Friday, December 21, 2012

New York Hall of Science Hosts 2012 Maker Faire

New York Hall of Science
Calling all inventors, curious minds, creatives, entrepreneurs, and dreamers. If you identify with any of these or are fascinated with what the future may hold, then the Maker Faire may be for you.

Maker Faire is a two day festival celebrating science, engineering, invention, and art. It is a family friendly event and has something for everyone. The Maker Faire happens once a year in New York City, Detroit, and the Bay Area. Mini Maker Faires are popping up in places like Houston, TX and Santiago, Chile. As Maker Faire becomes more popular with inventors and fans around the world, I hope to see more Maker Faires hosted in different cities. The Maker Faire is in its sixth year and started in San Mateo, California.

The 2012 Maker Faire in New York City was hosted at the New York Hall of Science in Queens. I snagged a discounted ticket through Living Social. I recommend attending the Maker Faire even if you have to pay full price. It is an excellent family friendly event. Even if you don’t have kids in tow, the Maker Faire is still very entertaining. It is inspiring to see what new ideas are flowing out there and what people can do and  make with whatever resources they have available to them.

The Replicator Makerbot
Can make this
Out of this (plastic)
Two trends I noticed at the Maker Faire were 3D printers and robots. Makerbot printers were everywhere and what people were designing included everything built from plastic to furniture sculpted out of wood. The small basic printers created jewelry and art pieces. Large scale 3D printers had the capability to sculpt intricate details. If machines were not present, then robots were. Legos and programming went hand in hand as people created robots that could pick things up. One robot could even help around the house! My favorite robots were programmed to dance to Gangnam Style!

The Maker Faire was jam packed with activities, presentations, and interactive displays. There was something going on everywhere from cupcake cars driving around and a life size Mousetrap replica to a Mentos Coke Zero explosion and a go-cart race. Young minds were encouraged to test their creativity and engineering skills by designing their own wooden car and seeing how far they would go on a car roller coaster based on aerodynamics.

Designing cars
Electrical Cupcake Car
New York Hall of Science
Last but not least, the Maker Faire was hosted partly in the New York Hall of Science. This gave everyone the opportunity to explore the recently renovated center. Some might say that the Hall of Science is really for children under the age of 12 but I beg to differ. The Hall of Science is so educational and captivating that anyone, whatever age, would find it an interesting place. I had a blast with the hall of mirrors, giant Plinko type wall, and thermal imagery you could create. I look forward to visiting again and can’t wait to see what the inventors come up with next at the next Maker Faire. 

New York Hall of Science
47-01 111th Street
New York, NY 11368

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Le Fooding NYC 2012 Fail: Brooklyn Edition

Image courtesy of 
Le Fooding, a French foodingguide in France, decided to bring their Campfire Session #2 to Brooklyn’s waterfront in Williamsburg. I attended last year’s Campfire Session in Manhattan and the very first NYC Le Fooding event in 2009 in Queens. Both events were special and wonderfully organized bringing talented chefs together in one space. Patrons were fed, entertained with music, and free to roam around a beautiful art space. Le Fooding was an event that I became a huge fan of. It was an event and organization that I believed in and was willing to invest in. They always donated a portion of their proceeds to charity (Action Against Hunger) and the vibe of the events were not for profit, but rather the celebration of food and positive environment it could create.

Last year’s first Campfire Session was an intimate affair. The number of tickets sold were minimal and the outdoor space it was held in felt like a backyard. There was more than enough food to go around. Patrons got seconds, even thirds, despite the strict ticket per serving allotted. The musical guest was popular Norwegian crooner Sondre Lerche. It was an amazing success. We ended the night with music, ginger ale and Jameson, and Van Leeuwen Ice Cream.

This year’s campfire promised musical guest Mos Def and five tastings which showcased the innovation of Brooklyn’s food scene. It was promising and had an air of coolness. After all, Brooklyn itself had developed a bit of a reputation. Artisanal, hipster, creative, new, and trendy are just a few words to describe the “Brooklyn” scene.

The event turned out very different from previous years. There was a strict guest list and the people manning the guest lists checking people in had no idea what they were doing. Each line had a different list and each entrance was left unmarked. Was one line VIP, for Mastercard users only, A-L, M-Z? The world will never know. We were just lucky to pass through the gates after receiving an apology for the process that took too long.

The event took place at the Williamsburg Flea Market. The bad thing was that the flea market stayed open while Campfire Session #2 was going on. It was confusing. Where we supposed to shop? The vendors looked bored and out of place. Food lines snaked by each tent and overall the event looked secondary to the flea and was cramped. Hosting Campfire Session #2 in the middle of the Williamsburg Flea gave Le Fooding less of an importance. It didn't feel special anymore and was more like a nighttime Smorgasburg, the daytime Saturday food festival held in this very same location.

