Let’s Do Lunch

During one of my regular Museum Thursdays that I do with a girlfriend once a month, we recently had lunch at a farm to fork restaurant called Moreton Fig which is located on the campus of USC. It has a lovely patio that is canopied by USC’s historic Moreton Bay Fig Trees and their menu is fresh and creative. They are open for lunch and dinner and serve small plates in their bar from 3:30 – 8:00 pm. If you go, I encourage you to sit outside where you can reminisce about your college days while watching the students going to and from their classes.  The only difference is now you can actually afford the gourmet food you are eating.

Here are a couple of dishes that are served at Moreton Fig that will hopefully inspire you to visit.

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Another lunch spot that my girlfriend and I discovered during one of our museum outings is the Rose Garden Tea Room at the Huntington Library. It overlooks three acres of roses and provides an elegant and delicious tea experience. A pot of brewed tea and a basket of freshly baked scones are served at each table. From a central buffet, guests may choose from an array of savory finger sandwiches, imported and domestic cheeses, fresh fruit, chilled seasonal salads, and specialty petite desserts. Best of all, you can return to the buffet as often as you like. There is no dress code in the Tea Room: shorts and t-shirts or dresses and suits are equally acceptable, and children are welcome!

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Chicken Poop Bingo

While we were traveling in Austin during our BBQ crawl, which I will be writing about in my next Travelogue post, we discovered a quirky bar game called Chicken Shit Bingo, in polite company it is called Chicken Poop Bingo. Its origin is thought have started in New Orleans in the 1980s and has become very popular in small town venues across America.

DiscoveriesWe witnessed this famous Austin event at Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon which is only played on Sundays. Starting at 4:00 pm, players buy a $2.00 ticket and they get a random number to place a bet on a 54-number grid. One number per player. Once all tickets are bought, Ginny fetches a chicken from an outside pen and places it in a cage sitting on top of a plywood-covered table with 54 numbers on it. The grid is covered with a light scattering of chicken feed and Ginny and others throw pieces of bread into the cage. Everyone gathers around the cage and yells out their number to the chicken and waits for nature to happen which could be up to an hour.

chicken3Whoever’s number the chicken poops on gets a portion of the total kitty. It was a total blast. This goes on every hour for 4 hours and in between games, everyone drinks beer, dances and listens to live music.

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Of course this game of chance has come under scrutiny by PETA and some state’s Gambling Control Boards although the Texas Lottery Commission doesn’t bother to supervise it because it doesn’t meet their definition of bingo. PETA believes it is an exploitative form of entertainment and a crowded bar filled with a screaming audience is not a proper place for a chicken. Give me a break! The chicken is not being harmed in anyway and is only doing what comes naturally. We had so much fun at this bingo spectacle, we thought it might be a hoot to reproduce in Lone Pine someday.

Egg Gadgets

I am not really a kitchen gadget person. My kitchen is already full enough without adding strange utensils or tools that serve only one purpose. However, there are a few gadgets in my kitchen that I stumbled upon at some point and now can’t live without.

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This simple little silicone cup and spatula poach eggs. PERFECTLY. EVERY SINGLE TIME. I love this gadget for two reasons: one – I poach an egg for my son for breakfast almost every morning because he can get a migraine if he doesn’t eat a hearty breakfast. Two – because learning to poach an egg in culinary school was challenging! Waiting until the temperature was just right and the bubbles were the right size, adding an acid to the water to coagulate the whites (vinegar), and swirling the water round and round before dropping the egg and HOPING it would turn out right if I pulled it out just at the right moment. Who needs THAT??? With this nifty gadget all I do is boil water, reduce to a simmer, spray the poacher with a little cooking spray, crack the egg into it and lower the cup into the water.

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I cover the pot with a lid and turn on the timer for 5 minutes. Voila. Remove the cup from the water and you have a perfectly poached egg which I serve on toast with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. I have used this a million times (it feels like!) and it works every time. In truth, you don’t really need the purple spatula as you can lift the cup out by hand but the two together make a cute gift.

