Category Archives: United States + Canada

Oh darn HCMC (Saigon), why so unPHOghettable

T-shirts devoted to pho-puns — Pho Sure, Pho Real, Got Pho?, What the Pho? Just Pho You? — offer a glimpse to how popular the Vietnamese noodle dish is. Rightly described by Peta Mathias, author of Noodle Pillows, as “Vietnam in a bowl, heaven in a spoon, culture in a sip,” the noodle broth comes in the raw beef version (pho bo tai) and chicken pho (pho ga).

My first unforgettable, I mean unphoghettable sip of omg-this-is-goddamn-out-of-this-world-amazing pho was at Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon), Vietnam in 2011.

In fact, the alluring taste of the translucent, clear broth (comparable to consommé)  that hinted sweet tender beef and aromatic herbs, had me revisit Vietnam a second time.

Pho Bo_ In the words of Peta Mathias, author of Noodle Pillows, pho is "Vietnam in a bowl, heaven in a spoon, culture in a sip."

Pho Bo_ In the words of Peta Mathias, author of Noodle Pillows, pho is “Vietnam in a bowl, heaven in a spoon, culture in a sip.”

Sherry’s love affair with Vietnamese street fare

But I was forever cursed. For afterward, no matter how hard I searched, I seem forever sampling inferior copy of that pho. And did I mention after factoring in the exchange rate, the omg-this-is-goddamn-out-od-this-world-amazing pho costs only 75 cents?

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Early bird gets the sourdough

Suspicious of the so-called tourist traps, albeit I am myself a tourist, I was never a fan of Boudin Bakery. For one, the 165-year-old bakery’s flagship store sits right on Fisherman’s Wharf. Touristy, checked. Animal shaped bread, including koala, turtle, and alligator, checked.

Very cliche. Plus, (nose upturned) the soup bowl was a-okay.

But I was wrong. Boudin’s sourdough is quite solid. If I were to judge the bread based on the following criteria: crust (crispiness, flavor), interior body (stretchiness, chewiness), aroma and taste, I would give my chowder bread bowl a 9. It was crispy, but not hard. Soft, but chewy, and carrying a hint of tangy aftertaste typical of sourdough. But I suspect my favorable review has to do with the fact I was at the bakery when it opened at 8 a.m. Guess early birds do get the worms, including good sourdoughs.

Clam chowder in a bread bowl, Boudin Bakery (image credit: gold

The San Francisco sourdough, which is basically a French bread made with a sourdough culture, dates back to the Gold Rush days. San Francisco-ans believe there are no place like the city that gives the bread its sourness. Supposedly it has to do with the makeup of the wild yeast strains native to San Francisco as well as the city’s air, temperature. But turned out that was what the natives would like to have believed.  Continue reading

How about we… live a high-cholesterol lifestyle by the sea

To tourists, San Francisco’s iconic Fisherman’s Wharf equates seafood restaurants, clam chowder in sourdough bread bowl, Ghirardelli chocolate and souvenir shops. But if you were to ask me about it, I would tell you one thing: crab stands.

Sure, some might call these restaurants and their affiliated sidewalk eateries tourist traps, but what’s paying a little more for the fun of street-style eating. And look at the proof:

SF Fisherman's Wharf: 2lb crab

SF Fisherman’s Wharf: 2lb crab

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Archangel Antiques closes after 21 years: “Young people don’t understand vintage”

There was a time when people lived without smartphones. That was also the time that people would look around and gasp in surprise, “Oh, what a cool shop. I think I will check it out.”

Archangel Antiques, co-owned by Gail (75) and her partner, Richard[1], is one of those shops. Tucked in the corner of 9th Street and 1st/2nd Ave in East Village, the 2-in-1 store will be closing this June. The piece is picked up by Bedford&Bowery, but you can read the original here.

Richard helping a customer (Archangel Antique 2nd Ave/9th St)

Richard helping a customer

[1] Gail and Richard asked to be identified by their first names.

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Sunny’s Bar: “I lurve It”

Tall, lanky and thin as a pencil, Antonio “Sunny” Balzano is the beloved owner of Sunny’s Bar in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Dating back to 1850s, the bar passed from his great grandfather to his grandfather to his father to his uncle and then Sunny.  After taking over in 1994, Sunny unintentionally transformed the tiny bar into something trendy.

How? He and his friends — artists, musicians — simply hung out at the bar, drinking and having a grand time.

Grand, is one of Sunny’s favorite phrases.


Gentle and sweet, Sunny speaks with an Irish accent (even though he is Italian). “I love it” sounded like “I lurve it.” He attributes his accent to his early days as an aspiring actor and love for theatricality.

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Through a photographer’s eyes (exhibition, 1959 – 1962)

If you were to ask the question, “What makes a great photograph?”, you would get varied responses.

“Interesting composition.”

“Great light.” ”

The subject has strong emotional appeal.”

Or simply, “I love it!” There is no set formula. Perhaps the  best way to understanding what makes great photographs is to, well, look at great photographs.

#1. David Heath

The single white line in the background and the two boys’ gaze extend and meet at a focal point outside of the photograph. By leaving the gazed object/person blank, Heath imbues a sense of urgency. The emotional draw is heightened because of viewers’ involvement in the act of looking (“What’s there? What are they looking at?”).

Image Credit: Courtesy of the artist / Howard Greenberg Gallery

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The best kind of dead end: Freeman Alley

Dim street lights threw long shadows on graffitied walls, ghostly vapor veiled the alley… This is a perfect for a film noir, Hollywood crime drama popular in the 1940s and 1950s. Except, there was no crime, no detectives and no dead bodies. Instead, there was Freemans .

The low-profile Lower East Side restaurant scored high in terms of ambiance, service, food and WINE. The food was good, but the wine (a Merlot-Cab blend from Rome) was even better. Freemans’ charm, a great part of it, derived from the walk down the Freeman Alley — the journey to the end. I suspect other diners, like me, relish the thought that We, only we, are the privileged ones who know of Freemans’ existence.


“Not a lot of people knows this place. It’s great.”

“Yes, obviously only you, and me, and… well, all these other diners.”

Yayoi Kusama: Contemplate Heaven in One Minute

Obsessive (adj): thinking about someone or something too much or in a way that is not normal (

Yayoi Kusama (1929 – present), a Japanese artist in her 80s, identifies herself as an “obsessive artist.” Having suffered nervous disorders and hallucinations as a child, she derives her artistic vision from them. Her fascinations include repeating patterns of dots, lines and other figurative elements such as eyes, profile of faces. Kusama asserts that repetition helps her ease her anxieties.

I make them [dots] and make them and then keep on making them, until I bury myself in the process. I call this process “obliteration.”

Yayoi Kusama: Contemplate Heaven in One Minute

Yayoi Kusama: Contemplate Heaven in One Minute

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