New York Comic-Con: The recap!

Oh, New York City. The only other time I visited, I was in high school, I was chaperoned by a bunch of teachers, the twin towers were still standing, and MTV was still hosting TRL in Times Square. It’s been entirely too long, and it’s about time that I finally explored the place on my own terms. In short, New York City was amazing. Unfortunately I can’t say the same for New York Comic Con, but I’ll get to that later. Otherwise, first, THE NOMS. OH MY GOD, ALL THE NOMS.

I waited in line at Dominique Ansel’s bakery for the famed (and trademarked) cronut™. The crazy part is that we were running “late” in terms of getting a spot in line (it’s usually recommended to show up around 6 am (bakery opens at 8 am), we got there around 7:15 am. But lucky for us the line was relatively short (RELATIVELY), and two hours later (TWO HOURS, even in a “short” line), we got our cronut™.

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Was it good? Yes! Very good! The layers of dough had a slight crisp to it on the outside, and it crackled away to a buttery-soft interior filled with an apple-creme fraiche filling. I still felt like it wasn’t quite croissant-like or doughnut-like enough to be the best of both worlds, but otherwise it’s good enough to at least try it once. Would I get another one? Nope. Again, very good, but if you’re going to try a cronut™ (complete with trademark sign!!), I’d suggest trying to pre-order (I tried, couldn’t get through on the phones), or if you’re lucky enough, get someone to snag one for you. They’re good, but nowhere near being wait-for-two-hours good. HOWEVER, the other pastries at Dominique Ansel’s bakery are FANTASTIC, and I’d go back in a heartbeat for their kouign amann (aka a wonderful cloud of butter with a light crunch of caramelized sugar on the outside) or their canneles. They’re ridiculously good, and you can walk right up to the counter for all the other pastries. Cronuts = good, but not worth the wait, other pastries = absolutely worth trying, wide selection, and no wait required. Dominique Ansel’s bakery is definitely a win in my book, just not for the cronuts.

The other big thing I was looking forward to eating in New York City was the ramen. And sure enough, I hit up THREE ramen places while I was there. ALL THE RAMEN. ALL THE SOUPY, NOODLY GOODNESS. GAH.

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Top: Totto Ramen. Bottom left: Chuko Ramen. Bottom Right: Ippudo Ramen.

When it came to the battle of ramen in New York City, Ippudo and Totto seem to be the two big front runners on the NYC ramen scene, but in the end Totto won my heart. Don’t get me wrong, all three ramen joints that I visited were AWESOME, but Totto was so stupidly good that I had to stop and re-evaluate my life after I finished my bowl. I had to wonder how I could possibly go home while knowing that this bowl of happiness was no longer easily accessible to me. Until we can get ourselves a good ramen joint here in Houston, I’ll forever be pining for those perfectly al dente noodles with fatty slices of pork belly nestled on top, all bathed in a hearty chicken broth with a slick of their beautifully seasoned house chili oil. My heart aches just writing all that. Le sigh.

But anyway, on to the convention, no?

