01
Apr 17

Los Angeles 2017: Eats and drinks

The only activities that rival visiting museums when I travel is trying new eats and drinks.

Porto’s Bakery and Cafe

On my first day, my brother and I had lunch at this popular Cuban place. And I do mean popular. It was maybe 11:30 when we got there and already a madhouse. However, the line moved quickly.

I had a milanese chicken sandwich, which was very tasty. We also got some pastries and potato balls to go, all of which were awesome.

Grand Central Market

I went to this food court three times. The first was with my brother on a weekday. It wasn’t nearly as crowded as I was expecting. I got a yummy sausage hash from Berlin Currywurst. I didn’t pay attention to the name of the place so I was surprised when the sauce tasted like Japanese curry.

The only thing I didn’t like was the way the guy seemed to try to trick people into getting fries. After I said yes, I realized it was $5 extra and changed my mind. Ditto with the guy behind me.

My brother got pupusas. Again, delicious.

The second time I went to Grand Central Market was with my buds. First we hit G&B Coffee where one friend had a cappuccino, another had a tumeric/ginger macadamia milk, and I had a almond macadamia latte. The milk was tasty but my latte was really good and strong.

Next was Eggslut (which, by the way, arrived in New York just days after we came back). The line was long but not insane. I got the sausage, egg, and cheese, which was amazing, and we shared a delectable biscuit.

My third time at Grand Central Market, we hit G&B Coffee and Eggslut again. I got the same things at both, and this time, since we got there at about 8:30, there was almost no line at Eggslut. My friend got the signature “slut,” a coddled egg on top of what is essentially mashed potatoes. It lived up to the hype.

At home

While eating out is fun, sometimes a home cooked meal hits the spot. So I was really happy when my sister-in-law made a lovely Korean dinner.

Not shown was a flavorful broth, chock full of umami. The next day I scarfed down the rest of the broth, plus most of the salmon.

Salt & Straw

If you’re wondering if I gained weight on this trip, unfortunately I did. Fortunately however I got to try the incredible ice cream from Salt & Straw. I had what they called the cinnamon roll, which pretty much tasted just like one in ice cream form.

Marvin

My mom was kind enough to treat my brother, sister-in-law, and me to a nice dinner. Our choice was this lovely French bistro. For an appetizer we had the jamon tomato toast, and for entrees my brother got the steak while my sister-in-law and I both got the rigatoni with Bolognese sauce. The food was really good but the service was weird. For some reason we had two waitresses. One was nice but the other was snotty. Otherwise, it was a nice dinner.

Normandie Club

After dinner at Marvin, we tried to go to karaoke. But everywhere was too expensive. So we got cocktails at this cool kind of retro bar. I can’t remember exactly what I had, except it had mezcal, tasted good, and got me pretty drunk, especially after the wine at dinner.

Angel City Brewery

While my friends and I were in the Arts District, we stopped here for a beer tasting, but not before trying on some angel wings.

We got a flight, of which I thought I’d have a sip of each, wince, and be done with it. But, surprise, surprise, I liked two of the beers, the ones on the right.

I can’t remember what they were, only that the dark one tasted of coffee and chocolate and the light one was a like a less briny pickle juice. In other words, neither tasted like beer.

Wurstküche

After hitting Angel City and another brewery, we came to this gourmet sausage place. The line went down the street, which told us the place was popular but I was wary about the wait. We took a chance and the line moved pretty quickly. I kept changing my mind. Hot Italian? Filipino maharlika? Straight-up kielbasa? I ended up choosing the chicken sausage with jalapeno and mango, and I didn’t regret it.

Mr. Holmes Bakehouse

The home of the cruffin, part croissant, part muffin. One of my friends said they usually sell out of the cruffins by noon. We were there around 10 and there were cruffins galore! I got three (for myself, my brother, and sister-in-law since I was going to their place later that day) and a couple of donuts. My brother and I split a cruffin. Not only was it all muffiny and croissanty, there was a delicious filling. It reminded of me that amazing blueberry muffin I had in Barcelona at the Catalonian art museum.

