Fish Tacos with Avocado-Cilantro Lime Cream Sauce

First, off, this isn’t my recipe.  It came from Michael, known variously as Arenadi on Xanga and chow on  He’s been AWOL for the last several months, wrapped up working on a congressional campaign in Hawai’i.  He took the time a week or two back to post this recipe on his Facebook account and it sounded so good I figured I should do my part to share it with Xangaland.

As is often the case, I managed to vary the recipe a bit.  It still turned out quite nicely.

Fish Tacos with Avocado-Cilantro Lime Cream Sauce

You’ll need:

Yellow Corn Tortillas (the 4-5 inch kind)
Red Cabbage
Red Onion
Tabasco Sauce
Cream or Half-and-Half
Fish (firm white fish – snapper or cod are good)
Panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs)

Prep work:

First thing you want to do is get your mise en place set up for dressing the tacos. This means chopping the red cabbage and mincing the red onion.  Chop your cilantro roughly.  Slice your avocado about 1/4″ thick and remove the skin.

Put a handful of cilantro, a clove of garlic, about 1/4 of the avocado, a liberal dousing of Tabasco sauce, the juice of 1/4 of a Lime, a small scoop of mayonnaise, and about 2 Tbsp of cream into a blender/ food processor, and combine until you have a nice creamy sauce.  Add more or less cream depending on how “loose” you want the sauce.  Not being one to follow instructions carefully, I put the entire avocado into the sauce, making it very avocado-y and leaving none left for the taco itself.  That’s okay, though.

Optionally, make some salsa. 

This wasn’t in Michael’s recipe, but it is easy to make.  Chop some tomatoes, onion, chili peppers (to taste), and green pepper and pulse a few times in a blender or food processor.  Add some cilantro and a few more chopped tomatoes and then season to taste.  A squirt of lime juice is nice.  Some salt will work, too.

Make the taco shells:

Note – if you like your tacos soft shell (the way I do) you can skip this step, opting instead just to warm up the tortillas in the microwave or in a skillet.

Heat your oil in a skillet at about 1 to 2 inches depth to about 320 F.  Using tongs or chopsticks, hold half of the tortilla into the oil and let it cook for about 30 seconds.  Release it, pick up the other side (that was in the oil), and hold the side that wasn’t in the oil down into the oil to cook.  Repeat until the desired crispness is achieved.

Cook the fish:

Heat the oil (1 to 2 inches) in a skillet to about 340 F.  Cut your fish into strips.  Roll in some flour and then shake to remove excess.  Then dip the fish into a beaten egg, and then roll it in the panko bread crumbs.  Fry fish strips in the skillet for about 3 minutes and then turn over for another 2 minutes.  Note that the timing will depend upon the thickness of the fish and could be much shorter.  It is a good idea to try one piece first, remove it once browned and cut it open and see if it is cooked through.  Increase or lower the heat as necessary to ensure that the fish isn’t browning on the outside before the inside is cooked the way you like it.

To assemble:

Place red cabbage (you’ll notice I used green, which tastes fine) and red onion on the tortillas. Lay avocado slices on top of that.  (Whoops – none left thanks to my mistake with the sauce!)  Lay the fish on top of that.  Put a nice dollop of avocado-cilantro sauce on the fish.  Add some salsa (optional), a squeeze of lime, a splash of Tabasco sauce, and you are ready to serve.

Serve with some black beans on the side.  I made some homemade beans with some sofrito to flavor them – a combination of onions, red bell peppers, and various spices.  Easy and very healthy.

The finished product.  Very tasty.  Extremely tasty.  That avocado sauce is amazing.  Deep-frying the fish was an extra step that might be more work than I’d always want to put into it, but I think I could have just pan fried the fish and it would have turned out equally nice. 

Thanks to Michael for sharing this recipe with me and I hope he puts it on his Xanga site soon enough. 


