Something Fishy

I was really excited to get back into a normal blogging schedule but sometimes life just gets in the way. I mentioned last post that something small happened to one of my family members. Well, last week my grandpa was admitted to the hospital after falling outside of his house. He suffered from a subdural hematoma and had to get Burr holes to help drain the hemorrhage. Good news is that he is doing so much better now and finally got moved from the ICU. My mom came down a few days ago and it was nice to have a helping hand in regards to hospital visits and etc.

After we took care of all the hospital stuff, I drove her to my aunts house in Marin where we had a fantastic dinner.

My mom brought down fresh box crab from Oregon and it honestly looks like something out of a Alien vs. Predator movie. My auntie Helen and my mom went to work and cracked open the meat out of two crabs so my cousin and I could make homemade sushi (!!).

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We also got this little fella ready to make for dinner. (just kidding, we’re not that Asian). (ps: I hope nobody gets offended by that comment)

Chewy is a grumpy bunny and is not too fun to hang around. I let him have his space.

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Annie and I have been friends since we were three years old! She moved across the street from our old houses and our moms became best friends. She is basically family and I love coming over and hanging around her house although I do not do it as often as I would like.

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I also just wanted to quickly show off these rolls we made. The triangle shaped ones are box crab + cucumber + avocado (basically a California roll) and the other ones are salmon + avocado.

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Since my mom has fresh access to salmon and crab, we had a seafood feast. Also, the wild-caught salmon came straight out of the water two days before it was on our plate.

Cannot forget the Chinese veggies either, they are so delicious with a little bit of salt and garlic.

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It is rare that my mom and I get any alone time together, so we had a nice afternoon after visiting my grandpa the day after. Normally we are on the move when she comes down to visit, but a few hours of downtime before dinner led us to grab ice cream cones at Bi-Rite (she got a scoop of ginger, yuck) and snap a tourist selfie at Twin Peaks.

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Year Of The Horse

新年快乐! Happy Chinese New Year to everyone!

Today is the first day of the Lunar New Year and the ways of celebrating are day and night compared to the New Years we know.

If you are born in 2014, 2002, 1990, 1978, 1966, 1954 or 1942, this is your year! Your Chinese zodiac sign is the Horse; they are known for being hard-working, motivating and clever.

The Chinese are all about being prosperous, good fortune and health. There are little traditions we do to ensure that the new year treats us well.

Starting the festivities is usually a parade filled with fire crackers, lion dancing and children dressed in silk robes and garments.
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I missed the lion dancing when I went to the fair last weekend, which sucks because it is actually my favorite part of the holidays ever since I was a little nugget. Legend has it that the echoing of the drums and the clangs of the cymbals are suppose to help scare away bad spirits.

(the lions take a few minutes to wake up but it is definitely worth checking out!)

(this one is really intense, I never seen them go on pedestals before)

Red envelopes (lai see) are one of the most recognized traditions of Chinese New Year. Children and unmarried young adults will tell their elders Gong Hay Fat Choi! and collect the lucky money. People you are not really close to will give you two dollars or so, but your family will give you anywhere from $20-$100 in the envelopes. I used to get so many when I was younger, you can see how I am not letting go of the one in my little hands in the picture below.

Also note how I am decked out in almost every shade of red possible, I think it is clear that red is the lucky color of Chinese culture.

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CNY is not all fun and games, no sir. We have to start the new year fresh, so we clean the whole house the day before to sweep away bad fortune, wear new clothes and get a haircut. That way we are entering with all the bad luck gone and more space for good.

Finally, the most important tradition is to spend time with your family and enjoy a great meal together.

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The CNY dinner involves pretty much everyone in your family, your closest friends and every other Asian person down your block. There are a lot of meats, hot pot, potstickers and clementines.

Some might say that this was just an excuse for me to post pictures of when I was younger and I will plead the fifth. If I could start a successful blog where I post a #tbt of myself everyday, then game over. There are so many more cultural traditions, folktales and little things to do during Chinese New Year, but I want this to be an on-going documentation for the following years.

Remember to wear red today!

Does your culture have any special activities for the new year?

Any questions you have about how we celebrate?

Alotta Burrata

One weekend.

Two sisters.

Eleven restaurants.

Eighteen dishes.

(so many dollars spent, I can not even…)

They thought it could not be done. Hell, even we knew it was grossly ambitious. Or maybe just gross. IMG_8625.jpg

There are a few things you need to know about my sister and it will all make sense at the end.

1. She loves food just as much as I do. I am not sure if it is nature versus nurture, but it runs in the family. So naturally, when little sister (me) comes into town, big sister (her) has to show what Denver is made of.

