Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Omnivore's One Hundred

This list has been floating around the blogosphere the past few weeks. As a self-proclaimed foodie, it would be remiss of me not to answer it myself. The concept is simple: distinguish the items that you have tried from the items that you either have not yet tried or would never try.

For my purposes I'll bold the items I've already had and mark the ones I would never try in red. There were about a dozen items that I had to look up to figure out whether or not I'd be willing to try it.

The list originated on this site.

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
14. Aloo Gobi
(there's a really good recipe for this on the DVD of Bend it Like Beckham)
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle (one of my most memorable meals in Italy: two fresh eggs sunny side up with tons of freshly shaved black truffles over it)
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes (but not Boones Farm I swear!)
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
(there is a blackberry patch near my parents' place)
23. Foie gras (I'm going to eat as much as I can before CA's ban takes effect)
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de Leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava

30. Bagna Cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
(hasn't everyone who ever lived in SF been to a Boudin?)
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
(that hot dog from the street cart had to be topped with something)
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail Stew
41. Curried goat (didn't really care for it)
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more (Johnnie Walker Blue Label and Chivas Regal Royal Salute)
46. Fugu puffer fish
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel (I'm a freak; I don't like it)
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 (Sausage with curry? Sounds perfect to me.)
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail a.k.a. Escargot
79. Lapsang souchong (Type of Black Tea)
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum goong
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
(I recently saw a box of Pocky Men's. The difference? It uses bittersweet chocolate. heehee.)
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant. (We will do this someday in either Napa or NY.)
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam (with rice for breakfast in Hawaii. And spam musubi for a snack.)
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox

97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee

100. Snake

So that's 59 items I have already had, 32 items I want to try (some more than others) and 9 items I'd never want to try unless I were under duress. Or stranded on a deserted island, on the brink of starvation. Looking at my list, I have tried all the Indian items on it. No surprise there. It also seems like I am a bit more adventurous when it comes to trying different forms of seafood as opposed to animal proteins. Do you think that's because I'm a Pisces? :-p

Friday, August 29, 2008

Guess Who's an Adult Now?

This goofy, playful, cuddly bundle of fur!

Jack turned three years old last week, which means that he is completely out of puppyhood. We think. We hope. He was treated to his traditional birthday dinner of a plain burger and fries a few days earlier, but he got spoiled nonetheless on the actual day of. After work I stopped by a new frou-frou doggie bakery in town. You know high end dog treats are a trend that is here to stay when such a bakery opens up in BFE. Of course I also had to pick up some party favors for Jack's best buddies Mimi and Bailey. The "party" was planned for later that evening at the lawn in front of our building. Below is a sampling of what the dogs got to enjoy and take home.

Jack also got a few gifts from his buddies including new chew toys and white chocolate dipped Milkbone biscuits. He is one spoiled little furball!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A Saturday Afternoon Engagement

The day after the mehndi party, Eddie and I attended S&M's engagement ceremony at Darya in Orange. In accordance with the rituals of the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church, this really was a formal ceremony and not just a party. The last engagement ceremony I attended was my brother's. But since that was almost 18 years ago and I was horribly jet lagged at the time, I didn't remember much of what happened. I didn't have one myself, so I was very interested seeing the ceremony.

Now S&M were actually engaged a few months ago. And this was not an arranged marriage scenario at all. But after watching the ceremony, it was clear that the ceremony's roots are within the arranged marriage culture of India. It began with representatives of the groom's family making a proposal to the bride's parents via an officiant. The bride's parents then accepted. After both sets of parents were in agreement, the priest inquired whether those of us present also agreed to the match. After the crowd gave its assent, the priest then announced the "terms of the contract". That sounds a lot worse than what it actually is. ;-) The contract merely contained the names of the families, the bride and groom and the date, location & time of the marriage. Then each parent signed the contract and exchanged copies of it. The ceremony concluded with remarks from the priest and one of my least favorite bible passages ever -- something about a wife submitting to her husband. Who wants to do that?!

The priest who conducted the ceremony turned out to be a longtime friend of my family. Although I was raised Catholic, my dad is technically Jacobite. So in addition to going to weekly mass with the rest of us, he would also go to monthly Jacobite services. Since the congregation in the bay area used to be quite small, the priest in the photo below would fly up from OC to conduct services. I hadn't seen him in years, but the priest and his wife instantly recognized me.

