Photo by Trey Ratcliff

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Restaurant Review: New York City's New Rice Noodle Eatery

Focused on mixian rice noodle dishes typical of China's Yunnan province, South of the Clouds, a just opened restaurant in New York City's Greenwich Village, may be small and quite informal but it will leave a delightful impression on your taste buds. I recently dined at this eatery where, as soon as I walked in from the cold, my eyes set on the dramatic mural on one wall, a mountain scene reflective of the topography in that province.

Along with the decor, the menu is minimal but memorable. All the main courses are served dry or in a soup. The signature dish is Crossing the Bridge Noodles that's served in a large steaming bowl of four-hour cooked chicken broth and a wooden palette containing silkie chicken, pork,  beef, fish, bean sprouts, tofu skin, cilantro, and scallion. These are then assembled at the table, a dish that can be shared, like all the main dishes. I also ordered the Tofu Pudding Rice noodles, a dry dish made with minced pork with fermented bean paste atop tofu pudding, plus julienne carrots, cilantro, scallion, crushed peanuts and Chinese pickles. Both were plenty tasty but, of the two, I preferred the latter for its heat, and sweet and sour flavors that were perfectly melded. The side of Yunnan ghost chicken, which is shredded chicken with cilantro, minced garlic and lime, is a perfect accompaniment, offering a different but complementary flavor and texture profile.

The desserts are unusual but a must try, whether it's the Yunnan rose with silver ear mushroom -- a delicate dish with a gelatinous-like texture and an aromatic surprise from the rose petals, or the milky rice made with whole milk, a very soothing dessert that was most welcome after the heat-packed meal.









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Saturday, February 10, 2018

Top Exotic Bicycle Trips

What better way to intimately connect with a destination, whether far-flung or close-at-hand, than straddling a bicycle saddle? With the slow pace of cycling, you become acutely aware of your surroundings: the scent of conifer trees, the sight of locals working the rice fields, the chorus of cicada sounds, or the bracing chill from a salty breeze. Some places, such as Amsterdam, France’s Loire Valley, or Copenhagen, take center stage as being ultra bike-friendly. But, though not as well-recognized, there are other bike-worthy parts of the world that merit exploring. Madagascar, South Korea and the Azores are three exotic gems that share their own piece of paradise with cyclists. I recently wrote about these and other bikeable destinations for the Evening Standard-The Independent.








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Sunday, January 28, 2018

Art Beyond the Paintings at Arkansas' Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

Art and nature are intertwined at the stellar Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. The minimalist structure, designed by Moshe Safdie, allows for picture postcard views of the woodsy landscape dotted with water features and sculptures. In fact, the property is also networked with walking trails that allow the visitor to make an intimate connection with the dense foliage in this ravine but also some contemporary sculptural works. Also lovely and in keeping with this connection of architecture with nature is the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Bachman-Wilson House that the museum acquired a few years ago.

These images reflect how there's plenty to treasure at this museum beyond the obvious stellar paintings.










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Sunday, January 21, 2018

Beyond the Sea and Sand in Curacao - Art + Culinary Adventures

If you find yourself on the Caribbean island of Curacao, try to pull yourself away from the beach and head to the interior where Evelien Sipkes, a well respected ceramicist and jewelry designer, has her atelier, gallery, workshop and home. I spent quite awhile with her, discovering how she crafts necklaces, bracelets, rings and ceramics with inspiration from the surrounding nature. But, it's even more fascinating to discover that her creativity goes beyond these artistic objects. She's also a chef who hosts wine-paired dinners, high tea and lunches where she not only creates the culinary delights but also the table ware.  I recently interviewed Evelien for ForbesLife.






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Friday, December 29, 2017

Urban Winter Wear for Frigid Weather

With most of the eastern half of the U.S. swathed in frigidness, there's more reason than ever to layer up with lightweight, but warm, fabrics. These (below) are some of my favorite items most from Smartwool that's noted for its Merino wool products -- many of which I've been wearing the past week when the temperatures in Manhattan hovered around 10 degrees at times.
Men reading this article can scroll through the Smartwool inventory as well as that of Stio, the other company I mention to find warm wear that looks good and performs well.


Smartwool Cascade Valley Asymmetric Tunic Sweater


What's especially great about this tunic is that the zipper on the neckline converts into a thick, cozy turtleneck. So it looks fashionable when paired with leggings but it also performs well in the cold.

I like to pair this dress with a fleece vest, like one sold by Toad & Company.



