Friday, December 11, 2009

Breathtaking dance

I just watched this routine from So you think you can dance. It's beautiful, amazing stuff.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thanksgiving break

Nick and I spent a nice Thanksgiving with our friend Carmen. We made lots of food, watched concerts on TV (yeah Michael Jackson!) and played some wii. After she left Friday morning Nick and I relaxed together for the next three days. It was wonderful.

On Friday we watched Ratatouille, played Lego Star Wars on the wii, and did some Black Friday shopping at Target and Ross. Nick got the Flight of the Conchords 2nd season dvd for only $8.99! The we ate leftovers and made turkey pot pie.

On Saturday we had tacos, pozole, a torta, and a pineapple Jarritos at Los Comales. More relaxing. More leftovers.

On Sunday we woke up late and had leftovers. Then we went hiking at William B. Umstead State Park, which was amazing. It was so peaceful. Afterward we stopped at Crabtree Valley mall on our way to The Pit in Raleigh. We had some great food (brisket and pulled pork for Nick, baby back ribs for me) courtesy of Emily and Steve who gave us a gift card months ago. Thanks, guys!

Sunday night we made apricot and strawberry rugelach. They are delicious!
On a sad note, though, our hamster Penelope passed away suddenly on Tuesday. It tinged our holiday and I can't quite believe she won't be running around our office anymore. I hope she had a good life with us, even if it was only for three and a half months.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009


I've been reading a bunch of "I'm thankful for..." posts today so I thought I'd write my own.

I'm thankful for:

1. My family. They all happen to be in CA right now and my mom's side is all together this Thanksgiving except for me. Tear. They give so much support it's crazy. And they're crazy loud when they get together. I'm going to miss it.

2. Nick. He is just awesome. I am so glad we made the journey out east together. Not only is he the nicest person ever, he's also a great baker. He solves many problems with his rice krispy treats, zucchini bread, and chocolate cookies. Can you believe it will be 7 years in January?

3. Annika and Cassidy. They deserve their own mention because they are too cute to be lumped in with everyone else. These pint-sized bundles of joy/stress/love have so many moments of adorableness that when I'm down, I just look at their pictures and feel better.

4. Friends. Friends from all aspects of life that we seem to collect along the way. From the SGV, Davis, and Durham...hopefully many more to come.

5. A roof over my head. I'm so fortunate to be able to afford a place to live. I take this for granted but for so many people this isn't the case.

6. Food. Sometimes I also take food for granted. I'm lucky to be able to eat locally and out whenever I want. I think life would be so boring without the total enjoyment of food.

7. The internet. Yes, this is sort of a silly choice but it does help me communicate with the world, procrastinate, and find really good recipes really easily.

8. The number 8. It's my favorite number in the whole world. This is also sort of silly. However, I desperately wanted to have 8 things on my list. Because, you know, it's my favorite number.

Happy Thanksgiving! Nick and I are going to make a turkey and lots of other food. Will update with pics when we get them.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Piedmont Restaurant

We're coming into the last stretch for this semester. I'll be glad when December 10th comes around! I can't believe we only have one semester left, too.

I'd like to talk about one of our favorite places. Piedmont is located near the farmer's market so more often than not we eat there for Saturday brunch after getting our produce. Since we generally go after the farmer's market we almost always get the same table. I've taken to calling it "our table."

It's a contemporary space with a loft-like feel. Brunch is simple but sophisticated. I hope to do a brunch post sometime in the future. This post is about a dinner we had back in September that was quite memorable. We don't often do dinner there but I think we were on our way to the theater that night and decided to make a date out of it.


We shared a gnocchi course that was simply amazing. The gnocchi had been seared in butter and had the most delicate flavor, enhanced by the poached egg on top. I love gnocchi but always regret ordering it because the portion sizes are too big for such a rich dish. Here, sharing made for the best enjoyment.

I had a housemade Italian sausage and polenta dish in a tomato broth with broccoli rabe. While this dish hasn't been my favorite out of what I've had there, the execution was solid and the polenta was creamy.


Nick had a fish dish. In fact, I can't remember anything about what was in it except that he really, really liked it. The fish was cooked really well. Oh, I just remembered Piedmont's website has menu archives. Nick's dish was seared NC wahoo with sambuca braised fennel and puttanesca sauce.


We shared a walnut cake with housemade vanilla bean ice cream that was so, so good. I cannot tell you how much I still think about this cake today and wish I had another slice. I was a good friend that night, however, and got a slice to go for a friend that had just taken her first organic chemistry test.


