Tuesday, April 17, 2012

further experimentation

yup. furthering my experimentation with infusions. since the last few postings haven't exactly been light, this will be a picture only one.


Sunday, April 15, 2012

not an excuse

there is a significant work project that i have my head in right now. it will determine where and how the team will function. i find that some of my best visualization, processing, or thinking about alternatives comes when i've stepped away from the computers and do something else for a bit. giving myself the space and the distance to be open and just think. for those of you who have been with this blog since the beginning, this shouldn't be a surprise. i often escape into the kitchen to cook or go to moma rooftop for coffee....or do things like travel to a certain neighborhood to have lunch....as a break away from work or a project, process a couple of things, and then re-enter the work project with alternate or proper perspectives. i've developed this process for myself throughout the years. i needed to develop a system or process that would ensure productivity and delivery because i work from home. 

right now, i'm thinking a lot about how i managed the team over the past few years. i'm thinking about how the infrastructure of the team reflected the changing needs of the organization, how deliverables had to be mapped and tied to needs/requirements, how to leverage the strengths of the people on the team, how to set appropriate expectations for different members to grow in different ways to improve upon their weaknesses, and how when creating the infrastructure, i pulled in frameworks, theories, and models from many different disciplines. 

in many ways, it was getting done what needed to be done....and figuring out what was the most effective way to get there. it was to not be afraid of change...both big change and continuous incremental editing and changes to improve. 

i'm very much a "step up" or "step out" sort of manager. 

i'm very brutally clear about my expectations. i'm clear about public praise for contribution or leadership of quality work and private with constructive criticism. i'm also very clear that when you work with me...you will work....and when you get all of your base work done and done well....i will do everything i can to keep you aware of where else you can go after you stop working with me....whether it be time off to do classes...or dedicated work time to do a project that seems really off base and wacky...or hearing about other opportunities within the company. 

i'm also clear about where the door is anytime they want to leave.

i know in some ways it drives my current team nuts. 

just when they think everything is all comfy, i go and change something...or push them to work on a different kind of project where there is the possibility for failure. they know i'll be there to make sure that they won't make a catastrophe that they can't recover from...but i do ensure that they have enough personal risk involved to make them nervous.

i don't see this as being evil. i see it as providing proper motivation for them to learn. 

what they don't realize is that i've actually ensured that if they fuck up, it won't have a big audience....and that i have no plans to include it in their performance evaluations if they fuck up....but i don't tell them that when i give them this kind of project. they usually perform pretty well...and when that happens, i make certain everybody and their mother knows about it....and i include it in their performance evaluations as evidence as going "above and beyond".

see how that works?

i also know that they think i'm a bit brutally blunt at times...which is true. i also know that sometimes there are hurt feelings when i point out opportunities on other teams. as if my pointing this out sparks feelings like they aren't wanted. jez. i try not to roll my eyeballs when this happens and reiterate that as i've indicated before....i'm not there to chain them to this team or specific kind of work....and am trying to ensure that they are doing what they want to do and how they always need to be thinking about what they want to do next. 

yet, i don't push them as hard as i push myself. it would be impractical.

i remember a couple of lifetimes ago when the editor-in-chief pulled me aside when i was twenty years old to tell me that i cannot have expectations for others' drive or performance that i had for myself. he said that if i had those expectations i was doomed to be forever frustrated and disappointed.

it was a very memorable experience.

at the time, i really didn't get it. i thought he was writing certain people off. then within a couple of years, i found myself unexpectedly managing a 15 person team (who were all older and made more money than i did) when two levels of leadership left the company at the same time for political reasons. it was a very traumatic learning experience. for everyone. i initiated quite a bit of change, accountability, transparency, and that team had the most productive six months than it had previously. ever. i was promoted because of it and given my own product line to manage making me one of the youngest acquisitions editors.

the manager that was hired later to take over that team was, interestingly enough, the biggest advocate of what i had done. we are still friends now. also, i was working with someone that would become one of my closest friends....there is something about going through traumatic experiences together that creates some strong bonds. for the longest time, i viewed my friendships with these two people as the only really good things that came out of that traumatic experience.

after that experience, i understood more about the EIC was trying to tell me during that time. while i don't agree with just writing people off....but i do see everyone has different comfort levels with change and the importance of seeing people as individuals.....in addition to seeing the team as an entire unit.

yet, i also learned that just because i'm good at something....doesn't mean that i like it. in fact, there is also the possibility that i hate it. yet, hating doing something is not an acceptable excuse for not doing it well.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

ginger citrus mint cocktail

i locked myself out of my apartment today and through a series of miscommunications and not so great luck, ended up being locked out for about six hours. it was completely my own fault. it was also a frustrating experience. i'm winding down and about to grab some sleep from the day....yet, i wanted to take a moment to try a drink experiment with one of the bitters i made. 

when i started out making these "infusions" i had no idea that what i was making were bitters. i was approaching the whiskey infusions from a cooking perspective. i wanted to have a pantry of different intensely spiced and flavored whiskies to use like herbs and spices within cocktails and also within cooking. it also enabled me to make a dent in the rye whiskey i still have left over from the rye tasting party last year. the first infusion i did was a white rye with golden cayenne chilies....which turned out so well that i immediately became curious about what else i could do. i kept thinking about how i could "season" a cocktail. it wasn't until after i made the infusions that i bought the bitters book that i realized what i was making (bitters + tinctures).

