There’s No Place Like Home

It is the middle of November and my body is having a bit of a shock from lack of ethnic food. Screaming! The coup de grace came last night when I went to dinner with some friends who swore to the four corners of the earth that I would love the restaurant where they were taking me. Off to Virginia I went to some down-homey American restaurant with meat, meat, grease, and more meat on the menu. Not wanting to come across as a prude, which I should have, I partook of a few items on the menu. Being a vegetarian who will eat fish and will not cringe at the presence of chicken, the pickings were slim for my palate — the ubiquitous salad bar screamed rabbit food and I simply am not a purist vegan in that vein. Fried this. Fried that. Beef. Pork. Ribs. Gravy with globs of grease in it. And in the middle of the night, my matchbox corporate apartment room spun like a roulette wheel. I am still draining myself of the ginger tea I had to prepare and drink non-stop to cease my stomach from bubbling. The room was still spinning by mid afternoon and when I last looked in the mirror, I do believe the green tinge to my skin has diminished some. However, the thought of what I ate last night makes my eyes cross still.

Panang Curry Chicken
Healthy Breakfast

While I give big ups to Washington, DC, for being a bastion of job opportunities, museums, people who talk about themselves — ad nauseum — and lots of tourist sites, there are those very important things that make a city most appealing to me — culture and food. Washington, DC, is very homogeneous. Many thanks to Ma and Pop Williams for not breeding a Stepford child. Being a product of the global community, I have more interest in being in settings that promote individuality. When it comes to food, the saying, “Variety is the spice of life,” comes to mind. Searching for small-owned, minority-owned, or independently-owned ethnic eateries is a bit of a scavenger hunt. Surprisingly so, because Washington, DC, being the capital of America, should boast the top ethnic restaurants in the whole of North America. Big box, upscale fast food, hotel restaurants, and chain restaurants dominate the culinary landscape. Even some of the coffee houses are like Target stores converted into lounges with dim lighting. There is no lack of quantity, for sure. But there is an absence of community that I have become accustomed to in Chicago, unless you go with a group of friends. After last night’s adventure, I think being set on fire would be more pleasurable than returning to any establishment that falls into one or more of the aforementioned categories.

Blackened Catfish, Collard Greens, Dirty Rice
Oxtails, Fish, Rice, Plantains

I have one co-worker who is a vegetarian. She recently gave me a list of the greatest vegetarian and vegan-friendly restaurants in the city. Yes!!! A contact on my Flickr page saw some of my photos I had taken at a few of the small, ethnic restaurants where I have gone and he offered a few suggestions that have made there way to the top of my list. Yes!!! With the city being relatively small and quick to walk within a reasonable number of miles, having Google Maps on my cell phone has led me to some Thai, Ghanaian, French, and German eateries. I found the stretch of independent restaurants in Adams Morgan that reminded me of the long stretch of Clark Street in Chicago’s Lincoln Park and Lakeview. I wandered upon U Street, so reminiscent of Wicker Park up through Logan Square. There is Foggy Bottom that reminds me of Hyde Park. There are some chi-chi restaurants akin to those found in Streeterville and Gold Coast. But the insides of my jaws have popped with flavour only a few times and I have done my share of eating since I have been in DC.

Peacock Cake with Apples
Butternut Squash Soup

The top restaurants and cafes where I have gone since being in Washington, DC, are as follows — with links to those having websites:

Panang Curry Chicken
Dukem Ethiopian Restaurant, Collard Greens

Okay, so the restaurant scene is not all that bad. But a food hound such as myself knows how to scout out the good eats wherever they may be found and spin straw into gold, even if it is not like stepping outside my condominium to a bevy of ethnic wonders in my Logan Square community. Having had some rather nice weather for this autumn, I have been able to get out of the apartment on the weekends and see where the culinary talent is hiding. There are pockets and one thing I have discovered is that it is imperative to get to these little gems as soon as the doors open because others like me appreciate finer things — like authenticity in their ethnic food and flavour. Between now and the time I return north to Chicago and all of its excitement, I will definitely sample the recommendations from my co-worker and Flickr friend. Know this to be true.

