Sunday, March 29, 2009

Polka cover of Katy Perry's Hot n Cold

Admitted students weekend

This past weekend was Admitted Students weekend here at the Nicholas School. I had signed up for several events and also to host a student because I had such a fun time last year. That weekend helped me decide to move all the way across the country!

Thursday night we all went to Satty's and semi-watched Duke blow it against Villanova. Friday morning I went to school to do some work, had lunch with Emily A. at the Refectory, then had another lunch with the prospectives. Afterward I did the program area information session for the best concentration in the whole program, Ecotoxicology and Environmental Health. We only had one student, but it was cool.

We had practice MP sessions with the 2nd years. Emily K was awesome and ordered pizza, which made it a lot more casual. I had to jet off after Kara's presentation because I had signed up for the student panel at the end of the day. There were a lot of good questions asked, and I think we all did a great job answering them.

After dinner with a bunch of people from the program and their prospectives at Toast, Nick, Emily A. and I took our prosps to Francesca's for gelato, dessert, tea and coffee. That place might be my favorite place to hang out in Durham. We then split up before heading over to the Duke Forest for the FOREM bonfire. The bonfire (more like a camp fire) was a great time, with socializing, s'more-making, and eating. My car got stuck in the mud because it had been raining, but lots of people helped us push our car out. =)

The next day I dropped my prosp off early for the morning events while I tried to do some work. The PicNic for lunch was a good event, with catered food (hamburgers and veggie dogs), egg-tossing, and fellow student Mike Roth's band Cobalt and the Hired Guns. I think all in all the weekend was a success. I definitely think the social events sell the program more than the information sessions. I hope that I helped someone feel better about their grad school decision, even if they choose not to come to Duke.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Nick and I had a very busy Saturday, so we didn't have lunch until 3pm. I made red rice from leftover rice from the fridge and leftover spaghetti sauce, fried some eggs, and threw together a quick salad with carrots, celery, onion, and mushroom and a balsamic vinaigrette.

That night we had dinner at Alivia's in the Brightleaf area of Durham. It's a non-smoking bar/restaurant with what is supposed to be the best patio in Durham. The environmental law clinic was having a fundraiser there for a campaign against a cement plant that is going to be built along the coast of North Carolina.

Nick, Emily, and I shared a table with Emily A. and her parents. It was cool to talk to her parents about blogging and food. I even showed them the pics I took at Mama Dip's the night before.

Nick and I ended up ordering crabcakes and calamari (with pico de gallo and marinara sauce) for appetizers. Apparently calamari with marinara sauce is a regular thing around here. I prefer my calamari with aioli, but that might be a west coast thing. The pico de gallo was extraneous because it never stayed on the calamari. The crabcakes were pretty good and so was the salad that came with them, but they didn't really seem to go together. The slices of bell pepper were a little difficult to eat with the mixed greens because of size.

I got the portabella sandwich with greens and roasted red peppers and a cup of their chicken vegetable soup. The bottom piece of bread was soggy by the time I picked it up to eat my sandwich. Nick got the Alivia's burger with fries. He really likes the crispy fries and he said the burger was pretty good.

We'll probably be back sometime, but it's not on my list of favorites just yet. I liked my lentil burger at the Federal better, but Alivia's is nonsmoking so it might have to trump once in a while.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Mama Dip's

Yesterday Nick and I attended the kickoff party for Nickipedia. At 5:30, we got there too late for food. We only got small bites of what was left, but while there we kept hearing about a good Southern food place in Chapel Hill called Mama Dip's. The more I heard about it, the more I wanted to eat there. I'm all about immediate gratification, so I suggested to Nick and Emily during the FOREM keg that we stop by for a later dinner. By 7:30pm we were on our way to Chapel Hill.

Looking at the menu, we could tell the place was going to be awesome. They have lots of good food and even more decadent desserts. At first, we were ambitious and planned on ordering TONS of food, including three desserts.

We ended up ordering hush puppies and sweet potato biscuits to start. These sounded really good but never actually came out, so I can't tell you how they are. I think our waiter completely forgot about that part of our order.

I got country fried chicken (dark meat, please) with mac and cheese, turnip greens, and cornbread. Emily ordered the chicken and dumplings with mac and cheese, coleslaw, and cornbread. Nick got the smothered pork chops, fried okra, mashed potatoes, and biscuits. Everything was good but the turnip greens could have been better.

Country Fried Chicken
Chicken and Dumplings
Smothered Pork Chops

We were too full to get dessert (pecan pie, bread pudding, and cobbler) but I will be back. And I will be stuffing my face with food.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Postsecret, etc

Nick and I went to the Postsecret event last night at Duke. I've been reading the Postsecret blog for a long time, and had always wanted to see Frank Warren in person. The event met my expectations. Frank was funny, poignant, and supportive. I think he knows how to talk to college students, to make them feel comfortable in his presence. He comes across as genuinely interested in how we are doing. This is more than I can say for a lot of adults, especially those running the administrations of school institutions across the US (my view of the high school administration is probably enough material for another post).

Emily and Tali joined us because I had four free tickets. I think they enjoyed themselves, even if they aren't avid readers of the blog. =) At the end of the talk, people were able to come up and share their secrets. There were heartbreaking, angry, empowering, and funny secrets shared.

