I drafted this and decided not to post it because it felt too personal. But, I'm over it. Here is part 1 in a series of backlogged entries I drafted but never published. Not that anyone reads this thing anyway : )

At the stroke of midnight, was overwhelmed by sadness. Sometimes you just have to run to dry storage and cry a little. (or, the Sel freezer.)

I'm currently reading The Wine Bible and Bird by Bird. I just finished reading the Widow Cliquot and was irresistibly tempted to buy a bottle of the Veuve ($48 a pop) to experience what I have read so much about. Another time, I will. Like, maybe for my 29th birthday coming up on the 29th! I am looking to dress up and treat myself to a really nice dinner. (Note: I didn't buy champagne or go out to a fancy dinner.)

Life has been hard recently. I've been questioning whether all the sacrifice is worth it. Need to delve into these questions more. Set up some stages. Figure out what I want to do once I'm done with L'Espalier. Do I want to move to SF? NYC? Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever have a family of my own, but until then, I will try to be content with being an auntie to my cousin's adorable kids and wait til my brother and sis in law have some of their own : ) (I did not set up any stages. I'm still trying to figure out what I want to do. I used to think NYC, but now I'm veering towards SF. Why? Among other reasons, my brother and sis in law are anticipating a little Yang!)

Some things I've learned:

-Line cooking is tough. It breaks you every day. But there are the occasional payoffs. That feeling of exhilaration after working a smooth, intense service. Pat on the back from the owner. Looking at a beautiful plate you've created. Yea, I made that. Sitting on a clean line with coworkers at the end of a night, snacking on chicken fingers and aioli from Sel, throwing back a cold one. Sometimes I hate everyone at work, but that's because they are like your other family. The really fucked up twisted one. I say that with a smile on my face.

-Indian Neck oysters have thinner, more brittle shells than Island Creek Oysters, that often break and shatter at the point at which you enter them with your oyster knife. Their shells are more brown and ridged and riddled with strange calcified worm patterns all over them and streaked with one black line down the middle. Island Creeks are much easier to shuck and have a fresh sweet flavor to offset the briny ocean flavor of the liqueur. Indian Necks are shockingly briny. Too salty for my taste. Moon Shoals taste very similar to Island Creeks but are much bigger and more plump and long, size-wise. I used to dread shucking oysters on the fly, but I enjoy it now. Because I'm not so bad at it anymore. Of course, when I am being watched sometimes I get performance anxiety.

-Lying has no place in a kitchen. That is why I despise my station partner. Neither does allowing other people to take the fall for your mistakes. Have some balls. Own up to your own mistakes. Don't let your boss yell at other people for yours without speaking up.

I don't know if this is going to be a good year. I just know that I want it to be a year of BIG CHANGES.

Watch out, World.

(And to Nancy and Yah-Kong, who I hope will never read this blog, thanks for loving me and being the most supportive parents ever. Most Asian parents would probably have disowned me by now, but I know that while there is still breath in your bodies, I always have the option of being one of those pathetic 29-year-olds who live at home with their parents...if I ever needed to. You're the best.)


What I'm enjoying these days:

Reading Material
-I finally finished reading Life, On the Line by Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas. When I finally got to the latter section of the book where they get into Grant's stage 4 tongue cancer diagnosis and breaking the news to his entire staff, I began tearing up and sniffling in the booth I was sharing with a random girl at Diesel Cafe. She probably thought I was nuts, but it just really got to me reading about such a devastating diagnosis...especially to a young, world-reknown chef, 33 at the time. It's like Mozart going deaf. Who thinks that kind of shit will happen to you? His story is amazing and I was extremely touched by the lengths Nick (his business partner/friend) went to help him find a doctor who was willing to try chemotherapy to target the cancerous area in his tongue and neck instead of splitting his jaw in 2 to remove his entire tongue (and surrounding tissue, just in case), rebuilding a "tongue" for him out of his arm muscles that would mean he would no longer be able to swallow, taste, or talk, as was recommended by 3 other doctors they went to first.

