Why do the French museums want me to be a student?

May 2, 2009 at 7:50 pm (architecture, international, review)

I’m not a student and I left my old student IDs at home, so I was fully prepared to pay the regular adult admission price at all the museums in Paris.  But at two museums, a significant fraction of the total # of museums that I went to, even though they asked me if I was a student and I said no, they still gave me the student price.  Why is that?

Some of the non-standard Parisian museums I recommend are the Musee Pasteur and La Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine (architecture museum).  The setup could use a lot of improvement at the Musee Pasteur, but I wound up learning a ton about Pasteur anyway.  Man, he did a lot!  Do you think that if I were doing science 100 years ago, I could have made more discoveries than doing science now?

Musee Pasteur

Musee Pasteur

I’m not so into the old architecture (but if you are, they have lots of casts and replicas of old buildings and it’s pretty neat), but the modern architecture sections were done really well.

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Model at the architecture musuem

The Musée du Parfum was okay and worth a stop (it’s free) if you’re around the Opera area.  I was expecting a museum full of stuff to smell, but it was mostly a bunch of objects related to perfume, mostly bottles, and a store where they try to sell perfume.

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Empty bottles of scents that would have been fun to smell

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More Parisian Yummies

April 28, 2009 at 8:47 am (dessert, food, moroccan, restaurants, review)

The best meal that we had in Paris was at Chez Omar, I think it’s in the 3rd Arrondissement.  I’m still not sure if you’re supposed to pronounce the ‘z’ in “Chez” cause “Omar” starts with a vowel.  Pronouncing French confuses me.  I’ve had very good tutors and I’m okay with the rules and the exceptions to the rules.  But I get frustrated when I learn that there are actually exceptions to the exceptions to the rules.  Back to Chez Omar – Moroccan.  We had an amazing chicken bastilla.  Any version of this dish (chicken, spices, flaky pastry, cinnamon and sugar) is always yummy, but the spices in this one were especially deep and rich and the pastry was especially light and crispy and fried.  I’m sorry that the photo is fuzzy.  I’m not apologizing to you, the person reading this, I’m apologizing to the delicious bastilla that doesn’t deserve to be photographed so terribly.

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We also ordered an entree that came with couscous, a vegetable stew, and roasted chicken.  Then you can mix and match on your plate.  Simple, but very well done.

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Back to the macarons, we got more macarons from Laduree to confirm that I like Laduree’s better.  But actually think I have to get some more from Pierre Herme as well.

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So the reason why the Laduree vs. Pierre Herme debate is still unsettled for me is that part way through the comparison, I realized that I prefer macarons with creamy fillings over macarons with fruity fillings.  If I were just comparing the fillings by themselves, I would prefer fruity, but the fruity ones seem to make the cookie part too moist and soggy.  I actually got all fruity macarons from Pierre Herme, but I got a mix of fruity and creamy from Laduree, so everything is all mixed up.  Maybe I can do a better, more controlled comparison next time I’m in Paris – that depends on the scheduling of Mark’s current project.  We’ll see!  I hope he can come back to NYC soon, but I also hope that he stays in Paris!

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New York City vs. San Francisco Round 7: Egg custard tarts; And housing news!

December 13, 2008 at 4:42 pm (dessert, food, new york city, review, san francisco)

I had some dan4 ta3 (egg custard tarts) from Egg Custard King in Chinatown today.  I tried a regular one and a Portuguese one.  They had a bunch of different types and flavors – maybe about 8.  Ha ha, I couldn’t read any of the Chinese characters so I had to ask.  At least I was able to do that in Chinese.  And at least I was able to read one of the labels – the almond one.  I pointed to the Portuguese ones and asked what they were, and they said “pu2 tao2.”  I asked “Grape?” and thought to myself “what an odd flavor for egg custard tarts.”  The woman looked confused and then I realized my mistake and said: “Oh, Portuguese!  They’re Portuguese tarts.”  Portuguese is also “pu2 tao2.”  I’m such an ABC.

