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The Return Of Kiichi-kun III

In our epic conclusion to the trio that is “The Return Of Kiichi-kun III,” Ashely and I were finally able to venture into Tokyo and begin our exploration of all things Japan.

The first expedition found us wandering the back streets of Shibuya to head towards Harajuku. At first, we felt as if we were completely lost, attempting to utilize my phone maps (which for a USA phone in Japan, it doesn’t quite work right). Eventually we found the shops getting cooler, the food stalls becoming far more interesting looking. We popped in and out of punk-clothing shops, a baby clothes store that featured graffiti-style printed clothes for toddlers, some thrift shops, then gradually made our way towards Kiddy Land; the king of all toy stores. I’ve hit Kiddy Land each time in Japan, collecting my Final Fantasy toys, but this time they had none! We stocked up on omiyage for our friends and family, then went for food. Continue reading

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The Return Of The Kiichi-kun II

It was a short van ride to Saitama from the Tokyu Excel for Loud Park; when we finally arrived, we all grabbed our bags and stage clothes and headed to the dressing rooms. 

Like pretty much everything else in this country, Japan really has the dressing room situation figured out; not only figured out, but basically has all things hospitality, nailed down better than any other country could even fathom. Each band has their own large private space, a decent rider in their room, temperature controls for your room (you’d be surprised how rare this feature is typically), a clean bathroom and showers nearby (a rarity in some countries to even have a shower or toilet), world-class catering (with Japanese food), and really pro backstage crew (including stage crew, caterers, hospitality, security, press, etc.). Japan, just like in everything else, does the backstage world better than anyone else. Continue reading

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The Return Of The Kiichi-Kun I

There’s no place on Earth that I strive to be in more than Japan; no where I feel more at home (outside of my own home); no where that when I’m away from it, I miss like one misses loved ones on a trip far away in some remote part of the planet.

I was born in the Yamaguchi prefecture (Iwakuni) January 26, 1986. I consider myself to be half-Japanese (my mother’s side), half-Marine (thanks to my military father). My family relocated to the USA when I was about 1, so I have zero recollection of ever being in Japan as a child. 

Thankfully – due to the band I am in, I am able to return once every year and a half or so. Lately – and unfortunately – Trivium only comes back for either a brief press run or one show in Tokyo. One show? That’s torture! I’d prefer to have a year long tour there than one measly show. Either way, one is better than none. Trivium returned for Loud Park 2013 and we had the greatest Japanese show ever, and one of the greatest shows of our career even. But if you live in Japan, you probably already heard about that show. Let’s go behind the scenes of everything else that happened on my visit. Continue reading

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Montreal, Quebec

There’s no question that I am one lucky son-of-a-gun; I get to play guitar and scream at people for a living (and they enjoy it), and my favorite hobby is eating the best food I can find everywhere on Earth. 

I am very fortunately able to investigate and chow down on some of the top bites on the globe, and if speaking in terms of: “what’s the best thing I’ve ever eaten in North America?” I can finally quickly and confidently answer that in one restaurant name: Le Bremner. 

Le Bremner is owned by chef Chuck Hughes, a badass chef who has multiple T.V. shows, several cookbooks, two wonderful restaurants (Le Bremner, Garde Manger), and has catered what I consider to be the best damn catering of any festival in music: Heavy MTL. I first met Chuck when we played Heavy MTL for the second time; we all were talking about how amazing it was the first time, and I wanted to merely thank the chef. When I was introduced to Chuck, I realized that this was the same Chuck whose show I watch all the time when I’m home. Chuck was a super cool dude; we chatted a bit, he checked out the show, we traded contacts, then we were off to another city. Continue reading

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Paris, France

When Trivium first started touring internationally, it was quite a concept to me that people from foreign countries and cities I’d never heard of would want to come see us play live. Now – to imagine that later in our career, our record label would be buying us plane tickets and putting us up in pretty decent hotels in foreign countries just for press outlets and people to hear us talk and not play… well, that just seems plain crazy. 

France is where it all came from, my friends; the pioneers of cooking back in the day here created many, if not most of the techniques we see used in all world styles of cooking. The blueprint and archetype of both elaborate and simple methods, the pairing of ingredients, the guidelines of it all – it was all fleshed out and perfected in France. 

If the classic ways of the world of cooking were set up here, what’s going on now?

