World’s Greatest (home) Tiki Bar

The Tiki bar, and Tiki culture in general, holds a very special place in my heart. Theme bars in general are my favorite; they transport you to a new world, hidden from the normalicy of pedestrian life and issues license to become someone else for the length of a drink (yes I was big in the swing dance movement of the late 90’s). Tiki however, takes this escapism to a new colorful level, and those that choose to coat themselves in a thick polynesian coat of cool tend to be the laid back friends you always wished you had.

Which is why when I drove half way into the desert to meet a complete stranger I knew that we were going to be fast friends. Adrian Eustaquio (who goes by Polynesian Pop on youtube) has built perhaps the most elaborate and beautiful home Tiki bar I have ever seen.

I found Adrian through another home bar lover, Caroline Pardilla (AKA Caroline on Crack) who wrote a series of articles about LA’s most exuberant home bars. After contacting her she said I just had to hit up Adrian, and “experience” first hand what taking a trip to Polynesia is like … 10 feet from his living room.

The rest is as they say history … Beside experiencing his amazing hand-crafted workmanship Adrian also pours a mean drink. He is the complete package.

As I delve into this amazing new world with a cold one in hand I look forward to meeting all sorts of new friends, and explore how the nectar of life makes socializing in your own home that much more amazing.

My first trip since COVID, Denver, Colorado, and … wow. Just wow.

Let’s get this out of the way: it is still dangerous to travel, and if you don’t have to, then don’t put yourself, and more importantly others at risk.

While everyone is hurting, and tourist destinations especially feeling the brunt of this lock down, it is a double edged sword to even mention tourism these days. Yes, the economy is important for people to survive, but so is their health. That said, what I found in Denver was inspiring; everyone very conscious of the world condition and doing their absolute best to minimize risk, while still being able to offer access to this amazing city. Open air electric tour busses, timed museum tickets, and tons of fantastic outdoor dining all offer some protection that allow tourism to happen safely.

Denver, the city with the least oxygen but the most love in the continental United States is definitely a magical place. I recently got to explore this and a few other Colorado gems, so lets get to the highlights.

First we descended upon the prim and polished Cherry Creek neighborhood which is full of shopping, fun eats, and our hotel, the Moxy.
This hip little Marriott owned boutique play-and-stay is a faithful rendition of your favorite hipster hotel right down to the reproduction vintage phot booth in the lobby.

One thing that you’ll notice (but not remember) is that the check in desk is actually the bar, a feature that I suggest be standardized in all hotels, and DMV locations. You immediately get that Denver is a beer town as the hotel is attached to a beer garden, you get beers in the elevator, and even beers waiting in the room for you. The rooms are cool and modern, with great views and great loo’s. There is a definite nod to being funky fun,
from the bath product, to the verbiage and even the funky windows. It’s a functionally smart hotel that makes maximum use of it’s minimal footprint with a surprisingly ingenious array of furnishing trickery.

Overall we were super comfortable in our new lil’ home but it was time to explore this cool city, so we headed to the famed Union Station in the heart of downtown Denver. Truly a charming and stylish building inside it’s art deco / beaux arts beauty will impress you making it a great place to chill out or check out the fun and funky art. One fun fact is that there used to be a great big arch at the entrance that said Mizpah, or welcome in Hebrew, and while the arch is no longer with us, Union Station now has Snooze, a must brunch place for anyone visiting Denver.

In this colorful-retro-casual brunch hot-spot you will find long waits for one of their coveted outdoor tables, and for good reason. The breakfast here is an event from their decadent flavor bomb pancakes to their elaborate savory eggs benny which require, for health reasons, one of their loaded Bloody Mary’s to make it all go down right.

Completely stuffed, we decided to be carted around in style while not leaving even one carbon footprint. Introducing ETUK Denver’s premiere fully environmentally friendly tour company sponsored by Bud Light Selzer which is White Claw for people with day jobs. These Denver made, fully electric Tuks come with heated seats and fantastic views of the city. In no time we were whipping around downtown taking in all the sites as our guide pointed out some of the finer features Denver had to offer, like the Cherry Creek pedestrian bridge perfect for morning runs, the decadent Cruise Room located in the Oxford Hotel, the lovely Larimar pedestrian mall and the opulent Performing Arts Center, which proudly showcases two giant Botero sculptures (which are miniscule compared to Denver’s giant blue peeping tom bear who’s origin story is so long winded and wildly convoluted I wont bore you with it but look it up).

