When Life Gives You Lemons

… clog your arteries?

My friend gave me a bag of lemons and my aunt gave me a giant thing of sour cream, so I made lemon pound cake.

I burned the bottoms (of course I did), so I cut them off and made lemon pound cake bread pudding with the tops.

It’s delicious, probably because it contains a cup of butter, two cups of sour cream, four cups of sugar, and eight eggs.

I still have a giant pile of lemons left. That’ll be four more cups of sugar in my future:

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Who would have thought lemons could be so bad for you?

Coffee Tasting

My local Philz held a coffee tasting yesterday. I signed up. Of course I signed up.

This is where I admit to consuming my daily coffee(s) with liberal amounts of dairy.* Blasphemous, I know.

Blasphemous, and exactly why I wanted to go to a coffee tasting. I wanted to learn to appreciate coffees on their own, and also compare different varieties and roasts side by side. We cupped, we slurped, we paired.

The verdict: I still wouldn’t drink a cup of black coffee on its own.

That said, I discovered that black coffee can pair amazingly well with food. The trick is to match the bean and the food.

Buttery, chocolatey, fruity pastries and buttery, chocolately, fruity coffees. (Not all at the same time.) Like flavors paired well together, and finally made all the pastries at coffee shops make sense. Not that I ever thought coffee shop pastries didn’t make sense. Pastries are always make sense.

My favorite pairing, and a surprise to some at the tasting, was dried mango with the Fair Trade Peru. Coffee and dried fruit? It works!

On the flip side, I mixed my various pairings to experience what doesn’t work. Lots of things don’t work. How, then, are we supposed to find these magical pairings without months of trial and error?

By going to a coffee tasting!

Thanks Philz! Y’all are the bestest.

* This is also where I clarify what kind of dairy is allowed: extra heavy whipping cream for coffee, whole milk for lattes. I’m at least not watering down my beans with fat free nonsense. Fat is flavor.

Toasted Cream

Yes, toasted cream. It’s a thing! And it doesn’t involve a toaster! Or toast. Or a pan. Or an oven.

Just some cream, a jar, and an Instant Pot.

As advertised, it comes out brown and nutty. Maillard reaction FTW!

I haven’t figured out what to do with mine, though. I tried putting it in my already nutty coffee, and it was nuttiness overload.

Toasted whipped cream?

Cap’n Crunch Berry Cereal Milk Ice Cream

On our ice cream crawl a couple months ago, I had a scoop of Cap’n Berry Crunch strawberry ice cream. I loved it, and was inspired to make something similar.

Last week, Cap’n Crunch Crunch Berries cereal was on mega sale at Safeway, so I brought a box home. It was a sign! I read up on cereal milk ice cream in my Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook, then set out to make my ice cream mashup.

Cap’n Crunch Berry Cereal Milk Ice Cream. It’s real, and it’s in my freezer.

Donut Bonanza

Me: Two glazed old fashioneds please.
Cashier: Can I give you a free donut?
Me: What?
Cashier: Can I give you a free donut?
Me: OMG YES.
Cashier: I have to ask because sometimes people don’t like that.
Me: What???
Cashier: They’ll come back and tell me they didn’t order it.
Me: I will never turn down a free donut.
Cashier: puts 5 donuts in my bag

SCORE!!! 🍩🍩🍩🍩🍩

Macchiato

Went to Blue Bottle for a macchiato just now. It was twice as expensive, took five times as long, and tasted about half as good as pretty much any of the macchiatos I had in Italy.

This experience was not unlike my first pour-over of my favorite Tesora beans when I got home last week. I’ll readjust to San Francisco’s expensive not-as-good-as-in-Italy-but-still-some-of-the-best-in-North-America coffee soon.

Alameda Crimson Tide

I was going to say another year, another Vegas, but I didn’t go to Vegas last year because of Horrible Stomach Bug.

Because I did get to go to Vegas this year, I wasn’t too annoyed when I started feeling sick with Icky Cold shortly after landing. Icky Cold is Icky, but at least I was in Vegas!

