Jaunts With Jackie

Fill your life with adventure. Have stories to tell and not things.

Category: Urban Adventure

ART-O-MAT in Las Vegas

Las Vegas is not only about drinking and gambling. While visiting in January with my daughter and my best friends we stumbled upon something unique and fun. We read about old cigarette machines that have been refurbished into dispensers for original art.

Art-0-mat

Artist Clark Whittington came up with the idea of the Art-0-mat in 1997 in Winston Salem, North Carolina. He used the vending machine to dispense his art for $1. There are now vending machines scattered across the United States. Each machine dispenses original works of art.

The Art-o-mat in the Cosmopolitan Hotel

An Art Scavenger Hunt

There are Art-o-mat machines in the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas. We were staying at Treasure Island and we chose to walk down the strip to the Cosmopolitan and although it was 40 degrees outside we stopped at Fat Tuesday for frozen drinks. I had a drink that tastes like a creamsicle. They serve the drinks in a cute acrylic to-go cup. And Vegas being Vegas, I took my drink with me on the walk.

Drinks to go from Fat Tuesday

Finding the Art-o-mat Machines

There are six refurbished cigarette machines in the lobby and hallways at the Cosmopolitan. Finding the machines is half the fun. After walking around we found the first one. First, we made change, because the machines only accept $5 bills. With money in hand, we had the hard choice of what artist to pick. I inserted my $5 and pulled a lever. The art comes out in a small 2″ x 3′ box. My first piece of art was an abstract mounted on a block. Nicole put in her $5 and got a pair of cork earrings. Feeling successful we wandered on a looked for the next machine.

Ready to try their luck

Nicole with her art.
Robyn trying her luck.

Art At The Cosmopolitan

The Cosmopolitan is filled with art. The walls have large-scale murals, photographs, and sculptures. The Cosmopolitan wants their art to be interactive and accessible. In other words, some of their art is in the middle of the hallway and it looks like it is meant to be touched consequently, we enjoyed walking around looking at all the art while we were looking for more Art-o-mat vending machines.


One of the many sculptures in the hallways.
We interacted with the art.

Hunting For More Art

As we continue on our hunt for more Art-o-mat vending machines, but we have better luck with some machines than others. A few times we put in our $5 bill and we get nothing in return. We don’t let it deter us. Nicole is in charge of locating all six of the Art-o-mat machines and I’m happy to say that we found them all. We love the pieces of art that we collected. The Art-o-mat is helping to make art accessible for everyone. For $5 you can be an art collector too. Therefore, now that we experienced a fun scavenger hunt, our interest is piqued and we are planning more trips to find Art-o-mat vending machines in other states.

Checking out our new art.
Nicole trying her luck again.
Robyn was so disappointed that the machine took her $5 and didn’t give her any art.
All the art we got out of the vending machines.

The 3 Best Pizza Slices in NYC

Everybody has their favorite style of pizza and the best part of visiting New York City is you can try it all. There is a pizza place on every block. While visiting my daughter Nicole in Brooklyn we decided to give some a try.

Juliana’s Pizza, 10 Old Fulton St. Brooklyn, NY

Juliana’s Pizza

Our first stop was Juliana’s Pizza on Old Fulton Street in Brooklyn. Juliana’s is an old school pizzeria that opened in 2012. The proprietor is Patsy Grimaldi. Patsy owned Grimaldi’s under the Manhattan Bridge just a few doors down from Juliana’s. Grimaldi’s was a New York institution. Lines would snake down the street for blocks. About 10 years ago Patsy and his wife sold Grimaldi’s and settled into retirement. Much to the delight of Brooklyn after a few years of retirement, he opened Juliana’s Pizza named after his mother. We went for lunch on a rainy afternoon. There was a line outside, but we were a party of two and we agreed to sit at the bar so we were seated quickly. We had an amazing view of the coal pizza oven.

The coal pizza oven.