These are supposed to be one of the best places for dan4 ta3 here.  So how do they compare to Golden Gate Bakery in SF?  It’s definitely close, but I’d still give it to GG Bakery.  The crusts are similarly light and flaky and tasty.  The custard at GG Bakery, which is light and smooth and tasty, is definitely superior to EC King, both the regular and the not-grape kinds.  But EC King’s custards are still better than every other dan4 ta3 that’s not from GG Bakery.

I don’t have any photos of EC King’s dan4 ta3.  Here’s one of GG Bakery’s, with my cuz:

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EC King had no line, while GG Bakery always has a line, often going down half the block.  And GG Bakery often runs out or doesn’t have any that are ready.  EC King also has many more flavors.  So if those flavors turn out to be amazing (though I doubt it because the classic dan4 ta3 is pretty much perfect), I might give this round back to NYC, but for now, it goes to SF.  There’s a reason the lines are so long and it’s definitely worth the wait.

Hmm… actually it’s a lot easier to get to Chinatown in NYC by public transportation than Chinatown in SF.  So that’s another issue, but maybe the public transportation issue is for a separate post.  So after Round 7:

NYC: 2
SF: 5

The other news is that Mark and I found an apartment.  It’s in the Upper East Side.  The landlords seem quite desperate to fill the apartments – many were offering 1 month free and no fees.  When we first told our broker (thanks BCG!) our desired price range, she was very nervous that there would be nothing for us and wasn’t sure what to do with us cheapskates.  But it turned out to be no problem, we found a lovely place that’s well within our budget.

We move in right after Christmas!  I’m so excited!

There’s a gym in the building, with no extra fees!  And there are individual TVs on all the machines.  So because we won’t have a TV in our apartment, I’ll have to exercise to watch any TV!  That’s a good healthy setup, I think.

The lobby of the building is really tacky.  I’m hoping that a lot of the tackiness is due to the holiday decorations, but we’ll see how it looks in January.

So if you want to see this apartment, you’ll have to come visit!  But if you’ll have to prepare yourself for the tacky lobby.

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New York City vs. San Francisco Round 5: Egg puffs

November 29, 2008 at 6:26 pm (dessert, food, new york city, restaurants, review, san francisco)

I had a fun NYC adventure with sister Da, cousin Hehe, and He’s friend Shine.  We ate bread and spreads at Le Pain Quotidien.  Hehe’s funny – she couldn’t stop smiling while we were eating.  We also went to FAO Schwartz – ridiculously crowded on Thanksgiving weekend, but we weren’t in a hurry.  We stopped by an exhibit of can sculptures.  It’s to raise awareness and money about hunger and all the cans are donated in the end.  Here’s my favorite:

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We finished the day by going to Chinatown to get dumplings – 4 or 5 for $1.  They weren’t the best dumplings ever, but for $1, how can you complain?

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We also collected some rice pudding from Rice To Riches.  It’s like a gelato or yogurt place, but with rice pudding.  It’s pretty overpriced, good idea, and pretty good.  The best thing is the cute containers that they come in.

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But on to the egg puffs.  We found an egg puff cart vendor in Chinatown.  $1 for a bag of puffs.  I can’t remember how much they were in SF at Genki crepes, but definitely more than that.  The egg puffs in SF had better texture, but the NYC cart puffs had better flavor – they had a bit of orange to them.  Plus, they’re $1.  From a cart on the street.  Despite the vastly superior texture of the SF puffs, I think this round still has to go to NYC.  I was smiling like Hehe by the end of the day.

NYC: 2
SF: 3

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I found the perfect cupcakes

October 14, 2008 at 6:07 pm (dessert, fruit, ice cream, new york city, restaurants, review)

Remember how I said that all the cupcake bakeries that I’ve tried don’t make ’em the way I like ’em?  Well, I’ve found a bakery that makes cupcakes pretty darn close to what I think is ideal… Dessert Club ChikaLicious.  Ignore the too-long and slightly annoying name.  They’ve got the right amount of frosting, right level of tenderness, right level of lightness, right intensity of flavor, and the right frosting texture – fluffy, but still smooth and rich.  They are slightly too sweet, but that’s really my only complaint.  And that’s a tricky one because if you decrease the sugar in cakes or frosting, it can adversely affect other things like the texture.

