East Coast Food.

2013.

I’ve traveled to the East Coast on various occasions – each one filled with a lot of fun and food – but in 2013 I experienced one of my most memorable trips. Accompanied by my 3 roommates I traveled from Flagstaff, AZ to Boston, MA and over the course of 5 days we did Boston, NYC, Saratoga, New Haven, and Martha’s Vineyard. It was an exhausting whirlwind and so worth it.

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The Green Dragon – Boston, MA

*In 2013 I was still a full blown omnivore and although I was aware of my allergy to wheat I was still willing to suffer for good food.*


Boston, MA

Boston is one of those places that every time I visit I can 100% see myself living there. The food scene alone is enough to make me want to become a Bostonian and not to mention when you live in the cluster that is the New England area you’re never far from anywhere else (NYC, Vermont, Maryland.. even Canada).

Mike’s Pastry – Home of the Cannoli. If you’re walking around Boston it’s not difficult to figure out that Mike’s Pastry is the place to visit – locals and tourists alike are carrying their signature white and blue pastry boxes all over the city. Inside it’s exactly what you would imagine for a popular New England bakery – loud and fast. There are multiple lines, numbers, and you can tell that the employees are no-bullshit (with a smile). You better know what you want before you get to the counter because you do not want to be the person holding up that well-oiled machine. Home of the Cannoli indeed.

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Mike’s Pastry – Boston, MA

Regina Pizzeria. That’s one thing about good East Coast eateries – lines lines lines. Every place is well worth it though – why else would people line up around the street? There are now many locations all over the city, but the original Regina Pizzeria (since 1926) is in Boston’s North End on Thacher St. — Once inside it really just feels like any other local sports bar with pitchers of beer and crankin’ out the pizzas. One good indicator of the amount of tables this place goes through is the fact that they use paper plates – no time for washing dishes. For delicious, local, brick-oven pizza – Regina Pizzeria is the place.

Chinatown Boston, MA. I don’t know about everyone else – but when I’m traveling and there is a Chinatown located in one of the cities I like to venture that direction because I know I’ll find some good eats. Boston was no different. Boston Chinatown is one of the largest and well known in the U.S. — it has a great location in the heart of the city, so it’s easy to get to and easy to get to where you’re going next. Restaurants, bakeries and shops line the colorful streets.

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Chinatown – Boston, MA

James Hook & Co. You can’t visit Boston without enjoying a Lobster Roll. I’ve sampled Lobster Rolls on the East and West coast.. and sorry, home – but they’ve definitely got us beat. There’s just  nothing like the traditional New England ‘lobstah’ roll. Located on the water’s edge it feels right walking into James Hook & Co’s tiny building and sampling fresh seafood. Do yourself a favor and order the classic lobster roll and you won’t be disappointed with the mountains of lobster meat between 2 buttery sides of toasted bun.

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James Hook & Co – Boston, MA

Connecticut

There’s quite a lot to see and do in Connecticut, but I’ll focus on New Haven (home of Yale University) and Norwalk. As a side note, I’d like to point out that Yale is the closest thing to Hogwarts I’ve ever experienced (besides The Wizarding World of Harry Potter of course).

Memo’s Colombian Restaurant & Bakery in Norwalk, CT is an experience to say the least. It’s an incredibly unassuming establishment that had I not been accompanied by a Colombian from Connecticut I’d never have even known it was there. Having never eaten Colombian food before and with no idea what to expect we decided on the follwing — order one of almost everything on the menu and multiple bakery items. I mean… I had 3 strapping young men with me to assist in consuming these heaps of food. Try as we might we couldn’t finish everything, but it was delicious, heavy, meat-forward food that made you want to nap for the entire rest of the day. Just plain good ol’, home-cooked food.

Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana – New Haven, CT. We walked all over New Haven exploring the campus of Yale University, a local farmer’s market, and then through some shady neighborhood streets and across train tracks to get to Frank Pepe Pizzeria. A little history is necessary with this classic Napoletana style pizza joint. New Haven, CT is considered one of the best pizza cities in the nation – but often overlooked due to it’s small town status. Frank Pepe’s was started in the early 1900’s by one of the many immigrant families from Napoli, Italy and immediately established itself as the number one pizza place in the area. A bit unique in it’s style their pizza is coal fired, thin crust, and popular toppings include white sauce, clams, tangy tomato sauces and sometimes cheese. There is a notorious rivalry between Frank Pepe and Sally’s Apizza – so don’t hesitate to check them both out and make your own decision.

Lines. Lines. Lines.

