New York City vs. San Francisco Round 8: Subway musicians

December 28, 2008 at 9:33 am (music, new york city, san francisco)

I’ve heard the worst subway musicians in NYC.  There’s one guy that seems to always be playing violin in the Union Square station.  He’s usually playing something Vivaldi-esque with a recorded accompaniment.  He can’t keep up with the accompaniment and as you might imagine, it’s not a good outcome.  But I admire his persistance and I expect that his frequent “practicing” will lead to great improvements.

But I’ve also heard the best subway musicians in NYC.  Many of them are pretty amazing, actually.  Last night I heard a flautist playing beautiful baroque music.  I gave her an extra big donation because the music was so lovely.  I was sad when the subway arrived and I had to go, but I was pleased to see that there were some drummers on the car.   They were quite amazing and they had much of the subway car dancing.  Last night was an exceptionally good night for subway music, but it’s often really good.  And I love that people play such funky interesting instruments that I’ve never seen before.

If it weren’t for the Union Square guy, I would have thought that they hold auditions for musicians to play in the subways here!

Maybe if my cousins get good enough at Rock Band, we can try out!

img_3581NYC: 3
SF: 5

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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:

hehevisitme_jan060011

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 6: Filling out online forms

December 10, 2008 at 10:35 am (new york city, random, san francisco)

I used to type ‘C’ when entering my address online and California would be selected from the list of states.  And then I could tab on to the next thing I had to enter.

Now I have to type ‘N’ 6 times.  Six times.  And I have to double check that NY was selected because I’ve seen cases where things are screwy and six doesn’t get me to NY.  Or maybe it’s just that there’s a lot of room for error when you have to type things 6 times and I often get it wrong.

So this is a big enough issue for me to write about.  But probably not big enough of an issue that I’ll move to Nebraska.  Or Alabama.

NYC: 2
SF: 4

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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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New York City vs. San Francisco Rounds 3 and 4: Geography nomenclature and Crossing streets

October 14, 2008 at 5:50 pm (new york city, random, san francisco)

Round 3: Geography nomenclature

I grew up in New York and when I’d say that I’m from New York, people would assume New York City.  Then I’d have to explain that it’s the state of New York.  What really bugs me is when (not all, but many) people from the city of New York then say, “Oh, you didn’t grow up in New York.  That’s not New York.”  Using a very arrogant tone of voice.  Self-centered, obnoxious jerks!  Now, I say that I grew up near/outside of New York City, but that doesn’t stop the jerks from pointing out their views on what’s New York and what’s not and what’s better and what’s worse.  It’s not attractive you tell other people how you think you are superior!  Don’t even get me started on the issue of what’s “upstate” and what’s not.

It’s much easier in SF and the Bay Area.  There’s SF.  There’s Bay Area.  There’s no confusion about it, I think.  And no one uses these distinctions to put people down.

NYC: 1
SF: 2

Round 4: Crossing streets

In NYC, everyone jaywalks.  No one waits for the pedestrian light to change to the white walking man.  As soon as there’s a break in the traffic, they go.  You always have to be alert – it’s quite stressful.  I would prefer to just chill out and relax and let my mind wander at the intersections and just go when the light changes.  Along with everyone else.  I can’t do that here.  I’ll look stupid – in fact, I’ll get dirty looks for blocking their path.  So even though I would prefer the relaxed way, I’ve resigned myself to being constantly alert and stressed.  But I don’t like it!

Maybe eventually, I can learn to be alert and relaxed at the same time.  But given how everyone else looks so stressed, I don’t think that possibility is very likely.

NYC: 1
SF: 3

You might be thinking that I’m picking the rounds in a biased way.  Maybe.  I don’t really want to spend the effort to think about it.  I’ll just use (what I think are) interesting stories.

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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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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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Finally, a tasting event that didn’t leave me disappointed!

September 13, 2008 at 10:48 pm (dessert, food, recipes, restaurants, san francisco)

I often get lured into going to these tasting events.  Like Ghirardelli Square’s annual festival.  Or the chocolate festival.  There have been others.  I wind up thinking that I paid too much to enter and the things that I tasted weren’t worth the money.  I finally went to one that turned out to be as great as the tasting events of my imagination.

