Sunday, December 12, 2010

Charlotte, NC, and Visiting Hendrick Motorsports - December 2010

I was in Charlotte for work this past week. It was my first time in North Carolina and it was really cold! One day it was only 16 degrees, and on the day when I had to step out of the hotel, it was 21 degrees...I couldn't feel my hands.

I took a red-eye and got in Saturday morning. After a nap, I went on a city tour. Here's the first look at downtown Charlotte. It was raining and sleeting.

I found out that the ACC Championship game between Virginia Tech and Florida State was taking place in Charlotte that day. Lots of people came in town wearing team colors and tailgating in parking lots. It was very exciting to be around.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Foundry on Melrose - Chef Eric Greenspan Iron Chef Viewing Party

I got a last minute invitation to Chef Eric Greenspan's Iron Chef viewing party at The Foundry on Melrose last night. My friend Qahhaar's brother Michael is a chef working under Chef Greenspan there. Michael is currently studying at the world renown Le Cordon Bleu. He got hired at The Foundry after working at an event there. So, we were excited to see Michael in action. Q couldn't be more proud of his little brother.

Because this was a last minute thing, we didn't get a reservation in their main dining area. We were seated in the lounge, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. You can see the open kitchen from the lounge, so all the kitchen actions happened right in front of us. Here's Michael working hard churning out the Iron Chef Tasting Menu for the night.

Since we couldn't order the special Iron Chef Tasting Menu, we decided to do a little tasting of our own. To start, we ordered some "Foundry Tots" and beet salad. They were delicious.

Friday, November 12, 2010

(REPOST) Photos from Hawaii Trip - October, 2006

In 2006, I took my girl friends to Waikiki for a weekend. This was my second time there and my girl friends' first. We had such a fabulous time there and I still think about this amazing trip often.

We are landing!

My dear friend Teesha and her friend Uheina flew in from Phoenix.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Foodie Paradise Weekend - The Bazaar, Tres, and Torihei

I've been hearing so much about The Bazaar and Tres by Jose Andres at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills. This weekend, I finally had a chance to experience Chef Jose Andres' vision, and I was not disappointed. The Bazaar is now my favorite restaurant, and I'm planning to go back to Tres again in December. My friend also recommended Yakitori (Japanese tapas) at Torihei in Torrance to me, so I ended up being in a foodie heaven this weekend.


To start our amazing dinner at The Bazaar, I ordered their famous Liquid Nitrogen Caipirinha. It was hard for me to take a photo of the fun process in making this drink because the lighting condition wasn't good, but the outcome was amazingly smooth and delicious!

The Bazaar serves innovative bite size Spanish tapas. We started out with these Philly Cheesesteak, but make no mistake, these are NOT your ordinary Philly cheesesteak. The beef was cooked perfectly with "air bread" underneath filled with liquid cheese. I've had real Philly Cheesesteak in Philadelphia, and I must say, these tasted better than the real Philly Cheesesteak. Amazing!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Vancouver, Canada. October 1-7, 2010

I can't believe how quickly time flies. I felt like I just returned from my 2-week Europe work/vacay trip, and we're off working again in Vancouver. For someone who really only travels 5 times a year for work, I can't believe I've actually visited 5 countries this year (Taiwan, UK, Czech Republic, Germany, and now Canada). This is also my fourth trip to our friendly neighbor up north. I've been to Victoria (2002), Edmonton (2005), and Toronto (2008), so I'm very happy to have now visited Vancouver. The only major city left for me to visit in Canada would be Montreal, which I have heard many great things about.

Vancouver is a beautiful city with super friendly people. Because of the Olympics, this city did many things to make it even more interesting and welcoming. As soon as we deplaned, we were greeted by these beautiful decorations representing the First People. Also, I felt like I'm home in Taiwan because there are so many Chinese in the city. I spoke Chinese to random strangers throughout the trip, from my flight there to walking on the streets, and they all looked so surprised that I spoke Chinese to them for some reason. I guess I don't look like someone who speaks fluent Chinese. :D

Our hotel, the Fairmont Waterfront, was right across from Canada Place. Canada Place is a big cruise ship terminal with a convention center, and it is attached to another luxury hotel, the Pan Pacific. There were three gigantic ships docked that day!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Downtown Los Angeles Gastronomy Tour

Being a food lover who likes to try new dishes and cuisines, Los Angeles has tons of restaurants that I have yet to explore. I found out about these food tours given by Six Taste and thought it would be a great way to try bunch of different places while being a tourist in my own city.

We met on a beautiful day at Pershing Square. Here's looking at the Downtown LA skyline.

