Thursday, March 31, 2011

setsunai


well, i was planning to write about how i should do a wee bit more research about the degrees of separation in san francisco before blogging about branding analysis in the food scene. really. san francisco is such a small town. it really and truly is. sigh.

but, i'm not going to write about that.

i've got a rather important and huge presentation i need to work on for delivery tomorrow. i've been on calls/meetings since 6 am....sipping on loads and loads of strong english tea.....and now i'm taking a break...looking out on to a beautiful san francisco day and i'm feeling contemplative.


i know that i need to get my head back into the work game. this is a rather important presentation for my team and i take that responsibility very seriously... which means....i need to address, confront, and be a bit candid about why i'm sitting here....drinking my tea....feeling contemplative.....and feeling happy and sad simultaneously.

is never easy to say good bye to those that one loves.

ok, i should totally own it.

it is never easy for me to say good bye to people that i love.

i, grudgingly, admit here in a very public forum that i'm quite attached to them.

it is such a teeny tiny list of people. at my age, it should be a much longer list....but it isn't. i'm a cranky pants asshole like that. yet, despite my being rather emotionally and socially awkward, the people on that teeny tiny list know that i love them though. they also know that i see them. i see the quirks, the vulnerabilities, the challenges, the pride, their extraordinarily strong driven personalities, their seemingly limitless capacity for intelligence, humor.....love....and laughter. i see the risks they are willing to take. i see their contradictions. i respect them for who they are. i love them for who they are.

i'm also a big believer in supporting the people i love.

this may sound very common sense, but i've seen folks that don't adhere to this. i see folks that try to hold back, sabotage, or something along that ilk.... to folks that they love. i sense that they do this out of hurt, jealously, insecurity, or fear....and sometimes, interestingly enough, don't even realize that they are doing it...but they do. when i see those people, part of me wants to grab them, shake them, and say "what the fuck are you doing?"

because i believe in supporting the people that i love....sometimes that means saying good bye. sometimes it means feeling and sitting with a rather awful mixture of happiness and sadness.

sometimes it means being excited for them....being happy for them as they pursue dreams. it means cheering them on as they go down a path...that you know will make them happy. because, that is what i want for them...i want for them to pursue their dreams....i want for them to feel alive....and be happy.

sometimes supporting them along that path means having to say good bye...and that is where the sadness comes in. it means temporarily putting aside that sadness, that catch i feel in my throat, that seemingly impenetrable feeling of loss.....when i talk to them before they leave....because....right now...this amazingly important moment it isn't about me....it is about them....as it should be.

on the flip side, the cheery support could also be interpreted as not caring....you know "hey that's great that you are leaving! sounds like a great opportunity! it will be great! have fun!" aka "i-wont-even-notice-you-are-gone. what?-are-you-still-here?" ....which with sniper-like accuracy hurts them.....as they think "what the fuck? you aren't going to even miss me?"

sometimes this stuff is such an emotional minefield that i wish i had a complex navigation system directly linked into my overly analytical brain.

sometimes i wish it wasn't so hard to say how i feel.

this is what this is really about.

as i sit here, feeling a rather whirlwind of emotions.


i'm wondering.... when i see you in person, will i find the words to say....will i be able to say......

i love you.

i am incredibly excited for you.

i know that it is a bit scary.


yet, i know it will be great.


it will be great because i have faith in you.


i wish i could be there to see it and when you leave, i know i will feel like a piece of me is missing....because it already feels this way.


yet, what you are going to do is amazing, wonderful, and exactly what you need....and exactly who you are.

amazing.

when i think of you....all of the hard work...all of the sacrifice...all of the risk in pursuing your dream...despite my missing you already...i can't help but feel a smile shine within the sadness....because i am so incredibly fucking proud of you.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

competition


since i was in the uk last week, i missed out on some of the buzz from ms. tablehopper and eatersf regarding the soft opening of bun mee, a casual vietnamese place that has opened in my neighborhood. i had seen some of the references a while ago that hinted something was going into the old gelato place, but i wasn't aware of when they were going to open. i walked by yesterday while i was on fillmore buying an anniversary present at zinc details and was curious, but didn't have time to stop in.

yet, what i noticed right away was the design of the branding. yup, i notice things like that.

occupational hazard.

it sure as hell didn't look like the typical mom-and-pop vietnamese casual eatery....especially that logo of the scooter. the logo was quite adept. there are many connotations between vietnam and scooters/motorbikes. also, red is the color of celebration. a red ao dai for a wedding is not uncommon. when i saw that logo, i thought "that looks like an expensive logo" as in...someone paid to have that logo done.....it wasn't a logo that was designed by someone-who-knows-someone-who-is-doing-someone-a-favor-and-is-playing-with-fonts-in-their-word-processor.

to me, it looked like work done by a design or branding firm.

a real one.

then, my immediate follow up thought after looking at the branding was OTD has some nearby competition.

now, anyone and everyone that has read me knows how much i love OTD on bush. it is one of my go-to places. i'm there.... on average.... about once a week. so you betcha that the foodie hunter "business mode" kicked in when i saw their branding. i was also in this mindset when i paid bun mee a visit today.


i didn't go in as an eater. i went in....to evaluate what the potential opportunity is for this business in this area and how it could possibly impact one of the places that is very near and dear to my heart (and stomach). so folks, you are going to see another side of the foodie hunter with this posting.

