Check out my foodie adventures at Foodspotting and Foodgawker

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Dear New Year

Dear New Year:

There are truths I hold to be self-evident. I like to eat dark chocolate at 3pm while I am at work trying not to go cross-eyed after countless hours in front of a computer. I still promise to eat my oatmeal and sneak spinach into my breakfasts.

I will stop saying “I’m almost thirty and…” and, instead, I will just spend the year being 29.

I’m going to go to my weight lifting class. Weekly. And it isn’t because the instructor is a hot Australian that gives every command in a sweet Aussie accent. I think he shaves his legs. And that’s the end of that.

I’ll try to be more kind to my super sensitive tummy. But I am not going to give up Indian food. Learn to deal?

I’m going to be a better Aunt. Starting with sending handwritten letters. Even if my nephew is only 9 months old and can’t read, but my niece is 9 years old and probably doesn’t know what snail mail is.

I packed up two big boxes of things to donate (read: de-clutter the space a la Happiness Project), including the amazing Homer Simpson slippers my college friend gave me eight years ago. Sorry, Marisa!

Oh, and please don’t tell anyone that in the twelve days since 2012 began, I’ve only eaten 3 home-cooked dinner meals (um, where have I been?), which means I’m measuring in at a weak 25% rate. I’m gonna do better. I even collected the ingredients to make a Mediterranean chickpea salad called Balela, pumpkin rice laksa soup, and Vietnamese noodles with sweet chili tofu. It’s going to be good. There are vegetables involved.

And finally, my friend Jennie swears by the motto that if you love life, life will love you back. If loving life means having a foodie-gasm over a salted chocolate cookie while time….stops…count me in. I love you, cookie life!

Let’s take it slow. Be passionate. And put some spinach in our breakfasts.

With love (and optimism),


Monday, November 21, 2011

Seven Truths About Vegas

Number 7
If your brother turns 40 on 11/11/11, there is only one thing you can do.

Convene in vegas for some shenanigans.

And, against all better judgment, invite all family and friends to do the same.

Number 6

Let me guess. Your second cousin suggests the birthday boy should play beer pong at 1 AM before gambling at a craps table, too? (And he talked your uncle into refereeing the game and staying up past midnight,which is way past his bedtime). Who are these crazy kids?

Number 5
If ever there was truth behind a legend of an Asian girl known as La China Poblana who was kidnapped by pirates and shipped to Mexico, I am ever so grateful for its inspiration in the foodie collision of China and Mexico. Jicama and Avocado on glass noodles with sesame dressing? Sounds implausible, but it is actually perfect. Mind-blowing, even.

And who am I to argue with putting twenty (20) vegetables in fried rice? I must recreate these dishes at home (stay tuned).

Number 4
When your friend, in all seriousness, suggests jumping off the 108th floor of the Stratosphere, it's obvious her judgment has been seriously impaired. Be a good friend and take her home before anything unmentionable happens.

Friends don’t let friends take 855-foot freefalls.

Number 3
If someone in Vegas asks you to tell him or her your deepest, darkest secret, do NOT do it! It’s a ploy that can only lead to bad things.

Vegas is for keeping secrets, not for sharing them (I don’t need to tell you that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas). This is not the time for such vulnerability and you are in no shape to divulge.

If you absolutely must spill the beans, tell this guy.

At least you can be certain your secrets are safe with him.

Number 2
Nobody can be trusted to make good (or rational) decisions on three hours of sleep. Nobody. See #6. Or #4.

Number 1
If you leave Vegas feeling defeated, then you’ve won!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Momofuku Milkbar in San Francisco

If New York comes all the way to San Francisco, you get your ass to the landing dock to greet New York with open arms.

You tell your boss, friend, husband, dog, whathaveyou that, come hell-or-high-water, you need to drop what you are doing to be at the front of this line.

My first glimpse of the coveted bounty turned me into a sugar-grabbing feisty greedy little rapscallion. I felt feverish and downright selfish. It was a quick transformation that surprised even myself because I am not known for having a sweet tooth at all. I mean, I had kale-apple-lemon-ginger juice for breakfast.

