Sushi Nakazawa

Our indulgent dining continued tonight, as tonight was the last night my friend would be in town. She’s flying back to San Francisco tomorrow. She was extremely generous with us and insisted on treating us to have the omakase at Sushi Nakazawa, a very popular and hard to reserve restaurant where the chef was actually an apprentice of the famed Jiro of Tokyo. While the food and service were excellent and notable, it was a bit annoying that a) they said they usually do not allow men not wearing long pants to dine there (Chris was wearing long shorts that exposed half his calves), b) they served Chris’s sake in a stemmed wine glass (“because we are here in America,” the white server said with a smile), and c) why were absolutely none of the servers Japanese at all? The only Japanese staff we saw were the sushi chefs at the counter.

Small city

New York City. It’s actually quite a small city when you think about square miles, but it’s big… because of the tall buildings? The number of businesses that are on it? The sheer number of people who live here? What are the odds that you’re going to not only be dining at the same restaurant as someone you know, but also be sitting at the table next to them?

My friend, Chris, and I were dining at Scarpetta tonight, and lo and behold, a colleague visiting from San Francisco, his wife, and her parents ended up dining and being seated at the table next to us. I had no idea they were even there, as we were having a very animated conversation, until my colleague came by to say hi and introduce his family. This has never happened in my entire time in New York. “Didn’t realize this city was so small that we had to end up eating at the same place tonight,” my colleague joked.

Picky picky

Tonight, my team, including two team members from our San Francisco office, had dinner at ABC Cocina, a spot I’ve been wanting to try for a couple years but just never got around to going. As you usually do at tapas restaurants, the dishes are small plates and all are for sharing. It’s fun to share food… until you start eating with people who pretty much eat nothing except the most basic foods.

Because I’ve developed a reputation for being knowledgable about food of all kinds, my colleagues let me do all the ordering. What ended up happening was that one of our visiting colleagues, who is incredibly sheltered and not well traveled at all (by choice, not by limited budget) refused to eat anything at the table other than the pork tacos that we ordered. He wouldn’t even touch the bread basket that came to the table. He questioned our servers about every last ingredient in each dish. Being told that a dish was “salmon” was simply not enough. I tried my best to hold my tongue and not say anything mean, but it was really hard for me. Just try new food. Why is it so difficult?¬†You’re an adult. Act like one. It’s not like anyone is asking you to pay for food that you don’t like. Money isn’t an issue here. Just TRY IT.

When I think of people who are that picky of an eater, I then think that they must also be fairly racist… which may sound extreme because there’s a very strong correlation between pickiness in eating and racism. I wonder how many non-white people he really spends time with and is actually friendly with.

I can’t do shared food with him anymore and hope to never have to eat at a restaurant with shared plates with him ever again.

Afternoon tea

Afternoon tea. It’s one of those uppity, generally overpriced, stick-your-pinky-finger-out-while-sipping-tea-from-a-delicate-cup events that I rarely do anymore except with maybe one or two girlfriends. It conjures up images of flowery tea pots, colorful wallpaper, and expensive crustless sandwiches. And yet, it’s still fun to do with the right people.

My friend and I went this past weekend to have afternoon tea at a spot we both visited and liked about six years ago, and sadly, the quality had gone down hill. The place was just as pretty and picturesque as we remembered it, but the sandwiches had bread that was dried out, the clotted cream was too cold, and the quality of the ingredients in the sandwiches just seemed stale and old. The prices had since gone up, as well, so it was not a cheap or even moderately priced affair to come here. They did, however, throw in a free glass of Veuve Cliquot champagne for each of us, but it still wasn’t enough for each of us to even think about going back.

Sometimes people go to places just for the ambiance and are okay to settle for mediocre food. We are not those people.

Ups and downs

I’m still coughing and phlegmy with my voice coming in and out. It’s really uncomfortable being on calls with customers and my colleagues and hearing myself not 100% well, as it’s been nearly three weeks that I’ve had this infection, whatever it is. I thought I was getting better this week until on the train ride home this early evening, I suddenly started coughing incessantly, and it was so bad that my eyes started watering. A woman next to me generously and kindly offered a cough drop. I really just needed water because I was so dry, but I didn’t think to carry a water bottle. It looks like another doctor’s appointment is in tow for me… my fourth in about four weeks.

