Tag: dining

Food Finds: Reathrey Sekong and Novel Ice Cream

Hello again, travelers! Welcome to a new segment of Nightborn called Food Finds. We love checking out new places, supporting local businesses and of course, eating tasty treats, so we figured we share them with you, too. Today’s finds are dinner (or lunch) and dessert (or, as I’d like to call it, anytime food) at Reathrey Sekong and Novel Ice Cream.

Reathrey Sekong

Reathrey is a cozy Cambodian restaurant tucked into mid-town Phoenix. Inside you’ll find a smattering of tables and booths – a perfectly-sized space that, even when it’s full, doesn’t feel crowded. (If you have a larger party, you might want to call ahead to see what the dining situation is like. Take-out is an option, too.)

I’d never had Cambodian food before, but it wasn’t too unfamiliar, with some element of the dishes reminding me of a combination of Vietnamese and Thai food (which might make sense, considering that Cambodia is sandwiched between Vietnam and Thailand).

I’m definitely coming back for this ginger tofu stir-fry.

The menu isn’t large (nor does it need to be), but it has a variety of dishes. Between my companions and I, we got a beef skewer dish, steak and vegetables, catfish and a ginger tofu stir-fry. Re: the catfish, check with your server to see if it’s available to order. For you vegetarians out there, I think there’s a noodle dish you can request as a vegetarian meal, and my ginger stir-fry was originally a beef/chicken dish that I subbed with tofu. But, I’m not sure if the sauce is vegetarian, so you’ll want to ask about that too.

Did I mention that staff was very nice and accommodating? Well, I have now.

Next time I stop by, I think I’ll try to be more adventurous with my choices and get something different (although that ginger tofu was REALLY good).

Steak and veggie dish with a tasty sauce that had a surprising kick.

Novel Ice Cream

Novel is little ice cream shop on the fringes of downtown Phoenix in the historic Grand Avenue arts corridor. You’ll find it across from the Grand Ave. Pizza Company, nestled in the ThirdSpace plaza.

The shop itself is small, so if it’s busy, you might find yourself squeezing inside to order, but no worries, you’ll get your turn and there’s plenty of seating outside. The staff is friendly, passionate about their ice cream and encourages you to try the flavors – so, try!

Are you WAFFLE-ing about what flavor to choose? Good news – you can pick more than one!

They’re well-known for their doughnut and waffle ice cream sandwiches (yes, you read that right), but if you’re feeling like a simple scoop, they’ve got a cake, sugar or waffle cone with your name on it.

The doughnut is absolutely as good as it looks.

That about wraps up this installment of Food Finds. Come back soon for more! (Or keep reading if you’re trying to find the perfect chai in Phoenix.)

Eat Well,

Castles and Cities of Scotland

View of Edinburgh from Arthur's Seat (c) ABR 2016

View of Edinburgh from Arthur’s Seat (c) ABR 2016

My favorite part of our sojourn through Scotland was the highlands, hands down! But I would be remiss if I did not talk about Edinburgh and some of the castles that we saw. All right, the title says “cities,” but Castle and City just doesn’t sound catchy enough.

Edinburgh Castle (c) ABR 2016

Edinburgh Castle (c) ABR 2016

Our trip to Scotland started and ended in Ebinburgh, and while we were there, we spent most of our time on the Royal Mile. Even for outdoor buffs, this is a great place to spend a day or two, and it has all the things that most tourists like to check out while in the city. It goes without saying that there is a lot of tourist souvenir shops here, but there are also some authentic places along the way as well. There is great food all up and down the mile, as well as a lovely little tea room called Clarindas Tea Room that we made a point of visiting both days that we were in the area. Of course, I think the major draw to the Royal Mile, besides the food, shopping, and architecture, is Edinburgh Castle. It is a massive castle, and being there still impresses upon visitors the power of its original owners. Even so, I felt like it was more of a museum experience than a historic castle experience, but for those of you that really enjoy museums, I am sure that you will enjoy both aspects of this attraction. You could easily spend a few hours here exploring, and even if you don’t enjoy museums all that much (like myself) there are some very nice views of the city and the buildings themselves are beautiful. ALSO, before I dive into talking about castles more, if you are into castles and plan on seeing a bunch of them, check out some of the passes that are available, because we bought an Explorer Pass for the trip and it saved us a good chunk of money. Here is a link to the Scotland Historical Association which discusses the passes.

Caerlaverock Castle (c) ABR 2016

Caerlaverock Castle (c) ABR 2016

There were two things on the Royal Mile that were my favorite though, and neither the castle nor the shopping/dining scene won out. The first was Arthur’s Seat. This is a great spot for a little urban hiking, and if you aren’t going on a road trip out into the highlands, it is actually a nice spot to experience some Scottish nature, complete with gorse, and bugs of all sorts. Of course, this is a popular spot for people exercising and tourists, so it can get busy. If you want some peace and quiet, try going during the week. The second place that I really loved in downtown Edinburgh was the Real Mary King’s Close. This was a tour that we took which explores a now-subterranean street of old Edinburgh. You can’t take any pictures on the tour, so I don’t have any here, but it gave me a really clear (if somewhat horrifying) picture of what life was really like back in the day. We all know that it wasn’t just castles, and knights, and royalty, but that is most of what’s left of those times makes it feel that way. Seeing the ruins of what the city really was and how most people lived was very interesting. Furthermore, the guides on this tour are great and they get into character like you can’t believe. It was just an overall enjoyable experience, and I highly recommend it.

