2013: Strangers, Money, & Opportunity

Last Year's Short Rib

The title of this post sounds a lot like the headline of some political scandal, but in fact, it highlights the keywords of things I learned this year. I don’t know about you guys, but I learned and changed a lot in 2013. I discovered new passions, such as Olympic-style weightlifting. I tried new things, from coding at hackathons to wrestling, and I changed the way I make decisions.

Cantonese Pork Belly at Nom
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01. January 2014 by Earl
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Raku and Dolcezza Artisanal Gelato

Tuna Tartare at Raku

Tomorrow, I am going up to New York before I head back up to school the next day Thursday. I look forward to returning to school because, over the summer, I set my mind on a career path and found what passions I really want to pursue. Without delving into details, I gained new life experiences this summer. For that, I have to thank everyone I spent the summer with—fellow interns in Houston, old high school friends I met up with in California, new friends I made at Google, and more. Yet, as I prepare for my third year at Yale, I can’t help but feel rushed. With only two years of college left, I wonder if I’ll find myself in the spring of senior year wanting to start over. This is something I’ve talked about with recent graduates and alumni, and they’ve all agreed that by the end of senior year, Yalies are ready for and accepting of moving on to the real world. While comforting, this doesn’t change my renewed determination to maximize the latter half of my college years, so here’s to the next two years.

Raku

Last weekend, I visited a hip Japanese restaurant located in the heart of Bethesda, MD. Located in the midst of a busy shopping district, Raku is easy to overlook, but for its reasonably low prices, it doesn’t disappoint.

When I met my friend Sarah at the restaurant on a Friday evening, Raku was packed to the brim. Chances are, without the reservation I made earlier on in the week, we would have looked at a healthy waiting period before getting seated. In retrospect, some time spent with the menu before getting seated wouldn’t have hurt.

Raku’s dinner menu spans over 15 sections, from First Flavors to California Lineups. Among the intriguing options are ‘Seoul’ Train Roll and Chinese Five Spiced Duck Breast. Raku’s menu brings the indecisiveness out of most people, and it is menus like this that make me want to pursue a part-time role as a paid food writer, just so I could order everything that fancies my mind.
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20. August 2013 by Earl
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Google Chrome Academy 2013

Team Baguette

Last week, I attended a program called Google Chrome Academy, and it was one of the most memorable weeks I’ve enjoyed in my life. Chrome Academy is a weeklong camp at Google’s main campus in Mountain View, CA, where rising sophomores and juniors learn about web technologies, such as AngularJS and Polymer, and build their own web apps for a culminating presentation. In a sense, it’s like a week-long hackathon. To me, it was a paid vacation. Everything is covered—from basics, such as flights, hotel, and food, to extras, such as Patagonia backpack, Nexus 7, and a Google apron. We rode around in limos, posed for photos with the storied bicycles Google has lying around campus, hand-made pizzas at a Google café, took pictures of ourselves sleeping on charter buses, ate garlic fries at AT&T park while watching the Giants face off against the Marlins, and talked late into the night about where we wanted to be next summer.

Few things in life are better than you anticipate it, but this was one of them. Perhaps it was the late-night coding fueled by beef jerky and OhYeah! protein bars, or the laughter shared with my teammates who all came from different walks of life, or the feeling of roaming Googleplex as if I were a freshman again, but everything seemed just right. I found myself inside a bubble where nearly everything and only the things I care about* were all there. I even managed to get a few sleep-deprived, weightlifting sessions in, one of which resulted in a snatch PR.

At Google, we heard first-hand about web technologies. For example, Eric Bidelman, one of the developers of the new Polymer framework, taught us about web components and Polymer. Vojta Jina, a developer working on AngularJS, introduced us to the emerging Javascript MVW framework. We learned how to optimize our websites and utilize HTML5 features from Googlers who helped write specs. Everyone who dropped by were masters of their fields. I have no doubt that they were all probably busy with more pressing matters, but here they were, there, in-person, open to having one-on-one conversations and help sessions.

The food I ate, the free swag I got, and the new technologies I learned about will all fade into the past, but the people I met, the friends I made, the struggles, laughters, and aspirations we shared will be with me forever. Thank you to everyone who became a part of my experience at Chrome Academy, especially the organizers—Allison, Janet, Desiree, and Peter—my team, and the few others not on my team but wished you were.

*This is a dangerous statement to make because I care about many more things, such as family, but I’m going to go ahead and abuse my literary license.

