Perfection

It was, in fact, my birthday yesterday. Normally I don’t really look forward to my birthday. It’s not that I don’t like birthdays, it’s just that I tend to have very unmemorable birthdays, so it’s just another day for me.

This year, however, was different. Although my day wasn’t all that great because of some work annoyances, my evening was perfect. About two weeks ago, my best friend Stoyan called and said he and Alex would be in LA over my birthday and were wondering if I’d like to have dinner with them. Since I often can’t think of good places to eat, I entrusted a friend to help me decide. She chose Yuzu, which I’m pretty sure is her favorite restaurant, and for good reason.

After that, she took care of everything. Thank god for that, because my birthday dinner was perfection at its best! The food was amazing, the atmosphere was cozy and romantic, and absolutely no complaints having spent the evening with some of my favorite people.

2nd Harvest

Although I didn’t mention about the 1st harvest, this morning for breakfast I collected a salad and some baby bok choy for breakfast. The salad is really light and really fresh. The salad was so fresh, that I think I can safely say I now know the taste of freshness.

I’m planning my second crop and I think I’ll try to make the lettuce more crisp and the baby bok choy more wide (ours are pretty skinny). I’ve been reading up on growing techniques and hopefully some of the things I’ve learned will help improve my future harvests.

Okonomiyakisoba

Okonomiyakisoba

Okonomiyakisoba

Over the past couple days, I’ve made okonomiyaki with yakisoba (technically Hiroshima style) 3 different times. I guess it’s safe to say that it tastes pretty good, otherwise I wouldn’t keep making it. Since okonomi means “what you like” and yaki means “grilled” or “cooked” (put it all together and you get “cook what you like”), I’ve named my dish okonomiyakisoba. My recipe is based off one from Harumi Kurihara, the Martha Stewart of Japan. I completely admit that Harumi’s recipes are easy and taste great.

I’ve made a couple other dishes from her cookbooks as well, including baked cheesecake (tasted great!) and tempura (also tasted great!). To be honest, I didn’t know I was capable of making such a good cheesecake. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised. I’m already planning to make more of her recipes in the near future.

Make Me Happier!

I’m sure that title has no meaning, but it’s the figurative translation for tiramisu, which I just happened to make last night and it just happened to make me happier. 🙂 I’m pretty satisfied with how it turned out and the flavor was really good, I just need to work on the whipped cream/marscapone part.

Although the recipe for tiramisu is quite easy, it’s actually more difficult than you think. I had to re-do the cake 3 times (the cake was actually good, the first 2 times it was stuck to the baking paper and would not come come off), I also had to re-do part of the whipped cream/marscapone because it wasn’t foamy/whipped enough. In the end, it came together and it was a success.

Showin’ Off

Last night I went out dancing to a newer place in Gardena. I’ve been there only once before. One of the nice things about the place is that it’s not crowded, so there’s room to practice big moves (you know all that cool stuff you learn from YouTube).

I showed up just after the class had finished, so no one was dancing yet. It’s always a little awkward to be the only one on the dance floor, because you know everyone is watching you. I did it anyway. I pulled off some new patterns I learned at home just before I went to the club as well as a couple other tricks I know. It seemed like everything was quiet, except for the music, when I was dancing and as soon as I finished, everyone resumed their conversations. I’m not sure if it really was like that or if I was just in the moment when I was dancing. Regardless, I had a great time dancing and I’m already looking forward to the next time (maybe tonight?).

Shake It Baby!

Living in California, one would expect to experience an earthquake at some point. I guess it turns out that even there are frequent earthquakes in the area, they are often too small to feel unless you are close to the epicenter. My friend said she’s only experienced 3 earthquakes in the 16 years she’s been in Cali. I was fortunate enough to experience my first earthquake, at a magnitude of 5.4 on the Richter scale at 11:42:15 AM (PDT) on Tuesday, July 29, 2008. All that really happened is my office building shook for a second or two. My office is about 32 miles from the epicenter, so I’m sure I would have experienced the quake more if I was closer. To my knowledge, there was no real damage as a result of the quake.

Bachata

When we went to Palm Springs and took Jorge Elizondo’s class, he mentioned about a last minute workshop that would be happening at the Paso de Oro studio together with Alejondro Rey (who was one of the instructors at Palm Springs and gave an awesome bachata/salsa performance Saturday night). Of course we had to go, and I’m really glad we did! The workshop was 4 hours of instruction, switching between Jorge and Alejondro. We learned some intermediate/advanced turn patterns as well as some sensuality moves.

I definitely need to work on my body movement, but the steps and turn patterns are starting to come together. Now I like bachata a lot, whereas before I didn’t like it because I couldn’t do it well at all.

