Travel

Free Berlin: 3 city summer destinations for when you're broke and German

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It was 2pm by the time I stumbled out of Berghain and rode my bike home along the Spree-side still-standing section of the Berlin Wall, veering between the tourists snapping away at its murals. Hopefully they got a good shot of the bleary-eyed girl in the see-through dress. (Tag me!) Luckily, once you've steered clear of the hordes there is plenty of fun to be had in Berlin that had nothing to do with techno church and tawdry dark rooms. Here's four of my favorite free spots in the city to check out when the clubs close, from naked lakes to repurposed airport tarmacs and abandoned Ferris wheels. Read more »

Wall down, joints up

A journey through Berlin's burgeoning weed scene
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The tallest structure in Germany is a sky needle with a majestic ball sitting well up its length. Due to some vagaries of the physics of light and the shiny, Epcot-like nature of this ball, Berlin's Fernsehturm (a.k.a., television tower) casts the shadow of a cross over the city, much to the consternation of its East German builders.Read more »

Movement Detroit day one: Sweetest Kiss-Over (or, I Feel French)

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Not much gets better than dancing with 33,000 people in downtown Detroit at the fantastic 12th annual Detroit Electronic Music Festival, aka Movement, to the techno music that was invented here.

The first day of three, a bit stormy weatherwise but warm and squiggly on the musical front, saw the five stages brimming with choice DJ segues like Greg Wilson into Todd Terje, David Squillace into Seth Troxler with Guy Gerber, SBTRKT into Roni Size, Derrick Carter into Lil Louis -- and the triumph (for me, and native Detroiters) of last night, young techno keepers of the flame Kyle Hall and Jay Daniel, playing a smooth classics timewarp set, into quintessential DJ's DJ Mike Huckaby, who took us all the way into wiggy jazziness.

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Hej, creativity! 4 bonkers Stockholm art projects

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What creative forms would you expect at the near-ends of the earth? My recent trip to Stockholm, Sweden was weird in the way that travel usually is, more just-like-home moments than alien fears realized of winding up cold and frozen because I forget to transcribe the 17th letter in the name of the street I was staying on.

Honestly, I went for the close-to-the-North-Pole party (did you know you can swim just about anywhere in Stockholm? Sunrise after-afterparty dips abound), but surprise! I ran into artistic inspiration. That's really having your herring burger and eating it too. Here's four people and projects that really did it for me, Swedishly speaking.

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Appetite: Pebble Beach Food and Wine Fest delighted with celeb chefs, wine copter

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Despite chilly breezes and outrageously high ticket prices ($500 was cheap), PBF&W, April 12-15, was a bustling, fun-filled weekend, with celebrity chefs, after (and after-after) parties, copious amounts of caviar, champagne and white Burgundy sipped overlooking the waves from the Inn at Spanish Bay fire pits, and a helicopter ride with sommeliers(!) to Carmel Road's vineyards.

Appetite: An elegant line of tequilas

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Tequila Avión has gained a sort of cult status from a (unsolicited) mention in the show Entourage, but I’m glad to say this tequila holds enough quality to stand on its own. Produced in the Jalisco highlands, in the town of Jesus Maria at the highest elevation of any tequila producer (7000 feet), brings a naturally higher sugar content to the agave plants. Their process is to roast the agave plants at very low temperatures and let them cool naturally which retains more juices and makes the plants less fibrous when crushed.

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Appetite: Exploring 3 wineries in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario

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Call it dessert wine if you will, icewine (eiswein in German) is definitely sweet. But winemakers prefer to call it “rich and concentrated,” an apt icewine description, which, when produced well, retains enough acidity to keep it from being cloying.

Icewine’s intensity comes from frozen grapes, allowing greater flavor concentration. Unlike in Sauternes, Bordeaux, icewine is not sweet from botrytis (noble rot), rather from frozen, concentrated juice. Canada and Germany are the largest icewine producers in the world, with most of Canada’s icewine vineyards in Ontario, which I recently visited. Besides attending the annual Niagara Icewine Festival, I spent time with three wineries and tasted winning salumi and cheeses made locally.

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Restaurant 1833

Irresistible spot lights up Monterey with ghosts, Negronis, quality fare -- and tableside Absinthe service  

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Appetite: The very latest in LA cocktails

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After years of hunting, the day finally came when I could find proper cocktails in LA, even if the scene itselfwas years behind NYC or SF. I’ve covered LA cocktail bars in recent years as the quality has rapidly grown, with my latest visit yielding the most consistent drinks yet. The LA cocktail renaissance is indeed coming into its own.

There have still been a few hyped-up letdowns, like Next Door Lounge in Hollywood, which is a fantastic space: roomy, mellow, old world, with comfy leather couches, friendly service, and classic Powell and Loy movies playing on a big screen. I absolutely loved the environment which it made it even more disappointing in sampling four expensive drinks ($12-14) to find them unbalanced and generally unappetizing.

Perhaps Next Door's execution will improve to match the interior. In the meantime, here are some spots worth checking out down south.

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Texas highlights

Street performers, Jimmy Cliff, and organ-rattling beats at SXSW 2012

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>>View Mirissa's complete SXSW 2012 diary here.

MUSIC To be at SXSW is to know you're missing out on a lot of good music. Fortunately the music you do see makes up for the difference, and very often it's the unexpected showcases, the things that weren't on your radar until that very moment, that end up being the highlights of your experience. That said, here are some of my impressions from this year's slate:

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