Sunday, October 23, 2016

Matzo Ball Soup for the Soul

There is no better panacea than matzo ball soup. To be fair, I would say that about a number of soups and stews, but matzo ball has to be in the top five. As autumn descends into winter, I'm guessing I should expect a few bowls in my near future. Thankfully NYC is not in short supply of a hearty and delicious matzo ball soup.

국 [guk]
حساء [hasaa']

144 2nd Ave., New York, NY 10003

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Meditating on Obstacles

One of my goals is to make meditation a habit. Since becoming pregnant and having a child in the last year (almost two years really), I've let my practice become nonexistent, but after reading Dan Harris' 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works, I was inspired to pick up where I left off.

This week, one of my meditations focused on the topic of obstacles, and the following quote was introduced to me:
"Obstacles do not block the path. They are the path."
It's such a simple idea, but one that has the power to reshape a negative outlook. It's certainly a lesson I hope to carry close to me going forward.

Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

장애물 [jang-aemul]
عَقَبة [ʻaqaba]

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A Walk in the Park

When your backyard is Central Park, you have to try hard not to take it for granted.

공원 [gong-won]
حديقة [Hadiiqa]

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Monday, October 17, 2016

Whatever Good Things We Build End up Building Us

Lately I have been walking around New York City feeling like I am on the set of a movie. Nothing seems quite real and it feels a little too picturesque. Maybe the city senses I may leave soon and it's turning on its charms. Well, I'll take it. I'm only happy to be reminded that it's one of the greatest cities on earth. As John Updike wrote, “The true New Yorker secretly believes that people living anywhere else have to be, in some sense, kidding.”

건물 [geon-mul]
مبنى [mabna]

Sunday, October 16, 2016

As Easy as Riding a Bike

"Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving." -- Albert Einstein

자전거 [ja-jeon-geo]
درّاجة [darraja]
Hometown Hot Pot
194 Grand St., New York, NY 10013

Saturday, October 15, 2016

A Bitter Love Story: Amor Y Amara

Been away awhile due to the birth of my baby girl, Amara. She's ten months old and the sweetest despite one translation of her name being rooted in the definition 'bitter'. Let's see if I can give this blogging exercise another whirl. Today let's raise our glasses and have a drink. Cheers, friends!

to drink
마시다 [ma-shi-da]
شرب [shariba]

Amor Y Amargo
443 E. 6th St., New York NY 10009

Monday, July 20, 2015

You Say Tomato, I Say Boston

In Boston for a long weekend. Stumbled upon a sprawling Farmer's Market walking from the Financial District towards North End. The produce was just incredible so today I dedicate a post to 'fruit'.

과일 [gwa-il]
فاكهة [faakiha]
くだもの | 果物 [kudamono]
水果 [shuǐguǒ]

Monday, March 23, 2015

Day Trip: Philly Food Crawl

It was the second day of spring. The sun was out, the birds were chirping... a fresh layer of snow covered the ground. Wait, what? Yes, it appears spring on the east coast (and midwest according to my Chicago friends) was heralded in by a snow storm this year. Yikes! I needed to get away and my FBF (food best friend), Lier, was up to the challenge of taking our weekly food crawl out of state. There was a time when we once thought Flushing was far, but on this day we were hitting the road and heading to Philly!

I made my way to Chinatown in NYC to catch the Philly-bound bus early on Saturday morning. I know New Yorkers lament about the rising costs of those Chinatown buses in recent years, but I still think an $18 round trip ticket is a steal! I pay more for intra-Manhattan cab rides after all. So, I bid adieu to the Big Apple and two hours later said hello to the City of Brotherly Love.

As the bus stop was in Philly's Chinatown, we intended for our first meal to be at Rangoon, a fairly popular Burmese restaurant. I was especially excited about the restaurant after I saw this video vignette about the three lovely co-owners. Unfortunately we had arrived too early and the restaurant was still closed! We were down but not out. We walked around the block and stumbled upon Xi'an Sizzling Woks, whose window boasted a picture menu which included biang biang noodles. As this dish is a recent obsession of ours, we were intrigued.

Upon our entry, we were welcomed by Rebecca who was so incredibly hospitable and an absolute joy. We told her we just wanted to share a bowl of noodles and she obliged, even welcomed us to see the pulling of the dough. The end result was a perfect bowl of chewy, slippery, and slightly spicy noodles.

When Rebecca delivered the bowl, she was so excited she mixed the noodles for us and kept telling us about all the fresh ingredients comprising our dish. As with any good host, she left us to enjoy the food before it got cold, and we proceeded to lick our plates clean!

By the time we were done with our 'amuse bouche', Rangoon was open so we headed over to get our fill of Burmese. Though we had a list of recommended dishes, we chose a few items from the menu we thought we'd like better. In the end, we were underwhelmed with our food (particularly our beef and noodle dishes) and the dining experience as a whole, but perhaps Xi'an Sizzling Woks had set the bar too high. Not all was bad though, I particularly liked the tea leaf salad, which was an explosion of (crunchy, peanuty, sour yet refreshing) flavor.

With our bellies full, we were ready to explore. As it was both our second times in the city, we were excited to re-visit a few places, like Reading Terminal Market, and discover new sites. Since we were downtown, we headed towards the market. We essentially walked the entire market and sampled some free food, but none of the stalls seemed to catch our attention. I know everyone loves the DiNic's pork sandwich, but I had already tried one during my first visit back in September. Quite frankly, I think that enormous sandwich would've killed us! Instead we enjoyed a little 'window shopping'.

