day 6 – copenhagen-ish

it’s after midnight and the fire is trying to catch and goddamnit i love copenhagen.

today was a pretty solid day. i slept in and woke up late (something i plan on doing again tomorrow). once i got going i cleared up a few errands (credit card knows what country i’m in, cell phone works properly, that sorta thing) and planned out the day:

that’s a pretty solid afternoon. ricemarket for a late lunch, then coffee collective and finally mikkeller and friends. i swapped the last two because i figured coffee would be good after beer (correct decision). then i went to bror on a strong recommendation from my aforementioned contact gabe for dinner and while it didn’t erase my memory like amass did, it was really quite good.

so, my notes:

copenhagen is awesome. i really like it here. it’s friendly, the bike lanes are absurdly large, and there are interesting things at every turn. the bike lanes are worth calling out: they are the size of car lanes in dc. like, 4 lane roads are 2 bike lanes and 2 car lanes. it’s pretty impressive, and allows everyone to ride around without helmets and really without worries. cars know they are 3rd place in this city behind pedestrians and cyclists, and that general understanding makes it pretty safe to ride around on bikes.

the people are also worth calling out: incredibly friendly, understanding, and helpful. ‘kind’ might be the best word. i had great experiences at lunch, at the bar, and at dinner. and also everywhere in between. it’s really quite something.

once i got going this afternoon, i walked up basically nørrebrogade to mikkeller and friends. i stopped off at ricemarket for a quick bite, and had a pretty delicious tuna and some decent fishcakes and dim sum. not amazing, but pretty good. mikkeller and friends is an ideal bar: well-lit, helpful bartenders, 39 (!!) taps, and sausage and chips if you find those taps taking advantage of you. i took notes on the beers i had, because otherwise i would have missed everything:

  1. to øl frost bite – a winter pale ale, made with pine needles which was very apparent, surprisingly bitter, easy drinking, pretty cloudy but overall light.
  2. mikkeller i beat you – a double ipa and a play off of IBU. booze was apparent but covered, resin-y, doesn’t feel like a 9.5% beer but still light-medium body, which is the downfall of every european IPA.
  3. to øl fuck art – this is advertising quadrupel – naturally came up in the progression, but also what a name. what a goddamn name. pretty yeast funky, pretty boozy, pretty smooth. very cloudy, and had all the quad characteristics: raisins, plums, yeast, etc.
  4. to øl jule maelk milk stout – i got this mostly because hainesy and josh noticed a 15% milk stout and threatened to come to copenhagen if i didn’t drink it. much smokier than i expected, which covers the booze well, so it didn’t feel 15% at all. very smooth, very syrupy with cherry tones (which makes perfect sense). milk stout portion only apparent at the very beginning of each sip, otherwise it felt like a very strong barrel-aged russian imperial stout
  5. mikkeller black ba grand marnier stout – roasty as all get out, boozy as all get out. it’s 21% so that makes sense. pitch black darkness, ends with a charred flavor. more of an experiment than a beer

as you can imagine, i was pretty toasted after those beers. so i went to coffee collective, which was a really cool coffee bar. other than their impressive sourcing and how they roast their own beans (super light, as to not introduce unnecessary bitterness), i really liked the layout of the place. it was like walking into someone’s breakfast nook – there wasn’t a bar or anything between me and the person who worked there. i sat at a high table near a window, and she talked to me conversationally about their coffee and made me a regular cup of coffee and an espresso. the good danish places (last night’s meal at amass included) seem to not roast too dark, allowing the coffee beans’s natural fruitiness and sweetness to come out. i’m not used to these light coffees, but i have to say they are pretty delicious. i could get used to them. i got a couple of bags of their espresso beans, which are the darkest they roast but aren’t really that dark. it should be interesting to make them back home in the office and see what people think.

so, beers and coffee and a lovely walk into the northern part of copenhagen. the northern part of copenhagen was great: much more diverse than where i’m staying, definitely very arabic (which i could tell by the arabic writing on a few of the stores), and just a bit more real-feeling than the touristy wonderland of central copenhagen. i’m excited to try out the western part of the city tomorrow to compare.

finally, i made it over to bror tonight. i was going to go to höst, but gabe insisted. so i went to bror and i was not disappointed.