Then across the street from a legendary house of ill repute, we got to adventure into the Brown palace. Despite a very unfortunate name, the Brown Palace is a very cool place to take in, with a simply cavernous atrium that will leave you spellbound. Denver’s old world origin charm drips from the walls to the floors here as you can see in every aspect of the lobby’s attention to architectural detail meant to impress even the most snobby of Easterners. Here’s a pro tip: head up to the top floor to get an entirely different view of the Brown Palace and test to see if your brunch at Snooze is still in your stomach. Perhaps the most interesting facet of the palace is its water fountain, where you can drink, get this, actual Denver artesian water from the original 1892 well dug 750 feet below the hotel. That’s something.

Leaving the old-school charm of downtown Denver we popped over to the River North or hip RiNo district famed for it’s abundant world class street art and super hobo-chic restaurants and cafe’s. A trip to RiNo isn’t complete I’m told without hitting up the Denver Central Market which is located in a beautiful reclaimed warehouse. Chuck full of anything you could possibly want to eat or drink, this is a great place to explore and even throw back a few before picking something up for dinner. Don’t forget dessert either. I mean look at these things! Do you eat them or wear them?

From RiNo We headed cross the Platte River to the hip Highland district, which has some very photogenic spots, like Happy Camper,
which is like an Instagram post that serves food. With its giant disco ball, garden nooks, and dripping bokeh it’s hard not to get a bunch of likes. There is also little man ice cream, which besides mixing up the craziest flavors, is housed in the largest milk pail I’ve ever seen. Photo ops aside we were here for lunch and to check out Avanti which is a collective eatery.

What’s a collective eatery you ask?

Well its like you die and go to comfort food heaven. This place is a foodies paradise, with amazing dishes from around the world to make it super easy to forget about your diet. Add in a killer space with lots of seating both indoor and out to nosh on you new favorite nibbles and you got it made. South American arepas, Kimchi scallion pancakes and Southern spicy fried chicken all washed down with local amazing beer will definitely satisfy.

Full on good eats, we decided to take in some culture at Denver’s world class art museum. This institution boasts some of the most outrageous exhibitions, this one was called simply Light which allowed for some
amazing artist interpretations of what light means to them. From Keith herring triptychs to skull riding cryptic this was a visual wonderland that gave good cause for Colorado’s stance on legal mamajuana. Minds properly blown it was time to take a quick trip out of the city to visit the infamous Red Rocks Amphitheater, which is by far the most
beautiful naturally occurring theater I’ve ever seen in my life. When not rocking out, locals use this breathtaking location as a giant gym. Try
that at Madison Square Garden.

It is a truly stunning place that will simply take your breath away, so unique and majestic, and when you consider its just a 20 minutes drive from downtown, it’s a no brainer to fit it into your itinerary.

As the sun set on the queen city of the plains, we submerged ourselves once more into downtown for dinner. Sure you could keep it low key and hit up Duffy’s Cherry Cricket who’s no frills charm is overturned by their delicious burgers and boozy milkshakes but we decided to class it up a bit and check out Rioja on Larimer. This class act of fine dining is one of the best restaurants to experience Denver’s cultured cuisine.

From delicate amuse bouche, to savory pork belly appetizers, and perfectly grilled Colorado rack of lamb to decadent deserts this my friends is the perfect way to end a perfect trip to the great city of Denver Colorado. Onward onto Telluride, possibly the best place to visit during COVID!


Rs

cobble hill. stay away.

Seriously. Do not move to, or even come visit Cobble Hill in Brooklyn. It is the worst place on earth. Earth. Flint Michigan? Please, more like Daytona Beach. Detroit Michigan? Palm Springs in comparison. Hell, anywhere in Michigan is better than Cobble Hill. You should definitely go to Michigan. Here are some cheap plane tickets, check them out.

Why on earth would you want to come here? I mean, it’s minutes away from the rat infested city, and most places here actually have a backyard, or, dare I say, a veranda, that have bugs and shit. Ew. Nature. I mean, sure, there is one Starbucks, but most of the businesses and restaurants in the neighborhood are family owned. I mean, that’s just un-American! Where is my Olive Garden? My Spice Thai food? What do you mean you Italian and you are a butcher? I thought we got rid of all you people!

