Divey Moody Japanese in an Ocean of Pink and Green Houndstooth (see to believe all the adjectives)

It wasn’t our first time going to Niki’s Tokyo Inn. We thought we knew what to expect as last time we had dined at a table with chairs while wearing shoes on our feet. Had I known the situation ahead, perhaps I would have thrown on a glitzy toe-ring.

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Based purely on observation, I think Niki’s main clientele consists of two main groups: locals who’s families have come to the restaurant since it opened and installed the funky houndstooth carpet decades ago, and those seeking the most Japanese “Japanese food” in San Antonio.

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Essentially the antithesis of Yellowfish, the subject of this blog’s first and probably most poorly written post (I’m honest with myself, it’s all good – and Yellowfish is better than the writing).

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Though not a bar, Niki’s Tokyo Inn is divey. There is no way around the word and there is no other word in English that describes the atmosphere more accurately. From the dim lighting accented by candlelight to the shades painted black to block out the sun and surroundings outside (or is it to conceal the activities within), there’s a hint of mystique that almost feels illegal. And that’s what makes it fun.

Going back to the subject of being caught with our shoes off: Niki’s has three seating options that I know of. I had no idea the “traditional room” even existed until our last visit so maybe there is also a secret bathhouse room and secret karaoke room or secret dance party room.

If there is seating available, you can sit at the main bar/sushi counter, a Western style table, or on cushions in either the main area’s traditional Japanese seating room or the one in the back – we were sat.

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If there isn’t seating available and the place is packed, you’ll probably be asked if the traditional room is okay. As soon as you have agreed it’s time to leave your shoes by the door and walk on back Continue reading

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What I learned at Urban Farm Camp is…

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(more backstory on Urban Farm Camp as told by me at the Rivard Report)

..snack time is sacred. When your group of campers are needing a little inspiration to finish harvesting the amaranth, spreading the marigold seed, or watering the ancestral garden bed – the promise of chilled fresh melons, raspas, paletas and fresh pressed juice shines like a beacon that rivals the summer Texas sun.

Put on by Lorie Solis of the Renewable Republic, food is the heart and soul of Urban Farm Camp. Captured in more obvious activities like pickling cucumbers and preparing lunch, the theme of food and the cycle of food is also found in changing the goat’s hay, starting seedlings, using an Eloo (dehydrating toilet) and feeding scraps to the soldier flies.

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Complementing the theme of food, awareness was also emphasized. We did sit spots each morning to hone our senses in on our surroundings. Plenty of farm camp sounds like birds and wind in the trees, and smells like tomato vines and a fish pond were present. But so were the noises of the urban world we sat in the middle of. Trains, sirens, cars passing by. We noted the contrast of life inside and outside the perimeter fence.

I was fascinated by how quickly things changed in a few short days, such as the budding, opening and closing of blooms on the lotus plant. But what also changed were some attitudes.

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It wouldn’t be truthful to say there wasn’t any resistance to the smell of old cheese and meat products in the bin where the soldier flies live – and there was plenty of discussion over the unfamiliar experience of sharing bathroom quarters with a few grandaddy-longlegs. But for many of the campers, even the “gross” stuff started to feel normal and even fun as they grew more comfortable with “roughing it” as the week went on.

However one of the larger issues we explored with some early resistance was the responsibility associated with meat. Death to allow life.

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Chef Micheal Sohocki of Restaurant Gwendolyn joined us for Thursday’s “fish kill” day. Along with instructing our fish cleaning, Chef Sohocki lead instruction on making scratch corn tortillas and a garden-fresh cucumber onion slaw. Continue reading

Mi Casa es Mi Casa

It’s not how the phrase usually goes, but I think it’s fitting. Sometime in December after Christmas in Arkansas, I realized my home in San Antonio felt like my home. Mi casa es mi casa.

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Recently I got to fangirl out by writing a post on San Antonio for Apartment Therapy. (Being that I’m a major AT and Alamo City fan).

My post was all about what to do out and about in San Antonio. Exterior, events, eats. Lot’s of things that start with E’s.

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But as much time as I spend in the city or by the river, there is a place I lay my head at night – feed my cat – take showers. En mi casa.

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Thoughts of Texas may not conjure up images of converted warehouse loft living quite the way Brooklyn does. It’s not something you can really find in Austin even if you have the dollar to get it. But in San Antonio, there are several loft type living spaces throughout the former (and in some ways current – as the train headed to Pioneer Mills reminds us quite often) industrial areas of town. Not that I even notice the trains anymore.

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Living in the Blue Star Arts Complex does come with other perks beyond the free alarm clock trains. As a non-driving Texan/San Antonian, I rely on a good Walkscore to buy groceries, get to school, go to meetings, get to farm camp, live life, etc.

A “walkscore” isn’t as literal as it sounds. Bikeability and public transportation are also factored into the formula along with walk-ability. To quote the results for my address at Blue Star, terrain is “Flat as a pancake, excellent bike lanes.” With two B-Cycle stations in my complex alone, it’s an ideal spot to hang up those car keys and never look back. (You just might be Ubering or hitchhiking to leave town).

