Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Another birthday!

Lauren (my niece) is 2 years old today. Happy Birthday Lauren!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Recap of the last few days

Random bits from the last few days...

Saturday (8/25/07):

While we were in the LA area, I wanted to try some frozen yogurt. The last time I had frozen yogurt was probably back in the 80's, around the time when TCBY was popular. Now, there are all these new frozen yogurt shops sprouting up everywhere - i.e. Pinkberry, Kiwiberry, Yogurtland, Cantaloop, Red Mango, etc. On our way to Rowland Heights for lunch, we stopped by Pinkberry (@ Victoria Gardens). We had a small green tea frozen yogurt w/ strawberries. It was a nice and refreshing "pre-lunch" snack.

Here's a pic:
Pinkberry - green tea yogurt w/ strawberry

Patty and I went to lunch w/ Patty's cousin, Yoru (who was visiting from Australia). We went to Sim Ba La (Rowland Heights), a place specializing in Taiwanese food. We had:

- Luo Buo Gao (turnip cake)
Sim Ba La - Luo Buo Gao

- Xiang Chang (Taiwanese sausage)
Sim Ba La - Xiang Chang

- Beef Noodle Soup
Sim Ba La - Beef Noodle Soup

- Stewed Pork w/ bamboo shoots
Sim Ba La - Stewed pork w/ bamboo shoots

- "8 Treasure" Shaved Ice (shaved ice w/ pudding, red beans, green beans, taro balls, grass jelly, boba, coconut jelly, love jelly, and condensed milk)
Sim Ba La - 8 Treasure Shaved Ice
(this picture is deceptive - it was a HUGE plate!)

My favorites were the Luo Buo Gao, Xiang Chang, and shaved ice, although everything was very, very tasty (and inexpensive - $29 for 3 people)!!!

After lunch, we went to Phoenix for drinks. My hot milk tea was pretty good. Patty's Tangerine Honey tea was really bad, as was Yoru's coffee. We've been there a few times before for desserts, but never for drinks. Next time, we'll stick w/ their desserts.

Speaking of dessert, it was time for more frozen yogurt! We went to Kiwiberri (Rowland Heights) and had original frozen yogurt w/ mango, strawberries, and blueberries. I thought it was pretty similar to Pinkberry - light and fresh tasting.
Kiwiberri - original yogurt w/ mango, stawberries, blueberries

Although both Pinkberry and Kiwiberri were good, I'm still not quite sure what why these frozen yogurt shops are so popular...

Anyways, by late afternoon we had already had three desserts...yum!

For dinner, we met up with my Uncle Liming, Aunt Joan, and Cousin Supin at Eki Eki Japanese Restaurant (Torrance). I forgot to take pictures but we had a bunch of things - 5 rolls, assorted sashimi, "monkey brains", tempura, etc. I can't remember all of it. I just remember that it was really good and I was very stuffed afterwards. So stuffed that I even declined gelato afterwards. (is that possible???)

Sunday (8/26/07):

For lunch on Sunday, my aunt and uncle took us to Szechwan Chinese Restaurant (Lomita).
To start things off, we had a few dim sum items. Everything was really good - very fresh and flavorful. Better than anything I've had in Phoenix. My favorite was the green tea "mochi" w/ peanuts. I've never seen it before. We had also ordered a fresh, live 4 lb. lobster fried w/ garlic. I think it was the best lobster I've ever had.
Szechwan - fried lobster w/ garlic

After lunch we headed to Long Beach airport for our flight back to Phoenix.

Back in (extremely hot) Phoenix, we went to Wildflower for dinner. We got our "usual" - the Harvest Apple Pork Sandwich and Emerald Spinach Salad. We also had a Georgia Peach frozen drink. The food items were both good (as usual) and the drink was one of the best smoothies I've ever had. Wildflower is a great place for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The food is consistently good and the prices are reasonable.
Wildflower - Harvest Apple Pork sandwichWildflower - Emerald Spinach Salad

Monday (8/27/07):

Patty's Birthday!

Patty loves seafood...especially shellfish. Even though we just had lobster the day before, we had previously decided that I would cook Dungeness Crab for dinner.

On my way to Super L market to buy the crab, I stopped by Honey Bear's for lunch. I had a pulled pork sandwich and small side of the cowbro' beans. Both were good. (no pics)

On to dinner, here's the crab I steamed:
Steamed dungeness crab

After helping Patty eat the crab, I made a frozen pizza for myself. It was a brand that I've never tried before, but have heard very good things about: American Flatbread - Fire Roasted Tomatoes with Corn and Cheese.
American Flatbread box

Sorry, no picture of the pizza itself (I was too busy eating it). WOW - it was the best frozen pizza I've ever had. Extremely good flavor and texture - rivaling what you get in restaurants.

