Monthly Archives: September 2009

Because It’s Monday, and I’m Surprised Jimmy Fallon was Actually Funny

Though technically Monday is my Sunday? Regardless, I think we could all use a little T-Pain.

Side note: Were the Emmys actually good last night? I can’t even tell. I just get excited when my name trends on twitter for 24 hours. But I think NPH is the delicious snack cake of the entertainment world: Nobody doesn’t like Doogie.

That’s not how it went down, but it’s how I saw it.

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Portland’s Japanese Gardens: Totally Like That One Anime

So the other touristy thing we did last week was hit up the Japanese Gardens, also in Washington Park right across the street from the Rose Gardens. It was a gray and gloomy morning, aka the perfect Portland morning, aka the perfect weather in which to wander a dense, mossy, slightly ethereal garden. I’m the last person to buy into the idea that Asian automatically equals exotic and mysterious, but this place was bananas, even when filled with old people with cameras. Somehow the rainy Pacific Northwest weather and rolling greenery of the southwest hills really go well with classic Japanese garden design. Even Portland’s shabby downtown looked shiny from up there.

From the parking lot there’s a shuttle that takes you up the hill to the entrance, or you can be a real man and walk the 0.2 miles through the pretty gate and up a nicely maintained path. We took the path, because we’re not wusses. Also we couldn’t pass up a photo opportunity.

Well, maybe that last one is just me.

I should point out that the path climbs the side of a hill, directly across from which is a steep cliff covered entirely in ferns. We’re talking ferns for days. Fernapalooza. Big damn ferns. I’m from the coast and even I was all, “holy shit! ferns!”

Neither Yean nor I have ever been there, despite living in Portland for quite a while now. I’m really not sure why. Well, actually I’m pretty sure I know why, and it MAY HAVE something to do with the eight dollar entrance fee. Which is not that bad! It’s just I am very broke, and also cheap. Because of being broke. But that eight bucks actually seems pretty low when you enter the gardens and see how immaculately groomed everything is, from the lobey trees to the carefully hidden and appropriately mossy stone figures strewn about the sides of the paths. Even the railings are decorative, one of which was a waist-high wall with a tiny roof on top. A roof! For a wall! So cute!

There was also cool shit like this rock garden. I really wanted to rake the gravel, y’all. I wonder how many two year olds, running around without the supervision of their hands-off hippie parents, launch themselves into this baby and mess it up. There wasn’t even a wall on the front of it. It was tempting.

This little birdy was, like POSING on this fountain while I fought with an old dude over the best position to get a shot. Also there was a fountain kinda like this one, but huge. It would make that clacking noise every few minutes as the bottom section filled with water and tipped into the pond, which we kept hearing but never saw. I’m not ashamed to say I made Yean and Mom stand there while I waited for it to tip because I’d only ever seen it in anime and was fascinated. “I think it’s, like, symbolic.” I said. “Yeah,” Yean said, “Symbolic of a commercial break.”

Anyway, it tipped and it was awesome and it’s possible I watched too much anime as a kid.

I really liked the natural garden area, which was this hilly little area with tiny streams and steps and paths cutting across it. It was way too dark to get good pictures, but it was like being in another word. The ground had a thick layer of moss on it, and there were little statues and tiny trees all around. I felt a little big and clumsy, and also concerned for the many old people carefully picking their way across the slick stone. We sat down on a bench and just stared for a bit, oblivious to the fact that fifty feet away, on the other side of a fence, cyclists in spandex were zooming down the road. In the middle of a hectic week, it was nice to have that quiet moment.

Also there was a nice reedy koi pond area, which we didn’t stick around for long because there was this ratty white dude with BO and a ponytail mansplaining to his companions about the history of pet koi. I’d like to say this annoyed me but really there’s nothing I love more than giving the “wtf?” look to a total stranger, walking ten feet away and turning to Yean all, “CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT DOUCHE?”

That’s just how I roll.

Then we went to the taco truck by my house. That’s also how I roll.

Portland Japanese Gardens
611 SW Kingston, Portland, Oregon 9720
10 am – 7 pm tues – sun
noon – 7 pm mon
(503) 223-1321

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Call Your Mother

Mommy was in town last week.