the cocktail i'm sipping on right now includes bulliet bourbon, fresh mint (both for muddling and for the garnish), sugar, maine root ginger brew (which is very very ginger-y so i'm pretty ginger with it...hee hee ....couldn't resist), orange water, fee's west indian orange bitters, an orange spiral, ice, and one of my house bitters (michter's straight barrel rye, bulliet rye, cardamom, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves).

it turned out pretty well and is quite refreshing.

some friends came over last night and tried one of the other spiced bitters i made with the ginger brew and said that it was a good pairing as well.

i'm intrigued and excited about the experimentation that i'll be doing with the bitters and have some ideas about more to make. i think my interest in this....ironically enough.... stems from how i have such a low alcohol tolerance. because i have such a low alcohol tolerance, i'm not seeking to get drunk off a cocktail. i really want the few sips of the cocktail i am able to have to taste good....be assertive in flavors yet balanced. i want it to perk up or tickle my palate...as opposed to getting bombed.

for this particular drink, i really enjoy the combination of the warm spices, citrus notes, and mint.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

hapa at wing wings

earlier tonight, hapa provided all non-ramen offerings at their popup at wing wings....

they'll be doing another non-ramen popup on the 24th. for me, it was exciting to see a melody of different dishes on the menu tonight. there were so many influences present from italian, moroccan, thai, american, japanese.....and more. while i was on my way to the popup, i was thinking about how i could explain to someone whose never had the food...what the food of hapa is like.



the food of hapa reminds me of a jazz melody. you have musicians or cooks...who are are experts at various instruments or techniques....

then they bring notes or ingredients....together....listening to each other....drawing influences from all over the world...that speak to what inspires them, to what they are passionate about, to their every day experiences....which shapes how they put together the ingredients on a plate.

then when these cooks and their offerings come together...they create a moment in time that is filled with a blended melody of flavors that is very unique.....and very hapa.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


i noticed that i've been having an obsession with yellow for a few years now. it seems to be making itself known through my recent out-of-character purchases of flowers for my place. yet, it seems appropriate for an overcast rainy day to have these bursts of color that have zero practical purpose and are completely indulgent.

yet, i do know the exact moment when my obsession with yellow began. i was in paris. it was a time of upheaval. the previous time i had been in paris was for the honeymoon and this visit was decidedly not. everything i believed about my life had changed. i had recently finalized the marriage settlement agreement (aka the divorce contract) and filed the final paperwork at the sf court house. it is rather amazing how much paperwork is involved in divorce....even when all you want to walk away with are your books, clothes, knives, and your 401k. many friends (and well, the lawyer) were quite amazed that i didn't demand more. from my perspective, i didn't want anything else. quite frankly, all i really needed was my brain, my health, and being dissolved from any legal responsibility for another human being. i have no regrets.

at this time, work wise, things were going quite well. i had been recognized and awarded for exceptional contribution for my work....an award where the recipients were nominated by the executive team. i just started this blog called "foodie hunter", hadn't told any loved ones about it, and didn't know who the hell was reading it. this visit to paris was something i was excited to take pictures of and write about. i walked into printemps and for some reason, yellow was the "color" of recent european fashion shows. oddly enough, for someone whose wardrobe at that time was black, black, and more black...i fell for the color. i ended up splurging on many yellow pieces for myself and loved ones.

looking back on that time, i know that i felt like i was coming out of a stasis....and my life was changing by leaps and bounds.

the yellow, for me, represented the excitement and possibility of things i never thought about before.

i was in this frame of mind when i returned from paris.....and shortly afterwards...an executive at a pre-IPO company began the recruitment process and instead of just saying no outright...because i loved my boss (and still love them), some of the folks i was working with, and was treated very well.....i decided to consider it.

all i knew was that this opportunity that the exec was dangling in front of me would push me in ways that i couldn't even conceive of.  after i got over the initial shock that this exec saw something in me while working on a couple of projects together at a previous company......i felt sparks of excitement and anticipation. as i'm writing this....i'm just shaking my head at myself....i know now that i had something to prove....something to prove to myself....and this opportunity would enable me to pursue it with no guarantee of success or failure. the timing of it all was incredibly serendipitous.

now, about four years later, as i'm looking out an overcast day in san francisco....but at a rather great view in a neighborhood that i would have never dreamed i would live in when i was a neophyte.... i'm looking at these yellow flowers completely aware that my life is at another cusp of change. i don't know the exact details....but i know it is going to happen. methinks that my recent obsession for yellow flowers is a reminder to myself that no matter what happens....i'll figure it out.

Monday, April 9, 2012

richie and wusthof's defining the edge campaign

richie is a part of wusthof's recent "defining the edge" marketing campaign. i've included the video here.....


i think the director, editors, and the rest of the wusthof team did a great job in capturing moments of what it is like hanging out with hapa.