Piedmont is a great place for upscale food in a contemporary setting without the upscale atmosphere. They're laid back because they know their food is great. And that's how I like it.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Tacorriendo Las Delicias

I have a confession to make. Nick and I have not eaten at a midnight taco truck in months. MONTHS. So tonight, after the Duke basketball game we stopped by Tacorriendo Las Delicias on Hillsborough to reunite with our faithful midnight (although it was only 10:30pm) food haunt.

Four tacos: two al pastor, one lengua, and one barbacoa. Not pictured: arroz con leche.


It was as delicious as we remembered. Must come back more often...

Lyndsay, I saw a van at the other end of the parking log advertising tacos de birria y consome. Maybe reason #2478 you should visit Durham??

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


So Halloween was more than a week ago...oops. I've been pretty busy with school, if that's any excuse. I was Little Red Riding Hood. Friends pictured: Carmen as a gnome, me, Emily as Medusa, and Katy as Smurfette.


Here are Steve and Nick's matching costumes:


They're the red and blue tanks from the Wii Play game. Steve also made his blue tank an Obama tank with campaign stickers. Too bad we didn't have any McCain stickers! (I don't know anybody that does, here) That would have been funny, right? They were throwing ping pong balls at each other all night. =)

The costumes were mainly recycled materials. They got a christmas tree box from target for free, where they bought the red and blue wrapping paper. the cardboard tubes, ping pon balls, plastic cannon ends, and cds were from the Scrap Exchange, a creative reuse center that gets stuff from industry that would otherwise go to the dump. Go Steve and Nick and beign environmentally friendly!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Twisted Noodle

I can't believe I haven't posted on Twisted Noodle yet. This Thai restaurant is one of our go-tos whenever we don't feel like cooking, or when we feel like having noodles. Sure, it's more expensive than what we would find in CA, but you can't be upset about it when you live in North Carolina.

I have been recovering from a bout of the stomach flu these past few days, and for my first full meal I decided I wanted to eat some favorites at Twisted Noodle. I generally rotate between two things: sauteed glass noodles and teo chew noodles (with soup or "summer style"). I didn't bring a camera yesterday so these photos are from a previous visit.

Nick usually varies his choice. Sometimes he gets drunken twisted noodles, yesterday he got roast duck noodles, and still other times he gets the sauteed cashew stir fry. It's good to note that the roast duck noodles are much better "summer style" than with the soup.

Although we usually get dessert, we didn't last night because I didn't think my stomach would appreciate dairy. We love the rotee with the flaky layers and sweet condensed milk.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Fall Break

Currently in LA.

Watching lots of tv in HD.

Met up with the Gastronomer and the Astronomer at Blue Cherry. May have found fro-yo that I like! (not too tart) Got to introduce them to my favorite guy. =)

Banh xeo for breakfast. JTYH knife-cut noodles (pan fried and in beef noodle soup) for lunch. Roast duck during dinner. Fosselman's for dessert.

Tomorrow dim sum with Nick's siblings. Pho ga with family for moon festival. Seeing the girls and Connie's new house.

Monday banh cuon or In N Out (or both?). Huntington Chinese garden. Chiu chow garlic crab for dinner.

What a fabulous three day weekend...

Saturday, August 29, 2009


This post is not to say to the world how charitable, how caring, or how philanthropic Nick and I are, but to let you know sometimes there are other reasons why we dine at the places we do. I forgot to take the camera, so no pictures this time.

Today we had lunch at Vivace, in North Raleigh. It was about a 40 minute drive, not close by any means, but we had errands to run on our way back so it wasn't too bad. We decided to eat there because the staff was donating 100% of their tips to a very good, but sad cause.

Last Wednesday six-year old Ashley Ramos-Hernandez was hit by a car as she got off the school bus near her house. The 83-year old driver did not see her. Ashley didn't make it.

I'm pretty sure it's against the law to pass a stopped school bus in any direction and it makes me angry that such carelessness caused such a tragedy.

Her parents both work for Urban Food Group which owns Vivace, Coquette Brasserie (whose staff is also donating their tips), and two other restaurants. They decided to do this to help Ashley's parents with the funeral costs and other expenses. More details are found here, on the VarmintBites blog.

So Nick and I found ourselves at Vivace at noon today. The inside is cool and modern, with long banquettes and large cube lanterns overhead. We perused the menu while eating sesame semolina bread with a roasted garlic-white bean spread.