We split a salad and decided on the classic Margherita. It has a typical New York thin crust, with San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and basil. We also tried the War Flag an American Pilsner brewed in Brooklyn. The salad was a nice start. It was fresh and tasty.

While we waited for our pizza we sipped our beer and watched the pizzas go in and out of the coal oven. Our pizza came out piping hot. The crust was thin and golden. The cheese tasted fresh and it was gooey. The pizza was basically perfection. Between the two of us, we ate a whole pizza, and that left no room to try dessert. Maybe next time. I paid in cash, but I did notice that you can use your credit card, unlike at Grimaldi’s which is cash only. The restaurant was very busy, but at no time did we feel rushed and the service was excellent. I believe Juliana’s is a must-try for an authentic New York City Pizza.

War Flag, an American Pilsner brewed in Brooklyn.
The classic Margherita Pizza.
Spumoni Gardens in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.

Spumoni Gardens

The first Saturday in April was opening day for Luna Park at Coney Island. We took the train to Coney Island and rode the old wooden Cyclone. After the roller coaster ride and the walk along the boardwalk, we decided to go try some pizza at Spumoni Gardens. We took the train one stop and then walked to the restaurant. Spumoni Gardens is located in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.

When we got there it was a lively Saturday afternoon on their patio. Spumoni Gardens is known for its Sicilian pizza. They sell their pizzas as whole pies or by the slice. Their Sicilian pizza is made in a rectangle. One slice is $3.00. It was a thick crust and the sauce is on top of the cheese. We ate on the patio and they serve it up on a paper plate. We each got a slice and sat on the patio with a lemonade. The crust is thick and the sauce is plentiful and it was easier to eat it with a fork. It was good and I’m glad we tried it.

Thick crust Sicilian Pizza with the sauce on top.

We both got a serving of Spumoni Ice Cream for dessert. Their Spumoni is a mix of Vanilla, Chocolate, and Pistachio. In my opinion, it was the star of the meal. We ate on the patio, but they have a full-service restaurant inside. The whole area had a down-home family vibe.

A serving of Spumoni Ice Cream.

Joe’s Pizza

Joe’s Pizza is a Greenwich Village institution. It was founded in 1975 and has been listed on NYC’s best pizzas over and over. They have a simple menu. Whole pies or by the slice. They also have Sicilian pizza on the menu, but I have never tried it.

Joe’s Pizza, 7 Carmine St.

Joe’s Pizza is a walk up and orders pizzeria. There are a few stools and stand up tables, but mostly you order to go. The day Nicole and I went she saved us seats on a bench in the square across the street. The square is officially Father Demo Square. It has a fountain and benches and is a good place to sit and people watch. I went and ordered our pizza.

We both chose a slice of cheese pizza. It is a huge slice and they serve it on a paper plate. They have cans of soda and bottled water for sale as well. They do not accept credit cards. Joe’s pizza is the quintessential New York slice of pizza. The crust is thin and if you look around you will see people folding their slice in half. This is what all walk-up pizza should taste like, flavorful and not greasy and a perfect not floppy crust. Joe’s Pizza serves both the local neighborhood and hungry tourists. Joe has become so popular they now have 4 other locations scattered throughout New York City.

A slice from Joe’s Pizza, Greenwich Village.

These 3 pizzas are just the tip of the iceberg. There are 100’s of other pizza places in New York City to try, but I would definitely make a return trip to all three of these locations.

The 5 Best Doughnuts in NYC

You might think that while visiting New York the only round food you should try is a bagel, but then you will be missing out on some tasty donuts. While visiting NYC in April, my daughter and I decided to try out some of the specialty doughnuts the city has to offer.

First Stop: Dough

First stop was Dough in Brooklyn. Dough now has a few other locations throughout the city, but the Clinton Hill location in Brooklyn is the original. Dough makes traditional yeast doughnuts with untraditional glazes and toppings. Inside their storefront, you can take a peak and seem them making their fresh doughnuts. There is not enough room to eat inside, so plan on taking your doughnuts to go. I decided on the Lemon Poppy Seed. The lemony glaze had the perfect ratio of tartness and sweetness. The poppy seeds were more for aesthetics than taste. The donut had a nice rise from the yeast and wasn’t greasy or heavy. Overall, a very satisfying donut. Dough makes their doughnuts daily and they have seasonal as well as daily varieties to choose from.