i had the tasting menu with the wine pairing, and i added the bull’s balls as an appetizer. first off: bull balls are annoyingly tasty, once you get past what they are. they are like oysters without the fishy taste and a bit more put together with a hint of beefiness. they were super tasty. the rest of the meal was great: brown trout, amazing cod, beef cheek (guys, beef cheek. always good? possibly), and some ice cream that i wolfed down too fast to even register. while this meal wasn’t the mind-blowing, memory-erasing experience at amass, it was really quite good. the only complaint i have is that the service was a bit slow, but that might be my american antsy-ness. i’m not sure.

thanks to gabe, i’m now semi-pals with the head chef, who was incredibly nice and came to talk to me a couple of times during the meal. everyone in the city notes the same places as excellent, so i’m really excited to go to geist (tomorrow), manfred (sunday), and of course nöma (tuesday lunch, just before my flight home). the food in this city is just so fucking exciting, i cannot handle it.

so, today was a bit more reporting, and less poetic. tomorrow, other than geist, is wide open. i’ll probably check out the palace and explore the city a bit, with a pretty exciting meal capping off the day. so far, copenhagen has just been excellent. while i liked being alone in the middle of nowhere, cities are just more my speed.

day 5 – dinner trumps everything

i woke up early and i had an adventure getting the car out of the driveway (which resulted in a scratch on the rental, dammit) and i had a bite of food in norway that wasn’t some cured meat or fish and i met a really nice cab driver in copenhagen and a friendly neighbor and a nice person who works at 7-11 BUT WHO CARES ABOUT ALL THAT because i ate at amass and i’m just back from that and it’s all i can think about.

it’s becoming apparent that norway was my wilderness blogger and copenhagen is going to be my food blogger. there are two things in this city: amazingly interesting scandinavian cuisine and coffee. through the recent work acquisitions, i was put in touch with gabe ulla, whose invaluable twitter (for people who like food and are visiting copenhagen, that is) turned me on to amass. amass is run by a chef who used to work at noma (where gabe got me an in, hopefully i get to eat there) and … well, just look at the team. it’s kind of comical.

one of the things i realized out of this meal is that i approach the entire concept of cooking entirely wrong. i think of individual elements, i think of how i expect them to look, and i don’t break outside this very simplistic model. the dishes i had at amass made it clear how simplistic this is: courses were broken down by their ingredients, and then presented in a way that delighted and shocked. i read some words, and then the thing set before me was those things but in a direction i couldn’t even comprehend.

let me put it this way – zach looked at the menu and said it was the most interesting menu i’d sent him of the copenhagen restaurants i’d run by him. zach saw the forest, and i didn’t get it. i was sitting here looking at this fucking tree like a sucker.

rather than breaking down each dish, here are the things that happened during this meal:

  • on more than one occasion, i wanted to ask the crew if they were witches. because i’m pretty sure they are.
  • one of the serving staff gave me a giant list of restaurants, cocktail bars, and coffee shops to visit while i’m in copenhagen. i’ve already made reservations at 3 of the recommendations.
  • pumpkin almost moved me to tears. seriously.
  • burnt cabbage also did this. seriously

also, it is worth noting that apparently my wonderful and wise sister has been reading along on these daily posts, and she’s been advocating the consumption of lamb necks for quite a while. well, tonight was the first time i had slow-cooked lamb necks (48 hours in crystal malt (no not meth)) and they blew my mind. so, good work nishi, you remain smarter than me.

if this is the food to look forward to in copenhagen… if this is what the rest of the meals are going to try and approach… i am not sure if there is anything worthwhile to read here anymore. i’m not a food blogger and i’m not going to photograph each course and break down the flavors from the meticulously kept notebook on my right during the entire meal. but jesus christ this food is going to erase all other memories of this city from my mind.

tomorrow’s goal: call noma and get a table. take some photos. drink some coffee. drink some beer. eat dinner. try to remember something other than the last thing on this list.

day 4 – the journey

it’s 11pm local time, and barring a 2am miracle i will not see the northern lights on the norway leg of this trip. there has been a thick layer of clouds over the region since i got here.

wait, let me back up.

