Saturday, December 24, 2011

All Good Things...


Its been almost exactly three months since I last posted and I'm sorry to say that it's not good news that has broken that slide. I just found out that today my cat, Tangerine, has passed away. God that was hard to type...

Tange has been part of the family since I was in 3rd grade, more than 15 years. She was always a shy cat, though became much more outgoing these past few years. Sometimes she was a pretty wonky little cat, but she was my cat and I loved her very much.

She wan't just a good cat, she was the best cat.
I wish I could have seen her one last time.
I'm going to miss her like crazy...

Tange napping
Tange & Zach

Friday, September 23, 2011

Lovers Again?

Those of you who regularly read my posts may have noticed that food has been showing up less and less frequently around here. In fact, I think there has only been one post about something I'd cooked myself since last October, almost a full year ago. The truth is, food and I have had something of a falling out.

That's not to say that I stopped eating or anything like that, it's just that somewhere along the way food stopped being special to me. It's hard to put a finger on when or why it happened, but I just lost the will to put effort into it anymore. I stopped cooking for others and I stopped doing any more than scrape together dinner for myself, even on weekends. I was hardly even went exploring new restaurants, even on the occasions I did go out to eat. I was in a real food slump.

Generally speaking, things haven't been going so great lately and I found myself staring down a three day weekend with absolutely no plans. Feeling a little desperate, I decided something had to be done about this. And so, on that Monday, I tried to kick start my love affair with food again.

It started with breakfast. I tend to neglect breakfast as a proper meal and just throw together a bowl of cereal or yogurt, so I decided to go a bit further and settled on making pancakes. Pancakes are one of those things that seem really easy to make, but tend not to be. For me, the problem always has been ending up with thin floppy pancakes. The obvious answer is to make thicker batter, but no matter what I try they always end up like sad little frisbees. A quick review of my last attempt will illustrate my problem.

To be honest, my mission almost failed before it even started. Despite having made sure I had enough flour and eggs, I neglected to buy milk and almost abandoned the project on the spot. However, I happened to have some yogurt chilling in my fridge and a few minutes on google confirmed that this was indeed an acceptable substitute! Into the mix went the yogurt and I was back in the game. I'm not big on being exact with measurements, so I took rough amounts for everything in true tekito fashion and hoped for the best.

Success! From the minute I poured the first batch into the pan, I know these bad boys were going to rock and sure enough: fatty thick, fluffy pancakes! I had lunch plans (more on that later) but I snarfed down my wonderful mountain of breakfast goodness anyways. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

The pancakes were a step in the right direction, but it was going to take more than just a good breakfast to get me and food back together again. So on to lunch, where I had plans to eat at Cicada, which I visited waaaaaay back in September '09. I have to say, it probably would have been good to look back on original post in advance as I reminder what I had or hadn't eaten, but oh well. This time I made sure to have my camera!

Last time, the the star of the show was the little stuffed squid appetizer (there was no forgetting that one!), so that was a must have. I have to say, it was every bit as delicious as I remembered and it completely blew me away once again. That's the kind of food I want to learn how to make.

For the second appetizer, we got roast piquillo peppers stuffed with tuna, beans, and some other goodies. Though not on the same level as the squid, this was definitely another success.

The main dishes is where the reminder of last time would have been most helpful. Once again, the other side of the table went with the grilled snapper and, though delightfully tender and skillfully prepared, it was nothing stunning.

I opted to try the swordfish steak, which was nice and meaty and tasted good enough but, again, was not a dish that will live long in memory. The couscous(?) salad that came with it was kind of weird...

For dessert I went with a "Marsala" creme brulee, expecting some sort of cool twist on your standard creme brulee. It ended up tasting more or less like plain creme brulee with maybe a little bit of a whiskey flavor. I'd say it was just ok.

On the other side of the table was the tiramisu. A lot of places in Tokyo offer up little tiny servings of dessert with course lunches, but not Cicada. This was a freakin slab and it was delicious. Tiramisu isn't the most difficult dessert to make, but a lot of people manage to screw it up anyways, so it was nice to taste a really quality one for a change.

