korean market meals

One of my favorite things to do while traveling is to wander around the local markets and sample as much food as I can. Korea in particular was an amazing market meal experience for me, partly because I know and love the food. Much of the stuff in these markets I can find in America, but I found that everything was so much tastier here.

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In Seoul there’s the Namdaemun market. I spent the better part of a day eating my way through this market. The first thing I had there was the ddeokbokki, which is rice cakes stir fried in spicy sauce. The ddeokbokki was okay, but the best part of this meal was the bit of fish cake soup that came with it. All together it was super filling for less than $3. In hindsight though, I wish I had eaten less of it so that I would have room for other stuff later.

kimchee dumpling. awesome.

These kimchi dumplings were ten for 5000 won. I didn’t have room in my belly for ten of them, so I asked for one, and they charged me 1000 won. In hindsight I should’ve just bought the ten, and saved them for later because they were incredibly good. It was a revelation to me, how good these could be when fresh, because I’ve only had the frozen ones before.

grandma's pig feet, with legit grandma.

Grandma’s pig feet stall, complete with a legit grandma. I’m a big fan of pig’s feet, and it’s been a while since I’ve had one, so this was really satisfying to me. Apparently it’s pretty popular in Seoul, since I saw a lot of pig’s feet restaurants and stalls in Seoul.

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In the heart of the Namdaemun market there’s a tiny hole in the wall restaurant that specializes in kal-gook-su. Literally translated it means knife noodles. I eat these noodles from time to time in America, but I’m pretty sure the noodles are store bought and made by machine. This place still makes them and cuts them with a knife by hand. It was super tasty, for the equivalent of about $4 you get all this food, a huge bowl of kal-gook-su, a bowl of spicy naengmyun (cold noodles) and a bowl of barley rice.

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In Busan I went to the famous Jagalchi market with my nephew to grab lunch. There are some foods there that I didn’t see in the Seoul markets. They had spicy pig skin, sunji soup (sunji is coagulated cow’s blood), and gamja-tang (literally translated this is potato soup, traditionally it’s made with pig spine). My nephew and I split a bowl of sunji soup. Typically I’m not a fan of food made with blood, but this was quite tasty. The lady was super nice too, she refilled our bowl for us, even though we were splitting a 3500 won bowl (equivalent of about $3). In hindsight I wish I had some of the gamja-tang too, since I like that stuff. I figure if something I don’t typically like tastes good here, stuff that I normally like should taste incredibly awesome. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough stomach space.

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Jagalchi market is famous for seafood. There are literally seafood stalls as far as the eye can sea. It’s all super fresh, and much of it is still alive. Many of the stalls had little restaurants in the back, so you can pick out the seafood and they’ll make you a meal right on the spot. You could get the famous live octopus here. I was planning to eat it here, but I chickened out at the last minute when I saw how lively they were.

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My nephew and spent some time just wandering through the Jagalchi market looking at the various fish for sale. We were pretty full, so we weren’t planning to eat anything. All of a sudden I heard this lady yelling (in Korean), “If it’s not good I won’t take the money.” So I stopped to take a look at the fish her husband was grilling. It certainly smelled good.

Before I knew it, this lady started dragging me and my nephew into the little restaurant behind the stall. So I’m thinking okay, I’ll order just one piece of fish, just to try it. But they said the minimum I could order was a meal for two people. So at this point I’m thinking, “Dammit I’m about to get ripped off, this is gonna be really expensive and probably isn’t gonna be very good.”

So we proceed to order the minimum for two people, which ended up being 20,000 won (about $18). At this point, I’m thinking “Shit, I just got ripped off really badly.” But then as my nephew and I start eating, we find that the fish is super tasty, and the meal came with a lot of side dishes and a bowl of miyuk gook (seaweed soup) that’s also quite good. And by the time we’re done eating, the little restaurant was completely full. Whether it’s from people that the lady dragged in, I’m not sure, but everyone in the place seemed very happy to be there. And in the end I was pretty happy too. I left with a smile on my face, so when I asked the lady if I could take a picture of her, she was all smiles too.

