San Francisco

DSCF5882

California. You are happiness and sunshine.

Albany John and I took an early morning flight from Albany to San Francisco to visit some of his side of the family. Specifically, Aunt & Uncle Cali & our cousin. As soon as we got off of the plane, Auntie & Cousin took us to Chinatown SF.

DSCF5884

Me and my cuz looking ah-maze on the streets of SF C-town. We ended up going to Great Eastern Restaurant for some dim sum goodies. They were ordered from a sheet. They were pretty busy, but we were sat quickly.

DSCF5886

Har cheung fun. The noodles were a little on the thick side, and it was a bit tepid. I’m guessing they made it earlier and reheated this for us when we ordered it.

DSCF5888

More goodies – turnip cake (tasted a little funky/tart), seafood dumplings, steamed lotus rice, har gow, and bean curd wrapped seafood (fried – so good).

DSCF5889

Bitter melon stuffed with fish paste and veggies. Bitter melon was steamed to a very soft/mushy state. Not bad, I’d probably try making this at home, just a little less cooked.

DSCF5887

Wontons  and those rockin beancured wrapped seafood packages.

DSCF5890

Daniel B. recommended I try Golden Gate Bakery for their dan tats, but they were closed (on vacation) when Albany John and I were there, so we went to Wa Li Bakery instead. Their dan tats were okay. The crust was more pie like than dan-tat-crust-flaky (you know what I mean).

DSCF5894

Girly cousin raved about Quickly. So I got a fresh watermelon drink, and Albany John got a neon “honeydew” drink. And hey, there is one of these in Flushing now. Cheap & tasty. My watermelon was ~$3.25 I think.

DSCF5892

Bam. Chinatown. Seen. Supposedly San Francisco Chinatown goes 5 stories underground. Oh, we also saw the fortune cookie making factory place. It was just off of an alley and just a few ladies making fortune cookies. I don’t really like fortune cookies, so it was one of those ‘oh, people like these things’ moments for me.

DSCF5903

And then we rode on a cable car and it was AWESOME! They didn’t even charge us. I have no idea why, maybe it was my childlike exhuberance “OH MY GOSH, THIS IS AWESOME!!!!! AAAHHH!!!”. But that was a great way to see the sights. I hung off of the side! Waahh, so dangerous, so thrilling!

DSCF5907

Here was a nice park.

DSCF5915

We drove down this hill. The one that is popular because of its curving and such. Although we were stuck behind some slow drivers, so it was a slow crawl down the hill. Auntie said it was more fun doing it faster. I am glad we were behind slow drivers. It turns out I am great at going up steep hills, but going down them I tend to go “Heeeeeeehhhh. HeeeeEEEEEHHHH. HHHHHHHEEEEEEHHHHHHH.” all nervous-like. I am not good down hill.

DSCF5909

DSCF5942

Finally got to check out 99 Ranch. It was only okay. The location we went to seemed really worn down, and prices were only okay. Go Albany, we have a comparable or better market for Asian foods!

DSCF5934

Obligatory Golden Gate Bridge photo.

DSCF5943

We got dinner from Mollie Stone’s – fresh dungeness crab! Holy crap, Mollie Stone’s is where I would shop all of the time if I lived in the Bay.

DSCF5944

Hello, air chilled turkey for $3.99/lb!! WHAT?!

DSCF5947

Fresh bread & crab from Mollie Stone’s! We had it with cocktail sauce, and mayo + dried mustard. My uncle likes it, and so I tried it. OH MY GOSH, I even like mayo in California! Mayo + mustard + crab = taste heaven. Actually, the crab was taste heaven all on its own. So sweet and meaty. Nothing like the blue crabs we get up here.

DSCF5949

Our cousin in DC had sent some goodies from a trip to Japan. A SAMPLER PACKAGE OF JAPANESE KIT KATS. GET OUT. YES. These were all so good. Wasabi kit kats (just a wee kick, not really spicy) are a close second to green tea kit kats.

