seasons change.

Well......there'll probably be a blog post in this spot pretty soon.
Possible topics of discussion: there is no such thing as Cheap Dirk Fish anymore; the easiest imaginable fried polenta recipe; A Late Summer Diet.



tales from the provinces, episode 38.

Something went horribly wrong with my white balance for this photo. In the foreground: my first savory Dutch pannekoek (ham + cheese, for some reason called "The Machinist"). In the background, seriously one of the best falafel(s) ever, including the most edible tabbouleh I've ever tasted. Plus it came with fries and potatoes au gratin. OK, it was also the most expensive falafel ever, but possibly worth it. More about everything eventually.



charity courgette.

One of my lovely neighbors left this giant courgette in the hallway with a sign that said "Please eat me!" or something similar. So, well...I did. This is Ottolenghi's "Courgette and Cobnut Salad", with hazelnuts subbing for cobnuts, whatever cobnuts are. Surprisingly good for being so simple.


tales from the provinces.

You probably know this, Hypothetical Reader. I spend a lot of time up north these days, in the "lively university city" of Groningen, confusingly also the capital city of the province named Groningen. Or: not confusing at all, it's probably just simpler that way. Like "New York, New York". Easier to remember.

Occasionally, or possibly "often", I come across something in my northern travels which really says to me, "Sir, you are truly not in Amsterdam anymore, are you," which sounds like a question, but the tone of voice in which it is usually "asked" is more that of a self-directed annoyingly ironic and unfunny rhetorical question. Like what an asshole, I already know I'm not in Amsterdam, don't I. Ugh, so hard to stop.

Annnnnnyway, this whole tone of voice I'm using right now reminds me quite favorably (or, yes, unfavorably) of one of my least favorite living food writers. Or mmm OK *lots* of my least favorite etc, because I have a shneeeeeaky feeling it's becoming sort of accepted as a default style but my point is holy fucking jeez, it riles me up. Always has I guess.

Why, then, you may hypothetically ask your hypothetical selves, is the usually eminently more relaxed and readable VDuck aping (sp? always a tricky one) this narcissistic, passive-aggressive, entitled, and otherwise severely off-putting drecktone? WHO FUCKING CARES, J. KENJI, OR HOWEVER MUCH OF YOUR PRETENTIOUS AS FUCK NAME I NEED TO USE IN ORDER TO CLEARLY REFER TO YOU???


Yeah OK. Last weekend while Nelson was fighting with her optometrist about whether or not she needed to be taught how to insert contact lenses into her eyes, I ate an egg inside of a deep-fried ball of curry-flavored goo. It's called an eierbal (eh, "egg ball"). It was...thought-provoking. Not something I'd order at the same place again, but I could see trying another one somewhere for comparison.

Maybe at Cafetaria Friet van Piet: it's right across the street from one of my favorite bars in Groningen, I pass by it most weekends, and there's always a line out the door and everything I ogle on other people's plates looks proper. It's going to happen. They also have something called the shoarmaloempia, an unholy matrimony of two quintessential Dutch snack bar foods...Americans, imagine a cross between a gyro and a fried spring roll.


vulture bait: the planning post.

This is the official planning post for Vulture Bait 2015. A work in progressssss, this is an attempt to prioritize.  The idea isn't to go to all of these places; it's to never have no idea where to go. We don't have time to fuck around.

5 to 20 PHOENIX
Richardson's. The only restaurant I visit every visit. Real Southwestern Food, it remains to be seen what a vegetarian will eat here.
Waffle House. A undeniable part of my youth.
In-N-Out Burger. For a vegetarian, the only point of this would be to demonstrate a "secret menu".

21 to LAS VEGAS (5 hours?)
Well how could I not. Plus this is where we pick up "The Van". Other than that, the goal here is to "not do anything tooooooo stupid." In bed by midnight, asleep by 00:15.

Yardbird Southern Table. Besides Waffle House, this is the closest The Captain is going to get to real southern food during this doomed adventure.
Bachi Burger. Only if there's time, but a grrrrrrrrrreat looking menu and one of the best burgers in the country supposedly.
Dino's Lounge. 24-hour classic.
Frankie's Tiki Room. Kitsch and fire. And open 24 hours.
Circus Circus. Fear and Loathing.
Ronald's Donuts. Vegan donuts. Open 4am-4pm.
Sunrise Coffee. Vegan/vegetarian coffeeshop.
Hash House. For those non-vegan non-donut food groups.

22 to LONE PINE/DEATH VALLEY NP (4 hours?)
The idea was to stay at the Amargosa Opera House and Hotel, because, well, it's legendary. But the opera performances are only on weekends. Please make a note here about what seems smart to do on the way to Lone Pine.

Amargosa Opera House & Hotel. "A once-in-a-lifetime experience".
Erick Schat's Bakkerÿ. "European" breads. Just because it seems like the best option between Lone Pine and Tioga Pass.
Alabama Hills Cafe. kind of seems like if you eat anywhere in Lone Pine it should be here.
Margie's Merry-Go-Round. Winner by name. Of course it's Chinese and Mexican food.

There's so much to see in Yosemite and we have time for none of it. Primary goal is to not be eaten by bears. Or even one bear.