Some people don’t like the word “mommy.” Some people, I’d even say, are sickened by it. But I feel all right using the word at 24 because a) it’s not that unusual in Asian families, b) I’m pretty comfortable with my level of independence from my mother, and c) If I stopped now, I’d break my mother’s heart. Well, that’s not fair. My mom’s a hearty sort of woman; I’m sure she’d understand. But to me, she’s Mommy. I can refer to her as “my Mom” to other people, but on the rare occasion when I get to see her, she’s Mommy. Name: Mommy. Occupation: Mom. She also has a real name and occupation, but look at her. She’s just so dang cute.

Such a Mommy.

So the first thing we did, of course, was take her to Mother’s Bistro, a restaurant in downtown Portland. I hate that I like this place so much. It’s big, it’s in the middle of the city, and you can always see the chefs taking a smoke break when you’re waiting for a table. I hate that. I had a teacher in school who refused to enter Jake’s Grill downtown for this same reason. But the food at Mother’s is so, so good. The egg dishes are gorgeous. The biscuits and gravy is rich and meaty. And they make an eggs benedict that jiggles like an angel’s boobies. I don’t even care about the nicotine-sucking cooks (like RIGHT OUTSIDE THE DOOR). They make a bangin’ hollandaise.

I have to try very, very hard not to get biscuits and gravy every time. Or eggs benedict. But I’m also in love with this stuffed fritata, which is essentially an omelet with broiled cheese on top.

The next day, we went to the Rose Gardens in Washington Park. I’ve actually never been before, despite the fact that I used to live one MAX stop away from it.

I took a lot of pictures. A LOT. And it was very bright, so I couldn’t quite see what I was doing. But some of them came out okay! Actually, most of them. I guess you can’t go wrong with pretty roses.

Let me tell you, that place is huge. If it wasn’t for the fact that we’d just gone to the Japanese gardens and at that point were severely hungry, I could’ve wandered around for hours. Did you know there’s a Julia Child rose?

And a Karl Lagerfeld one?

All in all it was a nice way to spend the afternoon. And it felt fitting. Roses for Mommy, because she’s awesome. Even though she’s not fond of receiving flowers, and also I think it’s illegal to bring Oregon plants into California. As I am writing this she’s just called my sister and told her that she’s home safe, even though she couldn’t sleep in her hotel last night because the woman in the room next door was making loud sex noises.

That’s my Mommy. I miss her already.

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Today in Canned Things: Astoria and Cape Disappointment

So, Lewis and Clark.

They came, they saw, they all got malaria. The Northwest is filthy with L&C landmarks. You can’t spit without hitting the Historic Place Where Clark Peed Himself That One Time. I admit, I’m a sucker for it. There’s something so fascinating about this wildly optimistic, mistake-riddled journey. Something, dare I say, so American.

Right, enough of that. Let’s get some fish.

Along with our Flavel House visit a couple weeks back, Yean and I hit up some of Astoria’s more accessible tourist attractions.

I’m pretty sure this jail was still in use. But oh, what a historic treat for the inmates. I hear the drunk tank even has original fireplaces. Or maybe I’m thinking of the Flavel House next door.

I like to do this thing when I take pictures. Someone once told be it was only good to take a landscape photo if there were people in it. It makes sense, when paging through picture after picture of indistinguishable ocean views. So when Yean and I are admiring a view, I like to back up a few paces and take a picture of her looking pensive and thoughtful.

This is the view from the Ship Inn, where we had a late lunch/early dinner (henceforth referred to as “linner”) of oyster fish and chips. Oh my God. It was so good. I like that right away they ask you if you want lemon and extra tartar sauce, which is fantastic. We had a bit of trouble finding it at first, but discovered that if you so much as mention it to a local they’ll give you detailed directions, along with a gushing “mmm!” noise and a mini-review of the food.

Did you know there’s a Pier 39 in Astoria? And you can shop there? Well, there is and you can. There’s a little area with a couple surf/kayak shops, a nice but touristy bar, a cute coffee shop and a little free museum where the old cannery used to be. I’m also so into old canneries, even though it’s a dying industry and there are tricky sustainability issues. But this place was fascinating, and a little creepy. In one room there was a random tv turned to static, with a radio recording about canning blasting in the background. I tried to capture the Ring like quality.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about ““, posted with vodpod

Also, there was this.

And this.

Hey, uh…soo…why do ya think they called him, uh…um. Well. Let’s not go there.

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Sometimes, I Want the Spicy

Well, that was an Oregon summer.