We tried the banana, mocha, red velvet, and the s’mores cupcakes.  The banana cupcake was outrageously yummy.  My banana-hating sister would really hate this one because the banana flavor is so intense and perfect.  I’m not a huge fan of red velvet cake, but this one was the best that I’ve ever had.  The other two, mocha and s’mores, were pretty tasty, but because they had a chocolate ganache filling, there wasn’t enough cake for me.

I heard about this place from Serious Eats: New York.  Here’s a series of photos that they took of DCC’s cupcakes.  Yummy looking, yes?

This cupcake discovery is not included in the whole NYC vs SF competition because, even though there are plenty of cupcake places in SF, I haven’t really tried very many of those.  But if it’s a NYC vs DC bout, NYC wins this round.  But so far, DC holds the gelato title.  That may change after I try some gelato around here, but the DC gelato was mind-blowingly amazing.  It’s going to be tough to surpass Dolcezza‘s gelato and their use of local/fresh/in-season ingredients.

In other news, I ate the best apple that I’ve had in a long time.  I think it was a Jonagold apple, but I’m not sure.  I grabbed a bunch of different varieties and put them into the same bag.  I wish there were a way for me to reduce the bags that I use and allow me to keep track of what type of apple is what.  I guess I could try harder with my memory…

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New York vs. San Francisco Round 2: Farmers’ Markets

October 10, 2008 at 2:14 pm (food, fruit, new york city, review, san francisco)

I’m not really comparing the whole east coast to the whole west coast. So now it’s New York vs. San Francisco, Farmers’ Markets.

It’s not even close! I went to the Union Square Greenmarket today. It’s lovely. And much better than what I was imagining. But it’s still nothing like San Francisco’s. There are just not as many farmers here, I guess. It’s nice that the Union Square Greenmarket is open Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. And it’s nice that it’s really close to NYU, where I’ll be working. So I can stop by for produce during the week. But the selection and variety is just not even close!  And it’s not even winter yet!

NY: 1
SF: 1

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East Coast vs. West Coast Round 1 – Scallion pancakes

October 10, 2008 at 2:08 pm (food, new york city, restaurants, review)

I went to Evergreen Shanghai (menu), a restaurant in Murray Hill today.  It was just for a snack, so I got some xiao long bao and some scallion pancakes.  The xiao long bao were so so.  Skin was too thick, the filling had too much sesame oil, and the soup just wasn’t so great.  They were good.  But they were quite far from the best ones that I have had.

But the scallion pancakes!  I guess I’ve been on the West Coast for so long that I’ve forgotten how delicious the scallion pancakes of my childhood were.  The ones on the West Coast are more like crackers and they’re crispy.  And you don’t taste much scallion.  The ones that I had today were full of tasty (properly salted) scallions.  And so doughy!  Chewy and firm on the inside, but still tender.  And golden and crispy on the outside.  And when I bit into them, I had these flashes of the scallion pancakes of my childhood… like the critic in Ratatouille.  The scallion pancakes have said, welcome back!

EC: 1
WC: 0

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All packed up for NYC!

October 5, 2008 at 7:04 pm (books, review, science)

My time in DC is over and now it’s time to move to the next place.  No more taxation without representation.  I want to be represented and taxed!  I’ll be in NYC by tomorrow night.

Miraculously, I accumulated a little bit more stuff, but I can still fit it in my suitcases.  I hope it’ll fit in the NYC nook that I’ll be living in this fall.

I just finished reading Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America’s Soul.  (Amazon link)  By Ken Miller, a professor that I had at Brown.  One of the best professors that I had at Brown.  He’s been really involved in the evolution battle.  In this book, he lays out all the arguments for intelligent design, and then explains very clearly and thoroughly why each of those arguments can’t hold up to actual scientific evidence and reasoning.  He also explains the larger motivations behind the intelligent design movement and how this is the first step to break down the scientific process and bring us backwards.  And points out a lot of ulterior motivations that were uncovered as a result of the Dover, PA trial.  He also explains how what we are learning about evolution is even more awesome than the creation story.  I absolutely agree with that.  Evolution is a beautiful and inspiring thing – living organisms can tune themselves to each other and to their environments.  It’s so much more brilliant than the biblical account, which isn’t even taken literally by many (most?) religions.

