My pasta must be made of gold

December 31, 2010 at 12:46 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Today at Pike Place Market I bought the most expensive pasta ever. At least, the most expensive pasta I’ve ever purchased. And although I haven’t eaten the pasta yet, I regret it already.

Pasta price tag

Ouch.

It was really just an unfortunate series of circumstances. I had to take Nano to the vet at noon, and so at 11 a.m. I headed towards King Street Station to catch the free tunnel bus to Pike. It was going to be tight, but I can typically get to the market and back in about 40 minutes if I hurry, so it should have been no problem. When I arrived, the market seemed about normal, but once I got inside it became clear that everybody in Seattle was also at Pike — no doubt to stock up on food for New Year’s events and the long weekend. Adding to the crowds, it was our first perfectly clear sunny day in a little while — bright sunshine and not a cloud in the sky. The sidewalks were full of tourists and shoppers and people taking photos and families who’d carelessly stop and block entire thoroughfares while they discussed some knick knack in a store window. In fact, the crowds were so unpleasant that I caught myself hypocritically saying “I hate tourists!” to myself as a dodged between the multitudes of slow walkers.

In addition to several items for Blake, I was searching for ingredients for this pesto shrimp pasta recipe. I haven’t had pasta in a long time since Blake doesn’t like it, but when I saw this recipe I decided to just make a batch up for me alone. (I was getting authentic Mexican tamales for Blake, so he was taken care of.)

Pasta in the bagIn case you haven’t been to Pike, it’s an old-fashioned market that takes up several city blocks and is full of little storefronts that specialize in one thing or another. On a typical trip I usually stop at the butcher or fishmarket, the spice shop, one of the many produce shops, the sausage counter, the Mexican grocery, and maybe one of the bakeries or cheese shops. When I first started shopping there and didn’t know my way around, I’d just ask each proprietor where I should go for the next item on my shopping list. Now, however, I know where to find most of what I need.  Consequently, this trip should have been very easy and quick — I could just pop in and out at each place and be back home by 11:55 to put the groceries away and get Nano to the vet.

On this trip, however, everything took forever. The innumerable crowds slowed down every mini-trek between two points, and they created lines at every store. And as I was searching for the ingredients not already in my cabinet, things just kept taking longer and longer and longer. I hadn’t purchased pesto at the market before, so I had to hunt down a new store and then hunt down the pesto within that store. Then the first fish market I passed was prohibitively crowded — surrounded by people on all sides. I walked several painstakingly slow steps to the next fish market, but they only had super-expensive shrimp that was the wrong kind anyway. The third fish market had exactly what I needed, but the extremely slow fish guy took about seven minutes to process my simple one-product transaction. While I was waiting for him, I kept pulling off my glove-mittens to check the time on my phone, and it just kept getting later and later.

It was at this point that I passed the pasta place.

I’d been past it a million times. They have all sorts of exotic and interesting kinds of pasta, and 100% of the many, many times that I’ve walked by them I’ve been offered a bite of their famous chocolate pasta. (Yes, really. It tastes weird.) So, in a hurry, I decided that this was the time to try their pasta since it was right close to me and I needed to get a move on. So over I went and spent a luxurious thirty seconds choosing from their many options. (Each flavor was in a bin requiring scooping and pricing by one of the employees.) I chose the Italian Pesto Pasta Blend, decided to get enough for several meals, and asked one of the guys to get it for me. Here’s how it went:

Me: Hello, could I please have three cups of this one? (pointing)

Him: How many people will be eating this?

Me: Well, just me, but over several meals.

Him: Um.. okay. So how much do you want?

Me: About three cups.

Him: Well, usually recipes have like a number of ounces of pasta that they need.

Me: Well, I don’t have a recipe, I just wanted to get some to have on hand. So I’d like about three cups.

Him: Well, so… how much do you need?

Me: Three cups.

It just kept going. I just wanted to get my pasta and the rest of my shopping list and get the heck out of there! So while he (eventually) scooped and packed up my pasta, I juggled my gloves and moved my various shopping bags from one hand to the other and dug in my purse for my wallet and then balanced everything while I handed him my card. And then, as if from far away, I heard him say, “That’ll be $9.10.” I only barely noticed it because it was crowded and loud and I was in a hurry and we’d just had this long discussion about three cups of pasta, and it wasn’t until later that I thought… “$9.10? Wait, is that what he said? I must have heard that wrong.” But I didn’t have time to dwell on it and off I went to the Mexican grocery to get Blake’s tamales.

Pasta closeup

When I poured some of the pasta out to take this photo, I dropped one little piece on the ground. That was like $0.50!