After the ceremony portion was over, the groom, M, gave an incredibly moving speech that made mention of his late father. All 200 of us were either in tears or on the verge. I nearly lost it completely when I saw S gently rub M's back as he was fighting through his own tears. Such a showing of love and support in such a small gesture not visible to most ..... it had me completely verklempt.
Every guest had a chance to take photos with the happy couple. S was wearing a beautifully embellished lehenga. She said that it was so heavy she needed two people to hold it up as she got dressed.
Darya is a Persian restaurant. If you've never tried Persian food, you're missing out. The food was good and plentiful. It was a good thing I nabbed this pic of S&M's plates because the buffet servers were a little messy when it came to plating by the time we wound through the line.

I had met several of S' friends the night before at the mehndi party and we sat with them at the ceremony. Apart from our friendship with S we all shared another common bond -- we are all USF alumni. Go Dons! Below is one of the lovely ladies I had the pleasure of meeting. On the left: Marianne in a black and white floral print dress. On the right: Ann Marie in a black and white floral dress. :-)

Magnificent Mehndi

Two Fridays ago I went to S' mehndi party. Our families have been friends forever, close enough that I call her parents uncle and auntie to this day. I can't remember a time that I didn't know S; she was always like a little sister to me in my mind. It's hard to believe that "lil sis" is all grown up now: beautiful, confident and on the verge of becoming a wife.

The party was held at her aunt's house in the OC, which was decorated with traditionally styled flower garlands and Indian textiles.

Mehndi is henna paste applied in decorative patterns, usually on the hands and feet. It is commonly used in South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa as a form of decoration prior to special occasions such as weddings or festivals. When used for wedding related celebrations, the bride (or bride-to-be) will always have the most elaborate designs. Since the henna paste requires several hours to dry and set, S had her mehndi done the day prior. Traditionally the groom's name is hidden within the pattern.Typically, mehndi parties are a ladies' event. In this case, the men stuck around for the duration, but the ladies dominated nonetheless. Before we had our mehndi done, we all retreated to the yard for a number of photos in our colorful outfits.
And here is the point I run out of pictures because my camera battery died. So sad. It was a truly a lovely evening. S had hired two mehndi artists to come to the house and do designs for anyone who wanted them. The artists worked very quickly and gave all of us unique designs. Like most Indian gatherings, there was a huge array of tasty food including samosas, pakoras, appams, lamb kebobs, chicken tikka masala, naan and gulab jamun. Like most good Indian guests, I took some home with me at the end of the night. Ostensibly it was for Eddie, but let's get real. You all know I stored away all that grub for myself. ;-) There was also a beautiful cake decorated with mehndi patterns. But what I loved most about the evening was that it was the first old-school Indian get together that I had been to since moving to SoCal. Growing up, these get togethers were a routine part of my weekends. While the parents did their thing, the kids would hang out, play games or watch tv in the back rooms. Even though all of us kids are now adults and scattered throughout the state, there is still a bond amongst us all. In addition to being the first Indian get together I've been to down here, it was the first one that I went to entirely on my own, without my parents present. It made me feel a bit strange and melancholy. On the one hand it was one of those moments that made me feel like a true grown-up. But on the other hand it made me think of what things might be like in the inevitable future, where I'd have no choice but to go to these types of get togethers on my own.

Since my battery died, I couldn't get a picture of what the henna paste looked like after it was applied. But here is a pic of the finished result the next day, including my little shout-out to Eddie.

I Feel Validated

It's no secret that Eddie and I are total tv-holics. Sometimes I wonder if we watch too much of it and should be spending time together doing other, more productive things. But then I came across this article on regarding the secrets of happy couples. I instantly related to one of the couples that was interviewed. We won't be cutting our cable anytime soon. ;-)

3. Share a guilty pleasure.
Eavesdrop on a conversation between Bob and Angie concerning their favorite shared pastime. "We are so disgusting. This is so pathetic. It's like a sickness." "But it makes us happy!" "It's so stupid it makes us laugh." "We're yelling at people. High-fiving each other." "Look, we get a kick out of it because it's so ridiculous. It's our guilty pleasure."

Forgive them if they seem somewhat shy, but they're merely ashamed to admit that the daily ritual that brings such joy to their 12-year marriage is none other than reality TV.

