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July 4th, 2007

10:44 am - Battle of the Homemade Ice Creams: LA 0, OC 1
Fosselman's Ice Cream

Han's Ice Cream
(Santa Ana)

Finally got to try two of the stalwarts of homemade ice cream in their respective areas.

In one corner is Fosselman's, a west SGV institution that has been in the little storefront near the hospital for as long as I can remember. The brown-clad interior is old and dark but clean, forgotten by time. The old fashioned interior is belied by the surprisingly fresh selection of flavors, featuring intriguing tastes such as lychee and taro. Hard pressed to pick just one flavor (the ice cream parlour is a perilous place for the perenially indecisive!), I chose two favorites, a big scoop of mocha topped with one of mint chocolate chip. The mint chocolate chip was unsurprisingly tasty, the mint flavor on the mild side, tempered with fine flecks of well-dispersed chocolate chips. What was surprising, though, was the texture, unusually fluffy for ice cream. Almost like eating a cloud of frozen dairy. I find that the mint chocolate chip here, like just about every version of this I've eaten, is a bit too polite for my taste. My platonic mint chocolate chip would have more contrast, with mint as bracingly cold as gush of ice cold water after a big mouthful of refrigerated York peppermint patties, clashing with big lumps of dark chocolate. Alas, my search for the perfect mint chocolate chip continues. The mocha ice cream, however, was rich in flavor, bold and dark. Eating the almost black scoop of mocha after the mint chocolate chip was like ducking out of the blazing summer sun into a cool, dark room. Very satisfying and not too sweet. Overall I was impressed with the flavors. But the fluffy, fast-melting texture wasn't for me. It made the pleasure of the ice cream all too ephemeral, yet without achieving the ethereal, unbearable lightness of a mousse.

I found the texture I was looking for at Han's, another little old place dishing up homemade ice cream. The range of flavors here was more traditional, with the notable exception of the liquorice ice cream, in a shade of dark dove gray. I was going to get a scoop of mint chocolate chip, to better calibrate Han's ice cream against the Fosselman ice cream, but was deterred by the peanut butter fudge yoghurt. I can't say no to anything peanut butter, so the mint chocolate chip will have to wait for another day. And there will indeed be another day, because the peanut butter fudge was superb. The yoghurt, with wide, coarsely blended streaks of peanut butter and fudge flavors studded with big, irregular chunks of chocolate, was exceptional. The fudge flavor seemed to predominate, but the rich peanut butter flavor was very much present and accounted for, underlined with the subtle tang of yoghurt. And the texture was dense and heavy, perfect for lingering over. If Han can manage this with yoghurt, I shudder to imagine what he can do with ice cream. Near the front door is a fridge stocked with homemade ice cream sandwiches, ice cream bars, and frozen dipped bananas of Ron Jeremy proportions, beckoning for repeat visits.

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October 31st, 2006

03:27 pm - unexpected rendevous

With the building of new roads, some towns have flourished while others floundered. One of the towns that suffered the most from the new highways is WanLan, once a required pit stop for everybody going to Kenting National Park, but now often neglected in favor of towns closer to the freeway. It used to be everyone who went far south in Taiwan made a point of stopping by WanLan for their famous pig feet. I thought with the route that we had chosen, we were going to miss the opportunity for some fine pig feet. But now that the freeway took business away from WonLan, one family, not wanting to miss out on the action, took their pig feet to the freeway, with a big restaurant and a sign giant enough to attract the attention of the even most distracted tourist.

So there we were, miles and miles from WanLan, chowing down on their famous pig feet. The pig feet are slow-cooked in soy sauce until they are thoroughly soaked in flavor, then served slightly chill so that the abundant skin around each foot has a taut, chewy, gelatinous texture. Probably an acquired taste for most people, but for pig feet lovers, it doesn't get any better than this.

We rounded out our meal with intestines sauteed with ginger and vinegar, fried tofu, stir-fried vegetables, and a soup of pig stomach cooked with sour pickles. The rest of the food was pretty good without being particularly remarkable; we were here only for the pig feet anyway. The intestines was a bit too chewy and not quite sour enough. For this dish, the intestines should have been more light and snappy, and the flavor should have been more tart. The version served here is servicable, but I've had better in Hakka villages like MeiNong.