Now, in terms of castles, these were all the ones that I saw from my favorite to my least favorite: (1) Caerlaverock Castle, (2) Craignethan Castle, (3) Urquhart Castle, (4) Stirling Castle, and (5) Edinburgh Castle. So, over the course of two weeks we saw five castles, and this definitely wasn’t something that I was planning since I am more of an outdoor type, but after the fact, I would really suggest checking a handful of them out, especially if you have a car. And get the Explorer Pass if this ends up being your plan. Now, Edinburgh Castle I discuss briefly above, and I wasn’t a fan because I am extremely picky when it comes to museums, and it was also very busy there when we visited. Urquhart I discussed here.

Craignethan Castle isn't much to look at from the outside, but the rooms are very fun to explore! (c) ABR 2016

Craignethan Castle isn’t much to look at from the outside, but the rooms are very fun to explore! (c) ABR 2016

My two favorite castles were two that we visited on-the-fly on our last day, because we were tired of Edinburgh. The first of the two, Caerlaverock Castle, is far south near the Scottish/English border, and was just super interesting because of how different it was. It is a ruin, so don’t go expecting anything like Stirling or Edinburgh castles, but it takes less imagination to put it all back together than Urquhart. What’s really cool about this particular castle is that is was built on a triangular plan, and it has some interesting examples of mixed architectural styles from Scotland and the rest of Europe that I didn’t see anywhere else. Now, my second favorite, Craignethan Castle, isn’t much to look at from the outside, but once you walk in, it is just amazing to explore. The rooms are very well preserved here, in terms of the structure of the building, and again, despite it being a ruin, it isn’t hard to bring the an image to your mind of this place in its better years. An added benefit to this castle is that it is right next to the Nethan Gorge, where you can take a short hike.

Stirling Castle (c) ABR 2016

Stirling Castle (c) ABR 2016

Finally, Stirling Castle– this place is fairly similar to Edinburgh as compared to the other castles that I mention above, but here they have been working on restoring the castle’s outside and rooms to what it once was. I know that there were a lot of people who weren’t happy with it being partially painted its historical color, but personally, I like when these things are done. I’d rather see what it was meant to look like than what we imagine simply due to having lived with the aged version for so long. I get where the other side is coming from, but on a personal level, I just like these efforts when carried out with care. And let me say, while there were museum sections here, my favorite part of the castle was the reconstructed section. While we were there, we chatted with some very friendly and knowledgeable staff, it was such an enjoyable learning experience. The other draw for us in Stirling was the Wallace Monument, which again, had lots of museum bits in it, so I wasn’t a huge fan, but it was pretty fun to climb all the stairs and the architecture of this building is worth a look for sure.

All right! Internet and God willing, I will be back in about two weeks with an entry on our adventures in the Inner Hebrides. And after that, I will sum up our experiences in Scotland with an easy-to-use fact sheet on where we went, and what places I highly recommend for people with similar interests. Please leave sweet, thoughtful comments and questions below, and I will get back to you ASAP. Until next time- explore safely!

Wallace Monument (c) ABR 2016

Wallace Monument (c) ABR 2016

Weekend in Tucson

Level of Experience: I lived in Tucson for four years; so, I definitely know a thing or two about this location! Feel free to ask me anything travelling related about this destination via comments. J

Trip Type: Domestic


First Stop: Guilin Healthy Chinese Restaurant


Type of Attraction: Dining

Website: http://guilinchineserestaurant.com/

The Catalina Mountains (c) ABR

The Catalina Mountains (c) ABR

Notes: Guilin was my go-to restaurant for Chinese food while living in Tucson, and they are an absolutely great deal for lunch, although their food isn’t a bad choice for dinner either. In terms of quality and taste, I think that Guilin squares up well with the other American-Chinese restaurants that I have been to. What really sets them apart, however, and lends itself to their claim of being “healthy” is that Guilin has a HUGE vegetarian menu. Almost anything that they have a meat option for, they have a veggie option for, and they have plenty of dishes that are veggie-only. My favorite dish there is actually their vegetable dumplings, but I have also thoroughly enjoyed several of their tofu dishes as well as classic meat dishes like Mongolian beef. If you go here for lunch, you can get soup, an egg roll, an entrée, and rice for about $5. So, not only can you get great food here, but it works really well for anyone on a budget.


Second Stop: Sabino Canyon – Bear Canyon’s Seven Falls Trail


Type of Attraction: Outdoor- Hiking and Tram Tours

Website: http://www.sabinocanyon.com/

Bear Canyon (c) ABR 2015

Bear Canyon (c) ABR 2015

Notes: Sabino Canyon is a great stop for anyone looking to enjoy some time outside, regardless of skill or activity level. There is a $5 fee to park at Sabino, and if you are willing to walk down the road to the trails, the rest of your experience will be free. People willing to spend a little more money, or needing some assistance exploring can buy a ticket to take the tram down Sabino or to Bear Canyon. The tram for Sabino is more expensive than Bear, but this tram goes further, makes several stops, and includes a guided tour during the ride. Sabino tends to be a little more busy than Bear Canyon for that reason, but anyone looking for a good hike should check out Bear. Sabino is more of a meandering adventure.

