sunlight and shade – cuba

Cuban sunshine has heavy hands. Bright white midday beams will give you with the old one-two punch when combo-ed with humidity’s thick soup.

It’s enough to make paint bubble from simmering city walls.

sun graffiti cuba

Thankfully, Cuba benefits from Caribbean trade winds and other breeze generators.

celing fans architecture

Spend some time here and you’ll start choosing to chill on the cooler side of the street.

men chatting cuba

You’ll motor to your most important appointments while staying in a slim slice of shady.

dog shady side street

Cubans have this skill down.

lizard stained glass wall

Big time.

Iguana chilling

Like in many sunstruck places there’s definitely a time in every day to retreat to a cooler spot.

landscape window

If you were super fortunate this might be your mosaic oasis.

Casa Fuster pool

Or maybe you’d loll in a cabana kingdom like a lion on reverse safari.

poolside cabana view

Look! There’s a Red-Hatted Dad Bod (European Swimsuit Edition) at rest on the sunstruck shores.

I bet you need a beverage now. And then we’ll find some music worth oinking about.

oink cuba

See you back here soon with more moments from Cuba.

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hog wild – wandering in cuba

I took an unannounced, unplanned break from supplying this sty with words and images right as I began talking about Cuba, change and finding stories.

blue building walking man Cuba

I wandered off.

stairway and light

Got lost.

Mosaic ships Cuba

I thought a bunch of thoughts about being a person. And I’m hoping my hiatus will wind up finding us some new stories to wander through.

plants taking over building Cuba

Let’s listen for words crumbling from timeworn walls.

doorways Habana Cuba

They assemble into stories and float, light as plaster flakes falling, past.

sculpture art Cuba

It’s been too long since we’ve whiled away a slice of Wednesday.

two chairs chatting Cuba

Nice to see you again.

mosaic eye Cuba

Nice to meet you…if you’re new here. I’ll be introducing one of my new friends to you soon.

Luis's guitar

In the meantime let’s get mixed into the tales that we write with our lives.

landscape Cuba

See new.

skylight art school

The good and the not so hot-so are both worth valuing because sometimes you gotta learn the sucky way. Good is self-explanatory (it’s good). That’s how life rolls.

alley Jaimanitas Cuba

May as well roll along on the sweetest ride you got.

Viva bike Cuba

And figure out how to fix it with whatever you have on hand. Cubans excel at that.

car repair Habana

Can I get an oink oink?

porcelain pig face sculpture Cuba

See you next Wednesday.

Cuba Libre taxi

We’ll wander, woot and wallow in Cuba again. Viva!

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Cuba – wander

It’s funny how a place can change you. chair frame scallop shadow Cuba And how a place can change. Groucho decayed lobby Cuba Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to go back…see the places I left with the eyes and heart and thoughts I have now. Casa Fuster eyes and author Because I’ve left places.

I left the town, the place, the state where I grew up. I left most of the people I grew up around….people called family if family is defined by blood, by given name, by traceable cells.

Circumstance can be a trap.

Garden Cuba with teddy bear totem

Sometimes leaving is the beginning of living.

I imagine that is, in a small way, what many Cubans considered when they left these sunstruck streets in pursuit of a self-determined life.

street corner Habana Cuba

Sometimes, after you’ve left, little slivers of songs surface from the deep waters of memory where they were simmering all along, syncopated with your heart’s beat…beat…beat.

They thump. They thunder.

quiero Cuba

The details of what you once knew appear, briefly, focused.

Dance master Cuba

A place can mark you: ink its name on your skin indelibly. It pins its bloom on you.

Blooms within long after you kissed goodbye.

sunflower pipes Habana Cuba

Decay unearths its own breed of beauty: a layered, beat-up beast made fierce by time, patience, endurance.

paint layers age angel Cuba

I’ve been wandering around Cuba thinking these thoughts, seeing stories in peeling plaster, feeling the soulfulness of this place.

I’ve been thinking about what it means to leave what you first knew.

Viva Cuba

For the next few posts I’ll be writing about Cuba.

book page Cuba

There are stories to walk through here. Let’s go.

