Category Masticating With Mellzah

The Richmond Night Market

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It is full on RIDICULOUS how long I have been sitting on this post about the Richmond Night Market. Ridiculous for a number of reasons, considering I’ve gone whole months without posting, but mainly, it’s ridiculous because I think this place is awesome and I’m excited to share it with you.

Night markets are the shiiiiiiiit. They’re mostly outdoor shopping bazaars where you wander around stuffing your face with delicious snacks. When I lived in Taiwan, I would go to night markets pretty frequently–lots of them open nightly in permanent areas in Taipei. They haven’t super caught on outside Asia (Seattle’s night market is one night a year) but Richmond, B.C.’s night market* is a delightful exception. It’s still temporary–only running May-October, because no one wants snacks badly enough to slog through slush at night to get ’em–but it is magnificent. One hundred food vendors. Three hundred or so other booths. Music. Dancing. And something I was particularly eager to experience, the Throne of Rotato.

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That’s right. The Throne of Rotato. Rotatoes are spiralized, deep fried potatoes sprinkled with flavorings and served on a stick. In order to assume my rightful place, seated on the Throne of Rotato, I needed to buy a rotato. Or two, since Jason wasn’t going to pass up this opportunity, either. It’s delicious (being a deep fried sour cream and chive flavored potato on a stick, after all, of course it’s delicious) but if for some reason someone didn’t feel like eating an entire potato prior to all of the other food they were likely to partake of that evening, they had some suggestions for how you could otherwise use your spiralized potato:

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I’m pretty sure anyone with their head screwed on right would say “YES!!” to a rotato proposal. I would, and I’m already married, but the excitement of the rotato might make me forget.

So once rotatoes were purchased, I received a VIP pass for two to the throne of rotato.

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And it was glorious. Side note: Rotatoes, however delicious, are really salty so I would advise you to do as I didn’t and don’t spend your last Canadian currency on the rotato, forcing you to go on a desperate hunt for an ATM so you can buy a beverage.

We spent a long time wandering the food booths. I was chasing nostalgic tastes and was rewarded handsomely with red bean pancakes, tanghulu, and dragon beard candy. I wanted so much more but my stomach was too full of potato to make the attempt. What’s extra incomprehensible is that I haven’t been back since. Their 2017 season has begun and I will remedy that problem soon.

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*There are some street market experiences that you won’t find here, like for instance, the Snake Alley (Huaxi) market in Taipei is on the site of a former legal red light district, and the alley is filled with vendors selling foods with purported aphrodisiacal qualities, such as deer penis wine and snake blood, squeezed out of a snake before your very eyes. There are also a number of vendors selling novelty sex goods. I only went to this one once, and actually, it was one of my Rotary club’s members who took me. I’ve talked about her before, the Taiwanese Martha Stewart. Somewhere, there’s an awkward photo of us together in front of an inflatable penis.

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Hatch, NM: Home to Giants and Green Chiles and Giant Green Chiles

Hatch, New Mexico is the chile capitol of the world, and I dare you to tell me otherwise. The streets are lined with vendors eager to sell you the chiles with which their town’s name has become synonymous, be they in dried bundles or served in a meal. And nowhere (and I mean nowhere) has green chiles chopped up in more kinds of food than Sparky’s.

There was a line out the door when I arrived, which gave me more time to soak in the atmosphere, but within minutes, one of the owners, Teako, was out to greet the waiting crowds and serve us samples of his barbeque to get our bellies rumbling. And rumble they did. We had worked up a hell of an appetite trekking around White Sands National Monument, and we were ready to throw down whatever food landed within arm’s reach.

When we got inside, we ordered their famous Hatch green chile cheeseburger, a plate of all of their various types of barbeque, sides of pineapple coleslaw and corn with green chiles and onion, and not one but two shakes featuring green chiles: mango and apple pie. Green chile everything. Green chile up to our eyeballs.

