28 June 2009

summer happenings

summerupto00besides cramming an entire year’s worth of german into an eleven week period, swimming at my new favorite pool because it’s free and has a designated lap lane to keep out the kiddos, and diving into good books… here is what i've been doing and thinking about.

summerupto01yet another reason why I could never, ever, ever be vegetarian or vegan or anything that cuts out anything.

taiwanese sweet bread (with lots of egg and butter). delicious by itself

add some fine herb boursin cheese. insanely delicious.

bacon. explosively delicious.

best combo ever, thanks to my roommate M for making up this one.

summerupto02I have lots of flour. lots more than normal people. more specifically, more like 24lbs more than normal people. so I’ve begun making lots of bread! here is a honfleur country bread, aka pain de campagne – honfleur, that is resting and rising.

summerupto03spinach quiche. same thing as the quiche lorraine, except spinach replaced the bacon.

summerupto04and in the art realm, here is where some dried pears have taken me! they are pinned to a piece of cork, which makes this entire block bendy and fun.

summerupto05a close-up. a comment I got at my art crit last week: these fruit pieces work either tiny (rings, jewelry) or large. medium does not suit them well. they are stronger as sculpture rather than flat on the wall. lots to think about and play around.

and that is my summer so far!

26 June 2009

mos burger

mosburgerlogoAs much as I love France, I can’t abandon my other love, Taiwan. So let’s take a little trip to this past Christmas. And I’d like to share a fast food (gasp!) burger (gasp!) joint that I enjoy – Mos Burger. It’s actually a Japanese chain, but there are 150 of them scattered throughout Taiwan. And 1,363 in Japan. ! Japan isn’t that much bigger than Taiwan… but then again, they are one of the most space efficient cultures out there.

What Mos Burger is famous for is their rice burger – rather than the American style hamburger bun, the founder, Atsushi Sakurada, decided to tailor his burger to the Japanese taste buds and make his own bun, made of rice. Size wise, they are also tailored to Asian portions – smaller than an American burger, but larger than a slider. In other words, perfect for me! Not too big, but not too tiny either.

mosburger_websiteHere are photos taken from their website. I’m putting up theirs because mine are terribly shot. (If you want to visit their website, I suggest visiting the Singapore one since it is in English.)

mosburgermenuTheir menu is English friendly! Although… I still don’t know what Yakinuku/Shogayaki/Konnyaku/etc is, so I had to resort to the “point at picture and order” style of ordering.

mosburger_togo If you order them to go, they come packaged like this. All wrapped up and ready to eat!

I would like to add, that at the time of taking these photos, I had 3 hungry people waiting on me. So there was no time to find a nice spot, clear a background, carefully place the burger on a plate and arrange it… it was was essentially: unwrap, take 2 photos, eat. As much as I like nice food pictures, I’m not a cruel person when others are waiting – life comes first, pretty food pictures come second. Besides, it just means I’ll have to eat at Mos burger again, when there aren’t growling stomachs around me.

And honestly, I have no idea what’s in them… but I’m not a picky person, so it was all good to me.

mosburger01_seafoodriceburgerSeafood Rice Burger - 海洋珍珠堡 – hai3 yang2 zhen1 zhu1 bao3

mosburger02_yakinakuYakiniku Rice Burger - 燒肉珍珠堡 – shao1 rou4 zhen1 zhu1 bao3 (beef)

mosburger03_shogayakiShogayaki Rice Burger - 薑燒珍珠堡 – jiang1 shao1 zhen1 zhu1 bao3 (pork)

mosburger04_konnyaku Konnyaku Rice Burger - 蒟蒻珍珠堡 – ju3 ruo4 zhen1 zhu1 bao3

What is konnyaku? I don’t know, but Wikipedia does! Apparently it’s a vegan plant substitute for gelatin.

mosburger05_shrimpcutletburgerShrimp Cutlet Burger - 黃金炸蝦堡 – huang2 jin1 zha4 xia1 bao3

mosburger_dessert 白玉紅豆派 – bai2 yu2 hong2 dou4 pai4

This is a… i don’t even know. It has red bean, which is a common item in Taiwanese desserts. Either way, delicious to me.

