Saturday, February 28, 2009

Delayed...Meal of the Month: January

I know. I'm totally behind. I'm sure you've all experienced many sleepless nights waiting for my Jan meal of the month.Well, without a doubt, it's really got to be one of my many amazing meals during my vacation in Hong Kong.

Not to say I haven't had amazing meals since I returned. But between being on a tight budget (as well as detox!), overall, my Jan meals were on the simpler side.But back in Hong Kong? Full on vacation meal. We tried everything. We planned meals in advance, always saved a little bit of room at the end of the meal just in case we stumbled upon something else we wanted to try, and we ALWAYS saved room for dessert.

Photos from one of the best meals we had! We went to dinner at a fraternal association, and could only get in because a friend was a member. It was delicious! And we tasted delicacies from the Shun Tak region in China. Food that I don't regularly eat, but it was wonderful to try!

Here are some other random snap shots of some of the delicious things we ate along the way...

Almond cookies in Macau, made with pork fat!

The MOST delicious and sweet shrimp from lunch at Crystal Jade La Miam Xiao Long Bao

Crab jook!

Delicious tomato broth with ramen

The goodies for hot pot night!

Roasted crab at the street stand on Temple Street

Variety of jerky (made from all sorts of cuts of meats)

Everything we ate was incredible. Again, how was I suppose to choose just one meal? I think that's probably part of the reason I've been putting this off. It was too hard. Well, I finally decided. My January Meal of the Month would probably have to be the meal we had the last night in Hong Kong.

We stumbled into Tai Woo restaurant, on the Kowloon side, on Hillwood Road. We had walked by it a few times, and thought it looked good, and would be a good place to check out!

My dad, sister, uncle and I started off the meal with some delicious soup, and quickly moved onto some steamed shrimp, pea sprouts, roasted squab, roasted goose, a delicious fried meat patty with salted fish...each and every dish was better than the last.

Our spread!

As we walked out, stuffed and full, and on our way to the Peninsula Hotel for after drinks at the Felix Bar on the top two floors of the Peninsula, I noticed that there was a Michelin Guide sign on the front door of the restaurant. I didn't even notice it when we had walked in. The first ever Hong Kong/Macau Michelin guide had just been released in early 2009, and I even picked up my copy while in Hong Kong! Turns out, the restaurant we were just at has another location in Causeway Bay (on the Hong Kong Island side), and that one had been rated in the guide. No star mind you, but included in the book nonetheless.

As I'm sitting here salivating and thinking about this and all of the meals we had while in Hong Kong...I've changed my mind. There is no way there can be one meal of the month for January. There were multiple Meals of the Month...every meal in Hong Kong was worthy.

The Fat Duck Scare

This just in...Heston Blumenthal's Fat Duck restaurant in England is temporarily closed due to a food poisoning scare (from the Guardian's blog.)

What a coincidence that right after I posted about my slight obsession with molecular gastronomy. Friends will even recall that I even made my family eat a super late dinner one night while we were on vacation in Hong Kong so that I could catch an episode of Heston's "In Search of Perfection" tv show in our hotel room! (Why can't we get it in the U.S.? Anyone know if you can buy the series on DVD? Anyone in the UK or Asia that wants to tape the episodes and send them to me?)

In any case, so sad. I thought about the people who fell sick. The people who had been looking forward to their meal at the infamous Fat Duck, just to go home sick!

Or those people who had made reservations just to find out the restaurant was temporarily closed! Perhaps a once in a lifetime trip to the restaurant and to experience Heston's food...just to have it closed! I can't even imagine how I'd feel if that had happened to me.

I can only hope that someday I'll be able to make the trek out there, and to enjoy a meal there without any problems! I'm holding out for bacon and eggs ice cream!

Molecular Gastronomy

What do you think of when you hear those words? Do you think of science? Chemicals? Dishes that are unfamiliar? Dishes that aren't satisfying? I started thinking about molecular gastronomy recently when I was reading this post on Laurent Gras' blog (I LOVE the photography on the site!)

Me? I love it. I love seeing what different and new things people are creating and inventing. Yes, it's a fine mix of food and science. But it's also pushing the envelope. And making people rethink their way of seeing food.

Is it food I create at home? No. I wouldn’t even know where to begin! Is it food I crave? No, not really.

When it comes to eating, I personally prefer a much more rustic approach. I prefer simple foods. Food that my mom made. Comfort food.

But I am fascinated by molecular gastronomy. And I love trying new things, seeing new techniques, and I totally have an appreciation of the science of it all. Hence my interest in (and slight obsession with) Ferran Adria and Heston Blumenthal.

