Monday, July 28, 2008

Angelo's Many "Friends"

Very interesting article in the August issue of Conde Nast Portfolio magazine:
Angelo's Many "Friends"

According to the article, Angelo Mozilo, former Chairman and CEO of Countrywide Financial, gave preferential loan terms, via a "V.I.P." program (aka "Friends of Angelo"), to members of Congress, Senators, influential lawmakers, CEOs, etc.

This includes two former CEOs of Fannie Mae, the CEO of KB Homes, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, two former secretaries of HUD, etc...

Conflicts of interest, code of conduct violations, and Sarbanes-Oxley?

Mozilo's moral code seems pretty shady...

You must check out the list of those involved:
The Countrywide Lineup (from

Related articles:
Countrywide's Many 'Friends' (from
Countrywide Friends Got Good Loans (from the Wall Street Journal Online)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Beijing's haze thickens even with pollution controls in place (from McClatchy)

another interesting one via
Beijing's haze thickens even with pollution controls in place (from McClatchy)


The officials referred to the gray haze over the city as "fog" and "dust" but refrained from calling it air pollution.

Du Shaozhong, deputy director of the city's Environmental Protection Bureau, said at a news conference that observers should not rely on the visual appearance of the sky, or make judgments from photographs, in assessing whether Beijing is making headway in fighting air pollution.

"You should not rely on photos," Du said, chastising the British Broadcasting Corp., for publishing photos on its Web site showing dismal haze in Beijing this month.

At a news conference, Du offered blanket assurances that air quality would meet standards of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for the upcoming competition.

"We can guarantee good air quality during the Games," Du said.

Du might have shot himself in the foot with that last remark! We'll find out soon - the opening ceremonies are less than two weeks away.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Top Chef: The Tour and ThunderCares Day

This morning I went to Phoenix Downtown Public Market to try to make the Top Chef Tour demonstration scheduled for 8:30am. Patty and I have watched the last few seasons of the show. The chefs scheduled for the Phoenix tour were Season 4 runner-up Richard Blaise and Season 2 contestant Betty Fraser. Richard was one of our favorites so I was excited to watch him cook.

I arrived at 7:45am and there was already a line of about 25 people (at 8:30am, there were probably over 100 people). I put my name on a waiting list and the sun. There was an announcement that the seating capacity was 34 people and that they would call people from the waiting list. Around 8:40am, they called a few names from the list (maybe 6 total). I was not one of them. Oh well. I probably could have made the 10:00am session (as they were rolling over the remaining wait-listed names), but I already had another commitment scheduled.

Betty and Richard were outside the trailer for a few minutes taking pictures and signing autographs. Here are a few pics:
Top Chef: The Tour @ Phoenix Downtown Public MarketTop Chef: The Tour @ Phoenix Downtown Public MarketTop Chef: The Tour @ Phoenix Downtown Public Market
I've seen three of the Top Chef contestants now. Patty and I spotted Season 2 runner-up Marcel Vigneron last year during a trip to Vegas.

My 10:00am commitment was a Thunderbird volunteer event called ThunderCares Day. Prior to the event, we were given a choice of volunteer opportunities. I ended up getting my first choice, which was volunteering for the Children’s Angel Foundation Thrift & Boutique.

All of the proceeds from this store benefit the infants, children, and young adults who are served through Hacienda HealthCare. Hacienda HealthCare, through its affiliates, Hacienda, and Los NiƱos Hospital, is the leading provider of specialized services for medically fragile and chronically ill infants, children and young adults in Arizona.

Our group was given a choice a duties, and I ended up volunteering to vacuum the store. I actually enjoy vacuuming (I vacuum our house at least once a week), so this fit perfectly! Others in the group helped out with sorting and cleaning the merchandise.

After lunch, most of us headed to Cherry Blossom Noodle Cafe for lunch. I enjoyed a bowl of udon soup, panko spanish mackerel, and green tea milk.

Places mentioned:

Children's Angel Foundation Thrift & Boutique
4648 N 16th Street
Phoenix, AZ 85016

Cherry Blossom Noodle Cafe
914 E. Camelback Rd.
Phoenix, AZ 85014

Thursday, July 24, 2008


Patty is having LASIK in the next few hours (in Taiwan).