Cultural appropriation

So many chefs and celebrities over the years have been accused of cultural appropriation. Some of it is legitimate, and some of it may be a bit off base. Famous chef and cookbook writers like Ivan Orkin, the owner of Ivan Ramen, and the British chef and cookbook writer Fuchsia Dunlop, who was educated at the Sichuanese culinary academy and is the author of several acclaimed Chinese cookbooks that vary by region of China, have both been accused of it. The thing about both of them is that they both have made seemingly complex cuisines more understandable to Asian Americans like myself, who oftentimes struggle to understand how to “bridge the gap” between Eastern and Western culture. Ivan Ramen introduces new techniques to the humble ramen bowl by introducing rye as an ingredient in ramen noodles. Fuchsia Dunlop tries to use more modern techniques in Sichuanese and Hunanese cuisine while preserving flavors, and even writes a memoir that helps me understand the nuances of a culture that I’m supposed to claim as my own, even though I’ve grown up here in the U.S. She’s actually studied the language and the history of China, and tried to understand the language nuances and cultural differences in a way that someone who isn’t Chinese in China can understand. It’s people like Ivan and Fuchsia who have helped me better understand these Asian cultures, one of which I’m supposed to identify with. But in China as in the language, everyone outside of China is an “outsider,” even those who are ethnically Han Chinese.

War Paint

Today, a good friend from San Francisco and I spent the day together. We watched the off-Broadway musical War Paint together, and as two people who work in marketing, a lot of the themes resonated and cracked both of us up. The one that was the most ridiculous given what industry we work in was when Helena Rubenstein, who was back in the day a famous and very wealthy cosmetics titan and icon, was trying to figure out how to increase her company’s revenue. Her then partner says to her, why don’t you just take the same face cream formulation, label one jar “day cream,” and the second jar “night cream”? No one will know the difference! This “genius” idea led to literally double the revenue they had previously seen and much success for their brand. Of course, this was back in the day when women had no idea what ingredients were going into their skincare and makeup, and they lapped up any type of advertising that led them to believe they were becoming more beautiful and “youthful” as a result of all this crap that different brands were selling at the time.

As someone who works in marketing, I realize that there are some things that I am more easily bought in on than others. The “day cream” vs. “night cream” idea is just so awful that it is good.

Two months

It’s been almost two months since we left the Upper East Side, and today, we’ve come back to run some errands and pick up some random mail that failed to get to our new address. Seeing all the new Asian restaurants that have popped up here in just two months since we’ve left is a bit crazy. I guess that goes to show how quickly any neighborhood changes. There’s now a very affordable Filipino restaurant that is the second and sister restaurant of a spot I loved downtown, and they even serve macapuno ice cream. Five years ago when I moved to the Upper East Side, I never for a split second thought that macapuno ice cream would make its way up to that neighborhood. I guess I was wrong.

Now, my old neighborhood seems like it has better food than my current one. It always seems to be greener on the other side.

Takeout with friends

Tonight, we invited some friends over for dinner to see our place for the first time since we’ve moved in. We haven’t had many people over at all due to travel schedules and my parents’ visit, so this is really the only time we’ve had more than one person over at once. Given that it’s a Friday, I unfortunately wasn’t able to cook and instead opted to get takeout for us instead. Seeing what was in the area and what delivered, I decided to get some Napolitean-style pizza from Don Antonio, a spot Chris and I have been to a few times and have really enjoyed. Little did I remember that the pizzas were expensive – with toppings, anywhere from $20-29 each, and they really aren’t that large — just four pieces per pizza. With just three pizzas ordered, with tax and delivery tip, it already came to over $70. I supplemented the pizza with a spring mix/arugula, toasted walnut and pear salad, some grilled shishito peppers, mushroom turnovers, and dessert.

Is this really how much “takeout” for a party of four should cost? I thought you were supposed to save money by eating in?!

Processing medical claims

I was at the office today after over 2.5 weeks of not being around, either due to vacation, being in San Francisco, or being sick. It felt really good to be around my colleagues again, listening to what everyone has been up to in the last few weeks, and listening to stupid jokes and sarcasm again… and being sarcastic myself.

What was not fun was figuring out how to file my claim for my medical treatment while being in New Zealand. It’s like health insurance companies want to make everything so difficult for you when trying to get your money back that they make the entire process more and more cumbersome. No, you cannot just file the claim online. You actually have to copy every single form the doctor gave you outlining the treatment and your condition, plus any prescriptions or medication recommendations, plus all your receipts, and snail mail it to their designated PO box. And even that will not guarantee that you get your money back because they need about 15 different things explicitly called out and highlighted in the documentation they give you.

I feel like I am putting these documents together blindly, and putting them in the mail is like a gamble. Am I going to hear a response? Will they actually pay me back? Who knows.