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I enjoyed everything I ate at the Jagalchi market so much that I ended up returning to the market. My main mission at the market the second time around was to eat some raw fish. There’s a section of the market where there’s a ton of hwae-jib (raw fish houses) lined up one after another. How do you pick which one to go to in this situation? I ended up going into one that seemed to have a good number of customers and ordered hwae-dub-bap, which is basically the Korean version of chirashi, raw fish over rice. The fish is incredibly fresh, they chop it up right there in front of the stall, and it comes with a few other seafood side dishes.

Almost all of the meals that I ate alone in Korea was at the markets. There was so much tasty stuff, sadly I just didn’t have the stomach capacity to eat everything I wanted to try. And one thing I liked was that each market seemed to have its own regional specialties. If I ever get a chance to spend a good block of time in Korea, I’d like to just travel around the country and eat at a market in each town along the way.

mercado de san miguel

The Mercado de San Miguel is a food market located close to the Plaza Mayor in Madrid. When I travel I like to visit these sorts of markets. I’ve been to some of the famous ones, like the St Lawrence Market in Toronto and of course Pike’s Place in Seattle. Up until now my favorite has been the Nachsmarkt in Vienna, but it’s now been dethroned by the Mercado de San Miguel.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe mercado is built with glass walls all around, so you can see a lot of the awesome food from the street outside.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe market is quite crowded in the evenings, but it’s much quieter in the morning.

fish-tapasThere were many different vendors, and it seemed like each had its own specialty. This one, for example, specialized in seafood tapas. The ones on the left are topped with octopus and salmon, in the middle there’s various anchovy tapas, monkfish liver, and tuna tapas. I tried one with salmon and one with crab salad topped with caviar. In hindsight I should’ve just tried all of them, but I especially regret not trying the monkfish liver. I’ve heard it described as “foie gras of the sea” and seeing as how I like foie gras (and don’t get to eat it often since it’s banned in California) I definitely regret not trying that one.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere is of course a vendor dedicated to Iberico ham. This guy slices it up for you and you can eat it right on the spot.

drinks-olivesThere were also vendors dedicated to various beverages, like this one that had casks of different types of sherry, including a cask of amontillado (haha I wonder how many people would get that Edgar Allen Poe refernce…) I tried one glass of sherry (I forget which), one rebujito, which is a light sherry mixed with soda, and a glass of sangria. Each glass came with olives, which were the best tasting olives I’d ever had. I’d order drinks just to get the olives.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASpeaking of olives, they even had a vendor that pretty much just sold olives. In hindsight I should have tried some of these, even though they seemed pretty expensive. On the other hand, paying for olives doesn’t seem like a hot deal when I can buy a drink and get olives for free…

IMGP5225There was paella, of course, but I decided not to try any, since our next stop would be Barcelona. I figured paella would be better there since it’s on the coast. And also I figured freshly made paella would be better.

octopus-urchinThese were probably my favorite. On the left is an octopus salad. It seemed pretty simple to make, I might have to try making it, if I can find somewhere to buy fresh octopus. It’s just boiled octopus with a bit of bell peppers and red onion, with a sprinkling of sea salt and a drizzling of olive oil. I think the difficulty for me would be in finding good fresh octopus and cooking it so that it’s tender. My other favorite was stuffed urchin. This I have no clue how to go about making. Next to the urchin is a tortilla espanola, which is basically a potato and egg frittata.

We ended up eating at the Mercado de San Miguel a few times in the couple of days we had in Madrid. It was definitely one of the biggest highlights of the trip for me.

the maine lobster roll

After a whirlwind tour of Montreal, we headed back across the border to the US, crossing back into our homeland somewhere in Vermont. Vermont for the most part was forgettable to me, we had one meal in the state capital, Montpelier, which was a surprisingly tiny town where we ate a surprisingly terrible meal considering how much we paid. From there we headed east to the coast of Maine.

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Our first stop was in Kennebunkport, Maine to a place that, despite being called the Clam Shack, was famous for its lobster roll. A lobster roll is pretty simple– a pound of lobster sandwiched between two toasted buns, slathered with some mayo and butter. At about $15, it was one of the most expensive sandwiches I’ve ever eaten, but worth every penny.

