The Last Hobby Shop in Queens

This is Rudy’s Hobby Shop, and it’s a portal to another time. What’s funny is that Rudy never owned this Hobby shop, Marvin Cochran did with his wife when he took over the iced cream parlor that was here in 1939. Now it’s one of the last hobby shops around, but full of amazing stories yet to tell.

Sparr’s Militaria & Antiques – walking through Astoria History.

Tucked away on a side street off Steinway is a fascinating little shop. Sparr’s Military and Antiques has been opened since 1946, and while you will definitely find a wealth of war memorabilia, the shop has some other beautiful hidden treasures. Just walking by one day I popped in and got to talk to Oliver Sparr who took over his fathers shop in the 70’s.

The stories here are told not just in the unique items that cascade from the shelfs, but from Oliver as well who is an accidental custodian of true Astoria Queens history. Regardless of how you feel about war memorabilia its amazing to me that all these items came from men and women that risked their lives  to protect their families right here in Astoria just like my own grandfather did. Making Sparr’s more like a museum not just to antiquity, but to a part of Astoria seen less and less. 

Thank you Oliver for this interesting window into the past, and Russell Dreher for helping me produce this segment.

The Best Cookies ever? Chip NYC.

Best is big term, but in this case it’s easy to stand behind the best cookie in NYC since Chip delivers on every bite. I stopped in unannounced to their original location on 30th ave and 34th street in Astoria, Queens to get the not so skinny about their amazing mouth treats. Lemme tell you something; you almost can’t call these cookies… they are like warm, little, buttery, sweet personal cakes you can eat on the street without causing too much attention. Since I filmed this they’ve gone on to open a bunch of new locations so definitely check them out they are phenom. Thanks to Russell Dreher for being on camera, Insider and of course Chip for making heaven you can eat. #chipcookies #cookies #astoriaqueens

Making mozzarella at my favorite salumeria in Astoria, Queens: Dave and Tony’s.

This one is for you pop!

For the best (and my favorite) mozzarella and Italian goods and specialty items, you don’t have to go anywhere else by good ol’ Dave and Tony Salumeria in Astoria, Queens.

Located on 30th Ave. just down the block from the train, Dave and Tony has been a neighborhood staple for the better part of a century. When I walk into Dave and Tony’s it’s like being home. This is a shop that I’ve been coming to my whole life, and my parents as well. Its full of all the exotic Italian staples, from bacalao, to fresh pastas, and the greatest house made sausage you’ve ever had. There’s of course the obligatory tower of panettone that no one has touched since 1987, and even imported talcum powder for your cullino.

I got the chance to step in the back to see how the magic was made which was a beautiful experience. Places like this and people like this are becoming more and more rare, and just to hear the stories and witness the process is very special to me.

Dave and Tony Salumeria 3518 30th Ave, Queens, NY 11103 #mozzerella #astoriaqueens #nyc

The Best Smashburger in the World is in France. There. I said it.

I want to tell you the story of Bubu Burger.

Bubu Burger is a singular hamburger stand located in the city of Nice, which is in the South of France. If you don't know, Nice it's a very old port city that it's famous for it's culinary cuisine which is mostly based on seafood as it's right up against the Mediterranean Sea. 

One thing Nice is not known for his hamburgers in fact I'd go as far to say that France as a country Really is it known at all for hamburgers. 

France of course had a long sending history of making fun of American cuisine and not without its reason; we are ridiculous and I think the hamburger, more than any other food, epitomizes our ridiculousness. So it is with great surprise that I say wholeheartedly that the best hamburger I have ever eaten anywhere in the world happens to be in the small town of niece in Southern France.

You can only get this hamburger from this one hamburger stand as it cannot possibly exist anywhere else in the world. The reason for that is because the ingredients that go into the hamburger come from the region and they are locally sourced from a herd of cattle that just doesn't exist anywhere else. The butcher that makes the blend of meat also doesn't exist anywhere else but Nice, and the cheese that is carefully crafted by a fromagerie locally in town also doesn't exist anywhere else. Furthermore the man that creates the Burger who bakes the buns fresh daily down the street certainly doesn't exist anywhere else.

Bubu Burger is an anomaly's anomaly. it is a perfect balance of delicious meats crafted with care and precision that render crispy and juicy at the same time, with a flavor that is complex but welcoming, and leaves you haunted by its memory upon completion.

The reason why I even bother to mention this or make such a big deal out of it it's because it is proof that food truly doesn't know any boundaries. While cuisine can be contained within regions to some degree it's the fact that it spills out and goes on trips to other places that makes it interesting. Not even talking about fusion here, I'm just talking about doing something one way in a different place using local products, local flavors and local techniques that changes a well established recipe into something completely different.

I think a lot of travelers would look down upon the fact that I would bother to eat a burger coming from the States. They would say you should eat local fare and try whatever they're known for and I do agree that is part of it but there's something very interesting when you start to eat food that you're familiar with in your own country.

