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    Born to Run by Christopher McDougall - (K) Humorous and thorough history and science behind ultrarunners and long-distance running
    *****
    Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela - (K) An autobiography covering his childhood, years as a freedom fighter and incarceration. Inspiring and informative
    *****
    The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón - (K&T) A mystery set in Barcelona involving an old book, a failed writer and murder
    *****
    Lush Life by Richard Price - A Lower East Side tale of cops, drugs and drinking
    ***
    The Chinese by Jesper Becker - (K&T) Modern history of my peeps, from the cultural revolution to the many failed economic and social attempts to move the country forward
    ***
    Setting the Table by Danny Meyer - A "how-to" on hospitality and business acumen by the restaurateur behind such NY institutions as the Shake Shack and Union Square Grill
    ***
    The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama - Obama lays out what is wrong with the current government and how, vaguely, to change it.
    **

Yale / New Haven

After a VERY late night at beer table in Brooklyn with my friends Laura and Phil (recently returned from Sydney) where we downed/nursed a number of unknown (at least to me) but incredibly tasty beers after attending a show at nearby Union Hall of Seno’s friend Tim Williams, I got up at 8am. K & I were supposed to catch to 10:07 am train to New Haven for a day of sightseeing and eating.

But Kelly was nowhere to be found. She was on her 11 mile run, all part of training for the NY Marathon. I sometimes feel very lazy for staying up late and sleeping in while Kelly gets up at like 5:30 am and runs..but this feeling doesn’t last very long. 🙂

She got back at 9 something but then it felt a little too rushed to make it to Grand Central in time. Luckily, there is a train every hour so we could easily push back to the next train. So, we took our time, packed a change of clothes into the backpack and took the subway north, arriving at GCT a good 20 minutes before the train is supposed to leave. Lines were long for tickets and bagels (NYers LOVE lines, even for things that anywhere else would be easy – this is not something I’ll miss) but we made it in time to catch our train, which seemed to be arriving really close to its departure time.

As people wandered off the train, we wandered on, looking for the prime seat. We wandered off to switch cars and then when trying to board again, i got trapped by the closing door. WTF? why is the door closing? Nobody is even on the train yet. In fact, I don’t see anybody else at all and the train is supposed to leave in like 2 minutes. Weird.

Well, it’s only weird until somebody tells you that while you are indeed at the train booked for New Haven, except that this is the 12:07 train for New Haven….NOT the 11:07.

SHIT

We RAN through GCT looking for the right track but it was too late. It had already departed. So, we took some seats down in the Dining Concourse and drank some coffee and finished out bagels and talked. Somebody nearby had a plate of Indian food that looked very good.

in GCT

in GCT

Hrm. Well, it is supposed to be a day of eating and while we planned on starting this in New Haven, there was no sense in making that a LAW.

$9 and 5 minutes later, K & I were sharing a plate of daal, lamb curry and basmati rice. It was pretty good, but nothing spectacular….what do you expect from a fast food indian place? But it made me happy. We grabbed a copy of the NYT and boarded the packed train for New Haven.

It takes about 2 hours to get to New Haven and Kelly slept most of the way there.

Upon arrival we grabbed a map of New Haven and started towards Yale, which is about 20 minutes from the train station by foot.

I have to say that New Haven does NOT give a good first impression. The famed greens near Yale are dirty and full of trash and surrounded by bums making use of the park benches. But Yale itself is VERY pretty. The grounds and buildings are spectacular an unlike almost any other place in the U.S. I’ve ever been. It was move-in weekend at Yale and we expected hoards of new students moving into dorms, but everything seemed rather quiet. After a quick google session, we learned that Yale enrolls less than 2000 new students a year. Ah!

Yale

Yale

More Yale

More Yale

Mas Yale

Mas Yale

We hit the Art Museum, which is free, and saw the current Van Gogh exhibit featuring Starry Nights. The whole 3rd floor was pretty interesting and contained other work by Van Gogh as well as Jackson Pollack, Degas, Picasso and Monet. But the piece that most interested me was this one by Anselm Kiefer, “Die Ungeborenen

Die Ungeborenen

Die Ungeborenen

If you’re interested, go google it and you’ll learn all about it. Not the happiest topic so I’ll leave it to those that are curious.