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27. June 2013 by Earl
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Reflections Upon 2012

Leaving France

As a way to assess how well I spent 2012 and to make 2013 a strong year, I’m going to go through very briefly things I learned this year, things I appreciated, goals I accomplished, etc. This is for my benefit, but maybe you’ll pick up some things along the way too.

What went well

People

Eiffel Tower on Bastille Day

I met a lot of fantastic people this year and also improved my relationship with people I knew since before 2012. I shared some incredible experiences with people I never would have expected to know back in January last year. I really wish I could list them all here, but I don’t want to accidentally exclude anyone, so I won’t. However, if you think you are one of those people, thank you! You made my 2012 infinitely better, and I hope I did the same for you.

Goal: Despite meeting a lot of great new people, I grew apart from some people I was close with last year or even in the first half of 2012. I want to try and hang out with those people more in 2013. I also want to keep meeting new people. Continue Reading →

30. December 2012 by Earl
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Christmas Dinner

Kimchi and egg sandwich

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone! Above, is a kimchi and egg sandwich I made a few days ago. I spent the majority of the day today cooking and working out. I talked to some nice stranger at the gym who went to Hobart College in upstate New York. Apparently, he played lacrosse there, and decades later, he doesn’t seem to have gotten out of shape at all, definitely something we should all aspire to—lifetime fitness.

For dinner, I cooked NY strip steaks in a 132ºF water bath for ~7 hours. I learned that 7 hours is much too long to cook a strip steak for. The texture of meat somewhat disappeared, and in retrospect, I should have gone with a quick 1-1.5 hour cooking time.

We also had a ton of roasted vegetables—yams, butternut squash, beets, and Brussels sprouts. Everything besides the Brussels sprouts were simply seasoned with olive oil and sea salt. I used a balsamic, Dijon mustard vinaigrette for the Brussels sprouts. The Dijon mustard was the last of an artisanal brand I brought back from Paris this summer. Continue Reading →

25. December 2012 by Earl
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Fall Semester & Heirloom

New England chopped salad at Heirloom

This past fall semester has been quite hectic for me. I took on five classes, a board position at the school newspaper, and, more recently, a new job with Yale’s Collaborative Learning Center. On top of that, the Yale Epicurean put out another stellar issue, and the Epicurean recipes editor Lucas founded a culinary society, which I am now a part of. I also lifted with the club Powerlifting Team for the early part of the semester, though scheduling conflicts put an end to that and forced me to lift on my own. I’m hoping to be able to attend practices again in the spring.

Anyways, despite being overloaded and stressed for time, this semester has also been an reinvigorating one. I feel like I’ve gotten back the rigor I had during my junior year of high school where every second had a purpose—a slight overstatement but something I strive for. I also learned a lot, from what sub game perfect equilibrium is to how basic facial recognition works. I love learning new things and being productive, so this has been a great semester in that sense.

I’ve also figured out that I definitely want to get into the computer science field, though I feel like this is something I knew subconsciously for quite some time. The only question now is whether I double major with CS and Economics, just major in CS, major in the CS & Math joint major, or major in the Electrical Engineering & CS joint major. Regardless, I’ve gotten enough requirements out of the way so that I can do any of the above by taking only four classes a semester from here on out, which will give me more time to pursue side projects and learn more applicable computer science knowledge, since Yale’s CS curriculum is concept-heavy.

But enough about my life, after all, this is a food blog, and you’re all probably hungry for some food pictures. Continue Reading →

18. December 2012 by Earl
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Chartier

Eiffel Tower on Bastille Day

So I just got back from Paris after finishing my 5-week course there, and I’m excited to be back. I’ll definitely miss a lot of aspects of Parisian life, but I also missed being in the U.S.

Even though French eating habits are currently evolving, the French eat differently than we do. Many of these French eating habits play a role in keeping their obesity rates lower than those in the U.S. For example, the French seem to dedicate time solely to eating, and they rarely eat outside of these times. They have a set breakfast, lunch, and dinner—breakfast usually being the smallest—and set aside time to sit at a table and enjoy the degustation of food. Most French people are not frequent snackers, and snacking remains a largely American habit. Oftentimes, dinners with my host mom would last up to two hours not because of the amount of food we ate but because of the conversation and slow-paced eating that occurred at the table.

Furthermore, the French seem to eat small amounts of food but with greater variety. Dinners with my host mom always consisted of an entrée, main plate, and cheese. She would also offer fruits as dessert. Throughout the course of dinner, I was able to taste a variety of textures and flavors and almost always left satisfied in terms of taste. I would never, however, leave the dinner table feeling “full.” Emotional satisfaction of eating without the copious amounts of calories likely plays a role in lowering average calorie consumption in France.

