Thursday, June 02, 2011

A Street Food and Photo Adventure.

By the mostly thundering silence from the last post it seems we're all a bit worn out with reading about the technical side of riding. I concede that reading about building skills can seem like work. Guess it's time to take a break and think about stuff that's more fun. Things like street life, food, and photography. Sometimes you just need to park the bike and wander around. I'm finding that candid people shots and street photography are the real draws for me. I just need to get faster with recognizing good composition and dialing in the camera.

In pursuit of those goals I've been taking some online photography classes. Somewhere in the process I became a member of the International Travel Writers and Photographer's Alliance. Those good folks sent me an official ID badge to wear proudly around my neck. It's even more impressive with half of it written in a foreign language. French, I presume. Of course, not speaking French, I don't know what it says. For all I know it's telling everyone that the wearer of the badge is a dufous. I'm not really sure what all this membership means or how I should take it. To quote Groucho Marx, "I wouldn't belong to a club that would have me as a member!"

A couple of things happened in near coincidence to each other that inspired this post. Firstly, being a person who really likes to eat these days, I was watching the Cooking Channel. There's a program called "Eat Street" ( or something like that, I think ) that spotlights food carts all over the country. This particular show featured a food cart from Portland. Which just happens to be about an hour and half north of me. Secondly, I just happened to have a service call scheduled the next morning at the U.S. Bank Tower, a 39 story building three blocks from this food cart.

The beginning of a rather obvious plan took shape.





Wearing my ID badge over my pride swelled chest ( ok, not really, but it makes good story fodder, doesn't it?) I set out on my mission. I'd check this place out, eat one of their outrageous burgers, take some photos, and write about it. That's what travel writers do, isn't it?

The name of this place is the Brunch Box. It's one of several food carts living in this particular block. A young couple living slightly outside the mainstream of life run the place. The big draw is their imaginative burgers. I imagine the health insurance industry hates them. The Final Resting Place people probably love them. Oh, the food won't kill you on the spot. It's actually quite good. At least the beastly burger I ate was. If a person is a regular customer, though, better eat fast. One could drop dead at any time from clogged arteries.

Interestingly enough, the place has its own website. You can see it and the menu here.



The menu includes such monstrosities as the Youcanhascheeseburger. Or the Redonkadonk burger. The two have slightly different ingredients. For example, the Redonkadonk is an Oh My God Burger with a twist while the Youcanhascheeseburger is more like a traditional cheeseburger with a twist. What they both have in common, though, is the "twist:. The "buns" are actually made of two Texas grilled cheese sandwiches. That's right. Picture two grilled cheese sandwiches acting as bookends to other cholesterol laden ingredients. I'll tell you more about the Oh My God burger in a bit.

According to the owners the reason they picked the name "Redonkadonk" for the one burger is that it eating very many will give a person a big bedonkadonk. This term came from a song on the country charts. I believe it refers to the back side of a person. Particularly that section between the top of the thighs and the back of the belly button. In plain english, eating very many of these burgers will cause a person to grow a Giant Ass.

I bravely took my place in line and ordered an OMG burger from this guy. He's not the owner, just his loyal minion. This guy was pretty good natured for somebody serving death disguised as greasy delights. I explained why I was there and asked if I could take some photos of him. That's the second part of being a travel writer, isn't it? First you travel. Then you have to do something to write about and then take pictures to prove you did it.



I was prepared to wait for a while but the sandwich was served up quite quickly. Perhaps the burger was left by a previous customer who chickened out at the last minute. The burger felt hot in my hand which was good enough for me. I clutched my prize and went to find a place to eat it.


There's this ornamental fountain a couple of blocks away from the food carts. I had previously cased out the place and had a reasonable assurance that the fountain didn't actually spout water. Had that happened I can assure you that it would really have brought the enthusiasm level down.



Secure on a dry concrete step I savored my impending feast. The burger looks pretty innocent just sitting there in its yellow wrapper. With saliva flowing in culinary anticipation I began to unwrap my treat.






