Monday, August 26, 2013

Oregon Trail

Our anniversary weekend was awesome!
- It bothers me greatly that I was born with water skis for feet and in case you can't tell,
mine are the ones without all the hair -
It was mostly an eating adventure with bits of sightseeing sprinkled in. Also, it was a constant rollercoaster of emotion ranging from the depths of depression:

I miss my babyyyyyyyyyy!!!!!!!!!

To moments of revelation (read: happiness, relief, etc.):

 This is what life was like before the babyyyyyyyy!!!!!!!!! 

And then back to the first one. Gabe was pretty tired of my emotions by the end of the trip. Needless to say, we cannot wait to go back to the Oregon Coast. WITH Kuen next time, of course. She would've had lots of fun. I highly recommend the whole Pacific Northwest coast in general.

If you're looking for a recipe, check back next week.  I know, it's a food blog and all I'm posting is personal stuff but I'd feel remiss if I didn't recount all the places we stopped to eat.  So it's kinda food related.  That and by writing it I'm reliving the whole long weekend all over again.

First meal: Burgerville in Centralia, WA. If you're headed south from Seattle, don't bother stopping at these outlets - save yourself the sales tax by shopping in Oregon! Do come here instead and fuel up on your way to a Portland shopping bonanza. We split the Double Bacon Cheeseburger, an order of Walla Walla onion rings and a blackberry shake (SKH gets full credit for the suggestion - thx!). This way we could maximize the number of places to try instead of stuffing ourselves with huge meals. That's me, always thinking about more efficient ways to eat more food. Hence, the 20+ lbs Gabe and I have packed on after getting married. It's just a fact of life, people. Unless there's a wedding (other people's don't count) be prepared to pack on a spare tire a few years after those vows.

Dunch: Bowpicker in Astoria, OR. As if the very loooooooong line wasn't a dead giveaway, this place has the best fish & chips in town. Someone in town told us it was featured on Diners Drive-ins & Dives and regardless of whether it was or not, this place has some seriously good fish & chips! I almost got run over by a car, after leaving Gabe to wait in line, only to wander aimlessly around the humble boat they were selling this fish from (30 freaking minutes to get our damn fish) until we got an order but damn! Fish was awesome. They were serving albacore tuna that day. A little malt vinegar, tarter sauce..YUM. And $10 for an order of 5 pretty good sized pieces of fish and a bed of fries underneath. 2nd split meal, really good. 

-  Sweet sweet victory -

- I should've gotten a picture of the long line on the other side - don't let it discourage you! -
Late dinner: Pizza a Fetta in Cannon Beach, OR. After an hour long or so walk on the gorgeous beach (and some minor beach wrestling, more on that later), we worked up a pretty good appetite. Gabe somehow convinced me to get the crab pizza and it was actually pretty awesome. Don't bother ordering a salad from this place. It was $7 for a large styrafoam box with 2 pieces of lettuce a calamata olive and a ring of onion (essentially). We actually just stopped by the Costco in Warrenton (love you, Costco) for a supplemental bag of salad to account for the pittance of salad from Pizza a Fetta. 

- Dogfish Head for me. Some strange uber hoppy IPA for Gabe -

- Don't leave OR without some gas (which attendants pump for you) and a Roomba -

Breakfast: Blue Scorcher Bakery in Astoria, OR. Very tree hugging hippy bakery in town labeling themselves as an 'artisan cooperative' that is all employee owned. Decent bread and pastries but we couldn't eat too much because our hotel actually had a not-so-well marketed continental breakfast. 

I wonder if he looks as cool in his head
Lunch: Fort George Brewery in Astoria, OR. Unbeknownst to us, our anniversary weekend happen to be the same weekend they were having the Astoria Regatta so right outside our hotel room we grabbed some bbq salmon from a Fort George Brewery tent before heading to our room to eat and watch the parade. Salmon was delicious and tender as only the best kind of salmon can taste - wild caught Pacific salmon. Looked like Sockeye to me but I'm not 100% sure and Gabe and I inhaled it before I could take a photo. 

We decided to try to catch the boats after the 1+ hour parade but missed them and instead ended up wandering along the waterfront all the way to the Goonies House (in not so comfortable shoes). How many Goonies fans are out there? It was kinda cool until we walked up and saw there was a donations box. Really? Why does a homeowner need a freaking donation box? Maybe there was some upkeep because there's a gravel road leading to the house that they share with a few other houses and it takes money to keep that up with all the foot traffic (they don't allow cars up the driveway), but really? Tacky in my opinion but if I'm not considering something, please enlighten me on why a donation box is necessary.