But my eyes glazed over and I morphed into a sugar-crazed demon (before any actual sugar had even crossed my lips). My friends wanted to get some savory lunch at Fatted Calf, and in no polite tone at all, I growled “I’m having sugar for lunch, thank you. With a side of sugar”. Say again?

crack pie
compost cookies
blueberry cream cookie
cornflake-toasted marshmallow-chocolate chip cookie
chocolate chocolate cookie
corn cookie

Everyone, including yours truly, was reaching for the crack pie and the famed compost cookie – a veritable mash up of chocolate, cornflakes, pretzels, chips and coffee grounds – all the things that you might shovel into your mouth after a bad break up and have completely lost all rationality. But at the end of the line, a golden ray of sunshine caught my eye. Corn cookies.

It looked like a standard sugar cookie, but unapologetically yellow, signaling its solid foundation of corn and butter. Corn. And Butter. Say it with me. It’s Thanksgiving and we’re in this together.

Don’t go all chocolate chip on me and be tempted to question her logic to put corn in a cookie (or ice cream, while we’re at it). Surrender to a mouthful of old-fashioned spoon bread, rich with sweet corn flavor and studded with gritty stone-ground corn meal. Compress that corn pudding flavor into a cookie with a thick, dense chew that can only be achieved by patiently chilling your dough. I made myself dizzy wondering How can this one bite be so full of flavor? Obviously (it’s not obvious at all), it’s a no brainer to use corn flour and mix it with sugar, eggs, flour and salt until it resembles a thick scoop of wet sand. But Tosi stretches her brain to fit in even more corn flavor by turning dehydrated corn into corn powder. Zing! Houston, do you copy? Thank you, corn. Thank you, Tosi.

You can tell that this cookie didn’t achieve its perfect state of flavor and texture (oh my god, the texture) because Tosi waved around sticks of cheap grocery-store grade butter and generic all-purpose flour. No, this takes mindful effort (and a lot of it). This kind of magic is unmistakably the result of sleepless nights, large cups of creativity and espresso shots, and baking boot camp at 2 am (when all the best work happens). Sissys need not apply.

These bakery masterpieces are the brainchild of respectful collaboration between hardy people who push each other to be better, to do more, to work smarter. To create something out of nothing and to actually create the challenges they want to learn how to overcome; it’s the honest path to improvement. Hot damn, that’s what I call inspiring!

David Chang warns you: “Don’t let her nice demeanor and southern charm fool you; underneath she is a ruthless killer . . . just like her recipes in this book, where deceptively simple flavors and ingredients combine in ways that make grown men whimper. Resistance to her sugar manifesto is futile.”

I whimpered, all right.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Diamonds are Forever

"They say it takes pressure to make diamonds. So, let's get these babies cut!"

If your Body Bump instructor says this, you should:

a) suspect that he is on dangerous levels of steroids;
b) expect to get your ass handed to you because you are in no way prepared for a super-advance-weight-lifting-marathon; or
c) let it slide, if he is cut like Superman and says it with a cute Aussie accent.

The answer is all of the above.

Then you limp home and melt into the couch, never to move again. You order take out and watch the Season 5 finale of Dexter and call it a day.

Then, over your morning coffee, you contemplate whether it's a good idea to go back to Body Pump. Like, tomorrow.

After all, take out and TV are only a temporary fix, but diamonds are forever.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Foodbuzz Festival 2011

This year’s Foodbuzz Festival was not about the food. It was about the people. And a lesson in social media and the importance of having a twitter account.

And I got schooled.

I was instantly taken back to how I felt the night before the first day of 5th grade.

I had meticulously planned out an outfit that I thought (at the time) would be fashionable and perfect for the first day of school. I was sorely misguided on what that meant and wore light denim short overalls with caramel leather boots with mauve-colored socks. With lace ruffles. I’m sure they were on clearance at Mervyn’s. The popular girls were wearing Esprit and Guess everything.

I figured I would be super friendly and smile to everyone in the hallways to try to lure them into being my friend. Instead, people wondered “who is this crazy girl and what is she so happy about?” and I’m sure I grinned and gestured in ways that can only be interpreted as creepy.

I was wondering what I would say during each of the endless rounds of 3-minute schmooze sessions with strangers trading business cards and blog names. I was nervous about fitting in and feeling left out. I searched for a friendly face and an invitation to join a dinner table.