Yes, Cobble Hill, this family orientated, classic Brooklyn neighborhood, with strong Italian ethnic roots, and food direct from the old country is definitely a place to stay clear from. I mean, people here talk with an actual NYC accent? I thought we did away with that in the 1990’s with Sex in the City?

So, here are a few of my most hated places. Please. Do not come here, under any circumstances, unless you like disappointment and cultural shock. For reference I created a Goggle map so you can more effectively navigate your way away from these sinkholes of despair.

Eats:

Henry Public

Perhaps the lamest bar in Brooklyn with a terrible menu. A Turkey Leg sandwich on fresh-cut, thick sliced bread? I usually order two because I can’t believe how much I hate it. Also it’s not like they have the best mixologists in the city there, happy to make you a delicious, garden fresh libation. Who’s got time for that crap? PBR for me friends; none of this ice-cold Captain Lawrence Liquid Gold, thank you very much.

Brucie

Dear God. How many times do I have to come here? Seriously? They keep changing the menu. And I keep clearing the plate, literally taking the fresh-baked bread and wiping it clean. Obviously the portions are too small, obviously. Thank God for Alka-Seltza which should come standard with the meal. They keep creating new dishes, (“market fresh and seasonal” they call it. “Communist” I call it.) each one more disgustingly dynamic then the next. And how cheerful does a place have to be? And the damn staff, I mean, it’s like they’re my friends. Who needs that? What are they trying to hide? A full bar, and an eclectic wine selection is the icing on the cake for this dump. Do not come here.

Prime Meats

Germans. Who need them, right? With their farm fresh meats, amazing beer, and dear God, what is the deal with the bread? It’s like warm, oven fresh bread with butter is some sort of religion for these people. Every time I come here I regret it. It’s usually for brunch and they usually shove one of their “specialty” bloody mary’s in my face. Then another. German’s right? So pushy. And them I’m like “Oh, you made me eat too much, now I can’t walk home” and they “happily” call me a cab. I swear, this place is a nightmare.

Frankies Spuntino

People actually get married in this dive, if you can believe it. Just because they have A) a farmhouse in the backyard and B) they have “amazing” food. Yeah, apparently they won some sort of award for the food and service, but I just don’t see it; this place is always crowded so to me that just says that they are as slow as shit. And how hard is it to make Italian food? I mean a red-head dude called Mario (fake) can do it, and I bet he’s from Ireland. Don’t waste your time here folks, make it a Di’Giorno night.

River Deli

This place is so lame that it doesn’t even have a website. Hows 1982 of you my friends. Are those parachute pants working out for you? Cash only and about the size of a thimble this joint serves up what they call “Sardinian Fare”. Please. With it’s “charming” rustic interior, and actual Italian staff this place is about as un-American as you can get. Not even a basic hamburger on the menu! How they stay in business I do not know.

Lucali

The last time I had to wait outside for a pizza was in 1984 in Moscow. Wait. I’m American and we have Domino’s. I don’t wait for pizza, ever.

Ted and Honey

More like “Meh and Run-with-your-money”. Casual seating with room for kids, and artisan breakfast sandwiches? Free newspapers and large lattes? No thanks. I take my breakfast like an American; wrapped in plastic while riding the F train.

Drinks: 

Henry Public – See above. Or not. Don’t care.

Bar Tabac

French people, am I right? With their cheese, their Saison beers, and their Goddamn joy du vive or whatever they fucking call it. Going to this place is like hanging out at some shack in Marseilles. That’s like the Detroit of France. Viva l’Americans. Dont go.

Clover Club

What is with people, prohibition, and pool? What was fun about prohibition? Nothing. Super un-American. So this “speak easy” with a “rousing attitude” can just go suck it. I mean, craft beer and hand crafted cocktails? Um… MGD thank you very much.

61 Local

All I’m gonna say is look at the name of this place. 61 Local? UNIONS!? Please. Should be called 61 Communists.

Shops:

Paisanos

Listen, Italian’s, we get it. You like to eat. Stop shoving it in our faces with your fresh meats like hand-made sausages, veal and something called a “porchetta”. If I want to eat pig, I do so with a chop. Like an American. And congrats for being family owned for over 150 years. Making your kids slaves does not sound like freedom to me.