A fair warning, Mos Rice burgers are messy to eat. As you can imagine, rice doesn’t hold together as well as a burger bun. And if you ever find yourself in Taiwan, McDonald’s has their own version of the rice burger as well…. but keep in mind that Mos Burger is the one that came up with it, so you should try Mos Burger’s first. There plenty of other unique things to eat on the McD menu.

mosburger_milk

You can even order milk in a cute bottle! And green tea milk… i think.

22 June 2009

magic coconut flan

coconutflan01magic. the stuff you know doesn’t exist, but you choose to ignore reality and believe. just because life is better when it’s magic rather than the real reason.

i became curious and enamored with this recipe for a magic self separating 2 layer flan. the top layer is your usual velvety smooth flan, but the bottom is a chewy and delicious coconut meringue…. yum! I also love how all parts of the egg are used in this flan, not just the yolks.

what you shall need, and what you shall do to perform this lovely trick:

Caramel Sauce (skip if you already have some) Recipe from here.

1 tbs white vinegar

500g powdered sugar

125ml water

250ml water

Bring the vinegar, powdered sugar, and 125 ml of water to a boil. once it’s reached a medium brown color (but not too dark!), take it off the heat and let it cool for a bit. add the 250ml of water carefully, test it with a few drops at first and gauge for yourself if its cool enough to add. if its too hot, it will first make a huge eruption noise, then splash back, hurt, and create a mess. not fun. (spoken from experience… lots of scrubbing experience.) after the water has been mixed in, bring the whole thing back to a boil, and then let it cool. Pour it into a jar, and once refrigerated, it should last a while!

Coconut Flan (recipe modified from Sucrissime)

400g sweetened condensed milk (1 can)

400g whole milk

125g shredded coconut

3 egg yolks

vanilla extract

3 egg whites

1. Mix the condensed milk, whole milk, shredded coconut, three egg yolks, and vanilla extract  together.

2. Whisk the egg whites in a separate bowl until you have a nice meringue… glistening and foamy.

3. Fold the meringue gently into the main mix.

4. Pour the caramel sauce into all of your little ramekins. then pour the flan into each of the ramekins.

5. Bake the ramekins in a water bath at 400F for about an hour, or until firm.

coconutflan02the transition point of coconut to flan…. isn’t it seductive?

My extra tip: The coconut will get really dark because it doesn’t need as much time as the rest of the flan to bake. If that bothers you, use a taller ramekin (or a coffee cup) and make sure that the water in the main water bath is higher than the level of your flan. This will prevent your coconut from burning. However, this isn’t really too big of a deal.

My extra tip #2: If your water bath starts boiling in the oven, just slip a few ice cubes in to cool it down.

Of course, the “magic” in this flan caused by the meringue and coconut floating to the top, thus giving this flan two very distinct yummy textures. But i like the idea of magic much more than the truth, don’t you?

20 June 2009

flat dried fruit

flatdriedfruit04today is an exciting day, because a radio interview I did a few weeks ago is finally airing! 11AM pacific time, but it will be up for download later on.

flatdriedfruit01it’s for good food, a radio show based in LA hosted by Evan Kleiman of Angeli Cafe about my dried fruit rings and necklaces.

I was definitely nervous during the pre-interview, but it went so smoothly (i think) for the real one.

flatdriedfruit03i feel as if the pieces themselves have made their own path. i only guide the material, but it really shines on its own without very much help from me. i never force it to do something it doesn’t want to do.  for example, some people are masters at manipulating their medium into very technical and precise shapes. but me, i would rather just work with the shape that is given to me naturally and build up the inherent strengths that it already possesses.  my metals professor once said that I had a sensitivity to material, which I think fits how I work very well.

i just try to find ways to emphasize and flatter the material by reacting to how it wants to be rather than forcing my ideas and forms onto it.

flatdriedfruit02and so i’m excited to see where my love for fruit and food will take me! this is where I left off before graduation. flat rings of sealed overlapping dried fruit. at first I intended them to be wearable, but I ditched that pretty quickly. i like the idea of playing with wall space, but it’s still in its beginning stages.

on a side note, a few friends have started a crit group and I was invited to take part in it. this is great because it keeps me actively thinking and making since I no longer have a grade and gpa to keep me going. and in a way, it’s more important than the crits at school because these are thoughts by people whose opinion I genuinely care about.