That's right. They lived and died with Survivor. They've adopted Big Brother. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? They do. "Honestly, I think we just need to be dumb for a while," says Bob, 37, a shoe designer for Reebok in Boston. "We're both very into our careers. And when you're at work, with any job there's going to be a certain amount of professional stress. You like to come home sometimes and, for that lousy hour or whatever, kick back and relax." Or as Angie, 36, a marketing executive, says, "Life is serious enough, isn't it? Sometimes you need to do something stupid. And if you can't be stupid with your husband, who can you be stupid with?"

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

All Out of Sorts ...

... and so very frustrated.

The past week or two I was feeling all out of sorts stemming from some family issues. But things got better over the weekend. I decided to stop dwelling on the negative and focus on the good things in life. It seemed to work. I felt great over the weekend and yesterday too.

Then this morning happened. And now I'm not feeling positive at all.

Fearless Leader, the head of my unit, let me know that Big Bad was recently squawking about my trial stats. This issue had come up before, almost a year ago and I thought we were all past it. There shouldn't have ever been a problem at all; my stats are not out of line with the rest of the unit. In fact, Fearless Leader never even had an issue; he was just the messenger. Luckily for him I don't shoot messengers. But I am frustrated and annoyed beyond belief with Big Bad. I am feeling very singled out and very stuck. At what point does one say enough is enough? And even if I did, would Big Bad and his cohorts really care? I sincerely doubt it. Yet the options seem so limited.

I paid oodles of tuition for this?!?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

My Lamest Facebook Moment Thus Far

Above photo selected since Piersol (center) is overall a bit easier on the eyes than Phelps. And since the other relay swimmers deserve credit too.

Last night, while watching my most recent drug of choice (the Olympics), Bob Costas asked Michael Phelps about his status as the most "friended" person with celebrity status on Facebook. I think Phelps said that when he had logged on a few days earlier he had approximately 7000 requests pending. Can you see where this post is headed? ;-) I looked over at Eddie and said, "I wonder how long it would take him to get to my friend request if I were to add him?" Well my friends, the countdown starts today. Obviously I need more hobbies.

PSA to the all the fake Michael Phelps from Baltimore: If you have only 6 friends listed under your profile or if all your friends are teenyboppers from a high school in another state altogether, people will have a hard time buying that you are the same dude that won 8 gold medals in one Olympics. Just sayin'.

New Recipe Sunday #6

Spaghetti with Fresh Spinach and Gorgonzola
source: Food & Wine Magazine, Best of the Best Cookbook

You will need:
  • 4 oz. gorgonzola cheese (at room temp.)
  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter (at room temp.)
  • 8 cups young, fresh spinach
  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 lb. spaghetti
  • 10-12 large fresh basil leaves (optional)

  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil for the pasta.

  2. In a small bowl, mash together the gorgonzola and butter until it forms a smooth paste. Set aside, but do not refrigerate.

  3. Wash & drain the spinach.

  4. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over moderately high heat. Add the spinach and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Toss the spinach until it is wilted. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if needed. Turn off the heat, but keep the spinach warm on the side of the stove.

  5. Salt the pasta water and add the spaghetti. Cook the pasta until al dente. Drain the pasta, but reserve 1 cup of the cooking water. Transfer the spaghetti to the skillet and toss with the spinach. Add the gorgonzola-butter mixture and toss to coat the spaghetti. If the pasta seems dry, add a bit of the cooking water and toss again. Add cooking water as necessary to make a creamy consistency. If you use the basil, tear the leaves and toss into the spaghetti. Serve immediately.

Cooking Notes: (a) I reduced the amount of pasta by half to serve the both of us [with a little bit left over]. (b) Accordingly, I reduced the amount of sea salt to 1/2 teaspoon instead of the recommended amount. I left all other measurements the same. (c) Some freshly ground pepper added some needed balance to the bite of the gorgonzola. (d) I ended up using just a splash of the reserved cooking water in order to get the right consistency.

Eddie's Rating: "It's not bad." Then he went and got seconds. When I asked him what he thought could be changed, the response was, "There could be less of the greens." Figures. I think it tasted fine as is and that the dish was not overwhelmed by the spinach at all. Eight cups sounds like a lot, but spinach wilts down into a much smaller quantity when it is cooked. Besides, dark leafy greens are good for you!

The picture isn't a great one, but it was the best I could do. I was already partially through before I realized I had forgotten to take a picture. Bad blogger!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Past, Present, Future?

Last week, my supervisor walked into my office holding an envelope. Usually that signals something ominous, like a performance review, but instead I was presented with this pin.