"strengths"

today, as i strolled in, i noticed right away that not only did they have their logo done, they must have also contracted someone to do their brand identity. it was evident from the inside work done.....for example...accents such as the red canisters behind the cash register, even down to having logo stickers, and other reinforcements of the overall brand color palette. the menu board is quite clever btw. definitely got to give them props for that.

to all you doubters or engineers out there, don't discount how branding can help a business. especially when it is a new comer that wants to make their mark quickly and be remembered.

let me ask you this....what shoes are you wearing? where did you buy them? when you are in a bar and have two seconds to order a drink...what do you order? do you wear any of the same brands that you did when you were a teenager....just because it "feels right"? do you buy bottled water? how many star wars movies have you seen? despite aspects like...the acting...and jar jar binks....are you going to see another star wars movie? thought so.

i could go on for quite a long time.

anyway, foodwise....also, got to give bun mee props for putting a sardine banh mi sandwich on the menu. although the menu is not set as this is a soft opening...but still...gotta give props where props are due....that is not something that one finds in this neighborhood. it also points to how they aren't planning to adhere to some homogeneous expectation of crappy ass divey food that passes for vietnamese food in san francisco. many of those dives put the same 10 things on the menu and by choice, become a vietnamese chain-like junk food joint. they put out crappy and certainly not fresh food.... and people eat it thinking that "this is vietnamese food". it breaks my heart sometimes. other times it just annoys me. yes, i said it. i totally insulted your dirty dive that you love so much. so yeah, props for bun mee for not doing the chain by choice thing.

lastly, this is such a personal thing...but i gotta give props to any place that is willing to play hip hop and old school r&b in pac heights. just because. the first time i moved into this neighborhood, i did get a sense of absolutely wicked delight in blasting too short while i was unpacking. again, totally a personal thing and reveals quite a bit about my personality, i know.

"dependencies"

the nature of their seating layout is going to ensure that they are going to be extremely dependent upon "to go" or takeaway orders. it isn't impossible to do in this neighborhood. it will just be a challenge as there isn't the same amount of industry/walk/traffic like one would find in soma, the financial district, or the like. also, as pac heights isn't exactly the "hipster hangout in the middle of the day" kind of place, there is smaller pool of customers to draw from than say...the mission. in pac heights, folks like la boulange are able to do a successful take out business in two locations no less. yet, one location focuses extensively on baked goods while the other has limited seating with salads, sandwiches, and brunch items. la boulange also has their overall brand presence in the city to help them. people expect certain things at la boulange (hello jar of nutella as a condiment). folks like la boulange are direct competition for bun mee as both are targeting the customer who is interested in the less expensive (for this neighborhood anyway) take out options or those who aren't interested in lingering. yet, their dependencies upon take out business also indicates that they are able to spend less on staff/overhead than a place with more extensive seating or menu options.

"weaknesses"

if i was doing this for work, not only would i be a hella lot more concise, create a lot of images/charts, and do loads more of research, i would detail weaknesses....which i won't do here. the reason being that my ethos behind my blog is to not be negative and after 3 years, i've only stepped off that path a couple of times...for good reason. despite my obvious love for OTD on bush, i won't be delving into some of the weaknesses i saw.


"the elephant in the room"

sooooo, yeah. this makes for two vietnamese restaurants within blocks of each other. this is not the tenderloin. this is pac heights. this makes a difference. one is a super duper casual eatery that is dependent upon take out. the other is not. it could be worse. they could be right next door to each other (i.e., hello jane + citizen cake drama).

as of today and based on one visit to bun mee, OTD on bush has some pretty clear competitive differentiators. if i was doing this for work...i'd go a hella lot more than once...but since this is my blog, i can pretty much do whatever i want.

i love that.

anyway, OTD's dining areas (the bar, the counter, the communal table, and a slew of 2 tops and 4 tops) provides various ways for folks to connect with loved ones over a meal. i've sat in all of the areas and dining in each area does provide a different experience. you can linger or not. it is up to you. also, the design aesthetic of OTD is subtle....it isn't about the brand when you walk in, it is about the overall experience. this makes sense, they don't need to quickly establish a recognizable brand (unlike a starbucks for example) when you walk in. OTD on bush already has one. it is one of three OTDs. it also has charles phan behind it...talk about significant unspoken brand attributes. also, even if you've never heard of charles phan....i bet you'll walk in...sit down...eat....and think "this is really great food". there is a high bar of expectations regarding the quality of food you will be eating at any of his places. i also think that the chef de cuisine at OTD on bush carries out and implements the quality very well.

in regards to the food, at OTD on bush, there is a wider range of offerings from breakfast, weekend brunch, lunch, snack, and dinner. the menu is also more extensive than what folks will find at the other locations. the menus at otd on bush don't remain the same btw. there are ongoing changes to it. i do love how the chef de cuisine will experiment with different dishes...and how she is willing to put things on the menu (hello lotus wrapped steamed treats, house made vietnamese charcuterie, banh cuon, even the side of toasted baguettes with butter and sugar)....things that one would not typically see unless you grew up with it and knew the one place to go to get that one dish....or had it at home during a family gathering. also the way the food is plated at OTD on bush is very different than the other locations. this again, is a reflection of the chef de cuisine. from my perspective, there is an elegance to the way the shallots and the bread placed on the rice porridge (one of my top fave things) at OTD on bush. it isn't plated that way elsewhere. this is just one example. these sort of touches are subtle. yet, it matters. it is a culmination of many of these sort of things that make up the overall dining experience. i don't personally know the chef de cuisine..but i respect her...based on the food alone.

the pure range of food, the high expectations (and delivery) on food quality, and expertise behind OTD provides them with quite a bit of momentum in the market and a significant advantage when compared to folks just entering the market.