this is where i am:

this is my fourth night here and i’ve seen maybe 3-4 stars, total. briefly. before the clouds took them away. i haven’t seen the moon. nights are a silent, inky black unlike anything i’ve ever experienced. there aren’t animals moving around, there aren’t insects anywhere. there is just you, the inky black abyss, and some quiet snow. maybe, if you’re lucky, you’ll hear the wind in the distance. maybe the wind will come your way.

the first night i was here, there had to have been some solar activity. the world was lit in a hazy pre-dawn blue at 1am, so there was light coming from somewhere. the clouds blocked the source then and have every night since.

i was outside just now smoking a cigar and sipping on the last of the blue label and thinking about how successful this trip has been. yes, peak solar activity. yes, february is a long night up here. yes, i went out to the country to minimize noise pollution. yes, yes, yes. but i pulled this trip together on a lark, on a whim. i showed up in the middle of nowhere (look at that map again) and i encountered the friendliest, most helpful people anywhere and i ate smoked meats and drank blue label and smoked cigars and was productive and rested and read and wrote and i’m not even done with this trip yet.

tomorrow i head out to copenhagen, where i have reservations at 5 restaurants (including noma, noma!!) and an apartment in the middle of the old city, walking distance to bars and restaurants and mikkeller and everything. i’ll get a little taste of northern european city life and some of the most interesting food around.

tonight i am going to revel in how much fun the last 4 days have been. stress-free, work-free, ottoneu-filled, music-filled, writing-filled, thought-filled… like my friend ross emailed me earlier today, “the journey up there is what it’s about”.

and i’m ever the optimist, so i’m going to drink some coffee and wait for that 2am miracle. i think i saw the clouds breaking a few minutes ago.

day 3 – vacations are not mixtapes

i’ve watched high fidelity a few times and i’ve made a few mixtapes, and one of the rules i live by on that front is that track 3 should be a monster. unless you’re going theme, track 3 should be the point where you, by way of the mix, stand and get attention.

vacations aren’t like that. day 3 of a vacation is when you’ve gotten the good stuff out and you’ve settled in to where you are. day 1 is the travel day, shaking off the nerves. day 2 is the day you get your number one thing in – for me, it was dog sledding, though to be fair i didn’t know that was number one ahead of time.

day 3 here hasn’t been wolf like me. for starters, it snowed all morning. the snow came down in droves, casually, like it wasn’t even there. the clouds were there the whole time, and there is 4 feet of snow on the ground everywhere, so who cares about a little bit more snow? then i got in the car to go to town to run an errand (i don’t run errands at home, but on vacation, apparently its a nice diversion) and i realized that these roads were all very clear before and i hadn’t driven in snow in a while and did i still remember how to do this properly? but then i did and it was fine.

but what i’m saying is this: snow in cleveland and boston was like this, but it was kind of a big deal. it was like “ok, here it comes again, be safe and smart, save your parking spots, drive slowly, things are mostly open”. if it snowed in DC like this, forget it. everything is shut down.

here, its just a fact of life. in fact, i drove down fv292 (where the house is) to e8 (the big main highway) and it wasn’t even snowing down there anymore. and i came up to the highway and the water (there is water everywhere and it is awesome) and the sky broke and everything was golden and it was amazing. and i went down to town and everything was normal and fine, even though the roads weren’t cleared and there was a good amount of fresh snow everywhere.

and i came back and the snow had cleared and the roads hadn’t yet because who gives a CRAP you already live above the arctic circle so just deal with it. and people were blazing by me at 90km/h on snowy roads because, listen, the snow came down casually and get over yourself.

anyway, it snowed today. and i went to town. and it turns out no one carries contact solution. and then i came back here and i wrote some code and i drank some blue label and it definitely wasn’t a track 3, it was more of a miles davis sketches of spain situation, but at the end of the day i am pretty sure that is what vacation is all about.

tomorrow is my shot at the northern lights. there was activity the first night i was here, but it was too cloudy to see anything other than this beautiful blue pre-dawn at 2am. tomorrow is my shot, but even if it doesn’t hit, i’m pretty happy with wherever i am.

day 2 part 2 – nom nom nom nom

i forgot to eat yesterday.

well, i didn’t really forget. i just didn’t eat yesterday. everything closes early on sunday and by the time i got to the house, all the stores were closed. so, i didn’t eat.

