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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 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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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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Glasgow, Scotland

Oh, Scotland. The land of deep-fried chocolate bars, deep-fried pizza, deep-fried haggis, not-deep-fried haggis and kilts. Scotland, while maybe not reputable for its cuisine, is notorious for having some of the most intense crowds in this neck of the woods. Crowds so loud and crazy and devoted, that they put other countries to shame. 

I was thankful to still have my wife Ashley with me on this leg of the Trivium & In Flames tour – and extra thankful when she remembered a serious gem of Glasgow: The Butterfly And The Pig. We first stumbled upon this little oasis accidentally on The Black Crusade tour (Machine Head, Trivium, Dragonforce, Arch Enemy, Shadows Fall) and have essentially been bringing it up anytime anyone ever brings up Scotland. 

We went back, 4 years later only to be greeted by the same exuberantly friendly server. We were then seated at the same table from those years past, then we ordered a round of Tennent’s. The menu at The Butterfly is pretty hilariously written up; we order: “Cream of chicken, leek and spring onion soup de loop,” “Cillia black is back in black in a pudding, with salad, apples, bacon. Contains black sudden, parmesan cheese and a wee friend quail eggs on top,” “Haggis has stopped running circles round the hill and arrived here with his friends neeps and tatties fired in a whiskey cream sauce,” and “Like mamma used to make beefy beef stew served with mash potatoes and a puff pastry hat.” I – obviously have a tendency to over-indulge…

I say it every time I eat with friends who maybe haven’t eaten with me much: I prefer to share. I want everyone to be able to experience as many tastes and textures as possible, the same eats that their cohorts are enjoying; my wife and I live by this with food with family and friends. So how was this feast? 

The soup tasted like it’s ingredients and nothing more, the exact way a soup like that ought to be. The salad was perfectly balanced: just enough vinegar in the dressing; just the right ratio of egg, cheese, ham and black pudding for me, and greens and healthy bits for my vegetable preferring spouse (a meat eater, but one who prefers vegetables to anything else edible (crazy right?)). That is what a salad should be. I had the Haggis last time here, and I was having it again – I assume “neaps” are Parsnips, the “tatties” obviously potatoes. The Haggis here is splendid. Meaty, stick-to-your-bones, fill-you-up goodness that someone way-back-when cleverly created when deciding to stuff different parts of an animal in other parts… then into it’s own stomach. Sound brutal? I call it ingenious. The beef stew is something you’ll see all around in England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Northern Ireland – The Butterfly does this really nicely; in a massive portion at that. I found the description cute too. 

If you haven’t tried Scottish food before, or have heard horror stories of the dread Haggis – I suggest you go here. Here The Butterfly And The Pig. will show you how fantastically Scottish food can be done. 


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London, England

It was on the Trivium, In Flames, Ghost, Rise To Remain and Insense tour, on the day of our London Brixton show, when Kirsten (Trivium’s longtime (and super lovely) PR extraordinaire) set up a food-related promo event. Today, I was to chow down on some of Britain’s finest in the offal department. 

The line-up included: a Scotch Egg, Cockles and Whelks, Jellied Eels, and some sort of sausage-in-a-pastry. I’ve now had numerous interpretations of the Scotch Egg around the globe, and I can tell you with absolute assurance that a Scotch Egg is a damn good thing: a boiled egg, nestled in meat, coated in breading (either fried or baked). Good right?! This was a classic one; minced meat, normal egg, good nevertheless. The Whelks (a villain in Final Fantasy VI mind you) and the Cockles taste like they look: like briney-oceany-clammy-flavored chewy-bits. I am a fan of shelled-food, and these… they’re not awful, just nothing to particularly rave about. Jellied Eels! If you’re not a fan of something that tastes like you’re licking the inside-of-a-whale’s-blow-hole, you may not like this dish. Texture? Its like… dolphin spooge (I imagine…). It didn’t gross me out by any means – but again – it’s something that’s worth trying and may or may not be something you crave for a midnight snack.

I was quite fortunate to have my wife and longtime partner in food and drink-related inter-continental crime with me for a bit of this run, so we decided we wanted something really good. We were given recommendations by some good foodie friends who we went to high school with, who had recently visited the U.K., to hit up St. John’s for some grub.

