Shave ice from Coconut Cafe


Hawaii is paradise if you are: 1. into constant heat and 90% humidity. In Hawaii, the world outside your air-conditioned box (e.g., your house, car, or office) is a sauna. 2. in the shave ice, juice, lemonade, or ice cream business. The owner of Coconut Cafe is in *full* control of her life, her shop, and her customers. Her main sale is undoubtedly shaved ice, although her menu also has other dessert drinks (such as bubble teas), sandwiches and burgers. Coconut Cafe has no fixed hours of operation. She opens and closes when she wants to, and even if you walk into the door when she has already decided to close, she will tell you firmly so and there is no changing it. We know this fact, because we experienced it not just once, but 4 times. The first day, we got there at 9:30 pm, after dinner, doors were shut tight, understandably, although we were somewhat surprised by how early stores and restaurants close in Hawaii compared to Berkeley. There was no sign anywhere saying what hours they’re open. Continue reading Shave ice from Coconut Cafe

Oregon Wine Adventure dinner at Bay Wolf

Clockwise from top left: "Oregon finger food", smoked trout salad, fava bean cannelloni, Liberty Ranch duck. Image courtesy of Nancy Togami.

Clockwise from top left: “Oregon finger food”, smoked trout salad, fava bean cannelloni, Liberty Ranch duck. Image courtesy of Nancy Togami. Hi! I’m Nancy, one of Mai’s intrepid partners in food and tea adventures. I’m guest blogging about a wine dinner that I enjoyed not too long ago… Baywolf on Piedmont Avenue is well known in the Bay Area for its duck dinners (Nov 2012). An opportunity arose last month to indulge in the duck again, along with some mighty fine Oregon wine. Of course, this is where Mai and I part ways, as I usually enjoy a glass or two of fine wine with a special meal. We agree to disagree 😉 A treat for the evening included appearances from Dick Ponzi from his eponymous winery and Harry Peterson-Nedry of Chehalem Wines. Continue reading Oregon Wine Adventure dinner at Bay Wolf

Photo Essay: Conference Eating in Seoul

Our private room!

When I wasn’t presenting at my conference in Seoul, we were eating, eating, eating! I learned that it is pretty typical to have a table covered entirely with food and drinks until there’s literally no space left so dishes started piling upon each other! It’s definitely the best way to eat in my opinion! Rather than writing a detailed post about each of the dishes I ate, I’ll showcase the food itself by displaying the photographs I took with little captions. Everyone was wondering why I was so intent on taking pictures of food, but when I’m in a new place and trying new foods, it’s just too hard to resist. This will probably be my last post on eating in Seoul, so I’ll end it with lots of pictures! Day 1 – Dinner at the Seoul National University Hoam House Our private room! Continue reading Photo Essay: Conference Eating in Seoul

Eating in Seoul: The Hello Kitty Cafe


While figuring out where exactly I was staying in Hongdae, I printed out the map on how to get to my hostel from the limousine bus stop. The map was marked with restaurants and cafes to use as landmarks while navigating through the backstreets of Hongdae. To my surprise, on this map a location was marked as “Hello Kitty Cafe.” I’m not the biggest fan of Hello Kitty, but there is something about themed cafes that really excites me, so I knew then that I had to go. (Or okay maybe I am a LOT excited about Hello Kitty…) It is PINK in here. It was a little blinding, but I felt so happy once I stepped inside! The music consisted of club dance music too so that definitely contributed to the upbeat atmosphere. I couldn’t decide what to order at first since all the cakes and drinks looked super cute and yummy, but I decided to go with the prettiest treats because how often is it that I get to go to a Hello Kitty-themed cafe? Continue reading Eating in Seoul: The Hello Kitty Cafe

Eating in Seoul: My Favorite Cafe


As a graduate student, I find that I need to always be constantly reading and writing. However, I am not someone who can study easily in a library – it’s a little too quiet and after a while, I start to freak out. I need a little bit of noise to keep me motivated, which is why I prefer to study at cafes all the time. Seeing that I was in Seoul to present at a conference, I needed to get on top of my studying too and took a few days to relax a little bit and read. For the first half of my trip I stayed in Hongdae, which is a super cute neighborhood outside of Hongik University, an art and design university. There were so many cute shops and vendors open during the day and clubbing at night; I can definitely see why this is such a popular place for young people! My favorite part of Hongdae though are the cafes – each cafe is unique and has its own charms. I obviously did not get a chance to hang out at every single cafe, but I did have a favorite while I was staying in […]

