March 19, 2014
I love a good welcome sign. Something that declares more than the name of the town/state you have just entered/left. Something with personality. Something unique. Like Delaware's dual achievements of "THE FIRST STATE" and "Home of Tax-Free Shopping."
- Tamsui welcome sign uploaded by yawei2009 on Flickr.
The welcome sign for Danshui (or Tamsui, but I prefer the former) is a sign to remember. If you drive up to Danshui from Taipei City, you'll whizz by the sign, which is painted on the side of a wall hugging the main road. The wall is some meters high and the sign runs...[counts on fingers]...many more meters long. But as you're probably driving past it quickly, that doesn't give you much time to process it. I'm guessing I mentally responded with something like, "Did that sign say...what?...wait... [turns] oh shit it's gone now." I would've forgotten what the sign said if I hadn't tucked away a mental note to myself that I had to look up the sign online because something about it made it worth treasuring forever. Thanks to Flickr member yawei2009, I can recount what the sign says:
Welcome to Tamsui!
Don't Do Drugs
Don't Drag Race
That sign is just one of many things I came to treasure about Danshui.
March 9, 2014
I biked more during my one week vacation in Taipei than I have in the last three years of living in New York City. It's not a tough record to break—I haven't used my bike here in, um, at least three years. During the summer of 2009 when I lived in a first floor apartment I'd ride my bike out to Prospect Park at night with uncharacteristic enthusiasm, largely because I was disgustingly drippy with summer sweats and hurtling myself through the air was the best way to cool off. But about three years ago I moved into a second floor apartment. Second floor. You expect me to carry my heavy folding bike down and up one whole flight of stairs? Nah, I'll just marinate in a puddle of my own sweat.
I'm just as lazy in Taipei, but Taipei offers a few incentive to getting me off my butt that New York City doesn't: picturesque mountains and rivers in tandem. Mother Nature dealt Taipei a good deck. If you ride along the Keelung River Bikeway in the northwest outskirts of the city, as my dad and I did this morning, you'll be treated to well maintained bike paths with lovely scenery far from the din of the city.
February 14, 2014
'Cause there ain't no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA.
Lee Greenwood's patriotic crooning doesn't often pop into my head, but when it does, it's probably not for any reason Greenwood had in mind. Unless he wrote those words to behold the majesty of a sub roll stuffed with three different kinds of fried foods. In that case, I totally nailed it.
That fried food-stuffed roll is just one many members of the fat sandwich family. A fat sandwich is what you get when you cross a burger and/or a cheese steak and/or a gyro and/or bacon and/or eggs and/or dump on a sports bar appetizer platter—namely mozzarella sticks, chicken fingers, and fries—and douse it all in a sauce or two. It sounds like a monstrosity from Pawnee, Indiana,* but luckily for us non-fictional folks it hails from New Brunswick, New Jersey, where grease trucks at Rutgers University have been slinging fat sandwiches since the '80s.
* "First in friendship, fourth in obesity."
January 27, 2014
This is a bit of a cop-out, folks. Not much happened on this day of my Taipei trip, so I'm going to focus on the photos and pair them with forgettable blurbs. It'll be like I'm showing you a slideshow of my vacation! People looove vacation slideshows!...no, wait, vacation slideshows are commonly reviled for being long and boring. But I'm not forcing you to watch, so do as you please. You're your own woman. Or man. (Or neither. Or both.) And you have the power to do what you want. ...[puts on serious face]...Within the law.
If you want to read more of my words with fewer photos, you can check out my recent posts on Serious Eats, published for your mild enjoyment (and because Max made me write them, which is good because, as you can see, without someone telling me what to do I do very little). Here's me talking about my love of stewy foods with rice and rambling about bringing Kåre to a Chinese buffet.
Continue for photo splodge time:
January 15, 2014
Last February I went on a press trip to Hong Kong (along with Rachelle Lucas and Cynthia Drescher) sponsored by the Hong Kong Tourism Board. I meant to blog something about it sooner—perhaps, saaaay, last year—but I figured I'd wait until I was finished writing about it on Serious Eats.
And I just did. Finish writing about it. This month. Erm. Well. Better late than never? That's the delusion I buy into so I don't hate myself.
Here's a list of all the posts I wrote:
- Roast Goose Leg and Roast Pork from Yat Lok
- Egg Waffle Goodness from Lee Keung Kee North Point Egg Waffles
- Gold Coin Chicken, aka Cholesterol Sandwich, from Manor Restaurant
- A Tour of Mongkok Wet Market
- Prosperity Burger from McDonald's Hong Kong
- Snapshots from Hong Kong: Photo Tour of 7-Eleven
- Red Bean Pie from McDonald's
- Breakfast at Hokkaido Dairy Farm Milk Restaurant
- Boiled Coke with Ginger and Lemon
- Head to Ngau Kee Before It Closes on Sunday
- Vegetarian Lunch at Po Lin Monastery
- Dim Sum at Tim Ho Wan, aka the World's Cheapest Michelin-starred Restaurant
- Steamed Milk Pudding from Yee Shun Milk Company
- My 14 Favorite Sweets
- My 10 Favorite Bites
That's the greatest number of posts I've ever wrung out of a press trip, although in an ideal world it would've been more. I didn't eat as much during the trip as I would've liked—it wasn't primarily food-focused—but I did well with the schedule I was given and the limitations of the Chinese New Year holiday, thanks to the help of a handful of awesome people.