2. She is a planner. I am talking about color-coding, laminating, by-the-minute itinerary.IMG_8627.jpg With this in mind, I present to you the ridiculous, out-to-lunch (literally) whirlwind trip that took place this weekend. I know coming to the Mile High city was a big deal, considering she has lived here for over ten years and this is the first time in my grown-up life that I have visited her. The food scene here is happening and there were so many places to be that we could not possibly do them all in three days. I was wrong.

We did it. I am so unbelievably shocked, frendshäm* and impressed that we were able to pull it off. Logistics, time and money (wallet is in tears) did not stand in the way of the Condell girls.

*Frendshäm is a term we coined (based loosely) on a German word to describe second-hand humiliation. As in the, “Oh Sweetie”-kind of embarrassment. Consider it the next thing to go viral, I promise you that.

On Friday morning, my sister presented me the itinerary of what would shape our time together. Please note that there are no sightseeing locals, no shopping, nothing. All of our touristy things revolved around ensuring that it did not interfere with our food schedule. A, sort of – what silly Denver ‘must do’ should we slog through to tick down minutes in between meals? January isn’t the best time to come to Denver because a lot of things are closed for the off-season. However, we surely did not let that get in the way of our fun.

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What made this so great was that it was literally my sister’s favorite dish at each place. I wish I had a window into her genius brain when she was compiling this list.. classic You Are What You Eat.

Swiftly after a Thursday night pick-up at the airport, we arrived at Pinche Taco’s for what might be the best tacos outside of California. Even remotely thinking this means that they were out-of-this-world delicious. I dubbed these as sexy street tacos, with ingredients such as Queso a la Plancha (mmm…burnt cheese), pan roasted scallops and carnitas that Zeus himself kissed before making its way onto our plate.

(Horrible lighting, as it usually happens when food is that good). pinche.png After hearing that my sister never finished the last half-season of Breaking Bad, we hopped on that quickly and watched an episode before getting into bed.

FRIDAY

Upon waking up, we were a little nervous for what we had in store and decided to play it by ear. We ended up at The Source, which is a local food market that can be compared to a mini Chelsea Market. Lunch was consumed at Acorn and we shared the kale & apple salad (candied almonds, parmesan, togarashi) and tomato braised meatballs (anson mills stone ground grits, burrata, basil).

We high-fived after a successful start and walked around to check out the collective of food artisans and retailers that offer everything from freshly baked bread to craft cocktails. I was impressed with the place and loved the vibe; it reminded me of a less-touristy and more modern Ferry Market building.acorn.png

Our one (1) sightseeing adventure of the whole trip came after lunch, we drove to Red Rocks Amphitheater where the most legendary concert hall is. They had a pretty badass view of the city.

Of course the one picture I did take did not highlight this gorgeous view I am talking about. IMG_8619.jpg

I do not know if it is the altitude or that I am just severely out of shape, but those pesky stairs really got to me and I was embarrassingly winded after the whole thing. IMG_8620.jpg

Another episode of Breaking Bad and a cup of Café Bustelo later, we found ourselves in downtown Denver and ready to roll up our sleeves to get this food coma party started.

With itinerary in hand, our first stop was Panzano for their Crespelle ai Funghi (Hazel Dell mushroom stuffed crepes, fonduta sauce and white truffle oil) and a glass of bubbly. At this point, we realized that our trusty friend was crusty bread. Crusty Bread would make a cameo at literally every single meal. No joke. No complaints. NOT a gluten free weekend.

We walked over to Osteria for their burrata (creamy sweet center, firm edge). Bartender overheard our tactic for the night and asked to see the coveted list. To say he was thoroughly impressed was an understatement; it was at this point in time that we began to think that our crazy idea was actually straight genius. dtdenver.png

Next stop at Bistro Vendome, a quaint French bistro that uses local and seasonal ingredients. We broke our one-plate-per-restaurant rule here and ordered the mussels (garlic, herb, white wine, grilled sourdough baguette) and steak tartare (tenderloin w/ aioli, Dijon, capers, red onion). As a non-seafood kind of girl, the mussels were hand-on-knee amazing and I do not even want to count how many pieces of sourdough I went through. bistrovendon.png

Our last stop of the night was at ChoLon, a fusion restaurant with a menu that is inspired by traditional dishes found across the Asian continent. We enjoyed the soup dumplings (sweet onion, gruyere) and Brussels sprouts (ground pork & mint). We also had the pleasure of chewing the proverbial fat with the Chef Lon (Denver Cheflebrity) and shut down the restaurant as we listened to the fantastical tales of this renown all-over-the-world-and-back chef. cholon.png

