Highlights from Germany, Austria and BeNe

Hello again!

Last month I took a trip to Europe where we flew into Frankfurt, Germany and then took a train down to Munich and began our sightseeing.

In Munich we revisited some old faves (Neuschwainstein, Marienplatz, Wirsthaus Ayinger) and some new ones (Linderhof).


From top left to bottom: Linderhof Palace, the gardens, the view of Lake Alpsee and Neuschwanstein

From Munich we headed to Salzburg, followed by Vienna. One of my favorite things in Salzburg was the trip out to see ice caves in Werfen – Eisresienwelt (more on this later). The ice caves were quite a hike to get to, but totally worth it.

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The last 3rd of the way up to the cave!

Finishing up our tour of Austria was Vienna, which allowed us to get in a lot of culture.
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Above: St. Stephen’s Church and the Kunsthistorisches Museum

Afterwards, we went up north to see Belgium and the Netherlands, which was filled with a bit less walking and more food.

From the top: Mussles at Poules Moules, Belgian waffles, Dutch pancakes, and a coffee break

My thoughts overall: It was a lot of fun, but we were on a crazy train schedule filled with lots of walking (intense hiking up the alps to the point that I got some tendinitis). European food is just better on average, even the fast food places. I would love to spend more time in Vienna and Amsterdam (I would like to spend more time in Europe and on vacation in general). Although, I definitely wouldn’t mind eating more Belgian food.

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Fall in Central Park and things I ate while away

Hello again! I feel like a bear that’s just emerged out of the winter hibernation, or in my case, fall hibernation.
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Unhappy face because my castle is taking too long to build.

What have I been up to? TBQH, not much. The last couple of months, I’ve been in a bit of a rut. Summer was this wonderful prolonged daydream with its nice weather and days spent strolling the outdoors. When fall came around, I suddenly felt this dread that another year was about to pass me by and that same fear that I had some how squandered my time. I was quite frustrated. October was a busy month in terms of my day job, and I didn’t have a lot of time for creative things. In addition, the past 6 months of eating out because I had no gas was finally starting to catch up to me. You know those terrible days when you wake up and suddenly all your clothes are a bit too tight? Yup, I was going through that all October and the beginning of November. Those feelings of being ugly compounded with frustrations of not having done enough left me feeling overwhelmed and uninspired.

Things I ate, which is probably why I got fatter included:
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Red bean matcha toast at Cha An

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The works at Xi’an Famous Foods, or rather beef noodle soup and vegetable dumplings. The vegetable dumplings are so good that they’ve converted Ray, who never eats his vegetables.

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Grilled cheese at Dominique Ansel. (Not pictured is the plate of pastries on the side, which included a DKA and lots of brioche.)

Fortunately, things started to change a bit, or else I wouldn’t be writing this. Work got slightly less busy; I got my gas back and I started working out more. (I am determined to fit back into my jeans without having to jump around to put them on.)

The first thing I made once I got my gas back was a complete meal of green tea soba with soft boiled egg.
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Yes, egg porn.

I guess what changed the most was that I started to think more about what my longer term priorities were and focusing on those. And the things that bothered me in the interim dissolved in my mind when I realized that in a year or two they probably wouldn’t be an issue. For all my cynicism and pessimism, I tried to think a bit more positively and change the things I had control over. I started to feel better.

And so the product of all those internal dialogues and quiet reflections is this post.
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When I think back to all those long strolls in Central Park this fall, there is some part of me that quivers at how gorgeous and in-the-present New York is.

Fall in New York is a lovely time.
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Sometimes I still feel a bit overwhelmed by the New York, but there’s something about this place that has slowly crept inside me and given me a bit of satisfaction at being here in the center of it all.

French Canada Pt 3: No beef to be had with Joe Beef

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Pardon the title of this post. (I really couldn’t help myself.)

I first heard of Joe Beef back when I watched the season 1 of “Mind of a Chef”. It was the episode where David Chang visits Joe Beef and eats the Double Down. At that time, Joe Beef was just a passing thought of delicious and fat decadence stuck between two pieces of foie gras. Then it came up again as a recommendation from a friend of a friend who lives in Montreal. And since I was going to Montreal, I figured, “Why not?”

How do I describe it? It was delightfully light, yet I wouldn’t be surprised if my arteries have become 50% clogged from that dinner. There was no shortage of foie gras and I would definitely eat again.
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What’s the place like? It’s got this folk/country feel that reminded me of what hipster take on Appalachia would be like, but I suppose it was really more of a hispter take on the Great North.

