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Posts Tagged ‘food’

Okay so it was Aladdin’s lamb, but either way it was delicious!

We had been meaning to try a Mediterranean restaurant in Jungwhasadong, Aladdin’s Lamb, and we finally made it over there on a recent windy night.

First, the restaurant’s decor was truly spectacular. It was clean, with dim lighting, green walls and different pictures of lambs everywhere. There was even a few lamb genies coming out of lamps, haha. As our students would say, “Soooo cyyuuute!”

The bathroom doors even had everyone’s favorite prince and princess from Agrabah, which of course inspired me to sing my own redition of One Jump Ahead, for the next few days — much to Evan’s dismay.

After much deliberation, Evan and I ordered two skewers of lamb, a Greek salad and two sides of pita bread.

The price was great for a western restaurant in the area — plus, it was kind of a fusion meal, since they graciously brought a large number of Korean/Greek side dishes to enjoy while we waited for our food. They were all phenomenal, especially a greens salad with a tangy vinaigrette, a tofu/potato soup and a scallion pancake.

Plus, they brought out little bowls of dipping sauces, olives, tomatoes and onions for our meal! Nom nom nom. I ended up wrapping all of these sides in the “pita bread” (really a tortilla, but it was still delicious) with the lamb and eating it like that. Verrrrry yummy. The meat itself was tender, juicy and a really nice change from all of the pork and chicken we eat on a regular basis.

The highlight of the meal though, the thing that absolutely blew my mind and left me wanting more since, was the Greek salad.

It was decadent, a pile of crisp greens, raw onions, tomatoes, spices, olives, cucumbers and huge hunks of feta cheese, all dressed in an exceptional blend of olive oil, vinegar and spices. I inhaled the salad, not realizing how much I missed dishes like this until the first bite brought it all back… The avocado/cilantro hummus, warm pita bread and marinated tomatoes, feta and olives Evan and I would pick up from the Los Feliz farmer’s market every Sunday. The schwermas I would pick up from I.V. Deli in college. The fine cuisine from George’s in Long Beach. I miss these flavors! Opa…

Seriously, we are already talking about our next trip to Aladdin’s, and I would go back for the salad alone. It’s better and cheaper than T.G.I. Fridays or Outback Steakhouse — plus, you get the benefit of Korean side dishes. Who doesn’t want refillable sides with every meal?

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For weeks now, the staff at school have been prepping things for the first big party of the year — the Halloween bash! The mid-morning soiree included the parents of our kindergarten classes — who pay more every year to send their kiddies to a hagwon than the tuition at UCSB post-tuition hikes. So naturally, the posh parents had high expectations, and I feel confident we delivered.

First, the school was covered with decorations. I mean, every inch had a smiling jack-o-lantern, or a cobweb, or a fluttering bat. It was the most amazing decor display I have seen at any school, anywhere. For the past three weeks, we have been making Halloween decorations to put up, and the end result was quite impressive.

I handed out pamphlets and schmoozed with parents as they entered, while my fellow foreign teachers got to work carving pumpkins with the children as parents chatted, sipped coffee and tea, took videos and snapped photos of the tykes. During this mingling period, two professional face-painters also gussied up the kids’ faces with whatever their hearts desired.

Once everyone was assembled, the show began. Two of my students acted as the emcees of the festivities, reciting a script written by Evan. They were so good (and looked adorable in their costumes, I’m just sayin’). Abe and Da Yeen introduced another one of my students, who had to recite a speech on her dreams (I wrote it, but she said it well). Two of my other students also got through speeches I had written, about Halloween and healthy eating.

The first group performance were the songs Skidamarinka and The Bear Went Over the Mountain — complete with accompanying exaggerated choreography. We sang with the children, and I just tried not to laugh at the little ones (about 2 years old) who would just wander around, jumping, doing their own moves, or bawling and calling out for their mothers in the audience. Since we had some downtime between sets, we took some glamour shots.

Greg wrote a play for the students to perform, The Ugly Pumpkin, which tells a story similar to that of the ugly duckling. The children all memorized their lines beautifully, much to my delight. They did a great job.

Two more songs, Down By the Bay and John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmitt, made up the finale. We bounced and smiled and shouted along with the students. It was silly and fun.

Afterward, the children “trick-or-treated” by knocking on the classroom doors and receiving goody bags assembled by us the previous evening — and when I say “assembled,” I mean we spent four hours decorating oranges as pumpkins, making suckers into ghosts, counting stickers and pencils, and basically giving each child enough sugar to cause the equivalent of a major caffeine kick. It worked too, the kids ran around like banchees during the following potluck lunch, zipping around and screaming indistinguishable jibberish as they climbed on bookshelves. It was nuts!

