Bendy tripod switch at B&H

My heavy Sony zoom lens was weighing down my 3K Gorilla tripod, so I had to go back to B&H today to get a longer bendy tripod that could accommodate more weight. I went back to the store to get a heavier tripod, and I insisted that it still have the same bendy, flexible legs that my original one had. The salesperson didn’t seem to hear me say this and insisted that I get a rigid tripod that couldn’t extend as long. It was such a weird experience since my previous three visits to B&H were amazing; everyone was super helpful and friendly, and I always felt heard. This guy was clearly not listening to me when I said I wanted a taller tripod with bendy legs. The key words in that statement are “taller” and “bendy.” In the end, I got the 5K tripod that could accommodate up to 11 pounds and exchanged for this.

I received a B&H survey, which asked me for my overall customer satisfaction. For the most part, I gave extremely glowing reviews, but I did note that customer service was not fully consistent, as this last tripod experience was a bit spotty and I didn’t feel heard. They immediately followed up via email to ask me to provide more details so that they could ensure more consistent and great customer experience.

B&H is pretty amazing. They do pretty much every single thing right, from customer service to friendliness to speed of checkout to even price matching with Amazon. I almost feel lucky I’ve been able to shop there and have these experiences, and I never say that for in-store experiences anywhere and almost always rather buy online!

DiFara pizza-making class

What is arguably the best and most famous pizza in New York City has very recently decided to start pizza making classes at its old shop in Midwood, Brooklyn. The new manager of my team decided to do a team event here tonight, so I got to benefit from these classes. While it’s not a traditional cooking class in that you do not actually make the pizza dough, the tomato sauce, etc., from scratch, what you do get is to try one slice each of their signature slices, then shape your own dough into a pizza round/oblong, add your own seasoned tomato sauce (San Marzano tomatoes, no less) to the dough, then top with mozzarella, parmesan, and olive oil.

The DiFara pizza is noticeably different than other NYC pizza slices: the crust is thinner and crunchier, the tomato sauce is a bit more balanced between sweet and tangy, and the topping of parmesan and olive oil as a finish is always just right to add the last bit of savory and salty. I would not say it is my favorite pizza, as that would be a hard call to make, but it is definitely delicious and noteworthy, even without the original owner making every single pizza the way he always wanted. That just wasn’t scalable for his level of demand.

I enjoyed every bite of the pizzas, even the slice of the pizza I made where I tried a bite out of it right out of the oven. At 600 degrees F, I burned the roof of my mouth and left the place with tender and sore gums, but it was all worth it in the end. These are the moments I am so grateful to not have a gluten allergy.

And during the class, they closed DiFara’s. We noticed four guys knock on the door, and they begged and pleaded to let them buy two full pies, as they traveled all the way from London just to try this famous pizza. After some back and forth that probably lasted a few minutes, the workers relented and let them in. They freshly shaped and made the pies, stuck them in the oven, and the Brits paid and left happily with their hot and steamy fresh pies.

As I walked out, I noticed that even though DiFara’s says they are cash-only, they actually did have a credit-card machine that the Brits used to pay. And they also left the receipt on the counter… which showed that they tipped these guys over 50 percent.

Mole making

Cooking authentic mole takes time. For those uninitiated, mole is a popular sauce in Mexican cuisine. Oftentimes, each restaurant, family, grandma, and mother has their own version of mole. It varies by region and by town. But the unifying ingredients in all of them include a combination of Mexican spices, such as oregano and canela (Mexican cinnamon), aromatics such as charred onions and garlic, Mexican chocolate, and the most pungent and fun ingredients: dried Mexican chilies. The end result is a mix of chocolate, spices, chilies… a very complex tasting dish that is hard to liken to anything else I’ve ever tasted or made. Some moles have 20-30 different ingredients and can take days and days to make! And the longer it sits on the stove cooking, the more and more the flavors meld together and become even more complex and delicious.

I’ve made mole twice, both times in cooking classes in Oaxaca. The first time was in 2010 during my first trip, and the second time was this past trip in May 2018 with Chris. Today was my first time attempting mole at home, albeit a more simplified, home-friendly version.