AND I LOVED IT. Every bite punched me in the mouth with utter deliciousness, owing to the inclusion of the hatch green chiles, which are packed with flavor rather than being punishingly hot. The burger was juicy fall-apart perfection, the barbeque was tender and flavorful, both sides sung, and the incorporation of green chile spice into the sweet fattiness of a mango or apple pie shake is genius. And they weren’t stingy on the fruit in the shakes, either–I fished out entire wedges of soft cinnamon apples and huge chunks of mango, making it definitely a spoon-y dessert rather than a thin shake drunk with a straw. My only criticism is that I wish the shakes were sold in smaller sizes because as delicious as they are, it just ends up being a lot of richness to stomach and it felt like we barely put a dent into either of them before throwing them away, which is more wasteful than I like to be.

That’s right. My one complaint is about getting too much shake. I’ve become everything I always hated.

 

But it’s not just Sparky’s that has a flair for fiberglass–the RV place down the street has a restored Muffler Man holding a teeny tiny RV, and even the drive through wasn’t complete without a roaring T-Rex up top. Hatch, I am charmed. Should I find myself in that neck of the woods again, I will definitely be back. Get my armada of mini shakes ready.

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One Day in Santa Fe

Well, more like half a day. It was my birthday and I wanted to spend it in Santa Fe, eating delicious food and window shopping. My first stop was at Meow Wolf–I wouldn’t have had time to tackle The House of Eternal Return again, though I’ve heard there have been some changes since my last visit. There’s too much to see and it’s too well done to half-ass it. That, and I think every schoolkid in New Mexico was there that day which made it another hard pass, but I definitely wanted to browse through the gift shop as they have all kinds of neat stuff made by their artists. I ended up picking up a pair of earrings and Jason brought home a smaller plush replica of their space owl and after that, the shrieking reverberating around the lobby grew to be too much and we both beat a retreat back to the parking lot.

Our next stop was the Jackalope Mercado, a most excellent garden center/home decor/little bit of everything place. If we’d road tripped it to Santa Fe, I would have had a difficult time not packing the trunk full of pottery and mirrors and all the other stuff that would never fit in a carry-on/ would never survive being thrown onto and off of a plane. So we mostly browsed around, checking out their wares and their chubby, deeply suspicious prairie dogs. Because, yes, in addition to all that other stuff, they also have a few prairie dogs burrowing around, doing their prairie dog business. I also saw a kind of insect I’d never seen before, the hummingbird moth. They’re really neat and supposedly they summer all around the US, so maybe I’ll get lucky and attract some to my garden when my hummingbird/butterfly attracting flowers start blooming.

Post Jackalope, we checked into our hotel and started wandering around town, window shopping, checking out galleries, and occasionally getting pulled off the street into jewelry shops where we got to practice our best “That ring is only $17,000? What a bargain, I’m considering buying three” faces. Jason is better at it than me, I caught a glimpse at my reflection and what my eyebrows were doing could best be described as “confused and constipated” so I don’t think I fooled anyone. It’s especially hard to feign that kind of casual buying interest when the jewelry in question looks like it was rejected from Baublebar for being too ostentatious.

For dinner, I found myself back at The Shed, because while I COULD have tried something new, I wanted something that I knew would be out of this world delicious. This time, I got to sit out on the patio and enjoy my green and red chile smothered steak and enchiladas out in the sunshine. It was everything I’d been dreaming about the entire dreary winter and by itself made the entire trip worthwhile. Jason was also well pleased with his newborn size christmas-style burrito–all of these dinner photos? He took ’em. I was too busy chowing down.

After dinner, we had hit that 6pm magic hour where all the shops in Santa Fe simultaneously close, so we walked over to the Jean Cocteau Cinema. I’d checked their schedule the week before and had seen a magic show on the docket that looked interesting–I hadn’t wanted to plan the day around it so I didn’t prepurchase tickets, but I kept my fingers crossed that two would be available the day of. When we arrived, they had a few “showing now” posters up, but none were for a magic act. Confused, I inquired of the ticket seller what was playing that evening, and there was indeed a magic show and they did, in fact, have tickets.