I guess it’s over? This week the sun promptly faded and the rain came out. I’m a bit sad that the sun went bye-bye and the rain and humidity are once again making macaron-baking a struggle, but on the bright side, soup season is here! I love soup season. I really do.

Okay, so this is really more of a stew/braise, but I’m all about the curry right now. My life has been touched by ambiguous curries. My dad used to make…well, who knows what my dad got up to with a dutch oven and free reign over the spice aisle, but he use to make these searingly hot (to my ten year old palate) concoctions, full of spicy meat and vomit-colored sauce. When I complained he’d just say, “You don’t know what’s good.”

The basis of all that is holy and good

Well, crap if he wasn’t right. I don’t know when the shift occurred; maybe sometime during the weekly dinner outings to the Thai place in Pacifica where my parents used to go. We went out a lot after my Dad died, something we almost never did when he was alive. It was a shift in the dynamic between mother and daughters; suddenly I could relate to my Mom in a way I couldn’t when I was younger. The three of us would go out for lunch like girlfriends, giggling over spicy curry and Thai iced tea, and it was like us against the world. Learning to like spicy food was like a rite of passage, one that I wasn’t capable of passing until just then.

Ah, jeez. Are you crying yet? If not, go chop an onion. Chop it good.

Anyway, this is an experimental sort of curry. I can only barely make Chinese recipes and I’m half Chinese, so I reserve the right to not know what the fuck I’m doing when it comes to Thai flavors. Thai-ish. I believe I adapted this recipe from a spicy soup recipe from Epicurious, and also from some other random recipe that called for sweet potatoes. The sweet potatoes, they spoke to me. I made it once, I think at my mom’s house? And it was so good that I made it again a few weeks later for a work potluck. Last week when the weather turned gray I made it for the third time. And oh, I’ve missed it.

WARNING: If you do not enjoy the smells of delicious curry cooking, you should not make this. There is no escaping the tantalizing aromas. Neighbors and roommates will be very envious of/annoyed with you. But they can suck it.

Also I do not have any stovetop process photos, because even though my Dad was right about spicy meat being good, I was right about the sauce. It ain’t pretty. And my kitchen gets terrible lighting. If I could make a scratch and sniff website, I would. Actually, I might not, because that would be embarrassing and inappropriate in libraries and such.

Youll need tome rice, of course

I’d advise doing ALL the prep at once, marinating the chicken while you chop everything else. Once this baby gets going you’re not gonna want to stop. I made the mistake of forgetting to peel/chop my sweet potatoes until the last minute, and let me tell you, peeling potatoes is even less fun when you’re trying to do it on the fly. Also don’t shake your coconut milk when you buy/use it. Ideally I like to find the dingiest, dustiest can in the store, so the fat is nicely separated from the water. We’re gonna deglaze with that fat, baby. I’ve been told the fat helps to toast the spices and bring out extra yummy flavors, but I forget where I heard that or whether it makes any sense. But it looks impressive, and it makes it easier to incorporate the thick curry paste into the sauce.

Garnish with lime, green onion and cilantro

Experimental Curry

2 T. vegetable oil
1/2 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 T. lemongrass, minced
2 T. ginger, minced
2 T. curry paste (I used red curry paste, available in asian markets)
2 T. curry powder, divided
1 t. chili garlic sauce (The kind with the rooster on it…I call it cock sauce. You can use another name.)
2 cans coconut milk
2 c. chicken broth
2 1/2 T. fish sauce
2 t. sugar
3 c. sweet potato, cut into 2 inch chunks
3 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, halved

Toss the chicken with half the curry powder, let marinate while you prepare the other ingredients, about half an hour.

Heat the oil in a large dutch oven and brown the chicken in 3-4 batches, over high heat, turning as soon as the pieces brown enough to unstick themselves from the bottom of the pan. Place the browned chicken in a bowl and set it aside. reduce the heat to medium and, in the same pot, sautee the onion, garlic, ginger and lemongrass until the onions are translucent and some of the liquid has released. Add the remaining curry powder, curry paste, and chili sauce, along with the fatty part of the coconut milk, skimmed off the top of the can. Stir it together and let it cook down a few minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.

Add the remaining coconut milk, the chicken broth, fish sauce, and sugar, and bring to a boil. Add the chopped sweet potatoes and the browned chicken and reduce the heat to low. Let it simmer until the potatoes are cooked through and the chicken pulls apart easily, about half an hour.

Serve with steamed rice and garnish with cilantro, green onion and fresh squeezed lime.

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