Another egg gadget that I absolutely LOVE is my egg timer. How many times have you heard of the next error-free method of perfectly hard-boiling an egg? It seems like every chef has one but none have worked 100% for me. Do you boil the water first, put the eggs in and remove from the heat with a cover for 10 minutes? 12 minutes? Do you boil the eggs in water for 10 minutes? A little under and your yolks don’t set. A little over and your yolks turn green. YUCK!

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Enter the egg-timer. A little gadget about the size of an egg, you place it in the pot with your eggs and bring your water to a simmer. Just like a mood ring (remember those?), the egg-timer will start to change color and will indicate where you egg is at any point in time. Want a soft egg? Stop cooking when the color line reaches “soft.” Same for medium and hard. This gadget works and I love it. No more guessing or ruining beautiful eggs for me! I tried to take a picture of the egg-timer changing color but the steam was too much for the camera. Sorry!

Now there is one egg-related technique that I have still not mastered: peeling eggs. The best method I have come up with so far is submersing the cooked eggs in an ice water bath for a few minutes. Then I crack the wide end of the egg where there is a pocket of air and roll the rest of the it on the counter to crack it all over. I then run it under warm water as I peel it. Complicated and it works only half the time. If you have a good method (or even a gadget), please share!

Little Saigon

Little Saigon in Orange County, California is the oldest and largest Vietnamese community in the United States. There are 189,000 Vietnamese inhabitants in Little Saigon and 368,000 in the greater Southern California area.

Little Saigon includes the towns of Westminster and Garden Grove. The main street of activity in Little Saigon is Bolsa Avenue. For a first time visitor, a good place to start is the Asian Garden Mall (Phuoc Loc Tho).

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Inside the mall there are a variety of clothing and jewelry boutiques, gift shops, small eateries and even a place to worship.

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After visiting Vietnam this summer, I was interested in exploring Little Saigon and especially trying to recapture some of the wonderful food flavors I experienced in Hanoi and Hoi An. Based on some limited research and location, I had lunch at Pho 79 in the Asian Garden Mall.

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I tried the very popular dish of fresh spring rolls with pork and shrimp. They were beautiful but less flavorful than I was hoping for. The peanut based sauce that accompanied the spring rolls was very different from the vinegar, sugar and fish based sauces that were consistently served in northern and central Vietnam.

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I had high hopes for the chicken pho, hoping for memories of the chicken pho we had in Hanoi! Not close. Same experience when I tried to make it at home several weeks ago. What is the secret? The fried spring rolls were pretty but also just okay. I’m wondering if you can ever recapture flavors from another country in this country without the particular ingredients, climate, sounds, smells and textures?

A critical stop for me in Little Saigon was the ethnic supermarket. On this trip, I visited  A Dong Supermarket. I was overwhelmed by the fresh rice noodle aisle. I have never seen so many varieties of fresh rice noodles, sold in such large (5 and 10 pound) quantities.

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They also had some more unusual ingredients, including blue crab as well as snails that are used in the Vietnamese snail soup.

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There are more than 4,000 businesses in just 3 square miles of this Vietnamese-dominated community. In half a day I was able to explore only a few but got a good feel for the area and what it has to offer. I also bought a beautiful Vietnamese ao dai, the traditional Vietnamese national costume consisting of a colorful silk tunic worn over pants. I have no idea where or when I will wear it, but I couldn’t resist!

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Beautiful Bounty

Beautiful-BountyMy youngest daughter and her husband recently bought a house with a large back yard. She mentioned that she was going to be putting in a garden and start growing vegetables. I thought to myself that’s nice and fully expected her growing results to be similar to mine. Pretty much a brown thumb. It usually costs me more to try to grow something in my garden than it would to by the most pristine, organic vegetables I can find. So when my daughter asked if she could bring anything for Family Night, I told her some of her homegrown vegetables would be good. I had some veges in the crisper just in case what she brought was not very appealing. I was blown away by the beautiful veges she brought. So much so I had to take a photo of them and brag about them on our blog. I decided to chop them up and use them in a simple stir fry with some red onions and serve her beautiful bounty in a way that everyone could see what the veges were that they were eating.