Frofrot, Togbei
Seafood Crepes

My time is nearing, for I shall return to Chicago where I shall indulge myself to excess on what my body has been craving since I left for DC. I already have my calendar set for the Cuban cafe, Thai restaurant, Japanese sushi bar, Brazilian restaurant, and Trinidad hole in the wall where all I have to do is walk in and greetings ring about on first name familiarity. Then I will be off to home to celebrate the end of the year with family. If you could see the smile that I have on my face, knowing that Ma Williams will have the house smelling of inviting aromas and me a few days later across the bed, on the floor, and up against the wall trying to get into a pair of jeans that will have somehow shrank between the time I will have gotten to her house and me stuffing myself to completion.

Spiced Potatoes and Omelette  Provençal
Salmon and Portabello Mushroom Sandwich and Salad

Off to the kitchen for some more ginger tea: slumber insurance. I do believe that I will be fine enough in the morning to get up and prepare some breakfast — scrambled eggs with cream cheese in it, avocado with lime, and blueberry waffles. Of course, I will get to pour some syrup that cost me damn near $7.00 from Whole Foods on the waffles.

Orange Ya Glad It’s Finally Spring?

Orange-Ginger JuiceMemorial Day and I get the Monday off from work. The sky is completely blue, unlike the grey matter we had hovering over our heads for weeks carrying wind, rain, and chilly temperatures with it. It is warmer outside, not that I am a fan of heat; hence, you never hear me complain about cold weather. There is a God who loves me and enough to wake me with an appetite. Wait. That happens to be every morning.

I had made plans to visit an eclectic breakfast cafe in a neighbouring community, not too far from where I live. I had begun the weekend with a visit to a Nepalese-Indian restaurant and had walked away completely satisfied, albeit not thoroughly satisfied with not having bought more take-away because the food was so blooming delicious. But back to the eclectic breakfast eatery. I had decided that after I had finished running my five miles that I would go to Orange at 2011 W. Roscoe Avenue in Roscoe Village. Just off Damen Avenue is a stretch of swanky boutiques, oogie-poo-poo cafes, and chi-chi restaurants. And among them is one of my favourite American fineries — that being Orange.

Scrambled Eggs with Yogurt

Knowing that the cafe packs out fast, I rode my bicycle to Orange and got there half past the hour of their opening. With a pick of any seat, I opted for a window view so that I could watch the people pass along the way: my very own Norman Rockwell vista during breakfast. You know the restaurant is a little more exotic than most when your water comes with a cucumber slice in it. There was not much hesitation with me reviewing the menu. I knew what I wanted. I ordered fresh orange-ginger juice, French toast in chai, and eggs scrambled with yogurt. Well, an eclectic restaurant such as Orange panders to a bit of my eclectic taste, so the food for me had to be equally catchy. The French toast came as colossal slices of toast with ricotta cheese in between, powdered with cinnamon, dunked in chai and topped with slices of apples. No syrup was needed for this tasty bowl of wonder. As to the eggs with yogurt, there was no cream cheese, which is what I usually order scrambled in my eggs. So, I got even more experimental with the yogurt and I must admit that each bite was divine. The freshly squeezed orange juice with ginger in it was a perfect wrap-up to an outstanding breakfast. And the bill at the end of it all left me with extract change in my pocket and a smile on my face.

French Toast in Chai

Orange is a Chicago franchise, so I must apologize to those of you who are far, far away from the Chicago metropolis for tempting you with this review. Believe me when I say that the food was absolutely delectable. Then again, Chicago is only a car ride, train ride, bus ride, or flight away. Hmmm. People from the other side of the world take non-stop flights to Chicago. While you are here, venture up to 2011 W. Roscoe Village and get a seat at one of the finest, genuine, chi-chi restaurants for some of the best American breakfast you can find.

Orange on Urbanspoon

When In

Another fantastic weekend to grace Chicago and I had nothing really spectacular on my schedule, except to enjoy food. I began Friday night meeting with a friend who is about to leave the country on personal holiday. By the time he returns, I will be gone to Qatar and Riyadh on personal holiday — with hopes that the political unrest abroad with the Arab community does not interfere. But while my friend and I had decided to meet up at a small Korean cafe in Chicago’s Hyde Park, it had dawned on me that I had walked out of my condo and left my camera. There are at least five common expletives in the English language and I discovered at least 157 more, plus the ones I know in the other nine languages I speak. To leave home with plans to go to a restaurant and forget the camera — I have four, by the way — is just wrong. What kind of foodie am I? But I was quite okay after stuffing my jaws with bulgolgi, kimchee, chop chae, and jang jugae. I will simply have to return at a later date so that I can blog the Korean restaurant.