"predictions i pulled out of my ass"

will there be some changes that will happen to both OTD and bun mee? i predict yes. remember, i don't personally know anyone from either place. yet, from an outsider perspective, i predict there will be menu tweaks/changes to both places as they seek to differentiate from each other. it is in both of their best interest to do so.

already bun mee is testing out many variations of banh mi which i suspect is their way to differentiate from OTD on bush and to be very "take out" friendly. folks in sf don't have expectations for a sit down place when you are eating a banh mi. i do think there is going to be some jousting on both sides in regards to certain salads and rice plates/bowls on their menus. also...in terms of differentiation...
bun mee is breaking out the "mom factor". yup, OTD has charles phan + connection to farms brand attributes that make up their story....and bun mee is going with "the mom" story....the leveraging of connotations associated home cooking and authenticity. mom isn't in the kitchen, but she's listed on the menu and shows up in the customer-facing pr/marketing communications. one should not underestimate the power of leveraging "mom". i wonder whose idea that was? i wonder if that showed up in the design firm's proposal/pitch or if that came from the owners. you bet if i was on that strategy team, i'd be all about leveraging the "mom" factor.

OTD already refers to farms that they source from...and i wouldn't be surprised if that is discussed a lot more by servers and becomes even more prominent on the menus and other customer-facing communications. i think some front of the house folks at OTD may need to have an extra shot of whiskey at the end of their shift for a few months trying to educate diners on food provenance, portion size, and the like. i also predict that there will be some pricing discussions that will occur....on both sides..... for certain menu items.

i wouldn't be surprised if some subtle...very subtle....pr/marketing campaigns re: OTD breakfast, brunch, and extensive dinner options....as well as pointing to OTD soup soon. OTD really knows how to do soup. the power of soup should not be underestimated in a city like sf. again, it if it does happen, it will likely be subtle and very diplomatic....as that is what one often does when one is a clear leader in the market. well, there is also the option of completely crushing or buying out the smaller competitor when one is the market leader...i've worked at companies where we did that. maybe i'm naivete about the sf food scene but i don't see that happening in this situation.

i also wouldn't be surprised if there are folks, like me, who love the food at OTD on bush...and are doing postings like the one i'm doing right now. i mean, really, if i was going to pick a side...what side do you think i'm going to pick?

i think it is pretty obvious.

well, that is enough from me dear hearts. it is time to get back to my job.

until later....

xxxooo

Monday, March 28, 2011

mellowness


i did zero work this weekend.

i actually didn't do much outside of eating, sleeping, writing, and eating some more.

it was quietly glorious in my lack of productivity.

i woke up about 5ish this morning and was able to jump into my work day without hesitation thanks to a combo of jet lag and stepping away from work for a couple of days. i can't remember the last time i did that. you know, not working for a couple of days. it is a bit too easy to get wrapped up in one project or another....that sometimes i forget that sleep and just truly getting away from it all is a good idea....and it isn't until i feel the affects of being able to step away that i remember...."oh yea, this is why taking a real break is a good thing". so now it is after 3:30 and i feel no guilt in putting away work for the rest of the day.

i'm sitting in a local cafe which i may write about more extensively at some point if i can time my visit with them having a working soft serve ice cream machine. i've visited at least 3 times. each time, it hasn't been working. thwarted! oh well, the coffee is good and i'm in too good of a mood to let anything get in the way of it.

my uptick in mood probably also has to do with resettling into home very quickly over the weekend. i was able to drop into a regular spot such as OTD on bush street for a bowl of pho for breakfast. it was super duper busy on sunday when i went (i slept in) but my fav front of the house person was on duty so that helped considerably as well. i was able to sit in a corner...mostly tuning out the world....the rare exceptions being interacting with my fav front of the house person (i do know her name btw...i'm not a total asshole all of the time....i just haven't ever asked her permission to use it) as well as informing a nearby family that the pho was good when i saw they were eyeballing mine.


or perhaps, they were eyeballing me taking pics of the pho.


i think the pics came out pretty good this time. i do love the broth of the beef pho at OTD on bush. i have brought people into OTD on bush just to try this broth. these days OTD are doing the thin rice noodles (they were doing the wide noodles for quite a while) and is it sacrilegious for me to admit that i kinda prefer the thin noodles? i ordered it either way....but my personal preference is for the thin noodles.

after my unsurprising usual visit to OTD, i hopped onto muni and did a few errands in the mission. then on a lark, i decided to take a peek into summit sf to see if there are any seats available. i've been here before. the aesthetics of this place appeals to me quite a bit....but i also know that because it is on valencia that the likelihood of finding a seat is not exactly high. perhaps it is a matter of finding the right time (i.e., off hours) to come....but interestingly enough...there was an empty seat at the counter yesterday afternoon so i ordered their mexicali cocoa "for here" and settled in for a bit. the supremely nerdy part of me really liked the cup and saucer it came in.

it was at summit sf that i remembered why i like being in new york. i know that is a weird connection...but please bear with me for a moment....one of the reasons why i love new york is that it is possible to ride the waves of energy and actually not interact with anyone. i like those sort of scenarios. that is what i like about summit sf. there is a lot going on....lots of activity....but it is possible to sit there and ride the wave of energy while ignoring everyone else....and do your own thing. i think that is one of the reasons why i love the cafe culture of san francisco so much. there are so many different types of cafes that support the many moods. maybe one day i'll do a posting just on cafes i like to visit.

you know, when i started this posting, i had all of these ideas about what i should write about and i haven't referred to any of them. none. i think i'll save them for later. methinks i am in a supremely mellow mood at the moment and that isn't a bad thing. you really do get to see me in all of my moods on this blog.....happiness, anger, sadness, exultation, crankiness, etc.....and now....super duper mellow.

i feel i should be stretched out in the sun.....so relaxed am i. i think i'll just wallow in my mellowness for a while longer.....these moments are so few...so i'm going to enjoy it while i can.

until later dear hearts.....

xxxooo

Saturday, March 26, 2011

back in town


after traveling for about 22 hours, i arrived into sf late last night. once i entered my place....i had a quick chat with the heart sister, took care of the pets, and then promptly fell into bed. when i awoke this morning, i had a moment of "should i or shouldn't i" go to the farmers market today. i really wasn't in the mood for any major crowds....yet, as i peeked outside one of the windows i realized that the crappy ass weather probably kept a lot of folks away. i also thought it would be nice to pick up some veggies, acme bread, and get back in the routine of being home.