I highly recommend it.  It’s beautifully written.  It’s clever and clear and humorous.  And thorough.  I also like how the title can be interpreted differently by different groups, so more people will wind up picking it up.  I hope people who think that ID has some merit or doubt evolution or think that accepting the evolution of humans means that we are the product of a random process read this.  I think that they would find this very respectful and enlightening and uplifting.

More good evolution resources:

Ken Miller visited Stephen Colbert.  Here’s the video.

The National Academies published a booklet – Science, Evolution, and Creationism – that explains the fundamental ideas and evidence behind evolution and also why intelligent design is not a scientific theory.  You can read it online, listen to it as a podcast, or spend a little money to get a hard copy version.  They also argue (as does Ken Miller), that religion and science address fundamentally different and non-overlapping things – natural world vs. supernatural world.  Putting them in opposition to each other is an artificial construct that causes unnecessary trouble.  They also have a whole section on common arguments against evolution and they lay out clear responses to each of those.  This is much shorter than Only a Theory, it just covers the basics, but it is nicely argued and organized.  And it’s short.

There’s a NOVA documentary about the Dover, PA trial.  I haven’t watched it yet, but I expect it to be good.

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DC Gelato Discovery – Dolcezza

October 5, 2008 at 6:00 am (dessert, food, ice cream, restaurants, review, washington dc)

This is the best gelato that I’ve had in my life.  Dolcezza.  We went to the one in Georgetown, but apparently they have some other locations and are available at some of the local farmers’ markets.

The gelato is so smooth – it must be nano-sized particles in it.  It tastes rich, but not because it’s high in fat.  In fact, it doesn’t taste that fatty.  It’s the high intensity flavors and the smoothness, I think.  They appear to try to use local and in-season ingredients.  The fruit flavors were all bright and intense, and just like the fresh fruit, but more intense.  It was glorious gelato.

It’s quite expensive (approx $4.50 for a small cup), but I thought it was really worth it because it’s so much better than other gelato places that I’ve tried.

Mark had pineapple honey lime and mocha.  Odd combination but they were both very good.  I had white peach prosecco and concord grape.  Pow!  So flavored!  And so smooth!

Menu appears to change according to what raw ingredients are available.  They have “This week’s menu” on their website, but not all the flavors listed were available.

Here’s an image from another the Ethicurean:

And the associated article.

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My new favorite building: Museum of the American Indian, Washington, DC

October 3, 2008 at 5:40 am (architecture, review, san francisco, travel, washington dc)

The curves and textures and colors are so beautiful.  Yum.  And they’re going for a natural/organic look, but it doesn’t look overdone.  The interior is also breathtaking:

These photos aren’t mine.  Click on the photos to link to the original sources.  But pictures don’t do it justice.  This is the sort of thing you have to experience in person.  Fortunately, once you get yourself to DC, entrance into the museum is free!

As you can see, the interior is mostly a vast open space.  So there are very few exhibits and they’re quite small.  All the exhibits are displayed beautifully, but it’s not really done in a way for you to learn much.  I think the idea is for you to look at the forms and colors and textures and shapes and walk away with an appreciation of their beauty.  There was one exhibit on living native peoples that had more “educational” content, but that was done in the exact opposite way – too much information!  The gallery on the 1st floor has a lot of amazing pieces of pottery.  I was drooling.

Here are other previous favorite buildings (again, click on photos to get to original source):

San Francisco’s Davies Symphony Hall, especially at night –

Interior of the SF MOMA

Getty Museum in LA –

I’ve only seen the outside of the new California Academy of Sciences building.  I left SF before it opened to the public.  But I’m sure I’ll love that too –

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