Instant Antidepressant: Baby, it’s cold outside so let’s go out!

Watching the snow falling is one of the beautiful things in the world, but it is not really my favorite thing to do. It makes me feel a bit blue and depressed. I think it’s because I know this peaceful quietness would disappear very soon.

Yesterday, Sunday November 5th 2017, it was a bit snowing and intensely cold for November in Seattle. I love Seattle autumn, but I guess I was not ready for this weather. However it turned into one of the most delightful days.

Here is list of how I make those cold and blues go away.

OXTAIL PHO at BA BAR (http://babarseattle.com)

Classic Vietnamese repertoire, beef noodle soup. Noodle have gotten better now at Ba Bar. It won’t get bundle up and like a giant mochi any more. Broth tastes exactly how I wanted it to taste like. Combination of savoriness, tons of umami, a tat sourness and slight sweetness. Make sure to breathe in the complexity of this noodle soup before digging in. Then, you taste the meat falling off from the bones and noodle at the same time. It warms your belly and heart at the same time.

PIPE & ROW (https://pipeandrow.com) and BURNT SUGAR (https://burntsugar.us)

Strolling stores in cute neighborhood like Fremont is essential especially on a chilly day like this. Looking at those pairs of shoes that cost way more than you can afford but it’s so nice to dream. Someday in Paris 🙂 You can do it yourself but it would be much more fun with your trusted and honest friends who are not afraid of saying, “No, you look ridiculous in that dress” or “You look amazing. You must get that sweater.”

YOUR BESTIES
I don’t call people “friends” very easily. Honestly, I only have several friends whom I gave my respect and the highest regards to. I got to go out and eat pho, drink coffee, shop, talk, make fun of each other and laugh. Most importantly, love. Since I have a few friends, I can easily open up my heart and show who I am when being with them. I show how important and precious they are to me. I share my life, small and big with them. They give me so much hope and strength to keep going. It’s pure happiness. There is no better way to fill your soul.

Dark, rainy and cold days are coming in Seattle soon. However, as long as I have these things, I don’t need to go seek for antidepressants. When your heart is open, depressing days can easily turn into happy days just like I experienced yesterday. That’s instant and long-lasting at the same time.

April 4th 3.0: mkt.

April 4th 3.0: mkt.

Ethan Stowell is beloved, down to earth kind of guy.  He owns 9 restaurants and 1 pizzeria all in Seattle.  He will be opening 3 more this year.  Yes, he is beloved and down to earth kind of guy, but he is also crazy.

He is crazy about food.  He is crazy about connection and relationships between food and people who eat his food.  Most of his restaurants are intimate settings.  Some have community table and some only seat 30 people or so.  Kitchens are not hidden, usually open.  Today is April 4th and it is a special day for me.  Archie was successful not to disclose where he was taking me this last Saturday night until we were almost there.

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Here is mkt.in Meridian neighborhood near Green Lake in Seattle.  When I opened the door, first thing you see is an small and open kitchen with 5-seat counter.  Very close to people sitting next to you.  We were seated right in front of Alvin. Perfect.  I was able to see what he was cooking and how he prepares the meal.  His expression and his voice.  I was feeling his and his crew’s energy flowing through this intimate restaurant.  They use Pacific Northwest Ingredients.  Alvin puts lots of care and just right amount of Jaconsen Salt and care.  American fare without any pretentiousness.  Great balance of boldness and sensitivities.

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My favorite restaurants always have great balance of 3-pillars, chef, service crew, food.   This place has food and chef covered.  OK, service crew.  Awesome.  Seth was our crew who tended to our  table and he was so much fun, cracking jokes, laughing with us, fist-bumping us, and cursing appropriately (yes, we curse a lot).  He is one of those people you actually want to eat dinner and share a bottle of red wine with.

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I am happy to say I found another excellent Seattle eatery that I want to go back many times more.  My April 4th was fulfilled with joy.

Good Luck Veggie: Renkon (Lotus Roots)

Good Luck Veggie: Renkon (Lotus Roots)

It is a good luck vegetable so Japanese people eat Lotus Roots as part of special New Year meal.  Why is this root vegetable is good luck?  As you can see you can see holes of Renkon as photo shown below.  It is said that you can see the future.  Also, Renkon produces tons of seeds, therefore it means “productivity.”  Kind of clever, huh?

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I am fortunate enough to be able to buy Renkon at Asian market in International District so I keep it in my fridge often.  I usually simply sautée it with different kinds of seasonings each time.  Last night, I sliced it in ½-inch thick, sautéed with sesame oil (I love sesame oil by the way, so fragrant), sprinkle of salt, splash of fish sauce and dash of black vinegar.  I am very enthusiastic about black vinegar.  This is one of  several fermented seasonings that I am in love with.  Black vinegar is very smooth, malty and mellow, not stingy.  When you cook vegetables, any meat or fish, your dish ALWAYS come out complex, yet mild, rich and delicious.  If you use black vinegar when making hot and sour soup, your soup would taste divine!

