Birthday Week Breakfast

Do you eat something special for your birthday?

I usually like to eat miyuk gook (seaweed soup) the traditional Korean birthday soup.
(I’ll share my recipe when my birthday rolls around in a few months!)

Another special occasion I was able to witness while I was in London was my friend’s 30th birthday! He proclaimed a full week his birthday week and had made plans to feast like a king each day.

I got to share a birthday week meal with my friend and the birthday boy. I was super excited because it had been 3 weeks since my last home cooked meal. I had been craving the taste of home.

It actually didn’t matter that it wasn’t the taste of my home per se. It was more important to me that my friend was cooking in her kitchen with ingredients that could be found in her fridge.

My friend lightly sauteed the spinach and poached eggs for us. She also brought out toast, cheese, and biscuits. I was so pleased because the dish was uncomplicated and clean.

The birthday boy on the other hand made fluffy french toast topped with fresh strawberries and vanilla ice cream.

Ice cream for breakfast?

Why not? It’s his birthday week!

As I watched him beam as he ate his special breakfast, I made a mental note to recreate that moment for myself.

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Food Over Fashion

I used to be really into fashion. I strived to be up to date on on all the new trends.

Those days are long gone. Now, I’m more in tune with food and food related things.

For example, every time I looked into a show window when walking around the most crowded shopping area in London I spotted food!

Luck or Chance?

Case 1.

Selfridges Department Store

Does anyone know who these two Brits are at the table?

The couple were eating a full english breakfast.

Case. 2

H&M store window on Oxford Street

The hot dogs and hamburgers are fake but the potato chips are real!

 The words that came to my mind when I saw this was cheap, urban, and junk.
Not sure if this helps the brand.

Case. 3

Afternoon Tea at Harrods Department Store

I liked this presentation the best because it* looked pretty and delicate.
(*the dainty desserts!)

What are the things that you notice the most? Do you think that reflects your greatest interest in life?

Pisa Airport’s Secret Cafeteria

I’ve been pretty lucky this summer.

Of the 9 flights I have taken, only one from Pisa to London was delayed for 2 hours.

Have you been to the Pisa airport? It’s jam packed with stores and people! It’s disorganized and grimy, like an old train station.

I walked around to find a place to eat but all the fast food/take away places did not entice me. Instead, I went upstairs and found a cafeteria that was filled with “locals” rather than tourists.

I observed what people were choosing off of the compact buffet line and noticed that the “locals” were actually airport employees. The cooks knew them by their first names and openly gave them extra portions. Relieved that I found an alternative to the numerous tourist traps below, I decided to try the food for myself.

I quickly learned that the pasta carbonara and tuna salad were the popular dishes among the employees that day.

When I took my first bite of the pasta, I immediately understood why almost all of the employees had selected this.

It was light and airy with a flavorful hint of pancetta. It was nothing like the other carbonaras I have tasted! It was simple and straightforward. The salad (minus the canned olives and corn) was hearty and satisfying as well.

As silly as it may sound, I felt really proud for having found a “local” spot as I ate my lunch among the Italian airport employees.

It was a nice calm lunch away from the anxious travelers in the congested terminal.

Airport treasure hunt

Everyone already knows that I’m interested in airline meals and airport restaurants. But I don’t think I’ve written a post about food found in airports.

Here are some highlights of what I found at various airports last month!

1. New Flavor 

Bolognese flavored chips at Orly.

It was the first time I saw this flavor! Didn’t get to try it, which I regret tremendously.

2. Miniature

Food magnets at Pisa.

The small boxes of pasta really contained miniature pasta!
So could this mean that I would get a taste of Limoncello from that tiny bottle?

I was tempted to buy one for “research” purposes but I contained my desire once I saw that it was 7.50 Euros each.

3. Novelty

Reindeer and Moose steak at Stockholm Arlanda Airport.

What was my favorite you ask?

The $42 reindeer steak!

Did you know Rudolph had such a high price tag?

Impromptu Summer Picnic

do-Ding!

The text read: “Do you fancy a picnic in Finsbury Park?”

The sun had been out over London that day and a simple picnic sounded like a lovely way to spend my last night with my friends.

