My awesome powerpoint birthday gift

June 29, 2008 at 9:06 pm (random)

My sister got me this gift, but I told her not to mail it to me because it would be too much trouble for her and I’d just pick it up from her next time I saw her.  Then she decided that she wouldn’t tell me what it was, even after my birthday had passed.  I should have known to establish the terms of the agreement first.  But it turns out that it’s all renegotiable.

I suggested to her that I would get her birthday present now (her birthday is in December) but I’d wait until six months after her birthday to give it to her.  So then she agreed to tell me what it was, with photos and I would give my gift to her on time.  But she said that it would take a long time for her to do this.  This is why, the best powerpoint gift ever (click on the image to see the slideshow):

My other sister is giving an awesome gift too – she’s flying out to see my exit talk.  And she’s going to accompany me to the French Laundry!  Okay, maybe that one is partly selfish.


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Yummiest pasta ever – Penne with cherries and morels

June 25, 2008 at 10:04 pm (food, recipes)

penne with cherries and morels

Not Tuan and An’s cat.  Penne pasta.  The sauce was actually the yummiest part.  Butter, garlic, morels, milk, flour for thickening, cherries, and a little manchego cheese.  We mopped it all up!  I love how the sauce turned purple.  Mmmmm, so delicious.  Morels are magic.

I also wound up making strawberry jam out of those frozen strawberries.  And ate a lot of PBJ sandwiches.  As I’m getting older, it’s good to have opportunities to make you feel young again!

pbj sandwich

I love Mark and Joshua and Katee on SYTYCD.  They make me smile.  And laugh.  And I love their dancing.

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What Gary ate in San Francisco

June 25, 2008 at 9:56 pm (food, friends, san francisco)

Afghan bread – bolani – and spreads from the Alemany farmers’ market (and you can see the pomelos in the background).  We froze one bread for him to take back to Boston.  I hope it went through okay.


Oatmeal (steel cut) with peaches and Straus (yummy!) milk.  Whole milk!

oatmeal and straus

Gary is now a Burma Superstar!

burma superstar

And finally, he finished off a few scoops of Bi-Rite ice cream. Gary’s showing how sad he is that the ice cream is gone.

ice cream is finished - sad

Those were all the yummy things.  We also had an adventure with strawberries.  Gary doesn’t like berries, but I thought that maybe eating a strawberry fresh from California instead of nasty East Coast berries could change his mind.  But he’s more stubborn with berries than he is with oatmeal and mangos and peaches and flossing.  I sliced a bunch of strawberries and picked the most delicious one for him to try.  These weren’t the best strawberries I’ve ever had, but they were up there.  This is how much he enjoyed it:

strawberries - yuck?

You should appreciate my honesty.  I could have posted a photo like this one and then reported how Gary now loves strawberries:

strawberries - yay!

But he’s pretty sharp and he probably would have found out about my scam, if I had attempted it.

I don\'t think so

Thanks for visiting and keeping me on my toes!

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Pagolac – Space and Time Warp to Vietnam

June 20, 2008 at 8:24 am (dessert, food, international, restaurants, review, san francisco)

I went to Pagolac (Yelp, Menupages) in the Tenderloin last night with a fun crew of dinner eaters.  We were in San Francisco, but throughout the whole dining experience, I kept having all these flashbacks to being in Vietnam.  It was an unusually warm night for San Francisco, so that helped.  The rest of the effect is probably from the comfortable, unpretentious atmosphere inside and from the great food.  One result of all this good Vietnam food and the Vietnamness was that I had this flash of worry when one dessert came with ice: “Oh no, we forgot to ask for no ice!  We can’t eat this.” While this is a common thought when traveling in places like SE Asia, I don’t usually have that instinctive reaction in the U.S.  (I should note that this reaction wasn’t because the place looked unsanitary… I think it was because I felt like I was away from home.)  Also, when passing through the tiny, cramped kitchen in the back, because it was extra hot back there, I felt like I was a kitchen in Taiwan or Vietnam or another hot Asian country.

More about the food:  pretty much everything was great.  I especially liked the imperial rolls (with taro inside!).  There was also a really interesting noodle (fat rice noodles) dish with dried shredded pork, coconut milk, and other toppings.  Anything wrapped up in rice paper with noodles, herbs and greens, and fish sauce (assembled ourselves) was great.  The imperial rolls were really yummy eaten this way as was a shrimp ball wrapped around sugar cane.  Such a symbiotic relationship with the sugar cane and the shrimp – both components come out way tastier when cooked together.  (You’re supposed to chew the sugar cane to get the juice out rather than chew to swallow.  But if you’d like a little bit more fiber in your life, it can be eaten, as we all witnessed last night.  Mark, thanks for the demo!)  The best dessert we had was this rice pudding and taro dessert – it also had coconut milk.  It was so warm and pleasant and comforting and yummy!

I’d recommend staying away from the ice cream because while it was flavorful, the texture wasn’t great.  There are way more yummy things to eat at Pagolac so there’s no need to order the ice cream, in my opinion.

I haven’t reviewed the dishes and pottery of a restaurant in a while, probably because I haven’t seen anything memorable.  But Pagolac had some great pieces.  They had this one black bowl with pale yellow flowers carved to look like they were scattered on the inside of the bowl – really pretty.  And they had this four-sided teapot with an amazing glaze job – a tenmoku-like (black/copper/red) top, a narrow yellow band, and most of the base was blue.  The different glazes all flowed together and it was very fiery and organic at the same time.

Happy travels!

