Montreal

We decided to go for a quick trip to Montreal in November.  It was extremely cold.  We had a fabulous greeting from our AirBNB host Marie Claude who laid out French pastries, fresh fruit, sparkling water and opened up fresh beers for us.

The first morning, I went on a quest for Fairmont Bagels.  I decided to practice my French and navigation skills by taking the public bus there.  When I asked, “Est-ce que je peux payer avec la carte bleue”, the bus driver just gestured to sit back in the bus.  It was so nice that I didn’t get kicked off.

It was less than 20 degrees F outside and my nose was running as I  made my way towards the bagel store.  The storefront is so small and inconspicuous that I overshot it by a block.  I finally backtracked and found it only to see that there was a cash only sign so I went to the neighborhood cafe which had an ATM.

The bagels were delicious! They were crunchy and had delicious flavor.  I bought a smoked salmon spread.  When I first asked about the different varieties of cream cheese, they showed me containers of Kraft Philadelphia cream cheese so I’m lucky I noticed they had salmon spread.

Isadore Shlafman started this bagel store in 1919 and his grandchildren continue using his methods and traditions of bagel making.  The bagels were much smaller than the NY ones and I bought a supersized NY pretzel bagel but the small ones tasted better.

Montreal has wonderful farmer’s markets.  We visited Jean Talon and Atwater.  There are many speciality stores.  We saw one that grew giant sized mushrooms and everything looks amazingly fresh.  We bought some farm-fresh eggs and Canadian bacon which we cooked for breakfast at home the next morning.

We walked around the old town our first morning and visited the Notre-Dame Basilica which is very beautiful.  We ate lunch at a small hand pulled noodle store in Chinatown called Nouilles de Lan Zhou (Noodles from Lan Zhou).  Lan Zhou is a province in North West China and the beef is cooked and sliced very thin and laid out as a topping on the hand made noodles.  The soy-sauce marinated egg was not salty enough but that didn’t prevent the boys from enjoying it.  I mainly took the picture of the Hello Kitty buns for my niece Lana who is in love with Hello Kitty.  It is a shame I couldn’t send her one but maybe one day, I will be inspired enough to try to make it.

The wait is quite long because the restaurant is super small but you can watch them roll out the noodles by hand as you wait.  It was a good bowl of noodles.

L’Avenue came highly recommended by our AirBNB hostess Marie-Claude and it did not disappoint.  She told us to arrive early to avoid the big crowds so we arrived around 8:30 am and were seated immediately.  Pictured is the truffled egg omelette covered in many different types of delicious mushrooms.  Jaime ordered the Reese’s Pieces shake and he drank all of it which subsequently made him feel like throwing up. There certainly is too much of a good thing.  The bathrooms are really interesting covered in graffiti and neon light.  I had the most delicious french toast and pancakes.  When I say most delicious, I mean better than anywhere else I’ve ever eaten at!

The French toast had an amazing sugary coated crunch and the inside was gooey yet cooked.  They give you a container of real maple syrup, such as the one pictured on the top left.  Fruit skewers are included with every entree and the pancakes taste wonderful and are very fluffy.  L’Avenue is famous for its eggs benedict which we didn’t try but as we exited, the line outdoors was huge!

The Rue Barree pillow is everywhere in stores because Montreal is going through a massive construction period.  Many streets are closed and I hear residents are very tired of it.  In the afternoon, we visited the BioDome which is like a huge indoor zoo with different zones like tropical rain forest, laurentian forest, Saint Lawrence Marine Eco-system and a Sub-Polar region.  The highlight was watching two sloths crawl around on the ceiling pipes.  We also visited my friend Joan in her downtown penthouse which was located just a two minute walk from our rental.  As we drove to the airport, the clouds were very beautiful so I took a picture.

If I ever return, I would like to try the restaurant Joe Beef. It looks like a very good place to eat.  I would also like to try a sushi place called Park.  The Chef Antonio Park is Korean but grew up in Argentina.  He went to culinary school in Japan and just his background makes me want to try his restaurant out.  On their website he writes, “People think it’s a sushi place, or a Korean restaurant, but it’s also the South American flavors of my youth.”

So Montreal, a la prochaine fois!

Boston

Our family decided to road trip up to Boston over Thanksgiving weekend.  I have been interested in the chef/baker Joanne Chang ever since I read many years ago that she is a Harvard graduate in math/economics and decided to pursue professional cooking.  Her bakery Flour was becoming famous even when Eco was a baby when we lived in the Allston/Brighton area.  Now Flour has seven branches and she has her own restaurant Myers and Chang.

I was in Brookline’s Booksmith book store when I browsed through her book: Baking with Less Sugar: Recipes for Dessert using Natural Sweeteners and Little-to-No White Sugar.  That immediately made me want to retry Flour and eat at her Asian themed restaurant.  It was a bit difficult to convince Humberto to eat at the same chef’s bakery and restaurant for breakfast and lunch but I managed to have my way.

We went to the Cambridge based Flour for breakfast and walked it off strolling through Harvard Yard.

I love her motto “Make Life Sweeter.  Eat dessert first!”  The breakfast sandwich was not impressive as my egg was not very hot and I was very envious of Humberto’s avocado toast.  I would have much preferred my sandwich to be on whole grain bread.  The vegan Chocolate Banana muffin pictured in the center was heavenly.  Possibly the best baked item I have eaten all year long! Sadly, it is not featured in her low sugar cookbook but I will play around with her banana bread recipe.  The almond croissant was a bit heavy and very mediocre but I have probably eaten too many fresh from the oven croissants while living abroad in France so my standards have become almost impossible when it comes to croissants.

We took the boys to play football on the campuses of Boston College and MIT.  They were not interested at all in the schools but had a lot of fun playing football.

We had a very late lunch at Myers and Chang around 3 pm.  It is an incredibly popular place.  That was the only time I could reserve a table for five.  I have to admit that I need to stop trying Asian food at Asian fusion places.  I really only like authentic Asian places in Chinatown.  Even then, the meat needs to be fresh and the ingredients have to be sourced well.  I was the only Asian person at Myers and Chang, including all the chefs, servers and staff.

We ordered a smorsgasbord of pretty forgetful dishes.  I really liked the Vietnamese spring rolls but I can pick that up for a fraction of the price at any Vietnamese cafe/deli.

The fried rice was ridiculously bad.  It was greasy and heavy.  The green one was worse than the other one.  The spareribs had a very gamey taste.  The eggplants were ok but also to sweet and oily.  I enjoyed the potstickers and the noodle dishes but felt that they were far from spectacular.

The mussels on the lower left were definitely my favorite dish.  They were flavored with lemon grass and were fresh and delicate.  The udon and chicken wings were good on the top left.  Definitely skip the two fried rices on the right.

Humberto took the boys to the Patriots game in Foxborough and on our way back to New York, we stopped for pizza at Sally’s in New Haven.  We have been going to Frank Pepe’s since Eco was a baby and had always heard of Sally’s but had never tried it.  Frank Pepe’s has a branch in Yonkers which is less than a ten minute drive for us so we eat there pretty often and it is no longer that special since we have easy access to it.

Sally’s Apizza was delicious but the service left a lot to be desired.  We waited forever to be seated.  Then once seated, it took so long for us to get our menus that I finally went and grabbed them myself.  But the pizza was worth the wait.  It was piping hot and had a delicious crust and just the right ratio of sauce to cheese.

Humberto and Teo were lucky enough to get a photo of the pizza oven.  Salvatore Consiglio established Sally’s in 1938 and I’m pretty sure his two sons Bob and Rick were the two old men behind the pizza ovens.

Our family of five almost ate the entire pie!  There is nothing quite comparable to New Haven pizza.  I’m not sure why it is superior to even the Manhattan pies.  We’ve tried Roberta’s and many other famous places but Sally’s Apizza and Frank Pepe’s in New Haven, CT are truly amazing!

 

Chicago

It’s not every day that you see a pig on the streets of Chicago.

I went to see my friend Anush in November and we went to the Ukrainian Village to check out the neighborhood.  This pig is responsible for this blog coming back to life.  I haven’t written anything in almost two years but I felt compelled to post a picture of this pig.

Of course we had to check out some Ukrainian delis and grocery stores.  I always love the fresh Ukrainian pastries.  This was a beautiful bread decorated with birds and flowers.  We also went and destroyed our appetites by eating at Fatso’s Last Stand.  It is a small hot dog stand that is absolutely delicious.  We ordered a Chicago dog but as we were waiting, I noticed that they had won many awards for having the best hamburger so I added that to our order as well.  We did not regret that decision! The burger was moist and heavenly.  I eat at In and Out all the time because I’m a San Diego girl but these hamburgers were much better!  The Chicago dog has yellow mustard, chopped white onions, green pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato slices, pickled sport peppers and some celery salt on a poppyseed bun.

Anush loved the fries and I have the photo to prove it.

We had lunch at Roister which is a new restaurant (2016) opened by Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas.  The executive chef is Andrew Browhu.  To be honest, I really want to eat at Alinea but it is very difficult to get a seat and almost prohibitively expensive.  I was intrigued by the concept of Roister as they advertise their restaurant concept as bringing the kitchen to the diner.  We were seated around a large work space in which we had a direct view of a large wood-fired grill.  Unfortunately, lunch is really not the time to try this restaurant.  They had very few options that were cooked on the grill.  Only a $53 Japanese A-5 quarter pounder burger or toast.  I couldn’t believe the server would even mention that the toast would be cooked on the grill.  You do not go to a fine dining restaurant that features a wood-fired grill to eat toast!

I ordered the Fried chicken sandwich and was sorely disappointed.  My friend had been watching a sous-chef fry chicken pieces and within two minutes of ordering, I was presented with my sandwich that had already been previously fried and was sitting on a warming platter.  The chicken meat quantity was pathetic.  It was the thickness of a chopstick and heavily battered.  If I had not already wrecked my appetite by eating half a hot dog and half a burger, I would have been extremely hungry.

IMG_9694

So the verdict is out.  Skip Roister.  Spent lots of money at Alinea.  From everything I have read and seen, that is an experience that will be worth paying for!

My Chicago trip heavily focused on the chef Stephanie Izard.  She shot to fame as the first female chef to win Bravo’s Top Chef and this year, she defeated Bobby Flay, Michael Symon and Masaharu Morimoto to be named Iron Chef.

Anush and I visited her restaurant The Girl and the Goat.  They save a few seats right when they open so we arrived just before 4:30 pm and were able to get a seat.