PS: my friend and now roommate M is on his way to being an art star! he’s one of 24 wonderful artists chosen as arthouse’s new american talent. (he’s the first one – mark aguhar.) i’m so proud of him, and one day I’ll do a proper post dedicated to him.

17 June 2009

honey and jam

honeyjam01a handwritten expiration date. when was the last time you saw that!?

let me tell you how strange i am.

At my new apartment, with my new roommate M, I brought out a box. A box full of precious jams and honeys from France and Germany. My roommate’s response: “Cathy, most people bring back, at most, 2 jars of jams, and say, Yay! Jam from France! Done! Not 8 jars of jam and 5 jars of honey.”

And another friend, P, when I showed her the the tube of crème marron (chestnut cream) for the Mont Blancs I plan to make eventually – she thought I had ordered it online, or bought it in a gourmet store in Texas. When she realized that, no, I had actually bought it in a grocery store in Europe, packed it into my suitcase, lugged it across different countries, and cleared customs with it, she just said very slowly, “We have very different ideas on what souvenirs are… I bought stuff like T-shirts when I went to Europe…”

But come on. Banana Litchi Guava jam? Avocado Honey? Strawberries & Wild Strawberries jam? Mango and Passion fruit jam? How can you expect me to not buy them!?

But here is the key: when I bought them, I had no idea when I would be returning to Europe. In fact, I didn’t even know about the assistantship program. So I wanted to be able to savor everything about Europe for a long, long time once I got back to the states. My plan was quite selfish: they were going to be hidden & locked up, and brought out on special occasions when I had super delicious bread, and I was going to ration it out to 1 jar every 2 months so it would last me until 2012, when they expired.

honeyjam03

And it was more than the fact that they tasted good. It was the fact that every time I had a bit spread out on a slice of toasted bread, I was flooded with memories. Memories of all the people I met, the things I did, the sights I saw – and once these jars were empty, I was afraid those memories would fade away. So I wanted to stretch them until the next time I found myself back in Europe.

Then I was accepted into the program in April. Which meant that I was going back to Europe. Which meant that these do not need to be saved and hoarded because I was going to have unlimited access to them once I’m back! (In the past 9 months, I only finished one jar of them. It was that precious to me.) In fact, it’s the opposite now – these need to get eaten ASAP because after August, I’ll be back in Europe and there won’t be anybody to eat them for 9 months! And I know I won’t want them next summer because I’ll have discovered new jams and honeys to eat… So now there is a little less than 3 months to empty these jars of deliciousness– which is impossible to do by myself.

So I get to do my next favorite thing – share. With people I like. First, the honey – I brought it to my German class along with a loaf of Challah bread. It was such a nice feeling being able to share something that was so precious to me with so many different people. And we all learned a bit of German by reading the labels. By sharing my honeys and jams, not only am I sharing food, I’m also sharing all the happy things I experienced last year. So there is much more than just fruit and sugar in these jars.

As for the rest – HONEY AND JAM AND MIMOSA PARTYS! Yay!

Don’t worry. None of these are going to to go to waste. I’ve got plenty of friends who are going to have delicious breakfasts/snacks this summer!

honeyjam02

15 June 2009

dried fruit necklaces

driednecklaces04 part 2 of the dried fruit jewelry project. these were made in late april/early may.

Just more continuation and exploration of a material I adore.

driednecklaces01 My lovely now-ex roommate N being my model. <3

driednecklaces02 Beets & Red delicious apple.

driednecklaces03Close up.

driednecklaces05 Pears.

driednecklaces06 Beets and plums.

driednecklaces07 Granny smith apple.

driednecklaces08 Sweet potato.

driednecklaces09 Granny smith.

driednecklaces10Close-up.

Some things have changed/I am playing with:

1. The fruit has been sealed, with either lacquer or wax. I wanted to see if these would hold up better/longer than the raw ones. However, I’m not a fan because it changes the meaning of the pieces somewhat – being sealed, they stop being about the moment and instead go into the preservation. And wax = bad because it just flakes off. I’m still on the hunt for different ways to treat the surface!

2. For the first time ever, a piece of mine involves no soldering. This was important to me because it was my last project as an art student, and I wouldn’t have access to equipment. So it felt god to be able to make something without relying on tons of equipment.

