A Guide to the (Very Eclectic) Southern Italian Craft Beer Movement

Read my new piece for Medium’s travel vertical, “Gone.”

It may not seem that big a deal, but a top pizza-maker’s interest in craft beer marks the first dent in the centuries-old monopoly enjoyed by wine as the only accompaniment to serious food. In the past decade, birrificios have sprouted throughout Campania; and prestigious Neopolitan restaurants, enotecas, and specialty drink shops have begun to offer micro-brews alongside the best Falanghinas and Fianos. It’s an exciting, eclectic movement that could only have happened here: Free from any institutionalized traditions, brewers are setting their own rules, dabbling in new techniques and creating amazing new flavors.

KarmaInterior KarmaExterior MarioKarma2 StJohnExterior StJohnKolsch

2014: Weird Year

What was 2014 like.

Notice the lack of question mark, or don’t, if you resent being asked things by bloggers. Nonetheless I ask you to think of that statement as a sigh, a rhetorical device that comes from a very tired place.

I always feel compelled to write something at the end of every year. It’s like how I ski: screaming “make this end, I hate this” while trailing my feet through the snow to stop myself from propelling ahead. Time thrusts me forward and I drag my feet at the end of the year, trying to slow the whole production down so I don’t ski into a tree or do whatever the non-metaphorical equivalent of that would be. (Moving back home?)

The left profile of my head looks like that of a little Dutch boy’s, maybe one who doesn’t have access to showers or vegetables. Looking in the mirror, I grab at my shaggy former undercut, which I’ve been growing out since August; the hair is grubby yet thin, and only reaches my earlobe. I guess the pace of time depends on what it is you’re looking at: the growth of formerly buzzed hair (slow) or the missing of opportunities (fast).


I’m ready for normal hair again, but I’m not ready for 2015. 2015 is the kind of year that if you told me, as a 7-year-old, there would even be a 2015, I would have shrugged it off with all the skepticism a 7-year-old can muster and offered something like, numbers don’t even go up that high. It’s a scary, futuristic-sounding year, and I’m not done with 2014. So here I am, dragging my feet in the snow and considering throwing myself off to the side and laying down, motionless, until a ski medic comes to retrieve me and if all goes well provide me with blankets and hot chocolate. (I don’t have a great grasp of ski culture, one of the few areas of ignorance I feel proud of.)

There were a lot of Worst Parts of 2014. I imagine there won’t be any of those lists circulating, though we should all work, collectively and individually, to remember the horrors, tragedies, and injustices of this year, because they are by no means 2014-specific.

But for now, I want to focus on what made 2014 bearable, and sometimes, bright.

1. Best Song: Tinashe, “2 On”

Any song that reminds me of Cassie’s “Me & U” and makes me feel like the sexiest girl at school when I’m cleaning my room wins the highest possible amount of points from me.

2. Best/Only Time Kristen Stewart Was Apart of Something That I Loved: Jenny Lewis, “One of the Guys”

The Voyager is a phenomenal album. I was blessed enough to see Jenny Lewis in concert at Governor’s Ball this summer, and she glanced my way several times, in a manner that suggested to me she wanted to hang out. Tragically, I couldn’t find her after the show. Missed connection.


3. Best Getting Ready/Stuck in Traffic/On the Train Song: Tove Lo, “Stay High”

I adore this song. It’s catchy, adds drama to pretty much any situation, and  definitely inspired me to wear more eyeliner, which I think has been good for my sense of self.

4. Best Pug: Frank


IMG_6259No other pug came close. Here are a few lessons Frank taught me this year.

5. Best Movie: Obvious Child

Jenny Slate is a goddess angel. While she only lasted a season on SNL, that girl has legs. I love her in everything she does — she’s everywhere now — but her performance in Obvious Child was truly masterful, funny and tragic. (Marcel the Shell is great, too.)

