A Post-Thanksgiving Post

I have been happily catching up on all your posts this week, and have loved seeing how everyone around the web spent their Thanksgiving. It’s easily one of my favorite holidays – spending a whole day with loved ones cooking and eating, what’s not to love?

As you know I was down south in New Orleans last weekend. Can I just tell you, it’s my new favorite US city. I’m aware of the overuse of superlatives online, but it’s really the greatest place to visit. So much history, such a mixture of cultures, such specific regional cuisine and so much to do.

First up was dinner on Thursday night at our friends’ in Mid-City. New Orleans isn’t all about Bourbon Street and bars, people. The folks who have come to call New Orleans home are welcoming, resilient, artistic, and loyal people – whether native to the area or not. My friends were no exceptions to the norm, as they opened their home for 6 of us on Thanksgiving Day.

Turkey out of the oven

We’re all big foodies, all 8 of us are, so we all very much enjoyed preparing, discussing, and eating the feast on Thursday. We went a pretty traditional route: Turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, gravy, sweet potatoes, roasted veggies, biscuits, and a green bean salad. EVERYTHING was homemade, which make EVERYTHING better.

Half the spread

The beauty of Thanksgiving with Friends, or as we called it – #franksgiving – is the ability to establish your own traditions. Whether it be a specific dish, or an after-dinner event, it’s fun to make the holiday your own. Our tradition was the fixing of temporary tattoos between dinner a dessert – something that kept us pre-occupied for a good hour, letting our stomachs make a little more room for something sweet.

temp tattoos on the table

hardcore puppes

The all-around winner of tattoos went to my friend Donna, whose LATE watch just screamed 2013 SS Fashion week. That Dons, always up on the latest trend.


Because we couldn’t get enough of each other Thursday night, we all met Friday afternoon for the obligatory leftover lunch. I dare say, it was a better spread – the 7 of us had 7 varieties of sandwiches to boast. YUM.


chowin down

And finally, a long post-lunch walk to the park to enjoy newly installed Christmas decorations. The perfect ending to a perfect Thanksgiving!

walking through NoLA

NoLA trees

Many of the old oak trees in the park survived Katrina, and during much of the year are covered with weeping strands of Spanish moss. So beautiful!

Living in the Moment; Being Thankful on Thanksgiving

DC Chinatown

A photo of DC’s Chinatown, the most contrived Chinatown I’ve seen


We’ve been back since June, and it feels like FOREVER ago that we were in China. Oh, how quickly we forget! My bank account, on the other hand, serves as a daily reminder that we’re back home.

It’s been interesting getting back into the swing of things back here in the states. Some expats joke about effects of counter-culture shock. When you’re so used to living abroad that things at home – the simplest things – make you feel like a fish out of water. For some people who have lived abroad for decades, it can be the simplest things: speaking English on a daily basis, not being the important American at the bar, or even street-crossing etiquette (ie; Americans’ adherence to it vs. South Asia’s disregard of it). Though it’s a bit on par with the whole “First World Problem” joke that’s been circling the web lately, there’s certainly some truth to it.

Beautiful Washington Monument

Something’s been on my mind a lot lately, and it’s spurred getting notes from friends abroad about their travels to exotic places. I find myself, suddenly, wishing I still lived in China, wishing I could be on vacation this Thanksgiving, and wishing I lived in a cheaper place so I could save more money to do more things.

This has been the hardest thing about coming back to the states from living abroad, when every second is a new moment and every location is exotic. It’s been hard to blog even, when there’s not a wrinkled street vendor selling steamed buns on every corner, or weird dried goods at the market. It’s been hard to find topics to write about when my days consist of writing at the computer and then working at the cheese shop and then watching a movie with the DiploMan.

But whoa, reality check – I shouldn’t need to be an expat living abroad to feel special or important or go on cool adventures or experience new things. We don’t need to pack up and travel and share photos of exotic beaches in order for our friends and family to think we’re important, or for me to feel accomplished for that matter. We don’t need to have mind-altering experiences in order to be creative, and we don’t have to fight a third culture in order to live in the moment and have new experiences.

