Providence P.2: Slow Travel in 24 Hours

 Posted by on September 3, 2013
Sep 032013
 

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More photographs from my trip to Providence (the first batch are here). Tons of really amazing things to do packed into the largest city of the smallest American state.

We didn’t do too much touristy sites and stuck mainly to exploring neighbourhoods: We had dinner at Providence Coal Fired Pizza, popped into AS220, drank Blue Moons and had flashbacks of playing Mike Tyson’s Knock Out at Le Salon, brunched at Julian’s and admired the Pez and Star Wars display in the washroom, viewed exhibitions like Artist Rebel Dandy at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, went record shopping and roamed around downtown.

The city showed me that slow travel in 24 hours doesn’t have to be an oxymoron. It was easy to feel like a local there.

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Providence p.1: Industrial Built

 Posted by on August 31, 2013
Aug 312013
 

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“So why again exactly are you visiting?”

This is what locals in Providence, Rhode Island asked when Jason and I told them we were visiting from Canada.

It was a spur of the moment decision, at the 12th hour (midnight literally) to include Providence rather than Boston on our New England road trip. We’d been to Boston last year, and thought we should check out another New England city close by. Something we could in 24 hours.

We hadn’t done much research on the city, but since the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) was there, and it was only an hour from Boston, I had hope there might be something to it.

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And there was. First was its downtown core. We walked around at night and during the day, down side streets, stopping every once in a while to take in the architecture and some of the building details. It’s a compact centre so you can probably get from one end to the other in about 20 minutes. I found out later it’s the only American city to have its entire downtown listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

We wandered down one side street to find the mural above by Shepard Fairey. The Obey Giant campaign started in Providence when Fairey was a student at RISD.

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Within this historic area, it felt like something was brewing. Lots of the older buildings are being re-used in different ways now. Looking down on another side street, a screen was mounted to one of the brick buildings, with seating, presumably for movies or projecting art pieces. Great use of city space. Plus there was multidisciplinary art spaces like AS220, The Salon, and the shops along Westminster St.

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With a name like Providence, you’d think the city might be more conservative. But when we were talking with the owner of one of the local record shops, he told us ironically it’s a place where people go because they don’t like to follow rules as much as other New England cities (cue their former mayor who served a prison sentence for corruption).

We weren’t there for very long, but what I liked the most about Providence was it mix of grittiness and character, mixed in with history and a touch of quirkiness. Like where else can you find a pineapple arch in a city? (It’s actually a pine cone – “La Pigna” – that marks the start of Federal Hill, a mainly Italian-American community).

Definitely going to be back.

Bartering Barn

 Posted by on August 27, 2013
Aug 272013
 

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At the beginning of the month we headed down to New England on a road trip for the second year in a row. On the way home, we did an overnight in White River Junction, a small town in southern Vermont, where we stopped for dinner at their arts centre last year.

The next morning, as we were leaving the parking lot of our hotel, we spotted a red brick building off to the side with a simple handpainted sign: “Bartering Barn”. We turned the car around to check out what it was all about. Inside was a thrifter’s paradise, with some really amazing pieces from snowshoes to deer heads to a ping pong table. We picked up a 78 record player for a song ($15 negotiated down from $20). I can’t wait to discover more of these places on our road trip next year.

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NYC p.3 – Dream Big Dreams

 Posted by on August 23, 2013
Aug 232013
 

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The last of my post from my NYC trip in June, mainly to share photos from attending Alt Summit NYC at the offices of Martha Stewart Living. A few weeks before the Summit, I was a bit unsure as to whether I should attend, but my curiosity to check out the headquarters of the MS empire, get inspired, and hear from the Alt Summit keynote speakers convinced me to go.

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There were some great talks from Design Sponge‘s Grace Bonney on navigating change in the blogosphere and Garance Dore (above) on 10 thing she wished she knew before starting a business. I love Grace’s generous and forward-looking approach to blogging  (she offered up my key learning: “always be learning, streamlining and teaching”) and Garance’s charming anecdotes that could apply to everyone, like the slide above.

