Satchel & Page

Travel Journal

Our Bomber Jacket Reviewed

Recently, BestLeather reviewed a prototype of our Bomber Jacket. It was important for us to get a 3rd party, unbiased review out there and they are a trusted authority when it comes to leather, having reviewed hundreds of leather products. 

You can read the full review by clicking here or on the image below. But here are a few highlights:

"The initial reaction when you hand the jacket to them is just as I described earlier…all 3 of them said, “wow – this thing feels amazing”. Then, they put it on and each, in their own way, told me I was going to have a hard time getting it back from them. They all agreed that it feels fantastic and fits well."

"My first impressions upon receiving the prototype Satchel & Page Bomber jacket elicited several concise, descriptors: iconic, classic, substantial, and extremely well made."

"The Satchel & Page Leather Bomber Jacket definitely qualifies as a great purchase. At the Kickstarter price of $455 for this jacket, it is a bargain in the quality leather jacket market."

shh...leather prices from a tannery

Let me share a secret with you. I talk to tanneries all the time to keep up to date on the latest trends and prices and I just got their most recent price list. This is from a tannery that only makes vegetable-tanned leathers. They also distribute some chrome oil-tanned leathers for other tanneries.

Please see their prices below (per square foot) on the following leathers:

vegetable tanned leather prices

As you can see, leather is expensive! And leather prices are rising every year. 

You can also see that the maximum thickness for full-grain chrome tan is only 4-5 oz. and that vegetable-tanned leather is about 3 times more expensive.

That’s huge difference. But why? Leather is leather, right??

Well….there are a few reasons, see below:

vegetable tanned leather vs. chrome tanned leather 

These factors like ingredients used in the process, time to produce, and production method all contribute to the final look, feel, and smell of the leather.

Just on appearance only, there are significant differences between vegetable-tan and chrome-tan leather. When you look very closely at veg tan leather, there are subtle differences in color all throughout the grains of the hide. On a deep brown hide, these different colors blend together. The result is an extremely rich, deep color tone.

Here’s our Mailbag up close #nofilter. Can you notice the subtleties and slight differences in color tone that blend together throughout the leather? It’s more noticeable in person, trust us. This color richness can only be achieved through the vegetable-tanning process which takes our tannery about 4 weeks to complete.

vintage mailbag

On a chrome-tanned leather, the color is uniform throughout the hide. There is not the same richness or subtleties in the leather. It basically looks like the leather has been painted 1 color.

When it comes to smell, chrome tanned leather has a strong chemical overtone. You ever smell men’s dress shoes? 99% of them are made with chrome-tanned leather and that’s why they smell like chemicals. Vegetable-tanned leather smells like…well…leather. It’s an intoxicating smell and one of the bonuses of running a vegetable tanned leather business is that my house and are engulfed in it. And the smell doesn’t go away. I have our prototypes that are literally 3 years old and still have that rich smell!

The truth that most leather companies (even those selling their bags for $600 and up) use the $2.75/sq ft. full grain chrome leather so they can keep their enormous margins. They probably get even better pricing since their volumes are so high. Somehow they’ve marketed this as the top of the line leather, banking on the fact that tannery prices are not seen by the public and that hardly any bag companies use vegetable-tanned leather due to the high cost.  

 

Is Your Leather 'Full-Grain'?

Recently, many customers have been asking us "Is your leather full-grain?" 

When you are asking us if our 8 oz. vegetable tanned briefcase is full-grain, well..to be honest..it's a strange question. 

Many bag companies have been hammering the term 'full-grain' into customers heads, with great success, as some type of measure of extreme quality. So this question is most likely tied to those marketing efforts. 

The answer: Yes, of course our leather is 'full-grain'. But marketing leather as 'full-grain' is just lowering the bar and here's why:

The full grain vs. top grain vs. genuine leather debate is really only applicable when you are splitting the leather hide itself into different, thinner pieces. 

Most of our leather is 8 oz. thick (3 mm). That's the entire cowhide, include the top layer, the 'full-grain'. You couldn't make a bag from 8 oz. leather by splitting the hide into thinner pieces. For our thinner, more flexible pieces of leather, we use the full grain of the cowhide, of course. You wouldn't be able to see the scaring and intricacies of the cow that you see in our leather if it wasn't full grain. Bag companies that have been marketing 'full-grain' leather are using 4 oz. leather (1.5 mm) that is backed by a lining to give it structure/support. When you're making a bag from 4 oz. leather, you have the option of splitting the hide and using the top-grain or genuine leather portion.

Most decent bag companies selling a decent 'rustic-looking' don't do this. I've seen 4 oz. full-grain leather bags for as cheap as $200. Granted, the designs are pretty broke / knockoff versions of other brands, and the stitching and workmanship is sloppy. There is nothing wrong with 4 oz. chrome-tanned, full grain leather. But, let's be clear: 4 oz., chrome-tanned, full-grain leather is not particularly expensive, nor is it a high-end leather. Put it this way, if 4 oz. full-grain, chrome-tanned leather is setting the bar for a leather bag, then the bar needs to be raised.