Ironically, the French diet consists heavily of fats and simple carbohydrates. My housemate and friend Bernardo often relied on a simple baguette and cheese for lunch, two French specialties. Baguettes always served as a vehicle or side accompaniment at dinner—though I myself did not divulge in this habit.

Parisians also have a habit of smoking. While in the U.S., smoking has diminished, Parisians believe smoking to be a la mode, or in fashion. Consequently, not a day went by without inadvertently inhaling second-hand smoke. Though smoking is inarguably detrimental to one’s health, and I do not at all recommend smoking, smoking does carry the side-effect of reducing appetite. That, coupled with a more active lifestyle attributed to biking and small portion sizes, the Parisians seem to stay slim.

Duck confit at Chartier

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20. August 2012 by Earl
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Claus & Mini Magoo’s Muesli

muesli

Paris:la ville de les lumières, a city with almost more three-Michelin star restaurants—18—than the entire United States, itself, and a quality baguette on every block.

It’s been nearly two weeks since my arrival here for a French language program, and I think I’ve gotten into the rhythm of life in Paris. Before, coming I planned on trying to keep as much of my routine as I could while modestly assimilating into Parisian society. What does that entail? A subscription to a gym so I can continue weight lifting, aiming for eight hours of sleep per night, continue eating healthy (unfortunately, that means no unlimited baguettes or cheese degustations), signing up for the public bike transportation system, and tasting (at least just once) French delicacies such as macaroons, crêpes, and foie gras.

Life in Paris with this program keeps me as busy as ever. Between classes, homework, and mandatory excursions (guided tours), I barely find time to fit in my workouts and independent exploration of Paris. Right now, my daily weekday schedule consists more or less like the following:

Beginning time or window of time. Activity.

  • 6-7 a.m. Wake up. Do work.
  • 10 a.m. Class.
  • 1 p.m. Gym & Lunch/Snack.
  • 2:30-3 p.m. Afternoon obligatory excursion with class, or, on some occasions when we don’t have any excursion, independent exploration of Paris.
  • 3-6:30 p.m. Get home and work.
  • 8 p.m. Dinner
  • 9:30 p.m. Work.
  • 10-12 p.m. Sleep.

After a workout, I always treat myself to a carb-heavy treat. Generally, that means buying a crêpe sucre—a sugared crêpe—a baguette, or other baked good. This is because I train fasted, and after a workout, the body needs carbohydrates to repair muscle and replenish glycogen stores. Simple carbs are great for a post-workout snack because the body processes them quickly and can use them as soon as possible. Even when not training fasted, it’s a good idea to get 20-50g of simple carbs into your system after your workout (Note: By workout, I mean something that requires high intensity bursts of energy such as sprinting or weightlifting. Those are the types of exercises that will almost exclusively deplete glycogen stores and require an elevated amount of muscle repair.)

This past Thursday, I visited a hip breakfast spot near my gym called Clause. The interior is blanketed in white; the countertops look spotless. A large, rectangular blackboard spans the left wall as you come in; it features the day’s specials and tells you what’s available. On the right are small, two-seat tables, and a shelf of packaged foods and baking supplies. In the far-right corner begins a staircase spiraling upwards to the main dining area. On the opposite corner, visible from the shop’s entrance is a linear staircase descending towards the kitchen. In between the two staircase stands an open-air refrigerator stand keeping the day’s freshly made sandwiches cool. By noon, the rack is nearly empty save for a couple sandwiches and fromage blanks. Continue Reading →

22. July 2012 by Earl
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Miya’s Sushi

miyas-sushi-tuna-avocado

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of sushi. I’ve eaten at numerous sushi buffets spanning across a couple states and stuffed myself to the brink of hospitalization each time. I’ve made faux tuna out of watermelon and even written a narrative for a food writing class at Yale about how I grew up afraid of sushi but came to love it.

To me, sushi balances a plethora of food qualities that you normally don’t see together except at high-end restaurants. Given small, traditional portion sizes, sushi tends to err on the healthy side, but it’s not a simple amalgamation of vegetables. Sushi provides delicate pieces of raw fish and presents them in an artistic, elegant manner. The variety of flavors can vary dramatically, letting the chef’s creativity shine, but the basis remains the same: raw fish bundled with extra ingredients wrapped in rice and nori. In America, sandwiches remain the iconic lunch food, but in Japan, sushi has a firm grasp of that role.