Stout

We spent part of a day in Santa Monica, which was fairly easy to get to. We hopped on an express bus that took about an hour and cost only $2.75.

After battling the wind on the beach, we came here for their early bird special: everything on the menu half off between five and six. I got the Stout Burger “skinny style,” meaning no bun, just greens. The burger and toppings were really good, but the greens were drenched in some kind of lemon dressing, which was way too much for my sensitive teeth. If I ever go back, I won’t do the skinny, or will ask for the dressing on the side.

The Misfit Bar

Next was happy hour. At first we decided against this bar because it was so crowded. We walked a little but then realized the other bars were far away. Plus my friend said the Misfit had “the best happy hour in Santa Monica.” When we returned, a few seats had opened up. I had a cocktail called the Jumping Jack Flash (Old Forester bourbon, Cocchi vermouth, ginger, and mint) which got me good and tipsy.

Beards are still apparently a big thing in Santa Monica and L.A.: all the Misfit bartenders had them, as well as random guys in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, back in New York, I feel like they’ve peaked and are fading out.

Nanbankan

For my last night, my brother and sister-in-law took me to this yakitori place. Like everything I ate in L.A., it was delicious. My favorites were the tsukune, or chicken meatballs, the pork sausage, and the okra.

Want more L.A.? Check out my earlier posts on museums and other random activities.


31
Mar 17

Los Angeles 2017: Little Tokyo, Arts District, Griffith Observatory

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I decided to head out to L.A. for a last minute trip and, although it might be hard to believe, didn’t spend all my time at museums.

Hiking

There was a trail not far from my brother and sister-in-law’s place. It felt good to walk, talk, and be close to nature. We also saw some cute ducks.

Little Tokyo

My friend and I stayed in this part of town, in fact right across the street from the ramen place my brother and sister-in-law went to a few years ago. Our hotel was pretty nice. Not too expensive, simple, and clean.

Our other friend, who is an excellent concierge-on-the-go, mapped out several places we could visit, including Fugetsu-Do, a mochi shop which has been open since 1903; a bakery where I picked up a cheese croissant and coffee roll for breakfast; Daiso, a kind of dollar store, where I got a beauty mask for fun; and the supermarket next door, where I got a blueberry cream cheese sesame bun.

The verdict on all those buns? My favorite was the blueberry cream cheese sesame, second the cheese croissant, and last the coffee bun, which was pretty boring.

Arts District

This was a fun part of town with lots of cool graffiti. A few highlights.

Disney Concert Hall

We came here not for a show but to check out the cool architecture as designed by Frank Gehry:

We went inside and there turned out to be a free audio tour, as narrated by John Lithgow. It was pretty interesting. Disney’s widow was very involved with the design. In the rooftop garden is a sculpture inspired by her love of roses and Delftware.

Griffith Observatory

We rushed out here via Uber about an hour before it closed. But that turned out to be plenty of time. We peeked through a couple of telescopes and saw one star which I can’t remember and the a double star in Orion’s belt. We also had a lovely view of the city. Inside a whole mob of people were waiting for the Tesla coil to do its thing. Later my friend explained there’s a scene in La La Land involving that.

Our Uber driver had warned us it would take a year for us to get another Uber out there to take us home so he generously offered to turn off his app and wait. Not too big of a deal since we only took about half an hour. Either way it was wonderful to have a car waiting for us to take us back to our hotel.

Escape room

It was my first time doing this and I had loads of fun with my brother and sister-in-law. At first I was like, “This is so hard!” and couldn’t figure anything out. But the clues helped. Eventually I was able to figure out a couple of things, one of which I kept wondering, “Is this real? Am I making up this pattern?” But when I finished a key fell out of the thing I had been messing with. I was so excited I jumped up and down. In the end we were able to accomplish the goal — in our case, breaking into a safe to steal diamonds — in time.

Next up: eating and drinking my way through L.A.


30
Mar 17

Los Angeles 2017: Museums

Getty Museum

Early last month I decided to take a last minute trip to L.A. One friend was going for business while another was going for fun. Plus my brother said it was good timing for him and his wife. On top of all that, I managed to find a cheap flight.

