Archive for the ‘food’ Category

Resolutions are just words…

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

…until they turn into results.

[A photo from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, December 31, 2012, outer bay tank, with the profiles of different observers staring at fish]

Resolution: Eat and watch more fish.

There seems to be a justifiable backlash against making new year’s resolutions among my friends, but I’m old-fashioned. Despite being two weeks late in posting these (I had to try them out for a bit first!), here’s what I’m aspiring to improve this year in my personal life:

  • Strive to always pay full attention to those I’m around, as described in this article by Jeff Haden detailing the 10 habits of charismatic people.
  • Read two books a month (including the free book each month for having a Kindle and Amazon Prime), and sign up for Goodreads.
  • Run three 5k races and one 10k race, spaced throughout the year.
  • For the other 8 months, set and accomplish a goal each a month in Runkeeper (total distance, speed, etc.). (My January goal is to run 20 miles; I’m currently over 11 miles at the halfway point of the month, so I’m on track.)
  • Keep up with the Fitbit by walking at least 10k steps a day (about 5 miles) — accomplish this 28 days each month.
  • Each week, have six workouts: two runs, and four short sessions of calisthenics/abs/weightlifting.
  • After my dental surgery in December, the surgeon commanded me to floss twice daily. So shall I do.
  • Drink more water, coffee, and tea; continue with the elimination I started last year of soda/diet soda/juice. (One soda or juice drink a week is acceptable.)
  • By year’s end, eliminate non-dairy sweeteners (both sugar and artificial) from the coffee I drink.
  • Start tracking my spending more closely with Mint.
  • Start writing again: Write at least one short story this year, and post to this blog at least once a month.

White people can’t eat spicy food?

Saturday, April 7th, 2012


At a Korean restaurant in Santa Clara with Matt and Marli, Matt pointed this out on the menu. We ordered one normal and two spicy dishes, and they were delicious, but all three were not spicy. Perhaps they didn’t believe us? It reminds me of this SNL skit with Christian Slater.

Canadian Corn Pops are better

Sunday, July 11th, 2010

We’re in Canada to visit my brother Harry, staying at cabins on Purdy Lake.

We had Corn Pops for breakfast. The American ones are smaller, less tasty, and completely unnatural in color. Well done, Canada. No one needs to eat phosphorescent yellow cereal.

What’s with milk in a bag, though?

We ate up there

Friday, January 1st, 2010

A photograph of the Space Needle in Seattle at nighttimeThere’s a maxim my dad told me when I was a kid, after dragging us into some tourist trap of a restaurant by some beach somewhere: “The better the view, the worse the food.”

There’s another rule of thumb engineers talk about also: “Good. Fast. Cheap. Pick two.” (Meaning you can’t have everything — there’s always a compromise that has to be made with either the schedule, the budget, or the quality.)

Well, the Sky City restaurant rotates at the top of the Space Needle in Seattle, where we ate this evening. It seems to defy both rules: The view is truly magnificent yet the food was good too. I had the clam chowder followed by Dungeness crab mac and cheese, and it was sublime. The other entrees chosen by our group (my wife and my sister-in-law, plus my two kids) all seemed delicious as well, if not especially gourmet. Kimi’s crab cakes were perfect, and Tomi’s French toast with espresso creme was wonderful.

As for that second maxim: The food was good, but it wasn’t fast or cheap. The speed didn’t bother us — more time to enjoy the view. We were planning on riding up to the top of the needle regardless, and since no restaurants were open nearby on New Year’s Day, it seemed prudent to eat there.

The maxim I will pass onto my kids is this: “The better the view, the more you’ll pay for it.”

Great treat to start the new year, though! Happy New Year, readers. (Both of you.)

Coffee circle

Monday, June 15th, 2009

Vicious circle for coffee

Two Great Tastes (Generator)

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

Stuck for what to make for dinner? Looking to invent the next taste sensation? Try my new “two great tastes” generator!

Would a kitten by any other name taste so good?

Friday, January 16th, 2009

I found out about PETA’s new campaign to rebrand “fish” as “sea kittens” via an NPR story the other day. Their idea is that people might not eat fish if fish were called something cute like “sea kittens” instead.