6. Best Macaron: Matcha Green Tea from Macaron Parlour on UWS

IMG_61507. Best/Dirtiest Beach: Garbage Beach on Randall’s Island in the East River

IMG_7437There’s this little patch of sand/granulated garbage on the Queens-facing sliver of Randall’s Island. I refer to this riverside paradise affectionately but by no means ironically as “Garbage Beach,” and sometimes I go there with my friend Gaby, and sometimes we paint flowers on our faces.IMG_7390

8. Best Refreshing Drink that Don’t You Even Think About Judging Me for Loving/Cherishing: Bud Light Lime-a-Rita


9. Best Vacation Spot: Holly’s Trailer Home / The Beach in Ventura, California



10. Best Way To Gain Weight With No Regrets, Just Love: Dough Loco’s Maple Miso Doughnut

IMG_9902 Dough Loco‘s maple miso doughnut is fluffy, savory, and sweet — just like me. I think that’s why I love it so much. There was a week in July when I ate a doughnut a day, thinking it would be cool if I somehow lost weight and could write an article on “The Doughnut Diet,” which would then go viral and land me a book deal. I ended up gaining 4 lbs and breaking out all along my right jawline. But still: no regrets, just love.

11. Best Place to Nap: The Toilet Paper at Costco

photo-3So luxurious, and definitely more comfortable than my cereal-covered floor mattress.

12. Speaking of napping, I’m tired. Almost done here.

13. Best Book: John Darnielle’s Wolf in White Van


This debut novel is dark and strange and smart. Short, too. All the makings of my dream book. Plus, it’s written by John Darnielle, the genius lyricist behind the Mountain Goats. Here’s a good review on Slate.

14. Best Time Stand Up Show: Hannibal Buress

photo-38When I told my dad I was going to a Hannibal Buress show, he said to make sure I peed beforehand, because it was going to be a “laugh riot.” He was right. I laughed for two hours, non-stop. I’m very glad I peed beforehand. Thanks Dad.

15. Best Christmas Pug: Frank

photo-39Frank won in a landslide.

So, that’s my 2014 for you. I wish all y’all a very peaceful holiday and disaster-free New Years. Thanks for sticking with Snax and Sex for yet another year in this ever-changing media landscape; I know you have a lot of choices when it comes to what you look at on your screen.




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Your Guide to South Philly Vietnamese


Just south of Philadelphia’s Washington Avenue, strip malls emblazoned with neon script advertise pho, banh mi, and, necessarily for tourists, bubble tea. The air smells of chargrilled pork, sometimes fish. The neighborhood, referred to by some as “Little Saigon” but by most in the area as “home,” is nestled in South Philadelphia, a few blocks wast from the historic Italian Market and a growing sprawl of taquerias.

Philadelphia boasts one of the largest Vietnamese populations in America, even larger than New York’s. From 1990 to 2010, Philadelphia’s Asian population grew 277 percent, and nowhere is this more delightfully apparent than in this wedge of South Philly. Along and around Washington Avenue, you’ll find some of the best Vietnamese food on the East Coast — that is, if you can find a parking spot in one of the crowded lots, where families and opportunists from out-of-town load up car trunks with exceptionally cheap produce, gelatinous sweets, ten pound sacks of rice, chicory coffee, and meat.


Planning a Vietnamese crawl in South Philadelphia could take days, even weeks: Philly’s own Little Saigon seems to grows a pho counter, or banh mi shop, or family-style restaurant each hour. Unlike the quaint pedestrian strip of the Italian market, this neighborhood is not particularly conducive to strolling, with its wide roads and chaotic parking lots, which is why you’ll need a plan. So, this might help: Here are your best bets for exceptional Vietnamese in South Philly:

Le Viet


While the aesthetic at Le Viet is sleeker than most restaurants in the area, the food here is unpretentious and inexpensive. Chef Sinh Cao is true to authentic Vietnamese flavors, from aromatic, oxtail phos to tangy raw salads of green papaya and watercress, while offering a few fun fusion items, like the banh mi slider, a nod to Philly gastropub culture. The unequivocal star of the menu is listed as an appetizer, so don’t miss it: spicy sautéed baby clams, ground beef, and peanuts served in a giant rice cracker. (Order it as an entrée for less of an expectation to share.) The clams, served in a statuesque, sesame-flecked rice cracker bowl, are artfully sprinkled with chopped basil and peanuts, as delicious as it is imaginative. For more classic Vietnamese comfort food, the vermicelli bowls are reliably satisfying. The bowls topped with the house’s tender chargrilled pork and spring rolls (an essential garnish, of course) achieve a masterful balance of chewy and crispy.