Lemon Poppyseed from Dough

Second Stop: Doughnut Plant

Day number 2 and our second stop for our donut tour was Doughnut Plant in Chelsea. Like Dough, they have other locations throughout Manhattan, but their Chelsea location was their first. We decided to order coffee and sit down and eat our doughnut inside because there are tables and chairs. We both order coffee of the day and I ordered a Peanut Butter & Blackberry Jam Doughnut. Nicole ordered the Hazelnut Chocolate Filling covered with Roasted Hazelnut Glaze. The first thing to notice is Doughnut Plant is home of the square doughnuts. They have been in business since 1994 and they make their doughnuts without preservatives, eggs, or trans fats. The peanut butter & blackberry doughnut tasted just like mom’s peanut butter & jam sandwich. It is a square donut filled with jam and covered with the peanut butter glaze and because of its square shape you get jam with every bite. It was yummy and super filling. The hazelnut doughnut was round, rich and delicious. The Doughnut Plant has a nice mix of yeast and cake doughnuts to choose from. In addition to their delectable doughnuts, they also have some amazing stuffed doughnuts decorating their walls. There is a stuffed doughnut to represent each one of their doughnuts that they serve.

Peanut Butter & Blackberry Jam and Chocolate Hazelnut from Doughnut Plant

Because it’s a square doughnut you get jam in every bite.

Doughnut Plant has the cutest stuffed doughnuts hanging on their walls.

Third Stop: The Donut Pub

Stop number 3 on our doughnut tour was at The Donut Pub in the West Village. The Donut Pub is known for their doughnuts, pastries, and cookies. They are open 24 hours a day. Inside the Donut Pub is a small counter to sit at and also a few tables. We tried the French Cruller and the Croissant Donut. The Cruller was a fancy, twisted design. It was light and had sugar glaze over the top. We sat at the counter and they served it to me on a paper plate and I need lots of napkins. It wasn’t greasy, but the glaze stuck to my fingers. The Croissant Donut was served warmed up on a small paper plate. After the first bite, you could tell that butter had to be one of the main ingredients in this doughnut. Out of all the doughnuts that we tasted this one was definitely the richest and most filling. It had so much butter in it that it left a buttered ring on the paper plate. We were happy we tasted the cronut, but I don’t think either of us needs to eat one again. I would go back for a cruller and maybe try one of their other flavors. I would also like to try their Black & White cookie. It’s been rumored to be the best in New York City.

The Donut Pub in The West Village
The Original French Cruller
The Croissant Donut
My view while I was sitting at the counter.
Maybe next time a Strawberry Croissant Donut

Fourth Stop: The Doughnuttery

Our 4th stop was The Doughnuttery in the Chelsea Market. While our other doughnuts were regular size, the Doughnuttery makes their doughnuts in a small bite-size version. We ordered 6 minis for $6.00. We watched the small cake doughnuts plop into the fryer. They are then scooped out and covered with your choice of a sugar and spice topping. With the minis, you can pick two toppings. We choose House of Cardamon which was cardamon, orange zest and star anise and Paris Time which was lavender, vanilla, and pistachio. I liked the House of Cardamon best. The orange zest gave it a fresh taste. Nicole liked the Paris Time, because of the pistachio. The mix of sugar and spices coating the doughnuts made them flavorful without being too sweet, however, out of all the doughnuts we tasted these tasted the most fried. I would order them again to try a different topping, but these were not my favorite.