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Right next door to the Clam Shack was a bar/restaurant that served steamed lobster. The place was packed, both with tourists and locals, probably because they served a steamed lobster combo for $15.

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We stopped at another somewhat famous clam place–it had been featured on Diners, Drive-ins & Dives. This one was famous for its lobster stew.

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My favorite place ended up being a tiny roadside lobster shack. It was the complete opposite of all the places we had been to so far in that it was completely empty.

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Here they had live lobsters in various sizes. We picked four of the #2 size, which came to around $30 in total.

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They had a big steam pot outside which they tossed the live lobsters into. About ten minutes later they pulled them out and tossed them into a shopping bag. They gave us a couple of paper plates, then we chowed down on the lobsters on the picnic table outside.

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Our last stop in Maine was at the Chauncey Creek lobster pier. This was a more touristy sort of place, so the lobster was quite a bit more expensive here.

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Instead of lobster I ordered some steamed clams and raw oysters. They were super fresh too, simply prepared, but super tasty.IMG_20131010_164905I’m a huge fan of shellfish in general, but lobster actually has probably always been my least favorite. I’ve always enjoyed crab more. From eating lobster in Maine, I came to the realization that I wasn’t a huge fan of lobster mostly because I’ve never had access to any good fresh lobster. I’ve always had access to super fresh crab– one of my family’s traditions is to buy live fresh caught dungeness crab off the boats in Half Moon Bay. I’ve never had access to that same sort of fresh lobster– most of the lobster I’ve had up until now had been crappy frozen lobster at places like Red Lobster or random seafood buffets.

So yeah, eating fresh lobster in Maine was a revelation to me. Like many revelations, this one will probably end with semi annual pilgrimages to a holy land– in this case I’ll be rolling back to the holy land of lobster that is Maine.

steam whistle brewery

Across the street from the CN Tower is an old train roundhouse that has been converted into the headquarters of Steam Whistle Brewery. The brewery brews one kind of beer, a pilsner, and offers a brewery tour. This tour ended up being one of the unexpected highlights of Toronto for me.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe brewery is near the Toronto waterfront, directly across the street from the CN Tower.

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The tour takes us through the brewery. We visited towards the end of the day, so workers were busy filling up pallets of beer.

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Beer apparently is pretty simple. Steam Whistle only uses four ingredients. Hops, malt and spring water, to which yeast is added to start the fermentation process.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA technician monitors the fermentation process. The monitoring happens 24×7 because apparently beer never sleeps.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPeople in lab coats monitor every step of the process.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis crazy machine is the heart of the operation. It cleans, fills and caps the bottles of beer.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the end of the line the bottles are packed and loaded onto pallets by hand.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen the working day is done, boys just wanna have fun… Apparently workers at the brewery get free beer, and often enjoy a few bottles at the end of their shift. It’s a pretty cool place to work, just across the street of the CN Tower, which you can sorta see the base of in this picture.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe finished product, a bottle of pilsner from ‘The Good Beer Folks!’ The tour was $10 and included a bottle of beer which was bottled just hours ago, a souvenir glass, and a couple of tastings of beer. Not a bad deal in my opinion.

st lawrence market

When traveling I like to visit the local food market. So when I discovered that Toronto had a pretty famous one, the St Lawrence Market, rated as one of the best in the world by National Geographic, I had to check it out.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe market is housed in what appears to be a converted brick warehouse.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFirst order of business: find some coffee. Then roam around the market looking for food.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere were several coffee dealers. I was tempted to buy some of ‘Mike’s Blend #3’ since it had my name on it. But I don’t own a coffee grinder. I should probably buy a grinder and a french press.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe market is a large indoor market with many different seafood and meat vendors, kind of like Pike’s Place market in Seattle, but smaller and not as crowded.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey had fresh oysters and clams.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey shuck the oysters and serve them right there for you if you so desire. In hindsight I should have ordered more than three. They were quite tasty.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe smoked salmon from Mike’s Fish Market was calling out to me. How could I resist fish from a market with my name on it?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter wandering around the market for a bit, I settled on what to buy for lunch. A bit of smoked salmon, some herbed goat cheese, a few sun-dried tomatoes, and a small french baguette. It was quite a tasty meal, though not as tasty as the magical market meal I had in the Nachsmarkt in Vienna. Overall I was a bit disappointed with the St Lawrence Market. Because it was rated so highly by National Geographic, I was expecting it to be truly amazing, but I found it to be more or less on par with the other markets I’ve been to.

courthouse culinary conglomeration

During my short jury duty stint I got to try a few of the restaurants within walking distance of the county courthouse. I don’t eat in Woodland very often, so trying out the different restaurants in town was actually pretty cool. Here are some of the restaurants I tried.