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The convention itself was…kind of disappointing. I obviously wasn’t expecting it to be anything like San Diego Comic-Con (the big kahuna of geek-cons), but this was underwhelming even compared to the smaller geek-cons I’ve been to, such as Comicpalooza right here in my own hometown of Houston, TX.  The biggest thing that disappointed me about New York Comic Con is that there was nothing to do. There were a lot of big-name vendors (Marvel, Ubisoft, lots of major comic/toy/videogame studios), but it felt like unless you were panel-hopping all day, there wasn’t much else in it for us. At other cons there’s usually PLENTY of activities going on at the booths, whether it was giveaways, screening tickets, or drawings for a chance to meet and greet some of the cast members or major artists involved with their projects. It didn’t need to be anything huge, just enough to have the participants come back the next day to be intrigued with whatever product they had to offer. At New York Comic Con, there were lots of big, flashy booths, but nothing to actually make you want to visit. Even at Comicpalooza, which is still in its infancy, there weren’t any big names to the convention (aside from Sir Patrick Stewart being a headlining guest), but they had SO many fun activities that it didn’t matter. Things like improv performances of Star Wars, building an entire city out of donated playing cards called “Cardhalla” and knocking it down with a marshmallow catapult for charity, or the most random activity of all: learning how to salsa dance from the freakin’ ORIGINAL BLACK RANGER. New York Comic Con didn’t seem to offer much of anything outside of the panels. Even the small vendors at New York Comic Con were kind of disappointing…it was mostly businesses reselling items that you could easily find at any other shop selling Star Wars/Doctor Who novelties, or they were reselling exclusive items from San Diego Comic-Con. At Comicpalooza, whatever they lacked in volume in the exhibitors hall they made up for in quality. They didn’t have a whole lot of vendors, but what little they did have were some brilliant small businesses who had high-quality and unique items to show off. Things like custom mini-figs, lots of clever original t-shirts, or even a group who custom-built gorgeous furniture that was specifically meant for geek-goods (with shelves that were specifically cut to dimensions for comic books, playing cards, etc.). Many of these talented vendors were present at New York Comic Con as well (the same furniture building group was there!), but I felt like the number of resellers far outweighed the number of people providing original and unique works. So basically the exhibition hall felt like it was full of lots of big name booths with nothing to keep people interested, or vendors who were selling things that I could’ve bought at a local toy shop or thinkgeek.com. Overall, just…meh. Maybe I expected too much, and maybe I was going to the wrong places, but otherwise there’s always awesome cosplayers to make things fun!

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Go on, take your chances…

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An AWESOME Vash the Stampede. I haven’t watched anime in a REEEALLY long time, but this was pretty damn cool.

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THIS GUY. THIS GUY RIGHT HERE. He f*cking OWNED the convention. He was stopped everywhere he went. He photobombed people and they didn’t even care. This man FREAKING ROCKED NEW YORK COMIC CON.

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…see what I mean about photobombing people and not having them care? This group of X-men cosplayers LOVED IT when he popped into their photo.

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Sir Ian McKellan, is that you?

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My favorite group cosplay out of them all. Everything about this cracks me up. Cyril’s foil swan. Pam’s dolphin puppet. Mallory with a drink in her hand, a smug look on her face, and the hangover sunglasses. PERFECT.

I might have griped about the convention floor itself, but dammit, geek-cons are fun because of the people who show up. And lucky for me, I’m thrilled to report that five awesome people picked up my critters and EVERY SINGLE ONE of them was accounted for! VICTORY!! Here’s the adoption roundup:

  • Daredevil: First one to be dropped, and found himself a new home in Attleboro, MA!
    Daredevil
  • Sister of Plenitude: 2nd one to be dropped, and she now has a new home in Queens, NY! Her new mama also posted TONS of other AWESOME post-adoption photos. I plan on making a separate post, because seriously, she sent me some SUPER fun and cool ones.
    Sister 2
  • Spider-Man: third to be dropped, and he’s got a new home in Miami, FL!
    Spider-Man
  • The Thing: Number 4…ha, didn’t even realize that would be consistent with him being part of the FANTASTIC FOUR. HAAA! Anyway, he was the fourth critter to be dropped, and he seems to have no problems making new friends in his new home in Edison, NJ!
    The Thing
  • Captain America: Last one to be dropped, and he’s also going to sunnier climates in South Beach, FL!
    CAptain America

SUPER thanks to everyone who picked up my critters! And don’t be shy about sending me those post-adoption photos! I LOVE seeing my critters take on new adventures, and it’s the biggest reason why I still do these drops. There’s something about seeing my critters out and about that gives me the warm fuzzies every time. 🙂 Otherwise, the quick ‘n dirty review of my trip to New York City:

  • The food: AWESOME. OH MAH GAH. I ate my way through the city and it was GLORIOUS.
  • New York Comic Con: Only so-so, but I may have been hitting all the wrong spots.
  • The critter adoptions: AWESOME. My first time EVER hitting a 100% turnout on a multi-critter drop, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. THANK YOU again to everyone who joined the hunt!

I came, I geeked, I NOMMED. New York City, you can be sure I’ll be back.