Some bag companies due in fact split their leather and use the cheaper full-grain. It's much more prevalent in couches/sofas because the sheer amount of leather needed to make a couch/sofa. In this case, you can save a lot of money using a cheaper leather. When it comes to bags, mass-produced, 'pristine' leather - where the leather looks like plastic or painted on are probably using a top-grain or genuine leather that has been split and then treated to give it an acceptable appearance. When you are mass-producing and selling at mid-tier retailers like Macy's or Dillard's there is tremendous pressure on your price. There are brokers, distributors - many parties getting a piece of the transaction. If the retailer sells it for $200, they are buying it from the manufacturer for around $80 or so. So to make any money, the manufacturer needs to make a leather bag for $40 or less. So, in that case, they would split top-grain or genuine leather and then treat the leather so it looks pristine and high-end. But it's pretty easy to tell just by looking and touching the leather. 

So, when companies aggressively market themselves as 'full-grain' leather as some point of differentiation, they are really just comparing/differentiating themselves to the bottom of the barrel, cheap, mass-produced brands sold at Macy's or lower-end stores. It would be like a suit company bragging that they offer 100% wool suits. Great, congratulations, you are better than the cheap Wool/Polyester blend suits! A real high-end suit company would market that they offer Super 450 wool, which differentiates them from the usual 100 twist fabric.

Anyone making a ok/decent bag is using full-grain leather. Anyone making a really high end bag is using the entire cowhide (including the full-grain) like we do, using a vegetable-tanning process like we do, and using a complex leather treatment/tanning process like we do. Wwould never compare Satchel & Page bags to companies using top-grain or genuine leather. They are not in the conversation and those bags are marketed to the masses: Not discerning customers, like you. 

If you've made it this far, thanks for reading. Next time, we'll discuss chrome-tan vs. vegetable-tan leather.

Kickstarter / Preorders

Our new leather collection launched on Kickstarter and we were thrilled with the response.

599 people supported our project and we raised about 15 times our original goal!

THANK YOU!

 

Our first priority now is fulfilling the Kickstarter rewards at the highest level of quality. 

And so far we are off to a great start with our production. The first shipment is scheduled to ship in November. The 2nd shipment is scheduled to ship in December.

We will make limited quantities of the December shipment available via preorder. 

    Sign up here to be notified when we start taking preorders.

     

    Some other news*: We had the opportunity to collaborate with 3 Austin based companies on a photo shoot yesterday - No. 4 St. James, HELM Boots, and Traveller's Denim.

    No. 4 St. James is working on a beautiful coffee table book celebrating Texas-based creative businesses.

    HELM makes badass boots. Our favorites are the Sam.

    Traveller's Denim makes high-end selvedge denim jeans from their workshop in Austin. 

    All great stuff you must check out. Here are some shots from the photoshoot. We enjoyed it!

     

    Leather Collection Video

    We recently shot a video of our upcoming leather collection. They will be available for preorder through Kickstarter on 6/24!

    The video tells the story behind the collection.

    The video was shot and edited by Foundation Edit and includes some of our favorite spots in Austin (pedestrian Bridge, town lake, Caffe Medici). 

    We really can't wait to get these bags in your hands.

    Enjoy!

     

    Leather collection update

    We're getting close to launching our leather collection. It looks like it will be 4-5 bags, 2 wallets, and a luggage tag to start. The collection will launch through a crowdfunding campaign in late June.

    In anticipation of the launch, we're excited to announce a giveaway of the briefcase. You can sign up here

    Here is a close up of the handstitching on our briefcase. We use a goldish brown, nylon thread for a subtle contrast with our rich brown leather. More on why handstitching is superior to machine stitching in a future post! 

    Can't wait to get these new leather bags in your hands. 


    New Leather Collection

    We're taking a slightly new direction with Satchel & Page and the products we create. After about a year in business (mostly focused on waxed canvas bags), we listened to you, and the message was clear. "The waxed canvas is great, but how about a leather briefcase I can take with me to business meeting/court/studio/trip, etc.." 

    We will always continue to sell our waxed canvas bags, but we are moving to a be a luxury, leather goods company, with the goal of creating the best leather briefcases and bags in the market at a reasonable price. Thick, vegetable-tan leathers. Handstitching. Clean, minimalist designs inspired by our favorite classics. We can't wait. Here's the 2nd prototype of our Briefcase. Available for preorder this Summer.


    We also have several plans in place to educate you in what to look for in a leather bag, so whether you become a Satchel & Page customer, or not, you will make the best decision for your bag needs. We'll be in touch soon!



    Satchel & Page in GQ - UK!

    We're very excited to be featured in this month's GQ - UK! Our brand is all about travel, so it's especially rewarding when we expand our reach into new countries. And this month, we're offering free shipping to the UK!

