Monday, January 25

Hello, 2016

After my very extended hiatus from blogging, I am officially back!  Well, for at least a couple of months.  I've been out sick for almost a full month, and while I've been out and about, I haven't felt 100% just yet.  The hardest part of being sick? Not being able to sing, or rather, trying to sing and having that phlegm get in my way. Ew.  I've been meaning to revisit my 2015 travels and catchups with old friends before 2016 hit, but alas, the flu consumed me!

I haven't written much in such a long time, besides my personal statement and revision of others' papers, that I feel like I need to find my voice again. A couple of writing habits (resolutions, anyone?) I have decided to change are double-spacing between sentences and using less exclamation marks. If I don't look like I'm over 25, at least I can sound like it, right?

I almost always start my new year in Taiwan, and this year was no different. I of course went to my favorite sushi place in Taichung, Motode Sushi and frequented 家料理 during my stay. I packed on a couple of pounds during my stay, something quite inevitable when in Taiwan. School brought me back to New Orleans, and with my mom, we went to try one of John Besh's fancier restaurants, Restaurant August. I also had the opportunity to try Commander's Palace, and after all, I think it did live up to its name.  The food was delicious, well presented, and the service was impeccable. I would definitely recommend it as a pricier option in New Orleans. And oh, District Coffee opened in place of Velvet Coffee, and their drinks are pretty darn good!

April brought me to Boston, where I attended an Internal Medicine conference and learned how to put in a central line and practiced my suturing.  I had fun learning, and had just as much fun exploring Boston's Little Italy (North End) and eating at Neptune Oyster. School also brought me to Atlanta, where I had supper at White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails and enjoyed short rib (below) with potatoes and bacon on the side. Can't say no to that bacon!  (Heh, cue resolution)

June brought me to Australia, again, for school purposes. I found that the number of Asian restaurants and cafes in Brisbane had increased in number, and witnessed Kiss the Berry (below) go from being a pop-up to two shops! I also got to go to Ekka c/o of Yelp, where I met Jake (below). They still make the best acai bowls 'round the world. My Sydney itinerary this time was very different from that of the past, but it was a lot of fun traveling with friends. A change from my usual travels alone. My lemon tart (below) from Bourke Street Bakery was amazing, of course, and breakfast from Le Monde was also pretty delicious.
This is Jake ;D
Fast forward to finishing school, I drove to Houston with my mum and left all my belongings with family and friends who were kind enough to lend me their space. I had way too much boba for my own good, and continued that goodness into NorCal, where I stayed for another few weeks with friends.  It was so good to catch up with old friends and my sister, and my friend's family was so gracious to have me around for Christmas! We even had lunch at Bistro Jeanty in Napa Valley and stopped by Artesa Winery, where I discovered Tempranillo.
Needless to say, 2015 was a year filled with adventures, food, and most importantly, family and friends. The reason food remains the focus of my blog is not only because food brings people together, but because of my dad. It's hard watching people eat and not eating while you're hungry, but imagine physically not being able to! You realize how much of a blessing it is to be able to enjoy food when someone you love simply isn't physically capable of swallowing food. As some of you may know, my dad was left without the ability to eat after a series of unfortunate events - the sequelae from radiation treatment for nasopharyngeal cancer. Food was one of the main bonding times in our family, and my dad loved to treat people to restaurants. My dad is the reason I keep writing and reminding myself that having food, and being able to eat it, really is a daily blessing.

This year (2016) I have set out to intentionally spend more time with family and friends, and since I've graduated, I happen to have a little more time! Definitely more time compared to the last four years. Even though where I will be this year is a huge question mark, if the last four years has taught me anything, it's that life rarely happens the way you expect it to. When life gives you lemons, you can always choose to make lemonade.  The strawberry type, of course.

Sunday, June 7

The Grocery (New Orleans, LA)

What's the deal with guys and sandwiches anyway?  Well, The Grocery is one of those delis that is indeed packed with sandwich lovers.  The Grocery is located in the Garden District on Saint Charles, where the picturesque houses of New Orleans are.  Under large oak trees and sandwiched between residential houses and scattered shops, The Grocery was a former pharmacy in the 1800's.  This deli has been around for over ten years now, and well, is a placed well loved by locals.