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One shot: Avocado smoothie


This post is for the Vietnamese expats in particular and anyone who thinks of the avocado as a fruit (to be eaten as a fruit, not a vegetable). In America, people tend to think of avocado in guacamole terms or as a meat substitute in sandwiches. If you think avocado for dessert is weird, shall we talk about your pumpkin pie? 😉 Ever since the day I saw the option of “avocado smoothie” at UCafe, I’ve had 3-5 avocado smoothies every week. Drinking each smoothie with boba was like looking through old photographs and reliving the beautiful days. The avocado is healthy, but that’s not why I like it. It’s the best option when I’m too tired to chew, want something mildly sweet and cold, and when the weather is too hot for meat and carbs. It replenishes my soul and keeps me alive through the summer humidity that accumulates in my tin-roof office building. I regret that I had not eaten more avocados in Vietnam, where the fruit is as big as my whole hand from wrist to middle finger tip and as luscious as molten chocolate cake. Continue reading One shot: Avocado smoothie

Hong Kong Lounge – it’s never too early for dimsum and tea


Above is our table at 10 a.m. (after we have cleared the first few dishes). To your right is Hong Kong Lounge at 9:31 a.m., exactly 1 minute after the doors opened. Every seat was filled. When we arrived at Hong Kong Lounge at 9:10, 20 minutes before the restaurant opens, a line had already formed. While we were eating, the line formed again outside and kids were pressing their face against the frosted windows to peak at people’s plates. I’d imagine it’d feel a bit weird if you’re seated by the window. Continue reading Hong Kong Lounge – it’s never too early for dimsum and tea

Andy Warhol, kokeshi dolls, and oden


In Europe the royalty and the aristocracy used to eat a lot better than the peasants – they weren’t eating the same things at all. It was either partridge or porridge, and each class stuck to its own food. But when Queen Elizabeth came here and President Eisenhower bought her a hot dog I’m sure he felt confident that she couldn’t have had delivered to Buckingham Palace a better hot dog than that one he bought for her for maybe twenty cents at the ballpark. Because there is no better hot dog than a ballpark hot dog. Not for a dollar, not for ten dollars, not for a hundred thousand dollars could she get a better hot dog. She could get one for twenty cents and so could anybody else. – Andy Warhol Why is that ballpark hot dog the best hot dog? Because the ballpark hot dog seller sells nothing but hot dogs. You can’t beat someone who does it day in and day out, a thousand times and another thousand times more often than you. Continue reading Andy Warhol, kokeshi dolls, and oden

Duck for Thanksgiving! (Stealing ideas from Double Duck Dinner at Bay Wolf)

Today. Big glistening birds. Crimson cranberry sauce. Mashed sweet potato with a crusty marshmallow top. Green bean casseroles. Gravies. The all-American classic holiday dinner table that every grocery store has a picture of on their website. Once upon a time I was enticed by such beauty, much like how I engulfed a chunk of ham the first time I saw real ham after years of seeing ham in old American cartoons (Tom and Jerry I think?). To be fair, save for the turkey, I do like the marshmallow sweet potato, the green bean casserole, and sometimes the stuffing if the gravies’ done right. But the turkey… I don’t get it. In a bird, the best part is the brown meat: legs, thighs, wings, that’s all. (Ah yes, I love the offals too, but today I’ll speak from the American perspective for a change.) Yet, the turkey leg is a monstrosity of toughness that my weak 20-some-year-old bone-gnawing cartilage-grinding gizzard-and-heart-loving teeth have trouble handling. Were all the turkeys I sunk into Olympic weightlifters or something? Well they have to lift their 30lb+ body every minute anyway, so no wonder. Conclusion: I don’t like turkey(*). I like duck. […]

Continue reading Duck for Thanksgiving! (Stealing ideas from Double Duck Dinner at Bay Wolf)

Time for tea in Berkeley: Imperial or Teance?

After four months at Teance on 4th Street and one morning at Imperial Tea Court on Shattuck, the stupid demanding tea snob novice in me revealed herself. I’m far from being the perfect judge on what constitutes a good tea house, but I know the basics. With that, I wouldn’t recommend Imperial to anyone who seriously wants to learn about tea. Click on the image if you want to know my reasons.