3. I am thinking of taking a break from the wearable. I’ve use the body for so long, and right now I am just eyeing the walls…

4. I still want to push the issue of time and memory – with any material, not just dried fruit.

We’ll see where dried fruit takes me! As always, I let the material guide me and never vice-versa. I’ve learned to not force, just follow and react.

14 June 2009

my dream bookstore


at home this weekend. and as I flipped through the newspaper, I saw an ad for a new bookstore, legacy books, "the largest independent bookstore to open in decades in your community!"

too bad it is about an hour away for me - not exactly a spontaneous thing to do on a lazy sunday afternoon, especially when one has a 3 hour drive later on. but if i am ever in the area, i will definitely check it out.

but it made me start thinking.

and planning.

about my perfect bookstore if I were to ever open one.

I'll be the first to admit that I never buy a new book from a store because I can always get it cheaper with free shipping on amazon. Always. The only exceptions are magazines, because the cost of buying these online never justifies shipping. Especially those foreign ones. Which is why I am always more than happy to shell out cash for these at bookstores.

But I also rarely buy a new book in general because I'm much more obsessed with the old. And I spend an insane amount on worn and used books.

The fate of the independent book store... I love them, but how can I support them? And how could I start a bookstore that would actually survive?

It would not be a general bookstore. It would be very specific. I think museum gift shops have the area of art books covered, so I don't see any reason to mess with that. But a cookbook bookstore. Or a language bookstore.

Oooo, the languages!

I would have both used and new books. Definitely. It would have 3 main sections: language learning books, books in a foreign language, and a children's version of the previous 2. In addition, I'd carry audiobooks, cd programs, workbooks, textbooks, etc. - all those things used for language learning. (and possibly: magazines and travel books.)

But most exciting, I'd reach out to the community. I'd open up my bookstore to host meetup language groups. People can gather in my little bookstore to practice their new language! And I'd eavesdrop and soak up as much as I could.

I'd contact all the cultural groups in the community, and offer them some space if they wanted to hold an event. Can you imagine? One week it might be greek, the next, german, and the next, japanese, etc. Anything to promote a language, I would be game! However, I would ask that they open it to the public so other people can join in on the fun.

I'd also have a giant cork board where people can post ads looking for translators and tutors.

And maybe a coffee shop inside. With pastries. Rotating from a different culture each time.... hmmm.... Or maybe not rotating. Or maybe I'd sell pastries from a different ethnic bakery each time. Or maybe I'd bake it myself. Or... well, I think I'm deviating into my "dream patisserie", and that is not the topic today. Hmmm!

Also very important: I'd have the most comfortable couches ever in the store. A bookstore is not a bookstore if the customers can't happily sink into a nice chair.

And of making money and staying in business.... of course I have not thought of that! since it's just a fun dream right now, i don't need to think about "reality." and now that i think about it, i'd be happy if it were a library, or even an archive collection like the ransom center... I'll just file this one under "future possible plans for the far, far, far, far, far future" in my to-do list in life.

09 June 2009

sun-dried tomato flatbread

sundriedtomatoflatbread01 What’s this? Why would I show an empty plastic container? Well, it wouldn’t be empty if I could only resist. But I can’t. It used to have a few (and i mean a few) slivers of Central Market’s absolutely amazing sun-dried tomato flatbread. It never lasts more than 24 hours when I buy it because I can snack on this all day at any hour. Unfortunately, at about 4.00 per box, it was too expensive for me to constantly buy (especially considering the ingredients are simply flour and water).

But I’ve done something even more dangerous now.

I found a recipe… and made my own… and it was GOOD. this is bad. real bad. money used to hold me back from devouring them. and now, nothing stands between me + bliss.

I modified this recipe from Wild Yeast.

Ingredients:

150g wheat flour

150g semolina flour

6g salt

170g lukewarm water

sun-dried tomato paste (the amount? as intense as you want it... for me, it was about 4 or 5 tablespoons? I honestly just used what was left in the jar. the more the tastier!)

parsley

olive oil for brushing

sundriedtomatoflatbread02Mix together all your dry ingredients, and add the water. You’ll get a nice lump of dough. Add the sun-dried tomato paste and knead it in. Knead for three minutes, then cover and let it rest for 15 minutes. Knead again for two minutes, then cover and let rest for 20 minutes.

sundriedtomatoflatbread03Preheat your oven to 450F and the fun begins! Take a sheet of parchment paper, a bit of dough, and roll it to the thinnest you can get it. For those with a pasta maker… lucky. For the rest of us, roll away!