The place is small, a bit cramped for Montreal, no? But it’s an intimate atmosphere. However, I ended up waiting an hour when I arrived.
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But, I’d say it was worth it. Plus, there are all these cute little shops and cafes around the corner where you can hang out, which makes the wait less miserable (although I’d hate to try waiting that long during the winter).

So if you go, please start with some delicious appetizers to stimulate your appetite (or 开胃 as we like to say in Chinese).
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These aren’t these aren’t the star of the meal, but they’re certainly not bad.

For our mains, we ordered lobster spaghetti and the double down (which is really more of an appetizer too, but since it’s so decadent, let’s also call it a main).

The lobster spaghetti was delicious.
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Although, I really wouldn’t have minded more lobster in it. It’s actually not as filling or as heavy as I would have liked it, but tasty nonetheless.

And of course the double down.
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A few lovely slices of bacon with some cheese between two deep fried slices of foie gras. What more could you want? When you eat, make sure you have a clean napkin at hand, because the fat from the foie gras + bacon will definitely dribble down your chin and onto your hand/lap/table. (I prefer licking my fingers, but some of you are classier than that.)

And to finish our meal, we had some cheddar and maple glazed donuts.
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I thought this was a weird combination, but after eating it, really wasn’t too weird. It’s like the lumberjack’s version of homemade yogurt covered pretzels; you’ve got your salty and your sweet.

French Canada Pt 1: Out and about in Old Montreal

It’s been quite a busy summer. I’m not entirely sure how it passed by so fast. Earlier last month (oh em gee, it’s August already!), I started taking a class in Data Mining at Columbia. Since it’s a summer course, it’s cramming a semester’s worth of material into 6 weeks, meaning I’m all work and no play. (I’m trying not to be a dull girl though!)

It’s already August, and I’m just now sharing the photos I took during my French Canada trip during the 4th of July holiday. During thsi trip, I went up to Montreal and Quebec City. It wasn’t quite like going to a far and distant land, but enough of a trip to stave off my wanderlust temporarily.
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French Canada is very much the land of French-y woods-y lumberjacks, sort of. It’s very French in a American South sort of way. The Quebecois speak in their characteristic accent, French with a twang. Some people dislike this accent, but I thought it was rather cute.
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Ray and I got into Montreal around the morning and spent the day walking around Vieux Montreal. The first thing we went to go see was the Notre Dame. What can I say, the stained glass inside was gorgeous.

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The whole basilica was so magnificent that later when in Quebec, we took a sniff at the Notre Dame there and didn’t even bother going in.

Walking around Old Montreal, I wasn’t too impressed with it’s cobbled streets and little touristy knick-knack shops, so instead we took a little bit of a stroll by the water.
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And then later rented one of those pedal boats and just floated around for a bit. After our watery excursion we were pretty hungry and determined to get something authentically Canadian. What’s more Canadian than Poutine?
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Poutineville is this little restaurant all the ways across town from the old part that specializes in Poutine. The poutine there was delicious. I managed to try two variations, the classic and the fire-breather (below).
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This was real Canadian poutine, not the wannabe poutine you find in the states that is box gravy, lame cheese and stale french fries. No sir, this was super crispy potato wedges slowly soaking up the gravy made from real beef au jus, topped with generous helpings of real cheese curds and beef shreds (in my case, chicken wings). Every bite was beefy, crispy and cheesy goodness that made me feel as if it had come from some long lost French-Canadian aunt’s own kitchen. And of course, even though we was bursting at the seems with Poutine, we managed to fit in some dessert.

We waddled over to Juliette et Chocolat for some ice cream and brownies.
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More Canada to come soon.

5 months later, Dallas for 72 hours

Well hello! It has indeed been a while.

I regret not posting more, but I’ve just been lacking the motivation and free time I used to have.

Recently I’ve been taking a lot of photos on my new camera. (I got a new camera and now use some photo editing software.) And, I thought it was a pity to keep them all to myself on my computer or post them to flickr unacknowledged.

Unfortunately, this is not a long post as this photo series is a bit short. But, I thought these turned out quite nicely.

About slightly less than a month ago, I was in Dallas for work. I got to eat at a pretty good restaurant there, CBD. It was a pretty photogenic place with plenty of mood lighting.
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Dallas, I thought, was a very odd (by which I mean not NYC or Chicago) city. The city center, where I was staying, was really dead after 6 PM, so walking around after work meant walking around a dead city. It reminded me of Indianapolis, which is also dead in the downtown area after 6PM.