As it turned out, I was several minutes late to the vet. I ran in from the market, dropped the groceries on the counter, stuffed the shrimp and tamales in the fridge,  scooped Nano up, and raced down to the car. (Vet report: she’s fine.) It wasn’t until much later in the afternoon when I put the groceries away that I picked up the bag and saw “$9.10” printed clearly on the sticker. Can you imagine paying $3.03 for one cup of pasta?! Good grief.

But I haven’t had it yet. Maybe it’s spectacular. (It’d better be!) This evening we were kind of tired and so I just heated up tamales for both of us and will save the pasta for later in the weekend.

So, dear readers, I will keep you posted on what must be the most stupendous pasta in all of Seattle. Or the Pacific Northwest, even. I mean, what else could possibly justify a cost like that?

…Perhaps the answer is women like me who buy expensive pasta and don’t notice the price before or after they sign the receipt. That could be it. =(
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Guess what I got at Uwajimaya

December 23, 2010 at 1:53 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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No, seriously. Guess. Because I sure don’t know what it is.

The mystery item

The mystery item

Some sort of decorative Japanese bird feeder? This helpful side panel shows the item’s many features:

The mystery item - sideview

At least it's 100%!

Maybe the instructions will help.

The mystery item - back

This looks easy.

Are these instructions also? The price tag at the store had the word “mochi,” on it, and I know I like mochi. Maybe I cook it?

The mystery item - rear instructions

I guess I boil or bake something.

Note that the English nutritional-info sticker has the longest word I’ve ever seen on it: “takayamamochimarumochi.”

Nutritional information

Looks nutritious.

At the store I asked about six Asian employees what it was. Unfortunately, none of the people I asked turned out to be Japanese, and I got answers ranging from “I don’t know” to “Japanese … new year … rice … for good luck” A quick search for all those words in Google eventually led me to the word kagamimochi, which is apparently what this thing is. Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion in which we open the box!

 

New food: Tonkotsu ramen

December 18, 2010 at 9:39 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Now that we live above Uwajimaya, we’re constantly trying new Asian foods with varying degrees of success and deliciousness. (Even though Uwajimaya was founded by a Japanese family, it has lots of foods from China and other places.) We recently tried kumquat cakes (so-so), smoked plum “soup” (tea?) (not very good), boiled salted duck eggs (so-so), crystal-sugar almond tea (great!) and some assorted mochi ice cream desserts (which I will cover in a future post).

One interesting aisle at Uwajimaya is almost entirely dedicated to noodles and ramen. Both sides are filled to the top with stacks and stacks of single-serving ramen in every color of the rainbow. There are so many, in fact, that it’s impossible to choose just one to try — especially when most of them don’t have any English on the package.

A grocery-store aisle full of ramen

Ramen, ramen everywhere! This photo only shows about 20% of their supply.

Over time I found a few with English translations, and after trying several I’ve finally settled on the most delicious: tonkotsu flavored!

A package of tonkotsu ramen

Yum.

You might be wondering what tonkotsu is, and as far as I can tell it’s “pork bone broth.” I’m not really sure what that means, exactly, but it is SO delicious. Interestingly, unlike the Maruchan ramen sold commonly in the US, all the different bowls I’ve tried from Uwajimaya come with two or sometimes three separate packages of flavor add-ins. Usually some dry powder, dried vegetables, a little pouch of oil, and occasionally some sort of concentrated flavorful paste. This is true across brands and across flavors, so I’m assuming it’s standard with Japanese self-serving ramen.

Ramen instructions

Happily, this particular brand has instructions in English as well.

The instructions are about what you’d expect, and this particular kind has a dry flavor packet and some oil that, as far as I can tell, is totally tasteless. I’m not really sure why it’s there or what it adds, but I put it in every time anyway.

Dry on the left, oil on the right

But even the flavor packets are different than the paltry homogeneous powder that comes with the Maruchan (though it should be noted that I really love Maruchan ramen also). They’re filled with freeze-dried bits of garlic and green onions and sesame seeds and other things that I haven’t been able to identify.

Before adding water

After adding the water it looks about how you’d expect, but it’s a million times more delicious.

After adding the water, covering, and waiting for four minutes, this is how it looks.

As an aside, I have finally found a food that is easier to eat with chopsticks than with a fork! Up til now in life I have always used a spoon to cut up my noodles so they can be easily spooned into my mouth. Recently, however, I got some noodles at a restaurant with no forks on the table and no waitress convenient, so I persevered and felt pretty uncoordinated. In fact, I was sure the two Asian guys at the next table were discussing my technique derogatorily and laughing at the silly white girl pretending she knows how to use chopsticks. Later, though, I ran my process past our Chinese friends Terry and Eva and they said it was perfectly typical! So, armed with new confidence, I began eating my ramen that way every time. (Admittedly, in the photo below it was pretty tricky holding them in my left hand while I took the picture with my right.)

