food

International Goodies: Shopping at New Grand Mart

In my hometown, there is an international grocer named New Grand Mart. New Grand has a couple of locations, and, prior to me visiting one of the stores, I usually got my international foods from a different seller in town. However, that seller tended to focus solely on East Asian foods (specifically Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese items). New Grand, however, is a truly international store, with foods hailing from East Asia, India, the Middle East and even Mexico and Central America!

My latest trip to the store resulted in me getting lots of tasty items, but these four were my favorites.

Vegetarian ramen noodles

I love ramen noodles, especially since it’s easy to add additional ingredients and make a a hearty meal. These noodles are the perfect base for my ramen creations.

Frozen sticky rice with mango

I have a review that I’m planning for this frozen sticky rice with mango, so stay tuned for that!

Vegetable mushroom buns (please ignore my nutrition supplements in the background!)

I am a HUGE fan of Chinese buns, and these are by far the tastiest that I’ve ever gotten from a grocery store. So yummy.

Strawberry KitKat candy

I love KitKat candy, especially the limited edition specialty flavors. Strawberry flavored KitKats were available stateside for a short time, but they are very difficult to find. Imagine my excitement when I saw that these are regularly offered at New Grand Mart! I’m delighted that I will always be able to get the strawberry flavored ones, so long as New Grand carries them.

Those are my favorite international goodies! Do you have any favorite items that you like to purchase from international grocers? Let me know all about it in the comments!

travel

Throwback Thursday Travel: China Pt 3

My final installment of the Throwback Thursday Travel series takes me back to China. This time, I’m reflecting on Shanghai, the last city I visited in China. I’ll always remember SH as a dynamic city with a vibrant nightlife and fantastic shopping. Here are some of my photos from my trip. Enjoy!

Stopping at Gucheng Park
Shopping in SH
The hotel where I stayed
Interior chandeliers
Mini fountain display at the hotel
The larger hotel fountain
Sightseeing
More sightseeing
At Meters/Bonwe
Going to see the acrobats

art · culture · travel

Throwback Thursday Travel: China, Part 2

Happy Thursday, friends! I first posted about my trip to China several years ago, and then I shared a Throwback Thursday Travel post highlighting my time in Beijing. But my trip to China didn’t end with Beijing: I also traveled to Hangzhou and Shanghai. Today, I’m sharing some pictures from Hangzhou, my favorite city in China. I loved West Lake, and I learned that many Chinese citizens love Hangzhou for weekend getaways. It’s such a picturesque city: I can’t wait to return!

At The Ramada in Hangzhou: such a beautiful lobby!

Touring the Dream Town Incubator

At beautiful West Lake

Shopping at Hefang Old Street

Riding around in Hangzhou

Visit to a tea plantation

art · culture · international · travel

Throwback Thursday Travel: China, Part 1

I shared some photos of my trip to China almost two years ago (to the date!) on this blog. I remember this trip fondly and I can’t wait to return when international travel is an option again. Until then, here are some photos that I haven’t shared before. These are all from Beijing: I’ll add pictures from Hangzhou and Shanghai in a separate post. Enjoy!

Meal I enjoyed at a local mall: one of the best veggie curries I’ve ever had!

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A quick snap at The Forbidden City

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The Great Wall

Local shopping district: I visited Plastered8 t-shirt shop and found some cool stuff

Yum!

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Spots of beauty everywhere

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Cute bib from Haidilao restaurant (their hotpot was superb!)

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A philosophy for life

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food

No More Food Deliveries!

Happy Thursday friends! I’m coming to you all with a (mini) gripe. I don’t usually complain on this blog: after all, I believe that life is wonderful and good things are all around us. As a rule, I don’t complain.

However, I have my limits. And, because I have my limits, I feel that it’s time to put my foot down and turn over a new leaf. As we go into this next blogging year, I felt it was important to tell you all the change that I’m making.

You’ve read the title, so you have a clue what I’m talking about. As you all may know, I love food. Like, I really love it. I’m a huge fan of international cuisine, such as Thai, Indian, Kenyan, Jamaican, Ethiopian and (authentic) Chinese. As a result, I tended to order a lot of takeout and I enjoyed – for a time – having food delivered to me.

food

Well, doesn’t this look yummy!

Unfortunately, I’ve had a string of poor experiences over the past few months. Missing items, incorrect orders, food not being spiced/seasoned to the level requested … It was clear that something had to change because the quality of delivery orders that I received has steadily declined.