There are two regular hamburger buns marking the boundaries for the greasy goodness. The layers of flavor reveal themselves as I run my eyes over this creation. A gentle start is made with lettuce topped by a fresh slice of tomato. A hamburger patty acts as a stage for the other players to cavort upon. A layer of melted American cheese serves as a secure resting place for two pieces of crispy bacon. To bring a layer of softness as a perfect counterpoint to the boldness of the bacon some ham is added. Just to make sure the two differing porcine personalities get along some pieces of fried spam cover the bacon and ham. The spam brings its own character to the mix along as working as a catalyst. As a final touch in rounding out all the flavors a fried egg sits on top like a crispy crown. It actually makes sense. When I think of ham and bacon there is always a fried egg hovering around the edges.

I took a bite and pronounced it good. With a sense of quiet rapture I did utter the phrase "Oh my God" to myself. A bite and a photo wasn't enough. I felt this overwhelming urge to go to the next level. A simple photo was not enough. This creation called for some up-close and revealing food porn. Which proved to be easier said than done.



Grease is slippery as you may have noticed in your travels. The lense on my camera was a 70-200mm. Not an easy situation to work with. First I had to put the burger down. Then I cleaned the grease off my right hand with a napkin and some water from my bottle. Picking up a huge burger like this with one hand and holding it at arm's length without having the burger fall apart is a struggle, to put it mildly. While that is going on the right hand needs to hold the camera close to my chest after approximating a field of view. The final result is neither a technical or artistic masterpiece. I assure you, dear reader, that I did put my very best heartfelt effort into the venture.

The burger went down very well. I did, however, found myself with the urge to promise not to eat for the next two days. I sat in stuporous contentment for a solid twenty minutes afterwards. Culinary afterglow minus the cigarette.

Finally bestirring myself, I headed back towards the bike. Along the way I made some photos of the side dishes to street food.

One thing I have always enjoyed about Portland is the diversity among people. Like this couple.



This young woman had such colorful pink hair. I waited until she walked into a patch of sunshine then snapped the photo. I wanted to do justice to the brilliance of her hair coloring efforts.



There are times when a woman just can't decide which color she prefers. Pick some favorites and enjoy them all.



I met this young woman as she came out of a building. The contrast between the sexy way she was dressed and the utility of pulling this awkward hand truck intrigued me. I watched as the load tipped over on its side twice. By the second time I had caught up with her. Being every bit the gentleman I righted the load. Then I showed her how making sure the cargo was more balanced would really help her cause. They are hard to see in the photos but there are a couple of small elastic bands holding the load onto the cart. The young lady was impressed by my intelligence and manliness. At least I think so judging by the way she kept staring at my extended zoom lense. Being thus impressed she allowed me to adjust her bungies.

You can see that she still doesn't quite trust it all to work as she steps off the curb.



Reassured that my fix can be trusted she confidently heads across the street. I swear I only took this photo as a way to test my mastery of shutter speeds.



It's amazing to see how many people come out to obtain lunch from the food carts. There's a whole block of carts, each with their own cuisine. There's an equal abundance of willing customers.



There's more than one way to make an income from a row of food carts. This enterprising guy was offering music to eat by. A generous tip would not be discouraged, mind you. The woman looked like she was either going to make a personal request or show him how to finger a certain chord.



Something I find really interesting is that people always seem to notice the camera. The D7000 with the larger lense looks like a professional camera. I tried to keep some distance while using the zoom lense for my shots. For more personal photos I like to get close. For street scenes the zoom works well. Somebody's always staring at me, though. Like this guy.



Check out the guy with glasses to the left of the flag.



Also, this guy in the blue shirt. I don't know if it's simple curiosity, mistrust, or the hope of getting "discovered".



Not to be forgotten are two places around the corner. Got a hankering for Creole or Cajun? Check out the Swamp Shack. That's my idea of a food cart. Honest, I'm not lazy. The lack of exterior upkeep is simply a purposeful part of my decor! I didn't have the polarizer filter with me so I apologize for the glaring spot of sunshine. I'm actually just dang thankful there was some sun in the first place so I didn't want to do anything to insult it and make it go away.