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I WILL EAT YOU TO EXTINCTION!!

I don’t like sugar cookies. I appreciate that you can cut them into fun shapes and decorate them to your heart’s delight, but I’m very much a chocolate-chip/snickerdoodle kind of girl, so when I bake cookies, that’s what I stick with. But when I saw these crazy 3D dinosaur cookie cutters at ThinkGeek.com, I knew it was time to put aside my feelings about sugar cookies and BAKE ME SOME DELICIOUS DINOSAURS.

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So here’s what the cookie cutters look like. You bake cookies into the individual pieces, assemble, and then you end up with PREHISTORIC NOMS.

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A completed T-Rex cookie, standing in all its glory.

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Uh oh.

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OH NOOOOOOO. Feh, he was gonna go extinct one way or another.

And guess what? The cookies were tasty too! You can find the recipe I used here. I chose this recipe because it included hints of almond and lemon in the recipe, and it turned out SUPER tasty. I can imagine these being really good with some nutella or jam sandwiched between cookies. Maybe I’m finally coming around to this whole sugar cookie gig. The only setback I ran into with these cookie cutters is that you have to be careful not to roll the cookie dough too thickly, because then some of the pieces won’t fit together as well. Seems pretty obvious, but I don’t bake sugar cookies much, so I have a hard time rolling the dough out to the right thickness on a consistent basis.

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Since I still had plenty of dough left, I also baked some Star Wars cookies on the side. My fiance’s friend got him a set of Star Wars cookie cutters for him as a graduation gift a few years ago, and they’ve never been used until now. Can’t say enough good things about these cookie cutters. They’re easy to use, and they left perfect imprints on the cookies every time.

I’d say I had a pretty successful baking day! You win this round, sugar cookies. You can thank the dinosaurs for that. 😀

Peru = Magic

I’m back! Remember how I was so worried that the trip might be one huge mistake? No mistakes were made. I didn’t mind getting up super early in the morning for the hikes. The climbs were tough, but absolutely worth the work. I came back hobbling like an old woman with 3 busted toes and I’d still go back and do it again. It was THAT amazing.

In Peru I drank many pisco sours:

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And ate guinea pigs:

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They honestly taste JUST like chicken, just with less meat. The crisped skin was like skin from roast pork, but thinner, so it was more crispy instead of crunchy. So overall it was like roast chicken with thin pork cracklings on top. Pretty darn good.

I ate through an AMAZING local market:

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I saw some breath-taking scenery:

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And climbed up to great heights:

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And of course I saw Machu Picchu!

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Truly stunning.

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Soaking up the sun like the king of the Incas.

…and this happened too. HAND PHOTOBOMB!

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Obviously a very eventful and significant trip for me. I’d do it again in a heartbeat, injuries and all. Even if you don’t want to do the hike, you can take a train to see Machu Picchu from Cusco. Either way it’s absolutely worth seeing, and Cusco itself is so rich with culture and art that I could’ve spent a few extra days just immersing myself in everything it has to offer. Gracias, Peru. It was a magical time.

Otherwise, now that I’m back, I’ve got a TON of crocheting to do before Comic-Con! Hookers can’t seem to get a break. 🙂

Happy National Coffee Day!

Happy National Coffee Day, everyone! I’ll confess I actually had no clue this even existed until I read about it yesterday, but dammit, I’ll take any excuse to celebrate the existence of this sweet, sweet, nectar of the gods.

No, business zombie, you can NOT haz coffee.

I’ve been on a one-cup-a-day habit since high school, starting out with the occasional sugary sweet Frappucino at Starbucks, then moving on to pouring my own daily cup of joe in the mornings (but still loaded with sugar and cream), and slowly learning to appreciate the rich and subtle flavors that coffee has to offer over time. I’m far from being a coffee buff (Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee? Tanzania beans? I don’t know, just pour me a cup), but nowadays my cup of choice is a good flat white from Revival Market or a cortado from Catalina Coffee. Smooth, no need for sugar, and strong enough to get me wired for the rest of the day. So, my dear readers, how do you take your coffee?