Sunday, April 8, 2012


i haven't written here for a while. 

i've been processing. 

i've also been doing things to make my place seem more like a home rather than a place i happen to work or sleep. i have a feeling that the work i've been doing on my place is also a part of the processing.

things have been challenging in a certain aspect of my life. there were many moments when i wondered if doing the right thing was really the right thing to do. usually, i would wonder this when i would take extremely hot showers and wonder why people didn't see what i saw.....someone who abused their position, someone who would deliberately manipulate people into situations that were not beneficial to them, someone who would deliberately creating pseudo-dependencies that would undermine they very people that they would be declaring that they would be helping, someone whose ease with false smiles that held very ill intentions made me wonder about their threshold for a basic level of humanity. 

i saw this person immediately for who and what they were....and spent a considerable amount of time with preempting and counter maneuvering. sometimes it worked. sometimes it didn't. yet, i stayed upon the ethical path because i am still me.....and why o' why would i want to take the easy path for anything when i could make it 200% more difficult for myself? sigh.  also, despite my frustration, i didn't say anything.....and it has been fascinating seeing them become marginalized and their power base dwindle. 

now they are no longer an issue.


i've also come to realize that i have advocates that i never expected to have. i didn't realize that despite my not saying anything....that there were people observing....and while it may have taken folks a while....they finally realized what this person was doing. hence the diminishing of their power base. i never once asked for help. frankly, i never asked for help because i didn't think i would get it. i didn't expect it. i didn't resent anyone for it. sometimes, that is just the way politics are played. i deal with it, work around it, and ensure that things are always moving forward. i'm pretty practical. i also didn't change my interactions with anyone else because of it. i sure as hell did not fuck anyone over because they wanted me to. 

oh hell no. 

so now....now....i'm not certain what is going to happen. there is a part of me that doesn't want to be too hopeful because i don't know what is going to happen and want to ensure that i am limber enough to deal with whatever it may be. 

we'll see what happens.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

chicken buns for colton

when sus asked me if i would be up for helping out with the making of chicken buns for colton's bday party, i said "sure". at first i thought the research phase would include visiting various dim sum places around the city, gathering steamed chicken bao buns, and then decide which elements we wanted to create a new bun. yet, then sus indicated that we were going to model the bun after OTD's chicken bun since that is something that colton eats on a regular basis. colton turns two tomorrow and i'm pretty certain that anyone and everyone associated with hapa has taken him to OTD to buy him a chicken bun at some point or another. myself included. taking inspiration from the OTD bun made things a bit easier and alas, i waited until the last minute to go get chicken buns from OTD that i ended up having to go to two locations on saturday to get them. yet, once i got them, sus texted me what she thought were the major components of the flavor profile and when i got home, and ate one....i texted her back some feedback.

this is a pic i texted to her along with some of my comments.....

as well as some things i saw in some cookbooks i have at home about viet influenced bao buns. i'm pretty nerdy.

then this morning, i prepped the chicken (mary's/pittman organic chicken thighs).....

and then met up with sus at the hapa kitchen....

where she already prepped the mushrooms and had the bao dough resting from the night before. she used a recipe that she's been using since she cooked in hawaii. 

while i prepped the cilantro, sus was prepping the ginger, yellow onion, green onion and such. then we mixed everything together.....adding nuoc mam, a soy-based sauce that richie made, and cornstarch (as the binding agent). there was a lot of discussion as we were doing this. 

yet, probably the most discussion occurred while we were taking the dough and making the buns. 

sus indicated earlier that she was going to rely on me figuring out how to make the twisty twirl and ensuring that it was sealed. i botched the first one and by the second one, i'd figured out how to make the twisty twirl. it was pretty funny how we were getting progressively better as we were making the buns. we were also having a good time laughing at ourselves during the process. one of the other vendors in the commercial kitchen that hapa shares made an unsolicited comment about how we seemed to be having a good time....which is true. this wasn't work....this was having fun making food for folks we care for.  

i'm pretty certain that we made over 30 buns....and i think if we had made more....we'd have gotten it down to the point where it would look fairly professional. it wasn't until the end where we were able to get a better idea of dough to meat ratio and the seal. sus was also the one who handled the steaming cooking of the buns which i am very thankful for. she already knew how long they needed to cook and the various resting periods that the buns needed.

also, if had to do it again, i'd chop the chicken into smaller pieces. the OTD buns have large chunks of chicken in it, but we were making smaller buns. yet, i was pretty happy with how it tasted, especially for a first try. i also made a comment to sus as we were making the buns how much i really liked the bao dough. it had a great feel and elasticity to it. i don't think i've handled so much dough since i was a teenager working in a pizza joint. it was funny how memories about handling dough were coming back despite the years that have gone by.

sus also made a huge bun just for colton and it was pretty funny as well. it is the one on the right side of the pic. the one on the left side is more for reference in terms of scale.

when we arrived at the party, it had been going for a while. richie was at the grill...cooking up burgers, sausages, and hot dogs. mrs hapa ramen made these uber cute sf giants cup cakes....

and a bit after we arrived, it was a lovely moment when we arrived to the party to see colton wanting to get at the huge bun.