Aesthetics of Everywhere

The urban scene, its people and processes. Based in southern California.

Archive for the ‘food’ Category

TAKOTOR 2016: Inaugural Takotor by the Numbers

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Our inaugural “Takotor” ride in February found a group of us cycling thirty miles around Santa Barbara and Carpinteria, sampling local taco joints. Thanks to visiting friends Hyunoo and Tif for inspiring us to show you a bit of California living.

Hungry riders: 8
And we’re already thinking of the second mouthwatering Takotor, so keep your ears to the ground for the next round.

Taco (and burrito) purveyors: 5

  • Stacky’s Seaside in Summerland (now closed, I hear) for breakfast burritos
  • Taqueria Rincon Alteno, a gas station taqueria in Carpinteria with loaded up veggie tacos
  • Tacos Don Roge, close to Carpinteria beach
  • Taqueria La Colmena in Santa Barbara, a near-unanimous fave by the group
  • Taqueria El Bajio in Santa Barbara

Ratings collected through TakoScore: 34
At our second stop, Sheldon came up with a quick and easy taco rating system so we could collect our comparisons of all the taquerias visited throughout the day. And thus TakoScore was born! It evolved throughout the day to include previously-overlooked metrics. In the end, we landed on measuring the following aspects of each taco purveyor: taste, mouthfeel, ingredients, ambiance, salsas, and the open-to-interpretation sexiness.

Venue Taste Mouthfeel Ingredients Ambiance Salsas Sexiness
STACKYS 4.2 4.3 3.3 4.3 3.0 3.8
RINCON ALTENO 3.3 2.7 3.6 2.7 3.0 2.7
DON ROGE 2.1 2.7 2.4 5.0 3.3 2.7
LA COLMENA 4.9 4.9 4.6 4.6 4.9 4.7
EL BAJIO 3.5 4.6 3.6 3.4 3.3 3.0

takotor 2016: "The horizon is an endless taco."

Brewery stops: 2
Stopped for pints at Island Brewing and BrewLAB in Carpinteria.

Cafe breaks: 1
Just the one stop at one of our favorite Carp joints, Lucky Llama!

Churros: 0
To the dismay of our ridership, once we finally located the mystical churro shop, they had run out of churros for the day. Next TakoTor must return.

Written by Crystal Bae

April 29th, 2016 at 10:01 am

Coffeeneuring 2013, Part One

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Currently I’m very much in the exploratory stage of settling into our new home: learning best routes to get around, acquiring a sense of how things are oriented, and seeking out the best cafes. This last point is helped along by my friend Mary’s annual autumn Coffeeneuring Challenge, which inspires many utilitarian cyclists around the country – and perhaps around the world – to bike to seven different coffee shops by Sunday, November 17th and report back, well-caffeinated. Any reason for riding bikes and sipping coffee is fine by me, so here are my first four rides.

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Written by Crystal Bae

November 2nd, 2013 at 6:06 pm

Day in the Life of a Cycle Tourist

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7 or 8 AM: Usually we’re waking by now. We don’t set an alarm most of the time; we wake when the sun starts to heat up the tent, beating us awake. Wash, eat breakfast, and pack up camp at a leisurely pace.

Waking Up at Camp

8 or 9 AM: Loaded up and hitting the road.

10 AM: Around 15 to 20 miles into our day, we take our first break to have a snack and reapply sunscreen. We eat whatever’s on hand – fruit, nuts, bars. Lately we’ve been taking to the Pearson’s Salted Nut Rolls (cheap, gas station version of a Clif Bar) or one of these Krispy treats when we can get them.

Tuxedo Krispy

11:30 AM: Time to eat “first lunch,” one of the most important meals of the day. If we can’t find a diner (our top choice) or someplace else to grab an inexpensive meal in town, we’ll usually cook in a city park’s picnic pavilion, or, in rare instances, just make peanut butter sandwiches on the side of the road somewhere.

Diner Breakfast at the Viking Cafe

12 PM: More riding.

2 PM: Second lunch, if we’re feeling hungry. If not, just a big snack. We often take this time to look up where we might camp that night. Call nearby campgrounds or the town hall or perhaps a Warm Showers host, and hopefully resume riding with a sense of finality.

4 PM: Ideally we’re getting close to our destination by now. However, sometimes we ride until 7 or 8 in the evening, depending on wind conditions, amount of climbing, etc). Luckily there are plenty of daylight hours in the summer.

