Thursday, December 31, 2009

White New Year's Eve

I don't know there is a such phrase white new year's eve, but we had a few inches of fresh snow this morning. It is beautiful, isn't it?
Even it is not that cold - mid 30s, it has not started melting yet. You can still see the snow on the branches of the trees. Love snow while they are WHITE before turning into gray/black mess.

Upper West in NYC

We tended to come to upper west side more often, but not so much these days. Today we went to our favorite restaurant in this area - Saigon Grill for lunch. This place was introduced to me by my class mate at that time years ago when it was a tiny (not so clean) ma/pa type restaurant, but they did major renovations and massive extension, and now it is one of the most famous Vietnamese restaurants in the city. As usual hot/sweet/sour soup, sweet plum spare ribs, noodle dish (I don't know what it is called but I do know it is #78) along with Okra curry.
I came here with my friends (from outside of the city and Japan) and family, and everyone liked this place. They were all so good and we really should come back here more often.

Next stop was Zabar's to buy smoked salmon. We usually go to Fairway, which is supposed to have the best smoked salmon in the city, but we wanted to test OUR tastes on the smoked salmon. There was a long waiting line for the counter where the salmon was freshly sliced. Their one piece was much bigger than the one at Fairway. (Look for another entry - maybe tomorrow about the tasting result.) We could have gone to H&H, located right next to Zabar's for bagels but we don't like their texture and they do use sugar (which should not be used for bagel) so we passed.

We stopped by at Stew Leonard's for some grocery. This place is famous for dairy products such as milk and yogurt. We buy some prepared food here for a quick dinner usually but not today. Main purpose for this stop was their ice cream. We bought Dutch Chocolate and Strawberry Cream. Oh boy, their ice cream was rich but very refreshing... You can't go back to store bought ice cream once you taste this one. One of my new year resolutions has to be loose 5 lb. but I can't give up this so I need to find some other ways to accomplish that.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Bon Voyage...

Very sad news for me.
My uncle passed away today in Japan. He has been very nice to me and gave me great guidances at my turning points - when I chose the company after the college and others.
Life is too short. I would appreciate what I have and enjoy the life as much as I can - that is my destiny.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Very Special Day

It was a very special day today - some people know why...
We started our day with very nice pastries from a European bakery we love - both were not as sweet as Americans but moist inside and crunchy at the top/outside.

Our lunch was Shabu-Shabu. First time ever we cooked at home. We bought a portable gas top at a Japanese grocery and we used a shallow pot for this (we don't have any special pot for Japanese Na-Be yet). We could not find Kobe Beef but Wa-Gyu (good enough) and typical vegetables for this dish - Napa cabbage, green onions, a few types of mushrooms and Tofu. (Do you see the news papers on top of the coffee table to protect the spillings? I grew up at the house where we protect the table top by the paper when we cooked a dish at the table like Shabu-Shabu and Suki-Yaki.) It was pretty good and we enjoyed the cooking/eating time.

Our day was concluded by the cake - not a Christmas cake though... from a European pastry. It was very rich but not too sweet. I started with a small piece but ended up with another piece.It was a wonderful day and I will remember this day for a long time...
BTW, do you see the blue box? Yes, it was a wonderful gift for me - Thank You.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Korean Food and Grocery Shopping

Before crazy Christmas shopping hits the streets, we went to our grocery shoppings to NJ yesterday. Why NJ? - because there is one of our all time favorite restaurants and we wanted to go to Japanese and Korean grocery stores.
First stop - Korean Tofu Soup restaurant in Fort Lee. I think I posted this place before and several others about Tofu soup in San Francisco (maybe) and Seattle. By far, this place is the best to have hot Tofu soups. We had Kimchi/Beef in hot and Oyster in medium along with beef ribs as usual. I love their soup and ribs, but I love their cucumber pickles (I am not sure I should call it Kimchi or Namul) - bit sweet and of course spicy with sesame flavor. One more thing special about this place is their freshly cooked rice in the stone bowl. It is so good and they pour Korean tea after serving to the bowls.

Next stop was a Japanese grocery to buy something for Christmas dinner, which I will report tomorrow or later, along with something for New Year.