As on all my trips, I saw a buttload of museums.

The Broad

A newly opened contemporary art museum and already booked months in advance. But my brother knew about its standby line, in which you show up, wait in line, and hope you can get in.

We got there about half an hour before it opened, and the line already went down the block. However, the museum workers did a good job of letting us know how long the wait would be. They said an hour, and that’s exactly what it was. It also helped that it was beautiful out.

The space and art were fun. Lots of Jeff Koons, Jackson Pollock, and other ones I can’t name. :P I wanted to see the Infinity Mirrored Room, but there was a waiting list. Not only that, there was a line for the list. I would definitely go back.

Japanese American National Museum

I had mentioned wanting to see the George Takei exhibit. Turns out it was walking distance from the Broad so off we went.

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I really enjoyed it. I was surprised to learn it was curated by Jeff Yang. Surprised because you don’t usually see writers curating museum exhibits. That may be part of the reason I liked it. It told a cohesive story, taking highlights from Takei’s life and juxtaposing them against points in American history, from his being interned with his family at age 5, to the racism he faced trying to make it in Hollywood as an Asian American actor, to Star Trek, to coming out, to getting married.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

I always enjoy going to LACMA, especially since my brother is a member and can bring a guest for free. Their special exhibit was Picasso & Rivera, which examines the paintings, etchings, and watercolors from the contemporaries and compared them to the classic works (Greek for Picasso, Mexican for Rivera) that inspired them.

The Getty

My friends and I spent a good three hours here, but I could have stayed for longer. I focused on the special exhibit, Bouchardon, which was fairly interesting, and the garden. I started to look at the Concrete Poetry exhibit, but it wasn’t that exciting to me. Maybe if I had had more time. I felt like looking at some paintings so I went over to that building (which was hard to find for me) and got in some Rembrandt, Dutch still lifes, and French Impressionists.

That’s not all! I did other stuff besides visit museums (if you can believe it). That’s coming up next.


30
Dec 14

Christmas in Los Angeles: Good food and fun times

It’s been a long time since I last spent Christmas with my brother. Plus having his sweet girlfriend there too was an added bonus.

A turkey Christmas Eve

My brother is an excellent cook, and one of his favorite things to make is a turkey dinner with all the fixings. I was really excited. For sides he was planning brussel sprouts, mashed potatoes, and stuffing. The one thing he forgot to get were the cranberries for his homemade cranberry sauce.

“Aw man!” I said. “But it’s so good!”

So on the way home, despite my protests, we stopped at the grocery store, where he ran in and got some cranberries. He said the lines were crazy but a cashier, probably seeing that he had one thing, took pity on him and rang him up at customer service.

Dinner was excellent. My brother’s girlfriend made garlic mashed potatoes, and those were really good too.

Stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce.

Garlic mashed potatoes and brussel sprouts.

After cleaning up we took a walk around the neighborhood. It wasn’t too cold out, and it was really nice to see all the lights. On one of their walks, they had found a house with an amazing tree house, and that was sort of our goal. At first it seemed we wouldn’t find it, but then we did. The tree house was crazy and wonderful. Like something out of Swiss Family Robinson.

A British-y Christmas

After a morning of opening presents and an afternoon of eating leftovers and lazing around, we headed out to my brother’s friends’ place for a little Christmas party.

The hostess is a an anglophile and so as per British tradition, handed out paper crowns and little gadgets and toys, including Christmas crackers. Dinner was great. Ham with potatoes, zucchini, sweet potatoes, stuffing, and delectable dinner rolls with this incredible cinnamon butter.

After dinner was the gift exchange. There was some specific exchanging as well as kind of gifts that were just free-for-all, like a grab bag. The hostess was kind enough to give me Cinder by Marissa Meyer, a young adult book that’s a science fiction take on Cinderella. In a nutshell: Cinderella is part cyborg. Exactly up my alley.