Next to the Swamp Shack is a pizza place. Must be a hard choice. Hmmm, do I eat pizza or get some boiled crawdads? Chew through cheezy crust or pinch the tail and suck the head?

This is a Czech place, I think. Either way, I'm a firm believer in the "If you can't pronounce it you shouldn't be eating it" theory.



By the way, I'm now a professional photographer. I made a bit over thirty dollars for some downloads of photos I had uploaded to a stock agency. I expect the respect level from you all to go up accordingly. Notice how I used the word "up".

Hope you enjoyed my first travelogue and food review as an official member of the International Travel Writers and Photographer's Alliance!

Time to go ride some more. Maybe I should push the bike to burn off all these calories.

Miles and smiles,

Dan

22 comments:

Charlie6 said...

Irondad,

I think folks were out riding and just now catching up on posts.....its better to think its that rather than they've gotten turned off by the material....

Now, that picture of the schnitzel sandwich....THAT, was food porn.

mmmmmmmmmm, schnitzel....

dom

Redleg's Rides

Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

RichardM said...

I had one of those burgers last summer when we were in Portland for a family reunion. We stayed in the hotel just down the street about a block or so. I'm amazed that no one complained about you taking pictures. And I am suitably impressed with your credentials.

Richard

bluekat said...

I love walking around the city. I could walk around Portland (or any city) all day long and never be bored. Thanks for sharing your adventure, now I want to go exploring myself. Nice series of photos from your day. I especially like the colorful characters.

I love street photography/candid portraits. I think it would be my favorite, but it doesn't mix well with timid personalities. I would love to try something like this guy is doing. I just don't have the nerve for it though. Congratulations on the sale. Very cool! Don't forget us little folk ;)

bobskoot said...

Irondad:

I love a greasy, cheese, bacon hamburger with tomato and lettuce, but I couldn't handle a one pounder.

I did a lot of street photography for a long time and I now dislike going downtown to snap photos of all the homesless and panhandlers.

If you had an articulating screen you could be snapping away, un-noticed. Small and discrete is better, don't you have a G12 ? put in manual mode and manual focus to shorten shutter lag.

Vancouver has just instituted a program like that where we can order more than just a hot dog

bob
Riding the Wet Coast

Allen Madding said...

I honestly don't know what I am most impressed with, your new credentials, your ability to sell stock photography, your new skills as a travel writer, or your overall versatility. You are the renaissance man.

I must warn you. Too much exposure to the food carts will add pounds to the abdomen and you will have to give up your current mount for a Harley.

-Peace

Mike said...

I've walked by those food carts a bunch. I use to meet a friend every Monday for lunch at the Subway just down the street in the US Bank building. Did I say Subway? Sounds like I eat at Subway a lot - too scary to eat a big bacon, ham, and egg burger! :)

Congratulations on the credentials and selling stock photos. Like Kari said, don't forget the little folk!

Brady said...

Some of the trashiest places in the world have the best food. There is a place up the street that serves fried chicken. I would never have entered if 10 different people didn't rave about it's magnificence. It looks like a trailer park from the 70s, but damn, they have good chicken.

Brady
Behind Bars - Motorcycles and Life
http://www.behindbarsmotorcycle.com/

Scott said...

Hey, neat post, great shot of that burger, looks tasty.

And congrats on selling some photos! And to think I knew you back when you were just a Rider, posting about people on broken down Harleys giving you attitude :)

Bryce said...

World world has changed!!!
From a D40 to D7000!. For me from a D40 to nothing to a D700 (full-frame) and then had a chance to pickup a new 80-200 f1.8 VRII but also sold the D700 and picked up a D90. For my limited photography the combination of D90 and 80-200 is just fine. Beside the amount spent was what I would have spent prepping the Goldwing for the riding season. Different strokes for different folks.

And as to that burger, I would call that as a heart attack in a roll or pig-out!

These ubiquitous food-carts must be licensed inspected and arecovered by more bylaws around here to the point they can't function. Which is how the locals preferthem out of sight and out of mind.

Nowas to the tag of professisonal
that you now carry, congratulations; you've come a long way, baby!

