01 Oct 2010

Savory City Strolls – Westways Magazine

birdpick

“You look like you’re on safari,” said Mike Albanese, tour guide for Melting Pot Food Tours. Admittedly, my decision to wear a wide-brimmed canvas hat for a Sunday stroll through Old Pasadena may have been overkill, but Mike was right about one thing. I was on an urban safari—in search of new (or new-for-me) eateries.

I’ve taken food tours in places from Boston to Sydney, and I’ve always been amazed at the lack of culinary tours in Los Angeles, one of the world’s great gastronomic cities. But in recent years, food tours have been popping up all over Southern California. Over a period of a few months, I took in four tours. All of them were terrific. Here’s a rundown of what I saw and learned—and, more important, what I ate.

Read the complete article here

05 May 2010

Big City on a Budget – Tokyo – Westways Magazine

Sumida River Cruise

by Andrew Bender

Equal parts Old Japan and hyperfuture, Tokyo is a traveler’s dream. Though the city has $700-a-night (and up) hotel rooms, it can also be a bargain. Many of the best sights are free.

Read more at: http://www.calif.aaa.com/westways/2010-may/Pages/out-and-about.aspx

01 Nov 2004

Good Morning, Sunshine – Westways

Ringing temple bell

by Andrew Bender

TOKYO – Come December, the life-size statues of Colonel Sanders outside KFCs throughout Japan don Santa suits, big-city hotels raise glorious Christmas trees, and woe to the father who, on Christmas Eve, does not bring home a Christmas cake for his kids — not a fruitcake, but a white-frosted cake decorated with winter scenes.

But I remember descending to my hotel lobby one not-too-distant December 26th to find the Christmas tree gone, replaced by symbols of the New Year holiday to come: soaring kites, hagoito (decorated paddles used in a badminton-like game) and stacks of round mochi (rice cakes) topped with oranges. Japan pays lip service to Christmas with the trappings of the holiday (and, frequently, the kitsch), but in this overwhelmingly non-Christian country, it’s the New …