IS THERE ANYTHING more evocative, delightful, or comforting than the smell of a beloved home-cooked meal?
Whenever my mum makes her mother’s signature fried rice, a single whiff of its sweet, fragrant scent and suddenly I’m six years old, sitting at the large circular dining table in my grandmother’s house in Singapore. My legs dangle from an ornate wooden chair, my toes barely grazing the cool marble floor below. I can hear my grandmother’s voice coming from the kitchen next door; she’s speaking in Hokkien to my mum, in Malay to the housekeeper helping her cook. I’m hungry from a day of running around in the midsummer humidity, and break into a wide grin when my grandmother emerges with the huge platter of her rice, my favorite dish. It’s difficult for us to communicate—she speaks little English, my Chinese is non-existent—but every bite, every heaping spoonful, is filled with her love and affection.
The farther I get from my childhood, the memory seems to only grow more vivid, and my love for the fried rice remains stronger than ever. It’s simple, hearty and flavorful, packed with an abundance of succulent, tender chicken and thinly sliced carrots. Nostalgia tends to favorably skew one’s judgment, but in this case, I can guarantee you’ll enjoy this dish as much as I did growing up.
ON HOT SUMMER DAYS, the Venice Beach Boardwalk bustles with the frenzied verve of a Moroccan bazaar—the crowds are thick; the sights and performers are peculiar; the energy is palpable.
But on this evening, as a gentle February breeze whistles by, the scene is markedly quieter. The sun yawns in the distance, a hazy blend of honey and soft pink rippling across the sky. The street vendors are packing up their wares and the decibel levels have dropped, but the area’s vivid character remains intact—in fact, it feels more pronounced, focused, tangible. This is Venice stripped of the spectacle, and what’s left behind is vaguely reminiscent of its Italian namesake: raw, moving beauty, full of ripened textures and idiosyncrasies.
FELLAS, WE’VE GOT some bad news: Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. And you’ve forgotten to make plans. Again. That sound you hear is your girlfriend’s forthcoming explosion of rage barreling backwards through the space-time continuum to smack you upside the head.
But don’t start hyperventilating just yet; Handlebar‘s here to help. We’ve rounded up few of our most trusted female friends from across the country — Charlotte Wilder of The Wilder Things out in Boston; Styluste‘s Rebecca Lay and Renee Ogaki in NYC; Pop ‘Stache editor Becca James in Chicago; and designer Yun-Yi Goh of The Grunion Run in L.A. — to recommend the ideal restaurants for a romantic night out that’ll make your better half swoon.
As if that weren’t enough, we’re also going to help ensure you clean up nicely for your Valentine. Our style team has put together a selection of dapper looks designed to match up perfectly with the ambiance of each eatery. Toss in a bouquet of flowers, and you’re certain to carom straight out of the doghouse and into her boudoir.
Don’t forget to thank us later.
THE GENRE OF SPORTS NONFICTION is notoriously difficult to get right. It’s far too easy to fall into familiar, clichéd tropes, and wind up with a work of fluff that over-glorifies the subject, be it an athlete, a team, or the game itself. A book that is too critical or disdainful—that views professional athletics as little more than a vain, meaningless pastime—is equally worthless, as it fails to understand the value of sports as a lens for examining the human condition through the experience of an individual, collective, or community. Finding the ideal balance of reverence and skepticism is a tedious, complicated endeavor—which is why Scott Raab’s The Whore of Akron is such an accomplishment.
Tracing the author’s tumultuous fan relationship with (and eventual hatred for) NBA superstar LeBron James, this is a stunning, stupefying high-wire act of a book. Through the prism of basketball, the rage-fueled manifesto delves deep into Cleveland’s municipal decline and Raab’s own struggles with drug addiction, his weight, and his past. In many ways, The Whore of Akron owes a great deal to Frederick Exley’s A Fan’s Notes, a semi-autobiographical 1968 novel that details the narrator’s obsession with New York Giants wide receiver Frank Gifford, alongside his own problems with alcoholism and mental illness. But Raab has crafted a superior work, one that is at times simultaneously hysterical and uncomfortably honest.
IF YOU’RE TRAVELING TO SINGAPORE, there is one souvenir you’ll almost certainly bring home with you: about five to ten pounds in added girth. Despite being the second-smallest country in Asia, the island nation is home to a rich culinary tradition that directly reflects its multicultural population. Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Indonesian flavors freely mingle in local cuisine, resulting in a vast assortment of inimitable, irresistible dishes. Eating is a way of life in Singapore—crucial to its national identity—and it’s not hard to see why when presented with a tableful of piping hot hawker center delicacies.
“Damn Shiok!” is a local expression that denotes extreme satisfaction, and it’s the name we’ve chosen for our ongoing encyclopedia of Singaporean foods. In each column, we’ll break down a handful of enticing Lion City eats that’ll make your stomach rumble and taste buds tingle. This is 100%, unabashed food porn, folks. Enjoy the gastronomical journey.