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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Great Balloon - Orange County Great Park - Irvine

Argh! It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!

Great Park Balloon - Orange County Great Park - Irvine 1

I hate Halloween. I do. I'm not a complete grinch. I like seeing little kids dressed up and I hand out candy. I just hate ghouls and goblins and creepy crawlies and scary movies. So it was with dismay when I saw that the Great Balloon had been transformed into a giant pumpkin head.

"Que pasa, calabaza? (What's up, pumpkin head?)"

"Nada, nada, limonada. (Nothing's up, lemon head.)"

Ha! The things I remember from high school Spanish class.

Thwarted by a previous attempt a few weeks before, the middle '87 asked if I would take her to the Great Balloon. She had gotten there in time, but her turn wasn't up until 8 p.m. By then, visibility was poor and no flights were allowed.

Hey! I was the one who saw the LA Freebeee post and tipped her off about it. And she didn't even invite me when she went the first time?


We decided to go early so we could picnic on the grounds and make sure we were first in line. We stopped off to pick up some Vietnamese sandwiches and the younger '88.

Ack! That big old pumpkin head kept leering at us every which way.

Great Park Balloon - Orange County Great Park - Irvine 2

Great Park Balloon - Orange County Great Park - Irvine 3

Friday, October 30, 2009

Ask Wandering Chopsticks 2

Pablo says, "Happy Halloween!" He'll be seven weeks old on Monday.

Pablo Pumpkin
Photo courtesy of cousin Q's older brother's wife.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Yaki Udon (Japanese Stir-Fried Udon Noodles)

Yaki Udon (Japanese Stir-Fried Udon Noodles) 1

Does it look like Christmas?

Well, it certainly felt like Christmas to me. Through my advertiser, Foodbuzz, I received a $30 credit to Asian Food Grocer. That gave me the chance to try out some Japanese grocery items that I normally wouldn't buy such as two types of mirin (Japanese cooking sake.), kombu (Japanese seaweed for making stock), and red miso paste (I have white miso paste in the fridge.). To round it out, I also got curry mix, udon noodles, yam noodles, Chinese black pepper sauce, and a tea cup with infuser and lid. Nice, yeah? Hey, it wasn't all free, I did pay $6.18 for the shipping. ;)

Actually, if you have trouble finding Asian grocery items where you live, I would recommend Asian Food Grocer. Most items were reasonably-priced, carefully packaged, and delivered within days at a reasonable cost.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Behind the Scenes: Bob's Red Mill - Milwaukie - Oregon

Almost a decade ago when I was home in Oregon for an extended period, I noticed a lot of Bob's Red Mill grains and other products on the grocery store shelves. No wonder since the company is based in Milwaukie, just outside of Portland.

13 Behind the Scenes - Bob's Red Mill - Milwaukie - Oregon 1

While I liked the whole grains and ground flax seeds and other products, I especially liked the story behind the business. Bob Moore retired in 1978 and moved from Redding, California, where he had operated a small mill in the 1960s, to Oregon City, Oregon. One day while out for a walk, he saw an old mill for sale and decided to buy it. That mill was lost to a fire in 1988, and the business was relocated to Milwaukie where it now occupies a 320,000-square-foot building on 17 acres. The maintenance guys use tricycles to move from one place to another. And all employees get a coffee break at 10 a.m.

Bob's Red Mill now has 400 products, including 50 gluten-free products made in a separate facility so there is no contamination. Last year, 7.5 million pounds of flax were sold.

The mill still uses old-fashioned quartz milling stones to grind grains.

Since Bob's Red Mill was so close by, I had to tour the facilities. Fortunately having a food blogger friend, namely Darlene of Blazing Hot Wok, around was handy since my siblings weren't interested in seeing it at all. Tours are held every Friday at 10 a.m. at the World Headquarters. We mistakenly went to the Bob's Red Mill Whole Grain Store, Restaurant, and Bakery (pictured above) first by mistake.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Chasing Waterfalls - Columbia River Gorge - Oregon

11 Chasing Waterfalls - Columbia River Gorge - Oregon 1

No visit home is complete without visiting the waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge.