Meal 1: Bachi Burger

Touched down, got rental car, drove to Bachi Burger. Bone marrow jelly, foie gras, and wagyu, GIT IN MAH BELLAY!

Meal 2: Naked Fish

A few hours later, my coworker messaged me on while we were in the car looking for a place to eat, and gave us a great recommendation for dinner: Naked Fish. Jalapeño yellowtail sashimi and miso grilled sea bass, YES.

Game 1: Phoenix Mid-Ice Crisis

Played our first game at 10:20 on Thursday night. It felt like a great matchup. We got a couple goals off mayhem in front of the other team’s net and came away with a victory. Final score: 2-0.

Meal 3: Ichiza

Ichiza, a Las Vegas tournament staple. We came here after our game, so I guess technically we came on Friday. “What did you eat there?” people would ask later in the weekend. “EVERYTHING.”

Meal 4: Monta Ramen

After taking photos at April’s Friday late morning game, we headed over to Monta Ramen for pork belly rice and gyoza and, of course, ramen. Then we walked across the parking lot for Snowflake. Cookie butter snow, AGL AGL AGL…

Game 2: Los Angeles Bad Kitty

Ooh, this was a close game. I totally don’t remember what happened now because I’m writing this 5 days late, but it was a 1 goal game the entire time.

I do remember making a bad pass, chasing down the skater who picked the puck off, accidentally tripping her, saying sorry as she fell, stopping to see if she was okay, realizing I had to go touch the puck to stop the play, skating over to touch the puck, and skating back to ask if she was okay. Because I’m not one of those meanie face D’s.

Final score: 3-2.

Meal 5: Other Mama

Another post-game tasty meal, this time at Other Mama. There was raw fish and raw beef and more raw fish and maybe even some cooked stuff. Great food and great company, partially subsidized by some guy who rear ended one of our cars earlier in the day. Thanks guy!

Game 3: Juneau Narwhals

The Alaskans! We played with a few of them in Vacaville this year, and it was good to see them again. We did better than we expected; this team looked amazing when we watched them Thursday night. Not sure what happened. Vegas, probably.

Final score: 5-1.

Meal 6: Flock & Fowl

Chinese fusion? I had some crazy tasty flavored jook that was made with… chicken fat? Or just really really good broth. Their chicken was amazing too, which is something you never hear me say. And it wasn’t fried. WAO.

Game 4: Vail Vixen

We didn’t need to win this game to make the championship, and the team we played hadn’t won a game yet. So even though we lost, I didn’t mind. I was happy for the other team, because they played well, and it’s nice to go out on a good game. I’m sure some other documentation worthy stuff happened, but I don’t remember, which I also don’t mind, because if I could pick only one thing to remember, it’s that I came away from the game happy.

Final score: 2-3.

Wedding!!!

Lucinda and I did a costume change at the rink and zipped on over to Commonwealth for an Alaskans who now live in North Carolina wedding. Wedding! It was sweet and cute and fun and a Very Nice Celebration. I marveled at how hockey made that night possible, in so many ways. And yes, I cried.

Championship: Phoenix Mid-Ice Crisis

It’s interesting how two games between the same two teams can have such different outcomes. They played a little better, we played a little worse. I think? In any case, the other team played a great game and came away with the championship: a mini Stanley Cup! They earned it; they played a great tournament, rebounding from their game 1 loss to win every subsequent game.

Final score: 0-4.

Here’s my team after the final buzzer. This pretty much sums us up:

For Arthur. Thanks April for capturing the moment.

Meal 7: Gangnam Asian BBQ Dining

Squeezed one last meal in before heading back to the airport. It was a fun, tasty weekend. :)

Offally Tasty

Went to Cockscomb last night to experience their Wood Oven Roasted Pig’s Head. It was everything I had imagined and more.

We also got to experience an unexpected treat: Pork Skin Spaghetti. It was nothing I had ever imagined and more amazing than even the Pig’s Head.