once i arrived to the market, i found it less populated that usual....there were less vendors as well as less folks touristy folks. i quickly did my rounds at dirty girl, marin roots, star route, tierra vegetables, 4505 meats, and june taylor. with each visit, i felt a little bit more settled.....my spirits lifting....as i am reminded once again why i love living here so much.

then i entered the main building to pick up some bread at acme....and the acme line was a lot shorter than usual as well. as it was so relatively quiet i decided to stop into il cane rosso for a sit down breakfast. il cane rosso
is one of my faves in the ferry building. i do enjoy il cane rosso quite a bit...the food is comforting, hearty, and tasty....but i usually visit it on a non-farmers market day. yet, because it was significantly less crowded this morning, i thought i'd take advantage......i ordered the egg sandwich with a french press of blue bottle coffee and took some random pics from my seat.


i also texted homie/linecook/richie to see if he was at the market while i was waiting for the food to arrive. apparently i walked past him w/my ipod on full blast recently and was quite rude (i didn't say hi...because i didn't hear/see him. my bad.)...and wanted to make certain that if he was around it would be great to catch up and see how he + the mrs. are doing. plus i was super curious about how the pop up at bar tartine last monday went. i was rather bummed that i was out of town and not able to go. fortunately, he showed up around the same time as my sandwich .....



and it ended up being a two-fer as susanna ok was also at the market and she grabbed a seat as well. i haven't named susanna before because i wanted to get her permission first....which she granted today. susanna is on the hapa ramen crew and was the one behind that lovely rice pudding with coconut milk, cardamon, and citrus at their pop up at bar tartine last dec. i have also written about some of her other tasty contributions to the hapa ramen menu as well. it was from susanna that i learned something new about the hapa ramen crew this morning. i had no idea that hapa ramen have business cards and here is a shot of the one that susanna gave to me today


their business cards have different pics on them.....sort of like trading cards. my guess is that the pics on the business cards came from beer & nosh or dotben (just wanted to make certain i give appropriate credit/props for whomever took the shots). i'm glad that i had the chance to catch up with them while i chowed down on my sandwich and sipped on my blue bottle coffee. it made for a lovely morning at the market.

it is good to be back.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

"if i only"


location: uk
time: after 1am

hmmm. i'm looking forward to making my way home tomorrow. i'm not certain if planes are landing in sfo between the breaks in the storm....but hopefully, by the time i land it will all be sorted.

unsurprisingly, it has been an exhausting few days. after dinner, i think i may have made some folks rather uncomfortable. during conversations, i don't volunteer very much information about myself...and i think if you are going to do some of those "probing" sort of questions in order to try to build a profile or get a "read" on someone....then you had better be prepared for all sort of answers.....even answers that may make people uncomfortable.

there was this round robin questioning about what would you do if you could "start over"....in terms of a job.

behind that question, there is the assumption that you can't start over now.

so right away, i knew that they weren't going to like my answer.

my answer is that i predict i will be doing a very different kind of job or be in a different industry for 10 years or less..... historically, i've already done quite a few different jobs where i have "started over"....and i don't see that stopping anytime soon. i do some work....i figure out where i want to go next...and it doesn't have to be the same thing or even in the same industry and then i go do that. i am not tied to any particular industry, job, or type of work. for me it is about learning, discovery, doing a good job...no matter what it is that i'm doing...and ensuring that i am financially secure.

everything else is up for grabs and depends upon who i am at that time, who do i want to be, what is important to me at that time, and what i am interested in.

there were some uncomfortable looks on people's faces with my answer.

i know why they were uncomfortable.

it is uncomfortable for some people to think about walking away from the "work life" they have created for themselves and starting anew. it isn't uncomfortable for me. i think it is exciting. i think of the possibilities. the challenges. the stimulation. the learning....all of it....and i'm not afraid of it. i am not afraid of change. i do not want to grow too comfortable....stagnant.....or resting on my laurels....or perceived success at a particular job type or category.

i work extremely hard no matter what i am doing. i have been extraordinary fortunate to have had some amazing mentors that have provided me with opportunities, pushed me, supported me....and allowed me to go at my own pace rather than a "standardized pace". rarely have i been in a situation where i have been "held back"....because at the end of the day...they often realized that my work made them look good....and in the rare instances where i have found that to be the case (because of ego or laziness on their part), then i left....because i never feel like i am "trapped" in any job or situation.

from my perspective, there is always a way out. for better or worse, i'm rather good at exit strategies.

yet, there are many that are afraid of change. there are so many that decide to put themselves in that box of "i can only do x-with my life because it is the only thing i know"......and then day dream about the life they "could have had" if they "could have" started over ......"if they only" .....made other or different decisions.

my approach is very different. i think about what i want...and then the different paths to get there.....and then i take those baby steps, biggie steps, or leaps of faith to get on one of those paths.....and see what happens. i may modify the path....but i keep focus on what i want and make it happen. for i am responsible for making things happen. me. so fuck if i'm going to blame anyone else for not pursuing my latest dream.

i never want to stop dreaming. i never want to put myself in a box. i never want "if i only" to be embedded in my heart's vocabulary.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

running on fumes

country location: uk
time: almost midnight

i'm sitting in a conservatory, huddled next to a heater, within a converted estate house that is now a hotel and "spa". i've just finished up the slide deck of what i am presenting tomorrow morning (which is rather odd for me...not not have this done well in advance) and i'm running fumes. i can tell. i've had about 3 hours of sleep since i've left sf.

interestingly enough, despite loading up the ipad w/various books/movies/such, it has been a work while traveling sort of trip. working sitting on the floor at airports....


working in planes despite some pretty cramped quarters.....or fortunately being able to get into one of the airport lounges for a few hours to repower all of the hardware, have reliable internet access, and try to get away from people....