Final stop was a Korean grocery store - H Mart... It seemed very new and we have not been at this store before, while we have been at other locations. It looked much cleaner than others and everything - produce items, meats and of course Kimchi - is fresh and very reasonably priced. We had a bag of Kimchi, yes a bag...
Look how many shopping bags we carried today... We don't need to go for grocery shopping for a while.
Look what I cooked today - someone's favorite - Kabocha pumpkin Ni-Mo-No - typical Japanese cooking method for pumpkin and other vegetables. It came out REALLY good and we will enjoy this over a few days.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Almost Christmas

I left the city to spend a Christmas break in upstate (not that far from the city but I call it "upstate").
There are crazy Christmas lightings - not sure you can see this well but it is CRAZY like some Italian neighborhood.
I have not eaten any meat/fish since coming back from the cruise where I ate meat/fish in every single meal. We cooked salmon - not too heavy to prepare for up coming Christmas (even and after included) meals.
Stay turned to see all the meals my stomach needs to digest over a few days...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Working from Home (and Break)

It is nice to be able to work from home - I don't have to take a shower first thing in the morning to go to the office by a certain time and I can utilize my time (going to the gym in the middle of the day or eating lunch at 11:30 if I wish) wisely.
Since my living room is very hot (I can't control the temperature), I moved my desk to the bedroom, which has my favorite view in my apartment. I made a hot apple cider with cinnamon stick. I did not drink any kind of fruit drinks warm before in Japan, but I sometime like to drink it warm especially during cold months. You can buy apple cider at any store, but I like the one sold at the farmers' market in Borough Hall. The taste varies time to time depending on the apples they used.
Feels like it is winter, right?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Snow Storm Weekend

It was snow over the weekend - Saturday afternoon through Sunday morning.
I had a haircut appointment on Saturday in East Village so I met up with my friend - Brendan for lunch to catch up. We were originally planning to go to a Japanese restaurant, but that restaurant was closed. Since we did not have that much time and did not see that many choices in the area,we went to Curry-Ya on 10th despite I cooked vegetable curry on Friday. I had seafood curry while B had dry curry. It was OK but nothing special... I wish we went to a Ramen store next to this which I was craved for.

Sunday morning, when I opened the drape, it was beautiful outside - maybe 8 inches of snow. There were strong winds over night so some of the snow was blew out from the fire escape. On the way to and from the gym, I took some pictures - dogs and kids were the ones enjoying this winter wonderland most.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

We are Penn State...

I know it is not as big as football or basketball, but Penn State has dominated women's volleyball last three years. Yes, THREE years. Last night was the final against No. 2 seed Texas. Penn State came here without any loss this season (37-0) - as a matter of fact 101 straight wins since 2007 September which is longest strike in NCAA women's any sports history. (102 after this final)
We lost the first two sets, so I thought OK this was it. Oh boy they came back to tie to 2-2 and the final set was something to watch. Final point was made by our ace killing their ace, which was very dramatic ending.
I can't believe I am so into Penn State, by considering I did not know where Penn State was located when I applied over 10 years ago, but now I am one of the biggest fans.
We are - Penn State...

Wonderful Cruise - 4

Day 4 - landing at Grand Cayman in Cayman Island.
As usual, we started our day by eating breakfast outside. It was so nice to have a nice breakfast delivered to our room and we could have it at the terrace by looking at beautiful ocean and sky.
While there was only our ship in Jamaica, there were total of FIVE including ours in Cayman Island. I had never seen this many cruise ships at once, so it was very cool.
Jamaica was a nice island in terms of nature but we felt that it was very poor country - people were begging for money everywhere we went.
Cayman Island was much more upscale island. We had a plan to play with stingrays (Aka-Ei in Japanese) and snorkeling. I have a scuba diving license, so I know it is difficult to see them in the ocean, but there is a famous spot in Cayman Island where they are swimming in a shallow area in the middle of ocean. After 20 minutes of boat ride, we arrived at the spot where several boats were already parking. It was only 2-3 feet deep and there were tons of stingrays swimming between the people. They were like dogs - liking to play with people. We were able to touch them (up to 5 feet long) and actually to kiss them which was considered "good luck" there.

Day 5 was all day on the ocean, so we did not do anything special, but hanged out at the pool side.
Last dinner on the ship was very memorable. One of the couples at the table - Greg and Holly from Ohio (in the right picture) celebrated their 20th anniversary. We were fortunate enough to be part of their celebration.
The other couple - Eric and Laura (in the left picture) were from Alabama and she had her birthday on the first night.
We were lucky to have TWO extra cakes because of these two celebrations. We will keep in touch with them and maybe we will meet up in NYC, Ohio or Alabama some day.
Great cruise trip and we will do it again maybe to Alaska next time (but not next year though...)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Wonderful Cruise - 3

It was day THREE - landing in Jamaica. Look at our ship sitting at blue ocean and unbelievable blue sky. Aren't they sexy or what? Our room was located on the 10th floor, so you can imagine the view from our room.
We made a plan to see local sites and to climb famous river fall. During the local site visiting, I found this beautiful tree and very interesting tree with NUT's, they looked like big grapefruits but the guide said that it is not eligible.
The river fall climbing was fun. It did not seem too hard but boy it was a great exercise and there were a few fun spots to dive into the deep spot and to be hit by tons of water fall. Holding each other's hand to climb up the fall was what we excepted.