The restaurant concept is ordering many different items to share.  My favorite was the egg dish.  It is called Pig Face and parts of a pig’s face are roasted in a wood fire oven.  I really liked the texture of the meat and the gelatin.  It was my favorite item.  We ordered the goat satay skewers (mainly to say that we ate goat at this restaurant) and were unimpressed.  The meat was a bit dry and not that flavorful.  The scallops were delicious but lacking in portion size and the sauce was much too salty.  I enjoyed the restaurant ambiance but wouldn’t be in a hurry to go back.

Across the street was the Little Goat Diner.  I watched a video about the chef and she initially wanted a small bakery to make the breads for The Girl and the Goat restaurant.  When the large corner space became available, she took it and made it into a large diner.  The bakery area is also next to a large bar and Anush and I spent a long time watching them bake bread and make cakes.  The bread that we ate at her restaurant was amazing.

The next day, I also walked into her third restaurant Duck Duck Goat near the Meatpacking district.  It is Chinese-themed restaurant and has a large bar in the middle of the restaurant and is very colorful.

 

 

 

Starch Glorious Starch

Starch Glorious Starch

Spring has finally arrived in Bronxville and it feels amazing waking up every morning and not having to go outside into the “deep freeze”. The daffodils are in full bloom and the tulips are just beginning to bloom. It is actually a great time to visit the area.

Spring Daffodils

Spring Daffodils

I have been baking and cooking quite a bit. Almost everything feels like it is based on starch, hence the title of my blog. Last week, I showed my friend Laura how to make a Chinese New Year cake. It is similar to eating Japanese mochi but this version is baked so the preparation is much faster.
Here are pictures and the recipe:

Red azuki beans, rice flour, Taiwan black sugar

Red azuki beans, rice flour, Taiwan black sugar

Baking with Laura

Baking with Laura

End result

End result

Nian Gao- Baked Chinese New Year Cake
adapted from a recipe by Frances Kai-Hwa Wang “Asian American Village”

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 50 minutes

Ingredients
16 oz. Mochiko sweet rice flour (glutinous rice flour), plus a bit extra for sprinkling on the baking dish
1/8 cup of vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 ½ cups water
¼ cup white granulated sugar
½ cup Taiwanese black sugar (if unavailable, use white or brown sugar)
1 teaspoon baking soda
one can of red azuki beans
Preparation
Mix everything but the beans with an electric mixer at medium speed for 2 minutes. Beat for 2 more minutes at high speed.
Sprinkle Mochiko flour over a 9”x13” baking dish that has been lightly greased with unsalted butter (or spray Pam)
Spread half the batter on the bottom of the baking pan. Spoon out even lumps of azuki bean from the can all over as evenly as possible. Then spread the other half of the batter over the azuki beans. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 50 minutes. Test for doneness by inserting a chopstick.

It tastes great immediately after baking because of the crunchy crust. Saran wrap leftovers so it doesn’t get too dry.

The other complicated thing I made was Chinese Green Onion Pancakes. They are not that complicated but the clean up is a drag because flour gets all over the counter.

Roll out dough into small lumps.

Roll out dough into small lumps.

Flatten with a rolling pin. Add salt. Flatten salt. Add oil. Add chopped green onion and roll into a tube.

Flatten with a rolling pin. Add salt. Flatten salt. Add oil. Add chopped green onion and roll into a tube.

Heat a pan nice and hot. Add flattened pancake. Make both sides golden.

Heat a pan nice and hot. Add flattened pancake. Make both sides golden.

Do not cover once you flip the first time.

Do not cover once you flip the first time.

IMG_5628

IMG_5627

Time to enjoy.

Time to enjoy.

The ingredients are very simple: flour, water, salt, green onions and oil.
For the dough, I like to use warm water. Mix roughly 3 parts flour to 1 part water. I use a kitchen aid and keep on adding flour until I see the correct consistency.
You need to keep your work space floured. I split my dough into about a few pieces. Once you flatten, you have to add salt everywhere and roll it into the dough. Then you add some a teaspoon of oil onto the middle of the dough pancake. Lift the edges and fold over so that the oil goes everywhere. Then you add the green onions and roll. You pinch the ends, twist and cut into two or three pieces. Then you have to roll it out again and then you are ready to fry. I would consult another cookbook if you are going to give this a try!

I won’t bother with posting recipes but here are more “starchy” things I made.

Banana bread

Banana bread

Madeleines

Madeleines

Hand made dumpling skin

Hand made dumpling skin

Pork, shrimp, and chive filling

Pork, shrimp, and chive filling

I was lucky enough to learn how to make Udon with my friend Yasuko Sakai. She is offering cooking lessons in Homemade Japanese Food.

Tamago-yaki: Rolled Japanese Omelet

Tamago-yaki: Rolled Japanese Omelet

Udon with Spinach "shira-ae"- Spinach dressed with tofu

Udon with Spinach “shira-ae”- Spinach dressed with tofu

The chef hard at work!

The chef hard at work!

The lunch tasted amazing and I am looking forward to trying to make her recipe on my own.

On a separate occasion, Yasuko invited a few girlfriends over for lunch. It was a bento style lunch.

Toppings for the rice. Clockwise from top right: marinated, baked tofu, natto (fermented soybeans), ground meat, eggs, vegetables)

Toppings for the rice. Clockwise from top right: marinated, baked tofu, natto (fermented soybeans), ground meat, eggs, vegetables)

Dessert (green tea, madeleines, red bean cake, strawberries)

Dessert (green tea, madeleines, red bean cake, strawberries)

Girlfriends enjoying lunch

Girlfriends enjoying lunch

I am planning to host a breakfast that is based on the Taiwanese congee breakfast.

Dried scallop and lotus nut congee from XO Cafe in Manhattan

Dried scallop and lotus nut congee from XO Cafe in Manhattan

I have already purchased all the random jar condiments but need to find a morning when my friends are free. I also smuggled in some dried radish from Taiwan and am going to make a dried radish omelette to accompany it. My boys love congee with pork floss. It is basically dried pork with tons of sugar and MSG. They can eat mountains of the stuff, particularly Jaime!

Winter Wonderland
I wanted to add pictures of the snow. We had a TON of it this winter, particularly in February and March. On the first official day of Spring, we even had six more inches.
IMG_5540

IMG_5553

IMG_5539

IMG_5538

Snow Day

Snow Day

We also took the boys Cross Country Skiing at Fahnestock State Park. They hated it! They definitely like to go downhill and didn’t understand why they had to walk through the snow.
IMG_5513

IMG_5512

Cross Country Skiing

Cross Country Skiing

At the lower field of Gramatan Court

At the lower field of Gramatan Court

For my birthday activity, we went ice skating. The boys didn’t love it but they didn’t hate it either.

Skating at Hommocks Ice Rink in Larchmont

Skating at Hommocks Ice Rink in Larchmont

Humberto showing Teo how to skate via YouTube

Humberto showing Teo how to skate via YouTube

A very unhealthy snowcone snack.

A very unhealthy snowcone snack.

Since we are focusing on starch in this post, I can’t forget to post a picture of my very decadent birthday cake from the Riviera Bakehouse in Ardsley. It was top notch!
IMG_5607

Chocolate mousse cake

Chocolate mousse cake

During the boy’s Spring Break, our family spent five days in Killington, Vermont. We had gone there for a long weekend the year before, so felt like we knew the mountain much better this time around. My most amazing discovery was renting two big lockers. Every day when we were done skiing, we would bring the whole family to the ski locker and leave shoes, skis and gear there. It felt amazing to leave the mountain in our comfortable shoes, carrying nothing!

Teo at his ski school yurt.

Teo at his ski school yurt.

IMG_5692

IMG_5691

IMG_5690
IMG_5679

IMG_5677

IMG_5662

Belgian Waffle from the Waffle Cabin

Belgian Waffle from the Waffle Cabin

On our last day of skiing (and waffle eating), I happened to chat in French with the owner of the Waffle Cabin. He is from Belgium and he told me that these waffles are called “Gaufres de Liege”. The sweet starchy crunchy waffle drizzled in chocolate is an excellent snack after a long day of skiing on the slopes (or even a not so long day).

I also must include a picture of the baked goods from a local bakery in Killington called The Sunup Bakery.

Blueberry muffin, Espresso bread pudding muffin, and cider donut.

Blueberry muffin, Espresso bread pudding muffin, and cider donut.

All three items were not that impressive but I was curious as the bakery had received lots of great reviews on yelp so I don’t regret trying it.

Last but not least, Humberto and I went out one evening and sampled beers at the Long Trail Brewing Company. It was neat to see their state of the art brewing system on a self guided tour at the second floor.
We destroyed our dinner appetite by ordering the Plymouth Cheddar Queso Dip with chorizo sausage and the Jonas Buffalo Wings. The Wings were awesome! I am not a big Wings fan but I would go back to eat that again in a heartbeat.
IMG_5682

Long Trail Beer Sampler

Long Trail Beer Sampler

IMG_5683

So all in all, a very long, extremely cold winter helped by lots of sugar and alcohol.

Mahjong and chess
This winter, I also started participating in an evening Mahjong Club.
I have become thoroughly addicted and it is often the highlight of my week- especially if I have a great hand.
I often send pictures of my tiles to my Mother. It is partially to show her that other than playing tennis, I have expanded my repertoire to include mahjong!
IMG_5760

IMG_5759

IMG_5652

IMG_5651

IMG_5567

The boys on the other hand have become addicted to chess. It started out being wonderful that they were playing chess instead of breaking the house down with NFL style indoor football but now it has become nearly impossible to get them to concentrate on their homework and piano since all they want to do is play chess.

I guess there are worse evils!

Teo has beaten his father!

Teo has beaten his father!

Chess playdate

Chess playdate

Teo at Avenues

Teo at Avenues

Jaime at Avenues

Jaime at Avenues

IMG_5745

IMG_5753

IMG_5754

IMG_5756

And to finish off this long post, a final picture:

Chocolate Chess!

Chocolate Chess!

Brooklyn and Beyond

This past month, I have spent quite a lot of time “on the other side” of town- meaning I have often left Bronxville in pursuit of new scenery, new food, and a different atmosphere.

Park Slope
I spent an afternoon in Park Slope by myself one Sunday. It took forever to get there. I think it took around one hour and forty minutes because the trains were slow and I had to transfer at Grand Central. I had visited Park Slope about four years ago when my friend Sarah lived there with her family. We had eaten pizza and walked around Prospect Park with her girls. This time, I went into Barnes and Nobles and took a picture of the neighborhood on my phone and explored the interesting food stores nearby.