Tioga Mobil Gas Mart/Whoa Nellies. A gas station with fish tacos and live bands.
Crane Flat Campgrounds. "Dispose of garbage immediately in bear-proof dumpsters."

Primary goal: have at least one glass of wine. I'm trying to make these goals "realistic and achievable" in order to keep morale high.

Gott's Roadside. A classic?
Benziger Family Winery. Their tour is supposed to be "good for beginners".
Frog's Leap Winery. Recommendation from a trusted source.
Pride Mountain Vineyards. But this one is mere moments from our campsite.

The beginning of "true adventure". Main goal is to "get to bed early", because the next day is full of death-defying driving.

Hotel Ivanhoe. The kind of historic small-town hotel where locals go out to dinner on weekend nights. Remind me to make a reservation.

26 to SHELTER COVE RV PARK (undetermined amount of time, read here for spoilers, here for guidance)
This is a bit of a mystery stretch, and the portion of the journey where we are most likely to disappear forever. "It was Nelson's idea," I just want to officially go on record with that, but I'll also admit that yes, how could I not consider staying somewhere (Leggett) described as having not much other than "a creepy and expensive gas station (cash only), pizza joint and two markets (not always open)".

27 to FORT BRAGG/MENDOCINO (1.5 hours, details)
Dick's Place. This was just about the first definite thing on the itinerary.
Harvest at Mendoza's. Grocery store if we don't feel brave enough for fancy vegan.
The Ravens. Fancy vegan, reviews wildly mixed.
North Coast Brewing Company. Sounds like the consensus for good beer in Fort Bragg.
Piaci Pub & Pizzeria. Sounds like the consensus for dinner in Fort Bragg.

28 to BODEGA BAY/WRIGHT'S BEACH (3 hours tops)
The point here is the beach where we're camping.

Casino Bar & Grill.  New entry, recently changed chefs, more 'search needed.
The Duck Club. We'll see.
Gourmet Au Bay. I'm skeptical.

29 to SAN FRANCISCO (1.5 hours)

This is tough, we really need to 1) see Point Reyes, 2) drop off the van, and 3) go to the Ferry Building. It could be that we skip.....which one of these things?

Ferry Building Marketplace. I think the point would be Il Cane Rosso or Mijita or Acme or Cowgirl, etc.
4505 Burgers & BBQ. Supposedly one of the best burgers in America.
Hopwater Distribution. Close to the hotel.



night 5: vejer de la frontera.

Vejer was absolutely nothing like what I expected. For starters, in my initial "research" I somehow missed that it was a Pueblo Blanco (ehhhm, "White Town"). My personal tour guide told me at some point, probably over our first exhausted/triumphant/"We Survived Africa" dinner, that Vejer and Ronda were consistently voted (here, for example) two of the most beauuuuuutiful pueblos blancos in Andalucia.

And indeed it was beauuuuuutiful. But having spent several days in Ronda by now as well, I have to say that Vejer itself left me a bit (ahahahahaha) cold. Whereas Ronda feels alive, like a real city with a pulse (I imagine this has to do with its size, 40,000 people or so), Vejer was just too small and well-preserved, kind of like a giant hotel.

Although I must say, I did not see a whole hell of a lot of the city. Vejer would be the second city in a row where I immediately and forlornly realized that my navigation plans had not at all considered altitude. Our asses and feet were already more than a little sore after a couple of multi-hour walks in Tangier, and Vejer's hills were really playing on an entirely different level. It seemed to be (illogically) all uphill, and just when you thought, ok, I really need 30 seconds of level ground, there'd be a hill so steep that it featured stone stairs instead of an incline.

And it was still really fucking hot outside, 42C/108F. My trusty tour guide had secured accommodations that featured a bathtub on the roof (fyi this was not the only bathtub), and this helped some, but you kind of had to wait until dark to use it. Or at least I thought that that seemed like the right time to schedule my own baths, you know, for the neighbors' sake.

All the rest of these photos are taken from the extremely pimpish roof terrace of the aribnb, it was a great place to stay.



This was an impro that turned out remarkably like what I had in my head.


szechuan tofu or chicken and cucumber something.

1 cucumber
1 block of tofu or 1 chicken breast
1 or 2 cloves garlic
1 tsp five spice
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp ketjap manis
2 tbsp shao hsing
1 or 2 tbsp Szechuan chile paste/oil (with peanuts and Szechuan pepercorns)
1 or 2 tbsp ginger syrup
2 tbsp rice or light apple vinegar
salt and pepper to taste



design note: fancy baths.

Interior designers of the world: your attention please. Sometimes it's OK to keep part of the decor "traditionally functional". The above faucet, yes, in this picture, looks fantastic. In reality, once you were able to turn it on, the "waterfall" either shot out over the far rim of the sink, soaking the belly and waist area of whatever you were wearing, or spluttered/gushed downward onto the ledge where the toothpaste is standing, immediately ricocheting/overflowing onto the floor and just generally making a mess.

And then, the toilet. Let's say for example a couple is going on one of their first romantic getaways together, off into the Spanish countryside to overnight at a totally pimped-out farmhouse. I know it's Europe, but is this really what the bathroom door should look like?

Yes this is the only toilet.


day 8: marbella/málaga.

This is Carlos. Or Klaas, depending on who you ask. He came to our lunch table in Marbella for some tapas. He started with a little bread, then came back for some patatas fritas.