So, I’ve decided to quit ordering delivery and start making more dishes at home. I only have a surface-level knowledge of foreign cuisine, so it’ll be fun to learn more about how to prepare dishes from around the world. I’ll be blogging about these recipes and sharing my tips, tricks, and (yes) even my fails! I hope that you all stick around for the journey.

I’ll still be dining out and reviewing different restaurants, but as far as delivery goes? There will be a moratorium on that for an indefinite period. It’ll be more fun to learn how to cook and to share what I learn with you all. We’ll have fun together – I promise!

art · international

A Single Lot Auction? Sotheby’s Is Making It Happen

Over the past several months of researching art, auctions and collecting, I’ve enjoyed learning about the procedures of the auction houses as well as the habits of collectors. While checking out the upcoming Sotheby’s auctions, I was surprised to see an auction with a single lot. Yes, you heard me right: there’s only one item in this auction.

I’ve never seen an auction with only one lot, so I took my time to read through the item description to see what artifact is so precious that it deserved its own solo show at Sotheby’s. Now, this isn’t the only thing being auctioned by Sotheby’s Paris on this day. There are actually two subsequent auctions occurring at this location on the same day. But this item was so special that it has a dedicated auction, featuring only this item.

The item to be sold is an incredibly rare yangcai vase. The intricate artifact is over 300 years old and in pristine condition. The vivid images were painted onto the porcelain vase by the top artisans in Jingdezhen, China, unlike similar vases during this era that were made in Jingdezhen but painted in Beijing.

Screenshot 2018-06-03 at 3.50.55 PM - Edited

The yangcai vase

This vase is absolutely exquisite. It’s expected to fetch between $600,000 and $900,000 USD. But given it’s rarity, it may easily soar over the $1 mil USD mark. If you’d like to add this beauty to your collection, you may view it on June 9, 10, and 11, 2018, between 10 AM and 6 PM CEST. If you’d like to bid, you can register online, or you can attend the auction in person. The details to the auction are below:

June 12, 2018, 10:30 AM CEST, Sotheby’s Paris

76, rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré
CS 10010
75384 PARIS CEDEX 08
France
Tel: +33 1 53 05 53 05
Fax: +33 1 53 05 52 21
paris.info@sothebys.com

 

I’m excited to see what the final price will be for this gorgeous vase!

food · international

Lunch at Absolute Noodle

As you all know, I love to get out during my lunch break and try new restaurants and international cuisine. Since I work in DC, the possibilities are endless, and I spend quite a bit of time trying to figure out where to go because, hey, a girl’s gotta eat well. Last week was no different, as I ventured out on the coldest day of the week to get some nibbles (that’s what happens when you forget to pack your lunch).

I wanted to get dim sum, but the restaurant was closed. So I went to my easy standby, Absolute Noodle on 5th Street NW. This tiny restaurant is easy to miss, since it’s small and unassuming. However, the location – roughly 3 blocks from Capital One Arena (formerly the Verizon Center) – makes it a perfect spot to grab a meal before a basketball game, or to fuel up before hitting the city for a night on the town.

popville absolute noodle

(courtesy of PopVille)

The menu is small but covers some great options: it’s a fusion of Chinese, Japanese, and Thai appetizers and entrees. I ordered one of my favorite options – yaki ramen – and an appetizer I’ve never tried before, crab and cheese croquettes.

 

I’ll start with the croquettes. These were perfectly fried: crisp without having too much breading. Kudos to the restaurant for using panko breading instead of using a wonton. Overall, these tasted alright, but I wasn’t in love with the texture, nor the fact that I tasted all cheese and very little seafood essence. I’m a born-and-bred Virginian, so my standards for seafood are pretty high. After all, crabs are a regular summer indulgence. So I was disappointed to see that no only did these have no discernable crab meat in them, but it’s likely that the “crab meat” used to flavor this was imitation crab meat (I could be wrong, but I doubt it).

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Imitation seafood products are accurately described by Anne Barone (in her book, Chic and Slim Encore) as, “what [she] would imagine ocean perch would taste like if it had been poached in a marinade of children’s cough syrup”. No, my croquettes didn’t taste quite like cough-syrup-infused perch. But it also didn’t taste remotely like any crab that I’ve eaten. So while this wasn’t gross, I wouldn’t try it again. The dipping sauce was good, though.

I can recommend the spring rolls here – very tasty and always cooked perfectly. Next time, I’ll stick to what I know!