After the art museum, we went to BAR, which I read about from the blog “The Girl Who Ate Everything”. BAR brews a rich and chocolately stout that goes well with their pizza, which we got covered in mashed potatoes and bacon. Weird combination? Yes. Does it work? Actually it does, though I would prefer to remove the mashoed potatoes and cover in Creme Fraiche. Their white pizze has a great garlic and parmesean kick. There was LOTs of glorious, glorious bacon.

Mashed Potatoes & Bacon

Mashed Potatoes & Bacon

New Haven is well known for thier pizza and so after a few more hours of walking around Yale and gawking at the awkward and mostly nerdy Yale freshman, we ended up at Sally’s later to try what some call the best pizza on earth.

But we wouldn’t know. After spending an hour in a line that didn’t seem to move AT ALL and learning that we’d still have to wait another 2 hours to get said pizza, we gave up and got a pretty decent order of mapotofu at a local Chinese restaurant.

It was 9pm and we were beyond full. We headed back to the train station and grabbed the 9:21 back to New York and were sitting at home watching an on-demand copy of Mad Men by midnight.

Food Ketchup

Last week was a great food week. It started out with a dinner with friends at Persimmon – a new Korean place up in the East Village. Korean seems to be popping up everywhere and I think it has something to do with Koreans learning how to slightly cater their food to the American palate as well as us Americans getting a little better at venturing out of our safety zone. I think we’ll see a take-off of Korean food in mainstream America over the next 10 years. It has all the things American like such as bbq, interactive cooking tableside (at bbq), some good heat, new Korean places an emphasis on fresh ingredients.

I’ve really come around to the pickled veggies and fish too (banchan?)

Persimmon has a nice little concept going on. A very clean, modern and small place with a communal table that everyone sits at. Two servers handle all orders form the prix fixe menu. Each course has 5 options. Dinner probably always lasts a couple hours and the people are very friendly. It is also BYOB! I love BYOB.

The problems? The food isn’t incredibly flavorful. This is sad because I really wanted to love the place.

Bonjoo - Guess it is a good sign when all the food is gone...

Bonjoo - Guess it is a good sign when all the food is gone...

Because of this, I was still hungry for Korean food later that week and so K & I met our friend Andy for beers at Lunasa followed by another Korean dinner at Bonjoo. This dinner was exactly what I was looking for in Korean food. Everything tasted great, there was a bit of heat in almost all the dishes and the banchan was excellent.

Between these two Korean dinners, K & I finally got a chance to go to Union Square Grill for Seno’s b-day dinner with Molly, Laura & Seno. We’ve wanted to go here for awhile as it is a NY institution, widely praised as bringing back focus to seasonal, organic and local ingredients. It isn’t anything revolutionary. What it is though is classic American bistro food perfectly prepared.

Duck confit with roasted, balsamic figs and greens

Duck confit with roasted, balsamic figs and greens

Lamb Chops

Lamb Chops

Our entrees included duck confit with roasted balsamic figs (something to try at home) and sauteed greens, lamb chops with potato/gyuere gratin, ricotta gnocchi that was the fluffiest gnocchi I’ve ever tasted, osso bucco that fell off the bone with a creamy polenta and some sort of green bean summer pasta. We also ordered sides of garlic potato chips, creamy polenta with basil pesto, beef carpaccio and fried calamari. Everything was excellent. Dinner at Union Sq. was easily one of the best meals we’ve had in NY and I highly recommend it.

Polenta with basil pesto

Polenta with basil pesto

Pasta

Pasta

The next night, Molly, K & I had a slightly late night ramen dinner at Rai Rai Ken in EV. Rai Rai Ken seems like it could fit perfectly in Tokyo and is one of the things I love about NY. Maybe this place could exist in Seattle or maybe not, but it probably doesn’t work as a restaurant anywhere else in the country. I got extra corn with my Shiyo Ramen.