Homemade Chocolate Chip Cookies

Later on Friday night, I returned home to work some magic of my own. I am a secret chef and baker, if I may be so bold as to say so. With the weather being aggressively bitter, I have found that a great source of heating my kitchen and my great room is by use of the oven. Who would have thought? I have been baking every weekend for the past month and have been very happy with the results. Even my ego will cosign on that assessment. I baked several batches of cookies, some traditional, some experimentally exotic. For the traditional, I baked several batches of butter cookies and several batches of chocolate chip cookies — using bittersweet chocolate chips instead of milk chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips. Satisfaction! For the exotic, I had gone by Vosges Haut-Chocolate shop and bought a few bars of sweet coconut curry chocolate and chocolate with ancho and chipotle chillies. I must admit that the mention of coconut and curry in chocolate may cause some people to race for the hills and chillies in chocolate may result in some high-end snooty baker bang his or her on the edge of the kitchen counter for not coming up with that idea. I had a chat with my ego and we agreed that it is rather okay to be selfish and keep the exotic chocolate chunk cookies for ourselves. I shall not blow my own horn, although I can play the trumpet, but those exotic cookies could make me millions. Hmm.

Lentil Soup

For Saturday, I had waken early enough to finish baking the remaining batches of cookies and packing several dozen to send to friends and to my brother. After mailing the treats, I had a taste for something to put me in a frame of mind where I am somewhere warmer than Chicago.  Rio de Janeiro. São Paulo. Fortaleza. Salvador Bahia. And what should come to mind but Taste of Brasil in Oak Park. So it was off the subway to board the Blue Line to Oak Park for something with a tropical taste. Complementary lentil soup. So good, so very good. And bobó de camarão. I always say that if I cannot go back to Brazil, then I shall go where I can escape mentally to that land of beauty. The bobó de camarão — shrimp in yuca cream — was just as I remembered from São Paulo. Coconut milk thickened with mashed cassava and loaded with shrimp and boiled cassava, served up with rice, and tastier than ever, I swear I was daydreaming about doing the samba on the beach. Or rather relaxing on the beach after having eaten such a plate of edible bliss.

Bobó de Camarão

Sunday greeted me with rain. Usually I would grumble and growl about rain, but with the recent blizzard leaving the ground covered with snow, slush, and trash, having rain wash it all away so the streets do not look like eyesores was a welcoming weather treat. And what should be on my mind to do after church? Eat. Then again, you already knew that. I went back to Oak Park for some more tropical eats to please the palate. Having gone to Aripo’s Arepa House for comida de Venezuelan during the summer, that was my destination. And I had decided that with this being my third trip to Aripo’s, I was going to try a third dish representative of Venezuela that I have not had before. Cachapas. Venezuelan corn cakes with De Mano cheese between them, primarily found at street vendors in Venezuela, and served up with well-seasoned shredded chicken and sliced red bell peppers, I was in heaven. Where do I begin to describe how satisfying that dish was? Where do I find it in the frozen section of the local market? Where is the off switch on my food alarm so that I can shut it off? Why am I bothering with taking a personal holiday in the Middle East with turmoil bubbling over when I could go to Venezuela instead? You know it is bad when food is so good that you do not want the eating experience to end. Then again, that could be attributed to my food addiction. Thank you, Aripo’s, for a smile-inducing Sunday afternoon lunch.

Cachapas

This was a weekend spent well doing something that I like — baking and eating. I really should be bursting the seams in my pants and popping the buttons on my shirts from all the eating that I do. Thanks again to Ma and Pop Williams for blessing me with a high metabolism, thanks to Nike for thermal gear, and thanks to Adidas for selling tennis with cleats on the bottoms so that I have traction on the ice while running my two to three miles every morning. I cannot — and will not — sacrifice my love of good food which means I shall have to remain active to retain my fashion model physique. Yes, it is incredibly vain of me to want to look like I am still in my twenties when I am old enough to have a child in his or her twenties. So what shall I do for next weekend? When in Chicago, there is an answer to that question. But the short answer is: I shall eat.

Bienvenida a Logan Square

Satisfaction, Rapture, Delight When I first had decided to purchase a condominium in Chicago’s Logan Square, several friends moaned and hissed at my decision. They warned me that I would be shot while putting the key in the front door to enter the building. They foretold omens of me running from bullets and violent gang blowouts. There would be pandemonium, angry little kids putting sailors to shame, cats and dogs smoking hash in pet harmony, and politicians telling the truth. Well, the chaos is in full bloom in the neighbourhood where I fled, but the rest is still wishful thinking. It has been three joyous years of living in Logan Square.