One of these days, I will go to El Bulli and the Fat Duck. Hopefully it'll be with someone that has an equal appreciation for that type of food. But my dream dining partner at El Bulli or Fat Duck? Someone that will go crazy over the food and experience...but that is just as happy slurping up a bowl of noodles the next day.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Friday Favorite: Green Heath Vase

I'm going to start a new 'column'--Friday Favorite. This will be a place and a chance for me to highlight something that I'm currently loving. Maybe a dish, a restaurant, a gift, a quote, a person...anything!

For my first Friday Favorite, a special Christmas present from a special family. Check out the beautiful Heath Ceramics green bud vase and simple dish cloth (matching perfectly!)

I'm a little obsessed with Heath Ceramics (and have even been known to pick up my dish at a restaurant to look below to see if it's real Heath or copy cat Heath.) This simple and thoughtful gift was very special to me, and from two very special people that I've had the pleasure of working with and getting to know this last year. Thank you S & P!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

More Kumquats!

So, apparently I’m not the only thinking about kumquats right now! The ideas in a recent Slashfood article sound delicious. I really do need to get my hands on some kumquats of my own and I’ve got to get cooking!

But until then, I’ll just have to get my kumquat fix elsewhere.

I recently had a lemon thyme panna cotta with candied kumquat dessert at Incanto restaurant in Noe Valley. I’ve gotta tell you, it was AMAZING!

I dug right into it, and about half way through the dessert, I realized. I hadn’t taken a photo. (Bad blogger!) I ended up snapping one, but we were already about half way through the dessert.

It didn’t do it justice. I’m not even going to post it. BUT. If anyone out there reading has a photo of that awesome Incanto panna cotta dessert (with a HUGE focus of it being the kumquats of course), please let me know. I'll gladly post it!

One of my Favorite Boys...

Is celebrating his birthday today!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY WILL!

Here he is with a big chocolatey smile...adorable!

This auntie is hoping she will get to see him's amazing how quickly kids grow up if you don't see them regularly! And I'm long over due for some quality Will time. Hoping that life brings him continued love, happiness and laughter! Oh, and lots and lots of chocolate!

Monday, February 23, 2009

A Monday Lunch Treat

One of the greatest treats? A 3 day weekend. Especially a Monday with relatively good weather after a rainy winter weekend. By the time Monday rolls around, you’re ready for it to stop raining, and you’re still not ready to go back to work!

How did I celebrate my President’s Day? Lunch with some good friends. We found the perfect spot for a cold winter day. Magnolia Brewery and Pub. Comfort food. Beers. Good friends. The perfect Monday!

We started off with a round of beers and Berkshire pork cracklings and Little Smokies (andouille sausage with BBQ sauce) to start us off while we caught up and decided on what to eat. At the table, we settled on a charcuterie plate, roasted beet salad, a pulled pork sandwich and a fried fish sandwich. All of it was SO delicious. And perfect winter comfort food for a special Monday lunch.

The best part? The special bourbon beer. YUM!

Such a nice treat to be able to spend a few hours on a day off with friends enjoying good food and good beer!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Do You Live In A Food City?

I read this post below from Accidental Hedonist. And you all know me. I'm the BIGGEST fan of San Francisco there is. I consider it one of the most amazing cities in the world. It's the city I've chosen to call home (for now!) And to me? It's a food friendly city.

So when I read her criteria got me thinking. By these standards, is San Francisco a good food city? I think there are some good points below. And of course, by my standards, SF fairs pretty well! Maybe we need to work on the street food culture, but aside from that? I'd say we should rank pretty high up on the list.

In terms of food cities in the U.S., which cities do you consider food cities? New York? Chicago? Miami? L.A.? New Orleans? Sorry friends. In my mind, San Francisco could only be rivaled by New York...and even then, I have a hunch that S.F. would win. If I were the judge of course!

What Makes a Good Food City
via Accidental Hedonist by Kate Hopkins on 1/16/09
In the course of my travels, I have discovered long ago that there are some cities that are wonderful places to visit for foodies. These are places where it is very easy to find great places to eat, wonderful places to shop, and food producers, including farmers, feel that the can easily sell their wares.

And then there are other cities. These are places where good food has to be sought out. The good restaurants, if there are any, are few and far between, and market places consist of either Safeways or Krogers, and not much more. These are the places seem desolate and a little bit sad.
I've been thinking about what makes a good food city, and what separates places like San Francisco and Seattle from places like Cincinnati and yes, even Pittsburgh. Here is what I've been able to come up with. I'm not saying that each city has to have all of these items, but the more of them one has, typically the better the food culture of that area.

In no particular order:

Be a port city: To be a good food city, it pays to have cheap access to rare and/or unique ingredients. Cities in which goods from other countries flow through on a regular basis invariably mean that some of those products remain in the city.

Have a diverse population: The more cultures associated in an area mean different ways to interpret food. Additionally, the more ethnic groups in a city means ethnic restaurants and markets that cater to those ethnicities.

