Archives For foodies

Anticipation

January 21, 2015 — Leave a comment

There’s nothing like the experience of trying to upload a 244MG video onto your youtube channel. Especially when it’s your first time uploading a larger, longer file and you’re using your smart phone since it’s the only thing you have right now that can do it. RIP dearest laptop.

The first few minutes of monitoring the status bar, watching as it fills and moves from 2% to 5% to 12% feels not necessarily good good but good.

It’s working. Okay.

You’re watching it. Can’t take your eyes off of it because even though it’s been working so far, something might happen. You might have to jump in and do something.

You see 17% now. Steady.

Seven minutes have passed. You’re rewarded or cursed by having been right in keeping an eye on the bar.

Because the screen goes black. Sleep mode.

You tap the screen. Nothing. You curse a little, remembering you have to swipe to unlock the phone. Anxiety creeps in.

You swipe.

Relief.

20%. It’s still uploading.

You have experience now. You know the black screen and sleep mode is coming again soon. You still don’t trust that if you let it stay black in sleep mode that it will continue to upload. Because the first time it happened, you caught it in time. You stopped the unknown from happening. Or so you’ve made yourself believe.

So you’re stuck. You have to stick to the plan. Stick to the phone.

38%.

The screen goes black again. Only this time you swipe too aggressively and the Hunter Mountain skiing video is playing and the upload bar has disappeared.

You hit the back button praying the upload is still happening.

It is.

42%. You’re still on track.

And now you know to watch for the black screen AND swipe with feeling.

56%.

You’re a little more confident, have a little more trust.

But now 20 minutes have passed with you having sat glued to the phone.

You’re more than half way there.

You’re invested in getting this uploaded. And more anxiety creeps in as the time passes.

Now your’re anxious and excited.

So you begin talking to the phone. Urging it on. You can do it, You say. Just a little bit more.

76%.

You’ve got it. Keep going. Almost there!

And you continue with your cheers, words of motivation.

88%. 92%. 96%. It’s on the last stretch. A minute or two more and you’ll be there.

And you made it.

100%.

Hooray!

But then it stays at 100%. Full red.

A minute passes.

Still 100%. Still full red. And you don’t want to move. You watch it. Looking for signs of change. Signs of life.

And then.

PROCESSING.

Now it’s processing the video.

So you do it again. But it’s much harder this round.

There’s no visual indicator–no % or the movement of the red line.

Nothing.

You’re anxious. Frustrated.

And so you change tactics.

Rationalize.

Gamble.

You walk away. Let go of the phone. Ignore the black sleep. You stop yourself from looking at it.

I’ve done what I can, you say to the phone.
It’s out of my hands. It’ll upload or it won’t.

Still. You better upload you grunt with your fist in the air.

And it does.

This time, it does. It worked.

And since you’ve suffered through this post… here’s the video: Eating Live Razor Clams. It was my first time.
Eating Live Razor Clams: http://youtu.be/dvCr-h_g0no
20141221_163153

Cheers!

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There was a deal on organic strawberries at my local market — this relatively new market that opened up in my neighborhood that had everyone in my building giddy. “So convenient!” “It’s changed my route!” All kinds of funny statements. All true. There’s nothing special about the market. A perfect example of strategic marketing. It’s a Key Foods renamed “Urban Market” that has fancy black bags and nice font to satisfy the “creative” “food savvy” people who live here. But it *is* convenient. Clean. Average prices for the most part. Three blocks away. And open on Friday nights and Saturdays…when the other market nearby, managed by Hassidic Jews, shuts down for Sabbath.

Image

The strawberries. They’re not in season (peak season here is April – June), so I wasn’t expecting much. They were mediocre at best, pretty bland. What struck me, though, was how oddly shaped they all were. And well, I did something I was forbidden to do as a kid and played with my food.Strawberryman

I understand the “respect your food” “people are starving” angle that my parents pounded into me. And even though I’m not part of the “war generation” I remain very conscious of my food and where it comes from and how lucky I am to even contemplate these things. But it got me to thinking that there must be some benefit to the playing process. And, oh, yeah. There is. Well, according to this article I found, Messy Kids Who Play with Their Food May Be Faster Learners, there may be. Seems young children were more likely to learn words for certain non-solid objects like oatmeal and glue when they were allowed to explore the substances by using their hands and making a mess: “context and behavior are both important factors in the acquisition of a child’s early vocabulary. This sort of early learning may be linked to improved cognitive development later in the child’s life.”