The Rusty 1968 Ford Fairlane

Few stories so well epitomize my childhood than that of my first car, a rusted out 1968 Ford Fairlane.  To be fair, it wasn’t truly my first car as my parents retained ownership of it.  But it was the car I spent my entire childhood in, the car in which I learned to drive.


This was the first brand-new car my father ever bought.  Everything else was a used car.  It was metallic blue with a vinyl top, a “California edition” of the car, similar in appearance to the photo above except the color.  Like pretty much all cars of the day it had a powerful V8, no air conditioning, Philco AM radio.

I remember that this car got scorching hot in the summer, back in the days before those cardboard foldable sun shades.  (Thinking about it, I remember that the first time I ever saw those sun shades was in 1987 in the parking lot of Disneyland.)  We would get in the car and the vinyl seats would be so hot we had to put beach towels on them, towels we kept in the car all summer long just for that purpose.  Of course the metal seat belts were much too hot to wear at first so we had to wait a few minutes with the vents blowing before we could buckle up without branding ourselves!


Back in those days, metallic paint wasn’t terribly stable and a black vinyl roof wasn’t ideal for sunny California.  Despite my father’s meticulous care and weekly hand-washing, the paint began to chip and the roof started to crack.  By the time I learned to drive in it around 1985, large splotches of undercoat were showing through.  A minor rear-ending after I got my license resulted in a missing high-beam light.  A few years later a piece of the metallic side trim broke off.

Inside, the blue vinyl ceiling’s glue came undone and hung, canopy-like, from beam to beam.  As the stitching came undone, my father used chopsticks to help hold up the ceiling, leading friends to call it the Chopstick Car.


My sister posing on her graduation day with the Chopstick Car.

Something about the transmission was fiddly and by the time I learned to drive, you had to reach over the wheel with your left hand, holding the gear lever just to the left of “Park” and turn the ignition key with your right hand, all the while gently pumping the gas with your foot.  If you pumped too much, you would flood the engine and had to wait a few minutes before trying again.

The car was symbolic of several things: my father’s thrift – he liked the car because unlike the “new fangled” cars that had computerized components, he could get under the hood and do most repair work himself – as well as my parent’s lessons to me and my sister on sufficiency.  The car wasn’t pretty.  It was actually the ugliest car in our high school’s parking lot by far.  But it was good enough to get us where we were going and we didn’t have to pay for anything other than the fuel for the tank.


In 1994, when the car was 26 years old, my parents were in the process of selling their house and packing for their move back to my father’s new job in Indianapolis.  Just a few days before moving, by complete coincidence, a man driving through the neighborhood stopped and asked if they were interested in selling the car.  This solved the problem of what they should do about moving it to Indy.  If I recall, the agreed-upon price was something like 50 dollars, cash.


Chef Shiro’s Orris

Saturday evening in Los Angeles, I met up with Curry, his brother Eric and William for dinner at Hideo “Shiro” Yamashiro’s Orris, a five-year old “small plates” restaurant that borrows heavily from the Japanese izakaya, or eating pub, tradition.  A fusion of Japanese and French cuisines, Shiro’s emphasis is on the ingredients with unfussy presentations that highlight the clean flavors of the food.

It was a table full of foodies and we met several of the qualifications of the list of ten things you should know about food bloggers, so much so that an older diner who had been sitting inside the plate glass window and had noticed our photographing, stopped by as he left the restaurant to enquire about it.


William and Curry snap away.  What you don’t see is Eric, to my left, taking pictures with his iPhone.

Let’s take a look at the small plates that we enjoyed over our leisurely two hour dining experience:


An amuse-bouche of ratatouille with fresh eggplants, tomatoes and capers.  Lovely, bright flavors like summer piled on top of a slice of baguette.


An off-the-menu special, freshly smoked salmon on top of potato pancakes served with creme fraiche and tobiko – flying fish roe.  This was also very nice and I’m tempted to try this one at home.