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Frank Pepe Pizzeria- New Haven, CT
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Frank Pepe Pizzeria- New Haven, CT

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White Clam Pizza

New York, New York.

I am always down to visit New York City. It’s everything you would ever imagine based on the countless TV shows, movies, and stories you hear about the city that never sleeps. You could live there your entire life and never experience all of the culinary wonders awaiting around every corner – but every time I visit I’m drawn to two places time and again – Chinatown and Little Italy. There are Michelin star restaurants, hole in the wall pizza joints, and delicious delis lining every street of this grand city, but my heart (and stomach) wants what it wants.

Chinatown – NYC. 

One word: Noodles. If you like dumplings, whole cooked ducks on display in the window, and lemon chicken (yes lemon.. not f***ing orange) – then Chinatown NYC is for you. I myself search out dem noodles. It’s difficult to go wrong in choosing a place to eat – I’m sure they’re all amazing. I was on the search for my favorite NYC Chinatown place – ‘Happy Lucky’ but on the way we ran into a women on the street that said – “Do you like noodles? This place has the best noodles.” How did she know!? So I said “Sorry, guys, I know I was raving about Happy Lucky but we’re going here instead”.

Best. Decision. Ever.

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Little Italy – NYC. Little Italy and Chinatown are located conveniently adjacent to each other in NYC making it very easy to have two full meals one right after the other — because obviously. Go anywhere in Little Italy for a good slice of pizza, amazing pasta, and delicious cannoli. I’m not even joking – there are old Italian men, dressed to the nines, sitting on chairs outside of their restaurants, and grandmas yelling in Italian at each other out of apartment windows across the busy streets below… it’s surreal.

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Little Italy – NYC

Many more adventures than this were had by me and my compatriots throughout this New England trip, but I hope you enjoyed hearing about some of the best food I’ve ever had.

And cheers to the best housemates I’ve ever had also.

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Saratoga Race Track – Saratoga Springs, NY

Mike’s Pastry – 300 Hanover St, Boston, MA 02113

Regina Pizzeria– 11 1/2 Thacher St, Boston, MA 02113

Boston Chinatown

James Hook & Co– 15-17 Northern Ave, Boston, MA 02110

Memo’s Restaurant and Bakery – 60 S Main St, Norwalk, CT 06854

Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana – 157 Wooster St, New Haven, CT 06511

Chinatown NYC

Little Italy NYC


The Land of Smiles.

Thailand – The land of smiles. It really is very aptly named – the locals are always smiling and so welcoming. I think this has partially to do with a genuine appreciation for life, and some with the fact that they understand tourism is a major part of their economic upkeep. Regardless of the reason, the Thai are a pleasant people.

I spent almost 2 weeks in Thailand, and surely will post many times about various adventures, but this will focus on my experience on the Similan Islands. Not the most popular island destination associated with Thailand (that would probably go to Phi Phi Island), but surely one of it’s most beautiful. Don’t get me wrong; they’re all beautiful — but from the stories I’ve heard, Phi Phi is a little overrun with tourists and for that fact overrun with tourist traps. The Similan Islands are less traveled.


The Similan Islands are so called because ‘similan’ means nine and there are NINE islands. Not all are tourist friendly – but Koh Miang (No.4), Koh Payu (No.7), Koh Similan (No. 8), and Koh Ba Ngu (No.9) are most commonly visited.

My travel companion and I booked a tour to the Similan Islands — this was a good plan as it’s a bit of a boat ride to the islands and it included a lot for a little cost. Wow Andaman was a fantastic deal — see the end of this entry for details.

We booked a full day trip and were in for a multitude of adventures — boat rides to multiple islands, snorkeling, hiking, a stellar lunch spread, and beautiful landscapes/beaches. I will remember those white sands and piercing blue waters forever.

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I’ll admit I was a bit nervous for the snorkeling portion, but I was able to overcome my fear and enjoy it for the most part. The water off this coast of Thailand is so clear you almost don’t need a snorkeling mask to see the wildlife below – but I donned one anyways.

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My FAVORITE part of the day was the hike. I’ve never been much of a “beach bunny” as my mom would say — but give me a good hike and I’m there. The beaches of the Similan Islands are as much a jungle as they are a beach — which is unique for someone whose beach experience prior to Thailand consisted mostly of Southern California. There’s a slight mountainous quality to the beaches along the Similan Islands that lends itself well to hiking for those willing to brave some slightly treacherous heights — and I was very willing. The views… *sigh*… the views.