today i went down to the town about 20 minutes away and bought pretty much all the cured meat and fish i could find, plus a loaf of bread, a little bit of cheese, and some other stuff. here are the top 3 things i’ve eaten in norway so far:

  1. smoked salmon. good lord. so smoky and delicious.
  2. spiced meat rolls – i’ve had lamb, beef, and ‘jam’ which i think means mixed. who cares, they are all super tasty with bread.
  3. kinder maxi, because obviously

i’m pretty excited about this creme brulee pudding i found, and that might bump the kinder. also just missing the top 3 is norwegian coke, which: coca-cola is maybe the greatest pleasure in the world because it is at once different based on where you are and also the same as you expect it to taste because it is home. they use real sugar here too, so that helps. finally, blue label is disqualified because it isn’t specific to this trip, though i have had a few glasses of it and it is pretty amazing.

last place on things i’ve had are norwegian anchovies. they are meatier than other anchovies and less salty, but i’m pretty sure i need to do some prep to make them not unbearable, and i don’t know what that prep is. tomorrow, i will either eat more of this cured meat platter or i will go find some place that will serve me reindeer. i am not sure which.

day 2 part 1 – dogs!

first things first: i made a photo set on flickr. go, look.

yesterday, i mentioned that the neighbor tomas offered to take me dog sledding today. i said yes right away, and today around 330p local time we went.

there are two things about dog sledding that you need to know. first: you sit in a small sled while dogs pull you and your guide steers standing behind you. you can’t see your guide, you just hear him and see the dogs. more on this in a second. the second thing you need to know doesn’t require any embellishment: these dogs eat a lot and use a lot of energy and metabolize like crazy, and there is no time to stop for pooping or peeing. so, there is a decent amount of pooping and peeing in front of you. its pretty reasonable when you break it down, but its also a bit goofy.

now, back to that first thing: listen, you aren’t listening, just listen: you are on a sled and these dogs are pulling you up and down hills and across frozen rivers and through forests and you have no idea where they are going and there is nothing holding you down or keeping you from flying off this sled except your guide has done this a thousand times and you trust him but you can’t even see him so i guess you trust in the dogs? this is basically why i don’t understand religious people, but i kind of respect them.

i got to tomas’s house and he put me in a snow suit and all 26 of his dogs (honestly, i didn’t count but it seemed like a lot more than 26) started barking and getting excited because they knew some of them were about to get to go on a nice long walk. tomas picked out 6 dogs and got them all linked up, and then he had me get in the sled and his house dog (the only dog that wasn’t initially tied up) ran ahead and led the group and we started. so i didn’t put anything about my previous first dog sledding fact together until we started. as soon as i sat down i realized “wait, i hate roller coasters, what the fuck am i -” and we were off. and man, those dogs start out of the gate fast, running and then going down these hills and then crossing a frozen river and back up the river bank and then running through an open field until tomas settled them down into a trot. at one point i realized being afraid was stupid because “man if those dogs can run down that hill i sure as shit can get pulled down it by them”. which… i’m not sure if that makes sense, but here we are and i’m alive and i definitely stopped being afraid at that point.

so like i said, we went through open snow and across frozen rivers and streams and through forests and up and down hills and i got to see the backcountry of this already country region. it was thrilling and fun and awesome and … well, bumpy at times too i guess. it was great. the dogs were great, they are so well-trained and so capable – they did 30km like it was nothing, with little more than a 4 minute break at the turn-around point. and they were so unbelievably happy the whole time. at the turn-around point, tomas mentioned to me that normally he would take 16 dogs out for this ride, but only 6 today because there wasn’t enough soft snow and the ground was too hard to control 16 dogs. i cannot imagine having 16 dogs in front of me. 6 was plenty.

back to yesterday: i mentioned one of the things i was afraid of while traveling, but here is another – without someone else with me, would i do fun things? i’m not talking about not sharing this with someone else. i’m talking about pushing myself to do fun things and actually taking advantage of this vacation. this melts away really quickly when i remember that of all of the people i know, i’m the crazy gambler. this vacation is a casino and i am not here to just toy around.

i’ll post part 2 in a little bit, and it will be mostly concerning food. i’ll dig into how beautiful it is here tomorrow, i hope. look at the photos though – you can tell how beautiful it is.

