Posts Tagged ‘liz’

I drank beer out of a boot and other stories

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

Someone once said on a blog to not apologize for not blogging and just fucking blog. But I do feel I owe you readers an apology for being delinquent. I was out of town for a full week, which was really fun but exhausting, and now my froat hurts where my nostrils connect to my mouth cavity.

So. I was in Madison Sunday through Tuesday and then Minneapolis Tuesday through Sunday (palindrome?) – a conference extravaganza!

But, you guys! I has something important to report! Trees located in states outside of California seem to be infected by some horrible tree disease. They all have the same symptoms: (a) discoloration [I saw yellows, browns, and even reds]; and (b) leaf loss – they were in various stages of it but they were very much all losing their foliage and making a mess on the ground. I saw children being terribly insensitive to this devastating epidemic and making mounds of the infected leaves and jumping in the piles. Assholes.

Anyway, here are some notable things I did in Madison:

(1) Drank beer and ate popcorn at Memorial Union Terrace on the campus of U Wisconsin, overlooking the lovely Lake Mendota. With the unseasonably balmy weather and unreasonably salty popcorn, this was pretty much my idea of heaven. But then I was startled out of my reverie by a terrifying siren/alarm that blared across the campus and lake. Since I’m Japanese, it is in my DNA to expect a Fat Man or Little Boy to detonate after such a siren. When I looked around to see if anyone else was as frightened as I was, however, I spotted no other Japanese person, and in fact, no other Asian person even, so I had to suffer my fear alone. It turned out to just be the daily notice at dusk for the boats to come back in off the lake.

(2) Drank beer out of a boot at the Essen Haus. It was a giant glass boot filled with two liters of beer. I believe it is tradition to drink Spaten Lager, so we did. The main rule was that the second-to-last person to drink had to buy the next boot. Another rule was that you couldn’t put the boot down. Anyone who did had to put $1 toward the next boot. The brainpower of seven Ph.D.s put together realized that neither of these rules had much bite during the last round, when there was no fiscal consequence of being the penultimate drinker. So we altered the rules to state that the second-to-last person to drink on the last round had to buy the first round when tab-settling time came. Brilliant.

Another thing to watch out for, besides not leaving enough beer for the person to your left to finish off, was the big air bubble. A third rule was that you had to drink it toe facing up, which at a certain critical amount of beer would result in air rushing into the toe, creating a huge POP and foam and beer in one’s face. It sounds sexy but it’s not. Super fun, though, and I’m happy to report that yours truly paid nary a cent on the final bill. Do you has a proud?

Here are some things I did in Minneapolis:

(1) Ate at Taste of Thailand, pictured top. I ordered green curry, which is not on the menu but available. What I liked: the Thai eggplants, which were golf-ball sized and reminiscent of okra, and the peas. What I didn’t like: the curry was super sugary. I guess if you have to cater to midwestern gaijin sensibilities, that’s what you end up with, but you could have put the liquid on pancakes and it wouldn’t have seemed out of place.

(2) Gaped at the zombies for the annual Zombie Pub Crawl. Tagline: It just won’t die. We were warned at the conference that we should expect zombies to be milling about town “being weird.” lol. I learned that “Zombie Bride” is a totally played-out costume. The best one I saw was Zombie Ronald McDonald. No Grimace, though.

(3) Had a hotel room party in our suite. Liz was on the conference committee, which netted us the awesome suite with windows comprising two of four walls AND fifteen bottles of wine. We (OK, just me) thought it would be awesometastic to fill the bath tub with ice to chill the Pinot Grigio and Prosecco. Liz humored me and helped me go to the ice machine and back. After three or four million trips, I finally conceded “That’ll do pig” and snapped a picture of it with my new Droid R2-D2 phone!

(3) Ate at 112 Eatery where Liz had the foresight to book rezzies a month in advance. It’s been deemed the best restaurant in Minneapolis several times over. I couldn’t convince anyone to order sweetbreads, but otherwise I was blissfully happy with a number of standouts, in particular the tagliatelle with fuckin foie gras meatballs, and Nancy Silverton’s Butterscotch Budino.

(4) Went to Gay 90′s. I ordered two drinks – one for me and one for my partner in crime, Kurt. The bartender plopped them on the counter and said, “Two dollars.” Me: “Two dollars?!” Bartender, in a duh voice: “Yeah, it’s Thirsty Thursday. There’s a drag show too.”