Keep riding, kepping being a hobbyist, and keep writing.

One of these days we'll meet.

irondad said...

Dom,

Perhaps you're right. I should probably also consider offering more bite sized morsels instead.

Gary C, who got me started on this blog thing way back when used to say that we should consider that folks who read the blogs do so on breaks and lunch hours. Our content should be configured accordingly. I do tend to run off at the keyboard at times. Just like this reply.

Schnitzel may well be an undiscovered jewel for me. Guess I'll have to man up and try it!

Take care,

Dan

irondad said...

Richard,

I'm suitably impressed by the way you get around. Who knew that when I ordered the burger you had been there before me? The croc prints must have worn off the sidewalk since then!

Take care,

Dan

irondad said...

Bluekat,

I know what you mean. I actually spent two hours or so wandering around. I only posted the photos related to the food carts.

Thanks for the link. Great photography and some ideas for me.

Don't forget the little people? What do you mean? I'm still the little people! They're my kind of folks.

Take care,

Dan

irondad said...

Bobskoot,

Thank you for gracing my blog, oh Photo Master. Seriously. Your experience level is waaay past mine here.

I do have a G11. It gets used for discreet photos at times. In fact, my next post will have a street photo taken with it. I hadn't thought of the manual settings reducing shutter lag. Great tip, thanks. I get stuck in Aperature Priority mode a lot.

Take care,

Dan

irondad said...

Allen,

I'm humbled by your kind words. Knowing what little I know about you, I would suspect that you are the same.

Would that be a Harley Fat Boy I'd be riding?

Take care,

Dan

irondad said...

Mike,

Another Subway? I actually like that one at the bank tower. There's a Subway and Starbucks within a few feet of each other. Just like at exit 119 on I-5 in Washington near Fort Lewis. Those stops are jewels and should be revered as such!

Never forget that I'm proud to be one of the little people.

Although I have to say that getting commendation for my recent photo related credentials is somewhat discouraging.

I've spent four decades becoming a riding master. And what do I get complimented on? Getting a travel ID badge and selling a few dollars worth of stock photos.

Sigh......

Take care,

Dan

irondad said...

Brady,

At the risk of sounding like an old timer I discovered something similar in Connecticut in 1988. There were some really great restaurants that looked like derelict tenements on the outside. I've since learned a different value system for sizing someplace or someone up.

By the way, I've always wondered why you call your blog "behindbarsmotorcycle". With my background I always think of jail. Are you referring to being behind the motorcycle bars while riding? Either way, I enjoy your blog.

Take care,

Dan

irondad said...

Scott,

I love to eat and take photos. Maybe I'll pursue both more wholeheartedly and become a food photographer. All natural, of course, with no artificial aids!

Thank you for hanging with the blog so long. I'm honored. I've suddenly got this urge to go look for broken down Harleys ridden by bad attitude riders.

Us celebrities need to keep it real, you know!

Take care,

Dan

irondad said...

Bryce,

I sold the D40 recently. I did, however, keep the great CD you sent me about the camera. Thom Hogan's Complete Guide to the Nikon D40 and the D40X.

It's both a personal momento of your friendship ( thank you for that ) and a reference should the need ever arise in future.

You don't happen to have an extra 2.8 70-200 hanging around do you? :)

Take care,

Dan

George F said...

Nice pictures, funny characters. You should have gone to Voodoo Donuts for dessert ;-)
Are you sure you only took the photo of the lady crossing the street so you could master shutter speeds? or were you hoping something would fall so you could help her again? ;-)

Shannon Baker said...

I am intrigued, could you provide more info on the online photography classes?
-Buddha

Krysta in MKE said...

"people always seem to notice the camera"
I usually try to hide from them.

Those delicious-looking pictures remind me that I haven't eaten in hours...
And I'm going to send the link for that burger place to a friend of mine who is always wanting cheeseburgers.

Lisa said...

Nice pictures, funny characters. You should have gone to Voodoo Donuts for dessert ;-) Are you sure you only took the photo of the lady crossing the street so you could master shutter speeds? or were you hoping something would fall so you could help her again? ;-)