I started with a classic caesar salad and Nick opted for a large bowl of mussels steamed with garlic, butter, and tomatoes. My salad was pretty solid, with fresh romaine and lots of shaved parmesan. Grilled bread accompanied his bowl and I got to soak a piece in the delicious broth. Nick really enjoyed the mussels and the tomatoes.

I chose a scallop risotto with fava beans and corn for my entree and Nick got braised shortribs with mushrooms and polenta. We both thought everything was good, but I was so full after barely eating a quarter of my dish. I think I would have enjoyed it more if we didn't eat so much bread and appetizer. We'll just get to have the leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

When our bill came, there was a slip of paper explaining that the service staff was donating their tips to the Ramos-Hernandez family. I hope it persuaded every patron to tip a little bit more than they normally would have for this family.

We ended up having a delicious lunch at a place I had not heard of before, along with being able to help a family in the aftermath of such tragedy. I look forward to dining at Vivace again in the future.

Monday, August 17, 2009


This past Friday I fulfilled one of the wishes that I had when I first moved to Durham. I wanted my very own hamster, and I finally took the plunge. She is a cute, gray teddy bear hamster. I'm still getting used to her and I hope eventually she'll get used to me.

I decided to name her Penelope, after the first name I came up with didn't quite fit. I think I'll call her Penny for short. =) She likes to climb the walls of her cage and eat blueberry yogurt treats. Last night she got carrots, celery, and squash for dinner. What a treat!

Monday, August 3, 2009


The Sunday after Nick's siblings left we decided to have some brunch. Usually I choose a brunch place like Rue Cler or Watts Grocery, but that day Nick decided he wanted to eat at Elmo's. Elmo's is a very popular diner on Ninth Street. It is usually insufferably crowded and the wait on weekend mornings is way too long.

This is when small numbers work to your advantage. The last three times Nick and I ate there, we squeezed into spaces at the counter instead of having to wait 30 minutes for a table. Once, when I ate there alone in November, the guy working told me I was the luckiest person in the place because I got the last open seat at the counter.

I like sitting at the counter and watching the friendly waitstaff go through their frenetic motions as they serve food and dispense beverages for the filled dining room. What can I say? People watching is a sport.

Usually I go for breakfast items but that day I saw a shrimp burger special listed on the board as I walked in, and decided to go for it. A shrimp patty on a kaiser roll with onion and tomato, with coleslaw, remoulade sauce, and fries on the side for $7.50. The patty was pretty greasy, but hit the spot when covered with coleslaw. I decided I prefer thin, crispy fries instead of the thick crinkle-cut fries on the plate.

Nick ended up getting corned beef hash with eggs and toast. He loved it. I had a couple of bites and it was pretty much as I expected: cheesy, salty, and oily. I mean, sometimes you just have to accept diner food as it is.

And that's what they serve at Elmo's: honest, greasy, delicious diner food that sets you up for an afternoon of napping.

Which is precisely what we did.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Nick's siblings visit

About three weeks ago we welcomed Nick's siblings Peter, Philip, and Yvonne to Durham. They had just been in DC for the weekend and took the train down to visit us. I was really excited because I hadn't seen them for over a year. They arrived on a Tuesday and left on Saturday so we tried to pack as many sights as possible in the short time frame.

Tuesday night we went out for dinner at Sushi Love so they could experience this ubiquitous "buy one get one free" deal that exists at almost every Durham sushi restaurant. Since Emily and Carmen joined us, our sushi selection came on a sushi boat and an extra plate! Afterward we hopped over to get pops at Locopops because that is almost a Durham institution now. Unfortunately, I think the cream in my white chocolate icebox pie pop had gone bad because it was overwhelmingly sour.

On Wednesday Nick and I went to work while they hung around the house. They ate fried rice for lunch that I cooked up the night before. For dinner we had La Vaquita and then headed to Nick's softball game and cheered him on.

On Thursday we headed east to Wilmington to spend the day at Wrightsville Beach. They all got to touch the Atlantic for the first time, which was very exciting. We packed a picnic of sandwiches, mango, cucumber and carrots, tzatziki and pita chips, and coconut pecan cookies. I also brought along some cheerwine (soda of the south!) and water.

After 4.5 glorious hours lounging on the beach, accompanied by the wind sandblasting us, we went to downtown Wilmington to have dinner. We chose a small French bistro and had great food.