At dinner I was reminded of the pasta tasting menu Aaron and I had at Flour + Water a few weeks ago. Not because there was any pasta, but because the thing I enjoy about both restaurants is their creativity in the medium they specialize in: Flour + Water for pasta and Chris Cosentino for offal meats.

This, oddly, leads me down a train of thought completely unrelated to food. In a conversation with our company trainer Friday, we talked about how she was conducting a StrengthsFinder session for one of our teams. I asked if the goal was to help people utilize their strengths for the team, or to identify areas where individuals could improve. This was an unsurprising question from me, as I’m always working to get better at things I’m bad at. But her answer was quite the opposite: Sometimes it’s better to spend your energy getting really good at the things you’re naturally good at, instead of on things that don’t come easily to you.

My taste buds agree.

Chicago

Last week…

Viv: I’ll be out Monday Tuesday next week.
Coworker: Where are you going?
Viv: Chicago.
Coworker: I heard there was a really good restaurant there… Alinea?
Viv: That’s why I’m going. :)

After years of talking about going to Chicago but not wanting to go if we weren’t also going to go to Alinea, I finally got over the reservation hurdle to make it happen, which involved stalking their reservation site for weeks until the dates we wanted became available.

Alinea tickets purchased. Airfare and hotel were a cinch after that.

Saturday: Arrive. Eat Donuts.

Touched down at O’Hare around 9 PM. To the L! As we rode toward downtown Aaron pointed out that we were on the Blue Line. “Like the pizza.” The Chicago deep dish pizza we get in California. Ohh…

“I’m hungry,” I said as we continued toward downtown. Pulled out my phone and Yelped us some donuts. Specifically, I Yelped us some Ice Cream Donut Sandwiches from Firecakes.

Sunday SUNDAY Sunday!

Started off the day with a visit to Intelligentsia Coffee. Their latte ain’t no Blue Bottle.

From there, we headed for the river, where Aaron had scheduled us a Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise. It wasn’t exactly a cruise, but it was a fantastically informative boat tour. Our docent Lindy clearly loves what she does.

Starting the trip with an architecture tour was a great idea. I appreciated the buildings around me that much more the rest of the trip.

So many spires, though. Not a fan of spires.

After we got off the boat we headed for Maggie Daley Park. Public climbing walls and a winter ice skating track. What a beautiful public recreation space.

Next, across the pedestrian bridge to Millennium Park. Lots of neat-o sculptures. And, of course…

The Bean. Check.

Bean Strut

Hungry! We hopped on the Red Line for some Chicago Dogs at Murphy’s Red Hots. (Yum!) We were joined by a ton of Cubs fans on the train. Turns out there was a game that afternoon, and we were lunching just a short walk away…

Wrigley Field. Check. I even got to meet the mascot!

Me & Clark

After that, a visit to the top of the John Hancock Center. 100 stories! Lots of rooftop pools across the city. I wonder if they turn them into skating rinks in the winter.

Back down to street level. Hungry! Pulled out my phone again and Yelped us another tasty donut shop: Do-Rite Donuts! The location we went to served a highly rated fried chicken sandwich as well, and was willing to serve it to us with a donut bun. Unfortunately, we had to save our stomachs for The Main Event later that evening.

Between donuts and our hotel, a slow stroll around the Tribune Tower, something of a mini tour around the world.

Antarctica. I touched it.

Piece of Antarctica

Alinea

Spiffied up a bit at the hotel, then headed out again for an evening at Alinea, the restaurant that’s “not a restaurant”.

It’s weird to see that on their website, but it’s true. Alinea was more experience than restaurant.

They have thought through every detail from the moment you open the door to the moment you exit. They’re not just about food. They’re about the surroundings, the interactions, piquing your curiosity, delivering surprises. It’s pricey and formal, yet friendly and relaxing.