Before we left, of course, our breakfast was my mom's banh canh cua (Vietnamese crab noodle soup) with homemade noodles and crab that my parents had caught.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Rice Krispies Treats

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A recipe for Rice Krispies treats?! Have I jumped the shark?

But, seriously, I don't know what gets people clicking sometimes. The first time my daily traffic topped 4,000 views was when I posted about In-N-Out Burger and its hidden menu. Kinda figured it was a throwaway post for my non-American readers, but who knew it'd be so popular?

Then that day was upstaged by frying Banh Phong Tom (Vietnamese Shrimp Chips). And it wasn't even a recipe! Just pictures of the shrimp chips frying?!

And then my 2-ingredients Faux Beignets beat that?

So for my non-American readers or the truly kitchen-challenged, a recipe that I've been making since at least middle school age. Not that it's really my recipe, just the basic one that was on the back of the Rice Krispies cereal box. Anyway, since I still had plenty of marshmallows left over from making Campfire S'mores, it was only natural to use them up by making Rice Krispies treats.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Short Beach - Oregon and Home

9 Short Beach - Oregon and Home 1

About nine miles outside of Tillamook, straight up the hill from Oceanside lies my parents not-so-secret beach. The official name is Short Beach, but my parents call it Thung Lung Tinh Yeu (Love Valley or Valley of Love if you prefer) because it reminded them of the same-named famous location in Da Lat, Vietnam, where they honeymooned long ago. Awww. Cute, right? :)

(When my family went back to Vietnam for the first time and visited Da Lat, we made my parents take pictures in front of what we thought might have been the same spot on their honeymoon. I swear, some of those flowerbeds looked the exact same decades later.)

This less than mile-long stretch of beach is a favorite with my parents because my dad can go fishing and my mom can join him if she feels like it, or gaze at the gorgeous views if she doesn't. Seriously, just look at it.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Ado Ristorante - Venice

Ado Ristorante - Venice 1

For my birthday, Gourmet Pigs took me to the cutest place. Yes, the food was good too, but don't you just love restaurants converted from quaint little houses?

We were running a bit late and she tried to call to tell them, but couldn't get through. So when we showed up, we had to wait for a table. To make up for the inconvenience, the owner poured us complimentary prosecco while we waited. I love little touches like that.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Lunasia Chinese Cuisine - Alhambra

Lunasia Chinese Cuisine - Alhambra 1

Since the previous year's birthday dinner at Lu Din Gee Cafe (Duck House) - San Gabriel was just OK, I decided that I didn't want to try anything new this year. No "authentic" Peking duck; I like Cantonese roast duck with steamed buns just fine. And I especially like Lunasia Chinese Cuisine's version, especially because they give me lettuce cups. I already like Lunasia Chinese Cuisine's dim sum so really, no more dragging my family to try new places. Homey Chinese favorites in an elegant setting was what I wanted this year.

Family-style dining isn't as fun without a large family to order more dishes so cousin Q, his older brother, his older brother's wife, and 1-month-old Pablo (not that he'd be doing any eating :P) joined my brother, his wife, and me.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Dots Cupcakes - Pasadena (Old Town)

After the Peking duck dinner at Lu Din Gee Cafe (Duck House) - San Gabriel, we went back home to eat dessert. My brother and his wife had bought me cupcakes from Dots Cupcakes in Pasadena.

Dots Cupcakes - Pasadena 1

The photo of the storefront was taken on a separate day. Apparently they're not real keen on people taking photos of their cupcakes so I guess it's just as well I didn't go inside.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Lu Din Gee Cafe (Duck House) - San Gabriel (Closed)

Lu Din Gee Cafe (Duck House) - San Gabriel 1

Since my previous year's birthday dinner at Uzbekistan - Los Angeles was just OK, I figured I would stick closer to home and try something more familiar, but a little different as well. I've had Peking duck in Chinese restaurants before, but usually served with steamed buns.

Lu Din Gee Cafe, which also calls itself Duck House, is one of the few restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley that serve Peking duck with Mandarin pancakes, very thin flour wraps. Reservations must be made at least an hour in advance. The three-course set menu was $47 and featured the Peking duck, duck bone soup, and duck stir-fried with bean sprouts.