Friday’s Round-Up:

Restaurants: 5

Dishes: 9

Stomachs a calorie away from exploding: 2

Saturday

Somehow, someway, we woke up not feeling like death. The only thing on our mind was a cappuccino, which worked perfectly with the next step being butternut squash pizza (walnut, smoked mozzarella, sweet onion & arugula) at True Food Kitchen. Really though, kudos to the chef, because even the one thing I was uneasy about on the list ended up being delightful, especially with a fried egg on top. butternutsquashpiz.png

I would like to tell you exactly what we did after; however, everything seems hazy as I am typing this post. Almost as blurry as this picture taken by my beauty of a sister. IMG_8672.jpg

Although Saturday was not as ambitious the night before, I think my favorite thing that happened was at Z Cuisine. The last time I ate a cheese plate was less than a week ago at Maialino in New York.

This cheese plate was something else. Something where my pathetic little words would only dull how outstanding this was. My sister and I had to stop for a second and make sure what was going on was real. Whoever chose the assortment deserves a round of applause, from the apple and cheddar combo to the contrast of creamy cheese and nutty texture. We wanted to go back the next day to eat more.

As mouthwatering as the cheese plate was, the star of the whole weekend was the cassoulet. Slap-your-mom delicious and worth every penny. Although this is only January, my intuition tells me that this is going to end up on my top-ten of the year list. 100% sure. The dish, prepared for three days, included duck leg confit and a pork belly & shoulder house sausage (andouille style) baked slowly together in a heirloom white beans and bacon ragout, served with wilted chard and kale. Z Cuisine, you hit it straight out the ballpark and need to open a location in San Francisco like yesterday.

And this is where our list took a left because we hit a wall. Fried chicken wraps were next, but we just could not do anymore. We had a drink at Old Major and ended up just talking for hours. Toward the end, an order of duck-fat fries made its way in front of us and we obliged. saturday.png

Saturday’s Round-Up:

Restaurants: 3

Dishes: 4

# of times frendshäm was used: too many

SUNDAY

Three words. Pork shoulder tostada. IMG_8686.jpg

Served with charred tomatillos, sunny eggs and queso panela from Beast and Bottle for a quick brunch before heading to the airport.

There were many times during the trip where my sister and I were unbelievably disgusted with ourselves for having moments of hunger after all this food, but overall I like to think that we killed it. Game, set, match to whoever (aka nobody) doubted our motives.

I apologize for this incredibly long-winded post, I know it is a lot to consume and digest (ha). The reason I did not split this into two posts is because I did not want to drag anything on and because I think I am going to a restaurant I have been dying to try on Monday and that deserves a posts of it’s own.

1. Thank you sister for everything. You are the best you there is.

2. Do not forget to enter the GIVEAWAY that ends on Friday! I am giving away a $50 Gift Card to a grocery store/restaurant of your choice!

PS: If this was a Word document, it would have been five pages. Run and tell that to the next person who says you need to read more. You are welcome.

Have you been to Denver? If so, what was your favorite restaurant?

Who are you rooting for in the Superbowl?

Father Of Mine

Happy birthday to my dad!

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To my father who gave me sweet memories of driving in Golden Gate Park and singing That’s The Way Love Is by Marvin Gaye. He never lets me be the lead, ugh.

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Who started my life-long enamoring with food and cuisine. Without him, I would not have known the difference between soppressata and finocchiona salami at the tender age of 11.

I love how I am just chompin’ on the cupcake and not giving a shit about the picture at all.

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To the man who raised me to fold a thin-crust pizza like a real New Yorker. As a native, he could not eat it any other way.

Also for wearing Sperry’s before they were cool.

PS: I think we were at Coney Island.

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I am sorry you had to spend $85 dollars for me to end up eating only mashed potatoes at the Thanksgiving buffet in Vail when Lauren first moved to Colorado.

She never lets me forget.

I went ice skating on Friday. It has not felt like the holidays because we are having California weather and it is sunny almost every day. However, going to Union Square at night with the tree lit and Macy’s wreath decorations brought some of the cheer out.

It was my first time ice skating, and it took me a good 10 minutes to let go of the rail.

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I look like I am having a blast, but I am secretly scared for my life in the picture below.

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Although the sun has been out, the air is frigid, and we can see our breaths inside the house at night. Everyone here had a minimum of two jackets and three blankets on last week, so we looked up the temperature only to see it was 50°. I have never felt like such a huge weenie before. New York is going to kick my butt when I go in less than a month (speaking of which, I really need to start planning my time there).

Happy birthday again, father of mine.

What is your favorite memory with your parents? Have you gone ice skating this year yet?