MEET THE AWESOME PEOPLE!
December 2, 2013
What makes Blow Pops the most coveted of the lollipop family? (At least, if you were elementary school-aged me in the early '90s.) The bubblegum center.* Without the gum, it's just a fat, boring lollipop. Chewing on bubblegum not encased in a hard candy shell just isn't the same. It doesn't leave you with the heady sense of accomplishment**, of victory, that only comes from licking and crunching your way through a thick layer of candy to uncover more candy.
* If you're curious, as I was, here is the patent for "Method for making candy with gum inside."
** My list of childhood accomplishments is very, very short.
How does this relate to shaved ice? Barely. But pretend I came up with a better comparison than what I'm about to tell you. (And pretend with each passing second you're not inching closer to your death. And pretend there is a box of corgi puppies outside your door waiting to let loose in your home and trample you with more cute fluffy butt action than you could ever dream of OH GOD IT'S AMAZINGGUUHHH.)
Bad shaved ice is sort of the opposite of a Blow Pop. The outermost layer is where the party is—a party of syrup-soaked, toppings-laden bites—while digging deeper into the ice mound reveals a center of...ice. Crunchy bits of unadorned ice due to meager and/or ill-distributed toppings.
This is how you do it right:
Thanks to Tai Yi Milk King (臺一牛奶大王)—a famous old-school shaved ice shop that's been serving Taipei since 1956—I now know one sign that I'm about to dig into a good bowl of shaved ice: when it looks like a toppings bar puked on it. Vigorously. In this case, the toppings bar hacked out a hefty mound of homemade glutinous rice balls, sweet red beans, and sweet mung beans dripping with thick condensed milk. Crunchy, soft-n-chewy, starchy, milky-n-gooey—this pile has it all, with hardly any naked ice ruining the party. The way nature intended.
Looking like vomit isn't a requirement, of course. Here's another bowl of shaved ice more thoughtfully heaped with ripe mango chunks, probably less ripe slices of strawberries, and condensed milk.
November 5, 2013
- Clockwise from top left: Breakfast at Cup and Saucer, Economy Candy, pastrami sandwich at Katz's Deli, and pumpkin eggnog pudding at Sugar Sweet Sunshine.
Do you like sandwiches? Pudding? Cake? Candy? Then let me be your guide. Because that's all I'm going to feed you.
This itinerary represents my favorite places to bring out-of-towners to on the Lower East Side for a morning and afternoon jaunt. "Favorite places" does not equate to "best places," but they are, in my humble opinion, consistently good, unique, and won't break the bank. These places aren't all meant to be eaten at in one day (but you can try; more power to you). Pick and choose what sounds best. You'll probably feel disgusting by the end of it, but it'll be worth it.
October 23, 2013
Last year, I dressed up for Halloween for the first time in over 15 years. And I did it...for love.
Or, more specifically, I did it because it was the first time one of Kåre's visits to New York City coincided with Halloween and I thought it'd be a shame if he didn't experience the one day a year where it's acceptable to wear silly costumes in public and gorge on fun-size candy*. Someone's gotta guide him through the labyrinth of American customs. And that someone is me. By default.
* Alas, Kåre still hasn't fully experience Halloween because Hurricane Sandy put a damper on last year's festivities, among other far more important things. We had fun wearing our costumes to a few parties the weekend before Halloween.
We dressed up as characters from our favorite cartoon, Adventure Time, because nothing else would've been acceptable. Nothing. Kåre dressed up as Jake and I dressed up as BMO. If you're not familiar with BMO then
get out of my face watch some videos and learn. LEARN:
...Actually, you may not have learned much from those videos. But maybe you can at least see why BMO is my spirit robot.
Never having made a costume before, I did a bit of research into different kinds of BMO costumes. They mostly come in full-body BMO or simpler BMO-with-head-popping-out-the-top. Deep down, I really wanted to go full BMO, but I knew I wasn't ready for that jelly. A well constructed full-body costume was too complicated for my amateur skills, and even if I could make one it would give me the double whammy of low visibility and mobility in dark and/or crowded spaces. ...And it would make it harder for me to stuff food into my face.
So I went the simple route of BMO-with-head-popping-out-the-top and added interchangeable face parts to make it less boring. It's not 100 percent true to BMO's design, but it's close enough.