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03:07 pm - Car Town

Back when I was a little kid, there was only one freeway in all of Taiwan, and there was only one way to go from Kaoshiung to Kenting. But now, with the addition of so many new highways and byways, the way people travel has changed entirely. Once-thriving towns that are located next to the old roads are neglected in favor of towns near the new highways, like the oddly named Car Town.

fruits, eggs, and mung bean garlic...Collapse )

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October 27th, 2006

01:59 pm - duck in Kaoshiung

Convenient as the San Gabriel Valley is for Taiwanese people, there are still some things I simply can't get in the States. Decent Taiwanese-style ducks for instance. So when I'm back in my hometown, I always make a point of stopping here, my favorite duck eatery in Kaoshiung. It's very easy to find, directly across the street from DaLi, the second oldest department store in the city. The place has expanded over the years with the brisk business, taking over two stories of a building, but the restaurant is every bit as shabby as when I ate here when I was little.

come inside...Collapse )

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September 29th, 2006

08:31 am - as the moon waxes

After eating mostly Taiwanese-style mooncakes for the past couple of years, I was in the mood for a change. This year I got traditonal full-sized mooncakes made in the Cantonese style from Choi's Bakery and Mei-Xin.

look inside...Collapse )

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September 26th, 2006

11:28 am - a user's guide to Sushi Gen
Sushi Gen
(Little Tokyo, Los Angeles)

Though Sushi Gen is located in a strip mall that is almost completely dead by sunset, the restaurant still draws enough of a crowd during dinnertime to fill the parking lot to capacity. The people are compelled to endure long waits in the packed restaurant for the well-known freshness of their sushi. But what is less well known, even to some of the frequent customers, is the bizzarely labyrinthine heirachy of chefs that determines the quality of the sushi that one eats.

more...Collapse )

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September 25th, 2006

03:01 pm - talk about mixed-used zoning

A middle-aged Taiwanese woman has set up shop selling organic vegetables grown in her backyard. Doesn't sound so notable, except she's selling it right in front of the Dai Ho restaurant in Rosemead, cardboard boxes of bitter melons, bamboo shoots, and various leafy greens plunked into the space between the front of the restaurant and the parking lot. And her backyard is in the posher-than-posh suburb of San Marino, and she delivers her vegetables in a big Mercedes sedan. I've tried some dragon whiskers, a popular Taiwanese vegetable that's well nigh impossible to find here except in farmer's markets. They were surprisingly good, soft and tender, not like the fibrous kind I find at farmer's markets that are about as pleasing to eat as a pile of wood pulp. My mom also came across this woman's vegetables selling at, of all places, a hair salon.

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01:14 pm - the convenient life
(Colorado Blvd, Pasadena)

more...Collapse )

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September 18th, 2006

08:31 pm - Grizzly Man: a contemplation of truth and falsity

Every movie is, at heart, a work about the person who made the movie. This direct yet often disguised relationship between the filmmaker and the film is made explicit in movies about the process of filmmaking, and even more explicit in Grizzly Man, a movie about a movie maker making a movie about another movie maker. Just as Werner Herzog says the tapes made by the Grizzly Man, Timothy Treadwell, are more than just nature films, Herzog's film about him is more than just a documentary. The movie does not aim to set the facts straight; the facts are there in the news: Timothy Treadwell, amateur naturalist and bear enthusiast, was mauled and eaten by one of the bears he loved so much. The movie aims to probe and question, not just the facts concerning Treadwell's life and death, but the very being of the director himself, and ultimately the being of the viewer of the film.

what is false? what is true? who is the true star of the movie?Collapse )

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September 15th, 2006

01:33 pm - nooks and crannies
Like just about any other college campus, Northwestern University is not without its secrets and myths. One of my favorite secret spots is my old workplace, the Deering Library. The Deering Library is attached to the main library and is clearly visible from the street. But the passageway to the library almost seems designed for the sole purpose of throwing people off its elusive track. From the main lobby of the library, you hug the wall on the left side until you reach a small, inconspicuous door in the shadowy corner of the room. From there you walk down a plain looking hallway, ending in yet another small door, which leads to a starkly white, long hallway whose high, narrow dimensions makes it subterranean in feel. And the hallway leads you to an empty hallway in a dark and gloomy basement. It's only when you climb up the stone steps, worn into soft cresent shapes in the middle from countless feet over countless years, that you reach the library.

insider's tour of NorthwesternCollapse )

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