Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving with the Family

After all these years of mom trying to convince relatives from China to come here we finally have a few relatives around for Thanskgiving. My cousin Lida and her husband Ping lives in West Lafayette and her parents are here from China to visit the new baby, Joana. She's so cute! My uncle is the best cook ever. It's nice to have family. 

Friday, November 18, 2011


There are a few things I'm passionate about and food is one of them. What's worse than a pretentious restaurant is a pretentious restaurant that serves bad food to pretentious people with no taste buds. Unfortunately two third of them easily fall into that category.I don't ever recall a time when I left a restaurant thinking to myself the food was terrible but I really enjoyed the scenery. I'm a value shopper with principles and I like real food. Tonight we tried a restaurant in town called Carmon. Everyone says it's French but I can only say that even "French-inspired" would be a stretch. Just because they added a few French words on the menu and a few mirrors on the wall it doesn't make the food any more French than we are closer to the Hall of Mirrors.

Everything was awful.

I had a bad vibe from the very beginning. The waiter was arrogant and ignorant. I was intrigued by the "sweet potato creme burlee" so I asked him how it's made, whether it's from a flavor extract or they some how used real sweet potatoes. First he started to explain what creme burlee is when I started to shake my head he proceeded to explain what a sweet potato is. WTF! He thought I didn't know what a sweet potato or creme brulee is?  The waiter assured me that thee dessert contains no artificial flavors and that everything is made from real ingredients in house. Ok, how? I'm no expert but I've made enough creme brulee to know that it doesn't incorporate sweet potatoes! More on this later.

Getting no info on the dessert I decided to find out what else the waiter didn't know. After he introduced the daily special, seafood stew, I asked what kind of stock is the stew made from. The waiter hesitantly said "duck." WTF? Duck stock for fish stew? Ok, that's a bit of a stretch but who knows anything is possible with these "inventive" restaurants. Later on he came back to correct himself and informed me that the fish stew is indeed made from fish stock. I let him off the hook by not asking what exactly all went into the stock.

For appetizer I got veal sausage: a link smaller than the size of my thumb cut into two halves on top of potato puree and yellow leek shoots still trenched in wine. There was no spices in the sausage, only grind meat, which was ok since you can tell it's made of very good quality veal. The leek and potato were nothing to write home about. Overall a very bland dish with no real substance.

The menu selection was limited. Since I rarely see trout offered around here so I was pretty excited to give it a try but it turned out to be the worst choice. I doubt there is a good place to get fresh trout around here and bad fish is just intolerable. The waiter looked confused when I asked him what kind of trout is served at the restaurant. After a named a couple varieties he said oh, it's rainbow trout. The fish came out in its entirety on an empty plate with no sides no nothing, just a overly salted fish. The fish was not deboned properly which made it difficult to eat. It was also not salmon colored like I had expected with steelhead. The whole thing was just awful, perhaps the worst fish I've ever had at a restaurant. Other people had the fish stew, which also turned out to be extremely over salted.

When it finally came time for dessert I said I'd order the sweet potato creme brulee only if the chief can come out and explain to me how it's made. I know it sounds a bit demanding but you really should know what the heck you're eating and paying for at a restaurant. The creme brulee came out in a typical ramekin with a film thin layer of caramelized powder sugar. The chief, although seemed a bit reserved, did explain to me that the dessert is made from real sweet potatoes by boiling it in milk and blending the puree into egg yolks. The whole thing is made without creme, which makes one wonder if it's even possible to called it a creme brulee especially without the sugar on top. This is basically a sweet potato custard. I know, who cares right? I do. I'm nuts and I don't ever plan to set foot in that place again.

For this kind of money I can have fresh grilled fish in Lisbon that's carted out from the kitchen, properly deboned in front of me and then trenched in warm butter! Just simple good food. I remember the last time I had rainbow trout with Rose in Bariloche like it was yesterday. The fish was also a bit salty but the white creme leek sauce was amazing. We laughed our butts off joking that the cooks intentionally made our food salty just to see if we would break down to buy a drink at the restaurant. We never did. We don't like to pay for our water when we travel. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


If you are asked to illustrate one artifact that would represent who you are what would it be? It's ironic that this task can be so difficult to complete in such an ultra-materialistic world we live in. This just goes to show how meaning full 99.9% of the stuff we owe. I thought about it for a couple of days and finally the morning of the presentation day I snatched a red hot chili pepper from the pepper plant my mom gave me when I moved here.

The obvious justification is I can't live without spicy food. More than that, it is part of my heritage of being born and grew up in Hunan, China. The smell of green peppers reminds of me all the times I went to the farmers market with my grandparents when I was just a toddler. We Hunan people have hot pepper in our blood and temperament. I come from a long line of strong and resilient people and I'm proud of that. I see my grandma in my mom. As I grow older I see my mom in myself. Tremendous amount of love and sacrifice have brought me here. No matter how far away I am from my relatives I hold them close to my heart. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

When You've Made It

Somebody recently posed the question, "how would you know if you've made it?" That's a great question and I'm surprised to have never given it much thought. We all seem to be constantly busy doing things and going places but how exactly would we know if we've made it or have finally reached our destination?

The best I can come up with right now is that I think you've made it if you could walk away from anything that displeases you without reservation. We live a world of means to an end with artificial/meaningless destinations. Everything we do without pleasure takes away from things we could enjoy yet we can't afford to walk away from them emotionally or financially. I originally thought of this not as part of some sort of Buddhist or Zen meditation state of relinquish all that is temporal but it sure is one proven way of letting go to achieve contentment. Financial security is nice except it always seems that people who have a lot want to have even more: the gambler's mentality without an exit strategy. People on average invest way to much time and energy trying to get along with others who by nature clashes with them. It's merely a no-fault mismatch with no viable solution yet people continue to struggle to get along due to a myriad of reasons like dependency, insecurity, fear of alone, depression, dislike of oneself, etc. People are not disposable but negative people should be. At some point we all need to develop enough emotional security to walk away from negativity and enough financially security to not work for money.

In short, I think you've made it if you can do things out of desire rather than necessity. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Saturday Morning

The cold weather is slowly making it's way to the Midwest yet we are once again experiencing a sunny fall weekend. The neighborhood is still colored with a trace of autumn.

Saturday mornings are for croissants at Bao's. This is where friends gather in the cozy sun-filled resident to sample world's best chocolate-filled croissants.

On a rare occasion Tony, aka my "gay husband" has the entire day off from work. I was absolutely delighted to meet up with him for a second breakfast at Le Peep, the best egg place in town. Every girl should have a best gay friend, someone who is thoughtful and genuine.

As I drove home in the warm sun I felt happy, content and hopeful, a state of mind I haven't experienced in a long time. Life has treated me kindly and I'm grateful for it.