Large ship in the distance represents the international border between Jordan and Israel.

In retrospect, I find Aqaba to be an integral destination for the true Arabian experience. It’s clear why most of the region flocks to the port city every weekend. Treasure hunting through the souks will entice some while the beach calls to others. Either adventure is worth experiencing in Aqaba, where hospitality is second nature to the local people steeped in Islamic faith. Where modern architecture is juxtaposed against ancient mud-brick dwellings, the 21st century is emerging and they welcome it with a grin.

Yallah, bye!

 

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Landing on “best of” lists every day across the globe Portland, despite it’s relatively small population, has created it’s very own, unconventional, holistic brand of society. A fusing of localism and sustainability placing PDX as the greenest city in the U.S.

For me, PDX has just recently stepped out of the colossal shadow of Seattle. It wasn’t until Jaclyn’s sister and brother-in-law moved to Portland that my interest in the Pacific Northwest was even stirred, what the hell was wrong with me you might ask? IDK… IDK… But I can say that it wasn’t long before I fell in love with the “City of Roses” through the countless blogs I read. And when we received the invite to visit I sharpied out the dates in my calendar with fervor.

Though we had several months to prepare I took the hands off approach, knowing that our hosts would also act as our guides. So we dove in seeking the greatest in local eats, swanky bars, and boutique shops.

Noteworthy Eats

Sizzle Pie

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Sure, pizza may have become the most common food on this planet but I can’t camouflage my excitement for these most ancient pies.

Further more, when a pizzeria has the guts to pair a fatty “Meat Lover’s” style pizza next to the vegan “New Maps Out of Hell”, loaded with cashew spread and hash browns, credit is due. The ancients of Gaeta (the first example of what we know as pizza came from this Italian city in the early Middle Ages) have nothing on Sizzle Pie.

A noteworthy collection of tunes rest in the juke box waiting to be paired with a local beer and one of these unorthodox pies. Gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, full meat carnage, they’ve gone wild with their imaginations.

In the words of Sizzle Pie, “Death to False Pizza”

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Fireside 

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When you visit a city known for its foodie movement and eat at the same restaurant twice during the same stay you’re either A) a closet case unwilling to branch out, or B) you’ve stumbled upon Fireside. It’s primitive, romantic and hip but not trendy.

Their environment and menu is “outdoor inspired” and in the open air restaurant, seated by one of the various fire pits, chowing on dishes like “brick chicken” or “fireside elk chili” you begin to feel it too, the call of the wild.

The menu runs the gamut with fried chickpeas , carrot and beat chips with harissa, an expertly crafted cheese plate and (my personal favorite) a farro salad topped with pickled onions, goat gouda, and a damn fried duck egg. YES.

Distracted by a sweet list of libations, including local wines and experimental cocktails, I completely missed dessert!

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Farro Salad with Duck Egg, Goat Gouda, and Pickled Onions

Por Que No

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Ok, so I didn’t get the chance to hit up any of the food carts. Despite Portland having 300+ mobile kitchens it simply didn’t work out. Yet, I had the experience of waiting in a line that wound from the cash register (indoors) out the building and around the block, a 30 minute endeavor which paid off with the absolute best tacos I’ve had outside of Mexico.

While in line a waitress takes your drink order, go for the Horchata Borracha (i.e. “rum-chata”). Grab one of these or another of their experimental margaritas and that line won’t feel so long after all.

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The establishment itself (talking the Mississippi Street location) has a cozy intimate feel. A modern shack with a festive West Mexico Pacifico vibe.

Appetizers include spicy cucumbers and ceviche. Should I even bother mentioning their ethical drive to use local line-caught fish or the fact that they used repurposed materials in the remodeling of their cookhouse? That’s Portland for you.

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Spicy Cucumbers. Guacamole

The centerpiece of their menu would have to be the exceptional taco list. It takes balls to throw wild caught squid on a taco and top it with peppers, salsa roja, and fresh crema mexicana but they do it and do it well. Hands down most delicious taco I’ve come across to date! A close second being their camarones (shrimp) taco, spiced up with a little cabbage, pineapple and salsa verde.

The presentation alone is enough to fill ones appetite.

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Camarones (shrimp) Taco/ Calamari Taco

And, to rub it in your face, what should be an award-winning salsa bar.

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Salt and Straw

A “Farm-to-cone” ice cream shop with, you know, the typical flavors such as arbequina olive oil and the usual mint and sea urchin meringues.

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This divine creamery is equipped with an arsenal delicacies which includes sea urchin, loaded baked potato, balsamic, blue cheese, honey… the list goes on.

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Cones, coffees, and teas come in all sorts and pairings with speciality items rotating along with the seasons.

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Mint with Sea Urchin, Honey Lavender, and Olive Oil.

Of all the options, olive oil held its own against their gathering of flavors. The sea urchin with mint, left us refreshed with the beloved sweet/salty combination. Honey lavender has become a solid standard of mine, which I’m happy to see more frequently.

If you’re in a hurry they also offer cartons to go, in which case, they’ll allow you to bypass the monstrous line you’ll probably be stuck in..

The Clearing

Of all the cafes we visited The Clearing stood out as the most inviting/scrumptious with a menu offering everything from breakfast burritos to fresh pastries and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Combine that with a killer list of holistic smoothies and you’re feeling good. The beauty is in their simplicity. They’re not curling their mustaches, taking scientific measurements to make a cup of joe. No, they’re crafting unbelievable pastries and damn good light fare.

Besaw’s

 With a running service of over 100 years they’ve survived prohibition, the Great Depression and Y2K. Hosting a menu that offers breakfast until 3:00pm, this gastropub will satisfy any appetite at any hour. Check out the craft cocktails, local-seasonal bites, and the best Bloody Mary i’ve downed.

The Pope House Bourbon Lounge

I could just let the name speak for itself, then again, it’s so much more. Named one of the top 55 Bourbon bars in America, The Pope House offers an always changing collection of bourbons, whiskeys, and other spirits.

Check out their “Bourbon Derby”. Participants take off in a quest to sample 50 of their prized bourbons, at which time they’re awarded with a trophy along with other prizes. The bar has a cozy old-world vibe that’s just right for a night-cap.

Portland offers a lifetime of dining options, which I’m currently filtering through now, ready to return to raid the food carts, the bourbon bars, and creameries.

I’d love to get some feedback on your experiences in Portland, or anywhere else in this vast world you’ve come across some noteworthy eats. Be it Cairo, Austin, or Rome, Georgia, I’m always looking for a little inspiration to hit the road!

Yallah, Bye!

 

 

Here’s a quick sketch of the Parthenon from the rooftop of my hostel. Though the site had been occupied for millenniums it wasn’t until 447 BC that the Acropolis really hit the map. At the height of Athens’ “Golden Age” Pericles began a project in the name of Athina.  His building program went underway and 2,500 years later still holds the power to drop jaws.

A view of the Parthenon from a local hostel.