Our tour guide, Matt, did an excellent job in giving us the history at our stops. We learned that Pershing Square was once a camp ground for settlers during the population explosion in the 1850's. The 10-story tall bell tower behind him symbolizes the Mission that LA once was.

Monday, September 13, 2010

(REPOST) Toronto and NYC, May 2008

In keeping with the NYC theme from the last repost of my 2007 NYC trip, here are photos from my 2008 Toronto and NYC trip.

Work brought me to Toronto and we stayed at the Four Seasons downtown. Being a huge sports fan, the hotel told me the Lakers stayed here just a week prior. Here's the view from my room with complimentary cheese platter and a bottle of wine.

The Royal Ontario Museum. Cool structure!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

(REPOST) Photos from NYC, Labor Day weekend 2007

With the US Open heating up, I've been reminiscing a fun Labor Day weekend trip to the Big Apple back in 2007 while the US Open was going on. I hung out with my friend Angel, whom I met in Miami on July 4th weekend just two months prior. Angel was a great host. I lived out as a New Yorker for a weekend and it was a wonderful experience.

It was a gorgeous day in the City! These clouds looked like a dragon, didn't they?

We walked around SoHo and it was getting pretty hot, so Angel treated me to a refreshing ice cream cone.

(REPOST) Photos from Barcelona, Spain. March 2006

I used to be active on MySpace and maintained my travel blog there for several years. Unfortunately, when I shut down that account a year ago, it wiped out all the travel stories I documented throughout the years. Lately, I've been thinking about restoring those blogs because of the wonderful memories my travels have given me. So, I've decided to repost the photos from those trips here. I won't be able to re-write all the stories for these trips, but hope you'll get to experience the moments I enjoyed through these pictures.

Strolling down La Ramblas.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Munich, Germany. July 27 - July 30

In 2006, I had a layover in Munich while on my way to Barcelona. I didn't get a chance to visit Munich then, so I told myself that I'd like to come here one day. Then, in 2008, I found another reason to visit Munich: van Gogh's Sunflowers paintings. After seeing the Sunflowers paintings in Philadelphia, London, and Amsterdam, I found out there's a total of 5 van Gogh Sunflowers paintings in public display in museums around the world, and Munich houses one of them. Therefore, I decided to come to Munich this year as part of my Europe vacation.

I arrived from Prague in the evening. After settling in the hotel, I went out to the City Center to get some dinner. It was 9:15pm and the sky was just starting to get dark. Here's the beautiful City Hall.

Dinner was traditional Bavarian sausages with potato mash.

Prague, Czech Republic. July 23 - July 27

After working in London, I took off for my yearly vacation. When I talked to my girl friends in Europe (Vicky in Amsterdam and Katrina in London) about my upcoming trip, we decided to go to Prague because none of us have been. We had so much fun exploring Prague and goofing off. Added to that, we were constantly working with 4 different currencies (yes, FOUR!). Prague is not converted to the Euro so it's still using the Crowns. Vicky is on the Euro, Katrina is on British Pounds, and I'm on US Dollar. I constantly had to bust out my iPhone and convert the money for everyone. It was too funny.

Katrina and I left from London and met up with Vicky who flew in from Amsterdam at the airport, and went to the hotel together. On our way into the city center, we agreed that although the buildings are beautiful, we still felt a sense of the former Russian regime, that military vibe. It made us want to march on a square or something. :D

The hotel we booked was very inexpensive and right by the Old Town Square. We were stunned by how big our room was, its centralized location, and the complimentary breakfast that was abundant. We felt like we were staying at a room in a castle or something because we had chandeliers in our room!

The reception recommended a Czech restaurant for us to try called Kolkovna. We ordered two different appetizers including Chef's selection of meat, and cheese marinated in beer. Here's Katrina, Vicky, and I ready to chow down.

London, U.K. July 15 - July 22, 2010

I stopped by London for 23 hours in 2008 before moving on to Amsterdam. It was my first time visiting. Obviously, that's not enough time to see this busy and bustling city. I told myself if I get to come back, I'll have to visit the Tower of London, go inside the Westminster Abbey (it was a Sunday when I visited in 2008 so it was closed), and take a flight on the London Eye. I was elated when I found out that work would send me to London this summer.

After arriving, I immediately went to Trafalgar Square. I was very happy to be back. It was a clear and cool day. People were hanging out enjoying this Friday evening.

