Eats

The Top 5 Things I Learned at an Indian Wedding

Friendship blessed me with the opportunity to attend a Punjabi Sikh wedding last weekend.  Not only was it my first time in NorCal (San Jose!), but it was also the first Indian wedding I’ve ever attended – which meant days of parties.  I returned home Sunday night, exhausted, full of curry, and armed with new knowledge for next time.

In no particular order, here are the top five things I learned this past weekend:

1. Be prepared to eat.  No, not “eat a meal at the reception.”  We had dinner at the Mehndi ceremony on Thursday and the Sangeet on Friday.  And Saturday, we had breakfast and lunch at the hall (sandwiching the religious ceremony), and then dinner at the reception.  If you don’t like Indian food, this could be a bit challenging, but give it a chance if you’ve never had it.  You just might surprise yourself.

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Image courtesy of purvajcaterers.co.in

I’m fairly certain I ate about 12 pounds of paneer, chicken, lamb, samosas, rice, saag, kebob…I actually decided to change my outfit one night so I could eat more.  Side note – Indian desserts are a bit….different.  Spongy and very sweet.  My advice would be to fill up on the food.

2. Some of the parties may be dry.  In the U.S., “wedding” is usually synonymous with “booze,” but consumption of alcohol is prohibited in Sikhism.  This doesn’t mean that every event will be dry, but we were told, “You do you.”  Which, to many of us, said”be prepared with your own drinks.”
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Punjabi people are known for partying and having a good time, and the first two nights were not dry.  (My new drink invention is chai with spiced rum and a bit of sweetener.)  Out of respect, Saturday’s religious festivities and the reception were, however, so we made do with our own flasks.  Just don’t be too obvious, and take swigs privately.

3. It’s totally appropriate to wear a saree.  Bold and bright colors (no solid black or white), beading, embroidery, you name it.  My saree was an impulse buy between the Saturday morning ceremony and reception from a secondhand boutique that donates proceeds to help abused women.
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There are lots of videos on YouTube to teach you how to wear one, and they’re definitely not bad.  Invest in safety pins, and give it your best shot.  And if you’re still having trouble draping it, an Indian auntie will most certainly help you.

I was in the ladies’ room, trying to fix it, and she came up to me, asked if I needed help, and before I knew it, I was standing there with her hands tucking the fabric into my petticoat (aka skirt worn below your belly button).  It was a bit odd at first, but about 4 seconds in, I was immensely thankful for her help, and before I knew it, she had a line of people needing her expert advice.

4. Bring your dancing shoes.  Not dancing is not an option.  You’re at a wedding where the dance floor will basically turn into an Indian club, with pounding, energetic Indian music and flashing lights.  Plus, you’re there to celebrate.  Get off your butt and dance.
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At the Sangeet, there were choreographed traditional dances, a group dance, and then what seemed like every person trying to show off even more energetic moves.  It was bhangra style, it was American style, and it was totally fun.  It was even better with all the swirling colors.

5. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.  Pace yourself.  Indian weddings last for days and have several events.  It’s worth it to take the time to appreciate all the work that went into the coordination, the gorgeous settings and colors, and to celebrate the happy couple.  There are traditions in which you can participate, such as the groom riding in on a white horse, with his friends and family dancing around it (which in our case was a fancy Mercedes), or hoisting the bride up and carrying her while the groom tries to get a garland of flowers around her neck.  Participate in the group dances, try all the food, and make new friends.  Indians are warm and welcoming, and they certainly know how to have a good time.

At heart, weddings all share one common thing:  They are a celebration of joining two families and many friends together, and this was no exception.   I can’t wait for the next one!

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OK! Oktoberfest!

I’m baaaaaaaack!  Did you miss me? 🙂

I promise I will a) not leave you for that long again, and b) will finish both my Hong Kong and Epic Road Trip series, but for now, here’s something else.