It is bustling during lunch hours, and for good reason.  Their service is friendly, sanwiches are delicious, boasting a large variety from po-boys to paninis, a large selection of sodas, and even dessert.  Its casual, un-updated ambience with an old-time feel really has this place feeling like what New Orleans did even decades ago.  I've realized my love for corned beef, and so I got the Creole Corned Beef (9.25).  Toasted bread and delicious meat, the sandwich was exactly what I was craving - a hot sandwich with flavor and character.  I'm not sure if the creole coleslaw was just different and unexpected, but a part of me wished it was dressed with the classic toppings.  Either way, it was a delicious sandwich, and I will be back for more!

Rating: 4/5
Price: $-$$
Tip: they cater and deliver to some areas too!

The Grocery (Website)
2854 Saint Charles Ave,
New Orleans, LA 70115
#: (504) 895-9524
Click to add a blog post for The Grocery on Zomato 

Stanley (New Orleans, LA)

Located in the heart of the French Quarter, Stanley is one of the most popular breakfast spots in its walking radius.  While there are many restaurants in the Quarter, Stanley is in a prime location, with open doors looking right out onto the streets.  While I haven't tried a ton of places for brunch in the Quarter, Stanley is the best that I've had thus far.

Though their food is still on the greasier side for me (but much better than a lot of NOLA restaurants), their food looks and tastes fresher than a lot places around town.  Their presentation is decent, and their menu choices are numerous!  They have classic breakfast items with a New Orleans twist, such as oysters and boudin with their eggs benedict.  I, however, had the Corned Beef Hash (for my love of corned beef), which is just that with poached eggs, and toast.  The food was surprisingly less salty than I had expected (good thing especially in NOLA), though the toast was loaded with butter... The corned beef was fresh and delicious, especially alongside those potatoes.  If those potatoes were home fries, the dish would be perfect, as they were a little soggy for my taste.  Though their portions aren't huge for the price, their taste is much better than several breakfasts in the area.  Not to mention, they also have Italian sodas and house made ice cream and sorbets!  For visitors in this area hunting for a breakfast spot, this is it!  Fill yourselves with a delicious breakfast and hop over to Jackson square for a morning stroll.

Rating: 4/5 (Great location, good food and service, but place needs some touch ups)
Price: $$-$$$

Stanley (Website)
547 Saint Ann St.
New Orleans, LA 70116
(504) 587-0093
Click to add a blog post for Stanley on Zomato

Friday, April 24

Blaze Pizza (New Orleans, LA, U.S.A.)

There's a new pizza place in town, and well, they're kind of the hottest thing right now.  Located in one of the newest buildings in downtown New Orleans, this place boasts a speedy assembly line, fresh dough made from scratch, and a blazing hot oven that fires their pizzas in just 180 seconds.  Think Chipotle, but with pizza.

The newness of this place bring a large line during lunch, and understandably so since their prices are very reasonable (7.95 for a signature), especially for its location.  Although this can be shared between two people, I have to admit to consuming the whole pizza by myself...

Blaze offers signature pizzas, but also offer the option to customize your own pizza.  They offer gluten-free dough, and their cheeses are all pasteurized.  I was torn between the BBQ Chicken and the Green Stripe, which is is a pizza with pesto drizzle over grilled chicken, roasted red peppers, chopped garlic, mozzarella, arugula, and settled for the latter.  I also chose to add garlic to mine (in picture below) from the huge variety of toppings, which made it that much better. 

Even though the line was nearly out the door, because the pizzas are thin crust, they are quick (just 180 seconds in the oven!).  Thin crust pizza is my favorite, and they do it just right without burning the crust.  Another point I noticed was that the ingredients they use look fresh (especially their cheeses), and their workplace is clean.  Unfortunately, I can't say this about the majority of restaurants in New Orleans, and I appreciate it that much more when I find a place that is casual, comfortable, and clean.  Needless to say, I will probably be returning when I'm craving pizza.  And maybe just so I can try the s'more pies. Mmm...

Price: $ (7.95/pizza+tax)
Rating: 4/5
Tip: Open hours 10:30am-11/12pm

Blaze Pizza (website)
611 O'Keefe Ave. Suite C-9
New Orleans, LA 70113
Blaze Pizza on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 19

Blue Dot Donuts (New Orleans, LA)

I recently lost my hard drive which stored basically my whole photo collection - and no, I hadn't backed it up on a second drive - so they are ALL GONE.  I was able to capture a few screen shots of photos that decided to stay un-pixelated on Lightroom, but all the "good" ones are gone.  In attempt to stop my grieving, here is my woe-is-me post while I eat my delicious donut.

I'm not the biggest donut eater in the world, possibly because I don't usually do much sweets (thankfully), and I enjoy original glazed donuts almost exclusively, but I have found myself making a stop at Blue Dot more often than I should.  What hooked me?  Their maple bacon long johns and blueberry donuts.