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The magician in question was Francis Menotti, a veteran performer so skilled at his trade that he is one of the rare few to have fooled Penn & Teller. His show was delightful in every sense of the word–he was funny, and kind, and really engaged the entire audience in a way that would have been vastly more difficult in a larger venue, but I would absolutely go see him again, regardless of the venue. In the rain, on a train, whatever.  I don’t go to see magic shows often, but Francis’ show made me deeply glad that I had. I only wish there had been some more butts crammed in the seats for him–I know it’s easy to be a backseat business owner when I have zero skin in the game, but it still seems like even a couple of bucks’ worth of posters would at least let people passing by the cinema know what’s going on inside.

I wrapped up the day by grabbing a drink at the hotel bar, Secreto, and taking it out to the candlelit patio to read and savor the evening. I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday, and there was still plenty of road trip time around New Mexico to come.

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Tia B’s La Waffleria: A Syrupy Love Story

“We need to remember what’s important in life: friends, waffles, work. Or waffles, friends, work. Doesn’t matter, but work is third.” – Leslie Knope

Waffles are important, and it felt particularly important that I have breakfast at Tia B’s La Waffleria, an Albuquerque breakfast (and waffle-y lunch) house catering to all things waffled, whether one’s tastes run savory or sweet, gluten-free or gluten-full, vegan or omnivorous. I’ve heard that the line can be onerous on weekends, but on a sunny weekday morning, I was able to go almost straight to the ordering counter and claim the sunniest outdoor patio table for myself.

Even though I’d perused the menu beforehand and thought I knew what I was going to order when I walked in, when I got to the counter I started to second-guess myself. Everything looked awesome. Blue corn waffles? Green chile cream sauce? Smoked salmon waffles? My choice of cow or goat caramel? Damn it, Aunt B, you’ve vaporlocked my brain with deliciousness! Luckily, I don’t think you can make a bad choice at La Waffleria–Jason got the fried banana and browned butter bourbon sauce over buttermilk waffles with a honey latte, and I got their buttermilk waffles topped with port-infused cherries, sweetened goat cheese, and lavender whipped cream.

Daaaaamn! The waffles were perfect, able to hold up to the toppings without being too dense or tough. You could taste the lavender without it being overpowering, same with the port in the cherries, and the goat cheese was only slightly sweetened, keeping its creamy tang to keep the whole thing balanced. Jason’s fried bananas and browned butter bourbon sauce were insanely good, as was his latte. Sweet fancy moses, everything was so delicious that I’d fly back to Albuquerque just for waffles. I’m not even kidding. Not when it comes to waffles.

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“Stay out of my territory”: Breaking Bad in Albuquerque

 

For as long as the show remains in pop culture memory*,  the city of Albuquerque will be tied to Breaking Bad. I’m not such a die-hard fan that I wanted to turn my trip into a Breaking Badcation, but if you’re familiar with the show at all, you’ll spot little nods and filming locations all over town. Like, for instance, the Crossroads Motel (or “crystal palace”), which was smack on the corner where we turned to go to our hotel (“Is that…? No, wow, it looked so much worse on the show.”). There was also a little nod to Heisenberg at Rebel Donut, with their “Blue Sky” donut, sprinkled with blue sugar crystals. There’s The Dog House, the hot dog joint where Jesse slings meth and buys a gun, and Garduños, where a waiter awkwardly presses tableside guacamole on the family, not reading the mood of the room. Jason and I got lunch/dinner at Garduños (their portions are, to put it mildly, gargantuan), including the aforementioned tableside guacamole, which Walt is frankly a fool for passing on**. We also found Walter White’s tombstone, which was initially placed in the Sunset Memorial Park cemetery, but was later removed to a strip mall*** after some families complained. I didn’t even consider swinging by the home portrayed as Walter White’s on the show because the real homeowner has had so many issues with people lurking outside her home and throwing pizzas on her roof and frankly, I don’t want to contribute to her stress  or be associated with a bunch of salty asshole fans when I’d seen plenty of Breaking Bad stuff around town anyway. I guess, for her, the sooner the memory of the show fades, the better.