When I called to make the reservation, I asked if I could have lettuce cups instead of the stir-fry with bean sprouts. The person who answered the phone said yes, but on the day of, the waiter said no.

But the person I spoke to on the phone when I made the reservation said I could.

Still no.

So unless you're luckier than me, that three-course menu is set.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Tiramisu and a Thank You Dinner

Back in August 2008, my friend DP insisted on making a "proper" tiramisu and that I had to photograph it because my cheater's version of tiramisu with Sara Lee poundcake just didn't cut it. :P

A Tiramisu and a Thank You Dinner 1

Hey, she might not like it, but plenty of other people like my recipe just fine. But, my friend does make the best tiramisu so if she wants to make one for me, far be it for me to quibble.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Marche Moderne - Costa Mesa

Marche Moderne - Costa Mesa 1

Back in October 2008, my friend DP was the first of my friends and family to take me out for my birthday. I looove when people take me out for my birthday!

She sent me the link to Marche Moderne, a French bistro at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa. I had just recently seen Kevin Eats' post about his first visit there. And since Kevin and I have wildly divergent dining budgets, I worried that my friend would be spending too much money on me. No worries, she reassured me. Marche Moderne has a great rotating three-course lunch menu for only $20. Oh yay! My friend always takes me to fabulous places and I don't have to worry about her spending too much.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Club 33 - Disneyland - Anaheim

Club 33 - Disneyland - Anaheim 1

Don't know what Club 33 is?


I didn't either until recently. But if you're a Disney freak, like lil' sis is, then "SQEEEEE!!!





For the past several years, I had seen kevinEats post about his first, second, and third visits to this exclusive club but hadn't paid particular attention. Plus, I didn't know he could invite guests so it wouldn't matter how exclusive it was, I wasn't getting in. Except last year, Mike of Famished LA did get in, as Kevin's guest. Mike is a Disney freak. So when he mentioned that Club 33 had closed its waiting list because there's a 14-year wait, then I paid attention.

Walt Disney built Club 33 as an exclusive and serene oasis where he could entertain visiting dignitaries away from the hustle and bustle of Disneyland. Unfortunately, Club 33 didn't open until June 15, 1967, six months after Disney's death.

If you are a Disney freak, then you probably already know about the door marked "33" in New Orleans Square. Entrance is only allowed if you're with someone who has membership. Membership itself is limited and corporations and individuals pay thousands of dollars at admittance and in annual fees. Not that that matters since there's a 14-year waiting list that's been closed to new additions for years. Once you secure an invite, locate the not-so-secret doorway and press the buzzer on the intercom concealed in a hidden panel. You are not allowed in unless your name is on the list. You are not allowed in more than 5 minutes before your reservation time. Dress code is nice-casual ie. if you're visiting the theme park that day, change out of your tank tops, shorts, and sneakers.

And if you are a Disney freak, like lil' sis is, then entering its hallowed doorway and dining there just might make your childhood and adult Disney dreams come true.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Mon Me: Vietnamese Baguettes and More - London - United Kingdom

I was in London exactly four years ago today. I scored a last-minute plane ticket for a non-stop flight from LAX to Heathrow for $377. Cousin Q's youngest aunt had moved from Sydney, Australia to London earlier that year and said I could stay with her. With a free place to stay and a plane ticket that was just too good to pass up, I went for a four-day weekend. Even though I hadn't seen her since my trip to Australia years before that, "auntie" H (she's not really my auntie and she's several years younger than me) generously took me around and fed me.

A few months ago, cousin E left for a year's study abroad in London. Again, auntie H generously offered up her place. Then, when she asked cousin E what I was up to these days, the blog came up. And guess what? Turns out, without knowing it was me, auntie H reads the blog too! :)

Mon Me Vietnamese Baguettes and More - London - United Kingdom 1

Of course, when I asked what auntie H was up to, the biggest news was that she and a friend are opening a banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich) stall at the Sunday UpMarket. Mon Me, mom's (or mum's if you're Aussie or English) recipes, starts Sunday, October 18, in fact!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Dismantling Camp and Leaving Rockaway Beach - Oregon

8 Dismantling Camp and Leaving Rockaway Beach - Oregon 1

Time to load up the car and head on out. Seemed like a lot of work for just one night of camping, but that's all the time we had in our schedules. And my dad was sooo happy to have all his kids home and going camping like we used that it was worth the work.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Campfire S'mores and Other Breakfast Treats

After a lackluster morning Searching for Tide Pools we went back to the campsite for breakfast. With the campfire still going strong, we decided to have some S'mores for breakfast.