Having recently gone to one of the restaurants for breakfast that is walking distance from where I live, I wanted to go back for dinner so that I could see if the dinner menu was as fantastic as the breakfast menu was. It was. Cafe Con Leche had already proven time and time again that it was a top Cuban restaurant in all of Chicago. And then it expanded to bring life to its partnering restaurant, Cafe De Noche.

Tacos de Camarones I had considered writing up Cafe De Noche in the like manner that I have done for the other ethnic restaurants. And then I decided that I wanted to give it front page coverage, so to speak. Because friends and others had viewed my move to Logan Square as though I was going to Dante’s 25th ring of hell — that being the ring not mentioned in Inferno — I wanted to showcase my community upfront.

Sharing the same space with Cafe Con Leche at 2714 N. Milwaukee Ave., Cafe De Noche is a perfect addition and a welcomed one to Logan Square. The space has a lounge feel to it. During the summer, the front doors may be opened so that a nice breeze may blow through the place. The service is absolutely top and the food is deliciously splendid. Well, splendid may be a bit too stiff. The food is damn good.

Dining Space

Chocolate Bread Pudding

I went to the restaurant and took a seat at the bar. It seemed that many hipsters had absolutely no qualms about pulling a bar stool up to the counter and placing their orders. And while I am not a hipster, I clowned with the ones sitting next to me while I ordered shrimp tacos and a margarita. The first margarita came — notice I say first margarita — while I waited for my food and I pulled out the camera. Thou shalt not be a foodie who journals his or her food bliss and not capture the moment with a camera. Now, whenever bars announce that their drinks are half priced or something to the effect of not being full price, the drinks taste like a little bit of water has been added. Not at Cafe De Noche. And I did not even go for some flavoured margarita like a strawberry, apple, chocolate, orange dream sickle, Rachel — okay, so I made up that flavour — or raspberry margarita. The plain one was so damn good.

Then the shrimp tacos came. What a masterpiece I had sitting before me, causing me to drool, causing me to smile, inviting me to gobble them. And I complied before I clicked a few shots to memorialize the feast in advance of devouring it. The shrimp were plump and tasty in a rich tomato sauce on flour tortillas. And I heaved a heavy sigh of exaggerated satisfaction with each bite. The rice was somewhat like New Orleans style dirty rice but without the ground beef. It was so good that it was wrong of me to make such faces of food ecstasy. Add to the dish me having another margarita and the mood was just right.

Cappuccino

While polishing off the meal there were several Spanish-speaking customers who came in and sat at the bar: a Puerto Rican, a Venezuelan, and a Cuban. And there was discussion about the influx of all things good in Logan Square, recommendations for other restaurants in the city, and a hope that the Bears would go to the Super Bowl. There was a moment of silence on that last point. I, of course, had another margarita done right and thankful that I had a good amount of food in the belly to soak up the alcohol.

Martini

But there apparently was not enough food to my pleasure, for I ordered a dessert, a chocolate bread pudding drizzled with a homemade burnt sugar glaze and a fist of vanilla ice cream on top. Click, click, click of the camera to freeze the scene. Now queue scene with me having utter enjoyment in slow motion. You can see activity and people talking the background, but the scene is silent while I smile with each bite of the bread pudding and scoop of the ice cream. I am also having a moment with a rather large cup of cappuccino and thinking about what my circumstance would have been if I had stayed on Chicago’s South Side where there were weekend shootings across the street from my apartment instead of having moved to Logan Square. I am also thinking of a number: 36, the size of my waistline from eating way too much rich food. And then the Venezuelan disrupts it all by nudging me and reminding me that I am humming “So Amazing” by Luther Vandross a bit loudly. I am now too full to be embarrassed because the bread pudding is for two people to share and I have eaten it all, every last bit of it except for the garnish.

Red Wine

I reflect on my life and while there are some decisions that I have beaten myself up over in the past, my move to Logan Square has turned out to be one that has not resulted in any disappointment. Community. Peace of mind. Restaurants in walking distance, which is most import to a food addict like myself. And Cafe De Noche. For a community that was viewed through such a dark filter, it is the third most heavily populated area in Chicago with outstanding restaurants. Everyday I repeat my mantra: There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. And if you find yourself in Logan Square, welcome.

