Cider Doughnut Bread Pudding for the Soul

Have you ever heard of a guard llama?

How about a pet skunk? They aren’t allowed in New York State (with the exception of certain permits), but there’s an underground effort to justify the domestication with a therapy sort of role.

 

These aren’t the topics one would expect in a conversation among food bloggers and foodies (+ one wannabe foodie named Innae). Yet across breakfast pizza, cheddar biscuits and apple muffins with a date and garam masala crumble, I found my belly aching from gluttony and giggles.

 

We actually sat across from each other in the same room, not in a web conference.

That’s right, we sat across from each other in the same room, not in a web conference.

 

The reunion was unexpected. I reached out to Deanna Fox of Silly Goose Farm to follow up on a promise to visit her home, and the hostess-extraordinaire decided a full-fledged brunch was nothing short of necessary. Along came a few of my favorite food writers and lovers from the Capital Region, and I was giddy with anticipation for the delights that would soon be in front of me.

 

Case in point.

Case in point. Yes, that’s also homemade maple burnt sugar ice cream.

As I caught up with the ProFUSSor – whom I hadn’t seen since he and his wife left for her sabbatical over a year ago – we chatted about the merits and difficulties of a changing menu for local restaurants. Expected, right? Also discussed with Albany Jane, Albany John and the others: pregnancy, mining and honey badgers (I have now made plans to watch a documentary on these apathetic animals thanks to the recommendation of this marketing guru).

(she made this. stunning flavor profile)

(These are those aforementioned muffins. Stunning flavor profile)

 

 

There were also moments that morning where the laughter waited on the sidelines as these men and women listened to my journey thus far. They offered encouragement, advice and suggestions with such sincerity that my heart was just as full as my stomach.

 

As we’re all aware, the Internet is a connecting, yet isolating place. While I’ve carried conversations with these eaters online for some time, the in-person opportunities weren’t as frequent. A few minutes here, inbetween bites at a tasting there, and soon we’d have to finish up our trains of thought on Twitter.

 

Even with so little face-to-face contact, I felt fully comfortable. The words I had seen on a screen or in print were backed with the warmth of a voice. The delightful images I’d scrolled through were taken by hands that baked and cooked to delight my tastebuds. And now we’d created memories that would feed my heart.

dinner with dad

At the Table with 아빠

A series of moments with my inimitable 아빠 (dad) during my three weeks at home.

 

—–

We had just sat down with our first round of buffet plates.

“Before we continue the conversation,” my father said. “I have something for each of you.”

He pulled out four envelopes from within his ever-present journal and handed one to my mother, one to me, and the last two to my sister. He instructed her to give the other to her boyfriend.

The cards too gave instruction.

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And that night, we celebrated each one of us.

—–

Hearing groans from the living room, I immediately ran out to see why my father was in pain. He was gingerly lowering himself to the ground, moaning as he went, since he had thrown out his back a day earlier. He picked up a fallen honey cracker even as I told him to stop.

I then said, “아빠, 제가 버려줄게요.” (Dad, I’ll throw it out for you)

He grinned, popped it in his mouth, and then offered me a cracker from the full bag in his other hand.

—–

After getting stuck in traffic, we rushed into the rice-paper walled restaurant two minutes before our reservation. Our faces fell: there was no television inside. My father hollered at the hostess, “TV 없어요?” (You don’t have a TV?)

Her answer, with an arched eyebrow, “우린 전통 한식당 인데, 왜 물어보세요?” (We’re a traditional Korean restaurant. Why would you ask that?)

His answer: “박태환 선수가 지금 수영하잖아요! … 금방 갔다올게요…” (Park Tae Hwan is swimming right now! We’ll be right back…)

At that, my sister, father and I ran back to the parking lot and watched the Korean swimmer win bronze in the 200M freestyle of the 2014 Asian Games —

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 — in our car.

—–

“It’ll only take a few minutes,” he said, as he started to boil water.

“Only if you’re sure, if you don’t mind,” I worried in the last hour before I had to take the shuttle to the airport.

He looked at me and said, “As long as you want to eat my food. You sure you don’t want Korean food for your last meal?”

“Absolutely.”

I set the table for two.

photo (1)

 

As he grated parmesan cheese onto our plates, he said, “You won’t find anything this simple at a restaurant in Korea. Oh, and you have to drink this wine with it.”