Dungeness crab salad “nests” – Freshly handpicked dungeness crab served on top of julienned cucumber in a light ginger dressing.  This was tasty although other than a few slices of ginger, I couldn’t identify any “dressing” – something the cucumber could have benefitted from.


Squash blossoms stuffed with shrimp mousse and pistachios, lightly friend tempura-style and topped with a calmatta olive salsa.  Very nice.  These zucchini were beautifully tender and the salsa gave it the right zestiness.


Another off-the-menu special: halibut tempura on a tomato tarragon puree with garlic aioli.  The halibut was very light, not at all oily, but also with such a delicate flavor that it got lost in the puree.


Tender Berkshire pork loin medallions sauteed in a zesty green peppercorn sauce.  The pork was exceptionally tender and the sauce was very rich.  This was a satisfyingly meaty dish.


We concluded with slices of roasted beets topped with Etorki Basque sheep cheese and finished with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and olive oil with a sprig of dill.  Shown in detail below.


The presentation (which I ruined by putting a slice of beet on top) was clever and visually pleasing.  The flavor was perfectly balanced: the beets were sweet and earthy, which complemented the earthy richness of the cheese, which was cut by the balsamic vinegar.  The dill provided an aromatic contrast that was very nice.  This was my favorite dish.

The restaurant was a good value, with the bill not breaking $100 for four diners even with two of us enjoying glasses of wine.  The food is creative, superbly high quality and intellectually engaging.  Worth a return visit.


Chris, William, Curry and Eric in front of Orris.

The one drawback of the restaurant was the limited and not very inspiring dessert menu.  Since it was still early and a pleasant summer evening, we decided to stroll down Sawtelle Boulevard to the local Pinkberry.

The Sawtelle district, which was an independent city until its residents voted to merge with Los Angeles in 1922, has an extensive Japantown, a suburban neighbor known informally as “Little Osaka”, as compared to Little Tokyo, which centers on Second and San Pedro Streets in downtown Los Angeles. 


Among the many shops on this street are two branches of Giant Robot, the Asian American pop culture store (and magazine) that also has locations in SF and NY.  In addition to GR there are plenty of nurseries, karaoke parlors and frozen yogurt shops.

We went to Pinkberry, an upscale frozen yogurt chain owned by Korean Americans that is a copycat of South Korean chain Red Mango, which has recently made inroads into the US market itself.  While I had heard much about the Pinkberry mania, I had never tried it myself.


The deal is similar to the frozen yogurt shops of the 1980s but perhaps a little higher quality.  The yogurt actually is tart, like yogurt really is, and the choice of toppings is slightly more eclectic.


Original flavor with lychee, mango and almonds – Eric’s choice.


Original with mango and blueberry – William’s antioxidant-rich choice.


Original with mochi and fresh Bing cherries – my choice.  Curry opted for a granola parfait that did not photograph well.

As luck would have it, the West LA Buddhist Temple was sponsoring the annual Obon festival, a sort of “day of the dead” ceremony that is full of dancing and celebrating.  Large processions of dancers, many glad in kimonos, parade around the streets to traditional music. 


As the pleasant ocean breeze blew in from the Pacific, we enjoyed watching the crowds and taking in the sights.

Before calling it an evening, I heard someone calling my name.  At first, I ignored it, since my name is common and the only people who would know me were standing right next to me.  But when it was called again, I turned around to see a young lady whom I did not recognize.

Instead of pretending to know and hoping she would say something that would trigger my memory, I acknowledged that I didn’t know her name.  Wouldn’t you know, it was another Xangan!  What are the chances of that?  “I thought you had left LA already,” she said.

Actually, this is the second time someone has randomly recognized me on the street because of my blog.  The first time was about three years ago in the elevator at my previous apartment in Bangkok.

With the recognition of how small the world really is, we called it a night.  I let the boys head home and returned to Bill and Alex’s to do my packing.


Brunch at the Starling Cafe

Saturday morning my cousins Alex and Bill took me out to the Starling Cafe, voted one of the best brunch places in Long Beach.  It is a cute place, reminding me of the now-defunct Miss Millie’s on 24th Street in San Francisco.