Fall in DC

DC on a beautiful Fall day


And thus with a newfound spark, I’m off to New Orleans today to spend a lovely five days exploring lots of new things. First a Thanksgiving Feast tonight with some lovely ladies and gents, all whom love food. We’ve got lots planned for the menu, including a classic New Orleans-style oyster and cornbread stuffing. This weekend, we’ve got some city seein’ to do plus reservations at Root and Cochon.

I’m thankful for these new experiences at home, and thankful that I’ve got friends to share them with. Happy Thanksgiving, wherever you are!!

Fall Quinoa :: Too busy for Thanksgiving

Fall Quinoa

Hey look, this isn’t a Thanksgiving recipe!

I took a minute today to check on my Google Reader, which has been slightly neglected over the past two weeks. If it’s anything that food bloggers are great at doing, it’s celebrating Thanksgiving. And there are no shortage of brussels sprout, squash, pomegranate, and stuffing recipes out there. You guys are good.

I, on the other hand, just realized a few days ago that Thanksgiving is next week. how…?

I guess it’s been a busy few weeks for me. For one, I got a part time job! After a two year hiatus, I’m in the IRS records again. I’m working a few days a week at Righteous Cheese, a new cheese shop in the city, located in a shiny new open market. I’m loving it, although I am aware that it does perpetuate my erratic work record. Non-profit? check. Waitress? Check. Art Gallery? Check. Maitre’d? Check. Copy-Editor? Check. Writer? Check. Cheese? Check. Sheesh. But I digress, and I’ll go on about my lack of direction at another time. Also more about the cheese shop, and why I’m liking my work there (besides for the obvious, cheese) during a later post.

For now, I’m all about getting my sh*t together. As you know I was recently home, for what I’m proud to boast, was my first real paid feature in a magazine. It’s a digital magazine, but a magazine nonetheless. I also got a small job to write an article for a travel blog through a freelance website I’ve been perusing over the last month.

So my life in DC has now gone from ‘settling in’ and ‘exploring the area’ to full-fledged ‘GET ON IT NOW’. Work it, gurrrrrl. It’s nice to be busy, but I haven’t had time to think of the important things in life – like spending Thanksgiving with my girlfriends in New Orleans. That’s right, San Jose you can wait. I’m going to New Orleans this Thanksgiving!

My New York food-loving gals and I are spending a Very Cajun Thanksgiving in NoLA, where my dear friend Cameron and her husband Nick live. Hooray for cornbread and oyster stuffing (seriously)!!

But before I pick up my recipe books and November magazine issues, in between writing my articles and studying cheeses, I have to think about dinner first. So many things to do!

In my recent absence from home and as a result from being at the cheese shop a few nights a week, my poor DiploMan has been subsiding on a diet of cheese, Sweetgreen salads, and Chipotle. Well, this is not entirely true…actually it’s fairly accurate. So yesterday I put some work on hold and set aside a morning to cook some dishes up that can be easily stored for the week, packed for lunches, and reheated for dinner. It was nice to let my brain unwind, not having to think about where a certain cheese was from or how I was going to meet certain deadlines or how to apply for a business license in San Jose. Lots of logisitics outside of the kitchen, but once inside it’s all just order of operations. Cut, slice, peel, saute, toss, cool. Soothing.

So here, before Thanksgiving comes and before I start to think about last-minute recipes for the big day, here’s a simple Fall Quinoa for your nightly dinner table. Earthy, carmelized, nutty….hey now, that’s how I describe a certain cheese…..