DSCF5957

The next day the girlies hit up the mural district for a warehouse sale. I didn’t eat here, but I really liked the sign.

DSCF5960

Blue Bottle Coffee! I stopped here because I really liked this when I had it at the Confectionery in Troy.   The barista was such a peach. He asked “Have you had a perfectly fantastic day today?” And in NY I would have been like “Pfff, okay dude, yeah, sure, just gimmie my coffee,”, but in California it just felt so genuine, and I couldn’t help but answer “… Yes. Yes, I really am!”

And then I had to be a smartass & text the Profussor:
Albany Jane: “Were you grumpy when you lived in California? Everyone is so happy here.”
Daniel B.: “No, I was happy.”

I GET IT. I TOTALLY GET IT. I SO GET IT NOW. People are nice. They care about quality. Prices are reasonable for what you get.

So we shopped for eleventy billion hours while Albany John went to Golden Gate Park, and eventually we grabbed lunch at Big Mouth Burgers. They had a cool sign, and we were really hungry.

DSCF5963

Menu board.

DSCF5966

Albany John got a falafel burger with beans. Zesty!

DSCF5967

I got a cheeseburger with coleslaw. Holy crap, they mayo’ed that sucker up. BOTH sides of the buns were slathered in mayo. :X

DSCF5968

Onion rings! Greasy spoon eats, yeah.

DSCF5970

Capitol building.

DSCF5972

Outta the closet – next time I’m going in.

DSCF5974

Cheesy nibbles before dinner. Manchego on the left & humboldt fog on the right. I love Humboldt fog now. Tart, creamy, and just a wee bit crumbly. Great with Mary’s Gone Crackers.

DSCF5978

I thought this picture of Albany John and his aunt cooking in the kitchen together was really sweet.

The next morning we went to the farmer’s market.

DSCF5983

We didn’t buy fish from here, but here is an idea of prices and sourcing.

DSCF5987

This bakery was AWESOME.

DSCF5986

Gluten free bread section.

DSCF5984

Pastries.

DSCF5990

These were some expensive empanadas! $4 each, and they could fit in your palm!

DSCF5988

They had live music, but unlike the music at Albany area farmers markets, this was of reasonable volume and you could carry on a normal conversation within a few feet of it, while still enjoying the music.

DSCF5991

These strawberries were fantastic. And they started discounting them near the end of the market.

DSCF5994

Draeger’s was the upscale food market. The service in the retail section upstairs was kind of ambivalent and crappy, but the staff who worked in the actual grocery store were really knowledgeable and great.

DSCF6002

Wall of vinegars.

DSCF6001

The locked case. Dill pollen – I wonder what that tastes like?

For dinner we had lamb. Grilled. Oh. So good.

DSCF6003

Dinner precursor.

DSCF6007

The next day I got to try a Peet’s.

DSCF6008

It was okay, but kind of paled in comparison to Blue Bottle. But better than Starbucks.

DSCF6009

Bevmo! This was neat to see IRLsies. They had a bunch of stuff we already have, but…

DSCF6010

1800 Coconut Tequila?! What?! How have I not had that? Sadly, there was no room in my carry on for such souvenirs, so I had to pass up on it.

DSCF6016

And then it was time for my favorite – walkies! Look at those gorgeous succulents!

DSCF6017

More awesome neighborhood foliage!

DSCF6013

We stopped by the tennis club Aunt, Uncle, & Cousin are members of. Albany John was tempted to take dip in the pool. (Too cold by California standards)

DSCF6019

The Fairmont houses one of the few places on Albany John’s “Must Visit” list: The Tonga Room.

DSCF6028

Albany John is a huge lover of all things tiki. If there was one place he had to visit while in San Francisco, it was the Tonga Room. The tiki bar that had indoor rainstorms every 30 minutes.

DSCF6022

The rainstorms were pretty awesome to see.