And the food. They can somehow distill entire dishes’ worth of flavor into bite sized morsels. We ate a strawberry that tasted like a tomato and a tomato that tasted like a strawberry. There was food we couldn’t recognize as such alongside entirely natural, whole items. Who knew you could eat a barnacle?

Was it worth the cost? Was it worth the trip? Absolutely.

Hey, remember that time I sang TACOCAT at a Michelin 3 star restaurant?

Al’s #1 Italian Beef

Even though there is an Al’s Beef in San Jose, we made the effort to visit the original location. Italian beef, sweet and hot peppers, dipped.

I’ve never had cow flesh melt in my mouth like that before. I may never be able to eat an Italian beef from anywhere else ever again.

MSI, a.k.a. Nerd Paradise

Aaron had come across something mentioning MSI the day before. Turns out it’s the Museum of Science and Industry. We paid it a visit, and holy moly, I may never be able to visit a science museum anywhere else ever again.

Just kidding. But MSI is serious Nerd Paradise. A++++++++++!!!!! WOULD GO AGAIN!!!

MSI

That is a real 727 mounted inside the museum.

Divvy

As it turns out, there’s a trail that runs along Lake Michigan from MSI back to the downtown area. It was a beautiful afternoon so we rode Divvys back. Bikeshare FTW!

Vivvy on a Divvy

We rode that trail all the way to Buckingham Fountain. Is big!

Had our requisite deep dish pizza at Lou Malnati’s for dinner. Too much cheese, not enough sauce. They were like the North Beach Pizza of Chicago. That, and their greeter seemed to hate interacting with people. Meh.

I needed a walk after all that cheese, so we hoofed it back for the night view from the top of the John Hancock. Totally different experience, and totally worth going twice to compare.

Shot from a Building

It blows my mind that this is a picture from a building, not a plane.

Moar Donuts

As we got off the Green Line for lunch at Blackbird Tuesday, I spotted a mini billboard for DAM GOOD DONUTS. As I am on a donut kick these days, I immediately headed over there. This led us to the Chicago French Market, a large indoor palace of noms.

Blackbird was pretty good. Aaron said afterward that they have a Michelin star. Accidental star collection, we fancy!

After lunch, we visited Chinatown, because I’ve seen every other big city Chinatown and I wanted to compare. Chicago’s is small and boring.

Library Detour

We still had a couple hours left, and decided to check out the view from the Sears (now Willis) Tower. Got off the L and WHOA WHAT IS THIS GIANT BUILDING? The Chicago Public Library. My inner nerd couldn’t resist. And boy was I glad we went inside. What a beautiful building inside and out, with so many resources for the public.

I insisted on visiting every floor. Totally worth it when we reached the top.

Totally more randomly awesome than visiting another tower.

After that, it was off to the airport. I reflected on our jam packed three days on the Blue Line ride back to O’Hare. There were a few things that jumped out at me during my stay there.

No Guns

Saw a bunch of these all over store entrances:

The first one I saw made me wonder if Chicago was a place where people randomly burst into stores and shoot things up. But why would a little sticker prevent them from doing that? Looked it up after I got home. Turns out it has to do with concealed carry legislation. If you don’t want licensed concealed carry folks coming into your establishment with their firearms, you can legally tell them not to do so with one of these stickers. Looks terrible, bad idea, weirds out tourists, there’s got to be a better way.

Flag

Before this trip, I never even realized that cities had flags. Chicago has a really cool one. I’m particularly fond of the skyline version:

Getting Around

The L gets it done! Aside from MSI and Al’s #1 Italian Beef, we were able access everything we needed by L.

Melting Pot

I can’t quite put my finger on this, or really find a good way to describe it, but I felt like in Chicago it didn’t matter what race you were. People went to work, went about their days, did their thing. No one really stood out one way or another. It’s interesting to me that it doesn’t feel that way in the SF Bay Area. Compared to Chicago, it feels like there is a huge divide in class and culture by race here. Why is that? I don’t like it.

Back to Chicago. I like the place! Would eat, I mean, visit, again!