The Polynesian Cultural Center was on Mom’s list of things to do, so we booked a trip via the hotel concierge. The package included general admission, guided tour inside the Center, roundtrip bus fare (the Center is at the opposite end of Oahu), seats at the Luau Dinner and show, and seats at the evening Polynesian show Ha: Breath of Life.
Stopped by Union Square on Sunday and found myself in the middle of a Taiwanese festival. It had food, culture, business promotion, and…some odd street art. I don’t think that that’s supposed to be a tongue (it’s probably just meant to be a piece of meat), but it sure put me in mind of Hannibal Lecter for a second.
We hit up some of the historical landmarks in town, including the old Ursuline Convent, the Cabildo and Arsenal (not pictured, and sadly, since the Arsenal had a really cool exhibit on early proto rock ‘n roll acts in New Orléans, and their somewhat forgotten part in creating rock music), and most of St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 before we got rained out. Also, a couple more cool local details, like horse-headed iron street posts and sidewalk tiles spelling out street names (not limited to the French Quarter). Lastly, we wanted a taste of the local music scene, and as the Jazz Fest itself ends oddly early for an outdoor festival, with the last acts finishing around 7 PM, we hit up Frenchmen Street Friday night. It was buzzy and jumping, with an alleyway crafts market over there, a brass band busking on the corner here, and music pouring out of every club. We caught the end of the TBC Brass Band‘s act in some club that I can’t remember except that it was one of the few that didn’t charge cover, and I wish we’d happened on it earlier [Edit: Vaso’s! I did remember to note it in my phone’s memo app. Bless smartphones]. I would’ve happily paid to see the whole thing–a little rough and ready, but with true verve.
Today I stopped in at Grand Central’s Japan Week for lunch. Clustered inside Vanderbilt Hall was a double line of stalls, about half shilling for travel companies and half selling Japanese delicacies. And one larger stall, the ekiben stall for bento boxes specially designed for easy portability and storage, as they were originally intended for sale at train stations. Each bento, which went for around $15-18 including tax, was supposed to represent the cuisine of one Japanese region.
We showed up at 12:30 pm, but by then half of the ekiben options had already sold out. Still, we snagged two, the Ronin box (left), representing Hiroshima, and the Megu box (right), representing Hyogo/Kobe. Of the two, the Megu box was visually more appealing, but I found the Ronin tastier–perfectly cooked eel, not drowned in overly sweet sauce for once, with seriously pickled vegetables (I like my vinegar/sour). The Megu box had lots and lots of little tidbits, with a variety of techniques (fried, pickled, sushi, grilled), but they all seemed to fall on the same narrow spectrum of taste. Namely, safely bland like steamed chicken breast. But I do appreciate the effort taken to make it an attractive display. Garnishes, decorative paper, and the box itself was sturdy enough to survive a couple mashes into an overhead compartment. I’d pay the extra charge to get this kind of food on an airplane.