Thankfully, by the time we arrived the breakfast crowds had thinned and we had no wait for a table.  The menu had all the usual suspects including a French Toast that they claimed was absolutely unlike any French Toast you had ever eaten before: stuffed with marscapone cheese, the baguette was dipped in creme anglaise and then broiled instead of the usual frying.


The French Toast, above, was absolutely every bit as good as they claimed with a nice light crunch on the outside and a moist but not soggy interior.  With plenty of fresh berries and some whipped cream, it was a nice treat.


There were several scrambles, too.  This one was a smoked salmon scramble that was very tasty.  Alex had a pulled pork scramble that had some of the tenderest barbeque pork shoulder I’ve had.


A trio of cousins, Chris, Alex and Bill.  Would you believe she’s already six months along?  Barely showing!

Afterwards, we made a few stops in and around Long Beach, cruising down Second Street and seeing the sights.


Looking towards the harbor with an oil tanker off in the distance.


A beautiful dog in a stylish kerchief waits for her owner at a sidewalk cafe.


A pair of cats wait for adoption outside a pet store.  They were sitting in the shade and were huddled together as if they were chilly.

Saturday afternoon I drove to Culver City to visit my high school friend Lalima and her husband Aaron and son Devin.  Sadly, I didn’t take any pictures but had a fun time visiting with them and eating a fresh peach pie they had bought especially for me to enjoy.  Oh, summer fruits!

Saturday evening I met Gary, W and Eric for dinner.  It was so fantastic that I’m going to wait and give it its own entry… stay tuned.


Middleaged Muscleman Mexican Mason

Los Angeles is nothing if not diverse.  Driving back from Long Beach this morning we traveled alongside a convertible Corvette blasting a song in Spanish, a beefy middleaged man with a sunburned scalp showing through his thinning black hair sitting behind the wheel, singing along.  His vanity license plate read MSL MSTR and the frame explained: “Muscle Masters, Inc.”  Above the plate, the logo of the fraternal order of the Freemasons.  Where else but LA would you see this?


KennyCho After dropping my boss at John Wayne Airport at 4:00 Friday, I met fellow Xangan Kenny at Starbucks and then we continued to Fashion Island in Newport Beach for an early dinner. 

Since he doesn’t include an actual picture of himself on his site, I’ll respect that and show only the caricature he uses.  Suffice it to say that he closely resembles this cartoon.

We went to Cafe R+D (as in “research and development”) which is part of Hillstone Restaurant Group, the same chain that owns Houston’s restaurant.  The concept here is that Cafe R+D creates and tries dishes that will appear at other restaurants in the chain.  Based on their menu, I couldn’t identify anything that seemed like a trial dish.  Grilled fish, sandwiches, chops… nothing researched or developed.


Nonetheless, the food was tasty and, nicely, the portions weren’t obscenely large.


Appetizer of heirloom tomatoes and roasted golden beets served in a light vinaigrette.  A tasty, summery combination, I found the tomatoes a little mushy.  When the waiter enquired about the food, I told him this, resulting in a bit of an over-reaction.  He apologized profusely and said he would let the kitchen know. 

A few minutes later the chef came out.  “I understand you were disappointed with the appetizer.” he said.  He apologized again and said he had taken the item off the bill.  I responded that I wasn’t disappointed but was only providing some feedback about the ingredients.  In fact, I said, it was neither expected or necessary to not charge us for the dish.  In either case, it was good that the staff takes customer feedback seriously.


My entree was grilled Copper River salmon served on mashed potatoes with a slice of baked tomato.  It was tasty enough but was uninspiring.


The dessert: fresh berries with whipped cream.  Very simple and very flavorful.  The whipped cream was a little too sweet but other than that, a winner.

