Foto Ruta - Photography Workshop in Buenos Aires, Argentina

>>  Saturday, July 26, 2014

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This is the ninth post in the Hello Argentina Series detailing my week-long trip in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Other posts include Hello ArgentinaLa CabreraLa RamblaEmpanadas, Tamales, and Beer, Oh My!Cabanas Las LilasBuenos Aires - Three Most Famous Ice Cream ShopsChilaElena, and Oviedo.

Happy Weekend!

This post is a little different from my typical posts.

The focus is not on food. It's about another one of my passions - photography.

I didn't get into photography until much later in life, unlike those around me. My sister, in fact, got into photography in high school. She had an SLR way before I did (of the film variety!), and even in college, Bryan got an SLR and started taking really nice photos during our university years (of which I'm really thankful now! It's really nice to have high quality photos from that era of my life).

Me, I didn't get into photography really until this food blog began. It's sort of embarrassing for me to look back at my photos from those early days, though I keep the posts there as a reminder to myself of how far I've come.
_X1C7392.jpg I've never been formally trained. I've never taken a class, workshop, or anything to learn this skill. I have no patience for books or instruction manuals, so I just learn by experimentation. Thankfully, digital photography has made that much easier (and cheaper!).

During our week in Buenos Aires, I ended up having several days by myself while Bryan was at his work conference. Unlike in Japan, where I felt perfectly comfortable exploring the city by myself, I didn't feel the same way about Buenos Aires. I'd heard about the petty crimes.  My general lack of knowledge and familiarity with the city made me more nervous and thus more cautious.

So what did I do? I signed up for various tours led by English-speaking people. My favorite one turned out to be a day long photography workshop in Buenos Aires with Foto Ruta.
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At 10AM, I met my teacher, a British born woman named Emma who had been living in Buenos Aires for six years. Emma spoke fluent Spanish and navigated the city with ease. She was super friendly, and I immediately felt much more relaxed. There were two students that day: me and this guy from Luxembourg called Philippe who had recently quit his attorney job and was spending the year traveling around the world (how cool is that??).

Emma started out by spending about 30-40 minutes giving us a basic tutorial about photography. Although it was reasonably basic, I still learned some interesting tips from the talk.

And then  . . . it was time to shoot!

The best part of this tour was Emma's knowledge of cool places in the city to photograph. She brought us to tiny traditional Argentinian shops, fun food markets, cool, cobbly streets, and funky neighborhoods where the street art was magnificent.

Throughout the day, she would challenge us to think about photos in a different way.

Try shooting a photo with the camera on the ground, or play around with reflections in puddles or mirrors.

Don't be afraid of direct sunlight - it creates a totally different looking shot, but it's not always bad.

Don't be afraid to ask people if you can photograph them. Some will say no, but others will be flattered. You'll be surprised how often people are willing.
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We put that into practice immediately. Emma stepped into an old school shoe repair shop and asked the cobbler if we could photograph him. He obliged, and just continued to do his thing while we snapped away.
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This is my favorite shot from that shoot.
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The streets of Buenos Aires are filled with beautiful, bold colors. It's gritty yet vibrant at the same time. It was really nice having a guide help me navigate the city to get to some of these cool, backstreets to explore.

I was thrilled to catch this motorcyclist, who zoomed into my photo at just the right time to complete the rough yet vivid mood of this photo.

We continued to explore the city, trying our best to capture its mood, personality, and heart.
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As part of the tour, we had lunch at a charming, traditional cafe where we enjoyed a traditional Argentinian spread of cured meat, cheese, pate, and eggs. The food was lovely, and the entire experience felt so authentic.
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These guys were such hams, posing for me from the back of a moving truck.
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This next photo is my favorite photo. I thought it would be so fun to try to channel M.C. Escher at this old mansion-turned-marketplace in Buenos Aires. Philippe and Emma were more than obliging and participated in this fun shot.

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I had a really, really fun time with Emma and Philippe photographing this beautiful city. By the end of the day, it felt like we were old friends. For me, not only was it fun to explore a hobby I love with other like-minded people, it was also fascinating getting to know those from other cultures. I learned so much about Argentina, England, and Luxembourg. We laughed and traded stories about our own cultures. I was personally floored by Philippe's command of five or six languages (I've lost count), while similarly intrigued by Emma's story of what it was like to move from the UK to a place like Buenos Aires, especially for six years.