I believe PETA does a great job of being intentionally outrageous in order to attract publicity. (Naked supermodels, modest proposals, screedy and divisive comics worthy of Jack Chick — the list goes on.)

Would people really change their eating behavior over just a name? Sweetbreads don’t seem to be very popular, despite their very appetizing name. But it’s true that I’d probably not chose to buy a brand of jam called “Nastyvomit’s Famous Rhubarb Preserves,” so maybe PETA is onto something.

As an experiment, I’ll be saying “sea kitten” instead of “fish” when I remember to. My suspicion is that no behavior will be changed. (Which reminds me, sometime I need to write about the Sapir Worf hypothesis.) The entire PETA campaign is very sea kitteny. But as they say: Give a man a sea kitten, and you’ve fed him for a day. Teach a man how to sea kitten, and you’ve fed him for a lifetime.

Which leads to the question: What other animals need to be renamed along kitten lines? My friend Brian has already dubbed birds as “sky kittens” (as in, “those sky kittens downed that plane yesterday, so glad everyone got out of the Hudson alive”) and Rachel has started using the phrase “land kittens” to refer to regular, um, kittens.

I hereby declare:

  • “Cows” are now “land puppies”
  • “Pigs” are now “furless sty kittens”
  • “Chickens” are now “flightless sky kittens”

PETA needs to go the other way, too. In order to get people to eat more vegetarian food, it should sound appetizing. Therefore:

  • “Tofu” is now “soma”
  • “Soy burger” is now “yummy burgah”
  • “Tempeh” is now “bacon”

VGT Omnivore’s Hundred a la Zeigen

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

This is going around, and it’s been a while since I did a meme theme, so… Why not! Here’s a hundred random foods, and you bold the ones you’ve eaten, and cross out the ones you’d never try.

“Never” is a very strong word. (What if you were trapped in the Andes with a rugby team? Marooned in a life raft in the Atlantic? Competing on Survivor?) So, I took “never consider” to mean “probably would not consider,” but even so there are not many cross outs.

Most of the ones that aren’t crossed out I’d genuinely like to try, although it didn’t seem worth the effort to score each item on how tasty I considered it or how much I wanted to try it; I did add some comments in parentheses here and there.

My score is only 54, which doesn’t seem that high to me. Post in the comments your score if you don’t have a blog to do this yourself!

  1. Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
  2. Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
  3. Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
  4. Optional extra: Post a comment here at linking to your results.

(Links are to Wikipedia. FAQ here, analysis here.)

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich (allergic to peanut butter, that vilest of substances)
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream (allergic again)
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava (ate this once by mistake, not knowing it had walnuts in it)
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi (tried a tiny sip once, didn’t like it)
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar (nope, not going to try any form of smoking)
37. Clotted cream tea (probably had this as a kid but can’t remember)
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O (at a memorable TiVo celebration in 1999 was the last time)
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian (really want to try this some day)
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis (once was enough)
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini (I’ve tried each separately but never together)
73. Louche absinthe (thanks to an absinthe bar at Burning Man)
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant. (Someday, I hope.)
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox (I’m allergic to salmon)
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake (Garlic Festival for the win!)

Changing gears #4: A new world order

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

At your favorite restaurant, order something completely out of your comfort zone, something that you’ve always wanted to try, something you don’t know if you’ll like.

Worst case, you don’t like it (and can order something else instead).

Best case, you’ve got a new favorite dish.

Eight lessons from the Gilroy Garlic Festival 2008

Monday, July 28th, 2008
  1. Sunday is less crowded than Saturday (and at 10am the traffic was practically nothing), but next year I hope take a vacation day from work and visit it on Friday instead.
  2. Mild weather trumps crowds: If the forecast shows one of the three days is much less hot than the other three, choose that day.
  3. Parent to young-child ratio of 1:1 too demanding. Strollers on the dusty ground pose challenges. (Friday & daycare may be the solution.)
  4. No matter how much your two-year-old says he wants to ride the carnival ride in the kids area with the Jeep 4x4s going up and down and round and round, he really won’t like it.
  5. Not all garlic corn is created equal. The high school fundraising booth with $3 corn isn’t bad, but the other place has better corn.
  6. Get to the free vanilla garlic ice cream both early, to avoid it being sold out and also because the more garlic-infused regular food you eat, the less your tangue can really appreciate the nuance of garlic ice cream.
  7. The shade structure with the karaoke has plusses and minuses. The plusses include the shade, and available seating. The minuses include the karaoke.
  8. The best spot in the whole place is the rain room.