- Maybe I should leave a donation box outside my condo -
Dinner: T Paul's Supper Club in Astoria, OR. Anyways, we ended up at T Paul's by default because I wasn't willing to walk anywhere other than across the street because my dogs were barkin'. T Pauls' got similar reviews to Clemente's where we were originally planning on grabbing our anniversary dinner (after a restaurant unceremoniously cancelled our reservations VIA EMAIL without any explanation or call - eff them, I wrote them a bad review on Yelp since they didn't bother calling to explain and I had even notified them that it was our anniversary, jerks), but I wasn't going unless a rickshaw was taking me there and Gabe wasn't offering a piggyback ride. Hell hath no fury like a foodie scorn.   

T Paul's prime rib special - "No bahd."

- Gabe's seafood pasta something or another - cheese w/ seafood still weirds me out a little bit.
Anyone else? -

After that, we decided to spend our last day of freedom baby-free vacation in Portland.  I hadn't ever been and with as many rumors about how hipster and weird Portland is, I had to see for myself.  I was pleasantly surprised!

- Mighty big flavor for such a little burger -
For lunch we found Little Big Burger and Blue Star Donuts. Little Big Burger had these adorable little burgers that were cooked to perfection. I just got a cheeseburger w/ Tillamook cheddar and a side of fries. Fries were amazing - tossed with white truffle oil. Hands down best thing I ate on the trip. 

- Delicious spicy catsup I had to buy a bottle of -

- Notice the glass partition to protect the helpless donuts from drooling customers -
Naturally, we had to chase it with dessert. Cinnamon vanilla sugar donut at Blue Star. I had no idea where Voodoo Donuts was and we only had a few hours. It was a pretty good donut but that isn't saying much. Donuts are like pizza, if it's bad, it's still kinda good. 

Other places to see:

Astoria Column – Buy a wooden airplane for $1 and climb up an ungodly amount of stairs and hope they have an AED at the top to bring you out of cardiac arrest as you launch your plane off the top. It can be super windy here so it’s crazy the distance the planes can cover. Amazing view of the water and territory.

- That's a nice column you have there -

Ocean Park, WA – kinda cool drive on a thin peninsula in WA. When you get there, you can drive right on the hard packed sand on the beach (4WD is best, obviously). Drive a few minutes east to the Willapa Bay side of the peninsula too – very cool and lots of oysters there. 

- You can definitely hear the banjo from "Deliverance" playing on your drive there -
Cape Disappointment State Park – don’t be fooled by the name. We only drove around for a few minutes but I was sorry we hadn’t gone as we were running out of daylight. There’s an absolutely beautiful view of the water from several viewpoints. Can’t wait to come back and explore this place. It should be called 
Cape Not A Disappointment State Park. I’ll drop that off in their suggestion box when we go back.

- Cape Disappointment State Park -

Seaside, OR – reminded me of the my hometown in the DAB! T-shirts 2 for $10! Saltwater taffy! Cheesy arcades! We drove by when they were having a huge volleyball tournament going on there. 

- Complete with tourist trap shops and cheesy beach decor - 

Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach, OR – kinda obvious but don’t miss it. It’s probably a little more touristy than we were looking for but so pretty nonetheless. The beach is pretty but the houses are just as amazing.

- Just like Florida except for the big fat rock in the middle of the cold-as-hell water - 

- Make sure you stare longingly at the rich people's homes - it's what they live for -

Mind Gabe's shoulder in the last photo - we got in to an all out wrestling match on the beach after he 'ruined' my picture.  That sounded waaay more sexual than it was.

Happy 5 years, Boo!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Life Goes On

As this posts, I'll be driving south to the Oregon Coast to have a lovely little anniversary weekend w/ my gaw-geous hubby. That's right. The period ended that sentence right there. It’s our first sans kid anniversary weekend since having a baby. WOOT! Meanwhile our beautiful little girl is going to be at home (not missing us) playing with one of her favorite people on the planet, my crazy ass mom. It's a little ridiculous how much fun they have together and honestly if it weren't so stinkin' cute I'd probably be a leettle bit jealous. 

Milestones like this always make me nostalgic. Five years of marriage, eight years in Washington, ten years since graduating college (eek!), and a baby? Amazing to think this is where life has taken me. I'm so lucky to have such wonderful friends and family surrounding me and I'm trying to be better about slowing things down and enjoying life because it's beautiful, fragile and sometimes way too short.

Kuen was born a few weeks earlier than expected in late January of 2012. She was a perfectly healthy 5 lbs. 7 oz. munchkin stretching out at a petite 17". Have you people seen Gabe and I? We are not small people. Gabe's 6' and I'm a respectable (certainly for an Asian) 5'7" which is so interesting because both Gabe and my parents are on the shorter end of things (parents are 5’3” to 5’6” max between the 4 of them). Even with that, the doctor is expecting she'll be about my height. I actually didn't get a chance to see her until a few minutes after she was born but I got some pretty interesting looks from the doctors and nurses when they announced she was a redhead with dark blue eyes. Weirdest look by far was from Gabe. 

When we both saw her we knew her name would fit.

Kuen Alexandra Bell

Has a nice riiing to it, no? 

