I’d rather be…at any of these places really…

I have travelled to a few places around the US of A and even bits of Canada and Mexico.

Unfortunately I have not had the pleasure of traveling to other continents, much to my dismay.

Regardless, I have seen some places that have wowed me and other places that aren’t so great but contain little glimmering jewels, hiding in  the rocks.

I will now share a few gems.

Napa Valley, CA

Palm Springs, CA

Lake Tahoe, CA

Sierra Nevada Highway, NV

Miami, FL

Secaucus, NJ – Train Station

Toronto, Canada

Somewhere in VA

Waffle House parking lot, LA

Nabisco factory, Philadelphia, PA

Dallas, TX

Staten Island Ferry, NYC

Published in: on July 8, 2011 at 2:27 am  Leave a Comment  

Get to Know Your Chinese or Just Keep on Ordering Your General Tso’s Then

After an exhausting holiday trip “down the shore” with the little DARLING devil children to the Delaware beaches, nobody wants to cook, grill or light a match on this muggy Independence Day eve. So we are ordering Chinese….how American of us!

Pizza? Fuggedaboutit!

However, despite the All-American irony of the local fare in my neighborhood to choose from (Chinese, Pizza, Thai, Sushi, Irish Pub food & Cheesesteaks), I am concerning myself with fixing an issue that I notice every time I order Chinese food – which isn’t that often anymore, but still.

Why can’t I remember what the difference is between Hunan, Szechuan, Cantonese and Peking style?

And what’s Gong Bo or Tai Chen?

Preparation? Particular sauce? I know the names usually pertain to a particular style from a particular geographical location, but alas, that is not enough to go on. I need to know more!

Well, it’s time to clear this matter up, because how can I taste anything new and delicious if I don’t know what it is?

And I know I’m not the only one sitting in ignorance! So let’s do this…

Szechuan: Choose if you want a bold, pungent and often spicy cuisine (think bright, powerful flavors, color of sauces vary from brown to reddish depending on chili oils, etc). Preparation generally contains dried or preserved ingredients, including the famous Sichuan peppercorns, which give it a tingling-numbing attribute coupled with other complex flavour combinations. My dish this very evening was Sezchuan Shrimp and it was made with broccoli, green bell peppers, onions, snow peas and water chestnuts and the famously spicy brown sauce. Mostly known for it’s spicier representatives, szechuan style cooking has a vast variety of dishes composed of  “sour, pungent, hot, sweet, bitter, aromatic, and salty” flavors, but not all dishes are necessarily spicy. Well-known dishes include Kung Pao (also known as Gung Bo) Chicken/Shrimp/Pork and the less flamboyant Dan Dan Noodles. If you don’t know what Kung Pao is, it’s delicious, it comes with peanuts and if you’re lucky, red bell peppers instead of green for a beautifully colored dish.

Hunan: Choose if you want  hot spicy flavor, fresh aroma and deep color (think spicy, brown sauces, and sometimes savory or tangy flavors). Known for its liberal use of chilli peppers, shallots and garlic, it is considered “dry hot”, spicier than Szechuan by pure chili content, containing a larger variety of fresh ingredients with smoked and cured goods and is a bit more oily. Because the Hunan region has more variety of produce, the dishes reflect that and can change ingredients with the seasons.

Peking: If this is listed as a “style” on your menu, I imagine it means your meat is in or served with a sweet & savory,  or fruity sauce akin to Hoisin or Plum sauces. This pertains to Americanized Chinese cuisine of course, so “Peking” style could mean either the type of sauce used, how it is served or both. If I ever try the shredded pork Peking style, I’ll let you know what the hell that means. According to Chinese Food DIY, “This mouth-watering cuisine is renowned for its use of the best ingredients. Its flavors are influenced by highly flavored roots and vegetables such as peppers, garlic, ginger, leek and coriander (“Chinese parsley”). The food of this northerly city [Beijing] is substantial, to keep the body warm. Noodles, dumplings, and breads (baked, steamed or fried) are served instead of rice.” Peking Duck, the most famous dish, is prepared by slathering a maltose syrup over the skin of a fat-flushed, dried duck and roasted specially in a closed oven until the skin turns its prized thin and crispy texture. It is then served with pancakes, spring onions and a sweet Hoisin sauce, which reminds me of Moo Shu dishes (only that’s plum sauce, not Hoisin). Wiki says, “Foods that originated in Beijing are often snacks rather than full courses…There is emphasis on dark soy paste, sesame paste, sesame oil, and scallions, and…There is a lesser emphasis on rice as an accompaniment than in many other areas of China, as local rice production is limited by the relatively dry climate.”