Have at least one open air market open for at least a season: I'm not talking about farmer's markets here (I'll get to those later). Rather, I am talking about places like Pike Place Market, where one can be assured of getting fresh meats and vegetables on a daily basis. These places don't need to be open 365 days a year, but summer and/or autumn options would be nice.
Have at least one local supermarket option: Shopping at Safeways and Krogers mean that your money spent there eventually ends up helping some other community other than your own. Local stores almost always seem to be open and aware of local issues and are more likely to give access to local food producers than the national chains.

Have at least a one-to-one local restaurant to franchise restaurant ratio: The most popular fast food restaurant cuisine in Seattle is not hamburgers. It's teriyaki chicken, and their restaurants outnumber McDonald's here by three to one. I find that very cool.

Have a restaurant culture: By this I mean having a group of chefs and restaurateurs who consistently look to find new and interesting ways of presenting food to an area. Nothing brings attention to a city more than a James Beard award or two, even if we all know that the Beard awards are a

Have a street food culture: If ever Seattle could improve it's food standing, it's here. Street vendors are likely the oldest means in which prepared food has been sold to the public, outside of marketplaces themselves. New York City is known for their vendors (albeit of questionable quality at times), as is Portland, Oregon, of all places. I find these places quaint as well as important to the food culture.

Have several independent restaurants that cater to the lower/lower-middle classes: Fresh cheap food that benefits local owners is a win/win for a community, whether it's teriyaki sold on the cheap, or a local diner that sells chicken fried steak, or a pub that sells pasties, all provide an integral service that allows an area to seem unique.

Have a wholesale fish market: Obviously inland cities will have problems with this. But for some reasons, cities that have wholesale fish markets seem more interesting to me than cities that don't.

Have a weekly open air market place: We call them farmer's markets over here in the States. There should be at least one market for every 50,000-75,000 residents I think. I'd like to see that number go down to 1 market for every 20,000 residents, but I don't think that will happen in my lifetime.

Have at least one microbrewery, chocolatier, and honest-to-god baker that nearly everyone in the city is aware of: Some cities do this much better than others, mind you. But it is important to have common food products that are produced uniquely to that city alone. Think about how many different Potato Chip manufacturers out there that remind people of a certain city. Mike-Sells in Dayton, or Snyder's of Berlin in Pennsylvania are great examples. These are businesses that makes foods that make people proud that they're produced in their city.

Have an unsegregated consumer base: It's not enough to have ethnic restaurants in a city, but people outside of that community should visit these places on a regular basis. Many of the Thai places here in Seattle would not exist if only the Thai community visited them.

Have the residents brag about the food: What turns me on to an unknown restaurant or marketplaces is often a local who loves the place. There are some cities where the residents are far more vocal about their food culture than others. New York is the most obvious, but folks in San Francisco have been known to talk about their food scene. An attentive, recepting, and most importantly, vocal consumer base is often a sign of a healthy food scene.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Sweet Kumquats. Sweet Memories.

I love kumquats. And you know, they’re in season right now. I was having a yummy dessert at Scala’s Bistro the other day, a honey cake served with a kumquat compote. It brought a smile to my face. I have a special place in my heart for kumquats.

Growing up, we had a kumquat tree in our backyard. We planted it when we moved in, and it for as long as I can remember, it was there. When we were small, we’d ride our tricycles round and round in circles around it. Throughout the 24 years we lived in that house, the tree was always there and just grew bigger and bigger.

As we got older, we’d sometime pick the fruit, and play with the kumquats. Smooshing them until they were soft and the essence was coming out of the skin. Then we’d spend the day smelling our fingers—that sweet and a little bit sour smell.

Well, I saw this post on Slashfood just days after my kumquat compote run-in at Scala’s. And I got it in my head that I had to write a post dedicated to kumquats. I wanted to include a photo of our kumquat tree (I mean seriously, I couldn’t write about kumquats without including a photo!) I searched and searched, and couldn’t find one.

We moved out of the house I grew up in last year, and so it’s too late to go and snap a photo. (Although, I will admit, I spent a few minutes wondering if I could easily sneak into my old backyard to take a quick photo of that tree without the new occupants catching me! Assuming it was even still there…)

It’s times like these, when I’m so thankful for my sister. She has a memory ten times better than mine (for all those memories that are just a little fuzzy to me, she remembers every detail), and just as I was tearing up thinking about the possibility of not having this photo, BAM! My sister pulled through.

Our precious kumquat tree in our old backyard

Does anyone have some kumquats they can share with me? Just holding a few in my hands would make me so happy. Maybe the Farmer's Market next Saturday?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Recession Staples

There's rice (my personal favorite!), pasta, potatoes...starches that are the staple of a recession home kitchen. But what about ramen?

This piece on Slashfood made me think--how do you dress up your 'recession staple'? Cheese? Canned or frozen veggies? What else? And which is your favorite?