Staubitz

Another one. Immigrants. Where are all the Americans? This one puts photographs of 4 entire generations of his family on the wall. Here’s the kicker, the old guy behind the counter expertly cutting your meat? He’s the young guy in the first picture. Right? Like way to move up in the world buddy. Sure their meats are top quality, and you can’t beat their “service” but seriously, if I wanted to go back in time I would watch Back to the Future on Betamax.

Pacific Green Gourmet Food

Hand on face slap. Gourmet Food? C’mon people, we call this a bodega here in NYC. It’s the kinda place you go when you need toilet paper or scratch-offs. Sure they have some cheeses from around the world, fresh fruits and veg, and yeah, orange blossom water in case you’re making a Ramon Gin Fizz, but really we’re only looking for the post-nightclub Red Bull and wishful thinking pack of Trojans thank you very much.

Trader Joe’s

I swear, didn’t I leave California to get away from this hippie crap? The only saving grace with Trader Joe’s in Manhattan is that there is a 3 hour line to pay for your two buck chuck and bean dip. Here though it’s, like, empty… all the time. Balls.

Cobblestone Catring

Broccoli Rabe in garlic and chili? Sweet Yams glazed with honey? Roasted Chicken with sautéed wild mushrooms? How lazy do you have to be to pick up a freshly cooked dinner. Not to mention their fresh-baked Pretzel Croissants? Didn’t you get the memo? People like cronuts idiots, not your flakey delicious pretzel Frankensteins. Lame.

Brooklyn Wine Exchange

When did America stop making things? Wine from Aruba? Ruhm from Canada? Bitters from the Marshall Islands? I mean give me Carlo Rossi American Wine and stop with this eclectic serving of drunk juice. No one wants it.

Cafe Pedlar

When did Starbucks lose its grip on the coffee industry? Why would I possibly want a fresh, hot, ham and cheese croissant that didn’t come from a factory and was lovingly swaddled in a cellophane wrapper with my fresh brewed coffee? Why?

Court Street Pastry Shop and Caputo’s Bake Shop

Jeebus! What is it with Italians and food? Thank you for the Olive Garden, you can go now. I mean TWO bakeries right next to each other? And neither one of them has a web site? It’s like they expect word of mouth to keep them in business for over 100 years. One word idiots, “groupon”. Look into it.

Esposito’s and Son’s Pork Store.

Pork Store. What a joke. This place has all kinds of fresh-cut meats, Italian goods, even arancini’s. I mean way to mislead the public. There should be a law.

First Place Provisions Beeeeeeeeeeeer

Um, really? There are children around. Do I need your world-class selection of beer, cheese and coffee? Is this an Istanbul market? What do you mean “don’t worry about the coffee, we got it, come back soon”? What kinda cult is this?

Mazzola Bakery

Please. Look at all these old Italian types hanging outside drinking coffee eating brioche. Mafia. All of them, Mafia. They should raid this place.

Court Street Grocers

Specialty items? Cheeses from New York? Pickled rhubarb? unpasteurized Milk??? Communist. Where is the Key Food?

Bookcourt

Oh brother. A bookshop. An “independent” bookshop no less. How “neighborhoody” and shit. I mean, first of all, if I want a bookshop, I want it to sell toys and mugs, like a Barnes and Nobel, mainly because I have to use the bathroom and they have one. Sure this shop is extensive, and if the don’t have it, then they can order it. They call you even when it arrives (hell, one guy actually brought the book to my house because it was “on his way home” as if the people who work here aren’t homeless – psssst…. no one buys books anymore, we have the internet now. Cat videos).

Video Free Brooklyn

Do I really need to even write anything here. I mean a video rental shop? It’s 2014 people. Heard of Netflix? Video is dead my friend, and no one wants to watch any of your funky foreign films are art house crap. We want Michael Bay and we want it pausing every 12 to 17 minutes to buffer.

That’s it, and honestly, it is just the tip of the iceberg. Tip. Cobble Hill and its adjoining nightmare Carroll Gardens are just chuck full of these un-American, socialist sinkholes, that only exist so hippie communists can take honestly earned American Dollars. I swear, it’s neighborhoods like this that make me wonder where our future is going.

Rs

 

 

dear cops. I bought pot.

That’s right fuzz. I bought pot. Lots of it. Pot you can smoke, and some you can even eat. And what’s more… I smoked it. In my face hole. Yup.

