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Memories of Israel – Jaffa

12 May

If you haven’t been to Israel before, I hope these posts of “Memories of Israel” spark your interest.  I have intentionally kept them wording-light and photo-rich, so please email me if you would like more details…

One of the best ways to spend a touristy afternoon in Tel Aviv, is to walk along the beach promenade to the old city of Jaffa.  (Pronounced Yafo in Hebrew.)

It is estimated that Jaffa was built and inhabited 4,000 years ago, making it one of the oldest port cities in the word.

Today, Jaffa is a unique mix of architecture (historical, crumbling, Mediterranean), culture (chic & fringe), and people (Muslims, Christians and Jews).

My favorite sites in Jaffa include, but are not limited to: the Al-Bahr Mosque (above)…

The Wishing Bridge (above), where all you have to do is touch your zodiac sign, look at the sea, make a wish and ABRACADABRA!

This beautiful floating tree, secretly tucked away between the winding alleyways…

The daring street art, galleries, and artist studios…

Oh and the FOOD (What did you expect?! Of course I’d talk about food)…

Two fantastic restaurants in Jaffa are the Container (which is also an art space and music bar) and Pua (pictured below, located in the middle of Jaffa’s famous flea market).

But E’s favorite place, and therefore, MY favorite place, is an off-the-beaten-path, hole in the wall, serving THE BEST Hummus I’ve had yet- Hummus Asli (Yefet St, Jaffa)

If you ever go to a hummus restauant in Israel, you should know that the only acceptable way to eat hummus is by wiping it straight off the plate with a piece of pita, as demonstrated by E.

And the rest of the 10 salads, hummus, tahina, and fish…

You can eat them any damn way you want.

But don’t skip dessert – you’ve got a long walk back to Tel Aviv.

And on a completely seperate note – I’m guessing that one of the only people who has read this post top to bottom is my beloved mumsy, so I’ll take this opportunity to tell you personally…on the internet…

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MAAMA!

(And Happy Mother’s Day in Korea)

Lavu Lavu Lavu Lavu

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A Boy Becomes a Man – G Loses His Thirginity

12 Mar

This weekend we celebrated G’s 30th…

Which was quite a special occasion because the kid man intensely dislikes making a big deal of his birthday.   (Well, he wasn’t exactly thrilled about celebrating this year either, but I started wearing him down in January so that he would give up the fight come March.)

***

Pre-birthday – a foundation for the celebration:

In order not to overwhelm the fragile birthday boy, I started things off nice & casual the night before he turned 30, by making his favorite San Francisco meal-

meatball subs a la Marina Submarine, with a final course of G’s dearly beloved…

 CUNDAY!!!

***

El Birthday Itself – 30 is for romancing

I turned the love-meter up a notch for the actual eve of G’s birthday, enchanting him with some appetizers and wine at Fifty Cafe (located near Dosan park)…

followed by a perfect (perfect perfect) dinner at The Kitchen.

We dined slowly and thoroughly on traditional Italian soup, tomato and eggplant bruschetta, sautéed clams with cherry tomatoes, THE BEST calabreze pizza I have ever had in my life, and linguine alla pescatore.

 I wouldn’t have changed a thing except for the fact that they wouldn’t allow flash photography (hence the fuzzy pics).

We had such a good time at The Kitchen that we stayed until it closed- and then it was off to the bars!  (Where I got as fuzzy as my pictures.)

***

30 + a day – Let’s dance old man!

My plan had worked- two days of calm and delicious celebrations had lead G to start enjoying his birthday- and finally we were ready to really PARTY!

The night started with a little bit of this (thanks to Maama H)…

Followed by a lot of that…

Interspersed with a Zoolander this…

And ending with our amazing Seoulsome friends at the bars- thank you all for coming out!

I think the birthday Grinch is finally cured!

Hong Kong- Love At First Bite

8 Mar

I’m going to journey back to Hong Kong for one last post about food,

(Oh, Hong Kong, you lovely island of culinary delights!)

and what better way to kick things off than with Hong Kong’s most celebrated food- Dim Sum!

Dim Sum and I have had a very short, but intensely committed relationship, which began at first bite during our trip to Shanghai last year.

(Indeed, this is a photograph of my very first taste of a Cha Siu Bau at Crystal Jade restaurant.)

So, of course, when G and I landed in Hong Kong, I decided we agreed that our #1 priority was to consume Dim Sum as frequently and as obsessively as possible.

Note: stretchy pants were a MUST WEAR for completing this mission.