FAll Quinoa 2


  • 1/2 cup quinoa (any variety)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 small-medium sized leek, white and green parts, thinly sliced
  • 4 big leaves red kale (any other kale, rainbow chard, or collard greens would work as well), ribbed and thinly sliced
  • 4 cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds


  1. Cook quinoa in chicken broth according to directions on the box. Typically, Quinoa gets cooking in liquid at a 1:2 ratio. Bring to a boil over high, turn heat down, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. (That’s the no-fail guide to cooking quinoa!)
  2. In a saute pan, coat pan with olive oil and heat on high. When oil is hot, saute leeks and onions for 3-4 minutes, or until slightly translucent. Add kale and toss for a minute, then add mushrooms. Season with herbs, salt and pepper to taste. Saute for a few more minutes on high, then turn heat to medium and cook for 5-8 minutes. This not only cooks the kale all the way through, but it also helps to slightly caramelize the ingredients. Remember to keep your eye on the pan and toss every so often.
  3. Turn heat off and set aside. When quinoa is done, mix into the saute pan. Toss thoroughly and add almonds. When cool, store in an air-tight vessel in the fridge. Lasts 3-4 days. Perfect with baked trout, sausages, veggies, or a salad (basically, anything).

Yield: 3-4 servings

New toys

I’m working on an article where I’m shooting the pictures as well. And of course, I get to San Jose and realize I have forgotten my camera’s battery charger. Mind you, I lugged on my carry-ons one MacBook laptop, one iPad, one iPhone, one kindle, one Rebel Camera and three lenses, and respective cables for all. But alas no camera charger.

My father is the one who has instilled in me my love of photography. In fact, my camera happened to be his “hand me down”, after he upgraded to a flashy, new, and expensive Canon Mark 5D. So fortunately, I’ve been able to hijack his camera for the week. Boy oh boy, do I have something to work towards. Just 100 more of these articles and I’ll be able to buy my own.


Thanks, Dad!!

In California

voter reg

I’m in California for a week working on a project, but it has ever-so-fortuitously coincided with Election Day. Thankfully too, because my registration up until Monday was not confirmed (there was a bit of confusion since I changed my name this summer). Going to the county registration office on Monday was a bit of a zoo, but so worth it.

California ballot

4 more years!

DC Dining Round Up, October 2012

Despite setting the bar high earlier last month with small trips out of the DC area, I’ve been hanging around town the past few weekends. Not only because of a little inclement weather (called Sandy), but because it’s been nice getting to know this city. Plus given a small per diem that we’re getting from the DiploMan’s work, we’ve found it advantageous to delve into DC’s dining scene.

There’s nothing more I like to do than to eat out with loved ones (well, maybe except for cook at home with loved ones. So without further ado, here’s a round-up of some favorite eats we’ve been haunting since we’ve moved into town:

American Ice. Co

917 V Street NW, Washington, DC 20001
Monday-Thursday 5pm-2am, Friday 5pm-3am, Saturday 1pm-3am, Sunday 1pm-2am

This place brings me back to Brooklyn. It’s industrial, it’s got lots of good canned beers, there’s a solid BBQ menu, and okay, maybe it’s a little hipster. Now that the weather is turning way cold, I’m a little hesitant to recommend the picnic benches that are in the courtyard area (courtyard = surrounded by a metal sheeting fence). My advice? Bundle up, and order a hot toddy. I’ll be having the Jack’s Dry Cider in the corner.

Drafting Table

1529 14th Street NW, Washington DC 20005
Monday-Wednesday 4pm-11pm, Thursday 4pm-midnight, Friday 4pm-2am, Saturday 8am-2am, Sunday 8am-midnight

This little spot just opened up close to our apartment. It’s not the most innovative food ever but it’s tasty (the menu is pretty predictable and doesn’t change too much: pickles! a burger! pears and prosciutto!) nor does it have a particularly special drink list, but it does have a great cider on tap (so into cider these days), HDTVs that don’t overpower the space, a cool industrial-style design, good bartenders, plus high communal tables that make it a nice place to pop into and grab a weeknight bite. Did I mention it’s pretty close to our apartment?

Food Trucks at K and 13th Streets

K Street between 13th and 14th, off of Franklin Park (closest metro: McPherson Square)
Track each food truck’s status, hours, and menus on twitter!