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Martha herself made an appearance. Sitting in the second row, I was *this* close to her.

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Traditional wall of cards at each Alt Summit event

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The after party was held in another room of the Martha Stewart Living offices.

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This is quick shot of inside the Martha Stewart open concept workspace. Looks like they’re working on something for the holidays.

The offices are located in the famous Starrett-Lehigh Building, an amazing building in West Chelsea that is home to elite creative companies and studios. (I found this out from my cab driver. Tip for next time: strike a conversation with you cab driver because he/she probably knows tons of history about the city!)

You could feel this really tangible creative energy just riding the elevator.

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On the roof was really where it was at. If you headed up the metal staircase to the roof of Martha Stewart Living, there was a magical view of the city that seriously took your breath away. It made you want to stay in NYC forever and dream big dreams.

New York City Pt 2: Nouveau Filipino

 Posted by on August 12, 2013
Aug 122013
 

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A huge highlight of my trip to NYC last June, and probably of my 2013 travel adventures, was visiting two restaurants specializing in Filipino food in the East Village: Jeepney, and its sister establishment, Maharlika.

If you’ve read my About page, then you know I’m a second-generation Filipino-Canadian. For the last 2-3 years, I’ve been exploring pretty intensely what that means. I’ve been lucky to visit the Philippines three times in the last four years, and have poked around about my family tree, visited for the first time the area where my dad grew up, experienced island, rural and  and urban settings, and went on this paradigm-shifting tour that was part performance art, part history lesson in Manila.

So when Jeepney and Maharlika were recommended to us, I felt a duty to go check it out and support. But what I thought would be a simple excursion for a traditional Filipino meal of rice and meat, ended up being an exploration of contemporary Filipino design, culture and identity in NYC that still resonates today.

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At Jeepney we stopped by for the purple Filipino national dessert, halo-halo (check out my recipe for mini halo-halos here here). Jeepeny takes the best elements of North American gastropub, and reintrepts it through the lens of a young, in-the-know, Filipino adult.

Rather than your traditional Irish or English pub or even Williamsburg bar, this was a different kind of colorful and cozy gathering space. Bar snacks here are pork rinds not peanuts. And fish and chips isn’t the specialty here, it’s pancit (Filipino noodles). Candles aren’t in mason jars but in dollar-store glass vials with Jesus and Mary on the front. And the images covering the walls aren’t black and white photos of boats or men in suits – it’s a mural of the first Filipino lady to appear in Playboy.

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I had a field day snapping photos of the different fonts on the storefront and in the store.

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As an Anthony Bourdain fan, I loved how they invited him to take another crack at visiting the Philippines (totally agree that episode was a snooze).

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Maharlika was like a grown up, classy version of Jeepney, and where we had dinner on another night. We had appetizers like Spam fries and dishes like fried Filipino chicken with ube waffles while 90′s R&B classics like Toni Braxton and Next played in the background. A capiz shell light hung from the ceiling (which I’ve been wanting to get for our apartment for a while now). Instead of a huge wooden fork and spoon hanging on the wall (as found in many Filipino homes), there was a silver pair. The servers all wore shirts proudly stating “My Best Friend is Filipino” in stenciled letters.

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The whole experience of hanging out at these two spaces, founded by young Filipino entrepreneurs, made me super proud . While Filipinos make up a large part of the American and Canadian population, Filipino cuisine hasn’t really been sought out compared to other Asian cuisines like Chinese, Japanese, Thai or even Malaysian. It kind of makes sense that this generation of younger Filipinos are starting to bring attention to the cuisine, where you get to taste both the food but also a piece of Filipino culture and identity. As of last week, apparently halo-halo is the “it” dessert in NYC and a few months again it was named as possibly the next “it” cuisine.

It’s kind of funny that instead of “how are you”, Filipinos use the phrase “come eat now” to greet people. Find me in the kitchen next trying to cook up some classic Filipino dishes. Experimenting with old and new techniques and ingredients. And inviting some friends over to share.