However, as much as I love sushi and appreciate its diversity, there’s a limit to how precisely my tongue can discern flavors or textures and my mind remember them. Perhaps it’s because I mainly eat at sushi buffets and always end up consuming more rolls than I can count, but I find it hard to come out of a sushi restaurant with a firm opinion on what roll was best and why it was so good. Throughout the course of dinner—or lunch—the variety of rolls all blend into similar flavor-texture profiles. There are crunchy rolls, sweet rolls, spicy rolls, and so on. When I dine at different sushi buffets or restaurants, the same phenomenon occurs and I stereotype sushi into these standardized flavor-texture profiles. Rarely do I come across a roll and say, “Wow, this is something different.” My reactions generally follow the lines of “Wow, this tastes great, but I can’t exactly say if it’s better than the roll I had at that other place.”

Miya’s Sushi helped me escape this “monotony”—if you could call it that. At Miya’s, you can find fresh, non-traditional sushi that combines ingredients you would never have suspected go well together—let alone, in a sushi roll. The chef/owner, Bun Lai, frequently catches fish used in the restaurant himself. I know this because I follow his Tumblr blog, through which he regularly posts today’s catch in the morning. By the evening, the fish or whatever edible that was caught is probably inside the bellies of several lucky diners. Lai strives to source ingredients locally when possible and keeps up with modern food trends. The chicken used in some of his rolls are organic, and he is currently in the process of transitioning rolls into gluten-free versions. The rice used in all of Miya’s rolls is a healthy amalgamation of brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, oat grains and flax seed. The complimentary miso soup oftentimes comprises of seaweed trapped a few miles from the restaurant, and the ginger, which is cut thick, includes traces of agave nectar. Miya’s, quite simply, is the healthy foodie’s mecca of sushi. Continue Reading →

30. June 2012 by Earl
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Oaxaca Kitchen

Mole rojo
Before I get into this story and review, here’s a highly informative article about eating sushi at a restaurant. Though in general, sushi and raw fish are healthy, the article presents some great tips about avoiding caloric bombs at sushi restaurants.

When you get to college, oftentimes, you’re bombard with numerous communities and organizations that want to consume your soul. They shower you with gifts and make promises of grand opportunities, but that all ends after freshman year. More often than not, the benefits drop stagnantly as soon as after the first month. One of the best programs I signed up for, however, is the Korean American Students at Yale’s (KASY) adopt-a-freshman program. Of course, I, along with my friend Jessica, were the freshmen to be “adopted” by two generous members of KASY, Sarah and James.

As a frame of reference, most cultural societies at Yale have a program like this where freshmen are adopted into a family, allowing them to ask upperclassmen questions and get a better feel for college. Other groups do the same. For example, Timothy Dwight college (TD), my housing community, has a similar program.

With my TD family, I shared two meals—one at a dining hall and another at a famous pizza restaurant. While the dining hall meal was free because I am on the dining plan, everyone who went to eat at the pizza restaurant split the bill. Note that my entire family didn’t actually go get pizza, about half of my TD family—three people—could make it. These meals were nice, informative, and fun, but they all occurred within the first couple months of school, and I haven’t gotten to know any of the people in my TD “family” well.

My KASY family, on the other hand, poses a completely different outcome. We’ve gone out for multiple meals at local restaurants—Thai Taste, Basil, Oaxaca Kitchen, and probably one other occasion I forgot. I’ve met up with my KASY sibling, Jessica, in New York City for a run and a meal. Jessica, James (the father in this family), and I surprised Sarah (the mom) with a late-night birthday cake on her birthday. James and Sarah—I couldn’t make it to this occasion—delivered Jessica food and gifts for her birthday. I received an iTunes gift card electronically over spring break for my birthday and Christmas. I could go on. Both Jessica and I are blessed to have ended up with such an awesome KASY family, and this KASY adopt-a-freshman program truly was one of the best, most-enduring perks of being a freshman.

Oaxaca Kitchen

The reason I bring up this story is because I want to quickly review a meal of Oaxaca Kitchen, which Sarah and I visited last week.

Sarah and I went on a quiet Sunday afternoon. There was only one or two tables occupied when we got there, and there are at least fifteen tables at Oaxaca Kitchen. The atmosphere feels festive, as the walls are peppered with aged cement, wood, and bricks. The lighting looks antique but not ancient. The place feels and looks like a cavernous bar, and I hope to come back during the night one day. Continue Reading →

12. June 2012 by Earl
Categories: Reviews | Tags: , , , | 1 comment

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