You know it’s Tet when…

…1. The kumquat branches bear their multitudes of gold baubles, the tangerines and pomelos swell and shine, the dragon fruits and rambutans are happily sought for because of their festive shapes and colors; …2. The white grey front patio of Grand Century Mall and its adjacents is blushed with firecracker remnants, and if you’re there at the right moment, your ears would be blasted by the continuous loud popping of an ignited long Chinese squib, its color matched only by the ruby peach blossoms in full bloom; …3. The usually dormant stores that sell Vietnamese beef jerkies and dried plums awakens in a sudden selling frenzy: tasting, weighing, packaging, paying, people queuing… Continue reading You know it’s Tet when…

Chocolate festival at Ghirardelli Square

What’s with this time of the year that festivals keep popping up every weekend? Just two weeks ago my friends and I were strolling among some 60 food trucks at Jack London Square; then last week we had some awesome grilled chicken at Martin Luther King Park; and this past Sunday we wound up queuing in the shivering bay wind for some artisan desserts at Ghirardelli Square. If we keep this up(*) I will become quite athletic, all that walking and standing in (long) line build muscles, you know. 😛 So here’s the deal with the 15th annual Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival: you get a $20 ticket to try 15 samples (there are 31 total, some of them are chocolate favored alcoholic drinks); supposedly the booths started giving samples at noon, but lots of people got there earlier and lined up in front of the booths. Kara’s Cupcakes is one of those booths with a 100 feet line before it even opened. I’m not crazy about cupcakes (yeah… you can tell I’m not American) so I didn’t contribute to that line’s ridiculous […]

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It’s Enkutatash – Ethiopian New Year in Berkeley

You know a radio station is worth listening to when it mentions the holidays of other cultures. It shows not only respect but a positive attitude: there should not be only bad news, and there should not be only news about Americans. Mudpie found out from KQED that today the MLK Civic Center Park in Berkeley was hosting the Enkutatash festival, the first day of Ethiopian New Year which usually marks the end of three months of heavy rain in Ethiopia. According to their calendar, the year 2003 will start next Saturday, September 11. But there’s no harm in having good food and fun a week earlier, especially when we have the long Labor Day weekend to stretch our legs. 🙂 We arrived perhaps a little early, although it was an hour after the announced starting time. Most of the food tents (i.e. three out of four) were still setting up, the only one ready was selling ice cream (or was it sorbet?). In fact, an hour later as we were leaving, two of the four food tents were still in […]

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We Ate Real

Last weekend we went to the annual Eat Real Festival in Oakland. They had it for three days, we went two. And we still couldn’t stuff everything down. The idea is to show that real, good food can be affordable like fast food. The reality is no matter how small each portion was, we ended up walking slow. Some things were delicious. Like the Korean BBQ tacos from Seoul On Wheels. Ebony loved the chicken, Mudpie swooned about the spicy pork, I adored the bulgogi, all served on a corn tortilla with some lipsmacking sauce for $3. Follow their tweets to know their locations. Near Seoul On Wheels were Curry Up Now and a Whole Foods‘ truck. Mudpie just couldn’t resist a chicken tikka masala burrito ($5), then drank a whole bottle of water afterwards. I was enticed by the hiramasa (hamachi) ceviche and grilled figs from Whole Foods, $3 each, served in a cone with tortilla chips for dipping. Continue reading We Ate Real

Satsuki Bazaar on Channing Way

One blue-sky Sunday in May. A section of Channing Way, between Shattuck and Fulton, was blocked. Two girls draped in summery garments danced to joyous Hawaiian tunes on a sunlit wooden stage, surrounded by a small crowd of both familiar spectators and curious passing pedestrians. The seductive smell of grill beef got caught in the wind here and there. So it was the street front of the 61st annual Satsuki Bazaar and Arts Festival at the Berkeley Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temple on Channing Way. Inside the temple, a multitude of items displayed for silent auction held visitors’ footsteps, starting with orchids, matted photos and paintings, gift cards to sushi bars and diving lessons… …to porcelain sets, stuffed toys, a wooden sculpture of Daruma, and Shichi Fukujin in a glass box. Continue reading Satsuki Bazaar on Channing Way

When the blossoms bloom

One Saturday we shove our homework into a corner and make a dash for San Francisco before another spring storm takes over the bay. Parking is as easy as hiking with a twisted ankle, but all that matters is we find a spot, then stroll a mile to the food bazaar on Webster street, Japan Town, arriving just a little bit before noon. Up from the steep sidewalk we see rows of white tents and white chairs, smoke rolling above the grills covered with beef and pork riblets, a line getting long on one side of the conglomeration. It is still early in the first morning of the Cherry Blossom Festival. The carnivore instinct leads me right to the grill. It’s never too early to eat meat. The first booth whips out rice bowls with either ribs or unagi, braised eel cut into palm long chunks. We don’t feel like filling up with a rice bowl just yet, so we walk further down the row eying signs, then back track to the Nihonmachi Little Friends’ booth for three skewers of grilled beef at a mere five bucks. Continue reading When the blossoms bloom

Pre-Tet shopping in San Jose

Tet in San Jose1

The lunar new year comes a bit late this time. The first day of Tet coincides with Valentine’s Day on a Sunday. Can you imagine how big it is for the Asian expats? The other years Tet happened during the week, people have to work, kids have classes, maybe even tests. Who knows what a pop quiz on that first day can do to a child that whole year? Tet in Vietnam is in the spring, but for the expats in the western hemisphere, if Tet comes a bit too early, like in January, then it’d still be coat-and-cold-nose time. So yeah, it’s big this year. In the past few days it’s been snowing in Texas and everything, but the weather here has gotten fairly springlike. The hills are all fuzzily green, purplish pink flowers blooming on the side streets (I know nothing about botany, but my guess is they are related to cherry blossoms somehow), spring showers come every now and then just to wet your eyebrows. The employment rate may still be low in Cali, but there was no sign of a recession in San Jose last weekend. The parking lots at Lion […]

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