Every Labor Day weekend, Joshua and Jineui gather 30 or so lucky friends for a four-day camping extravaganza by Manresa State Beach. This is not a hardcore outdoor experience — this year, there was a badminton game going near a very well stocked bar and a four-burner kitchen set up within snacking distance of our tents. For the price of an hour of downtown parking, some of us could even enjoy a hot shower. It’s definitely more about extreme eating and drinking that any thing resembling “camping,” but there aren’t too many things that bond people together better than wide, shaded hammocks or Scrabble marathons or jumping and screaming together in the ocean’s cold waves.
My visits to New York City are usually hectic, overscheduled, and downright tiring. Between friends and family, the pressures of â€œresearchingâ€ restaurants and visiting everyone’s favorite museum, vacations to the Big Apple are hardly leisurely affairs. This time, though, I resolved to take it easy.
Fortunately, it’s not hard to find good food as long as you schedule meetings for mealtime. Even a late-night rendezvous will uncover good eats.
Two places that I was delighted to try this past weekend, with the guidance of friends, are Gazala Place in Hell’s Kitchen (or, as the real estate agents have been calling it since the new high-rises came in: Midtown West) and the infamous Bonchon Chicken in Koreatown.
I make it back to the Midwest two, maybe three times a year. Since I gave up my home address in Independence, Missouri, twenty years ago, I’ve seen the area’s fields and grasslands transformed into bustling Walmarts and Home Depots. The surrounding green has turned into asphalt as steadily and relentlessly as the graying of my parents’ hair.
It seems like every backyard barbeque here includes a story about a Californian couple — maybe from San Diego, maybe San Francisco — who sold their dinky 1-bedroom condo and then moved into a brand-spanking-new, 5-bedroom mansion on a half-acre in Blue Springs or Overland Park or even Grain Valley, once the outskirts of the outskirts. My parents live in Oak Grove. Twelve years ago, I always missed the exit to their home, back when I-70 rolled across soybean field after sunflower field. Now, I just look for the shiny, mirrored-glass office building and the concatenated lots of car dealerships to find the road to their house.
One needs many lifetimes to enjoy all that the Crescent City has to offer. Alas, I only have ten days and one stomach.
That hasn’t stopped me from trying, though. Here are just a few of the highlights from the past weekâ€¦.
You know you’re in a food town when the postcard racks stock recipe cards to mail back to your friends. It’s been a long, hot, humid and delicious weekend in New Orleans.