     

    Satchel & Page featured in Southern Living Magazine

    From the June, 2012 issue of Southern Living

    Made in Texas: Satchel & Page Bags

    These handcrafted goods from Austin make stylish and rugged travel companions.

    "Daniel Ralsky's wanderlust has taken him to 25 countries - 12 in the last three years. So it's no surprise that when the Austin globe-trotter couldn't find a dependable bag for his travels, he decides to make his own. "I was carrying a messenger bag a couple years ago in Tokyo when the strap broke," he said. "When I bought it, I was under the impression that the product was made in America, but when I investigated, I learned it had been made overseas. I realized there was some room in the market for a high-quality, American made bag with character. So last year I started Satchel & Page."

    Now Daniel and his Austin-based staff of three craftspeople create tough, waterproof travel bags from waxed canvas and leather, all of which is sourced in the United States. "I think that's important so I can keep an eye on our quality. The leather is oil-tanned in Texas and gives our product an authentic Texas feel."

    Even the company's name reflects that "Texas feel" of worn leather, harkening back to the days when messages were carried by horseback in satchels, he explains. "It's really a nod to the past because a satchel was just an older version of a travel bag and the primary means of communication was through the pages of letters," Daniel says. "The computer has largely replaced the need for sending letters, so we make something durable that can carry today's technology - like our laptop and iPad bags that are specifically designed to carry computers and tablets."

    Daniel still loves to travel (he recently hiked through the pre-Colombian Incan site of Macchu Picchu in Peru and he knows his traveling bags won't let him down. "I carry our 'Austin' messenger in tan, which has a pattern inspired by an old saddle," he says. "It's aged quite well and the subtle markings and patina show that I have traveled quite a bit."

    -Southern Living Magazine, June 2012


    The Ultimate Guide to Leather Boot Care

    Unless you sleep in your clothes, or wear your underwear outside of your pants, you’re going to spend more time in your shoes than in any other piece of your visible wardrobe. It makes sense then, to take the time to love on them with regularity. Most of the advice you’ll hear is about waterproofing or properly shining a shoe (and what the hell is a shoe tree?), but there’s more to it than that. Sometimes a shine turns the shoe a color you don’t like, too dark or too shiny, or makes your broken-in pair boots look like you’re about to go to a funeral. Nobody wants to look like they’re going to funeral, unless they’re literally going to a funeral. So I’ll take you, step by step, through my process of taking care of my leather shoes, show you how I get them to look the way I like them to look, and give some pointers on how you can get the look you want. 

     

    The first step is cleaning. If your shoe is pretty dirty and you don’t want to lock in any dirt or oil, use saddle soap or your preferred shoe cleaner to remove all that excess grime. If mine are muddy or heavily caked, I’ll use a stiff kitchen brush and a little water and vinegar. It’s really good to let your shoe dry out after this step. It usually takes about 30 minutes to an hour, but give it more, around a day, if you want to maintain the color of your leather before you continue. 

    Personally I don’t like to clean my shoes. I will remove excess grit and grime with a brush before, but I like to lock in all the beer spills, oil stains, grit and grime. It makes the leather show its age and its travels.

    The next step and first rule in shoe care, despite what anyone says, is conditioning. This is crucial if you want your shoes to age with grace. You should condition your leather shoes as soon as you buy them and before you wear them. Shoes don’t come pre-conditioned. Sometimes that leather has been in a warehouse for a while before it got turned into a shoe, and then that shoe sat in a warehouse, then it sat in a store before you put them on. Wearing a shoe before it’s been conditioned is the easiest way to get premature cracks in the leather. Once that happens, there is no going back.

    I learned this lesson after visiting my shoe guy in Portland OR, a Ukrainian gentleman who has a shop in a basement on NW Sandy Blvd. I took him a pair of vintage Rockports and he said they were finished. Done. “You can’t fix,” he said. “There is tiny cracks coming from sole.” One might read into this statement a deeper, more prophetic and spiritual meaning, but I had made the mistake of wearing them without first conditioning them.

    “Next time, you use this,” and he handed me a bottle of leather conditioner.

    “You put little bit on towel, and you rub, 20, 30 times,” he said as he demonstrated on my broken shoes. “Then you do whole shoe like this. You leave it. You let dry. This make leather soft, like skin.”

     

    the shoe in question

    He is so right. It makes the leather soft, like skin. After applying the conditioner, you should let them dry at least an hour, so that it doesn’t affect the shine. The conditioner can soak some of the shine down into the pores, giving you a dull looking shine.

    The only drawback to conditioning is that it darkens the leather. It’s not going to turn your brown shoes black, but it will turn tan or raw leather a couple shades darker. Letting your shoes dry longer can prevent some of this; a day or two will return them closest to their original color. 

    To me, this change is a good thing. Again, it shows the graceful age, and looks traveled, sort of like a baseball mitt getting a good oiling. Plus, after a little wear, and a couple of conditionings, it’ll start to feel like a good ball glove too.

