Thursday, March 28, 2013

Somewhere New: Eastern State Penitentiary - Philadelphia PA

When the suggestion came up to visit the Eastern State Penitentiary I was worried it might be a little like the catacombs in Paris - oppressively morbid. The Penitentiary was certainly a heavy experience but the sheer beauty of the ruins and the streaming sunlight made for a different experience than I would have thought. 

Know what else was unexpected? Steve Buscemi's voice is the guide of the headphone walking tour. 

The ideas and philosophies that guided the construction of this building are interesting. At the time it was built in 1829 most jails were large holding cells where prisoners were kept all together in a single room or several large rooms. The chaos and violence that ensued in these prisons led a group of citizens to form The Philadelphia Society for Alleviating the Miseries of Public Prisons. These men believed that to truly become penitent, the men and women in jail needed solitude and quiet reflection to reach the point of reform. Each prisoner was given a room with a skylight, a door to the outdoor recreation facilities and a workbench on which they often made shoes or chairs or worked at other trades during their imprisonment. 

The idea of separation even went so far as to prevent other prisoners from knowing who else was in the prison. Should a prisoner have a reason to leave their cells and walk down the long corridors, they were fitted with a mask to prevent them from being recognized inside the prison, thus protecting their identity once they left the prison.  

The Eastern State Penitentiary came to embody what became known as the Pennsylvania System. Prisons all over the country started to copy their construction and system of separating prisoners and many prominent figures from overseas came to the prison to observe it's theories in practice. 

Al Capone was kept here for a time but unlike the run of the mill prisoners his cell was outfitted with carpet and a lush bed, orate desk and even a roman bust to keep him comfy. 

What struck me most about the whole tour was the expansive windows and natural light pouring in everywhere contrasted with the relative darkness of tiny cells and their skylights.  And of course that where we were so casually touring was a prison. A place to put the people in our society that we felt we didn't belong or didn't want to see.

Towards the end of the tour there is a small poster talking about the prison system today and the percentage of populations of different countries in prison. The United States imprisons more of our population than any other country. 

Much much more could have been said about the current prison system - such as the disturbing way that prisons are being privatized. But the Penitentiary chose not to delve into the current system.

 I'll leave you with Angela Davis speaking about the Industrial Prison Complex. 

"It costs much more to send someone to prison than to send them to college."

Monday, March 25, 2013

Where to Eat Vegan: Elizabeth's Gone Raw

Royal Trumpet Mushroom Old Bay Crab Cake

A few months ago I began working with Elizabeth's Gone Raw as a server on their once weekly six course raw tasting menu. I've had the pleasure of photographing much of  Chef Jonathan Seningen's amazing creations - like these beauties from our recent Thursday night Happy Hour. 

We served:

Old Bay Crab Cakes
Fennel Flatbread with Macadamia Nut Ricotta 
Onion Rings with Raw BBQ and Ranch Dressing
Spicy Kale Chips
Mini Portobello Sliders with Cashew Cheddar and Young Coconut Bacon
Portobello Tacos with Guacamole 

Fennel Flatbread with Ricotta

Onion Rings with BBQ and Ranch

Mini Sliders

All of the food is so colorful and beautiful! 

Come check us out on L Street on Friday nights and the occasional Thursday.

1341 L Street
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 347- 8349

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

San Fran Gram

San Francisco as experienced through my Instagram

you cant tell but my eyes are closed

oh hai!

Full House!

San Fran Tree Hippies

vegan milkshakes in the Mission

sidewalk of 22nd

houses on the hill

Me and Caroline 

Somewhere New: San Francisco

Oh California! Everyone I know sings the praises of the natural beauty of this state so naturally I had to check it out for myself. A dear but distant friend quickly welcomed me into her home for a few nights and as per usual I walked the city from front to back and made frequent stops to indulge in each neighborhoods food. 

True to my imagination, the diversity of the vegetation and the calm steady temperatures of the area won my heart. Succulents were literally everywhere! 

Caroline's lovely home 

Unbeknownst to many, San Francisco's Golden Gate Park is even larger than Central Park. The first thing I saw upon entering the park was this giant eucalyptus tree with the peeling rainbow bark. 

Nestled in the park is this painted glass building that dates back to the late 1800s. The Conservatory of Flowers houses much more than just flowers though. Venus fly traps, giant lily pads and all sorts of tropical fruits and ferns. I caught the free tour as I was coming in which I would highly recommend. The 2,000 plant species in this building are closely packed and without a tour I doubt I would have known what I was looking at most of the time. 

Some of my favorites from the Conservatory: Chenille plant, Maiden's Hair and Watermelon plants.

No city trip is a complete city trip for me without ducking into a used book store. I stumbled upon Dog Eared Books on Valencia Street and was immediately taken in by the handmade journals made from antique books on display. For only 10 bucks it wasn't hard for me to snag the journal with the beetle on the cover and then peruse the rest of the extensive collection.

I did mention delicious food right? Here is a peak at the amazing meal I had at Gracias Madre - full post to come. 

One day during my visit I rented a bike from Fisherman's Wharf and rode over to Sausalito. The views were incredible and during the ride back on the ferry we went right by Alcatraz. 

My advice for San Francisco, walk everywhere you possibly can. Experience the different neighborhoods for what they are. Ride the street car to the Castro, walk up 22nd street and feel the burn in your thighs and look back to see the view, pop your head into the cute shops and eat eat eat to your heart's content!