Second semester: improved yet still in progress

Getting all four wisdom teeth removed has proven beneficial in three major ways: I get to sleep as much as I please on the side of the couch that my siblings and I kill each other for, I get to eat pints of coconut sorbet and I get time to write another post! 

Food became my entertainment only a few years ago. By entertainment, I mean, TV’s replacement. Some people sit on their couch and watch TV for hours. I stand in the kitchen, maybe with some coffee, and think about what things I could possibly make while chatting up whoever might be nearby. This process can takes hours, and usually ends with me making something relatively easy and enjoying it with my mom or brother.

School has a whole other set of ground rules. Anyone in or graduated can attest to this. If possible, I sleep in and then hesitantly begin working either at home or at the library. Either way it usually fails. Weekends are funny. Many times though, boyfriend and I will just have the urge to make something, maybe even close to midnight on a weekday, doesn’t really matter. 

Boyfriend and I tried some new recipes which spiced up some meals. We make several versions of Belgian waffles with the waffle iron I got for my sixteenth birthday, Brazilian style pizza, guava cookies, caipirinhas (thanks to boyfriend) to name a few. Embarrassingly, we never seemed fully equipped and many times borrowed flour or milk from roommates’ stashes. But we did try to replenish their stock as much as possible.

It was an odd semester because everyone was up to his/her necks in work and stress, we all really were-can’t say it was my favorite of times up at Cornell- but we still took time to do other things, see friends and family, make something yummy to nibble on, have a drink with roommates. It was a huge mixed salad of activities.

I think one of my favorite things we made were the guava cookies. Boyfriend’s mother gave him a bunch of her recipes and this was one of those that I had bugged him for quite some time to make with me. They are buttery cookies folded over guava puree essentially. Simple as can be, but it takes patience to assemble. You’ll see what I mean from the pictures. I like to think that times like those, with buttery guava cookies, are evenly spread out so I have time in between to be healthier. Moderation, right? 

One of the big achievements of one of my roommates was making a dulce de leche cheesecake from scratch for the first time. It was delicious and sweet, and she was very proud of it. One of the comments she did have for all those aspiring bakers out there was to make the dulce de leche the long way, in the oven. According to her, the mess in the microwave just isn’t worth the time supposedly saved.

I have not yet tried making a cheesecake, though on my list of things to make is a light pumpkin cheesecake like that ones from Lady M. I wish I knew how they made theirs so light and flavorful. When I take a bite it’s like a gentle wave on the shore. If I could recreate it! 

A few lessons for a college girl

My first semester living off campus was a transition I had to make; dare I say, maybe one of the reasons we go to college? Among many acquired responsibilities, my roommate and I spent three entire days scrubbing surfaces and inhaling clorox before moving in. That was a new experience. That was a satisfying yet an unwelcomed experience. Every new move better not include those three days of scrubbing. Anyways. 

Nearly every grocery list included the following: semi-firm tofu, pasta, frozen broccoli, french string beans or spinach, tomato sauce, onions, chocolate chips, annie’s macaroni and cheese, and applesauce. Oh and coconut water. I’m pretty certain the only addition second semester were barbeque pop chips. To spice things up, we made many nommiful things such as tiramisu, vegetable soup, crepes and donuts.

From these two semesters, I learned how much I love making food with and for people. I also learned that the food I make isn’t actually that bad for a beginner, so hopefully it can only get better! 

Including vegetables proved to be the greatest challenge, so much of our tomato sauces included sautéed broccoli and onions or the boyfriend made a lot of herbed string beans-a very commendable cook! 

I have also gained a little more experience in prioritizing eating healthily and not spending too much money. Time is a whole other issue though. Hopefully in the future, it will be easier to make delicious, nutritious dishes in only half an hour-if anything, that would be a goal to work towards! 

The Celebration

There are times when the days lazily move from sunrise to sundown. The first half of this year was not one of those times. The mere thought that I am sitting in my kitchen in NYC, almost a third way finished with my summer and facing the last run of my education is laughable. Wen-You is just graduated from college, how did we grow up already? 

Wen-You, even though we are, at this moment, on the same island, and we could talk like normal people, in person, I am going to launch my love for you into the world. Seeing where you are now, beginning something daring and exciting, but completely you is fulfilling in and of itself from an friend’s perspective. We have taken many journeys together and many others we have talked about to one another at length. Every time we meet, I am always warmed by the ease of being each other’s company, like a bowl of Shiseido curry. 

While it pales in comparison to your ability to observe and capture the people around you, here are some photos I have collected. Cheers, my dear.

Shanghai Summer

After two seasons pass, summer has come again! Sort of. The grand trip with Wen-You to Shanghai for the month of July must be given some attention. This is afterall a blog about Wen-You and me. And the food we drool over. Lots of drooling. 

So, even with the smothering heat, a temperamental shower, many hours at the office and the MSG plague, I think Wen-You would agree that we had an incredible experience living in Shangai. And thanks to Wen-You’s awesome and superior social skills, we even made some friends to mark this as a truly memorable trip. 

