Friday, September 28, 2012

South Bend, Indiana! [Sorry, where?] To the University of Notre Dame!!


Emphasis on the "We Are" part, because if you're a Notre Dame Fighting Irish fan, you're in a family.

I was definitely made to feel that way when I got to Notre Dame. Allow me to regale you with the tale of the greatest night of my holiday.

South Bend isn't normally the place you got out of your way to visit. I was there for the sole purpose of watching Notre Dame Football. Prior to the trip, I had been in Chicago for two days dining on the local delicacies and sampling the beers as I planned my trip to South Bend. I had found a train that would take me from Chi-town to South Bend for a few sheckles (who am I?) so I jump and got on board.

It was unsure of my plan of attack once I got to SB, as it is in all it's glory a small mid-western town with a college there. I figured naively that I'd got there and have a drink in a bar for a few hours, walk around the tailgate, watch the game and find a place to sleep or catch the last train home. Simple and Boring.

On the train there was a group of youths also heading to SB who were joyfully getting into the gameday spirit, playing the Fighting Irish fight song from a fanny pack and drinking copiously from disguised soda vessels. So when I got off the train without the faintest idea of where to go, naturally I had to ask these guys and gals where to party!

Cue the awkward "Hi I'm from Australia alone looking for a place to pre-game, have you got any tips?". After a moment of disbelief of actually having an Australian here to watch football, I was graciously offered to tailgate with the crew and introduced to Elise, her husband Dan, Annie, Sulli, Kosey, K-mart, Natalie, and her bf Joel; later to be joined by Badger and Nick-Dawg who's father Lou wasn't Lou Holtz (UND Coaching legend), much to my chagrin. All University of Notre Dame Grads (one from St. Mary's) and some of the coolest people ever. We piled into a cab, blasted some tunes from the Jammy Pack (K-mart's nickname for his music playing fanny pack), drank some liquor and got acquainted.

Arrive on campus and start the tail gate. The concept of a tailgate was completely foreign to me, allow me to paint a picture. Take a group of people; pack a picnic with extra food, a grill, meat and lots of alcohol; arrive at the carpark and set up a BBQ area; eat and drink; talk shit about the opposition; play cornhole; all while being very hospitable to strangers by offering them free beer and food. Crazy right?!  It's a family affair; everyone comes to party. My hosts were adamant that it is the best part of gameday! That was my afternoon in between entertaining audiences with my accent and explaining why I was in South Bend. Trust me it could of been worst, I loved every minute of it.

I was given a tour of the campus by the crew, who show me their old dorms and told me about how they all became friends, making me wish that I went to Notre Dame too. It's not hard to get caught up in the magic of it all, from the large lawns in the North and South Quads to the mural of Touchdown Jesus reflecting off the water feature adjacent to the library entrance.

Gametime! Fostering a nice buzz provided by the tailgate, we broke up and found our seats, I made a beeline for the merch stand and colored up ND style, if you gotta cheer, do it in style right?

The stadium is something else. 81,000 fans packing out the house and on their feet for 3 hours cheer on the home team and intimidating the opponents. At this point I should say, we were versing the University of Michigan and their cocky QB #16 Denard Robinson. During the pre-game the talk was all about stopping #16 being the key to victory. We did it. ND #5 on the defense, Manti Teo came up big despite having a horrow week (grandmother and girlfriend dying in same week) to win us the game. In that stadium, in that moment, I felt at home. The atmosphere was like no other, without doubt the greatest sporting experience I've ever been apart of. To see the joy, relief, and drunkeness on the face of my new friends was priceless. This game had meant so much to them because UM has had the monkey over ND for the last 3 years.

After the game we partied, danced and shot beer pong in a college apartment (like I really went to ND!). I was being introduced as "the stranger we met on the train", I didn't mind at all.

The party was over, and a limo was organised to take us back to Chicago (I know right? We be ballin'!). Dranks be flowing in the limo all the way back to the Chi.

As I told the other American guys at the hostel my ND experience, they couldn't believe how lucky I was to meet such great people to spendmy game day with. Trust me I know it. See you guys next year?

Of course, photos (I didn't take too many cos i spilt some beer on camera and didn't want to get it dirtier):


I'm really behind on posts I might do Chicago and LA recap together when I get back to Melbourne.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Concrete Jungle!

My mission was simple. Eat my way through New York. My methodology was flawed. It was too much food, not enough time.

Regardless of the hype surrounding NYC (especially coming from Melbourne), you don't really understand how big the city is until you go there. And trust, "big" is an understatement. 

I had been in Manhattan for one week, but the effects of the stay would not be seen until I arrived in Chicago, when I looked down at my legs and no longer saw any definition of leg muscle, but instead ripples of hard earned American fat. So how did it get this way? It started with a burger.

Whilst in New York, I refrained from as many "touristy" spots as possible. One thing I did do was visit the Museum of Natural History. Growing up I loved Dinosaurs, and the MoNH was the setting for a childhood cartoon I loved called "We're Back: A Dinosaur Story", so I went there. Their collection was immense, you could spend all day reading the informative placards glued to the displays and grow your knowledge. Although, all that learning sure does make you hungry!  Luckily for me I was near Shake Shack, a chain of burger restaurants that make the most heavenly fast foods. The line went out the door and around the corner. It took 40 minutes, but *boom* tastebuds blown out of the water! I had the double cheeseburger with extra pickles. Burger was two inhouse ground patties with lettuce, tomato, pickles and "shack sauce" on a brioche bun. Meatly, crunchy, tangy, buttery goodness. Fries were crispy and salty, perfectly balanced by the refreshingly creamy strawberry milkshake that didn't taste like crappy artificial "strawberries". 

