Standing in the car park somewhere in New Mexico

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**SPOILER ALERT**

Three notable things happened in New Mexico.

  • We didn’t find much exciting food.
  • We couldn’t find any goddamn nose rings to perfect our newly acquired quarter-life crisis piercings.
  • We found the world’s largest pistachio.

 

After a mildly hilarious run in with the border control officers which involved Laura and I desperately trying to put tops on as we were attempting a bit of roof-down sunbathing at 80mph along the Mexican border whist arriving at an unexpected police checkpoint, it was pretty apparent when we had crossed the state border into New Mexico from Texas. Immediately the interstate was bumpy, buildings were (even more) scarce, the horizon was (even more) huge and we spent a good 3 hours driving through miles and miles of oil fields. Gas stations were so infrequent that our first meal in New Mexico was wraps we fashioned from whatever was in our cool box, lovingly made up on the dash of the Mustang next to a ginormous oil pump.

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Spot the alien

After a quick pit stop at some unreal mile-deep bat caves (where the safety announcement was given by a guy wearing a stuffed bat in his best bat voice which left me with tears rolling down my cheeks from laughing because it was literally the best thing ever) we headed to our first destination, Roswell, made famous by the 1947 UFO sightings that took US media by storm. Roswell is all about aliens here. The street lamps have alien eyes. There are rows and rows of alien themed shops. We even had our first supper at “Galactic Sushi” (where none of the food is actually alien themed apart from the label on the beer). Now don’t get me wrong, I love everything about space (I have a GCSE in astronomy, dontcha know?!) but after a quick whizz around the ‘Roswell UFO Museum’ it’s safe to say I have felt sceptical about fewer things. IT WAS BASICALLY A BIT OF THE AIR FORCE SURVEILLENCE BALOON BREAKING OFF AND FALLING INTO THE GROUND BUT LAURA DOESN’T SEEM TO CARE.

After unsuccessfully searching in 4 different piercing shops for the perfect septum ring, we fuelled ourselves on Mexican food (where the waitress assumed we could eat ham seeing as we were vegetarians LOL), we got back into the trusty Mustang and drove north to Almogordo, a small town off the highway next to the White Sands national park, and a mere 1 hour 40 minute drive north of Ciudad Juarez, the most dangerous city in Mexico with a staggering average of 9 murders a day. After checking into our Motel we went in search of food, and after driving up and down the one road with any form of life on it, we managed to find a Chinese restaurant that was still open and a vegetarian offering on the menu. Vegetables swimming in thick, cornstarch-y (definitely GMO) soy sauce down, Laura insisted that we go to the drive-in frozen custard place, Caliches. Now I’d never heard of frozen custard before, but my extensive googling taught me that it originated in Coney Island in 1919 when the dudes selling the ice cream realised that adding the yolks to the mixture helped keep it colder for longer. Laura got one and it was covered in sprinkly things and I was very jealous. Yet more lactose intolorence woes.

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Laura & frozen custard.

Almogordo did manage to redeem our New Mexican experience thus far, though, with the cutest organic food store. We had egg mayonnaise sandwiches lovingly prepared by what looked like members of the local WI, all washed down with spirulina chia kombucha. Having managed to use all my will power to resist buying yet more **essential** car snacks (cue Laura raising her eyebrows as I request yet ANOTHER handful of almonds and cacao nibs whilst tucking into her Cheetos), we got back on the road and headed towards the White Sands National Park.

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White Sands National Park

Thankfully Highway 70 was open (it is often closed for missile testing), and we found ourselves surrounded by the most stunning white sand dunes, running for miles and miles, with a sea of moody storm clouds hanging over the mountains 20 miles away on the horizon. The heat was quite incredible, and as we desperately tried to run up the dunes and toboggan down on some plastic sheets we had acquired I was left in a crumpled sweaty mess, slouched in the car seat, wondering if I would ever see again due to the intense light of the sun being bounced off every shiny white sand particle into my retinas.

 

Once I had regained full consciousness we drove through yet another massive thunderstorm, through yet another drug-trafficking/immigration/police intimidation checkpoint, and arrived at the most bizarre town we went to in our entire trip: Truth or Consequences. Previously named Hot Springs, it gained its rather perculiar name after the host of a NBC radio quiz show announced that he would air the show from the first town that renamed itself after the show. A hilarious, and rather genius, piece of marketing if you ask me. And what a hilarious place it is.   Please can you all just take a look at our Airbnb, IT HAS A BATH IN THE KITCHEN!