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The quail I had there was delicious. I think it took me under 12 minutes to devour the entire thing. It was perfectly seasoned with crispy skin and a nice sour from some citrus to dress it.

Cronuts round 3: the real McCoy

Last year, I attempted making Cronuts 2 different times because getting the real thing was too difficult. When I moved to New York, the possibility of a real Cronut was finally available to me. (Not that it wasn’t before, it was just that I was way too lazy to wake up early enough to go get a Cronut on my weekend visits to New York.)

Anyhow, on a Sunday last December, Ray and I finally dragged our sleepy butts out of bed to go stand in line in freezing temperatures for the Cronut.

Honestly, it was a terrible terrible idea, and I would not recommend anyone wait in line outside for this thing in single digits weather. Terrible terrible idea.
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But as the sign above states, you gotta keep your eyes on the Cronut and not the hole (even if you can’t feel your toes and you’ve never been so happy as when the Dominique Ansel employees come out to serve hot chocolate and coffee to their freezing Cronut patrons).

Fortunately, lines in freezing weather on a Sunday in December don’t get too long. We only waited 1.5 hours for it as opposed to the normal 2-3 hours wait. So, if you’re looking to reduce your wait and are willing to brave frostbite for your favorite pastry, then go for it.

When 8:00AM finally hit and the doors to Dominque Ansel were flung open, the Cronut seemed within reach and there should have been an end to all that hunger and pain.
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So close, yet so far…

And finally, I got my hands on the Cronut, plus DKA and Magic Souffle.
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When I got my cronut, I wanted to wait until I could feel all my limbs before eating it. At this point, I had been inside Dominique Ansel for about 7-10 minutes, but the feeling in my feet hadn’t quite returned yet.

Alas, warm cronuts wait for no one.
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So Ray and I hunkered down at the nearest open counter space we could find and proceeded to split a cronut. Biting into it, I want to say that it was a wonderful mesh of delightful flavors of chocolate, champange, and orange. But, after all that wait, the frozen toes and cold dances outside, I couldn’t quite taste everything too well. The flavors just kind of took a second seat to the feeling returning to my toes. To say the least, the Cronut was underwhelming.

However, I will say that later when I was home in my nice and cozy bed with a hot cup of tea, the Cronuts that we had saved for later were delicious. Basically, I learned from this experience that Cronuts are delicious if and only if you have feeling in your lower extremities.

Reminiscing Italian at Eataly

And the second post of 2014 is a long time coming. ^^;; Sorry about that. It’s been busy here.

But, I’ve been wanting to share a few good meals I’ve had and that includes this really old one at Eataly.

I’ve been to Eataly a couple times now for meals and it’s surprisingly been excellent every single time I’ve gone. And it’s been good regardless what I order.

My most recent visit was back in December. When I went then, it was a weekday night and a spontaneous date dinner with Ray. This meant we couldn’t get a table at Manzo, Il Pesce, or any of the places with protein, leaving only Le Verdure.

Which wasn’t at all bad if you ordered the Uova al Purgatorio, which was a baked egg with parmigiano
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And very delicious. Although, it was piping hot when it came out and I think I burned my tongue from trying to eat it too soon.

Then there was the Zucca al Forno, which were kind of like butternut squash latkes with toasted pine nuts on the side.
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No tongue burning for these, just delicious-ness.

And of course, don’t forget to get a main course. Your full stomach will thank you later for it.
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Meet Gnocchi alla Romana. These pillowy medallions of cheese and dough were so delicious that my mouth still dreams of them. The gnocchi was perfect. It had this pleasant potato/dough-y taste to it that left this light potato chip aftertaste in your mouth. It was pretty much perfect. The only thing I wasn’t a huge fan of was the broccoli rabeon the top. It was just a tad too bitter.

There was also the polenta with parsnips, garlic, parmigiano, and butter
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If I had to learn how to make polenta, I would make this one. It was not that in-your-face-umami; Rather, the flavor was more subtle, but just as good as the gnocchi.

In other news, I’ve been trying to decorate my apartment
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Decorating ideas/beautiful drawings are stolen from my friend Weiling, who is also getting married this year. (And I’m having a ton of fun *ahem*helping*ahem* her with her wedding planning. (More like indulging in wedding porn.)

More soon!

Hello again weekend brunches, I missed you

Manhattan is an expensive city to live in. Of course there are plenty of ways you can save money, (via living like an extreme cheapskate) but why would you want to do that when there are so many delicious and fine eats in the city?