After that meal, I was fired up and hungry for more. Staying in the Lower East Side (LES), I was fortunate enough to be close to all the "cool" parts of NYC (SOHO, NOHO, NOLITA, East Village) which means all the better places to eat were there too.Throughout the week, I walked, drank, and ate my way to understanding New York life. I tasted some of the greatest Jewish fare in the LES from Katz's Deli (Pastrami Sandwiches, Tongue Sandwiches, Chicken soups and Matzo Ball soups) and Russ and Daughter's who stock the most delicous lox (cured salmon), so much so that I don't think I could eat another bagel in Melbourne. Aside from these institutions, the LES is also home to some of the tastiest hand/street food, with places like Bao Haus that sell Taiwanese steam buns sandwhichs filled with modern Asian flavours. Crif dogs is another store with amazing food and as the name suggests they specialise in hot dogs. They're so good infact that I went there twice. Eating the Jon Jon Deragon (deep fired hotdog wrapped in bacon in a cream cheesed bun, hot sauce and everything bagel toppings) and the spicy redneck (deep fried dog, jalapenos, slaw and hot sauce) artery clogging goodness.

So I ate, and took some photos. Below are the places I ate at, not one bad meal was had, for me that is the perfect week.

- Shake Shack (77th & Columbus)
  Recommend: Double Shack burger

- Bao Haus (E14th & 2nd)
 Recommend: Chairman Bao

- Katz's Deli (E Houston)
Recommend: pastrami on Rye and Chicken Noodle soup.

- Big Gay Ice Cream Shop (7th & 2nd)
Recommend: Salty Pimp

- Crif Dogs (St. Marks Place & 2nd)
Recommend: Jon Jon Deragon

- Farmacy (Brooklyn)
recommend: Chocolate egg cream

- One Girl Cookies (Brooklyn)
Recommend: Whoopie Pies (any flavour)

- Momofuku Noodle Bar (1st)
Recommend: Scallop entree and Momofuku Ramen.

Photos (I had more but they're on my iphone):


Saturday, September 15, 2012

New England! Boston, Massachusetts and Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

I've been sick. Jet lag absolutely hit me for six straight from the get go, I guess people weren't meant to cross 10 time zones and still be able to function normally. So there I was in the twilight of a New English summer, coughing and snotting like it was the deepest of Melbourne winters. Sad times indeed.

Despite my ailing condition I had to venture on. My auntie wouldn't of let me do other wise. In the moment, I would of sold my first born for a litre of Demazin and a hot tea, but in hindsight I'm grateful for being dragged from one New English attraction to another.

The first two days in NE for me was in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, a sleepy harbour town 70 miles north of Boston. and 5 mins south of the Maine border. The home to my Aunt, Uncle and cousins. They'd been living there for about 6 years and were keen to show me what village life was all about. Basically, all they do there is: Not eat junk food; ride their bikes; go to school; be healthy; and breathe in magnificent Atlantic ocean air. Not a bad way to live if you ask me. Apparenty, seafood is a bigdeal in New England, they made me know about it on my first night there, ordering 7 (yes seven) lobsters which I ate until I was drunk on crustacean juice. It was so delicious dipped in melted butter sauce and lime juice. The rest of the weekend in Portsmouth was pretty chill, catching up with my long distance family. Sometimes when you're sick and 30000 miles from home, the thing you need is family.

Sunday night, and I'm in Boston. Against my better judgetment, I decided to go out dranking with some of the people in the Friend St Hostel (great establishment for back packers, low fuss with friendly service). Being in downtown Boston, drinks are always at the ready, and the jugs was flowing it was great times, topped off by waking up with no hangover, Yes!

Boston, as it was told to me was the locus of America's fight for independence from the British and you can definitely see that as you walk around town. Absolutely loved the architecture of the city, the amount of 18th century brickwork buildings were amazing, from Faneuil Hall to the New State House to Harvard Yard, some of the most gorgeous buildings I've laid eyes on. Apart from dead presidents and nice buildings, Boston is also the home of Clam Chowder, a bowl of  creamy mollusc-y bacon-y spud-y  goodness, words cannot describe the feeling of comfort when eating this soup, you need to try it to know what I'm harping on about. Throughout my week in Boston, did nothing but solidify it as one of my top 2 American cities, with it's slower cool college town pace of life (Boston is home to over 90 colleges, with a population of about 1.4million). I loved walking around taking in the sights (mainly beautiful college students) and chilling in the Common, but the absolute highlight of my Boston visit was the Redsox vs Yankees game at Fenway Park, the oldest stadium in baseball. It was a tough night for the Redsox, going down 5-3, having their starting 2nd baseman rushed off to hospital cos his wife was in labour and having their biggest cheer squad kicked out of the game. Yes, in my first apperance at Fenway Park, I was ejected from the stadium, a feat I'd never achieved even back home in Melbourne!

Not to worry though, we had more beers in teh bar out side the stadium.

Here's some photos below, more photos will be available on my Facebook. I'm in New York now, so hopefully I'll get a new shorter blog up soon. Catch.