Map to the Holy Food Grail

Map to the Holy Food Grail

I first went to the Bagel Hole.
My bagel was still warm and it was excellent. The crust was still crunchy and the interior was dense and moist. I read that New Yorkers never toast their bagels and that this bagel baker makes his bagels the old fashioned way without using a special dough conditioner nicknamed “Reddi Sponge”. The owner’s name is Phil Romanzi and he’s been making bagels the old fashioned way since 1986. I did not meet the baker but will definitely recommend this place for a great bagel. 400 7th Ave between 12th and 13th Street.

My excellent still warm everything bagel. An added plus- no fennel seeds!

My excellent still warm everything bagel. An added plus- no fennel seeds!

I then visited Colson Patisserie and bought a chocolate eclair. The bakery is owned by Belgians and it had a nice, relaxed family atmosphere inside. The eclair was good but not excellent. I am still looking for a great eclair in New York City. So far, nothing has compared to the ones I became accustomed to eating in France. And I have tried- Financier, Dominique Ansel, Eric Kayser, Francois Payard… just to name a few! I ate half the eclair and saved the rest as I was getting quite full but still wanted to sample some other things.

IMG_5562

Eclair au chocolat

Eclair au chocolat

I walked by the Park Slope Food Co-op. It was bustling inside and a line was beginning to form out the door. I was very curious and wanted to walk around but when I enquired about it, a staff member said I had to be a member or a member’s guest to look inside. It seemed like a great place to source fresh groceries and if I lived there, I would definitely want to join.

Next I went to Gorilla Cafe. It was all black and red inside and had a lot of people working on laptops. My coffee was not the way I like it so I went back in line and asked them to fix it. They did it though the barrister commented, “Next time you should order coffee flavored milk!” I felt a bit annoyed as I had specifically requested half coffee and half milk but at least they fixed it.

Gorilla Coffee

Gorilla Coffee

I then went to Brklyn Larder. It was on the corner of a busy intersection so I almost missed it but it looked amazing. I should have eaten lunch there but I was thinking of eating at a crepe place so I didn’t buy anything. The prepared foods looked amazing and they had a huge selection of specialty foods like cheese, sausage, charcuterie, spreads, olives, and baked goods.

I stopped by a crepe place called Cafe Dada owned by French and Hungarian people but felt depressed at the prospect of eating by myself so I decided not to eat there. It comes highly recommended by my friend Galit so I will try it someday with a friend.

I ended up eating at a small Shawarma place and it was disgusting. I don’t remember the name but I will definitely never eat there again. The lamb was super salty and I ended up throwing it away and eating lettuce and tomatoes inside a pita bread for lunch. I wasn’t that hungry anyway so it wasn’t that big a deal but I definitely wasted an opportunity to eat good food for lunch.

The very yucky lunch

The very yucky lunch

After roaming around for three plus hours, I decided I missed the boys and took the train home. As soon as I returned home, I couldn’t remember why I had missed them as they were screaming at each other and fighting. Such is life.

Williamsburg
My birthday was on March 14th so the day before, Humberto took the day off and we spent it together. We first went to Mamaroneck and worked out at the Equinox. I really don’t enjoy gyms. Partially, I am always thinking that I’d rather be playing tennis and the other reason is that I like watching TV and reading the teleprompter and I feel like I don’t want to be running too fast as I might slip on the treadmill or on the step machine because my concentration is with the TV. Anyway, it is a personal thing but I have never really enjoyed exercising indoors. I do love the steam room. On a cold winter day, it is so enjoyable to feel warm again. I think I will be joining the Equinox next winter just for the steam room. It is life changing.

We drove to Williamsburg and as we were arriving, we received a phone call saying that there had been a plumbing problem at school and that there was going to be an emergency school dismissal for all three boys. Thank goodness for good friends! My close friend Yasuko helped me collect the boys and I managed to find a babysitter to come to the house a few hours earlier than planned.

Humberto and I walked a bit around Williamsburg and then went to lunch at Roberta’s. He had found this restaurant on yelp and it was billed as having the best pizza in the entire New York area.

We started off with split pea soup and it came with a big hunk of ‘pain de campagne’, a crunchy leavened bread. The bread was delicious and I enjoyed the soup but after eating it, I wasn’t very hungry for the pizza.
We ordered two different flavors and they were just mediocre for me. I must admit that I couldn’t judge well as I had spoiled my appetite on the bread and soup.

Next time, we will order the margarita. The crust was definitely good and the ingredients were high quality so I am sure that that combination makes for a delicious pie.

Split pea soup with batard

Split pea soup with batard

Four Emperor's : arrabbiata, mozzarella, ricotta, young pepato, asiago, sesame seed.  The combination of flavors didn't impress me.

Four Emperor’s : arrabbiata, mozzarella, ricotta, young pepato, asiago, sesame seed. The combination of flavors didn’t impress me.

Cowabunga Dude: tomato, caciocavallio, parmigiano, pepperoni, mushrooms, onion, green pepper. Tasted like an everything pizza but had a strange cheese base which made me wish that it had been mozzarella instead.

Cowabunga Dude: tomato, caciocavallio, parmigiano, pepperoni, mushrooms, onion, green pepper. Tasted like an everything pizza but had a strange cheese base which made me wish that it had been mozzarella instead.

After looking at the pictures and the ingredients, I did not have a great impression of Roberta’s because I didn’t like the toppings we picked on the pizza. Definitely a great place for pizza and beer but next time we are going to just stick with the tomatoes, basil and mozzarella!

We decided to leave our car parked in a very questionable neighborhood as we had six hours to wander around before dinner and figured that we could either walk back or taxi at night. We walked through a very delapidated, industrial, ugly area before finally arriving at Greenpoint. We really had no set destination except to walk around Williamsburg so we inadvertently found ourselves in a Polish neighborhood. Many of the shops and bakeries were decorated with Easter decorations and we enjoyed seeing the little birds and eggs. I got yelled at by the store clerk for the following pictures. As she was saying “No photos”, I was walking out of the store!

Authentic Polish Sausage

Authentic Polish Sausage

We spent a long time walking around Greenpoint and rested at a nice cafe. Then we finally turned around and explored the heart of Williamburg. We had been there once before with our boys. Williamsburg has a very nice view of Manhattan and we had taken them to a food truck area and also to a Uruguayan restaurant as it was during the World Cup of 2014. On the walk there, I had spotted an Asian chef smoking on the side of a building called Bistro Petit. I had quickly crossed the street to look at the menu and had discovered that it was Korean and French which is a very unusual combination! Later on, I did some internet research and watched a video clip where the chef, Sung Park, says that his parents had a Korean restaurant and that he definitely did not want to be making the traditional kalbi and bibimbap dishes his entire life. I was very intrigued so for my birthday dinner, I requested that we go to Bistro Petit, which is Sung Park’s restaurant.

Selfie

Selfie

The waitress told us that the chef has plans to open up a 3000 sq ft restaurant so this is probably our last experience dining at the original restaurant. It was really tiny. There were counter seats for ten and one table for two. We were lucky to snap up the one table but it would have been nice to eat at the counter and chat with the chef. Unfortunately all my pictures are super dark but I will post them anyway. There is no ambiance in this restaurant. They have a lot of business delivering take out so the kitchen door and restaurant entrance doors are constantly being opened and closed. The food was spectacular and so was our wine. We knew in advance that the restaurant had a BYOB policy with a $10 corkage fee so we (should say he) splurged on a bottle of Red Burgundy.

Yummy

Yummy

We ordered the Wild Mushrooms appetizers.
It was scrumptious. Lately, I find that I like meat less and less and have a real affinity for mushrooms and tofu. But the meat I ate at Bistro Petit was very enjoyable, in part because it wasn’t a huge quantity and because it was flavored exceptionally well.

Oyster, shiitake, honshimeji, maitaki, enoki, white truffle oil, garlic, herbs and toast

Oyster, shiitake, honshimeji, maitaki, enoki, white truffle oil, garlic, herbs and toast

We also ordered the Duck Confit appetizer. Duck confit is made with a piece of duck leg that is slow cooked in its own fat for many hours. In France, you can buy jars of duck confit where the cooked duck is preserved in more duck fat. It is decadent and delicious.

Duck leg, baby lettuce, pomegranate seeds, pomegranate vinaigrette, foie gras toast

Duck leg, baby lettuce, pomegranate seeds, pomegranate vinaigrette, foie gras toast

It is a real shame the pictures were so dark. You can not see the crispiness of the duck skin or the freshness of all the ingredients.

For our entrees, we ordered the Kimchi Bouillabaise and the Korean Beef Bourguignon. Bouillabaise originated in Marseille, France and is a fish and seafood stew. I have unfortunately never tried an authentic one but this one was delicious. I tried to make it at home and the boys pretty much rejected my imitation but I will continue working on it!
Beef Bourguignon is also a very famous dish made by slow cooking beef with red burgundy wine, garlic, onions, herbs and mushrooms.
We were not that impressed with the beef dish but thought the seafood dish was heavenly. We brought home the liquid base and combined it with some instant ramen. To this day, Teo keeps on asking for more and I have to disappoint him each time because I don’t know how to make this chef’s Kimchi Bouillabaise.

Kimchi Bouillabaise: Mussels, Scallop, Pollack, Shrimp, Fried Tofu, Kombu, White Wine, Korean Chili Paste, Housemade Kimchi

Kimchi Bouillabaise: Mussels, Scallop, Pollack, Shrimp, Fried Tofu, Kombu, White Wine, Korean Chili Paste, Housemade Kimchi

Korean Beef Bourguignon: Braised Grass Fed Short Rib, Glazed Carrot, Chipolini Onion, Shiitake Mushroom, Sliced Granny Smith Apple, Grated Horseradish, Crushed Baked Potato with Garlic Confit

Korean Beef Bourguignon: Braised Grass Fed Short Rib, Glazed Carrot, Chipolini Onion, Shiitake Mushroom, Sliced Granny Smith Apple, Grated Horseradish, Crushed Baked Potato with Garlic Confit

Dessert, we ordered fresh beignets (donuts) and they were piping hot which made them extra delicious.

Les Beignets

Les Beignets

It was freezing outside so we abandoned our plans to walk back to the car and took a cab back. The ride home was only thirty six minutes so we are definitely motivated to bring our boys back to explore the Williamsburg dining scene.