What’s Lurking in Your Countertop? (from The New York Times)

Interesting (and rather alarming) article about possible radiation and radon emissions from granite:
What’s Lurking in Your Countertop? (from The New York Times)

Thanks to JT for sharing this one w/ me...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Matt's Big Breakfast

This took place on Saturday, June 28... (trying to do a bit of catching-up)

We met up w/ one of my co-workers at Matt's Big Breakfast. We've been to Matt's many times before but I've never posted about it before. Matt's is one of our favorite breakfast/brunch spots (along w/ La Grande Orange). The only problem with it is that the wait can be pretty long, because the place is tiny. It doesn't help that the place was also featured on Food Network's Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. Here's a pic of the exterior:
Matt's Big Breakfast - exterior
By the way - this picture was taken during a previous visit, in February. You will never see someone wearing a jacket outside in July in Phoenix.

On this visit, we waited nearly an hour for our table.

We ordered a Waffle, Salami Scramble (w/ walnut raisin bread), fresh squeezed OJ, and honey lemonade.

Here's the waffle:
Matt's Big Breakfast - waffle
Matt's has the best waffles I've ever had. They are incredibly light and fluffy. The waffle is a must order item whenever we eat here.

Here's the Salami Scramble and bread:
Matt's Big Breakfast - Salami ScrambleMatt's Big Breakfast - walnut raisin bread
The scramble, hash browns, and bread were all great (as usual).

Simple food made with top quality ingredients. I love this place!

Highly recommended - but I do recommend going in the cooler months as waiting outside is not too fun in the summer.

Places mentioned:

Matt's Big Breakfast
801 N. 1st St.
Phoenix, AZ 85004

La Grande Orange
4410 N. 40th St.
Phoenix, AZ 85018

35 ethnic dining spots (from

Thank you Tim R. for sharing this w/ me!

35 ethnic dining spots (from

I've been to 15 of these places...
Trente-Cinq, Golden Buddha, Havana Cafe, Mi Cocina Mi Pais, Cafe Lalibela, Zinc Bistro, Haus Murphy's, Greekfest, Maharaja Palace, Tasty Kabob, Hana, Tradiciones, Copper Kettle, Swaddee Thai, and Cyclo.

That leaves 20 new places to try! =)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Sweet Republic and Kampai

These events took place on Saturday, July 12th...

After a full day of shopping Fashion Square, we went to try Sweet Republic. Having read many postings about the place on Chowhound, Chow Bella, and Yelp, I've been wanting to try this place for a while now.

Here's a (not so good) picture of the exterior:
Sweet Republic - exterior
and two of the interior:
Sweet Republic - interiorSweet Republic - interior
I tried samples of Salted Butter Caramel (soft buttery caramel ribbons in creamy vanilla with a sprinkle of salt), Honey Blue Cheese (buttermilk Roquefort blue-cheese with a hint of wild desert honey --> YES, you read that correctly - blue-cheese ice cream), Real Mint Chip (Fresh mint leaves and chocolate chips), Pear Ginger (cool pear meets fresh ginger root for a refreshing breeze of flavor). BTW, the first three are ice creams and the last one is sorbet.

Can't remember but Patty may have sampled a few others...

For those of you wondering about the the Honey Blue Cheese flavor - it was very good!

We decided to order a triple ($5.50) of Strawberry (luscious, sweet strawberry bliss), Real Mint Chip, and Pear Ginger. Here's a pic:
Sweet Republic - Pear Ginger, Strawberry, and Real Mint Chip
From the top, the pear ginger was excellent. The strawberry was very good, although it didn't particular "blow us" away. I'd say it was pretty similar to Haagen-Dasz's Strawberry. The Real Mint Chip was incredible - our favorite of the three (slightly over the pear ginger).

The great thing about Sweet Republic is that everything is natural...and not too sweet!!!

We both loved Sweet Republic. Highly recommended! Too bad we live so far away...