Me personally? I prefer rice. With simple Chinese staples. Inexpensive staples. Chinese sausage. Pork floss. Salty duck egg. Yum.

But on ramen? I'm all about simple. A fried egg. Nothing else. My friends Tim and Wendy are my ramen experts. I'm still waiting to go check out 'the best' ramen place in the Bay Area. Hopefully we can go soon...while it's still 'ramen season'--wet, cold, and rainy outside!

What do you like to do to dress up your recession staples?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Breakfast Anyone?

Yes! Apparently breakfast is the new dessert! And dinner!

After this piece ran in the New York Times, I started I enjoy breakfast for dessert?

Well, first, aside from ice cream, I'm not a huge sweets and dessert person. BUT, don't get me wrong. A little sweet treat at the end of a meal? That I can enjoy and appreciate! And I must say, I've been seeing breakfast on dessert menus more and more.

I've been thinking about creating a breakfast cereal ice cream for a little while now, and from that NYT article, looks like my favorite Sam Mason's already created a toast ice cream! Interesting! That'll be on my list to try the next time I'm in New York! And maybe an upcoming ice cream experiment!

THEN, Gourmet ran this piece! On breakfast for dinner! I have to admit, it all looked pretty good. Especially the Hash Brown Rice with Eggs. I mean come on. And umm, Egg, Potato and Prosciutto Pie? Yes! Yum yum. The cardamon sour cream waffles made me think of my friend Jonathan, he's a huge cardamon fan. And the hot peanut butter and banana sandwich would be a hit with my friend Vanessa.

I think in this economy, we all need some comfort in our food. And hey, breakfast is comforting. Enjoy!

When's It Past It's Prime?

I've been accused of being a bit of a pack rat. I'll admit it. I tend to save things, and there's a bit of clutter in my small apartment. Not where the house is so packed that people can't sit down without first needing to move things around, or where there's so much stuff that a person can't even walk. But I do have a lot of stuff. Part of the problem is that I always wonder if I should save something. In case I might need it. Or in case I might want to reference it later.

Clothes. You never know when you're going to need that handbag or hat. Or even shoes. A girl's gotta have options. And yes, that shirt was maybe not the best look, but hey, it might come back into fashion! (Or in my case, I often buy items from abroad, and let's just say they're a little ahead of us with their fashion I've got items in my closet still waiting for their trend to make it to the U.S.!)

And even some old shirts that may have a stain on them, I keep them. Thinking that there will be the day when I'm cleaning or just need to wear something I can get dirty. (Note to self. So it turns out that I don't need 'dirty clothes' all that often, time to throw some away!)

Kitchen. Ahhh! My kitchen. Don't touch a thing. I need it all. I love my dishes, small plates, glassware, appliances, all of it. Nothing to purge here, move on!

Books. Now don't get me started on books. I can't throw away books. I can't even give away books. I cherish books. They are sacred to me. And not only do I have a bookshelf full of novels, but I have stacks of cookbooks.

What else? Guidebooks. Travel books like Fodors, Lonely Planet, Frommers. You name it. And food guides! Michelin. Zagat. Other random ones. Do I look at them? Sure. Every once in awhile. And especially the San Francisco restaurant ones. I frequently flip through for inspiration on where to go. or use it to jog my memory of places I haven't been to in awhile.

But how long do you keep these books for? I mean, after a few years, things change. Restaurants close. Hours change. There are new chefs, new hot spots, new sites. And besides, with the Internet these days, are these hard copy guides even really necessary?

I prefer the hard copy guides to just Internet research. It's a place I can actually jot down notes. And a place to flag places I want to go check out (ask my friend Tim--there are literally hundreds of little post-it flags in my New York Zagat guide.)

Recently, in a continuous effort to purge, I went through my closet, kitchen, and books. The closet was hard. But not undoable. Just a little time consuming.

The kitchen? Really tough. But there were certain things I could get rid of (I guess I don't need four spatulas.) At least I was able to create some new space, and to reorganize myself so that I was happy with it all. And I was definitely able to get most of my items in the cabinets so that at least I had a tad bit more counter space for my cooking!

But the books? So hard! Books that I've been telling myself I'll read (but that I never will.) Old guidebooks (who really needs San Francisco's 2004 Zagat guide? Or Frommer's 2001 France guide?) I did make some progress. (Sorry SF '04 Zagat, bye bye. But France 2001? For sentimental reasons, it stayed.)

It felt good. I'm going to continue to purge. Maybe this will be come a new thing for me?

Monday, February 16, 2009

I Heart My City: San Francisco

Ok, you all know what I pro San Fran girl I am. I love this city. And truly believe this is one of the best cities in the world. National Geographic is doing a “I Heart My City” campaign. Where they’re asking locals to fill out the survey below. Check it out here.

So dear readers. What are the reasons you heart your city? Take some time to fill out the survey. Or go to the National Geographic blog to check out some of their favorite answers. My answers about San Francisco are below.