day 1 – just afraid enough

this is the end of a very long day 1 of my epic scandinavian adventure. i am currently a little over a hour outside tromsø, norway, at this airbnb i found. the goal is to come up here and work on ottoneu for 5 days, maybe see the northern lights, read a bit, and relax a lot. after that, i’ll head down to copenhagen for a bit more of the same, though with more bars and restaurants and less smoked fish by myself in the middle of nowhere.

so, that’s the overview. day 1 started yesterday (2/15) around 3pm, when kacey dropped me off at dulles. though, to be fair, day 1 started when i started planning this trip. i wanted to see the northern lights and i wanted to travel alone – these were the big adjustments from my australia vacation. the thing is: i’ve never traveled alone before. i was pretty sure i could do it, but there are things i was (and am, to an extent) nervous about, headlined with being a brown person in a strange land. in america, fine. but in europe? for god sakes, there are nazis here! i mean, somewhere around here, i think. like, that guy could be a nazi. he could also just be YET ANOTHER TALL BLONDE SUPER POLITE GUY. whatever. see what i’m saying?

yesterday after i got to dulles, i started texting zach. kacey and i and zach and i have talked about this stuff, so it was rehashing old material, but i was telling zach that i was about to get on the first plane of my 3 plane trip to tromsø and that i was afraid. just afraid enough. i was nervous about the people, nervous about going alone (both getting lost and not sharing the experience), nervous, nervous, nervous. but i wasn’t so nervous to the point of paralysis. i was ready.

so i got on a plane and that was a long ass flight to copenhagen and then i saw the copenhagen airport which looks EXACTLY LIKE YOU THINK IT DOES and then i got lip from the passport control guy asking me why i’d ever want to go to norway (as if denmark isn’t a cold, dark, bleak country in february. listen man, it’s all cold and dark and bleak over here so why not fucking go for it?) and then i got on a shorter flight to oslo and then i ran into my first real resistance of the trip. oslo is where i needed to go through customs and re-check my bag. i had a 1 hour layover (i decided to make all the layovers super short, just to keep me on my toes i guess), and the bags took a while to come out here. upside: i got some really solid cuban cigars to complement the johnnie walker blue i purchased at dulles. downside: i got my bag about 15 minutes before boarding started for my flight. fast forward to a 20 minute security line after checking my bag, and a very polite security officer that apologetically had to open up the blue label box and had trouble getting everything boxed back up afterward, and i ended up being paged in norwegian for being the only person not on the plane to tromsø. at least, i think that is what i was paged for. it was in norwegian. i don’t know norwegian.

oslo was a bit stressful, but everyone is so polite and caring that it is impossible to be mad. this is a stark difference from america, where i try hard not to be mad at people who don’t care. i don’t know why this is, there is a whole shitload of stuff to unpack there, but there it is.

tromsø is a quaint airport and a quaint town and wonderful in every way. when you see it on a map, it is impossible not to think that someone decided to live here just to show that human beings can live here. then you SEE tromsø and how it is constructed and how the islands and mountains and water and everything play together and you almost forget for a second that it is always incredibly cold up here and you kinda see the appeal.

this last stage of the trip had the most peril, and it was entirely self-inflicted. i’m basically an idiot and got a bunch of the stuff i was nervous about out of the way at once.

  1. i put the wrong date in my rental car reservation
  2. tromsø is a small town, and if you are running europcar on a sunday and no one is coming in with a reservation, you don’t sit around at the airport
  3. i never got a sim card today. tomorrow i have a plan, but today was cell phone-less until i got to the house.

this combined to a situation in which i had to call the europcar people but had no phone, then when i borrowed a phone and thankfully got the car, i had no phone to help me navigate to where i needed to go, so i ended up guessing on 90% of the route, trying 3-4 times to get sim cards and failing, missing the turn to the road this house is on, then after correcting that driving up and down the road without an address just trying to find a house that looked like the thing i kinda remembered from airbnb.

somehow the first house i walked up to (and trust me, there are 4-5 boxy blue-gray houses on this street, and a lot more of those houses when its getting dark and you’re worried about sleeping in your car) was the right house. and now i’m in the house and i have wifi and a plan on getting food and a sim card tomorrow.