Silvina’s Basket

IMG_20130408_122602Silvina’s Basket is a small Mexican restaurant with a lunch buffet. Their food is interesting, it’s nothing like any other Mexican restaurant I’ve been to. To me it feels kind of like a fusion of Mexican and Italian cuisines. I’ve never had sauteed zucchini at any other Mexican place, but it’s fairly common at Italian restaurants. And there’s a couple of dishes that use cream sauce, again that feels more Italian than Mexican to me. I actually like this place a lot because it’s different and interesting.

IMG_20130408_123147The owner was very nice. The place was pretty empty, and I struck up a short conversation with the owner. I told him that I pretty much visit whenever I am in Woodland on a weekday during lunchtime (which is actually a very rare combination) and I’ve always liked the food. He ended up giving me a free flan dessert. Lesson learned: be nice to restaurant owners and you will be rewarded.

 

 Chicago Cafe

IMG_20130410_115237Chicago Cafe is a Chinese/American diner on Main street. It’s one of those places where you can get Americanized Chinese dishes like egg foo young and chop suey, but you can also get typical American diner fare like a burger or steak. There’s a good number of these kind of places in my hometown of San Francisco, but these places seem to be a bit harder to find in the Davis/Sacramento area. So I was pretty happy to find this place.

IMG_20130410_120525The day I went they had a corned beef lunch special. Interestingly enough it’s served with both mashed potatoes and rice, a mix of American and Chinese sides. The waitress too, seemed like a mix of American and Chinese, but the restaurant’s patrons seemed to be all locals who appeared to be old generation American, with the exception of me, a first generation Korean American.

 

Ono Teriyaki

IMG_20130412_111858Ono Teriyaki is kind of like a non franchised L&L. Like L&L they serve various meats marinaded in teriyaki sauce and grilled, served with rice and macaroni salad. They’re a little classier than L&L in that they actually serve you in a bento box. They have some additional stuff that L&L doesn’t have, like stir fried noodles and gyoza. But I was a bit disappointed that they didn’t have brown rice.

 

Burger Saloon

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Unlike most of the restaurants I had visited in Woodland so far, Burger Saloon was actually pretty crowded. I was actually surprised to see so many customers, seeing as how there’s a Red Robin in town. The concept is kind of similar, sort of an upscale burger joint. The burger was pretty tasty, I ordered a ‘guido’ which, true to its name, tasted Italian American because of its roasted garlic and roasted tomatoes. Gosh I don’t know how I lived thirty years before eating a burger with roasted garlic– it’s such an obvious combination– soooooo tasty… The only problem I had with this place was its prices. I ended up paying $15 for a burger, fries and a drink. For that price I could have gone to Red Robin, which comes with unlimited fries.

 

Ludy’s

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For my last day of jury duty I met up with my friend Jim at Ludy’s. Apparently he comes here pretty often with his coworkers, and he came prepared with discount cards. Ludy’s is one of only a couple places in Woodland that I’ve been to more than a few times, the other being Silvina’s Basket. A visit to Ludy’s has never failed to leave me completely and utterly full, and I’ve always left with a massive food coma, which is probably not all that conducive to staying awake during jury duty.

Actually, all of these meals in Woodland were pretty filling and left me with a fair amount of food coma. The only saving grace was that the court provided free coffee. It was the only way I could make it through the long afternoons listening to witness testimony.

prague food & drink

On the night I landed in Prague Jack and I decided to go to the restaurant in the hotel’s ground floor. They had stopped serving food, but they were still serving drinks, so we decided to grab a beer. As soon as we had gotten our beers, a friendly local Czech guy asked if we wanted to join there table. So we did. There were about half a dozen people at the table, but only two guys really knew enough English to have any sort of conversation.