For a birthday cake, I got an "Ultimate Chocolate Cake" from Wildflower.
Patty's birthday cake

It was really good - nice and moist, and not too sweet.

That's all for now! Thanks for reading...

Monday, August 27, 2007

Happy Birthday to Patty!

Today is Patty's B-Day. What surprises have I planned for her?!?

Got back from LA yesterday. I'll post an update soon...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Off to LA

for the next few days...

I want to try Kiwiberry/Pinkberry/Yogurtland (maybe all of them???) to see what all the fuss is about ("yogurt wars" in LA...).

The 11th Hour

Went to an advanced screening of "The 11th Hour".

The film is a documentary about climate change and how humans are (largely) responsible for causing it.

Here are the main points:
  • The Earth is very sick
  • Ecosystem is out of balance
    • Climate change caused by:
      • Humans
        • Rapid population increase
        • Rapid increase in greenhouse gas emission
        • Excess consumption
        • Waste
        • Reliance on fossil fuels
  • We have the technology today to greatly reduce carbon emissions
  • Primary problem today is government/big oil/lack of public awareness
  • Time is running out, we need to do something

My thoughts:
  • The film is very U.S.-centric. It's true that the US is the biggest consuming nation and is very behind in its environmental practices, although this is very much an international problem. China is a huge concern - growth is out of control (and they have surpassed the U.S. in carbon emissions).
  • The film presents this bleak situation but then doesn't argue strongly enough for a call to action.
  • The movie presents so much information and is somewhat difficult to follow. I preferred "An Inconvenient Truth".
My recommendation:
Be aware of the situation. Educate yourself. Do something.

Monday, August 20, 2007


Went to see Superbad over the weekend. It was one of the funnier movies I've seen.

This should give you a pretty good description of what it's about:

MPAA: Rated R for pervasive crude and sexual content, strong language, drinking, some drug use and a fantasy/comic violent image - all involving teens.

McLovin' cracks me up. 7 (out of 10).

Why do we live here?!?

Great question. I'm not really sure.

Here's a headline from today's news:
We are currently at 26 days. Most likely we'll break this record on Wednesday. No relief in sight...

Here's the full story: link

Sunday, August 19, 2007


Patty and I went to Arrowhead Mall on Saturday night and had a Oreo Blizzard from Dairy Queen. The last time I had a Blizzard was probably about 15 years ago. It was pretty satisfying (and rather HUGE for a small). Large chunks of Oreo cookies mixed in to the DQ soft serve...yum...


For brunch today, we tried Palatte. There have been quite a few discussions on Chowhound regarding Palette and I've been wanting to try it out for myself.

When we first entered the place, I stood there for a few moments trying to figure out what to do. It's definitely not intuitive. Luckily, an employee came by and told us how it worked. Basically, you take a menu (which is behind you as you enter), order and pay at a counter (which is not immediately visible), and find an open table. Drinks and food are brought to your table. The layout of the register is puzzling. I'm not quite sure why they don't switch it around so the register faces the door.

We ordered:
1. Classic "Mish Mash" (egg scramble w/ fine herbs and tomatoes) w/ cinnamon cranberry toast and fresh fruit ($7).
2. Buttermilk Griddle Cakes (warm lingonberry and citrus butter) w/ bacon ($6.50).
3. OJ (can't remember the exact price but it was around $3)

I liked the general atmosphere - kind of a french country/eclectic interior. Here are some pics of the place:

The food was another story. Look closely at these photos:

Let's start w/ the Classic. The eggs were very runny and lacked flavor. Except for a few speck of chive and parsley, can you see any "fine herbs" in the picture??? The fruit salad was ok - consisting of nectarines, plums, strawberries. I thought the toast was the best thing on the plate.

The griddle cakes were a disaster. As you can see in the picture, they were drowning in a lingonberry compote/sludge. The kitchen needs to work on their plating skills as it was definitely unappetizing to look at. The pancakes were mushy and tasted like they were made from a box mix. The bacon was ok. It was typical bacon - the kind of bacon that you get at Denny's, IHOP, etc. Nothing like the killer bacon at Matt's Big Breakfast.

The OJ was fresh squeezed.

Overall, I thought the food quality was worse than what you can get at Denny's or IHOP. What a disappointment! I really like the place itself so I'll probably give it a second chance. I'd also like to try the lunch options.