I quickly texted that I would have everything prepared by the time they both came home.

Moments after, I was on the tube to the nearest Waitrose with two canvas bags slung over my shoulder. I was on a mission!

I carefully strategized the meal that would limit prep time, utensils, and clean up. I also wanted to include one thing that would push my friend to be adventurous.

Her boyfriend and I share an ongoing joke that I have a special talent in persuading her to try and like things she normally thinks she doesn’t like. He claims that she only will begin to enjoy certain foods after she tries them with me even if he has suggested them to her year after year. First was beer, than salmon.

I think the truth is that he lays the solid foundation for her to be open to the food, which is crucial for her to want to try it when I suggest it to her.

After 45 minutes, I emerged with 13 items.

The spread: whole roast chicken, baguette, smoked salmon terrine, two kinds of pâté, salad greens, green pea and pea shoot salad, marinated olives, blueberries, cured meats, and three hard cheeses.

I had, after much deliberation, chose two types of pâté. One  flavored with honey and orange and the other with herbs to see if my friend would like them.

The verdict?

She ate them both but said they tasted a bit metallic. But she did continue to eat.

Morito: Spanish/Middle Eastern Tapas

When I saw her come out of her office, I immediately remembered the last meal we shared seven months ago.

A divine early dinner at Jason Atherton’s Pollen Street Social!

Snacks before dinner: Chicharrón and olives

The highlight of the meal: Slow cooked egg, chorizo, and “patatas bravas”

Although we had barely communicated since I instinctively knew she was going to whisk me away to another fabulous meal.

I rarely trust people when it comes to food recommendations but she is one of the select few I genuinely do not question. If I could, I would have her tell me everything she eats all day, everyday and recreate her diet to precision.

After walking around a bit we ended up in front of Morito in Exmouth market with two wine cocktails in hand to get us through the hour wait.

The service was slow and choppy but we were happily seated at a curbside table eating dinner on a Wednesday night at 10pm.

A silky smooth tomato gaspacho with shrimp and avocado (oops…out of focus!)

Crusty bread rubbed with garlic and tomato topped with ham, blue cheese, and sardines +Fried potatoes with herbs

Scallops with chorizo and roasted tomatoes

Our last order of fried baby squid was lost because some confusion between the wait staff but we were too caught up in filling in the gaps from the past few months that we didn’t really care.

Instead, we ended our meal with a cheese plate (I forgot to take a photo of!).

Could we have eaten more? Probably. Would we have enjoyed it? Most definitely.
I can’t wait for our next food adventure!

Virgin’s Inflight Meal Part 1: The never ending service

Hi everyone! I’m finally armed with unlimited access to my computer, photos, and the internet!

The past month, I’ve been in 5 different time zones, to 7 countries, and on 9 flights.

But before I tell you more about what I ate and saw, I’ll first give you the full report on the Virgin Atlantic flight I took from NYC to London (total flight time 6 hours).

Breakfast: Good Morning!

Service time: approx. 45 mins

Judging from the box and the cheerful greeting, I was hopeful that there was something edible in the box.

Orange juice, a granola bar, cream cheese, and a plain bagel, which by the way tasted like aluminum.

I tried my best to eat as much of the bagel as possible but gave up and ate the granola bar instead.

Lunch Service: Approx. 1 hour 45 minutes

(4 trolly passes in the main cabin for the Pre-meal drink, main meal, coffee/tea service, and dessert)

Main Entree Options: Beef Stew, Chicken Korma, and Vegetarian Pasta

By the time the food trolly made its way to my seat, the only option that was left was the chicken korma. I asked the flight attendant if there were cashews in the korma. Without missing a beat, she said no. But said that she couldn’t promise me anything because there might be traces of nuts.

I said traces were fine and took the meal.

When I actually looked at the packaging it clearly said: “Allergen information: CASHEW NUTS.”

I tried to flag the flight attendant but she was too deeply immersed in her duties so I pushed the call button and waited. After 20 mins, another flight attendant emerged and told me no other meal option was left so I asked for another salad.