Flushing
I went one morning to Flushing with a group of my Asian Mommy friends from Bronxville. We only had about an hour to shop for food before eating dimsum so the first part of the morning felt like a mad dash around the main street. I picked up some egg tarts from a famous egg tart bakery inside of JMart. My physical therapist’s sister is married to the baker and she told me that he is very famous for his egg tarts but that he has a hard time making money because they are priced very low. It is true. A nice piece of French tart will cost at least $5. An egg tart is only $1.25. Part of the reason we agreed is that this is Flushing, Chinatown, and Chinese people are not willing to pay much more for food if they can get another similar item for a better price. I think this is changing though. The newer generation with more disposable income has a great appetite for luxury goods and if something is known to be delicious and much better than the norm, people are willing to stand in line and shell out the money. One Taiwanese beef noodle vendor in Taiwan charges a whopping 10,000NT ($324 USD) for his beef noodle soup. The restaurant’s name is Niu Ba Ba which is “Father of Beef”.

One of my favorite places in Flushing sells traditional breakfast items. I always line up for their “Luo Mi Tuan” or “Fan Tuan”. It is sticky rice with pork floss, fried salty donut, and preserved turnip all wrapped in saran wrap. Sounds disgusting but it is one of my favorite foods. I always really enjoy eating it but then feel uncomfortably full for many hours afterwards. They also have many different types of congee (rice porridge) and a very nice “dan bing” which is a soft scallion pancake with a scrambled egg crepe on top. I brought “dan bing” home and reheated it and it was really not so tasty so I highly recommend saving up an appetite and having breakfast there. They also serve hot soymilk and fried chinese donut which is wonderful when fresh. I unfortunately have no idea what the name of this place is. When I first tried to look for it, my friend told me that it is not far from a Starbucks and also not far from the train tracks. It has a small area outside selling pastries. With that description, I doubt anyone can ever find it but I will try to jot down the name the next time I go.

Our group finally had dimsum at Asian Jewels Seafood Restaurant. In my 18 months of living in Bronxville, up until last week, this is the only dimsum place I have ever eaten at in Flushing. My friend Amy finally took me to East Manor last week and I was amazed that it was so much less chaotic. We had six boys between the two moms and boy did they eat up a storm!
At Asian Jewels, we ordered a ton of different dishes.
IMG_5555

Dimsum with friends

Dimsum with friends

From the teapot heading right, we ordered pork ribs, tripe, tofu skin wrapped around pork filling. The rest are a variety of wrapped dumplings- many with shrimp filling.
I love eating dimsum with a big group. The ladies manning the dimsum carts always have scissors and can chop rolls in two which creates the opportunity to try twice as much.

From Bronxville, Flushing is only about a twenty five minute drive. You have to cross the Whitestone Bridge which has a toll of $8.00 cash (but $5.54 EZ pass) but by now, we are accustomed to the high prices of bridge tolls and it doesn’t seem that expensive. It is definitely worth paying and driving to find good Chinese food. I have given up on good Chinese food in the neighboring vicinity of Bronxville. In Hartsdale, there is one small Chinese market called Kam Sen. They have an excellent porridge with thousand year egg and pork but if I am going to drive twenty minutes north, I might as well drive twenty five minutes south east and have the entire Chinatown of Flushing to explore!

New York City

We just spent a week living on the Upper East Side in New York City.  We rented a 2 bedroom, 1 bath apartment through air b&b during the boy’s February break.  At first, we were contemplating going skiing.  We couldn’t agree on a location so ended up having a mini “staycation” twenty five minutes south of where we live (by car). In the end, it was fortunate that we didn’t go to Vermont.  From what I could hear in the school hallway, most families that headed North did not get to ski much as it was too cold.  Even in the city, temperatures hovered close to zero for three out of the five week days so it was HARD to get the boys outside.

We got an early start to our week in the city by driving in on Sunday to the Natural History Museum.  I had managed to get two free passes from the Bronxville library.  I should have asked Humberto to get two more passes with his card but that will be for our next trip, if we ever go back.  Surprisingly, after waiting a long time to exchange my library passes for real tickets, no one checked my tickets.  We wandered through the museum with three complaining boys trailing behind.  Less than two hours later, we left and ate lunch at the Shake Shack.  The kids wolfed down their food and topped it off with a milkshake.  Then we took a cab to Times Square and saw The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.  We had spent the previous week watching the first two Hobbit movies at home so it was a nice family film watching experience.

Monday afternoon, we took the train into the city and then took a taxi to the apartment.  The apartment was small compared to our townhouse in Bronxville but it fit us adequately.  There were two floors.  The bottom floor had a small kitchen, living room and bedroom.  The top floor had another bedroom and a bathroom.  The stairs were pretty scary.  There were huge gaping holes so it was lucky for us that Teo is already six and a half.  Even at night, I was scared that someone would fall through the top floor stair railing on their way to the bathroom.  Luckily, the only terrible thing that happened one afternoon was someone rang and knocked frantically at the door.  I just ignored it but from that moment, I didn’t feel very secure in the apartment.  The very best part of the apartment was the location.  It was on 89th street and 3rd ave.  The day after we moved in, Whole Foods had a grand opening on 87th and 3rd and down the street was a bakery called Eric Kayser.  There are many in the city but having it less than a 3 minute walk away was totally awesome.  I would buy a mixture of pain au chocolat and brioche to bring home to the boys.

IMG_5411 IMG_5463

This stair well is definitely not for the faint of heart.

This stair well is definitely not for the faint of heart.

This is the Eric Kayser spread with fruit from Fairways which is also very close.

Tastes exactly like the one in Paris!

Tastes exactly like the one in Paris!

And we can’t forget the picture taken at the store.

Les viennoiseries - special french vocabulary just for these morning delights

Les viennoiseries – special french vocabulary just for these morning delights

Eric Kayser fruit tarts

Eric Kayser fruit tarts

Our big event for the night was dinner at Sakagura. It turned out to be the best eating experience of our entire week so here is their contact info:
211 East 43rd St. B1F (between 2nd and 3rd ave)
http://www.sakagura.com 212 953 7253

To Humberto’s great annoyance, I took pictures of almost every dish that arrived that night. And there were many!
At times, he would have his chopsticks poised, and I’d be saying “Just two more seconds!” while fumbling with the camera.
Luckily for my blog readers, I was able to take a lot of shots and I even went back to study the menu and am going to write an accurate caption on each picture.

We ordered a slightly sweet sake recommended by the waiter.

We ordered a slightly sweet sake recommended by the waiter.


Maguro yamakake: sashimi tuna with mountain yam

Maguro yamakake: sashimi tuna with mountain yam


Amadai Saikyo yaki: Tile fish in "saikyo" miso

Amadai Saikyo yaki: Tile fish in “saikyo” miso


Tori Karaage: Deef fried chicken marinated in sake

Tori Karaage: Deef fried chicken marinated in sake


Deef fried pork strips

Deef fried pork strips


Buta kakuni: Stewed pork (multiple layers of lean and fat meat)

Buta kakuni: Stewed pork (multiple layers of lean and fat meat)


Surumeika Yaki: grilled Japanese squid brushed with garlic soy sauce

Surumeika Yaki: grilled Japanese squid brushed with garlic soy sauce


IMG_5394
Thin slices of steak grilled tableside on a hot rock.

Thin slices of steak grilled tableside on a hot rock.


Handmade soba with uni.

Handmade soba with uni.


Three different varieties of grilled Japanese eggplant

Three different varieties of grilled Japanese eggplant


Salmon sashimi with roe over rice

Salmon sashimi with roe over rice

The best part about Sakagura was that the service was very good and the items came very quickly. We never felt rushed and the boys enjoyed trying the different assortment of Japanese “tapas”. They enjoyed the fried pork and the fried chicken the most. I enjoyed the fish and eggplant the most. I also loved the soba and uni. I noticed that they have an $11 lunch soba special. I will definitely be going back!

Tuesday
The first morning, it took an eternity for me to get the boys dressed and out of the house. I was feeling very frustrated because our only plan was to walk to Central Park to play football. Anyone that knows me knows that tennis is my sport so I felt super annoyed that they wouldn’t even leave the apartment for football in the park. We finally arrived there and the entire park was covered in about three inches of snow. We played football until we couldn’t feel our fingers any more. I also slipped and fell on my back while trying to catch a pass. Boy does it hurt so much more than it used to!

IMG_5404

Football in Central Park

Football in Central Park

The boys spent an equal amount of time throwing snow at each other.
Too bad my finger was covering my camera lens but I’ll put these pictures in anyway.
IMG_5407

IMG_5406

IMG_5405

On our way home, everyone was hungry so we decided to go eat Ramen. We ended up at Naruto Ramen on 90th and 3rd. It is a super small restaurant. I think there are only fourteen seats at the counter. We put our names on the waiting list but when I saw three empty seats, I quickly told the waitress that Teo would eat on my lap because it is simple math to know that four seats together don’t happen very often in a fourteen seat counter. They fortunately pulled another stool over for Teo and before long, the boys were eating their appetizers and slurping their ramen. I would say it was too salty but the quality of the ingredients was high. The boys ordered the lunch special which included an appetizer and a bowl of ramen for $12. The appetizer was enormous. Both Teo and Eco ate a bowl of rice with lots of teriyaki chicken before their noodles even arrived. Jaime had the gyoza. I ordered a different ramen bowl. I think it was the suratamen. It seemed similar to the boy’s normal ramen but everything was chopped up into little bits and my broth had a little spice and vinegar. It is hard to find a delicious bowl of ramen in NYC. I would say that I’m still looking.

That evening, we met Humberto at Cafe China. Over the Christmas Break, I had read a book by Ann Mah called “Mastering the Art of French Eating”. She had lived in France for a few years and during her first year, her husband was posted in Iraq and she was alone in France. She travelled extensively and her book focused on the different regions of France and each chapter introduced a classical regional dish. I was so interested in this author after finishing the book that I began to read her blog and in it, she recommended Cafe China. We made sure to order two of her recommended dishes. The mapo tofu and the Sichuan fried chicken. I enjoyed the food but I don’t think I am a true fan of Sichuan flavors. The spicy, fried food seems to always make my throat hurt after I eat it. I’m glad I tried it but I don’t think I’ll be back. We had a waiter prepare our tea and it was very strange. There were maybe five tea leaves in a big teapot. I had to send it back. I told Humberto that probably this waiter had never prepared tea in his life before as it was obvious he was new at the job.