A photo of Coit Tower, taken from a parking lot!

It was harder than it looks…I could have answered these questions in a million different ways. But I went with my gut, and here are the first responses. If you’re coming to the city and have questions of your own, let me know! I’m always happy to offer up suggestions (especially food related ones!), and let me know if you’ve answered the questions for your own city on your blog. Share the link, I’d love to read your answers!

San Francisco is My City

The first place I take a visitor from out of town is The Ferry Building!

When I crave cupcakes I always go to Kara’s (or I make my own!)

To escape the tourists I head to the Richmond or Sunset districts.

If I want to good pizza, I go to Pizzeria Delfina (or Little Star or Pauline’s!).

For complete quiet, I can hide away in one of my neighborhood parks.

If you come to my city, get your picture taken with a cable car driver!

If you have to order one thing off the menu from A16 it has to be the maccaronara!

Real Foods is my one-stop shop for great groceries.

Locals know to skip Golden Gate Park and check out Mission Dolores instead.

MLK Holiday in Mission Dolores Park!

When I'm feeling cash-strapped I go grab groceries in Chinatown, Vietnamese food on Larkin, Chinese food at U-Lee, Indian at Burma Superstar.

For a huge splurge I go shopping in the boutiques along Fillmore, Chestnut, and Union Streets.

Photo ops in my city include Coit Tower, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge, Angel Island, Golden Gate Park, Alcatraz, the beautiful Victorians in Alamo Square (and on and on) and the best vantage points are at the top of any hill!

If my city were a celebrity it'd be Reese Witherspoon. I think we’re kind of the beautiful, simple, yet complex girl next door.

The most random thing about my city is the Haight Ashbury.

The bright colored Victorians in the Haight

My city has the most gay men.

My city has the most intelligent women.

In my city, an active day outdoors involves walking, biking, hiking—or a day trip to the slopes!

My city's best museum is the De Young Museum (and the new California Academy of Sciences!)

My favorite jogging/walking route is along the water in Crissy Field or along the Embarcadero.

For a night of dancing, go to (umm, don’t remember the last time I went dancing!) Or, for live music, check out The Fillmore, The Independent, Café du Nord, Hemlock Tavern!

Berretta, NOPA, Bar Bambino and Globe are the spot for late-night eats.

To find out what's going on at night and on the weekends, read the local papers or the 7x7 blog!

You can tell a lot about my city from what you see people wearing…anything goes!

You can tell if someone is from my city if they’re elegantly casual, and with a reusable bag in hand.

In the spring you should bring your umbrella!

In the summer you should bring your umbrella!

In the fall you should spend time outside in the sun!

In the winter you should stay cozy inside with a good bottle of wine!

A hidden gem in my city is the tofu stand at the Farmer’s Market (Hodo Soy)….PPQ for crabs…upper Polk Street boutiques...the many small wine bars and shops!

For a great breakfast joint try a neighborhood spot—Ella’s, Rex Café, Zazia, Judy’s, The Grove

Don't miss the jazz festival on Fillmore Street!

Just outside my city, you can visit the Gourmet Ghetto and Sausalito!

The best way to see my city is by foot and with a local!

If my city were a pet it would be a golden retriever, man’s best friend and easy going!

If I didn't live in this city, I'd live (where?) in New York City (well, technically Brooklyn!), or a suburb outside of San Francisco!

The best book about my city is... too many to narrow it down!

When I think about my city, the song that comes to mind is Sitting On the Dock of the Bay

If you have kids, you won't want to miss the Bay Area Discovery Museum and the Exploratorium!

Folsom Street Fair could only happen in my city.

My city should be featured on your cover or website because it’s one of the most unique, beautiful, diverse, and amazing cities to live and visit!

Cooking Alone

Do you prefer to cook alone or with someone? This recent article on Yum Sugar asked this very question and made me think.

Do you like the help? The extra set of hands? The second palate to taste? The camaraderie?

Or do you prefer to cook alone? Not have anyone in your space. To be able to do what you want. To cut and prep the way you like it?

Me? It depends. On what I'm making. And on who that other person is. My preference? If I'm cooking with someone else in my kitchen, ideally I'd be able to learn from them. Or that they are someone that was ok with doing things my way.

My real preference? Either is ok. And I am willing to share my kitchen, don't get me wrong! But most importantly is that there are people there to eat the food and to enjoy the experience with me.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The New Crush

I've recently noticed something. Crushes have changed. Sure, there's still that person you work with, or friend or even person you have a brief interaction with that you may become smitten with. But there are new crushes too.

There are bromances and girl crushes. People have embraced the notion of these crushes, relationships, and friendships. I know I've got girl crushes, and have many guy friends that are hot and heavy in a bromance. I even have "couple crushes", couples I that I just adore and have a crush on. Not necessarily as individuals, but as a unit.