Palm Springs

Me in Palm Springs

Me in Palm Springs

This past weekend I went to Palm Springs for the Salsa Mambo Festival. Prior to going to Palm Springs, I wondered why people go there because it’s in the middle of the desert. Now that I’ve been there, I’m still wondering why people go there. It’s ridiculously hot (it was 105F during the day and 90F at night), it’s tiny (~45,000 people in town / ~415,000 in the metro area) with not much more than some shopping and a few restaurants (mostly chains and fast food), and it’s hot (I know I said that already, but it was *really* hot for me). That being said, I had a great weekend, heat and nothingness aside.

I had the good fortune of taking classes with quite a few pretty famous instructors/dancers, including Edie the Salsa FREAK, Jorge Elizondo (the Bachata King), Josie Neglia, & David Nieto (2008 Mayan World Salsa Competition Champion). I also got to see performances by many professional dancers, including Liz Lira and Cristian Oviedo, as well as some of the previously mentioned instructors. One of my favorite performances was the Victor & Gaby performance combining salsa and quebradita (the bouncy one to fast Mexican polka) and all of the Paso de Oro performances (some of those kids were absolutely amazing!).

Final thoughts on the weekend, I thought I was in pretty good shape, but after 3 days of workshops and some evening dancing, my body is pretty drained. A big part of it was the fact that I was forced to eat differently, both schedule and menu. I’ve already registered for the next festival in Palm Springs over New Year’s and am already planning how I can accommodate the workshop schedule and lack of food choice.

Bam!

Normally during the week, I don’t cook. It’s probably a good thing, because I seem to be rather slow when I cook, plus I really like not having to cook when I get home at night. Weekends are the time when I try to cook. This weekend I made a seafood casserole that was super yummy and chicken cordon bleu with parsley rice. The chicken was really good, but I’d like to improve on the cheese inside (need me some melty, cheesy goodness when I bite into it!). I know that aspect of it could be a lot better. I also want to try stuffing the chicken breasts instead of cutting them in half, more for the looks once it’s finished. The recipe for the chicken came from Emeril (hence the reason for this post’s title), with only a few slight changes based on what I like and what I could get in the grocery store. I’m coming to realize that Emeril has a lot of really good recipes and his style closely matches my palate. I also used his recipe for making the strawberry ice cream I made awhile back.

I’ve thought about taking some cooking classes, but haven’t found anything in the immediate area yet. I think some knife & prep skills would especially help me in being faster and more organized when in the kitchen. A few months ago I got a Japanese cookbook. I haven’t made anything from it yet, but I keep planning to. When paging through the cookbook, it looked like there were a lot of dishes that I would like to eat.

About half the things I’ve made recently have been my mother’s recipes. There’s nothing like Midwest home cookin’. If you’re not really familiar with casseroles and “salads”, I’d highly recommend reading (or listening to) How to Talk Minnesotan: A Visitor’s Guide for a ridiculously hilarious explanation of the common food dishes in Minnesota.

In the next week or two, I should be able to start eating all the vegetables I’ve been growing (minus the arugula, which unfortunately died due to excessive heat). The baby bok choy and the lettuce and Mesclun mix look amazing. They’re getting sooooo big! I can safely say that I’m really excited to start eating my beautiful vegetables.

Part-Time Salsero

I’ve been dancing salsa for a little more than 3 years and Reiko for about a third of that. A couple months back, Reiko and I joined a performance group. Although we are learning tricks and other things we don’t normally get to learn, salsa has become more like a job than a passion. Even as such, Reiko and I still try go out dancing from time to time. This weekend was one of the first times in more than a month.

I just want to say that I absolutely love dancing with her! It is by far one of my most favorite things to do. We definitely have a special connection when we dance together (probably because she stole my heart a long time ago, THIEF!). Even when we were out Saturday night and it was really crowded on the dance floor, it was like no one else was there.

In the past, we’ve gotten compliments about how we dance together from complete strangers. The last time was more than a month ago when we were in the parking lot walking to our car. An older couple actually called out to us to tell us that we looked really good. Even if Reiko and I looked awful dancing together, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. But I can’t deny that it makes me feel really good when other people notice and compliment on one of my favorite things to do with her.

I already know that being in a performance group kills the desire to want to dance. The same thing happened after the last performance, and not just to me, it was everyone in the group. I think it took almost 2 months before I even went out to dance. Although I have a feeling the same thing will happen after we finish this performance in August, I just hope we don’t take too long of a break from dancing together. We are planning on going to the Salsa Mambo Festival in Palm Springs at the end of the month, which should be a nice break from the monotony of our performance class.

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