Friday was the day for them to take in more of Durham and Duke. We had lunch at Toast where I had the fabulous local egg sandwich again. We then walked around the campus and took pictures at the chapel and introduced them to some of Nick's coworkers. The heat took its toll on us so we relaxed at home instead of heading out to see UNC as originally planned.

For dinner we had to take them to have some southern food so we went to Mama Dips in Chapel Hill. Dinner was deliciously heavy and awesome. And they got our order right this time, too.

We stayed up late that night since it was their last night. I woke up early the next morning to prepare their travel bentos with turkey and cheese sandwiches, PB&J, farmer's market tomatoes, mango, cookies, carrots, and strawberries. We all said goodbye at the airport.

Nick and I were sad, but happy that they came to visit us. There's nothing like seeing family when you are far away.

Pics available on facebook, along with some funny ones where I digitally inserted Nick's oldest brother, Anthony.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Last weekend of summer

Okay, I know it's only the 1st of August. However, the next few weekends before school starts will be packed. This is the last "I can do anything I want" weekend.

We woke up later than usual, but still early considering we didn't go to sleep til after midnight. I stayed up so late because Nick just got Wii Sports Resort and we were doing our best to paddle a canoe, play table tennis, practice archery, and sky dive. It's pretty awesome.

This morning we stopped at the Durham Farmer's Market where someone commented on my "durham: can you dig it?" shirt which was so cool. It's the fourth time that has happened. We got some peppers, corn, sweet sungold tomatoes, french and wax beans, and a melon.

Afterward we stopped by Piedmont to have brunch. Nick got the farmer's market special with eggs, home fries, bacon, and a biscuit (with ketchup and stawberry-fennel preserves) and I got a chicken, corn, and chorizo soup and a salad with avocado, smoked chicken, cheddar, and a shallot vinaigrette.

Now we are off to the Raleigh flea market. I love me some vintage, cheap stuff. Later tonight, Emily and Steve are coming over for games and the Wii. It's going to be great!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Dirty Dancing?

I just saw this video and couldn't stop laughing. Dirty Dancing is one of my favorite movies ever. This was just brilliant!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Outdoor concert and Sunday brunch potluck

About two weeks ago we went to an outdoor concert in Cary with Steve and Emily to celebrate Steve's 25th birthday and listen to the NC symphony play selections from music composed for video games over the years.

We packed a picnic of KFC chicken, Vietnamese spring rolls and hoisin-peanut sauce, cheese and crackers, veggies and tzatziki, and soda. It was delicious!

The symphony played from video games such as Super Mario Bros., Final Fantasy, Halo, World of Warcraft, and Legend of Zelda. The screen displayed game play from whatever they were playing at the moment, and also showed members of the orchestra. The conductor would also tell brief histories of each game and who composed the music.

Later on we surprised Steve with a small cake and a gift: a pic of Nick and Steve. And even later on, the sky surprised us with some rain. We waited it out under an awning and ventured close to the stage again when it stopped. Steve used his trusty iphone to ascertain whether or not the rain would stay long.

It was a great evening and not too buggy, either. Happy birthday, Steve!

The next day we went to a Sunday brunch potluck hosted by Joe and Charley. Nick and I made two crab quiches. There were cinnamon rolls, peach pie, two pecan pies, sauteed cauliflower, frittata, fruit, and mimosas and tea. It was great. Afterward they played croquet while I took pictures.

You can check them out on facebook along with more photos from the symphony in the "Summer 2009" album.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Family Visit

Nick's siblings are here. Expect update soon*. Lots of food and the beach!

*Pester me if it's not up in one week.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Scallop dinner

Yesterday afternoon Nick and I wandered up and down Ninth Street in Durham after taking pictures downtown for a group project. Looking for refreshment we stopped in at Ox & Rabbit for a dark chocolate milkshake. The place only just opened up in late May of last year. I may be slightly lactose intolerant, but I refuse to give up cheese and ice cream. It was creamy and delicious. After they closed at 5pm (it was Sunday, after all) we made our way to Whole Foods to spoil ourselves.

After perusing the seafood counter, we decided to bring home 6 sea scallops for a cost of $14.50. We normally don't spend this much on seafood but if you think about it, the same portion at a restaurant would cost at least double that.

For dinner Nick seared the scallops with salt and pepper. I checked our Food and Wine 2007 cookbook for instructions. I think it was the first time I opened that thing. We found it on one of our travels in northern California for only a dollar...and it was still 2007!

I made some oven-baked polenta from our trusty "Great Food Fast" cookbook (thanks, Martha Stewart!). You just pop it in the oven for 30 minutes, no stirring necessary, and you still get creamy results. I then roasted up some asparagus we had lying around in the fridge that we needed to use. Nice and easy.