For instance ... I make a point to eat Chinese food In places where I should not eat Chinese food: Italy Russia and oddly enough Finland which has an amazing place in Kulosaari and that's the point of the boo boo Burger. To me the real gift of travel is to be surprised by the things that we already think we know and the perspective you gain from from realizing your own ignorance is not something that can not be told to you or learned about by reading a blog. So have a burrito in Belfast or perhaps a Roti in Rotterdam.

The Best Way to See DC … Unlimited Bike Tour.

Unlimited Biking
Address: 998 Maine Ave SW, Washington, DC 20024

One of the best ways to see DC is on two wheels, so I walked down to Unlimited Biking on the wharf to get on a new electric bike. before I knew it I was cruising with my personal guide Ignacio past the epic monuments that celebrate this capital city. First up was the least visited and most interesting to me, the Franklin D Roosevelt memorial, which uses negative presses in Iron to illustrate the benefits and drawbacks of social policies like the new deal that Roosevelt implemented to save America from the great depression. It’s also the only monument done in red granite that was shipped from the Dakotas, and the only with a statue of the first lady. But mostly it’s the attention to detail that haunts me. Like the handprints burned into the great depression door as if someone had said goodbye to their home.  

Next up is the most beautiful monument, the Martin Luther King memorial, where the statue of Dr. King seems ripped out of the very mountain he speaks from. The towering statue is purposefully left unfinished, as was the message Dr. King was trying to deliver. 

Then there was the solemn, beautiful and haunting Korean war monument, which is the newest addition to the city, and is almost complete. No matter where you stand here there is at least one soldier looking at you, which is extremely poignant. 

The next up is a big one, the famous Lincoln memorial which is quite powerful. If you are mindful, look down and find the exact spot that Dr. Martin Luther King stood to give his famous I have a dream speech. It’s mind blowing to think about.

Next, the Vietnam memorial which has some of the most unique features. First, it’s the only monument that shows soldiers with their weapons, second, it’s the only monument that honors women, each representing a virtue as hope, faith and charity. The wall itself has a fascinating history. Maya Lin, a 21 year old student, beat out 1400 applicants to design the wall by meeting the criteria perfectly: It had to be reflective, subdued, contain all the names of those who died, and make no political statement. While controversial at the time, she perfectly delivered on all those criteria, especially with the names, which start and end with the first and last person to die in the war meeting in the middle. Truly monumental. 

They Don’t Allow Cameras in Washington DC’s Spy Museum … unless you’re sneaky.

The Spy Museum Washington DC
700 L’Enfant Plaza SW, Washington, DC 20024

The Spy Museum in Washington DC may be the most fun museum I’ve ever been to. First you’re submerged into the bowls of the building and take a quick psych test that will assess your strengths and assign your cover which you must memorize. That’s funny, I love Brazil and wanted to be Indiana Jones when I was a kid. Anyway once inside you are free to explore a massive collection of real spy tech from over the century, and interactive displays that test your skill at decoding and espionage in a frighteningly real way. Immersion is the key here, and it is impossible not to get a glimpse of what this dangerous world was like first hand. The whole museum in effect is like some giant game that is constantly testing you and you can’t help but feel like someone is watching with the possibility of recruiting you for special ops assignments. In the end I didn’t make the grade which was fine with me cause I had a brunch date.

I try to stick to the rules and mind my own business, but the Spy Museum was way too cool not to secretly film and share with all of you. Also, I felt, given the nature of the museum itself, and the fact that they are trying to make you a spy, that they were kinda asking for it. Perhaps I was wrong. Please, don’t sue. 

Visit the Hero Whose Spite Built The World’s Largest Museum.

Smithsonian Castle
Address: 1000 Jefferson Dr SW, Washington, DC 20560

The city of Washington DC is like a Museum you can walk though. That doesn’t really make sense because you walk through museums anyway but what I’m trying to say is that the whole city is in fact a museum. Walking around here it’s impossible not to step full heel in a stinking pile of culture, and the Washington Mall where all learned roads lead. There are in fact 19 Smithsonian museums around this area, and the Smithsonian Institute boasts the title of the world’s largest museum, which is quite impressive indeed. Despite this title, one exhibit that many unknowingly pass over is the tomb of the man who established all of this. James Smithson was the bastard son of an American hating nobleman, so, upon his death he bequeathed that his entire fortune be used to quote “create an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge”. Well Jimmy, all I can say is thank you.

DC After Dark: THE ULTIMATE list of Washington DC bars, clubs & nightlife, personally vetted by me.