For dinner, we went to Kampai. We've been to Kampai many times, but have never posted about it before. It's probably our favorite Japanese restaurant in the area. Kampai was first recommended to us by one our Japanese classmates, during our MBA studies. The food is consistently good and the ambiance is very low-key/no-frills (unlike many of the "sleek and modern" sushi bars around town). Here's the exterior:
Kampai - exterior
and interior:Kampai - interior
We ordered:
  • Agedashi tofu
  • Caterpillar roll
  • Soft shell crab roll
  • 2 pieces of salmon nigiri
My pictures of the food turned out terrible, so no pictures to share...

The agedashi tofu was great. I love that they load a bunch of bonito flakes on top.

The rolls and nigiri were also great. The rice was properly prepared - this is very important!

Again, too bad we live so far...

Places mentioned:

Sweet Republic
9160 E. Shea Blvd.
Scottsdale, AZ 85260

2945 E. Bell Rd.
Phoenix, AZ 85032

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Pancakes @ home

Made pancakes for brunch today (we usually make pancakes every other weekend).

I've been using the Bisquick "Ultimate" recipe (slightly modified) w/ pretty good results. I top it w/ a berry mixture (made from frozen marionberries, raspberries, and blueberries simmered in a bit of grape juice and honey) and drizzle this with honey. Here's a pic:
pancakes w/ berry topping

Indoor rock climbing

For this month's Washington Street Foundation event, we went indoor rock climbing at Solid Rock Gym.

I've been a few times before...need to convince (or drag) Patty to try it sometime.

Along w/ getting a great work out, it's very fun!

Here's a mentor and mentee in action:
WSF mentor and mentee indoor rock climbing

The Dark Knight

Went to see The Dark Knight yesterday. Great movie, although I thought it ran a bit long (at 152 minutes). Heath Ledger's performance of the Joker is incredible (and super creepy).

Friday, July 18, 2008

Stacy's Smokehouse BBQ

I drove one of my co-workers to the airport this afternoon. On my way back, I decided to stop at Stacy's Smokehouse for lunch. Unlike fellow blogger Tim, I did end up passing the place and had to circle back to it (it's on the north side of Indian School Rd, just west of 51 ).

The place isn't much to look at (view from the parking lot in the back):
Stacy's Smokehouse - exterior view from parking lot
Here's the inside (again, not much to look at but at least it's clean!):
Stacy's Smokehouse - interior
Looks rather empty but 4 of the 5 tables were occupied (at around 1:30pm)...

I ordered a small BBQ pork sandwich ($4.50) and small sweet fries ($1.50). Waited about ten minutes for the food to come out. Here it is:
Stacy's Smokehouse - small bbq pork sandwich and small sweet fries
The sandwich was fantastic! The pork was moist, not full of fat, and had good smoky flavor. The sauce was great as well.

The sweet fries were thin planks of fried sweet potato w/ cinnamon sprinkled on top. They were good, but a bit too oily.

They had three desserts on the counter, including a very tempting red velvet cake, but I was too stuffed.

I'm still on the hunt for decent BBQ in this city (even after 11 years of living here). My criteria - the place must have excellent pulled pork sandwiches and ribs. Stacy's is definitely in the running so far!

Places mentioned:

Stacy's Smokehouse
1650 E. Indian School Road
Phoenix, AZ 85016

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Chanpen and Thai treats

This must be a record for me - four posts in one day! (I must be bored...hahaha)

Went to Chanpen for lunch today w/ a few of my co-workers. I've been there a few times before, but according to my Thai co-worker, Bell, you must go there on Thursdays for even better food (the chef today only works on Thursdays).

We all ordered the same thing - pad thai. It was delicious! The dish had much more flavor and spice than usual, and it was also a bit sweeter (than on my previous visits). Forgot to take a picture of the dish...

Bell has an "inside connection" at Chanpen (she used to work there) and scored us free desserts!

We got plates of fried sweet potato and fried banana, served with a sweet syrup. Both were very tasty.

Here is the fried sweet potato:
Chanpen - fried sweet potatoand the fried banana:Chanpen - fried banana
A few weeks ago, Bell made mango w/ sticky rice for the team. I looooove this dessert. The most amazing thing was that she made the rice in the microwave! Here's a pic:
Bell's mango w/ sticky rice

Places mentioned:

13828 North 51st Avenue
Glendale, AZ 85306

San Francisco most walkable U.S. city, website says (from Yahoo! News/Reuters)

Lots of interesting articles today!

Here's another one...