Sadly, our camera broke midway through our trip (while I was rabidly snapping pictures of food, mind you), so I only have a few photographs that capture our Dim Sum frenzy.

These photos were taken at the famous Maxim’s Palace, a majestic banquet-hall-of-a-restaurant with a beautiful panoramic view of the city.  The food was delicious & abundant, but I must warn you that eating at Maxim’s usually requires a wait (we drooled for 20 minutes before we were seated) and it felt a bit too touristy for my hole-in-the-wall likings (Hong Kongers, what do you think? I may be wrong about this one).

Another great Dim Sum recommendation for those of you traveling to Hong Kong, is Tim Ho Wan.  Tim’s restaurant is much less fancy than Maxim’s, BUT what it lacks in decor it makes up for in (perfect) taste & a Michelin star (!), not to mention- LOW prices!

Hong Kong dim sum

Image from CNNGO.com, click photo to read the full article

And while we are on the topic of low prices, I want to tell you a bit about the Australia Dairy Company.

This canteen came highly recommended by various interweb sources, stating that Australia Dairy serves the BEST scrambled eggs… but I’m afraid to tell you that this is not at all exactly true.

Don’t get me wrong, it was extremely fun to experience canteen-style dining in Hong Kong, but food-wise, it wasn’t really what we had anticipated.

 We rolled into the restaurant at 7:30 am, expecting to be the first people in the door, but the place was already packed with hungry locals.  We were hurriedly seated at a table with a sweet couple who recommended the restaurant’s famed breakfast order of scrambled eggs with white bread toast, accompanied by ham and noodle soup.  (And we just had to add-on some egg pudding because it’s DELIGHTCIOUS, and who doesn’t want a 3 course meal at dawn?)

We ordered, a minute later, we ate (yes, that is exactly how long it took to get our food), and then we were puzzled.  We didn’t get it- what’s all the hype about?   THE BEST scrambled eggs?!  That’s a strong statement.  And I disagree.

Moving on!

Wait, did I just post a picture of Pret A Manger, spotted and hearted at an underground Hong Kong metro stop?

Yes, I really did.  Please don’t judge, you have no idea what tears of joy this Pret kiosk caused as G & I perused the bountiful sandwich assortment.  (Seoul is not big on my-style sandwiches.)

And while I’m confessing my foodie sins, I shall also admit to you that we dined at the famous ramen chain, Ippudo…

located in a mall.  A freakin’ mall.

I know, for shame.  But my word, that is some amazing ramen.

In fact, I would say, it is the best, Jerry, the best.

***

Okay kids- it’s bed time for this hungry dumpling.  Until the next one!

Le Brunchie Restaurant – Garosu Gil

14 Nov

Do you have those friends that you’ve known for a relatively short period of time (let’s say, a cumulative 9 hours, give or take), but they immediately feel like family?  Well, that’s how I feel about J & O.

And for this exact reason, when J & O come to Seoul, I research restaurants EXTRA EXTRA hard to try and introduce them to some real gems.  (As you may have already realized, food and family are completely intertwined in my eyes.  And stomach.)

This time around, we found Le Brunchie – the perfect spot for an intimate & delicious brunch(ie).

Don’t believe me?  Check out the menu for yourself.  There are some awesome & elevated Western choices.

It took us about 30 minutes to order because we wanted to try everything, so eventually we pretty much ordered just that.

My favorites were the Bruschetta,

Yep, that is steak & egg between the bread and the greens.

the Salade Niçoise,

Perhaps it is due to my Israeli/San Franciscan roots, but I am ALWAYS on the hunt for a good salad, especially in Seoul where a satisfying and healthy salad is hard to come by. (Hi. Mayonnaise is not a dressing.)

…MMMM…

the French Toast,

and the Eggs Benedict, which, unfortunately, was not photographed before it was devoured. Oops!

We also had the Chicken Salad, which was fantastic but very small- a chiquitito piece of chicken atop of a tiny bed of greens.  A good option if you aren’t too hungry, but seriously, is that ever the case?  If so, I applaud you… now teach me your ways.

Overall, it was a delectable meal that lasted 3 hours (no joke) with fantastic new/old friends.  I’d highly recommend Le Brunchie, in fact, I loved it so much that I returned twice in one week!

***

Directions:

Le Brunchie has moved locations!  It is no longer marked by the X on the map below.  The new location – is close to the Spain Club (noted on the map).

FYI: This map was borrowed from the blog, Painting the Passports Brown & originally created by Seoul Selection, which publishes the BEST & most intricate Seoul guide books and magazines that I have yet to encounter.

This Week I Liked…

11 Nov

Veterans Day

Thank you to the veterans & all those still serving in the Armed Forces.