    The next step is the shine. This is something that varies by technique and skill, but I’ll tell you how I do it. First I rub a terry cloth hand towel in the tin, getting enough polish on the rag to coat a quarter to an eighth of the shoe at a time. I like terry cloth because it’s a little course and helps hold a little more of the polish. Then I rub the polish into the shoe. Once applied to one shoe, I set it aside, and do the other one. Once both shoes are polished, I wipe the first shoe down with a smooth cloth, removing excess polish and massaging the polish into the pores. Then I use a soft brush to buff the polish to a nice sheen. I then repeat the process on the second shoe. If you want to get a really glaring polish, use a spritz of water or spit and rub with another clean smooth cloth to buff up the polish before using the soft brush.

     

    Working both shoes at the same time allows me to utilize my time better, and gives each shoe time to soak up some of the polish. I don’t do the ‘spit shine’ step, because I like my shoes to have little glints of shine and an oiled look, not a parade-boot gloss.


    The last step, and second most important, is waterproofing. Most water-proofers are applied the same way as polish or conditioner, but there are also waterproofing sprays. I have tended to go with wax-based water-proofers in the past, but I’m looking forward to trying mink oil or Otter Wax next time I need to waterproof something. I’ve been told to avoid silicone-based water-proofers, as it can affect the shine and ability to shine in the future (some areas keep the silicone and others lose it, making the pores of the leather inconsistent). The bonus with silicone: it won’t ruin the color of the leather, because it doesn’t get absorbed into the pores.

    Here at Satchel and Page, we love when things age well. We love making things that age well. We love things that get better as they go, and a good leather is one of the rare pieces of design that gets better with age. You cant really say that about most of the products were surrounded by on a daily basis (skip to ~2:30 and listen to David Kelley or watch the whole thing and get enraged by the guy with purple glasses).

     

    Satchel's Recipe : Yerba Mate

    Our founder, Daniel, lived in Cordoba, Argentina back in 2003. After a 12 hour plane flight, he was exhausted and ready for a nap. The local roommates had another idea, however - a round of yerba mate. That day started an addiction to yerba mate that continues to this day. 

    If you're looking for a clean, afternoon pick me up without the jittery feeling of coffee, or the poison that is in 5-Hour energy, give this VERY basic recipe a try. 

    Required ingredients:
    -Loose leaf yerba mate. We prefer it with hierbas serranas which gives it a minty taste.
    -Hot water
    -Cane sugar (optional)
    -A mate gord
    -A bombilla (straw)



    Instructions:
    -Fill the gord halfway with yerba mate
    -If desired, add a tablespoon of cane sugar
    -Pour hot water until the gord is full
    -Enjoy
    -Pass to the person sitting next to you


    Satchel & Page back on ABC Happy Endings March 28th!

    Our tan waxed canvas messenger bag made another appearance on ABC's happy Endings. It was on the hanger in Max and Dave's apartment. Check out the pictures below and be sure to tune in on Wednesdays at 8:30 pm Central. 





     

    Satchel & Page bag on ABC's Happy Endings!

    We have some big news....We're extremely excited to announce that our messenger bag, The Austin Messenger, has made its television debut on ABC's Happy Endings in Max and Dave's apartment. We have always been big fans of the show and are super pumped to be a small part of it. Happy Endings airs on Wednesday nights at 8:30 pm CT, so tune in! Check out this picture of the Austin messenger bag on the set:

    Chi'Lantro Korean BBQ

    Food trucks are a huge part of Austin, Texas culture. Last night, I think we may have stumbled on the best one around. Chi'Lantro Korean Mexican fusion is heaven in a trailer park. Daniel decided to go healthy and ordered the Kimchi Fries Burrito: French fries, BBQ pork, cheese, onions, and special sauce all rolled into a tortilla. Go try it out for yourself on 2nd and Congress..

    The Kimchi Fries Burrito. 4,000 calories of bliss

    SXSW Boots

    In anticipation of the upcoming SXSW festival in Austin, our founder Daniel decided it was time to upgrade his current boot collection. Here is what he went with:


    What do you guys think??

    Travel Journal : Sicily

    I’m not sure what percentage of travelers who visit Italy end up visiting Sicily. I’ve been to Italy twice and only hit Sicily on my second trip, but in my opinion it’s worth a visit in and of itself. Think hot salty air, gorgeous views of the countryside and the sea, and a slow yet spicy pace of life. Although Sicily became part of Italy in 1860, it is considered its own autonomous region and has its own unique cultural history. This largest island in the Meditterranean is typically associated with agriculture and Don Corleone, and there is plenty to offer in the way of cultural sites to visit. In high summer, when I visited, there were considerably less tourists than in mainland Italy, which was a welcome change. Sicily has its own distinct language, Sicilian, but I didn’t have any trouble using my spotty Italian with the locals.

    Palermo, the capital city, certainly has a different feel than the rest of Italy. Visit the Vucciri market for incredible fresh seafood, produce and a real slice of Sicilian life. Palermo is a real beach city; Mondello is the most popular and the most crowded, but also the most fun, in our opinion. There are many, many gelato shops and stands in Mondello, too. Our favorite flavor is zabaglione (egg custard), but you can’t go wrong with a classic cioccolatto (chocolate), either.