The only benefit of the kids basically turning into wild, crazed monkeys is that when I dialed the students for phone teaching later that afternoon, four were sleeping off their sugar rush, giving me a bit of free time. Good stuff.

Now, it’s Saturday and I am feeling well-rested and fully prepared to celebrate Halloween the adult way.

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Since we have said goodbye to a number of our friends since returning from Japan, Evan and I have either gone out to dinner with our pals or made simple salads at home. Well, one night Evan got the genius idea to make burgers at home, complete with cheese and caramelized, balsamic onions. Um, DONE.

Since we wanted to get the onions just right, I started them early, dicing them up and throwing them into an oiled pan on low, low heat. I tend to burn onions when I want to caramelize them, so for me I always play it safe by doing a long time with a light flame.

Once the onions began to soften and turn translucent, I seasoned them and poured in some balsamic vinegar, stirring frequently until a lot of the liquid had burned off. I added water, and continued to let the onions cook.

After multiple times of adding vinegar, burning it off, and doing the same thing with water, our onions had a melt-in-your-mouth consistency and were a nice brown/purple color. Basically, they were perfect!

While I tended to that, Evan got to work on the meat (man stuff, obvi). We decided not to splurge on beef, but went with pork burgers instead. No matter, because the were still excellent! He tossed together the meat with garlic salt, pepper, and an egg to bind the ingredients.

Into a hot pan they go!

Once the burgers began to brown and cook through, we added thin slivers of creamy farmhouse cheddar on top, which we had splurged on at E-Mart. We needed something gourmet! The cheese had a nice bite, and went well with the bowl of cherry tomatoes we snacked on as a side dish.

We purchased what we thought were rolls to fill with our hard work, but instead they turned out to be cream-filled and sweet. I can’t wait to be able to read labels at the grocery store once again.

The final product was ah-ma-zing. It was the perfect amount of food, and delectably decadent. I’m sure that if we had made this with the high-quality beef in this country, there would be no stopping this burger. I would have it every night, licking the plate clean when I was done.

A. Definite. Repeat.

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Music festivals are notorious for their greasy fare — from salty nachos to fried Snickers bars, you are able to get your gluttony on while jamming to your favorite bands. As the world gravitated toward fresh, local and sustainable food in the past few years, these fiestas still specialized in serving up artery-clogging delights.

Alas, times they are a-changing. The demand for delicious and nutritious chow has trickled down from the hybrid-driving, farmer’s market attendees to people grooving to indie bands during this music festival season. (The county fair-goers have yet to catch on to the trend — don’t hold your breath. They still think that vegetables that aren’t from the Jolly Green Giant are for liberal elitists) That’s okay, more for us — they’ll be singing a different tune when they’re diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Smear that on a cracker and eat it, Laura Ingraham lovers!

Not that I don’t love me a double-fried corndog — it’s just all about moderation.

As an expat in South Korea, I have been blessed with (forced to deal with) the limited availability of my favorite fruits and vegetables. Gone are the days of year-round cherry tomatoes, creamy avocados and sweet corn. We certainly are spoiled in the sunshine state.

The 2010 Fuji Rock festival marked a significant change in my less-than-enthusiastic attitude about concert grub. Freshly cooked seafood paella, sprinkled with paprika, replaced soggy fries sitting under heat lamps. Gone were the fried pickles, substituted with lesser-known Jamaican food. Nary a corndog in sight — but whole fish fire-roasted on a stick provided a healthy, filling alternative. Imagine!

Not only was the prepared food healthier, the festival promoters also offered a variety of summer-ready produce, including cucumber-on-a-stick and an plump, meaty tomato, bitten straight into like it was an apple. Both of those ended up selling out by day two – those Japanese proved to be more health-conscious than us peanut oil lovin’ Americans.

For two days I indulged in döner kebabs, the Turkish treat that took me right back to stumbling the streets of Paris in a tipsy stupor, looking for late-night food to satisfy my angry, drunk stomach. Thin layers of meat were shaved into a warm pita, piled high with cold, crisp veggies and drizzled with a Tzatziki sauce. Not my most waistline-friendly option, but it was damn delicious.

The arrival of ethnic cuisine to the music scene has brought along with it improvements in the caloric count. Apart from the British (who served up deep-fried fish and chips), the World Restaurant at Fuji contained a wide variety of heart-healthy alternatives.

One particularly tasty meal we had at the festival was a Japanese-style hamburger, made with poultry and smeared with a miso-based sauce.

The other delectable dish we shared was a rustic, wood fired pizza, with a crispy, thin crust smeared with a light layer of tomato sauce, sausage, tomatoes, basil and cheese. Best pizza I’ve had since leaving America, hands down.

The better quality of festival fare isn’t limited to Asia — it has successfully crossed the pond to granola-loving San Francisco. The 2010 Outside Lands festival boasts an impressive range of food from local establishments — everything from grass-fed organic beef hot dogs and Hawaiian poke to raw oysters and cilantro-lime chicken skewers. The website even features the cuisine prominently as an attraction, dubbed “A Taste of the Bay Area.”

The world is moving in a healthy direction — and I’ll be here to lap up the rewards every step of the way.

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Recently, I have been practicing the Japanese art of goshiki, and trying to employ all of the colors of the rainbow into our meals. The Japanese believe that the color balance is necessary for a well-balanced — and aesthetically pleasing — meal.

Tonight, I whipped up some chicken dinosaurs (they were out of breasts at the store, so we went frozen) and dumplings (both brown), paired with a cheery salad of ripe tomatoes (red) and bright bell peppers (yellow) drizzled with balsamic vinegar (purple), next to cheese slices (orange) and laver (green). ROY G BIV is here to stay!

To those who know me, my obsession for cooking, food and all things realted is no secret. I love to spend hours in the kitchen, slowly trying out new foods, stirring sauces, listening to food crackle in hot oil. It’s my personal therapy, tranquil time when I am left alone with my thoughts.

Aside from being a food fanatic, I am an avid art fan. I studied art history in college, and even attempted a physical class or two — but my paintbrush swipes lack finesse, and I seem to have missed out on the Paradise musical genes. I’ve always been envious of my friends to whom creating art is a second nature, but I feel like I may finally have found an appropriate outlet that combines my interests in delectable nibblies and beautiful creations.

A few years ago, my sister Betsy gave me a book called “The Vegan Lunchbox,” a collection of photos and recipes a woman took of her son’s lunch, which she packed into a bento-style box. Since then — most recently in the past year or so — I have scoured the internet in hopes of finding more information about these magical little creations called bentos.

In Japan, mothers consider bento-boxing an art form, a reflection of your mothering skills. I remember reading an article about it in my Anthropology of Food class at UCSB and being fascinated by the competition between these ladies to have the most elaborately decorated food for their toddlers.

I challenge anyone who has searched for images of bento boxes to argue that these are not exquisite forms of edible art. I’m a firm believer in the fact that children will grow to love and appreciate food they have a hand in creating, or that looks inviting, which is something these boxes provide.

Since I am childless for now, the decorating of bentos is something I would do for kicks. The box sizes also provide wonderful portion-control, and will cut down on the calories as long as you provide enough variety in every packed meal.

There are bento blogs that I regard as required reading now, including Lunch in a Box, Just Bento, Bento for Beginners and Latin ConFusion, among others. These bloggers are informative, creative and provide a real foundation for the bento beginners.

Since we have lunch provided for us here, I have decided to hold off until we get back to San Francisco to delve deeper into this path — but that won’t stop me from trying to find stores with bento boxes and accessories during our trip to Tokyo next week.

Wish me luck — Japantown in SF apparently has a wonderful selection of boxes and accessories, but nothing could beat the real deal, straight from the home country itself.

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I have been a terrible blogger — forgive me, blogosphere! Between shouting at the World Cup in bars around Jeonju, and changes at school, I have barely had time to think, much less write.

This past weekend Radio Star — the bar where we have watched the majority of World Cup games — put on an outdoor festival called Riverstock. Since the festivities promised included art, live music and foreign food, Evan and I could not pass up the fun.

After a cab ride and a sweltering walk along the Samcheon River in an area of Jeonju we hadn’t seen, we arrived at the celebration.

We didn’t arrive to the festival until after 3 PM, so naturally we headed straight for the food. They had tacos (YES) so I went straight there, while Ev picked up some lumpia and other Filipino food to share.

Oh. My. Tortilla. The taco was scrumptious, with a fajita-like mixture of peppers, onions and chicken, tomatoes, lettuce, and cheese all rolled up in a handmade flour tortilla. It was delicious — chewy and crunchy all at the same time. The tortilla was so good that I am inspired to make my own here in the next coming weeks. I figure, what’s the worst thing that can happen?