Yvonne and baby Logan joined Kimi, Sammy, Sophie and me for the Gilroy Garlic Festival again yesterday. While I had a great time, and I feel like Sammy and Sophie loved it too, Yvonne and Kimi thought it all a bit too much with little kids. I already can’t wait for next year, though.

Is there even a word in Spanish for bacon?

Friday, May 9th, 2008

I recognize the relationship between Taco Bell’s menu and actual Mexican food has always been something similar to the relationship between how computers work in Hollywood movies versus how they actually work in real life — a fiction loosely inspired by the source material, designed to look real to those who have never had much hands-on experience with the genuine article.

But as I drove by a Taco Bell this morning and saw an ad for their new “Bacon Club Chalupa,” I couldn’t help but feel that they’re not even trying any more.

I don’t eat bacon (heresy!) but I’ll bet 31 grams of fat and 970 milligrams of sodium never tasted so muy bueno.

Great gobs o’ garlic

Monday, July 30th, 2007

On Saturday Kimi and Sammy and Yvonne and I made our way down to the Gilroy Garlic Festival again, always one of my favorite times of the year.

A bit more traffic this year than last year, and while I love the festival I’d love to see them change things up a bit more — the same booths are always in the same location each year.

The garlic bread was just amazing this year, and I think I lost track of all the things we ate: Corn on the cob with garlic butter, garlic ice cream (you gotta eat it early so you can still the taste the garlic), Pacific Rim Garlic Chicken Stir Fry, garlic stuffed mushrooms, garlic scampi, garlic calamari in a spicy tomato broth, garlic BBQ oysters (that one was just me), garlic kettle corn (popcorn). I feel like I’m leaving some things out, too. Also some wonderful strawberry/banana/peach smoothies that — horrors! — didn’t have any garlic in them.

One of my favorite moments was when I was waiting in line for the BBQ oysters and overheard two young men standing nearby: “Hmm, look at that, they have garlic gator tails. You ever eaten alligator?” “No, but I’d like to. Too bad I’m out of money.” “Yeah, me too.” (The item they were discussing cost $5.) “Wait, I have $3 left, how much do you have?” “Umm, exactly $2.” “That’s $5! Wanna split?” “Score!” They high-fived and rushed to the end of the line.

Kimi and I picked up some nice gloves of raw garlic as well as some inexpensive jars of crushed garlic. I don’t cook often but I’m really craving more garlic this week, so maybe I’ll whip something up.

Sammy was an amazing eater — he seemed to like everything he tried. Especially the garlic kettle corn.

Unlike last year, which was a bit overcast, it was blazing hot this year. Yvonne was telling us a co-worker of hers looks at the weather forecast each year and schedules her visit on the day that’s forecast to be coolest. That’s a smart idea — we’ll try that next year.

Sammy fell asleep in my arms a bit before 2pm and, although normally a light sleeper, stayed asleep on the shuttle bus and all the way home.

Sammy and Stephen, sleeping while waiting for the shuttle bus, Gilroy Garlic Festival, July 29, 2007; photo by Kimi Mack

John (Yvonne’s husband) was too busy with his thesis to join us this year, so we met up with him for dinner and had crepes. Yum!

Anniversary part deux

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2007

Tonight was our second wedding anniversary, and to celebrate, John and Yvonne watched Sammy, and Kimi picked out a great Vietnamese restaurant in Palo Alto, Tamarine. (Yelp reviews for Tamarine.)

We started with the mushroom rolls and roti prata, which might have been a bit too much fried food, but were both very delicious. For the main course, we tried the signature Tamarine Prawns along with some curried long beans (green beans, that is), with lemongrass rice. I loved the prawns, and the rice was just amazing, and the beans weren’t bad at all.

For dessert, it was a lemon tart for me, and tapioca with ice cream for Kimi. Both delicious.

All in all I’d recommend the restaurant highly. It didn’t blow me away like Aqua did last year but very delicious, and wonderful to spend time together and think about two years of being married. Love you, sweetie, and thank you!