I wanted to find just one person who was genuinely interested in talking with me and sharing why they were at the conference, what they blogged about and what they liked to cook.

I found three. Megan, Heather and Teri were full of smiles and happy to share in good company.

And then some.

I also had the good fortune of sitting next to Lauren and Kellie and her most welcoming smile.

So, what do bloggers do at a blogger conference?


As I learned from Irvin's and Stella’s session on social media, an experience or moment isn’t real or doesn’t even exist if it isn’t memorialized on Twitter or Facebook.

Ashley also put together a really informative presentation on the basics of photography and moving away from auto mode. It’s not easy to teach via power-point, especially when you have a lot of material to cover, but she waded through victoriously and handed out homemade peanut butter cups to keep the crowd alive. After seeing several line ups of the same shot with varying ISO, aperture and shutter speed settings, things started to make more sense. Here’s to ditching auto mode!

(Don't tell her that I had to manually try to correct the exposure on the slide about the exposure.)

Tyler Florence did a cooking demonstration for cider-brined pork chops with herbed spaetzle and braised red cabbage.

Now that’s some good eye candy. And I’m not talking about the pork chops. But, honestly, most of the bloggers seemed more interested in wanting to talk to each other. And eat!

Saturday’s “Taste Pavilion” is essentially a food trade show where companies bring along samples and you get to see some of the new foods on the market and meet the people behind the labels. I was hoping to find this year’s “dough balls” that would capture the blogosphere like it did at the 2010 Foodbuzz Festival. Nothing stood out in quite the same way, but I did find these pickled raisins from Boatstreet Pickles in Seattle.

Boatstreet Café is what had inspired me to make pickled grapes for the Underground Market.

I learned that endive grows in the dark. Odd. But delicious.

There was a panel discussion on ways to take your blog to the next level: from photography, to finding (and developing) your voice, podcasts, and cookbook deals.

I snagged one quick moment to talk to Joy the Baker and her advice was do it because you love it.

But you know what pleased the crowd even more than all this good blog advice? Mama Pea’s dough balls that she had toted to San Francisco with love all the way from her kitchen in Oregon.

I wish I had known this trick to making friends back when I was in the 5th grade.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Art of Sharing


I guess it’s pretty obvious around here that I took a hiatus. A three-month hiatus. And I want to talk about why.

Since we last spoke, I’ve crammed in all sorts of things that I wanted to share with you.

1. I’ve flown to Colorado for a wedding of a dear friend (and drove to Denver, Fort Collins, Englewood, Larkspur and Boulder in a span of four days).

2. I’ve volunteered at the Kendall Jackson Heirloom Tomato Festival. I volunteer every year and it’s one of my most favorite weekends because an enormous bounty of gorgeous heirloom tomatoes (in over 150 varieties!) are at my disposal. For free, people.

3. When a friend of mine broke up with her boyfriend, I took her for a classic bay area adventure: hiking in Edgewood Park & Natural Preserve and then getting lobster rolls for lunch. Fact: The Bay Area is equally as obsessed with lobster rolls as Boston.

4. I saw James Blake in concert. Holy crap, he is talented.

5. I flew to Japan for a family vacation. For two weeks! My sister-in-law, Hiromi, is from a remote northern village called Nagai in the Yamagata prefecture. It’s nestled at the base of the Asahi mountain range and it is C-O-L-D. It’s pretty obvious why she jumped ship (islands?) and moved to Maui where she met my brother, Chad. The purpose of the trip was to introduce my 6-month old nephew, Raidin, to his Japanese side of the family. Meanwhile, my mom and I introduced ourselves to countless bowls of ramen and onsen spas.

6. Before Maya closed, I weaseled the bartender into sharing the coveted recipe for their coconut mojitos (stay tuned). But not before I knocked back a couple of them first. In memoriam.

7. I went to the New Wave 80’s Sing-A-Long at the Roxie. If you have no idea what that might entail from the title, you are not alone. I didn’t either, but purchased a ticket immediately. It turned out to be a theater full of people dressed in 80’s gear (no doubt, fueled by American Apparel) and they played 80’s music videos with karaoke style lyrics on the screen while the crowd sang along (no doubt, fueled by free shots of whiskey being passed around). The emcee wore a banana hammock, an afro wig and boots. And nothing else. This kind of event would only happen in San Francisco.

