What better way to cure a Hurricane Sandy hangover and escape a bitter Nor’easter than by flying down to the place that knows bad storms the best…New Orleans! By pure happenstance (my little sojourn was planned about a month or so ago), I was flying down to the Big Easy for some rest and relaxation in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and just before a Nor’easter battered my home state of New Jersey. It was also Election Day – more on that later. I had chosen New Orleans as my destination on a whim. I had never been there (alas, an aborted attempt to go my junior year of college still haunted me) and I wanted to go somewhere different, somewhere a little more exciting…somewhere completely unlike my normal R&R spots in Upstate New York. A morbid thought also burrowed its way into my mind, as New Orleans is one of the few places in the US that at some point in my lifetime might no longer exist. Little did I know that much of the Jersey Shore and parts of NYC would fall into this category as well just a week before my trip.
Sunny 70-degree weather, cool nights and leisurely bustling but not overcrowded streets greeted me as I touched down in Louisiana. Good food, good drinks, good people and a city like no other (this has to be the most laid-back city in the United States) - it was just what the doctor ordered.
Ausable Chasm – Upstate New York -This past spring while up at Saratoga Springs for some R&R I took a scenic drive up I87 towards the Canadian border and stopped at Ausable Chasm. I don’t recall much of this - only that there was a pretty cool waterfall…
Original Photograph by D. H. Schleicher
…that brought to mind a rather Twin Peaks-ian moment…
I took a half-hearted stab at a local dining guide years ago, and at some point many of the restaurants listed below received a shout out in one way or another from The Spin or on my Twitter…but I decided it would be fun to traverse the eastern part of North America and crown a best restaurant in each favorite stomping ground. Our journey begins way down yonder in my former homeland of Nor’ Cackalacky. We’ll revisit some of my local favorites in Philly and the Jersey Burbs. We’ll travel far north through New York (and slighty west) all the way up into the land of expense accounts and Canucks. Prepare your taste buds, your credit cards, your hybrid vehicles (only if you have a designated driver) and/or your frequent flier miles….here is The Spin on My Favorite Eats in My Favorite Haunts.
Raleigh, North Carolina – Babylon (309 N. Dawson St.) – I have no idea why a restaurant serving Moroccan food is called Babylon. Would Casablanca have been somehow un-PC or Marrakesh too obvious? But weird geographical naming faux-pas aside, this uber-trendy mecca of Raleigh’s liberal elite located fashionably downtown serves up organic, locally raised Moroccan and Middle Eastern-inspired cuisine that rivals any of your bigger city Northeast rivals. The ambiance is casual urban chic, the service impeccable, and the food fresh, hip and flavorful. Really, Raleigh, whodathunk? You go, with your emerging multicultural self!
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – Amada (217 Chestnut Street) – Old City. Chef Jose Garcas. Spanish Tapas. Drinks named after Almodovar films. And a dish so epically simple and flavorful called Madre y Hijo (which consists of a fried egg atop a perfect slice of chicken breast atop a bed of roasted fingerling potatoes and all drizzled in truffle oil) that I would request if I were to ever find myself on death row waiting for a last meal. This is a Philly Restaurant Week staple and one of the most popular (and hard to get into) restaurants in the city even after all of these years. What more is there to say? (Reservations required!) Continue reading →
Paula Deen! Paula Deen! Get me some fried bird - stat!
We always discuss films and books and television. There’s the occasional politicking. Oh, and let’s not forget drinking – as in drinking games for watching political theater or your favorite cult film/TV show. So why the heck not put The Spin on one of my all-time favorite things?
I’ve been in love with it ever since that day when I was about ten years-old and I tasted the home-cooked fried chicken of Mrs. Cottingham in Willingboro, NJ.
On reruns of Seinfeld I’m often reminded by Newman that “Kenny Rogers makes a pretty mean bird,” but roasting is for suckers. My heart and cholesterol belong to fowl of the fried persuasion.
I covet it like Daniel Plainview covets oil.
So ladies and gentlemen…if I say I’m a fried chicken man you will agree.
And I am a man on a mission - in search of the world’s greatest fried chicken.
Well, I just got back from another successful excursion to Upstate New York for some much-needed rest & relaxation, and I even got some writing done while up there, too. The weather was perfect – sunny with patchy clouds and blue skies, a cool breeze and mid-60 degree temperatures – and the water was high and gently rushing down the mountains from the recent thaw. The roads and hills were once again open for the taking.