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Annai needs an eye

June 15, 2008 at 7:21 pm (random)

A really cute video that I saw posted on Cute Overload. I wouldn’t post a video unless it were really great. So this video must be great. Even the title by itself is great: An Eye for Annai:

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What I ate for dinner last night

June 14, 2008 at 9:55 am (food, question, recipes)

Chinese-style pancakes with squash

squash pancakes

These aren’t like scallion pancakes that require you to make a flour-water dough and then roll the dough out and then roll it up to roll it out again. Lots of rolling. That’s how you get the layers. If I make that sometime, I’ll write a post about it w/ photos.

But we’re not talking about those kinds of pancakes. These are just eggs, flour, water, salt, white pepper. I don’t really measure anything – I just play with the ratios until I get a consistency that I like, that is a little runnier than a typical American pancake batter.  I threw in some grated white zucchini (I first salted it, let it sit, and then squeezed excess water out – it helps me control the moisture in the final batter). You can also use scallions, carrots, and other things that grate easily and that cook pretty fast. Then you just cook them up like American pancakes.

They come out really soft and tender, with crispy edges.

I also made a dipping sauce – soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, red pepper flakes, sugar.

Our fridge is too cold (maybe that’s related to the ant story). So we had some strawberries that got frozen. Any suggestions for what I can do with them? Jam? Sauce? Something else?

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I’ve discovered a new method to fix an ant problem!

June 13, 2008 at 2:07 pm (kitchen, random)

By “fix an ant problem,” I mean extermination.  By “extermination,” I mean killing.

We’ve had an ant problem in our kitchen for a few weeks now. We set out various poisons (like the POISONOUS TEAT OF TERRO, as Mark calls it) and they may or may not be working. There seem to be fewer ants, but it’s hard to know for sure.

Now this extermination method that I’m talking about, we know for sure that it’s working. Somehow the ants have found a way to climb into our freezer but then they can’t find their way back out again. Then they freeze to death.

frozen ants

Yes, all those dark specks in the photo are frozen dead ants. I don’t know why they do this. It seems pretty stupid to me. But as you can see, a large number of them have done it and the pile keeps getting bigger.

So here’s the way to exterminate ants:

  1. Make sure that there is a tiny crack for ants to climb into the freezer.
  2. If the path that the ants are using isn’t near the freezer already, lead them towards the freezer with crumbs. (I didn’t have to do this)
  3. Clean the freezer with lemon scented Lysol.

Yes, that’s right, lemon scented Lysol. I think that’s the key. For quite a while, we had an ant problem but they weren’t going into the freezer. After I cleaned the freezer, they couldn’t wait to get to the lemony Lysol party.

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Have you ever had a stalker?

June 10, 2008 at 11:28 am (question, random)

Or had someone act in a stalkerish way?

My sister has had a few stalkers. Or at least, a few people who have behaved in a fairly stalkerish way. She thinks this is normal. I, on the other hand, think this sort of thing is pretty unusual – she is one of two people that I knew who have had stalkers. She thinks that maybe the people I know do have stalkers and they just haven’t told me. So, now I’m asking… has anyone had a stalker?

This exercise will either prove my point or it will bring out entertaining stories that people are hiding away.

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Random Thing #2

June 4, 2008 at 8:00 pm (food, random)

Don’t worry, Simona. I’ll eventually get to six. It just takes a long time for me to think of them.

This one is about the stones in my hands. Let’s assume that you believe me. Then you might be wondering, “How did I discover these?”

My sister did this program at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa when she was in high school. There, she learned this little trick to check the doneness of meat. If you touch the tip of your thumb to the tip of your index finger gently, and then use your other hand to press against the fleshy part at the base of your thumb. That’s what a rare piece of meat feels like when you press against it. Medium rare = thumb to middle finger. Medium well = thumb to ring finger. Well done = thumb to pinky.

It’s a good thing that I don’t cook very much meat! It turns out this doesn’t work with me. If I tried this trick to check my steak, I’d have really overdone steak! My pad of flesh at the base of my thumb feels like there’s a rock in there rather than feeling like a piece of meat, even with the thumb to the index finger. When my sister shared this trick with me, I compared her hands to mine – hers feel like meat. I’ve actually felt the hands of quite a few people and everyone (Except for Vince, my rock hand brother!) seems to have normal steak hands.

Vince and I tried to figure out why we were different and we’re not really sure. We both hold pencils the same way and it seems to be different from most other people. But we have the rocks in both of our hands even though we just write with one. Maybe it’s from playing piano and/or cello and/or doing ceramics and/or kneading lots of bread dough and/or doing foot reflexology for my mother. But I’m sure Vince didn’t do ALL those things.

Hey, LaMancha! They’re talking about LaMancha goats on So you think you can dance! Great show, by the way.

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Peach bread pudding

June 3, 2008 at 10:11 pm (dessert, food)

I love getting inspired by ingredients that I already have sitting around. It’s always fun to use up random bits and pieces of ingredients these dishes usually turn into my most yummy creations. But I usually do it with savory food. Tonight, I played with sweet ingredients and made an impromptu dessert.

I whisked together a couple of eggs, poured in some soy milk, added some sugar, vanilla, and freshly grated nutmeg. And then soaked some leftover sourdough bread that I had in this mixture. I diced some peaches and threw those in as well. I baked this up in some ramekins and wound up with a lovely peach bread pudding. I didn’t measure anything – it was all instinct and using up bits of what I had on hand, so there is no recipe to share. All I have to share is a photo and a little bit of bragging – the sweetness and flavors and textures came out just right!

peach bread pudding

Okay, so bread pudding isn’t that complicated to make. Plus, most of the ingredients were things that I have around all the time. So it’s not that special of a story. But it was still quick to make and really delicious to eat.

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