Of course, I had to visit the National Gallery, which is free and opens until 9pm on Fridays (love it!), and say hello to my second van Gogh Sunflowers painting on display here. (I'm on a mission to see all 5 of them in public display in museums around the world.) Here's looking at Trafalgar Square from the National Gallery.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Learning How to Make Sushi with Chef Nikki Gilbert

I love sushi, but most sushi restaurants serve mediocre sushi. Plus, they are not cheap. I enjoy cooking and learning new recipes, so I decided to sign up a sushi class at the Epicurean School of Culinary Arts to learn how to make my own sushi. This way, I can control the quality of my ingredients, be cost effective, and it would be lots of fun to make them for my family and friends.

The class is being taught by Chef Nikki Gilbert, aka The Sushi Girl (also check out her blog under "My Recommendations" on the right). Chef Nikki worked and lived in Japan for a number of years, so she knows everything you need to know about sushi. During the class, she demystified many misconceptions Americans have about sushi. It was very educational and eye opening for me.

To start, Nikki showed us how to prepare the sushi rice, which is an important part of making great tasting sushi. She shared with us that good sushi means warm sushi rice with cool sashimi (raw fish). If the rice is cold, it is not good sushi.

The first sushi we learned to make was cucumber sushi maki rolls. Nikki says that in Japan, cucumber sushi is actually a very common dish vs. the American misconception that cucumber sushi is "low grade" or "nothing." She showed us how to cut cucumbers correctly so we can taste its freshness, and how to prepare our sushi rolling mat or makisu. Here's my station and the cucumber sticks I made, with my makisu ready to go.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Visiting Taichung, Taiwan and Saying Goodbye to Grandpa - May 12 - May 17

I'm dedicating this post to my beloved Grandpa, who passed away on Friday, May 14. He was 101 years old.

My Grandpa had been very healthy his entire life. He had no major illnesses. No high blood pressure and no diabetes. His skin was radiant with no wrinkles. I last visited him in September 2005, when he was 97 years old. Here's me and Grandpa when I last saw him.

Unfortunately, Grandpa caught a cold in mid-April. He had high fever and was rushed to the hospital. He was unconscious. He never recovered and his condition worsened as time went on. He was on life support with machines that made him sound like Darth Vader in Star Wars. His body was swollen from the strong antibiotics. He had blood sepsis. My Mom went to Taiwan immediately and was there for 3 weeks. She came back to the U.S. the week I was in Washington, DC (see previous blog). However, the Monday morning after I returned from my East Coast trip, Mom told me they've decided to turn off the machines that had been keeping Grandpa alive, so I booked a flight going out that afternoon and went back to Taiwan to say goodbye to Grandpa. I had to see him one last time.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

New Jersey, NYC, and Washington, DC - May 2010

We had another conference in Washington DC last week. I took advantage of the timing and went up to NJ and NYC the weekend before to visit my favorite city in the U.S. (NYC), and take part in a surprise baby shower for my girl friend Fabienne.

I flew in to Newark on Saturday, May 1, and stayed at the Hilton in Newark attached to the Penn Station, so I had easy access in and out of NYC via PATH and Amtrak down to DC. I last saw Fabbie in October of 2009 and we had a blast roaming around NYC (see blog). She found out she's pregnant the weekend before I saw her in October but didn't break the news to me until New Year. Fabbie's sister and boyfriend contacted me a month ago and told me they are planning a surprise baby shower for her, and I offered to help with the conspiracy.

Fabbie's boyfriend Glenn asked me to keep Fabbie occupied Saturday night while he and Fabbie's sister Jenny finalize the baby shower details. Fabbie and I decided to dine at this Cuban restaurant in Jersey City, Hard Grove Cafe. The wait was super long, but the food was worth the wait!

Since the weather was warm like summer in NYC and NJ over the weekend, I told Fabbie I wanted to go to Serendipity 3 and have their famous Frozen Hot Chocolate for dessert. It was still 80 degrees by the time we left at midnight! (And we found out about the Time Square car bomb. It felt surreal being in such close proximity. We're glad they didn't shut down the train.)

Friday, February 26, 2010

San Francisco and Meeting My Favorite Comedian Dave Chappelle - February 2010

I was in San Francisco for work this past week. I haven't been in the Bay area since August 2007, so I was very happy to be back there, not only to see my friends, but also explore parts of the city I haven't visited before.

We stayed at the Four Seasons Hotel right by the Contemporary Jewish Museum. The museum has a very modern entrance.

After getting settled in at the hotel, I went to the De Young museum at the Golden Gate Park. Since I'm a museum junkie, I decided that I'd make this a museum trip. I read about the De Young museum in Architectural Digest last year and had been wanting to visit.