While Cooperstown has become a second home to me, I thought it was about time to explore other areas of Upstate New York. As a last-minute autumnal getaway, I ventured up to the Adirondacks as far north as Lake George while also stopping in Glens Falls — home to the Hyde Collection — and Saratoga Springs — home to one of the friendliest casinos I have ever been to. There’s something inherently adventurous when driving up a highway that has signs for Montreal — less than two-hundred miles away — and this civilized wilderness boasts some of the oldest settlements of both Native American and European origin. The drive up marked the first time I was ever able to leave New Jersey without paying a toll — quick, someone fact check this…is the 287 the only way to get out the Garden State by car for free? — and the Catskills and Adirondacks unfold in gently rolling forms on the horizon as one heads up I-87N. It’s astounding to think these now weather-worn and inviting mountains were at one time higher than the Himalayas. Taking in all the gorgeous lakes and interconnecting canals and creeks flowing into the Hudson and eventually down to NYC, it’s no wonder the French, English and Indians all wanted to not only live here, but also control it. Archaeological sites like Forts William Henry, Ticonderoga and Edward beckon us to stare into our Pre-Revolutionary past and see why this land…this wilderness was the first to be conquered.
The fresh air is meant to be drunk…the humble expanse breathed in…the fall colors tasted…. Continue reading →
There’s really no better way to spend a day off from work midweek than taking a long drive. It’s especially nice on a beautiful pre-Fall day, and if it’s the first day your car has been out of the shop after an overnight stay for repairs, it’s even better. I’ve long extolled the wonders of Bucks County, Pennsylvania with all of its wineries and covered bridges, but the towns running parallel to Bucks along the Delaware River on the New Jersey side offer their own rustic charms and often get overlooked. Quaint historic towns running along the Delaware Raritan Canal in Hunterdon County and stretching across gorgeous wooded back roads into Mercer County (home of Princeton University) are more an extension of the small-town meets gentrified rural setting of Bucks County than they are a connecting strip to the New York-influenced North Jersey and Philly-influenced South Jersey megalopilises.
Last week I ventured up that way, stopping off at Washington’s Crossing State Park on the Jersey side before spending a few hours strolling through Lambertville. Continue reading →
It’s summertime! And what comes to mind more than…yup, uh-huh…graveyards!
It might be the summer doldrums for refined film buffs — and if you consider yourself party to such self-inflicted snobbery, then pray your city has been one of the selected cities for Winter’s Bone’s limited release - it’s killer good and the perfect antithesis to summer movie hell. Meanwhile every girl and woman you know is lining up for tonight’s midnight showing and about to go crazy over the latest in the Twilight Saga…dun dun dun…Eclipse! Can you hear Bonnie Tyler now? Turn around…
So, in the most tenuous of ties to the Total Eclipse of the Box Office, I have decided to post a hodge-podge collection of my daylight graveyard photography. Some of these photos have been posted before in travel logs and some have never before seen the light of day. The cemeteries visited span the states of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New York.
Ga’head, ladies, use your imagination and picture your favorite vampire or werewolf hunk amidst the trees and the stones. Or better yet…don’t. Continue reading →
This past Saturday (amidst all the crisp sunlight and gusting winds) was spent on a self-guided wine tour of Bucks County. It was our little Pennsylvania version of Sideways as we hit many of the spots along the Bucks County Wine Trail, but unlike Paul Giamatti’s character, we did drink some Merlot.
We visited five wineries in Bucks County (sorry, no pictures for this day-trip…too busy drinking)…and I’m confident in selecting Crossing Vineyards and Winery on Wrighstown Road in Washington’s Crossing as the best of the Bucks County bunch.
It was the first on our stop and features beautifully appointed grounds and interiors, warm and friendly service, a fantastic “tasting” set-up amongst the wooden barrels and giant steel drums, and most importantly…the best wine we tasted that day. The Crossing Vineyards prides itself on presenting the best possibilities of Pennsylvania wine and has won numerous awards. Their White Viognier and their Specialty Le Nouveau were the highlights for me, and I happily left with a bottle of each to take home.
My Fall 2009 Travel Season came full circle. In October, I visited upstate New York and the greater Cooperstown area where James Fenimore Cooper wrote and set many of his novels, most notably, The Last of the Mohicans. In December, I visited North Carolina and the greater Asheville area where director Michael Mann and cinematographer Dante Spinotti used the vast wilderness of the Blue Ridge Mountains to double for upstate New York in their epic film adaptation of Cooper’s Great American Novel.
It was quite a thrill to drive up those winding roads into the mountains to Chimney Rock Park and see that rock-face where Alice Munro (played by Jodhi May) achieved the pinnacle of old-school romanticism by flinging herself off the edge in Mann’s TheLast of the Mohicans. Continue reading →