Our end result?

Eaten while watching Sunday night television. A nice summer evening, I'd say.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Allen and Son

On Friday night Nick and I pondered our dinner plans. We had spent the whole day lazing around, when we were supposed to take advantage of our day off and explore the area. Instead, we opted to do that during dinner and ventured off to the outskirts of Chapel Hill to eat some Carolina BBQ at Allen and Son.

Over the past year I've heard a lot about this small establishment in the middle of nowhere, from tv reports, the internet, and family friends (thanks, Don & Carol). We tried to go a few weeks ago for Nick's birthday, but they close at 5pm from Monday to Thursday. This time, we headed over at 6:40, with lots of time to spare before their Friday 8pm closing time.

It really is a small little house, with mismatched chairs and green-checkered tablecloths. We were told to choose a seat wherever, so we plopped down at a table watched over by the preserved head of a deer.

I ordered the barbecue sandwich with coleslaw and hushpuppies, while Nick chose the barbecue platter with coleslaw, hush puppies, and fries. He even ordered a side of fried okra. I decided to go with the flow and get some sweet tea. I'm glad I did, because the water had a metallic tang to it. Our waitress later brought over a whole pitcher for us to share.

The barbecue pork on my sandwich was good, but completely soaked the bottom bun, so I had to eat my sandwich with a fork. Did I ever feel like an out-of-towner! Nick and I agreed the hushpuppies were the best we'd ever had. Just the right amount of crispiness to warm insides.

The vinegary, buttery barbecue sauce was used by Nick, but I avoided it. I don't think Carolina barbecue is right for me. This is blasphemy, I know, but I prefer the thick, gloppy sweet sauce found in Kansas City or Memphis any day.

We ended up getting a slice of sweet potato pie to go. We wanted the peanut butter pie, but apparently it's served frozen so it would have melted on us. I'm glad we went, but I'm not sure I'll have a hankering for NC barbecue any time soon.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Triangle happenings

Back from hiatus, I hope. I need to have another blog post before it gets left in the wayside of a lazy summer. I was waiting on pictures to be uploaded but it's been a while since I did that. My birthday was awesome, as evidenced by pictures on facebook. Being on the east coast is getting better and better every day. Nick and I are finally getting into a niche here, especially now that I have more time to enjoy things in the summer.

I'm recovering from injuries sustained in softball last week. As I was running to first base, I fell and ended up scraping my face, hip, and knee. I now have awesome scabs on my face that are fortunately covered up by my bangs so that strangers on the street don't give me weird looks. The swelling has gone down, too. I was gonna post a pic for you guys but I decided you should be spared the grossness of it. Nick laughs because I say my face is busted, which he says it isn't. He's so sweet.

The upside of the story is that I was apparently safe due to an error and my pinch runner scored the first of our 10 runs that inning. It led to a comeback from a score of 2 - 11 to our win at 16 - 13. It's got to be my best sports story of all time, considering me and sports don't mix. I guess I can tell my future kids about my great time in softball giving me the scars on my face.

Another highlight of last week was the Best of the Triangle party thrown by the Independent, celebrating all the great restaurants in Durham, with art and music. Nick and I had a great time sampling free food, listening to music, and checking out local art along with a few Nick schoolers we saw there. I even bought two pieces of art for a grand total of $45. One is a shirt with a screenprint of a mixed media piece of the West Village repurposed building in downtown. I got to choose the shirt and the art piece. The second piece is a tiny, about 2x3," abstract contemporary acrylic print painted on the back of an old library catalog card by an artist whose work I've seen around town.

The last great thing about this area we just checked out is the Carrboro farmer's market. It's much bigger than its Durham counterpart. There were lots of great farms there, with meat options Nick and I were interested in and lots of beautiful flowers. We ended up getting green and wax beans, basil, cucumbers, and green bell peppers. We even bumped into a fellow Nick schooler who was having his last hurrah before moving to DC.

Talk to you guys soon in the next post (hopefully) with pictures!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Magnolia Grill

In March our friends Winnie and Jerry sent us a gift card to Magnolia Grill, which was #1 on my list of restaurants to try in Durham. Nick and I decided to redeem it at the beginning of May to celebrate his new job and my being done with my first year of graduate school. Apparently you have to make reservations a month in advance so we decided to try our luck with a walk in right as they opened.