But what else? Technology. Technology has given us so much more insight into who a person is. We are able to learn so much more about friends and people in our lives through outlets like Facebook, Twitter and personal blogs.

I first started really consciously thinking about this when I was reading David Leobovitz's Facebook 25. In it he mentions a blogger that he has a crush on. And it got me thinking. I have crushes on bloggers. Bloggers I've never met.

I've also found new respect and admiration for other friends through their Facebook pages or blogs based on what they're saying, what they're posting, where they choose to eat and drink (obviously for me that's a big deal!), what music they listen to or even the trips they choose to take.

The friend that's a much more adventurous eater than I ever thought? Love it. The friend that took a trip alone to Costa Rica? Awesome. The friend that's crazed about a band and following it on tour. Talk about passion! The friend that spends time hanging out with dad? Infinite respect from me. The friend that is a dancer on the side? Who knew? I collect these little tidbits, and continue to love these people even more.

In some ways, aren't these outlets taking Internet dating to a whole new level? Where else can you learn such intimate details about someone? Even down to what they're doing at a specific moment in time?

Do you have any of these 'new crushes'? Are there suddenly people that you feel closer to? Bloggers that have almost become like a friend?

I know I do. And I'm gonna keep reading and keep crushing. Happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

So Gingery

I'm a huge ginger fan. I love ginger essence and fragrance in a lot of foods. Not too spicy, but a tad of ginger really adds a lot to so many foods! Check out this interesting post on Laurent Gras' blog. If I could have some of this ginger oil, I'd use it in a steamed custard. Or perhaps a ginger snap cookie? Or best yet? Ice cream! YUM!

Photo borrowed from L2O

Being a Gimp and Home Bound

A few days ago, I hurt my foot. I was walking down the street, across the street from my office, taking a quick walk/lunch break (it was 3:30), and as I was walking, I almost fell. I did one of those graceful moves, where you're able to stop yourself from falling.

I thought to myself, "Good thing I didn't fall! How embarrassing would that have been?!" (Friends, I am that clumsy, I've actually fallen down while walking.) In any case, it took just one step for me to realize. While I hadn't actually fallen, I had done something to my ankle/foot. And it hurt badly. I could barely walk on it.

My first thought was that I had broken my ankle. The same ankle I had injured almost 10 years ago. It turns out, I badly tore a ligament in my foot. But because it was my foot and not ankle, there was nothing they could do. No cast, no wrap. I didn't even get/need crutches, since in theory, when I walked, I was able to put weight on the back part of my foot. That was the good news.

The bad news? I was suppose to stay off it, keep it elevated and iced. For at least the first few days, preferably the first week or so. Friends. I walk. A lot. I don't have a car, and even with public transportation, you're never dropped off door to door. It's part of living in the city.

And umm, my apartment. Second floor. No elevator. The stairs proved to be pretty difficult to get up (and down). And once I got home, I knew I wasn't going anywhere for a few days. Those first few days of being stuck at home were painful in more than one way. Not only did my foot hurt, but I was bored. Sure, I was working, had my emails, conference calls, etc. But I missed the social interactions.

Aside from that? I had to eat! And I had to work with what I had in the house. I made oatmeal and smooshed in my almost black banana (that I'd been needing to use) for breakfast the first day. And enjoyed it with a cup of tea. It was so nice to be having tea in my own mug (from my friend Melissa many years ago after she returned on a trip from India) rather than tea at work in those generic white mugs.

Lunch was a tad more challenging. I decided to make some simple, plain, jook (or rice porridge). The trick with rice porridge is giving it enough time to cook and having your eye on it. I figured, hey, I was going back and forth to my kitchen for ice packs anyways, why not start a pot of jook and give it a stir each time I was in there?

How did lunch turn out? One of my prouder moments. I took a handful of whole wheat spaghetti noodles and made a home made version of chow mein. I used some dried shitake mushrooms I had, and remembered that I also had a few frozen shrimp in my freezer (leftover from the last pad thai dish!) But I was wanting some veggies and something green in it. Some bean sprouts or bok choy or something. So I went back to the freezer and remembered some frozen edamame! A quick steam, and then I popped 'em out of the shells and tossed 'em in! A litle black bean sauce and we were all good! Yum!

Left overs for lunch the next day worked out fine. I even popped a bag of popcorn for an afternoon snack. Perfect.

Thanks to my sis for my dinner the next night, and to my other good friends for offering to bring me groceries and other necessities. There are times when this really isn't a city for a clumsy gal like me. You gotta have your good friends to count on when you're home bound.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Our New Year Celebration

Chinese New Year is the most important holiday to the Chinese. It’s a time to spend time with family, and for me, a chance to continue to reflect on the last year, and to think about the new year. There are a ton of traditions, beliefs, and superstitions. My family doesn’t have many Chinese New Year traditions…it’s too hard with work schedules, and living in different cities. (If you want to read about some of the traditions, go online! There are tons of articles, stories and resources, including this interesting one from the BBC.) But what DO we do?