The next evolutionary step. Continue reading

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Vancouver, Canada

Food-freaks in the know, know that Canada has some of the best food you can find in North America. Don’t believe me? Check out just a few of the restaurants recommended by people who know good food in Montreal, Quebec City, Toronto and Vancouver. Sure – French Canada is known to have some great bites, but Vancouver can seriously contend in the good-food arena. I believe I heard from a native Vancouver-an that Vancouver has one of the highest Asian populations in North America, and you know what that means: great freakin’ Asian food!

Vancouver has one of my personal favorite sandwich restaurants in all North America: Meat and Bread. We had a late arrival into Vancouver, but I was lacing up my boots as soon as we hit the city – my mission was to sprint to MaB as quickly as possible and just take it all in. A couple of us suited up and made the trek; the whole time I could be heard repeating to my gang about “how amazing this place is.” Long story short: we showed up and it was closed. It was like being a child who finally coerced their parents to take them to Toys R Us and it was closed for the day. I was heart broken. Defeated. Continue reading

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New Orleans, Louisiana 

It was on the In Flames, Trivium, Veil Of Maya, Kyng North American tour, where we had aday off in New Orleans. I’ve never had a proper food experience in NOLA, so it was time we straightened that out. On this tour, we had quite the all-star line-up as far as food-friends go for me: Joey B (Trivium’s tour manager), Rob Suchan (now ex-Trivium merch) and Paolo. Amazingly, pretty much most of our band and crew wanted to hang and chow during the day, so we all headed out to our first spot, Cochon Butcher. 

Cochon I believe has two restaurants: a sit-down, and a sandwich spot (sort of a deli); we wanted to hit Butcher so we could eat and drink, then repeat throughout the day in multiple locations. Everyone grabbed beers and placed their orders. The place is a very cool, contemporary take on the deli; you can see the meats curing, a chalkboard displays all their specials and regulars; sleekly modernized little renovated old-place (I assume for the last part). 

I was stoked. Anytime I walk into a place that comes this highly recommended from my friends and Rob’s friends alike – I know I’m in for a treat. My only bummer experience was when I was asking the girl at the register what she recommended, alongside a few other questions about the place, she very shitty-ly responded “man. You ask a lot of questions don’t you?” I won’t hold it against the place, since bitchiness is typically inherent before a vocational choice. Continue reading

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I Love New York City. Oh Yeah. New York City II. III.

NYC, NY

The mission of the day was to hit one of my now-favorite diners in Brooklyn: Diner. I initially saw this place on one of Bourdain’s shows, and from the first moment I saw this new-school interpretation of the traditional greasy spoon, I knew I had to chow down there. I’m not appropriately acquainted with the true history of Diner, but you can tell this place has stories to tell in its architecture; the floors look old, real old, the entryway is just a tiny little door – hardly even a logo on its facade. Inside, Diner feels like a mini-metallic hanger, you feel the commonalities with your average diner, only you feel a different air about the place: interesting looking kids run the place, with the same sort populating the tables and barstools.

This was the first introduction for each of us at Diner, and initially, when I saw the menu I was a little worried that I picked the wrong Diner; it had very simple selections with hardly a description: “sandwich,” “salad,” “burger” (at least I think it said burger on there). My lunch guests were Ashley and Darren (from 5B management) – I recall Darren looking at me and saying something along the lines of “are we at the right place? Should we maybe head somewhere else?” The location sure looked amazing, but were we possibly led astray into a different diner that wasn’t Diner? Continue reading

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I Love New York City. Oh Yeah. New York City II. II.

NYC, NY

I like The Breslin. A lot. The Breslin embodies and defines what I typically am on the hunt for in the US of A as far as gastro-adventures. My apologies if my terminology is a few years behind, but in my mind, The Breslin is New American. New American with a strong nod to the Gastro Pubs of England. New American to me will have the general familiarity of a dish one would recognize (pulling influence from some of the European greats of gastronomy), only with a twist. Typically, one can expect a feature and an emphasis on local ingredients, animals that were treated well and fed well. New American food ought to have that close attention to detail that you notice in your food and drinks. The vibe should be unpretentious, it should have fantastic eats that people can afford and don’t have to get over-dressed for. 

At The Breslin, they have a ridiculously great whole Pig Foot dish (it rules) and do whole beast roasts (you should probably have a couple friends willing to partake before ordering these tables of chow). Since we were just a duo tonight, we decided to go with something sensible.  