Ramen in a bowl held up by chopsticks

Double yum.

Photos from Victoria, B.C.

December 17, 2010 at 4:59 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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The front of the Hotel Grand Pacific in Victoria, BC

Our hotel. Fancy, huh? Amazingly, this was what we got when I asked for the cheapest hotel. (There was a special where we got the roundtrip ferry and overnight stay at just over $100 per person.)

That's our ferry at dock on the left. This was taken from the balcony of our hotel room.

 

Queen Victoria in front of the parliament building

Some cold ducks

A cold palm tree

Some cold Mexican food. Just seeing this truck makes me long for Zocalo.

This lone guitarist just stood down there in the 35-degree weather playing to nobody. I was almost afraid to walk by for fear of raising his hopes (by walking towards him) and then dashing them (by walking past him and away).

Nano recovering

December 15, 2010 at 6:11 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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In her Easter bonnet

In her Easter bonnet

As mentioned previously, we had Nano fixed yesterday. She came home from the vet the sleepiest and saddest dog in three counties, and her unhappiness continued throughout most of yesterday. The saddest and cutest part of it was her little cone and how she was (and still is) totally unable to understand how it works.

Yesterday was quite a traumatic evening for her, actually. As soon as I carried her in from the car, Pico was the most interested in her that he’s ever been and he proceeded to life up his little paw and drag it around her face/cone region. She was too sleepy to even stand up without wobbling, so she didn’t have a chance to defend against his paw onslaught. But I shoved him out of the way and tried to calm her down from the drive. Then she slept for a while, and after an hour or so she actually started walking around. Here was where the hilarity started, though, because she just kept bumping her little cone into things! Table legs, couches, the wall, Pico, our legs, everything. And as if that weren’t sad enough, when she hit her obstacle she would usually just conclude “Guess I’m stuck. Oh, well,” and then stand there, unmoving (except a lot of wobbling back and forth) until she got sleepy and sort of collapsed into a sitting position. The best (worst) one was when she walked her face up to the wall so that the cone was nearly flat against it — when she tried to turn left or right, the wall was in the way. So she just stood there with her face at the wall until one of us realized what was going on and rescued her.

On the way home from the vet

On the way home from the vet

The vet also gave us instructions to keep her from running or jumping for 10-14 days, which seems like an impossibly tall order. This morning she was hopping all over the place with her usual exuberance, and by this afternoon she was back to an occasional bark when I come inside and jumping up on my office chair while I’m gone (to pull desk items down on the floor where they can be happily chomped by Pico).

But for the most part she seems to be recovering nicely. I brought out my big poofy down comforter and she spent the day reclining on it in an explosion of cuteness. On the occasions that she follows me into another room, usually Pico makes a grab and then he cozes for a while, but he’s so active all the time that she always gets another chance to reclaim it.

In other news, I’ve sort of belatedly realized that by finding this house we like so much (mentioned in yesterday’s post), I’ve actually been freed from an awful lot of work for a while. I don’t have to go visit houses aggressively or scour Redfin.com for any and all homes if there’s the tiniest chance that they’ll be good. Instead I can get other things done, which is really great. =) Go us! I hope we get this house.

 

Some udpates

December 14, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Well, it’s been a while since I’ve posted and things have been unsurprisingly busy. I thought I’d write a quick little post to update you on the latest goings-on:

These aren't in the running anymore, but aren't they pretty? We were considering them in September but we ultimately decided against.

We’re house hunting again! Originally we had been planning to wait until after the new year to start looking again in earnest, but about ten days ago our realtor pointed out that we didn’t have to wait quite that long: if we found a house last week we could still ask for a 45-day closing which would put us past the FHA-mandated milestone that Blake work at Amazon for six months. I still feel kind of sad about the last house, and in fact I couldn’t even bring myself to check and see if it’s still available. Whether it is or not is moot, though — our house preferences have changed while we’ve lived down here in the heart of downtown. It’s been such a neat experience, and it’s made us both want to be far closer to the city than we would have been with the house we almost got. So instead of looking at the suburbs, now we’re only considering houses that are actually in the city of Seattle (or very close to its borders).

What’s even more exciting, though, is that just recently we found a house that we both love. It’s a small amount more than we wanted to pay, but we’re in a unique position to wait until the price drops and/or the owner (which is a bank) is more open to price negotiation. (It seems unwise to give more detail on our strategy in such a public place, so I won’t.) We’re still looking at other homes, though, because it’s not exactly prudent to get your heart set on one house  — it makes negotiations a lot harder.  But this house has definitely raised the bar on what we’re willing to drive out and look at. It’ll probably be a while before we make an offer on anything, but I’ll definitely keep you posted when/if we start exchanging signed papers.