8. I saw a documentary called Dirty Pictures, which is about a rogue chemist who discovered the psychedelic effects of MDMA (aka Ecstasy). He lives in the Bay Area, too, naturally.

9. For Halloween, we threw the largest party we have ever held in our 2-bedroom San Francisco apartment. Over 75 people attended, in full costume. And you know Jason insisted on getting a local keg of Drakes Denogginizer (turns out, most people aren't prepared to tackle a keg of beer with a 9.75% ABV, but they try anyway).

10. I saw Cirque du Soleil: TOTEM. I have been fortunate to see a couple of Cirque du Soleil shows, and the pricey tickets are worth every penny. I cannot even describe to you what these talented performers do with their bodies, but my jaw was on the floor for the entire 3-hour show.

11. I attended the 3rd annual Foodbuzz Festival, where food bloggers from around the country gathered to share their stories about why they blog, how they blog and what they blog about.

Which brings me back to the reason for the hiatus. Yes, I’ve been insanely busy (see above). But somewhere along the way, I lost my mojo.

I still cooked.
I still ate.
But I didn’t blog (despite thinking about it almost daily).

I had forgotten why I had started blogging in the first place. I was preoccupied with figuring out what to write and “finding my voice” instead of just talking openly and reaching out to connect to you. I had put the camera down in frustration over trying to teach myself the basics of photography instead of just picking up the camera and learning by trial-and-error.

At the blogger conference, we talked about identifying our goals for our blogs. Giving some serious, honest thought to that is what brought me back to why I created this space. I wanted to connect to those who are as passionate as I am. I wanted to belong to a community that gushed about seasonal produce (how nerdy!) instead of celebrity gossip (ok, maybe not instead of, but in addition to). And I wanted to share with you what I make in my kitchen because my passion lies in the sharing of food, community and love – the inherent connection that is built between people who eat together.

Photo courtesy of Jesse Friedman

I hope you will forgive me. I’ve got a lot of sharing to do.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

dinner after the gym

I am not a runner. Let me repeat. Not a runner.

Somewhere near the two mile mark I feel like I might die. Really. I'm the jerk you don't want to have as a partner when you have to do "Indian Runs" at boot camp because I hold up the whole group puffing and panting. Sorry, Elizabeth!

So I was pretty shocked when one year ago a podiatrist told me that my really high arches were causing plantar faciitis. Common for runners. Pfffftwaaaaah??

Doesn't this foot look like it was born to be in heels? Instead, I got myself some orthotics and simultaneously signed up for grandma-in-training courses. It helps. A friend of mine who just finished massage school offered to study up on some foot massage techniques. Couldn't hurt. And I found that changing up the types of workouts helps a lot.

Here's what my past week of workouts looked like:

Saturday: 2.5 miles on elliptical + 25 mins swimming laps
Sunday: 25 mins swimming (while daydreaming about what I can make for lunch)
Monday: 60 mins strength training using free weights at 24Lift class
Tuesday: [rest]
Wednesday: [rest]
Thursday: Urban Bootcamp. Yeah, I did hold up the team. But I also did lunges, squats and push ups.
Friday: [rest]
Saturday: Whitewater rafting! (Seriously, that company is the BEST)
Sunday: Whitewater rafting!

When I come home from the gym and I am starving, I pull out all the veggies I have in the fridge and make a BIG chopped salad.

Spinach, corn, black beans, tomatoes, carrots and mozzarella!

Creamy Balsamic Vinaigrette: Small spoonful of yogurt or vegenaise + balsamic vinegar + salt & pepper.

Served with Anderson's pea soup (my favorite canned soup) + grilled flatbread made from my sourdough starter!

I usually try to make soups I can store in the freezer. But, in a pinch, you can't beat this pea soup. It has a simple list of ingredients, the smoothest texture that makes it seem oh so creamy and naturally fat free. Zing!

It's really hard to cook when you are starving and tired. So I buy pea soup by the case because I come home hungry and tired a lot.