The best part of the meal was the opportunity to meet Kenny.  Lots to talk about and always interesting to learn more about someone you only know virtually.  Let’s hope that he and his boyfriend, who do a lot of traveling around the world, will make a stop in Bangkok one of these days soon.

Return to the Big Mango

After two full weeks in the United States, Tawn and I departed Friday afternoon from San Francisco en route to Taipei and, eighteen hours later, Khrungthep.  The heavy drizzle which had greeted our arrival to San Francisco on December 18th had returned to see us off.

In the morning, we met with Brian and Keng (who had arrived the night before from Khrungthep) for breakfast at Chloe’s, a Church Street diner that has long been a favorite of mine.  Below, a view of this cozy breakfast spot.


Chloe’s has a Thai connection.  Several, in fact.  Over the years there have been many Thai servers and it turns out that the man in the apron, above, lived in Thailand with his partner for many years, speaks Thai, and is planning on moving here again in 2009.  I gave him my card and we’ll see if you end up seeing him again here in this blog.

Below, the pumpkin ginger pancakes and the tomato, basil and brie scramble.

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It was fun to see people from home (Khrungthep) in SF, especially as we had gone to see a show with Brian and Keng just two days before we left on vacation.  Below from left: Brian, Keng, Tawn and me.


The drizzle cleared as we returned the rental car to the airport.  We checked in a bit early since the car was due back at 1:00 even though the flight wasn’t until 4:10.  That gave us some time to browse around the largely empty SF Int’l Airport and then sit and read while waiting for our plane.  Below, our EVA 777 taxis to the gate on still-wet pavement.


The flight out was on-time and smooth.  We had a beautiful view of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge as we climbed to our cruising altitude.  While the flight was long (13.5 hours to Taipei, another 3.5 to Bangkok) our connection in Taipei was short and so we didn’t feel like any time was spent lingering.


We landed just after 2:00 this morning and were at home and in bed by 4:00.  I managed nearly eight hours of sleep, although Tawn was up several hours earlier.

There were probably be some more reflection on this trip as I sink back into my normal routine over the next few days.  For now, though, I’ll just say that it is good to be home.


Last Bites of SF

P1130304 As 2009 came to a start, our trip to the US came to an end.  Wednesday morning, Jenn and Kevin and the girls drove us up to the airport for our flight back to San Francisco. 

The girls had been moody all morning, their usual reaction when we are leaving them.  Emily wasn’t willing to get out of the van when we reached the airport, right. 

Seems mighty stubborn to me, especially since her sister was willing to get out of the van and join us on the curb of the terminal for one final photo, below.  But then, Emily is a “cut off your nose to spite your face” kind of person.


The three and a half hour flight back to the West Coast was smooth.  There was a heavy layer of fog over the bay and we actually didn’t pull out of the fog until we were crossing the runway threshold, something that appeared to be near the limits of acceptable landing visibility.

For these final two days in SF, we rented a car.  With the New Year’s holiday, we knew that parking enforcement wouldn’t be much of an issue and as we had some engagements in the East Bay, having a car would be very helpful.

Wednesday evening, New Year’s Eve, I surprised Tawn with tickets to see The Phantom of the Opera, which is showing right now at the Orpheum Theatre.  I have seen this show three times before but Tawn never has, so it was a nice treat.  John Cudia made for a very effective Phantom but overall the show’s production was just okay.  I think the audio system at the Orpheum is not very good, more like listening to an AM radio than is okay for such expensive tickets.

Still, it was fun and we spent the evening together, which is what is really important.


We preceded the show with an early dinner at Little Star Pizza.  With two locations in SF, we walked to the Valencia and 15th street branch.  They do deep-dish Chicago style pizza, along the lines of what Zachary’s in Berkeley provides.  My one complain with Zachary’s is that their crust isn’t very good.  Sure enough, Little Star has this problem solved with a buttery, cornmeal-laden crust that is much more substantive and tender than Zachary’s. 

