Secondo: Postcards & People: Pinnacles National Park & Big Sur
Photos taken by Hazuki and Kevin September 1-2, 2013

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The key thing I learned during my trip to Pinnacles National Park last year is that raccoons can climb trees. If they weren’t already scary enough on the ground, seeing their eyes reflect light in the darkness as they moved in the branches above me was straight up terrifying. I dutifully stayed by our propane grill, cooking Korean short ribs for dinner and imagining raccoons falling from the sky, aiming for the ribs, but landing on my face instead.

Second to that is the memory of Pinnacles being a pretty fun place, with awesome trails that lead you through dark caves and cracks between rocks. I discovered a love for scrambling (“an ambiguous term that lies somewhere between hiking and rock climbing”—thanks, Wiki) and felt like a big kid in a fantastic jungle gym with my friends.

The following day, we packed up our tents and headed to Big Sur, where the theme of our day seemed to be water. After brunch at Big Sur River Inn, we lounged and dipped our toes in the stream behind the restaurant for a bit before heading to Pfeiffer State Park for a hike up to a small waterfall, and then scrambled over slippery rocks in search of a swimming hole that we never managed to find, but at least the journey to find it gave us a free refreshing bath. Thanks Mother Nature!

View more pictures here.

Secondo: Postcards & People: Vancouver With My Crew

Time for the second main course: trips I took in the past year and the people who made them special. I’ve decided that I have too many photos and stories for one single post, so I’m going to spread them out. I hope you’re wearing your stretchy pants.

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Primo: Events

As promised, I’m here to serve the first main course: a compilation of favorite events that I worked or attended in the past 10 months. All of them are food-related and occurred during the summer, which leads me to believe that during the winter months, I end up hibernating.

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Antipasto: Test Kitchen

I’ve accumulated a backlog of posts from the past 10 months that I have every intention of writing. The task is a big one though, so I’m going to divide the highlights into a “four-course meal,” spaced over the next several weeks. Let’s begin with a roundup of Test Kitchen stories because I can’t think of a better appetizer than food porn.

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Is it though?

me: turns out our team thanksgiving lunch will be at google's indian restaurant
me: i finally get to eat google food!
me: i told my boss my dreams were finally coming true
ty: hahahaha
me: it's funny, the roads we take to get to our destinations
ty: come on, I believe your dream is bigger than eating google's food
me: LOL

Terracotta Warriors at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
Taken May 5, 2013.

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Earlier this year, the Terracotta Warriors exhibit made its last stop at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco before returning to China. Being the good Asians that we are, Jessie, Kelsey, and I made our way to the last free First Sunday of the month to get a rare close-up view of the archaeological treasures. 

Outside, in the line that snaked around the block, we had joked that maybe the only warriors inside were the ones that we had already seen on the posters and banners featured throughout the Bay Area. Inside, however, I was surprised to find the great number and variety of artifacts dating from the period of China’s first dynasty. In addition to the warriors, there were animal statues, architectural pieces, household wares, currency, and other objects that the First Emperor had buried with him to accompany and protect him in the afterlife. Homeboy commissioned an entire underground city to be built for him—complete with his own army and even gardens with birds!

If creating the Terracotta Warriors was the emperor’s attempt to achieve immortality, I would say that he has achieved it. I read somewhere once that everyone dies twice—the first time is when the spirit leaves the body, the second time is when one’s name is uttered for the last time and all memory of the person is gone. Given the legacy that the emperor built and left behind, I don’t think we will be forgetting him any time soon.  

Lemongrass Pork & Grilled Shrimp Vermicelli from Charles Phan’s Vietnamese Home Cooking
Taken July 2, 2013.

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For her 23rd birthday, Kelsey got a copy of Charles Phan’s Vietnamese Home CookingWhen she asked me which recipe I might want to try, I almost didn’t have to open the book. “Not gonna lie, that vermicelli on the cover looks gooood,” I responded. 

And that’s how we sucked ourselves into two nights of prepping and cooking. On the first night, Kelsey prepared the pickled carrots, and then we made lemongrass-garlic rub for the pork loin. It was our first time buying and using lemongrass (lesson learned: you need to buy more lemongrass than you think when you’re using just the soft inside core and discarding the woody part). It was my first time cooking real pork (vs. sausage) and using butcher’s twine. 

My favorite part was cutting the loin until it opened “like a magazine.” We spread the rub, rolled the meat into a cyclinder, and tied the ends. After sitting in the fridge for a day, the pork was ready for roasting. On the second night, Kelsey made flavored fish sauce, which was a good lesson in tasting and troubleshooting (recipes aren’t perfect—trust your tongue). While she cut up lettuce and boiled rice noodle, I made Phan’s recipe for simple grilled shrimp, as well as my signature milk tea.

The compiled vermicelli bowl was a beauty! Taste-wise, something was lacking in our lemongrass pork—it didn’t taste quite “Asian” enough. It might have been that we didn’t use enough lemongrass or that we forgot to get coriander seeds. Whatever the case may have been, coating everything in fish sauce solved our problem. Isn’t that just a fact of life?

When you say ‘yo,’ it’s more like punctuation. It’s more than a period but less than an exclamation point.
Andrew Shen on why I often say ‘yo’ at the end my sentences.
My mind was blown at such great analysis because I really had no idea.

Nice Girls Crew at Stanford. Taken May 20, 2013.

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My Facebook profile picture for the past two and a half months has been the photo I took with Lynn Chen. Someone on Facebook asked me if I was friends with Lynn, and the answer is yes—in my dreams.

I subscribe to Lynn, Michelle Krusiec, and Sheetal Sheth on Facebook, and at some point, one of them shared that the three of them were going to speak at a class called, "Free Your Mind: Improvising Asian American Comedy," offered by the Stanford Institute for Diversity in the Arts. The three actors star in a great, dorky web series called Nice Girls Crew, which is directed by Tanuj Chopra, who was also a part of the panel. I arrived early to the class and nabbed front row, center seats (I work across the street from Stanford and know the lay of the land). 

I’ve loved this group of ladies ever since they’ve graced the screen as wonderful, complex women of color with central, queer story lines. (In Sheetal’s case, she’s done it several times.) After hearing them on the panel and getting to speak with each of them individually after it, I’m further enamored by their creative work, intellect, and warmth. 

I told Lynn how I submitted the blog post I wrote about Thick Dumpling Skin as the writing sample for the job I currently have (because her site had reblogged it, giving me the bit of confidence I needed to believe I had written something that was worth sharing). With Michelle, I shared how much my friends and I enjoyed seeing Chinglish at the Berkeley Rep and how Saving Face is screened almost every quarter at Stanford. On my way out, I bought a bookmark from the Nice Girls Crew table and asked Sheetal for her thoughts on crowdfunding versus traditional funding for creative projects. (Earlier, I had already told her I Can’t Think Straight is one of my favorite movies.)

Getting to meet the three of them at once was a dream—maybe our paths will cross again in the future. Until then, I can’t wait for Season 2 of Nice Girls Crew to come out!

Soy, 5 Ways


misozuke, yuba, tempeh, tofu, soy milk

Little known fact: I’ve always wanted to cook one-on-one with Leslie. In fact, I find it a bit regretful that our paths never crossed in the kitchen when I was at Stanford. We went in and out of the same co-op, saw each other at Q&A, and we were both engaged in food in some way—one would think that the opportunity to cook together would have arose at some point but it didn’t. Not until this past June, anyways.

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