    The first step in creating the ultimate Italian meal.

    We also recommend visiting the shrine to Santa Rosalia, the patron saint of Palermo. Perched high on Mount Pellegrino where the saint was said to have hermited herself in a cave, this church and shrine is a gorgeous site to behold.  There is a real sense of serenity here, despite the tourist stands hawking Godfather t-shirts just a few feet from the sanctuary’s door.

    Ceffalu is a bustling, colorful village not far from Sicily, and was one of our favorite sites in all of Sicily. The ancient city now boasts tons of upscale shops, delicious restaurants, and a nightlife worth staying a night for (or so we hear; we took a day trip from Palermo which is also doable!).

    Seeing Mt. Etna was without a doubt one of the coolest things we did on our trip to Sicily. Travel up and up, around and around, eventually reaching the top of the largest active volcano in Europe where you can hike to higher points, collect lava rocks or enjoy a slice of pizza overlooking the craters. If you’re around during the Giro de Italia, the yearly cycling race, there’s a leg that travels from popular tourist city Messina to Etna, too.

    If you go to Sicily, you simply cannot miss the epic Greek ruins at Selinunte and Agrigento. Selinunte, the smaller of the sites, consists of five temples overlooking the radically beautiful Sicilian coastline. You can climb on a few of the ruins, and we recommend going in late afternoon, when the setting sun turns the ancient stone to a fiery orange.


    Great job by this girl of ruining the picture!

    Agrigento, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was founded as a Greek colony in the 6th century, is a much larger site with a much more organized tourist system, including guided tours, an archealogical museum, modern sculptures throughout, and more.  The ruins are equally as beautiful and breathtaking; you won’t easily forget seeing “The Valley of Temples.” Agrigento is also a modern city, albeit a small one, with a few sites in its own right: an old Roman quarter, some tourist shops, and a large cathedral.

    If you’re planning a trip to Italia, definitely consider a trip down south. We promise you won’t be disappointed with Sicily’s incredible scenery and rustic charm. 


    Acai : The Holy Grail of Snacks

    While Daniel, head Satchelor of Satchel & Page, lived in Brazil, he developed an addiction. The addiction was to acai. Acai, a superfruit from the Brazilian Amazon has risen in popularity over the last few years. Done right, the acai bowl may just be the best snack ever. Yes, bold statement, but wait until you try one. Here are a few ground rules when it comes to acai bowls:


    1. Don't waste your time with acai juice - Acai juice is watered down and mixed with cheaper ingredients like apple juice concentrate. This is a common scam of the food industry. "Let's put 15 ingredients in the bottle so we can use as little of the expensive ingredient as possible." Monavi, the multi-level marketing product, is a perfect example of this trick. 

    2. For convenience, taste, and quality, go with a sorbet as your acai base. This acai sorbet by Sambazon is serviceable and easily available at whole foods. This sorbet by Acai Roots , is better as they use a higher grade acai. The downside is, you have to order it. 

    3. Go for the Acai 1-day trifecta : Breakfast, lunch, and dinner - As a versatile snack with high nutritional benefits, acai can be eaten at any time of the day. For breakfast, throw in some green tea powder or guarana extract in place of coffee. For lunch, add granola and almonds for carbs and protein. For dinner, add some whey protein powder. 

    4. Combination is everything - Bananas are perfect complement to the cocoaish, berry taste of the acai. If you're not a fan of banana, try mango. It's not typically served with acai, but we've found it to be a killer combination as well. 

    At this point, you owe it to yourself to take a trip down to Brazil and have the real thing. If you're in Sao Paolo, we recommend Frutaria Sao Paolo, the best juice bar in the city. If you're in Rio, there are many more options. Try Bibi Sucos.



    Interview: What's Cooking in Your World?

    We recently spoke with Sarah Scoble Commerford, the blogger behind the international food blog What’s Cooking in Your World? Sarah’s almost two-year-old blog was born out of a challenge from her son: cook a recipe a week from each of the world’s 193 countries. Sarah rose to the challenge and we’re so glad she did! What’s Cooking in Your World is full of stunning food photography, interesting historical, cultural and geographical information about each country, and of course, recipes! We recommend the Mango and Lime Curd Tartlets from Tanzania, the coconut cookies from Samoa or Russian black bread and caviar. Here’s what Sarah had to say about cooking her way around the world, eating when abroad, and more:


    1. How do you decide what recipe to make from each country? Do you research the overall cuisine or do you focus on a specific aspect/ingredient?

     I search the web, my cookbooks and friends for inspiration. I try to pick something I know my family will like as well. Even though they're adventurous eaters, I do try to find things we'll all enjoy, as most often, the meals I make double as our dinner. I always look for a dish that's as authentic as possible and uses ingredients I can source (which is half the fun) - I try really hard not to substitute or adapt my recipes.