Call to Action, Send-off

Happy Belated Thanksgiving. Hopefully everyone had a fun holiday and ate their fair share of goodness served to them. I know I had a ridiculously filling holiday feast, this year done up with African and Caribbean flare with my friends. While others had turkey, cornbread dressing, creamed sweet potatoes, potato salad, and stringbean casserole, my friends and I had rice and peas, curried chicken, jerk fish, bammy, peanut soup, and enough other dishes to feed a village. Nothing beats feasting with friends and family during the holidays.

Angin Mamiri, Outside

But as my weekend continued, I resumed my usual restaurant jaunts. And today I went to an Indonesian restaurant — the only one in Chicago — called Angin Mamiri and had a wonderful dining experience. Outstanding food and fantastic customer service made it an experience worthy of the trip in the cold weather that were are having here in Chicago. But I discovered during conversation with the waiter that they will be closing their doors in Spring of 2011 for a few months and then moving shop to Evanston. The current location, albeit heavy with vehicular traffic, does not have a lot of pedestrian traffic. Downtown Evanston will serve as a more inviting location thanks to the influx of cultural diversity from Northwestern University.

Udang Balada

If you are in Chicago and you want to sample some authentic delight from an Indonesian kitchen, make the trip up to Angin Mamiri at 2739 W. Touhy Avenue in Chicago’s Rogers Park. It was worth the trip to me in chilly temperatures. There is a guarantee that you will find the same palate satisfaction that I found. Wish them well in their new location and be sure to get the new address. The location may be different, but the food will be just as delicious.

Solicitations, Recommendations, Suggestions, Food

This evening I was posed with two possible after-5 options:

A. Go out drinking with friends at a bar nearby work or
B. Meet up with some old classmates for a show at the cinema

I chose option C — go by a restaurant and have a sandwich. It can never be said that my priorities are misplaced. But I can always say that my lover tastes great. Wait! Let me put that in context. I love to eat, but you know that already.

My intention was to go home early so that I could go to bed early. But on a Friday night, Gino. Are you mad? Are you bumbling? The sky is falling for you to be inside on a Friday night in the great city of Chicago. Well, I want to force myself to wake up early to go to a certain Italian café for breakfast. This particular eater supposedly has an outstanding menu and the food is good, all day long, all the time. I cannot come up with any reason why I should not partake of any of the loving from the kitchen so that I may be able to say myself that the chef deserves a gold star. But I have to get up out of the bed so that I may get to the café before the whole of Logan Square, Bucktown, and Wicker Park pile in to get their fill of the Italian eats.

And on the subject of eating and my constant expansion of restaurant outings in the city, I am soliciting some recommendations for good restaurants in the greater Chicago area. Searching for restaurants via Google — shameless plug for my preferred search engine — is great. But there is something a little more personal, a little more authentic, asking for suggestions from real people. There is no stock answer of, “The food tastes okay at restaurant X.” Plus, there are warnings given for restaurants to avoid, much like a certain restaurant that left me howling, cursing, and swearing in the middle of the night. No, there will be no write-up of that scafezza — Italian for disaster — showing up on the Chicago Alphabet Soup journal.

Oh, wait. That sounds like my buzzer. Yes, it is my delivery. Panang with tofu. Green curry with shrimp. Red curry with vegetables. And me exhibiting my stupid smile before getting my lips, chin, and cheeks smeared with curry gravy. Send in those recommendations to eamadowms@yahoo.com and if I happen to be at an eatery in your part of town, perhaps we should meet up.

Mock Food Critic

Spicing it up a Bit

I am a huge fan of diversity, especially when it comes to all the good things that I can sink my teeth into without complaint. And while I am on my hunt for the Holy Grail of Chicago’s finest eateries, I am starting to indulge my strict vegetarian palate in the process. Chicago is bursting with restaurants that cater to those who are health conscious, me being one of those who fall into that category. Hmmm. I should perhaps put that into context. I tend to eat more than normal and that is not health conscious in the least. But it is satisfying.

Over time I will add more pure vegetarian restaurants to Chicago Alphabet Soup. These eateries may not be ethnic, as in non-American, as plenty will be contemporary — contemporary meaning they may fall into any vegetarian or vegan slot. Oh, I am staying away from trying to paint a pretty picture of me exerting myself on rabbit food.

And during it all, I have to figure out a way to get into the kitchen at some of these restaurants. Photographing and videotaping the food is one thing. I need to get some interviews or cooking action so that you, the reading audience, will get to see the face or faces behind the dishes that I have been mesmerizing you with. As you probably can tell, I am enjoying this way too much. Hahahaha.