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Click on a thumbnail for a larger version.  From L to R: Caprese salad with tomatoes and wonderful fresh mozzarella cheese; a deconstructed garlic bread with bread, butter and a roasted bulb of garlic – spread it yourself; a “small” pie, half with the Little Star special (spinach, onions, feta/ricotta/mozzarella cheese) and half with the Classic (mushrooms, sausage, peppers and onion).   Heavenly.

New Year’s Day we awoke relatively early since we were just climbing into bed when the fireworks went off the night before.  We walked down to Tartine for one more taste of their lovely pastries.  Below, a view into their kitchen with Guererro Street reflected. 



Above, the best croissant I’ve tasted outside of Paris with a bowl of latte.

The Mission District is a fascinating neighborhood with lots of little gems like Tartine.  Another gem, just down 18th Street from Tartine, is the Bi-Rite grocery store.  Lovingly maintained, it has a retro feel but a very contemporary selection of foodstuffs.



Above, Tawn ponders the selection of fresh fruits and veggies.

We walked back through the Castro and then back down Market Street to Anita’s in order to get some exercise.  There was a pretty side street with leaves that looked autumnal, strewn in the gutters and on the cars.


Speaking of cars, we rented a Toyota Prius hybrid, the first time I’ve ever driven one.  What a weird and wonderful vehicle!  No ignition switch; just a on/off button.  I spend the drive watching the efficiency display, moderating my speed and trying to keep the efficiency as high as possible.  So far we have driven 120 miles and have a 44.3 miles per gallon average.  The needle on the gas gauge has barely moved.


After Tartine we drove over to the East Bay, stopping in a my aunt and uncle’s house for a New Year’s brunch.  Everyone was there, including my cousins Alex and Bill who had flown up from Long Beach the night before.  Below, my cousin Patrick holds Logan, the son of family friends and a frequent topic of Alex’s blog.


After a visit to Bruce and Howie’s in San Ramon, we returned to the city to face the most difficult task: packing.  The last item we purchased on our list was a new comforter at Macy’s.  There was a sale and we paid a nice, low price, but getting a comforter into our suitcase is proving to be a challenge.  One that has not been solved eight hours before our plane departs.

We enjoyed some mid-afternoon bottles of champagne with Anita, Lilian and Tanya, then set out for Cha Cha Cha, the “all-powerful” Cuban tapas restaurant that is always on our to eat at list.  The Mission District location was busy but the wait wasn’t too long, a wait shortened by a pitcher of sangria.


From the left: Tawn, Anita, Tanya, Lilian and me.

We ordered all of the usuals.  From upper left, clockwise: fried calamari, fried new potatoes with garlic-chili aioli, chicken paillard, sauteed mushrooms, fried plantains with black bean sauce, warm spinach salad.

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We had a wonderful time and once we returned home, were too exhausted to do any further packing.  Which is why, as soon as I finish this paragraph, I’m going to return to tackling the comforter problem.  We leave this afternoon.

The Second through Fourth Days of Christmas

Technology is not entirely a foreign thing for our family.  On Christmas Day my grandfather fired up Skype and we had a video chat with my aunt and uncle and cousins in Seattle.  They were nearly snowed in and turned the camera out the study window so we could see the several feet of snow covering their yard, sidewalks and streets.  Was that really Seattle!?  That would be much more likely here in the midwest.


Friday morning we had family portraits down at the photo studio.  I think it takes a person with a very special personality to be a good family portrait photographer.  Not only a good photographer but patient, funny, and a child psychologist.

After the photo shoot, Tawn and I took Emily off her parents’ hands for a special afternoon with her uncles.  First off we headed to the Plaza, a nice shopping area down near the country club.  This is the oldest shopping district in town and is still a very nice place to visit.  Emily chose our dining venue for lunch: McDonalds.  Sadly, after several years of avoiding McD’s, I wound up eating there.


In the afternoon, we went to the book store to spend a gift certificate Emily and her sister received for Christmas.  At first, Emily tried to sell me the story that the gift certificate was only for her, but my sister clarified and so I insisted that Emily choose a book for her sister, too.