6 PM: Set up camp. We split the duties. Usually I’ll start cooking dinner while Adam sets up the tent, then we’ll eat – and shower if we have access to one.


8 PM: Read, write, stretch. Usually hit the hay around 9 or 10 PM because we can’t help falling asleep at nightfall.

Written by Crystal Bae

July 8th, 2013 at 10:10 am

Trail Cupcake Giveaway Day

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Adam and I spent day 5 of our bike tour giving cupcakes to touring cyclists we met on the trail. Two boxes of cupcakes were originally given to us by our friends, with the condition that we give them to others and take photos of the happy riders.

First two cupcakes were given to Will and Matt, two riders we met in Meyersdale. Had a nice breakfast with them as well – they said second breakfast, as the cupcakes were their first breakfast.

Cupcakes and new friends

This gentleman was headed to Gettysburg to meet up with a redhead. That’s how he described it, and that’s all we know. Hope the cupcake helped get you there.

Cupcakes on the trail

These two were riding from Pittsburgh and happily accepted as well.

From Pittsburgh, with cupcakes

And this 70-year old man was riding Pittsburgh to DC solo so he could ride at his own pace. He said he was inspired to do the ride after seeing a bunch of crazy people “like yourselves” riding their bikes the whole way.

Are we crazy?

Then, of course, we made sure to each enjoy a cupcake ourselves. And some Trail Town ice cream cones.

Cupcake Adam

Written by Crystal Bae

May 29th, 2013 at 1:49 pm

Wrapping Up: Five Days of Riding

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Five days on the bike, 243 miles of riding, all kinds of weather and terrain. Through rain, farmlands, and mountain passes.

Day 5: Harpers Ferry, WV to Washington, DC

Our fifth day of riding was a lovely, mostly sunny day of riding back to DC via the C&O Canal towpath from Harpers Ferry. A night of restful sleep and a great waffle breakfast at the Teahorse Hostel completely refreshed us, so even after four days of riding we were ready for more. We chatted with the hostel owner, Laurel, and two Appalachian Trail hikers who had also stayed the night. They were headed in different directions on the AT with very different hiking styles.

Along the way, I found that bicycle speed is the perfect pace at which to notice flora and fauna, start up conversations with new people, and feel the sun warming up the land. We paused at one of the lockhouses on the canal and met a volunteer named Bud who offered to show us the interior of one of the restored lockhouses further down the trail that he was checking up on. The three of us continued down the trail and had the opportunity to look inside the lockhouse, which would be fun to rent for an overnight stay (it’s $70-100/night for up to eight people). The house was very basic – you have to carry in everything you need, including water – but has two bedrooms that can easily accommodate eight. It does a good job of evoking the feeling of a bygone time.

Riding with Bud, C&O volunteer

C&O Lockhouse

We talked with Bud for a little while before starting off down the trail again. Soon enough, we were stopped again to chat with an older man who was curious about where we were headed and where we were coming from. He said he had done a lot of bike touring in his day and sent us off with a cyclist creed: “For every uphill there is a downhill, but for every headwind there is another headwind.”

The rest of the ride back into Washington, DC via the C&O was pleasant and had pockets of sunlight to warm us up enough. We were both feeling tired of trail-riding by the last 10 or 15 miles, but soon were back into the city with all its familiar traffic (rush hour on L Street isn’t pretty). Happened to run into Chris on our way in and then stopped to visit a friend at a nearby coffee shop. Nice to see familiar faces!

Bike touring Harpers Ferry

We had a wonderful trip overall, and it was refreshing to get out of the city for awhile. Bike touring can be very affordable: no rising gas prices to worry about, free lodging if you already have camping equipment (the C&O Canal hiker/biker sites are free), and plenty of time to stop whenever you like. Most of our meals were made on the road, and as cyclists we also had to snack constantly. We had a good idea of what we didn’t need to bring, though we didn’t overpack too badly. If we tent camped more it would have been more worthwhile to haul the camping equipment, but low nighttime temperatures drove us to seek indoors shelter more often on this trip.

A few takeaways if you’re considering a bike touring trip:

  • Wear more sunblock. It’s easy to forget on cloudy days.
  • If wearing cycling shoes, it’s worth it to take a pair of off-bike shoes. After a long day of riding, throwing on comfy sneakers can be the best feeling in the world.
  • Never run out of snacks. Salty snacks especially. And eat lots of peanut butter. You can never really eat too much if you’re riding your bike all day. You can drink too much, though: beer hits you harder after a day of riding.
  • Talk to everybody you meet, even when you think you don’t have the time. Plans were meant to be changed.