I think I will try to attend more community events here in Durham. I am really starting to enjoy living in this city. I just bought my first Durham-themed shirt (it supported a charity). Moving to a new city and finding your bearings is an incredible experience. I'm glad Nick is along for the ride.

Tomorrow we will be attending a kickoff BBQ for Nickipedia. I'm hoping to contribute to the food pages, since I never edited any of the restaurant pages on the daviswiki like I should have. Keep asking me about it so that I have someone to check up on me, okay?

Before I forget: GO DUKE! I have never had a team to follow in this March Madness thing. It's exciting!

Zaytinya - Washington DC

Hey guys, I know this post has been long-delayed. I really haven't had the time to devote to it, and I still don't now. I decided I would make it up to you by doing short entry interspersed by a series of photos. Sorry for the blurriness (dim lighting). Zaytinya was recommended to me by a grad school friend, Tali, who went to Georgetown for undergrad. I must say that he has very good taste. Lucky for him, because it would have been sad bump in our friendship if the restaurant sucked. =) Thanks, Tali!

Zaytinya is a mezze restaurant. A shorthand way to describe that would be to say it's the Mediterranean version of Spanish tapas. However, it's so much more than that. The flavors are very thoughtful together. There are a lot of influences present in each dish, as well.

Coming from an Asian family, eating family style is very close to my heart. The principles here are quite different though: small plates and beautiful presentation meant to invite sharing and discussion of tastes are quite different from huge platters of home cooked, messy you-too-skinny-let-me-put-more-food-on your-plate Chinese family dinners. I must say I love both.

Nick, Emily, and I walked over from our awesome hotel. The interior of Zaytinya is cool, hip, modern, and intimate. We each ordered three dishes that came out in groups of three. The kitchen thoughtfully grouped them together into a three course dinner that worked. This was amazing because we each have different tastes. They also served us unlimited puffy, warm pita with Greek olive oil and pomegranate (a twist on the olive oil and balsamic). The pita probably had me declaring my love for the place alone. Emily and Nick both ordered dessert while I had tea.

Course one:
Santorini fava (yellow split pea) soup (S)
Kolokithokeftedes - zucchini and cheese patties, caper-yogurt sauce (E)
Cretan Snails Skordalia
- sautéed snails, garlic broth, ouzo, parsley, potato puree (N)

Course two:
Octopus Santorini - grilled baby octopus, marinated onions, capers, yellow split pea puree (S)
Fish special with really great cabbage that I cannot remember (E)
Spanakopita - house made phyllo, spinach, feta cheese (N)

Course three:
Moroccan Couscous Tagine - portobello mushroom, chick peas, sultans radish, harissa broth (S)
Chicken Melanzano - slow cooked chicken breast, zatar pomegranate, charred eggplant puree (E)
Short Rib Kapama - braised boneless short ribs, tomato-cinnamon stew (N)


Hand Crafted Blooming Tea - white tea with marigold and jasmine (S)

Chocolate Visne - milk chocolate cream with cherry sorbet and three caramels (E)
Turkish Coffee Chocolate - warm chocolate cake, bittersweet chocolate flan, and cardamom espuma finished with espresso syrup (N)

We each declared our favorites of each course. I would say the soup, octopus, and short ribs were clear winners. Debating the merits of each dish made the dinner very enjoyable. However, there were some clunkers. I would not recommend the spanakopita. It looked like a giant eggroll.

I look forward to returning sometime with friends that enjoy food. Emily and Nick were excellent dinner companions. It was nice to enjoy this place because I hadn't had a nice, moderately upscale dinner in a while. If you're ever in the DC area, make sure to stop by this gem of a restaurant.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

End of spring break

Oh, where do I even begin? Spring break was good. I had a good time in California shopping, babysitting, and eating. I got to hit all the food spots I wanted to in the SGV. These include:

Mien Nghia for Chiu Chow noodles
Ba Le for banh mi
Tin Tin Seafood for Peking spare ribs, steamed fish, and lobster
Bollini's for neapolitan pizza
Luscious Dumplings for dumplings and beef stew noodles
Fosselman's for ice cream
Vietnam for hu tieu noodles
the seven courses of beef place whose name I can't remember
Top Island for dim sum...twice
Lollicup for black tea with lychee jelly
Yong Dung Tofu House for Korean BBQ
Various incarnations of bun with my dad

I also acquired: two pairs of skinny jeans, fabulous boots, two sweaters, a cloche hat, and a skinny belt.

I think it was a good trip, in all. Even though I didn't go anywhere tropical for spring break, it was nice to sleep in late, eat good food (especially my mom's food), and see my nieces. I even visited my old high school and got ego boosts from the students and my old teachers.

However, I didn't write the Zaytinya post. I'm thinking it might never get written at the pace I'm going. How about a photo post?

p.s. Happy Ides of March!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Internet shout out

Have horrible craving for banh mi, or Vietnamese sandwiches. Will probably dream of them tonight...

It is all due to this post on the gastronomy blog. I am so excited by the shout out! Yeah for banh mi ba le!