Not exactly creating sculptures that I envisioned but if I were allowed a guess or a bet, after the squeezing of oatmeal and making a mess, in time, the playing might just evolve into something more structured. That’s the hope, at least. Have this perennial favorite ready when that happens:

play with your food

I wonder if any of this applies to adults. Just projecting probably. Wish the University of Iowa folks would do a follow-up study on adults. I’ll be keeping an eye out for it.

I changed up my morning coffee ritual with some tea. Hunger pangs and a growling stomach followed. I started thinking of what I wanted to eat today. Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. I’m not a traditional breakfast eater. Sure, I try to eat oatmeal when I can and have a giant cylinder of it. But I’ve been known to eat sushi or leftover Ethiopian food for breakfast, and recently, kimchi omelettes. My cravings for kimchi have been at an all time high since I’ve been trying to get through the 50 episodes of You’re the Best, Lee Soon Shin, a Kdrama on DramaFever. It’s seeped into my subconscious somehow and influenced me enough that a few days ago after work I ran to KTown and H Mart where I purchased a giant tub of my favorite whole cabbage kimchi, purple rice, shishito peppers, red lettuce…

Kimchi

I’m not in the mood for kimchi this morning, though. And admittedly, I’m feeling lazy to cook, and with the rain and wind, have no desire to step outside the warmth of my apartment, so instead I’m reading DramaFever’s newsfeed. They always have something fun to read about food in Asia. This time is no exception. This post is hilarious–a Beijing restaurant’s mistranslations:

Beijingmenu

Steamed cake stir-fried with pork = “Old vinegar hibernation of insects head.”

Pork, tofu and preserved Chinese cabbage stew = “The brazier kills the pig vegetable.”

Iron wok stir-fried spicy squid = “Iron saucepan unwearied effort however squid.”

Sliced eggplant stir-fried with sauce and minced vegetables = “Cell secretary digs up the eggplant.”

Black jelly skin in gravy = “Fishes the juice to pull the skin back.”

That post only offered a moment’s distraction. Interesting how the brain works. I felt compelled to google “tea” + “restaurants” and eventually, I landed at Ranker’s: The 8 Most Dangerous Restaurants in the World, the top one being The Huashan Teahouse in China, where wood planks, toe-holes and harnesses are involved in experiencing what better be the most amazing cup of tea.

thehuashanteahouseinchi

Goodness. I’m exhausted just looking at this image. And now, the winds outside are even more ferocious and my stomach’s ROARING.

I think I might just exchange the tea for a robust mug of black coffee, cook some oatmeal, and turn on WNYC. I missed Car Talk and Click and Clack, but oh! I can still catch the tail end of Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! Gotta go. It’s tough to find smart interesting shows that crack you up consistently. Happy Saturday!

This morning, on my way home from Chelsea Piers in Manhattan, I decide to take Havemeyer Street, which I do once and a while whenever I’m coming from the city and realize I need eggs. I discovered a few years back that this one giant chain grocery store on Havemeyer, for whatever reason, always has special discount deals on organic free range veggie fed eggs (should I be suspicious?), which they do this time as well.

After I buy my eggs, I continue south and notice a new spot has opened up: Stan’s Cafecito, a tiny hole-in the wall eatery.

Stan's

What catches my attention is the chalkboard sign out front: We have Shrimp Etouffee Today. I’ve walked Havemeyer for years and there’s never been a spot to eat etouffee. New spots pop up often these days all over my neighborhood, which is foodie central, so I’m not surprised, but definitely interested.

I’m allergic to shrimp sometimes (it’s the uncertainty in sometimes that makes me gamble and get into trouble) so I’m not here to try the etouffee this time, but my curiosity is piqued, so I stop in, and check out the breakfast menu. The featured special is a steak breakfast burrito and there are other intriguing options like jambalaya breakfast burrito (again, shrimp), who the owner Stan, a friendly mature man with a white beard manning the orders and cash register, describes to me as being rice based. I opt for the chorizo breakfast burrito. I grew up in LA and my ex was Mexican and an amazing cook, so if chorizo or any other Mexican dish is offered, I’ll order it in the hopes of finding a spot to satiate my occasional cravings since really good Mexican food is difficult to find in this city.