***

Pepero Day!

On 11/11 (November 11th) of every year, Koreans celebrate Pepero Day by giving friends, family and lovers Pepero candy.  What is Pepero? Only my favorite Korean delight – a cookie stick dipped in chocolate.  Delicious, trust.

The reason Pepero Day is celebrated on 11/11 is because the date itself resembles 4 Pepero sticks.  This year, we celebrated SUPER Pepero Day because it was 11/11/11.  Oh the glory!

Above: Our local mini-mart Peperos-it-up with extra signage and an outside stand.

So, basically, what you should glean from this informative post is: (1) The Pepero marketing team is amazing (2) November is a good time to visit Korea if you are a chocoholic (3) Valentine’s Day can no longer be considered the most commercialized holiday.

***

Our Newest Family Member

Meekus, our newest family member, relaxes in the kitchen.

Welcome home.

***

Apple Soju

Apple flavored alcohol in an actual apple? Heavenly.

Sipped on at Chungdam Ann Restaurant

Address: 강남구 청담1동 118-19

Siem Reap, I Liked…

6 Oct

Instead of my usual, “This Week I Liked…” post, I wanted to share some of my favorite locations and memorable moments in Siem Reap with you, in no particular order.

Our gorgeous hotel, The Golden Temple, which I can’t say enough good things about- it was perfection and beyond.  The staff was generous and informative, the rooms were beautiful and quiet, and WOAH MOMMA was that breakfast delicious.

***

WARNING: Sad Story

The Golden Temple Hotel helped us organize our first trip to the Angkor Temples with Mr. S, a kind and reliable tuk-tuk driver.  During our initial ride, I began to wonder about Mr. S and his life in Cambodia.  Since he looked older than 39 years old, I assumed he had survived the Khmer Rouge regime and I was both curious and scared to hear about his experiences (click here for my short post about Cambodia & the Khmer Rouge).

Finally, around hour 5 of temple hopping, I worked up the nerve to ask Mr. S about his past.  His response was short and solemn, “I worked in the rice fields under the Khmer Rouge for 8 months and 11 days.  I know for you, it doesn’t seem like a very long time, but for me… those were the longest days of my life.”

Cue the waterworks.  I was a mess.

***

I was able to sweat out my sadness with the crazy temple workout – going up and down hundreds of extremely steep stairs.

For real, it was nasty sweaty.

According to Lonely Planet, these narrow and tall steps were designed to ensure that pilgrims would prostrate themselves in the presence of their gods.  In my case, it just helped justify the amount of food that I later stuffed into my aching body…

***

Lok Lak, Cambodian Curry, and Thai Tom Yum soup at the Red Piano restaurant.

Angkor beer (tastes deliciously and exactly like all the other Southeast Asian beers), Khmer dumplings (not recommended), and spring rolls (yum!) at Khmer Kitchen.

Khmer Soup from Khmer Kitchen restaurant & a combination platter from Angkor Palm restaurant (happiness).

***

An educational tour through Artisans d’Angkor, a school that trains impoverished youth in traditional Cambodian handicrafts, like silk weaving and stone carving.  G and I spent over $300 in the school’s store, where profits help fund the school & its students. (Guilt-free shopping!)

An excessively luxurious 3-hour massage at Bodia Spa on Tuesday, and then a 2-hour massage at Frangipani on Wednesday (Frangipani photographed above).

Damn, life is beautiful…and so is Siem Reap – So, GO!

Kuala Lumpur By Night – It’s Not About What You See, It’s About What I Ate

21 Sep

…And we’re back…

Hey lovelies, sorry about the long break, but I’m back in Seoul after a phenomenal vacation to Kuala Lumpur, Cambodia & Laos and I’m ready to tell ALL (if you are willing to listen read).

First, I’ll spin you guys around the world to a little (huge) city called, Kuala Lumpur.

Just in case, Kuala Lumpur is the capital of Malaysia, with a population of about 1.6 million people (largely comprised of Malays, Chinese & Indians), and, most importantly, home to over 66 shopping malls!  Unfortunately, G doesn’t really condone mall-ing on vacation (even though I have been whispering, “Shop with me! Shop with me!” into his ear every night after he falls asleep), so I didn’t get to revel in the shopping madness of Malaysia…I know, I feel bad for me too….but it’s still a great fact for those of you who are heading there soon.

photo credit: http://www.etawau.com

Where was I?  I was in fantasy land where I was the mayor.  Anyway, G and I planned on spending a full day in Kuala Lumpur, frolicking around the many temples and mosques, and then merrily & lackadaisically catching our connecting flight to Cambodia the next morning…too bad things didn’t exactly work out that way.