The Butter Fiasco:

While I was eating my two salads, a passenger in front of me requested some butter. (He pronounced it as “budder”) The flight attendant didn’t understand him and kept on saying “Whaat? WHAAAT?” WATER?! Even when the passenger waved an empty butter container, the miscommunication continued. Finally, all the passengers around him began taking pity and passed him their unopened butter packets and screamed at the flight attendant: “He wants butter! BUTTER!”

When the trolly came by the 4th time with chocolate pudding, I declined because I didn’t want to engage in further conversations with the flight attendant. I just wanted the meal service to end! But I must give them credit as a total of two and a half hours of meal service on a six hour flight did make the flight seem shorter.

My experience reminded me of the famous complaint letter about the meal service on Virgin Atlantic.

My favorite line: “What is this? Why have I been given it? What have I done to deserve this? And, which one is the starter, which one is the desert?”

On vacation

My automated message when I worked in an office went something like this:

“I am away from the office and I will have limited access to my email. I will get back to you as soon as I can. In the meantime, please contact X if you need immediate assistance.”

But now I’m expected not to really check my school e-mail (I still check it everyday if I can!) or communicate with anyone until the start of the semester without explanation.

So, I was just going to disappear for a couple of months, but then I figured it wouldn’t be fair for all of you!
Plus, I don’t want to lose you, devoted readers!

Since school is out, I’m spending a month in Europe and the rest of the summer in Korea.

I’ll try my best to update you on the delicious and fun things I’m doing but it may be sporadic as I won’t really have access to the internet and my photos for the next month.

A preview of my next post:

Virgin Atlantic’s in-flight meal and service!

Teaser:

1. The longest meal service of my life on any given airline to date! It just wouldn’t end! You would think that they would want to get it done so that they could do other things!

2. I was almost poisoned by one of them but she cleverly said “I can’t guarantee anything” about the allergen information before blatantly lying to me. Good thing I check all food labels!

3. And there was a butter fiasco.

Intrigued? Hope so! I’ll be back with the full story and photos in a month!

Happy summer!

FOODSTOCK


I was at the first annual FOODSTOCK at Wesleyan University last weekend where I presented my research on the future of kimchi in America and I also participated on a panel on “Food as an Academic Pursuit.”

I was in the company of distinguished food writers and scholars (Amy Bloom, Molly O’Neill, Doreen Greenspan, and Ruth Reichl to name a few!) and many Wesleyan students.

It was terrific being back on campus after all these years to find myself still the poster child for diversity!

Big me  in the Usdan campus center

I was so thrilled to hear that the students have taken up food seriously since I had left. I had taken a Cuisine and Cultures class with Professor John Finn my freshman year and more food related courses after but engaging with food didn’t go much beyond the classroom.

I met students that started up the farmers’ market on campus, lived in Full house (a food writing and food house), and established Espwesso (Wesleyan’s student run cafe).

I see a real change happening at Wesleyan. I think the need is building for the establishment for a Food Studies program on campus!

Want to hear more about the day?

Serious Eats’ coverage and slide show (I appear on slide #11!):

http://www.seriouseats.com/2012/05/foodstock-food-writing-conference-at-wesleyan-university.html

Barbara Fenig’s report on Huffington Post:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/barbara-fenig/foodstock_b_1511706.html

Rooftop Korean BBQ

Guess what? This is my 100th post! (Thanks for sticking through for the past 8 months!)

I’ve been waiting for something 100th post worthy for quite some time now and I finally have the perfect story to share with you!

I was in NYC over the weekend and one of my best friends threw me a rooftop Korean bbq with all my friends! She made EVERYTHING from scratch and fed 12+ people the most delicious food. It was her first time making Korean bbq and she prepared all the components to perfection.

A roof with the perfect view

Sizzling chicken, kalbi (Korean braised short ribs), and onions

Hot off the grill: These were gone in seconds

Homemade pickles (daikon radish [left] and cucumbers [right]) provided the perfect crunch!

Bellies full!

We reclined, laughed, and watched wisps of clouds travel over the Williamsburg bridge.

I wish I could bottle this moment and take it around with me forever.

The bottle would read: Rare Delights