St. John’s has what I think were three or so locations: a fancier sit-down restaurant tucked inside of an unassuming building, a bakery/bar/bar-snacks area where you can get plates to share alongside a nice local pint, then the third which is located off-site from the former two. We picked the bar/bakery. In sort of a modern loft/factory setting, St. John’s is an eatery that is wide-open and inviting in it’s not overly-large interior. The bar is stocked with all sorts of good things to drink down; I went with the Helles by Meantime Brewery, with American Hops. A fine pint it was. The delectable looking breads and sweets were calling out to my growling stomach, but I prevailed in waiting for the real good stuff. I went for Roast Bone Marrow with a Parsley Salad, house made Bread, and Sea Salt; Native Oysters to follow. Ashley had the Welsh Rarebit (I assumed a game animal like a rabbit, but it was actually sort of a grilled cheese toast-thing).

Don’t eat marrow? You’re missing out. Think of it as the essence-of-meat-flavoring in a spreadable-form. You take this little spear-thing, jam it into the bone and slather it on that fantastic baked (then grilled) bread. Atop that, drop some Sea Salt and Parsley Salad. Frickin’ good. Simple, classic ingredients that make the knees buckle. The oyster were served simply with a lemon hunk and a mini jar of vinegar and chopped onions. A good, fresh, local oyster doesn’t need much; I had one nude, one with a light drizzle of that tasty, vinegary dressing. This was my first time trying any Welsh Rarebit; it’s a piece of bread, with a sharply flavored cheese adorn on top, it’s then perhaps oven-baked to crisp it all up a bit. Real tasty. 

Myself stuffed on slimy, yummy bits, and Ashley on a real fancy grilled cheese, we called for Coffees and pudding (ya gotta have your pudding!). We split a Bread Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce and a Mince Pie with Cream. Both deserts were impeccable. Probably the best Bread Pudding I’ve had whilst in England. Rich, not-good-for-you, but oh-so-darn-good. Cold ice cream pornographically oozing all over that hot hunk of sweet. 

Deciding to be slightly heart-smart (another Rob Suchan-ism), we take a cab to wander about the Christmas Market… or Village… or whatever it was called. Slugging down a couple hot Mulled Wines, Ashley eventually convinced me to get in the Ferris Wheel – and lemme tell ya: I do not like heights. I’ll spare you the photos of my scared-lookin ***. 

“Dawn Of A New Day”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GNasRspzJZ8

“Harvest”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VjkmuQ-JIpk

“Hurt”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_VVQNRHcNY

“Hallelujah”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TIQlscCYf4E

“Dying In Your Arms”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3JLHJto1kSk&feature=relmfu

 

Dawn Of A New Day (At In Flames’ Restaurant, 2112)

Gothenburg, Sweden

Life used to be sort of difficult in Trivium: always hearing of “other bands” that either say that we **** or that “Matt Heafy is a _____ (insert numerous insults in blank)”, or ludicrously cold commentary online about things surpassing the boundaries of necessity when you simply don’t like a band. It hurt a bit being in my late teens just making the kind of music I wanted, but always having to “hear” about how bands, press, or kids thought I or the band sucked. Nowadays? I never hear anything band really (or don’t mind), and I’ve managed to befriend some musicians that I always considered some of the greatest people on Earth.  Continue reading

Delirium

Brussels and Grimbergen, Belgium

It was the morning of the Brussels show on the In Flames, Trivium, Ghost, Rise To Remain, Insense tour when Paolo and I were picked up by one of our good pals (and incredible photographer) Rudy. Rudy’s plan for us for the day was to take us to the town of Grimbergen for some great Belgian chow. For those of you beer fans out there, Belgian beer is some of the truly great stuff of this Earth – and Belgian frites? Fuckin A – The Belgians wrote the book on a good frite.  Continue reading

Prague, Czech Republic

After the legendary feast at Cestr, we headed into the central part of the city to explore and see the sights. We basically hit all the main spots you’re supposed to see: castles, churches, street markets, the Jewish quarter, astronomical clock tower – all that goodness. I find the clock tower intensely creepy – especially the weird little animatronic mini-villagers that come out from the windows at a specific hour in the day; some skeleton dude pops out up there too if I recall correctly.
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