7 Campfire S'Mores and Other Breakfast Treats 1

Besides, I had to take new photos because my attempts to photograph making S'mores at night were grainy and unfocused.

While the middle '87 was a perfectly fine hand model, my brother had to horn in to show her how it's done.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Searching for Tide Pools

The next morning, we got up early so we could check out some tide pools during low tide. Well, first we had to find them so we drove along the coast and stopped off at random spots.

6 Searching for Tide Pools 1

Lovely beach, but we needed rocks.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Femme Noir by Phong Hong Debut at Downtown Los Angeles Fashion Week Fashion Angel Awards Emerging Designers Runway Show

Everyone in the family has always known my cousin Phong was talented. But last week, when Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced that he was one of three "emerging designers" who received the inaugural Fashion Angel Award from the City of Los Angeles and the Department of Cultural Affairs, it was even more wonderful that my cousin had this opportunity to show off his skills.

His new Femme Noir Collection debuted at the Downtown Los Angeles Fashion Week Fashion Angel Award Emerging Designers Runway Show at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA.

Phew! What a mouthful. Can I get a "whoohoo!"?

So excited! The show didn't begin until designer Randolph Duke, who was on the committee who picked the winners, showed up.

Femme Noir by Phong Hong Debut at Downtown Los Angeles Fashion Week Fashion Angel Awards Emerging Designers Runway Show 1

Monday, October 12, 2009

Barview Jetty County Park - Rockaway Beach - Oregon

After getting ice cream and free cheese samples at Tillamook Cheese Factory - Tillamook - Oregon it was time to head over to the camp. My parents were still out fishing though, so we went to the beach while we waited for them to arrive.

Like my attempt at getting an artistic photo of my brother and his wife? I like the kite in the background too. :)

5 Barview Jetty County Park - Rockaway Beach - Oregon 1

Growing up, my family spent most weekends on the Oregon and Washington coasts during the summers. These days for camping, we prefer Barview Jetty County Park near Tillamook. Barview is an unincorporated area between the towns of Garibaldi and Rockaway Beach.

The campground has plenty of bushes and trees so there is privacy between each space. The bathrooms are usually within a short walking distance with flush toilets and coin-operated hot water showers. The jetty near the beach is a good fishing spot for my dad. The beach itself is located within the campground and makes a great place to jog in the mornings. The Tillamook Cheese Factory and Pacific Oyster - Bay City - Oregon keep us kids occupied. There are also plenty of other quaint coastal towns nearby for us to explore.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Behind the Scenes: Tillamook Cheese Factory - Tillamook - Oregon

After lunch at Pacific Oyster - Bay City - Oregon, we headed over to the Tillamook Cheese Factory. I had briefly mentioned visiting the Tillamook Cheese Factory before, but let's go for a real tour this time.

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On that previous visit, my cousins didn't arrive until several hours after we did. So we ended up going twice. Hey, who can pass up free cheese samples! :P

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Pacific Oyster - Bay City - Oregon

If you've been here from the beginning, you might have remembered Pacific Oyster from my post about Why Oregon Will Always Be Home. It took just that many years later to revisit one of my family's favorite spots whenever we're on the coast.

3 Pacific Oyster - Bay City - Oregon 1

My parents like to buy bags of oysters and fresh fish when the boats come in.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Mom and Dad's Garden Again

I've shown you my parents' garden before, but a lot can happen to a garden in a year. So let's tour it again, shall we?

We start in the far left corner with my mom's rose garden.

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Coming in closer to the house. My dad carried and placed all those granite rocks himself.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Giant Catfish and Family Trips Home

A month after I visited Mesa Verde National Park - Colorado, my siblings and I made a family trip home. Before I get into another series of posts about Oregon, I thought I'd share these photos of the gigantic catfish that my father and his friend caught a few weeks before we arrived. My dad wanted to email the photos to my oldest uncle, but he didn't know how to download the pictures from his digital camera (he just uses it as a portable photo album), so somehow they ended up on my laptop.