“Pan’s Labyrinth”

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007

Wednesday night is our new date night. After dropping off Sammy with Kyrie, we grabbed some quick food at Sushi Tomo on University in Palo Alto (not very good, sorry — Kimi hated her zaru soba, and the tempura was a little off, but the spicy tuna was ok). Then it was time for Pan’s Labyrinth at the Cinearts, where we arrived ten minutes late but just in time for the opening scene.

It’s hard to review this movie without revealing too much of the plot. I first have to say this: Do not take children. We were warned this was an intense film, but “intense” is too mild a word to describe the movie. A better word might be “brutal” but you could also add in “shocking” and “relentless.” The commercials that I’ve seen (or more accurately, the commercials I fast-forwarded through) give the impression of a gentle but sad and dark fairy tale. You’re better off expecting a violent war film with certain fightening fantastical elements.

Now that your expectations are set, the film is beautifully made, written in perfect balance, acted with rare skill, and fully deserving of the Oscar for Best Foreign Film of 2006. It walks a delicate line between its fairy tale theme and its rebels vs. soldiers war story, and more than once I thought it was unraveling, only to realize I was being led deeper into the maze. There are certain foreshadowing elements that should have been a little less emphasized, but overall this is a film that will be haunting me for months. I recommend it highly as long as you have a strong stomach for violence; there were three or four scenes Kimi could not watch. Despite all that, it is a rare and breathtaking masterpiece.

Rant: “Pan’s Labyrinth” is a bit misleading as a translation of the Spanish title, El Laberinto del Fauno. I didn’t know the real Spanish title until afterwards, and so based on the English title, I expected Pan himself to show up or be referenced; a better title would be “The Fawn’s Labyrinth.”

Postscript: If you’ve seen the film, check out the interesting trivia.

Straits Cafe

Thursday, February 15th, 2007

For her 30th birthday and St. Valentine’s Day, I took Kimi to the Straits Cafe in Palo Alto. They had decorated it nicely with pink and red balloons, and it was quite crowded. (I had forgotten that a year ago I had made a reservation to return to Chez TJ, so when they called me to remind me I had to cancel. But we’ll go back there next year.) Right away, I think Straits had made an error in strategy: It was a prix fixe menu (with cutesy names such as “Casanova’s Chicken Skewers” and “Flaming Arrows of Love”), and the regular menu wasn’t available. While Kimi and I didn’t mind at all, I heard more than one arriving couple balk at the idea (“But I wanted the chili crab!”). They certainly should have warned those customers making reservations that the regular menu was off.

Regardless, the menu that they picked was memorable and appropriate. The appetizers were my favorite part: Roti prata (a dish Kimi loves almost more than me), vegetarian samosas, satay chicken, and coconut shrimp. The main course was a mix of beef fillet (which we passed on since neither of us eats red meat), panfried swordfish, Indonesian-style grilled chicken, and chili-infused asparagus with little dried shrimps and shallots. For dessert, a chocolate-covered strawberry and a molten chocolate cake.

Happy birthday Kimi!


Monday, November 27th, 2006

On Sunday, John and Yvonne came over for our second annual “Thanksgiven,” which takes place on the Sunday of the four-day weekend. It’s a chance for the four of us to unwind and spend time socializing with a more intimate Thanksgiving-style dinner.

Here are my notes on the menu:

John and Yvonne bring:
Cranberry sauce
Green beans with garlic
Apple, berry & pumpkin pie
Baked brie & crackers

Stephen and Kimi:
Mashed & sweet potatoes
Sweet potato cheesecake

We timed things so that Sammy napped while we ate. Everything was delicious. Some of you may not be big fans of tofurky but I like it.

We capped things off with a game of Dragon’s Gold, some light napping, and later some warm egg nog and rum with all the variety of desserts.

John and Yvonne, thanks for being such great friends and a part of our lives.

I’m looking forward to leftovers…

Happy Thanksgiving — let’s hear it for four-day weekends

Saturday, November 25th, 2006

The last few years we’ve had Thanksgiving at my parents’ place up in Elk Grove. This year, Kelly and Rob hosted. This was great for two reasons: First, it’s a lot closer, and second, they did almost all of the cooking, so we could relax a lot more. The only downside is that I didn’t get to see my brother Phil and his wife Erin and daughter Sarah, since they went to Erin’s parents instead.

