SXSW: Breakfast at Kerbey Lane

I almost had a heart attack this morning at the Austin airport! They couldn't find my computer at the airport baggage services desk - turns out it was stored in a different area but that took 30 minutes to figure out. Once my Mac and I got reunited, we stopped by the Convention Center to pick up our SXSW bags/badges, then headed to meet some of the Surrogate Valentine crew for breakfast at Kerbey Lane Cafe.

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The restaurant has a few locations - this is the original.

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There's a wait, but there's also free wi-fi!

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Somany options.  Lots of vegan-friendly items as well.  A number of readers recommend their pancakes. I can't decide between pumpkin (the seasonal specialty) or gingerbread.  The waitress suggests a short stack of both.  So, she is a genius.

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I share with Abe. Here's the Migas + verde sauce that he orders.

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Although the eggs/rice/beans rock, the pancakes are a little disappointing.  Particularly the gingerbread. They are lukewarm, and need a lot of syrup.  By the way, the syrup isn't very good, either.

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We spend the rest of the afternoon napping and shopping.  There's a mall within walking distance of my hotel.  I'm a Jersey girl, so that makes me really happy.  Tonight, we start SXSW-ing! Christy Meyer's movie Sound of My Voice is playing, so I want to try to see that. There's also Tech Munch (a food blogger conference) going on in Austin, but I think I may have to skip the opening party and focus on one festival at a time.

Oh yeah - and my podcast interview with Sound of My Voice is live! I don't have time to listen to it right now, but if you do, lemme know how it turned out!

Petite Soo Chow

Today's my last day in Jersey, and the only one I don't make any plans for. When all else fails, Chinese food is ALWAYS welcome on the agenda.  Petite Soo Chow is a Shanghainese restaurant in Cliffside Park. We arrive a little past noon, over 14 hours since my pre-bedtime snack, and I am seriously ready to get my grub on.

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They're known for their soup dumplings. Immediately upon entering, you can see them being made!

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My parents tell me this place gets crazy on the weekends. I can see why - it's pretty tiny!

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Starting off with complimentary tea and peanuts.

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The first to arrive are some Sauteed Snow Pea Leaves, and Shanghai Style Rice Cake (with Preserved Cabbage and Shredded Pork).

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This is the Beef with Hot Pepper, which my mother specifically asks for it not to be spicy. It comes with four hot n fresh Mantou (dough-y steamed buns).

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Each Mantou has a little pocket cut into it, perfect for stuffing!

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I can't wait to try the soup dumplings ("Steamed Bun with Meatball" on the menu) to compare them to the ones at Din Tai Fung. Not as juicy/soup-y as the West Coast version but definitely delicious. I eat about 3 of these.

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White rice comes with the dishes too, but I don't have any. Why waste precious stomach space when there's fresh Scallion Pancakes?!?

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It gets a dipping in the dumpling ginger/soy/vinegar sauce.

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If you're in Jersey and looking for a really good, authentic place - this is it.  The food is fresh and flavorful, not greasy or expensive. Tell them Mrs. Chen's daughter from Los Angeles sent you!

Friendly's (Tenafly, NJ)

Back before the suburbs were littered with Starbucks, there was really only one place for teenagers in my town (Cresskill, NJ) to hang out after school - Friendly's in Tenafly.  Technically, it is only one town over - but close enough. Last night I met up with some friends from high school at our old haunt; I really wanted to go there because the chain doesn't exist on the west coast.

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It's pretty much the same, with some updates in the upholstery and carpeting.  When I was a teen I could only never afford an actual dinner unless I came with my family, and that was always so traumatizing, I'd try to order the quickest thing so I wouldn't be seen with my parents.  The horror! Not that it helped, Friendly's always has the SLOWEST service.

Things moved pretty quickly last night - and I could finally buy myself a full meal!

This is their patty melt, which comes with grilled onions and swiss.  I asked for no cheese but it came anyways.  That's Friendly's for ya.  I subbed the meat for a Boca Burger.

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The fries aren't very crispy or well-seasoned but that's nothing some salt and two big globs of ketchup couldn't fix.

Friendly's really isn't about the food, though.  It's all about the dessert! So many nostalgic options, from Fribbles to their infamous Happy Ending sundaes (I believe this signature sundae was named before the X-rated massage term was coined).  I didn't see any Watermelon Rolls (their popular sherbert cake) in the freezer case - just this Lemonade one, which didn't exist back in the day.

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Feeling ultra nostalgic, I order the Cone Head off the kiddie menu.  Two scoops of Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream, a hot fudge-dipped sugar cone, whipped cream "hair," and Reese's Pieces candy eyes/nose.