After that we played this fun “gambling” game called Left, Right, Center. I won’t get into the details except to say that in the end my brother’s girlfriend won. The game involves lots of single dollar bills and she hilariously threw the money up like confetti after she won.

All in all, one of the most fun Christmases I’ve had in a long time.

Catch up on my other Christmas-in-Los-Angeles posts.


29
Dec 14

Christmas in Los Angeles: What we saw

We did more than eat, if you can believe it.

Venice Canals

On my first day we went out to the Venice Canals, and that’s where I had my celebrity sighting: Rosario Dawson looking tiny and pretty in big sunglasses and a long black dress with spaghetti straps. Can’t have an L.A. visit without spotting at least one famous someone.

The weather was lovely and warm. My back had been bothering me, but walking all over Canal Town helped a lot. Of course I also loved looking at the beautiful houses.

Biltmore Hotel

After dinner at The Factory Kitchen, we went to the beautiful Biltmore to meet some of my brother’s friends for drinks. Unfortunately when we got there, we saw the bar was closed and had to make other arrangements.

But in the meantime, I got a snap of their magnificent ceiling:

Getty Museum

This was my first time visiting this beautiful hilltop museum.

Everything about it was beautiful, from the train ride up to looking at the art to wandering through the different grassy areas and gardens.

The Huntington

It was my first visit to this place as well. The library had a very nice Christmas tree:

I enjoyed the art museum as well, which houses, among other works, Thomas Gainsborough’s The Blue Boy:

The gardens are beautiful and the English-style tea we had for lunch was yummy. It was all-you-can-eat so I stuffed as many little sandwiches and pastries into my gullet as possible. My favorite dessert was this dense brownie which was almost like fudge. (Even in a post not about eating, I have to talk about eating.)

Next up: Christmas Eve and Day.


29
Dec 14

Christmas in Los Angeles: Where we ate

This year I wasn’t able to head back east for the holidays, and I thought I’d be own my own, which, although not ideal, would have been fine. I have extended family in the area, and I like that peaceful feeling of solitude.

But at the last minute my brother found a reasonably priced flight for me to go down and see him and his girlfriend in Los Angeles, and of course that was much more fun.

Urth Caffe

We stopped here on my first day on our way to the Venice Canals. It was pretty crowded but we scored a table outside. I had the corn chowder soup, half a curry chicken salad sandwich, and, the best part of the meal, this chocolate cookie with chunks of white chocolate. So. Good.

The Factory Kitchen

We had a lovely dinner at this Italian place the night before Christmas Eve. For appetizers we shared chicken liver pate and pork belly, and for my entree I had their famous handkerchief pasta in basil pesto sauce. All of it was delicious, including my negroni.

Daikokuya

On my last night I had a ramen craving so we had dinner at this place in Little Tokyo my brother’s girlfriend had been wanting to go to anyway. She warned us the wait would be crazy long, but we were up for it.

To kill time we walked around a bit and got a drink at a nearby bar (unfortunately I can’t remember the name). I got an old-fashioned, which was yummy, and made me a little tipsy. We returned to the restaurant and waited another 30 to 40 minutes. People seemed happy when they finally got a table, especially since it was kind of cold out. We were the same way.

We got some tsukemono to share.

And while my brother and his girlfriend went with the classic pork ramen, I got the spicy one.

It wasn’t too spicy and the broth was very rich. The pork was also high quality, and the egg was cooked to runny perfection.

Next up: what we saw.


27
Feb 13

A quick trip to L.A.

While sometimes you need to lie on the couch and watch Beyonce, sometimes you need to get away. Hence, a quick trip to Los Angeles to visit my brother Greg.

Black Dog Yoga

Greg has really gotten in yoga lately, as have I, but while I might be slightly above beginner level, I’d say he’s advanced. Yet I still dared to go with him to his class at Black Dog Yoga.

It wasn’t hot yoga, but the room was very warm. Man, was it hard. I couldn’t do about a third of the poses, but the teacher was really nice (afterward she told my brother I had really good attitude) and I so much out of it. I sweated a lot during class, and was so calm afterward. It was exactly what I needed.