I’ve been discovering new places as of late, as my new job offers more more flexibility and freedom than I ever though possible.  And the latest place I discovered was Fort Worth, Texas.  Okay, okay…it’s not really “discovering” it, but it was my first time there.  And no, it wasn’t to visit the Stockyards.   I might get there eventually, but this time, it was for an Oktoberfest.

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Not having the privilege of attending an actual German Oktoberfest, I suppose I can settle for a Texan one.  Aside from the cowboy boots and hats, there were plenty of lederhosen and beer wenches to go around.  It’s as authentic as you can get given the location!  It was sponsored by Spaten, who brews one of my favorite Oktoberfest beers, and with a free 19oz stein, it was going to be a good day.  I even learned some trivia.

img_20160924_164029950I’m not a lush, I promise, and I got to play a gigantic game of Jenga (which I won, thank you very much).  I mean, it might’ve been better if I could have reached the top rung, but then again, beggars can’t be choosers.  There was also a bunch of cornhole, but the Fort Worth hipsters (which seem to be a cross between kids from Williamsburg and a straight up ranchero cowboy – at least they both wear plaid?) had monopolized it.

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I am no match for the beer barrel rolling or the beer wench contest (though some might say I have the wench part down pat), so instead, I opted for food.  And food there was!  This little piggy ate schnitzel (OH EM GEE what have I been missing all my life?), sausages, sauerkraut, and warm potato salad.  There are no photos, because I ate it too fast.  I didn’t get to try some of the other things, like the roasted nuts or the pretzels, but it was time for dessert anyway.

It was cake, and it was delicious.  If I lived in Germany, I’d be a drunken fool that ate schnitzel and ate cake all the time.  And maybe that potato salad.  But definitely the cake.

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Birthday Weekend, Part 1

My third 29th birthday was last Thursday, and what better way to celebrate than a weekend getaway to…Dallas.  No, I didn’t go to Cabo, no I didn’t go on a cruise, or even New York City.  Instead, I packed a bag and set off for the winter warmth of Texas.

Of course, birthday weekend wouldn’t be off to a good start without some birthday present (to myself), in the form of new running pants.  Now all I need are some running sneakers to match 🙂

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These are super fun – the squiggles are actually silver.

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I was told these look like the 80s threw up on my black pants.

Upon my arrival in Dallas, I was greeted with a sushi dinner (being Friday and Lent and all).  It was at a place I’d been to once before, and they were nice enough to let me use my Groupon on a Friday night.  I think I have a new favorite sushi spot in Dallas, though only if there’s a deal.

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IMG_20160304_195029643The first picture is missing a few rolls that came later, and yes, you do see two of the same rolls in each photo.  They’re hands down my favorites – the black caviar one is called the White Russian…what can I say?  I love Anna, I love this sushi roll – I just love my white Russians.

Somehow, despite the weekend being insanely busy, I managed to hit a vintage market (which was actually more of a disappointment – I was hoping for much more.  Maybe next year, though) coupled with a home and garden show.  I got in trouble for taking photos, but there were some cute little cacti and lovely cards.  I also bought some hot pepper-infused jelly.  I recommend the blueberry and the jalapeño mint.

 

 

 

Post market, it was such a beautiful day, I wanted to take advantage of the weather and the marginally safer streets, and went for a run outside.  When it’s 77 degrees out and winter everywhere else, you’d be a fool to not do something outside.  A short 5k around some of Dallas’s main arteries meant that I should probably reward myself.  I had wanted to go to a brewery for ages, and finally made it:  Deep Ellum Brewing Company.  $15 gets you three pints, a souvenir glass, and some prime people watching.  And folks, my PSA soapbox comment:  Just because you think you are hot stuff and wearing leggings in public does not give you permission to go commando.  Especially if the leggings are already stretched tight.  That material stretches further when you bend over, and when that material stretches and becomes transparent….ooof.  That was NOT a Grand Canyon I wanted to visit.