The Doughnuttery inside of Chelsea Market
The Menu at the Doughnuttery
House of Cardamom mini doughnut
Paris Time mini doughnut

Fifth Stop: The Doughnut Project

Our 5th and final stop was The Doughnut Project in the West Village. They are now for their unique and seasonal doughnuts. I had previously been to the Doughnut Project and ordered their famous Everything Doughnut, so this time I wanted to try something different. I ordered The Black Gold AKA Brownie Batter and Nicole ordered the Bronx (Olive Oil and Black Pepper.) They have a few bar stools to sit at, but they were all occupied so we took out doughnuts to Washington Square Park to eat them. The Black Gold had an extra dark chocolate glaze with house-made chocolate cookie crumbles and sea salt. It was like biting into a light and airy brownie. If you are a chocolate lover then I say this is a must-try. Nicole’s Bronx was also light and airy. You could taste the olive oil and you got a little zing from the black pepper.

The Doughnut Project in The West Village
I love the art on the inside of The Doughnut Project.
The Black Gold AKA Brownie Batter
The Bronx

Overall, we have gone back and forth about which doughnut was our favorite and we can’t come to a conclusion. All 5 locations were good and they all offer something a little different. I think it all comes down to what you are in the mood for.

Invader Hits Los Angeles Art District

French street artist know as Invader has returned to Los Angeles. Invader is know for his rogue tile art that is hidden in plain sight in large, urban cities. His pieces are based on the old school video game, Space Invaders. There are approximately 200 pieces of his art in Los Angeles. Over the Influence Gallery in Los Angeles is currently hosting an exhibition, Invader, “Into the White Cube.”

The show runs through December 23, 2018 and it is free to the public. Invader has reproductions of his pixelated art hanging on the walls along with photos of his art in cities across the world. In addition to the art there is a continuous video that was playing about how Invader sent a “space invader” to space in Florida in 2012. FYI: It was a success. I took pictures of my favorites like the invader with the avocado and I Love L.A. There is a store front next door that sells kitschy and very expensive knickknacks.

Invader also has his own app that you can download from the Apple Store. It is called Flash Invaders. Basically, you take a picture of an invader that you find in the wild and if it is one that has been authenticated you receive points as if you were playing the video game. The app has a leader board and you can see other people’s pictures and what city that they found the invader in. It is along the same vein as Pokemon GO. I am pretty bummed that I did not know about this app when I was in Paris, because we saw lots of Invaders while we were walking around there.

The Best Ramen in Town at Daikokuya Little Toyko

After visiting the gallery we walked to Little Tokyo to get some Ramen. Dylan knew of a place that he had been to with his friends, Daikokuya Little Toyko. When we turned down the street we knew it must be really good, because there was a long line waiting for a table.

We went in and added our name to the list which was on an iPad. This system is genius, because it allows you to use your phone to check back in and see how many people are ahead of you in line. There were 29 tables ahead of us, so we went across the street to Tokyo Plaza and went shopping. It took a little over an hour for our table to be ready. The inside of the restaurant is small and no thrills. We were starving. We ordered iced Oolong Tea and a Spicy Tuna Role as an appetizer. Nicole and I both ordered their #1 best seller the Daikokuya Ramen with tonkotsu soup base infused with their secret blended soy sauce. Dylan ordered a teriyaki chicken bowl. The broth in the ramen tasted rich and full bodied. The ramen was delicious and definitely worth the wait. I googled Daikokuya after we ate there and found that they have won a ton of awards and we all agreed they deserve the accolades.

Shopping at Tokyo Plaza

After dinner we went back to Tokyo plaza for a little more shopping. We stopped to take a picture by the Christmas Tree and got sucked into watching karaoke. We watched a guy that was so bad, he was good. He was having such a good time it was contagious.

Ice Cream at Bae

We decided that we would get some ice cream before headed back home. We settled on bae. bae is a new soft serve ice cream shop on 2nd street. The inside is swanky, chandeliers, leather seating and a black wall with a cute saying that is Instagram ready.