 

I ate my last meal of my trip sitting across from the man who made it for me. Just a few ingredients made up this pasta dish, and its simplicity reflected the purity of his love for me.

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#whatinnaeworld?! Bay Area Edition

I thought NYC was exclusive.

 

However, I was awakened to the rarity of certain dim sum options in the Bay Area thanks to two cousins who went to a restaurant and then returned the next day because this dish wasn’t available the first time.

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You’re looking at (what’s left of) 1 of 6 crispy pork belly portions that are served each day at Hong Kong Flower Lounge in Millbrae, Calif.

ONE of SIX.

We made sure to come before noon AND tell the primary server we were here to get this particular plate. It was hand-delivered (versus cart-delivered) as a result.

Was it worth two days of dim sum in a row? Go try it.*

Happy eating!

 

 

*Okay, fine, it was melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Go.

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#whatinnaeworld?! Lisbon Edition

Seeing that I just wrote about how Lisbon’s history has touched my heart, I figure I’ll head back there for this #whatinnaeworld?! post.

 

A seemingly ordinary sight, no?

free

free bread box!

 

FACT: This is not complimentary. I repeat, not complimentary. In fact, you will get charged for any seeming courtesy treats before your meal in Portugal, and even in restaurants in Spain. That includes bread, olives, cheese, you name it. So be sure to turn it away unless you really want to carbo-load before your entree arrives. Don’t worry, this tip IS free, no charge 😉

 

Happy Monday!

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#whatinnaeworld?! Albany Edition

I’ve posted quite a few in this #whatinnaeworld series, but hopefully you’ve been as entertained/shocked/illuminated as I have been along the way 🙂

Now back to where I’ve spent the last few years. I’ve had some phenomenal meals in the Capital Region. Then there are some dishes that have simply fallen short.

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Now, I can’t call myself a connoisseur of fish tacos, and I don’t even like cilantro (blasphemy, I know). However, I’ve never seen raw green
onions in a tortilla alongside battered fish. And in such abundance!

For the record, they do not mix. Do not try this at home.

*disclaimer: I also ate the best fish tacos I’ve ever had in San Diego this summer, so I may be more critical than most after such a heavenly experience. But really? Scallions?

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Home: Where the Heart… and Hate is

“So much love and hate.” Words from my father at dinner two nights ago.

 

I couldn’t help but laugh because that’s exactly what I felt I needed to write about next.

 

We all have our issues with our hometowns. Too small, too big, too indifferent, too intimate. And the relationship between Seoul and me is no different.

 

For example, LOVES:

The food. All of it. Now. [차이 팥빙수 / Chai Paht-bing-soo]

The food. All of it. Now. [차이 팥빙수 / Chai Paht-bing-soo]

Transportability

Transportability

ddukboki

More food. [떡복이/ddukboki]

Cafes: perfect for hours of conversation

Cafes: perfect for hours of conversation

Did I mention food?

There are so many reasons why being home = happiness.

 

At the same time, there are moments where being home can bring about a sense of lowness.

 

Here’s where I get real (welcome to the new-and-improved blog?)

 

A few things make S. Korea less palatable. Hard to believe with some of those photos I just showed, I know.

 

1. The land of couples

Don’t believe me? In 10 seconds, I snapped these four photos.

They're everywhere.

They’re everywhere.

 

With the Westernization of its culture, Koreans began to embrace romance wholeheartedly. A little obsessively so. Now, wherever you go, you will find yourself surrounded by couples, arm-in-arm. For a single lady, it’s a bit trying. I may sound bitter, and you can judge me for that, but I do enjoy being alone right now. That gets shaken when I realize I’m the only solo person on the street.

2. The image paradigm

Even after years of being in a career where one’s physical image is scrutinized, I feel the most insecure when I’m in Seoul. Women here are just naturally tiny, and somehow I didn’t get those genes. I grew up in a city that didn’t carry my size in clothing. I was taller than most. While those two facts are now false with the passage of time, the warped self-image still takes hold: I need to diet. Why am I so large? How do I look like her? I can’t possibly be attractive in this country.

 

While I was reflecting on this, thankfully, another fact came to mind.

For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.

– Psalm 139:13-14

 

This home is not my home forever. I don’t write that because I know I’m returning to the States. I write this knowing that I have faith in a God who gives me a greater purpose than looking like the elevated example of beauty. He sees me as beautiful, born to belong to Him, and better for that.

 

 

——————————————————————————————

It’s time to enjoy the city and all I love.