Daniel Rose & Saul Bolton
Spring, France & Brooklyn Bangers, USA
As for the food, it was tiny and too much of the same. I guess Brooklyn is big on sausages because three out of the five plates I tried that night were sausage. One of the booths Mission Chinese ran out of tastings halfway through the event. I had to beg another booth to accept my Mission Chinese ticket for a plate of food. Thank you Brooklyn Bangers for being so understanding and delicious!

Choncho's Tacos
Mile End
Model Chrissy Teigen
I wish John Legend were there to fill in the musical act performance.
Grapefruit mousse by Pierre Herme
Aside from the food aspect, Campfire Session really prides itself on their musical guest. I was looking forward to Mos Def. Shortly after I bought my ticket online, I got an email saying Mos Def would not be there and Dave One of Chromeo would be filling in. My mistake was thinking that Dave One would show up with a keyboard and sing Momma’s Boy but he was without his other half. He stood there on stage and no one knew who he was. He should have had a banner or an announcement but had nothing and we were all waiting for something. Before we knew it the stage was being disassembled and we were being kicked out. We were all waiting for the main act but little did we realize we just witnessed it.
Dave One of Chromeo
I left hungry and feeling ripped off. I imagine this was the feeling people felt after Googa Mooga, an event I was totally satisfied with. Then again, I didn’t pay $250 for my Googa Mooga ticket. I was perfectly fine with waiting in line for an hour and spending $15 for Blue Ribbon fried chicken.

I doubt I will go to another Le Fooding event in the future. I’d save my time and sanity and just donate $15 to Action Against Hunger. Charity shouldn’t suffer out of mistakes, nor should my ears and stomach.  

Photo Credits:, Roxwriting

Le Fooding

Pierre Herme

Brooklyn Bangers

Choncho's Tacos

Mile End
97A Hoyt Street
Brooklyn, NY 11217


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Writing Workshop- Version 2.0

A year has passed since year one of Writing Workshop. A lot has changed since then. Our founding group of two grew to three and now involves a rotating cast of eight writers. Since there are more people, the session lasts longer with just enough time for everyone to read their piece out loud.

To keep organized, we now use Google documents with a number of tabs.

We meet twice a month, every two weeks. It’s tough settling on a day/time when everyone is available so we compromised and rotate between Tuesday/Wednesday and Thursday/Friday. Our calendar tab keeps track of every Writing Workshop date throughout the year.

Our sessions are not meant for critique anymore but rather to hear our own writer’s voice. If editing is requested, we have a number of writers in our circle who are available to help.

This is the list of writers interested in our Writing Workshop. All contact information is kept here.

We also created a Google Reader feed that bundled all of our blogs. This keeps us up to date on what we have been writing and working on.

Special thanks to Restaurant Baby who has kept us organized, inspired, and on track by implementing all of these resources.

I was going through Twitter and came across an article about writing groups. The article went through a few important points about finding the right writing group.

Points to ponder:

-Does your writing group’s goals align with yours?
-Is it a supportive environment?
-Is the group’s size right for you?

My Writing Workshop has evolved and I love it just as much as I did day one. It’s low pressure, casual, and inspiring, encouraging, and productive all at once. Everyone is supportive of each other. This group grew through word of mouth. I trust that all of my friends will only bring good people to the table. It’s interesting to see how new members react to the format and experience. I have seen professional writers shy to read and then own the spotlight, I was amazed to see and hear a script brought to life through acting, and over and over again I am thrilled to learn that others find what I write interesting and are eager to read more of my work. Even though we have a larger group now, the number is just right. We are still at our local cafe and the outlets, chairs, and tables available have been enough to accommodate us. I’m curious and excited to see how year three Writing Workshop unfolds. Its so far, so good with a few more laptops, netbooks, and iPads to round out the bunch.

As Restaurant Baby likes to say, "Write On!"

Restaurant Baby, ActionJojo, Roxwriting
photo courtesy of ActionJojo
Photo Credits: ActionJojo, Roxwriting

Writing Workshop Version 1.0

Restaurant Baby


Monday, December 3, 2012

Madame Tussauds- Celebrity Wax Figures in New York

Madame Tussaud
One thing I’ve always wanted to do but others found cheesy was to visit the Madame Tussauds wax museum. I remember watching a tv special on Madame Tussauds when I was a child. They carved a wax figure to look just like Olympic Figure Skater Michelle Kwan. It looked exactly like her! Very realistic and kind of creepy. You could look into the eyes of a Madame Tussauds wax figure and wonder if it will blink back at you. 