Smartwool Flip Mitt gloves



Smartwool neck gaitor



Smartwool Marble Ridge cap



Smartwool leggings or tights



And, because I get exceedingly cold, I pair these leggings with fleece tights that are sold by a number of manufacturers.

Smartwool underwear



As to all the additional outwear, I favor jackets made by Stio, a company many people are not familiar with.

This is their Sweetwater Fleece Jacket



I often double this jacket with the insulated Azure XT Hooded Jacket


And if I need even greater body coverage to protect me from the elements, instead of the insulated jacket I'll wear the Hometown Down Parka




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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Book Review: Painting Outdoor Scenery

Aside from writing about my travels, taking photographs, and sometimes even recording sounds, whether I’m listening to indigenous music or just the ambient tweeting of birds, I also occasionally paint outdoors, something that’s referred to as plein air painting. I tote a set of watercolor postcards and a micro-size travel watercolor kit. So, when I recently received a copy of The Art of Plein Air Painting: An Essential Guide to Materials, Concepts and Techniques for Painting Outdoors by M. Stephen Doherty, I looked forward to reviewing it. However, I wouldn’t call it an actual guide to the techniques and nor does it provide a wealth of specific tips on plein air painting. Instead, I found it to be of historical interest, with lovely images of Edouard Manet and Claude Monet painting in the woods or in a boat, as well as their works and those of other artists, such as the American Impressionists. There is information provided on the techniques of various painters and schools of painting, including Jean-Baptise-Camille Corot, considered one of the most renowned landscape painter, and The American Hudson River School, most famous for its dramatic images of New York State’s mountains and rivers. However, again, these chapters are now a “how-to,” but rather simply provide inspiration for the budding painter. The back of the book does include some helpful resources, such as additional books on the topic, blogs and a Facebook page that may be worth checking out.

I don’t take my watercolor kit with me on all my trips because there often isn’t enough time to sit quietly and paint. But, among the places that I’ve visited where I have painted outdoor is New Hope, Pennsylvania that’s noted for what’s often referred to as Pennsylvania Impressionism.

                                        





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Monday, December 25, 2017

Independent Art Fair - Video

I and a fellow artist, Oliver Correa as well as additional artists: Ash Fox, Cadence Hooks, Ari Fraser, Bibi Tran, Vanessa Burkly, and Marine Naotika recently showed our contemporary paintings, collage works and photography at two independent art fairs that we set up in New York City.  (Oliver showed several paintings of his dad, Alfredo Correa, a prominent Venezuelan artist.) It's something we hope to do several times a year. The fair was a big success, both for the congenial vibe as well as the networking options, and being able to get the word out about independent artists.

My photography prints that are mounted on board are for sale all year on my website . And, any additional photos from my Instagram feed are also available upon request.

This short video shows off some of the varied works from our art fairs.






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Saturday, December 23, 2017

Modernist Villa in Turks & Caicos

When I visit the Caribbean, whether I'm hiking, visiting a spa, or lounging in my accommodation, I prefer to be connected with nature. So while driving in Turks and Caicos, I visited Sol y Luna, a luxe villa, and immediately fell in love with it, not because of it's architecture -- though there's much to love, given it's modernist sensibility -- but, rather, the fact that no matter where I roamed on the property, I was connected with the sky and sea. I recently interviewed the owner of this stellar property for ForbesLife.






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Sunday, December 17, 2017

Gear Review: Tiny Convertible Backpack

Unlike most people, I didn't immediately jump on the Fjallraven bandwagon. Fjallraven is a Finland-based manufacturer of sturdy gear that now has a loyal following, including customers who would never set foot on a hiking trail or a ski slope. Nonetheless, I recently got ahold of one of their products, the Kanken Mini that, like many of their products, comes in a rainbow of color choices. I didn't choose this to make a fashion statement, however, but I wanted to test it out as a small convertible bag/backpack to tote along on the plane for the bare necessities as well as once I land as a backpack to carry a beverage, lunch and sunscreen once I hit the trail. It's exceedingly light (barely 8 ounces) and small, measuring just over one inch by five inches by just under eight inches. It's waterproof, which is more than I can say for most packs where you're still forced to wrap everything inside in a plastic bag to keep things dry. I wore it recently during a snowstorm in New York City, and found that it kept everything completely dry. The only downside I found: I literally had to watch a short video in order to figure out how to convert it from a hang bag to a backpack! But, once you follow the directions, you're all set.


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