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Haunting New Orleans

Ready to roam through New Orleans and get your fleur de lis on? Bring your joie de vivre.fluer de lis sign New Orleans First let’s get a place to sleep situated. I stayed at Loew’s New Orleans on my most recent visit. And I’d stay there again. The room was clean, well-maintained and comfortable. The hotel is located downtown and a quick half mile walk gets you to the French Quarter. That’s close to the songs, swagger and sauce yet far enough away so you’re sleeping in a quieter neighborhood.

I love the ship-shaped chandelier and the red tongs theatrically gripping an ice block in Swizzle Stick Bar, part of Café Adelaide, located just off the hotel lobby. It’s a chic little bar for swizzling some beverages.

Swizzle Stick Cafe Adelaide Loews NOLAThe main reason I’d stay at Loew’s New Orleans again is this: the staff was super friendly and professional. I felt welcomed to my vacation as soon as I walked into the hotel. The concierge gave fantastic advice on local spots, neighborhoods and how to navigate NOLA.

As I said earlier, Loew’s New Orleans is close to the sauce. So close that I could see one of my favorite sauce-making places from my room. Mother's seen from Loew's New Orleans That red brick building in the shadow of a skyscraper is Mother’s Restaurant. It’s been serving supremely comforting food in that same location since 1938.  People line up to get at those po’boys, fried chicken, gumbos, baked hams and biscuits. Mother's New Orleans Mother’s is the first stop in New Orleans. Always. Because this is the food I’ve been longing for since I last sunk into a Ferdi Special (roast beef, ham, debris and au jus po’boy) and swam in smoky gumbo and devoured crispy, juicy fried chicken. Get in that line.

By the way…don’t be daunted by the line or navigating Mother’s. Here’s how to do it: get in that line,  go where the friendly staffers tell you to go, stay out of the path of busboys and servers hustling around and know what you want to order when you get to the front. Order, pay, find a table, give your receipt to a waiter and they’ll bring your food to the table. Here’s a link to their menu so you can plan your attack.

Relax and watch a bustling, longtime local restaurant crank out southern comfort on a plate. And definitely use that pepper vinegar sauce. You can bring sauce home with you or have them ship a whole big box of it to you so you won’t run out between visits. Mother's pepper vinegar New OrleansTime to walk off that gumbo and make room for donuts. Head to Magazine Street and Jackson in the Garden District which will put you smack in front of District Donuts for perfectly pillowy donuts and strong, smooth cold brew coffee. District Donuts serves the best sliders I’ve ever had in any city. My favorite: fried chicken with sweet and spicy slaw, candied jalapenos and crispy chicken skin.

There are plenty of antique and interior design stores to prowl through along this section of Magazine Street as well as funky little shops with clothing and baubles.

I bought several excellent necklaces from Langford Market and chatted with the super nice salesgirls who happily advised me on some other local places to check out. You can see a third necklace, my favorite one, from Langford Market in my last post.Langford Market necklaces and moiAnd since we’re talking about favorites…it’s time for Chef Donald Link’s Cochon: my no-contest favorite celebrity-chef-run restaurant of the many I visited on this trip.Cochon New Orleans prop partyCochon serves sumptuous, traditional Southern Cajun food and kickass cocktails. My favorite cocktail: The Mogwai, a delectable little sip of Vago Elote Mezcal, cold brew coffee, grapefruit juice and sugarcane syrup.

The service at Cochon was pristinely professional while remaining true to the friendliness and ease you get used to in New Orleans. Every dish and every cocktail (all of them…tried all of them. Don’t worry…I had help.) I dove into was totally oink-worthy. I plan to check out all of Donald Link’s restaurants on my next romp through NOLA.