*Not terribly long, if Forks is any indication.

**Like, in a show that’s essentially about a series of bad decisions, this might’ve been his worst one. They make it right at the table, man.

***There was some construction up at the strip mall and I didn’t know if we’d be able to pull into the parking lot, so I parked at nearby Dan’s Boots & Saddles. We wandered into the store afterward and ended up outfitting Jason with a bunch of new work shirts and a pretty bitchin’ cowboy hat. I want to say we were helped by the owner, and he was helpful and knowledgeable and friendly in a way that one doesn’t often see anymore which is why I’m plugging his store in this completely unrelated blog post. So if you’re in the area and in the market for some boots or a hat, definitely stop in!

Climbing Cinnamon Mountain

Why do people climb Mount Everest? Conventional wisdom declares that they do it because it’s there. For Jason’s 34th birthday, I wanted to do something similarly life-affirming and reckless: eat the biggest cinnamon roll in the world. Because it’s there, and so are we. Not by coincidence, the world’s largest commercially available cinnamon roll (in other words, not a Guinness attempt, but something that could be acquired without trying to make it myself) is found a couple hours’ drive away in the town of Longview, Washington, at Stuffy’s II, a restaurant which prides itself on  serving all manner of “stuff”, biggie-sized. They’ve got pancakes the size of wagon wheels, massive 5lb cinnamon rolls, and other giant platters of food available, but only one item is so large, so full of potential energy, so Hulk gut-bustingly huge that it requires 24 hour advance notice of one’s intention to order: their 10.5lb cinnamon roll, aka the “Bear Roll”. Like its namesake, the bear roll is both massive and dangerous, containing a whopping 8,000 calories. If you can finish a bear roll by yourself in less than an hour and fifteen minutes, you’re inducted into the Stuffy’s II hall of fame. It’s one of those bucket list items, in that, if you go it alone, there’s a good chance you’ll kick the bucket.

As dedicated as I am to eating, and as much as Jason likes cinnamon rolls, I knew there was no way we’d be able to defeat it by ourselves, so we assembled a team of adventurous souls to make the trek with us for a full afternoon of face-forking. Even so, with seven of us in on the quest, we’d each need to eat 1.5 POUNDS of cinnamon roll in order to declare victory. It wouldn’t be easy, but I was convinced it could be done. For us. For posterity. Because it was there. To pump us up on the trip to the restaurant, I assembled what is possibly the most banging cinnamon roll based playlist in the world.

I’d seen photos of the bear roll. I’d watched a video of someone eating one. I thought I was prepared. When we arrived, I saw some cinnamon rolls rotating in a case and thought “That’s large, but doable.” I was wrong. Those rotating rolls were their regular cinnamon rolls, which bore only a passing resemblance to the behemoth our waitress delivered to the table. Prior to its delivery, we’d been contemplating ordering entrees to balance out the roll. The waitress wisely suggested that we spend some time with our bear roll prior to ordering more so we could better gauge what accoutrements the situation called for.

 

We tore into the roll gamely, each slicing off a slab for their plate. As we sliced, still more frosting oozed out of the beast as though it were a bottomless fount. It seemed like everyone enjoyed their first few bites. Unfortunately, after that point, we all hit a wall. The sheer sweetness was overwhelming. When all that sugar hit my system, my body heated up like a furnace, and it felt like every cell in my body was on alert. My mood was high. I was almost delirious with sugar-based happiness. Shortly thereafter, however, I felt as though I couldn’t possibly eat another bite. It wasn’t the sort of taut-stomach fullness I anticipated I might feel after a large meal, but rather a hollow sort of nausea that roiled around and told me that I shouldn’t so much as even think about taking another bite. A look around the table confirmed that everyone else felt similarly and it became clear that although we’d made a valiant effort, the bear was simply too massive a beast for us to conquer.