Well, I tend to do the cleaning spree. It’s believed that cleaning sweeps away the bad luck of the previous year. And for me, it’s also just another way to start fresh for the new year. And New Year’s Eve is an important day. You’re suppose to have dinner with your family. This meal is as significant as Christmas dinner. This year, as with many years, we did a New Year’s Eve lunch at my aunt’s house. She prepared many of the traditional dishes.

Yes, can you see the pork with the crispy skin??

One of the traditional dishes you’re suppose to have is niangao. It’s a New Year Cake that sticky and basically made of sugar, water and glutinous rice flour. I’ve always loved it, and while not necessarily something I crave throughout the year, each year around Chinese New Year, I get excited to eat some niangoa.

The other tradition for us? Coming back together for another meal a few days later. This is to actually celebrate and to wish each other a healthy, happy, and lucky year ahead. There’s always fish, and some other symbolic dishes.

I’m sure there’s suppose to be a specific day when we’re suppose to get back together…but again, we just do it when we can. Yes there’s tradition. But there’s also change. And to me, it’s really all about being together. Not so much about the exact date.

This year, I took home my little piece of niangao from our New Year's Eve lunch and enjoyed it for a few days. But then, I left it out on my counter, and the SF summer sun got to it. I picked it up a few days later to see that it had mold on it! I was so mad!! I wasn't done with my niangoa eating days yet!

So what did I do? I made an attempt at making my own niangoa. How did it turn out? Umm, not quite right. It was the wrong consistency, and it wasn't sweet enough. So now what? I’ve got to figure this out. I’ve got to call my aunt, get some more tips, and do it all over again. Wish me luck!

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Facebook 25

I’ve never been one to respond to chain letters or silly email ‘forwards’ that guarantee me good luck. I don’t believe in all of that stuff. But when the recent Facebook trend ("25 Random Things") reached me, I was excited to jump on board. Despite the fact that there was no promise of good luck, nor any threat of anything bad happening if I didn’t do it, I still did it. The difference? I wanted to do it.

I think in general, people want to talk about themselves (ahem, why are there so many blogs out there?!) It’s a chance for you to say what you want, when you want. You pick the topic. You choose how personal, how silly, or how serious. That was part of the allure of the Facebook 25. You get to pick the 25 random things to say and share. How personal, how silly, how deep, or how trivial. All up to you.

I had seen a bunch of my friends writing their 25 Random Facts and sharing, and it was great! But I didn’t realize just how quickly this was spreading and the true power of Facebook until I saw that both the New York Times and Time magazine had written about this latest Facebook trend. And thanks to my friend Sherry for pointing out that the Washington Post has done a great story on this as's HILARIOUS!

And then I started looking through my blogs (via Google Reader, thank you very much), and people are posting their Facebook 25 on their blogs! Yes! From two well known bloggers (Chez Pim and David Lebovitz) to many of the lesser known bloggers. It’s EVERYWHERE!

So what’s a wanna be well known blogger to do? Yup. Post my own Facebook 25 Random Things. So ladies and gentleman. If you don't want to know random things about me. Stop reading and consider this another reminder about the power of Facebook. It's no longer just that thing that Gen Y's mainstream.

And for the rest of you out there (and let's be honest, we're all nosy, so I know you want to read!), here you go!!

My Facebook 25 Random Things:

1. I read cookbooks cover to cover, like a book. But when I cook, I don’t follow recipes.

2. I prefer salty to sweet.

3. I’m a hopeless romantic. Hopeless.

4. I love food. Eating, making food, watching food being made, and learning about new cuisines, ingredients, chefs, restaurants…I can go on and on. Food is my passion.

5. I have really amazing and supportive friends. I got lucky.

6. I’m not a fan of anything pickled. One of the only things I don’t like to eat. (Oh, and cilantro.)

7. I miss my mom every single day…not a day goes by without me thinking about her, thanking her and missing her.

8. I use to love talking on the phone. But now, I’m on it so much for work, that I almost never talk on the phone after work. I’m just tired of talking by then. (Can you believe that??)

9. Blogging has saved me. It’s been my diary, and a way to reflect and remember special moments, people and meals.

10. One of the most flattering moments ever was when someone repeated to me something I had written on my blog. He won major points. And that was the first time it hit me that people were reading.

11. I read about a billion magazines. Or at least skim through about a billion.

12. Books have gotten harder for me to get through, but the last one I couldn’t put down was “Devil in the Kitchen.”

13. I like drinking bourbon. A lot. Gin’s a favorite too. Then rum. Vodka and tequila are probably my last preference in terms of spirits.