It is no secret that I am obsessed with celebrities. I like to document all my star sightings. After visiting the Madame Tussauds wax museum in New York I can honestly say that it is a really cool place and not cheesy at all!

The Manhattan museum is over 85,000 square feet, has multiple levels, and different rooms which groups wax figures. Interested in athletes? Musicians? Politicians? Bollywood actors? Comic book characters and superheroes? Madame Tussauds has it all and you are encouraged to take pictures and interact with the figures. I had a field day with this and felt like a celebrity myself rubbing elbows with life sized replicas of celebrities I read about in US Weekly and Yahoo news.

Even though Madame Tussauds is from London, the New York location is special because it pays tribute to all the famous New Yorkers: Broadway stars, Al Roker and Matt Lauer, Woody Allen, and more!

Here are some pictures of wax figures I encountered during my visit:

Al Roker and Matt Lauer
Michelle Kwan
Captain America
Justin Timberlake
Stay tuned for pictures of my Halloween photoshoot at Madame Tussauds!

Madame Tussauds
234 West 42nd Street
New York, NY 10036

Friday, November 30, 2012

San Francisco Brunch- Brenda's French Soul Food

Brenda's French Soul Food will take you out of the Tenderloin and place you in New Orleans. Special thanks to Chef Brenda Buenviaje for bringing some Creole cooking to San Francisco. She's part Filipina. Plus 1,000 points for my culture!

If you are planning on brunching at Brenda's, come early. The line is long and the people come out in droves, even on a weekday. Brenda's does a great job on service, especially with large groups. Our waitress had it all down to a science. 

We ended up with a variety of dishes on our table since we had a party of 12. We had everything covered from sandwiches and savory dishes to breakfast foods and sides from Muffaletta and sweet potato pancakes to Shrimp & Grits and jambalaya. For the table to share we had the plain beignets and crawfish ones. They were amazing, especially the crawfish. My cousin said the crawfish was the best of all the choices but I want to find out for myself. On my next visit I want to try the apple and chocolate ones too!
Plain Beignets
                  Crawfish Beignets                              Innards
        Sweet Potato Pancakes                  
It was hard to make a decision on what to get since I heard everything was good but I settled on the Catfish Po'boy for my lunch. Plates at Brenda's are massive and cost approximately $10 a dish. I really liked the French fries. They were spiced and my Catfish Po'boy was spot on except for the bread. It was a little heavy. Towards the end, I was just eating the catfish. I also got BFC chicken wing. The fried chicken is so delicious. Finger lickin' good like how Kentucky Fried Chicken was back in the day.  

Catfish Po'boy
BFC Chicken Wing

Brenda's will have you fed and on your way in no time. You won't even feel rushed. It's definitely worth a stop if you are in the area. I'd even call it worthy of a destination.

Brenda's French Soul Food
652 Polk Street
San Francisco, CA 94102

Monday, October 29, 2012

Halalathon Part I- Best Halal Carts of Jackson Heights

Halal Cart Map (Jackson Heights + Elmhurst)
Jackson Heights, home to a thousand and one different ethnic eats, has a bunch of halal carts. My friend Jeff, of Jeffrey Tastes - Queens Qustodian, had the brilliant idea of a Halalathon. We would try all the halal carts in one night and compare them. I had never tried the halal food in Queens and thought it would be a great opportunity to gain a greater understanding of them and appreciate their flavors. 

The word on the street was that the Gyro King in Jackson Heights had the best Halal food. Was it a rumor, an award, or fact? We were to find out at Halalathon. Last night, my friends and I decided to tackle five of the carts and compare them to two restaurants Gyro King and American Chicken.

The rules of Halalathon were simple. Everyone was to buy a chicken and lamb combination platter over rice with sauce on the side. We would then do a taste comparison of each dish. We created a map on Google Maps pinpointing the location of the carts. The majority of the carts were clustered on the corner of 37th Road and 73rd Street and a few were around the corner at 74th Street and 37th Avenue. We met in front of Kebab King, split up to buy food, and then met up at Tastes Village in Jackson Heights to eat.

Location: 74th Street and 37th Avenue
Gyro King
Sammy Halal Food
The dishes were varied and none looked identical. I was a surprised that they were so different compared to the Halal cart food I bought in Manhattan. In Manhattan, the combination chicken and lamb over rice or salad were always the same color, same look, and same taste. In Jackson Heights, the halal cart food looked and tasted more specialized.