One of them was a big guy with a big beer belly. He had visited China once before in his life, and when he was there apparently everyone wanted to touch his ears. So during the night he asked Jack several times if he wanted to touch his ears. The other guy was a skinny vegetarian guy, who apparently had visited Seoul once and liked Korean food a lot. I thought that was pretty random…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnyways, at one point I asked them if there’s a Czech dish that I needed to try, and one of them mentioned to try the roasted duck that’s served with red cabbage. I ended up ordering it at one of the restaurants that we went to. I was kinda disappointed. The duck wasn’t very flavorful, and the potato dumplings were really dense and bland. It seems that a lot of Czech food is served with dumplings, of which there are two types, a potato dumpling and a flour based dumpling. I didn’t really like either of them, so for the rest of my time in Prague I tended to avoid dishes that came with dumplings…

prague foodI ended up eating a lot of soup, partly because they came with bread instead of dumplings, and partly because it was cold. Clockwise from the top left there’s a duck soup in a rye bread bowl, a goulash soup in a bread bowl, goulash soup with a cup of grog (a traditional Czech winter drink made of hot water and rum), and a pig blood soup with rice.

IMGP0788There’s a good amount of street food in Prague. Near the Astronomic clock we spotted this stand that had these huge slabs of pork rotating on a rotisserie over a wood flame. I returned later in the day and bought some. I was pretty disappointed– it tasted like a regular piece of ham that I could buy at Safeway.

IMGP0793Svarak, or hot wine, was fairly common. I rather enjoyed it, especially since it was so cold out for most of our time in Prague. The pastry I’m holding is a traditional Czech pastry called a trdelnik, which is cooked by wrapping it on a stick that rotates over a flame.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFood in general was kinda heavy in Prague, so at one point I decided that I’d wanted something healthy. So I ordered a salad. It was the best tasting salad I had ever had, although it failed at being healthy. It had a ton of ham and bacon and chicken, covered with cheese and dressing and croutons– there were a few pieces of lettuce and tomato thrown in too, mostly just there to garnish all the meat it seemed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn our last day in Prague we decided to eat at a nice restaurant. There was a Michelin star restaurant at one of the fancier hotels in town, but they didn’t have a seat. So we ended up eating at the hotel’s other restaurant, which apparently was still one of the best restaurants in Prague. I ended up ordering the three course chef’s menu, which came with this fancy looking desert. I had never eaten anything like this before, I wasn’t quite sure how to tackle it.

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This is becherovka. Apparently Czech people drink it to aid their digestion. After all the heavy food I ate in Prague, I could use a good digestive aid…

magical market meal

On the last day before flying back home, I spent half a day at the Naschmarkt, a big market in Vienna not unlike the famous Pike’s Place market in Seattle. On Saturdays apparently there’s also a flea market that gets setup right next to the Naschmarkt.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe flea market was incredibly crowded.

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The variety of items for sale was quite impressive, you can buy designer handbags, fur scarves, and vintage camera equipment, sometimes all in the same stall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Naschmarkt’s produce selection was excellent. I was quite impressed. I never would’ve imagined being able to buy mangosteens or dragonfruit in Austria in winter.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere was an incredible array of spices too. I was thinking of bringing back home some saffron, but in the end I decided against it because I didn’t wanna fill out a customs form. (Does bringing home spices even require you to fill out a customs form?)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey even had fresh oysters, which I thought was quite impressive for a landlocked country.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere was a guy selling bouillabaisse right outside of a fish stand. It was quite tasty, with big chunks of fish and tons of shellfish– definitely one of the tastiest fish soups I’ve had. It’s a pretty awesome experience, eating bouillabaisse and sipping on white wine at a marketplace stand, but it ended up being just the first course of an incredible meal.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese pork shanks were calling out to me, as soon as I saw them in the window.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey chop it up for you and serve it up on a plate so you could eat it right at their counter. It was quite tasty, the meat was moist and flavorful and the skin on the outside was crispy.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABut it was missing something to eat alongside it, so I ended up packing it up and continued exploring the market.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlmost immediately I found this bread and cheese stand. I ended up buying a loaf of olive bread and a small portion of goat cheese.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen I just needed something to wash it down, maybe some wine or beer. I found this cart that had both, and there were barrels set up that you could sit at and enjoy your meal.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd so I ended up with a complete meal, there was even music to listen to as I sat and enjoyed my meal and people watched. It all came together like magic, better than I could have ever planned myself.