Oink, Donald Link…I dig what you do!mister bacon cochon coaster little pigTime for tequila? Go to Yo Mama’s in the French Quarter. This local, dimlit dive has a surprisingly extensive tequila selection. The burgers are supposed to be awesome and they looked like some sloppy goodness on a bun but I wasn’t ready for a burger just then. Next time I’m in NOLA I’ll try one of Yo Mama’s burgers. Yo Mama's New OrleansBonus: you get a yo mama joke on your receipt. Put that in the arsenal for your next schoolyard throwdown. Yo Mamma's NOLA joke and receiptOn to look at art by local New Orleans artists at Bee Galleries. I wandered into this gallery and wound up loving (and purchasing) two pieces by Mark Bercier. He created a language of images, called The Healing Symbols, that harbors raw emotions and memories. I love looking at this piece and finding a new story within it each time I wander through.Mark Bercier painting

I think an art piece is completed by the viewer. In that way I see art, and the fate of any artwork, as a mutable conversation. Mark Bercier’s work inspires ongoing conversation; journeys. His symbols have meaning and personal stories, some of which are hilarious. Those same symbols wake other memories and emotions in me that might author a new story.

I like that idea: that objects have lives before and after your hands have touched them. Maybe objects whisper their own language.Mark Bercier art with objectsTime to celebrate that artsy purchase with, of course, snacks and beverages. Check out Saint Lawrence for local and regional craft beers, Pimm’s Cup Daiquiris and some solidly good bar fare. If they have the crab claws: get those crab claws, boss.

Keep the celebration going by rolling over to 21st Amendment Bar which is part of The Hotel Mazarin. This is a sweet, petite spot lit by glittering chandeliers. Black and white photos of old school gangsters decorate the red-painted walls.21st Amendment Bar New Orleans Moscow MuleThe 21st Amendment Bar serves beautifully balanced, handcrafted, Prohibition-era cocktails from their shimmery, copper-topped bar. My favorite classy cocktail from here: the Diablo Viejo (translates to Old Devil) a mix of Reposado Mezcal, Cabeza Tequila, habanero citrus syrup and bitters. Thank you.

Plus they have live music trumpeted out by some seriously talented players.

The space is purported to be haunted which I didn’t know when I went there. And yet this place inspired some haunted lines in my poem for New Orleans.

Look out for those gangsters’ ghosts. They’ll sway that chandelier at ya.21st Amendment Bar chandelier nolaYou might wind up bewitched, as I am now, by New Orleans. This city owns swagger and ease and a quaffable voodoo that’ll sink into you and make you want more.Garden District trees New OrleansMore haunting, more songs, more shivers, more sauces and sugar piled high.

Hunt that haunting.Cafe du Monde bag and eyesDon’t forget to stop into Café Du Monde and get your requisite beignets.

Till next time, New Orleans…stay haunting. It’d be so cool if I could still be haunting you.

Photos in this post link to NOLA spots. And here’s a nice orderly list with links:

Stay: Loew’s New Orleans

Eat: Cafe du MondeDistrict DonutsMother’s; Cochon; Saint Lawrence

Drink: Swizzle Stick Bar; Saint Lawrence21st Amendment BarYo Mama’s

Shop: Langford Market; Bee Galleries

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hunt the day – New Orleans

I like new years. New days, new places and fresh perspectives are all good with me. I look at a new year starting up the way I look at a birthday: you’re either older or you’re not. I’ll take older.

Besides calendars are constructs. We’ve agreed to them.  In some ways we become defined by the rules we write. That’s what I’ve been thinking about as one year ends and another begins.

I say…let life define me. Let me witness the world without the veil of my dopey ego. See new.

New like New Orleans.

New Orleans garden statue

New Orleans sizzles like pig fat greeting fire.

Cochon nola

It’ll soak into you like butter into hot biscuits. Become part of your structure.

sidewalk settings New Orleans

New Orleans will paint its signs on your walls. Leave them to steep.

Little Debbie sign New Orleans

Till you wind up bewitched by the clatter of bones. They’re rat-a-tat-tat wakes, roves.

Langford Market Nola bones necklace and moi

“Rat-a-tat-tat,” says your heart. Echoes swarm your shores.

Swizzle Stick Bar Loews New Orleans

The band takes a break but you still hear that song. Drift on, lingering song. Waltz down Bourbon Street and mix it up with other songs that have just been sung. Wander on.

21st Amendment NOLA band break

Gangsters’ ghosts rattle ice round their glasses. They consider firing shots at the chandelier or tripping the next patron who cruises past. Their shoe toes tap, “Rat-a-tat-tat.”