DSCF6035

While Albany John and I were up gazing at the rainstorms, Aunt & Uncle ordered up some fried spring rolls & fried calamari. The spring rolls were surprisingly good.

DSCF6034

Drinks! Albany John got a Scorpion ($12) and I got a drink in a PINEAPPLE ($16). The Tonga Room is a bit on the pricey side, but for a (likely) once-in-a-lifetime trip for us, it was such a fun and memorable time. Also, those drinks were strong! I had to have Albany John help me finish my cocktail!

DSCF6036

Kahlua pork spring rolls & coconut shrimp as 2nd round appetizers. Our aunt & uncle were so sweet – they are such wonderful hosts, they wouldn’t let us pay for anything while we were there. I can’t wait to return the favor when they visit NY.

DSCF6040
DSCF6042

It got a bit rainy later that night, but that didn’t stop our rockin uncle from planking salmon in the rain.

DSCF6046

PLANKED SALON! I have heard tale of his smoked salmon, and it was so good. Marinated in a bit of olive oil, maple syrup, mustard seeds, and other such goodness…. Oh. Oh, Albany John needs to plan some seafood this summer. The plank really added a lot of smoky flavor to the salmon. And the skin was still nice & crisp.

DSCF6044

Wines with dinner.

DSCF6049Salmon Look at how it glistens with delicious fat! I need all salmon to be like this now. All. So good. And so delectably rare on the inside.

And then my camera lens decided not to work any more, so I had to take photos on my phone.

I hope Albany John and I get to visit San Francisco again. Our family was so welcoming and great at touring us around. I don’t know if we could ever spend enough time with them. My uncle even took me with him to one of his boxing classes, which was way fun, but then I got used to California time and stopped waking up at 5 AM.

Albany John went back to Albany after our few days in San Francisco, and I went down to San Diego for a bit of solo time.

Dippikill

DSCF5635

Hey, guess who willingly went camping the first weekend in March? This gal. It was even my idea. Craziness, I know. And a whole bunch of other adventuresome sorts came along. Phairhead & SexyBeast, Zero & his owners , and many more! We went to Dippikill up in Warrensburg, NY. Albany John has been with his friends several times. It was my first, and just a good one!

We stayed in Birches & also reserved the gatehouse for overflow campers.

DSCF5624

Here’s a shot of gatehouse. It’s just a short walk from the parking lot. You can only rent gatehouse as an overflow, not on its own. Oh, in the winter you get sleds to schlep your stuff from your car to your cabin if you have a far walk.

DSCF5625

Here’s what the inside of gatehouse looks like. Spiffy log cabin that keeps it super warm. Some folks who stayed in there one night added a few too many logs to the efficient fireplace and ended up sleeping in a sauna.

DSCF5648

Dippikill provides some cookware, and a big ol’ percolator, but Albany John brought his cast iron. Oh mah gosh, guys. We ladies enjoyed such a fest of fatty proportions made by our woodsy menfolk. Actually, I don’t think I cooked any time I was there… Zero’s pops had the fantastic idea of cooking the chorizo he brought in the residual bacon fat after Albany John made some of my bacon for breakfast. Take that, perfect cholesterol levels!!

We also took a day trip to Oscar’s Smokehouse, which is also in Warrensburg, NY. I got some powerfully smoked hickory cheese curds. The smoke level was almost painful, yet also irresistible. Jerky was dry, unseasoned, and pretty inedible. Pickles were awesomely crunchy.

DSCF5654

Dippikill provides wood for free/included with your reservation. All you have to do is chop more to replace what was by your cabin!

 DSCF5661

The lake was frozen over, so we took a hike over one day. Joyus puppers! And gigantic snowman.

DSCF5662

Happy Husbear.

DSCF5691

Post-camping aftermath. And lovable Zero in the background. Not too shabby for 12 people. While it might seem like social hour (and it can be: two of our merry men decided to stay up all night pouring Jim Beam by the mug, so don’t expect it to be quiet as a mouse), but I still found it easy to slip away for a few minutes or hours at a time to read in bed, or hang out where it was less noisy.