So was it all enough for me to fall back in love with food again? To be honest, it's hard to say just yet, but it certainly made me want to give it a second shot. Hopefully the coming weeks will see at least a couple of interesting dishes come out of my kitchen!

Saturday, September 17, 2011


It's been almost a month now and I'm only just now getting around to writing about it, but I spent a few days in Taiwan at the end of August. I'm going to keep this short and just let pictures do the talking, starting with a pair of photos that pretty much summarize my time there.

This is what happens to you in Taiwan:
Before -----> After
This is my stomachThis is my stomach on Taiwan

To be fair, there several choices made along the way that led to this outcome, such as the "every time you see shaved ice you have to eat it" rule. These delicious beasts will put that little Snoopy snow cone machine you had as a kid to shame.


But shaved ice alone isn't enough to make you look like you're second trimester. To go that far, you need some help from dim sum, fresh out of the steamer. When in doubt, always order an extra item. It'll taste so awesome you'll forget the concept of "feeling stuffed" and gobble it down anyways, plus it would cost 3x as much in Tokyo and still not be as good, so you've got to take your chances. Din Tai Fung is awesome but there's another place one block behind it that was nearly as good and had way shorter lines, making for a good Plan B.

But there's so much more to Taiwanese food than just dim sum, so you've got to expand beyond that. It's all so delicious and you've got to eat your veggies some time. (A quick note to any Japanese people reading this: if you're using the 地球の歩き方 guide book, skip the restaurant 青葉. The food is good, but ridiculously overpriced. You can definitely do better)

But what about later in the day you ask? (Ok, you probably didn't ask, but just run with me here) Night markets! Full of street vendors hawking little bits of deliciousness for just a couple dollars a pop, it's easy to just wander around stuffing your face. The best of the night markets was definitely Shilin, which absolutely blew the other ones away.

All that food will leave you pretty thirsty. Fortunately, Taiwan is also the land of pearl milk tea and doles it out in huge glasses. After drinking this stuff, I want to walk into the Bubble Island in Ann Arbor and kick the manager in the shins for pawning off that rubbish on us unknowing Americans for all those years, when the real stuff tastes this good.

Just to be clear, I didn't spend 5 days and 4 nights doing nothing but eating. I wandered around the city a lot (gotta walk off the calories and make room for the next meal!) and Taipei isn't a very big city, so I managed to get around a lot of it. A typhoon was heading our way at the time, so I decided not to take any day trips out of town on the chance that I'd get caught out, but Taipei has a lot of cool parks and temples which kept me busy.

Visually, Taipei has a lot in common with most of the other big Asian cities I've seen. The boatloads of scooters and backstreet eateries with cheap metal stools are just some of the visual cues that remind you that those these places are on the cusp of joining the "developed countries" list, they still have a little ways to go.

I couldn't resist taking a picture of this movie poster. They were promoting this movie super hard (though it wasn't out yet) and it was everywhere, but all I could think every time I saw was "this guy is so badass he draws rainbows with his sword!" Turns out the movie was "Seediq Bale" which was apparently highly anticipated internationally and was all over the news ahead of the Venice Film Festival. Who would have guessed?

I'm also a big sucker for skylines and love going up high buildings, so Taipei 101 was a must-see for me. It's far and away the biggest building in Taiwan and offers a great view down on the city.

All that eating and walking is enough to tire a guy out and Taipei offers some pretty awesome places to stay on the cheap. The first three nights were spent at the sharp and modern-looking Ambiance Hotel. The location isn't the most convenient for using the subway system but it gets you out and walking around the city, which I actually think is a plus, and at ~$60/night it's an absolute steal.

As good as that place was, splurging on a room for the last night was definitely the way to go. Enter the Studio Suite at the San Want Residences. This place was PHENOMENAL. The bed pretty much swallows you whole in big fluffy goodness .See the TV in the middle of the room? That bad boy rotates 180° so you can watch from bed. The bathtub was like a small pool. They even got the room number as my birthday! So much sexiness. I might not be able to stay at a Motel 6 ever again...

So that's my Taiwan adventure in a nutshell. Check another country off my list of places in Asia to visit. Many many more to see before I head back stateside!