I like to pun.

More weird looks ensue. 



"Is that a boy or girl??" 

You're probably more used to seeing it "Quinn" but the spelling is unique for a very special reason, she's named after my late father. Sigh - over six years ago already..he wasn't even 60. 

Eff you cancer, a big ol' EFF YOU. 

Not a perfect man by any stretch of the imagination but a great dad to my brothers and me. That’s how he spelled it and no, I don't regret saddling her with a unique moniker. (Booya, hon! We have contests to see who can sound more pretentious.) She will have to take over for her parents when she's old enough to correct people on how to pronounce her beautiful name and I already know she won’t have a problem setting people straight. Aside from it being a family name, my dad’s name in Cantonese, it means power and if nothing else, she is definitely that.

Gabe and I agree that as she's growing out of the baby phase she is - hands down - the funniest person we know. Parents can attest to this as children have an amazing knack for being ridiculously adorable and hilarious at the same time.

She babbles, dances, plays and exudes this infectious joy that only a child can do. She love baths and swimming – total water baby like her dad. She’s changed our lives. She’s made us stronger, better. She has opened up my eyes and helped me to experience life through a child’s eyes because I experience things from her perspective now. Full circle. Life is amazing.

Her facial expressions = pure comedic genius.

Happy anniversary to my crazy hubby as 8/8 marked our 5 years of marriage.  We did good.  Love you more than ever.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Last Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe You'll Ever Need For the Rest of Your Life

I know. I have a flair for the dramatic when it comes to food.  Before I get in to the recipe, let me qualify this by saying I've eating and made a LOT of chocolate chip cookies in my day.  This is by far THE best chocolate chip cookie I've ever made and I use it for everything.  It's got the chewy texture, loads of chocolate chips and that addictive salty edge that makes everything taste just a tiny bit better. 

Seems like the salt-in-desserts kick has definitely taken the food world these last few years by storm (salted caramel ice cream, cake pops, Seattle's own oh-so-famous salted caramel chocolates even the President can't get enough of, etc.). I get the finely ground stuff from my faaaaavorite wholesale store which works really well. I made these cookies for a few years and while amazing, I was always finding I'd eat the cookies top-side down so I could get that salty kick first - but nobody eats cookies like that. So I decided to sprinkle a little salt underneath the cookie dough and on top.

Mind.  Blown.

And now I don't have to get those weird semi-polite looks from people when I tell them they should eat the cookie upside down which invariably had people thinking I was asking them to head stand or find some damn monkey bars so they could hang upside down to eat this cookie. 

Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies

heavily adapted from this recipe

Makes about 5 dozen small cookies

2 sticks butter, unsalted & room temperature

¼ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup turbinado sugar (Sugar in the Raw)

1½ cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 tbsp vanilla extract

1½ tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

3½ cups all-purpose flour

1½ c. chocolate chips

Sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Cream butter and sugars together until the butter is light and fluffy - pale yellow, scrape down the bowl and mix a few more times.  One ingredient at a time, add eggs, vanilla, baking soda and salt, scrape down bowl and keep mixing.  If you're using a stand mixer, turn the mixer to the lowest speed and add the flour in a cup at a time until just combined.  Don't over mix the dough or you'll get a tough cookie.  After all the flour is incorporated, fold in the chocolate chips.  Sometimes it's helpful to switch to the dough hook so you don't break up all the chips while they're mixing - or just fold in with a spatula by hand and count it as your workout for the day.  Remember though, don't over mix!

Dough is done. 

Sprinkle a tiny pinch of salt where you plan on placing your cookies on the baking sheet.  I do this step all at once, just make a little grid on the baking sheet in a 4 x 5 pattern leaving about 3" between each sprinkling of salt.  Scoop mounds of cookie dough on each pinch of salt.  The recipe makes about 5 dozen cookies if you use the small version of this scoop - leave them mounded, they will spread and flatten during baking. 

Place the dough about 2" apart and you can usually get about 20 cookies per half sheet pan.  Depending on your oven, bake for approximately 11-13 minutes.  Remove from oven and transfer to a cooling rack for at least 20-30 minutes if you can wait that long. 


They may seem slightly under done when you take them out and maybe just the slightest bit golden on a few edges but definitely not browned.  This way, when they cool they'll have that yummy chewy texture.

These cookies are also a great do-ahead recipe.  I almost always have these cookies ready to bake from a frozen state so if you're going that route, use a 1½" cookie scoop to dish out on to a parchment sheet lined baking sheet and freeze them.  They pop off the sheet and go in to a ziplock bag and store for weeks in the freezer.  You can just take however many you need and bake off.  I usually set the oven at 360ºF and bake for an extra minute or two from a frozen state.

"Sometimes you feel like a nut."  And when you do, add in a cup of chopped walnuts when you're mixing in the chocolate chips.  I'm married to a no-nut-in-desserts person.  Grrr.