So whatchagonnadoboutit?

Nothing. That’s right. Mainly because it was legal, as I bought it in Denver, Colorado; the new pothead’s playground.

bud

This is the first of a series of posts about the adventure I’ve had out mid-west. It was an eye-opening experience, and anything but sobering. I’m going to break it down into a few different chapters:

• The Beer
• The City
• The Food
• The Hotel
• and of course, The Pot.

First, a prelude.

Beyond just going to the mile high city to get stoned (yep, dodged the pun. You’re welcome) it was my yearly boycation with one of my oldest and dearest friends, Mr. Tom Taddeo. Tom and I lived with each other in a slick little Hell’s Kitchen apartment back when you could still smoke in the city. Since then we’ve been married, and some of us divorced, but  every year we set a long weekend aside to check in and check out a place we’ve never been. The choice to go to Denver went something like this:

Tom: “So where do you wanna go this year?”
Me: “Donno. Preferably somewhere with good food and beer. And pot.”
Tom: “So. Denver it is.”

And it was.

sxsw

It’s important, perhaps more than anything, to make the time to take the time in life. The younger version of me would be proud that I do that now, cutting out a few precious days to reconnect with an old friend who’s seen you drink your share, make a decent amount of bad decisions, and has become a ring in the trunk of your existence.

So I crossed the great divide to meet up with ol’ Taddeo and watched the fabric of the country roll out its quilt 30,000 feet below me. 29,000 feet later I was on land, but frankly it could have been the moon.

Denver, I would find out soon enough, is a very strange place.

Rs

plane

freeman’s social club. the perfect day.

May 23rd. The day we celebrate Dave Hanson Day.

Never heard of Dave Hanson Day? Never heard of Dave Hanson? pshaw. Everyone should be lucky enough to have a Dave Hanson. He’s the guy that drinks you past the breakup, jumps your broken down CJ-7 at 6am, and can sit in silence with you filling the empty spaces with solid companionship.

In short, he is your best friends.

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Sure, your Dave Hanson might be a Mike Johnson, or perhaps an Ellie Moss, of even a Chia Beng Xiao (it’s more popular then you think). No matter what you call your best friends, May 23rd is the day to celebrate them.

This all started because Dave was getting married, and to celebrate the occasion we thought it would be nice to do an extravagant “Gentleman’s Afternoon” out on the town. I had seen an interesting little package, set up by the fantastic UrbanDaddy people, for an all inclusive “manuxuary” afternoon, at the one and only, Freeman’s Social Club.

freemans-3049b

The package included a made-to-measure custom suit, a shave and a haircut at their bespoke barber shop, and fancy cigar and whiskey tasting in the back alley, a.k.a. Freeman’s. It’s about as perfect an afternoon could get. So us three – myself, Mr. Dave Hanson, and the impeccable Christopher “Sully” Sullivan, made our way over to the meca of man.

Freeman’s Social Club is the kind of place that the fabric of dreams are made of. Tucked away off Bowery in the LES, this little shop is the birthplace of a sharp new look, the Bethlehem of the hem if you will. A smattering of vintage motorcycles, tattered Americana bric-a-brac, and perfectly patina’d objet d’art line the corners of the store as you pay homage in this cathedral of cloth (last one I swear.). The fabrics are nothing less than the finest you can find in the world; Italian silks, Tunisian linens and Japanese cottons in colors so genuine and subtile that Caravaggio would have used them as his pallet.

Basically there is cool shit everywhere.

Which makes you feel cool. Very cool. Old playboys, tailor’s tools, and even gun casings can be found perfectly thrown around the store, as if you were in your grandfather’s basement, if your grandfather was Hemingway, and this was his hunting lodge that he shared with the Dos Equis guy. Stay fashionable my friends.

What’s more is the staff is as cool as their domain, going above and beyond the norm of service only helps you on your cool assent. Handing them the UrbanDaddy certificate was all it took for them to basically take care of everything, which is exactly how you’d want it to be. They showed us around, made us comfortable, and did so without being phony, but more like a friend that invited you to swing by their shop… you know, the one that sells 3,000.00 suits. Good friend to have.