Luckily, I was prepared for both outcomes.

  

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They say love goes on, long after the grilled cheese sandwich is gone

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You can smell Tillamook country long before you arrive at the cheese factory, owing to all of the cows (or Tillamoos) necessary to keep the pacific northwest rich in loaves of cheese, mounds of butter, lakes of yogurt, and tub after tub of sweet, sweet ice cream. The cow-based earthiness of the air around the factory just lets you know you’re almost there. Which was a helpful sign, because I was “kill a man” levels of hungry, and when Jason looked at his GPS and said we were still over an hour out, I briefly considered pulling over and doing a rogue milking for a warm, gross snack. Thankfully, he quickly realized he’d had it set on walking, not driving, and thus no trespassing laws were broken.

The lines inside were honestly insane. Yes, it was a Saturday which should have tipped me off, but it’s also not all that near anything (it’s an hour and a half drive from Portland) and it’s the off season for the coast so the sheer volume of people inside took me by surprise. There were no fewer than a hundred people in line waiting for ice cream, in a winding queue that resembled a line for a Disneyland ride  more than anything. Combine the crowds with the limited time we had before everything closed for the day, and I could choose to take the tour or eat but not both. In a move that will surprise absolutely no one, I chose food.

We each got a grilled cheese sandwich with tots and split an order of cheese curds with chipotle ranch in an array of fried beige that would horrify any nutritionist. But I would just like to note the presence of a fruit on our table, the humble tomato. Sure, it’s been sugared up and stripped of all its fiber, but it’s still a fruit. Sort of. Looking at this photo definitely makes me want to eat a vegetable or six. But at the time, this was fried cheesy heaven for very hungry people.

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After laying waste to this cheesy bounty, we took cheesy photos in the cheesewagon, I pressed my obligatory penny, we breezed through the various gift shops (they know where their bread is Tillamook buttered), and then committed to standing in line for ice cream. Because when life hands you an opportunity to try ice cream flavors not stocked in the grocery stores near you, you grab that opportunity with both hands and a spoon. The line is stupid long but Tillmook has handled it smartly, in that there are menus of their flavor selection dotting the line, so you have time to peruse and make your decision before being confronted by the case in all its splendor so that people aren’t spending forever hemming and hawing while holding the rest of the line up. Thus, the line moves at a decent clip. Jason went for a two scoop cup, and I thought I’d be clever and go for their three flavor ‘flight’ so I could try three things but keep the overall volume of ice cream low. Because that’s what a flight is, right? A tasting?  Nope. It turns out that at the Tillamook factory, a flight of three ice creams is three full size scoops, so I definitely felt like a hog while collecting my cup. Not that said feeling kept me from eating it, shamefully, in the car on the way home.

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tillamook-7-of-8Someone waited in line twenty minutes for this. Whomp whomp.

I will be back, Tillamook, for your tour and your ice cream adventure. I’m definitely going to eat a vegetable first, though.

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The Cambria Scarecrow Festival

 

 

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For the past eight years, the town of Cambria, California has been filling their streets with scarecrows for the month of October. They claim to have hundreds, a number to which I cannot personally attest as I didn’t get to check out every nook and cranny of Cambria and the neighboring San Simeon, which also participates. After gassing up, I stretched my legs walking Cambria’s downtown checking out their scarecrow offerings. I also checked out the French Corner Bakery to buy more coffee. Considering the pastry revelation that was Bob’s earlier that morning, I wasn’t ready to try any other pastries, but on a whim, I ordered a torta, figuring that good bread was fully half the battle when it comes to getting a good sandwich. And daaaaaaaaamn, was that sandwich ever good! Fresh bread stuffed with juicy pork, thick slices of avocado, and pickled onions and jalapenos. YASSS. At least, that’s how I felt about the two bites I got while Jason wolfed the rest down. I’ve never seen a sandwich disappear that fast. We were still talking about how good the sandwich was as we passed by a place named “Hidden Valley Ranch”–was this, in fact, the birthplace of ranch dressing, AKA “America Sauce”? I don’t know, I was too busy talking about that sandwich to investigate.  Even now, fully a month later, we fondly reference that sandwich in conversation. Even now, when I should be talking about scarecrows, I’m talking about the sandwich.