and now, i'm sitting in a chilly conservatory because my room doesn't have internet access and i'd rather work from the conservatory than the bar...although the bar has probably already shut down for the night. isn't that odd that the bar and the conservatory has internet access? there is a difference here....in this part of england. a puzzlement toward the notion of working during "non-office hours" and just being connected to the internet on an ongoing basis

it are moments like this that i feel very sf bay area-ean. yes, i've decided to make up that term "sf bay area-ean". no matter where i go in the states or other countries in europe, uk...or even major global urban cities like hong kong....it takes me leaving the bay area for me to realize just how american i am....and just how i spoiled by my beloved sf bay area. while i am glad that i have had the opportunity to visit some rather amazing cities....i adore paris, hong kong, and london....but when i think of home, i think of san francisco. i think of loved ones.
i think of the diversity. i think of the people, the beliefs, the faiths, the arguments, the passions, the idealism towards making change, the overall optimism, and of course, i think of the food.

every time i leave the sf bay area, it makes me appreciate it more.

this time, i took a bit of san francisco with me. on sunday, i dropped into humphry slocombe for a scoop and also bought a duck fat pecan pie with the intention of eating it here...in the uk.


so i did.

sometimes it is good to not just take bits of home with you....not just inside you....but also to physically bring moments of deliciousness with you to offer comfort when being thousands of miles from home in a rather hostile environment. it makes things a wee bit easier to bear.

as i wind down for the evening, i'm concentrating on how i will be back on plane headed home on friday, perhaps a visit to the farmers market on saturday, puttering around my kitchen cooking random things from the market, and then catching up with loved ones.

until later dear hearts.

xxooo

Monday, March 21, 2011

getting ready to leave for sfo

it is rather odd to see that it has been a week since i've posted anything on the blog. i've been writing and taking pictures everyday, i just haven't been posting anything here. i'll probably delve more into why or why not while i am on the road. i find that i blog quite a bit while i am on a trip. perhaps it is a way to stay connected with the folks at home.

right now, i'm doing the final things to get ready for my trip to the uk.

as i'm getting ready, i'm already looking forward to being safe and sound in my own bed once this business trip is complete. thankfully, this will be a short trip and i'll be back in sf at the end of the week. i'm already looking forward to being at the saturday farmers market.....absorbing the colors whilst wandering through the stands of greens, vegetables, fruit, bread, cheese, dried chilies, jams, candied citrus, pickles.....admittedly, getting somewhat cranky while side stepping slow moving tourists....yet having that crankiness predictably assuaged through inhaling the aromas of fresh bread from acme, ground coffee being parsed out with a clack clack clack grrrrrrr from blue bottle, and sizzling sausages from 4505 meats.

as always dear hearts, much hugs and love to you.

Monday, March 14, 2011

more studying


sometimes i think we are meant to come across certain things. this morning, after having gone through my work email and such for a couple of hours, i decided to take a break and have a second warm beverage. during this break, i decided to sit on the couch and watch a ted video on my ipad. ted has an ipad app. i find it rather convenient. the talk i decided to watch for my break was david brooks on "the social animal". i enjoyed reading his bobo's in paradise and on paradise drive and knew nothing of his most recent book "the social animal"..... but i thought, what the heck? lets see what some of his thoughts are, maybe i'll buy this book too.




i found myself, unsurprising, a bit pensive listening to him. he touches upon quite a few things that i've been pondering recently. for me....personally....it is quite timely. then, i closed out of that app and put on pandora to get back to the slew of emails for another hour before some meetings began. then naturally, there were a couple of projects that had to be done this afternoon and my late lunch turned into the super simple combination of brown rice and hard boiled eggs seasoned simply with nuoc mam and cayenne chili.


yet, as i was noshing through my late lunch, i kept thinking more about the brook's talk and decided that once the work day was over, i'd go buy the book with the intention of finishing it before i head to the UK. i had a feeling it wasn't going to be a "light" book (in terms of pure physical weight) and i don't like to carry heavy books with me when i travel. i also had a feeling that i'd want the real book...not an electronic version.

so when around 5ish came around, i decided to go to green apple as that would mean i would be traveling against the typical commute traffic. so i hopped onto muni into the richmond district, ate my order of har gow at wing lee bakery (i'm such a creature of habit) and wandered into green apple books. i bought david brook's the social animal as well as poundstone's priceless...which i think will be a good book for my work-oriented studies. i don't think i've ever walked out of green apple with just one book. i think it is impossible. really, i do.

you know.....i'm not quite certain what the universe is trying to tell me right now.

but i'm listening.

well, i'm off to take a bath and put my head into this book.

until later dear hearts...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

studying


today was a stay at home and studying kind of day.

i do try to dedicate time to just immerse myself in something that is not related to current work projects....whether it be food related (food science, making something new, research, or reading random things like gabrielle hamilton's memoir....which was very interesting btw), photography/design-related, or something that is just "brain food". today it was more in the "brain food" category. i fully realized when i was a wee youngun that it is my responsibility to ensure that the foodie hunter's synapses are kept afire and that i learned a long time ago that for me... traditional schools are not the place for me to do that. yet, i also knew ....even as a youngun....getting through traditional schools was a necessity for my overall plan towards financial independence. good grades for an undergraduate degree from traditional schools are benchmarks that strangers use to evaluate your potential ability to complete certain tasks and are necessary if you plan to pursue white-collar jobs that are not purely technology driven.

i have a feeling that i'm going to have to have this kind frank talk with one of my godkids in a few years....maybe even both of them actually.

anyway, i woke up pretty early and made myself a rather random soup that began with kale and cabbage from dirty girl and carrots from star route farms. as i was looking at the pot, i just kind of let whatever i was feeling take it from there.