From the top: Mapo tofu, Sichuan fried chicken, stir fried snow pea shoots, sauteed lamb.

From the top: Mapo tofu, Sichuan fried chicken, stir fried snow pea shoots, sauteed lamb.

Wednesday
Wednesday morning was very frustrating. I could not convince the boys to get out of their pajamas or get out of the apartment. I decided to take a walk outside by myself while they watched television and then decided to cut my hair. It was a bit risky but I was so frustrated that I decided a brief absence was important for my mental health. When I returned, they were in much better spirits because they had spent lots of time on the couch and they were motivated to go outside to meet their Dad for lunch. We decided to take the bus but that was a huge mistake. It was around 12:30 pm and the bus seemed to hit every red light. When I realized that it was taking longer than one minute to go each block, I contemplated getting off and transferring to a subway or a taxi. The decision was made for me when the bus suddenly stopped and the bus driver kicked everyone off telling us to wait for the next bus. I flagged down a taxi and it was still a very slow trip but at least we finally made it. We ate at Witchcraft. It was a very non memorable salad and sandwich meal and I went next door to get a Strawberry cake from Financier. It was the worst cake I have ever eaten! I should have returned it after one spoonful but I felt embarrassed. The strawberry was on the verge of rotting and the cake was hard. It had to have been sitting in the refridgerated case for at least three or four days. Teo ate most of it and he didn’t seem to mind. I, on the other hand, have spent way too much time in France, and I definitely want to be eating fresh pastries and cakes!

The boys and I walked to Rockefeller Center. They did not want to go ice skating even though I was prepared to fork over $100+ dollars to go. I just learned yesterday that skating in Bryant Park is free if you have your own skates. Central Park is cheaper too but Rockefeller is very expensive because it is so full of tourists. $39 for adults and $21 for each kid. Instead, the boys spent some time in the Nintendo World playing Wii games. Wednesday afternoon was the only day around 30 degrees Fahrenheit so I decided to let them spend time in Nintendo World before heading over to the High Line. We took the subway to the High Line and hiked the two sections. It is a very nice activity because it is a 1.45 mile trail where the kids can roam and run freely and parents do not have to worry that they will be hit by cars and taxis! It was inspired by the promenade plante in Paris.

Taxi ride and Eco who was perpetually glued to his iphone during our week in Manhattan

Taxi ride and Eco who was perpetually glued to his iphone during our week in Manhattan

The Rockefeller Ice Rink that we did not skate on

The Rockefeller Ice Rink that we did not skate on

Teo and Jaime finally happy in their favorite store

Teo and Jaime finally happy in their favorite store

Jaime on part of the High Line

Jaime on part of the High Line

Teo preparing to blast his brothers with snow

Teo preparing to blast his brothers with snow

Though the boys complained a ton on the subway to the high line, they had fun throwing snow at each other during the entire hike. Unfortunately, many poorly aimed snowballs landed on unsuspecting foreign tourists!

We made it back to the apartment and then went out to eat at Beyoglu, my favorite Turkish restaurant in the city. It is on 3rd and 81st street. My good friend Pauline brought me to Beyoglu on one of our first trips into the city and I have been going back ever since. My favorite thing on their menu is the meze platter. In fact, a glass of the turkish white wine, lots of warm, fresh bread and their meze platter is one of the best lunches I have found in the entire city.
I like it so much that I think about it often.

Meze platter: (from top towards the right) tomato based tabouleh, baba ghanoush, ?, yogurt, sauteed spinach, hummus

Meze platter: (from top towards the right) tomato based tabouleh, baba ghanoush, not sure, yogurt, sauteed spinach, hummus


The bread is absolutely divine. It is almost always warm, fresh out of the oven and is not at all greasy. It is the perfect accompaniment to the different dips. Spinach is my favorite followed closely by the eggplant.
House bread

House bread


We also ordered an eggplant appetizer. It was a bit greasy but Humberto really enjoyed it.
Eggplant appetizer

Eggplant appetizer


The kids and Humberto ate some baklava for dessert. Jaime declared it his second favorite dessert of all time. I asked him what was in first place and he replied, “Ice cream.”

Straight after dinner, we took a cab to Carnegie Hall. We watched a Chinese pianist named Jiaxin Tian. She is a 27 year old pianist from Beijing who was really amazing. I was hoping that the children would become inspired to hear piano at such an amazing level but sadly, Teo fell asleep within two minutes and Jaime joined him twenty minutes later. Eco stayed awake so we bought him a big bag of candy for that accomplishment.
IMG_5428

"Enjoying" the performance at Carnegie Hall

“Enjoying” the performance at Carnegie Hall

In the hallways, there are framed original musical compositions.
IMG_5424

Impressive!

Impressive! Beethoven

Thursday
Thursday was a super cold day outside. We stayed in the apartment in the morning. Then because it was Chinese New Year’s (Year of the Sheep), we met Humberto in midtown at Joe Shanghai. We were smart and took the subway which was so much faster than a taxi or a bus.

Entrance of Joe Shanghai's

Entrance of Joe Shanghai’s

Soup Dumplings "Xiao Long Bao"

Soup Dumplings “Xiao Long Bao”

There is a special technique to eating soup dumplings. They are a Shanghainese dish but are extremely famous in Taiwan. There is a restaurant called Ding Tai Fung that is super famous for these soup dumplings. You need to bite or puncture a small hole off the top to release some of the steam. Then you can add shredded ginger and black vinegar (the one from Zhejiang province is the best) to your dumpling. You drink the soup (slurping it from the hole) and then you eat the rest. If you pop one of these directly into your mouth, fresh out of the steamer, you will probably suffer from some severe burns.

We ordered a mishmash of other food but I forgot to take pictures. It wasn’t very tasty. The dumplings were good but everything else was very mediocre. I ordered fried rice noodles, a tofu dish, and some green beans. I thought the food had a lot of MSG as after the meal, my mouth felt really dry and I also thought it was very greasy. I definitely won’t be going back!

We walked to the Sony Wonder Technology Lab located on Madison and 56th Street. It is a free interactive technology museum. We had to wait for about thirty minutes to enter so the boys played with video game consoles at the Sony store right next door. There is a new type of television called 4K. It is so clear. I was pretty amazed at how much my eyesight seemed to improve compared to normal HDTV.

The boys enjoyed the Technology Lab. They played with robots, operated on a heart, mixed music, and made a mini computer film. I programmed a robot to dance like myself. The only complaint was that it was close to seventy five degrees inside and I had to carry all four jackets and gloves and hats without a bag. That was a real pain but next time I will be more prepared.

Afterwards, we walked to Dylan’s Candy Bar on 3rd Ave and 62nd street. The boys were happy because they bought a lot of candy at some outrageous prices. I was pleased as they were motivated to walk in the freezing cold fueled by all that sugar. Then we went to Vineyard Vines where Eco bought some clothes. He has finally reached the age where he cares about how he looks and he is very interested in this brand. We took the subway back to the apartment and had a delicious snack on the corner of 3rd and 86th: Papaya King hotdogs. We each had half. Later for dinner, I grabbed some salads at Whole Foods and bought three more jumbo hotdogs from Papaya King for their dinner.

We were in a rush because we had tickets to a 7 pm Vancouver Canucks vs. New York Rangers hockey game in Madison Square Gardens.
IMG_5440

IMG_5441

Watching hockey!

Watching hockey!

Friday
Friday was bitterly cold (something like 5 degrees F, feels like -5) so we stayed home all morning. I finished reading a book called “Passionate Nutrition”.

I liked that the author advocated eating real butter, cream, pasture fed beef and making yourself full at meal times. She also suggested adding lots of seaweed to our everyday diet and eating fermented foods to help our digestion. I will try hard but seaweed seems like a difficult food to incorporate into the daily diet. My boys love eating the dried seaweed snacks but they just taste like dried MSG to me.

We met my friend Paula and her son William for lunch at Sushi Para located on 3rd and 83 street. They have an all you can eat lunch deal for $20 a head. The only problem is that it says that you must finish all your food or they charge you extra. I wasn’t sure how much extra but we ordered way too much and in the end, I had to stuff a lot of rice into my napkin on my lap. The boys love sashimi and they ordered tons of it but it was all nigiri style so we ended up with lots of rice balls.
We were super stuffed at the end because other than sushi and sashimi we also ordered chicken teriyaki, fried cuttlefish balls and had soup and salad. It was a feast!

Sushi Para buffet lunch

Sushi Para buffet lunch

When we finished, I stuffed the boys into a taxi and took them to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They did not want to go at all, but like all the activities this entire week, I made them go. They complained incessantly but I still dragged them through the museum for about two hours. We went to Astor Court, which was a beautiful surprise. It is a Chinese garden, complete with a koi pond and a rock garden.

Astor Court

Astor Court

When we arrived at my favorite section, Impressionism, Eco pointed to one painting and said, “Who is that scarecrow?” It was Van Gogh’s autoportrait. At that point, I gave up and left them to play with Eco’s Iphone while I wandered around the room enjoying the paintings.

Surrounded by Monet

Surrounded by Monet

Here is Jaime with the Faberge egg collection and Herakles the Archer. He only agreed to pose for these pictures because I promised him juice at the cafeteria.

Faberge eggs

Faberge eggs

Herakles the Archer by Antoine-Emile Bourdelle

Herakles the Archer by Antoine-Emile Bourdelle

Finally happy at the cafeteria

Finally happy at the cafeteria

We took a taxi back to the apartment even though it was only half a mile away. I figured that I shouldn’t push my luck as they had already very reluctantly walked through the museum with me. We relaxed and tried to build up an appetite and then went and ate pizza and then saw Wicked on Broadway. The boys really enjoyed the show and later on, we rented the Wizard of Oz, so they could see the original.

Pizza dinner

Pizza dinner

Wicked

Wicked

Saturday
Saturday morning was quite stressful. We packed up and were out of the house by 10:45 am as we had a brunch reservation at the Smith. I walked the family to Grand Central and they went back to Bronxville with our luggage. I had been commissioned to pick up some roast duck for a Chinese New Year’s party that night so I decided to take a two hour walking detour on my way to buy the duck. It felt fabulous to finally walk around New York City without hearing constant complaining about being tired, being cold, being thirsty, and being sick of spending time with me. Even though it started snowing, I thoroughly enjoyed my long walk.

