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Goodbye, Houston

The day after my 29th birthday I began a 20.5 hour plane ride to Jakarta, Indonesia.

My last hours in Houston were exquisite and filled with childhood tastes. Instead of going out to celebrate when I would need to begin an arduous journey the next morning, I opted to hang out with my parents.

The original plan was to attend a Houston favorite, the Black-owned Breakfast Klub. With a Black Greek organization in town though, the line wrapped the building. Refusing to wait no matter how good the catfish and grits was, my parents and I drove up the road (re: a Houston highway) to The House of Pies, a Houston classic. There’s something about a good diner with a bad website that screams Americana and gets all of my sentimentality flowing.

After eating waffles hidden beneath not the freshest of blueberries, a slice of turtle cheesecake, and Lord knows what else, I reminded my mom we had to swing by Dan’s Vitamin House. Literally a vitamin shoppe that happens to sell the best banana and vanilla smoothies in Houston, my family’s been going there since before my days of long division and complete sentences.

Vanilla and banana milkshake in hand, I needed one more sweet to round out the day: oatmeal cookies from Three Brothers Bakery. Holocaust survivors, the Jucker Brothers opened their very first Three Brothers bakery down the road from where I lived until I was seven.

Honestly, I’d forgotten about the soft, chewy oatmeal cookies with just the right amount of butter and cinnamon. When I bit into one of these masterpieces, I remembered white cake boxes to carry my mom’s favorite carrot cake from the shop, my brother standing at the counter to make a request, and my Dad eating “just one more oatmeal cookie.”

I remembered my childhood.

I enjoyed the cookies so much my mom ordered half a dozen so I could take some on my plane ride from Houston to Tokyo (they barely made it Tokyo).

After getting a birthday massage, a mani/pedi, and my eyebrows done as a way to relax before The Big Move, my  dad insisted that we went out to eat again, this time to Pappadeaux. Naturally, I ate the free slice of chocolate cake that was brought out for my birthday.

And with the last bite, I thanked my city for years of beautiful memories, for if everything goes according to plan it’ll be a year before I see it again.

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Don Julian: Venezuelan-Style Barbecue

I am unabashedly picky about my barbecue. It’s one of the few giveaways that I’m from Texas (the other being that I refuse to get rid of my y’all). I wasn’t a fan of North Carolina’s vinegar-based barbecue while in college, and I only ate barbecue twice during my five years in NYC (and trust me when I say the uber-popular eatery Dallas BBQs is not BBQ; however, their Texas-sized drinks I’ll never sniff at). NYC is many things culinary, but a barbecue hot spot it is not. I don’t care what the food critics might say.

When the co-worker who loves to plan outings for foreign teachers as a means of introducing us to all things Venezuelan invited people to join her at a restaurant, I was all about it. Any restaurant that has you order meat by weight and not by size must be on to something.

Consequently, on a Sunday afternoon I found myself seated in a wooden chair facing a beautifully lush, green mountainside. A misting system was overhead in case I got hot while lounging outside. Music wafted around me and not one fly bothered to cross my line of vision.

I was supposed to be eating healthier, but instead I was devouring the most delicious arepitas con queso, grilled cheese (and I’m not talking about the sandwich that is a childhood favorite; take a look at the picture for proof), and a stack of well-done red meat (again, being from Texas I don’t do rare. Ever.). A dark, almost maroon colored sangria served as the table’s centerpiece.

I know they say that good food leads to good conversation, but I think the opposite is true. When the food is delectable all conversation stops because people are too busy “being in their plates.” I know I was while at Don Julian’s. I can’t even post a picture of the barbecue because, in all honesty, I inhaled a good bit of it before even thinking about a photo. I figured readers were getting tired of my pictures of half-eaten food on a now dirty plate. I have no shame, y’all, no shame.

If Don Julian was an actual man, I would be pursuing him “something silly” (as my grandma would say). Since it’s simply the name of the restaurant, I’ll have to settle for dreams of returning one day soon.