I’d like to highlight the lunch provided by Wow Andaman tours – traditional, plentiful, and delicious. We enjoyed a buffet  of Thai food in the heart of Similan National Park (basically a beautiful jungle). After a slighty grueling hike, an hour or so of snorkeling, and a filling lunch, I opted for some time enjoying the unique beach. As I mentioned I’m not much of a beach person, but even I didn’t want to miss out on the unique experience that is the beaches of Thailand.

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Exhausted, sunburned, and happy, we endured the hour+ boat ride back to the shores of Phuket. A day well spent and a day long remembered: The Similan Islands.


Wow Andaman – Well. Worth. The. Money. — Great service, great time. That’s really all I have to say.

My First Michelin Star Experience

As a soccer player, I wanted an FA Cup winner’s medal. As an actor you want an Oscar. As a chef it’s three-Michelin’s stars, there’s no greater than that. So pushing yourself to the extreme creates a lot of pressure and a lot of excitement, and more importantly, it shows on the plate.       – Gordon Ramsey

For a foodie like me I can’t believe it has taken me this long to eat at a Michelin starred restaurant. What better place to start than Napa, California.

I will say the difficulty I have imagining eating at many of my dream restaurants is this — how can I experience them correctly as a gluten-free, vegetarian eater? Most of my list – The French Laundry, Alinea, Noma, etc. – these are made up of tasting menus. The chef makes meals according to his whims and what’s fresh and local. Ironically this is what I love most about the world of culinary adventure – so why am I so scared? Because here are my choices:

1. Eat food that will potentially make me sick and go against what I know makes my soul and my tummy most happy.

2. (And to me even worse than potential tummy troubles) Step on the creative process that is the reason I’m drawn to this world in the first place.


Back to La Toque. I chose this restaurant after doing a little research. Napa has 7 Michelin starred restaurants, but La Toque offers a Vegetable Tasting Menu and when I called to ask about gluten-free the chef confirmed he could accommodate my request. I was over the moon.

Let’s get right to it. The atmosphere was fine – elegant and somehow also laid back – perfect for Napa. But most important is the food, so I’ll dive right into that.

La Toque

Vegetable Tasting Menu

*gluten free version

Amuse Bouche

I’m not going to include a description on this one. Just know each of the 4 bites was small, evocative, and thoughtful.

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First Course

Sunchoke mousse. Sous Vide onions. Nuts. Chives. 

That’s right: sunchoke mousse. It was incredibly light and airy – the sunchoke flavor subtle and not overpowering. The onions and nuts added the perfect texture to the pillow of sunchoke. Great start.

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Second Course

Grilled Melon. Grilled Avocado. Shiso Oil.

The first thing to strike me about this dish: the vibrant green of the shiso oil. Shiso, also known as Chinese basil, is a a wild herb in the mint family. I was skeptical about this one due to its uniqueness, but it ended up being in my top 3 dishes of the evening. The grilled melon and avocado were both texturally and flavorfully pleasing. The flavor of the shiso oil was delicate and complimenting. A+ for presentation and taste.

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Third Course

Fried Green Tomato. Creamed Corn. Green Tomato Relish. Flowers. 

Beautiful dish. Very aesthetically pleasing. This was not my favorite — this has more to do with the fact that I don’t really enjoy tomatoes not anything negative about the food. I understood the flavors and textures; they’re just not for me.

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Fourth Course

Squash. Onion. Brussel Sprouts. Mushrooms. Green Apples. Deglazed in sherry vinegar.

This. This was my favorite course – also the simplest one of the evening. The earthiness of the mushrooms and brussel sprouts, sweetness of the squash and onion, tartness of the apple, slight bite of the vinegar and caramelization on every piece — amazing. Each vegetable was cooked precisely to create the perfect texture. It was fantastic. Enjoying it on the cusp of fall didn’t hurt either.

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Fifth Course

Potatoes. Beech mushrooms. Mascarpone sauce. Crispy leeks.

*original course meant to have mushroom ravioli – substituted for potatoes to accommodate gluten allergy
This was just yummy. The potatoes were soft, the mushrooms perfect and hidden throughout like little gems on a treasure hunt. The sauce was tart from the mascarpone and wine, which cut through the heavy potatoes. The leeks added a nice crunch.
By this point I was getting very full, so I didn’t eat all of the potatoes.
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Dessert Course
Winter truffle ice cream over baby peaches.
I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one…truffle ice cream? I was pleasantly surprised. Simply delicious. I was full and planned to just try the dessert course – instead I cleaned the plate.
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I’d also like to highlight the service at La Toque. Although it is to be expected at a restaurant of this caliber, the staff was exceptional. Thank you to Chef Ken Frank and team for a beautiful evening and culinary adventure.


La Toque – 1314 McKinstry St, Napa, CA 94559