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Dinnertime meant a trip to meet some friends at Chino Chinatown, which was in a fancypants area with lots of restaurants I want to try.  It’s a Latin-Asian fusion, and I have just four words for you:  Duck.  Fat.  Fried.  Rice.  Everything was delicious, but really, that fried rice was divine.  To die for.  I could go back and eat just that.  The drinks were inventive but not terribly strong, so the beers beforehand were helpful.  I’m not an alkie, I swear.  I just enjoy feeling bubbly 🙂  Good conversation, good food, nice area.  I couldn’t really ask for more for my birthday.

Like all good things, weekends come to an end, and unfortunately, so do birthday weekends.  I flew back to reality this past Monday, and have been stuck in an office for the last few days.  Friday brings about Birthday Weekend, Part 2 in DC, when I head down to see some racing friends.  I think I’m pretty lucky – who else gets to have two birthday weekends?

Life is a Highway, Part 20: Fantastic Foods

Part of what makes travel so awesome is the opportunity to eat new foods.  Sadly, on a road trip, most of the food consists of quick meals eaten on the run – but sometimes you do get some gems.  From Denver, through Wyoming, passing through Idaho, a long few days through Utah, and back to Denver, I had some pretty good dishes.  One was so good, I’ve since made it at home – the legendary croissaffles.

While I did start my trip off with some sushi, I had everything from burgers, to sandwiches, to steak tips, and the occasional dinner of bottled water/granola bars (or even fast food).  And it’s those makeshift meals, searching for a good place to eat, that make the whole trip worth it.  And now, for your gastronomic pleasure, I present my favorite foods.

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Because really, how can you go wrong?

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OH MY GOSH CROISSAFFLES! I haven’t been able to duplicate the gravy, or the breaded chicken, but holy moly. It’s the best chicken and waffles I’ve ever had.

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Hash and eggs…good stuff.

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Korean short ribs…in Colorado.

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Wyoming sandwich!

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Typical sandwich, but those onion rings could have been giant bangles for my arm.

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The only way to have a burger: Bacon, fried egg, BBQ sauce, and under it all were some mushrooms and cheese.

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Random fruit – I have no idea what it is. I didn’t try it because it was like $5 and I had no idea how to open it, but if anyone knows, let me know!

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I WANNA ICE CREAM! Square ice cream from Idaho, and it was so good. Fun shaped food just tastes better.

 

Let Them Eat Cake: Hong Kong Edition

When it comes to birthdays, my least favorite part is the cake.  I know, I know.  She doesn’t like cilantro, she doesn’t like bread, and now she doesn’t like cake?!  What the heck is wrong with this broad?!  (Lady of the Cakes, I can hear you howling in pain from here.)

Sadly, it’s true.  There must be something wrong with me.  I don’t like cake.  But while in Hong Kong, there was a pastry store ever 250 feet.  No joke.  And even though I don’t like the cake itself, I can certainly appreciate the aesthetics.  And, faithful readers, so can you.  Yes, these photos are for all two of you 🙂

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*No pandas were harmed in the making of this post.  I did not buy them, nor did I eat them.

Hao (No)Bu Hao

When I lived in China, one of the first phrases I picked up was “hao bu hao.”  Roughly translated, this means “good no good,” and means something like, “Okay?” or “Is this good for you?”

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It was even the title of my senior Honors Thesis – a guide to getting around at Zhejiang University and Hangzhou, China.

It’s no surprise that I enjoy Asian culture – specifically the food.  And I remember when Nobu opened in New York – the lines to get in, the rave reviews.  So when I had the chance to visit one of the newer additions to the family, Nobu Dallas, I jumped.

And like so many overhyped and overeagerly anticipated events, I sat in the big restaurant, framed by heavy doors and surrounded by very loud, fairly underdressed, drunk Texans.  The tasting menu had pretty small portions (albeit very good food), and despite the server being decent in everything else, two of the six dishes had cilantro on/in them. A full Benjamin in alcohol later (which was only four drinks – total), I wasn’t…unsatisfied, but I didn’t feel like I had a $300 meal.

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First course – salmon sashimi with wasabi cucumber salsa, ponzu sauce, and watercress.