For now, I'll stick w/ Matt's Big Breakfast and LGO. 4 (out of 10).

Here are a few of the discussions I mentioned above: 1 , 2, 3

Friday, August 17, 2007

El Paso Bar-B-Que

I've been craving barbeque ribs for the longest time. I love ribs...the problem is that I haven't found any really great barbeque places in the area. I've tried: El Paso, Famous Dave's, Honey Bear's, Thee Pitt's, and Big City.

For dinner we decided to go to El Paso Bar-B-Que (Goodyear location). I've been to El Paso many times before and it has always been pretty decent, but it's been about a year since I've been to one. This was our first visit to this particular location. We ordered a full rack of baby back ribs (20.99) and a strawberry lemonade (2.95). The ribs came w/ two sides - we opted for the creamy corn and sweet potato fries (haven't tried either of these before).

The strawberry lemonade was pretty good though a bit too sweet.

While we were waiting for our ribs, the server brought us jalapeno cornbread. I thought the cornbread was pretty tasty - nice and moist with a bit of spice.

Our ribs came and we took a few bites. They were really dry, almost like a jerky, and lukewarm. When our server came back to check on us, we told her about the ribs she took them back and replaced them with a new rack. The new rack was better, piping hot and moist, but the ribs still weren't "fall-off-the-bone" tender.

The sides were not so good. The creamy corn was like eating a soup made of sweetened milk and corn. The sweet potato fries didn't really taste like sweet potatoes. I'm guessing they were a frozen pre-fried product. Nothing like the killer fries at Delux. Next time, I'll stick w/ the steak fries and cowboy beans.

The food just wasn't as good as I remembered. The search continues...

I give it a 5 (out of 10).

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Two (very different) visits to the dentist

So both Patty and I hadn't been to the dentist for 12 months and were overdue for an exam and cleaning.

I found a dentist (Alpha Dental, Dr. Eugene Kim) near Patty's office (near Metrocenter Mall) and accompanied her yesterday to her appointment. We filled out some paperwork and waited a few minutes before the hygenist came to get Patty. After only a few minutes, the hygienist led Patty back to the front office and said that the cost would be $164 for 2 cavities and "full mouth debridement". Without offering a verbal explanation, the staff handed us a paper explaining the various "levels" of cleaning. Since we were already there for the appointment, we decided to do the "full mouth debridement" that day. After paying, the hygienist again took Patty to the back. This seemed so strange that we had to pre-pay prior to any procedures. After waiting another twenty minutes, Patty was done. The doctor seemed decent but the staff was really lacking in service.

After we got home, I did a bit of research on "full mouth debridement" and it seems like a rather involved process (something that can't be done in 20 minutes). The question that keeps popping up in my head is whether the full debridement was required, and if so, was it actually administered?
In any case, both Patty and I got very strange feelings from the visit and have decided that Patty won't be going back to Alpha Dental.

After Patty's surreal ("Twilight Zone") visit, I decided I needed to go for a check-up as well. I did some searching and found a dentist near our house - Desert Vista Dental.

I had a fantastic visit! The entire office staff was great. I was impressed with the digital x-rays:

Having a good hygienist is just as important as the dentist. The hygienist explained, in detail, what she was doing throughout my visit. I think she won me over when she mentioned that I had "pretty teeth". When the dentist (Dr. Robert Jones) came in for the final inspection, he said, "wow, you have great looking teeth" (again, bonus points). Maybe I can become a "teeth model"...hahaha...

The truth is, after having scaling done a few years ago, I vowed that I would never go through that again and since then I've tried to take great care of my teeth. My routine includes brushing with an electric toothbrush, flossing daily, and rinsing w/ Listerine twice a day.

A successful cavities!

If you need a dentist in the West Valley, I highly recommend the team at Desert Vista Dental!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Worst drivers in the nation?

I'm convinced that Phoenix must have the worst drivers in the nation. Here's a snapshot of the headlines from (southwest valley edition):

5 car accidents! The sad thing is that this is a typical day and the scary thing is that many of these accidents involve uninsured and unlicensed drivers.

Speeding, red-light running, dui/dwi, texting, talking on the phone, stress, long commutes, terrible traffic, unskilled drivers, the list goes on and on.

Then to top it off, you've got gawkers causing curiousity factor delays (and even additional accidents). ARGHHHHHH!!! What's with this place?!?

OK - I'm done venting for now.

Update - here's another headline that just got added after I originally posted: "Police: Text messaging to blame for fatal accident"

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Weekend recap

Saturday we met up with some friends for dim sum @ China King (in Chandler). It had been a long time since we'd gone for dim so we were both excited. This was also our first time going to China King. As we were being seated I saw Trung and - another couple to add to the "on-deck" list (October '08). Congratulations guys!