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I love catching up with my buddies from high school.  My friend Guy Olivieri has written a book too, So You Wanna Be a New York Actor?  I remember when we used to be in The Pajama Game together!

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Heidelberg Restaurant

A little history for new readers - I grew up in NJ (where I'm visiting my folks this week) - right across the George Washington Bridge. I also lived in Astoria, Queens for seven years.  Now that I call Los Angeles my home, it's always bittersweet to go back to NYC, since things are constantly changing.  Dinner last night was at Heidelberg Restaurant, a German place my Mom saw on Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations.  I had no idea she was even an Anthony Bourdain fan!

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Heidelberg Restaurant kinda feels like stepping into an attraction at Epcot - circa 1985 - especially with all the servers in lederhosen and dirndls.

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This was my first time seeing my cousin Stephanie since we were little itty bitties! She has grown up to be quite the lovely woman, both inside and out.

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The bread basket, overflowing with all sorts of selections.

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A taste of each. Not a butter fan, so it's pretty dry, but I was hungry so I ate it all.

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My folks were the only ones to drink alcohol.  Big glass steins of beer.   I think this isn't even the "large" size?

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For the four of us, we ordered 3 main entrees and one side dish to share. My mom keeps talking about the Pig Knuckles that Anthony Bourdain tried.  But when I order the "Eisben" the waitress informs me we probably wanted the Schweineshaxe. Danke!

The tray she brought out is so impressive we all oohed and ahhhed.

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Also with the Roasted Pork Shank and Smoked Bratwurst comes cabbage and potato dishes galore.

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My favorite was the potato pancakes with applesauce - perfectly fried, thick, and chewy.

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Tons of German mustard, duh.

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I heart Heidelberg! None of us are especially impressed with the Bratwurst, which was a bit tough (my folks have issues with the pork too).  But I thought everything else was delicious. The environment is unique and I like the Andes chocolate mints that came with the check.

Thanks Mom and Dad for a fun dinner!

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A Cold Day in Astoria, Queens

It's been CHILLY in New York, but we have an itinerary!  We are visiting our old neighborhood of Astoria, Queens.  To prepare, I'm pulling on my thickest Falke tights under my pants and sucking it up, literally.  Julius looks pretty beat, doesn't he?

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Still, we are dropping him off at Doggy Daycare, so he won't have to be in his bag all day. At the suggestion of Abe's cousin Lucy, we're using The Puppy Loft.

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$20 for 5 hours is a good deal! We drop him off and walk 10 blocks down to Union Square, where I am always tempted by the Farmer's Market.

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Next up, coffee with a friend! Or tea, rather, for me. Peppermint, to be exact.

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Even though I love everything at Le Pain Quotidien, we have a very specific lunch in mind. Hopping on the N train to our old neighborhood, Astoria, Queens!   This is where we lived for seven years.

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And this is our subway stop - the Broadway one!

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Of course, the neighborhood's changing a lot, in the last four years since we moved.  But we are so glad to see that our favorite restaurant, Aliada, is exactly the same.

There's the warm, open kitchen upon entering...

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...the flavorful, light and airy Spinach Pie...

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...the overflowing basket of pita.

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And my old standard, the Pantzarosalata.  This is a salad consisting of boiled beets, eggs, and potatoes over a pile of greens/herbs/olives, dressed simply with olive oil and lemon juice.

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Also, I am glad to see that they're getting some props from The Village Voice, voted "Most Satisfying Salad" in 2005.

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Ah, memories.

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I'm splitting the spinach pie and salad with Abe, and eating only half a piece of pita (which was kinda dry - not soft and warm like I've had before). The salad itself is delicious, but I have to say, since moving to the land of salads, it pales in comparison. Sorry, Aliada!  This was more of a nostalgia meal - I felt warm and fuzzy while we were there and was very glad we made the trek out to Queens for it.

Next, a walk down to our old apartment building; we want to see if our beloved Supers Tony and Manny will be there, and sure enough they were - hanging out in the lobby as usual!

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Now the temperature is rapidly dropping so I want to get back to the Chelsea apartment immediately, though it would have been fun to explore our old stomping grounds longer. Abe even went to pick up Julius so I could get back quicker.

Over at The Puppy Loft, they're giving us a little Report Card, complete with pictures of what Julius had been up to all day!  They informed us that he had a new girlfriend named Sophia. I want to know more about this bitch.

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For the rest of the evening we're staying in, catching up with Lucy and our friend Rachel, then watching a rough cut of Lucy's documentary, Kings Park.  Abe's worked on this movie almost a decade ago. So it's amazing to see how far its come; hopefully the whole world will get to see this powerful and important film soon.