Nano cozed in the corner

Nano cozed in the corner

In other news, we’re getting Nano fixed today. Though we had originally been advised that it’s best to wait a year before spaying, our vet gave us a compelling reason to do it ASAP: if girl dogs are prevented from having their first heat, there’s some huge correlation with the prevention of mammary cancer. (Like, a correlation over 50%.) That was enough for me and so Nano’s becoming a little bit less girly. It’ll be interesting to see if there’s much change in her personality afterwards. When she comes home this afternoon she will have a big cone around her head and I’m sure she will look very sad and pathetic. Consequently, I’ll be sure to take loads of pictures and put them on the internet.

In the meantime, please enjoy this video of her playing an excellent round of fetch on the stairs. She’s the best fetcher I’ve ever owned!

We’ve had an interesting development with our noisy neighbors saga. Since Thanksgiving the music has been back — sometimes at night, sometimes late, and always loud. Sometimes really loud. Even though we are perfectly within our rights to complain to the management again, I really didn’t want to be that person who’s just complaining all the time, so I waited a couple days. But after a few nights of lying awake to the bass percussion at 3 a.m., I vowed to complain again. And so I did: I marched down to the leasing office and very nicely told them the times and dates that these inconsiderate and rude people had continued to disturb us at unreasonable hours despite the management warning them once already. The nice office manager said she’d speak with them again and off I went.

Pico in coat and booties

During the Thanksgiving snow we had, the tea garden (where we walk the dogs) was covered with ice and snow and salt. Both Pico and Nano would occasionally step on sharp salt and then cry for a minute or so, so we bought them adorably ridiculous booties. (The booties lasted about twenty feet before they came off.) It makes a great photo, though.

Later in the afternoon I had a package, so I stopped by the office to pick it up. And guess what happened? The office manager said that she’d spoken to the offending neighbors but that they were most definitely not playing music — in fact, the resident’s elderly mother was visiting and had made them go to bed at 8 p.m. for the last several days! However, they directed her to their next-door neighbors who, according to them, play loud music all the time. Well, as you may recall, we had quite a bit of difficulty initially determining who was playing the music. (Though we were pretty confident by the time I wrote the last post about it.) The apartment they had reported was one of the ones we initially suspected, so we found the story entirely believable. Once I told the office manager she arranged to speak with the noisy folks and we haven’t had a single problem since. (This was about ten days ago.) On rare occasions I’ve heard it loud during the day, but mostly they’ve been quiet as a mouse down there. And happy as I am to have a nice ending to this story, I do still wish the noisy people had actually seen my note! But alas, it was on the door of someone who was already being quiet. Ah, the injustice of it all.

In other other news, our Christmas plans are very peaceful this year. We considered trying to visit Blake’s family in Houston or Dad and Sylvia in Georgia, but flights to both were inordinately expensive. ($600+ per person!) So we decided instead to just stay here in our tiny apartment and have a cozy first married Christmas here in Seattle. We even have reservations for dinner at the Melting Pot! I’ve also gotten all my Christmas gifts in the mail way early this year, and it’s nice to be ahead of the game.

I think those are all the major updates for now. I’ll let you know if anything interesting happens. =)

The Pineapple Express

December 13, 2010 at 7:40 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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A few days ago I was riding the tunnel bus back from downtown and I heard a middle-aged guy talking to the young daughter of one of the other passengers.

A rainy view from Pike Place Market

A rainy view from Pike Place Market

He seemed friendly enough, but he was asking questions that would make me a tad nervous if he were talking to my daughter: “I like your hat. Do you have any brothers or sisters? Where do you live?” The mother was right next to her and the seven-year old couldn’t really give a good description of where they lived, so it wasn’t a big deal, but I noted it. As the bus approached my stop a few minutes later, I began gathering my things and stood up. Then the middle-aged guy came over and stood next to me. “Gonna have a pineapple express this weekend!” he said, nodding emphatically with a knowing glint in his eye. I smiled politely and thought, “What the hell?” I didn’t know what a pineapple express was, but it just sounded like something that I didn’t want to ask some stranger about on a bus. However, my brush-off apparently wasn’t enough — he kept going on about it: “It’s gonna be a good one. Haven’t had a pineapple express in awhile!” Not really knowing how to respond (and not wanting to respond at all), I managed another smile. “Gosh!” I said, chuckling — and walking quickly and purposefully away.

Later in the day, safely home in our warm apartment, I looked up the weather for the weekend. There were articles and warnings everywhere about the upcoming rain and how every river everywhere was expected to flood like crazy. And then I saw it: the Pineapple Express is a climatological phenomenon whereby warm rain from Hawaii blows over the Pacific and ends up along the west coast somewhere. It results in warm temperatures (56 degrees) and torrential rain. I guess that guy was just a nice middle-aged fellow after all.

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