over the next 15 minutes or so, i ended up adding nuoc mam, soy, green curry paste, a vietnamese shrimp paste, some garlic chili paste....tasting along the way....each amount of each ingredient depending on the taste of that moment and finished it up with an egg from marin sun farms.


while that was simmering, i also cooked some mung bean noodles....


again, random. no preset plan. just taking it a moment at a time. thinking quite a bit of how random but precious life is. how simple things....like being in my kitchen...making breakfast....is a good thing.




i haven't been writing about it but it doesn't mean that i haven't been following the heart breaking stories and pictures from japan. perhaps it is because having been born in the city and grown up in the bay area, there is this mindset of having become accustomed to earthquakes....but there is always this fear that when it is happening...whether it will be the "big one". so when i see the pictures and read the stories of that extraordinarly huge earthquake and the tsuanamis....it makes me tear up just thinking about it. i stopped looking at videos with "news" commentary....especially when there was video in particular that was speaking quite nonchalant about the live pictures of the tsuanmi....and i could see cars trying to out drive the waves. all i could think about was how terrified those people must be in those vehicles. how those people are someone's loves, friends, or family. how given the speed of the waves....it was very unlikely that those people were able to drive to safety.

i was extremely irritated at the "news" people who were obviously thrilled at getting the opportunity to cover the story.....and perhaps, lost sight of the content of the story itself. it made me remember that there is an art and craft to observing and storytelling....and the people's voices i heard that were an overlay of those initial videos were the worst sort representation of their profession....a joke. there are so many ways to convey information and these people were acting like they were talking about a theme park attraction. then again, it has been a long time since i "watched' the news from typical "news" affiliates, so i don't know if this is the norm.

if it is, that is quite unfortunate.

after that, i listed to the radio broadcasts on the AM channel, read through whatever popped up on the nytimes, AP news wire, and reviewed collection of still photographs from various sources.

it took me a while to solidify
(a couple of days actually...considering all of this started going down on thursday PST) and be able to verbalize this. once i finished reading garry willis' "outside looking in" over some toasty chunks of acme baguette generously buttered (strauss) and sugared, things finally crystallized.



sometimes one does not need to read something that is directly related to inspire thought and conclusions. it was one of the only things my honors thesis adviser taught me. anyway, the chapters...to me...seem like vignettes....with observations that convey a balance of emotional and intellectual depth. i may not have agreed or "bought into" all of his observations but i was definitely open to "listening" to him rather than tuning him out.....unlike some of the "news anchors" i came across with the tragedies that are still happening in japan. i suppose it comes down to how "i don't suffer fools". yet, i shouldn't lose sight of the bigger and much more important picture....and that is there are heartbreaking things happening in japan right now. absolutely and completely heartbreaking.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

collecting deliciousness

i'm heading to the uk soon and not only am i preparing myself work-wise, i'm trying to collect moments of deliciousness to carry with me. moments that i can day dream and refer to....to help offset some of the anticipated unpleasantness that is going to happen during my upcoming trip.

i've been doing things like hitting up OTD on bush for breakfast and THANK the gawds that my fav person was working the bar. i haven't seen her in a long time...prob because i've been going to OTD later in the afternoons so not only did i get to have my tea, pork bun....

and chicken porridge.....

i was able to experience someone who seems to instinctively know when i am ready for the next course and does service with a friendly elegance. it is rather soothing.

then of course, there are my typical jaunts over to humphry slocombe for scoops of ice cream, my most recent scoop was of ancho chili.....


and i'm going to try to hit them up one more time before i go. the reason why it was single scoop is because i knew i'd be hitting up a few places with SN later and wanted to ensure that i had enough stomach bandwith. yet, as i savored the chocolaty deliciousness of my ice cream, looking out onto the street, of course i thought about the posting i wrote earlier about loving less.

i already knew the answer to that question "how do you love someone you love...less?" btw when i wrote the posting. well, i knew what the answer was....for me anyway. i think everyone has a different answer to that question. my answer, is that i don't love them less. my answer is that i will always love them and accept that i will carry that love with me for always. the analytical logical side of me may bristle at this inability of mine to love someone less. yet, i didn't understand until relatively recently that not seeing someone doesn't mean that i have to love them less....and that perhaps breaking a promise....doesn't mean i love them less either.

it means i am not a yo-yo.

there are some mysterious things happening within the universe that i don't really understand right now though. as soon as i was able to crystallize this, the universe threw me a rather interesting curve ball later that evening. SN, who was witnessing everything, was like "this is serendipity". i think i was a bit emboldened by my intake of hudson rye whiskey manhattans at hog + rocks as well as beer at mission chinese food....but the universe threw down the gauntlet and i accepted. i have no regrets about that. the heart sister thinks i should write about it...and maybe i will.....someday.

yes, i'm being cryptic. those that know me can ask me about it in person when there is no one else around....just like i mentioned to mr + mrs hapa ramen this morning at the market. it is one of the small disadvantages of having homies that follow you on twitter and know who you are. i thought i was going to get away scott free after i picked up one of the delicious pork sliders they had on special at the ferry building farmers market this morning....

but linecook/hapa ramen being the sharpshooter that he is, asked for clarification re: my alcohol intake that evening and uber cool mrs. hapa ramen gave a delighted chortle at my chagrin. i promised to give them details at another time. i would have told them at that moment if not for the fact that their hapa ramen stand is like a food industry mecca (justifiably so)....with chefs and real bonafide food journalists dropping by.

anyway, i was able to come home and enjoy my fried pork slider from hapa ramen and add that moment of deliciousness to carry with me on my upcoming trip. i'll be continuing to collect more moments over the next week. it never hurts to stock up on delicious moments.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

blame it on the alcohol

i did something rather nutty in a good and completely safe way this evening. don't worry, i didn't have a complete personality transplant. i'm going to bed right now to get ready for my 6am meeting tomorrow. but it was silly crazy brave (for me anyway)....and it was fun!!!!

i had a feeling that there was some change in my future and it definitely began tonight!

the video/song is an inside joke....btw.