Japanese Garden

We also went to the Japanese Garden in Van Nuys. While not as lush as the one in rainy Portland, it was still peaceful and beautiful:

Picture by my brother.

A good place for thinking and trying to figure things out.

Sunny Spot

One night we had dinner with a couple of Greg’s friends at this Roy Choi establishment. We saw the man himself when we walked in. Greg knows him slightly (he’s the brother of a good friend) so we said hello and my brother introduced us. That was exciting. And the brussel sprouts and pork belly were to die for.


18
Oct 12

Book Soup: Reading from The Beautiful Anthology

As I mentioned, I was lucky enough to participate in a reading for The Beautiful Anthology at Book Soup in Los Angeles. 

Not only did I get to share my work, I finally had the chance to meet a few fellow TNB writers in person, including Brad Listin, Rachel Pollon Williams, and Rich Ferguson.

Plus! I got to hang out with my brother.

Get yourself a copy of The Beautiful Anthology if you haven’t already.


26
Mar 11

Too scattered for a decent post

Somehow this week became very busy.

Work. My job has been more hectic than usual.  Lots of activities, meetings, presentations, and getting food. We also had a college student “externing” with us, and I wanted to make sure he wasn’t bored and that he was able to make his way through the wilds of San Francisco without getting mugged by a meth head.

And oh yeah actual writerly work! I was pooped by the end the end of the week.

Travel. MB will be teaching a one-day class in L.A. in a couple of weeks. Normally he does all his own travel, but since I’m joining him – and wanted to fly in and out at non-crazy times and not stay at a random hotel (and I have control issues, apparently) – I made the flight and hotel reservations.

I’m excited! I’ll be missing my brother, who won’t be around that weekend, but our hotel should be nice. I paid eight more dollars a night to get a corner room, and put us on the “upgrade standby” list, meaning if upon check-in a better room is available, we get it for just five more dollars a night, as opposed to $20.

There’s not much in the area except a mall, but I imagine while MB is teaching I’ll have a leisurely day, work on my writing, work out, do a little shopping. It’s just nice to go someplace different.

Fall anthology. Last week I turned in revisions for a piece that’s in an anthology coming out in the fall. The editors had awesome feedback, and it took me a while to figure out how to do the revisions. I’m happy with the changes though.

And this morning I just handed in copyedits for a piece that’s coming out in a literary magazine May.

Memoir. Remember my memoir? I’ve still been working on it all this time, and to remind everyone, I plan on selling it on Lulu this spring!

Recently I entered the LAST revisions, and have been in talks with my pal Eva about cover designs. She’s a talented letterpress card designer – check out her cards! they are adorable – and I’ve been so excited to see her draft designs for my memoir cover.  You’ll get a sneak peek (and perhaps a chance to vote on your favorite) early next week!

I’ve also decided to liven up the title pages for each section of my memoir, of which there are five:

  • The Rat and the Horse
  • The Rat and the Monkey
  • The Rat and the Rat
  • Rat, Horse, Rat
  • Rat

The section titles refer to the Chinese horoscopes of the main characters, and I thought it would be cool to include drawings of the animals on the mostly blank title pages.  Eva liked that idea too, and made the great suggestion of putting some action in the section titles, both to help her with the art and to give the reader a preview of what’s going on in that section.

Then I thought, What if I put pseudo-horoscopes instead?  Just a few short sentences pretending to be a Chinese horoscope but really giving a subtle hint to the reader of what’s to come.

This has been much more difficult than I anticipated.  I’ve been combing the web for the right descriptions of both animals and how they get along.  Now I need to boil all that down in a few sentences.

MB thinks I should go even shorter with three words.  For example, for The Rat and the Horse section, A complete disaster. I’m not sure about that.  I’m toying with the idea of a six-word subtitle, in the tradition of six-word memoirs and novels, supposedly started when Ernest Hemingway was asked to write a novel in six words:

For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.

How incredibly sad is that?  Just those six words.