For my entree, I almost always get the yaki ramen. However, I have a little “quirk”: I only get the yaki ramen when I do a takeout order (as I did on this occasion). You see, the yaki ramen is one of the non-soup (broth-free) noodle options. And I don’t like dry ramen, so I take this dish back to my office and add boiling hot water to it, let it sit for a moment (so that the flavor infuses into the water), then eat. The resulting broth is very flavorful (this restaurant doesn’t skimp on the seasoning) and I always end up having to eat the ramen in two sittings.

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Half of my order of yaki ramen with tofu, after I added some hot water to make a broth.

The ramen was delicious, as always. I love that it’s vegetarian and customizable.

So that’s my review of Absolute Noodle. It’s worth a visit, especially if you find yourself in Northwest DC, in the Chinatown/Capital One Arena area. Let me know what you think of it!

culture · international

An Unforgettable Army

A few days ago, I got to return to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to spend some time with the exhibits. When I found out that the museum was featuring statues from the world famous terracotta army (the 8,000 Chinese sculptures created to accompany China’s first emperor in the afterlife), I knew I couldn’t miss it.  The exhibit, Terracotta Army: Legacy of the First Emperor of China, appealed to my love of Asian art and history. Since I didn’t see any of the terracotta soldiers during my trip to China in 2016, this exhibit was the perfect chance to glimpse into the first Chinese empire.

You all may recall a few months ago I visited VMFA to see the Yves St. Laurent exhibit. I felt awful about only going once: I wish I had visited several times before the exhibit left.

I learned my lesson well. I gave myself enough time to see this exhibit more than once.

Just as a heads up: this is truly a once-in-a-lifetime exhibit. VMFA states, “More than 40 objects in the exhibition have never before been on view in the United States.  Terracotta Army is the first exhibition the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has presented in its 80-year history that is devoted to the art and archaeology of ancient China.”

If you can’t make it to see the artifacts in person, never fear! I took LOTS of pictures. I can’t promise that you’ll feel like you were there, but at least you can imagine . . . First, the small artifacts and information posted throughout the exhibit:

And now, the soliders (I’ll share 5 of them in this post):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was awestruck by the artifacts and am so happy that I get to share them with you all. The true treasure, however, is the HISTORY behind each artifact. The Qin Dynasty was revolutionary and set all of the groundwork for Chinese unification. It’s amazing how much Qin Shihuang accomplished during his less than 50 years on earth.

Terracotta Army: Legacy of the First Emperor of China will be at VMFA until March 11, 2018. I implore you to go if at all possible: you won’t be disappointed!

food · international

Review: People’s Bao Food Truck

People’s Bao food truck has been on my “to try” list for a few months now. I’ve craved delicious Chinese style buns since my trip to China last year. I was blown away by the flavor of Momofuku’s mushroom buns (which I reviewed here). But I saw the rave reviews of People’s Bao on Yelp and I was eager to give it a whirl.

The truck finally arrived close to my building, and I seized the opportunity. I ordered the Portabella buns and Portabella rice bowl. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I figured that if the food was half as good as Momofuku, I would fare well.

Here’s the good, bad and otherwise:

The Portabella mushrooms were ample but not particularly flavorful. They would have benefited from marinating in a sauce that would infuse the mushrooms with flavor. Also, since these mushrooms are thicker than the shiitake ones used by Momofuku, they didn’t cook to the bacon-like crispiness of the last buns I tried.

The sauce added to the bun was spicy enough but fairly indescribable. I can’t name anything that it tasted like, other than “spice”. Also, this was another bun creation where the filling  was folded in the bun like a sandwich, instead of being fully encased in the bun bread (like the buns served during dim sum).

As far as the rice bowl? Meh. Lots of delicious, fresh veggies but, again, not a lot of flavor. I tried to like it, but I couldn’t. I eat primarily vegetarian meals but I still love flavor, and this dish came up lacking.

The best part of the meal was the watermelon garnish that I found in the bottom of my bag! I initially thought the ramekins contained a sauce to add to my entrees, and I was excited at the thought of something savory being in the bag. But, as it turns out, the ramekins contained small chunks of sweet, ripe watermelon instead. That was an unexpected treat, and a nice accent to an otherwise forgettable meal.

I’m adding some stock photos for context, but I didn’t photograph this meal, because it simply wasn’t worth it.

dcistbun

 

This photo from DCist looks exactly like the bun that I received.

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In a nutshell? I wouldn’t order again. It’s possible that this was just an “off” day, but I’d rather pay a few more dollars and have guaranteed tastiness at Momofuku. Maybe one day I’ll be adventurous enough to give it another go, but for now, I have to decline returning to People’s Bao.