We each ordered an appetizer and an entree. Nick ordered the special app which was a red snapper sashimi in a hot crab broth and the lamb entree with a local spinach salad and some polenta that was very delicious. I got the pork belly appetizer with a butterbean fondue and some pickled turnips that cut the richness of the pork belly. My NC triggerfish entree came with israeli couscous and squid. There was a great interplay between all the textures on the plate. It was a great meal.

The best part came when we ordered dessert. Nick's banana pudding cheesecake and oven roasted bananas came with a candle on it to celebrate his new job. It was a sweet surprise and a great end to a great meal.

The service was excellent, attentive but not too fussy. We were able to catch glimpses of the dinner service from our table, which was very fascinating. There was a chef in particular who was so tall his head grazed the pots in the rack hanging overhead.

Thank you, Winnie and Jerry, for a fabulous dinner experience! We really appreciated it.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Tacomentary and Watts late night

Since I promised this post while I was gone, I want to tell you all about the Tacomentary I went to with Nick, Emily K, Tali, and Gina. I misplaced the pics, though, so none this entry. Some Carpe Durham contributors made a documentary about taco trucks in Durham. On May 1 they held a screening party at Pinhook, complete with Benito's taco truck parked right outside.

We made it there around 7pm, waited in line for an hour, got our tacos and made it inside for the viewing. It was a pretty cool experience, especially since I love taco trucks. Listening to the proprietors with their hope for the future and the pride in their tacos was heartwarming.

Nick and I got some pastor, barbacoa, and lengua tacos. They were delicious and greasy. Unfortunately for Tali and Gina, the taco truck had run out of vegetarian tacos long before we got there, so they were pretty hungry. We headed over to Broad street cafe to listen to some music and have some beer to wait for Watts Grocery late night at 10:30pm.

Tali had the pimiento grilled cheese with fries, Gina had a salad, I had the asparagus bisque and shared a red velvet cupcake with Nick. Emily wanted to have an ice cream sandwich, but they didn't have any so they gave her some ice cream for free. The bisque was intensely asparagus-y while the cupcake disappointed. I had high hopes after my brown butter cupcake there months ago. For one, there was no cream cheese icing! The texture wasn't as creamy as I'd like, either. I think I'll stick to lunch and brunch at Watts Grocery next time.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Start of summer!

I am now terribly behind on posting. I meant to do it while I was at home in CA, but I've forgotten my camera cable and I don't think the posts are as exciting without pictures. So, it'll be some long overdue posts when I get back to NC.

Right now I'm in sunny CA after having just been in Boston. I was visiting Sylvia there and it was great to enjoy the weather and wander the city for miles and miles. Boston is definitely a walking city!

Posts you have to look forward to:
Tacomentary and Watts Grocery late night
Magnolia Grill
and a bunch more from NC food that I can't remember.

This past Saturday I worked the trash and compost duty at the Nicholas School graduation. I was asked by my boss to help with "greening" graduation but apparently this just meant taking care of the trash and compost. It was really disheartening to see how many people did not understand the difference between trash and compost, even if the bins are right next to each other and there are clear signs posted. I mean, these people are related to environmentalists!

Therefore, my fellow volunteers and I had to sort through the trash and put it in the compost bags. Without gloves. Deep down, we all knew that the compost and trash bags were probably going to the same place after Duke sanitation picked them up, because Duke itself doesn't have a compost pile.

Things like this are pretty discouraging when the school is supposed to be all about the environment. Maybe I'm just being cynical, but sometimes I feel like it's just for show. The students are genuine but sometimes I'm not sure if the school is, with all the extraneous packaging and wastefulness.
In other news, Nick got a job at Duke! He started this past week and I think he's really enjoying it. It signals a big change in our lives and I'm pretty excited about it. Talk to you guys when I get back to NC!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Saigon Grill

During the last week of classes, I decided again that I was homesick and only some good Vietnamese food would do the trick. It seems like that's my homesickness cure now! We decided to go to Saigon Grill, which just opened a few weeks ago. We had been there once before while they were still working out service issues. The servers were literally running from the table to the kitchen and back again, and the kitchen was slow to churn out orders. We liked the place but agreed to give them some time to get in the groove.

So, this time service was much more streamlined and our food came out in a reasonable amount of time. We ordered goi cuon (spring rolls) to start. Nick got the pho dac biet (deluxe beef noodle soup) and I got bun thit nuong tom cha gio (vermicelli with charbroiled pork, shrimp, and egg roll).