We met our master tailor who we called Papito. A thick Cuban accent and a swagger that only comes with doing a trade for decades, Papito was our salty Virgil we followed through this elite world of fashion. We dove right in looking at swatches, deciding on the best color scheme and coolest cut that would make Dave look almost as good as his beautiful bride to be. For the next hour we discussed stitching, linings, vents and button placement, and I channeled my Italian father who taught me everything I know about how to look good in a suit. The two cornerstones of a good suit repeated in my mind: look for “the line” in the cut, and secondly, a jacket’s length should come down to the bottom of your balls. Or it might be thumbs, really it’s the same.

Having exhausted the possibilities and Dave feeling successfully dapper, they ushered us next door to the back alley bar where we would have a bit of the brown elixir and cigars. We delighted ourself on the rye, and took some memorable, albeit 80’s boy-band-esque pictures in the alley as we waited for the grooming portion of the afternoon.

(we decided our band would be named “Monsignors of Love ft. DJ Scratchatory Rape”)

Freeman’s Barber Shop is a place that occupies the space between new and old, classic and modern, cool and pedestrian. It’s simple inside; clean unfinished wood beams and frosted white lights give it the appearance that the Amish built this barbershop. The selection of hipster beards in the joint only added to the Mennonite mis-en-cine, but one thing is overtly clear; they are very serious about making you look perfect. Not good, perfect.

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Everything about the experience was done with the skill of a master craftsman, but with the panache of Williamsburg bartender, sorry, mixologist. Our master barber assessed Dave’s nappy beard and plainly shaved head. “Do you wash your beard every day?” he asked Dave. “Yes.” Dave said, somewhat defensive. “Don’t.” said our piloculturalist, “Let the natural oils of your face keep your beard safe. The natural reds in your hair will come out, it will be healthier, and look more vibrant. virile.” Dave never had thought of his beard as virile, but immediately liked the idea, as if his beard could fight a bull, or maybe rebuild a carburetor. “Also, I see you probably use a #2 on your head here. I’m gonna go down to a #1 on the sides here, and fade it in the back. You won’t notice much today, but in 2 weeks, you’re gonna see the difference.” None of us can wait to see what the hell is going to happen in 2 weeks.

The shave was excellent. Our barber was a master, having grown up in a barber shop himself. These weren’t kids with jobs, these were artists with residencies. Don’t get me wrong, I love going to my old-school barber on 46th and 9th ave in Hell’s Kitchen. Henry is 78 years old and has been using the same blade since Truman was in office. The difference here is that Freeman’s has the same love and nonchalant execution, but done in a way that is much more, well, cool. I mean, they have a fully stocked bar. Henry is usually drunk, but he doesn’t share. These dudes do.

freemans-3129

Cleaned up, suit being sent to the tailor, and having applied and ample dose of social lubricant, the day was a success, as three great friends celebrated the history they have made, and the adventures yet to be had. Such a luxurious afternoon worked up a sizable hunger, so we rolled literally across the street to Loreley, a proper German beer garden. Sitting out back, gently crafting the perfect ratio of sausage to kraut to mustard morsel, we tried to create the perfect bite. We experimented over and over, wiping the blackboard clean each time with a large swig of cold, delicious beer, until we were fully satisfied with the results. Expect them to be published in next month’s Sausagerific Review. (Why, dear God, does that not exist?)

Afterwards we stumbled northward through the city, stopping for a look at all the oddities a great calamity like New York can offer. We enjoyed another quick Instagram fix along Houston, and eventually made it up to Porsena where we ran into owner Sara Jenkins who I’ve had the pleasure to film at her other fab joint Porchetta. Well wouldn’t you know it … it was “Rosay” (That’s Rosé and the month of May mixed together, I figured the explanation was needed) so we indulged; three gents drinking rosé, eating strawberry risotto, and sampling some of Sara’s personal olive oil from her fattoria in Italy. Dandy doesn’t even begin to cover it.

And so, this year’s Dave Hanson Day was a success. There was great food, fun, and drink, and most of all, great company of two great friends, which is really what Dave Hanson Day is all about. #unicornamulet

freemans-3141* The author, Roberto Serrini, was in no way paid to write this review or has any affiliation with any business written in this article. What was written is just the opinion of his. That being said the day was awesome, and if you get the chance, I suggest going to enjoy any of these dope places.

** all photographs were taken with a lowsy iPhone and retouched afterwards.

*** Roberto Serrini loves a well placed semi-colon.

 

thailand … in my mouth.

So. The food. Here. Is incredible.