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Kitchen with a bath WOT

T or Cs has a pretty thriving kooky art community, but we had arrived totally off season. We went to a couple cool shops, had a couple tasty meals, and had the cutest egg in baskets (egg fried in a hole cut out of a piece of bread) and smoothies lovingly made for us by a hysterical guy who had recently escaped the city and found himself working at the little organic food store here. He was totally bonkers and definitely high but the eggs were damn tasty. We had an amazing soak in the local hot springs where you alternate the baths going up in temperature with plunging into the ice cold Rio Grande river whilst holding onto a rope for dear life to fight the current. After another unsuccessful attempt to buy the perfect nose rings, which led to Laura accepting defeat with a piece of bent wire hanging out her nose, and New Mexico’s outrageously expensive alcohol licensing laws, we did what Americans do best, and drove 5 minutes to the nearest Wal-Mart, bought a 6-pack (Brooklyn Lager, naturally) and snacks, and watched “You’re the Worst” in bed.

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Blurry drive through fun

Santa Fe totally redeemed New Mexico for me, primarily because it has a wonderful Whole Foods, which meant I could waste $15 on the biggest box of salad you’ve ever seen and a green juice. In preparation for my old school-friend Lucy’s arrival we went (slightly ashamed) and got the car cleaned. Wow, Mustangs look so good when they’re not covered in Texan desert dust and full of Laura’s Cheetos crumbs! Car cleaned and laundry done, we went for our last meal together, at the finest establishment in America: Sonic – a drive in restaurant where you order out your window via intercom and the server brings your food right to you ON ROLLERSKATES. We ordered everything vegetarian off the menu (fries and onion rings and sugary slushy things) and exchanged in some witty banter with our exceedingly over-enthusiastic server Darren who, in his excitement to have some European customers, asked us twice how we said our names in French. Bless. We did get some extra ketchup though. Winky face.

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Café Pasqual’s: Smoked trout hash (l), vegan burgers (r).

We had a fabulous brunch with Lucy at Café Pasqual’s where we chowed down on vegan quinoa burgers with avocado, gluten free buns and kale salad; smoked trout hash with a golden gruyere potato cake, poached eggs and tomatillo salsa; and cold brew. We wandered around New Mexico in all of its loveliness and hung out with Laura’s distant something-th cousin something removed who owns 2 amazing galleries specializing in old and modern Tibetan and Nepalese art. He wanted to take us out for lunch so badly that we ended up having a second lunch. It was a tough day.

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Raw stuff mmm

The next day, on our way to Arizona, we passed through the town of Taos where we stopped for lunch at the cutest raw food café “Raw to Go” and ate some amazing salads before a long day driving. Our plates were piled high with salad veggies, alfalfa sprouts, raw pate, guacamole and hummus, the most delicious seaweed crackers. It took all my willpower to protect my exceedingly damaged bank balance and not order a fresh coconut meat cacao smoothie for the road. We chose to go off the interstate to make the journey more interesting, and although the majority of the drive was through one of the most colossal rain and thunder storms that I’ve ever endured, we did also pass through some of the most stunning scenery. The road wound around hills, through forests, and alongside arable pasture land, all the way to Farmington, AZ. It was certainly a great day to be behind the wheel of the mustang!

 

As promised, I will leave you a snap of Laura with said massive pistachio:

 

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Written by George.

See what I’m eating or what juice I’m drinking HERE

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Play cool as country water, Nashville cats

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Having worked for the gorgeous McKel of Nutrition Stripped (i.e. the best nutrition/lifestyle blog out there) earlier in May while cooking for her cookbook shoot, I was only too excited to check out the vibes in Nashville.  After stopping off en route to see the view in Chattanooga (go on, say it in a Southern accent – amazing huh!?), we rolled into downtown Nashville to kill a couple of hours before meeting McKel for dinner. We immediately headed to ‘juice. Nashville` for some raw, cold-pressed goodness.  I (obviously) opted for one of their low-fruit-high-greens green juices, with Laura going for the special of almond, peach, honey and cinnamon which is definitely the closest raw-vegan, gluten-free thing to peach pie.  We then headed over to Thai Esane to meet McKel, who has lived in Nashville for the past four years, where we caught up over piles of delicious tofu pad thai and raw papaya salad. We spent the night crashing at McKel’s house, which looks and smells so beautiful it literally is like a virtual Pintrest board (see here and here), before heading out early the next day to pick up fellow Anglo-New Yorker, Neil (who pretty much took all our photos from the moment he landed to the moment he left us in New Orleans as he is far more knowledgable and talented than I am). Laura and Neil headed straight to ‘Biscuit Love` in the trendy urban Gulch neighbourhood for Saturday brunch, where Laura feasted on cheesy grits, tomato gravy, fried eggs and buttered kale and Neil traditional biscuits and gravy. I, on the other hand, had the only dairy free item on the menu (black iced coffee) and headed off to Barre3 around the corner for a much needed (and free – thanks McKel) barre workout; NYC has definitely rubbed off on me!

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George’s last photo for a week! Cheesy grits, tomato gravy, fried eggs and buttered kale.