The first picture (the string beans) was a part of my first meal in Shanghai, across the street from where Wen-You and I lived for that humid month in July. Nothing terribly special, but after half a day at high altitude, breathing in nothing but air with that nauseating recycled airplane smell and eating the microwave-prepared chicken and rice dish filled that tasted how the air smelled, it was welcomed. They are also MSG free guaranteed! Who could ask for more, Shanghai? 

The second represents a few excursions to the Dolce Vita kitchen in the French Concession (who sent my family in NY a chocolate log for Christmas and it was droolisimo!). Family friends of ours know the owner well and after I was informed that the son of the family was being taught in that kitchen, I shamelessly requested lessons as well. It was probably a little out of bounds for me to ask, but how could I let such an opportunity slip through my fingers? The owner was taught in Italy where he lived for years, golden! This was one of the dishes Wen-You and I were taught, a squid ink risotto. The chef teaching assisted us quite a bit, but I am still very proud of how wonderfully it melted in our mouths. I would show the embarrassing photo of Wen-You and my blackened mouths… but… Anyways.

The following three were taken at a restaurant in the same neighborhood as Dolce Vita, called Pho Real, a Vietnamese pho place. I thought it was cute. One of the better play on English words that I have seen in China. Especially since it really is a play on words, not a misunderstanding/misspelling of a word… And despite the heat outside, the hot, slurpy noodles were certainly worth the wait (the lines outside this place!), Ending on the lime and mint sorbet really completed the meal though, it was so bright and weightless on my tongue, reminding me somewhat of the mint lemonades at Le Pain Quotidian.

The next five photos can be categorized under the special meals had with the family that generously took care of me as if I was their daughter. This family, so energetic and grateful for all that life gives them, made sure I was laughing and relaxed whenever with them. This also includes wine-induced giggling. There was a lot of that. And the obnoxious wine-induced laugh. My friends know what I’m talking about. Embarrassing. With the mother, who trained at Le Cordon Bleu (twice!), I practiced some dishes and tasted wine that was above and beyond when I could ever understand, but appreciated all I had none the less. They took me to THE Peking Duck restaurant, where everything they cook with was brought over from Beijing, even the little ducks (daily). We also ate what’s called the beggar’s chicken. It is just so moist my chopsticks never stopped moving until the meat, mushrooms and tree ears were all gone. It was also a ton of macho fun because Wen-You and I got to use a hammer and break the mud-crusted sucker open! On top of these restaurant adventures with this family, I was able to have some of their fresh and mouthwateringly delicious home cooked dishes, the aerial view picture. These were some of the best meals, talking with the family and teasing the children (who were way too smart to take any of it… I got a lot of dry stares).

The next place I want to direct everyone’s attention to is the scene of two lovely cocktails. Wen-You’s favorite spot perhaps, and a dear friend of mine by the end of our Shanghai excursion, El Cóctel is a very serious bar with very serious drinks. I believe Wen-You would happily go into further detail of the many subtly complex and layered drinks we tried at the bar. By far my not so subtly favorite item was the Black Manhattan that had soaked, blackened cherries that exploded with a splash of alcohol and sweet syrup when you guiltlessly pop one in your mouth. The decorations of the club were also something to admire, cozy with plush cushioning everywhere and dim lighting, but with a mysterious feel to it especially given the prestige one of its bartenders help, a man called Tree. I raised a mental delicate eyebrow to that, but apparently it’s true. Cheers to that. 

I concluded that while there is Chinese food to be had in Shanghai, I was astounded by the foreigner’s dining I was happily experiencing. Take El Willy for example, if I remember correctly related very closely with El Cóctel. The black ink paella was something I’ve shoot a few people for and their salad, for the life of me I can’t remember what went in it, but it was so juicy! I never thought I’d say “juicy” for a salad. But there you go, and I willy mean it!

The curry can be found at the Okura Garden Hotel’s Rose Café. The curry and I go way back, to the time when I made faces at it while eating my delicious, but mundane croque monsieur with ketchup. Yes. I was THAT child. We all have skeletons in our closet. Mine is my diet up until about the age of 16.

Xiao Long Bao, juicy/soupy dumplings and I also go way back. Well, not really, but far enough so that I wrote my essay for Cornell on it, and it did the trick! Who ever thought Cornell would fancy being compared to some hole-in-the-wall xiao long bao place in Shanghai. Anyways, these aren’t the same ones, but heck, they were so good, who cares? Wen-You caught me in the act of worshiping the red bean paste dumplings gods on tape at this restaurant. Forever shamed. 

So if you should take anything away from this, it’s that I write incredibly long, but hopefully worthwhile posts, but more importantly, that food should always be explored and enjoyed in every journey you make. It just might make you fall in love with the place. 

wenyoucai:

Crime Scene, Exhibit A

wenyoucai:

Crime Scene, Exhibit A