Written by Crystal Bae

April 4th, 2013 at 11:53 am

Boulder, CO and nearby

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Boulder, CO: The land of hiking, cycling, and beer-drinking.

You can see the Flatirons and the Rockies beyond that, and who doesn’t love being surrounded by mountains? Boulder folks are some of the most active people in America. And here it’s sunny around 300 days out of the year, making it very easy to be outdoors all the time. Residents are fairly affluent – except I guess the college students – and tend to be very liberal, so there’s a fair amount of homogeneity. But the food is great, the beer is great (with breweries like New Belgium, Oskar Blues, and Avery all based nearby), and the options for what to do are nearly endless. Great first visit there.

Riding Boulder's B-cycle bikeshare along the Boulder Creek Path.

Riding Boulder’s B-cycle bikeshare along the Boulder Creek Path.

We tried out Boulder’s own bikesharing system, the B-cycle, for a casual ride to explore the area. You can feel the effects of the elevation almost immediately – we’re not used to being 5,000 feet high! Considering we’re typically just above sea level, the elevation change took a little getting used to.

More photos after the cut.

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Written by Crystal Bae

May 11th, 2012 at 6:08 am

Everyday Lessons Learned: November 2011, Weeks 2 and 3

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Lots of topics the past two weeks about cool research. I’m deep in data these days, so it’s seeping into all of my thoughts…

8: Before the concept of homesickness came around in the 1750s, it was known as nostalgia and categorized as a medical condition – deaths could be attributed to this condition. Francesca Mari reviews Homesickness: An American History: “By two years in, two thousand soldiers had been diagnosed with nostalgia, and in the year 1865, twenty-four white Union soldiers and sixteen black ones died from it.”

9: A mondegreen is a mishearing of a spoken phrase that results in a more interesting take on the intended phrase. Here’s the origin of the mondegreen:

The term “mondegreen” was coined by Sylvia Wright in a 1954 Atlantic article. As a child, young Sylvia had listened to a folk song that included the lines “They had slain the Earl of Moray/And Lady Mondegreen.” As is customary with misheard lyrics, she didn’t realize her mistake for years. The song was not about the tragic fate of Lady Mondegreen, but rather, the continuing plight of the good earl: “They had slain the Earl of Moray/And laid him on the green.” (Source)

10: New research suggests that the middle class eats the most fast food – not the poor.

11: It’s no secret that bicycling keeps you fit. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin found that if residents of 11 Midwestern cities ran just half of their short-distance errands by bicycle for four months out of the year, it would save at least $3.8 billion from avoided mortality and reduced health-care costs, and lower the number of annual deaths by 1,100. Results of the study are posted here.

12: Natural Language Processing: Where linguistics meets computers. Check out some of the work by the Stanford Natural Language Processing Group here.

13: The debate around climate change has changed markedly in recent years. A Harris poll in 2007 estimated that 71% of Americans believed burning fossil fuels led to climate change. That number was only 51% two years later, and then dropped further to 44% by June 2011. But this shift in belief has been very one-sided: 70-75% of self-identified Democrats and liberals believe in climate change, while only about 20% of self-identified Republicans do. (The Nation)

14: Mexico City’s Metro officials reported that 23 to 35 people fall into train pits each year. Mexico City is working to install platform barriers in its stations, starting with just two of their busiest stations (due to budget constraints). From The Atlantic Cities blog.

15: A law student in Austria, Max Schrems, requested his Facebook data – and received a CD with a 1,222-page long PDF of his personal information including deleted private messages.

16: Number of people who have disappeared from cruise ships in the past decade? 171. And 19 people have already gone missing this year alone. Because cruise ships tread murky international waters, and it’s often not possible to stop the ship to search for a person fallen overboard, and there’s also a high incidence of suicide on cruises, many cases are unresolved. It’s true, some are likely to be on-board murders. It’s in the cruise industry’s interests to quiet any of these disappearances. The eerie story of Rebecca Coriam, the first public disappearance from a Disney cruise, is recounted in The Guardian.