1 Giant Catfish and Family Trips Home 1

Of course, that photo doesn't really show the immense size of these catfish, so here's another picture with my dad and his friend holding up the fish. My dad is on the right. His friend, on the left, is also holding up a normal-sized catfish for comparison.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Church & State Bistro - Los Angeles (Downtown)

Before I left for Mesa Verde National Park - Colorado, I did a little favor for Tony of SinoSoul and his better half. So shortly after I got back, they thanked me and the other person by taking us out for dinner. I think I got the better end of the bargain. :)

Church & State Bistro - Los Angeles 1

I think I'm programmed to like any restaurant that has "bistro" as part of its name, but Church & State Bistro was also highly anticipated as I've heard lots of good things ever since it opened. It's located in a rather industrial area of downtown, but the string lights and brick walls gave it a nice coziness.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Who Would Want to See a Movie About My "Foodie Life"?

Oh my.

Who would want to see a movie about my "foodie life"? But apparently there were enough of you who did that I was nominated for a Foodbuzz Blog Award. Yay?!

Monday, October 05, 2009

Dragon Fruit Bumper Crop

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It takes about two months from the time the dragon fruit blossoms to when it's ripe for eating. I have no idea why I had such a bumper crop in 2009, but not in previous years.

10.5 Dragon Fruit Bumper Crop 2

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Grand Canyon National Park (South Rim) - Arizona

22 Grand Canyon National Park South Rim - Arizona 1

After lunch at Pine Country Restaurant - Williams - Arizona, it was a short drive to Grand Canyon National Park. Gourmet Pigs' and I had both been to Grand Canyon West Rim before so we debated whether we should visit the South Rim. Her friend highly recommended it, and well, we were already in the area...

We figured we'd check out the views, snap some photos, and continue making our way home. Luckily, we only had to circle the Grand Canyon Village area a few times before a spot serendipitously opened up.

The West Rim is more narrow than the South Rim. So while I thought it was quite nice, it wasn't as "grand." This view makes me feel like I'm truly seeing the "Grand" Canyon.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Pine Country Restaurant - Williams - Arizona

After dropping off Gourmet Pigs' friend at the airport in Flagstaff, Arizona, we continued our way further west and stopped off for lunch in the town of Williams, just outside of Grand Canyon National Park.

21 Pine Country Restaurant - Williams - Arizona 1

We drove around a bit to see what struck our fancy and the "homemade pies" sign lured me into Pine Country Restaurant.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Four Corners Monument - Shiprock - New Mexico

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On our way back to California, we passed by the Four Corners Monument again. Since we were unable to go the first night because we got there way after closing, there was no way I was gonna miss it again. The Four Corners Monument is literally where the corners of four states meet -- Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona.

Unfortunately, we were crunched for time, trying to get from Mancos, Colorado to Flagstaff, Arizona by 1 p.m. so Gourmet Pigs' friend could make his flight. That's 282.7 miles. By the time we pulled into the Four Corners Monument, we literally just raced in to snap photos and left.

While Gourmet Pigs was in the bathroom, her friend had my camera poised to take pictures. There was a crowd of Italian tourists standing around the marker, but no way was I going to be photographed standing in front of a group of people when I could literally be in four places at once!

 "Excuse me."

 "Excuse me."

 "Excuse me."

As I elbowed them out of the way. I know! Rude Americans! :P

And then I plopped down dead center, with my arms on Utah and Colorado while my legs straddled Arizona and New Mexico.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Absolute Bakery & Cafe - Mancos - Colorado

18 Absolute Bakery & Cafe - Mancos - Colorado 1

Since I loved my fry bread sandwich from Ted's Taco - Mancos so much, I took the Enchanted Mesa Motel owners' advice again and stopped off at Absolute Bakery & Cafe before we left Colorado.

They're batting two for two because this was the cutest cafe with so many baked goods that I wanted to try. They recommended the chocolate-dipped coconut macaroons.

And how could I not love a cafe that features shelves of books?