They are know for their activated charcoal pineapple flavor which is pure black. I had the Earl Coco, a swirl of Earl Grey & Coco Puffs. Dylan had the Matcha Chocolate, a swirl of Matcha & Chocolate. Nicole had the Heartbreak which is the Activated Charcoal Pineapple with a charcoal sugar cone. The heartbreak taste very similar to the Dole Whipped at Disneyland. The Matcha was not sweet and paired nicely with the chocolate. The Earl Coco was a nice combination because the tea flavor kept the coco puff flavor from being too sweet. Ice cream is $6.00 in a cup or for $1.50 extra you can get it in a cone. They have a red sugar cone, a black activated charcoal cone, and a green Matcha cone.  Street parking is available or you can find a parking garage attached to the Tokyo Plaza. Both the art district and Little Tokyo are accessible to the Gold Line as well.

https://baebae.co/

http://www.daikoku-ten.com/locations/littletokyo/

http://overtheinfluence.com/exhibitions/

Chinese Lantern Festival

I have been seeing ads pop-up on Instagram and Facebook for different lantern festivals. Sunday night we went to the Chinese Lantern Festival at the Pomona Fairplex. Originally I had wanted to go to the Moonlight Forest at The Los Angeles Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, but all the discount tickets for Sunday were already sold. Same day tickets are $28.00 for adults plus a $4.95 online fee. I was taking my reluctant son and could not justify buying tickets at that price. I settled on the Lantern Festival, because discount tickets were still available. I was able to buy 3 tickets on Groupon for $17 each and no service fee.

Parking

We arrived at 5:30 p.m. With the time change, it was definitely dark enough for the lanterns. We entered at Gate 17 and had to pay $12 to park. Probably because it was opening weekend it was not crowded. We parked close to the entrance and only had to wait in line for 5 minutes to have our tickets scanned.

Welcome to “The Wild.”

My dates for the night.

Experience The Wild

This year’s theme is “Experience the Wild.” The majority of the lanterns are animal themed. The promoters promise that there are 1,0000 lanterns at the festival. They are lit up with LED lights. Most of the lanterns are stationary, but some move. The lanterns are beautiful when lit up. The most spectacular lanterns were the underwater themed ones located on the water. The reflection of the jelly fish on the water was magical.

The jellyfish.

The elephant

Don’t Go Hungry

Now for the negatives. We went to the festival hungry, because we saw pictures of delicious looking food. Unfortunately, there is only one small booth selling food and the lines were long. The online information about the festival says that there are unique hand-crafted keepsakes. They were there, but there were only 4 artisans at one small table. We sat down to watch the Kung Fu show, but the sound was not working and we could not hear anything, We left after about 10 mins. The last negative is people do not follow the rules. So many people disregarded the no touching signs and touched the lanterns. They also climbed up over embankments and took selfies with the lanterns.

The only place to get food.

In Conclusion:

Over all, I would recommend the Chinese Lantern Festival. The lanterns were beautiful and the setting at the Fairplex made walking around enjoyable. I would not pay full price for the tickets. A quick google search will show you all the available discounts. The festival runs through January 6, 2019. It is held Thurs – Sunday nights and there are some special dates that they are open for the holidays.

These elephants were made of cups, saucers and spoons.

Top Chef in Brooklyn

I love Top Chef and I am always excited to eat in a contestant’s restaurant. One hot and humid Saturday in August Nicole and I decided to spend the day in Brooklyn. We took the subway to the Prospect Park area. I wanted to eat at Butterfunk Kitchen. Butterfunk Kitchen is owned by Chef Chris Scott. He is know for his soulful take on southern food. Unfortunately, we got there in the afternoon and they do not open until 5:30 p.m.

Butterfunk Kitchen

We were starving and decided that we would try his new smaller restaurant next door. Sumner’s Luncheonette is also owned by Chef Chris Scott and they are open for breakfast and lunch.