!!!!!!!! Danger zone. I knew it but utterly failed to self-regulate. The two of us ended up buying and smoking an ENTIRE pack of cigarettes, sneaking into the back room [you have to go through the men's room] to gape at the gay porn beamed onto the wall, poking a drag queen’s sweaty boobies because we thought they were so beautiful onstage, and realized that was the wrong drag queen and stalked the one with the actual beautiful boobies and poked those too. Soft.

Raku Las Vegas

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

When two foodies get together it’s ON.  When there are THREE together, well, everyone go get your portable mini-fans because there will be overheating, heavy breathing, and sweat.  When there are three PLUS a Dita von Teese lookalike who will make the rest of you look glamorous by her mere presence, well, that’s just beyond reasonable limits of outrageousness.

Our gang of four (me, Liz, Dita, and LL who got me, once, a T-shirt from Musha so you KNOW he’s legit), recently reunited in Las Vegas for a conference after half a year apart, celebrated our cheer by going to Raku.  God, that place is an oasis in that nasty, glitzy, dusty, spermy 89119.  It isn’t on the strip, but instead tucked in corner of a shopping center in the Asianey district of Vegas.

I have never seen such a Yelp-approved resto, in any city I’ve been to.  We began our happy dinner with a flight of sake.  Liz was reticent re: the nigori sake, but soon was contentedly slugging it back (told you!) and asking me the correct pronunciation of “sake.”  Technically, it is, phonetically, “saw-kay” instead of “socky,” but I understand very well how annoying it is, when, for example, someone will be speaking perfectly unaccented Nebraskan English and then shout “TAMA-LAY!” midsentence when discussing tamales.  So I bid her leave to call it socky and also to say carry-okie too.

I’ve been procrastinating on this post because I have been trying to find adequate words to describe this tofu.  Official title: Raku’s Tofu, and you know something that bears the restaurant’s name must be good.  Oh, I wasn’t prepared, though – I wasn’t prepared!  For god’s sake, it’s just tofu!  But how could this be tofu?  This was a silken jelly of the deities.  The pattern you see is what was left behind by the half-moon basket that the tofu was made in.  It was not salty, but covered the back of your tongue and lingered intoxicatingly.  It was smooth and creamy but not in a mashed potato way but instead a slippery way, and dissolved in an achingly thrilling manner, like a bite of a room-temperature snowball.

I’m rambling and slightly incoherent.  This tofu didn’t even need condiments, but I just had to try one of their many very special accoutrements like this green salt that had seven different ingredients in it (including salt shipped from Okinawa – how’s that for not eating local?) and was made in-house.  They also had in-house soy sauce that took our server two verbal paragraphs just to describe how special it was.  Impressive.

Above was another melting eye-opener  - hamachi (yellowtail) carpaccio.  What in flippin hell was that sauce?  It was a ponzu-ish sauce but very pleasingly cloudy.  Just one lustrous bite of this sleek and oily fish turned us all instantly into enemies.  After all, six portions is not gracefully divisible by four.

Luckily, it was easy to get distracted as the food kept coming rapidly.  Raku’s full name is Abriya Raku, which is a bastardized spelling of aburiya, which means grill – meaning, specifically, grilled over charcoal.  So its specialties I think lie in the robata grill items.  Above are shishito peppers from the robata, described as “green hot chile pepper” but is always zero percent hot in my experience.  Just a dribble of the special soy sauce (watch the bonito flakes move and curl as if aliiiiive) and down the gullet it went.

Oh, make sure you discard yer stick things into the special made-for-it skewer holder.  Everything in its place and a place for everything.

Pictured above was one of the major triumphs of the night.  The unassumingly-named soba noodle salad, the dish was a “more than the sum of its parts” type ordeal, with tonburi (aka land/mountain/field caviar), thinly sliced daikon, fun streamers of nori, ginger, and one of those sauces that call to you, siren-like, to pick up the huge (not to mention communal) bowl and tip it into your mouth.

Another soaring note was the butter sauteed scallop with soy sauce, pictured top.  Each of the four of us got our own too-pretty-to-be-hidden-by-a-scallop-shell dish that was hidden by a scallop shell, and that contained a buttery briney liquid that lovingly surrounded a grilled scallop.  Some members of our party had to put their chopsticks down and say “Oh.”  I could have had a meelyon of these.  I think I even said that, just like that.