Go Coogs!

A few months back I was approached by the folks at the Bare Bowls Kitchen food truck to make a little mascot for them, particularly one related to the University of Houston since they started serving their bowls of deliciousness to the starving masses of students there. I still don’t really take orders or commissions, but 1) I’ve had their food before and really enjoyed it (it’s tasty! it’s locally sourced! it’s 12,876,234 times healthier than the crap in the cafeteria!), and 2) I earned my professional degree at UH and had some good times there, so I couldn’t turn this down. 🙂 And seriously, where were all these awesome food trucks on campus back when I was in school?? I was one of the unfortunate souls that had to resort to the fast food joints in the campus cafeteria. I feel like I missed out. 😛

At any rate, they asked for a lil’ cougar (UH’s mascot) holding one of their signature bowls, so I got crackin’. The toughest part about making the little cougar was…well, making it look like a freaking cougar. I’ve made lions before, so I thought I could make a lion and take away the mane. Turns out taking away the mane left me with a yellow teddy bear. Then I pointed the ears and I ended up with a yellow kitty cat. STUPID COUGAR, WHY WON’T YOU SHOW YOURSELF?? After lots of fiddling (you’d be surprised at what kind of subtle alterations completely changed how the lil’ dude looked), I think I finally managed to get a serviceable lil’ coog. 🙂

Go Coogs!

And this lil’ coog is feasting on a bowl of his own. 🙂

I dropped by campus to deliver the lil’ guy and to grab a bite. I ordered a Western Indian bowl (marinated chicken, spinach, corn, all over a lovely bed of seasoned rice), topped with a poached duck egg. Let me repeat that. POACHED. DUCK. EGG.

Ohhhh mama.

The pieces of chicken were tender, the spinach was silky and took on the flavors and spices used in the chicken, and don’t even get me started on the duck egg…

GET IN MAH BELLY.

With the rice soaking up all that eggy goodness (I’ve got an unhealthy obsession with poached eggs), this was a bowl full of win. If any of you are fortunate enough to be on UH campus, these guys serve up some serious goodness. They’re super affordable, and they dole out hefty portions to boot. You eat well, spend less, and you get to support local farmers and growers in the process. TRIPLE WIN. Next time you drop by, say hi to the friendly staff, and say hello to their new pet!

Lil’ coog, happily perched in his new home.

You can keep up with Bare Bowls Kitchen on twitter or facebook. They’re honestly doing (and cooking) great things, and for all you UH students out there, seriously, ditch the Taco Bell and go straight for the trucks. I WILL LIVE VICARIOUSLY THROUGH ALL OF YOU, since I never had the chance back when I had my days at UH. Go forth my dear coogs, and EAT WELL. 🙂

Twitter: www.twitter.com/BareBowls
Facebook: www.facebook.com/barebowlskitchen

Info about UH’s food truck food court can be found here. Goodness knows I would’ve eaten through ALL of those trucks if they were around when I was in school. 🙂

100 reasons why Houston is friggin’ delicious

Recently, Alison Cook – one of Houston’s prominent food critics – took on the daunting task of ranking the city’s best restaurants from 1 to 100. And if you check it out, it’s a damn good list. Do I agree with all of it? No. Because if someone has to pick just 100 restaurants out of the thousands that are sprawling this city, there’s bound to be omissions and disagreements in terms of rankings. But the thing I love about the list is that it’s a brilliant snapshot of everything Houston has to offer. We’re not New York or LA, but Houston’s got a flavor that we can call our own, and it’s friggin’ delicious. I love that there’s plenty of down-home, tasty-like-yo’-grandma-made-it ethnic picks peppered in with the fancier dress-up-and-prepare-the-expense account joints. The fact that a no-frills pho trailer is in the top 10 along with our nationally acclaimed restaurants shows that Houston’s best food is far from being limited to the expensive and trendy category. It just needs to be made with heart, and we’ve got plenty of that in this town. I’ve tried 34 out of the 100 restaurants on the list so far, and I can’t wait to tackle more. So Ms. Cook, this one’s for you.