Kimi made a pair of sweet potato cheesecakes topped with maple cream. In addition to the traditional menu (mostly cooked by Kelly and Rob’s friend Keith), Rob also cooked some crab, which tasted really great although I have to say it felt out of place. A memorable addition, to be sure.

Kelly’s step-mom, dad, sister Tara, and brother-in-law-to-be Geoff were also there, so it was a big group. After dinner, a few folks watched football and the rest of us played some Outburst (one of my favorite party boardgames). Sammy was well-behaved the whole day and managed to take a nap at 3 in the office. Kimi ended up taking him home around 7, and Harry and I followed a bit later (we had invited him to spend the night).

It felt good to see my parents again, and I appreciated Joanna driving them down and back. If we had more room in our house I think we would have invited them to stay as well as Harry.

At home, Kimi went to bed early so Harry and I played some Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation, completing the series we had started the week before. In this two-player board game that shares some similarities with Stratego, the black side (Sauron’s minions — the orcs, cave troll, warg, and other bad guys) are definitely stronger than the white side (the Fellowship and assorted other good characters). Harry’s very good at this game, and gets a lot of practice since they apparently play a lot at his work. With Harry playing the more difficult white side, he beat me 2-1 in the first series, but I managed to win the second series 2-1. The new deluxe edition has some variant characters, and when we played with those, he beat me 3-0 alternating sides. I don’t like the variant characters nearly as much, but I do recommend the game overall — a really interesting game for two players that somehow manages to capture the feel of the books better than any other Lord of the Rings-inspired game I’ve played.

Thursday night we watched BloodRayne, a truly awful inspired-by-a-videogame-neither-of-us-have-ever-played movie, and Friday we basically vegged out and watched Heroes all a bit during the day and finishing up after Sammy went to bed. We had a mini-marathon and succeeded in watching the first nine episodes. I enjoyed Heroes quite a bit, and it’s clear the writers actually know where the first few episodes are going. I was a bit surprised at how much gore there was; it’s not for kids at all. The series plays around with comic books as a theme but ultimately I think the series has more to do with a cross between The 4400, X-Files and Lost than with any particular comic book.

As I write this, Kimi and I are doing a movie-trade. She’s seeing the 7:10 showing of Casino Royale and I’ll see the 10:30 showing.
I’ll add my impressions later.

Date Night: Inside Man

Thursday, May 25th, 2006

Last Friday was date night, and thanks to the pro babysitting of John & Yvonne, Kimi and I headed out to dinner and a movie.

Our first intention was to try the world-famous Uncle Frank’s BBQ, which is around the corner from our house, but we got there at 8:30 and unfortunately it closes at 8. What!? First they don’t let us in with Sammy since it’s in a bar (21 and over required even for the restaurant). Now we learn that they close at 8. Damn you Uncle Frank, with your tantalizing but inaccessable BBQ.

So our second choice was Tomatina, in the Mercardo off 101. This is probably Kimi’s favorite restaurant. The parking lot was a madmadmadhouse as usual, so we got our garlic rolls and piadines and strawberry-lemonade to go, and ate in the cafe area at the Mt. View Century. Not romantic or elegant, but certainly delicious.

For the second movie I’ve seen this year, and Kimi’s first, we choose Spike Lee’s Inside Man. I recommend this film. You should know that it’s not really a standard caper pic as it advertises itself to be, and that Jodie Foster’s role is tiny. But Denzel and Clive did a great job, and Spike’s film-making was both engrossing and confident. I suspect there are about six or seven plot holes (and Kimi and I compared notes on them on the way home, each having found possible flaws the other one didn’t find), but ultimately this is a movie that riffs well off of bank heist pics and police standoff pics (such as Dog Day Afternoon, which it pays tribute to) and goes in a fresh direction.

Spike choose to open and close with a piece of Indian pop music — the deliciously catchy Chaiyya Chaiyya from Dil Se (listen/watch it now!).

Epilogue: On Saturday night, we picked up food to go from Uncle Frank’s, and while I think eating it to go misses a majority of the experience, Uncle Frank’s is definitely the real deal. The cajun corn is so incredibly spicy that it’s a full-body experience. There are a few reviews that make for good background reading.