Also from the grill – enoki mushrooms wrapped in bacon.  Enoki is like natto – I understand how it is Fear Factor-esque, both in looks (tentacley!) and in mouth-feel (chew forever and you still feel like you can’t swallow without choking) but to me (also like natto) it is like drugs.  Wrap it in bacon and you have (also in taste and looks) an umami-filled mini-volcano eruption.

Yelpers insisted that we order the fluffy cheesecake.  I see why.  It was very foodie-cool.  The bottom was a soggy (in a toe-curlingly delicious way) graham cracker type substance – a very thin layer; perhaps a fourth of a centimeter tall.  On the other end – the top – was a frond of fennel!  Surprising and cheerful!  The cake itself is difficult to describe.  Fluffy is a good start.  I look at this picture and I am perplexed as to how that fluffiness is even holding up those heavy raspberry fourths.  All of it was exactly zero sweet.  Maybe the raz sauce, but otherwise, this “cake” was more tart and salty than anything else.  Naturally, I hoovered that shit.

Wow.  I am re-reading this post (YES I proofread these, shoot) and it’s rather…oleaginous.  I will stop here.  But reading this, you must be relieved that you finally have somewhere to eat in Vegas that isn’t cheesy or expensive, no?  Not to mention smashingly tasty.

OK.  I’ll stop.

Abriya Raku

5030 W.Spring Mountain Rd #2,Las Vegas, NV 89146

702.367.3511

Pops Chicago

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

Sharisa: Pops!
Others: [Not listening] Where should we grab a drink?
Sharisa: Popospopspopspopspops!
Others: [Still not listening] Can we go somewhere other than the damn lobby bar? I’m sick of martinis.
Sharisa: POPSPOPSPOPSPOPSPOPS!

So, she wasn’t hicupping. She was trying to communicate that we should go to Pops, which is a champagne bar in the Magnificent Mile (that sounds dumb. Miracle Mile is so much cooler) area of downtown Chicago. It was barely a three-block walk from our hotel, on the way to our dinner rezzies at Frontera (post forthcoming!) Grill, and just perfect.

Drew, who wasn’t going with us because she had a date with a Chicago “friend” (in quotation marks because he was one of those friend-who-so-dearly-wants-to-marry-you-even-though-you’ve-told-him-a-thousand-times-you-have-a-boyfriend friends … one of those friend-who-texts-you-multiple-stanza-poems friends … one of those “Oh, you now need me to pick you up at Pops? Ok, well make sure you stay in the upper floor near a window because the lower floor of that restaurant doesn’t get any cell reception and I want to be able to reach you when I pick you up at 8:55 on the dot” friends), decided she couldn’t miss out and came with us.

The menu is extensive. We obv skipped the Jacquesson 1990 Avize Grand Cru Dégorgement Tardif since I didn’t bring enough cash to spend $1250, and settled on a relatively cheapie cheap Prosecco. We fretted to our server (whom Liz called “attractive” and we all jumped down her throat. Attractive if you’re Charlotte from Sex and the City, maybe) over whether to get the half bottle or a bottle or a half bottle or a bottle do we have time for a whole bottle probably not but will half a bottle be enough etc. for a long time, and instead of taking the easy up-sell, he said “We can surely work out a half bottle for the four of you.” and eased our mental suffering.

This on top of the bouncer getting us a prime table in the window (we seated Drew immediately adjacent to the window for maximal cell reception) even though we yelled “WE’RE ONLY HAVING ONE DRINK!!!” as we were walking in. Very nice, these Chicagoans.

Liz got some sort of peach bellini with peach foam. She gave me a taste. Lordie. When I was a kid, I was allowed to have the foamy head only off of my parents’ beers. I sucked Liz’s foam the way I imbibed said beer foam as a child – like my life depended on it. Delish!

When Drew’s “date” pulled up (we all wondered what sort of car he [hedge fund lawyer] would drive – I kept a lookout for either a Mercedes or an unmarked van) in a BMW and she scampered off, probably mortified that we were waving at her date SO HARD with cheesy grins on our faces. Cuteness all around.