13th Street Trucks

Everyday during the week, a row of food trucks are parked off of Franklin Park on K between 13th and 14th.  They’re also regularly parked in Farragut Square, near the State Dept building, and in the Navy Yard. Food trucks have taken off in DC like I never thought they would. And that’s something I’m not particularly upset about.

Kafe Bohem

600 Florida Avenue NW, Washington DC 20001
Monday-Friday 6am-5pm, Saturday & Sunday 8am-5pm

Kafe Bohem

A few days during the week, I’ll park myself at one of a few local cafes to get some work done. Big Bear, Blind Dog, or Kafe Bohem are in my regular rotation, with Kafe Bohem the usual frontrunner. A little sister to it’s next door Bistro Bohem, the Kafe has ample outlets located near each table, free wifi, refills on coffee, a quiet work/study environment, plus I’m a sucker for cool fonts and good chalkboard art, and they’ve branded the place with an assortment of the two. Bohem is the best remote office in town, although, the chewy chocolate chunk cookies at Blind Dog prove them to be a viable competitor. DC’s slightly lacking in their coffee scene, but with new additions like these, I’m excited to see how it grows.

The Pig

1320 14th Street NW, Washington , DC 20005
Dinner nightly from 5pm-close, Lunch Friday noon-4, Brunch Saturday & Sunday 11am-3pm

I’m not too keen on the service style here (“Your waiter, Luke, will be right with you”. “Hi, I’m Luke. Have you dined with us before? No? Well, let me tell you a little about us.”) But what I am certainly fond of is the menu. It’s our go-to spot to gather with a couple of friends, since the menu emphasizes piggy entrees that are served “tapas style”, as more restaurants are doing these days. It’s fun to dine with friends, and try and share several (okay, 7 or 8) different dishes. The drinks are good, and they have small 3oz pours of beers which makes tasting beers just as fun as tasting the food.


locations throughout the DC area, check website for hours and details

The DiploMan and I have been to Sweetgreen more than any other eatery in town. More than Chipotle, even! I know the concept of DIY salads isn’t novel to most of you, but to me, getting these made-to-order salads still feels so good after living in China for two years. I have learned, after my first $18 salad, that I really don’t need to add half the mix-ins they offer behind the counter. More importantly, I also learned that the lemon tahini dressing is delicious. If you’re new to DC and want a good go-to place for an easy takeaway weeknight meal, Sweetgreen’s the place to be.


1314 9th Street NW, Washington DC 20005
Monday-Saturday noon-9pm

Sundevich Mural

Sundevich was our very first meal in DC. As in, we landed, put our bags down, and walked to Sundevich. It’s in an alley, so it’s a little hard to find, but it’s definitely a shining star in the up-and-coming Shaw neighborhood that borders our apartment. I’ve tried their vegetarian selections, but I’m telling you – go for the sandwiches with meat. Chorizo and chimichurri, pulled pork with pickles, yum.

Sushi Taro

1503 17th Street NW, Washington DC 20036
Lunch Monday-Friday 11:30-2:30, Dinner 5:30-10pm Monday-Saturday, Closed Sundays

Our first GREAT meal in the city. This place does what all good Japanese places do: present good, beautifully crafted, and tasty food. We’ve chosen a-la carte options rather than their more ambitious (and more expensive) tasting menus, which have certainly not gone unnoticed. We’ve been twice in two months already, made friends with the servers, and tried many of their rotating, seasonal dishes, all of which make you feel like the most special, decadent diner on the face of the earth. Next: must make sure to take advantage of their 50% off sushi at the bar during happy hour.

Town Tavern

2323 18th Street NW, Washington DC 20009
Monday-Friday 5pm-close, Saturday & Sunday noon-close

Niners at Town Tavern

Town Tavern is the local Bay Area sports bar in town. The food is quite disgusting and takes forever to come out, to boot. It’s a big party bar that I wouldn’t go to normally, but when the 49ers and the SF Giants are both playing on a Thursday night, it’s a great place to be.