The Otium

[remodeling soon!]

Chowhounding Trizest Sichuan Restaurant

Trizest’s existence to Detroit foodies is like dangling a steak in front of a ravenous coyote.  Their Sichuan menu is vibrant and full-flavored, aromatic, intense.  Yet, it’s terribly inaccessible — the Sichuan dishes are written in Chinese characters with inexcusably poor English translations; and the “English menu” is an insulting amalgamation of egg rolls, General Tso’s chicken, and other such American excuses for Chinese food.

That Sichuan menu teased me for months.  It sat at the counter, in all its calligraphic beauty.  Yet because of my obtuse Americanness, the servers wouldn’t even let me see it.

I yearned.  I yipped.  I pawed.  I began to drool in the corners of my mouth while imagining the fantastic taste of Sichuan peppercorns.

And then, finally, I connected with a group of Chowhounders for a special 16-dish Sichuan dinner at Trizest.  With a few special requests from the ‘hounds, Trizest management prepared this fluent and diverse feast of their greatest Sichuan specialties (all available on regular Sichuan menu).  At long last, we would be privy to Trizest’s Sichuan menu.  At long last, we would experience Trizest beyond the deep-fried proteins submerged in a gelatinous gravy.

The dishes I managed to photograph before everyone dug in:

cold spiced beef — paper-thin slips of beef were dainty on the tongue and carried a tart, fragrant sauce

cold spiced beef (more…)

Relishing Victorian Beach Huts

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Muizenberg, South Africa, is a historic beach town hugging the northeastern coast of the Cape Peninsula.  It’s small and sleepy, and home to with dainty mid-1700s cottages, eclectic maritime antique shoppes, and the heart and soul of surfing in South Africa.  But Muizenberg also offers one of the most campy scenes a traveler will encounter:  a colorful row of Victorian-era beach huts fronting the breaking waves.

Glimpsing into Medieval Estonia

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Much of Old Town Tallinn, Estonia — which many argue is Europe’s best-preserved medieval city, encircled by its original fortified wall — is nowadays a charade constructed to drop the tourist into the center of a charming, archetypal European fairytale.  Looking past the kitschy ox-drawn carts and period costumes, one finds details like this old wooden arched door, which give a peek into the real medieval Estonia.

Tying Omikuji

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At Shinto shrines throughout Japan, omikuji (御御籤, literally “sacred lottery”) are received for making a small offering.  The omikuji is a piece of paper containing a random fortune — either good or bad.  It is customary that when one receives a bad fortune, he or she folds the fortune into a strip and ties it to a pine tree or rope.  The origin of this custom is the word matsu, which means both “pine tree” and “to wait”, so the bad luck shall wait at the pine tree rather than following its bearer home.

Photographed at Tōshō-gū Shrine, Nikkō, Japan.

Driving Through a Kentucky Ice Storm

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Work takes me to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, several times each year.  This latest trip we ran into an ice storm that hit Kentucky and most of Southern Ohio just hours prior.  Logistically, traveling during an ice storm is the worst possible timing — I-75 slowed to a crawl for 100 miles, and power outages along that entire stretch forced the closure of most restaurants and gas stations.  But photographically, the aftermath of the ice storm was perfect — pristine lighting gave me beautiful captures of plants, tough and preserved in a layer of ice.