My wife is not only a great cook, but a really talented cocktail-maker, she learns new ideas and inspirations from trying cocktails from the spots that do it right. The Breslin is certainly one of those places. Ashley went for the Beggar’s Banquet: bourbon whiskey with maple syrup, fresh lemon juice, aromatic bitters, topped with ale. The Breslin makes a mean cocktail; whether you’re talking pre and post prohibition-era styles, or their own interpretations (like cocktails involving some beer). I go for a tasty Spotted Pig bitter cask ale (I have yet to be to The Spotted Pig, but it is a culinary-goal of mine to dine there soon). 

We start with Salt and Pepper Crisps (for the Americans who haven’t been to the U.K.: crisps are chips, chips are fries), I go for the Chargrilled Lamb Burger with Feta, Cumin Mayo and Thrice-cooked Chips. Ashley goes for a Vinegar-ed Poussin with Grilled Onions and Romesco. The ground lamb, with onion and feta, and that cumin mayo brings Greece to mind, the simple preparation and outstanding ingredients allow taste to be at the forefront of the meal; the fries? Fantastic. The poussin is a game bird, somewhat like a chicken; it was outstandingly prepared. 

Desert was the Dark Chocolate Tarte: toasted marshmallow ice cream, white chocolate ganache, biscuit. Dense dark cacao flavors in the tarte; flowing, soft marshmallow-y goodness in the ice cream; the ganache and light almost-salty flavored bits of biscuit brought it all together. Great presentation as well. 

The following morning, we hit Stump Town Roasters for a great cup of coffee, and No. 7 Sub Shop for a breakfast sub. I went for the Kielbasa sub with scrambled eggs, sweet soy and pickled jalapenos. Eastern European-style sausage, an Asian flare with soy, and Latin/Mexican with the jalapenos… in a sub… with scrambled eggs Yeah – that thing was really freakin’ good. 

If you want to stay in a cool hotel, with clothing stores, bars, breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee and cocktails – that are all actually really all good, you should stay at the Ace.

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NYC, NY

I am no stranger to the Ace Hotel. Having stayed here a couple of times for Roadrunner-related things and Moscot-related events, it is the hotel I usually want to be holed-up for the night. The room this time around was a wee bit smaller than last time, but it’s still a great place. The benefit to staying at the Ace is that they have really great food and drinks at every corner of the downstairs area: a wonderful sandwich to-go spot, Stump Town Roasters Coffee (for that good cup), 2 sit-down restaurants (one New American, one seafood I believe), and a bar that makes righteous cocktails. Don’t let the dressed-to-the-nines kids or the 90′s/60′s-fashion-amalgamation-adorned hipsters scare you off, they don’t bite (typically). 

Birreria is a new Italian restaurant (could it be called “New Italian”?) that resides on the rooftop of Eataly in the city. Ashley and I decided to go see what the buzz was all about. The interior is open and welcoming: natural light comes in from the windowed-ceiling, the visible beer tanks greet you on your entry, the bar is on one end of the restaurant with tables surrounding. We tried a couple samples of their pretty darn good house-made beers; I ordered the Gina, a house brewed cask ale. We also ordered a traditional American pale ale with fresh thyme from the hills of Borgorose, Italy – a twist on a classic. 

Famished, we went for: Olives, Ricotta Fresca, Asiago Fresco, and Gorgonzola Dolce to start; the mains we chose were the Biroldo (Toscana-inspired Blood Sausage with Mustard and Krauti) and a Brussel Sprout and Wild Mushroom Risotto dish; the former obviously my pick. 

The olives were meaty little footballs. If one is a fan of olives, be prepared to be in love with Birreria’s. The cheeses were all sourced from North Eastern small-farms; you can taste the time, energy and love put into these morsels of goodness. Each of the three brought such a diversity in taste and texture; the fresh honey and house-made bread elevated the flavor spectrum to whole new levels. Honey and cheese and bread are quite a trifecta of taste. 

Our mains’ were spectacular. If I recall, we both didn’t share… a rarity for sure. Blood sausage is one of those great things in life. If you’re scared and haven’t tried yet, you must try it in a reputable spot. It’s a meat-in-tube-form item of godly stature. The blood sausage here is laid on top of cabbage that has flavors reminiscent of Polish and German cuisine; the mustard again a nod to those cultures. 

Intelligently, we decided to skip desert due to the feast to come later in the day: The Breslin.