The main attraction of Bear Canyon is the Seven Falls Trail, which is about 2.5 miles long from the trailhead (which is 2 miles from the parking lot- total one way hike is 4.5 miles unless you take the tram). The Sabino website warns that the hike takes about three hours, which seems a bit long for a trail only 2.5 miles long, but the trail crosses the creek multiple times, and this can make the going slow at times, especially if the water is high and you have to pick your way across. The waterfalls at the end of the trail are lovely enough to serve as great motivation to get out on the trail, however, and even if you don’t make it to the end, the canyon itself is beautiful, especially when the creek is flowing.

Third Stop: Sentinel Peak/”A” Mountain

Type of Attraction: Outdoor- Outlooks and Views of the City, Picnicking

Tucson (c) ABR 2015

Tucson (c) ABR 2015

Notes: This trip was my first visit to this particular Tucson location, but it is one of my friend’s favorite spots to hang out and get some great views of the city. We really only drove up and took a few pictures, but the spot was popular with people coming to just unwind and take in the beauty of this little city. I can’t speak to any of the hikes on the mountain, but it does seem like a nice place to hang out and have a picnic. Lots of people park by the side of the outlook facing the city, but if you stop by and this looks too full, there is a parking lot further down the one-way road.


Fourth Stop: Zeman’s Too


Type of Attraction: Dining

Website: http://www.zemams.com/

Notes: I have never been to the original Zeman’s, but Zeman’s Too is probably the best Ethiopian that I have ever had. That being said, I have only been to one other place in Phoenix, but I go there fairly regularly, and I really enjoy Ethiopian. Zeman’s staff was really friendly, and they were pretty quick, although we ate a little early so it was just us and one other group. The atmosphere of the restaurant is pretty nice and airy as well, and it is built Tucson-style in an old house with decorative accents of Eithiopian origin. Most importantly, however, the food was great. I got the meat and veggie sampler- the veggies were all super flavorful, the meat was succulent, and the sauces were all smooth and delicious.

Little Tokyo Feels Like a Little Slice of Japan


I have been to Little Tokyo in Las Angeles twice now, and my experience both times has

been totally different, despite the fact that the place stayed the same. The reason for this is simple. The first time that I visited Little Tokyo, I had never been to Japan, and

(c) AB Raschke

(c) AB Raschke

honestly, knew very little about Japanese culture. In going the first time, I had a good experience, but I couldn’t appreciate how much this little spot really is like a tiny slice of the country for which it is named. Being there after having traveled to Japan in the spring, I actually felt something akin to homesickness. Little Tokyo made me miss Japan, and reminded me about a lot of the little things that I enjoyed while visiting the country. It should also be noted that during my second trip, we also stayed out in Torrance, rather than Anaheim, which doubtless added to the feeling of familiarity. This part of Los Angeles is home to a large population of Americans with Japanese ancestry as well as immigrants, and they have imparted some lovely things on this part of the city. Besides all sorts of delicious restaurants, Torrance is home to Mitsuwa Marketplace, a market that is truly reminiscent of the massive stores that Japanese cities have. Not only were there groceries to be found here, but there was an entire food court, as well as candy stores, cosmetic stations, and spaces for cultural classes and events.

(c) AB Raschke

(c) AB Raschke

In Little Tokyo itself, my favorite thing to do is dine. Not only are there amazing sushi restaurants here (probably one of my all-time favorite foods), but there are also a variety places with Japanese noodles. As far as I have seen, you really can’t go too wrong eating out in Little Tokyo if you enjoy Japanese fare. There is also a pretty comprehensive Japanese bakery here, where I always love to stop for dessert. Stores on the main drag of Little Tokyo are nice souvenir stops, and they have some of the most adorable little things. If there was one thing I learned about Japanese knick-knacks, it’s that they are the cutest. America has nothing on the cuteness that Japanese artists and designers can attain, and for anyone who loves adorable things, Little Tokyo will not disappoint. There are also stores in an underground, mall section of the area that sell model kits (great selection for an American store, very modest when compared to what you can find in Japan), complete with the blinding white lights that Japanese stores love to use to showcase their hundreds of model kits for sale.

Little Tokyo also comes complete with traditional temples. I actually don’t know if these are open to the public, but their presence certainly lends a certain authenticity to the area. Finally, Little Tokyo is home to the Japanese American National Museum, which has a library for Japanese ancestry research, traditional and modern Japanese art and photography, as well as an extensive exhibit covering Japanese American internment camps. I really wasn’t expecting to enjoy the museum as much as I did, but it has some of the immersive elements that I enjoy in museums, and I learned a lot of history that I didn’t know previously while there. It is definitely a nice addition to any trip to the area.

(c) AB Raschke

(c) AB Raschke

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