Washington DC after Dark
14th Street

Washington DC after Dark is a wonderful place. While the city is shaking with nightlife, 14th street is the absolute epicenter of entertainment. From taking in live comedy at the Source Theater, or getting your bro and bratwurst on at Franklin Hall, you can find it all right here in one place. Our first stop is this clandestine unmarked door which after a knock and a pause in a stairwell will gain you entry to The Gibson (2009 14th st where the eclectic mix of people and absolutely masterful bartenders will start your night off on a very high note and very green drink. If the weather is nice, then a stop at The Garden District (1801 14th st NW is mandatory, with their festive patio brimming with a jaunty crowd as the feast on BBQ sammies and cold pitchers of beer. Dialing it back a bit swing just around the corner to the Left Door (1345s St NW which is located, well, through the left door of the dry cleaners next door. A mellow and friendly speakeasy it’s a perfect place to get to know someone, or plan your attack on the night. The next place isn’t hard to find and makes no beef of what they’re all about. Chicken+Whiskey (1738 14th st nw is a rare jewel in the nightlife mine. Up front is a positively delicious roast chicken joint, but if you venture in the back and slide past the fridge door, you’ll enter a full-fledged disco. This place was bouncing from wall to wall at 8pm so if you go, go early. I had to do a double take on the way out because I honestly thought it was a dream. Next we pitstop at Jane Jane (1705 14th st. NW which offers not just an amazing craft cocktail scene, but savory snacks to keep you rocking. 

Giving our livers a breath of air, we popped into DC’s legendary Miss Pixie’s (Address: 1626 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009 , which while labeled as a thrift store is really more of a emporium of epic tchotchke. from rare corning ware, to radioactive stemware, to not suitable for lunch dinnerware, this place is a palace to quirk, where you can easily spend a moment finding that perfect thing you didn’t know you needed. 

Now, having built up quite an appetite, we slid into Barcelona Wine Bar (1622 14th St NW which was positively humming with excitement. Here the line between lounge and restaurant is beautifully blurred in typical Castilian style, where you can either drink and nibble the night away, or dive a bit deeper and rock an authentic paella. Next we were told to roll the dice and take a chance on Players Club ( Address: 1400 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20005, which delivers as a subterranean pleasure palace that lets your nostalgia run wild. If you can’t have a good time here, you might have a problem. Now that Jackie was devoid of inhibition I told her to go down this dark stairwell in an alley and knock on the door. What would seem like a murder scene, turns out to be maybe the best speakeasy yet simply called, The Mirror (1413 K St NW ) There’s no camera’s allowed so you best just see for yourself. Last, to put a nail in the night’s coffin, we washed up on the shore of Sax (734 11th st NW which you don’t need directions to, just follow the faint thumping sound permeating the city. Inside Sax you are transported to a divinely confused mix of St. Petersburg and Cabo, where the dancefloor is full of convulsing revelers fueled by sparkler topped drinks. To be honest, I am not entirely sure I would recall anything past The Gibson, if not for my camera and a few lovely souvenirs. Thanks DC, you’re the best time I don’t remember having. 

The Gibson (2009 14th st
The Garden District (1801 14th st NW
Left Door (1345s St NW
Chicken+Whiskey (1738 14th st nw
Jane Jane (1705 14th st. NW
Miss Pixies (1626 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009
Barcelona Wine Bar (1622 14th St NW
Players Club (Address: 1400 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20005
The Mirror (1413 K St NW
Sax (734 11th st NW

Immerse Yourself in a Mind-bending Museum Experience at the Hirshhorn in Washington DC.

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Independence and 7th st SW

Washington DC is just lousy with museums, from the Museum of the American Indian, to the International Spy Museum to a bevy of Smithsonian museums that bloom in the city, but one for me rises to the category of must see, and that is the Hirshhorn Museum of contemporary art. Here you can submerge in the genius of Bradford, Anderson, Kusama, Kruger, and Bhabha who’s large scale works will simply astound you. What’s more dizzying is that since it is a national museum it is completely free to enjoy, making it all that more brilliant. First I got to take in Barbara Kruger who is an artist that understands the power of words but definitely doesn’t understand my hair. I’ll let it slide. Gliding onward I passed into the Laurie Anderson Porthole and entered her world saturated with multimedia art. Anderson is perhaps the most prolific avant-garde artist of our time and to experience her expression up close and personal is extremely transformative. The Hirshhorn is a perfect vessel for her work given its flowing, circular layout, allowing you to drift from one immersive piece to another seamlessly like dialing in radio stations in an old car. Here you literally become a piece of the art as it consumes you, having a very Alice in Wonderland experience as Anderson welcomes you to play with scale in her work. I closed out the mindwalk being blown away with one of my favorite anti-artist, Marcel Duchamp, the pioneer behind the Dada art movement in the early part of the 20th century. Since his playful saltiness that cracks the concept of what art should be is a foundation for so many well known modern movements,  I was completely surprised to find a brilliant piece that I’ve never seen before, a display with the art completely void, so simple and such a brilliant example of what the Dadaist stood for, that I was completely crestfallen to discover the piece was just on loan, and not on purpose. Hey I’m a travel writer not an art critic, sue me.