Mmmm, sandwich.

Morro Bay

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Somehow I managed to tear myself away from the suite at the Victorian Mansion, casting it longing glances all the way down the street to Bob’s Well Bread Bakery for some morning fuel. It pains me to say it, but Bob’s pastries blow my favorite local bakery out of the water. His ham and cheese croissant was warm, flaky perfection. His kougin amann were crisp and caramelized with just the right amount of chewy, yeasty bread inside. And, as a total hog, I also got a house-made english muffin spread with butter and plum strawberry jam with rosemary and lavender. Hngggg. I’ve never had a fresh english muffin before, and it may have completely ruined me for the bagged bread aisle kind forever. I’m not mad, Bob. I just wish you were closer.

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We took our bags of treats and coffee and headed up the coast a bit toward Morro Bay, home of Morro rock, the volcanic plug from which the town gets its name. It was still early enough in the morning that we had the beach to ourselves, so we hung out, ate our pastries, and watched the birds. The most exciting part for me by far was seeing monarch butterflies flitting around everywhere. I didn’t think we’d see any as it was a bit too early in the season for them to reach their overwintering spots, so to see a good number of them doing their thing was definitely an unexpected treat.

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How could it get any better than this, right? The day was just beginning.

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Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar

 

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After a day at Disneyland, no matter how much fun you had, you could probably use a drink or two. I definitely could, so I walked down the nigh-endless mall that is Downtown Disney to the Disneyland Hotel, to imbibe a few at Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar. The place was surprisingly crowded, but luckily a couple of seats opened up at the bar shortly after I arrived–I mean, sure, if you want to drink your drinks poolside, that’s certainly a thing you could do, but if I was going to slurp down a few expensive drinks in novelty glasses, I damn well wanted to do so in an enchanted atmosphere, so the pool would absolutely not do for me.  And hot damn, is the atmosphere inside ever enchanted. The taps have glowing eyes and play different rhythms whenever a beer is poured. Little jokes are plastered all over the walls. And whenever someone orders a novelty drink, the whole bar gets in on the action. Ships sink. Sirens blaze. Volcanoes explode. You may or may not be sitting in a splash zone.

God knows I love me a novelty glass, so my first drink of the evening was the legendary “Uh-Oa!”, which is so large that it must be shared by two or more people. It comes in a large mug with tiki figurines on three sides, the heads of which are all filled with ground cinnamon. The lights go down, the bartender sets some booze soaked sugar cubes atop a lime on fire, and while every patron in the bar chants “uh oa! uh oa! uh oa!”, you grab pinches of cinnamon and fling them into the fire, sending sparks into the air. It was magical, and it’s probably good that I got the playing with fire accomplished before I got hecka drunk, which I was after drinking my half of this drink.  Not that a little thing like being two and three quarters sheets to the wind was going to stop me from ordering another drink, because I had a lot of trunk space with which to fill with novelty glassware. So Jason ordered a krakatoa, setting off the volcano, and I acquired a rum-filled shrunken head, which is kind of funny as I’d think all that rum would cause a head to change sizes in the opposite direction. Or at least feel that way. I also, more wisely, ordered the pu pu platter, which came with sweet and spicy asian wings, glazed portuguese sausage bites, panko crusted chinese long beans, tropical slaw, and a sriracha aioli, all of which made my mouth super happy and my tummy less booze-slosh-y.

After we finished those, we agreed that it was probably for the best if we didn’t imbibe any more Disneyland booze magic, so we wandered back down the Disney mall and made it rain on Star Wars merchandise, namely a Chewbacca print that set my heart aflame with adorableness. Where am I going to hang it? I don’t know, same place I’m going to store all of this novelty glassware, I guess.