Anyway, here is last night’s magic.  Black vinegar and home-shaved bonito on top of sautéed renkon.  It only takes about 10 minutes to cook.  All you need besides the renkon dish is white rice.  Savory and comforting dinner is ready.

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Chickpea Journey: to Japanese Homemade Miso

Chickpea Journey: to Japanese Homemade Miso

She is very intelligent, creative, sweet, classy and smart.  She grew up in Hiroshima in Japan and teaches Japanese at private elementary school in Seattle.  I met her for the first time through our mutual friend about month ago.  We hit it off right away and her stories sounded so interesting to me.  She mentioned making miso at her home when we first met and I thought she was my kind of people 🙂

Today she and I got together for brunch at Terra Plata in Capitol Hill.  She brought me a jar of her miso, made with chickpea!  When I opened the lid of the container, it smelled so vibrant. That was the first time for me to try homemade miso ever.  I decided right there to prepare cabbage miso soup tonight.

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This is tonight’s miso soup, made with miso that she poured her passion and love into.  It came out SO delicious.  It reminded of her.  Sweet, wholesome and healthy.

Guilt Free, Calorie Free (not quite but still): Quinoa Salad

Guilt Free, Calorie Free (not quite but still): Quinoa Salad

After eating “dirty chips” (it’s basically nachos.  Potato chips are used instead of corn chips with pull pork, gorgonzola cheese and BBQ sauce) at Maison Tavern (nothing to mention here…I am not a big fan of this place) last night, my stomach has not been happy.  It was too late to regret it when I left the place.

So here is my “feeling guilty” lunch.  I ate oranges and apple for breakfast and quinoa & arugula salad dressed with nutritious yeast, olive oil, lemon juice, champagne vinegar, white wine and salt for lunch.  This should even out 5,000 calories that I had last night, right (I am trying SO hard to feel better about myself)?  You all agree that I can consume more calories at tonight’s dinner since I was being good all day, don’t you?

Happy Friday 🙂

60-degree weather:  Il Corvo, Pioneer Square, Seattle

60-degree weather:  Il Corvo, Pioneer Square, Seattle

This place seats 38 people.  You share your table with strangers.  It only opens 4 hours a day from 11am.  It’s jam packed and you feel like canned anchovy.  They only serve 3 kinds of pasta with a few kinds of appetizers. No desserts, no after lunch coffee.  The line gets long at 11:10am.  They have rules how you eat there.  Be in line for a while, order at this tiny counter, find your table, bus your table, exit.  You get tempted to find your table first then be in line.  No, you don’t do that here.

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It’s mid 60’s today and sunny in Seattle.  It was just perfect to get out.  My co-worker and I hopped on to the “lunch shuttle” from our office building to Pioneer Square and headed to Il Corvo.  We got there 11:10am and there already was a line.  We waited in about 15 minutes or so and we were out of there by 11:55am.  Inside of the restaurant is rustic and welcoming.  Reclaimed wood tables and old wooden floor and vintage pasta machines as interior décor.  Totally my kind of place.  I had torchiette (short pasta) with house made pancetta, sugar snap peas, and parmesan cheese.  Savory, sweet, slightly tangy, delicious.  Perfect amount as well.

Thanks to the gorgeous weather and my co-worker Yumi to make me get out.  I feel like I had a real quick trip to Italy during my lunch hour.

Rika’s Asparagus vs. Dad’s Asparagus: It’s Spring!

Rika’s Asparagus vs. Dad’s Asparagus: It’s Spring!

My mom sucked at cooking asparagus.  It’s more like my dad actually.  He liked vegetables well done (ugh) and she cooked them the way he liked.  I didn’t questioned why my dad liked vegetables cooked that way but I never liked it.  He almost eats anything raw.  Fish, beef, chicken, beans and so forth.  I always thought asparagus tasted like wilted old grass when I was a kid because of this.  I was never a fan until I was in my early 20’s.

My friend Rika and I went out to eat and drink a lot.  We explored the culinary wonderland of Tokyo.  We ate French, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, Ramen, Cuban, German, Hawaiian, Greek, Jamaican, Burger, Pizza, Cajun…you name it.  One day I saw her eating asparagus raw.  I had never met anyone who eats asparagus raw until then.  Light bulb moment.  Ah!  Why the hell didn’t I think of that??  I don’t even have to cook it!  Since that moment on, I haven’t cooked my asparagus until they get wilted.  Never.

It is spring.  My favorite farmers market vendors sell precious green asparagus.  They are beautiful.  Now this is my favorite way of cooking asparagus – lightly sautée in a bit of olive oil, chopped garlic, salt and a good squeeze of lemon juice.  These green stalks have such an ear pleasing snap sound as you bite into them.

Two interesting lessons from my dad and my friend.  Dad, I am sorry but this is how I cook asparagus and I hope you would like it someday.