1019 S. 11th Street

Philadelphia, PA 19147

(215) 463-1570

Nam Phuong


Even on a dreary Tuesday, the large banquet dining room at Nam Phuong exudes celebration, with its glistening chandeliers and elevated wooden stage, just waiting for birthday party karaoke. The place is perpetually bustling — with families, couples, friends, and small children, weaving in and out of tables. While Nam Phuong’s execution of Vietnamese standards like pho, bun vermicelli, stir-fries, clay-pot pork, and papaya salad is excellent, and maybe the best in the area, their more unusual options prove worth the risk, at least until you realize that ordering at Nam Phuong is never, ever a risk. A house favorite you’ll find at almost every table is the sautéed cubes of flank steak and fresh watercress, served with a bright, black pepper-studded lime dressing. Make sure to embrace the sharing ethos and order as much as possible, and at the end, insist on a creamy jackfruit shake with tapioca bubbles, even if you’re positive you cannot eat anymore.

1100-1120 Washington Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19147

(215) 468-0410

Pho 75


The best, and coincidentally quickest, bowl of pho in Philadelphia is served at Pho 75, the bare, unassuming shop across the parking lot from the Hung Vuong supermarket. Unlike at Nam Phuong, where a book-like menu can overwhelm, Pho 75 does not provoke any menu anxiety, as the menu is short and concise, limited mostly to pho, the classic beef noodle soup. Order the Number 1 (the pho with all the fixings, so not recommended for the innard-phobic), along with the vast majority of patrons, and never look back. The service is lightning fast — well, less-than-one-minute-fast. (I actually timed it, from the moment I finished ordering to the moment the pho was plopped on my table. They likely have a vat of pho simmering in the back, and that’s what makes it so spectacular — the aromatic, well-developed broth.) The steaming bowl of vermicelli noodles, filled generously with tripe, fatty brisket, and skirt steak, demands an assertive squeeze of lime and a sprinkling of bean sprouts and Thai basil, all served on a plate alongside the soup. After, succumb to the dense, sweet Vietnamese iced coffee, hot or cold, an inevitable finish. You’ll have time to spare, so take advantage of your precious parking space and walk five steps to the Hung Vuong supermarket, where you can stock up on Café Du Monde coffee and condensed milk to re-create the thing at home.

1122 Washington Ave.

Philadelphia, PA 19147

(215) 271-5866

Ba Le


First, you must learn the lingo: In Philly, the banh mi is known as a Vietnamese hoagie, and the place to get it is Ba Le. An unassuming counter shop at Washington and South 6th, Ba Le has a steady stream of traffic throughout the day — people swing by for colorful gelatinous desserts, lush taro milk tea, and pre-made stir fries, but more often than not, they’re here for the stellar Vietnamese hoagies, stuffed with a choice of rich pork pate, BBQ pork, meatball, chicken, or even perfectly oily fried sardines. All hoagies are served on fresh baguette — slightly gummy, but necessarily so, to absorb all the flavors properly — with crispy pickled veggies and a handful of cilantro crammed inside. A Buy 5, Get One Free special is popular on Sundays, before the Eagles game. (Or maybe it’s the after church crowd.) The service can be rude, but it’s almost always fast, unless an employee is finishing up her lunch before getting started on yours.

606 Washington Ave.

Philadelphia, PA 19147

(215) 389-4350

Other Good Bets:

Pho Ha

Delicious, quick pho. Endless combinations, but the tender, buttery flank steak is the best.

610 Washington Avenue

Philadelphia, PA 19147

(215) 599-0264

Café Diem

The essential destination for bun bo hue, a fiery beef noodle soup (otherwise known as pho’s sassy, volatile older brother).

1031 S. 8th St.

Philadelphia, PA 19147

(215) 923-8347

Pho Ta

Consistently great pho, addictive fish-sauce chicken wings, and fast, warm service.