San Francisco most walkable U.S. city, website says (from Yahoo! News/Reuters)

From the article:
Scores greater than 70 indicate neighborhoods where it's possible to get by without owning a car, while scores greater than 90 qualify communities as a "Walker's Paradise."

Our current house has a score of 51 (Phoenix scored a 50). The area we are in is pretty convenient - we could actually manage to get around with only our bikes (except during the summer!).

Our previous house had a dismal score of 9. That's one of the main reasons we moved.

Find your "Walk Score" here.

Rankings of the 40 largest U.S. cities

Anheuser-Busch: The Incredible Secret Story of the Fish That Got Away (from the Wall Street Journal)

Very interesting story...

Anheuser-Busch: The Incredible Secret Story of the Fish That Got Away (from the Wall Street Journal)

Owners make sure stranded, wet diner gets his meal

A nice story from the AZ Republic/
Owners make sure stranded, wet diner gets his meal

I've only been to Marcellino once before - quite a long time ago. Need to go back one of these days...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I am a what?!?

According to an online quiz I just took...

I'm a Mandarin!

You're an intellectual, and you've worked hard to get where you are now. You're a strong believer in education, and you think many of the world's problems could be solved if people were more informed and more rational. You have no tolerance for sloppy or lazy thinking. It frustrates you when people who are ignorant or dishonest rise to positions of power. You believe that people can make a difference in the world, and you're determined to try.

Talent: 51%
Lifer: 26%
Mandarin: 59%

Take the Talent, Lifer, or Mandarin quiz.

Monday, July 14, 2008

On my own for the next few weeks...

Just dropped off Patty @ the airport...she's headed back to Taiwan for six weeks (she hasn't been home since November of last year).

My biggest worry is...what am I going to eat now?!? ;-)
We usually share cooking for two is pretty simple, but for one it's a pain!

Oh well...I foresee many meals consisting of a delicious bowl of cereal (see this post about my cereal addiction) prep and minimal clean-up involved...hahahahha...

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sushi head figures

Found via postings on and Superpunch:
(Images from Superpunch)

I like the sake (salmon) and inari heads! The ikura (roe) head is a little weird for me.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

DISH closed

Just read on Chowhound that the Scottsdale eatery DISH has closed. I posted about this place last year (original post here) and had doubts about the longevity of this place.

"It's a neat place but I'm not sure if it will survive. The place is huge and the rent must be way up there. It also seemed to be way overstaffed - I'm guessing there are around 50+ employees working at any one time. I wouldn't go out of my way just for the food. We'll see..."

While I'm never happy to see a place close, I do wonder about some of the places I have eaten at.
  • are their business models sound?
  • are they targeting the right customers?
  • management
  • staffing models
  • customer service orientation
  • appropriate food offerings
  • quality and taste of food
  • ambience
  • pricing
  • location
  • and on and on...
My parents owned multiple restaurants and I basically grew up working in them so I have a bit of experience in the industry...

Hm...maybe I have a future in restaurant consulting?!? ;-)

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Kingdom

We watched The Kingdom last night. Loved this movie. It was super intense!

Parts of the movie were filmed in Mesa, AZ, which was cool. There are a bunch of interesting extras, including a "making-of" featurette of an incredible crash sequence from the movie.

Highly recommended.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Motherland Afghanistan

We watched Motherland Afghanistan tonight. It's a documentary about one doctor's efforts to make a difference in Afghanistan (his homeland).

A quote from the box cover:

"You won't remain unmoved."
- LA Weekly

That's very true!

As I recently finished reading A Thousand Splendid Suns, it was helpful to be able to see real images (of Afghanistan) that I could associate with what I had read about. BTW, most of the movie, The Kite Runner, was actually filmed in western China.

Read more about the film via the link above.

Highly recommended.

Here's a preview:

Friday, July 4, 2008

Off for a weekend "getaway"

Happy 4th of July!

We're headed to the other side of town...taking advantage of the summer rates!

Tonight we'll be staying at the Hotel Indigo Scottsdale and tomorrow we'll be at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Headed to India!

Just found out today that I'll be heading to India in September (for work) This is soooo cool! I've always wanted to go to India...

I'm not looking forward to getting a bunch of vaccinations though. =(