Pops for Champagne
601 North State Street at Ohio
312.266.7677

Takao

Monday, November 19th, 2007

In terms of Brentwood sushi joints, Katsuya gets all the attention. I, however, went to Takao, the quiet but actually really talented middle child sushi joint. My beloved advisor Liz ((Cuz she looks like Liz Lemon.)) and I had been giddily Facebook-wall-posting for over a week about getting omakase ["oh-mah-kah-say"], which literally means, “I’ll leave it up to you, bro,” and is basically like a tasting menu.

Liz shared exactly half of every dish she got with the others at the table. I shared exactly none. Are you kidding? I was hungry. I could have taken down three of these omakases, no problem.

First up: Uni noodles. Uni, of course, is sea urchin. In this delicious concoction (the word “concoction” was coined, I think, solely to describe this dish) was soba tsuyu (soba sauce), soba-ish noodles made with uni, scallions, and yuba. Liz said that the tangy bits were better than the tsuyu-ey bits. Yuba sounds gross in theory but is silky-slippery and gorgeous in real life. Do you want the gross factual description? Fine. You know how when you heat up milk, that skin forms on top? Well, if you heat up soy milk, the same thing happens, and that skin is called yuba. So to make yuba, you heat up soymilk, take a long stick and lift up the skin, and chill it. To de-gross you out, just think of it as the thinnest slices of silky tofu that you’ve ever had.

Second was the most beautiful dish ever, pictured top: Halibut carpaccio with red peppercorns. It was bathed in a nice yuzu squeeze, and while I was initially scared of the peppercorns, they ended up being very tame and added a really cool crunchiness.

Next was Kanpachi with jalapeno. This had a slightly different citrus than the dish before – more orangey. Ponkan? Iyokan? Not sure. It wasn’t thrilling to look at, and a spicier jalapeño would have made the dish more fun, but I liked.

Meanwhile, down at the other end of the table, someone ordered sashimi. Look at it! Gorgeous. In fact, slap that piece of tuna on a silver ring and give it to your girlfriend.

Next was salmon sashimi “New Style.” I noticed that as the oil/fat content of the dishes increased, the white people at the table got more and more into the food. Silly white people. The enoki mushrooms on top totally made it – the whole thing was smoky-oily and scrumptious.

Next was the softest pork I have ever eaten. [Cue white people apeshit-icity.] It was grilled pork with miso sauce, but such a plain jane name does not adequately describe this dish. Melt-in-your-mouth is such a tired expression, but it’s what it was here. They told us to wrap it in a lettuce leaf, and thoughtfully gave us a warm towel to clean up afterwards. Neither Liz nor I could hold back, though, and immediately grabbed the towel and aahhed about the incredible softness of our hands.

Black cod – the only fish that could possibly be fattier than pork. I’m used to a miso treatment for black cod, but this wasn’t. I believe it was some sort of teriyaki-ish flava. I pried away the fish from the skin, but in the end couldn’t hold back and picked the crunchy/fatty skin up with my fingers and gobbled it up. Boosh.

This dish (deep-fried flounder with spicy ponzu sauce) won the “I’m pretty but not that tasty and besides, people is getting full already” award. I should have ditched the insides and just eaten the deep-fried shell. I cannot resist a fried shishito pepper, though, and even ate Liz’s spicy ass pepper, which in fact was a jalapeño that the chef had erroneously fried up. The fish shell blew my mind. Everything was edible – bones, scales, fins – all of it, and it was like an irresistably fishy potato chip. Crunchy munchy.

For our final course, we had the choice of soba, udon, or sushi. Are you fucking serious me? (See this post for an explanation.) Bring on the sushi, betches! I wanted that fucking toro, STAT. [Fatty tuna makes me swear a lot, I guess?] Oh, shit. When the fish slid down my throat and coated it with the creamy smooth fish fat, it was amazing…I went insane for a moment and vowed to spend every last penny of my fellowship eating toro.

Liz is a bit of a food-wimp at the moment, so she went for the udon. It was excellent udon, but no sexy toro. The mark of an excellent Japanese noodle is “koshi” which I guess loosely means “chewiness despite softness” (literally, it means “lower back” weird).

Ah, mochi. The best way to end a terrific meal – sticky and sweet. Happy, happy times.

Takao
11656 San Vicente Blvd
Los Angeles CA 90049-5104
310.207.8636