He survived the treatment, gradually recovered his sense of taste and hasn't skipped a beat in running Alinea with 2 other restaurant developments in the works. My cousin Jess was lamenting the closing of Ferran Adria's El Bulli, and we both decided we have to make a list of restaurants to eventually go to...Alinea is on the list. I haven't experienced food that modern before, although under the new chef in charge I believe the cuisine at L'Espalier is becoming more modern bit by bit, and I'm not sure if it's my favorite style of cooking, but...I have endless respect for the sheer creativity, intelligence, discipline, and dedication it takes to innovate and create food that challenges our conceptions of how ingredients should be used and presented. You wouldn't necessarily want to eat food like this all the time, but it's good to know there are chefs out there who are pushing boundaries. Which is the whole point. Cooking can't continue to evolve without chefs doing things like this, no matter how much you want to hate on foams and gels and encapsulated liquids and so on.

-Vogue, Elle, Saveur. I love magazines...and food and fashion.

-This wonderful blog. This article especially resonated with me:

I have a beautiful niece who I can't help but praise for her cuteness, adorable-ness, cleverness, and general awesomeness. None of which is bad per se, but reading this blog entry made me seriously re-think how I address this lovely little girl who I hope will be as strong, confident, and discerning as she is beautiful and talented as she grows older. What kind of message am I sending her if the first thing that comes out of my mouth when I address her is praise for her outfits, hair, and physical looks? Societal beauty pressure will always exist, but I can certainly do my best to not add to that pressure and expectation and treat her as an interesting individual with more going for her than just her outward looks. I fwded the link to my entire extended family...and I hope we all take the inherent message to heart. I've often reflected that I have only managed to turn out confident due to the fact that my entire family (parents and aunts and uncles) have never twitted me about my looks or weight...even when I was at my most awkward. I always felt valued no matter what and when my looks were commented on, all I ever heard was that I was growing prettier every year...whether it was true or not. I do think it's okay to give that kind of praise judiciously...but it's a good reminder that there are many ways to break the ice when talking to a young girl besides complimenting her clothes or hairstyle.

-Ratio by Michael Ruhlman. I skim through this periodically. I want to be freed from needing recipes all the time. Trying to get a better grasp of common, basic ratios for making vinaigrettes, aiolis, different batters, etc. The more I cook, the more I realize that nothing quite replaces good old fashioned repetition. I have to make blini batter fresh every day I go into work. The basic gist of it is 18-20 oz of cooked potato, 3 eggs, 2 yolks, 4 Tb creme fraiche, 2-4 Tb flour. There is probably a more exact science to this but sometimes I don't always weigh out the potato. I usually do just to make sure I know whether I'm a little over or under 18 oz, which then informs me that I may or may not need that last egg or egg yolk. Using the chef's freshly dug young yukon gold potatoes has also taught me that the batter turns out really grainy and shitty unless I throw in a russet, which is starchier and less waxy (I think that's the reason at least). Sometimes I need to add more flour, sometimes less. It depends on how moist the potatoes are. The first few times I made blini, the batter was often too runny and I would get reamed by the fish cook who has to cook them off for me on his steel plancha when I get in caviar orders. I now make them pretty much perfectly all the time. But it's a bit tricky sometimes. My partner's fucked it up a few times too. It just takes practice and knowing what to look for in the consistency of the batter...and using your judgment.

Alexander Wang, Helmut Lang, American Apparel, J. Crew. Wearing my hair in a low bun and looking polished on my days off : ) ...for a change! I bought my first A. Wang item. A very plain and boring looking heather gray tank top dress...on the hanger. On me, it comes to life, baby. Love simple clothing. Worth every penny.