Wednesday, March 9, 2011

to love less


so.

sooooooooo.

hmmmmm.

i'm stalling. yup, i'm totally stalling.

i think i've been looking at the cursor blinking for at least a minute or two.

certain topics are more challenging than others.

well, i've been writing and taking pics but not for the blog recently. just for me. just processing. i needed that. to have time to write with no filters and no fear of recriminations. i've been processing many o' many things in my self-imposed solitude. about paths to take and not take.
certain days have been better than others. on the not so great days, things like broken glass seem much more than broken glass....

which make me even more annoyed at myself....you know....for looking at broken glass and assigning metaphors to it. then, even better....getting annoyed at being annoyed. after this particular unnecessarily drama-laden moment, i made a cocktail....




one that i'm actually sipping on right now actually. i do enjoy experimenting with the candied peels and the fruit syrups from june taylor. this one is the spiced pear fruit syrup which goes quite well with the bourbon.

as i'm sipping on this cocktail, i've thinking about how difficult it can be to stop caring about someone. perhaps, oddly enough, given that i'm a rather cynical asshole, one would think that it is actually easy for someone like me to figure out how to care less about someone. you know, someone like me who is rather super duper analytical, overly logical, and right-brain driven. yet, not so much. there is this....as one person mentioned....the loyalty factor. at the time, i wanted to hit them and say "i am not a fucking dog"....but i didn't, because i am...i am very loyal to those that i love.

so imagine my quandary.

how do you love someone you love.... less?

this whole caring less about someone has more angles than a never ending prism. in the midst of it all i'm still rather pragmatic. it isn't about avoiding regret...because there will be. it isn't about avoiding hurt...because there is....and will be. for better or worse, i take responsibility for my actions.

the conflicting emotions make taking a path towards loving less quite difficult though.

it depend on the week, day...or even moment.

the are moments when i am harshly angry and annoyed...at everybody....but myself mostly...because WTF...i am supposedly an intelligent adult that has been known to kick some serious ass.....i am not suppose to be a whiny moony wimpy ass...



then there are moments when i feel my pride creep in......

http://www.myspace.com/queenofblues/music/songs/i-ain-t-goin-to-play-second-fiddle-31634859

then there are moments that i fantasize about fighting.

for the first time, i finally understand why people will provoke fights....to instigate something extremely negative to happen....to provide the excuse to walk away.

yet, i can't and won't do that. the deliberate hurting of someone i care about goes against my too well programed ethos for me to change.


but i totally get why it happens now.

then there are moments when i finding myself writing candid diatribes. in an effort to move along the emotional distance that seems to elude me for the first time in my entire life....

>>diatribe begins>>>>>>>>>>>>

do you wander down the street and wonder if you are dreaming?
there is this numbness, this feeling of being an outside observer in your own life, this distance to what is suppose to be your life.
then you remember that you are awake because you don't dream anymore.

do you seek the frankly psychotic fuck on the chance that feeling that spark of anger danger is better than feeling numb?
then when it is over, your blanket of solace is the contempt....for both of you.
you tell yourself that feeling contempt "is better than feeling nothing" but you don't believe it.

are you tempted to lose yourself in the lullaby of more than one bourbon, one scotch, and one beer?
not to feel alive. because it makes you care less that you don't.

are you drawn to the youthful winsome smiles? for now to be adored for your seeming illusionary elderly wisdom? that perhaps to bask in the momentary halo will inspire you to become that hero that you see in their naivete-filled eyes.
yet, as you watch the light change from admiration to cynicism, you realize that you have moved no where, done nothing different, and rather than being wise, they think you are old.

you are looking outside of yourself. you are running from yourself.

you are running from that person you used to be, the person that used to dream.

when did you forget how to dream?

when did you forget how to hope?

when did you blind and bind yourself?

when did you give up on passion?

when did you lose your courage to try?

i see you. i see your struggles. i see the walls, the defenses, the trenches.

i see your disappointment. i see your hurt. i see it all.

even if you don't want me to. even as you push me away.

dare i say, scream, and taunt you with the words....

"i believe in you"

i believe that you will get tired of this rather indulgent hole that you have climbed into and the blinders you have placed upon yourself.

because, as much as you hate it, i know you. because i have known you. because no matter where i am, i will always know you.

i know that the true sparks of courage, hope, inspiration, and passion are there.

dormant. hibernating. hiding.

those sparks have not been carelessly snuffed because they are a part of who you are.

i believe that there will be a day when the passionate sheen in your eyes will return, where the excitement of life and its potential will be in each of your steps, where your sense of purpose once again be settled into your bones, and provide you with the confidence to live.....to not be afraid to live. once more.

while i may not be there to see it happen, i have a tenable faith that it will.

>>>diatribe ends>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

then there are moments like right now.

when i am sad. when i am disappointed. when i flinch as i try to give myself permission to give up on someone and break a promise. when i remember that i actually have a heart because i can feel it folding into itself......as i sip on my cocktail looking out on night time buzz of my street....and think that it is just time.... time to stop mistreating me.

http://www.myspace.com/leelajames/music/songs/mistreating-me-6447379


Sunday, March 6, 2011

sequestered snacks

so, i've been thinking.

big shock huh?

the past few days i've been sequestering myself....just needing some time away from the world. there are responsibilities, that of course, i haven't been putting on hold (like work) but as for everything else, i've retreated from for a bit.

on friday, after my marathon of meetings that had me awake and online at 5am, i decided to stop into wing lee bakery in the richmond and grab some dim sum to go. something to nourish me and for me to snack on in between the various projects going on. this outside shot was from one of my earlier visits....as it wasn't raining on friday.