14. Yes. I like fernet.

15. I’m obsessed…OBSESSED with ice cream making. It would be a dream to be at home mixing up new flavors every day.

16. I want children some day.

17. I have a hard time throwing away things.

18. Loved my time working in the NBA. Would never go back, but I loved it.

19. Sometimes I miss my days dabbling in politics. I studied Political Science and Community and Regional Development in college (Go Ags), and there are days when I miss being in that mix. (Go Obama!)

20. Dogs not cats please!

21. I wish I could travel around the world more. There are so many places and cultures I want to see and experience. (And food! Street food!)

22. I love my sister. She’s one of the funniest, most sarcastic people I know. And I love it. She is one of the people that knows me best in the world. We share lots of giggles, secrets and fears. I think it all goes back to the days when we were kids sharing a room.

23. I have a short attention span.

24. I don’t watch a lot of movies (maybe it’s that attention span thing?)

25. I can only fall asleep when it’s dark. And preferably quiet. No music, no noise.

Chefy Tattoos

If I haven't talked about it here before...I'm going to say it now. Chef and food related tattoos are hot now. And more than ever, people are proudly showing off their skin and food related artwork!

A recent story from Portland Magazine talks about local Portland chefs and their tattoos. (Click here to read it!) Well, one of my favorite chefs, the super talented chef from Pazzo Restaurant in Portland is featured in the article! Read the article to read the full story (it's interesting, talks not only about the chef, but about the tattoo artist and the 'thank-you' meal!) In the meantime, here's a glimpse of Chef John Eisenhart's tattoo.

On loan from Portland Magazine

Are you seeing a rise in food related tattoos? Anyone hearing about the book, Inked Rouge Chefs? Anyone seen any really cool ones you'd like to share?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Why Do People Hate Cilantro?

I've talked about hating cilantro...and then POOF! I saw this post on the Bon Appetit blog. Guess I'm not the only one that hates cilantro.

The bad news for me and other cilantro haters out there? It's apparently the "world's most widely consumed fresh herb." Watch out world!

On Being A Hermit

I’m a social and out going person. I frequently meet up with friends for drinks after work, or dinner at the newest restaurant that’s opened up in town. One might say I’m social and outgoing.

But there’s a different side of me that many people don’t know. I like my peace and quiet. I like my down time at home. By myself. Whether that’s reading a book that I haven’t been able to make it through, or catching up and reading a magazine from my huge stack of magazines, I cherish and look forward to this time alone.

When I'm home alone? I’m often cooking up a storm in the kitchen, and running all around town to gather the ingredients I’ll need for a particular recipe. Other times, I’m writing and putting pen to paper and working on some of my writing projects—and of course, writing posts for this blog!

When I’m stressed, or need to think through some things, time alone is needed. It’s one of the ways I recharge. I enjoy time by myself, I like having quiet time to think. Especially when I’m in the kitchen, the cooking makes me happy. It gives me ‘good energy’ and gives me something positive to focus my mind on. Too bad it’s been such a sunny and summery San Francisco winter…usually when it’s cold and wet out, I can get my ‘me time’ in without missing too much of the fun.

I’ve had a lot on my mind lately, and am finding that I’m needing more and more of that alone time. I’m sure it’s just a phase I’m going through. Keep calling and making plans with me friends. I’ll snap out of it and the social me will resurface soon!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Small Plates

While I was cleaning out my kitchen recently, I realized something. I have a lot of small plates.

These are some of my favorite ones. I tend to pick them up in random places. My piggy dishes from the Farmer’s Market, the little Health ceramic plates, the little round plates perfect for dipping bread into olive oil, my ramekins (note the pink ones I couldn’t resist one Valentine’s Day!), and then the beautiful rectangular Brooklyn ones (one of the best gifts ever!)

I love using the smaller blows and ramekins for prep. And for making individual little custards and desserts. The smaller plates are great for small snacks.

And when I'm entertaining? These all coming in handy for nuts, olives, and things like that! I love my small plates!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Local Hero

Me. Yes. I’m a local hero. Why you might ask? Because that downstairs neighbor of mine? I told her off. Loudly. And well, turns out, the walls in this building are thin. And people heard. And well. They all hate her too! So you see. I am now, a local hero.

After a series of run-in’s with her, I was starting to get more and more mad. And when she came up to my apartment at 7 pm on a Monday night to ask me to be more quiet because she was going to sleep, I lost it. There had just been too many incidents with her. (If you really want to hear all the stories, let me know. I don’t want to bore everyone with details, but she really is nuts!)

Now, each time I see a neighbor in the building? They smile at me. They tell me they couldn’t help by hear my argument, and then launch into their own horror story involving her. They tell me “Good job!” And “It’s about time someone told her off!” Oh, and the one I get most often? “She’s crazy!”

So I guess it just depends on the situation. Everyone can be a hero.