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.
October 20, 2013
- Rise and shine!...euh. This is the view from the balcony at my grandparent's place. It's considerably nicer looking when the sky doesn't look like it needs a hug.
I've always been a late sleeper, the kind who, without the shackles of an alarm clock, would naturally wake up sometime after noon. Few have attempted to wake me up early; it's like trying to wake up a heavily breathing sack of potatoes.
Except my dad. Many of my Saturday mornings as a kid started with my dad knocking my bedroom door, then—before I had a chance to answer—opening my door and announcing that it was 8 a.m. or some other too-early-for-Saturday hour, and thus time to get up. I'd respond with a moan of non-compliant acknowledgement or, more likely, pretend I was still deep in sleep, and continue on my potato sack ways.*
*If you're a child of the '90s in the US, you may be thinking, "But if you slept in late, that means you missed watching Saturday morning cartoons!" Truly the biggest downside to sleeping in. Many Saturday mornings started with my pajama-clad self blundering down the stairs, making a beeline to the TV in the family room, only to catch the last ten minutes of Beakman's World (one of my favorite shows), signalling the end of the kid-friendly Saturday morning line-up. I'd continue watching because as a child of the '90s it was my duty to lap up as much TV as possible (also, my family didn't have cable TV and this was pre-internet boom and I had nothing else to do because SUBURBAN LIVIN').
This is not how things went down during my vacation in Taiwan. Because I was staying with my dad, that meant waking up by 9 a.m. every morning, and because I'm an "adult," that meant not ignoring his wake-up calls and shoving my head back into my pillow.
And I'm glad my dad made me wake up early. Otherwise I wouldn't have gotten to try the breakfast shop near his house.
I've never been much of a breakfast eater because I like sleeping more than I like eating. But if I had lived near a Taiwanese breakfast shop growing up, maybe I would've felt compelled to wake up for breakfast. Because...
- It's like the Chinese equivalent of a basket of baguettes in France. Sort of.
DEEP FRIED CRULLERS (youtiao)! And...
August 19, 2013
You know that feeling you get when you're lost at sea for days, and you can feel your innards shriveling up as the life drains out of your malnourished body, and you've held out on killing your shipmate and eating him because he's one of your most loyal and trustworthy friends, but, hm, on second thought, he's looking pretty beefy and surely doesn't need all that thigh muscle? And just as you're about to go in for the kill with your bare, adrenaline-powered hands, you see a light in the distance. A beacon of hope that says, "Cannibalism, you'll just have to wait." You've found civilization. You're saved.
That's sort of how I felt when I first came across Indessert. Without the starvation and hopelessness and deranged lust for flesh, but with the rapturous excitement that great things I hadn't expected were coming my way, accompanied by internally screeching, "OMG OMG YAY!!!@#!@" repeatedly. I was just really happy Chinatown finally had a dessert shop. So happy that I've been to Indessert nine times since it opened in March (and two of those visits happened last week).
What's so great about Indessert? Let me count the ways:
- It's not another bakery, ice cream shop, or froyo shop (although I wouldn't mind another ice cream shop). They specialize in tong sui—Cantonese desserts like black sesame paste soup, red bean paste soup, sweet potato soup, mixed bean and taro soup, and other sweet soups made with coconut milk or ripe mango purée. They also do shaved ice, waffles, tofu pudding, and other Asian favorites. There are tong sui shops in Brooklyn, but none of them are as convenient for me to go to as Indessert because...
- It's a ten-minute walk from my office.
- They have ample seating in a comfortable, non-garish environment. You don't get much of that in Chinatown.
- They're open late—until 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and until midnight on Friday and Saturday. That may not be notable in other food-heavy neighborhoods, but Chinatown is pretty dead after 10 p.m. and doesn't offer much in the ways of fun late night hang-out spots.