Somner’s Luncheonette

We were there at 1:00 p.m. so I am assuming we missed the crowds. There was only one other couple eating inside when we were seated. The inside reminded me of having lunch at my grandma’s house. The decor is unpretentious and comfy. I really wanted to try his fried chicken, but it is not on the menu at Sumner’s. I decided on the next best thing a fried chicken sandwich with Old Bay and coleslaw. Nicole ordered the corn-meal crushed catfish with jalapeno jelly and southern aioli. We decided we would cut our sandwiches in half and split them. The fried chicken sandwich was moist and the chicken had a good crust. The coleslaw was fresh and tasty, however, the star of the lunch was the catfish sandwich. The jalapeno jelly added a nice spice along with the creaminess of the aioli. Both of our plates came with a side of potato salad and a pickle. The potato salad had a spicy mustard base instead of mayonnaise.

Fried chicken sandwich

Both sandwiches left us wanting to come back and try Butterfunk Kitchen.

Uncle Louie G’s

After lunch we started walking towards Prospect Park. Walking down a residential street we walked past Uncle Louie G’s.

Uncle Louie G’s

It had signboards out on the sidewalk that were advertising the best Italian Ice. I did not know what Italian Ice was, so I figured I better try it. I ordered creamsicle. Italian ice is a sweet frozen dessert made with fruit juice and ice. It has a similar texture to sorbet. I found out that is a popular treat for New Yorkers in the summer. I liked it. We took our across the street and went and started walking through Prospect Park.

Italian Ice

Prospect Park

Prospect Park is 526 acres. There are hiking, biking, and running trails. There are also small lakes with boat rentals, lots of sports fields and band shells where they hold concerts. We finished eating our Italian Ice while we watched some turtles sunning themselves on a log on the water’s edge.

A turtle sunning himself.

We brought a blanket and had plans of finding the perfect place to sit by the lake. Nicole was going to draw and I was going to read a book. We never found that spot. It had rained the night before so all the grass was way too wet. We kept walking. We walked on one trail that made it hard to believe that we were in a city, let alone Brooklyn.

A canopy of trees in the middle of the city.

He walked through a canopy of trees, we saw patches of mushrooms, crayfish in a stream, and lots of wild flowers.

A stream in the park.

So many mushrooms.

A crayfish.

We were having a great time, until the mosquitoes started eating us alive. The combination of the heat and the mosquitoes was enough to convince us that it was time to find the subway and head back to Nicole’s apartment.

Nicole under one of the many bridges.

Great views

We met a couple picking these berries. I asked them what they were, but they didn’t speak English.

A heart.

So many intricate flowers.

Sunflowers are my favorite.

Bassanova Ramen in NYC is the Bomb!

In August I stayed in Brooklyn with my daughter. One night after she got off work I met her in Manhattan for ramen. Never mind that it was 95 degrees outside and the humidity was about 70%. Nicole promised that this was the best ramen she had ever tried. Bassanova is located on the edge of Chinatown. The window fronts are street level, but the actual restaurant is down some stairs.

 

Bassanova

There is a big sign letting customers know that they are cash only. Bassanova is a transplant from Tokyo. I decided on a half order of the Tondaku Wadashi Lime Tonyum Goong Ramen. It was shrimp, mixed green onion, okra, red pepper and lime. The broth was a perfect mixture of sour and and spice. The noodles, shrimp and vegetables were perfect.

Tondaku Wadashi Lime Tonym Goong Ramen

We both decided that next time we would order a full order. We paid our bill and decided to walk around.

Little Italy and Chinatown run into each other. We wandered around Little Italy and looked at street graffiti.

Street Art

Street Art

It was a warm night and we decided to walk over to the Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory. I had a cup of coconut and green tea. Their store is barely wide enough for two people to stand side by side, so we took our ice cream to go.

Yummy!

We walked down a street that the asphalt was freshly painted. It looked like we were stepping into a painting.

This street looked like a movie set.

We did a little window shopping and then bought some Dragonfruit and an egg custard to take home with us.

Dragonfruit

 

Egg Custard Tart


We walked back through Little Italy to get to the Metro.

A flying Horse

Little Italy

We rode the train back to Brooklyn and called it a night.

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