You can check out the list here. It’s definitely worth a look, and even if you vehemently disagree with it, it’s still a great way to get people talking about Houston’s good eats. 🙂

Cupcake pattern from Amigurumi World by Ana Paula Rimoli

This little piggy went to market: Showin’ some crochet love to Revival Market

Confession: I’m probably one of the least “green” eaters you’ll find. Maybe it’s because I don’t have enough cooking prowess to justify paying premium for organic/local food if I’m going to screw it up, and maybe it’s in the interest of saving a few bucks here and there. Even after watching Food, Inc. (great documentary about the food industry), I still ate mass-produced meats, thinking to myself “I don’t wanna know what happened to this chicken, but I haven’t grown a third arm yet, so I’m gonna eat it anyway,” as I chomped down on that chicken wing. But places like Revival Market are slowly turning me into a believer in the locavore movement. It’s a market. But they also serve food. And holy crap, the FOOD.

Revival Market has a simple, straightforward mission: Local means fresher & cleaner, and fresher & cleaner means tastier, healthier, and better for the community. 🙂 The whole menu has wonderful items that are all made fresh, local, and just plain GOOD. But if you want the best example of everything Revival Market stands for, just utter three letters: BLT. Bacon, lettuce, tomato, and dammit, I’m convinced there’s some magic in there. It’s so simple…how could you POSSIBLY make it that much better? Much less $9-better? I had a bit of a Pulp Fiction moment when I saw the $9 on the board…just as Vincent Vega questioned the $5 milkshake, I questioned the nearly-$10 BLT plate. And oh, how Revival proved me wrong.

Half of my BLT, shortly before I devoured it.

That bacon is UH-MAZING. Bacon is already a sacred perfect form to me already, even the cheap-o diner bacon you’d get with a greasy breakfast platter. But THIS. This was something different. Fatty, perfectly crisp edges, smokey and flavorful…this is the remarkable result when your bacon comes straight from a farm and is cured and smoked in-house. Pair it together with fresh slices of tomato, leafy arugula, and a wonderfully light herbed mayonnaise, and you’ve got yourself a BLT that changes everything you knew about the classic sandwich. Those sandwiches that I once loved with the wilted lettuce, chewy bacon, and mushy tomatoes were suddenly shoved into a corner of my mind along with a few ex-boyfriends. One way or another, it’s a beautifully simple demonstration of Revival Market’s mission…when I thought a BLT was a BLT everywhere I go, Revival Market shows how just 3 locally sourced ingredients sandwiched between two slices of fresh-baked bread can elevate the taste and quality to a whole new level. No heavy sauces to mask the inherent flavors, no gimmicky garnishes to make it look prettier. Just pure, fresh ingredients left alone to allow the flavors to speak for themselves, all put together with care. And this is just ONE item on the menu that I’m gushing about here.

These guys have fed me ridiculously well and have helped me slowly turn towards the fresher side of things, so I decided I wanted to give back.

Their logo is a piggie with a chicken perched on top.

So I made them a piggie with a chicken perched on top. 🙂

Yesterday I dropped by and grabbed a BLT with a wonderfully cool and spicy side of gazpacho for lunch. On my way out, I handed the piggie to the girl at the counter. Immediately she says “Oh my god, I saw this on twitter!”…she took it back to the kitchen to show the rest of the staff, and the chef came out from the kitchen to thank me! Chef Pera, thank YOU and your staff for all your hard work and everything that you’ve done for the community. I’ve been visiting more and more often (the Saturday morning specials are enough to continually drag me out of bed on the weekends), and just when I think I’ve eaten through the entire menu, I still manage to find something new (and delicious!) every time. There’s some serious awesomeness going on in the kitchen, and it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down any time soon. Which means I’ll just have to keep going back. Now ain’t that a shame. 😉

Revival Market
http://revivalmarket.com/
550 Heights Blvd
Houston, TX 77007
713-880-8463

Piggie pattern from Lion Brand Yarn’s website. (you’ll have to register to view it, but registration’s free, and you get access to a nice collection of free patterns)