This got me thinking. What was the definition of halal food and was it more than just chicken and lamb over rice?

According to an article on, writer Saad Fayed explained the basic definition of halal:

“Halal foods are foods that are allowed under Islamic dietary guideline. According to these guidelines gathered from the Qu’ran, Muslim followers cannot consume the following:

-         pork or pork by products
-         animals that were dead prior to slaughtering
-         animals not slaughtered properly or not slaughtered in the name of Allah
-         blood and blood by products   
-         alcohol
-         carnivorous animals
-         birds of prey
-         land animals without external ears”

It is the type of meat supplied to the carts and there was much more than just chicken or rice. Some carts had hotdogs, hamburgers, samosas, and Philly cheesesteaks. The hot dogs were especially popular among the Muslim and Indian children. There was often a line at each cart.

Of all the carts we tried, only one was a recipient of an award, the Vendy Award. Sammy Halal Food was voted best food cart in 2006. Our collective notes determined that while Sammy may have an award tucked under his belt, his food was not necessarily the best. We voted the cart by TD Bank on 74th Street and 37th Avenue #1 for the night. A well balanced plate was the key. I had watched the man cook. The lamb started out as a patty. He then chopped it up and while the chicken and lamb were cooking he sprinkled seasoning all over. I have no idea what was in the seasoning but it sure made the dish good and tasty.

As I had mentioned earlier, each cart was different. They were varied in presentation, taste, and ingredients. Some used Basmati rice, some were oilier than others, and one, American Chicken used Mexican rice and it was extremely bland. American Chicken even gave sour cream and jalapeno sauce. They were the worst tasting of the bunch, dry and flavorless.

Gyro King was also a tad bit disappointing. Their salad consisted of pickled vegetables and the red sauce was on the sour side. The cart food was best when slathered in white sauce and hot sauce. We concluded that the sauces made all the dishes decent and edible. The best ones and most favored were consumed within minutes.

We’ll do a Halalathon Part II and venture into Elmhurst. Sammy Halal Food and the cart by TD Bank will be used as a comparison. Till next time…

Photography and Map Credit: Jeffrey Tastes - Queens Qustodian

Jeffrey Tastes - Queens Qustodian

Sammy Halal Food Halal Food

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pizzetta 211- Like Italy but in San Francisco

Pizzetta 211 interior
One of my favorite things to do is to explore neighborhoods within a city. While my sister was getting her hair done at a nearby salon in the Outer Richmond, my cousin introduced me to the cutest little pizza parlor Pizzetta 211. It's the type of place that really gives a neighborhood character. How many people can say their local pizza shop can rival one in Italy?  

It's definitely worth going out of your way for. Pizzetta 211 is tiny and can seat probably 10 people inside and four people outside. It's charming and rustic like a farm house. I really loved it and the service was very friendly. That made a big difference. Going to Pizzetta 211 is almost like sitting down at a friend's house for lunch, extremely casual and relaxed. It feels like home. That includes access to the kitchen. The shelves and food are laid out there.

The pizzas only take about 5 minutes to bake. They are thin and small, personal sized, but okay for sharing just as long as you get more than one. We started off with a field greens salad. It was simple, organic, very California (sans avocados!), and tasty with just balsamic vinaigrette and a sprinkle of salt. Then we moved on to two pizzas (Serrano ham, crescenza, oven dried tomato, wild arugula and Tomato mozzarella basil with pepperoni). Everything was just perfect. 

Field Greens Salad
Serrano Ham with oven dried Tomatoes and Arugula
Classic Tomato Mozzarella Basil with Pepperoni
A Zucchini pie to go for my sister 
One could say that after pizza and salad lunch was done but there is always room for dessert! Despite an early afternoon flight I had to catch at SFO, I decided to get dessert to go after quizzing the waitress what was the deal with the biscuits and fresh strawberries on the counter. She whipped up together the best warm strawberry shortcake for me complete with whipped cream. Since they didn't have any plastic utensils, she gave me one of their real forks. It was the best feeling to chomp on a strawberry shortcake while zipping through the streets of San Francisco in a Mini Cooper. I wasn't driving of course. 
Fresh Strawberries
Homemade Biscuits
Strawberry Shortcake
Pizzetta 211 is of the best gourmet pizza parlors in the Bay. For sure. This was the note I left on for my quick weekend SF jaunt. Lucky me.