Their rendition of goi cuon was pretty good, but it's pretty easy to make delicious. Nick thought the pho was decent, but needed more flavor. Maybe more star anise or cinnamon which is the opposite of Pho 9N9's version which was way too cinnamony.

I liked my bun but I was sad that they only gave me one cha gio. The shrimp was the best part! There was a good ratio of noodle to vegetation and meat, which is key in the dish. I also liked that they included mint in the lettuce, bean sprout, and cucumber mixture.

As we were paying our bill, I found out that the owner and his family came from Sacramento! Go California! We were pretty dang excited about that. We'll probably be back many times in the future.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


On the last day of our classes at UNC, my fellow Robertson Scholar bus riders from the Nicholas School and I walked down Franklin Street to Sugarland Bakery. The bakery specializes in cupcakes, wedding cakes, and gelato. It also features coffee and a full bar, and is open until midnight daily. How's that for variety?

The interior is super cute and whimsical, with turquoise blue walls, bright accessories, and displays of beautifully swirled gelato and delightful cupcakes.

I made each of my companions promise to let me take pictures of their cupcakes before they ate them. I was pretty satisfied with the quality of the pictures. Everyone was a great hand model!

Erin's chocolate chip

Gina's banana nutella

Matt's blood orange and pina colada gelato

A trio of cupcakes for Matt, Matt's wife Brittany, and me (clockwise from top): chocolate malt, carrot cake, and vanilla latte

Andrew's chocolate malt, complete with some non-verbal commentary. =)

I asked him not to hold his up since he was the only one that got a cool plate, and Andrew was playfully offended that I didn't ask him to be a hand model.

I liked my cupcake a whole lot. The frosting was light and not too sugary, while the cake was moist and full of vanilla flavor. The only beef I had was that the cupcakes were in a refrigerated case, so when served the cake was cold and the frosting a dense lump. I insisted on letting mine warm up to room temperature, which again got me some flack from Andrew. It was worth it though, when my vanilla late cupcake was subsequently the most awesome dessert in the world.

I'll be back to try the mini cone gelato sampler this summer!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Maple View Farms

After watching the award ceremony, I decided it was too nice outside to spend it inside the computer lab at school. I wanted to go on a hike, but Nick hurt his knee during ultimate that morning so we decided to drive 15 miles into farmland in Chapel Hill to visit the country store of Maple View Farm. They are a dairy and the store features homemade ice cream, milk, chocolate milk, butter, buttermilk, eggs, beef, and gifts.

The store was buzzing with activity by the time we arrivedat 3pm. With rocking chairs on the porch, picnic tables, and a beautiful view of farmland, why wouldn't there be a crowd? There is even a hitching post for people who come on horses.

To start, Nick got strawberry ice cream on a sugar cone and I got butter pecan on a cake cone. We figured we'd try our favorite flavors first then branch out some other time.


The scoops were extra generous, almost overwhelming the small circumference of the cones. In fact, when Nick was in the process of licking his ice cream, the whole scoop fell off the cone! Luckily he was able to catch it in his hand. He was pretty happy that he caught it, but sad that the heat of his hand caused his ice cream to melt faster. My butter pecan was extra creamy with toasted pecans studded throughout.

We sat in rocking chairs licking our ice cream cones while looking out on beautiful green farmland and rolling hills. It was very relaxing. Afterward we decided to buy a few things to make the drive out worth it. We ended up getting a quart of chocolate whole milk, a dozen eggs, a pint of butter pecan ice cream, and an empty small milk bottle with the Maple View Farms logo. I have a slight obsession with glass bottles.

So imagine my delight when I saw this:

It's a collection of milk bottles from dairies across the country! If you look closely you might be able to make out Nick's profile in the reflection of the glass. =)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Washington Duke Inn and Robert Redford

This past weekend I walked to the Washington Duke Inn across the street from campus to attend a lunch for Robert Redford and the Board of Visitors for the Nicholas School. Redford was in town to accept the inaugural Duke LEAF award. I was boycotting the award ceremony because I think it's total crap (and they shafted the students because of it) but I'm willing to overlook my principles for some free lunch. =) I also wanted to see what the inside of the fancy hotel looked like.

The lunch was buffet-style: caesar salad, sesame green beans, cheese ravioli, grilled chicken, mashed potatoes, shrimp and corn chowder, and bread with butter. I had a picture of my plate, but it turned out blurry because of the dim lighting. When we sat at our seats in the ballroom, a cream and fruit tart was waiting, along with water and unsweetened iced tea.