the neighbor came over a bit ago. he saw my car in the driveway and wanted to say hi. he helps the main owner take care of this place. within 5 minutes he was asking me if i wanted to go dogsledding tomorrow.

everyone here is so amazingly nice and the things i was nervous about are melting away, or alternately i’m finding out i can deal with the things i was worried about. i was in the middle of nowhere, above the arctic circle, trying to find a house from a memory of a photo and i got there. so, you know, i can probably deal with most of this traveling alone shit.

i’m going to delve into this way more in day 2 i hope, but it should be said that this entire region is one of the most beautiful places i’ve been to. choppy steel blue water in between stark, severe mountains, with clouds helping create an amazing golden hour and amazing sunset. blues and grays and a tiny bit of yellow. just wonderful. i hope i can capture it.

a cleansing fire

in 2009, i moved from elscorcho to here.

in 2012, elscorcho was killed by a mistake by dreamhost.

it is now 2014 and i am determining if i should go through the way back machine and save elscorcho or move on, and i think the latter makes sense. i mean, that is the purpose of the wayback machine, right?

elscorcho was a great site. i started to write there, and it helped define my blog voice. i grappled with problems, and i wrote honestly, and i pulled no punches.

i’m not that kid anymore, but there is still something to look back upon and applaud. and i think leaving it in the wayback machine is probably right.

anyway, happy new year.

dreamhost is a turd

it is hard to move forward, especially for me, without occasionally looking backwards.

i had lost track of my previous blog, i guess i just assumed everything was fine with it. of course, nothing was fine with it. yesterday i began the process of moving all my hosting off of dreamhost, and i realized elscorcho’s database connection was messed up. now, this is some pretty shitty old school insecure php, so i figured i just had to update some connections and everything would be good to go.

no such luck.

my ‘news’ database was missing. well, not missing so much as replaced by someone else’s ‘news’ database. dreamhost does a lot of transitioning accounts from server to server and at some point my blog’s database was transitioned on to someone else’s server and someone else’s database was put on my account.

now a lot of this falls on me – i haven’t checked elscorcho in a long time, and this change might have occurred as long as a year ago. if i had been more vigilant i might have caught this.

but also, this is a serious, serious security risk. i can just get another user’s database? mine can just be lost during one of the dozen or so server moves my account has gone through since i started at dh?

regardless, i’m pretty sad that i might have lost elscorcho, and i’m more steadfast than ever in my decision to quit dreamhost. what a turd.

to adventures!

2013 was a quiet year here, but not quiet in all places niv. ottoneu continues to slowly grow and my career at vox is starting to blossom.

while 2013 had one decent travel adventure, i was mostly reeling from the 2012 adventure and focused on my work. i did not take nearly enough photos, and is a common refrain here* i did not write nearly enough.

my goal is to change this considerably going forward. writing and photography are both important outlets that have helped me, but i tend to write about a subset of things in my life, the subset that causes me pain and thus i keep private. however! there are many other things to write about, many interesting and wonderful and confusing and difficult and awesome things. so, here is the peptalk reminding me that yes, there is a time for sad writing, but there is also a time to write about all the shit that captures my attention that is not just, you know, heartbreak.

and there is also time for photos. more and more photos. photography always.

back to that travel adventures thing: 2014 already promises to be more adventure-filled. first, i am headed to norway and denmark in the second half of february to see the northern lights and check out this copenhagen situation everyone is going on about. other must-trips in 2014 include a return to roatan, where i have befriended an island drug dealer / cigar bar owner over a shared love of fifa, park city**, and of course las vegas***. goals are to photograph more, to write more, to observe and capture moments more, and to maybe talk to a girl for more than 3 weeks straight****. i guess that isn’t travel-related but my brain went off on a tangent there.

i avoided writing this on january 1 because i don’t want it to be yet another “new year, new start”-type post, but here we are at the end of the year and the need to be introspective and navel-gazing is overwhelming. also, i’m really excited to go to the arctic circle next year.

* – how common? i already complained about it twice in two paragraphs.
** – in the fall, when no one is there
*** – imagine the epic nature of this blog if i had kept track of vegas trips here. woulda harkened back to the old days
**** – non-georgia edition