Photography Credits: Roxwriting, Little 'Ol Me

Little 'Ol Me Neapolitan Pizza Challenge:: Pizzetta 211

Pizzetta 211
211 23rd Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94121

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Pie Face- The Newest Australian in Manhattan

One of Pie Face's clever campaigns
Like pie? Dessert? Mashed potatoes and smashed peas? BBQ? Thai chicken? Pie Face, an Australian savory pie and dessert chain, is starting to make its mark in NYC. They recently opened up their second location in Manhattan's Murray Hill. I got to attend their launch party courtesy of Google. It was a smashing event with unlimited tastings of savory pies, desserts, Australian themed drinks, and Australia's specialty cake lamington!

Owner Betty Fong
I had the opportunity to chat with Owner Betty Fong for a bit. I asked her how pie played into Australian culture. She said she grew up eating these savory snack pies and in Australia they are everywhere. Fong loved them so much she decided to open up Pie Face.

The pies are miniature and perfect for small bites. A trio of pies would make for a meal. Get two savory and one sweet and you've got yourself the perfect balance. The pies are cute and coded with faces drawn. The mouth is a letter to designate the type of pie it is.

General Manager Warren happy to serve pie!
B is for BBQ!
V is for Vegetarian
For a heavier option a "stack" is available. A stack is a pie topped with mashed potatoes, smashed peas, and gravy!

The sweets are endless and range from apple pies and cheesecake to chocolate mousse and key lime pie. I tried everything and loved it all!

Pie Face is a full bakery and cafe as well.
I've passed by the Times Square Pie Face location many times before and never took interest. The Murray Hill location is much more spacious but still no seating. Now that I know what Pie Face is all about, I'll be stopping by. Sure beats an American Hot Pocket, that's for sure.

Pie Face
507 Third Ave.
New York, NY 10022

Friday, October 12, 2012

Travel + Leisure Global Bazaar - All Access

All Access VIP Ticket Travel + Leisure Global Bazaar 2012
The Travel + Leisure Global Bazaar VIP Ticket All Access Pass was like the golden ticket from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The ticket granted admission to three days worth of events at the Lexington Armory. These events ranged from a kick off party to a global tourism themed day and one catered especially to families. The Travel + Leisure Global Bazaar literally brought the pages of Travel + Leisure to life.

Have you ever dreamed of vacationing in Chile? Mexico? Taiwan? The Global Bazaar showcased many countries by creating mini environments replicating the feel of each destination. The result was far better than an Epcot experience. I can't say if it were close enough to the real thing but I did feel like I got a taste of Barbados, Morocco, and Belize.

Mexico sampling Real Minero Mezcal
Each booth and country represented was interactive. Whether it was through food, drinks, customs, or dance, each visitor was given a chance to be immersed into the country's culture and what they have to offer. I was impressed with Puerto Rico. Their draw was an indoor scaled down version of the real life one mile 900 foot zipline through Puerto Rico's jungle. The Travel + Leisure's version was 20 feet high and about 10 seconds lasting. It was quite a thrill.

That's me getting ready to zipline.
Puerto Rico's indoor zipline
Gourmet food was a big draw to the Travel + Leisure Global Bazaar. Some of New York's finest chefs represented their restaurants. A few even came flew in from around the country.

BVI 12 featuring Chef Kenneth Molyneaux and Chef Imran Ashton
Firecracker Shrimp, Smoked Escolar Dip, Conch Fritters
Build your own mojito bar PATRON
As strong as you want it with a souvenir engraved muddler
Kakaw Belizean chocolate
Park Hyatt: Poached Quail Egg Crostini w/ Creamy Mushrooms and Truffle Butter
Marriott's Chef Dean Max: Blues Creek Lamb, Pine Nuts and Currents, Cauliflower Espuma
Sunday was the family fun day. Each destination catered to a family friendly atmosphere with activities such as face painting, dance, hair braiding, jewelry making, and live characters. I especially liked the family day as it was calmer, more breathable, and relaxing.

Easter Island body paint
Spain Flamenco Vivo!
In the end, the whole experience left you with rejuvenated wanderlust. Time to start planning a vacation!

Make your mark!
To the land of Bjork! Why not?
Special thanks to Stella Dacuma Schour of Stella Dacuma Schour Photography and Cooking With Stellaaa and Sara Markel-Gonzalez of Under The 7: The Roosevelt Avenue Project for inviting me to be their special guests. Stella won tickets from Girl Gone Travel. It was really nice to finally meet Carol Cain of Girl Gone Travel. I had been following her on Twitter as @nycitymama for the past year.

Photography Credits: Roxwriting, Desmond Chow

Travel + Leisure Global Bazaar
Lexington Armory
68 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10010

Stella Dacuma Schour Photography
Cooking With Stellaaa

Under The 7 : The Roosevelt Avenue Project

Girl Gone Travel
Twitter @CarolACain