So, I would like to do this again, perhaps in June or late May some time, and get one of the big 25 person cabins. Would you like to come with, or come again? Let me know in the comments below! If we have all 25 people sign up, it works out to just under $35 per person for Friday-Sunday.

Workout Routine Review: Five-Alarm Fat Burner

I’m pretty much done with the Five-Alarm Fat Burner from Reps Magazine. It was challenging, and a nice way to change up the rut I had gotten into at the gym. By the end, I was looking forward to the stuff I hated in the beginning and loathing the stuff I liked at the beginning. I was even looking forward to the HIIT cardio portion I did today. I KNOW. I hated that when I first started doing this routine.
Unlike the model doing the routines, I changed up the weights I used during the barbell circuit. I’m chalking that up to physiological differences between men and women, or just my own flimsy body. I just can’t press the same weight I deadlift or squat.
Only minor thing was that it was very ab-light.

And now it’s done, so if anyone has another 4/6/8 week workout plan they’d recommend,  I would totally appreciate it.

I kind of ate like a jerk (hello, dark chocolate Reese’s) for half of the time I was doing it (and I was sick for another week, yay), but despite that, I think I actually did lose a bit of fat and gained some muscle by week 4. I may have even added a few lbs, but my clothes are a bit looser, and I try not to obsess over the scale or other metrics, so that’s good enough for me.

My arms have different definition to them (esp in the forearm area), and my thighs are a lot more toned. My calves are even thinner and more defined, which really surprised me as they are prone to bulking up easily. I remember when I was into jogging when I was 18 – my calves were so big that flared jeans were snug on my calves!

I like their site – pretty minimal on the supplement taking compared to other fitness magazines, and easy to navigate. I would love to find a magazine like this geared to women, with routines like this geared toward women. Muscle & Fitness Hers is okay, but their site is kind of difficult to navigate sometimes.

Sam Won Gak

The last time I saw Yeh-Yeh was when he was in New York Hospital Queens in Flushing, NY. He had suffered some more mini strokes and had an NG tube in. He slept for most of the time I was there, and only started waking up an hour or two before my dad, Albany John, and I left. There were flowers by his b

The time before that, he was in a rehab facility after his first stroke was discovered. He was awake, but didn’t recognize any of us, not that we could really tell. That really freaked me out. It made me anxious to see someone I love not recognize me, or his kids. He couldn’t even talk. After that visit I was probably more edgy, reserved, irritable, and anxious (or all of the above) than normal. It’s hard for me to know I’m unable to do anything to change a situation.

DSCF5871

Any way, the last visit. I had stayed up way too late the night before (1 am, 2 am, 3 am?) having a pointless snip fit with Albany John. Later that morning when we woke up, I asked if he’d come down with me. Of course, he said yes. I’m glad I had the company in the car with just a few hours of sleep, and the support while we were there.

We got in around noon, and YehYeh snoozed for most of the time we were there. I found this very comforting. Like he wasn’t sick, and he was just tired. Some family friends/extended family were there, and left a bit after we got there. We had several hours just with YehYeh, and spent a few minutes in our chairs snoozing right next to him. I really liked that. No rush. No fussing. Just some time with my YehYeh.
My Dad & Auntie showed up later in the afternoon. Some time around 4 or 5 the potassium they were administering to him really must have started kicking in, because he started waking up and looking around. He’d look right at you. My Dad had told me earlier how he’d give anything just to have him around for a while just blinking. Man, I had that same feeling when he opened his eyes.

We left a little after that, some time close to 5:30 or 6 pm so my dad and Albany John and I could get some dinner. I kind of didn’t want to leave, especially because he had just opened his eyes, but it had been a hard day, and it was nice to have someone else tell you to do something, or to go.

