An evening in the quiet city

November 4, 2010 at 11:00 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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A few nights ago Blake and I were sitting in the living room when the power went out. Everything blinked off except for our laptops, of course, and things were eerily quiet. It was already dark outside, so I went over to the window and looked at the surrounding buildings to discover that not only was our building out — it went for several blocks. At least a 3×3 block square, and maybe more. In the hallway the fire doors had fallen closed — they’re usually held open by electromagnets — so in the glow of the emergency lights the empty hallway looked almost spooky and closed off and silent. It was pretty neat.

I took some photos of the dark street below with the tripod — it is now a permanent fixture here in our living room — and then I left the camera untouched so I could take the same photo when the lights came back on. (Blake’s idea.) The camera must have shifted a bit during the intervening time, but the photos are pretty close:

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In retrospect I would have aimed the camera a little bit differently, but it was pretty hard to see what I was taking a photo of when the lights were out. (For the photography nerds out there, the dark shot was a 15-second exposure and the light one was 1/40 ish.)

After about an hour the lights came back on, which was fortunate since we were getting pretty hungry. So we took off down the street around 7:45 looking for food. After a few blocks it became apparent that most of the restaurateurs in Chinatown had decided to close up and go home once the power had been off for a while, and our hopes for a sit-down dinner dwindled. But then, up ahead, we saw some lights and a neon “open” sign. Just as we were approaching to take a look at the menu posted outside, the store’s proprietor came out to… I don’t know, stand around or something. (Why do restaurant owners in cities hang out in front of their restaurants? I’ve never understood it.) He was a diminutive Asian guy and seemed very friendly. He noticed that we were approaching and smiled broadly, but we sort of paused — if we went over to look at the menu and then didn’t want to eat there, I’d feel terrible walking away with this nice guy grinning at us! So we looked at each other and decided to go over anyway, and the menu looked fine. So we went in, much to this guy’s delight.

Most of the menu was in Chinese, but it had English translations. It took us a long time to decide what to order, though — me especially — because of my plan to order interesting ethnic food. I may be culinarily adventurous right now, but I’m doing it in baby steps — I’m not going to jump right into the prawn “hot pot” (whatever that is — it’s on lots of menus around here). Anyway, I ended up getting the “chicken ball” with rice noodles, which turned out to be…  rice noodles with normal-shaped pieces of chicken in it. (I’m not sure how the word “ball” got into that translation.)It was good, though, and there were photos on the wall of many more dishes that looked pretty appetizing and unusual. I hope to go back and try more of them.

The best part of the meal was what I had to drink. The beverage menu listed quite a few odd items, including milk with an egg in it, horlicks (?), and lemon Coke. Determined to broaden my horizons, I picked one of the more benign-sounding beverages on the list: “honey lemon.” Thinking it could be a soda or tea or something else entirely, I asked what was in it. “Honey and lemon in water,” she said, which didn’t sound quite unusual enough for me. So I moved on to the next most interesting item on the list: “almond.” When I asked what that was, I suppose I ought to have been able to predict the answer: “almond in water.”  Hm. Clearly there was something in this description that I was missing, because I was willing to bet dollars to doughnuts that I wasn’t going to get a nut sitting in the bottom of a water glass. So I ordered it and braced myself.

When it came, it was delightful! It almost looked like warm milk but more cream-colored. She pointed to the sugar in case I needed to add any, but when I took a sip it was quite sweet enough. It was kind of a strange, sweet, delicious almond-flavored… something. Not tea, really, though I don’t know what else to compare it to. Anyway, it was very good and I was very glad I ordered it. When you all come to visit us in Seattle we’ll have to take you there and then you, too, can have some almond.


Dining in Chinatown

November 1, 2010 at 11:22 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Blake and his cream cheese puff

Blake and his cream cheese puff. You can see Chinatown's Chinese gate in the background on the left.

Well, we had a lovely weekend in the new apartment. Aside from the obvious benefits of living right next to Amazon, this is really a neat area. After sleeping til noon on Saturday morning (after our harrowing move during the preceding few days), we got up and walked over to the nearby Yummy House Bakery for breakfast. Like all the businesses here in the international district, it’s run by some Asians of indeterminate nationality. It was a charmingly rainy morning and we strolled the 100 or so feet under my big umbrella and then had coffee and other delicious stuff. Blake had a cream cheese puff and a sponge cake, and I had a ham-and-egg puff and an egg custard tart. We were the only non-Asians in there for most of the time, but everybody in there was friendly and chatty (with each other in some other language) and it had a real home-town neighborhood feel even though we were in an Asian bakery in the middle of downtown.

We’ve checked out a few other restaurants here, and I’m determined to try lots of interesting and different foods. It’s really easy for me to just order the chicken and broccoli at all these restaurants, but there’s so much authentic and different stuff on the menu that I don’t want to miss. We’ll probably never live in a place like this again, so I’m forcing myself to eat outside my comfort zone. Sometimes it backfires, though — the other day we stopped at a different bakery after dinner and I adventurously bought some sort of date-egg pastry and a tiny mooncake. The date-egg pastry was just awful, so I gave the mooncake a try. It was… acceptable, but sort of like a big Fig Newton with a disproportionately large amount of fig. I threw them both away but have resolved not to let them dissuade me from my goals.



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