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For the longest time, most of our visitors found the downstairs spooky. After all there is a bit of grunge around the edges that makes you wonder if the ghost of a bygone meat-packer is lurking in the shadows, confused to see people living in what once was essentially a storage unit.

However, we’ve stayed spooky-ghost free so far, even going so far as to make the alleged-by-our-guests to be haunted downstairs a “zen” yoga and relaxation space.

Namaste Casper. Continue reading

Sweets in the City

There are four types of people in the world. Sweet tooths, savory tooths, both teeth, and no teeth. Actually there are probably many more types but I have butchered enough grammar as it is.

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Treats from Panifico Bake Shop, my favorite panadería on the Westside.

San Antonio is either a wonderful or terrible place to live if you fall into the sweet tooth camp. Options are varied and change with the seasons. Sweet cinnamon sugar buñuelos pop up at winter and chilled paleta ice pop carts push around neighborhoods throughout summer. There is always something sweet to eat.

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Ocho sits by the water as an alternative to the main strip of restaurants on the Riverwalk.

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Ocho at Hotel Havana in the downtown is open from breakfast until midnight. I can personally recommend the griddled tortillas that are served with blackberry butter and honey, as well the huge portion of banana bread smothered in peanut butter to accompany a black cup of coffee in the morning. I admit I was drawn to Ocho for the glamorous interior, but the food is on par with its surroundings.

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Spring 2016 finals pastries from the Culinary Institute of America at the Pearl.

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Dessert at the Pearl usually conjures thoughts of Bakery Lorraine macaroons for the locals, however there are other options to be had in that neck of the woods. (There is a decentish amount of trees at the Pearl). During Spring, the Texas location for the Culinary Institute of America sells their students’ finals – pastry finals. Almost too pretty to eat, they taste better than they look. And they look so good.

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Another tasty treat to seek out at the Pearl is Lick Ice Cream. Based out of Austin with unique flavors like dewberry corn cobbler (delicious) and lemon lavender (even better), this isn’t your parent’s Bluebell Continue reading

Scraps, glitter and glue

Reduce, reuse, recycle. I walk, carpool or take the bus, I ask for paper not plastic (then keep the brown bags in my closet to be used as padding in gift wrap and a myriad of other things – I recycle everything I can.IMG_3540_edited

Those are the conventional ideas of what the three Rs are referencing in being better stewards of the environment. But with the rise of Pinterest and a humankind love of craft going back to the beginning of time, art can easily find a place in the “reduce, reuse, recycle” mantra.

I thought my inaugural DIY post would be a well planned step by step guide to creating something specific clear goal and carefully chosen materials. Instead, it became a spur of the moment afternoon craft with my sister that has the special ingredient of unpretentious messiness.

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If I lied and said I used Mod Podge or literally any glue that isn’t fabric glue, no one would be any the wiser. But here’s the deal – I used fabric glue. Fabric glue mixed with a bit of Martha Stewart glitter paint left over from my wedding in 2012. It’s what I had on hand and it does the job. In fact, my sister was in love with glittering everything she glued down.

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For well over a decade now I have been a big fan of mail-order catalogs. While not as eco-friendly as their modern digital counterparts, I’ve been collecting and cutting up and re-purposing the publications for years. I still save any I receive, though I don’t religiously track them down like I once did Continue reading

A Contrast of Coffee

As a modern American city, San Antonio is home to a pleasant array of places to a grab a caffeine fix. Every neighborhood seems to have a coffee shop that personifies the vibe of its surroundings. I still haven’t made it out to more than maybe half, if not less – since there seems to be a new spot opening every other week.

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I was first fascinated by Café Punta del Cielo even before I had a chance to visit. Four years ago San Antonio was chosen as the flagship American location for the urban Mexican coffee chain. Though they have since moved from the original location in Downtown, the Alamo City’s Café Punta del Cielo Stone Oak still remains the only site for the chain in the whole United States (out of 180+ worldwide in Mexico, Spain and Hong Kong).

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A notable portion of San Antonio’s tourism angle focuses on experiencing folk Mexican culture. While that has its own merit, there’s an equally worthy experience to be had when visiting trendy modern Café Punta del Cielo. The taste of Mexican Culture 2016.

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I am personally a sucker for the design aspect. The sleek modern interior, tasteful font choices, minimalist logo – they are admittedly what pulled me into visting. But it’s the no milk no sugar needed delicious espresso and moist tres leches that brings me back.

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In addition to the expected items like lattes, chai tea and cappuccinos, the shop also carries a rich Mexican hot chocolate and summer staple spicy chamoyada. And according to their chalkboard, breakfast tacos.

But just to give a nice bit of contrast to the streamlined international franchise that is Café Punta del Cielo, PRESS coffee in the historic Alta Vista neighborhood is local down to the mugs made the old fashioned way at San Antonio mainstay Southwest School of Art by Blake Kennedy.

As my future alma mater, SSA already has a place in my heart so I’m a little biased. Continue reading