The musicians were pretty decent in my opinion. They definitely added to the meal, so I took a short video of them.

tubbiness in tahoe

I spent this weekend in a cabin in Tahoe with some friends, some old and some new. Sleeping on a couch in a cabin was a nice change from sleeping on the ground in a tent like I’ve been doing for the past few weekends.

Another change was the camera I brought this weekend. I recently bought a micro four thirds camera. As you can see, it’s a lot smaller than my SLR. I bought a small pancake prime lens to go along with it. The combination fits in my pocket if I wear somewhat fatty pants– luckily I’m a fatty who wears fatty pants pretty often.

The lens that I bought has a maximum aperture of f/2.5– which comes in handy when shooting indoors without flash. I’m pretty happy with the sharpness of the lens and to my eyes the bokeh (background blurring) is okay.

The camera shoots in raw format and there’s a decent amount of dynamic range. The sun was directly behind us for this shot, but there’s a good enough range to bring the faces back in Lightroom without blowing out the sky too badly.

I’m pretty happy with the sharpness of the lens– it seems to capture a good amount of detail.

This post is called ‘tubbiness in tahoe’ because we spent a good portion of the weekend eating. Breakfast was two types of scrambled eggs with bacon and pancakes.

Dinner was korean barbecue beef and pork with grilled veggies.

The grill wasn’t really cooperating, so we ended up cooking the pork inside.

We caught a good number of crawfish.

Which Lisa made a very tasty crawfish bisque out of. I’ve had crawfish bisque in New Orleans– I think this was better.

During the day we went for a short hike at Emerald Bay.

I had been out here just three weeks earlier, but since then it had snowed. The snow adds a nice atmosphere to an area that’s already pretty nice.

I hiked in my Vibram five fingers. My toes were cold when hiking in the snow, but they warmed up pretty quickly when I was back on dry ground.

We hiked up to lower eagle falls. The trail was icy and slippery in some parts.

Here’s a group shot at the bridge below Lower Eagle Falls.

We had a snowball war near the waterfall.

So anyways, going back to the camera. It was a decent deal at $200, plus $200 for the lens. The camera’s ISO performance is okay– not great, but coupled with the relatively fast lens it’s usable indoors in somewhat low light without flash. It fits in my (fatty pants) pocket. The lens is a great focal length for me, relatively wide, which I like. So overall I’m pretty happy with the camera.

It actually sounds like a great date camera– good enough in low light to take a picture during a candle lit dinner at a fancy schmancy restaurant of both the tasty food and the pretty lady sitting across the table. Bwahaha that situation pretty much never happens in my life, so now that I think about it, maybe $400 for a camera I won’t use all that often is kind of expensive…

Anyways, it was a good relaxing weekend, and a good way to unwind after three straight weeks of hiking and camping.

Things I’m thankful for:

  • Friends, both old and new
  • Food
  • Fun times with good food and good friends

the omigosh meal

At better Japanese restaurants you can order what’s called an omakase meal. Omakase means “I’ll leave it up to you” in Japanese. It apparently comes from the Japanese word “to entrust” because essentially what you are doing is entrusting your sushi selections to the chef. Supposedly it’s the best way to get the chef’s freshest fish, and often you will receive items that aren’t on the menu. I find it funny that the word omakase sounds suspiciously like omigosh or “Oh My Gosh.” It’s ironic, because often at the end of an omakase meal you’ll be thinking omigosh, as in “Omigosh that was an incredible meal!” or “Omigosh I can’t believe how expensive that was…”

So anyways, you’re probably thinking– “What does omakase or omigosh have anything to do with anything?” Well, while I did eat at a pretty nice Japanese restaurant today, I did not order the omakase meal. So in truth, omakase has nothing to do with anything I did today. In fact, I wasn’t even really going to write a blog post about today. I didn’t bring my SLR camera and I didn’t even take many pictures with my phone camera. But I was asked by Mr. Paul Liu to write something about today in the best possible light, so he supplied most of the pictures. So I figured I would try to write something a bit out of the ordinary, so that little intro spiel about omakase and omigosh was my segue into the rest of this post.