Being a beautiful Saturday afternoon, Reading Terminal Market was packed. After an hour or so of pushing past and squeezing by crowds of people, we were ready to get a little fresh air. Lier had never seen the South 9th St. Italian Market so we headed that way. I was keen to re-visit D'Angelo Bros. where during my first visit I picked up some wonderful kangaroo, bison, and elk jerkies. These guys are great butchers and when we popped in they had just started butchering a couple of rabbits so I got to watch the masters at work. I had hoped to come back before our evening departure to pick up some goods, but missed the opportunity. Next time, I won't make that mistake!

Lier and I continued walking around the neighborhood and decided we needed a drink. I found a couple of locals and asked them to point us to the closest bar. They initially suggested Ray's Happy Birthday Bar, but the smoke-filled dive was a little too much for daylight hours so they instead sent us to Garage.

After a couple of whiskys and deep discussion, we were ready for our next meal. Last September, when I visited Philly with Jon, we had walked by a strip mall packed with a bunch of Vietnamese businesses. I noted its existence and upon my return to NYC I inquired about it and learned that there was actually really great Vietnamese food in Philly, specifically in that strip mall. Since NYC lacks great Vietnamese, Lier and I knew we had to try it for ourselves. We headed to Pho Ha on a recommendation and ordered a pho and a bun, which is exactly what our slightly tipsy appetites needed. The verdict: bliss.

Now with our hearts AND stomachs full of happiness, we embarked on another walk. We headed toward the Magic Gardens to get our fill of art. Unfortunately, the space was closed for a private event so we couldn't go inside. Still, we enjoyed the mosaics on the outside and on the nearby buildings. The tiled patterns were actually quite lovely to see and they were especially beautiful basking in the sunny spring day.

Photo by @jlierchen

Not sure of what to do next, we continued our walk towards Independence National Historical Park. However, by the time we arrived, it was nearly 6pm and the monuments were closing for the day. We peeked at the Liberty Bell, which I had the pleasure of visiting the last time around, and the spent some time resting on a bench in Independence Mall. It was really such a lovely day that it was nice to sit and unwind, particularly after all the food we had eaten.

With the remainder of our time, we decided to head back to Reading Terminal Market to pick up some goodies to take back to NYC and grab another drink. We hadn't thought to check the operating hours so we came back to a closed market. Since we had already agreed that we couldn't possibly eat anymore food we went back to Chinatown where we were able to jump on an earlier bus and head back home, concluding a perfect day trip to our neighbors in Pennsylvania. Until next time!

버스 [beo-seu]
حافلة [Haafila]
バス [basu]
公共汽车 [gōnggòng qìchē] (lit. 'public car')

Xi'an Sizzling Woks
902 Arch St., Philadelphia, PA 19107

Rangoon Burmese Restaurant
112 N. 9th St., Philadelphia, PA 19107

Reading Terminal Market
51 N 12th St., Philadelphia, PA 19107

D'Angelo Bros
909 S. 9th St., Philadelphia, PA 19147

1231-1233 E. Passyunk Ave., Philadelphia, PA 18147

Pho Ha
610 Washington Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19147

Philadelphia's Magic Gardens
1020 South St, Philadelphia, PA 19147

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Jordan: Jordan River Baptism Site & Dead Sea

On our third day in Jordan, we took a day trip to visit the Baptism Site of Jesus, known as el-Maghtas (المغطس‎). The area, known as Wadi Kharrar, has only been excavated since 1996, but many remains from both the Roman and Byzantine periods have been found, and it is widely believed to be the biblical Bethany Beyond the Jordan.

These are some views as we traveled toward the Baptism Site. The picture on the left shows two of the various churches that have been erected in recent years, including an Anglican, Armenian, Coptic and Catholic church. I particularly loved the view as it reminded me a little of Tatooine. [Amirite, Star Wars fans?]

Visitors are shepherded through the area by a guide, basically making your way from the entrance of the site to the bank of the Jordan River.

Along the way, there are several mosaics including the one on the left which depicts Pope John Paul II's visit in 2000, which was the first modern papal pilgrimage to the site and marked the Vatican’s blessing upon Bethany Beyond the Jordan as the location of Jesus’s baptism.

The Jordan River is actually much smaller now and is quite murky looking, but as a history buff or a person of faith or both, it's still quite moving. There is a serenity in the atmosphere and to think of the history in that location is awe-inspiring. The photo on the right shows the river flowing between Jordan, where I stood, and Israel, just beyond those steps. As I am fascinated by borders, it was quite interesting to literally toe the line between two countries.

Below is the actual spot where Jesus was allegedly baptized. The branch of the river that flowed through this pool fit for 300 pilgrims has long since dried up leaving a very dry bed of land. The summer heat only exaggerated the desiccation.

After our visit, we needed to escape the hot rays of the August sun so we headed toward the Dead Sea to cool off. We bought a day pass at the luxe Mövenpick Resort where we enjoyed the view of the Dead Sea from their infinity pool (maybe with a cocktail in hand).

Of course, we also took a dip in the sea, which was quite surreal. The high level of salt in the sea -- about 10 times as the ocean -- makes it quite dense which means you can't sink. Quite the opposite, you are buoyed up to the surface like a cork. You can barely stand up!

The mineral-rich mud is also full of therapeutic properties so you'll find scores of people covering themselves in it and baking in the sun. I'm not sure how much I nourished my skin in that one visit, but it was definitely as relaxing as any spa treatment I've had before... though it may have been the stunning views that ultimately calmed me.   

강 [gang]
نهر [nahr]
がわ| 川 [kawa]
河 [hé]

More from Jordan: