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Monthly Archives: December 2009

Our friends, two sisters – YS & HS, are notorious for their elaborate dinners – all made from scratch, with no substitutes or shortcuts.  We have been fortunate enough to know them for more than a decade and had enjoyed many Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners over the years.  YS just finished renovation of her apartment and was ready to try out her new kitchen.  To feed ten of us on Christmas day, they selected recipes from (a site used by many of my cooking-enthusiast friends, follow links to recipes):

Evan made the mushroom potato gratin.  Our contribution was a store-bought, christmas-themed, sweet-potato cake.  Some of these pictures will make it into our Amateur Food Porn series.

For Telepan’s menu and photos of our appetizers, check our earlier post here: Telepan #1-#5

One of my pet peeves about restaurants has always been the lighting, which is mostly way too dark to see what is on the plate.  At Telepan, the room was comfortably lit.  The waitstaff was professional and the tables were just far enough apart to have a conversation.

The series continues with mid courses and entrees:

#6 – Nantucket bay scallops, baby spinach, wild mushrooms, toasted and roasted garlic – Patrick and I both ordered this and we were very impressed – the flavor, not immediately discernible as garlic, permeates the firm scallops

#7 – braised beef brisket, goulash style, sour cream egg noodle, lesco

#8 – roasted trout, artichokes, farro, shell beans, arugula

#9 – pork, potato pierogi, sauerkraut, celery root, apples

#10 – sirloin, spinach, garlic potatoes, oxtail bone marrow glaze

Peiling suggested in a comment that I should include a map of the area visited along with my travel-related posts.  So, here is a couple of maps for the earlier posts relating to our November trip to Riviera Maya.  You can see these posts here:

Above is a Google street view of the entrance to our resort – Royal Hideaway (wait for it to load).  Below are a Google street view of Calle 10 at 5th Ave in Playa del Carmen and  a satellite view of Playacar and Playa del Carmen.

This place is one of the most beautiful and serene places I have ever visited.  We were in Iceland during the summer and happened on this stunning view of Þingvallavatn on our first day out of Reykjavik to do the Golden Circle sights (Gullfoss, Geysir, Þingvellir).  I was driving at about 15-20 mph while Sis filmed the lake.  The vastness of the sky, stillness of the surface, clarity of the water, and symmetry of the horizon was out of this world.

As if to prevent people from spoiling the serenity of the area, this roadside driving map was quite effective.  The fact that the name of the lake is unpronounceable and starts with a non-latin alphabet helps keep it a secret!  That stretch of the lake was filmed from Route 360 after we turned from Route 435.  See the actual route plotted on my google map.

This was a group effort, eating-wise.  Seven of us, the usual suspects plus Patrick who was visiting from Chicago, went to Telepan on 69th and Columbus.  They offered a four- or five -course tasting menu.  The five-course menu includes cheese.  We opted for the four-course dinner which gives us six choices each of an appetizer, a mid course, an entree and a dessert.  That’s 24 dishes that the kitchen has to master every night.  With little consultation, we somehow managed to spread our choices to sample a decent portion of their menu.  We all liked our food, let’s start:

#1 – Egg in a hole (poached egg, spinach, hen-in-woods mushroom, toasted garlic)

#2 – Special salad (beets in yoghurt dill sauce, arugula)

#3 – Artichoke & heart of palm, lemon rice, arugula, parsley

#4 – Duck and fois gras ravioli, parsley root puree and dried fruit sauce

#5 – chickpea pancakes, spicy carrot, oregano and black kale

While I was uploading my Louis Vuitton/Solari video on Youtube for an earlier post, I discovered a series of anime by Takashi Murakami that involves the LV trademark monogram.  The anime are all breezy, magical, and cute.

Last year, the Brooklyn Museum put on a retrosepctive show of Takashi Murakami’s work.   The show titled “© MURAKAMI” introduced a cast of trippy, infantile and erotic characters.  The bubble-head character with its 10 or so stretching hands, reminding me of a Indian-buddhist deity, was three-storey tall.  The life-size female robot folds herself into a spacecraft like a transformer toy (as seen in different poses in the back).

The show also illustrated the seamless juxtaposition of fantasy art and luxury merchandising.  Separate from the museum souvenir store, a counter was installed in the middle of the exhibition space for selling LV/TM special edition handbags and accessories.  How can the Japanese (and anime fans) not fall in love with this brand ?


For another video of this series and more pictures from the LV/TM exhibition, go to this post on the Louis Vuitton Superflat monogram.



Last night we went to the annual christmas bash in Montclair. As always, we had a great time: conversations, live music, carol singing, food and drinks, karaoke, etc.  Calebc and Shecrow are great hosts, thank you.  Outside was a roaring Nor’easter tearing up the East Coast.  The snow storm persisted much of the evening and dumped a good 4-5 inches of snow on our car.  After some sweeping and scraping, we dug ourselves out and set off for our 22 miles-trip back home.  Many of the suburban homes in Montclair and Bloomfield were lit with colorful lights and the christmas atmosphere was just postcard-perfect.  The highways were a different story.  We saw quite a number of cars sitting idle at an odd angle by the roadside and needing assistance.  On one section of Route 4 East, the sometimes-single-sometimes double lane of traffic slowed to a crawl for about 20 minutes.  I was beginning to get worried because the blizzard was at full blast and snow was rapidly accumulating around us.  Apparently, half a dozen cars and minivans lost traction and were spinning their wheels in the middle of the road.   At one point, it was like an obstacle course where we were dodging struggling vehicles left and right.  It took us more than an hour to get home.  Glad that we had an all-wheel drive.  Facing the Hudson river, our place was blanketed by almost a foot of snow.  We may have a White Christmas this year.

We went to see the christmas tree at Rockerfellar Center and the windows of Saks Fifth Avenue a few nights ago.  As we passed Louis Vuitton’s New York flagship store on the corner of Fifth Ave and 57th Street, I noticed something flickering in the shop windows.  What caught my eye was the flipping of rows of tiny black tiles each with white lettering, and at the end of each row, a roving light.  LV has put a functional Solari flight information display board in each window.  Apparently, they are relanuching their City Guides and had the building and store front decked out in a travel-inspired theme.  It is not at all christmas-y, unlike all the other stores up and down Fifth Ave.  Well, for those who can afford LV luggage, it is unlikely that they would be craning their necks to read the board, as they would be waiting in their first class lounge, or more likely flying on their own Gulf Stream.

I bet these boards must have appeared in dozens of movies to help depict the sorrow of separation or the anticipation of loved ones’ arrival.  Like a towering travel deity, making destinations appear and disappear, announcing delays and last calls, it literally spells out the fates of travellers standing beneath it.  As if to counter the traveller’s anxiety or boredom, it makes a strangely soothing, mesmerizing “tsktsk” sounds as the tiny tiles flip in tandem to form its message.  It is the sound of information being delivered.  I remember one of these display boards in Kai Tak airport in Hong Kong, while I was waiting to board a flight to the UK many years ago.  It appeared in the background of a few yellowed 3″x5″ photographs of me and my classmates who came to see me off at the airport.

These electro-mechanical wonders of the past were manufactured by an Italian company, Solari di Udine SpA, since the late 50’s and must have cost quite a bit to install and maintain.  They are all but replaced by LEDs and flat panel displays. Apparently, a version of it is included in the collection of Museum of Modern Art.  I wonder how much LV had paid for these, or if they were recycled from airport junkyard, and what would they do with them once the ad campaign is over. – C

“Different Values” is a series of print ads created by JWT for HSBC in 2008.  They were seen at US airports, mostly inside a ramp. I love its relativistic, Rashomon-like qualities. In the examples above, they had three different images and one word, or three different words and same image; a fourth panel shows the HSBC logo and slogan.  Earlier versions did not identify the bank but show two images and two keywords, each with opposite meanings.

The ads turned heads because of its boldly-framed, focused imagery and simple text, which makes one smile.  I assume the bank wants to illustrate its sensitivity to the diverse background of potential customers.  Aimed at travelers and immigrants, one don’t need much English to understand the message.  I think people may remember the cleverness of the ad but wonder how well they will connect it with HSBC.

N.B.  This post is a perennial favorite here.  For those interested in more HSBC posters, visit these two posts on this blog: More different values of HSBC and Even more different values of HSBC.  Enjoy.

Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. I am going to try make a few, and if they look good, I’ll post them here.  – C

Well, I gave it a go.  To see my first attempt in creating a panel, click here.

A friend of mine, PK, is building this web site that serves up quotes.  Over the years, he has collected several hundreds quotes and kept them in a page on one of his blogs.  On the new site, the quotes are listed by the topics to which it lends its relevance.  Although the site is under construction, it’s worth a visit.  For example, it contains a quote, by the Sci-fi author William Gibson whose book I am reading (“Pattern Recognition” mentioned in an earlier post).  He said:

Predicting the future is mostly a matter of managing not to blink as you witness the present.

Guess who said this ?

Do or do not, there is no try.

Yoda did, in The Empire Strikes Back when he was teaching Luke how to raise his X-wing from the swamp.  Don’t know why these quotes are dangerous.

While I was writing this post, for due diligence, I poked around the quotes. Unexpectedly, I discovered that I was quoted on the topic of, guess what, – Toys.  I am flattered.   – C

I have added a button for activating subscription to our blog.  You will find it at the bottom of the page. Hopefully you have enjoyed the adventures so far and would like to continue with us. As a subscriber, you will receive an email notifying you of new blog posts from at intervals determined by you. This feature provided by is presumably safe and spam-free.

Another way to keep informed is via Twitter – just follow @christwitx.

Stay tuned folks.

While in Neuchâtel, we visited the local art and history museum (Musée d’art et d’histoire, click above to see full size image). They are running an exhibition on the accomplishments of a local chocolatier, Phillipe Suchard, titled “Le monde selon Suchard” (The world according to Suchard).  Phillipe was born in 1797 near Neuchâtel and opened his factory in 1826 in Serrières which is very close to where I will be working.  By the end of the 19th century, his company, Suchard, was the largest chocolate producer in Europe.  His biography is on Wikipedia at  Suchard wiki.

They also make Sugus (瑞士糖) which I remember fondly since it was one of the most popular candy to stock in a Chinese new year candy box.

The exhibition included his laboratory instruments, production equipments, period advertising art and objects, and a wall of moulds, including easter eggs and bunnies.

At the end of the exhibition, we were given a fresh sample of the milk chocolate to taste.  My video below just cannot show how warm and smooth it was.  According to the museum’s calendar, they would be holding many chocolate-related events including a Grande Fête du Chocolat in October, which was described as:

Les Plaisir du chocolat au musée.  Démonstration, fabrication et dégustation par des confiseurs chocolatiers neuchâtelois …

Sounds fun, no? I am tempted even though I am not a fan of chocolate. We felt as if we wandered into the film set of Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory – the atmosphere of the museum is definitely more Gene Wilder’s original than Johnny Depp’s remake.  It was Scrumdidilyumptuous !

Lausanne is the other city that we might move to next year.  The aerial photo of Lausanne above with the Alps in the background is borrowed from Lausanne’s wikipedia entry – Lausanne wiki.  This city is the home of the International Olympic Committee, hence, the five rings outside its main railway station.  The day we explored Lausanne was cloudy but it made the skyline looked dramatic.

Neuchâtel is one of the two cities in Switzerland where we might call it our home next year. Lausanne is the other city, and both are in the French-speaking region of the country. The above photo is taken from wikipedia which contains a detailed description of the history and sights of the city – Neuchâtel wiki.  It is in the heart of the watch-making region of Switzerland.  We stayed at the Hotel Beau Rivage on the lake front and had a day and a half to explore.  One of the highlights is the local museum which had an exhibition dedicated to Suchard chocolate which I will post later.  Below are some snapshots we took on our tour of the city on foot (mostly, except the funicular).

We went to our first christmas party of the year at Ron and Betty’s. Having tasted their past culinary efforts, we knew this lunch was something that cannot be missed.  They started with a warm celery root soup, fried pancetta, with a drizzle of chive oil, followed by meguez sausages sandwich with caramelized balsamic onions. We finished with pork shoulder stew, chimichurri sauce, cauliflower, cornbread and rice. Dessert was two types of ice cream-cookie sandwiches. After lunch, Sue introduced us to the very exciting and entertaining competitive “steal or select” christmas gift exchange game.  It was pandemonium.  What a way to start the holiday season!  Happy holidays, happy holidays …

I am reading “Pattern Recognition” –  a sci-fi-ish fiction by William Gibson.  His style in describing all things near-futuristic can sometimes be abstract, to say the least. But it surely beats something that reads like a fanboy’s wish lists of next-generation gadgets.  The main character is a media consultant who is psychologically “allergic” to certain popular trademarks.  Here is how he describes her jet lag after flying from New York to London on an assignment :

She knows, now, absolutely, hearing the white noise that is London, that Damien’s theory of jet lag is correct: that her mortal soul is leagues behind her, being reeled in on some ghostly umbilical down the vanished wake of the plane that brought her here, hundreds of thousands of feet above the Atlantic. Souls can’t move that quickly, and are left behind, and must be awaited, upon arrival, like lost luggage.

I am going to post more about the book when I finish.  It started slow but now it’s getting exciting.

Lost In A Moment is a song that I think will go really well with the paragraph (and the above photo which I took in Iceland which happens to be in the middle of the Atlantic).

¤  Listen to an excerpt of the Strange World mix of the song by clicking the link below.  Press play in new window.

Lost In A Moment – Shrift

The song has also been used in a youtube video made by a couple of guys sitting in a kaiten-zushi bar (conveyor belt sushi) in Tokyo.  They put the video camera on the conveyor belt and turned it on while it slowly pans around the restaurant.  Truly mesmerizing. One of my all time favorites.  Enjoy.

The vacation food porn series is ending with #21.

My favorite was the cotoletta alla milanese (#14).  Scroll back to look at #1 through #21, and let us know which are your favorites.  We did not eat all these dishes, a few were eaten by a couple on their honeymoon who joined us for dinner one evening.

vacation food porn #17 – chocolate “sushi” with fresh fruits

vacation food porn #18 – banana, etc

vacation food porn #19 – breakfast

vacation food porn #20 – prickly pears (“tuna” 2 types), papaya

vacation food porn #21 – fruits

While we were staying at the Royal Hideaway resort, we encountered several regular inhabitants of the grounds.  A flock of gulls came for their daily freshwater bath at the infinity pool in the late afternoon.  The iguana emerged at the same corner of the pool each morning to catch the rays.  The big rodent (forgot its name in Spanish) was relatively shy.  They have obviously become accustomed to the guests staring and snapping pictures of them.  Except the black crow-like birds with yellow beady eyes, none of the other birds and animals begged for food.

These are some terms that many english speakers describe the texture of certain Chinese dishes that they find disgusting (e.g., sea cucumber), according to Fuchsia Dunlop’s sweet-sour memoir “Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper”. I just finished the book in which she dedicated a full chapter (Ch. 8 The Rubber Factor) to tackle an often-maligned characteristics of Chinese food.

“For westerners, they evoke disturbing thoughts of bodily emissions, used handkerchiefs, abbattoirs, squashed amphibians, wet feet in wellington boots, or the flinching shock of fingering a slug when you are picking lettuce.”

She did a good job handling this issue that I cannot fully explain to my non-Chinese friends. She pointed out that it has nothing to do with economy (i.e., using every parts of the beast or eating whatever you can catch), as it was documented that many emperors had feasted on them. Mouthfeel is just another dimension of the gastronomic experience that is seldom explored in Western cuisine.

As a child, I enjoyed cold jelly fish in sesame oil which I described as chewy elastic bands. A few years ago, on my birthday, Sue treated me to a feast of Korean raw seafoods. There were more than 17 different species and most of them were kept in tanks until they were served. I had eaten many braised sea cucumbers in the past but never raw sea cucumber. It turned out to be crunchier and also fishier in flavor. I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would. I was bumping against certain boundaries. And me, a Chinese.

The acceptance of mouthfeel is cultural.

Happy eating.

By the way, I ate the cooked sea cucumber (shown above) in a bowl of stewed seafood noodle at Chung Hwa Roo in Fort Lee, NJ.  And here’s Fuchsia’s book in the US.

And the series continues with lots of lamb …

vacation food porn #12 – lamb cutlets, romesco sauce, potato

vacation food porn #13 – salmon roquette and croutons with olives and balsamic vinegar extract

vacation food porn #14 – cotoletta alla milanese

vacation food porn #15 – lasagna with aromatic herbs, lamb stew, porcini and vegetable juice

vacation food porn #16 – gnocchi, shrimp, carbonara with foam (fennel ?)