Friday, August 30, 2013

A Writer's Return to Ashland

Four years ago I drove five hours south of Portland to a small town called Ashland. I'm pretty geographically ignorant when it comes to the state of Oregon, but I heard about this place from a friend who used to live there and entertain me with stories of the towns' beauty, it's welcoming atmosphere, and it's quirky cafes.

2009 was a difficult year for me, I had quit my full-time job in Los Angles and spent a few months traveling the world just the previous winter, so 2009 was the year I came home to a harsh reality of having no job and a diminished savings account.  By the time I went to Ashland, I was working two part-time jobs, and living in tiny dump of an apartment. The idea of international travel seemed beyond my reach, so I had to find other ways of satisfying my wanderlust. Instead of an international plane ticket, I decided to take as many road trips as my two jobs would allow. In almost all cases, I went by myself and stayed in hostels. My goal was to get out of the city and do something cheap, like write.

I stayed in Ashland four days in August of 2009, when it was too hot to sleep in a hostel with no AC, too hot to walk in Lithia Park, and I was too broke to eat at restaurants or spend too much at cafes. Even so, the town left a magical impression on me, and I wanted to return ever since.

This summer I had the chance to revisit some of my favorite spots and discover a few new ones. Not surprisingly, I found the town very unchanged and familiar, yet I am happily in a much different place in my life.

1. Best Place to eavesdrop on local's conversations:

  Noble Coffeehouse

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2. Best Place to get lost in your own thoughts:

  Bloomsbury Coffee House

Best outdoor patio in Oregon

3. Best Place to feel like it's ok to be a tourist.... sometimes:

  Boulevard Coffee

Lavender white chocolate mochas

Saturday, August 24, 2013

What I ate in Hyderabad - Wedding food!

It was all about wedding food in Hyderabad.
Pakistani weddings are multi-day events, and both the wedding ceremony and the Mehndi party were to take place in Hyderabad.

I will talk a lot more about my experience in these events on another post, but for now I just want to focus on food. The Mehndi party was a lavish affair, taking place at the Indus Hotel in Hyderabad. When I arrived at 10:00 pm, they were serving several kinds of juice, and some Pakistani street food such as the chaat and pani puri. I thought this was the main food of the evening but oh I was wrong...

Chaat served at the mehndi
Pani Puri served at the mehndi

After the mehndi dancing, we went outside to the terrace for the real dinner. It was around 1:00 am at this point, but I still loaded my plate up with one sample of everything. I put rice in the center of the plate, then surrounded it with meat and vegetable dishes, because traditionally rice is eaten with everything.  I ate with my hands by scooping a bit of the food with rice in my fingers, then indecorously jamming it in my mouth. I still haven't mastered the art of eating with my hands.

My favorite courses were the spinach, and the ground orange vegetable dish at the top of the photo.  

dinner plate served at the Mehndi

The wedding ceremony took place the following night. While at the mehndi party we ate at 1:00 am after the dancing ceremony, this time we ate before the wedding ceremony,  but it still ended up being at 1:00 am, because the ceremony did not get started until 3:00 am. Another wonderfully late night.  

Again there was a lavish spread of food at the wedding ceremony, which also took place outside. It was buffet-style, as the mehndi party had been, and there was an array of both meat and vegetarian dishes. 

This time, I stuck to the vegetarian dishes, because I like those better, and I wanted to have a lighter dinner than last night. 

wedding dinner plate

One of the best things about the wedding feat was the desert. My favorite was the traditional ice cream, which is called "kulfi." When they told me the name I thought they were saying "goofy," so I called it goofy ice cream for a while.  It was thick like a cake, and creamy, with pistachios and nuts. 

kulfi ice cream

My other favorite dessert was called "gola ganda." It is basically what we would call a "snow cone" in the U.S.  or "shaved ice" in Taiwan. It is crushed or shaved ice covered with a sweet syrup. 

gola ganda at the wedding

New coat and red socks

 First time wearing this new Muji coat that I altered. Very excited I got to get in on the red sock trend before it disappears.  Coat: Muji ...