It commemorates the completion of my 5th year of service to The Agency. July came and went without me even realizing that I had moved down here six years ago. So much has changed in that time. Not everything went according to the plan I had in my mind, but thankfully much of it was for the better.

Six years ago:
  • I was at the start of a 2-1/2 year probationary employment period, never knowing if or when I'd be fired.
  • I took a $10K paycut which left me barely making ends meet.
  • I was in a toxic long-distance relationship.
  • I had never stepped foot in a courtroom.
  • I didn't know anyone in SoCal.
  • I was living in an apartment that felt more like a temporary place to crash, not like home.
  • I was constantly homesick.


  • I have a very stable job.
  • I earn a comfortable salary.
  • I met and married a man who makes me laugh everyday.
  • I have made good friends, both at work and outside of it.
  • Not only am I comfortable in a courtroom, but there are some judges whom I truly consider friends.
  • I purchased my first home.
  • I have a dog again.

Did you notice how I didn't address my level of homesickness in the 'Now' list? ;-) That's because part of me still is homesick. It's not something I feel on a day-to-day basis like I once did. But every once in a while, especially if I haven't been up north in more than a couple months, it starts to eat at me. I feel bad that my parents are up there all alone. And as grateful as I am that I have maintained most of my friendships, I still get sad sometimes that I miss out on the random, spur of the moment meet-ups and events. I've reached the point where I can say that I have adjusted to life in SoCal, but still feel at times like I don't quite fit in here. Moving back to the bay area is probably not going to be an option in the foreseeable future. But in the meantime I can visit, hopefully more often, and appreciate my time up there.

Considering that six years ago I never even thought I'd still be down here, I'm curious to find out what the next six years will bring.

Monday, August 11, 2008

New Recipe Sunday (er, Monday) #5

Caramelized Black Pepper Chicken
Source: Food & Wine Magazine

You will need:

  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 Tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tsp. freshly grated ginger
  • 1 tsp. coarsely ground pepper
  • 2 fresh Thai chilies, halved
  • 1 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • cilantro sprigs (for garnish)
  1. Combine the brown sugar, fish sauce, water, rice vinegar, garlic, ginger, pepper and chilies in a small bowl.
  2. Heat the canola oil in a large deep skillet over moderate heat. Once heated, add the sliced shallot and cook until softened, approx. 4 minutes. Turn the heat to high, add the chicken and the fish sauce mixture. Bring to a simmer. Simmer over high heat until the chicken is cooked, approx. 10 minutes.
  3. Garnish with cilantro and serve over rice.

Cooking Notes: (a) Fish sauce is available in most Asian markets. 'Squid' brand is preferred in our household. The smell is quite pungent, so you may want to open the windows while simmering the sauce. (b) You can adjust the amount of sweetness and heat to your liking. For example, next time I'll use a bit less sugar (maybe 1/3 cup) and add in another chili pepper. (c) This is a quick, easy, under 30-minute recipe. But Charles Phan kicks Rachel Ray's butt!

Eddie's Rating: This one garnered a "Very good. Make it again." with a simultaneous thumbs-up. I think he really digs this one.

On a related cooking note, downsizing is definitely in effect at supermarkets at least with regard to product sizes and not prices. On the right is an empty box of penne rigate I purchased several months ago. On the left is the replacement box I purchased last week.

Old box = 1 pound (the heretofore standard pasta box amount)

New box = slightly less

The price? Was not respectively lower. Argh.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

For the L.A. Women

Courtesy of Los Angeles magazine. Sounds like some fun events. I really wish they were on a weekend instead!

Friday, August 8, 2008


This dude is allegedly 30 years old. WTH? I thought he was like 17! I think that in this slumping real estate market he might want to bottle & sell the secret of his youthful appearance as a secondary source of income.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Weekend Highs & Lows

I had to go to Babies r' Us on Friday evening to buy a gift for my neighbors H&S. Babies 'r Us is tied with Home Depot as my least favorite shop to be at. They share the same qualities: too big, usually too crowded and filled with items that I just don't get.

At the co-ed baby shower the next day, there was yummy cake. There was also a game involving chugging beer out of a baby bottle. So inappropriate, yet so much fun to watch.

Parental issues that reared their ugly head. No health concerns and the problem will be resolved shortly, but it was stressful nonetheless.

Being reminded of how supportive and encouraging Eddie is. He was dead serious when he said so many years ago that would treat my parents like his own.