17: Apples go through a trial by fire kind of process when they’re bred; the process is narrated in John Seabrook’s piece in the November 21 issue of the New Yorker, “Crunch.” This story’s a lot more compelling than it sounds at first. For instance, did you know that apples are often selected over time for their redness, despite the fact that the redder apples have less flavor? It’s called “red drift” – retailers believe customers buy with their eyes, so growers tend to select for redness while sacrificing taste. An all-red apple also hides its cosmetic defects better, meaning more of your apples will be sold.

18: The Love Parade Stampede was an incident in Duisberg, Germany, on July 24, 2010 in which 21 people were trampled to death and over 500 were injured in the underpassthat led to the Love Parade music festival area. This was the only entrance and exit, and long after the stage area had filled up past capacity, people were attempting to enter through this tunnel. Those who were already in the main festival area had no way of exiting, with the masses of people pressing forward to get in. I first saw video footage of this horrifying scene in the crowd-sourced documentary Life in a Day, which records the happenings of a single day as experienced by people all over the world. Al Jazeera coverage shows footage of the event.

19: Pierogies are made in essentially the same way as Korean mandu (dumplings), except the filling’s a bit different and you add sour cream to the flour. Our first batch came out decent, though the process was kind of long. It’s a learning process. I’d say every culture has their own form of dumplings – one of my favorite things to do at family gatherings is sit around with my mother and grandmother and form the mandu by hand, adding special flourishes to mark them as yours (like signing a work of art).

20: There’s a proposed plan to turn an abandoned trolley terminal in NYC’s Lower East Side into an underground public park: Delancey Underground, or “the LowLine”. It’d be like the subterranean equivalent of the High Line.

21: According to XKCD’s notes on the Money Chart, the EPA’s current dollar value on a human life is $8.4 million. Go spend some time exploring that chart.

Hope everyone enjoys their few days of rest and feast. Happy Thanksgiving!

Written by Crystal Bae

November 21st, 2011 at 9:07 pm

Everyday Lessons Learned: October 2011, Weeks 3 and 4

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The theme of the week is: mind control. And food, as usual.

15: Research by the Yale psychology department a few years ago found that the most persuasive word in marketing to consumers was the word You. The other most convincing words were: MoneySaveNewResultsHealthEasySafetyLoveDiscoveryProven, and Guarantee.

16: During a recession, teeth-grinding goes up; shark attacks go down. Teeth-grinding, or bruxism, is often triggered by daily stress, which increases during periods of financial stress. As this often occurs at night, it’s difficult for a person to control (that’s if they even know they’re doing it). And why fewer shark attacks? Fewer vacationers.

17: Less time for play might be causing today’s children to grow up more anxious and depressed. There’s no question that unstructured play time is essential for proper mental development in children, and psychology professor Peter Gray believes it’s even linked to rates of clinical depression and suicide.

18: The body of a dead whale can itself sustain a complex underwater ecosystem as it decomposes. The process of decomposition takes something like 50 years, meaning the whale’s dead body sustains life for around the same length of time as it was alive. A whale carcass that has fallen to the ocean floor is called a whale fall, and certain species have only been discovered at whale falls.

19: Corning is a glass company that is the manufacturer of Gorilla Glass (which protects smartphone touch screens), along with other specialty glass. I recognize the company from their very well directed, futuristic advertisement, “A Day Made of Glass” – meaning their advertising is pretty effective.

20: A vigilante group in Veracruz targets drug cartels.

Romanesco Cauliflower21: The Romanesco cauliflower is a broccoli-cauliflower hybrid. See image at left. It’s a naturally occurring fractal. Nature and math are awesome.

22: More math! I don’t think I can explain this better, but read on because it’s fascinating: NYC water towers (via kottke).

23: The jackalope is an imaginary creature that resembles a giant rabbit with antlers. Sad about the imaginary part.

24: Tacos are an amazing food, whether for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Especially for breakfast. Anybody know a good place to get a breakfast taco in Washington, DC?

25: Zombies = big business.

26: Rodízio is a style of Brazilian dining in which the waiters bring skewers of meat (or other foods) around to each of the tables, and the diners choose how much to receive. The meal is prix fixe, so one flat fee will get you as you want to eat.

27: The Occupy Wall Street movement has an app for informing those who need to know that you’re getting arrested.

28: Focusing one’s attention is a more daunting task than it seems – our brains receive over 1 billion pieces of information a second, but we can only consciously process about 40 pieces of information at a time.

29: The true size of Africa in relation to other countries: Top 100 Countries by Area.

30: I like these somewhat random finds. History of the Chinese Actuarial Profession, by Xie Z.