Cantonese: Choose if you like a more fresh approach to the mingling of your meats and veggies. Dishes are often lightly stir-fried or steamed, and are not generally spicy. Traditional Cantonese chefs say “the flavors of a finished dish should be well balanced, and never greasy. Also, spices should be used in modest amounts to avoid overwhelming the flavors of the primary ingredients, and these primary ingredients in turn should be at the peak of their freshness and quality.” There are plenty of cooking methods, like soups and noodle dishes, and even a small number of fried dishes. Check out the link, because really there is just too much variety to list, thanks to it’s origins in a trading port city.

Black Bean Sauce: Choose this if you like black bean sauce ! LOL Ok, no really, obviously there are black beans in the sauce, but this is no ordinary black bean. The sauce gives whatever meat/veggie/noodle you choose a savory flavor with extreme little bursts of tang every time one of those little black bean bombs explode from your bite onto your tongue. This is a good pick for men’s health nuts as it contains a plethora of protein when you pair it with a meat.

Garlic Sauce: Order this if you like freakin garlic, okay? Well this should be obvious, but it’s not the same as an Italian meal, obviously. Garlic sauce is usually moderately spicy but not necessarily numbing like Szechuan or thick and brown like Hunan.

As with all things American, it’s not going to be the same everywhere unless it’s a chain, so I’m sure the veggies chosen to accompany the protein and the sauce will vary.

Well, that about wraps it up (I am so trying very hard not to make a terrible pun using spring rolls). Get out your phone and try something new at a Chinese joint sometime and good luck with your quest for Double Happiness!! (Check it out! Double exclamation points!!)

Published in: on July 3, 2011 at 6:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

Love Lessons

Lessons in love can be found in voice lessons

Now you can sing because you’re a singer — not because it’s going to make you rich and famous and fix all of your problems. True singers can go months, even years without anyone hearing their voices in public and still call themselves singers. My concern with you is that you’ll start to feel guilty for not pushing forward and decide that you are now a non-singer. There absolutely no reason to make such a declaration. You are what you are and the years ahead will play out just as they were always going to. I think it’s a mistake for people to deny themselves the joy of singing just because they’re not as obsessed with improvement as they once were or gaining public acceptance. Just as I think it’s a mistake for people to bail out of a marriage because it’s not cupids and month-a-versaries any more.

And from a pile of bones too.

Skeleton Woman [The Life/Death/Life Nature] – An Inuit Folk Tale

(yes do click the link and read the full folk tale, it’s awesome)

This tear of passion and compassion is most often wept after the accidental finding of treasure, after the fearful chase, after the untangling – for it is the combination of these that causes the exhaustion, the disassembling of defenses, the facing of oneself, the stripping down to the bones, the desire for both knowledge and relief. These cause a soul to peer into what the soul truly wants and to weep for loss and love of both.

To love another is not enough, to be “not an impediment” in the life of the other is not enough. It is not enough to be “supportive” and “there for them” and all the rest. The goal is to be knowledgeable about the ways of life and death, in one’s own life and in panorama. And the only way to be a knowing man is to go to school in the bones of Skeleton Woman. She is waiting for the signal of deep feeling, the one tear that says, “I admit the wound.

So the sunset doesn’t necessarily mean the end of passion. It’s just a matter of accepting the cycle of life/death/life.

Otherwise, you may forever be chasing dying dreams, instead of living them.


Published in: on June 30, 2011 at 12:07 pm  Comments (2)  


Ah yes, getting settled in, trying to find just the right look.

Tweaking color palettes and sizing up images are not just for expectant mothers…

The Phoenix rises again.

The Golden Eagle has landed.

Whatever that means.

Golden Eagle - Liftoff

Published in: on June 30, 2011 at 3:47 am  Comments (1)  


I like to sample things before I decide….this is why I am dedicating a blog to all the samples I take from this world, culinary or cultural, and slap it on down here for safe keeping.











Have some!

Published in: on June 29, 2011 at 7:19 am  Leave a Comment