Today, we used dried ancho and guajillo chilies that we brought back from our Mexico trip last year for a simplified red mole. I also ground up the canela I purchased whole from a market in Mexico City. I used a teaspoon of the Mexican oregano I purchased, as well; Chris noticed that the smell was far more pungent than the dried oregano we buy here. It took about 2-3 hours including the time to film the cooking, but in the end, after adding some additional shaved Mexican chocolate and a touch of sugar, it tasted rich, well-rounded, and smoky.

I knew that I’d use it as the base sauce for the chicken enchiladas I wanted to make to use up old corn and cassava tortillas in the freezer, but I didn’t realize how special it would taste when all the components were put together until I ate them today. Filled and topped with a vibrant red mole, chicken, cilantro, and cheese, these enchiladas were lick-your-plate worthy and definitely tasted authentic. I actually impressed myself with this dish.

Fuzzy navel

There exists a cocktail that is called the fuzzy navel. It’s a mixed drink made from peach schnapps and orange juice. Depending on the drinker’s taste, it could even have a stash of vodka or some added lemonade.

I’ve actually never had this cocktail myself, but I thought about it this morning when I woke up from the oddest stream of dreams. In the first dream, my mom is accusing of doing something I know I didn’t do (well, I guess that’s just a sad flashback to my years of living and being slightly mentally tortured at home). But in the second dream I can recall, Chris is telling me that my stomach is hairy and that I should consider waxing it. I have visible hair on my stomach? I thought. I have a fuzzy navel…? What happened to me overnight that this could be possible?

Signs that you are thinking about work too much

When you start having dreams about your colleagues, that’s when you know that you either spend too much time at work or are thinking too much about work.

Last night, I dreamt that a colleague of mine, who is known for not being particularly social or interested in getting to know the rest of us, was actually a prolific Impressionist-style painter who painted endlessly every evening after work. She works at my company by day, but at night, she is either painting or selling her work at a gallery downtown.

In real life, I know this couldn’t be further from the truth, but perhaps this serves the point that not everyone is exactly who they seem to be at the office.

Outreach to nonprofits for group volunteering

Every single thing in New York City is competitive. You can’t even give free labor easily; you actually have to apply to volunteer here and go through all types of applications, background checks, waiver forms, etc. So as I am planning our team’s annual Impact Week for our office here this June, I’m getting annoyed by all the requirements that I am being asked to do, everything from background checks (which we’d have to pay for ourselves) to even donating money (on top of donating our time… which technically IS money). Sifting through dozens of websites and all their criteria was grating on my nerves this afternoon.

The easiest way to access organizations the quickest was in the end, to ask Chris which nonprofits Salesforce gives time to. And that has already yielded a number of responses over email.

My baby is always helping me get things done, even when it’s for my own charitable work with my company. <3

Ordering food delivery in NYC

Chances are high that if you are ordering Chinese food outside of Manhattan Chinatown, Elmhurst, Flushing, or other areas that are known for their Chinese food that you will be paying a premium for what could be subpar or passable Chinese food. I recently discovered a Sichuanese Chinese restaurant in the heart of the theater district that is supposed to have relatively authentic dishes, just at much higher prices. All of the seafood dishes are in the mid-20s, and even the Chinese pea shoots, the most coveted and delicate Chinese vegetable, are $20.

“$20 for pea shoots?” Chris exclaimed. “That’s insane!”

Well, it’s two things: pea shoots are already pricey when you buy them at the Chinese market. At their peak, they could go for $8/pound, and in the average Chinese restaurant, they would probably cost $15-16? And then second part is that this restaurant is located in a non-Chinese area, so they can charge a premium for this.

The other thing I think is a bit unfair is that everyone tends to assume that vegetables should be cheap when compared to meat. Fresh, in-season produce is usually not as expensive, yes, but I do not think we should be cheapening vegetables in the way that people oftentimes assume Chinese or Indian food should be cheaper than say, Italian or French food. That then diminishes the value of these foods in our life.