31: You can learn a lot about your neighborhood by sitting on your stoop/porch/stairs and greeting the people who go by.

Happy November, now. This entry’s shorter than usual because I’ve been swamped with work and moving house. Fall moving right into winter.

Written by Crystal Bae

November 1st, 2011 at 8:31 pm

First time in Austin, TX

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American flag and Texas flag

I spent this past weekend in Austin, Texas, filling up on lots of Tex-Mex and seeing more cowboy boots in two days than I usually see in a year. The temperature was in the high-80s and it was sunny, which was a little shock to the system in late October – I’d already been bracing myself for fall weather in DC. I’ve always heard good things about Austin and found it to be a pretty cool city. Although it has a higher population than DC proper, Austin is larger so things are more spread out. It also has a smaller surrounding metro area – less than a third the size of the Washington, DC metro area. This lack of density made parts of the city core feel somewhat empty at times. There are a few buses but not much other public transit to speak of. Didn’t see as many bicycles as I’d expected, either. I’d say most people drive.

Mechanical bull in an Austin barAustin has a lot of colorful murals, a constant schedule of events, and some interesting architecture (check out the Arthouse at the Jones Center, right in downtown). Muted tones under the hot Texan sun and fun art deco touches on buildings made up the unique aesthetic of the city. The bars are kind of quirky – we went to a dive bar with a huge jackalope replica that you could sit on and another place with a mechanical bull and an extensive list of shooters. South Congress Street has a row of boutiques and antique shops, including Uncommon Objects, the best antique store I’ve ever stepped inside. And the University of Texas at Austin has the largest college football campus I’ve seen in my life.

One highlight of our visit to Austin was seeing the incredible display of 1.5 million Mexican free-tail bats flying out from the Congress Street Bridge to catch their dinner. We watched them from the bridge, but there’s also a park nearby where many Austinites and visitors gathered to watch the nightly ritual. Some others opted to take a tour boat, kayak, or paddle-bike on the river, which looked fun too.

Despite its slogan as the live music capital of the world, we unfortunately didn’t make the time to catch any shows. The streets (especially Sixth Street) are lively, though – you hear music streaming out from the bars onto the sidewalks. Since most of the bars have live music, it’d definitely be feasible to hear a band every night if you wanted to. Austin is also home to a couple of the most popular music festivals, including South by Southwest (SXSW) and Austin City Limits (ACL). The Austin Film Festival was ongoing while we were in town, and the city has several beautiful historic theatres.

But really, if you need one reason other than the music to visit Austin, it’s the food. Austin is at the top of the heap when it comes to Tex-Mex and BBQ. Most Tex-Mex restaurants had veggie options; one taco joint on South Congress even had a vegan menu. We ate so well – and so much. Everything’s bigger in Texas.

Written by Crystal Bae

October 27th, 2011 at 7:20 pm

Off to Austin

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Austin reflection (not my image)Headed to Austin, Texas today for a friend’s wedding!

Tonight and tomorrow night we’ll be staying about 45 minutes outside the city in the Texas Hill Country, close to the vineyards where the wedding will be held. Then Sunday and Monday we’ll be in downtown Austin by the Texas Capitol, exploring the city for the first time. I’ve never been to Austin (or anywhere in Texas), so I’m not sure what to expect – but I only hear good things from my friends who used to live there.

I’ve asked friends for Austin recommendations and their responses include:

  • Get some proper Tex-Mex at the Chuy’s on Barton Springs. It’s also where Jenna Bush got arrested for underage drinking.
  • South Congress Avenue has a lot of good food.
  • Go to 6th Street for bars and music – but live music is to be found all over the city, every night.
  • Mozart’s is an excellent coffee shop that has beautiful views over the lake.
  • Take a hike up to Mt. Bonnell and watch the sunrise/set!
  • More recommendations for good eats: Las Manitas Diner downtown. Ruby’s BBQ on Guadalupe. Chuy’s in multiple locations. The Saltlick BBQ in Driftwood (outside of the city).
  • See the nightly bat extravaganza at the Congress St. Bridge.
  • Try Gourdough’s donuts.
  • Bows + Arrows is an amazing boutique. And there are plenty of other good boutiques around there.
And, well, Austin’s motto is Keep Austin Weird.

Add your own suggestions as a comment here if you’ve ever been to Austin!

Written by Crystal Bae

October 21st, 2011 at 6:42 am