West Village

West Village

Typical Manhattan Fire Escapes

Typical Manhattan Fire Escapes

Entering Chinatown

Entering Chinatown

With every day, I’m forgetting how miserable I felt cooped up in a small apartment all week with my three boys. It is amazing how the memory plays tricks on us. When I talk to my friend Harriet, I am always telling her to remind me not to plan more vacations with my children where I’m going to be wandering around a new city and living in a small place with them. Unfortunately Spring Break is at the end of the month and we are already contemplating another trip. We never learn!!

Taiwan

The flight from Singapore to Taiwan is only four and a half hours so it felt like a piece of cake compared to the previous week’s twenty hour flight from America. My Aunt Carol met me at Taoyuan airport and we drove directly to a seafood restaurant. Then her husband arrived with my Uncle John and her two sons arrived from Taipei. We had a multi course seafood feast. There was a special fish soup and a steamed fish.
In the live tanks, there was a spotted morey eel. I was surprised to see that as the only other one I’ve seen has been at the Bermuda aquarium and zoo!

Appetizing?

Appetizing?

My Uncle John took a lot of food pictures that night so I have him to thank for these photos. It was my favorite meal of the entire trip and I’m so glad I have pictures to share as it is quite easy to forget the different variety of dishes if you don’t take pictures.

Steamed live fish with slivers of ginger and green onion

Steamed live fish with slivers of ginger and green onion

Fish soup (made from the same fish that was steamed earlier)

Fish soup (made from the same fish that was steamed earlier)

Clams

Clams

Special vegetable indigenous to Taiwan

Special vegetable indigenous to Taiwan

I spent the night in my Aunt Carol’s extra flat and the next morning, we took the high speed train to the southern port city of Kaoshiung. That is where my Grandma lives and where my Dad grew up. It used to take an entire day by bus to travel from Taipei to Kaoshiung but ever since they built the high speed rail, it is less than two hours. Our taxi took us directly to a hotel where we were met by another aunt, uncle and Grandma for a buffet lunch. My Grandma is turning 101 this summer and by Chinese counting, she is turning 103. Two and a half years ago, my entire family visited Taiwan in August to help celebrate my Grandma’s one hundredth birthday. Unfortunately for us, we all took turns getting very sick during that trip. It was also exhausting because I remember that we moved nine times in eleven days. I will never agree to something like that again!

My Grandma met us for lunch at a hotel. It was a mixture of Western food and Asian food. She had a great appetite. I visited three weeks prior to Chinese New Year so the hotel lobby was decorated with a lot of Chinese New Year decor.

Hotel lobby

Hotel lobby

IMG_5154

IMG_5218

Grandma and my Aunt Carol and Aunt Julie

Grandma and my Aunt Carol and Aunt Julie

After lunch, we returned to my Grandma’s apartment. While she rested, I took a long walk around the neighborhood. I stopped by a Chinese medicinal herb shop and bought a few items for my friend Yasuko.

Traditional Chinese Medicine Shop

Traditional Chinese Medicine Shop

I also ate my favorite snack, dou hua. It is translated as tofu pudding. It is made of ground up soybeans, cooked into a very smooth silky tofu texture. I enjoy it most with boiled peanuts and sweetened syrup. This picture is from the Taoyuan airport and has peanuts and tapioca balls.

My favorite dessert: dou hua

My favorite dessert: dou hua

In the evening, we went to my Second Uncle’s house for a home cooked meal of Beef noodles. It was delicious and he later bought me some spice bags so I can try to replicate his recipe in New York. My Uncle lives in my Grandma and Grandpa’s old townhouse. It brought back a lot of childhood memories being there as I would always go every three or four years and spend an entire summer in Taiwan when I was a little girl.

In the sitting room, there was a photo of my Grandpa and we showed him our respect by bowing three times and burning incense to his altar.

Grandpa Sun

Grandpa Sun

For the first time, I met my cousin Clay’s little girl. She was super cute and talkative. At only eighteen months, she can recognize all sorts of animals in a book and seemed a lot more advanced than my boys at that age.
IMG_5179

IMG_5158

Beef noodle soup is a very traditional Taiwanese dish. There are all sorts of recipes. My uncle made a very delicious broth. He used carrots to give his broth a natural sweetness.

Homemade beef noodle soup with fish, fishcake, vegetables, liver and sausage.

Homemade beef noodle soup with fish, fishcake, vegetables, liver and sausage.

We returned back to my Grandma’s house and I subsequently had a terrible night of sleep. Around 2:30 am, I woke up due to a mosquito buzzing around my ear. Then I realized that I had been bitten all over the place and it itched like crazy. I spent more than half an hour looking for that mosquito and finally gave up but lit up a mosquito light. They are these electric devices that attract mosquitos and then electrocute them with a loud zapping sound when they touch the light. It is a wonderful sound!
Finally around 4:30 am, I fell asleep again but felt worried the entire night that I was going to wake up with a lot more bites.

The next morning, my uncle came with special mosquito repellent sprays and also a new device that is a small liquid bottle that you attach to an electric plug and plug into the wall. It slowly emits mosquito poison as you sleep. I wasn’t sure how safe that would be so I lit it for about half an hour before going to bed, then closed my door and turned it off. I also discovered from the previous night that there were small openings in my Grandma’s window screens so I made sure to close those windows. The second night of sleep was mosquito free!

The second day, we stayed home and I hung out with my Grandma and Aunt. The weather was a little cold so we didn’t take her for a walk. She lives very close to a big park and in general, she goes there briefly every day. In the afternoon, my Aunt Carol took me for a car ride around Kaoshiung. I also saw my Aunt’s new apartment and two different temples.

Dragon and Tiger Pagoda in Zuo Ying near Lotus Lake

Dragon and Tiger Pagoda in Zuo Ying near Lotus Lake

IMG_5195

IMG_5194

Chinese temples

Chinese temples

The last temple we saw was also a Buddhist monastery. It was high up on a hill and had a great view of the entire city and coast of Kaoshiung.
IMG_5206

IMG_5205

IMG_5196

IMG_5211

In the evening, my third aunt cooked dinner. She made nian gao which is small pieces of sticky rice ground together in a paste and made into a dry cake. We also had a nice hot pot.

IMG_5213

IMG_5212

I woke up early the next day and my Grandma was already busy in the kitchen. She had cut up an assortment of fruit and when I walked in, she told me she was going to make sunny side up eggs. She flipped them with chopsticks. It was really great to see her moving around independently and even cooking a meal!

IMG_5215

Of all my photos, this is the one that I will remember the most. My grandma has a small walking stick but she is very comfortable around her own kitchen. She even tried to open her fridge and grab four eggs with one hand without using her cane. I asked her if she had any secrets to her longevity and she attributed Tai Chi Quan as one of the things that has helped her maintain her health the most. She said that before the age of 40, she was not very healthy and would get sick very often. Around age 40, she started studying Tai Chi with a Tai Chi master and since then, she has been in very good health. She also never drinks or eats anything that is cool or icy. Everything she eats is hot or warm. Something to keep in mind!

After breakfast, we took a cab to the train station and then took another high speed train back to Taipei. My Aunt Carol accompanied me to my First Uncle’s house. In Taiwan, my Mom’s family comes from Taipei and my Dad’s family comes from Kaoshiung.
My niece Zoe who works and lives in Shenzhen made a special trip to come see me as well. My Dajo is my Mom’s eldest brother. She has three older brothers and they all live in the North of Taiwan. With Dajo and his wife and Zoe, we went out for a quick lunch. We ate at a Chinese pan fried dumpling place (guo tie).

Seaweed salad, pig ears, guo tie, and slivered tofu (gan si)

Seaweed salad, pig ears, guo tie, and slivered tofu (gan si)

Then we went and saw my third uncle who was checking out of the hospital. He had just had an operation to unblock his nose passage. In the afternoon, we went and visited my third uncle’s son’s apartment. He and his wife had a six week old baby girl so it was really fun to play with her.
IMG_5227

Adorable baby!

Adorable baby!

My cousin’s wife had a helper cooking dinner that night so I sampled a few dishes. Then I went with my Dajo’s family to go eat at Ding Tai Fung but the wait was seventy minutes long so we decided to go to a different restaurant on a different floor. My Dajo’s family lives right in downtown Taipei, within a three minute walk to Sogo which is a famous Japanese department store. It is interesting to see that real estate in Taipei is as expensive as the most exclusive neighborhoods in Manhattan. When I was a little girl, I still remember some fields and low, rickety wood houses in that neighborhood!

We had a nice dinner and then I went with Zoe and slept at my Second uncle’s house.

The next day, Zoe and I went and had a typical Taiwanese breakfast. I like to call it “sao bing you tiao”. It is a bread pocket covered with sesame and you open it up and stick a fried donut in it. This is typically eaten with hot soymilk. My throat was hurting so I had a “dan bing” instead. It is a thin egg omelette connected to a small thin flour pancake. I really love the breakfast places. Unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures but what is great is that it has never changed. Even when I was a little girl, these places existed and they still exist. When my parents first came to the States in their early twenties, they told me that they couldn’t get used to drinking cow’s milk. They always grew up with soy milk.

We hung out at my Dajo’s place after breakfast and then walked to a big restaurant in a basement. That is where the entire Ai family (My Mom’s side) gathered to eat lunch. It was a Taiwanese restaurant and we sampled a lot of different dishes such as pig’s feet and peanuts, thin rice noodle soup, fish head soup, fried cuttle fish balls, stir fried vegetables, etc. Then we went and had tofu pudding for dessert.

Taiwanese dishes

Taiwanese dishes

Rice noodle soup

Rice noodle soup

Pig's feet and peanuts

Pig’s feet and peanuts

Me with my three uncles

Me with my three uncles

The next generation

The next generation

My generation

My generation

I hadn’t been back to Taiwan for two and a half years. It was amazing to see how much the children had grown. I never notice with my own kids since I see them every day but even when I look at old pictures, Eco is nearly as tall as me and eighteen months ago, he didn’t even reach my shoulders!

My Counsin Wenyi’s daughter is turning twelve in May and she also grew a tremendous amount. In the afternoon, a few of us went to a coffee shop to chat some more.
IMG_5266

Coffee with the cousins

Coffee with the cousins

In the evening, I didn’t feel well so I went to bed early. Luckily, I recovered pretty well the next day because that was the day of my flight back to New York. For lunch, we had a delicious home cooked meal of rice porridge. After all this eating, I think that has become my favorite meal. It is probably not very nutritious since to make it you boil about ten cups of water with one cup of rice for two or three hours but I can’t seem to eat enough of it. Since returning to New York, I have already made three pots of it.