Molly & K @ Rai Rai Ken Ramen Bar

Molly & K @ Rai Rai Ken Ramen Bar

Ramen! with extra corn

Ramen! with extra corn

On Thursday, I made steak frites at home using hanger steak from Jeffrey’s Meat in the Essex Market, which is kindly spent 3 minutes preparing for me, removing the silver skin and slicing and pounding the $4.99/lb meat into perfect little steaks later to be covered in coarsely ground peppercorns, seared and finished in a onionly congac-y heavy cream sauce and surrounded by homemade french fries.

Steak Frites

Steak Frites

With New Blackberry, Happiness Returns…

I have made no secret of how much I hated hated hated my Motorola Q smartphone. At the end of its life, the battery was lasting less than 2 hours…on standby! Anyway, with as much abuse as I gave the Q, it is pretty remarkable it held up as long as it did.But it is now gone. Hooray.

I purchased a slightly used Blackberry World Phone on eBay a week ago and it feels like a weight has been lifted. Everything makes sense with this phone and well, it works. My biggest reasons to get a Blackberry over an iPhone?

I don’t want AT&T. I don’t want a contract. Spectacular battery life. A real keyboard. Shortcuts. The blinking red LED that tells me something new has happened.

The things I wish it had? The app store and the large screen, though I realize that contradicts my keyboard requirement.

Chinese Noodle Showdown

With K & I on extensive clothing and eating budgets, we’ve been trying to find the best food for the least amount of money. Chinatown is great for this because (beware – stereotype approaching!) Chinese people don’t care about things like ambiance, personal space and service. They care most about the food. More importantly, they care about the TASTE of food, not worrying so much about where the chicken came from, what it was fed and if it was shoved into a pen with a million other little chickens.

Hey, don’t cry fowl (get it? get it? *sigh*) for making such broad generalizations. This comes straight from my Shanghai born in-laws.

So with that in mind, we’ve recently been spending a great deal of our restaurant eating in places with names like Dumpling House, New Chao Chow, Big Wing Wong, Lan Zhou, Super Taste and Great NY Noodletown. At these places it is possible to get a big bowl of noodles with your choice of meat for between $3 and $5 and 10 dumplings for $2-$3. At a couple of them (Lan Zhou & Super Taste), the hand-pulled noodles are made right before your eyes.

And to be honest, they are all pretty good. I think Super Taste is the best with Lan Zhou at a close second, followed by Big Wing Wong, New Chao Chow and Dumpling House and at the end is Noodletown (though they have a much more extensive menu). I could eat many meals at any of these places. Sure, sometimes it feels like you’re in a shack (Lan Zhou) and you have to get used to the spirit of the service (which doesn’t bother me at all), but all in all they are some great values.

Compare this to the fancy Korean place I went to last night: Persimmon. $50/person for the four-course prix fixe menu, not including drinks. Sure, the food was good and the service was great but I almost prefer the simple and honest meal of noodles to the show and service of the four-star types.

Fave pics from Seattle trip

I’ve just finished uploading pics from our Seattle trip.  There are a couple of new sets:  Eva and Billy’s wedding, Megan and Jon’s wedding, hanging out with cousins and Seattle friends.  Here are some of my favorite pics:


Eva and Teryn

My mom and Cesar (my cousin)

My cousins Ricky, Cesar and me

Emy does the robot

One of the many Megan crack up moments

Hike cousins at Snow Lake

Thanks Emy and Charlie

Believe it or not, my sister and brother-in-law tolerated my presence in their home for about a month.  I can’t believe that it was that long, and I’m sure they are relieved to have their home back to themselves, after the caravan of cousins and in-laws passed through their Queen Anne abode.

I had a great time with you both and am looking forward to some good times in NY and Boston when you guys come visit us in Oct.

Congrats Tarah!

My friend Tarah of Urban Fashion Network fame is now officially a Seattle Post-Intelligencer blogger!  Tarah will be writing about fashion in Seattle.

She is on a roll, with her Urban Fashion Network site/events having just turned one yesterday and now, this great opportunity.

After submitting several names for her new blog, the editor at the Seattle PI actually chose Urban Fashion Network.  Check it out here.

Congrats Tarah, and looking forward to reading your stuff!