We all reconvened a couple of hours later in a classic downtown country bar, which we soon learned made up huge swathes of the centre of the city, incredibly proud of their musical heritage. The walls were adorned with posters of Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash and, obviously, Taylor Swift, and a country rock band played to a totally packed midday crowd of Tennessee-folk, in town for the weekend.  We soon realised that a day spent drinking beer in Nashville’s Broadway bars was THE way to spend your Bachelorette party (sorry, “Hen Do”), especially when it’s you and your 9 closest gal pals on a party bike (which definitely looks less fun in 36ºC heat with American drinking laws). After a beer (I unfortunately couldn’t catch up with Laura and Neil’s brunch mimosas induced head start due to my designated road-trip driver status), we dumped the car and our stuff at our next home for the next two nights (an apartment that a friend of my roommate’s casually has nestled in her basement and let us use with a minute’s notice), and headed out in search of (more) food. We headed over to the hipster neighbourhood of East Nashville (a far cry from honky-tonk Downtown) to The Pharmacy – McKel had recommended it to us for burgers with all the sides that has something for carnivores and vegetarians alike.  Laura and I both opted for the black bean burger; Laura’s obviously came with piles of cheese, as well as the usual burger veggies, whereas I requested jalepeño, avocado and lettuce.  Neil went for something meaty and stuffed with bacon and egg.  He assured us it was delicious.  For sides, we went all-American and split some slaw, regular & sweet potato fries and tater tots (little deep fried cylinders of grated potato, pronounced “tayder taats”).

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The Pharmacy: Burgers!

Beer, burgers and more beer later, we rolled ourselves next door to Holland House Bar & Refuge. We needed a little pick-me-up in the form of happy hour cocktails in a vain attempt to make our heat/beer/food exhausted bodies a little more upbeat in honour of Neil’s first day.  Holland House was so gorgeous, but sadly we left sooner than we hoped, defeated (Laura unable to finish her Fuego Siempre having been force fed my amazing-but-disgusting digestive bitters to aid her poor overworked tummy).  I went for drinks with McKel while the others (over-) napped, then we all ended up at the trendy East Nashville drinking hole Bar 308, where the evening was concluded with (more) cocktails.   A pretty damn good introduction to the BBT way for Neil if you ask me (as well as 3 incredibly sore bank accounts).

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The Post East: Vegetarian Scotch Egg, Kale Salad, Fresh Slaw and Gluten-Free Vegan Biscuit.

The following day we went and grabbed a much needed coffee at Barista Parlor, a vast space jam packed with beautiful 20-somethings dressed all in black and trilbies that made the three of us feel like we had momentarily been transported 900 miles back home to Brooklyn.  Incredibly strong cold-brew down, we drove a few blocks to The Post East to meet McKel for brunch.  Opened for just over a year, this is a cafe that totally resonates with my food ethos; organically sourced ingredients, whole food dishes, community focussed, and accepting of all diets.  Laura and I were sent into dish deciding overload with a menu boasting a whole host of gluten-free and dairy-free options and a fridge crammed with cold-pressed juices.  Over smoothies and juice we feasted on delicious vegetarian scotch eggs, crispy corn cakes with a sweet and crunchy red cabbage salad and salsa, and a gluten-free vegan biscuit with mushroom gravy.  Everything totally delicious and leaving me so happy to FINALLY get to try a true American biscuit.

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The Post East: GF vegan biscuits and gravy; crispy corn cakes with salsa and red cabbage salad.

After a tour and tasting at local Cosair Distillery (think pumpkin spice moonshine and vanilla infused vodka) and a cheeky ice cream/sorbet pit stop at Jeni’s, we head home for a quick turn-around before heading over to Pinewood Social for our last meal in Nashville (oh, why must it end?)  I had met McKel there the previous night and was dying to show the others.  It is honestly one of the most fabulous spaces I’ve hung out in and would die for one near where I end up living.  It is huge: boasting a beautiful bar (with even more beautiful bartenders) centre stage; tables for the restaurant nestled around the perimeter of the room; at the front end a long communal table seats hip young professionals with laptops or a book, huddled over a coffee from the espresso bar (also equipped with pastries).  The back of the space has a glass wall which reveals a 6-lane bowling alley restored from an old Bowl O-Rama, from Indiana (karaoke is also on offer).  And if that isn’t enough then there is an outdoor area where you can lie by the pool and nibble on delicious morsels from the kitchen whilst simultaneously sipping on a cocktail. With a dry rosé for us girls and an old fashioned for Neil slipping down nicely, we set about making our way through the platter of salty oysters (with the most fabulous cucumber/dill mignonette), burrata with peaches (fresh herbs, hot sauce, almonds), fried broccolini with almond-garlic dipping sauce, spring salad with pickled jalepeños, radish, grilled carrots and goats cheese, fried catfish with shrimp fritters and tartare sauce and (breathe) meatloaf with jalepeño mac, wilted kale and tomato sorghum glaze (which I sadly had to give a miss).  All in all, a fucking fabulous last meal.  Holy cow I’m full.


Written by George.

See what I’m eating or what juice I’m drinking HERE

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