Brocolli, salted duck egg, fried tofu with seaweed and gluten rolls.

Brocolli, salted duck egg, fried tofu with seaweed and gluten rolls.

I took an airport bus to the airport in the afternoon and then flew sixteen hours back to New York. I slept about four to five hours straight through and then I also watched a lot of movies. When I returned to Bronxville, everyone was asleep so I looked at my boys with a flashlight. It was great to be back but then I got super sick for a week. I couldn’t sleep at night because of jet lag and also because I had a terrible cough. What helped the most was putting Vicks vapor rub all over the bottom of my feet, chest and back. I had read about it over the internet and it actually helped me breathe at night. So hopefully that can help one of my blog readers in the future!

My Grandma passed away on February 14, 2015. I am very lucky I was able to see her when she was alive and healthy. My friend Kam said that her Mom used to tell her “that elderly people are like candles in front of wind”. It is true that they can be fine one moment and pass away in the next one. She was my last grandparent alive so I feel a real sense of loss but am comforted by the fact that I was able to see her and that she was able to meet all my children as I brought each of them twice to Taiwan.

Singapore

It is the morning of Tuesday January 27, 2015.  I have been struggling with jet lag.  I returned to JFK around 10 pm on Sunday January 25.  I learned immediately about the impending Blizzard of 2015.  NYC even decided to stop the subway at 11 pm last night and everyone said we might get 20-30 inches of snow.  So far, at nearly 7 am, it doesn’t look bad outside at all.  Maybe a 3 or 4 inch accumulation. My first thought is why do the boys not have to go to school? But obviously, it would be quite unsafe for the teachers to drive to school on the snow covered roads.  I spent about half an hour removing snow from our balcony yesterday.  It was backbreaking labor.  I really see why old people die during the winter removal season from heart attacks.  Part of my fear is that if we don’t get rid of some of the snow, the balcony could eventually collapse and I sleep right under it.

So the main purpose of my blog today is about my trip to Singapore.  I purposely didn’t post any pictures on facebook so that my friends would be motivated to read my long, wordy blog.

I had an amazing flight.  I have never travelled more than fourteen hours (regular childhood flights from California to Taiwan), so was quite daunted by the sixteen hour leg from JFK to Taoyuan, Taiwan, one hour layover and then four and a half more hours to Singapore.  What was excellent was that I departed at midnight.  I ate half of my dinner on the plane, watched a French movie and then slept for a while.  When I woke up, I had only eight hours left to get to Taiwan.  It felt like winning the lottery and I felt like I had gotten an entire night’s sleep though in all probability, I had only slept 5-6 hours straight.  I subsequently started taking long walks around the airplane aisles and drank water non stop.  Then I watched two more French movies and one Hong Kong one and arrived.

View of Singapore from the bus.

View of Singapore from the bus.

I arrived at the hotel on a shuttle bus.  It was only $9 Sing and was nice because I got to see other random parts of the city (or rather country).  Right away, I called up my friend Madeline.  I had only met her one time at a party in NYC but we had clicked right away.  She picked me up at my hotel and drove me to her house.  It was a very nice two story colonial era townhouse.  I really liked the quite neighborhood and the fact that a child could ride a bike quite safely up and down the street.  We took her 6 year old son to the Botanical Gardens and it was a beautiful green place to walk.  Coming from a suburb near NYC, it was wonderful to be outside wearing sandals and feeling hot again.  NYC is a very interesting place but I actually don’t make it in to the city that often and the winters are dreadfully long and cold.  The best part of Singapore for me was not being cold any more.

IMG_4991

Botanical Gardens

Botanical Gardens

We dropped Asher off at home and then Madeline took me to Long Beach at Dempsey.  It was great to eat with a local Singaporean.  We ate a tofu appetizer and then had freshly steamed live shrimp and the chili crab.  I have eaten lots of good seafood, particularly during my childhood summers in Taiwan but this was definitely one of the sweetest freshest crabs I have ever eaten.  We ordered a medium one and really stuffed ourselves.

Famous Chili Crab with Fried Chinese Bread (Zha Ying Si Juan)

Famous Chili Crab with Fried Chinese Bread (Zha Ying Si Juan)

Afterwards, we went for a drink near Holland Village and she showed me a few places where she normally grocery shopped.  I returned to the hotel around midnight and didn’t wake up until 7 am the next day.  No jet lag!

The first time ever!

The next day, I was met at the hotel by my old graduate school friend Vansy.  We hung out and chatted near the hotel pool.  It is a narrow infinity pool on the 5th floor with a view of Singapore.  The Hotel Royal on Pickering was actually featured in my EVA airways airplane magazine.  It is very unique in that it has terraced plants on multli levels on various rooftops.  The pool looked great but I was very dissappointed.  I only swam once but when I did, it was very cold water and there were all these floating kleenexes on the pool floor.  Then even worse, someone started cleaning the pool and vacuuming the debris while I was trying to swim.  Needless to say, I didn’t swim that long as it wasn’t relaxing at all.

IMG_5046

IMG_5112

Vansy showed me her apartment located near the American Club after picking up her daughter from nursery school.  We had some tea and then had lunch at the American club.  I had Saag Paneer, a cooked spinach dish with small pieces of Indian cheese.  It was too salty for my tastes but the club was interesting.  There even was a gift shop where I noticed that the price of wine was about six to seven times higher for the same bottle compared to the States.

IMG_5003

With Vansy at the American Club

With Vansy at the American Club

That afternoon, I went and met up again with Madeline.  She drove me around the nice neighborhoods with free standing homes near the Botanical gardens.  I had read Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Mok and recommended the book to Madeline.  The protagonist’s family has a very nice house in a secluded area near the Botanical gardens.  Then she drove me to Sentosa where we had cake and tea and then we saw parts of the ritziest neighborhoods of Sentosa.  Sentosa reminded me a bit of Coronado Island near San Diego as it is very close to downtown Singapore.  In strike contrast with downtown Singapore, there are no high rises on Sentosa and it has a very peaceful, beach feel to it.  There are golf courses and everything is very green.  In fact, it reminded me very much of Bermuda.  In the nicest neighborhoods, there are water canals and homes have yachts parked in their backyard.  That was a bit like Venice Beach near Los Angeles.

IMG_5010

IMG_5015

IMG_5007

When we returned, I was dropped off in downtown Chinatown and met up with Humberto and his coworkers for a big sit down Chinatown food court dinner.  There were all sorts of local specialities.

The table had an assortment of the following: BBQ sting ray, Carrot Cake (fried turnip with rice cake and egg), Char Kway Teo (Singaporean style He Fen noodles), wrap, chicken satay…

IMG_5023

IMG_5020

IMG_5019

Unfortunately, I am a very finnicky eater and was not impressed with anything on the table that night.  Most of the food wasn’t hot enough for my tastes and was too oily and too salty.  I am actually a huge fan of street food but spending summers in Taiwan, I am used to queuing up at a stand, receiving one item and eating it right away when it is piping hot.  It makes a huge difference!  I enjoyed the Tiger Beer and the chestnut water.  One great thing about Asian sweet drinks are that they are rarely too sweet.  I would say that they are only about 10 percent as sweet as American drinks.  That is the reason there are a lot more diabetic people in America than in Asia.

After drinks at two different bars, the group decided to go to the casino located underground at the Marina Bay Sands. I was so surprised when I noticed that foreigners presenting passports could get into the casino for free but Singaporeans had to pay $100 Sing. 1 USD = 1.25 Sing dollar. Slowly I realized that the government in Singapore really wants to protect its citizens from the normal “vices” known to man. They do this by making it extremely expensive. Alcohol was six to seven times more than what I’m used to paying for good wine. Cocktails were about two to three times more. A $12 USD drink was $30 Sing. Cigarettes were priced around $11-$12 a box. There were also pictures of all these lung deformities on all the outside plastic wrappings of the cigarette box.

My friend Hilda told me that in order to get the driver’s license, everyone is made to watch a movie that shows all these accidents and severed limbs. One huge difference from most Asian countries is the lack of motorcycles and mopeds on the road. All the Singaporeans I talked with told me that the population on the whole believes that motorcycles are extremely dangerous. They exist but most people wouldn’t dream of risking their lives like that on the road. This is such a different mentality compared to Taiwan where when I was young, I would often see a family of four packed on to one small moped.
I was particularly curious why there would be so few mopeds as cars seem prohibitively expensive to drive. Locals explained that you must buy a permit, a Certificate of Entitlement and that is good for driving a car for ten years for around $80,000 Sing. Then after ten years, if you still want to drive the car, you have to pay again! Most of the time, people get rid of their cars and buy a new one after ten years. I read up on Wikipedia and it said that Singapore exports many used cars to Africa and New Zealand. The car prices are mind boggling. A $30K Honda Accord with all the works retails close to $170K Sing. That doesn’t even include the COE. Not surprising to see that only 12 out of 100 people own cars in Singapore.

Back to the Casino, we were part of the foreign crowd that helped Singapore tie Las Vegas in gambling market revenue in 2011. We promptly lost $350 Sing in twenty minutes. I really shouldn’t say “We” as it was more “He” but I definitely didn’t enjoy that experience.

IMG_5292

Marina Bay Sands casino

Marina Bay Sands casino

Expensive cigarette boxes on display.

Expensive cigarette boxes on display.

Friday morning, I had one main goal.  It was to get laundry done.  Humberto had run out of clean work out clothes and I decided that I would try to find a laundromat.  I first asked the concierge and he ended up sending me to a dry cleaning shop. They said that the clothes would not be ready that same day and that it would cost close to $100 Sing for a small bag of clothes.  Finally, I went back to the concierge and he told me there was a 24 hour laundromat about a 10 minutes walk away.  I did the laundry ($5 to wash and $5 to dry) and in between, I bought a swim suit and goggles and also bought a dress.

IMG_5036

The seamstress was a very impressive seventy seven years old.  She made all the dresses herself and showed me pictures of Finland on her Ipad.  I was amazed to find a hand sewn dress for only $36 Sing.

In the afternoon, we packed one bag each and left the rest at the hotel and went to Sentosa.  Our destination was the Singapore Resort and Spa at Sentosa.  It is by far the nicest hotel I have ever stayed in and the pool was absolutely magnificent.  It had a deep blue tiled floor, was a perfect temperature, and best of all, was in the shade as tall trees on one side blocked the afternoon sun.  The grounds were very beautiful as well.