21st amendment bar New Orleans

Hunt that haunting, that song, that shiver, that drink, that sauce, that sugar piled high.

beignet Cafe Du Monde New Orleans

Hunt that day like a gilded lion stilled, sniffing the shimmery night. Hunt that roar.

Nola lion stilled by ghostly light

Another song slips into the street. Rove on, sauntering song. Simmer into that New Orleans stew.

barrel proof New Orleans

And rap out that rat-a-tat-tat. Let that be my count; what counts me.

New Orleans keepsakes art

Keep me new.

*Some photos in this post link to places I haunted (and bought baubles and art from) in New Orleans in case you want to take a little cyber-trip. Click on them and travel.

See you next week with more details on these places and other haunt-worthy Nola spots. Happy 2015! Oink.

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four – belated but not forgotten

Recently I missed a birthday. This blog has been oinking for four years and twenty-eight days (as of the date of this post).

oink four Walrus and Carpenter shell

I didn’t forget the day. Weeks in advance I thought about what I wanted to say and realized maybe I should write more of the story.  And then I needed to think about how I want to do that. Currently, it’s like we’re having a conversation and we’ve agreed to rarely veer from one topic: food.

But food veers, right?

gypsy lunch in garden

Cuisines fuse. A wine can start out telling you one story, all bouncy and full of fruit then swerve into fields of metal, leather, ash.

Full Pull Seattle wine stained table

Even the humble cupcake has risen to prom queen and occasionally donned a matcha crown.

matcha and valencia orange muffins with matcha cream cheese frosting

I celebrated my first year of oinking with a slice of my grandmother’s favorite cake.

yellow cake with dark chocolate ganache icing

I floated through a fabric sky of cartoon clouds for birthday two.

oinking party fat pig birthday two

And fandangled paper umbrellas for year three.

mister bacon fatpiginthemarket birthday three

I’ve overindulged my love for a little alliteration and overused the word crunchy on several crisp occasions.

Spiced Roasted Chickpeas llamas love em

I’ve learned about SEO, hashtags, digital publishing and social media inadvertently. Because I probably wouldn’t have been nosing around in any of those topics (much less…tweetering) otherwise.

Showing up here, somewhat regularly, for snacks, beverages and wanders through cities all wrapped up in words has tilted my perspective. The food I eat and offer (and how I eat and offer food and drink) reflects my attitudes, inclinations and emotions. Food is a journey and a destination sprung from memories; inspired by moments that want tasting.

I need to think more about all that so I can write more about…all that. I’ll try to be enteratining and deep when I do.

Maybe this year we should chat about other things that feed us…like books. I savor books.

bookshelf nyc

We should have more prop-inspired tales because objects hold stories. And sometimes, in absence of words, there is language.

mended plaster hand

Maybe I’ll compile decades of recipes here in this little slice of cyber-space: a chronicle of my life baked into cakes and simmered into sauces.

May life ferment me to elixir.

plums in Everclear in Le Parfait jar

Let’s go where the oinking path takes us. Shall we?

plane paper pig dreams little cities

Happy Oinking Birthday, Fat Pig in the Market. Better late and considered than neverminded.

This celebration gives me a chance to say thank you for showing up here to you…readers, cocktailers, fellow wanters of beignets, lovers of little stories. It’s cool that you do. Thank you!

confetti candles googley eyes

I am here. You are here. Oink on.

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Want it Wednesday – Raincoast Crisps

This is a photo of the third box of  Lesley Stowe Raincoast Crisps that have briefly visited my home. The first box, brought by a friend to a party, got demolished fast.

Cranberry Hazlenut Raincoast Crisps in box

I swooped up the second box of these awesomely crunchy crackers from a sample table at IFBC. I considered taking two which you weren’t supposed to do.

So I didn’t but I definitely wanted to.

I purchased the third box of crisps so I could finally write about their compelling crunchiness and snap a portrait. If you look closely you’ll note that the right side of the inner plastic sleeve was breeched…pre-photo shoot.

Raincoast Crisps get into them

Clearly I get into these seriously crunchy, nut-studded crackers.

