Ecco the Oasis

Both times that we wandered about this perpetually sunbathed town, we found ourselves drifting to the corner of Marcy and Washington for some perpetually melting sweets. Without Ecco Espresso & Gelato, I don’t know if I could have made it to O’Keefe museum the first day. Ice cream is my life source. They have 20 flavors each time we’re there, rotating the rarer avocado, boysenberry and guava while keeping the common but ever-endearing chocolate and lime. As they claim, “what’s in [their] gelato case changes too quickly for [them] to post” on the website; I fantasize that Ecco’s gelataios just wake up and churn whatever ingredients they dream of the night before. There were always a few magenta red raspberry things in the case, and at least among the three of us, raspberry appears to be one of the most popular flavors to pair: with sake, with lime, with cherry, and with chocolate. I can eat chilled mashed avocado (with or without sugar) as a hefty dessert for 70 years straight, but like taro ice cream, avocado gelato may sound weird to the American palates that […]

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For some fine Italian plates

In Santa Fe, a student-friendly 15-dollar 3-mile cab ride can bring you to a student-sophisticated 15-dollar 3-course prix fixe lunch. It’s just a matter of trusting your cab driver. We were too lazy to read the maps downtown or to plan a lunch spot, sorta in the picky mood for good food in a refined atmosphere, and hungry. We blankly browsed through the recommended list given to us when the conference started, but everything looked oddly the same: just black ink. It wouldn’t hurt, so we asked our taxi driver. At first, she mentioned a couple of Mexican fares, but Bumble Bee’s burrito was still fresh in our mouth mind from the night before. Then she brought up Il Piatto, a cozy resto italiano a few blocks away from the buzzing Plaza. Her sister likes to go there. So did we. The 15-dollar prix fixe lunch must be the draw-in factor of Il Piatto, but its patronage crowd remains the middle-aged-and-overs, who can nonchalantly drown the Wednesday afternoon sun in their wine glass, gleefully talk about their family for hours without worrying about their family, that […]

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So long, my smuggling days

So we’ve been stealing bananas for nothing. Today I discovered that St. John’s cafeteria lets you have take-outs. As many boxes as your heart’s content. I know, right? What school cafeteria does this? Their food is not out of this world or anything, but for us student conference attendees, who pay only $50 per week for a room and 2 meals a day, I’d say it’s pretty sweet. And here I thought we’ve been sneaky after every meal, before walking out of the dining hall, we wrapped up one banana or a piece of brownie to save for breakfast the next day (‘cuz breakfast isn’t included in the 50 bucks). Oih, St. John’s, you crashed my smuggling dreams.

Red chile at Bumble Bee’s

“When in New Mexico, eat chile,” that’s what I’ve been told before my trip to Santa Fe this week. I’m not particularly crazy about chile, but I’ve also been told by a reliable source that the New Mexican chile is a whole different game from the Texan chile (which the reliable source is not particularly crazy about either), implying that the New Mexican chile is something worth looking for. And so be it: the first time my girl friends and I descended from the St. John’s College cafeteria to downtown Santa Fe, we joined everyone else at the Bumble Bee’s for burritos and tacos. Of course, I got the only thing on the menu that has “chile” in its name: the Red Chile Chicken Burrito ($10.81 with tax). It was huge. It was chubbier than my arm, stuffed with exceedingly tender chicken and smothered in pico de gallo, queso cotija, and red chile. The chicken was no doubt tasty, but the raw onion overpowered everything else in bitterness, which didn’t help the monotonic spicy chile, either. I stopped short after a third of the way. […]

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Taro and I

Taro and sticky rice pudding with coconut milk If you don’t like taro, I don’t know if we can be friends. I used to be aghast when people asked me what taro was. It’s a root, like potato, you know? Then slowly I realized that I was the obnoxious one for not realizing that not everyone is Vietnamese. But when you grew up with something so abundant, don’t you get the feeling that everyone else must have grown up with it too? Next time someone says “What, you haven’t seen Star Trek?!”, I’m gonna ask “have you eaten taro?”. (Just my luck, they’d say yes and I’d have to go to Blockbusters. :D) Continue reading Taro and I

The Hawker Fare take on Southeast Asian cooking

For a foodie, I dare say nothing beats dining with other foodies. Foodies want to try new places but have a fair assessment of the food, regardless of “the trend”. The food can be scraps and you’d still have a good time dissecting how that kind of scraps made its way into a diner. But more importantly, you’re not the only one taking pictures of food, your companions also remember what you got and write about it too. In his calm, knowledgeable, matter-of-fact way, Bob Fukushima beat me to writing about Hawker Fare today, which drives me to push this post ahead of the other thirty backlogged. First, the credit must go to Robert Bergstrom for recommending this lunch spot in Oakland. He and Bob are barbecue buddies. How I got to know Rob is another post. We sat and chilled over rice bowls, among other things, for more than 2 hours; I could almost feel the sneer from the line of customers waiting to get seated. Hawker Fare opened in late May, why they have such busy lunch time is probably because of their off-the-norm, concise menu […]

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A Green Lunch

There is this quote of Anton Ego that I heard again tonight and is still ringing in my head: “In many ways, the word of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer their works and their selves to our judgment.” That is true: the critic (or the self-proclaimed critic, aka the food blogger) goes to a restaurant, eats the food, and writes about the food with respect to his expectation of what it should be. The expectation usually comes from a long list of preset rules that he goes through with check marks and x’s: beef is tender, vegetables are crisp, bread is crusty, truffles are included, lobsters were kicking the tank minutes before they turn red. But every so often, his expectation might come from friends’ recommendations. The judgment then includes not only the subjected restaurant or dish, it also indirectly includes the friend’s credibility. Whatever the (self-proclaimed) critic puts down in writing, be it positive or negative, he risks a part of his friend’s and his own credibility in his friend’s eyes, which is not a “very little” thing. As such, I feel […]

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