Dinner was as usually good (not as good as the best restaurants we can go in NYC for sure), but look at this desert. There were always THREE new choices along with another THREE standard choices, which meat total of SIX choices every night. This night, we chose dark chocolate cake and banana pudding (I believe). Imagine eating this desert every night and day - lunch time there were at least FIVE different deserts.
When we came back from the dinner, there was some sort of theme event at the pool side - samba or Caribbean night, so we hanged out at the pool deck for a while.
Another great day but we were a bit tired and we went to bed early on that night.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Wonderful Cruise - 2

We were on the ship entire day on the 2nd day... Woke up late and had breakfast delivered to our room. It was very nice outside and we had a terrace, we had it at the terrace - like a movie.
Constant ocean sounds and unbelievable blue colors - the sky and the ocean matched to the food - pancake, eggs, bacon, and on and on...
We did not do anything special during the day (did we???) but hanged out on the pool side listening to the music, ate lunch and snack (our dinner was 8:30, so we needed snack time every day). Oh wait, we participated in the gym class - total body conditioning. I go to the gym often so I didn't think I was out of shape, but boy it was a tough class and I was glad that it was only 30 minutes.
It was a formal night (black tie optional) - some people were wearing black tie paired with a formal gown, like stars on the red carpet. I wondered what size of luggage they needed to carry...
Guess who was waiting for us at the room when we came back? A dog wearing sun-glassless. I heard/saw about this but it was very creative to make an animal shape out of towels along with the glass we left at the room.
Next stop - Jamaica, which I will talk about tomorrow so stay turned...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Wonderful Cruise - 1

No entries for a while since we were on vacation - 6 days west Caribbean.
This cruise started from the Miami port so we flew there in the morning of the first day. It was 20s in NYC, but 80s with typical humidity in Miami when we got there. It was only 15 minutes taxi ride to the port where our ship - Celebrity was waiting for us. Smaller side as a cruise ship but over 10 stories, so it looked like a hotel was standing in the ocean.

We paid a little extra this time to have terrace and their concierge service. A bottle of Champaign was waiting for our arrival. Small but well appointed room and we were pretty happy about our selection.

A few hours prior to the departure, we hanged out on the deck with great music and food (yes, free food were already there even prior to the departure.)
Heading back to the room and celebrated our trip with Champaign before heading for the dinner. As I heard, the table seating for the dinner was determined - other three couples with one more party (I will talk more about a great group of these people in later entries with maybe pictures).

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Christmas Tree

I was in the city yesterday and had a chance to take some seasonal pictures...
One time my office was right next to the Rockefeller Center, so I saw the tree every day, but I don't remember I saw the tree last year.
Here you go - this is the tree for this year. Many tourists were taking a picture of the tree and the famous skate rink in front of the tree.
I took a few more pictures of the buildings decorated for Christmas - Sacks Fifth Avenue Department store and Waldorf Astoria hotel. Sacks plays the music every 30 minutes or so along with lighting show, which is especially nice after dark.
Now you feel like it is Christmas time?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

My Sister's Birthday

It's this time of year already.
December 9th... my sister's birthday. I have sent a card to her (and she has received it), so my work is done, but I just wanted to say "happy birthday" in public place.
I love December before Christmas when you can see the people from Vermont selling the trees on the street - in this case Montague st. in BH. When you get off the subway train and step outside, the first smell you have is this fresh green smell... There is nothing more refreshing smell than this. Personally I have never decorated the tree in my apartment in BH, but my building does (and did this year already on the first floor).
A little more than two weeks till Christmas - have you decided what you would get from the Santa this year yet?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Winter Vegetables Cooking

As I promised yesterday, here are the pictures of the results I cooked by using the vegetables (and meat) - Daikon (Japanese, even though they said Korean radish) with pork belly, Kabocha pumpkin, and Sato-Imo (not sure what it is called in English but it is another type of potato, like Taro in Hawaii) with dried mushroom.
Each has a different taste, even though ingredients I used for them are pretty similar. The method and the time for cooking are pretty different.
All came out very nice and we can eat them throughout the week. Actually 2nd or 3rd day is better than the day you cooked. Don't forget I have their Kimchi this week, so I don't think I need to cook anything anymore till Friday. I like cooking but I like to have a break during the week (like my idol Ina says...)