While the past 2 1/2 months have mostly been me settling in, I have had some very delicious eats, especially for brunch.

A couple of my favorite brunches have been 1. Maison Kayser and 2. Chicken and Waffles at Maharlika.

The last time I went to Maison Kayser was about a year ago on the UES. UES is a bit of a hassle to get to from Columbia, but fortunately there is a now a Maison Kayer in Columbus Circle serving delicious things, like this iced mocha latte
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And some baked goods.
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You can’t go to these types of places without sampling some of their viennoiserie. Personally, I liked the chocolate croissant (top) more than the chocolate brioche (bottom). The chocolate brioche was more like a chocolate brownie, so will probably skip next time (unless I’m craving a brownie).

And we can’t forget to eat our savory things.
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The smoked salmon and asparagus cocottes are excellent.

Maharlika was a new place for me. It’s Filipino food with an American spin. I ordered the chicken and waffles.


Batter-less chicken with taro waffle. I liked the fact that the chicken is crispy but not to the point that crumbs are getting everywhere. (Being batter-less helps, I suppose.) I also thought the taro waffle had just the right amount of fluffiness and sweetness.

Trying to update more regularly again, so hope to post again soon.

Not quite a New Yorker and the holidays

Its hard to say what it is about New York that makes you both love it, and want to GTFO of it ASAP. Since moving to New York, I’ve definitely lost a lot of motivation to do a bunch of things, like study for my GRE retake, blogging, working out, etc. I can’t quite put my finger one what it is. It might be my new commute, which is 20 minutes longer than my old commute makes me feel like doing anything after the work day is too-much-effort, or it might be the fact that New York is so fast, I constantly feel like I’m running to-and-fro all over the place. Whatever the reason, I suppose it doesn’t excuse me of the lack of posts. I’m sorry!

I do have a few things to share, like the lights.
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In New York, they’re gorgeous. (Yes, I’ve become a regular at Shake Shack now.)

They make it feel like the holidays.
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Especially right when it gets dark around 4:30 now, the lights at least warm up your heart a bit.

In terms of food news, I haven’t gone out too much. Just haven’t had the time/motivation to go anywhere fancy, but I have managed to sample some local things.

There’s Jin Ramen up around 125th
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The ramen definitely ties with Toto for best ramen I’ve eaten (which isn’t too many, but I imagine it’ll change now that I’m in NYC). The pork cha siu wasn’t as fatty or thick as the ones at Toto, but dare I say the broth was better?

And there’s also Il Solare, this little Italian place next to a neighborhood favorite, Crepes on Columbus.
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The pizza’s pretty good. Can’t quite say the same about the about the pasta we had there. It was just kind of bland.

In other old news, I also made a turkey this past Thanksgiving this year. The key, it turns out, is all in the brine.
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Obligatory turkey up-skirt shot.

Annual fall apple picking: gorgeous views and apple pie

Sorry for the radio silence, changing jobs is a bit hectic, especially if there’s no transitional period! I’ve already started the new job in New York (in my third week — my, how time flies!), but don’t have a place to call my own yet. The new job is pretty nice, really no complaints about it! Leaving behind Chicago and all my good friends there is a little difficult, but I look forward to opportunities to make new ones and to keep in touch with old ones.

Unfortunately, I don’t really have any fun stories to post about in New York, but last month I did go on my annual apple picking visit. This time we went to this orchard in Indiana called “County Line Orchard“.
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Personally, I like the one I went to last years more. This orchard was a lot bigger, which meant there were more apples to pick, but I think I like smaller farms. They feel more intimate.

Regardless of my preference, it was a lot of fun and I look forward to my trip next year.
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The paths were littered with tons of rotting and fermenting apples that made it smell like apple cider vinegar as you walked through the trees. To me, it’s a pleasant and nostalgic smell of the summer turning into fall.

And for some reason, seeing all the huge boughs of apples made me really happy.
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Apple Picking Fall 2013
Apple Picking Fall 2013
Oh the nostalgia I’ll feel for not being in Chicago any more. I definitely feel like I’ve left something behind, but that’s what growing up is all about right?

There were other things at this orchard, including sunflower fields and pumpkin patches.

The sunflowers were gorgeous on that day.
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We saw some fallen sunflowers littering the ground with tons of seeds spilling out. The hoarder/kid in me wanted to stop there, sit down and collect all of the fallen ones.

We also got a pumpkin.
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But I never got a chance to cook it. :’c

And of course, we also made pie this year.
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Gorgeous delicious apple pie.