All in all, I would highly recommend going on one of these photo tours. Even if you think you won't learn that much in terms of photo tips (and you might not, because it's pretty basic), having a personal guide and local friend take you to all the best places in the city to shoot is priceless.

This is not sponsored. I paid in full for this tour. They have no idea I'm going to write this post. I just really, really liked it and wanted to let you guys know about it. :)

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Crispy Oven Baked Beet Chips

>>  Wednesday, July 23, 2014

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I have an awful weakness when it comes to a certain snack.

Chips.

I just can't say no to them.

Typically, I'm pretty disciplined when it comes to steering myself away from unhealthy food. I never, ever get any sort of candy bar from the vending machine at work. If there's leftover cake in the kitchen area  - no matter how delectable it looks - I won't be tempted by it. I can easily stay away from chocolate, and in general, most sweets.

But there's something about chips that I just can't resist. It's the fact that it's almost healthy. After all, it comes from a vegetable, right? You could argue it's not as processed as any of those cakes and cookies.
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And for some reason, in the late afternoon when I'm starting to get just a little hungry (or "peckish" as my British colleagues would say), I always want chips.

I want something savory, something that feels like it could actually stave off those hunger pangs for just a few more hours. Plus, I just love chips for that satisfying crunch.

A few years ago, I was thrilled to discover you could make chips out of almost anything (a sneaky way to pack in those nutrients!). One of my favorites (and something I still make on a regular basis), is oven baked kale chips. I also tried baking all sorts of other chips in the oven, like taro chips, sweet potato chips, and even sunchoke chips.
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Last week, I got my first shipment of these beautiful beets from my CSA with Siena Farms. As I was pondering how to use up the beets before the weekend (since I was leaving on a short trip), it dawned on me to try making chips out of these as well.

Oh my goodness, they were fantastic.

Even Bryan approved, and couldn't stop eating them at dinner. In fact we ended up polishing off the entire batch of chips (uhh, I guess that means we ate 10 beets between us (!))._DSC8080.jpg

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Ivan Ramen (Gotham West Market, New York City)

>>  Tuesday, July 22, 2014

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This is the fourth post in the Quick Spring Weekend to New York series. Other posts in this series include Le Bernardin, Lunch Tasting MenuBoulud Sud, and A Voce Columbus.

I've been curious about trying Ivan Ramen for ages.

Though it only recently opened in the US, Ivan Ramen has been in Tokyo since 2007. I read about it a lot while doing research for my various Tokyo trips. What's funny is, the chef-owner of this crazy popular ramen place in Tokyo is actually a Jewish guy from Long Island who got into ramen "on a whim."

Ivan Orkin moved to Japan to teach English after graduating from college. While there, he met and married a Japanese woman. They moved back to the US so Ivan could study at the Culinary Institute of America. They had a child, and his home life became full of Japanese culture. He spoke the language at home. He watched Japanese TV shows.

Tragedy struck when his wife miscarried their second child and suddenly passed away soon after.

Distraught, Ivan felt that he had lost everything.

Years later, on one of his extended trips to Japan, he met and fell in love with another Japanese woman.
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They got married and settled in Japan. Ivan, living out a normal life as a stay-at-home-dad, started to get restless. He began experimenting with ramen, taking a crash course and then teaching himself the rest.

He opened his first restaurant in 2007.

It became a hit in Japan, with long lines of hungry Japanese people willing to wait hours to try his rule-breaking, unconventional interpretation of ramen (think flavors like "four cheese ramen" or a soy milk based dipping broth). It was shocking that a foreigner, gaijin, could pierce and conquer Japan's obsession with ramen.

After opening up several successful locations in Japan, Ivan decided to move back to the US in 2012, partly to be closer to family, but also to challenge himself to open up his restaurant in New York, his home.

Lucky for us, that means we no longer have to fly across the globe to get a taste of this famous ramen that has taken Tokyo by storm.