Baking contest

At work today, we had a baking contest… that I did not participate in. I got a bit of shock and confusion in reaction to my lack of participation. One colleague joked that I was ‘throwing shade’ by not participating. Another colleague said that I was probably too much of a food snob to participate. Maybe all of the above is true to a degree, but what was worse was when I actually saw some of these things on the kitchen counter.

One of the batches of chocolate chip cookies (can you ever have a bake-off and NOT see chocolate chip cookies in some form?) looked more like little tiny poop dumps of coal with black spots all over them (those are the chocolate chips). The chocolate chip banana bread was severely overbaked and thus extremely dry. When I was trying to search for the banana flavor, instead of being a rich, sweet, gooey banana flavor, it was faint, barely detectable (the bananas were not at their ripest and if anything, were still green or yellow… ewwww). The second set of chocolate chip cookies didn’t brown much at all, and they spread so much that they looked more like chocolate chip pizzas than cookies. And then was of course the paleo/gluten-free baked good for those counting carbs: zucchini-cheddar “muffins” made with grated zucchini, cheddar, smoked bacon, almond flour, and scrambled eggs, baked in little muffin tins. These were savory and delicious. But my favorites were the pao de queijo (Brazilian cheese bread) and the corn bread.

After reviewing the baked goods today, I do realize that I could come off as a jerk for not participating, but hey, I’m focused on other projects now. But even more, I’ve realized exactly why people are so happy to pay $4 for a slice of banana bread or $5 for a cupcake — because they could never produce even half the quality at home due to a total lack of skill or simply following direction. And don’t even get me started on applauding yourself when you’ve managed to bake a banana bread loaf when it’s dry, barely tastes like banana, and then have the audacity to share it like it’s amazing when it definitely is not. If I made banana bread like that, it would never leave my kitchen, much less get shared with colleagues. I have a reputation to uphold.


The last few months, outside of what I am making for dinner, I’ve felt pretty unmotivated. I’ve still been reading the news, updating this blog, reading books, and doing travel research, but in general, my desire to “do more” and push myself is at an all-time low. On weekends, when I used to wake up to catch up on current events and read long feature articles, I just want to lie in bed and sleep longer and longer. It’s felt borderline depressive.

Part of this is influenced by the deluge of negative news every single day, whether it’s the latest stupid thing that Trump and his incompetent and hateful administration are saying and doing, the recent mass shooting in New Zealand and now bombing in Sri Lanka, and even just the general monotony and politics of being in the tech industry. The world just seems so unkind, unwelcoming, as though progress has been halted and if anything, we are even regressing. The idea that abortion rights would be taken away in this country that has technically legalized it since 1973, that people from countries with predominantly Muslims would be banned from entering this country — it’s like one bad thing after another that seems to get cemented. Then, there’s stupid process for the sake of process at a company that is trying to act like a 10,000-person company when we are only 400+ that is nauseating to me.

So, we’ve identified a new way for me to motivate myself, and that will be through filming cooking videos. The annoying thing about this is that I have to teach myself how to do video editing, but as I am studying now, it’s actually not as bad as I thought. And it could even become a bit addictive in a productive way. We will see how this goes.

Tachin joojeh – cooking other cultures’ foods

I was chatting with one of my Persian colleagues about cooking on Friday, and I told him that I planned to make Persian style layered chicken and rice on Sunday called tachin joojeh. He looked at me, surprised that I want to make Persian food. “How did you get into that?” he asked me. “You know I am Persian, right?”

Everyone is always so fascinated by someone who looks like me making any kind of food that isn’t Chinese or Vietnamese or Asian. I’m honestly not really sure what the fascination is about. No one really exclaims like crazy or is impressed when you hear of an Asian person making spaghetti, clams with linguine, or chili. Somehow, a Chinese person making Indian or Persian food is considered fascinating. If you like something, you like it, right? You don’t have to have grown up with it or be married to someone who is of that ethnicity, yes?

I say this all the time, but I really believe it: if we were all open minded to trying and embracing the cuisines of other cultures, there would be less hate in the world. I mean, that’s why Trump only eats McDonald’s and other garbage “American” junk food.