I discovered that my Daughter, (unlike her Mother), inherited a farmer gene (both sets of her maternal grandparents were farmers) and a green thumb. Her vegetables were not only beautiful but delicious.

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Fixing Tech Mistakes

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Since I am an iPhone and Mac user and spend a lot of time each day on both, I was so happy to discover these tips to undo my most frustrating tech mistakes.

How to Un-send an Email in Microsoft Outlook
While not as foolproof as Gmail, Outlook does allow you to recall messages that have previously been sent. You can either delete the message entirely (for those who haven’t already opened it) or replace it with an error-free email (typos, begone).

To enable Recall, go to “Navigation Pane,” then “Sent Items.” Open the message you want to recall or replace and on the “Actions” menu, click “Recall This Message.” Then “Delete Unread Copies of This Message.”

How to Un-send a Text on an iPhone
Though you can’t un-send a text once it’s gone out, you can stop one that’s in the process of being sent (i.e., the little gray bar is still loading). Here’s how to do it: Once you notice your flub, immediately put your phone on Airplane Mode. When the text fails to deliver, delete the message. (Warning: This only works for texts sent through iMessage and for texts that are sending particularly slowly.)

To enable Airplane Mode, go to “Settings,” then “Airplane Mode,” then switch to “On.”

How to Redo Typing on an iPhone
Accidentally erased something you just typed? To undo, just shake the phone. To redo, shake it again. Simple, huh?

How to Undo Typing on a Computer
Behold the powers of Ctrl-Z (Command-Z on a Mac). This genius keyboard shortcut deletes the last sentence you typed in one fell swoop.

How to Refresh a Tab in Your Browser
In a deep Google search and accidentally closed all of your tabs? No sweat. Hit Ctrl-Shift-T (Command-Shift-T on a Mac) and the pages will pop right up again. (This works for all browsers.)

How to Lighten or Darken Sections of a Photo on Your iPhone
Before you click the photo look at the picture in the frame and any place that is too dark hold your finger on for a second and it will lighten. Similarly if it is too light, hold your finger on the area you want a little darker.

Din Tai Fung

Din Tai Fung is a global restaurant empire specializing in authentic Chinese steamed soup dumplings. Open in Glendale, CA in the Fall of 2013, Din Tai Fung has had anxious diners lining up daily before opening time to relish the delectable packages of goodness.

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And it’s no wonder. The dumplings are perfectly balanced in pork to broth ratio with thin yet supple skins to hold both in. The meat is soft and tender and the broth distinctively flavorful, warm and comforting. Adding the condiments in traditional fashion adds much complexity: 80% dark vinegar + 20% soy sauce +/- chili oil (suited to one’s individual tastes) + ginger. A match made in heaven.

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There are other worthy dishes here that shouldn’t be overlooked. Shrimp and pork Shao Mai, Won Ton Soup, Spicy Braised Beef Soup, Noodles with Sesame Sauce and Sauteed String Beans with Garlic  – each dish has a twist and unusually bold flavors that you don’t get from the more pedestrian versions of these dishes that are commonplace. The exquisitely aromatic Jasmine tea makes the perfect accompaniment to these dishes.

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Along with the outstanding food, the atmosphere at Din Tai Fung is modern, airy and comfortably casual-chic. The service is superb and the overall experience is light and playful. Finally, an authentic, high-quality dumpling house close to the center of Los Angeles makes this cuisine accessible to many.

Mission Chinese Restaurant: San Francisco

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I have been wanting to try this restaurant for as long as I can remember! Finally a visit to SF and I’m not missing it ….

Got there around 5:30 pm because I have heard about lines but absolutely no problem getting a table in this fairly small, quaintly tacky venue. As you probably know, there is no sign out front with their name. They originally took over the Lung Shan Restaurant a few nights a week as a pop-up before they went crazy. Never changed the sign.