I chat with Stan as I’m paying, tell him it’s my first time, and he gives me a cup of coffee on the house in honor of this occasion. I walk outside and take a stool in front of the take-out window. Staying true to its name “little cafe,” there are also a couple of small round tables with chairs and some other stools. As I wait for my order, I notice people do as I had done, walk by, then stop, and decide to try it out. There’s quite a line now.

A few minutes later, Stan hands me my burrito through the window along with one of those condiment bottles that reminds me of those glue bottles I used in elementary school. Only this is filled with a greenish hot sauce. He tells me he makes the hot sauce with poblano peppers and it’s already in my burrito but that I might want more. After taking the first delicious bite, I can’t get enough of the sauce–medium spicy, vinegary–hoarding the bottle and pouring it on before every subsequent bite.

Chorizoburrito

When Stan asks me how the burrito is, I tell him, It’s simply delicious. The chorizo. And this sauce. Oh my goodness. He tells me he gets his chorizo in the neighborhood, from Mexico 2000 on Keap, where the guys make it themselves. Then he pulls out a small glass bottle of the hot sauce, which he’s selling for $4, and says, Here, I want you to have this.

hot-sauce

I tell him, No. I’ll pay for it. I forget that I only have a dollar left in my wallet and so snap a picture of the bottle and decide to instagram it, hoping the few instagram followers I have may one day stop by this gem when they’re in the neighborhood. As I leave, I promise Stan I’ll be back and will eat more and buy a bottle then. He says, No. This is for you. Come back again, bring the empty bottle with you, and you can pay for a refill then.

When I get home, it dawns on me.

Steven Johnson. Swerving. Ants. Neighborhoods.

Just last night, I was having a conversation with a friend who had texted me earlier in the week the address of a yummy gelato shop, Amorino Gelato, he just discovered while he was in Union Square not far from where I work. He said that he hadn’t noticed it before but something caught his eye at the front of the shop and so he decided to go in.

Screen shot 2013-11-10 at 8.51.53 PM

Steven Johnson. Swerving. Ants. Neighborhoods.

So here’s the thing:

Yesterday, I was listening to a radio show on WNYC and one of the guests was Steven Johnson who wrote a book, Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software.

I’ve not read the book yet so I searched and found a review of this book by Carrie Gartner, PhD that pretty much sums up what Johnson was saying, what the broadcast was about: swerve.

Johnson defines emergence as “movement from low-level rules to higher-level sophistication.” Individual actors making street-level decisions will automatically and unknowingly organize those actions into a larger, complex whole—a pattern that often works better than one imposed from the top.

Johnson comes at this conclusion in a roundabout way—by studying everything from slime molds to ants, to computers to the internet itself. In these arenas, every decision happens on the micro level—whether it’s an ant or a byte—and patterns are created as a result of these individual actions. As he points out, “While they are capable of remarkably coordinated feats of task allocation, there are no Five-Year Plans in the ant kingdom.”

Ant Colony

antColonyMap

Cities operate in much the same way. People travel through the city in set routes but if you see something interesting just off your route, you swerve. A new shop, a sidewalk café, an art installation. Pretty soon, traffic patterns change. That little bubble is incorporated into the larger whole. Then the next guy comes along and decides he’d like to take advantage of all the new traffic. So he decides to open a business just outside this area—usually because that’s where the rents are low and vacancies are high. And people swerve again. And then the next person comes along and she decides to open up a restaurant and more people swerve. And over time, you’ve created a busy urban street where there wasn’t anything before.

Who plans this? According to Johnson, no one–-and everyone. There is no leader. It’s nothing more than a series of small, independent decisions but together, they become a whole.

So there you have it, folks. Happy swerving!

Pomegranate

I bought my first pomegranates of the season. I love pomegranates. Originating perhaps in the area of Iran, there are over 500 cultivars (cultivated varieties) of pomegranate. They’re divinely delicious and high in antioxidants and cagens, which purport to help in avoidance and recovery of disease.