When In Chicago

When in Rome, you do as the Romans do. But I am in Chicago. And this city is chock full of options. Today I decided to deviate slightly from the original plan of journaling ethnic restaurants only. I opted to write about a cert breakfast spot in the city. Yes, I opted to scribe a nice missive about the most important meal of the day without any ethnic flair. Someone is shaking his or her head and asking the question, “Why?”

I shall maintain the original charter of Chicago Alphabet Soup. However, my food alarm goes off constantly, which means I may wonder into any one of the countless eateries, delis, restaurants, or storefront boutiques for some get-down on some savoury food. Today was just the beginning and one that was well worth it.

So be on the lookout for some annotations and some embedded videos of me having my say, my fill, and my moments of bliss getting crumbs in my beard, gravy on my chin, and a constant, stupid smile on my face.

Ugh, my food alarm is ringing again!

Poached Egg and Ricotta over Foccaccia

Action Man Ready for Cafe Culture

Enjoying Turkish Coffee

It is that time again that I make the announcement that I am about to put things into high gear with the restaurant excursions. Having returned from an extended personal holiday — kicking and screaming — there are a few techniques that I picked up unconsciously while being abroad in Australia. It was nothing to find myself in a cafe or restaurant pulling out the high-end camera and snapping away. I may also add that I got bold enough to go into the kitchen — after requesting permissions, of course — and photographing the chefs and cooks in action. As it seemed the native Australians were quite enamoured — and some possibly ill or shocked damn near to death — with an exotic such as myself using expensive equipment, I am going to apply a bit of that boldness here in Chicago where being an exotic is not a shocking or unpleasant revelation. The point-and-click digital camera is rather inconspicuous, but pulling out the big guns with the Canon and Nikon that have serious lenses will get me a kitchen table seat and a chance to sample some items not on the menu.

Having mentioned that I was abroad in Australia, I must admit that I envy the cafe culture in Melbourne, specifically. Business people conduct meetings in cafes. Friends and family congregate in the cafes. The good thing is that, unlike in America, you are not rushed out or given pointed glances to make you uncomfortable to the point where you flee. Then again, there are miles and miles and miles and more miles of cafes and eateries in Melbourne. And they are constantly filled. Still on the topic, snapping photos of the cups of cappuccino, lattes, savouries, and desserts, my photography adventures got me extras, phone numbers, email addresses, and propositions. Since my dad promised me that he would buy me a bicycle, I avoided propositions, so I had to forego the invitations to indulge naughtiness. But in keeping with my Australian experience, I will start to seek small, quaint restaurants — exclusively — that have “close to” a cafe feel to them.

Outdoor Cafe Enjoyment

Well, my body clock is finally on Central Standard Time, my appetite is still in working order, and the Midwest Food Mecca known as Chicago awaits. With camera in hand and growling belly shouting out directions, the continued enjoyment of Chicago’s ethnic restaurants is on my calendar. Beware of man with appetite.

Sacrificing to My Appetite

Wishbone Restaurant, MontageIt has been about a year and a week to the date since I had written a journal about trips to any ethnic restaurants in Chicago and the metropolitan area. Traveling yet again being the main culprit. Scheduling conflicts, as the number of people trying to join the outings had increased, introducing problems with trying to manage timing, personal interests, and babying. All of the above had become problematic. Another change is that I have now become primarily vegetarian. While that was not an issue for my constant friend who started going to the restaurants with me, the numerous others who tagged along later felt that going to eateries that did not have meat on the bill of fare was a personal infringement to them. So, I bowed out graciously. And then I find out later that my presence was what kept the outings in motion; there was no more dining for the others who remained after I faded out.

With me doing more personal photo journalism, I keep any one of my cameras handy. No sooner would I pull out my camera to photograph my food than I would have someone from the kitchen engage me about why I am taking snapshots of my food. Not using a point-and-click, but a high-end camera instead, there is a question of whether I am perhaps working for a magazine or side newspaper. There is then lengthy conversation, an invitation to the kitchen, or both. So, I have resorted to doing the excursions solo. I admit that I miss the feel of community that came with my previous food adventures. But as I have accepted the fact that the only constant in life is change, much like I discovered with my move towards vegetarianism, dining alone has opened up some doors that I never would have found if I had an entourage in tow gasping about location, scheduling, and the menu. Life moves on. And I must eat still. Hahaha.