When did we go wrong?  Oh, just the second we stepped off the airplane.  Instead of taking the subway from the airport to our hostel, we decided to take a direct bus into town.  Big mistake.  HUGE.

First of all, KL has horrendous traffic, so the 45 minute ride took over 2 hours, AND by some mean, mean, twist of fate, G and I were seated (LIE: I chose our bus seats) under the central air conditioning vents, which were “broken open” and blew us away with subzero winds.

It was hell freezing over in the hottest of climates.  We sat & froze, sat & froze, sat & froze.  Eventually, the froze became so unbearable that we pulled out all our neatly packed clothing and sat huddled under our backpacks for warmth.

(Please note: we are the ONLY people on the bus freezing our butts off)

Two things happened after I ice-picked my way off of that ski bus:

(1) For the rest of our trip, I never ONCE complained about the heat.  And it was HOT out there.

(2) The insane ice conditioning on the bus caused me to have a terrible cold, which I have yet to recover from.  Stupid bus.

Okay so I’m going to fast forward through the part where we defrosted, got lost on the way to the hostel, and somehow wound up in a Hindu temple, asking for directions during some type of colorful festival…

..and I’ll get right to the point of most of my blog posts: FOOD.

Well, by the time G & I found our hostel, you can only imagine the appetite we had worked up.   (Dosh, just stop making fun of me. Stop.)  So, we dropped off our bags and headed straight for Jalan Alor, also known as- street food paradise.

Jalan Alor is a giant open-air hawking street, crowded with hungry customers and tons of food options.  Basically, it’s like a grittier and tastier version of heaven (but that’s just my assumption).  G and I strolled around the many restaurants and carts, trying to optimize our first bite in KL, and finally decided to just pull up a plastic chair & join the street-side party with 100 of our closest friends.

Our first meal (yes, we had many that night) was at Dragon Temple Restaurant, which was a mild success-ish.  Raw squid calamari and tilapia with red sauce pictured below.

Not feeling fully satisfied, we decided to add on, by scarfing down…

What?  A girl only leaves Korea so often, and you really have to take advantage of the kimchi-free meals!

The rest of the night was spent walking off our tummies, which would have taken 6 weeks to achieve in full.  But we were stuffed and happy and getting ourselves ready for the adventures awaiting us in Cambodia and Laos.

More to come…

Lemony Chickpea Stir-fry

8 Sep

Eureka!

I’ve found them – chickpeas in Seoul!

Spotted at High Steet Market in Itaewon.

To celebrate the discovery of my long-lost pantry staple, I decided to make one of my favorite chickpea dishes – Lemony Chickpea Stir-fry, using chickpeas (obvio), kale, zucchini, tofu (optional) and lemon.

I found this recipe 2 years ago, on the amazing blog, 101 Cookbooks, and I haven’t stopped making it since.  Like all the recipes I enjoy, this ultra healthy stir-fry is simple, quick, and really highlights the natural flavors of the ingredients.

Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are full of protein, fiber and antioxidants (as well as tons of other nutrients), making them a true super-food and an excellent meat substitute.  I find chickpeas delicious in any way, shape or form, but stir-frying them with very little olive oil helps bring out their delicious nutlike & buttery taste.  Adding-in the kale and zucchini to the mix makes for a perfectly flavorful and nutritious meal.

This dish does the body good.

P.S.  if you have a chickpea recipe you’d like to share, I’d love to hear from you.

***

INGREDIENTS:

2 Tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt
1 Small onion
1 Cup cooked chickpeas (using 1 can of chickpeas is perfectly fine, just make sure to wash them well)
8 Ounces extra-firm tofu, cut into small cubes
1 Cup of chopped kale
2 Small zucchinis, chopped
Zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon

PREPARATION:

(1) Heat 1 tablespoon of  olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.

(2) Stir in about a teaspoon of salt, the chopped onion, and chickpeas.

(3) Saute until the chickpeas are deeply golden and crusty.  This may take up to 15 minutes depending on your stove.  Luckily, you can’t go wrong with stir-fying this mix as long as nothing starts to burn.

During this stir-frying time, I usually cut up my tofu, kale and zucchini, while occassionally mixing the chickpeas

(4) Optional: Stir in the tofu and cook for 1-2 minutes, until the tofu is heated through.

(5) Stir in the kale and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes.

(6) Remove everything from the skillet onto a large plate and set aside.

(7) In the same skillet heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, add the zucchini and saute for 2 -3 minutes, until it starts to deepen in color.