Then sprinkle with whatever you like! In my case, parsley and shredded parmesan, but I’m sure 100% of the herbs and seeds out there would be equally delicious. Lastly, brush with olive oil and stick it in the oven for about five minutes until it is ripply and has nice golden brown spots.

sundriedtomatoflatbread04i love.

my flatbread actually comes out somewhat soft and soggy after it’s cooled, and I’m assuming it is because I can’t roll it as thin as a pasta roller can. So, here is what I do to get some crunch: after they’ve cooled, I grab some scissors and cut them into squares and then stick them back into the oven for another 5 minutes. then you get crispy crackers!

sundriedtomatoflatbread05Of course, my signature, the mishap. I don’t think I’ve ever made anything that hasn’t gone wrong, but oh well! Here is what once was a delicious flatbread that is now chunks of black stuff because I was watching videos on youtube instead of the oven. I like burnt stuff, but only to a point.

PS: My new roommate, M, does something which I now like: cracker + goat cheese + TON of garlic powder = delishhhhh!

02 June 2009

german

switzerland, with germany in the background obscured by the early fog. august 2008.

As of June 1, 2009, I can happily say I officially started learning german. I wanted to write about it on on that day, but was in the midst of moving out and was too wiped out. And I’ve come to realize I can’t always mark an important day by writing about it on that same day, because those days are often the busiest and I am always too tired to move, let alone even think.

Why am I learning German? 3 reasons.

1. For myself. My own pleasure and happiness of discovering a new culture, new books, new music, new movies, new perspective,etc. - new everything that makes me so happy that comes with a new language.

2. For my cousins. My swiss cousins, my aunt, my swiss uncle, and the friends of my swiss cousins! I went last summer and spoke english with everybody, and I can’t wait to go back and speak with them in their native tongue. (okay, so they all speak swiss-german. i’m hoping i can make the jump without too much trouble…)

3. For the memory. I am always in pursuit of something, whether it be a job, a collection, a passion, etc. This time, it’s for a memory. The memory of a family of five German brothers and sisters who lived in Taiwan in the 1970s for two years. 5 Germans whom my mom met, lived with, became close friends with, and lost all contact with after those two years. I have a few black and white photos, their names, their old address, and the name of the university where their father worked at.

And yes, I could just do some major googling + paying a private investigator – but the idea of physically going there, exploring the city, talking to people, and just being there is a lot more meaningful. And fun too.

August 2008…

I was crazy for cows. Swiss cows. If happy cows come from california, then cows in pure bliss are in switzerland. I was obsessed with them. So obsessed that every time we passed by one (which was about every 5 minutes), I became super excited and happy. And the coolest part was that my cousins lived right next to a barn with lots of cows! I would go visit and just watch.

But here’s the best part: The owner spoke only German. and I spoke English (well, Chinese and French, but I don’t think he knew those either). But we talked and had a conversation. About what, I’m not sure, but I don’t really care – we still had a conversation. That’s a moment when I realized that there is so much more than language when it comes to talking. And the cows as well – of course they couldn’t talk, but I sure enjoyed listening to them moo-ing and I don’t think they minded me talking to them as well.

I can’t wait to return and use the German I’ll learn to talk with him again! By the end of the summer, my goal is to be able to say:

-Do you remember me?

-I was here last year.

-Thank you for letting me wander around your cows!

-I now know a little bit of German and we can talk!

etc. Right now I only know the alphabet, a few greetings, some numbers, some verbs… but just wait until the end of August. Just wait.

And no worries, I’m going to keep my French up as well!

PS: This is the best california cows commercial.

PPS: My German prof, within the first 15 minutes, made a Mel Brooks reference. That sealed the deal for me. Any person who likes Mel Brooks and enjoys all the layers of humor of his movies is a smart person worth getting to know.

PPPS: I was planning on just learning German myself over the summer… but finding a job for only the summer that doesn’t involve lifeguarding is tough. and I needed something to keep me from going nuts. and this is it!