**A co-worker took all posted photos. I left my camera at home and brought just my debit card and an appetite.

Must See New York Sights: Brooklyn Bridge, Juliana’s Pizza, Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, and Brooklyn Bridge Park

Whenever in New York, I try to visit the Brooklyn Bridge. I used to be within its vicinity about once a week (I’m winking at you Brooklyn Heights), but did not visit the bridge on a regular basis. This time around, I was there three times in two weeks.

The Brooklyn Bridge is the perfect example of architecture as artwork. Whether driving across or walking across, I always feel my spirit lifting as soon as I see the suspension chords and the iconic arches.

I suggest walking the bridge from Manhattan (get off at Brooklyn Bridge City Hall from the 4, 5, or 6 trains) to Brooklyn.

When on the bridge’s Brooklyn side, make an immediate right on Tillary and a right again onto Cadman Plaza West. Follow the road to Old Fulton Street as it veers to the left. There you’ll get some beautiful views of the bridge and hit the iconic Grimaldi’s pizza.

Though I have wanted to I, myself, have never eaten at Grimaldi’s. Juliana’s Pizza, a couple of doors down from Grimaldi’s, accepted cards (Grimaldi’s did not), had no line when I went during a weekday lunch hour (granted, neither did Grimaldi’s), and wonderful pizza that I know had Grimaldi’s ownership glowering into their pizza oven.

You can read about the rivalry between Grimaldi’s and Juliana’s thanks to it being plastered on Juliana’s front door or here.

If you don’t get Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory’s ice cream for dessert at Juliana’s (you know I did), just head down the street past other popular eateries, such as Shake Shack, to get to the place yourself.

It’s only natural that the beautiful Brooklyn Bridge Park will call to you when there’s margherita pizza in your belly and a peaches and cream ice cream cone (or cup as I prefer) in your hand. You can easily walk along the water for unobstructed views of Manhattan and The Brooklyn Bridge. If you go on a Sunday, you’ll run into the food lover’s paradise known as Smorgasburg.

You can also walk to Jane’s Carousel which, naturally, was full of children and their parents. I didn’t ride on the carousel as planned (wasn’t in the mood), but I did avail myself of its benches and large, metal ceiling fans.

I can’t stress it enough: visit The Brooklyn Bridge and Brooklyn Bridge Park when in New York City!

Brooklyn Called Me Beautiful Before Anyone Else Did

By the time it was all said and done, I somehow managed to gain weight while visiting part-time lover, AKA New York City. I started visiting NYC when I was a senior in high school. Ten years into our “relationship,” this is literally the first time I’ve managed to put on weight while having to walk as much as New Yorkers walk.

Who does that?

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Smorgasburg, A Brooklyn Food Market: Where Self-Control Comes to Die

I have about as much self-control when it comes to food as a toddler. No, I don’t reach and grab food from other people’s plates (yet…when I’m old I’ll pretend that I’m senile and do just that), but I will eat almost anything.

People often doubt my love of food because I’m small (thanks to a mix of genes, the gym, and being on my feet teaching).

But then they see me eat for the first time. Somewhere throughout the meal someone always comments “you really do eat” as if I had lied to them before when I said I enjoy food.

Smorgasburg,a food fair in Brooklyn, is heaven in what can be a hellish city. On Sundays, it’s at the beautiful Brooklyn Bridge Park.With the Manhattan skyline and the Brooklyn Bridge filling your sight, it’s only right to fill your belly with good food too.

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36 Hours in Curaçao

Clockwise from top left: a scene from Mambo Beach; inside Cato Caves; a bird at breakfast on Porto Marie Beach; Porto Marie Beach; a torture instrument from slavery; Dutch pancakes at Porto Marie Beach

In honor of one of my favorite columns, 36 Hours from the NYT, I have decided to try my hand at my own 36 hours piece. I was in Curaçao for six days, but I’ll cull it down to my favorites.

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