(8) Add the chickpea mixture back to the skillet, mix everything together and remove from heat.

(9) Stir in the lemon juice and zest, taste, and season with a bit more salt if needed.

Serves 2 – 4

Simple Bruschetta

30 Aug

Tomatoes are my favorite food.

I eat them every single day in salads, on toasts, like apples, and I’ve even been known to (often) eat an entire jar of tomato sauce with a spoon & a smile.

You think it’s sick?  I think it’s just right.

Anyway, with SO much tomato love, you can imagine my excitement when I encountered (devoured) this simply delicious bruschetta prepared by my friend S.

I’ve made this bruschetta a few times already because it’s incredibly easy, such a crowd pleaser, and can be made several hours before your guests arrive.

This week, I’ll be testing this recipe on G’s parents, who are visiting us in Seoul.

No pressure.

S’s SIMPLY DELICIOUS SIMPLE BRUSCHETTA

INGREDIENTS:
– About 12 cherry tomatoes
– 6 to 9 leaves of basil (I usually use 9+ leaves)
– 1 tsp minced garlic
– 2 heaping tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
– 1-2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (I prefer 2 tbsp, but it might be too acidic if your tomatoes aren’t sweet, so taste as you go)
– Salt and Pepper to taste
– Baguette or loaf of french bread
PREPARATION:
(1) Wash and de-seed tomatoes.
I am not super diligent about de-seeding because it doesn’t bother me if a bit of tomato juice remains.
(2) Dice tomatoes and place in a bowl.
I like cutting each tomato in half, and then cutting each half into 3 pieces, so that 1 cherry tomato yields 6 slices
(3) Cut the basil into thin ribbons (chiffonade) and place in the bowl.
(4) Add rest of the ingredients to the bowl.
(5) Mix, taste to season, and refrigerate.
(6) Remove bruschetta from the fridge about 15 minutes before guests are due to arrive
(7) Slice up the bread (diagonally) & serve
OR
(7)  Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  As the oven is coming to temperature, slice the bread diagonally.
(8) Place slices on a sheet tray and drizzle with olive oil (optional).  Place tray in oven until bread begins to crisp.
For garlic lovers, rub a clove of garlic along the toasted bread for an additional kick.
– Serve immediately or at room temperature with bruschetta.

Tokyo Highlights (Part 2)

24 Aug

Now that you’ve followed Part 1 of my tour de Tokyo, it’s time to explore the city’s nightlife in some of the saucier parts of the town-

Welcome to Shinjuku

Shinjuku is one of the busiest districts in Tokyo- full of skyscrapers, neon lights, energetic crowds &, hello, the 2nd largest train station in the world (meeting up with your friends in this area is not an easy task).

While it may induce a bit of sensory overload, I fell in love with Shinjuku for several unconventional reasons:

(And this is the part when you find out how weird I really am.)

(1)  The man-hair of Shinjuku is out of control.  I think these guys are club promoters, and frankly, I’d follow their hair anywhere.

*Sorry these photos are terrible, but I tried to be sly when snapping them*

***

(2)  G & I found a fruit stand in Shinjuku selling fairly-priced watermelon and pineapple slices on a stick.

What? You don’t think that cheap tropical fruit merits love?  Try living in Seoul, where watermelons are paid for in gold.  Then come talk to me.

(As you can see, we’ve visited this fruit stand many-a-time.  Even brought along J & P.)

***

(3) Shinjuku is home to Kabukicho, Tokyo’s well known red-light district.  Okay, I know this sounds terrible, but I do find it extremely interesting to walk around these brothely areas of town – especially when they are seedy, but safe.

***

(4) Nothing revs up ones hunger like walking around peep shows and cabarets (or not), & thanks to G’s food-spotting skills, we found the best hole-in-the-wall udon place that Tokyo’s red district had to offer.

***

(5) Last but not least, my absolute favorite part of Shinjuku is Golden Gai, an area comprised of 6 rickety & narrow alleyways, containing over 200 tiny tiny tiny tiny bars.  How tiny?  5 people at a bar- tiny.

I was totally smitten by the Golden Gai bars because they are both uniquely intimate and artsy.  Almost every little bar has a different theme: flamenco, jazz, piano, classic movies, karaoke, pop – making it extraordinarily fun for a pub crawl with friends.

CHEERS!

***

On a completely unrelated note, I have a quick confession- I’m falling asleep at my computer & I think it’s about time I put myself to bed.  If you are still interested in my adventures in Tokyo, I’ll be writing Highlights Part 3 this week.