If you are from New York, and you go to China, you will quickly find out that the delicious, hang over cure food you have been lovingly adoring all your life is anything but Chinese food. It can come as a stark revelation as you pine for your ol’ friend Kung Pow, but here in Thailand you get, for the most part, what you know and love as Thai food.

It may be that the ingredients are basic, and usually the same, but the Thai food here is just like home if not just a hellova lot better. The lemongrass is fresh, the basil full of kick, and the rice itself has flavor, not just boiled tap water taste. No matter where I was or who was cooking the food was to die for.

That’s not to say that I didn’t crave some variety. One day, rained out, we were pretty much prisoners of our little living complex. So like any good American I decided to throw money at the problem, and proceeded to buy every snack the little bodega had downstairs. Bored, in my little room, I decided to do a little video snack review. The following is the genius that was yielded. It’s easily my best work to date:

Don’t get me wrong, I loved these snacks. The stranger the better. One of the highlights for me traveling is snack culture. Snacks are a special type of food; they are a common agreement between the people of that country that have been standardized and widely distributed. While you might argue about a common dish, or a sports team, snacks, for the most part, are something that everyone can agree on across a geographic and sociological region. You can learn a lot from a people’s snack, like for instance that “Mexican” is a flavor and not just a people.  It’s also extremely tasty.

Thailand snacks are wonderful. They have many “SunChip” variety crisps, and love to flavor things with shrimp which blows my mind. They also have orange mint Oreos which seems like a mouth sin, and some of the spiciest damn chips you can eat. All of which, including the orange mint mindfuck Oreos, go great with Leo beer.

 

Yeah. Thats Grape and Strawberry too.
Yeah. Thats Grape and Strawberry too.

And when I thought I had tasted the finest that Thailand could possibly offer, that my friends is when I was introduced to Mukata:

mukata

Mukata is originally Mongolian. Mongolian soldiers would cook in their bronze shields ever evening on the desert plains. They would basically pool together everyone’s food, whatever was available, and share a meal. It’s shaped sort of like a giant lemon juicer; a ringed ridge holds broth while in the middle you place your meats on a vented mountain of metal. underneath you put coals to heat your meal. The idea here is that you start with a broth; chicken, vegetable, buffalo stock, even just lemongrass water. Then as you cook your meats Korean BBQ style and all the drippings runs off into the broth. As you eat and as the dinner gets longer, the broth becomes even more delicious. It’s nothing less then epic.

Like they did thousands of years ago our little tribe of crew members pooled together our bits of food and drink, and in lue of a desert tundra we sat in the parking lot laughing and eating and drinking. Everyone brought what they have; tonight we had a bit of shark, buffalo, and mantis shrimp. A strange combination that makes a surprisingly delicious broth. It’s nothing, just community, and that’s enough to fill belly and soul.

Finally, what is a meal without a local digestif; ya dong.

yadong

Yep, it tastes like it sounds, pretty much like gangsta dick, or at least what I imagine gangsta dick taste likes. It’s basically your common grain alcohol (rice moonshine) that has been “flavored” with “aromatic herbs” (should read “turned a color by putting weeds in it”). It’s not Fernet Branca but I will say it does pack a punch and offer you a pretty lovely head.

Ya dong is sold wherever parking lots are found, usually by dudes you wouldn’t trust watching your dog while you popped into the OTB. Don’t be fooled by the Hong Thong label; this is street whiskey, they just use whatever bottle they can get their hands on, this one being Hong Thong. The cost is so laughably low that it’s not really worth mentioning. What is worth mentioning is what they call their varieties of ya dong. Like “Jameson’s” is a Whiskey, our type of ya dong is called “Krang Puying” or in English, “Moaning Mistress”. Other names of popular ya dong include:

• horse busts stable
• manly man
• murmuring lady
• old man rapes elephant (personal favorite; it has a nice nutty aftertaste.)
• male elephant power
• rama goes to war (also a great ska band from the 90’s?)
Travel for me, besides meeting people, is all about their food and drink. Really the food and drink make up the people and vice versa. This is why I always like to travel ala carte, and never like to split the bill.
Rs
P.S. Cultural Curiosity: In Finland when done with your meal you put your fork and knife at 5 PM on the plate. In the US you put them at 7:20 PM. In Thailand you put them at Noon. Funny how every country has a different time to denote being finished eating.