I thought the food was pretty good, especially for being mass-produced at a hotel. It probably also helped that it was free! Some of my dining companions were not impressed, however. The chicken was a bit overcooked and the ravioli a bit plain, but everything else was great.

Robert Redford sat at the tabel next to mine, and I kept trying to surreptitiously take photos of him. Here's the best one:

Afterward, we all lined up to meet him, but Dean Bill Chameides cut it off after the kids of some Board of Visitors got to meet him and shake his hand. I think he should at least have let Redford acknowledge the students with a wave! Little things like that make me wonder how much the administration really cares about its students, as opposed to the big donors.

Nick and I watched the award ceremony online, and Robert Redford's speech was the best one. All of the other ones just fawned over him, which gets tiring after a while. I am happy for him, but I'm sad that a long-standing student tradition such as Field Day had to be canceled for it.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Sushi and more theater

Edit: Apparently I forgot to upload the pictures!

On Thursday Nick and I went to a production of Pride and Prejudice on the UNC campus, which was an adventure (not all of it good). Beforehand, we stopped at Akai Hana for sushi in Carrboro, a town in which I have not had much experience. After getting confused by the street numbering, we finally found a little sushi restaurant which only had a few diners because it was just a little before 6pm.

I ordered the chicken teriyaki combination which came with chicken teriyaki, mixed tempura, rice, vegetables, a California roll, and salad and miso soup. Nick got the chirashi bowl. Then we decided to order two rolls: a spider roll and a salmon skin roll. Needless to say, it was a lot of food.

My combo was pretty solid if not outstanding. My friend Lyndsay judges Japanese places by the quality of their miso soup, and Akai Hana's version was pretty good. Nothing next to Zen Toro, but that's to be expected.

Nick enjoyed his chirashi but commented that there was way too much rice for the relatively small amount of fish he was given. This is coming from a guy who loves his rice. I thought the piped wasabi was a nice design touch.

Our rolls were mediocre based on texture and the variety of flavor presented. I decided I will only get salmon skin hand rolls from now on.

The Pride and Prejudice performance was marred by confusion of seating. They let people sit in our ticketed seats because we arrived at exactly 8pm (after getting lost) while people were still being seated and the performance had not yet started. They told us we could get our seats back at intermission, which meant awkwardly kicking out the people who had been in our seats during the first act.

I also had issues with casting and off-portrayal of characters. I don't mind if they set the play in a new era or have fun with the text. But I don't think you should totally change the essence of the character. I doubt Elizabeth Bennet would really be that weepy or Mrs. Gardiner really that silly. That is wholly reserved for Mrs. Bennet, thank you very much. Also, there was no chemistry between Mr. Darcy and Miss Bingley. You didn't even get the feeling that she was desperate for him. Where's the fun in that?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Toast and a musical

I think I've mentioned Toast before in this blog but it's high time for a legitimate post. I've been there twice before, liking the place but not really liking my sandwich choice all that much. I take the blame for that in choosing badly for myself because Toast's quality is top-notch.

Nick and I ate here for dinner before watching Legally Blonde at the Durham Performing Arts Center back on Tuesday. I just hit the end of a bad week and the Tax Day special meant we could go for $15 each. Score!

At Toast, I finally hit on a great sandwich choice for myself: the rapini, Italian sausage, roasted garlic, and asiago fresca. It was full of different textures and flavors that all worked together really well. I also got a salad on the side.

Nick ordered the prosciutto, tomato, and mozzarella sandwich that he really liked. He also ordered the soup of the day which was a minestrone with pasta, garbanzo beans, asparagus, and parmesan. It was light and good.

The performance was excellent and lighthearted. It was a night of fun and not a lot of thinking which was what I needed. DPAC is amazing, thought the gradation of the seats are a bit steep. Here's our view from our top row of the balcony seats:

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Some home cooking

In the beginning of April Nick and I took time to make something new at home during the horrific two weeks I just had. Inspired by a picture of katsu curry on Gastronomy, I decided I wanted to make it. Nick is already skilled in making katsu and we happened to have a block of Japanese curry sitting in the pantry so it seemed like a perfect fit. After researching on a good side dish, we made a shredded cabbage salad with a custom ginger-miso dressing.

It took a while, but Nick made the katsu perfectly while I did the curry with ground beef, carrots, and onions and made up the salad and dressing. I think I'm getting the hang of the homemade dressing now!

Here's our dinner on April 5th:

Looked delicious and tasted delicious, too.