Sadly, I seem to only enjoy good food when I am cooking for others. I have a couple pictures I managed to take before my dying camera batteries gave out of the meals I made for Varun and me when he came to visit a couple weeks ago. Think lots of corn, tomatoes, ratatouille, watermelon. Also, blueberry buttermilk pancakes. I have to confess, the past 2 nights though I've been living off of Chinese take out. Mongolian beef...it hits the spot when you are starving at night at 2 am in the morning. And a tall frosty glass of Mountain Dew. $1 dollar taco tuesdays at La Verdad! I went yesterday for the first time. Awesome!

Italian reds. Beer. Of any brand. But favorite of the summer is Mayflower Golden Ale. I can't resist a nice, malty, crisp golden ale. Very strong coffee with lots of cream. Cafe Au Laits if I'm buying from a cafe.


SF, part 2

Didn't take pictures of everything we made at the bbq on Sat. Once the real grilling got underway, the actual cooking and eating of everything took precedence. I managed to take a few pictures of the caprese salad and my unbaked nectarine and strawberry crisp and other prep shots.

young torpedo onion tops and shucked corn (to be charred on the grill)

spice-rubbed pork tenderloin, grilled to juicy pink perfection. thanks paul!

portion of the gigantic, 6-egg omelet i made for sunday breakfast with the leftovers from the previous night. filling: grilled zucchini, corn, onions, salmon, mozzarella cheese

berry salad with mint and basil. so fresh and perfectly ripe.

sunday night dinner before my departure: squid ink pasta with shrimp, garlic, salami, tons of fresh herbs: basil, mint, onion tops

cowgirl creamery burrata with heirloom tomatoes and basil, courtesy of ferry marketplace


San Francisco

So, I was pretty overwhelmed last night at the thought of having to occupy myself for an entire day in a city I'm completely unfamiliar with, without a smartphone to aid me, while my brother and sister in law were at work. But then I spent some time looking up, studying maps, and drawing maps of all the fun places my friend from work recommended and realized it wouldn't be that bad. Everything was pretty much within walking distance and the grid system of streets was pretty easy to figure out. I drew out simple line maps so I could refer to my notebook to orient myself. It was important for me to have something to reference without fumbling around with maps or overrelying on my brother's Droid (which he decided would be best to lend to me. since I have no sense of direction). At the end of the day, I didn't need to use anything but my trusty notebook. I pretty much walked everywhere I needed to go except for taking the train from the SF MOMA down to the Mission.

I was a good citizen and did not take any surreptitious pictures at the SF MOMA. I went to the special exhibit they featured of the Stein's collection of Matisse, Picasso, and other Parisian avant-garde artists of their time. It was a wonderful exhibit! I was really glad I had spent time at the MOMA in New York looking at Picasso's cubist studies on guitars. At the SF exhibit, I got to see sketches, studies, and paintings that were precursors to that period. It was really nice that I could somewhat connect the dots and get a better understanding of how Picasso's style began evolving in the early 1900s as he began to experiment with cubism and more abstract representations of the subjects he painted.

After the museum, I took the train down to 24th and Mission and thus began my colorful wanderings in that neighborhood. Enjoy!

I decided I had to have a quick breakfast and a coffee before I hit up the museum. Breakfast bowl of chili over steam-scrambled (organic) eggs topped with sour cream and red onions at Soup Freak on Mission and 3rd Street around the corner from the SF MoMA. Only $5.25 and totally hit the spot.

Nacho Libre would approve

weird alien mural

2 scoops from Humphre Slocombe. Top: pale green Thai chili lime sorbet. Bottom: Pistachio Brittle. Delicious and intriguing! Loved it.

EAT THIS. LH: Beef Tongue taco RH: the best al pastor taco I've ever had in my life! (under $5)

my favorite shot of the day

this window full of creepy doll figurines and chotchkes attracted my attention, especially the funny sign.

en route to Dolores Park

is it creepy that I snapped this? so adorable! little boy and girl sitting on ledge at Bi-Rite Creamery

Top: salted caramel (silky, heavenly) Bottom: Balsamic Strawberry (fresh, tart, creamy, delicious)

beautiful lemon cream tarts at the famous Tartine Bakery!

2 country loaves. fresh out of the oven.