We can only try a few dishes as we have been eating non-stop. The menu is so curious. Beer brined Szechuan pickles. Tea smoked eel. Tiki pork belly. Thrice cooked bacon and rice cakes. Broccoli beef brisket. Schmaltz rice. Not like any chinese food menu I’ve ever seen before.

First we order Grandma’s Pork Dumplings in a ham broth: just okay. Dough was a little thick and meat was nothing special. Broth was a little interesting but I wouldn’t have guessed ham hock.

Next, Kung Pao Pastrami: hmmm … rich, very rich. And very different. With peanuts, celery and chili. Gotta give them points for creativity. Enjoyed it but not sure if I would order it again.

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Salt Cod Fried Rice: THE BOMB. Mackerel confit (what???), chinese sausage, lettuce and egg. Flavor, flavor, flavor.

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In our party of 3, I’m the biggest fan. One didn’t love it, the other neutral. I have to give them credit for creativity in their ingredients and style. It’s genius. And I only tried a few dishes. I love the feel. Nerd-out, cheesy but clean, glam chinese hole-in-the-wall. I can’t wait to go back and try the rest of the dishes. Guess I need to find new friends to go with!

Bestia

I have been trying to get a reservation at Bestia since the beginning of the year. Finally they must have had a cancellation and I was able to reserve a table for 4 at a reasonable time on a recent Friday evening when my Husband’s Brother and wife were visiting. I was so excited to see what all the hubbub was about for this restaurant. Located in the Arts District of downtown Los Angeles, Bestia is billed as a multi-regional Italian restaurant.

On the outside the restaurant looks like it is in an old downtown warehouse with loft living on top of it.

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The music is blasting as you enter and like many restaurants in Los Angeles you cannot hear anything above the music and din of diners. We immediately asked to be seated outside since my Husband’s brother is a little hard of hearing and the noise level outside was much better.

We began the meal with drinks of which Bestia has a very creative drink menu and a good wine and beer list.  Then we ordered a couple of appetizers which included a Heirloom Tomato salad and a Grilled Octopus and Calamari dish. The Tomato salad had a very creamy Burrata cheese and was delicious and the Grilled Octopus and Calamari dish was tasty but I would have liked the chunks of Octopus and Calamari to be larger.

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Then we ordered four Entrees which included a Margherita Pizza, Spaghetti Rustichella, Slow Roasted Lamb Neck & a Grilled Whole Orata (White Fish).

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Everything was fabulous. We would have ordered deserts but we were trying to catch a play and had to run but Bestia has such an extensive and interesting menu, it is a restaurant that I could eat at every night just so I could try everything. Definitely worth multiple visits, that is if you can get a reservation.

A Blog to Tell Your Friends About

imageI wanted to share with you this great new website/blog that I get daily feeds from. It is called PureWow. Here is how they describe themselves.

PureWow is a digital publication dedicated to finding ways to make your life more interesting, beautiful and manageable. Our motto, “Elevate the Everyday,” drives us to deliver irresistible discoveries to our readers every single day.

We cover the breadth of women’s lifestyle: fashion, beauty, home, arts and culture, tech, food and travel. Best of all, we do the work for you. We know you’re overcommitted and would rather let someone else do the digging. Lucky for you, it’s our calling.

And if you want even more fun finds (30 swimsuit options are always better than three), PureWow.com is your place for gorgeous fashion guides, entertaining slideshows and an original How to Wow video series that brings our best ideas to life.

Think of PureWow as a savvy friend who knows the next book you should read, the must-have jeans that fit and flatter, and the purse that holds your keys and charges your phone. (Trust us, it’s a lifesaver.)

I did a little research about the company and it is listed as a media company with about 3 million in revenue and over 300,000 subscribers. Ryan Harwood founded PureWow last year after leaving his Wall Street job. It went through an initial round of funding by a venture capital firm in conjunction with the company WowoWow, a company and website started by some high profile women like Candice Bergen, Leslie Stahl, Whoopi Goldberg, Marlo Thomas, Lily Tomlinson, among others. And like PureWow that website targets influential women.