The dim sum was good - probably the best in Phoenix right now. Good, solid food but not the best dim sum I've had. The service was good and the prices were very reasonable - about $10 per person. I'll give it a 7 (out of 10).

After dim sum we went to Boba Tea House for some boba. Same drinks as last week - jasmine green tea w/ boba and red bean slush (this time w/ boba). Linda and Al were also there and had ordered popcorn chicken. Tasty stuff...very similar to the salty fried chicken you can get on the streets in Taiwan (though it had a bit of a sweet taste and needed a bit more pepper).

After snacking, we went to visit Khoa and Mai and their new baby, Mina Saomai...what a cutie!

For dinner we went to Pita Jungle (Tempe location), one of my favorites. I've been going to the Tempe and Chandler locations for years, ever since I moved to Chandler in 1997. We ordered a small order of hummus ($3.60) and the Putanesca Chicken ($9.95). I've ordered both before and knew this would be more than enough for the two of us to share. The hummus (served w/ pita bread) was great - not too oily and it had the perfect texture. Next came the Putanesca Chicken. I'm not sure how Pita Jungle prepares their chicken but it is the best chicken EVER. It's always very flavorful and moist. The dish was great - marinated grilled chicken on top of linguini pasta, garlic, capers, tomatoes, and plenty of herbs. The service at Pita Jungle can be a bit erratic but there were no problems on this night. Pita Jungle gets an 8 (out of 10).

Sunday morning we tried making pancakes for the first time (I've made with pancake mix before but never from scratch). I found a recipe online (for basic pancakes) and decided to try it out. The pancakes turned out a bit they are (when you see the shape, please don't laugh!):

In the background, you can also see the ham omelette that I made (I guess it's actually more of a frittata). Anybody have any great pancake recipes to share???

After lunch, we went to see The Bourne Ultimatum. What a great movie - probably the best of the series. It's non-stop action. Jason Bourne (aka David Webb) is indestructible - he survives an explosion from close range, a few car accidents, multiple fights, etc. Maybe just a tiny bit unrealistic but I loved it. I'll give it 8 (out of 10).

That's all for now...thanks for reading!

Friday, August 10, 2007

A true hero

Just read about Mario Rodriguez, a 68-year-old crossing guard who was just awarded Tolleson School District's first "Outstanding Employee Award".

In the past 6 years he has only missed 2 full days of work - one day to attend his daughter's college graduation, a half-day to attend his son's college graduation, and another half-day when his wife was in the hospital. Read more here...

Thank you Mario!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Doing our part to save the planet

A few weeks ago, I was reading Good Magazine and came across an article titled "Number Crunching", featuring a series of photos by photographer Chris Jordan. Here's one of the pictures from the series:

(photo from

The picture shows 60,000 plastic bags, the number used in the US every 5 seconds! There is another picture in the series showing 2 million plastic bottles, the number used in the US every 5 minutes! These numbers are just insane...

FYI - here's a great article from Fast Company about the bottled water industry: link

Here's what Patty and I are doing to try to help out:
  • bought a nylon reusable bag for our groceries
  • whenever possible, we drink filtered water (from the fridge) instead of bottled water
  • installed desert landscaping to minimize water use -> grass requires a ton of water to maintain
  • installed solar landscaping lights
  • replaced about half the bulbs in our house with CFLs
  • replace the air filter for our air conditioning on a regular basis
  • installed ceiling fans and raised the setting on our AC to 87 degrees (I know that sounds pretty warm, but with the fans it's comfortable)
  • purchased a front-loading washing machine -> front-loaders use about 40-60% less water and 30-50% less electricity compared to regular washers; they also use about 75% less detergent
  • recycle whenever possible
  • maintain the air pressure in our cars -> proper pressure maximizes the mileage of your vehicle and tires plus it's safer
What are you doing? We'd love to hear your ideas...

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Dressing for success (or not)

First off, I want to congratulate Khoa and Mai on the birth of their baby girl last Saturday. Welcome to the World Mina Saomai!

On deck: Buddy/Catina (any day now...) and Al/Linda ('08)

So today I decided to go to the CareerExpo. I dusted off one of my suits and made sure that my shoes were clean and shiny. As I wandered around the expo, I was shocked at what some of the attendees were wearing. There were tons of guys in jeans, t-shirts, and athletic shoes and girls in outfits that looked more like "club" wear (tight-fitting blouses and tank tops). I'm guessing in some cases, it might actually work for the girls but were these people really here to find jobs?!? Granted, it was about 105 degrees outside and wearing proper attire might be a bit uncomfortable...but come on people, you are putting yourself in front of potential employers. I'm not an HR professional or expert on dressing, but I know that if you want a chance, at least make an effort!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Do you know what it actually says?