My favorite is the maple bacon, though it is on the sweeter side.  Let's not forget the bacon fat sitting in the glaze that oozes with every bite, but nevertheless, this is one of the items that I always get when i'm at Blue Dot.  I think it's the balance between the savory bacon and the sweet glaze that does it for me.  The blueberry donut (not the blueberry glaze)  is another of my favorites because... blueberries are delicious!  A lesser known flavor they have is wedding cake, and while it's not my pick, I have a friend who loves their wedding cake donut!

Another item they have during Mardi Gras season is the King Cake donut, which is possibly my favorite king cake out there - just cause it's a king cake AND a donut!  The texture is less dense than a king cake itself and just like a donut, with sugar sprinkles on top! Mmm...

The location of this Blue Dot is away from most other businesses and restaurants - but this does make the parking a bit easier. There is as five dollar minimum for credit card charges, which can sometimes be inconvenient, but hey, more donuts for everyone!  But apparently not enough to last till closing time since they start running out late morning!  

There is some seating indoors and out, and though this is a classic donut joint, it's a place where people sit around to enjoy a cuppa with their scrumptilicious donuts.  As for me - I am at home enjoying mine with some coffee while listening to Birdy's Fire Within.

Rating: 3.5/5
Price: $

Tip: Five dollar min on credit card; go before 11am to view their full selection (especially on weekends)

Blue Dot (Website)

4301 Canal St
New OrleansLA 70119
#: (504) 218-4866
Blue Dot Donuts on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 6

Surrey's Cafe and Juice Bar (New Orleans, LA, USA)

Before the year ended, I finally made my way to Surrey's, which had been on my list of to-eats since the beginning of 2014.  And...I was impressed!  Well, I was impressed by their shrimp & grits, since I previously didn't have the best impression of grits.  Let's be honest here - before NOLA, I never had any incentive to try grits.  They don't sound particularly appetizing by the way they look and they're generally tasteless unless doused with some kind of sauce...

The only review I can give is on their shrimp & grits, but if you like shrimp and if you like grits - theirs is the best I've had so far in town!  Their presentation is on point, the taste is perfect, and the mouthfeel of the grits is also perfect (not mush, not undercooked).  The shrimp tastes fresh and their ingredients also look and taste fresh.  They also offer a great variety of juices, for those of you who are into drinking your serving of fruit and veggies.  I'll try them... one day.  Service and ambience here are good, on top of their delicious food, making this cafe a great place to have brunch!

Only downside is that there is no question there will be a wait on weekends...

Rating: 4.5/5 (food: shrimp & grits)
Price: $$

Tip: Open 8am-3pm daily

Surrey's Cafe and Juice Bar (Website)
1418 Magazine St.
New Orleans, LA 70130
#: (504) 524-3828
Surrey's Café & Juice Bar on Urbanspoon

The Pie Hole (Pasadena, CA, USA)

Pies are one of my favorite desserts (particularly key lime pie), but this joint takes it to the next level.  The Pie Hole specializes in all kinds of pie, both sweet and savory, all which look and sound super scrumptious!  They also offer coffee, a much needed staple to go along with your slice o' pie...

On this occasion I tried the Mexican Chocolate and the Yam (seasonal) Pie.  The Mexican Chocolate isn't something I would typically go for, but upon recommendation, I tried it... and it blew my mind!  It's nothing like your ordinary chocolate pie - this one is thick, rich, and chocolatey to the very end.  Let's not forget the graham crust and coffee? flavored whipped cream on top, which pairs so well with the chocolate!  The cinnamon is subtle, making this not just any ordinary chocolatey pie.  Need I say?  I'm unexpectedly in love with this pie.

The yam pie was also quite good - a little less sweet and more subtle, but still really delicious.  The mouthfeel of yam remains slightly in the pie, making the pie a little hard to eat, but otherwise, also really delicious.

The location in Pasadena is close to a bunch of shopping and Intelligentsia (which is perfectttt), and at the moment parking in the lot is free for 90 minutes.  Only downside to this place? The pies are quite, quite pricy, so be ready to empty out your pockets!

Rating: 4.5/5
Price: $$-$$$ (for pie)
Tip: Located inside a space shared with a flower shop, Coolhaus, and a spice shop (to the right of Intelligentsia

The PIe Hole (Website)
59 E Colorado Blvd

Pasadena, CA 91105
#: (626) 765-6315
Pie Hole on Urbanspoon