1111 S. 11th St.

Philadelphia, PA 19147

(215) 755-4000

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True Story


(1997, the Maria Yagoda journal archives)

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Today, a piece very near to my heart was published on Bustle.

The essay chronicles my sexual education, provided by Liz Phair, in the form of her 1993 album, “Exile in Guyville”:

I heard the word “cunt” several times before I knew its meaning. I would sing it in front of my parents, on long car rides up to my grandmother’s house, during brief breaks from NPR. “I only ask because I’m a real cunt in spring / You can rent me by the hour,” I’d sing along, my beloved CD of Liz Phair’s 1993 iconic album, “Exile in Guyville,” spinning in the minivan.

I wasn’t totally oblivious. I’d skip past certain tracks that had bad words I knew, like “fuck.” The song “Flower,” for example, was explicitly about oral sex — even 12 year-old me knew this — and I certainly didn’t want my parents hearing it. The year before, some obnoxious kid at summer camp had explained to me, unsolicited, what a blow job was. “You do what to the what?” I’d thought, making sure to say instead, “Duh.” After a few minutes of solemn contemplation, I decided there was no way that was a thing, and I continued painting flowers on rocks.

But there was something beautiful about Liz Phair’s sexuality, something that extended far beyond the scope of sucking a dick — elements of passion, longing, arousal, desire, grit, vulnerability — yet, at the same time, it was all very much within the context of sucking a dick. This sent me a clear message: It’s perfectly normal to want to be someone’s “blow job queen,” or to want someone ”ramming, jamming, slamming” in you. “Flower” empowered me to appreciate and embrace an active mode of female sexuality.

So, at an unusually young age, I learned the following lessons: I can want sex. I can be raunchy. I can see a man…and then I can see him on top of me.


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Some Amy Schumer Realness

Ladies, let’s be real: We’ve all had this kind of sex. You’re zoned out and bored, and the dude is some combination of gross + sweaty + floppy + unskilled. Maybe you’re hungry, and imagining a falafel sandwich where his head should be.

Whatever the case is — YOU DESERVE BETTER. And once you’ve found better, watch this video to memorialize your time boning uninspired man-excuses.

Also watch it right now, because it’s hilarious.

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23 Lessons from my 23rd Year of Life

In a few days, I turn 24. I’m not sure how to feel. I don’t think of 24 as a particularly distinctive age, but maybe that’s because I’m not wowed by even numbers in general, especially ones that can be split so many different ways (in half, in six, in eight…). They seem at once bland and untrustworthy.

I don’t know what 24 will be like. If 23 is any indication, it will be messy. There will be sandwiches; there will be losses. There will be hot dogs; there will be victories. There will be disappointments, ketchup stains, lessons learned, dogs petted, hangovers, tears, boxed wine, and regrets.

I’m not so scared of regrets anymore. I look back on 23 and, weirdly, don’t feel any regret. I really should, though. I made mistakes pretty much nonstop.

When I look back on 23, the first thing I do is vomit, because I can’t believe how quickly the year passed. Ok, cleaned up the vomit. The second thing I do is engage in some introspection. Join me now as I reflect on the 23 things I’ve learned in my 23rd year.

  1. I am a fundamentally sloppy human, inside and out. This is just fine.

  2. There is literally no problem in this world that can’t be solved by hugging a good-natured pug.

  3. A Diet Coke every day really adds up, finance-wise.

  4. A half-shaved head is a well-ventilated head. IMG_6240

  5. People who don’t respect what you do or your time or your face or your sexy bod ARE NOT worth your energies.

  6. Waking up not hungover on a Saturday is one of the most beautiful feelings.

  7. I was really invested in Hillary Duff’s marriage, way more than I knew. That’s why its dissolution felt so awful.

  8. Tinder is not the place for me to thrive/grow.

  9. Sushi filled with eggs and ribs tastes RULL good.

  10. Once I accepted that Night Breakfast was just a thing I do, not a disease, I felt way less guilt about it.

  11. I am probably not cut out for journalism.

  12. I am probably not cut out for grad school.

  13. I am probably not cut out for earning a real human living.

  14. Broad City is the most incredible new show on television.

  15. I’m not a monster for following all of the Kardashians on Instagram. It’s who I am at my core.

  16. I like white wine more than red wine, and that doesn’t mean I’m unsophisticated. I’m unsophisticated for other reasons.