We wound up at Sam Won Gak in the Murray Hill subset of Flushing. I had mentioned I could go for Korean, we drove around and found free(!) parking outside on the street, and Sam Won Gak sounded pretty good. Turns out, it’s Korean-Chinese fusion. They start you out with some pickled yellow daikon, raw sweet onions, bean paste, and kimchi as the banchan. Not the most plentiful, but not bad.

DSCF5873

The waitresses were all older auntie type ladies, who worked together like an efficient military group. Sam Won Gak seems to be a hang out and drink kind of place, at least on a Saturday around 6 PM. Most of the other patrons were middle aged guys or older hanging out and putting away soju like it was their job. No rush, spacious tables, minimal decor. I’d probably like going here a lot if I lived here, because there’s more space than a bar, and it’s much quieter than a bar, too.

I forget what this was exactly called, but it’s basically like a Korean take on General Tso’s chicken, but less greasy/gloppy than the Americanized Chinese dish. But still a bit gloppy. $13 or $16 or something like that. A big plate of battered and fried chicken pieces in a lightly spicy cornstarch sauce with a smattering of veggies. The waitress double checked on wanting it spicy, and I was kind of bummed by the heat level. Didn’t even require a second glass of water. Flavorful, but not very spicy. Even my dad agreed that this was tasty, and not painfully spicy.

DSCF5874

My Dad spent a few weeks in (South) Korea this past year. He was in a fairly rural part and couldn’t really get down with the food served in most restaurants because it was usually so spicy. He liked this seafood soup a lot, and said it was really flavorful, and nothing like you’d be able to actually get in Korea. It was something like $8-9 and came with a ton of seafood and veggies. Massive bowl, flavorful and light/non-greasy broth, and tons of seafood. I liked it, too.

DSCF5875

Albany John went for the spicy crab soup ($9-10). Oh man, was that also a good choice. Like my “spicy” chicken, it was also not very spicy. Like, probably a 2/10 in terms of heat. Flavorful, though, and also a clean broth. A bounty of seafood, and plenty of real crab – no fake stuff here.

We drove home that night.

Yeh-Yeh

YehYeh

我爱你, 爺爺.

I love you, Yeh-Yeh.

YehYeh passed away this past Thursday.

This guy – he was always up for an adventure. I still can’t really process that he’s gone, although my dad’s been making funeral arrangements. It was fairly quick, so most of my family is glad that he didn’t suffer for too long. I don’t quite know what I feel, other than that I miss him. We’re all glad we got to celebrate his 80th birthday as a big bash two years ago. There pictures are from that party. The one above really captures his spirit – smiling and always looking to have a good time.

But the one below is my favorite:

YehYeh Face

Now I know where I got my facial expressions from. I know I’ve made this one a bunch. Excitement, emotion = exaggerated face. I’m hoping inside that it will kind of be a big joke and he’ll be all better and be like “Ah ha! Got you!!” when everyone gets there for his funeral next weekend.

YehYeh & Me

I miss you, Yeh-Yeh.

The Flying Chicken

DSCF5722

I keep calling The Flying Chicken the Frying Chicken, mainly because that is the first thing I think of when I think of them. I got a massive biscuit with chicken fried steak, white gravy, and topped with a sunny side up egg. I had trouble finishing all of this, but it was so good!

DSCF5721

Albany John got two pieces of dark meat with a biscuit and some collards. Man, those were some good collards.

The fry job on the chicken fried steak and chicken were great – crisp exterior with lots of crunch, and moist meat underneath. Yes.  Albany John loves the Flying Chicken. He’s eaten there a whole bunch in the past month, and his only regret from his first meal there was that “All other lunches have not been at the Flying Chicken,”. It’s a casual place where you order and pay at the counter, then bus your own table.

Oh, and this is also the beginning of my camera dying – I thought the blurriness was just smudging I didn’t notice, but guess what? The pictures get blurrier/smudgier and it turns out my outer lens started dying, so now I need to find a new camera, yay.