The Nervous Breakdown. Oh, and I’ve so been running around like a headless chicken, it took my bud Gloria to nudge me to check out The Nervous Breakdown – where I’m the featured author this week!

And of course I need to actually catch up on TNB reading, as well as post a piece before the month is out.

And now, the gym!


14
Sep 10

L.A., short but sweet

Our flight was Thursday night.  We decided to take the BART to the airport for the first time.  Usually we grab a cab.  I’m not sure why.  For some reason we had this idea that the BART would be more trouble than its worth, but actually it turned out to be very easy.

You may have heard about the gas line explosion in San Bruno, a town right near the airport.  Well, we were traveling on the BART when it happened and didn’t hear a thing.  We must have been underground at the time.  In fact, I think we were waiting on the San Bruno platform – having take the wrong train initially – minutes before the explosion.

Chalk this up to two other explosions I didn’t hear.

I forgot the airplane would be so small, and MB was pretty cramped, but the flight was less than an hour.  We flew into Burbank, a dinky little airport, and lickety split we were outta there and in my brother’s car.  Much easier than LAX (though the flights are a bit pricier).  It was already 10 by the time we got to his apartment so we just ate something, watched TV, chilled.

I slept awesome knowing there were no mosquitoes.

The next day my brother – whom I call Di, “little brother” in Mandarin – had to go to work so MB and I mostly hung around the apartment working on our own stuff.  I put in some hours for my job but also had a chance to work on my writing.

For lunch, we took a long walk out to Ventura Boulevard, eating at this random Mexican dive, Manny’s, along the way.  We walked in and saw all the customers were Mexican construction/maintenance guys, and thought the food must be good.  And it was.  I got a chorizo scramble (low cholesterol diet be damned for the weekend) and it was delish!

While it wasn’t too hot, it was still hot to be walking that much.  By the time we got back, I was sweaty, sunburnt, and grouchy because I hadn’t brought enough clothes, not anticipating that one of my outfits would stink by the first day.

When Di came home, we got some ramen for dinner and then pie for dessert.  The pie was good, especially my brother’s banana cream, but we kept smelling this weird, musty, mildewy smell.  It was strange because it would come and go.  At first Di thought it was the old woman at the table next to us, but then I surmised it was the rag they were using to wipe the tables.  I smelled the smell when the guy wiped our neighboring table, and my bro smelled it later when another walked by with the offending rag.  Gross.

More chilling out afterward.  Di had just come back from vacation in Mexico and was pooped, and MB and I were worn out from our walk in the sun that afternoon, or at least I was.

The next day it was off to my uncle’s.  He and my aunt were away so my parents were brought in to help with my grandmother.  Luckily my grandmother has 24/7 care so my parents don’t have to do much except just be there.

My mom made a great lunch of beef noodles, dumplings, and a variety of other dishes.  No pictures since I didn’t bring my camera.  (I’ve fallen so far out of the habit of taking pictures!) Since we had time, my brother washed his car, and we did laundry. Yay, no more stinky outfit! Later we hit the mall (what else?), and I actually had luck finding some pants I liked.

Then it was back home and fantastic dinner, thanks to Mom again.  There were two kinds of fish, stir fried shrimp with peas, mapo tofu, stir fried beef with pickled veggies, teriyaki chicken, tea eggs, baby bok choy, and beef soup.  I’m sure leaving stuff out as well.

Okay, hungry now.

While we were eating, my mother asked my brother, “Do you remember my hitting you with my slipper?” and he said, “Yes, of course!  Why else would I be afraid of a slipper?”

The funny thing is I don’t remember the slipper actually ever hitting me.  I remember the threat, the rushing of my mother toward me with slipper in hand, but I probably never went so far as to warrant a whack.

Then we started talking about a whole bunch of other memories.  I remember when Di knocked down the Christmas tree.  I remember when I broke the wall and all these bees flew out. (Apparently there was a giant hive growing in the wall for years.)  I remember when I used to pee the bed and Mom would get so mad.  MB was thoroughly entertained.

We left L.A. Sunday afternoon, and returned to a very chilly Bay Area.

This upcoming weekend: Seattle!