No Place Like Home – Tucson

It has been a long time since my last post so I thought it only fitting to revive the blog with a post about my last trip home to Tucson. Also, speaking of home, great timing to mention that this is the same week we welcomed a new Abyad into the world, Justus Jeffrey Abyad. I am now an uncle for the 6th time and enjoying it. 🙂

Tucson ShotOne of my favorite food activities when staying with family is breakfast. When done Middle Eastern style, it will usually consist of a bunch of little dishes including a lot of cheese, bread, eggs, falafel, fruit, more cheese, and sometimes “ful” (an Arabic dish that is basically fava beans). And possibly my favorite cheese ever is Armenian string cheese. We grew up eating this constantly, also good toasted and melted on pita bread.

String CheeseHere is the ful, awesome with fresh tomato and onion.

FulJust to prep you, the food in this post will be really diverse but it is a typical showing of what is eaten when I go home. 🙂

Anytime I am home in Tucson, a large chunk of my time is spent with my Vietnamese family. This last trip, I got a chance to hang out with one my best friends growing up (Trung), and his girlfriend Paulina. Paulina very lovingly made us some homemade Pho which was awesome. I wanted to take a picture of them but they weren’t being so cooperative so I’ll just have to find one of Trung in Vietnam, drinking from a cup with his name!Trung and CoffeeHere are the Pho and condiments… done the right way with fresh meat and ingredients.

IMG_6768 PhoFortunately this trip was also the week of Thanksgiving so we spent Thanksgiving at my Uncle and Aunt’s house in Phoenix allowing for another Middle Eastern Thanksgiving experience which I can share with you here…

The TableAnd just to get closer…

BOOM tabouleh…

TabboulehBOOM green bean casserole…

green beansBOOM sweet potato casserole…

sweet potato casseroleBOOM kibbeh…

kibbehand finally grapeleaves…

grapeleavesAnd so you can have a view of the plate…

PlateSo Happy Thanksgiving a little late. And this last segment of going home was our visit to Old Tucson Studios, which every child in Tucson loves. It is an actual film studio that has been filming since 1939, filming movies like Tombstone and The Three Amigos!

Old TucsonCheck out the excitement on this child (Bethany); the excitement I also shared when driving/riding in these cars…

bethan in old tucsonFood wise, we had a pretty great experience here as well. There was an open grill with lots of good stuff including the infamous Sonoran Hot Dog which I love and can only get, legitimately, in Tucson.

Sonoran Dog SignSonoran DogWith some nachos…

NachosHere are some grill shots…

Flame broiled IMG_6916Cooked CornSo there’s a rundown if what just 3 days may look like in Tucson, always a good food experience. 🙂 How can you turn this down?

Tucson

 

 

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Waking Up at the Waldorf Astoria

At 4am! That is the time the fire alarm decided to go off in the Waldorf. At least it wasn’t an annoying sounding alarm, just a loud-soft-sounding beep; so even the fire alarm was upper-class. But it did give me the chance to get up and walk around a bit. I was in search of some tylenol but thought all the stores were closed because of the approaching Hurricane. I was wrong, the Hurricane wasn’t even close yet. It was still super calm outside and not too cold so I strolled down Lexington Ave to the closest Duane Reade which was still open and was treated to a nice night-time view of the Chrysler Building.

For those of you that didn’t already know, the whole reason I went to New York was to use a certificate I had for a free night at any Hilton Hotel worldwide. Hilton also happens to own Waldorf Astoria hotels so what better one to go to then the one in New York. I won this certificate via a twitter mini-scavenger hunt thanks to a friend at work that is in the know…

Anyway, the Waldorf was pretty sweet. It had what was probably the nicest bed I have ever slept in and you just feel generally taken care of there. Here are some shots around the hotel:

The large clock in the lobby:

So fun fact: Did you know that Red Velvet Cake was first made (invented) at the Waldorf Astoria in New York? I just found this out a couple weeks before my trip and was very determined to eat some at the hotel. Because ordering it via room service would have cost me around $25, I decided to try and get some to-go on our way out of the hotel. Mind you, this is the Monday of Hurricane Sandy coming ashore so the restaurants were a little off schedule. They only had a full buffet down stairs and I asked the hostess if I could get some cake to go. She was busy but made it happen and when I offered to pay, she just said it’s ok, go ahead and take it. Another great New Yorker! I just took this as another instance of the favor of God! So much provision, even with cake! haha. So here it is…

Basically, after leaving the Waldorf, we were a little more in survival mode. We found another hotel, the Da Vinci. And while it wasn’t too crazy outside, we walked around and I tried to get into a couple food places. We did make it to a Vietnamese place, called Saigon 48, close to Times Square. I was craving some kind of noodle dish, and I could eat Vietnamese food (especially Pho) every day so there we went.

A great meal on a rainy day… And of course we had to get the large Pho.

It was pretty good, I’ve definitely had better Vietnamese. I didn’t like the noodles they used, I prefer the smaller ones. The service at this place was great though and they made a good Iced Coffee!

After this, we did manage to see a little more of the city…

Notice the Naked Cowboy still performing, the day of the Hurricane! We then went back to the hotel after the winds picked up and a frantic message from Meghan alerting me that a crane had just collapsed a block from our hotel (see below). We thought that was a good time to get inside.

The next day, our bus was cancelled again so we decided to rent a car and drive back to DC in the afternoon. Luckily for me, this did give me some time to experience a couple more good food items. You can’t go to New York and not get a Bagel, so we stopped in at Bagel and Bean. I saw an enticing sign for Bagels with Salmon and Cream Cheese (with chives!) so I went for that! But they only had Blueberry Bagels left… alright, still good!

And I saw that another place had opened for the day, Pie Face. Apparently it is from Australia, and the whole staff was actually Australian. They provided me a very tasty mini-cheesecake.

And with that, we walked a couple more miles, picked up the car and headed back to DC. New York is always fun and I hope I can go back soon for some more food exploration! Please feel free to provide any NYC food recommendations as well!

Here was our moving shot from Jersey as we were driving away… Goodbye New York!