It got me thinking about things that get overhyped.  Movies, books, TV shows, restaurants, plays…I remember being BEYOND excited to see Ragtime on Broadway…only to be completely disappointed with the show, despite the rave reviews from, well, everywhere.  Even college was overhyped – by the time I actually figured out that yes, I am going to do XYZ here, the college experience had been lost on me.

Why do we do this?  And how does the groupthink affect us SO much that a lot of times, it’s a letdown?  Someone close to me doesn’t get excited about…well, anything.  I’ve been told it’s because things get so hyped up, that if they don’t come to pass in the way you wanted them to, it’s a big disappointment, and rather than be disappointed, have ground floor expectations so that your two options are a) elation, or b) no change.   Rather pessimistic, if you ask me, but I do see the point.

It’s just that I had heard so many amazing things about Nobu, there is a year-long wait list to get a reservation, it’s SUPER FAMOUS!!!  And upon sitting there, eating, drinking, and generally being….not overwhelmed (can you be just whelmed?), I realized that, like many other things in my life, my expectations were not managed, and I was a bit disappointed.

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The second course – tuna sashimi with CILANTRO DRESSING and daikon radish and CILANTRO. Sigh….what a vile weed.

Sadly, if I were asked, “Nobu, hao bu hao?”  I’d say “No, let’s go somewhere else, I have to hold the first hao.” At least this time around.  It wasn’t bad, per se, but it was just ok – like so many other things that are larger than life, till you actually get up close and personal.

But let’s not be hasty – I’m not one to be disappointed, and done with it.  Forever the optimist, I am known to always give second (and third, and fourth, and seventy-eighth) chances, to anyone, for anything.  That being said, should someone want to take me back to Nobu, to try the black cod, I could be convinced.  As long as they hold the cilantro.

If I Can’t Enjoy Fashion Week…

…I will enjoy Restaurant Week.

I’m lucky enough that Boston and New York are close enough to enjoy some of the best food on the East Coast, and I’m even luckier that it’s now the new trend to hold Restaurant Week in even the tiniest of towns.  Of course, it’s better when there seem to be more restaurants than people, so while in New York this weekend, my friend Geoff and I decided to take advantage of what equates to Restaurant Month.

It’d been five years since we hung out, so we figured we’d make a day of it. We selected DBGB, a place on the Lower East Side, and with time to kill, we headed to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  No, I did not sit on the steps like Blair – they’re actually pretty dirty and insanely crowded, (but I sat there at the top, in my head).

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The Met steps are NEVER this deserted….Image courtesy of crissycalhoun.com 

Inside, we took a gander at some of the exhibits – there is a whole floor of Asian art, and a hallway of fashion influenced by Asian culture.  Who doesn’t love some haute couture Alexander McQueen with a touch of soy sauce?

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A music exhibit followed – as a musician, there were some pretty awesome instruments.  There was a saxophone I’m pretty sure I couldn’t lift if I tried, there were clavichords (they sound like this) and a hundred beautiful keyboards of all ages and sizes.  It used to be my dream to own a 9′ Steinway concert grand, but I suspect until I own a home, I’ll have to make do with my little Yamaha electric piano. I also have a thing for pipe organs, and going into new churches is always a treat because I can turn around to stare.

IMG_20150802_170406861Finally, we wandered the halls to the armor and weaponry exhibit.  Weapons from the Japanese Shogun era to the Crusades to the last World War.  The most fun part was realizing that I could fit in the old Japanese armor – ancient Asians be midgety!

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Complete with modern day ghost!

Finally, it was time for food.  DBGB is a French fusion place, and we had oysters (East Coast, please), and I opted for what was basically fancy macaroni and cheese with tomatoes, mushrooms, and duck confit, and a creme fraiche/mint ice cream dessert.  Geoff chose the burger and a plum tart ( I won on dinner, he totally won on dessert).

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We hustled to get me back to Grand Central, and I made the train with time to spare.  Visiting an old friend, art, fashion, food, jaunts through Chinatown and NYU, passing by Madison Square Park and enjoying a gorgeous summer Sunday – what else do you need for a day NYC?