We stopped by the Gap and found a nice top for her on sale, something light enough that it can be worn into the summer.  Finally, we waited for uncle Tawn at Starbucks while he went shopping at a few other shops.  It took him a long time to return and after reading through all the new books together, Emily started to get a little impatient.

Saturday morning Tawn and I drove to Overland Park to meet one of the owners of the Gasper Family Farm.  They have a small, diversified family farm that runs in a sustainable manner and offers only 100% grass-fed, pastured cows, pigs, and dairy.  The more I’ve been reading about food safety and sustainability issues (Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma) the more I want to better understand what is actually available as far as sustainable, locally-produced food.

A few months ago I signed up for the Gasper Family Farm’s e-newsletter and decided that when I was back in KC I would buy some of their produces.  I emailed Susan, the “mom” of the farm, and placed an order for ten pounds of beef (combination of steaks, a roast and ground beef) and five pounds each of ground sage sausage and ground cayenne pepper sausage.


When I arrived at the designated pick-up point, one of her customer’s driveways on the corner of 80th Street and Hemlock, on a drizzly, freezing cold Saturday morning, Tawn thought it looked rather like a drug buy.  Sure enough, she pulled the frozen goods out of a cooler in the back of her Chevy Suburban, cash changed hands, and I bought a dozen freshly-laid eggs, too.

Back at home, I decided to put some of my sustainably made food to the test, baking a lasagna for dinner.  Mixing a pound of the beef with a pound of the cayenne pepper sausage, I had a nice bubbly lasagna ready a few hours later.  It was lovely. 


I still want to try the eggs, comparing the pastured eggs with the conventional ones my sister bought at the store.  I noticed that with the two eggs I used in the lasagna, the yolks looked much more vibrant than with conventional eggs.


Speaking of sustainable eggs, I was tickled to see that the eggs came out a rainbow of colors from pale pink to greenish-brown to beige to brown.  Emily and Ava thought this was pretty cool.

To accompany the lasagna, I did a roasted beet salad with a honey dijon vinaigrette.


Dinner was lovely.

In other news, here’s the video of our sledding last Wednesday.  With all the crazy weather we’ve had here, the snow was entirely gone by the day after Christmas and then a little bit of it was back by this morning.



And Christmas Arrives

First off, to those Christian members of my audience, Merry Christmas to you and yours.  It is actually just a few minutes before midnight on Christmas Eve here in Kansas City, but since my Xanga account is set for Bangkok Standard Time, it shows that it is already Christmas Day.

Second, many thanks to all of you who expressed concern for Tawn’s battle with his jet lag.  I’m glad to say that he’s much better now than he was.  Your kind thoughts no doubt helped speed his recovery.

We used much of Monday for Tawn’s recovery.  Sadly, this meant that we had to cancel some of our plans.  We felt very bad about that, but ultimately on a trip like this one, health has to be the first consideration.  The entire trip could wash out if one or both of us became seriously ill.

By Monday evening Tawn was feeling well enough for us to keep our dinner appointment with my aunt, uncle and cousins.  Of course, family is a priority in our life and so we made the trek over to the east bay for a very enjoyable dinner.

Before leaving, we had breakfast at Squat and Gobble, a small chain of creperies.  Thanks to Jordan for letting us know that they actually open for breakfast.  I had always thought that the location, which is just a block or two away from Anita’s, was just open for lunch and dinner.  We had another nice American style breakfast, something that just is never the same in Khrungthep.

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Left, buttermilk waffle with berries and maple syrup.  Right, poached eggs and hollandaise sauce on English muffins, with home fries.

P1120941 We headed to SFO for our noon flight on Midwest Airlines, the only airline that offers a nonstop flight from SFO to Kansas City.  The airline, which like many of its peers has suffered some tough times, is still a favorite of mine.  They offer a “premium economy” product, friendly service, and good value for the money.  I’m the kind of traveler who will spend a little bit extra for greater comfort and convenience.  My days of suffering in a cramped middle seat in the far back of a sardine can are over.