So here we go. Omigosh! Paul, I can’t believe you would actually want to be featured in this crappy blog of mine. And to my two loyal readers– Omigosh! I apologize ahead of time for this post.

I met up with the group at V. Sattui Winery in Saint Helena. Apparently Paul’s friend Anthony is a member of their cellar club, so we were able to get into the member’s only tasting room in the cellar. Omigosh! VIP Status!

The member’s only cellar club is in the winery’s basement. Omigosh! It looks like a castle dungeon!

The staff at the winery is really friendly. All the way up to the owners. Omigosh! Paul got a picture with the President and Co-Ownder of the winery!

Being a member allows you to taste and purchase from the futures barrels. Omigosh! Wine futures! Cool stuff!

We ended up somehow spending over three hours in the tasting cellar. We tasted over a dozen wines. We ended up splitting a case, which we put on my credit card, which made me a member of the cellar club. Omigosh! Mike Hong, VIP cellar club member!

I’m not sure what the benefits are of being a member. I guess free tastings are good. Omigosh! Complimentary tastings and private vineyard and winery tours!

We spent a little bit of time exploring Yountville. We got to see the famous French Laundry Restaurant. Omigosh! I’m at the French Laundry!

French Laundry is cool because they have a plot of land in front of the restaurant where they grow much of the produce that’s used in the restaurant. Omigosh! They grow their own vegetables!

Anthony Bourdain, host of “No Reservations,” one of my favorite travel shows, calls French Laundry “the best restaurant in the world, period.” The wait list to get a reservation here is months long, and the prices are steep. Omigosh! It’s so expensive!

Thomas Keller, owner of French Laundry owns several other restaurants in the area, as well as an amazing bakery. I don’t think he himself is a pastry chef, but I guess owning the best restaurant in the world allows him to hire a pretty talented pastry chef. Omigosh! Bouchon Bakery!

I’m a big fan of the TV show Iron Chef America, so when Paul asked for restaurant recommendations I jokingly suggested we eat at Iron Chef Morimoto’s restaurant in Napa. I didn’t think he’d actually make reservation there… Omigosh! Morimoto!

Iron chef Morimoto is known for his creative uses of fish. This is the toro tartare, which Paul ordered, which is one of Morimoto’s signature appetizers. Omigosh! Deconstructed food!

I look pissed off. In truth, I’m more confused than anything. Chi looks somewhat less confused and pissed off. Omigosh! How do you eat this stuff!

I’m a huge fan of raw beef preparations, so the appetizer I ordered was the wagyu beef carpaccio. It was tasty, but seriously expensive for the amount of beef you get. It doesn’t seem all that difficult to make. I’ll probably try making it at home sometime soon– there’s a Japanese market in Sacramento that sells wagyu beef rib-eye, and it seems like all you need on top of that is some olive oil, ponzu and some micro greens. Omigosh! Wagyu beef carpaccio!

Here’s a picture after the entrees arrived. I ordered a sea urchin carbonara. I like pasta in general, and I like sea urchin, plus I thought that by ordering a pasta I would get a bigger portion (dude noodles are cheap…) I was wrong. My pasta was tiny. It was probably the best pasta I ever had, but it was also the most expensive and smallest plate of pasta I ever had. Omigosh! Tasty but sooo expensive!

Afterwards we sat at the waterfront and ate some of the pastries from Bouchon Bakery. I mentally totaled how much I spent. If I include the wine I bought, it was easily the most money I had spent on a day with all guys, even more expensive than any of the bachelor parties I’d been to. So the day had the dubious distinction of being the most expensive sausage fest ever. But I guess it’s not really fair to include the price of the wine, since it would be months before I finish it all, but either way it was an expensive but interesting day. Omigosh! Expensive sausage fest!