It was a great day.


What I've been making:

3 am Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

unflattering shot of very fragrant gorgeous strawberries (artificial light, dark kitchen, apologies!)

gorgeous peeled rhubarb masquerading as peppermint candy bites!]

Fungi for Oeufs en Cocotte

upclose shot of oyster mushrooms (left) and apricot colored hedgehog mushrooms (right)

Midday snack: Supremed minneola orange segments

Sick-Girl Beverage: Honey Lemon Tea

Sick-Girl Food: Poor-man's Soon Dubu (spicy Korean tofu stew)

Boyfriend's Peace Offering: Chocolates

(loved the key lime pie and strawberry one!)

Melange of Peppers

(long hot, orange bell, cubanelle, sweet hot)
Lunch I made for my boyfriend:

Parm-black pepper seasoned polenta, topped with melange of tangy/sweet/hot peppers, along with a fresh tomato and avocado salad dressed with lemon juice, cilantro, mint, topped with a sunny side up farm fresh egg. (There is probably a better way to describe this that is less wordy but I like to describe..in great detail.)

Breakfast I made for my boyfriend using leftovers from Lunch I made + Dinner leftovers from Toro

Lunch I made for myself using the same ingredients leftover from when I shopped for my boyfriend's visit: +

This is getting repetitious, I realize, but nonetheless a true and accurate reflection of what I was cooking at the time. Believe it or not, I made this dinner once more (in an effort to finish using my groceries) when I invited a friend over for dinner. I did not feel the need to take pictures that time -.-

Simple Pasta with a Fresh Tomato and Roasted Orange Bell Pepper Sauce

Something different! This meal hit the spot like none other. Sometimes there is nothing better than diving into a huge tangled bowl of pasta. I blanched, peeled, and pureed the tomatoes along with roasted orange bell peppers and long hot peppers that I charred on my gas burner. I also included a whisper of smoked paprika to give it a little smokiness.

Authentic Mexican Enchiladas (not of the Tex-Mex variety)

...with a Negra Modelo, no less. I go all out. I go all out. (I also purchased 4 liters of Mexican Coke...bc it's made with actual azucar and not high fructose corn syrup. Goya brand pineapple juice, coconut water, jasmine rice, and beans. For future mexican feasts. We only had enchiladas and beer.)

This. Was. Glorious.!!!!

I got the recipe from Saveur magazine. We made a red chile sauce out of toasted dried New Mexican chiles (gloriously fragrant, mild, fruity, and slightly smoky...barely spicy despite what its saturated color would seem to indicate), Mexican chocolate, cinnamon, oregano, cloves, garlic, salt to taste, and 1.5 cups of boiling hot water. Next, corn tortillas are lightly deep-fried to make them pliable for rolling. Then dip each tortilla in the sauce on both sides til coated, and sprinkle, thinly sliced raw yellow onion and queso fresco (supposed to be queso anejo, which is aged and i'm guessing sharper in flavor compared to the mild fresh cheese I used...couldn't find queso anejo), and this was my addition, diced up chicken breast that I cooked and marinated with garlic, salt, and tons of cilantro and mint. Roll them up and arrange seam-side down in a casserole dish. Garnish with more sauce, some cheese and more slices of raw onion + herbs. No need to bake in the oven after, but I stuck it in the oven for a few minutes for the purposes of reheating.

The red chile sauce was a tour de force. The chiles were unexpectedly fruity and fragrant...and combined with the dark Taza chocolate I put in, made for an astonishingly smooth, thick, rich, burnished vibrant brick red colored sauce. It was a little too intense and thick for our taste, however, even after thinning it out with some water, so I pureed a ripe red tomato and garlic to add to the sauce. That did the trick. Because a tomato is mostly water, it helped thin out the sauce to the right consistency and incorporate a fruity acidity to balance out the intense chile/chocolate flavor of the sauce.

Some Mise and Action Shots (courtesy of Joo-Hee's phone)

The End and To Be Continued.