    2 .What's your favorite recipe that you've made over the course of blogging the world's cuisine? And how about your son's favorite (since he prompted the idea)?

     I can't say that I have one favorite dish,  but I do have favorite regions: North African (Morocco, Tunisia), Mediterranean/Middle Eastern, Provincial and West Indian cuisine are my favorites. My son likes tropical cooking - anything that involves coconut, mango, papaya and curry.


    3. Where is the place in the world you'd love to travel to most?

    I'd love to go to Morrocco, and have been invited to visit from friends I've made through my blog. Also, I'd love to go to the island of Mauritius, where I've also met a friend through my blog. Honestly, though, I'd welcome the opportunity to travel and completely immerse myself in the culture of most any country.

    4. Has it been hard to find some of the more unusual ingredients some of the recipes have required?

    The harder it is to source the ingredient, the more I want to find it. I'm lucky to live in an area that has almost everything I need: wild boar, ostrich, durian, chestnut flour. And, local vendors have been wonderful about helping me find whatever I need.

    5. Do you have any tips for eating when you're abroad?

    Be open. Be respectful. Be gracious. Be adventurous. Leave your preconceived notions about what's good (or not) behind. And always, do your best to observe customs and rituals whether you're at a family table or in a restaurant.

    Travel Journal : Marfa, Texas

    Moseyin’ Around Marfa, Tx 

    This tiny west Texas town (population roughly 2000) is an artist’s haven. About two and half hours from the nearest large city of El Paso, Marfa is the perfect place to relax and experience the feeling of manana: don’t worry about it today, worry about it tomorrow. With a few good restaurants, a few good hotels, and a few fun activities for tourists, Marfa is all about quality over quantity. It’s also a place unlike any other we’ve been to; you’re just as likely to see a farmer pulling his tractor through town as you are to see a Brooklyn transplant in skinny jeans and retro glasses.

    If you’re a fan of artist Donald Judd, Marfa is your heaven. With over 15 different spaces devoted to Judd’s life and art, there’s more than enough to keep you occupied. Visit the Judd Foundation website for more information.  Also be sure to check out Ballroom Marfa, an incredible space for contemporary art. When you drive into town, make sure you stop and take a picture of the art installation piece “Prada Marfa” a model Prada store just outside the city limits of Marfa.


    Once you’ve seen the art, there’s plenty more to do in Marfa, including viewing the mysterious “Marfa lights.” These unexplained lights have been appearing in the desert sky near Marfa since the late 50s. There are quite a few theories as to what causes them (Aliens? Headlights from a passing highway? Vapors ?) but until you see them for yourself, I wouldn’t wager a guess. The viewing area is located a few miles outside of town and is open at night. Marfa also has a cute downtown with a couple of decent shops and galleries, including the hotel’s gift shop and the awesome bookstore, Marfa Book Company. We also recommend biking around town, as many of the locals do, or hitching a ride to another cool town nearby, Alpine.

    Sleeping options are somewhat limited in such a small town, but you can’t go wrong with Hotel Paisano. Both Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor stayed at this gorgeous old hotel during the filming of Giant, and you can even book yourself into the “Rock Hudson suite.” We’ve stayed there and we promise it’s worth every penny! The hotel is located smack-dab in the middle of downtown and has a terrific courtyard where you can enjoy a red beer and people watch. If you’re looking for something less traditional, there’s the Thunderbird, a remodeled 50s motel on the outskirts of town, as well as El Cosmico, a creative and sustainable vintage trailer hotel and campground created by Austin hotelier Liz Lambert. I’d love to try El Cosmico the next time I’m in town. People in Marfa are friendly, so you might have some luck with couchsurfing, too. 


    Ok, so how about the eats? We dig Pizza Foundation, which is built in an old gas station. The pizza’s great and made to order, the staff are sweet and , and they serve Coke from Mexico, which comes in glass bottles and is made with real sugar. Marfa Table, closer in to downtown on Highland Ave (the main drag of Marfa), is a terrific contemporary restaurant that serves fresh and mainly local food. It’s BYOB and the servers and chef are so damn friendly you’ll think you wandered into your own grandmother’s kitchen. In fact, when we ate there we weren’t aware of their cash-only policy. Since there’s only one ATM in all of Marfa, the owner/waitress told us to just go and send a check when we got back home. That’s right, she not only trusted us leave the restaurant without paying, she trusted us to leave the town without paying. Suffice it to say the check was sent, with quite a bit extra on trop. Food Shark is great, too; a food truck that serves up “Mediterranean by way of West Texas” food, it’s open Tuesday-Friday from 11:30 to 3:00 next to the railroad tracks.

    Fancy a drink? We recommend Padre’s, which has great food, great drinks and one of the best jukeboxes we’ve ever seen. Padre’s has a terrific outdoor area, complete with shuffleboard, pool, air hockey, old pinball games, mismatched vintage seating and more. And did we mention there’s live music most nights of the week?