We managed to arrive just a few minutes before the check-in counter (which is handled by American) opened.  Once the counter opened, the agent informed us that because of weather in the midwest, the inbound flight was about forty minutes delayed.  Thankfully, this report was accurate and the delayed departure time didn’t slip at all.

This delay gave us time to enjoy SFO’s good selection of food – at least the good selection that is in the North Terminal.  Of course, no trip to San Francisco is complete without some clam chowder, so we stopped at Boudin’s for a bowl of soup served in a hollowed-out sourdough round.

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Too much bread, to be honest.  Tasty, but an insane amount of bread.  The chowder was pretty good, though.  Frankly, I think the best chowder is served from the large vats at Fisherman’s Wharf late in the evening when there is just a little bit left and it has been simmering all day long.  So tasty then.  But this was a reasonable substitute.

Before leaving San Francisco, I’ll share a Christmas sight that I saw while walking in the Castro.


Yes, a merry gay Christmas to you, too.


Jet Lag Hits Tawn, Who Turns the Other Cheek

It is amazing how jet lag affects people differently.  On my first night here I took a sleeping pill, slept fairly well through the night, and have largely been able to function on a normal schedule ever since.  Sure, I’ve woken up a few times in the night and have had to wait twenty or thirty minutes to fall back asleep, but other than that I’ve had no ill effects.

Tawn, on the other hand, has had a hard time adjusting – both to the new time zone as well as the hectic schedule-a-go-go that we’ve been running.  By Sunday afternoon he was starting to hit some rough patches and my Monday morning, he was dragging.  We called off several appointments on Monday and he used the time to rest.  The symptoms, which seemed almost like a cold, abated enough by late afternoon that we were able to get over to my aunt and uncle’s for dinner.

Hopefully, he’ll be fully back to speed soon because we travel to Kansas City on Tuesday.

A few more bits and pieces of our schedule:

Saturday morning we went to the Ferry Building for brunch at Boulette’s Larder, one of my favorite places to eat.  Truth be told, the food (which was very high quality) didn’t wow me as much as previously, although the Christmas Spice beignets were spectacular.  Good ambience and company, though, as we were joined by Stuart, who was in from Bangkok, and his local friend Rupert. 

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Not sure why I managed to crop the beignets differently from the rest of the food pictures…  But from upper left clockwise: Christmas Spice beignets, poaches eggs on polenta with braised beef, seafood platter with smoked salmon, grilled tuna and crab cakes, and sweet Maine shrimp scramble with arugula.

Afterwards we explored the Ferry Building for a bit, finding some interesting items:


Grow your own oyster mushrooms.  A sawdust block impregnated with the fungus that produces oyster mushrooms.  Will grow several pounds of mushrooms over a few weeks if properly maintained.  The gift that you can’t live without!


A bakery – the first I’ve seen – that makes French macarons without food coloring!  Yes, the lemon ones (not pictured) look like most of the other flavors and chocolate is the only flavor you can identify by sight, but I really like that they aren’t so artificially colored.  Plus, they use a coarser almond flour that really gives the confections a chewier texture.

Heading back to the Embarcadero, we received a message from Anita that most of the high school gang was gathering for dim sum at Rincon Center.  This was only two blocks away so we stopped by but didn’t eat anything.  Since our plates were empty, our “nephews” – Devin, Maximo and Joaquin – decided we would be fun to play with.

Below, Maximo smiles sweetly while his brother manages to almost tip over two tea cups.



Above, Uncle Tawn with Joaquin, Devin and “Ultra Man” Maximo at Rincon Center.

After a few hours of visiting, we returned home and Tawn was ready for a much-needed nap.  Lalima had thoughtfully arranged tickets for the San Francisco Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker.  The definitive North American production (SF Ballet introduced it to the continent in 1944), it was magical and a perfect holiday treat.