IMG_5083

IMG_5080

We had a suite and in the sitting room, we received a few pastries and dragon fruit.  I went for a very long swim and then read by the poolside on my Kindle.  The swimming part of the pool was almost empty so I felt great that I had a nice clean pool all to myself.

IMG_5047
In the evening, we walked to a building not far from the main hotel that overlooked a golf course and the ocean.  The ocean from Singapore is definitely not beautiful.  After seven years in Bermuda, I am extremely spoiled but even in San Diego, when I look out at the ocean, I expect to see water.  Not so in Singapore.  There are lots of ships out on the water and near Sentosa, there is what looks to be a oil refinery.  I will have to read up to see if that is what it is but it looks like a floating factory from the shore.  (Shell Oil Refinery on the Siingaporean island of Pulau Bukom SW of Sentosa!)

We didn’t have a sit down dinner.  It was fancy Western style hors d’oeuvres with copious amounts of very nice wine.  I made sure to not drink too much because the next morning, Humberto and I had made plans to go work out and play tennis and it wouldn’t do to get thrashed at tennis because of a hangover!

IMG_5287

The next morning, we followed through with our plan of working out and playing tennis.  We had a bit of trouble locating the gym but finally found it.  The reason I loved this hotel so much was mainly because the grounds were so spacious and so well tended.  They placed orchid plants in every tree so there were flowers everywhere and free roaming peacocks were also all over the place.  We even saw babies.

IMG_5051

IMG_5050

There was a breakfast buffet every day of my stay in Singapore.  It was actually a great way to try a huge variety of food.  Friends that know me know that I can put away a great deal without becoming obese.  I tried a little bit of almost everything.  I mainly avoided the Western breakfast items because I can always eat lots of that easily in America.  The breakfast buffet always had rice porridge with different salty accompaniments, an omelette bar, a dimsum bar, a fresh fruit bar and an indian food bar.  My favorite breakfast is definitely the rice porridge as it reminds me of my childhood summers in Taiwan.

After breakfast, I went with Madeline and her friend to a beach that borders the resort.  I went swimming even though I could see ships not too far away.  The salt water felt nice but I was stung all over the place.  It was possibly stinging nettles.  It didn’t hurt too much so I kept on swimming but it was definitely only about 1% as enjoyable as swimming in Bermuda.  Of course in Bermuda, you can die if you get stung by a Portugese man of war but in seven years of swimming in the Bermuda oceans, I never encountered any except for the ones washed up on the beaches.

IMG_5054

IMG_5052

We freshened up at the hotel and then went to lunch at Ding Tai Fung.  It is a famous restaurant from Taiwan and I was amazed that the wait was only ten minutes.  I told them that in Taipei, you have to wait at least an hour and sure enough, when my uncle tried to take me, the wait was seventy minutes.

We ordered a lot of yummy food.

Fried pork with egg fried rice

Fried pork with egg fried rice

Beef noodle soup

Beef noodle soup

Shanghai dumpling: peng hu winter gourd with shrimp

Shanghai dumpling: peng hu winter gourd with shrimp

salad starter - absolutely delicious!

salad starter – absolutely delicious!

Then we explored the SEA aquarium.  The front entrance area was very interesting.  It was all about different ships and different materials that were transported across the seas.

After the aquarium, I left the group and went on my own to see a buttterfly museum and then rode a ski lift back towards the beach where we had swum that morning.
IMG_5060

IMG_5062

IMG_5063

IMG_5064

In the evening, we had a sit down meal with everyone.  It was buffet style and mostly Western food.

The next day, we had free time so after a leisure breakfast, we both went for a swim.  Then we read by the pool and then went and had a ninety minute spa treatment.  We made sure to arrive two hours early and were able to enjoy the spa grounds.  it was beautiful!

IMG_5088

IMG_5090

We smeared cooling mud on each other.  It was a dark green gray in color and had a nice earthy smell.  It actually never dried as there was a misting spray near the bench.

We went back to the Hotel Royal on Pickering and got picked up immediately by one of Humberto’s coworkers and his wife.  They drove us to a local restaurant that was excellent.  We fortunately arrived early because when we were almost finished eating, there was a very long queue.  We tried bee fung, which is a bit similar to the Singapore noodles that my local Chinese restaurant Wild Ginger serves in Bronxville.  We also tried coffee pork and salty duck crab.  Then we went to a local hawker center and tried a Malaysian dessert.  I didn’t like it at all.

IMG_5092

IMG_5091

IMG_5290

IMG_5289IMG_5096

IMG_5094

IMG_5093

The Supertrees are part of Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay. We walked with our dinner hosts throughout the Gardens and also strolled through the “skywalks” which were bridges that connected varying ramps. There was a big grassy area where lots of people were picnicing, flying kites and enjoying the evening breeze. I was very impressed with the Super trees. They collect water and also convert sunlight into energy.

On Monday, I went swimming at the hotel pool and then met up with Hilda, a friend from Bermuda that moved to Singapore two years ago. She is an avid runner but said that the heat made it very hard to compete.  We had lunch at the Botanical Gardens and then I went and explored the Orchid gardens.  It is a special enclosed area that is absolutely amazing.  I walked about leisurely and took a lot of pictures.

IMG_5099

IMG_5097

IMG_5101

IMG_5104

IMG_5105

IMG_5106

IMG_5107

IMG_5108

Then I took a taxi to visit my friend Iliana.  We are friends from freshman year at MIT.  We hadn’t seen each other in about nine years so it was very nice for me to see her family.  She served laksa for dinner which was delicious.  It was my favorite meal in Singapore as it was very vegetable heavy and I had gotten sick from traveling so much and from the heat. I had a sore throat and it was great to eat a home made healthy meal.

IMG_5110

IMG_5109

I rushed home to meet Humberto but was very disappointed when he sent me a text saying that he was staying out late.  It wasn’t a great way to end my trip to Singapore but c’est la vie.

Macarons

It is already the middle of March and I haven’t written an entry in nearly three months. I have been busy attempting to make macarons, the sweet French treats that come in all sorts of beautiful colors and flavors. Though I first went to France in 1991, I never really noticed the macaron until a friend from Bermuda recommended that I visit a shop called Laduree in Paris. Teo was only 10 months old at the time and I had taken a long walk with him from our apartment rental all the way to the Laduree boutique. I lined up and ordered six different types of macarons. Humberto was about thirty minutes late meeting me in front of the shop and at first, I had saved him half of each flavor. Well, needless to say, I ended up eating the entire bag while I waited for him and then just told him to line up for more when he got there.

I never really thought about making them but the same French friend gave me a tutorial at her house and then I tried with my friend JoAnn. The first time must have been beginner’s luck because they came out pretty well. But then we tried about four more times and we never were successful. After thinking about it, and doing a lot of internet research, I finally decided that we needed to follow the recipe without changing any ingredients. In the past, we had always been trying to reduce the icing sugar. Well, we followed the recipe and we were successful again.

Just to be sure that it was the sugar, I made more today and reduced both the icing sugar and the caster sugar. Significant reductions. Instead of 300 grams, I put in 100 grams. My shells didn’t puff well and they had absolutely no feet but I must admit, they taste much better to me with a third of the sugar. My Dad’s side of the family has a tendency to become diabetic so I am trying not to eat as much sugar, but it is hard because I am so addicted to baking.

There is a silicon pad called Silpat from France and I received three of them for Christmas. They are great. They basically take the place of parchment paper and are completely non stick. Now, I never have to soak my baking tins because all the cookies used to get burned on them. Making macarons reminds me of chemistry. You fail and then you think about changing different variables. There is a lot that can go wrong. In Bermuda, it has been very wet and rainy and humidity definitely affects the outcome.

Here is a picture of yesterday’s macaron. We made three different flavors: bitter chocolate, pistachio, and strawberry-mango. We also tried to color the shells with powdered freeze dried blueberries but the color wasn’t very blue.

Les macarons

Les macarons

Over the weekend, we took the boys to see “Jack and the Giant Slayer”. We had decided to go Saturday evening but it was sold out so we ended up having dinner at an Italian place in town called “La Trattoria”. We had calamari, pizza and squid ink spaghetti. It was way too much starch and both Humberto and I felt sick when we got home. Somehow, the boys never seem affected by what they eat.

Sunday at 5 pm, we went back and saw the show. It received a PG-13 rating because of violence so I was afraid for our youngest, who is turning five in June but he made it through with flying colors. The movie was very enjoyable and we all liked it. It is hard to find a movie that appeals to the entire family. When we were eating green beans this evening, Teo asked, “Mommy, what is inside the bean?”. I replied, “That’s what makes the bean grow into a beanstalk, just like in the movie”. He seemed very impressed and ate a lot of green beans.

Here are the boys getting ready to watch their movie:
IMG00289-20130310-1648

Last but not least, I have a very disgusting picture to share. When I returned from San Diego over the Christmas holidays, I found this disgusting mushroom growing in my bedroom closet. It was stuck to my leather boot! I haven’t worn my boots all winter because every time I see them, I still think of this disgusting mushroom. All I can say is that it is extremely gross and it grew like this in 10 days!

IMG00242-20130101-1158

The crunched down part near the floor is where my boot used to be. Sigh.

Well, I’m on a roll so I might as well try to post a few more old pictures.

In December, when Humberto’s Mom was visiting, I stayed at the Tucker’s Point hotel with Humberto for two nights. It was very luxurious and on Sunday morning, we were able to ask for late check out so I drove home and brought the boys for a swim and then we all had a nice bubble bath.

Gorgeous view from the room

Gorgeous view from the room

008

011

The boys relaxing in style!

The boys relaxing in style!

awesome tub

awesome tub

And then we went to an early Christmas lunch and here are the boy’s pictures with Santa which I purchased and never published.

IMG_4412

IMG_4416

And Christmas Day in San Diego. Humberto arrived Christmas Eve late at night and left around 4 am on the 26th. A long haul for such a short time, but at least he saw the boys open up their gifts.

071

And last picture, the boys are standing in front of my parent’s house. A pretty sad story is that when I was little, we hung a pinata from this same place and I got hit because I rushed for the candy when someone was still hitting the pinata. Memories.

082

Christmas Card

I just spent some time creating our family’s Christmas card.  Here is a preview:

Surrounded With Love Holiday Card
Create holiday photo cards that create smiles.
View the entire collection of cards.

« Older entries