  17. Jennifer Lopez is incapable of aging.

  18. Pink Himalayan sea salt enhances EVERYTHING.

  19. I tend to not learn that many lessons, in general. That’s why I’m having so much trouble right now. Getting down to the wire!

  20. If I want to eat dinner at 3:30 pm, I can eat dinner at 3:30 pm. I am an adult and there are no rules except my heart.

  21. The Brittany Murphy Story is a movie as atrocious as it is despicable.

  22. Doing a couple of squats every day has totally transformed by butt.

  23. All I can do in this crazy cruel world is what I love. The end.


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An Open Letter to the Papaya Dog Employee Who Reminded Me I’d Been There the Night Before


Dear Papaya Dog Employee Who Reminded Me I’d Been There the Night Before,

I have a thing for hot dogs, but you know this. You know this about me more than most, including friends and family, because I come to you, not them, late in the night for the things I need: Chili dogs. Corn dogs. Cheese fries. The smell of meat. The sound of sizzling fat juices.

We banter. I recognize your face but have never known your name. The same is true for you, I imagine. Maybe you know me by the way I leap-walk when I’m drunk, or the self-aware jokes I make to distinguish myself from the youths who stumble in and out, glopping too much ketchup on their hot dogs because alcohol has ruined their young minds. For some reason, I need you to think of me as different, though this has always been unreasonable.

You’re like an uncle, an all-knowing cool one. You did all the shit in college and just generally know what’s up. Once, when I coerced a boy to accompany me to Papaya Dog at 1 am, you knew what the deal was. For sure. You didn’t judge me but you laughed. You dispensed extra cheese. That’s how you wink at me, through cheese.

I hate that you have an accent and I don’t know from where. I should have asked you from where, when I had a chance. It’s too late now. I don’t really bro it up in the East Village anymore. I’m never around that Papaya Dog, on East 14th Street and 1st Ave, stumbling or otherwise. Nowadays, I’m never even awake at hours later than re-runs of Seinfeld play on TV. I still get cravings though, hot dog ones, and when I do, I think of you.

One night in 2013 I swung by late, all mopey. I’d been stood up for a date, which was upsetting, but not nearly as upsetting as the realization that hot dogs were my primary coping mechanism. Was 22 supposed to be like this? The part of my brain that gets a perverse pleasure in my sadness decided to remind me how much Taylor Swift, a peer, had accomplished by 22.

I needed to get to work on something.

My heart pounded faster: Hot. Dog. Hot. Dog. Hot. Dog.

I arrived at our meeting place, your place of work. My eyes were mostly dry now. It was a double corn dog sort of night, with a side of cheese fries to cut the sweetness.

You could tell I’d been crying. You asked me how I was, but not in a How are you-way, because that would have sucked. Instead, we played our usual game, full of wordless pleasantries like smiles and shrugs and knowing sighs.

You told me it was good to see me again.

Again?” I laughed.

“You were here last night. Three corn dogs, cheese fries, and a turkey burger,” he said.

“A turkey burger?” I said. “You’ve got the wrong girl.”

“It was you.” He handed me my corn dogs and turned around to fill up a soda, a sort of compassionate gesture to let me process, alone, the fact that I couldn’t keep track of the places I’d been, the sandwiches I’d eaten just days before.

“Was I alone?”

“You were.”

I paid and left. I haven’t gone back since. Not on principle. (Well, a few degrees less than “on principle,” but still in the “on principle” family.) Maybe I’m ashamed. Maybe I realized something. You’ve probably found other drunk girls to befriend and give extra cheese and I’m happy for you.

I write you this letter because tonight my heart beats hot dog hot dog hot dog hot dog and I want to keep track of the sandwiches I eat and the sandwiches I crave because you can no longer do it for me.



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