Last night, I went to an event by La Cocina, a SF organization to help low-income women start up food-related businesses.  Great goal – supporting people AND yumminess.  And they have a really cute logo – it’s a bird with a whisk in its beak.  It was a $5 donation to enter.  And we got to taste lots of yummy food.  The highlights included:

  • a really tasty tamal from El Buen Comer – the mole was really flavorful and chocolatey.  You can find them at the Noe Valley farmers market.
  • Embrace Sweets had nearly perfect brownies.  It was perfectly cakey and fudgey.  Chocolate flavor was pretty good.  Sweetness was slightly too sweet for me, but it was close.  Viva La Brownie!

  • Sabores del Sur!  They are the ones that make the delicious alfajores and they are the ones that gave me a cookie for free last week!  And they make delicious empanadas.  I had a veggie one.  The crust by itself is really flavorful – unusually so.  And the filling was pure yumminess.  They can be found at the Alemany farmers market.
  • Claire’s Squares – these are bars with a crust, caramel, and chocolate.  Quite yummy.  But they didn’t seem to want to sell any.  Christina waited for several minutes, money in hand, to buy stuff, but the woman at that table didn’t want to take her attention away from the really chatty man talking to her.  But they are still really delicious treats.

  • CMB Sweets has really yummy jams and preserves with really interesting flavors.  I got one small jar of kiwi-lime-ginger, and one small jar of pomegranate.  I love the small jars of jam… they are perfect for me!
  • They had wine and a couple of different punches.  The wine that I tried was a Malbec, which was the first one of this variety that I’ve tasted.  It went really well with the spicy foods.  One of the punches was spectacular and ingenious.  It was chai (specifically, Morning Glory Chai), vodka, simple syrup, and peppercorns.  Maybe there were other ingredients.  It was yummy.

Another thing that made this event so great was that everyone was friendly.  We were packed like sardines.  Or like the filling of an empanada or a tamal.  But everyone was smiling, joking with each other, and talking to each other to coordinate their movement.  There was one group of people who wanted to take a picture of themselves and stuck their arm out with camera in hand.  Some other person was looking at their camera LCD screen to help them to all fit in the screen.  They eventually realized that it was just easier to for the other guy to take the picture, but I like the sentiment.  All the people at the various tables were also really friendly and generous and helpful.  I don’t feel like we got scammed like with other events, so it makes me want to buy more stuff from these businesses.  And it definitely makes me want to spread the info about how delicious their stuff was.  The stuff was delicious.

On an unrelated note, I think that the thing I will miss most about San Francisco is how the city collects compost.  What will I do with all my food scraps and other compostable items?  It will kill me to have to toss them into the trash.  It already kills me when I have to do that at my parents’ house.  Maybe I can find a convenient place for me to drop compostable items off in New York City?

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Last things

September 6, 2008 at 2:37 pm (dessert, food, random, san francisco)

I took my last trip to the Alemany farmer’s market today.  I got lots of sweet summer goodies!  Corn!  The alfajores lady was giving away samples, so I got to eat half of one of their large alfajores.  I would be much more sad to leave SF if I had to leave without eating one of these.  They’re flaky, light cookies that are filled with dulce de leche. Here’s a photo that I took of one from a year or so ago.

I also I had my last earthquake last night.  At  least, I hope that’s the last one!

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Good ideas

August 4, 2008 at 8:08 pm (dessert, food, fruit, random, san francisco)

We had some blueberries and decided to make some muffins.  I was flipping through Moosewood’s dessert cookbook (really good book!) for inspiration and I saw gingerbread cupcakes!  I thought that would be perfect for adding blueberries.  And I was right.

Blueberry Gingerbread Cupcakes!

Blueberry Gingerbread Cupcakes!

(That’s my Santa Claus melon in the background!  I don’t think I can finish it by myself, so some of it might be made into a Santa Claus melon sorbet!)

The atmosphere at Range is quite nice, but it’s still hard to forget that you’re on Valencia St in the Mission.  At one point, this guy dressed up as a disco ball came in to the restaurant.  I guess he was kicked out soon after that.  But what makes this a good idea is that he had a little sound system built into his costume.  So he was a walking disco party, all rolled up into one glittering ball.  With legs.

The disco ball costume wasn’t my idea, but if you are interested in hearing more of my ideas, my paper is published!  You can check it out if you’re interested.  It’s PLoS so it’s open access!

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