Cranberry Hazlenut Raincoast Crisps and pink box

Raincoast Crisps are available in five flavors. I’ve tried Original and Cranberry Hazelnut so far. There’s a gluten free version made with oat flour available in three flavors. Both versions are made in small batches from locally sourced ingredients. Plus Lesley Stowe’s Raincoast crisps are Non-GMO*.

Those Vancouverites really know how to concoct a snack cracker with earthy consciousness, eh?

Cranberry Hazlenut Raincoast Crisps on plate

I haven’t added a dip or topping to my Raincoast Crisps yet. I plan on doing so. A whipped-up dip and these crispy, toast-shaped crackers sounds like an easy, satisfying, party snack. And it is, after all, the beginning of the Snacks and Soirées season.

Heck, I like these crisps so much I’d stuff ’em in a stocking or give ’em as a hostess gift. Speaking of gifts…I’m obliged to tell you that the second box of Raincoast Crisps I quickly consumed was a free sample that I hustled into my goodie bag when I attended the International Food Blogger’s Conference in Seattle. There were plenty of cool brands and products represented at IFBC. I chose to write about Lesley Stowe’s Raincoast Crisps because I liked them so much I couldn’t keep my paws off them. Or jaws.

I received a discount on my ticket to IFBC in exchange for writing three posts about topics of my choice related to the conference or brands and products represented at the three day, food-blogger whirlwind. It was interesting and full of wine and food. Speaking of which…let’s get back to snacks.

Cranberry Hazlenut Raincoast Crisps

Oink, Lesley Stowe, I like what you do!

*Non-GMO stands for non (or not) genetically modified organisms. The Non-GMO project is an organization that offers third party verification and labeling for products produced with Non-GMO ingredients. Here’s a link to the Non-GMO project website in case you’re curious.

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Happy Halloween! I’ve been absent for a bit. It’s like I was a ghost or some equally invisible being.

halloween ghost in kitchen tools and eggs

I’m back and ready to haunt this cyber sty. We’ll  break some eggs.

shelled hardboiled eggs

But we’re won’t be throwing any eggs at houses. Wasting eggs and hurting houses: not my thing. Eggs are for deviling and making meringues, omelettes, cakes.

deviled eggs trio

Houses are for chillin’ in and making a home.

Happy Oinking Hallloween! Nevermind the tricksters. Go for treats.

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Oinking – IFBC Seattle

When pigs fly. A decade or so ago I’d have answered exactly that if you’d asked me when I’d attend a conference with masses of strangers weilding cameras, tip-tapping laptops. Labeled by lanyards.

pigs fly IFBC Seattle

Hanging with hundreds of tweeting foodies would not have appealed to younger, indie-minded me. And now it does because the world has changed. Socialising has changed.

oinking at eyeballs

Our stories (and the ways we tell stories) shift and shimmer. They reflect and refract  the time and place that grew them. Kinda like food and wine: soil and sun.

So when I saw that the 2014 IFBC, International Food Blogger’s Conference, was happening in Seattle this September I signed up. I figured I’d meet some fellow foodcentric, beverage-lovin’ people.

pig chomp trumpet

There’d be snacks, samples, wine tastings and seminars on stuff I’m always trying to get an edge on like SEO. Knowledge: bring it.

The sponsors look cool. I know some of the brands that will be there and I’m about to meet the ones I don’t know. There are gonna be gift bags, son. I like gift bags.

And I qualified for a discounted ticket to IFBC by agreeing to write three posts on a topic of my choice related to the weekend-long foodcentric, wine-fueled frenzy. I can do that and actually I should do that as a writer. I take a long time to produce some of my posts. So I signed up and decided to use the event as a writing challenge for myself. Kinda seemed like a win win win situation with snacks and wine.

I’m in and I’m amped.

I’ll be tweeting about this year’s IFBC in Seattle, city of champions. I’ll post photos on Instagram and write about it here through the weekend because I’m modern like that. It’s going to be a fun experience. And I’ll tell you the rest of this story as it happens. It’s like we’re going handheld or something.

oink in the city Seattle IFBC

If you see me hanging about the IFBC conference then please oink at me. I’ll oink back or do jazzhands. Your choice.

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