Knocking my camera off a table at Cafe Santorini. I think it's a sign from above that I am not meant to be a food blogger a'la WeeMo.

I was at Cafe Santorini to have lunch with SweetSexyDestiny. I hadn't seen SSD in almost a year, which was unbelieveable to us both. We started chatting immediately and so much that the waiter had to come over four times to check whether we had looked at the menu yet. The food was great. I would dare to say that the lamb souvlaki was better than the one I had while actually in Corfu, Greece. And the waiter comped us a dessert even though we didn't order one. Yay for more yummy cake!

*** I had planned to end this on a positive note, but ... ***

Ultimate Low:
I know you all love pictures. And I swear I took pictures pertinent to this post. But Blogger just keeps refusing to upload them. Four times. waaahh!

Monday, August 4, 2008

New Recipe Sunday #4

Broken Pappardelle with Shrimp and Zucchini
Source: Food and Wine Magazine

You will need:
  • 1/2 pound pappardelle, broken into 2-inch lengths
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound small zucchini, thinly sliced (3 1/2 cups)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • 1 large jalapeƱo, seeded (optional) and thinly sliced
  • 1 pound shelled and deveined medium shrimp, halved lengthwise
  • 1/2 pound thin asparagus, cut into 1/2-inch lengths
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons snipped chives
  1. Cook the broken pappardelle in a large pot of boiling, salted water until just al dente. Drain the pappardelle, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil over high heat in a very large skillet. Add the sliced zucchini and season with salt and pepper. Cook the zucchini over high heat, stirring occasionally, until it is browned in spots, approx. 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and jalapeno and cook for 1 minute. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper and add to the skillet. Add the asparagus. Cook, stirring occasionally for 3 minutes, until the shrimp is pink and starting to curl but not cooked through entirely.
  3. Add the cooked pappardelle and heavy cream to the skillet. Simmer over moderately low heat, tossing until the shrimp are cooked through and the sauce is thickened slightly. This will take approx. 2-3 minutes. Add the pasta cooking water a little bit at a time if the sauce seems dry. Stir in the chives and serve immedaitely.

Cooking Notes: (a) 1 pound zucchini = 3-4 average size squashes. (b) The fastest way to break up the pappardelle is with a mallet and a light hand. (c) You can either omit the jalapeno entirely or remove the seeds if you have an aversion to spicy foods. (d) Halving the shrimp lengthwise is a pain, but necessary. (e) This recipe is an exercise in timing. Don't start cooking the shrimp & vegetable mixture until the pasta is already added to the boiling water.

Eddie's Rating: "Make it again!" This reaction was in large part due to the fact that I had left in all the seeds of the jalapeno, which added a definite kick to this pasta dish.

I apologize for the lack of a photo. I was distracted with other thoughts most of this weekend. I tried to find one on Food & Wine's website, but they were no help. :( Just take my word that it is a very pretty looking dish between the creamy color of the pasta, the pale pink pieces of shrimp and the bright green of the veggies. It's a great summertime pasta dish.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Product Rave

Approximately two months ago I bought one of these lovely beauties:

Today I knocked my lovely Rhythm & Blue clear off a dining table at a restaurant. Through a wrought iron railing. Into a stairwell. Onto a solid hardwood floor at least twelve feet below. Can you say HORROR!

After getting through the initial shock of it all, I climbed downstairs to survey the damage. Suprisingly, the only apparent injury was the battery compartment cover being jostled open, thereby releasing the battery. After getting the battery back in and turning the camera on, I was shocked again. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it. Color me impressed with the durability of this little baby.

I just might be Canon's bitch for life.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

It's Just All Too Much

Too much boobs, too much stomach, too much thighs, too much chub in the cheeks. Le sigh. I do not want to look like this in our vacation photos eleven weeks from now. So it's back to calorie counting in conjunction with Intuitive Eating for me. And it's definitely time to step up the frequency of workouts. This isn't going to turn into a health and fitness blog by any means, but I think this post and the follow up post eleven weeks from now will keep me accountable. As will the little text box on the sidebar if you are interested in my weekly progress on the scale and at the gym.

Off-topic Note: This is the DVF dress I scored at Clothes Heaven a few weeks ago. Clothes Heaven must have some angelic mirrors because it looked so much more flattering in the store. I still love the dress even though it's a pretty big departure from what I usually gravitate towards. Generally I prefer solids over patterns and I never wear yellow. Ever. Hopefully in eleven weeks it will look like it did in those heavenly mirrors.