    If you get a little bored knockin’ around town, Big Bend National Park is just a few hours away, perfect for camping, hiking and more. We betting you won’t though; Marfa’s friendly citizens, quirky vibe, clear desert air and clear desert skies, combined with its chill and quirky vibe, almost convinced us to move there!

    Travel Journal : Antigua, Guatemala

    You might know Guatemala for its coffee, or for its gorgeous towering ancient ruins of Tikal. But there’s a lot to see in this tiny country bordered by Mexico, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador. One of our favorite Guatemalan destinations is Antigua, the old colonial capitol of the country. This charming, bustling city retains much of its colonial charm, while still having its feet firmly planted in the 21st century. Think scores of Internet cafes, lots of affordable spas, yoga classes, and a rapidly increasingly expat population. An extremely popular destination for people looking to study Spanish, the city is taking its place as Guatemala’s true (UNESCO-protected!) cultural capital, full of affordable activities, dining and shopping.

    If you are interested in aprendiendo espanol (learning Spanish), we recommend Ixchel Spanish School. Ixchel offers affordable, flexible, one-on-one language instruction for as long or as little as you’re interested. The school can hook you up with a host family or help you connect to local hotels. They also offer cultural activities (tortilla-making class? Sign me up!) and other local excursions so you can have a more authentic Guatemalan experience. Ixchel can set you up with a service project, as well, if you’d like to give back while you vacation.


    There’s no way you can visit Central America without picking up some of the incredibly colorful textiles the region is known for. Bags, blankets, scarves and headpieces are sold everywhere in Antigua, all up and down the quaint cobble-stoned streets. You can also purchase incredible wood carvings, tools and local art. Don’t miss the big indigenous market in Antigua, which is open pretty much every day. 

    If you’re the adventurous type, there are a myriad of travel companies that will set up day trips for you to destinations like the volcano Pacaya. Surf in the ocean alongside the black sandy beaches of Monterrico, visit a coffee plantation, or go fishing on Lake Atitlan. If you’re not the adventurous type, take a stroll around Antigua and visit some of the gorgeous old churches and monuments the city has to offer. There are plenty of modern amenities here, including spas and salons, gyms and even a cinema where you can order drinks and food.

    For restaurants, we recommend Rainbow Café : it's a bar, bookstore and eatery(with live music every night of the week). It’s a popular hangout for gringos and the food and drinks’ll run you a bit more than the mom-and-pop places, but the ambience is top-notch and the food is good. The attached bookstore is truly great; I bought and traded so many books during my two weeks there that the bookstore clerk knew me by name! Rainbow Cafe also offers lectures on local culture, history and social issues. Want to go dancing? Head to La Esquina. There is a lively salsa dancing party on both Wednesdays and Saturdays, and the price of admission gets you a free cuba libre (rum and coke).

    If you’re interested, you can get a cheap flight from Guatemala City up to Tikal. Take a chicken bus (a local bus so named for the fact that locals often transport their chickens aboard. The buses are all colorfully painted, so you can’t miss them) up to La Capital, grab a quick flight and come back the same day. You can stay overnight near the archaeological park, too. The ruins at Tikal are truly breathtaking and we guarantee you won’t begrudge the time you spent away from Antigua once you see the sun rise over the jungle from the top of an ancient pyramid. Play Indiana Jones as you climb the weathered gray stones and imagine what this area looked like when it was a large urban center of the Mayan civilization.

    Want more info about Antigua? Luckily, there are a plethora of English-language websites that cater to the city, including the popular Antigua Daily Photo and Around Antigua.


    The Top 5 Travel Apps for your Smartphone

    Nowadays, traveling without your smartphone is like traveling naked. But did you know your smartphone is good for more than email-checking and words with friends while you’re killing time in the airport? Add these five apps to your phone and you'll become more organized, save time, and take great pictures.

    You probably didn't know Lonely Planet has over 125 guides that are accessible from your Android or iPhone. That’s right, you can access the classic guidebooks without having to lug them around with you. With this app in your pocket, you'll be navigating London or Rome like a native in no time. Phrasebooks available as well. iPhone, Android, prices range from free to $7.99. 

    Photography apps are ubiquitous these days (um, enough with the Instagram, people!), but Pano is one of the coolest ones we’ve seen. It allows you to take gorgeous panoramic images of your surroundings, so make all of your friends jealous with that photo text from the heights of Macchu Picchu. Or, you know, just snap an undercover image of the Zach Galifianakis doppleganger at Gate B12. iPhone, Android, Windows phone. $1.99

    The incredible Americana roadtrip website, Roadside America, is now in app form! Use this as you’re driving along Route 66 and you won’t miss one taxidermy museum or one giant statue made of trash. Includes contact information of attractions, and is also available in an offline version. For iPhone, $2.99

    These sharp tourists could really use some of these apps, agreed?


    FlightTrack Pro is designed for keeping track of flights, either your own or those of friends and family. You can watch your flight travel across the continents, get instant updates on flight status, and more, including an inflight mode so you aren't forced to pull an Alec Baldwin with a flight attendant. The app also offers terminal maps, so you'll never get lost in crazy and confusing Newark airport ever again! $9.99 for iPhone, iPad and Android.