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Sushi Yoshitake (Tokyo, Michelin 3 Stars) - best dish I've ever had

>>  Friday, July 18, 2014

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This the second addendum post to the Tokyo - Kyoto - Osaka series. Other posts in this series include the intro post: Tokyo, Kyoto, and OsakaMatsugen (soba), Sushi IwaRamen Honda (Tokyo Ramen Street)RyuginOmen (udon), Shouraian (tofu), Dotonbori in Osaka (street food), Taian (3-star Michelin), and Sushi Sho/Shou (Chef Keiji Nakazawa), Nakamura (3 star Michelin kaiseki), and Sushi Taku (2 star Michelin)

Bring bring . .  .

It was close to noon and I was in my office typing furiously away at the computer. The caller ID said it was Bryan.

It's not unusual for us to chat during this odd time when he's away on a business trip in Asia. Tokyo is exactly 12 hours apart from Boston, which means he was probably about to go to bed. It's lunchtime here, so the timing actually works out pretty well.
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Bryan had just gotten back from his dinner at Sushi Yoshitake, a newly-ish minted (as of 2012) three Michelin starred sushi restaurant in Tokyo. He couldn't stop raving about it.

 "I just got back from dinner. It was really good. I think you'd like it. It wasn't just sushi. They had creative preparations - like what you'd see in a high-end French restaurant - for several of the dishes. They had this abalone liver dish that was amazing. It's the best dish I've ever had in my life."
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Let's pause a moment here.

Did he just say the best dish in his life?!

This is the same person who's dined at some of the finest restaurants in the world, like Sukiyabashi Jiro in Tokyo, The French Laundry in Napa Valley, and Joel Robuchon in Las Vegas, not to mention countless other award-winning restaurants through his business trips and travels.

He couldn't stop talking about this abalone dish (and trust me, he usually doesn't talk a lot). It was like other-worldly, or what my friend Peter would call "transcendent." Perfection in so many different ways.

best dish ever . . .

"We really have to go back to Japan so I can take you there."

awwwww . . .

Anyway, enough about my conversation with Bryan. Let's learn more about this incredible meal of a lifetime.

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A Voce Columbus (New York)

>>  Tuesday, July 15, 2014

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This is the third post in the Quick Spring Weekend to New York series. Other posts in this series include Le Bernardin, Lunch Tasting Menu and Boulud Sud.

It's been years since I've had a proper dinner in the Time Warner Building in New York.

It's not as if I don't visit. I go to the Time Warner Building almost every time I'm in New York. How can I resist not stopping by - even if it involves riding that escalator up three floors to Bouchon Bakery where I can pick up my favorite cookies and get some treats to take home for friends?

But a proper dinner? That's a bit challenging.

After all, there aren't that many restaurants in the Time Warner Building at Columbus Circle. The few that are there are not the types of places you visit that frequently.

Take Thomas Keller's three Michelin starred Per Se, for example, where the chef's tasting will run you $310 per person (and that's not including wine, tip, or tax). Or Masa, another three Michelin starred restaurant where the price for dinner is $450, the most expensive tasting menu in the country.

In recent years, several more accessible places have opened up inside this shopping center, including a steakhouse, a brasserie, and A Voce Columbus, the second location of a popular Italian restaurant that originally opened in Madison Square Garden.
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A Voce Columbus opened in 2009 with executive chef Missy Robbins from Spiagga in Chicago at the helm. In October 2013, Filippo Gozolli, the Italian chef that opened Sirio, took over as executive chef. The restaurant boasts one Michelin Star and is located on the third floor of the Time Warner Building.

Some have compared A Voce with the likes of Babbo, Marea, and Del Posto, which are some of our favorite Italian restaurants in New York.

Because our dinners this particular New York trip were already tied up with work or family events, we were in the unusual situation where we only had lunchtime free to try new restaurants in New York.

Our first lunch was at an old favorite, Le Bernardin, which was (as always) phenomenal. Boulud Sud was a delicious lunch we had with friends. We chose A Voce Columbus for our third (and final) lunch of the trip.

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you can contact me at: jen[at]tinyurbankitchen[dot]com
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