Whenever I see someone with a tattoo or t-shirt with a Chinese character, I always asks my wife what it means. I'd say that eighty percent of the time, the characters are incorrect. One small error can change the meaning of the word entirely (or make it meaningless). I think it's quite funny - there are all these people thinking they have something cool on their bicep or t-shirt, when it is completely wrong.

Lesson of the day: If you can't read it yourself, don't assume that it's correct. I'd recommend hunting down one of the over 1.5 billion people in the World that read and write Chinese and have them verify.

Here are two articles on the subject:
How To Avoid Vital Mistakes Of Chinese Character Tattoos (I love the example about the lady who wanted a tattoo saying "Freedom", but instead got "Free of charge".)
Cool Tat, Too Bad It's Gibberish

Monday, August 6, 2007

Hello World!

Wow - my first blog post. Since I currently have a bit of free time (haha), I can concentrate on blogging! I plan to make this a "diary" type blog where I'll be posting about a variety of topics: food, travel, investing, food, random thoughts, and finally, food.

To start things off, let me do a re-cap of the past few days.

Saturday (8/4/07):

Saturday afternoon, Patty (my wife) and I went to Boba Tea House in Chandler to get our boba fix for the month. We had a Jasmine Green Tea w/ Boba and a Red Bean Slush. The Jasmine tea was a bit too light but the Red Bean Slush was great.

We killed a bit of time at Chandler Mall and then decided to go Lee's Sandwiches for a light dinner. We had a Grilled Pork Banh Mi and Grilled Chicken Banh Mi. Both were good, as usual.

After dinner we headed to Tempe for the DCI (Drum Corp International) Desert Classic. Aside from a bit of rain, the event was awesome. My hometown corps, the Madison Scouts (Madison, WI), gave a fantastic performance and I thought they were one of the top teams of the evening. The crowd seemed to agree and gave them a standing ovation. Unfortunately, the judges saw things differently, and the Scouts placed 9th (out of 12 corps). I thought the Scouts performance was better than The Academy (Tempe, AZ) and Spirit from JSU (Jacksonville, AL) but both these teams ended up placing higher. In any case, it was very cool to see some of the top ranking teams perform. This was our second DCI event - the first was in Glendale back in July. If you haven't been to a DCI event before, I highly recommend checking one out.

Sunday (8/5/07):

For lunch we decided on sushi. I had read that Takamatsu had just opened a location near us (in Goodyear), so we drove there to check it out. When we got to the location and pulled up there were no cars in the parking lot and the place looked more like a bar or lounge from the outside. We discussed a bit and decided to pass on Takamatsu and try Ichiban (Goodyear) instead. I felt kind of bad, as we were pulling out, a chef popped his head out there door (maybe to communicate to us that they were open???). In hindsight, maybe we should've stayed and tried Takamatsu.

Ichiban has to be one of the worst Japanese restaurants I've ever been to. Actually, it is one of the worst restaurants (in general) that I've ever been to. The service and food were seriously lacking. I didn't see any of the employees smile. I got the general feeling that the employees didn't seem to care (about anything). I was shocked at our Caterpillar and Soft Shell Crab Rolls. Both were way over-priced for the quantity and quality of food received. The sake (salmon) and tempura were also not so good. For restaurants, my opinion is that if either service or food is lacking, strength in one can definitely make up for the other's shortcomings. If both are lacking, then we definitely won't be going back. To make things worse, I was "on the toilet" 15 minutes after we left.

For dinner, we tried another place that we had never been to before - Wong's Chinese Restaurant (west Phoenix). What a difference that good service can make! We were greeted with a that so difficult?!? We ordered: Orange Beef, Home Style Tofu, and Wonton Noodle Soup. The Orange Beef was great - it reminded me of what we used to offer at my parent's restaurant. The Home Style Tofu and Wonton Noodle Soup were both just ok. There was a bit too much sauce in the tofu dish and the tofu itself was an odd orange color that I've never seen before. The soup was good, although the noodles were tasteless. Oh - I almost forgot to mention another important part of any Chinese meal, the rice. The rice was really bad...

But as I said above, the service was good so there's a pretty good chance that we'll be back again.

OK - I think I've written way too much (thanks for reading this far) so I'll call it a night.