    TripIt, which describes itself as “dragging travel kicking and screaming into the 21st century” is, in our opinion, the most vital travel app in terms of helping you get organized. The app takes all of your travel-related emails and turns them into an easy, searchable itinerary. It also syncs with your calendar and it's easy to share your flights and schedules through social media, too. Also available in TripItPro, which is a subscription-based service. Free, iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows phone, Blackberry. 

    Satchel's Recipe : Spanish Paella

    I like to eat food that tastes good. I like to do this even when I can’t go out to eat, or when I don’t have hours to spend cooking a gourmet dinner. Since I was starving when I got home from work the other night, I knew I had to cook up something fast or give in to the loud, buzzing call of the pizza box. I had shrimp in the freezer and saffron in the cabinet so I decided to whip up a variation on a paella.

    This is an extremely simplified version of a Spanish paella, which usually includes multiple types of protein (mmmm, chorizo) and is quite labor intensive to prepare. Did you know that paella was traditionally a peasant food, cooked over an open fire? Paella is distinguished from other rice dishes by the yellow color it gets from the saffron. Mine didn’t turn out terribly yellow, but there’s always next time, right? One thing I really love about paella is how customizable it is. Sure, it’s a traditional dish, but it’s easy to make it your own using different combinations of seafood, meat, and vegetables. Don’t be afraid to experiment - I might go with a pulled pork paella next time.

     

    Simple Shrimp Paella

    Adapted from Food.com

    Serves 3-4 people

    Ingredients:

    Glug of olive oil

    1 medium onion, diced

    1 medium tomato, diced

    1 tsp cumin

    1 tsp paprika

    pinch of saffron threads

    3 cups chicken or vegetable broth

    2 cups fresh or frozen shrimp


     

    Directions: 

    1.  Preheat your oven to 450, then heat the olive oil over medium heat. Use a paella dish if you have on, and an ovensafe pan if you don’t.

    2. Meanwhile, combine the broth and the saffron in a saucepan on another burner and begin to warm the mixture.

    3. Once the olive oil is hot, add the onion and sauté for about five minutes, or until translucent.

    4. Add the cumin and paprika and continue cooking.

    5. Add the rice and just a teensy bit more olive oil, then cook the rice, stirring occasionally. Do this for about two minutes.

    6. Add the chopped tomatoes and the shrimp.

    7. Transfer entire pan to the oven and cook, covered, until broth is completely absorbed, about 20-25 minutes.

    8. Serve immediately! I ate mine with some crusty bread rubbed with garlic and olive oil. A - mazing!

    Best Phrase Ever, Courtesy of Brasil

    Imagine if you could blow people off (with the other person knowing you are blowing them off) and not offend them. Or imagine having the 'break up' talk without really having it and without hurt feelings. And imagine avoiding the awkward goodbye "I'll call you" and the uncertainty that comes with it. Sounds great, right - How much would you pay for it? 

    Well, all you have to do is go to Brasil, learn 1 simple phrase, and you could be blowing people off right in front of them while both of you high-five and boast an ear to ear grin.

    The Phrase: "A gente se fala depois."

    Pronunciation: "Ah Jentchee say fala day pois"

    Literal Translation: "The people will talk later."

    Real Life Translation: 

    "I never want to see you again."

    "I'm erasing your number from my phone."

    "We both know the road ends here."

    "I might even defriend you on Facebook."

    This is different then the classic American expression of "I'll call you." Because there is probably a 33% chance the person will actually call you. Or at least there is a smidgen of uncertainty. But when a Brazilian throws out a "A gente se fala depois", both parties damn well know they won't be talking. But somehow, everyone is happy. It's really fascinating. Brazil 1 USA 0. Well played. 


    Brazil: Home of beautiful beaches and hilarious phrases.

    Satchel's Recipe : Guinness Cocktail

    Well, now that New Year’s Eve is behind us, I’m starting to think ahead to the next great drinking holiday: St Patrick’s Day. Today I’m bringing you a recipe for a classic (and super easy) cocktail combining two of our favorite things: classic Irish stout and champagne.

    Black Velvet

    Ingredients:

    2-5 oz Guinness stout

    2-5 oz white champagne

    1. Pour your Guinness into a glass until it’s about halfway full.

    2. Position a spoon upside down over the top of the glass, and top with champagne. The idea is that the spoon prevents the two alcohols from fully mixing into one another.

    Some Black Velvets use champagne flutes, but I’ve also seen them in stout glasses, wine glasses, and Collins glasses. So I think it’s fine to use whatever you have on hand. 

    Wouldn’t this be the perfect drink to serve at a classy St. Patrick’s Day party? Ok, I know that “classy” and “St. Patrick’s Day” don’t always belong in the same sentence, but I think this drink can change that, don’t you? Bottoms up!


     

    Looks amazing, right?