After we filled our bellies, we wandered around looking at the different booths. People were selling everything from art and little crafts to clothing and handmade treats. A couple of expats teamed up with some local kids to play a pick-up game of soccer in anticipation for Korea’s big game that night.

Local bands provided great background music for the event. They rocked out on the stage, including one we saw at Radio Star between World Cup matches that favored Jack White songs. This band is pretty bad ass.

After wandering a bit, Smiley introduced me to a local chef from Italy who just happened to make his own ricotta. And sell it at the festival. With foccacia. And a tomato basil mixture. I could have died happy after tasting those three things together. So delicious. I scarfed it down.

As it happened, the crowd was a great mix of foreigners and locals. Aside from bumping into expats I’ve met before, we also were introduced to a lot of cool people we hadn’t met yet. One in particular, an artist named Nate, was a really cool guy. He had artwork on display that caught our attention.

Nate, from London, told us that he got the amazing texture with his art by making his own paper. The pieces on display were amazing — all inspired by Korea and different areas of Asia where he had traveled. We got to talking, and he said that while back at home he’d sell his work for 200 pounds apiece, here he sold them for 200,000 W (roughly $180)! Such a steal for his talent. This picture doesn’t even begin to do the work justice.

Evan and I got his email addy, and we’re going to set up a time to go over to his place and check out more of his Korea-inspired pieces. 200,000 W is a bargain for these pieces, and we’ve been looking for something special to take home and remind us of the time we spent here.e

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Last Saturday morning, Evan and I woke up early, rubbed our sleepy eyes, and headed down to the bus station to catch the 7:30 ride to Busan. We wanted to catch McDonald’s breakfast beforehand, but we woke up too late. The bus was freeeeezing, but luckily my awesome boyfriend gave me a pair of his socks and a shirt to snuggle under, so I was able to sleep for most of the 3-hour trip.

Once we arrived downtown, we were starving. In some weird stroke of luck, we walked out of the station and came upon a Mickey D’s — before 11 am! Breakfast time baby! I then ordered the best sausage McMuffin, hash brown and hot coffee I’ve had in a long time, while Ev opted for a sausage McMuffin that came egg-less. Bryan, you would have died!

After chowing down, we followed the directions a Korean teacher from school gave us (thanks Lui :)), and took two subways to reach Nampo-dong, the sea port neighborhood where we booked a room at Hotel Busan.

The main stretch of Nampo-dong had tons of import clothing stores, including an American Apparel (which was even more overpriced than it is in the States). The streets were full of people, and more tourists than I have seen in the five weeks we’ve been in Korea.

The weekend was the Lotus Lantern Festival, and pretty paper lanterns were strung up all around the city.

Ev and I were eager to explore, but had trouble finding the hotel. In our rush to locate the accomodation, I stubbed my toe bad. I mean, really bad. Blood started gushing everywhere as I limped around.

Now, Koreans think that bare feet are gross to begin with, so you can imagine the disgusted faces I got as I bled all over the street, limping around. Finally, the blood stopped… until I stubbed it AGAIN. Then it started gushing again, and I began to whimper.

Finally, we ran into Mike, Kristie, Brent and Matt and they were able to direct us back to the hotel. I cleaned up, changed my clothes, and headed out to explore with Ev.

We all visited the Busan tower, which was amazing. It cost a couple won to go to the top, but the view was well worth the money.

Absolutely breathtaking.

Evan and I grew hungry while we walked around the noisy streets and outdoor markets. Luckily ,we found a woman selling homemade dumplings and scallion pancakes on the street. Nom nom nom.

During our exploration, I hunted for a perfect Korean dress to wear to the club that night, and inadvertently ran into a street dubbed Moekja golmok — “Let’s Eat Alley” — and this particular one is called “Original Bossam and Jokbal Alley.” The street was full of makeshift restaurants, and vendors serving everything from dumplings to meat and noodles.

Here, the women serve up jokbal (boiled pig feet), with bossam (lettuce leaves) and — like every other meal here — kimchee, while their patrons sit on plastic stools, eating and gabbing, in the middle of an alley. It was such a fun sight to see! The smells and noises and crowded streets… I only wish I could share it more authentically.

All in all, I am very happy we stayed here. We originally tried to book something in Haeundae Beach, but things worked out for the best. Next time, it will be a romantic, seaside vacay.

The only downside is that my poor little left foot — which has a gnarly cut on the top of my big toe — is STILL sore from my clumsiness this past weekend. I’ve been hobbling around all week, wincing as I attempt to stretch out my achy foot. It hurts all over!

But hey… at least it was an excuse to stay home from the gym. I only went once this week. :P

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