i've been going to wing lee bakery for a whole lot of years. often, trips to green apple books (a fave) are coupled with trips to wing lee for snacking.....nourishment before or after i have spent hours losing myself in various books within one of the remaining independent bookstores in the city. i wasn't surprised that i saw a recent reference to wing lee in a 7x7 piece where sara deseran relays a conversation between her and jason fox, a co-owner of commonwealth, re: some of his dim sum picks in the city. it is an unassuming place. yet, i do love their dim sum.



usually, i'll order some har gow and gobble it down right there. on friday, i needed to get back to my place to get some things done, so i put in a pretty large order (for me) of har gow and siu mai.




and some folks may find this a bit sacrilegious, i even snack on it the next day....


i reheat it in the microwave (gasp!) with a bit of water in the plate...which evaporates in the microwave and gives it a decent consistency.

it doesn't surprise me and likely those that i have read me on a regular basis, to "hear" that i'll stock up on some treat for me to snack on while i'm processing things. it gives me the option to completely forgo the outside world if i feel like it.

while there have been many things i've been processing about, i think the largest overall theme that i have been processing about is change. i sense a lot of it in my future. in some ways, this is a rather ridiculous statement. as i've looked back on just the past 3 years....looking through various blog postings....there has been quite a bit of significant change that has happened in my life. on march 12th i'll have been blogging for 3 years....and the combination of this blog and my pics on flickr, just reconfirm how much change has happened.

yet, i sense some rather large changes and challenging decisions will be made relatively soon. perhaps, this is why i am sequestering myself.....similar to the gathering of resources and energy to prepare for this next stage of my life.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

one bourbon, one scotch, one beer


i'm taking a break from work and wanted to tell everybody about the rather fascinating experience i had at comstock saloon today.

i had to drop off some paperwork at my tax guy and was rather thrilled that i also had enough time to stop by comstock saloon. i have been wanting to try their beef shank and bone marrow pot pie for a long time. i was also quite happy to be there during off hours so that i could sit at the bar....admire the decor....and random details.....i really like the foot rests on the bar stools (yeah, i notice things like that)...

and order THAT pie that i have been wanting to meet so badly. thankfully, the pie is on the all day menu. while comstock is also well known for their adult beverages, i unfortunately passed on trying out one of their cocktails. there is still a lot of work i have to do today. it doesn't mean that i wasn't looking a bit lustfully at the arrangements of interesting liquor behind the bar. i was very excited when the pie came.....as i knew that it looked deceptively humble. i could smell its deliciousness. as my fork split it open, the aroma wafted up and i knew it was going to be good. it was. decadently good.


this sort of pie isn't for everyone. it is for folks that like meat and like marrow and like richness. the marrow escalates the pie to another level of rich fatty goodness. it is also the only meal i'm going to eat today. i was pretty much engrossed in my pie until a horde of people showed up. normally, i'm quite adept at ignoring hordes of people....but this horde entered my consciousness through the numerous amounts of flashes coming from their cameras. i observed them. there was this group of guys and gals... taking pictures inside the restaurant.....of the restaurant. the decor, the fixtures, the bartenders, and some of the on duty and off duty staff. they didn't stop at 1 or 2 pictures. i wouldn't be surprised if they were taking an average of a dozen shots per person.

during my observation, i noticed that the staff were being quite nice and nonchalant about it.

like it wasn't a surprise.

normally, i'm quite an anti-social person. yet, for some odd reason, i decided to ask aloud "does this happen a lot?"...because.... why the heck not ask? why ignore this group of rude people? there were so many of them. this was a really odd surreal moment for me. i could not believe that so many people could be so incredibly and obviously rude....taking so many pictures in a darkened space with flashes galore.

one of the guys (who i suspect was off duty, works at comstock, and is ahem...attractive) said that it used to happen a lot more. then, in a rather mischievous adorably endearing sort of way, he talked to some members of the flash mob horde... to recommend taking shots of various things...including going back to take pictures of "carlos". when i heard that, i immediately became super fascinated with my pie and tried not to laugh. there were some guffaws from other members of the staff at his comment.

i have a feeling that joke went right over the heads of the horde.

you see....carlos espinas, whom i have never met, is the chef. yet, i don't have to know the chef to imagine how any chef would react to an unexpected horde of uninvited people invading their kitchen with flashing cameras.

if i was a chef and that happened to me and my kitchen, there would probably be some sharp pointy knives involved. yet, the folks at comstock were a lot nicer than i would have ever been in that situation.

while this was all was going down, i was rather amazed how gracious the on duty and off duty staff were to the mob. i had stopped eating at this point and i watched them slowly trickle out the door. i couldn't believe it! they weren't going to stay to eat or drink anything! as i watched the last one exit...i looked around in disbelief.

not one of them ordered or bought anything.

they showed up, took dozens and dozens of pictures, and then left.

this group of people graduated from being rude to complete utter assholes.

now, i'd like to be very clear that this is solely my opinion.

the folks at comstock were very gracious about the whole thing. i think i saw the front of the house manager even politely answering some questions. also, the bartender (who was very nice to me throughout my meal) was very calmly doing prep with mint while this whole thing was going down.

my reaction to the whole thing is probably why i should never be involved in any front of the house activities. ever. my reaction would be


dontcha just love san francisco? i came across this today on the way home. appropriate dontcha think?

yet, while my reaction was more aligned with the above picture.....the comstock folks' reaction was professional courtesy.

so i gotta give the folks at comstock some serious props... not only did i love THAT pie (all pics were taken sans flash btw), i was quite impressed with how they handled the flash mob. i look forward to going back to comstock to have another helping of that pie....and maybe one bourbon, one scotch, and one beer....




comstock saloon
, 155 columbus avenue, san francisco, ca 94133 + 1 415 617 0071, www.comstocksaloon.com/