But as most of you probably would agree, they’re not a friendly, easy fruit, wearing armor, resisting penetration, causing an utter mess. I decided, after massacring the first one–slicing it in half, splattering the arial juice all over my walls, staining my garments, picking laboriously through membrane to get to the morsels, then finally impatiently conceding and biting straight into it–that my approach desperately needed fine tuning. Don’t misunderstand me. There’s something incredibly satisfying and pleasurable in biting without regard. But if you’re interested in a less invasive, tidier, and what some might call, respectful way of enjoying your pomegranate, I found an option for you.

SCORE and SPANK.

By the way, ignore that water method, which involves slicing the pomegrante in half and dunking it in water. Avoid slicing all the way through in general. Which means, ignore those cheap plastic Mickey Mouse contraptions being sold–they sacrifice too much of the juice. They’re a waste of money.

So…Score and Spank.

By combining the two methods suggested on these two youtube videos I found, “The Correct Way to Eat a Pomegranate” and “The Best Pomegranate Technique (No Water Method) Quick Trick,” in just a few minutes, you end up with the most amount of unbroken seeds, are able to avoid the disrespectful massacring of the fruit, and get to have a little bit of fun doing it. All you need is a knife and a spanking tool (wooden spoon or any spoon works well).

Follow the woman’s scoring technique and once most of the pomegranates have been dislodged, use the man’s spanking technique (ignore his scoring technique unless you want to spend an inordinate amount of time and effort trying to separate the two halves). And there you have it!

My loved ones accuse me of being controlling, which I am admittedly, sometimes. It’s usually because no one’s shown me a suitable alternative to going about whatever it is I’m doing. But I’m not stubborn and unwilling to listen or to invest a little time seeking out alternatives. There’s a difference. My way’s better. Your method’s wrong. That kind of talk doesn’t work with me. But if you show me what you got, make your case. I’ll always listen.

Anyone who truly loves oysters would agree with me: If you love oysters, there’s no such thing as moderation.

                

This spring, I discovered Preserve 24, a wonderful relatively new restaurant cum art installation in the East Village that boasts and delivers delicious food, libations, an attentive friendly staff AND Dollar Oyster Happy Hour from 4pm – 8pm. During one visit there, when my family and some friends were in town at the same time, we consumed 13 dozen oysters. After the decadence, I wasn’t sure whether to brag or cower in shame at this excess. I realized after a few moments that I had no reason to feel guilty. In fact, I should be celebratory.

Next time someone gives you the scrunchy face when you mention oysters, you can share this stuff with them:

Oysters are No. 1 on Science Channel’s Top Ten Aphrodisiacs.

Zinc, which oysters are packed with, controls progesterone levels and has a positive effect on libido; the flipside, zinc deficiency can cause impotence in men.

It’s a “Best Choice” according to Monterey Bay Aquarium‘s Seafood Watch program which “helps consumers and businesses make choices for healthy oceans. Our recommendations indicate which seafood items are ‘Best Choices,’ ‘Good Alternatives,’ and which ones you should ‘Avoid.'” Farmed oysters account for 95 percent of the world’s total oyster consumption. Most oyster farming operations are very well managed and produce a sustainable product and are extremely well-suited to aquaculture. Oysters minimally impact marine resources as they don’t rely on wild-caught fish–in the form of fishmeal or fish oil–for food. And because of the oyster’s filter-feeding action, oyster farms can benefit the surrounding coastal waters.

Oysters are HEROIC. Kate Orff is even working on reviving New York’s rivers with oysters and did a TED talk on the subject.

Oysters have been the subject of many a book, one of the more recent famous ones being Mark Kurlansky’s The Big Oyster and a terrific adventure, history, and food narrative by Erin Byers Murray, Shucked: Life on a New England Oyster Farm.

There’s even a newish “Oyster” song out by NoThankYou, a collaboration between Dirty Projectors’ vocalist and keyboardist Olga Bell and British solo musician Tom Vek that’s pretty good.

And OMG, this Shoot and Shuck cocktail!!!

  • 2 ounces ginger-infused vodka
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
  • Ice

The problem with writing about oysters is the drool and desperation factor that eventually sets in.

The last thing I wanted to do was create a list of the wonderful places in LA and New York where I’ve indulged in Happy Hour Oysters. But it’s too big. So I’ll tell you my favorites over the last six months: Preserve 24, Maison Premier, John Dory, Grand Central Oyster Bar, Cliff’s Edge.

Peace out. You know what I’ll be doing.